Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's get to work!

A quick update:  It had been all of, oh let's see, maybe 24 hours since I had emailed our application and first fee to our adoption agency and we hadn't heard anything back from them.  And I had already poured my heart in the last blog post and I couldn't help but think about how embarrassing it would be if we weren't accepted to adopt from China and other similarly ridiculous things.  So then I hemmed and hawed about contacting the woman in charge of the China program- but it had only been 24 hours, so that's like, crazy- right?  I mean, I don't want to be that person.  But I realized I was that person so I emailed her and this was the response:

Hooray!  Maybe I am a crazy, impatient person but this is great news!  And I quote, we 'are in!'  My second favorite part of this email was the ending:

"Let's get to work!"

We're ready Ms. Thomas- let's get to work!

And because I need this reminder, every day, here's another necklace I just finished that's available for sale.

Contact me if you're interested, or if you'd like a custom creation!

And in case you have forgotten how to view our youcaring page, check it out:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

all in

Well, the short of the long of it is we have officially applied with an agency to start the paperwork for our adoption.  We have applied to Across the World Adoptions, a California based agency.

This has seemed like one of the hardest decisions we've ever made!  Much harder than deciding to pursue adoption in the first place.  It seems like such a small thing- there are thousands of kids waiting for families- pick an agency and get moving!  But there are so, so many agencies that adopt children from China- many very good agencies.  There are huge agencies and little guys, Christian and secular, agencies with amazing websites and agencies still operating with a telephone number and a xeroxed information packet.  (note: I tried not to let web design sway my decision making process... or at least not too much)

After a lot of prayer and a lot of late night internet searches, googling scary things like "X Agency/ unethical adoptions" and "X Agency lawsuits" and then a whole lot of phone calls, emails, and back and forth correspondence, this is where we've landed.  And I'm feeling at peace so far.  (Coincidentally, or probably not so coincidentally, our church is studying peace this week.)

Austin and I both came to a place recently where we felt convicted on our faith levels.  Sounds weird- so here's an explanation.  We took a step of faith and announced to the world (ok... Facebook and our church family, and random people) that we were going to adopt.  We didn't have any money saved up. We had talked about this for years, taken a class at church, and yes, while it seemed a lot in our lives was leading up to this step, it still took a fair amount of courage and faith and maybe foolishness (**more on this one later) to actually do it.  We were overwhelmed by our friends and family and even acquaintances who immediately gave us money to help with adoption expenses.  It was beautiful and I *may* have teared up every time I saw that someone else had donated on our youcaring page (you can still check that out here.  Go ahead- make me cry!)  But then the money flow kind of dried up.  We were several thousand dollars short of even the first set of fees due.  Austin and I both felt that God was urging us to trust Him.  To jump in with both feet.  And to really sacrifice.  And that meant our savings.  At least for now.  I'm not advocating fiscal irresponsibility- we've taken a few steps to make sure we have a safety net for emergencies and what have you-but it was time to get some real skin in the game and to see how God would provide.

Because adoption matters to God.  Rescuing kids from hopelessness matters.  Eating out and shopping trips at Target for stuff we don't need and treats from Starbucks really don't matter.  Our daughter, whoever she is, wherever she is, if she's even born yet, matters.  And now, the clock is ticking down to the time she is in our arms, in our home, with her family.  I think that's worth putting off some house improvements and scrimping on our grocery bills for awhile (sorry Austin- I know you're already tired of crock pot 'mush' every night!).

We are still saving, fundraising, and attempting to make every penny go as far as possible, but now, we get to write a few big checks.  And as scary as it is to take steps into the unknown, I do know that its exactly where God wants us right now.

So what happens next?  We have a contract fee due in a week and then we can begin our Home Study!  (exclamation point added for those who have already walked the adoption journey and truly know the emotions and work involved in a Home Study)

We have a lot of paperwork to complete.  Probably some little house repairs to get taken care of.  And lots of scheduling to deal with.  But we're ready!

