Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Finally... some progress!

I have been behind on blogging for a long time now! Why? Because things have been so sloooow! I finally have some updates. We completed all the application requirements in August and began the home study process. Near the end of our home study, our case worker quit her job and left us waiting on someone else to take over our case and complete the process. Finally, we were assigned a new case worker and completed our home study last week! Hallelujah! It has been a roller coaster for the past couple of months. One amazing thing that happened was that people from the Family Law Center in Lithuania visited the orphanage and took updated pictures of Paulius and sent them to our case worker. I opened the e-mail with new pictures and just started crying... happy tears of course! I was not expected any new photos of Paulius until the referral comes, so this was an unexpected gift! On a sad note, Paulius celebrated his 4th birthday on September 22nd without his family. It was a really hard week for me as I faced the reality of losing four years with our son. It seems like the harder I've tried to get through the process, the slower things seem to move :(

We have also started doing some fundraisers. I held two bake sales, consigned donated children's clothing in four consignment sales, and had a garage sale. Combine the money raised at all of these events and we barely topped $1200! We have our work cut out for us and a LONG way to go before we raise enough money to complete the adoption and travel to bring our son home. Katie did a great job holding a hot cocoa/lemonade stand at our garage sale. None of the garage sale items were selling, but she sold a $100 cup of hot cocoa and a $20 cup of lemonade. Her lemonade stand made almost all of the money the day of the garage sale, which was a total for $477!

I am trying to think of more fundraising ideas that will bring in a little bit larger amounts of money. I picked up some photo Christmas cards from Target dollar area and will be making "Prayers for Paulius" cards to send with his picture and a letter about the adoption. I will send these out to all of our family and friends within the next couple of weeks. I am also making some handmade crafts that I am selling at a small craft fair soon. These bring in small amounts, so I will also be submitting lots of grant requests once I have our completed home study letter. I am starting my new job as substitute teacher for metro-Nashville schools next week. This will be a great way to raise money for the adoption if I can get jobs and hand in there! Some of these schools are pretty tough, so please keep me in your prayers :)

Now that the home study is complete, I will being giving updates more often (since there will hopefully be more to report). Please keep our family in your prayers as we continue our journey to bringing Paulius home. Please keep Paulius and the other children in the orphanage, and the caregivers in your prayers as well. More updates to come soon...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More News...

I received an e-mail yesterday with more information about Paulius, specifically about his PKU. He is "classical" PKU like Abigail and his levels are checked every two weeks! This is great!! They also sent us the results of his last three levels which range from 6 being his last level, but the previous two were at 12.5 and 14 (high!). I was told that he eats his meals with all of the other children and that the caregivers do their best to monitor him, but he does successfully manage t sneak some foods off of other plates. Like any other PKU child, he is curious about what other foods taste like. I bet he has never had low protein breads or pastas made just for him! I can't wait to see what he thinks of pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. My guess is that he only eats fruits, vegetables and regular breads, pastas or maybe rice. Paulius was diagnosed a month after birth and has been on the low protein diet since then. I am so glad to hear that his levels are checked so often and that the caregivers are doing their best to meet his dietary needs. I honestly expected his levels to be in the 20 range, so it is a relief to know that it's not been quite that high.

I also paid the $550 application fee yesterday so that our file is in the works. I sent Bryon to work with a stack of papers to sign this morning so that we can go ahead and have them put on file. This morning I registered for our Hague Convention Adoption training and completed the introduction and first module. We both have to complete it separately and have 8 weeks to get it done. I think I will have it done in about a week! I also ordered some books about adoption that were recommended by our caseworker. I hope to have plenty of reading time once I get some more of this paperwork out of the way. I feel pretty confident that I will get my part done fairly quick, but Bryon's new job keeps him busy and wiped out during the week and our weekends have been packed! He was able to get an appointment for his psych evaluation on Tuesday night after work. He will be lucky to be home by 9:00 p.m. that night, but it will be done and we can check that off of his "to-do" list.

My house is smelling divine right now. I am baking my first loaf of regular bread in the bread machine. I have only made low protein bread for Abigail in the machine, but I am trying to make regular bread for the bake sale fundraiser we are having this Saturday. I am also making beer bread and trying my hand at honey wheat and amish style sweet bread too. I have been wanting to try making regular breads, so I am excited to be trying these new breads. I will be baking and baking for the next to days to prepare. I have also gotten in touch with my creative side to try to raise some money. I am painting letter wall hangings for baby nurseries and kids rooms, making hair bow holders, diaper cakes, baby shower gift sets and hair bows. I am going to try to open an etsy online store or maybe sell them on ebay or something. We'll see how it goes. If anything, I am having fun making the items! Wish us luck on our first fundraiser! Come see me and get some yummy homemade baked goods :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crawl before you walk!

