The signs.

There have been a lot of WTW (what the…what?) moments during this process—especially in the last month. Moments that feel like you’ve been kicked in the teeth by an abnormally large, bitter, and ugly donkey. And after we’ve met our new daughter, we’ll probably write a book about those moments.

Our first reaction was to try and make sense of those moments or to interpret them as “signs”.

And I’ll just be candid: if you rely on “signs” for real-time, minute-by-minute affirmation and confirmation that you are on the right path, you might end up at a dirty Long John Silver’s when your goal was to go to the beach. And just to clarify, that’s not a good thing.

Signs are misleading and they are filtered by our own minds and confirmation biases. We see what we want to see, and when the going gets tough, we often only see roadblocks and brick walls and U-turns and exits.

Signs will make you quit too early or they’ll make you act impulsively when you should pause. Signs can make you feel uncertain or fearful. Very quickly you can become a pinball bounced around by “signs” without any clear direction.

SIGNS GRAPHIC
This sweet Powerpoint slide gives you a step-by-step process of how to stop focusing on your purpose and instead – get lost. You’re welcome!

Let me be clear(ish) about what I’m NOT saying: You shouldn’t pay attention to any red flags whatsoever. You should ignore wise counsel. You should ignore common sense and reality. You should never change your mind. If you do those things, you are being lazy. And you’re not a lazy person. (I mean, to my knowledge, you’re generally not a lazy person. Let’s move on.)

What I am saying is that when circumstances spin you around and mixed messages are everywhere, stop and go back to the original purpose.

Spend less time trying to read the signs and more time on the why. Focus on the truth. (I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected this. I’d say I’m fast-approaching “not terrible”. I am so often steered by emotion and reaction and mood. But it’s fun to write about it and pretend like I have it together! I’m awesome!)

And here’s the good thing: even if you make a “wrong” turn, fear not: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

So here we are. We’ll soon be meeting our second daughter. And know this: if we would have “read the signs” along this journey, we probably wouldn’t be adopting right now; we’d be consoling ourselves with talk of “closed doors” and “we trieds” and “oh wells” and “let’s go to Targets”.

But we’re in this now. And if we see any more STOP signs along the way, we will smirk at the irony, pause, and then keep going. (But seriously if we see a Target, we may stop real quick like.)

BTW – here’s an update on the fundraiser. Thank you so much for adding so many hearts to the chart! And we’re so glad that many of you are sporting the “brave” and “valiente” bling! Get them here.

200 ENVELOPES

Who’s the brave one?

We’ve been thinking a lot about bravery.

Throughout this entire adoption process, when we’ve had questions or concerns or doubts or uncertainty, we’ve been able to email our agency, talk with a friend, text a friend, talk with family, talk with other adoptive families, talk with each other, Google it, post a request to our Facebook prayer support group (awesome!), and – you know – there’s God :). It’s a pretty rock-solid support system. Sure, we’re taking some risks. But brave? We’re not so sure.

Then we think about Mystery Girl. When food is scarce or when fear and rejection are overpowering or when danger is apparent or when pain and loss are too familiar…when she has doubts or uncertainty, what does her support system look like?

Fast-forward to “gotcha day”: for Nicole and me, we’ll have the luxury of knowing it’s forever. We’ll know trust. We’ll know grace. We’ll know commitment and love. We’ll know we have family and friends at home who will jump in and love her and us through all the transition. We’ll know that on the hard days, we have all of this to lean on.

But our little daughter won’t. She will take our hands and go home with us – two people she has just met. Two people she must hope are the real deal. New country, new food, new school, new boundaries, new life. We can’t think of a more vulnerable position to be in.

So at this point, we know two things about our new daughter:
1. She’s 5, 6, 7, or 8 years old.
2. She’s brave. Valiente.

We want her to know it and to never forget it.

