We Accept!

We Accept!

We’ve been keeping a secret, but we had to work out some details before we could share anything further.

The first full week of March was a crazy and emotional week for us for so many different reasons. We had workers in and out of the house disrupting our normal routine. Our big girl had a stiff neck that was diagnosed as torticollis and then we later learned at the end of that week that it was actually strep throat. I was volunteering to work at a consignment sale for the last 3 days of the week. We were deep into planning an online fundraiser auction that was set to launch that coming weekend. Oh, and we had some pretty big, emotional anniversaries – Eisley’s birthday, our big girl’s family day, and the 1 year anniversary since Eisley had passed away. It was a full week and I didn’t plan to add anything more to that week.

Until we got THE CALL.

I was 2 minutes away from pulling into the parking lot where the consignment sale was being held and where I would be working for the next 4-5 hours. My phone rang and I noticed the phone number was our adoption agency. Initially, I didn’t think much about it because our caseworker was on vacation. I had pushed the thought of us getting a referral to the back corners of my mind. It seemed like the files of children available had slowed and I was trying to convince myself (and failing miserably) that I was okay with waiting for a while longer.

Shortly after answering the call, the caseworker said they had a file of a little girl and wondered if we would like to review the file. My fingers were shaking and tears began streaming down my face. When they told me more about the little girl, I had this peace about it and knew deep in my heart she was my daughter. For you see, I had “known” this little one for a few months. I had seen her photo months before on our agency’s social media page and had inquired about her. Our caseworker said she didn’t know anything about the file other than she was with one of their partnership orphanages. But she also clarified she had no idea when or even if that little girl’s file would come through and even if it did, our family may not be next in line to review the file. It would all depend on the order of families waiting. I asked a few other times, stared at her picture often, and prayed for her in the meantime, but then put it out of my mind for a while as we had a lot going on.

We sent her file to several doctors and asked them to review the file and follow-up with us. We requested an update from her orphanage. And last Thursday night, after receiving an encouraging report from the orphanage, we said YES. We said YES to this little girl, our soon-to-be daughter. We filed our paperwork the very next day. And yesterday we received word that China had approved us to adopt this precious, little girl! We have found our daughter!

Here is what we are able to tell you for now. First, a little detail that causes me to marvel every time I reflect on it. In early February of 2016, Eisley was going down to the operating room for a procedure. She was not stable. I was very, very concerned for her and wasn’t convinced that she would make it through that surgery. As I sat there in the waiting room, while grappling with the reality that I could lose my child that day, I had a stirring in my heart that if Eisley didn’t make it, I hoped we would one day adopt again. Looking back, it seems that our newest daughter was born within a week or two of that very day. When I think upon the timing of those things, tears spring to my eyes.

Second, for almost a year now I have prayed and asked God to bring a baby to my arms again. I didn’t have enough time with Eisley. My empty arms long to hold a little one again. In China, it isn’t common to get a referral for a child under the age of 12-18 months. This doesn’t happen very often these days. You do see some stories, but I would guess they aren’t the norm. Typically, you see children from 24 months – 13 years. I knew that and yet I hoped we might find a child as young as possible to fill those empty arms again. And guess what? She’s 13 months old. We got to see a video yesterday of her scooting across the floor. I’m an absolute puddle every time I watch that video.

We are beyond excited to make plans to go to China and bring home our daughter. I’d leave tomorrow if they allowed it. And that auction we were planning? I got lovingly kicked out by my sister so that I could focus on being with my family through the hard anniversary. But our amazing village was so generous and we were humbled by the generosity of everyone involved. Because we accepted that referral, we had a large payment due to our agency TODAY that I was able to send a check for without a deep inhale. That auction covered the needs of this payment so that we could accept that referral with no delay. To say that we are forever grateful doesn’t feel like enough, but truly we are.

