Christmas 2016

Christmas of 2016 was an odd one for us. Having been in China, I’d missed nearly all of our church’s Advent worship gatherings. And while we did see Christmas decorations in China, we spent all of our time in the southern part of China (think: Florida), and my heart was focused on adoption, official appointments, bonding, attachment, and parenting, not on Christmas. We arrived home on the 23rd, so by Christmas, we were still crazy jet-lagged. And most of the at-home family was sick with a bad cold and cough.

We made the most of it, though, and tried to celebrate Christmas a bit. Matt and my mom had done some decorating, including setting up the Christmas tree. Of course, my mom and brother David were here when we got back, and my dad had been here before and then flown out to meet me and fly home with the girls and me, so we had a small contingent of family here to celebrate. Conventional wisdom is that you should keep your newly adopted child’s world small when they arrive home, limiting interactions primarily to immediate family until they learn what family really is. Larger Christmas celebrations with extended family don’t quite fall into that description, but we figured things in China were so chaotic that a few more days of chaos weren’t going to ruin everything, and we’d only have a few extra people. We’d limit holding FangFang and feeding her to just Matt and me, but we’d enjoy our time with family. All of them had been here helping while I was gone, and we wanted to give them the chance to meet FangFang and see MeiMei, and I wanted to see them.

Plus they agreed to handle the Christmas dinner preparations 🙂 True to their word, they did just that – with my mom’s help, David made us some awesome vegetarian lasagna, and my dad made his traditional cheese torte. They also handled most of the clean up and were just generally helpful in those crazy first few days home! And in the midst of the craziness, we managed to have some fun 🙂

We made and frosted our customary cut-out cookies!

img_4836

We’ll just pretend that Madeleine CaiQun was dressed for the occasion…

fullsizerender

The littles were, of course, more interested in eating than in frosting, and, what with it being Christmas and all, we allowed the indulgence 🙂

img_4835

On Christmas morning we decided not to drag it out but to let everyone dive into the gift opening.

img_4853

img_4867

Everyone got gifts with which they were thrilled – it was a morning of blessings 🙂

img_4864

img_4860

When you have OI and an always-planning mama, you and your brother may both get giant bean bags for Christmas! They’re tons of fun in general, but they’re also perfect for comfort after major fractures – this way we’ll have them when we need them, but we can also just enjoy them for now!

img_4904

We, of course, used the day together to continue to cultivate those precious new sibling relationships.

img_4887

Miranda really has stepped up to the task of welcoming FangFang into the family and being a loving big sister to her, and that has been such a sweet thing to see.

And of course my two big girls continued to enjoy being reunited! They have moments of sibling drama, but they also play together so well so much of the time.

img_4871

And we enjoyed our sweet treats – cheese torte for the win!

img_4878

And for me? Honestly, all I wanted was for my whole family to be home and together. However, Matt really outdid himself. When we bought our house, the room we both agreed was most in need of some updates was the upstairs bathroom, but there were always reasons to tackle other rooms first, so we still hadn’t gotten around to that one. While I was gone, Matt completely renovated it for me! The full details are here, but in essence, he took this:

is-1uxuo5zlmk199

The whales, people. The whales. Also, not pictured: a door that never quite shut all the way.

And he turned it into this!

img_0908

I love it. This guy is a keeper.

It may not have been our most put-together, well-planned, healthiest, Christ-focused Christmas. But we did what we could, we enjoyed our time together, and we sought to bless each other and celebrate amidst the crazy, and for this year, we count that as a win 🙂

adoption progress

Friends, we are getting close to the end of our adoption process, and it has been such an amazing journey. It was just over 9 months ago that we first saw her sweet face. We received pre-approval to adopt her – and then spent about a month wondering if we’d be able to proceed with adopting her after Matt’s heart attack. Those days were so intense. Once we finally heard that everyone involved had signed off, and we could move forward, we celebrated, and then we walked through the home study, our initial immigration approval, and pulling together all of the documents necessary for our dossier.

DTC pic

We rejoiced when we got our official Letter of Acceptance from China, and it was so satisfying to check off the boxes for the few US immigration approvals that followed. We expect to have the last of those, our Article 5, on Monday, and then we’ll really just be waiting for our Travel Approval! We’re so close I can practically taste the amazing food!

chinese-food

And along the way, we’ve learned a book’s worth of information about osteogenesis imperfecta and how to care for this sweet girl, and we’ve gotten connected to an amazing community of parents caring for kids with OI, who, I know, will continue to help us as we seek the best medical care possible for her.

We’ve also paid a huge portion of the costs involved with our adoption. Our home study is paid in full. Our US immigration fees are paid in full. All of our document notarization, certification, and authentication fees are paid in full. Our fees to the China Center of Children’s Welfare and Adoptions (CCCWA) are paid in full. All fees due to our placing agency are paid in full. We’ve gotten our entry visas for our upcoming travel to China. And we have the funds to cover a lot of the remaining costs.

That is in large part due to many of you, our friends and family. We started this process with the expectation that we would be able to fund more of this adoption ourselves out of our savings – but then when we had to pay the medical bills from Matt’s heart attack, those savings were depleted significantly. We’ve still been able to put a lot of our own savings and earnings toward the costs of adopting our precious girl, but the fact that we weren’t able to pay as much as we’d thought from our savings has made us even more grateful for the contributions so many of you have made. If you haven’t received a personal thank you note yet, it will be to you soon. We truly appreciate the support that so many of you have given us. Our matching grant goal was met within a couple short weeks, and so many of you have contributed outside of that, as well. It is obviously a practical help, but it has also been tremendously encouraging to know that we have friends and family walking with us in a real way on this journey!

Because we have already received so much support from so many of you, I almost don’t want to put this out there. But we have been honest thus far, and we want to continue to be real with you. Our hope is also that God will continue to write this story – our story, our baby girl’s story, and ultimately His story – in such a way that His faithful provision will be apparent, and we want that to be evident to those of you following along through this blog. And so, we’re going to share this – we are still in need of funds in order to cover the remaining costs to complete our little girl’s adoption.

As I wrote above, we do have a significant amount of funds on hand to cover these remaining expenses. However, the expenses are large. The following remain to be paid:

  • our international flights
  • in-country hotel, travel, and food expenses
  • in-country guide fees
  • a mandatory donation to our daughter’s orphanage
  • official adoption finalization expenses

We are well over halfway there, but we still need to come up with the remaining funds to cover those expenses. We have 2 more grant applications out there, but we don’t anticipate those fully funding us. We’ve been looking into some loan possibilities, as well, and I’ve been working some extra hours. We are pursuing every pathway available to us to to secure all the funds necessary to complete our baby girl’s adoption. And as part of that, we come before you once again and humbly ask if you would consider making a contribution toward our adoption costs? We would be honored if you would join us on this journey in that way. You can contribute via Paypal, make a tax-deductible donation through our myStory page or by sending a check to Lifesong (full instructions to ensure it is credited to our account are contained in this blog post), or purchase an artwork from Matt’s etsy site, and those funds will go straight toward these remaining adoption expenses.

situation-and-circumstance-overcome

To those who have already contributed, again, we say thank you. You have been such a blessing, support, and encouragement to us. We are more humbled and honored by your participation with us on this journey than we could ever express. And if any of you readers have been considering contributing or are considering it now, please know we would so appreciate donations in any amount. We look forward to someday being able to tell our little girl about the many friends and family who came together to make it possible for us to bring her home and adopt her into our family, to be forever our precious daughter!