Saturday, October 26, 2013

A rare, all technical, no emotion post. :)

I just wanted to update a little bit on where we currently are in the process of adopting our little one. It may be a little bit boring, but we've had a lot of questions about where we are recently, so I felt like I should take the time to explain.We started in May with an application to our agency for their China Special Needs Program and we completed all our notarized contracts in June. So mid June is when we officially started gathering documents and paper chasing actually began. Our agency required us to complete all of our education courses and fill out all of the home study paper work before having actual home visits. Home study paperwork is very detailed and was a 2 page checklist of documents needing completed. I can share that with anyone who is interested.

During the time that we worked on home study paperwork, we also gathered documents for our dossier. The dossier is basically notarized, state certified original copies of documents that verify we are who we say we are. Birth and marriage certificates, psychologist letters, employment/income verifications, medical letters, criminal checks, etc. These documents must be no more than 6 months old when the dossier gets authenticated and translated. The dossier is what goes to China, for us to be approved to adopt a child there. Besides for the documents I listed, the dossier also includes an approved home study and an approved immigration letter.

In order to get the immigration approval letter, we have to apply for it, and to apply, we must send them an approved copy of our home study. So you can see that the home study is crucial to everything!

In our specific situation, our home study (for reasons out of our control) is taking an especially long time to get to us. It is approved, but we still have not received our copies. Since we can't apply for immigration without it, there started be a concern that we would not get our immigration approval in time to get the entire dossier translated before some of our documents started to expire. (Since we started in June, and they only last 6 months, they will start expiring mid December). Our entire dossier is complete, besides for the immigration approval.

So... where we are at... Our case worker had us go ahead and mail in the dossier to be authenticated and translated so that those documents won't expire. We *should* receive our approved home study copies within a few days, and we will immediately file our I800-A (our immigration form). As soon as we receive approval, our agency will add it to our dossier and it will be complete! It will then go to China, and we will receive a log in date. And from that point, we just wait to be matched.

We are so happy to be mostly done with our paper work stage. Everything on our end is complete, so we just wait and act as needed, but the major parts are done. And just in time for the holidays!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meant to Be

When I started this blog, I didn't intend to share much ugly. I've read adoption blogs that focus all on the awesome happy side and I've read some that tend to share a lot of reality, including negative. I'm a pretty honest person, but this is the internet after all, so I decided to keep most of the junky parts to myself. Still, there are some parts that I feel like I should preserve, even though they're difficult. So today's post is going to be difficult.

Last week, I was shocked when our caseworker asked if we'd like to see the file of a beautiful little girl. Our first reaction, of course, was just surprise at the timing. We were not expecting to see a file for quite a while, since our home study is still (yes, STILL) in the review process. And of course, shock that the file belonged to a girl, as we've been feeling pretty positive we'd be referred a boy.

After the initial shock wore off and the earliest questions were positively answered, we felt sure that we should move forward to the next step, which is to send the file to our international pediatrician. Yes, this is really soon, but maybe this was our baby! We knew this darling girl would always be in the back of minds if we did not give her a fair chance. We know that God's timing is perfect and if this was His timing, we would go forward. So we basically left it up to the pediatrician's report. We laid out some clear guidelines together. If those were met, we would accept. If not, we would decline. We prayed for a very clear answer and that we know exactly what to do when the time for an answer came.

That seems pretty cut and dry, right? Easy. Except it's not. Because we're talking about a baby. A human baby. Who has no family. Whose photo I've seen, whose name, weight, length, and feeding schedule I know. We tried not to become attached. But when there's a photo (several actually) of a sweet little girl sitting in your inbox, and you wonder if she's yours, it's hard not to sneak a peek. Or two. Or more... It's hard not to imagine what it would feel like to hold her, to snuggle her close, to watch her grow in my home, to hear her laughter as she joins in our family fun, and to comfort her when she grieves. And, even though you know it's not true and you truly believe with all your heart that her life is governed by One who created us all, you somehow feel as though her future is in your hands.

No matter how hard you try not to become attached or think of her as your own, the "no" hurts. We got our answer to prayer, we got a very clear answer. As crazy as it seems, we have peace about the "no". Because we feel 100% sure in our hearts that she is not our daughter. But gosh, it's hard. The thought takes my breath away. Sitting here, wondering if she will ever know the love of a family seriously makes it hard for me to breathe. How can I grieve over a baby that was never mine? I don't know, but I know I can, because I am. I struggle to even say her name because it makes me involuntarily tear up.

