The Silence is Deafening, Time to Make Some Noise

Published on 12.31.13

Look at that - it's been 9 months since you've heard from us! Turns out that's exactly the same amount of time it's been since we've heard anything from Jamaica.

We'll be honest - we have no idea what's going on over there. And while we've found at least one super nice lady who does actually return my emails there at the CDC, the answer is always the same.

"No we haven't found a child for you and we have no timeline or idea when that will be."

We understand that international adoption is a long process, and we've never expected it to go perfectly. We just thought - you know - we'd be contacted by someone without us having to make phone calls and emails just to get a response.

To be fair, you can't work with an agency when adopting from Jamaica so all communication is directly with the government. And it sounds like they really have their hands full.

The last thing we want to do is start spreading rumors about timelines and processes and things we don't really know for sure about so I'll just say this: It's going to be a while before we can bring home a child (or children) from Jamaica.

Finding the line between patience and action is really hard with adoption. Do we try to adopt from another country? Do we wait it out in Jamaica? Do we try something else? Do we give up?

One reason we haven't written anything in so long is that we literally didn't know what to do. We talked with other people who had adopted and fostered, researched other countries to adopt from, talked to agencies and prayed a lot.

No other countries felt right and none of the agencies we talked to really clicked with us.

It was time to step back and re-evaluate. We both still felt like Jamaica was where we should adopt from. But we wanted to help kids now. Not years from now.

So what are we doing? We're going to start fostering classes in January to open our home to kids here in our area. Yeah it's a totally different thing that adopting internationally (that's probably a subject for an entirely different post), but it lets us help kids now while we wait on our adoption in Jamaica.

Right, we're not giving up on that. At least not now. Who knows - we may end up adopting one of our foster kids. And then our kids from Jamaica. Or maybe not. It's useless to predict the future. We're just along for the ride.

So in the meantime we need all the prayers you can muster for us to make the right decisions and that the right kids are brought into our house. Hopefully once we finish our fostering classes we'll have more to share on a regular basis!

Thanks guys, we love you all!

Jonathan, Ashley, Adali, Jett, Jax & Ada

A Small Update, A Big Deal

Published on 04.18.13

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been so long since an update. Truth be told, we haven't really had anything to update you about.

In fact, we realized that since we dropped off our paperwork back in August of last year we hadn't really heard anything from the Jamaican government other than one email quite a few months ago that just said they were still trying to find the right kids for us.

It's one thing to be told they're working on it, but it's another to receive no response for months.

To be fair, we mostly emailed during that time and that was our mistake. Talking to a human always works out better.

In any event, we were becoming very restless and worried that something was going wrong in the process.

Add to that a few internet rumors about things taking a really really long time as of late and it's very easy to work yourself into a frenzy.

So we doubled down, spent some time in prayer and began to seek counsel from others around us that had adopted or were in the process of adopting. It's amazing how quickly we feel like we're so alone in this process, when in reality there are so many others going through the same thing. And they are more than happy to lend a hand, an ear or some encouragement when times get tough.

We called Jamaica, too and while we didn't get any sort of time frame, we did just get an email asking for some revised documents. I know - it doesn't sound that great. More work to do! Yay!

But after months of wondering if anyone had even looked at our paperwork this is progress.

And we'll take any progress we can get.

Teddy Bears for Children in Jamaica

Published on 11.22.12

Hello Friends & Family! Sorry for the lack of updates, but we're just at the waiting part of the process. We can't wait for the day we have news to update all you who are praying for this adoption.

So! While we are waiting, we are trying to raise $600 dollars so we can send 30 teddy bears to the children in Robin's Nest Children's Home in Montego Bay. This is the children's home that we visited when we were in Jamaica in August and we would love to have all the children have something to call their own. Each bear is just $20. If you would like to help sponsor a bear for a child in Jamaica please click the donate button and donate $20.00 to help us reach our goal. We need to raise it all by December 1st so that we can get them shipped out. We only have about 8 of the 30 sponsored at this time. If we go over our goal, the remainder of the money raised will go to buy fruit trees for the kids at Robin's Nest.

Thanks everyone!

  • Curly_the_bear

Nashville, here we come!

