Saturday, December 29, 2012

Birthday girl!

During the week before Christmas, our sweet Anya Rashi turned 6!  With a birthday so close to Christmas, we celebrate with our family first, then wait until after Christmas to celebrate with extended family and friends.

Birthday breakfast, with zebra candles.

Specially-requested french braid ponytail!
"Peace, man," on the way into Sunday School.
Our kids get to choose the day's menu on their birthdays, so we started our day with turkey sausage and white-chocolate-chip pancakes (with candles, of course!).  It was also the day that our kids' Sunday School/youth worship group helps tell the Christmas story, so it was a day for a special dress and hairdo too.
Anya Rashi singing with classmates.

Songs and sign language from preschoolers through 6th graders.
Anya Rashi's choice for dinner was Chicken Makhani, jasmine rice and clementines, along with roasted brussels sprouts for the adults (and a "no thank you" helping for the kids!).  Her choice for a birthday treat was cherry cobbler.  She is not really a cake or ice cream fan, so it's always fun to see what she thinks is the BEST possible treat!
After dinner, it was time for presents, and some sweet brotherly help putting together the Lego Friends sets she received.  The boys were so helpful and enthusiastic -- it was really fun to watch.
A little help from our resident lego experts . . .

Treehouse and bunny hutch
 built and ready for play!
And then after all that fun, some dear friends stopped by with a surprise gift -- a beautiful hand-made wooden bunk bed for dollies!  We were so surprised and delighted, especially because it was made with such love.  Anya Rashi set to work creating an animal hospital, complete with doctor kit, baby bottles and medicine.
Maggie and Ellie with Anya Rashi.
They go to our school and church, and are so sweet with our younger girl!

Future veteraniarian?
We had such a fun day celebrating our sweet daughter!  I should probably change my blog language to reflect this, but she is now insisting on being called "Anya" rather than her full name.  (Maybe because it's shorter for writing in school?) 

Anya, you are growing so fast and understanding so much -- you are smart, kind, hilarious, and creative.  You are one of God's greatest gifts in our lives, and we can't imagine our family without the sparkle you bring to it.  We are so grateful that we get to be your parents, and we look forward to many years of watching you continue to grow into a young lady.  We love you so.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"When you are overwhelmed, remember that you are overshadowed"

This weekend, we celebrated our daughter turning six.  She experienced all the simplest joys of childhood -- eating a favorite meal, opening a few presents from her brothers and parents, blowing out birthday candles.

This weekend, we were able to watch all three of our children sing, dance, and worship in church.  I love this annual service at our church, when all of the Sunday school classes, dressed in their holiday finery, remind us in words and song why we celebrate Christmas.

But this weekend, I couldn't help seeing everything through a lens of grief for 26 families in Connecticut, and also for the family of the young man who caused their agony. 

I know that this tragedy happened amidst all kinds of other tragedies across the globe -- wars, refugee crises, famine, preventable illnesses -- that ended the lives of thousands of children that same day.  But I think that the intentionality and deliberateness of one person taking the lives of children is what caved in my heart.  And also the fact that I had sent my kindergartner off to school that same morning, just like those other families, with the expectation of seeing her live through the day.

As I watched the rows of children in church singing about another Child, I wept.  Part of me thought about the blessedness of my children being safe and alive at that moment, while part of me wondered how likely it might be that someone could shatter that illusion of safety any moment with gunfire.

And then, after the children finished and walked down the aisles, I longed for something to renew my hope.  And hope was breathed into my heart.

Our guest speakers on Sunday were Stuart and Jill Briscoe.  They have been in ministry over 40 years, and weathered a good many storms.  I love how they teach, and love their British accents too.  Jill shared a poem from one of her books that breathed hope in the midst of pain. 

I have been thinking about one particular phrase (the title of this post).  Jill talked about when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visited by an angel and agreed to obey God even though it could've meant divorce, public humiliation for her family, being an outcast, or even being stoned for adultery.  The stakes were high as she considered what Gabriel said.

Then Mary asked a question -- not "Why?" or "Why me?", but rather "How?" 

How in the world would God accomplish this strange and dangerous thing?  What did it mean? How would it end?

And the angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'  Luke 1:35

Jill focused on that phrase -- at the very moment Mary was overwhelmed with questions and impossibility and uncertainty, she heard that she would be overshadowed by the power of the Most High.  The trustworthy, mighty, perfect God would overshadow her.  And that gave her the courage to give her "yes" to God . . . to trust Him in the face of what would surely be a dire situation.

