Scrapbooking time!

If you've been reading any length of time, you know there is a scrapbooking retreat I attend every March and October.  It begins on Thursday afternoon and goes until Sunday afternoon.  Well, this Thursday, I'm leaving for the spring retreat and I am SO excited!

I remember the first time I went...I went in with my big rolling cart filled to the brim with scrapbooking supplies.  Which consisted of paper, scissors, tape runner, markers and stickers.  I thought I was hot stuff with the rolling tote.  What I saw there knocked my socks off and let me know what an amateur I still was! 

There were women with multiple totes, rolling high back chairs, ott-lights and accessories piled high on their table.  I saw them using things like Cricuts, chalk, embossers, Xyrons, and all manner of things that I had no idea even existed!

I have become those women.  I load up my big rolling comfy chair and every pice of scrapbooking equipment I own and load in.  AND I LOVE IT!  I'm determined this year to get caught up.  I'm not that far behind.  I just have what's happened this year for Jenna's school album and then I think I'm all caught up in her regular book until about summer of 2010.  I want to do the South Africa album before I forget.  But I need to look back and see where I am.  Anyway, that's more than you want to know I'm sure.

Just know that this long weekend, I will be busy, NOT blogging.  Making friends and catching up.  I can't wait!



Since I posted this, I've gotten several emails, comments, and calls.  Everyone has said they NEVER had a second thought about the post and think it's a shame I had to even go there.  I agree.

But to everyone who has emailed, called, posted on FB or commented on the post, I just wanted to write THIS post to say thank you!  I have found that so many of you are like me and would never have thought the worst in someone.

However, for those adoptive families that are reading, you might wanna be careful what you say especially if you are fundraising.

Ironically enough, there might now be an opportunity for benefactors to donate straight to a not-for-profit agency to support our adoption and still be able to take a tax deduction for the donation.  I'm researching more on that.  Hope to have the deets on the blog soon.  Stay tuned!


Space Day

A few weeks ago, there was a big day for the 3rd graders at Jenna's school.  It's the day every third grader looks forward to...SPACE DAY!

Steve helped work with many of the other parents to turn the 3rd grade hall into the nose of the space shuttle.  This is what it ended up looking like...totally cool...

The kids rotated through different stations all day long.  They shot mini rockets...

Shot off bigger rockets...
And listened to a REAL astronaut speak!

And so much more!  There were so many fun learning things to do.  It was very cool even if I do say so myself and I took the entire day off work just to be there, experience it and help.  I'm so glad I did.  I left a tiny bit early after hearing the astronaut speak.  Steve stayed to see the big finale which were big model rockets that the teachers shot off.

Jenna's got a small class this year with only 6 girls, but it's wonderful because they all get along wonderfully.  I wish we could keep this class together next year.  These kids (and Mrs. S) are GREAT!


Happy Monday!

So, one more post about the ongoing saga with the USCIS...I finally overnighted the document I thought they wanted on Wednesday for Thursday delivery.  The operative word in that preceeding sentence is "THOUGHT".  Thursday afternoon, I got a call on my cell phone which was from the number 816.  That's all it said...nothing else.  It was a true act of God that I even answered because normally, I would not answer something like that not knowing who it was.  (Note to self:  as long as we are doing this adoption thing, I'm going to HAVE to answer my cell regardless of whether I know the caller). 

On the other end of the phone was "Officer H".  He was a super nice guy who explained to me that he didn't just need proof that the divorce was final (even thought that's EXACTLY what the request said), but they wanted the agreement that basically gave the reason for the divorce and the visitation/custody arrangements with his older kids.  He explained the reason they need it was so they can see Steve didn't abuse his ex-wife or kids and didn't have any custody/visitation restrictions.  The kicker is that the agreement has to be signed by a judge and you had to be able to see the state seal.  Ultimately, we sent two separate documents in first thing on Friday and I was hoping to hear back that it was what they needed. 

I scanned the documents and emailed them in and included a note to please call me and let me know they received it and whether it was adequate.  If it's not adequate, then Steve will have to go to the county court where his divorce was finalized and try to get the appropriate paperwork, so it could turn into a huge ordeal.  I didn't get a call at all.  I'm hoping and praying that the lack of a call meant it was what they needed and they went ahead and sent out the approval.  Since he did call right away when I sent the wrong thing.  However, I'm going to fax the documents tomorrow with the same message and hope I get some notification.

