Thursday, July 23, 2015

Big things are happening!

Where has the time gone?

The last couple of months have been so hectic that they have flown by!  We got out I-800 approval in June along with our NVC numbers.  In the mean time we had to update our USCIS Biometrics fingerprints and submit a Supplement 3 to the I-800a (even though we were approved for the I800. The reason for this was that our children have a few other diagnoses that were on their referral medical than we were approved for, so we wanted to make sure that even though USICS had approved us despite these additional diagnoses, that we would be covered once we got in country.  Actually, at this time I think we're still waiting on that approval... Why would I know know?

I'm IN COUNTRY NOW!

I told you it's been crazy!

At one point we were told that to get court scheduled for July would be practically impossible and that many people in country take vacation in August, so we should expect September travel.  Then, one day we were told they were trying to schedule court for July 20th and we should plan on being in country that day.  The biggest issue for us was that the judges were now requiring both parents to be present at court, we had originally planned on me coming alone.  We had about 10 days notice to get care for Claudia set us as well as getting everything situated with work.  That was actually a good amount of time all things considered.  Jason was able to get care for Claudia all figured out for the week he would be gone in just a few days.  We have several trusted friends and family that were willing to step up and help out not only for this week but also in the upcoming weeks while I am still away.  Thank you all!

We flew out of the US on Saturday, July 18th and after about 35 hours landed in our children's country.  Jason and my 7th wedding anniversary was on July 19th, we spent it mostly on a plane AND it was only 16 hours long since we changed time zones.  Pretty cool huh?  Anyway, we got into country Monday morning around 2am (6pm Sunday evening home time).

We did not have court on Monday but were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday court hearing.  Our children reside in two different regions of the country, therefore we had to go to a separate court for each of them.  Can I just tell you that the thought of going to court and pleading our case before a judge (let alone 2 judges) terrifies me!!?!!

So on Tuesday after going out for breakfast and meeting wit hour lawyer to go over what to expect in court, we drove the 2+ hours to Callie's region.  The judge was a pleasant young man.  We were his first American adoption case (he did have one other but the woman was of the counties' decent.)  The judge asked us several questions before the hearing even started.  He wanted to know how much we knew about the country, its history, how we would help our child maintain their heritage...  It was not TOO bad.  Once the other party got there (the person representing the best interest of the child) court officially started.  We plead our case (Jason read our prepared statement) and the other party spoke on behalf of Callie.  All went well and the adoption decree was signed within  a half an hour after court (this is unheard of, it usually takes days.)  "Callie" is now Milena (pronounced Mee-lay-nuh) and is officially ours!  Then it was a mad dash to get the rest of the paperwork completed in her region so that we would not have to travel the 2 hours back to her region on another day.  Some calls were made, people stayed in the office late and we got what we needed.  It was around 6pm when we finally got to Milena's orphanage/home. 

The residents rushed to the gate to let us in after we rang the bell.  They knew why we were there.  Everyone was very excited for Milena, yet sad to see her go!  Milena was very well loved at her orphanage.  The Sisters prepared a HUGE suitcase full of clothes and belongings for Milena (more than we could ever take home).  This is unusual for orphanages, usually you have to bring a change of clothes for the child to leave in, they have to leave all else at the orphanage.  Milena was blessed to be in such a wonderful place.

We got back to the apartment late on Tuesday night and crashed.

More later... Milena is waking, time to start our day!  Pics to come later.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Continued Progress

We received our Article 16 (via email) on May 28th.  After a few edits we were able to send our I-800 (US Immigration paperwork) back to our agency on May 29th, they got it on the 30th.  Our agency reviewed the paperwork to check for errors and sent it to USCIS for us.  USCIS received the I-800 into their lockbox in Texas on June 3rd and shipped it out to our officer around June 8th.  On June 9th our bank statement showed that USCIS had cashed our check.

