Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Step Closer Today

Today we got some great news... we have been APPROVED after part 1 of our application.  Now the next step, complete the online orientation workshop which is pretty informative and helpful but also quite long and then we will be mailed part 2 of the application which I have been told is pretty extensive.  If we didn't have to get up so early in the morning to work we would most definitely be staying up all night doing the workshop because we are so anxious to get this ball rolling but if we can get 1 or 2 topics covered tonight it will be a good start.

I am also excited for some upcoming events we have going on.  This Saturday I am meeting with a very sweet girl named Rachel who is a mom of 4, soon to be 5 as they are getting ready to bring their daughter Aamina home from Ethiopia in the next couple months.  We are both so excited to meet in person finally (after everyone in our town telling us about each other) and have someone else to share our passion for adoption and Ethiopia

We are also planning a few more fundraisers that are very exciting!!! First is I have contacted my sorority from college, Tridelts and mentioned what we are doing and to see if they would be interested in helping us with our t-shirt fundraiser.  I know when I was in college anything that had my sorority letters on it I would buy at the drop of a hat so I thought how cute would our burn-out t-shirts be with Delta Delta Delta on the back.  It's a BIG hope but if we are able to do it I would love to get the shirts to other campuses too or even other sororities if they were interested.  We won't know more info about this September 23rd when the new girls officially join Tridelts and the weekly chapter meeting begin but I am still very excited!
 Second is our upcoming garage sale.  We have actually been planning this for months now, it was one of the first ideas we wanted to do when we decided we would be adopting but after speaking to one of our pastors at church they informed us that Ada has a big festival every year centered around ECU's homecoming and if we could wait it out we could have our garage sale at the church.  This was the best news ever because our church is right on Main St where many people will be walking around and a parade will be taking place so advertising for it will be quite easy!  If you are in the area and have something you would like to donate just let me know.  Our garage is cleaned out and organized to accommodate storage of items until the sale which will be Saturday, Oct 9th!

Lastly (for now) is our online auction.  A friend of a friend emailed me back in May to tell me about something cool they did to raise money for their adoption, an online auction that raised $7000 (big wow, I know!)  You can check theirs out at Nikolas Adoption Auction  With our t-shirts and garage sale I wasn't planning on doing this until next year but then got a message from a good friend from high school that wanted to help us by knitting some adorable baby items for the garage sale.  I know how great her work is (see below what she made Jalen before he was born) and thought that would be perfect to have on the online auction so we will be sending out more information on it later but if you already have an idea of something you want to contribute feel free to email me or contact me on here.  My plan is to have the auction towards the end of November in hopes that we will have some cool Christmas gifts available to purchase :) 
Thank you to everyone who has been contributing in one way or another, your generosity, heart and support mean the world to us and we are so excited to get working on a project we have planned to incorporate each and every one of you into to always remember how we were able to begin what will be a life-long mission in life for us.
With Love,
The O'Neals

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Can YOU Do??? (Part 1 of many)

When it comes to deciding to adopt a child it can be a HUGE step of faith, courage, sacrifice, change, and adjustment for some but for some of us it just seems like the natural thing to do.  I have said this before but I knew I wanted to adopt since I was young and Jason being adopted and coming from a family of other adopted siblings, it is the normal thing to do for him as well.  I find myself struggling to understand why so many other people don't adopt or look into especially when they are a family that is blessed with knowing the love of a child and blessed financially to have the resources they need to thrive in life.  I have to remind myself that I don't know everyone's story and maybe they have their own reasons and who am I to judge?  Maybe they donate their money to organizations that are close to their heart or financially think there is no way they could do it.  Maybe they are scared about adopting and no one has helped them find answers they need.  I hope we can all help educate everyone that comes across our path to the need that exists of adoption as well as to educate on other needs out there to be met and take a much smaller commitment both financially and time-wise.

I want to start with a few ways that anyone and everyone can help out and if something touches your heart, please take a second and act on it.  Think about what can you sacrifice for just 1 day, 1 week or 1 month and think how that small sacrifice could mean LIFE for another person.  I challenge you to do this and see how it not only can change the life of someone else but it will definitely change yours!

1.  UNDER $10:  Give up driving through your favorite fast food restaurant for lunch for 1 day and instead pack a lunch and go to to donate $6.00 that will feed 1 child for 1 month  http://intothestreetsofethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/05/e-very-six-seconds-child-dies-because.html

2. UNDER $15:   Give up Starbucks or whatever your daily dose of caffeine/fancy drink may be for 1 week and instead drink water (...and be thankful it's clean) and head to this website, scroll down to "Gifts Under $15" and click on Life Saving Mosquito Nets

3.  JUST $25:  Give up going out to dinner with your family and eat-in for a night...instead donate water for LIFE for 1 person at   https://donate.water.org/sslpage.aspx

4.  ONLY $30:  Pass up that cute tee at the Gap that you might buy just because and instead check out http://intothestreetsofethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/07/we-have-shirts.html and buy a shirt for yourself or someone you know and feed a child for 3 months!

