Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Conversation with Kate


As  I brought Kate downstairs this morning, she spotted the Baby Einstein toy the kids picked out for their little brother at Target for Christmas and wanted to bring it downstairs with her. The conversation that followed was so precious that it had to be documented.

Kate: Is baby brother downstairs?
Me: No, sweet girl. Not yet.
Kate: Aww, I want him to be here!
Me: Me, too, honey. He'll be home soon.
Kate: I give this to my baby brother. It be his special present. Can I bring it to da airport?
Me: Of course. He will love it!
Kate: I going to be a big sister. And Carter going to be the big brother. And you be his mommy, and Daddy be his daddy. Right?
Me: That's exactly right! Where's your baby brother now? 
Kate: China! 
Me: That's right. How are we going to get him home?
Kate: On da BIG airpane!
Me: Is he going to be a teeny tiny baby or a big baby?
Kate: A big baby. He may be walking.
Me: That's right. Are you going to be able to share Mommy with him?
Kate: Yes. And I share my daddy, too. Because I'm the big sister.
Me: What will you do if he's crying?
Kate: I give him hugs. And some chicken.

I mean. Chicken cures all sadness, am I right?!! :) Love her!

I had to share this because I get asked ALL THE TIME if my big kids understand what we are doing. We have had lots of conversations with Carter, and if you ask him questions about his baby brother, he'll pretty much explain exactly what an orphanage is, why some parents can't raise their children, and the process of how we are going to bring his baby brother home, but this was really the first time I saw glimpses of Kate's understanding. We've pretty much taken the "she's too little to understand" approach with her up until now. But, WOW! She's really been listening! I obviously haven't given her nearly enough credit for understanding. 


As far as our process goes, we had our fingerprinting appointment last week for immigration, so we are hopeful that our 797 approval will be in the mail in the next 3-4 weeks. That's the last document we need for our dossier...WOOHOO!!!! Once that gets notarized and authenticated, our dossier should be ready to go to China, so I am hopeful that we will be logged in to the China system in February sometime. One step closer! 

Here's to BIG THINGS in 2016!!! :) Happy New Year, friends!



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Ride of 2015...

Well, 2015, we have just eight more days in this year, so just for fun, I thought it would be fun to take a little walk down memory lane. 

When 2015 began, I started this little blog as a way to salvage whatever brain cells hadn't already been lost to afternoons of PBS Kids marathons. I really had no purpose for the blog when I started it. I thought I might write about a whole host of things - maybe a little parenting, a little health, throw in some recipes here and there, a little fashion, and just maybe share a little bit of my faith while I was doing it. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, I thought.

I'm pretty sure God was up there laughing at my little "this and that" blog. He saw where this was headed, but oh, how clueless I was!

When 2015 started, I had just began to feel a tug from God that our family may not be complete. I. at first, ignored it and pushed it away and tried to run from it because my daughter's first year consisted of colic/reflux/lactose intolerance (a total nightmare) and physical therapy, and I was terrified to go down the pregnancy road again. Thankfully, God had other plans...

When 2015 started, I had a tragically broken heart for orphans and longed to be involved in the movement to care for them, but I was too nervous and scared to share my feelings with my husband. After all, what if he said no? What if he thought I was crazy? Oh, what little faith I had! If I had only known a year ago that God had already planted the adoption seed in him as well, I would've salvaged so many sleepless nights. But, His timing is always perfect, and we got on the same page...eventually. :) 

When 2015 started, Carter was socially...um, awkward. He refused to answer another adult if they asked him a question, he sat on my lap for several of his first soccer games and refused to play, and he didn't really have many true "friends." Truthfully, I was really nervous that something was wrong with him. I think I even called my sister-in-law (an LMFT) to see if she thought he had social anxiety. (Spoiler: I was being ridiculous. He just needed more time.) Today, he absolutely lives for soccer game Saturdays, he has dozens of true friends, and is socially on par with any other four or five year-old kid out there. This morning, I watched him walked up to a six year-old little boy at a play area, ask him his name, and initiate a game of tag with him. What a difference a year makes! 

