Sunday, June 28, 2015

revisiting marmville

People, I am here to (possibly) eat my words. Less than one year ago, I shared my somewhat shallow opinion of minivans. This was back when we expected Clementine to join us soon and had no idea that we would be expecting another girl within the same timeline. We were researching vehicle options, and I had discarded all minivan options as quickly as they'd come in.

Way back in January, when we found out we were expecting another girl (in addition to Clementine), I lived in denial about the need for a minivan for a bit. In fact, I still might be living in a bit of denial, because it's possible that we can make our (cute, non-minivan) Highlander work. However, I bought a double stroller the other day (at Sweet should GO THERE!), and quickly learned that a stroller (double or not) will not fit in the minuscule space behind the third row of seating. Furthermore, the third row doesn't split in half to enable me to fold down only one chair at a time, thus allowing one child to sit back there. The only way I could get that stroller in my car was to lift it over the top of the seat and stick the stroller handle up into the air. I'm not sure if that's the safest option for travel with one child riding back there. Not to mention the fact that I'm not certain that I can fit three children's seats (baby seat and two boosters) in the second row of seating and place only one child in the back row.


I haven't given up on my cute SUV yet. We will have to wait and see how it all works out once we have all four kids here. However, I thought I'd go ahead and throw it out there that I will eat my words about minivans with humility, grace, and gusto if necessary. I suppose this was bound to happen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

4 am thoughts

I'm awake at 4 am, yet again.

This time there is no paperwork crisis in Congo. There just seems to be a food crisis in my belly. I'm starving.

I'd like an Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. The closest one is 3.5 hours away. Who can make that happen for me?

Also, my brain is apparently in always-on mode. Can't turn it off. 

I'm thinking of all the things to get done before Baby Girl gets here, and she is continually reminding me of her growing presence with the kicking and punching of my insides. She prefers the wee hours of the night to stretch her legs, I think.

I'm praying for the adoption issues in DRC. Despite the good rumors we keep hearing, the fact that nothing has actually happened (to the tune of seeing kids united with families in their new home countries) has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind. 

I'm thinking of Clementine and the way she laughed and smiled with her "Papa." (I wrote about her yesterday.)

And I'm being smothered/snuggled by Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Duh (Brody and Brecken), one on each side. (It's cool to be snuggled, just not when I've got this bowling ball attached to my belly and I'm already overheating.)

Speaking of the bowling ball, I've officially made it past the 31-week mark, which is longer than I ever made it with Brecken, who was born right at the 31-week mark. We are in unchartered pregnancy waters, my friends. (My water broke at 29 weeks, so if you want to get technical I have been in unchartered pregnancy waters--he he, pardon the pun--since June 14.)

I was given a goal at my last checkup: 34 weeks. "Anything past that is a bonus," said my doctor. I took that to be the green light in my delivering at 34 weeks and 1 day. (Have I mentioned that I, personally, am not a huge fan of this pregnancy stuff? That's not to say I'm not incredibly grateful to be carrying this baby--I know there are soo, soo many people who would die to be in this position, and I was one of them once, too--I'm just saying these feelings of immobility, instability, inflexibility, and constant caution are not my favorite feelings.)

Of course, just because I'm not a fan of the feelings associated with pregnancy, that doesn't mean I will do anything to actually TRY to have Baby Girl any sooner than God is ready to get her out of there. I don't mess with that stuff, and I've learned that I can't control it even if I want to. (Oh, such hard lessons learned there.)

In this unchartered territory, I'm thinking about new things, things I didn't get a chance to think of with Brecken. 

Packing a hospital bag, for instance. With Brecken, I had NOTHING ready, nothing packed. I went to the hospital thinking they would send me back home. Instead, I stayed 12 days (and Brecken stayed much longer).

According to some packing lists, I should make sure I have enough stuff to live in a forest by myself for 5 weeks: Snacks, five changes of clothes, pocket knife, witch hazel, Vaseline, hair spray, shampoo and conditioner, six nursing bras, a breast pump, a pillow and sheets, two night gowns, pictures of my home, three pairs of shoes, a sewing kit, magazines, a journal, 22 hair ties, and athletic tape.

Let me reiterate this to you: I brought nothing and was there for 12 days. If you are stressing about fitting all of that junk into your bag, I assure you that you will be fine with the bare minimum. The hospital has virtually everything you will ever need, except maybe a comfy outfit and makeup that matches your skin tone. 

