Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a little clarity

I know how quiet it's been over here.  I've felt bad not posting anything.  But there's not been anything to report.  Ick.

But today I got an email from our agency (WHFC) with a timeline that's for families adopting through the China Special Needs program.  Sure, these timelines are generic, but it's still helpful.

I was rather, a-hem, frustrated with the confusing and very different timelines we were receiving from different social workers and was told at the time that they were going to try to streamline their estimates and better communicate them to their clients.  I believe this is that attempt and I did actually find it helpful.

So here's the nitty gritty of what you really want to know -- and what we really want to know!  Not necessary to go back to the beginning -- just where are we now and what to expect in the coming months.

For clarity sake, we've received our preliminary approval (aka 'letter seeking confirmation'), our I-800 has been filed, so we're in that 3 to 8 weeks stage.


Preliminary Approval/Letter Seeking Confirmation (2‐4 months)
CCCWA will carefully review your entire profile and confirm it is an acceptable match with the child. Then, CCCWA will issue an official document called Letter Seeking Confirmation (LSC) or often referred to as “Preliminary Approval”. This document may take longer to be received if your dossier was recently sent to CCCWA soon before the child match. The original LSC will be sent to your family to sign and return to WHFC.

I800 Approval (3‐8 weeks)
Upon receipt of receiving your signed LSC, WHFC will submit your I800 paperwork to USCIS. Approximately, 3‐8 weeks later USCIS will issue a Provisional Approval of your I800 petition. Please provide WHFC with a copy of your I800 approval immediately upon receipt.

National Visa Center (NVC) Letter (1‐2 weeks)
Soon after receiving the I800 approval, you will receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming your approval cable has been sent to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. Please provide WHFC with a copy of your NVC letter immediately upon receipt, as we normally do not get a copy from NVC directly.

File DS‐230 & Obtain Article 5 (1 month)
Upon receipt of the NVC letter, WHFC will file your DS‐230 paperwork with the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. The DS‐230 paperwork requests the US Consulate to issue and send a document called the Article 5 to CCCWA confirming that your adoption complies with US Immigration Law and the Hague Convention. WHFC does not get confirmation when the Article 5 letter is issued.

CCCWA issues Travel Approval (1‐2 months)
Soon after receipt of the Article 5 letter, CCCWA will issue your Travel Approval. The Travel Approval Document is an official document that is sent to WHFC from CCCWA. This is the last of the 3 approvals needed from CCCWA. It is now time to schedule your travel to China.

Travel to China (1 month later)
Most families travel to China about 1 month after their Travel Approval is issued. Your total trip will be approximately 2 weeks. WHFC will schedule all the in‐country travel arrangements including adoption processing appointments, guides, hotels, in‐country transportation, and sightseeing. You will be responsible for purchasing your international air tickets and obtaining our Chinese Travel Visas. WHFC will provide detailed information about travel during a required Travel Preparation phone meeting and written China Adoption Travel Guide.

Total Estimated Wait Time from Program Application to Referral Acceptance: 1‐12 months

Total Estimated Total Wait from Referral Acceptance to Travel: 6‐10 months


So, for all those who ask when, when, when?  This is a slight answer.  But we still don't know for sure.  I'm still hoping for early next year -- maybe February or March.  And that'll be here before we know it!

Woot!  Woot!

I'm itchin' to do a post soon about the impact that our sweet baby James is having on people all over -- who don't even know us.  It's incredible, y'all.  I mean, move-me-tears incredible.  

This little boy, oh-so-far-away, is touching people's lives.  He has no idea.  If this is the case now, I can't imagine what our experience is going to be like when we are living life with him. 

Praise You, Lord.  :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

want to be notified?

Also, I just added a new feature to this little blog of ours.  If you would like to be notified by email when I do a new post, just enter your email address in the box on the right.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

fill their stockings

If you follow blogs at all, you may notice that blogs are becoming ways to advertise, ways to earn income (for some, but not this 'some'), and avenues for God to do some amazing things.

My reason for this post is nothing more than to possibly help some amazing things happen for children who are near and dear to our hearts...orphans.  And, more specifically, orphans in China.

There are some incredible ministries and organizations that act as His hands and feet in China.  And I just learned of a way to perhaps assist such entities for just $5.  Man, that's about as much as a scone and pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks!  And you could end up with a little something for yourself or for someone else for Christmas.

Check this out.

Fill Their Stockings

Some folks are so creative, aren't they?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

to be educated

In light of our recent decision to start homeschooling, clearly education has taken on a new form for us.  One that, frankly, I love in too many ways to explain here.  But also one that stresses me out because it's pretty counter cultural, so I find myself having to constantly shut out the lie that I'm failing our kids.

