Mar 24, 2014

They're Coming Home!

Greetings All,

Great news: After two long years, we are finishing the adoption process!  Last Thursday, Kristen received a phone call from the U.S. Embassy in Ghana stating that they had finalized our adoption and were planning to print Ransford and Godfred's visa's this coming Wednesday, March 26th.  Obviously, the news hit us hard and much to do, such little do we get ready?  There is no better way of explaining the emotion than the following video.

We actually weren't "In a glass case of emotion," but you can imagine the range of feelings associated with hearing this news.  On the one hand, we were exuberant; The other, completely nervous and uncertain of the coming days and years.

Here's what's interesting about how we received the news; The Embassy called Kristen to give her the news.  In most cases, an adopting family will receive an email notice stating the date and time their adopted child's visa will be printed.  Apparently, it is unusual to receive a call.  Here's Jason's theory as to why.  Kristen consistently and tactfully--often after Jason's editing--communicated her desire to bring Ransford and Godfred home.  The Embassy staff working our case knew Kristen Pon's case so well that they called to get her off their backs!  It's doubtful that's true, but it makes for a good story.  There's nothing like a mother's persistence.

After we are sure Ransford and Godfred's visas are printed, Kristen will fly to Ghana to pick them up.  After a two-day stay in Ghana, Kristen and the boys will return to the United States.  Jason, Nate, and CJ will welcome our new family members home.  Exuberant.  Nervous.  Yup!  

We'll have more news to follow.  There's a lot to do between now and when we upgrade from a family of four to six.  Thanks to all of you who have supported us through prayer, donations, and encouragement.  We will always remember you.  Keep checking back for updates.  

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Feb 15, 2014

DIY Whiteboard: Even a Four Year Old Can Make It

Hey there!

Kristen started homeschooling Nate this past September, and we are also planning to homeschool Ransford and Godfred after they come home.  This has led us to slowly convert a spare room into a learning area.  This past week, we added a 4 x 6 foot Do-It-Yourself whiteboard to the room.  So, if you are looking for a project, and want to keep cheap, this DIY whiteboard project might be for you.  It is great for a classroom or office and can be used for projects, school work, or just doodling.  It is so easy, even a four year old can do it.  Here are the details:

What You Need

  • 1/8-in 4x8 ft White/Gloss Hardboard Wall Panel aka the Whiteboard (cut to desired size).  $13.47
  • Four, 1-3/8 in Polystyrene Moulding.  $5.47 x4 = $21.88
  • 25-30 Drywall Screws. Less than $3.00
  • Miter Box & Saw for cutting 45 degree angles on moulding. $7.18
  • Cost is right around $45.

How to Do It
1. First, gather your materials and change out of your onesie.

2. Ok, now that we are properly clothed, place the whiteboard against the wall and add 12-15 screws.  Be sure to hit a few studs throughout.

3. Use your miter box to cut 45 degree angles on the moulding.  We secured the moulding to the wall with 2-3 black colored screws per side.  Though the screws can be seen, you have to really look to notice them.

4. If the moulding needs to be shortened, use your miter box to adjust the length.  Remember, you can always take length off but you cannot add length after it has been cut.

5. Now grab some whiteboard markers and practice your ABC's, 123's, or scribble.

If you make a DIY whiteboard, let us know what worked for you.

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Feb 11, 2014

Family Update

Hey there!

We have managed to let seven months slip-by without a blog update.  Thankfully, the Camp Lejeune, NC area--where we are now stationed--is in the middle of its second major snow storm since late January.  Actually, Snowmaggedon Part 2 has turned out to be only a little icy so far.  However, the result was a short day at work which opened-up time to do some writing.   Let us start with an adoption update.  We will  explain why we think we are making some traction and will hopefully bring Ransford and Godfred home soon.  That will be followed by some pictures from each of the previous seven months.

Where We Have Been: The Homestudy Phase
There seems to be two distinct phases to the pre-homecoming adoption process.  First, there is the homestudy phase.  In this phase, a family has decided to adopt--domestically or internationally--yet have not been referred a specific child or children.  This is where the generic stuff gets done.  Fingerprints, background checks, income statements, social worker interviews, and personal and family profile essays are all done here.  It is all pretty undesirable, time-consuming work.  We started this in March 2012.

