Lots of Catching Up To Do.

Two months ago, my dad died.  9 days later, we left for China.  A few days after that, we met the little person whose picture we had been obsessing over for the previous 6 months.

It has been a lot.  So much BIG all at once.  Really, I’m just now starting to get a little less numb.  My brain just clicked into survival mode and stayed there a while.  Honestly, it already felt like I was in survival mode even before my dad died.  All of 2015 has been one big, intense, season of total insanity for us.

These have been the hardest two months of my life.  I can’t remember the last time I got a decent night’s sleep.  We saw my dad almost every week.  My boys were so close to him that they’re really grieving.  My older daughter probably won’t remember him, and my younger daughter never got to meet him.  I can’t put into words how heartsick I am about that. Plus I just miss him – how many people do you have in your life who are always on the sidelines cheering for you no matter what?  Not that many. The adjustment to being home has also been more of a challenge than I anticipated.

But, of course, in the midst of the hardest time of my life, God has been faithful, and there has been joy.  Our Both Hands project brought in the exact amount of money that we had prayed that it would, almost to the penny.  The two weeks in China were a sweet connecting time for my husband and I, just like we had prayed.  Meeting and getting to know our daughter has been incredible, and we’re so thankful to have her in our arms.  Even though it’s been 6 weeks, I still look at her sometimes in wonder that she’s actually here in my arms in the United States.  Seeing her start to blossom as a dearly loved daughter and sister can’t be described.  Our community has continued to rally around us for this entire crazy season, and I am so thankful.

I’ll share a few pictures now, and I’ll try to get caught up with travel, attachment, and all of that as soon as I can.

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*Airport pictures were taken by the amazing Beyond the Blue Studios

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care package update!

Little Miss Fu Mei’s care package was finally delivered to her!  It had a slight detour because of the fact that she was moved a while back from her orphanage to foster care – which is great news!  She’s pretty much in the most wonderful place she could possibly be, in our opinion.  She’s with foster parents who seem to care about her, and frequently receiving therapy and structured play at the foster center.  We’ve earnestly prayed for two years that our daughter would be well cared for while we couldn’t be the ones caring for her, and God has been faithful and answered those prayers better than we could have ever asked for.

The only downside to this wonderful news is that her grieving process will most likely be intense.  It seems to us from the little bit of information that we have that she is close with her foster family, and her innocent heart will likely be broken to leave them.  Will you please pray that God will somehow prepare and protect her heart and mind throughout this process?  And that her foster family will prepare her as well as they can, by talking about it, showing her our pictures, and telling her who we are and that we love her?  Thank you!  My heart aches for what she’s about to go through.

Now for the fun stuff – we learned that she is still on a bottle and formula (which is common for a Chinese toddler), and that she loves rice, apples, and oranges.  She also loves dolls and toys that play music.  We didn’t get any additional information about her limb differences, but we aren’t too worried about that right now – we’ll take it a day at a time and see what treatments she needs when we get home and settled.  She has gained 5 pounds since her birthday, and seems to be healthy!  Ann at Red Thread told us that if we don’t receive pictures now, the director of that center always takes lots of pictures of the children for their adoptive families, and we’ll receive them when we go to get her.  Having pictures of her life in China will be such a priceless gift.

I’ve randomly started tearing up a few times in the last couple of days because I’m so blown away by God’s goodness and provision for our sweet Fu Mei.

care package & update questions

We sent a care package to our girl!  You know, that crazy lady who started crying in the post office?  Yeah, that was me.  (And not just because I spent $90 on shipping and stamps!)

So, what was in our care package?  I searched a lot of sites and talked to a few friends, and here’s what I ended up with:

-toddler backpack, labeled with her picture and Chinese name
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-thumb drive, labeled with her picture and name
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-toddler chewable vitamins, labeled with her name and a “1 pill/day” label  (I had this translation checked with a native speaker, so if you want to copy and paste it, here it is: 1粒/天)
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-a couple of motor skill development toys (the little girl in the car is Fisher Price, I found it at Target)
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-some candy for the nannies (I didn’t verify this translation)
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-A photo book from Shutterfly that my mom’s sweet friend translated for us.  The translations are beautiful, and I’m frustrated with myself for not taking a picture!  Hopefully we will see it again and it will be well-read.  It was simple with few words and lots of pictures.  A page of pictures of my husband and me, a page for my oldest son, a page for my younger son, a page for my daughter, page for grandparents, page for cousins, page for house, page for pets, etc.

-A soft blanket and little lovey that I stuffed in my pillowcase for about a month to make it smell like me.  I know, that’s a little weird and probably won’t work, but I figured it was worth a try.  I have another of that same blanket and lovey to take with us when we go get her.  I read it’s great to send sleep-related things, if possible, to help ease the sleep transition.  (Again, I feel like we’re in, “I don’t know, but it’s worth a try,” territory here.  That’s all I have right now, so I’m going with it.)

-I also freaked out about how it’s cold in her province, but also not in a location where they would likely have heat in the orphanage.  My logical husband gently pointed out that people stayed warm for centuries without heat.  But, I sent two fleecy, warm outfits (in different sizes), mittens, a hat, and several pairs of thick socks to help her stay warm.  None of it is anything I’m madly in love with, so I won’t be heartbroken if we never see it again.

