Day 4: Waiting Children Challenge

If you’ve landed here, then you have at least some vague interest in adoption. Perhaps its something you haven’t really considered personally, but you’ve somehow found yourself following a few adoptive moms on social media and are interested by their stories. Maybe you’re ready to jump head first into the adoption pool, but your spouse hasn’t even put his/her swimsuit on yet. Or maybe you’re in the middle of an adoption or you’re an adoptive parent already. Whoever you are and however you stumbled here, I I have a challenge for you today!

My challenge is simple:

  1. Visit one (or all!) of the following sites
    1. http://www.nohandsbutours.com/children-wait/
    2. http://www.rainbowkids.com
    3. http://waitingchildinfo.com
    4. http://newdaycreations.com/foster/kids/kids_bj.htm
  2. Choose one child who (for one reason or another) catches your eye
  3. Pray for that child for the next 2 weeks straight

I want you to check out these sites for a few reasons. First, to see the sheer quantity of waiting children. Second, to see how minor (or sometimes major) the special needs of these children are. Third, and most important of all, to see their faces! I can throw out statistics to you left and right about how many children are left orphaned worldwide, etc. but no statistic could break your heart the way the faces of these children can. They aren’t stats, they’re kids! And every child deserves a family.

Perhaps adoption is not appropriate for you at this present time, but maybe it is. Maybe you just need someone to give you a gentle nudge towards the adoption path. Maybe you’re interested, but you don’t know where to start; start here! Maybe you don’t want to adopt, that’s fine too, but you can still pray for waiting children or share this post with someone you know who is interested in adoption.

So, if you’re ready to take the challenge with me, here are a few specific things to pray for:

  • the child’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well being;
  • the child’s caretakers;
  • that the child’s daily needs are being met (warmth, food, water, clothing, basics!);
  • that the child feels loved and precious;
  • that somewhere God is preparing a forever family for that child;
  • that all obstacles between that child and his/her forever family would be minimal and that God would be glorified even through those obstacles!

One of my favorite adoption quotes is by a pastor named David Platt, it reads: Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It’s easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.

That’s it. That’s my challenge, please take it. If you choose to join this challenge, leave a comment below or let me know on Instagram (@leftylex) and let me know the name of the child and which site he/she is on.  Let’s commit to a full two weeks, so encourage and remind one another to be steadfast in your prayers. My son was once one of these waiting children, and I have received several emails from families who prayed for him for months on end. What an amazing gift!

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Day 2: Adoption Acronyms & Jargon

There are so many people, acronyms, and terms associated with adoption that those involved in adoption (particularly international!) quickly learn the language of Adoptionese. For example, my husband and I are at the very beginning of our second adoption, so here is what I might say to fellow adoptive mom concerning my current status:

Adoptionese: We wanted to boomerang ASAP and were just cleared by our LL SW. Our HS SW is coming to do our update on 5/22 with Kai’s next post-placement. We’re shooting to be DTC by June, but hoping to be LOI in a couple of weeks because we think we found someone on the SN boards! So, hoping for a quick PA and the dreaded LOA. Lord willing, we’ll have TA and be in GZ before mosquito season!

Regular Joe Translation: After Kai’s adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt another as soon as possible. We reapplied to Lifeline Children’s Service, our adoption agency, and were just given clearance by our social worker! Now we need to refresh our adoption documents that were used with Kai’s adoption. So, our home study social worker is scheduled to meet with us on 5/22 to update our home inspection, interviews, etc. on the same day that she’ll be doing Kai’s 6 month post-adoption placement visit. We’re hoping that all of our home study updates, references, background clearances, etc. will be ready to send to China by June. But, as all adoptive moms do, I’ve been obsessed with browsing the special needs waiting children boards and we think we found our Lok! We’re hoping to submit our Letter of Intent and corresponding paperwork in a couple of weeks. We’re also hoping for a quick Pre-Approval after our paperwork is sent and hoping that our Letter of Acceptance wait won’t be too long! Lord willing, we’ll have Travel Approval to schedule our flights to China and will be at the US Consulate in Guangzhou before next summer! 

See the difference?! Thank God for acronyms and jargon. Well once you understand it, that is. Since I only have first-hand experience with a Chinese adoption, I’ll clue you in on our jargon. Each country has its own requirements, so terms that we use for China may or may not be used in Korea, etc.  adoptions. But all international adoptions will be much more similar in style to each other then they would be to domestic adoptions. We are, after all, dealing with two countries… and the dreaded Hauge!

Here’s your Adoptionese 101:

AP: Adoptive Parent

CA: Consulate Appointment (your scheduled date and time at the US Consulate where your new little becomes an official US citizen)

CCCWA: The China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (where all the action happens on the China side of your adoption)

China Mom: A mom adopting from China (yes, we know that we are [usually] not Chinese, but it’s how we refer to each other)

Dossier: a collection of an insanely crazy amount of personal documents, writing, financials, photos, criminal clearances, medical reports, homestudy, etc. This takes forever to finally make ready.

