Forever Family of Four

Hello! It’s us! Apologies for being such strangers but life has been fun, full, and super busy the past year and half! We figured it was about time to bring everyone up to date on our lives at present as a forever family of four.

As most of you already know, we went to China in September of 2016 to bring our second son, Conor, home. This past Friday marked eight months since we met our little guy and he continues to amaze and delight us almost daily.

Our second trip to China was much more challenging in many ways than our trip to bring Gabriel home. But that is a post for a different day. Conor was 33 months old when we met him. His birthday is Christmas day! So Conor is now a few months over 3 years old. Our sweet Gabriel turned five years old this past March. Can you believe it? Next Thursday (May 18) will be Gabriel’s second Family Day with us! That means it has been TWO YEARS since we met our big boy! All those who told us time would pass by far too quickly? You were all more correct than I would have ever believed. I was reading over our older posts and getting teary eyed looking at his pictures and thinking back on how much he has grown and changed in his two years with us.

Look at these sweet brothers!  

For those that don’t know, Conor has some special needs just as Gabriel does. Conor has what is called ABS or Amniotic Band Syndrome. For him, this means that when he was in his birth mother’s womb, the fibers in the amniotic fluid got wrapped around his left arm, left hand, and left foot. This resulted in his left hand being formed differently as well as leaving several bands around his wrist area, his fingers, and a couple of the toes on his left foot. After many trips to and consultations with many doctors for various things, we decided to take him to Shriner’s Hospital in Lexington, KY to have surgery on his hand/arm and foot. As I type this, we are in a hotel room as he is heading into surgery tomorrow. They will be doing surgery to release the bands (as these can constrict growth and cause future problems if not addressed) and to reduce the swelling/edema in his arm, hand, and toes. He will be in a full arm cast for two weeks and have bandaging on his foot. While all of this will be challenging for him and for us, I think the hardest part will be that he cannot eat in the morning before his surgery!!! This is a child that wakes up in the morning and the first word out of his mouth is often, “Hungry”. This kid LOVES to eat! So I am honestly more concerned about getting through until his lunch surgery time without too many meltdowns than I am for his actual surgery. Ha! Well, that isn’t entirely true. We know he is in wonderful hands with his surgeon at Shriner’s. His was the second opinion we received and his prognosis for being able to hopefully give Conor more use of his left hand was much better than the first opinion we received. We asked many questions and feel confident his care will be exceptional tomorrow and throughout any follow up visits. We have had nothing but wonderful encounters the few times we have been to Shriner’s either with Gabriel or now with Conor.

We would like to ask that you keep Conor in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow while he undergoes his surgery. This is a very big deal for him in that the surgery itself will likely be scary for him. He hasn’t experienced anything like this while with us or that we are aware of before he was with us.  But it also has the potential to be fairly life changing as he will hopefully have better use of his hand as well as his foot after he has healed from the surgery! We are so excited for him and for what the future holds for both our amazing boys.

I will post more another day about Gabriel’s incredible progress since my last post I wrote not long after he had been home with us. For now I will tell you it has been incredible on pretty much every level I could have imagined. And the same has been true for Conor as of this writing.

As we are nearing Mother’s Day, I find myself, as always, unceasingly grateful that I get to be these kiddos’ mama. It is an honor and a privilege that I hoped for and dreamed of for many years. I love them with every molecule of my being with a fierce love I never felt before becoming a parent. But, also as always on Mother’s Day (and many other days), I think of their birth mothers. I wonder what their circumstances were that they had to make the heart wrenching choice to give up their babies. I wonder who else was in their mothers’ lives at the time and who is in their lives now. I wonder if they have other children and hope that they do as I feel like it may ease their pain maybe a tiny bit. Maybe that is naive of me. But I want to believe they have been able to make a small amount of peace with their decision. Or maybe it wasn’t their decision at all. Maybe it was parental, spousal, or societal pressure. Whatever the reason, I cannot imagine having to make that choice. And I wish I could tell them how grateful I am to them. For that awful choice was what allowed me to be a mother. That unbearably sad loss for them resulted in the most immeasurably amazing gifts I will ever receive. And I still cannot fathom how they must feel. But I can try. And I will continue to send them the most loving of thoughts and gratitude at this time of year and always.

I will try to update on our “baby boy” Conor following his surgery and subsequent recovery to let everyone know how he is doing. In the meantime, here is a recent pic of our little men in all their cute glory. Man, do we love these smart, sassy, funny, loving, remarkable boys. They are the greatest of blessings.

Happy Mother’s Day from our forever family of four!

 

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Inside Jokes

I’ve been meaning for a while now to write to catch everyone up on our new little family since we returned home from China. But what is that thing about the best laid plans again? Ha! Going from zero to toddler has definitely kept us on our toes for the past 3 and a half months! It is all the things everyone says it is – challenging, exhausting, fun, emotional, educational (we are learning a lot about ourselves while learning to be parents!), and ever so rewarding. Gabriel is, without a doubt, the best thing to ever happen in our lives. He is a blessing, an absolute joy, and a treasure. He lights up our world in countless ways we could never have even begun to fathom prior to his arrival. One of the absolute best parts is the laughter. Gabriel LOVES to make us laugh. So he fits in perfectly around here. I grew up in a family full of laughter, silliness, and inside jokes. It’s what families do, right? Well our new little family is no different. We will say something in a silly way and Gabriel will laugh until he is breathless. Then he joins in saying the word in the same funny way as soon as his breath returns. Three days later we will be riding in the car and I will randomly hear that same something from three days earlier said in a silly voice from the back seat. And we just laugh and laugh and laugh some more! Oh my, how I cherish these inside jokes! They are precious gifts to me. Because inside jokes mean connection and being a part of something special. Something intimate. A family.

