Monday, April 25, 2011

My new ride

Introducing our "new" van, a 2003 Honda Odyssey.  I nervously drove it home this morning; it's been a while since I drove anything this large.  We haven't named it yet, but my kids offered a few suggestions:  "Mr. Lego White", and "Princess".  I'm going to have to adjust to my kids being that far behind me while we drive.  Might be a little harder to have our usual deep and enriching conversations. 

We're now ready to make some new precious memories and add a fourth car seat!  Let the mini-van era commence! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Snapshot: {the end of an era}

This afternoon I said goodbye to Carmelita.  She came into my life in 1999.  Before my kids.  Before my husband.  She's my car.  Was.
I've cried in this car, worshiped, prayed, yelled (not at my husband, he wants me to add), laughed, taken a gazillion trips to Walmart, and uh...did some damage to the front bumpers over the years.  Yeah, there's a matching scrape on the other side.  Nice, huh?  Carmelita carried me to work every day at zero-dark-thirty in the morning, drove me to my wedding, safely brought home each of my three brand-new babies from the hospital. And for the last 21 months she's tolerated (as have I) the cramming of three car seats into the back seat.  She's been good to me.

But it's the end of an era.  Can't get four car seats in that back seat, any way you slice it. 

So stay tuned for my "Monday Snapshot." 

Sunday Snapshot

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

An incredible song by two of my favorite worship leaders in the whole wide world. Jesus is alive!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Article 5

I got a wonderful email from Holt this morning informing me that our Article 5 has been picked up and is on its way to Beijing!  I seriously had no idea what Article 5 is...until two minutes ago when I looked it up so I wouldn't sound like an ignoramus on my own blog.  Here's the gist of it:
The U.S. Consulate reviews your new child's visa application, makes sure it meets the qualifications for an immigrant visa, and then signs off that everything is in order for the adoption to be completed. This is called the Article 5 letter. You cannot obtain custody of your child until the Article 5 letter is issued.  

So guess what?  Looks like everything is in order for this adoption to be completed!  We are now officially waiting for Travel Approval, which should arrive in 2-4 weeks.  Once it arrives and we have a Consulate Appointment scheduled for the end of our trip, we will leave within three to six weeks, hopefully three.  We're praying for sooner rather than later; you can join us in praying that way, if you're so inclined.

When I opened the email, which I wasn't really expecting until tomorrow, I laughed and grinned and may have clapped my hands...and then suddenly I was bawling.  Which confused my older daughter, who is yet unfamiliar with crying as a manifestation of happiness.  Once our dossier was sent to China, and especially once we signed the Letter of Intent for Jiushu, I calmed down.  Way down.  And I've just been clicking along here for a while now, doing the next thing, adoption and otherwise.  Eager, but not emotional.  Until today's email.  New dose of reality, to say the least.  We. Are. Going. To. China! 

Friday, April 15, 2011


I did it myself.  And it was a success!  (No, this is not a mug shot.)

I didn't want to post about this until I was sure these had "made the cut", but now that I know our visas are safely on their way back to us, I hope I can help someone else save a few dollars.  I only wish I had thought to do this before we applied for passports.  I happen to think passport/visa photos are a rip-off!  The cheapest I've seen are still $7.99 (with coupon)...and that's for only two photos.  Not bad, but we also had to send two each with our dossier, then another photo each for our visa applications, and have to bring several more to China with us.  That would certainly add up.  And you know, I just hate paying more than I need to.  For anything.  Yes, I realize the cost of passport and visa photos is a measly drop in the vast bucket of adoption costs.  But if I can save $20 or $30?  You'd better believe I'm going to try. 

I did some investigating online and found that we could make our own visa photos.  The government's travel site ( actually explains how to take your own photos, and includes a handy-dandy tool for making sure the photo meets the size/composition requirements.  Then I went to to create the image you see above, so I could print off several photos at once.  This site also has its own photo template.  For a price, they'll print the photo(s) and mail them to you.  Just click "no thanks" to save the photo and print it yourself. 

Even though I thought our photos came out looking adequate, certainly visa-worthy, I was nervous that they'd be rejected at the Embassy. 

