Monday, December 5, 2016

December Already!

Days of waiting really drag by, but then I look at the calendar and see that it's already December. Every day is one day closer to bringing home Child #5. That is a really tough thing to remember when weeks go by with no news. I was busy for sure, but the impatience is always there in the back of my mind.
I felt like I wasn't distracted enough, so I invited my cousin's family over for Thanksgiving along with her parents, my mom's brother and sister in law. You would think I would have poured that energy into being an amazing hostess with matching placemats and name cards, but mostly it meant that I spent two days cleaning then ran out of energy halfway into planning the menu. Thankfully, they are easy going, and my aunt enjoys cooking improve. "No evaporated milk? I think it will taste better with sour cream!" Thank you Lord that I invited a baking genius! She was right, it did taste better with sour cream! My turkey and mashed potatoes were perfect, so I consider that a success. But I didn't really feel that hosting one holiday was an adequate distraction from the waiting, so when my mom asked if my 16 year old niece could stay with us for three and a half weeks... Sure, why not? She's very sweet, but she's also very different. She has some special needs (autistic traits), so maturity wise I would put her at an 11-12 year old level. She spends all day long with my girls and they love her. She does school with us. She is similar in many ways to Child #2 in that she writes comics and tells stories in her head all day long. The tricky part is that her parents haven't taught her a lot of basic manners, so we are working on those. I also think she has very low self esteem, she hunches over and hides her face so often. She shows some awareness of being different or "weird", so it makes me sad to think of how she views herself. I think she will be a very famous author someday though. Her drawings and characters are amazing, better than many children's books I've seen. I don't know how, but I want to see her get published someday...
So pretty much that's why I haven't posted anything lately. I didn't really succeed at distracting myself; mostly, I just succeeded at having less time and being more tired.
I waited the entire month of November, but then I saw someone with the same LID date as me post that they were out of translation. So I broke down and called. Sure enough we had moved to in review also! I lost most of my enthusiasm when I saw fifty more people post that they were also out of translation on the same day. Their LID dates were from mid October to mid November, so now I don't know how much importance it has. But still, I have my hopes up that we might hear something new this week, or more likely next week. In the meantime, this is kind of how I feel...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mid November Blessings

This week was busy, exhausting, crazy, and surreal but above all, it was filled with blessings. I am not doing well with patience. I know I need the time - to prepare, to get our school year in, to raise/save/make money, and to learn some rudimentary Mandarin, but I'm going crazy. I haven't watched our videos of Child #5 in weeks because it's painful. Will he still look like that or be that size or is he talking more now? It's possible we won't have an update until just before travel. That's... difficult. But this week brought many surprises. We have had a ladies Bible study group at our church praying specifically for our family and for Child #5. I am so appreciative for each of those ladies that have taken it upon themselves to pray for us and think about our family. We go through times of spiritual attack that have been much more recognizable since we started this process, and I know we would have a very hard time in this process if not for others' prayers. So this week, I had the pleasure of meeting those ladies and getting to talk with them and be prayed for by them. They were all so sweet and interested in our family and process. I'm not used to being the center of attention, and it was humbling to experience such attention. Then they sent me home with a Christmas card/gift to use for the holidays! What a totally wonderful, unexpected blessing. These feelings... I don't know how to express my gratitude. Then later that day, I found out that my dad and stepmom wanted to help with our adoption. I was speechless by that point. We did not ask for money from them, they just wanted to. We absolutely need the money, but I feel totally unworthy and undeserving of such a gift. They asked for nothing in return. We have done nothing to merit this, no labor, no goods, nothing to offer in exchange. I feel compelled to make personalized Christmas ornaments or bracelets to try to repay their gift, but I can't offer anything that would compare to what we have been given. That feeling of complete unworthiness and immense gratitude all rolled up together - that is when I finally understood the picture of God's gift of grace, a gift I am totally unworthy of and absolutely unable to ever repay.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

DTC!!!! (Dossier to China)

