12.31.2011

Adoption Update-What's Next?

I have to tell you, my head is still spinning with the news that our LOA is here.  We aren't leaving anytime soon, but I've heard the process picks up speed from here on out.  After 144 days, anything would be faster than that.

I'm getting quite a few questions on what's next and to be honest, I had been waiting SO long on LOA, that I had to go back and refresh my memory on what IS next!  So here we go...

Now that we have our LOA (Letter of Acceptance) or LSC (Letter Seeking Confirmation) as some call it, we will ask US Immigration for their approval to bring Kylie home.  Back when we were doing our dossier, we asked them for permission to bring "A" child home from China.  They approved that, but now that we have a specific child, we need approval to bring her home.

This is called the I-800 application.  You can't send in your I-800 until you have your LOA because a signed copy of it has to be attached.  However, in an effort to expedite things, we had already completed our I-800.  Our agency scanned the LOA to us, we signed it and emailed it back.  They then emailed it directly to our agent at the USCIS in hopes that would cut off a few weeks of our wait.

Once our USCIS officer approves the I-800 application, he/she will forward the approval to the NVC (National Visa Center) and they put it in their system and send it to the US Consulate in China.  We then have to forward that letter to our agency who forwards it to the US Consulate.  Once they have that, they issue what is called an Article 5 which is basically them approving Kylie's visa to be issued.  That Article 5 has to be picked up in China and delivered to the China adoption authority called the CCCWA.  Once the CCCWA knows the US has authorized Kylie for a visa, they will issue Travel Approval (TA)!  That right there is the golden ticket to China!  Once we have TA, we can request a date for our consulate appointment and make travel arrangements!

The question is how long does all this take?  Well, 2-3 months.  But as we know, it can take longer.  Once you receive TA, it takes about 24 hours to approve your consulate appointment and you can leave as quickly as you can get plane tickets bought.  However, I would like to have a few weeks to prepare.  I need to wrap stuff up at work, Jenna needs to wrap stuff up at school, we have to pack for 2 1/2 weeks in country...

I am praying we can travel the week of March 19-23 which is Jenna's spring break.  It would be so much better if we could use that week so she doesn't have to miss a week of school.  Ideally, we'd leave on Thursday, March 8, spend our first week in Jiangsu the week of March 12-16 and the second and final week in Guangzhou the week of the 19-23.  But if we had to have the first week the 19-23, that would work too.  If all the steps above happen in their average time frames, we could do it.  But I've learned the hard way, things in this process don't always go as it's supposed to.  So we'll just pray the Lord does what He wills and I'll just be along for the ride!

In summary, our very next step is waiting for the I-800 approval.  I'll add that over there to the right in our timeline so you can easily remember.

As for today, it's clean your closet day for me and I'm going to get the suitcases down and start putting in non-clothing items slowly...I had planned to do this after Christmas anyway.  Now I have more reason to!

More Christmas Fun!

So, Christmas morning came early for this family.  Normally, Jenna sleeps so late that I have time to get up, get my teeth and hair brushed and make myself look presentable.  But this year, it was not so.  At 6:10 she showed up at my bedside.  I made her wait until 6:30, but even that was a struggle.

I finally drug myself out of bed and downstairs.  Jenna was so excited to give Steve and I our gifts.  We had each let her spend about $10-20 to buy the other items, mostly from the dollar bin at Target.  This is the first year that Jenna was really aware and took the initiative in doing this.  I was pretty surprised because usually she just picks up this or that.  But this year, she really took her time in choosing our gifts.  I could tell they were chosen carefully and thought through.
Those were all my gifts.  Smarties candy, a pink lighter (to light our candles with!), a pack of recipe note cards, a pack of kleenex,a journal, a cat calendar, an eye mask (yes, I do use these at night when Steve has the TV on and it's too bright) and my favorite, pony tail holders.  She got those because she's always taking mine and then they disappear.  More ironically, I also got her some to go in her stocking!

Steve's gifts were likewise as appropriate, but I didn't get a photo of his.  But he did get many other nice gifts...several things for his gun...

