Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Caleb is 5!

Today is Caleb's 5th birthday!  He has been anxiously  anticipating his birthday since the day after Joshua's birthday a month ago.  He truly hoped his birthday was the day after Joshua and was sad he had to wait 31 days.  The first thing he did this morning was come downstairs and say, "Do I look bigger??".  This year he truly understands that birthdays are something to be excited about when you are a kid, and we were excited to make it a special day for him.    

We started off the morning by opening one gift - a present from the McGrath family.  Then Caleb had a special birthday breakfast of blueberry muffins & berries.  And for the record, he's drinking chocolate milk out of Daddy's favorite coffee mug - although he has been known to enjoy a small cup of coffee on occasion! 

In Caleb's class each child presents a poster about all of their favorite things on their birthday.  Mom of the Year forgot about this poster until last night after dinner.  Luckily I was able to quickly print out some pictures that Caleb chose and get his approval before I glued everything down during his bath.  We included pictures of our little family (including a map of China to represent baby sister), with his grandparents, and some of his favorite activities/hobbies:  water towers, driving his Jeep, the Aggie Band and his experience going to Kyle Field.

Caleb wrote baby sister's name on top of the map of China (it says Hannah in case you can't read pre-school writing).  I'll be sure to write more about the name we have chosen for our daughter in a future post.

Caleb also got to bring a special snack to school.  He chose donut holes and orange juice, so we made a quick trip to Shipley's this morning to pick up a box of fresh donut holes to share with his classmates.

We gave Caleb the option of skipping out on his occupational therapy appointment today but he wanted to go.  He really enjoys "going to see Miss 'Randa"... we think he may have a crush on his therapist, Miranda! :)

When Caleb got home from OT it was time to open presents from Mommy & Daddy!  Caleb asked for diggers, diggers and more diggers... so that is what he got!  This boy loves construction and it is fun to see how his mind works as he uses his imagination to play with these toys.  He was SO excited.

Playing with his presents with Daddy: a bulldozer, a crane truck, and a remote control crane

Once Joshua woke up from his nap we went out to eat for Caleb's birthday dinner.  He chose Raising Cane's to get chicken fingers and french fries.  Joshua was especially excited about the food portion of Caleb's birthday-- the dinner, and the cake & ice cream too!

Sadly Caleb's birthday cake is considered to be Exhibit A: why I'm not a cake decorator.  It was a cute pinterest idea in theory, but when I took the foil out from under the cake (to avoid getting icing on the cake plate) the cake broke apart.  I was able to hide most of the damage with more frosting but overall, the cake looked like a hot mess.  Sweet Caleb did not care and was just as excited to blow out the candles and eat the Peaches & Vanilla ice cream he picked out.

It seemed like Caleb had a really special, happy birthday.  We are so proud of him and how much he has grown in the past year.  In the midst of having his whole life uprooted to move to a new place, he has managed to make new friends, learn a lot in school, and improve on so many skills that were previously such a challenge for him.  Things that some kids do easily, like getting dressed on their own or other fine motor skills are a hurdle for him and he has made incredible progress.

We've seen him mature in how he handles his emotions and seen him develop a true excitement about Jesus.  He leaves church every week wanting to talk all about Jesus and what he did.  We are seeing him show more and more kindness to his brother, and also hear him talk with love about the baby sister he doesn't even know yet.

We think of Caleb's early life often and about his birthmother, who we do not know and may never have the chance to meet.  While I would never make up anything about Caleb's adoption story for him, I do believe that his birthmother remembers him on this day.  I wish she could know that the 3.5 lb baby she gave birth to in a tiny village in Kyrgyzstan is now a strong, 45 inch 5 year old who is insightful, creative, detail oriented, loving, spunky, and so very smart.  She may not even know if he's alive, let alone thriving and FULL of life.  It's our prayer that somehow she would have peace that he is ok.

Caleb Daniel, we love you so very much and are excited to see how you will grow and change in the year to come.  You keep us on our toes (and keep us humble!) and fill our hearts with so much joy.  God used your life to redeem so much sadness for us as we waited for children.  Your life reminds us of the hope that can come from adoption - both practically for us here on earth and spiritually in our relationship with God.  The Lord is writing a magnificent story for your life and we are privileged to be a part of it.  Happy Birthday to our first baby! We love you!