Where We Are Today: The Referral Phase
Then there is the referral phase.  This is where the specific stuff gets done.  At this point, a family has been referred a child and begins the process of bringing him home.  The child may receive a physical, or meet his future parents.  Court documents are compiled, followed by a hearing with the adopted child and parents.  While the host nation--in our case, Ghana--approves/disapproves the adoption, the United States is simultaneously evaluating the case.  If the host nation approves, the adopting family submits visa applications to the U.S. Embassy.  If the U.S. Embassy approves the request, visa's are printed, and the parents can bring their child home.  This is a busy, nerve-racking, yet exciting time.  We are in the referral phase....

Approximately this time last year, Kristen and I were referred two brothers, aged 9 and 6, for adoption.  You know them: Ransford and Godfred, who turned 10 and 7 years old in January.  As soon as they were referred to us, we dialed-in on the specific stuff that was needed to bring them home.  Kristen met the boys in June 2013 and our adoption request passed the Ghanaian court proceeding.  Basically, we were on the final step; Visa request and approval.  In late summer 2013, we submitted our visa request to the U.S. Embassy in Accra.  Unfortunately, our case was put in administrative review.  We have been in a holding pattern since then.

The U.S. Embassy sought their own internal investigation into our case--not for adverse reasons.  The U.S. Embassy finalized their investigation in late 2013 and requested one final document before our visa request would be reviewed a second time.  Our Power of Attorney in Ghana has worked hard to find this document.  This past Monday, February 10, he submitted it to the U.S. Embassy in Accra.  If our request is approved, we can expect the U.S. Embassy to prints their visas within five working days.  At that point, Ransford and Godfred would be on a flight from Ghana to the United States.  Hopefully good news is on its way

Now onto some pictures!

JULY 2013

July had to be one of the wildest months of our lives.  In this single-month Jason checked-out of his unit in Augusta, GA; The family moved into a home in North Carolina; Jason travelled to Ghana to meet Ransford and Godfred, followed by attending his master's program graduation in Washington D.C.

Only 45 minutes into our father-sons relationship.  Jason, Godfred, and Ransford walk with Maxwell--a teenager at the orphanage--and Abraham, our POA.

Uncle Ben "Beep" joined Jason on the trip to Ghana.  The four of them spent eight nights in one hotel room.  Talk about a tight squeeze!

Jason's best friend, Ryan Head, and his wife Melissa visited Ghana from Togo, where they are missionaries. 
Two days after returning from Ghana, Jason attended graduation in Washington D.C.  Thanks to Jeremy and Carrie Smith for letting Jason stay with them.
Jason's thesis earned him  the Kuszewski Award.

One of the best parts of the military is making new of the hardest parts is saying goodbye.
Packing-up in Georgia; Unpacking in North Carolina.

August 2013

August was the month of getting settled.  There was plenty to do, and lots of unfinished work in the house.  Yet, we managed to get out an explore a little.

Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach.  Voted one of America's best donuts!

September - November 2013

Jason was in training from September to November. Kristen, Nate and CJ joined him on his training for a over half the time.  While Jason was training, the boys learned how to swim in the hotels indoor pool.  There was also some dancing, fishing, and other random stuff.

Nate and CJ after catching a fish on the dock across the street from our house.

Gettin' in a little jig at Old Navy.

An  Avenger with a pink cart.
This did not happen on the first day.  It was probably closer to early November, after the boys had been swimming for close to six weeks.  CJ would hold his breath to the bottom of the 5' pool and then push up with his legs.  CJ just turned 2 years old.

Nate is a little guppy.

December - January 2013

Enjoyed the Christmas season with Kristen's parents.

Nate competed in his first wrestling tournament in Wilmington, NC. 

January snow.

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Jun 10, 2013

Welcome to the Family!

Kristen and I would like to welcome Ransford Mensah Pon, and Godfred Mensah Pon to the family!  After traveling to Cape Coast from Accra, Kristen, Ransford, Godfred, and their biological mother-Grace, met with the judge.  They were in the judges chamber's for approximately 10 - 15 minutes and were then declared PON's.

Once they returned, we Skyped with them.  Nate and CJ (mostly Nate) were able to talk to their new brothers.  Nate did a quick dance with his shirt off for them.  CJ showed them a couple of toys he was playing with.  Then, Nate and CJ watched Ransford and Godfred wrestling on the bed.  It was great to observe all four of them and I kept thinking, "Man, this is crazy!"  When I spoke with Ransford, he told me his new name in his awesome Ghanaian accent.  It went like this:

Me: Hey, Ransford!

