Thursday, January 29, 2009

Paperwork and more paperwork

We are working hard to finish up the last few things of paperwork that we need. After what seemed a long time we finally finished up all our our paperwork for our home study and sent that off last week. We have our first home study appointment on Monday & also have our psychological evaluation on Monday. We were determined to finish up our big things like our parenting questionnaire and autobiographies by New Years so while the girls spent the night on New Years Eve with Richard and Amy, Andy and I spent the evening finishing up those things. Not an exciting New Years Eve but at least we were making progress. Please be praying for us as we finish up the paperwork process. It seems like we have run into problems every step of the way (sent to the wrong address or left out a birth certificate, etc.) and that just adds more time to this process. I get frustrated sometimes with the process but I have to realize that every step that we do make is a step closer to bringing our little girl home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Haiti December 2008 video

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Last days

Friday morning I awoke to Odette crawling on the air mattress with me. I think Malange helped put her up to it. She was watching from her bed and laughed as I was surprised by being there. After getting up it was time to get started for the day. We built a few benches during the day and just spent time hanging out with the girls. The day passed quickly and soon it was time for bed. As we got ready for bed Odette had already gotten the air mattress down in the floor. She had gotten her new blanket from the Gaylor's and the Hodge's and was ready to go to bed. It was just like being at home taking a nap with one of my girls. I was just really really really far away from home, but felt at home, all at the same time.

Saturday morning I came to the conclusion that Odette is a bed hog. I wouldn't trade getting to spend the time with her, but it wasn't very restful. Sleep is over rated any way. Today was the day to go home. I started packing and was trying not to think about the reality that I was going to be leaving my girl. I am thankful that she was not overly emotional, she just started to "pull back" a little. Once it was time to go, I kissed her good bye and told her I loved her. She said she loved me and I headed to the truck to go home.

Monday, January 12, 2009

December 4, part 2

That night during dinner I stayed in the room with Odette. I need to apologize to the team for not being a part of the team that night but this was the closest thing to a date night that Odette is going to get for now. While we were in her room Madam Gaspard & Wilson (one of her sons) came in & sat down. Madam was saying how happy she was that I was going to be Odette's papa and Odette was going to be my daughter. She also said how much she loved me. By this time Pastor had come in and sat on the bed too. He was telling me that Odette was family, Wilson said they are "cousins". I told him we were all going to be "family". Madam asked if we would call on Sunday night. I was also able to tell Madam that Madam Allyson was coming in fevriye (February). She was so excited! She hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. It was a very excited Madam hug and kiss (if you have had one or seen it you will know what I am talking about).

We stayed in Odette's room a while coloring and just sitting together. Lots of the girls came in the room and all of us played together. Odette come and went from the room. On the last trip she wouldn't leave my lap, now she was confident to come and go.

All week I heard the girls talking and the only thing I could understand was "Odette" and "Andy". I don't know what else they were saying, but it was clear me & Odette were together. Since we had been back from the beach she was a little more affectionate. She is not overly affectionate. I told her to give me a kiss in creole and she did. That night I kissed her goodnight and went to sleep (ear plugs are a great idea in Haiti to keep out the snoring & roosters).

December 4- part 1- the beach


Thursday was beach day. We got up, hung out a while, got ready and went to the beach. Odette rode in my lap. Once we were at the beach Odette spent most of the time doing her own thing and playing with the other girls and then sat in my lap as she at her lunch. After lunch she went and sat with Malange but when we were getting ready to go she wanted to sit in my lap. So we sat, and that was good. Once it was time to get on the truck she was dragging me towards the truck. When we climbed on the truck it was full & Brian asked me & Kurt if one of us would ride on top and I said "no pwoblem" (it is what is you say in Haiti), but Kurt told me "no you ride with Odette, I'll ride on top" and I didn't argue. We left to head back to the orphanage and not long after getting on the road I started thinking about leaving Odette and going home. How could I leave my daughter?? I began to sing a quiet prayer over her as she slept. The words and melody came and I voiced them quietly on the loud truck ride. I became engulfed in feelings and emotions about my little girl and I couldn't keep it in. I didn't want to make the truck ride back for everyone a bummer by crying the whole way back so I did everything I could to keep it in but the tears and the shoulder rolls were hard to hide. The miserable truck ride helped erase the pain of my heart. I AM LEAVING MY DAUGHTER HERE! The ride was the shortest it has ever been. Odette slept most of the way and didn't know that I was crying until we turned on the road to the orphanage. IT WAS TOO MUCH!!! It had finally caught up to me. We were "home" and I pulled it together. We went inside and I went to the roof for a roof top shower. Cold water will do wonders for you to help you clear your head.

