Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We Received A REFERRAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am NOT joking!  I am totally serious!  It happened!!!  We got “the call” on Monday night.  I am still in total shock.  Last time this happened I realized the fact that I would be a mom for the first time.  Now, as I live the reality of my dreams parenting M I am more in awe then ever that God would count us worthy to add a second blessing to our family. (If you want to read our M referral story, click HERE.)

For those of you who want the short version, I will give a brief summary first.  She was born in Feb of THIS year!  That is right folks, she is only 5 months old!  You shocked?  We sure were!  She is a sweet little doll with huge brown eyes, perfect skin, lots of thick hair, and chubby cheeks. I think she will be a great sister for M and he has big plans of all he will be teaching her. 

We learned last Friday that the “shared list” was coming out on July 23rd (Monday night).  I called our agency and talked through all the needs we listed.  She told me generally how many people were waiting with various needs.  I was shocked to hear that even through we just had a LID of 7.12 we were at the top of the list for several needs.  We talked a lot about more complicated heart defects that we were ready to handle.  Brandon and I did a lot of research and networking about these heart defects and felt ready on Monday night to answer the phone. 

M didn’t know what was going on with the shared list, but that night at bed he prayed such a sweet prayer for baby sister (unprompted). 

My stomach was all in knots as I came down from putting M to bed.  We decided to watch an episode of the Waltons which we figured would end before 10:00 and then go to bed with the phone ringer on in our room.  As we started the show I talked about how crazy it is that some shared list we are actually going to get a call, our phone will ring.  We didn’t really expect to hear anything so quickly so we settled in a watched.  Half way in to the episode the phone did ring!  Wow... this is really happening!!!  E told us that she had a little girl locked in for us, but that she wasn’t sure if the needed lined up with our list. She then told us about her needs and we were willing to move forward. Her need is something that we honestly knew nothing about. At some point I am guessing I will post about her SN, but this time we are just celebrating our little girl.  E told us about a spectrum with this need and several syndromes that are related to it.  She told us how young this girl was and asked if we would like to look at the file.  We said YES!!!!  We have since learned that this list was very small and there were very few girls.  God truly led us to our child and set her apart for us! 

After hanging up we talked a couple of minutes and prayed and went to the computer.  We met our daughter and read all about her.  Such a sweet time.  We emailed the amazing Dr. Feldman (well respected Intl. Adotion Dr. totally worth the steep price) who responded right away and set up a consult with us for 9:00 EST Tuesday night.  At this point it is way late, so of course I stay up even later to research the SN.  This was dangerous as I read a lot of scary stuff.  I only slept about 3 hours on Monday night.

 All day Tuesday I prayed and processed and researched while M napped.  I didn’t really eat much as I was so nervous.  I tried to avoid her photo as I didn’t want to grow close to her until I knew we could handle things.  We even waited to tell our parents.  Finally the call came and we got GREAT news!  She is doing far better than all the scary stuff we read.  We rejoiced after the call and knew we were ready to say yes! 

Last night we called our parents who were more than a little thrilled by our news!   Since sleep is over-rated we wrote our letter to China so we could proceed with the referral and sent that to our agency last night. 

Today has been filled with phone calls and chats and hugs and JOY!  God is so good.  We are hoping to travel in January or February to bring her home.  I will post more about the process from here soon. 

We will not be posting and photos at this point, but if you are around our family we will be excited to show your our copies.  Our parents and soon grandparents will have copies also. 

July has been a great month for our adoption adventure!  DTC 7.3  LID 7.12 Referral 7.23!!!!!  Thanks be to our God!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Big News in our family!!!

Check out my cool shirt!!!  Mommy is paper pregnant.  I don't know what that means, but read her post below for more info!

Three teams to cheer for this Olympics!!!

Our family is finally ready to share our exciting news!  M is going to be a big brother!!!  We are officially PAPER PREGNANT with a little one from China!  We decided this time around to keep a secret for a while.  At first we (meaning I) really wanted to wait until our referral, but then I also really wanted to support and celebrate China and Ethiopia in the Olympics in just 14 days, but who’s counting!  So then we decided to tell people once our dossier becomes logged in to a database in China and we received our Log In Date (LID).  The dossier is a huge packet of documents that has to be notarized locally and certified at the state and national level.  The certifications were new to us this time around.  Ethiopia is not a Hague country so we were able to just send the notarized documents.  The certifications add several weeks to the process.  Once the certifications are completed your dossier is sent to China, but you are not really “waiting” until the LID. 

We will now wait for a “shared list” to be released.  They are typically released about every 4 to 6 weeks in the middle of the night US time.  Hopeful families stay up late waiting for the phone to ring. 