Our friend Julie (from juliethefish designs) designed a necklace, wrap bracelet, and keychain with our daughter in mind.Each piece is stamped with the word “brave”, and 100% of the proceeds of every “brave” piece sold will go towards our adoption costs (Julie is amazing, crazy generous, and you’ll love everything in her store). Also, there’s free shipping on all the brave items. Win-win-win.

brave
Don’t you love people who are good at stuff? I know! Us too! juliethefish designs is amazing.

Every child who is waiting for a family is brave. On the day we meet our daughter, we can’t wait to give her a necklace and tell her how brave she is.

Actually, every one of us needs a reminder to choose the brave thing. It’s easy to miss these opportunities because sometimes they feel small. But they aren’t. Bravery sometimes looks like being yourself when its easier to try and blend in. Sometimes it’s speaking up, and sometimes it’s listening. Sometimes it is a simple “yes”, and other times it’s a simple “no”. Forgiving others and yourself is brave. Dreaming bigger is brave. Loving people who are different than you is brave.

These necklaces and and bracelets and keychains won’t make you braver.  But they are indeed “stylish reminders”. So think of someone who could use a “stylish reminder”, and then go to the link below to place an order. Also, get one for yourself. And maybe a neighbor or 12.

Here’s the link.

This is happening.

A three-pound dossier was picked up today in Denver, CO and is making its way to N!caragua. Right now, DHL is showing that it will arrive by end of day Friday. Stuff’s ’bout to get real, as the kids say. Actually, I think I’m the only one who still says that.

Hustle has been the name of the game for the past several months. And now it’s out of our hands. Our paperwork will go before an adoption committee, and then we wait to be matched. So now that we have all this extra time on our hands, I was thinking of maybe starting a few hobbies – maybe learn some magic tricks or something. Or start a local Minecraft club. The possibilities are endless.

In reality, we’re focused on a few things:
– Learning more Spanish. ¡Ya nos vamos!
– Continuing to educate ourselves on how to be the right parents for our expanded family.
– Raising the remaining funds so we’re ready to meet our daughter!

NICA MAP_DHL

Thank you for caring enough to keep tabs on this journey. And thank you for your amazing generosity! Here is an update on the envelope fundraiser:

200 ENVELOPES

Secret society of awesomeness.

There is a piece of secret knowledge that I’d like to impart on you, my good reader: the adoption crowd is made up of the best people ever. Case in point: we attended an annual adoption dinner event last night at Radiant Church in Visalia. Firstly, the building looks like its the HQ for Etsy, TOMS shoes, the Giving Keys, and all the brands we love. The architecture actually made me feel awesome.

The event’s objective was to raise funds for families in their church who are adopting. The place was packed, and Nicole and I grabbed two seats. My least favorite part of the night was – as usual – the part where I spill the beverage. Of course, last night’s spill happened while I was introducing myself. Classy. “Hi, I’m Caleb. And I’ll go get some more napkins.” On the brighter side, it wasn’t a destructive spill (much like the infamous Starbucks Spill of ’14 where I somehow violently spilled a lava-hot Grande Americano all over the wall, my lap, and the floor.)

We watched three couples share their stories and got to meet and talk with many more afterwards. Their adoption journeys all look different. Different countries, different processes, different timelines, different hurdles to overcome, and different miracles from God have happened along the way. The amazing thing is that we left feeling more connected than before. These couples have experienced the same emotions we have. They have asked themselves the same questions. They have had to overcome some of the same hurdles – some are much bigger. And like us, they have gotten to experience God’s faithfulness like never before. God is writing every story and we can trust Him.

DATE NIGHT MAP PIC
There was an awesome world map on the stage at the church. Seemed like a good opportunity to point at Nicaragua. Also, it was one of the best date nights ever.

Speaking of awesomeness, here’s an update on the fundraiser. Every heart we add to this chart brings us one step closer to our daughter. And that is awesome :).

200 ENVELOPES

 

 

 

I’ve been stalling on this post: 200.

