Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

We had a blessed celebration of Christ's birth again this year! Our first party began on Friday the 23rd at our house with the Kruse's. We ordered a boston butt and then all made side dishes to go with it. Everyone had a great time eating, talking and opening gifts, especially Granny's traditional junk boxes! The only tragedy was when Korbin was trying to trapeze between the couch and recliner and ended up with a black eye!

On the 24th, we spent a lazy morning and then visited with Dad in the afternoon until Brandon got off work at Bill's. While we were at Dad's, Santa came and left a gift for each child as well as a full stocking with candy, bath stuff and ping pong equipment. They didnt understand that one since we dont have a table. They each opened all their gifts and then found one more gift in the garage that was to all three of them.... A Ping Pong Table!! :) Since Christmas we have had some exciting and competitive games in this house, with Brandon making up new rules as he goes along. Jillian's gifts were UDraw for Wii, Farkle, Jungle Racer, Brain Break, movies, clothes. Korbin got Mario Cart game and Mario K'nex, Joker House with figures, Angry Birds, and clothes/boots. Brandon got Beats by Dre headphones, which he shopped and paid for with money we gave him for Christmas along with some money he had saved. Laikyn had a magical teapot set under the tree and she will get to open it when she comes home.

Christmas Day began with a Christmas service at church. We were able to meet our new cousin Noah who has just come home from Ethiopia and is sooo adorable! We declared the rest of the day as pajama day and just played with toys and games all day.

On Monday the 26th we had our final celebration at Gay's house in Tennessee. We had our traditional meal and then had the kids exchange gifts with whoever they had drawn. The adults played a Secret Santa game with at least 5 of the gifts being Cracker Barrel cards. We discussed banning gift cards next year. Next, we played Newlywed game with Brandon and Savannah being this year's winners. Dana and Kassidy came in 2nd!! Seems like the real couples need to talk a little more! :) Rob and I had discussed answers before the game and unfortunately Gay changed all the questions. We decided we do worse when he takes it seriously anyway!
All of the kids had a great time with their cousins and look forward to the next family get together!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Name

and the winner is...... Laikyn Hope Mingzhu

Okay, I know that she will have to spell and pronounce her name for her entire life, but it had to be unique and still have the same ending as the other 3. I really had a hard time with this one. We decided very early on a boy's name as the agency told us we could get a boy or a girl. If it was a boy, his name was to be Holden Tanner with the Chinese name. Thought she might want to know this since my other kids have enjoyed knowing what their other gender name was to be.

Last summer, I was looking at pictures of Owensboro Dance Team and saw a little girl with the name Laikyn. I thought it was pretty so I wrote it down. Later, I looked it up in a name book and found the meaning was "from the still waters." I loved that since I had been quoting Psalm 23 to myself many times through the process. When we got our referral, I found that Mingzhu means bright pearl. I think that when you put it together, it should be bright pearl from the still waters! I love it! Hope she does. I put off the decision for a long time and a couple of weeks ago, I was Christmas shopping. As I was in the children's clothing at Macy's a mom and a grandmom were right next to me. The grandmother held up to dresses and said, "This one is for Rayghan and this one is for Laikyn." Those were the two names I had been considering! I laughed and thought to myself that God was telling me to just pick one and get on with it!

We announced her name on our Christmas cards and the day that we sent them out, we got an update from the orphanage. They have moved her to foster care since summer with parents and 2 foster brothers. She has gotten so big! She has gained 7 pounds since being with them. Her feeding schedule shows that they now are feeding her 7 times per day, so that may explain it! Haha! They also had her wrapped in many layers of clothing as is traditional for the Chinese. She can now run and climb up and down stairs. She is still on her seizure meds and has not had any more. It also said that she is quiet, introverted and likes to play by herself. I am praying that she was able to get our care package that we sent. It should have arrived this week.

The Dossier

The dossier is the collection of documents that goes to China and has taken us many months to complete. It includes background, financial, and health checks, immigration clearance, petitions, vial records, employment records, home study, passport copies, and pictures. When everything is complete, each document is notarized, county and state certified, and then sealed by the US State Dept and Chinese Embassy. Each time we thought we were finally finished, we found some problem that seemed to delay us even more. What I thought would be ready by October, dragged into December. The day we received our last documents in the mail, I fell in the floor and had a good stress relieving cry. It's kind of like labor, you forget the pain, until you're right back in the midst of it. I remember starting this process thinking that I was an old pro and would whiz right through! Kicked myself for that thought so many times. Ours was finally sent to our agency on Saturday, December 17th. They logged it in on Tuesday. Now it is in the critical review process which takes about 9 days. If everything is perfect, it will be expressed to China and logged in there. If it's not... well I dont even want to think about that! That log in date is known as LID day. It's typically about 4-5 months from LID to travel. The Christmas season is keeping me slightly distracted from my nervousness at this point. Shopping has been hard though. I cannot stay out of the toddler aisle and being there makes me emotional, wishing she could be here for Christmas.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Referral: August 2011

