Very Merry Christmas

We had a fantastic Christmas! We've really had the perfect blend of extended family time and time with the 4 of us. We've enjoyed Paul having some time off from work. We've had lots of fun playing with new toys, reading new books, competing on Guitar Hero and spending lots of lazy days together. We've even gotten to sleep in a few days. School starting back up is going to be a shock for some of us! It's times like these that I feel so incredibly blessed. We have amazing kids, we have families that are loving and healthy, we have everything we need. We have an amazing God who became human in order that we might know Him better. We are truly singing Joy to the World and looking forward to a bright 2009.


No Adoption News

Lots of you have been asking lately if we have any new news. We do not. Our paperwork has been active in Ethiopia for 1 month. We are waiting for a phone call letting us know there is a child for us. When that call comes, the ball will begin rolling again. Until then, we wait. We know that there are 4 families "ahead" of us "in line". Several families were matched with kids a few weeks ago, but they were all infants or girls; so our "line" didn't move any.

While we talk about #3 often, and the changes that are SO CLOSE to becoming SO REAL, we're really very much at peace with God's timing. What will be, will be, and there's not anything we can do at this point to speed things along. So we wait! The basement remodel is wrapping up, and soon we'll be preparing a bedroom for our new little guy. The kids are thinking 'safari' theme but I'm not convinced.

On a different note, today is Paul and my 13th anniversary! How time has flown. We talked at dinner with the kids about how much God has blessed us in just 13 short years. We've grown & changed & learned so much about each other. How incredible to think that 13 years ago there was no Noah, no Ella, no #3. Another very real life example about how God's timing is perfect ... and He is good!

Christmas is definetly in the air at our house. The tree is lit, the gifts are wrapped, we delivered gifts to a needy family last night, the parties have begun, a gingerbread house has been carefully constructed and there are only a few more days of school left. We even have a neighborhood family "las posadas party" coming up. These days are so much fun ... I wish the kids could stay at this age forever.


Daddys are so special

Friday night Paul took Ella to a Father/Daughter Winter Ball. A few weeks back he brought home a red rose, and asked her if she'd go with him. She literally counted down the days until the big night. She wanted her dress and shoes in a prominent place in her closet so she could see them at all times. She spent lots of time selecting JUST the right color nail polish. When the big day arrived, she rushed in the door after school and declared she needed to take a shower and start getting ready.

Needless to say, Ella was a beautiful daugher and Paul the perfect gentlement. They ate a wonderful meal, got a picture taken, indluged in the chocolate fountain and danced to lots of songs. It was a night she will remember for the rest of her life. What a blessing she has in her Daddy. How many little girls will go to bed tonight not even knowing who their father is? How many little girls long for a Daddy who notices them? How many little girls wish their Daddy thought they were beautiful? Not only does Ella have a Daddy who loves her, but she has one that will even put on a suit and tie, buy her a corsage, and escort her to a ball.

Way go to Paul. Your little girl is going to grow into a beautiful young lady who is confident in herself; mostly because she has a Daddy like you.


Officially Waiting

We received word today that Alemu (the agency staff person in Ethiopia) received our documents this morning safe and sound. That means, we're ready to be connected with a child! In the next few months we hope to receive a picture, name & medical history of our new son!

People who have gone before us say this is a tough wait. I'm glad the holidays are approaching and we'll be busy with lots of festive activities.

Lots of you have asked what's next and what our time frame is. We don't know anything for sure, but here's an educated guess. We're currently family #5 waiting for a referral for our gender/age range. We're thinking it could be 3-5 months before the referral. Then a court date is scheduled (usually 1-2 months after the referral). Once we "pass" court (sometimes it takes a few tries) we travel a few weeks later. So, we could be traveling as early as this spring or later like summer or fall. Things have moved quicker than expected thus far, but that doesn't mean that trend will continue.

We'll post again when we have new news! Until then, we'll be waiting patiently!


Here we go!!

We were told today that our dossier has made it's way through Washington DC, was mailed back to AAI in Jenison, and today was mailed over to Ethiopia. Now comes the waiting for our referral (the picture, name, medical history of our little guy!) We were told we're approximately #4 in line of families waiting for our specific gender/age range (male age 2 - 3 1/2).