There's a lot of waiting in the adoption process.  I knew that going in.  I just didn't anticipate having to wait to get started.  Now that I've had a little taste of that waiting, I've concluded that I don't like it, but I recognize its purpose.  God makes us wait in order to move our hearts to the right place.  If our friends had donated $30,000 immediately after we made our big announcement, we of course would have been blown away.  But we wouldn't have allowed God to grow our yearning for our daughter and recognize our need to sacrifice for her and for Him.  We still don't know where all the money is going to come from.  But we know that God is more than able to provide for all of our needs.

And we'll do whatever it takes- whatever He asks.  And I have a few ideas.  Check out some of our fundraisers going on.

My etsy shop is up and running once again!  There are tons of these t-shirt cowls in every color.  They're fun, stretchy, and make a great accessory.

I also have been making glass/metal necklaces with Bible verses and quotes.  All the above photos are recent creations.  There are other adoption-related necklaces too.  I love custom orders, so if you have a favorite verse, contact me!

My mom and I also harvested a special blend of wildflower seeds from her garden this year and packaged them for sale.  She did this last year from her flower garden and grew an amazing bed of brightly colored flowers- all from harvested seed!

 Orange, yellow, purple- these babies started blooming early spring and kept going strong (at least in our southern california climate) until Christmas!  Each pack is $3.  (BTW- 'Dodo' is Corbin and Leo's- and baby girl's grandma.)

If you're interested in any of these items, there are a couple of purchasing options.  If its listed in my etsy shop, you can purchase direct from there.  All proceeds from the shop go toward the adoption.  If you see something on my facebook page, you can make a donation through youcaring to our adoption fundraiser or paypal us.  (Look for the Donate button on the side bar or click below)

Or if you're local, call me- I deliver!  

A few other things coming up- 

Garage Sale!  If you have items you'd like to donate to a great cause, please contact me.  We have a good friend who offered the use of their prime garage sale yard for an upcoming sale next month.  So we are collecting items to make it as successful as possible.  If you LOOOOOVE garage sales, particularly working at them, let me know- we could use some help!

Also, I'm hoping to offer "Share the Love" mini photo shoots- in studio!  Bring your kids for an adorable Valentine's Day themed photoshoot.  More details to come.

Thanks for reading, praying, donating, purchasing, sending good vibes, etc our way!  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

hooray! and some Q&A...

You guys!  We are 1/30th of the way to our goal!  Mr. Incredible and I are overwhelmed with your generosity!  Maybe that fraction seems a little small to you, but to me, its the first quantifiable number towards bringing our daughter home... so its huge!  

I decided to answer some of the 'big questions' surrounding our big news.  Hopefully this gives you a fuller picture of what our family is focusing on for 2015!

Why adoption?  

As is very apparent, we could continue to grow our family the old fashioned biological way.  But our goal isn't to simply have three kids.  We feel that God is calling us to help an orphaned child.  Throughout the Bible, God commands His followers to care for the orphan.  We want to do something that truly matters to the heart of God and give a child a home and family forever.  We've both seen the effects of institutionalization on orphaned children.  Basic needs may be met, but the emotional tolls are devastating.  If we can rescue one little girl from that future, we feel that it will be a worthy endeavor.

Why not Romania?

Oh we would love to adopt from Romania.  Unfortunately, the current adoption law only allows for those of Romanian blood to adopt Romanian orphans.  We will continue to pray for those children and help them in any way, specifically through the ministries of H2H International.  Please keep praying for those kids with us!

Why China?

