Sunday, January 15, 2012

FINALLY! D-Day (as in "departure") Jan. 10, 2011

Days 1 & 2

We have been in Lithuania for a few days already, but I am just now starting to catch up on the blog. We have posted many times on Facebook, so I am going to go back to the beginning and catch up the blog day-by-day.
We left for Lithuania on January 10th with the first stop being in Newark. Everything went very smoothly through the airport and we were soon on our way to Brussels. The long flight wasn't that bad even though I didn't sleep at all. I did catch up on some movies though and watched "Something Borrowed", "Horrible Bosses", and "Hangover 2". In Brussels airport (now day 2), we spotted some interesting things. Apparently, there is a famous statue here of a little boy peeing, and this statue is on everything!
Nothing makes you think of a nice refreshing Coke like a statue of a naked boy peeing! Ewww...
Since we had to exchange our cash for Euros in Brussels, which makes our money useless, we opted for just two bottled waters at the low price of approximately $10 in American cash. The closest I came to that Belgium waffle was here:
I decided to pass on the vending machine waffle since they had fed us on the flight over. Finally, exhausted but happy, we were finally about to board the plane for the last short flight from Brussels to Vilnius.
We arrived in Vilnius after a plane change and slight delay due to an issue with the air conditioning system on the original plane. We were unloaded onto an snow covered pavement and made our way through to the baggage claim. On our way out, we were greeted by our representative from the Family Law Center. After exchanging our cash for "litas", we were on our way to our apartment. Our FLC rep also gave us a short walking tour of the Old Town amenities available just outside of our apartment. She then left of to enjoy our first night in Vilnius and to get some rest. We decided to make a quick trip to the grocery store for water and dinner and then crash hard and rest up so we could meet Matthew the next day.
Here I am after our first shopping trip at "Rimi" grocery store. There was a mixture of snow and sleet coming down, but light enough to walk without an umbrella. In fact, most people were walking in it without umbrellas! Now is was back to the apartment for some dinner and a pillow!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

13 Days and a New Challenge

We leave in 13 days!!! I cannot believe it! After 18 grueling months, we are finally going to meet our son! The court date came to us over a week earlier than expected! The judge said all of our documents looked good and set our court date for January 17th. They also think that it looks promising that our 40 day waiting period will be waived and we will be able to bring Matthew home on the first visit! This would be wonderful as we will not have to wait any longer, and we will not have to fundraise for a 2nd trip! (Please pray that we get the 2nd visit waived)

We leave on January 10th!!! We will arrive in Vilnius at 2 pm on January 11th as long as there are no problems. This will give us one night to get over the jet lag before meeting our son for the first time on January 12th! We are staying the in Old Town part of Vilnius... I can't wait to see the historical buildings and gothic architecture. This town bears the scars of centuries of war and oppression. It has barely been a country for very long... I am literally older than the country itself!!! I am not THAT old, you know ;) It will be VERY cold and we are told to pack for the "likely" event that we do not have electricity the whole time! So I will be buying long thermal underwear, wool socks, and lots of pocket warmers!!

I am so excited to announce that our $3000 travel deficit was cut in half thanks to a $1500 grant from the Gift of Adoption Fund! This was the BEST surprise Christmas gift that we could receive. This just leaves us with trying to come up with the minimum of $1500, so I have issued a challenge: If I can get 300 people to donate just $5 over the next 5 days, we will meet our goal! Surely there are 300 people out there with $5 they are willing to spare... give up one Starbucks Cafe Mocha... just one and you can help! Please consider helping us reach this goal (we are already off to a GREAT start with $155 already donated since yesterday!!!) It CAN be done! I am so, so , so excited to finally be completing this phase of our journey and beginning the new phase as a family of FIVE!! My son will finally be home and there will be ONE LESS orphan. Thank you to all the friends and strangers that have stepped out in faith, offered your generous donations, and helped to change the life for one precious child! We can't thank you enough!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Article 5 and new goal

