On Wednesday nights, I go to a class about parenting with a small group of women from the church.  The group is led by our pastor's wife, Tanya. 

Tanya has 4 kids, one of which she adopted from Nepal (he's been home about a year).  Tanya has the most marvelous ideas on parenting, several of which I have shamelessly copied!

One of the most recent ideas was journals that she keeps for each of her kids.  She has the good sense to start writing them before each child was born (or adopted!).  She sometimes writes several pages, sometimes just a few sentences.  She writes funny or proud moments or just whatever is on her mind about that particular child.

I have a box of things that my mom wrote.  A couple of them were letters she wrote when I went off to Kindergarten etc.  And to look at those now, in her handwriting means THE WORLD to me.  They are all I have left of her. 

I went Friday night and bought 2 journals and began one for Jenna (it's NEVER too late) and one for Kylie.  One day I'll be gone and those journals will be one of the few things my girls have left of me.  If this is something you aren't doing, I'd strongly urge you to consider it.

And so the journey begins...



I'll admit, I checked FedEx every day since Friday to see if our dossier had arrived in China.  If memory serves me correctly, China is about 12-13 hours ahead of us.  Sunday night, I checked again to see where our dossier was and believe it or not, it had already been delivered!  It was delivered on March 21 at 10:30am China time. 

We haven't yet heard anything from the agency so we aren't sure of the Log In Date yet, but we hope to hear something soon.  At least we know the dossier has arrived safely in China!  One step closer to Kylie!


Happy 4th!

My little grandson turned 4 today!  He's gone from this:

To this:
We don't get to see him as often as we like, but we love him very much.  We hope your birthday was the best Gage!  Mimi, Pops and Jenna love you very much!



Our dossier arrived back from the Chinese Embassy and yesterday, it left our agency and is now we are DTC...



It should arrive in China some time next week and I even got the tracking number so I can see it as it travels the world!  I think that will be pretty exciting.  When it gets to China, it will be hand delivered by our agency in China to the CCAA.  They will immediately log it in and we'll get a LID (log-in date) and we'll find out the LID a few weeks later.  It will then start to be translated which can take 6-8 weeks.  After it's translated, it goes through other departments at the CCAA for review.  The unfortunate thing for us is that unless there is a problem, we won't know where in the process it is after the LID.  So in this case, no news is good news.

How long before we get a referral?  We have absolutely no idea.  We've seen families get a referral in 30 days, some 3 months, so 6 months.  We just don't know what to expect.  We'll keep you posted, but now begins the tough part.  There's no more forms to fill out, no more certifications to get.  Just waiting.  And hoping the CCAA doesn't have any questions about anything in our dossier.

Thanks for taking this ride with us!


More Scrapbooking...

Just to give you all an idea of what I've done during my scrapbooking retreats over the past years...
And most of those are of Jenna.  Each year of her life is documented in one of these albums.  Along with our Disney, Hawaii and Florida vacations.  Both of our mission trips are in individual books.

While I was away at my weekend scrapbooking retreat, I learned that the Dollar Mart in our area has really good scrapbooking supplies for a fraction of the price of those in hobby stores.  So.  I went and checked it out this past weekend...

So this is the stash I got.  Check out the price tags...

That's $1.25.  Some stuff was just $1.  Nothing was more than $1.25.  It was super cool stuff.  I had also recently placed an order for some Close To My Heart supplies.
Basically, I'm getting stocked back up.  :)



Our "baby cat" Mittens, has been with us since Steve went to Moldova on his mission trip in 2007.  You can read all about his arrival into our home here.

Jenna and I snapped the following pictures of him this past weekend.
My sweet baby cat!


Report Cards

Jenna got her report card this past Friday.  I was very proud of my girl, so thought I'd take a minute to brag.  She's been getting straight As on her report card all year, but 3rd grade is getting harder and so I knew there would be some challenges this 9 weeks.

But she came through with all As and 2 Bs!  The Bs were in Math and Reading.  The ironic thing about that is she is SUPER in both.  However, part of the reading issue is she is not able to answer questions about what she's read.  And apparently many of the kids are having the same issue because a letter came home from the teacher asking us to really work with the kids on that.

I'd love for her to get straight As, but I can see the homework getting harder, so I'm proud she maintained so many As and just slid a little to the Bs in a couple subjects!


