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A year in the making…  There are so many reasons I haven’t written this blog, until now.  It’s been a very busy year, three kids is a whole new level of parenting.  An emotion I can only compare to survivor’s guilt.  It’s so hard to still see families waiting to bring their children home.  In the last year, we have rejoiced as many families have been united, but some families are still waiting for the homecoming.  Some of these families started the adoption process just a few months after we did, and their children still aren’t home.  We pray for these families daily.  And my emotions, this has been such a journey.

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On Thursday, August 8th 2013, we cut an annual vacation with friends short and boarded an early plane to get to Haiti.  To bring our daughter home!  Nine trips to Haiti, one trip home.  We took our usual route through Dallas-Fort Worth to Fort Lauderdale to Port-au-Prince.  In Fort Lauderdale, we were fortunate to meet up with Eric Ream, a missionary we’ve met several times that lives in Haiti with his family.  He was able to help guide us through the PAP airport and wait with us until our ride arrived.  The wait for the orphanage van seemed so long, but Eric blessed our time with prayer.

We arrived at the orphanage fairly late in the day, dinner was over and the kids seemed to be winding down for the night.  Naika was hanging out of the front window, waiting for our arrival.  When she saw us, she nearly squeezed herself through the narrow opening in the window to get to us.  Then she came running to the door, happy as always.  She seemed to know.

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We only spent a short time at the orphanage.  It was getting late and it’s not always safe to travel in the dark.  We made our rounds of the orphanage.  We thanked the nannies and handed out nanny bags to all the night nannies working that night.  I had never met any of the night nannies and missed the chance to say thank you to all the day nannies I’d spent so many hours with.  So many of our friends helped us fill these bags with personal items and treats for the nannies to enjoy.  I loved hearing their delight in receiving their bags.

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We then had a very small going home party for Naika.  We handed out Rice Kripie treats to all the kids and staff.  We handed the treats out until they were gone, a few lucky kids happily accepted seconds.

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Then we said our farewells.  Naika waved goodbye and blew kisses to all her friends and the nannies in the toddler room.

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One last night in Haiti at the hotel, with one last swim in the questionable water.  We were thankful to spend time with two other families adopting from the same orphanage that were living in Haiti and finishing their adoption process themselves.  We enjoyed their fellowship, a generous dinner buffet, and said our bittersweet goodbyes.  We had always thought we would be bringing our children home on the same plane.  Thankfully, both these families are now home, but one family is still on the adoption journey to bring another daughter home.

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At the orphanage, we were told that we would not be able to meet with Naika’s birth mom and sister to say good-bye since we weren’t staying in Haiti long enough.  This last meeting is fairly standard for our orphanage and we were planning to see Joceline and Daima and had brought small gifts for them.  We were really disappointed and felt we had robbed Naika’s birth family their last chance to see her.

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Much to our delight and surprise, both Naika’s birth mom and sister arrived in the van when it came to take us to the airport in the morning.  We even had time to share breakfast with them.  Joceline found a visitor at the hotel that was able to interpret for us so we could communicate.  The conversation didn’t start off well.  Joceline was upset.  She thought that we had never traveled back to visit Naika after the first time we met Joceline in July 2012.  Luckily, I had the proof in photos to show her that I had been back to visit on three trips since that July.  Once Joceline realized we kept our promise to visit Naika, things went smoothly.  Joceline and Daima rode with us to the airport and we said pleasant good-byes.

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At the airport, I was touched to see the driver, Jackson, saying such a sweet good-bye to Naika.  Over all the trips, Jackson was the constant.  His English was better than he let on.  He loved the kids.  On one trip, during a particular difficult moment, I thanked Jackson for loving Naika and knowing her name.  I was so upset that the director of the orphanage didn’t know who Naika was, didn’t know her name, didn’t know who we were after so many trips.  Jackson knew, he understood.  I will always be so grateful for Jackson.