When 2015 started, Kate was an absolute HOT MESS of a one year-old, a constant tantrum-thrower, never stopped talking, lived for baby dolls, tipped the scales at 21 pounds, and barely filled out size 18 month clothes. Today...she is exactly the same...except she's two. And MAYBE 23 pounds. Can't win 'em all, folks. ;)

When 2015 started, I shared my testimony for the first time publicly, and as out-of-my-mind scared as I was to do it, God has shown me time and time again that vulnerability and openness and honesty is what connects and inspires us. Sharing our flaws and admitting our struggles may not get us more followers on Instagram, but it may be the first time that someone else says, "Me too." That's what I want this blog to be about...I want it to be a place where someone can come and feel understood. I want it to be a place where the underlying feeling is acceptance. We are flawed, human, hot messes...and that's okay. Jesus died for us because of our mess...it's taken care of...what a blessing and a gift that grace is!

2015 has been an absolutely life-altering year...it's amazing to look back and see where we started and how far we've come. To God be the glory! 

I absolutely cannot wait to see what all 2016 holds for our little family...and, God-willing, hopefully that will include a very special trip for our China boy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Preschool Christmas Programs 2015

This totally cracked me up! And is oh so very true. This morning, we enjoyed Carter's preschool Christmas program, and last week Kate had her miniature version of it, too. They were both too cute and funny not to share! 

I'll start with Kate...she looked so incredibly cute heading to school! 


And then, she was asked to perform...
video


Yeah, not a fan. ;) 


One of the perks of working at the school was that we got to go back into the room once the day was over and have a little redo photo shoot. She was HAPPY to sing and dance and smile for me all alone in the room, but as she told me later, "All the mommies and daddies were scary." It's tough to be two! 



Now onto the big guy. Carter fell in love with these dumb horrific patriotic cowboy boots at Wal-mart the other day, so naturally he had to wear them to look "fancy" today. He is my shy one, so I knew he'd be nervous, but he ended up doing so well!

His class first sang "Jingle Bell Rock."
video

And then "The First Noel."
video


And then came the finale. He lucked out standing next to one of his sweet friends for this, so he was quite dramatic with his motions for the final three songs - "Jingle Bells," "Go Tell it on a Mountain," and "Happy Birthday Jesus." 


Afterward, we got to go have cookies in his class and tell him what a stud he is.


It was a such fun little morning with our cowboy! :) Hope everyone has a great last week of school with your little ones!  
Monday, December 14, 2015

The Underdog

So, here's the thing...I have a thing for the underdog. I always have. 

The truth is, I blame my mother. My first dog was the runt of her litter, and from that moment on, I became just smitten with the little guys. The outcasts. The Davids of the world. The ones who really have to fight for it. 


Whether it be the new kid in class who sat alone in the cafeteria for weeks before making her first friend, or Forrest Gump actually graduating from college despite his low IQ, or the skinny kid going out for the football team who spends his entire summer in the weight room, they absolutely steal my heart. 

There is something so magical to me about the journey from nothing to greatness. When the tortoise crosses the finish line, slowly of course, to the hare's absolute shock and dismay, it truly gives me goosebumps. To see Michael Oher get drafted into the NFL with a loving family by his side when just years before was homeless and on the streets brings me to tears. The journey, the hard work, the determination to never quit...the underdog story is my Kryptonite. My Achilles heel. My weakness. 

I just can't get enough of these stories.

So, I'm telling you all of this with a point, I promise. I had a conversation with our agency several weeks ago as we were reviewing our family profile that went something like this...

Social Worker (SW): "I see here you are open to either gender at this point. I'm assuming your preference is a girl, though, correct? I want to let you know that we have many, many families in line for girls, so if you are hoping for a girl, we will want to be specific on your profile. You can expect to be waiting six to nine months for a referral."

