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Friday, February 28, 2014

It's been awhile friends, and a lot has happened

I've been absent for awhile, but I'm back now. We can call it blogging maternity leave, and that will make me feel heaps better. But really it was just that things got crazy, and then they got even crazier, and then I went back to work and blogging has been the last thing to return. But here I am, I'm back and hopefully going to be regular again. *Hopefully*

So while I was absent, this happened: 24 hours before meeting Yiyi. 



And then this happened: 3 minutes after meeting Yiyi. 



And then this happened: 30 minutes after meeting Yiyi. 


And then this: 4 hours after meeting Yiyi.  

And then this: 24 hours after meeting Yiyi


And now this is happening: a few weeks home




We did it. We went to the ends of the earth and back for our child. We surrendered to what seemed "normal" and what felt "normal" to what seems, and is, right. 

In one day, in one quick moment, we became parents. Parents to a 10-year-old girl. Parents to a child who has long been without parents. Parents to a child who perhaps thought she wouldn't have parents again. And we went and we got her and we learned how to love like no other and we came back. 

And now we go out the day of a snow storm, shopping for snow pants. And we go out the morning of a birthday party to buy a present for the birthday child. And we drive around town to pay our bills the day they are due because we forgot to put checks in the mail the week before. And we cook less and go to Costco more. And I try to fit formerly 12 hour work days into 6 1/2 hours. And the truth is, none of that really matters. Because what matters is, we have a child that we needed and who needed us. We have a child who is learning to trust us. We have a child who is learning to love us. 

And it couldn't feel more normal. 



She's doing incredibly well. Incredibly well. She's terrific really. She's a wonderful child who is nothing like we were told. She's spunky, funny, and a little sassy pants. And she's smart, loving, and kind to others. She's emotional and insightful. And truly, we're in awe every day as to how well this child is transitioning and acclimating to her new life. She's truly a blessing to our family in every sense of the word. 



We truly cannot believe how blessed we are and that we get to be her parents. 

Over these next few weeks, I'll be working to share some information and insights from our adoption of an older child to share with all of you readers who are interested in learning about older child adoption. I've got some good stories and I can't wait to share them with you! My hope is that our stories and insights will help someone to normalize older child adoption, be drawn to older child adoption, or even share it with a friend who is in need of such information. Obviously my information is not the end all, be all for older child adoptions, but it's helpful as I'll work to examine all issues from both sides, as both a mom and an adoption social worker. 

Please, feel free to dialogue with me about topics you want covered or want to know more information about. Whatever piques your curiosity, let me know and I'll think about how we've dealt with that issue. You can send me a message or post it as a comment and I'll give thought to how to address it. 

Note: I have to moderate all comments now because I've been featured in some GOMI forums and the comments have gotten somewhat ugly. Some people are just sad, I guess. But good thing they are sending the comments through so I can read them and keep these women in my prayers. Bless their hearts! So if you send a comment through and you don't see it show up right away, I'll post it as soon as I can and then make a note to address that topic in the future.
Note 2: And if you are reading this through hearing about me on the GOMI, thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you did and hopefully this blog will brighten your day in some way. Remember - we're all moms just the same, just struggling to parent our children the best we can. Please reach out to a friend or counselor if your sadness is getting in the way of you being the best mom you can be.  

So with that, I'll leave one more darling photo of this precious girl I cannot believe I'm fortunate enough to have in my life!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bittersweet

Sweet blog followers - our time is near. As we are getting ready to travel to China on Friday for our adoption, our hearts are heavy with possible sad news surrounding a closure of adoptions in Ethiopia. I almost feel guilty being excited and getting on that plane on Friday with the news that fills Ethiopia adoption supporters hearts this morning. Let's ban together in prayer and good thoughts that adoptions can prevail in Ethiopia. 

While it shouldn't be the first choice...

Always - children need to grow up in a loving family. 

Sometimes - adoption is the option, whether in their country of origin or abroad.

Never - should we eliminate the possibility for that to happen. 

We're getting on a plane on Friday to adopt a 10-year-old. We're taking her away from her culture and everything she knows. We are disrupting everything normal in her life. I do not believe should have been the first choice, but I do believe it is currently the best choice.  

Bless you all - orphan children of Ethiopia, families who are contemplating adoption from Ethiopia, families in process of adoption from Ethiopia, families who are already home and have to explain this to their sweet children adopted from Ethiopia and more. 

And please follow us along now, in our last days and hours of prep, as we travel to China January 6 - 17. 



Please note that comments on this blog are now moderated. This blog got flagged on some Negative Nancy website for people against adoption (which was free press, so actually, thanks!) but I thought it best to moderate the comments. If you see a delay in your comments, its just because we're traveling, but I promise I will get them approved. 



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Patience. Compassion. Gratitude.

