Monday, April 29, 2013

The End is in Sight

And by end, I mean the end of this first round of paperwork.  We sent a big package of paperwork to the agency in Colorado, and our counselor emailed me back on Friday to let me know that it all looks good!  She sent us one more paper to sign along with our statement for the remaining fees.  So at this point, we just need to get her our home study, the forms she sent us, the family and house pictures, our medical special needs list, and a few checks.

Once we get all that together, we'll still have a bit of waiting ahead of us.  As I understand it, the next big thing is submitting everything to US Immigrations so we can get clearance to adopt.  Once we have their approval, our dossier can be submitted to the Chinese government.  After it clears their system, we're given a Log-In Date (LID) and are eligible to be matched with a child.  Of course, we may be waiting a while for a child because of Luke's age--the youngest available child I've seen was 10 months, but most of the kids are in the 12-24 month range.  As I've mentioned before, we are looking for a child who's at least a year younger than Luke per the agency's recommendation and our family considerations.  :)  While we know God knows who our daughter is, we certainly don't know what His timing will be...just that it will be perfect.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another Update (and more pictures)

We have pretty much finished everything for our homestudy.  Our last interview was on Saturday, and it was pretty similar to the first one.  We briefly touched on discipline (much more briefly than I had prepared for!), and she wanted to know about Katie and Luke's personality.  Besides that, we just went through some bits of information here and there that she still needed to complete the report.  All I really need to do now is email her all our course certificates (finished the last one last night!), and then she can send a draft to our counselor in Colorado for review.  There may be some China-specific things that she wants in the homestudy, but they should be pretty minor.
We still need to complete the medical issues form and gather the pictures for our dossier.  Here are a few more options, although I'm not sure about these.

 This one is our Valentine's dinner--it's a nice family moment, but the looks on Luke and Katie's face are a little spacey. 

Again, I like this one since it shows us outside playing, but it's probably too far away.  I'll probably try to get one of Katie on her bike with David.  

We already have one of us reading, but I like this one with Grandma.  After all, our daughter is joining a pretty big family!  Plus, I love Katie's hair up like this. 

Monday, April 22, 2013


I suppose I'm a runner, in that I go running on a fairly regular basis.  I've been considering doing a 5k for a while...well, since last August when I started running.  David says I don't want to do it because I won't win (which I definitely wouldn't).  For some reason, he thinks I'm a perfectionist?  Anyway, the real reason (I think) is because I don't like running very much.  It's hard enough for me to step out my door and go running, much less DRIVE somewhere, try to find a parking spot, and jostle around with other people, JUST so I can run.
I had really hoped that running would get easier at some point, or maybe I'd like it more.  Don't get me wrong, it feels good after I've gone running, and I know I need to be exercising regularly.  But my absolute most favorite feeling is when I wake up the next day and remember that I don't have to go running.  I've come to realize that it probably won't get easier, and I probably won't get to liking it more, and I'm totally fine with being a strictly 30-min, I just run for the exercise kind of person.  So I'm not sure a 5k is in my future anymore, unless it starts down the street from us.
After all, I'm plenty busy running a different sort of that doesn't necessarily get easier, but one I'm liking a whole lot right now.  (Cue GT and the Halo Express, Hebrews 12:1-2)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Family Pictures

We've sent in most of the paperwork for our dossier, but we're still missing 8 family pictures.  We're supposed to have one with just David and me, at least one with the whole family, and then some that show our family personality.  I need some more 'flavor' ones with David, but here are a few possibilities:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Stave Off the Fear

Yesterday in my Bible study, we talked about moving past our fears into trust.  When you cover more or less the same topic in several different settings in a short amount of time, it's time to say "Ok, God, I hear it loud and clear now!"  Not that we can ever hear this message too much:  We have NOTHING to fear (or worry about) if we belong to God.  I was so encouraged by all the stories about how God's plan and timing became evident in these women's lives, and while there are always times when we don't understand why something happens, we can always trust that God is in control.  At the end, I read this passage to the group:

Ps. 27:1-6

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.  (NIV)

Of course it doesn't say we'll never experience enemies, foes, armies, or war.  It does say we can be confident in God.  During our Sunday School class on worry, we discussed finding Scripture passages to inspire us, passages that remind us of who God is and why we don't need to worry.  I think this one fits pretty well. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Biding Time

