Eden Day! (Tuesday)

Most days, you wake up in the morning to start your predictable day’s agenda. Or, you wake up expecting predictability but surprises pop up along the way unannounced.

But on certain days in life, you wake up in a predictable way, KNOWING that everything is about to change in just a few hours in an unpredictable way. And you are committed to that unpredictable turn of events being a permanent way of life!

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Breakfast at the hotel, just one hour before we left to meet Eden.

The only thing I can think of that comes close to this kind of highly unpredictable yet highly certain life change is a scheduled c-section. On Monday at 8am, you’re pregnant. On Monday at 8:15am, you will no longer be pregnant. You have a time, you have a date, and boom – life changes. YET, babies are born to be molded and there is a certain level of reasonable expectation that the child will cry, act a certain way, will want to be fed, will be totally vulnerable and helpless and need everything to be done for him/her.

In a toddler adoption, expectations are thrown out the window. On Tuesday morning at breakfast, before going to meet Eden Ruth, we had no idea if in one hour she would cry, smile, scream, or laugh when she met us. Would she hug us? Would she cling to her caregiver and hate us? Would she want to eat and sleep for us or not? So many questions. It’s easy to get caught up in the wonderings, but at some point you just have to know within your heart that this is what you’re meant to do, devoid of expectations, and just go do it. Otherwise, you can sink into a puddle of anxious stress and worry which is never helpful.

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Eden’s backpack and new blanket & doll, all ready to go

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This is the look of uncertainty. Everything is about to change…

With our camera charged, bags packed, and documents in hand, we met our guide in the hotel lobby and climbed in a van to head to the government building where we would meet little MeiMei.

As soon as we got into the lobby of the building, I looked down to some chairs on the side and saw the tiniest little girl sitting on a bench with the most adorable little Minnie Mouse shoes on her feet. She stared at us. We did not think we would meet her this way, in a public lobby!! But I gulped and tugged on Gabe’s sleeve, “Look down there! That’s her!” Our guide ushered us into a playroom (where we were supposed to have met her) and the woman with MeiMei brought her in behind us.

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We believed we would have time to meet Eden formally as a family, but due to her expedited process there was a lot of rushing and distractions. Right away our guide and the civil affairs worker were asking Gabe for our original documents, asking him to look at details on a piece of paper, verify identifying info, having him sign things, etc, etc. It seemed important and urgent, so he spent some immediate time trying to help these ladies sort some things out while I walked over to MeiMei to say hello. Julia hung back, watching everything going on…

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Gabe, in the middle of the real struggle to be fully present in the moment but fully comply with what paperwork was being thrown his way! What a good dad. 🙂

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Julia, documenting MeiMei’s slow meeting with mama 🙂

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Meeting BaBa (daddy in Chinese) and JieJie (big sister) for the first time

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A little smile in there somewhere…a little one?

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Not so sure about this guy…

Sweet girl did not cry, but did not really smile. She looked us over very cautiously, curiously, while her caregiver and SWI director spoke to her in Chinese. She looked like an absolute doll, in her beautiful blue chambray blouse and red polka dotted leggings with her Minnie Mouse shoes. Her face was peppered with bug bites, which the director said were mosquito bites. We did not really want to hug and hold her until she seemed ready, since a quiet and pensive MeiMei would be better than an inconsolable MeiMei if our moves were interpreted as alarming. This was a time to build trust.

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Our guide and the foster home director, showing me a bunch of photos that they were kind enough to print off for us to keep of Eden’s early years.

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Us with the SWI director from the region where Eden was originally found, and the director of the foster home where Eden has lived for the past 4 years.

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Sitting for our official adoption portrait, taken by the government photographer. A photo very similar too this one is on Eden’s adoption certificate as ID for her and for us.

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The most adorable hair…We were told by other adoptive families beforehand that all of the little girls from her foster home have their hair done like this ❤

We were handed a backpack with some precious items inside – Namely, Eden’s special blanket and some medicine that she needed. Photos, a memory book, and some diapers for nap time. The director informed us that Eden was told to “take down your pants whenever you have to go potty so your parents will know that’s what you want. (I Yikes! 🙂 We are glad she was a fast learner and did not have extreme urgency, or random stripping down in public could get a bit crazy! )

After papers signed to begin our guardianship period with her, we stepped out into the hallway where we met another family adopting two older kids from Eden’s same foster home. INSTANT SMILES when she saw them!!

