Today was the second day of true sunshine I've seen since arriving in Northwestern (and I don't mean the ship seen on "Deadliest Catch") Washington. So, we decided to head out to explore our new home and ended up at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. It was a very nice little zoo. We explored the area and saw everything within 3 hours. Well, we did miss the penguin exhibit, but we made it all the way around and even had plenty of time to spend at the play area. We missed the pengiuns completely by accident, mainly because we ran into a family who wanted to ask us about M and C and I got side-tracked gabbing at them. After having some fun in the Kid Zone we headed out to the van and loaded up. It was a fun day, but by this time we were starving. I wish there was a T-Rex restaraunt (similar to Rainforest Cafe, but with dinosaurs) nearby, as that would have been the perfect way to close out the day. We were satified with our Olive Garden choice, though. Unfortunately, I misunderstood what M wanted for dinner, so he didn't eat anything but the bread sticks. I brought home his dinner, so he'll have that for lunch tomorrow or Monday. C chose spagghetti. She polished the meal off so swiftly that I had to share some of mine. You'd have thought they didn't have breakfast, lunch, or ice cream considering how fast C ate!
C's favorite animal was the elephant. M was torn between the sharks and the tiger. The shark exhibit was totally cool with underwater views. The big sharks (nurse sharks?) were simply HUGE!!! And each time I tried to get M to stand in front of the tank so I could get a picture of him and C with the sharks, he would jerk away with fright as he kept a close eye on their activities out of the corner of his eye. C had no fear of anything and took the time to touch anything she could get her hands on.
You may have noticed the new link in the "Links" section to the left. This link is a very special link for me. It takes the viewer directly to my newly published book. That's right... I wrote a book! I'm rather proud of my accomplishment. It's been in the works for the last nine months and has been editted numerous times by two fabulous people: My dad and my husband. You can take a sneak peek at what I've written using the link I've provided before making your purchase.
More important, though, is the fact that this book is designed and written with my fellow adoptive parents in mind. It walks you through every step of our daughter's adoption and includes important information, such as finances and traveling tips, that may be very useful for families who are still considering International Adoption to families who are waiting to travel. In addition, for those families who have already traveled to bring home thier children, it can be a beautiful reminder of all the amazing things they experienced in their child's birth country.
This book contains more than 200 photographs depicting our journey to China. Each photograph was carefully selected to visually enhance each experience, showing both our joy with our daughter and our amazement with China's historical features.
100% of the money I receive from the sale of this book will be applied towards the adoption of our next child. So in purchasing this book you are not only getting a piece of Chinese culture and history, but you are also helping to bring home another orphaned child who is waiting for their forever family to bring them home!
When a very dear family friend passed away recently, I sent miniature roses, signifying all that life sends our way: It is beautiful, though it can be painful. On the card I sent my deepest sympathy and a Chinese Proverb. I wanted to share that proverb today:
"The journey is the reward."
I took it to mean life is a reward in and of itself. But the more I thought about that sentiment, the more I realized that it fits so many other attributes. Adoption is one of those attributes it fits. The journey to our children can be just as rewarding as the act of bringing our children home. Though our children are the most important and vital part of adoption and are the absolute "reward", the journey has given each and every one of us power. Power over ourselves, power over our fears, and, ultimately, power over our fate. We have gained an openmindedness that most people are not lucky enough to experience. We have met friends and aquaintances who will be remembered throughout our lives. We have been given a new respect for different cultures and countries and the opinions of others.
Each of these gifts we have received are precious and beautiful. They make the long wait from LID to referral more bearable and makes us more worthy of our children, allowing each country where our children are waiting to have more faith in our love and abilities. It also makes the ultimate reward, the referral of our amazing children, that much more precious!
This evening I started pondering how tall my children are.
There is a wonderful organization that helps families who have adopted beauties from China to stay in touch and up to date on Chinese culture, holidays, etc. It is called FCC (Families with Children from China). One of the cool features they have available on thier site is groth charts for Chinese kiddos. So, since both of our kids are Asian, I regularly utilize these charts to check on C's and M's growth.
This evening, we measured M (C was already in bed) who stood 49" tall. C is actually about 6" shorter than M. At her last medical appointment she measured 42". We checked their heights against the FCC growth charts and found C to be among the 25% mark while M is above even the 100% mark.
We know this is not an accurate assessment, but we followed the kids' individual lines until we hit their 18th year mark and found that if they continue along the same growth pattern M would stand about 72.8" (6' 1") tall while C would stand about 61" (5' 1") tall! Hmmm... Interesting!
