Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Next Steps and Prayer Requests

I forgot to update everyone! Our FBI apostilles arrived to Gladney a while ago and were sent to Colombia. So as of right now our dossier is either fully translated or almost finished.  Here's the next series of events so you understand the process. We are somewhere around step 1 or 2. Hopefully we'll know something for sure, soon.

Approval Process (If any of you veteran adoptive parents are reading this and find something inaccurate, please correct me! I'm still a newbie!)
1. Our dossier is sent to the translators. Then our agency double checks everything.

2. Our dossier is taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogota to check apostilles and get a stamp on it. The unfortunate thing is that only four documents per agency are allowed to be submitted each day. So that means our dossier could take a week or more just to get all the stamps it needs. I was told that ours is the only dossier being processed right now, so hopefully that means a shorter wait.

3. Our dossier is then submitted to the ICBF office in Bogota, the capital. There it will be approved that we are indeed allowed to adopt in Colombia. From what I hear, there is a particular woman in the office that sometimes pulls the dossiers of people who are adopting older or sibling groups in order to make the process go faster. We're praying that she will pull ours and get it moving.

4. The ICBF office in Bogota will then send our dosser to Medellin, where our chicos live. There, they will review the homestudy and psychological and other documents to be sure we are a good match for these particular children. We already sent a Letter of Intent back when we were matched with them, which essentially puts those children "on hold" for us. No other family is allowed to view their file when they are "on hold".

5. If the ICBF sees that we are all a good match, they will issue a formal referral to our agency for us. A referral is where we will receive updated pictures, medical records, a biopsychosocial report and any other info important to them.

6. We will review the updated referral information and if we decide to proceed with the adoption we will send a letter of acceptance and a care package for the children. The social workers in Colombia will start the transition process with the children, explaining to them what is going to happen.

7. At the same time, we will send all the children's paperwork, along with the I800 immigration forms to USCIS, where they will review and issue a visa for our children to become US citizens once the adoption is finalized. This is called an article 5 letter, I think.

8. As soon as the Colombian government receives notification that the children are approved, they will issue us a Travel Date for our "Presentation" meeting where we will meet the children and they will be placed with us.

9.This is when the airline tickets need to be bought, packing and repacking happens, and Brent and I have to go to the Colombian Consulate in Washington DC  to get special visas that allow us to legally have custody of the children before the adoption is final.

10. Then we TRAVEL! We will have a 10 day bonding time with the kids. At the end we will have an interview with the ICBF social workers where they assure that all is a good match. Then our paperwork is submitted to court. The time that it takes for the court to finalize the adoption (called Sentencia) is anyone's guess. Average time is 3-4 weeks. So we'll see. After Sentencia, we will fly to Bogota where we will get the children's visas and passports so we can travel HOME!

11. Then we begin the "new normal" as a family of NINE! 

Prayer Requests

Writing it all out looks like it will take a LONG time, but our social worker is still saying we should be prepared to travel in February or early March. That would be awesome!

We still have a TON of stuff to do, especially get bedrooms painted and organized, and raise enough money to cover our travel costs (which could be near $20,000).  But, God is in control and He will provide! We are so excited to see Him work! This whole process has been such a step of faith and He has not disappointed us in anything.

Here are our specific things we are petitioning the Lord for right now. We would be most grateful and humbled if you would storm the gates of heaven on our behalf.

Please pray that God would provide the money needed to travel. We believe He is able and excited to let us see Him provide.

Please pray that our paperwork will sail through each step smoothly and quickly and that we will have patience as we sit and wait for news.

Please pray that there will be no devastating surprises with the children's referral paperwork. That God would give us wisdom as we make the final decision to say "yes" to these little ones.

Also, please pray for our little chicos. Their world is going to be turned completely upside down in a few short weeks. Everything that is familiar and normal to them is going to change. My heart aches as I imagine how confusing and difficult this all will be for them.

New language, new parents, new siblings, new house, new food, new bed, new culture, new toys, new friends, new land, new rules, new everything. It will all be overwhelming. They may grieve for a long time over all they have lost.

Pray that God will give them peace that surpasses their circumstances and their understanding. No matter how loving and gentle we can be with them through the trauma of adoption, it is only God in His mercy that can help them heal and trust.

Pray for Caitlin, Grant, Jake and Quinn as they learn how to love in a way they have never had to before. Give them patience and longsuffering as they bear with all the changes that this adoption will bring. Pray that they will grow in Christ's likeness because of it.

Pray that we will be a witness to those we come in contact with here in the US and also in Colombia. Pray that we will be BOLD for Christ and that we would never dishonor His name because of our own selfishness.

We love each of you and thank you for all the encouragement you are to us.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I just got an email from our agency saying our dossier is already on its way to Colombia for translations!!! Yay!

We are still missing our FBI apostilles, but they should be here by the time translations are done. I hope! Everyone pray that the Sec. of State in D.C. gets them done fast! 

We would love to have our formal referral before Christmas!  I wanna go shopping!!!!LOL!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Immigration Approval is Here!

Yesterday afternoon we got our I800A approval in the mail. We were already approved through our Mexico process, so all we needed was a "change of country" update. Thankfully, we didn't need new biometrics (fancy name for fingerprints!) done again.