It's strange that we have no more to do. No more notaries to get, no more documents to seal, no more decisions to make ... we just need to wait. And pray. And pray. There's so much to pray about! There's a good chance our son is in the process of transition. That he's already at the orphanage or going through the process of being orphaned. Hard to imagine. Hard to know what to pray for! So, we're asking God to give him his daily needs. We're asking God to somehow prepare his heart for the huge transition he's going to be making soon. We're asking God to surround him with people who love him, care for him, protect him. We're praying we'll be ready as well. We know God is faithful, that He loves #3, and has a fantatic plan that we get to be apart of. There are so many unknowns, but God is good and we're trusting in Him!

Hoping to update soon! :)


A Few Halloween Pics...

We had a happy Halloween at the Hoekstras. We live in the best neighborhood ever, and Halloween is always a good reminder of that. Our neighbors had hot dogs on the driveway before trick or treating began, so we had a little neighborhood potluck with kids in costume to start out the festivities. Next the kids went trick or treating down and around our street; and came home with bags full of yummy treats. Noah and Paul REALLY wanted to head to the HC Football game, so they took off and Ella and I passed out candy to some more ghosts and goblins. What a fun night ... and to top it all off ... Holland Chr. won the game! :)


And They're Off...

All our documents have just been placed in the hands of the FedEx man. I have to admit my heart skipped a few beats ... all that work, all the running, all the stress ... and now it's all at the mercy of a stranger. Can't say I really like this feeling. I hope he takes good care of them. I'm not going to let myself think about what if he doesn't.


The Golden Ticket has Arrived!!

We are so excited!! The Golden Ticket has arrived!! I went to the mailbox yesterday, as I do most days, kind of hoping but not allowing my heart to really "go there"; and right on top of the stack was a letter from the Department of Homeland Security. I ripped it open, expecting to find a certificate with fancy font, bright letters, flashing lights, etc. but instead it was this strange little letter stating "Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition". Huh?!? Is this IT?? So I called our agency, and YES! this is what we've been waiting for! We thought it would take about 3 months; but it only ended up taking 2. So cool! SO, now we have all we need to move forward.

On Monday I'll take all of our notarized documents to the Department of the Great Seal (yeah, that's really a government office .. who knew??) to have all our documents sealed. Then we'll bundle them all up, and overnight them to The Assistant Stork (I'm not making this up) in Washington DC who will hand deliver them to the Ethiopian Embassy & the Department of State to be translated & authenticated. After that, our documents are sent back to our agency, to be sent to Ethiopia. Surprisingly, this whole process takes only about 1 week.

So, the bottom line is this, in about 2 weeks time we'll be officially waiting for our referral (the picture, medical history, etc of our child). The next step will be finding out WHO he is! Our part of the work is almost complete, and we'll be waiting for THE moment everyone talks about. The picture!

It's all becoming very real. It's all a little scary. But it's exciting too. We're moving forward and praying with each step.

We'll keep you posted!


Elise JoLea Linn

Elise JoLea Linn was born on Friday, October 17 at 5:30am. She was 8lbs 2 ounces. She's a healthy little girl who looks just like her daddy ... for now! :) I am so thrilled to have a new little neice to love. There's something about being bonded to a child that isn't yours. She's a small part of me, but she's not my responsiblility. In other words, I get to have lots of fun with her, spoil her, give her fun things her mom and dad wouldn't necessarily buy (like fish, gerbils, loud toys with bells & whistles, etc.). I get to be a fun aunt! Don't get me wrong, there's nothing better in life than being a great mom, but I'm looking forward to my new role as Aunt to my sister's daughter. Noah & Ella are excited to have a new cousin too. New life is truly so incredible. I'm thrilled to be able to be a part of this little sweetheart's world. Oh, and in case you wondered ... the "Lea" in "JoLea" is after me ... Jessica Lea! :) How fun is that?!?


Fall Fun!

I've been accumulating lots of fall photos over the last few weeks. Thought I'd post a few so you could see, rather than read, what we've been up to. There's not much better than fall in Michigan ... except maybe summer!