We were open to any country.  But we did feel that we needed to respect the birth order of our current kids.  We had to find a place that allowed the adoption of children under age three (Corbin is 3 1/2).  We both have a desire to have a daughter so we looked for a country that had girls, under age three.  That surprisingly limits your choices!  One other consideration was the length of time required to spend in the country to complete an adoption.  Several countries require lengthy stays of 2-6 months and we decided that was just not feasible for our family.  China requires one trip of about 2 weeks to finalize your adoption.  So China was the best fit!  We are also aware of the huge number of children in China that have been abandoned due to medical needs.  Many, many correctible needs here in the US are causes for abandonment in China.  Things that can be corrected through minor surgery or medical support doom a child to a life in an orphanage.  

Why not adopt from foster care?

This is really a birth order issue for us.  We would love to adopt locally- and our hearts break for the kids here in the US waiting for their forever families- but due to our court system, most children adoptable are much older.  Perhaps at a later date we'll revisit this possibility for our family.

Why not adopt a US baby?

This would be a simple solution to us wanting another child but again, that's not really what this is all about.  I am fairly confident that an American newborn will be adopted by a loving family.  Just look at the waiting list for prospective adoptive parents domestically.  We wanted to bring a child into our home that really has no other alternative.  And for that we had to look internationally.

Doesn't it cost a lot?  

Yes!  We're looking at around $30,000!  That's a huge sum of money for us and frankly we don't have it saved up.  We are saving, scrimping, and simply asking others to help contribute to our adoption fund.  We've set up a youcaring page where it is simple to donate directly to us for the adoption.  We have broken the $30,000 into several smaller goals- as we reach those goals, we can move forward with different parts of the adoption.  For example, our first goal of $4000 will allow us to pay application fees and sign contracts with an agency.  The next goal of $3000 will complete our home study, and the next goal of around $7000 will compile all the necessary documents to submit our Dossier to China.  

$30,000 is a huge amount of money.  For us just looking at it, it makes adopting our daughter impossible.  But $30,000 is nothing compared to a lifetime of security and love from a family.  $30,000 is ransoming a hopeless orphan and promising her a mama and daddy and two wild brothers who will always have her back.  $30,000 is a community of friends and family who all played a role- some large and some small- in changing the ending to a story.  And most importantly, $30,000 is a penny in God's economy- but a life saved from lostness is worth infinitely more.  So yes, it costs a lot… and so little when you have the right perspective.  Here are some of the other costs that we've accounted for:

-cost of life's 'extras' - extra toys, clothes, treats, entertainment while we save for our adoption
-cost of comfort as we tighten our budget and submit to home study interviews and medical exams
-cost of control as we wait to be placed with our daughter- we don't know her background, her specific needs, etc
-cost of our extra space- one more little person to add to our home
-cost of our time- filing paperwork, travel to pick her up, but once she's home there will be huge commitment on our part of acclimating to a new normal for all of us

There are many others that I haven't mentioned and that we'll realize while they are taking place.  But here's what we have to gain:

-a daughter!  how exciting!
-hearts for those less fortunate for our boys- we will be very intentional in explaining why things are different and why we are making certain choices for one little girl.  They may not like it right now, but ultimately we care more about their character and what sacrificing for another will do in their lives than their immediate gratification.
-our personal spiritual growth as we rely on God's provision for all steps of this process
-new friends- we're excited to be learning more about another culture- whether it be the Chinese culture and/or the local adoption culture.

Our gains easily outweigh our costs.  

If you'd like to see our fundraising page, visit it here:

What about the boys?  What do they think about all this?

Honestly, they really don't have any idea right now.  Corbin will give funny answers when asked about getting a new sister.  He's curious at this point.  Leo doesn't understand and doesn't care yet.  We will do our very best to explain things as they happen with them regarding the adoption and of course as we get closer and have a face to call 'sister' that will help a lot.  As I mentioned before, we know that parts of this will be hard on Corbin and Leo.  But hard isn't necessarily bad.  We think they will come out of this process much, much richer than if we sheltered them from it.

What's the process?  