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All three of these beautiful children, orphans no more on the same day from the same foster home. Joy!

 

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On our way to the notary’s office! Eden loved coloring with water in the little book we brought with us

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Eden watched the whole finger-stamping procedure very carefully.

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Soon we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest. Once we got into the room, Eden started to come out of her shell a little bit and enjoyed a story with Baba & Julia, a little movie with Julia on the tablet, and some potty time, too! Julia and I slipped out so Julia could go swimming in the pool (er, hot tub) while Gabe put Eden down for a nap.

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After naptime and lunch, Eden discovered our bag of hair pretties and added more to the growing hair pretty collection on top of her head. We left the hotel and headed back to the civil affairs office in order to officially adopt her. Typically, families do not assume custody of a child and adopt him/her in a matter of hours. But because her adoption process in China needed to be expedited in order for us to get to Guangzhou by Thursday, we did all official business in one very long day. 🙂

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Having fun in the lobby while waiting our turn for the adoption finalization process to take place. We were the last family of the day, so we did a lot of waiting!

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With footprint, thumbprints, signatures, and pledges to always care for Eden, protect her, and never abandon or harm her….we were officially her parents! Praise the Lord!

 

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Learning Julia’s name and loving her big sister!

 


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Saying goodbye to Ms. Luyi in the lobby of our hotel (the medical director at Eden’s foster home who took excellent care of her!)


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We had a truly fabulous adoption guide who was on-the-ball, fun, and went the extra mile.

We were only “home” for a few minutes before Eden went back over to the swimmies and goggles she found before naptime. She was so out-of-her-mind excited. So off to the pool we went! She is a little fish. A wrigly, squirmy, headstrong fish who does not like to be held onto but also has no real swimming skills to be let go on her own! High on enthusiasm but low in swimming competence. 😉

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With full hearts, exhaustion, and joy, we did bathtime, teeth brushing, potty time, story time, and bed. Eden went to bed very easily, sharing a nice fluffy bed with Julia. What a day!! So thankful that at least Eden did not see us as a threat (yet), we had some positive bonding moments throughout the day, and her adoption was finalized. What a whirlwind day! So thankful.

Nanning! (Monday)

(Note: While in China, we did not have great internet…nor a lot of time to update our blog due to how fast things happened! For those of you who followed our journey via FB group for Eden & Lydia’s adoption, we kept you all pretty well updated that way…but now that we are home, I am back-blogging. More posts to come! :))

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On Monday morning (April 11th), we grabbed breakfast at the airport McD’s and headed off with our luggage to Terminal 2 where “ground transporation to mainland” signs directed us. We had all intentions of taking the subway from HK airport to Shenzhen train station, but after asking three different people at various ticket counters and being told by all that we did NOT want to do that, we settled on finding bus transport instead. Overall, we had a great experience taking a van from the airport to the border with three other passengers and then transferring to another van that took us to Shenzhen.

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The ride was actually quite beautiful! And the adorable kids we rode with were very cute as well. Gotta love it when you get in the van with a bunch of strangers and Gabe gets handed a cute baby by an Indian fellow passenger while she attended to her other daughter. 🙂 Gabe certainly did not mind… When we got to the border of China, it took a short eternity to get through the vehicle line and have our passports checked/stamped, but waiting in the van was not nearly as bad as if we had taken subway and needed to stand in line.

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Once we arrived at Shenzhen train station, we had to pick up our tickets we had pre-ordered online and we had one of those “uh…where do we go? Quick, do these Chinese characters look like the ones on the website?” moments. Not a single English word anywhere but it felt a little like the Amazing Race and we thoroughly enjoyed navigating our way through. We had a lot of stares, probably because we were the only white people…and only white people with a brown child that you could see anywhere. Gabe thought one guy might be casing us out, since he passed by us in line about 5 times, in circles, before continuing on his way. But traveling like the locals is always pretty fun for us and we got our tickets and were on our way.

