Adoption Update

The FedEx envelope just arrived, so all of our paperwork has now been authenticated by the Chinese Consulate in Houston. Hooray! This months-long process, known as the "paperchase," (and that's what it's felt like) is almost complete!

We'll probably send our dossier to China tomorrow, but I guess there's no rush given that the offices will be closed Oct. 1-8 for China National Day (which somehow lasts a week!). Sixty years ago on October 1st, the modern Peoples Republic of China was founded. 

Many of you have emailed to ask about the sweet 11-year-old that we were considering. (See Adoption Rollercoaster) I just heard on Monday that the family who was reviewing her file has decided to pursue adoption of this beautiful girl.  It was a tad bittersweet, but I am truly so happy that she has found a family. 

Because of China's holiday schedule, their next list of children's files will likely not be released until mid to late October. I am really hoping that we get matched this month, and I'm praying it's before October 24th - the twins' due date.  Thankfully, I was pregnant with Carter when our 2nd due date before him passed.  Otherwise, I think I would have been distraught. We recently passed the due date for the baby we lost in December, and I really don't want to pass another one without seeing a baby being in our family in the near future (which means next Spring or Summer, but that still seems near).  Until this past month when we changed directions, we had been trying for 13 months to achieve a healthy pregnancy. I never dreamed it would take so long to add a precious child to our family, but then I'm learning over and over that His ways are higher than our ways. And when it comes down to it, I am thankful for where He has us. I have had some precious time with Carter when I could give him undivided attention, and some ministry doors have opened that wouldn't be possible if I were caring for newborns.  It's just that loss still hurts, and hope still heals. So I'm hoping. :)

Thanks for caring so much about our journey, and I promise to keep you posted with any news or updates.  Your sweet messages, emails, and calls have been so uplifting and affirming. Thank you!

Much love,

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I absolutely love motherhood. I love staying at home and working to make our house a haven for my hard-working husband. And I admit I'm a homebody at heart. But there is something so refreshing about getting out with girlfriends. Whether it's going to dinner to celebrate a birthday or gathering at someone's house for prayer or bible study, I always feel rejuvenated by hanging out with dear friends. Never underestimate the power of combined estrogen. :)

Susan, Stacey P., Anna, me, Stacey C. (love you girls!)
celebrating Anna's 30th birthday
Susan, Anna, me
(Anybody have a good joke about a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead?) :)

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Crib or Big Boy Bed?

Okay, I need your input and experiences. For about a week, Carter has been attempting to climb out of his crib.  The mattress is as low as it will go, and the railings are actually higher than other cribs I've seen. My concern is that he is hiking a leg over the railing and then heaving himself forward...which would result in him landing on his head!! Of course, this scares me to no end. If he was climbing over it sideways, I wouldn't be as concerned because he would have more control. I thought about trying to teach him how to do it that way (since he tries right in front of me), but that would defeat the purpose of keeping him in his crib longer. :)

Carter loves his crib and will play for long periods of time either before he naps or when he wakes up in the morning. I'd love to keep him in there as long as possible, but I am worried that he might hurt himself by lunging out. I know kids safely climb out all the time, but remember that the railings seem to be higher than other cribs.

So...I know every child is different. But can ya'll share when you transitioned your toddler to a bed? Did you have trouble with them getting out and roaming? Does anyone regret doing it too early? Not sure what to do....thank you!!!

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4 Years and Counting!

Today marks the 4th anniversary of one of the best days of my life!
Happy Anniversary, Scott!
I love you more than I could ever articulate with words.

Photos by Salter Photography

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The Adoption Rollercoaster

I was warned adoption is not for the faint-hearted.  I didn't expect to become emotionally invested in so many children. Here's a rundown of the rollercoaster of emotions that I rode this past weekend.

While browsing a chat forum for China adoptions, I link to a blog on which the blogger advocates for waiting children in China.  I learn that once the children turn 14, they are no longer eligible to be adopted. They spend their remaining teen years helping out at their orphanage or being thrown out into the real world without family, support, or education to thrive.