Ransford: Hello, Dad!

Me: What's your new name?

Ransford: My name is, Ransford Mensah PON!

What an amazing feeling.  Here they are....

L-R: Ransford, Kristen, and Godfred.

Godfred (left) is 6 years old, while Ransford (right) is 9 years old.
Thank God for watching over us during this process!  We are only just beginning, but today is a huge milestone.  Thank you to all of you who have supported us as well.  Cathy and Sandy Cantu, Ginny and Gary Kimbrell, and Craig and Carmen Turner all sent money to be used at the orphanage where Ransford and Godfred live.  My best friend, Ryan Head, is a missionary in Togo and called my Mom -Barbara- to 'check-up' on how things were going.  Dr. David McKinely, the Senior Pastor of Warren Baptist Church here in Augusta, and an adoptive parent, recently called to encourage and pray for us.  Even all of you who simply click 'Like' on our Facebook links to the blog; your simple click tells us you are listening and you care.  

Finally, thanks to our parents Danny and Barbara Pon, and Dan and Jackie Townsend.  We love you.  Dan and Jackie have been watching Nate and CJ while Kristen and my Mom have been in Ghana, and as I have been finishing up my research and writing.  Here they are in Florida.

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Jun 8, 2013

Update: Court Date Rescheduled (Again)

Hey there.  I just wanted to quickly update all of you about court.  Kristen sent me a text message from Ghana late Tuesday night.  Apparently, the judge residing over our case was in Accra on Thursday and Friday.  Our case was going to take place in Cape Coast, so he had to reschedule our date for this coming Monday.

Meanwhile, everything else has been going great!  Kristen and I have talked a couple of times now.  She said that Ransford and Godfred, "Really feel like my kids!"  They have spent time at the orphanage, played soccer, gone shopping, and spent time at the beach.  Kristen emailed some pictures of the boys, however, it is best to wait to post them until after we pass court.  Be on the lookout.  I will post pictures as soon as we pass court!

Notice: Accra is located on the Southeast coast of Ghana.  Cape Coast is on the central coast of Ghana.  Kristen, Barbara, Ransford, and Godfred are in was the judge.  However, court is supposed to take place in Cape Coast, approximately a three-hour drive to the West of Accra.

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Jun 3, 2013

Accra or Bust

Hey there.

Wow!  It has been four months since our last blog post.  That is far too long.  A lot has happened since then, and Kristen asked me to take a minute to update all of you.  It is an important day for us.  As of this writing, Kristen and my Mom --Barbara-- are on a flight headed to Accra, Ghana.  They will be visiting our two future sons, Ransford and Godfred, at the orphanage where they live.  Kristen filled two suitcases with 50 pounds of clothes, shoes, food, and activities that she will give to Ransford, Godfred, and the other kids at the orphanage.

This coming Thursday, the four of them will drive approximately three hours where they will attend court.  This part of the adoption process is when a Ghanaian judge adjudicate's our case to determine if Ransford and Godfred are officially Pons.  Let me backtrack for a second.  On May 22nd, Ransford and Godfred went to court.  Unfortunately, we did not pass court.  Instead, the judge asked our power of attorney (POA) to do some additional work on the case.  Our POA has done the work, and we are set to go back to court on June 6th.  Except this time, Kristen will be standing next to the boys in front of the judge.  We are praying her presence demonstrates our commitment to them.  Please keep the process in your prayers.

So, here is a photo update of what has kept us so busy over the past few months:

The Flight: Kristen and Barbara Pon have a long way to go.  It will be worth it in the end!

Pre-Flight Meal: Before Kristen's flight, we met up with Kristen's parents at the original Chick-Fil-A known as the Dwarf House.

Atlanta Airport: As I loaded Kristen's suitcases on the scale I looked left and there was Al Roker!  I did a double-take, then looked at Kristen and said, That's Al Roker!  He graciously took a picture with me.

April 14:  Kristen turned........20!  ;)

Nate is looking forward to having two new brothers to play with.  CJ will be happy too.

CJ can eat!  We are going to have to budget in some extra $$$ to keep all four kids fed.

Financial Peace University: We led Dave Ramsey's 9-week FPU class.  $55,000 in debt paid off, $15,000 saved, and 30 credit cards cut up.  The proof is in the pudding.

