Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dossier--French for DONE!

50 notarized papers. 2 authenticated documents. 2 letters. 6 sets of photos. Yesterday we took our completed, notarized, authenticated, triplicate, quadruple-checked dossier to our agency! We are DONE with the paper-chasing and the notarizing and the nickel-and-diming fees per copy.

First we had to go to the Secretary of State’s office in Salem to get two documents authenticated. I believe they are basically confirming that the notarization was valid. Honestly, I didn’t even look at the seal and paper they added! I just stuck it in my bag. The whole thing took about five minutes and cost the easiest $20 any paper has cost so far—the last one is always more fun!

Next we made a quick stop in Target to scout some baby gear, which I’ll get into in another post. Then up to OHSU for Aaron’s eye appointment, but his appointment somehow wasn’t in the computer and they were busy, so she said we might as well go get lunch or whatever and come back later. We went out to the agency then instead of after the appointment. I declare that Banks, Oregon, is officially beautiful country and a cute town. We (well, I—Aaron still doesn’t have new glasses) could even see Mt. Hood this time as we came back toward Portland and from up by the hospital. I’m glad we got to go to the agency and meet three of the staff. We chit-chatted about traveling to and in Ethiopia and saw some photos and maps. And, of course, left behind a large sum of money (but thank you to those who did help reduce it greatly!).

What happens now? Today two of our documents will be overnighted to Washington, DC, for approval at the State Department and Ethiopian embassy. They should be returned to the agency in five to ten days. Then two copies of our dossier are sent to Ethiopia. This takes four days, and we will get a tracking number so I can obsess over exactly when they arrive and we are officially on the orphanage "waiting for referral" list. Obsessing is a key part of adoption, you know . . .

Oh, and how did we celebrate? With nature's greatest food: pumpkin pie milkshakes from Jack-in-the-Box!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Your Request Has Been Approved!

I went out to the mailbox Friday and . . . We got it! We got it! We got it! I burst into Aaron’s home office room and scared him half to death. But who cares? We got our I-171H!

I know I-171H probably doesn’t mean much to you, but it’s less of a mouthful than “notice of favorable determination concerning application for advance processing of orphan petition.” This is the immigration form we’ve been waiting for so we can send in our dossier, the one I thought might not arrive for two or three more weeks. It’s sort of a pre-approval for a visa to bring a child into the U.S. to adopt.

We have a few things to do to complete our dossier, but we should be able to do it this week. We need to make some notarized “true copies” of this. I need to put the final touches on our letters to the Ethiopian government and orphanage board introducing ourselves and telling what age child we want to adopt and why and get these and a couple other forms notarized. This immigration form we just got and a power of attorney letter must be “authenticated” at the state level—at an office in Salem. Since Aaron has an eye doctor appointment (of course!) on Thursday, we will get that done in Salem on the way up to Portland. Assuming that works out, after his appointment we can go out to the Dove office (about 20 miles west of Portland) and drop off the dossier!

Friday afternoon I posted that we’d received our I-171H in an online forum for Ethiopia adopters I’m in (the small one with mostly people using our agency). Now, I-171H means something to these people—I got a flurry of congratulations. I also called the Dove office to make sure I understood what needed to be authenticated, and they were really excited for us too. It was really nice to share with others who have been where we are. There are some things only adoption people understand.

I will explain the next steps soon, but the hopeful bottom line is this: We could be on the “waiting for referral” list in Ethiopia by New Year’s after all!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

World AIDS Day 2006: 40 Million Reasons to Care

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Our world is sick. Our brothers and sisters and parents and children are dying. The Body of Christ--We have AIDS. Take the World Vision AIDS Test to see how much you know about the global crisis.
  • Almost 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illness in 2006.
  • 2006 saw 4.3 million new infections, with 2.8 million (65%) in sub-Saharan Africa. (Note: "Sub-Saharan Africa" means all of Africa except Northern Africa, so it includes Ethiopia.)
  • 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. Worldwide, 15 million children have lost parents to AIDS.
  • Every 14 seconds, a child loses a parent to AIDS.
Here in the U.S., where HIV is now considered a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, these numbers mean so much that to us they too often mean nothing. Who do we know who lost their parents? What town have we visited that has been socially, economically, physically decimated by the death of 10 percent of its population to one disease? No one and nowhere. But in Africa--and increasingly in India, China, the Carribean, and Eastern Europe--these aren't numbers. They are names. They are faces. They are memories. And they are hopes and dreams that might have been.

They are counting on us.

Of the 15 million orphan-reasons to care about World AIDS Day, an estimated 4 to 6 million live in Ethiopia. Whether or not the child we adopt has lost a parent or two to AIDS, in many ways they are all AIDS orphans--for without this plague on the land would be millions more to raise the nation out of poverty, to grow crops, to give health care and education, to take all these children into Ethiopian homes to be loved and cared for. But there are too many.

I have begun reading There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene, a journalist who has added two Ethiopian children to her family. She writes of her reaction when in 2000 she encountered the UN statistics of 12 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa:

Who was going to raise twelve million children? That's what I suddenly wanted to know. . . . Who was teaching twelve million children how to swim? Who was signing twelve million permission slips for school field trips? Who packed twelve million school lunches? Who cheered at twelve million soccer games? (That sounded like our weekends.) Who was going to buy twelve million pairs of sneakers that light up when you jump? Backpacks? Toothbrushes? Twelve million pairs of socks? Who will tell twelve million bedtime stories? Who will quiz twelve million children on Thursday nights for their Friday-morning spelling tests? Twelve million trips to the dentist? Twelve million birthday parties?

Who will wake in the night in response to eighteen million nightmares?

Who will offer grief counseling to twelve, fifteen, eighteen, thirty-six million children? Who will help them avoid lives of servitude or prostitution? Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? Who will help them grow up, choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?

Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few. There aren't enough adults to go around. Although in the Western industrialized states HIV/AIDS has become a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, in Africa a generation of parents, teachers, principals, physicians, nurses, professors, spiritual leaders, musicians, poets, bureaucrats, coaches, farmers, bankers, and business owners are being erased.