We have to submit a contract with an agency.  That's our first financial goal of $4000.  Then we begin a home study (approximately $3000) that could take a few months to complete.  We will also apply for immigration pre-approval to adopt.  During that process, as finances allow, we will be gathering all the various pieces of paperwork that make up our Dossier- everything from marriage and birth certificates, medical exams, fingerprints, background checks.  All of this has to be certified and 're-certified' before it is sent for translation.  And then compiled and sent to the Chinese government that manages adoptions (CCCWA).  At this point we can be matched with a child.  Several of the agencies we are in contact with tell us it could take between 1-12 months for a match.  After we are matched, there is more back and forth paperwork with China.  We also have additional paperwork to file with US Immigration… all of that takes time for the government agencies to file and record etc.  Once all of the paperwork has been to the right people, we request a visa appointment in China which will determine our travel dates.  We purchase airline tickets and plan on a two week trip to China to bring our girl home!

Who is she?

Well we don't really know yet!  We have requested a girl under age three.  We also have looked over a long list of 'special needs' and have selected several that we feel we are equipped to handle.  But here's the lack of control/trusting in God part- we really don't know what her particular needs will be until we meet her and start living life.  We'll have some ideas but as with a birth child, there are no guarantees that your child will be 'normal' or 'healthy.'  This is what I know- she will be perfect for our family because God already has all the details figured out.

Thanks again for your prayers- we sure do need them!  If I missed your question or you need more details, please contact us- we'd love to share more with you.  And thanks again to those who have already so generously given- we love you!

Friday, January 2, 2015

A new year, a new adventure

Welcome 2015!  We danced in the New Year (at 7pm) with the boys and are excited for things to come this year.  After much prayer and late night internet searching we are excited to announce that we are adding another Nielsen to our family- but this time through international adoption.

We are starting the process to bring home a daughter from China.  We don't know who she is yet but God does and that is very comforting when I start to get lost in the abstractions.  Here's the run down for those of you who hate reading:

WHO: us!  and a little girl, under age three, potentially with some special needs living in an orphanage in China

WHAT: an international adoption...this year!

WHEN: oops... already said that... we're starting this year, as soon as we can gather enough finances to make the first big payment

WHERE: lots of paperwork on this end here in California and somewhere in China too

WHY: well, lots of reasons.  God commands us to care for widows and orphans and we think giving an orphan a family is pretty neat.  We'd love to have a little girl.  The boys are fun... and stinky... but we'd love to indulge in the girly things too.  Mr. Incredible and I have always held a special place in our hearts for abandoned kids.  If we can change one sweet little one's life by making room in ours, well, then we're all in for that.  Our community is very pro- adoption and pro- multicultural.  We think adoption works well for families in our particular life stage and locale.  And because we can.  We can have a role in making one less orphan in this world.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  Is it comfortable?  Umm, surely not.  But easy and comfortable are not the end all and giving a family to a child without one and doing something that really matters to God (Psalm 68:5-6)  is something that really matters to us.

So, what's next?  We are saving, and combing through our budget to find places to trim, and asking for any donation from those willing to help us bring our daughter home.  If you are interested in being a part of this next big adventure, please consider checking out our youcaring page.

We're excited to see what is going to happen this year-I hope you'll follow along and be a part of our adventure with us!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Give us the biggest one ya got!

Two little feet stomping through the house, one joyful cry of "Mama!" signaling awake, old Nora stirs from her doggie bed and noses her way under our covers.  Weekend wake-ups are sometimes wonderful... when they happen at a decent hour, preferably anytime after 7 am.

This Saturday morning was like that.  A tiny sleep-in respite from the early weekday mornings.  A happy 3 year old savoring his new found independence and munching on a bowl of dry cereal left out by a good dad.  Happy baby waking up singing and talking to his baby- my old cabbage patch doll.

