Sunday, December 21, 2014

There and Back Again: A Houston Tale

Time usually flies by quickly around the holidays and that seemed especially true for us this past week, but for reasons unrelated to Christmas. Early in the week, we were saddened to hear that Chris's grandma had passed away.  We spent time up in Ionia on Wednesday and Thursday for the visitation and funeral, and mourned the passing of an amazing woman.  We hurried back down to Coralville after the funeral on Thursday so that we could make our evening flight from Cedar Rapids to Houston to visit our birth mother.  Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as smoothly as we had hoped Thursday night.  We ended up with a cancelled flight and having to wait until 6am on Friday to fly out.  Thankfully, our birth mother (lets call her "A") was very understanding and we were able to make it down to Houston by 11:30am on Friday.  

It's hard to put into words the emotions that we were feeling as we drove to "A's" apartment to meet her for the first time.  There was certainly nervousness and excitement mixed together! Seriously, what do you say to the woman who is going to change your life forever?!?!

We went out for a quick lunch together before heading over to a business that does 4D ultrasounds.  "A" graciously let us sit in while she had the ultrasound done and we were able to see our baby girl!  We've got several pictures from the session that we will share later when we have time to scan them onto the computer, but let me assure you, she is absolutely beautiful!  She didn't want to give us any clear pictures of her face, but it was amazing to see her little heart beating (167 bpm!) and see her hiding her face behind her curled up fists, stretching her legs up by her head, and finding out that she was sucking on the umbilical cord while we were watching!  We need to invest in lots of pacifiers!  The ultrasound technician also showed us on the ultrasound where you could see all of her hair - she's got a full head of hair already!  

We headed back to our hotel fairly early Friday evening (we were pretty tired after our early awakening at 3:30am to make our 6am flight!).  On Saturday, we spent most of the afternoon and evening with "A" and her boyfriend (the father of the baby, lets call him "B").  It took a little while for all of us to get really comfortable with each other, but by the end of the night I feel that we can truly call "A" & "B" our friends!  We even had the opportunity to meet "A's" father and pray with him about our adoption and the baby's future.  We truly hope our time with "A's" father helped him become more comfortable with the adoption plan that "A" & "B" have made.  "A" & "B" expressed to us that they are confident in their adoption plan and we truly feel blessed to have them in our lives.  There is no doubt in my mind that God has brought us together and we are looking forward to future visits with "A" & "B" and continuing to build our relationship with them!

Houston's reputation for heavy traffic proved to be true! Thankfully our GPS kept us from getting lost, but a little relaxation tonight after travelling so much the past 5 days sounds great to us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Post of Christmas Past


We thought it would be fun to add some pictures of past Christmases.  

This little gem is from Finnley's first Christmas

Finnley with her cousins in front of the Christmas tree at Grandma & Grandpa's

Grandma Bernice getting some help opening presents from her great-grandson, Owen

Grandma Helen Bonfig

Finnley with some of Grandpa Dave's old figurines

Chris and Finnley opening presents in 2011

Finnley with her mini snowman

Finnley making Christmas treats with Aunt Julie

Finnley posing with the tiny tree Grandpa Dave gave us for the apartment

Finnley is skeptical of the bag of coal she unwrapped!

Finnley talking to Santa when he visited the Ionia Fire Station

Crazy Uncle B.J. opening presents

Finnley and Mauer in 2012

Daddy and Finnley opening presents at home in  2012

Christy and Finnley opening presents at Bev & Ev's in 2012

Gift opening at Grandma & Grandpa's

Christy and Finnley making cookies at home

Finnley taking aim!

About to see Santa at the North Pole in 2013

Finnley with Santa in 2013

Finnley's gift to Bev - a shirt with a mustachioed cow!

I can't believe we actually got a picture of!

Finnley with "Walter the Farting Dog" (a character from one of her favorite books...and yes, the stuffed animal does fart!)

Cousin Kyra and Grandpa Dave "decorating" the tree together

Finnley with the Costco Santa this year

Looking forward to "Christmas Present" and "Christmas Future" with our new baby girl next year!

And as we look forward to 2015, remember all donations made to our matching grant are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE!  All contributions, big or small, will be DOUBLED!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Taking Nothing for Grant-ed

As we mentioned in our last post, we were awarded a matching grant through the MICAH fund organization to help fund our adoption.  We were honored to be chosen for a grant by this amazing organization, but we quickly realized many people outside of the adoption world may not understand what a matching grant is and what an exciting opportunity this is for us.  I’ll try to explain a little about adoption grants, but feel free to contact us if you have additional questions!