I learned a lesson today! I have been trying to tackle what I felt were the larger hurdles before taking on some of the easier tasks. One thing I have been putting off was submitting the Formal Application online with Bethany. Instead, I have been running all over with my focus on the folder of paperwork and the big checklist! I guess I wanted to get the hardest stuff done first, but that turns out to not be the best idea. Apparently, we should have submitted this online application right after our first meeting with Bethany. The BIG folder is pretty much the same information but with a LOT more detail, so I was assuming it was more important... wrong! They can't even create our file until the online application is submitted. Oops, so we have been running around doing all these tasks and we don't even have an official file set up yet?? YIKES! Now that I know that, Bryon and I sat down tonight and completed and submitted the online formal application. Now I am back to working on the folder of paperwork. I can see us having it complete this week if we can get the VERY detailed financial forms completed. Whew... we are making some progress, it just seems to be taking too long!

I also learned that just because you attend an informational meeting with notepad and pen in hand, ask lots of questions, and take notes the whole time... this doesn't ensure that you actually understand everything, even if you think you "get it". I thought I was doing so good to be making all of this progress, yet I seemed to have skipped the most basic and important step. I just hope these lessons don't cost us too much time!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Slowly making progress...

I have been trying to accomplish at least one of the "run-around" tasks each day this week. Monday was my psychological evaluation, which was three hours long! On Tuesday, Bryon and I met with a counselor with Bethany for our "Expectation Consultation". That was short and sweet! They just wanted to make sure that we weren't in love with the romantic idea of adoption and "saving" a child. Yesterday, I took the girls medical forms to their pediatrician to have them completed. Now all I need to do is have my own medical form completed and take my criminal clearance form to the police department. Today, I have to take a break from all of this running around and get busy tagging clothes for a couple of consignment sales. This is one way I am trying to raise money for the adoption. A friend from high school runs one of the sales and is allowing me to hold a bake sale fundraiser next Saturday on their 1/2 price day. I am brainstorming other ways I can raise money as well.

While I know that we are taking on some major hurdles with this child, it did make me think harder about the issues. Particularly, I am thinking more about how to handle his other genetic disorder, GCPS, otherwise known as Greig's Syndrome. This is a very rare disorder, much more so than PKU. Understanding Greig's is still in the beginning stages as well. I joined a support group on Facebook with families living with Greig's and learned that most have delays and require occupation, physical and speech therapy. Many of these children didn't start talking until 3-4 years old and have very limited vocabularies. While I feel that Paulius's GCPS is not severe, we have to be prepared for the unexpected challenges associated with Greig's and the typical delays associated with adopted children. Not to mention he still has to learn English and when he gets here, we will likely only have a year and a half to prepare him for kindergarten. So for the past couple of days, I have been just trying to wrap my head around all the possibilities.

Paulius had what I believe is an annual assessment on Tuesday. I am anxiously awaiting the results. They will share them with me once they are available. I have seen his previous assessment, which is probably from last year, so I am curious to see if he has improved since coming into the orphanage and receiving treatment for his issues, including PKU. While I do worry about what GCPS will present us with. His delays have been associated with PKU, and he is at a great age for overcoming his delays once we get him here and on the best diet possible. However, if we get him hear and learn that the delays are associated with Greig's, then overcoming them will no be so simple as adjusting his diet. If you want to see other children living with Greig's, check out the group on Facebook called "Greig's Syndrome GCPS Support". It was reassuring to me to see these children and learn how well they are all doing despite their struggles. So I though PKU would be the rarest thing our family would ever know, and now GCPS is much, much more rare and is a dominant trait, whereas PKU is recessive. Some people think we are crazy and others think we are saints! I know I'm not a saint, but if anyone can handle this, Bryon and I can!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adoption PaperWORK!!!

If you've ever applied for a job with the secret service or CIA, then you may have completed a small fraction of the paperwork that adoptive parents must complete. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a lot to do. Today is my birthday, and I went for my psychological examination required as part of the process. In all the semesters that I majored in psychology, I never bothered to take a class in assessment, so I really had no idea what to expect. I guess I did expect to be asked about my childhood, and I was. I did expect to me asked about past trauma in my life that affected me, as well as about my relationship with Bryon and parenting skills, so none of that was shocking. What I didn't expect was the 567 question personality assessment on the computer or the 165 question paper test! I have to admit that many of the questions had me quite entertained and I had to fight the urge to laugh out loud. Let's just hope they find me fit to be a parent since I already have two children.
In addition to the psychological testing, I also must have a medical exam clearing me of any communicable diseases and a criminal background clearance done. While all of this sounds like a pain in the rear, I can't help but think what the world would be like if everyone had to go through this process in order to have any child, including biological children. Not only go through this, but pass with flying colors in order to have a child. Would there still be so many abandoned and unwanted children in the world? Would there still be a need for so many foster homes and orphanages? Probably not! When I rationalize this tedious process, I do understand why it has to be done. I guess I should be thankful since this helps to ensure that these children end up with loving families. I also think about the other side of this mountain we are climbing and I can't wait to bring Paulius home! It is all so worth it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


