Friday, December 12, 2008

I loved you then...

Today is Caleb's 1/2 birthday. If you have kids like mine, you know this is an important day. Caleb will discover this special day next year! Until then, we are thanking God that we have him with us in our hearts and have a few pictures to make him seem a little bit closer.

My prayer for Caleb today is pretty much summed up in the song "I Loved You Then" (on my playlist on the sidebar, if it isn't playing right now). When we finally get to see Caleb and invite him into our family, these are the words I will tell him. We loved you then. We love you now. And tomorrow.

Even before Caleb knew we existed, we loved him. While his life was going on as normal, we were loving him even then. We'll look back on days like today and tell him how much we loved him. Even way back on a snowy day in December.

And it is such a clear picture of how God loves us. Even in our sin, he loved us then. He loved us when we didn't even know about Him. He came to us, paid the ransom for our lives with his very own life. He loved us then. And He loves us now. And forever. We get to actually live out the hope of the gospel through the blessing of adoption. It is showing me the heart of God in new ways. And it really is the story of all of us who accept His invitation and become children of God.

Here are the words to the song. I can't listen to it without tears.

Pain touches everyone
Heartache falls on every heart
And all of us go through the storm
It doesn't matter who you are
And you're up against the wind
And you feel you've lost your way
Listen to me say

I loved you then
I love you now
I will love you tomorrow
When this world breaks you down
I will give you strength to stand
Look to me
Take my hand and just believe
Before this day ever began
I loved you then

Time changes everything
Moments fly by like the wind
And you can try to hold on so tight
But you'll never get time back again
Oh you feel stuck with your mistakes
Can't turn anything around
And it seems there's no way out

I won't let you go
Not even for a minute
So don't lose hope

Monday, December 8, 2008

thinking of Caleb and Nathan turns 6!

It's Christmas time and we're thinking about our Caleb...

This Christmas we'll be rejoicing over the birth of our Saviour, Jesus. And we'll also be rejoicing over the birth of our newest son, Caleb, whom we haven't met yet but love as if he were here. We are missing you, Caleb.

Good mom, bad mom stories..
I'll start with the bad mom story so I can end on a good note.
Nathan turned six on Friday. We have been counting the days for his 6th birthday for 364 days. Yes, the countdown for birthdays always begins the day after a birthday celebration around here. Makes for a l-o-n-g wait, but the kids do it none the less. So, you'd think that I would have a few b-day candles on hand, right? No, not me. I recently decluttered one of my always cluttered kitchen drawers and threw away all the used and random b-day candles thinking, of course, that I would replace them with nice new ones that all matched. Well, that was several weeks ago and a lot of life happened between then and Friday and not one time did I think about candles. I ended up scrambling around for some on Friday. The only option at 8:30 pm?...
Six purple tealight candles. I will forever have proof of my not-so-great-mom moment. It was pretty funny though. And even funnier that Nathan didn't even seem to notice or care.

And now, on to my good mom story. After three kids, I have learned a few things. Some I don't learn until after the fact. Some I learn just in the right time. And some I actually learn and get to put into practice. One of my best parenting tips is this: don't push your kid to do any "age appropriate" task that really doesn't matter and will eventually come in time. And this is why...Andy and I realized that Nathan was about to turn six and neither of us had even attempted to teach him how to tie his shoes. Now Kara, on the otherhand, oh, we spent forever teaching her and probably started when she was three years old or something crazily optimistic like that. Not Nathan. He's our third and things are much different in his life. So, a few days before his sixth b-day I think, uh oh, he should have learned this when he was five, right? Isn't this something every kindergartner should know? I put him on the couch and say, "Nate, let me show you how to tie your shoes." And you know what? He learned. Right then and right there. No tears, no emotional breakdowns, no days and weeks and months of trying. Just one day. One lesson. So, now my six year old can tie his shoes. He can also fold his laundry, make his bed, take a shower, sweep the floor, empty the trash, change the toilet paper roll, clean bathtubs and showers and sinks, mop the floors (by hand, on his hands and knees!), dust the baseboards and a whole host of other helpful things! Welcome to the world of DO IT YOURSELF, Nathan. Your mommy is thrilled to finally see you here! julia.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A little bit of fun while waiting...

My friend Nyla, aka "the stamping lady" according to my kids, had a great idea to make our waiting-on-China-time go a bit faster...or at least seem a bit more fun. She came up with an idea to make a CountUP to Caleb Calendar. We went over to her craft studio yesterday to make it. The kids decorated the front of the calendar and punched out paper shapes to glue on to each day of the calendar. Now each morning, one of them gets to pick a fun paper shape and glue it onto the calendar for the day. And leave it to Anna to figure out a way to make it all perfectly fair. As soon as we got home, she immediately marked every date on the calendar with the initials K, A or N to designate who gets to glue the shape on for the day. Yes, she inherited my love of systems.

Here are a few close ups of the calendar:

And as for my special way of making the wait time seem worthwhile...I committed to lose one pound and gain one bible memory verse for every week that we wait to hear from China. I'm on week two and am down 2.5 lbs and up to verse number 2 as of today. Not bad for me. I'm not sure how successful I'll be at losing weight. I just love food too much! I am bringing out all the tricks though. I bought healthy snacks yesterday and had the girls organize little snack bags of all the "goodies" (and I do use the word "goodies" rather hesitantly!). Hopefully, it will keep me from begging for stale Halloween candy from them. That is my weakness about 3:00pm everyday. Today I'm going to make myself think about nuts and dried fruit. Mmm....I'm trying to make it sound good. It's rather hard! Hopefully it will somehow balance out calories from the doughnuts I ate this morning...

So, bring on the wait, China! We're making it worthwhile and fun here! julia.

Friday, November 14, 2008

dossier is there...and I'm trying to laugh today

China update: I got a call from our agency on Tuesday to tell us that our dossier was hand delivered to the CCAA Monday. We were a bit disappointed b/c we thought that happened last week. Yet another small delay. It is all adding up. We should have our log in date this week or early next week. We won't find out exactly when the log in date is/was for several weeks. Point is: still waiting.

And I just had to post about our day today. Listen to this....

Right after breakfast, Nathan bombards me with pleas to read a chapter of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" to him. I do. Anna knows this and runs upstairs to prepare a test for him. Background info for you: Anna has an unusual deep love/fascination/sort of unhealthy obsession with the Narnia books and anything Narnia related. She has basically crowned herself queen of anything Narnia and has loved the fact that Nathan has not been able to read the books or see the movie. But her Narnia-claimed throne has been threatened. Nathan is almost six and I decided that he was old enough to understand the book. So I started reading it to him. The rule in our house is that you can not watch the movie until you have read the book (for movies that are based on books). So he is nearing the time when he can watch THE movie. He only has three more chapters to go in THE book and Anna is nearly boiling over in anger that her brother will now be able to watch HER movie about HER book. Obsession to the fullest.

