Choosing Public School(s) and Humble Pie, Plus FACE LAMP

 

BOTH BOYS ARE IN SCHOOOOOOOL!

After 2 weeks of back and forth between Kaiser and EWCSD, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, paperwork shuffling and finally caving in to stick our child with YET ANOTHER unnecessary needle, Jude has been deemed TB free (on 4 separate occasions, by the way) and allowed to enter the illustrious public school system. All that could be said about that process aside, I am at peace with the choice to have them both in the public classroom setting.

Before they came home, I was not at peace with this choice. It seemed like doing so would be weakness somehow, or that it was unfair to bring children out of institutional settings and then place them in an institutional setting for 6 hours a day. But then, we met our children, found out that they enjoy learning in a classroom, and discovered that they need to relearn how to interact in social settings with their peers. Runner up reason for coming to peace with this is that everyone in this house gets along better with a break from each other and school is that break right now. I would love for homeschooling to be an option for us in the future. Perhaps it will be. In the mean time, humble pie for thinking I was mentally prepared for homeschooling, or that I could have possibly known in advance what would best suit our family make-up, or that any one option is “the right option” for everyone.

In unrelated news. Most of you are too kind to ask why there is a bruised, scraped, lump on my forehead. For this reason (and so that perhaps you can have a laugh at my expense today), I shall share.

The boys were hiding under one of Jason’s ten-trillion pillows yesterday morning (if you can’t see their eyes, they have achieved invisibility),  when I decided to pick up said pillow and give them a sound down beating. They giggled as I raised the pillow above my head, until suddenly, we heard a clang and a thump…

Home-Alone-GIF-014as the track lighting above our bed detached from the ceiling and swung down by the electrical wiring. The arc of travel was such that the farthermost lampshade connected splendidly with my forehead and sent me reeling into the dresser. The good news is that the plastic ring around the edge of the razor-metal lampshade cushioned the blow by smashing into several pieces against my face. The bad news is that the plastic ring around the edge of the razor-metal lampshade cushioned the blow by smashing into several pieces against my face.

The boys, surrounded by a snowlike drift of popcorn ceiling, were first shocked into silence and then rejoiced at the Home Alone scene I had just reenacted for them. I, too, first stared blankly at the dangling track lighting (read: bloodthirsty murder weapon) and then laughed, because head trauma.

Have a lovely day, friends!

 

 

The Lord is in the Details :: Merry Christmas!

May I take a moment to reflect publicly on how amazing God’s timing is?

When we decided to grow our family through adoption, we had no idea what the outcome would look like. Jumping in to the application process we didn’t even know if we would be accepted, thought we would be ready for a child around 3 years old (HA!), and thought we might become parents quickly. We really had no idea. Before that date we would not have been prepared for what lie ahead (not that we necessarily are now, but I think you know what I mean), and after that date we would have missed the time-constraint-boat on both of our sons. I don’t know how to organize this post so that the absolutely incredible timing and circumstances are done justice.

Let’s start here. When we heard about the hosting opportunity for J.V. last December, we were able to accept for three reasons: 1) The hosting was paid for. We only needed to open our home, 2) A (now)friend from church happened to be in the hosting know-how and heard about his availability, and 3) Our home study was complete for a child his age and recently renewed because we were still waiting for a travel date to pick up J.

When J.V. left, we submitted an inquiry to find out if he was registered for adoption in Ukraine, all the while thinking we were doing this for the purpose of finding a family for him. When the information arrived that he was available, there were several things that needed to be true in order for us to become that family: 1) He would need to be available AFTER we had brought home J and AFTER our post-placement visits were complete, 2) Our placing agency would have to have no rule against adopting in such quick succession, 3) Our home study agency would have to have no rule against having two adoptions processing at the same time, 4) Our social worker would need to approve a second child arriving in the home so quickly, and 5) Both adoptions would need to be carried out in a way that would not break the rules of either of the boys’ home countries. Apparently, most placing and home study agencies have policies that restrict adopting like this. Also, the odds of coordinating the dossier and home study timings to work out perfectly with the expiration dates and travel dates and post placement visits and adjusting as a family are just crazy unlikely. Keep in mind, we started the process for J in 2011 and that makes it all the more crazy that the things I am talking about all played out during the final year. Additionally, if we were not part of such a prayerful, helpful, knowledgeable local Church body, adopting two older children in this fashion would have probably been impossible.

