The Process

OK, I get these two questions all the time (already), so I will answer them first: what is the process and why does it take so long?

First, the process. I'm going to try to boil it down to the essentials (Disclaimer: this is not a comprehensive list. This is an off-the-top-of-my-head list.):

1. Contract with an adoption agency to facilitate your adoption process. This involves an application and also about a thousand pages of disclaimers to sign.

2. Contract with a home study agency (which is, in our case, separate from our adoption agency). Basically, this is step 1 all over again.

3. Assemble a dossier. Basically, this is everything (and I mean every. thing.) about us set out on a ridiculous collection of paper. It includes

  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Letters of recommendation from 5 friends/co-workers, and one from one of our kids' teachers. (See......this is why I made sure that Native American project got turned in early. It's a reflection on me. Just kidding....I just didn't want to look at it anymore.)
  • A financial statement (think: every aspect of your finances set out on paper)
  • Employment letters
  • Physicals
  • Background checks
4. As part of the dossier you need to complete a home study which is done by a social worker and involves much of the above paperwork (again, or copies of it), background checks in EVERY state you've ever lived in, home visits, writing an autobiography (no joke), 12 hours of adoptive parent education (which, thank God, we have 10 hours we can carry over from last time and do not need to re-do), and probably a bunch of other stuff I am forgetting. 

5. Obtain immigration approval. This is exactly as awesome as you would expect it to be. Enough said. 

6. Take all of that stuff listed above and have it certified at the Secretary of State. This is made more fun by the fact that each document must be certified in the state in which it was notarized. Cue logistical nightmare.

7. Authentication. Now, re-collect all of that stuff you just got back from the Secretary of State and hand-carry it to the Chinese Consulate that oversees your state. OH.....you live nowhere near there? Well, then, take it all, put it in an envelope, have a mini-stroke, and send it off to a courier who will do that for you. For a fee, as you can imagine. Do not breathe for a week until it is all safely back in your possession.

8. Dossier to China. This is exactly what it sounds like: it all goes to China for their approval. 

9. Get letter of Approval from China and then you can actually share your child's picture on the internet. (It has been 4-6 months since step 1).

10-12. I don't know exactly the order of the rest of it. Basically you complete the immigration process (so, more fun), and wait for Travel Approval. (It's possible I missed a step in there somewhere).  Once our travel approval is issued, we request an appointment at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. Based on that date we are given the green light to purchase plane tickets and plan our travel. This happens with the speed of lightning. Last time we bought our plane tickets and traveled 2 weeks later!

WHY does this take so long? Well.....DUH. Read the list above. Count the government agencies involved. Count immigration twice, and there you have it. Enough to scare anyone out of ever adopting......except that it is MORE THAN worth it. 

In our case, it will take longer because we are starting right now with step 1. (Well, we're done steps 1 and 2. On to step 3.) The BEST way to adopt is to have your dossier in China FIRST, then be matched with a child. We didn't do that. We saw her face, said yes, and are now racing to get to her. People do this all the time, but once you have seen your child's face, waiting this long to get to her is excruciating on a daily basis. So, this isn't the ideal way, but it's the way we are doing it.

So, if I say no to everything over the next couple of months, this is why. Basically the only things on the list I am saying "YES" to until our dossier is in China are family, ministry, exercise (I wish I could say no to that too, but alas, I cannot), and adoption paperwork. I suppose cleaning the house should be on that list too, but I'm not sure there is time for that! 

It's not personal to anyone, it's just how it is right now. I am living every single day looking at my calendar of responsibilities for the day and asking myself, "What can I do today to get her home faster?" Some days (like the days I am in the office), the answer is nothing. But, every other day, if I have even an hour (and that's not always the case with three kids and groceries to buy and various life things to attend to), it is dedicated to chasing paper.  Because I am dying to hold her in my arms, and because she deserves no less.

