Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe it is the end of 2011.....what a busy year it has been! It has been full of a lot of work, waiting, paperwork, heartache, excitement and blessings. In some ways, I am thankful to say "goodbye" to some of 2011...

- the stress of starting an adoption
- the overwhelming mountain of paperwork
- turning 30 (ha ha)
- the anxiety of waiting for a referral
- the agonizing wait for LOA (it's not over, but we have almost made it to day 80!)
- the completion of my National Board portfolio and assessment...and the LONG wait to find out that I had passed!
- Jason's unexpected illness and surgery
- the grief we felt - and still feel - for friends and family who have suffered unfathomable losses this year

However, despite this year being a stressful year, we obviously have so much to be thankful for and we had many, many wonderful and memorable moments to savor!

As we look forward to 2012, we know our little world will drastically change this year. So, we enter the new year with excitement for...

- our LOA (which will get our process rolling again)
- Alexis' 4th birthday (how on earth can she be 4 already?!?)
- traveling to China and meeting our SON!
- my sister's WEDDING and all the fun, related festivities

We know this adoption journey is far from over, and I'm sure there will be many surprises yet to come. Thanks for being a part of this experience with us so far! So many people have supported and encouraged us through every step and it helps to know Jaxson is already loved by so many people.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One year ago...

One year ago we officially began our adoption journey. I started this blog and ironically named it, "Our Waiting Journey." My, how we have waited....

- We waited 2 months for a home study to be finished
- We waited 3 more months after that to have all of our documents ready to send to China
- We waited 65 days for US Immigration approval (1-8ooa)
- We waited two weeks after our dossier was sent to China to be "logged-in"
- We then waited five months to be matched with a young girl

Then, we saw Jaxson's sweet face on Lifeline's blog and started inquiring about him...
- We waited two weeks to see if we could transfer to Lifeline
- We waited two more weeks to transfer agencies
- We waited almost three weeks for provisional approval for Jaxson
- we have now waited 66 days for our Letter of Acceptance

So, the wait continues.

It has been quite an emotional year in many ways, but a year of learning and changing. A year ago, we never thought we'd be waiting to bring home a 2-year old boy, but now I can't imagine him NOT being a boy! I still do not like waiting AT ALL, but I can tell I am more patient (although Jason would probably disagree!).

I do wish things would speed up, as we worry about him and think about him all the time! I especially hate it for Alexis! I know our day will come, though.

I often think about what a big responsibility it is to bring a child into your home - whether biologically or through adoption. It's scary, exhilarating, frightening and exciting - all at the same time! I've thought about Mary a lot lately - and how hard her journey was, how much she had to wait and what a challenge she had ahead of her as Jesus' mother. Look how God was with her!! I know he is with us, too.

Thank you for following our journey for the last year. I am so anxious to see the next chapter unfold.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Clarity and Thankfulness

It's been a few weeks since I posted, and life has been a bit crazy! Two weeks ago today, Jason went to the hospital with what I thought was a stomach bug, but it was actually his appendix! After a long wait, he finally had an appendectomy to remove the ruptured organ. Some infection had leaked into his abdominal area, so he ended up spending five days in the hospital. It was a long, tiring that included me being pulled over (thankfully no ticket), a trip to Target without my wallet (I came to this realization at the checkout with a full cart), respiratory issues for Alexis, and an unusually long wait to receive my National Board scores due to a technology complication.

The week ended with a healing Jason AND I found out I achieved National Board certification! Throughout the chaos of managing the week without Jason (who is wonderful and helps me tremendously), several people asked me a powerful question, "What if this had happened in China?"

I cannot begin to express how thankful I am that we were NOT in China when this happened. I can't even fathom how stressful or frightening that scenario could have been! Last summer, when we were awaiting a match, we were told we would most likely be matched in June or July. As those months passed, including August and part of September, I was quite frustrated and bitterly disappointed, as each passing month just seemed to taunt me as I saw other families being matched left and right. I didn't understand how we could be at the top of our agency's list, month after month, with no "luck."

