Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remember me telling you about how wonderful my parents are? Well they’re even better than I thought. They won’t accept thank you notes, so I’m going to post my gratitude here for all the world to see! Christmas day they showered us with gifts, as usual. But about half way through dinner they insisted that we all stop eating because they couldn’t wait for us to open our last packages. We then proceeded to unwrap what was one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received. They gave us (or rather, me) a treasured bracelet. It's an object so special to them that at first I couldn’t even imagine accepting it. We tried to give it back, but my parents were positively giddy about the idea of relinquishing it. They continued to insist that they would enjoy it more if we owned it than if they did. My brother-in-law was actually convinced that my parents must be dying – why else would they be willing to give something like this up? The answer is that they are truly the most generous people I have ever known. I feel downright miserly in comparison. Their treasure is in heaven and they ACT like it. For me it was so convicting to see how lightly they hold onto the things of this world, and how much joy they found in the pleasure of others. I’ve been challenged lately about what it means to be a joyful giver, and specifically what it means to send your treasure on ahead, through a little book I would highly recommend called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. I am blessed, though, to not just own a great book on the subject, but to have two living examples not 3 miles away! So thanks Mom and Dad. Not just for my exquisite gift, but for your lives.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Having children, both biological and now adopted, has given me insight into certain truths of Scripture that I’ve never even thought about before. Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that Mary worshipped her son. I’m often tempted to worship my children by making them more important than my relationship with God, or by admiring their qualities without giving honor to their Maker. Of course the desire of my heart is to honor God above all else, but practically, my three little blessings can distract me from Him if I’m not careful. Mary was free from that temptation because her son really was her Lord. What a feeling that must have been, to cuddle, tickle, feed and stare at the face of God! Amazing to think that by admiring and being absorbed in, and completely falling in love with her child, she was actually worshipping her Savior. Luke 1:47 records Mary’s feelings in her words: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” I’m sure she would be appalled to know how many people today worship her as the way to God. Clearly she recognized Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” and that no one could “come to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6), because even after His death, resurrection and ascension, Mary continued to identify with the true believers (Acts 1:14). Her love for Christ was not just the affection of a mother for her baby boy, it was the love of a heart saved from sin and transformed by His grace. My prayer is that I (and you!) can also learn to love the baby of Christmas as Mary did. That we might not leave Him there in the manger, but instead might declare what Simeon did when he looked at the infant Christ: “my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples” (Luke 2:30).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good news and bad news. The good news is we received a new picture of Reagan today! I’m not sure exactly when it was taken but she already looks so much bigger! Her little arms and legs have really filled out and we can finally see her hands. All of the families who have traveled to her orphanage thus far have mentioned they were very impressed with the care the children receive, but it’s reassuring to see for ourselves that our baby seems to be thriving.
The bad news is that there is a problem with our paperwork. Back in May we each had a physical, and later came back with a notary to have medical clearance letters signed and notarized. Unfortunately those letters expire next week and there’s no way they’ll be translated and “logged in” at the Vietnamese Dept of International Adoption before then. In anticipation of this problem we went through the whole process again in November – new exam, new notary, new letters – which is a bit tricky considering Dan and I have different doctors, neither of them have a notary in the building, each require a real appointment to sign the letters, and traveling notaries are expensive! But we got it all done and sent in to the Secretary of State in early December. They should have been returned by now, so our agency checked into it and determined that the letters would be rejected because our notary neglected to fill in the dates properly! They probably won’t be able to start processing the rest of our dossier until those letters are fixed, authenticated by the Secretary of State of California (which, by the way, is apparently the worst one of the 50 to work with), consularized by the Vietnamese consulate in San Fransisco, approved by our agency in Tulsa, and then finally forwarded to Vietnam. When all is said and done, this will probably set us back at least two weeks.