So, this is where we are at currently.  We are waiting for our I-800 approval or for them to send us a RFE (Request for evidence) to help them make a favorable decision.  We fully expect to get a RFE and are prepared with an updated Home Study in hand.  I say we expect to get a RFE because the special needs of the children we are requesting to adopt does not match exactly what our original USCIS approval qualified us for.  There were a few relatively minor things in the medical files that we did not have in our original home study, but we've got that all taken care or and ready and waiting in case we get the RFE.  We are hopeful that this would only slow us down a week or 2.
We should have the approval or RFE in the next couple of weeks.  Once we finally get approved that will go to the National Visa Center and allow us to essentially apply for US Visas for the children.  The NVC conduct an Orphan Investigation and then issue an Article 5 our court dates can be scheduled and I can travel back to the children.  After about 3 weeks in country, we'll head home!  That's about it folks, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

When will we travel?  Well... we don't know, it all depends on how quickly things move along.  Best case scenario, we'll get court dates for the end of July.  I am really hoping for this but I don't think it is likely (so I won't hold my breath).  There is a chance we could get court dates scheduled for August, however August in a big month for vacations in our children's country and it may not be possible to get 2 court dates scheduled close enough together because of officials going on vacation. So that puts us into September.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I will be travelling sometime between July and September, of course I could be wrong and something else could come up to push us back, but I'm hopeful for a speedy process from here on out.

Please pray for a quick and smooth process and also for the circumstances to be right for Jason to get to travel with me for the last part of my trip and to be able to fly home with me and the children.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have shared a kind word with us, prayed for us or donated towards this adoption in anyway.  Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and ultimately will bring Chance and Callie home.  We cannot thank you enough!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Good News!

We finally got the news we have been waiting for! On Friday our agency sent us an email saying we can expect to receive our Article 16 (basically all the info the government has on the children) in about 2 weeks. That means that our children's government has given us their second approval. I love forward progress! With this news we were also given the next several steps and an approximate timeline to a court date. Barring any further issues I could be heading back over in 10-12 weeks. That means that there is still a small chance that our children could be home (or at least I'll be with them) for their birthdays is September. This is my prayer!

We have less than a month to finish paying our adoption agency. Our final fee to the agency is $10,000. After we pay that, we'll only have to pay for our next step with the USCIS (only because we added a second child), for flights, food in country, money for visas, medicals and other smaller incidentals. We're getting so close!

I just started up another t-shirt fundraiser.  This one should appeal to the masses, it's quite fun if I do say so myself! These come in Youth XS (size 2-4T) up to Adult 4x. You can make a purchase here:
https://www.booster.com/dontfitin If we don't sell enough (11) shirts, the company will not print them and your money will be refunded.
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
I am also still selling Origami Owl! The end of the school year is here which means GRADUATION! An Origami Owl locket would make a fantastic graduation gift. Summertime also means lots of weddings! We have great gifts for those too! If you are or know a bride who would be interested in ordering Origami Owl as gifts for her wedding party, please contact me for possible discounts. And last but not lease, summertime means Baseball!  Origami Owl has teamed up with the MLB and has charms for all National and American league teams!  Show your team spirit this year with Origami Owl!  If you are interested in ordering, you can do so through my website:: www.Origami4Orphans.OrigamiOwl.com at check out type in Code 34357.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.  This part of our journey is getting closer to the end, 3 months still seems like a long ways away but it will get here soon!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trip #1, Part 7