When she was overwhelmed, she was overshadowed.

When we are overwhelmed, we need to remember that we too are overshadowed by the power of the Most High.

When we try and imagine parents' pain as their tiny ones are laid to rest, remember that He overshadows those families with love, grace and holy tears.  When we struggle ourselves with anger and grief at young lives cut unjustifiably short, remember that we are overshadowed by the One who can bring healing, mercy and justice.  When we are overwhelmed by evidence of evil, do not forget that we are overshadowed by the One who already has the final victory over evil, hell and the grave.

When we are overwhelmed, remember that we are overshadowed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 years together

You weren't too sure about us . . .
You fell asleep in the taxi on the way to the hotel.

Beautiful smiles on our 2nd day together!

Poor baby -- you were so shell-shocked and afraid that first day.

Our first morning together -- you've found your smile again.

Auntie Alicia reads you a book at the hotel.

In the garden outside our hotel.

Home, sweet home -- with your big brothers.
I can't believe it's been five years since we first met you, Anya Rashi.  You've grown and changed so much . . . and you've changed our lives forever.  You add so much curiosity and laughter to our family, and it is one of the greatest gifts of my life to be your mother.

You are a joy, and I wish we could somehow let your birth family know that you're thriving and well.  We think of them and pray for them often, and wonder what their circumstances are now. 

And now our lives are about to change again, as another sister joins our family.  I can't wait to see you as a big sister!  You have so much enthusiasm for life, and I know you are going to be K's teacher and friend.  You are irreplaceable in our hearts, and we are so, so grateful to God for weaving our lives together.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas brought us a great gift!

Today is St. Nicholas Day!  In the small town where I grew up, many of the families were of Dutch ancestry, and we all celebrated St. Nick's Day.  If you weren't Dutch and were new in town, you likely started celebrating St. Nick's Day because your children probably came home from school crying because they didn't have a visit from St. Nicholas.  :o)

This morning, our kids woke up to stockings filled with gold/chocolate coins (to remember how St. Nicholas loved Jesus and gave his money to poor children, or to pay dowries for poor girls).  They also found Hello Kitty and Star Wars Pez dispensers, gum, candy canes, and their annual ornament (so they will have a collection for their own Christmas tree when they leave home).  K's stocking was filled this year, too!

But after the kids left for school, Peter and I got the best gift -- we received two unexpected new photos of K from our agency!  We thought we might only have her referral photo until the day we met her . . . but there was another agency visiting her orphanage, and our wonderful case worker asked them if they could squeeze in time to take a picture.

I want SO BADLY to post her photo online . . . but I will be a good, rule-obeying mama and not post any pictures until we have guardianship.  I can tell you that she looks healthy and curious, and has huge eyes with llooooonngg eyelashes!  Her hair is very short (as it was in her 10-month-old photo), and I don't know if it's naturally short, or if they keep all of the children's hair short for health/ease of care reasons.  I can't wait to show the kids her new pictures after school . . .

A Child is Born

And I wanted to share another book recommendation -- it's a Nativity book illustrated with people of color!!!  Baby Jesus, as you can see, is a lovely shade of brown and has brown eyes, Joseph looks like an African man, Mary has brown skin and black hair, one of the Wise Men is Asian . . . it's a Christmas miracle!  ;) 

Seriously, I love this book.  We found it at the library last year, and it's one of my favorites ever -- it's also well and lyrically written, so it's a joy to read aloud.  It's a terrific antidote to the many books that depict the Holy Family as blonde-haired, blue-eyed Caucasians, which is not very likely, since they lived in the Middle East, for crying out loud. 

There are new and used copies for sale on Amazon, and one of them will be under our Christmas tree for K this year.  And one other funny detail -- on the last page, there's a large illustration of the whole manger scene . . . and Anya Rashi spotted one teeny, tiny detail:  baby Jesus is making the peace sign with one hand.  Too funny -- she pointed it out every time we read the book, and even mentioned it while riding in the car one day this summer.   Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Preparing for Christmas


We are fully in the spirit of Christmas!  Yesterday, Aaron's and Nathan's boychoir sang in one of my favorite Christmas events -- a concert in the traditional English nine lessons and carols format.  There are nine readings from the Bible, from Genesis, Isaiah, and books in the New Testament, followed by traditional carols.  It is a solid 1-1/2 hours of gorgeous music, contemplation, readings and prayer, and exactly what my soul needed.  As a bonus, Aaron and Nathan had solo parts, and Nathan was chosen to read the passage from Genesis.  They did so well, and we are very proud of them for using their gifts -- but most of all, for their desire to glorify God with the talents they've been given.  They both have a clear understanding of the Gospel, and were excited to play a part in sharing it.

