Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Last Trimester!

Process Update

Last Monday we rushed home from our Classical Conversations community to meet the FedEx truck!

(Cropped out "crazy lady hugs FedEx guy.  Kept in the happy big sister!)

In this very ordinary envelope is a very extraordinary piece of paper!  It is China's official approval of our family to adopt our son!  They are now "seeking confirmation" that HE is the child we wish to adopt.  Yes, yes yes!  A thousand times YES!

We sent this beautiful piece of paper back, confirming that we will be his family, and we submitted his immigration paperwork.  Several months ago we received approval for our family to adopt a child from China.  Now, we are seeking approval for this specific child to be an immigrant to the US.  Because of China's process with their files, Titus already meets immigration requirements, so we are just waiting for this official approval to come back so that we can get his visa and complete the final steps to receive permission from China to travel.  For those of you who are more visual (or who wonder what in the world has taken/is taking so long), here is a simplified breakdown of the steps of international adoption...  We are now awaiting Step 10.  Many of the upcoming steps happen one right after another.  We expect step 10 to take about 2-3 weeks, and from that point everything else is measured in days and weeks!  We are getting so close!  At this point we're in the final stages of the adoption process and can fairly certainly say that we'll have Titus in our arms within the next three months!  It is looking like July is a reasonable estimate, and we have a couple of specific hopeful dates in mind, but can not confirm anything until our consulate appointment has been assigned. (step 16)

Funding Update
We also had a phenomenal time last weekend with our Both Hands project!  If you haven't yet seen it on Facebook, please take a moment to view our video and see a glimpse of what God accomplished through our day of work at Susan's house!

As a result of this amazing fundraiser, the hard work of our team, and the generosity of many, we are close to being fully funded for Titus' adoption!  Exact numbers are hard to pin down until we have travel dates and purchase airline tickets and book our hotels.  Summer is the peak of travel pricing an we can not book far in advance so it is somewhat unpredictable, but we estimate that we are only lacking about $3,000!  Any excess can be used for medical expenses once he is home.  We are so thankful for all who have given toward this rescue mission.  Legit thank you cards are coming, but in the meantime:  Thank you for being part of God's work in Titus' life.  This is not possible without you.  

Titus Update
We recently discovered that Titus had already been told he had a family coming for him, so we figured it was a good time to send a care package along with another traveling family.  He may have been asleep when they delivered the gifts, but now this little boy has seen the faces of his family and knows the smell of mama's perfume (on the blanket).

Please pray with us that God will prepare his heart to join our family.  Pray that the nannies will look at our pictures with him frequently (we hear that his orphanage is good about doing this) and that they will allow him to have the blanket in his bed (I printed our photo onto fabric and stitched it into his blanket).  Pray for our final preparations to bring him home and that the remainder of our process goes as smoothly as possible.  Thank you for sharing our journey! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Both Hands... and all my heart!

Dear Friends,

I can not even begin to express to you how excited I am about the way I'm spending my Saturday this week!  God has given us an incredible opportunity to serve a local widow while raising funds to bring Titus home.  Each day of the past few weeks my heart has been bursting with joy about this opportunity.

Many of you have seen our posts on facebook about this project, or maybe even received a letter from us or one of our wonderful team members.  You're probably curious to hear more about this unique opportunity.

Both Hands is a foundation that assists widows, orphans, and adoptive families by helping families raise funds for their adoptions while serving a local widow.  Here's how it works:  We have put together a team of volunteers who are spending next Saturday, April 18, working on a local widow's home.  We will be doing repairs and maintenance that have been difficult to keep up with since her husband's passing almost four years ago.  All of the supplies for our project have been donated by local businesses.  Our team members have reached out to their friends and family, offering them the opportunity to support the project by sponsoring the volunteer.  100% of the donations received go to our adoption fund!  (not even a teeny tiny fraction of a percent is taken out, because the foundation has underwriters for all administrative costs!)

Let me tell you, our team is AMAZING!!!!  They have been so supportive of our journey to Titus and really catch the vision that this is a rescue mission.  God is in the process of turning an orphan into a son and they are super excited to be part of this work, and to invite their friends and family to join in it too!  They have the skills and enthusiasm to bless the socks off of the widow we're serving.  In the meantime, they've been blessing me with encouragement and even helping me ask for donations from businesses for our project supplies!  In a collective effort, our team has sent over 500 people invitations to be a part of this work through financial support.

And these fun-size team members have been real troopers!  For weeks now we've done our home schooling differently.  Instead of days around the kitchen table with our math and language arts workbooks and my undivided attention, let me tell you what they've been doing:

  • Adding and subtracting miles as we drove from business to business seeking donations
  • Memorized a pretty good script to convince businesses to donate to our cause
  • Skip counted by 20s with sheets of stamps
  • Watched a few hours of Kailan and Little Pim to boost their Mandarin while mommy makes phone calls
  • Sacrificed our usual schedule and downtime together to help me with amazing attitudes 
  • Shed tears of joy as we saw God providing things like flooring, toilets, light fixtures, paint, etc.

