Friday, December 26, 2008

Wonderful Christmas by James

I've got a lot to write, but I'll try to make this quick. After a wonderful Christmas Day with Mary's family, we are going to another "Christmas" at my dad's house in Eastland today.

We finished both of our meetings with our social worker, Kristin, last weekend. She is a very kind person, and we think that she will be great to work with. She had long conversations with us about parenting, adopting, and our own childhoods. She also checked to make sure that the home environment is safe for children. Although we passed many tests, including having a bathroom, running water, and food, we were surprised to learn that a medicine cabinet above a sink is not sufficient to keep medicine away from a child. We actually have to put them so far out of reach that Mary can't even reach them, or else lock them in a box. We think that is very funny.

Other than that, everything seemed to go well, and Kristin will be writing up the report and giving us a copy to review at the start of the new year. After that, we will need to attend a few classes on easing the transition for our adopted child, hopefully by the end of January, and then the homestudy will be sent to South Korea. At that point our wait time officially begins, and it could be up to a year before we get a referral for a child, and then another 6-8 months before we are able to travel to get him/her.

The timing of the travel is important, and something that we are thinking and praying seriously about. I'll post more on that later.

On the very, very bright side, we have finished all of the baking for the holidays, and although I haven't run the numbers officially yet, I think we did pretty well. We have been so blessed by the generosity of all of our friends and family, many of whom have given very generously in support of bringing our yet unknown baby home. To them, we can not express our gratitude enough.

As many people may know, Mary and I decided a few months ago not to give many gifts this holiday season in order to continue to save for our adoption. The deal we made with our family was that we weren't going to buy for them, and so they can't buy for us. Otherwise, it would make us feel terrible. It turned out to be much harder to do than we initially thought. It has been especially difficult because we enjoy so much finding gifts for our friends and family members. Mary still feels like we should go out and get something. She just asked me again for the 100th time if I think we should go ahead and give presents.

We did buy gifts for Mary's mom because she doesn't really have many other people to celebrate Christmas with. And we didn't want to deprive her of the joy she has in giving gifts. Sylvia is truly one of the most generous people we know, and looks forward to birthdays and Christmas so much for the chance to give gifts. In the end, we did also give each other some small stuff for our stockings. So, it still felt like Christmas.

As a side note, and a conclusion as I wrap this up so that I can get ready to leave for my dad's house, I've kind of lingered on about the gift exchange, but I think that this Christmas we have felt the presence of Christ more than ever before. We went to the candlelight Christmas service at church this year, and I can say that we were both very moved. We know that it is in God's plan for us to adopt our baby. Just as He blessed Mary with the infant Christ, He will will bless my Mary with the baby she is meant to have. We keep faith in that at the end of this long and sometimes harrowing experience, we will experience the joy of parenthood that is in His plan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here we go again... (by James)

So, after many, many long hours, Mary and I were able to just barely make our deadline for the baked goods for Thanksgiving. I think the menu we chose was a bit ambitious. I don't believe in taking shortcuts, so we used only name-brand, premium ingredients, and made everything from scratch, including the pie crusts. We literally baked non-stop for over 36 hours. But, when everthing was said and done, with the generous support of our friends we were blessed with making in profit almost half of the emigration fees that were our goal. We are and will always be grateful to those who have supported us in this sometimes overwhelming endeavor. we are again. It seems like only yesterday we were compiling our 20+ page homestudy application and now we have our first appointment with our social worker. Her name is Kristin, and she seems very nice. Now, we are officially very nervous. Our first meeting will be on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 7:00 p.m. I am confident that everything will be fine, but when someone prefaces a meeting by sending you two pages of things that must be in place before they arrive, it does give you some anxiety. With things progressing, I think it kind of woke us up to the fact that we need to get our emigration stuff going as soon as possible. On the adoption boards, it seems that sometimes it takes acts of Congress to get the paperwork approved, and we don't want any more delays than necessary.

Today we passed out flyers for another bake sale. This time, I will be off work for the week ahead of time, so I will have more time to prepare and plan out a schedule to get everything made on time. Its exhausting to think about it right now, but we are getting excited about it again. We picked a more modest menu that will be a little easier on us. Hopefully, we will be able achieve the same success as we had before and will reach our goal of filing for the paperwork to bring our baby home.