Anya Rashi and I found this book at the library this week, and it's a new favorite.  In the story, Tyler's family breaks their tree-top angel while decorating for Christmas.  As they look for a new angel, he realizes that there are no angels that look like him -- no boy angels, and no angels with brown skin.  Tyler also notices that the nativity figures at their church have blonde hair, and don't look like they're from the Middle East (that's often a pet peeve of mine with illustrated children's Bibles too!).  With some help from a friend, they come up with a creative and heartwarming solution.  Since welcoming our beautiful brown-skinned daughter into our family, I've noticed over and over how many books, toys, commercials, tv programs, etc. do not include people of color.  And Anya Rashi notices too.  This book gives voice to a desire many transracially adopted kids have: the desire to see other faces that "look like me."  We give it two thumbs up! 

This week will be a busy one for Peter -- our church's Christmas musical will run from Wednesday through Saturday.  He is in charge of the show, and the live nativity and petting zoo beforehand, and there are lots of last-minute details to occupy him.  This year, tickets are completely free -- and we are praying that many who can't afford to do other things for Christmas will come and hear the message of hope that was offered to everyone when God "took on flesh and dwelt among us." 

P.S.  Does anyone have advice for posting video that's from my own camera/computer on Blogger??  I know how to post videos from YouTube, etc., but I tried with a video of Anya Rashi today, and it didn't work.   :(

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Heartbreak and a Christmas carol

I am heartbroken this week.  Since we started this blog five years ago, I've tried to be honest about all aspects of adoption, and this week has brought its share of heartbreak. 

First, I am so sad for Henry's family, as they had to say goodbye to their precious son in this life.  Truly, his short life mattered, and led to hope and redemption -- and forever families -- for other children.  You can read more about him here:  I hope you'll join me in praying for his family.

And some of you have also been following the journey of Urmila and her family.  Her family has been trying for nearly 4 years to bring her home, with roadblock after roadblock being thrown in the way.  After her case was dismissed in the state court system, her courageous family pressed on to the Supreme Court in her country.  Now, they have received the crushing news that she cannot come home to them.  The decision is final, and they are at a loss for how to go on.

I'm also so sad for Karen and Sarah, two friends of mine who have been waiting 4 years to adopt, and still have no referral and no end in sight.  Adoption can be uncertain, frustrating, confusing, and heartbreaking, both for the adoptive family and for the first family that lost the chance to see their child grow up.  Today, I am face-to-face with the reality of the sadness, fears, frustrations and injustice that can be part of adoption -- and part of this broken world in general.

Last night I sang one verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as part of Anya Rashi's bedtime songs. It was the only verse I knew by heart.  This morning, I looked up the lyrics for the rest of the song, and they spoke life to me. 

It's a strange kind of Christmas carol that would mention "dark streets," "fears," "misery," "dark night," and "this world of sin."  But that's why we needed Christmas in the first place -- why we still need Christ, who can bring hope into even the worst situation.  And this week I am acutely aware of the need for redemption in this life.  I am clinging to the line "the dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more," and praying for the hope of the "everlasting Light" for my hurting friends.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
written by Phillips Brooks in 1867

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv'n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Puerto Rican Thanksgiving, and dolls for brown-skinned girls

We are all stuffed from my sister Alicia's Thanksgiving spread.  Every year, she comes up with a different theme for Thanksgiving dinner -- past years have included a Civil War Thanksgiving, things the Pilgrims and Native Americans actually ate, and (the year before we traveled to meet Anya Rashi) Indian-influenced Thanksgiving food.

This year's feast was all Puerto Rican food, and it was AMAZING.  She collected recipes and cooking tips from friends, and we had tostones (fried plaintains), pernil (pork shoulder roasted for 18 hours), arroz con gandules (rice with all kinds of spices, olives, onions, etc.), habichuelas (bean stew with bacon, olives, and more), a pear squash salad, and flan for dessert. 

Obviously, this woman loves to cook, and loves us well each year with her adventurous spirit!  As we thanked God during the holiday, she was definitely one of the blessings I am very grateful for.  We are very different in our interests and talents, and always joked that if we weren't related, we would never have met each other in high school or college (even though we went to the same university).  I am so glad that we are sisters.

