Saturday, April 30, 2011

New pictures of Jack!

I joined a yahoo group who's members have or will adopt from the same orphanage in China.  I decided a few weeks ago to check it out.  The reason I am interested in the group is to know if anyone will be traveling soon to the orphanage.  If someone is, then it is possible to ask them to visit Jack and take pictures for me.  I found a lady who would be traveling April 21-25 to the orphanage.  I emailed immediately to ask her to take some pictures.  She responded that she would try her best.  I was so excited to get some updated pictures of him.  I told my friend who is part of the same group, because her son is also in the same orphanage.  By the way, it is pretty amazing that a close friend would have her son in the same institute as us because there are hundreds of institutions in China.  It will be cool to be able to tell our boys that they lived in the same place in China and now will grow up together here.  She also emailed the same lady and got confirmation that she would take pictures for her also.  We waited and waited and didn't hear anything.  On Tuesday, the 26th I received a text saying my friend got pictures.  I rushed to the computer and checked to see if I had any.  I had none.  I was disappointed, but very happy for my friend.  I thought maybe the lady forgot or they didn't let her into see the babies.  I didn't know.  I emailed the lady to ask politely if she saw Jack.  I got no response.  I was bummed.  Thursday morning I felt a tap on my back and I thought "Oh Grace why are you up so early."  Then there was a iPhone in my face with a picture of my beautiful boy!  The contact didn't forget and we got 10 new photos of him!! (see our 2 favorites, both above and at left)  It was such a blessing to awake to new pics!  I opened my eyes and squinted trying to focus my sleepy eyes on little Jack.  Not only did I receive pictures, but a little bit of information on his development.  All of the pictures are of Jack and his main nanny Li.  Li said that he is very healthy and has 8 teeth.  He is crawling, can pull himself to stand (on a low bar they have for that purpose) and can walk around holding onto the bar.  He is very clever and he LOVES his bottles.  This might explain those cheeks!  She also reported to me about his hearing because Jack has a malformed right ear.  She said his hearing seems fine; she called his name a few times when he wasn't looking at her and he would turn around right away to her voice.  She said overall he looked healthy and gorgeous.  She also went on to tell me how although the orphanage is very poor, they appear to give the children much love and affection.  I was greatly appreciative of the time she spent with Jack and finding out information for us.  She was so kind to ask questions for us.  I never told her about Jack's ear.  She noticed herself and took the initiative to check his hearing out for me. 

I was bothered about one thing after receiving the update.  It was me and my lack of contentment and joy.  A friend once said she wanted her joy not to be dependent on her circumstances.  That statement was running through my mind after praising the Lord for the update.  I was grumpy, sad and not joyful when I didn't get the pictures a few days earlier.  I let a little disappointment in my life take my focus off of Jesus.  This adoption journey will be just that, a journey.  We will wait and wait and wait.  The only way to go through this journey joyfully, because I will be disappointed, is to focus on Him.  I thank God for making me wait to get the updates on Jack.  If I had not of waited I wouldn't be able to be aware of my discontent.  Isn't the Lord kind?  Even when I was being selfish he still chose to bless me by gently showing me my sin and providing an update on Jack.

A wacky trip to Sacramento and San Francisco

I don't know if this will interest anyone, but I want to keep a record of the craziness of my adoption journey.  It is totally intriguing to me, but may be a little dull for others.  Sorry for such a long post.