We did also decide recently to apply for the Holt Waiting Child Program. The WC Program is a special program at Holt that helps children who are more difficult to place in homes. It includes sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs. This was not an easy decision for us. To begin with, we had to answer an awful questionnaire about the conditions we were willing to accept for a Waiting Child. It was heartbreaking for both of us to go down the list and say, basically, "Yes, a deaf child is fine, but not a child with cerebral palsy." That is just an example, and not necessarily what we decided on. Each choice felt like a judgement, and we both struggled with those calls. The most interesting part about it, though, was that it forced us to really consider each outcome. Obviously, nothing is certain, and any child could develop any kind of disability, just as a biological child could be born with a special need of some sort. We just pray, as we have been praying, that God gives us the child who is meant to be ours.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our Fundraiser

Lately we've been working on completing all of our homestudy paperwork. There was A LOT of it, but thankfully we are pretty much done. We will be mailing it off this week in a giant envelope! There are some expenses coming up that we have been nervous about. One thing is that we will have to pay around $3,000 for the homestudy fee, and another is that we have to pay over $800 to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is a crucial step that will get the ball rolling on the citizenship for our baby.

Since we felt called to adopt so suddenly, we really had nothing saved up ahead of time. So, we were brainstorming ways that we could earn some extra cash to help pay for this early portion of money due (oh believe me there will be MUCH more coming up!). James loves to bake and has been making cakes and cookies our coworkers ever since we started working. He's talented at it, partially because he loves sweets so much, and also because he's a PERFECTIONIST! And since I am also a perfectionist and have always been very entrepreneurial myself, I had the idea to start the Heart and Seoul bakery fundraiser. We have a menu of some really yummy treats perfect for Thanksgiving, and we are taking holiday orders from people we know. If it goes well, then we'll do a different menu for Christmas. So far we've had a great response! We are going to be extremely busy getting all of these orders ready, but we aren't afraid of a little hard work. I am so excited that we have a way to show off our talents and earn money to help with the adoption at the same time!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Q and A about adoption

There are so many kids who need to be adopted here in the US, so why not adopt one of them?
We chose to pursue international adoption because almost all domestic adoptions are "open" or "semi-open," which is referring to the level of contact with the birth parents. Also, in domestic adoptions the birth parents have up to 6 months after placement to change their mind. We just decided we weren't ready to face that heartache.

Why adopt from Korea instead of another country?

We did a lot of research about this.

  • Korean orphans live in loving, stable foster homes instead of orphanages.

  • Korea has excellent medical care--comparable to that of the US. We can expect regular medical updates about our baby once we are matched with one.

  • Unlike most international adoptions, Korea accepts the US homestudy as documentation enough, which means much less terrifying paperwork for us!

  • Travel is optional. Several countries require lengthy stays abroad, which would be difficult for us considering the nature of our jobs. Korea, on the the other hand, has optional escorts for babies to the US. If we chose to travel to Korea, (we'd love to!) then the stay is only 3-5 days.

  • Korea is a stable country to adopt from. Korean adoptions first began in the 1950s with Harry and Bertha Holt. We have selected their agency, Holt International, to represent us in this process.

  • Mostly, it just feels right to us!

How long until your baby comes home?
That's difficult to answer because it depends on so many factors. A lot of those factors are out of our control, such as processing time from our agency and the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). However, some of it is in our control--how fast we complete and send off paperwork, etc. Also, if we chose to adopt a "waiting child," our wait could be shorter. Our wait will approximately be 21-24 months from application until the baby comes home.
Do you want a boy or a girl?
We would be blessed and thrilled beyond belief with either one, but as of right now we are leaning more toward wanting a girl. In Korea, however, there are more boys for adoption than girls, due to Korean families wishing to adopt girls (opposite, I know, from China). So, our agency will not allow us to request a girl unless we go through the "waiting child" program. We could just see what we got, but odds are high that we would be matched with a boy. Right now, we are praying about the WC (waiting child) program, and if it is right for us. WC means that the babies have some level of medical need, which can vary from very mild and/or correctable, such as crossed eyes, premature birth, cleft lip/palate....all the way up to some very severe lifelong disabilities. We will be looking further into this program to see if it's right for us.
How will you afford it?
Good thing we have thousands of dollars in savings, huh? Seriously, we aren't too sure about that still. Right now we are brainstorming a few fundraising ideas that make good use of our talents.
Are you giving up on having your own baby?
Of course not! We will continue to have hope of our own child if God deems that it is right for us. What we are giving up on is the heartbreaking, roller coaster of fertility treatments. I am not regretful of going through that process, though, because I think it took that for us to be ready to open our hearts to the idea of adopting.
You know you'll get pregnant as soon as you adopt. It happens all the time!
I can honestly say that I'm already getting tired of hearing this one. Maybe we will and maybe we won't. We're leaving that in God's hands. And, we are NOT adopting out of some hope of a "magic" pregnancy. Also, I want it to be known that we aren't adopting as a last ditch effort to have a child. We decided to stop our infertility treatments without pursuing all options because we felt it wasn't what was meant for us.
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.” Isaiah 43:5