Thursday, May 19, 2016

2 Months Home Already!

I can't believe it! 2 months home already (ok, today is 2 months in the US and tomorrow is technically 2 months home but let's not be picky).

photo cred: the amazing Lindsay Hamill

What a roller coaster the last 2 months have been! Whew! Highs, lows, laughter and tears!! But, let me share about our time in Haiti.

We arrived in Haiti late Tuesday night and were on the plane with another family that was heading to our creche for the first time to visit their kiddos. It was such a joy to meet them watch them experience Haiti for the first time! And their first meeting with their two littles- precious!!!!!!

Shaina was so excited to see us- all dressed up in a fancy white dress!!! She knew we were there to bring her home and that meant she got to sleep in our room with us! What a treat! A very special thing about this trip is that two other families that we have grown very close to were there at the same time to bring their children home. One of these families we spent a week with on our bonding trip last year and the other we have been close with for a couple of years but hadn't met in person yet. Our 3 families have been going through the process together step by step for the past year, sharing our joys and our  sorrows. It was such a blessing for all of us to be there together, at the end of the journey, after all of the heartache, waiting, tears and prayers, bringing our children HOME.

together forever!

We went with one of our friends and her older daughter and took our 3 adopted daughters (her twins and Shaina) out for a little sight seeing and shopping. These girls have not had a chance to see a lot of their own country as their lives have revolved around the creche and their school. We wanted to show them how beautiful Haiti is so they would have memories of that. We went to Papillon Enterprises and did a little shopping for some things to take home and then drove up to The Baptist Haiti Mission. Ryan and I had been there before. The drive up and view there are gorgeous! We went to their Haitian history museum and then the girls got to have their first experience playing on a playground!!! That was such a memorable, joyful experience and also very sad to realize that our 8 year old has never played on a playground. Shaina loved it! We ate lunch (pizza and fries!!!!) before heading back. Such a fun day!

silly girls out on the town

first slide!

gorgeous view from Baptist Haiti Mission

We spent a day at the creche playing with the kiddos and enjoying our time with all of them. I truly love Haiti and I was sad thinking I would no longer have another trip here to plan. We will be bringing our family back in a few years to spend some time at the beach and travel to see other parts of the country, but I will miss it in the meantime.

Friday was a BIG day! The parents all went out bright and early to head to the embassy to pick up our kiddo's passports with their visas! The excitement in the car ride was palpable.  The 5 of us adults were giddy, excited, nervous, happy, anxious, worried, etc.  We were at the embassy for a short time and each of us, in turn, cried when we received our child's visa. That was the moment when it hit- our children were going HOME!!!!

After the US Embassy we were off to IBESR to get the exit letter (needed to show at airport before leaving).  We waited in the small office for hours. People came and went. We got hungry and thirsty and sent Ryan and Will out to get us drinks. Then we played Heads up on our phones. I think we all laughed a little to hard and it was a great way to pass the time and lighten the mood.  Exit letters and visas in hand and we were off back to the creche!! Oh Happy Day!!!! The end of a 5 year journey was at hand. I booked our tickets home while we drove back to the creche. We wanted to get home as soon as possible!! The 5 of us were on cloud nine on the way home! I cannot describe the feeling! Knowing the child you have been waiting for, praying for, hoping for, crying for, desperate for, is finally coming home is indescribable. And that fact that we were all together was the best!

3 HAPPY mommas and our friend Peterson after the Embassy and IBESR

passports and visas in hand

That night we celebrated!!! The 5 of us, our 4 kiddos and the other family there visiting their kiddos laughed and cried together. Then the 5 of us toasted and played more games and reminisced about our adoption journeys and wondered what the coming days and weeks would be like.

The next day was such an emotional one! Shaina said goodbye to her friends, her nannies, the creche, the only life she remembers. She was more excited than sad. I was a mess. I cried the whole morning.  When we finally got to the airport Shaina got quiet and determined. She was ready. Whatever her new life would look like she was open to it and wanted to get it started!!! She loved the flight and oh- all the firsts that day: running water, HOT water, automatic flushing toilets, air hand dryers,  airplane, air conditioning, etc etc etc. She was fascinated with it all!

saying goodbyes

about to board- next stop USA

ready for takeoff- first flight

We landed and went though immigration in Fort Lauderdale. 2 hours of sitting in the immigration office and BAM- Shaina was officially an American Citizen!!! Woot Woot! We spent the night at hotel that night. Shaina was so cute in the hotel room! She jumped on the bed, turned on and off all the lights, opened all the drawers and checked out everything else before finally crashing.

a new American citizen

The next morning we were off again for 2 flights to finally get home.  Shaina did so great on the planes and on our layover- taking everything in and clinging tightly to our hands.

