Monday, July 11, 2016

We have a DAUGHTER!

We received LOA today which is a letter of approval from the CCCWA in China saying they approve the adoption of our daughter. This is a HUGE step and puts us 8-10 weeks away from traveling. And, now I am able to share some info (and a picture!) of our sweet girl! But, first... a long story :)

We started the adoption process over three years ago. Adopting from China has always been on my heart, but the adoption needs there have changed. This is a good thing! Back when I first decided (in high school) that I wanted to adopt a girl from China, girls were being abandoned by families so they could try again for a boy, keeping with the one child per household restriction. China's laws have progressed and, thankfully, that is just not happening anymore. So, when we began exploring Chinese adoption, we knew we'd adopt from their special needs program. Medical care in China is expensive and without insurances to help, if your child is born with a medical need that you can't afford to care for, you're left with few options.  Back when we began, I felt in my gut that we were to have a daughter with cleft lip and palate. We had taken some classes about the varying special needs that Chinese children frequently had, and clefts seemed the "manageable" choice. Plus, I fell in love with a few babies online with their cute little cleft lipped smiles and I felt pretty sure one of those special smiles was in my future. So, we set our medical profile to a baby girl, less than 3 with a cleft lip and palate or a very minor heart condition (meaning one that would not require surgery) and we waited. The wait for a child that matches that "profile" is about 2 years.

Fast forward a little over a year and Crosby is born with a heart condition. You all know the story, we decide that adoption, at least for now, is off the table. We never pulled out of the program though, we simply removed the cleft lip and palate option and now were left with only minor heart conditions, for which the wait is significantly longer... so long in fact that we had virtually zero chance of ever being called on. Which, at that time, was what we needed.

Fast forward two years. Crosby is two, we're back on the adoption track! We had considered so many variables that led us right back to our path of a child with a cleft lip and palate from China. So, we added that back to our checklist and started getting ourselves current with our home study and immigration so that we could be matched! They keep your spot in line, so we were first and ready to go as soon as we were current on everything.

Now, the medical checklist does have a need listed as moderate/major heart conditions. We had never been open to that need. In the classes, there were several things about the heart discussed and, honestly, most of it scared the bejeezus out of me. Tetralogy of Fallot was one that I specifically remember being like... "ooooh no, that sounds really scary".

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

It had been 3 years since we'd taken those classes, and I had not thought any further about any of those needs since. We had decided on cleft lip and palate. BUT, as we began saving money, doing our home study, and preparing to be matched this time around, I bean having dreams. Well, not dreams I guess, just WORDS. Three little words coming to me over and over again in my sleep. TETRALOGY OF FALLOT. This happened for over a week before I worked up the nerve to talk to Ritchie about it. Ritchie has always been up for adoption, but it's my dream, not his. I didn't want to add to it or make it more challenging or scary than it already is. But, the words. They were calling to me. Crosby had a cardiology appointment coming soon so we decided not to change the medical checklist yet, but to ask our cardiologist about the major heart conditions that China typically sees in their children (I had gotten a short list from our agency), including Tetralogy of Fallot.

There was one specific condition that she warned was pretty complex, but other than that we left feeling pretty confident that we were now open to moderate/major heart conditions. It's crazy to think we didn't consider it at first because A. Crosby has what is considered a major heart condition and 2. we have a children's cardiologist and are already in that world!

Anyway, so we added that to the checklist and finished up everything we needed to. The words in my sleep had stopped, but in my gut I knew we'd have a daughter with a heart condition, specifically Tetralogy of Fallot. Now, we still kept cleft lip and palate on our checklist and were told several times by our agency that is was more likely we'd be called about a child with a cleft than a child with a heart condition, they just see more of those. So, I did some diligent research and made sure we remained open to cleft lip/palate, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that, after those words, TETRALOGY OF FALLOT sinking their way into my mind and heart, I was hoping for a baby girl with just that.

Fast forward to Tuesday, June 28th. WE GET THE CALL. I see the (303) area code pop up (our agency is in CO) and I promptly freak out and run around my living room in circles. "Guess what happened at CCAI today?" Cue tears. I was shaking and trying so hard just to hear EVERYTHING she was telling me about my girl. I knew this was her. Before she even said it. But she did say it. "She has something called Hexalogy of Fallot, which is basically Tetralogy of Fallot but with two more things added to it." What my heart did in that moment.... well, I can't even tell you. I already knew, but then I KNEW. (Wanted to add that we have since had her records looked at by two different drs, one who specializes in internationally adopted children, and Crosby's cardiologist. Both have confirmed that she just has standard Tetralogy of Fallot. They have no idea where this hexalogy business comes from. This is common with translations of files... it's easy to change things a bit through translation).

