Monday, April 30, 2012

The Week in Numbers Plus My Martha Heart

4 snakes that I saw while working outside today.  That's not unusual but last year, I saw so few that I was hoping our snake situation had somehow resolved itself.  Alas, it has not.  (And yes, this is completely random.)

3 errors or sort of errors that I made in trying to get our dossier out of my house and to the right people so it can go to China.  Long story short but 1. I had the courier send it to the wrong place which was rectified before it was actually sent out 2. I omitted my payment in one envelope and had to redo the envelope and the payment. 3. Realized I left out the passport photos after returning to my car from mailing one set of items.  The words "You are dossier to China." will be a welcome relief.

2 kids who just are plain tired and stretched too thin.  Between late night soccer games, late suppers when D gets home, traveling for a few weekends, and a time change, it has just been too many changes for them.  I often think they should just be able to bounce back from changes to their schedules but the reality is they just don't.  This weekend was the first weekend in a long time that felt almost back to normal and their behavior was so much better.  (However, two of the errors on my dossier could be attributed to a lovely tantrum one of my threw in a home improvement store.  Of course, we visited there right before we Fed Exed the dossier and while I was really calm and collected, I was still a smidge miffed at my child who refused to get in the cart, ran down the aisle from me, and then made me carry him/her all the way across the parking lot while screaming about how painful it was to be carried.  I can't say I was embarrassed just annoyed that my 5 year old was acting like a 3 year old.  So perhaps my irritation might have contributed to the two items that were left out?)

1 tired and crabby Mama who is easily annoyed by the above discussed children.  "C'mon, kids, can you help me out?" has kind of been my mantra.  I'd much rather place blame with them than with my own impatience.  And really, even though I have been impatient, some of it has just been weariness as the same old behaviors from children have worn on me.  (Can I get a "just say no to sassiness and whining" cheer?)

0 more days of waiting for the financing for our construction loan on our new house to come through.  It has officially been approved so that is one thing that will hopefully be vacating my brain.  Now if we can finish up the sale of D's grandma's house, get our house ready to go back on the market, get this China adoption thing done, and manage the normal routine of life...

I think as I have prayed today I have also realized how very little I have prayed about some of these major things.  I have a journal with several pages set aside just for prayer requests (a page for each kid and my husband, a page for the children of friends, a page for ministries, a page for myself, a page for our family decisions, a page for intercession for those around us).  I also use that journal to record my thousand gifts (from the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp) which is basically a list of the small joys that I see every day which are really gifts from God.  So it seems like I often run through those things and then dash off a quick prayer about having a spirit filled heart and then maybe a prayer about one item off of my "Major Stressors" list.

But to just sit and have prayed about those big items?  To really have taken the time to rest in God as I wait on those things?  To invest more than a few moments and more than the usual words I usually say?  I am noticing more and more that I have not done that.  Part of it is that I like to be busy with other things.  And part of it is that it takes time and effort to be present with God.  It is much easier to do a routine than to do a relationship.  I am thankful that routines can help relationships forge on when things are busy or hard.  I am a big believer in practicing who we want to be which is mostly about our habits and routines.

But I also know that my heart needs more than the routine.  How stubborn I can be when it comes to choosing to sit in silence or choosing to meditate on His words.  I need to soak it in, be it silence or Scripture, to be a Mary at the feet of Jesus even if there are lots of urgent (and not so urgent but highly preferred) tasks.  To choose what is better.

"41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

Friday, April 20, 2012

Zeke Sightings

The Chinese adoption process is different from the Haitian one in many ways.  One of those differences has to do with updates.  In Haiti, it is up to the orphanage how they handle updates.  Kenson's orphanage sent out updates with photos once a month.  Conleigh's orphanage did not do regular update but we often got pictures from families and volunteers who were traveling to Haiti.  In China, regular updates of any type are not possible. We asked for new photos and an update to Zeke's file in December when we sent in our letter of intent to adopt him.  Based on my understanding of how the Chinese authorities work, a file is considered current if the information is less than 6 months old.  Since we just got information in December, our file is current so getting a new photo of more information via the orphanage is probably not realistic.  But there are several companies that work independent of the Chinese government to provide updates and deliver packages from adoptive families to their children.  We ordered  a package this week via China Adoption Help and requested a new photo of Zeke, a gift for Zeke's foster family like tea, and a photo album which will hold photos of our family so Zeke can hopefully become familiar with our faces.  In this case, the orphanage supplies the photo and we did receive 3 photos back although two of them were old photos from back in December.  The other one may have been new; I'm not sure.  Regardless, it is one we have not seen before so we'll be happy with that.  I think we may also get a photo of our gifts being delivered to him and his foster family.  Anyway, here's the new one.
He of course has something in his hand; gotta make sure his new family knows he can use his fingers.  I am also curious about the plaid fabric.  It is on both arms but it looks like it has been modified to keep his right arm/wrist warm.  So since I'm a bleeding heart, I think I'm going with the idea that someone is concerned about him enough to make sure his special arm is warm.  I'm also puzzled by the layers.  He is in Guizhou Province which is in southern China, almost to Vietnam.  I really thought it was pretty temperate.  After looking a bit more online, it does look like it can get down into the 40's in January.  I suppose it's like Haiti where if it gets down into the 70's people start looking for their sweatshirts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Using a Sledgehammer to Kill a Fly...