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The bullet train is FAST, comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable! We are so glad we did this and did not catch a plane to Nanning from Hong Kong. Knowing that so much of our trip would be in the cities, being able to see the countryside and beautiful scenes as we zipped by was a real treat. We left at 1:30pm, and arrived in Nanning around 5:30pm. We saw lots of industry and housing complexes, plenty of smog and haze, and also beautiful fields with farmers tending to fish, ducks, rice, tea, and various vegetables.

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We LOVED the diversity we saw out our window, and of course couldn’t help but think about Eden’s birthparents as we sped through the area near her hometown of Guiping. Were they peasant farmers? Are they alive? The book I read on this trip, “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother,” was so helpful (though emotional) as I prepared my heart and pondered the circumstances through which both Eden and Lydia were brought into care at the orphanages. I found myself thinking about the stories of Chinese women from that book so much on this whole trip, but especially on the train ride. (I highly recommend you read it!)

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Once we arrived in Nanning, we were picked up by our guide who met us at the train station and we proceeded to the Marriott Hotel in the city. We found out that we’d meet MeiMei/Eden at 9:30am at the Civil Affairs office the next day, Tuesday, and then adopt her on the same day at 2:30pm due to our need to get to Guangzhou on Wednesday afternoon for medical tests to be done on Thursday. The energy and emotions kicked into high gear as we realized how very soon we’d be getting our girl!

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And so, what did we do? We made a mad dash to the WalMart in the mall adjacent to our hotel and picked up an air mattress, snacks, some extra toys, and other things we thought would be good to have. WalMart in China is a very unique experience…like nothing we’d ever seen before!

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Gabe was welcomed by a large display of durian fruit and associated nasty aroma, which brought bad flashbacks for him from his previous experiences with this certain fruit during his years growing up in Indonesia & the Philippines.  😉

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As our heads hit our pillows, we prayed, wondered, and overall felt extremely surreal that in 12 short hours we would have our long awaited MeiMei girl with us. Unlike our other three adoptions, the weight of what was about to happen in the next 24 hours was kind of heavy and filled with uncertainty. Excitement mixed with disbelief and exhaustion and nervousness….here we go! ❤

Good morning from Hong Kong!

It is 4:44am and jetlag is brutal! All three of us were up at 3:45am…Gabe was able to go back to sleep, but Julia and I are now watching an episode of The Waltons on our tablet. We will probably be sleepy this afternoon…;)

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The past few days have gone by quickly. Wednesday, I took Micah, Judah and Caleb to Florida from our home in Mexico. We went from Monterrey to Cancun, Cancun to Ft Lauderdale. It was an eventful trip and I would not be interested in repeating this itinerary with these specific travel companions very soon …but we made it and all were smiling (albeit wearily) at the end! 🙂 I was not expecting our re-entry to the States to bring up so many racial observations on M&J’s part. More than once, I needed to explain why it is not polite to yell out, ‘Hey! Look at all these black people!’ when they see people with skin that looks like theirs. Life is never dull! We were so happy to see Aunt Anita, Uncle Russ & Tilly at the airport. We stopped by Burger King on our way to WPB and the boys enjoyed that a lot.

On Thursday, I got some errands done at the bank, some stores, etc, and the boys had fun in the pool with Uncle Russ and Tilly back at the house. Together, we all went (with great grandma) to Auntie Hannahs house and had fun seeing the kids’ little cousins and Aunt Hannah/Uncle JP. Had dinner with the whole crew and the kids swam in their pool, too!

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Friday, we spent the day with more last minute preparations and errands and playing. Since we will be missing Micah and Caleb’s birthdays while we are in China, momma had to make sure presents were accounted for, wrapped, and cards filled out. We will really miss spending their 9th and 5th birthdays with them, but know they will have fun with our Florida family 🙂

I flew from Palm Beach to Chicago at 6pm, arrived at 9pm. At the exact same time, Gabe and Julia arrived at O’Hare from their Houston flight  (preceeded by a flight from Monterrey to Houston earlier in the day). It was SO good to see G&J at the baggage claim – even though it was bitterly cold in Chicago and even snowing! Friday was Gabe’s 32nd birthday, and this was one of his more nontraditional birthdays for sure!