So, if you want to do lunch, it's possible I'll be free in June. But wait....that's Camp KidsWay season. SO.......I'll see everyone in July. AFTER camp. :)

But seriously, thanks for extending us some extra grace in this season. For us,  2016 is all about bringing our daughter home. 


Blog Resurrected

It is time. (Said in the voice of Rafiki from The Lion King.)

It's been nearly 3 whole years since I wrote a word for several different reasons, but today this is a blog resurrected because big things are happening!

IT'S A GIRL!!!!!!

It's sort of unbelievable to even write those words, but we have been matched with an adorable little girl from China and our hearts are full. I'd be lying if I said there was no fear. There is, and judging from last time, that's normal. I don't know if that's normal for everyone, but it is normal for me.

So......I'll skip the story for now and give you what you want: DETAILS.

I'm sorry to say, I have been told by my agency not to share much, and so sadly that even means a picture. No posting of her picture anywhere till our dossier has been approved by China (which will be like 5 months from now if we are lucky). I think what we can safely say is that she is a little girl who is currently three years old. To answer many people's first question: no, she is not at New Day. She is waiting for us in a new part of China we have never been to before, in a new place where the kids are said to get great care. While we want her home as quickly as possible, because we had not started the process of adoption before being matched with her it will be a 9-12 month wait. PLEASE pray with us that we can be paper chasing champions and that the parts of this process that are beyond our control will move as quickly as possible. She turns 4 in October. We have been told we are delusional to think that we can get to her by that time.

But God. 

We are trusting Him with the timing of this whole process, but we want to be with her on her birthday desperately.

There is so much more. I will absolutely share our story over the next few weeks. But, for now I just want to say thank you for sharing our joy. We feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of her life, and to have so many of you celebrate that with us means more to you than we can say- really. She has no idea how many people are eagerly awaiting her arrival and who will pray for her while she waits.  We are excited that all of you- our people that we love so much- will to also be HER people!

Because you love us all so well, we want to include you in this journey with this resurrected blog. I know some of you will follow along simply because you care about us- THANK YOU for caring so much! I hope many of you will follow along and pray for our daughter and for us as we wait and as we navigate this process. We need your prayers daily, and here will will keep you posted about where we are at and what you can be specifically praying for!!!

Others of you have considered adoption. I hope you will follow our journey and see that we are really very ordinary. There is not one special thing about us. If we can do this, so can you- I PROMISE you. We will share our journey as openly as possible in part to help people see that though adoption can be intimidating and scary, ALL of that is completely outweighed by the JOY. We truly hope we inspire some of you to stop just thinking about adoption, and start searching for your child! We pray that sharing our story might just help to bring one more orphan home.

In the end though, this blog is for me. So that I can remember all that God has done and will do for us along the way. Having the record of all the little and big ways God showed up in our adoption journey with Cooper has been a gift I did not know I was giving myself at the time. I love to read it, and I hope one day he will love to read it to.

This is also for our daughter. So that she will know the story of how God worked to bring her into our family. How we missed her before we had ever even seen her face. How we loved her SO much before we even met her that we dreamed and prayed and planned and worked and traveled all the way across the world to bring her home! How when we said yes the mysterious hole we all felt in our family was gone.

This is the story not of how she became ours, but how we became HERS.


A Day in the Life

Just recently we had some friends of ours do a video/photo shoot at our house. They took some of the footage and put it in a short video for us. We just LOVE it, and we thought we would share! You can see it here!

If you are local, we would HIGHLY recommend Latimer Studios. They do an incredible job. They were fantastic with our kids, and the pictures and video we've seen have been awesome. I love that they captured us just as we are- we posed for one or two pictures, but really, they just mostly took pictures as we went about our afternoon. I love that we got not just pictures, but also video! 

As you will see from the video, Scot and I DEFINITELY can go on Broadway with our dance moves if our days jobs don't pan out! :)


2 Years 4 Months and 18 Days

Today, we celebrate a BIG milestone.

2 years 4 months and 18 days wth Cooper. 