Last stop- HOME! We arrived to a crowd of friends and family holding signs, banners and cheering for our arrival. What a sight to behold! Riley was there with grandma and grandpa (Bella arrived later that day- she was at a gymnastics meet).  After seeing all of our friends we went home. Shaina loved her new room and was jumping and rolling around on the couch- and oh the carpet!! What fun!

first night in her own bed

The next days and weeks went by in a whirlwind. Things have been very, very hard and very, very wonderful. Someone once told me it would be like bootcamp- harder than you can imagine but temporary- and that analogy is perfect! We had days I thought I would not get through but they are now few and far between!
In the last 2 months Shaina has gone from speaking no English to now speaking 75-80% English. I have been homeschooling her to get her caught up in math and reading and she is doing great!!! She is learning daily what it means to be in a family; taking turns, sharing, speaking kindly. And she is also learning hourly what unconditional love is; she knows that no matter what she says or does we are still here and still loving her and this is still her home.

Our hearts are full.

Thank you again for your prayers and support over the last 5 years!!
Bondye Bon

these photos courtesy the talented Lindsay Hamill

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hey guess what!!


We received notice on March 2nd that our I600 was approved and then on March 4th got notification of her visa appointment!! Her visa appointment and medical exam were yesterday and all went smoothly! The visa will be approved as soon as they receive the copy of her medical report. So..


Well, for the trip down at least. It may take a few days to get the visa and exit letter from IBESR allowing Shaina to travel so we will not book our return tickets until we get down there.



It doesn't seem real no matter how many times I type that. I don't think it will seem real until she is asleep in her bed that first night. Her bed! She has never had her own bed before. Never had a hot shower or a BATH! Never had a closet full of her own clothes or toys all for her. Never had a kitchen she could go in and grab a snack whenever she was hungry. My head spins when I think about all of the "firsts" she is going to experience and how all of our worlds are about to change. WOW!

We ask for you to please pray for our travel and transition home!
More to come about what "home" will look like and how you can best support our new family of 5 in a few days. But for now:

Rejoice with us!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Here we go again (or rather, here we sit again)

It's been 7.5 weeks if you're wondering. 7.5 weeks sine we got submitted for I-600 approval and visa issuance. 7.5 weeks we have been sitting... waiting... hoping... praying... 7.5 weeks.

The last group of families who went through this stage got their child's visa and were home in 4-6 weeks. There are a group of us from our agency who are all stuck at 7.5 weeks and a couple other families currently at 10 weeks waiting. It makes me sick.

To be this close with no end in sight is maddening. Truly.

Let me just remind you- our adoption file is now in US hands- so none of that 3rd world country, no infrastructure, poor working conditions stuff will fly any more. It's our own country dropping the ball now.

I am going to spare you details of the agony the last 7.5 weeks have been. The tears cried. The hopelessness felt, the questions asked, the angry words yelled at God, the heartbreak.

To say I am desperate for my daughter to be home is putting it mildly. It has now been a year since Ryan and Riley have seen Shaina and 6 months for Bella and I. I long for her to be home.

We would love it if you would join us in praying that we get her visa soon, and that the other families waiting do also.

7.5 weeks. But who's counting.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Counting Down and Final Fundraiser!

We were submitted for Shaina's visa on December 23rd!! So we are officially in countdown mode! We are hoping to be traveling the first week of February to bring Shaina home. We just have to wait of her visa appt to be scheduled and once the visa is approved we can book travel.
That just feels so surreal to say.

It has been a flurry of activity there. We have had Shaina's bed set up and ready for years (all of Bella's friends sleep in in when they have sleepovers so it has come in handy) but the closet she and Bella will share was a disaster and so was the rest of their room. So my project for the last few weeks was completely emptying everything out, sorting, cleaning and organizing all toys, purging bags and bags of toys and other (ahem) crap, restocking closet with size 5, 6 clothes for Shaina (not sure what size she will be in but thank goodness we saved all of Bella's clothes from size 5 on up!),  patching up holes in walls and finally we decided to repaint and rearrange the furniture. All that with Christmas made for a crazy couple of weeks! I am happy to report the room is DONE and it looks fantastic! I can't wait for Shaina to see it. Bella can't wait to finally have her here to share a room with!

Here is a pano and a regular photo of their room.