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Sweet friends of ours from Hope College, Nick & Lisa Buntin, live near Ohare and picked us up & took us home with them. It was so awesome to eat homemade chili on a blustery, snowy Friday night in Chicago in April. 🙂 We Michigan-Mexicans were reminded how much we do not miss snow. Nick and Lisa were so hospitable and helped us with our re-packing efforts and a quick run to Walmart for snacks for our trip, etc, before dropping us off back at Ohare at 1pm on Saturday. Thank you, Lord, for good friends!

Our direct flight from Chicago to Hong Kong was fabulous. It was Julia’s and my first experience crossing the Pacific and being on a plane for longer than 9hrs. This flight was 14.5hrs long and it was quite a psychological challenge around hour 7 when we were so tired of sitting but still weren’t even halfway there yet. :/ Flew way past Alaska almost to the north pole (Julia thought that was funny…it was!) and down through Siberia to China. Julia was SUCH a good little traveling companion and spent her time watching movies, eating fun kids’ meals and having her hair done by mommy. We landed at 8:30 pm HK time and easily made our way through immigration. All bags arrived. Checked into a hotel here at the airport and video ‘WeChatted’ with our Florida contingency. 🙂

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Which brings us to today. We leave around 8 am to find a bus to get to mainland China and proceed to the Shenzen train station. From there, we take a bullet train to Nanning! We meet Eden Ruth tomorrow and are so excited. Can’t believe tonight is our last night without her! Also sobered by how many uncertainties are running through her  4 year old mind as she is preparing to leave all that she’s ever known to join our family. Please be praying with us for her heart…and for Lydia who will join us one week from today.

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Love to all from Hong Kong!

China in our sights!

Short and sweet: We leave for China one week from today!!

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The past week has been pretty crazy – receiving Travel Approval from China (saying we can go get our girls!) on Thursday the 24th followed by our consulate appointment received on the same day for April 26th. Then, a few days of insane travel itinerary scheduling and a little rescheduling meant that by Monday we were able to finally book tickets!!

Our itinerary is truly AMAZING. We have one really, really long Excel document with pretty much every major airline represented in one way or another (or it seems that way!). The skinny:

Anna, Micah, Judah, Caleb leave Monterrey on Wednesday the 6th and fly to Cancun. Then, from Cancun to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Aunt Anita and Uncle Russ will pick us up at the airport and the next 36 hours will be spent getting the boys settled in at their house,  seeing Great Grandma Ruth, Auntie Hannah & Uncle JP and cousins briefly. Yay!

Then, Anna leaves on Friday from West Palm Beach and flies to Chicago-O’Hare and arrives around 9pm. On the same day (also happens to be Gabe’s birthday!), Julia & Gabe will leave Monterrey and fly to Houston, TX, followed by a flight up to O’Hare and will arrive just about the same time as Anna will from Florida. Our awesome friends will pick the three of us up at the airport and we’ll crash at their house for the night. Re-packing, last minute food shopping, etc, will happen on Saturday morning and we get on the plane to CHINA at 3pm!

So, that is just the beginning…lots more happening once we actually arrive in Hong Kong, and we’ll write more about that later!

We just had our last Saturday morning pancake breakfast as a family of 6, and are busy with lots of details and packing and re-organizing and list-making. 🙂 We appreciate your prayers and encouragement along the way, and hope you’ll follow along as things unfold! If you are on Facebook and want to be added to our “real time updates” we’ll be posting there as the trip unfolds, send Anna a request or shoot an email: anna.kalmbacher at gmail dot com.

We’re coming, sweet girls!!
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Updates!

Weeks ago, we were blessed to receive updates on both Eden & Lydia. The only photos and information we had in our possession until this time were photos, medical records and profiles from April 2015! Once we were close to receiving our LSC (Letter Seeking Confirmation) from China, we were able to ask questions and request updated photos and measurements.