I click from that blog to an agency's blog which highlights specific children that are waiting for their "forever" families. I read about a particular 11-year-old who was abandoned at an older age. She is considered "Special Needs" because of her age, but she is completely healthy. Her profile states that she's good at short distance running, gentle, polite, poised, and loves helping with the younger kids.  The blog can't show pictures of their faces, but a candid shot shows her wearing a lei as a crown at a luau party thrown by visiting staff of the adoption agency. So creative. She wants very much to be adopted and knows her time is short.

My heart aches. I long for her to experience Love. Family. Stability. Security. God's grace. I want her to reach her potential. I want her to know she has a special place and purpose in this lonely world.  
I want her to find a home.

I can't get this sweet girl off my mind. I tell Scott all about her and show him her profile.  We discuss how impossible it would be to take in an 11-year-old. We have no idea how to parent a child of that age. We're just getting started!
We pray for this girl. I shed tears for this girl. 

In my head, I start trying to make it work. Yes, I am only 30, and Scott is 35. It would be as if I had a child at 18 or 19.  I jokingly tell Scott that she and I could be like the "Gilmore Girls!" They had such a great relationship! Lorelai and Rory....this darling girl and I could be mom and daughter...best friends. (He warned me not to expect the fast-paced witty bantering of the Gilmore Girls given that she would just be starting to learn English!) :)  We decided to email the agency and request the password to access pictures and more info about this girl.

I lay awake until midnight, working through the details of having an 11-year-old. What would life look like? How would things change? Wouldn't Carter love having an older sister? Wouldn't she love to have a little brother? She'd probably love helping out. I could send her a Pottery Barn catalog so she can pick out her bedding!  We could shop for new clothes. What are the fashions for preteens right now??

I go to sleep thinking that I don't just want to find her a home.  I want her to find her home with us.

We discuss her throughout the day but always in a hypothetical sense. Scott doesn't realize (or maybe he does) how deeply I am considering this step. Can't we adopt her and then try to have a baby soon? Then we could go back to China in the next few years to adopt a little one? 

I ask questions and do research throughout the day. My parents surprisingly think it might be a good idea. Really??? My close friend encourages me that we could do it. My cousin (who has an 11-year-old) and older friend (also with older kids) assure me that support would be there. After all, even if you have a child from birth. you still don't know what you're doing when they get to their preteen and teen years! I expect everyone to tell me we're crazy.  Instead, they affirm our desires and strengths.

I check my email constantly even though I figure the agency won't return emails until Monday.

I sit in church, praying that God will direct our path.  I start to panic. What if this really is what God is calling us to do right now? I still want a baby girl from China. I start arguing with God. I rest in the comfort that if God wants us to do this, He'll have to change Scott's heart. I start to fear that He will.  When it was just my desire and idea, it seemed okay.  Now I realize how far out of our comfort zones this adoption of an older child would take us.

Scott and I discuss our concerns. How does the language barrier affect bonding? How do older children respond and adapt to a completely new culture? How would we assimilate her into school? 

When we get home from church, I check the China chat forum and see that someone has started a thread about adopting older kids. The answers to our questions are there, coming from families who've gone before us. Their experiences are hopeful and encouraging. My heart quickens. My faith strengthens. I realize I've fallen in love with this girl. And I've never even seen her face.

I check my inbox every 10 minutes. The email comes. I've got the password. I log onto the site. I see her pictures...her face. She's beautiful.

I call Scott. We talk. We pray. We don't know what to do. This random suggestion of mine has suddenly turned into a serious decision. We can't decide anything more without seeing her file. I email the social worker and request her file, butterflies swarming in my stomach. The social worker responds....her file is being reviewed already by another family, but she has put us on the list.  Are we next? No. There are two more families before us. There's chance we could still end up seeing her file. But I can't imagine anyone turning her down. 

My heart sinks. Ultimately, I just want her to have a family. And don't I want a baby girl? I expect relief. But I feel disappointment.

