Monday, January 31, 2011

Present in My Inbox

This was taken by a family during their adoption trip when they visited the SWI on July 15, 2010.

I've discovered how much I love watching people's faces when I whip out my little photo album and show them Jie Jie's pictures. They want to see the pictures out of natural curiousity, then when they get that first glimpse, they look at me like they can't believe it. Then they look again and again. They are so surprised at how cute she is and simply melt, even the men, especially if they have grandkids.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

All the Gear, Name, Sleep, etc...

As you've all seen in pictures, I've had fun shopping for my girls over the years. Now it's crunch time and I've separated Apple's things from Jie Jie's. Some will be handed down to Apple anyway.

As I look at it all, I remember how it felt in that moment to be thinking of Apple and feeling close to her. Now, I have a little face to go with some of those feelings. It's not hard to figure out what to save for Apple for later and what Jie Jie can have now. I had worried about this, but it's worked out beautifully.

One commented teased that I'll have gone though getting Jie Jie's room ready, bought the perfect bed and she won't sleep in it and will want to sleep with me. That is perfectly fine. I am open to whatever will work. I'd love to co-sleep, if that's the way we all sleep best. If not, then not.

If she doesn't like dolls, fine, I'll find something she does like. I am very open to discovering and loving Jie Jie for who she is. I could take all the clothes and kid gear away tomorrow and still be fine. In fact, starting with nothing might be easier than what I'm going through right now. What matters is that soon there will be one little girl here no matter what clothes she wears or where she sleeps.

Many have asked if she has an American name. The answer is no. At this time she only has her Chinese name. I like it. It's unusual, it's her own. Later, we will talk about it and if she wants an American name she'll have one. She is 7 and tiny or not, it's important for me to respect that. I don't feel a need to brand her, claim her. She is coming to me with 7 years of life already lived. She has been loved and cared for. In my heart she is my daughter. On paper, she will soon be my daughter. One day she will love me as her mother, whether the road there is smooth or rough. What more do I need than that?

A Calm Heart

I'm amazed at the peaceful calmness I have had in my heart since knowing I'd be able to adopt Jie Jie. This is different from the crazy way I'm living right now making the physical preparations with the bunkbeds still in boxes in the livingroom, her shelf in a state of being painted in the kitchen, along with the dresser drawers.

The moment I knew she'd be with me, a heavy mantle of worry was lifted off of my shoulders. For two long months I'd been worrying about her, wondering if she'd be okay with "the other family." Would they be patient with her, take her to the right doctors, love her, treat her with kindness, would any harm come to her, etc...

I can easily imagine her here, how my life will change. I've waited my whole life for what is about to happen. Her SWI knows because I've received a bit of info I needed in order to make certain preparations for her concerning her special need. I'm sure they are preparing her as well as can be done. I'm under no illusions that she will be as glad as I am, but I do pray that in her heart she will know that she is a child of God and that she is loved by many, no matter where she is.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Little Raggamuffin

Awhile ago, I joined the egroup for families who have adopted their children from the same SWI that Jie Jie is from. One of the families who travelled to her SWI in 2009 took pictures of my daughter and I received them today! It's funny seeing them because, to me, they are the first pictures in which she actually looks like an orphan with the mismatched clothes, raggamuffin hair and an unsure expression on her little face.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letter of Acceptance Arrived Today!

I may have been waiting four years so far for Apple and an agonizing three months for Jie Jie, but I'm going at warp speed now...

My Letter of Acceptance (Letter of Commitment, as I think it's now called) arrived today. I got the call from my agency at about 11am. I was able to go in today and sign it (it's a beautiful document!) and it was sent back out today.

Signing my Letter of Acceptance (Letter of Commitment)

Here it is, all ready to be sent back to China!

My Team: Nikki, Me, Karen.
A picture of me with Denise was too blurry to post.

My agency thinks that CCAA will try to process as much paperwork as possible before Chinese New Year, which is on Feb. 3 this year, and expect my Travel Approval to be issued in 3-4 weeks. After that, they expect it to take another 3-4 weeks to get a consulate appointment. They told me to be prepared to travel in March. Yes, they did say MARCH, but....... They also said to be ready sooner, just in case. And, they also said that, since this is happening so quickly, if I need more time to plan and/or prepare, that after TA is issued, I can take up to three months to get a consulate appointment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Pictures!

