It has been months now. The sadness does not get to me often anymore.
It did today.
Today I missed Emerson and Bennett. The boys we thought we were adopting, not the boys we protected. [Read more…]
As I unpack my thoughts on this first media story, I would like to begin with an admission.
I am embarrassed we fell prey to a scam.
At times this sense of humiliation is overwhelming. I thought we hired people who could help us navigate the process to avoid scams and fraud. With all of the research and due diligence I invested, surely the agency we chose would be the most reputable agency available. [Read more…]
He is home!!
Leave is a beautiful thing!
This is the first time we have been together since last September and I am soaking up every moment.
We have spent time laughing, talking…and yes, grieving…together.
So, as much as I am looking forward to telling you about all the latest developments…the investigators, the supportive government agencies, and the amazing adoption families who have stepped forward to tell their stories…that will have to wait a little longer. I am going to treasure this time with my soldier-sweetheart and when he goes back for the rest of his tour, I will be back with you all.
I have had some requests for more pictures from my travels…and as always, I am happy to serve! Please understand there will be no pictures of children here. Pictures of the children we worked with will be available through agency lists and shared lists once the adoption files are complete. For now, here are some photos of Baotou…
The mountains as we approached Inner Mongolia were super impressive. Also, we were flying lower than I have experienced before. Yay China!
They are everywhere. People of Walmart: China Edition is surely coming soon.
A typical playroom at the orphanage. So clean. Lots of color. Lots of toys. This is the room we did most of our work in!
A view from the playroom….of the orphanage driveway.
Pods of apartment buildings were all over the horizon. I was intrigued that they built the same building a dozen times in each pod.
Cannot read those signs…
Baotou at a glance.
Exceptionally helpful menu.
HUGE sports arena. There are no sports teams that play there.
The ever-fabulous Carin and Gracie in native dress.
Lisa took this one of me…because she would not let me take a picture of her!
Hello dear friends,
Well, on day 110 of a possibly 30 day wait, it came. I held in my hands two sheets of odd-dimensioned paper with one very important red stamp – the stamp of approval from the Chinese adoption authority. The CCCWA officially approved us to be Bennett and Emerson’s parents.
Those pieces of paper – the LOAs, in adoption-speak – will allow us to apply for and process citizenship paperwork and visas for both boys. It is a huge step! Now our paperwork is off with a few US government groups, like immigration and the National Visa Center (did you know there even was such a thing?!?!). Once they give the green light, not card, then we will wait for China to tell us to travel! We have mentioned before that we will definitely be traveling before January 15th as that is the date the twins age out. Our agency is really hoping to get us to travel by November 15th….we will see!
If you are in the process of adopting, or considering it, you should know that our wait time was extreme. We happened to be logged into the Chinese adoption authority computer system exactly two days before they initiated a major overhaul. Prior to the overhaul LOAs were coming in as little as 34 days and since the overhaul has finalized LOAs have been seen in as little as 14 days! So the overhaul is working! The system is good!
There were just a few families, all logged in together and adopting two children, who got stuck. It was, at times, an agonizing wait. Not agonizing because of the number of days, but agonizing because we had no idea what was happening. The computer system had kinks and they were working on it…but we just had to wait. The kind of with-baited-breath waiting that allows you to jump for joy the instant something happens…or almost pass out if it takes to long.
My fellow long-waiters and I developed this sweet bond. We encouraged each other privately and on public adoption forums. We listened to each other rant over the phone. We kept up the today-could-be-the-day-ness of our processes together. And now, just today, we finally are all moving on to the next step. Amy, Kelli, Katie, Rebekah, Rebecca, and Cara have become like sisters to me in some ways…we all shared this huge event. Honestly, I really hope we all get to meet in person some day. It would be so beautiful to see all these kids – ages 2-14 – all in one place!
Good morning friends,
It’s early. The sun is just making its way over the horizon. The haze glows deep gold, peach, blue. Resting over the city like a blanket, smog greets the day. Greets us. Beckons us to breathe deep. Inhale China. Bring this world into our world. Let it change us. Spiritually and molecularly.
Pods of giant identical apartment buildings loom large, grey, and empty. Builders bustle below my hotel window, arranging their site for a new day. Why the vacant buildings continue to rise 25 stories above ground is a mystery. Who will live there? Who can afford to?
Thoughts this morning. China is changing me. China is confusing me. China is…beautiful.
Hi from Beijing friends!
Here are some little story highlights from my travel day. I had two flights – one from Atlanta to Seoul and one from Seoul to Beijing. The first was long, really long. I took a few opportunities to write in my journal and these little snippets are mostly from there. Enjoy!
It is 8:30pm in Atlanta right now. We are 7 hours into our 15 hour flight. We are currently flying over the Arctic Cirle….well north of Fairbanks, Alaska. I have been watching movies and crocheting. I may read for a bit now. I would love to sleep, but in this middle seat, that seems easier said than done.
