11th Annual August Back-to-School Issue 2015

Remember the scene from Finding Nemo where Nemo excitedly wakes his dad with anticipation for his first day of school? While bouncing on his dad he yells, “First day of school! First day of school! Wake up, wake up! C’mon, first day of school!” His dad is exceedingly much less enthusiastic about this moment for his first born & only son! [Finding Nemo, Dir. Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich. Perf. Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003. Film.]

The notion of being hesitant to send your kids back to school might make you chuckle as you’ve exhausted all your summer-time activities and are ready to get back into a routine. Or you may be a bit weepy (like me) as with the realization that another school year means the kids are one year older!

No matter where you fall on this spectrum, we hope you’ll find this 11th Annual Back-to-School Issue a valuable tool & that this will be a seamless school year for your family. There are 68 advertisers featured in this issue who want to help make this a reality. You can find their ads on pages 7-48 with the back-to-school quick reference guide on pages 49-59.

We’d like to offer a very special THANK YOU to ONCE UPON A CHILD of Fayetteville & Rogers for sponsoring this issue & for providing the cover clothing. They have a huge selection of gently-used, affordable clothing with brands like Justice, Aero, Children’s Place, Gap, Old Navy & more in sizes from preemie to 16/18. They also buy items every day & pay you on the spot with no appointment necessary.

We’re also proud to partner again with N.c.K. Talent Academy for our cover models. Their kids are talented, respectful & engaging. We’re always amazed with their poise & maturity. Having your picture taken in a field with a school desk was a strange notion for a 4 year old but Kaleena Matthews was a delight to photograph. She even received a toy bow & arrow from her mom as a reward–way to go!


September Healthy Families

October Birthday Bash

November Holiday Gifts & Events

December Holiday Gifts & Events

July 2015 Issue

How do you know July is here? Christmas displays start showing up in retail stores! It seems unfortunate that we can’t live in the moment for being bombarded with the next major holiday. At Kid’s Directory, we aren’t thinking that far ahead but we are shifting our focus from summer to fall in hopes of helping you be prepared for this next school year.

If you still need a few summer activities to fill in the gaps, there are plenty of summer programs & camps included in this issue. But if you need extra time to plan for school, you’ll also find helpful information to begin the process. Next month, we’ll feature our Back-to-School Guide which is the best resource to keep on hand for your kids’ school needs.

If you’re looking to start a new 4th of July tradition with your family, we’re pretty confident you’ll have a hard time finding better fireworks displays than the ones NWA has to offer! And several of the events listed below offer family-friendly activities prior to fireworks so you can celebrate all evening. Visit their websites for complete details.

Friday, July 3:
*Freedom Fest & Fireworks, Loch Lomond Recreation Complex, Bella Vista, 6pm (bellavistapoa.com)
*Uptown Fayetteville Freedom Fireworks Display, Northwest Arkansas Mall, 7pm (northwestarkansasmall.com)
*Prairie Creek Marina and Cabela’s Firework Display, Prairie Creek Marina, 9pm (prairiecreekmarina.com)

Saturday, July 4:
*4th at the Field, Arvest Ballpark, 6:35pm (milb.com)
*An Evening at Orchards Park, Bentonville, 7pm (bentonvillear.com)
*July 4th Fireworks Spectacular featuring SoNA, The Walmart Amp, 8pm (waltonartscenter.org)
*Ventris Trail’s End Resort Fireworks Display, Beaver Lake, 8pm (beaverlakeresorts.com)
*Rodeo of the Ozarks, Parsons Stadium, 7:30pm (rodeooftheozarks.org)

Be sure to also mark your calendars for The Scott Family Amazeum’s Opening Day, July 15th! This highly anticipated children’s museum began with dream in June 2006 & became a reality with groundbreaking in April 2014. The Amazeum will feature approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit, meeting & learning spaces. Exhibitions include the Tinkering Studio, water area, climbable tree canopy & an exploratory wet lab. Learn more at amazeum.org.
Happy 4th of July!

