Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Weary Heart Rejoices

Merry Christmas to all of my friends!

I hope that you have enjoyed a wonderful Holiday weekend full of love, laughter, hugs, and HOPE!

It has taken me a few days to gather my thoughts in order to write this update.

Though we HAVE had a wonderful Christmas, full of love, laughter, hugs and hope, our Christmas admittedly started off a little rough.

As you may remember, we were matched with a child's profile on December 15th, and were told we had until Monday,  December 21st to reach a decision.  We had requested additional information regarding that child's medical diagnosis and current condition, but were told if the information didn't come back before Monday the 21st we would have to make a decision regardless.  As you remember, James and I had decided that unless we DID hear back, and the information we got painted a drastically more severe picture than what we currently saw, we were going to proceed with the file.

Monday came and went, and I never heard from the adoption agency one way or the other.  I called them on my way home from work, expecting to be told they needed our commitment to move forward with the file that night.  Instead, she told me we could wait until Wednesday to see if the information requested came in.  I was a little disappointed, just because I was eager to move out of the "uncertainty" stage and ready to make a commitment, but trusted that this was happening for a reason and it was probably wise to give it a little more time.

I did not hear anything Tuesday, so again on Wednesday morning I emailed them asking if there was any news and what we needed to do.  She said there was in fact a response from the orphanage, and that she would sent it to me right away, but we needed to let them know that day, before they closed for the Holiday.  I quickly punched out for lunch so that I could review the information.  Unfortunately, what I saw when I opened the files was the worst case scenario.... our little boy's condition was MUCH more severe than had initially been implied.  We had inferred from the earlier information that he had never had surgery on his legs, but now that we got pictures without all the big puffy clothing on, we saw that his legs had scars in multiple locations, indicating at least 2 or three prior surgeries.  There was no muscle tone whatsoever, and we were also informed that he experiences a lot of pain, and is in pain whenever the nannies bump him.  We were also told this he has problem with all of his joints.  This does not mean that we were intentionally misled or lied to with the first set of information.  We will never know why some of this information wasn't included in the original file, and at the end of the day, that isn't important.

Suddenly our future went from raising a child who will likely be able to stand and walk after therapy and a possible surgery or two, to raising a child who will likely never be able to stand or walk, and is a large deal of pain right now.  Of course anything is possible... it's impossible to diagnose a patient from a few photographs.  However, with adoption you have to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario.  You have to be committed to the worst case scenario.  And for the sake of this child, you have to be sure that you can handle the worst case scenario.

I began scrambling to contact every doctor and adoptive mother I had talked to regarding his suspected diagnosis over the past week.  Thankfully, I did get quite a bit of information back by the end of the day, but I hated the idea of making a decision without talking to James face to face. The doctors who did respond were all in agreement this this child was now a severe case, and would likely never stand or walk independently.   I contacted the agency asking for at least until 6 pm EST (they are 2 hours behind us) and they said we could actually just take until Monday the 28th, because they were not able to match him to another family this late in the day anyway.

I think I knew in my heart right away that we didn't have what this little boy needs, but I wasn't ready to admit that to myself or to anyone else.  I was feeling so lost, so heartbroken, so confused.  How could something that felt SO RIGHT just days before, feel so wrong now?  How could I have felt so much peace, and have been so convinced about God's plan for this child in our lives, and now have all of that unravel before my eyes?  My heart just ached for this little boy, and his scarred legs, thinking of how scary it was to go through those painful surgeries without a mom and a dad to comfort you and hold you through the pain.  Man, adoption is just HARD sometimes.  You know going into this journey that it's going to be hard, but you have no idea in what ways.

I hoped from day one that we would never have to say no to a file, that God would somehow match us to the perfect child for our family on the first file assigned.  It was so hard for me to reconcile the idea that even if we did not accept this file, we were not being disobedient to God's calling for us.  I reached out to my adoptive community for support, and was overwhelmed with encouragement and understanding, but I still had to go through a grieving process that I wasn't prepared to go through.  I think I spent most of Wednesday night in a state of grief and shock.  I just felt so confused and so lost.

There were so many "God sightings" those first few days after being assigned his file, and so many reasons why we were SO CONFIDENT that this was our child, and that no matter what happened, God was going to provide us with whatever we needed to care for him.  But now I could also say that maybe it was God's doing that the agency gave us those extra days, and that we got the additional information, He was protecting us from getting in too deep.  The thing about God's plan is.... we'll never be able to comprehend or understand it.  Just when we think we have it all figured out, He reminds us that we don't have a clue... our minds just aren't big enough.  We just have to pray, and trust, and seek direction with each new day.  The more I sought direction with this situation, the more I felt that it was ok to acknowledge our limits, and it was ok to admit that this child's needs were just beyond our limits of care of provision.