We were most concerned about the status of Lydia’s health, since her medical need could be anywhere on a broad spectrum of severity and diet is a key part of her overall health and condition. They sent us these precious pictures –
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And described her as:
Lively personality, not often crying. Auntie and friends like that she is good natured, likes to laugh. Learns good habits with her brother buddy.

Her schedule looks like this: morning 5:45 to get up to the toilet and grooming, eating breakfast 6:30, 9:00 class and play, 11:00 lunch, 11:30 toilet,12:00 lunch, 13:30 up, in class and play, 16:00 watching cartoons, 18:30 dinner 20:00 bathing, 21:00 to sleep.

They say she is not a picky eater. And, we have the name of her favorite caregiver and friends at the orphanage. She enjoys seeing dancing and sometimes dances along. She likes books but does not have a favorite color. 😉 In the past ten months, she’s grown 2.5kg’s in weight (now 12.5kg), and is now 94cm tall!

We are excited to see little Lydia in action!

Eden Ruth is also in good health right now, which was a joy to hear. These are the photos they sent us of her!
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We also received the most precious video ever of her saying “Mummy, Daddy, how are you? I wuvvah you!”  Too adorable for words!

Some things we learned about Eden –
She is polite and cute, helps other children and shares her food and toys with them. She helps the nanny when she can. She gets mad and throws her toys when she is criticized or does not get her way, but responds well to being held and talked to. She loves to play ‘the doctor’ and give pretend shots to kids when they are sick.

She loves to dance, draw, and her favorite color is pink. She likes non-spicy foods and chocolate. We were given the name of her best friends and favorite nanny, also told that she is afraid of the dark and likes to sleep with a nightlight on. 🙂 In 10 months, she’s gained no weight (weighs 12kg), is 91cm tall!

Both of our girls are little peanuts, just 26-27lbs in weight at 4 years old! Oh my!

We are so thankful for this chance to receive updates on them both, and it makes us all the more excited to see them for REAL, in person, in just a few weeks! M, J, J & C are quite impatient and wanting us to get them right away (of course). Both girls are very much a part of our family already!

Next update will be up close and personal –  We hope to be on a plane in just 35 days!

Stretching and Growing

If you are up for adoption reflection tonight, you’ve come to the right place. 🙂

Simply put: CRAZY things are happening with our adoption right now. It is so incredibly encouraging to see provision from the hand of God in ways that are most definitely out of our control at all. What a roller coaster we’ve been on for months! And yet, we feel much more secure right now in the center of God’s will to be E&L’s family than we do in those times when we aren’t really stepping out in faith and can easily slip into just living day to day in mediocrity.

Anyway – I would love to share a little testimony from this weekend!

We have recently spent SO much cash in such a short period of time on the girls’ adoption. “Bleeding cash” is really the best way to describe it. At the beginning of an adoption, you are truly bleeding cash! Check after check after check. Over the past weeks, we’ve been catching our breath before the next big fees are due before travel and we are waiting to see how this is all going to pan out financially.

In timing that can only be described as “divinely humorous,” this weekend was also kind of the deadline for getting needed school fees to Uganda for one of our children’s half siblings and cousins to attend school. Being absolutely certain of our Ugandan family’s need, certain of their circumstances, and convinced of our calling to come alongside and support, each term we match what our dear banana farmer uncle can work to provide for the 11 kids each term. Since it is the beginning of the school year in Uganda and new requirements are needed, and since 5 of the cousins are newly orphaned within past months, adding additional burden upon uncle, school fees for January are much higher this term than they were previously. “Ouch” for everyone!

Raw honesty: I will admit that my heart took a sigh when my finger hovered over that sum of Moneygram transaction yesterday for school fees.  Since July, our financial life has been pretty much consumed by this adoption. Hit after hit, we’ve seen some really big amounts leave us quickly! But yesterday I was ashamed for even having our girls’ adoption fee needs pop into my head as an excuse, since we are so intimately aware of the hardship that uncle lives with each day as the only adult male in the whole family and now in charge of caring for all those children. He is responsible for clothing, feeding, providing for, and paying school fees from whatever he can make off of 4 acres of bananas. That Holy Spirit voice inside my head whacked me a good one: “Get a grip, Anna. You’re nuts to be bummed about seeing all that money leave your account for something as noble as sowing into these kids’ lives. Are you even kidding me right now…? Really?” Bam.

