Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Adoption Blog

I will be blogging here while we are in China:

We leave TOMORROW!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

TA Arrived!

Our TA (Travel Approval) came on November 7!!! It's official...we are going to China for Collins. We leave on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, and Gotcha Day will be on Monday, November 26! I can hardly wait.

Since we were matched on September 6, this adoption has moved at warp speed. Such a relief to have things move fast after waiting 6+ months for a referral. The typical timeframe from match to travel is usually about 5 or 6 months. We are going from match to travel in 2.5 months. I never in my wildest dreams thought this adoption would move so fast.

When we adopted Lia Kate in 2009, we were an I-600 family (in other words, adoptions were quicker back then), and we went from match to travel in exactly 2 months. Since we brought her home and knew we were going to adopt again, I had been preparing myself to have to look at a sweet picture for 5 or 6 months before we could hold our next child. So thankful that was not the case and that we will be on a plane to China soon! As in, four days soon.

In fact, in exactly a week from now, at this very hour, we will be getting ready to go to the Civil Affairs office to meet CC. Can. Not. Wait.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sleeping CC

We received new pictures from a sweet mom who was at CC's orphanage adopting her son a few weeks ago. It was naptime, so we only have sleeping pictures of CC. But I kind of like that!

Do you see the photo pillow in the crib? This is the first care package item we sent. I wanted something where she would see our faces, but since she is so young, I knew she couldn't flip through a photo album. So, voila, the solution was a photo pillow. There are pictures on the other side too. The mom who took this picture said the pillow was already in the crib and the nannies positioned it so it would show in the photos. Love!

My sweet sleeping girl! We will have her soon.

Q&A About CC

Last month, I had Gretchen and Lillian from China Adoption Help get some questions answered about CC from the orphanage. These answers are from the beginning of October when she was just turning 8 months old. Here is the Q&A!

1. What are her current measurements – height, weight, head circumference, feet?
Height 66cm, Weight 6kg, Foot length 10cm.
(Height 26in, Weight 13lbs, Shoe size = 2)

2. What is her personality like?
She is extroverted. When she hears somebody calling her name, she will laugh and swing
her arms and legs, and make sounds like 'oh', just like she is talking with you.
3. Does she suck her thumb or fingers or a pacifier?
Yes, especially when she is not happy.
4. How do you comfort her when she’s upset? Does she like to be held?
She could only be upset when she is hungry or her needs not to be met. She loves being held.

5. Does she have a favorite toy or blanket? 
Teething toy is her favorite, she likes holding it and sometimes put it in her mouth.

6. What are her sleeping habits - how much does she sleep and when? Does she wake up at night? 
She likes to suck her finger to go to sleep. Nap time: 11:30am-1:40pm, night time: 8:30pm-6:00am. She needs to drink milk once around 11pm.

7. How many bottles a day does she drink?
5 times a day, formula with rice cereal, 250ml each time.

8. Who is she closest to?
Everyone likes her so much. 

9. Is she sitting up now?
Yes, but she is not willing to. She sits for a while and will ask for being held. 

10. What makes her happy? What makes her cry?
Nothing particularly.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Suitcase Shower

I think we're ready to go to China now! Some sweet friends threw a "Stock the Suitcase" shower for us last night. We have everything we need to take to China for Collins (and then some). Thank you, dear friends, for celebrating our baby girl in such an awesome way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sweet Sleeping CC

Today, I am thankful to kick off this month of thanks-giving, with some new precious pictures of sweet CC. I woke up to this picture. What a way to start November?!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy 3rd Referral Day!

Three years ago today, this sweet little face popped up in my inbox! I knew right away she was my daughter. Can't imagine doing life without her.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Video of Collins

A couple of weeks ago, we got a sweet, sweet video of Collins from an adoptive mama who visited her orphanage. I cannot stop watching this video clip. Her beautiful smile speaks for itself.

Collins -- 7 months from Emily on Vimeo.

Toward the end, you can hear them calling her CC! Such a precious baby girl.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


In record time, and very unexpectedly, we got our LOA yesterday! It came only 12 days after our PA, which is crazy fast.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about ...
PA = Pre-approval from China
LOA = official Letter of Approval from China to adopt Collins

We are so excited with how fast things are going. The reason we got our LOA this quickly is that we did all of our waiting before we were matched. Our dossier moved through translation and review during the 6 months we waited for a referral.