Published on 10.22.12

Well, it finally arrived. We now have an appointment set to go get our biometrics (fingerprints) done in Nashville.
While it may not be so exciting for you all, it is very exciting for us because that just means we are one step closer to adding two kids to our family!

So, November 14th we will be headed to Nashville for the day!

We are still waiting to be assigned to a case worker in Jamaica. Lots and lots of waiting :) It will happen all in God's timing and we know that, but the waiting is hard.
But hey, as they say in Jamaica.... "No problem."

Fundraiser on Oct 18th, 5-8pm at Chick-fil-A Kingston Pike Drive-Thru

Published on 10.07.12

Good news, friends and family! If you are in Knoxville on October 18th, like chicken and want to help us raise money to bring two amazing kids home from Jamaica then we've got you covered.

Join us at Chick-fil-A Kingston Pike Drive-Thru for a spirit night benefiting our adoption from Jamaica.

Google Maps Link

Download, print and bring the flyer (link below) and let the cashier know you are there to support 4+More and 10% of your purchase will go directly to the adoption!

REMEMBER you have to bring the flyer yourself. We can't have a stack there for people to use.

Hope to see all of you there!


To download a file, right-click and choose "Save Link As..."

  • Doctype_pdf_48 4plusmorecfaflyer.pdf

    Download, print and bring to Chick-fil-A to help us raise money for our adoption!

Our First Trip to Jamaica, Day Three

Published on 09.30.12

Waking up Wednesday morning was different. We had fun the last couple of days, but today we were making a massively huge step that would change our lives forever.

We were both pretty quiet that morning, and had no idea what sort of adventure would await us.

After grabbing breakfast we headed to the entrance to wait on our driver that had been recommended to us by the Robin’s Nest. Apparently he takes all the missions teams up there and helps out whenever he can.

We had hired him for the whole day - as our appointment at the CDA was almost 2 hours away and then we were going up the mountain to the Robin’s Nest. I was expecting him to show up in a truck or something, but he pulled up in a good sized tour bus. And were were the only ones on it!

Driving to Montego Bay, we got to ask our driver a lot of questions about all the things we were seeing - Why most of the houses we saw looked half finished, how people lived there, what they enjoyed doing, etc…

So it turns out that most people can’t get loans - they build as they can. They’ll build one room, close it in and live in it and then just chip away at it as they get money. Because they never know how big the house will get, they run rebar and pipes through the roof just in case they add another floor on. Seeing so many houses with all that sticking out of the top is very odd.

Also, the government owns huge chunks of land that people will just start building houses on without paying for it. If enough people get their houses started before the government finds out they’ll just let them stay there so there’s no a riot. Many seem to use whatever they can find to build with - metal, wood, concrete - it’s all sort of thrown together. We found out later that the living conditions we were seeing on the coast was just the tip of the iceberg - yeah it gets worse. But for now -

After nearly 2 hours we finally got to the CDA and our driver dropped us off. We went inside, told them we were there for our scheduled appointment and sat down to wait. It was all pretty surreal, honestly. Finally a lady called us back and told us that the person we were scheduled to meet with had cancelled the appointment! Wait, what? We flew over here and just drove 2 hours and our appointment was cancelled without us knowing? Awesome.

But hey, things are different here, right? So we muster our best “No Problem, Mon,” attitude. The lady that called us back was actually the assistant to the director so she looked over our paperwork and said she’d put our file together and get back to us.

And that was it. 10 minutes total and we were back outside. It was almost like a dream. Honestly, it was a bit anti-climatic.

Then again, it’s not really about us is it? We didn’t go to the CDA that day for some sort of emotional high or validation. We went to help two kids find a new home. The waves of emotion will come in spades later, no doubt - but for now we just have to do the work that needs to be done.

After the CDA, it was over to the MegaMart to buy some supplies for the kids at the Robin’s Nest. And we found another surprise here. While they had most of the things we have here in the states, they’re more expensive. So not only are people getting paid less, but their basic goods are more expensive. Gas there was nearly $6 American dollars/gallon. Crazy.

Finally, it was time to head up the mountain. Can we talk about the roads? And by roads I mean pot hole ridden one lane paths? Yeah glad I didn’t eat that highly questionable jerk hamburger right before we left. Oh wait. I did.

