Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's In a Name?

What’s In A Name? Even if you’ve never seen it or read it, most likely you are familiar with the classic line from Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name?” In the play, Juliet is basically telling Romeo that it doesn’t matter what their names are as long as she can call him her beloved, that she is his and he is hers.

But names are important, and for most of us we’ve had only just the one name and maybe a nickname. This week, we found another source of information on Lily’s first few of months of life. After she was found, she was taken in by nurse caregivers in her city of Pingdingshan. Translating the post, they noted that she was very tiny and beautiful (still is!), but we discovered something new….they called her Elim. It means fine jade, jewel.

This made us realize that in just the 2-1/3 years (1017 days) between her birth and Gotcha Day, she has had 4 names. Her first name we will never know. This name was given to her by her birth parents. Was it whispered in her ear as she was left at the hospital knowing they wouldn't see her again? Is there a mother in China who looks at the same moon we do and wonders about her daughter? Her first name is one of her first losses.

Little "Elim" when she was found by the nurses at the local hospital

She was taken into care in late December 2010, and that is where she was called Elim by the nurses, a little jewel left at one of the hospitals in Pingdingshan.  But, she wasn’t there long before she would be sent to Angel House in Beijing. Another name lost…

At some point between Pingdingshan and Angel House she was given a new name.: Li Meng Di (Meng - dream, Di - to teach, to follow, and Li is a generic surname). Meng Di was roughly 4 or 5 months old when she arrived to Angel House. She stayed at Angel House, affectionately earning the nickname of "Jumping Beans" (Doh Doh) because of her spunk and energy.  At some point during her stay, apparently she was in a foster family who wanted to adopt her, but could not afford too. The paperwork history is sketchy for us to get a good handle on that part of her life. Regardless, here was yet another loss of someone who cared for her.  
Then, January 2013 came along. We were then matched with her and blessed to get her in August. As part of her adoption, we changed her name to Lily-Mei Claire Mengdi Steinberg. This was her fourth and final name change, until she marries! We felt it was important to keep the only Chinese name we knew as part of her current name, hence Mengdi as a middle name, but she now she goes by Lily (or the full Lily-Mei if she's being a stinker!). She picked up on her new name very quickly and calls herself Lily.
One of the referral pictures of Li Meng Di
Lily in July, approximately a month before she joined our family

When she sees pictures of her time in Angel House, she can get sad. Her fourth name represents another loss for her. This little one averaged a new name every 8.5 months. It breaks our hearts to think of all of the loss she has experienced in such a short time; so many changes for such a young one to go through and everyone of her names symbolic of those changes. Out of all of that, we can echo the same sentiment expressed by Juliet, because through all of those names what truly matters is that we get to call her ours and she can rest from those changes and forever call us Mommy and Daddy.
The many faces of Lily-Mei since she has been home with her forever family

Our God loves to take messy things and make them clean, to take the broken and make them whole, and to fill up the empty. He crafts life from our mistakes and, if we let Him creates beauty from ashes. We are so blessed to have her (and all of our kids) in our lives, through smooth times and rough, and to have friends who care about our story.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The First Two Months

Things have been a wee bit busy in the last few months! In addition to all the general life activities with 6 children, four of whom are in school and have their own activities going on, we've had all of the different appointments and testing for Lily and getting back into the swing of work. Free time has been a bit short in supply, so updates on this blog are one of the first casualties!

So far, Lily seems to be adjusting extremely well.  The first few weeks at home felt a bit rough, but things have gone amazingly better once we found a good routine. Lily sleeps extremely well and doesn't wake up at night at all. She naps well. She's potty trained during the day. She doesn't eat or drink as well as we would like and is very resistant to trying new foods, but she is getting better about that. She seems to be bonding/attaching super well and likes to keep track of Dad and Mom at all times. She is also very caring and doesn't like to see anyone upset or hurt.  She is super smart and figures things out very quickly, which can be both good and bad, depending on what she is getting into!! =)

Through all of her medical testing, we have so far learned that Lily might have a growth hormone deficiency, so are waiting to hear back from Riley Hospital Endocrinology about what they think we should do (watchful waiting, more workup, injections, etc.).  She hasn't grown since she's been home and is still a "whopping" 23 pounds, but she is healthy.  We were surprised and glad to find out she did not have malnutrition. She did test positive for giardia, but was treated for that successfully. An important piece of cardiac testing will be done on 10/26 by a pediatric cardiologist from Chicago. On that day, Lily will have an echocardiogram to get a good look at her heart structure. We are hoping that whatever problem she had with her heart (which was extremely vague on all of her paperwork thus far) is not an issue any longer. Either way, we will be glad to know for sure what is going on there. Yesterday was her first visit to Shriners Hospital in Chicago for the palate. The surgeon said she can be scheduled for surgery as soon as she has cardiac clearance and clearance from her other doctors, so hopefully we can find out in the next few weeks that she is fit for surgery.

