Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Match, Interrupted

Those of you who know me know that I tend to write our life on delay. Partly, that's for security reasons. But it's also because I'm a big-time processor. I (usually) want to give things a lot of thought before I write. In this particular case, almost exactly a year of thought. But don't worry! In the coming weeks, I will bring you up to speed!

When it comes to our adoption, we've gotten very used to the waiting. After all, we started this process in early 2012! So waiting and the Hicks family are old friends by this point. Still, what makes the waiting bearable is hope--that there will be good news at the end of all of the waiting. It's really only the hope that keeps you going on the tough days. And when it's not there? Oh boy!

Last year, on the Wednesday before Easter, Jake came home from nearly ten months in Afghanistan. It was an extremely joyous (if a little complicated) time for our family. For a brief few days, we were over the moon excited to just be together and have some fun. But as if having Jake home from a war zone wasn't enough, though, we had other things to be excited about too!

When you adopt internationally, you can do so in basically two tracks. On the one hand, you can be on the (long) waiting list to be matched with a healthy child. On the other hand, you can receive lists of "special home finding" kids, and choose a prospective match from those lists. In the Philippines, "special home finding" typically means one of three things: (1) the child is over five years of age; (2) the child is part of a sibling group; or (3) the child has a special need of some kind. The list is typically published monthly, and it is long.

That's why, since early 2013, while we have been on the waiting list for matching with a healthy child, we were also receiving the special home finding list from our caseworker. Or rather, we received child profiles from the list that roughly matched our family's file. If a particular list had 100 kids on it, we would receive about 15 profiles. At that many profiles a month, you can imaging how many kids whose stories we read.

The same day that Jake got home last spring, we received the April Special Home Finding profiles from our caseworker. As we were all snuggled up together before bed, we looked through the profiles, and found one that really struck us. She was a beautiful six year old girl, almost two years to the day older than Howie. Her story spoke to us, and we were certain we were the family for her. We contacted our caseworker and requested to be match right away. 

The messages we got about the match were very positive, and we started to get excited--planning her room, how to handle school readiness, how to get Howie ready for a big sister. It was both exciting and overwhelming all at once. And for someone who researches and plans...well, everything, it was a time when I hopped into overdrive!

Four weeks later, I was at the airport waiting for a flight to Lexington for work, and I got the call. There was a long conversation about the "why," but the gist was that the little person we'd been building our plans around was being matched with a different family. 

I just fell apart. I found myself sobbing on the floor in the United Club bathroom. I missed my flight, which led to a (now) hilarious, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-esque race to get me to Lexington in time for my meetings. It was terrible. Calling Jake to let him know was worse--running through it all again, falling to pieces again. He handled it better than I did (he usually does), but it stung. Really stung. 

I can look back now and just be thankful this little girl has a family. And when she crosses my mind, I say a prayer for her. But it still makes my heart ache.

A few days later, I collected myself and I called my case worker again to find out what happens next. She began the conversation with "if you don't want to proceed with this any longer, certainly I understand." The statement struck me: was she asking if we'd given up? Did she think we were done? 

I talked to her and learned that many families reach a point in the adoption process where the emotional toll is too great, and they have to walk away. I thought about me, crumpled on the floor, and understood. But it gave me resolve that I didn't realize was there before. "This little one was not meant for us," I told her, "but it doesn't mean adoption is not meant for us." See, Jake and I have felt from the beginning that adoption is something we were called to. No one said it would be easy, and Lord knows we've had our challenges. But absent some insurmountable roadblock, we just know adoption is our path.

"We're in this," I told her. "Perhaps there will come a day when we decide that, for our family, enough is enough. But today is not that day. Not by a long shot."

A year and a dozen challenges later, it's still not that day. Not by a long shot!

To be continued...

This is My #MilKid

Yesterday was Howie's birthday. His FIFTH birthday. I can't tell you how mind-blowing that is to me. Where did the time go?

This year Howie's birthday was a really low-key affair. Jake is gone (again, though thankfully, not to a war zone this year), and so we had a party for Howie a couple of weeks ago before he had to leave at the Antique Firehouse, where Howie and his friends (and the dads) got to dress up like fire fighters and go for a ride in a vintage fire truck!

