Archive for May 2013

Finding the Truth About Adoption

Adoption suffers from a bit of media craziness in our culture. It’s either portrayed as a horrible, terrible thing, as with the woman who sent her child back to his home country on a plane a few years ago, or it’s portrayed as a “superhero” effort by “savior” parents, superhumans who swoop in to rescue needy children. Both extremes are harmful to adoptive families, and neither portray with any accuracy what it means to live daily life in America as an adoptive family.

Araya Adoption Fund

Arturo and I are reading Sherrie Eldridge’s 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, and it’s a GREAT book. It’s designed to be read in a group or with a reading partner, and we are loving the discussion questions and practical action items at the end of every chapter. I highly recommend it!

In the second chapter, which discusses how to look at life with “adoption savvy,” Eldridge addresses many of the common misconceptions about adoption. I mentioned two such misconceptions at the start of this post. Both of those concepts are fairly easy to spot as untruthful, but others are not so clear.

For example, how does this statement strike you? “Just love your adopted child and all will be well.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Love your child, and your love will cover all their problems and everything will work out. However, this concept ignores the fact that many adopted children have experienced serious trauma in their short lives. They need much more than a blanket profession of parental love to heal their wounds. Being an adoptive parent is absolutely about loving your child, but it’s also about nurturing your child even (or perhaps especially) when your child is rejecting you, scheduling therapy appointments when they’re necessary, and seeking the professional assistance your child needs to grow and thrive. Love is the most important part of the equation, but it’s not the only part. This seemingly simple statement is deceptive. It sounds nice enough, but it’s a cultural concept that can ruin an adoptive family.

The second chapter of Eldridge’s book addresses many other misconceptions about adoption, and it was eye-opening to see how many cultural ideas we, who consider ourselves relatively aware of adoption issues, had accepted as truth. Talk about a wake-up call!

Eldridge concludes the chapter with a list of questions to help adoptive parents discern the truth about adoption, as they encounter cultural concepts of what adoption is and how it works:

  • Does it imply that good can come from adversity?
  • Does it build me up and encourage me?
  • Does it give hope for the future?
  • Does it give life or take it away?
  • Does it deny differences or celebrate them?
  • Does it set my spirit free?
  • Does it respect everyone involved?
  • Does it make me bitter or better?
  • Does it incorporate sound research and current information?
  • Does it take into account the big picture of adoption?
  • Does it ask for personal accountability versus blaming?
  • Does it help me look forward to the next step of growth?
  • Does it make sweeping generalizations?
  • Does it help maintain my emotional and spiritual balance?
  • Does it incorporate archaic adoption stereotypes?
  • Does it rely on pure sentimentality?
  • Does it prompt me to appreciate and love others more?

Arturo and I read these questions together and were struck by just how powerful they are. They will be invaluable as we evaluate the cultural concepts about adoption that our children will encounter on a daily basis, but their usefulness doesn’t end there. These questions are also helpful to consider when evaluating all sorts of “truths” in our modern life. What in your life doesn’t respect everyone involved, makes you bitter instead of better, or doesn’t help you look forward to your next step of growth? Perhaps it’s time to take steps to change that circumstance, discarding the unhelpful situation in favor of one more full of truth.

The adoption research and preparation we’re doing now will undoubtedly help us deal with the difficult situations we’ll face with our children, but it’s also shaping us into more mature and discerning adults in the meantime. Already, the adoption process is giving us back more blessings than we could have ever imagined!

Araya Adoption Fund

Share Button

Celebrating 5 Years

This past weekend, Arturo and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. What a great 5 years it has been! An extravagant celebratory vacation was out of the question — we’re saving to pay for an adoption after all — so we decided to instead travel back to Smith Mountain Lake, VA, where we spent our honeymoon and where my parents have a condo. Free lodging next to a gorgeous lake? Yes please!