However, this encouraged me!  Thank you, Sharon, for sharing this.  I needed to read it today.

God is so good to send these little nuggets of encouragement whenever I need encouragement.

To Be Educated

By Carolyn Caines, Columbia Heights Christian Academy

If I learn my ABC's, can read 600 words per minute, and can write with perfect penmanship, but have not been shown how to communicate with the Designer of all language, I have not been educated.

If I can deliver an eloquent speech and persuade you with my stunning logic, but have not been instructed in God's wisdom, I have not been educated.

If I have read Shakespeare and John Locke and can discuss their writings with keen insight, but have not read the greatest of all books--the Bible--and have no knowledge of its personal importance, I have not been educated.

If I have memorized addition facts, multiplication tables and chemical formulas, but have never been disciplined to hide God's Word in my heart, I have not been educated.

If I can explain the law of gravity and Einstein's theory of relativity, but have never been instructed in the unchangeable laws of the One Who orders our universe, I have not been educated.

If I can classify animals by their family, genus and species, and can write a lengthy scientific paper that wins awards, but have not been introduced to the Maker's purpose for all creation, I have not been educated.

If I can play the piano, the violin, six other instruments, and can write music that moves men to tears, but have not been taught to listen to the Director of the Universe and worship Him, I have not been educated.

If I can run cross-country races, star in basketball and do 100 push-ups without stopping, but have never been shown how to bend my spirit to do God's will, I have not been educated.

If I can identify a Picasso, describe the style of Da Vinci, and even paint a portrait that earns an A+, but have not learned that all harmony and beauty comes from a relationship with God, I have not been educated.

If I graduate with a perfect 4.0 and am accepted at the best university with full scholarship, but have not been guided into a career of God's choosing for me, I have not been educated.

If I become a good citizen, voting at each election and fighting for what is moral and right, but have not been told of the sinfulness of man and his hopelessness without Christ, I have not been educated.

However, if one day, I see the World as God sees it, and come to know Him, Whom to know is life eternal, and glorify God by fulfilling His purpose for me, then , I have been educated. 

I so wish...

...I had something to report.

Oh how I wish there were some great news to share.

Perhaps soon.

Perhaps not.

I may not have any news to report on when we're going to travel, but I can share that I've had some glimpses of James lately.  A photo here and there.  Even in all his pink, little-girl-clothes glory, he is adorable.

Actually, I did get an email recently from the travel coordinator with our agency that was sent to all families who are 'getting ready to travel.'  Should we be excited about that?

I doubt it.

We're just hanging out.

Here are some photos of some of what we've been doing over the last couple of months while we're 'hanging out.'  One of the great blessings during this time is that life is full in the waiting so it makes the waiting bearable.  I'm really grateful for that.

We've been doing some of our most favorite things!

Like going to fall festivals...which we look forward to all year!

Watching homecoming parades.

Ahhh...caramel apple making.  Man, were these ever good!

And fun times to be creative and discover our artistic sides.

And cool little items that become fun ways to get organized.  Or at least try to get organized.

And trying something for the first time!  Like the Tough Mudder.

I find myself wondering often, 'What will James think of this?'  

And we have many conversations around the realization that when we do these things next year, James will be doing them with us.  What an amazing thought!  

He will be ours.  

He will be here.  

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, November 11, 2011

adoption awareness month

November is Adoption Awareness Month.

Here's a beautiful adoption story created by God and Focus on the Family.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

good wisdom

My brother sent this to us.

This adoptive mother makes some great points.

I love her statement: Gradually, we stopped being an adoptive family and just became a family. 

Why I Chose To Stop Preaching Adoption

Posted: 11/7/11 07:44 AM ET

I'm the stranger in the Macy's line who offers to share her extra 20 percent off coupon with you. It comes from a need I have to share my great discoveries with anyone within earshot. For the most part, I think I spread more good than do harm -- with one possible exception: the years I spent convincing the world to adopt older children from abroad.

There are different ways to build a family and we chose to build ours through adoption. My now 14-year-old daughter was 5.5 years old when we brought her home from China and my son, now 11, was 4.5 years old. Beyond that, their stories are theirs to share and you won't be hearing the details of their early years from me. At least not anymore.

