This blog has moved! I am now blogging at:
This blog has moved! I am now blogging at:
We have just arrived here in Taipei, Taiwan and we will be here for the next 2 weeks as we finalize the adoption of our daughter, Claire. We'll be blogging regularly while we're here but not on this site. To follow along with our journey, visit:
We are leaving for Taiwan in 6 days. Over two years of waiting and now here we are, about to board a plane that will take us halfway around the world and deliver us into the arms of a new life.
I was thinking the other night about how it will feel to leave our house that morning. I can still remember leaving the morning Connor was born knowing that when we came back home a few days later, everything was going to be different. The life that Jessica and I had known was gone and a new one was beginning. It was a great feeling but if I'm being totally honest, it was also pretty scary. Life was controllable and predictable... introducing a baby into the equation brought in the potential for chaos. We had no idea what to expect. Luckily for us, it was wonderful. Connor has always been an amazing kid.
That was six years ago and this time around, all of those feelings of fear are amplified. Life again is somewhat controllable and predictable. I love my family and the life that we share. If I thought bringing a baby into the mix would be tricky, how about a 2 year old who doesn't speak English! Don't get me wrong, we are so, so excited to bring our little girl home but there are certainly moments where we both lie awake in bed at night thinking "what on Earth have we gotten ourselves into?"
A random sampling of fears that cross our mind on a daily basis:
What if she won't attach to us? What if she screams non-stop the whole time we're in Taiwan? What if they kick us off the plane? What if Connor and Claire don't get along? What if there are health problems we don't know about? What if something goes wrong when we get there and they won't let us bring her home? What if she grows up to resent us? What if we aren't up to the challenges that await us? What if this was all a bad idea?
You get the picture... there are so many unknowns and I'm sure any other adoptive parent would tell you that this is the part where you start to freak out a little bit.
Still, even with the fears bouncing around in my head, I have to say that the most consistent feeling I have as I think about this upcoming journey is that of peace. I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but I know it's going to be okay. We're not sure what awaits us when we get there, but I know it's going to be okay. We aren't even sure when we're going to be able to come home (paperwork issues may delay us 2-3 weeks longer than we originally planned) but even with that, I know it's going to be okay.
" Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:1
When Jessica was pregnant with Connor, those of you who knew us then might remember the struggles she had with morning sickness. Heck, she wishes it had just been morning sickness... she was nauseous 24 hours a day it seems. The doctors gave her every form of medication they could think of to try and help and nothing ever even seemed to make a dent in it. At one point they gave her a drug which is generally only given to cancer patients who are undergoing chemo. Even that didn't help.
It wasn't an easy time for her at all (being honest, not my favorite time either... cleaning up projectile vomit was conveniently left out of our marriage vows) but as usual, she handled it with grace and when she could, a smile on her face.
It was a hard pregnancy and I remember on the day that Connor was born how proud of her and how grateful I was. As she lay there in that hospital bed holding our new son we all knew in that moment that we would have gone through it all again, no questions asked. It was worth it.
As it turns out, we only thought that was hard.
As of right now, Jessica is 25 months pregnant with Claire. While there hasn't been any vomiting this time around, the emotional roller coaster has been an incredibly bumpy ride full of dramatic twists, turns, and even loop-the-loops. There have been many tears on days when the wait seemed too much... on days when yet another paperwork problem set us back... on days when we wondered why on earth we ever started down this road. There have also been moments of incredible joy... the moment we huddled around a computer screen as a family and saw our daughter's face for the first time... decorating her nursery and dreaming of the stories that will soon be told there... finally getting the phone call that we had been waiting for... "come get your daughter!"
While this "pregnancy" has been completely different than Connor's (obviously), I think Jessica would agree that it has been harder. We are both people who really struggle with control issues... we like the world to be predictable. We realize it isn't and never will be but when that's how you're wired, the topsy-turvy world of adoption can be a real challenge.
So now as we enter into these final hectic days of packing, preparing, praying, and planning, I really just wanted to take a moment to publicly say how amazing Jessica has been with all of this. There have been hard days and tears shed but she has never wavered from what God put in her heart that she was to do. She is the one who started our family on this journey of adoption and her gentle persistence changed my heart from reluctantly going along with it to being completely sold-out excited about it. She's sneaky like that... I've said many times that she has the biggest heart of anyone I know and if you are around her enough that will start to change you and you'll find yourself becoming more compassionate too.
