Thursday, December 31, 2015

The First Four Days

Enough sleep does wonders for a trip.  Between handling our sleep on the plane better and Titus doing so well at night, it's been a lot more fun this trip.  So much fun that I'm pretty far behind on our days.

Day 1, Dec. 23
We landed in Shanghai about an hour late, but we made it to our connecting flight with just enough time to spare.  Our guide got us checked into the Shangri-La and we headed to bed.

Day 2, Dec 24
Las time we took a few days to acclimate before we met Liz.  This time, some of the offices are closed on Jan 1, so we had to change our itinerary.  Although it made our trip two days longer, the upside is that we got Titus three days early, and before Christmas!  God blessed us both with a good nights sleep, and at 10:30, we met Titus.  He seemed very chill and smiled for us right away.  The director brought him to the hotel, so she wasn't able to answer a lot of questions.  We went back up to the room to complete paperwork, and then the guide offered to go purchase water and formula while we fed him.  The one note on the orphanage paperwork said "good sleeper" and boy, were they right.  He went right to sleep after eating and slept until we had to go for more paperwork.  A whirlwind of offices later, we were officially parents of one adorable, happy little boy.


First time in my arms!


Katie picked out some toys for Titus--the ball was a big hit.  


Big smile for Daddy

Day 3, Dec. 25

Merry Christmas!  We spent the morning at Teng Wan pavilion, a famous landmark in Jiangxi province. They had a lot of beautiful porcelain paintings, and our guide shared a lot of the history and culture about the pavilion.  We stopped by a restaurant that served braised meat and enjoyed our first dumplings of the trip.  We headed back to the room for nap time and ended up just ordering room service for dinner.  The noodles were recommended by another family who had been to nanchang, and we ended up ordering them a few times during our visit.

The smog was not too bad, but on cloudy days you could hardly see across the river.


 Nanchang is known for its porcelain--here is a painting done on porcelain tiles.


Outside the Teng Wan Pavilion
Day 4, Dec 26

Our guide took us to a beautiful park in the morning...I could definitely get used to the kind of parks they have here.  Even in December there was a lot of greenery and even flowers.  We were also able to stop by a shop that sold porcelain and chose some tea cups for the kids.  Sadly, by this point David and I both had raging colds.  We had a quiet afternoon while Titus napped, then tried to walk around the area a little bit.  I was pretty wiped out, though, so we headed back and just ate at the hotel restaurant.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Together at last



The official told us that when the nannies said he was going to see mama and baba, he smiled and clapped.  Titus is already laughing and playing with us...thank you so much for all the prayers about his transition!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Songs of the Season

This is my last post before closing the blog.  My security expert doesn't want me posting about dates, etc.  If you want to follow us on our journey, I'll be happy to add you to the private list--I just need your email.  

The temptation toward avian tendencies at this point in the game is sometimes overwhelming.*  I alternate between trying to complete single thing that has ever been on my mental list and wishing we had left yesterday.  It's been a little strange to have all this happen around Christmas, but it's really helped to have all these lovely songs to listen to.

I'm firmly ensconced in the "no Christmas music till after Thanksgiving" camp, and I love how the songs are so tied to all my Christmas memories.  I've been listening to Michael W. Smith's "Christmas" for a long time now.  As we face another huge change in our life, it's comforting to remember that God has brought me through a lot of Christmases, and it's not like that's going to change. 

But I also appreciate the reminder of how, long ago, there was another baby boy who was longed for, who was awaited by his mother, and that his arrival heralded the greatest upheaval the world has ever known.  My favorite songs also remind me of why he came--to fulfill the promise, to change the world, and to free us forever.






*Sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich or running around like a chicken with her head cut off.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Feeding the Freezer

Thanksgiving week saw a flurry (perhaps even a blizzard) of cooking and freezer stocking, and it has continued through this week as well.  It's so much easier in the winter, when soups are appreciated by the whole family, and having so much turkey on hand means I HAVE to do something with it before it spoils.  Sadly, endless hot turkey sandwiches cannot be on the menu.  I'm also working on ham (black bean soup), pork shoulder (korean and mexican), and another batch of spaghetti (Luke's and my favorite meal).

