Saturday, June 28, 2008

one more piece

of the puzzle received today - our FBI clearances! ("No arrest record," of course :P )

We also mailed out our birth and marriage certificates to CA, PA and VA (we're all over the map, aren't we?) for apostilling so now we're just waiting for those, our home study report and our USCIS approval and we will have all required documents for our dossier!! Then we get to drive to Albany and spend the day getting everything apostilled. One boring trip I can't wait to make! :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

passports are in!

I finally received my passport today! Apparently the birth certificate abstract I'd submitted with the application wasn't good enough (even though I asked the passport person at the post office when I went *grumble*) so they sent a letter asking for a "real" one - luckily I ordered a few when we started this process so sent it right back to them. I really do have to scan in these pictures someday - mine isn't as hilarious as Matt's but they did something with the colors with both that makes Matt look like the living dead and me like a shoo-in for skin cancer at a tanning salon heh ^_^

It was so neat to see those little blue books sitting side by side (briefly, before I had to stash them out of reach of certain curious individuals!) and know that someday soon there will be one more in hand. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

my favorite pastime

Room redecorating! ^_^

We moved Dawson in with his big brothers prior to the home study visit to make sure our room layouts and sizes met with her approval (they did!) Dawson's crib turned out patriotic, which strangely neither of us realized when picking out the colors heh, but I love how it looks with the existing bedding! Here's a terrible pic (I'll have to take a better one!)

We also decided to redecorate the girls' room with a girls theme - again! *oops* Saving every penny for the costs of the adoption doesn't leave us with the luxury of being able to splurge freely as we have before, but I figured that if I can sell the bedding and accessories we have now, plus a few of the accessories we have from previous nursery sets, we can actually break even on the redo!! We're going with the new Cherry Blossoms theme from Kidsline - D.C.-loving dad was sold immediately ^_^ Can't wait to have two little girls in a pretty pink room! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

home: studied!

As of 12:35pm we are home study approved! ^_^

We are done! Other than a little tired crankiness at the end, the kids behaved wonderfully and were happy to show the social worker around the house. It was a great visit!

Our social worker should have our report done by... next Friday!!! We already have our CPS clearances back and Matt's criminal clearance - mine is hopefully in the mail. Those clearances only took THREE DAYS - normally they take over a month! Our social worker included a letter explaining Emerson's situation so I guess it moved a few people to help. :)

We're now getting our dossier ready and will be sending in our birth/marriage certs for apostilling soon, then we'll probably get all other documents apostilled next month. Hopefully we receive our USCIS fingerprinting appointments in the next week or so and we get that most precious of approvals, the I-171H in the next 6 or 7 weeks - we're hoping to submit our dossier by early/mid August, in hopes of receiving a late September/early October travel date. Early September is out with Matt's Masters exams that first week, so timing is everything.

We are thrilled to be this much closer to Emerson! ^_^

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

and away we go!

With 3 minutes to go until closing time, we made it to the Post Office tonight and sent off our I-600A forms and fees - and yep, we attached a cover letter explaining her medical situation and requesting the process be expedited! ^_^ They won't do anything with it until they get our completed home study except perhaps get our (3rd!) fingerprinting appointments set up, but somehow sending that in makes the whole thing seem more real.

We picked up some enlarged photos of Emerson while we were out and hung them on our "kid wall" in the dining room - she fits in so well with the other pictures, it's like she's been there all along. ^_^

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

our growing lovelies

We had well visits for 3 out of 4 kids tonight - Dawson's 6 month, Macy's 18 month (a bit late) and Parker's 3 year (a bit early!). All three are doing great and thriving!

17 lbs, 12 oz
26" long
17" head circumference

27 lbs
33" long
19" head circumference

31 lbs
37" long
19 1/2" head circumference

Dawson is in the 25th-50th percentile range for length and head circumference and the 50th-75th for weight - that's on the typical charts. On the DS chart he's in the 75th for length and er... off the chart for weight hehe. He's Mr. Chunk, what can we say? ^_^ Parker is between 25th and 50th in all but his huge noggin which is 75th to 90th and Macy is in 75th to 90th for everything - she's our future linebacker, I think! :)

All in all a great appointment, everyone was reasonably well-behaved and we got our home study medical report for the kids signed by the pediatrician. I'm sure he thought we're off our rocker for adding to our crazy bunch - his eyes got wide enough haha! - but hey, they're healthy and loved - what more could we ask for? ^_^

Monday, June 16, 2008

the eyes have it!

Dawson had his opthamology check-up this morning in Syracuse. Despite eye drops and a lot of prodding and pulling, he was a trooper! We've been noticing over the last few weeks that he may be developing strabismus (especially in the left eye - no wonder considering his mom's history!) and the doctor did see what I was talking about but because it's not consistent said it might just be a fluke thing and not really develop into anything. He does have moderate astigmatism in both eyes (again - thanks, Mom!) but at this age it's not uncommon and again may just go away. So he's being seen again in 4 months to see how those two things are doing and decide if we need to pursue any treatment. Wouldn't he be adorable in little glasses? Nothing like the flying saucers I wore, of course heh! Overall though things look healthy in there.