So, this is what I find the two of them doing a few moments after I finished chapter 14 today.

Anna had made a quiz for Nathan, based on one of her "all about Narnia" books that she has. In this photo, she is informing him that he got 9 out of 18 right. Or, in her mind, 9 wrong. She is telling him he only got 50% right (which she knows is an "F" is real schools and which Nathan thinks sounds quite good because it is a way bigger number than the 9 he just heard). He is super smiley and mostly just thrilled that she is allowing him in her room AND to lay on her bed. She is not so smiley.

Then we rush off to run errands and as I begin to close the door behind me, I notice the dishwasher has bubbles oozing out of it. All out of it. All over the floor. The kids were all buckled in the car waiting for me. I yell for them to come back inside.

And the clean up crew begins...

Do you know how long and nearly impossible it is to pick up bubbles and get them out of a dishwasher? The girls know.

I had asked the girls to start the dishwasher this morning and, apparently, they weren't familiar with the difference between dishwasher detergent and Palmolive. We generally use those nice gel tablets in the dishwasher, but we ran out and I was trying to save $ by using the cheap pour-it-in-yourself-stuff. The girls know how to do the gel tabs, but have never seen me use anything else.
By the time we left (for the second time), we were all starving b/c by now it was lunch time. So we stopped at McD's to eat a cheap and fast lunch (a great way to make you feel sick for the day, which I now do). Then it was off to the County Health Department. The kids and I were all getting flu shots and we could get them there way cheaper than anywhere else. And there is a reason it is cheaper...note to anyone who lives here: Do NOT be tempted to save $ and go there. Uggh. Totally disgusting. I totally feel like I walked out of there having been exposed to way more germs than I would have likely been exposed to all winter long. The flu shot is not going to protect me against the nasty germs I probably picked up there. Over an hour later, we were finally done and I felt like we all needed a hot bath. But I had to stop and get the kids frozen cokes b/c I had promised that to them as a celebration after the shots. Well, one of the celebratory frozen cokes (orange flavored and bright orange colored, I might add) spilled all over the van. Yes. Perfect.

By the time we got home, Kara and I both were feeling not so good. We were the two scaredy-cats of the family and opted for the flu mist instead of the shot. Apparently, it is more likely that you'll have mild flu-like symptoms from the mist vs. the shot. Good thing we have nothing planned this weekend.

All of this and it is only 3:00. And I have a counter full of dirty dishes and a dishwasher that will likely need to run through several cycles to get all of the ever-expanding bubbles out of it.
One day this will be funny. Right? I'm trying really hard to laugh now. It's barely coming out as a tiny smile. Barely. julia.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Take a look at this cutie!!

I woke up this morning to several emails with TONS of photos of Caleb attached! The Craven family offered to deliver a gift to him and the orphanage directors let them personally give it to him! It's been exactly 5 months since the Houstons did the same thing for us. He looks about the same and seems to be just as smiley. One of the things we sent him was a tiny stuffed pillow with a picture of Andy and me on it. That is what he is holding in a few of the pictures (and kissing it and hugging it!!). Here is what the Cravens emailed us about him...

"He is a very interactive, sweet, smiley, and snuggley little will so enjoy him and it appears bonding may not be so least from appearances! He imitated right away in English too!!"

"Julia and Andy....your son is SOOO ADORABLE!!!!! We were at Chengdu CWI today and recieved our son...when we asked if we could see your son and give him your package and take pictures...they just lit up like Christmas trees!! They LOVE him there. The worker said to me "He is very fat or chubby and has a lot of personality, he is a lot of fun!" Then she pointed at another lady and said "he is her favorite!". They brought him in and WHAT A DOLL BABY!! Ohh boy he is so happy and spunky! He just smiled and smiled. We put your package in a ziplock for travel and then decorated it with curly red and gold ribbons last night so he would feel like he was opening a present. When he saw it he just beamed. They told him it was from his Mama and Baba..then he turned to me and said with enthusiasm and a big smile....Mama! Baba!!! He kept saying that as he looked at me and I said Yes!! uh..No! and we opened the package and showed him the pillow and pointed at you and said Mama, Baba! He smiled and looked at you with such a happy face!! He hugged the pillow.....we kept trying to get a good photo but our camera is soooo crumby we missed most of the smiles but got a bunch of photos...I will send them to you a little at a time as it takes so long here!! He is very loved and very well taken care of there. He is a super happy boy and I didnt think he was fat or chubby at all...maybe bc his checks are full. He has a little scrape on one of his cheeks but he looks GREAT otherwise!! He is very loving and went to all the ladies and to me very easily"......

Isn't he so cute?!...even with girly clothes on! I don't know if you could tell from the photos and video we got back in June, but he had his pants on backwards in those. And he had a pink sweater on in the photos we got from the orphanage in April. Poor thing. They either let him dress himself or just don't have enough boy clothes. But despite girl clothes, dirty pants, and a face full of scrapes, we think he's one of the two most adorable little boys in the world! The other being Nathan, of course!
We are just so thrilled that someone we don't even know took such an interest and went out of their way to do such a loving thing for us! God has provided us with just the right people at just the right time to bring us a little closer to Caleb. What an incredible blessing. I am looking forward to being able to do the same thing for another family when we finally get to go to China.
Well, that's it. These are likely the last photos we'll have of him until we see him in person. Our dossier (paperwork) should be logged into China's system by now. We won't know the official log in date for a few weeks/months, I think. But our best guess at this point is that we could be in China around March, maybe April. It keeps getting pushed back and back. There isn't anything we can do. It is all in God's timing and we are fine waiting on that. julia.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beijing and a little about me

China news first. The family that is taking gifts to Caleb for us is in Beijing right now. They will be in the orphanage on Sunday. You can follow their journey on their blog. We're hoping for some pictures of Caleb!

And a little about me next. I've been "tagged" by Michele AND Trina. Here is what it means:

I used the rules from Trina and the number of items from Michele...(See the cute "tagged" picture above? Please look at it closely, read it, and enjoy it for a minute before you read on b/c I spent entirely too long getting that silly thing on here and I'd hate to think it was all wasted time!!)

1. Rachel Ray has nothing on me. I should have marketed my style of cooking long before she came along and I could have been a bizillionaire like her. I can make dinner in less than 20 minutes, easy. And I can do it all with a kid literally hanging on my leg (or on my hip), while answering a math question, carrying a somewhat meaningful conversation with someone on the phone, and keeping an eye on kids in the backyard.