Friday, April 5, 2013

China Adoption Update

Things are progressing with our adoption from China.  Our home study was finalized by our agency in Texas before it went through a lengthy review process with our China placement agency (CCAI) in Colorado.  They go over every detail and word choice in the study to make sure there won't be any problems once our home study is reviewed by US Immigration or by adoption officials in China.  We got word on Good Friday that the home study was officially ready.  We received the official copy yesterday, and today I mailed off our I-800A application to US Citizenship & Immigration Services.

The I-800A form is required for international adoption.  We are basically asking the US government to approve us to adopt a child from China, and specifically one with medical needs.  They read through our home study (which describes the age, gender, and potential medical conditions of a child we would adopt) and decide if we are capable of parenting that child.  This lovely process takes on average 45-60 days and costs about $900.  You're welcome, Uncle Sam.

Once we receive immigration approval, I'll take our documents to both the Secretary of State in Austin and the Chinese Embassy in Houston so they can become even more official.  That will complete our dossier, which will then be sent to CCAI.  CCAI will review it for several weeks, translate it into Chinese, and create a bound book with photographs of us to send to the Chinese adoption authority, the CCCWA.  After review, the CCCWA will log us into their system (and issue a log in date, or LID).  At that point we will be eligible to be matched with a child.  There is a possibility we could be matched prior to LID if we identify a child who has multiple medical needs, and therefore the Chinese government does not require a LID.  From what I've seen, it is more likely that we will not be matched until LID especially since we are adopting a daughter.

So here's what I think our timing looks like now:

Home Study Approved:  3/28/13
I-800A Application Mailed:  4/5/13
I-800A Application Processing:  45-60 days so 6/15/13 at latest
Dossier documents taken to Austin/Houston:  6/18/13
Dossier to CCAI:  6/20/13
CCAI reviews dossier:  7/5/13
Dossier mailed to China: 7/15/13
LID:  8/15/13
Wait for referral:  anywhere from 2-24 months!  All depends on our openness to different medical issues

After referral, we have to submit a letter of intent (LOI) to China and receive their approval for the match.  I expect that we will travel 4-6 months after we are matched.  

CCAI has told us that because we are hoping to adopt a girl under the age of 2 with minor to moderate needs our wait to match could be much longer.  What we have found is that everyone defines 'mild' and 'moderate' differently.  We are hoping to be matched sooner rather than later, and have been told that on average families are matched within 6-12 months of LID.  

There have been ups and downs in this journey as we have had the opportunity to consider one little girl to be part of our family, and also seen other children we'd love to add to our family that are matched with other families who are simply quicker to make a telephone call.  What God is showing me in those trials is that I am open to more medical issues than I once thought, and that my heart is ready for our family to grow.  We know that He will bring a child to our family who is His very best for us, and in His very best timing.  

In the meantime, we continue to pray for our daughter and listen to Caleb & Joshua talk about her daily.  As we finish up the paperchase we know that the hardest part lies ahead- waiting.  

Monday, April 1, 2013


We had a great Easter weekend this year!  I think Bryan worked all or part of every Easter during residency, so we (I) made sure he requested to be off this year so we could enjoy the weekend as a family.  The boys had fun at school doing Easter egg hunts and class parties.  We made a trip to Houston to celebrate with the Picketts and then celebrated on Easter Sunday at home in College Station.  Here are some pictures from our Easter!

Easter egg hunts and parties at school

Celebrating with the Picketts in Houston

I love watching Will & Joshua play together! I pray these two grow up to be great friends.

Will & Joshua keeping Charlotte company

 Gran Jan & Pop Pop with their little Easter bunnies

My two sweet boys on Easter Sunday before church 

My parents joined us in College Station for Easter

Easter lunch

Bryan has been eating gluten free for health reasons since early February.  We had a completely gluten free Easter lunch, including our dessert - creme brulee - which is one of his favorites!

Joshua watching as Granny & Daddy Bob hide the Easter eggs

Ready to go hunt eggs

When Caleb had filled his basket he coached Joshua on where to find more eggs.

After their egg hunt was over Caleb let Joshua drive the jeep!