Sunday, May 12, 2013

Finally, Travel Approval.

Dear Travel Approval,

You arrived this week Thursday-you little stinker!   Over the past three weeks I have loved you and intensely disliked you simutaneously.  One minute you gave me hope and the next you made me want to scream.  We waited 21 days for you to arrive--that was about 7 more days than we expected.

TA, after 351 days of waiting you have finally extended to us an invitation to travel to China and pick up Tulip.  Thank you.  We felt each day--some days we felt each hour, and in those last 7 days, we felt each minute.  Since you arrived, happiness has returned to our lives.  Tears aren't so close to falling and bags are starting to be packed.

We are READY to GO!
the Diplofam

Friday, May 3, 2013

Our Journey to Tulip Part Four In Which We See Our Daughter For the First Time

Thanks to all who have followed our journey to Tulip this far.  Here are parts One, Two, and Three for anyone who needs to catch up!
Part Four is extra special because in it we see Tulip for the first time.

For those of you who haven't been in the middle of an international adoption for the past year (about 99% of you) let me start by giving you the steps that need to take place in order for you to get matched with a child (like Tulip).

*First, you choose an agency.  This was hard for us.  I had seen a little sweetie named 'Drew' on an advocacy site called Rainbow Kids.  We contacted the agency that he was listed with and they sent us his file to look at.  Sweet baby boy.  Unfortunetly, we were not comfortable with a few aspects of that agency--#1 being the amount of money they were charging for their services.  It seemed much higher than other agencies.  We chose to return his file and go back to square one and pick an agency before we picked a child.  We ended up choosing CCAI based on some recommendations and the prices of the services they provide.

*After you have chosen an agency, you fill out a brief questionaire that is like a pre-screening.  The answers to these questions will determine whether or not you are asked to fill out a formal application.

* Next comes a formal application which includes a special needs worksheet where you detail which special needs you are willing to accept a referral to.  We only marked Down Syndrome and made a note that we preferred a DS child with no known heart defect or health concerns.  Maybe that sounds strange to some readers but in order for our family to continue living overseas, Adam's job requires that each family member pass a medical exam and hold a medical clearance. Our application with CCAI was recieved on May 31, 2012 and approved on June 19, 2012.

*After steps 1-3 are completed you are ready to start the true work of the adoption process--a dossier.  A dossier is a fancy word for tons and tons of paperwork.  Being in the Foreign Service complicated our paperwork chase a bit.  We had to collect 20 documents from all over the world.  We spent June 20-August 31 putting together the initial part of our dossier.

*On July 24, 2013 I received a phone call from our social worker at CCAI.  I was not expecting this phone call but it went something like this; "Hi Carin, this is Judy from CCAI.  Well, the Chinese Shared List came out last night and there was a little girl on the list with Down Syndrome. She is the cutest little thing you have ever seen.  I am looking at her picture right now-she has little pigtails sticking up and the cubbiest cheeks!  The paperwork says she is not quite two years old and she does not have a heart defect and I know you and Adam were hoping for a child without a heart defect.  So......what do you think?  Would you like me to send you her file so you can see her??"   Well, of course I said yes!  I called Adam (who was in Bermuda) and told him the good news.  We both opened up the e-mail and looked at our daughter for the first time.

How could we not fall instantly in love with that face?  
At this point came one of the strangest parts of the adoption journey--at least for me.
We had this child's file and within 72 hours we had to make a 'yes' or 'no' decision.  How does one make an educated decision based on 3 pictures and a poorly translated medical report?  How do we say 'Yes' to this file when you have nothing to compare it to?  Should we say no and hope a 'better' child comes along?
I know we both prayed about it--my prayer was something like--'Dear Lord, is she the one? How do we know?  Give us wisdom."  
In the end, the decision was pretty easy to make--she was exactly what we were looking for. There was no reason to say no.  She was our daughter.

*On July 31, 2012 we sent in our Letter of Intent which locked Tulip's file so that no one else could have her :)  Here is the letter we wrote:
We, Adam and Carin  wish to adopt Tulip who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome.  We have consulted with our pediatrician and we understand the limitations and health concerns associated with this diagnosis.  Carin holds a college degree in Special Education and she has worked with children and adults with Down Syndrome for the past twenty years.