A few weeks ago my cousin gave me some cute stickers her sister has started making as part of her new company, MantraMovement.com. They have stickers, magnets, shirts, you name it, that have peaceful phrases on them. “Compassion”, “gratitude”, and “kindness”, among others. My cousin gave me this one.



She’s an adoptive mom, so she gets it. She told me that I would need it for the rest of the journey. I sort of balked it a bit. “I don’t really need patience, I’m doing fine,” I thought to myself. But I graciously took the gift. Its super cute and I want to be supportive of her sister’s company. But I really thought that me, of all people, did not need to be reminded to have patience in this adoption.  

“They” say that having patience is essential in an adoption process. I am “they.” And for years I’ve been talking families through the wait. I’ve tried to convey my true compassion and sincerity through all of it. “I can’t imagine how hard this wait is.” And “I know, you have been waiting for your baby for years before this adoption even began.” And “when you started, you expected a year wait and here we are on year 8.” So when we began our adoption journey, haphazardly, unexpectedly, and quite unplanned, I didn’t think patience would be a virtue we needed to give any attention to.

When we started our adoption process, I was none too quick on getting the documents in. I was busy working on other people’s adoptions and found it hard to find time to give attention to my own. Often times that work was done between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m., so it was slow. Patience wasn’t my problem, in fact, quite the opposite. I was wondering if I was dragging my feet because we weren’t really ready to be doing this. After all, we had been married all of five minutes and were starting our family with a 10-year-old with vision impairment. It wasn’t outrageous for us not to be ready. And to be honest, that thought freaked me out even more than the paperwork.

Fast forward to today. We’re on step 105 of 107. We’re just possibly days away from getting our approval to travel. We’ve got visas and motion sickness medicine and tiny panties and stuff being thrown into backpacks as it arrives. We’ve got a room painted (thanks to sweet friends Ashley and Heather for making that happen!) and we’ve got a bed 2/3 painted. We’ve taken our Empowered to Connect class and have read to our hearts content. I’m behind on my work but will get it all done before I leave no matter what. So basically we’re ready to go.

And now I find my patience waning.

It really has been quite something for me to realize that even I need to find the virtue of patience too. Me, in the end of a 9-month adoption process, need to find patience. It has been quite possibly the world’s fastest international adoption on record and I’m reminding myself to be patient.

I guess I’ve had a little taste of what it means to say – patience is a virtue.

And in the midst of all this self-awareness and realization, I can feel my heart aching for many of you readers in a way I’ve never experienced before. My thoughts go to each of you individually more than they used to. I don’t think of you as the collective “my adoptive families” but rather now I think of you by name. I think of the first time I met you, the Hendersons*, and told you that your wait for a healthy child from China should be about a year. Here we are 8 years later – you still don’t have a baby. I think of my last home study meeting with you, the Williams* when we talked about how things are unpredictable in Russia, but now to know that you will never know your Russian baby. I think of just a few weeks ago when I sat in your kitchen for your home study update, the Garcias*, and we talked about how you should be traveling to Democratic Republic of Congo within a couple of months, only to find out a week later that they have now entered the ranks of the countries that are closed for the duration. I think of you, single gal Jill*, who wanted to adopt from Vietnam before you turned 40 and were told you couldn’t marry your sweet boyfriend during the adoption process, but that country is now going on year five of being closed. Glad you guys got married after all!

I have found a new respect for every single one of my clients and how you have dealt with patience in your lives. I can say that you are all stronger than I am. In this season of advent when I long to be sharing these fun daily advent activities with a child, I think of you and how you’ve been through 10 advents without a child, and I put myself in my place.

Be patient, Nikki.        

I think what happened is, somewhere along the way, despite my best efforts to stay strong and not fall for this little girl, I fell. Not taking my own advice, I started forming a bond with this child I don’t yet know. I’m not sure I can recall the exact moment I began to feel like her mom, but it has happened and now the only things standing between me and my child are two governments. Pretty big and pretty small all at the same time.

Be patient, Nikki.


I think my cousin was right. She usually is.



*names changed - duh!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Adoption Day!

Friday, November 22, 2013, was National Adoption Day in Kansas City. We really get the whole month of November, but Friday was it, the BIG day! I trekked it down to Midtown to Family Court to participate in the National Adoption Day festivities in Jackson County, Missouri. I’ve seen it crowded before, but this was a new level of crowd. It was one of those where you would see someone you knew across the room, but had no choice but to talk in hand gestures because getting to him or her was just not going to happen. Immediately upon entering, as one of my social work colleagues in Kansas City just about leapt over the crowd (NFL touchdown style) and out to freedom, she told me “Good luck,” took a look back into the abyss of people, and said “You’re lucky. It seems to be clearing out.”

