Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Really Happening

As I'm typing this, I have butterflies in my stomach. I have always known it would happen...eventually...but when you wait almost 6 years, sometimes you wonder. Today I woke up to an email in my inbox from the State Department...they have officially approved Lily for a US visa and will be forwarding documents to the US Consulate in Guangzhou! We will be traveling to China in 45 days! In 45 days we will be getting on a plane...flying halfway around the world...and picking up our daughter!

I don't remember when this desire to adopt from China college, maybe. When Big Daddy came along and we started talking about getting married I mentioned that I wanted to adopt from China. I could tell the thought of adopting from China had never crossed his mind, but he didn't say no.

In October of 2004, we traveled to California for a dedication at Azusa Pacific University. The University was dedicating a "Healing Garden" to my mother-in-law, Vivian.

After this dedication, we had a wonderful dinner where I was assigned a seat next to a woman...who's name I can't remember...that had just returned from China with her second daughter. I spent several hours soaking up all the information I could. Big Daddy and I were at separate tables, so he had no idea what I had been discussing for the last two hours. By the time the dinner was over and Big Daddy had found his way to my table, this woman had gone to her car and gathered all the information she had on adopting from China...including a DVD documentary. Have I ever mentioned I believe in signs? THIS WAS A SIGN...from God...from my mother-in-law...that we should adopt from China. Big Daddy was not convinced.

In August of 2005, my niece Kennedi was baptized at St. Francis Catholic Church. The baptism was right after the service, so we were waiting at the back of the Church for the congregation to clear out. A woman came up to me and ask if I was Amy...that I had dated her brother in high school and wondered what I had been doing since. Did I mention she was holding a Chinese baby!!! By the time the baptism started, I had even more information...including the name of a social worker and an adoption agency. Big Daddy was still not convinced. Seriously??? This was clearly another sign from God that we should adopt...they don't get more obvious than that...right!

A couple of months later, I convinced Big Daddy to go to an agency seminar. They gave us a plethora of information and we were able to talk with several families that had adopted from China. They brought their beautiful daughters with them. I could tell by the time we left...Big Daddy was finally convinced. My dream was now OUR dream!

It took us another year of saving, collecting and authenticating documents, and visits from our social worker before our dossier was sent to China and logged-in on October 16, 2006. It's been a long wait...too long...but some things are worth the wait. God has a plan. His plan...and sometimes His plan takes a while to unfold. I often hear people say "your daughter is so lucky" or "how wonderful it is that we are saving a little girl from an orphanage". To be honest...I am the lucky one. She is filling the hole I have had in my heart for many years...she is saving me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This is Not a Point and Shoot Camera

Several years ago my brother got an awesome camera for Christmas. One of the Canon DSLR cameras that most people drool over...including me...with all the fancy lens and equipment. And, of course, with his fancy camera he took the most amazing photos.

The next Christmas, my sister got the same amazing camera and her own assortment of fancy lens and equipment. She even took a few classes at a local university to learn how to use it. Again...I am drooling.

Every family holiday and gathering, they would bring their fancy cameras and take the most amazing photos. And I would bring my nice point and shoot's not the same. Trust me!

For Christmas 2011, my sweet husband bought me an awesome Canon DSLR camera. The camera I have been dreaming of for years! I spent a day while the boys were in school reading the manual and experimenting with the camera and discovered I had no idea what I was doing. And so I did what most people do when they don't understand how to work a camera...I put it on the automatic settings and never took it off.

I was pretty content with my discovery of the automatic settings until we were in Kansas over spring break and my brother mentions that my camera is NOT a point and shoot camera. What?!? That maybe I should try and use the manual settings. Seriously?!? How different can automatic and manual settings be??

So, my brother gave me a lesson. A lesson that lasted maybe five minutes before one of the kids started screaming. was just enough information to get my feet wet and leave me hungry for more. And so began my pledge to always use the manual settings and my quest for photography blogs...because I need more lessons! Be blogs give great tips, but leave you with the desire for more equipment and software...which of course you NEED!

I think the hardest part of manual settings, for me, is that adjusting for light and speed don't come naturally or quickly for me...yet. I must stop and think about what I am doing and then, sometimes, the moment is gone.

Below are a couple of photos I took using the manual setting on my camera and then processed with Photoshop Elements 10 and Kim Klassen Textures:  Little Things and Storms

This photo of Jackson was taken at the Udall, Kansas park. I have many wonderful memories of this park growing up. My Nana would take my brother and I there often. I took many tennis lessons from her there...and watched many matches between her and her girlfriends. And no trip to the park was complete without returning to Nana's house for a homemade milk shake...little things that are now big things.