We were blessed with a grant right before Christmas that will completely cover the remaining fees we owe to our agency and Shaina's visa and visa medical fees. However we still need help raising money for our travel costs to bring her home. Would you like to be a part of bringing Shaina home?
Our final adoption fundraiser is called Tag the Bag! We bought this beautiful suitcase that we will use to take donations down to Haiti and bring Shaina's things home with us. It will be her suitcase. We want to tag it with names and messages from everyone who loves her, loves us and has helped to make our adoption dream a reality! Donate any amount to our adoption fund and we will add your name and a brief message from you to Shaina's suitcase! Imagine how overwhelmed she will be when she sees all of the names and notes of love for her, when she realizes how many people supported bringing her home!

Donations may be made via PayPal to  Please add your message in the notes.
Thank you so much for your prayers, encouraging words, cheerleading and financial support. Without you we would not be where we are, weeks away from finally bringing our daughter
From Haiti to Home!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guess What??!!

You got it-  Shaina got her passport!!!!

We got word December 16th that Shaina had received her passport- just one day shy of the 1 year anniversary of us getting her official referral!

Now Shaina has permission to leave Haiti. She still, however,  needs permission to enter the US, aka, a visa!

Tuesday her file will be submitted to the US Embassy. At that point our adoption is pretty much complete on the Haitian end and in US hands for the remainder of the process. Our file and Shaina's dossier will be reviewed and in about 4 weeks we should receive an email approval of our i600a (form we filed years ago that gives us permission to adopt). 24 hours later we should get notice of her visa appointment, scheduled about a week later. During that week Shaina will get her medical exam and blood work done. The creche director will take her to the visa appointment and usually the visa is issued that day. A few days later our creche director will go back to Haitian social services to pick up an exit letter (without it Shaina can't leave the country with us). And then.... we get to bring her HOME! The process from here out should take about 4-6 weeks. That means we should be bringing her home at the end of January, beginning of February!!! We were told not to book travel until the visa is printed but I went ahead and got some quotes just so I would have an idea of the costs.

We have two more fundraisers we will start next week. One is a Fill the Freezer event where we are asking people to make freezer meals we can stock our new freezer with to make life a little easier the first month home. The next will be a Tag the Bag fundraiser to actually help raise the remaining funds we need to bring Shaina home. We still have a payment to our agency and travel costs.

Thanks for your prayers friends! Keep them coming that the rest of this process will be smooth and QUICK!

Bondye Bon

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Still running the race

Sometimes in feels like we have been running this race forever.

As much as I know better, I let my heart get set on Shaina being home for Christmas this year. It devastates me to say she won't be. We are hoping for January or February but she will have to wait one more year before she can help decorate the tree, go to Christmas Eve service at church, watch silly Christmas movies and sing carols with us. My lovey will have to wait one more year to wake up in her own bed Christmas morning and run out to check and see if Santa filled her stocking and find with glee that he left gifts under the tree.  One more year tears me up this year. It has been 4 Christmases now without her. 4. This year is the hardest for sure. We are so close. Sooooo close to her being home that to not have her here yet is like a knife to the heart. I should have known better than to let myself get my hopes up.

Want to know the latest? Well, we were told that we would have our passport and be submitted for visa a few weeks ago but that hasn't happened. We are still, going on 4 months now, waiting for her passport. Other families get through this stage in weeks not months. There is no rhyme or reason to why it is taking us so long. But it hurts. Once we get her passport we will get submitted to USCIS (US immigration ) and begin the visa process. Shaina will have to get medical testing done (which she has already had so we are not concerned) and have an interview at the US Embassy.  Then her visa is approved and we get her visa and exit letter from IBESR and away we go to fly home!!

Sounds easy and hopefully it will be.

We could really appreciate your prayers please. Throughout our adoption journey (February makes 5 years) we have wrestled with giving control over to God. There are moments when I am completely at ease and trusting in His perfect timing. And there are moments when I get mad and angry that it is taking so long and think I He doesn't know what He's doing. Foolish I know. Looking back on the journey this far I can see very clearly why it has taken so long. Whether it was my mom's health, financial reasons or something else, there has been a very good reason why it would have been detrimental for Shaina to have come home earlier. I have been able to see it all the times before, but I can't see it now.  I trust God. I trust His plan. I trust His timing,  but I am having a hard time seeing why Shaina is still not home.

Please also pray that we will find a way to finish funding our adoption. We still have approx $5,000 in fees and travel costs to pay for.

And pray this race comes to an end soon and Shaina comes HOME.

Monday, September 21, 2015

1/2 Way??

We have now been in MOI (authorization to apply for a passport) for a month. The most recent family to exit MOI got out with passport in hand in only 2 months!!