Paul's 1st 5k Run

Today Paul ran in his very first 5K run. It was to benefit the Holland Rescue Mission. The race began on Fairbanks near the Mission's Women & Children's Center, and looped around the Holland area. The kids and I cheered him on as he completed the run. We were so proud of him. Way to go, Paul!!!


Waiting is Hard to Do!

I haven't posted on the adoption progress in awhile, so for all you wondering where we're at ... I thought I'd write an update. Basically, we're waiting. We submitted our documents to the USCIS on August 27, and were told it's currently taking the agency 3 months to send us our approval (aka the "Golden Ticket"). We need the Golden Ticket to send with our dossier to Ethiopia (all our documents for the Ethiopian Government). If it really DOES take 3 months, then we won't have our golden ticket until the end of November, which seems a really long way off. I have to admit, even though it's only been a month, I still flip through the stack of mail pretty rapidly each afternoon ... hoping.

Once the Golden Ticket arrives, we still have lots more waiting to do ... waiting for the dossier to be translated and sent to Ethiopia, waiting for our referral (a picture and medical report of our child), waiting for a court date, waiting for a travel date, etc. So, my title of this blog "waiting is hard to do" will most likely become a common theme over the next 6-9 months!

We have a few more details to take care of in our dossier packet. We both need to get 6 passport pictures taken (even though we already have passports?!?) and submit our final book reports. Other than that, we're just waiting.

I've been reading a book "There is No Me Without You" by Melissa Fay Greene. It is a breathtaking story (true) of a woman in Ethiopia who, not by any plans of her own, begins to take in orphaned children. It also includes a fair amount of history on Ethiopia, the AIDS pandemic and other interesting topics. The book ends with several chapters on updates of kids who were in her orphanage, and are now with their American families. The book had opened my eyes to the extreme conditions these kids are faced with each day ... with the amount of loss they've faced in their short little lives. It is truly a desperate situation for so many. It gives me a very real sense of urgency. In 2005 Ethiopia had almost 4.5 MILLION orphans, with only 1.400 being adopted by families abroad. How is it even possible to imagine 4.5 Million children with no one to love them, no one to tuck them in at night, no one to explain the world to them, no one to treasure them. It's unimagineable. If these were US Children how differently we would react!!

On a lighter note, our basement is almost all cleared out and we're ready for construction to begin. We're going to be adding another bedroom, a bigger rec room & a snack bar area. I've been busy picking out carpet, cabinets, paint colors, furniture, etc and now we're just waiting for the dust to fly! I have a feeling my patience is going to be tested in lots of different ways over the next months.


Baby Shower!

This Saturday Abby, Mom and I had a baby shower for Julie. It seems like we were just getting the news that the baby is a GIRL ... and now she's only 3 weeks away from being born. We had a great morning celebrating with family and Julie's friends. Baby Linn is one fortunate little girl ... she is going to be surrounded by a family who will cherish, love and adore her, she is being born into a country that promises a life full of opportunity, she will have all of her basic needs met each & every time, and lots of wants met as well. She gets to grow up in a home where she'll learn first hand that God loves her, that Jesus died for her, and that life can be full! Plus, she has a 6 year old cousin who will goo and coo and fuss until she can't take it anymore. :) So, now the showers are done, the nursery is set, and we wait for "the call". I can hardly wait to meet my new little niece!


We've Been Printed!!

If you read my previous post, you know we had an issue with our fingerprinting appointment. I was getting ready to mail my form back to request a new appointment, but thought I'd better call our agency first in case they had a better idea. They did! AAI suggested we go to the USCIS office in Kentwood and see if they'd take us as a "walk in". I hopped in the car, met Paul in Kentwood, and walked into the office with a smile on my face. IT WORKED! I've officially been fingerprinted by the United States Department of Homeland Security ... and so has Paul. Good news for a rainy Friday afternoon!


Fingerprinting appointment ... or not!