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Then we boarded our first plane of three.  Finally on our way home.  No words could describe this emotion.  I still cried when we took off from PAP, but it was such a release.

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We had a short layover in Fort Lauderdale, but long enough to have a quick meet up with some dear friends.  We met this family during our first trip to Haiti and developed our friendship during the many family bonding trips.  We love this sweet mama and her son so much!

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We then had an even shorter layover in Dallas-Fort Worth.  Naika enjoyed watching the “papas” and “avyon.”  Then one last flight home.

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This moment will always be one of the best moments of my life.  My whole family, finally together.  So much love, right there.

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It truly takes a village.  And there is no village I’d rather be than our village.  It was such a beautiful view to walk up the airport ramp and see so many loved ones supporting our family.  Waiting to see our family united and finally meet Naika.  I’m so thankful for each and every person.

After a long trip home, on so many levels, Naika is home!

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The Valleys and Peaks…

Yesterday was a rough day.

Really rough.  Rock bottom, in the shadows of the valley kind of day.

I’m starting to accept that we will not have our sweet girl home for her 3rd birthday.  I can barely handle that we will miss her first 3 birthdays.  We were matched with our daughter at 10 months and have watched her birthdays in pictures.  So, in the morning Asa and I went to the post office and mailed a package containing a few small gifts for her birthday and some cash for the orphanage to buy a cake for Naika to share with her friends on her special day.

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Big brother mailing off little sister’s birthday gift.

Then I got a phone call from our agency.  A phone call that started with an automated voice informing me the call was being recorded.  It was from a man I had never heard of.  Another new employee.  Small agency, big turnover.  Our agency had made a mistake and we were not charged for several months of Naika’s care fees.  We hadn’t noticed yet.  He wanted me to okay a one time large sum of money over the phone.  This was not the phone call I was expecting.  The poor man on the other line got an earful.  Good thing the call was being recorded, I held back, a lot.  After that I cried, cried some more and turned off my phone and threw it in my purse.

Several hours later, I needed my phone to check my calendar.  The kids and I had just finished grocery shopping and I signed them up for a cooking class at the store.  I noticed I had a missed call and a voicemail from our agency.  I was hesitant to listen to the voicemail, I didn’t think I could handle anything more.  Thankfully, I had my big girl panties on and sucked it up and check that voice mail while sitting in our car in the parking lot of the store.  Our adoption counselor left a very cheerful message and said she had good news.  She even answered the phone when I called back, which never happens.

Naika has a passport!  And it is perfect!  No mistakes!

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The best picture update we have ever received!

So what’s left?  When will Naika be home?

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One check left, only one left.

Now we wait for word that our orphanage has submitted Naika’s file to USCIS.  We wait to hear directly from USCIS that Naika’s file has received approval for a visa stamp or a request for further documentation.  If the file is approved, then we wait for our appointment to be assigned for Naika to be interviewed.  Then we wait for the actual visa stamp and an exit letter from IBESR.

Please pray for a miracle.  We are asking to be with Naika for her birthday.  We know that it’s not realistic for her to actually be home for her birthday, but we could be with her in Haiti for her visa appointment and to prepare her to travel home.

We are asking for for mountains to move.

This is only a mountain 
You don’t have to find your way around it 
Tell it to move, it’ll move 
Tell it to fall, it’ll fall 
This is only a moment 
You don’t have to let your fear control it 
Tell it to move, it’ll move 
Tell it to fall, it’ll fall

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April is Amazing!

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I was so blessed to have my cousin travel to visit Naika with me again. 16 months earlier, my cousin was the first person I got to introduce to Naika.

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Our first moment, right off the orphanage van. On van rides, she insisted on sitting by herself, sitting on laps is for babies.

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Shades, a ball and a mama=a happy girl!

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Working the phone, a fun hand me down from great friends.

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It only took 8 trips, but we went on an outing! We went to church and out to lunch at Epidoor. It was so wonderful to get outside the walls of the hotel!