So, thank you honey for listening to what God put on your heart and for following through on it even when it seemed like it was so far away... even when it would have been easier to just give up. You've set a great example for your family and I'm so proud of you. We're almost there!
We found out today that while we are in Taiwan we are going to meet Claire's maternal grandfather. Her birth mother does not wish to meet us and has had some fairly serious legal problems. In fact, as of right now the social workers do not even know where she is. I was very surprised in light of that to find out that the grandfather has requested to meet with us and that meeting will happen in our hotel on Saturday, February 6th.
Claire has two half sisters and this man has custody of one of them. We do not know if he will bring her with him to the meeting but we are hopeful.
I've been thinking today of what it is we should say to this man to set his mind at ease. I imagine he wants to meet us to have a chance to say goodbye to his grand-daughter who he will most likely never see again. What a moment that will be... I cannot imagine. I feel the need to have some idea of what I want to say to him before we meet... something that will put his mind at ease... something that will give him comfort that little Hsiang-Ting (Claire) is going to be alright in her new life. Something to let him know that we are kind and loving and that we are going to do everything in our power to give this little girl a wonderful life. I hope he will believe us and go away from our meeting with at least a little bit of peace.
We know next to nothing about this man. We know that Claire's birth mother asked him to take Claire and he told her he could not afford to take one more child. Putting Claire up for international adoption was his idea and Claire's birth mother agreed to it. We owe this man an incredible debt of gratitude. He probably does not speak English and even though I can say "Thank You" in Mandarin (thanks to Ni Hao Kai-Lan) somehow I know that won't even begin to be enough.
Even though I will probably be anxious about this meeting right up until the moment it happens, I am so grateful we are going to have this opportunity.
I think of Connor's early life... In my iPhoto library on my laptop I have over 3000 pictures from just his first 3 years alone. We have pictures of Connor with all of his family, including some who have since passed away. Every picture is a treasure. Those of you with children understand this. With Claire though, it's different. We have 20 pictures from a day in October when a social worker took her to a playground. We have about 10 pictures from a day in April where she played in a park for a little while. We have about 20 pictures taken at random times during her 2nd year of life while she was living in the orphanage... and that's it. No pictures of her birth mother, grandparents, siblings, or friends. Not one. This might be our only chance to have a picture of her with her birth family. What a treasure that will be for her someday.
Last night, I decided to distract myself from our adoption wait by seeking out the answer to a question I've been thinking about for a long, long time. You know how it is... you get to wondering about something but you never bother to find out... then one day, you just can't take it anymore. You have to know. This is how it was with me last night. Here's what happened:
THE QUESTION: Can you actually make Chocolate Chip cookies out of the little pieces of dough they put in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream?
We began with a half gallon of our favorite brand, all natural Bryers.
As Connor and I each ate a bowl of ice cream, each time we encountered a morsel of cookie dough, we spit it into the bowl.
These morsels were combined to make a giant clump of cookie dough. It's about the size of a large marble.
Into the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
The result... but is it any good?
Surprisingly, YES! It wasn't the best cookie ever but we all tried a bite and agreed that you indeed CAN make chocolate chip cookies out of the cookie dough they put in ice cream.
I'll have to admit I was surprised... I didn't think it would work. Next I'm gonna try it with those "cookie dough bites" they sell at the movies.
We leave for Taiwan in 1 month to bring our daughter home. I've been preparing our extended family for awhile now and I suppose I should go ahead and prepare any of you who read this who might be around Claire in the first few months she is home. I don't like being the bad guy but I'm afraid it's a skill I am going to have to develop. Let me explain.
Because we are adopting an older child (Claire will be 2 and a half on January 18th) the major obstacle we have to overcome is attachment. Claire has to learn that Jessica and I are her mommy and daddy. In her short life, she has lived in two different orphanages and also in a foster home. That means that she has been separated from caregivers who she might have identified as her mommy or daddy at least twice with a third time coming in just a few weeks. The natural thing for a child to do in this case is to just stop trying... to shut down. It would not be uncommon for her to come home with us and reject one or both of us (this is in fact very common) so Jessica and I are going to have our work cut out for us.
The good news is that we aren't the first people to walk down this road. There are a lot of good resources on how to deal with this and how to build attachment between ourselves and Claire. It isn't easy and it isn't quick and unfortunately, it's going to require me to be a bit of a hard case for awhile.
