2 years

Two years ago today, we officially started this journey by applying to the Ethiopia program with our adoption agency.  What a roller coaster it has been. At times, I’ve been able to tangibly see our faith grow; and other times I have felt like we are wasting the trial, rather than choosing to grow from it.  Some parts of these two years, we have felt so encouraged and held up by our community; and for other parts, we have felt very alone.  Right now, I think we’re just a little numb.  We want our girl in our arms so badly, but these last few hurdles feel mountainous.  It’s so close, but feels almost as far away as it has for the last two years.

Will you pray for our perseverance, please?  And also for a miracle as far as funding?  We got some discouraging news about one of our grant applications today.  We’re weary, but trying to take one faithful step at a time.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday for you, from when we first started this process:

Daddy and Baby Girl just hit "submit!"

Daddy and Baby Girl just hit “submit!”

george_family

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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.

all I want for Christmas is you…

An Fu Mei 10.10.14 pic 3Our Christmas was beautiful, slow-paced, and sweet.  We read the scriptures, sang the hymns, and thanked Jesus for His precious gift.  We enjoyed time together and the kids were [mostly] well-behaved and thankful for their gifts.  My husband and I spent some special time together on Christmas night and exchanged just stocking stuffers this year – the little things he got for me made me feel so loved and cherished.  It was perfect…

…except for the hole in my heart that belongs to a little girl who is 8,097 miles away.  Her stocking was hung by the chimney with care, she got a few little gifts, and we had Chinese food on Christmas Eve in her honor.  If I could whisper something in her ear right now, I’d tell her that Jesus came for her and her friends, too, and that we’re coming to get her as soon as we can.

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?

you might be adopting internationally…

I think, all the time, hearing Jeff Foxworthy’s voice in my head, “you might be adopting internationally,” when I do something crazy that I know other people in the process have probably done.  Here are a few from this week:

-If you hope you’ll be awaked at 2 am by a shipping update text, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you start crying (hard) at Target when you finally find the perfect toddler mittens, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand at the UPS store, desperately trying to find the right words to make them understand that these are THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS THEY HAVE EVER SHIPPED, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you hand sew a stocking for someone 8,000 miles away who you’ve never met, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you look at your spouse and say, “This paperwork is literally insane.  No one could possibly do this.  I cannot do this.” but somehow stay up two more hours to finish it, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand in the baby toy aisle for thirty minutes, texting your friend about qualifications for the perfect toy to help a toddler start catching up on two years’ worth of deficient sensory experiences and motor skill development (that also happens to be small, lightweight, and easy to pack), you might be adopting internationally.

What have you done this week that could be added to the list?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done these things!

getting ready for Christmas – the spiritual stuff

I posted a few weeks ago about preparing for the more secular parts of the season.  Now it’s time to share the important things!  We love Christmas around here.  We love listening to the carols and hymns, we love reading the scriptures, and we love talking about Jesus.  Here are some of the ways we’re making sure we remember the reason we celebrate Christmas in our home this year.

I’ve started collecting nativities, but I don’t have a ton yet.  Right now I have 2 that the kids can play with, which they love to do.  Sometimes a random Lego Minifigure or super hero will come join in the worship to the newborn King, which is just fine with me!  I love having them all around the house, so they’re a focal point, and so the ones the kids play with become just part of their every day play.  There’s also the one on the mantle that I showed in the other post.  I want to get more and leave some out year round.  (There is dust and laundry in some of these pics – keeping it real for ya.) DSC_0149 DSC_0150 DSC_0152 DSC_0174
This year, we’re also doing the Jesse Tree advent devotionals as a family.  I did a swap with my MOPS group where we each made 25 of one type of ornament, and then divided them all up so we had each one.  I think it’s so special to have handmade ornaments from some of my sweetest friends – I know i will cherish them forever.  We’re using this book, The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert Smith.  It’s our first year to use it, and some of my friends ended up buying different ones, but I’ve really loved this one.  It has all of the relevant scripture noted, plus two or three suggestions of hymns or songs to sing each day.  Another thing I love about it is that for each day it has a child devotional, which has been perfect for my preschoolers and my older son, plus an adult devotional to dig a little deeper.  We’ve all learned a lot, and have spent some really special family time doing it.
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On Christmas morning, the first thing we’ll do is read the Christmas story in Luke 2, and pray together.  I’ll also wrap up Jesus from one of the nativities (or maybe the Jesus ornament from the Jesse tree) to be the first gift we open, so we make sure to talk about how what matters is our Savior, and not the presents.  This Christmas, we’re also going to try to take a break in the morning to bless someone else.  The tentative plan now is to look at our stocking goodies, and then go take breakfast to another family or individual.  We won’t stay long (unless they want us to), but share a little Christmas love and try to remember that it isn’t all about us.

We also keep our Christmas cards throughout the year to pray for the families who sent them. DSC_0157
So, what does your family do to keep the reason we celebrate Christmas in the forefront of your minds?

Santa’s Cookies

I already explained that we do a simplified version of Santa here.  I think it’s a sweet tradition, rooted in Christian history.  As I was making our shopping list for next week (next week?!?!?), I realized I needed to make sure I have what we need to make cookies for the man in red.  We make this same recipe every year, and it’s perfect!  Some years we do cut outs, and other years just circles, but we always have lots of fun decorating on Christmas Eve.  Here are a couple of pictures from last year!
DSC_0682 DSC_0683 Santa’s Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Add baking powder and flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition.  Dough will be stiff.  Do not chill dough.  Divide dough in half.  Roll each half about 1/4 in thick.  (Roll between 2 sheets of wax paper to help with sticking.)  Dip cutters in flour before each use.  Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet or middle rack of oven for 7-11 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

Now, decorate to your heart’s content!  Don’t forget to add lots of fun icing and sprinkles to your shopping list.

*Note:  I did not create this recipe and I am not claiming to own it.  I’ve been using it for several years, but I have no idea where I originally got it.  If you think it’s yours, let me know, and I’ll give credit where credit is due!

so big

All of my kids are in the middle of growth spurts.  They are eating and sleeping more than usual.  Today, a sweet friend gave us these shirts they had bought for us in China, to celebrate us getting our LOA/RA/LSC.  The kids LOVE them, and so do I. DSC_0137My mama heart is clinging to my littler two’s littleness lately – my younger son starts Kinder next year, and my daughter turns 3 soon.  Neither of them is teeny tiny anymore!  They’ve had such a sweet three years home alone together, and they’re the best of friends.  Soon, we’ll be bringing home Fu Mei, and soon after that, he’ll start school.  I’m both eager and anxious to see how the relationship dynamics will all shift. DSC_1813

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

one step at a time

We’ve prayed for the last two years that God would use our adoption to show Himself to people.  It’s hard to talk about money, and it’s hard to talk about taking faithful steps without being (or sounding) prideful.  Plus, many of my steps have been with a considerable amount of fear and anxiety, rather than faith!

But, we just found out that my husband’s annual bonus is almost exactly the same amount as the payment that we have due.  And he’ll be receiving the bonus two days before the payment is due.  We had no control over the timing of either event, or over the amount of either payment.  I guess it’s possible for people to see that as a coincidence, but I certainly don’t.  Especially since it isn’t the first time in this adoption process that it has happened that way.

That’s the last round of fees for our agency.  From this point on, it’s time to save for travel!  That’s a pretty overwhelming amount, but we’re just trying to take one step at a time.  Hopefully, this time they can be faithful steps!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

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.