2. And speaking of food, I can do anything with a pound or two of chicken, pork or hamburger. Problem is I can never re-create it if it is good. One of my recent dishes involved pork, a bottle of toasted sesame asian dressing and some carrots I had in the back of the refrigerator. I put it all in the crockpot and, well, that's it. Mmm. So good. I told my friend Emily about it a while ago and she loved it too. Funny thing is that I totally forgot about it until she mentioned who she had passed the recipe on to. I said, really? And how did I make that? And then what did I do? And I made mashed potatoes with it too? REALLY? And I poured the dressing over the potatoes? That WAS a good idea, wasn't it?!

3. I love systems. Some may call it OCD or type A personality, I just like to think that I enjoy systems. I have a system for everything. And a place for everything. My closet is organized by color, season and type of clothing. Jeans are all hung together (never smashed in a drawer), jackets lined up in color order, long sleeves all together (in color order) etc. It is easy to do and maintain when you have a few things in your wardrobe and that's it. My husband wouldn't say I have "a few" things in my closet. Considering I generally wear all the same colors, it probably looks like I have no clothes. But that black shirt that I seem to wear everyday isn't really ONE black shirt. I have tons of plain black shirts. I like what I like, ok?! And it's all about systems! In theory, it's a great idea. In reality, we have five people who live here, three of whom could care less about my systems. So in the end, my house is just as messy as anyone else's house. But my side of the closet looks GREAT!

4. I am addicted to chapstick. It started with lipstick. I used to put in on everyday no matter what, even if I stayed home all day. That got expensive, I guess, b/c gradually I ended up using just chapstick. I have chapstick all over my house: in the kitchen drawer, in my bathroom, every purse has one, the car, you name it. It's probably there. And I don't use just any old chapstick. It must be Blistex Silk& Shine. I think I need some right now...

5. I don't like movie theaters. They gross me out. I can't stand people chomping on popcorn behind me. I think it is crazy to spend that much $ to see a movie. No movie is that good. Andy loves to go to movies. I forget how much I don't like them and succumb to going once or twice a year. Then I'm reminded how much I hate them. I'd much rather watch a show in the comfort of my own home.

6. Before you think I'm no fun and all uptight, I do have some fun things about me. I play guitar. Well, I used to. If I cut my nails and wanted to live with callouses on my fingers, I could probably play a nice version of Puff the Magic Dragon for you. That was the first song I learned. I played it everyday for hours in my dorm room my freshman year in college. And I could play a dozen or so worship songs from the 1990's. Exciting, I know!

7. I love to listen to music, loudly, in my kitchen while making meals, cleaning up meals, planning meals, and eating meals. Pretty much covers a lot of my day. I have a new love for Playlist. I can get any song I want for free. We just bought speakers for our computer so I can listen to all my playlist music and not have it sound like it's coming from a tin can. I can't sing worth anything, so I just turn up the volume and then I think I sound just like the singer.

8. I love to rearrange furniture. Yep, I've been know to move the piano and everything else not nailed down to the floor all by myself. It is driving me crazy that our couch and loveseat have been in the same place for almost three years now. That is an eternity for me.

9. I have a major addiction to chick-fil-a's sweet tea and chicken tenders. I know the drive-thru workers by name. I'm there every Monday after I grocery shop and generally a few times later in the week. I'm prepping all the kids to get a job there when they're 16 so that I can get a discount or some free tenders&tea!

10. You know what I really want for Christmas? A fancy stainless steel trashcan that automatically opens when you put your hand near it, toothwhitening strips, a bigger crockpot, and a flat iron for my hair (no ironing clothes here, only hair!). True, I am dying for appliances, bleach for my teeth and an anti-fly-away hair iron. Am I totally old and boring or WHAT?! You know what my b-day gift was this year...a toaster oven and a Shark vacuum. Yep, and I was thrilled. Jumping up and down really. And vacuuming my floor on my b-day. Heaven!

If you're interested, you're next...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To China for Owen

Take a look at this sweet new face on my sidebar!

We have been so blessed by the generosity of so many that I just couldn't pass up this opportunity to help someone else out....

I discovered (via my blog-surfing!) a family that is from northern Indiana that is adopting a 2 1/2 year old boy from China. They are expecting to travel to China soon and they still need several thousand dollars to cover the orphanage fee and travel expenses. They are doing a fundraiser on their blog at "". They are asking for donations of only $10.00. Each $10.00 donation enters you into a drawing that has a G-R-E-A-T prize package:

A Canon Rebel XSI "mamarazzi dream package" ($1,500)
A Sony camcorder ($400.00)
A custom watercolor painting by Tisra Fadely Originals ($220.00)
100 custom designed announcements or cards, with envelopes, from Your Little Stinker ($100)
A customized sterling silver bracelet set by Silverpie ($60.00)
A Touch of Stardust pleated handbag ($50)
A necklace from Bel Kai Designs ($40)
A handmade baby bloomers set by Milk Bubbles Studio ($25)

The total prize value represented in this giveaway is over $2,400.00!

So, if you have just $10.00 to donate to their adoption, you could possibly find yourself walking away with a ton of great items. And even if you don't win, you are helping to bring a little boy home into a family.

Also, they are doing a second drawing. The prize is a $250 Kate Spade purse. There is NO FEE to enter this drawing. All that they request is that you add their info to your sidebar on your blog (which I will do if I can figure out how to do it!) or post about their fundraiser. That is what I am doing! So, if any of you get a Kate Spade bag for Christmas, you'll know that I won. He hee. It's more like....if you see ME walking around with a new Kate Spade bag, you'll know I've won!
You can read all about the family, the little boy they are adopting, and the details about the drawing and how to donate your $10.00. There are also photos of all the prizes.

And just so you know, I am NOT one to enter giveaways. Andy is generally the optimist in the family and is the one to do those types of things. I am always grumbling that he shouldn't waste his time (or give out our personal inf0) for things like that. I mean, come on, who REALLY wins those things anyway, right? Well, my friend Angie recently won a $15,000 shopping spree from Pottery Barn. So, now I'm a bit more of a believer in at least trying a few things. And with this giveaway, the only one guaranteed to win is a little boy from China. And I'm all for that! julia.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our dossier is.... (!!)

It's off to CHINA!!

Our paperwork was authenticated in Chicago last week. We had one document (my birth certificate) that had to go New York to be authenticated and it just arrived back to our agency today. Soooooo, everything is totally done here in our country! It should all be logged into China's system in a week or so.

The way things are running in China right now, our best guess as to when we'll be in China is probably close to Feb/March. And it looks like it will likely be March.