So, what can I tell you about our girl? She's currently 15 months old. Her birthday is 5 days after Crosby's, so they're 1 year and 5 days apart in age. She began WALKING at 13 months which makes her my youngest walker to date! The Dr's say her development and growth are all right on target which is quite impressive for a child who is both in an orphanage and has a pretty major heart condition. Basically, our daughter is amazing. She says mama and baba (which is what they commonly say for Dada). We've seen a video of her where a child tries to take a snack from her hand and she promptly screams, tears it away from them, and then is happy as a clam. So... she's got some spunk. She is very attached to her ayi (nanny) and loves to be held and cuddled which is heartbreaking because they will be separated, but a very good sign in terms of her ability to attach well to others.  She had her first surgery for her heart in May and we're still getting more information about that, but we have heard that she recovered well and it was deemed a success, so now we just wait on the actual records of the surgery to be reported. She may need one surgery once home or later in life, she may not. A lot will depend on what they did in China for her. Other than that, she will just be a normal girl. Running, jumping, playing, etc.. she'll have checkups every 6 months just like Crosby. Our two little heart babies.

I'm showing a picture, so I'm not going to give her Chinese name or location. The Chinese give two names and hers mean "of language and culture" and "hibiscus" like the Hawaiian flower. We will keep a portion of her Chinese name as her middle name.

We think there's never been a more perfect girl. To be so in love with someone you've never met but is out there just waiting in a foreign country is the wildest thing. We're coming for you, June! We LOVE you!

 photo Zhou Wen Rong 7.7.16_zpslxwcckwi.jpg

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Longing for my Daughter

After our move to Washington and Crosby's birth, I felt myself begin to sink. I tried to float - hell, I tried to SWIM through the tough currents of life but I have felt, for two years, off and on, like I'm being PULLED beneath the surface, barely able to keep my head above water enough to breathe. It's an awful feeling. I have tried to search and figure out what it was that kept me in this state. We've struggled financially since the move, with Ritchie taking a large pay cut to move us out here (a small sacrifice we thought for all of the potential opportunity here -jobs in tech were hard to come by in Denver). Then we had Crosby, and got his aortic stenosis diagnoses. A feeling I can't ever explain and I wouldn't wish on anyone. The pain of hearing that something is WRONG with your child. We've been SO fortunate that his condition has remained stable and we haven't had to do anything surgical yet. It's coming, but I feel so much more equipped two years in than I did days after his birth. With Crosby's diagnoses came a big life change of deciding to put off (or just not complete at all) our adoption. We didn't think we could handle two children with medical conditions. We also found ourselves unable to fund it with the income loss and sudden medical bills (we received ALL of our prenatal bills at once from Colorado and it was a SHOCK - throw in a birth and heart condition bills and we were flat broke).

I simply chalked it up to fate and tried to let go of the dream of parenting a girl. But I couldn't. It kept coming back to me. We still couldn't afford it, though. A little over a year later, we became licensed foster parents and we've taken a few short term placements to feel it out. Something about it doesn't feel right for us. I wish I could explain that better, but I'm not sure I can. It's a feeling, a gut intuition, that foster care is not the right path for us. With that realization, I felt the water overflow right over my head. Air GONE. That's the only way I can describe it. Pain, no air, feeling weak and stupid because I HAVE THREE AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL BOYS AND SHOULDN'T I BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT I HAVE WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!

My desire to have a daughter is very real. It's not something I have been able to just work past. Ritchie and I brainstormed and budgeted and searched and talked and tried to figure out the best path for me to fulfill this desire and it wasn't until we came right back to the adoption from China of a little girl with a cleft lip and palate that I felt... PEACE. My head came fully out of the water. I felt more present with my children, happier with my husband, my life seemed to make sense again. It's like I hadn't been able to reconcile that loss of something I never even had and finally I realized that I hadn't come to terms with just not having a daughter. What's even bigger is I realized that these feelings, this desire, is worth fighting for. It's worth the costs, the paperwork, the adding more to our family's plate, etc... because in my gut, and more importantly IN MY HEART, I know this is right for our family.

