In Love and Light

by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

Simply stated, we have the best friends and family. In one week, we sold 102 shirts! With your help, we raised enough money to pay for our children's airfare home, which is just incredible. Our children are already so dearly loved. As our friend Maria Taylor put it, thank you all for being "a community that is holding us in love and light. "

By the next time I post, our paperwork should be in South Africa! xo!

Join Us On Our Journey to South Africa!

by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

Adoption can be many things - joy, love, loss, beauty... and also, expensive! There are legal documents to file, court cases to prepare, and endless amounts of paperwork to process before a child can enter our country legally and ethically. Despite the high costs, Ryan and I have always agreed that the opportunity to parent a child who needs a family is priceless. Little by little, we've been saving up for this adoption for the past three years. We've prided ourselves on paying each fee by ourselves, since we know that this is a lifestyle choice we are choosing. 

And yet, through this journey we've also learned that community is a very important part of adoption. We need to allow others to share in this process with us. In that way, it becomes more than just our story - it becomes a story of what we are all doing, in whatever ways we are able, to reshape this broken world.

We feel so lucky and blessed to have all of you surrounding us. You have been there from the beginning, supporting and cheering us on. And we know that you are all ready to welcome home our sweet children, whoever they may be, with open arms and open hearts. 

And so, we'd like to invite all of you to join us as we prepare to welcome our little ones home soon! We've teamed up with Hiho Batik in our old neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn to offer you what we think are two awesomely designed t-shirts. All of the shirts are handmade onsite in their Brooklyn store, using 100% cotton materials and the ancient art of batik using wax and dyes to create an image.

Africa Primary Shirt

Africa Primary Shirt

Africa Bright Shirt

Africa Bright Shirt


So, here's how this works:

1) Click here to purchase one or more of our awesomely designed Africa shirts, available for infants, kids, and adults! (If you prefer the old-school method of sending a check in the mail, no worries - just email me at to place your order.)

2) After receiving your order, I'll add your name to the back of the shirt I'll be wearing on our journey to South Africa so that, in essence, you can all travel with us! 

3) You eagerly await the arrival of your awesomely designed shirt! I'll be placing the orders at the end of the week. Since each shirt is handmade and then sent to me to ship out, you should expect to wait 3-5 weeks from the time the order is placed until your shirt arrives.

4) On the day we travel home with our children, we'll be asking each of you to show your support by wearing your shirts! We're also hoping to gather photos of all of you awesome people wearing your awesome shirts, so that we can show our children just how many people have been waiting for them and loving them home. 

Thank you all for being a part of this exciting journey! We're on the home stretch now, and can't wait to celebrate our referral with all of you in the months to come. 


Jenny & Ryan

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 
― Mother Teresa

Letters For You: May 11, 2014

by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

Hello Little One,

This letter is, of course, for you. But it's also an ode to your Nene on Mother's Day. Let me back up a minute and explain.

We're getting closer and closer to meeting you at last. With any luck, we're hoping to have all of our paperwork sent over to South Africa within the next month or two! Then we'll sit back and wait to be matched - to see your sweet face (or faces, perhaps?!) once and for all. 

I was thinking of you today, and hoping you could somehow feel the combined love from all of the mothers in your life -- your first mama who brought you into this world and undoubtedly still loves you fiercely, your special nannies who are preparing your heart to join our family, and of course me! The mama who can't wait to pour love into you each and every day for the rest of my life.

When I imagine myself mothering you, I can't help but think of the one who first taught me about love - my mother. And so, this Mother's Day I want to introduce you to your Nene. My hope is that in getting to know her, you'll also get to know another part of me. 

Your Nene is a woman who can't stand to sit still. Whether she's sweeping the floor for the third time that day, hand stitching a beautiful quilt, or repairing the bathroom sink, she always keeps herself busy. She is particular and independent, but loves all people deeply.

Your Nene is a woman who spent her early years warming her toes in cow pies on the family farm in Iowa. She sewed her own clothes, put herself through college, and became a high school home economics teacher. Her students loved her. Growing up, I became accustomed to knocks on the front door from students who wanted to know how to get a cigarette butt stain out of the bottom of a bathtub, or who were panicking because they dropped their egg baby on the cement. Your Nene always answered the door, and more importantly she always offered just the right answers.

Your Nene taught me early on that motherhood is often not a glamorous job. She held my hair back when I was sick with the flu, patiently changed the sheets at 3AM when I wet the bed, and faithfully pushed my wiggly feet into socks every single morning, even when I was old enough to do it myself. She forgave my sister and I when she discovered that the two of us had attempted to shave my legs with an electric razor in the 4th grade. And she withheld judgement and "I told you so's" when my raw and nicked legs burned for three days after.