We have a series of steps to go through now on the U.S. side of things before we can get our Travel Approval from China. It usually takes about 8 weeks (if no roadbumps) to get TA from this point. So, we are hopeful for December travel ... just like with Lia Kate.

Can't wait to meet our sweet girl in a few months!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Red Threads ... and Road blocks ... To Collins

My friend Rushton wrote a very memorable post after they were matched with their daughter last year, about all the "stones of remembrances" that God gave them for their daughter ... signs and ways they knew the little girl in the picture was their daughter. The "stones of remembrance" term comes from the Old Testament when Samuel set up a stone to remember where God had moved on their behalf in a miraculous way to defeat the Philistines.

In that same vein, in China, there is an ancient legend about a red thread...
"An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."  - Ancient Chinese Proverb
So, here are the red threads ... the stones of remembrance ... the things that I want to remember about how it was so confirmed that this precious little one was meant to be in our family.

Stone #1:
We started this adoption in July of 2011. Normally, special needs adoptions from China take about 12 months from beginning to end. But not our adoption. The two friends I started this process with are already home with their children! We have hit some paperwork snags along the way and had a long wait for a referral. Our biggest snag was with U.S. Immigration. After waiting 78 long days for our case to get to an officer's desk, we were issued a RFE (request for evidence) because I spent a summer in Washington DC in college and failed to get a background clearance from there. Oops. I was very upset at first because our agency was waiting any day for the files of some precious little ones, any of which I was hoping to adopt. And I needed my papers to be in China so that we would be eligible to get one of their referrals. The minute I got the email about the RFE, I knew those children I had my eye on were not mine. I knew my daughter was out there somewhere, and, despite being sad, I had to trust that this roadblock happened in order that we would find our way to the sweet child meant for us. I immediately applied for a background clearance but DC is not the fastest place to get one from. Thanks to the dogged persistence of my adoption agency, it only took about three and a half weeks to get it. Record time. My social worker Karla emailed me on February 2 saying "I got it!".

Little did I know that on that same day -- February 2 -- halfway around the world, a tiny newborn baby girl came to live in an orphanage in southern China. Soon, that little baby will belong to me.

When I was so desperate to get my paperwork to China, our daughter hadn't even been born yet.  I am praising God for roadblocks.

Stone #2:
Back when we got Lia Kate's referral in 2009, I opened up her file and the very first thing I saw was her birthdate, which is July 31, which is also my birthday, which is also my younger sister's birthday. It was pretty much a done deal from that point on. So, imagine my surprise when Karla calls and tells me about Collins' referral, saying her birthday is also a 31st (different month). On top of that, she shares a birth month with our son, Britton, and my brother who just passed away and lots of other people in both of our families. It's a little thing, but considering that 3 of the 5 in our immediate family will have 31st bdays, it is significant. And I love how both of my Chinese daughters have a 31st birthday, and that their birthdays were part of the confirmation that they were ours.

Stone #3:
This is kind of a silly one, but I don't want to forget it. I rarely dream, but at some point this summer, I had a very real dream about getting our new child. We were in China, and they placed the littlest baby in my arms, not the toddler I was expecting we would get. She was precious with dark hair and beautiful skin and blue eyes. Yes, blue eyes. That part was strange, but the dream was so real and I woke up with my arms aching to hold our next child. It made the wait for a referral that much harder. When we got Collins' referral and saw that she was only 7 months old, I remembered my dream of the tiny baby in my arms. And just last week, as Lia Kate and I were looking at Collins' picture, she said "Mama, when you stand back a little bit, her eyes are blue!" She knew nothing of my dream and I'm not sure what she was thinking, because Collins' eyes are most definitely not blue. But the blue eyes comment meant something to me!

Stone #4:
This is the most significant one of them all. We had decided on the name Caroline Collins for our next child a while back. They are family names and we loved the way they sounded together. After we got our referral and called Danny's parents to tell them about her, his dad said, "I'm going to call her CC". Appropriate, I thought, because it rhymes with the pronunciation of her Chinese name, "SheShe". What I had forgotten about is that in Collins' province they pronounce things differently because they speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. For example, Lia Kate is from the same province and they pronounced her name "Jing Jing" as "Gang Gang." I listened carefully to the video of Collins that a sweet mama who visited the orphanage sent me. And as clear as day, they call her "SeeSee". Yes, CC. The sound of her Chinese name and her forever initials are one and the same. I am absolutely floored by this. She was so meant to be our Caroline Collins.