Every now and then I find myself caught in small moments of disbelief. I have to remind myself that we really did this! We have a son! We are a family now! And more often than not I find that I want to fall on my knees and cry out in happiness and overwhelming gratitude.  The blessings of being a parent have only just begun to present themselves to us. It seems each day brings a new reason to feel thankful. Some are small, yet very specific – the way the dimple on his chin is only truly visible when he grins; when he looks over at me in the middle of watching Curious George and smiles a big smile and just says simply, “Mama!” (he doesn’t want anything in these moments- he’s just acknowledging that I am there and that he is happy about it); or when he excitedly shares his day at preschool with us using mostly charade style movements and sound effects. (This is Dave’s current favorite thing in the world as it is adorable.)

Then there are bigger moments. The ones that often sneak up on me and catch me off guard. Most of you know that our son was born with bilateral club feet. His hands are also in need of strengthening due to a congenital weakness in them. We are working with an amazing occupational therapist at Vanderbilt to help him with this and he is doing just just fine. What some of you may not know is that Gabriel also had a diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy in China. This was very scary to us at first until we educated ourselves. Then we saw his videos and his pictures when we reviewed his file and those scary words didn’t matter anymore. We just fell in love, plain and simple. So we were prepared for pretty much anything when we met him. He was wearing orthotics for his feet that the orphanage had provided. They were not great but they were the best they could offer and we are and will forever be eternally grateful for their wonderful care of our sweet boy while he was with them. In China and when we first arrived home, Gabriel was pretty unsteady and slow moving. Fast forward to our first appointment with the pediatric physical therapist at Vanderbilt. She found some temporary orthotics that were a pretty awesome fit for him and tweaked them a little. She also cast his feet to have some custom made for him. We walked across the hall to a huge play room that has a little track in it made of a softer playground type surface. There is a small sloping hill on this track. Just putting on those interim orthotics allowed our little guy to double his walking speed instantly. Then he walked up and down that little sloping hill. Something that would have made him off balance previously. But he was totally steady. And this mama had to turn away because I didn’t want to confuse our son with my happy tears. We were amazed by how much assistance these gave him and how quickly! Fast forward again to getting his own custom made orthotics. Over the course of just the first week he had them his legs begin to get stronger and his speed continued to increase. Then one day not long after this we went to the playground by our house. He loves to go down the slides but has always needed us to hold his hand and help him up the stairs to the slide. As his strength has improved, he has been able to get up the regular stairs by himself. But there is the little diagonally sloped ladder made of individual curved metal bars leading to one of the slides. He had watched other kiddos take this ladder easily at other visits there but had never asked or attempted to take it himself. There was actually no way he could have done it before. On this day he did ask. We were surprised but happy to help him try this more challenging ladder. We stood on either side of him and helped him as minimally as possible – mostly just pushing his little bum a little when needed – and rung by rung HE CLIMBED THAT LADDER!! It was slow and steady but HE DID IT! It took everything I had in me to not have a big, ugly, happy, proud, and gratitude soaked lengthy sob right there and then. This little guy is unstoppable. And it is awe inspiring to watch. What a beautiful privilege it is to be his parents. And that cerebral palsy diagnosis, by the way? Every doctor he has seen says it was wrong. They see NO SIGNS WHATSOEVER of CP.

The pediatric orthopedic surgeon has recommended a surgery on Gabriel’s feet that will hopefully allow him to finally jump and run and do all the things he tries so hard to do now but just can’t quite yet. He will have to be in full leg casts for 6 weeks post surgery so the doctor recommended doing it in the winter so it won’t be as hard on him to be less active. It will be super tough on him, we are sure, but the outcome will be one hundred percent worth it! I can’t even imagine what it will be like to finally get to see him run and jump and skip and hop off curbs…and climb that playground ladder with confidence. THAT will definitely be a joyful cry for me! 😉

Gabriel’s English improves almost hour to hour some days, it seems. Every few days he has a new “go to” phrase or word he is using. This past week has given us “I got it!” (wants to help do anything and everything possible – especially feed the dogs), “right there”, “thank you SO much”, and “good morning”. The first ‘English’ words he said, however, were the dogs’ names. Not so shocking in this house, right? When he speaks to one of our relatives on the phone, he says all of the dogs’ names as his opening line. 🙂 He adores his preschool and his teacher, Miss GiGi, as do we. He loves water in every way – swimming, bath time, splash pads, ocean (got to go see Grandpa and Nana at the beach in Delaware last month), and even just washing his hands. He is very bright – most everyone who meets him agrees (even if we are a little biased). He is incredibly sweet and loving. He loves to give hugs and kisses to Mama and Baba. His diet is improving tremendously. Which is great becuase this was a struggle for us at first. Now it appears he actually likes broccoli!! Look at him recently vs. the day we met him.