                  We have a wonderful pediatrician who is experienced in caring for children with Down Syndrome and she will be able to provide wonderful care for Tulip.  We are members of the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan and the Down Syndrome Association both of which will provide our family with emotional support and educational resources.

                  As soon as Tulip is home with us she will have a complete medical exam with special attention paid to her cardiac health.  We will also have her sight evaluated by a pediatric ophthalmologist.

                  We have made arrangements for Tulip to start receiving physical and occupational therapies immediately.  Since Carin is a stay at home mom with a background in special education Tulip will be in a wonderful learning environment. We have excellent health insurance that will cover all of Tulip's medical costs.

We have a large immediate and extended family and many friends who support our adoption of Tulip and are excited to see her join our family.  We believe our strengths as parents include providing appropriate and loving attention, patient discipline, and  a passion for learning.  Our family loves spending time together outdoors and we can’t wait to include Tulip in our adventures.  Our four children are excited to have a new baby sister in the house and can’t wait to teach and love her!

                  We fully accept Tulip and can’t wait for her to become part of our family.
*On August 3, 2012 the Chinese government Pre-Approved us to adopt Tulip.

A few thoughts in retrospect
What if we had said no?
Would we have ever say no?  Did God know that we would say yes?  Did He make this decision so easy to make?
I have a complete trust in Jesus Christ but I still am completely baffled by this entire journey.  I cry out to God on a weekly basis--"You had this all planned?? This was part of your plan??  This little girl had to suffer so much loss and grief to fulfill Your plan for both of us?"  
I can't believe how incredibly blessed we have been through this entire process. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Over Due

Dear Tulip,
When I was pregnant with your biggest sister Anne, I was what we call 'over due'.  The calendar said it was time for her to be born but she was quite comfortable where she was.
I was miserable.
She was my first baby through birth and I was so anxious to meet her and so sick of being pregnant.  I spent more time than I want to admit in bed crying over her tardiness.

Tulip, you are my first baby through adoption and I am over due with you. My belly is swollen and heavy, my arms ache for the weight of your body, and my body is tired of carrying you in my heart for nine months. I am so anxious to meet you and I am SO SICK of adoption paperwork.  I would love nothing more than to spend my days (or at least one!) having good cries over this wait.

I miss you.  I am starting to picture you in our every day life.
At Isaac's baseball games
Jumping on the trampoline after dinner
Sitting in your car seat and singing along to the music as we drive around this funny little island.

I hear you are blowing kisses now!  Can you blow one towards Bermuda sweet girl?
I hear you are becoming quite a chatterbox.  Are you telling all of your friends about your Mommy and Daddy?
I hear you have learned to run! Did you know we are running to you as fast as we can?

I love you so much.
I can't wait to meet you.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Big News!

Quite unexpectetly, we received our letter of acceptance on Monday!!!  We were told that it is normal to wait about 60-90 days for this document--ours was processed in 37 day!! I think that this is the first time we were ahead of schedule on something. As I mentioned before, the letter of acceptance (LOA) is a huge step in the process and it ushers in the final steps of Tulip's adoption!!  Here are a couple of pictures of our LOA:

We had to check one of the boxes with our decision---um, I can't imagine anyone getting to this point and checking 'We cannot accept the adoptee mentioned'. 
When I called our adoption agency yesterday I was told that our file, which has been in IMMIGRATION department for the past 6 months, has been moved to the TRAVEL department!! This made me happy and a little sad--happy to be moving on but sad that I can't call any of the friends I have made in the immigration department because they can no longer answer my questions.

So, now our focus is on travel--which we hope to do in about 10 weeks (could be up to 14 weeks).  
Once again my computer desk is filled with forms to be filled out and paperwork to be read and understood.  My to-do list, which had gotten pretty short, is suddenly filled back up! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Do You See?