And it was February 2, when she came to the orphanage that they gave her this name ... the day that our "road block" was finally cleared up and our paperwork could be on its way to China.

Today, I am praising God for road blocks. I just love seeing how it all comes together. Yes, He has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We Finally See Her Face!!!

I am thrilled to introduce our newest daughter...

Caroline Collins

Our sweet Caroline Collins, whom we will call Collins, is *seven* months old and living in southern China in the same province that Lia Kate is from. We are so in love with our beautiful girl already and we can't wait to travel to bring her home forever.

Here is the story of how we were matched with her...
We have been waiting for 6 months now to be matched with our daughter. Our dossier was logged-in in China on March 1, 2012, and we have just been waiting for files from our adoption agency's new orphanage partnerships to come in. But nothing really moves fast in the adoption world. We thought the files would be here in July, but they weren't. Then, August, but no. Then September rolled around and I was getting anxious. 

On Thursday, September 6, our awesome social worker, Karla, called and said she might have a file for us. She told me a little bit about her. I told her we were definitely interested and I asked how old she was. Karla hesitated and said she needed to check and would get back in touch with me. We were really wanting a young child (under 15 months) because we want some space between our older two and the next one. When she hesitated, I thought she might be older, but we were not going to pass up looking at a file. That afternoon she called back and said she had gotten the file together and was ready to send to me. She told me a little bit about her and then said, "Now, hold on to your socks because she is SEVEN months old!" I was in the car driving two sleepy children to gymnastics, and all I remember saying was, "No way! Holy cow! No way!" over and over. Seven months is *very* young for medical needs adoptions from China. She told me she was emailing me the file right then. I happened to be stuck in a massive traffic jam, so I checked my email and there was the file. I opened it up, saw her sweet face and started screaming. I immediately called Danny and told him I had just seen our daughter's face. This is verbatim what happened when we got Lia Kate's file. Danny is a little more even keel than I am, so he was like "Okay, send me the file." I did. Then I texted our social worker back and said "Oh, Karla. I'm done. She's the one. Hope my husband is on board!".  Just like with Lia Kate, I knew right away. No doubts.
The first picture I saw of Collins.
Danny must have known too because he came home a little bit later with Chinese food and a bottle of prosecco.

We sent her file to be reviewed by the International Adoption doctor who had visited her orphanage in April and did a physical on Collins, and waited for her to call back. Since we were going out of town bright and early the next morning, I spent that night writing a care plan so that our agency could send our Letter of Intent (LOI) as soon as we were ready to officially say yes. I may have gotten about three hours of sleep that night. I was just so giddy and excited. The next day at noon, even though we hadn't talked to the adoption doctor, we decided to go ahead and have our agency send LOI. We knew she was our daughter and there was nothing the doc was going to say that would change our minds.

One week later on September 13, we got our Pre-Approval from China. We have a few more months of paperwork to get through before we can travel. We are hoping to have her in our arms some time in December, but after Christmas/January may be more likely. She will be 10 or 11 months old. I can hardly believe it. Praising God for our sweet girl. She was so, so worth the wait!!!

My Brother

"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters.
We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We
share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family
griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
- Clara Ortega

I have been wanting to write this post for awhile, but just couldn't get the words out. My brother, Jon, tragically passed away in a river rafting accident in Idaho on June 3 of this year. He lived in Colorado and was an avid outdoorsman. He loved snowskiing and hiking with his dog Morgan, but took to the river years ago and never looked back. He had been a guide for commercial trips on the Arkansas River in Colorado in years past and in recent years had spent summers taking trips on big rivers out west. He was a skilled guide on the water and was known for how safe and cautious he was. In June, he left for a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with some river friends. He had already done this section of the river two years prior. As they were going over rapids, he fell out into very cold water and although he was not under long at all, something happened to him in the water and he went into cardiac arrest. There was an experienced paramedic on the trip and he worked hard to get my brother back. But it wasn't to be.
At times, I can hardly believe this happened and, at times, it is all too real. My family lost my grandfather in a river rafting accident in Utah in 2000. He was 74 and was the reason my brother was so drawn to the water and the west and the outdoors. I am still in disbelief that lightning has struck twice in my family. One of the greatest sadnesses in all this is that I don't get to see my children grow up with their Uncle Jon. I don't get to see him get married or get to know the children he might have had. It is a devastating loss.

At some point after all of this happened, I heard a young men's acapella group singing the old spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". And listening to it, I had the image in my mind of angels over the river carrying my brother home.