These are all the pictures I've got to share. They were taken November 1, 2010, so they are very recent.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dec. 27, 2010 - After "The Call"

Remember, The Call came at 8:40pm so I was already in my pjs and had been crying and laughing in amazement. Earlier the same day, I had a strong feeling that I should assemble the doll bed, even though I had no idea my daughter's file was going to be locked for me. I just coudldn't take it back to the store!

The doll bed by the front door with the
receipt sticking out of the upper right corner.

Then I played with the doll!

I bought the doll Oct. 31, 2010 and when I left the store and got to my car I realized what I'd done. It was on the drive home that my brain finally realized what my heart had known all along, this was my daughter and I was ready to begin the process of adopting her.

I wasn't sure if I should take the doll out of the box and get it all set up or leave it in the box and let her open it. I decided to have her room and toys all set up so there would be a sense that she already belongs.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Started on HER ROOM!

Oh My Goodness! I have a TON of clothes in size 24 months and I LOVE all of them! I think I'm going to find that I have a good amount in size 4, too, thankfully.

Even though it's Sunday, I have only until tomorrow night to finish painting and stashing everything before daycare on Tuesday so I'm scrambling.

I emptied (almost) the closet, into the eat-in half of the kitchen. The bunkbeds take up the entire livingroom. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I'm having trouble picking paint. I want a pink, but not too pink. I bought three different colors and painted them on postboard and stuck it up on the wall here and there in the room and none were right. The room is a neutral beige right now so I could leave it, but I really want to make this room something special. Tomorrow, I'm going to get a same of the same color I had in my apartment because it was perfect. Then, I'll see if it works in this room, too. I've got no talent for picking paint.

Notice the beige walls

I'm going to use the window valances that came with my crib bedding set and go with a bit of a butterfly theme. When Apple comes, I'll switch rooms with the girls so I can fit a crib and a twin bed, then switch them back when Apple is ready for the bunkbed. Once the girls are on the bunkbeds, I'll change the theme of the room to something brighter and less pastel. I think the softer colors will be better for Jie Jie at first so she doesn't become overwhelmed.

Tonight at the store I bought a thing to hang clothes on with a zipped cover around it so I can hang the "clothes in waiting" in the attic and they will stay clean and nice.

Back to work for me...

Update, nearly 3am: Several hours later and I've been up and down the attic ladder carrying 12+ blanket bins full of baby clothes and more baby clothes on hangers, one by one and I'm pretty sore. I have sizes from newborn on up (pre-adoption stash) and a few of darling little shoes in all the little infant and toddling sizes. I like my older stuff better than my newer stuff! Now all that is left is for Jie Jie and I ended up having more size 4 and large size 3 that I'd hoped so I think I'm set except for things like underwear, socks and shoes (which I'll get in China).

Big Announcement at Church

For the past four years, there have only been a handful of people who I told about my adoption. I did this for several reasons:

1. I knew it would take a long time.
2. I didn't want certain people judging my decision.
3. It was the most special thing in the world to me and I didn't want to expose myself to the questions and comments of the well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning.

Today at church during Relief Society, sort of an all women's Sunday School class, it was announced that I was going to be a mom! Right before the meeting started, I got so nervous and felt like I was exposing my most vulnerable, sacred part of myself and I almost chickened out, but I knew it was the right time. Then, as I sat there through the other announcements first, I started crying. Those next to me who didn't know asked if I was okay and I nodded and smiled and those who knew gave me understanding, supportive looks. Then, the announcement was made!

It just so happened that today a Chinese woman was at church who lives between here and Beijing. She was one of the first I told, way back in the beginning. She was soooo happy for me and my daughter! She couldn't stop hugging me. She's said that she'll help me translate the rest of her file (I'm going to see if this is a service provided by my agency first). I hope she'll also help me with my care package and Chinese New Year's cards. I decided to put one together myself. I needed it to be more personalized then the services offered.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Pictures of Jie Jie

These pictures were taken around June 2009 when Jie Jie was five years old. Her birthdate is accurate, despite her looking like a two or three year old.

I've heard from a family on my SWI groupg who met Jie Jie while visiting the SWI while on their own adoption trip. They has many good things to say about her. She appeared to be the darling of the SWI, she was not shy and did speak with them (probably through a translator), and she was tiny.

45 Months Waiting for Apple

Though my heart is full of my little Jie Jie, I am still waiting for my referral for my *first* child, Apple.

The long wait to Apple never felt long and now I know why... If it wasn't for this wait, I wouldn't have found Jie Jie.

