Saturday, January 22, 2011


I've been asked by a few people to explain what exactly a homestudy is. Those who have already been through the process will probably snicker at my mistakes in describing it, but here goes.

The homestudy consists for 4 interviews with a social worker, house inspection, background checks, physicals (with our doctor, not a social worker), and review of our tax returns. Essentially, they are making sure we are qualified to be parents.

The meeting on Tuesday was our home inspection and the first 3 interviews (myself, Kevin, and one as a couple). As Kevin said, Suzanne (our social worker) was warm and very open about the process and struggles of international adoption. She herself has adopted internationally 11 times! We talked for about an hour while waiting for Kevin to get home from work and covered a variety of topics. She asked about my family, my childhood, my courtship and marriage, and what sort of a dad I thought Kevin would be. We talked about the upcoming difficulties we would face being an interracial family, how we can help her feel connected to her heritage, and issues we may have with getting an institutionalized child to bond with her main caregivers. She told about how her own daughter from South Korea had a difficult time fitting in to Young Women's and really didn't feel a connection to all the pioneer stories that are so prevalent in our church.

The most difficult question was when she asked why I wanted to be a mother. I know, it should be easy to answer; for most people it probably is. The thing is I have never been a girl who just ached to be a mother. I didn't do very much babysitting in my younger days, preferring to have a paper route instead. I still don't quite understand the appeal of newborns. Sure, they're tiny and sort of cute after their heads spring back to human-shape, but I find them rather boring. It's not until about a year old that they become cute and fun to me. I spent many years chaffing at young women's lessons that seemed to tell me that my only real value as a woman was to be a mother. Heck, I wanted to be everything from an artist to a paleontologist as a kid, but I didn't have much use for a baby doll to play house with.


The desire to mother snuck up on me over many years. Nieces and nephews helped, particularly my first nephew, Michael, who was born while I was still serving a mission. He was just over a year old when I got home and we quickly went from being unsure strangers to each other to blowing raspberries and making goofy faces at each other.

Honestly, I still couldn't tell you what changed or why I really want this for myself. What I can say is that I want Kevin to have the chance to be a father. Those who know him know that he is one of these people that kids are just drawn to. Kevin is magical and amazing as far as his nieces and nephews are concerned. Any time we go to my brother's house I walk in the door and am greeted with, "Where's Kevin??!!??" Occasionally, they will say hi to me. As far as they're concerned, my showing up is good only insofar as it means that Kevin will also be there. I don't blame them, Kevin is much nicer and more fun than I am. Even the dogs know that. Here is a typical reaction to each of us from Tikka:
Me- "Oh, hey Jen."
Kevin- "KEVIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Yup, from day one, Tikka picked Kevin. Not 5 minutes after we met her at the Humane Society she stopped and waited for Kevin to catch up to us on our walk around the building. I figure it probably won't be much different with our kid(s). I can live with that so long as I still get to be part of the group.

Friday, January 21, 2011

She Knows Too Much

Wow! Our readership has QUINTUPLED since my last post! I guess this means we've finally become internet famous.

Monday, the house was cleaner than it had been in months. By the time I came home from work on Tuesday, I may have needed an electron microscope to find any rogue dirt molecules, Jen having imposed her mighty Will of Order onto things that once lay in disarray. Only the Evil Hairy Ones roamed about, leaving a trail of filth upon the living room rug. We were ready for the home study.

Well, that's not really true... I had no idea what to expect. My imagination conjured up a stern-looking cadre of inspectors, clipboards in hand, frowning down the lengths of their noses while they delved deep into our worst childhood memories, sighing while shaking their heads and making notes that they were not only going to confiscate our dogs, but recommend that we be given charge over no organism more complicated than a plant.

Plus, they all kind of looked like the evil elementary school teacher from Invader Zim:

Above: those judging, judging eyes

In reality, Suzanne (the social worker) and Jen were laughing when I walked in the door. She turned out to be a very warm, friendly and caring person, genuinely motivated to help us create the right kind of environment to raise a daughter born in another land. She looked around the house briefly, only concerned that there wasn't a smoke detector near the kitchen. Guess what's on my weekend project list?

The interviews were brief and interesting. She asked things such as how we would describe our parents, how well we got along with our siblings, how we met, what kind of discipline methods we planned on using, what our hobbies were (choice quote about the '80s new wave / rock cover band I play for: "Bleh... you only like '80s music because you're too young to have been around for the '60s, when all the good music came out."), etc. Where I expected a deep excavation into my subconscious and harsh judgment of our every moral failing, there was laughter, learning, and encouragement.

Suzanne, having several internationally adopted kids of her own, knows a thing or two about keeping a loving home and good parenting. She left us with a book to read on China's adoption program, some websites to start our parental training, and some renewed perspective.

-- Kevin

Friday, January 14, 2011

Skipping class

This will have very little to do with adoption, so be forewarned. I'll just get the adoption update out of the way right now. We are having our social worker come out to our house to do a homestudy. Once the homestudy is complete, we can apply for some grants. Yay!