"I looked over Jordan, and what did I see, Comin' for to carry me home, 
A band of angels comin' after me, Comin' for to carry me home"

It might sound hokey, but it gave me great peace. I am taking comfort that, while the loss of my brother has been a shock to me, that nothing takes God by surprise. He was there on that river and He is here in my grief.

I have been able to spend time this summer in Colorado with my brother's sweet girlfriend, Karen, and with many of his friends who were like family to him. Grateful for all of them and the wonderful memories they have shared. It has been very healing to be in the place he loved so much with the people (and dogs) he loved so dearly.
Jon and his lovely girlfriend, Karen.
I am still at a loss of words to say, but I wanted to share here how much my brother is missed. He was only 18 months younger than me and I don't remember life before him. He is the one person with whom I have the most shared experiences with. It is unfathomable to me that he is gone. I found the quote I posted above sometime this summer and it sums up so well what I feel. We know each other as we always were ... we live outside the touch of time.
At my wedding in 2004. Love this.
My brother, sister, Britton and me at the Grove in October 2008.
We have always joked that Britton was Jon's mini-me.

Yep ... mini-me.

Jon and his beloved black lab, Morgan, on the river several years ago.
An essay he wrote in elementary school... "My dream life would be to live in the Colorado Rockies." I'm so glad he lived his dream.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Adoption Update ... In the Waiting

Today marks three months since our paperwork made it to China and was logged-in to their system! Usually by this point, families with our agency have been matched with a child and are waiting to bring him or her home. We are still waiting to be matched, and I'll tell you why. Back in April, our agency announced that their partnership with the Maoming orphanage had been extended for another year, and that they were just signing contracts to partner with SEVEN more orphanages! This is a different and unique way to do adoptions in China. The common route is to be matched with a child off the Shared List, which is a central registry of children maintained by the governing adoption authority in China and used by most adoption agencies. This is how we were matched with Lia Kate. These orphanage partnerships are different because our agency actually has relationships with the orphanages ... they send teams of medical professionals to go over to these orphanages to do physicals on the children and help the orphanage get the ball rolling to make the children paper-ready ... they offer financial assistance and resources to help with children who need medical or developmental interventions. It is a win for the orphanage because they get extra resources with which to prepare children for international adoption ... a huge win for the children because most of these children would probably have never been available for adoption ... and a win for families like us because we actually get to talk to someone (in our case, local International Adoption doctors and agency workers) who will have first-hand knowledge of the children. The other benefits of adopting a child from one of these partnership programs is that there will be a lot of children coming home from these orphanages to families in our city, so they will grow up together with the shared experience of having been in the same orphanage. This is very different from our adoption with Lia Kate as we only know of one sweet little girl who was in her orphanage at the same time. Needless to say, we have decided to wait to be matched with a child from one of these partnership programs. The orphanages are in Guangdong province and in Chongqing Municipality, so we know that our child is in one of these places. Guangdong province is in southern China and is where Lia Kate is from. In fact, two of the partnership orphanages are very close to Lia Kate's orphanage. Chongqing Municipality is a ginormous city of 32 million people located in central-southwestern China, and we actually have a number of U.S. friends who live there. So adopting from either would be really awesome. The first round of children's files will probably not be ready until August. So, we will just be waiting patiently (or not so) through the long, hot summer before we finally see our little one's face...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Happy is Too Loud

So, I'm writing this as I am flying home from San Francisco after
spending an *entire week* away from my two munchkins. I have missed them so much, but have realized how needed some time away is every once in awhile. I flew to the Bay Area to see one of my dearest friends, Emily, and her two sweet boys. I had not yet met her youngest son, Miles. Aren't her two adorable?

Em and I have been friends since the 9th grade. Twenty years of being friends is pretty darn awesome. Every time we are together, we just pick up where we left off.

The day after I flew out, Danny flew out, and the two of us drove up to Napa for a much needed getaway and to celebrate his 40th birthday! We spent our days relaxing, visiting some wineries and eating some pretty fabulous food.

I have to say that Napa was pretty amazing. We had some of the most fabulous food we've ever had. If you're heading there any time soon, you must check out Redd in Yountville. Amazing. Before we travelled, friends of ours recommended it and said they giggled all the way through their dinner there ... it was that good.

And, we agree. It was that good. So, Danny and I enjoyed our little vacay by sleeping in, relaxing, eating good food and driving around God's country. Northern California is so beautiful. On our last day, we drove back on the windy roads to the coast, ate oysters on the bay, drove down highway 1 through the beaches and hills, across the Golden Gate and into the city.