So does this mean we could be 1/2 way done with MOI and 1/2 way to passport?? Let's hope and pray that's the case! After we get Shaina's passport all of our documents will be submitted to the US embassy so we can get her VISA and bring our baby girl HOME!

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's Official!

It's official- Shaina is now legally our daughter and legally Shaina Swarthout!!!!
We have our official adoption decree signed and legalized. It is surreal to know that Shaina is now officially, legally our daughter!!!

What does this mean? This means next time we go to Haiti we can leave the creche with Shaina. We can take her to a hotel, a beach resort, anywhere we want because she is OURS! We could move to Haiti and she would be with us and all would be good. It also means that we have exited Parquet and, as of August 18th, we are in MOI. What it does not mean is that we can bring her home yet. She is legally our daughter but still does not have permission (read passport and visa) to leave the country and come to the US.

But we are CLOSER!

As I mentioned, we are now in the MOI phase of the Haitian adoption process. Here is an overview of what happens in MOI from Diana Boni of ABI Adoptions (love her):

Ministry of the Interior
All international adoption cases are reviewed by the Ministry of Interior. In order to obtain authorization to request a passport, the following documents must be submitted for each child:

  1. Four passport sized pictures
  2. Birth Certificate
  3. Attestation for the Birth Certificate
  4. Extract from the National Archives for the Birth Certificate
  5. Relinquishment
  6. Process Verbal of adoption
  7. Adoption approval judgement
  8. Adoption Decree
  9. Attestation of the Adoption Decree
  10. Power of Attorney for creche director and/or attorney
  11. Stamp from DGI
  12. Notary letter for the passport
  13. Identification card of facilitator and/or attorney on the case
  14. Biological parents' identification cards
  15. Adoptive parents' MOI form, identification, and passport photos
The Ministry of Interior will grant authorization to submit the dossier to Haitian Immigrations for a passport.

Haitian Immigrations
The facilitator will submit authorization to apply for a passport to Haitian Immigrations. This is generally a quick process - one to two weeks, if all equipment is working properly.


So this is where we are. We are hearing MOI can be anywhere from 4-12 weeks and then another week for the passport to be printed. Of course we are hoping for the 4 week mark as our hope is to have Shaina home by Christmas (4 years of holding on to that hope).

Thanks for all of your prayers and support! Please keep them coming. We still need about $5000 to finish paying our agency, pay for visa and medical fees and travel costs to bring our baby home.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A wonderful week!

I had asked Mama JeanJean not to tell Shaina that Bella and I were coming to visit. I wanted to surprise her (and if you know Ryan and I, you know that we LOVE surprising our kids).
When we arrived at the creche Bella whispered that she hoped the kids would remember her. We walked inside and it was quiet, everyone must be outside. We put our luggage in our room and started to walk outside when I heard a chorus of, "BELLA!!! BELLA!! BELLA!!" That put her fears to rest! One of the children yelled for Shaina. She came out and ran up to Bella and gave her a squeeze and then jumped in my arms. Ahhh…. Can't describe to you how good that feels!!

I emailed the embassy as soon as we knew we were getting on a flight to Haiti and asked them to reschedule our appointment. I was so relieve to hear back from them with a new appointment on Monday morning! After a rocky start all the pieces were falling back in to place.

The week we spent at the creche was different than our first trip. The "vibe" at the creche was much more mellow and relaxed. The children were so used to having families visiting by now that it was not a big deal anymore that we were there and they were not constantly following us to see what we would do next ;-)

Shaina and Bella got along so well and had some amazing sister bonding time. It was better than I had hoped. On our first trip Shaina had bonded more with Riley so I was very happy to see the two girls growing so close. Everyone asked where Riley and Ryan were and could not understand why the two boys did not come on this trip. They kept asking if they were sick. It was hard to explain that we only had enough money for the two of us…. We showed Shaina videos of her papa and Riley and she talked on the phone with them too. We showed her pictures of the  house and when she saw the pool she kept asking if there were fish in it. Such innocence! I cannot imagine how big her world is going to become very very soon and all of the new sights and sounds she will experience!

We spent our days outside playing with all the kiddos. It is so much fun to see a child light up when they get to experience playing with a new toy or learning a fun new game. These children, although very, very loved by the nannies, do not have toys to play with.  For them, everything is new and fun and special. It is a joy to be a part of.

We experienced some fun tropical storms on this trip (it was hurricane season after all).  A few times the lightening hit too close for comfort but mostly we just watched in awe as the rain fell in warm currents from the clouds and the kids all giggle and went scrambling for cover.