Another fun "first" was helping Nathan make his first apple pie (so our allergic Aaron could have a non-egg dessert).  We had a lot of fun together, and he did a great job!  Being a creative sort, he had to carve an apple-o-lantern while cutting up the apples . . . :o)

* * * * *

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I'd share a link to a blog post featuring a variety of brown-skinned dolls:

I also have some beautifully-made dolls by another adoptive mom.  Lynda makes dolls from a variety of countries, and they're especially good for younger girls -- they are classic, soft, rag dolls that are perfect for hugging, squeezing, and sleeping with.  Each doll has a heart embroidered on it, in the colors of the country's flag.  If you'd like her contact info, leave a comment and I'll get you in touch with her.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baby blankets, pajamas & more made from sari fabric!

From our 2007 trip . . . beautiful!

There are several companies I love that help women escape the global sex trade by teaching them sustainable job skills -- Freeset, Sari Bari, Love Calcutta Arts, Samaritana, and more.  The women learn to make beautiful, unique clothing, purses, and jewelry . . . and can support their children and escape a painful past.

Some of my favorites items are made from recycled sari fabric -- you can find baby blankets, pajama bottoms, laptop covers, and purses all made in beautiful, colorful sari fabrics!! 

So, when you do your Christmas shopping, please consider stopping by this web site:
* If converting to pounds scares you, just do a search for the name of the company -- Sari Bari is located in the US, and some of the other companies have North American distributors who price things in dollars.  :o)

On a personal note, I serve in a ministry that reaches out to women in our local sex industry -- and I've been able to attend conferences and meet some of the people who run these companies.  They are the real deal, and are coming up with creative solutions and programs to help women who desperately need healing.  They are truly on the "front lines," often putting themselves in danger to be the face of Christ in very dark places.  Thanks for considering supporting them!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chicken Makhani for Diwali

We love celebrating the heart of Diwali: the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.
"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
~ John1:4-5

I'm happy to say that last week we received an e-mail from the orphanage saying that our dossier was in their hands!  (Yipeeeeee!) 

I was really excited for a few minutes . . . and then I remembered that Diwali will shut down all court activity for a few weeks.  (Nnoooooo . . .) 

But overall, I am very, very grateful that it's there, in India, at last.  Or again.  However you prefer to think of it!

In the meantime, I am planning our family Diwali celebration later this week, which always involves food.  Glorious, yummy Indian food!  The kids have requested Chicken Makhani, which I make so often that it doesn't feel like holiday food anymore.  (But it does for the kids, who LOVE it.)  It is such a savory, delicious recipe -- the aroma alone will make you weak in the knees.

I posted this recipe a few years ago, but thought I'd re-post it for the newer India adoptive families we've "met" online during the past year.  This is a very easy, lighter version of Chicken Makhani  (pronounced "mock-a-knee").  It's also called Butter Chicken at some Indian restaurants; the restaurant version is delicious too, but MUCH richer and a wee bit less healthy.

Chicken Makhani
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (you can use frozen)
1 medium onion, diced
1 14-oz. can coconut milk (I use the light version)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
15 cardamom pods*
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. garam masala
1/8 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on your preferred level of spiciness
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup plain or Greek yogurt (can be fat-free)

Place frozen chicken in crockpot.  Layer with onions and dot with butter.  Place cardamom seeds in middle of layers.  In a medium bowl, mix tomato paste, coconut milk, lemon juice, garlic, curry, cayenne pepper, garam masala, and ginger.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or high for 5 hours.  30 min. before serving, remove chicken pieces and shred with two forks, then return it to the sauce to keep warm.  Remove and discard cardamom pods or seeds, then stir in yogurt 15 minutes before serving.  Serve over jasmine or basmati rice.  Enjoy!

*If you don't have an Indian grocery near you, Penzey's carries whole cardamom pods in their stores and online.  You can also buy the seeds loose; there are 18-20 seeds in a pod.  The authentic thing to do is tie the pods together with string.  (Yeah.  I am not good at this.)  What I do instead is empty out a cheap tea bag, put in the pods or seeds, and tie it shut with the tea bag string.  (I know-- I am such a cheater!)  Penzey's also sells Garam Masala.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fun with dossiers

Since I can't publish photos of the letters, here is a gratuitous photo of my FINISHED mosaic!  I started it a year ago, after rescuing a nightstand out of someone's trash.  I decided I better finish it before we have another little one in the house.
For those who have been paying attention to our very convoluted dossier update, you will be happy to know that it's on its way to India right now (or possibly there already?).  It's a little weird, because no one in India asked us to update it, but it is over 2 1/2 years old -- and we didn't want to get bogged down waiting for NOC, only to find out that our documents have been rejected because they were so OLD.
(That's not another adoption acronym, it's just the word "old."  Although in our case, maybe it should be an adoption acronym!)