After a night in the city, Danny flew home and I got to spend a few more days with Emily. While her husband was out of town, we laid awake late at night, just like we did in our high school days, but this time talking about being mamas and the weight it carries .. and how both wonderful and difficult it is ... and how we couldn't imagine doing anything else at this moment in our lives ... and finally, how blessed we are to have the munchkins God gave each of us. One of the things I was struck by on this trip is how quiet and calm my friend's children are compared to my rambunctious crew. My kids are just loud, I've come to realize. It's a beautiful loud, but ... um ... still loud.

But, how I've missed that loud. I've missed kissing their chubby cheeks and laying down with them at bedtime and hearing their sweet voices in constant chatter. This is the longest I've been away from the two of them. I had never spent a night away from Britton until we flew to China to adopt Lia Kate. And before this trip, I have only been away for a couple of weekend getaways over the last two years. We are so thankful to our family who took such good care of our monkeys so we could get away! Huge blessing.

So, as I'm flying home at the moment ... the in-flight movie is "They Bought a Zoo", and one of the lines of the movie talks about their "happy" being "too loud." And that's what I'm going with. We have a loud house because "our happy is too loud." After years of longing to be a mama and walking the difficult road it was to get to this beautiful place, I am thankful for the loud I get to hear day in and out. And, have I mentioned how much I miss these two??? Mama's coming home, babies!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We Are DTC

For the past 8 months, we've been working on a little something behind the scenes. And, finally, we are DTC! So what in the world does that mean? It means "Dossier to China", baby! Yes, we are adopting again, and at the moment, our dossier of all the important documents that took 8 months to collect is on its way to China.

We have known we would be going back to China to adopt another child since we were in China the last time adopting our Lia Kate. We finally decided the time was right to start on paperwork again so here we are. We anticipate being matched in the next few months and then travel in the Fall. We are excited to be on this journey again. It has been a journey already with bumps in the road, paperwork delays and wild goose chases. But it's all so worth it and all in God's timing. And, having done this before, we have mostly been at peace with the twists and turns of this process so far.

So, next up is LID, then we are matched with a child, then we wait for PA, then LOA, then I800, then Art 5, then TA, then CA. Then travel! But we won't get ahead of ourselves (or the acronyms) for now. I'll fill you in on what all that means as we move through the process.

I love this picture of my two monkeys who are so excited to be a big sister and a big brother! And I love their shirts that say "One less orphan in China" created by my China adoption coffee group here in town.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

It's Valentines Day again. Such a fun day with little kids. I always have fun making Valentine cards for their classmates. Last year, we did a version of the photo Valentine. It was so easy and fun, I wanted to do it again. Found this idea on Pinterest and decided to combine the two ideas.

So, making crayons was so much fun and a great way to get rid of the broken crayons. Also a great way to keep little hands busy. Here are our colorful heart crayons...

The finished product...

My little Valentines...

Valentines Day is also a special day around here because, four years ago, it is the first time we heard the words "he's ready to go home" after six long weeks in the NICU. On Valentines night, Danny & I spent the night in the NICU caring for Britton without the nurses, as we learned how to use his monitors, etc. And the next morning, we finally brought him home.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Christmas

We had a wonderful, low-key Christmas this year! We spent Christmas Eve and Day at our house with my mom and grandmother in town. It was a fun, quiet ... who am I kidding, nothing is quiet around here ... Christmas. Perfect. Then we loaded up for a long road trip and went to Dallas to see Danny's family. Here are a boatload of pictures from our Christmas.

Hamming it up on Christmas Eve.

Begging for a piece of my grandmother's peanut butter fudge. It is a holiday tradition and some of the best stuff I have ever put in my mouth. Must learn how to make it.

Lia Kate and me at the Christmas Eve service.

Reading a Christmas book before bed.

The kids made Santa a plate and scattered "reindeer food" in the yard.

Christmas morning.

And, then, another Christmas in Dallas.

The kids both got scooters and perfected riding them in Dallas. I was surprised how fast they picked it up. They can really zoom and then stop on a dime.

Riding the Grapevine train.

Lia Kate's maiden voyage to the American Girl Store. She came out with Bitty Twins ... one for her and one for Britton.

And, seriously, Britton's doll looks just like him.

Such a fun, low-key Christmas! Looking forward to 2012 and all that it will bring!