The ridiculous numbers wash over most of us. This is happening in our time? . . . How can the rest of us—normal citizens, steering along our paved streets between home and school, work and playground, mall and hardware store, holding open the front door with a foot while maneuvering inside with the mail, the grocery sacks, the purse, a paperback, the children's backpacks—how can the rest of us break through?
Adoption is not the answer to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children—who lost their parents to preventable diseases—have been offered a second chance at family life in foreign countries; like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents, in the cities and villages of Africa. For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross-country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet or the violin—ten thousand African children remain behind alone.

"Adoption is a last resort," I would be told in November 2005 by Haddush Halefom, head of the Children's Commission under Ethiopia's Ministry of Labor, the arbiter of intercountry adoptions, "Historically, close kinship ties in our country meant that there were very few orphans: orphaned children were raised by their extended families. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has destroyed so many of our families that the possibility no longer exists to absorb all our Ethiopian orphans.

"I am deeply respectful of the families who care for our children," he said. "But I am so very interested in any help that can be given to us to keep the children's first parents alive. Adoption is good, but children, naturally, would prefer not to see their parents die."

I do not adopt to stand on a soapbox. I have in fact had my soapbox enough years now that I may even have learned a bit about where I should and should not set it (a child's crib is no place for it). But as I take up this new vocation of parenting, as my heart's hunger meets the world's deep need, as I perhaps have your eyes on my words and your heart on my child--yes, I will speak of AIDS, I will connect the dots, I will tell the truth on World AIDS Day: Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. I, you, we can make a difference. Keep the promise--stop AIDS.

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear your voice
It's whispering
"In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in"...

I've had enough of romantic love

I'd give it up, yeah, I'd give it up
For a miracle, miracle drug
A miracle drug

Snow Falling on Clear Cuts

A quick update on our health saga since my mother says it's all part of the story and I should write a book. (Isn't it bad enough I'm writing a blog? Remember what Anne Lamott says: "Not everything that happens to you is interesting.")

This week we journeyed back to Portland on--go figure--Waldport's annual snow day. The ground was barely white at our house or on Highway 101, but just a few miles inland it started getting white, and then the hills became covered. Since the roads over the coast range of hills are windy and steep, I had to go about 35 mph. As the elevation rose, we crossed into incredible beauty--seemingly the land of Narnia (See the witch's castle between those two hills?). The snow stood on every tree, every twig, every blade. The Douglas fir and Sitka spruce stand at attention in perfect formation to cover every hill with perfect triangular boughs topped with perfectly rounded lumps of snow. These Oregon forests in snow are so perfect they almost seem fake; they look like trees drawn by Dr. Suess. All the little Whos down in Philomath must hold hands around that giant spruce they have lit for Christmas every year.

Despite the weather on the coast, the Valley was dry, and we were only 20 minutes late for Aaron's appointment. His lens and retina still look good, but his eye found a new unique issue to fix: When his eye was dialated, his pupil became larger than his lens, and when it started to go down, the pupil actually caught on the edge of the lens, holding his eye dialated. Strange! The doctor gave him drops to constrict his pupil and had us wait for a while to see if it was working. Today it finally seems to be undialated (and uncaught) all the way. So Aaron was given a fifth type of eye drop (to keep his eye from dialating), but he is down to using just two kinds a day now. And his vision is gradually improving. Hopefully after our visit next week Thursday, he will be cleared to get new glasses/contacts.

Life is returning to the Wetzel version of normal. Aaron is getting back to work in his office and getting together with kids. I was able to finally get groceries, a haircut, and an oil change yesterday. We helped decorate the church and will soon get our own tree. We can stop holding our breath and dream again--of Christmas...of seeing old friends...of African skies...of a family of three.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


For those who may care and because I feel like whining about it, here is the saga of our eventful past week.

After Aaron's surgery last week we spent the night in Portland, lying in a hotel room, Aaron in the bed, nauseous and in pain, me on the floor with a towel as a pillow, jumping every time he moved. He was feeling awful yet when we went back to the doctor in the morning but they pried his eye open long enough to say it looked good, and he got some sleep on the way home. Over the weekend his vision sort of improved, although not as much as we'd expected (based on poor assumptions that the absence of pain would mean the return of vision). We had a few visitors, and on Sunday Aaron attempted to watch the Lions game (based on the poor assumption that they are in fact a professional football team).

Tuesday we had a scheduled appointment to see Dr. Flaxel for a follow-up. His retina still looks good and she was pleased with how much his vision had improved (even though he wasn't!). He will need glasses, but not nearly as strong as in the past. She explained what's making his vision cloudy now--basically blood in the eye--and things like why it seems worse in the morning sometimes. It was the end of the day by then, so she said, "I've got a conference call at 6:00--any more questions? I have 45 minutes!" She was teasing Aaron; she was happy to take the time. It was nice to hear her say how many Marfan's patients she's seen too, both here and in England, where whole families tend to stay put and all go to one main hospital. Our insurance company is moronic if they can't soon comprehend why we went to her instead of "in network." Anyway, we felt great about the visit despite the fact that driving through torrential rain made it an exhausting 9 1/2 hour round trip.

But after that good report came a lousy day. On the way home Aaron felt like his eye was bothering him, but it was so dark and rainy even I could barely see, so it was hard to tell. Wednesday morning he got up early for our YL meeting and could barely see--really sensitive to light, feeling pain, severe fog. Called the doctor's office and they said it wouldn't be the new drops they'd given him; it was most likely the sutures but they should rule out an infection. So at 7:45 we headed NW again . . . in weather that felt like driving through a car wash . . . arrived at 11:00, waited for Dr. Flaxel to get out of a surgery, waited for Aaron's eye to dialate . . . Dr. Flaxel still couldn't see in very well, so we waited for an ultrasound. Yes, they do this much like there's a baby in there.

