Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beautiful Letters - We are traveling soon!!!

Last Friday, December 21st my FB groups were full of action as so many families were receiving "TA's."  Travel Approval is a huge step in the adoption process and I really wanted to get our TA call.  So, like any hopeful teenage girl waiting for a boy to call or text I sat by the phone and waited and waited and waited.  I emailed my case manager several times and there were no packages delivered to our agency that day.  To say I was crushed was an understatement.  Knowing that our agency would be closed on Monday and Tuesday because of Christmas made me feel even worse.  I am so thankful for a busy and amazing three year old to remind me that there was much life to be lived even without our TA before Christmas. 

We had a great Christmas Eve with our church family.  The dear people at our church really do feel like family to us.  After the services we opened presents and prepared for our early morning trip to Brandon's family.  Christmas Day (Tuesday) started very early.  We were packed and on the road for our "long car ride" to Grandma Judy and Grandpa Tom's house.  After a full afternoon of celebrating we came home and crashed. 

The day after Christmas finally arrived.  Our agency would be open, we would have a chance to hear about our TA!   I was a ball of nerves from the moment I woke up.  We were out at Brandon's uncle's farm so we tested the phone to make sure it would work... it did. 
The day drug on. 
We checked to make sure we were not missing calls all day long and NOTHING happened. 
I took M home to Brandon's parent's house to nap and checked my email.  Maybe I would hear something... maybe other families from my agency would hear something... Nothing!  Then suddenly the internet connection was gone.  I was in full freak out mode now.  I wanted that TA so badly.  Brandon's dad actually called AT&T and got things up and going again. Double Whew.  I emailed my case manager and told her that I was unable to eat due to nerves and if she was able to send me a note after the deliveries came (even if there was none for us) I would really like it. 

At 5:02 pm I received this email.  
"Hi Shelly,  
 The window of time has passed when we would usually receive a packet from Ch*na.

Panic set in.  I thought, if we don't get TA tomorrow we won't hear about CA until next Wednesday because the consulate is closed during New Year's. 

I was crushed.  I was hungry.  I ate.  I wallowed.  I prayed.  I felt peace about  things.  I ate some more.

Brandon called!  He was still at the farm and L called him. I didn't believe him!  DHL to the rescue.  Our TA had arrived after all.  What a amazing and delightful surprise.  Our hearts were filled with joy!  Ch*na said yes!  We are allowed to travel to get T!!!!!  Brandon told L our choices for CA and we prayed we would get our first choice.

Now all we needed to book tickets were two more beautiful letter, C and A.  At the end of a Ch*na trip families must go to the US consulate for a Consulate Appointment (CA) so their children can get visa's to come into the US.  I know I mentioned in a previous post that it takes about 1-3 days to hear about your CA.  I also mentioned that we were really really really praying to get a Monday CA so we could get home to M more quickly.  

One more step before tickets... WOW!!!
We decided to take advantage of the joy we felt and continue celebrating by going to Les Miserables.  Something we were very looking forward to seeing.  It was incredible, but really more of another whole post so that is all I will say about that for now.  

The next morning I woke up to see many families who got TA's already knew their CA.  I was on pins and needles.  I called our agency as my case manager had the day off.  About 30 minutes later we received a call from our agency that we did get CA and we got our first choice... Monday, January 28th!!!!  This means we will unite as a family of four in the US on January 30th!!! 

Oh boy friends.  We were on cloud nine.  Brandon's family was expecting lots of company any minute and I frantically emailed 5 travel agencies to get quotes.  We had a great day with family, but my mind never wandered far from the ticket booking task that would soon be ours.  

The night I poured over itinerary options for hours.   Nothing seemed good.  Either the layovers were super long or way too short.  We prayed and slept and I almost dreaded going to the computer the next morning.  