It wasn't a matter of whether we were willing to make sacrifices- I wasn't sad for ourselves about raising a child with limitations.  I was sad and heartbroken to think of not being able to give him the best life possible.  And in my heart, I knew it wasn't fair to anyone to bring this child into our home.  We simply aren't in a place to provide for this child.  It's so hard to say that, because I know full-well that when you have your own children, that's not a choice you get to make.  You can't choose what condition your child might or not be born with, and whatever they are born with, you make the best life you possibly can for them, no matter what it takes.  But it was important to remind myself that this child has already suffered the consequences of ill-prepared parents once in his life. From here on out, he deserves parents who have everything he needs.  And it's humbling to admit that you just don't have those things.  By letting ourselves say no, we will be allowing ourselves to say YES to a file that we can adequately provide for.  And hopefully, in another year or two, we can say YES again.  And maybe again... who knows :). 

Over and over again, however, others reminded me that I needed to listen to my intuition- that if I didn't have peace about moving forward, this wasn't our son, and I needed to release his file so that his parents could find him.  It felt like I was betraying him, like I wasn't being faithful to God's promise to provide for our needs.  However, I knew that if it was the right thing to do, I would be feeling peace about it, and I just wasn't, and neither was James.  We thought about the fact that it was very likely that accepting this file would mean I would have to quit my job  and how that would mean we wouldn't be able to adopt any other children.  We thought about the fact that we would likely have to rehome our animals so they weren't bumping him and causing him pain, and how we probably couldn't send him to daycare, that we would need to move, get a new vehicle, and so on...  there were a lot of reasons that told us we just weren't the right parents for him.  At this point in our lives, we do not have the resources to provide for the needs he has.  We will always think of him, and will always be praying for him.  I hope that somehow I can advocate for him, and that maybe even I'll see someone post about adopting him one day and will be able to follow his story.  One good thing is that now all of the information we gathered will remain a part of his file, so that the next time he is matched to a family, they will get everything up front, so they will be able to make a more informed decision from the start.

We attended my family Christmas party on Christmas Eve.  The party where I imagined I would be passing around his photo, introducing our newest family member.  Instead I had to explain to those who had read the good news about what had happened, and I feared having to deliver bad news on such a happy occasion.  Thankfully, everyone was (of course) more than understanding, and extremely supportive.  Not that I expected any less, it's just a hard thing to deal with. We also were able to spend a little bit of time with James' grandparents and mom, and they were also in agreement with our decision.

We have not officially declined his file, just because our agency is closed, but as soon as we decided that would be our decision, and we told our close family and friends, we both felt the peace we were looking for before.  We knew we were making the right decision, not just for US, but for HIM.  Please join us in praying for this little boy in China, whose legs don't work, and who is in pain.  Pray that he is matched with a family who can give him the life he deserves, and pray that he finds relief from his pain and knows the love and comfort of a mom and dad soon.

Now for the REJOICING!

Christmas Eve we got a special package in the mail- our first 12 documents came back from Authentication!  They are all ready to be sent to our agency to go in our Dossier.  One thing I thought was sort of neat is that they are all signed by John Kerry (original signatures, no stamp!).  Kind of crazy to think of someone so well-known handling our documents and signing them.  I wonder how many of these he does every day...

And one more celebration- my fingerprinting notice finally came today!  I was really hoping this would happen, as I have Monday off work.  I'm going to try and walk in early to try and get my fingerprinting done on Monday so that I don't have to try and go before work on my scheduled day and have to be late getting there and just deal with all of that stress.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that they let me do this.  Strangely, James' approval didn't come.  His will likely arrive Monday or Tuesday, so we will just have to go at separate times.

Who knew that paperwork in the mail could be SOOO exciting?!

And finally, one more cause for rejoicing!  If you remember, the day we first go news that we had a match, we had also gotten bad news regarding the health of a family member.
Well, this time, the day we got bad news about the child's file... we got GOOD news about our family member.  They had some additional tests run, and they came back with favorable results, so the situation isn't any worse than what we had already been told- praise God!

So there you have it... a weary heart rejoicing.  We will continue to keep you all posted regarding the status of our adoption, but I promise, next time I won't post news about a match until we have locked everything in- no more emotional roller coasters for our readers! Just because we go through them doesn't mean you all have to as well.

Thank you to each of you who shared in our joy last week- I really wish I didn't have to bear the bad news that I did today. :(  Please pray for continued guidance and direction as we navigate this difficult journey. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Call

Wow, a lot can happen in 15 days.  A lot can happen in ONE day.

Let me bring you up to speed.

On Tuesday, December 8th our home study report was finally ready!  James went to the home study agency's office on his lunch hour and picked up the report, and then stopped at the post office on his way home to mail out our I-800A application. (this is the document that goes to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give us permission to bring an adopted child into the country).