Pneumonia: Kristen caught a severe case of pneumonia which hospitalized her for three days.  She is doing much better.  Meanwhile, we were attempting to get our house ready to put on the market.

SOLD!  After six days on the market, we were under contract.  We closed on our Evans, GA home last Wednesday, and will be closing on a home in Sneads Ferry, NC at the end of the month.

Nate's Birthday: Nate turned four in May.  He had a great time, and the M&M cake he made was tasty!

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Jan 16, 2013

Hey Everyone!

Things are great in Augusta.  We are staying busy.  Here are a couple of things we have been up to.  Jason started writing his thesis in pursuit of his masters degree.  Since the Marine Corps will be moving us this summer, Kristen is getting our home ready to put on the market this spring.  Nate has started learning the fundamentals of wrestling at the gym we go to, and CJ loves digging in the dirt outside in this warm January weather (81 degrees on Monday).

C.J. after playing outside.

Nate after wrestling practice.  Friend Braden (back left), and C.J. (back right).

You are busy too, so we will keep this post short.  Did you know:

-There is an Adoption Tax Credit that is available to qualified adoptive families.  This tax credit is a helpful incentive to reduce the cost of adoption for families.  As mentioned in a previous post, the cost to adopt from Ghana, including travel, will reach about $30,000.  The mess we called the fiscal cliff put the Adoption Tax Credit on the cut-list.  Families in 2012 rushed to complete their adoption out of fear they would not receive any credit in 2013.  Fortunately, the world did not end and the Adoption Tax Credit remains available in 2013.  This gives families up to $12,970 as a non-refundable tax credit.


-The travel section of The New York Times named Accra, Ghana as the fourth best place to travel to in 2013.  Here is what it says of travelling to Accra:

Accra, the capital of Ghana, has welcomed business travelers for years. Now tourists are streaming in, a byproduct of the fact that the country has Africa’s fastest-growing economy and is also one of its safest destinations. The M√∂venpick Ambassador Hotel (with poolside bar and waiters on roller skates) opened in 2011, and the Marriott Accra — the chain’s first sub-Saharan offering — will feature a casino and upscale shopping when it opens in the spring. On Accra’s packed beaches, you’ll see everything from snake handlers to plantain peddlers. Head to the upscale neighborhood of Osu and hit the treehouse-inspired terrace at Buka for fine West African food. The best Ghanaian adventures start with a giant plate of tomato-smothered tilapia and banku — a fermented yeast paste that’s tastier than it sounds — washed down with local Star beer. — Karen Leigh

Have a great week!!!

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Jan 5, 2013

Part III: A Belly-Aching Funny Story

Hey everyone!

Now on to Part III.    As I considered what we would share for these three posts, I realized that Part II would naturally be sad.  Writing about your brothers death is not easy....not fun to read either.  So I thought it would be good to lighten things up for Part III.

In today's post, Jason's best friend Ryan Head will be the featured guest.  He and his wife Melissa serve as missionaries in Togo.  Today Ryan will be recounting the story of Rich's participation in our prune eating contest.  Ryan and I were known to find ways of competing against each other.  You know what I'm talking about....drinking a gallon of milk in an hour or less without throwing up (we both lost that one), etc.  In this case, Ryan and I had agreed upon prunes.  After the bet was set, we made our way to the local Piggly-Wiggly and picked up four cans of potent prunes.  Rich had decided to tag along and was on his way to "initiation."   Now onto this hilarious version of the story and its explosive result!

The Prune Eating Contest

There are some things you never forget: your wedding day, your first kiss, where you were when the towers were hit.  And then there’s the prune eating contest of ’03.  

There are moments of genius birthed outside the realm of reason, only later to be immortalized for its contributions to humanity.  The prune has invariably left its mark.

It was a calm autumn evening chez (French for "house of") Head.  The Pon boys were coming for dinner.  This would make your average meal maker whimper.  Mama Head didn’t bat an eye.  She made her famous sour cream enchiladas with refried beans and rice.  We ate to our hearts content and then some.  Pon, Rich, Beep, and Head were already moaning with overly satiated guts.  Then came out the canisters. 

Pon and Head had already planned this event, like many others.  The insides of the prune packages were already greased with black residue from these gastric cherry bombs, and what was to follow was sure to be dynamite!

One after another we gummed through the sweet, tarry mess.  With our stomachs already full, the thickness was tickling our gag reflexes.  So we ate some more.  