This may seem like overkill, especially since so many people have offered to bring us meals when we return.  Given our experience with Liz, however, it's not.  Trust me.  We'll take all the meals you want to bring.  It took about 5 months before I could easily cook in the kitchen when Liz was awake.  She was so sensitive to food, if she saw it, she would start crying because it wasn't in her mouth.  Well, we had maybe a 30 second window to serve it to her.  I would not wake her up in the morning until I had her breakfast plated.  Even after she'd had a meal, she'd start crying when she saw the fruit I was cutting up because it wasn't in her mouth.  Maybe Titus won't be like that (I just saw a post from another family who can't find anything their daughter likes to eat!), but I'd rather be prepared. 

If only other things were as easy to stockpile, like sleep and energy, or grace and patience.  There's only so much training in those things before the rubber hits the road and you get to put it into practice...and it's quickly coming near! 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Day



Every year we write out what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.  Of course, given my family, it's not as easy as it sounds.  We have to make everything fit in our acrostic...it's definitely interesting to hear what everyone comes up with for two "I" words.  Of course there are many, many things to be thankful for, but here are the highlights, fit to "Thanksgiving Day."

The Art of Celebration by Rend Collective
Hearing Lizzie talk and laugh
Another year with Susie near
Nights out with new friends and old
Katie learning new things
Symphony of chemistry*
God’s voice and direction
Incredible husband who is perfect for me
Voyages, safe and fun
Imbibing coffee every day
New son and nephew
God’s family around us (the church)

Delicious preserved foods
A little boy who loves to read (Luke)
Yarn relaxation


 *I remember my mom saying people would ask my dad if he ever got tired of teaching the same chemistry classes every year.  If anyone ever asked me that question, I'd respond by asking if they think musicians get tired of playing Beethoven's 5th symphony.  Every time I teach through the chapter on electron configuration, I'm amazed again at the incredible beauty and order in atomic structure.  Teaching chemistry is like rehearsing the symphony God has written into creation. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pictures!

We got new pictures of Titus!  Yes, I knit that hat...our agency sent a few people over to visit the partner orphanages, and they were able to deliver some care packages to kids who are waiting.  We sent the hat and a little photo album with pictures of us.  It'll be interesting to see if he recognizes us, or if it helps with the transition at all.   He is 16 months in the picture.


 I realized it's been a very long time since I included pictures of the others--we've had birthdays, lost teeth, and many other things happen during my "I'm not blogging much" phase:
 
 

First lost tooth!  We started homeschooling this summer, and it's been so much fun watching her learn to read.  I hesitate to say teach, since I just tell her what the sounds are and off she goes.  Katie is running in her first 5K on Thanksgiving Day.  It's also a fundraiser for New Mexico Child Advocacy Network, so she gathered up her courage and did some fundraising as well. 


Luke requested a dinosaur cake for his birthday--it's hard to believe he's four now!    He started preschool in November and has enjoyed that a lot.  He's a wonderful playmate to both Katie and Liz, but I love that his favorite thing to do is sit on the couch and look at books.


The plan was for Luke and Liz to start preschool when Titus came home, but then we discovered the whole potty-training thing.  Although Luke started preschool in November to help encourage Liz, she has done quite well in that department!  We hear a lot of "Mama, it's 'spoon,' not 'poon'" since she started speech therapy, and it's exciting to think that someday I'll be able to understand every word she says. 


 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The List

TA:  Check!
Consulate date:  Check!
Tickets:  Check!

The countdown has begun.  No dates on the blog (sorry), but it's getting close.  And thankfully, some of the big things on my plate are winding down as well.  Tomorrow we will begin handing out the Jesse Tree project to families, and my class only has three weeks left.  I'm beginning to think about what all I want to finish before we leave for China.  Yikes!  There's really just one thing on my must-do list:  The blanket.

Over a year ago, I began knitting a blanket with some of the sock yarn scraps that I've collected.  It's so beautiful that I decided to finish it up for Titus.  It only took me about a year to get halfway through it, so of course, I ended up with about 8 weeks to finish it.  :)  It's a little smaller than I planned, but out of 121 squares, I have only 36 left.






I ended up finishing Liz's blanket on the train to Guangzhou, but with all those little pieces, I can't really be hauling Titus' blanket around China trying to finish at the last minute. 

