Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Year of Waiting and Anticipation

If you know me at all, you know what 2012 was all about for me.  It was a year of lots of big decisions, lots of waiting, lots of stress and lots of excitement.  2013 is sure to be the craziest year of my life so far!  Here are some highlights of 2012 (both adoption and non-adoption related):

I started this entire process.  I looked into different programs, contacted Reece's Rainbow, the adoption agency and the home study agency.  I sought advice from family and friends.  I received a packet containing this beautiful picture.
I started filling out reams and reams of paperwork.  This would continue for the entire year.

Ummm...something must have happened......

I had an intake meeting with the social worker for my home study.  
My homestudy was officially started.  
Sara and I were officially matched on RR.

I spent a weekend in Indy with Anna and with some dear friends from Maine.  It was fun to reconnect with Lisa and her family.

I had my home visit with the social worker.
I did my 10 hours of training required by Hague.

I spent my spring break with my family in NY.  These are the kinds of things I do with my family:

My amazing work friends through me a toddler shower.

My family welcomed another little girl.  Kinsley Morgan Keller was born to my brother and sister-in-law on April 20th.

My home study was FINALLY finished.
My i-800A was submitted to USCIS.

I spent my last "I'm not a Mom" Mother's day.
I got to meet my first RR baby--Henry.

The women in my small group put together a huge yard sale for Sara.  Despite the yucky weather, it was a HUGE success.
My mother threw me a shower with some friends and family in NY.  My sister made the trip and I got to meet my new niece.  I also got to meet Angie and Jason.  (We have walked through this process together.  I can't wait to get our girls together.) 

Anna and I went on one last girls' vacation to Cozumel, Mexico.  Thanks to LivingSocial, we got a great deal.  It involved sitting in the pool and doing little else (except dodging some of the staff) for 6 days.  Amazing.

My I-800A application was approved by USCIS.  This let me start filling out grant applications and submit my dossier.

I dog sat for a week.  The dog survived and so did I!
I spent a weekend in Holland, MI with my dear friend Becky.

I received word that I had been given a large grant by Show Hope.  What a blessing!
Sara celebrated her 4th birthday---the last one she will know without a family.
My dossier was submitted.

I spent a weekend in Indy with Anna.  It involved lots of trips to Joanns and Redbox.  I have to appreciate a friend that loves low-key weekends as much as I do.
I also spent a chunk of time in NY with my parents.  My mom and I even went "camping."  We stayed in the air-conditioned RV and watched lots of ER and knit.  We did it in the state park so it's considered camping, right?

Sara's orphanage approved my request to adopt her.

I started my 13th year of teaching.  I'm really not sure how that happened.  I swear I'm not that old!

I got Sara's official referral in October.  Before that, I had a few pages and a couple of little pictures.  Her referral allowed me to find out tons more about her and fall even farther in love with her.  It also allowed me to accept her referral and tell my country and hers that I wanted to be her mom.  It also meant I got a new picture.

I was issued my approval by USCIS.  A huge step in the process!

I spent three days in Minnesota at a conference for work.  I got to experience the Mall of America and add another state to my list.  I think we decided I'm at 40.

Not much really happened on the adoption front.  I found out that Sara wouldn't be home in time for Christmas and that I would have to wait until January to travel.  The rest of the month was spent waiting and waiting and waiting.
I got to hang out with Angie.  We had our own little "our girls won't be home for Christmas pity party."  We also went and met Selah and Yvonne.  I had been following their story since August and had seen Selah in the hospital days after their accident.  It was nice to finally meet them!
I flew to NY for Thanksgiving.  My sister didn't make it home but the rest of the family got some time together.  I got to spend a little time with my aunt and 4 cousins.  I'm not sure the last time we all were together.

Sara's Article 5 was issued.  This is the promise from the US Embassy that they will issue her a visa to come to the US.  This means that I finally got a travel date.  I booked tickets, got a visa, booked the hotel.  Traveling planning was in full swing.

I also got to Skype with Sara.  It was absolutely priceless.  I didn't really say much.  I just sat and watched her.  She's convinced my dad is Santa Claus and kept asking where the dog was.  Poor child may be very disappointed when she finally gets home!

I got to spend the day waiting for this little princess to arrive into the world.  Her mom and I have worked together forever and it was such a privilege to spend a day in the hospital awaiting her arrival.

I drove to NY for Christmas.  Every time I drive, I vow I'll never do it again.  But, I needed to bring back a lot of pork from an adoption fundraiser so I drove.  I managed to miss most of the snow on the trip but there was definitely plenty at my parents' house.

Our Christmases tend to be very low key affairs, which is really how must of us prefer it!  We spent some time with my nieces---something I just don't get to do enough of.  It was fun to think about what Christmas will look like next year with another little girl running around!

(I also got an iPhone.  Not sure if this is blog-worthy or not but I love it!)  

