Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dossier Day

This past Wednesday was a day our family has waited 6 months for. It was Dossier Day. The unofficial holiday, which we have worked so hard to reach. Since the day we saw our beautiful daughter's picture and read what little information was available, we have been working like mad to get every document, to complete every class, to sign every last line, to reach the point where our dossier is complete and ready to pass on to our agency for review. Wednesday was this day!

Hours of Adoption Classes: Check!
Since we are a mere two hours away from our agency, we opted to drive that massive pile of paperwork down, rather than put it in the mail and wait on edge to hear word that it has been received. (Nothing could have convinced me to mail so much blood, sweat, tears, love, and time) We woke up that morning, anxious and a little nervous. Not only were we finally going to meet the people who have assisted us throughout this process, but we were worried that we had missed something-forgot to initial one spot, had a notary that would expire too soon, only added two copies when we needed three, etc.....

Notary Party!
We went through the morning routine to get the boys off to school and daycare, and I went through the list of requirements and each piece of paper for the (at least) sixth time. Once drop-offs were done, we headed south to our agency. The drive went so much faster than we had planned. Having a quiet car, where Joe and I could have a real conversation definitely helped. Once we got there, we were met by two of the most important women in our lives at this point- Amanda and Emily. Both of these women have supported our family through calming fears, answering a million and two questions, keeping us updated on our daughter, etc., etc. The list goes on and on, and it was such a powerful experience to meet them, laugh with them, and talk about our girl with ladies who know her as well as we do.
Saturday runs to UPS

After handing over paper-clipped packet, after paper-clipped packet, we left our agency. We were so excited to have completed this vital step in our adoption process, we were relieved to have our "To Do" list down to zero, but also extremely nervous about something not being done right or missing. Knowing that a mistake may take a few days to notice, and said mistake may take weeks (and another missed day of work) to fix and submit, we were preparing ourselves for our dossier not being sent to Korea for a while.

Immigration Appointment
I checked my email every ten minutes on Thursday, hoping we wouldn't get one saying that we would need to do more, but it didn't come. No news, is good news. I said this to myself, over and over again. Friday, I did the same. Every ten-ish minutes. While heading from one school to the other, I checked my email and saw one from Emily. Joe had already responded to it, so I saw his comments first. "Awesome!!" was all that he had to say. I then read the subject line that said, "Dossier is being sent to Korea today!". Although there was a long email with information on our next steps, I didn't need to read it just then. Our dossier was complete and it was heading to the same building, to be with the same people, our daughter sees at least once a month. The stress that I have been holding onto since November seemed to melt off of my body and a smile was plastered onto my face.

The last six months have been such a stressful, humbling, empowering, love-filled time. Our daughter is waiting and now we are waiting. Until our daughter comes home to us, we will wait: wait for EP submission, wait for EP approval, wait for a court date, wait for travel, wait to meet her for the first time, wait for the custody call, wait for travel again, and wait to have our daughter officially join the Brooks Bunch. It's going to be a lot of waiting, but guess what?? We can take it! We waited for our boys, we can wait for our girl.

Dropping off our dossier!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Hurry Up and Wait

It's been a while since I have written a post. I haven't found the time or energy to share as many of our adoption stories, as I thought I would. Why? Adoption is exhausting....and hard....and one of the best experiences our family has chosen to experience.

Our home away from home
There are mountains of paperwork, thousands of signatures, notary appointments, many visits to the post office (the postal worker actually knows our names and runs when he sees us), classes to take, hoops to jump through, and waiting....tons and tons of waiting. But of all the hard things about this process, there are two that get to me regularly.

#1- Waiting on others: I am actually far more comfortable than I thought I would be with the waits that are just part of the process. If they are known, predictable, and typical, I can handle them. It's the times where we rush to complete our part of the process, only to wait, and wait, and wait for others to complete theirs. We have had several time-consuming hiccups which were totally out of our control (and out of the control of those we were waiting on).
Care Package #2

I am trying so hard, not to let these situations bring me down, but knowing that the extra month we waited in January and two weeks in March, has put us a month and a half further away from our daughter, is a hard pill to swallow. Waiting for what you want and have worked so hard for, is always hard, but we have a child waiting for us. Miss May is growing and learning and loving without us.

This leads me to #2.

Prepping big brothers 
#2- Thinking about our daughter: We talk about Maylee all the time. We are learning the Korean language, we have added Korean dishes to our regular menu, and we are learning all we can about Seoul, in preparation for our trips. We are preparing for her in every way possible, and I can't seem to let myself think about her.