Also, we may have new photos of Caleb in a few weeks! A family from my Chengdu Orphanage Yahoo Group will be picking up their child on Nov 9th and is delivering a few small things for us. We sent them these things to deliver to Caleb: a tiny pillow with our photo on it, a matchbox car, stickers, a color wonder packet, and a disposable camera. We asked the family to beg and plead to see Caleb and try to get some photos of him. So, that is what we're looking forward to now! Until then, we are just super excited to finally be on one of the last wait periods. It will be a long wait, but we're getting closer and closer!

In the meantime, we are all spending time learning as much about China as we can right now. We bought a Nintendo DS game that teaches Chinese language and Anna is picking up quite a bit. We are all learning a lot about the history and culture of China from a homeschool curriculum called "A Heart 4 China" by David Quinne. It is so good. Andy and I have learned a ton already. Sadly, most of the history we remember learning in school was American history. China has a such a rich and fascinating history. Much more interesting than learning about Indiana history, I must say! I boycott teaching a year of Indiana history to the kids (it is required in traditional schools to spend 4th grade learning about your state's history). Uggh, you've got to be kidding, a whole year of history spent on our own state? I won't elaborate on that issue. Can you tell I have issues with it?!! Anyway, China. I love it. Can't wait to go there, grab our boy and kiss him tons all over his sweet chubby face!

We're getting closer to that day! julia.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dossier complete and off to Oregon, Chicago and China!

Well, things didn't turn out exactly how we expected this week. But it all ended up fine. The end of the story is that we overnighted our COMPLETED dossier to our adoption agency (in Oregon)yesterday and they got it today!

The abbreviated version of our week is that the CIS lady thought I had set up a UPS account and not a FedEx account (as I had told her), so our approval didn't get to us until Wednesday. That is a story in itself. I specifically asked for the document to be sent with no signature required b/c I knew that it wasn't likely that we would be home on Saturday (which is when it was supposed to arrive). Well, go figure, the CIS lady got that info wrong too and marked "signature required" on the delivery. And, of course, to add to the saga of the CIS paperwork, the FedEx man arrived just as I was getting out of the shower Wednesday morning. The kids were rushing upstairs, "Mommy, mommy, the delivery man is here! He needs you. He keeps knocking and isn't leaving." I tell them (as I stand at the top of the stairs wrapped in a towel) to open the door and get the package. They open the door, but he needs a signature...and apparently a 10 year old's signature doesn't count. Of course. So, I rush around and throw on clothes and ended up with a really bad hair day (b/c if I miss my window of drying my hair, it gets all frizzy and, well, really bad).

Back to the rest of the week...I ended up going downtonw to get all of the papers state certified on Tuesday morning. We were set to send all of our paperwork to our agency on Wednesday, but Andy found one thing missing. He ended up finding the missing document about 11:00pm Wednesday night and then he made a trip downtown Thursday to get it certified. And that was it. More than seven months of paperwork was done. Completely done! I must say, it felt a little strange to send it all away and have no "to do" list hanging over our heads.

Our dossier is on its way to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago today. A copy of it will be in China next week to be translated. Everything should be in China's system in 4-5 weeks. And then we can begin a new waiting period.

Here is Andy holding our completed dossier! (and four copies of the whole thing off to the side).

My thoughts on the whole process: We both felt like you had to be nearly a genius (which neither of us are) to be able to figure out the whole paperwork shuffle, lingo, timeframes and government rules. We are both educated and fairly smart people. And it was not a simple thing to gather what was basically a pile of about 3 dozen papers. As Andy was finalizing all the documents, I couldn't help but think that the stack of papers sure didn't look like something that had taken two grown people seven months to gather. But it did.

And on to Caleb news. I am part of a yahoo group for families that have adopted or are in the process of adopting from the Chengdu orphanage. There is a family that is going to be traveling there in the next few weeks and offered to hand-deliver a gift for anyone that has a child there. So, tomorrow I'm going to commission my mom to make a small pillow with a photo of Andy and me on it. We'll send that to Caleb along with a few other small things. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get more updated photos of him?!

And one more thing. Have you noticed the list of blogs I follow on my sidebar? Well, the Bring the Rain blog lady (Angie) was having a contest to see who had some of the funniest/most emabarrassing kid stories. I sent in a cute story of how Nathan used to think that his name was "Nathan-Andrew-Schmidt-That's-A-No". And I was one of the winners! Yeah! Well, Nathan may have just topped that story with this one today. He was kind of goofily scolding me for something (I don't even know what, dropping a spoon or something?). And he says, "Mommy Kathleen Schmidt!" to me. You know, with the "you're in trouble voice" that moms use. The hilarious thing is that Anna says, "How come he used MY middle name?" Hmm, Anna, maybe b/c I have to stearnly say your "in trouble" name like maybe a million times a day?!! And Nathan didn't even know why he used "Kathleen" as my middle name. He just knows that it's part of the "in trouble" name I yell daily! I think it just sounded "right" to him. julia.

Friday, October 3, 2008

CIS Approval Issued!!

We've been waiting three months for this! Our approval document from the U.S. Custom and Immigration Department is on the way! I just set up a Fed Ex account so that the nice CIS lady can overnight our documents to us. So, we'll have the long awaited approval in our hands tomorrow! I'll have to take it along with all of our other documents downtown to the Secretary of State office Monday morning to get state certified. And then all of it will be sent to our adoption agency. They will get it translated into Chinese and then it will be sent to China. YEAH!! We're about done with paperwork!! It's been seven long months of getting things ready to be sent to China. We should be logged into the Chinese adoption system within a few weeks!! Then a new countdown begins. We're now near to one of the last steps! We're still several months away from actually being in China. It looks like we may be there sometime in February, maybe March. julia.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

and the paperwork saga continues...

Tuesday and no approval yet. The nice CIS lady received the paperwork from our adoption agency yesterday but not the paperwork from our social worker. I had asked our social worker to overnight the documents as soon as she had them done. She had them completed on Friday but thought that sending everything via a 3 day guaranteed delivery date would be fine since no one would be in the office until Monday anyway. Well, in theory, that is fine. But we're dealing with a large government agency and fine turns into a longer wait time, of course. The CIS lady didn't have the homestudy documents in her hand as of yesterday afternoon. She said they were likely in the mailroom and it could take a day or two to get to her desk. She said she would call me when she received everything. I actually do believe her b/c she has called several times already. I'll wait until Thursday and then I'll be calling to check on things. So, she potentially has two whole days without getting a phone call from me! I'm sure she won't miss me!!

And here we sit. Still waiting. On silly paperwork. I wanted to post an update yesterday but had nothing to share. So, I spent an hour adding some of my favorite songs to my playlist. Just what you all were waiting for, huh?!! It actually made my day quite enjoyable. I plugged my computer into an outlet in my kitchen and listened to all of my favorite songs while making dinner. Oh, I LOVE good Christian music. And then I made my family listen to all the songs while we played a bored (!!)... I mean board game last night. Every time I heard a song I would say, "Oh, this is my all time favorite song." And then the next one would play and I'd say, "No, it is totally this one." And so it went...over and over. I just have too many favorites to have a REAL favorite. And it kept me awake and happy during a very long game.