I was meant to have a daughter from China. I've always felt this IN MY BONES. Like, there's a piece of me IN China. It's the most bizarre thing. If someone else said that and I hadn't experienced it first hand, I would be so judgmental. Like, weird voodoo magic hippy crap that isn't real, right? It feels so real, it's almost unbelievable to ME and I'm the one feeling it.

Anyway, we're working on it. We're working on bringing our girl home. It's a bit of a process still because we have to redo some paperwork (a lot of thing expire after a year and we're THREE years in now) and, most importantly, gather some funds. But, we're going to DO this. And I cannot wait.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What I Read: July and August 2015

A look inside the life of professional ballerinas. The competition, the lifestyle, and what happens when you don't make it in that world. I found it to be slow paced (but enjoyable!) at first, and then towards the end I was riveted. It took a turn I wasn't expecting and I really enjoyed the complexities of the story. 

This is a check off the classics challenge for me! And I LOVED IT! I'm not going to say what this book was about, but I finally sort of get the world of you Potter lovers and I think I can see myself getting into this series finally! 

One of the best books I've read in a while! A man is diagnosed with Huntington's disease and his four children must decide whether to get the test that tells them whether or not they will get this disease later in life. All while they watch their father deteriorate and their mother try to keep it together through it all. Dark, sad, moving, and ultimately it still felt triumphant. I LOVED this book. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reading Challenge Part 2

I want to keep up this momentum! I really loved having a reading goal last year BUT I also felt like I needed to pick quick reads and books that wouldn't really challenge me or take time because I was trying to read SO many books. This year I wanted to take the opposite approach. I've chosen to read classics, books that are always on the "must read before you die" lists. Books that are talked about in literary circles and books that I feel like EVERYONE else has read but me. These books also happen to be books I've been putting off forever. For this reason, I gave myself one book per month. 12 classics to get through for the year. I won't go in any order, I'll just choose what I feel like for that month. Here is the list:

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird
  2. Anne of Green Gables
  3. Little Women
  4. Harry Potter
  5. The Stand
  6. The Poisonwood Bible
  7. Kite Runner
  8. 1984
  9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  10. The Book Thief
  11. The Diary of Anne Frank
  12. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Many might think this is an easy list or challenge. For them, it might be! My comfort in reading really lies in a story that is gripping and pulls you through and often involves romance. Some of these might be that! I have no idea. But I think most of them will be a challenge for me. I know for at least 6 of them (half!) I've already tried reading them and couldn't finish. So, yes... this will be hard for me.

I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

As We Wait...

We should be licensed for foster care any day now. Once licensed, we should have a child in our home within a few weeks, at the very most a few months. The waiting is sort of hard, sort of not. Fostering is this whole tricky new world that, six months ago, I never thought I'd experience.

In truth? I'm nervous. I'm excited, yes. But, mostly nervous. Here are the things I've been worrying over while I'm in this period of waiting.

1. I'm worried that Crosby will feel jealous of losing attention. Don't we always worry about our kids when a new one is coming around? And, I worry about Crosby more because he's never had a new child come into the family like the other two have. Plus, he's my baby and gets 99% of my attention when he's awake.

2. I worry that I'll be stretched too thin. Not only are we bringing in a 4th child, but we're bringing in a 4th child that doesn't have established trust or a bond with us. We'll have to work extra hard to establish routines and follow through with every little thing because we don't have her implied trust that comes with birth. I guess I imagine a child that cries a whole lot and is confused and anxious and I also have three boys who need love and guidance and time and energy. Will I be able to do it all?! So scary to me.

3. I'm worried that it will be obvious that I didn't give birth to her and people will comment about how I just HAD to have a girl because I have the three boys and that my boys will hear that and feel inadequate or like they weren't enough. Or that she'll hear and think that we only want her because she's a girl. I feel so judged for this decision already and there's not even the visual reminder for everyone yet.

4. Mostly, I worry about loving her too much. I know that sounds crazy. But I fear that I'll love her like my own and she'll go back to her birth family and I'll be destroyed. And, if I'm destroyed, what will happen to my children? Will I still be able to be there for them? This fear plagues me the most. I'm keeping a VERY open mind and trying to keep the perspective that she is simply not ours. She has a mommy and daddy who love her and need some help and we're helping by loving her while they get better. It's SO easy to talk about, very hard to practice I imagine.