But, the rough timeline estimates worked out for both boys, and our agencies didn’t have prohibiting policies, so we proceeded, and both sets of paperwork were completed well without interfering with each other. We were able to bring J home, complete and mail off a dossier, complete post-placement reports (even one that took place in between Jason’s trips out of country for J.V.) and by the grace of God and your generosity, somehow paid for/survived the whole thing. We found out that the finalization paperwork for J arrived the week before J.V. officially became a Camorlinga exactly one year after we met him. Even more, J is THRILLED to have a brother, and has been a champion with the best of us for bringing J.V. home. This year has felt like a puzzle with all of the pieces falling exactly into place in ways we didn’t foresee (and often with unfavorable odds); it is very clear to us that we were not assembling this puzzle.

There were moments where both adoptions seemed as if they would fail. Remember the time we were initially rejected for J? Remember the time it seemed J.V. was being kept from our home? The story that is being told is one of incredible redemption and we are SO blessed to be witnesses to it. God has been good to us. The “happy coincidences” are far too perfect to be only that. There are beautiful details (J’s best friend was adopted this year as well by a family in the US and he also has a brother with J.V.’s first name! What?!), answers to prayers, and through the stress and the paperwork and the ungratefulness that I am prone to, I can see God’s hand lovingly fitting each puzzle piece snuggly together. It isn’t easy, but it is beautiful.

This is the point I really want to make:  Isn’t it amazing that the God of all creation condescended Himself to become a human child, to enter into human history at an exact point that would enable word of His life to spread throughout the earth, to live a sinless life and die on the cross so that all who believe in Him will be forgiven and have eternal life? This triune God is a God of details and love and redemption and JOY and may we remember that on Christmas day. May we turn our eyes outward and upward and rediscover the amazing amount of detail and preparation and glorious execution of His almighty plans. Lord, remind us through our own stories to hold in high esteem the INCREDIBLE story that You have written, beginning in the garden and echoing throughout eternity before Your throne.

Merry (( ISN’T IT INCREDIBLE?! )) Christmas.

Our Ukraine Timeline

For those of you who have been following along all along, are just joining us now, or who have no idea who we are but are trying to navigate your own adoption process, we thought it might be nice to share the timeline of our adoption process through Thailand in a simple(ish) list. I’ve definitely consoled myself in the past (okay, yesterday) by looking at timelines on other families’ blogs, so I hope that this is helpful to some of you!

December 1, 2013 – Learned about a Ukrainian child in need of a host family through our church’s orphan care group

December 2, 2013 – Were approved to be his host family

December 19, 2013-January 16,2014 – Hosted Vitalii. Sent petition to inquire about his adoption status to Ukraine with him on the 16th

February 19, 2014 – Receive official letter stating that Vitalii is registered for adoption in Ukraine

February 23, 2014 – Learn that we are able to simultaneously pull off both adoptions and commit to pursue adoption of Vitalii

March 26, 2014 – Completed home study revision

June 24, 2014 – Summer hosting of Vitalii fell through the night before hosting was to begin. It was a very difficult, uncertain time

September 23, 2014 – Received registration letter from Ukraine

October 1, 2014 – Received invitation letter from Ukraine to travel

October 13, 2014 – Jason traveled to Ukraine for SDA appointment/ first visit

October 21, 2014 – SDA appointment, matched with Vitalii

October 23, 2014 – Traveled to Vinnitsya to see Vitalii

October 28, 2014 – Vitalii signed his petition to be adopted

November 14 – December 3, 2014 – Jason returned to the US to wait for the delayed court date

December 8, 2014 – Court date. Beginning of 10 day waiting period

December 19, 2014 – Unification day! Jude Vitalii is a Camorlinga!