Secondly, the "birth plan." Let me tell you about my birth plan: Give me that epidural, please and thanks. And if I'm going to be specific about it, let's make it quick, Dr. McDreamy. (Did I ever tell you about the time Brad had a man-crush on my anesthesiologist?) I don't need music, or chants, or five hundred people in my room (like last time). I want Brad and my anesthesiologist (for the epidural, not because he was pretty). Also, maybe some hard math problems and a document or two to edit. For some reason, focusing on something academic seems extremely appealing to me during the time period before getting an epidural. Could be because it helps me focus on the solvable math and grammar problems rather than the pain of my insides ripping into a million pieces. To you natural-birth girls...good work. I bow down to you in defeat in this, the first painful task of biological motherhood. 

And this concludes my blog post at 4 am. Because it's now 5 am. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

sweet & sassy

How do I even begin to describe a daughter I've never met but desperately love and want to hold?

I'm not sure, but I'll try.

Let's start with this: She will fit into our family well. Brad described her as a mix between Brody and Brecken in personality. She is sassy, but she will help another kid get up if he is knocked down. Furthermore, she is in a foster home with lots of older boys, so she will be very familiar with life as a little sister to boys. (She will also steal toys from boys and bop them on their heads with it!) She also LOVES red gatorade--a near-staple around here--and appear to be left-handed (just like me!).

When Brad met her for the first time, she was dressed in PJs we sent her a while back that say "I love to dream" with a fur neck-warmer wrapped around her. I think the nannies work very hard to dress the children well when their parents come visit, and it was an absolute thrill to see her in something I'd sent over for her (because you never know exactly what happens after you send them).

Their introduction happened quickly (so quickly that there's no video of it). Brad said she went right to him, despite the fact that--according to the nannies--she never went to men. I think the nannies did a great job of prepping her and making sure she knew Brad was her Papa and that he was there for her. I also think that all of our prayers about their time together helped make them bonding well.

That said, one of the hardest parts of his visit was seeing all the other kids who wanted to be held and get his attention, too. He said they seemed to know that Brad was there for Clementine, but he could tell they still wanted attention. He knew she needed him to be there for her only--so she knew she was special to him--but he also wanted so badly to give those other kids some love and attention.

After their initial greeting, she sat right on his lap and got used to him. He gave her the toy phone I sent her, and this is the first time she heard my voice (albeit on a toy phone from Target):

(See there? A little sass and a little sweet. I just adore her and her awesome little personality! This was my first time seeing it "live.")

Brad took some bubbles, chalk, and suckers for all of the kids at the foster home, and he said he opened the bubbles to share with all of the kids and gave her a bottle of her own. She held it and wouldn't let anyone else touch it.

She even fell asleep on Brad's lap that first day. (He is the Baby Whisperer, I tell you.) And when she woke up after a nap, she came right back out and found Brad again.

After a nice visit, Brad left the foster home and returned to his hotel. The nannies made sure Clementine knew he would be back the next day, but she already hated to see him go.

Brad's second visit took place right after the major stress of filing paperwork at the Embassy. The last text I received before trying to go back to sleep that morning at 4:51 (U.S. time) said, "I'm going to see C!" What a way to end that ordeal!!

She went right to him again and sat on his lap. She spent some time giggling as he tickled her, then played with some more bubbles. Brad said she is not necessarily affectionate and did things on her own terms, making sure the whole time that he knew she was in charge. However, she loved to sit on his lap, he treasured his gifts, and she fell asleep there again that second day.

I think it's pretty clear she loves him.

Brad's last day there had to be the hardest. He didn't get to stay there long, as he had to go pick up his airline tickets. Clementine also knew that he would not be back the next day (because the nannies weren't saying anything about his return "tomorrow"), and he could visibly tell that she was shutting down on him a bit emotionally. Her smiles for pictures weren't as bright and big either, and she had a tendency to look away.

Indeed, she was sad he was leaving, and when I think about her missing him the next day, it makes me incredibly said, too. I hope and believe that the nannies tell her he will be back for her "soon." He left pictures of family for her to look at, too, so hopefully that will help.