Me: "We are truly open at this point. How long are referrals taking for boys in our age range?"

SW: "We only have one family with a dossier in China currently who is pursuing a boy, so a few weeks at most. We find boys are much harder to match...simply because they are boys."

Me: "Really? How sad! Why is that?"

SW: "We don't really know, to be honest. There is just such a strong preference for girls in adoption, China specifically, that we almost consider being a boy a special need all by itself. They wait so much longer for families just because so few come forward for boys. China boys are the underdogs."

And, I melted to a puddle right there on the floor. Check mate. Done. My heart is gone.

Me: "Yes, let's go ahead and change our checklist to specify a boy, same age and medical needs."

After about ten minutes of cheering and absolute elation from the social worker, we have made it official that we are now solely pursuing a baby BOY. And, we could not be more thrilled to watch this underdog story unfold in our little family. 



Thanks for continuing to journey this process with us! :) 
  
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh, hey, December...

So, it's been a while. I was leaving a much needed girls' night tonight when a friend commented on how she loved reading my blog, and it dawned on me I hadn't posted a single thing this whole month. 

I'll give it to you straight. It's not you, it's me.


This whole working-mom-with-kids-in-school-during-the-holidays thing has absolutely kicked my tail. Christmas programs, pajama parties (why? why?), and every type of "exchange" you can possibly participate in have ruled us these last ten days. And there are still two more weeks until Christmas! Eeek! I was complaining chatting with a friend the other day about the craziness of this month, and she smiled at me and said, "Just wait until you have three!"

Ohhhhhh.


So, on that front, I haven't posted much lately because we are in one of many waiting periods. For those of you who read my little blog here primarily for the adoption journey, there will be lots of lulls. Long ones. Because there is a lot of waiting in adoption. Some of the waiting is due to things that are in our control, but the majority of the waiting is due to things that are totally outside of our control. Right now, we are waiting on our 797 (immigration) approval from the Department of Homeland Security. Great timing on our part, huh? I'm not sure our immigration approval is real high on their priority list at this point...because, you know, ISIS and all. Our agency says a typical approval takes roughly 90 days, but I'm not sure they took into account the whole global terrorism situation we are dealing with when sharing that estimate with me. I'm hopeful that we will get our approval by the end of January and get our dossier to China in February, but time will tell. 

 

People ask us constantly, "What is going on with your adoption?" It's hard to keep saying that we are simply waiting for more approvals, but that's the reality of adoption. It's just a long process with lots of i's to dot and t's to cross. Inter-country adoption takes even longer because there are two government entities that both have to approve the adoption, so, here we are, just waiting. The waiting is hard and frustrating at times, especially for a control freak like me, but it's refining at the same time. I'm learning to trust that God's timing is better than my own, and I am doing my best to enjoy the goodness of this holiday season with my two biological kiddos.

It's a strange thing that happens to your heart, though, when you know you have a child waiting for you on the other side of the world. There is a baby that I've never seen, never touched, and haven't named yet that will one day soon call me "mommy." It's hard to focus on the here and now with that kind of realization weighing on me. I find myself wondering what he's doing at various points in the day. Is he asleep? Is he crying? Is someone comforting him? Is he walking yet? How many hugs and kisses has he received today? 

Those unknowns are part of this process. Part of the waiting.


So, we wait. We pray that our child is covered in hugs and kisses and love every day, and we do our best to focus on Carter and Kate. As hard as it is to be present with so much going on, they need that. They deserve it. So, we load up for another trip to Hobby Lobby for, yes, another ornament exchange, we buy ANOTHER glittery reindeer, put another marker on the advent tree, and we continue to wait.