Time-wise, this may be the only time we get to send a care package (plus it’s really expensive), so I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I’ve heard it can’t be a very big box, or it won’t get through customs.  I tried hard to balance sending what I wanted to send and cramming it in the smallest box it would fit in (maybe just larger than a regular shoe box).  We are using Red Thread China for care package forwarding.  Ann is translating a letter for us and is going to try to get updated measurements and pictures.  Because I know I searched to find out what people ask, I will post our questions here.  I used a document on a message board that I’m on to help me come up with these.  Our agency told us that if we send too much, they probably won’t answer, so I tried to keep it brief.  I learned in college about how Asian languages tend to communicate in a much more polite and round-about way than we do in America, so I tried to sweeten it up a bit.  I have no idea if that is actually true, I just read it in a book at some point in college.  As my husband said last night, you catch more flies with honey.  (Worth a try?)

Here’s our letter:

Thank you for caring for [name]!  Please tell her that we love her and can’t wait to be her Mommy and Daddy!  We are so thankful for your time in reading this letter and opening the care package.
 
We would like to ask a few questions:
-Does she use a bottle?
-Does she drink formula?  (If so, what kind?)
-What are her favorite foods?
-What is her eating schedule?
-Does she sleep in a crib or a bed?
-What are her favorite toys?
-What songs does she like?
-Is she especially close to any caregiver?  Can we please get a picture of her with that person?
-Is she especially close with any other children?  Can we please get pictures of her with her close friends?
 

If anyone would like to communicate with us, we can be reached at [email address].  Thank you, again, for your dedicated care of [name] and the other children.

We did also send specific questions about her life prior to being in the orphanage and about her special needs.  I almost forgot to include those things in the letter, so I’m making a note here that I did include them, but did not want to share them on the blog.  You can email me if you want more information.

Have any of you sent a care package?  What did you send?  What did I forget to ask?

introducing…

An Fu Mei 10.10.14 pic 3_3Here she is.  Her name is Fu Mei, which means, “beautiful blessing,” in Mandarin.  We will be giving her an American first name, a family name, but for now, she’s Fu Mei.  She’s about one and a half, which is just about a year younger than our daughter.  The nannies say over and over that she is lovely and very smart.  She has already had one or two surgeries on her club foot, and will probably need more treatment for that when she gets to the US.  She also has some “differences” to her sweet hands.  We still feel a little protective and vulnerable about sharing those with the world, so we’ll share more as we feel ready.  She’ll likely need a few surgeries on her hands, too.  Other than those two limb differences, she seems very healthy and vibrant.  We don’t know exactly when we’re going to get her, but it will be soon.  Life has been a whirlwind, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future!  God has showed His handiwork in so many marvelous ways in the last week or so, and in the perfect match of us with this beautiful, perfect little girl.

we found her.

Months earlier than expected, in a completely unlikely way, we found our girl.  We can’t share any details about her yet, but we’re all madly in love with her, and can’t wait to see God move mountains to bring her home.

We accepted her referral and submitted our Letter of Intent last week.  The next steps are to wait for our Letter of Approval from China, make a very large payment, and then wade through tons of red tape to prepare to travel.  We don’t have an estimate for travel at this time.

The week that we got the referral to review and the next week while we were waiting for doctor phone calls, orphanage updates, and stressing about money and other details, our whole family was studying Exodus 2-4 at Bible Study Fellowship.  Pretty intense timing, right?  Just like He did with Moses, God patiently led us through the fear, hesitations, and excuses; and gently reminded us that He was with us and would not ask us to do something if He wasn’t going to help us do it.  (**Note: None of the fear, hesitations, or excuses were about this precious little girl, who we wanted to bring home the minute we saw her beautiful face.)

We can’t wait to introduce her to you.  She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.  We know that you’ll love her, too.

a non-update

Hello, everyone!  (Ha…I know there are only a few of you reading.  But thanks for checking on us!) I haven’t posted in a little while.  Sorry about that.  Things have been busy here – school/homework, church activities starting back up, visiting family, time with friends, etc.  I also started working part time (about 12 hours a week) to save up for our next adoption payment.  My job is really fun, but I miss my little ones a lot when I’m there. We did hear a mini-update from our agency that our wait may be a little shorter than previously anticipated.  We had originally been given a 12-18 month wait before referral.  (I cried to my steadfast husband that it felt just like Ethiopia, and he reminded me that 18 months and 5 years are really not that similar.)  Then we edited our special needs request a bit, and they said probably closer to the 12 months.  Just recently, our family coordinator said it’s probably looking like 6-12 months, and possibly even sooner!  I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic.  She also gave us some insight about which type of specific special need file she thinks we may receive.  I don’t want to give details about that yet, but it feels like a step forward and lets me focus some of my research and prep a little bit.

Since I don’t really have anything too exciting to post, I thought I’d share a few great blog posts I’ve read lately.  Check them out!

Hold On – from Mountains for Maggie & 4U Ruthie

Her First Day of Kindergarten – from My Overthinking

Fault Lines – at No Hands But Ours

Dossier to China!

