Thursday, June 30, 2016

Our First Skype Call with Little M

Skype Call with Little M

**A short 1 min. video clip of the call is at the bottom of this page.

I cannot even begin to describe to you how excited and nervous I was to be able to skype with little M!  I could hardly sleep the night before, I had so many things going through my mind...questions to ask the orphanage staff, and many sentences in Mandarin as well.  As the day went on I kept trying to think of what to say, wondering if she would be able to understand my Mandarin.

We received an email from the orphanage saying they had told Little M that she had a family: 

 MāmaBàba,  (Jiějie) older sister and (Gēge) older brother.  They said she smiled really big and seemed excited but didn't say much.  We found out later that she went back into her classroom and told all her friends that she had a family.  She was very excited!  I cannot tell you how much joy this brought into my heart to know that she was excited to know she had a family.

My mom and sister arrived about 15 minutes before the call, they both wanted to be here to see her.  We were trying to get Skype set up on the laptop in the living room....I tend to be very quiet and reserved when I am nervous but I really wanted to talk to her so much.   We were fidgeting with the computer when the call came through......I thought my heart would jump out of my chest when I saw sweet little M sitting in a chair playing with a plastic shovel on the laptop screen.

"Oh my goodness, there she is, that beautiful, sweet little girl of mine!"

I will never be able to describe to you that moment I first saw her, live, sitting in front of me.  I wanted so much to jump through that laptop screen and just hold that little girl in my arms and never let her go!  As my heart was so full of love for her and as I was about to just exclaim, "Hello, sweet girl, mommy loves you!"  Dave and the orphanage worker began talking and I sat with my heart almost ready to burst.

"A" who was the orphanage staff member who Skyped with us talked a lot with us, told us a lot about what Little M does everyday in school and what she was learning.

When she told Little M she was going to talk to her family she ran to her room and got the teddy bear we had sent to her and brought it with her.   There have been so many moments that have just taken my breath away and this was one of them, seeing her holding the little bear we had sent to her, knowing that she loved it because it was from us.

We learned more about Little M:

"A" told us that when they ask little M what she wants to do outside (even if they say do you want to swing or swim)  She will always say 'trampoline'.  She loves to jump on the trampoline.

She likes to swing on a swing set but is still afraid of going down a slide because she can't see where she is going.

She does ride horses for therapy sometimes and does enjoy riding horses.

They said at snack time she really likes to eat apples and bananas but if they do not have apples or bananas she will let you know that she does not want oranges or other juicy fruits.

In school she has music time, P.E. which is mostly dancing and active movement for the kids, she has orientation and mobility where she learns how to use her cane and orient herself in the environment around her.  We learned that she is really good at using her cane to get around familiar places, she can get around the school and her apartment very well with her cane but still hasn´t learned how to use her cane in unfamiliar environments yet.  She will cling to you really tightly in unfamiliar places because she is nervous.

When we pick up little M she will bring:

A backpack with a couple changes of clothes, her favorite snacks so we know what she likes to snack on for the trip, and all the items we sent to her.  As she travels to America with all her belongings in the world on her back in a backpack she will be gaining a Mother, Father, Big sister, Big brother, grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins..... a Family!  She will no longer be an orphan, the greatest form of poverty known in the world....she will be a daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter and most of all, she will be LOVED!

At first we talked mostly with ¨A¨ from the orphanage because Little M was being so shy :-)  Then in a moment of silence Dave says, ¨Her name,Nǐ xǐhuān píngguǒ ma?" (Do you like apples?)

You should have seen her little face just light up, she was smiling ear to ear.  She shyly hid her face behind the shovel she was holding and said, xǐhuān, which means yes.  Actually it means ¨like¨ but in Mandarin when you are giving an affirmative answer you repeat the verb.

 Then he asked  ¨ Her name, Nǐ zài zuò shénme?  (What are you doing?)
She just smiled and started humming a song, she LOVES to sing!

We were able to talk to her and ¨A¨ for just over a half an hour and then she let us know that she would be willing to Skype with Little M and us every week until we come!  We were so excited.   We said our Goodbyes, (Zàijiàn) and the call was over.