But that’s not important. What we immediately noticed was the houses. Remember when I said the living conditions on the coast were pretty rough? As we ventured deeper into the heart of the island, we came to the crushing realization that we were staying in a luxury resort while most people were living without electricity or running water.

About 2/3 of Jamaica is actually mountains, so that whole “tip of the iceberg” thing I said early was pretty literal. In the short 45 minutes we drove to the children’s home we saw such a lack of what we have come to expect as basic living essentials that we couldn’t believe it.

And yet at the same time we saw an unquenchable independence. Small restaurants and shops in the middle of nowhere started by entrepreneurs. Men like our bus driver who told us later that he had sacrificed to let the rest of his family move to Canada while he stayed here and started his own tour bus company. In fact, there were independent businesses all over the place, and we’ve already told you about the craftsmen turning their art into their livelihood. Nobody wants to work for the man there. They make their own destiny.

Then again, that was the feeling we got after being there for 4 days. We might be totally off base. No matter.

Finally, we pulled into the Robins’ Nest. The view on top of the mountain was flat out gorgeous - no question why the people that started this children’s home put it up here. It was like a sanctuary.

I was struck by how big the Nest was. There were at least 3 or more major buildings, a nice playground, a pool. And the kids - they were all just amazing. Every single one. This place was different - the children were taken care of, loved and paid attention to. They were well fed, both physically and spiritually. We really stumbled onto a special place. Or you know - God led us there :)

We had so much fun that afternoon - just being with all of them. No agendas, no plans - just talking and playing. And while we secretly hoped that a few of them would magically stand out as the perfect children for us to bring home one day - well that would have been too easy.

Nothing about this journey has been or will be predictable. We left that afternoon with such a paradox of feelings - hope, love, anxiety, fear, longing, confusion and even numbness. We weren’t even sure what to feel.

All we know is that we won’t ever forget our time at the Nest. Those kids faces are burned into our hearts and minds - and whether we get to bring any of them home or not we’re going to find a way to help them somehow. We’ve got some ideas. But that is for another time.

As I wrap this one up I just want to say a huge thanks to our friends and family who are supporting us by prayer, encouragement and even finances. Your generosity blows my mind every day. Thank you.

Jonathan, Ashley, Adali, Jett, Jax & Ada

  • Outside the CDA

    Outside the CDA

  • Someone's house on the way up the mountain

    Someone's house on the way up the mountain

  • That view

    That view

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  • Boys being boys :)

    Boys being boys :)

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Our First Trip to Jamaica, Day Two

Published on 09.16.12

Rather than sit around at the resort the whole day we decided to take a tour. The first one was to Dunns River Falls. Pretty much everyone says you have to go here - it’s a beautiful waterfall that you actually “climb” up with about 30 other people holding hands. And it was certainly beautiful. But let’s backup a minute.

We crashed the night before pretty early because the tour to the falls left at like 8:00 the next morning. Hey what happened to “vacation?” Nah, it was fine. Especially after the amazing breakfast buffet down by the beach. No complaints there.

So we get on the bus with a few other couples and the guy behind us says, “I would have thought you two would have come to the Bob Marley tour yesterday!” I look around because 1. That’s a really bizarre way to start a conversation and 2. what does that even mean?

Apparently it means we look like we like the types who dig rasta and weed. I don’t know - between my headful of hair and Ashley’s dreads I guess I could see his point. Fair warning - if you go on the Bob Marley tour some crazy stuff will go down behind closed doors. We didn’t ask specifics and they didn’t tell. Moving on!

The Dunns River Falls trip was our baptism by fire into our first “where did all my money go?” escapade. When we looked online before we left we saw that a tour was $15 each. That’s way cheap! But when we went to schedule the tour from the resort, it was magically $40 each. Now, I understand there’s a bus and coordination involved so that’s fine - though more than double’s a little steep.

We got there and were firmly instructed to be back at 1:00. “I’ll give you 10 minutes and then you have to find your own way back,” says the bus driver. Dang. We’ll be back at 1:00 then.

The first thing that happens is we’re told we can’t bring our bag and we have to rent a locker. That’s kind of annoying - but thankfully we can share and the “hey, you look like weed-smokers” couple shares one with us. We’re also told we can’t bring cameras because they’ll get wet, and even if we have a waterproof one we should give it to the camera guy because he’ll be able to take better pictures of us (and want a tip later).