Adoption grants are basically “free” money to help cover adoption costs.  Of course, the obvious question you are probably thinking right now is:  “Well, if it’s free money, why doesn’t everyone sign up for an adoption grant to cover the cost?”  If only it were that easy! 
 Applying for adoption grants is HARD work.  I’ll explain more about what goes into the application process in a moment….but first, I want to touch on the 3 different kinds of adoption grants/loans.  There are direct grants, matching grants, and covenant loans. 

Direct grants are the most desired, but also the hardest to get.  Direct grant organizations review applications and award money outright (the money is never paid directly to families, but is paid to the adoption agency or attorney).  There are numerous examples of direct grant organizations, but many of them have stringent eligibility requirements (income caps, who/where you are adopting from, biological children in the home, infertility status/treatments, religion, marital status, etc).  We applied to seven different direct grant organizations, and heard no from almost all of them (there are a couple that we never heard back from, but since these types of grants are highly sought after, that isn’t unusual). We weren’t too surprised by the fact that we weren’t chosen for any direct grants, since these are the most popular and the organizations receive thousands of applications. 

Covenant loans for adoption are a unique resource that we had hoped we’d have more success with.  There are several organizations that offer “covenant loans,” which are essentially interest-free loans, where your agreement is a covenant with God, and your loan repayments are in obedience to Him and His work and provision in your life.  We applied to four different organizations for covenant loans, but were not selected by any of them.  These were probably the most disappointing “no’s” to hear, as these applications were the most exhaustive and we had hoped that we could partner with some of these smaller organizations for future fundraising efforts even after our adoption was finalized. 

Matching grants are basically a combination of a direct grant WITH fundraising.  The grant organization allows you to fundraise and provide a tax benefit to your donors (remember, any donations you make toward our MICAH fund adoption grant are TAX DEDUCTIBLE!).  Then, the organization will match a certain dollar amount of the donations received! 

For example:  we were awarded a $2,000 matching grant from the MICAH fund.  In order to receive any money at all from the MICAH fund, we must raise money first!  If we raise $500 by the end of our fundraiser, our agency will receive a check for $1,000 from the MICAH fund ($500 of funds raised + $500 of grant money from the MICAH fund).  However, if we raise $2,000 by the end of our fundraiser, our agency will receive a check for $4,000 ($2,000 of funds raised + $2,000 of grant money from the MICAH fund).  Extrapolated forward, if we raise $3,000 by the end of our fundraiser, our agency will receive a check for $5,000 ($3,000 of funds raised + $2,000 of grant money from the MICAH fund)!!  Every dollar donated via the Pure Charity website toward our adoption is DOUBLED!  And, tax-deductible!

We applied for 3 different matching grants and heard no from the other two organizations.  We were elated to get the award letter from the MICAH fund! 

As I mentioned above, applying for these adoptions grants was a lot of work.  You can’t apply for any adoption grants until your family is home study approved – so by the time we could actually start applying for these grants, we were already sick of paperwork, so the idea of MORE paperwork definitely seemed overwhelming!  Plus, like many adoptive families, we thought we might make too much money to qualify for any grants, so it was tempting to skip applying for grants altogether…  Inevitably, I am glad that we did go through all of the work, since we were blessed with a matching grant, but the “no’s” that we received from the grant organizations were coming in at the same time that we were presenting to birth mothers and hearing “no,” and even coming in when we were going through our failed match. 

Just to give you an idea of the paperwork involved in grant applications, for one of the adoption grants that we applied for, we had to fill out an 8 page application and include a detailed breakdown of our adoption costs, with a statement of net worth, cash flow, recent credit scores, current bank statement, tax returns for the past 2 years, a written statement of faith, husband and wife salvation testimonies, adoption testimony, pastoral reference letter on church letter head, 3 letters of reference from family/friends/co-workers,  a copy of our completed home study, and a picture of our family. And that was just one organization!  Each application was a little different, and although most of them asked for similar information, there was always something a little different in each application that needed to be included.  Whew! 

We are excited to work with the wonderful people at the MICAH fund to raise funds for our adoption!  Please check out our story at Pure Charity and we truly appreciate any assistance that you are able to provide!