I spent the first few years of motherhood using my kids as poster children for older special needs adoptions. I think I, in part, fell into the role because unlike the 15 percent of the population that is adopted but you can't tell by looking at them, it is obvious to all who see us that ours is an adoptive family. This, combined with my natural inclination to share advice with the world, propelled me to become an adoption ambassador -- and I dragged my kids along for the ride. I advocated adoption publicly, showed off my children often, spent hours talking to families who were on the fence and posted in online communities wherever I could to encourage people to do what I'd done.

On more than one occasion, I invited a family struggling with infertility to dinner and let my kids charm their socks off. Oozing adorableness, my daughter would give them a tour of her room, showing off her precious music box . She'd tell them how it came from China "just like me." She'd give hugs freely and I could see our guests melt to her sweet ways. It worked so effectively that we know at least three little girls from China who found their forever families because of my kids. And I certainly have no regrets there.

I saw my role as educator. I could spout the 411 on every country's adoption policies, answer every question, calm fears and address every argument anyone had. I never took offense at the intrusive questions every adoptive family gets. (The most absurd was always: "Are they yours?") But invariably, I would steer the conversation back to where I could determine the motive behind the question. If they weren't sincere potential adopters, I would cut my answer off quickly. If they were, I moved in for the kill.

And then something happened. Gradually, we stopped being an adoptive family and just became a family. Not every school project has to be about adoption or China. When we celebrate Chinese New Years or the Moon Festival, we do it as a family without announcing it to the world. I stopped seeing us as a good idea I needed to share and I allowed my family to become just a family.

I also gave my children the right to their privacy. While becoming a mother to them altered my life in many ways, the bulk of the adjustments fell on their small shoulders. They are the ones who had to move half a world away from everything familiar and everyone they had ever known. With what were the purest intentions, I plead guilty to adding to their load by asking them to show the world how perfect they were, how smooth their transition was, how easy this was - when in fact, of course it wasn't.

So yes, I'm not altogether proud of how I approached this aspect of parenting those first years. But a few months ago I realized how far I've come. At my daughter's Bat Mitzvah ceremony this summer -- where she chose to share a small part of her adoption journey in her speech -- a guest later asked me a question that I used to get all the time: "Why did you go to China to adopt?" In the past, my answer had always been an informed rundown of each country's adoption programs, including what the requirements were to qualify.

This time, I finally knew the real answer: Because China is where my daughter was.

orphan sunday 2011

This past Sunday (November 6th) was what's known as 'Orphan Sunday.'  A day when we try to give a voice to the orphans of the world and make others aware of their very real plight and what each of us can do about it -- and it's not just about adopting them.  Although, we're fans.  ;)

Orphan Sunday 2011 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

I've experienced, heard, watched, and just generally been a part some amazing things this week.  Just thought I'd share.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Throughout my days, I think of so many things I need/want to pray for.  Some are so obvious.  Others, not so much.  If you're the praying kind, I thought I'd post a list of things we could really use your prayer over.  If you're not so sure about prayer or not totally comfortable with it, God will honor it any way you choose to communicate with Him: riding in the car, sitting at a stoplight, during your time on a treadmill, walking your dog, pushing a stroller, riding on a train or plane, or perhaps curled up on your sofa.  You don't even have to speak out loud!  There are no rules.

1.  Pray that God will be near to James -- and us -- as we wait.

2.  Pray that God will give James the images of our faces in his dreams at night.  Let us be divinely familiar to him so he's not terrified of us when we meet.  May his little heart say, 'Oh yes.  Them.  I know them.'

3.  Pray that we're able to slow down, unplug and do the possibly difficult (or possibly wonderful!) withdrawal from things that will be required after he's home.

4.  Pray that there's an instant connection between James and our biological children.

5.  Pray about the idea of taking Payton and Avery with us to get James.  They weren't interested several months ago, but now they are.  Actually, 'interested' isn't really the right word -- 'begging' is more like it.  We don't know if we can swing it, but think a trip like this could be seared on their little hearts for a lifetime -- not in the 'I'm-a-world-traveler' kind of way, but in a 'I'm-on-this-planet-to-serve-God-mightily' kind of way.  Not sure what to do.

6.  Pray, pray, pray that we will have complete and utter peace at God's timing for us to go get James.  Pray for peace as we ride this very real emotional roller coaster.  After getting our preliminary approval and thinking we could travel as soon as two months later, we're now being told 4 to 6 months from now.  I'm in denial and am saying 3 to 4 months.  Perhaps not very helpful?  Ugh.  

7.  Pray for cover for us as we need all the cover we can get.  :)  Still no sign of anxiety or vertigo in sight!  Crazy.

