Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's a day early but...

Happy Birthday to my amazing husband, Robert!  He is my best friend, my entertainer (if he can get a word in over Lily), my partner and the love of my life!  He is consistently my strength and sanity in our sometimes crazy lives.  He has the biggest heart for others and especially for those who need it most.  Thank you for guiding our family to greater things than either of us could have imagined and doing it with compassion, patience and always with love.  He always puts his family first and is an amazingly devoted husband and daddy...not to mention pretty dang handsome and fun too!
On our honeymoon in Oregon

With 1-day old miss Lily

The prototype for Lily!  She is his little carbon copy!!  Wouldn't have it any other way.
I love you, Robert, and happy birthday! 

P.S. Thanks for being just a touch closer to the big 3-decade mark than I am! :)

A borrowed post

This one is not so much in my own words, but something I had to borrow from Our Journey: To Ukraine and Back.  Even if someone doesn't "get" the motivation behind international adoption, most people can understand how heartbreaking this is:

"There is a couple who are in Eastern Europe adopting their daughter right now. The orphanage like most in Eastern Europe never has enough money to take adequate care of the children, but this one is so desperate that they are reusing disposable diapers. Yes, they are REUSING disposable diapers on the babies there. They are hanging them up on clotheslines to dry out and putting them back on the babies....Diapers are expensive in Eastern Europe but no child should have to wear a dirty diaper....twice."

We've been reading other blogs like stalkers and the stories pouring out of people who are seeing these conditions first hand is powerful to say the least.  One lady spoke about bringing wheelchairs with her each time she traveled because there were always multiple children being kept immobile over minor afflictions.   Having grown up in the comfort of my home with the stability of a great family and all of the necessities of living plus more, it is almost unfathomable that there are places where these circumstances are the norm. 

I'm not saying that this is happening everywhere because I certainly don't know that to be true, I just know what I've read time and time again seems to be building a pretty consistent theme.  I know that this is not the cheeriest of posts, but it's a truth that got my attention and I thought maybe it would get someone else's as well.  Knowledge and love are the two things were are hoping to spread through this blog and I hope and pray that we achieve a little bit of either in each post!

Monday, June 27, 2011

One thing crossed off and a lot of starting points...

With our unforeseen hiatus happening right now, I feel like I have reason to celebrate any progress we can make on our adoption process!  So, with a sense of accomplishment, I am happy to announce that I can officially leave and re-enter the United States! :)  On Friday afternoon, I received my very first passport.  I know it seems small and yes, it's not that hard to get, but it does knock off another 4-6 week potential waiting period and that feels good to have out of the way.

As for other progress, it feels like we are starting to pull in little pieces of the puzzle.  We got the dossier packet emailed to us from Reece's Rainbow, so we have those in hand and are starting to sort out where we'll need to head once we get the all clear to move forward.  We have the homestudy checklist now so we can move forward with updating that.  We got to read the 50-plus pages about what to expect through this process and once we are traveling.  We've also been kicking around fundraiser ideas.  Anything from a barbecue to an Etsy shop, even though I have no idea how those work. :)  I am trying to sort out anything and everything that could help get us closer to bringing home our baby girl!

I also picked up a cookbook from the library and it looks like I ought to master dishes with beets and sour cream--together, separate, on top--you name it.  It's so interesting to delve into another culture a little bit and we're excited to try to incorporate some things into our household that may bring some familiarity and comfort to her.

On the note of hilarious progress, you should hear me trying to repeat my new CD's that I got from the library to attempt learning Melissa's language!!  God just did not give me the throat and tongue to pronounce some of those words! Ha Ha!  I can only imagine what other commuters must think of me trying to mimic some of these phrases with my windows down as I'm driving!. Much fun for all, I'd assume!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Storm Cloud of Suspense (and finding some silver lining)

So I began writing this post almost a week ago and in writing it and all the other commotion happening between now and then, I mistakenly thought writing had meant I’d posted it.  Nope. But here it is now.