I have a few other things I'd like to tackle, like our freezer stock...it took at least 3 months before I could really cook in the kitchen when Liz was around.  I'd like to sort through our toys and get rid of all the detritus that's accumulated in the bottom of their bins...the less cleaning, the better!  And speaking of cleaning, it's been a low priority this semester, so it'd be nice to do a thorough deep clean on the house before things get even more crazy.  Mostly, though, I'm focusing on not getting too stressed and trying to enjoy the holidays before we leave. 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Still Waiting

Although not ideal, mornings seem to be the best time to blog.  It's not ideal because morning is also a) the best time to do everything else, and b) I am surrounded by loud little people.  Oh well. 

But every morning for the last week, when I've thought about writing, I've also thought to myself, "If I wait until 9AM (when our agency opens), maybe I can report that we've received TA!"  And every morning, 9AM has come and gone with no news.  It's an interesting dynamic to be on China time here in the US, because our TA will be (has been?) issued in the middle of the night for us.  It's the same dynamic that makes you sad when Friday rolls around (China offices are closed), and happy when it's Sunday night (they are open!). 


So maybe today we'll hear, since I've finally sat down to write.  :) 

I'm also hoping to get some new pictures (and maybe even video) of Titus.  I'm excited but also a tiny bit apprehensive about getting them.  When you do the training for adoption, there's a section on processing grief.  Although there is joy in creating a new family, adoption doesn't happen without loss first...loss of birth family, birth country, other things...it can be a lifelong process for adopted kids to fully process all that. 

But the training talks about some potential sources for grief on the side of adoptive parents too, like missing out on the first 18 months of your baby's life.  With Liz, I didn't feel that as much--maybe because we'd just experienced all the baby stuff with Luke (for the second time).  This time, though, I keep noticing all these babies in different stages and feeling really sad that I'm missing that stage with Titus.  I know he's grown (a lot, I hope!) since the last pictures and videos, but I think it'll be hard to see how much we've missed too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

He Knows

I like to listen to Christian radio in the car.  I don't have to worry about my kids hearing anything...strange, but my favorite part is when I hear songs that speak to my situation at the moment.  I think it's pretty obvious if you read through my blog that I hear God speak to me a lot through songs, and the fun part about the radio is that I don't know what's coming next.

After writing the last blog post, I was reminded of a song I'd heard a few weeks ago on the radio, and I looked up the lyrics.  It's by David Crowder, and the end of the chorus says, "Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal."  When I first heard it, I thought it was a beautiful song, but the truth is, I'm not in heaven, and there is a lot of sorrow relating to adoption here on this earth, right now.  And instead of finding it comforting, I felt a little sad (and maybe even bitter) that I still had to deal with all this sorrow right now.

Fast forward a week, and I'm driving home, listening to the radio...and this song comes on.  And just to make sure I got the message, after I listened to it, I switched to another station and it was playing again. It's a good reminder that God, the compassionate and gracious One, completely understands the sorrow I feel...about adoption, about missing out on Titus as a baby, about not having him here with me.  God understands more than I ever will.   




Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is it Christmas yet?

The weather here in NM is finally starting to reflect the calendar just a tiny bit.  Our leaves are starting to change, and while it's still in the 70's by the afternoon, the mornings have been delightfully cool.  I've actually worn sweaters!  Winter is my favorite time of year--soups, sweaters, fires--but fall would be my next favorite.  I mean, who doesn't love red leaves?

I grew up in Illinois, and my internal calendar still says that leaves should start changing some time in September.  The first 'fall' I had in AZ, I was shocked to find that Christmas arrived when the weather was still warm.  In my head, it still felt like September!  I've gotten a little better (12 years in the southwest now, and at least NM has four seasons), but this year has been particularly late with the cold weather. 

So perhaps it's the change in weather that has marked a change in my attitude toward this adoption.  I take back everything I said about it being calmer/more relaxed/less pressured.  The last week has been a roller coaster of wishing we were leaving tomorrow and wondering what I should be doing in the time I have left.  I'm doing so much better this time in terms of not stressing mentally about some arbitrary list of 'must get done,' but communication between my head and the chemicals in my body isn't always great.  At Bible study this week, my prayer request was that I'd sleep well between now and Christmas.  :)

The truth is, there is an ebb and flow to the pain of being away from Titus, and it has flowed this past week.  The process of falling in love with a child that you have never touched, never held, never spoken to is an interesting one--part deliberate and part uncontrollable.  When we started the process, I would tell people I have four children--three here and one in China.  Before we matched with Titus, I would calculate how old my son might be, and of course we started praying right away for "little brother" with the kids.  I tried to do as much as I could to invite the bonding process to begin before we go to China.*

But by inviting that process to begin, you invite the pain of separation as well.  And it gets way harder when you have a picture, and a video.  You're not supposed to have to watch your son cry on a video halfway around the world.  And now instead of telling yourself you have a son, you feel it in your heart, because it hurts.  I wish we were leaving tomorrow.   