All too quickly it was time to say good bye. Shaina cried, I cried, Bella cried. I told  Shaina over and over again how much we loved her and that as soon as her paperwork was ready we would be back to bring her home. The good byes are always so hard but I had a peace knowing that we were making progress in our adoption and that soon we would be together as a family!

After leaving the creche we went to our appointment at the embassy to file our visa paperwork. It was relatively easy, just had to answer a few questions. I was so nervous because there are so few things in this process we have any control over and I just didn't want to mess it up! But it went great!

Our file is now finished with the Parquet stage and being legalized before we get our adoption decree (which some count as part of Parquet). We are hoping to have the adoption decree (legally making Shaina a Swarthout) any day now!


Bella in her happy place surrounded by toddlers to love

My happy girl!


My heart

 Tampico on a hot day- bliss!

These girls loved playing cards together

Haitian Sensation!


Watching the rain

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Getting there is half the fun??!!

Someone, somewhere said that getting there was half the fun. I wonder if they would still be saying that after they heard how long it took us to get to Haiti on this last trip in June.

I have a wonderful friend who is a flight attendant and offered for Bella and I to use her buddy passes so we could file some adoption paperwork at the embassy in Haiti. We were so so grateful for this because, honestly, we would not have been able to afford to buy full price tickets. So this friend really made it possible for us to even go on this trip! Thank you thank you thank you! We are so indebted to her!

She checked flights for us for about a week before we left. We were originally planning on flying out of LAX on Sunday but she recommended that we leave Saturday because the flights looked less busy. Saturday, after Riley's all star baseball game, Bella and I headed to LAX. We got there, got checked in (carry-on only when flying stand by), and headed to the gate where we were wait listed for our first flight.

The airport was packed. My friend said just in the last few hours Saturday the flights had all booked up and the wait lists now had over 20 people on them, and we were practically last. We talked to other people on the stand by lists and they said they had never seen it this bad. Ugh. We had high hopes though. We were so excited to get to Haiti and see Shaina!!!

If you have never flown stand by let me explain how it works. You sit at the gate and after everyone else boards they see how many seats are available and start calling names off the stand by list. You wait, and listen, and wait, and listen. Your heart is beating out of your chest. My friend was texting saying- only 1 more ahead of you, or you guys are next! The anticipation is intense! When they stop calling names and you see them close the doors and the monitor changes from "boarding" to "flight closed"  your heart sinks. So then you ask them to roll you over to the next flight and you jam to the gate where the next flight will be departing from, which always manages to be on the opposite end of the very long terminal. You get to that terminal and you wait and the process starts all over again.

We did that 11 times Saturday night. After the flights to Miami started booking up and we couldn't get on the first few of those we tried for JFK because from there we could fly to PAP.  We even tried for a Fort Lauderdale and possibly a Chicago too. Anything to get out of LA. 11 times people. With my exhausted 9 year old and our luggage. Back and forth and back and forth and hurry up and wait.

After the last flight out left without us on it we decided to get a hotel to sleep (I think it was about 1 or 2 am at this point). My hubby was diligently trying to find us a hotel with a shuttle to and from the airport since my car was in a parking garage miles away. No luck. Everything was sold out.

We slept in the airport.

I have slept in airports before, in my 20's. It is a whole different experience when you are in your 40's! The worst part was we had left the terminal thinking we were going to a hotel and couldn't get back in so we were stuck by the ticket counters. Bella slept on a concrete windowsill. I sat next to her and read magazines. They finally let us back in the terminal and we headed straight for the first flight out to JFK. Let me just say that walking back into the terminal we saw tons of people who had slept there too, all cozy on cots with blankets and pillows. We were not amused!

We were booked on all of the JFK and Miami flights that day. We didn't get on one of them. By 3pm my friend told me the flights that night looked worse than the night before and the next day was just as bad. But Monday night looked good. So we booked a hotel, Ryan and Riley drove down and stayed the night with us, and we all went to Knott's Berry Farm for a few hours on Monday.  It was actually great bonding time for the 4 of us and helped relieve a lot of stress that Bella and I had built up over the last 2 days of airport sitting.

Monday night we got back to the airport. Spirits dashed and heads low we walked to the gate for our first flight. Nope. Next flight, nope. Next, nope. LAST flight… I couldn't believe we were going through this again. I was so exhausted both physically and emotionally! We had already missed our embassy appt, which would have been the next morning. There was no chance for us to get there in time for it now. But we still wanted to go and visit Shaina. I needed to see my lovey!

They read the names of people on the stand by list who got seats for this LAX-MIA flight. I was pretty numb to it by now. Until I heard our names!!!! I couldn't believe it! I ran up to the ticket counter and she said she had seats for us and I started to bawl. I woke Bella up and she started to bawl.  My friend who got us our passes started to bawl. We were ON OUR WAY!

