Friday, May 29, 2009

Reporters

I know you have all had one of those Sunday mornings... The one where no one has clean dresses, and if they are clean they are wrinkled and in terrible need of an iron. One where you walk into the closet and surrounded by clothes, nothing seems "right." It could be that the weather is warming up and summer dresses are only a reminder of winter's over indulgences. A morning where you just feel two steps behind and wonder if you will ever make it to Mass presentably and on time. That was my Sunday morning. We made it, but I just felt off.

As we were leaving Mass, I was approached by a reporter from the local paper. She began by telling me how nice all the girls and I looked. While I thought she was just paying me an undue compliment, it turns out she was writing an article on women (and girls) dressing more formally for Mass. She asked if I always wore a dress to church and if I required that from my daughters.

I do require that for the most part the girls wear a modest dress to Mass. I also try to do the same.

I had a hard time answering her initial questions. After a morning of scrambling and making-do, I felt unprepared to answer questions about dressing up for Mass. Luckily I have had this conversation on a few occasions and was able to remember some of them. I liked an analogy a friend used about how we would dress if we were invited to the home of some dignitary, our boss, or the Pope. We wouldn't show up in our ratty clothes, but rather we would make an attempt to be presentable. Mass is coming to the house of our Lord, how much more should we prepare ourselves? I feel that making a few extra efforts on Sunday morning teaches my girls that going to Mass is special.

I do think this must be balanced with remembering we are not attending a fashion show. I don't think it is necessary to dress to the nines, nor do I think we need to spend excessive time and energy in our physical appearance. In fact, in some cases, time would be better spent Spiritually preparing for the mystery about to take place. And let's face it, we have all had worse mornings than what I had where dressing up just isn't possible. As with most things, balance is key. I also firmly believe being at church is of primary importance, our dress is secondary.

I am glad I went through the extra frustration on Sunday to get everyone ready for Mass. I hope that I was able to adequately answer the reporter's questions. I also learned my lesson and finished the laundry earlier this week. Let's hope this Sunday morning goes a little more smoothly too.
P.S. The picture above is not from Sunday (it is from Easter). This Sunday, no one looked that nice and there was no need to document it with a picture.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Adoption Milestones

This week we crossed off two important adoption paperwork items. First, we received our home study. We are still waiting for one more police clearance to come in, but it is written and ready to go as soon as the clearance is received. This means we can send in our application to adopt a foreign child and put together the rest of our dossier to China. It also means that the paper chase is almost finished for us. The rest of the process means minimal paper work and lots of waiting.

We also received our preapproval from China this week. This is just a short message letting us know they received our Letter of Intent and will expedite our dossier for consideration once it is received in China. The goal is to have it there in less than three months. More importantly, the preapproval means we can finally post pictures of our little Joseph.


Blog world-- meet Joseph...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peace

Since receiving the news of little Joseph things have been hectic. There is so much paperwork to be done on top of the business of life with four children. There are times I get a little anxious about how we are going to do this. None of my girls have even had stitches, will I really be able to deal with surgeries? I read message boards and start to get a little overwhelmed.

In one of those anxious moments, while searching for more information about our little one, I came across this quote on the web page that announced the arrival of our child into the foster home where he is currently receiving care:

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
– Mother Teresa

A quote from Mother Teresa published by the people caring for our little child! It just shows the hand of God in this adoption. It is another reminder for me to put my hope in the Lord. He has already given me a beautiful sense of peace about this adoption. This quote was just another instance of Him reminding me how much He is guiding this process. I am thankful for this little consolation on an anxious morning.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Accident Averted

Being the nap-nazi I am, I still insist my three-year-old take a nap. I think it is good for her and it helps me to have her down for an hour in the afternoon. My older girls napped until they were 5, and even then I was known to require an occasional nap.

That said, there are days now when I get distracted trying to school the older girls, and keep the baby entertained. On these days, poor Bophie's naptime may get lost in the shuffle. Lately Bear has been helping out putting her down for a nap. She gets some reading practice as she reads to Bophie. I also think she benefits from a little down time herself. The picture above is from a day last week where Bear was putting Bophie to sleep... or was that Bophie putting Bear to sleep?