Thanksgiving Day 2011

Thanksgiving came and went in a blur. It was just a very difficult holiday for us, but we tried to make the best of it. We got the girl's and Matthew these adorable teddy bears from Kay Jewelers
when I was having a broken necklace repaired. A large portion of the proceeds went to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which is very dear to our hearts. It also helps remind us that even in
our sadness of being separated from our son right now, our children are all healthy. We are so blessed because PKU is manageable and treatable. Abigail and Matthew will always be healthy as long as
they stick to their special diets and drink their formulas. How blessed we are to have these options!
Our Article 5 was dropped off at the US Embassy in Lithuania on Friday and our documents were submitted to the court yesterday. It will be next week before we know which judge we have been assigned, and at least another week before we know our court date, which will determine our travel date. Travel is most certainly going to be after Christmas, so I have been trying to make peace with missing another holiday with my sweet boy.
I try to think of reasons why we each needed one more Christmas the way we are used to it. This will be Matthew's 6th Christmas at the Vilnius Care Home. I am so anxious to know who our judge will be. Why is this important? It is so important because we are petitioning the court to waive the second visit to Lithuania to bring Matthew home. We are asking that they waive the 40 day appeal period and allow us to bring him home on our first visit, and they are a couple of judges that have allowed this in the past. We are praying for a good and understanding judge... one that will acknowledge what has already been an 18 month wait! Not to mention the many better options available to Matthew to treat his PKU here... and a low protein baking master mamma willing to spend hours in the kitchen and work tirelessly to be sure he has more options and the best nutrition available. :)
In the meantime, we are waiting and preparing for the trip. It is becoming more expensive as we think of all of things we need for travel. Bryon and I do not exactly have wardrobes worthy of a Lithuanian winter, in which we may or may not have electricity the whole time! We are also having to come up with a wardrobe, bedroom and toys for a boy. I have found many great items second hand via a Facebook site for Murfreesboro moms to trade and/or sell unwanted items. A couple of friends also gave us some furniture that we have primed and painted for his room. Finished bedroom photos will hopefully be uploaded this weekend!

You may notice that our fundraising goal increased some. The estimated expense for the first trip is between $6000-$8000. We originally set the goal for $5000 as we were really hoping to get the remaining $3000 from grants. As of now, we have not received any grants, so we have increased our goal. I am trying to continue to sell Lithuania candles and ornaments, but this is a difficult time of year to fundraise. It is just so hard for families during the holidays. We have been very, very blessed to have received the very generous donations that literally came within a couple of weeks, many from complete strangers! I continue to be amazed and hold on to faith that God will provide and the He will unite us with our son soon! Please prayerfully consider helping us out by purchasing Just Love Coffee or the candles and ornaments that I have made. You may also make a donation through Paypal.

Check out these items that we are selling...

These are $6 and we have several scents/colors for the candles: Vanilla, Vanilla Spice, Pumpkin Spice, and Apple Cinnamon. These make great gifts. For shipping info, e-mail me at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Better and Blessed!!!