December 3 part 2

Once we got back to the orphanage we ate some & played some. Odette was very content playing and sitting with me along with just playing and doing her own thing. She asked at one point to Brian something in Creole. It was "are we going to the beach?" He say "wi". She smiled ear to ear. Later that evening the older girls were in the room and giving Gladys a hard time about her picture book she had. Girls being mean to each other transcends race, nationality, and poverty. Gladys went from being mad to being upset and hurt. After the big girls left some of Gladys pictures were on the floor- Odette went and got a picture envelope that she had gotten pictures in and took out her pictures and put Gladys pictures inside in the envelope. Odette then took the picture envelope and put them in her broken photo album and handed it to her. I was so proud!

Later I sat down with Odette on her bed with the journal Ally gave me and the English Creole Dictionary to get an idea of how much she knows. I looked up the word for "name" and asked her to write her name. Malange, who is Odette's good friend, was sitting on the bed across from us and was watching what we were doing. She understood that I was wanting Odette to write her name. Odette started to make an "O" and then looked a little lost. Malange reached over and wrote Odette's name for her and handed the journal back. Then Odette copied her name next to it. So then I thought let's see what she knows about math. So I looked up the creole for math. I saw one of the other girls school paper and wrote 1 + 1 just like they write their math problems then I handed the journal to Odette to see if she knew the answer. She copied the problem down next to where I had written it & handed it back to me. We are starting at ground zero. I guess if you are going to learn a new language I guess that is a good place to start. We were hoping maybe she had been in school before she went to live at the orphanage in February 2008 but it looks like that she did not. I had no idea where she was at. But the good thing is none of it even phased her and she was just glad to be sitting with me doing whatever.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Odette to Mama Allyson

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Odette and Papa Andy

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December 3, 2008 part 1

That morning I woke up to the girls already awake and getting ready for school. We spent the day working on building a closet, varnishing the feet for the boxes and starting on the benches. Today was the day we went to Odette's house. Odette's mom was at the orphanage most of the day waiting for Eddy to return. When he did me, Odette, Kevin, Benita, Eddy, and Odette's mom walked to her house. It was probably a 15 minute walk. It is hard to gauge time in Haiti. It moves a different pace that it does here. It was almost dark when we got to her house. Her papa was happy we were there. He went inside to get some chairs for us to sit in. So we sat down outside their house. I was trying to look around at everything and take it all in but it was getting so dark. I wanted to take pictures but realized that it may seem kind of rude to walk up in the dark and start taking flash pictures. I was there to meet the family and then take pictures after that. I have felt very ill-equipped to do this. I don't know how to do it ant I don't have it all figured out. As we were sitting at Odette's house I knew I wanted to find out about her family, how many brothers and sisters and what were there names and ages. They are going to be part of my family and will always be a part of Odette's family and I don't want them to forget Odette and I don't want Odette to ever forget them. Eddy wrote down the names and the ages of the parents and children. I noticed that there were no older children at the house so I asked where they were and found out the older children were going to school in the city. I was glad to hear that the older children were going to school, it makes me think the family is doing better than I anticipated since the older children are able to go to school. Odette's papa was definitely more relaxed than the day before and said that it meant a lot to him that I would come to their house and visit with them. He said we were now a big family. The family I left from that day were different than the ones from the previous night. I could not have done that without the encouragement and friendship from Brian and Kevin. They have been invaluable to me. I thank God for friends like that.