If you find yourself in a "waiting" period like us, I want to encourage you to focus on the present. Maybe you're waiting for that positive pregnancy test or waiting for your baby to finally outgrow the colic or waiting on that job offer that would better provide for your family. Whatever "waiting" period you find yourself in, just remember that you are in a season. And seasons change. The beauty of spring always breaks after a tough winter...but the winter is necessary. Hard, but necessary.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..." Ecc 3:1

That is December.
Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up


We had an absolutely perfect day with our sweet family today. I hosted, and I'm not one to brag, but not only did I not kill anyone with food poisoning, but the house is still standing and semi-clean, too! ;) It's a Turkey Day miracle!

I scrolled through my Facebook first thing this morning and saw all you fit people out running Turkey Trots, so I decided to get my morning workout in by banging the Pillsbury can against the kitchen counter EXTRA hard before throwing those suckers in the oven. I mean, that definitely burned at LEAST two calories...so I ate two cinnamon rolls before tackling the turkey. :) Sorry, not sorry. 

These two didn't mind my workout of the day either.

And then...this sucker met its demise in the oven.

After getting everyone cleaned up, we recruited my parents to take a few family pics outside because I totally blanked on booking family pics this year. (Is adoption brain a thing? It's kind of like preggo-brain...except not?) 

This girl was ready for her close-up. 
 Carter's face...he's all, "Get me outta here!"
 My tiny beauty.
 Stud muffin!
 So blessed. So SO blessed.
 Blake checked went to gather up the boys' fishing gear for a trip up to the pond, and I took the opportunity to snag a few pics with my kiddos. I somehow NEVER make it into the pics, so I had to take the opportunity!
 Love these two!

At this point, ten more people descended on the house and fun family chaos ensued for about six hours. For some strange reason, I could never get the adults to pose for me, but the kids' table was willing to give me a cheese before diving into the meal!

And then, we feasted! Such an amazing spread!

We had an absolutely perfect day...the kids were asleep in their beds at 7pm, and we are feeling so incredibly thankful and blessed by all we've been given this year. God is good...all the time! We are so grateful for a wonderful family day and hopeful that next year there will be a sixth little booty at that kids' table! :) 
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month: A Male Perspective


Today, I'm changing it up around here. Over the last few months, I have received DOZENS of questions related to how I "convinced" my husband to adopt. I have heard from so many women who have such a strong desire to join in caring for orphans, but they just can't seem to get their husbands on board. The reasons for this include everything from the cost to adopt to concerns about becoming a trans-racial to family to concerns that the love will not come as naturally for the adopted child as it did for biological ones. So, I posed these questions to my husband, and here were his responses...

1)   How did you come to the decision that you wanted to grow our family through adoption? 

It was a slow process really, by our family's standards. We are typically very quick to make a decision, but not this time. For quite a while leading up to our final decision, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that something wasn’t complete in my life and in our family. I have always struggled with how I can make a difference, other than just providing for my family, but I wasn’t sure what that meant quite yet. That is when I believe God intervened through our pastor at Hope Fellowship, John McKinzie, through a sermon based on the story of Nehemiah last winter. Part of this sermon really struck a chord with me. To sum it up, he asked us to consider, “What breaks your heart, and what are you going to do about it?” I really wrestled with this question for a few days, but the answer that I ultimately settled on was children without a permanent home break my heart. I shared this with my wife and, ironically enough, she was being tugged in the same direction. After many, many months of discussion, thought, and prayer, the rest is history.

Link to sermon here: https://vimeo.com/119659809


2) What experience did you have with adoption prior to our family beginning the process? 

My father was adopted through Gladney as an infant. Had it not been for his Mom and Dad taking that leap of faith, there is no telling how his life would have turned out. Maybe someone else would have adopted him, maybe he would have spent his life being bounced from foster home to foster home, who knows. But I do know that his parents made the selfless decision to adopt him and take him as their child, and that decision forever changed his life and the lives of so many others, myself included.  


3) What would you say to someone who believes you won't be able to love a child that is not your own blood as much as your biological kids? 