My head was spinning, I was on cloud just made this all so real in my mind.  I would be willing to move mountains to get to that sweet little girl!  My heart was so full of joy and love for her I just wanted to talk about her all night long.  As we sat in the living room talking about the call, Cam yells, Dad she is trying to contact us again!

Dave went over to see and she had messaged us:

Little M didn´t want to go back to class, she wanted to keep talking to Bàba!  It brought tears to my eyes to see those words.  ¨A¨ told her she could call us again in a few days and then she went back to class with the assurance that she could talk to us again.

Sweet little M has stolen our hearts!  

Enjoy this sweet little 1 min. clip

I promise when we Skype with her again next week I will get another video of her...we may even try to find some downloadable program to record it so we can share more with you!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Exciting News.....

 A Little Update...

The most recent picture of Little M sent to us today!

We have been in contact with Little M's orphanage in the past couple of weeks, we donated the travel funds necessary to take her to her Province for her Visa so she didn't have to be taken back to the orphanage she came from 3 years ago, and we have also sent her a package, a video introducing the family, and....drum roll please.....

We Get to Skype with her...

We were able to schedule a skype call with little M for Wednesday night at 6pm!  We are all so excited and a little nervous to finally get to see her live on a skype call for the first time!   We were able to send her a short video of the family introducing ourselves, I would post it here but it would be WAY too embarrassing!  We had to re-shoot the video a dozen times and finally had to resort to writing down what we wanted to say and reading it :-(  

We all freeze up in front of the camera and couldn't even get a single coherent sentence out...I know totally pathetic but that is just how it is!  I am sure the orphanage staff are getting quite a kick out of our video but we did the best we could with our camera shy selves.  

**If it is possible I will record the skype call and see if I can post some of it on the blog to share with family and friends.

If we can't record it we may just use our phones to get some video of it because I know there will be family who will want to see it.

Travel Update:
We are expecting article 5 pick up on Thursday of this week and once that happens we will be officially in the "Waiting for travel approval phase."    We have seen some families receive travel approval within a couple of days of Article 5 pickup and we have seen some families have payment complications with the CCCWA and who have waited as long as 7.5 weeks!   

We do not anticipate a long wait, we believe the payment issues with the CCCWA have been fixed and we haven't seen anyone complaining of having issues in the past few weeks so hopefully that will not be an issue.  We anticipate that travel approval will take about a week.   Once we receive travel approval we plan to travel within two weeks.  That is a fairly optimistic time frame but it is what we anticipate right now.
We should easily be able to travel by August 4th but we are planning to leave on July 27th.  
I will post an update as SOON as we receive our travel approval!

**Please comment below or on the facebook post if you would like me to record the skype call and post some of it for you to see!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adoption Update.....Waiting for travel approval

Little M eating cake

We received pictures of Little M learning to help bake in the kitchen and this darling picture of her eating cake.  We are getting very close to the travel stage of our adoption process.  We have been anxiously awaiting to hear if our Article 5 has been dropped off at the Consulate.  It should have been dropped off last Monday or Tuesday but our agency contact was out of the office and so drop off was supposedly on Thursday of last week.  

The agency was supposed to call us on Friday to let us know but we haven't heard anything as of we are just praying that it was dropped of on Thursday.  

A Little Bump in the Road

We received notification that because Little M is living in an orphanage/foster home dedicated to helping visually impaired children she must return to her province and the orphanage she came from in order to obtain her visa.  

This could have literally meant that Little M would be sent back to this orphanage for a week to wait for her visa and then could come back to where she has been living for the last 3 years when it was complete.  I cannot imagine how traumatic that would be for a blind little girl to go to a strange place where they are not equipped to understand the needs of a blind child and stay there for that long.   

We are so very thankful that the orphanage in which she is living loves these little ones in their care and wanted to avoid this traumatic situation.  We arranged to pay for Little M to travel with someone from her orphanage  to get her visa, they will stay in a hotel with her and then return when everything is completed. She will not have to be with strangers or stay in a strange place at all....  We are so thankful!   

We planned for unexpected expenses in the beginning of this process and are grateful that we could make this possible to help ease this whole process for her..even if just a little.   We pray every single day that God will prepare her and help her during the transition of adoption and I will say that this was an answer to this prayer...even in just a small way, but we are so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who watches over her.