The number one rule of attachment for a toddler is that Jessica and I are the ONLY ones who are allowed to meet any of Claire's needs. This means that no one else can feed her, help her get dressed, bathe her, comfort her, and yes, even hold her. I know... not cool. I don't like it either but if this is what the experts say, this is most likely what we will do. Claire absolutely MUST learn that we are her parents... that we are the ones who love her and who will care for her and who will meet every need she has. After she learns this (it can take from 2-3 months all the way up to a year) we will lighten up on the rules but at first, I'm going to have to be the attachment nazi for lack of a better term.
So, if you see us with Claire a few weeks after we get home and we're out at the grocery store or something and you ask to hold her, please don't get offended when I say no. I don't think you have cooties or anything... we just have to do what is best for Claire in these first few months that we have her. We have so much lost time to make up for and from everything we've read, who she becomes as a woman later in life is going to depend a whole lot on if she can attach to us as a child. It's a really big deal.
That said, every single child is different... she might get home and attach very, very quickly. I've read stories of that happening but on the flip side, I've read stories of children that didn't attach for years and years and sometimes not at all. Most likely we'll fall somewhere between those two extremes. Either way, we absolutely could use your prayers as we prepare for this new journey... there's so much to learn, read, and do and no matter how prepared we think we are, I'm sure there will be many surprises. If there's one thing I've learned on this crazy train called international adoption it's that nothing ever goes quite the way you think it will and you should always expect the unexpected.
After six months and 13 days of waiting we finally received the call that we've been waiting for this afternoon. We can travel to Taiwan and pick up our daughter the week of February 8th! We will most likely leave from Knoxville on Wednesday, February 3rd and we will finally hold our daughter in our arms for the first time on Monday morning, February 8th. We're hoping to be home the following weekend sometime.
We are absolutely overjoyed! It's been more than 2 years since we began this journey and now it's finally coming to an end. I'll be honest... I'm ready for this journey to be over so a new one can begin! The best is most certainly yet to come.
We'll have more updates later but for now we have a to-do list a mile long... so much to do before we leave! Plane tickets to buy, hotel rooms to book, a very pink room to put the finishing touches on, and a whole bunch of paperwork to get in order!
My life feels like it has been on hold for six months now. On June 18th, I saw pictures of my daughter for the first time. On June 19th, I saw a one minute video of my daughter running around in an orphanage playing with a water bottle. On July 18th, a giant stack of paperwork arrived in Taiwan... these papers were her ticket home... all that we needed to begin the court process to bring our little girl home to Tennessee. They enthusiastically said "We'll have her home by Christmas!".
"your phone call is important to us. we are currently experiencing heavy call volume. your estimated time to bring your daughter home is 9 months. thank you for holding."
I don't know a better way to describe it... it feels like I've been on hold with a credit card company since June... the phone is at my ear and this message just keeps repeating and repeating and repeating. I can do things while I wait.. heck, sometimes for a moment or two I even forget that I'm on hold, but like clockwork, every few minutes that voice comes back on to remind me that life is indeed on hold.
This has been without question the hardest six months of my life. I wake up every day and wonder about a thousand different things. Life here has been good, Jessica and Connor are wonderful and we've had some great times as a family only we haven't... our family is incomplete. Ever since that moment we saw her face for the first time everything we have done as a family has felt just a little bit off. We are incomplete.
We have tried everything we know to do to help us get through the wait... you try to put it out of your head for awhile and just pretend it isn't happening. You tell yourself that will make the time pass more quickly. It doesn't work though... we both work around tons of people every day. I can't go 20 minutes without being asked about it some days. I don't mind being asked... I really don't. I know everyone means well, genuinely cares, and really hopes and prays we'll have our little girl home soon. It's just hard to have the scab ripped off the wound 10 times a day sometimes when all you want to do is just survive another day, think about it as little as possible, and hope that the time passes quickly.
They told us home by Christmas... then our court date was delayed (it should have been in early September... it was October 26th) and they told us mid to late February. We're hanging our hats on that for now... if we don't get a phone call in the next couple of weeks though, even that isn't going to happen and we could be looking at March or April. Nothing would surprise me at this point.
So all of this to say... I'm sorry I haven't been updating my blog lately. I just haven't really felt like writing anything substantial... it's just another thing that it's hard to give your full attention to when you're on hold.
As soon as we get the phone call we've been waiting 6 months for... the "come and get your daughter" call, I would imagine I'll have plenty to write about. For now though, you have my apologies. Please keep my family in your prayers... as much as this has taken a toll on me, you can only imagine what a toll it has taken on Jessica.