5 hours later we landed in Miami. There were 3 flights from Miami to Port au Prince a day. We landed too late to try to catch the first one so we had 2 more shots. My friend said it didn't look good- they looked pretty full. I resigned myself to spending the night in Miami (I mean there are worse things). But, we were amazed when we caught the last flight out of the day. Not only did we get seats but we got seats in FIRST CLASS!!!! It was such a blessing for the two of us to get to relax and be pampered for the 2 hour flight after the hellish few days we had had.  And I couldn't stop smiling because I knew that in about 3 hours my lovey would be in my arms again!

At the airport-the first day

Bella sleeping that night. Thank goodness we had blankets!

Break from airport sitting at Knott's Berry Farm.

First class baby!

A girl could get used to this!

Almost there!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

See Ya IBESR!!!

14 months is a looong time to be stuck. But we are stuck no longer! I feel like a prisoner who has just been released- filled with joy and hope!!

We received word on Thursday, May 28th that we exited IBESR and would be submitted to Parquet the following day!!! I was in the car with Bella and Riley about ready to leave the house when I saw the email. I screamed so loud, "We are out! We are OUT!" They both must have thought I was crazy until the realized what I was talking about.  You may think I am crazy too for getting so excited over exiting just one step. So let me explain why this is such a big deal.

Imagine a black hole- dark, mysterious, seemingly without end. Once something goes in the black hole you don't know what is happening to it or if you will ever see it again. That, my friends, is IBESR. Dossiers enter and people don't hear about them for months, years even. Files get lost.  Months go by with no news. It is scary. It is a place where hearts break and dreams are shattered. So to finally be out of it is indeed like breaking out of jail. "Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at LAST." I couldn't agree with MLK Jr more!

What's next??

Well, Bella and I were planning on going to Haiti to file our I600 in July with a few other families who are also adopting from our creche. BUT, God's plans were different that my own. Ryan and I found out Monday that our I600A form extension was about to be denied because our home study is over 6 months old. In California home studies are valid for 2 years but… that did not matter to USCIS. So our options were to go to Haiti to file the I600 before June 24th and there by negate the need for the extension OR to pay $8xcc50 to update our home study. Can you guess which one we chose? We have a friend who is a flight attendant and lets us use her buddy passes to fly to Haiti (thank you thank you thank you) so we are not sure exactly when we will leave, how long we will stay or when we will arrive home. We requested an appointment to file our I600 during the week of June 15 but haven't received a confirmation of the date and time yet.

We are so excited to see Shaina again.  We have all been missing her something awful and I just want to wrap my arms around her and kiss her sweet little face!

Our file is now in Parquet which is where Shaina will officially become a Swarthout. We hear about 6-8 weeks in this stage and then it is on to MOI for her passport, USCIS for her visa and then HOME!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Our 2 amazing weeks in Haiti as a family of 5!

I really don't know how to put our amazing 2 weeks in Haiti into words.  From the minute we landed at the airport my heart was happy. I cannot explain the feeling of utter joy I have just being in that country.

Riley and Bella were mesmerized on the drive from the airport to the creche (orphanage).  I am not sure what intrigued them more, the driving or the street life. Either way, their eyes were wide open trying to take everything in.

When we got to the creche and walked through the front doors Shaina was there waiting for us. She looked unsure, as I expected. We have not seen her in over 3 years and I really didn't know how much she would remember of Ryan and I (if she remembered us at all).  She went up and hugged Riley, who looked as unsure as she did. Then she turned and faced me. I was crying, of course! I knelt down and just hugged her and looked at her and hugged her again. My baby. My baby! I kissed her cheeks and told her I loved her over and over again. She then gave Ryan a huge hug before going over to Bella. I was loving seeing how the kids interacted. After Bella and Riley hearing about Shaina for almost 4 years and only ever seeing pictures and videos of her, she was now standing there with them, real and in the flesh! This little girl that we have all been praying for, loving, missing and thinking about for 4 years was now here!!! Now she was real!

She warmed up very quickly to all of us and before we knew it we were laughing and playing and loving on each other.  She wanted us to carry her everywhere, and we happily obliged. She had Bella and Riley giving her piggyback rides and played with them non stop. It was wonderful! My heart was
overflowing with happiness finally seeing my three children together. Words don't do it justice!