Last week we got some…delaying news.  On Wednesday, it was announced that the country that Melissa is living in is doing a fairly major overhaul to some of the laws regarding international adoption.  The agency that handles adoption cases is shutting down as of July 11th for “approximately 3 months.”  They are basically doing an overhaul and will be reopening under new management around October, if things go smoothly.
In short, only special needs children that are 5 and older can be adopted by foreign families.  A younger child can be adopted only if he or she has a diagnosis specified on a list released by the Ministry of Health. 

The list is dramatically shorter than the previous list and many families in the Reece’s Rainbow community have been put at a huge risk of losing the child they were hoping to adopt.  While it is heart-wrenching to read other families’ posts and sit in on chats with these brokenhearted and frustrated parents, we are extremely fortunate that Melissa’s age should make her eligible for adoption, regardless of CP not being included on the eligibility list! 

How it does affect us though, is a longer wait to our dear little angel.   We can complete our homestudy (which needs to be revamped to include specifics relating to Melissa’s condition and situation) and complete the USCIS immigration paperwork as those will be mandatory regardless of changes.  What we cannot complete is one of the lengthier chunks of the timeline: our dossier.  The dossier is the large paperwork packet with documents ranging from marriage certificate originals to Interpol clearance petitions!  We could opt to continuing to gather these documents, but with the department in overhaul, there is no guarantee that the requirements will stay the same.  Instead, we will spend more time pinpointing where we will hunt down these documents should the new department still require them.

One of the hardest parts is not knowing for certain if the wait combined with her age will mean that she may be moved to the mental institution in the meantime.  It appears that it will just depend on the orphanage director and if he or she sees it fit.     

Although we would hop on a plane this very minute and go get her right now if we could, we are trying to see the silver lining of our situation.   First and foremost, we could not be more elated that it appears Melissa will still be eligible for adoption after the department re-opens.  Second, it will give us a little more time to prepare financially and physically.  We are going to dedicate this ‘hurry up and wait’ period to fundraising and getting our home and family ready for our new addition!  There are walls to be painted, a twin bed to seek out, bedding to choose, and plenty of crafty projects to begin (and hopefully finish) as we await the green light to appear again!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our very own button!

We're proud to unveil our beautiful new button at the top, right side of our blog.  It's a direct link to our page within Reece's Rainbow.  One of the best parts about it (other than Melissa's cute little face) is that you can copy and paste the code to your own page and help us spread the word about getting our daughter home to her family!!  If you have a blog or website or anything of the kind, please, please consider putting this on your page as well and sharing our efforts with anyone you know.  Though this page is functionally a fundraising page, we appreciate any visits to it that may also share the wealth of knowledge and awareness about Reese's Rainbow and the many special needs angels that also deserve love and families!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to our sweet little 6-year old angel who is celebrating across the world! Today is bittersweet as we are celebrating without having her here with us.  She doesn't even know that miles and miles away she has a family that is aching to be with her and love her and shower her with affection!  I hope she's found some joy and love in those around her today.  Crazy to think how different next year's birthday will be for her with an actual home and family and friends. ♥ I can't wait to have my baby home with us!!!
Even though we can't physically have her in our arms, we already have her in our hearts.
Lily is hard at work for a birthday sign to save for her big sister...

The finished product--

Blowing a kiss to big sis

We are excited to wonder what Melissa's 7th birthday will be like!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Your cupcakes saved our daughter's life: a note about fundraising