Okay, reading back over what I just wrote I imagine you’re probably all bored and overwhelmed with way too much information. Let’s just sum it up by saying, please pray that this will all get worked out quickly, that the translation process can be expedited, and that we’ll be able to catch up to the other two families we hope to be able to travel with. Maybe too this has given you a little glimpse into what we all go through to get these babies home! Thanks in advance for your prayers, and enjoy the new photo of our little peanut!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And the name is... Reagan! After much debate and much time convincing a very determined four-year-old that it IS a girl name, we have finally decided on Reagan Van-Thao ~. Alyssa was determined to name her Kiara and insisted that even if we decided to give her a different name she would still call her Kiara. She wasn't actually defiant about it, just resolved in a pretty cute way. Already she is so protective of and excited about her new sister. One of the first things we did upon receiving our referral was to upload Reagan’s picture to Costco and have about 2 dozen copies printed. Immediately after we picked them up, Alyssa asked for her copy and tape and promptly taped it to the wall next to her bed. She also has a wallet-sized copy and shows her sister to everyone! Parker also, though only 2 ½, knows that he’s a big brother and talks about his little sister all the time. I’m sure at some point they’re going to start to wonder if this is really going to happen, but at least now they have a face to love on!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday we signed our official acceptance papers! Of course I was determined to get them completed and returned the same day, but that proved to be quite a feat considering I didn’t get home to see the instructions until 1:30, Dan was at work which is 35 minutes away, the package needed to include a thoughtful letter to the orphanage director, everything had to be notarized in triplicate and the post office’s cut-off time is 4pm. By God’s grace we got it all together, and though I missed the 4 o’clock deadline by 18 minutes, the express mail carrier was still there and took it anyway. Needless to say I had a stress headache by the time I finally in the car to drive home in LA’s rush-hour traffic.
This post, however, is really about the amazing mother that I have. When I called her at 1:30 she dropped everything, came over with my dad, helped me fill out some of the paperwork, and stayed with the kids while they were sleeping so I didn’t have to drag 2 nap-less kids to the notary with me. And that is so typical of both my parents and my in-laws. All of them will gladly set aside whatever is on their agendas to be with our kids. But what she left behind at our house yesterday is what has me in tears here over how wonderful she is. Sitting in front of me is a journal she has made for our new daughter. From the day we first told my parents we were going to pursue adoption, she has secretly and lovingly documented each step of the way. Included are photographs of important people and events, commentary on each little bit of adoption news, related newspaper articles, posts from our agency’s adoption forum – everything you could think of, and details I’ve forgotten – ending with our first family “portrait” from Friday after we told her the fabulous news. I put off reading it until naptime this afternoon. Dan read it last night and he was nearly in tears, so I knew I couldn’t start until I could be alone for a while. It is a treasure not only because of its value as a keepsake for our daughter, but also because of the depth of her love revealed in it. I knew that I could love a baby not born to me, but its so comforting to be assured of the love already growing the hearts of those around us for this precious baby girl. Love that existed long before our daughter was even conceived! An added blessing will be that my parents are planning on traveling with us to Vietnam so they’ll get to share in that incredible moment when we see their newest granddaughter’s face for the first time in person. God is so gracious to have given me such an incredible family all the way around!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Here's another attempt to post a picture of our precious baby girl. I know it's so small and so grainy but it's the only one we have. I thought that perhaps if I cropped it down to just her face you could get a better idea what she looks like. Our agency is going to try to get another picture for us soon, but their offices in Vietnam are quite some distance from her orphanage so I imagine the updates will be few and far between. We'll take what we can get! The funny thing is, for the millions of times I know I will examine this photo between now and the day we finally hold her in our arms, she won't look like this at all by the time that day comes. I will just treasure every piece I can collect from her life before she's finally ours and guard each one carefully until I can pass them on to her someday.
Our daughter now has a face, but no longer has a name. Of course she has a Vietnamese name, part of which we’ll use as her middle name, but we want to give her an American first name. For 16 months we’ve been calling her Savannah. We agreed on that name almost immediately after we decided to adopt a little girl and you’ll notice that it still appears in my profile to your left. However, now that this is all starting to feel very real, Savannah just doesn’t seem quite right. Naming someone is a big chore! A privilege, but a weighty one, and making the choice together with a man and a very opinionated 4 year-old is proving difficult. Alyssa has begun informing God in her every prayer regarding her sister that we’re going to be changing her name. Just in case God gets confused! I’m feeling pressure to name her now in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. My deadline before last Friday was to have a name by the time we picked her up, but now that we know who she is and know that she’s born, it seems quite sad to me that she’s still nameless. So we’re open to suggestions! On the short list right now are Reagan and Ashlyn. What do you think?!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