When we initially found out that I was pregnant and that Brad would probably make this trip, I was disappointed to be missing out on seeing her in person and getting to love on her. However, after seeing the videos and thinking about the goodbyes of that last day, I think it's probably best that it was Brad who got to visit and not me. He said he didn't cry when he left, but it was really tough. I have a feeling that my plane rides home with empty arms would have been full of sobs and sniffles, possibly even some true, full-effect uncontrollable ugly-cries.

She loved him--that was clear--and I'm so happy she got to feel special with her Papa there for her. Now we sit tight and wait for word that we can bring her home, where we can make her feel loved and special every day.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"When will she be home?"

Most of you saw my updates last week involving Brad's quick trip to Africa and the great I-600 filing (near-)debacle of 2015. These updates have left many of you asking the same question: "When will she be home?"

Brody and Brecken were a bit mad when Brad returned without their sister. ("But I thought you were going to bring her here?!" one whined when Brad returned with only his suitcase and not their sister.)

Honestly, we are asking the same question. There are still a TON of unknowns in this adoption, but I'll fill you in as fully as possible so you can understand where we are in the process.

First up, a color-coded chart, because I'm a sucker for color-coding. (Click on it to make it better, if you wish.)

We started our adoption journey at the bottom of this chart. The short story here is that most steps in orange didn't take very long. This is partly because I'm an application- and paperwork-lover (NERD) and partly because we had a lot more control over the circumstances and timelines involved. Then we got to the purple part--the DRC side of things. This part took forever...over a year longer than it was initially supposed to take. (Obviously, we also lost twins, Omba and Shako, to dysentery in Congo at the very beginning of this process. This broke our hearts into trillions of tiny pieces and also took us back a bit in the process.) You can see specific timeline info from our adoption timeline here.

We are currently back into the orange (U.S.) side of things, at the part where it says "File I600" in the top-left corner. Brad filed that I600 paperwork last Wednesday, and at the end of that appointment (which took about 30 seconds after he received the original documents) the officials at the Embassy told him that, barring any red flags in our paperwork, we should expect them to complete their investigation in six weeks. This is AWESOME, because we had originally heard it can take 3-8 MONTHS for this investigations to take place (which is absolutely unacceptable, if you ask me). So, we are hoping and praying that the investigation is smooth and easy, and that we receive word that we have passed the investigation by July 29. 

This (hopeful) six-week time frame is what's referred to as the "Investigation wait process" in the chart above. One thing that can speed up the process is a birth parent interview or an interview of some other key individual with details about the night she was found. This interview serves a great purpose in providing a first-hand account of the events of that night and confirming that she is (rather, WAS), in fact, an orphan. 

Within a few hours of receiving our I600 paperwork from Brad, the Embassy sent me an email about a Child Finder interview. This interview involves our Embassy speaking to the person who found Clementine when she was a tiny infant. 

My email read like this, in part: 

"As you know, we are currently conducting our required I-604 Orphan Status Determination to determine whether the child you intend to adopt meets the legal definition of an “orphan” under U.S. immigration law and thus is eligible to receive an immigrant visa. From our review of the file, it appears that there is a known identified Congolese citizen by the name of .... who reported the abandonment of the child."

MY HEART STOPPED. My thoughts swirled. Did that email just say that someone, possibly a parent, had reported her missing? We are going to lose this girl!! Keep in mind that I had slept about 3 hours the night before, which explains why I read the email wrong. I reread that part, then remembered that I had already seen the name they mentioned in the paperwork that I sent them. They were just telling me that the person who FOUND her could be interviewed to help provide important information to help them make a determination on her case. SHEW. I resumed normal breathing.

I forwarded the email to my agency and got a quick response that an in-country rep from our agency knew the person who found her and had already informed him/her of the need for an interview at the Embassy. This is AWESOME, because sometimes it can take a long time just to find the people involved and get them an interview. I have already requested this "Child Finder" interview from the Embassy, so I hope to hear something from them about that today. 

After passing the investigation, we will get a passport for Clementine, and there will be a visa interview and a visa issuance for her. 

Now here is where it gets tricky. Normally, we would fly to DRC to get a Bordeaux Letter from DRC, then we would receive an Exit Letter and bring our daughter home. However, since DRC has halted the issuance of Exit Letters since September 2013, we can't really do anything else in the process until something in DRC changes. There are hundreds of families who have hit this point; they are STUCK in the process without a legal way to get their children home. In fact, there are quite a few people who are now living in DRC with their legally adopted children. It is an absolute tragedy that one document--the elusive Exit Letter--is keeping them from joining entire families and loving support systems in their home towns. 