At one point in time, we had read that Lily wasn't speaking. If that was the case earlier in the year, it definitely isn't the case now. She is soaking up English like a sponge and talks a LOT, though because of her open palate she is very hard to understand at times. She can't say most consonant sounds, so her words sound pretty mushy most of the time. She is able to say small sentences fairly easily, like "Mamma is tired"(wonder where she hears that one!) or "I see Sophie." More words than that and you just can't really understand her. She does love learning animal names and the sounds they make, so we hear a lot of "Cow, moo moo!" and stuff like that. She also loves seeing the farming equiment now that it is the harvest season, so we hear about tractors a lot from her. Her favorite song right now is "Tractor, Tractor," so I think that factors into it!

As part of her initial evaluation at Shriners, she saw the speech pathologist. She showed us this really neat trick to help Lily build up pressure to say some consonant sounds. If we pinch her nose, she can actually pronounce P's, B's, etc. We are very excited to learn how to do that. Lily, however, is less than thrilled about trying to practice it. She's a pretty stubborn little gal, so hopefully it won't become a power struggle! The plan is to get her into speech therapy locally before her palate repair, then take a break for a little bit while she heals after surgery before starting back up with her new and improved palate. We are eager to have Lily learn ways to pronounce words better...she has so much to say and we would love for everyone to understand her!

Here are a few pictures from the past month or so:

All of the kiddos!  From left to right, Christopher-Ryan (12), Alex (15), Lily (almost 3!), Lyriel (11), Keira (8), and Sophie (4).

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Long Overdue Post

First of all, our apologies for not updating this sooner.  We didn't realize our Blogger account wouldn't let us access it from the iPad while we were in China.  We had left the laptop at home so we could Skype with all the big kids at home.  We have been home from our long trip for a week now, but we have been busy with all of the adjustments of having a new child, so haven't had a lot of time to post an update either.  Right now, I'm trying to put something together while Lily is taking a nap.

China was great!  We were amazed at all the wonderful people we met and how gracious they treated us.  Sophie was like a celebrity there, and people kept stopping us and asking if they could take pictures of her.  Most of the time she was happy to comply, but it got a bit old by the end of the trip when we were just ready to be home!
Monday August 12th was Gotcha Day.  The nannies from Lily's orphanage brought her to us dressed to the nines!
It was obvious when we visited her orphanage on the previous Friday that Lily was very loved by her caregivers.  We felt really bad on Gotcha Day as one of them ran from the room sobbing as she left Lily with us.   The 13th was considered Adoption Day, the day when the adoption is actually official.  Sadly, one of the adoptive families we met in China (not from our agency) refused their daughter before their Adoption Day and the little girl was returned to her orphanage.   
For the rest of our time in China, we were busy with lots of paperwork, appointments, and basically starting the bonding and attachment process.  It was extremely hot while we were in Zhengzhou (like record heat for them, 110 degree heat index), so it really limited the activities we could do with the girls outside.  Once in Guangzhou, the heat was a little bit less and we were able to go on more outings, like to the local zoo. 
We quickly found out that Lily is a very caring and nurturing little gal.  She helped with the babies and kids that had mobility problems at her orphanage, and it was very apparent that she was used to doing a lot of things that 2-year-olds normally don't know how to do.  She is still pretty independent, but is getting a lot better at letting us do more things for her.  She is also extremely smart, and it doesn't take her long to figure things out for herself.  Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes not so much!
We finally arrived home a little past midnight on Saturday 8/24 after traveling around 30 hours.  While we were extremely happy to be home, Lily was in totally foreign surroundings and was very, very scared.  It has taken most of this past week to help her feel more comfortable in her new home.  She is still scared of our dogs, but is getting braver on that front and actually fed our pug a Cheerio this morning before running back to her Dad's safe arms!  She loves all the kids, especially Keira and Sophie.  She is starting to feel comfortable enough here that she will actually play in her room with the girls without one of us being in the room with them.
There have been some sleep issues, but those are getting better.  She still won't go to sleep without me being in the room pretending to sleep.  That has been kind of frustrating.  One night for bedtime, it took an hour and a half before I could duck out of the room.  The past few nights have taken very much less time.  Naptime has been a bit easier, though she hasn't been sleeping very long for naps, certainly not as much as she needs to!
We had heard that it is pretty tough when you bring your new child home, and believe me, that is the truth.  The bonding and attaching process is hard, not only for the child, but for the parents.  It really does take time to build all of that up, and it gets frustrating sometimes.  It doesn't help when you're all having major jet lag and there is a language barrier, either!  Some struggles we know have been because she isn't understanding what we're trying to do and vice versa.  We can't use Google Translate to figure out what she's trying to tell us because of her open palate and unclear speech, so we kind of have to guess on a lot of things.
There has also been a whole lot more sibling rivalry than we ever expected on Sophie's part.  We figured there would be some, but not to the degree it has been.  Things are a little bit better and Lily absolutely loves her "Moshie," as she calls Sophie, but Sophie still has a really hard time sharing her things all the time, or us for that matter.  She still regresses sometimes in her behavior and will act little again, so we have to remind her that she is big.  That has been something that has been harder to deal with than anticipated, and it makes me sad that Sophie would feel that way.  Everyone says that time will help with that.
We started Lily's medical workup this past week.  Our pediatrician is ordering a ton of lab work and studies in anticipation of Lily's upcoming appointment at the Riley Hospital International Adoption Clinic on September 11.  She will also see a pediatric cardiologist to help figure out the extent of her heart problem.  She doesn't have a heart murmur, but we have picked up a definite arrhythmia at times.  It will be interesting to see what is going on there.  Her heart problem is what caused doctors in China to not repair her palate, so hopefully soon we will have some answers on the cardiac front and can pursue palate repair for her.
Well, I think that's it in a nutshell for now.  It has taken me a few hours to actually get this typed out as she woke up shortly after I started typing! 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It Started With the Girl at the Water Park....

