Thursday, February 11, 2016

An update: The train is pulling out of the station

As 2016 approached, my anxiety of all that was to come this year began to increase.  Anytime I thought about it, I felt like we were headed for a journey on a high speed train.  And once we boarded, we would be whisked away on a crazy, amazing, and tiring journey that would be full adventure.

And as of last week Friday, I can say that we have boarded that train and it is beginning to pull out of the station . . .
Our precious Thomas Joseph!

If you are in our private adoption group on Facebook, you know the full details, but to share quickly, God moved some more mountains on this adoption journey and February travel, which once looked impossible, is happening!!  Last week we received Travel Approval and our Consulate appointment and our sweet Thomas will be placed in Pete's arms on February 22nd!!  Since this was hoped for, but totally unexpected, we are not totally prepared and this week before travel will be filled with last minute packing, trips to Target and getting every last piece of paperwork in perfect order to make the trip as smooth as possible.

I am 28 weeks pregnant and although I did get clearance from my OB to go, I am staying home.  I do not think the reality of that has hit me totally yet and I am not sure just how I will be when I am saying good bye to Pete at the airport, knowing that I will not be there on Gotcha day or the days following to bond with Thomas.  I am not one to listen to others' concerns too closely and so the myriad of family members who mentioned that I absolutely should not go, really did not deter me.  Honestly, Saturday night I was pretty convinced that I should go and be there.  I prayed that God would give me clear direction.  Then on Monday, at the end of mass the priest was mentioning about the possibility of no public mass due to weather on Tuesday and he said something which stuck with me.  He said that sometimes prudence is the better side of valor.  And I realized that I needed to be a bit more prudent about the whole trip.  I am on the cusp of my third trimester.  We would have to take Felicity back to the same orphanage that she herself came from, and so I would not be only dealing with one grieving toddler (Thomas) but I could also be dealing with one very confused, scared, and traumatized toddler (Felicity).  And,oh, yes, I would be doing so while very, very, very pregnant.  So I am staying home.

Thomas will be HOME, on March 4th. We will begin cocooning him and working to help him feel a part of our family. And then on May 3rd, Hope will be born via c-section.  As we enter this time, I ask that you pray for our family in some, very specific ways:

1) Pray for the finances to come through for our adoption.  Any moment now, we should be receiving the final bill and cost list from our agency.  Within days will we owe approximately $12,000 for our travel expenses, in-country fees, etc, etc.  We did not receive ANY of the grants that we had applied for, so every penny that is due will need to come from us.  We have a YouCaring page where we can receive donations and I keep track, on there, of every penny given to us even outside of the page, but here is the thing:

I am not really sure we should ask for donations.  As much as I want our adoption to be fully funded.  As much as I am grateful for every donation that is given to us, there is just too much want and need in our world for me to feel that our need is more necessary than another.  There are families abandoning their children because they cannot afford their medical care and feel that the only way to save their child's life is to abandon him/her.  These families need our help.  There are children dying because of starvation or inadequate water sources.  These children need our help.

One of my biggest questions and fears going into this adoption was "How in the world would we pay for it?"  And after all that we have been through on this journey, I feel like that one lesson I have come to learn is that there are worse things that could happen than going into debt for this adoption (sorry Dave Ramsey).  After getting our second grant rejection letter, my first thought was, "It is ok, Thomas is worth the debt."  There are many things in life that are not worth the debt; a bigger house, a new car, the latest gadgets. But Thomas?  Oh, yes, he, he IS worth it.  And we will survive with it.  We will pay it off and be ok.  And Thomas will be with his family and an orphan no more. Totally worth it.

So, if you feel led and only if you feel led, you can donate to our adoption at our YouCaring Site here.  But again, only if you feel led.

I am also still selling these beautiful bracelets I made in honor of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Month.  The proceeds will be split between our adoption and Morning Star Foundation that cares for orphans with significant heart defects and helps families to pay for their child's heart surgeries so that families may not feel that their only option is to orphan their child.  You can purchase it here.