So the weekend was rough! I had very human moments and the enemy was on the attack! I allowed my faith to be shaken to the core and doubt to enter my mind. I cried a lot and I was angry and hurt, but friends and strangers have come to show me that God is limitless... grants or no grants... we will get our boy home! Notice the fundraising total at the right. The goal is an estimate of what we still needed for our travel. On Saturday, we had only reached $130 towards our goal and look at it now! We are so so so close to reaching our goal. I was ready to give up. Ready to stop asking... in fact, I wasn't going to ask anymore because I have been asking for 15 months now... but God had someone else do the asking. The results are there, and words cannot express how amazed I am by the kindness and generosity of one sweet family and a host of complete strangers. I am amazed! I am blessed! And I have a lot of repenting to do! I am so thankful for the precious individuals that dug deep just days before the Christmas shopping frenzy begins... they weren't thinking about needing that money for the Thanksgiving meal or gifts for their children... they were thinking of one broken heart and an orphan boy in desperate need to come home. THANK YOU! You all have blessed us, you have opened my eyes once again, and you have brought us so much closer to our goal! Much love and appreciation to the Scott family! God is using them to be His hands and feet to help bring yet another orphan home! (They just brought their son home from China days ago). I love you guys!!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Broken, hurt, disappointed... I am so confused. I have attacked every road block standing firm in faith that God's plan is to unite us with this little boy. I have held on to faith that He would provide, especially when we are in our greatest need. We received news Saturday that we did not receive a Show Hope grant... this was our most "hopeful" grant to aid in our final travel expenses. After all, we are adopting a child with multiple, expensive medical needs and we already have a child with PKU. I know of families that have received grants for non special needs adoptions... families with a greater income than ours. If we had received an overwhelming amount of support through this journey, then I would not feel this way. It just starts to feel like no one feels like this is worthy... like Matthew isn't worthy or our family isn't worthy. To sum it up, my faith has taken a beating, and our failed attempts at fundraising just seems to confirm that we are not going to get our son home. As another holiday without him happens this week, I can't help but feel like I have failed him. Like I didn't try hard enough or work hard enough. I manage to get all of 4 people to sign up to buy a shirt... I manage to sell one candle and two ornaments to the wealthiest people in Brentwood... I manage to make about 10 appliqué shirts... and have three yard sales that reach a combined total of under $600... which barely put a dent in the $34,000 cost of this adoption. We have reached our out-of-pocket limit... in excess of $24,000 spent so far before travel. I am desperate, but I am worn out. I am tired of asking... I am tired of the disappointing results of every effort... I don't want to feel this way. I want to have the strength to stand firm in faith that God does want this little boy to be our son and that He will make a way, but my spirit is crushed and I can't help but wonder if we have made it this far because of stubborn persistence and retaliation against the obstacles that God has placed in our path. I know this isn't the right attitude to have, but I am too hurt to have the right attitude at the moment. Maybe it will pass soon... maybe God will send a miracle to prove me wrong and to prove that this adoption is His will, not just our own. I could really use prayers... I am in a bad place right now.
Thank you,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Fun and other distractions...

The wait is killing me! Every day I rush to the mailbox like a child running to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning in anticipation for all those gifts on that list. I just want one piece of paper! One piece of paper that says one magic word... APPROVED! We did receive the I797-c form stating that our I-800 application had been received. With that was a letter pleading for expedited approval. Now I could have a great officer who will be deeply touched and push things through right away, or I could get one of "those" officers who tosses the letter aside and proceeds to place our application at the bottom of his/her stack. Right now, I am just praying that our officer feels the urgency that we do and expedites everything for us so that our son will be home for Christmas.

In the meantime, we have found lots of fun fall activities to keep us distracted as possible during the excruciating wait. We visited Walden Farms on Saturday. I really expected it to be extremely crowded with all of the other procrastinating parents, but I was surprised at how manageable the crowd was. The girls has a blast!

The girls got their faces painted and wore the Halloween shirts that I had made them. They had a blast.
We also had fun painting the pumpkins we had found at the farm!

We also took advantage of the special from Papa Murphy's and had the Jack-o-lantern pizza for dinner!
This was one packed Saturday! But we weren't done yet. :) Bryon's boss had given him an awesome gift on Friday... TITANS TICKETS!!! Not just any tickets, but these were seats in the Executive Suite! We took the girls for one amazing game (we actually beat the Colts), so now the bar is set pretty high if we ever go to another Titans game! I hope that Bryon can get his hands on some more tickets like these in the future so he can take Matthew!

