At Our Wait's End!

Yes, we are nearing the END of our WAIT and soon we will be able to get on a plane, meet our son, finalize his adoption, and bring him home to our family!

The entire process took about 8 months, and compared to our first adoption which was 17 months (including 4 months of waiting to be matched) this one was relatively "fast"; however, not a day went by that it FELT like it was moving quickly.  Looking back, the days were long...sometimes very, very long... but overall the months have flown by and I can't believe it's finally TIME!

This week we received our Travel Approval from China, and the past 48 hours has been a flurry of phone calls and emails in order to make arrangements to be able to travel within a few days!  

Our flights, hotels, train tickets, and appointments are all confirmed now, and our 17-day trip will look something like this:

Wed-Thurs     Fly from Detroit to Hong Kong


Friday     adjust to the time zone...at Hong Kong Disneyland!
               (we had to think of something that would keep us awake all day, right?!)

Saturday  Fly to Nanchang, the capital of Hudson's province

Sunday    Hudson will travel to meet us!  
                        This is our official "Gotcha Day" as they call it in the adoption world. 


Monday    Adoption Day!!  We (& Hudson) will sign to make it official!

Tue-Thu   Paperwork, hang out, bond, explore Nanchang...
                 (wait for his passport to be prepared and returned to us...) 

Friday         Travel to Guangzhou by Bullet Train! (5 hours of views!)



Saturday     Hudson's medical (required for immigration visa)

Sun-Mon     Paperwork, hang out, explore Guangzhou...
                    (wait for his medical results to be prepared...) 

Tuesday      Interview at the U.S. Consulate (required for immigration)

Wed-Thur    Paperwork, hang out, visit the Safari Park zoo!

                    (wait for his immigration visa to be placed in his passport...)

Friday              Fly HOME!!  With our new family of 6, under one roof!  Hooray!! 


Not only am I over-the-top excited to finally meet Hudson, I'm also thrilled about the opportunity to bring Evie along on this amazing adventure.  She is going to LOVE this (I hope!) and it will be an experience she'll learn from, grow from, enjoy greatly, and never forget.

Let me pull her into the office for a quick interview...

Hey Evie, what are we doing next week?
"We're going to China to adopt Hudson!  My brother!!"

What are you most excited about for this trip?
"The airplane, because last time I rode in a plane I was a baby and I don't really remember it.  The hotels, because I think they'll be fancy and I heard the breakfast buffet is huge.  And getting to meet Hudson before everyone else!"

Is there anything you are worried about?
"Trying new food because my parents said I should try at least one new food every day.  And that Hudson might not feel happy because he left the orphanage that he's been at for a long time.  And the toilets outside of the hotels because they are squatty potties!"

What would you like to say to the family & friends who helped support you to go on this adventure? 
"Thank you so much for helping me go to China.  I'm really excited to visit there and meet my new brother and practice my Chinese!  I'm going to take a lot of pictures and write in my journal so I can tell everyone about it when I get home!"


We were so proud of Evie's fundraising efforts, and so grateful for the MANY people who jumped in to support her!!  In the end she raised about $3,000, which has turned out to be the perfect amount to cover all of her flights, train tickets, guide fees, meals, passport & travel visa, etc...  WOW!  Thank you all so much for being a part of this.  I know she'll be eager to share her experiences with you!

I'm off to finish packing, but I'd love to leave you with a few prayer requests!  
  • Hudson: for his heart to be prepared for this transition, for him to feel safe & loved, and for much patience when it comes to communication.
  • For good bonding time while we're together; that attachments and trust can begin to be built between us.
  • Safe travels, and good health for all of us as we encounter new foods and environments.
Thank you all so much for your prayers!  You have been such an encouragement during this process once again!  And it doesn't end here...the trip to China is only the beginning...so please keep the prayers coming!  ;-)

A Moment of Significant Beauty

While I anxiously patiently await the next step of our son's adoption, I want to share a story about a recent shopping trip with my oldest daughter that really touched my heart.

