Friday, April 29, 2011

China Timeline!

This is actually a gadget on the side on the blog, but wanted to make sure everyone saw this and realized they can track our adoption journey!!

I wanted to give all of you a better idea of the timeline we've been on for the last 6 years! It's been a long road, but we couldn't be happier right now! I'll post new dates as we get them, but this gives you an idea of where we've been and where we're going!

~ 2/4/2005 Very First Letter with information on adopting from AWAA
~ 9/2005 Started the Adoption Process with a Home Study
~ 10/2005- 12/2005 Paper Chasing
~ 1/2006 Original Home Study Completed
~ 2/2006 Finger Printing Done
~ 3/2006 I600A recieved
~ 4/2006 Dossier Certified by the state of Indiana
~ 5/2006 Dossier Authenticated by the Chineses Consolate
~ 5/18/2006 LID!!!!!!!
~ 9/2007 Update paperwork & Home Study
~ 11/2007 Updated Finger Prints
~ 12/2007 I600 Updated
~ 5/2009 Due to update again, but let paperwork expire
~ 7/2010 Got the "on deck" email from AWAA!!!
~ 8/2010 Started to update all paperwork again
~ 9/29/2010 Got the Referral phone call!!!
~ 9/29/2010 Saw Elise's beautiful face for the first time!
~ 9/30/2010 Got the referral packet in the mail & saw more pics of our beautiful daughter!
~ 10/6/2010 Mailed Our Acceptance Letter Back
~ 11/2010 Hague Home Study now complete & sent off our I800A
~ 12/2010 Finger Printed
~ 1/31/2011 I800A provisional approval Notice
~ 2/3/2011 I800 mailed
~ 2/24/2011 I800 approval
~ 3/12/2011 National Visa Center Letter Arrived
~ 3/15/2011 NVC Letter sent to US Consulate in Guanghzou
~ 3/29/2011 US Consulate sent our Article 5 to CCAA
~ 4/28/2011 TA (travel approval)
~ 4/29/2011 Get travel dates
~ 5/19/2011 Leave for China
~ 5/20/2011 Arrive in Beijing
~ 5/23/2011 Arrive in Jiangxi Province
~ 5/23/2011 Gotcha Day!!!
~ 5/31/2011 Consulate Appointment
~ 6/2/2011 Bring Elise Home FOREVER!!!!

It's been a long journey, but I have no doubt that she is well worth the wait!! I've waited 5 years to finish completing this timeline!! So excited to finally be typing those dates in and know when I'm going to get Elise in my arms forever!!

Our year in pictures!

Emmie's 1 year picture

The morning of heart surgery

                                                          The day after surgery

11 days after surgery

Our much needed Spring Break!!


Two Very Crazy Boys!!!

What we now have to give Emmie every day, sometimes 4 times a day!

Showing our American Pride!!

Our Football Star!
The Taekwondo expert!
Visiting Apple Works Orchard

Our first look at our precious daughter!!! Saw this adorable little face on Sept 29th!
Halloween 2010

Updated photo of Elise!!
Christmas 2010
Emmie's 2nd B-day, also celebrate her 1 yr anniversary from surgery & Elise's birthday!

A new photo of Elise! We recieved it on April 1st!
Easter 2011

WHAT A YEAR!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moving, China & Emmie Updates

Well. the move is officially over!! We turned over the keys to our house (well not our's anymore) at noon today! I was a ball of emotions yesterday! A sense of relief to have the move over. It was not easy to move everything for a family of five, who had lived in that house for 10 years!! We made a lot of trips to the dump and trips to Goodwill!! I've also got a huge stack of clothes I'm donating to a clothing drive at a local church. They are sending clothes to 3rd world countries. I've got a huge pile of things I'm donating to a friends "adoption fundraiser yardsale". Plus we rented a storage unit that is full & the garage of our rental house is full!! We have way too much stuff! I plan on getting rid of more when I'm home with my girls (not teaching)! I'll have time to go through stuff and weed out more!!