How did this happen? How did I become so emotionally invested in the life of an 11-year-old girl in just 3 days? My heart rejoices because families want this sweet and beautiful child.  I remind myself of God's providence. Maybe God is showing us that, in time, we are to adopt an older child too. And Virginia Grace still awaits us if we can just find her.

What I have discovered in the last few days is that my desire to adopt has grown to a burden for orphans throughout China and throughout the world.  Scott reminded me that lots of kids needs parents, and we can't adopt all of them. But I hope that by adopting one or two, we will at least educate and inspire a few more families to consider traveling this journey too.  Yes, it's quite a ride. But I know every second will be worth it. Not just to us, but to the children who will find the love they search for. 

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Carter's (almost) 20 Month Update

Technically, our little man won't turn 20 months until September 29th, but I'm going to post an update while I'm on a blogging streak. Here's some tidbits of our life lately...

The highchair is packed away. For about a month, Carter has been sitting in his new big boy booster seat!
He has finally adjusted to Mother's Day Out, which is a huge relief to me! Last week, he walked right in with a smile on his face. When we picked him up from the church nursery last weekend, he didn't want to leave!
Trying out his bubble lawn mower.
This quickly became his favorite toy of the week. He requested to use the lawn mower every day.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, we all eat breakfast together. He takes part of the paper and pretends to read it (with complete seriousness).

He likes to play the piano. And he doesn't just bang the keys. He actually tries to use all his fingers. I'm hoping he'll have some type of musical talent.
Some cute sayings:
"kiss?" - If he's leaving or going to bed, he'll ask for a kiss (which he returns as a hug). One day on our way out the door, he said, "Bye bye Jack Jack.....kiss?" He then walked over to our dog Jackson and bent his head down to Jackson's head. So sweet!
"Dude" - His Aunt JuJu taught him to say dude. But he drags it out like "Du-u-u-u-u-u-de" while cocking his head to the side.
"Ah-ash" - What he calls his teacher, Ms. Ashley
"wuv you" - His version of "I love you."

You read all the time about toddlers' brains being like sponges, but I had NO IDEA how much Carter was absorbing! When reading books together, I can stop in the middle of a sentence and he'll fill in the missing word. Yesterday, I caught him going through books and reading to himself. Not really reading...but definitely stating key words from the story, and some before he even got to the picture to remind him what was coming. What did I learn from this? I really need to watch what I say in front of him. There's no telling what he might pick up and repeat!

He periodically becomes attached to a particular object. For a while it was his lamb, then a play milk bottle, then his calculator. Now, it's a book called If Jesus Came to My House. It's a sweet book I had as a child. And the funny thing is that the illustrations are only in black and red on white pages. Carter tucks the book under his arm and carries it everywhere.

Carter is very much into ROUTINE. For instance, if we're leaving, he'll say, "Purse, gate (which we put up to keep Jackson in the kitchen), keys..." When we're heading to school, he'll request his backpack. When I told him one morning that we were heading to church, he said "Bible?" He knows what we take with us whenever we go somewhere, and he knows the steps we take as we leave. Prior to every meal, he requests his bib and a plate.

He's also very organized...likes putting things in their place. (But the boy can make quite a mess too!) One day, Carter picked up my shoes in the hallway and placed them up on the foyer table.

He's into his letters (well, 4 of them) and colors. When we are on the highway last week, he shouted "A" and "O" at the top of his lungs. Sure enough, a truck passed us with "Arnold" on the side. For awhile, he just knew the color yellow. But now he recognizes purple, blue, red, green, and orange. This has proven a bit of a problem when he opens a bag of fruit snacks and one of those colors is missing. Today, he held out his hands and said "Yellow?? Yellow??!!"" as if to say "how dare there not be yellow one in this bunch?"

I have to say that this last month or so has been somewhat easier than a few months ago when he was constantly testing me. He's been pretty obedient lately, and I can't remember the last time I popped him. Actually, a stern glare from his mama will now put a stop to bad behavior. But I'm not naive. I know the terrible 2's are lurking around the corner. And note that I said easier...not easy.