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I had to buy her the piece of chocolate cake as big as her head. I was surprised she didn’t really eat any of it. She made up for it by eating most my Blue Bunny ice cream.

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She’s one of us! She officially has our last name now and is legally our child.

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I bought her two special Blankees in case we lose one, but she choose my cheap swimsuit coverup for Walmart as her lovey.

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Modeling her Sassy Streamers hair attire!

Check out my good friend Jen’s site SASSY STREAMERS for fancy hair accessories.

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We celebrated a belated Easter with fresh baked cupcakes, an Easter egg hunt and lots of candy. The boys in the street behind the hotel were the guests of honor.

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Last trip she cried when I painted her toenails. This time she actually wanted me to paint them, but she still looks a bit unsure.

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The special nanny who took care of her when she was a baby.

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My bossy and loud big girl. She seemed to get her way often.

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Fancy girl!

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On the last night, we had a big pizza party for the kids and parents. So much fun!

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She loved to have her own plate of food. More than she could ever eat.

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A special photo shoot at the orphanage. The brainchild of two awesome moms.

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Happy, happy girl! Love, love, love!

I don’t know when I will see my beautiful daughter again.  Hoping our visits are over and the next trip is our trip home.

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January, again.

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Here we go again! With 10 bags in tow.

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I was pretty darn excited about my airport brunch at DFW.

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Our first moment together again. There is no doubt she remembers me.

We brought lots of fun activities for our big girl.  The stickers were a hit.

We brought lots of fun activities for our big girl. The stickers were a hit.

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And painting fun!

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Naika loves reading with her Daddy almost as much as napping with her Daddy.

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And swimming with her Daddy!

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And snuggling with her Daddy!

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The promised ice cream. This was the first time I ordered one just for her. It’s our last night ritual.

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Our last meal together until April. She’s such a big girl now. Eating in the restaurant is almost enjoyable now.

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My last night ritual. After returning to the hotel, from dropping off Naika at the orphanage, I head straight to the bar and order a Rhum Punch or two.

Only 37 more days until I get to kiss that precious face again!

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In Our Beginning

I am often asked how we decided to adopt.  I’m still working on a smooth answer.

As an infant I was adopted into my amazing family.  I tell my husband, he is the second best thing that ever happened to me.  Being adopted into my family was my best thing.  So I have always wanted to share that same love and in a way pay it forward.

In January 2009, I was sitting in our assigned area of our church, like a good Lutheran, for our Sunday service.  John was out of town and I was home alone with our two kids for the first time.  Our oldest daughter had recently turned 2 1/2 and was in her Sunday School class.  I had just taken our just turned 7 month old son to the nursery.  Now I could focus on the message.

Our church was hosting a guest speaker that weekend.  I had heard her talk before, but not like this.  Her name was Elanor Workman.  Also known as “Mom” Workman.  She founded the Christian Haitian Outreach in 1974, an orphanage our church still supports and sends mission teams to regularly.  On that day, “Mom” stated she knew there was someone in attendance that would adopt from Haiti.  I remember thinking how great that would be, for them.  No thank you Lord, we have been blessed with a boy and a girl.  We are done.  Our family was complete.

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Elanor “Mom” Workman

Here is the email I sent to “Mom” Workman back in November 2011, shortly after our trip to meet Naika:

Dear Mom Workman, 

I believe it was January of 2009 that you last came to speak at our church.  During the service I sat alone since my husband was away on business and our two children were both in the nursery.  At the time we had a 2 1/2 year old daughter and a 6 month old son.  During your talk with us you mentioned that there was someone in the service that the Holy Spirit was calling to adopt from Haiti. 

I heard the call and quickly answered back, not me.  We had our girl and boy and were quite satisfied with our life.  We had not ever really considered adoption as our biological children came easy to us.  Well, as you know the Holy Spirit doesn't give up as easily as we do.  The whispers became shouts.  I knew our family was about to grow.  