In other news, Matt received his passport in the mail this afternoon (even though I filed for mine a full WEEK before he did - it wouldn't be the U.S. government if I'd gotten mine first, right? *grumble*) I'll have to try to scan in the (amazingly awful) picture sometime - too funny! Of course, I guess I should wait to see how mine turned out first, eh? ^_~

Friday, June 13, 2008

6 months and 10 pigs

Dawson is 6 months old!! How fast time flies and how amazing that just 5 months ago we were in the thick of grief and surprise over a label of DS and now here we are adoring our little guy and willingly seeking out that label. What a powerful little person we have the gift of knowing :)

Just in time for his 1/2 year mark, last week Dawson finally discovered his new toy - his piggies! He's looked down at them suspiciously for over a month but only now has he strengthened those tummy muscles enough to kick them into his waiting hands. We are so proud of him and loving this new display of utter cuteness! ^_^

And little Macy is 19 months old and finally starting to talk up a storm! She's still quite the little mother, her favorite phrases now being "come on, guys!" and "SIT DOWN!" ^_^

We can't believe Parker will be 3 next month - where has our little chubby baby gone?

And Cade, water cannon in hand - are we surprised? heh!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

moving along

Spoke to our social worker this morning and she's requesting our NYS criminal clearances and CPS clearances be rushed, so hoping to get those back in the next few weeks instead of the usual 6-8! We also scheduled our in-home visit for Tue 6/24 at 10am.

Emerson is 10 months old today! ^_^

Monday, June 09, 2008

soliloquy for a headrest

Early this morning we packed the kids up and got our second set of fingerprints. The first was for our state clearance; these were for our FBI clearance; the third will be for our INS clearance - hopefully at the end of this every person in the country will know that we have not committed any crimes, or at least that we had enough sense to wear gloves. ^_^

We stopped at the post office first to pick up a prepaid envelope and the money order for $36 to pay the FBI to tell us what we already know. While Matt ran in and I sat with the kids I caught the following solo conversation from Cade behind me:

Emerson? What about Emerson?

Does she have a family?

Does she play?

Does she have food?

But not very much.

Can we help her?
[heavy sigh] ... Yes, I guess so.

Aren't 4 year olds sweet little human beings? ^_^

Saturday, June 07, 2008

two little words

I thought I heard it once a few weeks ago, but today there was no mistaking it from our little Macy.

"Love you."

The sweetest words in the English language - right back at ya, kid! ^_^

Thursday, June 05, 2008

full circle

Yesterday we paused to rethink our decision to adopt. We received some very valid, very experienced concerns from a family member and on top of that an old friend we hoped to use as a reference refused to help us in this endeavor because in her opinion our family is "too big already." :(

We spent the day discussing, analyzing, worrying, doubting. When it was time to head to bed we both felt battered but still wanting to continue with this process. And this morning I found something that warmed my heart and restored my faith in this journey. While we slept on our concerns, Julie was spending time with little Andjela, cuddling and holding her. The irony of the whole situation strikes me so much. She inspired our decision and on the other side of the world ended up being the first one to hold our little girl - could it come any more full circle than that?

We submitted our home study paperwork today still with some worries and doubts but with much more hope. I know this might still end before we've even gotten started, but we both know we want to try. Crossing our fingers and smiling over these new pictures - thank you, Julie, for everything!! ^_^

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

just full of surprises

Dawson had his hearing evaluation this morning - his ears are perfect! The audiologist commented several times how surprised she was at the great reaction she got from his ear drums, that usually kiddos with DS have a "flat" ear drum that doesn't vibrate much in response to their little stimulator, but Dawson's responded as a typical child's would. We tried to do a little hearing booth test, usually used once they get older and are better able to localize sound, but he did a great job and she was very happy and surprised with his reactions to the sounds.

He also had his first OT visit this afternoon - another adult to melt over him ^_^ She was surprised at how good his overall tone is and how verbally responsive and attentive he is - would we expect anything less from our little wonder boy? :)

And on the adoption front, we had our NYS fingerprinting done this morning - fun, fun! We stole a page out of Disney's book and used the "rider switch" policy - Matt went in first while I sat with the kids, then we switched. Of course mine took twice as long because apparently my pointer fingers don't like to cooperate. The unassuming older lady in the Sheriff's office joked that Matt probably figured they found something and booked me. I think maybe Matt's been holding out on us about his wild teenage years and he's an old pro at rolling the ink ^_^

Tomorrow we're submitting our completed home study paperwork, just need to get our medical forms signed and wait for NY to give the all clear on our criminal/CPS checks. I'm very hopeful that we'll have this home study done in about 4 weeks and we can get moving with our INS approval! Matt will apply for his Passport on Saturday and we'll start getting our biography and financial papers together for our dossier. Things are moving along, but I know the dreaded waiting... and waiting... is just around the corner.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

an invisible red thread

connects those who are destined to meet,
regardless of time, place, or circumstance.
The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.