The officer was nice and said when he was getting close to approving something, he just let people fax or email in the needed documents.  I might be reading into that comment too much, but I'm hoping getting these documents was more of a formality than anything.  Guess we'll see...


Attempt 2

Phew!  After that heavy post from yesterday, here's a little lighter update on the USCIS.  On Monday, I had actually called the USCIS at the suggestion of my family coordinator at AWAA since it had been almost  month since we'd had our fingerprint appointment and no results.  I was transferred to the officer at on my account and left him a message.  As you know, Monday afternoon is when the dreaded pink sheet arrived. 

I was hoping the officer I'd left a message with would call me on Tuesday and I could ask him exactly what they needed just to be sure I got it exactly right.  My agency also called and left a message.  Neither of us received a return call on Tuesday.  At the end of the day, my family coordinator suggested, if we didn't hear back from the USCIS on Wednesday, to just go ahead and send the copy of the divorce decree as they requested.

Wednesday, there was no return call, and so I began to write the cover letter that I would send with the RFE (request for evidence) and divorce decree.  Instead of starting from scratch, I pulled up the cover letter I'd sent with the original application.  And you know what?  I'd already sent the divorce decree.  And our birth and marriage certificates! 

I contacted my agency again and they called the USCIS and miracle of all miracles, not only did an officer pick up, but MY officer!  He just said to send the decree.  So I whipped out the letter and put it in overnight delivery.  Hopefully by the time you are reading this, it will have arrived and we are praying our approval will be on it's way.


A Needed Clarification on Our Adoption

I've been thinking about this post for several days now.  I've debated about whether to say anything or not, but since it's not leaving my mind, I feel like I just need to say it and get it over with.

A friend recently brought up something I posted on my Facebook status that might have been misunderstood.  I know many of you aren't friends with me on Facebook but I think hearing the full story might be beneficial especially to my adoptive family readers out there.

A couple weeks ago, I had tentatively finished up my taxes in Turbo Tax.  Unfortunately, due to several things, it looked like (and turned out to be true) we would owe a large sum of money in taxes.  My Facebook status was something along the lines of, "Looks like we'll owe $XXX amount in taxes this year.  There goes the adoption fund!"  The comment was totally tongue-in-cheek and wasn't exactly serious.

Apparently, someone who might have donated to our adoption fund saw that post and wondered if I was using their donation to pay my personal taxes.  First, I don't know who this person is, or if anyone really said anything.  But it was clearly bothersome enough that a friend of mine cautioned me about saying anything like that again on Facebook.  I'm not angry at my friend.  I honestly believe she is looking out for my own well - being in her caution.  She doesn't want to see people stop donating due to a possible misunderstanding.   As soon as she brought it up, I could totally see how someone who was not privy to the whole story might assume that I was using donations to pay my taxes.

I took the advice to heart and made a mental note for later.  However, the more I thought about it, the more emotion bubbled to the surface.  At first I was angry.  Angry that someone would dare question my integrity.  Angry that someone would know me so little to think I'd do something dishonest like using their donated money for something other than the adoption for which they'd intended it.

And then I got sad.  Sad that a person's mind goes immediately to questioning instead of just assuming they don't know the full story.  So, in case any of you saw that Facebook status and wondered...here's the story...

Steve and I have been blessed in that we had enough money in savings to start our adoption fund.  For those non-adoptive families, adoptions (domestic and/or international) can cost upwards of $35,000.  Though it's not my obligation to share with you where the money came from, suffice it to say in the last few years we've lost Steve's mom, my dad and both of my brothers.  Therefore it might stand to reason we have accumulated some inheritance money wouldn't it?  And while we did have enough money to start the fund, as most of the adoptive families know, you run though thousands of dollars by the time your dossier is sent out.  We are blessed to have enough OF OUR OWN MONEY to pay our taxes this year.  Our intent was for that money to take us further in our adoption, but clearly we're going to have quite a bit of fundraising to do before we have enough to cover the rest and all our travel.