In the evening, I got a surprise phone call from Raul, Gladney's Program Manager from Tampa. He has our dossier with our updated immigration approval. Now the only thing we're waiting on are our FBI apostilles which we had to mail separately. He did say that if we hadn't received our apostilles by Thursday, he'd go ahead and mail our dossier off to Colombia to start translations on what we do have. I'm praying that these apostilles come right away and don't slow our timeline down too much.

I did enjoy chatting with him (with his thick Colombian accent!) for about 45 minutes. He definitely suggested that we stay in an apartment as opposed to the Intercontinental hotel. We had been leaning that direction because the cost is significantly lower and we'd have more space, BUT it means I need to grocery shop and cook in Colombia. That has been striking fear into me! I have a hard enough time shopping and cooking in the US! I am really nervous about doing it in a foreign country with different foods and in Spanish! He set my mind at ease, and reassured me that it will not be difficult. The stores in Medellin are very Americanized and have plenty of choices!  So I'm feeling a ton better about the food and lodging issues.

He even said he'd try to find us a 3 bedroom apartment that has a pool and gym in the complex! I would LOVE that, since keeping 7 kids entertained for a month or more may become difficult without easy diversions. I don't really see us doing a ton of sightseeing (bummer) mainly due to there being NINE of us that we'd have to figure out transportation for to go anywhere. And after seeing pictures of their Taxis- it ain't gonna happen! They are pretty small!

We'll be doing a lot of walking, I'm sure. Thankfully, Raul said he'd find us a place in a very touristy area- and mentioned El Poblado. It is near shopping malls, restaurants, parks, etc. and is a wealthy area of town.

Now that we have a better idea on what kind of accomodations we will be in, it is easier to figure out how much money we'll still need for our in country costs. This has been so frustrating since the costs vary widely between an apartment and staying in a Presidential Suite in the Intercontinental Hotel! We're talking hundreds of dollars a day difference!

He's still saying that we could be traveling in late January, although it is possible it might be as late as mid February since only half of the ICBF staff comes in during the month of December and things could take longer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Shopping Anyone?

I just wanted to give a reminder to all you Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or just plain Christmas shoppers!

I have been signed up as an Amazon Affiliate for the past year.

This means that if you click on our Amazon Search link on the right hand side of my blog and purchase your items through that link, we will get a (very) small commission to use towards our adoption!

Hey! It's not a lot, but every little bit helps!

So please consider whether you would support us in this painless way! Thanks so much!

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, our day is going to be quieter than usual. We usually celebrate at my mother in law's but scheduling demanded that we move our giant family gathering to Saturday. So today we are having a quiet day as a family. Actually, it won't be totally quiet, since my sister and brother in law and their 4 children will be joining us for dinner. (It's comical to me that I consider 6 more people a quiet family gathering. Compared to the number of people at my mother in law's house on thanksgiving, today is NOTHING!LOL I love every minute of the chaos, though!)

Anyway, the relative quietness is allowing some thoughts to swirl around in my mind, so I'll share them with you...

As I lugged bags of groceries in the house last night....I thought about how many children have never even been to a grocery store.

As I hulled the 19 pound turkey from the fridge and began the roaster... I thought about the children who will rejoice because they found some rotten food scraps in a dumpster.

As I peeled potatos and listened to the radio playing worship music... I thought about the little ones who have never heard the words of grace and truth for which they may give thanks to their Creator.

As I smelled the pumpkin pie baking and turkey roasting....I thought about the smells that the least of these must inhale as they play in the ghetto streets.

As I set the table with my best linens and dishes, ready for loved ones to enjoy.... I thought about the loneliness of the orphan and widow and whispered prayers of comfort for our "almost" children in Mexico and the ones yet to join us in Colombia.

As I swept the floor, again, sliding a few hidden toys from beneath the sofa... I thought about grace, and how God continually cleanses me from the dirt I keep piling up in my heart.

As my daughter fooled around playing songs of thanksgiving on the piano... I thought of how I live a life of ease and blessing and even in my gratitude, I wrestle with whether this is right.

As I listen to a preacher on the radio speak of the gospel... I think about Christians in far away places that are being beaten right now because of their unwavering faith in Christ.

As I take a minute to glance at a few sale ads for tomorrow....I think about how we keep trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. Christ is the only one who will satisfy.

As I tidy the bookshelf that is a disorderly mess of Sunday School papers, scattered Bibles, and church bulletins.... I think about the Christians who are reading God's words on scraps of smuggled paper in order not to be caught.

I am so thankful for this quiet morning where God invaded my thoughts amidst the holiday preparations. How can I not praise Him?

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
  Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
  Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Signatures, Weddings, and Tears

This past Tuesday was one of the craziest days we have had through this whole adoption process. It's a hysterical story (at least for us), but it's a LONG story. So bear with me....(I apologize in advance for the inconsistent verb tenses. I wrote this over many days so they changed and it's too much to fix right now!)

Our social worker at our agency is leaving for her belated honeymoon on Monday. She'll be gone for two weeks, which means we really wanted to get our whole dossier to her before then so she can get them sent to Colombia to start the translation process. In order to do that we needed to get all the final touches on our documents no later than Tuesday.

8:30am- We were expecting to receive our homestudy in the mail by 8:30am. Our goal was to grab the package and immediately get on the road to go get all our authentications and apostilles.