When I focus on the next step in the adoption process, it is easier to not be overwhelmed by the sadness and helplessness that I feel, being so far away from our child. I have found myself avoiding her pictures, when I scroll through them on my phone. I talk about her to others, but try my hardest to keep her out of my mind when alone.

Picture for Maylee from Liam
Thinking of her and our future is painful. She was sick in January, and we didn't even know about it until February. I should be comforting her. I should be helping her be healthy. Instead, I don't even know about it until it has passed. As a mama, it is my job to protect my babies, to teach them, to love them. I can only do one of these things for Maylee. I can love her so much, but she doesn't get to feel it yet, and that makes me so sad.

Doing what we can
The realization has hit that we will not be with her for her second birthday and probably not Christmas. This breaks my heart. We are missing so many important things. On top of all of this, I am so sad for what she and the boys are missing out on by being apart.

For now, I have to continue to focus on the process, since that is something I can control (at least for another month or two).

I know that we will all be together soon, and all of the waiting and the hand cramps will be worth it. Dare I say, it will even seem as thought it was "not that difficult" or "actually, went quite fast". I bet it will be much like pregnancy after birth- it seems so much better, easier in hindsight.

I hope.
A message for Maylee Grace

Monday, January 23, 2017

Woodland Themed Baby Shower

When asked to help plan my sister's baby shower, I was so happy to have a party to plan. I absolutely LOVE themes, being creative, and doing as much of the prep without purchasing already-made supplies. I love to find odds and ends and use them to adjust my vision, sticking with the theme, but taking it to a place a bit off from where I began.

My sister was having a boy and she loves the outdoor, so the woodland creature theme seemed perfect. This theme was simple, easy to accomplish, yet so fun to be creative. I enlisted my boys to go on a nature walk, where they helped me gather pine-cones, which we used as table decor. They also scoured their plastic animal toys, as well as their stuffies, to find any that live in the forest. The boys loved helping me and I love that they spent over an hour sorting animals by habitat. Party planning and learning at the same time!

We started by decorating the rustic cake with some of the plastic animals, and placed it on a piece of a stump that my mama found, surrounded by silk leaves. It turned out so cute! We wanted to continue the theme throughout the table, so we put the pine-cones and a stuffed raccoon on the table as well. As for the other snacks, my mom made a super cute watermelon porcupine and I made donut-hole hedgehogs and Nutter Butter acorns.

This was a wonderful day of celebration for the beautiful boy who had, on his own time, had already joined our family. Everyone enjoyed the snacks, visiting with one another, and of course, snuggling the little guy.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Percy Jackson Themed Birthday Party

When my soon-to-be 6 year old requested a Percy Jackson themed birthday party, I was beyond excited. I absolutely love that he is so fond of reading that he chose a theme that is beyond his usual age group and not a typical party theme. I also love a party-planning challenge.....and boy, was this a challenge!

We started off by creating themed birthday party invites which, thanks to raising a "friend to all" type of kiddo (We are SO proud), went out to each and every child in his kindergarten class. We found a template, filled in our specific information, cut the edges off, and then rolled them and tied them up. Parents and children alike loved them!





When the big day finally arrived, we welcomed guests with a "Camp Half Blood" banner and a pouch of drachma (demigod money, really chocolate coins). Each demigod was given foam swords and shields, that my husband made out of dollar store pizza pans and Velcro strips, to defend the camp.





The house was also filled with yummy camp/god themed treats, including s'mores brownies, Zeus Jello parfaits, ambrosia (a half-blood healing food) and all the blue snacks we could find. Blue birthday snacks was a big theme throughout the Percy Jackson series. His mama always made him/gave him something blue and tasty for his birthday.




Finally, the big hurrah! The cupcake decorated for each of the three main gods of Olympus: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.




This was one of my favorite party themes and my boy loved every minute of it. I heard nothing but compliments for kiddos and their parents alike. Although it was difficult to track down ideas for this theme, the outcome was better than I could imagine.

I'm pretty proud of this one.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Home Study Hell

We have been in the adoption circle for less than 2 months and it has flown by. For the most part, it hasn't been too rough. Yes, a lot of paperwork. Yes, many appointments: fingerprinting, medical check-ups, psychological exams, welcome calls, etc. But up until now, it hasn't felt overwhelming. We have juggled the tasks pretty easily.

