Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All things Emily!

Things have been moving slow and then BOOM!  Things move really fast.  That's just the nature of adoption I guess.  It wears a mamma out!

We got our much waited for LOA on November 23rd.  From there we filed with immigration for Emily to be classified as our daughter and be allowed to enter the US.  We then waited for that approval and then we call, call, call, email, email, email, the National Visa Center asking for some numbers we need and an email copy of a letter being cabled to the US Embassy in Guangzhou.  Then we send it all off to china where we have something called "Article 5 drop off"  This is packet of papers that are important and do something...what I am not exactly sure.  Two weeks later exactly (unless you have Thanksgiving in there, which we did, then it's two weeks and one day) you have Article 5 pick up an you are officially waiting on your travel approval.  That takes roughly two weeks.  Nine days for us last year.  Several people got them in 4 days around us.  Three weeks for us.  Three. Weeks.  Or all of eternity in adoption time.

Mixed into that was a major spiritual lesson for me.  Someitmes the answer to our prayers in No.  Oh how hard that is!  I have prayed for a year that we would all be able to make this trip.  That limited us to certain times.  Namely Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I just knew it would be Thanksgiving but it wasn't. Then I was sure we would spend Christmas in China and it was down to the wire.  We needed one of those 4 day travel approvals for that to happen.  And it didn't.  So we aren't all going.  The answer was No.  I don't understand why and we are sad but I do know that God loves Will and Jenny and Sarah and Emily even more than I do and He is working all for their good and we have to trust that.

So... with so much uncertainty about travel along with the flu that wiped us out I was WAY behind on Christmas.  But we got it all done and had a fabulous time.  And our travel approval was mailed just before Christmas and arrived at our agency on Monday.  We got our confirmed consulate appointment date Tuesday morning and booked our tickets.  We will meet Emily on January 12.  To say we are ready is an understatement!

We had a major blessing during this wait!  Our agency set a skype call for us and we were able to talk with Emily.  Rules about conatct are very strict and I am thankful they are seeing the value in being able to "meet" ahead of time for these older children.  I was prepared for it to be awkward but it all worked out so great and we loved it!



We also had a friend who visted her orphanage and took a package for us and got some pictures and video.  I LOVE this one!  




It won't be long now!! So much to do! 
 I've had a bit of a language panic attack and have been downloading hooked on  phonics apps and Chinese dictionaries.  I've got lots of markers and crayons and colored pencils in order to have something to do that doesn't require talking!  

Please pray for her as she prepares to leave all she knows.  We know that she is excited which is a positive thing but sometimes reality is different than what you expect.  We expect her to grieve pretty hard.  Pray for sweet heart as she gets ready. 

I plan to blog our trip and would love for you to follow along!

12 months....a whole year home!

On November 4 Sarah had been with a whole year.  In some ways it seems like it can't possibly have been a whole year already and in some ways we hardly remember life without her.  She keeps us on our toes every single day.  She amazes us with her ability to love despite her hard beginnings.  She amazes us when we see those survival instincts kick in.  She is a fighter for sure and she will fight when she feels threatened in any way.  It has been so neat to watch her learn to regulate that and learn when not react that way.  I find myself saying things like, "I am so proud of you for not hitting me!  Thank you!"  We have loved watching her learn to relax, learn to love us, learn that we aren't going anywhere, that there will always be food.  We have marveled at how she has learned to communicate. We marvel at her everyday.  There are days that are so hard, and so busy that life just takes hold and you just get through but there are so many days that she still just takes my breathe away,  Days I still cry over her at night wishing I could take all the hard beginnings and sadness and brokenness from her.  I am so thankful for a God who redeems.  I am so thankful to be a part of Sarah's story and I pray everyday that I can do right by her.  Do the very best for her.

Here's what she was up to this month!

The Fair!  


First Fair ride ever!  She felt that is was fabulous!  The fair was MAJOR sensory overload but she really handled it well.  


Daddy's are so awesome!  I'm so glad she has an amazing one!


Big brothers are pretty awesome too and this one takes the cake.  These too have the sweetest relationship.  And by sweet I mean they make a lot of noise together and she really likes it when he throws her on the couch!



She ate the big pretzel at Sam's.

And topped it off with a big drink all her own!




She turned 6 years old!  What a great day celebrating the day she was born!  I am sad to not have been there and I hurt for the woman who had to make hard choices and I am so thankful she choose life for Sarah.  