Well, it's been almost a year since we "officially" started our adoption journey.  My husband and I were able to travel last month to finally meet our new daughter.  Her name is Naika and she is 16 months old.  She lives at Maison Des Enfants De Deu in Port-au-Prince.  She is amazing and we thank God for her everyday.  We pray for our many blessings and pray to bring her home with His perfect timing. 

Thank you for sharing your love of Haiti with us and being a part of our journey.  We wish you well and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Because of you, we have so much more to be thankful for this year. 

God Bless, 
Jenni

Thank God, the Holy Spirit didn’t give up on me.  Over time I learned to be obedient and listen to His shouting.  I knew our family had more love and we would adopt from Haiti.

Then the earthquake hit in January 2010, on my birthday.  I was glued to the TV and computer watching any and all coverage shown.  Adoption from Haiti closed.  Time went by and I stopped checking to see if adoption had reopened.  Then one day I was prompted to check again,  and adoptions were open.

I talked to John about adopting from Haiti.  He wasn’t on board.  He felt our family was complete and there were days we were barely staying afloat.  I knew we wouldn’t add to our family through adoption, unless John felt the same calling.  So, I dropped it.  Until a few days later when John sat next to me on our couch and told me we were going to do this.

So I began to research different agencies and orphanages in Haiti.  We told my parents and my best friend.  We prayed about it and waited a bit.  We decided to wait until the first of the year to start the process.  Since that was only a few months away, I cheated and started the process early.

One October weekend in 2010, the kids and I decided to travel to visit my best friend that lives a few hours away.  She was in the process of adopting a sibling set of three amazing little kids and had recently given birth to another son.  During the drive, the kids slept in the back seat and I prayed about our future adoption.  I asked the Lord to give me some sort of sign to show me that our family was to adopt too.  I even gave him a few examples of signs I would be able to see.

Well, I didn’t have to wait.  At all.  I turned on the radio, found the local K-Love radio station and began listening to their afternoon program.  The hosts were discussing international adoption and were announcing the world debut of Matthew West’s song One Less.  That was all I needed, I drove in tears down the interstate listening to exactly what was meant for my ears, at that exact moment.

So in December of 2010, we officially signed on with our adoption agency and began the process of bringing home a child from Haiti.

In April of 2011, we received an email titled, Sweet baby girls from Haiti!

Naika

Naika is a petite, verbal, smiling girl born in June 2010.  She is good at making her needs known, but is also easily satisfied once those needs are met.  She is healthy and likes to be held and talked to.  She grips toys, and is sitting up with assistance.  She likes to sit in the Bumbo seat, taking in all the activity around her.

And there she was.  Our daughter.  Our sister.  The next member of our family.  I remember opening the email at work and showing my coworkers her picture.  It was a Friday.  By the next week we were told the was “on hold” for us.  On Mother’s Day 2011, we shared her picture and the little bit of info we had about her with our families.

Almost 23 months since we first saw her picture, we are nearing the end of our journey to bring Naika home.

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37 more day until I get to visit my sweet sunshine again!

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Shopping for a cause-NAIKA!!!

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Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

Our process of adopting Naika from Haiti will take much longer than anticipated and our expenses continue.  To that end, we are teaming up with Delicate Fortress Creations (DFC) to participate in a fundraiser to support our adoption.

DFC is an online shop with the purpose of helping women and children escape lives of human trafficking and extreme poverty. Each purchase has been created by a survivor and benefits them directly.

On Thursday, February 7 ONLY, 30% of all purchases at  www.delicatefortress.com, with coupon code “NAIKAtoOMAHA”, will be given to us to help with our adoption expenses! You’ll find jewelry, children’s items, bath and body products and beautiful bags and accessories at DFC.  When you place an order with Delicate Fortress on Thursday, you will be helping in two ways – helping our family bring our daughter home and supporting the women that make these amazing products for Delicate Fortress.

Please consider shopping for a cause to help us bring Naika home.  Thank you ever so much.

Jenni

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October Baby! (Which is also a wonderful movie)

Ready to travel to Florida for a pre-party with the other families while we wait for our early morning flight to Haiti!