The sister system of napping works most days, but there are some days little Bophie rebels. On those days the back-up is that she crashes wherever she is playing. Which is typically a good thing. However, combine that with the whole potty training thing and there may be trouble. Remember this? At least then it was a rug easily thrown into the wash. Today I found Bophie on the landing of my recently professionally cleaned, carpeted stairs--wearing only undies. Thankfully, I caught her and was able to move her to her bed. I may have more laundry when she wakes, but it sure beats the alternative!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Aunt A

My baby sister is turning a quarter century today... Happy Birthday A!

I know you are all wondering why a picture of pink shoes? Why not a picture of Aunt A? Aunt A loves all things pink and these are the gorgeous shoes she treated herself to today. If they had them in lime green, I might have splurged too :)

Really, my problem is that my new laptop is having the same problems with the image editing program that my old laptop did. So, in order to get a good picture, I would have to turn on the desktop. I guess Aunt A is spared for today. Dh is working on the technical glitch, so she may not be spared long.

Here's hoping you have a great day and a year full of blessings Aunt A!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring

"I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room."

~ Mrs. Anna S. Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree

The previous owners of our home must have liked the Spring season. They planted some beautiful rhododendron (unfortunately we lost one this year), azaleas, cherry trees and a beautiful dogwood tree. This weekend our row of lilac bushes have blossomed. Their sweet fragrance makes its way to my back porch. I have enjoyed them each Spring here, but they have brought a special sense of serenity this year.I snapped a picture of them yesterday, but I really wish I could attach the scent of their blossoms. Autumn has always been my favorite season, but Spring is gaining on it.


Just for fun, I also took a picture of my patio flower boxes (but why blogger changed the orientation of the picture is beyond me!). There is just something about freshly planted flowers. There is a beauty in the newness of the seedlings. The sense of how they will blossom in the coming months. I am sure the flowers will be beautiful, but right now I am enjoying the imagined beauty, what they will be in June or July.

Speaking of that newness, I wanted to send a big congrats to the newest member of our extended family. Little William was born yesterday. He did turn and no Cesarean was needed. Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Divine Providence


How do you like to go up in a swing?
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!



We spent last weekend going from one First Communion party to the next. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful parish community! I enjoyed the food, the company, and just being out on what turned out to be a beautiful weekend. The girls enjoyed playing with their friends-- and the swing sets. It seemed each house had new playground equipment to entice my children. Little Bophie especially enjoyed them, but took a spill off of each one, and two off of the last.

As we were driving home from the last party, the older girls in the back seat piped up asking dh when we would get our own swing set. Dh and I have talked many times about purchasing a set, but it always seems to get pushed to the back burner. We had been waiting until Juliana's adoption was complete and now we are waiting for Joseph's adoption.

I know it probably wasn't the best response (don't tell the parent police), but dh replied by asking them if they would like the swing set or a baby brother? The older girls didn't hesitate. They said if they HAD to chose, of course they wanted the brother.

Bophie on the other hand says, "I'll take a swing park."

When she got no response from us, after all, how do you respond to that? She very loudly stated, "Dad, I would prefer a swing park!"

Poor dh had to let her know she really didn't have a choice in the matter. She took it well and must have resolved to pray for a swing park because two days later our neighbor stopped over. She said her daughter was getting too old for their swing set and they wanted to get rid of it. She asked if we were interested.



On Saturday, we enlisted some help and brought over the swing set. My girls are loving it. They are finishing school faster so they can go out and play.

Bophie now gets both a swing park and a baby brother! The rest of us get a reminder of how many little blessings we are given.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Complications...

My sister has had too many of them lately. Please keep her in your prayers. This weekend they found a clot in her heart and this morning she was told she has had some tachycardia. She has been in the hospital almost a week and is tired, nauseous, and in some pain.

Another sister is having baby number 6 this week. He is currently breech and we are all hoping he will turn and she will avoid a c-section.

I did have a nice Mother's Day. Dh took me out for Chinese and Starbucks. I also got a good dose of Sudoku. The girls made nice cards for me and little Juliana even found my pencil and left me some artwork on the wall.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joseph

The slow posting lately is a result of the little free time we have had. We have decided to move forward with the process of adopting a little boy, Hui Cheng. This has meant we have been consumed with gathering documents and jumping through hoops. Even though we just adopted Juliana, none of her paperwork can be used. We are essentially starting from the beginning.

