Monday, January 26, 2015

The dreaded hiccup with an adoption

Adoption is such a great thing for any family to do! To bring a child into your family to give a better life, love like your own, raise up and equip them for the world. What a great feeling to know that you can help someone/s out. Isn't that what we are called to do? I'm sure more people would be willing to do it if it weren't so crazy expensive! For a China adoption right now you are looking at about $35,000. That just includes all the paperwork, fees, payments to the country, visas, travelling, and social worker appointments. That doesn't cover additional costs if your child has a medical need that will require attention when you return home.

That giant number really intimidates Aaron and I alot! Yes we have a way bigger house than we really need, we have way more stuff than we really need, we don't have any debt besides our house, we have a steady income, we have two working cars, and we have savings accounts started for the kids for college. And for all of this we are sooo very grateful. We try to live inside our means and be frugal with our money. BUT we don't have $35,000 dollars just waiting to be dropped on this adoption. We both know that God has called our family to go through this adoption. We know that he has this in our family story. So we know that he will help us and will provide for us this money. It's just super hard to see past that. Especially when life happens and things come up.  

One goal that we have set for ourselves is that we don't want to have to go into debt and take out a loan for the adoption. We just feel for us that God doesn't want us to go into debt and have that on our backs for the next few years to deal with. We want to be good stewards of our money and use it wisely. So if we don't do a loan, there are grants. Well we have filled out some for those but we don't qualify for many because of xyz silly reasons.  So another option is fund raising. I go back and forth so much with fundraising. I don't want to ask people for money. I feel guilty asking for peoples money. I don't want people to feel forced to make a donation for us. I feel like we need to earn your donation. I feel like since it was our decision to adopt and we knew how much it was going to cost, it should be on our shoulders to figure out how to get the money. But then I know there are so many people out there that love our story and want to help out in any way that they can. I know that God has probably put it on peoples heart to help families who are adopting. Maybe they don't feel called to adopt themselves, but they want to help other families. So I go back and forth. 

Some things that Aaron and I have talked about were things that we could make to sell to raise funds. We are both pretty crafty people and so we thought we could use that talent to help bring in some extra money to put towards the adoption. Aaron has always been really good with his hands. He loves to make things out of wood and does a pretty good job if I can say so myself;) He is currently working on a brand name for his business and plans to open a little shop and website where you can order things that he has already made, or you can place a custom order. I thought it might be fun to make some bracelets, tag fleece blankets, and bows that I could sell. I am already babysitting and selling Jamberry so I don't have a ton of extra time, but I have been pinteresting some cute ideas. Another idea we had was a garage sale. We have a ton of baby stuff that we need to get rid of and other odds and ends taking up space. We thought if anyone wanted to donate items to our garage sale that would be a way to make some extra money. And we have thought of a bake sale or even a charity work day event. 

After I started this blog, a friend of mine contacted me about wanting to help us fund our adoption. She is a local photographer and was wanting to use her talents to help us as much as she could. (She took our family pictures and the adoption announcement picture) So we have been brainstorming back and forth and we came up with a fun little event. On March 21st, we are doing a spring portrait party. It is a 15 minute photo session for your children and you will receive her services, CD of prints, and setting fee for $140. She is donating half of that to our adoption fund!!! And if you don't meet the requirements for the party, you can schedule your own session and part of that will go towards our adoption.  If you would want more information, you can contact me or you can go here.

So that's where we are now. If you have any ideas or you've been through an adoption, I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, how you raised the funds, how you dealt with the guilt of asking for help, and so on.  And of course your prayers!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Checking things off the list

I am a very organized planning type of person. If I have a lot of things to get done, I make a list. I LOVE lists. I feel so accomplished and proud of myself when I can cross something off. (I often times will forget to put something on the list, so I will add it just so I can cross it off:)

With the adoption process it's super smart to make lists. There is so much paperwork involved that something could easily be forgotten and then could delay things. From pictures of you and your family, medical examinations, marriage licenses, birth certificates, financial reports, essays, background checks, pet vaccination records, and so much more.

Up to this point we have pretty much crossed everything off of our list that we can. We have all papers filled out and submitted to our agency. We have pictures printed, we have had our medical examinations, we got all of the official paperwork ready to go. As soon as we get our approval letter from the USCIS we can give the go ahead to our agency to send our paperwork to China along with our payment for the dossier.

Yesterday we knocked out another requirement for the USCIS and are one step closer to getting our approval letter from them. We had our fingerprinting appointment in Indy. This appointment is assigned for you by the USCIS and make it pretty difficult to reschedule. And if you don't show up, you are out of luck. So our appointment was for the 22nd at 8am. Lucky us. We had a few things already on the calendar for yesterday so we had to move everything around so that we could make this appointment, wake up early, and drive down. All in all, it was a pretty fast appointment once you made it through security of the government building. We waited for a few minutes, had our fingerprints taken digitally, and then were free to go. A total of 30 minutes to drive down and then turn around and come back.