A few months later, and it is amazing the clarity we now have. If we had been matched in June or July, we'd likely be in or traveling to China at this time. We are so thankful that God knew we didn't need to be there right now AND that he knew we needed more time to find little Jaxson!

Many people have asked me where we are in the process right now. My answer? More waiting! We are waiting on the Letter of Acceptance from China that will go to U.S. Immigration. It's commonly referred to as LOA. It is an official notification from China that Jaxson is our son. The wait for this paper is around 45-100+ days. There appears to be no rhyme or reason as to why some receive theirs quickly and others wait the agonizing 100+ days. We are on day 49 right now. I saw, on a message board I read, where some families received theirs this week after 35, 46, 73 and 83 days. Who knows!! We WISH we would have it by Christmas, but we will be satisfied with receiving it by Jason's birthday (January 22nd). After LOA, it should be 2-3 months until we get him! The wait is very hard - we just want to get him and start this new chapter of our lives. Patience......patience....patience.....

I wanted to share a picture from Thanksgiving at my Aunt Mary Beth's house. Jason looks a little tired, but much better than a week before! The final pictures are from our Christmas decorating after Thanksgiving. Alexis posed with a photo of Jaxson for us!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I had to stay home from church with Alexis today (she had a rough night with her asthma/allergies).  I randomly checked my email, and to my surprise, I received an email from the wonderful care package service we used to send Jaxson's birthday gifts (Ladybugs-n-Love)!!  She had received EIGHT new pictures of Jaxson!!!!!!!!!!  The pictures show him in his foster home, receiving the gifts and the cake that we sent!  Look at that adorable little face!  My favorite is the photo of his foster mother showing him our picture.  These are priceless, and I cannot thank Ladybugs-n-Love enough for their services they provide to waiting families.  What a blessing they are to others!  I showed Alexis his photos and she said, "He's cute, but he is messy!  And that cake does not look yummy!"  Enjoy the new pictures......I'm sure I'll be looking at them all day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jaxson!

Tomorrow is our little guy's second birthday! It's actually already his birthday in China, so I wanted to write him a birthday message on the blog tonight! We feel bittersweet about his birthday; we are so happy for him and excited to celebrate this milestone, but very sad that we aren't actually with him. We know he is loved and well cared for in his foster home, but we selfishly want to "see" him and be with him as his new family! That day will come, though, and we will have many more birthdays to enjoy!

We had a cake delivered through a care package service in China, so we are anxious to receive pictures from his "party" in China!

We are going to celebrate his party tomorrow night at our house so that we can show him video/pictures. Alexis is excited about "borrowing" the spotlight on his behalf!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Jaxson!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lifeline Celebration and Care Package

     We had the wonderful privilege of meeting the Lifeline Children's Services staff during their 30th anniversary/family reunion.   In addition, we were able to see numerous Lifeline families who traveled from all over the country to simply celebrate adoption.  Some families had teenage children, some had been home a few months with their new children, and others were like us, currently in-process.  In all, it was worth our hours of traveling in order to participate in this memorable event.  For us, it was a huge step to actually meet the faces of those we had only communicated with on the phone or via email. 

     When we arrived, they had many activities and crafts for children to enjoy while parents mingled and socialized with other families/Lifeline employees.

    Then, we enjoyed a picnic lunch from Chick-fil-A.

     Next, we had the opportunity to hear from Lifeline staff as they shared their growth and accomplishments in the areas of adoption and foster care over the last 30 years.  As part of the celebration, the Chinese Delegation was recognized and honored.  This delegation included the director of the CCAA (in charge of all adoptions in China), directors of adoption from each province in China, the Chinese representative for our agency, and the guide/translator who will assist us during part of our trip.  Several presentations were made, including a donation to the director of adoption for Jaxson's province - specifically to the Maoming SWI (orphanage) where he first stayed as a baby.  It is this SWI (social welfare institute) that Lifeline supports/sponsors.  Even though Jaxson is in foster care, he is still "attached" to this orphanage, and they are ultimately responsible for his care.

     After the presentations, the director for his province gave Alexis an ornament from China.  Jason and I were thrilled to also meet a pediatrician from Birmingham who met Jaxson in July and prepared his medical report.  Finally, before we left, we posed for a picture with our "international adoption specialist," who has handled our case with Lifeline.