So for his actual birthday, I just took rainbow cupcakes to Howie's school as a treat for him and his classmates. Being the birthday boy, he got two cupcakes: chocolate, with the brightest blue frosting I've ever seen.

I think it's pretty safe to say he enjoyed them. And I enjoyed the fact that HEB's VERY brightly colored frosting washes out of clothing easily with warm water.

Early in the day though, before school or any discussion of sweet treats, Howie woke up and came running down the stairs with an exuberant "It's my birthday!!" 

Then a brief pause, followed by "It is my birthday, right Mommy?" The poor kiddo still does not understand why one might celebrate a birthday on any day other than the actual birthday, so having his party early has thrown him for a loop.

After a small amount of convincing, we turned our attention to getting ready for school. Before we left the house, Howie decided we should document the moment ("Take my picture Mommy, I'm showing you five!"). After I snapped his picture, I said "Let's make a video, baby." I wanted to make for myself a reminder of the way my sweet boy's mind is working at five years old, because he won't stay there for very long.

I asked Howie to tell me about his favorite things, thinking he would take about his Ninja Turtles or his Legos or his airplanes. His answers, though, really floored me.




Floored. I ask Howie about his favorite things, and he doesn't talk about things at all. No, what came to his mind was Daddy. Flying airplanes with Daddy. Playing Legos when we visited Daddy at Ft. Riley. Wanting Daddy to be home. Wanting Daddy to be safe. As I watched the video back with Howie, I was struck with pride that my little person understands what's really important (time with loved ones). But I was also just a little heartbroken that someone so small has already learned absence, and how to worry about someone else. 

That is what it is to be a military kid. It means understanding, way too soon, that moments with our loved ones are precious and life is far too short. It means shouldering emotional burdens that are difficult for adults to bear, yet somehow maintaining the spark of childhood. And although I'm completely in awe of this sweet boy of mine, I know that he's not unique in this respect. We've been at war for over thirteen years. There are milkids who have spent their entire childhoods walking this path.

It really makes only one month of recognition seem wholly inadequate. So to my little hero, and to all of the other little heroes out there, facing more of war than most grown-ups in this country, all I can say is that you are awesome. Truly, unequivocally awesome.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Adoption Through Sweet Treats

Hi friends! OK, I admit it, I have been neglecting this blog. Honestly, it's been a hard few months, between crazy changes at home, and no news on the adoption front. But I'm resolved to start chatting with you again in the coming weeks and get everyone caught up on all things Hicks Hiking, so watch out.

In the meantime, I would LOVE for all of you to help me support another family in their adoption journey. 

I know some of you have heard me talk about how expensive adoption can be, especially international adoption. Families often have to get creative about how to fund their adoptions. Some hold fundraisers; some write grants; and some make items to sell. 

One of the families that we have met on the adoption journey is the Hudson family. The Hudsons are also going through the process of adopting from the Philippines, and they have come up with a super sweet plan (literally!) to pay for their adoption, and then pay it forward.

Jennifer Hudson makes truly delectable salted caramels and caramel sauce. They are awesome! You can read more below, but here's the short version: Jennifer's original goal when she started Stirred by Hand was to sell 50 to 100 jars of the caramel sauce at Christmas. But it's so good, she actually sold over 500 jars! That's not counting the candies! And it's no wonder to me at all; did I mention they are amazing?

Jennifer informed me today that they are 2/3 of the way toward their goal of funding their adoption through her sweet treats. And once they've funded their own adoption, Jennifer wants to start supporting local and international initiatives--like Mercy House--to care for orphans and make adoptions more accessible through Stirred by Hand. Awesome, folks!

But Jennifer's not waiting until she hits her own goal to start paying it forward. She has already donated $1,000 worth of caramels to one other adopting family, and has committed to making caramels for a second family--a Marine Corps family--to sell for their own adoption later this month!

I'm hoping that you, friends, can help me put her over the top of her own adoption goal, and get her started with her outreach efforts as well! Jennifer's contact information is in the story block below. She ships anywhere in the U.S., and with Valentine's Day just around the corner, there's no better time to be buying sweet treats!

Also, I'm no medical expert, but I'm pretty sure that calories you consume for a good cause don't count, right? So load up today my friends! 



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Maligayang Pasko, Little One!

