Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Home Study Visit

Our social worker, Donna Bradley, came for our home visit last night.  It went really well and we enjoyed our visit with her.  We had the pleasure of having her visit over dinner, so I made my chicken enchiladas and Joel made his salsa. Yum!  The boys love having guests over so were happy to "entertain" Mrs. Bradley : ) She has been great to work with (thanks Maria and Carolyn for referring me to her!)

We had our physicals yesterday and are awaiting lab results in order for them to be complete. Once those are done (in about a week), I'll give Donna a copy and she can then write up our home study!  We also sent in our I600A last week and they've already cashed the check.  I hope that means our fingerprinting appointment will be soon (within the next month??).  After our home study is written up, we will send a copy to USCIS.  And once USCIS has our home study and fingerprints, they will hopefully approve us! That is a major piece to the dossier puzzle.  We're still working on the other pieces, but that's a biggie!

Here are Donna and I last night (wow I look pale - need some sun!):

Saturday, April 24, 2010

59 pieces of love!

In only one week 59 pieces of the puzzle have been put together!!  (11 of the pieces were "claimed" outside this chip-in so that doesn't reflect the additional $55 that we have received for the puzzle fundraiser).  We are so thankful to our friends and their outpouring of love and support to our family and Darya.  Your generosity is helping us with our "first trimester" of our paper pregnancy and all the "co-pays" that go with it :-)

Many thanks go out to the following individuals and families for their contributions!:

Sofia Sanchez
Lily Metcalf

There are still 51 pieces left!  If you missed my first post on this fundraiser, you can find it HERE. Thank you everyone :-)  Here it is so far:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not in the habit of pink yet

Last week the boys and I went to Sam's Club to pick up a few things.  I passed by a table with a bunch of cute little girl outfits, and since they were only $5 and some change, I figured why not?  So, the boys and I bought Darya's first outfit of her very own! When the day comes for us to take her from the orphanage, not even the clothes on her back stay with her.  They are orphanage property.  Anyway, I just thought this outfit would compliment her brown eyes so nicely :)  I will buy pink one day, but I guess it's just not in my habit to do so just yet :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I-600A sent!

Sometimes I think the government randomly makes these number/letter combinations up to confuse us all. Form number this and form number that :) Well, today I sent the I-600A overnight to the Texas office (the main hub, where it will be processed only to then be sent to our regional Florida office).  After they receive everything and give us the thumbs up, the approved version of it magically changes to a different name - the I-171H!  So, in order to get that complete, we are waiting to get our fingerprinting appointment.  I *think* we will have to go to Jacksonville for that.  Oh, we'll also need to send in our approved homestudy, which will hopefully be written with the next two weeks.

Darya has no idea that she has a family coming for her!  June 9th will be the last birthday she will have to spend in an orphanage!  The boys and I went for a bike ride on this beautiful spring morning and I was just smiling thinking that one day she'll be riding along with us :)  I CANNOT wait to meet her and introduce her to all her loving family and friends.  And I long for the day that Joel will be baptize her. There will be tears flowing!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Slowly but surely

There are three main things needed to be completed before our dossier (the big stack of paperwork that gets sent to Darya's country for translation and approval).  There are many things that overlap and are required in order to complete each major step (ie: birth certificates, physicals, criminal history clearances, etc.).  These three things are: homestudy, I600A, and the dossier.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Andrew's Story

* This following post was written by my dear friend Julie, whose son Andrew "started it all" for us. I had asked her to write Andrew's story for us so we can share his beautiful story with you all. Enjoy!*

I remember as though it were yesterday the phone call from my doctor letting me know that our third child, Andrew, would be born with an extra chromosome. I remember feeling paralyzed with fear. I remember being filled with grief. But I also remember the words that our doctor, our first guide through these seemingly murky waters, gently reminded me of from the Bible- that through prayer and supplication, to make our requests known to God and that He would answer our prayers. Most importantly, he told me that everything would be all right because God was in control and that we would eventually come to understand what a true blessing this little boy would be to us and to the world. Andrew has been all that and more.

Andrew was born on January 22, 2007, three weeks early but healthy at 7 lbs. We had months to learn more about this little boy God was entrusting to us and were so excited to meet him. I remember the neonatologist handing him to me and telling me that he was “just perfect”. Right there in that operating room, my husband and I began to understand the depth of human compassion and care and that a whole new world was opening up to us because of this little cherub with round cheeks and happy eyes. We had visits in the hospital from moms of children with Down syndrome who encouraged us with their stories, visits from nurses who would stop by just to cuddle with our little guy, and lots of love from our community of friends. Of course, our two older children, Emma and Ethan couldn’t get enough of him and as children often do, they paved the road for everyone else to be as delighted with this little one as we all were. I remember holding him after he was born and looking at his sweet face and thinking “Why all the fuss over his Down syndrome…he’s just a regular baby…ten fingers, ten toes, and a cute button nose just like Emma’s”.