Our dossier is headed to China today!  It’s an exciting step.  The next milestone is our Log In Date, which is when China accepts our dossier and logs us into their official system.  Once we are logged in with China, we are able to look at a child’s file or receive a referral.  We do not anticipate receiving a referral soon, but it’s still an exciting step to be officially on the list!

For those of you unfamiliar with the process, here are the remaining steps, some insight into all of the crazy Chinese adoption acronyms, and a loosely estimated timeline:

-Log In Date (LID, about 1-2 weeks from now)

-Referral: which is when we are presented with the file of a child that our agency feels is a good match for us.  We take the referral to our pediatrician and an international adoption specialist MD to get their professional opinions about the child’s health and development.  (estimated 6-18 months from now)

-We accept our referral and send our Letter of Intent (LOI) and referral payment.  (For those that are curious, if we feel that a referral is not a good match for us, we are able to choose not to accept that referral, and that child’s file will go to another family.  That would be a heartbreaking decision to make, but there is comfort in knowing it’s an option and we would not be penalized.  The only reason we can foresee turning down a referral is if we decide, prayerfully and together with our social worker, that the child’s medical needs are more severe than we believe we are equipped to care for.)

-We wait for China to send our Letter of Approval (LOA, also called Referral Approval or RA), meaning they’ve approved us to adopt that child.  (This step is taking most families 2-3 months right now, but can be more than 100 days.)

-About 2 months after LOA/RA, we will receive a Travel Approval (TA), which means China has given us approval to come get her.  This is when our agency makes our appointment at the US embassy in Guangzhou and we start to book our travel, etc.  Families usually travel within a few weeks after getting their TA.

-We go to China!  We spend about a week in our daughter’s province: meeting her, getting her birth certificate and passport, etc.  Then we spend another week or so in Guangzhou, doing all kinds of paperwork, having her medical appointment, obtaining her visa to enter the US, etc.

-We come home!

#1 & #2

The two most beautiful things I’ve seen in quite a while:

1.  My beautiful sister-in-law as a bride.  I’ve watched her grow up since she was 11, and I’m so amazed by the woman that she is now.  Congrats, M & S!  We are so excited to watch you enter this new chapter of your lives as a family, and we’re so thankful to have you as our brother and sister.

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2.  These gorgeous Chinese stamps on the back of all of our documents* – nothing rejected!  Hallelujah!

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*We’re still waiting on our I800A.  My project for tonight is to get everything else totally ready, so when we get it, there’s no more delay. Trusting God’s timing feels a little easier today than it did last Wednesday.  Today, someone I am friends with on Facebook said in a prayer, “So when I can’t see Your hand I’m going to ask for the faith to trust Your heart.”  Isn’t that wise?  That’s my prayer right now.

consulate bound!

consulate bound!

We have all of our documents ready to send to the consulate, other than our I800 approval! We’re going to go ahead and send this batch now, just in case anything is rejected and has to be re-done. One document is already on its way to DC, and everything else is ready to go to Houston – exactly 100 pages. I just need to get a money order and get my tush to the UPS store. This feels like an exciting step!

Our USCIS fingerprint appointment is next week. Getting close to DTC (Dossier to China) and LID (Log In Date). Woo hoo!

Honeyed Chicken & Pineapple

Honeyed Chicken & Pineapple

I made another Asian recipe! They loved the dish, but I tried the crunchy fried noodles, and they didn’t care for those. But, the dish itself is definitely a keeper. (Confession #1: This was my first time ever to fry something! It’s sort of hard work!)

You’ll need:
1 broiler-fryer chicken (about 3 lbs)
1/2 c. cornstarch
3 c. vegetable oil
2 t. grated ginger
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained
1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 1/2 c. water
2 t. cornstarch
1 1/2 T honey
1T. chicken bouillon granules
1 t. sesame oil
4 green onions, cut into thin slices

1. Remove giblets from chicken. Rinse chicken and cut into serving size pieces. Coat chicken pieces with 1/2 cup cornstarch. (Confession #2: I used boneless chicken breasts.)

2. Heat vegetable oil in wok over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Add chicken pieces one at a time to hot oil. Cook 1/3 of the pieces at a time. Cook until golden and completely cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining chicken.

3. Pour all but 2 T of the oil out of the wok. Stir-fry ginger and garlic in the oil over medium heat 1 minute. Add drained pineapple and the sliced pepper to ginger mixture. Sir-fry over high heat 2 minutes. Remove from wok.

4. Mix water and remaining 2 t. cornstarch. Blend in honey, bouillon, and sesame oil. Pour mixture into wok. Cook and stir over high heat until mixture boils and thickens. Return chicken and pineapple-pepper mixture to wok. Cook and stir over high heat until hot throughout. Add green onions. Cook and stir 1 minute longer.

My family really liked it, and I’ll definitely make it again. (Confession #3: I accidentally used corn meal instead of corn starch. I didn’t even realize I had done it until my sweet husband asked if it was supposed to be fried like catfish instead of chicken. He pretended to think it may have been a chinese strategy that he had never heard of, rather that an error. But, it was still good!)