     We were also very excited this week because we sent our first care package to Jaxson!  We used a service in China (owned and operated by a wonderful American family) in order to send Jaxson a few things for his upcoming birthday.  It is VERY expensive to send packages to China, and even more expensive to pay for delivery.  So, using an in-country operation is much more cost-friendly.  We sent some books, a photo album filled with pictures we sent them, a toy, a letter to Jaxson and his foster family, some candy for him/foster parents, and a CAKE!  The cake will be delivered to the orphanage, and his foster family will bring him there for a "party."  We are supposed to receive pictures of the party within a few weeks.  We will send more items to him as we continue to wait, but we were excited to send this first package so that he, and his foster family, know that a family is waiting for him!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Introducing Jaxson Lee

On September 14th, Jason and I made the decision to transfer to Lifeline Children's Services in order to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) for a little boy in their Maoming Kids program.  Lifeline has the unique opportunity to help sponsor the Maoming Social Welfare Institute, and they, in turn, have the privelege of finding homes for many Maoming kids through an agency-specific list.  One month later, after waiting to have our dossier (paperwork) transferred and logged-in again under Lifeline, we have finally received our preliminary approval (PA) for the sweet little boy we will name Jaxson Lee Hayes! 

This approval is a HUGE step!  It essentially means that the Chinese adoption officials have reviewed our file and his file, and have said, "Yes, you may adopt him...he will be yours!"  It gives us that official approval we needed to feel "secure" about everything.  As our agency case worker told us today, "Now you need to begin preparing for him to join your family!"

Unfortunately, it will still be a long while before we get to "get him."  The next step is one of the longest waits - known as the LOA wait (Letter of Acceptance).  It is a formality, really, but it is a long process.  No one seems to know why it takes so long (can take up to 90 or more days).  China will issue an official letter giving us permission - on paper - to bring Jaxson into our home and become a U.S. citizen.  That letter has to be sent to U.S. Immigration, and then we will have to wait for U.S. approval to bring him here (again, a formality, really).  There are a few more steps after that, and the final step is TA (Travel Approval) from China.  Sadly, it will take up to 6 months for all of this to happen.  It could process sooner, but likely not. 

Instead of dwelling on another lengthy wait, here are some details about our "little man:"

  • Jaxson will be two in November and has a repaired cleft lip and palate.  We have seen "before" pictures of his lip, and the difference is amazing!
  • A U.S. doctor saw him in July.  We have spoken with her through email (and in person) and she said he is one of the best cases she has ever seen when completing medical missions in China.  He is on-target developmentally in all areas other than speech, and commented that his repair was "beautifully done."  Our local pedicatrician has also commented on what good care he has received and how healthy he appears to be according to records.
  • He is currently in foster care and has been for a long time.  The foster agency is an American-sponsored agency, so he has received exceptional medical care, attention and love.  We are thrilled that he is being cared for in a home with parental figures.
  • Jaxson is from the Guondong province, which is in the southern region of China (much warmer climate than some areas).
      Finally, here are some pictures...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Beyond the Room Transformation

After nearly two weeks of preparing and sending paperwork and WAITING, we finally received word last Friday that we were LID (logged-in) to China's system through our new agency, Lifeline.  Our LOI (letter of intent) could not be submitted until the transfer took place.  So, our LOI was submitted last Friday.  The response from this submission is called a PA (provisional or preliminary approval).  Typically, a family can expect to receive this back in a week or two at the most.  However, there are several national holidays in China this week, so the Chinese adoption offices are officially closed all week.  We are very hopeful that we will receive PA next week, or the week after at the latest.  We feel confident about our request and it is in process, we just will feel SO much better when we have that official notice!  We have SO many adorable pictures we can share once the PA is issued.

We are also excited to share that we have a name picked out for him, Jaxson Lee.  I wanted to use a name with an "x" in it to match Alexis, and we also loved the idea of using Jason's initials.  My father's middle name is Lee, and Jason's youngest brother shares that middle name as well.  The name means "God has been gracious," which we think is most appropriate for this little one! 