June 2015 Cover Kid Contest Winner

Seven years ago last month, we moved to our current house. One funny thing that sticks in my mind from our first summer here was how often I heard the buzzing sound of lawn mowers. Nearly every day–morning, noon & night. Now it doesn’t feel like summer until I hear that familiar sound & smell freshly cut grass. Every year, I seem to appreciate more all that summer brings like having my kids home, taking a break from routines, enjoying longer days. Makes life feel simpler.

We think summer is an important time for kids too. That’s why we continue to spotlight camps, programs & activities offered in this issue. It may feel overwhelming to choose but you can try one or two each year. It doesn’t all have to be done in one summer. Look for more information about these advertisers on pages 8-25.

Our June Cover Kid Contest Winner is Rodrigo Carmona! He’s the 21 month old son of Joaquín Carmona & María Peña of Fayetteville. He may be too little to play baseball now but he has a pretty mean throwing arm so pitching may be in his future! Thank you, María, for entering him in our contest. You have a beautiful family!

I close this letter with a heart-warming story of two little girls, a simple lemonade stand, an adoption story & the non-profit organization that brought them all together. Harper Hoyle (4 yrs), the daughter of our very own Cat Hoyle & her friend, Ember Crawford (3 yrs), granddaughter of Patricia Yatsko (a 20 yr volunteer at Loving Choices), decided they wanted to support Loving Choices during their Baby Bottle Campaign that runs from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. But could two preschool children really make a difference by selling lemonade?

Then there’s Holly Hook. She serves on the board for Loving Choices & along with her husband, Todd, has experienced the joy of adoption. Jacoby became their son when the birth mom who came to Loving Choices couldn’t care for him. Holly says, “I know first hand that there are babies that can be saved and if the birth mom is not able to take care of the baby, then adoption can become an option. My husband & I have been blessed to have adopted our sweet Jacoby. Volunteering of my time to Loving Choices is a small way to give back to the organization that truly gives life.”

So how do these stories collide? At the simple lemonade stand. When Holly heard about it, she wanted to show her support & share her story with these little girls of why their efforts matter. What a perfect way for them to see they’re not too young to impact lives. In one afternoon, they got to meet real people changed by Loving Choices & raised $300 to help continue their work of serving women experiencing unplanned pregnancies! I couldn’t keep myself from sharing this story & hope it encourages you to consider ways you too can become involved.

Loving Choices serves hundreds of women each year with free & confidential services that includes help with pregnancy & other reproductive health issues including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing & abortion information. Learn more at www.lovingchoices.org.

Don’t worry dads. You are NEVER forgotten. We shared about hard-working mommas last month but there’s usually a strong man behind them supporting their dreams. We are thankful for all the dads out that see themselves as co-parents & are actively involved in their kids’ lives. We wish you the happiest of all Father’s Days!

May 2015 Moms in Business Guide

My credenza is literally covered with artwork & notes from my three sweet girls. Hopefully soon my little guy will follow suit. Some of them were created to show their love for me on Mother’s Day but many are just because. I keep them in plain sight to remind me that being a mom is one of my greatest callings & although these treasures hold no real value, they represent the ones who are.

We know from experience how challenging motherhood can be. There are days we feel accomplished & proud. Then there are those other days that we don’t want to speak of. We certainly don’t post them on our social media lest someone think we don’t have it ALL together! (NONE of us do by the way.)

It’s because of working moms that we bring you this Mom’s in Business Guide. It’s our way of supporting their efforts. Both as moms & entrepreneurs. And we get the joy of sharing one of the Mom-Preneurs on the cover. So FUN!! We’re delighted to feature Ashley Lester who owns The Rustic Mule with her three precious children, Lexi, Ayden & Hudson. You can see her boutique line of women’s & children’s clothing at therusticmule.com or on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Alicia Jerome with NW Photography Works shared some relatable & hilarious truths about what a photo shoot & life in general as a working mother looks like. How many of us can wave our hands & say, “this is my life?” We thank you, Alicia, for your transparency. Your words made us laugh, cry, appreciate & reflect.