Lessons Learned:
*I have some of the most amazing, generous, giving, supportive friends and family in the world.
*Sometimes, if you have the guts to speak your craziest, wildest ideas out loud, you'll learn that they aren't crazy at all.
*Sometimes, it's best to not really know how hard something is going to be when you get into it.
*There are good people in the world.  People that will help complete strangers.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Don't Hate Skype Anymore

Today, I got to skype with my daughter.  Since I only have a few small pictures of her (that all look different), this was an amazing experience that I've had mixed feelings about for a while.  I've always hating skype.  In some ways, I was really dreading it.  Skype is awkward.   As much as I hate it, I was not going to miss a chance to see my little girl.

When we first connected, she was pretty quiet and reserved.  I felt like I should be chatting with her more but she wasn't really talking.  The psychologist did a great job telling her that this was her mommy.  I'm at my parents' house so they also came in and we introduced her to them and her aunt and some of her uncles.  She warmed up pretty quickly.

She's precious.  She chattered a lot.   She kept asking where the dog was.  (Sorry, hon.  No dog here!)  She also was convinced that my dad was Santa Claus.  Any time he got in the shot, she started talking about Papa Noe.  I didn't understand everything she said but I was encouraged by how much she was talking and how in-tune she was to what was going on.  She clearly wanted to get down and play but she knew every time Santa Claus walked past the computer.

My heart is full tonight.  I'm not sure how I'll wait another 18 days.   Until then, I have a couple of screen shots to look at.

Not really sure about this whole Skype thing.

Blowing kisses to her Mami!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Mija!

I've known for a while that this Christmas would be bittersweet.  I really thought my little girl would be home.  Obviously, she's not.  For a while, I considered just skipping Christmas all together.

She has still been very well celebrated.  She received gifts--something that she probably hasn't experienced much in her life.  Even though she doesn't know how loved she is, I am touched and honored by how cherished she is.  I have the most amazing friends and family that continue to overwhelm me with their generosity and support.

I love knowing my baby is opening a gift today from me--her mom.  I'm not even sure if she knows what a mom is or who am I or how much her life is about to change.  Regardless, knowing that she is opening a teddy bear today that will allow her to hear my voice brings me immense amounts of joy mixed with a little sadness.  My baby is celebrating her last Christmas without a family.

Mommy's Coming Mija!  Just 3 more weeks!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Visa Holder

I am officially the holder of a Colombian Adoption Visa.  I took yesterday off from work (the first day I've taken off since March when I did my adoption training) and spent the day in the city.

I stopped at the Secretary of State's Office to get some things apostilled for travel and for the visa.  They didn't like a couple of the notarizations so I made a quick trip down to the bank to get them fixed.  (Since I had to do this last time I went, I knew it wasn't a big deal and didn't panic this time.)  The woman that looked at the papers at the bank insisted that I had to have a Spanish speaking notary since the documents were in Spanish.  (I still think she was wrong.)  Fortunately, it didn't take them long to find one and I was done with the whole process pretty quickly.

I got to check out the German Christmas Market downtown before heading to the Colombian Consulate to get my visa.  I didn't really know what to expect but it was all a lot less complicated and dramatic than I thought it would be.  The website clearly listed what paperwork they wanted so I was able to hand it all in and answer a few questions.  I waited about 15 minutes and I now have a visa glued into my passport.  (I've always wanted something important looking in my passport.)  

I also have plane tickets purchased for myself, Sara, and my mom.  I had been working with an adoption travel agency but it was taking forever and I was getting impatient.  There were a lot of little details to work out and it was not going well by email.   I need a round trip ticket that can be changed.  Sara needs a one way ticket.  My mom is going from a different city and only staying a week.  None of us wanted to fly over night.  We preferred to layover in Atlanta.  I finally just called Delta myself.  It took several hours over the phone and a trip to Midway but all three of us have tickets and we got a great deal.  There is something about plane tickets that just make things seem final!

I have found a friend that has the ability to record Skype calls.  I'm just waiting to hear when it will be scheduled.  I'm really hoping it happens this week so we can record it.  Warning:  If it is recorded, anyone who comes into personal contact with me in the next month will most likely be forced to watch it.  I have heard that another family has had their call scheduled for the 18th.  I'm hoping and praying that Sara and I can talk that day as well.

I am so excited that it is now under a month until I get to meet my little girl.  I feel like I can finally start counting down the days.  30.....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Planning

I finally got the ok to book my travel.  Yay!!!  As previously reported, I will be meeting Sara on Monday, January 14th at 8AM.  The appointment is now officially on the books.

My mom and I will be flying on January 12th to Colombia.  (That's 5 weeks from today!)  When I was talking to the agency rep, she kept saying I should fly on the 13th.  I finally stopped and told her that I would be flying on the 12th.  After all the bad travel experiences I've had, I'm not risking missing this appointment to save the price of one night in the hotel.  Plus, I'm flying from Chicago and my mom is flying from Buffalo.  Chances are good it will be snowing in at least on of those places on January 13th.

