Friday, May 22, 2015

We are DTC!!!!.....and CP....

We are DTC - Dossier To China!  YAY!



So very, very thankful to finally to be at this point.  We lost about 5 weeks with some delays at USCIS and in getting our homestudy to be able to send in to USCIS.  Just thankful, thankful, thankful.

It was a really good day for some wonderful news because we also have CP!....That would be Chicken Pox.  :(  My kids have been vaccinated (a decision made after Mimi was born) - they have had both of the vaccine injections - but we still have mild cases.  Pretty frustrating. :(  Praying it stays mild.

Thank you to all of you journeying with us.  Someone also donated $300 to us - we are so very thankful to all who have given and donated.  We are so very, very thankful.

Until He comes.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plans changing....




Well, Serenity’s surgery this Friday is cancelled.  She is still coughing and has a yucky nose.  The doctors really don't want to take a chance with lung issues during and after anesthesia.  I am okay with that.  This surgery was for her other hand, that already has 1 finger separated – so not in the critical category.   It needs to be done, but can be bumped without long term consequences.  We talked roughly about a September date.  We will see where we are a with potential travel to bring our newest treasures home and then make that decision.  We are still praying that we will be DTC (dossier to China) by the end of this week.

I also had a LONG talk with Hope’s coordinating doctor in the craniofacial department.  She is the one that makes sure all the doctors are on the same page and that other departments/specialist/doctors are pulled in as necessary.  The long-story-made-short is that we are going to put off her facial surgery for another year.  There are several concerns on our part - the biggest two are her nutritional health and her emotional health.  Although she is growing and has put on weight, it is not as much as would be expected.  Eating is still a real battle withe her.

So, we are going to see a speech specialist the end of June (speech therapy involves anything to do with the mouth - so eating falls into that category) to try to work on the eating – which I am pretty convinced actually has no physical root to it.  That does not make it any easier to try to figure out, but it means that no surgeries have to be done to help it, if that makes sense.  She spent 5 years only eating blended foods and she has no chewing motion whatsoever.  She is also very, very determined to control whatever she can in her environment (something she had to do to survive) so she is not interested in "working" on it.  I have started to add oatmeal to the blended foods we make for her (after we have blended it) just to add texture.  She has no difficulty swallowing - she is just very unhappy with it.  Baby steps.  The eating also seems to be her way of expressing her unhappiness with anything new.  If any thing - even something little, like changing her spoon - happens, she clamps her mouth shut and will not eat or drink willingly.   Even with something that has nothing to do with food.  I am looking forward to getting some good input on how to work with her - knowing her limitations (if any) and abilities will go a long way in helping with that.  The doctor also wants to have her pituitary gland checked to be sure there are no issues there.  None have been indicated by previous blood tests, but it is just one more thing to be sure that we know as much as possible.

We are also going to see a neurodevelopmental specialist to try to gauge a little better where she is at cognitively.  It is very hard to really know how much she understands.  Most of the time I am convinced she is very aware and understands way more than she lets on.  But if that is truly the case, that what do we do to unlock the cage she is in?  Again, the more we know about her limitations and abilities, the more we can help her.   I did tell the doctor that I was very afraid that she simply would not cooperate She responded that the specialists were used to that - and it would at least give a us a little more focused point to work with.  Hopefully, that is the case.  We still need to get that appointment on the schedule – but I am assuming some time this summer.  I feel like we need to get as much input as possible to try to frame a plan for her care.  She is getting much friendlier with everyone – even new people.  She is moving around a great deal and even pulling herself to stand.  That is all worth praising the Lord over – but wanting to see her continue to grow and thrive.  Honestly, constantly battling the anger and heartbreak over what was done to her.

I am breathing an emotional sigh of relief that we aren't going to have to go through the surgery yet....but want to be able to open the world up for my little girl.
 