“[Imagine] us, as moms, acting like our kids aren’t there. My middle in his basketball or soccer garb, my oldest in his sports gear and baby on hip. Hannah’s (co-worker) girls playing dress up at her feet in her heels, oldest with her swim gear and middle doing homework. All on set while we shoot. Makes me totally laugh to somehow think we don photography superhero mom capes and make it work without our sidekick nanny Robin or superhero gadget belt thingy to make it all easier on us. Oh life as a working mom! How do any of us do it?! We joked the other day that we work two jobs, mom and photographer…neither of which come with paid days off, sick days, a 401k, a bonus structure, a support staff, or a consistent 8-5/9-5 schedule. We work weekends, evenings, some holidays and don’t have a custodian…oh what would I give for a custodian or an office cleaning crew? What our husbands would give for one!”

We hope you picked up a copy of our April Summer Camp Guide. But even if you didn’t, there are still LOTS of CAMPS included in THIS ISSUE. You’ll find most of these ads on pages 16-41. See our index on page 6 for a complete camp listing. Some are NEW like a chocolatier camp, robotics camp & chefs’ camp! Wishing I were a kid!

Join us in June, July & August for Summer Fun Days with Kid’s Directory!!! We’re partnering with Rogers Aquatics Center, Hopes & Dreams Gymnastics and Fast Lane Entertainment to bring you discounted activities to keep your kiddos active & away from electronics all summer. You can learn more about these upcoming days on page 4.

We’re also super excited to show off our June Cover Kid Winner next month! Talk about some cute kids. We have them in NWA! Thankfully, we’re drawing a winner rather than selecting one. That would absolutely be an impossible feat.

From all the moms at Kid’s Directory…we wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!


12th Annual April Summer Camp Guide 2015

We’ve waited all winter for this…the 12th Annual Summer Camp Guide! Our kids’ summers may be short this year but I’m sure we’ll all hear, “I’m bored” at least once this summer. Maybe twice. Per day. None of us want that. That’s why this issue is the best resource to beat summer boredom. There are 63 camps or programs included on pages 7-45 with their guide listings on pages 46-57. When you contact these business or enroll your kids for a program, please be sure to tell them you heard about them from Kid’s Directory.

Not only do we need to keep our kids active this summer but also safe. This may be the first summer you’ve needed to consider full time child care options. We understand how scary & overwhelming the decision can be & want to assure you there are some outstanding programs, ones you can trust to give quality care with lots of fun. Better Beginnings recommends you make a summer child care checklist with these questions in mind.

  • Do the program’s activities address my child’s interests and abilities?
  • Is the program licensed or accredited?
  • Who will be working with my child?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children/youth?                                                                                                                                                       Source: arbetterbeginnings.com

We also want to wish Katinka Sweet, our Sales Director, a Happy One Year Anniversary! She joined our team last April & is an invaluable asset. Her passion is sales but she graciously extends herself in a customer services role as well. Katinka, we love you bunches & are grateful to call you our co-worker & friend!

Remember to register your child for our June Cover Kid Contest! To enter, come see us at one of our booths at The World’s Largest Baby Shower on March 28th OR Champions for Kids RazorFest on April 25th AND submit your child’s picture to artwork@nwakd.com by April 30, 2015. A winner will be drawn & announced on May 1, 2015. We look forward to meeting you & seeing your child’s sweet picture!

Happy Spring NWA!

March 2015

This month, we hosted a 5K Facebook Fan Contest as a thank you for helping us reach our goal of 5,000 fans before the end of 2014. From your responses, it’s obvious that many of you greatly value the community calendar. We appreciate knowing what you like best about Kid’s Directory!

Speaking of giveaways, one of our most frequently asked questions is, “how do I get my child’s picture on the cover?” Every year we sponsor a Cover Kid Contest in September but this year we’re adding another one for our June cover! To register your child, visit one of our booths at The World’s Largest Baby Shower on March 28th or Champions for Kids RazorFest on April 25th AND submit your child’s picture to artwork@nwakd.com by April 30, 2015. A winner will be drawn & announced on May 1, 2015. We’ll also have fabulous giveaways at these events!