And then we saw your face. In a moment you were wrapped up in our hearts ~ So Far to Find You

Since starting the adoption process in April so much has happened. As we completed our home study last spring, there were many days that Rob and I would look at each other and say, "Are we really going to do this?" We began to question and doubt so many times and every time those doubts arose, Rob would say to remember the end result. What kept me going was the picture of that little girl and her hopeful eyes. Our home study was final by June and we were ready to start the paper chase to compile our dossier. I worked all through the month on preparing documents. In early July, our agency called and asked that we review a file of another little girl. We asked about Jessica again and were told that another family had committed to her when her file was released. I realized by that time that she was never supposed to be with us, but that God had used her story in a huge way to lead us to who was destined to be our child. We wouldnt have even known about this particular agency had it not been for that phone call to Show Hope to inquire about Jessica. We eagerly prayed and met with our doctor, hoping this would be the one. After much turmoil and about a week of delaying,we felt God leading us to say no and wait. I just hadnt realized until that point how gut wrenching that decision would be. I held on and prayed that we wouldn't have to go through that experience again. Ultimately what helped me past it is that a few weeks later, I saw her description on a matched child list and realized that she was also supposed to be with someone else. At this point though, I wondered if we would ever find our child.
On a beautiful, sunny August 5th, I was doing some housework and got a phone call about 1:00. I recognized the agency's number, but instead of rushing to answer, I found myself frozen and staring at the phone, missing the call. I was convinced that it was going to be a repeat of what we had been through the month before and I wasnt ready to face it again. As soon as I composed myself, I prayed for guidance and called them back. I had to leave a message and just wait. When Rob got home at 4:00, I was really upset because it was Friday afternoon and they still hadnt called back. Now, because of my hesitation,I would have to bite my nails all weekend. We headed to Subway to eat and then to Dad's for a visit. While there, I finally got the call. Sarah at CCAI had another file for us to view. It was a little 18 month old girl named Ming Zhu. This alone caught my breath because that was Jillian's nickname given to her by her nanny when she was in the orphanage. I also learned that she had a corrected heart condition and was on meds for seizures. When we arrived home from Dad's, instead of running to the computer, I went to my room, prayed again and opened my Bible. I asked God to show me whether or not this was the child he had planned for us. I opened my Bible rand my eyes fell on the words, "This is the day you have waited for and you have lived to see it." I really knew at that moment that this was a yes and I hadnt even looked at her file. At this point I RAN to the computer and opened the email. As her picture opened, I just smiled. I felt like I had always known her. I was amazed that she reminded me so much of Jillian. The medical information was not very clear to me, but I knew that this was my daughter and we would handle whatever faced us. I forwarded her file to our doctor and waited for a reply. When we entered the waiting child program, we knew that we were asking for a child with some type of medical condition. The hard part is when there is so much uncertainty of what that condition is. When we started,we had done our research and met with the doctor to find out what kinds of conditions that we were best suited to handle. The thing is, when you see your child, it doesn't really matter anymore.
On Tuesday, August 9th, our pediatrician called with very happy news. She was very positive about her condition. The heart defect was a blood vessel that hadnt closed properly and was an easy procedure for a heart surgeon. She had had surgery within 3 weeks of entering the orphanage and had recovered very well. We decided to accept and request more info about her seizures. This was received about two weeks later complete with CT scans and EEG. Everything on these reports was encouraging as well, so we felt a huge sense of relief. Now to finish our dossier so we could get her home to us!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

March 2011: Our Decision

The following is my journal entry from April 22, 2011 as I wrote about all that had happened over the preceding few weeks....

Sparkling, full of hope and determination. Those are the thoughts that came to me as I opened a picture of a beautiful little orphan that I'd never met.

For the past few months, since before Christmas, I'd felt a tug toward adopting again. It was simple to me, there was just no way we could really think about this! I had many reasons to say no, and as fast as I could, I was presenting God with excuses for why I couldn't. Rob will never agree, We are too old, We have 3 already and 1 is in college, , We just cant afford it... Yet in the midst of all this, I knew the truth, and I realized that God already knew my circumstances. So after weeks of struggling, I had pledged to God that if He was really calling us to do this, I just needed Him to make it so crystal clear that His will would have to eclipse all of my fears. As I began to pray about it, I was amazed to find out that my husband was also thinking the same thing. All of the turmoil through the previous months had prepared my heart for this day.