Those of you who know me probably know that I'm sort of an addict when it comes to thrift stores and vintage finds.  I stop by the Goodwill and Salvation Army regularly, and my kids sometimes get dragged along.  This time I had Evie with me and she was in a nearby aisle looking at toys.  As always, she came to me after few minutes saying, "Hey mommy....there's a doll I want to show you."  I sighed, and said something about how we don't need any more toys in our house, while I reluctantly followed her to the shelf.

She pointed to a porcelain doll with long, blonde curls wearing a lavender dress full of ruffles.  "Isn't she beautiful?" Evie said.  I agreed, she was a very pretty doll.  Then Evie continued, "But she is missing part of her arm."  Sure enough, one of her porcelain arms was broken and only half of it remained.  My first reaction was to tell her that she didn't need a broken doll.  But with everything that's been on my mind lately regarding our son and children with limb differences, my heart suddenly melted.  

I asked Evie, "Do you still think she is beautiful?"  

"Yes."

"Are there people in the world who are born without an arm, or who lose their arm in an accident?"

"Yes."

"Are they beautiful?"

"YES, and I think it even makes them EXTRA special!"

Needless to say, we brought the doll home.  

I'm not saying that dolls are anywhere near as important as people, or that we should start rescuing broken toys, but this was such a neat opportunity for us to stop and think about what defines beauty, and what defines "broken".  I believe God used this doll to help prepare Evie's heart for meeting her brother.  She is aware of his limb differences, and she knows that he is MAGNIFICENT and LOVED and VALUED by our family and our Heavenly Father.  Every time I walk into her room and see that doll (I think she named her "Annabell") I am so moved, and so thrilled at how God is working in each of us. 


P.S. If you missed the blog post about our son and his limb differences, here is a link: http://7777milestoadoption.blogspot.com/2015/08/what-makes-him-special.html

A Fund for Hudson & His Adoption

Hudson has touched a lot of lives over the past several years.  I have heard of so many people and organizations who have been advocating for him and praying for him to find a family.  One of these organizations has an account set up for him, and when I contacted them to let them know we were on our way to bring him home in the spring/summer of 2016, they were genuinely overjoyed.  They sent me the info for his account so that we could share it with our family and friends.  There are no funds in his account yet, but it's awesome that they provide a place for people to send tax-deductible donations, and they share his link on their pages as well.  Of all donations made to his fund, 100% goes directly towards his adoption! 

This is amazing, and an answer to prayer!  Here is some info about this organization:

The Shepherd's Crook is a small 501(c)(3) non-profit located near Cincinnati, OH. They are not an adoption agency, but a ministry that seeks to aid special needs orphans in several ways. They believe that the most comprehensive way to help these children is to see them placed in a loving, permanent family. The ministry enables others to make tax-deductible donations which can be used toward the adoption expenses of these children. 

A Letter from the Shepherd's Crook:
A dedicated fund has been established with The Shepherd’s Crook for receiving contributions on behalf of HUDSON, to help bear the cost of expenses related to his adoption.  If you would like to play a part in rescuing this child, please send your tax-deductible contributions to:

The Shepherd's Crook Orphan Ministry
P.O. Box 773
West Chester, OH 45071


Please make your check payable to: The Shepherd's Crook, and be sure to write the name of the child, HUDSON, on the Memo line on your check. 

Or, you can visit us on-line, selecting the child’s name in the list of funds:
http://tscorphans.org/donate

Any donations designated for the named child are for that child and not for the adoptive family. Meaning, if for any reason the named family is unable to complete the adoption of this child, the funds will remain in his account and be used for expenses related to his adoption whenever a new adoptive family comes forward. If for any reason the child should become unavailable for adoption, the Board of Trustees of The Shepherd's Crook will have full discretion regarding the use of those funds.




