an adoption update

I’m ever so grateful for the time this summer has afforded me to focus on moving through the steps toward our adoption of our sweet little baby #4! Over this past month and a half, God has been slowly guiding us forward, one step at a time, in every area.

On June 10 our home study was approved by WACAP! I picked up that precious stack of papers from our social worker and overnighted an official, signed, and notarized copy to WACAP for them to file our I800A application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. In the adoption world, this form is always just referred to as the “I800A,” but its true full name is “I800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.” Even though this step is supposed to be something of a formality – your agency and social worker should know whether you’re going to encounter issues or not – every time I see that official label, I feel a twinge of intimidation – what if they determine we’re not suitable?  But on July 8, our officer approved us, and we received the official approval notice on the 14th!

We took a family trip to Jefferson City the next morning to get the rest of our Missouri documents state certified – and, of course, stop for ice cream at Central Dairy, because if you’re that close, how could you pass up that opportunity?!?

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And now we’re just waiting for our one Illinois document to come back from its Secretary of State office. That in and of itself is very frustrating for me – we have had many document issues this time around. We’ve had 2 documents declined at the Secretary of State level, because the notary signed them with a signature that looked nothing like her signature on file with the Secretary of State’s office. One person used a signature stamp instead of actually signing their name (I didn’t even know that was a thing!). A notary forgot to sign their name on one document. Multiple documents had non-matching dates between the signature and the notary. And when this one Illinois document had to be re-done, we had issue after issue after issue in getting the document actually re-done and signed, and now it’s waiting to be certified at the slowest and least sympathetic Secretary of State’s office of which I’ve heard.

But while all of that is frustrating, ultimately we trust in a sovereign, good God, and we press on. Every adoption hits hurdles and delays, and we can’t control any of that, we can only press on in our work. We have all the rest of our dossier documents at our agency or on their way, waiting to be sent to China once the dossier is complete, and tomorrow I’ll put together all the forms for document authentication, so we can send our remaining documents off to Chicago for authentication as soon as we get this one last document back – and that’s the last step before they go to our agency for our dossier to be sent to China :)

And meanwhile, I have also been applying for grants. The financial aspect of adoption always involves a leap of faith for me. In neither adoption have we started with all of the money in hand – but we’ve started with a sense of God’s calling to us to adopt, all the savings we could pull together, and a commitment to live frugally so as to be able to come up with as much money as possible ourselves. Thus far we’ve had a grant from our agency cover some costs, and we’ve paid a lot of the costs we’ll incur, primarily in home study fees, placing agency fees, immigration fees, document fees, and postage, and we’ve had every penny we needed on the date we needed it! From a financial standpoint, so far we’ve paid about 40% of the costs we expect to incur in total, with approximately 60% still to come, and we’re trusting that God will provide those funds as needed, as well, both through our savings and earnings (including Matt’s artwork sales) and grants and generous gifts of friends and family, which we so, so appreciate.

And all the while, as we are walking our way through the process on this side of the ocean, our little girl is living life and growing and developing in China! I mentioned recently that she’d broken her femur while playing, which was so sad :( We’re hoping she can stay break-free for a long time now, but we know that’s often not the reality of life with osteogenesis imperfecta, and we’re thankful she’s getting the best care available in China. We can see from the pictures her foster home has been posting that she now has her cast off and is back to sitting independently, eating cucumbers, and modeling different hair bows! We can’t wait to smother her in hugs and kisses – metaphorically of course :) I’m hopeful for December or January travel!

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a new stage in parenting

We’ve recently been transitioning more into something of a new stage in parenting, one in which our girls have increasingly more experiences without us present. Of course, as a homeschooling family, we’re still together quite a lot. However, they are growing in independence and sometimes spend time away from us.