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the adoption process, let me explain. Each document we have has to be notorized. In order to prove that the notary is a true notary, we need to go to the circuit court  in the  county where that notary was commissioned to receive another stamp. This is called an authentication. (Note: Not all states require this step! Maryland does, though.)  Our documents were notarized by people in Harford County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County, so we knew we'd have to get to 3 counties that day!  Then, after we get all the authentications, we go to the Secretary of State building in Annapolis to get the shiny gold stickers called apostilles. These prove that the authentications are legitimate. (Can we say "RED TAPE"!)

11:50am- Ok, back to the story. We were very IMPATIENTLY waiting for the package that was supposed to be there in the early morning. BUT, the package didn't end up coming until 11:50am. Not much time to drive to 3 counties and 4 office buildings by 4pm. (Actually, you have to submit all the documents by 3:30 in order for them to be finished by 4pm.) So, we raced out the door, dropped the kids off at my mother in laws and headed to the county court house.

12:45-Brent dropped me off while he found parking. I needed one last notary so I ran into the bank on the same street. I asked if they had a notary, but, of course, she said no. I asked if she knew of anyplace nearby that did and she recommended the old pharmacy on Main Street.

Out I ran, through the rain, to find the pharmacy. I found a pharmacy that looked like it hadn't seen anything modern since 1950. The elderly lady clerk was finishing with a customer and there was another customer behind her. Since I was in a huge time crunch, I discreetly asked if she had a notary at the pharmacy. She very rudely responded, "Well, I am, but I can't be bothered with that right now! You'll have to find someone else." My heart sunk, but, I was not going to go down without a fight! LOL!

I pulled out the desperate, pleading voice and begged her to do it anyway. The customer in front of me  (an angel) said, "Oh, honey, you go ahead of me. All these working moms, trying to get all their things done on their lunch break..." I could've kissed her! I told her, "Actually, I'm not a working mom, but we are adopting 3 children and I have to drive to three counties by 3:30 and I can't do any of it without getting a notary."

Well, let me just tell you- that worked! The rude lady behind the counter softened and snapped to it!
Out I raced, over one street and into the court building to get the notaries. Thankfully, having done this all before, I knew exactly where to go and didn't have to waste time looking at the signs. I got 5 authentications, and then we were off- racing over to Baltimore County.

1:45pm- Last time, Baltimore Co. was the place that gave me a hard time on the phone about how picky they are about their requirements. So I was a little nervous that things may not go so smoothly. Brent pulled up, I jumped out while he circled the block to look for a metered parking space out front. I literally ran through the building, handed the lady my papers, she looked at them for less than two seconds, slapped some stickers on, and I raced back out! I think I was in the building less than 4 minutes! Brent hadn't even had time to get out of the car to put quarters in the meter!
So, since everything was moving so smoothly, we felt confident that all would be fine. We both hadn't had any lunch and the gas tank was dangerously low, but we both felt like we should press on to the last stop and just get it done.

2:30- We arrived at the circle of office buildings in Annapolis. Brent dropped me off at the circuit court building while he found a parking place. I raced in, and handed the last two papers to the lady there.

That's when the day really got crazy.  She couldn't find either of the notary people in the system! What? How could that be?

Finally, she found the one. She had been spelling the name wrong. But, the one from our Psychological Report was not in the database anywhere. And, to top it off, the embossed seal was not pressed through the paper enough so it didn't show all the information very well. (Our psych. report was the one that we had problems with last time. AND, it was a different notary! Sheesh! The doc needs a new notary!)

After what seemed like hours, she finally determined that even though the notary had written Anne Arundel County, he was actually licensed in Queen Anne's County. Oh, my goodness. I cannot even tell you how crushed I was. I couldn't even think straight! What in the world could we do? Even if we did drive to QA County, the paperwork was written wrong! She said the only option was to get our paperwork rewritten, signed and notarized again. I left, very close to tears, only to meet Brent at the door and tell him the disappointing news.

Yet, still we were not going down without a fight! LOL!

When we got to the car, I called the Psychologists office and spoke to his secretary. She was super sweet and apologetic. Thankfully, he was only a 10 minute drive away and the doc hadn't gone home yet! He was ready to walk out the door, but he said this was more important. We really liked this grandfatherly old man, he just picks lousy notaries! His secretary was printing up 4 unsigned copies and we would run down the end of the strip mall to a real estate agent office and get someone to notarize them. Great!

2:50pm. We, of course, hit every stinkin' red light along the way, hit rain, traffic, and, yes, even a funeral procession! At this point, what else could we do but laugh? Once we arrived, we raced down to the real estate office for the notary. But, of course, the guy had left for lunch!
Then the secretary suggested going through the intersection to the other strip mall across the street to a mortgage company. I asked the doctor if he wouldn't mind just hopping into our car. So we "tossed" the 70 yr old doc in the backseat. Just as we pulled into the parking space, he got a call from his secretary saying the notary was in the middle of a house closing and wasn't available! Arg!

Then, we drove a little further and I ran into a Nationwide office and asked for a notary. Nope!

This was getting crazy and we were getting a little slap happy. We're trying to act calm in front of the doctor. After all, he knew Brent's history and we didn't want him to change his mind about us! LOL!

Back to his same strip mall at the suggestion of another real estate office. The doc and I both hopped out, knowing for sure they'd have to have one! Nope! Are there no notaries in this town???

