Tag Archives: adoption

A Little About Judah

We’ve been home from china for six almost twelve weeks now. (I started this post at six weeks home but couldn’t bring myself to finish putting my thoughts down until now.) I honestly didn’t expect to go this long before writing another post but up until now I really haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and gather my thoughts and write… ok maybe I have but I’ve been indulging in my favorite pastime… reading.   Let’s just call it maternity leave, lol!

In addition to adjusting to life as a family of five over the past twelve weeks we also moved into our house… seven days after being back in country!  It was crazy and looking back I’m not sure how we did it but it was better than letting Judah adjust to our apartment and then uprooting him and moving into a house a month or two after returning home.

As much as I know you would all love to see pics of Whistle Haven I know you would much rather hear about Judah.  Besides at this point the house isn’t exactly ready for pics.  We still have construction workers coming by on a regular basis and moving boxes scattered all around.  It’s beginning to look like we live there though and it certainly feels like home now.

So Let’s Talk About Judah

Noah for females in Hebrew means “motion”, Esther means “star”, and

Judah means “to praise”.

Both girls have certainly lived up to the meaning of their names and I don’t expect Judah to be any different.  My heart and prayer is for Judah’s life to bring praise to God but I’ve realized over the past twelve weeks that to truly do that I must share where he’s coming from. So that as he overcomes hurdles and learns to work around barriers you will see the need to praise God for all the work that he is doing in and through Judah’s life.  I will be the first to tell you that God has taught me so much already through Judah.  Adoption is by far one of the toughest things (both times) that I have ever done in my life but also (both times) one of the ways that as I look back at my faith I can see the biggest growth and the times when I have clung to the scriptures and the love of God most.

Adoption is tough.  As hard as it is for the parents it in no way compares to how difficult it is for the child.  In Judah’s case it has been pure terror and it completely traumatized him for the first eight weeks at home.  Suddenly everything he knew was ripped out from underneath him and he had no idea why.  The only thing that soothed him was Michael Luke and me holding him WHILE walking. If we stopped even for a minute it was more than he could bear. He would almost immediately start biting his thumb and crying.  I don’t mean sucking his thumb like some babies do I mean physically biting. Biting to the point that his thumb was calloused from biting it so much.  In China his nanny told me that he bit his thumb to tell people he was hungry.  I haven’t seen him do that since coming home because I don’t let that sweet boy go hungry but he does bite it when he becomes uncomfortable or is trying to go to sleep.  I can happily share that he doesn’t bite his thumb as much now.  About four weeks ago he started tolerating me holding him while standing still and he doesn’t bite his thumb near as much when trying to go to sleep.  In fact sometimes he just accepts that it is bed time and rolls over and goes to sleep. I am thankful that during this exhausting and tough time of Judah adjusting he doesn’t tolerate his stroller and car seat. So let’s just say we may or may not have driven lots of miles out of our way just to remain in the car and we may or may not have wandered aimlessly around the malls and parks just to fill our time.  It worked though and we are seeing light on the other end of the tunnel now.

Nowadays, Judah still likes to be held a lot but he does tolerate playtime a few times throughout the day and is starting to really enjoy watching his sisters play. He also loves music.  So the girls and I love to crank up some Disney songs and dance around the room while he sits flailing his arms and head around joining in the fun with us.

 

A couple of weeks ago Judah got some adorable glasses that I think took his cuteness factor to an entirely new level.  Apparently he’s pretty nearsighted so this helps to improve his vision.  We aren’t sure how clear he sees though because on top of being nearsighted he also has nystagmus.  Basically it means that his eyes are constantly moving back and forth making it hard for him to focus or see things clearly.  Remember when you were a kid and you used to spin around in circles and then you stopped but everything looked like it kept spinning?  Well, that’s similar to how Judah views the world… without the dizziness.  It will be a while before we actually know how good his vision is but I think he sees pretty good. He’s able to distinguish foods on his plate and will track us around the room.