What Makes Him Special

I cannot wait to meet our son.  He is amazing.  There are so many reasons, I don't even know where to begin.  I want to tell you all about him!

First of all, his name will be "Hudson" which is the profile name given to him by our agency.  He is not called by this name (yet) or even aware of it; most agencies simply choose a name for each file for privacy reasons, and probably choose English names because they are easier for Americans to pronounce and remember.  But we love the sound of it, and the fact that Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China, so we are keeping it!  We will also be keeping his Chinese name as his middle name, and he can choose which name he prefers to go by.  I can't share his "real" name publicly, but I'll tell you that it also starts with an 'H' and it has a very significant meaning to me which I eluded to in a previous post.  You'll understand why in a few moments.

But before the "name" story, let me share with you some of his characteristics that we learned from his file!

He is sharp-minded and a quick learner.  He won a silver medal in a handwriting contest (writing Mandarin characters of course).  He can recite ancient Chinese poetry for school.  He follows directions and behaves very well; is "only occasionally naughty, but overall easy and obedient."  (We will see about that, haha!)  He is happy and extroverted and gets along well with others. He likes to help out with the younger children in the orphanage.

And THIS was the best line:

 "When other children misbehave, he can stop them with a word or a mild gesture; therefore, he has earned the nickname "King of the Children."

That made me laugh so hard.  I love it.  I think our kids have met their match!

Does he not sound AMAZING?  On one hand, I can't believe this boy has been waiting so long for a family without someone realizing that he's a gem!! On the other hand, I'm so blessed that it worked out for him to join OUR family!

God has been preparing our hearts for him for longer than we realized.  We have mentioned before that 98% of the orphans in China are considered "Special Needs" which is a term used very broadly even for minor imperfections, and over half of those available are boys.  This is drastically different from the face of adoption the world is familiar with, from over a decade ago, when a majority of children available were baby girls, and healthy ones.  That was what we expected to find when we first looked into adopting from China a few years ago.  We assumed we would be adopting a healthy baby girl who needed a home.  I remember the day that we were informed of the new reality of China adoption...and I remember thinking that we just couldn't handle it.  I also remember how God opened my eyes to those children, and broke my heart for them.  They deserve love, they deserve a family to care for them, and they deserve a chance to reach their fullest potential in life.  Then I heard this song by Third Day come on the radio that says of God, "Your love is like a river flowing from my heart..." and I cried my eyes out and said, "YES, God, we CAN handle it because YOUR LOVE can flow from our hearts!"  Less than 2 years later, Violet joined our family.  I can't even imagine what we would've missed out on if we had walked away and not let God work in our hearts.

So fast forward to now, where we've learned so much and have met so many amazing families in the adoptive world who each have a beautiful story of how their precious child came into their lives.  Over and over I hear things like, "He/She has a special need that we had not even considered...and we are so glad we took the leap of faith!"  And we have found that the terms "mild" and "severe" are so relative.  Some people consider cleft palate to be a severe need due to the surgeries required to repair it, while others consider it a minor need because it's able to be corrected just by surgery!  I believe that God has designed each of these adoptive families differently to help line them up with the right child for their family.  

In Hudson's case, his special need must seem very severe to many people.  That's the only reason I can imagine he has waited so long.  But it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to us after really thinking about it and doing some research.  I thought, "What?!  That's it?!!  He is completely healthy and strong!"  When he was born they called him "disabled", but I don't really like that word because he seems to be perfectly "able" to me!  

Hudson was born with "Congenital Absence of Lower Limbs, and Syndactyly of Right Hand".  In plain terms, he was born without legs and the middle three fingers of his right hand were fused together.  But he was- and is- beautiful.