It’s Christmas Eve today, and I’m just not in the Christmas spirit. I really expected to be, but I’m not. I really should be. After all, Jake is home safe. Our family is under one roof, all together and all in good health. We’ve trimmed the tree and lighted the house. All the presents are wrapped and under the tree. A stream of Christmas cards has been filling our mailbox for weeks. All of the key components of holiday cheer are present, and yet cheer is not. 

And it’s my own fault. My heart convinced my head that my big gift for Christmas this year would be news. ‘We’ll finally hear about the newest little person joining our family!’ I convinced myself. 

Despite the fact that we won’t even hit the average wait time until April. Despite the fact that I’ve been working in the Philippines for nearly a decade, and I know that government slows to a halt in December. Despite, despite, despite. Against all reason, I was simply convinced—our little person is out there somewhere, and this Christmas I will finally get to learn who our little person is.

I was wrong. And it’s deflating. My heart is aching, not just from the disappointment, but also from knowing that our Little really is out there somewhere, passing yet another Christmas without a family. Generally speaking, caregivers in the Philippines are extremely loving and attentive to their charges, so I’m not worried about an unhappy Christmas for Little. But it hurts my heart to think about a Christmas passed with a void; Christmas as a lone piece of a far-away a puzzle. Christmas passed longing not for Santa, but for nanay (mommy) and tatay (daddy) and kuya (big brother). When we’re right here!!

So now, what I’m yearning for this Christmas is peace. Lord, let me lay down the disappointment. Lift the sadness from my heart. Help me focus on the now, and allow the future to come to me when it will. 

And to my Little, wherever you are, Maligayang Pasko sweet angel! Merry Christmas! Maybe next year you will spend it with your family.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

#VOTE, and Again I say VOTE!

I've been talking a lot lately about the importance of voting this election season. Maybe it's because the military families community has had such a rough run with our leaders on Capitol Hill this past year. Maybe it's because I'm sick of gridlock. Maybe it's because the more I study the issues, the more urgent the need for an informed and engaged electorate becomes in my own mind. 

What I know is, right now our government is so fractured it's a wonder they can agree on what to eat for lunch (maybe they can't), let alone agree on what's best for this country. I see our servicemembers spread ever thinner by shrinking benefits and growing deployments, our education resources dwindling, our next generation being crushed by the debt incurred to be educated, and our economy still shaky from years of uncertainty and slow recovery. And all I can think is "we MUST do something!"

So I've tried. I've worked on educating local voters. I've urged you to vote as a way to honor the sacrifices that gave you, and continue to protect for you, the right to vote:


And I've voted myself. The only thing that remains is to urge you, ask of you, plead with you--please vote! Whoever you vote for, whether you choose my candidates or not, whether your candidates win or not, please please vote. The only way we make change in our leadership is through an informed, engaged electorate. Vote TODAY! And if you need information to help you vote, visit vote411.org.

And for those of you who happen to be all about elections today, join me online! I will be participating in ABC 13's Your Voice, Your Vote Livestream, where we will also be live tweeting at the hash tag #abc13vote.  We will be broadcasting from 7-11pm, and I will be around starting at 8pm. You can join us here:



Friday, September 12, 2014

It Doesn't Have to Be a Lonely Road...

In July, we passed the two years mark in our Philippines adoption journey, and this month makes eighteen that we have been on the approved families list. If the averages hold, that means we are probably looking at a match in the Spring, but averages are just averages.  I have to remind myself of that a lot. We knew from the beginning that this would be a long journey, but somehow that doesn't stop the impatience eager anticipation for the day we finally get the call.

Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

The thing that is hardest about the adoption journey is that it can feel really isolating. As time passes with no word, you start to fret. You start to wonder if it is ever really going to happen. You start to worry whether you dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. Did I miss something? Could we have done a better job with the documents? Are we doing it wrong?

I'm meticulous. I know I did it all right, and more importantly I believe that this whole process is in God's hands. Yet I still obsess a little a ton about the details, worry about the unknowns.

I think part of the reason for that is that, comparatively speaking, the Philippine international adoption program is really small. There are only about 300 international adoptions each year from the Philippines, usually fewer than a hundred in the U.S. That includes matches, home findings for special needs kids, as well as relative adoptions. It's a small group. And because it's a small group, there just aren't a ton of support resources out there. It's hard to find other people who've been there.