I told a friend that we would spend the 13th settling in and exploring the neighborhood.  She replied:  "You mean standing outside the orphanage gate yelling Sara's name?"  I laughed but she might be on to something....

I emailed the travel agency on Thursday after I got the news but didn't hear back from them on Friday.  BOO!!!  I'm going to call Delta today and see what I can get on my own.  Their website says they have special fares for adoption but it seems like you have to actually get someone who knows that on the phone.    I really want to book these tickets!

I am also waiting for a confirmation from the hotel with the pricing package.  (Makes it sound like some elaborate vacation.)  My legal rep in Colombia is friends with the owner of the hotel so she's hoping to get me a good deal.  (Yet another answer to prayer!)  I've researched lodging arrangements quite a bit and decided this is where we would stay before I knew there might be some connections there.

My visa appointment is scheduled for Friday at the Consulate downtown.  I was going to have to take a day off anyway to get some stuff apostilled so now I will make a day of it.  I'm hoping the weather is nice so I can enjoy being in the city at Christmastime a little bit as well.  I have all the paperwork notarized and ready to go.  I just need to go get my pictures done.  Not my favorite thing but I doubt I can pull of the defiant, pouty face quite as well as Sara did.  

After months and months of working to bring my little girl home, it's finally starting to feel real.  I can't wait to have my tickets and my visa in hand as I head to my parents' for Christmas break.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Article 5

I found out on Friday that my Article 5 had been issued.  (A week to the day after I was told it would be.)  I'm learning, once again, that "tomorrow" means "sometime in the next two weeks"  in some cultures.  

The legal rep in Colombia will now go book the official appointment to meet Sara.  After that, I can finally book my tickets and get my visa.  I'm starting to worry that the visa thing is going to run into my Christmas break.  Ugh!!  I just want it all done already.  But, once again, it's out of my control.  So, I wait.

The good news is that I've been told I can Skype with Sara.  I hate Skype.  I think it's incredibly awkward and I don't enjoy it.  BUT, I will do anything--even Skype--to be able to see my baby.  I'm waiting to hear back about when this will happen.

When I first heard we were going to Skype, the teacher in me kicked in.  I thought:  I will get to see if she follows directions.  I can hear her speech patterns.  I will be able to see how active and/or attentive she is.  I will get lots of good information on her functioning levels.    Then, the mom in me kicked in.  I will get to see her little face.  I will get to hear her voice.  I will get to see her mannerisms.  I will have more than just a couple of pictures to remember/know/love her by.   Then, reality kicked in.  How am I ever going to get through this?  I don't want to scare her to death by bawling as soon as I see her.  I seriously didn't used to cry this much.  Will I even be able to speak?

It's going to be interesting, that's for sure.  I feel so blessed to have this chance and I hope it comes together soon.  I'll let you know how it goes and if I forever scar her with my blubbering.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the Arms of Jesus

Back in May, I got to meet my first Reece's Rainbow child.  I wrote about that experience here.  I was thrilled to meet Henry and his mom.  He had come home in the fall of 2011 and was less than 2 years old when I met him.  Henry had a rare syndrome that came with some medical complications.

I instantly fell in love with him and got to see Henry a few times since then.  His mother was clearly in love with her child and his older siblings doted on him.

This afternoon, Henry passed away.  He had spent a few days in the hospital with an infection from a surgery he had about a month ago.  My heart is broken.

If you've followed anyone's adoption journey, you know that it is hard work.  It's exhausting.  It's expensive. It's not fun or easy.  Henry's parents went through this whole process last year.  They survived and got to bring their little boy home---a little boy that had no chance of a future where he was.  A little boy that didn't know the love of a family.

While Henry's time with his family was way too short, I can't help but be glad that he didn't die alone.  He died with his mother there.  He died as a part of a family.  His death will be remembered and grieved.

Please pray for his family.  It doesn't matter how long someone has been your brother, whether or not they were adopted, whether or not they have special needs.  Losing a family member is hard.  Losing a sibling hurts.  There are lots of people who are grieving tonight.  Henry is not one of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Adoption Everywhere

Adoption is every where in my life right now!

As a senior in high school, I wrote my thesis in support of International and Interracial Adoption.  I'm not really sure where I came up with that idea.  I had one friend in high school that was adopted internationally.  My brothers were adopted but their adoptions weren't international or interracial.   I probably knew more people that were adopted but it wasn't really an open discussion when I was younger.  People just didn't talk about it.