Dr. Emerson, who helped with the surgery and follow-up came in and looked at it and said it seemed to be bleeding from the sutures, not anything major. He drew for me how the new lens is attached and said probably when they dialated Aaron's eye Tuesday, that caused the iris and eye in general to move and work in different ways and irritate the sutures and cause them to bleed. (Don't worry, these sutures are inside the eye--we are not talking about blood coming out at all.) The blood floating around in the new vitreous layer they put in gets in his field of vision and makes it cloudy. It was clearing up, but now more got in. He recommended sitting upright as much as possible and prescribed a new eye drop--number four--to keep Aaron's eye dialated all the time so it won't be bothered by dialating and undialating.

We left there at about 2:00. Traffic was bad. We needed food. Aaron could hardly see so restaurants and restrooms were not much fun. (I've sure been in more men's rooms lately than I'd like.) With the traffic we knew we'd be getting home late so I thought to call the pharmacy and make sure they weren't closing early for Thanksgiving and that they had the prescription. They didn't have the drops so they'd have them Friday--that's no good. So I called the doctor's office to have them call the prescription in to the larger pharmacy in Newport. Based on our Rite Aid passport photos experience we should have known how that'd go: they didn't have the order when we got there. So I called the doctor's office and they said they'd page Dr. Emerson, who incidentally appears to be a member of Clark Kent/Superman's family tree, but he never takes off his glasses to reveal his true identity. After 10 or 15 minutes I decided, screw this paging system, Dr. SuperBoy gave me his personal cell phone number for a reason, I'm calling him. He spoke to the pharmacist and made sure they had what we needed. After that nice 40-minute delay, we made it home at 7:00.

You see, I've gone to the Valley once a week for the last 5 weeks. Usually I go every six days (Monday, Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday), but this week we thought, Nah, 9 1/2 hours of driving in one day isn't enough. Let's go the next day too so we can drive 17 hours in one 36-hour period! And then let's go back in six days! Michigan people, this is like driving from Grand Rapids to Detroit or Chicago. That would have seemed nuts to us when we lived there, but we're somewhat used to it now. Sometimes it really is annoying being so far from a big city and these specialists, though. Especially when driving through a stinkin' monsoon. (At least I have been able to enjoy some real fall color.) But perhaps Stacie is right: God knew we'd need Dr. Flaxel and actually put us close enough to find her.

What would be really nice would be if we would receive our immigration form in the mail so we could drop our adoption paperwork at our agency on one of these trips--and this blog could get back to talking about our family instead of me whining about doctors and driving! I promise I will get back on subject soon--as soon as I am done administering blue-, pink-, purple-, and red-bottled eye drops four, six, three, and two times a day respectively. Good practice for being a mom?!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Surgery Report

Good news from the Wetzels--well, the one who is awake . . .

Aaron's surgery went very well. They did not have to do anything to the retina. Praise God! Thank you all for your prayers! They took out his lens and the vitreous layer and put in a new lens. Hopefully his vision will be much better and other than being a couch potato for a couple weeks his recovery should not be too bad.

Please do continue to pray, though. Aaron had a hard time coming out of the anethsetic (nausea meds made him more tired) and the pain was quite bad. After trying a couple different things the meds seemed to start kicking in. The drive from hospital to hotel was pretty bad for him, though, and he fell asleep immediately. I'm not sure how long he can expect to have some pain. We have a follow-up with the doctor at 8:15 a.m. Please keep praying for protection for his eye as he recovers and indefinitely, as there is no guarantee retina problems will not come up later. But for now I am relieved, grateful to you all for your love and prayers, and thanking God for always watching over us.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Prayer Request - Eye Surgery

Please pray for us this week.

Aaron is having eye surgery on Wednesday. His vision has been badly affected lately by the lens in his right eye being mostly dislocated. It blocks his vision and makes strange shadows. They will remove the lens and implant a new one. That procedure is relatively routine, but Aaron is a high-risk case. First of all, he already has no vision in his left eye due to a detached retina, which is a common problem with Marfan's syndrome (because it affects the tissues which hold it in place). The risk of surgery is that it could disturb the retina and cause it to detach (now or sometime down the line).

The doctor hopes that while she's in there the retina will look good enough that she can avoid doing anything to it at all (in which case Aaron's recovery will be nice and easy). But if it looks too loose she may try to strengthen the connections. Pray that the retina looks good and is not bothered at all by the surgery.

Surgery is Wednesday; we're not sure yet what time so we will probably go up to Portland on Tuesday night. We will spend Wednesday night in a hotel in Portland and go back to the eye center for a check on Thursday morning.

On Him we have set our hope that He will rescue us again . . . so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us--yes, establish the work of our hands.
Psalm 90:12-17

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Please Vote! (It's not what you think.)

Citizens, mobilize! It's time to vote! No, not for politicians. That's over for while (oh, how we miss the 15 phone calls per day). Please vote for my new funny photo on I could win $50 to go straight into our adoption fund account.

Go to this site: and vote for photo B3. It's a couple of pirates we know, who of course never use silverware. (But why are they so grumpy? They just ARRRRRRRE!) Vote only once or my photo will be disqualified!*

Thank you, pirate Benny, for dinner the other night and for your sweet comment here last week. We have missed you and were so glad to see you!

RMM, your little pirate should be on the cute photos section!

I've had many thoughts but no time to post them lately--sorry. I will be posting again soon, though, so check back.

*Even though it's a huge flaw in the system, I would never, ever support voting more than once for the currently winning photos to disqualify them...Shame on you for thinking of that!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Home Study Complete!

Yesterday we received in the mail final notarized copies of our home study report! We have officially passed the test. I zipped to the post office to get one copy up to immigration so they will process our I171-H form (which is kind of like a pre-visa for your child). The bad news is that our social worker and people online tell me this is taking up to two months right now! I'm not sure if the fact that we have already done the required fingerprinting will make any difference. I'm not usually one for asking God to bend the laws of nature or government for little ol' me, but . . . praying that when some fine civil servant opens my envelope, they for some reason actually heed my little note and put ours on the top of the stack since they already have our prints . . .