We received the approval toward the end of last week, so I got it notarized within an hour of getting it in the mail. Mom, the girls and I got up at the crack of dawn the next morning armed with the notarized copy of the I800A and lunch boxes and drove to Austin for the certification. They went to the Capitol Visitors Center again while I went across the street to the Secretary of State. The very kind lady had it certified in under fifteen minutes. Back in the car we went to drive to downtown to the consulate again. Thankfully, I had remembered to type out my authentication form the night before, along with the copies of documents and my passport. The line was only a half hour this time, and we were done. So it was possible to get it notarized, certified and left at the consulate all in 24 hours. I called it The Amazing Race: Dossier Edition. I went back this week and got there 15 minutes before they reopened after lunch. It was my fastest trip yet, I was done in under 10 minutes! Frankly I was so happy to have successfully authenticated all my documents without having any rejected during all those trips, I wanted to hug the security guard on the way out. I don't think he would have appreciated the gesture though. After stopping at home to scan and copy, it went straight to FedEx. I had confirmation this afternoon that the whole dossier was shipped to China today!

I am beyond delighted. I finished my last grant application this week too, so I have run out of paperwork. What a freeing feeling! I'm back to Ebay, and I am finalizing getting my bracelet fundraiser off the ground this weekend - look to the right margin ;). I have been hoping for March travel all along because pragmatically, the prices, weather, and timing would work well. My husband will not have enough vacation days before March either. Also more time to get the money together. It occurred to me today though that there is a very, very slim possibility that we could travel in February. That kind of excites me and freaks me out - cold weather, high prices, not enough money, but I wouldn't want him to wait longer than he has to. And we would get to celebrate his birthday with him. I'm just praying over the timing of everything. And money.

Next step: we wait for our LID (Log In Date) which would mean we are officially logged in. Then China will translate and go through the entire dossier before they decide to match us with him and give us LOA (Letter of Authorization). Then it all goes back to USCIS. Fun fun fun!

Friday, October 14, 2016

So close...

Our superstar home study agency worked on the RFE as soon as we received it, and it looks like we are unofficially approved at this point for our I800A. I hope to see that in the mail sometime next week. I just want to take a moment to give props to the kind officers working at the uscis. I called almost everyday and everyone I talked to there, especially my officer was so kind and helpful. I am so thankful they didn't blow me off or put off my application because I was a pest. In the meantime, I returned to the Houston Consulate this week to pick up all of our other dossier documents. I was so nervous last week when I went there for the first time. I had my mom drop me off because the parking there is non existent. I went the day after they were closed for the Chinese holiday, so it was packed. I waited in line over an hour, but I was just so happy they accepted all my documents and I did it all correctly! And I was more than delighted to pick them all up again with no issues! What a weight off my chest. For all intents and purposes, my dossier is all finished except for the I800A approval. I am curious if it's possible to get it certified and dropped off for authentication in the same day. I do so enjoy a challenge.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

USCIS, Perhaps Email Is a Better Delivery Method?

Every evening I eagerly checked the mail only to be disappointed. By Friday, I was sure it should be here, but there was only magazines and junk. Strangely no envelopes. Then lo and behold, my neighbor came walking through the scrub brush holding a bunch of envelopes. Yes, my mailman delivered a stack of very important mail to my neighbor, including all our finger print notices! Oddly, the exact same thing happened on Saturday too. Our neighbor walked over a bunch of envelopes again (the junk mail is actually being delivered to our mailbox, just not the important stuff), including MORE finger print notices. Because of course they love to send duplicates. I can't figure out if our mailman is that inept or just hates us. It makes me nervous about the fate of any eventual approval notice coming through the mail...

So today was Monday. My husband is traveling most of the next two weeks, so we drove over an hour to the ASC (Application Support Center) armed with our notices and got there soon after they opened. They were BUSY. As soon as we got up to the counter, she took one look and told us we would have to come back after noon. But she said we could come back! So we puttered a few hours by looking at larger vans and trying to figure out how in the heck we will get our car issues sorted out. We decided that was too big a problem to consider right now and went to IKEA. There we ate $2 breakfasts and looked at the dishes and silverware and home organization stuff. This is the section of the store I never see because it is toward the end when everyone is tired and cranky and sick of being there. It was fun to window shop. We headed back to the ASC and it had totally cleared out. Most of the employees there were really nice and we were excited to have it done with!