There was another American couple staying at the creche and visiting their son for the first week we were there and a woman from France who was there doing research for her PhD. We loved spending time with all of them, getting to know them and experience being there together. The couple that owns and runs the creche; Eveline and Jean Jacques became like family, especially MamaJeanJean as we came to call Eveline.  We enjoyed our meals together, trying all of the new Haitian dishes and our great conversations. The kids were very adventurous in their eating and we were proud of them.

We spent our days playing with all of the children at the creche (the toddlers on the days when Shaina and the older kids were at school). We brought a suitcase full of toys to use with them; everything from jump ropes and soccer balls to coloring books and frisbees. It was so much fun to have no To Do's each day and be free to relax and play. Let's just say Riley and Bella were in their element!!

We were able to take a few trips outside of the creche. We had to plan our trips for days when there were not protests going on in the streets, which made it unsafe to go out of the creche compound. Even locals stayed in on the days the protests were going on.  We went to a local grocery store where we stocked up on Haitian sugar (, Haitian coffee (don't start your mornings without it) and spicy mamba (spicy peanut butter- snacking just got kicked up a notch). We also went out for a day to a place called the Baptist Haiti Mission. I had read a lot about this place which is in Kenskoff, up above the city. We went on a drive through PAP and the kids marveled at the different neighborhoods.  It is such an eye opening experience to drive from the poorer neighborhoods to Petionville, considered the wealthiest neighborhood in PAP. The houses are huge, all fenced and guarded, there are less people on the streets, more trees, etc. The Baptist Haiti Mission itself was very disappointing. They did have a little museum of Haitian history which we enjoyed but the "market" I had heard so much about was one store that was almost empty. But, the drive up made it worthwhile as the views were spectacular! Our other trip was out with our Haitian friends. We rented a tap tap and went to visit some friends and then went to the Iron Market. The Iron Market was amazing! Two huge buildings that were meant to be a train station before being bought and shipped to PAP.  One building now housed vendors selling everything from pots and spices to hair extensions and turtles (no joke). The other was packed with vendors selling crafts, paintings and voodoo paraphernalia.  Very very interesting to be there! The streets around the market, downtown, were jammed packed with people and other vendors. It was really fun and vibrant! Mama JeanJean also took us to a Sunday Mass at her church, church concert that evening (so much fun with people dancing to the upbeat music) and to her church choir's rehearsal/ Valentine's Day party. We loved it all!

Our two weeks went by too quickly. Saying goodbye to Shaina was heartbreaking, especially not knowing when we will be able to see her again and bring her home.  The flight to Miami was quiet and many tears were shed. I was very thankful to have two nights in Miami to be able to decompress and soak in all the memories of our trip before getting home and hitting the ground running.

So, now that we have been home almost two weeks we have all had time to process and there is one thing I can say. We all want to go back. Like now! Riley and Bella loved being in Haiti and it wasn't just that they didn't have to go to school. They loved the people, the food, the weather. They loved Haiti! Ryan and I were praying that something would click while we were there and we would really feel God's direction for our lives. Unfortunately we didn't feel that so we are home now, missing Haiti, hearing our kids cry because they want to go back, and wondering what the heck we are supposed to be doing next. Being home doesn't feel right anymore. I go in the girls' room everyday and look at Shaina's empty bed and the closet hanging full of clothes for her. My heart hurts.

The next steps for the adoption will hopefully progress quickly but there are families who had their bonding trips a year ago who still haven't been able to bring their children home. I would love to say she will be home by Christmas but the reality is that I don't think that will happen.

So please enjoy our slideshow of our trip and the video tour (in 2 parts) of the creche compound and keep praying for our family and for Shaina! Thank you!!

Haiti slideshow- volume UP!

Creche tour- part 1

Creche tour- part 2

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hi all!
We are back from our incredible 2 week bonding trip to see Shaina. I will be posting all the details and photos soon but wanted to let you all know the trip was amazing- better than Ryan and I could have anticipated!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Oh happy day

Today was such a good day!

At about 3pm today I checked my phone and noticed a VM from a Colorado number. I knew instantly who it was and knew there was only one reason she would be calling me today! I listened to the voicemail and when I heard her say she had good news for me I let out a shriek of delight! My DD came running to see if I was ok. I looked at her and said, "We are GOING to Haiti!!!" "We got our referral???" She asked. We were both so excited, in complete shock. I sobbed like a baby at the thought of getting to see my daughter again after 3 years away!!

With this referral comes our 2 week bonding trip. Both our DS and DD will be coming with us to Haiti for this trip. We will stay in the creche where Shaina lives and spend our days with the children there, particularly Shaina!!! This trip has been sooo long coming! We are really in disbelief that we are able to plan for it and GO! My arms ache to hold Shaina again and I can't get there soon enough!