But, mostly, just pray for us. That God provides in the way He wants to.

2) Pray for Pete and Joshua's travel in China.  Pray they do not get sick. Pray they remember NOT to drink the water :-)

3) Pray for me while they are in China.  Pray I am able to get everything done that needs to get done for Thomas' arrival and for Hope's arrival.  I want the time between Thomas' homecoming and Hope's birth to be unencumbered by extra chores and to-do lists.  I want that time to be about Thomas and family.  

4) Pray for Thomas, especially as he transitions to our family.  Pray his attachment goes well.  Pray for our time of cocooning him before Hope is born.  It is a special time, but can often feel very isolating.  It is a time when our child is put before all other relationships with other people.  I know sometimes it is hard for people outside our immediate family to understand why we pull back from everything, but Thomas and his adjustment is our priority during this time. 

Thank you all for being a part of our journey!  We are so appreciative of you all!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be a Fire Starter Virtual Run Giveaway Items!!!

I am finally getting around to posting our giveaway items for this year's virtual run!! Life has been moving at a pace that has been so fast, I have little time to catch my breath and sit down and write, even just a little bit.  But, I have found a moment to type away, so here we go . . .

I will start with what you all want to know first . . .  the items for the giveaway!

1. $50 gift card to the Transforming Beauty Shop.

Transforming Beauty is an amazing shop with unique coffee mugs, tees and other items you are sure to love.  Go here to pick out your favorite items!

2.  Coffee Mug of choice from Transforming Beauty (2 of these)!!

3.  "Spirit Lead Me" canvas tote from The Adopt Shoppe

4.  Cute Retro Style apron

5.  10 individual servings of Shakeology (chocolate vegan flavor)

That is it for now.  I may make up some bracelets and add those too in a week.

Now, for the details:

How to be entered in the giveaway:

1. For every shirt you purchased, you get one entry.

2.  Go out and run, walk, or do some sort of exercise, and take a photo of you in your shirt.  Post the photo to Facebook, Instagram, or your blog (and tag me, or add #beafirestarter , #5K4TJ) and you will earn 10 extra entries!!)  

3. Donate to our YouCaring page here or share our YouCaring link on social media.  (1 entry per $1 donated or 1 entry per share).  Just let me know you did this in comments below (or tag me on FB to the share).

You will have until February 20th to earn your extra entries in the giveaway.

That is it!!

Please email me at katiepetko (at) yahoo (dot) com if you have any questions!

God Bless and thank you for your support!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Her name, my word for 2016, and an ultrasound picture too!

I had thought of writing two separate posts.  One about our daughter's name and one about my word for the year, but really the two go together and I cannot tell the story of one, without the other.  And so, I will unravel both together.  I wish I could write a nice,short, succinct post about each, but in order to truly understand how God brought about our daughter's name and the word for the year, I need to give you more details about what had gone on in our lives since that early September day when I found out I was pregnant. 

I know I had shared how worried I was that our newest development would affect, or totally stop our adoption.  After I had told my husband that we were expecting, we quickly discussed that we would wait until I was around 12 weeks pregnant to tell anyone, including our adoption agency.  Since I am older, and the risk of miscarriage is higher, we saw no reason to alert our adoption agency too early.  Yet, after a day of worrying and crying (on my part), Pete suggested we call our social worker.  So, our social worker was the very first person to learn our news.  She quickly tried to alleviate some of my fears and mentioned she would tell the head of the China program.  But, they saw no real reason why we would have to stop the adoption process.  That was until they spoke to our home study agency and learned that our home study agency had a policy against adopting while pregnant.  We were never made aware of this policy nor did we sign anything that stated we agreed to the policy, yet our placement agency wanted to honor the policies of our home study agency.  At first we were told that we would have a meeting with the director of the home study agency to discuss our situation once I had my first OB appointment.  My first OB appointment came.  I emailed our social workers to tell them.  Days later I get an email from our home study director stating that she was so happy for our pregnancy and that all looks good, and they have a policy against adopting while pregnant and so we would need to stop the adoption until the baby was 6 months old.  We would lose our son Thomas.   Over the next few weeks, the two agencies went back and forth about our adoption.  While our home study agency could not really stop the adoption, our placement agency wanted to keep good relations with them, and so lots of agency politics ensued.  We prayed.  We asked friends to pray.  And we waited for final word.  Then one day another email came.  It was from the director of our home study agency.  Although she was still against the adoption (because it was policy), she would allow it to continue.  At that moment, I was so relieved.  Although I have not shared all of the details here, know that that email, that permission was truly a miracle.  Hearts had been changed and mountains moved.  Our Thomas was coming home!