Mama V, still need to finish our story of going from 4 to 7....going to get to that. :)

To Him be all glory and honor and praise.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Getting closer

I saw this today and it was a good reminder:


Only God's grace and plan could have gotten us here.  We felt overwhelmed with 4 kids...the jump in 9 months to 7 kids DID seem impossible - in our own strength, it was.  When our precious Mimi was born with all her special challenges, at the time it felt like our life had stopped.  All our "dreams", which now seem so silly, crumbled down around us.  We had no idea that God was opening the door to such an amazing journey through that beautiful, perfect (but not healthy) little girl.  Now we are journeying to our 15th and 16th.  Only God could do these things.  If you do not know Him, you will not be able to grasp how we do this, because it is only through Christ and Christ alone. 

We should be sending our dossier to China next week.  We are waiting for it to arrive to the agency from the east coast where it received authentications at the federal level and then at the Chinese embassy.  We just made our next payment, by God's grace. 

The timeline is a little unclear to me at the moment.  We were told 4-6 months from the time of LID (logged in dossier), but I am seeing some people's timeline moving a bit faster.  China implemented a new system on Jan 1st, so that may be speeding things up a bit.

So at this point, we are praying for our dossier to be in China (DTC) by the end of next week.  We are then praying for a swift logged in dossier date (LID).  Then we are praying for a swift LOA - letter of acceptance (also called LSC - letter seeking confirmation).  At that point, we will owe our largest payment - $12,000.  We are watching and praying for His provision.  He has never failed us, but the money comes in many different ways.  Sometimes He blesses the sales at Handsome's business abundantly, sometimes we receive gifts in the mail - all the while we pray and save all that we can.  We have always been very, very conservative financially - we just continue to pray over each thing that we need and trust Him for it.  We have tried so many "fundraisers" over the years and it has become a running joke that whatever we try will flop.  I just tried a t-shirt fundraiser because so many other families had such great success with them.  We made a whopping $0.96.  We have just come to see that God wants us to rely on Him.  If He directs us to a fundraiser, then we will do it.  If He tells us to be still and know that He is God, then that is what we do - always praying for greater faith and trust in Him.

One more precious gift He has given was that we received a bunch of pictures of Brooke.  As you may recall, she is part of an amazing ministry called Loaves and Fishes - you can find out more about them here http://www.loavesandfishesintl.com .

Our God is full of compassion and is faithful in all He does - what a privilege to serve Him.

Until He comes...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Clinging tighly...

Whenever one of my sweet long-distance friends ask me how life is going, my first response is always "Busy.  Crazy Busy.  But a good busy."  I am sure they may be tempted to think this is just my fall-back response.  But it is my honest response.  I don't know how to describe our life with 14 beautiful, unique, active children.   For those like Grace, who is not physically active, there is always the draw to hold her just a few more minutes...to snuggle just a little longer.  Life is....busy.  A good busy.

I am starting to put the summer calendar together.  For many years now, I have described summer as a steep slide.  At the end of May, we are at the top and are so excited to begin playing and WHOOSH!  It is the end of August and time to start school again.  Why does it seem that the slide gets shorter every year as well?

Last year with a new (cranky) baby and Serenity and Hope still settling in, I just wanted a "quiet" summer.  I keep the calendar as empty as possible (relatively speaking - most of you would laugh at what I consider "quiet") and the slide seemed to go a little slower.  BUT, then when the end of August came, I was NOT ready for fall at all.  I felt like I had missed the summer completely.  It was hard to know the cold, rainy, dark days were coming and I had not had much of a summer.  I should say that the kids had a wonderful time - their days were full with family and youth camp and sunshine....mine was as quiet as I could make it.  Well, not this year!  Even if we skid into September exhausted, I want to fully rejoice in the days.  Time is seeming so desperately short anymore - my kids are growing up so fast.  So we are going to rejoice in family and friends and sunshine.