All that to say, we have not, now or EVER, used any donated money to pay for anything non adoption related.  I'm angry and saddened that I even have to defend myself publicly, but since there were a number of people who saw that FB post (some of you even commented on it), I felt the best thing to do after the fact was offer an explanation.  And if you know me at all, you would have known that would be something I never would have considered doing.  But if you are someone who has your doubts and you have donated money to our adoption, then feel free to contact me privately and I'll be more than happy to refund your money.

As for the rest of you who never had a second thought about my FB post, thank you.


iPhone Owners

Our iPhones arrived last Monday!  I've been a little surprised at the number of snarky comments about us getting iPhones.  I didn't realize anyone cared so much about what kind of phones we carried, but apparently it's important to some people.

Just for the record, I have wanted an iPhone for about a year.  But I was not going to go back to AT&T to get one.  Mostly because I didn't want to break my 2 year contract at Verizon.  Anyway, as most of you know, I got up super early on the day they went to maket for current Verizon customers.  I was glad I did (though I took some heat for it) because they did run out.  And then they arrived on Monday which was like 3-4 days before they went on sale to the public.

Steve and I have activated and used them for a week now and while we are still learning, we do love our phones.  We bought cases from case mate which have already arrived and we like them too.  We've even ventured into the land of "there's an app for that".

So if you have a favorite app (free or for purchase), share!  I love looking at different apps.


A Valentine Day Surprise

Wanted to give you all a little glimpse into my Valentine's Day. 

I bought Steve a car charger for his iPhone and as usual, I couldn't wait to give it to him so I gave it to him yesterday.  :)  This morning I woke up to find my card and an iTunes gift certificate!  So funny!  I fully intended to lay out some steaks to thaw for dinner tonight, but didn't know if Steve would be able to fire up the grill tonight so I wanted to ask him after he got up and then have him lay them out.

Well, I forgot.  And so by the time he got home (from attending a field trip with Jenna), it was too late to lay them out to thaw.  So, this afternoon, he calls and asks me if I want to go to Chili's to eat.  He had a gift certificate from Christmas that he wanted to use.  I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about the idea because I figured the wait would be forever especially after sitting in traffic for 2 hours (which is now about the average commute time thanks to construction).  Anyway, believe it or not, I got there in about an hour and 15 minutes and there was no wait.  Steve had just sat down at the table with Jenna when I arrived.

I sat my stuff down and went to the ladies room.  When I got back, there was an iPhone car charger and an envelope from the USCIS!  I was super excited until I saw the pink paper peeking out from the envelope.

Most of you don't know what pink paper means when it comes to the USCIS.  Well, it doesn't mean an approval.  It signifies a request for information before they can move forward.  It would have been so perfect to receive the actual approval on Valentine's Day.  But they are needing confirmation of Steve's prior divorce.  .

I will tell you there is a sense of relief to at least know SOMETHING.  Even though it's not what I wanted, at least I know what to provide to move on.

So tomorrow I start trying to get the information they need so we can move forward.

Happy Valentines Day!

I just wanted to wish all of my readers a Happy Valentine's Day! 

Jenna had her v-day party today and also a field trip to the Adventure Science Center.  They discovered several years ago that 2/14 was a great day to field trip because no other schools are there that day!

More to come on those festive events!



The last 24 hours have been quite interesting.  They had been calling for snow yesterday for about a week.  At first it was 1-2 inches, then it was 3-4 inches and then they had 2 computer models and both were saying different things.

It was then, I figured we were in trouble.  Lately, they have been pretty good at determining whether or not a "snow event" is going to happen although sometimes they are pretty far off with their accumulation predictions.  They said it would start yesterday about 2pm.  The schools were smart enough to close a few hours early before it even started.  A bunch of people around here really give the school systems heck for doing stuff like that, but if they'd experienced what I did yesterday, they might cut them some slack.

2:00 came and went with nary a flake.  Schools were out and I was contemplating whether the snow would really come before rush hour.  For the readers that don't know, I live about 35 miles south of the city, so the commute on a good day with no traffic (what's that?!) is about 40 minutes.  On a heavy traffic day (which is EVERY day thanks to construction) it can take me 90 minutes to get home.  Average afternoon commute is an hour.  Anwyay, I digress.