Actually, that's why I started blogging about this in the first place. I wanted to write our story to keep our friends and family informed, but also because I hoped that other people out there, Googling "Philippines Adoption," might find it and not feel quite so alone in the process.

It's starting to work! In recent months, I've had a couple of families reach out to me on the blog and share their stories. One family, the Nissa family, sent me a message a few weeks ago letting me know that they had been matched with a baby boy. They're in the process of finalizing paperwork to bring him home now. You can read all about their story here (it's in French, so you'll need a translator). When Anne Nissa wrote me with her good news, she said "I just want to animate you on this road!" Boy did she! My heart still swells when I think about it.

I recently heard from another woman whose family was just matched with a five-year-old boy and his eighteen-month-old sister. She left her comments anonymously so I don't know who or where she is, but it was definitely encouraging to hear from her.

Reaching out really helps, too. Last year, through someone who reads my blog, I finally found a Philippines Adoption Group. It's a group of twelve people, all at different stages of the waiting game. At times, if feels like we are all taking turns being frustrated with the waiting, but sometimes commiseration is exactly what you need. And when any of us has questions, needs help or just an encouraging word, someone is there. 

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a new story about a couple in Denton, Texas working on a Philippines adoption. We were able to find each other on Facebook, and our virtual conversation about adoption led to our being found by another woman who recently started a Philippines adoption group on Facebook. Through that group, I met Mandy Rose and Jessica Wood, both mommies waiting for Philippines matches, both blogging about it.

We're all still waiting. Finding each other certainly didn't fix that. But what it did was give us someone with whom we can commiserate. Other families working through the same challenges we are, sharing the same hopes we do. Finding community in this journey, it means we'll get a lot more of those joyful heart swells as these families welcome home their children.

It makes waiting for ours just a little bit easier.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Praying Our Way Through Another School Year

It's that time again! Today is the first day of school in Houston, which means excitement and nervousness for kids, parents, teachers and administrators. You could feel the buzz in the air yesterday as we talked to many of our friends sending kids to the classroom, and quite a few headed back to the classroom themselves. 

Last year our church started a new tradition--every kid headed back to school gets adopted by a family committed to praying for that kid to have a great school year. Last year, we chose a little boy named Kevin, and I wrote a prayer for him. This year, we adopted a set of boys--Syd and Scout--but we also decided to keep Kevin too. 




Last year, I issued the following challenge:
So here's a fun exercise. I would like for every one of you who reads this post to find one person (or more, if you're feeling ambitious!) among your FB friends--a child going back to school, or a teacher trying to guide many--and say a prayer specifically for that person. You can borrow the below prayer, or you can say your own. And feel free to share! Let's see what happens when we are intentional about putting this 2013-14 school  year in God's hands!

And I'm doing it again! Find one (or more) kid (or teacher) from among your FB friends, and pray for them to have a great year at school this year. And let them know! Maybe it will make the whole process feel just a little bit less daunting. Below I have written a prayer for our "adopted" boys you are welcome to borrow if you want. And if you want to tell me in the comments of teachers, kids, or maybe even parents who need praying for this school year, I'm happy to add them to my own prayer list as well.

Heavenly Father,

We find ourselves, yet again, at the beginning of a new school year, and I'm coming to you, asking that you will be with Syd, Scout, and Kevin.

Please watch over them, Lord, as they get to know new teachers, new classmates, and perhaps even new schools. This whole process can be very exciting, and very daunting, all at once. Please calm their nerves, Lord, and help them focus. Give these boys peace as they face so many new, unknown things; help them know that You are their navigator, and nothing is unknown to You.

Please encourage Syd, Scout, and Kevin; guide them to good friends and good influences, and give them strength to resist the bad ones. Help them to recognize the difference when that is a hard thing to do.

Please be with the boys' teachers, Lord, theirs and the many others working so hard to reach and teach our children. Please give them encouragement on the rough days, help them feel appreciated, and give them wisdom to know the best way to reach our kids, and teach them to love learning.

Most importantly, Lord, please help Syd, Scout, and Kevin to know that you are there, with them as they face every new challenge, make every new friend, learn every new passion that this year has in store. Watch over them all and keep them safe.

I ask all these things in your sweet Son's name,
Amen