What a Day! {2 FEB 2015}

Good morning from Changsha!! We met Anli yesterday at about 11am. It was a whirlwind of a day! There are five families here from our agency and we all met our kids at the same time in the small play room the hotel has on the “non-smoking” floor. They arrived a little late because the children were taken to have their passport photos done before bringing them to our hotel. 10978531_924683787541754_6068400870671647248_n When they came off the elevator and she saw me, she waved smiling with excitement! We didn’t even have to introduce ourselves. She was calling me mama, Will baba, and Ollin dede (sp?) meaning little brother. Her caretakers did an fantastic job at preparing her. We are so grateful to them! 1782061_924682667541866_8125417347496488441_n 1512408_924683064208493_6915117146545205770_n 10252098_924683477541785_3587390796543303294_n 10313521_924683867541746_8036880373528605281_n There weren’t hardly any tears just a whole lot of smiles and giggles, though we know the tears will come eventuality. Her and Ollin chased each other around, played hide-and-seek, and are getting along wonderfully. 

We had two days itinerary combined into one so there wasn’t hardly any one-on-one time. After the families were united in the hotel’s play room, we dispersed for lunch. Then met back up to go to the Changsha Civil Affairs Office to complete our part of the adoption paperwork. It was quite a process given there was such a large group. Both of our kids held up like champs. Ollin went his first day ever without a nap and did amazingly well- considering! 10959497_924970567513076_5522165703521308011_n 10978589_924970660846400_6734449044510968116_n All the meetings and official adoption paperwork are being prepared/finalized this week by notaries and officials. We also had the official interview yesterday and I guess we passed because in the end she was declared our daughter!! She’s a firecracker- full of energy and smiles! We can’t wait to see her personality unfold. 10348619_924683907541742_8682571026585292522_n She’s taken to both, me and Will. She is okay if one of us leaves for a bit but after a while she will start calling for her mama or baba, whichever is gone. 10411398_924683887541744_3778540053334810399_nAt bedtime she does prefer mommy over daddy. (Not surprising given the amount of men in her life over the last 3 years must’ve been minimal). Ollin passed out right away and Anli took a while to settle. I rocked her and sang Jesus Loves Me. There seemed to be some fear in her eyes– understandably, considering we are strangers speaking a foreign language. So I got out Chinese for Adoptive Families, (great book). Then assured her, “You are my precious child. Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. We love you very much.” Not sure I got it all the tones right. Maybe she was just comforted to hear her language. But she quickly had peace and dozed off.

Will and I had dinner at about 11pm last night after we got the adrenalin stricken littles to bed– Pizza Hut that our awesome guide brought to our door. It was an exhausting day but we feel amazingly blessed. We are so grateful for your love and prayers! We can certainly feel them.

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A quick nap while waiting for the bus. So happy to have her in my arms!

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The whole group at the Changsha Civil Affairs Office– right after 5 children became sons & daughters!!

Be Still…

Ask any adoptive parent about the most difficult part of the adoption process and at some point you will hear the word WAITING! It’s very difficult knowing she will be ours soon- but not yet!  Every day that passes is a day without her here with us, a day without making memories, hearing her voice and giggles, a day that she goes without our kisses, another day of being separated.
Oh, how we miss her! Ollin woke up this morning and said, “Mommy, I want to go get Anli!” I replied, “I do too, buddy.”
Only one piece of paper is keeping us from getting on a plane. It’s called Travel Approval (TA). It’s basically a letter from the Chinese adoption authorities inviting us to come to China and complete her adoption. I refresh my email multiple times a day, every day hoping to find those words, “You can go get your child!” But we’re still waiting. In the meantime, we’ve been busy with Christmas celebrations, preparing her room, washing all her clothes, packing, applying for visas, planning the first part of our trip (Hong Kong), making lists, finishing up the last fundraiser, preparing to travel in a weeks’ notice, adoption paperwork, and the list goes on. . .

be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god-960x250Last week so many families in a China adoption fb group I am in received TA that pretty much all the Consulate appointments are full for January now. It was pretty exciting for them and even more disheartening to us to see so many people who had the same paperwork drop off date as us traveling this week and next. The more I refreshed my email the more disappointed I would get. I totally let worry, anxiety, and my desires to be with my child and care for her consume me. I wasn’t trusting that God’s timing may just be better than mine.