March’s issue features Spring Break Camps, a preview of Summer Camps & Programs PLUS lots of spring fundraisers & events. Clearly, it’s time for us to come out of hibernation & enjoy what NWA has to offer in the spring! We thought we’d give you a snapshot here.

Spring Break Camps &/or Summer Camps & Programs:

Above Grade Level, Academic Math & Language Therapy, ALOHA of Bentonville, Arts Center of the Ozarks, Arts Live Theatre, ATA Martial Arts, B Sew Inn, Brick by Brick, Camp Invention, Central Children’s Academy, Club iNFiNiTi, Community Creative Center, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, Elizabeth Richardson Center, Fast Lane Entertainment, Favorite’s Dance Academy, First School, Girl Scouts Diamonds, Hopes & Dreams Gymnastics, Lucky Seven Training Center, NWA Naturals, Razorback Aquatic Club HawgStart & AquaHawgs, The Little Gym, The New School, Trike Theatre, Trucks & Tiaras Learning Center, Tutus & Tap Shoes

Spring Fundraisers & Events:

Butterflies & Blooms (Saving Grace), Champions for Kids RazorFest, Father-Daughter Princess Ball (NWA Mercy Family YMCA), Dogwood Walk (Humane Society of the Ozarks), Glow Run (Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton Co.), National Safe Place Week (Youth Bridge), Spring Open House (Hull Dermatology & Aesthetics), Rhea Lana’s, Sunshine Gala (Sunshine School & Development Center), The Art of Creation (The Pineapple Tree Dance Co.), Touch-A-Truck (Junior League of NWA), World’s Largest Baby Shower

Lastly but certainly not least, we want to acknowledge & thank Amber Lanning for taking new staff pictures! She has exceptional talent & is the one of the most fun-loving people you’ll ever meet. We love you, Amber!

Be sure to spring forward on March 8th for Daylight Savings Time and be looking for our April Summer Camp Guide & May Moms in Business Guide!



February Baby Guide 2015

There’s no doubt that as parents we give our best for the ones entrusted to us. From the time we learn of our pregnancies or adoptions, we love, pray, dream, nurture, worry, teach, protect, question & hope. All this & more. So much of this holds true for us at Kid’s Directory. We strive to provide the best family resource & that sometimes feels like we’re caring for a responsibility that’s beyond us…much like parenting, a labor of love!

The February Baby Guide offers everything you need for your little ones but it’s not just for tiny babies. This resource is filled with fun activities & amusements, pediatricians, photographers, dentists, child care, clothing, furniture & more for children ages three & under. They may be walking & talking, but let’s be honest, they’re still babies. You can learn more about these businesses on pages 34-43.

To help celebrate Valentine’s Day, we want to share some interesting trivia about this month’s romantic holiday. We’re sure you’ll wow your co-workers, friends & family with the vast knowledge you learn here & hopefully laugh some too! My personal favorites are the last two.

  • Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.
  • The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
  • Over 50 percent of all Valentine’s Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the observance, making Valentine’s Day a procrastinator’s delight.
  • Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
  • In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.”
  • More than 40,000 Americans are employed at chocolate companies.
  • Conversation hearts date back to Victorian times. Back then, lovesick bachelors would give “conversation lozenges” with phrases like “How do you flirt?” and “Can you polka?” to the objects of their affection.

                                                                                                          Source: history.com

Be watching for our NEW Spring Cleaning Guide coming in March! This one stop guide is perfect for the one time of year that projects like cleaning, organizing, and doing repairs around the house don’t feel like chores – they feel like a fresh start. Also coming is our 12th annual Summer Camp Guide in April! It’s the biggest resource for all your kids’ summer needs. Contact Katinka to learn more about these or any of our upcoming issues.


January 2015 Non-Profit Spotlight

Happy 2015! We hope you had a sweet time celebrating Christmas & New Year’s with your loved ones. With another little one running around our house, the holidays brought lots of entertainment & fun. I don’t know about you but 2014 certainly felt like a time warp for our family!