Sleepy Head

Saturday night, after we'd changed the time forward, Jenna came upstairs with me to sit while I did my Bible study.

In about 10 minutes, this is what she looked like:


Scrapbook Weekend

Last weekend, I went on my twice annual scrapbooking weekend.  It starts at 3pm on Thursday and the big scrapbook room we set up in is open until the last person passes out at night.  Then it opens as early as the time the first person gets up in the morning.  We can stay until about 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

I always get there as close to 3pm as I can on Thursday and try to leave on Sunday around lunch.  This retreat was no different.  I got there about 3:15 and got unloaded and set up.  But after a couple hours my eye really started to bother me.  It just kept feeling a bit runny and was red.  I kept looking at it and touching it and dabbing at it.  At one point, I sent Steve this picture to ask him what he thought the problem was... (WARNING>>>IF EYEBALLS AREN'T YOUR THING, SKIP THE PIC!!!
I'm such a goofball, I know.  But totally unlike me, I ended up going to bed about 10:00 because I felt like I just needed to rest my eye (no kidding huh!?)

The next morning I woke up and thought my eye was crusted shut.  I got up, ran some warm water on a washcloth and cleaned up my poor eye.  Then I looked in the mirror to see if my eye was still as red as the night before.

Um.  Yeah.  It was pretty bad and I'll admit, I was a little worried.  I texted the photo to Steve and his response?  "Yep.  Looks bad."  Thanks honey.  It was still early (7am) and I headed out to the local walk in clinic at the request of my friend Rachel VG who assured me the clinic "did" eyes.

The clinic opened at 7:30 and I got there at 7:50.  There were 3 people in front of me.  While checking in, the lady says to me, "I assume you are here about your eye?"  I just laughed.  And then said, "Actually I have this rash..."  Anyway, they took me back and when the doctor came in, she didn't even bother shining a light or looking at my eye.  She said they'd had 3 cases of pink eye already that morning and it was either that or another infection.  Either way, they were going to treat it as aggressively as pink eye. 

I told her my eye wasn't itching or burning or feeling scratchy and that's why she thought it could be some other infection.  She said the swelling was from me messing with it so much the night before.  She sent me away with some prescription eye drops and the instructions to ice my eye when possible to reduce the swelling.

On a side note, they tested my vision which I was very interested in because the only vision test I've had since my LASIK surgery was at the LASIK office.  I was kind of wondering if my vision was as good as the LASIK office was making it out.  Turns out...IT IS.  Her comment was, "You actually have excellent vision!" 

My vision wasn't affected by the infection and she said while it was contagious, I should not worry about infecting my scrapbooking buddies unless they were touching my face or my eyes.  After picking up my prescription, I headed back.

By the end of the weekend, my eye was better, swelling gone and my other eye starting to look red.  Just as a precautionary measure, I started treating my other eye since it was highly likely I'd infected it anyway.

But despite the crazy eye-drama, the weekend was a success for me.  I finally got all caught up on Jenna's school album, got our family album current and got many of my South Africa pictures in an album.  In addition, I got 2 years' worth of vacation put into albums. 

We have another scrapbooking weekend coming up at my church.  It's not nearly as extensive as the other...just Friday and Saturday and we sleep in our own homes, but it is going to get me one step closer to being caught up.


The Verdict

My agency family coordinator called about 9:45am this morning.  The first thing she said was that it was an "easy fix".  Praise the Lord.

Apparently, the agency typically puts a cover form on top of the documents that go to the Embassy for authentication.  This is something they have done for a while.  On the signature line, they sign on behalf of the family.  But for whatever reason, the embassy rejected our form because the signature didn't match the other documents.  Of course it didn't.  Because it wasn't us that signed it.

So, my agency scanned and emailed me the form and I signed it and overnighted it back.  They were very apologetic and I was just thrilled it wasn't anything more serious and didn't include me having to deal with doctor offices or county clerks.
That little baby was what is now going to be causing a week's delay in getting out dossier off to China.  But I have had a peace about it since Monday, so all is well.

The next steps?  They will receive this package tomorrow and will set up the courier to deliver it the Embassy on Friday.  The agency will pick up all the paperwork on Wednesday of next week and then our dossier will be ready to go to China on Friday (which is when all the China dossiers go together).

So, we are in the home stretch.  I'm not sure what happens when the dossier gets to China.  I think it has to be translated.  Not sure if there can be any potential road blocks with that, but I'm sure there can be.  I'll know more soon.