We might have to wait another few weeks for a shared list to be released  and THEN there might not be a child for our family on that list or even a few lists.  We are still thinking a referral could be several months off.  There is of course a chance that things could go very quickly.  We hope that we will not have to wait too long.

Why did you keep it a secret?
In one sense we wanted to wait and keep this whole thing a secret until referral.  How fun would that be to email parents a photos of their next grandchild?  In another we wanted to tell people right away.  With M we updated the blog all throughout the journey and we have missed doing that this time around.  I want to assure that this announcement has been long in coming.  Before the official process(discussed below) there were many months of researching and blog reading. We have enjoyed treasuring this adoption in our hearts as many do the first months of pregnancy.  We have prayed and waited and prayed and waited and we are now excited to tell you about our journey to bring home a little one from China.

Why China?
The simple answer is that God has a child for us there so we must go there to bring the child into our family.  God is leading us to our child!

There are other reasons for China as well. 

As many of you know, we have a deep passion for Ethiopia.  We were eager to get back on the list for Ethiopia soon after M came home.  About that time waits increased and the process to adopt from Ethiopia became harder and harder.  Most agencies have actually halted their programs to new applicants.  This does not mean that Ethiopia is closed to adoption.  We are praying that the process will run much more effectively in the years to come and that we will still be able to go back to ET for a later adoption.  We looked into adoption from several other countries and there was always at least one factor that caused us to turn away.  God closed a door!

We honestly never thought we would be able to adopt from China.  They have pretty intense income rules and a pastor and stay at home mom living in a parsonage are not exactly rolling in the dough.  We live just fine and we are blessed, but China requires 10,000 per person in your family including the child you are bringing home and 80,000 positive net worth.  At first we thought that meant 80K in cash, but we learned that other assets count as well.  Since we have zero liabilities (no more seminary debt and old cars yahoo) we were able to meet the 80, but realized the salary amount would be harder should we wait to adopt from China until a later adoption.  God opened a door!

Once we learned we fulfilled the requirements we were ready to move forward.    I stayed up late pouring over blogs, yahoo groups, forums, and FB groups. I heard family stories.  I watched them journey to China and back.  I watched God restore health to their very ill children through much needed heart surgeries and blood transfusions. I watched family dynamics change as families added members to their families (and it scared me and still does a little, but we will deal with that later).  The more I read the more I fell in love with the country, the people, the culture, and the children.  They are so beautiful.  The need is so great.  The calling is so real! We were thankful after many months (yes China has been on our radar screen for almost a year) of research to have finally chosen a country.  God made the right way obvious.

What agency?
Choosing an agency is so hard! I joined four yahoo groups and asked lots of questions.  I downloaded so many applications from agencies.  I read pages and pages of info about different fees and timelines.  I called and interviewed agencies.  I called and emailed families who used different agencies.  In the end we found an agency we feel is the right fit for our family.  So far so good.  No agency is perfect, but we are overall quite pleased with our choice.  You all know I am not going to tell you the name of our agency, right?  Anyway, another decision had been made! God directed our steps.

When did all of this officially begin?

After knowing we were going to adopt from China for many months, we went to the Smoky Mountains in early March and decided to send in our application as soon as we returned home from vacation.  Our process officially started on March 19th when we mailed in our application. 

What has been going on since March 19th?
I realize that most of this information is sort of boring and more for record keeping than your pure enjoyment.  After reading this you will prob. be glad that we have kept you out of the loop for this long :) We quickly filled out lots of forms for our home study and were able to have our meeting quite quickly.  We also began collecting documents needed for our dossier.  Everything seemed so simple this time around.  We knew what to do and gathered things quickly.  After starting at record pace we hit a couple of slowdowns early on.  Our case worker (who is awesome) went on a family vacation and then the head case worker had some family issues which delayed our home study document a couple of weeks.  Once our homestudy was accepted we were able to work on the USCIS paperwork.  We sent in the forms and waited and waited for a fingerprinting appointment.  Most people were getting them very quickly, but our decided to take 4 weeks and not 2 (they are now taking even longer).  We were fingerprinted on June 14th.  On June 15th (Friday) we received word from the USCIS that our file had already been reviewed, but that our clearance for a previous state lived in was not current.  Since we have not lived in this state since our last clearance our agency was under the impression that a new check didn’t need to be done.  Luckily, early in the process I decided to just request a background check from every state we have lived in just in case.  Our agency was able to find the new document with a current date and email it to USCIS. 