One thing that I will never understand is our governments ways of doing things in an adoption:) For our home study we had to go downtown in Fort Wayne to get fingerprinted for our background check. That appointment was the exact same thing that we just did yesterday. They were even scanned too.  So why can't they send a quick email with our scans to the USCIS? Apparently they don't communicate well and do not like like to share information. So we are in the system now for the county and state. So WATCH OUT:)

I wish we could have just made a fun day of it in Indy, but we had things back home that we needed to do so we couldn't stay. We did make it a point to stop at Trader Joe's to grab some things to make the drive worth our time. And the drive gave Aaron and I plenty of time to chat about fundraiser ideas, names, and just what's coming up in these next months with our family.

So hip hip hooray we get to check another things off our list!!!

We are hopefully almost ready to send our papers to China!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bumps in the Road

Adopting a child from a different country is a super complex process filled with lots of paperwork, long periods of waiting, and money. One good piece of news for us is that from what our social worker has told us is that China is moving pretty quick with adoptions and that hopefully our adoption would take around 12-17 months.

In this process we have come through some small bumps along the way. To be raw and open with you I am going to share them and how God has helped us through them and how to pray for us while we are in them!

This is probably 1/8 of the paperwork! This was taken when we received our approval to begin the adoption from our agency:)

When preparing all of our paperwork for our dossier, everyone in the house had to have a physical evaluation and medical forms filled out. With our kids that was super easy to do, since they have check ups every year. Our pediatrician was very nice to just take the paperwork and fill in the information without having to schedule another appointment for each of them. The hiccup came when Aaron and I tried to schedule an appointment with our family doctor. Since we had not seen him in over 3 years, we were considered new patients and had to schedule a new patient appointment. When I called in early October, the earliest they could get us in was the end of November!! With needing our paperwork turned in, that wasn't an option. So I just decided to call around and basically didn't care who the doctor was or how well known they were, as long as they could see us soon they won the prize! So I happened to find one that our insurance would accept and could see us a week later! When we showed up to the appointment, I found out that our new doctor was Chinese. I became super excited because how awesome is that! She could help us with our new daughter once we arrive home and help get her acclimated to the scary world of doctors offices. I also was a little nervous because I didn't know how she would react when we told her we were adopting someone from her country. Would she be grateful to us? Would she be opposed to us adopting from her country? So just some scenarios ran through my mind before she came in the room. There was also a lot of paperwork for her to fill out for us so I was hoping she didn't mind taking the time to fill those out for us. Well the Lord definitely had control of things. When she came in, she was super sweet, so willing to fill out the paperwork for us, AND was soo excited for us and thankful to us for adopting a little girl from her country. She kept saying how she wanted to help out as much as she could. She speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and was willing to help talk to her. So it was such a relief to have her on board and just to be a reference to turn to if we need it once she is in the states with us.  It was such an answer to prayer after the stress of finding a new doctor and within the window we needed to get seen and then God's extra gift of her being chinese and speaking fluently and wanting to be by our side as we bring her home and transition.

Back when Liam was a baby we had some rough times. Long story short, we ended up doing some testing to find out that he has a dairy and gluten intolerance and once we figured that out, he's been great ever since. Because of those issues, he ended up being behind a little bit in reaching his milestones of rolling over, crawling, walking, and talking. When he was 18 months old, he was evaluated because he was not walking great. He could walk small distances but could not stand up in the middle of a room on his own. He couldn't squat without falling over, and just was having a little trouble getting around. When they evaulated him, it was determined that he had low muscle tone. It wasn't severe but it was something that he needed some physical therapy and speech therapy to catch back up to where he needed to be. We originally had him evaluated at an outpatient therapy but we would of had to pay a lot out of pocket because of our insurance. (We have a crazy high individual/family deductible and until that's met, we pay all out of pocket costs.) So we ended up doing the first steps program which was drastically less expensive and they came to our house. He was also referred to an orthotics company for "boots" to wear at all times to help support his ankles and help him walk better. He will need two pairs of these a year as his feet will grow and he will need them until he is at least 5 and then will be re-evaulated. So, we were fitted for those and given the bill and once again were faced with a giant bill that our insurance wouldn't cover. And buying these twice a year for the next few years is going to be a good chunk of change. It was kind of a big downer for me because here we are, we know that we are being called to adopt and we are trying to save every penny here and there to pay for it and now this comes up that we really need to do. After talking with them about our insurance situation and that we are adopting, the company has been so gracious to us and has given us a significant discount for each pair that he will need.  He is doing so well with everything! We immediately saw such improvement once he had his boots and his speech really picked up quick. (once he didn't have to focus on the walking and could work on the talking) He is really excelling and hopefully won't have to have the therapy part much longer.