5.  Under $40 a month (Tax Deductible)  Maybe adoption is too big of  step for you and your family but there are ways you can help a child attain the necessary things for life without adopting.  To make a commitment of a monthly fee is hard for some to do but I assure you if you are able to sit down and look at what you spend each month, see if you think you could cut out $40 of something and instead help a child in need.  Our church supports this organization and the pastor Craig Groeschel and his wife have sponsored a child from  for each of their own children and they have 6!  Need any ideas for saving an extra $40 each month??? Just ask, we have plenty!    http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/default.htm

 These are just a few ideas for you right now.  I will be posting more as I find them or think of them.  Please feel free to tell me about ones you may know about so I can post them and if you have any questions please feel free to ask me.  It's amazing what you can do with just a simple sacrifice, we have participated in all of the above ideas and plan to start sponsoring a child once the adoption is complete.  We hope some have touched your heart to do so as well!
With Love,
The O'Neals

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's officially started!

Well today is the day we have finally sent in our application (part 1 of 2) to our adoption agency!  Since our agency is just 2 hours from us they should receive our application package tomorrow and I am going to be on pins and needles until I get the go-ahead to start part 2, hopefully we find out soon.  It's only the beginning but it is so very exciting.  I am now on a mission to get every possible thing done ahead of time that I can because I desperately want to bring our baby home in 11-12 mths and miss rainy season in Ethiopia.  Anyone that knows me, knows I am a super type A personality, organized to the max and detail oriented would be an understatement.  It takes me so long to get everything done because I have to check and re-check and then re-check again to make sure everything is done properly and nothing is overlooked, this of course drives Jason crazy!  He has learned to just let me do what I need to though because he knows I cannot rest until it is done "properly".
With all this said we know our lives are going to be filled with many late nights, uneventful weekends and of course MANY sacrifices for not just money but for time.  We are both so ready for these sacrifices though because of course the end result is worth more than we could ever sacrifice!

We are both full-time working parents and I feel like we might be a minority when it comes to the adoption world, especially the international adoption world.  Getting up at 6am, working from 8-5 and getting home at 6pm to do dinner, play with our son, do laundry and other house stuff and now to add to the list...adoption paperwork, blogging (doing my own and of course reading up on others), making list after list and checking off what has and still needs to be done.  Just getting part 1 of our application compiled last night kept us up to almost midnight and that was just finishing up last touches, I am definitely going to need to start getting ahead of the game more.  We have already gotten our FBI fingerprints done but in the process of finding our agency we haven't sent them in yet, that is on the list of things to do for this week though.  Any advice from you all that are ahead of me in this process would be helpful and much appreciated so please feel free to help guide us!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ethiopian Fellowship Group in OKC

Tonight we went to OKC to a wonderful (and the one and only in OK) Ethiopian restaurant called Queen of Sheba.  The food was wonderful and best of all we met some really awesome people, some in the process of adopting, some who just got home with their babies/children and some who adopted a while ago.  The group meets every 3 mths here and people come from all over, one couple even came from Arkansas (about 3 hrs away).  They actually had just recently adopted a little girl from Ethiopia while waiting on a child to adopt in China but because the process is so long in China they were able to adopt from Ethiopia in the mean-time and in about 1 more year they will have their child from China.  

We also got to meet up with a friend we recently met online through our blogs Kelly and Dylan (http://oursomethingbeautiful.blogspot.com/) and their adorable 3 little boys who are in the process of adopting as we speak.  We also found out that they like camping and don't live too far from us so we might have to start a big camping group in the near future!


Another family we met, Scott and Toni, had just gotten back from Ethiopia with their 2 adopted children (siblings) 3 weeks ago.  they have 2 biological children and took them with them when they went.  This family is so sweet and they have a great and EASY fundraiser I encourage you to check out and start doing and all it requires is filling up a jar with pennies (or whatever you want for that matter).  Check out more info at http://www.pennyjarproject.com we're starting tomorrow!  They are on a mission to do what we would like to do once the adoption is complete in helping others be able to adopt as well as helping those in need right now.  A big reason why they chose Ethiopia to adopt from is exactly why we did and what we have been explaining to everyone who asks, he used to DJ like Jason and she used to work in physical therapy like me and they are from MI and in fact she went to college where I was born, it's such a small world!