So, Moneygram was indeed sent. Text message relayed of Uncle giving praise to God for the provision. Children in Uganda extremely excited to be going back to school. Kalmbacher hearts filled with bubbling joy to think of investment into these 11 young lives and the family preservation taking place. True joy and happiness and peace, staying true to this existing committment in our life and not leaving room for excuses.

Tonight, the kids asked us to finish telling Julia’s adoption story to them after dinner. We had a meaningful hour of fun story-sharing, hard-stuff-explaining, and question-answering. I loved hearing Gabe explain to the children how little miracles happened along the way and how insurmountable details were squashed because God made a way for Julia’s wellbeing and healing! Loved remembering just how insanely crazy it all seemed at the time, and now we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that adopting our kids was the most rational, appropriate thing in the world for us to do even when the money never made any sense.

BUT THEN!!

Literally minutes after putting all the kids in bed tonight, I received an email from an organization we’d applied to for an adoption grant a few months ago. It said something like “Anna, we’ve been trying to reach you by phone for the past week but without success. We have been trying to tell you that you were awarded a grant for your adoption. Can you call us tomorrow please?”

HA!!!!

Needless to say, I responded and told them I will call first thing in the morning. And I also added that clearly my US cell phone is not working well in Mexico. 😉

Then, moments later I get a message from a friend stating that she wants to give toward the remaining balance on the matching grant that another organization extended to us for our girls. What timing!

And so, my friends — Here I sit tonight on hallowed ground, on the eve of a brand new week. And I laugh and chastise myself for thinking that school fees for children in Uganda this term was painful timing. I realize it was no accident that this grant organization has been trying to reach me by phone for a week without success, only to email me tonight and let me know. And that the matching grant is in the process of being finished off. Just amazing!

{Disclaimer: I always struggle with knowing if what I share is too much information. Am I giving more fuel for people to look at our family and say they’re so amazed at what we’re doing (in the tone of admiration or in the tone of crazy)? Or by not sharing, am I missing wonderful opportunities to give credit to the way that Jesus is working through our very ordinary, imperfect lives right now? The struggle is real because I never want intentions to be misunderstood.}

Folks, the Lord is further teaching us through this adoption of Eden & Lydia that it is simply impossible to “arrive” at perfect faith and stop there, thinking that you’ve made it. When you love Jesus, and know how deeply He loves you AS MUCH AS HE LOVES ALL THE HURTING PEOPLE OUT THERE (not more), your priorities change. And you realize there is just so much farther to grow. I just really want to encourage you to get moving on whatever worthy thing it is that fear is currently preventing you from doing. PLEASE do not allow fear to get in the way of your doing what God created to do.  The journey is an important one, and so many lives hang in the balance no matter how much it costs us. If our hearts and heads and pocket books belong to Jesus, we know that it’s all His anyway. ❤

OurGirls

Rolling Right Along

Today, we received word that our dossier is officially “Logged In” to China’s system!
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This means our precious dossier paperwork not only arrived at the right place in China two weeks ago, but it has been logged into their system. Now, the clock starts ticking for one of the longest wait periods of the process. We are hoping that the process of translating, reviewing, and approving will be as expeditious as other families’ processes have been lately!

While we wait for LOA (“Letter of Acceptance”), it is wonderful to have the holidays upon us here to enjoy. Makes the waiting a bit easier when you have other things to think about! 🙂 We are thankful!

The paper chase! (part 3)

When I received those text messages and a subsequent phone call from Shannon telling me that so many of our documents had been rejected…I could not believe it!! Of all things in this process that could go wrong, the LAST thing I had considered was that our notaries signing these documents would have signed their names grossly the wrong way! The documents rejected were a doctor letter, an employer letter, a authentication page on our i800a approval, a bank statement, a letter from us to China’s child welfare authorities, and my non-employment letter. That is a HUGE PROBLEM! Shannon said that the guy at the Secretary of State just kept shaking his head and even said “this is kind of scaring me” when document after document had problems with the notary signatures.