3 months ago and now

One challenge we still face pretty much every day is waking up in the mornings or from naps. Gabriel’s bed is right next to ours in our bedroom for now. It is actually touching our bed. The reason he sleeps in our room is because he never spent a single night alone in his life previous to becoming our son. So that is a transition that will come when the time is right. Even if we are still in our bed right beside him when he awakes and he can reach out and touch us, he still has a mild panic moment. He sounds like he is hyperventilating when this happens. He will do it regardless of where we are in the house. And here’s the thing – this is not unexpected. This little boy woke up in a bed in an orphanage for the first two years of his life and, likely more times than not, no one was there in those moments to hold him or feed him or soothe him. This is not a judgement on the orphanages. They do the absolute best they can but there are only so many caregivers and ayis to go around for the amount of children in their care. And, again, we are so grateful for them and all they did to help our son become the wonderful little guy he is. At some point Gabriel will begin to understand that we will always be here when he wakes up in the mornings or from naps. No matter what. And we will snuggle him and kiss him and hug him and cook him “faffles (waffles)”. And we will laugh with him. And then we will laugh some more. And there will be more inside jokes. Because we are a family. Forever and always.

Our little family

Almost a Family

Sunday was it. The final one. The VERY LAST big holiday we will spend without our son. The last time we will celebrate a holiday not as a family of three. (I’m not really counting Mothers’ Day this year – at least for us – as we will be in full on China travel prep that day so I hope to not really notice it.  Although, of course we will celebrate our own moms and all the other wonderful mothers in our lives!) Naturally, we can’t WAIT to celebrate Easter with our little guy next year!

It still seems like a dream in many ways. That we will actually be holding our boy in a little less than six weeks. Thirty nine days – give or take a few hours –  from this exact moment we will be meeting Gabriel for the very first time. Of course we have no idea how that will go. Will he be afraid? Most likely. Will we be afraid? Of course we will! We are first time parents and no amount of training and reading and asking and watching parenting videos can sufficiently prepare you for that role. But we know that we will put every ounce of love and heart and everything else we have into that sweet little man. We already love him with every fiber of our beings. And we know that we will have done everything we could to be as prepared as possible. And it will all be okay. Because we will finally be a family.

As we have mentioned before and as our social worker told us early on – this process is not for the faint of heart. We have had delays upon delays. Each one harder than the one that went before because each time we have been closer to being able to travel and also more in love with our child. There was the delay early on where we lost a month because a background check wasn’t sent by the state of Georgia in a timely fashion. Then we lost 2 weeks in February because a form for immigration was lost and we had to re-send everything. Then right when it looked like everything was falling into place, our adoption agency cancelled the trip in mid-April we were set to make. Some agencies allow you to travel as soon as all of your paperwork is in place. Ours only travels in groups and they only travel to each province once a month. This was the hardest of all the delays because we were so close. We played around with the idea of trying to leave the first of April but it would have cut everything too close. So we decided to make peace with leaving mid-May as that was the next time our agency would travel to Gabriel’s province. As things have a way of doing, it all works out for the best in the end. As tough as it has been to know we have to wait another month to meet our son, other (mostly work related) reasons have presented themselves since then that have made it fairly clear it was best to wait.

This past week we received our official travel approval from China and Gabriel’s visa appointment has been scheduled. We will leave Nashville on May 14th. We lose a day on the way over due to the time change so will arrive in China on the 15th. We will spend Friday night and some of Saturday in Shanghai and are excited about that. On Saturday early afternoon, we will travel to Wuhan (Gabriel’s city) in order to rest up a little in preparation of becoming parents to a very active toddler! On Monday, May 18th, we will finally become a family. It feels pretty incredible to even type that. This little family we have dreamed of creating pretty much since Dave and I met is actually happening at long last. The enormity and bliss of that likely won’t fully hit us until we are on the plane heading to China. But it does hit us now and then in both expected and unexpected moments. Like when we received the email with our travel dates. There it all was in black and white in front of me – FINALLY. I broke down and had myself an ugly, yet happy cry. The relief, the joy, the reality, and – yes – the mild panic – all hit me at once. But mostly the relief and the joy mingled together with just a bit of sadness that he is still not yet in our arms. And it was certainly a moment. Or like when I see the other families we have “met” online that were actually on our same timeline before our delays and who are now in China meeting their little ones. We are overjoyed for them and their kiddos are gorgeous! But there is still that little twinge of wishing we could be there already, too! And as tough as it can be to stay positive, there really is no other option. I mean, what lies at the end of this journey is absolutely worth every moment of waiting! And just when we needed it, last week we got an email from our agency with two new UNEXPECTED photos of our sweet one! WHAT JOY!!!!! Look at that face! I just want to smooch on those cheeks all day long!!