It’s our privilege to bring you this Non-Profit Spotlight featuring organizations that provide health care, therapy, counseling, shelter for children & families, cultural arts, education & more. If you’re looking for a new year’s resolution that makes a lasting impact, check out these amazing non-profit agencies starting on page 7 with the spotlight feature on pages 36-43 to learn how you can make a difference. We think Albert Einstein said it well, “only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”

We’re also delighted to share a cover story with you from Big Brothers Big Sisters that brings hope & encouragement for the new year. And who doesn’t need that? Thank you, Nicholas & Andrew, for giving us a glimpse into your lives.

All the best for 2015!



Happy January, National Mentoring Month! A great time to learn about Big Brothers Big Sisters, the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the country. Since 1993, BBBS has had a presence in Northwest Arkansas, forming over 1,700 mentoring matches in Washington and Benton counties. These one-to-one mentoring relationships between caring adults (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) have documented positive outcomes for the children. Survey results show that Littles who have been matched for 12 months or longer have improved school attendance, healthier peer relationships, improved ability to avoid fights and use physical violence, and enhanced self-confidence and outlook for their future.

In order to qualify to be a Little, the child must either live below the poverty level, have a parent in jail, or come from a single parent home, and often a child qualifies on all three accounts. In Northwest Arkansas, there is a huge need for more adults to volunteer as Bigs and the funding it takes to facilitate the recruitment, match and follow-up process. As child safety is a primary concern, there is structured protocol that all chapters follow regarding the recruitment and interviews of the Bigs, the Littles and their families; the matching process; and then the ongoing monitoring by the program staff. It costs about $1,000 to set-up and monitor a match for one year, and the values the Little can learn may keep them in school, off drugs and out of jail. Here is just one of the many success stories.

Nicholas and Andrew were matched in December 2012 when Nicholas was 8 years old and in third grade. Nicholas lives with his mother Layce and two brothers, Michael who is 2 years older, and a younger brother who was then 11 months old.  Nicholas’ father is frequently incarcerated. At the time, Layce was looking for a male role model for Nicholas who could encourage him academically, help increase his self confidence, and help him learn how to cope with a big brother who rarely wanted to play with him. Layce also felt that Nicholas was a little shy and she wanted him to open up more. Like many boys his age, Nicholas spent a great deal of time playing video games. When asked about why he might want a Big Brother, Nicholas responded that it would give him someone to stay at home with and play video games with.

Enter Andrew Arkell, a 24 year old University of Arkansas graduate from New Hampshire. Looking to give back to the community, Andrew decided to become a Big Brother after reading about another Big’s successful experience. Following the match, Andrew and Nicholas began meeting 2 or 3 times a month, going to the Gentry Zoo, bowling, the movies, Terra Studios, the library and park. Andrew quickly discovered that he was having a lot of fun seeing the world through the eyes of an 8 year old boy, and that it beat being always in the adult work world! Andrew intentionally balances their expeditions between indoor sedate ones, such as drawing comics and playing video games, with outside activities such as sports play or exploring a new place. Andrew was delighted when Nicholas exclaimed that roller skating was better than his favorite video game!

Nicholas lit up when asked about spending time with Andrew, explaining that Andrew has taught him a lot of different things including drawing a dinosaur, but also how to calm himself when in a disagreement with his big brother (“Go away and count to 10, and if it’s really that bad, count to 100!”) Nicholas and Andrew frequently discuss schoolwork and making friends, and Nicholas knows he can rely on Andrew to help him figure out how to solve problems. Nicholas said that Andrew is “kinda like family” and that Andrew has shown him stuff that he didn’t even know about. Nicholas thinks that based on what he learned from Andrew, he is now a better big brother to his little 3 year-old sibling and can teach him lots of things too.