*Of course you have to remember that while you've had time to start the bonding process, your little one has not.  The odds are good that he or she will not fall in love at first sight.  This time we'll get to send a care package to Titus with pictures, so it'll be interesting to see if things are different because of that.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Art of Celebration

There was a time when I got in the habit of reviewing at the end of each day.  I would analyze what I accomplished, how the kids behaved, how I behaved, my energy level...the metrics are endless. By those metrics, some days were worth celebrating, and some days, not so much:

--My head pounding from equal measures of reining it in and blowing my top (all before 9 in the morning!).
--Every time I had turned around that morning, Luke and Liz had been at each the other's throat (probably because I tried to get too much done instead of spending time with them). 
--David came home to every single toy strewn across the floor. 

In truth, these are the little things…the results of a three-ring circus living at my house (soon to be four!) 

There are other days that are even harder to celebrate:  the day you get the phone call, the diagnosis, the news.  Earthquakes and fires and hurricanes.  Violence in the streets again.  Hearing Liz cry out my name during the night, and wishing I had been there to comfort her earlier; wondering why we live in a world where adoption is necessary.   

These evaluations colored my days—good days, bad days—and it was a struggle until I listened to my favorite CD again.  One of my favorite songs on it is Boldly I Approach, and this is what I figured out from listening to it:

I'm doing it all wrong.  (Surprise, surprise)  There is an art to celebration, and the art lies in choosing what to celebrate.  When I seek to celebrate myself and my accomplishments, or my kids and their accomplishments, guess what?  There will always be days with nothing to celebrate.  And if my celebrations depend on things ‘going well,’ what will I do when they don’t? 

But there is someone whose accomplishments are worth celebrating.  Someone who never fails to do what He set out to do.  The One who made the day good in the first place.

When we choose to celebrate all that God has done, we can celebrate every day from now through eternity. 

Now, these are the things I try to celebrate:
God has won the victory already.
His mercies are new every morning.
He loves me no matter what happens.
He has made me free from condemnation.
He has made an end to all my sin (even though some days it doesn't feel like it, it's still TRUE)
I stand blameless before Him through Jesus Christ.

These are the celebrations that carry us through our failures, the celebrations that comfort us during times of distress.  These are the celebrations we will continue in heaven, when we reach the shore.



This is the art of celebration
Knowing we're free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin
[x2]







Saturday, October 24, 2015

More progress

I feel like it's very rare these days to be in the position where you go out and check the mail every day, hoping for a letter (especially one from Homeland Security!).  Most of the time we know what's coming, because we are the ones who ordered it.  You may get surprise packages or letters now and then, but the anticipation is missing there too.  

We were waiting for our I-800 provisional approval letter, and it arrived in the mail this week!  Our next anticipated letter is the visa application approval for Titus.  After that comes Article 5 submission (in China at the US Consulate there), and then Travel Authorization is next.  Yikes!

It's been a little different this time around, though, because we really can't leave until I give my final on December 10.  When we were chasing papers with Liz, I think we hit every major holiday in China and the US between December and March.  This time, we've made great progress, but there is so much less pressure to (attempt) to move things along.  Unless we run into major snags, I think we may get TA with a couple weeks to spare!  

I'd still like to get a few things done around the house before Titus comes, but I think that's been a little different too.  Last time there was some expectation on my part that doing certain things (organizing, decluttering, etc.) would help me prepare for Liz's arrival.  I'm not sure it really helped that much, and things were still crazy for a while after she got home.  So while sorting through the books and toys might make things marginally less messy in January, I'm focusing on more important priorities right now. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Priorities

At the beginning of September, I started a project at church.  I still remember those fateful words, "I can probably take care of this week, and then I really should stop." 

Excuse me while I laugh my head off. 

Really, how good are you at 'stopping' in the middle of a project you created?  After that week, there was about two weeks of giving 90% of my time to try and 'finish' the project.  Of course, David was 100% correct when he said, "This is going to be more work than you think."

I've since admitted that I'll be seeing this through to the end (basically Thanksgiving) and taken it to a much more reasonable time commitment.  But during those two weeks, I realized this was the first big project I'd taken on since Liz came home, and I ended up wrestling a bit with how to manage priorities. 