When I got the mail today I was excited because there were 2 envelopes from the USCIS!! Could it be our fingerprinting appointments already?!? I was sure hoping so. My hopes turned to "oh no" when I tore open the envelopes. Much to my disappointment we have an appointment next Friday, the 19th, at 8am in Grand Rapids. That's Great! you may think. Think Again. Paul is gone on a golfing trip in northern Michigan for 3 days next week ... including ... you guessed it ...the 19th. Not his fault, no the government's fault, just bad luck I suppose.

There's a small spot on the form we can fill out to request a new appointment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they have mercy on us and give us another appointment quickly ... hopefully they don't hold it against us and schedule us sometime in 2009! It says on the form if we don't show they'll consider our application and all other documents "abandoned". Quite a word!! Anyway, I guess we'll just have to wait and see ... we're getting pretty good at that. I'll express overnight the forms back to the USCIS tomorrow requesting a new date...


Picture Time

We had some family pictures taken tonight. It's never too early to be thinking about Christmas cards ... I know, I know ... it's only September but when a friend has a portrait party with a great photographer; what's a girl to do? I can almost hear my brother-in-law Andrew laughing as I type this ... he thinks I take WAY too many pictures. When I'm 80 I know I won't be sorry I captured my beautiful children as often as I did. In typical "jessica fashion", I had the kids do a few poses on the front porch before our actual shoot. Again, I know I know. It was a good idea though because we ended up with an outfit change. Maybe I really do need to get a "real" job. Sorry for the sarcasm ... hope you enjoy the trial pics :) My kids are really good sports to put up with me some days ...
One more exciting bit of news ... I am now on facebook so if you want to be my friend I'll be glad to "confirm" you. If you have no idea what I'm talking about ... no worries. To quote one of my new facebook friends Sarah Blystra "welcome to facebook; the most glorious distraction from all the important things you should be doing".
Oh, and Happy Birthday Mike! Hope it was fantastic!!


What a Week!

So much has happened in the past week! Our days have been filled to the brim. I think I've taken more pictures in the past week than I have all summer.
Last Friday night we celebrated Ella's 6th birthday with our extended family. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating her birth. Everyone warned me that time goes by so quickly ... boy were they right! Ella is a beautiful, joy-filled little girl who brings more life & laughter to my life and our family than I could ever imagine.

After the birthday party on Friday night, we launched into "labor day weekend" prepared to get in as much summer as we possibly could in 3 short days. We played at the beach most of the weekend, and even took a swim in cool, clear Lake Michigan halfway between Holland & Grand Haven. It was a perfect weekend and we tried to forget Tuesday was quickly approaching.

Tuesday, arrived quicker than we had hoped. We set the alarm clock Monday night and woke up ready to go early Tuesday morning. Noah started 3rd grade at a brand new school. As much as I wanted to continue to take him, he was so excited to ride the bus. He's felt very deprived over the past few years that he had to WALK to school and his friends got to RIDE. His friend's moms tell me they're jealous of Noah ... I guess even at such a young age kids want what they don't have. Anyway, Tuesday Noah hopped on a bus to Pine Ridge. He admitted he was a bit nervous, it's never fun being the youngest in the school, but the day went well and he's going to be just fine. Ella began 1st grade which means all day, every day. She had an excellent first week. I thought she'd be exhausted but not Ella ... she's wondering if it's Monday yet so she can go back. She's made lots of new friends already, and loves her teacher. Friday at lunch time she cried a bit and told her teacher she missed her mom ... how bad is it that I took that as "good" news?!?

Although the kids had a great first week back, I didn't fare as well. Being a mom is tough. The first week of school is really hard for me. I get so used to having the kids around during the summer months. I love being with them and it's hard to start the school routine where they're gone more than they're around. I love being the primary influence in their life, I love being there during the day rather than having to hear about exciting stuff they've experienced after the fact. I love having lunch together, love going to the pool, love seeing them play with their friends. I miss them while they're gone, and each school year that passes I realize my time with them is getting shorter. I know I still have lots of years left, but some days it seems like they were just learning to walk ... not heading off to school! I'm sure I'll get back into the groove soon, but it's bitter sweet non the less.