I mentioned ever so briefly in my last post about where we are on the journey to Tulip, "We are on day 40 of waiting on our Letter of Acceptance from the Chinese government.  And since the typical wait is about 60 days, we I am happily nesting--cleaning and organizing every single square inch of the house."
This morning I have the urge to write a little more about Tulip.  Last week we received a video of her--just her.  It was sent so we can see a little bit of her development to this point.  At first we weren't going to post the video--we wanted to keep it private.  Why?  Well, we were trying to protect her and ourselves (mostly ourselves if I am being honest) from people who may watch it and see the opposite of what we see.  When we watch it (ten times every day) we see our daughter.  We see a child who almost died 2 years ago but now is full of life.  We see a child who has lived in an orphanage for most of her life but despite that is strong and healthy and my friends, she can walk backwards!!! We see that she has blocked tearducts and we wonder if that is something we will need to correct.  We see a nice row of bottom teeth. We see a pudgy little tummy that peeks out under many layers of clothing.  We see those signature pig tails which keep getting longer and longer.  

We have changed our minds about posting the video.  We want you to see everything that we see.  We want you to love this child too.  We can't be afraid of what other people see or say.  We know how God sees her--He created her in His image and she is perfect.  We agree.  We hope you will too.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Not Afraid

One of the first adoption questions we were asked was 
'Aren't you afraid of how this will affect your other children?' 

While initially this question bothered us we did admit that of course we had thought long and hard before making a final decision to adopt Tulip--and some of those thoughts centered around the effect a child with Down Syndrome would have on the lives of our other children.  The thoughts haven't turned into worries or fears though.  We are confident that this adoption is teaching our children lessons that will only benefit them.  Lessons that need to be taught in order for our children to experience true JOY in life.  
Anne learns fast and furious--she always has.  Her journey through this adoption has been wonderful to watch.  Already we can see that she understands some of the deeper truths of adoption. God is using this experience to shape her future.  Anne's favorite song right now is 'Kings and Queens' by Audio Adrenaline (a contemporary Christian band).  
She says it speaks to her heart :)
She made up these motions and movements herself and agreed to let me tape her. I hope they help someone watching understand why we are not afraid to adopt.

Audio Adrenaline - Kings & Queens Lyrics

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me 

Will we leave behind the innocent too brief

On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open

If not us who will be like Jesus
To the least of these
If not us tell me who will be like Jesus
Like Jesus to the least of these
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free shout your name in victory
We will love we will love the least of these

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Adoption Updates

We have had lots going on 'round these parts over the past couple of weeks. Our family should come with a disclaimer: "Never a dull moment".  I actually saw the following quote (taken from Lord of the Rings) and after a couple of reads I realized how much I loved it:
'Adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. 
But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it.'

Yes, some may say that Diplofam looks for adventures because we want them.  No friends, I am afraid we haven't just landed here by our own choosing--this was the way our path was laid. 
 International moving and living, Margaret's Hope Chest and International Special Needs adoption are not things we are doing to make dull lives more exciting or bring attention to ourselves If that were the goal we would have skipped the kids (or maybe just had one) bought a big beautiful home and a fancy sports car.  Those things get the attention and admiration in this world.

And so, we take the paths that are shown to us {at times with slow and plodding footsteps I must admit}.
Speaking of slow paths, 
let's talk about Tulip.

Our paperwork made it to China and was logged into the system there on January 29.  Now we wait for a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) which is the GOLDEN TICKET.  Lots of great things begin happening as soon as that LOA is in our hot little hands.
 I have refused to look at agency time lines or a calendar to calculate when we 'should' or 'could' expect this to happen.  I am waiting on the Lord to bring it at just the right time. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Journey to Tulip Part Two

It's been a few months since I wrote 'Our Journey to Tulip Part One'.  I didn't intend for this much time to elapse between parts one and two.
Honestly, I have sat down to write part two a few times but the words haven't come.  
I think the biggest challenge is understanding what PART TWO really is.
Since part one described MY many experiences with people with Down Syndrome I suppose part two should start with my marriage to Adam on December 27, 1997.  On that day, it stopped being about my plans and dreams or his goals and desires.  I even believe that it stopped being God's plan for ME or HIM.  Instead, the commitments we made that day changed to what God's plan for OUR lives would be. 
I can't remember adoption being a serious topic of discussion in the first 8 years of our marriage.
Let's face it--we were busy growing three biological babies.  