I opted to sneak our waterproof camera into my pocket (muwahahaha), but they were right. Most of our shots were foggy and blurry. And if we had brought the backpack with our phones they would have been destroyed.

The climb itself was just fantastic and we had so much fun. Definitely recommended for the falls part. Not so much of what came next, though.

As we headed back up, all the guides kept asking for tips. Hey, you know - $5 here, $5 there and this trip is getting more expensive than we were planning. I keep remembering the living conditions I’ve seen, though and try my best to help them out.

And then we had to go through the arts and craft area. You can’t get out of the Falls without going through it. Now, on the website it made it sound like some kind of amazing tourist destination - like a mini mall full of authentic Jamaican craftsmen. It was actually what I’d like to call Loseyourmonyesville.

I am not one to be easily taken - I’m extremely skeptical of just about anything, but these guys were good. They’d latch on to you, compliment everything about you, compliment your wife and then give you a “free gift.” I learned quickly that this was just a way for them to continue the conversation, ask your name and start carving it in stuff. I’m not kidding.

In fact, I had a free carving shoved in my hand when I wasn’t even looking. Make sure you keep your hands in your pockets :)

Suffice to say, we ended up buying some souveniers - and getting close to our pickup time. We used that as an easy out as best we could, but as we walked up the ramp to the parking lot we were greeted by more tricksters. “You’re late, they already left!” one guy says to us. I’m in full on attack mode now and snappily reply, “No we’re not,” and keep walking. Thankfully we found our crew, but had to wait for at least 30 minutes. During which we were approached 5 times by taxi drivers to take us back.

Saying no so many times was getting a bit exhausting so we were very glad to get back to the resort, grab a late lunch and get some sun before dinner. We got to video chat with the kids that night and it seemed like they had each gotten a year older. Crazy.

We turned in early again that night because Wednesday was a big day - We were going to drop off our adoption papers in Montego Bay and head up to the Robin’s Nest to meet some amazing kids.

And we’ll tell you all about it next time!

(Sorry for the lack of pictures - they’re on the cheap waterproof camera and not digital).

Our First Trip to Jamaica, Day One

Published on 09.09.12

Considering that we’ve been back in the states for over a week you could say this post isn’t late - just on Jamaican time. Or “Island Time” if you’ve ever been to a tropical islandy location. Yeah, they all move to their own beat, if you know what I mean.

Suffice to say the week before and after have been just as much as a whirlwind as the week we were there. Our plane flew out that Monday, but because my parents both work Ashely’s parents said they would watch our kids. Small catch - they live in Indiana. So we had to drive up to Indiana the day before and fly out of Indianapolis.

We got to the airport at the butt-crack of dawn, made it through security and settled in to wait. The first flight took us to Atlanta where we spent our 4 hour layover riding the shuttle between different sections of the airport and looking for…well I don’t know what we were looking for. Just something to keep us from being bored. Finally we landed in Jamaica - at one of the smallest airports I’ve ever seen. And we live in Knoxville so you know this was small. Or maybe just short - no towering ceilings or anything. Anyway.

Going through immigration we had our first little scare. “Where are you guys staying?” the officer said. “Jewel Runaway Bay Resort,” we answered, smiling happily. “There’s no resort by that name, tell me where you’re staying,” he shot back. “Umm…that’s what it’s called,” we say still trying to smile. “No, I don’t recognize that resort,” he says again. Getting a little panicked, we mention that it used to be a Breezes resort and after asking the officer next to him he finally realizes which one we’re talking about. Whew. So we finally get through and head out to the bus area.

After much confusion (finding your “official and free” transport is a chore when there’s lots of drivers trying to steal you away) we finally got on the right bus and headed on our way. The bus driver was awesome, giving us all sorts of cool info about Jamaica and how things worked there.

The first thing you should know is that everything is “around the corner.” “Our first resort stop should only be 10 minutes,” away he says as we start out. In reality it’s over an hour and a half before we get there. He laughs as he says, “Never ask a Jamaican for directions. They’ll always tell you it’s right around the corner.” This guy is a lifesaver already.

The second thing you should know is that everything is “no problem, mon!” “There are no problems here, only situations,” he says as a car trying to pass on the other road comes speeding at us head on. We found out this happens about every 10 minutes and everyone just moves out of each other’s way, honks happily and keeps going.