So, off to make dinner. It will be a bit more enjoyable since Steven Curtis Chapman and Natalie Grant and Fernando Ortega and Cindy Morgan and a few others will be joining me too...

Happy listening! julia.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

so very close to being approved!

Last week was a whirlwind of phone calls to and from the nice CIS lady. She reviewed our homestudy Monday afternoon and tried to call us Tuesday. I finally spoke to her on Wednesday and found out there were a few minor details missing in the homestudy. I spent Wednesday afternoon emailing our adoption agency and social worker about the changes that needed to be made to our homestudy. They both acted super fast and had the needed documents in the mail as of Friday afternoon. We are expecting to have an approval issued on Monday or Tuesday this week. And in between the whole CIS/adoption agency/social worker communication stuff going on, I made four trips to our family doctor to get medical paperwork updated (since we are way past our expected time frame of getting our documents to China, a lot of our documents are expiring). I made two trips downtown to get our criminal check/fingerprints updated. And Andy had to re-do several other documents that all need to be re-notarized this week as well. All in all, we've both been very busy with paper-shuffling, emails, and phone calls. I tried to get info on the health of Caleb and his orphanage in general, but didn't find anything out. I guess no news is good news at this point.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and we are finally seeing all kinds of Christmas decorations in the stores now. How does that relate to Caleb and adoption, you may wonder?! Well, at the beginning of this process in March, we estimated that we would likely be in China to get Caleb sometime between December and February. We were, of course, hoping it would be closer to December. So, to make the wait seem a little quicker, I told the kids that the summer would go fast b/c it always does. Then the excitement of back to school stuff would make August and September go by quickly (which it totally has, I might add! And even though our kids don't "go back to school" in the traditional sense, we still get all excited about going to Target and buying all the fun school supplies and having new books to start and new lesson plans to fill in, etc). Then we would finally start to see Christmas things in the store and that would mean we were really close to seeing Caleb. So, although December is still a few months away, it seems right around the corner to us. Or at least that is my way of trying to make this whole waiting process go quicker. Does it sound too far-fetched?!! The hard part will be the wait time after Christmas. I didn't have a plan for making that wait seem quick, b/c I was really thinking we would have had our documents in China by now. Nothing in Indiana is fast in January or February. That time of the year always seem to drag on and feel dreary and l-o-n-g even when you aren't waiting for something big like a letter from China! So, if you have any ideas for making January and February seem like they are "just around the corner", let me know!!
And since I have no new photos of Caleb to post, here is a picture of all of us in Colorado last month. We were there for Andy's brother's wedding. Isn't it beautiful?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today and May

No updates on the immigration paperwork we are waiting on. I called the lady who is going to review it and she hadn't looked at it as of 4:00 today. She said she would indeed review it today. It was only 3:00 in Iowa, so she still had time. I'll call tomorrow again. I think her niceness may run out pretty soon. She didn't sound that thrilled to hear from me again today.

And, just as I thought, the newest numbers from tonight's news about the bad milk products in China is significantly worse. They now say over 50,000 children have been sickened. Several children have had severe kidney problems/failure. I have peace about Caleb being ok. I will try to find out about him through our adoption agency tomorrow.

Now, on to other things. I had planned on recapping the info and details we had about the earthquake that ocurred in May very near to Caleb's city. The following excerpts are what we heard and saw during the first few days after the earthquake. All of this info came from an organization called Half the Sky. They provide nurturing and education programs and services to orphanages in China. They were the only source of info we had about what was going on in and around Caleb's home. As you might imagine, I was desperate to hear any and all information I could get about the area. Just so you know, Sichuan is the province where Caleb is and Chengdu Children's Welfare Institute is his orphanage (CWI). Here are bits and pieces of the emails we had access to during this time. I've boldfaced the info that is specifically about his orphanage.

May 12, 2008
We have received many emails and calls about the terrible earthquake that struck Sichuan and Chongqing yesterday. We have reached the three orphanages where Half the Sky operates programs: Chengdu, Chongqing and Yibin. All is well. At each place, the children were all evacuated until the tremors passed. The buildings suffered no great damage. And no child was injured.
We will reach out to other welfare institutions in the province today. Should we learn of any problems or earthquake-related needs, I’ll post another note.
Some of you have also written regarding the EV71 hand-foot-mouth virus that has affected many, particularly young children, in several provinces. The orphanages are taking special precautions and no child in an institution has been reported infected. We are monitoring this also.
While Half the Sky exists first and foremost to provide nurturing care and education to orphaned children, we are pleased to be in a position to be the eyes and ears on the ground in China for all of you who have such concern for all aspects of the children’s welfare. We are so grateful to those of you who make our presence in China possible.

May 13, 2008
Hello again,
During the past several hours Half the Sky has been working hard to get more information about the children impacted by the Sichuan and Chongqing earthquake. We know that it is not only children in welfare institutions who are in trouble. We know that hundreds of children have been separated from their families, have lost their parents, are hurt, traumatized and in pain. We know we must help; we have been working to figure how best to do so.
We have just a little bit of news. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, one reported to be as strong as 6.0. Children have again been evacuated from the Chengdu institution. Relief workers have arrived in the epicenter, Wenchuan. The Ministry of Civil Affairs (this is the ministry that HTS works with and also the agency responsible for disasterrelief) has been unable to reach orphanages in the most affected areas: Mianyang, Zitong, Deyang and Aba. There are other welfare institutions in the affected areas but no others that house children. Each of the four institutions above houses about 100 children. We believe they will need help. We will continue to watch and wait.

May 14, 2008
I know you have been waiting eagerly for more news of how the children are faring during the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan.
When something terrible like this happens, confusion is everywhere and rumors spread. All of us are so worried about the children. We are trying to be scrupulously careful to pass along only information that we’ve been able to verify.
We have now set up a procedure whereby we can get an update from the Ministry of Civil affairs each day. They are supervising all relief efforts so have the most complete and accurate information available. We also now have contact information for all affected welfare institutions and have begun the process of reaching out to them directly to see if they need help.
I will write daily with any new information that has been given to us.
Again, please do not contact us to inquire about individual institutions.
We will give you all of the information we have. If you do not hear from us about a particular place, it likely is not affected. At any rate, we don’t have any information beyond what I am passing along to you.
As of now, Wednesday afternoon in China, there are 12,012 people dead and
7,841 missing in Sichuan alone, and the numbers continue to rise. 26,206 people are living in temporary shelters. Only 30 children of 900 have been rescued from the collapsed high school in Dujiangyan, Sichuan. At least 20 children were buried in the collapse of a primary school in Liangping, Chongqing.
What follows are the welfare institutions closest to the epicenter:

An update on the Chengdu CWI: There has been some foundation damage to the rehab building and some cracked walls in other buildings, which are being carefully inspected. The children’s building is in the best shape and all children have been moved to the first floor but spend most of the day outside, weather permitting – or in the institution buses if there is rain. All institution staff and HTS staff are working around the clock to care for the children and keep them safe.

