1) How did you and your husband reach the decision to finally move forward?
It definitely wasn’t an overnight decision. We were at the point in our marriage and lives that we knew beginning a family was the next step. As I have written about before, we always thought we would have biological children first and adopt later, but God laid adoption on my heart so heavily that I really felt He was asking us to set aside our plans and adopt first. We had many conversations about the route we should take to grow our family. I finally reached a point where I just prayed that if adoption was truly what God wanted us to do that He would also need to show Jeff. He did! The question I got was specifically related to adopting additional children and the concerns about finances and home size. We haven’t really been in a place similar to that. If you are a praying family, my suggestion would be to pray for clarity.
2) Did you start fundraising before you applied?
We did not officially begin fundraising until after we were in the Congo program with our agency. Our first fundraiser was selling shirts in partnership with 147MillionOrphans.com. Because adoption was something we planned on doing at some point, we did have a nice amount (about 1/4 of the total cost) in savings.
3) Were you ever concerned about your safety while in Congo?
I wouldn’t say that we felt unsafe, but that isn’t to say that you don’t have to be cautious. We had an awesome guide/driver who took very good care of us. We didn’t go anywhere on our own. We did eat dinner in a restaurant by ourselves while he waited in the car, and I have to be honest that we ate as fast as possible. You just have to be smart, as you would traveling anywhere internationally when you stick out as much as we did in Congo.
4) What hurdles did you experience in the beginning once Odette was home?
The communication barrier is huge. Most everything can be handled with pictures or charades, but there are those things that can’t be. Odette was is very strong-willed, but if she didn’t like something she didn’t have the words to express that. There were a number of meltdowns in the first few weeks because of this. As first time parents we didn’t have confidence in what we were doing and that played a role as well. But truly, Odette’s age (yes, sadly being 3 is considered older child adoption) has been an incredible blessing to us. She remembers Congo and loves to talk about it and look at pictures. She was old enough to learn the language and American culture quickly. Really I can’t think of one negative thing that I can attribute to her being an “older child”.
5) How did we tell Odette about Little A?
Ah yes, I did mention that I would share that, but never did. It was so sweet. We got our referral for him right before Christmas but we didn’t want to tell her until after. We wanted her first Christmas to be all about her and not about a new brother. We also were thinking that it would now be her only Christmas as an only child. (not sure that will be the case however). So we waited until it was time for Jeff to go back to work and life would return to normal. On New Year’s Day we called her over to the computer and told her we had some special pictures to show her. We were a little worried about how she would take the news and how it might affect what she thought about her role in our family. She immediately knew the pictures were from Congo. She pointed to Little A and asked what “her” (still working on those pronouns) was. We told her and asked if he looked nice. She responded by asking why he was sad. Interestingly, she answered her own question by saying he has no family. He is an orphan. (We talk about those things a lot, especially while praying.) We then asked her if he should come to America and she asked if he could be in our family. We said “Daddy, Mommy, Odette, and Little A?” Her cute little face nodded and asked if he would be a brother. We kept telling her over and over again that we love her so she would know that she wasn’t being replaced. We also told her that we are praying he will be in our family. We didn’t want to make it sound as if it was a sure thing and have her get hurt down the road if something happened. One thing I will never forget is her asking why we picked him. We did our best to explain that we didn’t pick him. Jesus told us about him, just like Jesus told us about her. She went on to try to tickle him through the screen and say that he needs a bike and clothes, shoes, and a towel. Odette asked if we would go to Congo to get him and we told her not yet, not for a lot of days. We ended the conversation by saying we love her and she added, “You guys love Little A too.”
6) Does Odette remember leaving Congo and coming to live with you?
Most definitely yes! Saturday marks one year since we met her for the first time and today we began talking to her about it. We showed her the picture of us holding the Waiting for You sign in the plane and explained that one year ago we got on an airplane to come to Congo to see her. She piped up with, “I wait outside for you!” Now, can’t say for sure how much she remembers or how much she knows from seeing video and pictures. I will say that she doesn’t really remember the first weeks here or those hard times when we couldn’t communicate well. Her memory seems to pick up about midsummer, about a month home. That is probably when the shock of the situation wore off.
7) Does she still talk about the Congo?
A little bit. Not too much. She will talk about Congo if we ask her about it or when she sees pictures or videos. She doesn’t at all seem to harbor any bad feelings about her time there. She seems to have fond memories. She talks about eating beans and rice a lot or other little things. I think a lot of it stems from how much she wants to be a part of our family and act as if she always has been.
8) How do strangers respond when they see you, your husband and Odette together?
This is one area that has been far different from how I imagined. Are there times when we get some questionable or even unkind looks? Yes. We’ve had just a few, really a few, inappropriate comments made. Honestly, we are overwhelmed with positive attention. I do think we live in a supportive (however, very white dominated) community. But I think it more has to do with Odette’s personality. The kid is the most charismatic one I know. She could make friends with a trash can I think. It doesn’t hurt that she is also super cute and often gets comments about her looks.
9) Has Odette gotten comments from other kids?
She has. Kids are curious and pat her hair. If her hair is done (meaning not in a ‘fro) she has told me that kids say it is crazy. I think it could be because it is something different. Her skin color is discussed somewhat. I haven’t ever witnessed anything myself that I can remember, but when she comes home saying she’s black and we use the term brown, I know she’s hearing it somewhere. At times she does ask about being our color. I think she wants to be like the majority. She also wants to look the part of our family. She is very smart and I do think it already bothers her that she doesn’t look to the stranger like she belongs to us.
10) I am super curious about how Little A’s process is going?
I have to respond with a simple, me too! We have no update. Ick. I hate typing those words. We do have our home study update finished and ready to send off to get an extension on our i600a approval since we were originally approved for 2 children and only brought home one. I may be crazy, but my pleading prayer is to have Little A’s paperwork (crossing my fingers paperwork stating that HE’S OURS!) by Odette’s birthday on the 20th. We’ll see. As soon as those papers are in my inbox, I will share the news.
Thanks for the questions. It was fun to see what you were curious about.
And this was us one year ago today headed to bring home Odette. I’ll be back with Gotcha Day celebrations.