Our first bake sale was such a great success and the love and support we felt far outweighed any dollar amount we could have collected.  That being said, we did want to let you, our friends, family and in some cases, strangers, know exactly what you really purchased when you walked away with your box of cake truffles or bag of cookies.
Where Melissa is from, children with special needs are often deemed ‘defective’.   Abandonment is acceptable and often preferable if a child is born with challenges and many of these children end up in orphanages shortly after birth. Around the age of four or five they are then transferred to mental institutions.  These children live in inhumane conditions and many die within the first year of being transferred.  At age 5, Melissa’s community had decided she wasn’t worth much and she was facing institutionalization because she has ‘global delays/Cerebral Palsy’.  Not only was she up against terrible odds, she was doing all of it without the love and comfort of a family.
When a family begins their journey with Reece’s Rainbow, they are asked to fill out a form and contribute a financial ‘love gift’ to the child they are seeking to adopt.  Once this is done, the family is considered committed to her and the wheels are put into motion.   *With all of the money we earned with the bake sale, we were able to officially commit to Melissa!  That commitment likely saved her from being institutionalized!*  Hopefully, they will be able to keep her in the orphanage instead of transferring her while we get all of our paperwork and such in order to go bring her home!
With all of the good and bad news that I’ve shared on here, this post took the longest to write.  As uncomfortable as it is for us to ask for financial gifts, the fact of the matter is that the process of international adoption is a pricey one.  We still have a long road ahead of us and we have a lot of fundraising left to do.  We will possibly have another bake sale, possibly a raffle; the wheels are still turning…
We are able to take donations through our Family Sponsorship Page through Reece’s Rainbow.  Because Reece’s Rainbow is a charitable organization, any donation made to our Family Sponsorship Page is completely tax deductible and is put into a grant that means the money will only be used to fund Melissa’s adoption.  The only downside is we don’t get to know who donates through the page so we have no way of thanking you personally, which we really wished we could do! 
We’d love to find a happy medium that allows people to get the tax deduction while helping us thank and give back something to those that are helping bring Melissa out of the grips of a society that thinks she is defective and into the loving home she needs and deserves!  If anyone has any ideas or would like to help in any other way, please let us know!

And for those that attended in February, and bought some of these….

Here is your receipt… <3

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Birth Announcement of Sorts

There is a famous phrase that gets passed around in the adoption lingo world that I never really loved before.  In all it's variations, the quote basically says, 'you weren't grown in my body, but grew in my heart'.  I don't know why it was maybe my least favorite quote pertaining to adoption before.  Until I saw my little girl.  And all of a sudden--I get it!  
I'd never experienced anything like it.  An instant mama bear instinct to love and protect and cherish this child!
As such, I insisted on doing a birth announcement of sorts to declare our new addition that we will restlessly pursue until she is in our home, physically growing in front of our eyes, instead of just growing in our hearts.

Not flesh of my flesh, 
nor bone of my bone,
but still miraculously my own.
Never forget,
not for a minute,
you weren’t born under my heart but in it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Introducing...our daughter!

Sometimes in life, there are things you just know.  We know that Melissa is our daughter!  Now we just have to go get her!

Melissa is a darling almost-6 year old in an Eastern European orphanage.  We'll suffice it to say that she is in an area that has not come far from their post-Soviet history and conditions for kids in her situation are not good and definitely not what she deserves!
When we saw her, there was a spark we couldn't ignore. 
This little girl belongs in our family!!
We have officially made our commitment through Reece's Rainbow, a fantastic organization that specializes in facilitating adoptions across the world for children with Down's Syndrome and other special needs.  Our little Melissa is listed as having "global delays/Cerebral Palsy" which could mean anything since CP is a spectrum diagnosis and entails a fairly large range of things.  It does not matter to us in the least--she is our daughter!!! 
At this point, we know very little.  She was facing transfer to a mental institution because of her age and her status as special needs.  And you now have as much information as we do! :)

As of Wednesday, we have our very own Family Sponsor Page on Reece's Rainbow where people can read another little post about our family and our story and inspiration for getting to Melissa.  It's also set up so people can make tax-deductible donations that go entirely to helping us go get our angel!  I will post the buttons and direct, cute links once I get them and figure out how!

We have partially completed the homestudy and paperwork is in full swing, so now we are just continuing to get all of our forms together and hopefully do some fundraising.  (Another bake sale anyone?)  We were told that optimistically we could have her home with us around the end of Fall!  That just makes my heart skip a beat!  We are just so excited we can hardly do anything else!