Now, I feel like adoption is everywhere.  Maybe it's just me but I don't think so.  Outside of the people I've met through this process, I know a lot of people adopting.  I have a friend from summer camp that adopted from India.  (I followed her blog when she adopted about 2 years ago and had no idea what she was talking about!)  A young woman I used to babysit for is adopting through foster care.  I can't even count the number of people I met in Mexico that are now adopting--some are still there and some are now back at home.  A coworker is getting her foster care license to adopt.  A college friend has started the process to adopt from Africa.  A little girl in my church was adopted from Africa.

I won't begin to claim to know their motivations or reasons for adopting but I am inspired by each and every one of them.  I love that they are choosing to building their families this way and that adoption is not a taboo thing any more.  Adoption isn't just for families that can't have children.  It's not a secret shame.

Adoption is out in the open and it is every where!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movement is Always Good

We have a little bit of movement in Sara's adoption.  The agency emailed today.  The appointment at the Embassy on Monday went well.  It can take up to 5 business days to issue the Article 5 so we should have it mid-week next week.  When that is officially issued, the lawyer can go to social services in Colombia and we can officially be granted an "Encuentro" date.  (This is the date when I will meet Sara.)  When that happens, I can FINALLY book my ticket and hotel.  That will make things so much more final in my mind.

I got my FBI background clearances back on Tuesday.  It was a much less exciting step the second time around but still important.  I now have all the paperwork in place that I need to take with me when I travel.  I just need to get it all apostilled.

I'm planning to take a day off the first week of December to go downtown and get all the paperwork apostilled and get my visa from the Consulate downtown.  Then, it will just be a matter of enjoying the holidays and counting the days until I get to meet my little girl.

Nothing too exciting but I'll take little steps at this point.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

For some reason, Thursdays seem to be my lowest days in this process.  Maybe it's because I'm so tired from work at that point.  Maybe it's because I feel like I've spent the whole week waiting and nothing has happened.  Maybe it's because I have small group on Thursdays and I feel like I should be authentic with them so it makes me think about how I'm really feeling.  For whatever reason, Thursdays seem to be hard.  

Fridays, however, seem to bring good news.  Usually, it comes around 7pm on Fridays---just as the adoption agency in CA is closing up for the weekend.

Last night, I found out that Sara has an appointment at the Embassy on Monday.  Her article 5 should be issued by Friday.  This means I can book my ticket!!!   (I love to travel and a trip never seems final until the flight has been booked!)  Hopefully, I can do it while I'm still in NY for Thanksgiving so my mom and I can work out our flights together.  I can also work out housing arrangements and get moving on all the other things I need to get done!

I also got a copy of Sara's visa picture.  The email came with a disclaimer:
Please just know that each of these pictures that we get for the visa process comes out very sad. They force the children to have a straight face in the picture. Still, these sweet kids' visa pictures aren't half as bad as my personal passport photo.... oh gosh!  

I'll admit, I was kind of surprised by the picture.  I wasn't even sure it was the same child as the last picture that I had been given of her.  I spent several minutes comparing her features and convincing myself it was the same person.  (It's amazing what a smile can do!)

After studying the picture for quite a while, I've decided that I LOVE it.  It shows that she can follow directions.  She was told not to smile.  She sure didn't!  I also think it shows that she has some spunk.  "You don't want me to smile?  Fine.  This is what you get!"  My guess is that this is the face she makes when she doesn't get her way.  It really isn't going to get her very far with this mom, though, because it makes me chuckle.  I'm also convinced this is how she wakes up in the morning.  (Another sign she was meant to be my daughter.  That's pretty much how I wake up.)

It's the first little glimpse that I've gotten into her personality.  (It's also very possible that I'm reading way too much into a picture!)  

Oh, and yes.  It appears that my Colombian daughter has either blond or red hair.  She'll fit right in with her cousins. 

This picture makes me happy but also makes my heart hurt.  It makes me so anxious to get there and hold her in my arms.  I want to squeeze her and tickle her and swing her around until I see that little face light up.  So, while I can't go get her for a while, I will busy myself with travel arrangements and know that each day brings me closer to that precious face.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No News is.....Annoying.

No news is not good news.  It's annoying.  And, it just continues the emotional roller coaster.

Here's the chain of events (or non-events) that have me frustrated:

*About a week ago, it was stated that the strike had ended.  This wasn't entirely true.  The judges signed an agreement but haven't actually gone back to work in most of the country---including the city where Sara lives.  Because of this...

*The embassy is still not issuing Article 5s (essentially Sara's visa).  They fear that if they issue Article 5s, people will flood to Colombia to finish their adoptions.  They don't want any more people to travel until the strike is over.  Because of this....

*The agency won't officially give me a travel date.  (I have an unofficial date but it won't be official until we get her Article 5.)  Because of this....

*I can't buy a plane ticket.  I REALLY want to buy a plane ticket.  It would make things so much more real for me.  Because of this....

*I can't get my visa.  I need to have a plane ticket in order to get my visa from the Consulate in Chicago.  Because of this....