This week is our Fall Break, and since we are both teachers, we enjoy a week as a family together.  Sometimes we have taken small trips, but this time we decided to work on various projects around the house and just enjoy some family time.  We went to Lexington on Monday to sell some remaining items from a weekend yard sale, and made a stop at Boyd Orchards on the way home.  We had such a wonderful time!  Tuesday we started the transformation from "spare room" to "little boy room."  We are so proud of the new room!  It has many unfinished projects and finishing touches that need to be completed, but that will give me several fun projects to work on throughout the colder months.  We knew, with the holidays approaching and school commitments, we needed to prepare the room now!  Plus, we've had so much stress with the adoption over the last 6 weeks, so it was fun to work on something as a family.  The process of preparing a room made Alexis' impending birth seem more "real," and our experience preparing Jaxson's room resulted in the same effect.  We already love this little guy, and we wanted to make him feel a part of our physical home - not just our hearts.

The theme for his room is based of the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle.  As an elementary teacher, I am a huge fan of Carle's books, and Jason is a fan of anything that isn't too girly and feminine!  Pottery Barn has a new line of Eric Carle decor, so I was so excited when I found it on sale last week!  As we were decorating, I found a card attached to one of the caterpillar stuffed animals, that read...

This book is more than a is a story of HOPE.  I hope that as you go through your life, you will grow,  change and emerge into something beautiful like a butterfly.  
 - Eric Carle

I absolutely loved this inspirational anecdote that the author shared.  How appropriate for our son!  We hope that he will not dwell upon an unpleasant past, but will grow into the beautiful person he was created to be.  We are just excited to be part of his metamorphosis!

I have attached some pictures of Alexis "helping" us (she is so excited to be a big sister) and some of the final product (as it is right won't be "finished" for a while).

I kind of think of our whole adoption experience like a caterpillar's journey.  We have been slowly "inching" our way and gaining ground closer to our own metamorphosis as a family!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Nothing in the adoption world seems to move quickly, and we have understood that very well these last two weeks!  We have all of our paperwork submitted and China has received everything they need to complete our transfer.  We spoke to our new agency again today, and they said that their China contact is working on the transfer and hopes to have it completed by the end of next week, if not (hopefully) sooner!  Next Friday is just her goal.  The Letter of Intent paperwork is also in China, so hopefully, it will be processed quickly.  It may still be a couple of weeks until we have that "official" provisional acceptance letter, but at least we are progressing in the right direction!  Today I also received additional photos from an American doctor who visited with him in July.  I will also be receiving an updated medical report from her as soon as she completes it (hopefully by the weekend).  In one of the pictures, he is crying........but she told me that he was just "very unhappy that he had to be still long enough for them to complete the medical exam."  He looks great and is happily playing in most of the photos.  We can also see the cleft repair a bit better in these pictures, and we are still impressed with how good it looks.  It appears that some dental work is in his future, but that is something we can handle and fully expected.  What kid doesn't need dental work these days? :-)

I can't wait until we can share the pictures online!  I'm very happy to share them in person, though! :-)

Our agency case worker indicated that she thought we would likely travel around March or April, although it could be sooner.  Timelines are unpredictable in China, at best!

Please continue to keep us, the process and, most importantly, this little guy in your prayers.  This is a gruelling process and we have been a little exhausted from the emotions of everything over the last two weeks.  We are thankful, and feel blessed to have made it to this point!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Family Pics for LOI (Letter of Intent)

My photographer friend, Dana Basham, took these photos with our camera today for us so that we could send the JPEG files to our new agency.  They will need these files to attach to our Letter of Intent, or LOI, this week (indicating that we want to adopt this specific little boy).  She kept telling Alexis to smile because she would have a baby brother.....she produced some adorable little smiles as a result!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Whew.....the last week has been such an emotional and exciting week!  I'm not sure we have still fully wrapped our heads around everything.  We are excited to share that we have accepted a referral for an ADORABLE little boy with a repaired cleft lip and palate.  His repair was completed at 5 months of age, and our pediatrician indicated that his repair was "beautifully" done.  She commented that his file is the best case scenario she could imagine for a child in the "special needs program."  In fact, based on the information we have, she doesn't consider him "special needs" at all!  His development is right on target - if not ahead in some areas!  He is around 22 months at this time.