If you actually stuck with me all the way to the end of this post, I appreciate it!  Your reward, a cute picture of Finnley!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Biracial Miracle

When we started our adoption journey, we had assumed that the cost was fairly uniform, with some variance by state, legal fees, and agencies.  When we actually started really researching the costs of adoption, we found an inequity in the process that surprised and saddened us.
We found out that the majority of children up for adoption are African American, Hispanic, or biracial.  And we were shocked to learn that those minority children are often “less expensive” to adopt than Caucasian children.  From the beginning, we’d discussed being very open in our adoption.  Parents who go through the normal pregnancy don’t have a choice on gender, so we had no problem not specifying a sex.  And we knew from the start that we’d be happy to raise a baby from any genetic background.  Still, finding out that there was such a chasm in the costs of adopting a minority baby, our hearts went out to those children whose heritage made them less “in demand” in the adoption world, and we both began to hope for the opportunity to welcome a child whose ethnicity was different than ours.
Our quiet wish came true! Our birth mother is Caucasian and the baby’s genetic father is African American, meaning the baby we’re only a few months from seeing is going to be a beautiful, biracial girl.  And we had the wonderful opportunity to interview with an organization who felt the same way we did.
The MICAH Fund is an organization, established in 1990, that "exists to glorify God by promoting the adoption of domestic African-American and bi-racial infants and children by providing adoption grants for qualified adoptive families".  We’ve interviewed with them and were chosen for a matching grant! The MICAH Fund will match money that we’re able to raise, up to $2,000.00 to cover final agency and placement costs.  We posted early on in our blog about the high costs associated with adoption, so, as you can imagine, this is an enormous help for our family!  You can follow this link to the Pure Charity page we’ve set up through the MICAH fund: 
Pure Charity provides a safe and TAX-DEDUCTIBLE way to help us reach our matching grant goal.  All funds collected through Pure Charity are paid directly to our adoption agency, so these donations will help us make our final payment at the time our baby girl is placed with us after birth.  Using the website listed above (or the widget on the side panel of our blog) you can donate via credit card, debit card, or ACH check online.  You can also mail a paper check directly to Pure Charity, and there are specific instructions listed on the Pure Charity website to help guide you (you need a reference number to write on the check to ensure it goes into our account). If you have any questions about how to donate, don’t hesitate to ask us!
We’ve been so grateful for the friends and family who have helped us get to this point in our journey.  And we’ve talked a lot about ways we can continue to commemorate the people who have assisted us, so that our baby knows how many people helped us to bring her into our home.  So, we’re asking anyone who graciously donates any amount of money for our matching grant to also assist us with our adoption baby book.  We’re going to make a book filled with your messages that our little girl will be able to keep forever.  We’d like you to email (Chris, Christy & Finnley) with advice for our new baby as she grows up, stories about one of us that make you, pictures, prayers, or whatever else you’d like to share.  We’ll use those to create a book that we’ll keep in the nursery and revisit often.
A big thank you to the MICAH Fund and to any of you who decide to donate.  Adoption is a long process with so many obstacles, but the kindness so many of you have shown our family is what we’ll all remember most.    

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Can You Say?

We recently had our first call with the birth mother, which is an incredibly nerve-wracking occurrence.  For days leading up to the call, you worry.  You worry that she chose you from your book and that actually speaking with you will disappoint her.  You worry about awkward silences, or a bad call connection, or that you’ll say something so wrong that she’ll change her mind about you.  You think, “What can we say to a woman who is entrusting us with the baby she is carrying?”
Then we wondered about her.  Was she nervous to speak with us?  Did she worry we’d judge her for the circumstances that lead her to put her baby up for adoption?  Did she worry, like we did, about saying something wrong or that we’d have little in common?  What does a person say to the people who will care for her baby life?
The call started off well.  We laughed when she said it was cold where she was, only 68 degrees.  We told her it was 14 degrees outside our home.  Then, after introductions and small talk about the weather, the question loomed again.  “What can you say to this person who will change so many lives forever?”
The answer was honesty and openness, for both of us.  We thanked her for choosing us.  We conveyed our family’s excitement and how much joy we felt when we found out we were matched with her. We told her about Finnley’s joy that she would be a big sister.  We told her how Finnley had already put pink stuffed animals in the baby’s crib and gone through her closet to pick out clothes she would give her sister when she was older.  We let her know we would make sure this baby was loved and cared for.
She gave us the same honesty and openness.  She talked about why she was looking for a home for her baby. She talked about how carefully she had looked through the family profile books and why she chose us.  And she told us she was very confident in her decision. 
After the call, we wondered what we had been so worried about.  She was a wonderful woman.  And we did have a lot in common.  We all want this baby to have the best home she could possibly have.