This is a worthy project.  It's going to bless a lot of families (I hope), and it may even have some staying power past this Christmas.  It's not the only place I can spend my time, though.  There are so many worthy projects, and I also have, you know, a house, a husband, and children to deal with too.

Time is definitely a limited currency, and it's hard to know where to spend it sometimes.  I was reminded of a few things by some wise people around me:

1.  There will always be seasons in our lives.  Some seasons are busy (like this one), and some seasons need to be deliberately slower (like when we bring Titus home).  If there is a two week period where I need to set aside every checkmark on my to-do list so I can get a project off the ground, that's okay.  When it begins to take over my life long-term...then it's time to step back and reassess. 

2.  Do the things that bring you joy.  I'm enjoying this project at church, but I still love teaching chemistry the most.  It's made me reconsider taking two semesters off when Titus comes home, because when I think about what makes my heart sing, teaching chemistry is pretty near the top of the list.  I just wish cleaning my house brought me joy too...

3.  It's important to have people in your life who will help you identify the top priorities and help you say no.  Enter David, who kindly reminded me I could NOT also take on organizing all the kids clothes at the thrift store where we volunteer right now, and served as a good sounding board while I figured things out. 

4.  But it's also helpful to have people in your life who enable you.  During that two-week "get this project off the ground" period, David was instrumental in helping me focus, reminding me to eat after teaching, taking the kids outside so I could work, and giving me advice when I needed to figure things out.

(If nothing else, I've been reminded yet again that David is the very best of men)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Antidote to Fear

A year ago, I was not sure I wanted to adopt again.

I was in the middle of a rough semester--a new class I didn't enjoy teaching (with a larger work load than I was used to), some other things going on that were anxiety-inducing, and parenting a two, three, and four year old.  The pace was relentless, but each day felt endless. 

I knew we'd always planned to have four kids (at least), and we wanted to adopt a little boy from China the next time.  My heart had been there, but I just wasn't really feeling it.  After all, toddler is not my absolute favorite stage thus far, and don't even get me started on potty training for the fourth time.

Maybe three was enough.

The truth is, I was afraid. Afraid that four kids would be too much for me (whatever that means), that I'd discover new depths of frustration and impatience, and that I'd take it out on them. Despite how difficult I'd found things to be, Liz's adoption had so many things that went well!  She bonded, she was barely delayed developmentally, we didn't have to worry about much medical stuff at all...surely doing this again would only be harder.  Surely God would make it harder this time. 

And there is the insidious nature of fear.  In my case, my fear led me to cast God as the adversary.  He would lead us into another adoption, and then make it even harder, even more challenging.  Surely He had already given us all the blessings, all the answered prayers in Liz's adoption.  I just didn't feel up for the fight to do it right, to learn from Liz's adoption, and to be the kind of parent I knew I should be for another child.

My thoughts traveled around and around these ideas until we drove home for Christmas:  twenty hours driving there, and eighteen hours driving back, not to mention the six hours in between homes.  I do most of the driving on these trips, so I actually had some time to think and listen to a lot of music.  We got Rend Collective's "The Art of Celebration" and although I'd listened to their music, I was really able to concentrate on the words during the long drive home.

These songs finally made me realize how messed up my thinking had become.  God wouldn't give me a challenge and then sit back to watch how I handled it.  No, He would be there fighting with me and for me.  Why would He dole out His blessing in small measures...the delight I feel in giving to my children is nothing compared to what He feels about me!  While I felt like these experiences tore me down, He was actually shaping me to be more like Him.  It hurts to have the dross burned out.  But I know He is glorified through it. 

The antidote to fear is to speak (or sing) the truth about God:

We were born for greater things, We were born to chase Your dreams
Your great love will lead me through

In view of Your matchless sacrifice, Take every treasure, take this life

 Yeah, you lift me when I'm sinking
Like the swell of mighty oceans
The power of redemption
Yeah, it gives me wings to soar

You're not finished with me yet
By Your power I can change, I can change
'Cause You're not finished with me yet

Jesus, my soul is fearless
For You are with us
Fighting for us
In the valley of shadows
You are still with us
Fighting for us

Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Of course, you know it took a few more months to come around, but that drive was the beginning of my thaw...to turn away from the fear and seek the path God wanted for me and for our family.  At the moment, I'm getting a little nervous at how little time I'll have between finishing my class and leaving for China (and don't get me started on my 'little' church project), but I can honestly say I don't feel afraid any more. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Little Boy

Titus Perkins
LOA: 10/1/2015

10 months old
(He's about 15 months now)

That means this handsome little man is officially ours...if only it meant we could head on over and get him! 