Gabriel outside      Gabriel outside sitting

The unexpected photos are rare so are even extra appreciated. Normally we are only sent new videos or pictures when a milestone is reached in the adoption process. While we did hit a HUGE milestone (getting our final approvals and everything booked), we did not expect to receive any new photos. The flip side of getting these is that we see him growing up with every new photo we receive and that is sometimes challenging for us because we are missing some important stuff. But it is only six more weeks now. 39 days and we will actually be KISSING HIS FACE!

We were incredibly blessed this past month to have many, many friends and amazing people help us with a benefit show to help us raise funds for our adoption expenses. Our longtime friend and Kat’s bandmate, Mike Grimes, owns a couple of clubs in town. He gave us a Friday night at his club, The Basement, and allowed us to hold a benefit show and silent auction on March 13th.

Adoption Fundraiser Flyer

We received very generous donations of gift certificates from local restaurants (City House, Lockeland Table, Tin Angel, Cabana, Baja Burrito, Margot Cafe, Ugly Mugs, Yazoo Brewery) as well as gift certificates and merchandise  from local businesses (Practical Massage, BarreAmped, Hip Zipper, Fork’s Drum Closet, Kelly Judd Massage, Cassity’s, Shay Studio, Cognito Salon, Jen Deaderick at Green Pea Salon, My Veggie Chef, Alegria, Hardwear Merry, Dogtopia, The Frist Center) and some awesome donations of other items like baked goods, wine, make up, and other great stuff from our sweet friends! MANY talented musicians (whom we are also very lucky to call our friends) also donated their amazing talents at the event and performed some super fantastic music. I don’t have room to name everyone here but we are eternally grateful to all the members of The Coal Men, Brian Ritchey and band, the mary nails, Hip Jelly, and Guilty Pleasures for being a part of this wonderful night. With the donation of most of the “cover charges” as well as the silent auction, we were able to raise a little over $2000 and have a blast in the process!! Special shout outs to those friends who came early and helped us set up and make this night as great as it was. Blessed doesn’t even begin to cover how we feel.

We will be having one last fundraiser – another “yard/garage” sale on Thursday, April 30th and Friday, May 1st at our training center. We decided we would have an indoor sale this time and just see how that goes. It will hopefully be a little easier than our last sale especially since we will be leaving 13 days later! If anyone is doing spring cleaning and wants to drop off some items for the sale, you are welcome to do so! Our facility is located at 2605 Winford Ave in Nashville.

garage sale sign

 

 

 

For those that have been asking about where they can donate if they aren’t local and weren’t able to come to the benefit show or yard sales, you can visit our online site to make a tax deductible donation at:

adopttogether.org/ourrayofhope

Because we had to wait an additional month to travel, the costs also went up some as the flights and hotels became more expensive. So we are super grateful for every little bit of help in that department!

For those of you that are on Facebook, we have created a closed group where we will share photos and videos as we journey to China to meet Gabriel and bring him home. We will post a little on our personal pages but prefer to keep most of our journey a little more private and for those that really want to follow it. If you would like to do so, you can request to join our group page. Our Ray of Hope: Bringing Gabriel Home at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1559429154311993/

We can’t wait to share our first family photos and our experience in China with you guys! I mean, who doesn’t want to see Dave Ray eating salamander on a stick???

We have our visas.  Chinese Visa pic

We have our travel approval. TA header TA seal

Flights and hotel are booked.

Pet/House Sitter is booked.

Packing has begun.

IT IS HAPPENING!!!!!

All we need now…

I have arrived

is our son.

We Have an Update! And Save the Date for our fundraiser show – Bringing Gabriel Home!

Well, it has been almost three months since our last update on Gabriel LinQi. We are able to request new updates when major paperwork milestones are reached in the process. Our major milestone this time that allowed us to ask five new questions and get some new videos – YES! VIDEOS!! – was that we received our LOA or Letter of Approval from the Chinese government. This is the final piece of paperwork that officially approves us to be a family! We received this document in mid- January. We now are awaiting a second approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS – we live in a world of abbreviations now!) which is the “Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative”. Once we receive this there is some more paperwork to do – I know, shocking! We are about to apply for our Visas as well. If all goes off without any snags we hope to meet Gabriel and have him in our arms in April! It may still be May but we are really hoping and praying for April because, well, the sooner the better! Additionally, it is a good bit less expensive to travel in April so that would help a lot, too. Apparently once this USCIS approval comes, everything happens really quickly. So we are getting ready to hold on tight and just enjoy the ride!

We are super busy preparing for our little man. We are still learning and reading and watching some wonderfully helpful videos that our agency sent us regarding attachment, trust based parenting, and many other great topics. We are getting his room ready – we got bunk beds for him. I think Dave is more excited about this than Gabriel may be! We found a rug when we first decided we were going to adopt from China. It is a cute little rug with foxes and birds on it. But it also has pandas on it. And it helps toddlers learn about counting, too. That was the first thing we bought for our future child. So we are decorating his room around this rug and the colors in it. Oddly enough, these are also the same colors as we had in our wedding – turquoise and red! We are also adding in some yellow/gold in Gabriel’s room. We’ll post pictures of his room once we are finished. There is still so much to do to get ready. But we are just doing our best to take it day by day and we know that all will work out fine.