About 3:00, it started snowing.  And in about 5 minutes, the roof outside my window at work looked like this:
Literally.  5 minutes.  And you can't tell it in the picture, but it was really coming down.  Unfortunately, my boss was in the next building, so there was no one to tell me when (or if) we could go ahead and leave.  At about 3:15, my boss comes blowing in saying it was getting really bad and "Let's go".  By the time I got my stuff packed up, dropped her at her car and got on the road, it was about 3:30.  And this was my view from the car:

So yes, in 30 minutes, the roads were covered and the traffic was bumper to bumper both ways.  See the cars coming the other direction?  They were stopped just like we were.  After sitting in traffic every day for an hour or more in the afternoon, I was in no mood to do it again.  And with the snow coming down and the roads covering so quick, I knew the commute would be bad.

I had no idea just how bad it would be.

By 5:30pm, I had gone exactly .48 miles (a 1 minute drive according to Mapquest).  I had only gone about a block.  It was gridlock.  I was so frustrated and upset and just wanted to be home.  But after 2 hours, I quickly realized that I was going nowhere (literally) and it would be better for me to turn around and go back to the office.  I managed to get down the next side street and make the block around without sliding into another car (though I did slide right down the street).  When I rounded the corner to go back onto the street to the office, there was about 85 cars in two lanes trying to get out onto the main road. 

It was then that I almost lost it.  I couldn't get in touch with Steve because the lines were jammed and I was starting to get freaked out because I couldn't get ANYWHERE.  I finally made my way around the block again and parked in an underground garage at the hospital located near our offices.  Lucky for me, I had tennis shoes in the car that I'd put there at the beginning of the winter season "just in case".  I donned my tennis shoes (with my work clothes) and started hoofing it.  Yes, my friends, I began to WALK back to my office.  Here I am walking...with my purse and my laptop.  I had no hat, no gloves, only my coat and tennis shoes!

If you look closely, you can see the cars behind me.  The traffic was unbelievable!

It wasn't far...probably 1/2 mile at best and less than that when I cut through the other building parking lots.  But the traffic was that of which I have never in my life seen. And as I was crossing the park to get to the office, people started honking and I thought "Holy cow, they're going nuts".
Finally, I got back to the office.  And lo and behold, I was in good company.  Probably 15 people from my department alone were at the office, one co-worker had walked probably 6 blocks to get back after her car couldn't make it up a hill nearby.  And we weren't the only ones.  After about 30 minutes, our SVP came by and said they were about to re-open the cafeteria for anyone left so they could eat dinner.  Imagine my surprise when I got down there to find almost 150 people hanging out for dinner including most of our senior executives...who incidentally served us all dinner from the deli line.
And the best part?  The company paid for it!  We hung out at the office until about 8:30 when the traffic finally cleared out.  Then people started filing out.  A co-worker of mine lives about 15 miles from where I do so he was kind enough to get me that far and then Steve and Jenna met me there and we trekked the rest of the way home.  I think I arrived about 10pm.  I've never been so happy to sleep in my own bed.  I honestly thought I was going to have to sleep on my office floor.  My boss and I had looked for hotels in the area, but they were all sold out. 

It was truly something I wish NEVER to experience again.  And there were hundreds and hundreds of people across the city stranded everywhere from their workplace to the interstates.  It was crazy.

The roads were still pretty icy this morning, but the office opened about 10am, so at least the interstates had
cleared off by then.  The temps weren't above freezing, but the sun was out today, so the roads were practically dry when I came home (which was early because I was in no mood to sit in traffic for more than 10 seconds today).

So that is the saga of getting stranded in the snow. 

And for the record, I'm officially OVER the snow.  I'm now ready for spring.  I knew it would come sooner or later. 


Saturday Update

I am pleased to report I have enjoyed a nice leisurely Saturday.  I spent the morning straightening up the house.  Then my good friend Mindy came over and patiently taught me some tricks in Photoshop!  It's going to take me time to get the hang of it, but Mindy and I have been meaning to get together forever.  I'm so glad we finally got around to it!