We can't buy tickets until we get our consulate appointment, which is about four steps away.  Our paperwork is now at US Immigration.  We received general permission to adopt a child (I-800A), but now we need specific permission to adopt Titus (I-800).  We need the I-800 and a few more things, then we can send it all back to China and get our Travel Authorization (TA).  After we get that, we can schedule our consulate appointment with the US Consulate in Guangzhou, and THEN we can buy our tickets. 

But the ball is rolling now, and there's a good chance we will be spending Christmas and/or New Years on a plane!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Adoption Update

Even though things have been pretty quiet here on the blog, we've continued to make progress in the adoption.  I'll warn you now, we're getting close to this stage where we may or may not be matched but can't really share it on the internet yet.  But we have added a few more steps to our timeline!

March 5:  Application sent to AAC, homestudy started
April 5:  All documents sent to AAC
May 5:  Homestudy completed
May 7:  USCIS received I-800A Application
May 19:  Fingerprinting appt date received
Jun 3:  Fingerprinting appt
June 9:  I-800A Approval Notice received
July 9:  Documents to China  (DTC)
July 21:  Logged in to Chinese system (LID)

 Yes, we are LID, and that does mean the next step is matching with our son and waiting for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA)!  The LOA wait is listed as 60-90 days, but I've heard of much shorter (ours was 27 days with Liz) and up past 100 days.  I have to keep reminding myself that it will be very challenging to travel when I'm teaching a lecture class!  So we are still looking at somewhere around Christmas or after.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Peace of God in a Very Loud House

As I chopped the butternut squash and carrots for dinner (a from-scratch one!), I marveled at how quietly Luke and Katie played together (Liz was still napping).  When Liz plays, whatever I'm doing is punctuated by high volume communication, breaks to remind someone to use words instead of loud noises, and rhetorical questions/answers (no, you may not play with buttons...what is this library book doing on the floor?!).

(this is what happened in the last two minutes of trying to write the above paragraph...add in "she just kicked me" to the sound of whining and screams)

So, back to the squash and carrots...

Along with thoughts of how quietly they played, I thought how this (quietly preparing dinner) could be my life if we hadn't adopted Liz.  It's not a very practical train of thought, since a) we have Liz, b) we're doing this again, and c) a lot of this is just life with a 2-year-old.  But after dallying in that moment, I realized a few things.

At first I thought, "Wow, my life would be so peaceful if this was it!"  And without Liz, my life would certainly have less noise in it.  And a lot less of the following phrase:  "Use your words!"  I might even like cooking again.

But then I realized, that's not a peaceful life...it would be a comfortable life.  We'd still have a little car, I'd be done potty-training kids, we'd be on our way to jet-setting vacations (maybe).

And I realized we do have peace in our life.  It's just the "peace that passes understanding" kind, not the quiet days kind.

The peace of knowing God makes His call clear to us.
The peace of seeing how He provides for us.
The peace of living in answered prayers.
The peace of trusting He will carry us through the next adoption too. 

And every time I say to David, "I can't believe we're doing this again," I try to remember that 2-year-old volume levels don't last forever, and that without Liz, there would be less laughter too. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

And Life Goes On

Anyone know where June went?  I looked down and saw it's been 10 days since I last posted, but I'm sure it hasn't been that long.  :)

We thought we were done with our paperwork, but I got a call on Thursday that one of our notaries made a mistake on the notary seal.  So we get to fill out our financial paperwork again and get it notarized this weekend.

Besides that, we're really close to being out of the paper chase.  If I remember correctly, once we get logged into China, we have a great deal of twiddling our thumbs ahead of us.  But let me tell you, I'm having no trouble at all staying busy this time--three kids instead of two will do that for you!  I have a long list of projects for the summer too, most of which involve downsizing and simplifying.

First up was my bedroom.  I got rid of a bunch of clothes and set aside a few more that need something to complete the outfit (mostly skirts that need a matching top).  I know the whole 'capsule wardobe' thing is popular, but I'd rather just keep the clothes I like and make sure all my dress clothes are complete outfits instead of mix and match.  Sadly, this will involve some clothes shopping, which ranks far below visiting the dentist in my book.