By June 18th (Monday) we got the news that we were approved!  This was a huge reason to celebrate, but at the same time we had to wait until we were holding the coveted 797 in our hands for the next step in the process to take place.  On June 20th (Wednesday) we had a GREAT mail day.  Our hard copy of the 797 had arrived.  We were able to scan it and send it on to our agency.  Our agency was able to receive it, notarize it, and sent it to the Sec of State all in one day.  We also received word that the rest of our dossier was sent to the consulate on the 20th as well.  The following Monday (June 25th) our 797 was back from Sec of State and ready to head to DC Chinese Embassy  (send on June 26th Tuesday) for the final step. All of our documents are now on the final leg of their journey  before heading to China. 

On June 30th we celebrated adding someone to our family.  No, it was not a referral.  My brother Bret married Joanna!  It was a very blessed day of celebration.  The wedding was beautiful and it was a joy for our entire family to be a part of the day.  Interestingly enough my mom’s dad talked with us on this day about his love for little girls and hoped that there would be girls in M's generation soon.  He also talked quite a bit about his time in China while in the service.  He knew nothing about our adoption though spoke about the baby girls he saw there.  Sad stories.  I so wanted to tell him the news but resisted. 

Our travels brought us home on July 2nd and on the 3rd I emailed our agency.  Our caseworker informed me that she had everything ready for our dossier.  Every document was completed and it would be in the mail shortly.  That afternoon she called us to say it had been mailed.  This means our Dossier went To China!!!  DTC July 3rd!!!!!!  In our Ethiopia adoption journey this meant “paper pregnant,”  but in China families must wait for a Log In Date (LID) to be officially waiting for a non special focus child from the shared list.  LID’s can come anywhere from one week to one month from DTC. 

We learned on July 13th (Friday) that we received a China LID of 7.12.12!  It is official!  We are waiting for a little one from China!!!!!  We are so thrilled and realize that we can now tell the world!

What can you tell us about your referral request? 

We learned in M’s adoption to make our home study broad so we are able to accept a variety of referrals should the Lord lead us to do so.  We are officially approved for one child of either gender 48 months old or younger with various special needs.  Our search is a bit more narrow, but you will have to wait for the referral post to find out who God is leading to our family.  There is a good change our child will be a “she” however God can do what He wants so we are not sure at this point.  At this point we are anticipating M (now 35 months) to be a big brother.  While we are approved for children older than him, we are requesting a child younger than him at this point. 

What happens next?

There are many steps which have to take place before our next blessing can come home.  Here is a very basic summary of what has so happen.  There are more steps than these, but this gives you an idea!
Receive a referral (this is “the call”)
Accept the referral by writing a letter of intent (LOI) and receiving Pre-Approval (PA)
WAIT for two to four months for China to issue us a Letter of Acceptance (LOA).
The USCIS approves the referral (800 approval) and then send stuff over to China.
China receives US approval and tells us we have Travel Approval (TA)
We apply for and receive a Consulate Appointment (CA) in China.

Our agency says that families typically take 5 to 8 months to go from referral to home.  This is quite a range.  From my extensive research I am happy to report that most families seem to be taking about 6 months.  This means if our process is “typical” and we receive a referral sometime in say September we would travel in about March.  This is very early to give any estimations about travel as we don’t even have a referral, but I know some of you will ask so I wanted to include a guess! 

Like M’s adoption we will not have any photos of our new little one on the blog until our child is in our arms in China.  The adoption is not finalized until we are in China so we are going going to “go public” with photos until then either. 

Thank you for sharing in our joy!!!!  Check back often for more details.  We are excited to see how God builds our family as we continue to trust in Him! If you are curious about special needs adoption in China I highly recommend this website:  No Hands But Ours!  Check out M's announcement above!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spring Work Day

I was ready to work at the spring work day when L grabbed me from behind.

I decided I could pause for a quick hug and drink of almond milk.

Then it was off to work with all the guys.  There were a lot of weeds to pull!
Taking a rest with my good buddy Jim!  We got a lot done and made the outside of the church look beautiful!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Memorial Day Visit

Another photo post that is long overdue!  Brandon's parents were here for Memorial Day weekend.  We enjoyed great food and lots of laughter with M.  We also saw a big rainstorm (actually that might have been the last time it rained) and an awesome rainbow over the lake afterwards.  

Grandma Judy reading the Owen book... two great things!

Whew!  She remembered the marbles and I still love them!

We had a great weekend!

If anyone ever needs there car doors opened and closed, I am your man.  I will offer my services as many times as you need it.  Maybe I could actually get a job on the assembly line testing door openers for longevity because I just can't stop myself from opening and closing them. 

Loving my Daddy!

Read it again Daddy!

Oh, that is exciting!

I am good at planting flowers and watering them too!

Happy Father's Day Daddy.  I love you!
I praise God each day for my amazing husband who just happens to be an awesome dad too!  Brandon never tires of playing running and chasing games, reading books, playing cars, and helping me in so many ways.  Our son is pretty blessed to have you as a daddy!