Even though I'm relieved to sell the house, I was still very sad to see it empty. That house was filled with so much life for the past 10 years. Brithday parties, anniversaries, babies coming home from the hospital, game nights, kids jumping on the trampoline, playing on the swingset, Christmas mornings, fireworks, Easters, 1st day of school pictures, trick-or-treating..... the list goes on and on!! Also a lot of sad times in that house too, but most importantly, that was home to us for so long and it was our first home! I can't even type about it without crying!

So, now the task becomes unpacking and trying to make the house we are renting a home! But, I am up for the challenge! My goal is to be completley settled (except for the garage) before I leave for China! Still waiting on a TA, which should come anyday!! Praying that it will come quickly!! The waiting gets harder everyday!

Emmie will be going to Riley tomorrow for more scans. We are running the Mag3 Kidney scan again. I am hoping we find kidneys working well!! We will also see Dr. Kidney again (we see him every month). On Friday we are going to Cincinnatti Children's Hospital for a second opinion. We scheduled all of this aseveral weeks ago, however since then, her blood pressure's have been continually going down and her blood work is looking good. So, we will keep the scheduled appointments, but not sure what will come out of it!

We continue to pray for Emmie. Kidney function & blood pressures to improve. She is currently on 6 medications for blood pressure & an iron supplement. A lot off meds to put into her tiny little body!

Pray for our family during the coming months. A lot of unknown's for us right now. We're not sure where Tom's job will place us. Possible move to Atlanta! A new baby coming, Emmie's health. All things that are a part of God's master plan, but are still a little scary for me!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A year in the life of our Family!!

