Saturday, May 21, 2016

An emotional roller coaster

Wow! What an emotional roller coaster the last few weeks have been...but this will definitely be part of our story so I'm writing it down at least in part so I don't forget. In my last blog post I mentioned getting "the call." Well, it turns out it wasn't really the call for us. Our agency called two weeks ago...I was on the treadmill at the gym listening to a podcast and my phone rang. It was a Florida number so I had a suspicion it was our agency, so I answered. The director was calling with a referral for a little girl. Everything sounded so wonderful, except for the fact that for 20+ years I've felt like I was going to have a son from Ukraine and not a daughter. So she went back to check on what boys she had at the time. She called me back with a little info on a little boy, but urged us to really consider his medical conditions and if he was really a good fit for our family.

We got pictures of the two kiddos, but of course no more information. That's part of adopting from Ukraine...it's a blind referral so you don't get info until you're in country.

That weekend was Mother's Day. I'll be honest-I've never had a "hard" Mother's Day. I know so many that have, but it wasn't something I could relate with. I had no idea this would be such a hard day for me...definitely not something I was anticipating. I woke up and we headed to church and I was just in a funk. Tears-not knowing what to do and also knowing I had a kiddo on the other side of the world waiting for us! Not sure how else to explain it other than hard. I was desperate for clarity and just wanted God to send me an email telling us what we should do .

To make a long story short, after many many tears and begging the Lord for clarity, we've decided we're sticking with what the He put on my heart 20+ years ago...it's gotta be a boy. I don't know that I can emotionally go to Ukraine and not bring a son home. But we found out later even more about the little boy's medical conditions and are trusting our agency, that it's more than we feel equipped to handle and that the agency already has a family interested in him that is a better fit than our family. Our agency posts welcome home picks for all of their families so I'll just anxiously await seeing both of these kid's with their forever families! But they're also two more faces in my mind (along with so many others from years ago when I visited orphanages) that I'll never forget. I can tell you adoption definitely takes a village...we have felt so loved and supported as we struggled with this. I don't think our friends understand how much the prayers and texts and offers to help however they can mean to us!

So we are back to square one...fingerprint appointments for our immigration paperwork on Tuesday and then waiting for the form from Homeland Security which is the last form needed to complete our dossier. Continuing to trust that God has the perfect little boy picked out for our family and that the timing lines up just perfectly-the little guy is available at just the right time as our appointment in Ukraine.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Our dossier is DONE!

The last two weeks have seen some major progress/milestones! I got a text and email from Homeland Security on the morning of May 5th saying our I-600A was accepted. And then later that morning at the gym I got “the call.” More on that in another post!

We got the last batch of 29 documents signed and notarized. Then it was time to package it all up and send it to Tanya. I can’t say enough about our agency’s help with this. Tanya is amazing! She has walked me through each and every step of the dossier…double and triple checking every form, helping me know exactly how to fill out different documents (you’d think the forms on the U.S. side would be easy…but um, no they are less than straight forward and I’m so thankful for her expertise since she’s done this with so many families). She sent me a check list of dossier documents that we should have for a grand total of 46 documents notarized by a Texas notary (HUGE thank you to our friend Karen for all her stamping!!!). I packaged them up and had to count before I sent it to her…just 101 pages! She’s taking care of getting it all apostilled in Austin for us! I went to FedEx last Tuesday and shipped it to her…told the FedEx people that they needed to guard the package with their life!

The next day we got our FBI background checked that had been off at the Department of State getting apostilled back in the mail! So back to FedEx I went to send these to Tanya.

It feels so crazy for our part of the dossier work to be done. But definitely a huge step! Now it just has to go to Austin for apostilling!

Then on Saturday we came home from running errands, and Lance checked the mail. He pulled out the mail and asked, “Hey, what are these letters from Homeland Security?!” You know when you’re adopting when mail from Homeland Security in your mailbox makes you do the happy dance! Wahoo for our fingerprinting appointment date! It was an exciting end to our Saturday! Once we get those fingerprints, we can be assigned a case worker with USCIS and then hopefully will get our I-171H soon! The last piece before our dossier is 100% complete and can go to Ukraine!