The next day, in the middle of dental appointments, I managed to talk back and forth with our travel agent and with our case manager.  I am very happy to announce that we have booked our tickets!  Yahoo!!!  We opted for the tiny layover option.  While I will be writing a prayer request post closer to travel, I want to ask those of you who pray for us to begin praying now that we will make our connections in Hong Kong and Chicago.  

We leave for Ch*na in less than 3 weeks!!!!  I have a lot of photo blogging and other posts to catch up on writing so check back often. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Adoption Update

We are in the final stages of waiting dear friends.  I think the closer to the end we get the harder the waiting is.  We are currently waiting for our Travel Approval (TA).   TA's usually take less than two weeks from Article 5 pick up date.  Our pick up date was on the 12th.  If I have learned anything on my two rides of the adoption roller coaster, it is to not put too much hope of "usually" and "typical" when it comes to timing of things in the process.  Every single step of this process (besides the super quick referral after LID) has been slower than typical.  Sadly, as I am writing this I have an adoptive momma friend who had her Article 5 p/u on November 30th and she is still waiting for her TA.  Yikes!

It is easy to panic.  It is easy to fear missing the travel window before Ch!nese New Year.  It is easy to think of things to worry about.  It is so much harder to trust that God knows when our Travel Approval will come.  We are so close.  We can see the finish line.  It feels like we could just sprint in, and yet we must not run ahead.  This race is God's not ours. 

We will learn of TA from our lovely case manager.  She will call us and inform us that the country has said we can travel to get our daughter.  At this point it seems like we could just jump on a plane and go, right?  Well, not exactly. 

As soon as we have TA we will give our case manager our top 5 choices for consulate appointments.  The consulate appointments can happen on Monday-Thursday, but we are PRAYING for a Monday. We want to in and out of Ch!na as quickly as possible because we are leave M at home.  Yes, we are.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, that is a whole different blog post which I will get up soon. Anyway, we are hoping to be gone for 13 days including flying days so the Monday consulate date is critical.  Because the consulate is a US govt. office it is closed for MLK day on the 21st.  This means that our Monday options are smaller than normal.  We are praying that we will get our first choice for a January 28th CA date.  Please join us in praying for this when you think of us. 

Typically (there is that word again) the consulate will confirm your CA date within 3 days.  Sometimes it is within one day!  Once our CA is confirmed we are free to book flights, hotels, and make our plan for our time in Ch!na. 

Christmas and New Year's also throws a wrench in some of the timelines as our agency, the Ch!nese offices, and the US consulate all close for both Christmas and New Years.  

I will make sure to do a quick post when we receive both TA and CA news.  If we don't hear about TA tomorrow, the next chance we will get to hear anything is next Wednesday as our agency is closed Monday and Tuesday.  Thank you so much for your prayers for our family. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sweet T's wish list

*Update* Our little sweet T is actually really little!  I just talked with someone who has a daughter the same size.  Her daughter is wearing 3-6 month clothing.  So I guess we need clothes of all sizes.  I am going to plan to take some 6-9 with to China.  We have some 6-9 already.  We have no 3-6... I wonder if I will really need that tiny stuff.  So, if you see a great deal, go for it.  She will wear it sometime.  

Many people have asked me what things we need for Baby T.  Honestly, most of the big stuff and LOTS of little stuff was given to us when M came home.  We were overwhelmed by so many generous hearts and generous showers for our little man.  Luckily we requested a lot of gender neutral items so we are set for our baby girl. 

There are some things that we do know we need to buy for our daughter.  I really don’t feel right about registering this time as we don’t need that much and we are so VERY happy with hand-me downs, clothes from resale shops, etc. that registering for new and expensive clothes is just too hard for this thrifty momma to do.  I went through M’s clothes and found many gender neutral and some not totally neutral, but still fine to wear around the house. Several of these things are very easy for me to purchase, but since those are the sort of things that are on a registry I thought I would include them. 