We walked back from Odette's house after taking some pictures of the family (in the dark). As we were leaving I was looking for Odette and couldn't find her. She was up ahead walking with Eddy and walked with him most of the way back. I didn't know what she was thinking or feeling after being back at her house. I noticed that she if very fond of Eddy. Eddy loves those girls and they love him. It gives me a peace about Eddy handling the adoption. He said he was ready to get started as soon as we were and said if we could get him the money he would go on Monday to take Odette's parent to the city to sign abandonment papers. This is the first of lots of money. It is getting more and more real.




This picture is of Odette & Dieula with Ricot (Pastor Juste's son), Eddy (Pastor Juste's son-in-law) & Evelyn (the nurse that checks on the girls). This way you will have a face to go with the names of our Haitian friends as I write about them. When Odette goes to the city for check-up & immunizations during the adoption process she will be staying with Eddy, Ricot & their families at their house. They love all the girls and it makes us feel good knowing they will take good care of Odette while she is with them.

December 2, 2008

I arrived at Coq Chante with Mark on Tuesday, December 2nd. Getting out of the truck I was greeted by Odette who had been waiting on me to arrive all day. She had already heard about us wanting to adopt her. I later found out that she had spent the day getting ready for me to arrive. She had her hair fixed twice that day. Her smile was intoxicating. It was almost surreal when I picked her up in my arms. She was beautiful and I knew for sure at that moment that she was my daughter. As I held her in my arms she smelled wonderful. I wanted to go and spend time with her and play. We walked around for a little while and I decided that we would go to the dining room so we could be together and I could hold her. We were only in there for a few minutes before a man entered followed by a woman I had never seen before. Odette hopped out of my lap and was trying to tell me it was her papa and mama. My intent for this trip was to ask Odette first about adopting her and then her parents. I was not ready for this. I had already thought through this in my mind many times and this was not how I envisioned this. I wasn't ready but the time was here so I got ready. Brian was walking by and I told him that this couple was Odette's parents (I didn't realize it at the time, but they were dressed in their Sunday clothes). I told him to get someone to translate for me. He went and got Pastor Ernst. I can't remember what was said first but we began to talk and discuss us adopting Odette. They first shared when Eddy asked them a few weeks before that they were a little slow to warm up to the idea. I can only imagine what it must have been like to decide that your daughter was going to live in another country and be another family's daughter.

Communicating deep feelings and emotions is not easy when they have to be translated. Her father did most of the talking. He asked how many daughters I had and I answered that I had 3. He wanted to know if Odette would get the same love, treatment, attention, and education as my own daughters. And I assured him as best I could that I would. By this time Eddy had shown up and sat down at the table. Having him there helped. He already had a relationship with her parents and was the one who originally talked to them about the possibility of us adopting Odette. I felt overwhelmed with trying to understand what what Ernst & Eddy were translating, then trying to answer in a way that would translate well into Creole, trying to remember every detail to write down & also to think of all of the questions that I wanted to ask them right then. After answering the question from her father, which were questions from a father that loves his daughter. He asked if we could help Odette's older brother with college. I was starting to sweat. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a "deal breaker" if we couldn't help I looked at Brian and said I can't afford to adopt Odette and bring her brother to the states and get him through college. I had Eddy and Ernst explain that the adoption would cost almost a whole years salary by itself. They seemed to be ok and understood. I wanted to tell them that this just wasn't something that we wanted to do, but something that God had lead us to. I also told him that I would never let Odette forget her family. He asked if they would be able to have contact with her and I said yes, definitely. I told him that I would bring her back to see them.

Once it seemed everyone had said and asked what they needed to Eddy began to question them. I could tell by his tone that he was very serious about it and spoke with authority (if you have met Eddy, you will know what I am talking about). I asked what he had told them. He said that if they say "yes" tonight that they can't change their mind. He said if he calls in two weeks and says you need to come to Port-au-Prince to sign papers to abandon your daughter then you have to do it. I think he said more than that but that is what he told me. To finish up Odette's papa said "From this day forward you are her papa." It was so real at that moment. Her father had just given up his daughter. This had nothing to do with forms, policies, procedures, certifications, or money. This was his his word and that is all it had to be. Again I wanted them to know God had told me and my wife that Odette was supposed to be our daughter. I didn't want him to think this was something we were doing on a whim or taking lightly. Think about it, it makes no sense at all, but in God's economy it does. We are all adopted into the family of Christ. He choose us and we choose Him. And we choose Odette because He said so and that's reason enough. I did let the parents know that just because a paper says that they have abandoned their child and they are not legally their parents, they are still her mama and papa forever. I did tell them that I will help the family with what I can. We finished up and took pictures. Her parents who had already sent their daughter to live in an orphanage, a 15 minute walk away, to give her a better life had just given her up again to live in another country with a new family.