 

 

 

A Tribute to Eisley

February is known for Valentine’s Day. My older daughter thinks Valentine’s Day is the best holiday because it’s about love. If you were to ask her what her favorite color is, she will promptly tell you red because it represents “love, hearts, and good luck (in China)”. February is also the month in which we recognize Congenital Heart Defect Awareness month. I recently wrote a post for a blog called “28 Days of Hearts“. This blog was created to bring awareness to children adopted from China who were born with CHD and hopefully encourage others who are considering adopting a child with a heart condition to see the faces of these beautiful children and not be initially scared away by a diagnosis.

Here is my contribution to the blog this month – my tribute to Eisley. I encourage you to read some of the many stories of some brave heart warriors.

Catching Up

It’s been a few weeks since I posted last and I wanted to catch you up on several things that have happened over the last several weeks and months.

The Housing Situation – If you have read one of the more recent posts, you know that we put a contract on a house shortly after Labor Day and listed our house for sale. We decluttered and cleaned, organized and got our house in the best shape that we could to make it market ready in a week’s time. We had a lot of showings. I loved having the house so clean and tidy, but at the same time grew tired of always having to maintain that look. We began to feel like we were living in a museum rather than a home. We had a lot of interest in the house, but no offers. Then around election time, we seemed to hit radio silence. Oddly enough, interest peaked around Thanksgiving with 6 showings in 6 days. We had 2 very interested parties, but neither of those resulted in a workable offer. The contract on the new house expired on Nov. 30th, we had a showing two days after and an offer came in the next day. We looked at all of our options and walked through several houses before finally deciding to reject the offer, take the house off the market, and stay put for a while. While we were hopeful that we would find a new place that would allow us to grow as a family, we also didn’t want to increase our mortgage at a time when we were taking a step into the uncertain world of freelance work. We do love our home, our street, our neighbors, and our neighborhood. And we’ll make it work for the immediate future. As difficult as the decision was, I’m proud of us for sticking to our original intention of not increasing our mortgage.

The Adoption Status – The Saturday after Thanksgiving we received our fingerprint approval from US Immigration Services. I took the last of our paperwork for certification through County Clerk and Secretary of State and then shipped the rest of our adoption paperwork to our agency. Hopefully in the next week, the last of our paperwork will be sent from DC to our agency. They will review and translate our paperwork and then hopefully we will reach the milestone of being DTC (or Dossier to China). Our dossier is a fancy word for a big stack of paperwork that represents months of appointments, running around to various offices, multiple meetings with our social worker, a CPA, 2 doctors, 3 letters of reference, police clearances, and more. Once our paperwork is logged into the system in China, they can officially begin to search for our child.  I’m hopeful that we’ll be logged in by the end of the year.

The Love Tree Fundraiser – Oh mercy. Where do I begin? I am humbled by the outpouring of support for our first fundraiser. In a month’s time, we have sold almost 150 ornaments! Many thanks to each one of you who have purchased ornaments. I love seeing pictures of them hanging on Christmas trees.

The Newest Addition(s) – Our oldest daughter has been asking for a kitten for some time now. We decided we couldn’t entertain that thought while our house was on the market. (But that didn’t stop me from looking!) I had been in touch with a girl I had met through Instagram who was looking for a home for some kittens. This past weekend, we drove out into the country, down a gravel drive, and further down an even smaller gravel drive and ended up in front of the most charming home. I went with the intention “just to look” at a kitten. When we found two kittens curled up together and they instantly started purring as we approached, I knew then I wasn’t coming home with just one. Truth be told, I may have wanted a kitten just as much as my daughter did. We came home with two grey tabbies who are the most loving, snuggly, funny creatures. And here’s the small world part to the story. The lovely people we got the kittens from? It turns out they are longtime friends of my brother. I was apprehensive about going through the holidays without our Eisley girl. I think our newest additions will help lighten the mood when things feel heavy. They have already brought many laughs and lots of smiles. My new favorite ritual is to curl up in bed and get some kitten snuggles before falling asleep. As my 5-year-old said, “All my dreams have come true, well, except for being a ballerina.” Without further ado, here are our kittens Gidget Fluffelpuff and Gizmodgery “Gizmo” Squigglefizz.

kittens

AdoptTogether – If you would like to further support our adoption and make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so HERE at our AdoptTogether profile. In only 5 years, this wonderful organization has helped over 2,300 families raise funds for their adoption expenses.