This month is full of finishing school and being outside as much as possible.  A little over two years ago, God answered our prayers for "space" in an amazing and gracious way.  He gave us 5 acres just outside of town.  We are very close to the freeway (making access to the hospitals easy) - but all the houses around us have to be on 5 acre plats or more - so we have space.  He made it possible in ways that we never could have seen and never would have believed if someone had told us ahead of time.  We are in a manufactured house - which I used to turn my nose up at - but it is beautifully laid out with high ceilings and lots of open space.  The land however was COVERED with blackberry brambles.  COVERED.  In fact we laughed that it felt like our yard was only slightly bigger than our last house (which was a quarter of an acre) because of the brambles.  The kids could go play in the woods with the trails they carved, but it was daunting to look out at the mess of branches and weeds.

As you may remember, we moved in 4 days before I left to bring Grace home from Taiwan.  I did get to work outside some that summer - but it was mostly working on painting the south side of the house that the inspector said needed new paint asap.  Last summer, as I said, was a "baby" summer with a newborn and newly adopted kiddos.  It was hard to watch the brambles grow higher and higher.  In January, during a mild weather week, I went into the brambles with a machete to see what I could do.  An hour later, the answer was "nothing much".

I had prayed and prayed that God would show me what He would have me do.  You see, I have always wanted a "farm" - animals, gardens, fruit trees, flowers.  My grandparents had a farm - and to this day it is still my favorite place on earth - even though they have gone on to be with Christ and I can no longer go there.  However, I knew that as we began to open our lives to whoever God would ask us to adopt, that their needs would mean that I would have to give up my dreams for a real "farm".  It was one of the things I had to deeply wrestle with.  It is easy to say, "Yes, I will trade my dream for a child's life."  It is much harder to do when wrestling with emotions and dreams that have been there forever.   So, as I stood in the bramble patch with an aching arm and not much to show for my work.  I let the dream go.  Okay, Lord, this isn't what You would have me do.  I need to let it go once again.  I walked into the house with tears and just snuggled my beautiful children.  They were my biggest dream come true - a house full of precious lives.  It felt like a book had been closed forever.

But you know, God is always doing more than we could ever ask or imagine....and this was no exception.  He was working even when I had closed that book.  The next week Handsome came home from church after talking with a new family.  I will call them the "Givers" - because they are always serving others.  They have lots of kids as well and our families have just bonded together.  They are the best of friends and such an encouragement to us.  Well, Mr. Giver came to Handsome and said that he had been thinking about it, and he wanted to find a way to get his big tractor over here to clear out the blackberries.  What?!?!  Their family was so busy with Mr. Givers' job and their own place - how could they do that?  I was speechless, but immediately recognized the gift that God was giving to me.  Me, who does not deserve it.

The Givers came - all our kids worked and laughed and played.  It was so beautiful to see.  One of the things that I loved about my grandparents' farm was that I learned the joy of working hard and rejoicing in a job well done.  Working with laughter and people we loved and eating good food and relaxing at the end of the day - sore muscles and all.  Mr. Giver is a jack-of-all-trades - so he has taken down trees and leveled ground and had wonderful workable ideas for all my "dreams".    They have come again and again.  The fellowship and friendships with the kids are an indescribable gift.  The older boys have competitions to see who can carry more wood or lift a bigger rock...whatever they can have a competition about they do.  But it is all so good.  They are learning the value of hard work and deep friendships.  They look forward to work days, knowing they will see the fruit of their labors and enjoying their friends.   God took my deep down dreams and painted them into beautiful reality.  I now have an "orchard" in the making and a few raised beds with raspberry starts given us by friends.  And so much potential for so much more...In addition, The Givers gave us a ride-on lawnmower to help keep the blackberry brambles down.  Another thing we had been praying for since we had moved in.  Blackberry brambles are almost impossible to get rid of once they have taken root - so it will be a battle for years to come to stay on top of them and not let them spread.

I have certainly rambled on this post.  I am just praying God knows why all of this came pouring out today.  Maybe because I am so exhausted right now (Mimi, Grace, Little Man, and Serenity have all been up on different nights - making sleep hard to find) - maybe I just needed to remember that my Savior is so very good.  He knows what my heart needs and He knows my dreams.  He has good things planned and He does carry us through the "hard".  It doesn't mean that life is easy - but it is good.  Even with the tears that often come, it is good.