Nystagmus was one of the special needs listed when we reviewed his file last year.  Michael Luke and I had been praying about Judah, at the time his name was Renquan (pronounced ren-cwhin) for several days.  I was nervous about adopting a child with low vision who might possible be legally blind.  For several days I had been praying to God, asking him for wisdom and to make it clear whether Judah was the child for us.  One of my concerns was how would a vision impaired person get around independently. Well, I kid you not, the very day I asked God to make it clear to me he did!  We were in Salt Lake City at the time riding the trolley around downtown and at one of the stops SIX blind people got on.  The first waited at the door and used his cane to count each person as they boarded.  He clicked his cane after the sixth one boarded and said, “ok, that’s everyone.” It was literally the blind leading the blind and God’s way of showing me that everything would be oik.  I knew then that Judah was the child God intended for us.  Now that we are home Judah’s low vision seems like such a minor thing.

This past week were finally able to begin our therapy sessions. So far we have started occupational and developmental therapy with physical and speech therapy beginning soon.  Judah’s therapy doesn’t have as much  to with the fact that he has low vision but that he also has hypotonia or as it’s more commonly referred to as low muscle tone.  Think floppy baby.   In short his brain has not fully learned how to activate and use all of his muscles to the best of their ability.  This leaves him developmentally and cognitively behind but according to others who have been down this whole therapy route therapy can do wonders for children like him.  So let’s just say I’m one ecstatic mama because carrying around 22lbs of baby all day is a workout!

Regardless of Judah’s special needs he is made in the image of God and he is fearfully and wonderfully made.  And I’ve fallen completely in love with the little boy that makes the sweetest sound as he pats me on the back, squeezes my neck, and then gives me slobbery kisses.  In this broken world he’s discovering love.

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Can We Make It Work

Umm… so this post is long and very short on pictures and for that I’m sorry but there’s a lot of catching up to do.

It’s been a while since I shared an adoption update.  And like most big gaps in my adoption update posts it’s because there has been limited activity and progress.  Before I catch you up to speed let’s take a look at where we were in the process In mid-December.

  • Homestudy
  • Letter of Intent/ Pre-Approval
  • I800A sent/approval
  • Dossier to China
  • Letter of Action
  • I800 Sent
  • I800 Approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Article 5
  • Travel Approval from China
  • Consulate Appointment Date in China – Then entire trip revolves around this date!

Right after we received our Letter of Action (LOA) in December we sent our I800 to the U.S. government and just before the new year we got U.S. approval to adopt Judah specifically.  This step was really special to me because he was approved by immigration to become a U.S citizen.  And while I seriously doubted there was a chance he would be turned down it’s always nice to see everything in writing.

Immediately after getting the green light from the U.S. we sent everything off to China and began waiting on our Article 5.  Article 5 looks like this: a courier will pick up the Article 5 from the US Embassy and deliver it to Chinese Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (Chinese branch of government that oversees adoption).  The Article 5 lets CCCWA know that you are approved by the US government to adopt that specific child and have appropriately jumped through every hoop and paid every fee our two governments could think of.  After this step CCCWA issues TA.

While all this was going on we had to do something that wasn’t listed as one of the above steps.  We had to apply for an extension to our homestudy because our original homestudy was set to expire February 12.  This doesn’t typically happen to families while waiting but this adoption has taken us a while.  We are currently over two and half years into the process since we started.  If you are considering adoption please don’t let this scare you.  This is no where near the typical length of time it takes to adopt from China… or Hong Kong.  Some countries can take much longer but agencies are really good at having guestimated times for each country that you can look at before beginning the process. Our process has been slow because we moved in the beginning, Michael Luke switched jobs, and we switched countries.  Things like that can really slow an adoption down.  So moral of the story… try to avoid that if possible.

We applied for our extension in late December and honestly felt like we would have it approved by mid-January.  Essentially leaving no room for conflict with travel.  That was not the case.