Two months--ugh. I can't believe we might not have our dossier in to the agency until Christmas when I wanted it in by October. It wouldn't matter so much but we are also hearing that referral wait times for our agency (as every other agency) have increased because of the explosion of interest in adopting from Ethiopia. I think that's wonderful, of course, but being pregnant without a due date is hard to plan life around. April or May travel is looking more like June. Still, maybe referrals will speed up when the backlog in the Ethiopian courts clears up (they close for at least a month at end of summer). And there are good things about having the school year winding down and having a little longer to prepare to be first-time parents and to raise funds . . . at least that's what I'm trying to tell myself!

Speaking of funds, we keep receiving garage sale items, so another sale will happen but probably not until spring. A huge thank-you to the relatives who sent a gift to Dove on our behalf! If any of you know Bill Gates, you can tell him all he has to do is send his gift there with a note that it's for Wetzels and they'll kindly give him a tax receipt. Or he can send money to keep our church running--but that's an UGH for another time and place.

Meanwhile, time to go admire photos of other people's Ethiopian babies . . . er, I mean, time to get to work!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Help Me Win $50!

Adoption is expensive. My husband's face is funny. Bring these two things together--help me win $50 in a funny photo contest! Go to this web site and VOTE--but ONLY ONCE or you will disqualify my photo:

Photo B12 on this page: (Ain't he cute?)

And photo C1 on this page: (Miss you, James!)

I have many more where those came from . . . I will get the $500 bonus someday!

Home study update coming soon (much like the home study itself).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fingerprints / World Orphan Week

Our immigration fingerprinting appointment went so fast it was comical. We drove three hours, found the nondescript building a few minutes early, filled out a simple form, chatted up the bored guy at the desk, and went to the next desk. He checked my papers and told me to sit down. I sat down for five seconds and a man said, "Forty-two?" Oh, that's me! Aaron didn't even sit down at all; his guy was waiting for him. They scanned our fingerprints on nifty, ink-free, CSI-like machines and gave us comment cards to fill out (I suggest they provide their fine employees the luxury of some windows). At 2:05 we were headed back to the car. Good thing we had that appointment.

October 2-8, 2006, is World Orphan Week. War, poverty, and disease claim the parents of so many children who end up in orphanages or adopted.

The situation in Africa and other developing places is more staggering than we as rich Americans can fathom. AIDS is producing a flood of millions of orphans--a child is orphaned by AIDS every 14 seconds. In a few months we will meet many of them; perhaps we will bring home one, but only one.

From an Ethiopia update I recently received from Compassion International: "Nearly half its population is under age 15. . . . But a perfect storm of tragedy--HIV/AIDS, war with bordering nations, and poverty--has converged to rob the nation of its adults. Parentless children are usually taken in by extended family, but there are so many Ethiopian orphans that even that safety net is strained. The government estimates it costs $115 million a month to care for orphans. That price far exceeds the $140 million a year it spends on the country's entire health system."

Today I feel too rich.

World AIDS Orphans Day: May 7

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ethiopia Everywhere

Everywhere we go, people tell us stories about Ethiopia--so it seems at times, anyway. Last summer the weekend after we returned from Michigan, our guest pastor from Presbyterian missions told us stories about Ethiopia (and other places) and blessed us in Amharic. (Did you know there are more Presbyterians in Ethiopia than in the U.S.?) That cinched our decision to adopt from Ethiopia.

Two weekends ago the main speaker at our Young Life leadership weekend was director over many of the international YL groups. First picture he threw up on the screen was of an Ethiopian Young Life Club. We are going to see if we can perhaps visit them while in Addis. And I really want one of their t-shirts. Some info on YL Ethiopia and photos can be found here.

Here is an interesting article on household characteristics in Ethiopia. Some stats from the survey:
  • Only 8 percent of households reported having drinking water on their premises.
  • 14 percent of households have electricity, but this varies widely by place of residence. Only 2 percent of households in rural areas have access to electricity, compared with 86 percent of urban households.
  • Slightly over three-fourths of households have no bedrooms or have only one room for sleeping.
Now we're headed to Portland to see the Feds--they want our fingerprints. Nothing like 6 hours of driving for what I can only assume is a 15-minute process.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mildly Annoyed

Looks like turning in our dossier is going to be held up, but not because of us. We still need two documents and to write two letters and have it all notarized, but I was going to have it done this week or next. I'm just procrastinating because other things have been calling my name and because even when we get our stuff done, we need our completed home study and a form from the immigration office before we can turn in the dossier.

At the beginning of last week I called Social Worker S. to see if the home study was coming--it should have been coming, from what she'd told me (already taking longer than we expected). But she realized we hadn't gotten fingerprints for the state which they need because we've lived in state less than five years. We went to the sheriff's office to get those last week and sent them off with the criminal check form. Emailed SWS today to see how long it might be now; she called and told me she'd have the home study written up next week (we're second on her list--again/still?) but the prints/check from the state can take a month.

That means that even though we are driving to Portland Tuesday for our immigration fingerprinting appointment, they won't have our home study for probably three more weeks. And until they get that they (presumably) won't start processing our I-171H which could take six to eight weeks (per SWS). It's no one's fault that takes so long, but that clock would have started ticking this Tuesday (or sooner) instead of three weeks from now if we'd known about and done those state fingerprints long ago.

So the vague timeline in my head seems to need adjusting back one month--perhaps travel in May instead of April--and it is a wonder I am only somewhat annoyed with SWS. Of course I know that I am only guessing on our wait time between dossier and referral anyway and that God's not saying, "Oh no! They're going to mess up the plan I had because they won't get the right referral!" No, I will choose to take it on faith that this slowdown was needed to have us ready when our child is, still, "born at the right time."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sale of the Century!