Kids are simply amazing. They are precious and beautiful... And they "say the darnedest things"! Bill Cosby had it right. Kids can come up with some amazing ideas that can simply blow the mind of an adult. But what they say can be so true, which makes it even more spectacular! Take M for example:
We openly discuss birth families with our children. We truly believe it is an amazing conection for them. And, since our kids are Asian and we're Caucasian, it's not as if we could truly hide the fact that they were adopted, even if we wanted to. We have this deep and abiding love for M's and C's birth parents. We don't know their situations, but have complete faith that they did what they thought was the best thing for their children... They gave them life and then gave them security through the selfless and loving act of giving their children a family through adoption!
M, in particular, will talk freely about his birthparents. He particularly feels the need to talk about his birthmom, who he calls his "new mommy". He regularly makes up stories about having an older brother and sister, having a blue bedroom, and the fact that his "new mommy" says his Mommy (me) is really his "cousin", which makes sense since we lived in Hawaii, where he was born, until he was almost 1-1/2 years old.
I was particularly surprised the other day, though, when M started telling me a story about his "new mommy". He claimed she was an Alien who had to leave for her home in the sky. She was going to come and get him when he grew up. He also claimed that she took people's brains, which is why she had to leave.
For me, this story was quite cute though a bit odd. But as I thought about it more I realized that it wasn't all that wierd after all. His birthmom is nowhere to be found. Nobody has any clue where she might be or when/if she may come around in the future. And there is absolutely no understandable reason (to a 5-year-old) why she left. So, by making her into something completely different than other people and having her do something that is a bit bad, which then sends her off into the great unknown, is a very ingenious way of determining why she "left" him. And then, M indicates how much he wants to see her again with the idea of her coming back for him one day.
I believe that many children who have been raised knowing they are adopted will have images of what their birthfamily looks like, acts like, and why they were left with a different family. The true difference in how well those children are able to process the scary information they are required to face is how well the adoptive family is able to present their child's individual information. How are we, as adoptive parents, going to allow our children to explore their own feelings about their particular sitation? It is a huge responsibility that is such a vital part of our children's inheritance from their birthfamilies. And it can be a scary project to tackle with your 5 year old!!! But it can be oh-so-fun to hear and interpret those words that come out of those amazingly active and imaginative little minds...
At about 4:05pm yesterday afternoon (Thursday, 10 April, 2008) our phone rang. I wasn't feeling too swift so I didn't do my usual acrobatic routine to ensure I would be able to get to the phone first, even though I was only about three feet from the phone. Rather, I waited for Matt to get the phone. He peaked around the corner and saw me still seated at our breakfast bar and huffed, "Oh, I'll get it." So, he made a swift bee-line for the phone from about twenty feet away. What a guy! He's always willing to take one for the team! ;)
But, in the end I got my just deserts as it ended up being our adoption agency, CCAI. They called (even though it was after 6:00pm for them) to tell us "Congratulations! Your application has been approved!"
The moment those words were uttered, Matt began jumping around the room excitedly and giving me high-fives and several thumbs up signs. The entire time I'm looking at him as if he had just eaten a pound of sugar and became a hyper child. I had completely missed what he was getting so thrilled about. Apparently he saw the confusion on my face because he covered the mouthpiece of the phone and whispered, "It's ____ from CCAI.... We're approved!" So, of course, we started doing "the happy dance" all over again!!!
Suddenly, Matt stopped jumping around and went into panic mode: "Oooop, hold it... I'm going to pass the phone to Manette. She's the Adoption Document Guru!" Great. My job has fully begun and I am now not only "Mom" and "Teacher" but now my job of "Adoption Secretary" has kicked in! I know, I say it as if it were a bad thing, but we all know that I truly love it!!!
So, we are officially approved and well on our way to adopting another little angel from China.
On Monday, C had her first appointment with her new Audiologist in Seattle. Her appointment was at 8:30, so we left fairly early to beat the rush-hour traffic. We ended up arriving 45 minutes prior to our scheduled time. So, the kids were able to play in the waiting area where a few other children were waiting.
I, of course, assumed the family in our area would enjoy allowing their children to have an opportunity to play with other kids, so was a bit surprised when the mother pulled her two boys away from my kids. When I told her that my kids would love to have playmates she told me that she wanted her children to play only with each other. Okay... Whatever!