Although I don't cling to my plans as much as I used to, I still make them.  Along with that, I find myself marking time by various things.  For example, when I was in high school, I took french.  I planned to do a semester abroad in France when I was a sophomore in college, so that was a six year plan...six years of waiting, but eventually it happened.  I realized as I prepared to leave that the next thing I'd have to wait six years for was probably kids or something crazy like that (ended up being 8 years).  I watched the first Star Wars movie in the theater when I was in high school, several years before I met David, but I thought to myself, "by the time I watch the third Star Wars movie, I could be married!"  And I was.  :)  I found myself doing it when David was deployed with movie releases (I watched a lot of movies when he was gone).  It was nice to reach the point when the movie previews I saw would be released after David got home.
Of course it comes up every once in a while with our adoption.  I was talking about Easter with someone, and we realized that next Easter, we might be celebrating with 3 kids in our home.  And now I've added another, most accidentally...maybe Luke's curls will be back by the time she arrives.  His hair is getting curly like Katie's, and it was most obvious in the back because it was sooo long.  I finally got around to trimming it last night...with the 1/2 inch razor instead of the 1 inch.  I left it longer on top, but that little tail of curls is quite gone from the back of his head. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dossier and Homestudy Update

Back to the more prosaic things in life:  paperwork! interviews!  Yesterday we mailed off all our sensitive documents for our dossier.  We're just missing a few things now--some pictures of our family and house, our training certificates, and the medical special needs list (of course).  I wanted to send the bulk off before our home study is done in case there are any issues with the documents.  My stack of adoption papers is much smaller now!  I also spoke with our counselor at the adoption agency in CO, and I feel a little more informed about the medical list and how they'll use it.  It sounds like the factor that will contribute most to our wait is the age difference.  I think I mentioned that most children aren't available to match until they are at least a year old, so to maintain a year between Luke and our daughter, we probably won't even have referrals to consider until October. 
I also had my personal interview yesterday with our social worker.  It's a little strange to talk about such private details of your life with someone you just met a few weeks ago, but I know part of her job is to address any issues that might cause problems with the adoption or make things more challenging for us once she's home.  She's definitely evaluating us, but we see her more as teaching, guiding, and coaching us through the expected challenges that come with adoption.
We have one more interview this weekend for the home study--David will do his personal interview, and then we talk with her about parenting, discipline, and the kids.  We just received David's child abuse clearance from Indiana, so that might be all the paperwork for the home study.  Too bad we've lived in so many states!  Not that it really matters--like I said, it's probably going to be a long wait before we get any referrals.

Monday, April 15, 2013

You'll Just Know

Have you ever heard someone say that to you?  "Don't worry; when the time comes, you'll just know."  I've heard it about child-related things, but it's probably been said about many situations.  I've also heard it about matching with a child..."I just knew this was our daughter/son."  Talk about nebulous--I'm a scientist, and an analytical chemist to boot!  I like empirical evidence, not anecdotal non-measurables. 

The truth is, I doubt, sometimes, that it'll be that easy.  We'll just look at a picture or referral, and this gut feeling will tell us that this child is the one meant to join our family forever.  Of course for us it wouldn't be our guts, but probably something more like the Holy Spirit prompting us...again, talk about nebulous.  But for this doubt too, God has given me something to set against it, a time when I really did "just know."

Luke was a pretty happy baby, not given to bouts of wailing or crying.  But as you know, all babies cry, and sometimes, they just cry without anything being necessarily 'wrong.'  Luke was about eight months old when he had a long bout with diarrhea (about a week).  He was due for his checkup on Monday, so I figured as long as he was otherwise okay, I'd ask our doctor about it then.  The day before his appt, however, he woke up from his nap wailing.  Nothing seemed to work to calm him down, and by the time we'd tried everything we could think of, we thought he looked a little pale.  Of course it was Sunday, but our peds office has hours on the weekend (yay!).  I called to talk to the nurse, but about 5 minutes later (after consulting with David and my mom), I called them back for an appt.  They got us in right away, we ended up going to the ER, and several hours later they were telling me that if this simple procedure didn't work, Luke was heading into surgery.  It was an intussusception, for those of you who are curious, and the simple procedure fixed it without any complications.  Nine hours from start to finish, and we were home in time for bed.