One of the really fun parts (okay, possibly the only fun part) of doing the new dossier was reading the boys' letters of consent about having a new sister.  I took pictures of the letters, thinking I'd post them here -- but then realized that they contain her name and one of her medical conditions . . . so all you'll get is the typed version.  Bummer -- somehow, it's even sweeter to read the letters in their own handwriting!  But here, for K's future enjoyment, are her big brothers' letters: 

From Nathan:

Dear staff at CARA,
     I am hoping to get a new little sister.  My other adopted sister, Anya Rashi, is an amazing, cute, fun little girl.  She learns quickly, and is now attending my school.  I think K____ will be the same, but with her own perks and talents.  She has _____________ (medical condition), but will heal.  All in all, I think that K____ will be a rising star in the Appleton family.
Nathan, age 10

From Aaron:

Honorable Sirs and Madames,
     My name is Aaron, and my family is hoping to adopt a little girl, K____.  She is in Bangalore, India, and we would love to have her home as soon as possible.  My little sister, Anya Rashi, was adopted from India, and she is a very beautiful, fun little girl.  I expect that K____ will be the same.  We are really looking forward to welcoming another sister into our family.  Thank you.
Aaron, age 12

This was Aaron's second draft.  His first letter was a little, umm, *testy* about how long the process is taking.  We explained that perhaps we should try to stay in CARA's good graces by not scolding them . . .  :o) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stuff people say to transracial families

This is so funny, and so true.  It's also a little reassuring to know that I'm not alone in hearing some pretty outlandish and/or rude comments and questions! 

If your child is already home with you, I'm sure you've heard at least some of these.   And if you're still waiting for your child, get ready . . .

We've heard most of them, except the ones comparing us to Brad and Angelina and their kids.  :o)

If you have any wisdom to share about how you've handled an awkward situation, I'd love to hear it . . . 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We did not expect THIS . . .

Well, we have a new (though blessedly temporary) snag in our attempts to re-do our 2 1/2 year old dossier.  The notary provided by our medical clinic is not registered with our state!!  We've sent those documents in twice already, and just yesterday the Secretary of State's office FINALLY called to tell us what the problem was.

That notary had also left out the "sworn & subscribed" phrase on one document, which we had corrected -- and we thought that solved the problem.  It would've been kind of helpful if they had told us two weeks ago that she is not registered with their office!

It's an innocent mistake.  She got married and changed her name just a few months ago, and ordered a new seal -- but forgot to have her name changed with the Secretary of State's office.  They also have a different expiration date recorded for her than the one she wrote on our document . . .  I instantly wondered how many other people had her sign their legal documents over the past few months.  Yikes.

Unfortunately, I am in the mama mode of tallying every day we're apart from our sweet K -- and it is not helpful to know that all of these documents could've been on their way to India already.  That is very frustrating, especially since Diwali season is fast approaching, when most things will shut down for a few weeks. 

And now I must call our doctor and have new letters written up -- and make sure there's another notary on staff to sign off on them!   

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A long two weeks

The boys taught Anya Rashi a little bit about playing football. 

My handsome guys, ready for their fall boychoir concert.
It has been a looonng two weeks.  Peter had to be at two conferences in a row, first one in Michigan, then one in Wisconsin.  During that time, Anya Rashi had pneumonia, the brakes went out on our van, and we had many commitments for the boys (in addition to normal life things like laundry, cooking, homework, etc.).  My own personal mission to paint our window shutters before it gets too cold was obviously put on hold.

In the midst of the first week, we had some documents for our updated dossier returned from our state capital -- we had sent them for apostilling, and a few of them were improperly notarized.  Argh!  It felt like a "rookie" mistake that we didn't notice before sending them off.  Our India case worker is out of the country right now, though, so we will have our new-and-improved documents ready by the time she returns.  I'm sure every one of my adopting friends understands that feeling of "every day counts!" with paperwork, and I was home with my sick girl and couldn't do anything about it for several days.