I roll out of bed with a mission.  December 13th- a childhood memory that I want my kids to partake in.  St. Lucia Day in Sweden- girls with candlelit wreaths upon their heads, sticky cinnamon buns, white dresses, red ribbons, oh and the boys too since that's all I have to work with.  Star boys- with golden stars to decorate the room with.  I excitedly gather a few materials and put the rolls in the oven.  The boys gather around as I tell them the story and show pictures from a google image search.  When I ask who wants to wear the crown, my three year old wrinkles his nose and fold his arms.  No matter, I think, the baby is always up for mischief. I approach Leo and he runs shrieking from me.  Realizing the wonder of this tradition might only work for little girls eager to be the center of the story for once, I sadly tuck my wreath under my arm and leave for the kitchen, leaving the boys to their trucks and blocks.  Corbin-o follows after me, apologetically saying,"Mama, I like trucks."

Thankfully not all things Christmas- related have ended that way this year.  Our celebrations started with Thanksgiving.  Corbin-o finally old enough to grasp gratitude and spout off the many things he has to be thankful for, "trucks, stuffed animals, moms and dads (note plurals), big Nora, chalkboards...." and on and on, an endless trail of seemingly insignificant things but big things in the eyes of a little boy.  His prayers for dinner seem to be all-encompassing as well, "thank you for this food (but only if he likes what's served), for mom, for dad, for Leo, for Corbin, and for ALLLL the people in the WHOLE world- AMEN!"  A good reminder to count the little things as well as the big things.

We are in our new home.  A major blessing.  With tall ceilings and ample living room space to stretch out and enjoy.  A fireplace!  For me, another place to decorate and its been fun.  We went to get a tree.  With a utility trailer hooked behind our car.  After perusing Home Depot's collection, we decided the selection wasn't so good, nor the prices low enough.  We did not experience the 'power of the home depot' as Corbin likes to announce every time we shop there.  So to Costco we went.  8-9 foot Douglas Firs.  Pay for your tree, drive to the truck, and the guys will tie it on your car for you.  So Leo and I ran in to pay for our tree while Corbin and Mr. Incredible found a spot to park in the back of lot, big enough for a car and trailer.  When I called to tell him to drive around to the trees, the car wouldn't start.  A dead battery.  We knew it was dying so it wasn't a surprise... just an inconvenience.  So I ran back inside with Leo and waited in line and bought a battery.  Then I trekked across the parking lot in search of my car and the rest of the family.  Mr. Incredible had the old battery out and the new battery installed super fast... but not fast enough for two restless kidlets.  Leo squealed and kicked his feet, landing on Corbin-o's chest, who yelled back.  They settled down once we got moving, towards our tree finally.  I ran the old battery back inside for recycling while Mr. Incredible pulled up to the tree truck.  He handed over the receipt, "Give me the biggest one ya got!" And the tree guys, with sap-covered aprons, fist pumped the air and eagerly pulled out a bundled up behemoth, as if they had been saving the beast for us.  The kids started screaming again, so Mr. Incredible told him to throw it on the trailer, un-inspected.  The older man standing in line behind Mr. Incredible chuckled and gave him a knowing look as our car filled with noisy kids and trailer filled with giant fir pulled away.

At home, a new neighbor came over to help shake dead needles off and admired our pick. "That's sure a... good-looking tree!"  And he was right- its a good looking tree, just massive.  But inside, next to our stone fireplace and with soaring wood ceilings above, it fills the space and sparkles with white lights and glittering pinecones.  I finally pulled out our actual ornaments and added red, yellow, teal balls.  It shimmers and catches your eye from all parts of the house.  And the kids are in love.

We've been blessed to read Ann Voskamp's Advent book this year.  Each night after snuggles on the couch by the lit Christmas tree, Leo gets sent to bed and Corbin cracks open the book. We read the story, he sits and listens, and then hangs an ornament on a little tree.  I never know how much he understands but he recounts bits of each nights' story as he spots its ornament, always looking for that cut-off stump with a tiny shoot that marks the beginning of Jesus' genealogy.  A favorite was the story of Rahab and the red rope.  He excitedly looked for presents wrapped with red ribbon and exclaimed-"There it is!  Jesus' love for me!" (thanks Aunt GiGi for using red ribbon this year!)