There has been a continual stream of positive reports and rumors that kids will be allowed to join their families at home "soon." Since April 1, we have heard very promising news to that regard. However, not one child has received an Exit Letter yet. So this is the unknown. (See thisthisthis, and this post to see how rumors have continually kept us on the edges of our seats.)

One positive report from DRC came several weeks ago. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs put together a committee to review files of adopted children, then issue the B-Letter and then submit the files for an Exit Letter. (At least, this is how I understand the process at this time.) The Ministry requested people with completed adoptions to submit their information and their dossiers (official paperwork) for this review, and many reports say they have reviewed hundreds of files already. I have even heard that some people have been given the "ok." (I'm not totally sure what that "ok" means..."Ok, come get your kids," or "Ok, you've passed this part of the test," or something else...) 

But so far, no kids have come home. As of Friday morning, our dossier is in the stack of files waiting for review, which is a GREAT feeling, but we are SO ready to rejoice with people who are finally able to bring their kids home. Some have been STUCK waiting for 635 days. It is absolutely heartbreaking and so very hard to understand. 

So, here are some specific ways you can pray for us and the other DRC families: 

1 -- Please pray that children with completed adoptions are officially allowed to leave DRC and go home with their families VERY SOON. I am praying that several are officially given the green light to bring kids home THIS WEEK.

2 -- Please pray that our investigation goes smoothly, that there are no red flags, that our "Child Finder" interview is set up and completed quickly, and that we receive word that we have passed the investigation by July 29 (6 weeks from when our papers were filed).  It would be so nice to see something completed within the timeline we are given!

3 -- Please pray for the health and safety of the children who are waiting, as well as for the hearts of those children and their parents who have waited for so long and who continue to wait. This is really tough stuff. (Side note: When Brad left Clementine on the last day, she KNEW he wouldn't be back for a while because the nannies weren't telling her he'd be back tomorrow, as they had done the other two days. You can visibly see her sadness and confusion in the pics from his last day there. This BREAKS my heart, and I know there are hundreds of other adoptive parents who have felt this heartache. It's just unimaginable that so many families have had to feel this sadness and confusion for 635 days!!)

4 -- Lastly, we are praying 2 Corinthians 4:1,16-18 over this process for everyone involved. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, burdened, defeated, and hopeless. It is so easy to lose heart. But when we focus on the great calling God has given us--not only in adoption, but in life--our joy, faith, and peace is restored.

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We are so thankful for your prayers and continued support through this. We cannot wait to bring her home, and tomorrow I'll give you a glimpse into her personality (maybe some pics and videos) to show you WHY we love her so. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

the 11th hour

Lately, I've been awake at 2 am more than I care to admit.

Could be because I have this bowling ball inside my belly, which makes sleep a bit uncomfortable.

Could also be because my husband was across the world meeting our daughter for the first time.

And early Wednesday morning, I could have been awake at 2 am because my husband had a very important appointment scheduled at the Embassy in Kinshasa, DRC, at 8 am (2 am our time).

Ok, let's be honest. I was actually awake at 1:17 am, which I knew to be 7:17 am in Kinshasa. I was hoping and praying Brad was awake, too, and that he was headed over to the Embassy, which was across the street from his hotel.

And it's a good thing I was still awake at 2:08 am when my phone rang. "Bradlee," as he's labeled on my phone, was calling.

I knew it wasn't a good sign.

Me (heart racing, possibly panting with anxious anticipation about what he was going to say): "Hello?"

Brad: "Hey, we needed to have original documents for this appointment. I have two hours to get them here to the Embassy or I'll have to stay until at least Monday for a new appointment. What should I do?"

Me (with one million thoughts running through my head): "WHAT?! They said we didn't need them! Have you called [in-country contact]? Call him and tell him you need those documents ASAP. Why do you have only two hours?"

Brad: "The whole staff here is leaving for a meeting at 10 am." (And in my head I hoped the meeting was THE meeting, the one in which Embassy staff were told that kids were finally getting Exit Letters to come home. Unfortunately, this far I haven't heard anything indicating that was the case.)

Me: "Ok, go call and I'll keep thinking."

And thus began the fastest two hours of my life. (If you've ever been awake at 2 am, you know that those hours in the night pass slower than any other time in your life.)