My belief on that is that blood isn’t a prerequisite for someone to be family. I have friends in my life that I would consider family. Is a step-son or daughter not “family” to the non-blood parent? Absolutely not; they are a family. My dad may not have been born to his parents, but he was completely loved and completely "theirs."



4) How did you come to terms with the financial obligations of the adoption process? 

This one was surprisingly not as hard for me as one would think. Being the sole provider for a family of four, you would think that I would have had a really hard time with trying to come up with $35,000 in about a year’s time. But for some reason that I can’t explain, I have just had this peace that God will provide and we will make it happen. Sure enough, through our saving, selling of various things around the house that we don't need, fundraising, and the generosity of some friends and family through Paypal donations, we have come a long way in a short time. We still have a ways to go, but I am confident that we will be able to make it happen. We still may have to apply for some adoptions grants and, worst case, an adoption loan to finalize our costs, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. If the finances are the only thing holding you back, don't let it!




5) What advice would you give couples who are just beginning to discuss this option for their own family?

Make sure you are both on the same page about the process. Understand that it is not going to be easy, but not insurmountable either. Start the process of saving and fundraising as soon as you have made the final decision. Research domestic vs. international, talk to as many people as you can about their adoption experiences, and speak to as many adoption agencies as you can. You are going to be dealing with the agency often, so you want to make sure you are compatible and that they are going to meet your expectations and needs. We researched dozens of agencies, and I think we spoke to at least five or six when we were looking. We are so glad we did because it wasn’t until we interviewed the last agency that we knew we had the right one, Holt International. And lastly, pray! A LOT!


I am so thankful and grateful to my sweet husband for contributing and answering his side of this story, and I am even more grateful to God for bringing us to this decision TOGETHER and in His perfect timing. If I can offer my one little piece of advice to wives feeling alone in their desire to adopt, put it in the hands of someone bigger than yourself. Hand it over to God, pray about it, and if it is in His plan for you to walk this path, you won't have to arm-twist and nag and plead with your husband to agree to it. Quite frankly, the last thing an orphaned child needs is a home where he or she is not 100% completely and totally wanted by BOTH parents.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Get those stretchy Thanksgiving pants out and FEAST! :)  
Friday, November 20, 2015

Oh, Happy Friday! [Adoption Update]


Happy Friday, friends!

So, remember that time I thought we were home study approved? Yeah, so we technically were not yet. This actually IS my first rodeo in the adoption world, and I misunderstood our social worker when she told me that "this part was done" in her email. What she actually meant was HER part was done...but this is international adoption, and if I've learned anything in the past several months, I've learned that there are always MULTIPLE approvals that have to happen for every single step, so were not in fact home study approved then. We were a few approvals shy...

But, as of Tuesday, we are NOW approved. For real this time. ;) So, let's celebrate again! We should be receiving the actual report from our social services agency any day, and then we can mail in our immigration approval. That should take somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks to get back, and that'll be the final piece to our dossier puzzle. I have my fingers crossed that our dossier will be sent to China sometime in January, but that depends on how quickly USCIS (aka the immigration people) give us our approval.

My life right now...this made me laugh. :)

The crazy thing about now having our "official" home study approval from Holt is that we've been added to their family list! This means we could get "the call" any day now to review a child's file! Because we are open on gender, we have been told our match could happen, at least unofficially within the next couple of months. (They say a "long" wait time to match a family who is open on gender is four months...) For those of you unfamiliar with the process, the adoption agencies do all of the matching and referrals for China adoptions; the government in China does not get involved at all until the agency and family have agreed to the match, so it's possible that we could submit our dossier to China already matched. EEEEK! SO exciting!

So, with that shared, I have a two prayer requests to share if you are the praying kind...