In 2006 we moved to Armenia.
I vividly remember a day, not long after moving there,  that I walked past our front entryway and saw a neat line up of the three kid's shoes. 
A single thought came to my mind.
"There's a pair missing."
I told Adam about my strange shoe revelation and I believe it was at that point that we agreed (after much discussion) we would have one more child--either by birth or adoption.

About six months into our time in Armenia I started volunteering at a special needs orphanage once a week.
This is where I met
Beautiful Stella

 Adam and I began having our first serious discussions about adoption.
There was something about Stella's personality, her smile and her calm nature that had me dreaming of what it would look like if she joined our family.
Adam on the other hand
had a hard time picturing the things that came so easily for me. 
He couldn't get past the Down Syndrome diagnosis. 
While he did acknowledge that it was possible that God was calling me to parent a child with DS he didn't feel the call personally.
He questioned and prayed
and sought the advice of a friend that he respected very much.
 Adam's biggest question was
'Would God call only one person in a marriage to something?" 
His friend's answer was "No."
We talked more--I tried to explain this deep sense of longing--almost an emptiness that wouldn't be filled by any number of biological children.
We were so confused
and I was in love with that little girl.

I don't want anyone to get the impression that we relied on emotions to make the final decision not to adopt Stella.
We did take a month (the month of December 2007 I believe) to be quiet and pray about it.
At the end of that month, we both agreed that adopting Stella was not God's plan for her or us.
I felt a peace about it
Adam felt peace and relief.
We traveled back to the States for the month of February 2008 and I became pregnant with Josiah which became a clear sign to Adam and I that Stella would not be our daughter and in Adam's mind the mysterious missing pair of shoes would be filled with a fourth biological child.
When we left Armenia in June of 2008 and the only regret or sadness centered around little Stella who was left behind in the orphanage.

So, what happened between June 2008 and March of 2012?
Did God take the desire or calling away from me? 
Simply put--NO.  
In my mind, even with the addition of Josiah to our family
there was still a missing pair of shoes.
I guess we were just busy parenting four small children
moving internationally two more times
running a non-profit
And thinking.
I have always loved Luke 2:19
"Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself"
I have held most of what happened in Armenia concerning Stella to myself
because up until now it was far too private to share. 
Now I see the value of what happened.
I felt the call to adopt a child with Down Syndrome
Adam did not.
We {wisely} did not move forward because God would not call just one of us to something like this.

I am so thankful for this part of the journey to Tulip because without it I wouldn't have known the joy that came when God changed Adam's heart toward adoption.

*I do want to share that I made a friend through Facebook about six months after leaving Armenia.  She had just moved to Armenia and she volunteered at the same orphanage as I did.  She also grew to love Stella and was kind enough to send me a picture of her.  I learned through her that Stella was adopted by a European family (German perhaps) in July of 2010.*

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tulip Update

Tulip Update

A few interesting tidbits on Tulip that we wanted to document.
#1:  Our Dossier is complete.  Actually, this is not a tidbit-this is HUGE.  After six and a half months of hard work, prayer and a few bumps in the road we have collected or created everything that the Chinese government wants to know about our family.  Just for the record, it has taken about 4 months longer than I ever dreamed it would take.  HOLY PERSISTENCE. If you don't know what a Dossier is....Google it.  I'm too tired to explain it.

So, the next steps are as follows:
1. Our agency mails our Dossier to China.
2. Our dossier is LOGGED INTO the Chinese Children Welfare Agency's system.
3. We wait.

#2:  We received a wonderful surprise on Monday night--an updated development report for Tulip and yet another sweet picture of her cute face.  I am not sure I should put the whole report on here for everyone to see but I will tell you that she is walking (!), she is not potty-trained (to be expected), she weighs about 19 lbs (average is about 27), and she is average height for a 2 year old.  If you would like to read the full report send me an e-mail and I will forward it to you.  They tell a couple of really funny stories about her and her personality which of course, makes us want to meet her right now!  But again, it is quite evident that she is well loved and cared for.

Here is the new picture of our sweet Tulip--enjoy!