There's more, but I'll stop now because I realize that this isn't the most uplifting post. When we do welcome her to our family, I will post pictures of her, but have decided not to show her face in pictures for our family's protection. I am also not allowed to share her name, so we'll be using a nickname or simply calling her by her first initial in public. If you know us well and know her name PLEASE never comment using her name. It's a true safety issue as bio families are typically local and sometimes try to find the children the state has removed from them and take them back. I'll update as much as I'm able, but will keep specifics private.

It should be an exciting month for us! I can't wait to see where this journey takes us.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Top 10 Challenge Reads

I read some awesome books in the challenge and have even added a few to my ALL TIME favorite list. Below are my top 10 and a little bit about why I loved them:

(These are not ordered from least to greatest or whichever, but rather in the order that I read them within the challenge) 

A love story about a man with asperger's trying to find his ideal mate. Instead, he befriends the wild and daring Rosie, who does not at all fit his profile of an ideal mate. This book was a feel good book and I love those. I love a good love story and this one delivers. 

I ALWAYS recommend this book to people. And I've never had anyone come back and say they hated it. Just be warned.... you will need tissues and a whole lot of them. This is NOT a feel good story. This is a gut wrenching tear jerker that will leave you wishing you were still reading it, as odd as that sounds. You will LOVE it. It's controversial but still a love story at its core. Just... read it. 

Many people watched this movie and liked it. Well, as usual, the book is SO much better. I didn't even like the movie because I didn't think it did the emotions in the book justice. This book portrays Alice, who is diagnosed with early onset alzheimer's disease. Her and her family's emotions are raw and tangible in the story. As you can imagine, it's another tear jerker. I like to FEEL things when I read. I have another Lisa Genova book on hold for me at library and I can't wait to check that out soon! 

Oh this book. I LOVED this book so very much. I think it's the only teen fiction on my top 10 list, which makes me feel a little bit better. Honestly, I think I've hyped this book up in my mind too much to really talk about it fairly. I fear people will read this book after hearing me talk about it and think, "why does she love this book so much?" But, I did love it. It's another love story, but it just had a weird impact on me. I loved the characters and was rooting for them and on the edge of my seat the whole time. 

Okay, this one is NOT a love story or a feel good story in any way, shape or form. But, this book spoke to me in so many ways. It's the story of a woman writing letters to her husband trying to make sense of her life and the events leading up to her son killing several students and a teacher at his high school. With all of the school violence in today's world, this book is a bit like a punch to the gut and hits very close to home. I wanted to begin homeschooling immediately after reading this, but that's not a new idea of mine (I won't, because I recognize that fear is a terrible reason to homeschool). Anyway, this book is devastating but still important and VERY well done. 

This was the first book I had ever really listened to and enjoyed. It's a slow story, but so REAL and I felt like it quietly snuck up on me. It's the story of a family whose daughter goes missing and they both go back in time and reevaluate their parenting and life prior to her disappearance and try to put themselves back together afterwards. It's just a beautiful story of what you make of your life and how to pick up the pieces after tragedy strikes. This book made my all time favorite list. 

Lest you think I only read tear jerkers or love stories, this book is neither. It was hilarious though and a bit misogynistic, which for some reason, didn't bother me one bit. A man is called to sit shiva with his family that he rarely sees in his childhood home which he never visits immediately after he discovers his wife is having an affair with his boss. And, it does get worse. Or better if you enjoy reading about a train wreck as much as I do. I just love a sarcastic book that says things I think but don't think I'm allowed to actually say. This book was that. Plus, the scene where he actually FINDS his wife sleeping with his boss is truly worth reading the whole book. I laughed so hard, I cried. Damn! I guess this book did make me cry. 

A non fiction on my list! I also listened to this one and would highly recommend listening to it over reading it. The author is also the narrator and, in this case, I think that makes all of the difference. It's the author, Gregory Boyle's, experience working with gang members in LA. He's the pioneer of "Homeboy Industries" which is a company that hires ex gang members and helps keep them off of the streets and employed. His heart and love for this community is admirable and I left this book wanting to be a better person. It made me both laugh and cry. A winner. 

This is a graphic novel, which basically means it's a comic book. But, it's a comic book about the author's experience with her parents aging, being put into a home, and eventually passing away. You wouldn't think it would be so funny, but it really is. It's also REAL. Another example of saying the things you don't think you should say, but everyone is thinking it. It also made me have a conversation about aging and health care and our household belongings and my own parents' aging and so many other important topics that just aren't that fun to talk about. Roz Chast does talk about all of these issues in a relatable and even comical way. Very well done and easily one of my top 5 reads of this year. 