December 22, 2014??? – Obtain passport and travel to Kiev for completion of medical and immigration documents.

December 30, 2014 – The day that Ukrainian winter break begins. If paperwork is not complete by this date…. they will be there an extra week twiddling their thumbs.

Our Thailand Timeline

For those of you who have been following along all along, are just joining us now, or who have no idea who we are but are trying to navigate your own adoption process, we thought it might be nice to share the timeline of our adoption process through Thailand in a simple(ish) list. I’ve definitely consoled myself in the past (okay, yesterday) by looking at timelines on other families’ blogs, so I hope that this is helpful to some of you!

October 31, 2011 – Realized we were “ready” to grow our family through adoption and that it would probably be through Thailand.

November 7, 2011 – The Defending the Fatherless Sunday that solidified in our minds we would adopt an older child.

November 27, 2011 – Adoption application to WACAP completed and submitted.

April 30, 2012 – Homestudy through Partners for Adoption (now closed) completed and reviewed.

May 10, 2012 – Received approval packet from WACAP, accepted to the Thailand program.

July 9, 2012 – Dossier completed.

August 24, 2012 – Dossier sent to Thailand / USCIS application (immigration) submitted.

October 5, 2012 – USCIS (immigration) approved.

October 18, 2012 – Received child referral of James from the Thai Red Cross (TRC) / had an international adoption doctor consultation.

October 19, 2012 – Letter of Intent submitted to TRC.

December 15, 2012 – February 28, 2013 – Thailand rejects initial Letter of Intent, and a second appeal is made (thanks for rallying, troops!).

March 7, 2013 – TRC approves our family. We are matched with James!

April 8, 2013 – Sent over an album of family/friends/home photos and gift to James.

September 14, 2013 – Received first video of James, photos and a drawing he made.

October 17, 2013 – Received official “child match documents” from TRC, began renewing our home study (it was set to expire) and immigration and finished travel vaccinations

February 19, 2014 – Received copies of James’ birth certificate and other documents, as well as the To Whom it May Concern Letter. Submitted 1-800 form ICPC (more immigration paperwork).

February 23, 2014 – Notified that US government is processing ICPC.

March 10, 2014 – Received provisional approval of ICPC.

March 14, 2014 – Received notice that Visa paperwork was wired to embassy in Bangkok. Completed and submitted DS 260.

March 20, 2014 – Final processing in Thailand before we are invited to travel. Article 5 issued.

March 26, 2014 – Received committee meeting date!

April 10, 2014 – Travel to Thailand.

April 17, 2014 – MEET JAMES FOR THE FIRST TIME

April 18, 2014 – James begins staying with us.

April 23, 2014 – Attend DSDW matching committee meeting; get his passport and visa.

April 28, 2014 – Return to US.

2014 – Four post placement reports at 2, 4, 6 & 7 months (Thanks, California).

???? – Adopt in US court.

???? – Finalize adoption with Thai consulate.

The Adoption Process for Thailand
The Adoption Process for Thailand

“This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.”

-John Fawcett

the one about my mom

I wrote yesterday about being ‘desperate’ for heaven. I think that might not make as much sense as I’d like if I don’t give a bit of an explanation about how my mom’s death has affected my life in the last 4 months. Most of you who will read this have been affected to some degree by her passing, as well, so know that I don’t seek to speak for anyone but myself, and please understand that I recognize we all process and grieve at different speeds. Sometimes, it is good to get into another person’s thoughts during that time (or so I’ve found), so here is your invitation to enter mine.

A statement that I heard a month before her death is a totally plain one, but one that became very poignant to me for obvious reasons. We all already know this, but if you haven’t really stopped to give it the depth of consideration that it deserves, you do yourself a disservice. The wise man said this: “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”

.

That strange thing that we all manage to do, where we forget that this breath really could be our last, and that as we breathe it, thousands of other people are breathing their last because of murder, accident or disease; Where we imagine that as we go about our business today, doing this or that, making plans for tomorrow and a year from now, we are somehow in control of the length of our days; That strange thing that we all do. Stop it for a moment.