Texts flew back and forth between us as I waited to find out what would happen and asked Brad a million questions. I imagined him sitting there at the Embassy, watching the hands of the clock move faster than those of a magician. In my mind, I replayed the confirmation I had received from credible sources that we did not need originals to file our I-600 petition. I recounted every other document in our folder: copies of our court documents in both French and English, abandonment report papers, applications, and notarized signatures, all labeled, organized, and color-coded for the ease (and hopeful delight) of the Embassy staff.

But Brad didn't have our original documents, and that was completely out of our control. Furthermore, we were told we didn't have to have them.

Yet, the Embassy would not accept our file unless we gave them every piece of paper they required simultaneously, and that included the elusive original documents. And Brad had to be present when it happened, which means he'd have to stay there several more days for a new appointment.

While waiting, I beat myself up for not triple checking information about what was needed to file our petition. I got mad about it. I prayed. I messaged a friend who filed paperwork recently in DRC. I texted our adoption agency contact in the States.

Brad said our in-country rep talked to the man who had our files and told him to get them to the Embassy as soon as possible. The man was already on his way to the Embassy for other reasons, so he had his son get the papers and hop in a cab. We had no idea where they lived, how far they were from the Embassy, or if we even had a chance of getting the papers there on time.

This two hours was a microcosm of this entire adoption process: It was out of our hands entirely.

I prayed some more. I sent out a Facebook plea for people who were awake to pray. My mom saw my post and came into my room to see what was up and then started praying, too. (The boys and I stayed at my parents' house a few nights while Brad was awake. Bless my selfless parents!!)

I wondered what Brad would do if he had to stay another several days, as we had packed the minimum amount of food, clothes, money, and necessities for a three-day stay. I wondered if DRC would let him stay extra days. I wondered how much more money it would cost to stay longer (I mean...DRC is unbelievably expensive!!). I wondered if I could change his plane tickets (should have gotten that travel insurance!).

We were down to 20 minutes left until the deadline, and Brad hadn't heard a peep from the in-country rep or anyone else who held hope of bringing the documents.

Little did I know Brad was running back and forth between the Embassy and his hotel, where he was supposed to meet the man bringing our documents. When the documents weren't at the hotel yet, he ran back to plead his case with a man in charge of the files. "Please wait, they are on their way."

We didn't know at that time that traffic in Kinshasa looked like this:

And the man who held our original paperwork lived far away on the other side of town.

At 3:40 am, my phone went silent. Nothing came from Brad. I didn't hear from him again until one hour later, at 4:40 am (10:40 Kinshasa-time, 40 minutes past the deadline). The hour-long silence nearly killed me. (Have I mentioned that it's a Third World country and Brad could only text with Wi-Fi?)

And then I got this: "PRAISE JESUS!!!"

What did he mean by that?! "AHHHHHH! You got them?" (I hoped he was about to share specifics of good news, but I also worried that he was trying to be positive and help us both to praise God in all things.)

Silence. Several minutes went by, and suddenly the time that was speeding by so fast before slowed to a creeping near-halt.

"At the 11th hour!!! Got it. Praise Jesus!" (Someone at the Embassy had stayed late to accept the documents. Bless that saint!!)

And then I bawled like a baby. Relief. I think I had been holding my breath that entire 2 hours and 40 minutes. I had also been sitting up in bed in the most uncomfortable position possible. (The next day, I had a bruise on the back of my head from my headboard, but I was oblivious at the time.)

It wasn't that missing the deadline would have absolutely destroyed our adoption process. It would have just been a small glitch, a slight delay amongst a million-and-one other issues, heartaches, and delays we've already experienced. But that's just it; it would have been ONE MORE THING. And sometimes one more thing can devastate.

To those of you who prayed with us at 2 am (and so many other times), thank you. And thank you for praising with us, too.

Later that day--after I finally fell back asleep somewhere around 6:30 am and slept like a baby--I received another text from Brad: A video of him and our sweet girl. She was laughing hysterically. One of the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard.

Thank you for praying and praising with us. She is worth the sleeplessness at 2 am and the mess of tears at 4:40 am and stress-filled phone calls and everything else. She is worth it all.

(I hope to be back here early next week to share some videos and provide a more detailed update on where we are in the process.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

out of Africa

Brad began his journey to Africa last Saturday afternoon, and he is returning as I type. It was an insanely quick trip.