This post is about my last day in country, my last day visiting Chane.
When I went into the baby room that morning Chance was asleep in his chair. It took him a minute or two to really wake up. After he was awake I got to feed him a biscuit (rather than his usual pureed food).  According to the Sisters, Chance was unable to chew anything just a week ago (I'm not sure if this is true, or just what they thought). After playing for a little while, I fed him his lunch. Chance was full of it that morning. He kept spitting his food out/blowing raspberries with it and laughing. He'd only done that once or twice before when I fed him, and then it was only once at each feeding.  This time it was nearly every bite!  He is a funny guy and I'm glad he found something amusing! After his lunch we played and relaxed until it was time for his nap.
After the visit I went back to my apartment, ate some leftovers, started packing and took a little nap before my second visit.  I had to get some energy so that I didn't have a complete breakdown when I had to say good-bye.
When I went into the room for the second visit, I touched Chance's shoulder to get his attention, he looked up, saw me and gave me a nice, big smile. My heart melted.  I hate how just as he is getting to know me and recognize me, I have to leave him for several months.  It is not fair to the children!  We played together for a while and also played with some of the other babies. Later I gave Chance his afternoon tea in his bottle and he fell asleep in my arms. I love that he was so comfortable with me. I then put him in his crib for a nap. I stayed for a little while longer playing with the other children and then I got ready to go. One of the Sisters woke Chance up for dinner and I said goodbye to him. I can't wait to see that smiling face again and to hear is laugh.
In the week I was in country, I saw some changes in Chance. I think he is able to stand for a bit longer now than he was a week ago. He also interacted more with me by the end of the visit. One of the Sisters said that he seems more alert and aware. I can only hope that he keeps up his progress.
After I left the orphanage, I got to meet up with another adoptive mother who just flew in that afternoon. We had a nice dinner together, got to know one another a bit and then i had to go back to my apartment, finish packing and take another quick nap. I left my apartment at 1am to catch my 3am flight back home.

It has been 7 and a half weeks since I last saw my children.  Each day without news on the children or news of progress in our case wears on me.  I wonder all the time how Callie is doing, what she is thinking, if she thinks of me often. I wonder if Chance is standing on his own yet, if he continues to progress to eat more solid foods.  I wonder how much longer until I get to see them again.  Please pray that we get news soon!

We still have our matching grant ongoing.  We need $846 more to hit the match.  If you feel led, please consider donating towards our adoption.  You may do so here: http://reecesrainbow.org/69430/sponsorvanhalle-2 


Monday, May 4, 2015

Trip #1, Part 6

Day 6 was my first day without getting to see Callie. It was much more of a low-key day. I puttered around my apartment for a bit in the morning before my first visit with Chance. Throughout my trip I had some difficulty sleeping, I was often up early.  That worked out OK though because I was usually able to Skype with Jason before he went to bed.  Time change is strange!

I really think that Chance began to recognize me (as much as he likely recognizes any of his caregivers).  I hope I am high on his list of favorites as he did seem to favor me some. I got to play with Chance for a while and feed him his lunch before it was time for his nap. 
In general Chance is a very happy boy, especially when he is engaged; however due to living in an orphanage for 2.5 years he does have some institutional-type behaviors which is to be expected.  I am willing to bet that our children are in some of the best orphanages in their country, if not in all of Europe.  I love the staff there and the staff loves the children.  That really shows, however an orphanage will never be the same as a family.  The children to not get a ton of one-on-one time with caregivers like they would a mom or dad.  The nannys have to feed the children, bathe them, change them, play with them and put them to bed. I know that Chance will decrease his behaviors over time, just like Claudia did.  While I was there with him, spending individual time with him, I saw a great decrease already.
Speaking of the staff, the caregivers are so sweet to the children and I love the Sisters. I cannot say enough good things about them. They truly and deeply love every child that comes into their care. They do not care about prognoses, or lifespans. The caregivers love on each and every child for as long as they have them, the children in this particular orphanage tend to have more severe needs. There are several with CP, SB, DS, DD and more. Some of the children are very bright and have mostly physical disabilities.
Back to Chance... He has the greatest laugh and such a big, joyful smile. He copies me at times and anticipates when I am going to do something. Chance is very ticklish and squirmy. He enjoys cuddling into my chest. Chance can grasp large objects but has very poor fine motor coordination. He is starting to learn how to stand briefly with assistance.
During Chance's nap I had a productive afternoon.  And by productive, I mean that I did things other that eat lunch and sit in my room.  I got some local pizza which was very good, then I even ventured to a coffee shop by myself during lunch to get a gingerbread latte which was also amazing! I was able to to go to the huge outdoor market they have in the center of the city every weekend; there are crafters selling their wares at the market. The craftsmanship on some of the items is absolutely amazing!
Later that afternoon I got to take Chance outside for a walk in the stroller. It was nearly 60 degrees out but still Chance was bundled up as if it were 20 degrees or less!  They really try to keep the children warm. Such is the European way. After our walk I fed him his dinner and said good bye. I don't think he was too happy to see me leave. <3 p="">
This evening I had my translator order me some authentic local food, it was a wrap with pork, french fries, potatoes, onion, peppers and herbs. Sooo yummy!  After dinner in my room, I ventured out into the streets of the city by myself to take a walk in the nice weather and to find some dessert. I found my way into a sweets shop and bought Turkish delight.  That is an interesting treat. Not bad, but not quite satisfying to my American sweet tooth!