On Wednesday December 9th we made another trip to the Secretary of State in order to have the home study report certified.  (remember, each document that gets sent to China has to be notarized, then state certified to attest to the validity of the  notary, and then authenticated by the Chinese consulate to attest to the validity of the state seal... yes, a lot of hoops!).  We will have 13 notarized, certified, authenticated documents which will make up our Dossier, which is the big packet of paperwork and photographs that gets sent to China for them to determine whether or not we are a suitable family to adopt a child.  The last document in this packet will be our I-800A, which will come after they process the I-800A application and we go in for fingerprinting. While we wait for that last document, we went ahead and sent the first 12 documents to be authenticated, so that we can get them back, send them to our agency to review, and when that last document comes in they will have (hopefully) already reviewed the others.  This also gives us time to correct any mistakes that could be on the first 12 documents (which we are hoping are not there).
When we got to the secretary of state's office that night the line was the longest we had seen it yet.  (I think this was our fourth trip for adoption paperwork so far). We only had an hour before the post office was closing, so I quickly gave up hope of getting everything mailed out that night.  Low and behold, we finished at the secretary of state with 10 minutes to spare!  The mail truck was already waiting outside at the post office, but we made it in the nick of time and got our documents sent out that night.

From there, we just wait for paperwork to flow through the right channels.  It's hard to explain, but once we got to this stage, all of my anxiety was gone.  I was suddenly fine with the wait that I knew was coming, and felt a big burden lifted off my shoulders.

Our documents get sent to a courier, who will review them for accuracy, and then walk them into the consulate and then go pick them up when they are ready.  There are a few different consulate offices around the country, but because the one closest to us (Chicago) had recently changed their rules about notarization just days after we had our documents done the way they no longer allow, we have chosen to use the one in Washington D.C.  Of course this consulate allows our notarization, but does require an extra step that the documents get certified by the U.S. Government office before the Chinese consulate.  If you try and make sense of this stuff it just makes your head hurt-  you just have to follow the rules and not ask questions. For example, your documents cannot be mailed to these agencies- they must be walked in in person.  That is where the courier comes in.  Since we cannot spend multiple days walking documents from one office to the next in Washington D.C.,  our courier will take our documents to the first stop, go pick them up, and then take them into the second. When they are ready they will mail them back to us. Bureaucracy at it's finest! I don't really care one way or the other how complicated it is... so long as it gets done!
(I did check in with our courier on Friday, and our documents should be in the mail to us by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.)

As far as we were concerned, the remaining steps would be:

-Receive appointment for our fingerprinting
-Get first 12 documents back from embassy and forward them to adoption agency
-Get last document (I-800) in the mail, have it notarized, certified, and then sent for authentification and then sent on to our agency
-Once the agency has your complete dossier, they review it, translate, and then send it to China (adoptive families call this step DTC-"Dossier to China" and it marks a huge milestone because at this point, it's all just a waiting game... no more running around getting papers stamped, sealed, approved, etc).
-Once the packet arrives in China and they log you into their database, you are consider LID- "Logged In Dossier"
-On the traditional adoption path, it is at this point that you can be matched with a child.  We were planning/anticipating this step to happen sometime in late January or early February provided no major hiccups with our paperwork. A few months back I would have assumed this to take even longer, but certain steps are taking much less time than they have historically and other families have been seeing much faster processing of their paperwork. (I'm connected to many different groups on Facebook where other adoptive families are able to share advice, ask questions, and encourage one another on our journeys).

Fast forward to Monday, December 14th.  One of our family members had had a medical procedure done the week prior, and would be going in the next day to find out her results.  I was talking to her on Facebook just before bed giving her my well wishes and I said  "Just think, in another month or two you'll get to see the face of your new relative for the first time."  She was shocked it could happen that soon, and we talked about how exciting that day would be.

The next day, I waited anxiously at work for the phone call from to fill me in on what kind of news they got from the doctor.  I finally got in touch with them around 1:00, and unfortunately it was not the news we were hoping for.  We remain fully confident that we will overcome this next hurdle, but we were really hoping to hear that they would be putting this issue behind them so they could get the medical attention they needed for another issue.

I spent the next couple of hours trying my best to focus on my work, and wrap my mind around what all of this meant for our family, and for our adoption journey also. I had considered putting everything on hold so that I could be there for my family in whatever way was needed, but I was really feeling as though that wasn't the answer, either.

 Around 3:00 PM, my cell phone started buzzing on my desk.  I looked at the screen, saw "Denver, CO" on the caller ID, and dismissed the call.  I remember looking at my co-worker and saying "oh, probably just another extended warranty call for my car..... oh wait, my adoption agency is near Denver!"  As soon as the words rolled off my tongue my office phone started ringing, and it was the same number calling- I knew I had to pick up the phone this time.  When I answered, sure enough, it was CCAI.  The woman on the phone greeted me in a friendly, chipper voice and explained that she had great news- they had a match for us!  It was an adorable toddler-aged  boy with a fairly minor medical need (I cannot share any details at this point...adoption legalities... stay tuned for a later blog post with more information).  I let her get through her piece, and then politely responded with "I'm so glad you called, and I appreciate it, but I actually think you have the wrong family.  James and I are not LID yet, so I do not believe we can receive referrals yet."

She explained that this little boy is on a different list of available children, and can be matched with a  family before their paperwork is in China.  I didn't even know that was possible! I thought the only way to be matched before LID was if you went out onto the lists and identified a child for yourself.  Now my head was really spinning....  She asked if I'd like to see the file, and of course I said yes.  She informed me that I had 24 hours to let her know if we would like to possibly proceed with the file, and if we did, we would need to have a concrete answer to her by the following Monday (aka tomorrow).