On June 1st, we finally got word that all of our adoption court documents were completed and corrected. Our agency emailed the Embassy in DRC to request an appointment for him to file his I-600 application along with supporting paperwork. After not hearing back from them that Friday, I emailed the Embassy to request an appointment and received an email the following Monday morning. They must not like agencies.

The email I received was somewhat negative..."Here are all of the travel warnings for DRC...Are you sure you have all of your paperwork? If not you will have to reschedule, and rescheduling often takes at least two weeks...We encourage adoptive parents to file I-600 petitions in the US." It was all enough to jolt my enthusiasm a bit, but we have talked to far too many adoptive parents who said that filing in DRC tends to be much faster than filing in the States. Plus, many adoptive parents have told us that the time they got to spend with their adopted children in DRC was priceless.

I responded to the Embassy's email with affirmation that we were ready to file, and they responded with an appointment date and time: June 17 at 8 am.

You may remember that I was originally planning to file the paperwork by myself. (We originally thought we would be ready to file around Spring of 2014...boy were we wrong!) I was sooo looking forward to meeting Clementine and hugging her sweet and sassy little self, but due to extenuating circumstances I couldn't go.

This left me with nine days to book plane tickets (shout out to Adoption Airfare for making this part so easy!), gather documents, fill out applications, color-code, label, and file them like a crazy type-A, double-check documents, get some notarized, get cash for Brad to take (a lot of cash, actually...they like their American cash fresh, crisp, new, and in large denominations!), and retrieve a ton of information from my brain and from others to share with Brad for his trip. (Information like...."Don't look at airport officials in the eye; they see it as disrespectful and will make you pay," and "Drink tons of water on the airplane before you get there," and "Keep your phone out of sight," and "Public photography is seen as disrespectful and you may get beat up or have your phone taken for it." As a side note, all of this advice may have been true and accurate, and we appreciate the warnings about the nuances in culture that make it difficult to understand. That said, people also spoke of the friendliness, the genuine caring, the warm greetings, and helpfulness of the people Brad would meet. As with anywhere else, there are all types of people in DRC, and from what I can tell, Brad met some amazing people on this trip, particularly those beautiful nannies who selflessly care for the precious kids who are still waiting for their forever families.)

And then all of a sudden it was time for him to leave. I sent him with gifts for the nannies and male in-country staff, suckers and bubbles for the kids at the orphanage/foster home, and a play camera and fake phone with a recorded message for Clementine: "Clementine, Mama loves you!" (I also had the privilege of shopping for and sending a birthday present for a six-year-old who is spending yet ANOTHER birthday away from her family, despite being their legal daughter.)

Communication was limited while he was in DRC, as you can imagine, but I did receive two of the most beautiful videos I've ever seen, along with a picture that I will print and will likely remain in our house forever.

I hope to share at least small pieces of those videos when Brad gets home, but for now you should know that the boys and I have watched them nearly 100 times, taking in every nuance of her laugh and personality. She is, in fact, a sassy little sandwich, but she is also the sweetest, cutest little thing I've ever seen. I can see how Brad's time in DRC was truly priceless, and I'm so happy that he got to be with her on three different occasions. (We expected him to be able to visit only once; what a happy surprise!)

And honestly, it is probably best that he was the one visiting and, thus, getting his heart broken upon leaving. I am not sure how I would have handled it, but I suspect that there would have been some tear-filled buckets on each plane ride away from her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

a return to WHW

For today, a return to "What's Happening Wednesday," because I can't keep up with life. Therefore, this will be a very scattered post consisting of several unrelated thoughts.

I have been working on completing, compiling and correcting TONS of paperwork. Court documents, I600's, I864's, DPOA's, G-28's, visas, birth certificates, judgments, etc. 

I sent in a request for a visa last Wednesday and we got our visa in the mail Friday. (A quick note about that post office trip: It was after a long morning of volleyball and baseball camps, nap-times had come and gone, the line of customers was almost out the door, the office was having "technical difficulties," a nice woman (who attempted to compliment me by saying I looked like a mom and asking where I got my athletic capris) was talking my ear off while my kids ran around the store and I tried to find info in my Facebook feed about the specifics of mailing a DRC visa request to get it approved and sent back quickly. Halfway through the line Brecken piped up to tell me he had to go poop, to which I responded with, "You've got to hold that in there."  My turn at the front of the line came, and I had to fill out four more pieces of paper with correct info to make sure to get all paperwork where it needed to go and to make sure the money order was written to the right entity for our visa, all while my kids attempted to open and close all of the mailboxes at the office and Brecken came back occasionally to tell me--and everyone else in the store--he had to poop. We finally made it out of there about 40 minutes later, ran to the car, and drove to a nearby store to park and poop as quickly as a pregnant woman and her two preschoolers could possibly get to the bathroom in the back of the store. I sincerely doubted I got all of the right info and documents sent off to the DRC Embassy for a visa, so it was a miracle we received the thing two days later.)