Dear Friends,
As word comes of the hundreds, maybe thousands of children lost in the earthquake, I am finding these emails almost too painful to write. When I think of so many parents who have lost their only child - so many children newly orphaned - so many families destroyed - there are no words….
As of now, Thursday afternoon in China, there are 14,866 people confirmed dead, 14,463 in Sichuan Province. There are 22,438 people reported missing – 21,020 of them in Deyang alone. There have been 3,300 aftershocks and they continue.
Here is the confirmed information we have regarding children in welfare
Chengdu: The city continues to experience aftershocks and the institution director is afraid the water supply will be cut off again, so has requested disposable diapers. They are having trouble finding sufficient supplies of milk and formula. All children in foster care have been located and are fine. The institution has structural cracks but was built to current earthquake standards and is fundamentally solid. All the children remain on the first floor of the children’s building, mostly in the cafeteria, and, weather-permitting, outside while awake. We’ve posted a few photos on our website.

May 16, 2008
Dear Friends,
I dearly wish I had more good news to report. The very best thing I can tell you is that we have not had a single report of injuries from the welfare institutions.
As of this morning (Friday) there were 19,509 people confirmed dead. The State Council today said there will likely be more than 50,000. Today’s government report describes one terrible scene after another: thousands homeless, thousands missing, thousands injured, thousands trapped or buried alive. Hope for survivors is dimming. There is an urgent call for body bags to prevent the spread of disease. There have been over 4,400 aftershocks.
HTS Director, Child Development, Ma Lang has arrived in Chengdu and sends this note:
I am deeply touched by your moral and emotional support. I only slept two of the past thirty hours. The first thing I did after landing was to donate some medicine to the Chengdu Red Cross. It was very much appreciated – exactly what was needed. They gave me a wish list for further donations: antibiotics for children and adults, medicine for diarrhea, cold capsules (not instant medicines that must be mixed in water), bandages, gauze, tape, iodine, cotton swabs, herbal medicine to stop bleeding and some for pain relief. Other much-needed donations include tents, tarpaulins, warm clothes and shoes. People in Chengdu are doing everything they can to help with the earthquake rescue. I saw all sorts of vehicles carrying things to the donation centers. I registered for blood donation and was put on the waiting list – the blood center was overloaded with donated blood and it’s difficult to transport the blood to the hardest-hit areas. More to come… Lang

May 17, 2008
As you have heard, this tragic event has both killed children and created orphans. A group of new orphans has been transported to Chengdu. We expect to have more information soon.
Meanwhile, the orphanage in Chengdu experienced a magnitude 5.9 aftershock yesterday (there have been 23 major aftershocks ranging from 5-6.9 on the Richter Scale!) and is preparing, if necessary, to move the children completely out of what was considered to be the most solid building. They have requested tents, which we are providing immediately.

May 22, 2008
Chengdu CWI has been notified to prepare to receive 100 children; they expect that more may follow. At the same time, the orphanage has moved the children out-of-doors out of concern for safety. (photos on our website Half the Sky is working with local government and erecting a giant tent that can serve as shelter for orphaned and displaced children for as long as necessary.

May 25, 2008
Provincial CAB (Civil Affairs Bureau) has begun the process of sending displaced children to structurally-sound colleges, military bases, welfare institutions, and other facilities. In less-stable areas, where there are fears of flooding and environmental issues, children housed in some temporary facilities are being transferred, yet again. Almost every orphanage has been advised that they should prepare for new arrivals. We met a few sad little faces yesterday at the Chengdu CWI; they are told to expect at least 100 more. The director at Zitong CWI told me the same thing. And so did the director at Guiyang CWI in Guizhou! The truth is, I believe, nobody yet knows.

May 28, 2008
Dear Friends, First, an update on the airlift to remote Aba Prefecture. No less than 40 uniformed soldiers arrived at the Chengdu CWI yesterday to load two big trucks with emergency goods for the 1,000 stranded children of Aba. We’re waiting now for confirmation of the air drop.
This week HTS also erected a giant BigTop at the Chengdu CWI to aid with intake and shelter for new arrivals.

Below are a few photos taken during this time. This first picture was one of the first we saw. Apparently, it is when they had to move all the children to the lowest level of the building for easy exit routes when the aftershocks came. They tried to keep the kids outside as much as possible (2nd photo). Then the tent photos came and I completely lost it emotionally. To imagine Caleb and all the other children living in tents was too much for me to bear. The last three are of the military loading and unloading the supplies that were being stored in the orphanage building.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

tainted milk and a few lessons I've learned

I mentioned briefly in the last post about the tainted milk and deaths related to it in China. The lastest numbers I have are that 3 infants have died and 6,000 children have become ill. Now, those are the official numbers from it is likely that these are understated numbers. Here is a link to a short news clip on the situation in China.
It is a topic of discussion on a yahoo group that I am a part of that is for families that have adopted or are adopting from Chengdu. A few minutes ago I just left a response to a question about the safety of the milk that is served in the orphange there. Here is some of what I wrote and how I feel about all of this right now...

Several months ago there was a massive earthquake just 60 miles from the orphanage in Chengdu. Now, there is a country-wide recall of milk products. It has all made me reflect on a few things. One is that I couldn't help but see the significance in the fact that just a few weeks after we see the face of our son and decide to bring him into our family that there is an earthquake in his city...the only city in China that I could actually locate on a map...a city that I didn't even know existed before this spring...a city that I probably wouldn't have even cared about had a little orphan boy not been there. Now, the country that our son lives in is in the news again. And I can't help but think that I really wouldn't have even cared about hearing of tainted milk in China just a few months ago. I would have likely been making dinner and just glanced at the story and thought, well, I probably would have thought nothing. Except maybe something like, "what did they say the weather was going to be like tomorrow?" But now, I hear the word "China" and "babies" and "tainted milk" and my heart sinks. Not again. Why China? Why the one country that I really care about at all? And then it hits me. I really haven't cared about much of anyone else in the world until now. Not until it somehow affects me. And that is a tragedy. A sad statement on what I spend my time worrying about and thinking about and planning for.