I immediately went in and talked to my boss, and asked if I could leave a little early that day (it was now probably around 3:30 already, and she said yes.  I was totally emotionally numb-  I had experienced both the lowest of lows and the highest of highs all within a few hours, and I really didn't even have any feelings left at that moment.  I called James at work and told him he needed to come home early to review this file with me-  we might have a son! He was just as shocked as I was, but also just as excited!  Unfortunately, he was under a deadline and couldn't just stop what he was doing but promised he would be home as soon as he could.  I did not want to look at the file without him being there with me.  In the event this really was our child, I wanted to be together the first time we saw his face.

I finished up what I was working on and headed home around 4:15.  I knew that I couldn't trust myself not to look at the file, so I kept myself busy with phone calls until he got home.  I called my family members first to tell them the news- this was hard, as we were all still trying to process the other news we had gotten earlier that day, but I did not want to tell anyone before I had told my family. The next call I had to make was to a good friend who is a pediatric Nurse Practitioner.  I had talked to her early on in the adoption process about helping us review the medical file of the child(ren) we were matched with, and to help interpret some of the medical language for us.  She answered right away, and already started giving me what information she know about the condition he was diagnosed with and which local doctors might be best to have review his file.  By the time James made it home, I was already sitting at the table with laptop open and the email ready, but I did manage to keep myself from "peeking."  Once we had looked everything over I forwarded it all on to my nurse friend to look over.

I also got on some of the Facebook groups for adoption, and asked about the condition on his file and which doctors to send his file to for review, what this condition usually involves in terms of treatment, prognosis, etc.  Within hours, I had gotten over 50 comments, and over and over again the names of the same 3 or 4 doctors kept coming up as the absolute experts in this condition. Over the course of the next couple of days, I sent the file off to these doctors, as well as a couple of local doctors.

By Friday, we were pretty convinced that the condition he has may actually be something other than what is listed on his file.  Again, I have to be vague and I'm sorry for that, but we are not allowed to share any information about him publicly until we are officially approved to adopt him. 

The thing with international adoption is that the files are often very inconclusive and do not contain enough information for a U.S. doctor to really make any sort of firm determination about the child's medical situation or future needs. In our case, we had four photographs- two full body shots of him sitting in a chair (with baggy, puffy clothing on), and two of the area of his body related to his diagnosis.  The photos are grainy and of low quality.  There is also a few pages of medical reports, which aren't filled out completely and most of which are a little old.  An update from just last week outlines some of his basic abilities and daily routine, and there is a 19 second video of him sitting on the floor catching and throwing a ball.  Not really enough for a doctor to look at and make a firm assessment of his health. Adoptive parents just have to be willing to take a leap of faith in some ways.

We have requested additional information from the orphanage he's in, but honestly do not expect to hear back before tomorrow, when we have to make a final decision one way or the other with his file.
In the event that we do hear back, and the information we get paints a picture much more difficult than what we are already imagining, we may have to pass.  Otherwise, our intent is to proceed with adopting this child.

The condition we believe he may have is one that we had never even heard of before this week, and the lifestyle outcome that could result is one we had never imagine for our family.  Most likely, it will be a very correctable issue with possibly a few surgeries and some extensive therapy, but we also have to be okay with the worst case scenario of this condition, which would mean some pretty substantial changes to the way we go about our daily lives.
Over the past few days, I have spent hours and hours online researching the condition, finding out about insurance coverage, consulting other families who have adopted children with this condition, and most importantly, praying for wisdom and guidance.  My husband has been doing the same, and both of us have come to the same realization-  that God has brought us this file for a reason, and He has a plan and purpose for this child's life.  If we step outside of our comfort zone a little and put our trust in Him, He will provide, just as He always has.  To some, it might look like we are taking on too much, or getting in over our heads.  And you know what, I'm sure we are.  We very well may be getting in over our heads..... BUT  we have an incredible lifeguard who I know will not let us drown.

The funny thing is, when I imagine my life being at a fork in the road... Option A is to continue as we are... comfortable jobs, comfortable finances, comfortable life.  Option B is to take a chance on this child, risk taking on the worst case scenario involving his health.  Possibly take on multiple surgeries, years of therapy, and a dramatically different lifestyle than what we have ever known or imagined... for some reason there is more Hope, Peace, and Joy when I imagine Option B.  I cannot explain it, other than to say that it's a calling that's coming from above, and peace that comes when we answer a call.