Tomorrow's the big day.  We're just about ready to leave on a trip that I honestly never imagined making.  It's crazy how you think you have things pretty well figured out in life, the things that you're supposed to do, the things that everybody just does, and along comes a divine twist in the plot that changes the course of everything.  These changes in course set by our Captain usually take us way outside of the boundaries of what we have determined as safe or sane.  They often don't make much sense at the time, but when the big picture is finally revealed, the result is breathtakingly beautiful.

For those of you who don't really know us, we're just regular people.  There is nothing outstanding or special about our family, and we're okay with that.  I think that's what makes all of this even more special.  If God can have such an amazing plan for our regular family, what kinds of things does He want to do in your life?  Seriously, we're not even "treasures in jars of clay"...we're more like melamine mugs.  That way, He can get ALL of the glory for this! =)

A year ago today, we had taken the kids down to Lafayette for a little day trip to the free zoo there and the waterpark right next door.  We were having a really fun, relaxed time that day, just totally enjoying the warm summer weather and each other's company, when God came and changed everything in the space of a second.  As I was walking along, a little Asian girl caught my eye.  She was staring at me, not like little kids normally stare at people, but really intensely.  In that moment, the thought came, "You have a daughter waiting for you in China."  Of course, that was pure craziness (especially since I'm pretty sure the girl wasn't even Chinese), but the thought kept coming back to me.  I mentioned it to David and couldn't believe it when he wasn't surprised by that idea and was actually accepting of it.

Now, we always thought adoption was a great thing and were amazed by the people who adopted children, but we figured there was no way we could adopt as we didn't think we met any of the qualifications.  For one thing, everyone knows that international adoption is really expensive.  With our available resources, there was no way we could ever afford to do that.  Besides that, we already had 5 children....there had to be rules about how many kids you could have to be able to adopt.  However, that thought kept coming back to us that there was a daughter waiting for us in China, so we decided to go with that and at least check out the eligibility requirements.  To our amazement, we totally fell within the guidelines, so we couldn't use that as an excuse not to move forward.  Now, we just had the excuse of we didn't have the funding to pay all of the fees.  That's a good excuse, right?  There was just no way we could do this....

We prayed about this.  We talked to other adoptive families about this.  We researched about this.  We could NOT get away from this at all.  It ended up boiling down to an issue of trust.  If we believed God was telling us to adopt from China, wouldn't He work out all of the funding?  Theoretically, yes.  Practically, were we willing to actually move forward with something this big and have it all blow up in our face if He didn't work it out?  Could we really, truly trust Him with this?  As He kept bringing confirmation after confirmation that this was indeed what we were supposed to do, we took the leap and started the process.  We weren't really sure how it was all going to turn out, but we knew at least we were being obedient to what He had called us to do.