“Would you like chicken, fish, or cream sauce pasta? We have chicken, fish, or cream sauce pasta.” I requested “cream sauce pasta”…
We have made it! The little flight timer on the seat back monitor says we will land in Seoul/Incheon in 9 minutes! My first view of Korea is smoke stacks and little quintessentially Asian rocky islands. I am on the wing, so it is hard to see much, but wow. It is foggy, smoggy, and overcast. And beautiful. 15 hours is a really, really long time in a plane. But I am here!
It is 5:30am in Atlanta…I have slept approximately 1 hour since I got up 23 hours ago. Granted, I have been mostly sitting still, but travel is exhausting! The girls in Seattle are enjoying a flight delay, so it looks like they will be leaving Seattle for Beijing at the same time I leave Seoul for Beijing. I am going to beat them. By a lot. Me and Beijing are going to become friends…well, me and the Beijing airport. I hope it is as hospitable as Incheon. There was free wifi! It was not terribly fast, but it allowed me to let my folks know I had made the North America – Asia jump.
What an adventure I am on! I got a lot of stares in Incheon…I think this is partly due to my extreme state of caucasian-ness, and partly due to the silly excited grin I had to wipe off my face!
Oh! I met several men on the ATL – ICN flight who were traveling to visit their foreign wives. The phrase “I have a wife there” feels somehow different from “My wife still lives there”. I wonder if there is an adoption equivalent?
“Let’s meet in Beijing!” ” See you in Beijing!” ” So excited to meet you in person in Beijing!” We have been looking forward to this trip for weeks. One interesting thing I did not work all the way through is the actual location our “meet” would take place. Honestly I figured it would be pretty basic – I would just wait in the international terminal until they arrived. But then there are those pesky customs, immigration, and baggage claim details…along with the fact that when you deplane in Beijing you are in this hallway or canal that just ushers you right on to immigration, baggage claim, and finally customs. I debated stopping at each step. But the intensity with which the security guards watched me and the fact that there were no chairs…well, I just kept walking. Then I saw it.
Angels sang. I knew exactly where I would be to meet the rest of the team. The shop is directly across from the international customs exit – so they will have to come through here. And who knows, maybe our Chinese counterparts will have a sign or something. I stand out with my spiky blonde hair and bright pink jeans…hope they find me!
It is 11:45am in Atlanta…so, yes it is almost midnight here in Beijing. I am still waiting for the rest of the team. Their flight ETA is in about twenty minutes, so just a little longer. I wish I would have looked at pictures of our Chinese Lifeline counterparts. I think they are sitting right behind me, but I am not sure so I am going to go ahead and avoid that potentially awkward dual language moment. (It was not them…..)
I have officially come across my first squatty-potty! These floor level asian gems strike fear into the hearts of most american women who travel here. It was right in the airport bathroom, first stall. Thankfully for my usually-adventurous-but-maybe-not-so-much-after-32-hours-of-traveling-wakefulness self…there was a standard toilet in the next open stall. I considered a photograph, but then I reconsidered. Y’all need to see a dirty squatty-potty like you need a poke in the eye with a dirty stick!
It is 12:15 in Atlanta…I am standing near the international arrivals…and Starbucks. Mostly I am people watching and just noticing things. I have definitely gotten my second wind – it may be a touch blurrier than an original, well rested wind – but I could keep going if I needed to at this point. My admiration for endurance sports athletes is growing by the minute. The gentleman (loose term) next to me is apparently over-warm in this air conditioned space. He just rolled his tshirt up to his sternum. Again, I am protecting your eyes.
They are there. All three of them. Two brothers together living mere hours (and a hop over a hostile nation) from their father. Their father they have never met. Their father working through a year in a job he likes, far away from everything familiar, because he loves them. To provide for them. He will be sure to get them safe and healthy and in a forever family.
When he is not in the field, I see him morning and night. Technology transcending the distance, nurturing our love story. He is on my screen. That face, one I know as well as my own, a picture in my computer. I laugh at his weekend scruffiness. His eyes dance as he listens to my stories. His t-shirt is visible down to his shoulders. The unused microwave in the background. I love him. He is a picture in my reality now. My sweetheart soldier continents away. Those pictures look like a love deeper than the ocean that separates us. Those pictures look like a love I could have only dreamed of before him.
He has a funny name and a sad story. They gave him the name when they found him. The story is like all of our stories. Joy, pain, family, loss, joy. He has personality that jumps through the camera. The eyes. He thinks he is hot stuff. The smile. Still so open to what life will bring him. I have not met him. I have not received a letter. I love him. I love that boy in the picture. He is not who I think he is. Who he will be is yet to be revealed. But I love him. It is a love that humbles me to my knees. It is a love that makes me laugh.