Those are some highlights for now. More to come soon.

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Changing Directions

In the last 10 days, God has moved in our hearts very quickly, turning our personal plans for our family upside down.

On Thursday (Sept. 11), I was alerted to the news that the CCAA (China Center of Adoption Affairs) would most likely not be speeding up their matching of parents to babies as they had originally stated. There are many factors that have influenced the slowdown, including that they have begun showing preference to European couples, thus causing the wait to increase even more for Americans waiting to adopt. In the last year, the CCAA has only matched 2 months worth of log-in dates (Feb and March 2006). Given this rate, we can do the math and figure out that we would not be matched with a child until 2020!!!! There is also speculation that due to the huge backlog, China could even switch to special needs adoptions only and close the healthy child program. What this means is that thousands of families may be switching to special needs, and then even that list could stretch 3,5,7 years. For nearly 8 years, I've felt with all my heart that God had a Chinese daughter for me and my husband. Scott and I began wondering if our time to adopt is now.

Over the last few months, I've felt a pull toward China's special needs program. I kept telling Scott that I felt like Virginia Grace was alive already. I even have had hesitancies in trying to get pregnant. Now I know why....the Holy Spirit has been preparing our hearts to change direction. We have decided to pursue a special needs baby girl and put our own efforts for biological children on hold until next spring or summer. (Or whenever we get home from China and feel that the whole family is settled and ready.) We most likely will accept a child in the next 3-4 months and would travel about 6 months after that. We feel very strongly that this is the right timing for everything.  While we've considered other countries, particularly Ethiopia, which have a faster process, we feel strongly that God is directing us toward China.

We ask that you continue to lift us up in prayer as we move through this process. When we receive a file, we will only have 24 hours to review it, consult with Dr. Jennifer Chambers at the International Adoption Clinic here in Birmingham, and make a decision. We are considering children with minor to moderate conditions (cleft palate, minor heart conditions, and orthopedic needs such as a missing or extra finger/toe, etc.).

This is very exciting for us but also very nerve-wracking. Looking back at my thoughts, prayers, and conversations with Scott over the last few months, I can absolutely trace the hand of God gently guiding us to this place. We pray that He will grant us patience as we wait to be matched with a child, and discernment as we determine whether she's meant to join our family.

Thank you again for all your support and prayers. Our search for Virginia Grace is on!

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CIS Approval!!

We're long overdue for an adoption update, as many of you have asked for the latest information. For the past couple of months, we have just been waiting and waiting for our homestudy and paperwork to be reviewed at the state and national level. On Friday, we got a packet in the mail... our CIS approval from homeland security!! Yahoo!!

I put Carter in the car and raced up to Lifeline (our adoption agency) to have a copy of the form notarized. Then we drove over to the Jefferson County Courthouse to pick up the notary verification. Then we headed back over to Lifeline for Karla to overnight our dossier to Montgomery, where the Secretary of State will review and certify our information. We should get everything back by Tuesday. And I will then need to use a courier to take our dossier to the Chinese Consulate in Houston for authentication. THEN....finally........our dossier will be on its way to CHINA!!!!!!!!

It's taken us nearly 11 months to finish this whole process. (I'll post the timeline at some point for those of you who want more info on what's involved.) So it's such a relief and rush of excitement to be close to getting our LID (log-in date). Once our dossier is translated and logged in, we will officially be on the waiting list. How long is the wait now, you say? Hmm...that's actually another whole story that's worth an entire post. But I'll save that for tomorrow.

My husband and son (and dog) are all asleep, so I'm off to get some shut-eye as well.

Happy Sunday napping!

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We've Got Our Game On

YAY! Football season is finally here! And staying true to tradition, Scott brought home Auburn-themed gifts to kick off Auburn's first game day. (He started this our first year of marriage.) Carter and I are sporting our new Auburn attire and hoping for a win tonight!


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