But things are different now. Now I have a face to think of when I see little Chinese babies waiting in line to get tested for sickness. I think of our little Caleb. I think that he doesn't even have a mom to stand in line for him at a doctor's office right now. He doesn't have a dad to take his temperature and sleep with him at night if he isn't feeling well. He does have our prayers though, and that is sufficient. But I keep thinking of all the other orphans who are nameless to me. Who prays for them? Who even cares that they may have had a drink of poisoned milk? Does anyone care? Well, I am starting to. Things are so different now that I know faces and names of waiting children in China, one of them being our son. I feel like my eyes and heart have been opened to people throughout the world that I normally wouldn't think twice about. Especially children that don't have the gift of a mom and dad to protect them like only a mom or dad can do.

So, this process of waiting on paperwork and praying for the safety and health of our son has been a much bigger thing in my life than just "waiting on paperwork." I truly feel blessed to have a softer heart for the Chinese people in particular. I feel like they are part of my family and I ache when I hear of the suffering they go through. I don't even have my son in my arms, but I feel so connected to the people he lives with and the country he will call his birthland. And I pray that I won't forget the feeling I have when I hear of tragic things happening in China. Because I think that it is a tiny bit of what God feels when he sees the whole thing too. He doesn't just think about a country with an earthquake, or a city with tainted milk. He hears the cries of the babies, He comforts the weary mom, and He knows every one of their names. I am privileged to know the name of one small boy. Ji Ru Ping. Our little Caleb.

Please continue to pray for Caleb and all the orphans who have a name and a face that is lovely to our God. julia...still waiting and learning lessons on the way

Friday, September 19, 2008

Finally, some good news!

Well, this week I decided to call the CIS number more than just on Fridays. I started on Tuesday and spoke to a really nice lady. I asked her if she could please, please, please get someone at least assigned to our case. She said she would ask her supervisor about it at the end of the day. I waited for her to call on Wednesday and she never did. I called on Thursday and had to leave a message on her voicemail. I decided I would just call every day until someone got sick of me and flagged our file to get reviewed so they wouldn't have to talk to me every day!

I was telling a friend how I was waiting to hear from the lady and that I was hoping the supervisor would call someone to take action on our paperwork. My friend said I needed to pray specifically that God would show favor on us. Well, guess what?... The end of the story is that I called the nice lady again today and she put me on hold for a long time. She got back on the phone and literally says, "well, since you asked to have your file reviewed, I will do it." You've got to be kidding me! I was so thrilled. I was a bit flabbergasted that the letter we attached to our form begging for them to review our file quickly, and the weekly phone calls didn't work but today one lady heard my plea and said yes. So today is yet another day that I can point to and say, yes, God is still moving in the this process, has everything under control and has a perfect timeline. Bummer that I still tend to think my timing is pretty good and need this lesson again. I am working on that daily.

One other thing to mention, I saw that China is in the news yet again. Not good news. Apparently there is a huge recall of baby formula and milk products. At first, I thought it wouldn't affect Caleb, but it very likely could. And even if it doesn't, I have a heart for all the Chinese children in orphanages and foster care. Please pray for the health and safety of not only Caleb, but all the orphans. julia.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and the wait goes on

I was the one to call the immigration department (CIS) this week. I didn't loose it emotionally and cry on the phone. I had good reason to, but I didn't (!). Our fingerprints are apparently "in the system" and I was told we will hear something in less than 90 days (from when they received our paperwork). That means we should have an answer no later than October 6th. I've marked it on our family calendar. However, the man I talked to continued to remind me that the form we turned in is so new that everything is varying as far as timelines and he really had no idea what I should expect because "nothing is normal right now since we have only had five months of working with this new form." Uggh. Not too promising. I get a 90 days or less answer with a huge, "but really we don't know much about what we're doing right now" added at the end. Not the best news to hear.
While we wait, I'm going to go back and document the details we received about the major earthquake that was near Chengdu in May. It was a terrible tragedy and affected Caleb for several weeks after. I will post the photos and the information we had during that time. So, until then, please pray that someone is assigned to our case at CIS and that we get approval this month. julia.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

scroll down one entry for happier news...

Well, I've hesitated writing anything new b/c I just loved having the video of Caleb pop up first on the screen. So, scroll down one entry and look at that if you haven't. Even if you have, look at it is just so sweet!
Our newest news isn't the greatest. I thought it was, but I was a bit too optimistic. Andy and I both have our fingerprint date this Thursday and I thought that it would mean the US immigration wait would soon be over. I contacted a family that is adopting through the same adoption agency. They had their fingerprints done two months ago and are still waiting for the US paperwork. Uggh. We have already been waiting two months on the US immigration department and based on this family's experience, we could be waiting another two or more months before we can even begin to get our dossier translated and sent to China. That would put our travel date way past February. Andy called the US immigration department Friday afternoon to officially check on our status and it wasn't good news. Although they do have our form logged into their system, there is no one assigned to our case yet, which means no one has looked at it. So, adoption lingo aside: no one is looking at our paperwork and our hopes of having everything sent to China next month seems dim.
That's where we are. Waiting. We are praying that someone will be assigned to our case and we will have an answer this month. There is peace in knowing that God is in control and we aren't. But there is great sadness to think that Caleb may have to wait even longer to join our family. julia.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Video of Caleb

So, this is it! The video that Michele and Rick sent to us. It is in the orphanage building (obviously not a room they let kids in often...note all the glass tables!). The lady walking in with Caleb is likely one of his caretakers (she is in his b-day photos too). The older girl is Rick and Michele's oldest daughter and the younger one is Sophie, whom they have just met and are adopting. Caleb is probably wondering who is who and what is all going on! During the video you can hear Michele finding out that Caleb and her new daughter know each other and are friends! And every time I see him run into Rick's arms, I picture Andy holding him. He'll definitely be a daddy's boy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