About 2 years ago he had surgery to separate his fingers on his hand, which was already functioning just fine as he could write and use a spoon with it.  He also got fitted for prosthetic legs and quickly learned to walk with them.  He could get around just fine (probably even faster) without them, but there are definitely some benefits to using prostheses.  We have spoken with an orthopedic expert and his is very optimistic that Hudson will be able to do just about whatever he sets his mind to!  I have a feeling God is going to do something amazing through his life, and I feel privileged to have a front row seat.  :-)

Now for the "Name Story"

Have you heard of a man named Nick Vujicic?  Look him up.  He's a Christian inspirational speaker born without arms or legs, and travels around the world sharing his story and encouraging people to find God's purpose for their life.  Curt & I saw him speak at an event in 2010 and I've been following his ministry ever since.  (www.lifewithoutlimbs.org)

He played a lead role in an award-winning short film called "The Butterfly Circus."  It's only 20 minutes long, and totally worth seeing.  I can't even count how many times I've watched it.  Here's a link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p98KAEif3bI

I have two favorite lines from the movie.

"The greater the struggle, 
the more glorious the triumph."

 and

"YOU are MAGNIFICENT." 
(When the circus master sees Nick a.k.a. "Will" 
for the first time).   



So when I saw Hudson's photo for the first time, I thought, "HE is MAGNIFICENT."  You know this part of the story...I printed his file and posted it on the fridge so we could pray for him.  Every time I walked by, I looked at his smiling face and said, "YOU are MAGNIFICENT!"  After a couple of weeks, as we were praying and seeking God's direction, I happened to notice that I could zoom into one of his photos and see a name tag with his Chinese name in both Pinyin (like our alphabet) and Mandarin characters.  So I looked it up in my translator app.  When the translation came up on my screen my heart leapt right out of my chest.  His name literally means....are you ready for this? "Magnificent."  No joke.  I had been calling him by name for weeks and didn't even know it.  It was like God shouted HE'S YOUR SON, GO GET HIM! 

We love him.  We know it won't always be easy, because kids are kids, and adoption itself comes with a whole other set of challenges, and adopting an older child adds a few more, but our love is a commitment, and it's unconditional.  We are trusting that God will provide the strength and wisdom required to parent each of our children and meet their individual needs.  

I have to admit I was very fearful of sharing our news with family and friends...I was pretty sure everyone would just look at us like we're crazy.  But the love and support we are receiving has been such an encouragement.  We would be on this journey regardless of popular opinion, but it sure is nice when you are surrounded by a crowd of people cheering you on and covering you in prayer!  So we THANK YOU!  May God be glorified!


(For more details and photos, please join our private group on facebook.  Just send me a note and I'll add you.)


Will this Second Adoption Take as Long?

It would be nice if we could say that our second adoption would only take a matter of 10 weeks... after all, that's how long it took from the time we were "Matched" with Violet until the time we were able to travel to China to bring her home.  Since we don't need to wait for a match this time, we only have 10 weeks of paperwork and waiting....right?!

Don't we wish.  *sigh*

The average length for this route is actually closer to 10 months.  

About 90% of the steps remain the same, and yes, we have to do them all again.  On the bright side, we are now PROS at getting this paperwork done!  

I told myself that I would relax during this season and not start obsessing over timelines and counting days for each step of the process- like I might have done last time- but I can't help it!  I love calendars and stats and being organized and planning ahead!  But just like our previous journey, I have to keep reminding myself that THE TIMING IS IN GOD'S HANDS!  He has already gone before us, and knows the perfect moment for each step.

This is a little chart that's been passed around the adoption realm.  Kind of makes your head spin:

 

I know not everyone understands the logistics and lingo of the adoption process (I had to learn it from experience) but it's nice to be able to share some of the specifics with people, so when someone asks, "How's the adoption going?" we can answer them with some real details.