Thanks again for your prayers!

Pray...Today is the Day...

...that we will find out what the Chinese Embassy found wrong with one of our documents.  I don't know what time to expect to hear from my agency, but they are an hour ahead of us and I think they do their Embassy pick-ups pretty early.

I'm praying whatever it is will be easily corrected, but as I've learned, nothing in this process is "easy".

I'll update here, on FB and Twitter when I know more.

Saving with Coupons

Since Steve lost his job about 18 months ago, I've really stepped up my couponing.  Because of my busy schedule, I have taken to making a monthly menu and doing one big shopping trip per month.  I do have to go grocery shopping in between times to get a few staples, but mostly, I go one time a month and that's it.

Now, most coupon experts will tell you it's harder to save money when you shop less frequently but I've managed to still save money here and there.

Sunday, after I got back from scrapbooking, I sat down to catch up on my coupon clipping and make my menu and grocery list.  Steve kindly said he'd go to the grocery on Monday, but I decided to run a few places just to get the sale items.

Thought I might share my savings with you so those of you who have been contemplating couponing might be encouraged to try (or those that have been "off the horse" can get back on".

At CVS, I bought 4-12 pack of Pepsis, 4 packs of gum, 2-6 packs of Boost and a 40 count Advil liqui-gels.  The Pepsis netted me a $3 ECB (extra care bucks), I had coupons for all the gum, the Boost was buy one get one 1/2 off AND I had a coupon and I had a $2 coupon for the Advil.  In the end, I spent $29 before tax and saved $19 which was a total of  37.45%.

Then at Publix I bought Ritz crackers, popcorn, Pepsi and soup.  All on sale or BOGO and I had coupons for all.  I spent $29 before tax, saved $26, for a total savings of 47.37%.

Finally, at Kroger, I bought Tide, Downey, Secret deoderant (3), Fiber One bars, Toaster Strudel, Pantene, Bounty paper towels, and Charmin.  I had e-coupons and regular coupons for everything.  I spent $25.  I saved $36.  That's a whopping savings of 62%!! 

So all in all, I saved $90 and spent $83.  I think that's a pretty good day!


Updated Timeline

Summer 2010 - We decide to move forward with adoption, begin researching agencies and countries.

August 8, 2010 - Applied to America World's China Program (Waiting Child)

August 13, 2010 - Received acceptance into China Program!

August 25, 2010 - 1st homestudy visit! (both of us)

September 1, 2010 - 2nd homestudy visit (Sandra's individual)

September 8, 2010 - 3rd homestudy visit (Steve's individual)

September 17, 2010 - Final homestudy visit! (home visit)

October 2010 - Physicals, doctor's forms and letters and trip to South Africa (lost 2-3 weeks while gone).

November 8, 2010 - Final document received to complete homestudy!

November 18, 2010 - homestudy complete!!!!

November 19, 2010 - Application to USCIS overnighted

November 26, 2010 - USCIS check cleared

December 24, 2010 - Merry Christmas Eve! Our USCIS appointment cards arrive!

January 18, 2011 - Fingerprint appointment at the USCIS.

February 14, 2011 - Received RFE (request for evidence) from USCIS

February 28, 2011 - Received I-797, USCIS approval!!!

March 1, 2011 - DOSSIER COMPLETE!  On it's way to be authenticated!

March 2, 2011 - Dossier received by agency and approved.

March 4, 2011 - Dossier couriered to State Department and Chinese Embassy in Washington (approved by State Department!)

March 7, 2011 - Embassy rejects one document. 


The Roller Coaster

If anyone tells you that adopting is not a roller coaster ride, they are flat out lying to you.  I read a bunch of adoption blogs and I always thought things would sail right along.  I rarely saw timelines where people had trouble getting their doctor to write a letter for their adoption, or a blog where the USCIS took 3 months to process their approval.

Then we had the scare last week with the State Department.  And we made it through.  We were told they were couriering our dossier over to the Chinese Embassy in DC and they "never" have any issues there.

Well, "never" just happened.  At 8:40am, my cell rings and it's our agency.  And you have to know... I knew immediately this was not good.  Because why would the agency be calling?  My family coordinator basically tells me that the Chinese Embassy has rejected one document because a "signature doesn't match".  DO WHAT?  What does that even mean?  No one knows.  They didn't say what document or what about the signature didn't match or what it didn't match to?  We have no information.  The agency will be able to pick the documents up on Wednesday and they'll find out then what in the world is going on.  My family coordinator said she's going to the Embassy herself on Wednesday to see if she can perhaps explain the issue in question.  But it's doubtful that will make any difference.