I look back on this, and I still can't believe I just 'knew' that something was wrong.  He's cried since then (of course).  And many babies cry inconsolably for relatively long periods of time...I think I was on my way to the doctor within 30 minutes of him waking up.  I really did just know that something was terribly wrong, and he needed to see a doctor RIGHT AWAY.  So again, when I have those doubts about whether God will make things clear for us, I remember this event, and I remember He's done it before. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Confessions of a Recovering Worrier

Our church is studying the Sermon on the Mount, and last week we covered the passage about how we should not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-34).  We talked about a lot of things, but I especially appreciated the discussion about how to stave off the worry we inevitably feel.  We so often think about the future and what could go wrong that we forget to look back and see how God has provided for us (over and over again).  Of course God knew this would help--he tells us to remember the works he has done for us and to tell these stories to our children. 
I'm pretty sure I couldn't have done something like this (adopting) when David and I first got married.  I was the kind of person in college who had PLANS.  I had plans for my day, for my week, for the school year...I also had my five year plan and ten year plan figured out.  God slowly started chipping away at that attitude by introducing me to David.  You want to know what career is really hard for planning?  The military.  David was in ROTC, and he didn't know where he would even be stationed when he graduated, much less how long he'd be there.  Not very conducive to my 5 year plan, which involved going to graduate school for five years after college.  Also not conducive to my 10 year plan, which involved settling somewhere and teaching chemistry part-time for a small university.  I guess I was vocal enough about my plans that David wasn't sure I even wanted to date him, given his military commitment.  I quickly disabused him of that notion...but dating and eventually marrying him did put a kink in my plans.
I felt especially lost when we found out he was stationed in Arizona.  We had carefully chosen our top three choices to put us close to major universities so I could try for my PhD...and we got our 4th choice, out in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, miles from where I'd planned to be.  But wouldn't you know, God stationed us at one of the few bases where we could stay put for 4 years (the length of David's commitment), and he put us only 70 miles from one of the top 10 universities in my specific field.  Even though we were far from family, he provided us with dear friends who became like family to us.  The timing even worked out for David to get his masters while I was finishing my doctorate.  Of course, that led to him getting a job in New Mexico instead of heading back to the Midwest, but that's another story. 
At this point, I still wonder about the future--who doesn't?  But when I start wondering about all the unknowns, I try and remind myself of how all our 'unknowns' managed to work out for our good, and our happiness. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Special Needs

When we were investigating China and South Korea, we learned that the wait for 'healthy' children was pretty long for both of them (5-6 years for China), but the timeline for a child with special needs is much shorter.  We have an online class to take that outlines everything for the China program, so I'm trying to wait until we finish that before giving you the full run-down.  Briefly, right now for China they estimate about 6 months to get all the paperwork to China, and then once you match with a child, it's another 4-6 months before travel.  So we're talking a year from start to finish, assuming no major delays.

As part of our dossier, they gave us a long list of special needs (20+) and asked us to circle the ones we're willing to accept in our child.  I've heard from other people that this is the hardest part of the dossier, and I understand why now.  First, whatever we choose, it's very possible that our child will have either less serious or more serious needs than what is listed in her profile.  Malnutrition and neglect can both manifest as a special need or mask a more serious one.  And of course, within each condition, there's a spectrum of how seriously it can manifest.  Cerebal palsy sounds scary, but it could be mild enough that she can manage it with occupational/physical therapy.  Some of the conditions are considered treatable, like eczema or cleft lip/cleft palate, but something like hearing loss...she might be able to have surgery to fix it completely, or it might be so bad that we would all be learning sign language. 

Many thoughts run around in my head when I think about this.  If we had a biological child with any of these conditions, we'd have to figure it out and how to deal with it.  I know that God will give us the strength to handle whatever he chooses for us, and I know he's in control and already knows who our baby is and everything about her.  This weekend a few things happened that really drove that home, and I'll share some of them tomorrow.  But right now I'm looking at the list and thinking, how do we pick?  I've kind of been putting this off, but a) they want the list for our home study, and b) we'll probably be submitting everything by the end of this month anyway.  So it's really time to settle down and figure it out.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why China?

After Luke was born, we had a couple events occur that put the spotlight on adoption again.  We had a speaker visit our church who talked about adoption, and he left some books about adoption, one of which David picked up and started reading.  We also watched a family in our church begin the process of adopting a domestic newborn and end up adopting two newborns (not's a long story).  By the time we finished reading the book, we were both ready to talk about what kind of adoption we wanted to pursue.

Sort of as a caveat before I go through this...we certainly recognize that all children deserve a loving home and parents who care for them.  Deciding what kind of adoption to pursue is based on so many things, and there's no one type that's 'better,' just the adoption that's right for you.