We left Ashley’s parents house at around 4:30 am and don’t get to our resort until 5:00 pm so we’re obviously exhausted by the time we get there. And then more fun.

You see, trying to plan a trip for your 4 kids to Grandma’s house and a trip for the two of you to Jamaica is a lot to deal with. And I totally forgot to print out all our itinerary and reservation information. I had most of it on the phone, but one thing I didn’t count on was the resort needing to see our Groupon deal sheet again. I had already sent it in by email when booking the time and from what I remembered they just needed the same Credit Card and some ID.

Turns out they wanted that Groupon deal sheet. So after about 15 minutes of searching around we finally got to it online and printed it out. We head up to our room only to be greeted by a bunch of water leaking from the bathroom.

“No Problem, Mon,” we say and they smile and hook us up with a room overlooking one of the pools. Very awesome.

We explored a bit, grabbed some dinner at the amazing buffet setup on the beach and then looked at some local crafts they had for sale. Except we didn’t have our wallets and so every conversation became exhausting because they all try to sell you stuff. And they’re good at it. If you looked at anything they basically grabbed you and would just keep talking.

But this was just the pre-cursor. The next day we’d really find out how good the craftsmen were at selling their goods. Oh my. We’d also begin to see how wide the gap was between the luxury of our resort and how most people live there.

Next time we’ll tell you about walking up a waterfall, nearly getting hustled and being pegged for the “Bob Marley types.” Day Two comes soon.

  • Waiting for the plane to leave

    Waiting for the plane to leave

  • Beautiful beaches

    Beautiful beaches

  • Massive foliage

    Massive foliage

  • Poolside


Our First Trip to Jamaica

Published on 08.24.12

When Ashley and I got married in 2003 I can guarantee you neither of us thought we’d be where we’re at today. We both knew we wanted children, but I think the topic of adoption came up maybe once in the first 8 years of our marriage. And yet here we are, fully in agreement that this is the next adventure God wants us to take.

For those of you slower with math like me, yes Ashley and I are coming up on our 10 year anniversary this March. We’ve talked for years about going to some exotic location for a week, soaking up some sun and enjoying some peace and quiet. But each anniversary came and went - early on without the money to do anything like that and later with kids that were too small to leave overnight. In fact, we’ve only gone somewhere overnight for one anniversary - last year, but it was just for one night.

It’s funny how when you know you’re supposed to do something, and you actually make the decision to move forward and start taking steps how many things just fall into place. It’s like God’s sitting right above you with everything in a box, just waiting for you to get started so he can dump everything in your lap. Ashley and I knew we wanted to go to Jamaica to learn about the country and maybe visit some children’s homes, we just weren’t sure about the timing.

Until we got the Groupon email.

A multi-night stay at a resort for half price. Kind of a billboard sized “it’s time to go” message. And the timing was just right. So all that to say - Ashley and I are making our first trip to Jamaica next week!

While we’re there we’ll get to drop off our adoption papers in person to the CDA in Jamaica and visit at least one children’s home and take some supplies/donations to them. Not only that, but it looks like it’s going to double as that magical 10 year anniversary trip we always dreamed about, too.

We struggled quite a bit with booking this trip because we didn’t want anyone to think we were using donated money for an anniversary jaunt. Yes we’re dropping off adoption papers, but the majority of the trip will be time spent together.

We’re so humbled and thankful for the time, prayers and funds our friends and family have donated and we want them to know that the gifts they’ve given are being used wisely. So we’re calling this our “official anniversary trip” and that we’re covering all the costs ourselves so there’s no conflicts. We’ll be headed back to Jamaica soon, and we’ll need your help then.

We can’t wait to tell you how it goes!

More soon,
Jonathan, Ashley, Adali, Jett, Jax & Ada

Wrapping up the Home Study and Matching Donations!

Published on 08.08.12

Ashley and I have had our individual interviews yesterday and everything went great! So we've done everything we can for the Home Study now and we just have a few more papers to gather together for the CDA in Jamaica.

Then we have to fill out our i600a form, get fingerprints in Nashville and who knows what else. We're just taking this one step at a time :)

Oh! and by the way we are officially looking at adopting two beautiful children from Jamaica. Not sure if we made that clear anywhere, but we want to make sure we have that option if we find siblings.