Or something like that.

In preschool yesterday, the kids used a paper plate to make a weather chart, the kind where you fasten a brad in the center and then attach a pointer which spins to tell what kind of weather you are having for the day.

Conleigh told me on the way home that she wanted to make something different with hers by getting a new paper plate and reusing the brad.  So once home, she went to work.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Mama I can't write an 8!"  I peeked over her shoulder to help her with the 8 and saw that she was making a clock.   (Nevermind that the numbers were only on the right side of the plate.  I thought she was pretty smart for thinking of making it into a clock.)  And then I walked away while she wrote the rest of the numbers.

And came back to this...

Because what else would you use to attach a push through brad but Papa's electric screwdriver?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Zeke Update...Dossier is almost ready to go!

Adoption Timeline for Zeke 
(Waiting child from an agency specific list)

Submit LOI (Letter of Intent) to China that identifies a child you'd like to adopt.  (Submitted LOI December 20)

Wait 1-4 weeks for Pre Approval/PA (Received January 3)

Complete homestudy and start assembling dossier (3-4 months)
*Complete homestudy (started mid December, homestudy completed by homestudy agency March 1)
*Send in I800a paperwork (can't apply for the I800a until you have your completed homestudy, application received by USCIS March 8)
*Be fingerprinted  (Received original fingerprint date of April 17, walked in to Omaha USCIS office to be fingerprinted April 5)
*Receive I800a approval  (Received verbal approval April 12, will hopefully have it in hand at the beginning of next week)
*Authenticate documents at the secretary of state's office  (All are done except the I800a approval)
*Send documents to the US Department of State and then the Chinese Consulate  (Have to have the I800a approval authenticated by the secretary of state before we can send our documents)

Send dossier to China (DTC)

Wait for LID (log in date) which is China acknowledging that your dossier has been received (1-4 weeks)

Wait for LOA (Letter of Approval) which is China formally approving you as parents for your child-52 days is average wait

File I800, I864 (US immigration paperwork)

Wait for I800 approval (3 weeks)

Have I800 approval cabled to US Consulate in China (2 weeks)

Wait for Article 5 (2-3 weeks)

Wait for travel approval (TA), 2-4 weeks

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That's Not Who I Think You Are

As I said in a previous post, D and I have felt like we are constantly engaging our kids regarding their behaviors of late.  From sibling disagreements to arguing with parents to disrespectful words and actions that are exceptionally dramatic lest one misses how annoyed and angry the child really is, it's been a lot of staying the course of "this is who we are as a family and who we believe you can be."  And several long conversations between D and myself, trying to pull ourselves together into a unified front.

I personally am a big fan of parenting one liners, quick little sayings that communicate what you as a parent desire while also buying you a little time to respond rather than just react to the situation at hand.  Some of my tried and true ones include "Bummer!",  "So how will you solve that problem?", and "I love you too much to argue with you."

This week, I heard the last 5 minutes of some parenting show on Christian radio and those 5 minutes gave me yet another little one liner that I think I am going to love.  The show actually focused more on the words one might use in a lengthier conversation but I still think there is some staying power of the one line that started used to start the conversation:  "That's not who I think you are."

What a powerful statement of truth our kids need to hear.  The way you are acting is not who you were created to be.  I think that's true of any kid but I especially think it's true of kids from hard places, kids who always have niggling little doubts in the back of their heads about who they are and how loveable they really are.  That picking a fight with your sister?  That's not who you are.  Those crossed arms and larger than life pout?  That's not who you are.

And I love how it flows seamlessly into words of affirmation in the middle of discipline.  Things like "That's not who I think you are because I think you are loving, a person who normally does thoughtful and kind things for others."  Things like "That's not who I think you are because I think you are someone who wants to please their mama, someone who doesn't want to hurt their mama's feelings."