Nicole and I have been overwhelmed by your support. Seriously. You’ve started prayer groups, given us bedding and furniture for Mystery Girl’s bedroom, written letters of recommendation, given financially, texted us a verse the minute we needed it, and cheered us on. Every part of that matters so much to us. We can’t even begin to say thank you.

We can’t wait to tell our daughter about the amazing people who helped bring her home.

And the cool thing is that she’s going to be reminded every day. We designed and made this 500-piece puzzle for her room, and it says: you are loved, wanted, beautiful, ours, & His. It really is the perfect analogy – all of the pieces are coming together to form her story, and each one is critical.

PUZZLE WORDS
FYI: hardest puzzle ever to put together. Who designed this thing?

On the back of each piece, we’re writing the names of all of you. However you’ve encouraged or supported us, we want our daughter to know you. It will be framed with glass on the front and back; she’ll get to see a lot of names… 500 names :).

PUZZLE NAMES
We have so many names to add to this. 🙂

So on to the harder part of this message: in two weeks, we need to be ready for a call. That doesn’t mean it will happen then, but we have to be prepared. Once we get the call, we’ll be expected to pay the balance of our agency fee, book plane tickets, and be financially prepared for living expenses for the in-country stay (10-20 weeks). We have a financial mountain in front of us.

Up to this point we’ve been paying as we go, using our savings ($14,000 in agency and document fees so far), but we are now up against the clock… and my pride. I keep putting off this post. Being financially smart and self-sufficient is a big deal to me, but our daughter’s future is slightly more important than my pride.

Here’s a breakdown of the remaining financial needs:
Final agency referral fee: $8,000 (balance due at referral time)
Five tickets to Nicaragua: $4,250
Our Daughter’s plane ticket to bring her home: $800
Caleb’s travel back (for work): $2,250
Immigration expenses for our daughter (medical, visa, passport, legal): $1,000
Monthly expenses abroad (need to plan for at least 3 mos):
Rent: $800
Electricity: $100
Food: $600
Driver: $650
Total est remaining expenses: $22,750

I’ve tossed around some amazing fundraiser ideas. One or more of them included Bono, Beyonce, the one-and-only Justin Bieber, and Screech from Saved by the Bell. They were all available and wanted to help, but it’s just the time thing. Another idea involved an interpretive dance/poetry night hosted and performed by yours truly. Again, the timing was just bad for me.

I’m still stalling.

Here’s what we’re doing:
200 envelopes.

Each envelope has a # on it, 1 – 200. Each represents the dollar value. You choose the envelope you want and donate that amount. EX: Envelope #53 = $53 donation. You get it.

We love this because truly every envelope and every amount matters.

How it works:

  1. Choose an envelope.
  2. Let us know which # you’re taking.
    • Text: 559-740-8910
    • Email: nicoleadams79@hotmail.com.
    • FB msg Nicole.
    • Or if you use the YouCaring page, we’ll see it.
  3. Choose your donate method.
    • PayPal to nicoleadams79@hotmail.com
    • Give through our YouCaring page (it’s very secure and widely used)
    • Send check/cash via snail mail:

Nicole Adams
1921 N. Mendonca St.
Visalia, CA 93291

We’ll post updates as much as possible. As the envelope # requests come in, we’ll mark them off.

200 ENVELOPES

 

More than anything, please pray for our daughter. And if you’re not into prayer, now’s a good time to start. 

Five tickets to Nicaragua, please.

The call. In the adoption world, this is a defining moment. It’s the time when you’re matched with your child. It happens at a different time in the process for every country, and is usually followed up with an email that has a photo of the child, along with more details.

But “the call”, for us, will go a little something like this:
> We’ll get a call with a referral of a child.
> We’ll be given a name, approximate age, and a few BASIC health details, but no photo.
> If we accept, we’ll need to be in the country within a week.

Let’s talk about that last bullet. Did we mention that with a week’s notice, we’ll be moving to N!caragua for about three months?