9-12mo winter
12-18 months summer and winter
winter mittens
Robeez slipper shoes 9-12 mo or 12-18mo size (They were amazing for M)
Bumpkins bib with sleeves (M still uses his every day)
hair pretties, bows, clips, tiny clear rubberbands (all things girly ahh ;)
Kawaii one size pocket diapers (cloth diapers) we are thinking of getting a few girly ones

Big items:
Crib mattress
Floor lamp for behind rocking chair (like M’s)

Other random things:

Night light (2)
Baby wash clothes (large package)
Baby’s First Christmas 2012 ornaments and/or China adoption ornaments (we have so many for M I don’t want T to feel left out)
Target Gift Cards for all the things I am forgetting

Playtex drop-ins 8oz bottle liners key for travel! (the generic work great too)
Diaper wipes (generic are fine we like Up and Up from Target)
Size three diaper for travel and first weeks home before we switch to cloth
Cetaphil cream (body lotion) in the tub
Johnson’s oil and body wash
Johnson’s hand and face wipes (for the airplane)
Suave Smoothers hair product (supposed to be great for Asian hair)

For some reason we have very ample hand-me-downs of the following items:
Snowsuits/coats or any winter gear (besides mittens)
Hoodies and little jackets
Baby toys
Baby gear

Monday, December 10, 2012

And She Shall Be Called

Before writing this post I went back into the blog archives and I found the post where I wrote about naming M - HERE.  I thought you all might want to check that whole process out as well.

So... We have chosen a name for “Baby Sister”... Finally!!!!  This was not an easy task.  We spent so many hours pouring over name books and naming websites.  Seriously, so many should actually read SO MANY, because friends, I read my first “top 100,000 names”  book during the olympics... in July!  After almost 6 months of people asking if we have chosen a name we can finally say yes! 

Again, I will not be disclosing her name on the blog.  I will post it on FB and if you read this well, you will figure it out, but I just don’t want anyone to search for her and find her here.  I hope that makes sense. 

Her Chinese name (which we have grown to love deeply) will be her second middle name.  This way, if she ever wants to be called the name of her birth country heritage she will easily be able to. 

Her first name starts with a “T” so she will be referred to on the blog as Baby T or T. 
Sweet T’s name means, “song of praise” and it can be found in the Bible 59 times... sort of.  T’s name is in the original language of the OT.  It is our hope and prayer that her life would be a song of praise to the Lord! 

We wanted a very unique name that would work nicely with M and had a rich Biblical meaning.   That shortened the list a little.  For a while we considered the super cool name of the lovely woman who did my hair for my brother’s wedding.  We tried it out for several weeks.  Very frequently I would ask Brandon to remind me of the name we were trying out, because I kept thinking it was “T” (the trial name also started with a T).  We would laugh and then keep trying it.  We didn’t  seriously consider naming our daughter T until recently.  You see, we have dear friends who have a daughter named T.  They went to grad school with Brandon and while we will most likely never live in the same country as them we still felt strange about naming our daughter the same name as their daughter.  We know they took much time in choosing her name and we didn’t want to belittle that in anyway. 

As we researched the meaning of T and we learned about more people who have that name we became more comfortable with choosing it for our daughter.  We feel it a beautiful name. It is tender, yet strong... much like I imagine our sweet T to be. 

We have asked M several times if he has any thoughts on his baby sister’s name.  Besides her Chinese name which he often suggests he has only come up with “funny words” as he calls them which are made up words in a pattern like this: Camer, Tamer, Poner, Moner, BlabeeBlabeeBlabeeBlabee.  It usually ends with a sound or two.  Anyway, one time he said something that actually sounded like the name of female human!  It could be a possible nick name for T so he did his part as well. 

Her first middle name is one of the most simple and complex words in the Bible, grace.  Oh I pray that she will understand the meaning of grace and the cost of grace and that she will live in it from an early age.  I also pray that she would extend it to others quickly, especially her mommy since I need it a lot! 