I was only there for one hearing that day. One adoption finalization. Just another day in the life. I spend a good portion of my days down there at that courthouse. It’s not such a bad place really, parking is easy, and I often thank God we don’t have to go down to 9th Street for the real courthouse to do these adoption proceedings. It’s a nice place overall, though neither the architecture, nor decor, is not going to wow you.   



41 juvenile, including 2 adult adoptions, were completed on Friday inside that building. 

Coming out of any courtroom inside you are likely to see one family crying for the loss of their child, and then just wait 7 minutes, and you will soon see another family walking out of that same room, beaming with joy, for their dreams of parenthood have just become a reality.

This is a regular occurrence for me. It’s my job.

But Friday, as everything happening was adoption finalizations, all the tears were tears of joy. All the smiles were big and all the families were happy. T-shirts with sayings like “Forever Family: 11/22/2013” with giant flower headbands and baby skirts with 10 layers of tulle were the fashion of the day. There were no birth parents relinquishing that day, no parental rights being terminated. No commissioners not accepting testimonies and nobody encountering problems. Just happy smiles, children’s faces painted like fairies and Spider-Man, the biggest sheet cake I’ve ever seen in my life, and 37 friends and family crowded into one courtroom for my family's adoption. It was a happy day.  

And I couldn’t help but wonder, amidst all that happiness and joy, what some of these kids birthparents were thinking or doing on Friday afternoon. Did they even know that lives were dramatically changing at 625 E. 26th Street? Did they know that their little guy or gal was getting a new name? Did they know that they just traded someone else for a lifetime of worry, sleepless nights, hospital stays, and teenage drama? 

And as I stood there and waited, with joy and unconditional love surrounding me, a soon-to-be-adoptive-mom, I began thinking these same things about Yiyi’s birth parents.

Adoption is sort of unreal when you really think about it. I admit that I get caught up in the daily grind of my job just the way anyone does. 98% of my work is with the adopting family, so it’s easy to get bogged down with background checks, financial statements, and ensuring their smoke alarms work. But when I really start to think about all that has to occur for an adoption to happen, it’s actually pretty unreal.

I’m bracing myself for a lifetime of “I don’t know, sweetie.” I’m not looking forward to the day that Yiyi realizes she doesn’t get to know anything about her history, while her cousin can just call her birthmom and find out something as mundane as the last meal she ate before going into labor or something as substantial as if she ever had hiccups in utero. I’m not sure what I’ll do when Yiyi sees Somewhere Between for the first time and thinks there is a glimmer of hope that we can travel back to China so she can find her birth parents like the girl on the movie did. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to be ready when these issues of grief and loss crop up, as I know they so often will.

But in the mean time, I’m celebrating National Adoption Month by speaking at churches, celebrating with the families, and spending a good portion of my month at Family Court with my best friends attorneys Sarah, Mike, Jim, and Kevin. Adoption is a joyous miracle. It’s the miracle that keeps us going in the face of adversity. It’s the miracle that gets us over the hump of challenging hospital protocols, difficult court hearings, and yes, even a lifetime of I don’t know’s.

So as we bring 2013 National Adoption Month to a close, I ask you to keep in mind all the awesome ways that adoption has touched your life. Ask yourself: how can I share that message with others? How am I thankful for adoption this November?

Let’s keep the miracle alive, no matter how hard that might be from time to time. I’m right there with you. 

And congratulations to the "E" family on your adoption Friday! I'm so fortunate I was able to walk this journey with you! 



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blog #2

As if I didn’t love keeping up one blog enough, now I’ve got two. Thankfully this second one is a shared effort with my technologically minded husband, so I don’t have to tend to 100% of it. He’s also trying to get me to pair down a little content…I’m working on it.

This blog was designed by the powerhouse duo of Rob and Audrey Morrison. She’s the artsy design genius and he’s the HTML writing technical brain. Together they created for us exactly something that we dreamed of, but never could imagine it could be that awesome.  

So folks, here’s the link to our personal adoption blog, Bring Yiyi Home.

We’ve got gems in there such as –
More information about Yiyi
A video with Brian and I when I am just about mute until I correct him with an incorrect fact

We’ve also got a lot more video clips from friends and family coming over the next few weeks.

For heaven sake, don’t ask me one question about it because chances are good that I don’t know the answer. It’s on Wordpress and this is on Blogger and I do not deal well with changes in technology. But it’s so way cute that it’s totally worth it! We love it and I hope you will too.

Our goal is to keep Bring Yiyi Home while we get ready to travel and as we’re gone with the little updates that everyone loves to hear. Look forward to it being filled with foibles of travel tales gone wrong, an accurate accounting times Brian proves victorious on meals at McDonalds, my feelings about giving a 10-year-old who has already had all her immunizations an entirely new round of immunizations five minutes before we get on a plane to return home (because yes, if she has whooping cough, that immunization will have most certainly taken effect already), Yiyi’s first reactions to her strange and new parents, and how my frugality continues even in China.