Jalen had an absolute blast as well and tried to copy everything the other kids were doing, he is going to love being a big brother and we can't wait for him.  He met this other little boy tonight who is 2 years old named Oliver and such a sweetheart and LOVED getting his picture taken.  These pictures below are just too sweet of the 2 of them!

We can't wait until the next meeting to roll around!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Application in Progress...

We are almost done with part 1 of our application and as we are writing our responses I thought I would share a few because they are questions we are often asked by others when we say that we are adopting from Ethiopia
 What is your motivation and reasons for wanting to build your family through adoption?  Oh where to begin!  Adoption is something we both have always known was important and something we would do one day.  We wanted to have a biological child to experience pregnancy and all that comes with bringing a new life into this world but knew that afterward we would look into adoption.  We both have big hearts for children and believe that all children deserve a chance at a good life with a family who can love them unconditionally and provide for them to give them everything they need and deserve.  As much as we love our own child and understand why people want to have their own, biological children, it is also hard not to realize the need that exists in providing for children who are already born and may go without knowing what a loving family is.  We very much want to teach our own son to love others and realize that we are here on this earth to unselfishly help where there is need.  We are excited to see our family grow and watch our son become a big brother but more than anything we are excited to show an innocent child the love that they deserve and know that they are safe and will be cared for, for the rest of their life.

How do you  anticipate this adoption affecting your child?  We don’t have any negative thoughts about how this adoption will affect Jalen other than how any child may be affected by the addition of a new brother or sister.  Jalen is an only child right now but he does go to daycare and loves being there because he loves being around and playing with other children so we anticipate him being excited to have a lifetime playmate.  We plan to begin preparing Jalen for his future brother or sister as he is getting to the age where he is starting to understand a little more and think it will be a good idea to prepare him for the new arrival just as a family would when a mom becomes pregnant and prepares to have another child.

How  comfortable are you with unknowns regarding the child’s background, history and potential undiagnosed medical and/or emotional problems?  We feel that one can never know what a child’s future holds medically, emotionally and in all aspects of life whether they come into this world biologically related to us or not.  As a physical therapist, I (Joely) have worked with many children with various medical and emotional conditions and have come to realize that there is never going to be a guarantee that any child will be “typical” and without medical or emotional problems.  From a personal standpoint, Jason was adopted as a baby with his parents taking him in not knowing his background, history or potentially undiagnosed conditions.  All in all, we can honestly say that we feel quite comfortable with the unknowns that will come with our future child.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beautiful Song/Video

A friend of mine found this YouTube video and shared with me...it is just beautiful and pretty much says it all.  The bold print is my favorite and SO true.  
To our child to be:
We don't know who you are or when we will meet you but we are dreaming about you and doing everything in our power to get to you and bring you home to be loved and cared for for the rest of your life!

When Love takes You In
By: Steven Curtis Chapman

I know you’ve heard the stories
But they all sound too good to be true
You’ve heard about a place called home
But there doesn’t seem to be one for you
So one more night you cry yourself to sleep
And drift off to a distant dream 

Where love takes you in and everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in 

And somewhere while you’re sleeping
Someone else is dreaming too
Counting down the days until
They hold you close and say I love you 

And like the rain that falls into the sea
In a moment what has been is lost in what will be
When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
And this love will never let you go
There is nothing that could ever
cause this love to lose its hold 

When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart 

When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in it takes you in for good
When love takes you in

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Adoption Agency

Well we are officially going to be using Dillon International as our adoption agency and we couldn't be more excited!  They are based out of Tulsa which is just 2 hours from our house and we just love everyone we have spoken to so far, not to mention we're pretty happy with the wonderful reviews and ratings they have received.

We are working on our application as we speak and will be sending in part 1 of 2 this week!  Although the process and costs are about the same with all agencies for adopting in Ethiopia each agency does things a bit different.

Our process with Dillon will be as follows:
1.  Submit application part 1  ($50)
2.  Attend an online pre-adoption workshop and when complete submit application part 2 ($300)
3.  Attend the international adoption seminar/counseling/training in Tulsa ($120)
4.  Approval of application- program management fee part 1 ($3500)
5.  Home study done ($1500)
6.  USCIS fingerprints and fees (~$900)
7.  Approval of home study- program management fee part 2 ($3500)
8.  Refundable  deposit after home study approval ($500)
9.  Begin dossier and pay fees related (~$900)
10.  Receive referral (our child) and accept ($2225)
11.  Paperwork submitted on acceptance of child and about 2 mths later the court date is assigned...this is when both Jason and I will be traveling to Ethiopia for court and will be able to meet our child!  (Travel and accommodation expenses can vary in cost depending on time of year from $3800-5500 for both parents)
12.  Child's medical exam, US Visa and other expenses also paid ($800-1600)
12.  6-8 weeks later at least one parent returns to Ethiopia to bring home our child (again travel costs are dependent and for 1 parent range from $2300-3300)
13 Final fees paid in country during last travel ($4500)
14.  Post-placement home studies at 3, 6 and 12 mths ($1400)

Total Time Range (from submission of application to bringing baby home):  9-15 mths
Total Cost Range:  $26,295-29,795

We are very excited to share every step along the way with you and hope we can answer any questions you may have along the way.