We also started to work on a few fundraisers…designing a t-shirt and hopefully a couple of restaurant fundraisers. Tanner has also been begging to do a lemonade stand, so he’s started planning for one this summer to help bring his brother home! It’s starting to really feel real!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The paper chase is no joke!

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. That's the name of the game! But we're getting closer to being done with the paper chase-at least on the US side. There of course will be more paper chasing once we're over in Ukraine.

While our social worker put together our home study it was time to start on documents for our dossier. Certified marriage licenses, proof of home ownership, another round of medicals...and then yet one more because I messed up the birth date for Lance on one of them, employment verification...and then yet one more because of a minor typo, etc, etc, etc.

Lance and I made a quick trip to Arlington on a Saturday morning before Tanner's soccer game for the live scan fingerprinting for our FBI background report...and once it came back (all clear!), I turned around and mailed it off to the U.S. Department of State to get apostilled. Still waiting for that one to get finished and returned to us (but I check the tracking on its return envelope daily...maybe the more I check the faster it'll happen?!?!?).

We got our home study back to review and then off to Ukraine it went (via email) for them to review. After a few minor revisions we got the completed packet of our home studies in the mail last Friday! Talk about happy mail! Saturday morning we had the Green Door 5k but I managed to make a mad dash to the post office 30 minutes before they closed to mail our I-600A form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
They review the documents, send us for yet another set of fingerprints and then will eventually issue us our I-171H...basically saying we can bring an adopted child into the States. Homeland Security's website says their normal turnaround for this is 2.5 months...ugh. SLOW!

This morning I got the last batch of forms that will be included in our dossier. 14 different forms, some needing multiple copies, for a grand total of 29 documents to sign and get notarized! They don't call it a paper chase for nothing! This was what Hadley's nap time looked like for me today...double checking birthdays, passport numbers, names, etc. on all the forms before printing them out! Our poor printer is tired!
So the dossier paperwork is almost done...but now it's time to start working on adoption grant applications. There's non profits out there willing to help people adopt, but of course they each have their own application and supporting documents (references, tax returns, pay stubs, etc) that they want to review. We've gotten one application submitted and hope to have a second one complete and in the mail later this week. I've got them all on a spreadsheet and hope to apply for 5 or 6 different ones that we might qualify for.

And then we wait. Wait to hear back on whether we are awarded any grants and wait on Immigration to issue us the I-171H - the last document we'll need for our dossier to be complete! Both of those things are completely out of my hands. This popped up on my Instagram feed yesterday and it was such a good reminder for this control freak.

So that's the boring update...just lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork. But totally worth it and won't be a big deal at all when it means we get to bring Bailey kiddo #3 home!

Friday, April 8, 2016

One step closer...still lots to go!

We had our home study yesterday! Yea! Check one major thing off the list!  The last few weeks have been full of paperwork leading up to our social worker’s visit yesterday. Marriage certificates, financial statements, autobiographies (yes we had to write them!), TB tests, fingerprints, physical forms, employment forms, tax returns, reference letters and the list goes on! 
 A screenshot of just part of the list of documents for our homestudy...it's a long list!

The kids were troopers…they had to each get a TB test. I was so proud of Tanner-he was so brave and there weren’t even any tears!
 Suckers for everyone after their TB tests and Tanner proudly showed off his "dot" as Hadley called it!

We also had to complete 10 hours of online Hague training…lots of time in front of the computer after the kids went to bed watching “interesting” presentations.