Why is this a big milestone?

Because today marks the day when Cooper has been with us longer than he has been any one other place.

Cooper spent the first 13 months of his life in an orphanage. The next few months he spent at New Day Foster Home recuperating from heart surgery, and then he spent 2 years, 4 months, and 17 days in his Foster Family. It was the most consistency he had ever had in his life.

When we showed up, we disrupted that. And the clock started over again for Cooper.

New routines to learn.

New trust to build.

Opening of his heart again to give and receive love (even when, from his experience, that can be taken away at any time).

New life beginning.

When you start over in a whole new situation (nevermind new culture, new language, new foods, new EVERYTHING), you literally, well...... start over. It seems to stall any forward progress while you figure out how to adjust to the new situation. How to begin again. Again.

Today marks the day when we start building into completely new territory for Cooper.

We get to start seeing how he'll grow and mature as he expands into completely new territory. He isn't starting over again. He's continuing on! Taking new, next steps.

We'll get to see how fears melt away and he begins to take risks knowing we're here no matter what happens. Forever.

We'll get to see more, deeper, glimpses into the real Cooper that has always existed, but has not yet had the ability to come out because he's never been in one place long enough to completely let go of the anxiety of "when is the next transition coming" and move into new levels of trust and security in his situation.

Everything before has always been temporary.

But, we are FOREVER. 

And that allows him to grow in ways he has never been able to before.

It's a quiet milestone that will go unnoticed by all but us.

However, for the last couple months I have noticed Cooper becoming more secure in outwardly small, but for him HUGE ways:

  • When he first came home, he would not be in another room without one of us. Even until recently he would not go to another floor of the house without one of us for any reason. However, last week, he asked where a specific toy was. I told him the last time I saw it it was upstairs. And, with me still in the kitchen, he went right upstairs and got it. To you, this is no big deal probably. To me, I could hardly believe he had done it. And I thought, it's happening.

  • Cooper often will copy the other kids: their wants, their thoughts, their actions. This was a huge issue for a long time after Cooper first came home. It was like he could not say what HE wanted. He was just going to do/say/be like/agree with, whatever his siblings (mostly Sawyer) would choose. It was actually ridiculous. at times. We KNOW he doesn't like cheese. He hates it. However, if I told the kids it was snack time, and the other kids asked for a cheese stick, HE would ask for one too. I would explain to him that he doesn't like them, and that he could have ANYTHING else (except candy) that he wanted, he'd insist on having a cheese stick. Then he would take one mini-bite, and leave it uneaten. He clearly didn't want the cheese stick, he just wanted to know he could have what the other kids had. That he was on equal standing. We often wondered if he'd ever get to the point where he would choose something different because he simply WANTED something different. And, while we still struggle with this on a bit of a grander scale, he will now tell us what HE wants....even if the other two kids choose something else. It's happening.

  • Ever since he first came home, he has shared a room with Saywer. On evenings that Sawyer was out past Cooper's bedtime for soccer (which is a couple of nights a week), we would put him in bed with Chloe (she has a double bed) to fall asleep. Then, when Sawyer got home, we would move Cooper to his own bed. This fall, we took a couple weeks to "train" him to sleep on his own and feel safe. Now, when Sawyer is out, he hops right in his own bed. In a room. By himself. And he goes to sleep. No problem. It's happening.

  • At the beginning of this school year, I was literally one minute late picking him up from school one morning. When I walked in, he had a breakdown. He didn't think I was coming. (It was heartbreaking.) Since then we have talked about how we will ALWAYS come for him. ALWAYS. That we would never leave him anywhere. And every afternoon when he gets mad and starts carrying on because he doesn't want to have to get in the car to go pick up his sister and brother at school, I remind him that I would NEVER leave them at school EVER, just like I would NEVER leave him at school or anywhere else. Last week, Cooper's grandmother was 10 minutes late picking him up from school. Scot and I were too far away to get to him sooner. I was panic stricken that he'd be panic stricken. I called the school let them know his situation, and I got to talk to him to let him know Mimi was coming. He sat with the school counselor until she got there. The fall out (tears, anxiety) from that sort of stuff usually happens at bedtime. This time, nothing. So, I asked him if he had been nervous waiting for Mimi to get there. He said, "No, you called and told me she was coming, so I knew she was coming. I know you wouldn't leave me at school." It's happening.