*I can't get my final paperwork apostilled.  I have to go to the Secretary of State's office downtown to get my paperwork apostilled.  This means taking a day off of work to go into the city.  I want to do the SOS and the Consulate on the same day so I don't have to take two days off from work.  (While I really want to take a day off from work, I need to save every minute of my time off for my leave.)  Because of this....

*I feel like I am getting no where.  I have all of this stuff done and ready to go and all the money in place and I'm not getting any closer to my child!  

I just want the strike to be over so I can get her Article 5, get a travel date, buy a ticket, apply for my visa, apostille my paperwork and be ready to go!  Is that really too much to ask?

*On a side note, the embassy in Colombia is hosting a webcast tomorrow to give information about the current state of adoptions there.  I'm really hoping for some good, useful, positive information.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slight Change of Plans

There is a slight change of plans with the travel..  The adoption house (orphanage) where Sara lives lost their license.  (I really have no idea why.)  They are being taken over by social services.  While they are not taking any new applications, I've been assured that Sara's adoption is not in jeopardy.  On the contrary, I've been told that social services is aware of the situation and excited about the adoption.  The staff at the orphanage are all the same---except the director.

The new director (from social services) starts after the Christmas break on January 14th.  So, I will travel on the 13th and be her first appointment on Monday morning the 14th.  I will meet my little girl on Monday, January 14th---which just happens to be her cousin's birthday.

I'm hoping that this is the last change and the last delay.

Please continue to pray for the end of the strike.  There are currently 62 families stuck in limbo in Colombia---6 of those are American.  I'm so glad to not be one of those families!  I cannot imagine the stress and cost of being stuck there wondering when it all will end.  It's hard enough to wait from here!

I'm trying to wait until the strike ends to book my plane tickets but it's a balancing act.  I don't want to wait too long so they cost more money but I also don't want to buy a ticket and then have to pay change fees on both ends.

I cannot wait until the day that I land back in Chicago with my daughter.  In that moment, it will all be worth it.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

January 8th, 2013

January 8, 2013!  That's the big date.  The day I will meet my daughter.  For months, I've been praying and crying and hoping that Sara would be home for Christmas.  Surprisingly, when I got the date of January 8th yesterday, I wasn't upset.  I was THRILLED and excited and giddy!  I'm so glad that the wondering and questioning is over.  Now I'm just on to waiting.  Something that isn't as hard when you know when the waiting will end. 

In all honesty, I did not make the decision to postpone travel until January.  The agency did.  After pouting for a little bit, I realized they are right for a multitude of reasons.

While I really, really wanted to Sara home for Christmas, I've known deep in my heart that it wasn't in her best interest.  Christmas is crazy!  There are parties and food and music and lights and gifts and people and travel and major sensory overload!  Christmas can get stressful for all of us.  Now, imagine being a 4-year-old who has left the only home she's ever known, the language she knows, the food she knows, the warm weather she knows, the people she knows and being dropped into December in Chicago and Buffalo. Talk about a shock!  While it would have been fun for me to have her to celebrate Christmas with, it could have been very hard on her.  (It's also possible that she would have gone with the flow and been fine but who knows.)  So, it's probably in her best interest to settle into her new life for a year before she experiences American Christmas!

There are also a couple of major factors that played into the decision to travel in January:

*The majority of the government of Colombia shuts down for a month around mid-December to mid-January.  I've heard different dates for when the shut down actually occurs but the bottom line is the same:  traveling in November is risky.  If you don't get everything done in a timely manner, you could end up getting stuck in Colombia for a very long time.  You take custody of your child shortly after arriving in the country so leaving and returning when paperwork is complete is not an option.  You are there start to finish.

*The judges in Colombia are still on strike.  They went on strike October 11th.  Right now, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.  Even if they were to go back to work on Monday, they are now three weeks behind on their cases.  So, even if I got my Article 5 on Monday, I wouldn't be able to get a court date for several weeks which would push things way too far into November.

*The adoption house where Sara lives has had it's license revoked.  I don't really understand all the implications of this.  I know that the social services agency in Colombia has taken over their active cases.  Sara's adoption is not in jeopardy but it will look a little bit different since I will be adopting under social services and not the adoption house.  With this added factor, it makes sense to wait until January until the dust has settled a little bit to travel instead of being the first one to try out the new system.

So, while I didn't like it at first, it makes a ton of sense to travel in January.  (Plus, I can be off from January until spring break.  No one likes working in January/February anyway.  Those are the longest school months of the year.)  

I'm off to look for plane tickets and start a count down!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Highs and Lows. Ups and Downs.

Just when I give up hope that Sara will be coming home for Christmas, I get some news that makes it seem like a possibility again.

Generally, I am not a super emotional person. I'm not a crier. Well, I wasn't. This process has put me on an emotional roller coaster that I'm not sure anyone can prepare for. I'm a mess. Everyone around me wants to be encouraging and hold onto hope but sometimes it's just so hard. A lot of times, I convince myself that she isn't coming home until January because it's just easier. Then, something happens and I get my hopes up again.