Your Nene refused to let me go to the fairgrounds in a cropped top in the 6th grade (thank goodness!) and dropped me off every morning a block away from my middle school so that I could pretend to "go it alone." She gave me space when I needed to cry- as most adolescent girls often do!- while also teaching me early on that laughter and a strong will can usually get you further than tears.

Your Nene drove me to countless 'Nsync concerts, and even learned a few of their dance moves. She always, always, always waited up for me to come home, and watched me try on over 100 dresses before prom. She cheered wildly when I graduated high school, and hugged me tightly before leaving me at college. Your Nene taught me how to work my butt off, and always encouraged me to chase my dreams. 

And now, she's encouraging me to chase my biggest dream yet - You. 

When I think of what I want most for you, sweet little one, it's simple. I want you to grow up knowing the kind of love that your Nene has always shown me. Someday soon you'll meet her yourself and known what I mean. She's going to spoil you rotten, love you like crazy, and sneak you way more ice cream than she should.

And it's going to be beautiful.

Happy Mother's Day, today and everyday, to all of us. 


A Slight Change of Plans...

by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

Remember last month when I said I felt like we were on the verge of greatness? Well, it turns out we certainly are. But that greatness looks a whole lot different than I had expected! Take a moment to read the light grey text at the top of this page... notice anything different? 


Yep, that's right. South Africa. We are switching programs! I know you're probably shaking your head right now, thinking "Will they ever make up their minds?" or "Is this adoption ever really going to happen?" And it's okay, I don't blame you for having those thoughts (we have them sometimes, too!) But I can confidently say that I think this is the wisest decision we've made since starting this crazy journey. 

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, international adoptions in Ethiopia are not looking good right now. Ethical concerns are high, and therefore referrals have slowed waaay down. Some agencies have been shut down. Others have closed due to financial strain. From the beginning of this journey, adoption ethics have been hugely important to Ryan and I. The last thing we want is to unknowingly participate in or contribute to any process that commodifies orphans. Our current placing agency- who we trust and love dearly- shares that same viewpoint. They continue to advocate for ethical adoptions for the orphans in their care in Ethiopia, but even they seem concerned as to whether or not they'll be able to continue placing children in the months ahead. 

For all of these reasons, we've known for awhile now that we wouldn't be able to continue on with Ethiopia. And yet, to walk away entirely from adoption is not the answer for us either. To do so would be to forget about Lulu, and all the other little boys and girls like her who continue to wait for a family. 

 As luck would have it, I recently stumbled upon a small program run by Spence-Chapin, a New York based nonprofit, in partnership with Johannesburg Child Welfare in South Africa. The goal of the program is to find families for special needs children ranging from 2 to 8 years old who haven't been able to be adopted domestically (you can go here to learn more). South Africa is a Hague Convention country, which means the adoptions are governed by strict Hague adoption procedures. We scheduled a call with the program director last Monday. After hanging up the phone, neither of us could wipe the smiles off our faces. It just felt right. We quickly called her back and said "WE'RE DOING IT!" then stayed up until 2AM that morning filling out our application. 

Unfortunately this means we're pretty much starting over at square one. We're going to redo our home study with Spence-Chapin, so that we can be approved for a sibling pair (yep, we're going for SIBLINGS!) Then of course we'll also have to complete an entirely new dossier..but I've heard they're a little easier the second time around ;) Our hope is that we'll have everything sent off to South Africa by June. After that, we've been told to expect a referral within about 6 months, and to travel about 3-4 months later to take custody of the children. 

It would be easy to look at this past year as a big waste - the time we spent chasing paperwork, the time we spent waiting, and the thousands of dollars that we paid towards an adoption that will never happen - but, strangely, I don't feel bitter at all. I think this last year was about us getting here, to this very point.

And so, we're settling back into the wait again. And yet, the wait is so different this time, because now we know it will come to an end. And when it does, we'll be a family of four. 

Tiny Elephant

by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

So, the wait is getting harder. I'm just going to come right out and fess up to that. Over these last two months I've finally come to terms with the fact that adoption is not all rainbows and moonbeams. The initial cloud of eager hopefulness has passed. Now, I find myself vacillating between feelings of impatience and exhaustion. The other day I looked at my sweet husband and sourly said, "I'M SO TIRED OF ADOPTION!"