Some of you may recall that we sent Gabriel a photo album with pictures of us, our home, the dogs and cat, and even one of downtown Nashville in it back when we sent our dossier to China. In one of the videos we received in an update not long after that, we saw the little stuffed dog we had sent him in the background and were thrilled to know he had received it. We recently sent him a book called “I Love You Head to Toe” that featured a Mommy and Daddy panda and baby panda. It was a recordable book so we read it to him in our voices so he can get used to hearing us. In the video updates we just received, he is looking at his book we sent and our photo book is right beside it! I thought our hearts might burst seeing this! Then at the end of that video he says “Baba” (which means Daddy or Father) and points toward the photo book which is open to a picture of just me and Dave. Then he excitedly says “Baba bao!” which we were able to loosely translate to “Dad Package”. Which makes sense as he is looking at a package sent by Mommy and Daddy!

Here are a few screenshots below from the videos:

Cutie WLQ reading bookWLQ smiling

Can you handle the cuteness? We certainly can’t!! But then…we are biased. Completely and unabashedly so! He is moving really well in one video where he is walking so that is fantastic! And he seems to have loads of personality and hams it up for the camera in another of the videos. Which is a good thing since he is joining a family of hams! At present, he is just under 3 feet tall and almost 30 pounds. Dave and I are going to start practicing carrying around a 25 pound bag of rice so we can be ready in April! 

For those of you in Nashville, our dear friend, Mike Grimes, has offered to let us have a fundraiser at his club, The Basement on Friday, March 13th. We are ridiculously grateful to everyone that is giving of their time and energy to help make this event a success! So far we have The Coal Men, Brian Ritchey, the mary nails, Hip Jelly, and Guilty Pleasures on board to do sets! We will also be having a silent auction to raise additional funds. We will post a new blog with more details as we get a little closer to the event.

In the meantime, we will be over here watching our new videos on repeat and memorizing every moment of them so we can tide ourselves over until we have that sweet child in our arms – and lives – forever. It won’t be long now, little man, and we will be a family! Just hold on a little while longer!

Little Miracles

This crazy adoption process can really wear you down at times. And life continues to happen along the way. Which is good, I suppose. Because even a heating system needing a $1000 repair is a momentary redirection, so to speak, from focusing on the waiting. I have done my best to try not to obsess over counting days (I still have to stop and think about how many it’s been each time I am asked) as I know there are others that have been waiting longer and this is not happening on my time frame. There is always a bigger, better plan than I can see in the moment. But just when things can feel pretty daunting, something magical and almost miraculous happens. Another adoptive mama decides to share some photos from her son’s photo book given to her at his adoption on a FB group to see if the other little boy in the photo has a family and may be able to see his photos, too. And you happen to be a member of said group as it is a group for families that have adopted or are adopting from your child’s province/city. And you see your dear son’s sweet little face giving a kiss to his friend. And your heart melts. And you cry tears of joy for this incredible gift. And you are amazed at the little miracles you are given to help you on this journey. And your heart overflows with gratitude. Our sweet Gabriel is on the left in these four photos. Look at that little love! We’ll be there soon, little man! We’ll be there soon.

Gabriel & Keaton (2)

And now we wait…

Today was a big day for us. It is one of the biggest yet in our adoption journey thus far – other than our match day, of course. Today our dossier was finally sent off by our adoption agency and is currently making its way to China. In Chinese adoption lingo this is know as DTC. We felt the below photo was an appropriate way to announce our big news considering who we are and what we do. 🙂

DTC Glory

I actually find that I am almost in tears as I type this as it is such a huge step closer to Gabriel! Having never gone through the process of being pregnant and awaiting the birth of a child, I certainly cannot make a fair comparison to that journey. However, with our current estimated timeline of 10 – 11 months from starting the process to having him in our arms, it is hard not to see some similarities! Dave and are certainly expectant parents in every sense of the phrase! We are nervous and excited in equal parts. We move from wanting Gabriel in our arms RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND to realizing just how much there is left to do to ready our lives and home and world for him. We plan and then change that plan and then go back to the original plan again. We have been watching some wonderful dvds that our agency sent to us about parenting adopted children and they are wonderfully insightful, educational, and, at times, very eye opening. We are reading all we can to ready our selves to the best of our ability. We are learning from other adoptive parents – some we know personally and some we only know via social media. At the end of the day, though, we know that everything will be okay. And Dave and I will do every single thing we can to be the best parents to Gabriel that we can possibly be. And we can’t wait!

Except we must. In fact, that is what we will be doing for the next 2-4 months (according to current estimates) while we wait for China to give us the final official approval to adopt Gabriel. Apparently once that happens it is “all downhill” from there and everything moves pretty quickly. And I, for one, am pretty grateful for a little break from all the paper chasing, notarizing, certifying, authenticating, and driving all over town in order to get everything sent and where it needed to be in the timeliest manner possible. I was happy to do all of that, though. Because everything was bringing us closer to Gabriel. Closer to our son. Closer to becoming a family.

When we sent our dossier, we were also allowed to send a photo book and a couple of toys for Gabriel. Of course, we chose to send a stuffed dog. We were told his favorite toys are balls so we also sent a rubber ball that lights up when you bounce it. Dave and I had fun with it in the store so we’re guessing he will like it, too. We included pictures of us, the house, the pets, his future grandparents, his aunt, uncle, and cousins, and the Nashville skyline. One day soon we will get to explain to him in person about the Batman building. We can’t wait!