It was a great reminder that I’m not the one in control- God is! Maybe He still needs to prepare my heart to parent her better, to have patience with her, to comfort her, to love her. He’s also working on her heart as well. Maybe she needs more time? Maybe her caretakers need more time? Maybe Ollin needs more time? I certainly know the stress level has gone down as we have been able to get some things done around here- like buy her bed and put it together and order her car seat.

All I want is to hold my baby in my arms. My child who is waiting for her forever family, not even knowing that at this very moment I am staring at her picture for the 10th time today. This is the reality of the adoption wait.

God promises in Hebrews 13:15 as long as we are content with what we have, He will never leave us or forsake us. This scripture reminds me not only to be content in my waiting but that God will not leave her or forsake her. As a parent it’s extremely difficult to know your child is suffering and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I need to “Be still and know that he is God” (Ps. 46:10) instead of being anxious for the wait to end.

This is just baby steps. There will be many other unknowns and sleepless nights in my parenting adventure.

This One’s for the Boys!

This One’s for the Boys!

Let me just preface this post to say even though God brought us to our daughter, I am advocating for the ‘sons’ today.

As we know, there are hundreds of thousands of children growing up in China’s state run welfare institutions without families to take care of them. But what most people don’t know is that there are many more boys waiting in China for their forever family than girls.

Will and I were open to either gender – knowing full and well it was likely we were going to have a boy. We were fully prepared to have another son and, frankly, excited about it.  Sure, boys can be rough, messy and smelly at times, but they are also sweet, cute and cuddly.

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GeGe (translated is cute boy) is one year old. He is quite the little man. She loves to blow bubbles and play on the floor with toys.

There are many factors that contribute to China’s orphan crisis.  The situation is complex and probably bigger than I can begin to comprehend. But here’s what I’ve learned this year.

In the 1970s, China instituted the “One Child Policy,” limiting only one child per couple. When this policy collided with the cultural preference for boys, the result was abandonment of many girls. Although, it may be due to the long time cultural importance of having a son first (as in many countries), sometimes the reason is much more practical.  Much of China’s population live in rural areas and rely on males to farm the land.  When they marry, boys stay with their parents and care for them in old age.  Girls, on the other hand, marry and leave their families and take on the responsibility of helping care for their husband’s parents. In some ways, boys are China’s version of Social Security.

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Meet Daniel – Daniel is three years old and has more joy than you can imagine!!

It is a popular belief that girls are ‘unwanted’ in China. To say gender equality roles are not quite as evolved there are they are here in the states is an understatement. As I understand it, the “One Child Policy” is not as strictly enforced anymore and there is definitely a huge population skew left over from the decades prior. Since we, as Americans, have so long believed girls are not as valued in China as boys, for decades we have chosen to adopt girls.

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MoXi is a six year old cutie. Surrounded by many girls, this little guy is ALL boy!!

Being orphaned and a boy is one of the most difficult special needs to overcome.  I am told, if an adoption agency got a new list with eight babies (4 girls and 4 boys), the girls would be chosen first and the boys would need additional advocating.  Thankfully we are seeing that slowly change.  How wonderful that more boys are finding families now!  But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that the majority of families, even today, are more open to adopting girls.

If a baby (male or female) is sick or has a defect at birth, they may be abandoned. Parents often can’t afford to care for a child. Or if parents think they are only able to have one, they need to make sure it is going to be a “healthy one.” (Now before you judge, this is not much different than what happens here in America when abortion is a valid option because according to the amniocentesis, the baby has a medical deformity/desease). Yes, in general, many Chinese are not very accepting of people with physical disabilities. Often it is perceived that a family is cursed if their child has a visible abnormality.  They may not be allowed to attend school and it can be difficult for them to find employment.