So where do we go from here?  Well, I'm not 100% certain on the details, but I know we have to submit what's called a LOI, or "letter of intent" to China to adopt this particular child, and once they have reviewed that, if they approve us we will be issued a LOA or "letter of acceptance."  This process can take a few months.  From there we have to apply U.S. government for permission to bring this specific child into the country and to get permission to travel, get our Visas, etc.
Absolute best case scenario- we could be looking at travel as early as April, but I'm still planning on May or June as the earliest scenario.
Anything could cause delays at any step of the way, so it's important that we do not get our hearts set on any particular timeline.  I do know that now that we've seen our child's face the waiting will get harder and harder as we go.  I know that this child needs medical attention, and while none of their suspected conditions are life threatening or even progressive (that we know of), the sooner we could get him started on treatment the better.  The one good thing about having a file assigned earlier though, is now we can actually plan- we can prepare the child's bedroom, start buying some of the things we will need, and so forth.  And of course, we've already decided on a name.  It is likely we won't be sharing his name with anyone other than immediate family and friends for quite a while, but I guess you'll just have to wait and see ;).

I'm sure you're all dying to see a photo, and I'm sorry that  I cannot share at this time.  Once we have been given permission from our agency to do so, I will post a photo on here, but I'm not sure when that might happen.  So please just imagine the cutest little face you've ever seen on a toddler-aged boy from China, with bright eyes and pinch-able little cheeks, and you won't be too far off :)

That's all for now.  Please pray for continued peace for our families, and for the little boy that we hope will someday soon be ours.  He is already our son in our hearts... we just have to wait for the paperwork to line up accordingly!


Our puzzle fundraiser is still going strong, and we are so thankful for the amount of help we've received from this fundraiser so far.  We will have another $4,000 in fees coming due within the next few weeks, so if you have not yet sponsored any pieces but would like to do so, now would be an excellent time for that! I assure you, the funds will go to use right away! :)  If you need to wait until after the Holidays and/or income taxes, that's ok too.  We'll have another $3500-$4,000 due when we get LOA, which I'm assuming will be sometime in January or February.  We will be saving every penny we can in the meantime, and I have already began working on some applications for grants as well.

Here is how the puzzle looks today.  We are almost 20% of the way completed!  (the brown/upside down pieces on the left are the ones that have been sponsored, the ones that are right-side-up are still available) Details on how to sponsor pieces can be found in this post:

Here is the one gift we bought for ourselves this Christmas.  A special ornament for our tree, from a fundraiser to help support another adoptive family.  Mine hasn't come in the mail yet, so I borrowed this photo from someone else.

If I have any substantial news to share this week I will share it, but if not, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  God bless your families and give you all comfort and peace.  Safe travels to those who travel, and happy resting to those who do not!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Worry Less, Love More (and why I'm not very good at it)

Confession time.

This has been a rough week for me in regards to the waiting that is such a huge part of the adoption process.  And when I say rough, I mean I nearly came unglued yesterday on the director of my home study agency, who just doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get our finished report to us.

It's funny that God laid the phrase Worry Less, Love More so heavily on my heart the night we decided to forge ahead and pursue this adoption.  I honestly believe it's because He knew this was going to be the mantra that I would need to keep me sane through all of this.

For those of you who don't know me personally, let me introduce myself to you:  I'm a bit of a control freak.  I do NOT like unpredictable situations.  I love timelines and clear expectations.  I like step-by-step processes and systems that function as efficiently as possible. (hence my chosen career track in mortgage operations)  I'm probably not among the most impatient people in the world... but  I'm probably a Tier 2 on the imaginary scale of impatience.  I'm definitely one of those I'll-just-do-it myself-because-I-have-a-hard-time-trusting-anyone-else-to-do-it-right sort of people.

Going into this adoption process, I kept reading blogs and Facebook posts of adoptive parents who were just agonizing over the wait.  Over and over again, people kept telling me "Oh the wait is the hardest part, but it's SO worth it".  To be honest, I really didn't understand what all of the fuss was about.  At this point in my journey, I had nervously and anxiously agreed to God that I would set my worries aside and trust in His plan for my life, but I was still absolutely terrified.  In my mind, I was in no rush to get this adoption finished because I did not feel prepared to become a parent. I assumed that everyone who struggled through the waiting had been wanting to become parents for years already, and were at the end of their rope in their ability to wait. I had only recently decided I wanted to give up the orderliness of my life and surrender that to child-rearing.  I assumed I would never become one of the anxious types, checking their email every 30 minutes, consuming their thoughts with getting to the next step (and the next, and the next).

I'm not sure exactly when all of that changed, but boy, has it ever!  The problem with the internet, and the ability to become connected to so many people who are in the same situations you are, is that you also have the ability to be constantly comparing yourselves to others.  This can hold true in all areas of life- Am I doing as well financially as my peers? Is my baby developing as fast as my friend's baby? How nice is my house compared to others I graduated with? How many trips do I take compared to my friends? etc etc. The adoption community online is a very connected community.  That has been SUCH A HELP to me as I navigate this unfamiliar territory. I have learned so many great fundraising ideas, have received so many great tips for paperwork completion, have a list of what to pack for China, have lists of what to buy for our child's room, and so on.  Unfortunately, though, one other thing this community has allowed me to do is to constantly chart my progress against others who began their process around the same time we did.  And when I started to fall behind others who started "the race" at the same time we did, I started becoming anxious, impatient, frustrated, and, in yesterday's case, just plain angry.