Last fall, my parents bought a small sailboat. Dad hadn’t yet had a chance to use it, and Arturo was dying to try sailing. Together, they decided that Mission #1 for the weekend would be to take the sailboat on its maiden voyage.


Preparing the sailboat for launch involved quite a bit of trial and error. While my family owned a sailboat when I was growing up, this was Dad’s first time rigging up this particular sailboat. Every sailboat is different, and it took us a while to figure out where all the ropes and wires were supposed to go.


Then, once the boat was in the water, the sails still had to be unfurled …. again, not quite a simple as it seems. In the end, Arturo and I decided to let Dad figure out a bit of the rigging on his own. We had reservations in Roanoke to keep!

Dad working on rigging the main sail

Dad working on rigging the main sail

When Arturo and I honeymooned at Smith Mountain Lake in 2008, we spent one day in Roanoke exploring the city. We happened upon a paint-it-yourself pottery shop called Glazed Bisque-It, and we spent almost the whole afternoon painting pottery to commemorate our honeymoon. Arturo painted a teapot and I painted a vase. Arturo and I love to drink tea together, and Arturo often buys me cut flowers to decorate the house. Both items were emblematic of the life we hoped to spend together, and both items still get regular use.

Glazed Bisque-It is still in business, although they have moved across town in the intervening years. When Arturo and I decided to spend our anniversary at the lake, we knew we had to go back. We had many discussions about what we wanted to paint this time. What would represent the next five years of our life together? We finally settled on two dinner plates: one for each of our children. The next several years of our life will be spent nurturing our children, and we could think of no better way to represent that than a gift for each of them.




Arturo painted a plate for our son, complete with lizards and leaves.


I painted a frilly plate with flowers, hearts, and a butterfly for Shawna.


(Note: the paint colors will come out much bolder and more vibrant than they appear in this picture. The plates have yet to be glazed and fired. The design won’t change during that process, but the colors will turn out nothing like they look now.)


The next day dawned bright and beautiful, and after the morning church service, we were finally ready to take the sailboat out for its first great adventure.


Only one problem …. no wind! We spent several hours out on the lake in the sailboat and had a GREAT time, but we ended up spending more time using the motor than we did actually sailing. There was just no wind to be found anywhere! The sails were hanging slack for most of our time on the lake. I did, however, manage to snap one photo of the sail billowed out with the wind:


Despite the lack of wind, we had a wonderful time, and the experience certainly whetted Arturo’s appetite for sailing. He can’t wait to give it another try! Hopefully next time we’ll have better luck with the wind.



Our lake weekend also included an incredible Thai dinner, dessert at Sweet Frog, and lots of time relaxing, reading, and chatting with my mom. But I was a bad blogger and didn’t take photos of any of those things — sorry! I couldn’t believe it when I downloaded my photos of the weekend and realized I didn’t take a single one of my mom the whole time! I’m so sorry, Mom! Here’s an older photo of her for good measure. 🙂

This was taken last August on the shores of Lake Michigan

This was taken last August on the shores of Lake Michigan

All told, our 5th anniversary celebration was one of our best. We spent it doing things we love: spending time outside, eating good food, and using our creativity. Best of all, we spent it with people we love. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting us crash your vacation weekend to celebrate our anniversary!

Share Button

We’re over the $10,000 mark!

If you watch our blog carefully, you may have noticed that our fundraising total took a huge jump since your last visit. (See the thermometer in the sidebar or on our “Get Involved” page.) And indeed, it did – a jump of over $1,000, in fact! We’re super excited. Last night, we sold our jet ski to an enthusiastic father and his pre-teen son who can’t wait to put our jet ski through its paces. The sale means that we now have more than $10,000 raised to bring our children home! We can’t believe how awesome it feels to have reached this point, and we can’t wait until our fundraising efforts reach their intended goal, that of bringing our children into a loving, nurturing family.

