Dear children, thanks for making me Dad

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An Open Letter to my Children #ThanksBaby #ad

It has been said that when a baby is born, a dad is born. Pampers believes that is true. That’s why this Father’s Day, and every day, they’re thanking babies for empowering Dad and empowering him to discover new roles as he journeys through this thing called Fatherhood.

That’s definitely true for me.

I had helped out at our church’s day care when I was in high school. I had also served in another church’s nursery shortly after Christy and I had gotten married. I’d even helped babysit some young children over the years. But when my son was born, everything changed.

Because being Dad isn’t babysitting. It’s not even close.

Me with the Kids #ThanksBaby #ad

When I held my son for the first time, my world changed. I had been warned that it would change, but I had no idea how much it would actually change. It’s unbelievable. You’re holding this little, tiny, itty-bitty human being and nothing else matters. Nothing. You’re responsible for everything. This baby is relying on you. Of course, mom’s part of the story, too. We’ve been partners in this journey since Day One. But when it hits you that you’re actually a Dad, it’s an overwhelming realization. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s a scary proposition, too. You certainly become a new man when a child becomes part of your family.

Every one of our children has a completely different story about how they came into our family. And each journey has changed my life forever. For that, I’m grateful. So I’ve decided to write a brief note to each of them.

Dear Aiden,

Me and Aiden #ThanksBaby #ad

As the firstborn, you are the trailblazer. Everything is new. And I’m sure I’ve screwed up a lot over the years (still kicking myself for making you cry when I was coaching you on the baseball field).  And let’s not talk about the first time I changed a diaper. Let’s just say it was a comedy of errors.

I’m thankful that we’re blazing this trail together. I see your desire to help others, your natural leadership ability (on the field, at church, and in life in general), and your desire to make a difference with your life, and my heart explodes with pride, joy, and excitement. You’re going to do great things, my boy. In fact, you already are.

Even though we might disagree about which episode of Star Wars is the best.

Love,
Dad

Dear Weldu,

Me and Weldu #ThanksBaby #ad

I’m thankful that you joined our family last year. You filled the empty chair at our dining room table. You have made our family complete. Thank you.

I am proud to call you my son. I am excited to see you use your athletic gifts to the best of your ability, taking advantage of the opportunities that are before you.  Your English continues to improve and you are going to do great things wherever you are.

I may not be the biggest fan of soccer, but I’m your biggest fan. So I will continue to go to your games, even though I have no idea what’s going on half the time. Because you are worth it.

You always will be.

Love,
Dad

Dear Aly,

Me and Aly #ThanksBaby #ad

Oh, Aly.

Where do I begin?

You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer. I think you cried for the first 6 months, simply because you wanted to. That’s why some of our extended family still calls you “Waah-ly.” Thanks for growing out of that. Seriously.

Your love for animals, especially dogs and horses, is infectious. You have the biggest heart for others that I’ve ever seen. Ever. And your artistic ability? Mind-blowing. You certainly have an eye for photography.

Thank you for reminding me to explore new things and to make the most of every opportunity I have. You are our free spirit. But I hope you realize that wherever you go and whatever you do, you will always have a home right here in my heart.

Love,
Dad

Dear Mihret,

Me and Mihret #ThanksBaby #ad

You opened my heart, helping me realize that family is so much more than just blood. When it was time to leave you that first day, I had to put you back in your crib and go back to our Guest House. You cried when I put you down. It took all that was within me not to reach back down, scoop you out of your bed, and promise you that I will never ever leave you again. Ever. You broke my heart that day, but your smile makes my heart grow every time I see it.

You are the most determined little girl I’ve ever met. I think you’re the most determined little girl anyone has met.  And you have such a joy for life that it’s absolutely contagious. Thank you for challenging me with your determination. When you keep on pushing, never accepting “no” for an answer, you encourage me to have that same fighting spirit. You light up the room with your smile. And that laugh of yours? It just makes everything better. Thank you for being you and for inspiring everyone around you. You certainly inspire me.