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Sean is three years old and has Spina Bifida. He is extremely smart and is trying his best to learn to walk.

Even if the child is very loved and wanted, they may be abandoned if they are sick and the family is unable to pay for the child’s medical care. Medical care must be paid for upfront in China, and it is very difficult for many Chinese families to do this. Couples may relinquish their child so he or she can be taken to the orphanage and receive better medical care than the family can provide. How heartbreaking to think that this is the only way a parent may have at saving their child’s life?

We hope that our journey to our child is growing the sense of compassion in our family and in yours.  We also hope it will help people to understand that it is when you give that you truly receive.

The children featured in this post are all boys and are part of Journey of a Joyful Life foster home in China, all in need forever families! We also found our beloved daughter on this Asia waiting child advocate blog by our adoption agency.

“All our dreams can come true, if we just have the courage to pursue them”
-Walt Disney
NOTE: The views and opinions in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of Journey of a Joyful Life or Gladney’s Asia Waiting Child blog.

What a Week!!! {approval, photos and happy moments}

If you have been following along you know we are waiting on the Chinese Adoption Authorities to approve our family to me matched with a little girl who we already consider our own.  Besides the last finalizations that happen in country with our child in tow, this is the BIG approval. From my understanding, once this approval goes though, China considers Will and I her parents. This is the time they will typically tell the kids they now have a momma and baba.

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On Tuesday, two days after her birthday, we received verbal confirmation that WE ARE APPROVED to adopt her!! It’s hard to articulate the emotions we felt when reading these words in our email on Tuesday afternoon.

“To give you another great update, CCCWA has finished their review of your match to your daughter!”

There were definitely tears of joy, overwhelming excitement, and a bit of serial anxiousness. I told Will this can’t be what I think it is. He replied, “This is the first time our case worker has said, ‘your daughter’. Up until now she has just called her by name.”

It is real! We are approved! The gift of family on her birthday! Kind of ironic isn’t it? Three years later but all in God’s perfect timing.

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We received more super exciting updates in our email this week! This Friday we got some photos and video of her birthday party. We were like giddly little kids watching them over and over again! We just can’t get enough of that sweet face and her contagious smile. It is SO GOOD to see her happy! They even sang her Happy Birthday in english for our video. It was so sweet of them and I just love it!

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Not sure if she knows the of good news yet or if she can even comprehend the news at such a young age. But what a great birthday gift! Even if she doesn’t completely understand there are two adults on the other side of the world who are beyond thrilled (plus a large extended family). Celebrating in the goodness and faithfulness of our Lord.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”  –Psalms 103:1

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In the adoption world, the approval mentioned earlier is called soft LOA (Letter of Approval). Once the hard copy of the LOA arrives in the mail we will send it to the USCIS for her immigration application. After immigration approval the info will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) to issue her visa. Once the NVC is done they will send Article 5 to the Chinese Adoption Authorities to let them know everything is in order. Then we wait for travel approval (TA). Once we have TA we can schedule our US Consulate appointment. When we get a confirmed appointment, we can book our  flights and go get to our little girl!! This process can take about 2-3 months.

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We are on the tail end, folks! Soon! Very soon we are going to go meet our daughter and bring her home!

Happy {3rd} Birthday, Precious Child!!

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In our family every time a birthday rolls around it always brings back the nostalgia of the day we were born. For the last 32 years I have heard about the day my parents first saw me. On my son’s birthday, I can’t help but do the same thing and remenise all the feelings we had leading up to that special day. So today as I think of our daughter, I don’t recall any special feelings I had on that day but someone does.

November 2, 2011. Three years ago today a mother had finally felt the release of the last nine months– her body being pulled, stretched and tortured. She had come to the end of the uncomfortableness, the sleepless nights, the bone tired exhaustion. Her body was finally through with its job of giving life. She would no longer share breath. It was time for her body to release the life she had cared for and carried. And she did.