One more suggestion- the Bank of America a few blocks down. Ok. we navigate through rain and traffic and too many red lights again, watching the clock and listening to the doctor ask, "Now, what time do you need to be back to Annapolis?" As if the 10th time he asks it might actually be different!

FINALLY, there is a notary at the bank! The doctor signs, then she does her seal on each page. Then I watch in horror as I notice she has signed two of the documents with only her initials! AAAAHHHH! I don't want to be rude, but I have to stop her. "Oh, excuse me, I'm sure this is how you always sign it, but do you mind signing your full name just as it's written on the seal?" She assures me she has notarized hundreds of documents with just her initials, and it's always been fine. Sigh. But, thankfully, after I insist, she humors me and signs the last two documents with her full name.

It's 3:15. We race back out, drop the doctor off and head back to Annapolis. In the car we laugh at how crazy the last hour has been and relive driving our psychologist around in the back seat of the car. (I know, it probably isn't funny to you all, but at that point, I'm glad we were laughing and not crying, so it was hysterical!)
We rehearse our plan... Brent will slow the car down to a safe enough speed for me to jump out in front of the court house. I will get the authentication on the psych report. He will park and race into the Sec. of State office so he is at least signed in by 3:30 with all the rest of the documents. He will then beg the lady in there to be patient until I arrive! I will RUN two blocks to the Sec. of State office with the last document. We feel hopeful and giddy that this might actually work!

3:25pm- Brent slows, I jump, Brent continues on and almost crashes a police cruiser! I literally run into the building, throw my stuff through the metal detector and run into the office. I go to the same lady that I had an hour ago and tell her we got a new notary. She takes a look at the document and sighs. Then she gets up and goes and talks to her boss at the other end of the room. As I stand there, I notice that the boss is in the process of officiating a wedding ceremony. There's all kinds of joy and hoopla happening 10 feet away!

The lady walks back to me with a downcast look on her face. "What's wrong?" I ask her. She says that she can't accept this document either. The signature doesn't match the signature they have on file! I say, "No! It's ok! I have another signature! LOL!" And I hand her the one with the initials. She says no to the initials. They are very wrong. Initials aren't allowed. I ask to see the original signature. For cryin' out loud! You can definitely tell it's her signature- but she has an extra loop!

And this, my friends, is where I lost it. Out came the TEARS. After a completely stressful day (month, year) I couldn't hold back any more. The tears flowed all while the couple at the end of the room got married! They probably thought I was just sentimental! The poor lady. I knew she felt bad and was regretting making a big deal out of a loop!

I told her that I didn't know what to do. How could I go back to the same notary and tell her that her signature wasn't her signature? When it was! It just didn't match a little index card she had signed 5 years before. After all we had been through, how could I ask the doctor to do it all over again? And now I wouldn't be able to get our paperwork in on time.

The lady just stared at the documents for probably 5 minutes while I cried quietly. Then she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, "I"m just gonna do it. If I ask my boss again, she'll just say no, but this signature is perfectly fine and she's just difficult."

Bless this dear, sweet woman! She quietly pulled out her paperwork and  typed up the authentication. I didn't speak, but mouthed "Thank you" over and over again!

It costs $1 and as I went to pay, I told her all I had was a $20.  Her face fell. It was then that I realized that the cash register was at her boss' desk if she needed to get change. "Can I write a check?" She smiled with relief! So I wrote that check for $1 and sped out of the office without making eye contact with the boss! I am so thankful for that lady who got it done! I hope she doesn't get in trouble!

3:40- Just for the record, I am completely out of shape. I learned this all too easily as I ran, as fast as my legs could go, in the rain, under the construction scaffolding, two blocks over and down one block to the Sec. of State building. I just KNEW I was going to slip since it was so slick, but I didn't! I made it to the office just as the worker there was finishing our documents. I, breathlessly, handed her the last one, and thirty seconds later we walked out.

3:50- I am in awe. It is ONLY by the grace of God that we accomplished what we did. We left in shock that we actually did it. We are exhausted mentally, physically (me from running!), and emotionally. And a little lightheaded since neither of us had eaten all day!

If you have made it through this epic-sized post, I am impressed. It has taken me FOREVER to write it. I'm afraid it is a bit boring to everyone else, but I wanted to remember the details for our chicos when we tell them how God moved mountains (or in this case, signatures) in order to bring them home. Unfortunately, in all the chaos, I didn't take a picture of our stack of documents like I'd wanted to. Oh, well.

So, our dossier is on it's way for translations and will be submitted to the ICBF as soon as our immigration approval comes back. Progress....!!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Go Grant!

Our family spent this past weekend with some of our dearest friends. Our husbands worked together before we got married and one day Brent mentioned that I'd really like Brian's wife, Kathy. He described her to me and I immediately thought "We couldn't be more polar opposites if we tried!". Yet, as God would have it, we became super close friends and shared the first few years of our marriages and parenting years doing everything together. They are from Western Maryland but had to move to Harford County for a few years for his job. And, it just so happened they moved onto the same exact street as us after we got married!

It was great. We had impromptu dinner together several times a week, hung out late into the evening, yard saled together, walked each other around the neighborhood while each of us were in labor so we didn't have to call our husbands home from work yet, nursed our babies together (often through tears), caught children's vomit in their bare hands (yes, he's an awesome uncle!), picnicked together, and had many more special moments.