There are basically two types of adoption--domestic (either newborn or older) or international.  We decided pretty quickly that domestic newborn wasn't the right one for us.  There are a lot of people waiting/wanting to adopt newborns.  We didn't want to join the list when there were so many children who were waiting for parents.  We considered doing an older domestic adoption, but with the age of our two kids (Katie had just turned 2 in February, and Luke was only 6 months old at the time) and wanting to maintain birth order, we weren't sure how long we'd have to wait.  We also weren't sure about becoming a foster family with such young kids at home (although in some states, you only have to register as a foster family to adopt, not actually work as a foster family first).  Truthfully, David and I were both drawn to international adoption from the beginning.  My grandfather was born in China, my dad grew up in Taiwan, my mom was born in India, and multiple siblings have spent time in China.  David lived in South Korea for three years, and his father actually served as an escort in the South Korean adoption program.  We both grew up surrounded by global influences, and we both have in-laws who are ethnic Chinese.  International adoption is more expensive, but God has blessed us with great jobs and the ability to save up the money we'll need.  Of course we still ran into the problem with young kids and maintaining birth order, but that just gave us more time to save money.  

We started looking at countries and quickly focused our choices down to South Korea and China.  We initially chose South Korea, but because they are only matching boys (we'd like to request a girl this time), we turned to the China Special Needs program.  

In way of a personal update, turns out an ear infection is causing the pressure/pain.  David has one as well (which is why I went in to get checked), and we're both into the coughing/sinus stage.  We're also both praying the kids won't pick this up; I can't believe they haven't yet, but I'm totally fine with it skipping them.  To add insult to injury, a week after Katie and Luke finished their bout, I finally have pink eye.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Post-Home Visit

I opened this draft up last night to begin writing, and then realized I was kidding myself.  The latest manifestation of my cold is a blocked Eustachian tube, and it was pretty painful last night.  I tried a neti pot, hot shower, steam bowl, decongestant, warm washcloth, earwax removal treatment, went running (David's suggestion), and even ate some hummus generously laced with buffalo sauce.  Nothing seemed to work, but thankfully the pain subsided enough for me to fall asleep.  It's still blocked this morning (it feels/sounds like I'm underwater), but it's not painful at all.

Our first home visit went great!  My hero husband set aside all his Saturday projects and cleaned the whole house yesterday.  I didn't get as much tidying done as I'd hoped, but I don't think she noticed.

Our case worker (social worker? agency worker?) started by asking some biographical questions about our siblings and parents, then moved on to why we are adopting from China.  We went through how we met, got married, where we lived, what we thought of each other, what our typical week was like, what we thought about our jobs, and a few things from our childhood.  We did write out a long self-assessment that went over a lot of similar questions, but I think she has some specific things that she's supposed to cover in a home study for China.  She also look at the house and checked a number of things that are on the state requirements list.  As far as I know, we passed everything in that regard, but if not, she'll let us know so we can fix it for the next visit.  We have one more individual interview each, then one more joint one...I think the most exciting thing was that she hoped to finish the home study by the end of the month. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Our first home visit

As part of our dossier, we have to do a homestudy.  Basically a local agency gives us all sorts of paperwork to fill out (including 15 pages of questions ranging from childhood to marriage to parenting to adoption).  After the paperwork is all done, a social worker comes to our house to do some interviews and check out our place.  If birth parents had to do all this work to have a baby, there'd be a lot fewer kids in this world.

Our first interview is this Sunday, and while I probably should have asked to be sure, I'm guessing she'll want a tour of the house.  I was all geared up to do a thorough cleaning (starting on Friday)...until I got hit with the nasty, awful viral (of course!) cold of some sort.  I was totally wiped out on Thursday (my fever hit 101.7) and even ended up calling David home early.  Thankfully this Friday was his day off, and I was feeling a little better yesterday, but we haven't made quite as much progress on the house as I'd planned.  Which means she'll probably get a much better picture of the reality that is our house, rather than the scrubbed up version.  It's probably better that way anyway. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Adopt?

So, why adopt?  It's a huge question with a pretty multi-faceted answer...but here's the short(er) version.  

I think adoption was always on the radar for me, but I remember a specific incident after David and I had been married for a few years. I was driving home from work (a 70 mile commute) and tuned in to a Christian radio station where they were discussing adoption. I can’t remember the specifics of the program, but I do remember feeling a deep desire to adopt someday.  David and I talked about it then, and he told me that he’d always been open to adoption as well.  We still had a ways before thinking about kids, so it didn’t really come up again until after graduate school, when we started trying to get pregnant. I remember wanting to talk about how many biological and how many adopted kids we’d have.  David, being the practical person that he is, figured we should just start with getting pregnant.  :)  During our second pregnancy, we discussed it more and decided that we would probably try to adopt next.  Before we even got pregnant, I kind of had 3 biological kids in mind before looking at adopting, but I also kind of wanted to adopt two kids.  Between scaling back our plans of having 5-6 kids and having two not-so-easy pregnancies, we were ready to talk about it while I was pregnant with Luke.  Of course, we didn't know he was Luke at the time, but when he came out a boy (giving us one of each), I kind of took that as a sign that we were on the right path.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Catching Up