Doesn't that smile just melt your heart? :)

Doesn’t that smile just melt your heart? 🙂

Our jet ski was party to some WONDERFUL times – days exploring the Ohio River, afternoons eating a leisurely lunch on the water, evenings riding over and through the surprisingly turbulent waves of the river. The jet ski was a much-used and much-loved toy, and it allowed us to take photos like these:



2011-08-28 17.47.49



While it’s a little bittersweet to see our jet ski go, we are so glad we were able to sell it quickly and for a good price. We have absolutely no regrets about saying goodbye to it, for it is helping us fund something much more important: providing the love of a family to two children who need it. We’re comin’ for ya, kids!

Arturo & Jennifer

Share Button

Five Years and Going Strong

Five years ago today, I said “yes” to my best friend, the man I love more than I ever thought possible. The last five years have been the happiest of my life, and I’m so excited about the years we have ahead of us. I can’t wait to go through the adventure of parenthood side-by-side with Arturo. God blessed me with the best husband I could have imagined, and I know his kind spirit will be a blessing to our children as well.

Happy Anniversary, Arturo! I love you.

IMG_5530 IMG_0126 DSC02832 DSCN0245 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_0158 jenn & amanda OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Arturo's family and Jenn

Share Button

Two Fundraising Partnerships

There’s no way around it: international adoptions are expensive. Now that our homestudy is almost finished (hopefully it’ll ready to send in another week or so! Hooray!), it’s time for us to change our focus from paperwork to funding. We need to raise the money required to bring our children home, and as we’ve mentioned before, we have lots for ideas for how to do that. But recently, two new fundraising opportunities landed in our lap. Two wonderful organizations are providing fundraisers in support of our adoption efforts., and we are so excited they’re part of our adoption journey.

One of our good friends, independent AVON sales consultant Alyssa Owens, is sponsoring an online fundraising event for us right now, through the end of June. AVON isn’t just for women anymore. They have a great selection of gifts for the guys in your life, too! Pick out your Father’s Day gifts and perhaps choose a treat for yourself at the same time. 30% of every purchase goes directly to our adoption fund. To start shopping, visit our Adoption Fundraiser Event Page.

Here are some of my favorite picks from AVON, both for men and women:

spring garden butterfly necklac cross necklace
Spring Garden Butterfly Necklace Cross Necklace
colorblock maxi powerport cup holder
Colorblock Maxi Dress Powerport Cup Holder
battery tester golfers tool
Battery Tester and Organizer Golfer’s Tool

The second organization that’s helping us bring our children home is CoupAide, a company I’d not heard of before entering the adoption community, but I’m so glad we know about them now! CoupAide works with adoptive families to manage fundraising campaigns in support of their adoptions. Our CoupAide page is already live.

CoupAide Adoption Fundraising

It works like this: you purchase a $50 gift certificate for only $20. (Yes, you read that correctly: $50 gift certificate for $20!) Of that $20, a full 50% — $10 – of every certificate purchased goes to our adoption fund. gift certificates are good for over 18,000 locally owned restaurants countrywide. Visit to find out what restaurants in your area accept gift certificates, and visit our CoupAide page to purchase your gift certificate.

In Cincinnati, some of the best local restaurants accept gift certificates, including Mt. Adams Bar & Grill and Midway Café. The $50 gift certificate you purchase through our fundraiser can be broken into smaller denominations: any combination of $10, $15, or $25 gift certificates, and they make great gifts. Most of the restaurants have minimum purchase amounts to use the certificate – say, purchase $12 to use a $10 gift certificate – but you’re still getting a great discount on your meal.

Thank you so much to Alyssa and to CoupAide for supporting our adoption. We couldn’t do it without you!

Share Button

Adoption FAQ

I’m working right now on a letter to include with our adoption announcements. We haven’t sent them out yet, even though we designed and ordered them weeks ago. They sort of got shoved to the back of my to-do list while the homestudy was underway. We’re only just now taking the time to figure out what we want to include in the packet and putting all those things together.