Today Noah had a 3 hour football scrimmage. His team met up with 3 Hamilton teams. He played both offense and defense ... and did a great job. The coach has him playing center, and Noah has been rising to the challenge. In the picture below, Noah's the one in red with his hand on the ball. His first "real" game is this coming Saturday.


USCIS Here We Come...

I just dropped off our packet of documents to the post office. Express, overnight US Mail to the USCIS. The USCIS is the US Citizenship & Immigration Services. We needed to submit Form I600A along with lots of other documents. The next step will be for us to get fingerprinted, then after we clear the FBI Background check, the USCIS processes our application and approves it, they'll send us our "golden ticket" which we need in order to apply for adoption to the Ethiopian Embassy. This process is currently taking about 3 months. In the meantime, we'll be getting lots more supporting documentation together for our dossier (the packet we send to Ethiopia) so that when the "golden ticket" arrives from the US Government we'll be ready to send it all on and keep the process moving. The Dossier consists of 18 notarized documents so we still have some work to do! We're excited to be moving along and have the home study and USCIS documents checked off our list.



All Summer we've been promising Ella a sleepover with a few of her friends from school. Since her birthday was only a week away, we decided to turn it into a birthday/slumber party. The girls arrived at 4:00 on Friday. We headed to the marina for a pizza dinner, went tubing and swimming in the lake, swam in the pool and then came home to get jammies on. We had birthday cake and ice cream and opened presents. Then the girls played for awhile and set up their sleeping bags in a row. Sleep came slowly for the girls ... and mom and dad too! Around 11:30 we gave the final "warning" and didn't hear anything until 7:00 the next morning. Paul made his famous pancakes & sausage, the girls played awhile longer and then headed home.

We know some families have this many kids of their OWN ... but we're not sure how they do it. 19 hours was plenty for us. Ella had a blast, which was the whole point, but 4 girls giggles, shrieks, silly stories, did I mention SHRIEKS?!?, was enough for this mom for awhile.


Summer Days

August is alive and well at our house. We've been spending as much time as possible outside. I keep reminding the kids these wonderful sunny, warm days need to carry us through some long, cold months this winter.

Noah started football practice on Monday, and is a bit unsure of the whole thing. It's one thing to watch football and cheer on your favorite team, and a whole different thing to strap on a helmet, pads and start hitting. His coach is tough ... kind of drill sergeant like (lots of yelling!)... and so Noah is totally out of his comfort zone. Noah has played soccer since Kindergarten, has gone to numerous soccer camps, and loves the game. Being the sports nut that he is, he has always wanted to try football. We allowed the decision to be his, but warned him that football is different than soccer. He really wanted to give soccer a break this fall and play football. He wont admit it, but I know after 2 football practices under his belt the familiarity of soccer is starting to look pretty good at this point. He's learning some valuable life lessons ... like sticking with things even when they're hard, and respecting adults even when you don't feel like it. I have a feeling once he gets the hang of the game and he'll start liking it more ... at least we hope so!

This past weekend we were blessed by Opa & Oma to be able to take a "Hoekstra family adventure" to Cedar Point. We had a blast riding coasters, sliding down water slides and re-connecting with brothers, sisters, neices & nephews who we don't get to see often enough. We were sad to say good-bye. It's a bad feeling to be so far away from family we love so much.

2 more weeks until school starts. I don't even like thinking about it, so I for sure am not going to WRITE about it! I'm posting some summer pictures to keep the spirit alive.



As some of you may know, I tried my hand at "flipping" a house this summer. I had been looking for just the right house in just the right neighborhood for just the right price and was hoping I would find the perfect match this fall. I know when school starts I'll have some time on my hands, and the thought of buying a run down house, fixing it up and re-selling it has some appeal to me. Some of you think that's crazy, I know, but I also know others of you would love to do the same thing.

Anyway, the perfect house came along, only a little sooner than expected. I made a really low offer on it in June and they accepted! Yikes! The thought of working on a run down house in the middle of a beautiful Michigan summer was less than appealing, but I forged ahead anyhow. About a week after our accepted offer our realtor called with some "strange" news. Someone wanted to make us an offer on the house we were going to buy. "OK", I said, "bring it on". Long story short, it was a good offer, I didn't have to pick up a paint brush, and we could close a month later. As of today, the house is no longer ours and I made a nice little profit for a month's work of "work".