So who is that little boy in the picture that Cassie sent me? His name is Paulius Nemiras. He came to the orphanage in 2008 because his mother didn't have a permanent home and his medical needs were neglected. His birthday is September 22, 2006, so he is just two months younger than Abigail. He has PKU and another genetic disorder called GCFS, which caused him to be born with extra fingers (surgically removed) and his head is larger. He fits right in with us! Abigail's head was off the charts when she was a baby! He also wears glasses for a convergent squint and far sightedness and special shoes because he is flat footed (caused from the GCFS). Why would we want to take on a child with so many issues? Well, without glasses or contacts, I am legally blind, and I have a fallen arch in one foot. Big deal! This is all treatable. Paulius has issues that are treatable (PKU) or can be corrected. It is so sad to me that this beautiful child is unwanted! He has a much greater chance at overcoming these things within a family who loves him.
I also found out some very good news yesterday. Paulius is in an orphanage called the Vilnius Care Home for Babies with Developmental Disabilities. This is good news because Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. I was told that his orphanage is one of the better ones with more resources, and being in the capital places him closer to physicians and specialists. All of his medical issues are being addressed, and being in the city probably makes this possible!
There are some risks with this adoption. Since Bryon and I are in the beginning stages of adoption, another family further along in the process can come along and get the referral before we do if they are working through a different agency. While Paulius's issues make this less likely, it is not impossible. The good news is that Bethany is putting a hold for him within their agency and the orphanage knows about us and is excited that he has a family interested in him. We need your continued prayers in this. If another family is meant for Paulius, I will be heartbroken for myself and our family, but happy for Paulius and his new family. If this happens, we will continue to pursue a child to adopt. It is hard not to get attached to Paulius. I guess I already am. I just have to be prepared for all the possibilities...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Where we are now and how we got here...

It was PKU that reintroduced us to Bethany Christian Services. Abigail being born with PKU inspired us to start the Tennessee PKU Foundation in 2007. A few months later, I met Cassie whose son, Iain, has PKU. Iain is also adopted from the Ukraine. Cassie soon became very involved with the foundation and was voted Vice President. We have become great friends since. Her mom happens to work for Bethany, so I have learned more and more about the joys of adoption over the past couple of years. A few weeks ago, Cassie sent me a text with the picture of a gorgeous three year-old little boy in a Lithuanian orphanage who happens to have PKU. My comment back was, "oh my gosh, he could pass for Abigail's brother". I didn't say anything else about it, but for a couple of weeks, this little boy was all I could think about!

One night, Bryon and I were sitting and watching the girls play. Bryon said they were getting too big and that it was time to have another... I laughed and said something like this... "Um honey, we just sold all of the baby stuff in a garage sale... I don't think so". His next comment would stay with me for a few days. He said that maybe we could adopt a little boy around age two or three years old!!! I didn't bring up the little boy from Cassie's text, but I did talk to Cassie about it. She encouraged me to just bring it up to him and see what he thought. So a few nights later, Bryon is sitting on one end of the couch with his iPad and I am sitting on the other end with my laptop when I sent him an e-mail with this little boy's picture. A minute later he asked me if there was any reason I had sent that e-mail. I asked him how serious he was about adoption and when he said he was seriously interested, I proceeded to tell him what I knew about this special little boy. This was the start of the decision to adopt, but I was already crazy for this child and felt like I was looking at a picture of my son.

Beginning a New Journey

I am starting this blog to record our family's journey through international adoption. Bryon and I are very blessed with two beautiful daughters and no fertility issues, so why are we adopting? The truth is that we had this discussion many years ago... long before we had children of our own! While living in Florida, Bryon and I attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert where we learned about his adoption of his daughters and were introduced to Bethany Christian Services and Shohanna's Hope. It sparked a discussion between Bryon and I, and after this, I always knew that we wanted to have kids of our own as well as adopt. We just didn't know when or how it would happen. Now we have Katie (age 6) and Abigail (will be 4 on July 26th), and things have just been falling into place to allow an adoption to happen, and we are excited and nervous to be officially getting the ball rolling on this journey. I will be using this blog to keep everyone updated on the journey. Feel free to leave comments and follow our blog. Adoption is a roller coaster ride, and we welcome the encouragement and prayers from all of our family and friends.