The hardest part of the beginning stages of adoption, the home study paperwork, is waiting on others to move on to the next task. All pieces are needed before you can be assigned a caseworker and schedule home visits. We have worked tirelessly to gather all of the needed paperwork, mail/email everything the moment it is complete, and finish all of the assigned classes as quickly as possible. The home study is a huge hurdle for all adoptive families, and it has been the most stressful piece for Joe and I. The home study is all that is standing between us and a full match with our daughter. She is ours, no one else can adopt her, but our match is contingent on our completed home study. I have compete faith that we will pass without a hitch, but to us, this feels similar to the first trimester of pregnancy.

We are waiting on one thing. One piece which should not be the last piece, because it should have been one of the easiest parts. Our medical records. Joe had his appointment the last week of November and he got a call a week later saying his paperwork was done. I went in for my appointment the first week of December. Afterward, I waited patiently, knowing that there were snow days and other things on my doctor's plate. After two weeks with no response, I called. This was when I learned that my doctor had forgotten to order one of the tests needed to sign off on my health. The Tuberculosis test.

Image result for someecards adoptionFirst of all, she didn't contact me about the missed test, I had to call her office to find out. Second, the test takes 48 hours to complete. A bit of inactive Tuberculosis virus is inserted under the skin, then you have to wait two days for the doctor to look for a reaction to the virus, which indicates that you have been exposed. Because I contacted the doctor's office on Wednesday and the medical office would be closed both Friday and Monday for Christmas, I was not able to do the test until Tuesday of this week. Today I went back to have my body's reaction checked. I waited all day to hear back from my doctor. Nothing. At four o'clock I called to check on the status of the paperwork and was told it was done and I could pick it up at the front desk. Great! Why didn't anyone contact me? But, great!

As I was about to walk out of the door to pick it up and then immediately mail it to Holt, when my phone rang. It was my doctor's office. They had noticed that the paperwork required a notary which did not expire for at least two years and said that the notary on staff was only able to go through March of 2017. We quickly checked the notary date on Joe's paperwork and saw March 2017, which makes all of his paperwork invalid to the Korean court.

Joe and I spent the next two hours trying to track down a notary who is mobile and has an expiration date of at least two years. This was not an easy task, but we finally found one. Unfortunately, now we have to pay $110 that we didn't expect to pay, so they can come out to our doctor's office and notarize all of our forms. We also have to deal with the schedules of two doctors and a notary, to make sure that they are all ready and able to meet at the same time. On top of all of this, Joe's paperwork has to be completely redone. Another week or two of waiting for an "easy step".

I have learned so much through these past two months. The biggest of these lessons: never give yourself a self-imposed deadline. Joe and I have worked hard to have our home study paperwork done by Christmas. That was our goal. It did not happen. We will likely end up close to three weeks past our self-imposed deadline and that is a difficult pill to swallow. If we have learned anything from those who have gone before us, it is that adoption is an unpredictable process and no one's timeline or experience is the same- kind of like pregnancy. I have also learned that a week or two either way, can completely change your timeline.

We want our daughter home. We want her here for the 2017 holiday season (self-imposed deadline-I know, bad news!!). Today, I am impatient and frustrated. Tomorrow, I will be those things a little bit less. I hope. I will always be thankful for finding our daughter. From this point on, I will try to focus on that.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Adoption Story

I have always wanted to adopt. For as long as I can remember, adoption has always been a part of how I saw my future. When preparing for marriage, Joe and I talked about a plan for our future adoption- we would have two biological children, then when they were older, we would adopt older children locally. This was our plan for a very long time.

Becoming bilingual
After having our two wonderful boys, I started to feel more urgency in adopting. I longed for a daughter and the experiences our family would have if we added a little girl. Joe wasn't quite ready to take the leap, as this was new to him. Not what we had planned. We continued to do research into the requirements, possible outcomes, and resources available for a family grown through adoption. We also continued to discuss the topic regularly- as a family, as a couple, and with those we knew who had adopted. As the months passed, we chipped away at the mountain of decisions to be made and the details to be sorted out.

Many months ago, we landed on the plan to adopt internationally. We had always planned to adopt a local child through DHS, but our hopes for the adoption seemed unlikely enough through this process, that two DHS employees told us that international adoption would be our best option. We still weren't quite ready to apply, but we had made a big decision.

The boys picking out gifts
In September, I heard about an adoption support group which meets monthly in our town. We decided to attend the meeting to learn more about the process from the experiences of people who had lived it. After each class, we had endless discussions about what we learned, heard, and thought. It brought us a bit closer.