(Just as an aside....a little "Please be careful what you say" if you will.  I've had several people say to me things about how terrible "those" people are.  How could a woman throw her baby away.... I would NEVER....  Here's the honest truth about that...  We have no idea in our comfortable American houses of the struggles woman all over the world face- the terrible choices made for them.   When you say things like that  to an adoptive mother you are talking about a part of her child.  Her birth family.  The woman who made hard choices to bring her into the world.  I don't like rules about what you can and cannot say to people but that's just a little bit about how I feel about that one. )



Halloween was so fun!!!

It was dress up day at school and Sarah went as Doc McStuffins!


We carved pumpkins


Just look at this face will you!  


And for trick or treating she was a panda!
And a mighty cute one at that! 


She's saying "eeeeeee"  which is Sarah for "Cheeeeese"


It took a few houses for her to figure it out but she loved it!




This picture makes me laugh.  It is no secret among the moms of kids from her orphanage that they used suckers A LOT.  She still lights up at the sight of a good sucker!


A HUGE event for Sarah this month was changing schools.  We loved our time at Covenant but with some encouragement from friends we decided to move her to our local public school in their special needs class.

She started Kindergarten and has absolutely loved it.  She is doing so so well and will start therapy there soon.  We are so happy with this decision.  It was so hard for me to let her go but it was the best thing for her!!





When Will and Jenny were babies I made handprint tiles for them every other month until they were one year old.  I couldn't do that for Sarah as a baby but we have been doing it all year for the first year she was home.  


Working on her angel ornament!

I got the tiles all hung and I just love this wall in my pantry!


It has been a great year.  It's actually also been one of the hardest years of our married life.  We are so excited to see what Sarah accomplishes in the next year.  We really think she is going to take off this year! She has so much attachment work behind her, so many initial assessments and setting up of things done.  She is secure and safe and I believe she is finally relaxing and realizing how loved she is.  It's still two steps forward one step back some days but we are getting there everyday.  












Saturday, November 1, 2014

Emily Update


When I last wrote about our Emily we were in the thick of waiting.  Day 90 I believe.  We were getting passed daily by those with log in dates almost a month after us.  I was truly despairing.  I sat in Bible study one night and asked the group to please pray that it would come.  They stopped right then and prayed, and as our leader prayed that I would feel peace during the wait, in my heart I cried out to God, "I'd have no peace - please help me!"  I sat there with tears streaming down my face feeling desperate for God's peace to settle me, to help me focus on my family now and to wait well.  I longed for a verse to hold onto, but I just felt helpless.  That's not a great testimony of faith I realize but it is truly where I was.  Desperate.

That Saturday I had an Usborne book party at a friend's house.  This is my friend Amy who is also a China waiting mom.  At the end of the party she gave me a little canvas she had painted.  On the back she had written 2 Corinthians 12:9.  "My grace is sufficient for you…."  She read it aloud to me…."My power is made perfect in weakness." And weariness she added.  And that friends is the moment the peace I had longed for took over.  I felt the words of the Lord soothe my soul.  How that ministered to me that day.  The whole way home I kept saying over and over…. My grace is sufficient, My grace is sufficient…  He is sufficient for this task.  I am woefully insufficient but He is perfectly sufficient.




A week later we hit day 100 with no change in our status.  I took a deep breath and we made it through that day.  And through the next 5 when FINALLY we got the call.  In the Target deli line.  A hate to be rude and be on the phone while checking out, but that number was from Birmingham and wild horses could not have kept me from answering it!  It was our social worker with the news our dossier was now listed as match reviewed.  Praise the Lord!!  We just had to wait for the hard copy of our LOA (letter of approval) to arrive at our agency.  

The next Wednesday, as Shane and I packed to leave on our first trip away together since Sarah came home, the phone rang and it was Anna.  The LOA was at  Lifeline and would be overnighted to us at our hotel.  Day 111.  

The poor front desk staff at The Grand Hotel.  Shane was in meetings all morning so I slept a little late, ate some breakfast and asked the front desk 10 times if the package had arrived.  I went back to our room and gathered up all the documents I had brought with me that had to go back with the signed LOA and headed back to the front desk.  Could she maybe make a few copies for me?  Sure….ok, well its like 20 pages, mostly in Chinese, and has my package come yet?  

Just before noon I got a call from the gate that my Fed Ex package was there.  The nice man brought it to me and we signed it and sent it back!  