I got an email this week from USCIS. My I-800 has been approved and is in the mail. This means, there is still hope of Sara coming home before Christmas. This news has put me into full nesting mode. I've been buying the last few things on my list that I need for Sara. I'm putting the finishing touches on her play room. (Her room is already done.) I dragged a bed frame out of the garage to put together for the guest room. (I've been tripping over that thing for almost 2 years and never bothered before.) I rearranged my classroom. It's bad.

I know that my hopes are up too high. I know that I will be really hurt if she isn't home by Christmas. I also know that I have NO CONTROL over this. I am waiting for her Article 5 to be granted and then for a court date. This date will be set by ICBF in Colombia and my lawyer. I have no idea when I will get the date, how much time I'll have to wait before I go, or when that date will be. (Trust me. When I know, I'll spread the word!)

Please pray for Sara. Her care package should be arriving in Colombia soon. The orphanage staff will then start working with her to prepare her for this huge change. I don't know how much she will understand but I do know that this change will be hard for her. She is leaving EVERYTHING she knows.

Please pray for me. I am a planner. I want to know when she will be home, where I will be for Thanksgiving, if I will be alone at Christmas. I also want to know if she got her package, how she's doing, how much she understands, how she's going to react. I have so many thoughts, wishes, dreams, and fears running through my head and then I come back to Sara and how much her world is about to change.

Just when I think I've gotten through the hard parts of this process, the next step comes up and it's even harder. The hardest pieces are yet to come!

Is it too soon to put the car seat in the car? (I'm hoping and dreaming again....)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Once again, I am waiting for paperwork to be processed. I check my mailbox as soon as I get home and I'm probably going to get busted at work for the number of times I check my phone during the day to see if there is any news. Nothing.

Here's what little is going on:
*USCIS sent a letter saying they had received my paper work and it was being sent from the lock box to the officer. That came last week. I emailed the officer today but did not get a response.

*I got this email from the agency today:
I received your package in the mail today and it will be picked up to be sent to Colombia within the next hour. Your choice of gifts were beyond perfect. We are so excited to have yours be our first care package to be sent to Colombia. Sarita is such a lucky little girl.
So, my little girl will soon have her pictures, bear, and Red Sox outfit.

*The agency posted this on their facebook page today:
Today we are sending a care package to a little girl in Colombia who is getting closer and closer to meeting her new mommy. How can we fit all that love into one single box?! We're so excited!!!
I love how excited they are!

*The agency said this week that the orphanage staff are planning to take something out of her package to use as a Christmas gift. I'm guessing that means they don't think she'll be home for Christmas.

There is still no definite information or time line. There is still a very, very small chance she could be home this year. I'm planning to buy my plane ticket for Thanksgiving today and decide when I want to use my personal days for this year. That ought to get me a travel date.....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back to Waiting and Wondering

It's been a crazy weekend. I scrambled and got all the paperwork done to go out in the mail tomorrow. (Stupid Columbus Day that I didn't even get off from work!)

*My referral acceptance letter has been mailed.

*My FBI fingerprints were taken twice and are now in the mail.

*My USCIS paperwork is waiting for two little answers from the agency that was closed today. I will mail it after work tomorrow.

*I have most of her care package done. I made a photo book of her new home, family, and friends. I made a Build-a-Bear and recorded my voice for her. I also bought her an adorable outfit that I think defines her new family pretty well.

*I put the finishing touches on Sara's room.

*Her visa application is ready to go to the Embassy in her country. I will email it tomorrow.

Everything is done that I can do! While it's a great feeling, I'm back to the waiting spot. You know, that spot I HATE! I am waiting. Waiting to see how long it will take to process my paper work. Waiting for approval. Waiting for a court date. Waiting to see if my little girl will be home for Christmas. Waiting to hold her in my arms.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting Warmer....Warmer....You're getting Hot!

Remember that game we used to play as children? One person closed their eyes and stumbled around for a hidden item while the others yelled things like "Cold. Freezing Cold" and "You're getting Warmer" or "You're burning up!" Well, I feel like I've been playing that game for months. I've been stumbling around, trying to follow the rules, jump through the hoops, make the payments. Sometimes I felt like maybe I was getting warmer but then I'd learn that I was still pretty cold. Finally, after months, I feel like I am getting HOT! I am so close to getting my little girl home. I can barely contain my excitement, fear, apprehension, joy, and every other emotion in the book.

To be honest, I've found this whole process to be very isolating. I have tons of great, wonderful, supportive people around me. I know that I am very blessed. At the same time, though, I am doing this alone. I don't have a spouse walking through this with me. The worries, doubts, excitements, stresses, ups and downs are all mine.