As a bit of an aside, there are rules about what kind of children you are eligible to adopt based on family size.  China has 2 different programs for adoption:  Non-Special-Needs and Waiting Child.  The NSN program is for healthy children.  There are families who have started the process for a NSN child back in 2006/2007 that are still waiting for a child match as there are very limited numbers of healthy children.  Conversely, there are so many, too many, children on the Waiting Child list.  These are children with some kind of identified special need or medical problem.  Because of our family size, we only qualified to adopt from the Waiting Child list.  That was really a non-issue, but when you put in your application, they require you to fill out a Medical Conditions Checklist.  This is where you indicate what needs you would accept, what needs you wouldn't, what you might consider, and whether or not you would be open to accepting a child with more than one concurrent condition .  From the beginning, there were 2 conditions that stood out to us that we were extremely open to:  Heart problems and cleft lip/palate.  There were several others that we were open to as well, some even a bit scary to us, but David said from the beginning he thought our daughter would have one of those two medical conditions.

Ok...fast forward to January when we received Lily's referral packet.  She was considered Special Focus (which we didn't know until later), which is the status reserved for children with more severe special needs, multiple special needs, or children that have been waiting longer that usual.  Special Focus adoptions usually go a bit quicker as they are the children that are harder to place.  She has congenital heart disease and unrepaired cleft palate concurrently, along with a possible growth abnormality.  Crazy how David was right!  Each child's referral packet contains their medical records, testing, etc., and Lily's was no different.  She had heart scans, ultrasound reports, labs, and other things.  One interesting piece of documentation was a hospital discharge summary.  Lily had been in the hospital around the same time that God impressed on our hearts that we had a daughter waiting for us in China.  The report wasn't exactly clear why she was in the hospital, but she was there.  We have found out from other families and resources that usually when kids in China from orphanages or institutions have a hospital stay, they are left there in the hospital alone due to limited staffing.  There simply aren't enough people at the facilities to be able to spare staff to stay with the sick children, so we are assuming that Lily was there by herself during those days.  Again, it is amazing how God works out the timing of these kinds of things!

Now, 1 year after this idea was impressed on our hearts, we are just days away from meeting our beautiful new daughter that we never in a million years would have imagined otherwise.  It has been a crazy ride so far, and we know that is just the tip of the iceberg!  We have prepared as much as we can for all of the grief, joy, loss, gain, fear, and beauty that is coming our way, though I don't think anyone can really truly be prepared.  We're just ready to go......
We're coming for you soon!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beginnings and Endings

In late December 2010, in a town nestled in the heart of the cradle of Chinese civilization, a baby girl was found on the steps of the local hospital's surgery deparment.  She was estimated to be 2 months old at the time she was found and was in need of medical treatment for some congenital problems.

Per protocol on finding abandoned children, a search was made for the baby girl's parents and a finding ad was taken out in the local newspaper, but no one came forward to claim her.  After spending time in a local orphanage, she was sent to a different province to a foster care facility.  She received good care at this facility by some amazing people, but even the best orphanage or foster facility can never adequately replace a child's parents.

In January 2013, we received the referral of this beautiful little lady, Li Meng Di.  After praying about her, God made it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt this was our daughter.  We pushed to get our paperwork finished as soon as possible so we could one day be able to bring her home.  It seemed like it would be forever before that day would come.  While we were waiting, our little daughter grew....

and grew....

Sometimes before new beginnings, there has to be endings.  That is where we're all at right now.  Our paper journey is coming to an end, as well as our daughter's time without a family.  This week, China granted us approval to travel.  That was the last huge step we were waiting for.  In less than 3 weeks, on 8/7, we will be on a plane going to China to meet and adopt this beautiful little gal with whom we have been so head-over-heels over for the past 8 months.  Li Meng Di will soon officially be Lily-Mei Claire MengDi Steinberg, and she will finally have her new beginning. 

Please pray for Lily-Mei as we prepare to travel to get her.  We are taking her away from everything she's ever known, and she is going to be grieving for a while.  We will have almost 3 weeks of living out of hotel rooms and no real stability at first.  Once we get home, she'll have lots of medical appointments, tests, blood work, etc., to endure, so that's not fun for anyone.  Plus, there will be the language barrier for a while and us trying to figure out what things she can and can't eat well with her open palate.  On top of that, she will have all these new siblings to deal with.  All of that's enough to want to make anyone cry! 