I find it fitting that once T comes home I will be playing with  “MT” and running on “empty.”  Of course MT will make for a FULL life! :)

Thank you all for your prayers for us as we chose a name.  I was so comforted to read the entry about picking M’s name and how were were going to walk forward with the name, hoping it was the correct choice.  He is such a M today.  I feel we made the right choice.  I pray that as I reflect on this entry two years from now I will again have confidence that sweet T has a name that suits her as well. 

More adoption updates are coming soon.  T also gave me a heads up on the gear she most needs and wants for her first Christmas so I will be passing that along very soon as well. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mixing up a "1" and a "0" Adoption Update!

Our lives have been rocked and awed by God in the last 24 hours. Panic, worry, peace, and joy... we have felt it all. 

BUT first I should back up a step.  Last Tuesday (10-20) we got a wonderful from our case manager at USCIS/National Benefit Center (NBC) saying that our I-800 had been approved.  We received a hard copy at our home on Friday and were very thankful to have made it to another milestone in this adoption. 

We began pestering the National Visa Center (NVC) on Sunday night hoping to get an email that we had a "GUZ number" and then a "PDF" that our paperwork had been cabled to China. On Monday we learned that we had a GUZ number and yesterday (Tuesday 10-27) we got the great news that our paperwork had been cabled to China.  Wow!  The first stage of the process that appeared to go exactly like clockwork. 

Sadly, it wasn't exactly perfect.  About the same time we received the PDF email our caseworker at our agency called us and emailed us and informed us that all was not perfect in our adoption paperwork.  Apparently our I-800 had a mistake.  I-800's can't have mistakes.  We didn't notice it because it was such an obvious mistake that we didn't see it.  Our daughter's birth year was listed as 2102... not 2012.  Two mixed up numbers... Our hearts were crushed.  Had we noticed it several days earlier the NBC could have sent it to the NVC with little worry.  However, our documents were already sent to China. I know this sounds like such a tiny thing that we shouldn't even care, but in Intl adoption, tiny is HUGE.

Thanks to an incredible agency, before we even knew what was going on our case worker contacted the NBC and had them issue a new copy of the 800 to the NVC (electronic) and a paper copy to us and to our agency.  I then emailed the NVC informing them that an email would be coming and that they should look for it and did they need anything else.  This morning we received a vague email back and didn't really know what it meant.  Then we sent another email and this time we got the response we were looking for.  All has been fixed.  The NVC sent the updated document to China.  Thank you God! 

So where are we now?
Well, amazingly our Article 5 was able to be dropped off today and is scheduled to be picked up on December 12th.  12/12/12 will be an easy date to remember. This is great news!  If you are looking at the adoption timeline on the left sidebar you will notice that there are not many steps left after Article 5 pick up!!!! 

The next step after pick up is TRAVEL APPROVAL!!!!!  We are so excited to be at this point. 
 Hopefully we will be issued TA in 2012 and we will be able to travel in January of 2013!!!

Why the last 24 hours was so stressful and... great:
The last 24 hours were made extra stressful as I was battling a nasty stomach bug and head cold.  I am pretty sure hummus that sat out too long was to be blamed.  M also has a cold.  We don't have internet at home (until the 3oth) so all the checking on emails etc had to be done at church.  Feeling sicky and out of sorts and running back and forth to church (and the bathroom:) didn't make for a fun day.

The timeline also made things extra stressful.  It is critical to get TA on Christmas week or before if we want to travel at our desired time in January.  Chinese New Year is on February 10th, but everything in China gets a little crazy for weeks before it and after it.  If we don't get to travel in January we won't get to until late February or even March.  Also the airfare SKYROCKETS before/during/and after Chinese New Year.

BUT God is faithful!  I am so thankful for all the hardships of the last 24 hours because it has surely reminded us Who is in control.  We have had to relinquish control over and over again.  We have prayed as a family.  We have asked for pray from those near to us.  We have seen God show up in every single area.  We feel humbled and blessed and so filled with joy.  God surely is in the details friends! 