I got one of my favorite books from a series...Explosive Eighteen.  And several sweaters that Steve picked out himself, which was impressive!
And of course, Jenna got lots of Justice clothes and that made her super happy.
So let me tell you about this picture above...you can't really tell unless you know what you are looking at, but Jenna is holding some Chinese money (Yuan).  My friend Jennifer traveled to China in October to pick up her daughter.  She had money left over and sent it to me along with some cleft bottles (which are used for cleft kiddos).  I knew Jenna would think the money was cool so I decided to save it for Christmas.  I just stuck it in her stocking and boy was it a hit.  It was 400 yuan which is about $63.  But to Jenna, it is a lot and she was totally excited.  And of course, there was some Beibs to be had...
After everything was opened, we went to the 11:00 service at church.  But just look at the chaos I left behind! 
Can you spot our cat Mittens?  He's there...he loves Christmas too...the wrapping paper and the bows..he just loves them.  Even he was tuckered out after all the excitement!
Hope you all had just as merry a Christmas as we did!  More to come...stay tuned!

12.30.2011

IT'S HERE!!!!

LOA ARRIVED TODAY!!!  Praise the Lord!  Let me tell you just how awesome this news is...even moreso today...

Last fall, right before I was ready to leave on the mission journey to South Africa, I experienced an attack from Satan.  Those of you who have traveled on mission journeys before have most likely experienced this.  It was hard and I did NOT want to go on the trip.  I didn't want to go and leave my family.  I didn't know hardly anyone else going and two weeks was a long time.  Then a week before we departed, my brother passed away unexpectedly.  I was devastated and then not only did I not want to go, but neither did my family want me to go.  It was a hard ugly time.

When I got back to work after my bereavement leave, the sweet cleaning lady, Brenda, who cleans our building during the day passed by.  We often speak and she knew I was going on a mission journey soon, but obviously knew nothing of my internal struggle.  That particular day, she stopped her cart outside my office door and said, "The Lord spoke to me and I have a Word from Him for you."  Internally I was rolling my eyes because how hokey does that sound right??!  But then, she said to me, "He wanted me to encourage you as you go on this trip.  HE is sending you and HE has gone before you and everything is gonna be OK".  HOLY. COW.

Needless to say, it was all I could do to keep it together.  God may not speak audibly but I heard Him loud and clear through Brenda that day.  It was a little freakish.  But, while I still didn't look forward to leaving my family, the fear was gone.  It was an amazing time.

As I had my emotional breakdown earlier this week while waiting on my LOA, I jokingly said to my work BFF, Katelyn, "Maybe I need to have Brenda pray for my LOA!"  Katelyn, more seriously said she thought I should.  I saw Brenda a few times throughout the week, but it was never a convenient time to tell her the story and ask her to pray.

Until this morning.  Normally, another co-worker and I go down to get water or breakfast.  She is off today, so I went down alone...an unusual occurrance in and of itself.  When I walked into the cafeteria, who did I see, sitting there alone, eating breakfast?  Brenda.  And I knew, it was now or never.  To say I felt a little silly is an understatement, but I just plunged ahead telling her about the paper I needed from China and how long we had waited.  She knew I was adopting, but I showed her new pictures of Kylie etc.  She grabbed my hands and right there in the cafeteria prayed for my LOA to come.  And then she said, "It's on its way.  Mark my words.  That paper is coming."  The end.  Brenda had spoken.

2 1/2 hours later, I recevied the news that the LOA, indeed, had shown up at my agency.  If that isn't another direct word from God, I don't know what is.  And if you don't believe there is a God in heaven who hears us when we pray, you should think again.

Next up, Brenda is praying for Steve a job!!! :) :) :)

More to come...

A Family Christmas

The Friday before Christmas we got together with my side of the family to celebrate Christmas.  The afternoon started out with our celebration with Bertie (better know as Nana to Jenna).
It was a good time and we all exchanged nice gifts.  We bot Nana a picture frame with a picture of Jenna in it holding Kylie's picture.  I thought it was pretty neat myself.
Jenna got the cutest little outfit from Nana and she loved it so much she decided to switch clothes right then.  Isn't it cute?