It really is a beautiful document.  I hate that it was only in my hands for about an hour!

Everything is at USCIS right now awaiting approval.  Things will move quickly now hopefully.  I have so much to do.  Nesting has kicked in and I feel like I need to clean out every drawer and straighten every closet.  Unfortunately Sarah's nickname around here is  "The Destroyer" and nothing stays clean for long.  

A friend from my Lifeline group traveled this month to bring home her daugter from the same orphanage as Emily.  She was so kind to take a letter and some pictures and a little gift to her.  I was so happy to wake up the day after we got the LOA to several new pictures.  We got video from her yesterday and it just makes me so happy.  She is reading our letter and looking at our pictures and she sings a song.  It's a Chinese children's song about two tigers to the tune of "Where is Thumbkin."  I mentioned in my letter that I was trying to learn it and she sings it for me.  We are so ready for this precious girl to be home.




We would like to ask you to pray with us as we enter these last few weeks before she comes home.  Pray for her heart to be ready to be part of a family.  Pray for Will and Jenny as they once again scootch over and make room.  Pray for Jenny as she will be sharing a room, and although she is excited, the reality and the thought are sometimes different.  Pray for Sarah as the trip and the adjustment may be rough for her and therefore for all of us.  We do have a medical concern that we are seeking information on and would ask you to pray we will get that settled before we travel.

I am so very thankful for God's promise that His grace is sufficient.  I am so thankful for a friend who spoke peace and truth into my heart that day.  I am so thankful and humbled that God has called us to be this precious girl's family.  I am so ready to be her mamma!
  
  


11 months

I figured I better get this 11 month post up since a year is literally just around the corner!



The biggest thing Sarah did this month was start soccer!!  I happened upon this great program called Top Soccer.  Will was wanting to find a rec soccer team to play on this year and while I was looking for that online one day I came across Top Soccer, a program for people of all ages with special needs.  It seemed like a perfect fit for Sarah and it was!  Each player had a buddy and Sarah had a wonderful lady who taught special needs kids for many years.  She was perfect for miss priss who really just wanted to stand at the water table.  She loved it though and we were very proud of her!
When I put this uniform on her I just started crying.  Every now and then something stil catches me off guard and when I saw her in her soccer uniform I flashed back to other pictures I have of her.  Pictures that I won't ever show and I just fell apart.

Getting some coaching.

GOOOOOAAAAALLL!!!!

And the best part…Snack!!

 We also spent a lot of time making sweet rolls and we are so thankful!!  We are almost caught up but not quite!  We will have an update on that VERY soon!  I was glad for the good (and cute) help!



Sarah also discovered my scrapbooks.  She keeps pulling them out and looking through them.  


I'm so glad to have them and I am so glad she loves them but to be honest it makes me sad.  I don't have any baby pictures and I missed so much.  I'm so thankful for every first we've had this year and so thankful she is here.

Madison Central's Homecoming was also this month.  Will went with a group of friends and it was a really fun night.  Late, but fun.  We were so happy to have them here to take pictures and then they went to another friend's house for breakfast.  A sweet group of kids!!  Jenny escaped with her grandmother to Starkville that weekend and so it was just Sarah at home to watch the activites.  The girls actually got ready here.  Sarah sat and watched intently as they curled their hair and did their makeup.  Then of course it was picture time!  Sarah has gotten used to having her picture made so she felt as though she should be in these as well!

 Beautiful girls and handsome boys!


Beautiful girls and handsome boys and a cute cheerleader!

Everyday when Jenny gets out of school she calls and lets me know when she is getting close to the house (she walks home.)  That's my cue to send Sarah outside.  All I have to say is, "Sarah!  it's Jenny!" and she takes off for the door.  This is what happens next.  Every day.  
video


Sarah also got a sweet new ride this month!  She doesn't need it all the time but it's great for long distances.  She had outgrown all the regular strollers we could find and this is made just for her!  We love it, although she wasn't too sure at first.



It was perfect for our first trip to the zoo.  I wish I had more pictures of that but MAN! The zoo is kinda pitiful!  We had fun though and she got an icee out of it so she was good!  We also ran into some friends and rode the train so it was a good day!


Speaking of sweet rides!!  We should all be able to ride through Target like this, right!!



She got in some early morning toothpaste painting before school!


Please look carefully.  Not just her eyebrow.  Her nose, her mouth, her arm, her dress.  She smelled minty feash for school that day!