Paul and our realtor say it's "beginner's luck", but I'm not so sure. I'm going to start house hunting again; I may have just found my new career path :)



Thursday night were looking forward to a long awaited boating outing with friends from Grand Haven. Both of our schedules are busy this summer, so we put the date on the calendar weeks ago to be sure we got together this summer. Paul came home Thursday around 4:00 and I instantly knew something was wrong. His face was paler than a ghost, and he had a wierd look on his face. He explained that he had fallen off the boat. Not just fallen, but banged his leg in the process. When he bent his knee, he felt like he'd be sick. He was in a ton of pain.

Lots of thoughts went through our mind ... what if it's broken?!? No more boating, no more golf, work will be a whole new challenge, what about the rest of the summer??? We reluctantly cancelled with our friends, quickly got a babysitter and headed over to the ER. Much to our relief, Paul's leg wasn't broken but it was beat up pretty bad. He left the hospital later that night with crutches, vicadin & 3 other meds. Not a great combo for a fun weekend ahead! My parent's had the kids Friday night and our planned romantic evening alone turned into watching the Tiger's with Paul's leg high in the air. Saturday we were able to go to my aunt's house to visit with our Dutch relatives that are here from the Netherlands. Sunday was back to normal; almost.

We have round II of our homestudy tomorrow. They need to interview us seperately. We're not sure why ... but I guess we'll find out :) Last night we attended a transracial/transcultural training. It was really informative and made us realize how very "white" we are! We were able to hear from a few black adults who were adopted into white families when they were young. It was so helpful to hear their perspectives and have them share some of their journey with us. It's clear that we're not just adding another child to our family, but we're learning and embracing a whole new culture as well. It's going to be a challenge, no doubt about that, but we're excited to see what God has in store for us.

We've also been doing a LOT of reading (6 books are required), filling out paperwork, asking for favors from friends (we need 6 reference letters in all) and asking our Drs, police force, insurance agency, accountant, neighbors, teachers, county clerk's office, etc... to all vouch for us. It's a long process but thank goodness for a great agency that knows what they're doing.

We're taking it one day, one signature, one form, one meeting, one notary at a time and are hopeful that a year from now all this running around will be forgotten and we'll have a new little boy to love and care for.

One more note ... I REFUSE to believe that AUGUST is almost here. We have a LOT more summer left, and I for one am not going to be thinking about the back to "s" word for at least a few more weeks!!


Big News!

A few years back Paul and I had the discussion I imagine most young parents have … is our family complete or should we add another child to the mix? At the time we decided our family was full; we had 2 beautiful children and felt it was enough. We have a busy life, a challenging business, lots of things we like to do. Plus, why push our luck when we have it so good? As is the case so often in life, God had other plans for us!

Last fall we got a phone call. A friend wanted us to join him and his wife on a trip to Africa. We had been contemplating doing something “missional” for awhile, but nothing felt like a good fit. When Peter called, we knew it was from God. I don’t say things are “from God” very often, because in my life the voice of God has never been booming. It’s usually still, small and I have to really listen to hear it. With Africa, though, it was loud & there was no denying the message. We knew without a doubt God wanted us to travel to Africa with Peter, Shawn & Mike. We weren’t sure why, just that God was leading us & we were willing to follow.

To make a long story short, this past spring our journey to Africa broke our hearts. We’d heard the stories of orphaned children. We’d heard the stories of injustice. We’d heard the stories of extreme poverty and of the AIDS pandemic. We thought we were” aware”. After spending a few seconds on the ground in Johannesburg we discovered we had no clue. To stand in a young mother’s shack, hold her hand, look into her eyes, and know she will be dead soon of AIDS is life changing (another word I hardly ever use). To see a group of preschool aged kids walk hand in hand down a sewer filled street, with no parent in sight, is heart wrenching. To realize that even the brightest, strongest, most resilient kids have virtually no hope for a future is devastating. Our hearts were broken, and we were forever changed.