Back in April 2014, Aaron found out that the company he works for (Biomet) was being bought by another orthopedic company in Warsaw. With this buyout there are going to be so many changes for the better and could be for the bad. As of now, no one knows really what will happen. Will you lose your job, will you keep it? The deal is supposed to be finalized sometime this first half of the year, but still no one knows much. Aaron thinks that his job is pretty secured but it's not definite and he could lose his job. We are just waiting, praying, and trusting in God's plan and know that he has it all under control and if Aaron were to lose his job, there would be good things to come of it.

Last week on the morning of our 8th wedding anniversary, we discovered that our heat had gone out. We were pretty puzzled because our house is only 5 years old and should last as long as the energizer bunny! When they came out to fix it, there were several things wrong with it. The motor, the tank, unbalanced.... blah! It ended up being a nice chunk to repair and fix. Though now I'm so grateful it happened last week when it was in the 50's as opposed to this week where it's -25 outside. Another expense that we will have to cover is Aaron's car needs new tires. It's been something that we are budgeting for, but with all of these unexpected things coming up, it's hard to write that check, but it's something that he needs for his safety!

I know that God will make a way and will provide the funding for these bumps, for Aaron's job, and for this entire adoption, but when you are in it, it's so hard to see that. Especially when it comes to me:) I'm such a worry wart and have a hard time giving it up and trusting and getting it out of my hands, my control, and just giving it to the Lord to work out. So here's to living one day at a time and daily just giving it to God to deal with and work out and to be thankful for heat, a car to drive, a job, and a healthy family :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

A long post to catch everyone up to where we are at now

This will be long, but will give you our story of how we came to adoption and where we are at right now.

Our Story:

Back in the days before kids, Aaron and I had discussed adoption in depth. His younger sister is adopted domestically and his family had done foster care while he was growing up so it was something that he was always open to. I on the other hand was a big not at all interested in adoption. I was mainly concerned with all of the unknowns of adoption (issues, not liking us, wanting to go back to their real mom....) and I just didn't want to bring that into my family. I knew we wanted 3 kids and I was perfectly fine with that. From then on, he didn't force the discussions of adoption and basically just left it at that.

So now fast forward 7 years to April 2013. We attend The Chapel and they are very involved with missions. The Chapel is partners with Living Hope International out of PA and they have an adoption agency that works in China. The Chapel has done several short term missions trips with them twice a year. The Chapel was talking about the next upcoming trip where they were going to do some construction work at one of the orphanage buildings and that really interested Aaron. He loves to work with his hands and build things so he thought this would be a great opportunity for him to serve. So he asked if he could go and I immediately said absolutely! So he signed up to go and that was that. I didn't think once about how China has a huge issue with children needing adopted and how their living conditions are just unbelievable.

In May of 2013 Aaron left to go on the trip with a handful of others from church. At the last minute Aaron's part of the trip (to do construction work) got cancelled so he and his small group were going to join the rest of the team doing orphan care. He was bummed at first, but knew God was in control and was up for whatever.

While he was gone, I would pray for his team and it would always get put on my heart about adoption. I began to think about it all the time and kind of argue and debate in my mind about adoption and all the fears that I had with it. God just kept putting it on my heart and basically came to the conclusion that I needed to trust him and know that all those fears will be taken care of and that I didn't need to worry about them. And me being the planner I am, I began to get really excited! I started to think of names, how to plan her and Leah's room, what we would need to do to get ready for her to come. When Liam was born, I was super excited to have him in the family and for Owen to have a brother, but to be honest I was a little bummed because I wanted Leah to have a sister. And if someone asked if we were done having babies, I would tell people that if I could get pregnant once more and that it would be a girl, I would do it. BUT that's not how things go:) Every pregnancy got worse for me that with Liam it was almost miserable and I said I was done. So with the thought of adoption, all I could think was "well then Leah could have a sister! China has an abundance of girls that need adopted. We could do this." So while he was gone, I just kept thinking and praying about the whole thing.

So when he returned from China, I randomly one night brought it up. I simply said, "What would you think of adopting a little girl from China?" Aaron about lost his jaw! He pretty much was like "What did you do with my wife? Did you just say that?" He was pretty shocked! So we began to talk about it and discuss adoption and how that would work. We basically came to an agreement that we are very grateful for all that God has given us. Aaron has a great job, I am blessed to stay at home with the kids,  we have a nice home, and we have great friends and family to support us. We agreed that this was something we really wanted to think and pray on together to make sure this is where God was leading us. Aaron also mentioned that I go to China that October with the next missions trip to just see and get a glimpse of China for myself, see the country, the children and just take in the culture. So I signed up to go in October. At first I was a little nervous because Liam would be just 1 and then Owen was 3 and Leah was 5. Would things be ok at home while I'm across the world for 10 days? He was very encouraging and said things would be ok and that he would have help and that I should go. So I said ok and began to prepare for that.