So here is what we expect our timeline to look like.  I'll try to put it into plain English.  :-)


  • Home Study: About 35 tasks, including 4 interviews + medical exam results + financial review + State clearances and background checks + rough draft reviews & approvals by both our Adoption Agency and Home Study Agency.  Approx 8 weeks.
  • Immigration, Part 1: Fingerprinting at the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services & Form i800a ("Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country").  Approx 6 weeks.
  • Dossier: 16 documents/items are gathered.  Of these, 10 documents have to be notarized, then State Certified at the S.O.S., and then sent to the Chinese Consulate to get the Seal of Authenticity.  Then the whole packet is reviewed for errors by our agency and finally sent to China.  Approx 4 weeks.
  • Log-In & Letter of Acceptance: Once China receives our dossier, they start our file and begin to translate and review it, and then issue their approval.  Approx 7-10 weeks.
  • Immigration, Part 2: form i800 ("Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative") is sent to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.  Approx 2 weeks.
  • GUZ/DS-260/Article 5: I still don't understand all these little steps...but they take Approx 4 weeks.
  • Travel Approval: When China says we can arrange for our TRIP!  Approx 1-3 weeks.
  • Depart for China: Confirming our appointments for the actual adoption and immigrations, arranging our flights and hotels.  Approx 2-4 weeks.

So there you have it... our next 10 months worth of prayer requests!!  It looks like we may be traveling to China some time in April-May of next year.  I'm already looking forward to spending next summer with our family of six!


By the way, while we are not able to publicly share photos or very many personal details about our new son yet, we have set up a private FB page for family & friends who would like to be updated with some of those details of our adoption.  Let me know if you would like to be added to that page.  :-)

The Journey Begins Again

Sometimes God moves in ways we never expect.  Our dream was complete, our calling fulfilled, our family settling into it's new "normal" of three kids and chaos... and slowly, things started to happen that moved our hearts to take a leap of faith and start the adoption journey once again.

Yes, you heard me right.  WE ARE ADOPTING AGAIN!!  We just received our "Provisional Approval" today, so after having this news bubbling inside me for many weeks I am now free to let the it burst out as I share the excitement with you!

We are not supposed to share many details publicly yet, but I can tell you that "IT'S A BOY!"  And...this part may come as a surprise... he is 9 years old!  (I wish I could see your face right now, because as we've told a few friends and family members we've gotten some good reactions that I wish I had a hidden camera for.  The bulging eyes and jaw dropping kind.  Sometimes even the "you must be crazy" look.  Haha!)  



So that's our news!  For those of you who like the short version, there it is.  But, if you're curious as to how we made this big decision, you can keep reading.  I like to share details of our journey so I can give God the glory for His faithfulness.  :-)

How it all began...
Nine months ago we brought our daughter home from China.  It was an amazing experience and she transitioned really well, no doubt an answer to many prayers.  A week or so following our return I got an e-mail from our adoption agency giving us details about how China will let you use some of your documents again for a second adoption.  I deleted that e-mail SO FAST my thumb got whiplash, then told Curt about it and we laughed.  The thought of going back again so soon, or adding a fourth child to our busy family, sounded like crazy talk.

Then things started to happen.  Our 4-year-old son started adding the line "help me get a brother" to his bed time prayers.  Our 7-year-old daughter started making comments about how we "need a big brother to make our soccer teams even" at home.  Curt and I would secretly look at each other with huge eyes and shake our heads, wondering where these ideas were coming from.

About 3 months later we attended an adoption event at a church and heard stories from families who had planned to adopt only once, and ended up going back again and again.  While we didn't feel called to do that, we did feel God asking us if we would be WILLING to do that, were HE to place it on our hearts.  When we got home from that meeting I went to our agency's website and scanned the profiles of the children who were waiting for a family.  When I told Curt what I had done, he admitted he had just done the same thing!  But neither of us felt God tugging on our hearts to adopt one of those "waiting children", so we figured we had passed the test of willing obedience.

Let me tell you what a "Waiting Child" is referring to in the China adoption world.  These kids are waiting on what's called the "Shared List".  There are over 2,000 kids on this list at any given time, and any agency can pull a file from this list to "Match" the child with one of their waiting families.  (Remember, we waited 14 months to be matched with Violet.  She didn't have to be put on the Shared List because she found a match right away.)  Some of these children's files have been to multiple agencies, gone down the lists of waiting families, and NOT found a match.  So they keep waiting.  The reason?  They might have a special need (mild or severe, or corrected, or multiple needs), or they are too "old" for a family to be interested, or both, or who knows why else they are waiting.