Over the months of that fight, God was trying to teach me many things.  He reminded me that even before we started this adoption process, he was calling me to a deeper sense of trust.  There were moments over those weeks, that I wanted to call our placement agency and FIGHT for Thomas.  Yet, I didn't.  I felt like God was calling me to trust Him and that my weapon, was prayer; not my own words shared with social workers and directors, but words lifted up to Him.  Trust, Katie.  Just trust.  Trust and Hope.  And those two words became words I clung to.  Even as I pondered the life inside of me, there were moments, early on, I thought  this baby is Hope.  I am not even sure why. But, I just did.  Maybe it was because I had to cling to hope.  I truly thought I was going to lose one of my children (Thomas or the baby) due to all that we were going through.  And the only thing I had was to cling to the Hope that God was going to work it all out.

And after the email, on the Feast of St John Paul II, the day after Thomas' birthday, I really thought God had worked it all out.  TJ would be coming home.  We would be having a baby. I was getting excited about all that was to come.

About 5 days after the email came, I had a 12 week ultrasound.  When you are of "advanced maternal age" they suggest early ultrasounds and genetic testing to see how the baby is doing.  Since we were also in the middle of the adoption, I welcomed as much information as possible, so that we could be prepared for all that may come.  Thankfully, the baby looked great.  The Dr stated that the baby looked healthy and he saw no reason for concern for genetic disorders.  But, then he stopped.  And he shared that based on what he was seeing on the ultrasound, that  I was developing placenta accreta. While many of you may not know what placenta accreta is, I was well aware of what it was and the possible, serious and life threatening consequences of it.  In all honesty, it was the one thing that scared me more than anything else.  The Dr rattled on about a scheduled high risk c-section no later than 36 weeks, a specialized team in the OR at the birth, banked blood in case of excessive blood loss.  He said, "Oh, and I hope you do not want any more children, because you will probably have to have a hysterectomy" (It reduces the mortality rate).  He did follow all of it up with the fact that he would not know for sure until the 20 week ultrasound.  I left the ultrasound room, and noticed my hands were trembling.  I made it to the car before the tears started to flow.  If I had placenta accreta, it would affect everything; the adoption, our family, everything.  I tried to remain positive, but it was hard.

I knew I had 8 weeks before I would know, for sure, how we would need to proceed.  I prayed.  Seriously, I think I prayed every power house saint novena I could think of; St. Philomena, St Rita, St Jude, Our Lady Undoer of Knots, Infant of Prague, (and the list went on).  There were days, I just stopped teaching my kids and went up to my bedroom, crying and, pleading with God for this all to change.  I just wanted to bring my son home from China, I just wanted to be happy about the life growing inside of me.  I wanted a healthy birth.  I talked to priests, and went to a healing prayer holy hour.  And God's message to me, wasn't one of "Don't worry Katie, I will heal you, it  will be perfect."  It was "I love you Katie."  A priest, during confession, told me I needed to find Hope in all of this.  I needed to trust.  There were those words again.  Trust. Hope.