So yay for a new one liner; I'm definitely ready to use it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chaos and Change

Last week at MOPS, we had a panel discussion on the topic of legacy and making memories.  My friend, Ellen, was on the panel and her words regarding chaos and change are so timely.   She told the story of asking her own mom how on earth her mom didn't just go crazy with two newly in college daughters and two junior high aged daughters, a deadly combination of two no it alls and two feel it alls.  Her mother's words were that whenever parenting seemed hard, she tried to focus on the fact that those hard things often came right before times of intense growth and success.  So yes, you come home from college and pick at your sister to death but you've also crossed into this amazing success of functioning as an independent adult.  Or yes, you may be an emotional trainwreck who is upset by the smallest things but you've also become such an accomplished pianist.  Those words (and the sweet wise words of Ellen's mother) are wonderful words of hope to any mom who is struggling with their child's behavior.  This time of upheaval can be a time of growth.  

For kids with adoption related struggles, I think in some ways this is even more true.  Because so much of adoption issues revolve around a child's status quo being turned over, where a parent is saying "I love you too much to let you stay this way."  That has to create conflict and chaos not because it is a battle of wills but because it is a battle for the heart of a kid.  In other words, without chaos and conflict there can be no growth, no improvement, no successes.

So when weariness sets in, may we all see that weariness as our child being on the cusp of something big, that if our child can just get over the hurdle, accomplishment lies on the other side.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weariness and Parenting

A while back my friend, Carolyn, said something that has been rolling around in my head.

It was something to the effect that "this parenting business makes you weary."

Isn't that true?   How often do you find yourself feeling like you are running a marathon (which you knew it would be) but sprinting the entire distance?  Not necessarily because of crazy schedules or lack of structure but simply because parenting is a commitment that is all about the long haul.  It's about constant devotion and attention.

I don't mean that you are constantly paying attention to your child, entertaining him or playing with him.  I just mean that parenting requires diligence be it diligence in prayer, diligence in relationship, or diligence in discipline.  And that diligence can be exhausting.

It is so tempting to feel like once your child has reached a certain age, then the challenges will be over.  To think "I'm so glad we are done potty training because that has just been so hard."  Or to think "I'm so glad my kids are old enough to play by themselves for long stretches of time so I can actually get something accomplished."

But the reality is when our kids cross those thresholds, they just enter into another season of challenges.  As I squash down one challenge under my thumb, another jumps up to take it's place.  Or the very challenge I thought vanquished squirts out from underneath me and pops back up again...a bit like a crazy game of Whack a Mole.  A bit tiresome.  A bit of weariness.

Right now, that weariness has crept into our lives.  D and I have been left scratching our heads more than once, wondering what on earth we were going to do to get things back on track because apparently, our children have ridden their behaviors right off into the ditch.  So, it's press on, press in, press together time at our house, plowing through the weariness that parenting can bring.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Um, it's Easter time?

That kind of sums up how I've been feeling.  Not very prepared for what a lot of people describe as the "most holy of all Christian holy days."   But I did read this today...a bit of turning my thoughts to Jesus in the middle of a crazy busy schedule that has not had much time for reflection.

"...And as much as I hate that Jesus didn't power up and come off the cross and "wow" people, or say to his disciples "now's the time, grab your swords", or do some spiritual jujitsu .... Once in a while I am grateful that our faith leaves space for Saturdays-the unanswered questions, the impossible hopes, the disappointment and frustration and sense of betrayal. If only for the fact that I can know I am not alone.  We're Saturday sorts of people." 
-Sarah Dornbos

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Success...Sort Of

Oh how I would love to post the China adoption timeline and say we have crossed something off of the list.  But silly me!  I lumped all dossier preparation together and my rigid self won't let me change the steps to divide up the dossier preparation into steps like complete homestudy, file I800A form, receive I800A approval, authenticate documents, etc..

Anyway, China is a Hague compliant country so you have to file I800A immigration paperwork.  And you must have your homestudy before you can send your I800A application in.  And then you must wait for your application to be received to get a fingerprint appointment.  And then attend the appointment and wait for your application to be approved.  And then send that approval with your dossier.

Essentially, our dossier has been ready to go for probably 6 weeks now but we are stuck waiting on immigration.  We recieved our fingerprint appointment date last week but it was not scheduled until April 17.  So today, since D had no school, we went to Omaha, hoping we could just walk in to USCIS and get our fingerprints done.  I was a little worried because some locations accept walk ins and some don't.  Anyway, we had no trouble walking in.  In fact, we were in and out in maybe 20 minutes.  So now we are just left waiting for USCIS to approve our application and then we can finally get the last of our dossier finished so we can send it to China.   The China coordinator for our agency is actually in China until April 17 so I am pretty sure we will not get our dossier sent to China any sooner than that.  (And that all hinges on getting our USCIS approval.  It could take much longer.)