Love,
Dad

None of my children are babies anymore, but I’m still grateful that each one of them call me Dad. It’s an honor that I do not take lightly.

I’m also thankful for companies like Pampers, who honor dads for simply being dads. They recognize dads for all of the amazing things they do – both big and small – to help little ones have a better, loving, and more fulfilling life.

OK. Now it’s your turn.

What do you have to say to your baby? What are you thankful for?

Share your gratitude on twitter by using the #ThanksBaby hashtag!

My family needs more of everything. Including data.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #DataAndAMovie #CollectiveBias

Our growing family uses more of everything. Including data. #DataAndAMovie

We’ve been home with our new son for almost a month now, and I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised at how well things have been going. Sure, every day has its share of awkward moments, but we get through them. And we’re growing through those awkward moments as we navigate through our new normal as a family of six.

One thing that has surprised us about adding a teenage boy to our family is how much more we need of everything. The amount of laundry has increased exponentially.We go through an insane amount of milk and juice each week. And, over the last month, I think I’ve flipped more pancakes and scrambled more eggs than I did during the entire year last year. OK. I might be exaggerating just a little bit. But I think you get the point. Continue reading “My family needs more of everything. Including data.”

My son asked for a brother. He had no idea what was going to happen.

Mom Aiden and Weldu at Cultural Dinner celebration

I was driving Aiden to school one morning shortly after we had brought Mihret home from Ethiopia. I was a little shocked at the words that came out of his mouth.

When are you going to bring home a brother for me?

Uh…

I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. I mean, we had just brought Mihret home. And the transition wasn’t exactly going well. Truth is, we were still exhausted from the flight home and from the continual lack of sleep. How could he be thinking of adding another kid to our family already? As I thought about it, though, I understood. The balance of power had shifted. He was the only boy in our family. He was outnumbered. And I started to see his point. He needed a brother.

He had me convinced. All it took was that simple, innocent question.

Some six years later, we took Aiden with us as we flew to Ethiopia to bring his brother home with us. And it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

Two brothers playing soccer. I mean, football.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Aiden and Weldu posing in front of a school

They became instant friends. In some ways, it’s almost like they’ve known each other for years. I mean….they even have their own secret handshake.

Hanging out during a flat tire

Weldu meeting Mihret

Weldu and Aly Aiden and Weldu - first meeting

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero!

I think Marc Brown is right. Sometimes being a brother is better than being a superhero! It’s also pretty cool to have a brother. I know both from experience.

Todd family of SIX

You know, it’s taken far too long for us to be able to say this, but WELCOME HOME, WELDU! We’re excited to have you part of our crazy family. Our journey is really just beginning, but you’re already a pretty amazing brother. I now there will be some rough days in the future. That’s a given. Everyone goes through them – especially in the teenage years. But there will be some pretty amazing experiences we’ll have along the way, too. During the easy, happy times and the tough, sad times, I know this: we’re going to walk through them hand in hand.

Together.

As a family.

Because that’s what we are.

All six of us.

This is what love feels like

Tobymac concert 2015

I think this is my favorite song on Tobymac’s newest album. Because of the reunion of dc Talk on What Love Feels Like, it already made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy all over. But then I heard Mister Mac’s (or should it still be Mister Tobymac’s?) intro to the song at his concert in Indy a few months ago. Tobymac concert 2015

He shared that he wrote the song in the wake of his father’s passing. CCM.com has a great writeup on the song. You should just go over there and read it. Go ahead. It won’t take you very long. I’ll wait.

Powerful stuff. Right?

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Its sound kind of echoes dc Talk’s style from a decade ago. I’m sure that’s an intentional nod to the beautiful music Toby, Kevin, and Michael made together.

But the more I hear this song, the more I think it describes our adoption adventure. There have been times where the process has been frustrating – especially when it has come to waiting. And there have been some days where we’ve felt disheartened and maybe even a little defeated.