Andrew is also pleased with Nicholas’ positive attitude on their activities and life in general, remarking that “No matter what we’re doing, we’ll have a great time, and Nicholas has learned that if we can’t always do everything he wants, we can do something else that will be fun.” He has seen growth in Nicholas over the last two years; Nicholas has grown in self-confidence so that he is more likely now to offer an opinion and socialize, and is always ready to try something new. Sadly, their time together is coming to an end as Andrew is moving to Chicago in May 2015. The two plan to stay in touch through letters and calls, and both intend to rematch in the hopes of finding another very successful relationship.

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters,

please call 966.4366 or visit our website www.bbbsnwa.org.

December 2014 Holiday Gifts & Events

KD Cover 12.14

Holiday Gifts & Events Guide in this issue on pages 36-45. There are new advertisers who joined us for December & some advertisers are promoting different products or events. Happy shopping!

Christmas is a hurried time of the year but it’s also one of the best times to instill lasting memories. When I hear certain Christmas music, I can still remember where the skips were on my family’s old albums! We hope you’ll enjoy these traditions from some of our Facebook followers. Maybe they’ll become new ones you celebrate with your family.


  • We let our son unwrap a book from under the tree every night (24 days) before Christmas for story time. We also bake together and wear matching PJs.
  • Birthday cake for Jesus and Christmas Eve services.
  • My 4 adult children, spouses and 4 grands come sleep over and we all enjoy the surprises of Christmas morning then cook breakfast together.
  • Our family favs are our Act of Kindness Advent Calendar and our gingerbread house building competition!
  • Fruit basket for all our neighbors!
  • We put the kids to bed , then wake them up and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights. Even though they are getting older, they still love the surprise.
  • We do a Jesse Tree Advent with ornaments that tell the story of creation to Jesus’ resurrection. Each night we sing a song, do a family devotion, and hang the ornament on a special tree.
  • Making a plate with my kids feet/hand prints!
  • Packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and PJs and movies on Christmas Eve.
  • We wake up early Christmas morning, the kid’s snuggle up next to Daddy on the couch, while he reads the story of Christ’s birth. It’s a very sweet, special time. We held this same tradition in my home as I was growing up.
  • The lighting of the Fayetteville Square in Fayetteville and the Christmas Train in Springdale.
  • Making Christmas cookies every year with the kids. It’s takes hours but it’s the funniest time for the kiddos.

As we look to the new year, we reflect on all the blessings of 2014…friendships made, good health, precious time spent with family & friends, laughter that “hurt”, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies welcomed…the list could go on & on. And I’m especially grateful for the most amazing staff a girl could ask for! We approach 2015 with great anticipation as we have some exciting changes coming to Kid’s Directory!

Merry Christmas NWA!

Ella's Adoption story

Our Journey to Ella


Ella&siblingsOur journey to Ella began almost 20 years ago and thousands of miles away from home. In 1995, while in Guatemala on a medical mission trip with my mom, the Lord began to plant a seed in my heart for adoption. Two years later while visiting an orphanage in Honduras, He stirred a deep love in my heart for these precious children, as well as one that would one day call me mommy. All during high school and college, the desire to adopt never went away. During my junior year in college, I met Kyle, the man I would one day marry. While we were dating, I told him of my desire to adopt one day. At that time, he had never considered adoption, but expressed that he would like to have biological children before considering adoption.

We were soon married in August of 2004. On our second anniversary, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. During the spring of 2007, our son Jackson was born and we were elated to be parents! Just a few months after Jackson was born, we found out we were expecting again. When Jackson was fourteen months old, our sweet daughter, Avery, entered this world. God had truly blessed our family! Even though our days and nights were busy with parenting two young children, the desire for adoption still laid heavy on my heart. Many nights I spent praying, asking God to show me His plan for our lives and His timing in regards to adoption. I knew that God would begin to impress it upon Kyle’s heart in His perfect timing as well. One night soon after our daughter’s first birthday, the topic of adoption came up as Kyle and I sat and talked. Even though I had spent many months diligently praying about it and felt sure in God’s calling for our lives, God clearly revealed to me in that moment the work he had been doing in Kyle’s heart as well. As I listened to Kyle talk about the verses found in 1 Timothy 5:1-16 and Psalm 127:3-5, he told me that he knew this was God’s will for our family and God would bless our desire to adopt.