Someone shared his agency's link with me, and asked if I had heard of their special program that receives referrals of children from one specific orphanage (not the shared list).  I had not, so I checked it out, but was reluctant, because his file couldn't be transferred to our agency.  I asked if we could be matched to his file before we switched, but the new agency didn't think that was possible.  They thought we'd likely have to transfer first, then try to be matched to his file.  This wasn't very appealing at the time, because we worried his file would be locked to a different family in the process.  We truly have been very pleased with our agency and loved working with a smaller, Kentucky-based organization.  His little face was stuck in my mind, though, and we decided to wait for about a week and see what happened...

On Tuesday, the new agency called us and said that they had found out that we could, in fact, be matched to his file and THEN transferred.  So, we would be able to secure his file just for us!  We asked to see his file and reviewed it with our pediatrician that day.  After seeing his sweet face, and hearing such positive news from the doctor, we knew that we had to move forward!

We have been swamped - once again - with paperwork since then.  We completed a new (very lengthy) application for the new agency, had to write an official withdrawal letter to our current agency, called the US Immigration office to inquire about revising our home study (it gives us permission to adopt a girl, so we have to revise it to adopt a boy), and started working on the 12 documents we need to gather in order to submit his "letter of intent" (official request to China to be his family).  Our old agency has now released us, and the new agency has accepted us!  Everything is ready for them to send to China for our transfer.  Once it is complete, we will submit the LOI (letter of intent) and wait for provisional approval (PA).  We are **hoping** this will all happen by our Fall Break.  The transfer can take anywhere from a few to several days.  The PA is usually issued within two weeks of the LOI submission.  Either way, we are just thrilled and thankful to be blessed with this new addition to our family.

Even though he isn't "officially" ours yet, we truly feel that the events that transpired over the last two weeks were "meant to be."  We were really questioning ourselves as August passed without a match....and then our agency thought they were going to be able to lock a released file over Labor Day, and that was a disappointment.  Our director indicated that she didn't know why our case was taking so long, but she knew God had a plan for us.  Today one of the directors from our new agency commented that they "didn't know why this little boy's file had sat without interest for 3 months."  I think we know why!

I'm not allowed to share pictures, details about his province or any other specifics until we receive the PA.  When we do, I will share!  If you see us in person, we can show you pictures that we have in hand, just not electronically.

We want to thank everyone for your support, encouragement and prayers thus far in this journey.  We have been amazed at how many people are interested in our experience and it really contributed to our hope when we were disappointed over the last several months.  We know that this little guy will be welcomed and loved by many, many wonderful people in our lives! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adoption Update...Oh, BOY!

A friend of mine shared this quote with me this week, and it really touched me.  It sums up our intentions perfectly:

"By adopting a child and helping them reach their potential, they help us reach ours. An adopted child is not an unwanted child; to the contrary. They are a child who was searched for, prayed for, cried for, begged for; received by arms that ached, making empty hearts full. Love is meant to be shared" - Author Unknown
This week we definitely felt the "prayed for, cried for, begged for" part.  Yet another match night came and went and no luck!  We know that we haven't waited years or as long as many who are struggling with starting/expanding a family the "traditional" way, but we have exceeded the "1-3 months at the most" timeline we were given.  It's not like we are waiting to move up our agency's list - we are at the top and have been for a while.  They have tried hard to match us and there have just been very few young girls available.  Those that were have been quickly - within seconds - locked by other agencies.  Our agency is not exactly sure why our particular case is taking so long - and we even expanded our list of needs we would accept.