As I sit here in the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ethiopia, I m must say that I’m pretty spent. I’m physically exhausted. My nerves are a bit raw. And last night I felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown while helping a guest in the middle of the store. Not a temper tantrum type of meltdown. More like the way you feel when you cry so much that you’ve kind of melted into the floor. Yes. That kind. Anyone else ever feel that way?

I’m completely spent.

I’m empty.

And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
Tobymac concert 2015
Poured out.
Used up.
Spent.
Exhausted.
But ready to fight tooth and nail for this boy I’ve never met.

Just like I will fight for the rest of my kids. Because in my heart and in my soul, this child is mine. I hope the judge in Ethiopia agrees.

A big-huge adoption update: Letters in the mail, court dates, and flying overseas

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, let me tell you.

On Saturday, we received a letter from the Immigration office. It included this phrase:

USCIS is pleased to inform you that we have preliminarily determined that the beneficiary child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States as an orphan…

I’ll admit that it’s hard to celebrate some of those words. They’re full of loss. And hurt. And sadness. While that phrase “as an orphan” breaks my heart, this determination is a big deal. It means that we have cleared the PAIR investigative process. It means that one more hurdle has been cleared. We are one step closer to bringing “W” home as our son.

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

Then we got a call Monday morning. Courts in Addis were closed Monday and Tuesday, but our agency was convinced that there would be a very quick turnaround on the next step, which is a court appearance in Ethiopia. Because Christy already met him, I am to fly out to Ethiopia, meet my son for the first time, and then tell the Ethiopian government that yes, our family does intend to adopt “W” and that we will bring him into our family as one of our own. The agency staff was so convinced about the possibility of a quick turnaround, they were pretty sure that I would be due in court sometime early next week.

That meant that I needed to book a flight out of the States as soon as possible. Of course, there was a chance that the court wouldn’t schedule me to appear that week. So there needed to be some flexibility. But I needed to buy a ticket as soon as possible.

After some drama in trying to find an available seat, we were finally able to purchase a ticket on Monday night, some six hours after learning that I might have a court appearance very, very soon.

And then we waited.

I’ll be honest. Tuesday was a very long, emotional day. It was full of anticipation. But it was also full of caution. We couldn’t wait for the courts to open. Hopefully they would do their scheduling very soon. But in the meantime, I listened in on a travel conference call with our agency, learning as much information as possible in preparation for a potential visit this weekend.

Christy got the email Wednesday morning. She called me right away.

I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!

I get to meet my son for the first time this weekend!

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An adoption journey ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip. And I’m going to miss out on a few family functions, but I’ll be home for Christmas (hey, isn’t that a song or something?) and holycowIgettomeetmyson!

I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I won’t be bringing him home with me. There’s one more step after this one. It involves travel. Again. But this time Christy and I get to go together. And we get to meet the fine folk at the US Embassy again. And hopefully everything goes as expected during our visit to the Embassy.

And then we’ll head home. And our family of SIX will finally be together.

But first things first. I’ve got to get to Ethiopia and meet my son (HOLYCOW!). And then meet with a judge. And sometime after that, assuming all goes as it should, we’ll (hopefully) be named “W’s” legal guardians in the eyes of the Ethiopian government.

And then the clock starts ticking to that final trip to Ethiopia to bring this boy HOME!

The paper chase: A big adoption update

This whole adoption process has definitely been a marathon and it is not for the faint of heart. There have been days, weeks, and even months where it has felt like nothing was happening. That’s part of the reason I haven’t given much of an update on this blog recently. There really wasn’t much to report, other than the fact that we were still caught in the grueling process that is known in adoption circles as the paper chase. Now, we aren’t new to the paper chase. We’ve done it before. But I guess I’d forgotten how long the process actually takes. Or maybe I thought it would be quicker this time around. After all, we had all the documents from before.

Nope.

Almost everything had to be redone. And sometimes they had to be redone again because people had trouble following directions the first time (let’s not talk about how difficult it was to get the form for my physical filled out properly by the doctor’s office). I’m pretty sure it took twice as long as Mihret’s paper chase. And the stress of getting other offices to correctly do what they’re supposed to do just might’ve taken a few months off my life.