It was during this time too, that we found out we were having a girl.  We had always wanted to name a girl Elizabeth after Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.  But , for some reason, when I thought of the name, it was not followed with a resounding "yes!" in my mind and heart.  But, there was continually this whisper of the word, of the name, Hope.  I shared it with Pete and he wasn't too thrilled with the name.  But, I kept coming back to it.  We even found a St. Hope.  One First Friday, we went to mass as a family.  Pete declared that we should pray about a name for our girl.  Hope was mentioned in the first reading twice. The word Hope seemed to surround us, although, we were in Advent at this point, the season of expectant Hope, so it was not too much of a surprise.  But, I was pretty sure Hope was our daughter's name.

Then on December 14th, I had my ultrasound appointment.  The week leading up to it was difficult.  I began counting down the days, knowing that that ultrasound could change our adoption plans, the rest of my pregnancy, and even my own life.  Trust and Hope.  Trust and hope. So, I went into the ultrasound hopeful, but scared.  As we sat in the waiting room, Pete said, "There's our daughter's name.  It's the sign we've been looking for," as he pointed to the wall before us.  And there it was, truly a sign. A big metal sign above the receptionist's desk.  Four simple letters: H-O-P-E.  I laughed as I looked at Pete.  I guess we did have our daughter's name.  And a gentle reminder too; to keep on hoping.

The ultrasound seemed to go well.  The tech went through every organ system of our daughter.  All looked good.  Then she got to the placenta.  She checked it's blood flow. The tech said nothing. No "it looks good" as she did with most everything else.  Then she was done.  She left us in the room to get the doctor. I am not sure how long it took for her to come back with the doctor, but it felt like forever.  I braced myelf to hear the worst.  The doctor came in and did a quick ultrasound check himself.  He proclaimed that our daughter looked absolutely perfect.  Then, he got a smile on his face and paused.  "I see no signs of accreta. Nor based on what I see today, do I think you will develop it."  I let out a big sigh.  It felt like I had been holding my breath since that day in September when we found out we were pregnant, and this day, with those words from the doctor, I was finally able to really breathe again.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  Pete laughed and told the doctor that he had been the cause of a lot of anxiety over the last few weeks.  And we just smiled.

In the car ride home, Pete asked me, "What do you think God was trying to teach you through all of this?" In that moment, I did not have a well formulated answer.  I wondered myself, why?  Why did we have to go through all of the stress, the wondering, when it all worked out as we had hoped. Thomas was coming home. And, as of right now, it looks like I will have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  And, I think, it goes back to Trust.  The one thing God was asking of me at the beginning of this adoption process.  The one thing I clearly need to grow in.  And so, my word for this year is TRUST. I want to grow in my trust of the Lord, that no matter what may come, I will not be shaken in knowing that He is taking care of it all. 

As you know, already, if you have read all my ramblings, our daughter's name is Hope.  

I will end this post as I have my other name posts, with a "photo" of our girl.  

Hope Elizabeth Murphy

Friday, December 11, 2015

Be a Fire Starter 5K Virtual Run details!!

OK, everyone  . . . . this has been a long time in coming, but I have finally felt some inspiration with the virtual run fundraiser and when to have it, etc, etc.  I really wanted to do it as some sort of New Years Resolution run.  I mean, what a good way to start the New Year, but to focus on what God has meant you to do.  But, honestly I just could not pull off all the details in enough time.  And then I was at a loss.

Until this week.  I found out that February is CHD awareness month (Congenital Heart Defect).  And since out TJ is a heart warrior himself, I wanted to honor him and all those who are heart warriors out there.  So, the virtual run will take place on Saturday, February 13, 2016!!  What better day to celebrate these warriors than the day before Valentines day.

As in the past, here are the details of the virtual run:

- You run it where ever you are!  And if you are busy the day of the run, you can participate on another day.  