One day, my two daughters and I will be under the same roof.

In case you have been waiting for your own child's referral and have felt the wait, I think that the agony I felt waiting for Jie Jie made up for not feeling the wait for Apple!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things Are Moving Along - Care Package Time!

I popped in at my agency today to take care of essentials. I signed some things for them, like the concurrant adoption and special need program contracts. I signed some things for CCAA. And I paid for these services.

I've been told that I could be travelling as soon as two months, but that it's most likely going to be four.

TWO MONTHS!!!? I didn't think that could happen. I need to start painting furniture! At least the bundbeds are out of my van and in the livingroom. The boxes are so big that they take up the ENTIRE livingroom. It took three of us to get the largest box up the front stairs. I'll get pictures up as soon as I can get my computer to function properly. I'm trying to reinstall Photo_shop but my computer keeps freezing at anything having to do with the program. I have other photo editing programs intalled, but I don't know how to use any of them.

I've also been sewing. I made a super cute top last night for Jie Jie. I've been saving certain fabrics for about 20 years now "for when I have a daughter of my own" to sew for and now I'm ready to sew up a blue streak.

Today, while at my agency, I was given a copy of my pre-approval. This means I can send Jie Jie a care package.

Earlier today, I realized this package with enclosed pictures and a letter will be my first contact with my daughter! This might be how her SWI finds out that she has a family. I don't know how or when the SWI is told of a child's match with their family.

Here's What Happened...

If you haven't followed my blog before, and want to read the full tale of Jie Jie, go to the archives and begin on Sept. 8, 2010. I will begin now recounting what happened between Updates 12 and 13. Jie Jie is not my daughter's name, but means big sister...

It didn't matter to my heart that another family was adopting my little girl. My heart would not let her go. I tried very, very hard to make myself take her things back to the store, like her baby doll and doll bed, but there they sat by the front door, the receipts sticking out of the packaging where I'd tucked them.

At one point, I went ahead and altered the little baby clothes I'd bought used so they'd fit the doll better. I carefully took the doll out of the box, tried all the outfits on, cried a bit, and carefully put the doll back into the packaging just like new. Crazy, yeh?

Thanksgiving very strange. As I made my turkey dinner I felt like my daughter was beside me. In my mind, I was imagining that she was beside me, learning to cook, discovering what Thanksgiving was all about, playing with a piece of pie crust and all the things we do with children during the holiday. It was truly as though she was with me.

All this time my faith and testimony grew, still knowing another family had her, but asking God for a miracle under two conditions. One, that He found me worthy, and, two, that I will abide by His will. I also took steps to increase my worthiness. My prayers were offered like never before. The experiences I had while praying are too sacred to post and share here, but just know that I was changing and being changed, of my own free will, because of my love for Jie Jie and my faith in God and His son Jesus Christ. I knew that even if I Jie Jie and I never became a family, I'd been given something rare and precious in how my relationship with God deepened and grew.

The week leading up to Christmas was hard. So very, very hard. I decorated minimally, imagining what I'd do if she was here and remembering all I'd done last year. As I entered Wal*mart one evening, I saw a mother wheeling a pink bicycle out teh door and my heart lurched and screamed at me that I need to get a pink bike, too. It was so strong it was a physical sensation. It was incidences like these that kept my hope growing, despite what my brain was told to believe by cold, hard facts, along with answers to every prayer in unexpected ways.

During this week, I decided to force myself to look at Waiting Children and I made a call to IAAP, an agency working with mine that is very active in promoting the special need program and advocating for children with spina bifida because I'd seen a picture of a little girl with a mild form of this condition and wanted to know more. While talking to them, they mentioned that my agency just got several new girls listed on their list. There were two I felt I could love and requested their files, printed them out (in high quality), put their pictures up on the wall, but my heart wasn't with them. I even forgot to look at their pictures. With Jie Jie, I'd spend hours gazing at her picture and not realize the time had flown by. I called my agency and explained how I felt, knowing I eventually could love one of these girls, they truly were beautiful and deserving, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that my Jie Jie was still available. My agency rep suggested I ask the director, Val, to contact the other agency (the one holding Jie Jie's file) so I could have closure. I did have some information about Jie Jei and pictures that I wasn't sure were in her file that I was willing to give to the family if they were proceeding as planned with the adoption. In my mind, this was bait to make sure the other agency would take Val's call (not needed because they are a "good" agency and happy to do what's best for the children). I'd also asked that if the file was not locked, that she advocate for me. I sent the email on Dec. 20th and heard back on the 21st.