After we finished there, we all loaded up and went to my sister, Teresa's house.  I don't know why we don't get together more often because we always enjoy each others' company.  Jenna especially enjoys hanging out with her cousin Garrett who is about 2 weeks older than her!
We had a really nice spread but somehow I didn't get a picture of it.  The kids only exchanged gifts, but they were pretty excited about it.

Jenna realy enjoyed her fashion gifts.  She told a friend she was having a "fashion frenzy!"...here are a few of the cute outfits...

Now the next photo is probably my favorite one from the entire season because it captures the pure, raw emotion of the moment.  A little background is that Jenna loves clothes from Justice.  We got several catalogs in the mail of which she would patiently go through and circle things she wanted.  One day I got a text on the road with pictures of hats from Justice from my sister and niece to see if Jenna would like either.  I picked the one I thought she would like best.  When I got home, I took a quick glance in the most recently marked catalog and found she had circled that EXACT hat!  So, imagine her surprise when she opened it up this weekend...well, nevermind...you don't have to imagine because I captured it here...
It was a great time for sure.  The two kids ran around like crazy and had such a good time.  Because, let's be honest, there's nothing quite like family!

Happy Birthday Teresa!

Today is my sister Teresa's birthday!  I can't tell you how old she is but I can tell you she is the best sister a girl could want.  She is a great aunt to Jenna and we love her.

Happy birthday Teresa!

12.29.2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve had traditionally been a time for our family and the Millsaps to get together.  However, this year, we learned there are more than just our families who have nothing to do on Christmas Eve.  So, we decided to open it up to whoever.  Both of us spent a grand majority of our Saturday in the kitchen.  In the end, I don't think either of us took pictures, but I did hijack one of the dessert table from my friend Katie's Facebook (thanks Katie!)
But before the fun, we had the most wonderful Christmas Eve service at Station Hill.  I love these people.  They have truly become like family to me.

Our pastor, Jay, gave a great message and it was a nice time of rest and reflection which was needed after the craziness of my day.
My favorite part of the Christmas Eve service is always the candlelight part.  Love it!
There is nothing better than a candlelight service to make you slow down and remember what the season is REALLY all about.


12.28.2011

Kylie's Post-Surgery Pics!

Yes!  We finally have some and we are very excited to show them to the world.  But before I do, I need to do some explaining...today is day 142 of the wait for our LOA which is the next step before moving forward.  This is over double the amount of time we should have had to wait.

I find myself desperate for information, ANY information, about our LOA or about our sweet Kylie, only to spin into a downward spiral when I get it.  We have been anxiously awaiting post-surgery pictures and last night I received them.  However, when I opened them up, I thought they'd sent pictures of a different child.  I immediately took the computer to Steve and asked if he thought this was Kylie and he said it really didn't look like her (so in my defense, it was a little shock to see).  I even went as far as to email my agency back and ask them to double-check.  However, as we pulled up picture after picture of her from before and began to compare, we began to recognize her familiar features, finally determinting this indeed was our Kylie.

And that's when I started to cry.  I wish I could say I was crying for sheer joy that we'd finally be able to see her face, but in reality, I was devastated.  Devastated that I had not even recognized my own child's photo.  It has been SO long since we've seen her and she has changed so much.  I cried myself to sleep and dreamed about my LOA and in my dream I was crying.  I woke up depressed and proceeded to cry most of the morning off and on.  My friends and blog readers, I have found my breaking point.  YOU ARE HERE.  Welcome to my insanity.  I do not know how much longer I can wait.  We still have many weeks and months to go AFTER we get LOA in order to travel, so that is just the next step.

I honestly do not know how I'm going to make it much longer.  I have had numerous people to say "hang in there" or "it'll all make sense later" or "it will be worth it when you have her in your arms" or "God has the master plan"...I KNOW.  I've been a Christian since I was 10 years old.  I am pretty sure that I have learned all this.  IT DOESN'T HELP!  Right now, I'm not there.  I'm here.  Waiting.  FOREVER.  I know these words are said in an effort to comfort me, but right now, they are not.  I feel like perhaps the only thing that will help is prayers.  If you aren't "religious", I'll take whatever you've got.  Well wishes, thoughts, etc.  But I feel like I am sincerely at the end of my rope with this wait.  I have seen people say that before and I always thought, "Whoa, drama!!!" but now that I'm here, there's no drama to it.  Only reality.