But either way, it's going to be yet another delay.  And most likely another trip to the county clerk, the TN Secretary of State, the State Department and back to the Embassy.  It's so frustrating.  I was very excited thinking about our dossier being on it's way to China this week.  Now I'm down in the dumps wondering if it will ever get there.

And I'm wondering if I'm the ONLY person out there this happens to?  Because the blogs I read, their paperwork just sails on through.  I happen to know I'm NOT the only one this happens to because my good friend who is walking this road with me had a similar situation with her agency review of the dossier. 

Let's just pray that whatever issue with whatever document the Embassy has that it is NOT the doctor letter.  God forbid.  However, my coordinator said she re-reviewed all the documents and could not find anything close to what they are talking about.  So I guess it will just have to be a surprise.

There are days when I literally want to throw up my hands.  But that's not an option.  All in God's timing. 

So now...we wait.  Again.



So, because of the pending adoption and Steve's lack of employment (i.e. our lack of funds), we won't be doing a big beach vacation this year (although I'm really going to miss it!).  Instead we decided to do something a little closer to home...

We are going to Atlanta for a long weekend.  We are going to stay at the Marriott which has an American Girl doll package which Jenna is super excited about.  We are looking into a City Pass and definitely want to hit the zoo and the Coke factory etc. 

Jenna can't wait.  I'm pretty excited and while it's not the beach, it will be nice to get away and have some family time.  Our trip is still several months off, so if you've got a particular favorite  thing to do in Atlanta, please comment!


I'm Breaking Free

I recently started the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore.  It's already getting pretty deep.  The premise is for you to break free from whatever holds you captive and keeps you from experiencing a full Spirit filled life.

At first, I wondered what I needed breaking free from.  And then I had a week.  You know the kind.  A WEEK.  Where it seemed like I just couldn't get my head on straight.  Nothing bad went on to speak of, but it was just a hard week and I'd had a pretty bad attitude.  Unfortunately for those around me, my bad attitude spilled over onto everything I touched.

And it seemed like God was showing me every bad thing in me that I needed to break free from.  I literally could make a list of my shortcomings that need God's touch on them.

Honestly, I'm still not sure what it is God is going to work with me on.  I have some definite ideas for sure.  It will be a roller coaster ride I'm sure.  Y'all pray for me as I enter this journey.  I'll keep you posted.


Answered Prayer

Just wanted to let everyone know I got a call from our agency. Our adoption paperwork passed the State Department inspection!!!! I am stoked and grateful for your prayers! The papers are now at the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC. They will be picked up next Wednesday and then they are on the way to China! Thank you all for your prayers!

The Best Job in the World

On Sunday mornings, I work in our church's preschool area.  It started out as volunteering once a month or so just to help out because they needed so much help.

Oddly enough, they put me in a variety of ages.  Finally, I realized I wanted something more permanent so I told them I would do every other week in preschool and every other week as a front door greeter.  When I went on a permanent rotation in the preschool, they permanently assigned me to "Baby A". 

Baby A were the babies that were sitting up but not crawling yet.  After a while, the 3 or 4 babies we had began crawling and so they moved me and the babies to "Baby B".  And after a while, I got tired of trying to remember which week was my week to greet and which week was my week to be with my babies.  So I told them I'd go full time.

And I started realizing I would wake up looking forward to seeing my babies on Sunday morning.  Yes, they were MY babies now.  And then every time one of them would go from crawling to walking and move up to the Toddler room, I'd be sad.  But then when the baby that cried every time they were dropped off would reach for me when they came to class, THAT was when I knew I was in love.

I have NO IDEA where the whole love for babies came from.  Well, maybe I do.  Up until recently, I loved the babies, but I always longed for one of my own.  Now that we are adopting, I think God has filled my longing freeing me up to love these babies unconditionally.

And after a few months, we had a bunch of new babies born and they reopened Baby A and I went back.  Now, I get to hold the teeniest babies, feed them and yes, even change their diapers.  This is what my job looked like several weeks ago...