Well, we have finally moved!! (insert sigh here) After a year of ups and downs, things finally seem to be going in a straight line! Here's a little recap of the last year in the Brooks household!.......
  • January 2010-Found out Emmie needed heart surgery & Tom got offered a job in Orlando
  • February 4, 2010-Emmie had heart surgery at Riley Children's Hospital (little did we know that also on that day in Jiangxi China, Elise was being born!!!)
  • February 4th through the 13th 2010-Emmie stayed in PICU at Riley and fought her way out!! Lots of complications and many more issues going on in her tiny body than originally expected.
  • February 14, 2010-Tom moved to Orlando without the rest of us :-(   We needed the steady income & health insuranse, so really no option to stay even though Emmie was still in ICU.
  • February 15th through March 8th-Emmie continued to improve and was in and out of Riley.
  • March 9, 2010-Emmie had heart surgery #2! Which was successfull. We finally started seeing lower blood pressures!
  • March 12, 2010- The family headed to Florida for a much needed spring break!!
  • April 2010-House went on the market! Anticipating a move to Orlando in the summer! Thanks to our wonderful church family & my family for helping us get the house ready!!
  • May 2010-Emmie continues to improve & we wrap up the school year for the boys & me.
  • June 2010-Emmie goes into renal failure and we end up back at Riley!! Spent a few nights at Riley doing testing. Figured out the meds put her into renal failure and adjusted meds.
  • July 2010-Things are looking better for Emmie, but house still hasn't sold so the decision is made for me to continue my teaching job in Indiana & Tom to continue working in Florida. Tough decision!
  • August 2010-We find out through our adoption agency that we are "on the deck" for a referral! I was in total shock! I'd been so occupied with Emmie's health concerns & a potential move that I hadn't even looked at the adoption sites in 6 months! Now it was time to scramble!! Lots of paperwork to update & money to raise!! First 2 fundraisers were in August, Spagetti Dinner & Pampered Chef Show, and we recieved many generous donations from family & friends. We raised $3,000 in one month!!! God is good!!!
  • September 29, 2010-The call I had been waiting on for 5 years finally came!!! It still brings chills down my spine as I remember sitting in the car line at Northside Middle School waiting to pick up Brandon and my phone rang!! I knew the number as soon as I saw it! I hear Leah's (from AWAA)sweet voice say, "We have a beautiful baby girl for you!" The rest of that day is a blurr! I was so excited to call Tom (who is still in Florida) & tell him everythnig I had just learned about our daughter! I hadn't seen a picture yet, but I was sure she was beautiful & perfect! Tom is the one who first realized her birthday was also Emmie's surgery date! The day we thought was the worst day of our lives, was after all one of the best! God was blessing us with a baby in the midst of all the turmoil & stress of Emmie's heart surgery! Amazing how God works!
  • September 29, 2010 (continued)- I was busy doing the mommy thing that day, picking up kids and taking them to practices. Brandon had a football game. So I raced over to my sisiter's house to see the picture that was being emialed to me. Tom saw her first and called me in tears! "She's beautiful Tracy" he said. I opened the email and stared at her little face. I had to just sit there for a minute in silence and take it all in. My brother was with me and I think even he teared up at the sight of this long awaited baby! I printed off her picture and raced over to the football game! Showed it to everyone who would look & introduced Brandon to his little sister! Blake was at Taekwondo practice, so  he saw the picture later that evening. Both boys thought she was cute!
  • Sptember 30, 2010-The referral packet arrived at our house. I was at work, so Shannon (the babysitter and family friend) drove the packet over to me at work. I opened it there in the parking lot and looked at all the pictures! She was absolutely perfect in every way!
  • October 2010-We continued to do fund raisers, try to save money and try to get all of our paperwork updated so we could get to China! Paperwork moved slowly!! Emmie was still struggling with blood pressure issues & we continue to see the kidney doctor every month. Parents Night Out Fundriaser!!
  • November 2010-We decided since the house wasn't selling that it was time for Tom to look for a job closer to home. At least close enough that he could come home on the weekends! Home study completed & I800A sent off. Chilli Supper Fundraiser with a local boy scout troop & the young marines! Parents Night Out Fundraiser! WooHoo!
  • December 2010-What an awesome Christmas we had! So many things to be thankful for this year! Tom's employer also agreed to let him work from home beginning February 1st because they didn't want to loose him! That was a huge answer to prayer! Fingerprinting done at the Dept of Homeland Security!
  • January 2011- Tom moved back home! & We got an offer on our house! God works in mysterious ways, doesn't he? Emmie still struggleing with blood pressure issues, however you'd never know to look at her!
  • February 2011-Fingerprints came back & I800 sent off on Feb 4th, Elise's birthday!! Emmie's 1 year mark from surgery. Looks like house is going to sell! woohoo!! On Feb 28th recieved word that I800 approval was granted and now we needed a letter from the National Visa Center, which should arrive in 1 week. Another Parents Night Out Fundriaser for Valentine's Day.
  • March 2011-NVC letter arrived on March 12th, was immediately faxed to AWAA & sent to US consulate in Guanghzou. Article 5 was sent to CCAA on March 29th. Closed on our house on March 25th!! Moving in 2 weeks & don't know where yet!!! As for China funds.... we got a tax refund, cashed in a Roth IRA, got a little equity check from selling our house & did another big fundraiser!
  • April 2011-Found a house to rent in our neighborhood! AWESOME!! Boys can keep all their friends close by, they can still ride the bus to school, and the house is really nice! A huge thank you to everyone who helped us move! It was a big job!! We are so excited to have a nice place to live until we figure out where Tom will be working! Right now he's still working for the company in Orlando, however that will only be until August, so lots of decisions still need to be made!
Well, that wears me out just typing it! I can't believe I lived it for the last year! God does give you strength when you need it, and boy did I need it & use it A LOT!!!! So, we almost have all the money needed for China! Only lacking somewhere in the ballpark of $500 to $1000!! Amazing to me that we have saved & raised & had donated almost $13,000!! God is so good! Our Travel Approval should arrive any day! I am so excited I can not wait!! Excited to get this precious baby, but mostly excited to gether home & to start living a "normal" life again! Only a new normal with 4 kids running around! Hoping for a fun filled summer visiting lots of family and friends!! Will post pics of the year later! This post is already too long!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When Love Takes You In.....