"Yes, I will be glad to check for you- I will contact the agency tomorrow. I have been out since last Thursday evening, but will be in tomorrow and can double check to see what is happening on this case.

I hope you are having an easier time with this as time goes by, I know it is so hard. :-(

She is very cute. I'm glad you are passing along what might be new information to the family.

Will keep you posted about what I find out!"

The week before Christmas, Val and her husband were having the week mostly off while the staff kept may agency open. The week after Christmas, the staff were off and Val and her husband were the only two working there.

On Christmas Day, I received this from her...

"Merry Christmas!

Just wanted you to know that although I did get a call from the other agency last week, obviously they were closed before I called later that same day, so I have not heard the outcome of the girl you first wanted to adopt. I have left two messages and will let you know once I know what happened. I had asked that they call with all of the 'final' news about the family wanting her. I imagine this is their followup call so try not to read anything into it. I am ready to pass along your information but have not done so yet, as I don't for sure know why they are calling. Once I find out I will go ahead and give your info to them for the family.

In the meantime, hope you are having some nice time off and that you can look forward to a bright new year in 2011!"

Needless to say, I tried hard do stay calm, but by the next day I was in an altered state. I knew something was happening; I felt it inside me, consuming me. I felt HUGE inside.

On Monday, Dec. 27, I received this from Val...

"Connecting with the other agency

We have arranged to talk tomorrow (Tuesday) so I will be in touch! They have been closed- and the social worker has had some vacation time. But we are hopefully done with telephone tag tomorrow mid morning, so I will call you once I know whats going on! Just wanting to give you an update!"

I couldn't help it and called Val to ask if she had any idea at all what the other agency wanted. By now I was a wreck. I spent most of the day praying. Not the going about one's daily business and silently praying, but on the knees, as always for this matter, in the same spot in the livingroom. I re-read the email a few times and realized it contained three exclaimation marks! Why would she use them for this?

Night came and I was again on my knees before the Lord. I'd barely begun my prayer when the phone rang. It was a daycare parent and a short call. I went back to my spot and began my prayer again. This time I got much further along and the phone rang again. I thought I'd just hurry and finish my prayer, but I couldn't be rushed. The phone rang again and again. I got up and exclaimed, "How can a person pray when the phone keeps ringing!" It was 8:40pm. It was Val. I cannot recall the exact words, but they were essentially, "We have just locked your daughter's file for you!"

I started shaking, crying, laughing, fell to the floor, still on the phone, because I knew that God had done this. I was overcome. I finally asked how it all happened.

This is my present understanding, but I will ask Val sometime if she can tell me again what happened...

After having the file for 5 weeks, the other family's social worker found out that they were looking at other files and weren't seriously considering my daughter. She yanked the file away from them so fast and contacted my agency and they arranged it all without saying anything to me. I usually want to be in the loop, no matter how hard or painful, but in this case, I'm so thankful that Val didn't tell me. When I mentioned this to her she said that she just couldn't put me through it again unless they were sure they could lock it. I appreciated that insight so much!

I remember asking her if CCAA knew I was single and she replied, "Well, it's your name on it!"

And that is how it all happened.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Adoption Path

I've been getting some questions that I'd like to answer here in case it will help someone else find their way to their child.

Yes, I am single.

My dossier has been logged in with CCAA since April 15, 2007.

I will be using a copy of my dossier to adopt Jie Jie, something CCAA introduced last September.

My original dossier will stay in line, where it's been for the last 3 years and 9 months, awaiting a referral "the old fashioned way." This will probably take at least two more years.

I am adopting both of my children under the old I-600A non-Hague paperwork.

Yes, I am fund-raising and donations are very welcome. Because this program was just introduced, I didn't have time to plan for it like I did with Apple, and it has to fit in this time-frame to be possible. Had I known, I would have had a financial plan in place long ago. If you are interested in helping, please look for the donation button on the right of my blog.

My daughter was available for adoption for an entire YEAR before I was able to lock it. Her profile was listed as Special Focus.

I found my daughter myself, with God's help, of course, on the Love Without Boundaries Blog where they advocate for children. Please take some time to visit this blog and see the amazing work that LWB does to save lives. This organization paid for my daughter's surgeries!