My first thought, in an effort to comfort myself, was "It just wasn't meant to be". But I don't think that's quite right. It WAS meant to be. She was not meant to be part of our family, but we were meant to allow her into our hearts. And SHE was meant to be. I pray somewhere out there, God has a family for her. And that she will feel His love and protection. She may not have a family right now, but I know that she has a purpose. She is meant to be. A beautiful little girl, placed on this earth for a reason. Meant to be.

My sister in law reminded me that the little girl is one step closer to her forever family now. And we praise God for His faithfulness to us as He continues to break our hearts for these little ones and bring us one step closer to our baby.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I'd Rather Be with You

Jared and I have been married for 6 years, as of Saturday. Autumn is a special time for us. We met in the fall of 05, started dating in the fall of 06, and we married in the fall of 07. It's been a good 6 years. There has been a whole lot of life in those 6 years. There has been happy and sad, joy and frustrations, ups and downs, but just mostly good.

This weekend has not been the greatest. We've had a lot on our minds. We hit a couple rough patches with our two beautiful children. We feel like we need a win in the adoption world.

So today we put one kid to bed and put one kid in front of the tv, and we made a cake together. It was a brand new thing for us. We don't usually bake together. But we needed a date and it seemed like a nice thing to do. So we went to my favorite cooking blog and looked at pictures of lots of cakes and we just chose something brand new and we did it. A ridiculous thing to do, when the house is a mess, and the lawn needs mowed, and we're watching our diets. But we threw caution to the wind and it happened. A cake from scratch,(including homemade butterscotch and caramel!) start to finish, just the two of us, together.

Even on a crappy day, I'd rather be with him than anyone else in the world.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Missing Alabama

This week last year, we were finishing up our 12 months in Alabama, saying goodbye to the people and things we had come to love and preparing to head back to our Ohio lives. So of course, especially this week, I keep thinking of our time spent there.

I'm just going to be honest here. We went to Alabama kind of as an escape. We needed a change, our family was not in a healthy place, and the opportunity came, so we took it. And for the sake of honesty, Alabama and I did not get off to a great start. Maybe it was the sad, sad phone call I received on the drive down there that caused me to give my growing tummy a squeeze and love my tiny squirmy baby a little more. It could have been the mouse that invaded our apartment during week 4 and had Gracie and I squealing and standing on chairs. Or it could have been the tour of Huntsville Hospital's maternity floor that sent me home in tears, the awful disappointing trip to Nashville for Gracie's 2nd birthday, or the Christmas Eve when I had to beg Jared to tie my shoes for me because I couldn't reach my feet. (Ok, the not being able to reach my feet had nothing to do with the state I lived in, but it was still traumatic) Whatever it was, those first couple months had me questioning our decision to be there. And for a whole year?!

I don't know when my feelings changed or what exactly changed them. I have a suspicion that Liam's magical birth set the tone for the rest of time. After that, things started looking up. And the funny thing is, the things that bothered me most at the beginning were the things I grew to love... Like the laid back attitudes, the wimpy outdoor mall, and Publix.

But what I know is that every special memory in Alabama happened because of time spent with our little family or in community. The memories I brought back from there are of Jared and I playing Frisbee together in the evenings and Gracie begging us to push her on the swing. I remember snuggling sweet baby Liam on the bench while watching Gracie ride herself silly on the carousel at Bridge Street. The lunches at the hole in the wall Mexican place after church on Sunday. Sitting in Judy's living room, chatting with friends while our kids literally tore the playroom apart. The brunch where Gracie threw up and before I could even comprehend what was happening, one friend had napkins under her mouth and another grabbed Liam from me to free up my hands. The beautiful starry sky, the family walks, our Wednesday night small group, the morning we had the science center all to ourselves, the new Target, the Chocolate Crocodile, dates at the fancy movie theater, watching Gracie play with her friends, the Y, amazing bbq, the kindness of new friends, I could go on and on. I think we would have stayed forever if the details had worked out. But they didn't.

I would say that leaving Alabama left a hole in my heart, but that's not really true. Actually, I think my heart is fuller and happier after that year. I still miss our friends there very much. I continue to be amazed by them and their support and general awesomeness, even though I'm horrible at staying in touch. I still miss the simplicity of our life there. Gracie still misses it too. She often brings up her friends, and says that she loves and misses them. Sometimes we drive down a random street, and she gasps and asks if we are in Alabama. I'm glad to know that year blessed her heart too. We learned about adaptability, about expectations, about kindness, graciousness, and hospitality. I am a better person because of Alabama. Our family is healthier because of Alabama. In 2011, when I heard someone mention that southern state, I wrinkled my snobby nose. Now I hear her sweet name and my heart smiles. We've been back for a year now and our family is with a doubt right where we should be. We are home for now. But I am forever grateful for our year in Alabama.

Missing Alabama this week. <3