And I am tired. I'm tired of checking my email fifty times a day, and of hanging onto every bit of news that our agency sends. I'm tired of wondering whether or not new kids have arrived at our agency's transition home, and if our child might, maybe, be one of them. I'm tired of sorting through every shred of information on the current state of politics and ethics in Ethiopia, wondering whether or not the country will continue to process international adoptions. And I'm tired of thinking through what our plans B and C will be if this first route doesn't work out for us. 


Life has a funny way of revealing little bits of truth to you when you least expect them. Because although I'm feeling "tired" of this whole adoption thing, I'm also realizing that this wait has been exactly what we needed in order to point us in the direction of our future little ones.

A few weeks ago we came across this video of a little boy in China who needed a family. We had never considered China. We also hadn't ever thought seriously about parenting a child with a visual impairment. That's what those other, more saintly people do, right? But there was something about this boy. We watched the video a few more times. We brought him up in conversation. And before we knew it, we started sponsoring him and his amazing classmates at Bethel China. We knew we weren't yet eligible to adopt from China, but we fell in love with him anyways. Last week, we received bittersweet news; the little boy has been matched with his forever family. Although we wish it could have been us, we're grateful that this child opened our hearts a bit wider than they were before. We now have dreams of partnering with Bethel China for our next adoption. That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been waiting.

Is it weird to say that I feel like we're on the verge of greatness? Of course we may also be on the verge of complete chaos...but with that surely comes greatness, right? Right :)

And because the wait has gotten long, I finally caved and allowed myself to indulge a little... I bought my first gift to our future child! One tiny elephant and a purple shirt with a simple, yet big message:

Oh, little one. You already have. 


by Jennifer Quinn-Carl

"Andra! Andra! Come here!" I called excitedly over my shoulder. I was standing on our front porch, peeking out the door at the dark and snowy night. It was Christmas Eve of 1989 and I was four years old. My older sister, Andrea, came and stood behind me. "What, Jenny?" she asked. "Look!" I eagerly told her, while pointing up at the sky. "I think I see the Star of Bethlehem!" My sister followed my gaze, then shook her head knowingly. "No Jenny, that's just a street light." "Oh," I said, glancing back once more to be sure before following her back inside.

This has always been one of my favorite scenes from my childhood. The moment is captured on our collection of VHS home videos, so I've watched it play out many times.  I love it, in part, because it so clearly demonstrates my childhood naivety. But I also like it because it hints at a tendency I've had for the past twenty nine years of my life - the tendency to see what my mind wants to believe, rather than what's really in front of me. I've always been a bit of a dreamer. An idealist, some would say. As such, I often leap headfirst into whatever comes my way, believing that goodness will always surface in the end. 

The problem with this theory is that sometimes life gets real. And sometimes real gets tough. And sometimes it's hard to remember the good in the middle of the tough. 

About three weeks ago Ryan and I got a call from our case worker. It wasn't just any 'ole call. It was THE call. A referral call! The moment every prospective adoptive parent dreams of. With shaking knees, Ryan and I sat for an hour and listened to the life story of a boy in Ethiopia. He was older than we were expecting, but we quickly shrugged that off as we learned more about him. We saw his photos and fell in love with his wide smile. We called our families and told them the good news. Finally, around midnight, we fell into bed exhausted. "You should sleep soundly tonight!" our case worker had told us, "now that you've seen your son's face!"

The problem was, I didn't sleep soundly. I didn't even sleep. I tossed and turned all night, unable to fight off the anxious feeling that was slowly creeping over me. Hidden under my covers, I stared at the boy's photo on my iPhone screen. He was beautiful. He was perfect. But for some reason I just couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't our son. Tears streamed down my cheeks in the dark. I felt like a hypocrite. I - who had fought like hell to get approved for older child adoption- was suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of it all. I knew ideals and beliefs wouldn't be enough to carry us through. After an emotional heart-to-heart with our case worker, we declined the referral and narrowed our parameters. 

So, now what? Of course my crazy over-analytical mind keeps questioning our decision. But when I take a deep breath and quiet myself, I know things worked out the way they were supposed to. We will continue to wait. We still don't know who it is, exactly, that we're waiting for...but we know that we're getting closer to figuring that out. And along the way we're learning to lean into each other and to trust ourselves. Oh, and the boy with the wide smile? Don't worry - he has since been matched with his perfect forever family. 

Goodness will always surface in the end. 

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family. Thank you for following us on this wild journey. We love you all and can't wait to see what unfolds in 2014.