Today is hard to describe. It needs some back story.

During my college days, I had a makeup class that changed my life. Stay with me, it'll make sense soon. About half of the class decided not to show up, so our teacher, Warren decided we were all skipping class. "We're going on a fieldtrip, guys. Grab your bags." We went to The Pie and sat around chatting. The conversation turned to goals and Warren talked about setting THE goal. The big, crazy, outlandish 5 year goal.

"Decide where, in your wildest wishing you want to be in 5 years. Forget about what is achievable or not, just pick the goal," he told us. The group had many offerings including being in Hollywood and other lofty achievements.
"Ok, so what stands in the way of you getting from here to there?" Many of us scoffed at this and suggested that luck had everything to do with it. The next thing he said has been with me ever since.
"Nonsense. Luck has very little to do with it. Most of it is work. You want to be a Hollywood actor? You take classes, you meet people who you need to meet, you do everything you possibly need to do to get that. If you have a goal you want to achieve, you overcome every little obstacle that gets in your way until you open your eyes one day and bam, you've achieved it."
Mind. Blown.

This may not seem like a big deal, but for many years, I had looked at what I wanted out of life with a slightly pessimistic view, thinking that things just "worked out" for some people, but that I wasn't one of those people, probably. I didn't realize that there were no excuses.
I decided on that day that in 5 years I wanted to have launched my own line of wedding gowns. I didn't know much about how to do that. I had no idea how the manufacturing worked out, how to market my designs to shops, or even what a trunk show was. I only knew that I wanted that and had wanted it for a while.

That was just over 5 years ago. Today I have achieved that goal. I launched a small line of wedding dresses that are being carried at the shop I've done alterations for for a few years. It's been more work than I can easily describe. It's been stressful and there were many times when I wanted to give up. I am so glad I didn't. It's not the biggest goal ever achieved, but it's the biggest one I've ever completed. It's not New York fashion week, but it feels just as big to me. Besides, I may just make it to fashion week eventually. After all, I need another 5 year goal.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Programs and Dreams

We've gotten a lot of questions about this (and I do mean a lot!) so I thought I would talk a bit about the two programs.


About 95% of the children are girls. The kids are usually 6-18 months old (the first 6 months, China tries to find the birth parents/relatives, or get the child adopted domestically) at the time of referral and are considered healthy. Healthy is a relative term here. Almost all of China's orphans reside in orphanages, not foster care. A typical orphanage has many children and only so many care givers (women who are called aunties) and as such adoptive parents have to help their new children overcome issues such as development delays and bonding issues.
The popularity of this program has lead to some major delays. A few years ago, things started slowing down from 8-12 month wait to several years wait. It only gets longer each month. To give you an idea, when Kevin and I started looking into adopting, the wait was up to 3 years. It's now up to about 5 years. Families that submitted their dossier in June of 2006 are still waiting for their children.

Waiting Child:

These are children that China considers special needs. Now before you start fanning yourself and searching for your fainting couch, be advised that what China considers special needs, we wouldn't. Many are correctable, minor issues such as heart murmurs, cleft lip, facial birth marks, etc. Being over a certain age is considered a special need. There are, of course, more major needs as well, but agencies allow you to fill out paperwork indicating which special needs you would consider as well as the severity.
In this program, there are actually slightly more boys than girls (about 60%/40%) and the children range in age from 6 months up to 13 years. At 13 years old, children are no longer considered eligible for adoption and essentially become wards of the state, typically living in the orphanage and getting little education and fewer opportunities. The wait time is anywhere from 1-12 months after your dossier to China (DTC) date.
How it works, is the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) puts out a list of waiting children to the agencies called a shared list. They will also send out small lists designated for specific agencies every few months. The agency looks at the parents requests and matches them to a child on the list. Essentially, they call "dibs" by locking down the file, which makes it so no one else can access the file, then they call the adoptive parents and release the file information to them. The parents can accept or reject the file, but they typically only have 72 hours to decide. If they reject the file, it unlocks and someone else can adopt that child. If they accept, they send a Letter of Intent (LOI) to the CCAA, who in turn will send a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) and the rest of the paperwork gets done, allowing the family to travel to China and pick up their child.
Whew! Lots to take in.
We are participating in this program and have known that was the case for over a year. I'd be lying if I said the long wait didn't have something to do with it, but I see it more as a means, rather than an end. The wait got us to look at our options and explore our openness to things. When we did that, it just felt right.

Special Focus program

China has recently changed some policies and has now begun a new program. They designate children as Special Focus if they've been on the waiting child list for more than 60 days. They amazing thing they've done is to allow families to adopt a SF child and a waiting child at the same time. They also are allowing families to adopt a SF child up to a year after the finalization of the first adoption and allow you to re-use your dossier. What does this mean? it means we may be able to knock several thousand dollars and several months off of a second adoption. Yes, we are planning on adopting from China again, but certainly not at the same time as this first one. This is a very new program and it will be exciting seeing what happens with it.