Our view from the suite was amazing!
Surprisingly, the girls were never bored and watched most of the game without any complaints.
After the game, we went home for some pumpkin carving. This was the first time for Katie to carve her pumpkin all by herself. I was so impressed! She did an amazing job and she continues to surprise me with all of her artistic abilities.
So, as you can see, we had a very busy weekend! I will be posting some pics from our very busy Monday soon... Abigail's first field trip and trick-or-treating with our buddies in our old neighborhood. It was a great Halloween, but we really can't wait to share our next one with Matthew. I hope he loves Halloween fun as much as we do!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Matthew Paul McDowell

We finally decided on an official name! Bryon and I have discussed names a few times, but we knew with him being "Paulius" for five years, that we should keep Paul as part of his name. Matthew was the first name that we both agreed on for his first name. We have now submitted both our I-800a Supplement 3 to update our home study and the I-800 application. They were sent about a week apart and we just received the I797c stating the the first has been received and in the process of being approved. I learned that our agency's branch license comes up for renewal on 11/30/11. If our I800 isn't approved and submitted to Lithuania and a court date not assigned by 11/30, then we will have to wait for the agency to go through their annual audit and renewal process! This would destroy any hopes of our son coming home before Christmas. My heart just hurts thinking that we could have to wait another 3-4 months as a result.... our agency has costs us so much precious time and been the source of months and months of delays! Our 3rd caseworker quit on Oct. 14 and now our case is up in the air yet again! We have not been assigned a new caseworker yet. This is driving me crazy! While I will always be an advocate for adoption, I can not recommend our agency to anyone with a good feeling in my heart. It just makes me sick to my stomach to think of people getting involved with such as unstable organization while children's lives are at stake! I will just keep praying that we encounter no more delays and can complete this soon so we can graciously part ways.

On a happier note, I have a huge praise report! We received an anonymous donation from someone through our church. It was such a huge blessing and God couldn't have picked a better time to lift our spirits and show us that He will remain faithful and complete this work that He has begun in us. One thing that I have learned is that you should never enter into something like this without seeking God through every step. If not for faith in what God has planned for this little boy and our family, I would have given up months ago! I know we have many, many more challenges and we work hard to bring healing to our son... yes, healing! This is not some "oh, you are so sweet to adopt this little boy" mission. It is not that simple. Children from institutions like where Matthew has grown up have many challenges ahead. Many have never bonded with an adult and find any physical contact uncomfortable... imagine it taking months before you can even hold or hug the child you have adopted! This is just one of the realities that we could face. Families that adopt need months and months of prayer and help from friends and extended family. It is not easy, and it can take months... even years before an adopted child learns to trust his/her adoptive parents. Some may never feel truly safe in their new environment and could need years of therapy to help them overcome their painful past. These are some things that we would like our friends and family to be aware of and be understanding of as we approach Matthew's homecoming. I am also one that likes to do everything myself and never likes to ask for help. Let me just go ahead and throw this out there... please don't wait for me to ask for help. Don't even ask me if I need help. I will probably tell you "no" and that everything is fine, but let me tell you, I will probably be lying. Just don't give me the chance. Please, this is my plea now because I know I may be too overwhelmed when Matthew comes home or too ashamed to ask (because I feel like a failure when I can't do it all by myself!) Just show up and help where and when you can... pick my kids up from school, bring us dinner, help my kids with their homework so that I can focus on Matthew. Yes, this is my shameless plea for help down the road. I know I will need it and I know I will not ask for it, but for my sanity's sake, I am going to go ahead and ask now while I am strong enough to admit my weaknesses. :)

I hope to have more happy updates to come soon. I sent a letter with the I800 application pleading for them to expedite approval due to medical conditions. We are also gathering letters from the genetics team at Vanderbilt and from school explaining the necessity to get Matthew home as soon as possible so we can petition the judge to waive the appeal period, which requires us to return to the US for 40 days and then travel back to Lithuania to bring him home. We hope to have this second trip waived so that we can bring Matthew home on the first trip. A second trip would also require massive fundraising right over the Christmas holiday when most people are spending all their money on gifts. I am not confident that we could come up with the money for a 2nd visit as we still have about $5000-6000 left to raise to fund our first visit.

Please continue to pray for us, pray for Matthew and pray for our girls as this is not going to be any easy adjustment for them. The closer we come to travel, the closer we come to the reality that we are leaving our children behind for at least two, but likely three weeks. I hurts to think about being away from them that long... it kills me to think about it! Thanks for all the prayers.