Thank you for following along on our journey to bring Lily-Mei home to her forever family.  We are so glad to be able to shift gears from the adoption process to the person.  The process and paperwork take up so much of our time and attention that sometimes it's easy to get discouraged, but now that we are almost done, it is easier to keep sight that the whole thing is about something so much bigger than paperwork and dates.  Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption.  As Christians, God has adopted us, brought us into His forever family.  He gave everything for us.  We are so humbled and amazed that He would do that for us! 

We are so thankful that He would let us have a little picture of that in our life as we bring Lily into her new forever family with us and shower her with love and grace, just as He showers love and grace on us!  Amazing!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Home Stretch

We received notification this morning from the US Consulate in Guangzhou that our Article 5 (Lily's visa application) has been completed and picked up by our agency.  They in turn will now express mail our paperwork back to the CCCWA (the China Welfare office) so that they can issue our travel approval.  This step has been taking anywhere from 8 days to 4 weeks.  With the consulate moving after next week, we are praying for a very short wait for TA so that our agency can get our consulate appointment scheduled before the consulate closes down for the move.  If our TA can come before 7/12, our appointment can hopefully be set up and we can start preparing to fly!  If not, then we wait until 7/24 or after for our agency to schedule the appointment.  Regardless, we are now in the home stretch and can barely wait!

We received word on Friday that we were turned down for the Gift of Adoption Grant; however, we did receive a grant from the Feng Li Li Foundation to help with our adoption fees.  We are so thankful for that, especially since this is a fantastic organization.  One of the ways they raise grant money for families is through concerts by the beautiful Laura Valentine.  We were honored that she was willing to perform on behalf of Lily.  Please check out her story and testimony....it is absolutely wonderful!


We are so humbled and amazed at this journey God has brought us on and pray that He gets all the glory! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Last night I dreamt we were in China.  As I have never been there before, I know it wasn't a very realistic dream, but it felt so real.  We even ordered Starbucks (now I know it was a dream!) and Sophie was with us.  What made the dream good and bad at the same time is that Lily was with us...we were holding her and playing with her, and she seemed so very, very real.  How in the world can you miss someone so much when you have never met them?  We miss her like crazy, and even the thought that we hopefully will be traveling to her in possibly 6 weeks doesn't make it better.  It really should....I mean, 6 weeks isn't that long, but at this point in the process, it just feels like an eternity!  We are so over the waiting and just ready to bring her home.  We have had friends who waited at least twice as long as we have waited with their whole adoption process, and I honestly don't know how they were able to keep sane!  (You know who you are and we love you all very much, but seriously, I don't know how you could seem so calm all the time!!)

In the meantime, we're waiting for our Article 5 to be picked up.  It should be picked up on July 2.  Of course, we were kinda hoping they consulate would speed up their processing time since they know they are closing in a few weeks for their move and have to get everything done before that.  Once our A5 has been picked up, then the paperwork is sent to Beijing for issuing of our travel approval.  It had been taking up to 4 weeks for TAs to be issued since the CCCWA had changed over their computer system, but I saw earlier this week that they are starting to come through much quicker now, even in as little as 8 days.  We are praying/hoping that we get a quick one like that!  If our TA can come before 7/12, our agency can possibly get our consulate appointment scheduled before the big move.  That would be fantastic as then hopefully we could get a CA sometime in early to mid August, plus it might give us a bit more time to make all of our travel preparations.  If TA comes after 7/12, our agency will have to wait until 7/24 or after to contact the consulate to make our appointment, along with all of the other families that have had TA issued during the closure.  If that is the case, I would imagine there would be a backlog and probably a longer wait, or it could mean that we'd get a travel group leaving quickly and have a lot less time to prepare.  Either way, we are just so ready to get this show on the road!!

We are also still waiting to hear about the Gift of Adoption grant.  We received notification that we were up for review after 6/17.  From what I read on their website, they notify families of their decision within 48 hours of review.  We are really praying/hoping for good news from them as we are still short on our funding.  On top of that, we are going to be traveling apparently during peak season, so all of the airline prices have gone way up now.  In any case, we know that God will provide for whatever is still needed.  He has been so very faithful in taking care of us through everything, and it just amazes us to see how far He has brought our family and what He has been teaching us.

Thank you all so much for keeping our family in your prayers.

Lily looks like one determined little girl, doesn't she?

Monday, June 10, 2013

I-800 PA!