I've been trying to think about what I'd like to share in the way of catching people up--here is what has come to mind:

--the road map (what happens between now and bringing our baby home)
--why adopt/why China
--how we're feeling right now
--a few stories about what we've done so far

Is there anything else you want to know?  Of course my hope is to update the blog at least once a week with where we are, things we've learned, what we're feeling, etc., but I already feel a little behind.

I'm actually feeling a little trepidation about starting this blog again.  As you can see, my last post (before this morning) was before Katie was born!  We are so excited about doing this that we want everyone to know how it's going, and of course we would appreciate your prayers.  I also know that God is guiding this adoption, and I want a venue to share about how we see him work through this process. 

Feel free to share this blog with anyone else you know who might be interested.  We've really appreciated reading other adoption blogs as we begin our process.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God Provides

Apparently, the Chinese government likes to see paperwork that has been notarized.  Most of the items for our dossier have to be notarized, so we've been getting familiar with the ins and outs of the notary public service.  Did you know that most banks have notaries and will usually do it for free (even if you aren't a member)?  Most of the items are pretty easy:  fill out/type out paperwork, go to the bank, sign it in front of the notary.

Some of them are a little more challenging, because it's not our signature that has to be notarized.  We each need a notarized letter of employment, but thankfully we both work at places that have notaries around.  The physical exam paperwork has to be signed and notarized by our doctor...and it's been a bit of a trial to obtain. 

We tried our regular we've had for about two years, and one that I wasn't super fond of.  Perhaps I've been spoiled by my (ER doc) sister's over-the-phone triage where she patiently explains all the things she thinks it could be, why she chose the diagnosis she did, and what to look for in case she's not right.  Our doctor was more of a 'this must be wrong, here's your treatment' kind of guy.  Plus his nurse is super strict about showing up for appts 15 minutes early.  So when I a) called about a notary and the front desk basically asked if we were planning to bring one to the appointment and b) discovered he'd cut his hours way back and we wouldn't even get in for 6 weeks, we started looking for a new doctor.  Bleh.  We tried to get some recommendations, but between not taking new patients or not taking our insurance, I wasn't having much luck.  I finally just called the first one listed on our insurance website and made the appt.  And God really provided for us!  Our new doctor is very nice, she was able to do the physical at the new patient appt, and she's very familiar with the notary public at her bank.  We're still waiting for the paperwork back, but I guess that's a good sign.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's No Joke

(So, I was going to write this post yesterday for April Fool's Day.  Here is another example of why blogging isn't my strong suit.)

Yesterday was April 1, the day we had planned to begin our journey.  Our adoption journey, that is.  The 'no joke' part is that we're actually about 2 months into the process.  Here's the timeline so far:

Mid-June, 2012:  Send in a preliminary packet to AAC (our agency in Colorado).  Find out that it's really too early to start the adoption process.*

2/5/13:  Email our wonderful counselor at AAC to find out if teaching this fall would cause any problems.  Check to see if we should still wait till April 1...and hear "why not start now!"

2/14/13:  Send off our formal application packet to AAC.  Start looking through the MOUNTAIN of paperwork for our dossier.**

2/22/13:  Submit our application for a homestudy.***

3/25/13:  Submit our completed homestudy package.  And...get more paperwork.  :)

*We're supposed to have at least a year gap between Luke and our next child (we're going to request a girl).  The way the adoption process works with China, we probably won't be able to match with her until she's about a year old.  We've been told 6 months for the paperwork in order to match, so we were shooting to start when Luke was 18 months old.
**The "dossier" is all the paperwork that gets submitted to the Chinese government.  We're getting very familiar with the notary public.
***Our homestudy is part of the dossier, but it's done by an agency here in town.  There's a lot of paperwork for that too, plus some interviews/home visits.

When I do talk to people about the adoption, it's about how many different pieces of papers we have to collect.  We do have our first interview for our homestudy scheduled for this Sunday (something different!), and we've also been taking classes online about adoption.

I'll be sharing more stories this week (in an effort to catch everyone up), but something everyone has told us is to prepare for delays and lots of waiting.  So don't expect this pace or length of posting for the long term!