This evening we actually received all our mail (I think), and I saw another envelope from USCIS. But this time it was a pink letter. That can't be good, I thought. Sure enough, it was the dreaded RFE (Request for Evidence). Apparently there was some required language that did not get included in our home study for one of our household members. It was very disappointing to know that this is going to add I don't know how many days for the paperwork and all the mailing back and forth. However, I have to give them kudos for their thoroughness in finding a detail like that in a twenty page report. Well done!

I am going to try to get the authentications done this week, so I hoping that goes a little better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

USCIS, Here we come!

I know you're wondering what I have been up to. Here's the long answer:
First week of September: Bother the home study and placement agencies everyday while they revise and edit and notarize and mail. They did get it done pretty darn fast, so squeaky wheel and all that. Plus, I have been totally blessed by my agency workers so far.
Second week of September: Celebrate my husband's birthday and get ready to go on an anniversary trip to Dominican Republic that we prepaid for with our income tax refund back in March. Quite honestly, if we had not already paid for the hotel and plane tickets, we would not have taken any vacation. It's just another indication that God is sovereign in His timing and in the details. While on vacation, Grandma gets home study in the mail and sends in the USCIS copy with all the application stuff I have already put in a Fed Ex envelope for her.
Third week of September: Get back to regular life, but mostly struggle with some nasty stomach problem I brought back with me from the DR. Also, we got royally screwed by Expedia and had to pay extra to the hotel. It made for a stressful time, and I bent over backward fighting it. But it was almost as if God was saying, just pay it, just let it go. That was very hard for me, but I figured God's glory would just be bigger because of it. All this made for a dark week back from vacation. Then our main computer died. Then my trunk door had the hydraulics go out (the things that hold the trunk open, so it takes two people now, one to hold the door up and one to load/unload the groceries). Then the dog ate the vacuum cord into seventeen separate pieces, and I love that vacuum! Oh, and the insurance denied coverage for our blood tests last month, so our credit card got charged $500 by the lab. I had a revelation though. We have been reading George Mueller's biography and finished it, but I finally got it this week. George never plans ahead, never saves money, total opposite of me. He just prays for what they need, then for what the orphans need. Every day, sometimes just day by day. And they never went hungry, not once. God always provided, sometimes at the last minute. And every year they were able to take in more and more orphans. How can I worry? Also, I'm out of energy for worrying. We had a fun day trip to the capitol to get some state certifications and we stopped at the visitor's center for a little learnin'. We figured out that it was cheaper to drive there than pay FedEx overnight shipping, go figure.
Last week of September: My stomach seems to have sort of remembered how to digest food today, so I think there is hope. I think. This is day 10 and I'm sick of it. I'm sort of better but only because I only eat bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables now. Too much caffeine, sugar or grease and I start all over. I have no idea what I got in the DR but I'm petrified of something similar happening while we are in China. Stomach viruses knock me out! Anyway, this week is looking up, let me tell you how: my genius husband replaced the hydraulics on my trunk door and then on the same day he took apart the vacuum and rewired a new cord from Home Depot. And we got a special needs grant from our agency. It's not massive, but we have never gotten any kind of grant before so it was huge to me! Just the fact that somebody picked us is amazing! It was a wonderful sign to me that even in the dark times, God is watching over us. I also realized this week that I neglected to mention my husband's college expenses in any of the grant applications we filled out. Kind of a fat expense to forget, right? Oh well, it's all in God's hands anyway and He seems to be taking care of us.
Well, I am sick of talking about money and my stomach. This week I am eagerly anticipating our fingerprint notice. Like super eager. Of course, this is the week we have a new mailman and they are bringing our mail when the sun goes down.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Still Waiting for the Home Study...