But it’s all OK now. Because it’s out of our hands.
Adoption Paper Chase Complete
That’s right. We have finished the paper chase! Our dossier is complete! After months of feeling like we’re marking time, there’s finally some movement. We’re starting to see some momentum in the adoption process. Things are starting to move a little bit quicker. Hopefully, momentum keeps going the right direction.

What’s next?

Now that our dossier is in the hands of our agency, they’ll go over it and make sure everything is there and nothing needs correcting. Then it will be translated into Amharic. Once it’s translated, it will be sent to the Ethiopian government. That’s the next milestone – the DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia) date. Once they receive the dossier, they’ll do their due diligence to make sure everything is in order. That could still take a while. After that’s completed, there will be two separate trips to Ethiopia. In the first trip, we’ll meet “W,” our son, for the first time. We’ve been communicating with each other since late last year and we’ve even been able to send some small care packages with other families who are flying to Addis, but we have yet to see each other face to face.

I have to admit, I’m having a hard time waiting for that day. I can’t wait to look into his eyes and tell him that he’s mine. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around him and welcome him to the family. I can’t wait to smile at him and tell him how loved he is. I can’t wait.

Of course, I have to wait. Because we’ll stand before the Ethiopian court the first time and they will declare “W” our son. But then we’ll have to wait some more while the US Embassy does its due diligence to make sure everything is in order. That takes several weeks. So we’re supposed to go home and wait.

That’s going to be tough. I had a hard enough time leaving Mihret at the Care Center that was adjacent to our hotel after meeting her. I can’t imagine leaving our son half a world away after meeting him. But people do it. And everyone survives. I suppose we’ll survive, too.

Actually, I know we’ll survive. Because it’s what we have to do. It’s the process we have to go through. We’ll do whatever it takes and jump through whatever hoops are necessary in order to bring “W” home to his forever family.

We’ve achieved a major milestone in our efforts to adopt “W.” But there’s much more that has to be done before he is home with us. Many of you have asked how you can help us on this journey. I’m putting together a post that answers this question. Hopefully it’ll be ready tomorrow.

In the meantime, I ask you to pray. Pray for all of the bureaucrats and diplomats involved in this process. Pray that the paperwork is correct and it is translated accurately and quickly. But most of all, please pray for “W.” Pray for his health. Pray for his spirit. Pray that he knows without a shadow of a doubt that he has a family who loves him and is working to move heaven and earth to bring him home.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

This is not the announcement I was planning on posting

Stocking Announcement 2013

Throughout most of December, I had planned on using this picture to share some pretty big news for our family. Our hearts have been captured by an older boy in Ethiopia (referred to hereafter in this post as “Little Man”). We are entering 2014 with the hopes of adopting him and bringing him home to a forever family.

Then, rumors started leaking out of Ethiopia. I didn’t really pay much attention to them because rumors are a dime a dozen when it comes to adopting internationally. This time, the rumors appear to have a little more weight.

In a press conference, House Speaker Abadula Gemeda and the Minister Zenebu Tadesse told journalists that stakeholders should work closely to end foreign adoption (via allAfrica, emphasis mine).

What does this mean? Well, no one is really sure yet. Some are saying it could mean a shutdown within less than two weeks. Others think it won’t be quite so severe, but it will lead to significant delays. Orphans, including Little Man, who have been waiting for a family will have to wait even longer. This hurts my heart.

What does this mean for us? Our social worker has suggested that we wait before moving forward. So, we wait and pray that Little Man will be able to join our family soon.

But this really isn’t about us and our little family. It’s about the bigger adoption picture. If you’re the praying type, I ask that you join us in praying for wisdom for the decision makers. Please pray for the children who have been waiting for families. Please pray for the children who have been matched with families and are waiting to be brought home. Please pray for the monsters people who have been abusing international adoption for their own personal gain. Pray that they are stopped.

And, of course, I hope you join us in praying for Little Man. Because, as Christy put it, he’s worth it.

Shoot. I hope you join me in praying for these things even if you aren’t the praying type.