Araya Adoption Announcement

One thing we definitely are including with our adoption announcement packet is an FAQ sheet. As I wrote an answer to one of the questions this morning, I decided that this particular question and answer are worth sharing on our blog. We haven’t had many people ask us this question, but we have had a few.

I always try to give questioners the benefit of the doubt. I know for the most part that people who are asking questions of us are truly curious and that they’re not trying to hurt us or criticize our decision. In fact, I usually love answering questions about our adoption because it gives me an excuse to talk about the wonderful child whom we long to call our daughter. However, this particular question often has a bit of sting with it. More often than not, it feels like this question is asked from a perspective of judgment that we are choosing the wrong path for our adoption. As a result, I think some who have genuinely wondered haven’t asked, for fear of sounding judgmental. So, if you’ve ever wondered this but haven’t felt comfortable asking, here’s our answer.

Why would you choose to adopt internationally when so many kids in the US need a home?

This is a difficult question to answer, particularly because we do feel so acutely the need for foster and adoptive parents here in the US. When we were newly married and began discussing how adoption would fit into our family, we always assumed we would choose to adopt out of the US foster system. In fact, barely 3 months after we got married, we attended a weekend-long conference about the foster-to-adopt system in Ohio to learn more about our options. When we began researching the adoption process more seriously early in 2013, with the intent to adopt in the near future, Jennifer began calling local foster and adoption service organizations asking for up-to-date information about the foster-to-adopt process. Unfortunately, doors kept slamming in our faces. We kept hearing No’s from the many people we contacted – “No” they couldn’t help us, “No” the training sessions were full, “No” they couldn’t answer our question. The responses we did receive led us to conclude that foster-to-adopt, while right for many families, was not the right adoption process for our family, at least not right now.

In the meantime, we saw and fell in love with Shawna and Seth and began praying for them daily. Soon after, we felt God calling us to adopt Shawna and Seth specifically. We chose to answer that call. In some respects, you could say we’re adopting internationally because the children we felt God call us to adopt happen to not live in the United States.

This photo of Shawna was taken sometime in 2010.

This photo of Shawna was taken sometime in 2010.

That said, we would like to address the underlying sentiment that causes many people to ask why we are choosing to adopt internationally, which is the point of view that Americans shouldn’t adopt internationally until all of the children in the United States have been settled in loving adoptive homes.

While it is completely and unquestionably true that children living as legal orphans in the US foster care system are in desperate need of homes, we would like to argue that children living in orphanages overseas need homes just as much. Internationally, there are approximately 143 million orphans worldwide, most of whom are currently living in orphanages in third world countries. For those children who are not adopted out of these orphanages, the statistics are disheartening. The vast majority end up in prison, working in the sex trade, or committing suicide. Of the children who age out of the system from Shawna and Seth’s country, a full 50% will not live to see their 20th birthday. The fact of the matter is that adoptive families are required for children all over the world. Children in need overseas are no less in need simply because they were not born as American citizens. Regardless of whether a child is born in Tennessee or Tanzania, Mississippi or Mongolia, a child in need is a child in need. Geography doesn’t change the need.

Adoption is always a process of helping one child, not many. If we wanted to make a difference to as many children as possible, perhaps we would donate to repair an orphanage or volunteer at a summer camp for foster care children. While these are definitely worthwhile activities, we’re not trying to change the world for hundreds or even tens of children with our adoption. We’re trying to change the world for two children. We don’t care where they come from because need is not geographically limited. Shawna and Seth’s need is no less valid than that of an orphan living in the US foster care system. God happened to have called us to care for Shawna and Seth rather than calling us to care for an American child. We refuse to turn them down just because they weren’t born in the right place.

If you have a question you would like us to address about our adoption process so far, about the decisions we’ve made, or about the facts that have influenced those decisions, feel free to ask! Perhaps your question will be added to the FAQ sheet in our adoption announcement packet. 🙂

Share Button