For those who are unfamiliar with the adoption process,  it takes a lot of running around to get certain documents needed for the adoption.  One of the steps in the process is do get all the documents that are going to China notarized, certified and authenticated.  Basically all my docs are notarized locally, then they need to be certified by the CA Sec of State saying the notary is licensed in CA and then the Chinese Consulate will authenticate that the CA Sec of State is in fact our Sec of State.  Rather than sending all my docs to Sacramento and S.F. then wait to have them sent them back to me, I decided to drive them up myself.  I took a friend with me who is in the same stage of the process.  It was kind of a mini road trip.  We left around 5:30am.  We arrived at 8:30 to the Sec of State office in downtown Sac.  We found a meter, put some coins in and went up.  The process was painless, we were in and out in 20 minutes.  I was a little nervous because I didn't want to make any mistakes.  I felt as if my docs were like gold-very precious and I could not afford to lose them or have any errors.  The docs were certified and we were back to the car.  Come to find out we parked in a passenger loading zone!  Why did they have a meter in a zone where you can't park!?  It was extremely frustrating and cost us $52.  I couldn't believe that in those 20 minutes we were gone that we got a ticket!  Oh well. :(  Off to make copies of the docs.  I don't have GPS so Doug mapped out each step.  We got to the copy shop, paid the meter and made sure there were no yellow curbs. The next set of directions took us to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.  We arrived in S.F. around 11:15.  We were a little lost for about 20 minutes or so.  Eventually we found the Consulate.  The Consulate closes for lunch from noon to one and then closes for the day at 3:00.  We thought we were there in the nick of time.  We found the front of the line and kept following it down the street and around the corner!  I was a little stressed.  I drove all this way and I wasn't sure I was even going to make it into the building to have my documents authenticated.  We waited and waited.  It was kind of weird as I was able to experience China without leaving California. A foreign language around you, and people who don't understand what personal space is.  Parking in S.F. is tricky.  I parked in a 2 hour zone. By the time we would be inside the building my parking time would be up.  I left my friend in line and tried to find another parking spot.  My friend calls to tell me she is at the door next to enter.  I am panicked!  I finally find a spot.  I am stressed out and trying to parallel park, it was a nightmare.  Then I look up and see a sign a little ways up that reads "No Parking Fridays for street sweeping from 12-2"  I look at the clock it is 1:30; I can't park there!!  I would probably get another ticket.  Off to find another spot in S.F.  I am getting more stressed as I can't find a spot.  Finally I round the block another time and find a spot that I can legally park in.  I park, jump out of the car and run to the front entrance.  My friend is waiting to the side, letting people in front of us.  We enter and pass through security.  Then we join another line for about an hour.  Finally, at 2:15, I give my documents to the Consulate, pay my money and I am good to go.  Unfortunately my friend was not able to get her documents authenticated.  It was very sad and frustrating. :(

We headed back to the car disappointed.  I grabbed the next set of directions Doug had printed for us.  I told him I wanted to travel back via the 99 rather than I-5.  That is the route he printed.  Not too long after we were out of the city, we realized we had missed an exit.  No worries, we would just take I-5 instead of 99.  We could catch the 152 through Los Banos and have dinner there.  Doug calls to check on us and see where we were.  I said we were on the I-5 heading toward Los Banos.  I told him we saw a sign for Firebaugh recently.  Doug said, FIREBAUGH, tell me the next exit you see.  Manning was the next one. I told him it was a different one, not the one in the south valley.  Then the next one we came up to was Kamm.  Hmmmm...what are the chances that there is a Manning and a Kamm where we were that were different than the south valley.  I knew at that moment we were lost.  Doug pulled up a map and guided us to a town called San Joaquin.  Did I mention we were very low on gas? Meanwhile, Doug gets a knock on the door.  He opens it to Hannah, who is in hysterics crying.  She can't find the dogs and apparently, according to neighbors have been out of our fenced yard for several hours.  Doug goes out to look for the dogs and then realizes that I am out in the middle of booney land and need his guidance.  He sends the kids off to look for the dogs.  He guides me where to go.  We get to San Joaquin, the middle of nowhere and look for a gas station.  Not a sight of one.  We pull to a little shopping center with a liquor store and pizza parlor.  We decide the pizza place will be a better place to ask where a gas station is.  I ask, the girl looks at me blankly and says she doesn't speak English.  Great, I am lost with no gas and the town doesn't speak English.  I start to hand motion putting gas in the car and she says "Oh, Cirlce K"  and points somewhere.  Well at least I know they have gas, finding it is another issue.  We walk outside and find another girl and she speaks English and tells us where the Circle K is located.  We get gas and we find our way out of San Joaquin heading towards Kerman.  I call Doug back and they found the dogs.  They were across the street playing in the water basin having a grand time.  Hannah, although relieved, was still an emotional wreck. My sweet little girl!

The weekend before a friend who used to live in Kerman metioned a Chinese restuarant in Kerman.  As we were driving on what I would assume was the main drag of Kerman, I found the Bejing Garden restuarant.  A nice way to finish off our crazy day of adoption madness, with Chinese food.  It was sooo nice to sit down and eat and relax.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How did we get here?

I thought that maybe I could post about how we decided to adopt.  Some might have been surprised by our decision and others knew we had been praying about adopting.  We have been blessed to be surrounded by so many families that have gone down this road before us for several years now.  Adoption has been a discussion in the past, but not really serious.  We would say things like, "Well maybe in the future we might when our kids are older."  I did joke before Gracie was born that when we adopt our little girl from China we will name her Gracie Marie. 