In October, I went to China. It was such an incredible experience! The culture over there is just so amazing, different, and interesting. The children of course grabbed my heart, and it completely confirmed what we had been praying about and I knew that this was something that we needed to do. So when I got home from China we started looking into the requirements for adopting from China. OH MY WORD! They are such a strict country and they have some crazy restrictions. (you must be between 30-45, you must have a certain BMI, you must have so many assets, if you have children, they must be 1 years old) So at the time, our biggest road block was my age. Aaron was already 30 but I was going to be 30 in June 2014. So we just took the time in between really praying and making sure that this was what God had for us. We mentioned it to our small group and just asked them for prayer and then we told a select few close friends as well to pray. It also gave us the time to really look into our finances and figure out how to pay for it. (can we save for it, do we get a loan, do we fundraise... $35,000 is A LOT of money and we don't just have that to drop instantly to pay for everything) We also began looking at the different agencies. There are SO many to pick from so it was hard to narrow it down to just one. We ended up choosing Living Hope Adoption Agency in PA since we had worked with them on our missions trip in China, some friends of ours adopted two girls from China and used them, and since it's a smaller organization, it's a little more personal than just a job for them.

I decided to start selling Jamberry to help bring in some extra money that we could put towards the adoption. We are also going to do a garage sale this spring to get rid of some things we no longer need. Aaron has talked about making some bottle openers and other things to sell. We are applying for some grants and are on a strict budget to bring her home. We know that a loan is an option, but we really feel that to be our last option.

Fast forward to June: I turned 30!! We decided to finally fill our families in on what has been going on in our hearts and minds for the last several months. We asked them to begin to pray for us as well.

In August we began the paperwork:) We also decided it was time to tell all our friends and family! it was so nice to get it out in the open and not have to hide or keep it in anymore! We wanted people to be excited for us, to pray for us, and to be with us along this ride so to keep it inside was not an option anymore!  We received our approval and then scheduled our home study. A social worker has to come in and ask you all sorts of questions about you, your spouse, your kids, your families, your marriage, how you parent, see your house.... We had that done in the beginning of November and received our typed paperwork from him in December. We then had to send that to our agency for approval and in mid December we got that approved. And so the next step is to fill out an I-800 application to send to the USCIS (US consulate) and get their approval basically saying that we are allowed to bring a child from another country into our home. We sent in those papers on Christmas Eve and hope to hear back from that sometime the end of January. Our next step then is to send ALL of our paperwork (called a dossier) to China and their government has to look over everything to approve us for adoption. These papers are all kinds of things, marriage license, birth certificates, medical examinations, home study, reference letters, pictures of us, our children, and house, pet vaccination records, fingerprints, background checks... Once that gets approved, we will be placed on the waiting list to be matched with her.

In China, you can pick your child off of a waiting list or you can be matched with one. If you wanted to pick your child, you would probably have to take a child with a bigger medical conditon/disability. You would read their story and see their picture and that's how you could connect with one and decide which one you want. We have decided to be matched. We have said that we want a girl between the ages of 1 years old to 5 and 11 months old with very minor special needs. In China is you want a "perfect" child you will wait several years. If you are willing to take on a child with special needs the process isn't as long. In China, they have the severe medical conditions/disabilities, but they also classify things like asthma, premature birth, one eye slightly lower than the other eye, hemangioma, umbilical hernia... as a special needs child. We have said that we will take a child with something like that. We would love to take on something bigger, but we just don't have the finances to take in a child that may need several surgeries or medical attention.

This is just my guess, but I am hoping that we will be matched with her this spring and see her picture and then travel over to China to get her sometime this fall/christmas time. It could take longer, it could be shorter, it's totally out of our hands. We know that God has her already picked out for our family and is watching over her and beginning to prepare her for us. We know he has all the details worked out and all we need to do is trust and wait.

This whole process is teaching us so much! We are big planners and like to be in charge and on top of things. Well an adoption is something that is completely out of our hands! We can do our best to keep things moving, but there are many times where it's out of our hands and we just have to wait and trust. Another thing is that it's brought me out of my comfort zone. I would have never said I would sell something. I am just not a salesperson. I don't like to talk in big groups and I don't want to force someone to buy something. So we are learning so much about ourselves during this process that will make us better in the long run.

We are so excited for this journey and can't wait to finally see a picture of our new little girl. We would so appreciate your prayers during this time and I will keep this updated with any news, pictures, information that we get.  Thank you so much for your friendship, encouragement, and all that you do for us. We are truly grateful to have such wonderful friends and family to help us through this journey. We definitely can't do it alone.

 If you have further questions, please ask. I'm sure I left something out:)