We are so excited that you stopped by to find out about our miraculous news and can't wait to share in this journey with all of you!  We are absolutely elated to go get our daughter and bring her home to the love and family she deserves! <3

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How we got where we are going to...(yes, I know it only makes sense to me!)

When we started talking again about adding to our family through adoption, we had a lot of options laid out in front of us and very vague ideas about what any of them truly entailed.  We knew that there were healthy kids, sick kids, young kids, old kids, local kids, far away kids, and on and on, all that needed and deserved to be loved and be part of a family.
We were eager to start the process though we didn’t know exactly what path we’d be taking so we started out looking at the different sets of procedures and regulations.  In searching about homestudies, we found out about the Utah Foster Care Foundation training course.  We decided it was a good idea and here is the biggest pat on my own back, but we were right! J  We LOVED this class!  So completely incredible to learn what we did—and to do it surrounded by such caring, loving individuals!  It was 32 hours of training and all of it was a great, realistic look at the journey we were about to embark on, not to mention fantastic information for all parents and caretakers of children in general. 
At the end of the month long set of classes, we were given our Utah Foster Care Foundation Pre-Service Training Completion Certificate and wound up armed with a lot of new information, but back where we started in trying to figure out what route to take to our special little son or daughter.  Whatever the path, we knew it was going to take some cash, so we started our fundraising effort with a Valentine’s Day Bake Sale.  It was an amazing event and really opened our eyes to how much support we have around us!  (We would not be able to walk this path if it weren’t for the friends and family around us that are willing to walk with us and hold our hands along the way every once in a while!  We cannot express our gratitude for each and every one of you.)
As we went through the classes, we kind of got a better idea of what we would and would not like to do.  We wound up with an opportunity coming into our lives that seemed to be a very clear, quick option.  Robert’s mom does Christian ministry through the State Prison and had facilitated a couple adoptions through the ministry in the past.  Basically, if an inmate gives birth while serving her time in prison, someone must come forward and take either temporary or permanent custody of the child.  After the bake sale, it just happened to come up that there was a young woman in the prison who was due in a couple months that was looking for a family to adopt her child.  The doors seemed wide open for us, so we decided to pursue this option and see what came of it.
After a few months of following this path, we decided that all that we would take from it was a learning experience, and not the sibling for Silly Lily that we’d been looking for.  There were too many obstacles and it never quite felt like we were in it all the way.  Yes, there was a lot of hope there for a while, but it turned into a situation that we did not want to work through and was not the best option for us, our family or for the birth mom.  It was very tough to make that call, especially getting so close to the mom’s due date, but we did not feel comfortable with the short or what we felt would be the long term results of this relationship. 
The only remorse I have about how the prison option ran its course was that I forced back some of the bad and tried to just show the good of the situation, thinking that in the end, we would just have our shiny, happily ever after and no one would have to know the trials and doubts that we faced.  When we parted ways with the birth mom, it caught many of our loved ones by surprise and it still feels as though they are disappointed with us. 
Though it seems like an extremely quick turnaround, we have been putting a lot of thought and prayer and hope into another route that may come to fruition soon.  Though we had some hesitations, this option just FEELS right.  The most normal comparison I can make is when we discussed trying to get pregnant again after our situation with Jackson.  Though there were things that scared us out of our mind, we both just knew that it was right and it was going to turn out right.  This choice was more about what we wanted and less about trying to please others. Though I can’t make any official announcements yet until it is a little more confirmed, it is a little more true to what we’d imagined when we first spoke of adoption years ago and it feels like the best choice for us.   I can't full explain it, but I’ve just got a feeling that this is what we are supposed to be doing.
Because I feel that this is where we are headed, I feel compelled to share a great quotation and dedicate it to our newest addition to our family.
“By choice, we will become a family, first in our hearts, and finally in breath and being. Great expectations are good; great experiences are better.”