It's happening.

Cooper has shed so much of the insecurity, anxiety, fear, distrust, and replaced it with love, trust, security, and almost confidence. He's stopped holding back, and has decided that we are safe enough to show his real self. Even the ugly stuff (I try to remind myself of this when he has a complete breakdown over brushing his teeth: he feel safe enough to behave like this in front of you, this is a good thing! :) ).

It's like digging up a dinosaur. Every day we see a little bit more of who he really is under all that other stuff. 

Which makes me SO excited about this milestone. 

Because beginning today, we strike out into brand new archeological territory where Cooper is concerned. We get to discover more and more of him every day- discoveries that are entirely ours because no one has ever entered this territory before. Sure, there is still work ahead. But, it is exciting, rewarding, fun, and SO VERY worth it.

And we look forward to our next (and final) big milestone- when Cooper has been WITH us longer than he has been WITHOUT us: August 9, 2014- which just so happens to also be our 16th wedding anniversary!

I love imagining how far he'll have come by then!

**Huge thanks to Laura at Latimer Studios for her beautiful pictures of our family above.


What You Don't Know They Don't Know

So, tonight as I was cleaning up dinner, I was listening to Chloe and Cooper play Cars together. This never gets old because I remember Cooper's first months home and the angst that was between them. I thought they would never get along.

I was wrong, today, they are thick as thieves. Sure, they fight, but really, they play together extremely well, and they are very close.

As they were playing tonight, I hear Chloe "talking" her car (as she calls it), and she says something about someone living in an orphanage.

And Cooper says, "What's an orphanage?"

His tone told me this was an honest question.

Chloe kept on playing, but I knew I had to chime in.

Me: "Cooper, Do you know what an orphanage is?"

C: "No."

Pause here. I'm surprised, because he has a life book that spells out his life story. It contains the word "orphanage". We have read this story a zillion times- and that is a conservative estimate. However, my adult mind never thought of the fact that he has NO IDEA what an orphanage is. (Parenting FAIL.) How could I not know he didn't understand?

Me: "Well, what do you think it is?"

C: "Is it where you go to play?"

Me: "No. Not really."

I proceded to explain what an orphanage is. This sounds easy. Facts are facts after all. However, when you are explaining this to your child who you love, it's a REALLY hard thing because you know you are not talking about something that happens sometimes to other kids who we'll never meet. Or even something that happened to someone you know. You are talking about something that happened to him. And he's more than able to connect the dots. And you feel it coming. Worse, you know it has to come.

C: "So, it's where kids who don't have parents or whose parents are not able to take care of them live until a family comes to adopt them?"

Me: "Yes." (pause) "Do you remember than you lived in an orphanage?" ( It was clear he didn't, but I knew I had to make sure he understood.)

C (with sincere shock): "I DID?"

In his defense and to all of our great blessing, he only lived in institutional care till he was 16 months old, so he sincerely does not remember it. He doesn't remember not being loved as a son. For this, I thank God every day.

Me: "Yes, you did when you were a baby before you went to live with your China Mama and China Baba (his foster parents)."

I outline the events of his early life for him to refresh his memory, but he really has no reference.

He doesn't think of himself as an orphan. At all.

This fills my heart with joy and gratefulness to so many. It also makes me sad for the day when the realization of that hits home.

I asked him a little bit later to tell me again what an orphanage is.

He said, "It's a place where kids who don't have parents go to play and have fun till their REAL parents come to pick them up!"

*smile* Those were his words. Not mine. I never said the words "real parents".