They've done all this with an amazing attitude, and they are so excited to work alongside us this Saturday!

Please pray with us that Saturday's project will be an incredible blessing to Susan, the widow we're serving.  She has been so gracious to invite us into her home to host the project.  It is really sweet to me that there are actually some projects that her husband began, before he became ill, that we will get to complete.  Please pray that we can get the remaining supplies that we need, and even some items above and beyond our "needs" to really wow Susan and her family.  Susan is the kind of person who is always giving to others.  We are so excited that the community is coming together to give to her!

We are partnered with God on a mission that turns ashes to beauty, loss to gain.  Titus has lost his birth family; Susan has lost her husband.  This project aims to bring a little bit of restoration to each of them.  We are so thankful for each person who has become part of bringing Titus home through prayers, encouragement, and financial support.  We can not do it alone, but we have been blown away by God's people joining together for this effort.  Thank you!  If you haven't already, would you consider joining us?

More information and instructions for donation are listed on our Both Hands project site below:

Easy, secure online donations can also be made by clicking the happy panda here in our blog.  This links directly to our Both Hands/Lifesong account.  To avoid PayPal fees, checks can be sent by following instructions on the link above or on the "donate" tab on our blog.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Pictures and an Update!!!!

We are so thrilled to share with you some photos that were taken by friends who traveled to pick up their son last week!  Dani said that Titus was hillarious.  As soon as she pulled out her camera he walked backwards until he hit a wall.  Poor shy little sweetie!

I'm praying that all these visits from traveling friends who go before us will help lessen his anxiety when he meets us!  Another friend leaves tomorrow and will be taking him a small care package for us: a blanket with his name and a photo of Eric and I printed onto fabric and stitched into it (plus many hours of cuddles, a spritz of mom's perfume, and a few tears), a photo album to introduce him to his FAMILY! and a bunch of matchbox cars (his brother's favorite toy) to share with the kids in his room.  

We also received this update from his orphanage through our agency:

1.      How are Titus’ sleep habits?  Does he snore or have difficulty breathing while sleeping? He goes to bed around 8pm and gets up at 6am. He doesn’t snore or have difficulty breathing while sleeping.
 2.     Does Titus talk?  If so, please provide a short list of some words he says.  Is he more talkative or quiet?  Is his speech about as clearly understood or less clearly understood than other children his age? He can say many single words, such as Mama, Nainai. He can also call other children’s names. He can imitate our talking. We can understand his talking when he wants to express himself.
3.     What foods does Titus like to eat?  Is there anything he does not like to eat?  Does he have any difficulty chewing and swallowing?  He likes to eat apple, bread, cracker. He has no problem to chew and swallow.
4.     What does Titus like to do during play time?  What are his favorite toys? He likes to play block, ball and slide.
5.     Do the nannies sing any children’s songs or lullabies with the children in Titus' room?  If so, please send us the names of the songs so that our Chinese friends can teach them to us. He can sing “two tigers”, “looking for friends”, “song for newspaper selling”.
6.     What do the nannies enjoy most about Titus? He is very sweet boy, he is always obey, he is a helper too. He likes to help us when he can.

I'm assuming that absolutely everyone is curious about the songs he can sing, and loves having songs stuck in your head that you don't know the lyrics to, so I've attached YouTube links for you :)  

We are excited to hear that Titus SINGS.  (Remember, his file says that he is profoundly deaf in both ears.  We are absolutely ready to embrace whatever his needs are, but we have received SO MANY indications that his hearing loss is not quite that severe.  Initially this was quite a shock to us and we haven't really been believing it.  We continue learning basic ASL but are happy to continue receiving indications that he has some hearing and we will assess his true degree of hearing loss  as soon as possible when he is home. )  With this new information that may point to a better degree of hearing and knowledge of Mandarin, we've stepped up our Mandarin learning, listening to Pimsleur audio in the the car and enjoying this book at home:

We continue waiting for our Letter Seeking Confirmation, which indicates that China has officially matched us with our son and asks us to confirm that we want to adopt him (um, yes!).  We return this letter with a great big YES YES YES and it becomes our Letter of Acceptance (LOA).   It is a huge milestone which allows us to begin applying for visas and preparing to travel!  Typically families complete the steps to travel about 3 months after LOA.  According to the most recent AVERAGE timelines, we *could* receive this letter by the end of April, although we are trying hard not to expect it, and are not counting the days.  We can not estimate at this time when our travel might be, but we are hoping it will be before September.  Please pray with us for this!