God has shown Himself and His plan in so many ways throughout our adoption journey. As usual, we have not been able to see that Plan and its perfection until we were far removed from it. But it has been perfect and not only for our good but for all of our family's good. God knew that. He gets it!
This was just another example of how He is working and has everything planned out perfectly.  We originally received notice that we would be traveling for our bonding trip in May (they said 30 days which put us in June). As you know that timeframe came and went and during that time my mom passed away from cancer and my family was reeling from that blow for many months. That brings us to now. My husband and I finally were able to move into the master bedroom in our house (what had been my mom's room up until this time). We finally felt at peace with the changes and were able to get settled in the new room. I had my hip replacement revision surgery about a week and a half ago. For those that know me this is the 5th surgery in 8 years of pain. The past year so excruciating I felt paralyzed at times. I am feeling so amazing after this surgery! Still in pain but walking so steady and stable and just feeling…good! For the first time in 8 years I can do things without them hurting! I am still recovering no doubt but the fact that I can already walk unassisted is such hope for me of a much better outcome!!
Due to my surgery I am not cleared to fly until the 3rd week in January. So guess when our agency director and creche director want us in Haiti for our bonding trip? You guessed it- the end of January! Now tell me that is not a God Nod!!! We also found out two great friends will be in Haiti during our bonding trip so we will get to see and spend time with them.

Tonight we celebrate! This Christmas season, as always, we have so much to be thankful for. We are so blessed!
And tonight please join us in praying that Shaina will be home with us next Christmas!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In case you hadn't noticed

In case you hadn't noticed it is now November. Yep, November. November 8th to be exact. You may remember back in May when we were told we should be getting our referral in 30 days and could go on our 2 week bonding trip. And then in September when I posted about our very difficult summer and how we still were waiting for our referral. Well, here we are in November and guess what; still no referral, still no bonding trip.

Here is the latest:
We found out last week that our file was now in a new part of the IBESR (Haitian Social Services) stage of the Haitian adoption process. This new part is called Children's Court. My understand of what happens here is that our dossier and Shaina's dossier go to the Children's Court. The Children's Judge reviews them and calls Shaina's bio mom in for an interview (her 3rd) to make sure she understands this process and what it means for Shaina to be adopted. Then he signs off on our dossiers and they go back to IBESR to await the signature of the Directress (the very signature we have been told was all we needed and have been waiting for since, yep, you guessed it, MAY). How long does this Children's Court phase take you ask?? Well, our agency tells us 30 days. Sound familiar? The other people in our very large Haitian Adoption FB group are averaging much longer than that. And then once this judge signs who knows how long it will take for the Directress to sign so we can get our official referral.
Here is what it all comes down to. I miss my daughter. 3 years is a very long time to go without holding her and hugging her and singing to her and playing with her. I MISS her. My heart hurts to see her. My arms ache to hold her. Why don't you just jump on a plane and go visit you ask? Unfortunately, once our file entered IBESR we were not allowed to see Shaina until our official 2 week bonding trip. After that trip we can go back as often as we want until we can bring her home. But until then we can't go. I have been very tempted to hop on a plane to Haiti and just "show up" at the creche. But the fear of it disrailing our adoption has stopped me.

I just have to say this though. As hard as this has been, I have been praying constantly for the ability to utterly trust in God's perfect timing. At times it is easy and at other times it is very hard. I get angry. I get frustrated. I get jealous of those whose adoptions are moving quickly and without any hiccups. I doubt. I question. I fear. And I know that is not what God wants. So I am focusing on this saying that I heard a few weeks ago, "Until God opens a door I will praise Him in the hallway." I LOVE that saying. Whenever I feel tempted to get upset or angry about all of our delays I say to myself, "Praising Him in the hallway.". It is helping me to be more thankful for the here and now and be grateful for the entirety of this journey, not just the good parts. Because I know that the end of this journey will be worth the hard. And I know that the hard is actually bringing me closer to God, deepening my faith and showing me how strong I really am. And luckily God has blessed me with an immense peace this last week. That, and a very busy schedule which helps to keep my mind on other things!

Please continue to pray for us. Please pray for Shaina, that God will be working in her heart to prepare her for when she comes home. That He will show His amazing love and grace to her and that she will know that she is wanted and loved! Please pray for Ryan, Riley, Bella and myself that God will be preparing our hearts too for when Shaina comes home. We know this will be life-changing but until we actually are experiencing it we don't know really what it will be like. Pray for no more hiccups. Pray for speed and accuracy. Pray for all of the children who wait and the families who wait for them. It is agonizing my friends.