8.  Pray in advance for how much we'll miss our children while we're gone.  JD was gone for two nights this weekend and Brooks said after one night, 'I miss Daddy.'  And they were home with me!  :) I know, Mommy's not very exciting sometimes when you've been with her all week!  

9.  Pray that when James gets home, we'll have wisdom around what doctors to visit and what course of action to take with his medical needs.  And just that we'll juggle well all the doctor's visits with the very real needs of the rest of our family -- including ourselves!

10.  Pray that God will be glorified through every, cotton-pickin' moment of this!  :)

Love and thanks,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

jen hatmaker post

So, this post was sent to me from friends who are 'in process' too.


I consider myself to be to-the-point, but Jen is TO. THE. POINT.

However, I have to say, this is right on the money.  I agree with 99% of what she says.  Perhaps my delivery would be a tad gentler at times, but I appreciate how thoroughly she explains the different stages and challenges of bringing a child home.

It will take you about ten minutes to read it.

But it would mean so much to JD and I if you took the time.  

When we bring James home, we will likely be in one of the most vulnerable, stripped-down, yet glorious places of our lives so far.  It will make all the difference to know that 'our village' gets us during that time -- and even this dreadful time of waiting.  Grrr...we heard Thursday that the wait could still be 4 to 6 months from now!  Lots of different timeframes given by lots of different people.  Grrr again.

Thanks in advance for reading this.  But moreover, thanks for loving us.  Truly.  Thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

gotta love it

Two funny stories to tell from the past couple of days.

The reality of James joining our family is becoming greater with each day.  It seems the kids are even living it out in their little consciences.  I could barely keep my composure during these two instances.

I was in our bedroom putting clothes away the other day and Avery, Brooks and Jackson were milling around the house playing.  These three are like triplets.  In fact, people often ask us if they are.  Avery's on the petite side, Brooks and Jackson are tall.  But more than that, these three play.  I mean, I can hear them all day long setting up scenario after scenario after scenario of make-believe.  They play 'Peter Pan' a lot.  So much so that sometimes Brooks is even Peter Pan's dog.

(Whatever floats your awesome-imagination-of-a-child boat!).

They build animals out of Legos and then build them homes with blocks.  They play with Barbies (in fact, they just walked in and the boys asked for 'men Barbies' for Christmas so they can really play Barbies with Avery!).

I digress...

So I'm putting the clothes away and I start hearing the word 'orphanage' in every other sentence.

'Orphanage' this and 'orphanage' that.

Then I hear Brooks exclaim:

'No!  I don't want to be adopted again!'

' always make us be adopted!  We're done being adopted!'

Avery pleads her case.

Now Brooks is full-on yelling, 'A-ver-y!  Nooo!  I don't. want. to. be. adopted. anymore!'

I just love that adoption and what they understand of it has entered their consciousness so much that it's entered their make-believe.  Our hope and dream for our family is that, for our children -- and for us! -- that being an adoptive family will be a new normal for us.  And eventually the new will fall away and it will just be normal.  I think we're on the right track.

Story number two:

So I'm sitting on the couch yesterday morning praying (writing my prayers in a journal).  Brooks wanted to eat a yogurt, so I told him he could do so only if he could sit quietly at the counter so I could finish my prayer time.  (He lasted all of two seconds).  Then he said, 'Momma, I think James is going to grow an arm one day.'

'Really?  Why do you say that?' I asked.

'I just think he will.'

'Hmmm.  Well, because people usually grow arms when they're in their mommy's belly, I don't think James can grow one now.'


'No, I think he will.'

Well, okey-dokey then.  He may be in for a rude awakening, but we'll take it in stride.

If kids don't have the most precious perspective on things, I don't know who does!

You gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

p and a

Many of you know that 'P' and 'A' are used a lot in our home.

More specifically, 'Sweet P' and 'Little A', in reference to our two sweet girls who are asleep in their beds.

But yesterday, the letters P and A took on new meaning!


We got our Preliminary Approval (PA)!


So cut to the chase, right?

Well...we could travel in one month (ahhhhh!) or two months or three months.  There's no way to know.  In the beginning, we were told that it would be about one to two months between our Preliminary Approval and our Travel Approval (TA) and then travel within a month after receiving our TA.  But we've talked to folks who've adopted from China who say these last stages whizzed by for them.

They too were hung up for a moment and then, boom, boom, boom...they were asked if they could travel in two weeks.  Not saying we'll be traveling two weeks from now, but the idea of traveling by the end of the year is back on the table.


I'm really fine if it's January.  I have come so full-circle to accepting that timeline that, watch, we'll be asked to travel on, say, December 12th.



We're completely along for the ride on this one.

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