Tonight, we'll read his life book again, and maybe he'll connect the dots a little further. And, I'll be sure to read between the lines a bit closer to try to figure out what else I don't know he doesn't know.

But, for now he's good. He knows he is SO loved.

For now, that's enough for him.


Why I'm Dreading Basketball This Saturday (OR More Stuff People Say that I Just Cannot Believe)

This year both Chloe and Cooper are playing UpWard basketball. It's great because they have K/1 teams, so they can both play on the same team making my life oh so much easier.

However, I'm now sort of dreading basketball because lately, it's been the go-to place for stupid things people say about adoption. I'm sure it's coincidental, but still........

Basketball Game #1:

Sawyer is sitting on the sidelines when a boy he knows a little through UpWards past comes up to chat.   In the course of conversaiton, he asks Sawyer who he is here to watch.

Sawyer: "My brother"

Boy: "Oh, which one is he?"

Sawyer: "Number 12"

Boy (confused look on face): "Um....is he? Um.....what is he- Indian or something?"

Sawyer: "He's Chinese." (said in a tone that implies "DUH")

Boy: "Oh. (with a tone of realization) "OH....so did you guys adopt him or something?"

Sawyer: "Yeah"

Boy: "Oh" (with a tone that implies he's got it all figured out) "So, he's not your real brother."

Sawyer (both surprised and angry): "He's my real brother!"

Boy: "No, no I mean your REAL brother."

Sawyer (raising his voice): "He IS my real brother." (with a tone that implied the boy had better shut up....I was kinda proud)

I stepped in at that point and said something that I think was both instructive and gracious. I even managed to control my tone which would most certianly NOT have been gracious.

Here is the problem with this comment, which many people who do not have an adoptee in their family may not see: Copper has never, ever, for even one nano second doubted that he is anything BUT Sawyer's real brother- which of course, he IS! Cooper IDOLIZES Sawyer, and hearing this comment would have absolutely CRUSHED Cooper. There would have been sobbing, questions, and he may very well of assumed in his 6 year old mind that this uneducated boy was right. That he knows something that Cooper doesn't.

This is what people do not realize when they use the different versions of the "real" comment ("Where is his real mother?"; "Does he see his real parents?"): Cooper hears them, understands them, and internalizes them. You are sending him a message that is COMPLETELY untrue and makes him feel "less than". It's a comment that is damaging. It just is. You can try to argue why it shouldn't be, but it IS.

In the end, because Cooper didn't hear this comment, I was ultimately thankful for the encounter as it reminded me to work with my older two kids to help them find good ways to field this question in the future if I may NOt be around. And, I was careful to tell them that is I was not there and this happened in front of Cooper, that they were to defend his "realness" with all the passion they have in them. They'd never get in trouble with me if they do.


Basketball Week 2:

I was sitting watching my kids play when the pastor of this church came in. I grew up in this church, so I immediately said "Hello" and we started talking. I asked him how many grandchildren he has now, and he said 28, 29 was due any day, and 30 would come along in 1-2 months via adoption. I immediately congraulated him, and asked where his son was adopting from.

He replied, "Oh, he's adopting from North Carolina. You know, there are 600 children available for adoption in North Carolina right now. So many people want to adopt overseas, because it is "romantic" (he used air quotes here) and it's very "trendy", but you know, there are so many kids available right here in the United States, and I'm ALL for that. We should be adopting those kids."

Stunend into near speechlessness, I stamered something like, "Well, congratulations!", and literally turned and walked away. I figured an awkward, abrupt end to the conversation was better than what my knee-jerk reaction would have been.

In hindsight, I should have said, "Well, you know we adopted our son from China, and the words 'romantic' and 'trendy' would not have been words I would ever have occured to me to describe the experience."

Or maybe better yet: "You know, all kids everywhere are valuable. They are all created by God and He loves them all immensely- they are all worthy of a family, and I don't think God cares where that family comes from, but He is pleased when orphans becomes sons and daughters because it is a living breathing picture of His love for us."