We finally have our garage back after the sale of the century Friday and Saturday. The last two weeks have been insane. I had rush work projects, appointment in Corvallis, ads to get in the paper, broken van brakes, my first paintball experience, and friends and strangers calling and giving me all kinds of stuff for our adoption fundraiser garage sale. The collections included:
  • a carload plus a truckload from people I'd never met up in Alsea
  • a carload from a friend's coworker in Yachats
  • a garageful from Janice
  • a refrigerator we finally figured out how to get over here
  • the kiddie pool Jessy had left in Aaron's office (complete with water and rubber duckies)

By last weekend we could no longer park in the garage. By midweek we could no longer get to the laundry. By Thursday the items were overtaking the house, and that wasn’t even counting the several chairs and bags of clothes of our own I was adding to the pile.

A huge thank-you to Karen for keeping me sane and helping me get organized starting Wednesday. We pulled everything out into the driveway, semi-sorting it as we went. After school some kids came to help and we girls started putting things on tables in an organized fashion while the guys took forever and a day to pick up the refrigerator (only minor injuries sustained). Thursday Karen and I took care of last-minute tasks in town, then Aaron and I continued sorting and pricing. We had to get more tables from church and recruited Kerry to help make signs with her paint that would survive rain—yes, rain! It hadn’t rained here in oh, two months, but guess when it was due to roll in? Friday! This had me panicky since it wouldn’t allow us to just throw everything out on the drive/lawn and call it good.

Friday morning it was cloudy but dry at setup time. Nancy brought her crazy canopy we’d used in Mexico, the one that explodes out at you to set itself up but takes seven people 45 minutes to wrestle back into its box. That worked nicely for electronics and guitars, which Terry and Aaron wheeled and dealed into a good bit of funds. I’d advertised to start at 9:00 but at 8:40 here they came . . . and once one’s looking, the rest swarm! It was quite chaotic as we were still pulling things out and not everything was priced and I was trapped taking money while answering a thousand questions. It settled down, but then we got a short rain shower that sent us scurrying for tarps. Thank you Nancy, Kerry, Terry, and Karen for maintaining order and being great sales clerks! We definitely could not have pulled this off without you!

Once we got settled, the sale was the fun part. We had put up signs indicating this was for our adoption so lots of people asked us about it and congratulated us. Some were curious about the process or how we chose Ethiopia (see our FAQs). Many told us about people they knew who had adopted internationally or that they were or had adopted. I felt like we got to know more of our community members—and now they all know about us!

And now for the only thing you are really reading this to find out . . . the grand total! Total profit: $1471.15! (Yes, it’s in the bank. Don’t come rob us.) That is a lot of money for a lot of junk! Sure, we have a long way to go with funds, but what a great start. Again, thank you to all of you who helped out with the sale and donated items to sell!

Overheard in Waldport:

Woman at sale: “Waldport could use a little color!”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Dossier Productivity

We are making good progress on gathering our dossier paperwork. This week we got one letter of reference and employment letters from church for Aaron and our accountant/tax preparer for me. On Friday we had planned to make a day of getting several things up in Newport (nothing brings freelance work pouring in like having appointments to keep).

Our day involved getting the car ignition looked at (yep, it's messed up), getting passport photos taken at Rite Aid, picking up photos and other things at Wal-Mart and Staples, going to City Hall and learning that the courthouse is a different building (oops), and going to the courthouse and requesting our criminal checks, house deed, and passports. Unfortunately, they noticed that our passport photos weren't done right, so we had to head back to Rite Aid. Now we know why my dad calls it Wrong Aid. As we're driving up and down the hideous part of Highway 101 that's all strip malls and fast food (like 28th St. in GR), the bank sign tells me its 95 degrees. Since 75 is a warm day here and 85 is a heat wave, plus I was hungry and annoyed with Rite Aid, I was getting kind of cranky. But a snack from McDonald's and a free drink from Rite Aid to go with our reprinted photos and I felt better.

Back to the courthouse we went, and the nice lady got our passports finished up. I felt pretty dumb taking that oath with my right hand raised and my left hand on my checkbook, but whatever makes Uncle Sam happy. Then she said, "Now you just have to get your blood drawn at the lab and bring that back . . ." Aaron said, "WHAT?!" He fell for it big time. But she was just yanking his chain and truly very nice about it all, as was the woman across the hall who had the criminal check letters done by the time we checked back (at least the Rite Aid delay was good for something).

The day yielded 2 major documents plus the passport applications. That's a good feeling! Unfortunately, when we learned we would not be assigned a passport number until our passports actually come, we realized we had to pay $120 extra to have them expedited so we can get the number to put on another letter that goes in the dossier. Ah well, at least we will not have to order another copy of our birth certificates since we'll get the copies that went with the passport application back in two weeks. But the birth certificates would have been cheaper. See how confusing all this is? Expensive, too. I laid out $408.95 in two days.

While we were out chasing papers, the couple we met recently who were waiting for their referral got it! He's three months old and his name means "Be a hope." Like us, they are young and it's their first child, so I'm hopeful we'll get a very young referral too, as our social worker said was likely. Every referral story and picture makes it seem more real!

Question for the day: What should we do to celebrate when we have the dossier complete? (Bonus points if you can come up with something cheap, for obvious reasons!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Media Roundup: "What is Africa to me?"

I mentioned recently I’ve noticed a lot of news and media about Africa, Ethiopia, AIDS, race, and adoption lately. Of course these things, especially AIDS and African concerns, are always in the news; one need only be attuned to them. But I thought I would point out some things and give some links here for those who are interested. (Yes, this is also because we’ve accomplished little on the actual adoption process this week.)

A don’t-miss airing this week: “A Closer Walk,” an amazing documentary about AIDS in Africa. “Narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith, A Closer Walk features interviews with the Dalai Lama, Bono and Kofi Annan, with musical contributions by Annie Lennox, the Neville Brothers, Eric Clapton and Sade. . . . ‘This is a story about the way the world is’ says Close in the opening line of the program’s narration.” It will be on PBS Thursday, August 31, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET.