In October I had started thinking about adoption more seriously; it was just on my heart. I don't remember particularly why, it just was.  Then Doug said that a friend wanted him to read a book, with which Doug responded, "I don't read, I only listen to books."  Doug suspected that he was up to something.  So he listened to Doug and bought him a book called "Adopted for Life" by Russell D. Moore on CD.  Doug was in no rush to listen to it, but I was.  I took those CD's and listened to all 6 within about a weeks time.  Comparatively, Doug spends a lot more time in the car than I do.  His coommute is 40 minutes each way.  He listened to the bible on the way to work and in the afternoon he would listen, if he could, to the book.  He also uses the drive home to make calls.  He slowly went through the book.  In a nutshell the book talks to both aspects of adoption in the Christian's life.  The spirtual adoption we have through Jesus Christ.  "God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." Galations 4: 4-7  Russell Moore points us to our spiritual adoption if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, not only have we been saved from our sins we are also adopted.  Therefore, children of God!  The second aspect is how we should respond to our own adoption practically here on earth.  In James 1:27 it says: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." 

Now that we had listened to the book what were we going to do about it?  Nothing immediately.  We talked about it occassionally, but did not have a clear direction.  We prayed about it sometimes together, but usually seperately.  I knew that if Doug said yes, then that would be the answer to my prayer.  If he said no, it would still be the answer to my prayer, just not the one I wanted. As time passed, and a decision wasn't made, I felt myself not feeling the strong tug of wanting to adopt.  It is funny how as time goes on how the things that seem so important can get watered down in other priorities.   I thought about how nice our family was, 2 girls, 2 boys, everyone is potty trained and we all have a partner for rides at Disneyland!  This is what we have been waiting for!  But was it?  As I reflected on the possibility of not adopting, I realized I am completely and utterly selfish!  The only reasons I could think for not adopting were selfish reasons, for my own comfort.  I am certainly glad that Jesus is perfect and did not take on that attitude when he suffered and died for me!  As Doug and I discussed reasons why we wouldn't adopt, they were all temporal reasons, not eternal.  We were compelled to look into the prospect of adoption a little more.  During this searching out period we had attended an international adoption meeting and also a Fost/Adopt meeting.  We were unclear which route to take.  We met with some friends who have adopted internaionally and are currently involved in the foster care system to get their perspective.  They were positive about both.  We felt that night after talking with them that we should adopt.  As one friend says "Life is short and eternity is long."  The need for adoption is great domestically and internationally.  However, for our family international was the route we would take.  Of course, the decision doesn't end there.  Where would we adopt from?  It didn't take long to decide China would be the best fit for us.  We knew so many people who have gone before us and they would be able to help us along the way.  We also had a heart for the many orphans with special needs that are so often passed over.  We were on the road to adopt!

 We made our decision to adopt on January 29th. The next thing we needed to do was tell the kids. The next day we were leaving to take the kids on a surprise trip to Disneyland.  They were estactic the day we told them we were going home to pack for Disneyland.  On a side note, Grace kept telling us the previous week that she was going to Disneyland in 5 days!  I don't know why she thought it, but she did.  I was a little worried that when we told her we were going that she would get the idea that she got to go to Disneyland everytime she said so.  Anyhoo, we left and had a great time.  Although, I was constantly thinking about the adoption and was divided in my thoughts.  Any of you who know me well enough, know how much we love Disneyland.  So for me to be divided was huge!  I really wanted to tell the kids, but Doug said lets wait.  Well we spent our week at Disneyland and came home.  The next day we were having dinner and that is when we decided to tell the kids.  I told the kids we were going to have another family member.  Our kids were more than estactic.  They were definitely more excited to hear of the adoption than about Disneyland. They were ready to adopt before we were.  Their hearts were ready for a new brother or sister. 

This is too long, let me wrap it up.  We turned in both our applications for our local and international agencies on February 8th.  On March 8th we were matched with Jack.  Our home study is about to be completed and going through revisions so that we can move forward to the next step.  We will submit our application for immigration to our government.  It can take up to 60 days for approval.  This will be the first of many times we will be waiting in the process.  This is what we know about Jack.  He just turned one on April 6th.  He has an ear malformation, which does effect his hearing.  We are not sure to what extent, and won't until we bring him home.  We do know that he does have some hearing because he does respond to his name and other sounds.  We also know he has a loving family longing to be united with him!