For the next 18 months, Kyle and I spent time researching domestic and international adoption options. We attended informational classes through the DHS foster to adopt program, as well as sessions with several adoption agencies that offered domestic and international programs. We felt very overwhelmed at times with so many important decisions to make in beginning the process, but God was always faithful in revealing His plan. After many referrals from other adoptive families and meeting the wonderful team of people in TX, we were excited to finally begin our adoption journey with the help of The Gladney Center for Adoption. We began looking into the international programs that Gladney offered and while our initial interest was in Central America (since that is where our story began!), God made it clear as He began to develop a love in our hearts for the people of Ethiopia.

The fall and winter months of 2010 were spent gathering paperwork, completing homestudy visits, background checks and immigration forms just to name a few. With all the steps and requirements involved in international adoption, we were so thankful for our amazing friends at Gladney who were there to hold our hand and help us every step of the way. After five months of working diligently on gathering information for our dossier, it was complete and we were officially added to the Ethiopia waitlist! At that time, the current wait to be matched with a child was about 9 months. Since we were open to adopting a child of either gender and possibly even a sibling group, we were excited about soon finding out who would join our family.

Soon after being added to the waitlist, we received news that changes would soon be made in the processing of adoptions within the country of Ethiopia. At that time, we did not know what this news meant or how much our patience AND faith would be tested in the years to come. Although the waiting was hard and we longed for the day we would meet our child, we knew that God had brought us to this point and he would continue to be faithful. The months of waiting soon turned into years. As our children grew older, they became more and more anxious as they would ask how much longer until our brother or sister comes home.   Every year as we updated our paperwork and completed another homestudy, we wondered if this would be the year.

One Monday morning in the spring of 2014, we were completing our normal weekday routine of getting the kids off to school and then heading into work. We had no idea that this was the day our lives would be changed forever. That afternoon, our eyes were filled with tears of joy as we stared at the pictures and listened to our caseworker tell us of the precious two year old little girl that would soon join our family! Our next few weeks went by quickly as we shared our exciting news with friends and family and began gathering paperwork and preparing to bring our new daughter home.

Every month, we would receive new pictures of her and updates on how she was doing. With every picture we received, we fell more and more in love this amazing little girl. It was such a joyful time as we watched Jackson and Avery prepare for their little sister’s arrival by getting all her books arranged just right on her bookshelf and setting out all her little pairs of shoes so they were ready to wear when she arrived home.

On July 11th as we celebrated our daughter Avery’s 6th birthday, she received her only birthday wish – our case was cleared, we had been assigned a court date, and would leave in two weeks to meet our newest little family member!   The next two weeks went by quickly and soon we were kissing our kiddos goodbye and boarding the 14 hour direct flight from D.C. to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Just 24 hours after arriving in Ethiopia, it was time to meet that little girl that our stole our hearts from day one. We were anxious, nervous, and trying to soak in all that was about to happen. As we walked into the room where she was, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I laid eyes on the child I had spent so many years praying for. That afternoon, we had so many amazing moments with our sweet girl that we will never forget. We spent the next few days traveling the countryside in Ethiopia and playing with all the children in the orphanage. On July 31st, after attending our court appointment, the judge informed us that our case was cleared and she was officially our daughter. The next day, it was very hard to say goodbye to her as we traveled back home and waited on the US Embassy to issue her visa. Just a few weeks later, we were cleared to travel back to Ethiopia to bring our daughter home.

On August 28th, 2014, almost four years after we began the adoption process with Gladney, we received a very special gift as we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary – the U.S. Embassy issued her visa and we were ready to take our girl home to Arkansas! We were blown away when we arrived to XNA as she was welcomed with so much love by our friends and family who had come to meet her.

As we celebrate “Adoption Awareness Month” during November, we are reminded of the many blessings that have come through our adoption. The journey to our sweet Ella Kate is one filled with God’s faithfulness, grace, and unconditional love – a precious life for which we will forever be grateful.