Also, huge news! Our good friends Jake and Melissa Croft are matching any donations that come in over the next little bit. Just hit that donate button and put "match" in the memo and we'll take care of the rest.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. I know God is smiling knowing that together we're helping children without a mother or father find a loving home.

We will keep you updated as things progress!

A Fire Extinguisher

Published on 08.06.12

We had our first homestudy visit last Tuesday and everything went great. The only thing we need to do is buy a fire extinguisher.

On August 7th, Ashley and I go for our individual interviews, so keep us in your prayers!

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Hague Online Training

Published on 08.06.12

A major requirement of just about any adoption is to go through the Hague Online training. It's about 10 hours worth of training via their website and covers everything from the process and forms to the emotional and physical challenges involved with adopting orphaned children.

My parents were gracious enough to watch our kids last Saturday and we were able to get it finished! So that's a huge weight off. Thanks Mom & Dad :)

The Home Study Begins

Published on 07.18.12

My wife is amazing. In just 3 weeks she managed to wrangle this huge packet of forms, notarized signed and sealed documents together. We now have our first meeting with our home study officer tomorrow!

You all are so great - the cost of the home study has already been covered by your donations so we can jump straight into this without any delay. Thank you so much for your help and prayers.

Speaking of prayer, please pray for us to have favor with everyone we come in contact with in this process. Everyone has been so nice so far, and we'd love for that trend to continue :)

More soon...

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Papers, Papers Signed and Sealed

Published on 06.25.12

Now that we've been pre-approved the real paperwork begins. Medical forms, police records, notarized photographs and references. This is going to be a lot of legwork.

Then there's the essays and questions. And the home study. It's all pretty overwhelming to be honest.

But, we didn't start this because it was easy. We started it because a child needed a home. And paperwork is nothing compared to taking care of and raising a child.

So we won't be complaining, just chipping away bit by bit. We'll let you know how it goes.

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Pre-approval is confirmed!

Published on 06.11.12

Just received word today that we've been pre-approved for the adoption in Jamaica! Now more forms to fill out and send back. They did say there's a waiting list, but we know everything will happen in the right time.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers and support.

Jon & Ashley

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Goodbye Table

Published on 05.26.12

A little bittersweetness here. We just sold the first kitchen table we bought together to help raise money for the adoption.

Sure, we know the good that comes from this will be much greater than a table.

I guess maybe it's that we both love good food and Ashley's an amazing cook. Or that we have friends over and spent lots of good times at that table. Or that it was the first major piece of furniture we both really liked and bought together as a new husband and wife. Or maybe we're just being overly nostalgic.

Either way, it's done and we've got $500 to put towards our adoption. Let's do it!

  • It's so empty! (Don't worry, we have a smaller table in the kitchen we eat at.)

    It's so empty! (Don't worry, we have a smaller table in the kitchen we eat at.)

Planting the Seed

Published on 05.20.12

To be honest, I'm still not sure how we got here. This was never in the plans when Ashley and I got married - it wasn't even on our radar. I mean, geez, we have four kids of our own. Are we crazy?

Probably, yes.

About two years ago a guy from an adoption organization spoke at our church and something stirred inside of me. I didn't even know what was going on at the time, but God was planting a seed.

You see, at this point, we only had three kids and we kept going back and forth on whether to have any more. Ashley had already had three C-sections and any doctor will tell you it gets more dangerous the more you have. Plus, pregnancy is just hard on her physically.

We had decided we were done but then we would feel like we were being selfish and then flip flop over and over... and over. But there was something else going on, too.

I'll never forget the night Ashley came into my office while I was working and dropped the bomb, "I think we're supposed to have another kid, and then adopt." It wasn't a bomb because it wasn't out of the blue - I knew it too and we had both been fighting it for months.

Looking back, I guess it was more of a relief that it was finally out in the open. Needless to say, Ada was born the next year and now here we are, finally feeling like things are less crazy and ready to start the adoption process.

Oh sure, we could wait another year or come up with a bunch of excuses as to why we're not ready yet. But there's no time to waste. There are kids that need a stable, loving home now. So let's do this.

If you want to help us out, check out the donate section.