The boys and I attended the children's concert with our 90 year old friend, Grandma Ruth.  They bounced on pews and clapped at the wrong time and made goofy faces at the people behind us but it was a good start to a lifetime of concert-attending.

"Santa Clause is Coming to Town," Corbin sings softly, under his breath.  Mr. Incredible asks, "Who's Santa?"  "Oh he's the guy in the red suit."  "But what does he do?" Mr. I presses.  "He goes to the mall and takes pictures of kids." Corbin answers matter of factly.

"The Children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of cookie crumbs danced in their heads." Corbin reciting The Night Before Christmas.

Leo hears music and has to move.  This baby feels the beat sooner than my ears even recognize a song is playing.  Pentatonix Christmas albums are on constant shuffle on our Spotify accounts.  When "Hark the Herald" starts playing, Leo waits through the beautiful, chorale opening.  He keeps his eyes on me and stays within a few feet of where ever I am.  Once the dance beat drops, he turns to me, shoots across the floor like a bullet and reaches up, hopping and saying, "humph!  humph!" Which in Leo-language, is "Up! and Dance!"  So we dance.  I've decided that once we start remodeling, a dance floor has to be put in the plans somewhere.

This season is busy- as it is every year.  But my little ones force me to notice the little things.  Christmas  lights in a neighbor's yard half hazardly flung into a bush.  The way the setting sun glints through our living room window and lights up the glass balls at the top of our tree.  The poor, chewed up plastic nativity set that gets tossed around the house- but that the angel "the one Leo chewed on, Mama, can slide down the stable to tell the shepherds about the baby."  And the little things are becoming bigger in our world.  The insignificant, suddenly hold a significant place in our days.  So we say yes to reading one more Christmas story.  And look for every opportunity to give gifts to those who need them.  And we say "Give us the biggest one ya got" and join in on the tree guys' joy or the checker at Trader Joe's smiles.  We hope you savor the little things and that they become big things for your family too this Christmas season!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer Photo Dump

This blog has officially been neglected.  Almost abandoned.  Too much going on this season, some good, some more difficult.  Its actually because of the difficult that I haven't completely abandoned this space.  The desire to write, to share, to maybe someday have words for someone else going through 'difficult' keeps this space alive.  But today 'the difficult' is put on hold.  Too many great summer memories that demand to be recorded in this space.  So sit back, enjoy the ride of our wild and not-so wild summer.  

It mostly centers around these two...

I anticipated the joy of having babies...of having toddlers...of having boys. But not of having brothers.  Oh my heart- the mischief, the belly laughs, the spats, and the sweetness is almost too much to bear!

Church friends... little brother photobomber.

And suddenly, not so little. 

One year, gone in a heartbeat.  He analyzes the world around him, deciding how things go together, how they should work and fit.  No time for mama, but sometimes looking to big brother to be a partner in crime.  

And this one too... now three!  With more words, more ideas, more imagination.

More hats too I might add.

Can you picture them as thirteen year olds?  They probably all will have a crush on the blond girl in the front seat but will be too shy to speak to her.

Or sixteen?  Vying for that driver's license, choosing electives in school, hanging out on weekends and eating cold pizza.  I'm savoring the weekends we have now- consumed by hotwheels, plastic cups filled with milk, and the occasional scuffle that still needs to be broken up by a mama.  Cold pizza and girl crushes can wait!

Good dads.

And some actual no-kids, several nights away, couple time for Mr. Incredible and me.  To Vegas no less.

Cell phone cameras...

Blurry because we don't know exactly what to do with ourselves without scheduling nap times and kids' meals.  But we figured it out quickly and enjoyed each other's company and conversations, and adventure like the old days.

But eventually back to this... and this is good, if a little messy at times.

More thoughts and photos and fun too to come.