There are advocacy groups online (password protected for the children's privacy) who share the photo and profile of some of these children in hopes of finding them a family.  That is where I saw a boy whose smile captured my heart.  I printed his photo and put it on our fridge so that we would remember to pray for him to find a family.  At the time, I didn't realize that family would be OURS.  Of course it was always in the back of mind, and I hoped it might be the case, but I knew that God would really have to give us both that direction.  So I waited.  And prayed.  Curt started asking questions about him, so I kept doing more research.  The more we learned, the more we realized how magnificent this boy was.  He HAD to find a family.

After having his medical files reviewed by 2 professionals we decided to take steps towards starting the paperwork to adopt him.  BUT, that night his file disappeared from the Shared List!!  This meant that either a)another family was stepping forward to adopt him or b)an agency had pulled his file to see if they could match him.  Thanks to our adoption networks on facebook we were quickly able to track his file down, and found the the latter (b) was the case.

We kept praying for him to find a family, and were very willing for that family to be us.  Week after week, for 6 weeks, we left it in God's hands.  By the end of that time I was SO attached to him I couldn't imagine him NOT being a part of our family.  Then the agency released his file, after not finding a match once again, and transferred it to our new agency for us!  We had our paperwork ready to go!!!  After submitting numerous forms, we had to wait 9 days for our "Provisional Approval".  That came today.  And that is how, finally, I am able to share this news with you!!

There is so much more I want to share!  Like how God used his Chinese name to confirm in my heart that he was our son.  But I must save it for another day!  Thanks for joining us once again on our adoption journey, the sequel!  We will be needing your prayers and support!!

6 Months as a Family of Five

My [creative, beautiful, talented, newlywed] friend Saskia was in the area recently and came by for a visit.  It was fantastic to see her!!  And she did a photo shoot around our yard that I am thrilled to share with you all.  It's not an easy task to get a good picture with 3 little ones, but the kids loved her and we had a great time.  It was the perfect way to help commemorate our 6-month Adoption Anniversary! If any of my friends in the Seattle area are looking for a great photographer, look Sas up!  














We love our kids to pieces!!  I just keep thanking God for my family, and for allowing Violet to be a part of it!!

As far as updates go, we recently had our social worker visit to do Violet's 6-month report.  China requires them at 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 5 years after adoption.  The report covers 10 areas of her development and adjustment, but the bottom line is that she is a happy & loved little girl!

We've enjoyed sharing a lot of "firsts" with her over the past several months.  While we may have missed milestones like her first tooth or her first steps, we are cherishing things like her first time: eating corn on the cob, trying out the swing, bowling, licking a popsicle, seeing the penguins at the zoo, or running through the sprinkler.

But I will admit for the sake of being transparent that it's not all sunshine and rainbows around here!  Our kids adore each other, but there's a fair share of fighting that goes on...just like a normal family.  Violet has also reached her "terrible twos", but thankfully it seems we only have one kid at a time going through a stage like that.  And up next?  Potty Training.  Yay.  It's probably my least favorite thing ever, but on the bright side, once it's done I will be done with diapers!  (And after SEVEN years of motherhood with NO break in the diaper changing routine, I'm looking forward to that day!!)

God is my strength on the tough days, but I definitely find joy even in the crazy moments.  I also found a great podcast called "God Centered Mom" that has given me so much encouragement and helped me to know that I don't have to be perfect all the time to be a godly mom.  What a relief.  LOL!!  If you're interested, check it out here or on iTunes: http://godcenteredmom.com/

I will share more photos from this shoot on my facebook page.  Thanks for continuing to share in this journey with us!  Have a great summer!