Last Wednesday we got an email from our social worker at Lifeline letting us know that we had received Article 5 from China.  Michael Luke and I were beyond excited because we knew that travel approval was just beyond the corner.  Later that night I hopped on the China Adoption group that I’m a part of on Facebook to see how quick people receive travel approval after Article 5.  It looked like anywhere from three to ten days.

“We are going to have Travel Approval by the end of the week.”, I told Michael Luke.  Then I started praying that God would give us travel approval by the end of the week.  I prayed and prayed.  Thursday morning after I dropped the girls off at their Mother’s Day Out for Homeschoolers I received a call.  I almost didn’t answer it because the number wasn’t saved in my phone.  It was Logan with Lifeline letting me know that we had just received Travel Approval!!!  I could not believe it.  It had not even been 24 hours since we got Article 5.  Overjoyed doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt… especially when our passports with stamped visas arrived at my door shortly after.

But that wasn’t all.  Logan shared with me that the orphanage Judah was in wanted to know if we could be in China by February 20th to pick him up because they were already traveling to the capital city to bring two other kids and felt it would be easy to make the 3-4 hour journey one time with all three.  I could not believe it.  The 20th?  So soon!

Could we make it work?  That would mean we would need to leave by February 15th at the latest because we plan to spend a few days in Hong Kong before traveling into China.  Talk about running around like a mad women… a mamma on a mission. I knew we could do it.  It would be frantic and I’m sure items would be left behind. We would probably make a mad dash to the airport with all our stuff we haphazardly threwn in a suitcase… hoping it was enough, and then crash exhausted in our seats Wednesday morning. We could do it.

Except for one little problem… it’s the middle of February and our homestudy extension has still not been approved!  So we had to turn down the offer to come much quicker than most families are normally allowed to after receiving Travel Approval because we technically don’t have the green light from the U.S. yet.

What do we lack to get the green light?  Well our social worker talked to our immigration officer and she is going to approve our request for an extension… once she get our updated fingerprints so they can check our criminal record again.  You know, just in case I’ve committed any notorious crimes you might have heard about in the news over the past few months.  And unfortunately the need for fingerprints has been in demand lately so the government has been bogged down trying to get everyone’s processed. Go figure.

We had already been told weeks earlier that our letter for our fingerprint appointment should be in the mail.  So where was it?!  Turns out it really wasn’t.  They don’t mail them until about two weeks before your appointment and after checking with our immigration officer our social worker shared with us that our appointment wasn’t until the 22nd. Two days after the day China wanted us to get Judah.

So the only thing standing between us and Judah was getting our fingerprints scanned. Ironically, this same thing happened with Esther.  Only in that case our fingerprints weren’t set to expire until two months after we got back home but the U.S government requested updated ones before we traveled.  That’s when we had them scanned the day before we left.  Mine then failed because they couldn’t read my pinkies. So we had to visit the U.S. Embassy in Hong Kong to have mine scanned again. Then they failed again but thankfully we had a Plan B that worked to get me back home. That’s how we ended up staying an extra week in Hong Kong.

For that reason we will not be booking any travel until we hear from the U.S. government that my fingers have been clearly scanned.  Adoptive parents with only one final step standing between them and their son don’t just sit around and do nothing though.  Nope.  Friday we finally received our letter in the mail letting us know that we did indeed have an appointment on the 22nd.

So yesterday morning I met Michael Luke at the fingerprint office and we requested to have our fingers scanned early.  We talked to the lady in charge and shared with her that this was the ONLY thing standing in the way of our travel to China.  She wasn’t easily swung by emotions though and told us that she knew this was important and that the government understood and that’s why we had an appointment date of the 22nd.  Come back then. I really had to rely on the Holy Spirit for self-control at this point.  “Can we just wait and take someone’s place if they don’t show up?”, I asked.  There were 61 names on the list for that day and she didn’t sound hopeful but she said if we wanted to wait we could.

I had come prepared with an entire bag full of activities for the girls and I wasn’t about to give up that easily and just wait until the 22nd.  So Michael Luke and I took a seat and waited…  and prayed. We waited and waited some more.  After only an hour and half of waiting with no cell phone or television we were BOTH called back to have our fingerprints scanned.  It was an answer to so many people’s prayers and for that I’m thankful.