Brad has been procuring anti-malaria meds, snack foods, clothing that doesn't need to be washed, and mosquito repellant, among other things. I have been filling him in on the strong possibility that someone will attempt to rob him or steal his phone in DRC, and I'm putting sticky notes on every document that he will need to turn in during his appointment at the Embassy so he's not worried about doing something wrong.

Brad has been growing us some good veggies to eat soon. He has also stained the deck (looks great!) and completed hundreds of "honey-do" projects around the house while we continue to wait for a plumber to call us back so we can get the shower base out of our bedroom and into its correct position in our "soon"-to-be-remodeled bathroom. ("Soon" is sooo relative.) It's a good thing our bedroom is on the large side.

Speaking of the master bedroom, we also have five dressers in there (and I'm about to add a changing table/dresser combo to the mix). This is partly due to Baby Girl on the way, but also because of the still uncompleted bathroom (one dresser will move in there when it's done), and the fact that we may very well have four kids (six people total) living on the top floor of our house (in only two bedrooms). We shall see how this goes. We may all just move downstairs. 

I've been sorting baby girl clothes given to us by the best friends ever. (I seriously don't think I'll have to buy any new girls' clothes...not that I won't cave in occasionally. Girl clothes are 100 times more fun to buy than boy clothes.) I've also been trying to figure out exactly what I did with all of our baby stuff from two years ago. I know I put it all somewhere...

I am finally letting it sink in that we will have a newborn girl in our house in about two months. This pregnancy has FLOWN by. Maybe it's because there are plenty of things to occupy my time and thoughts. Or maybe it's because the "gestational period" for our other daughter, Clementine...the one who remains in DRC...has been over two years long. Makes nine months seem like nothing. 

The boys have been talking about their baby sisters, asking when I'm going to "get the one in my belly out," asking why Clementine isn't here yet, and talking to Baby in my Belly. (Specifically, Brecken has been leaning over to whisper "poopy" to her in my belly. He seems to genuinely think that "poopy" is a sweet thing to say, which is unfortunate.)

They've also been playing in water outside and attending camps, then falling asleep in only their undies and baseball gloves. :o)

We are all sleeping pretty well, actually, except for those of us that are pregnant and/or thinking of the million things that need to happen soon or could go wrong with paperwork or a husband's trip to Africa. :o)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Good reports

People, it has been a great day all around.

Within about 1 hour, I received all sorts of news that could easily make a person jump right out of her seat and pump some fists in an OB/GYN waiting room. (I cannot tell you whether or not this actually happened.)

First of all, we got an email from the US Department of State reporting a lot of good things. The suspension is not over, but DRC is reviewing the files of those who submitted/are submitting their dossiers and have their names and info on a list of people with completed adoption judgments (this includes us). DOS said, specifically, that "DRC announced a decision to resolve all pending adoption cases that have been barred from travel due to the exit-permit suspension...Those with cases approved by the Commission, and who have a valid visa, will be able to apply for an exit permit, and if necessary, a Congolese passport." It went on to explain a few other pieces of info that helped is understand how other cases would be handled, but I was not focused on those parts of the email. Essentially, the kids are coming home!! (Officially, because DOS says so.)

Secondly, literally 19 minutes after receiving the above-mentioned email (and while still in the OB/GYN office---glucose test day, you know), I got another good one regarding our specific case.