Those are my babies.  And I love them.  A LOT.  And I can't wait to see them every Sunday and I miss them when they aren't there.  And you know what?  I know that my love for these babies makes it just a tiny bit easier for their moms (and dads) to drop them off and worship.

I really DO have the best job in the world!


The Worst Thing...

At this point in the journey, the worst thing that could happen is for either our agency, the State Department or the Chinese Embassy to find something wrong with our paperwork.  Honestly, I can't think what in the world it would be because I pored over those documents with a fine toothed comb. 

However.  As it tends to do, a delay in fact did happen.  Yesterday afternoon I got a call from our Family Coordinator who was reviewing our dossier. It appears that Steve's physical form is half original, half copy.  WHA?  I know, that's what I said.  But it looks like 1/2 of it was filled out, then a copy made, and the other half filled out and notarized.  The notary and most of the form is clearly original.  But she said the State Department sometimes will reject copies.

Now, it wouldn't be such a huge deal except for the fact that Steve's doctor's office is the most INEFFICIENT office I have ever had the displeasure of working with.  At least in terms of returning phone calls and adoption paperwork (and then what else is there?!).  It took them 2 months to get this form and the accompanying letter together.  I literally begged them to please hurry.  The LAST thing I want to do is have to ask them to do this again.

We can try and see if the form will make it through.  And so we are going for it.  Who knows what will happen.  The courier goes Friday and we'll know for sure on Friday.

So, if you are reading and are a praying person...well, even if you AREN'T a praying person, please pray for us anyway.  Please pray that we get a far-sighted State Department worker who will not notice half the form is apparently a copy.  Or that if they notice, they'll have mercy and push it through.  And if that is NOT God's will, pray that I will not have a total come-apart at the news.  I know God is in control and I know Satan will throw whatever he can to keep me from remembering that.

I'll know Friday.  And then you will too.  Please pray.


And We're Off!!!

This is what my desk at work looked like yesterday when I got back from getting all the documents certified by the county and state.
Steve ended up not being able to go take these last few documents to be certified but luckily I had no plans during the lunch hour, so I ventured out to do it myself.  I had already had several of them done, so I kind of remembered where to go and what to do.  However, one of the office buildings had moved since we were there last, so there was some panic on my part in having to figure out how to get to a new place.

That was my first stop and it was super easy to find (using Mapquest) and then there was absolutely NO WAITING when I got there.  It was fantastic!  I was in and out in no time at all.  However, the state certification was a little more trickly because it was downtown and you have to navigate one way streets and parking meters/no parking zones etc.  Many office buildings downtown have their own private parking areas, but they aren't open to the public.  I managed to find the building fairly quickly, but the meters I had lucked up on the last time were covered and you weren't allowed to park there.  I drove around the block several times before paying $6 to park in a public lot that was about 2 blocks away. 

It was 50 degrees, so it wasn't too bad of a walk and I got my steps in for the day!  The certification place wasn't crowded, but there were definitely more people waiting than last time.  And bless the lady's heart...she's sweet as can be, but slow as Christmas.

Anyway, all that to say, I got everything done that I needed and here we are...
This is the complete dossier package...OUR LIVES ON PAPER...headed to China (which you can see on my world map in the background).  OK, it's not actually headed to China right now.  Right this minute it's on it's way to Virginia, where our agency is located so that I can use their courier service to run this little jewel over to the State Department and Chinese Embassy in Washington DC to be authenticated.  Once it is authenticated then it really WILL be off to China.

I admit, I did get a little choked up leaving the state building knowing that this part of the journey was almost over.  But then actually taking the pictures and putting it in the mail was anticlimactic.  I guess I thought there would be angels singing or shafts of light from heaven.  Not so much.

But it will be nice not to have to carry around my huge expand-a-file of adoption documentation. 

And now...we wait.



Our USCIS approval letter came in the mail yesterday!!!  Of all the things that we sent the, apparently one of them was correct and we are now ready to move foward.  Later this afternoon (on my lunch break!) I will be taking a stack of papers to the County Clerk to be certified and then to the State capitol to be certified.  Once that's done (which should all be able to be done today), I'll make copies, write checks and send the whole package to our agency. 

We are paying them to courier the dossier documents to the Secretary of State and Chinese Embassy in Washington DC to be authenticated.

Once all those documents are authenticated (which takes about a week), the dossier will be on it's way to China!  We'll keep you posted when that happens!