Serenity has another hand surgery this month - the Lord willing.  Please pray with me that she is healthy enough for that surgery - no coughs or colds.   School ends just a week later with the annual testing our kids are required to do by state law.  After that, the summer begins with camping trips and swimming, friends and sunshine.

God also had another amazing gift for us, something to do with this beautiful girl we have prayed for so long....




But that story will have to wait for another time....I need to get my crowd up and moving.

Oh, and we FINALLY received our I-797 from USCIS - the approval from the US government to move forward for our adoption.  This has taken a long time this adoption and I was at the end of my rope waiting for it.  By Monday night our dossier will be on its way to Washington DC and the authentications that need to be taken care of there.  We are praying we are DTC (dossier to China) in just a few short weeks.  Then another period of waiting comes as we wait for it all to be processed in China - but at least "our" part will be done.  We are told it is a 4-6 month wait from the time our dossier is logged into the system there.  How I am praying for the 4 month end....I cannot wait to see that dream turned into an beautiful reality by my Savior....

I am clinging tightly to my Savior - through the tears and the laughter - through joy and frustration.  Through the amazing and through the hardships.  He is the lover of my soul.

Until He comes......

Saturday, April 18, 2015

T-shirt fundraiser

Just in case anyone was interested, we are doing a t-shirt fundraiser through Booster.  Orders will be taken through May 1st.  If there are enough orders, they will be printed - you will not be charged unless the minimum has been met.  Will be shipped approx 2 weeks later.  $20 plus $5 shipping - you can pick your own color. :)

Here is the link:  http://www.booster.com/brookeandjillian






Thursday, April 16, 2015

And a time for tears....

I opened up my mailbox to see the LONG awaited USCIS logo on an envelope - I excitedly rip it open - only to find that one of us has to redo their fingerprints.  This is 3 weeks after our fingerprints were taken.  The retake is not scheduled until 4/27.  I was hoping that we would be DTC by the end of this month.

Sometimes, I just hit the point of overwhelming tears....this was the trigger today.  Everything seems to tidal wave at once.... 

I know God is Sovereign - there is a reason for this.  I will choose to thank Him.  But I may need to cry awhile as I do....

Please pray with me that the next fingerprints will work and that we will be quickly approved after the fingerprint retake....pray for His perfect plan.  Pray that the Lord blesses my girls as they wait.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The way that God does things...

So the whirlwind has continued - but not quite in the direction we thought!

Serenity came down with a bad cold last week.  As you may or may not know, they will not do anesthesia on a child who has had a cold in the two weeks before an operation.....so, no surgery on Tuesday.  As always, it caused mixed emotions.  I am always glad to not have to have a surgery, but I know we are just kicking it down the road a bit.  So now we are looking at May 22nd.

Then, I got a phone call for the surgeries for Hope and Serenity. Okay, it will not be in May/June.  We are scheduled for the end of July - Hope on a Tuesday and Serenity on a Friday.  When they first suggested that we do the surgeries at the same time, I thought they were plumb crazy.  But then thinking about it, Handsome will have to miss work - if we combine the time, it will be less time overall that he will miss.  Handsome was up for it, so that is the plan.....ugh.

Still really struggling with preparing my heart for Hope's surgery.  I know it is a good thing.  I know it, but my heart will miss the little face I fell in love with almost 3 years ago now.  I worry for her little heart while this is going on.  Will we lose all the progress we have made?  Plenty to talk to my Savior about....

We had some wonderful pictures taken by a friend for the dossier...here are a few for fun!

The Helper and Serenity
Family Photo
The girls
The boys
Mommy, The Prince, and Little Man

Would you please pray with me that we would receive USCIS approval soon?  The dossier is all ready for the next steps as soon as it comes...one more notarization...off to the capital for authentication...then over-nighted to the group that will get the Chinese Consulate's authentication....then back to the agency who will send it on to China......as soon as we get that approval. Sigh.

Until He comes....