Thursday, September 22, 2011


This week has been a roller coaster! On Monday, we received our official referral for Paulius. I am still so amazed at how fast things are moving on the Lithuania side of this. This really spins us into whirlwind with making updates for USCIS, but things are moving along. We received some new pictures of our son along with a lot more information about him. He has three siblings.. one older sister that has been adopted by a family in Lithuania, one older sister that is being fostered by family, and last year on Abigail's birthday, he had a new baby sister that was born. She is still with the mother, who is apparently mentally impaired, so I am praying that his baby sister is being taken care of. Paulius has never been within the care of any family members. He was abandoned in the hospital where he spent his first month of life before being transferred to the orphanage that has been his home now for 5 years. His mom visited him a hand-ful of times, but no one from the family has ever expressed any desire to care for him. This just breaks my heart! I cannot wait to get him home so he can learn what a family is all about.

The referral also included all of his medical background since he has been eligible for adoption. He has been on the PKU diet since he was a month old, which was when he was officially diagnosed. He has some pretty significant speech delays that are due to physiological problems, not intellectual so much. He also has some short term memory issues and short attention span. Hopefully the best dietary management will help as these are common with PKU that isn't well maintained. I really appreciate that the orphanage caregivers have done their best to maintain his diet and they are so very limited on resources. I have no idea if he has any access at all to low protein foods.

We also have measurements and he is a BIG boy!! He outweighs his sister, Abigail, by 10 pounds and he is close to being two inches taller. I had to explain to Abigail that her little brother is actually a big brother in size! He is a cutie pie! I just love his smile and those kissable cheeks! I can't wait to hold him and I just ache for him to be home. I am praying that we can get through the necessary updates very quickly so that we can get our court date to go bring him home. God is doing great things for our family and I am so excited in how He is working in our lives. I thank Him for the peace he has given me as we reach this very stressful stage, and I pray He continues to provide.

On a fundraising note, our community yard sale was less of a flop than in the spring. We made a little over $200 considering we only had a weeks notice to prepare, but only one day to really get ready. I was reading on one blog how a family in Nashville spent weeks and weeks preparing for a yard sale and collected tons of donations. They raised $11,000 with the yard sale alone!!! I guess we live in the wrong neighborhood for that since we are only allowed to have community sales twice a year and NO notice that allowed us to prepare like that. I have been added to a new Facebook page for Rutherford County Moms. I have sold almost $400 worth of items on that site, so I will keep that up as kind of a "virtual" yard sale. I have also made about $80 with my custom shirts.

Now that we have the referral we are able to apply for the Brittney's Hope Seedling Grant for special needs adoptions. I think we are going to have to just keep praying really hard for grants to pull through for us since we have to still come up with travel funds. The good news is that we have the money to accept the referral and pay for the home study update... that is a HUGE PRAISE!!! Please keep us in your prayers! I am attending the Empowered to Connect conference tomorrow and Saturday to help prepare for some of the hardest parts of adoption... trust, bonding, grieving losses, etc. This is the tough reality behind adoption. Paul looks happy. He looks healthy and he has never know any other life outside of an orphanage. It is all he knows and it is going to be VERY difficult for him to leave it. He will needs lots and LOTS of prayers, as will we all as we adjust. I know that God has an incredible plan for this sweet child, but it is going to be tough for a while, and we just have to hold on to the TRUTH that God's plan is far better than anything we can ever imagine. That TRUTH is my comfort and my strength!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lithuania is rockin'

We learned on Monday that the AS (Adoption Services) in Lithuania had sent our Bethany representative a letter last Friday stating that we have officially been matched with Paulius!!! It is a sigh of relief as we have been working for over a year with no guarantees... anyone up to this point could have received the referral for him. They also stated in the letter that they were in the process of compiling our referral documents. Our Lithuania rep also said that we have urgent status to have the referral translated and that we should have it in 2-4 weeks! Once we accept the referral, it will go back to Lithuania to be translated and on back to AS. We could know our travel dates as soon as October. I feel hopeful that we will have him home by Christmas! The only negative is that things are progressing so fast now that it doesn't give us much time to raise the money. Many grants require us to have a referral before we apply, and then takes weeks to process. I am concerned that we will not have the funds to travel before our travel dates, but I will keep trusting God. Another adopting mom posted that God funds what He favors and in the Bible, he promises, "I will not leave you as orphans", so I will keep believing in this and praying!