When we got home, the main question in our minds was “Now What?” We know that we will continue to ask that for the rest of our lives, and are striving to continue to ask that question in light of what we have been shown.
It has been so cool to discover that God has been answering part of our “Now What?” question to each of us in the same way … individually … but with the same voice and message. We realized not too long ago that both of us, independent from each other, had been thinking of what it would look like to take one of those little kids into our lives. What it would be like to add to our family; to adopt a child from Africa and teach him about Jesus’ love, teach him about family, teach him about security & safety & a world where he can be all he was created to be. We both have a passion to give a child a life where he is free to hope.

We know that investing in 1 child is not going to save the world; that Africa will be no different because of us. We're not making a political statement or trying to save the world. We just believe that every life matters. That God created each and every one of us, and loves us all the same. We know there are millions of children out there who are suffering. We can at least help one. We have been given so much, and others have so little.

Our journey is continuing and we have begun the adoption process. We know God already has our little boy already picked out. We know the process will be long. We know it will be hard. We also know that the best things in life are sometimes the hardest, and so we will take 1 day at a time and continue to listen to that still, small voice. We will put fear in it’s place, and lean on the strong hand of God. We will choose to live a life with no regrets.

For those of you who like the details … here they are so far. We’ve chosen Adoption Associates for several reasons; mainly because they have been doing adoptions in Africa for over 3 years and have been very successful at it. They work with kids from Ethiopia so that’s where we’ll be adopting from. We have completed the initial application, gone through the awareness meeting and have completed the 36 page formal application. We will begin the home study soon which will take 6-8 weeks. Next comes the USCIS stuff (finger printing, FBI background checks, etc.) which will last 2-3 months. Then we prepare the paperwork to send to Ethiopia and wait for our referral (the child that’s chosen for us). That will take 3-5 months. A court date is then set and after the legal stuff is complete we’ll travel to Ethiopia to pick up our new son. We’re still debating about whether Noah and Ella will travel with us. The process is estimated at 10-14 months (with delays to be expected). We have requested a boy ranging in age from 2-4 years old.

Noah and Ella are excited and have already begun praying for their new brother. Our families are 100% supportive and for that we are so grateful! We’ll keep posting on this blog and will keep you updated as the journey continues.

Kids we met while in South Africa

4th of July!

Wheww! What a weekend!! We were busy with fun, summery activities. It was the perfect summer weekend and we had a blast. The weather was fantastic, we spent time with our family and friends. We had 3 family picnics; all outside. We had our annual family breakfast at the beach, along with 2 other family picnics on Saturday & Sunday. We went to the beach & tubing Friday afternoon, met friends for the fireworks via the boat Friday night, spent a glorious day on the water Saturday with friends and did the same on Sunday. I am convinced there is not much better in life than a hamburger cooked on the beach over charcoal; surrounded by good friends and the sun sinking over Lake Michigan.

We spent lots of time on the beach, the boat, and in the water. Life doesn't get much better than this!!


*All Star*

Friday night's All Star game was a big success. Noah's team won with a score of 14 -1. Noah likes to point out that the game ended abruptly due to rain, so the score probably would have been even better ... I guess we'll never know :)

Noah played an awesome game. He was 4 out of 4 with his hits. He had 3 RBIs (for those of us "non baseballers" that means he scored 3 times). He caught 2 balls in the field for 2 outs; and got 2 runners out on the plate. We like to think that had there been an MVP he would have been in the running :) 20 other parents probably are thinking the same thought about their son!

It's so fun to see him so passionate for something he loves. As his parent, it's a joy to watch him concentrate so hard; to give it his very best. It's cool to see him work so hard, and then see that hard work pay off. We're proud of him for so many reasons. The fact that he loves baseball is just a bonus!
Saturday afternoon Paul surprised Noah with the news that they were going to be heading to a Tiger's Game ... that day! Noah was beside himself ... he could hardly believe it!! We had told him it was going to be a "work afternoon" of cleaning up the backroom in the basement and we needed his help. He had to come in from playing with his friends. When we told him "just kidding" ... you and Dad are going to the Tigers he was ecstatic. The boys had such a great night. Noah got an autograph from Bodine, a new player for the Tigers. Bodine wrote a Bible reference under his signature ... "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". He's now a new favorite player at the Hoekstras! They witnessed a Grand Slam and the Tiger's ended up winning the game ... barely. Noah is so blessed to have such a great dad ... he's going to have such great memories of their special outing together.