The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

The LOVE TREE – A Crafty Fundraiser

First, a quick update for those following our journey. We were fingerprinted in early November and found out yesterday that our fingerprints have been approved. We are currently waiting on a hardcopy of this approval. Once received, we will have it notarized and state certified and then send it along with several other documents to DC to be certified at the US Secretary of State level and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy. After we get these documents back, we can FINALLY send months of paperwork to our adoption agency. And then the unknown wait really begins to be matched with our child.

In the meantime, we are entering the phase where the adoption fees start rolling in. This is the part of adoption that is hard for me to discuss – the financial aspect. How do you put a price on the life of a child? Each one is priceless and absolutely worth it. But someone (or many people) did determine there was a price involved. The fees for adoption through China include fees paid to our social worker’s agency, fees paid to our adoption agency, fees paid to the US government for paperwork, and fees paid to the Chinese government as well as a required orphanage donation. If you have been wondering about the cost to adopt from China, it averages around $30-35,000. Woah. That number can be staggering if you look at it in its entirety. But when you look at the face of your child, that number melts away so quickly and you realize you would go to the ends of the earth and do whatever it takes to bring that child home. So you break that number down and you approach it in small hurdles. What is the saying about how you eat an elephant? (Side note – who would really want to eat an elephant?) You do as much as you can to whittle down that number. For us, we have been selling anything and everything we can find that isn’t necessary to daily function in our house. If there’s something you’ve been looking for, let me know as we more than likely are trying to sell it. Both of us have been working extra hours. We will be applying for grants in the coming months. And we more than likely will do some other fundraisers as well.

And here is where we introduce our first fundraiser. I’m calling it the Love Tree.

emsie-and-ornaments

Do you see that Christmas tree filled with ornaments? Or were you distracted by the beautiful girl beside it? I borrowed that tree from her and have decorated it with 100 different ornaments. And we need your help to UNDECORATE it in the coming weeks. I have spent the last several months working most evenings on handcrafting 10 different varieties of ornaments. Some of them have a connection to China and others have a connection to hearts – 2 themes that have been prominent in our lives the last few years. A lot of love and care has gone into making each ornament. We kindly ask that you consider purchasing an ornament (or several!) to adorn your Christmas tree or to give as gifts to friends and family.

You can purchase ornaments via my Etsy site HERE.

I’ll be posting pictures over the coming days and weeks of the progress we are making in emptying this tree of its ornaments.

And here’s a first look at all of the ornaments:

Thanks in advance for your support in our first fundraiser. We fully believe that it takes a village and we are so very grateful to those of you who have chosen to come alongside us in this adoption journey, walked with us through the last year of heartache and joys, and for those that have been with us long before adoption was even on our radar. Our wish for you this season is tremendous love – may you receive and give this love just as it has been given to us.

Hard Questions & an Update on Our Progress

Yesterday, my five-year-old was asked by another child, “So who is your real mom?” Coming from another child, I realized the innocence behind this question. My daughter quickly pointed to me and said, “She is!” The other child pressed further by asking a more pointed, “Yeah, but who is your REAL mom?” I stepped in to help answer the question appropriately by clarifying, “Do you mean, who is her birth mom?” Once we had that clarified, I had to answer honestly and say that we didn’t know who here birth mom and birth dad were. My daughter is a deep thinker and today she asked some further questions such as “Why did my birth mom have to give me up?” Tough questions to answer. I have read enough articles and books to know that I shouldn’t glamorize this story, especially since I don’t know the details. But since I am answering a five-year-old, I also try to handle it somewhat delicately given her age and maturity status.