Since all the forms and paperwork were collected, we were ready for our home study visit. Thankfully my mom had offered to send someone to clean the house on Wednesday or I would have been a crazy person. What I thought was going to be a slow week has turned into a week full of long doctor’s appointments for our family. Monday and Tuesday for Tanner-looks like he’s got the beginnings of kidney stones (poor guy-he was doomed with genes from Lance and me) and then Hadley must have been feeling left out because she went to the pediatrician Wednesday for what I thought was an ear infection (it of course was nothing-she’s just not sleeping because she’s a toot!).

So I was beyond thankful that I didn’t have to worry about scrambling to clean everything! House was cleaned on Wednesday, we went to play with the Huntons right after school (at their house so the house stayed clean) and then dinner at the Pieratt’s so the kitchen stayed clean! Probably the longest stretch ever that my house has been clean! We felt very loved this week...texts checking on Tanner and offering to help with Hadley and then texts and phone calls letting us know that so many people were praying for us on Thursday. It takes a village...and this little one is going to join our family and get an awesome village of friends who love well! We are thankful!

We found our social worker through two friends that had adopted and she was just as great as they had told us! Made the interviews super easy and laid back – even as she asked us every question under the sun! She talked to Lance and I together and then separately. And then it was Tanner’s turn! Overhearing some of his answers was funny. He told her he thought the adoption was “awesome!” He told her that we like to go to 6 Flags as a family (um we only go once a year…). And then when she asked him about what happens when he gets in trouble, Lance and I were trying to not laugh out loud! Hadley insisted on being interviewed too! She heard Tanner finish downstairs and she headed downstairs saying “It’s my turn! Mommy you stay upstairs!”

Tanner helping Hadley with her home study interview - discussing things like Paw Patrol, Tanner's favorite letter and number (he decided she would definitely ask him that question, and their ever changing favorite colors!)

So now we wait for the home study to be written up and start working on the paper work for the dossier! But having the home study done is definitely one big step closer to meeting the little guy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Exciting News!

Well, LOTS has happened since the blog went quiet! Ha! Tanner is obviously older…started Kinder this year…and we added a sweet, spunky daughter to our family-Hadley! But the big announcement and main reason for resurrecting the blog is that we’re adopting!

Part of me can’t even believe I’m typing those words and that it’s really happening…but it is! We have officially started the process and been accepted by an agency to adopt a little boy from Ukraine.

For me adoption is something I’ve wanted to do since 8th grade when my family lived in Ukraine. Living there and then going back to both Ukraine and Russia to work in orphanages has always stuck with me, and I’ve known I’ve wanted to adopt…and my heart’s desire was to do it from Ukraine or Russia. It was a topic Lance and I discussed early on in our relationship and has been something we’ve revisited often.

Since those early conversations, lots of changes have happened on the adoption front-ups and downs. Late last year, we decided we wanted to add to our family through adoption, but were kind of stuck as to what that was supposed to look like and where we would end up. We thought for the longest time, we’d adopt from Russia, but Russia is closed, and Ukraine had changed its laws so we thought that was off the table too.

We contacted several different agencies and even considered different countries, but ultimately found Grace International Adoption Agency and are excited to be starting our journey to add a little Ukrainian to our family!

Tanner is beyond excited. Lance mentioned the possibility to him in passing and it stuck! He immediately came downstairs and told me we were going to “get a kid from another country!” He’s got his own list of names going for his brother and has started announcing to anyone who comes over “We’re adopting a kid!”

Hadley isn’t quite sure what all is going on, but when you ask her if she wants to be a big sister, she’s game for that!

Big brother pointing out Ukraine to lil sis

We’re excited (and a little nervous if I’m honest) about the adventure we’re embarking on! Should be quite stretching for this control-freak! Ha! Or maybe just a good, hard exercise on trusting God because it’s completely out of our control! But he’s taken care of us this far…even when I’ve wondered what in the world he was up to or accused him of putting me in the wrong family (back in 8th grade when moving to the Ukraine was the worst idea I had ever heard of). He’s proven Himself faithful over and over and over-in small things and big-and He is good.

Can’t wait for this journey and really can’t wait to introduce you to Bailey kiddo #3!