What began to happen is that I lost my ability to see those involved with my adoption process as fellow humans, with busy lives and long days, who work hard and share a common goal of helping orphans.  I lost my ability to grant Grace to those people, and to trust God that He has this under control, and that everything will come together in His perfect timing.  I forgot my mantra... Worry Less, Love More.

I'll spare you all the details, but essentially what has been frustrating me this week,  is that in a perfectly timed and fine-tuned world, James and I could have realistically had our home study report in hand by the first week of November.  It is now the first week of December, and we still do not have it.  We've completed everything we can at this point, and cannot move forward in our process without this report.  That means that an extra month has passed by, without really getting anywhere in this process (or so it seems).  That is a tough pill to swallow.  That means that we will wait one more month before seeing their precious face, learning their age or their gender, and ultimately, that a child will wait without a family for one more month.
(sidenote:  I have been promised that the report will be ready for pickup on Tuesday- hallelujah!)

However, when I start looking at the glass half full, November was not a month wasted.  We started a puzzle fundraiser and through that have raised the cost of our immigration approval (due the day our homestudy is ready) and have raised some of the funds for home study cost itself.  We had a super generous friend host another fundraiser (a Thirty One sale) for us, that will also bless us financially and also got us some great travel gear for our trip,  some storage options for our child's bedroom, and an adorable diaper/daycare bag for when we get home-all for free!.
We had one extra month (and 4 paychecks) to continue paying down on some of our debt and also save up money for our fees and travel costs.

The thing about time that I always seem to forget, is that you can't get it back.  So if something isn't going my way, or time is passing the way I think it should... I need to find other ways to spend my time that is still worthwhile.  I need to find ways to live in love instead of worry.  James and I will only be a party of 2 for a "few" more months.... we should be making the most of these moments, enjoying our peaceful, quiet evenings while they last, because I know there will be plenty of exhausted, stressed out times as parents that we will long for just-the-two-of-us time.  We should be getting (the cheap/free) home repairs done while we have the time to do them.  We should be applying for grants, reading up on attachment, and so many other productive ways to ready ourselves for parenthood.

So here I go...  I'm going to try my best to push the reset button in my mind and heart and try to regain my patience, grace, and trust.  It's time to hold myself accountable to the name of my blog and the phrase on my t-shirt: Worry Less, Love More.    We are only in the beginning of many long months of waiting, waiting, waiting.  With each step we take in the process, a new wait will begin.

I am going to list my worries, because I think it's important to name our struggles. I think that naming struggles, and owning them, is the first step in letting go of them.  So here I go.

-I worry that our home study report will be rejected by China
-I worry that we won't sell enough puzzle pieces and I'll have to do another fundraiser
-I worry that we won't get our dossier completed before some of our documents expire and we'll have to start all over again
-I worry that we won't get our dossier to China before they shut down for the Chinese New Year, and that will cause even more delays and waiting
-I worry that we will have a hard time being matched with a child that feels right for our family
-I worry about medical bills when we return home
-I worry about having to send our child to daycare and if that will interrupt our bonding with him/her
-I worry about policy changes affecting our paperwork process
-I worry our documents will be lost in the mail at some point and we'll have to start from the beginning
-I worry I will spend a lot of time applying for grants and it won't be worth my while

Ok, I've named them.  Some of these are silly, ridiculous things to worry about... but isn't that what worry is?  SILLY.  I believe in a God who cures disease, who raised his Son from the dead, who created THE EARTH... and I'm worried about paper?   If God has called me to adopt, He will see me through this.  He will provide the funding (and guide us in our saving, fundraising, and grant-applying).  He WILL see this adoption through, according to HIS plan and HIS timeline.  I've been fighting with him over the reigns, and it's time to let go.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Puzzle Fundraiser Update

Tomorrow will mark one month since we began our puzzle piece fundraiser, and I want to say THANK YOU so much to everyone who has made this such a success!
To date, we have received sponsorships for 98 pieces, so we're almost 10% of the way to having the puzzle completed!

This puzzle has also raised $1,169 so far for our adoption costs!  I cannot tell you guys what a huge help this is, as we have over $2,000 in fees coming due within the next week or two, and then another $4,000-$5,000 before the end of the year.  Every single donation adds up quickly and each $5 puzzle piece is getting us one step closer to bringing our child home!

Here is what the front of the puzzle looks like currently:

My goal right now is to at least complete the big dragon.  I understand that we might not be able to complete the entire puzzle, so I figured it would be nicer to have the names spread out across the back rather than in just one corner, so every piece that gets sponsored for now is going to the dragon (unless it's a border piece sponsorship).

I'm not going to lie, I get a little teary-eyed every time I look at the back of the puzzle...  it is such a special thing to see the names of everyone who has played a part in helping us get our child home all together.  I look forward to the day when I can sit down with our child and explain who each person is and how we know each other.  I hope our child feels so loved and wanted seeing how many people cared about them before seeing their face or knowing their name.

Here is how the back of the puzzle looks today:

So once again, thank you to everyone who has contributed, and please know that your donations, big or small, have all made a BIG combined impact!