The next project is a big one, and one that will require multiple weeks to complete:  food in our house.  I started with cataloging/organizing the pantry and freezer, and making a list of 'random things we should eat because I bought them over a year ago.'  Things like a quarter of a bag of orzo (probably from a random recipe) and Belgian Chocolate shells that I bought on super clearance without a purpose.  NEVER BY ANYTHING WITHOUT A PURPOSE!  That should be my new motto. 

At this point, I need to sit down and figure out how I'm going to approach meals right now.   David teases me about how I'm constantly trying to figure out an 'easier' way to do meals, yet I'm not willing to really commit to meal planning.  I want to be able to make whatever I feel like for dinner, but that's JUST NOT PRACTICAL with three little kids.  I think there must be a way to adapt a meal planning system to my tendencies, but at some point, I may have to give up on that dream and just commit.  And I really need to figure it out before Little Brother shows up!

(Also on my list: picking a name for Little Brother, so we can stop calling him Little Brother)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

More progress!

Yesterday, I was surprised to receive an email from our agency asking about our original I-800A approval...which means I wasn't surprised when we received it in the mail today!  They got it yesterday, but it has a big "COPY" stamped on it.  After we scan that and send it, they will begin the authentication process on all our documents...so we may be LID by July after all!  Here is our timeline so far:

March 5:  Application sent to AAC, homestudy started
April 5:  All documents sent to AAC
May 5:  Homestudy completed
May 7:  USCIS received I-800A Application
May 19:  Fingerprinting appt date received
Jun 3:  Fingerprinting appt
June 9:  I-800A Approval Notice received

It seems like things are going faster, despite the delays with our homestudy.  I keep telling myself that I'm teaching in the fall, and it won't be very easy to travel before I finish my class.  I'm not sure what we'd do if our Travel Authorization arrived in October...but best not to borrow trouble.  :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I-800A Progress

My big summer kick-off plans were derailed by a sore throat.  I spent yesterday laid out on the couch for most of the day, aside from feeding my children and making sure they didn't trash the house too badly.  David gently reminded me (as he does every time) that he's happy to stay home when I'm sick, but it wasn't too bad, and the kids are pretty good about dealing with sick me.  I figure, if there's no fever, we can handle it.  I just have very low expectations for the day (Pajama day!  Indoor picnic!  Dora and Diego!). 

Today we took one step closer to Little Brother and our trip to China.  Once our homestudy was finished (which we managed to do, despite some hiccups), we sent our I-800-A application to United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and waited for our fingerprinting appointment.  No, our fingerprints have not changed since we last did this.  Yes, they make us do it again anyway.  (insert eye roll)

Our appointment was this morning!  It should be 2-6 weeks before we get our actual I-800A, but that's the last thing we need before everything can be authenticated and sent to China.  If everything goes quickly, we could be looking at a file by July!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summer Waters

Fantasy novels often use the construct of the four elements (fire, water, earth, air) in their world-building efforts.  As a kid I knew that a) I could totally nail whatever fantasy world I was sent to if it ever happened to me, and b) if I had to choose an element, it'd be water.  The whole "I don't really like swimming" doesn't fit, but if I could control it, then maybe I'd like it more.  And there are many aspects of water that I do like.  As I studied chemistry, it sealed the deal for me.  (Water is very cool from a molecular standpoint)

Perhaps this is why water metaphors seem to fit well in my life.  Last fall really felt like I was going down a raging river, trying to keep my head above the water (one of the reasons it was hard to sit down and blog).  Still getting used to three kids, teaching a class for the first time, back to our regular schedule...I may have tried to do a little too much.  :)

My Christmas break was a bit of calm, and you know, kids do eventually get older, stop yelling at each other all the time, and start playing together in a somewhat cute fashion.  So our spring semester was a bit less underwater and more like riding down the river in a raft.  Still raging, still rapids, but at least I had a paddle and could do a little navigating.  We enjoyed a few family visits, had some people over for dinner, and I got to take a trip (by myself!!) to a friend's wedding. 

But having something(s) every single day of the week is relentless, and we have finally reached the end of the rapids.  As I lean back in the raft and breathe a sigh of relief, I'm looking forward to a summer with very few outside responsibilities.  Teaching is done, preschool is done, sunday school is done...which is fine, since I have quite a few projects planned before #4 shows up.

