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


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)

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.

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?