Thursday, July 31, 2008

RA today!!

Mark and I got a call from Anna, our Family Coordinator at AWAA, this afternoon as we rolled down I-95, on our way to Florida for a super-quick trip to see my parents and grandparents.  

We have our referral approval (otherwise known as the Letter of Approval) from the CCAA to adopt Anna Kathryn!!!!

This is the long-awaited, officially official paperwork that says it's all systems go from here on out. The countdown begins for our Travel Approval now.  This could arrive as early as 4 weeks from now, or as long as a couple of months (but I truly do not think it will take that long.  No, it's not just my expectant-mama optimism, but the pattern for some other families who were reviewed when they were matched.)  We have about 147,000 things to do before we leave, but if someone said that we could get on a plane to China tomorrow, you bet I'd be on it.  

So, since we are officially official, it is my absolute joy to share Anna Kathryn's beautiful face with the world:  

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig

We just got home tonight from our trip to the beach and celebrating Abe and Karen's wedding in Murrells Inlet, SC.  Mark and I are worn out, but in a good way.  It was a wonderful week with the kids.  We got to spend several days out at the beach (random burn struck me again), did a little shopping, hung out with all of the kids and their friends/fiancees/boyfriends and did a lot of food prep/errand running to get ready for the wedding.  I'll have to devote a future post to the wedding-- it was beautiful and a lot of fun.  

We got 2 pieces of good news while we were vacationing!  The first was that we got our PA, or pre-approval, from the CCAA on Tuesday.  This is the first of 3 approvals that we must get from China before we can travel to get Anna Kathryn!

The PA basically states that the CCAA has received our letter of intent that we sent electronically the day after we got AK's referral.  After they review our dossier paperwork, they will issue a Referral Approval (RA) -- which is also, confusingly, called a Letter of Approval (LOA in adoption jargon).  It's a good thing that as an educator, I am used to dealing with an alphabet soup of acronyms on a daily basis.  The RA is the final, official approval that states that the CCAA has agreed to let us adopt AK.  Now, there really is no chance that they would say no-- it's just the red tape that is part and parcel of international adoption.  Plus, our dossier has already been through the review process, so we have cleared that hurdle.  We are hopeful that our RA will come quickly because our dossier is out of review already.

Due to the Olympics and the likely shutdown of most government offices during that time, I don't expect to see our TA until well after it's over.  My gut feeling is that we will travel in early October, but that is a total guess at this point.  Once we get TA, we apply for our visas and start making travel arrangements! Woo-hoo!!

The 2nd piece of good news is that Mark has a new teaching position.  He will be teaching 8th grade math at one of the top middle schools in the county.  He is excited and thrilled, and I am totally jealous that he could potentially carpool with Allison, since they will be at the same school.  God is good!  He worked this situation out for Mark's good, and we are so relieved that he is not only out of job-related limbo, but has landed at a great school not too far from home and the day care where we hope AK will be able to go.  

So, the summer continues to blaze past at the speed of light.  I may be a little scarce again this next week.  I need to finish the last of my work for my summer grad school classes (thank goodness all of my profs gave extentions on the final projects) and we leave later in the week to visit my family in Florida.  I hope to post about the wedding soon!

Also-- you've probably noticed my new look!  It was time for a makeover.  I found an awesome website with the cutest FREE blog designs that are super-easy to use.  Thanks, Leelou!!  Go here if you want to know more or spruce up your blog.  Tell me what you think about the new look!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Every silver lining has a cloud, or

"Incompetence is the pinnacle of annoyance."

No, I'm not talking about anything adoption or Anna Kathryn related!  However, this has easily been one of the craziest weeks ever for Mark and myself.  

Monday morning was, well, busy.  We were frantically calling the pediatrician and getting our acceptance paperwork together, not to mention quivering with excitement over AK and a major lack of sleep.   Then, Mark got a call from our school district's HR department.  He'd recently been hired to teach 4th grade at an elementary school, a big change after 8 years of surly eighth graders, but one he was really excited about.  Two weeks ago his new principal called him and said that everything was set, his transfer was complete, and welcome to the team.  Monday, he was informed by HR that due to a MAJOR oversight, they had just noticed that he is not, in fact, "highly qualified" to teach elementary school.  Therefore, he cannot be put into the position.  


Mark has been teaching for 24 years.  The majority of his experience has been at the elementary level.  His bachelor's degree is in elementary education.  He holds a valid NC teaching credential in-- you guessed it-- elementary ed.  And he is 1 class away from completing a master's degree in Educational Leadership (school administration).

Hard to believe the man is not "highly qualified", but according to the federal guidelines established by No C.hild L.eft B.ehind, unless he takes and passes two exams, he is not "highly qualified."  None of the rest of his credentials matter-- just that.  He did all the "HQ" stuff several years ago for middle school math, but was told then that his elementary status was fine the way it was.  Guess which presidential administration has just been put on my poopy list??  And which HR dept. ??!  Grrr. 

And unfortunately, the only time this exam will be given between now and the first day of school is at 8:00 a.m. the Saturday morning after Abram, Mark's son, gets married to his sweet fiancee, Karen.  The wedding is at 6:30 p.m. Friday.  At the beach.  Not gonna happen, my friends.  