As we move forward we continue to covet your prayers.  We are requesting if it be God's Will that we would get our TA and CA before Christmas.  We believe it is able to happen and we trust that even if it doesn't God is faithful.  We are praying some Faith Like Potatoes prayers here friends.  Thank you for being a part of our journey. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall Festival 2012

This is not so much a "Halloween Post" as it is one filled with my adorable son dressed like a puppy.  There are also several photos of his best buddy L dressed as a lion.  Our town has a festival on a Saturday morning before Halloween where venders selling everything from veggies to candles to make-up set up down town and hand out candy to little kids all dressed up.  It was cold but the boys loved it.  They also got to go on a wagon ride. 

One Lion and one Puppy ready to go!
Checking out the tails.

Bring on the candy!

I liked the wagon ride with real horses. 

I really liked the horses, but they were really big so I not get too close.

Also, I a big helper raking leaves with Daddy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to carve a pumpkin:

Ever since our day at the pumpkin patch M was very excited to carve his pumpkin just like the farmer in the book "The Pumpkin Patch Parable." We didn't realize how literal he was about the whole thing until he insisted on getting dressed like a farmer.  I guess he thought his snow pants looked like overalls.  He also insisted on wearing his cap.  Both my farmer grandpas like caps so that warmed my heart.  We had a great night and made special memories as a family.  What a treasure for the three of us.  M was the perfect age to be introduced to this fun activity. 

"Turst," you read the pumpkin book and dress like a farmer.
Do you like my farmer clothes?

Then you draw on the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Daddy cut around the top, now we can lift it off.  I REALLY excited.

I lifted it  off by myself. 

Next we cleaned out the seeds.  Then Daddy carved out the face and I sang songs to entertain him.

Then we put in the candle and lit it.  We could see the face glowing.

I blew out the candle all by myself.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Picking out a Pumpkin

My parents were able to come to our home for a long weekend in October.  We had a great time doing many things, but M really really liked the pumpkin farm!  The tractor ride to the patch was by far his favorite part. 
Come on farmer we are ready for a ride.

Look at all these pumpkins!

Awww, I like them!

Mommy told me to smile.

Then Grandpa made me laugh.

My family.

What?  Mommy told me to bend down in the pumpkins. 

She liked this better.

"Clap, clap, clap your hands as slowly as you can"

"Clap, clap, clap your hands as fast as you can."

I not believe it, I a scarecrow.  We read book about scarecrow, now I in real one.

How does this pumpkin one work.

Oh, like this.
I really like it when Grandpa Daryl reads to me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Robes and Cooking

My favorite robe and mode of transportation.

Saturday morning pancakes with maple syrup with mommy. 

I a good cooker.

Remember, you must be careful when you use this.

I look handsome in my robe.

I do this, I look taller.

Mommy told me to smile.  (Gotta love the classic fake smile)

Friday, November 2, 2012


Wow God!!!!!!!  Each day I would ask Him what His plan was for our adoption and if we would hear soon and sometimes I asked him if we were still surely in the process as it all seemed so silent.  Well, on October 31st we received our Letter Of Acceptance or Letter Seeking Confirmation.  Thanks be to God!!!!!   I know He heard every prayer and surely we will see one day that his timing was perfect. We had been waiting 92 days for the beautiful voice of our case worker on the other end of the phone.  Since I am still living in the early 90's when it comes to technology she was calling us on our land line without caller ID so I had to endure through seemingly 100's of political calls while waiting for "THE CALL." I was actually putting M down for his nap when the call came in.  I didn't hear it, but listened to a message that simply told me to call our agency.  Honestly, while I deeply hoped that the LOA was the news my heart was beating so rapidly thinking that maybe YQ was ill or something was wrong with our documents.  My fears were gone instantly when we learned of the good news. 