And blogging is up there--there was a good chance my next post would be a picture of our little guy, but like many things, it's not hard to begin again if you just sit down and do it.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

What next?

What next, indeed...our house has a little while before we add another level of craziness to it.  :) 

How long before that happens?

Although we've done this once before, that doesn't seem to be speeding up the timeline much.  We will still need to get our homestudy updated, get all the paperwork, etc., etc., so we are looking at traveling to get our son some time in 2016.  I'm scheduled to teach in the fall (I think), so I hope we're not traveling earlier than Christmas!

What all do you have to do?

We follow the same set of steps as last time.  For those who missed the first time (or have forgotten), here's a brief run down:

Phase 1:  Paper paper paper
--Get all the paperwork together for our homestudy and dossier (the documents sent to China)
--Get initial permission from US immigration to adopt
--Submit all the paperwork to China and get "logged in."

That all takes about 6 months--maybe a little less because we are just updating our homestudy instead of starting from scratch, but not much. 

Phase 2:  Wait wait wait
--Match with our son!  Our agency is expecting to receive twice the number of files from China this year, so we don't expect to wait long at all.  It's even possible we could have a file on hold before we get logged into China's system. 
--More immigration approval
--More approval stuff from China
--Travel!

And that takes about 6-8 months as well. 

Why now?

The short answer is that David and I are both ready.  The long answer is going to take another post...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our Prayer Map

We try to pray with the kids every night before bed.  To help with the 'blessings' part, I bought a world map and put up pictures of all the missionaries that we support, along with our church planting pastor.  A few weeks ago, we added a new 'picture' to our map:


 Here we go again!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Family Day!



It's hard to believe that a whole year has has passed.  Happy Family Day to our sweet little (well, bigger now!) honey bun.  We love you, Liz!


One year ago...






And now...



Monday, February 23, 2015

恭禧發財 (Gong Xi Fa Cai!)

Our plans for Lunar New Year (Feb 19) were somewhat derailed by illness this year, but we still managed to get out for the dragon dancing! 






Everyone fed the dragons some money, and Katie got to dance with one of the characters.  A little coaching from Mom ("just do what he does, Katie!"), and she definitely got into it.  :) 

We ended up ringing in the new year with a high fever (Luke) and a quick trip to the doctor to glue up a gashed forehead (Liz), but we still enjoyed some Chinese food on Thursday.  Mostly, we are happy to celebrate almost one whole calendar year with Liz, and we look forward to many more Lunar New Year celebrations!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Love of God

I sing a hymn to the kids most nights, partly because I love to sing, and mostly because I want them to grow up knowing the hymns of their heritage.  We still put Liz to bed with the lights out, so it's a little harder to sing a different hymn every night.  Recently I've been singing The Love of God; it's a beautiful hymn, and I especially love this verse (which I have memorized!).

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.


Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.


Here is a link to the song, in case you don't know the tune:  The Love of God

It seems like an appropriate song to share this Valentine's weekend.  I'll try to post some pictures of our annual family dinner (no fighting the crowds for us!) soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Helpful Speech Concepts

Although I try not to talk too much about my kids (foibles or successes), I know people like to hear how Liz is doing.  Plus, this is a good place to keep track of things, since, like most #3 children, she does not get documented as much.

Just this week, instead of blithely accepting whatever I pull out of her drawer to wear, she said, "no" and pointed to a different shirt hiding at the bottom.  First time she's ever shown a preference for clothing!  It was kind of fun.  :)

So, two things that have helped a lot around the house.  First, Liz started using possessives about two months ago.  I remember we were doing laundry, and she pulled out a sock and said "Luke sock!" and another, "Mama sock!"  It's so nice that she can recognize possession, because it makes the whole sharing thing (marginally) easier.  Actually, I take it back.  We still really struggle with sharing. 

It's made a much bigger difference at the table.  For example, she used to finish her food and then fuss/whine/reach for whatever she saw on other plates.  Now, when she finishes her blueberries and wants mine, I can say, "These are Mama's blueberries, where are Lizzie's?"  She'll repeat what I say or say, "Tummy" (which is where her blueberries are!), and we can generally distract or move on from there without descending into a tantrum. 

We have also been working a lot on two-step processes--first cut the food, then eat it; first drive home, then you can have baby doll; fill the bottle, then have it.  Liz is beginning to understand the whole idea of two steps, but I think she is also trusting that we will fulfill what we say.