While it may seem like our wait is over, we are really just starting a different kind of wait. In some ways this part will be harder - our girl will be growing up without us - but in other ways I imagine it will be easier - at least there's a goal in sight and some assurance that this really is going to happen. Since many of you have already asked why we can't just go pick her up now, following is an exerpt from a letter our agency sent us a while back.

After a referral of a child has been accepted and the family has returned the paperwork to Dillon, we will prepare the acceptance documents to be sent to Vietnam. The following is an outline of what occurs once your paperwork arrives in Vietnam:

Your dossier and acceptance papers are sent to Ho Chi Minh City to our attorney, Thomas. When Thomas receives your dossier, he will forward it to a translator. The translation process can take 1-3 weeks.

After your dossier has completed the translation process, Thomas will send it to the
International Adoption Department (IAD) in Ha Noi. The IAD will review your dossier, and, if they are satisfied with all the documents, they will give your dossier a log-in date. You can estimate you will travel within 3-6 months of this log-in date.

After the IAD has given your dossier a log-in date, they will send a letter to your child’s province requesting that the Local Justice Department begin compiling your child’s legal documents, which is also called the child’s dossier. This process can take up to 30 business days.

Once the IAD in Ha Noi receives your child’s dossier, they will review your child’s dossier and your dossier. After they are satisfied with all the dossier documents, they will forward your family's dossier and the child's dossier back to your child’s Local Justice Department in your child’s province.

When the Local Justice Department in your child’s province receives your dossier and your child’s dossier, they will forward the dossier documents to the People’s Committee and then the People’s Committee will set a date and time for the Giving and Receiving Ceremony.

Families should have approximately two weeks notice before travel.

Please remember that due to this being a new and evolving program, the process and timeframes outlined above can change without notice.

So all that to say, though we're overwhelmingly grateful for this early Christmas gift, we won't get to enjoy her fully until at least Easter! In the meantime please pray with us that everything will go smoothly throughout this process and that we'll see our girl sooner rather than later.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Today is THE day! The day we have been praying for! The day we got the fabulous phone call we’ve been waiting so many months for! Today we were introduced to our DAUGHTER! She is a precious little thing, only 6 weeks old, and only 5 ½ pounds. Our biological children were over 8 ½ lbs and 7 ½ lbs respectively at birth, so I can’t even imagine what such a tiny baby would feel like. Of course she’ll grow quite a bit between now and the time we meet her in person, but I think we’ll probably still get to reuse all of Alyssa’s clothes – even the tiniest things! For some reason I was just sure that we’d be bringing home a toddler, so to think that we have an infant – well it’s just better than I could have imagined. God is so good! The funny thing is, the last few days I’ve really been meditating on the fact that God is good all the time. He’s not any more or less good based on my experience, and I can praise Him for His goodness no matter the circumstance. But I have to say that I am more in awe of His grace in my life today that I was yesterday! He even answered my prayers that our daughter would have a known birthday (not just an assumed one), a real birth certificate, and that she would be relinquished (not abandoned). I really am overwhelmed! I’ll post more later (in fact, you’re unlikely to read of anything else here for a while) but for now I need to stop and enjoy the two precious babies that are already in our home!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We had sick kiddos this weekend. Nothing major and they’re both now fully recovered, so I can post just how adorable they are when they’re under the weather. Normally they are both way to busy to cuddle, so a willingness to sit is my first indication that something is wrong. Cleaning up the inevitable results of the flu is not fun, and I feel so sorry for them, but I do cherish the opportunity to baby them a little. Here they are, comforting each other on the couch, fully engrossed in Curious George – a rare treat reserved for sick days.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I’m not an animal person. Never have been… probably never will be. It’s not that I’m afraid, or don’t think most pets are pretty cute, but they’re generally either dirty or require a ton of work to keep them from being so. The only possible exception is a cat but my husband is allergic so that’s out. I know most of you out there will disagree. Many of you will think that I’m depriving my children by not giving them a furry pet, but you don’t have to clean up after it. All of that said, however, my sister bought the kids a fish last February. She was babysitting for the evening and Alyssa convinced her that we needed a pet. The kids’ first choice was an elephant, followed by a giraffe, but finally decided that a fish was better than nothing. I was okay with that little surprise because I figured it would be dead within the week. Boy was I was wrong. Here it is now December and Mo is as alive as ever. Since when do goldfish live 10 months?! Even Pecadillo, a friend of ours and son of Pyromaniac, who used to maintain fish tanks for a living, is amazed that we're still nurturing the original Mo. A few weeks ago, however, we had a close call. I came home one afternoon to find Mo floating at the top of the fishbowl. A friend called just moments later and we discussed just what you do when a fish dies during naptime. Do you call said sister and have her bring a replacement fish before the kids wake up? Or do you plunge into that conversation on death with a 2 ½ and 4 year-old? Fortunately I didn’t have to answer that question because thanks to the miracle of the internet I discovered that our fish likely had swim bladder disease and he was floating because he had too much gas in his stomach. The cure? A frozen pea. Yes, a pea. So I thawed and squished the pea, fed it to Mo, and a few hours later he was swimming as normal. In the weeks since the first incident he has floated to the top several more times, but I finally purchased a higher quality fish food ($3 for a 6-month supply vs. $1.50) and he now seems to be cured! I feel rather ridiculous going to all this effort for a fish, but after 10 months you actually get a little attached! Good news is, Alyssa has discerned that Mo has been sick and already knows what pet she wants when Mo dies – a mouse!