We have traveled a thousand miles since his birth (and we have added another soul to our family too, sweet baby James). We have come from a place where we just didn’t understand what it would mean to raise a child with special needs, a place where stereotypes and preconceived notions took precedence, a place where voices from ill-informed family members said our lives (and especially our children’s lives) would be ruined by Andrew’s presence. We knew then, and we certainly know now, that God would provide all things for us and that no matter what Andrew would be a blessing to our family. And he is. He has opened up a whole new community of people we would have never had the pleasure of knowing. From his amazing early education teacher Rosemary, to his loving preschool teacher Yi-Cheng, to his fabulous occupational therapist Stephanie, to his ever-creative speech therapist Marilee, they have all enhanced our lives and brought a whole new education our way. These women are extraordinary and are the real movers and shakers in the world. We are encouraged that the world has indeed changed for the better regarding individuals with disabilities and that all these teachers have had a hand in making this change. Andrew also has a team of doctors who are competent and so compassionate toward him. A lot of times we are stopped as people share their own stories with us or just want to say hello to Andrew. We often laugh that the rest of us are pretty forgettable but no one forgets Andrew. Although he has no words yet, his eyes have a twinkle that says it all, his crooked smile can bring you out of the worst mood and his hugs are simply the best. He has won over skeptics, he has helped people think differently about disabilities, he has enhanced our family life a million fold.

What we didn’t know at the time of Andrew’s diagnosis that we now know is this: While his disability may bring many challenges, his ability to connect with and love others will overcome many of his hurdles. He doesn’t live in a world of constant suffering as some naysayers would lead you to believe, but in a world of giggles and snuggles and unconditional love. Yes, there are medical challenges and extra doctor’s appointments, but there are also some added bonuses in addition to the challenges that come along with that spare chromosome - special little secret things that we get to experience that lots of families don’t. Some people refer to this as chromosomal enhancement. Things like his knowing smile, his bear hugs, and especially getting to see our typical children have a deep compassion for those who may be on the fringe in society. I wish you could hear the pride in which our children announce, “Our family is special because we have a brother with Down syndrome”! Ethan can spot someone with a disability a mile away and loves to offer them his shy little grin of support. Pretty amazing. Most of all, we have a profound gratitude to God for choosing us to care for this little soul and how, in His providence, he has completely provided for us along the way. We look forward to growing old with Andrew at our side. You couldn’t ask for better company. It is so nice to be with someone who looks at the world unfettered by the daily concerns that our typical minds mull over. Someone who can see things for what they are and who is joyful about the simple things in life…holding a balloon, looking at sunset, or reading a book on your lap.

We cannot express how excited we are for the Ficks to join us on this journey, especially as they are truly saving Darya’s life by pulling her out of sure misery and institutional living. When Marianne asked me to write about Andrew I had the chance to revisit my memories, stroll through the last few years and rejoice in all the things that Andrew has added to our lives. The word that comes to mind when I think about raising our son is privilege - it has been such a privilege to be Andrew’s mom, a privilege to care for him in sickness and in health, a privilege to raise him knowing what a perfect gift, in an imperfect body, God has given us. I told Marianne today that I am so excited for them to experience raising Darya. It’s like being inside a rainbow. The colors are simply amazing.

~Julie Francisco
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD” Psalm 127:3
My little gifts...Andrew (3), Ethan (6), Emma (8), James (1)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pieces o' Love for Darya! - Our first fundraiser :)

I ordered this super-cute picture puzzle with Darya's photo on it.  It has 110 pieces.  I had the idea that if for every $5 you chip-in to our adoption fund I would write your name (or whoever you want to designate it in honor of - your son, daughter, dog, whoever!) on the back of a puzzle piece. As soon as I have a few pieces with names on the back, I'll post a picture on here and continue to update it as it is being put together.  Once it's all finished, I intend to frame it for Darya so she will always know how much she was loved by friends and family before she got here!  This is what it will look like when it's finished:

We still have a lot of random fees that will quickly add up and this would help us tremendously!  The other day I went to UPS and it cost me $111 to send 12 pieces of paper overseas!  And once we have the monstrous stack of papers for our dossier, we have to send it to the state office of something-or-other to get apostilled.  It costs $10 per page! Yikes!  So, anyway, all that to say that this will go toward our immediate costs, and therefore isn't "tax deductible" like our Family Sponsorship donations on Reece's Rainbow (which of course you're still welcome to donate there; who doesn't want a tax break and for a good cause at that? :-) ). Thank you all so much!!  We are truly humbled and thankful for all your support and prayers!! 