Our precious daughter was born! I often wonder what we were doing on that day. November 2, 2011. I don’t know exactly but maybe I felt some of the same feelings she did. I probably felt a baby kick and flip in my belly just as she did. And just like her I was given the reassurance he was there and he was okay. It was only just a few weeks later we found out we were having a boy! Little did we know, at the time, we also had a girl! A Girl! If God had told us then, I don’t think we would have believed Him. I would’ve laughed just like Sarah did when He told her of His plan to give her a child in old age. (See Genesis 12-21). How could it be?

And so it was true. Our precious daughter was born the same time I was being stretched and contorted.

We have an indescribable gratefulness toward her birth mother. For going through those torturous none months, the marathon of labor and having her body opened wide to release life. It’s not easy. I know. She did not have to do it but she chose to give birth and give life. She must have loved her to endure those things for her.

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Today we celebrated that 3 years ago our precious little one was brought into the world. If she was here she would’ve gotten to make a family favorite- margarita pizza. She could’ve helped make her birthday cake. Her brother loves being our little helper. I’d say it’s safe to assume she will too. It was my first attempt at a homemade cake from scratch. And it was pretty good given I’m NOT a baker. (Let’s just say, me and precise ingredients don’t mix). We had a delicious meal followed by birthday cake and a fun family time of hide-n-seek.

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We talked about her.

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Sang her Happy Birthday.

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And wished she was here.

She also got a sweet birthday card in the mail from her Aunt Vicki which brought tears to her mom’s eyes. It is so good to know she is dearly loved and treasured by her extended family too. It meant a lot to know we aren’t the only ones thinking about her today.

“Sweet girl, Today is your birthday. We are thinking of you and pray you will soon be in our forever family. We all look forward to the day you are home with your Texas family. Your mommy and daddy worked really hard to have you with them. Even though we have never met, you are loved. Your mommy, daddy, and brother will make each birthday from now on special for you.   Love, Aunt Vicki and Uncle Dean”

We will never have all the answers for her about her birth parents. However, I do know this, her birthmother cared about her. She went through a lot for our baby girl. One of my good friends always says, “Having a child is like having your heart walking around outside your body.” It’s true. No matter if that child is wearing another mother’s skin. I wish our daughter knew she has two mamma’s thinking about her today.  Happy 3rd Birthday, precious child!

IT’s A GIRL !!

After many hard months of wondering who God had for us, SHE has stolen our hearts! We are thrilled to announce, IT’s A GIRL!! 
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For those of you who did not know, we have been considering this particular little girl for a while now. We had two pictures of her from the Super Kids Charity Trip our agency took last year- as they do annually to advocate for the orphan. As far as we know, after that summer 2013 trip the orphanage began working on her profile to ready her for adoption. Our agency expected to have her file sometime around the beginning of the year this year. The orphanage where she is located has a partnership with our agency. So, typically when the orphanage finishes a child’s profile, they send it to the CCCWA to finalize the paperwork to be available to adopt and they also send it to their partnership agency (our agency- in this case). This way our agency can begin finding a family that best fits with that child. Based on the past, it usually takes the CCCWA about two months to finalize the paperwork.
A few weeks ago our agency did not even have her file. Meaning it was going to be 2 months (at minimum) until her paperwork was ready to go. We were prepared, without any knowledge of her true medical condition, to place our dossier paperwork on hold until her profile became available and she was completely ready to be adopted. Much prayer was going into this decision and many sleepless nights. Yet, we both agreed we had a peace that we should wait for her even if it meant we may not see our child face-to-face for another year, even if that meant some of our paperwork expiring and having to do it all over again.
Almost to the day we decided this was the child God had for us and we were willing to wait for her however long it takes, we got a call from our case worker. Her file came in from the CCCWA – not the orphanage! This means she is completely ready to be adopted and there is no extra wait time!! We can send our dossier to China! God answered so many prayers! And we are grateful beyond words for His goodness in this situation.  This means we should be traveling around the beginning of the year – about five or six months from now if everything continues to go smoothly.