1. Still no real adoption news. We've passed the 3 month point since we received our referral. Most families with our agency have been traveling right around the 6 month point which for us would fall sometime around the week of December 18th. I'd say right now the odds are really good that we'll be traveling sometime between December 1st and February 1st... we're really hoping to be home before Christmas. The wait is still proving to be very, very challenging. We are at the point now where we really don't talk about it much at home but it's taking a toll... I think we're all just ready to get our daughter home and get to this next, very exciting part of our lives. Enough of this waiting already!
2. Connor is doing really well in Kindergarten so far. He's a bright, sweet little boy and the structure of kindergarten is really good for him. He seems to be learning a lot and he really likes his teacher so all is well on that front. We're really proud of him. He has missed this entire week of school due to having the dreaded swine flu. It really hasn't been that bad and he's been feeling a good bit better since Tuesday but the doctor recommended he stay out all week. We're going to mostly take that advice... we're sending him back tomorrow (Friday) because they're having a special "Johnny Appleseed" day. I never really got into Johnny Appleseed that much... I was more of a Paul Bunyan guy... loved that big blue ox.
3. I've spent most of the past 2 days at home with Connor organizing his gigantic bucket of random lego pieces he got for Christmas into ziploc bags. The legos are now organized based on size and shape which keeps them a lot neater and makes building new ships a breeze. Connor and I found a website with every lego Star Wars instruction manual ever... we're looking through them and when we find one we think we have the parts to build, we go to work. It's been a lot of fun for both of us... we built a mini Millenium Falcon today and I have to say, it's pretty sweet.
4. I think I'm as un-excited about the new TV season as I've ever been... I just don't watch much TV anymore which I don't say in any way to look down on you if you watch a lot of TV. If there were a lot of shows that were on that I was excited about, I would probably watch plenty... there just hasn't been much to pique my interest this year. I'll watch The Office every week... that's still a favorite. I watched the first few episodes of Glee and kind of liked it... it's REALLY unrealistic and as a musician the non-realistic vocal / performance numbers really bother me. They will have 6 kids singing on screen when it should be obvious to anyone with ears that you're hearing 20 studio singers coming out of your speakers. Anyway... I'll watch Lost and 24 when they come on... and Friday Night Lights too but that's about it. Any shows I should be watching that I'm not?
5. I don't know if many of you know this or not but Jessica has gone back to school this semester part time at LMU to get a certificate (I can't remember what it's called) that will certify her to be a principal. Yes, she already has one more degree than I have (she has a Masters... I just have an undergrad) and now she'll have two! For Jessica to be working full time at the school, taking classes on the weekend, and still finding time to be an amazing mom and wife, the woman deserves a medal. I've certainly made the mistake in the past of taking all of that for granted but I've had my eyes opened a bit lately to how impressive and difficult it all really is. There's no way I could pull all that off unless I figured out a way to get a clone. I'm really, really proud of her!
Jessica and I are going to be having two adoption fund-raisers this fall to help us cover the costs of our travel to Taiwan to bring Claire home. Airfare could be as high as $10,000 due to the fact that we'll only have about 7 days notice before we travel. We've been able to cover our expenses up until now but that daunting total has left us needing to get creative and so, we are excited to present... Bears for Claire.
Here's how it works: Make a donation to our adoption fund and you will receive a "bear for Claire". For $5.00 you get one bear, for $10.00 you get 3, and for $25 you get 8 bears. Each bear enters you to win one of over 20 prizes. We have some AWESOME prizes, including:
The drawing will be held on Sunday, August 30th at 7:00 PM. We'll actually be webcasting the drawing so people can watch live.
For all the information you need to participate in our fundraiser, and to purchase your chances to win the Wii and other prizes, please visit:
"Freedom is Here" - Hillsong United
"I Will Go" - Starfield
"Glory to God" - Steve Fee
"I'm Not Ashamed" - Israel Houghton
"None but Jesus" - Brooke Frasier
Since receiving Claire's referral at the beginning of the summer, the time has been flying by. I'm really glad this all happened in the summertime because we've had so much to do! We had a busy summer planned anyway and this just kicked it all into hyperdrive. Here is just a short list of what we've been up to for the past 6 weeks or so:
So that's just a little of what we've been up to trying to get ready for our new arrival. Jessica starts back to work in 2 weeks which is why we've been pushing to get this all ready now. We'll post some pictures of Claire's room when it's ready.