Baking Day

She is learning to help in the kitchen, using a rolling pin and baking.   She has had some wonderful learning experiences lately, meeting the motorcyclists and being able to get up close to a motorcycle, horseback riding and learning how to bake.   We are so grateful that she has been blessed to live in an orphanage where she is loved and well cared for!

Learning More About Little M

The orphanage allowed us to ask them questions about Little M so we could learn a little bit more about her, things she likes, what she is afraid of etc...  Dave emailed questions and we waited to receive the email back so we could learn more about this sweet little girl.  I wanted to share with you the answers to some of the questions we asked so you can learn a little more about her too.

  1. Does she have any vision or light perception?
She is completely blind in her right eye but she does have some light perception in her left eye.

      3.  Who are her best friends at ****** Orphanage?

Her best friend is a very loving little boy named Caleb who is able to calm her down when she is scared or upset.  He explains what is happening to her so that she can relax and not be afraid. 

     3. What are her favorite toys to play with?

Her favorite are toys that she can easily manipulate with her hands, plastic animals, paper, plastic toys.  
She does have minor sensory sensitivity and does not like playdoh, clay, or fuzzy stuffed animal toys.
She will find a way to play with any toy that she is given.  She does like to play with balloons, roll a ball back and forth and jump on the trampoline.

**She likes smooth and simple toys, she does not like fuzzy textures.

    4. What does she like to eat?

She does not like 'messy' or juicy fruits like watermelon, oranges, grapefruit etc...
Her favorite fruit is apples, but she also likes bananas and grapes
She is generally happy with the food that she is served at meals

   5. What does she like to do?

She likes to play on the trampoline
She LOVES music! 
She heard a Katy Perry song on the radio and memorized the whole song after hearing it once
She likes to play a game where she sings a line of a song to her caregivers and they play it for her

Some of her favorite songs:

Let it Go 
All of the songs from the movie Frozen
Roar by Katy Perry
The Hamster dance
Oo eeh ooh ah ahh ting tang walla walla bing bang
Crazy Frog
A thousand Year by Christina Perri
Happy by Pharell Williams
One Love by Bob Marley
I like to move it move it
Don't worry be happy
Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus

She LOVES music and can memorize lyrics after hearing a song once

    6. What makes her nervous or upset?

She struggles with changes in activities if she doesn't have explanation before hand.   She can become frustrated when others can't understand and because of her lack of ability to communicate...she only speaks a limited amount of words in either Mandarin or English.    When she is afraid she likes to be held or have her back rubbed to help her calm down.

     7. How is she doing in her English class?

Words & phrases that she knows:

Go outside
Go inside
Go upstairs or downstairs
Roll or bounce
Fast & Slow
wash your hands
Come here
Stand up
Sit down
She knows her classmates names

She does not say these words or phrases spontaneously on her own but she understands what they mean.  She speaks more when she is one on one with someone.

    8. How well does she get around using her cane?

She can use her cane well in a familiar environment but she has a difficult time using it in unfamiliar places. 

     9. Does She understand what adoption is and how does she feel about it?

Many children from the orphanage have been adopted this year and she understands that it is a good thing. 

    10. Is there anything else we should know about her?

She gets scared easily but can be comforted by being held, rubbing her back or singing to her.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some updated pictures and getting to know a little more about Little M.   We are SO very excited to travel and pick her up soon!  We are assuming our article 5 was dropped off on Thursday which means it will be picked up two weeks from then and the last thing left is travel approval!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What you need to know about Post-adoption life

What you need to know about Post-adoption life...

As we are quickly approaching our much anticipated trip to China there are a few things that I would like to help our family and friends understand.  Adoption is NOT the same as giving birth to your biological child, as much as I would love to paint a rosy picture for you that it is just like bringing home a newborn baby, it is not the same.   This is not to say that it is bad, just that it is different.  

The needs of an adopted child and the family of an adopted child are VASTLY different from those of a child born to loving parents who have properly nurtured and cared for their child.  I am not going to go into all the nuances and even differences between a newborn adoption and birth of a child because that obviously doesn't apply to our situation, however, an adopted newborn still experiences grief and loss as well.  Anyone who ignores this fact does their child a grave disservice. 