NICA MAP
If you know of a direct flight from Visalia to Managua or if you know someone who’s thinking about getting a pilot’s license and could borrow a plane from a friend or neighbor, please let us know.

That’s one of the big differences with N!caraguan adoptions – they require adoptive families to stay in the country for about 12 weeks (check out the beautiful flow chart below for the details).

So just to recap: when we get the call, we’ll have a week to get everything together to move to Nicaragua. No problem.

PROCESS_ADOPTION_THE CALL_2015
This flow chart was created using an advanced tool from the distant future called, “Powerpoint”.

We definitely need time to prepare, plan, pack, fundraise, etc. Except for the fact that we don’t have time. We’re on track to have our dossier (paperwork) to our lawyer in N!caragua by June 1.

The next council meeting will most likely take place the first week in June.

Where does this put us?

We could potentially get “the call” in as few as 15 days.

[I’ll be writing another post about how this happened in such a short amount of time. Actually, here’s the summary: my wife is Nicole.]

We’re bombarded with excitement and panic. Excited because we could be leaving in weeks to meet our daughter. Panicked because we have a huge bill that will be due as soon as we get the call. And also panicked because our list looks like this:

LIST
Obviously, I created this list. By the time you’re reading this, I’ve probably lost it.

Also, in the packet we received for planning our trip, there’s an entire section dedicated to “critters”. Read at your own risk.

scorpions cropped
The scorpions aren’t deadly and the stings only hurt for an hour! Sweet! Also, I’d like to personally apologize to you that the highlighter made the black ink bleed.

Also, I’ve been reading this book on Nicaraguan history, and due to the pace of my reading skills and comprehension, I need approximately seven more years to complete it.

NICA BOOK
Seriously, this is an epic book.

One last thing, people: when Nicole and I were newlyweds, one of the first things on our bucket list was “live abroad in Latin America”. So we’ll be checking that one off the list soon. We had no idea when we wrote that down that it would actually play out as: get a phone call, buy five one-way tickets to N!caragua, move, AND meet daughter #2. God is so much more creative than we are. God FTW.

Keep an eye out soon for the post where we ask for more prayers and money.

if you don’t want more kids, don’t ride Cars.

“So when did you decide to adopt?” That’s a great question. Read on.

Nicole is a planner. She plans planning sessions to talk about planning plans. I didn’t know what a “plan” was until after I got married. I thought everyone just rolled with it. Anyway, Nicole loves itineraries. So when we decided to have kids, we had kids. We wanted them two years apart. Maddie was born, and then Hudsen was born two years later, almost to the day. And our third was due two years after Hudsen…almost to the day. But you can’t plan everything. We had a very difficult loss. A few years later, Nathan completed the Adams Five perfectly.

Fast forward: On October 8, 2014, in true Adams-style, we were at the rope drop at Disney’s California Adventure. Many of you are correctly thinking, “That’s funny. I didn’t think the Adamses were ever on time for anything ever in the history of ever.”  Right you are, kind sir or madam. But when it comes to Disneyland, we are total boss. That’s called “good priorities”. Anyway, we had a solid gameplan, people: get to the park early; get a good spot in line; Caleb grabs fast passes for Cars; Nicole and the kids get in the regular line at Cars. I know, it’s brilliant. We get to ride it twice before most people know what hit ’em.

The Cars ride seats six people. Since we only have five, this presents a wonderful (once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity for a stranger to join the Adams Five for 3.5 minutes. (We’re just blessed to be a blessing.) You see, when a Cars car isn’t full, the single-rider line feeds into the almost-full cars. I hope you’re keeping up with the logistics of all this. So a sixth person joined our car:

CARS RIDE ADAMS SIX
We blurred out our little extra passenger, but here’s the pic. Hands up like we just don’t care! Actually, I think I might be snapping. I thought we had all agreed that we would snap. Anyway, kudos to Disney for this snapshot in time that changed our family’s future.