The photo below was taken of my very own Wisteria vine on the south side of my house. This is the first year it has bloomed and I wanted to capture the bad it can't last all summer!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Care Package Fairytale

I have been dreaming of sending my daughter a care package for years...since we started our paperwork in the summer of 2006. I have been collecting things ever since.

Not a lot of things...just things I thought she would enjoy playing with and loving on while she waited for us. Things that would show her how much we loved her. The blanket I started making a year before we were matched to her. The beautiful doll we had made for her several months before we were matched. A photo album of us so she would know she had a mommy, daddy, and two big brothers waiting for her.
And, of course, she would look at our photos daily and snuggle the blanket and doll we sent her and know she was loved. The perfect fairytale. 

And then we were matched with Lillian. Within the first few hours of being matched...with the help of Google...I learned a lot about the SWI our daughter was in and it did not fit into the fairytale I had created. 

I want to say upfront that I know our daughter is loved and well taken care of by her nannies. I don't doubt for a second that they aren't doing the best they can for Lily. But the reality is there are most likely twenty babies for every two nannies and they don't have time to keep track of all the "lovies" all the families are sending. So...Lily most likely will not see anything we send her and we will not get anything back when we pick her up.

And so my struggle began...what do I send knowing it will not be used? Money wasted on things she will not see or play with or love on. And yet...what good mother wouldn't send something? Again, not the fairytale I had been dreaming of. 

I have been able to send a care package for about a month...but have done nothing but agonize over it. I have given myself several deadlines to get it done, but they have come and gone. I am by no means a procrastinator, so what was I waiting for?

And then this WONDERFUL opportunity presented itself yesterday. The Incubator Project. A mother, who's daughter is in the same SWI as Lily, teamed up with Love Without Boundaries and is raising money for a much needed incubator for Lily's SWI. Read her story here

So...instead of sending a care package, I am sending a donation. A donation that will help babies at Lily's SWI for many years to come. An incubator that is needed  by the SWI and sent with love. And in the end...although it has changed...I still have my fairytale.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Immigration Approval

We have officially received approval from the US government to adopt one girl from China under the age of three. Hooray! We have also officially received approval from the Chinese government to adopt Song Ying Huan...also know as Lillian Mei Lee Felix. Woohoo! Below are the only photos we currently have of Lillian. In these photos she is 5 months old...but turned 9 months old this week.
All children adopted from this Social Welfare Institute (SWI) are photographed with the same background, pink chair, and red being "lucky" in China.
We are allowed one update between referral (February 27) and travel. I wanted an update right away, but my agency advised me to wait until closer to travel...which was good advise, but I won't's really hard to wait! I have decided to request an update at the beginning of May and it can take anywhere from a week to two weeks to get a reply. We are able to ask 10 questions and will get a few new photographs. I have no idea what questions to ask...10 question to sum up 9 months of your child's life that you have missed?!

In the mean time, I will continue with my retail therapy. I started going every couple of days after referral, but have slowed down to every couple of weeks. LOL! I was doing pretty good until Thursday...when I had to use my gymbucks...yes, HAD to use them. I may have overdone it...just a little!

TRAVEL UPDATE:  We originally told you that we would be traveling sometime in late July or August, but thing have been moving very quickly for us. We are now hoping to travel sometime in June! My prediction...June 21.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lily's Baby

I just received the cutest doll in the mail...for Lily, of course. This doll was created by some wonderful ladies at Baby Be Blessed. Tris was unsure about this purchase..."how many dolls does one girl need" he kept saying, but I knew it was a must have. I am so happy with this purchase and know it will get lots of hugs and snuggles from Lily for years to come.
Isn't she adorable! This is the "Lucy Lou" doll. Each doll comes with a scripture patch and you can select a scripture of your choice. This patch is attached to the front of the doll's body. 
The craftsmanship of this doll is outstanding...and I love all the different ways you can customize the doll from hair color to dress fabric. I'm looking forward to another purchase in the future...maybe "Hope" as she has the cutest pigtails!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break in Kansas

We spent part of Spring Break in Kansas this year. I know what your thinking...wasn't that several weeks ago? Yes...but that's how far behind I am with all my "to do" lists! We spent one day in Udall, Kansas visiting my grandpa...aka Poppy. He made us lunch and then we went to the park to play. Udall has one of the best parks I've ever been kids love it there.
Poppy and my Mom
Jackson on the Swings
Benjamin Loving the Swings
We also went to Botanica Gardens in Wichita. They have a fabulous Children's Garden. We're looking forward to going back again this summer.