The Australian version of 60 Minutes aired a wonderful story called “Out of Africa” profiling a family which adopted two school-aged Ethiopian children. You can read a transcript, but you will miss the joy of seeing these exuberant kids on video. (You will need to use Internet Explorer to see the video.)

The Chicago Tribune had this article about Ethiopian and transracial adoptions: “Out of Ethiopia: As more white Americans embrace African adoptions, experts applaud good intentions but point out social realities.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is touring Africa and visited his extended family in rural Kenya. He’s popular here but outright celebrity there. NPR had an interesting story about the expectations (hoping for an open wallet) and preparations (whatdya know, that road’s finally been paved!) for his visit. I’m happy he publicly took an AIDS test to set an example.

I have not seen this, but a friend recommends PBS’s “Wonders of the African World” with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He explores African history and culture, such as ancient Christian sites and the belief that the Ark of the Covenant may rest in Ethiopia. On the more geographical side, PBS also produced the series “Africa.”

NPR recently aired the series “Africa: Portraits of Poverty,” with six parts focusing on issues such as AIDS, educating girls, and the high risks of childbirth. I love the glimpses of life and culture and triumph of these kinds of stories—yet they are filled with sobering realities. These are the challenges facing the Ethiopian families whose children tragically (though joyfully for us) become our children. As adoptive parents we must grapple with these complexities. I wish more people would.

    What is Africa to me:
    Copper sun or scarlet sea,
    Jungle star or jungle track,
    Strong bronzed men, or regal black
    Women from whose loins I sprang
    When the birds of Eden sang?
    One three centuries removed
    From the scenes his fathers loved,
    Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
    What is Africa to me?

—Countee Cullen, "Heritage"

Monday, August 21, 2006

Beautiful Families

On Saturday we drove up to Portland to meet some of the families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting through our agency. They were having an informal barbeque, organized through the online group. Only about six families were there, but kids everywhere! I loved walking into that backyard and seeing them all together—from blonde-haired blue-eyed ten-year-olds to the youngest Ethiopian girl, almost seven months old and in America only a month.

Most of them already knew each other, as three of the families actually were in Ethiopia together last year. One couple is waiting for their referral. But they were all welcoming and kind and excited for us just starting out. I appreciated hearing from people face to face what “everyone says,” the things you read: how amazing the adoption experience is, how they loved Ethiopia, how kind the people there were, how much they loved their children right from the start. We also got to hear some of their stories from traveling and get some tips on what to do and what not to worry about. Plus I tried to mentally file little things like how to pronounce the guest house host’s name.

It was a long drive for a cookout but felt worth it for making those connections and having those firsts: We met our first Ethiopian-adoptive families. I met my first AIDS orphans (now orphans no more). I held my first sweet Ethiopian girl, wishing I had a camera as she looked up at me with her deep brown eyes and contentedly sucked on my ONE Campaign bracelet. Our child will look like this! I can only hope our child will be as beautiful and happy as these.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Little Joys

The little joys of the adoption process:

1. Every time we go to the bank to have things notarized, we get cookies. I love our bank.
2. Teenagers say the darndest funniest things. I love our teenagers.

Toshia: "I am totally willing to babysit for a price of popcorn and chocolate milk."

Max: "Can I be Thor's fairy godfather? I'm not sure even what a fairy godfather does, but it sure sounds cool."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AIDS in the News

Quick paper update: Birth certificate copies ordered. Marriage certificate copies ordered. Passport applications almost complete. Online adoption education course completed. Need to get home study form notarized and we'll be done with our end of that, I think.

I've noted a lot of interesting things in the media related to Africa, AIDS, race, and adoption this week. I will share more soon, but for now a note on the International AIDS Conference taking place in Toronto this week. The reality is that you can't talk about Africa without noting the impact of AIDS, and you can't talk about HIV/AIDS without noting the staggering impact on the developing world and particularly sub-Saharan Africa. I will share more at another time, but for now a note on the International AIDS Conference taking place in Toronto this week. Here is one article on what Bill Gates and Bill Clinton had to say in their appearance together: "PanAfrica: What Bill and Melinda Gates Said." (I chose an article from, a site which collects news from all kinds of African media--interesting to poke around on.)

For a more personal story, you might want to read about the "AIDS Grannies": "African Grandmothers rally for AIDS Orphans."

You go, grannies!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Virtual Friends and Real Papers

One of the early joys of our adoption process has been the kindness of everyone connected to the agency. As soon as we applied we were invited into their online forum of people who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Since I’m addicted to online adoption info these days, I joined right away. My introduction was greeted with numerous welcoming replies on the site and even a couple personal emails. I believe three other familes also joined that week, so a bunch of the “regulars” re-introduced themselves to everyone. And a couple of referrals came through, so there was much rejoicing (yaaaay)! Several familes are from the Portland area and getting together for a BBQ in a couple weeks--I hope we can go meet my new virtual friends!

The group discusses everything from health questions, travel advice, and fundraising to interesting news tidbits, Ethiopian recipes, and the insanity they’re feeling as they wait for referrals. The Ethiopia program is large enough now that although our agency doesn’t send people in groups, it's working itself out that families are going at the same time. I wonder who we will travel with? Certain folks sure seem like fun! It will be interesting to see how it works out as we get closer. Right now we have no real timeline . . .

. . . but we do have real paperwork! We mailed our agency contract (and big fat check, ugh) last Friday and got our dossier packet today. That’s the list and examples of all the letters and documents we need, how many copies, what has to be notarized, etc. Earlier in the week I took care of our USCIS I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (I just like saying all that fast to sound smart). Basically it starts our pre-approval to bring a child into the U.S. So I wrote my first ever check to the Department of Homeland Security. My joke about suddenly feeling safer feels much less funny today, though.

The other day in Ray's grocery store a man stopped me because he saw my t-shirt from the Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor, Michigan—he and his wife used to work there! They moved here two years ago. And I thought it was funny that a man at Young Life leadership camp last year said he had the same shirt; they had visited Michigan from Montana. Okay, I get that it's a small world after all . . . but if I ever meet an Ethiopian in Ray's, I may actually pass out!