- An ancient Chinese belief

Meet Andjela. She was born August 10, 2007 in Serbia weighing 7 lbs 13 oz and measuring 20" long. She has Down syndrome and she also has a complete AV Canal disorder of the heart. She was given up by her parents at the age of 3 months and has been in an orphanage in Belgrade ever since.

After endless discussion, debate, doubts and assurances, Matt and I have made the not-so-small decision to adopt her!

How we came to this place seems surreal now ... before we married we talked about one day adopting a few children; we were on our save-the-world kick and thought it would be wordly of us to rescue a child each from a different continent. The idea crept to the corners of the mind as life went on and our family grew biologically. After Dawson was born and the shock and rawness of his diagnosis gave way to awe and gratitude at being given such a privilege to have constant access to the deeper importances of life, we briefly talked about one day adopting a child with Down syndrome. I looked at Reece's Rainbow for a few minutes, saved it to my favorites for another day. We figured maybe a few years down the road, maybe when life got "easier."

About a month ago we got an email from a DS support network asking for donations for an international adoption. I gave a small donation and a few days later received a thank you from the family and a link to their blog. I can't resist those things ^_^ Seeing pictures of their little one, reading about their trials and their hope, I felt a soft draw. I went back to Reece's Rainbow and really started looking and reading. I showed Matt and we started talking about how badly we felt for these kids. It's hard to describe how it feels to watch prejudice from afar, knowing that it is a prejudice against something in your own child. I saw Dawson's face in each of those child's. A tug. We initially reaffirmed our decision to one day most definitely adopt one of these kids. But it was hard to walk away, knowing it wouldn't be one of these kids, because these kids would be gone, some adopted but most institutionalized, dead or dying. How do you walk away with a promise to help one day when there are so many that need help today?

When I first read Andjela's profile I moved on to another page; I couldn't imagine having the strength to take that on. But I kept thinking about her, a faceless profile on a website full of sad faces. Matt and I talked about her for days and a tug became a forceful pull. I hadn't even seen her picture but couldn't help feeling we were meant to help her. We finally asked for a picture and more medical information and that little face was pure entrapment. She looks nothing like Dawson and yet there is something about her that reminds me of him, something in her eyes... the clear calm of an old soul waiting to teach the world something amazing.

We realize how challenging this will be for our family. But we also realize that half of a challenge is perception, and that part at least is in our control. Half of all children born with a complete AV Canal disorder die before their first birthday without surgical correction. Andjela is nearly 10 months old. The other half at some point develop pulmonary hypertension, an early death sentence if untreated and often irreversible, even if the heart defect is corrected. It's quite possible she will die before we get to her. It's quite possible we will get to her and she will be unable to undergo the surgery because of dangerously high PHT. It's also possible she will undergo the surgery and still die from complications or PHT that cannot be reversed. And yet we still can't walk away without trying.

Life is busy for us but when we imagine adding this challenge to our already full plate we know we can make it work. We have given a lot of thought to how this will impact our other kids - can we add this ball to our juggling act without dropping the others? Can we take on the task of caring for another special needs child and still give enough quality attention to our other sweeties? Can we handle multiple in-home therapy sessions, medical appointments and procedures, Cade newly in preschool, activities for Parker and Macy, having time as a couple and as individuals working, cleaning, cooking, studying, writing? We think it will require even more planning, organization and simple hard work on our part, but that it's something we can manage.

When we first found out about Dawson having DS, I cried for the unknowns, for the uncertainty. I looked down every path I could conceive, saw the worst that could happen. I clung to "at least" like it was all I had left holding me above the water... at least he isn't in the NICU, at least he doesn't have an intestinal problem, at least he doesn't have a feeding problem, at least he doesn't have a heart defect... even as he was teaching me about unconditional love, I was still consoling myself with my escape from other possible conditions. But I guess all along he's been working on that; I know I can't live life in uncertainties and I can't be afraid to truly love unconditionally.

So as we embark down this road of unknowns, we do what Dawson has shown us so well - take each day as it comes, work with what we can, have patience with the rest and just trust that our love as a family will carry us through somehow.

We are still in limbo right now, having submitted a letter of request to Serbia seeking initial approval for adoption. If all goes well we will rename her Emerson Andjeline and we will bring her home around October. We're doing our best to move quickly, already nearly done with the paperwork aspect of the home study and in contact with the cardiac team at Children's Hospital in Philly and hopefully soon to be in contact with a heart surgeon pioneering a new robotic technique at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, thanks to a new friend also touched by adoption many times, one of whose little ones was thought to be a girl but turned out to be a boy - who they were to name Emerson.

It's hard not to get attached when we know this isn't yet definite, that something could fall through, but I feel sure that life will unfold as it's meant to, even if that means she won't be joining our family. She has already made such an impact.

Sometimes coincidences seem more like invisible red threads.