Yes, we are still waiting though it is not the fault of our home study agency. My social worker is a rockstar and she had it to me last week for proofreading. The home study agency had sent it to my placement agency by last Friday. No, I am waiting on my placement agency to approve it. I am itching to have it in my hands so I can send in our I-800A application. Seriously, I'm twitchy, antsy, fidgety, and totally restless. I am physically restraining myself not to call them every single day. I have been given estimates of one week up to three weeks for them to approve it. I understand it has to go through certain channels and may need more edits, but if I can do all the paperwork, background checks, doctors forms, visits, etc. for a home study in four weeks, then they should be able to edit it in less than two. I love my placement agency, but three weeks is totally unacceptable. I NEED it back next week. Otherwise I won't be nearly as impressed with my agency as I used to be.

Kiddo Update: Child #1 is doing awesome academically... on the days that he is motivated. Quite a deep thinker, that kid. He is running 5Ks with his dad and he is doing a race with middle schoolers this weekend. He is making plans for building a computer. Child #2 is still busy reading and writing comics. His drawing is still a little rudimentary but the creativity is off the charts. Math is getting better. Still working on his frustration levels. Child #3 is smart and energetic and still incredibly independent and bossy. She is running with the others now and she loves to wear workout clothes all the time. Child #4 is still very much like a butterfly, flitting here and there and light as a feather. She is clever and learning to read more everyday. She is Amazing at running. She can ran long distance races and come in right behind my son and husband. She is great at gymnastics too, but as I told the girls, no money, no gymnastics. So that is on hold for the next year I think. I feel awful, but until we can pay for the adoption, gymnastics is too expensive. But we are doing the running as a family, so that has an added bonus.
Until then, I leave you with ---- PUPPY!...

Friday, August 19, 2016

A good, good Friday

Woo hoo. I had a very dramatic race-to-the-end of business Friday victory today and walked out of my doctor's office just before closing with all my completed forms. It started this morning with some back and forth calls trying to find out if test results were in. The results were in, but they were still waiting on the fax (do people still do that?). It was mostly me calling, and them politely telling me they would call me back. Finally, I went there forty minutes before closing, "I just happened to be in the area...". What a happy surprise, the doctor had everything ready to go. Test results were negative. The notary had her book out and was stamping my papers. Oh, the joys of small victories. At the end, the notary/office manager turned to me and said, "Okay that's $35 each for the forms fee and $15 each for the notary fee." Huh. At that point, I didn't really care. I had my required forms. Frankly, leaving the doctor $100 lighter is becoming a little too normal. So, I still love my doctor, but I don't really want to see her again for a long time. All required homestudy forms are in. Now I just need my social worker to type it up. Sadly she is not nearly as motivated as me. She actually has other families to write reports for! ;) I hope to be able to see the rough draft in a week or so. I guess we'll see if that's realistic or not... Repeat after me: All in God's timing, All in God's timing...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Monday Blues

Well, this day sucked. I was going to finally get the last of the homestudy paperwork. My husband went in to have his TB test read, and they decided based on that they need to do a TB blood test to decide for sure. Seriously, it was the size of a mosquito bite and he has no risk factors. Even according to the CDC, it would have to be 10 mm for a health care worker and 15mm for non risk patients to be positive. (Of course I already researched all this when I took my test!) Argh!! So because they want to be overly paranoid, now I have to wait for at least another week more test results and the last piece of homestudy paperwork. Although, technically, we are still waiting on one background check our teenage son, probably because he isn't in a database other than a birth certificate. How do you do a background check with no history? Also, our social worker is going on vacation and basically told me she wouldn't even start on writing the homestudy till next week. Sooo... God had different plans for this week than I did. And I have almost nothing that I can do for a week, no one to call and pester... At least I am getting stuff listed on Ebay. I sold some furniture too, so that was awesome. Not sure how I'm going to get the money together, but I'm working on it. I decided to have the kids start school this week because we all need something to do. It went better than I expected considering they've been off for six weeks. Of course, Child #2 had the inevitable meltdown once we did math ("Not BORROWING!"), but we got halfway through the lesson. For him, that is a good day considering his whole routine was changed up. I think we'll be back to whole lessons by Wednesday. Husband was finishing up another week of college Calculus, and it's hilarious how similar he is to Child #2 when it comes to math. I hear balls of crumpled paper being thrown at the wall and muttered swear words directed at the computer monitor, and I just know he is working on math. Except for him, it's derivatives and limits or something like that. Honestly, he left me in the dust after Trig. So I made pancakes and blueberry compote for dinner and called it a day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Paper chasing at top speed