Today, our caseworker visited our home to update our home study. Once she has it typed up, it has to be approved at the local and national offices and then go on to USCIS for approval. It took about 9-10 weeks for the initial approval, but this update will hopefully go through much quicker. It can hold up our travel date if not done quickly.

We did complete the Show Hope grant application and received confirmation that it arrived. Our grant will be reviewed in late October and we will be notified of whether we receive anything by November 15th... about down to the wire! This is such a wonderful ministry and so many families receive some amount. We are also applying for a Brittney's Hope Seedling Grant for special needs adoptions. This grant will require us to raise 1/2 of the amount that they award in effort to pay-it-forward to another family adopting a child with special needs. This is an exciting opportunity!

Our next fundraiser will be in the form of a yard sale. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to do yard sales in our neighborhood unless it is part of the community yard sale. We participated in the spring sale and it was a flop because of the weather. Hopefully we will have good weather this time.

This adventure has gone from a snail's pace to now moving so fast that we can't keep up, but soon we will have our son home. As big of a headache that this has been at times, I know that these have been trials to better prepare us for a future with our new son!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Adoption Timeline

I was thinking today about our adoption timeline and realized that I should post something about it just to document the journey so far. So here is how our story began:
May (late) 2010- Received text from my friend, Cassie, with a picture of Paulius. For the next couple of weeks, I would stare at this sweet boy's face in that text message and think of him non-stop! Finally, after a few conversations with Cassie, I decide to talk to Bryon about the possibilty of adopting Paulius. I sell him on the idea, but with some reservations (mainly financial concerns).
June 9, 2010- Inquire about Paulius and his availability
June 11, 2010- Send in pre-application to Bethany Christian Services
June 30, 2010- Met with our first of three caseworkers that we would have through our journey.
July 4, 2010- I tell my family that we are pursuing adoption.
August 27, 2010- A very lengthy, thorough and complicated Formal Application is completed.
Sept. 1, 2010- We receive new photos of Paulius and are over the moon!
Oct. 27th 2010- Home Study is completed on our end. (now with 2nd caseworker)
Nov. 11, 2010- Home Study FINALLY submitted.
Dec. 20, 2010- Dossier meeting (with now our 3rd caseworker)
Dec. 30, 2010- Received a late Christmas present... more pics of Paulius from his Christmas in the orphanage.
Jan. 5th, 2011- National office requests changes to our home study by our caseworker.
Jan. 19, 2011- National office FINALLY approves our home study (you know, the one we finished on October 27th!!! Talk about a test of patience!)
March 18, 2011- After a possible job change, we are finally able to submit our USCIS application.
March 31, 2011- Receive MORE pics of Paulius, and my heart just melts all over again.
June 6, 2011- After one hang-up, we receive our USCIS approval.
July 12, 2011 (my birthday!)- Our dossier is completed, notarized, apostilled and copied.
July 15, 2011- Dossier submitted to Nashville office.
July 26th, 2011 (Abigail's birthday!)- We learn that our dossier has been approved and sent to Lithuania!!! WOOHOO for progress!
August 16th, 2011- Our dossier translation is complete and all paperwork is submitted to Adoption Services of Lithuania.

And so now we are here... just waiting on that referral to come! And trying to fundraise and come-up with the money to accept the referral the absolute DAY it arrives! I will sell everything not nailed down if I have to! I am so ready to bring our son home! I will keep you updated and let you know when the referral comes. You will probably hear me as I shout it from the rooftop LOL!