Hui Cheng, we named him Joseph, is a little boy from the Henan province of China. He is a little over a year old (a month and a half younger than Juliana), and is currently in a foster facility in Beijing. He has a cleft lip and palate and may or may not have some of that repaired before he comes home. Although he is a little younger than Juliana, he seems to be about the same size and is a healthy child. My favorite description in his paperwork is that he can be impatient when a toy he wants is out of his reach.

This adoption process is quite different from Juliana's. We waited years for her referral, we waited only a day for Joseph's referral. We are able to travel as soon as the paperwork is completed and processed by both the US and Chinese governments. The goal is to travel late this year or early next year. When we were making the decision to adopt a special needs child we had said it would be very hard to see the child and be waiting on paperwork. Here we are, a few weeks later, pictures in hand just beginning the arduous paper chase.

I'm sorry but our agency asks us not to post his picture yet. He has bright eyes, crazy hair like Juliana's, and a beautiful smile. He is also sporting a scarlet and gray shirt! Already a Buckeye!

Keep him in your prayers.

Juliana's Adoption Story

We began actively pursuing Juliana's adoption in April of 2005. We had recently moved to Ohio and were in the process of selling our home and looking for a new home in Ohio. Our daughters were four and almost two at that time. We brought Juliana home in December of 2008, three and a half years later. Here is a brief overview of the process.

Completing the paperwork varies in time. Since we were in the midst of a move, many of our necessary documents were still in our old home awaiting the sale of our home and final move to Ohio. We also found out that I was expecting. Morning sickness kept me from the paperwork more than I would have liked. Our paperwork was finished and sent to China in December of 2005. All paperwork takes time. All documents have to be notarized, then certified by the County Clerk, then certified again by the Secretary of State, then finally they have to be authenticated at an Embassy. Our documents came from many different states so we had to send documents several different directions. It was confusing as well as time consuming.

Once the paperwork is sent to China, you begin the dreaded waiting period. First, you wait for your dossier (all the adoption documents China requires) to be logged in at the CCAA (the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs, the government agency that handles all adoptions). When the dossier is logged, you are given a date. This date is essentially your place in line to be matched with an orphan, those familiar with Chinese adoptions call this a LID (log-in date), our LID was February 19, 2006. At the time we began this adoption LID to match wait was approximately 10 months, our wait turned out to be much longer.

There is much speculation about why the adoption process slowed down in China. There were many anxious adoptive couples having a difficult time as the wait dragged on. What was thought would take months, suddenly turned into a year... then two years... During this time, we welcomed our third biological daughter. We were anxious for a match, and prayed for our daughter and her family in China, but we were at peace knowing we had no control over the situation so it could all be left in God's hands.

On November 6, 2008, I received a very special phone call. Our adoption agency was calling to tell us of our new daughter Qian Xiu Lian. She was nine months old, from the province of Chongqing, she was described as quiet (which I find funny since I would consider her my loudest child now), loved music, and was ready to smile. It was love at first sight for me. I had wondered how it would feel to see a picture of our daughter before seeing her in person, but I knew from the moment I saw her picture on my computer screen, she was meant to be in our family. I loved her instantly. I had already loved her. I finally had a face to put with the countless prayers I had offered for her.

A few days later we received her packet in the mail. This packet gave all the information China had about our daughter. Qian Xiu Lian was given her name when she entered the orphanage. In Chinese naming, the first name is more like our last name. It is a family name. Qian is the name given to all the children in that orphanage. In the orphanage the middle name often signifies when the child entered the orphanage. All the girls around Juliana's age were given the name Xiu which means beautiful or delicate. Lian, the last name given to Juliana is more like our first name. It is the unique name given to the orphans. Lian means the flower lotus.

The packet of information also told us when, where, and in what circumstances Juliana was found. She was found the day she was born. They know this because of the way she looked when they found her, her skin, her umbilical cord, etc. She was abandoned at a street corner with nothing. No clothes, no notes, nothing. She weighed four pounds. Through Internet searching, we were able to find a picture of that street corner. It appears to us from that searching that she is not the only baby abandoned at that location. From the picture and the maps it looked to be a rather rural area. When she was found she was taken to the police, and then to the orphanage where she would remain until our trip.