Reflecting back on these conversations, I realize this is an example of the hard part of adoption. A part that is broken and cannot be fixed. A part of her story that is incomplete and that I can never fully give details to because I don’t know them. A part of history that I wish I could rewrite for her. And yet, it is part of her story. So we have these conversations. And I ponder the unanswered questions in my heart for each of my daughters.

So where are we in our current adoption process? We have just finished our home study. This is a lengthy document that has been compiled by our social worker after several months of face-to-face meetings and completing various documents. We have submitted our I-800a application to request a fingerprinting appointment through US Center for Immigration Services. We hope to be fingerprinted in the coming weeks. Once that has been completed, we will assemble all of our documents (after they have been certified by our Secretary of State and the US Secretary of State as well as authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in DC) that make up our DOSSIER. This is a fancy word that represents months and months of work on our part. This dossier will be submitted to China where we will be officially logged into their system where we begin the wait to be matched with our child. I’m hopeful that we can have our dossier on its way to China in December. That would be a nice birthday/Christmas present, don’t you agree?

We’ll continue to update as progress is made. Thanks for continuing to follow along.

What Does Adoption Mean to Me?

Note: I recently had the opportunity to submit a one-page essay in response to the question in the title. Here are my thoughts on that.

family-photo

 

When I read the question, “What does adoption mean to you?” I initially assumed that it would be easy to pound out a one-page response. Later, I sat down in front of my computer to type, but the words seemed to come out in a jumbled mess. How do you succinctly describe the complexity of adoption? That word encapsulates so many thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Adoption involves hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years of endless paperwork. You have entities scrutinizing every aspect of your life from your finances, health, the safety of your home, and even the intimacy of your relationship with your spouse. Just when you think you have finished, another round of paperwork shows up. Sometimes you have a picture of a precious child that motivates you to work harder and move faster. Other times, it is the thought of seeing that face, that mystery yet to be revealed that keeps you going.  And yet, you do all of it. Because of LOVE – love for a child that you have never met. Love for this precious one that will someday become part of your family. Love that keeps you going when the task seems impossible, the costs daunting, and the unknown overwhelming.

After all of this paperwork, you are granted permission to adopt and are able to travel. For us, it meant flying to the other side of the world – to a new land and culture, to unfamiliar sites, smells, and language. And yet, when your child enters the room as you stand there breathlessly waiting, all of those moments required to reach this point fade away. Because of a CHILD. A beautiful, deserving soul that stands bravely before you and is walking away from everything he or she has ever known to become part of your family. This moment represents a dichotomy between a past that involved disruption, loss, and heartache; and a future that promises love, redemption, and forever.

This isn’t to say that the story that unfolds will always be rosy and the path smooth. There are long nights, challenging days, endless doctors appointments, surgeries, and many unknowns. This story has a thread of brokenness that has been woven through it from early on and this thread continues to intertwine through the story of adoption. But along with this brokenness, there is a thread of love that is strong. It is a love that is deep-rooted with fierce determination, redemption, and hope for brighter days. Another thread that weaves through this story – one that was previously severed and now has the opportunity to be forever connected is FAMILY.

So what does adoption mean to me? It is a story that is interwoven with the elements of brokenness, loss, and heartache, but at the same time a story that is redeemed through family, a child, and love. I am thankful for a God who orchestrates all of this, gave us the first picture of adoption, and for the children that so richly blessed my life through adoption.

A Season of Change

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do
than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain

I took a break from blogging as I kept thinking my next post would be about finding our new normal. I guess I naively thought there was a short phase we would pass through and then arrive at a point where everything fell into place. In hindsight, there isn’t a destination that we will reach in this grief process and I don’t know that I’ll ever reach a point of feeling “normal” living without one of my children. Yes, we are doing the ordinary and mundane things of every day life – making waffles for breakfast, going for bike rides, swimming in the pool, etc., but often during these times I inevitably reflect on the missing piece that is no longer a part of our family dynamic.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you may have seen a post where I alluded to some exciting things happening in our lives. Things. Plural. Did you catch that? Never ones to rest in a dull moment, I guess we decided one exciting thing wasn’t enough for our already full plate.