With Love,
The O'Neals

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Amazing Fundraiser by a Very Sweet Friend

We have been so amazed by what a special friend of ours is doing for us and another family we are great friends with (The Helms Family). Our friend Lindsey Haering is a great photographer, we had the pleasure of having her photograph Jalen when we lived in AZ last year. She has a sweet daughter named Charlee and is expecting baby girl #2 and has decided that for the month of September, she is going to offer 20% off her photography sessions and split 100% of the proceeds between our family and the Helms family in support of our adoptions! How amazing is that? If you live in Arizona or know someone who does, pass this along. She is wonderful at what she does and feel free to go to her website and see for yourself.


If you want to schedule a session, you can contact Lindsey at simpleephoto@gmail.com or call her at 480-343-0222

Here are a few pictures Lindsey took of Jalen before we moved to Oklahoma when he was about 8mths old

 Thank You So Much Lindsey!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspired from a friend

I'd Choose You...

(this picture taken from Water.org website)

Over This...

Or This...

Or any other material item...again and again and again!

We often hear people say they would love to adopt- but they cannot afford it.

They believe there is no way they could come up with the large sum of money it cost to adopt.

And yet, many times, without even realizing it-they are investing even more into the 'finer' things in life.

They have fallen into the trap of believing that things make them important, things make them accepted and things make them happy.

And that is such a lie.

There are children all over the world, even in our own back yard, waiting for someone to realize their real value...

Waiting for you to see them for the true treasures they are...

Waiting for someone to realize THEY are the finer things in life...

Waiting for someone to choose them over a lifestyle.

This post was inspired (and mostly copied from another family's blog I follow. They are a wonderful family and I encourage you to check out their story. They are a family of 11 (9 children, 5 of whom were adopted) visit them at http://buildingtheblocks.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh, What To Do???

Well, from last Friday evening up until today our life has been a roller coaster of emotions with this adoption. Long story short, we were planning on going with one agency all along when we realized that we would not be approved due to our large amount of student loans (mine mostly) that put us in a negative net worth, a requirement of this agency. The agency did tell us though that they were unique in requiring the positive net worth and that many agencies didn't. Of course this was told to me at 5pm on a Friday so I immediately went into panic mode. I emailed and called a few friends (new and old) that helped me immensely to provide encouragement and options...Thank you Hilary, Kara, Amy, and Harmony.

Since last Friday we looked into about 5 different adoption agencies across the US and have now narrowed our options down to 3 (maybe that's not that narrow!) and we could really use anyone's input and advice. I have spoken to various people at all agencies and everyone has been super nice, given me great vibes, no problems or concerns whatsoever. One agency was recommended by a friend, one by another and one I just stumbled upon looking for a home study agency and realized they also have an Ethiopia adoption program and are located just 2 hours away from us.

So this is what we're looking at
AWAA: http://www.awaa.org/programs/ethiopia/
Dillon: http://www.dillonadopt.com/Ethiopia-A.htm
CCI: http://www.celebratechildren.org/programs/ethiopia/

We want to figure this out soon because our plan has been to submit our application at the end of August and that is coming up so 3 packets in front of me right now...what to do, what to do???

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fingerprints done...check!

So we haven't submitted our official application yet but the plan is to do so in 2-3 weeks so we're getting close! We have been told that one of the steps to do after applying is getting your FBI fingerprints done and can be the step that holds everything up as it can take 6-8 weeks to process at best! We decided to get that step out of the way so it can start getting processed so we headed to the local police department this week and got it done. This is just the beginning of the many steps we will be making to bring a new child into our family and it feels so good to start crossing off the to-do list.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Shirts Are In!!!

Our 3rd round of t-shirts are in and will be mailed out tomorrow! This time around we had a kids shirt in white, mens/unisex shirts in white and brown and womens burn-out tees in white and brown. Than you to all who have ordered, we hope you like them as much as we do. We are having our 3rd round of sales going on right now and will go until August 23rd so if you haven't gotten one yet and would like one, please click on the button in the right hand corner of this blog and it will take you right there. Below is our lil' man showing off his new shirt to help bring his future little sister or brother home. With Love & Thanks, The O'Neal Family