Here is a photo of our dossier (all 3+ pounds of it) along with the photo book and little dog just before we rushed off to the store to pick up the ball and then on to FedEx last Friday night to get it all overnighted to our agency.

Dossier & toys

For those of you who have inquired about how you can help, I have included a tab above that will take you our AdoptTogether website where you can make a tax deductible donation. The site was not working at first but is live and working now. We are also doing our “Baby Bottle Boomerang” right now if you are interested in us getting a baby bottle to you. All you do is put your spare change in it for the next weeks or months and when it is full, you can bring it back to us or we will come get it. Some of our sweet friends have asked for two bottles! And we have already had a few people bring us back some full bottles – THANK YOU!!! Here is our friend Lauren’s daughter, Avery, who shared her change with us to help us bring Gabriel home! Her mom said they are teaching her about saving money but also about the fact that families can be created in many different ways. What a great example of how to parent! LOVE IT!

Avery

The orphanage where Gabriel lived before moving in with his foster family in May sent us a surprise video of him a couple of weeks ago. It was perhaps one of the best surprises I have ever received! It is 23 seconds long and he is moving much better than he was in the videos we received from just a few months ago when we were originally matched. For me, it is 23 seconds of pure, unadulterated happiness. I can’t even begin to count how many times we have watched it. I think I have every moment of it memorized. And these moments are what keep us contented while we wait. And contented is enough for now. For now…

One Step Closer!

We have had a week now to recover from our first adoption fundraiser – our two day yard sale! We were blessed with nearly perfect weather and even more amazing friends during those two days. SO many people helped us. You donated items for the sale, assisted us with moving everything from our training center to our neighbors’ awesome yard and then back again, helped “man” the sale, brought us food, gave incredibly generous donations, and provided invaluable moral support. My back couldn’t handle it all and I was struggling a couple of days prior to the sale. Those of you who hugged me when I thought I couldn’t last another moment – and you know who you are – gave me the strength I needed to get through those final couple of hours of that second day. Dave and I got about four hours of sleep each night prior to each of the 2 days of the sale and I can see it in our faces in the below image. I can also tell it was pretty hard to for me to even stand up at that point! But what I see most in this photo is love. So very much love. Our amazing friend, Jordan Winters (on the left), came early and stayed late to help BOTH days. Our friend, Sherah, brought items to donate and then did some shopping herself! And then there is our son right there in the middle of all that love. He has no idea how much love there already is for him here. It is the love of not just Dave and myself but of many. And we cannot WAIT for him to get here so that he can bask in all of that love.

Yard Sale shot

What you you can’t see in this picture is all of the generosity of the many, many others that helped us. And, yes, I am going to name as any names as I can remember! I am not sure of everyone that dropped off items for us to sell but we are so very grateful to all of you for your donations! The other adoptive families who allowed us to come take what they had left after their respective yard sales – the Whites and the Dukes – thank you for paying it forward! Those who loaned us your time, talents, vehicles, and muscles – Shane, Brian, Lair, Allison, Tommy, Lela, Trisha, Eli, Lori, Tami, Cliff, Jordan, Dickie & Ava – you guys went above and beyond. There is no possible way we could have done everything without you!! We are more grateful than you may ever truly know.

The money we made last weekend will help go toward paying our first big payment due to our adoption agency. Which will, in turn, help get our dossier to China! Which brings us one step closer to Gabriel! It is starting to feel a little bit more real now. We also achieved another big milestone this week in that regard – we were approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to adopt Gabriel. That was the final document we were awaiting before we could send all of our dossier documents to the Chinese Embassy in DC to be authenticated. After those come back to us, we send it all along to our adoption agency in Oregon and they send it along to China. Yay! We are allowed to send our introduction letter to Gabriel at that time as well as a photo book introducing him to us and his future life here. So, naturally, we will include pictures of all the animals. Hopefully he likes dogs! We picked out a photo book we hope he will like…

BB photo book

It’s soft and floppy on the outside – hopefully fun for little hands! And we will send some stickers and a small stuffed animal – probably a dog – to him, also. We hope to get an update on him within the next month as well. We haven’t been able to ask anything yet but can when we send our dossier so that is exciting!

We have been attending our required parenting classes this past month. We have our final class tomorrow night. So now we know all there is to know about being parents. HA! Kidding aside, the classes have been incredibly beneficial and we are truly thankful for all that has been and will continue to be required of us in this process. Every single bit of it serves to help us and to help our son and we are grateful for it.