It is hard to believe we have been home for almost a year!  I can't wait to celebrate that huge milestone!!










Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And so we wait….

It has been a year since we saw this beautiful face.



And my breath caught  in my throat and I knew!  I knew she was meant to be my daughter.  We were still waiting to travel for Sarah but I knew we would be back for her.  

Only weeks after we came home with Sarah updated pictures showed up on the website.  And we both knew it was time to start over.  


In February we received approval to pursue her adoption.  Things moved along well.  Homestudy was updated, immigration approval was extended, dossier was prepared and authenticated and finally sent to China.  On July 3rd we were once again officially logged into the system.  And we began the wait for our LOA or letter of approval.  This wait was 42 days with Sarah.  We began to hope for possible Thanksgiving travel.  However, I began to realize that this wait was beginning to stretch.  Just watching the facebook groups and boards I knew they were coming in around 60-70 days and then we received an official email stating that the waits were stretching  60-90 days.  So we settled in.  And I really was waiting pretty well.  20 days, 30, days, 40 days, 50 days….now getting a little restless.  60 days…..it's time!  I began to communicate with some fellow moms wo had simialr log in dates.   We were all gettin restless.  And then on day 67 we got word that we were out of review!!!  Rejoicing!  All that was left was the match review stage.  I knew that typically people jumped from review to match review anywhere from one day to 2 weeks.  Most of the other families that got news that day skipped the review notice and went straight to match review.  I just knew ours would come quickly.  It did not.  One week….two weeks…..nothing.

The possibility of Thanksgiving travel passed.  We set our sights on Chirstmas.

Tomorrow marks 90 days waiting for this precious piece of paper…. a month since we were out of review.  No news except that we haven't moved.  Tomorrow starts a week long holiday in China.  So we will not get anymore news for at least a week.  

Christmas travel is not likely. 

I have cried my ugly cries and I wish I could tell you I am ok with it.  I'm not ok.  I am weary of waiting.  She is 13.  She needs to come home.  

But…..

I know that God loves Emily more than I do.  I know he doesn't waste time.  I have prayed that he will redeem this time by prerpaing her heart for us and preparing us for her.  I know his timing is perfect.  I know these things.  I am repeating them daily.  

I was also reminded this past sunday that we are not given a spirit of fear….fear for her health….fear that we won't travel in a timely manner or when we can all go….fear for our process.  We have been given a spirit of love….love for this precious girl…love for all four of my children and a spirit of self control…..controlling my fear….controling my worry.  And that is hard.  

And so we wait…day 90.  We will likely hit 100 days.  And we will strive to be patient.  And we trust in the Lord's timing and in his love for Emily.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Run for One

On Saturday August 16 Lifeline's orphan care ministry, (un)adopted, sponsored a 5k to benefit their ministry.  The event was held in several locations around the southeast including Birmingham.  Shane and I talked about maybe going over for the weekend and doing it all together, but the closer it got the more we realized it just wasn't going to work out.  But Shane had a great idea!  There was a "run where you are" option for the 5K.  He suggested we invite our family to walk with us that day and have our own family event.  He sent out an email to everyone and every single family member said yes!!  We all signed up and set the time for 8:00 am on Saturday the 16th.

Lifleine encouraged you to pick something to run for and each of us has something different we were running for .Here is Sarah working on her sign.





Sarah was running for her friends Matthew and Ben.  They are from the same orphanage as she is and will be coming home VERY soon!  Praise the Lord!  I got to hold and love on Matthew when we were there last year and I am ready to see them with their families!!!



Here we all are with our signs!


The morning of our walk we all met at the Old Craft Center to walk the trail. Sarah and LuLu got in some stretching before we started.


Shane and have said before that one of the reasons we felt called to adopt was because-To whom much is given, much is required. We don't believe that applies just to material things, because look what we have been given!! Look at all this fabulous family!!



It took us an embarrasingly long time to walk a 5K and we had a blast.  We chatted and the little kids took turns on the bike and being pushed in the stroller.  The big girls took off and beat us all.  It was so much fun….and then we had breakfast at Cracker Barrell!  




But wait!!!  That's not all.  We said all our family said yes and that includes my brother and sister in law Julie all the way in Texas!  Andy and Julie organized a walk with their friends at church and had a great turn out!  We were so excited about that and so humbled that they would do that!  


I mean how awesome is that!!!

It was a great day for a great cause and a reminder of how blessed we are as a family to have each other!!