Shortly there after, another mother came wandering over, with a 3 year old and a 1 year old in tow (ages my son adores). Sadly, the 3 year old practically shoved M out of the way and immediately took over the toys he was playing with, which triggered a response from him. He, of course, got in trouble for his behavior while the little girl was allowed to continue her actions (mainly because Mom was too busy playing on her PDA to correct her or even to keep her 1 year old contained in the area). I have to sometimes wonder why people want to have children if they are just going to ignore them. Kids are amazing little things that people get to mold. And I often feel as if some parents are molding their children into little domineering and inconsiderate people. Ugh!
To make matters even more awkward, several minutes later, as I was looking around the waiting area that seemed to be filling up rather quickly, I noticed a lady looking at me and my kids. She'd glance away and then glance back. Needless to say, after my first experiences I was ready to jump to conclusions when I noticed the lady again looking at me and my kids. I'm used to getting odd looks, so it normally doesn't affect me.
Thankfully, though, the lady smiled at me, turned to her waiting brood, who I hadn't seen before due to the half-wall that seperated us, and said, "Come on girls." She and her brood proceeded to head in our direction. As the small family turned the corner I saw exactly why she had taken note of our family... Her daughters are Chinese!!! So, she and I had a great time chatting about our previous adoptions and the ones we were both now persuing (she is actually adopting two non-related boys similtaneously... How gracious of the CCAA to so readily recognize the need to keep these two cuties together). She was called to her daughter's appointment rather swiftly, but I am hoping to get back in touch with her through her blog (noted in my blog section as "Harmon Boys"). It was so fun to simply run into another family like our own. And M had so much fun with the girls during the short visit! C just sat back, unsure of what was going on.
I was so thankful that Debby noticed us. I can sometimes get defensive, even if there really is no reason, when it comes to my kids and I was ever so grateful to have a more positive experience to relate the day to.
Well, as I've stated in an earlier post, we found an agency to do our homestudy. We had our first visit last night. It went very well, in my humble opinion. Our social worker was confident, nice, and to the point. I think much of the process seemed so much easier because this was our fourth homestudy. I believe this is one of those cases where the power of experience plays a huge role in how confident and comfortable a person feels in a given situation.
We've learned over the years to not worry so much about the little things (like it isn't necessary to "Spring Clean" before each visit, something we did for our first two homestudies). In fact, with this homestudy, we just vaccuumed and swept the floor (a yellow lab creates a second, albiet smaller, pooch with 24 hours worth of shedding). We even left the kids' toys laying on the floor in their rooms! Our house is lived in, though clean, and we had no qualms in showing how we really live. It was a relief to feel confident in the homestudy process.
Of course, now that I've said all this I'm sure something is going to happen to delay the process. That or we'll be missing some necessary piece of information that we'll have to mail off for, which will, of course, take another two or three months. (I know... Could I get any more pessimistic?)
Matt and I have decided to remain very open to young special needs kiddos. But, we don't want to simply accept just any child; we want to ensure we find the "right" child, the child who we were meant for. For example, when we saw C's file for the first time, it didn't matter what else may have been "wrong" with her, because we knew instantly that we were going to bring her home. So, anytime we review a child's file, we're going to bear that in mind.
Now all we needed to do was find an agency who we felt comfortable with. We have decided to take a "leap of faith" and dive right into working with a new agency. They are CCAI (Chinese Children Adoption International) and have a good reputation within the Chinese adoption community. They seem to provide much of the same services as CHI (Children's Hope International, our previous agency, who we absolutely adore) for almost $2,000 cheaper. CCAI only works with Chinese adoptions so they can cut some of their costs. We'll soon see if we made the right choice!
In addition, because CCAI doesn't have an office in our state, we had to locate a home study agency that is also Hague approved. I think we may have found that agency at a much cheaper cost (we'll save about $500). He is actually ready to start the home study on Monday evening, so we're really excited. He will visit us at least 4 times, for at least an hour for each visit.
CCAI believes that, depending on the state you reside in and how fast you can gather your documents, the paperchase (the part of International Adoption where you gather all of your vital and supporting documents) should take between 3 and 5 months. We're hoping to cut it down to the bare minimum. With C's adoption we did it in just less than 3 months. We can only hope that, having had the experience and knowing what documents we need, we can complete the process in that time or less, giving us an earlier DTC (Dossier To China) date. This, in turn, will allow us to receive an earlier LID (Log In Date). Obviously, DTC is the date your Dossier is sent to China. The LID is the date that the CCAA (China Center of Adoption Affairs) officially receives your Dossier and is where your Dossier is waiting, qued in line, for the referral of your child.
Our CCAI adoption application is, as of yesterday, on its way to the head office in Colorado. We should know within 5 days of them receiving it if we are approved or not. Wish us luck!!!