Homeland Security has been hearing from me lately....a lot!  We found out the US Consulate in Guangzhou will be closing down for a few weeks in July to move to a different building and have set a deadline of 7/5 for all paperwork to be turned in before the move.  Needless to say, we are wanting our paperwork to get in before the deadline to be processed.  We are ready to bring Lily home, and the thought of an extra delay did not float our boat!  So, even though I said I wouldn't call all the time and bug the National Benefits Center, who are the ones to process our I-800, I did.  I have become that hyper lady who does that.  I called almost every day checking to see if they had received our paperwork.  We kept hearing the bad news that it hadn't been received yet, it was still in processing, it hasn't made it to your officer yet, etc.  Finally, on Friday, I called just to ask the status again.  I figured if I didn't call on Friday, I would be stewing all weekend wondering about it.  Lo and behold, it had been approved earlier that day!  YAY!!!  I'm thinking all those prayers people are lifting up for us are working! =)  In any case, we were praising God that it went a bit quicker than we had been quoted earlier last week, though about the usual time for that step.

We are currently waiting for our paperwork to be delivered to the National Visa Center for processing....that is where the cable is generated.  We were told that the cable is generated 5-7 days after the I-800 PA is issued, but that you have to make sure to e-mail or call them and request that a copy of your cable letter be sent to you as a .pdf so that your agency can do the Article 5 drop-off quicker.  Since we are facing a deadline, you can bet your bloomers that I'll be e-mailing them on a regular basis until we hear something, especially since our agency suggested we start e-mailing them a few days earlier than usual so we hopefully squeeze in before the consulate closure.  I'm ready.....the e-mail is already composed and saved in my drafts to send to the NVC tomorrow! 

In the meantime, our sweetie awaits!  We are thankful she finally received the care package we sent in February, so now she can get used to the fact that she has a family waiting for her and can get acquainted with our pictures.  We certainly have fallen in love with her!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another update

I know....it's crazy.  Two updates in the same day!  I don't know what has gotten into us.....  =)

We posted this info on our Facebook adoption page, so wanted to repost it here for all of our friends who are not on Facebook.  This kind of breaks down the next steps in our journey, which honestly I need to see it written out because it can be kind of confusing!!

Our signed LOA and Immigration paperwork arrived at our agency yesterday, and they overnighted our immigration paperwork to USCIS the same day! Here is a picture of what happens next and the time frames:
1. I-800 Provisional Approval (I-800 PA) comes via USPS 2-4 weeks after filing. Once UCSIS enters the paperwork that was overnighted to them yesterday, the clock starts ticking on this one!!
2. Then, the NVC Letter (Titled “Bureau Of Consular Affairs”) will arrive via USPS or via e-mail 5-7 days after I-800 PA is issued.
3. After the NVC letter is sent from us to our agency, CCAI reps will deliver Lily's visa application and other documents to the US Consulate In Guangzhou, China, for processing.
4. Next, Article 5 is issued (U.S. Central Authority’s approval for Hague adoptions), which is express-mailed to Beijing & delivered to the CCCWA 2 weeks after documents are delivered.
5. China will next issue TA (Travel Approval), which is received by CCAI 2-4 weeks after Article 5 is received by CCCWA. This has been running on the longer side lately, mostly in the 4-week range. Once it comes though, there will be great joy! =)
6. Finally, our agency will work with us to plan our trip to China, which will be 10-21 days after Travel Approval is received!!

We are sending out both the paperwork for our visas to the Chinese consulate courier in Chicago and Lily's visa application to our agency today. By the end of June, our agency will wire transfer the child-rearing orphanage fee to China. This fee itself is roughly $5,800 and is a "donation/contribution" required by China to help the orphanage for raising the child.  The funds from the garage sale next week will go to making hopefully a bit of a dent in that.  =)

So there you have it!  We'll try to do a better job of updating our info, especially as we get closer to travel! =)



As usual, it has been quite a while since we have posted anything.  Most of the time since our last post, we have been waiting.  Our dossier made it to China in the beginning of April, and after that was the wait for approval.  After 41 days of waiting, we received word this week that our LOA (letter of acceptance) had come!  Honestly, we didn't have to wait as long as a lot of people, but that is probably a good thing because we stink at waiting.  We are much happier being involved and doing things with the process, which is good because after LOA is quite a bit of paperwork.  =)  As of now, our immigration paperwork for Lily is en route to the National Benefits Center, our visa applications are ready to be mailed to the courier, and Lily's visa application is ready to be returned to our agency for processing.  Having to put her American name on official forms is really making it real!  With the timeline our agency sent us last night, we're looking at perhaps 12 more weeks before we can travel, depending on how quickly all of our paperwork can be processed by the various entities involved.  Not much longer!!