Grab the tissues for this one, too! Never mind, tissues won't help. Maybe just be prepared to change your clothes and might as well hop in the shower because you're going to need to just let the tears flow down the drain while you wash your sorrow away. And then you'll want to make sure to talk about this book with someone who's read it. Because it's SO freaking good. You'll want to talk to random strangers about how good this book was. You won't, for fear that you'll start uncontrollably sobbing in front of a STRANGER, but you'll want to. The story of a couple who is unable to have children when a baby washes up on the shore of their tiny island. The story plays out the consequences of their decision of what to do about this little girl and also tell the story of a marriage at odds and the pain and longing for children in the life of a couple who cannot bear them. If you struggle with infertility or reading about pregnancy loss (both early in pregnancy AND later) is a trigger for you, you might want to avoid this story. Overall, though, it's haunting and beautiful and tragic all at once. One of my top books of all time. 

That's it!! Happy reading :) I'll be back soon to talk about my goals for the next 52 weeks. I also promise to blog about other stuff at some point. I have big thoughts about foster care/adoption and my kids deserve an update as well - they're growing and changing SO much! Thanks for reading and following my challenge. I felt cheered on the whole year! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Challenge Completed!

I finished my challenge!! I'm SO freaking excited. Especially because I felt like it was quite the undertaking and I'm not known for finishing challenges. But, I really did it. I read a book a week for an entire year. And, in that year, we've bought a house, moved, painted every room in that house, and completed all of the requirements for a foster care license. Yes, I'm patting my own back.  I wish I had a cookie I could give myself.

My goal was really just to READ again. I used to read, a little bit. Maybe a book a month or so... sometimes less, never more. But I wanted to fall in love with reading and really become a READER. I've realized what type of book really grabs me, which types challenge me and when to give up and just put a book down never to pick it up again. But mostly, I just love reading now. I love talking about books and planning my next library trips and getting lost in a great story. I definitely watch less TV now (although TV watching is still a very large part of my life, not going to lie...) and I find I feel more relaxed because I take the time to SIT or be in the bathtub and just be present with a book and not have my phone nearby or anyone else around to talk to. It's peaceful.

I'm still thinking about my goals for this upcoming year. I think rather than a number, I'll make a specific list that I make sure I complete because my one complaint with this challenge was that I often didn't push myself to read something out of my comfort zone because the goal was to just READ and completing one book a week didn't lend to many slower paced books. I still haven't read the Harry Potter series (I can't get through book one - what is my problem? What am I missing? I'm stuck on page 100 or so...) and I've never read "Anne of Green Gables" or "Little Women" and I'd like to reread "To Kill A Mockingbird" (I think maybe I read it in high school?). Anyway, I'll have to come up with something to keep the momentum going!

Here is the list of all 52 books I read during this challenge in order:

  1. Where’d You Go Bernadette?
  2. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  3. The Rosie Project
  4. We Were Liars
  5. Me Before You 
  6. Wonder
  7. Eleanor & Park
  8. Insurgent
  9. Room
  10. Attachments
  11. Still Alice
  12. Delancey 
  13. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion 
  14. The Farm 
  15. The Husband’s Secret 
  16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime 
  17. Sea of Tranquility 
  18. Station Eleven 
  19. Bossypants 
  20. The Fever 
  21. We Need to Talk About Kevin 
  22. Christmas Jars
  23. Christmas Jars: A Reunion 
  24. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells 
  25. Everything I Never Told You 
  26. Outlander
  27. The Children Act 
  28. The Book of Unknown Americans 
  29. Not That Kind of Girl 
  30. Big Little Lies 
  31. I’ll Give You the Sun 
  32. All the Light We Cannot See 
  33. Defending Jacob 
  34. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  35. This is Where I Leave You 
  36. Tattoos on the Heart 
  37. Reconstructing Amelia 
  38. Leaving Time 
  39. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 
  40. A Little Life 
  41. Brain on Fire
  42. A Child Called It
  43. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? 
  44. The Lost Boy 
  45. The Light Between Oceans 
  46. The Silent Wife 
  47. Dark Places 
  48. The Selection 
  49. The Elite 
  50. The One 
  51. Our Souls at Night 
  52. Food 
Tomorrow I'll come back and tell you my top 10 favorite books from the challenge!
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