Then, I updated my coupon book and set my menu for the month.  I realized I was about to miss Kroger's Mega Event so I hurried up and made my grocery list.  I totally racked up!  It took me 2 hours but I got everything we needed for the month, and more.  I spent $250, and saved $105 (31%) which was $50 under my budget.  I think we'll make a run to Costco tomorrow and finish off the stuff we need in bulk.  I love saving!

As for the adoption, still nothing from the USCIS.  I've heard it can take anywhere from a week to 2 months to get the results.  I'm really trying to forget about it and rest in God's perfect timing.  But it's always easier said than done.  So, we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Well, I'm off to eat a bite of dinner.  I'm exhausted after all that shopping.  :)  Hope you enjoyed a leisurely Saturday too!



If you follow such things, you'll know that the exclusivity contract between Apple and AT&T (which allowed only AT&T to sell the iPhone) ended recently.  And Verizon (which is who we use for cell service) jumped right on board.  Steve and I just completed our 2nd year of our two year contract and we were MORE than ready for some new equipment!

But when we heard rumors the iPhone was coming to Verizon, we decided to hold out.  It was tough sometimes, but thanks to my Apple guru friend, Brian, we did it!

The iPhone was made available for pre-purchase to current Verizon customers starting at 2am my time yesterday morning.  And you know what?

I set my alarm and got up and purchased them at 2:05am.

And I'm STOKED about it.

I should have the phone no later than the 10th when it goes public to everyone else.  And I can't wait.

I know there are probably Droid lovers and Apple/iPhone haters etc. reading my blog.  But this is not a post to start a comment war about that.  It's simply a post to let you know that I have joined the iPhone community (as has Steve) and we are happy about it.  :)



On Wednesday night, I attended a class at church with 3 other moms call The Parent Adventure.  It was a small group of moms, but it turned out to be perfect.  The facilitator is the wife of our church pastor.  One of the first things she asked us is what we hope to get out of this class and what our "win" was (like in the future).

My answer to the latter was that I wanted Jenna to learn to talk to me and that there always be an open line of communication between us and for her to always feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit on her life.

For this to make sense, you must understand that my girl (who is 9 1/2 years old) a) became a Christian last March (2010) and b) is not an ultra-emotional child.  I guess when she became a Christian, I expected her to show visible signs of wanting to do better...no lying, talk back, etc.  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I didn't see immediate improvement and conviction.  But Jenna doesn't usually cry.  If she's crying, you better pay attention because something is wrong...she's sick, hurt or worse.

About a week ago, I caught Jenna doing something she'd been told over and over not to do.  I caught her red handed.  And she told me to my face that she wasn't doing what I'd seen her doing.  So I called her out.  But then the funniest thing happened...she acted like nothing had gone on.  She didn't act the least bit remorseful.  In fact, she actually got over-animated.  I was stunned.  I kept talking to her about consequences of actions and how I couldn't believe she'd lied.  And she continued to act like there was nothing wrong...showing absolutely no remorse whatsoever.  And I started to worry because it was SO obvious that she didn't care.  But as we continued to talk, her animation came to a fever pitch until I asked her if she'd done something else I needed to know about (this was a total shot in the dark, just trying to get her to show some remorse for what I'd caught her doing).  She immediately started to tremble and tear up.

Unknowingly, I'd hit the nail on the head and uncovered something else she'd been doing that she shouldn't have been.  Her animation was her attempt to cover up the guilt that was about to bubble over.  Long story short (too late), she began to sob unconrollably and confess these things she'd done and say how sorry she was.  We were up late into the night with her sobbing with conviction.  Ultimately, we got down on our knees and prayed for forgiveness and talked about ways to do better and to call down the Holy Spirit to help during times of temptation (this was done on a child's level mind you).  And the days since have been better.  I've seen little subtle changes in her.  She responds the first (or second!) time I ask her to do something, she fulfills her duties around the house with no complaint.  She even says ma'am when answering a question.