We see other families - logged in AFTER us (from other agencies) - being matched with children and preparing to travel.  We see Alexis' confusion as we try to explain that they couldn't "find" Annabelle again this month.  It's just so sad and devastating to know that two parents are able, willing and WANTING to bring a child into their home and there are HUNDREDS - actually THOUSANDS - of children in need of families and we are just stuck waiting!  It seems the red tape and bureaucracy of adoption is getting to me this week.  It is a very emotional roller coaster of a process and you feel you are constantly building up hope, getting anxious, feeling disappointed, reeling from the disappointment and starting all over again.  Since we started the process in December, we are just feeling a little emotionally tired this week!  We know other adoptive parents have been through this - some for much longer.  Adoption is a tough process!

Before we even discussed our situation with our agency, we had been having thoughts and wonderings about adopting a boy.  Originally, we did not realize that there are so many young boys with minor needs in this program.  Usually girls are abandoned in China.  However, boys with any type of need are not usually "wanted," and when families already have one boy, the cost of keeping two or breaking the "one-child" law is not an option. 

I have read on several sites that nearly 75% of the shared list of babies/children is boys, and nearly 75% of the families hoping to be matched off the list are looking for girls.  Our odds of finding a little boy should be much greater.

So, after much thought, prayer and discussion, we decided to be open to a little BOY as well as a girl.  We want our agency to continue looking for a girl, but if a boy is available and meets our criteria, we will be thrilled.  Alexis is excited about the option of having a little brother, and is already going through the house identifying toys she thinks he would like!  We'll definitely have to work on the name (Annabelle just won't work!) and I'll have to redesign the ladybug-themed room, but that's ok......we feel that maybe we weren't matched yet because we were meant to be a family to a little boy! 

Thanks for your prayers as we continue this journey!  Some day this unpleasant waiting and wondering will all be worth it!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August List and Sister Talk

I posted this story on facebook, but failed to write about it on this blog.  Since we will be printing this blog as a memory book for Annabelle some day, I wanted to make sure I documented it!

Alexis has been studying "families" at preschool and they also have been making a lot of "about me" crafts/projects.  A couple of weeks ago, she said that her favorite thing was "her sister, Annabelle."  She also told her teacher to write that her favorite thing to do was "to look everywhere for Annabelle with my parents."  We think she truly believes that Annabelle is "lost" and that we have people looking for her.  In a way, she's partially right!  I think it is so sweet how much she already loves her.  She talks about her constantly - referring to things she wants to play with her, toys she will share with her, how she will "boss" her around, etc.  I know she will have adjustments to make, but I know she will love being a sister!

I had a shirt made for her that she can wear once we are matched.  I think it's really sweet - and definitely unique!

The August "Shared List" is being released Monday night, so we will find out on Tuesday if we were matched or not.  Let the nervous worrying and wondering begin!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dog Days of August

Summer came and went without a match, as we were anticipating and hoping, but we know that there is a reason we have not been matched and the extra wait will be a distant memory when we actually do welcome Annabelle into our lives!  Is it frustrating and disappointing each month that passes?  YES!  Is it fun just "waiting" for something out of our control?  Absolutely NO!  However, it is the reality of adoption, and it will make the reality of being a new family that much better! 

In the meantime, we have been pretty busy lately as a new school year has started.  I'm teaching third grade again, Jason is teaching AP Calculus for the first time, and Alexis returned to preschool.  She had a great start and loves going to "her school" every day.  We had an emotional weekend before school started for our family, as we had to put down our dog, Copper.  Jason and I first brought Copper into our lives eight years ago - the weekend before school started that year.  She's been through all of our adventures and experiences as a married couple, including two homes and the birth of Alexis.  Those who knew Copper knew that she was quite spoiled and didn't view herself as a dog, but rather a member of the family.  We miss her, but she was really sick and unable to recover.

Despite my apprehension, Jason and Alexis teamed up to beg for a new puppy.  Alexis missed her playmate and Jason particularly missed having a dog in the house.  So, we welcomed Jake to our family!  Jake is a TINY shih-tzu puppy who is named after the lead character on Alexis' favorite TV show, "Jake and the Neverland Pirates."  She wanted to name him Captain Hook, Smee or Mickey Mouse, so with some cohersion, we "compromised" on Jake!  He is cute - and he's growing on me!  We found out that his breed originated from China, so that is quite appropriate for us!

   August matching should be toward the end of the month.  Hopefully it will bring good news!