paperwork is alive and moving along/school starts

At times it seems like our paperwork is sitting and wasting away in some far-off land. Within the last week, we've received word that someone is looking at it!! Small things seem big in this whole process. First of all, last week we got an official letter from the U.S Custom and Immigration Service that our paperwork is logged in and they have it. That's good. It's too bad that it took almost six weeks to even get in the system. Oh well. Back to good news. I, Julia, got a letter yesterday that confirmed I have an appointment to get my fingerprints taken in a few weeks. Yeah! Good news! However, Andy didn't get a similar letter. We should have probably gotten notified at the same time. We'll wait until next week to figure that one out. And the sweetest news of I just received a package from Michele (who was in China in June and met Caleb)!! She sent a video of her and her family spending time with Caleb! I can't figure out how to get the video onto this blog for you all to see it. I'll keep trying. But I'll just say that as soon as Caleb laid eyes on Rick (the dad), he ran into his arms, wrapped his arms around him and wouldn't let go. So incredibly lovely!
In the meantime, we have officially started school today. Nathan finally gets to be a real student this year with real subjects. He is super excited. Just like our bedroom situation, all the kids swapped and moved into new desks. Now we have one ready for Caleb, should he want to sit and color! And how has our first day been? Well, so far, so...can't really say so good. I guess it's more like: so far, so totally predictable. One child has completely lost it emotionally more than once, crying and tears began within the first five minutes of the school day, one child hasn't left my side all day, we ate lunch an hour ago and someone is already hungry and asking for dinner, the cute/organized/perfectly placed school desks in the basement are all empty b/c one child is upstairs alone in a bedroom, one is right under my feet (literally) and one is on the couch. Ah, yes. The joys of homeschooling. And it's only 2:30. So, if you think, "oh, I could never homeschool b/c I don't have the patience" (yes, I hear that usually within the first two minutes when someone learns that we homeschool), just know that I don't have any more patience than the average mom. Just a whole lot more time to practice getting it!
I'm off to make brownies so that we can all end our day on a sweet note! Do you remember the book "The Little Engine That Could"? That's me today. I think I can, I think I can...and I sure am trying, I sure am trying! julia.
P.S. Andy just called me and is bringing me dinner just because, well, because that's Andy. He wanted to do something special for the teacher on the first day of school. And while I was on the phone giving him my order (Qdoba, mmm!), my emotionally charged, crying, always testing my patience child comes to ask me where the sign language book is. "Huh?'" I respond. "I need it so I can memorize my Bible verse for today," she adds. "That way I can learn sign language at the same time and it will help me with memorizing the words." I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. One minute I am tearing my hair out and the next I am laughing at completely random things like this. Add a three year old that doesn't speak any English in the mix and I may need professional help!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nothing new

Our status as of today is the same as it was a month ago...waiting. In early July, we turned in our paperwork to the US Customs and Immigration Department. We are waiting to hear from them. Our best guess as to when we'll be in China is February or so. Anything before February would be a huge surprise, anything after would be a disappointment. In the meantime, Andy is finalizing all the paperwork we have to send in to get the $3,000 grant money from Brittany's Hope foundation. That's where we stand. Or (patiently) sit, really.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chengdu Children's Welfare Institute

This is where Caleb lives now. It is the only home he has ever known. The great thing about this place is that there is an organziation called Half the Sky that works alongside the orphanage workers. They basically are a private organization that provides early childhood development and nuturing programs in the orphanage. Here is what they do in their own words (as stated on their website):

"Changing children’s lives does not require new facilities or expensive playthings or complicated new procedures. Human contact is the most important ingredient, and caretakers can make a huge difference—just by taking an extra moment whenever possible to hold the babies, talk to the children, hug them all, and assure them that someone cares."

This is the specific Half the Sky program we believe Caleb has been a part of:

"The Baby Sisters Infant Nurture Program — Half the Sky employs, trains and supervises local women to work as full-time nannies, providing orphaned babies the stimulation, bonding and affection that are essential to a healthy start."

We won't know until we actually see Caleb, but we're pretty sure he has been part of this program. We are grateful for the extra special care that the people involved in this program provide for kids like Caleb.

And for those of you wondering about the origins of the "Half the Sky" name, here is the folktale that inspired the name:

Holding up Half the Sky...One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air. "What are you doing?" asked the elephant. The hummingbird replied, "I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall." The elephant laughed cruelly. "Do you really think," he said, "that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?" The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose, as he replied, "Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do."— A Chinese Folktale

Half way around the world, we celebrate with you!

June 12, 2008:
Well, we couldn't make it to your birthday this year, Caleb. But, we celebrated anyway! Three candles were each lovingly placed by one super excited brother and two happy sisters on a very simple chocolate cake. No presents for you this year. But just you wait until next year! You'll have a cake made by your very own mom. And you'll get a huge hug from your dad! And I'm sure you'll have more presents than you can probably even imagine. So, hold on a few more months, Caleb. We have big surprises just waiting for you! Things your sweet little mind could probably never even dream of right now. But we are dreaming for you. Dreaming and planning for a life full of every good blessing for you. Just a while longer. We're coming for you. And boy, oh boy, will you have a GREAT 4th birthday! love, mom.

Happy 3rd Birthday to Caleb

The day after Michele and her family saw Caleb, it was Caleb's birthday (June 12th). Michele arranged to get this cake for him. Isn't it the most elaborate, over the top cake ever?! Apparently, this is a typical Chinese b-day cake. I'm sure the pig, flowers, chicken, house, water, bridge, oranges, and everything else that is scrunched on top of this cake symbolize something. We have no idea what. And there are way more than three candles! Not sure about the significance of that either!

The picture below is one of my favorites, yet one of the saddest, I think. I LOVE the intent look on all the kid's faces. But it just makes me so sad to think that none of them have a family.

Now, the last one below is my favorite of all the pictures we have of him. He is looking at the photo album we sent him. You can see him pointing to us and probably saying "mama" or "baba." If you look closely, you can see (upside down) the note I wrote that says, "We love you. We will come to see you soon, love Mommy and Daddy." I couldn't see any of these pictures past my tears when I first got them. I kept thinking, "quit crying so you can actually SEE the picture!" Hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

Visit with Caleb

When we received the information about Caleb from our adoption agency a few months ago, I tried to find out information about the Chengdu Welfare Institute (orphanage) that Caleb was in. I did a Google search and didn't find much. But I did find a blog written by a family clear across the country (Washington, to be exact) who was in the process of adopting a little girl from the same orphanage. I read the blog for a while and eventually got in touch via email with the family. They traveled in June to pick up their daughter, Sophie. They were so very kind and offered to hand deliver a photo album we made for Caleb and a blanket for him. These pictures are from them. They beggged and pleaded with the orphanage director to see Caleb and they allowed them to visit with him AND take photos! The picture just above this is of Caleb seeing his friend Sophie (you can see how happy he is!). Sophie and Caleb actually slept in the same room! Sophie's mom, Michele, said you could just tell they were good friends.
Below is Caleb hugging Sophie's dad, Rick. Michele said that Caleb was very attached and fond of Rick and not so much her. That goes along with the very brief info we got from the orphanage. One part of his history says that he is always very friendly with the male visitors (mostly dads coming to adopt children) and makes them all laugh. That just broke my heart when I read it few months ago. I just thought of him seeing men come into his "home" and longing to be held and hugged on by a dad and always having it be someone else's dad and not his. We know that some children from orphanages are skeptical and frightened of males b/c they have had no interaction with them. We're glad to know that Caleb won't be afraid of Andy! The last picture below is of Caleb, Sophie (on right) and Sophie's big sister (on left).