Some of you fine folks have inquired about ways you can help us. We do plan to have another fundraiser event in late February – we’ll keep you posted on the date – at our training center. We are going to have a big ol’ party in that 3000 square foot space on a Saturday night! We plan to have music, food, dancing, a silent auction, and just general fun! So if you would like to lend a hand with that, we’d love to have your help! We are also starting a new fundraiser as of tomorrow. We are calling it the “Baby Bottle Boomerang” and were given this idea by another adoptive family. If you would like to participate, we will bring you (or you can pick one up at See Spot Eat/Dogs and Kat) an empty baby bottle. During the next few weeks and months, just drop any loose change you may have into that baby bottle and when it is full, we will come get it or you can drop it back off to us. And we can give you a new one to fill at that point if you’d like! As the saying goes – every little bit helps! So if you would like to participate in the “BBB” (I know, not super creative), just let us know. And, lastly, for those that just want a simple way to help, we have added a “Donate” tab to this site. We are signed up with a site called AdoptTogether and you can make a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation via our page on their site. So feel free to visit our page there!

Many of you have also asked “When???”. While we aren’t absolutely certain as there are many variables involved, we hope to travel to China in the spring. We hope it will be earlier in the spring but one never knows with this process. So hopefully in less than six months our son will finally be in our arms and no longer just in our hearts. Dave and I often make gratitude lists as we go to bed at night or when we first awake in the mornings. Since we first decided to marry, near the top of our list has always been “Our children we cannot wait to meet.” And it is still there on that list every day. It is hard to imagine that the day will soon be here when we will finally get to meet one of them. We simply have to hold on tightly to our hearts just a little while longer.

We would like to introduce you to…OUR SON!

It is official!  We have a match!!  A son.  A SON!!  It seems so strange and wonderfully amazing to type those words!  We wanted to wait to get the official news from our adoption agency that he is actually going to be ours before sharing. Talk about a tough couple of weeks of waiting!  But we now actually have that sweet face to put with our dream!  Which means we can begin to focus our energy on getting everything ready for our little man.  Our SON!!

Part of the name our little boy was given by the orphanage staff is “Qi” (pronounced “chee”).  And he is perfect!  In his file it says they gave him the name Qi because “QI means special, we hope he could overcome difficulties in his life and makes others think amazing, so we gave him the name QI.”  We DO think he is amazing and special!  He is 2 1/2 years old and since he was a week old he has been in an orphanage that offers wonderful therapy and care to the children there.  And he has received the best care possible while in this orphanage. In May he went to live with a foster family. We are very happy that he is getting to experience what it is like to live in a family setting.  We know it will make it that much harder for him when it is time for us to bring him home but we definitely want him to get to have the best possible experience he can until that time does come.

We are extraordinarily fortunate in that we were sent not just a few pictures of him – but dozens of pictures as well as lots of short little videos.  Some of these are from almost a year ago and some are very recent.  So we have actually been able to see his progress and watch him grow!  What an amazing gift!  We don’t know much yet about him as far as his favorite things and such.  These are things we hope to learn soon.  But for now we know that he is shy with strangers but a “little chatterbox” at home.  His paperwork also says that he “has big temper which means he is clever”.  Be still my heart!  We have watched his videos over and over and memorized the way he cuts his little eyes up at someone or how he moves his eyebrows while he is concentrating.  I think he has the cutest little mouth I have ever seen.  Dave loves his little nose.  We are goofy about him.  And we are totally okay with that.  Because he is our son.  The one we have longed for, dreamed of, and sent kisses.  The one for whom we have done our best to wait as patiently as we are able.  And the one we will continue to wait for until we are holding him in our arms.  Tightly.

Without further ado, please say hello to our son – Gabriel Lin Qi Ray.

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Choosing faith

We are taking a break from our normally very busy work lives this week to vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  Dave and I haven’t taken a “just us” vacation before other than the odd 2 or 3 day trip to the mountains.  Since we will be a family before we know it, we figured if we were going to do this that now would be the time!  We are on day 4 of our vacation and we are finally beginning to feel a little bit relaxed.  It is truly glorious here and we hope to get lots of rest and rejuvenation in on this trip.  We know the next months will not only be busy work wise but also adoption wise and we want to be rested and ready to go!

After the rush of paperwork  and home prep leading up to the home study “finale”, we took a little break from adoption related things. And we also took some time to process our first experience with reviewing the file of a waiting child since that ended up being pretty challenging for us emotionally.  We weren’t sure we were ready to start looking again so soon but decided a little over a week ago to move forward.  Meaning we told our agency we were ready for them to begin sending us files to review again.  And we now have a renewed sense of  excitement about the process and hope to have news to share at some point soon.  Although we don’t know yet just when.

Because we will be adopting a child with some degree of special needs, we have discovered that the process of being matched with a child is different for us than with non-special needs adoptions and doesn’t really go in the “normal” order.  “Normal” is that you wait until your dossier is “logged in” to China and then your receive the referral of a child.  The matching process for us means that we will likely be matched before our dossier is even complete.  This is very exciting for us as we truly cannot wait to have a face to match with our dream!  It may make it harder during the wait, but we will be able to have a knowing that will bring us peace.   Some families apparently have to wait months after their dossier is logged in before they receive a referral.  Knowing that this won’t be the case for us certainly adds to our excitement!  I know it is still going to feel like forever, though, as we will want to get that sweet child home with us as soon as possible.