Our Dossier was delivered in Beijing on August 13, 2014 (about 1 1/2 weeks ago)! We are still waiting for the dossier to be translated and logged into the system (any day now). Once we received our LID (log in date) it will be about 2-3 months until we receive official approval from China. Even though there will still be paperwork to be filled out with immigration for our child and appointments to be made with the US consulate, it is basically the final approval for us to adopt our little one. Then we will be be able to share photos with you all, send her care packages and maybe even get more photos and a video of her.

She needs all the prayer she can get because within the next 6 months her little world will be turned up side down! And while we can see the big picture, this will be a time of grieving for her. Please pray that God would knit our hearts together and prepare both of our children for the BIG transition. Also, we’d love to go get her today. So, as parents, we need prayer for patience, grace and endurance in the waiting. It is only by His grace we and she has gotten this far!

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..”  -Romans 5:1-4

Milestone on the Adoption Front

Whew!  We are officially out of the “Paperwork Phase”! As of Friday I am happy to report that all of our required documents have arrived safely at our adoption agency and our dossier is now complete! This is a big deal!  We have been working on our dossier since December 2013. A dossier is a paperwork package of our family.  It’s all the adoption related documents required by the People’s Republic of China.

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To complete our dossier, we first had to have a complete home study (Feb 20). There is more to a home study than just an 8 hour interview in your home with a social worker…

  • Criminal Background Checks for every state both parents have lived in. (Only Texas for us).
  • Medical history forms and physicals for both parents
  • Statement of Good Health for Ollin provided by his pediatrician
  • Child Abuse clearances for every state both parents have lived in
  • Certified Birth Certificates and Marriage License
  • Account Balances
  • Statement of Employment for both of us
  • Health Insurance Coverage Statement for adopted child
  • Dog Immunization Records
  • Floor Plans of our House
  • 5 Letters of Recommendation

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While we waited for our home study to be approved, we continued to gather our necessary dossier documents. Which included some of the documents listed above, plus:

  • Employment Verification Letters (for each of us)
  • Financial Statement
  • Letter of Intent to Adopt
  • Letters of Good Conduct from local Police (for each of us)
  • We filled out I-800a for the USCIS (for Will and I to be approved to be parents of an immigrant)
  • Home Study Report
  • Passport Photos
  • Photos of our House
  • Photos of Will and I
  • Family Photos

Bowling Kitchen

Bowling Dining Rm

Bowling Couple 2013

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Once our home study was approved (May 9), we were able to file our I-800A with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services:

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After being fingerprinted (June 10), our I-800A was approved (June 30) and we were issued our I-797 (immigration approval):

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Then each of the above documents had to go through the process of being notarized by a public notary and/or certified by the state in which the document originated, (Luckily for us this was all Texas);

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Then certified by the Secretary of State, (Luckily for us, we live in the capital a few miles from her office); and finally aunthenticated by the Chinese Consulate in Houston.

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Since our agency now has our dossier, they will review it for it’s completeness. If it looks good, they will hold onto it until we are “matched” with a child (i.e. say yes to a child based on an agency recommendation – called referral). They call this a “soft match” because China actually does the official matching once they have approved us – called “Letter of Approval” (LOA). Which is typically about 2-3 months after we receive our “Log In Date” (LID) which takes several weeks (for translation) after our dossier is submitted to China – called “Dossier to China” (DTC).

 

Our agency suggests us be matched before our dossier goes to China because the paperwork goes much faster this way. Also, it gives us a bit more choice in the process. We do have a child we are praying about and think if everything falls into place, we will have an even BIGGER update soon!

As this paperwork goes out, it is a HUGE milestone in the adoption process and one that we have been anxiously anticipating for months. We pray they will not find any mistakes on our paperwork, and hopefully I can report sometime in the next week that we have been unofficially matched with a child and we are ready for “DTC”, and one step closer to our child.