*Please take the time to read and understand these important issues regarding post-adoption bonding and support us as we make this journey.

#1 - We will be traveling FAR - We will likely leave on a Wednesday and not even arrive in China until FRIDAY!  China is 14 hours ahead of us, so they wake up hours before we go to bed, and we go to bed as they are starting their day.  Talk about JET LAG!  #royaljetlag

We will be touring The Great Wall, Tianneman square and the Forbidden City the day after we get there, then we will fly 5 hours to Little M's orphanage province to pick her up.  We then fly to Guanzhou which is another 6 hour flight or so. We will spend many days in government offices, medical offices, U.S. consulate etc..... then just as we are adapting to the time change we will spend another LENGTHY ride on an airplane with a blind little girl who has never been on a plane, let alone for 12 hours!  We will be exhausted!  Please be understanding of this and that we need time to rest and recouperate before we start having parties, get togethers and visitors.

#2 Please do not tell our daughter that she is "Lucky"

She will not feel lucky at all and in reality she is NOT lucky.  We do not believe in luck in any way, shape or form, we believe in the power, grace, and mercy of God.   This sweet little girl is going to feel more like she was kidnapped in the beginning, she will be leaving everything she has ever known, everything that is comfortable and familiar to her.  She will be leaving friends at the orphanage, and nannies that she has learned to love and adore.  Amongst the difficult situation of adoption she faces new people, new things, new language all without being able to see who we are.  I reiterate that this is not going to feel "lucky" to her.  She will, in time learn to love us, come to feel happy, comfortable, loved...but initially it will be very hard for her.

She will go through a period of grief, loss, fear and a range of emotions.  This is very normal with all adoptions no matter the circumstances, location, age etc..   This is one of the aspects of adoption that I am not looking forward to, my heart aches to know that she will be afraid and we are praying that God will assist her in this difficult transition.  Please be sensitive and understanding of this rather than try to make it seem as if she should feel lucky as this is not how she will feel, nor how she should feel.

God has a plan for each of His children and we will never understand His plan for each child, why one child has a loving family, another is born into an abusive home, or another is abandoned, one is adopted and another is not.   We do not know all of the answers, but it is never that one child is 'lucky' and another is not....or one child is blessed and another is not.  All children are loved by God, and honestly if there were more families willing to adopt or help those who are willing to adopt be able to do so, God would be able to provide homes for more orphans.  God cannot provide homes for orphans if we are unwilling to open our homes.  We cannot judge God's plan when we ourselves are not willing to be His hands in opening our hearts, homes, and lives to be a family to an orphan.  #Godlovesallhischildren  #wemustbehishands

#3 Trauma, Grief, Loss and Fear are expressed differently by different children

I know so many of you are very excited for us and are very excited to meet Little M for the first time!  We are so grateful for your support and we are also very excited to meet her and bring her home.  However, we would like you all to understand a few things about adopted children and the initial stages post-adoption.

  • Do not expect her to 'Love' you or treat you like she knows you.
You are a stranger to her, just as we are also strangers to her.  Please respect her space!  If she is hesitant to hug you, talk to you, smile, or interact with you...PLEASE respect her and how she feels.  Give her the space she needs and time to get to know you and warm up to you.  Do not force affection or anything else that she is not comfortable with.   

Trust me, I wish that she would instantly just love us all as family, friends, relatives etc..... but it is a process.  She must feel secure, get to know you, and learn to love you, so give it time and be patient with her.

  • She may act hyper, withdrawn, angry, refuse to speak, rock back and forth for comfort, act out......among a host of other emotions.  It is okay, this is her expression of how she feels.  No matter what her experience and expression of emotions is, we will love and support her through it but understand that this is NOT 'who she is.'  These emotions of grief and loss do not define her or who she is.  We will support her through her emotions and let her feel what she feels without expectation.  We hope that you will be understanding and help us support her and love her in the way that she needs to help her best.   It will not stay this way and soon you will see her true self emerge as she begins to feel comfortable, loved and secure.
#4 Priority number 1 is attachment, this is NOT the time for discipline

Obviously you do not discipline a newborn baby when you first bring them home...well adoption is actually similar in that regard.  No matter whether you bring home a 1 month old or a 15 year old...attachment comes first.  The child may act out and your first reaction should discipline that child!   Well...that is where parenting a bio child differs from a child who has just come from institutionalized living.  