I have been busy busy busy! We have our homestudy meetings next week. I would have had them this week, but my husband rudely traveled out of town for business. Sadly, I can't control everyone else's schedules. I know I'm not the first paper-chasing adoptive parent to wish they could. "God's timing, not mine." becomes the mantra. In the meantime, I've stayed busy going to the doctor, handing out reference questionnaires, and sending away for vital documents. I received my first birth certificate back this week, and I was so excited. I've already been to the doctor twice (the TB test alone must be injected, then read two days later). I still have to go back once the blood results are in to get my notarized paperwork. I am grateful for my amazing doctor though. She takes a lot of time with her patients and really cares about them, plus she is Korean. I've written almost all the required letters and questionnaires for the dossier. I will soon run out of papers to chase, then it will be time to start notarizing and copying and saving. I have a good sized reading pile to work on (once I'm not distracted by the newest Evanovich book). Then I'm determined to learn some Mandarin. It's a real pity none of the Korean I've picked up from four or five years of drama watching will be of any use. But I'm pretty good with languages, so I feel like I can pick up at least a little bit -like twenty words - if I make it a priority. I think it's going to be a necessity after the update I got this week.

Yes, that's right, I got an update! It was actually just some follow up questions I had asked when we first decided on him, and there was some videos. I was kind of hit with a brick wall when I watched it. I was really excited and happy to receive video, but I had a panic attack when I watched the videos. All I could see were the unknowns and the worst case possibilities. He barely talked in the whole thing, and he was moving constantly. He smiled a few times and that was so cute. But all I could think was how much he is going to hate me. I got terrified again of that trip to China. How frightened is he going to be with what will be his third transition and these white people that don't speak his language. I sought advice from BTDT friends, doctors, and the social worker that visited him. Certainly, there are some real possibilities of vision being untreatable, of autism spectrum. I think he reminds me of Child #2 in some ways, and it makes me more afraid that he will have autistic traits.  I LOVE child #2, but life is so hard for him - with learning, with change and new things, with making friends. I started to doubt everything and I felt a weight on my chest. I had insecurity as a mother and a homeschooler. I told my husband that it felt like I was being attacked, and he said he was having those same feeling but about his job and place. I started looking at my kids this week and I realized we were having some spiritual attacks. Once I saw it, all my fears and insecurity were irrelevant. I still have trepidation, but my excitement is back. If God says he is meant for our family, then that means God says I am meant to love him. If he does turn out to have similar traits to Child #2, at least I already have some experience parenting that. If nothing else, I'm even more convinced I will need to put in more preparation. Knowing some Chinese could make all the difference in our first weeks together.

I'll leave you with my reading list, most were available at my local library:
  • Wanting a Child, Needing a Son (almost finished, quite a dry read and some of it is outdated, but a good snapshot of Chinese adoption fifteen to twenty years ago)
  • One Child - The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment (I'm looking forward to this one, it just came out this year)
  • Wish You Happy Forever - What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains (written by the founder of the Half the Sky Foundation)
  • The Connected Child (by the amazing Karyn Purvis, should be required reading for adoptive parents, I skimmed it a few years ago and need to read it again)
  • Parenting the Hurt Child - Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow
  • Fodor's China (and whatever other China culture and travel books I can get at my library)
If you have any good books or resources to add, please tell me!