I will still continue to maintain this blog as my more professional venture, but I'm sure I'll be taking a break around the new year when we travel. And then I'll have all this wisdom to share. Seriously, I don't really believe that statement, but it sure makes me feel better to think that's true! 

Join us as we get to know our new daughter and become first-time parents to a 10-year-old.  It should be good!


That’s the news and thanks for stopping by.       

Thursday, October 31, 2013

We're not so different in the end

This is a little post to all of you who perhaps didn't view adoption as their #1 choice. To those of you who dreamed about a houseful of little babies that came from your tummy. To those of you who put pillows up your shirt when you played house. To those of you who begged your mom for the Cabbage Patch doll that looked just like you...

Last Saturday night I had a brief phone conversation with a dear friend from college. Life has taken its toll on us and we’ve gotten busy and lost touch. But on Saturday my brother ran into her at a wedding and while he was talking with me, passed the phone to her. The conversation went something like this.

Friend: “Congratulations on your adoption! It’s so awesome. You are getting everything you ever wanted! I’ve been praying for you and your daughter. I’m truly happy for you.”

Sweet friend. Thank you for praying for us. What a kind soul. I appreciate you Anna!

And she is right. It is awesome. Being an adoptive mom is something I have always wanted. And it’s been a cool journey that has been bringing me even closer to my faith, which is ultimately what I have always hoped for too. So it’s really really awesome.

But people, let’s get real, I wouldn’t say the Nikki of Baker University, circa 2003, would have chosen this. If the Nikki of 2003 got what she always dreamed about, what she always thought she wanted, Nikki would have adopted a Chinese baby. A healthy, Chinese, baby. The Nikki of 2003 would have also planned a lot longer for this adoption of this child. The Nikki of 2003 would have thought that she would have had all $32,000 sitting in a bank account marked “Adoption” to just start using and never had to worry about money. The Nikki of 2003 would have thought that she would have had a little more time as a newlywed before she had a 10-year-old sleeping a mere 8 feet away. The Nikki of 2003 would be all caught up on her work so she could finish her last home study and get on a plane and not have to think about work for a month.  The Nikki of 2003 would have wanted her husband to be more set with his work too so they could leave for two-weeks so he could be completely mentally present during the adoption trip.  

But dear ones, this isn’t the Nikki of 2003. This is the Nikki of 2013. 10 years has passed.  And Nikki now isn’t just a Nikki, she’s now a Nikki and Brian. And she’s sharing her life with another person and now about to devote her life to the vocation of mom as well. And so we find the Nikki of 2013 is working through adoption paperwork on top of her already busy work schedule with five jobs at four not-for-profit-agencies. The Nikki of 2013 does not have a fully funded adoption bank account. The Nikki of 2013 is learning how to fundraise and grant write her fool head off. And the Nikki of 2013 has successfully put off (for one full month now) a visit to healthcare.gov because she’s too afraid to see what that will offer to her family (and because the website is jankety and she doesn’t have time to sit and wait for it, but mainly because she’s afraid).

And the Nikki of 2013 is learning more about what it means to walk with Jesus and to be humble and submit to plans that are not her own.    

Yes, we chose our child! We know this is God’s plan and we fully embrace it. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. Now I can’t even imagine my life if I was adopting a healthy baby. I don’t want that anymore! I want Yan Yiyi. She is my daughter! 

                                                       So happy for updated photos!

I’m really enjoying learning about blind resources and have loved being in the Empowered to Connect class. We’ve got a meeting coming up in November with the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI) and I can’t wait to have our first appointment with the International Adoption Clinic at The Children’s Mercy Hospital. Although fundraising isn’t natural for me, I am just in complete awe of the generosity of our friends and family members and even some strangers who have come out of the woodwork to support us on our adoption journey. Although a ton of work, I can say that I’ve enjoyed learning more about the grant writing process. I’m a social worker, so that’s just a good idea to know and a good skill to have. Though all of this, I’m becoming a better social worker and advocate for the children from hard places. I love learning about resources and I love sharing it too. This journey has been amazing and our daughter isn’t even home yet.      

I wouldn’t have gotten any of this if the Nikki of 2003 was still here today. I wouldn’t have gotten any of this if we adopted the way I thought we would.  I would have missed all of this gold. This is life changing. This is faith. This is growing. And I’ve learned how to tame the frizz in my hair too. So, I’m pretty grateful for this decade.     

I don’t know why, but I thought my path would look different. And then it occurred to me, I’m not walking my path, I’m walking down our path. And while that path may look to some like I am getting everything I ever wanted on the surface, look deeper, and see that I’m not so different from you.

We haven’t struggled with infertility. I have always wanted to adopt, this is true. But in the end, our families will look similar and our journeys will too.