DTC: Dossier to China (your dossier is finally sent to China! This must be done within 6 months of receiving your PA)

Gotcha Day (the day you finally meet your little; also referred to as Forever Family Day)

GZ: Guangzhou (a city in southeastern China which hosts the US Consulate; all families travel here)

Hauge: The Hauge Convention (the reason why international adoption takes so long and is so expensive, courtesy of the UN. Me no likey, you can read about it here: http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/hague-convention.html)

HS: Homestudy (a collection of documents to prove your family’s trustworthiness and emotional, physical, financial, and psychological readiness to add a new member; this also includes several interviews, trainings, book reports, and an inspection of your home)

LOA: Letter of Acceptance (the magical document that give you confirmation of your match, but it’s much more important that PA. You’re generally in China about 2 months after receiving this document)

LOI: Letter of Intent (the paperwork you send to China once you found your child)

LID: Log in Date (the date that China receives your dossier and logs you into the CCCWA system)

OOT: Out of Translation (hooray, your dossier has been translated from English to Mandarin and can be reviewed by the CCCWA.)

PA: Pre-Approval (China’s approval of your family pursuing your new little)

SF: Special Focus Child (a child with a difficult to place medical special need or an older child)

SN: Special Needs Child (a child with a medical/cognitive special need; almost every China adoptee falls into this category)

SW: Social Worker (often your favorite and least favorite person in the world depending on the day and the news they have to share)

TA: Travel Approval (pack your bags, you’re going to China!)

Whew! Clear as mud, right? Hopefully this was a teeny bit helpful. I’ll be referencing these terms in upcoming posts, but I’ll try to include their snippet definition whenever I use them. There’ll be a quiz in the next post, so I hope you took notes!

Day 1: Why China?

The one question I get asked about our adoption, more than any other is probably: why China? It’s a simple answer really.  Chinese food has always been my favorite! Kidding.. but not on the “favorite” food part, I do love me some Chinese food, yum!

When Ryan and I initially decided to build our family through adoption, we thought that we’d adopt through the local foster care system. We attended 36 hours of education/training over 6 weeks to complete the PRIDE course offered through the County of San Diego. The information was great, but it just wasn’t our path. Fostering just didn’t “feel right” for our family. Now, I would absolutely never discourage anyone from pursuing that path, it just wasn’t our path. It might be yours, but it just wasn’t ours. There is no “one size fits all” adoption road.

After deciding that foster to adopt was not for us, we settled on domestic infant adoption. We opened a savings account for our adoption and started shopping for adoption agencies. I’m pretty sure that I “liked” every single US adoption agency that had a Facebook page and soon my feed was flooded with nothing but adoption related posts. So, it was no surprise when my Facebook ads and suggested “likes” became entirely adoption related. One particular day Facebook suggested that I like “Stuck”, a documentary about international adoption by Both Ends Burning. International adoption?! No thanks, there are kids here in the US who need families. I hid the ad and went along. The next morning the same blasted ad popped in my feed. Again, I hid the ad. Then a couple of days later, there it was again! That stupid ad and the 1:59 trailer would not leave me alone! Fine, I’ll watch you! Click. One minute and fifty-nine seconds later, every preconception that I had surrounding international adoption was shattered. I felt my heart break and spirit move all at the same time. This. Was. Our. Path!

I’ll link to it here and warn you to either grab tissues or a paper and pen to write your Congressmen!

That documentary in a nutshell is “why China?”. Only it’s not. China is not one of the countries featured in Stuck. They show families adopting from Haiti, Ethiopia, and Vietnam, but not China. But for some reason after downloading and sobbing through the documentary, I knew my baby was waiting for me in China. I can’t explain how I knew, but I just knew. To be fair, I also thought a sweet little baby girl (who we would’ve named Jia Evangeline) was waiting for me, but we’ll save that for another post!

So my only explanation for “why China?” is because God ordained it to be so. He knew our deep desires to be parents and he knew that there was a little pint-sized, chubby-cheeked, flat-headed toddler on the other side of the world who needed us to be his parents. I am so glad that I was not responsible for writing the story of my amazing adoptive, transracial family. Our story is more heartbreakingly beautiful than I could put into words. And that my friends, is why China.

3 Months a Mom

On January 12th, 2015, Ryan and I sat in a drafty room in Guangzhou, China alongside 5 other families who were all awaiting the arrival of their babies. Mind you, these babies ranged from age 2 to 13 and had been more loved, prayed for, worked for, and cried over then they will ever, ever know. The first family was called to the center of the room and a beautiful 13 year old girl in a wheelchair was brought out to them. My heart broke! Until that moment, I had remained uncharacteristically calm, but seeing that little girl united with her family just did something to me that I could never put into words on a blog post.