You see, until now, I've held this child of mine at arm's length.  She was "a photo of my child" and nothing more.  I loved her, kinda.  I mean, I loved her as much as you can love someone thousands of miles away who you've only seen about 6 photos of.  Some people see the picture of their referral child and immediately fall in love.  It wasn't that way with me.  My love has definitely grown over the past few months, but last night it took a huge turn.  This little girl is no longer just a photo.  She is MY CHILD.  And I need to be with her. 

And yes, my agency is doing everything they can, but there is only so far they can go with China.  They are only as good as the information they are given.  I was told weeks ago my LOA was on the way only to be told later there was some type of miscommunication or misinformation and it was still in process.  Late last week I was told my LOA was in the last, short stage of the process and should be here before end of the year.  Well, by my calculations, the end of the year is nearly here and my LOA isn't.  So you see, there's really not much more I can do except continue t put one foot in front of the other and ask for your prayers and thoughts as I try to make it through to the next step.

So for those of you who made it through that whole horrid post, here are the sweet pictures of our baby girl...





Yes, it appears they shaved her head again, but I've since learned that sometime they do so before surgery so they are able to insert the IV.  We also know she is 15lbs, 26.7 inches long, 17.7inches around in the chest and has a head circumference of 16.9inches.  We believe except for the weight, these are all going in the right direction.  We're having a international adoption pediatrician review them and hopefully will get the green light on what we know.  She also has a 10cm foot which is about 4 inches...if you happen to know what size shoe that equates to, let me know! 

Christmas!

OK, so the next few days are going to be posts about our Christmas activities...there will be a few, so bear with me....we'll start with the earliest which was on December 15.  They had what they called Grandparents Day which is really the equivalent to a Christmas program.
Jenna actually played the recorder in the program which is a fourth grade privilege!  They did very well though.
It was our last Christmas program at the elementary school.  Next year, I don't know what they will do so it's a bit bittersweet.

Both of Jenna's grandparents came and Nana even surprised us!  Jenna was so excited to have them there and so were we.  It was the perfect last Grandparent's Day program!

12.26.2011

The Day After...

The Taylor Family Blog is taking off a day today.  Not really since there is a blog here, but relatively speaking, this blog is going to be about nothing.

I'm sitting here, the only one up in my family, at 9:30am, looking at the aftermath of Christmas.  The kitchen table is full of the stuff that just gets dropped there when we come in the door.  The sink is full of dirty dishes because the dishwasher is full of clean dishes.  They are both full because of the cooking/baking frenzy that has been me the past three days.

The living room is a virtual minefield of toys, clothes, boxes, stocking stuffers and the like.  I managed to get up most of the wrapping paper and empty boxes, but the gifts are all down here and Jenna's are strewn from here to yon.

When I put Jenna to bed last night, I had to dance around to avoid the random items in her floor.  More on this later, but Chase got her an entire art studio for Christmas.  Like, acrylic paints, glow in the dark paint, brushes in every size and shape and even a professional looking easel.  All very nice and Jenna loves them, but she has nothing but paper to paint on.  She also has $50 in cash she racked up this Christmas among a large variety of gift cards.  So she is really wanting to go out to buy some canvases and paper to paint on.  I think I'm going to have to bribe her into cleaning her room if she wants to go out.  I have to work the rest of this week, so if the house is going to get clean, it needs to be done today.

I love Christmas.  Some years it takes me forever to get into the Christmas mood, but this year I was ready and I attribute it to doing most of my Christmas shopping the weekend before Thanksgiving. We (OK, Steve) even got Christmas lights up outside this year.  That hasn't happened in years.  But every Christmas, no matter my level of Christmas spirit, by the day after Christmas, I'm ready for it all to be gone.  I am a creature of order (though many times I am far from orderly) and schedule.  So by the time it's all over, I'm ready for my house to be back to normal.  Somehow, the dark Christmas tree with no gifts underneath is depressing so I'd rather it be gone all together.  I am sad to see Christmas go this year...seems like there wasn't much time to enjoy it before it was here.  But gone it is and now we look forward to 2012!  YIKES!