Plus the test will cost many hundreds of dollars, which frankly, we do not have, what with all of the grad school classes, car repairs, weddings, and adoptions that we are funding right now.  

And the final kicker was that Mark's replacement has already been hired, and he cannot go back into his old teaching position.  They don't have any openings, either.  He would gladly return to his old school, but their hands are tied.  He has tenure, so he'll have a position somewhere in the county, but we have no idea where right now.  

Needless to say, this has been a bit of a challenge we've faced this week in the midst of our great jubilation over seeing Anna Kathryn for the first time and swinging into preparations.   We've been pretty calm-- all things considered-- because honestly, how could we get overly upset about anything when we have the sweetest baby ever coming home soon?

Still, it would be nice for Mark to have a job-- preferably one he likes.  He has some leads on middle school positions, and we are praying that something awesome will come his way. Thankfully, he finished summer school today, so he gets some R & R time.  At least he doesn't have to write 3 weeks' worth of elementary lesson plans while we are in China!

I know God is teaching us to continue to be completely dependent on Him in all circumstances. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way through the years of waiting to have children, through all the failed attempts, through the slowdown in China and all the discouraging news about the state of IA in general.  This is not my strong suit.  I prefer to be in control.  But the Lord has a way of reminding me who's really in charge of my life.  I'm slowly learning that it's better to go with His plan, since it's gonna be way, way better than anything I could come up with on my own.  

I got confirmation of that last Sunday, the first time I saw Anna Kathryn's beautiful face.  

By the way, I really would love to post her picture, but we are waiting on a couple of approvals from the CCAA before doing so.  Soon, I hope, I'll be able to show her off to the world.  My next post I'll do my best to explain the next round of red tape we will wade through before traveling. 

Also-- for my family, or anyone who has always thought it would be a ton of fun to hang out at the beach for a week every summer with your best girlfriends, read this.  I meant to blog about it myself, but Allison took pictures and well, she has a way with words. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Best Phone Call EVER

I've started this post three times, and it all sounded lame, so I'm just going to announce it:  


As in, the call that we have been dreaming of for over two years.  The moment I've been longing for for even longer.  

The call from our agency, in which one of the family coordinators said the magic words:  "We have a baby for you." 

 (Actually, I have no idea what she actually said.  We were both in shock.  Shaking, trying not to cry, frantically searching for a piece of paper on which to take notes.  If she had asked me for my name at that moment, I do not think I could have recalled it.)  


We are the soon-to-be parents of a beautiful, 8-month old baby girl.  Her Chinese name is Bo Di.  She is currently living at the Social Welfare Institute of Poyang County, in Jiangxi Province, located in the southeastern part of China.  According to her medical report, she is a happy baby with a sweet smile, a deep sleeper (I pray it is still true, since the paperwork is 4 months old), is active and restless (like Mark) and likes to play.  She apparently gets really excited and smiles and waves her hands happily when she sees food at mealtime (a girl after my own heart.)

Mark and I stared at each other, stunned, when we hung up with the agency.  (I didn't know that they even worked on Sundays!)  Then we opened up the e-mail with information and pictures, but we already knew.  Mark said, "That's our Anna Kathryn."  We devoured every scrap of information, and called AWAA back to say, yes, of course, we want to accept her referral.  

Then we got to make the other best phone calls ever-- telling our families.  And sending joyous e-mails to more family and friends.  In between calls, we kept saying things to each other like, "Is this real?" "Isn't she beautiful?"  "Did this really happen?"  

We just spent a frantic 24 hours gathering paperwork and writing a "Letter of Intent" (LOI) to the CCAA stating that yes, we really, really, really truly want to adopt her-- and some other stuff.  We have a 48 hour window in which to do this, or we could have lost AK's referral. Needless to say, neither one of us slept a whole lot last night.  But today we visited a pediatrician to have her medical report reviewed, and he said the info indicates that she is quite healthy and developmentally on target. We e-mailed our LOI, some other papers, and more photos to AWAA.  Around 5:00 p.m. today, we got the e-mail saying that our Electronic Acceptance was sent to China and she will be ours!

I know y'all want to see pictures, but we have to wait a few weeks before we post them.  I promise they will go up as soon as we get the OK from AWAA.  

We don't know exactly when we will travel, other than it will be sometime in the next 2-5 months.  We feel pretty safe in thinking we will be home with AK before Christmas.  I'm personally hoping we will be with her before her first birthday-- November 3!

In an amazing "God-thing,"  Anna Kathryn was born on a significant date in our family's lives. November 3, 2007 was also the day we held my niece Natalie's funeral.  It was by far the most horrible day of our lives.  I always wondered if I would know what I was doing on the day of my daughter's birth.  I never would have dreamed that a day of such tremendous sorrow would also be the day of a new beginning in the life of my family.  This is not a coincidence.  I believe with my whole heart that the Lord and Nat-Nat were watching over Anna Kathryn on that day.  

Mark and I are SO EXCITED.  We are totally in love with Anna Kathryn.  Last night, we were looking back through a little book about adoption that Mark got for me around the time we sent in our dossier.  We saw this quote, and know that this is what we will tell Anna Kathryn one day soon, when we first hold her in our arms.  

You are now a part of this family, my darling, wonderful child.  You are and always will be the choice of my heart.  Welcome home.