A few years back, (ok, like 11!) they were blessed to go back home to Western MD to their family farm. We have missed them terribly through the years, but each year either they come east for a visit or we head west for some lovin' on them and their kiddos. It is so awesome to have a friendship where you just pick up and go from where you've left off.
The past few years, they have graciously invited Brent and the older boys to come hunt on the farm for deer season. Two years ago, Grant and Jake didn't get anything. But this year was much better!

Jake headed out in the early morning hours and got a shot at an 8 point buck, but just barely missed him. Poor kiddo. He was disappointed, but excited to have actually taken a shot. Meanwhile, Tasha (11)was hunting with her daddy and landed herself a beautiful 6 point buck! Her first buck! Boy was she excited!

Later in the morning, Grant headed out. Kathy and I were chatting away when Grant burst into the room screaming that he got a deer! It was good sized doe and boy was he excited. He said he practically leaped out of his skin! I know he'll hate me for saying it, but he was soooo cute to listen to him explain every detail of the shoot.

Unfortunately, Jake woke up with a fever so we cut our visit a few hours short and didn't go to church with them like we normally do, but headed home. Even though it was a short trip, we still had a fantastic time catching up and having fun. (In fact, we had so much fun, I didn't take any pictures except of Grant's deer!) Sorry!

A Teeny, Kinda boring update....

Just a teeny, kinda boring update...
Before we left to go out of town this weekend, I got an email from our social worker saying that our I800A supplement 2 and 3 (to change our immigration approval from Mexico to Colombia) was received at the National Benefits Center! Yay! I think it can still take a few weeks to get immigration approval, but we're praying it comes back quickly (of course!).

Also, our 5 approved homestudies are on their way back to me to get apostilled. Basically it's a notary, of a notary, of a notary! Or, a bunch of pretty gold stickers to put on the top of each of our dossier documents! LOL! If we get the homestudies in the mail tomorrow, I'll be driving to the Harford County courthouse, to the Baltimore County Courthouse, to the Anne Arundel County Courthouse, to the Secretary of State office in Annapolis! When we did this last time, we were, shockingly, done by noon! Hopefully, this time will go as smooth!

Then, it's one more Fed Ex shipment to send all the final documents to Texas where our agency is located, where they will mail them to their staff in Colombia to be translated! Then we wait for our I800A approval to come and our dossier can be submitted to the Colombian ICBF (the government agency in charge of child welfare) for approval.

After that point, I am a little fuzzy on what happens and when. I'm sure it'll all be a flurry of more paperwork once we get the chicos' official referrals.

It is starting to really hit me that this could REALLY be happening. I feel like we've been at the paperwork stage for so long, it's hard to remember that it ends with the CHILDREN not just more paperwork! I'm really getting excited! Could we truly be in Colombia by the end of January????

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Busy Day

Today has been full of phone calls, emails, picking up documents, mailing documents, writing large checks, scanning, uploading, downloading- I think I may have even side-loaded something! LOL!

So here's the boring paperwork update for those adoptive families that thrive on this kind of  boring information!:)

Our homestudy is finally FINISHED! I picked up 5 notorized copies today and after scanning it in (btw, I have the world's slowest scanner!) I headed back out to overnight them to Gladney so they can put their cover approval letter on top. They're going to overnight it back to me so I can go get the rest of our documents authenticated and apostilled (those are the pretty gold stickers!). Then I'm DONE!

In addition, our homestudy is also already on its way electronically (I heart email!) to be translated in Colombia and shortly they'll have the rest of the documents too!

Tomorrow, our social worker will attach our homestudy to our I800A supplement 3 and mail it to USCIS. Hopefully, we will get a quick turn-around for our approval! As soon as we get that, we can send our documents to Colombia's ICBF (government agency in charge of children's welfare).

I also spent the morning on the phone with some adoption doctors to find out how to have them review our prospective children's medical records. Thankfully we found someone who is a specialist in the medical issues we were needing information on, AND they don't charge extra for additional siblings! YAY!

Needless to say, minimal schoolwork is getting supervised today....ah well, there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Publishing His Glorious Deeds!!!!

Last Thursday, exactly one month into the process of switching to Colombia, God totally blew our minds! 

In the middle of the day I got a phone call from Beth, our social worker. I expected her to be calling about the corrections that needed to be made on our homestudy before it is finalized. But it took a very unexpected turn!

Beth: Do you have a minute?

Me: Sure!

Beth: Are you near your computer?

Me: Sure! (Thinking she's going to email me the corrections and go over them together.)

Beth: Is Brent home?

Me: Ummmm... no. He won't be home until 1pm. Why? (Still not catching on to this line of questioning even though I am a dedicated adoption blog reader that has read this EXACT dialogue scenario with other families! LOL)

Beth: Well, we think we might have a sibling group to match you with!

Me: WHAT! I thought you were calling about the homestudy!

HA!!!! Next, I stumbled over my words, tripped over my laptop power cord, shushed the kids as they tried to ask what was wrong, tried to find a private, quiet place in my room, and mumbled incoherant words of confusion and elation to Beth. I think it was something profound like, "Wow. Oh. Wow! Oh. Really? Wow!"  LOL!

She asked me if I wanted her to wait to send their pictures (WHAT? We get pictures too?) and referral papers until Brent came home.