A little disheartened, no prunes resurfaced.  Little did we know, they were working their magic.

Mama Head, wiser than the four adolescents threatening to tarnish her dining room, suggested we go outside and walk down our meal.  

The cool night air was mildly refreshing as we made our way around the corner.  This might have helped some folks.  To Rich it was like giving sweet tea to a beached whale.  The boy was worse for wear.  When we were too far away to run back to the house he exclaimed, “I can’t take it anymore!”  He dropped his pants and undies in one fell swoop.  Not a second later his sphincter released a gooey heap down to the curb.  The poor lad couldn’t help the explosion much less his body’s reflex to urinate at the same time.  Distracted by his rectal misfire, his aim was a bit off and he peed directly into his pants around his ankles.  

Needless to say, the rest of us were painfully laughing at our ill-fated contestant.  Gripping our aching bellies, we were all but rolling in the street.  We at least knew that that would have been a bad idea.    

Rich then had to do the walk of shame back to the house.   The unfortunate precedent being the pulling up of his soupy shorts.  We got back to the house and told, through fits of laughter, the fruition of our exploits.  

Pon, Rich, and Beep piled into Pon’s car, some heads a little higher than others.  For days and weeks to come, the curb was stained black with the acidic filth.  Once the rains did their work, that small patch was actually cleaner than any other part.  I dare say it even glistened.  

When I remember Rich, my mind invariably goes back to moments like these.  This is how I choose to remember him.  He was a young man whose heart was more tender and caring than most.  Who knew that it would be the same heart that would shorten his days with us.  I love you Rich, and remember you fondly.  

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Jan 3, 2013

Part II: Struggle, Reflection, Reconnection

Friends and family,

One year ago today, my brother Rich passed away of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at the age of 21.  On that cold-sunny day, I (Jason) made my way into work for the first time since the new year began.  I was excited about the coming year.  I felt 2011 brought joy and success, and I anticipated the same in 2012.  Just a few hours later, I would be interrupted in a classroom by a stranger telling me that I needed to call my wife immediately.  It was an emergency.  I found the closest phone in an open-area, near a printer.  As soon as Kristen gave me the news, I grabbed my stuff and sprinted out of the building.  The following days and weeks were the most painful of my life.

Jason & Kristen's wedding, September 6, 2006.  (L-R Back) Barbara, Danny, Kristen, Jason, Ben.  (L-R Front) Tracy, Rich, Shirley (Grandma)

It has been a year of struggle, reflection, and reconnection.  Losing Rich meant an empty seat at the dinner table.  One less guy to watch sports with, or laugh with.  When your younger brother dies, you have to force your way through life.  That is the struggle.   Nothing is easy, but you keep going because Rich would say so.  So we did.  Always keeping in mind who Rich was, and considered how we could keep his spirit alive.  Extended friends and family surrounded us with love.  We reconnected with those friends and family and Rich was at the heart of that moment.  If I can speak on behalf of my family, I would say that in spite of losing Rich, we had joy in knowing that so many of you loved him.  Your demonstration of love will not be forgotten.  Thank you!

I would also like to dedicate this post to my Grandmother, Shirley Lane, who passed away on November 16, 2012.  Speaking of reconnection.  After Rich passed, my Grandmother travelled by car with her children and grandchildren from California to Tennessee.  At 77, that is no easy feat.  She was afraid to fly, so she drove.  With her first stop in Tennessee being the funeral home, Grandma and the family arrived on the same evening as Rich's viewing.  Her dedication to her grandchild meant she would get there at all costs, but the 40 hours of continuous travel had made her quite ill.  Though fatigued and sick, she was there with us.  As I stood with her in front of Rich she said, "When you miss him, just find a quiet place and think.  Talk to him.  He will be there."  Love you Grandma.

November 8, 1934 to November 16, 2012

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Jan 2, 2013

Part I: Rich's Ghana Video's

Friends and family,

As we approach the day Jason's brother Rich passed, we wanted to do something that reminded us of him.  Considering we chose to adopt from Ghana because of Rich, we thought it would be fun to share some videos of him while he was in Ghana.  Rich was 18 in these videos.  His deep love for his host brother, Junior, is noticeable.  If you knew Rich, and there's something unique you remember about him, or something you enjoyed about his videos please leave a comment.  This is the first of a series of three posts, so check back over the next few days for more.  Happy New Year!

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