- You do not have to run the full 5K (3.1 miles) to participate. You can run or walk all or part of it.  You may bike, swim or hit the treadmill in the gym.  Just go out and move on that day and pray for our TJ and for all the orphaned and adopted children with CHD.

- You have until January 3rd to order a shirt.  All shirts will be mailed to you before the run date. I will be ordering extra, but you may not be guaranteed your size and choice of style!!

- I will host a local meet up!  Do not worry, there will be hot chocolate!!

-  You do not need to participate in the run to order the shirt, but I will be having a special giveaway for all those who run/walk, etc.  There will be a great giveaway post coming and exactly how you can let me know you ran on that day to be entered.  I am hoping to have make it so that everyone who runs will get something.  I am currently working on a bracelet design for all runners!

Finally, every time I have done a run, all of the funds raised by the run have gone to Little Flower Projects (even last year when I originally was going to split the funds between LFP and Felicity's adoption).  This year, the run was going to be solely for us to raise funds for TJ's adoption, but even though we need the money, that still just never felt right.  So, this year, in honor of CHD awareness month and our heart warrior, half of all money raised will go to the Morning Start Foundation (donated in Thomas Joseph's name).

This amazing organization does incredible work with orphaned and needy children in China and Uganda with significant heart defects.  I have followed this organization for the past year and they even have helped families stay together by providing the necessary money for life saving surgeries through their Love Project.   You can read about them here and follow them on Facebook here.  But, do not worry, my love for Little Flower Projects has not waned.  The run for the Little Flowers will return in the fall (if I can pull it off between taking care of two toddlers, a baby, and some great older boys!

So, please check out all the shirt options here!  We have lots of styles and cuts to choose from!  If you order a shirt, you are "entered" to run if you would like!  Watch for details on the run giveaway to come soon! And spread the word!  The more people who join us and purchase a shirt, the more money that can go to give precious heart warriors like our TJ the life saving surgeries they need!

So let's go out and be Fire starters! And run with all your heart!

God Bless!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why we are "still" adopting

Since announcing my pregnancy, there have been many questions that I thought could come, and I had prepared answers to these, ready to give a well thought out answer.  Thankfully, no one was so bold or curious as to ask.  Yet still, in case anyone is wondering, I thought I would answer one question.  Why are you still adopting?  Some people did come close to asking. Or, at least, they gave indications that, in their opinion, it would be best if we didn't.  And, I think if this were our first adoption, I may have been more nervous to proceed.  And, if our sole purpose to adopt was simply to fill a desire to have more children, then we would probably have stopped the adoption.  But, that is simply not the case.  Although we love our children and are happy to have more, we were pretty content with our three boys.  But, we knew God was calling us to adoption.  There was more behind our yes to adoption than just simply wanting to have more children (that more will be covered in a moment).

So, why are we still adopting?

Here is my answer:

(Before I get to the actual numbered reasons, I want to clarify something.  We love TJ as if he were our son, 100% , already.  And when you love your child, you want what is best for him/her; even if it is painful or hurts you.  We want what is best for TJ; even if that means we are not what is best for him.  And after we found out we were having a baby, we prayed, and talked, and prayed and talked some more about what is best for TJ.  Was our family still what was best for him?  And, our answer, again, and again, was yes. We still firmly believe that our family is what is best for TJ, even with a little sister coming right after him.  The reasons below, are my answers after answering the most important question . . . . What is best for TJ?)

1.  He is our son. Period.

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Do you know what my first thought was as I held the positive pregnancy test in my hand?  I cannot leave Thomas Joseph in China!  And those were the first words I said to Pete when I told him we were having a baby (I didn't exactly get the "best way to share the news with your spouse" award on this one).  I was panicked that we would lose Thomas.  That I would lose my son.  I know families who have adopted get this.  You see a photo and you just know that you are looking at the face of your child.  God has shown up again and again in our process to adopt Thomas and it is hard to refute that he is our son.  God set something in motion on October 30, 2014; the day I met TJ.  It was like He whispered in my ear a promise, yet that promise was not fully revealed until 6 months later.