In the meantime, we've been gearing up for our huge garage sale on May 31 and June 1.  Our good friends, the VanderMeers, are graciously letting us hold it at their house since they live in a subdivision in town and not out in the country like we do.  All proceeds go to adoption fees.  We have quite a large chunk that needs to be paid by the end of June, so the sale is coming at a good time!  Here is a link to the sale details:

Also, the Walk-4-Orphans went well in early May.  We are very, very thankful for those who walked for our family or donated to us!  The Walk brought in enough funds for our family to pay the fees that were due at the time of LOA, so we weren't delayed in getting our immigration paperwork filed!  It also helped as we have not had the best success with grants.  Out of 7 grants that we applied for, we really only have 1 that is still a chance for us.  We were turned down for 4 grants, 1 grant suspended applications shortly after we sent ours in due to lack of funds, and 1 more we found only meets once a year in October to award grants, so that is too late.  We will be under review for this last grant in the first few weeks of June, so we are hoping that maybe we'll hear some good news from them.  Either way, God has been so faithful through this whole process in providing what we need exactly when we need it, so He'll provide regardless!

We are very excited to be moving along in the process and can barely wait to bring our beautiful Lily-Mei home.  Here is her passport picture that we were blessed with last week.....isn't she sweet??

Again, thank you for all of the prayers!  We certainly have needed them and will continue to!

Kathie =)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Those Crazy Letters - Adoption Acronyms

Acronyms. This whole adoption world is full of them. When we first started researching the adoption process, my head absolutely swam in the sea of acronyms. I had no idea what people were talking about on the adoption boards when referring to DTC, LOA, LID, TA, OOT, etc. I do remember thinking that everyone sounded very official and like they knew what they were talking about! What I would come to realize is that it's just a whole lot easier to use the acronyms than type everything out 50 zillion times, because I have learned that adoptive parents are pretty much obsessively nuts (totally in a good way, though...can we say blog stalking, anyone?)!

Today we are DTC, or “dossier to China.” For those of you who aren't familiar with what a dossier is, it is basically our whole lives in paper form. Seriously. Everything about us, from finances, to criminal history, to family of origin, to health status, birth certificates, etc., is summed up in paperwork. It includes our home study, physical exams, background checks, reference letters, employment letters, and many other things. We started working on our dossier in September. When our agency sent us the Dossier Reference Guide and we printed it off, I wanted to cry. Actually, I probably did! The whole thing seemed so huge and daunting (which was my most used word for literally months!), and I just couldn't imagine wading through all of the paperwork to get the whole thing done. Part of the kicker with the dossier is that, not only do you have actually get the paperwork done, then it needs to all be notarized, then certified by the state the notary lives in, then authenticated at the Chinese consulate that serves that state. Needless to say, I have come to love our local post office employees because we visited them so often to overnight documents for certification and authentication many times! Anyway, after six months of working on this paper snapshot of our lives, it is finally done, critically reviewed by our agency, and now on its merry way to China!!

The next step in our acronym path is LID, or “log in date.” This is the date that our dossier is logged into the China system. It doesn't seem like it should be that big of a deal, but it is. There are many children that families aren't eligible to petition for unless they are LID. These children usually are the ones with more minor special needs. Lily-Mei is considered “Special Focus” because of the complexity of her medical problems and the fact that she has medical problems that may affect her lifelong. Since Special Focus children have a harder time being adopted, families are able to be matched with them prior to being DTC or LID to help these children find a home. Also, if you adopt a Special Focus child, you may also adopt an LID-only child as well and bring home two children.

The next milestone after LID is OOT, or “out of translation.” I'm not really sure how significant that is as far as a milestone, but they really can't do much with your dossier information if they can't read it, so it is something that people keep track of. Being a bit obsessive, I'll probably be counting the days once we are OOT until the next milestone. I figure, really, how long does it take for a few people to read a file, determine that we're not that horrible, and grant us the next acronym? =)

The acronym that is one of the 3 biggies is LOA, or “letter of acceptance (or approval).” This means that China has accepted you to be the family of the child you have petitioned for. We have pre-approval on Lily-Mei, which is supposed to expedite our review process to between 1-2 months, but we have known several families with pre-approval that have waited 3-4 months or longer for their LOA. Once you receive LOA, you are able to, as quickly as humanly possible, get the immigration paperwork filled out specifically for that child so they can be brought into the US as your child. For your dossier to be complete, you have to have generic immigration approval, but now is the time to get their name and vital information filed with USCIS. Once that is done, then the wait begins for the next, and most exciting acronym....