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For instance, now that Miranda can go off the diving board by herself, that’s what she really wants to spend her time doing at the pool. She could spend hours doing just that. Last week, on only the 2nd day she was allowed to jump off the diving board by herself, I watched her a few times, then took Madeleine CaiQun and Atticus to play, and then brought the younger two kids back to a closer area of the pool a bit later to check in. Miranda came over to us and talked excitedly about her diving board time but pointed one boy out to me – a boy who was probably 2-3 years older than she is, as were most of the kids in the diving board area – and said he wasn’t being very kind to her. But she still wanted to go back and jump some more. I told her she could always tell the lifeguard if anyone was being unkind to her, and she nodded and went back to the diving board line.

When it was almost time to go, I went over to tell her that she could do just a few more jumps, and then we’d need to start drying off to get ready to leave. As she jumped off the diving board, I heard the boy she’d pointed out earlier say quietly, “Yeah, jump a little closer to the side next time and maybe you’ll hit it.” I looked over at him, and another boy urged him, “Shhh! That’s her mom right there!”

I hesitated for a second, but there were no lifeguards within earshot, and there was no sign of who this boy’s parents might be, and I didn’t want to let it pass as if it was okay. I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, are you being unkind to my daughter?” He seemed embarrassed and looked down at his feet. I said, “I’d appreciate it if you’d speak kindly to her,” to which he responded with a flustered, “Yes, ma’am.” I thanked him and continued to stand nearby while Miranda did her last couple jumps. He didn’t say anything else, but the boy who warned him about my presence later said, “That’s why I was telling you to be quiet! Now you got in trouble!”

As we were walking back to our chairs, I saw one of the lifeguards who’d taught Miranda’s last session of swimming lessons, and I brought it up to him and told him what Miranda had said and what I’d seen and that I’d talked to the boy, but I wasn’t sure who his parents were to mention it to them. If my child was being unkind to someone, especially a child 2 or 3 years their junior, I’d definitely want to hear about it, so I could follow up with them. He said he wasn’t sure who the boy’s parents were, but he’d keep an eye on him, because stuff like that definitely wasn’t cool, and they didn’t want to let it continue.

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It was an odd experience for me. On the one hand, my kids need to learn to negotiate their interactions with other kids on their own. On the other hand, they need to know that I’ll stick up for them – and they’re still so young. I wish I’d known who the boy’s parents were, because my preference would have been to take it up with them and let them parent their child, but I didn’t know. And while this particular experience may not have been a huge deal…it could be the six-year-old and eight-year-old version of stuff that IS a big deal. I don’t want to stand by when people are being demeaned, whether those people are my children or others (but, honestly, especially when those people are my children!).

Later that night I talked about it with Miranda and asked her if she would have felt comfortable talking to the lifeguard about someone being unkind to her if it was a lifeguard she didn’t really know (as the one on duty in that area at the time had been), or if that would be too intimidating, and she said it would be too intimidating. Part of me wishes I’d done something different when she’d first told me about it, but I’m not sure how much I could have done, since I hadn’t actually heard or seen anything myself, and she didn’t give a lot of specifics about what was going on. And later, I thought I could have talked with both boys about how it shouldn’t matter whether another child’s mother is standing nearby – character is about treating other people well regardless of who sees – but that might have been overkill. I was glad that I did see something and said something and that I’d seen a lifeguard we knew and could run it by him.

But I do wonder how other parents negotiate these things. What say you, parents? Have you encountered similar situations? What have you done? What would you do in this scenario?

swimming progress!

I’ll share more soon about our perspective on summer this year, but for now, I’ll just say that one of our major priorities is a great deal of fun time at the pool! Last year was the first year we worked with either of our girls at all toward learning how to swim, and they both loved our time at the pool, and both grew in their level of comfort in the water.

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This summer they both have already grown a ton! Miranda started the summer totally comfortable in the water and having all the pieces to really start swimming on her own but not completely able to put them together. After 2 weeks of swimming lessons and days at the pool, plus one half-hour private lesson with her very favorite lifeguard, Lauren, our girl is swimming!