Yesterday, I sat in my living room reading Sara's official referral packet. I was alternating smiling, crying, holding my breath, and longing. I probably won't share the majority of the information in that with anyone. I have no problem sharing her development, likes, and personality with those that already love her but some of the things in that paperwork are just for her mom to know. She has been through a lot for a four year old. There have been people in her life that have loved her at various points but she has missed out on the one thing that every person should have---the love of a family. After reading her paperwork and seeing her updated picture, I long even more to have her in my arms as soon as possible. I had made peace with the possibility that she would not be home in time for Christmas. Now, that is not an acceptable option in my mind. She needs to be home soon. She needs a mom!

When the post office opens on Tuesday, I will have my FBI paperwork, my USCIS paperwork, and my referral acceptance letter ready to go. I will not delay my daughter's homecoming by even one day. Please pray that both the FBI and USCIS process the paperwork quickly. Pray for Sara as they prepare her for her new family. I get to send a care package to her that includes a photo album, a Red Sox outfit, and a Build A Bear that has my voice recorded in it. Pray that she will understand that she is loved!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I wish I had more to say....

I've said it before: I feel like I need to be updating my blog at least once a week. I'm not sure where that need comes from but I get a weird feeling if I see that it's been more than a week and I haven't updated.

Unfortunately, I don't really have anything to update. The official referral packet was supposedly sent from her country to the adoption agency by FedEx last Monday. It would appear that FedEx uses mules or something equally slow in that part of the world. As of Friday, the package still had not arrived. It's frustrating because I really want more, updated information about my little girl. (And I know you are all awaiting updated pictures!) However, if I've learned anything in this process, it's that I have no control over any of it!

I pretty much gave up my belief that Sara would be home for Christmas about two weeks ago. There is still a slight possibility but I can't hold on to that. In my mind, she will be coming home in January. That way, I won't be disappointed if she isn't here by Christmas. If it does happen, I will be surprised and thrilled!

There are two other families adopting little girls through RR from Sara's country. Right now, we are all literally waiting for the same thing---our official referrals. We've all been approved but don't have the actual referrals in our hands yet. We've talked for a while about all being in country together and now it looks like it might actually happen. Wouldn't that be amazing? I'm not scared to travel but sometimes the thought of being in a country where I know no one for so long is a little intimidating. I would love to have these two wonderful woman by my side for at least part of the journey!

Once again, I am realizing how very blessed I am to be fully funded at this point in my journey. I see so many people waiting for travel dates and still very short on funds. I am so grateful for all of the people who have helped me get here! I know I didn't do it on my own! (I'm sure this paragraph will soon be featured on a certain blog but I don't care!)

I know this post was pretty random but those are the little things going on in the process right now. Hopefully I'll have a REAL update to post soon! (Just as soon as that mule carrying my package gets across the US border....)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Clothes for Claudia

I have decided that I'm going to shut down my Adoption Bug T-Shirt sale at the end of the month. I have a list of things that I need to do when I get a travel date and this is one thing I can take care of now.

I am incredibly blessed to be fully funded. Some of my friends are not in the same situation--for whatever reason. So, I've decided that I will donate all the commissions that I get for the t-shirt sales to Claudia's FSP.

Claudia is a beautiful little girl that is in the same country as Sara. Her parents and I have been walking through this process together almost from the first day I committed. They are a great couple and we are still holding out hope that we will be in country together. (You can read more about their journey on their blog.)

Please consider placing an order and helping this beautiful little girl get home.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Official Referral

On Wednesday, the adoption agency told me that it would take 40 days to get approved by Sara's orphanage to adopt her. This news meant there was no hope that she would be home for Christmas. This, and a few other stresses in my life, sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I have been given so many different potential travel dates throughout this process. First it was June, then August, then October, then November, then maybe January. If I had been told up front that it would take a year, I would have dealt with that but this constant changing and rearranging was starting to wear on me.

After a Thursday of tears, ice cream, mind-numbing movies, and amazing friends, I was feeling much better on Friday. I had processed the potential delay and had come to terms with it. I still didn't like it but I actually felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I could stop checking my phone and email constantly. I could stop counting weeks in my head to figure out when I would travel if I heard today. I could stop wondering. She wouldn't be home for Christmas. At least I knew.

When I saw Private Number on my phone Friday evening, I didn't even get excited. My mom was supposed to call to ask me a favor so I just assumed it was her. It wasn't! It was the adoption agency. I still wasn't excited. I figured she was just calling to tell me to keep waiting patiently. When she finally got around to telling me that the orphanage had approved my dossier and my request to adopt Sara, I had to make her say it again just to make sure I had heard her. The orphanage has approved my request to adopt Sara!!!

I should be getting my referral pack on Monday or Tuesday. This will include all of Sara's medical, educational, and social information and history. It will also include updated pictures, etc. I cannot wait to get my hands on this information! It will be so nice to have more than 2 pages of information and a picture that is about 2 years old. I'm dying to know whatever I can about my little girl.