After crying for a minute with our case worker and trying to listen to "next steps" while jumping up and down I called Brandon.  He quickly printed off a copy of the LOA and brought it home.  We both signed it and scanned it and sent it right back to our agency.  Within minutes or getting the news our LOA along with our 800 application were in the mail on the way to the USCIS lockbox.  How thrilling!   So thankful that our agency does this as it shaves a day or two off of our wait... and every day counts.

So, what is next?  Well, to be honest... it is all a little confusing for me right now.  I will tell you what I have been told, but for other adoptive families reading this don't take my word for the accuracy of the following steps :)

1. Get 800 approval from the USCIS
2. 800 approval sent to National VISA Center (NVC)
3. NVC issues a letter
4. NVC letter Cabled to China
5. Article 5 drop off
6. Article 5 pick up
7. Travel approval
8. Schedule a consulate appointment
9. GO TO CHINA!!!!

Sadly, even within these nine steps are many other smaller steps.  The good news is that steps 1-6 are typically completed in about 6 weeks.  Step 7 is very unpredictable with a range of time from 1-4 weeks. Step 8 takes only a few days to schedule.  Many families travel just a week or two after scheduling their consulate appointment. 

So, what does this actually mean, right?  Well, we are hoping to travel in early January!!!!

In other exciting news, we requested a update on YQ just last week and we already got a response.  Not only did we get a small response to some of our questions, we also got 3 new photos!  This is such a huge answer to prayer and we were prepared to wait a long time or to not get any at all. 

I am sorry to say that we are again not sharing any photos of our daughter until she is in our arms, but if you see us you can stop us and ask to see the new photos!  

Here is a little news about our daughter at 81/2 months:
She weighs 15 pounds
She is 26 inches long.
Her head circumference is 16.14inches.

She is also apparently only sleeping 9 hours a night... yikes.  Please join us in praying for a super sleeper.  

In case you were wondering how this compares to big brother... at 9 months:
M weighed 11 pounds.
M was 23'6" inches
M's head circ was 16.7

God loves adoption!!!! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jesus, You put music in my soul!

A few years ago there was a song that we sang in church that had the title of this post in the chorus.  M is always singing praises to the Lord. Have you ever watched a musical and thought about how random and out of the blue the songs come up.  I have often thought it seems totally unrealistic... then I met M.  He belts out tunes whatever he is doing.  Life (or any surface) is a stage!  He tries to include his friends whenever possible.  You can tell in many of these shots that he spends time studying "the look" of the real guys by the way he stands and when he wears.
L likes his hat and I like my Etar, we on a stage.
I setting up for concert of prayer.

I the band.  I sing.  I play. I play and sing.

Sound check.

It was a good concert.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A life worth loving

M loves life.  He brings a joy and spark into most things.  These photos are mainly totally random, but the joy in each of his smiles fills my heart and reminds me how blessed I am... and how awesome adoption is... even when the roller coaster of it all is a bit stressful.

M got to have a play date with two other ET buddies. 
Bike pumps are the coolest thing these days. 

OK, I am not in the picture, but my mom says that this is a part of the silent auction amazingness and it brings joy to both of us to look at it.

Do you see the construction mans, real construction mans?  They are shingling the roof. I watch them all day.  They are real construction mans.

Cars in lines... what could be better?

Bring on the snow... I a farmer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bounce, Hit, and Swing!

Have you ever been to one of those incredible one stop shop places with a bounce house, kid quarter games (also known by some as "kiddie gambling"), mini golf, and more.  Well, our church had a family fun night at a local place like this late this summer.  As you can tell, M loved it all.  I did end up making a trip to the chiropractor after a very ungraceful climb into the bounce house.  I think my mom friends and I had just as much fun in there as the kids did.  I will say that we will not be going to a mini golf course again anytime soon.  After attempting to actually swing and hit the ball in the first hole, we returned the clubs and let the boys throw the balls at the hole.

The guys were coming out and I hit them really fast.
I be really careful in the bounce house.  It really fun.

I like golfing.

I like soccer golfing too.

I like singing with L while throwing the golf ball golfing too.