Structure is important, redirecting behavior is important, but discipline will take a back burner to bonding and attachment.  Every child is different and parenting an adopted child will be different if you are dealing with attachment issues, attachment disorder, or reactive attachment disorder but for the average adopted child they need to be able to trust you, know you will ALWAYS be there for them, that you will NEVER abandon them and that they are LOVED unconditionally and this will be our #1 priority.    So as you watch us parent her, please realize that this is 100% different than your parenting experience because your child did not come from abandonment and institutionalized living.

#5 Affection, Snuggles, Loves, Hugs & Kisses

Okay, granny, grammy, grandma, auntie.......all you who just want to love on her and hug and kiss her sweet little face......I ask you to please refrain.  I know it will be hard and how could I say such a thing.  You have been waiting for this little girl to come home for 9 months and so have we.  You have seen videos, pictures, read updates and heard us talk about this sweet little girl for 9 months and you just want to love on her.  I know, I  know but please see it from her perspective. 

She does not know you, she has not seen pictures of you, she has not seen videos of you, she does not know your name....for all she knows you are a stranger on the street!  Please be respectful of her boundaries!

We have been told that she is shy and takes time to warm up to new people and so we ask that you be respectful of how she feels and if she acts hesitant please respect her space.  Give her time, talk to her, help her get to know you, play games with her, read her stories and eventually she will warm up and you can give her all the love, kisses, and hugs you want.....when SHE is ready!

#6 Cocooning - What is it?  

Cocooning is a VERY popular word in the adoption community but not very well known outside of the adoption community.  It is an extremely important part of the adoption process and we plead with you to understand this and respect this family time!

If you think of it from the child's perspective, this child was abandoned by her parents on the streets at the age of 3 years old!  She was taken to an orphanage where she received very little individual attention and then moved to another orphanage six months later.  She has no memory of family, no knowledge of what it is to have a mother, father, siblings.....she knows living with nannies and in a school setting all day long.   

When you adopt a child from this situation, bonding is completely different than that of a Bio child born into your family!   Bonding is something you have to create and foster between you and your child and so cocooning is the way in which we foster bonding.

We will be limiting visitors - We know you are all so excited to meet her and we love that you are so supportive.  However, please be understanding and respectful of the fact that we are trying to foster bonding with our daughter and help her learn who mom & dad are, that we love her and provide care for her.  She will need time to adapt to new surroundings, sounds, a new language, routines etc... 

If you would like to visit, please call us and we will let you know if we feel she is up for visitors and if so, please be aware that we would like to keep it to a couple visitors at a time.

We will become hermits for awhile - Little M will need to adjust, even more than a typical adopted child.  Because she cannot see she will need to spend a lot of time at home with help finding the bathroom, the kitchen, the family room, learning the layout of her new home, getting used to her own room, where her toys are, a new routine and learning what it is to be in a family.  Because of this 100% of my time will be devoted to this little girl.  My life will revolve around her, teaching her, helping her, loving her.  I may sit up until 1 am rocking her to sleep, comforting her, helping her navigate the stairs in our home....attending to all her needs.

Please understand that we may not attend extended family functions all the time, we won't be able to serve the way we once did in church, our lives will change and turn inward for awhile.

#7  Mommy & Daddy need to be #1 care providers

A key part of bonding, even with a newborn, is that mom provides care for the newborn.  Mom feeds the baby, changes the baby, rocks the baby.....this MUST happen for an adopted child no matter how old the child is.  It is a very essential aspect of bonding!  It may seem strange to you, but we ask that for the first few months mommy and daddy are the only ones to feed or comfort Little M. 

As much as you might want to run to help her if she falls etc... please respect that we need to be the ones to comfort her and provide for her needs so that we can form a healthy bond with our daughter.  It may seem weird to you, but realize you have no experience with International adoption and therefore have no frame of reference in which to understand.