Summer's in Full Swing!

Summer is officially in full swing at the Hoekstras. This week and last have been just short of crazy. As the mom, I take full responsibility, and although no one has complained (yet!) I think all 3 of us are looking forward to a few of those "lazy days of summer" soon! Our days have been starting with the kids each doing 2 chores and 2 learning type things. Next, they fill their snack jars ... 3 snacks go into the jar each morning and when they're gone, they're gone! Last week Ella had all 3 gone by 11am one day, but the next day she was more careful! :)

Last week's schedule included Noah's basketball camp, Ella's gymnastics, Ella's cheer camp, & a few afternoons by South Side Pool. This week hasn't been any slower paced; Noah's been at Hope Soccer Camp from 9-3 each day, while Ella is still doing gymnastics and has added swimming lessons. We had my family over last night for dinner (Happy Father's Day Dad!) and playgroup at the park this afternoon. We're hosting a "Yea! It's finally Summer!" party Friday night with a group of friends and their kids. Saturday will be fun too ... the annual badmitton tournament at the Linns. Paul and I have been up late many a night this week strategizing on how we can get that trophy BACK into Hoekstra hands :) This Sunday has officially been declared "Boat Day!!" and I think Paul already has the beer on ice. We're planning to meet a group of friends out on the beach, but I don't dare tell Paul the forecast doesn't look so great ... if it rains I'm taking a nap!

Noah couldn't be more excited about Little League this year. The A's had their final game on Monday night. The coach announced that Noah was 1 of 2 players from his team to make the All Star Team. He'll be playing in that much-anticipated game on the 27th.

Summer is such a fun time; especially with Noah and Ella. I've probably scheduled way too much and have made a mental note for next year. BUT, they're such good kids and really seem to be enjoying everything. They have so much energy and so many interests. It's fun to watch them learn new things, grow in areas they already have an interest in, make new friends, thrive in new social settings, and enjoy this new routine. It's not hard to remember the looong days of winter, so we're going to take advantage all we can of these long summer days!


Happy BDay Paul!

Today my husband turns 35! Happy Birthday Paul! Can you believe you've been on this earth for 35 years?!? Seems like just yesterday you were such a stud in your Nautica sweatshirt posing for your senior pictures. :)

Birthdays are a funny thing. We say the older we get the less meaning they have. The less importance they have in our lives. Maybe that's true for some. For me, I think I need birthdays more the older I get. I need the "good stuff" that birthdays bring as years pass on by.

When we're little, we know we're loved, we know our parents are "rooting" for us, praying the best into our lives. We know (or at least we believe) that the word is full of opportunities, hope & great things. As we get older, it's not quite as clear. We think we're probably loved by a few people, but deep down we wonder why. Love is more complicated. We think others might still be rooting for us, but secretly wonder if there are some who might be doing just the opposite ... hoping for us to fail. We want to continue to believe the world is full of hope & opportunities, but we watch the news. We know of friends who are suffering. We've learned first hand that life is hard; and not just in the cliche sort of way; it really IS hard. For real.

So then come birthdays. One after another. Faster and faster each year. When we're little; they're a big deal, and rightfully so. But, as we age, don't we need the same sort of celebration? Don't we still long for good friends and loving family who are glad we've been in their lives for another year? Don't we want to be celebrated ... at least a little? I know I sure do. I know I want to be reminded that I'm loved, wished the best, reminded that the world can be a good place.

And, so, my sweet husband, I hope on this day you feel loved. I hope you get lots of warm fuzzies from those around you. I hope that when the kids give you their homemade cards you'll sense how very much they love you. I hope when you eat dinner on your "you are special" plate, you'll be able to enjoy the spotlight. I hope when you blow out your candles, you'll realize how cherished you are. I hope you know that I'm rooting for you, that I believe in you, that I'm so thankful I've been able to spend year 35 by your side.

Happy Birthday!