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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surprise update! it’s complicated.

A friend emailed me Sunday to tell me a person was trying to get hold of me with an update about our daughter.  I friended this person on Facebook, and she runs the foster home where my daughter is now.  Yay internet!!

I spent Sunday evening in a glorious fog.  She’s smiling!  She’s growing!  She’s healthy!  She has gorgeous hair!  She has so many teeth!  She’s using her hands and fingers more dexterously than we thought!  She’s eating solids!  I have beautiful updated pictures!  I have video!  She’s receiving treatment for her clubfoot that we didn’t think she’d get for months!  I can get pictures and updates regularly until we go to get her!  It was a wonderful, emotional day. 10518573_10152763894838473_9175509928124429256_o10916337_10152763894918473_6109687456446386774_o Then we got in bed.  My brain starting spinning and wouldn’t stop.  I realized she had been an additional two places (with two or more additional sets of parental figures) than I already knew about.  She has been moved around so much.  Every time she’s let herself love someone, then they were gone.  She had two surgeries without a mommy or daddy or even a stable nanny to care for her.  She must have been so scared to wake up in a hospital alone.  In less than two years, she’s had more grief and loss than most of us experience in our entire lives.  I am heartbroken for her.  I am very, very worried for her.  It was a long, emotional night.

The two people I shared my concerns with encouraged me with the Truth:
God can redeem this.
He loves her, too.
She hasn’t had a mommy, but she’s had the perfect Father.
He has a heart for orphans, too.
We have a God of restoration.

They are right.  I know they are right.  I’m so thankful to have people to whisper Truth to my scared mommy heart.  This is so hard!  So complex!  So much joy mixed with so much grief – and this is just the beginning.

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.

oceans

We really love music here.  My husband and I met in algebra class, but we became good friends in band.  We were both in choirs and music groups throughout childhood, and in band through high school and college.  We listen to music at the house all the time.  I know music means different things to different people, but it is really important to me – like a soundtrack to my life.  Some songs take me back to certain times in my life so strongly that it’s like I’m there again.

Probably most of you reading have heard the song, Oceans, by Hillsong United.  I’ll admit that I didn’t like it that much when it first came out, and then it was seriously overplayed on the radio, so that didn’t help me like it.  Right now, though, every time I hear it, I get goosebumps and start to tear up.  It is such a perfect song for where we are right now.

After waiting and dossier building and feeling like we were making no progress, now our adoption is moving so fast we’re dizzy.  We know this is a good thing – our girl needs a mommy, daddy, home, and medical treatment ASAP.  But, it’s a little overwhelming.  The task before us is so big – like an ocean.  There is absolutely no way that we can manage it on our own.  There is no way we can raise the money, no way we can figure out the practical details, no way we can be prepared for our girl the way that we need to be.  It’s not unlikely.  it’s impossible.

You know what else is impossible?
Walking on water.

Here are the lyrics, in case you aren’t familiar with them:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

fearfully & wonderfully made

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We still can’t share details about our daughter’s special need, but I’ll tell you that it falls under the category of “limb differences.”  She will probably have a few surgeries after she’s home with us, but she will always have a visible disability.  The medical professionals we have spoken with assure us that she will be able to adapt and do anything that she wants to do in her life.  Honestly, we’re less worried about any possible physical limitations than we are about her attachment and emotional development.  Those will be the primary focus upon returning home, and will keep us all very busy for a while.

But, twice since receiving her referral, I have witnessed children saying hurtful things about other children with visible disabilities.  Both times, I wanted to cry – both for the child it happened to, and for my own sweet one in China.  I worry about adults asking inappropriate questions and making inappropriate statements, and I worry about children being mean.  Of course, we expect inquisitive comments, and we especially know that young children are curious and don’t intend to be hurtful – that is really not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about when they’re old enough to be deliberately mean.  I’m hoping we’ll still be at our sweet charter school that has such a family-feel, and where her older brothers and sister will be close by to defend her, if needed.  I’ve also heard from other families with kids with limb differences that the child’s circle of friends is usually fiercely protective, and that the child gets good at brushing it off.  We think she’s gorgeous and perfect the way that God made her, and pray that our families and close friends will feel that way, too.

I already feel the heavy burden of responsibility on my shoulders of teaching her and the bigger kids appropriate responses.  I will have a little bit of time to practice answering before she can understand me and process what I’m saying, but the three older kids will be carefully watching and listening from the very moment that she’s in the US.  I feel like I can’t mess it up even once.  I talked about it with a good friend, and expressed by concern that I’ll just fall apart early on if someone says something really hurtful.  She said, “Well, I sort of think that would be an appropriate response.  I guess maybe they’d learn to think before they speak the next time.”  That gave me a little freedom to let the expectation of perfection go a little bit, but it still weighs heavily.  I’m praying I’ll be able to educate with grace and love when needed, while setting a polite but firm boundary when that is what’s called for.

Anyone reading have experience with this?  Want to weigh in?

PS – The yellow onesie underneath the black one has her monogram!  I can’t wait to show it to you.  Both of them are beautiful, and were purchased for a very good price HERE.

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!