As you know, we have been waiting on a final document from DRC to be corrected before we could send Brad overseas to file our I-600 paperwork. I emailed our agency this morning and asked about optimistically requesting an appointment at the Embassy in Kinshasa about two weeks from now, as that's the best time for Brad to be gone, considering his work schedule. Our agency rep wrote back, saying she thought it would be wise to make sure we had the documents in hand before scheduling an appointment, in order to (hopefully) avoid the headache of having a missing document and dealing with delays related to that. It was a disappointing email, but I totally understood her point about being cautious and patient. (Clearly, some things in DRC take WAY longer than you'd ever imagine.) While in the waiting room, I emailed her to ask how long it usually took to get an appointment. She wrote back while I was still reveling in the excitement of the DOS email, saying that our documents were done and we could request an appointment. I texted Brad immediately, and he said he would make any appointment work with his schedule (not really an easy thing to manage when he already has a trip planned for a week in June). 

So now we have all documents corrected and are awaiting a response from the Embassy regarding his appointment date and time. We hope our paperwork and investigation will be processed quickly (and we have high hopes that it will be, as we also learned today that the US is sending extra help to DRC to process the paper owner quickly and help get kids home faster). 

Within an hour today, we moved about five steps closer to getting our C home from DRC, and I learned from my OB/GYN that our other Baby Girl is doing just fine and won't be joining us any time really soon, despite my recent trip to L&D. We are completely okay with waiting a bit longer for her homecoming. 

I stand completely in awe of God's perfect plans and perfect timing, even when all appears to be lost. I think it's about to get a bit crazy up in here, but we really wouldn't have it any other way. He has taught us to enjoy the crazy.

contraction crazy

Hello Third Trimester. (Yay.)

Hello glucose test. (Boo.)

Goodbye stomach bug. (Praise the LORD.)

My last post was written right after I called my OB/GYN and right in the middle of a three-day calling spree to my nurse with a trip to Labor & Delivery in between. (Great, now I am THAT girl.) I joked with the nurse that she was so nice I just was just wanted to talk to her on the phone.

I wouldn't normally want to go in to the doctor, but since I was dilated so much without knowing it last time, I wanted to make sure I didn't drop this girl out into the world in my unfinished bathroom floor without even realizing she was close to coming out. When I felt five contractions in 35 minutes, I knew I had to go, even though I was pretty sure I wasn't in labor.

By way of an update, results from my trip to Labor & Delivery indicated that all was well with Baby Girl, and a special protein test even indicated that I would not go into labor within the next seven days. The nurse said some studies have even shown it can predict that one will not go into labor in the next two to three weeks. Can you even believe that sort of test exists?! It's pretty awesome. I almost want to go in every three weeks just to see where things stand in this pregnancy. But I won't. Hopefully.

While I was there on the monitor, I noticed that some of the pains I was having that felt like contractions were not being picked up by the monitor, which confused me to no end. Why would I be feeling contractions without it being indicated on the monitor? Could the pain just be in my head? (Was I crazy?)

Overall, my uterus (I'm talking about my uterus on the internet...nice.) looked "irritated," but good nonetheless. However, while in the bed I started getting really hot. Then I got really chilly. Odd.

When I finally left, I felt good about Baby but still sickly in general. I experienced major cramping that night but went to the gym to walk the next morning when my stomach felt better because I had already spent so much time in bed. My husband would not allow me to run, but I honestly didn't want to anyway. My body was so achy! That afternoon and evening the contractions returned and I returned to my bed, feeling like I would vomit from the come-and-go pain. I still felt hot and chilly at the same, and I finally called the nurse again, this time asking about flu symptoms. The flu hasn't been reported in our area in a while, but it could be a different virus, she said. She said I could take Tylenol for the pain. (And oh how it helped!)

The next day, it was the same thing all over again. Fine in the morning, horrible in the afternoon. Finally, I began to sweat as my apparent fever began to break.

My friend texted me to check on me after reading my last post, and when I told her how I was feeling she said she had stomach cramps and was terribly sick the week before. She even described her stomach cramps as feeling like contractions, and she's not pregnant. This made me feel WAY less crazy for feeling like I was having contractions and going to L&D, and it explained why I was feeling "contractions" without them registering on the monitor screen.

In summary, if you are pregnant and feeling intermittent contractions, you may not be in labor, and you may not even be feeling "contractions." (My "contractions" were so sporadic that I couldn't figure out how long they were or how much time passed between them, so when they asked me how long they were I had no clue how to answer. I think I answered "five minutes" once, which probably made the nurse laugh at me silently.)You may actually have a stomach virus (but that doesn't mean a check with your doctor for some contractions monitoring won't make you feel a ton better).

In that case, poor you. The good news is when it's over your abs will be so sore you'll feel like you've just done five full P90X ab workouts.