{ Public service announcement: If you are adopting, and have your documents notarized…Do not let any notary sign your documents unless he or she knows exactly how they signed their signature on their signature card filed with the state they are licensed in! In our case, we had at least 4 different notaries who all failed to sign our documents the way they had done when they first got licensed to be a notary! }

Thankfully, by the end of Monday, I was able to catch the HR person who needed to re-type up a letter, the doctor (who had given me his personal cell phone back in August when he wrote our first letter – score!), and a notary at a different doctor’s office who said she was willing to notarize anything the other doctor and HR person needed to have notarized for us. By Wednesday, the doctor and HR person had both retyped their letters and appeared before the “good” notary who then collected our papers so Shannon could pick them up. On Tuesday night, I was trying to FedEx a bunch of papers from us here to Washington State. But of course the local FedEx shipping officer here open until 8pm did not accept pre-printed labels. 😉

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And so, after dropping the kids off at school on Wednesday morning, I headed off to a different FedEx office that’s right next to an airstrip at the airport here. Google said it opened at 8am. In reality, it opened at 9am. ^^^ This is a picture of the important FedEx envelope and me chilling in our van, waiting until 9am, while casually observing the 5 or so FedEx employees getting their last drags on their cigarettes before starting their day of work! Ha!

And so during the week of November 2nd, these papers went from Mexico on Wednesday to Washington on Thursday. From Washington on Thursday to another city in Washington on Friday. And then from that place in Washington on Friday to Michigan on Monday!! Meanwhile, on Thursday Shannon was able to take the other papers in Michigan to the Secretary of State there and had them successfully authenticated. Our notary did her job right! 😀

When Shannon received all the documents on Monday, she made tons of photocopies and took lots of pictures for me. This is what it looked like:

 

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A lot of trees gave their life for this stack of copies! Thank you, trees. :/

 

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 All lined up and ready to go!

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The prettiest papers we ever did see!

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No pressure, FedEx, but please don’t fail us now!

After a rather suspenseful journey with paperwork so far, we did a lot of praying and waiting to see if all would go as smoothly as we’d hoped once things got to Washington DC. Our courier agency, Caring Hands, did a fabulous job of keeping us updated and answering my every question. (Highly recommend them!) Our dossier was submitted on November 10th, and we were told it would be picked up from the Chinese Embassy on November 23rd.

Can I just pause here a minute and clue you in on some emotions while all this was happening? Gabe and I are no strangers to difficulty in adoption processes. We had truly awful things happen to paperwork, untrustworthy people involved, random court cancellations, etc, when we were in Uganda for our other adoptions. Super suspenseful. Super frustrating. Lots of time, money, and tears.  And yet, I think as we’ve grown older and accepted the fact that adoption really is spiritual warfare, we’ve been more at peace with this adoption’s challenges than we ever could have been the first time around. I will never forget the feeling of euphoria and joy when I dropped that FedEx envelope off at the Ramos Arizpe FedEx officer here in Mexico…Total peace and a sense that not even these disappointments could get us down. I called Gabe and he said to me, “You know, it really does make you feel like you’re doing something good and worthwhile when we keep getting hits like these. Just makes you feel even more that we’re doing what we need to do.” Amen!

Well, in closing off this series of blog posts, I am so happy to say that our dossier did in fact move through the Department of State and Embassy process smoothly and was in fact picked up on November 23rd. It was so great to get a phone call on my cell phone from our courier stating they were dropping the envelope off at FedEx that very moment! The documents arrived in Washington at our agency on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and our truly top-notch contact at the agency had everything set and ready to be FedEx’d out the same day to China!

But alas, of course there is always room for a little more last minute drama. I received this email from our agency late on Tuesday:

“Funny side note leading up to you being DTC: I ended up hitting a couple of other snags (naturally)- our UPS pick up time is 3:45 and our FedEx pick up time is 4:15. I was planning to use FedEx, but their site stopped working! So I ended missing our UPS pick up and driving the docs to the local Mail Shop and beat the UPS truck (Just barely)- so, long story short, it has been an eventful afternoon and took no small effort to get you DTC– BUT you are and I’m so thankful!!”