1) Financial Provision: I know, the icky part. :( If I'm going to paint an accurate description of the international adoption process for you here, there's just no way to sugarcoat this part of it. Typically a fee is involved with all of the exciting milestones that happen in the process, and we are being hit with some big ones right now. Would you continue to pray for us here? We are absolutely humbled by the generosity of those who want to see us grow, and we are blown away by the support we have received already. (Side note: A huge thank you to my brother and his wife who held a garage sale in our honor last weekend and to my amazing friend, Laurel, who is donating half of our Rodan + Fields proceeds to us from her November sales. If you are interested in trying her products, shop her website HERE.) 



2) Wisdom on Travel: After discussing travel with our social worker and several friends, we are really leaning toward taking the kids with us to China. Adoption is a family event, and we feel like we should go there and return as a family unit. We really feel like the transition for all three kids will be easier if everyone is included in the process...HOWEVER, that means flying all four of us there, bigger hotel rooms, AND flying all FIVE of us home. (I get an eye twitch just thinking about that part...) But, this child is getting a WHOLE family, not just a mommy and daddy, and I think Carter and Kate will feel less resentment if they experience the adoption with us. It's a huge decision, so prayers for wisdom and clarity here would be so appreciated.

Thanks for continuing to follow us in this journey. And stay tuned next week...I've gotten countless questions from friends about how I "convinced" my husband to adopt (spoiler alert: I didn't...), so I have asked him to share HIS side of this journey with you. I've done all of the talking up until this point, so it's about time you heard from HIM how we got here! :) 
  
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Life Lately: School Pictures and Letters to Santa

So, life lately has actually been fairly slow and, aside from the terrible twos being in FULL FORCE around here, not super stressful. (Side note: Am I wrong that girls in the terrible twos are SO. MUCH. WORSE. than boys?!! Holy drama, Batman! Somewhere my mom is laughing...) 


We are at a point in the adoption process where the powers that be are working on our behalf and we are simply waiting for things to get done on their end, so it's been nice to take a break from the "paper chase" for a bit and just enjoy some good family time. Yesterday, yes, on November 10th, my kids decided it was time to write letters to Santa.

Allow me to translate: "Dear Santa, Dirt Bike. Lobve, Carter"

I've been good...riiiiiiiight. ;)


Carter is at an age where he is CONSTANTLY asking me to spell things so he can write. He is DETERMINED to figure out reading and writing, and it is the most fun thing to watch. Kate is not pictured because, as mentioned above, TERRIBLE TWOS. She was upset because she couldn't write her own letters. She wanted to try so I handed her a crayon, and she screamed, "I can't!" So I offered to help...MELTDOWN. The struggle is real.

I walked out on my porch Monday afternoon to find this beauty...



The shirts came in and are SO CUTE!!!! We have heard from a few people who didn't get to order, so we may relaunch in the spring if anyone wants additional colors or missed out in October. It has been so fun to hand them out to all our amazing supporters! 

And, last, because PROUD MAMA, I had to share the school pictures we got to preview last week! I was so excited that the kiddos got to take a sibling pic, too. Melt my heart!





Quite a step up from Carter's infamous "hitchhiking" mug shot from two years ago...


For the love...

And lastly, don't forget to get your orders in to my friend Laurel before the end of the month if you want to give Rodan + Fields a try! 50% of her proceeds this month will go to our adoption fund. Thank you, Laurel! :) 

lkiehl1.myrandf.com

Happy Hump Day, friends!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month: Get Your Tissues Ready, Y'all...


Although I'm not technically an adoptive mom yet, I am in the process of becoming one, and in honor of Adoption Awareness month, I wanted to share with you the video above. I think this so perfectly describes the adoption process, the beauty and tragic loss that are both present in adoption, and the redemption that can come from that loss. This video was posted on an amazing China adoption blog that I read called "No Hands But Ours," and if you've got 36 minutes and a box of tissues handy, watch this amazing little girl's story. I can only pray that our little one will flourish the way sweet Lydia has. :) And if you are the praying kind, would you lift our family up this week? Lots going on over here that I won't go into detail about, but we would just covet your prayers for wisdom and peace. Thanks, and happy Monday, all! 


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