And because he is our son, I would fight for him (and already have too).  The change in our family does not change the fact that he is our son.  And so, we still work to get him home.

2.  We feel God is calling us to adopt Thomas Joseph

No explanation necessary on this one.

3. 147 Million Oprhans

You can find different numbers for this, as no one can really know truly how many orphans there are in the world, but there are anywhere from 147-163 million orphans around the word.  China reports that there are 576,000 orphans in their care in the social welfare system alone.  These children need families.

Children need families.

Thomas needs a family.

Adoption is hard and broken and beautiful all at the same time.  Pete and I are far from perfect.  We are far from perfect parents and fail our children more than we would like.  But, that is all a part of parenting and being a family.  We are not better suited for this journey than you are.  But, we feel called and I believe that God has given us the grace to walk this beautiful and broken road.  We are walking it with Felicity, we will walk it again with Thomas.  And I would gladly say yes to adopting again, if called.

I often say a short phrase to my boys, "See a need. Fill it."  I started using this phrase with them when they were complaining that I was asking them to do chores that weren't their "normal" chores.  But, we have also had long discussions about this idea and how we should look for ways to help others too.  Adoption is a need that God has opened our eyes to and we are filling it.  I do not mind days at clinics, researching doctors who are best suited for our children's special needs.  I do not mind working at different therapies with the kiddos.  There are moments that I get the sense that God is equipping us with all we need to walk these roads with our special needs kiddos.  And, in a way, I like it.  Getting a first row seat to transformation, to redemption is pretty powerful and special.  And with this in mind . . .

4.  You get far more than you give.  

We may give a lot, sacrifice a lot to adopt and parent an adopted child.  But, the reward is far more precious.  We do not do it because of that, but it is a beautiful side benefit.  It is found in the little moments.  The boys, holding Felicity's hand, guiding her.  It is when she kisses us good night or begs for her brother to read to her before bed.  It is her screaming "Yaya" (Her version of Dada) when Pete comes home and running into his arms as the door opens.  These moments are so special and the blessings of them are indescribable.

5. There is no "line" waiting to adopt children like Thomas.

Thomas is a boy with a heart condition.  Those are two strikes.  And the older her gets, the closer he gets to getting his third strike.  Truthfully, we were not even open to adopting a child like him when we adopted Felicity.  But, God opened our eyes and heart.  Upon reading his file the first time, my initial reaction was NO.  But, after seeking several doctors' advice, we know that right now he is healthy and doing really well.  We are aware that he may need surgery in the future.  We have discussed the fact that although he could live a healthy, happy, long life, we know that he may not.  We know we could outlive him.  But, for the years we have with him, we want to him to experience the joys of being a part of a family.  

6. There is always room for more

I LOVE my kids.  Each is a special gift and I cannot imagine not having each and every one of them.  We live in a small house.  A house that feels smaller with each addition and as the boys grow.  But there is always room for more.  More love. More laughter.  We may not fit in our van any more, and we may feel maxed out in our home when TJ and the baby arrive, but somehow, if God calls us, I think we would gladly make room for more. 

Finally, I have worried about how Felicity and Thomas will handle a baby in the home.  I have worried they will feel replaced somehow or feel threatened.  And I guess that may even be something families worry about when they have another biological child too.  But, when I have prayed about all of this, I also get a sense of hope.  Hope, that in some way, being able to witness, first hand,  a baby coming into a family and being welcomed into a family, will be healing for them.  Maybe I am wrong, but I pray that for them.  I pray that being a witness to how the birth of a baby should be if our world weren't so broken, will be healing to a child who was born and then abandoned.

We welcome Thomas into our family with joy.  We cannot wait for him to come home and become a son, a little brother and a big brother all in a short time!  

So, if you were wondering why in the world we would still adopt with a baby on the way, this is why.