TA, or “travel approval” is your invitation from China to come and pick up your child. You can't just go to China...you have to wait for them to “invite” you. When you travel depends on your appointment with the embassy there to finalize the adoption process. TA is one of the most exciting acronyms in the Chinese adoption lingo as it means your next step is actually being united with the child you've been so eager to meet over these long, long months of waiting!!

At this point in time, while we still have a bit of a ways to go yet, we ask that you would keep our family in prayer for a few specific things:
  1. We really need wisdom as we still have some important decisions to make. We want to stay in God's perfect will and follow His leading. Sometimes we're led to do things that might not make a lot of sense or be really scary because those things take us out of our comfort zone...sometimes way out! We desire very clear direction in a few areas, so please pray that He will let us know without a doubt what we are supposed to do.
  2. There will be an adjustment time after coming home. We just really pray that Lily will bond well with our family and learn to trust us quickly; that Lily will be able to get her palate repair surgery quickly and get the rest of her medical issues worked up and treated soon after coming home, and also that the palate repair and subsequent speech therapy will allow her to be able to communicate verbally; that all of the homegrown kiddos will adjust well to her and love her; and that the both of us will be able to roll with the punches of all of the changes that happen and the new rhythm with our family, especially when trying to balance all of the parenting with work and everything else!
  3. We are praying for funding. We have applied for several grants, been turned down for 2 so far, and have another 2 almost ready to be sent off. At this point in time, depending on a few factors, we still need another $20,000-$30,000 before we travel later in the summer. God promises to provide for all of our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” and we know that He will because His promises never fail. We just don't know at this point how that provision is going to come, so sometimes we (ok, pretty much just Kathie) get kind of nervous about the whole funding issue! We are praying that He will just provide for the rest of the fees and that He will get all of the glory for it!
Through this whole process, God has stretched us and opened our hearts. He has focused us and made us realize what is really important in this life. We hope He has made us into better parents to the children we have and to this little one (or two!) to come! He truly has made us another great acronym, BBB-----blessed beyond belief!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Daughter!!

I know it has been a really long time since we have updated our site, and we really have so much to share with you all!  God has done some really amazing things in our life, especially in our hearts, and one of these days we are going to fill you all in!  For now, though, we're going to do a quick catch-up of the last few months:

On January 21st, we received a call from our agency that they had a referral for us if we wanted to take a look.  We were pretty floored as we didn't expect to get referrals until at least probably May.  We weren't really sure what to do.  Plus, we were still hoping to be able to adopt the twins we mentioned previously, but they still weren't on any of the lists.  We received the referral e-mail and see this little face:

This is Li Meng Di.  She is 2.  She has cleft palate that has not been repaired and congenital heart disease.  The records also indicate that she has a growth abnormality and possibly a seizure disorder.  Because of her multiplicity of medical problems, she is considered a "Special Focus" child, which are the children who have a hard time being adopted.  We had no idea what to do about her and we had 72 hours to figure it out.  We were worried about all of the possible ramifications of her health problems and all of the unknowns.  We had thought we knew what we wanted, but seeing her sweet little face and knowing that she has been waiting for a family, we waffled.  David had some physicians look at her medical records so we could get a better idea of what to expect.  We prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more.  We had other people pray with us.  On Wednesday the 23rd, God gave us such peace that she was the daughter He had for us.  If you have never experienced that kind of peace before, let me tell you, it will blow your mind.  We just totally knew.  We sent in our letter of intent and received notice of our pre-approval from China on February 4th.  Our dossier was still in a work in progress at that point, so we knew we'd have a wait on our hands, but the tentative timeline we were given was that we will probably be able to go get her sometime this summer, anywhere from June to September, but probably more towards August/September.  Currently, our dossier has been sent to our agency for "critical review" to make sure everything is perfect before it gets sent to China.  We are hoping that things are fine so that in a few weeks all of that paperwork will be winging it's way to China to be logged in. 

Here is another picture of our beautiful Meng Di, or Lily-Mei as we call her:
We are able to see lots and lots more pictures of her via her orphanage's website, but obviously can't share those online. 

We have sent her a care package with some family pictures, clothing, and toys, so hopefully she will get those in a more few weeks.  Until then, we can't wait to bring our lovely Lily-Mei home!!