Uh, no! No way I could wait!
Sorry, Brent, but after a year of crazy adoption stuff, I couldn't even wait one more hour until he came home to hear the news! (Thankfully, he totally understood and wouldn't have had it any other way.)

She then explained that this is not a formal referral yet. Just an informal "match". The incountry staff already had the kids' information and when she sent our Psychological to them to check, they immediately told her that these children match our specifications exactly.

The ICBF could decide that we aren't the best match for them, which we understand. We don't even have our homestudy finished or immigration update complete! Our dossier isn't finished or in Colombia yet!  So all of this is very tentative. We are obviously excited, but we're trying to temper our excitement with reality, knowing all too well how easily we could lose the match. Been there, done that twice this past year. Not fun.  So we're proceeding gently. Preparing and planning as if it will succeed, but not going crazy with emotion and excitement, yet.

Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post their photos on my blog until a formal referral has been accepted. I know! Bummer!
But, we are happy to say that it is a 7 year old girl, 5 year old boy and 3 year old little girl! We sent in our Letter of Intent yesterday and are waiting to finish our paperwork hopefully this week!

At this point in time, we are looking at traveling to Colombia in January or February. The Colombian courts close down from Mid-December to Mid January, so even though we could get a formal referral before then, we most likely won't travel until the courts re-open. That's ok. We have SO MUCH TO DO! (You should see my To Do list. It's more like a TO DO BOOK!)

Back when everything fell apart with the Mexico adoption, and we had to make a decision about what to do, we really felt so unsure about everything. We still felt the call to adopt a sibling group but even then, we doubted our hearts. As we made the decision to switch to Colombia, Brent and I both commented that we felt we were "tiptoeing" into Colombia, full of questions, not sure if this is where we belong. We were at total peace if God closed the door because then we would KNOW for sure he was closing the door to adopting and wanted us to go in another direction. 

BUT, so far He has made it more and more clear that He is pushing this speeding train full steam ahead. I mean, how in the world do you get a match when you aren't even homestudy ready? How do you get FBI fingerprints in 6 days? REALLY? Come on! Only God can do these kinds of miracles.

So, today I want to live out Psalm 96:3. I want to...
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does!

Taste and see for yourself how good He is!

Jake is 10!

My little Jakey-boy is growing up! On Oct 20, he turned TEN! I am in total denial that now three of my children are in their double digits. 

We love Jake so much! He brings us so much laughter and joy. Out of all our children, Jake has the most tender heart. He is always the first to  notice if someone is upset. He's the first to give up his toy for someone else. He's the first to offer a hug or snuggle if someone is sad or sick. He has an uncanny sense of feeling what other people are feeling and knowing just the right thing to do to make them happy. So often he is the peacemaker of our home.

Also, this kid has a contagious laugh. He loves a good joke and once he gets started giggling, you just can't help but go along with him. He is the one that gets me laughing while I'm trying to discipline him!

Jake also loves little things. No, really little things. I rarely find him without some little toy or trinket in his hand, mouth or pockets! I learned very early on that he is my tactile/kinesthetic learner. He always needs to be touching, moving or bouncing! So often I'll go to put clean sheets on his bed and out roll a dozen little "treasures" he has collected over the past week! I love it though. One day I know I'll miss all of the little things!

For a while, Jake has loved using my camera to take nature pictures. (He also loves taking random photos of disgusting odd things, but I digress.)  So it was a no-brainer when we were deciding what to get him for his birthday. A Camera! He had NO IDEA! Total surprise! He's already had a great time taking some really fun nature shots. Now, we just need to follow up with some photography pointers!

This past year, we have really noticed some changes in Jake's understanding of the gospel. He is beginning to be directed by the Holy Spirit on his own and not just through mommy and daddy's direction. That is so exciting to see! It is our prayer for him that he grow into a strong man of faith that would impact God's kingdom greatly- no matter the cost to his earthly pleasures. We pray that he will store up treasures in heaven and that he will persevere in following Christ all his days!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Our school year

I really need to post about Jake's 10th birthday, but I haven't downloaded my pics from my camera yet!

So in the meantime, I'm going to write about our school year.

The past two years we've used Tapestry of Grace. I have absolutely loved the depth and biblical focus of it. I learned a ton. However, the past two years have been the absolute craziest two of my entire homeschooling career. 2008 held 2 sick pregnancies and 2 second trimester miscarriages and 2009 was consumed with mission trips to Mexico and beginning the adoption process in Mexico. Needless to say, I just couldn't keep up with the weekly prep work that Tapestry demanded. It's a shame since it is such a wonderful curriculum, but instead of it helping me, it was making schooling harder.

So, after a lot of indecision (Tara and Mel, I'm so sorry for all my agonizing phone conversations!) I finally chose to go a simpler route.  With the upheaval of the Mexico adoption and the beginning of the Colombia adoption and knowing we will most likely travel for a month in the middle of our school year, I decided to make this year a more "independent study" type of year.

I really felt like I needed to focus on preparing my middle schoolers (7th, 6th, 5th) for the upcoming high school years by solidifying the skills they need to succeed. I did a lot of research to figure out which skills I wanted to heavily incorporate and which ones we already had a good handle on. In fact, instead listing out our yearly line up of subject curricula, I decided to list out the skills I wanted them to work on and then picked and chose our books based on that.