Monday, August 07, 2006

For this I scrubbed cupboards?

It's over. We did it. Our home has been studied.

The interview was not at all grueling or probing. No white gloves used or petri dish germ samples taken. I think the only easier test we've faced was our "interview" when we first visited Waldport! Social Worker Sandy is very down-to-earth and unintimidating. She said we did such a good job on our essay homework that we'd already covered most of the areas she would have asked us about. She still needs a few things like our criminal checks back before her report can be completed, but barring something unforseen like discovering our identities have been stolen by one of America's Most Wanted, we seem to have passed the test!

Next we'll start the online adoption education program we have to complete and work on gathering dossier paperwork as soon as we get the agency's packet. Meanwhile, back to working and basking in the (fleeting) glory of my oh-so-spotless house!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Monday, Study Monday . . .


What was I thinking when Aaron was on the phone with Social Worker S. deciding on Monday versus Tuesday and I said Monday morning is fine? Tuesday would have given me 24 more hours to prepare, clean, worry, kill fruit flies (little #&%!*s are driving me nuts but goin' down!), organize, be anxious, safety check, rehearse, and get nervous!

I'm actually not truly concerned, although at times when I think about it I get a surge of nervous energy. Not really butterflies, but kind of jittery. No coffee this week!

S.W.S. has been so nice and helpful on the phone, I'm sure she won't be scary in person. Aaron actually asked her if she's "one of those mean ones" and she denied it. She's extremely chatty and easy to talk with. Should make the visit go fast, but on the other hand, if we have to discuss a bunch of specific things without getting sidetracked, it could take forever. She said not to worry about cleaning--but I was going to use this as my only motivation to clean things I never clean. When will I ever scrub baseboards with a toothbrush if not for home study? Too bad, 'cuz there's no time!

I may now return to my regularly scheduled neurosis already in progress.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Speaking Freely

Welcome, new readers! Before reading further, you may want to go back in time and read the first post, "Frequently Asked Questions."

FINALLY we can speak freely! Because we've been traveling and hosting guests so much this summer, we hadn't had good opportunity to tell many people here in Waldport about our adoption plans. It may seem silly, but I wanted the people to whom we are closest to find out first, or at least at the same time (not last). But if we told people one at a time, it'd take forever, and then no one knows who else knows. And we knew once we told Toshia and the rest of the youth group kids, it'd be all over! (No offense, loves, if you're reading this.) But now that we're really getting into the process, we were just bursting to share. With Aaron back from YL camp, I told him I couldn't take it any more--we're telling! Everyone! So this morning at church he stood up and told the congregation at almost the end of the service, since he didn't manage to get it out during regular prayer request time. Everyone grinned and clapped and congratulated us. They're so wonderful. And wouldn't you know it, someone in the congregation has a grandchild also currently adopting from Ethiopia!

I wanted to see Toshia's face when Aaron said it--it was priceless. I've never seen a mouth gape so wide, and for about ten minutes! She was actually almost a bit scary, being so shocked and indignant that she hadn't known--we weren't sure whether she was going to punch us or cry. She soon moved into the latter. Ana looked dazed in her shock. Shayla is calling us Mom and Dad, "so we can get used to it."

After church many of us went to the Adobe for lunch (a celebration of Desi and Heather, Margaret Ann, and, I suppose, per the sermon, "Cloud Appreciation Sunday"), so we got to talk more with some people. Linda is so cute, all giddy to buy baby things and decorate the room. I reminded her of our first experience sewing curtains . . . perhaps we'll find some to buy! Unfortunately Billie was at home with laryngitis, so we had to stop by and tell her, because Linda said she'd be calling Billie to see if she'd talked to me yet until we did. Sure enough, while we were there, Linda called. What a pair you two are!

We still have people from outside of church and most of the kids to tell, but I'm sure word will spread fast (this is Waldport, after all), and now that it's kind of "out there," I feel like I can tell anyone and everyone. Tell one, tell all! We're pregnant on paper! Whee!

Thank you most sincerely to all of you for your happy and supportive responses. Our church is truly a family any child would be blessed to grow up in.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Countdown Begins.

Note: If you're new to this site, you might want to start with the previous post, FAQs.

Happy birthday to me--I mailed our adoption application! We have applied for the Ethiopia program of Dove Adoptions International. It's a mid-size agency near Portland. We also have started working on home study paperwork for Sandy C., who is an independent social worker but has worked with Dove a lot.

Choosing an agency was somewhat difficult, but since only a few agencies are licensed for Ethiopian adoptions, our choices were greatly narrowed down. I got information packets from five agencies; two of them have waiting lists because their Ethiopia programs are growing so quickly. I got recommendations from people on online adoption forums. I read a lot and eventually called our top choices to ask questions about their programs and process. I won't get into detail here about why we decided on Dove beyond saying we feel comfortable with their program, their accessibility, their facilities in Ethiopia, etc. For you Reformed fans of Providence out there: Dove was the first agency site I ran into when I started thinking seriously about adoption and doing research. A hint? Ethiopia lodged permanently in my heart right then and there. Just took us a while to get to this point of applying.

We have also started on home study paperwork. Well, Aaron has. He spent a day cranking through his "homework" before Young Life camp. My parents have been here, so I have yet to catch up with him. Sandy may be able to come here for our visit around the second week of August. Yes, things are happening fast! Since the application is in the mail, assuming all goes well, the 9-month timeline clock starts now. Stay tuned . . .


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions about the Wetzels' Adoption

Family and friends, many of you already know that Aaron and Wendy are hoping to be joined by a little Wetzel through the process of international adoption. Thank you for the support you’ve shown us so far! We know this process is foreign (er, no pun intended!) to many of you, as it was to us before we began. I (Wendy) plan to write here regularly as a way of letting you know what’s going on and learning with us more about adoption.