What’s Remains

  • Homestudy
  • Letter of Intent/ Pre-Approval
  • I800A sent/approval
  • Dossier to China
  • Letter of Action
  • I800 Sent
  • I800 Approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Article 5 
  • Travel Approval from China
  • Consulate Appointment Date in China – Then entire trip revolves around this date!

So now we wait again.  It should take a few of days for our fingerprints to be checked and then once the approval is mailed to our agency we can contact the U.S. Consulate in China to ask for an appointment. Typically that date runs about a month out from Travel Approval or in our case when we have fingerprint approval.  So, I’m a little bummed that we missed out on the opportunity to travel early and skip the month long wait but at the same time I’m thankful.

I’m thankful because I have a little girl turning six at the beginning of March and we plan to have her party before travel. Even if it’s a spur of the moment party on a random weeknight she will have her party because once we return home we really won’t be getting out much as we go through the bonding process.  There’s also this little house project we have going on and preparing to move once we get back from China.  I’m also a huge fan of consignment sales and have been busy listing the girls old clothes for one of the sales coming up that I also plan to volunteer and shop at.  I love being able to knock out almost all my shopping for them in one trip so I really hate to miss out on that.  So even though we won’t be traveling this month we’ve got plenty to do to keep us busy until it’s time to travel.  Through all this God has been reminding me that he is never a day early or a day late but always on time.  For me to have it or wish for it any other way would be against his plans. I can rest in that.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. – Habukkuk 2:3

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Christmas Break

For the non-homeschooling people out there you may wonder how Christmas break is different than a school week for my girls since we stay home everyday anyway.  Or, how is it different for me?

It’s no different for us than any other family. The girls seems to believe that no school for two weeks is going to be the most amazing thing ever!  When asked what they were going to do all day they each replied, “play”.  I told them they would probably get bored of so much free time and be begging for school to start back after the new year. We shall see.

For me, it’s an intentional break from staying caught up with the lesson plan and straggling the line between mommy and teach while trying to maintain cooperation and order in the classroom… dining room/ bedroom floor, sofa.  It’s two weeks to try to catch up on house cleaning and maybe even organize a thing or two.  It’s two weeks to plan stress free crafts, movie dates, and special excursions with the girls. Who knows we may even get a little crazy and skip quiet time one or twice!

Christmas break is also a reminder that this is my last two weeks free with just my two girls.  My last extended special time with them before Judah joins us early next year.  I’m soaking it up and making the most of by doing things like painting our nails and watching movies like White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life with them.

We are so excited about bringing Judah home next year but I know that enjoying this special time with just the two of them isn’t something to be wasted. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was enjoying my last few weeks with just Noah.

Adoption is a lot like pregnancy in that at first you don’t know much about your child. Then you get those first sonogram pictures or decide on a country and you really start to envision this child and picture them in your future. Next, you have the gender reveal or matching. Then. Then you can see those hands, the feet, the eyelashes, little bits of a personality and you are ready for to hold that little one in your arms and give them all the love that they need.

Well that’s where we have been since July….and why thinking of him lying in a crib with dozens of other little ones makes me sad and eager to bring him home.  God is using this time to remind me to pray for him.  To be thankful for the caregivers he has there and that he is being cared for.  To be thankful that we are only three to four months away from travel.  And to be thankful that last month we received an update on him with pictures and a twenty second video.  Twenty seconds… it’s not much different than what an expecting mom sees of her little one on sonogram. Enough to cause us to fall even more in love with the little on God is entrusting us with.  Enough to cherish.

So besides singing Christmas carols and drinking eggnog what special activities are you planning these last few days before Christmas?

Until we travel to China next year we are not allowed to share identifying pictures of Judah. Please know that we wish we could share his beautiful face with you but that we are just following guidelines.  To follow our entire adoption journey click the adoption tab above or use this link.

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