As many of you know, we just returned from vacation. Each year, Eric, the kids & I drive to VA, stay in a hotel on Thursday night, visit King's Dominion amusement park on Friday, stay in the hotel for another night, and then get up early & head to Sandbridge Beach (just south of VA beach)to meet up with my parents and my sister and her family for a week at the beach.
At the amusement park, it was sunny & in the 80's, but breezy so it wasn't too hot. We aren't sure why - although we're guessing it was a combination of luck and the holiday weekend - but the amusement park was at about 25% it's normal crowd so we practically walked onto every ride that we wanted to ride. The kids even rode a few rides several times (like, uh, 4 or 5 times!). It was the best time we have ever had at Kings Dominion, or any amusement park for that matter!
The beach was equally awesome. Truly, I don't think it would have been possible for us to have had better weather. It was warm, sunny & beautiful...EVERY DAY!! Not a single rain drop fell the entire time we were there. There were no bugs on the beach, no jelly fish problems, the water was fairly warm, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky most days. The kids are all at wonderful ages where a) they all got along really well; b) they're pretty self-sufficient most of the time; and c) we don't have to watch them like hawks the entire time we're on the beach for fear of them drowning. This made for a really relaxing week for us parents (and grandparents!).
Over the years, we seem to plan fewer activities and go out less while we're there. And, I have to say, I like it! Although I showered everyday (I know - you're happy to hear it!), I only styled my hair & put on make-up once the entire week - the night that we do the family pictures and go out to dinner. Because we had nothing planned and were never rushed or in a hurry, we could stay at the beach as long as we wanted, putz around and take as long as we wanted to finally get showered after the beach, etc. Ahhhhh, rest and relaxation...... that's the life!
[I will post a few pictures once I have a moment to get them all off my camera and onto the computer.]
Now, the bad news. During the week, a few things happened that are not great news for our adoption process. First, the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia up and cut all agencies' embassy appointments in half -- pretty much effective immediately. There was apparently a lot of mis-communication between the embassy and the agencies. It was awful for a lot of families that already had their travel booked and were planning to leave to go pick up their little ones (who are already LEGALLY their children!!) the NEXT DAY, when they were told to cancel their flights, that their appointments had been canceled. Can you imagine?! Some families already had in-laws on flights headed to their homes to watch their other children while they were in Ethiopia. Almost all families had to pay extremely expensive change fees to change their flights (which already cost between $1500 - $2500 for each parent plus the return ticket for the child(ren)). Obviously, disturbing, awful news for these families.
How this affects us (and the entire Ethiopia program) is -- each child adopted from Ethiopia must have an interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy in order to get their U.S. Passports and U.S. Visa documents issued before they can enter the United States. Prior to this cut in appointments, the U.S. Embassy granted our adoption agency 10 appointment slots every other Tuesday. There is one slot per child, so families that are adopting sibling groups take up more than one slot. Currently, there are over 30 families waiting to travel for Embassy appts from our agency. These are families who have already been to court & passed and are now legally the parents of these children; however, the children must stay in the orphanage until the parents can get this embassy appointment. Because the embassy has gone from 20 slots a month down to 10 slots a month, the time between passing court and getting to travel to bring the children home will go up considerably due to the back log of families waiting to travel.
This cut is due to a staffing shortage in Ethiopia at the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy has indicated that they anticipate the cut in appointments to only last "through the summer", but they have not yet given the agencies a set date as to when they will return to the normal schedule. Please pray that it is sooner as opposed to later so these children can get home with their new forever families as soon as possible!
You may be thinking, well, that's not so bad for you since you haven't even passed court yet. However, the second thing that occurred while we were on vacation is that the "rainy season court closure" dates were announced. Each year, the Ethiopian High Courts close for a period of approximately 2 to 6 weeks during the rainy season. This closure generally occurs late Aug - mid Sept at some point. However, this year, the courts will be closing from Aug. 6 through Sept. 27. As of Thursday, the Holt staff in Oregon had not yet heard from the staff in Ethiopia that our case had been submitted to court for a court date. This means that it is highly unlikely that we will receive a court date prior to the closures. Which means that we most likely won't get to go to court until sometime in October.
Then, depending on how backed up travel dates are with the Embassy staffing issues, we could end up not being able to have our little one home with us before Christmas.
We are trying to remind ourselves that God is in control and He is good ALL THE TIME, but it's hard - especially when it means that your child-to-be will have to stay in an orphanage for an additional 3 - 4 months, maybe more. Anyway, please pray that God's will be done, that M. continues to gain weight & stay healthy while he's in ET, and that we will have peace and patience as we wait on His timing.