My heart began racing a mile a minute when I heard them call out “Chen family”. We were up next! Out waddled the sweetest little man you could ever pray to lay eyes on. There he was, in the flesh, our Kai! This was the moment I romanticized and dreamt of for nearly 17 months. We had our son! As we walked, with Kai, back to our little corner of the room, I was struck with the reality that we were FINALLY a family! That little Mandarin/Cantonese-speaking boy was OURS. No one was going to take him from us, no one was going to parent him for us. For better or worse, this was 100% on our shoulders now. It was a very beautiful and scary thought.

If you follow me on Instagram (@leftylex), then you know that life has not been an endless unicorn ride since bringing Kai home. Nor did we expect it to be. Kai spent the first 22 months of his life in an orphanage and over 2 years with the same foster family. We would be naive to think that his life experiences before us would not affect him. Of course they had! Some times its easier to pretend that Kai has always been ours and that he has always known the love and warmth of a family. But that’s not true and it’s not fair to Kai to create such a story. There are emotional and physical scars from Kai’s life before us. Every time I lay Kai down, put a hat on him, or wash his hair, I am reminded that he was not held as an infant. The back of his head is flat from laying in a crib all day. Stop and think of your son, daughter, niece, nephew or any other little one who is near to your heart. Can you imagine them crying as an infant and not immediately running to them to tend to their needs? Kai had no one to tend to him immediately; he shared a nanny with dozens of other kids in the same room. There simply was not enough (wo)manpower to hold all of those infants as much as they should have been held. But, the Lord protected our baby and made him a survivor.

It has taken an insane amount of coddling, kisses, tickling, and wrestling to slowly break down Kai’s walls so that he can truly trust and love us as his parents. Over the past three months, we have learned to love and trust together, as a family. There have been moments of complete emotional exhaustion and moments of ridiculous bliss. I have been hit, punched, bitten, hugged, kissed, and cried on more than I ever dreamed. It is not all sunshine here, nor do I want it to be. I want Kai to know that he is allowed to be angry and grieve for the people and things that he has lost in his short life. Most of us will never know that amount of loss. But there is such beauty in seeing him laugh, and smile, and learn to truly love. Ryan and I are in constant amazement at how much Kai has changed since that cold “Gotcha Day” in Guangzhou. It’s beautiful to witness the healing that has taken place in our son’s life.

Three months with Kai, three months a mom. They’ve been the most challenging and beautiful months that I’ve ever known.

Left: Kai's referral photo (2012) Right: Kai enjoying his first Easter egg hunt (2015)
Left: Kai’s referral photo (2012) Right: Kai enjoying his first Easter egg hunt (2015)

Awesome Giveaway (…with a catch?)

Lately I’ve been sharing a little more about my personal life and adoption rather than crafting and embroidery (and theatre geekyness) . So, if you’re here for the crafts and are getting bored of my personal life, I apologize because I only anticipate that it will get worse the further along in the adoption process we get. BUT, I promise that I will also continue blogging on things related to the indie craft world.

And check this photo out, the best of both worlds: embroidery and adoption! This was one of my favorite photos taken at our pre-adoption photo shoot last month. And yes, I made that giant hoop the night before! Please ignore the giant veins in my hand and arm. (The funny thing is that my hands now look exactly like my aunt’s and I always thought that her hands looked scary/gross when I was a kid… I hope that my niece doesn’t think like this!)

Adoptionnowatermark-16

But I digress, as usual! The adoption is going to cost us oodles of money ($32K in oodles to be exact). So, I need your help. It’s true. But, I’ll offer you the potential to win something cool in return; how does that sound? Husband and I have created an online fundraiser through YouCaring.com and we’d LOVE for you to help us get the word out about it (or even donate yourselves!). Our site can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest OR by grabbing our widget and adding it to your blog/website! You can find our site here: http://www.youcaring.com/adoption-fundraiser/melendez-family-adoption/96257  ( www.youcaring.com/melendezadoption)

YC

Now comes the part where I tell you what you have the possibility of winning! For every single share or donation made by you, I will write your name on a raffle ticket. And at the end of November (which so happens to be National Adoption Month) I will hold a drawing for a $50 Etsy gift card. Woohoo! Think  of the wonderful handmade goodness that you could buy on Etsy with $50! And if the fundraising goes particularly well, I will even consider doubling it!

EGC

Thank you so much for reading this post and please, please, please share our adoption journey on any/all of your social media outlets. And make sure that you tag me so I know that you’ve done so! Here are my handles:

We’re ‘hashtagging’ this campaign #HelpLexAdopt. So long as you use that hashtag, I should be able to see your postings. And if you have been SOOOO kind as to add our little widget to your blog, then please let me know that you’ve done so by commenting below or by sending an email to me at << leftylex@gmail.com >>.

Again, thank you in advance!