Ready to travel to Florida for a pre-party with the other families while we wait for our early morning flight to Haiti!

My BFF Darcy met me in Haiti.  I never dreamed she would be able to go to Haiti with me.  It was wonderful!

My BFF Darcy met me in Haiti. I never dreamed she would be able to go to Haiti with me. It was wonderful!

My first trip in a tap-tap.

My first trip in a tap-tap.

No wasting anytime.  I was off the van and onto the porch as fast as I could get there.

No wasting time. I was off the van and onto the porch as fast as I could get there.

It was like a movie...she came running to me and held on so tight.  There is no doubt she knows who I am!

It was like a movie…she came running to me and held on so tight. There is no doubt she knows who I am!

Vicki with ASIA organized a special treat for the families.  Haitian soup for lunch.  Delish!

Vicki with ASIA organized a special treat for the families. Haitian soup for lunch. Delish!

Please contact Vicki with ASIA if you haven a heart for Haiti and want to consider adoption.

Naika found some generous friends and mooched some peanut butter and crackers.

Naika found some generous friends and mooched some peanut butter and crackers.

Her awful ear.  It's all better now!

Her awful ear. It’s all better now!

A Haitian carseat-me!  On the way to see the doctor about her ear.

A Haitian carseat-me! On the way to see the doctor about her ear.

The doctor visit.

The doctor visit.

We celebrated multiple birthdays one night and the kids dressed up for Halloween.  I bought this costume for her last year, when we thought she would already be home.

We celebrated multiple birthdays one night and the kids dressed up for Halloween. I bought this costume for her last year, when we thought she would already be home.

Sneaking snacks, straight out of the box.  Anytime you want!

Sneaking snacks, straight out of the box. Anytime you want!

We took an unexpected trip to the Medishare Hospital when Darcy got sick during our 3rd day in Haiti.  She received excellent, quick and cheap care at the hospital.  Once we knew she was stable, Angie, Kristy and I received a detailed tour of the whole hospital by Scott.  He is a PT and moved to Haiti months ago to assist with the spinal cord injury clinic.

The PT and Wound Care clinic.

The PT and Wound Care clinic.

The prosthetic clinic.  Ironically, it's the only clinic upstairs.

The prosthetic clinic. Ironically, it’s the only clinic upstairs.

Another view of the prosthetic clinic.  We learned part of the tail for the dophin in Dolphin's Tale was made here.

Another view of the prosthetic clinic. We learned part of the tail for the dophin in Dolphin’s Tale was made here.

Project Stitch room

Project Stitch room

One of the programs at the hospital is Project Stitch.  Scott was very proud of this project.  I love to see programs that help Haitians support themselves.  It seems like a great program to support.

Our last night.  I was too busy sitting on the balcony to access the wi-fi to rebook our flight home and checking on Darcy for our ritual last night ice cream.  I'll make it up to her next time, double ice cream.

Our last night. I was too busy sitting on the balcony to access the wi-fi to rebook our flight home and checking on Darcy for our ritual last night ice cream. I’ll make it up to her next time, double ice cream.

Due to our early departure, I said good-bye to Naika at the hotel.  She was one happy girl with a full plate of pancakes and her own juice, poolside.

Due to our early departure, I said good-bye to Naika at the hotel. She was one happy girl with a full plate of pancakes and her own juice, poolside.

My last view of her.

My last view of her. Eating breakfast in her Christmas outfit. I bought matching sister dresses last January when there was not a doubt that she would be home before Christmas.

Welcome home Mommy!

Welcome home Mommy! My other precious ones picked me up at the airport in their pjs.

She will be the best big sister ever.  It's still hanging on our fridge.

She will be the best big sister ever. It’s still hanging on our fridge.

I can’t wait until the next day we are together.  We are praying that there will not be too many more of the “family bonding trips.”  Please pray for Naika to be home before her 3rd birthday in June.

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