He was with his brother. His twin. He was given a funny name too, after that day on the river. The Yellow River will forever mean the end of something for him. The Yellow River will forever be a place where a journey began. No smiles. I wondered about him. Was he sadder? Was he scared? Those deep, unsmiling eyes held a world of experience. And then, the smile. It is light and sunshine and ocean and warmth. It is silliness and goofiness and openness. I love him. I love this boy in the picture. He will not be who I expect. Who he is, is loved. It is a love that brings tears to my eyes. It is a love that makes me want to share him with the world.
Oh my heart.
To love these three pictures. There is a drastic normalcy to it. Wives loving their deployed soldiers. Mothers loving the children-of-their-hearts. It is not unique. This love. This surprising, overwhelming emotion. It is not something other. It is simple. It is big. It is mine.
My heart stretches tonight. To hold it. To hold them. To hold the us that is and the us that will be. To hold the love and the longing. To hold the patience and waiting. To hold the anticipation and gratitude. It is a deep stretch. A good stretch.
Jesus holds my heart. He holds it on the other side of the earth. With three pictures.
The recent frenzy of OOT on the adoption forums has had me giggling. Are you OOT? Am I OOT? Does OOT happen before or after review? What in the world is OOT? In all honesty, all of these conversations and abbreviations have made me think of this commercial…
I know you giggled too! It’s impossible not to!
OOT is China-adoption-speak for Out Of Translation. This is a big part of the Letter of Acceptance process. Our dossier paperwork was sent to China to be evaluated and hopefully approved so we can bring Bennett and Emerson home. Before it can be approved it has to be translated to Chinese – minor details. When a file is out of translation, it is moved on to the review room…and then there is just one more step before LOA can be issued.
Yesterday I got a call from my ever-so-wonderful agency rep and she told me that not only has our file been found (praise the Lord!)….it is out of translation and being reviewed! Many of our friends and family are eager to know how much longer we have to wait until the twins arrive. I want to know too! Here’s the deal – Emerson and Bennett will be American citizens before January 15, 2014. Beyond that, there is no timeline. We wait. We develop our patience muscles. We will need them again, I am sure!
For now, though….say it with me….
PS – While I would love to host advertisements here someday, today is not that day. I used this link to YouTube simply to make you giggle.
I have been hard at work on an article that will hopefully be really helpful to some of you. As I began to write it, I realized it might be a bigger project than I expected…so it will be up soon.
In the meantime, I have a pretty significant prayer request.
You all know I prefer to stay positive and see the grace and goodness of God through every step in the adoption process. While that has not changed, we have hit a hard patch…and I want to be transparent through the tough stuff just like I am through the fun stuff.
Our dossier was sent to China in May and we received our log in date of May 24. This was such a huge blessing! Our dossier needed to be logged into the China adoption computer system so we could begin our home study update regarding the move and living with my parents. Having the dossier in China meant we did not need to update China on our new location. We just had to update US Immigration officials. They want to be able to keep track of our new Americans. So our dossier was exactly where it needed to be.
Then China did the “Let’s Change From One Adoption Computer System To A Completely Different Adoption Computer System” switcharoo on May 26.
We knew the switch was coming and we knew it could cause some snags. We did not know it could be quite this crazy. Some of my fellow adoption mommas have been stuck in the system for over 120 days now. We are on day 67.
Everything else in the new computer system seems to be working properly now. Everything except for the one step we are stuck in…waiting for the official Chinese letter of approval. This step is when the twins will be officially assigned to us! Thankfully some families are starting to see movement. This means that while their files have not been approved yet, they are progressing through the steps in the computer system. Every step of every file brings whoops and hollers of celebration on the China adoption momma forums. If other files are making progress, ours will too….right?
I found out yesterday that not only is our file not progressing, our file cannot even be found in the computer system. My wonderful, sweet, and extremely competent agency rep was clear with me that this does not mean we are lost…we just have not been found yet. Not the agency’s fault…this is totally on the computer system in China.
We are simply not in there.
Maybe we will be today, or maybe it will be several more months. There is no way to tell and nothing to be done…except to pray.
So here is the prayer request. Our boys age out of the Chinese adoption system on January 15th. Dave has been given the green light to travel with me to get the boys as long as we are not traveling between November 20th and January 10th…the holidays are popular times to travel and only a few bandsmen can be gone at a time.
We need to travel by November so Dave can meet his sons.
I am completely confident in the sovereignty of God.
I cling to Scriptural old friends like Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…” and Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
Then I am surprised by a command I have read before and not seen as applicable. “Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on it’s behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7 It is the Lord who has put us here…exactly in this paperwork-lost-in-the-ether place. He has a reason. We want to glorify Him.
So here we go…seeking the welfare of the place and people He has placed us with. I am off to meet with one of my new friends…a local ATL adoption momma…to brainstorm and encourage as she plans a big fundraiser. God’s gonna get all the glory…and I cannot wait to tell the story!