We don’t know her name, but she was maybe six, seven, or eight years old. Her dad was in the car in front of us; her mom in the car behind us. We were thinking, What a brave girl! Riding Cars with a crazy awesome stranger family! When we got off the ride and while looking at the pictures, the girl’s mom said, “What? You never put your hands up! How’d they get you to do that?” And Nicole said, “When in Rome…!”

But something bigger happened during those short 3.5 minutes: As the little girl walked off with her parents, Nicole and I looked at each other, and I read her like a book. There were tears in her eyes. It was clear, and it was crazy: There was a second daughter out there for our family. It was like God reached in and created space in our hearts at that moment. On a Disney ride. Seriously.

It also happened that on that same day, our three kids were wearing new t-shirts that we got to support some friends who are adopting (pray for the O’Neal Family – they are meeting their daughter in three weeks!)

KIDS TSHIRTS
We tried to get Maddie to wear camo shorts and a grey t-shirt, too, but she wouldn’t go for it.
splash
I was praying, and Nicole was focused on blowing kisses. Kind of shows the difference in our priorities.

So thank God for plans and for re-directs.
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Makin’ space and gettin’ stuff done – a photo montage.

It all started over a Saturday cup of coffee. Then it was on. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

PIC 1: We have some sad news to report: we got rid of several truckloads of stuff. And the stuff was really important to us. It was so important, we don’t remember what it was. I’m pretty sure there was something white. I vaguely remember something wooden. I think there was a lot of plastic stuff. All I know is we casually unloaded it at the donations center, and then un-casually peeled out and never looked back.

caleb maddie garage
Look at that beautiful empty space. My lovely wife is the opposite of a hoarder. There should actually be a show about her. Also, do those shoes make my calves look big?

PIC 2: Look how happy these two young men appear. Make special note of Nathan’s wry smile. Proceed to the next photo.

hud nate bedroom
FYI: they played while we made the beds.

PIC 3: The bunkbeds are back! And that means Nathan is happy and Jet is reminding everyone that he’s not a flying dog. If you don’t know that story, here’s the summary: Nate + Jet + bunkbed = expensive field trip to the vet. In Nate’s defense, in his words, “I thought it was a good idea.”

bunkbedf

PIC 4: This is what Nicole’s birthday bash looks like. It’s called a “furniture painting party” and they’re all the rage in NYC and Beverly Hills. I just made that up. NYC and Beverly Hills are behind on the trend.

girls painting

PIC 5: And here we have the products of that painting party, ready to go into mystery girl’s bedroom. And here we also have a dog named Jet. It’s like he was made for the camera. I also set up a fan to simulate his ears blowing in the wind. His reflection is amazing.

jet furniture

PIC 6: It’s our last hoo-rah in the toy room. Basically, we’ve cut down by 50% the number of rooms in which the boys can create ginormous messes. That means 50% fewer comments from Dad like, “Dude! Seriously! Put the legos away! It’s an hour past your bedtime!” Now I say that next door in their bedroom.

toy room

PIC 7: Sadly, the kids have resorted to playing checkers in the living room…where they’ve always played checkers. But now, they get the checkers out of a different closet. It’s complicated. Also, yeah Maddie might be 11 and she’s playing her five-year-old brother, but business is business, people. I’m pretty sure I heard her say, “like a boss!” while handily beating Nater.

checkers nate maddie

PIC 8: Hey, look! We’re back at the sheriff’s department. On the bright side, I’ve learned that it’s one “r” and two “f”s, so there’s that.

sheriff
The sheriff’s dept. is a great place for a lunch date.

PIC 9: The DMV. It was an unforgettable experience. We laughed, we cried, we met new friends… we were outta there in 30 mins.

dmv
We asked all of the people to clear out of our shot, but they didn’t care.