Am I saying that we should mope around and fixate on our impending demise and the demise of everyone we’ve ever met? Not necessarily, but I am reminded of Paul, who wrote “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” You see, if all you have are human hopes, or if this momentary life is all you have to live for, then by all means, eat, drink, pillage and plunder, because whatever small pleasure you can derive from that is the last pleasure you will ever experience. Today or tomorrow you will be as dead as everyone who has ever come before you or will ever come after you.

BUT.

If you have a heavenly hope, if you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who broke the chains of death and sin for all who believe in Him, then you needn’t be weighed down by the incredibly heavy stuff I’m laying on you or the incredibly heavy stuff that was undoubtedly weighing you down long before you read this post. It isn’t too late to escape the meaninglessness of this life by gaining the meaning found in our great God and to escape the utter torment that will be an eternity spent knowing that you chose to reject the Living God. You can scoff. You can also be mistaken.

There are many things that have changed for me since my mom passed away and a lot of them aren’t unique. I miss her, of course. I cry at unexpected times. I also became aware of how little I deserve the salvation I’ve received in Jesus. This is no small realization. It’s a big part of the reason I decided to be baptized so long after the fact. If you’ve heard my testimony, you know I was wrenched out of sin through no merit of my own, and if you’ve known me long, you probably know that I am a person who has needed a lot of forgiving in her life. The things of this world become awfully dim when weighed against the astounding nature of God and eternity. I will give you an example of one such thing. Three days after my mom died, I realized that I could not go on holding her life over my uncle.

I knew that he shot her. I knew that he had had some part in it – conscious or unconscious – but to what degree? Can we possibly know? I knew that I had been terrified of him from the moment I learned what happened. In my mind, he morphed into something inhuman, “the entity” that robbed my mother of her body and ultimately her life, but honestly, I came to recognize the fantasy in that. I came to see that I had painted a picture of the situation that was born of my own fear and hurt and frustration. It was the result of seeing my parents persevere and suffer daily during those 2 and a half years, seeing my brother suffer quietly, seeing my grandmother’s mental acuity decline under the burden, seeing dreams for the future disappear for all of us.

But on that day, I read Isaiah 43:25. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” It had been written on our shower door for the better part of the year, but on that day it spoke to me. I wept, not because forgiving was hard, but because I had been so hard. I had forgotten the breadth of my own sin and though I had been forgiven much, had been unable to forgive. I was the unmerciful servant and it was an ugly thing to realize. The way I looked at my uncle shifted that day. Could I imagine the weight of killing someone I love by accident? Could I bear the weight of that? Did hating him restore her body or restore her life? The terrible image of a monster that I had allowed myself to paint melted away into the image of a regular, broken, human being, loved by Christ and worthy of my forgiveness. The judgement that comes after the grave is sufficient for me.

Jason drove me to his house that evening and I forgave him plainly and fully, and that is my story. Please do not hear my story as condemnation of your own. These things don’t happen the same for everyone, nor should anyone expect them to. It took nearly three years to arrive at that place, and I still marvel at the grace that had to be poured out on me before it could happen. I am thankful for the weight that was lifted, thankful for the grace I received, and thankful for the opportunity to extend that grace to another.

When I set out to write this, I didn’t intend to head down such an uncomfortable path, but I think, in order to understand what I mean about adoption leading to a posture of desperation for heaven, I needed to reiterate how broken we are and how broken this world is. If we begin to believe that this world is the height of “goodness,” or that heaven is about fluffy clouds and bored angels, we forget that heaven is really about no more pain, no more death, perfect restored bodies and minds united with their God and creator and the One who ransomed them from sin. Heaven is worth being desperate for, and we catch glimpses of it as we wait.

My mother’s passing has increased my awareness of our imminent deaths. It has turned head knowledge into heart knowledge and has made me yearn for the day when these things will be no more. When accident and disease and murder are wiped away like so many tears, I will see her again, whole and smiling.

I do so hope that you will be there with us.

Memorial_1

Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

-John Fawcett