But they weren't.  Total cost = $0.54 + the time it took me to iron a white bed sheet (for the first, and hopefully the last, time in my life) and drape it just-so over the hall bathroom shower curtain rod.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ode to friendship

Last night I met my friend L.B. at an establishment which shall remain nameless, to which I have 17 gift cards.  We meet every six or eight weeks for coffee to discuss, fast-and-furious, all things adoption (and anything else we have time to fit in). 

I met L.B. at the local library's preschool story time.  It was my first experience with meeting a stranger at a random location (other than church) and actually extending that acquaintance into a bona fide, beyond-these-walls friendship.  When I met L.B. she was in the process of adopting a little boy from Ethiopia; her son has now been home for over a year.  I can't quite remember how long we'd been thinking/praying/researching adoption, but I know we hadn't even decided on a country or an agency yet. 
L.B. with her new son at the Holt picnic

We would visit at L.B.'s apartment while our children played, her son's referral photo blown up to 8x10 and hanging on the wall, and I would pick her brain and heart.  I remember getting teary-eyed several times as we talked, the passion in my own heart kindled, sometimes to what felt like an unbearable degree.  Several months after L.B. and her husband traveled to Ethiopia to adopt their son, we applied (finally!) with Holt to adopt from China. 

We don't see each other nearly as often these days, partly (mostly?) because we have six young children between us...soon to be eight children!  We will go to China soon to adopt our new son, and L.B.'s husband will travel to Korea to adopt their new boy, who is a mere twelve days older than Jiushu. 

I'm incredibly thankful that God allowed us to meet when we did.  As much as I've benefited from and enjoyed the online adoption forums, He also knew that I would need a friend IN REAL LIFE to process this adoption (and home schooling, and parenting, and faith, etc.) journey with. 

I wonder if we'll be able to fit in one more coffee date before two Asian sweetie-pies join our ranks? 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Snapshot: {my lovies}

I've posted recently about my oldest and my youngest (who was, albeit, covered with soup).  I thought it was time to include the middle child and aim for a decent photo of all three at once.  Those of you with any  number of children know how difficult this can be.  Just as one child moves into the age of cooperation, another moves into full photo-rebellion mode (that would be the youngest).  Good thing this mom is so darn stubborn.  I figured if I took 84 pics or so, I'd be sure to get at least a few keepers.  And I also bribed them with cake, which was surprisingly ineffective against the baby, who refused to look directly at the camera.  Sigh.  But I think I managed to capture a few glimpses of "them"--the spark, the personality (e.g. rock in mouth, stick on head, chin in hands, insistence on wearing the bike helmet), the beauty I see in my lovies daily.  And the grandmas will be glad for new photos. 

Ni Hao Yall

Monday, April 4, 2011

The latest

I haven't posted any adoption news in a while, but we are making serious progress!  I thought I'd share the details for those of who might be wondering what in the world has happened since we accepted our son's referral.

I posted earlier about LOA; we then applied for our I800--approval from U.S. Immigration to adopt this specific child. We received this approval on March 22, and have been waiting to hear that this petition has been forwarded to the U.S. Consulate in China where we will complete our adoption. When the National Visa Center forwards this, they also send a letter via snail mail stating that they've done so. Requesting the letter via email speeds up the process.

I'm happy to report that we received this letter via email this morning! What a great start to my week.

Here's what happens next:
We now wait for our Article 5 letter to be issued by the U.S. Embassy. (Thankfully this requires no effort on our part.) Our adoption agency will forward our NVC letter to their representative in China. The in-China rep will take our NVC letter to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou along with our DS-230 application and LOA. The U.S. Embassy only allows representatives to drop off the paperwork on certain days.

The consulate must review our new child's visa application (the DS-230), make sure it meets the qualifications for an immigrant visa, and then signs off that everything is in order for the adoption to be completed. This is called the Article 5 letter. We cannot obtain custody of our child until the Article 5 letter is issued. This process should take a standard two weeks.

Once the Article 5 is picked up from the consulate, it will be delivered directly to the China Center of Adoption Affairs, who will then issue us Travel Approval!

We also need to apply for our visas this week. And. . . I don't know. . . maybe think about packing? We are SO close!