By this point my trip was almost over, I onle had one more day left with Chance before I left for several months...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trip #1, Part 5

My 5th day in country was the last day I was able to spend with both Chance and Callie.  I started off the day at the orphanage visiting with both children. The visit was short but Chance was such a happy and giggly boy that it was OK, even if i was not able to spend much time with him.

After the quick visit I went to the Ministry to sign paperwork stating that Jason and I were in agreement and that we would like to pursue the adoption of both Callie and Chance. The other adoptive mother also had to go to the Ministry that morning.  I was called in to sign the paperwork first, afterwards my translator said I would have to come back in for another meeting in a minute. That had me nervous to say the least as she said she would explain later. I sat anxiously waiting for the other mother to register and was then called back in, with the other mom there. We were then told that we were being asked to essentially provide an information session to the workers of the office. So many people cannot understand why people want to adopt children, especially ones who have special needs. It was a privilege for me to be able to share Claudia's story and to explain to everyone the capabilities of people with DS and the opportunities that they will have in America. I also discussed how advanced Callie was and how well she speaks her Native language. I was nervous to speak, as I'm not a public speaker, but it went really well. I hope that our speeches will help the people in the office understand more about people with differing abilities.
After the meeting I went back to the orphanage to eat lunch with Callie. We had a nice meal of pasta, lentils and a warm slaw-type of salad. Callie put plain yogurt on top and mixed it all together... Um yum? She eats well, but very slowly. She likes to be helpful and kept trying to give me more food and drink because I had finished before her. She has a very sweet heart.
After lunch it was time to bring Callie back to her orphanage. It was about a 2 hour drive on VERY rough roads and it was snowing. Callie slept on my lap and help my hand for much of the ride.
There was a huge welcoming party waiting for us when we arrived to the orphanage. I LOVE all of the people there. Callie lives at a home run by the Sisters of Charity, it is a home for adults with special needs that are fairly independent. There are about 25 residents including Callie and two other children her age. The rest of the residents are older. They all have the most amazing hearts. I was welcomed by all of the residents, given lots of hand shakes, hugs and kisses. I was even given gifts by a couple of the residents. They were truly amazing. The residents wanted to know if I was Callie's mom, if I was taking her back to America with me, and when I was taking her. They quickly learned that I would hopefully be back in the late summer and would bring her to America after that. When I had to leave, the residents told me they would watch over Callie for me. She is truly loved by all there.  At least I know she is being very well taken care of.
I can't show the children's faces until after we pass court, so for now enjoy the pics that I can show!
 
Callie dancing <3 td="">

 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Exciting News!


While we are still waiting for our second Prime Minister Approval and to get our Article 16, we do have an exciting announcement to make!

Our family has been chosen for a $1000 matching grant!  What does that mean?  An anonymous donor has generously agreed to match dollar-for-dollar the next $1000 that is donated to our FSP.  When we get $1000 in new donations, the donor will add an additional $1000.  Right now our FSP reads $8072.95.  When it reads $9072.95 or more, the donor will put in another $1000 putting our total over $10,000!!!  Can you feel the excitement?

If you are feeling led, you can make a donation towards our matching grant through THIS LINK.  If you are unable to make a donation, would you please share this opportunity? You can copy and paste our FSP page link to share: http://reecesrainbow.org/69430/sponsorvanhalle-2 

We are incredibly blessed to have been chosen for this opportunity!  If we can match this grant, we'll be so much closer to being fully funded for our adoption of Callie and Chance!