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.