Our list of products we are using hasn't actually changed but I think it helped solidify in my head my purpose for each one. Maybe everyone else already does this naturally, but for some reason it all just clicked in my head this year, and school suddenly became stress free. I think I'd been allowing the curriculum to control us instead of allowing it to serve us.  It's all perspective, huh?

The older 3 are doing most of the same skills, just at the age/developmental level they are in. Makes things easy! Oh, and not everything is done every day!
So, here's our line up:

Memorization- Scripture memory, Science Facts, History Timeline, States and Capitals

Discussion, Inductive Bible Study, Logic- Morning Bible discussion time using inductive method, The Fallacy Detective with real life "debates" since 3 of them are in that phase of life!

Cait and Grant- Prepare for Pre-algebra and begin AlgebraTeaching Textbooks 7 and begin TT Pre-alg. (This has been my best purchase this year. Highly worthwhile!)
Jake- Solidify mult/div facts, grade level math- Teaching Textbooks 5

Independent Study Skills/Test taking skills/Lab Report writing- Apologia General Science for Cait

Various writing genres- IEW Student Intensive Continuation Course A (she could handle B, but we're doing it all together with the boys so she's getting her assignments beefed up)
Current Event Reports- biweekly 
Beginning Literature Analysis Essays- reading lots of classic lit from a list I compiled, weekly literature analysis papers based of the questions in Well Trained Mind, Figuratively Speaking worksheets on literary techniques.
Outlining other people's writing- Kingfisher History Encyclopedia or other books from the shelf or library
Notetaking- Apologia Elementary Anatomy and Physiology (The boys are doing this in more of a "notebooking" fun format but Cait is doing more normal bullet point notetaking)
Research-short and frequent!- Mostly on history topics. We're all listening to the Story of the World chapter on audio and then each choses a topic to research and write an essay. They do this 2-3 times a week. Each child has varying lengths the essay must be.
Diagramming, Grammar fluency, Spelling accuracy- Christian Light Language Arts (just the grammar portion- LOVE this program!) and All About Spelling, Cait- Spell to Write and Read Wise Guide

Reading Speed, Reading Accuracy, Learning to appreciate varied genre, Vocabulary- 1 hour of reading required a day from a booklist I compiled (also includes lots of discussion time!), Vocabulary from the Classical Roots

Master the Spanish language- No! Just kidding! I'll just be happy if they can introduce themselves to their new siblings!  I do think that Spanish for Children, Spanish for Adoptive Families, and living in Colombia for a month will take care of this important skill! LOL!

Wow, that looks like a TON! But it's not really! In fact we are finishing our days earlier than we ever have in the past. I think it's because I don't have a different curriculum for each subject. It's more integrated. I don't think I could manage complete integration like some curricula do, but for us, this is working really well.

We are almost 4 months into our school year (started beginning of July) and already I'm seeing tons of progress. And attitudes toward our school time have improved tenfold. They all love the research part of the day and go crazy with wanting to report on every nugget of info they find.

And, to end this super long post, Here's Quinn's line-up:

Math- Christian Light 1
Copywork/Narrations- Writing With Ease
Spelling- All About Spelling
Reading- every book he can get his hands on, and Phonics Pathways
Trickle down effect- he tags along with everything else!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moving Fast

For the Colombia Adoption, we need to get fingerprinted and then have the FBI run a background check on the prints. From everyone we've talked to, it takes between 8-12 WEEKS to get the report back. 

Well, last Thursday I Fed Ex'd our prints to FBI and this past Friday we received the reports! In ONE WEEK! This truly is a miracle from the Lord.

Also, I had been under the impression that after our homestudy update was complete, we would send away for our immigration reapproval (we have to tell them we are changing countries) and after that we could find out about a sibling group to adopt and become matched with them. Kind of like how we were matched with F, A, and B in Mexico.

Well, in a phone conversation with the social worker, she said that all we need to have finished in order to be matched it our homestudy update! This is a big deal since the immigration update can take up to 8 weeks.

Well, in addition to this news, she also said that the immigration update should only take about 3 weeks!

I don't understand why everything is happening so fast. But, it does feel like confirmation that the Lord wants us to move in this direction to Colombia. He is making things happen that don't normally happen! So we will just follow His leading! Right now, the social worker is projecting that we will travel between March and May of 2011. That's pretty fast! But, we'll see!!!

Thankfully, I don't feel any anxiety or stress over the quickness. I feel a huge peace to just take each milestone as it comes- whenever it comes.

It is funny, though, because we are so used to the process being HARD for the past year that it feels like everything now is too good to be true!


This week Caitlin turned 13! She has been so excited for this day to come!

I have to honestly say that she is such a wonderful young lady! We are so proud of her!

Brent and I have seen sooo much growth and maturity in her over the past few years and noticeably in the past 6 months.

She has a sweet spirit mingled with a bit of spunk. I love it! She has learned how to be hysterically funny in her dry humor, but just as quickly has a tender heart for the underdog.

She is an avid reader, loves to learn (well, except for Math!), and can run the home as well as I can. She cooks a mean baked ziti and tres leche cake! She has a vivid imagination and I love to see her leading her brothers in an imaginary playtime.

This year she has learned to try new things and step out of her comfort zone. It has done a wonder in building her confidence and maturity. She loves her family and thankfully is not dependent on her peers for her acceptance. I'm so thankful for this!