There are still a few more steps that need to be taken. I need approval from USCIS to adopt her and bring her into this country. Then I need an Article 5 from the Embassy in Colombia. After those steps are completed, I will be given a court date and a travel date. It is possible this could all happen quickly enough for Sara to be home for Christmas but it's also possible that it won't. I've given up trying to figure these things out.

Whether or not she comes home this year or early next year, she will be home!

(Stay tuned for more pictures and information early next week.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oh The Waiting....

I always feel some pressure to write an update when it's been more than a week since the last one. The problem is--when I haven't updated, it's because nothing is going on.

I love how much people care and how often people ask about Sara and the process. I hate not having any new information to give them. Here are the most popular questions I get and the answers as I know them:

*Do you have any new pictures yet?
No. I had heard from a friend of a friend that was down at her orphanage and saw her about a month ago. I was thrilled at the possibility that they would be able to get me more pictures. However, when they went on their official tour of the orphanage, the older children were all at school. So, I will have to wait for her official referral to get more pictures.

*Is your little girl home yet?
No. Trust me, you will know when she is home! I will shout it from the rooftops. Plus, I'll be gone for quite a while. If you've seen me in the last month, she's not home. (Sometimes, I get a little bit sarcastic...)

*Wait. What? You have to go get her?
Yes. I do. Different countries have different rules. Sara's country requires that I go there and stay until all the paper work and legalities are completed. I will be in her country between 4 and 7 weeks.

*So you'll be down there just waiting for her?
No. Not waiting for her. Waiting for paperwork. From my understanding, I will have custody of her after court. There is a "bonding" time that will allow us both to get to know each other and to make sure this is something we both want to do. After that, we will be in her country waiting for her new birth certificate, passport, visa, etc.
The good news is that we will be together during this time. We will get a chance to start the bonding process before we return home.

*Are you coming back to work?
Yes. I will be going back to work. I can take a leave with FMLA of up to 12 weeks. How long I'll be off depends on a lot of things--including how long we are in country and when exactly the leave falls. (If it falls over Christmas break, I'll have even more time off!) It will take a while to get her settled in after we get back both from an emotional stand point and a logistical one.

*When are you going? I hope it's next week.
Who knows! There are still a few more things that need to happen before I can go. Right now, I'm waiting for approval from Sara's country and her orphanage. Both could come soon (like this week!) or could come in 6 weeks or more. I heard on Thursday that the dossier has been received by both the orphanage and the country. When they sign them is completely out of my control. Thus all the whining about waiting.

When both of these approvals are given, I will get the ever-coveted "official referral." This means that I will get all of her medical and social information and---wait for it---new pictures! I can't wait to find out how my little girl is doing, what she's learning, how much she's grown, how her health is--any little bit of information I can get!

After I officially accept her referral, I apply to the US government for permission to bring her into the country. (I have their approval to adopt a child from her country. Now I need permission for her to be that child.) This process has been taking 2-3 weeks.

After that approval is given, I will be given a court date. It could be between 2 and 4 weeks out. I'm hoping and praying for 2 weeks. I'm ready to go now. I don't need 4 weeks to get ready!

So, as you can see, there are several things still that need to happen before I can go meet my little girl. Also, her country shuts down for most of December. I am praying with all my heart that I can travel by November 1st. If I can't, I won't be going until January. I really want my girl home for Christmas! Alas, it's all out of my hands so I just keep waiting.

*How much more do you need to be fully-funded?
I have been incredibly blessed with the support of all my friends and family. I've received a grant and I worked summer school to earn a chunk of money to put towards the adoption. So....

I will be done with my major fund raising efforts after my current auction.

I will continue to knit because it gives me something to do while I'm waiting. I will list new items on my Scarves and Skirts for Sara page on facebook. I will also take custom orders until I get a travel date.

I will also keep my Adoption Bug t-shirt sale open until I get a travel date. I love their shirts and jump on any chance to promote adoption.

While I still don't know how much I will need for travel, I know that God does and I know He provides. I'm choosing to rest in that. (You can think I'm crazy. I'm ok with that.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Auction #2!

Update: 9/7/12 - Lots of new items added daily!

The auction is open for bids!

One last push to be "fully-funded"! I'm hoping that I'm close to traveling and I'm getting close to have all the money I need. Right now, I'm working on saving up enough for travel. 4-7 weeks in a foreign country is going to be quite expensive! (I'm still waiting to hear from a bunch of grant organizations. I'm hoping between those and this auction, I'll be good to go!)

The auction will be on the same facebook page as the previous auction. It will officially started September 1st. The auction will end September 15th at 9PM CST.

Here's a preview of some of the items that are currently listed:

If you want to bid on any of these items, go to the facebook page. Auction starts September 1st and ends at 9PM on Saturday, September 15th.