So that’s what we’ve been up to. And now, every time we walk past our little sweetheart’s bedroom, it feels awesome. It’s no longer a bunch of toys; it’s our daughter’s bedroom. Can’t wait to tuck her in at night and create our own handshake. I also can’t wait for her to realize what a great dancer her dad is. (Pics of her room to come soon. And maybe a clip of a dance-off.)

“Expect some hurdles” apparently means “expect some hurdles”.

empowered to connect duo
This is a picture from day two. Day one’s picture was much different.

Two weeks ago today we were attending a conference in Costa Mesa called, “Empowered to Connect”, a two-day event designed to help adoptive and foster parents understand how to connect with children from hard places; to help them heal and become who God created them to be.

On the drive down to Costa Mesa, halfway through the Grapevine, Nicole and I had what you’d call “a mildly disagreeable conversation in which the two were not one” if you will. It wasn’t a good way to launch a weekend of awesomehood.

During the first session of the conference, Nicole missed a call from our agency. Soon after, an email popped up. It was bad news: The agency was dropping the N!caragua program. In an instant, 1) we were back to square one; 2) the (expensive) fingerprints and documents we had collected were no longer usable (and we didn’t know what portion of the $5k fees would be reimbursed from the agency); and – worst of all – 3) our timeline would be pushed back months.

Apparently when people told us to expect hurdles, they were serious.

We walked outside and we had somewhat of a spin-out. To clarify, I would rate this a solid 11 out of 10. If you’re not aware, my wife is the most detail-oriented person on the planet. She also has to live with her non-detail-oriented free-spirited husband. So Nicole was rapidly assessing everything from expiration dates on state documents to the financial hit…and what would need to be done again. And I (Caleb) – in a feeble attempt to comfort my wife – just glazed over the situation with obnoxious optimism. In a perfect world, our strengths would have perfectly balanced and we would have brought each other into angelic harmony with some light violin music playing in the background; that’s not exactly how it played out.

kids holding birth certificates
Check it out! Those three kids are holding really expensive scratch paper! On the upside, we’re getting really good at ordering birth certificates.

Fortunately, we both agreed there was one benefit: we were at a conference surrounded by 500 people and numerous organizations with a lot of experience with adoption. Maybe one of them could help us with a Plan B for N!caragua. But the thing with N!caraguan adoption is that most people – even those in the adoption field – don’t have much experience with the country. It’s not at all a popular choice for adoption. The easier thing for us to do would have been just to pick a new country and move on.

But our minds kept going back to these facts:

  • N!caragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.
  • 1 in 3 children suffers from chronic malnutrition.
  • N!caragua has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the entire world, with 13% of babies born to girls only 10-14 years old.

Unless God directs us otherwise, we’ll be adopting from N!caragua.

That afternoon, something became clear to us: we hadn’t committed ourselves to a perfect process or an agency or expediency; we committed ourselves to God’s purpose. To filling a need. Obedience doesn’t ensure an easy path. If it did, what would be the point of faith? (And trust you me, I have to remind myself of this every five minutes.)

That’s the ironic thing about obstacles and hurdles: they actually keep us on the right track. They force us to have laser-focus on the purpose. I think sometimes we see too many things as “closed doors”. Maybe those obstacles are there to sharpen and refine us. They keep us looking to God. 

So the conference ended up being an invaluable education for us. There isn’t enough room on the internet to talk about Dr. Karyn Purvis’s work. If you are thinking about adoption, don’t do anything without listening to her or reading her work. Period. We’ll chat more about that later.

We also ended up meeting some of the best people, ever, which wouldn’t have happened without the bad news from the agency. They’ve all fought much longer, harder, more expensive, more faith-filled battles than we could wrap our minds around.

So here we are two weeks later. We hit the ground running and we have a new agency. Nicole has her new checklist and is back at it. God bless her. Love that woman. We’ve been accepted by two agencies: one out of Colorado for the international management and one out of Fresno to do our homestudy.