And so – as of today, our documents are confirmed to be in China and we are just waiting a little more time before we are “logged in” to China’s system. Onward and upward toward those adorable little pictures hanging on our refrigerator. Each day we wait, we get closer… Praise God!

The paper chase! (part 2)

The days before our departure for Mexico were filled with a lot of last minute details. House details, packing details, storage details, and adoption paperwork details. What a relief it was to hand over our big white binder full of our nice, pretty documents to Shannon the day before we left. It was out of my hands, and I had done everything that could have been done up to this point!

A week after we left Michigan, our homestudy was finished. Copies were dropped off to my friend, and our i800a application was sent off to USCIS! What a relief that was. Here is an adorable picture of little “H,” who helped his mom get these documents FedEx’d off to Texas!

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Thank you, buddy, for your help! 🙂

And then, we waited. A few weeks. Then we received notification in Michigan that our fingerprint appointment had been scheduled…..in Michigan! (And not in San Antonio like we had requested!) Big oops.

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“It says Kentwood, Michigan! Oh no!”

We knew that to rescedule this appointment officially, it would mean weeks of delay. Our other option was to just show up in San Antonio and hope/pray that the officers there would let us do a ‘walk in’ appointment instead. It’s easy to walk in when the office is just an hour or so away, but with us being 5 hours from San Antonio, it made us think twice!! We decided to go for it.

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Yeah! Julia posing with our biometrics receipt, in the parking lot. 🙂

We headed up to San Antonio on the 8th of October, spent the night, then went to the “Application Support Center” in San Antonio bright and early Friday morning. It took us a while, but after an hour we emerged from this little office – successfully fingerprinted! We had the most wonderful officer attend to our rescheduling-on-the-spot need and he was even comical about it. We are not sure if having four kids in tow (one on cruches!) was helpful for our cause or not, but regardless it felt so good to be done with this step. In the parking lot, I called USCIS to let them know that we had walked in early to San Antonio, not Grand Rapids, and ask them to let our officer know that they could review our biometrics as of today.

Our weekend in San Antonio was quite the adventure – more about that on another blog post perhaps! But once we were back in Saltillo on Tuesday (Monday was Columbus Day, a holiday in the US) I decided to call USCIS again and speak to our officer. When she got on the phone, she was incredibly pleasant and nice, said that our biometric results were received, etc, but that she had one *little* issue with wording on our homestudy that needed to be fixed before she could approve us. What would this one *little* issue mean? We needed our homestudy revised and reprinted and re-sent in! Akk!!

Cue phone calls, emails, and a little bit of panic. I called our stellar homestudy social worker in Michigan, who was headed off on vacation in just a few short days. She said she could fix the wording as USCIS wanted it, though, and could get new copies to Shannon by the beginning of the next week. I was so proud of our adoption agency and homestudy agency, along with our pleasaant USCIS officer’s re-clarification on further phone calls. The need to get this homestudy fixed was something that required a lot of coordination – but it was done with only a week’s delay (ouch!). It could have been a whole lot worse!!

Soon, our revised homestudy was sent off to USCIS along with a typed up letter required, etc. I dutifully tracked the FedEx tracking number that Shannon sent me, and our revised homestudy arrived on a Friday. I was so hopeful for perhaps a same-day approval! But was informed by our officer that it had to clear security first. Boo.

On Monday the 26th of October, I received this wonderful email:
“Anna,
All done!  Your approval notice is on its way!
Congratulations!  Have a wonderful celebratory afternoon!!!
Warm regards,
Officer ___”

Our i800a approval notice arrived to Shannon’s address on Friday the 30th, and on Monday the 2nd, Shannon and her other little guy headed up to Grand Rapids Secretary of State to get our whole dossier (14 documents) authenticated!

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Thanks for helping your mom, little H!

Gabe and I were so excited to finally get our golden stack of precious documents on their way to Washington DC and ultimately to China. However, my heart HIT THE FLOOR when I received some text messages from Shannon while she was at the Secretary of State, saying there were problems with a bunch of our documents and she could not get them all authenticated that day because about 5 of our 14 documents had been REJECTED due to bad notary signatures! What?!

(see part 3 – to be continued!)