If you've never heard the song by Steven Curtis Chapman, look it up on youtube! It's a wonderful song that makes me cry everytime I hear it. The Chapman family have a wonderful story and have adopted from China 3 times! I think of Elise everytime I listen to this song. I worry that she does cry herself to sleep and that no one is there to commort her! I have been dreaming about her an awful lot lately. Here are the words to the song........

I  know you've heard the stories
But they all sound too good to be true
You've heard about a place called home
But there doesn't seem to be one for you
So one more night you cry yourself to sleep
And drift off to a distant dream

Where love takes you in and everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in

And somewhere while you're sleeping
Someone else is dreaming too
Counting down the days until
They hold you close and say I love you
And like the rain that falls into the sea
In a moment what has been is lost in what will be
When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart

And this love will never let you go
There is nothing that could ever cause this love to lose its hold

When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in it takes you in for good
When love takes you in

-Steven Curtis Chapman

Love does take you in forever! There is no going back. Elise was born in my heart just like my other 3 children. There is a "no return" policy! Thank goodness we all have that policy with our parents! LOL! I love her so much already. My heart aches for her!

On a side note.... when you show Emmie a picture of Elise and ask "Who is this?" She says "Elise" or "sissy". When you ask her "Where is Elise?" She says "Elise in China". Too Cute!! I can't wait to see the two of them together! I'm going to try to post a video of her doing it.

Also, TA (travel approval) could arrive as early as April 14th! The waiting is getting harder everyday!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Pictures!!!!

God is so good! Our adoption agency was able to get us 2 new pictures of Elise! So exciting for us to see how much our daughter has grown in the past few months.  I know most of you saw the pics on my Facebook page, but I'm posting them here too!! I can't get enough of her adorable little face!
I think she's trying to tell me something in this picture! Her expression, or lack there of tells me "Mom, I didn't go anywhere! Settle down! I was never MIA. Just hurry up cause I'm getting bored here and I'm sick of these crackers they're feeding me!"
Not sure what she was looking at in this picture, but it wasn't the camera! LOL!! I love her little shoes! I love that her hair is getting longer and that she is sitting in a walker instead of laying flat in a bed or in that beat up stroller she was in for the last picture we got.

So, here's the story that has unfolded this week. The care package website emailed me again and said that the person at the orphanage was confused on which baby they wanted pictures of. So, it was simply a miscommunication. However, my adoption agency says it was that the orphanage didn't want to give out any updates. So, who knows really! Regardless, I got what I wanted updated pictures and measurements!!

Her measurements are 19lbs, 28 inches long and feet are 3.5 inches long. Now the weight is inaccurate because they weigh them with 4 layers of clothing on & a full diaper. I've heard there can be as much as a 4 lb difference in the weight we are given and her actual weight! So, she is probalby 15 to 16 lbs!! TINY!!! Considering she is 14 months (well almost, she'll be 14 months on April 4th) She will be my tiniest baby for sure!

I also recieved the Chinese translation of her name. Now, I had looked it up before on my own, but this time I asked the lady from the care package website to tell me based on the Chinese characters what her name means. Bo, which is Elise's last name means "wave". Jia, her first name means "good, fine and beautiful". Qun means “crowd or group”. She also said her name can be written as Jiaqun or Jia Qun. I thought is was interesting information. I like the meaning of her first name, and we are keeping it as her middle name. But, we are going to drop the Qun from her name and obviously her last name will change to Brooks. Elise Jia Brooks will be her official name when we finally sign on the dotted line in China! Elise means "God's gift", and I truely belive she is a gift from God! She is our "beautiful" gift from God! A beautiful name for a beautiful little girl!  I love her so much already my heart is about to burst!

Thank you God for such an awesome blessing!