So, for a post about nothing, that was quite a long one.  Thanks for lasting this long.  I promise, there will be posts to follow with picture of our various Christmas celebrations.  But for now, this is what you get.

Also, if you think about it, pray for my friend Jennifer.  She and her husband just traveled to China in October to bring home her daughter home.  Last night she had to take her husband to the ER where they found him to be in congestive heart failure due to a serious problem with his kidneys.  They were doing a biopsy on his kidneys this morning to see what the problem is.  Hopefully, they can figure out what the problem with his kidneys are, fix that and reverse the congestive heart failure.  However, he is in very serious shape.  Jennifer and Jeff have 3 boys in addition to their new daughter from China.  Please pray for the doctors to have wisdom in fixing what is wrong.  I'll keep you posted as I know more.

12.25.2011

Merry Christmas!

The Birth of Jesus
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The Shepherds and Angels
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.


From our family to yours...MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

12.24.2011

Away In A Manger

This past Sunday at church, we had a living nativity.  I was loving on my babies in the nursery so I didn't get to see, but Steve went over and took pictures.
Yes, those are live camels.  They were the only animals the kids couldn't pet.
That would be the shepherds over there by the donkeys!
This is the coolest.  Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus...also known as the Dunbar family.  And yes, baby Jesus is being played by their newest addition, baby Isaac who I was missing in the nursery!  Such a cool, live reminder of what this season is really all about.

On this Christmas Eve, let's praise God for sending His Son for us.

12.23.2011

It's a PAR-TAY!

Last Friday was Jenna's school Christmas party.  The kids had snacks...the cutest donuts ever!  And they were Krispy Kreme!
One of the other room moms got the games together and she did a great job!  The first game was to take a gumball in a spoon and put it in a stocking. 
Jenna's group won that one!  They were so excited, but it was harder than it looked so they weren't really anxious to play it again!
The next game was a snowball toss.  The "snowball" was really a marshmallow wrapped in saran wrap. The kids really liked this one but Jenna's team didn't do so well but they all had a good time anyway.
The kids all had a good time and after they got to leave for Christmas break!  What could be better????

12.22.2011

Lighting of the Green

Back after Thanksgiving (11/29 to be exact), Jenna was able to sing in the 4th grade chorus in the Lipscomb University annual Lighting of the Green.

The famous Amy Grant always MCs and sings.  Honestly, we have never been before, but it was an awesome night.  We sat pretty far away, but I was able to clearly see Jenna when it was her turn to sing.
Do you see her?  Right there on the front row in her Christmas dress!  Unfortunately, she didn't get to meet Amy Grant and tell her she sang her song in the talent show, but the whole thing was still pretty cool!
There were other special singing guests too...Point of Grace was there and they were amazing!
And then there was Melinda Doolittle from American Idol.  She was amazing too!  I just loved listening to all these talented artists!

It was bitterly cold outside and rainy, so the festivities were inside, thank goodness.  But they did go ahead and light the tree.  It was an amazing experience!

12.21.2011

Happy Birthday Rachel!!

I talk about her alot on my blog and she's been my closest friend since childhood.  Today, I'm taking a break from adoption talk and memory making to give a big happy birthday to my friend Rachel!

I'm not going to share with you how old she is (honestly, I'm not sure myself because well...honestly, it doesn't matter), but know she's not as old as me!

Happy birthday dear friend.  I wouldn't want to do life with anyone else!

12.20.2011

Adoption Rally at Lipscomb University

It's been a long time coming, but I wanted to update everyone on the Adoption Rally that Lipscomb University partnered with us on.


First of all, if you are a local family who is adopting, click here and find out more about this wonderful opportunity.

There were a lot of strangers who showed up, some DL families and some pretty dedicated Daddy friends coming out with their little ones...

At 8 minutes left in the game, we went out onto the floor and they introduced us and announced our total...
$500!  It was so much fun and easy fundraising!  There was also fun stuff for Jenna.  She especially loved the cheerleaders and there were super cool tattoos!!!


And to boot, Lipscomb won the game! It was a great idea for a family night and I hope to pay it forward to other adoptive families in the future!