In China, once a child is found, the local authorities place a "Finding Ad" in the local papers. They put a picture of the child, a brief description, tell where they are found, and ask for any information about the child or their family. In China, it is a crime to abandon a child. After a set time, if no one responds, the child's paperwork to make them adoptable can be processed by the orphanage. We were given a copy of Juliana's finding ad when in China. After reviewing Juliana's information, we sent a brief letter to China through our adoption agency that stated we wanted to adopt her. A very poignant moment during our trip to China was when we found a newspaper page of finding ads wrapped around a piece of ceramic ware at a street side art booth. It made a profound impact on us to see a whole page of little girls in such a matter-of-fact display in the newspaper.

After receiving Juliana's packet and sending our letter, travel preparations began in earnest. Our travel arrangements were primarily made by our adoption agency. They arranged for all our hotels, travel within China by bus and airplane, and provided Chines guides who spoke English and were able to help us find anything we needed as well as walk us through the necessary paperwork in China. In my opinion, the help in China truly defines the agency you chose. Our agency was top notch. The guides were invaluable in providing all kinds of help, from finding good local restaurants to properly filling out forms. The trip to China took almost 23 hours. Our longest individual flight was over 13 hours.

Most China adoption trips have three stops. The first stop is in a port city where you become acclimated to the time change while doing a little site-seeing. This stop was Beijing for us. We made the decision to fly in a few days early since we weren't sure we would ever get the opportunity to go back to China. We spent a few days visiting Tienenman Square, The Great Wall, Olympic Village, and a few other sites. It was also good to get used to the time. China was exactly opposite of our time. At 4:00 A.M. it was 4:00 P.M. there. We were incredibly tired and it would have been hard to try to care for a little baby at that time.

From Beijing we flew to Chongqing where Juliana was born. We flew into town on a Sunday morning and got settled in our hotel. We were on the 27th floor and I had never stayed in such a large building. That afternoon we received a call to meet in a lobby on the 30th floor of our hotel. We anxiously went at the appointed time, but there was no one else there. Within a few minutes, three orphanage workers came in carrying four little girls, dressed in matching brand new outfits. They were all very quiet. The girls were set on a few chairs and they began the process of putting each girl with their new parents. We were first. Juliana was very quiet as I held her. She seemed to like the little butterfly toy we brought, but she never made a sound. I know now she was very scared.

The next day, Juliana slept in my arms as we walked next door to the Registrar of Chongqing. She slept all the way through the ceremony where we became her parents. In China, a thumbprint seals official documents. After placing our thumbprints on her adoption certificate, we had to wake her up to put her thumbprint on it. We spent another week in Chongqing as documents were notarized and such. Most of that time, our agency arranged for small, optional, tourist trips we could take. It gave us an opportunity to get out, but still bond with Juliana.

While in Chongqing, we saw no other Westerners besides other adoptive families. We were sometimes even treated like celebrities. If we went out for a walk around our hotel, we would be surrounded by people asking many questions in Chinese. We had little tags that explained who we were and why we were in China. After reading our tags, we often got a thumbs up from the locals. We also were often told to put more clothing on our little ones. It is customary in China to put many layers on children, especially babies. We did, however, learn to walk a little faster at times to try to avoid being surrounded. I learned then that I would not like being a celebrity.

After leaving Chongqing, we went to Guangzhou which is in the southern part of China. Guangzhou is the site of the American Embassy that handles all visas to the U.S. Any adoptive family from the U.S. has to stay in Guangzhou to finalize the visa that allows their child to enter the U.S.A. As a result, there are almost always quite a few Americans in this area. We stayed at a hotel known to have hosted thousands of adoptive families. Almost anyone who has adopted from China will recognize the White Swan hotel. They are known for their red couches and new families often have a "red couch photo" taken. Before leaving Guangzhou, Juliana was given a visa that made her an American citizen once she set foot on American soil.

How I wish I could write so much more about our trip, and our adoption journey! You can find some posts with some pictures on my blog:

The Wait Ends
More Waiting
Some Travel Posts

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bad Hair Days

Today the girls and I went to breakfast with Grandma. While I took the potty-training one to the restroom, an older gentleman made his way from the other end of the restaurant. He smiled at my girls and then proceeded to tell my mom that Juliana needed a new barber. This child? A new barber? I think her hair is too cute. I like the smiles and comments. Someone in Church thought we had intentionally given her a mohawk. Besides, it's fun to watch her hair bob up and down on her soft spot!