Our I-800A form was sent off this week.  This is the form that gets us the all clear from US immigration.  Once we receive this clearance, we will pretty much be ready to file our dossier with China.  Apparently, the immigration approval takes between 6-8 weeks.  In the meantime, once we return from vacation we will be getting all our dossier paperwork we have assembled ready to go – notarized, authenticated by the county and state, and then sent for additional authentication to the Chinese Embassy.  Once everything has been approved/authenticated, our adoption agency will then send our dossier to China to be “logged in” with the government there.  After that, we will have to wait for immigration approval for our little one as well as some other official type things to be scheduled/approved.  And then we will wait for our travel approval.  Once we get this it is usually only 2-3 weeks before we go to pick up our son or daughter!  It may be 8 months from now before we go.  It may be a year.  I don’t know exactly but, of course, I am hopeful it will be closer to the 8 month time frame.  Not that we don’t have a LOT to do before we bring our child home.  But the preparation part is something Dave and I really look forward to doing.

We have some wonderful friends/clients who gave us the loveliest gift about a month ago – not too long after we announced that we were pursuing adoption.  It is a silver wishbone.  They gave it to us with a lovely card that said they hope “all our wishes come true”.  That wishbone is beside our bed every night.  And each night Dave and I hold the wishbone, visualize our little one, send love his or her way, and give the wishbone a kiss.  We have it with us here in Florida, too!  This sweet little wishbone has become a symbol of our faith in many ways.

wishbone (2)

And we have had to lean heavily on that faith during this process.  It’s not always easy to choose faith.  Because worry is definitely a part of this process.  There have been times we have felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and heartbroken.  There have been other times we have felt uncertain and confused about how to proceed.  Yet we are learning that, not unlike many things in life, this is just one more leap of faith.  I hear our social worker in my head almost daily saying, “Trust the process.”  And we do our best every day – sometimes for me it is multiple times a day – to do just that.  Faith and hope comfort and strengthen us for now and we feel certain in the knowledge that all that we are experiencing now will be something we will barely remember once our child is in our arms.  So, over and over, we find ourselves choosing faith.  Because, really, what other choice is there?

 

faith

 

Good Things Come…

to Those Who Wait.  Is there anyone that has not heard this phrase over and over again in their lives?  And we all know it to be true.  Yet Dave and I have never felt the power of these words as strongly as we have these past couple of weeks in particular.  This adoption journey has been much like a roller coaster thus far.  We knew this would not be an easy process.  Our social worker even said to us in the beginning, “Adoption is not for the faint of heart.”  But I am not sure we were truly prepared for just how challenging it would be at times.  Others that have been through the adoption process have shared similar experiences with us.  So we know that this is all part and parcel for some families.  

We learned this the hardest of ways this week.  As soon as we had decided on which adoption agency we wanted to use and that we did indeed want to pursue the China program, we were told that we could request information about children listed on our agency’s website.  I won’t go into all the details here but we did find a child we had hoped to pursue for adoption.    And we held out great hope while waiting for news about our request.  Because what else would we do?

 

 

 

 

 

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Unfortunately, we found out after about a ten day wait that this was not going to happen for us with this particular child.  And our hearts were broken.  And we felt devastated.  I didn’t know I could feel this way about a child I had never met.  We had seen only three pictures.  We had been sent a 45 second video to watch.  That was it.  Yet we felt this huge sense of loss when we were given the news.  Which probably sounds strange to some of you reading this.  And it is probably impossible to explain to anyone else that has not been on this journey before.  And, to be fair to our agency, this is not normally how the process works.  Normally, you complete most (if not all) of your paperwork and then you begin the matching process.  So we did “jump the gun” a bit at this point.  But that doesn’t take away the sting.  It was one of the hardest things we have ever experienced.  Yet still there is this great sense of hope that overrides the pain.  Why?  Because we have complete faith that OUR child is still waiting to find us.  Or for us to find him or her.  That child was meant for a different family.  And we are slowly coming to be at peace with that.  And therein lies the roller coaster ride we find ourselves on for now.  There was both great excitement and great sadness during this time.  And, slowly, the excitement is beginning to return as we feel that hope again.  And we again tap into the faith that never left us.  And we learn to cultivate the patience that is essential on this journey.  The patience from which we will learn.  The patience that will serve us well once we actually do have that little one in our home and we are all learning to be a family.  

 

Greatest Prayer is Patiemce Quotes 

A few HUGE positives right now:

Our home visit with our social worker went exceptionally well this week!  AND we have an immaculately clean home to enjoy for a while as a result!  

Our home study – one of the biggest parts of the process – is pretty much complete as of this week (home visit was the last part of that process).  Our social worker will be sending it to our adoption agency for review.  They will, in turn, send it along to the US Government for our immigration approval.  So in about 2 months we should get that.

We finished a lot of other dossier paperwork this week and got our passport applications/renewals sent away today as well.  

So, little by little, we are making strides both small and large toward creating our forever family. 

We are so grateful for those that have shared stories and experiences with us.  We are also super thankful for those that have simply offered support on even the smallest of levels.  We take great strength from knowing how much love and support there is within our community of friends and family.  We will likely need to call upon that love and support many times during this journey both to our child and afterwards!  Your words and hugs and love help more than you know.  And even though the road may get a little bumpy sometimes, we know with complete faith and certainty that what waits at the end will be more reward than we could have ever imagined.  So, thank you.

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