It was Saturday, March 4, 2011. Throughout this day, my mind was cluttered and my heart was heavy. Late in the afternoon, I sat down to open my facebook page and had a message that there was a new post on Show Hope's blog. A few weeks earlier, I had signed up to be a prayer partner with Maria's Big House of Hope, an orphan care center founded by the Chapman family. I had been thinking that there were plenty of jobs I could do to care for orphans without actually going as far as adopting again. I could pray, give, encourage others in adoption. Surely that is what God would have me do at this stage in my life. This particular blog included a video of a little boy singing along to a Justin Bieber song. As I watched, the video lagged and stopped on the face of a little girl sitting in the floor and dancing/singing along to the music. All of the children were adorable, but she took my breath away. My heart went out to her in a way that I can't describe. I remember saying to myself that I would feel so blessed to be able to adopt her. I clicked out of the video and read the list of names to pray for. The name "Jessica" caught my eye because that is also the name of my cousin that has a great passion for orphans as well. As soon as her page opened, I knew that it was the same little angel from the video. The thought occurred to me that none of my excuses mattered to her. She just needed a family! As I read the information provided, I learned that she was 4 1/2 years old and had been admitted to the center malnourished and suffering from a leg break. She had also been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Through the loving care of MBHOH, she had made miraculous gains. With tears streaming by the time I'd read her story, I committed to God that I would love and pray for her until He placed her in a home. There was something so hopeful and sweet in her eyes despite the terrible difficulties she'd suffered. That night, I wrote her name in my Bible and enlisted the rest of my family to pray for her as well.

Each night that week, I slept restlessly and dreamed of her. One night I saw myself driving the van down the road. In my dream I looked in the rear view mirror and saw little Jessica staring back at me. The next night, our family was standing by her hospital bed as a stranger entered the room and announced there was a family chosen for her. I don't usually think of dreams as anything more than they are, but each day I was left with an extremely troubled feeling. I began to wonder again if God could be calling me to do more than pray for her. By Wednesday night of that week, I was exhausted. I'd been praying constantly, but still didnt know what to do. I finally went to Rob and explained how I felt, thinking he would "talk me down." He looked at me and said, "Well, we will just call and check on her!" I protested and told him that was crazy...people don't just call and check on orphans in other countries!

The next day, I got a text from him that said, "Jessica is available!" My heart almost stopped and I immediately called to get the details. He had tracked down the number for Show Hope at their headquarters in Franklin, Tn. They were very excited that we were interested in adopting and gave us the number to the agency that handles most of the adoptions of MBHOH kids. The agency (CCAI) sent us her chinese name, birthdate and location. They also explained that she should be released for adoption in a few months, but there were a couple other families also on a waiting list to view her medical file once she was released. Rob and I felt that we could possibly be her family. If not, we knew God was using this to prepare our hearts for another child. We committed to adopt that day. I knew that no matter what happened that we had to see this through. The same day, we called our local agency and made arrangements to begin our home study for another amazing adoption journey! All of the fears and troubled feelings of the previous weeks disappeared as soon as we made the phone call. A peace came over me that told me we had taken a step of faith and God had already taken care of the rest.

Disney World 2011

For the last several years, we have hoped to spend a family vacation at Disney, one of my favorite places ever! This year we decided to make it a reality, and spent our spring break there with Kevin's family. We had the greatest time!

We flew out from Nashville on a Sunday morning and arrived in Orlando midmorning. Our room (in Port Orleans) wasnt ready so we met up with Kev, Jill and kids and spent the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom. The Lion King show was amazing,the kids and adults were scared and thrilled on Dinosaur and Bug's life left us giggling. We ended the day soaked on the rapids! We all slept great that night since we had been up since 3am!

Day 2 was Epcot - We arrived as the park was opening and headed straight for Test track which was our favorite ride 10 years ago. Im pretty sure that J and K agreed since we had to ride it over and over until the line grew too long. The newest ride Soarin was also a hit! Amazing!! That night we had dinner with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey's! It was a blast. Even Brandon was up and interacting with the characters.

Day 3 Hollywood Studios - Started with a rain delay so it was so crowded by the time that we arrived, we didnt get to do everything. The kids loved the Indiana Jones show, but Fantasmic was definitely the favorite!

Day 4 was my favorite day - Magic Kingdom! We started back behind the castle and enjoyed all the kiddie rides like Dumbo, Magic Carpet and Peter Pan's Flight! then we headed to Adventure land for the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates and Splash! We finished all of the major rides by lunch so avoided a lot of the major crowds! After lunch was Teacups, Lilo, Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear. We also went back to do several of our favorites again!

Day 5 we went back to Hollywood to try some of the things we missed the first time. Jilli was able to realize her dream of riding Tower of Terror which I said I would never do again, but did for her. It was as horrible as I remembered but she didnt even flinch! We all really enjoyed the new Pixar ride.

Day 6 back to reality! It was wonderful vacation that we will be discussing for many years to come!!