My husband is an artist, a dreamer, and a visionary. Throughout our years of marriage, he has explored many endeavors. When I look back, both of us have individually tried different things along the way. Throughout, we have allowed each other to explore our interests. Whether it was his music, my races, his painting, my endeavors to go back to school, his writing, my cooking/canning/gardening, we have stood beside each other. For the last nine years, my husband has explored his interest in filmmaking. In more recent years, he has become passionate about pursuing this interest as a full-time endeavor. As he was the sole income-maker after bringing our first daughter home from China, we were both hesitant for him to make the jump into full-time freelance work. At some point in the last year, he and his business partners began working very hard to secure financing so they could make a feature film based on one of his scripts. While the timing didn’t fall into place exactly as they had initially hoped, looking back on the sequence of events, it probably worked out for the best, as we were able to be together as a family in our time of early grief. In August, my husband made the bold move and talked with his long-time employer explaining that he would need to take some time off indefinitely as he would be making a film in the coming months. And that’s where we find ourselves now.
CHANGE #1 – jumping into the freelance world.

On a different note, we purchased our first home together thirteen years ago. After looking at over forty homes in a specific area, we happened upon a man who was mowing the lawn beside a home we were checking out. He asked if we were hoping to buy a home, said they were getting ready to build on that property, and we could be involved from the ground up in picking out fixtures. Having looked at plenty of homes with old wiring, bad pluming, no closets, and realizing we weren’t going to land on an HGTV show as fixer-uppers EVER, we quickly signed on the line. We were fortunate to get into a beautiful, historic area of town that was on the upswing but hadn’t yet peaked. Recently, we have begun discussing the possibility of selling our home in hopes of paying down our mortgage, especially as the dream of going freelance began to develop into a plan. But I always hesitated. I was so invested in this house. We love the neighborhood, our little street, our friends and neighbors, our small little raised-bed gardens, and our home. We brought both of our girls home from China to this house. It just wasn’t the right time in my mind to sell. We tabled that discussion and said we would only consider if the perfect option opened up. And then I saw an open house and convinced my husband to take a look. It had almost everything on our checklist of things we were looking for including the possibility of paying down our mortgage. We put in an offer late last Thursday. We weren’t sure of our chances, but the seller accepted our offer! However, the it is contingent on the sale of our home, so we have spent the last five days frantically cleaning, organizing, decluttering, yard-selling, weeding, pruning, and more to get our house market ready. And here we are CHANGE #2 (which is still very much uncertain at this point) – selling our home and buying another. We are only relocating a few blocks away from our current home. We’ll still be able to take walks in our neighborhood and visit all the things we love about where we live now.

And last, but certainly not least, I thought this change was one that would be further down the road, although my heart was ready much sooner. It turns out my husband was on board sooner than I thought as well and it didn’t take too much to convince our big girl. CHANGE #3 – we are ADOPTING! Here’s a little backstory on that. Eisley became very sick in early February and went back to the operating room for a procedure. I wasn’t sure she would make it through that one. As I was sitting in our “waiting room”, I realized in that moment that if she didn’t make it through, I hoped we would someday be able to adopt again. I am so thankful to have a close relationship with my brother and sister and will never be able to fully convey to them how much their love and support means to me. While I can’t guarantee this kind of relationship for my child, I can at least give her a sibling and hope for the best. I was hopeful that she and Eisley would have that kind of relationship. Unfortunately, time never gave us that opportunity. She talks often about having a sibling and I desire that for her. We have started the process to adopt from China again. We are still in the midst of paperwork and we don’t yet know how long the process will be. But we are excited, and hopeful, and longing to meet our next child.

So there you have it. We have jokingly declared 2016 to be the year of change for us. Good changes. Bad changes. Hard changes. Beautiful changes.

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
-Robin Sharma