My daughter does have a "special need" but her medical history is a private family matter unless we decide to share it in the future in order to help others. She is old enough that we will need to make this decision together once she understands what this means.

I'm Simply Dazed

Every time I clicked over to my blog today to read all your beautiful comments, my breath stopped when I saw my beautiful daughter's face. I've opened so many blogs over the years to see everyone elses children, but seeing a picture of my own child on my blog just blows me away! What an awesome experience!

These pictures were the first I ever saw of her the first week of October 2010. They were taken this last summer when she was 6 1/2 years old outside her orphanage.

I posted awhile ago about my daughter's 100 Good Wishes Quilt. I'd love some squares and wishes. If you'd like to participate, please click HERE for details. If you'd like a square and a wish in return for your own quilt, please let me know.

I Have Pre-Approval!!!

At 8:40pm tonight, Jan. 11, 2011, my agency called to give me the great news...

I'm going to be a MOTHER!!! CCAA issued my Pre-Approval!

My little girl will be 7 years old on Feb. 15 but she is very, very tiny. She is only 103cm (40.5") tall and 33.5 pounds, the size of a petite 4 year old.

She is from Jiangxi, China, where she lives family style within her orphanage. Her caregiver is her "grandma" instead of an Ayi (aunty) and she lives in a room with her grandma and, perhaps, 2-3 other children. The rooms are about the size of a classroom and set up sort of like a studio apartment would be. The babies sleep in large oval woven baskets. I don't know what my daughter sleeps in or on or if she sleeps with her grandma. Please note that this is not a biologically related grandma, but an honorary title give to her caregiver who is an older woman (over 50).

She likes to sing, do art books (coloring books?), and is envious of the children who get to wear a backpack and go to school.

She is very polite, especially to the elderly and is very helpful - happily so.

She is active and tried to teach herself to ride an adult-sized tricycle!

There is so much more, but I've just spent the last 4 hours trying to get my computer to work well enough to post this much. It froze when I opened my photo program and I've got to get some sleep - if I can.

I will post the whole story when I can, but I don't think I'll ever know what truly happened to make this possible! She is truly, truly The Child of My Heart, and worth all the heartache of the last 3 months and 11 days of trying to get her.

Update #13: Our Prayers Were Answered!

A miracle has indeed been performed! I cannot convey to you enough the testimony I have in my knowledge that God lives and loves us and helps us and truly sees the righteous desires of our hearts and that if we make ourselves as worthy as we can from the depths of our souls, He will perform miracles for us, large and small.

Thank you all so very, very much for praying for Jie Jie and me. I know that each one of you were part of this miracle!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Minor Surgery for Rose

Rose is my black and while cat who is 10 1/2 years old. I raised her from 1 week of age. She still sucks my finger at night.

I noticed a pimple-like bump on her ear about 2 weeks ago and it grew larger pretty fast. Today she had it removed and sent in for a biopsy. Once her ear was shaved, I noticed another little weird spot, but on the skin instead of under it. I didn't get a chance to ask my vet about it since her grandfather passed away and she's leaving town early in the morning. But, since she's also one of my daycare parents, I'll be seeing her first thing Monday morning. I have to admire her sewing skills. Rose's ear looks perfect where she removed the lump and she put in four tiny perfect stitches. The cartiledge is intact and the skin came together nicely. I don't think there will even be a noticable scar once her fur grows back.

If it turns out to be cancer, I am grateful that it's on her ear and she can live without an external ear, which is how she'll be living - worse case scenario.

On a side note, Rose's triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) were in the 4000 range. Normal is in the low 100s. Cats, fortunately, aren't like people, otherwise she's be about to have clogged arteries and major heart disease, but it is a big mystery. Triglycerides are processed in the intestines and the pacrease has a job in it, but all the other levels that pertain to the pancreas are normal, as is her blood sugar level. She will be retested in about three weeks to see if there is any change. My vet said that her serum was thick, like tomato soup, and that when the platelets spun out, it looked like milk. Rose's blood was quite the show and tell of the entire office.

She's very comfortable tonight. She was very glad to see me when I picked her up and she showered me with love by rubbing all over me and flipping around.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me and Happy New Year to You

I should have checked my blog because I've been going around thinking I was 43 or even 44! Since I turned 41 last year, I'm 42 this year! I guess I just lost track...

I didn't do anything special. I'm pretty tired this week, too much internet.

This is going to be a very exciting year! I hope it brings good things to all of you!