Then the big day came. Early in November, a member of the support group we have been attending, contacted me with the profile of an adorable little girl from South Korea. She was a "waiting child", meaning there was some prenatal health concerns. We requested her file and applied with our chosen agency that same day. After reading over the file on our own, we felt like we needed a bit more information to make the best decision for our family (but I had already fallen in love with her and hoped beyond belief that she was meant to be our daughter). We sent her medical files to a doctor who specializes in adoption. After the doctor's file review and our conversation about her findings, we were sure. We wanted her to be our daughter.
Our first care package

There were other families who also felt a connection with her and also wanted to pursue adoption, so we went through a process called committee. During this process, we filled out questionnaires about our family, our knowledge of her medical file and possible future concerns, and how we saw this little lady fitting into our family. We submitted the paperwork the week before Thanksgiving. We were told then that because of the holiday, committee likely would not take place until the first week of December. We nervously settled in for the long wait.

........and then there is the food
I got the call around noon, the day before Thanksgiving, that she was ours. Since hearing the news, Joe and I have been fingerprinted twice, filled out mountains of forms, taken class after class, and have been excitedly talking about Miss May non-stop. Our boys ask about her every day. In fact, Nolan has already started to blame her for the naughty things that he does.

We have only been a part of the adoption family for a couple of months, and we have meet some amazing people and created friendships that seem to have been bonded for years. We are thrilled to have a little girl to join in our adventures, we are excited beyond belief to bring the Korean culture into our home and make it a part of our family, and we can not wait for the day we get to snuggle our beautiful little Maylee Grace.
Anxiously awaiting sister

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Since I was very young, I have known that being a teacher is my passion. Although it is tough and, sometimes thankless, I would never give it up. Being able to see the empowerment and pride in my students' eyes, knowing that I have impacted their lives, are things that could not be accomplished through any other career. Loving my career doesn't mean that it's easy or without rough days.

Most of my frustrations with my choice in profession, is how others perceive it. I don't "play" with kids all day, I don't "get summers off", I don't have "zero accountability", and I am not the reason for our country's educational struggles. I work very hard every day, as each of my colleagues do. We are professionals who strive constantly to stay current with student needs, seek out new strategies, find opportunities for creative learning, and collect data like a financial planner.

Not having support tends to boil down to a lack of understanding and misconceptions of what a teacher's day looks like. Well, if you want to know what an AVERAGE day for this PART-TIME teacher looks like, here it is. *My position is not average, but this is an average day for me.

7:30-7:50- Student Safety Committee Meeting- discussing my role in case of an emergency within the school

Inspiring8:00-8:59- Teaching: Reading Intervention (classes switch every other day)- Specially and specifically designed instruction for each and every student within my class and their literacy needs

9:03-10:02- Prep: Time to plan for days to come, answer parent emails, make copies. schedule and/or attend meetings, collect/anaylize data, write growth and professional goals, grade assignments, enter/post grades,  and plan for the Oregon Battle of the Books program. Just to name a few.....

10:06-12:11- (two classes-one hour each) Teaching: Language Arts- Blending reading and writing skills and strategies that students will need to be successful in their educational and future professional career. Striving to meet the needs of each and every student, each and every day

12:15-12:44- Close out classroom/Travel to other middle school/transport technology/set up classroom/lunch

12:48-1:47- Teaching: Reading Intervention (classes switch every other day)- Specially and specifically designed instruction for each and every student within my class and their literacy needs

1:47-1:52- Close out classroom and return technology

*This is where my part-time status kicks in

1:52-2:10- Pick up Nolan from preschool/daycare

2:15- Pick up Liam at school

2:45- Meet Joe at home- he had to come home early, so that I could go back to work

3:00-4:00- Intervention Strategies Meeting- discussing students who need more support and brainstorm, as a team, ideas to support them

*My work day is technically done at this point, however, I spent roughly another hour and a half of my evening returning emails, adding grades into the gradebook, checking student growth scores, and preparing for a day of Professional Development the following day.

This was yesterday. Today I will be spending my day presenting writing strategies learned over the summer, as well as in training for a new literacy assessment program and strategies and activities to use after analyzing the data.

Teachers juggle professional responsibilities, student/family needs, new curriculum/assessments, student engagement programs, meetings, data, etc. every single day. All this (for me) in a 6ish hour day. Obviously, this is not possible, as I spend far more than 6 hours a day making sure that I do my best for each of my students. I have one less class than most of my teammates, 30ish less students, and an hour and a half less time in the building. Can you imagine what their days look like?!

No matter what you have heard or believe about our education system, the teachers and their drive to support your children, are NOT the problem.