That would have been good too. 

But, man, I get this one all the time and it makes me so angry I respond poorly to it every time!

It makes me SO FRUSTRATED because:
  • American kids are not any more (or less) worthy of a family than any other kids anywhere else on earth. Children from other countries are not any less worthy because they are not American. Period.
  • We did NOT go to China because it was romantic, trendy, exotic (another word we often hear), or anything else....we went there because God laid it on our heart as where our child was. We were filled with passion for China before we even researched adoption of any kind- we just knew our child was there. So be it- why do you have a problem with that? (And many, many people do, and have told us so.) A child who did not have a family will- how can you argue with that in ANY way without sounding like a jerk? We happen to love that he's Chinese. 
  • Please don't call anything about adoption "romantic"- that's so ridiculous I'll be tempted to punch you.
  • As IF I base my decisions on the likes of Brad Pi*tt, Ang*elina Jo*lie, or anyone else in Hollywood or on the planet for that matter. And following their lead to plan our family.......completely and utterly insane. 
Please- if you feel this way, do not say it out loud. Just trust me on this. 

This is just a reminder to educate yourself and be careful what you say. Think about how what you are saying will sound- especially if a child will hear it. 

Thankfully, the blizzard cancelled basketball for Saturday, but I am hopeful that these are isolated incidents that just so happened to both happen at basketball.

So, I suppose I'll go back this week. However, if it happens again- all bets are OFF!


Top 12 of 2012

I want to remember 2012- it was a GREAT year. So, in an effort to review so much I forgot to chronicle here, and to help me remember all the highlights, here are my top 12 moments of 2012 in some kind of order:

12. Being part of a wonderfu team of soccer families. Win/loss statistics aside, we won BIG when we scored such AWESOME families!

11. Celebrating my mom's 60th with her. It was a simple gathering, but it was perfect to celebrate her!

10. Finally completing Cooper's readoption in New Hampshire. It was the last adoption related task we had to complete, and it felt GOOD! (No pictures taken that day though! :( )

9. The addition of a woman who has become a great friend as an Administrative Assistant for our Children's Ministry. Can you say "life saver"?

8. Living vicariously through my niece Sophia, as all her hard work paid off and she made it to the final cut in an open Broadway casting call. In the end, she wasn't cast, but it didn't make us any less proud. We now know it is just a matter of time and the right opportunity (and we're not surprised).

7. Taking Cooper to Disneyland (or "Disney Junior" as he calls it) to meet Mickey and Lightning McQueen. It was an awesome opportunity. Then, having the whole family there together was the icing an already awesome cake!

6. The safe and healthy arrival of our newest nephew, Griffin Robert, in spite of some very scary circumstances. We were excited for his arrival anyway, but we were all the more thankful for him considering the way it could have gone if just a few things had happened differently.

5. Being a small part of a BIG miracle for a beautiful baby girl- an orphan in China whose face captured my heart. I remember where I was when I got the news that they found a liver for her, and I never once stopped praying that whole day and night until I heard word she came through beautifully! To see these pictures today brings me GREAT joy!

4. Hearing the news that Miss Alea has been matched with a family, and then "meeting" them via Facebook. I'm thankful that I will have the opportunity to watch her grow up! It's more than I would have hoped!

3. Being there to see my sister marry her best friend. Best. Day. Ever.

2. Celebrating 15 years of marriage to my best friend that same week. I'm always proud of him, but watching him marry Jess and Ric is right up there with the proudest I've ever been of him. I'm tremendously blessed that he'd choose me! Here's to the next 15!

1. Well......here I prefer to plead the 5th thankyouverymuch.  I know, that's mean, but you can spend some time imagining what might beat out all those other options as the best moment of my year.

My new years resolution? I have two:

1. Resurrect this dying blog
2. Go back to China....no matter what, come hell or high water, one way or another.

Wishing you and your family 
a happy, healthy new year full of wonderful memories!