That night I played with girls, ate a little and played some more. I slept on an air mattress in Odette's room. Our beds were head to head.

September 2008 Video

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

About Odette- by Taylor

When my mom got back from Haiti in May 2008 I loved to looked at her pictures. When I looked at one little girl I felt like I knew her. Her name is Odette. From then on my heart felt warmed when I saw her shining smile and her sweet little face. I felt like we knew each other. The first time I talked to her was when my dad was in Haiti in December 2008. Her voice is so soothing. I was so happy I started crying. I've gotten to talk to her about five times. I don't think of Odette as just someone that the mission trip teams goes to visit to help feed her. I think of her now as a sister. I don't think of her as someone that's not like me I think of us as equals.

Decision Making

Sometime in mid-October Ally and I were talking about which trip she would be going to Haiti. She originally thought May but began feeling she was supposed to go in February. We were talking on a Saturday night about how neither of us were sleeping and Ally mentioned she could not sleep because of thinking about Odette. So I asked her again if she was going in February and she asked me why I wanted to know & I told her that she needed to go and find out if we are supposed to adopt Odette. She fell apart! What both of us had been dealing with for months on our own was finally said out loud. This was now real. The thoughts in your head do not have to be real because nobody but God knows that you thought them. There was just no ignoring this. God had told us both something very clearly. But now we needed to know what we were supposed to do- adopt her and bring her here to live or "adopt" her and support her in Haiti and let her change Haiti. This was immensely overwhelming and peaceful at the same time. So we began praying for the answer and asked some close friends to be praying to. We just did not want to make the wrong decision because we wanted to not only do the right thing for our family but we wanted to be sure this is what God wanted for Odette's life. A good friend gave Allyson the advice to pray everyday that if this is not what God wants for our family that He would remove that desire from our hearts. That desire never went away and only grew and we had a peace about our decision to adopt like we have never had before. One of the things I needed to know though was does Odette want to come live with us and be our daughter. As I was sharing this dilemma with Brian Lloyd about wanting to ask her to be our daughter and also wanting to talk to her parents he reminded me that there was a trip leaving a a few weeks and it seemed I already knew what I needed to do. So I decided to go on the Dec. 08 trip. Knowing that I was going to be out on two Sundays meant that I would have to get everything covered by the other guys. I called Mark Zimmerman, our worship pastor, to give him a heads up about the sudden trip and he jokingly said something about wanting to go. A little later he said if I would could go down late on Monday or Tuesday that he could go with me. That worked much better so I would not have have to miss a whole week of work and two weekends. Mark was a great friend to go with me, little did he know that he would meet his daughter on this trip (read their story at www.valanciasjourney.blogspot.com).

This all happened before Thanksgiving and we needed to tell our parents and families about our decision to adopt before I left for Haiti. We told our girls first. They were SO excited they all started screaming & jumping on the bed. Taylor said "now I will not be alone anymore". A few weeks before she told me "You know you and Daddy have each other, Molly and Abby have each other and I am just by myself". Also months before we said anything out loud to each other one night out of the blue Taylor said "If Odette came to live with us we could share a room and we could share a birthday party- since she is 11 days older than me she can blow out the candles first and I could blow them out second". God had already began preparing her heart for something that she didn't have a clue was going to happen.

Next we told the news to our parents and then our extended family. Everyone was very supportive (and I don't think very surprised). Allyson's mom even said "I have just been waiting for this and I already knew who it would be". Now it was time to go ask Odette if she wanted to be come live with us and be our daughter.