She is quick to repent when corrected and is growing in humility. I love that she is transparent and openly admits to her struggles. I learn a lot from her!  I am so excited to see how she is developing her own personal walk with the Lord. She doesn't need prodding and reminding to read her Bible. And the questions she asks sometimes stump me!

She still has not wavered in her desire to serve the Lord on the mission field one day, which, whether the Lord allows her to do that or not, still warms my heart. She is passionate about our adoption and has had her eyes opened to the plight of the orphan and is charging full steam ahead with helping to advocate for them.

So many parents grumble and moan over the upcoming teen years, but after seeing the treasure that we already have in Cait, we are looking with anticipation and excitement at the years ahead. She is paving the way for our family and we couldn't be prouder.

Happy 13th Birthday, my Catydid!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Psychologist Update

If any of you remember our first psychologist appointment for our Mexico adoption, you'll remember how slap happy and silly we felt taking the MMPI personality test. Well, we never actually found out the results of them- just that we'd passed, and that was good enough for me.

Today we had to meet with the Psychologist again to do a new report for the Colombian adoption. He is a sweet older man who is doing his best to help us get this done fast. He asked us to write down our answers to the questions ahead of time in order to save us from spending 4 hours at an appointment.

I was struggling with coming up with words to describe our "personalities", so I asked him for the results of our old MMPI so I could get some ideas on wording. He pulled it out of our file, told us that we had done just fine on the test... well,...except for one thing for Brent....He apparently is slightly controlling and hostile! LOL! I was cracking up! I was remembering how we felt like we were ready to go crazy taking that miserable test and that YES, we were both feeling a little HOSTILE as we answered those questions.

Then he explained that it just means you have to bite your tongue and not say what you are thinking....That made me laugh even more! Hmmm...could the test actually be more accurate than we thought? HAHAHAHA!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Summer 2010- Almost done catching up!

Steppingstone Museum had Medieval Days this year which we were finally able to attend. It was so fun! Jake loved the armor.
Quite a helmet!
We got to watch a REAL duel!
Er, um...yes, my hubby got a tatoo. Airbrushed, though. Crazy man!

Spring 2010 Catch up

Cait and Daddy went out with her girlfriends and their daddies for a nice dinner and a browse through the bookstore. They are all getting so grown up. I pray that she sees her daddy's example when she looks for a Godly husband one day.
Being silly!
Caitlin learned how to make the famous Mexican dessert- Tres Leche Cake. Mmmm deliciouso!
We had fun fishing in the neighbor pond and catching frogs and other critters!
There is a dilapidated old farmhouse with barns and outbuildings on the same property. We had fun going exploring in the buildings and traipsing through the fields around the farm.
Presentation Night display
A trip to the Washington Zoo was full of fun!
The Panda bear entertained us for quite a while- up close!


This year we decided to celebrate Passover as a way of finding symbols of Christ in the celebration. It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us. We found a Christian version of the Haggadah to follow which helped us to see how each element of the meal pointed to the coming Christ. We really loved this and can't wait to do it again.

Winter of 2010 Sampling

Brent taught a lesson on land navigation skills when we were studying Columbus.
They all understood it, but I was completely lost!
They all found all their plotted points! Even in the dark!
We had SO MUCH SNOW this winter!
Look at those walls of snow!
Studying volcanos was fun!
Our volcano before being painted....
Grant and Jake both found half frozen birds at different times this winter. We brought them in, warmed them up, fed them, identified them and sent them on their way.
The kids love it when we shop at grocery stores where they pack stuff in boxes. The boxes are always good for some crafts!
Some divers at the aquarium were feeding the rays and let Jake and Quinn help. Poor Quinn almost threw up looking at the clams! Jake wasn't too fond of them either.
We love to bring our nature journals to the aquarium. Quinn had a good seat!
A trip with the co-op to learn about early American history was tons of fun!
What a paradox! Everlasting snow on the ground but hot enough to be in shorts and tshirt!

Welcoming 2010- still catching up

For the past several years we've had Dave and Melanie's family over to spend the night for New Years' Eve. We always have tons of food (junk food only), lots of noise, great deep conversation and lots of KIDS!

Still Catching Up- Christmas 2009

Our annual trip to chop down our Christmas tree.
We had a great time going to Hamton to see the streets full of lights!
I Love this shot of my guys!
Cait got a chest full of sewing material and supplies!
Jake was so excited to get climbing with a real grappling hook and climbing shoes and gloves! Right up his alley!
Grant wanted this foldable shovel to add to his important gear bag!
Quinn was so excited to have a Despereaux lunchbox. He loves that movie!
Cait was SUPER surprised to get.....
A Wii!  We had told the kids that there was NO WAY we were getting one, but boy did they get surprised!

Christmas morning was spent differently this year. We really felt God calling us to celebrate with greater purpose. So before we opened gifts, we packed up a couple food bags, jumped in the car and drove around until God told us to stop. He stopped us at a stranger's home where we delivered the food and visited with her and prayed with her. It was an amazing time and impacted the children and us greatly. In fact, they didn't want to go home so soon, so they begged us to go to the local nursing home and find someone who wouldn't have family to visit with on Christmas. We weren't sure if they would let the kids in since swine flu was circling through hospitals, but they did! We talked and sang and prayed with a very sick elderly man who hadn't had family visit in 10 years. We are so glad we obeyed God's prompting to spend this Christmas differently!