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to talk to us, and to answer some of those questions you may have wanted to know but been afraid to ask, I’m going to start with a little Frequently Asked Questions about the Wetzels’ Adoption.

1. When did you decide to adopt and why?

Why adopt? Wendy couldn’t survive as a freelancer if she had to give up coffee for 9 months. Just kidding!

We have been thinking about whether, when, and how to add children to our family for a long time. We have loved and still do love the many experiences we’ve shared with kids, especially teenagers—but they are not our family. It’s time for us to have a lifelong relationship with a child of our own. You may be wondering how our experiences with Marfan’s Syndrome factored into this decision. We won’t lie; it was a factor in this difficult decision—although we don’t consider adoption “second best” or a consolation prize. Yes, in a perfect world, we might have had biological children. But this sin-sick world is imperfect in many, many ways. It’s also true that in a perfect world, no children would need to be adopted in order to experience the love of a family. We are confident that God will work through adoption to bring us the child or children who are perfect for our family!

2. What kind of adoption are you doing?

We are pursuing international adoption for a variety of reasons. Some of the draws for us are the more structured nature of the process, more predictable costs and time frames (although delays can happen when dealing with two national governments!), the opportunity to learn about another culture and reflect more of God’s world by incorporating it into our family, and the great need for homes for children in many places.

3. What country will your child be from? How did you choose?
Although we have not decided on an adoption agency yet and so could conceivably change our minds, we are pretty sure we’ll adopt from Ethiopia. Although many people are more familiar with adoption from Asian countries, Ethiopia’s adoption programs are growing fast (thanks, Angelina?), making it the 7th most popular country in 2005 and likely to be in the top 5 in 2006 (given that some countries like Russia are making adoption much more difficult these days). The needs in Africa are great due to extreme poverty; malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases; war; and other factors. Ethiopia alone has an estimated 4 to 6 million children needing families. Despite these challenges, Ethiopian children are as healthy as any when adopted, and the country’s adoption system is now well established.

The fact that I (Wendy) am having trouble not including too much information about Africa here indicates the real reason we gravitated to Ethiopia: We have a love for Africa! We've long felt that if there were ever a place we wanted to visit or do missions work in, it would be somewhere in Africa more than anywhere else. The stories and needs capture our imaginations and tug at our hearts more than those of other places. I believe God gives different people an interest in different places and needs so that our attention and passion can be more focused and effective; He seems to have drawn us toward Africa. Who knew that God would allow us to one day not only visit Africa but also love one of His beautiful African people as part of our own family? We look forward to sharing with our child the miraculous story of how God planted the seeds in us long before one of their days came to be.

4. Does that mean your child will be black?
Yes, Ethiopians are generally quite dark-skinned. We will be facing many new experiences and challenges as a multi-racial (or transracial) adoptive family (many of which we also would have encountered had we decided on a different country, especially since we quickly ruled out Eastern European countries, although that also would have been cross-cultural). We hope you will join us in learning all we can about these issues and providing our child a safe place with loving family and friends in the midst of a society and world with messed-up, broken attitudes and history regarding race. We recognize that we have a lot to learn but trust that with your support and God’s empowerment, our family can be a beautiful reflection of love and understanding.

5. How long does the adoption process take and how much does it cost?
Timeframes vary widely between countries, but Ethiopia has one of the faster and simpler processes. We are told that from the time of applying to an agency (we are currently narrowing it down), the process could take only about 9 months. Sounds like about the right amount of time for a baby to arrive!

Costs can vary too, but let’s just say that international adoption is comparable to buying a new car. And yes, that depends on the kind of car! A significant portion of the costs are for travel, of course.

6. How old will your child be? Will it be a boy or a girl?
Ethiopia has healthy young infants available, and we’re requesting as young as possible to experience as much of that early time as we can [insert joke about young minds ripe for brainwashing here!]. Some Ethiopian babies are coming home as young as 4 months old, which was a definite draw for us.

Some agencies do not allow first-time parents to specify a preferred gender; others do. I’ve heard that this is because more people request girls than boys. Some people think it’s not fair to be able to request gender since with a natural birth you can’ttrue, but hey, for a natural birth you don't have to first discuss your history, religion, health, and finances with a complete stranger who holds your future plans in their hands. Adoption is difficult, so it should get to have its own perks too, I say! Nonetheless . . . we think we'll let God decide.

7. What are the steps to adopting?
With a lot of research behind us, our next step is to decide on and apply to an adoption agency. The agency performs a “homestudy” (or has a social worker in your state do it, if the agency is elsewhere). This involves providing information and talking to a social worker about how we’re preparing to adopt, our background, our parenting styles, etc. They will come to our house to terrify us that we are not anal-retentive enough in our cleaning—okay, that’s not the reason, although a lot of people worry about it! They write up a report which essentially approves us to adopt.

We then need to file adoption paperwork with the U.S. government and the government of the country from which we’re adopting; the paperwork for that country is called a dossier. Once they approve our dossier and file who knows how many papers on that end, we can receive a referral of a child. We will receive photos and as much medical and background information as is available, which varies. If we see a medical red flag, we can refuse the referral. Since the children are screened for major illnesses and given a medical exam before referral, hopefully at that point we would accept the referral and make travel plans!

We would travel to Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa and stay near or at the orphanage/care center. The stay required is about one week. Some paperwork there, some paperwork back here in the U.S., and we’re officially all one family! Then, of course, there’s the feeding, diapering, teething, crying, playing, spoiling . . .

8. Is there anything we can do to help?
Sure—we need everything anyone expecting a baby needs! We will need your excitement and encouragement, especially when the paperwork gets tedious and the waiting excruciating. We will need you to come to our garage sale and buy our junk (or help with whatever other ideas we come up with) to help pay for this process and baby gear. And as new parents, we’ll need wisdom and help especially when our baby arrives. We’re thankful to have all of you behind us!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to comment here or email us, and check back often for our updates and reflections. Blessings,

Wendy and Aaron