#8 - Bonding & Attachment may seem strange to you at times

Children who have been abandoned and who have grown up in institutions have often missed out on KEY important stages of bonding and development and in order to raise a healthy, well rounded child we will have to regress as far back as she needs to to fill in these development and attachment stages.

We may rock her to sleep like you would a baby
We may play with infant toys
We may spoon feed her......

There are times even adopted teenagers have enjoyed being rocked to sleep during the initial stages of being home.  These are important, comforting developmental stages that are missed and by regressing and going through these missed experiences you form stronger attachment and better emotional stability in an adopted child.  Please understand that we are not 'Babying her'  this child has suffered grief and loss of a magnitude you could never possibly understand and we are doing everything we can to help her heal and lead a healthy, emotionally stable life and what you may know as normal goes out the window when you are dealing with a child who has suffered so greatly.  We ask for your understanding and support, rather than judging something you may not fully understand.

#9 She may be emotionally, physically or intellectually behind

It is very normal for Internationally adopted children to be behind in a myriad of ways....this is okay!  She may catch up quickly when she arrives home or she may struggle with the shock of all the changes and she may be behind for years to come.  It is all okay, each child reaches milestones according to their own timetable.  We are not worried about when she reads braille, how fast she learns English....we are worried about bonding and creating a supportive environment where she will thrive and she can learn at her own pace.

Our journey is unique, our journey to adoption looks different than any other couples journey to adoption, our lives are different and Little M is also unique and will have her own experience of the adoption process.  We have prepared ourselves for every possibility we can imagine and have prayed to know how to meet her needs and we are so grateful for the love and support from everyone around us and as we prepare to travel in the next 6 weeks or so we pray for your support and love as we return home and strive to integrate this sweet little girl into our family.

Friday, June 3, 2016

I-800 Approval in the Mail!

I-800 Approval in the mail & our File has been sent to the National Visa Center!

We have reached another milestone in our adoption journey!  We had been waiting and waiting to hear from the USCIS about our I-800 and finally Dave in all his patience decided to email them and ask about the status of our I-800 application.  Sometimes I roll my eyes at his impatience :-)  and sometimes I am so grateful that he has the courage to contact government offices and ask, because I sure wouldn't.

We received an email back within hours stating that our I-800 approval had been issued on May 31st and the approval letters are in the mail on their way to us!  YAY!  Happy Day!  The I-800 process begins when you submit an I-800a form to the immigration office seeking approval for you as a couple to bring a child into the U.S.  Then once you receive your LSC or final approval from the CCCWA to adopt your child you then submit the I-800 to receive approval for your adopted child to come to the U.S.  

Our file has been sent to the National Visa Center and within a few days we should receive an email to fill out a DS-260 online visa application.  Once we have completed the application and received approval we move to the Article 5 submission.

Article 5 - documents will be dropped off at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China by a courier and then they will be picked up two weeks later.   After our documents are picked up......we will then wait for Travel Approval!

We are SO close!!

I have gone through a range of emotions since we received our LSC and the reality of the adoption started to sink in.   There are moments of absolute excitement and anticipation but those moments sometimes are followed by anxiousness and concern.

It may be hard to understand if you haven't been through this process, but, you must realize that even though our entire family is over the moon excited and we are whole-heartedly in love with this little girl.... she does not know us.  We are complete strangers to her and I wish with all my heart that this would be an amazing experience for her but it will more than likely be frightening.   You have to accept the reality that these children will go through a period of grief, loss, and fear......this is a hard aspect of adoption but it is a part of every adoption, even newborn adoption.   It is something you need to understand and recognize so that you can be loving, supportive, and understanding as your child goes through this transition and learns what it is to have a family and that you truly do unconditionally love them.  

We pray every night for Little M and we pray that God will prepare her and that He will help ease her transition.  We are blessed that the orphanage she lives at is very good at telling the children they have a family and preparing them so that it isn't a complete shock.  We are so grateful for this!  

We received approval to SKYPE with Little M!

I am a little nervous as my Mandarin is not very good.  I study Mandarin about 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day and have been studying since November but it is still hard for me.  We are very excited though to be able to talk to will be amazing to see her live.  

We should be traveling to China in the next 6 weeks!