After this whole thing, I went to Amazon and purchased a sweet little devotional book for elementary kids.  It turned out to be the neatest little book so far and I can definitely recommend it.
Every night at 8pm, we head upstairs, she gets in her PJs, brushes her teeth, takes her allergy medicine and we sit down to read our daily devotional and pray.  Then we spend the rest of our time reading our books.  She reads her book for school, me whatever I am in the middle of at the time.  Tonight, we got to talking after the devotional about sinning, God, the Holy Spirit etc.  And then we talk about how God doesn't differentiate between "big" and "little" sins.  Then Jenna points out that God sees in our heart no matter what we say on the outside.  And then..."Yeah, I mean, God really knows what's in our heart!  Like it says in I Samuel..." and then she quoted...verbatim...to me I Samuel 16:7:

"But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

And I thought my own heart would burst.  There is absolutely nothing better than hearing your child recite a scripture from memory and using it in the correct way!  This was a memory verse from her homework a few months ago.  Thank you Jesus that she is hiding Your Word in her heart!  May I learn from such childlike faith!

As our conversation continued, she began to tear up and her chin began to tremble.  She confessed another sin in her life which is going to require confession to her teacher at school and asking for forgiveness, which as anyone knows is never easy.  But she wept and we prayed for courage and I have no doubt that she will make things right tomorrow with her teacher.  I've been blessed to watch the Holy Spirit continue to convict her.  And I'm humbled that God is working in her life despite me and my mess ups.

Anyway, I'm a proud, and humbled, Mama tonight.


If you have ever had to file with the USCIS...

...then I want to hear your comments.  I'm clearly entering the phase I like to call OBSESSING over getting our results.

When we went for the biometrics (fingerprints), the lady never gave us a time frame of when to expect results.  It's been more than 2 weeks since the appointment in which they told me they sent them over the internet to be processed IMMEDIATELY.  I kind of thought that meant in a week, maximum TWO, that we'd have our results.

Not so much.

Today I got fixated enough that I tried to call the USCIS.  The first guy I talked to, "Matthew", was nice enough but he couldn't find my receipt number in the system, which I was reading directly off the official notice from Homeland Security.  Then he says to find me, he's going to have to transfer me to a "higher level of customer service"...Ooohhh weeeeee...that sounds important.  Yeah it must be. 

Because the wait time to speak with someone was 10 to 15 MINUTES.


I've tried to blog hope to all my favorite China Adoption blogs to research timelines, but it's too hard to keep up and most timelines don't go into the details...

So for all you China Adoption Readers (CAR) out there...


If you tell me it took a month, then I'll gladly wait another 2 weeks and not obsess.  I just need to know a guesstimate...and no, "Matthew" wasn't able to tell me even that.

Help a sista out....

Happy Birthday Bethie!

Just popping in quickly to wish my niece a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  I won't tell you how old she is, but I will tell you I met Beth at the same time I met Micah (my stepdaughter).  And I loved them both from the time I met them.  It's been an honor and privilege to watch Beth grow into the young woman, wife and mother she is today.  So much to be proud of for her.

So, happy birthday sweet Bethie!  I hope today is the best ever!
This is Jackson...Bethie's prized possession!  Jackson says, "Happy Birthday Mommy!!!!"


No news is...well...NO NEWS

I don't have much to say today except we are staring down the barrel at 2.5 months since we first filed our application with the USCIS and there were still no results in my mailbox today.  2.5 months is the approximate and average time "they" say to get the entire process done.  Looks like we are going to be waiting the full 2.5 or may even 3 months. 

I'm trying not to get discouraged, but I have to admit, I call Steve every day about lunch time to see if he's gotten the mail, just in case.  Every day it's the same and  I'm starting to get bummed and frustrated.  Not many non-adoptive families really understand.  I get the question all the time, "How's the adoption going?" And the answer is always the same, "We are waiting on __________________" and the blank is the only thing that changes.  Waiting on our reference letters, doctor notes, physicals, social worker, USCIS, agency, China...whatever.  Always waiting on something.

But it's all good.  The holidays were such a good time to have to wait because we were so busy with holiday activities that I didn't have time to obsess.  And everyone knows that January/February are the slowest, most boring months of the year.  But again, it's all good.  This is really just the beginning and I'm sure the easiest of the waiting.  I imagine the hard part will be waiting for travel acceptance after we know how she is.  So I should embrace this waiting now.  :)

OK, back to waiting...