So there you go. The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely no guarantee that a child, either adopted or biological, is not going to have health issues. Heaven knows we've had plenty of our own issues to deal with and while we don't wish illness on our child, we are acutely aware of how it is to be "the sick one" and still feel completely normal (or not).

I'll end this post on a more personal note as a reward for anyone who managed to wade through all the words. The other night we had another niece enter the family. Anytime a child is brought into our families it's a bitter sweet experience for me. I rejoice that the child and mother are healthy and well. I am saddened that we are still so far away from our own girl. I wonder if she is well. I wonder if she is cold. I mourn as I look at the dozens of photos of babies that our friends and family have, knowing that we will likely have only a tiny black and white photo of her as an infant. One tiny photo put into a newspaper to try to reunite her with her birth parents, and only if we are able to hunt it down.
In the midst of all this turmoil, I dreamt of our girl. I've had several dreams about her over the last year or so. I've seen her at several ages, but the other night was the youngest I've seen her. You know how typically in a dream faces are blurry or indistinct? I always see her very clearly. Over time, her face fades from my memory, but each dream helps it stay a little while longer. I replay her features in my mind to try to help them stay.
Most of the dreams are deeply personal and not something I share easily. I hesitate to even tell Kevin about them sometimes, but there is one dream that I don't mind sharing since I think it helps explain things much better than I can. It was my first dream about her. Well, technically it was two dreams.
One night, I dreamt that the wait for China was just too long and we decided to look into domestic adoption. Very quickly, a birth mom chose us and we were on our way to be parents. A little girl was born. She had light skin, blonde hair and dusty blue eyes. Frankly, she looked much like I imagine our birth child would look. I should have been excited, but as soon as they handed her to me I felt so sick. I knew that this wasn't our daughter. I woke myself up sobbing and saying over and over again that we should have waited and that it wasn't right. I think Kevin was a little freaked out. I put it out of my mind for the day and chalked it up to weird dream.
The next night I dreamt that we were in China. It was the day we were being given our daughter and we were so excited. They brought her to us and she hesitantly let Kevin pick her up. Within minutes she was enamoured of him and giggling as he made faces. I can still recall her laughter. She kept turning away from me, so I decided to just speak to her. I told her in Chinese that I was her mama and that she was a beautiful and good baby (Yes, I do actually know how to say this). Once she heard me speak she reached out and let me hold her. There was no worry about right and wrong choices, there was just conviction that she was ours and we were hers.
Here's hoping that it wont be too long before we no longer have to rely on dreams to visit each other.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Round One: Complete!

... or two, or three, depending on your system of counting and general outlook on life.

We heard from the adoption agency today that our initial application (complete with first program fee) has been received. Huzzah! This now means the following:

  1. We start the main dossier (the gigantomongous* pile of paper that gets sent to China
  2. We take a 10-hour parenting class
  3. We can start our our home study, whereupon a social worker drudges out horrible childhood memories** and ensures that there is no ritual sacrificing of goats going on in the backyard*** to make sure that we will be good parents
I'm probably leaving out a few steps, but this is the general idea for now.

Round two: FIGHT!!


National Geographic and the reporter Lisa Ling did an episode of Explorer called "China's Lost Girls," which was a very eye-opening look into what will happen when we go to China. This was shot in 2006; the main difference today is that now, through the traditional program, your wait might be up to five years. If you can find this whole program it's rather fascinating and more than a little touching. This will be us!

- Kevin

* gigantomongousness is measured in metric, rather than imperial units
** including, but not limited to, my brother sitting on my chest and arms and sticking blades of grass up my nose
*** there isn't

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011, please come in. We've been waiting for you!

I should be sleeping, but I figured I may as well start 2011 off by being productive.

Couple things:
As I said in my previous post, the list was not at all meant as a way off calling out anyone in particular. If you are worried that you have offended me in the past, just stop worrying.

The infamous comment from a family member about being too pretty to adopt was said well before it was known that we would be adopting. I don't know if that makes it more sad or funny. To be fair, she has a tendency to say all sorts of crazy stuff. Heaven help up if she ever goes fully senile. I'm sure she'll find out at some point (if she doesn't already know) and we'll have all new jems to share. Ugh.

Christmas was hard. Among other things, it's difficult to see all the kids around and wonder when we will be able to see our own little girl being tickled by uncles or falling asleep on Kevin's chest. I don't really know how it's possible to miss someone you've never met, but I assure you we do.

On a happier note, 2011 is here. A year we have been waiting anxiously for for several years. It's a bit surreal. This year we will submit our dossier. This year we will (hopefully) see her face. This year we may even be able to bring our girl home. This year will be my last Mother's Day having to show up late to church so I don't have to see all the primary kids singing and waving to their moms. This year we will become parents and that will change every year from now on. 2011 Bring. It. On.