We want all of our kids to learn how to swim, but we aren’t interested in pushing them beyond what they’re ready for – we figure they’ll get it eventually! But Miranda SO wanted to be able to go off the diving board by herself this summer! When I offered to ask Lauren to do a private lesson with her, she jumped at the chance, and by the end of the lesson, she was going off the diving board and swimming to the side all by herself. The video above was taken later that afternoon. She is ecstatic, and I’m so happy for her :)

Madeleine CaiQun has grown a ton, too. Last year, any time we left the small, roped-off, 2-foot-deep area, she wanted to be wearing floaties and have me holding her tightly. Even with the floaties on, she was NOT interested in me letting go of her at all. She started off the summer a bit more comfortable but still not really anywhere close to swimming – when I’d give her a kickboard and have her kick, she usually actually moved herself slightly backward, a feat I wasn’t sure I could accomplish even if I tried! Now she’s starting to get those beginning swimming motions, and she’s getting more and more comfortable in the water!

It’s so great to see each of them growing and developing and gaining new skills and having fun. We’re very thankful for our pool and its awesome lifeguards and the opportunities both girls have had to move toward swimming independently – plus we all just enjoy ourselves there!

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an unconventional way to pursue adoption funding?

Recently I came across an advertisement for Aldi’s baby photo contest. Normally we don’t participate in things like this, but as I read through the rules and saw that the grand prize cash would be enough to cover the outstanding costs of our adoption, it seemed like the timing could be providential as we continue to work toward getting our adoption fully funded. It would definitely be an unconventional way to fund the costs of an adoption! And it would certainly be a long shot. But the Bible is full of stories of God working in unconventional, long-shot ways to accomplish His plans for His people. It’s possible He’d work through this to help us bring our little girl home.

If you’d like to help us, please vote as much as you can, up to once per day, every day through June 29th, for the photo we submitted of our little Atticus. You can do so by clicking right here.

I think you have to admit he is a cutie :)

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An Adoption Update

I haven’t posted much about our current adoption journey since our announcement, but rest assured, that does not mean that nothing has been happening!

On the contrary, in the last couple months, we have completed all required home study visits, obtained all of the financial and medical documents necessary for our home study and our dossier, done psych evaluations, watched and discussed 12 hours of required adoption parent education videos, driven all over town to obtain required signatures, and e-mailed back and forth with both our home study and placing agencies more times than we could count. And now our home study is ALMOST done! Last weekend our social worker from our home study agency sent her draft of the home study to our placing agency, which then reviews it to make sure it meets their criteria and will satisfy all of China’s requirements.

This home study step is a BIG one, and it will feel like a huge milestone once it’s out of the way. Not that it will mean we’re done (or even close), but we’ll be much closer to getting our little girl! Once our home study is complete, we can get all of our documents certified and authenticated and file our I800A form, which is our request that the United States government approve us to adopt a child in China and classify her as an American citizen upon her arrival back here in the States with us – and the approval of that application is the very last document we will need for our dossier!

And while we have been working hard here in Missouri to make progress on all the requirements for our adoption, life has been moving right along for our little girl in China. In an unexpected turn of events, we learned shortly after we received our pre-approval that her orphanage had transferred her to a wonderful foster home in China that specializes in providing care for children with OI – what a blessing! She’s now able to be with people who are informed about her condition and able to help her grow and develop. It wasn’t long after her move that we saw photos of her sitting independently – something she had not been able to do prior to that point! They’re also teaching her about God and His love for His children. In the photos her foster home posts online, we’ve seen smile after heartwarming smile. We were so sad to see that she broke her femur a couple weeks ago, but fortunately her foster home has a good relationship with a nearby bone hospital, and she was able to have surgery there. We’re so glad that she’s able to spend the time until we can get to her with this wonderful group of people who are better equipped to provide care for her than most orphanages are and will truly love and care for her.

One other aspect of this adoption journey on which we’ve been working has been gathering the funds we’ll need to complete the adoption. In addition to our savings and the extra hours I’ve been working, Matt has put together a collection of recent art works for the final show at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center. All works have been discounted significantly (generally around 75%), and honestly, we’d love to sell out the show, with all proceeds going toward our adoption costs. The closing reception will be this Friday evening, June 10, starting at 6:00, and if you’re in the area, we’d love it if you’d stop by. Matt will be giving a talk, and we’d love to see you!

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