This is what it looks like now, so please help us put it together!  You can use the blue Chip-in link to your right on the sidebar :-)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Got my button!

I want to publicly thank Lu for making the adorable button that I have on the sidebar! If you click on it, it will take you to our family sponsorship page at Reece's Rainbow.  For those of you with blogs, you're more than welcome to grab it and post it on your blog :-)

Thanks, Lu!

Morning sickness

I feel so scatterbrained right now (for those of you who know me well, it's more than my usual scatterbrained-ness); they call this a "paper pregnancy" and I sure am starting to feel it!  Okay, so maybe I'm not feeling literally sick like pregnancy #1 and #3, but it sounded better than "morning scatterbrained-ness" in the title :-)   I like to make mental lists and feel so accomplished when I can check something off.  In the mornings, one of the first things I think about is all the paperwork that I hope to work on that day.  Today I contacted our mortgage lender, who happens to be out of state. They asked that I fax the needed info to them.  So the boys and I drove down to Office Depot and faxed it, only to realize I left my wallet at home!  I told the guy I would be back, and 30 minutes later I was.   The boys were troopers with all the driving.  A few hours later a really sweet woman from the lender's office called me to let me know that it's in the mail! She assured me that they have done this for international adoptions and were very careful to meet the stringent notary requirements.  I sure hope so!  We only need a few other things notarized from "other" notaries, and the rest can be done by our trusted notary at the bank :)  One more thing checked off (hopefully!).  We'll be there soon sweet Darya!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sugar and spice...

...and all that's nice, that's what girls are made of :)  Here's another picture of Darya taken by a family who adopted from her orphanage.  She's about 18 months here.  The dark stuff on her mouth is a kind of medicine they seem to put on children's skin if there are any sores.  I just want to go and pick her up and bring her home now and smother her with kisses!  This picture just melts and breaks my heart.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A huge blessing!!

I honestly don't know what to say or how to express my gratitude, but today I just found out that Darya's grant is HUGE!  We are so blessed, thankful, humbled, appreciative, and a whole bunch of other feelings! That means that we won't have much to left fundraise for all the adoption costs and can press forward with all the paperwork in hopes of getting her in record time!  Unbelievable!! Praise God!! When I first saw the money in her grant, I was literally shaking and had to email Andrea (the director of Reece's Rainbow) to make sure it was correct!  There is an amazing story about an amazing family behind that, that some of you might already know. But I'm not going to share it in this post.  I just don't think I can come up with the right words right now. Let's just say I am in awe.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


So, instead of my generic "A Place to Call Home" blog title, we can now officially have the name "A Home for Darya"! With much excitement we are hoping to bring Darya into our family - something she has never known - before the end of the year, Lord willing. If all goes well, I think fall is the most likely.

Let me tell you a little bit about Darya. She will be 2 this June, which marks the halfway point of when she would be sent to live the rest of her life in a mental institution. (In her country, at around the age of 4, orphans with special needs - could be as minor as a physical deformity to severe mental disabilities - are sent to live the rest of their lives in mental institutions, if they aren't adopted by then. The mortality rate is then high within the first year.) Two years ago when she was born, I had no idea that my future daughter was being rejected by her birth mother. I was probably sitting out by the pool enjoying some Florida sun with my boys. She was likely abandoned out of shame and pressure; or to give her mother the benefit-of-the-doubt, it was in hopes that Darya would get adopted by a family that could meet her needs and provide her with a hopeful future. In either case, it was a painful decision that I'm sure she will never forget.

We are humbled and grateful of how the Lord brought us to this point. I still can't believe it's really happening! The Lord put this burden on my heart over a year ago when I first discovered Reece's Rainbow. We have been praying for the orphans, and now we get to be one of the families to provide a special child with a loving home. We are all excited with the anticipation of bringing her to our home from across the world. I will be sure to post more later, especially about our progress as we tackle all the paperwork and jump through all the hoops. In the meantime, be sure to "follow" my blog (I love seeing all my friends - real-life or internet - following me, it's so encouraging!)

Here's another picture I have of her (don't you just want to smother her with kisses?):