If you haven't yet sponsored any pieces but would like to, please see instructions on how to do so HERE.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!  I had no trouble coming up with plenty of things that we were thankful for this year!

One other thing that struck me this past weekend is how normally I would be so focused on finding deals online and out scrambling to get items checked off our Christmas lists, fighting the temptation not to buy things for ourselves just because they are on sale.  While it is a little bit of a bummer not to be buying gifts for friends and family, I am not missing the holiday shopping at all.  And I certainly don't feel like James or I are missing out one single bit.  We are so spoiled with having more possessions than we need, and the only thing our lives are missing is our child!  It's so easy to not go out and spend, spend, spend knowing that every dollar saved is one step closer to getting us to China!  Instead, it was so nice to have the weekend 100% focused on spending time with family, appreciating all of the blessings that are already in our lives.

Hopefully next year we'll be doing a combination of shopping for Christmas gifts for our child, while also teaching our child the true meaning of Holidays- spending time with family, appreciating all that we have, and finding ways to bless others out of the abundance in our lives.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Paperwork Progress (or lack thereof), Thirty-One Fundraiser, and Thoughts on Spending

I've been waiting to publish a new blog post until we had some good news regarding the progress of our "paper chase,"  but things are moving a little slowly in that department.
We turned in our homestudy paperwork to our social worker 2 1/2 weeks ago, hoping that we would have a draft of the report within a couple of days.  We are still yet to see that draft, but I've been told it would be here this weekend, so I'm doing my best to remain patient.
I know in my heart that things will all happen according to God's perfect plan for this adoption, and that I shouldn't get myself so worked up about timelines, but its hard not to when you know that with each day that passes, your child is without a family and a home.  I need to trust that God will care for our child until we are able to, and let go of my anxiety.
Today we will take the last few documents we have to be notarized and certified, and will likely try to get some photos printed as well, as we have to send in sets of photos with out dossier, some of just the two of us, and some with us along with other people.

So that's where we stand.  Once our Home Study draft comes back to us, we'll begin a mad dash towards working on our goal of getting all of our dossier paperwork to China (DTC) by the end of the year.  At this point it's looking like we have a 50/50 shot of making that goal, but that doesn't mean that I'll give up on it.  

That means we still have to:
-get our 11 docs we have certified authenticated, which means sending them all to D.C. to pass through the US Embassy and the Chinese Consulate 
-once those docs are authenticated they  can be sent to our agency to go in our Dossier
-review our Home Study draft for accuracy when we get it back
-let our Home Study (HS) agency know it's good to go
- HS agency will print documents, have them notarized
-we will have home study certified and authenticated
-they will send to our placing agency (CCAI) 
-we will also send a copy in with our I-800A application to immigration
-we will receive our fingerprinting appointment and go to be fingerprinted
-receive our I-800A approval notice, get that notarized/certified/authenticated
-overnight that to CCAI as it will be the final piece in our dossier
-Once they have all of the 13 documents and supporting docs that make up our dossier, CCAI will review them, translate them, and ship them to China

Pretty hefty goal to have all of that happen in just 5-6 weeks, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to give up just yet....  we will do our best, and if it doesn't all come together by 12/31, then we'll know it just wasn't meant to be.

Puzzle Update:
Our puzzle piece fundraiser is off to a great start!  It's hard to know how much to advertise the event vs. just letting things happen as they will.  I have noticed that with each post I do on Facebook it seems to spur one or two additional sponsorship each time, so I'm trying to just limit myself to one post every 2-3 days.  I hope people are enjoying seeing the puzzle progress along. Here's an image of where the puzzle stood as of a couple of days ago.  We still have over 900 pieces to go, but we've made some great progress so far!

Thirty-One Fundraiser

One huge blessing that has come our way recently is that a friend of ours who is a sales consultant for Thirty-One reached out to us and offered to do a party for us, in which she would donate all of her earnings to our adoption fund.  I was nervous to do this at the same time as our puzzle piece fundraiser for fear that people would think we asking too much.  In the end, I decided I should never turn down an offer of support, and that if we were going to do a sale, the best time to do it would be now so that people could get some of their Holiday Shopping taken care of, all while supporting a great cause.  I am so glad we said yes!  This event is turning out to be a great help to us, and will also allow us to get quite a few travel bags that we can use for our trip to China for FREE! :)  It was also nice to have a little get together in our home, and spend some time with some friends I just don't see nearly enough of.
Our sale is winding down, and orders need to be placed by midnight tomorrow night (11/22), but if you'd like to take a peak, here is the link:

Here is the customer special for this month, along with some great bundling ideas making use of the special:

Thoughts On Spending:
In the meantime, while we wait for the Home Study draft,I'm keeping myself busy with Christmas cards (almost all of them have been mailed out... woo hoo!), thank you cards, and will begin working on grant applications this weekend so that once our home study application is done we can pop those in the mail!  
We will have about $7,500 in fees to pay before our Dossier can be sent to China, and then another big chunk (around $4,000) before we can receive our referral for a child, so we're doing everything we can to save whatever money we can, and I will be applying for a lot of grants.
The good news is, we now have enough points saved up on one of our credit cards to pay for at least half of our hotel stays in China, and James found a great deal online where if we put our next two big fees on this other new card, we should be able to get at least one of our plane tickets paid for in points.  Every little bit is going to help in the end!
One thing I thought about last night is that even though I'm able to save hundreds of dollars each month, I don't really feel like we're missing out on anything.  Sure, it would be nice to be able to eat out more often, but I keep asking myself what else I would be spending that money on if I wasn't saving for this adoption.  I realized how many things I can convince myself that I "need" just because I have the ability to purchase them (new clothes, items for the home, special treats, electronics, etc).  Right now I'm not feeling for need of anything (ok, the dream of a hot tub is still here, but that's just never going to go away)-  I'm aware that we have WAY more than we will ever need, and it's actually quite freeing to just commit to not buying anything other than food and essentials.  Once I stopped looking at the sale ads every week, and told myself NO, I realized that it's really not that hard to just start appreciating the things we do have instead of constantly searching for more, more, more.
One sort of funny thing that happened recently is that while we were in Costco I noticed they had some REALLY nice winter boots for around $40.  Now the boots that I have are working fine, but they soles are getting a little worn, so I have to wear these special gripper things on them so that I don't slip and fall on the ice.  They are still super warm, and are in good shape, but I've been wearing them for about 5 or 6 winters now so I know I've gotten my money's worth.  The first time I saw the Costco boots I stood firm and just said "no, Kristen, you don't need those, you can wear yours another year or two and just be thankful you have warm boots at all".  The second time I saw them, it was more like "weeeell, it's only $40, and it could save you a $100 co-pay if you slip and fall on the ice again and need to go to the ER, and what if your boots give out on you (not likely) and then you have to buy some last minute and spend more than $40... NO YOU DON'T NEED THEM... KEEP WALKING".  Then the third time I saw them, there was only one pair left in my size and of course I just lost all self-control.  I figured I would buy them, set them aside for emergencies only, and if I could make it through the winter without wearing them, I'd just return them and get my money back. (you see how my mind works?  tricky, huh?).  Well, low and behold... the boots didn't fit right, they weren't comfortable, and they just weren't going to work for me!  I was so RELIEVED!   No more temptation!  James and I laughed so hard on the way home about how much time I had spend deliberating over one stupid purchase, and it would have been solved the very first day if I would have just tried them on.
Lesson learned?  Yes, my boots are totally fine (better than whatever my child has, I'm sure) and I will wear them this winter and be GLAD for them.  And I will no longer allow myself to go through the middle aisles at Costco...  It's necessity aisles only from here on out!

It is going to be hard for me to skip out on all of the Christmas shopping this year, just because I truly enjoy giving gifts, and I do enjoy searching for bargains and joining in on the Holiday Shopping. I also know that giving our family the gift of a grandson, nephew/niece, cousin, etc means more to anyone than whatever electric blanket, pot or pan, or sheet set could ever mean though, so that will get me through.  We are excited to do some small homemade gifts for our closest relatives and will enjoy the extra time together we will get to spend preparing those items.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Puzzle Piece Fundraiser

Would You Like to be a “Piece” of our Adoption Story?

To help cover the costs of our Adoption Journey, we are doing a Puzzle Fundraiser

Here’s how it works:
1.      We have purchased a 1,000 piece brightly colored jigsaw puzzle with a colorful Chinese New Year’s theme picture (see picture below)
2.     We are offering friends and family the chance to “sponsor” puzzle pieces by providing a donation in the amount of your choosing         ($1.00 minimum)
Suggested Donations:
      -Border Piece: $25
-Inner Piece $5

*Pieces can also be sponsored in groups, with one piece for each family member*

3.     To purchase one or more puzzle pieces, you can:
a.     Mail a check or money order- (please contact me directly for mailing address)
b.     Use the “Send Money to Friends and Family” option in PayPal
·  Our account is linked to:
·  Please choose the “add a note” option at payout to indicate which names should be written on the puzzle piece(s).
c.       Pay by debit/credit card online at: 

d.  EXCITING NEW OPTION!  Tax-Deductible donations can be made to our LifeSong for Orphans page at :  (please note, a small processing fee is charged so if you are not interested in the tax deduction options A-C are better choices)

*** Please note that options A. and B. are preferred, as they do not incur processing fees***

4.     Once we have received funds for your sponsorship we will write your name(s) on the back of the puzzle piece(s).
5.     Follow along on the progress of our Puzzle Completion on Facebook or on our blog
6.     When the fundraiser is finished, we will put the puzzle together and hang it in a double-sided glass frame in our child’s bedroom so that he or she can always look and be reminded of who had a “piece” of bringing them home!

Here is the puzzle we will be completing

All funds raised will go towards the cost of our Home Study fee, our second Agency fee, and if possible, 3rd agency fee as well as travel costs.

THANK YOU for your consideration to give.  Even if you are unable to donate monetarily at this time, your prayers mean just as much to us!