We felt cared for and protected during his absence, though -- we are so grateful for our wonderful support network!  A friend brought a meal, my parents-in-law made sure we could get our van to the mechanic, my parents visited, and many friends prayed for Anya Rashi to get well. 

She is much, much better -- she is done with the pneumonia antibiotic, and is back on the original sinus infection antibiotic.  She still coughs in the morning when she wakes up, but she's well and energetic during the day.

I have a renewed appreciation for people who have spouses in the military, and for single parents.  Peter's absence left a big void in our family in so many different ways -- we are so thankful that he's back.  He is such a gift to our family, and we celebrated his return yesterday by going out to dinner.

*   *   *   *

Something interesting happened last night that reminded me how differently younger kids process tough emotions.  Anya Rashi had a very rough bedtime, and couldn't fall asleep for close to 2 hours.  She was teary, and talked about not wanting to go to school anymore, and was having scary thoughts about potential nightmares she might have when she fell asleep.  It seemed like she had held everything together while her Daddy was away, and then when he came back, she finally let it all out.  Finally, at nearly 10:00, she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and drifted off during a song and a back rub. 

I think we all slept better last night with Peter under the same roof again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Article 5!

I woke up to great news today -- we received Article 5!  (One of the bonuses of the time difference is that news from India seems to appear magically during the overnight hours.) 

For those of you just starting the adoption process, Article 5 is a requirement for all Hague Convention countries.  It is the embassy's official declaration that your family is approved for adoption, that your child has been approved to live in the USA, and that your case can now proceed to the court system.

We don't know what to expect from the courts in our part of India -- each region (and each individual judge) seems to have its own unique pace.  But boy, are we happy that we're headed there!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Various types of marathons

The Appleton family is participating in a season of marathons.

Most triumphantly, Peter ran another marathon today along the shores of Lake Michigan.  (For those of you who are counting -- yes, it has been exactly two weeks since his last marathon.  I can't believe it either!)  My sister Alicia, who is also a runner, joined him for the last eight miles for moral support during the toughest part of the run.  I am truly inspired by the endurance and sheer force of will it takes to accomplish a 26.2 mile run, and now my dear man has done it twice in two weeks.  I am so proud of him.

This is Peter at mile 18, and then just before the finish line.  It was COLD again -- 46 degrees at 18 miles.  Then, blessedly, the sun came out and it was a balmy 54 degrees for the finish. He is holding a picture of K in his raised hand as he heads for the finish line.

Another marathon for us is redoing our dossier for India.  We completed our dossier nearly two years ago, before the shut-down and redesign of out-of-country adoptions in India.  Needless to say, it's looking a little out of date.  So, to be proactive (and not get bogged down during the wait for Article 5 and NOC), we redid the whole shebang.  We have one last document to be notarized tomorrow, then we're sending things off to be apostilled.  And then we will be done with round two of the dossier marathon.

The third, and saddest little marathon, is that Anya Rashi has been sick for most of the past month.  She had a bad cold that turned into a sinus infection, and now she's developed a horrible cough that is making her gag (along with other unpleasant things I won't mention here . . . I'm sure most moms know the drill).  She has a low fever again tonight after four days on an antibiotic, poor thing.  I remember kindergarten and first grade being very germy experiences for the boys, and we're sure off to a flying start with Anya Rashi.  We are headed back to the doctor tomorrow -- please pray that we find some relief for her.

Edited to add: We just got back from the doctor . . . her x-rays show that she has broncho-pneumonia.  Yikes -- we're starting her on a different antibiotic, and praying it is stopped in its tracks because we caught it early.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Inch by inch

Girls selling jewelry in Delhi during our 2007 trip.
Yay!  On Friday, we heard from the U.S. embassy in Delhi.  They'd received our I800 application for a new immigrant (a.k.a. our daughter!), and sent us a form to fill out.  I think it's called the DS 230-9#854-#$(%( QR4-727, parts I and II. 

I'm kidding.  But truly, after a while, all the form names sort of meld into one in my brain!  Fortunately, Jynger (our lovely case worker) sent me detailed instructions about how to fill it out correctly, and we sent our form right on back to Delhi, along with our one and only photo of K.  I have huge paranoia each time we fill out government forms . . . I don't want to fill in one blank incorrectly and thereby set our travel back by precious days or weeks!

But mostly, I am savoring each time an outside entity acknowledges that we will be bringing home this sweet girl!  Inch by inch, we are moving forward!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three great things

First, my husband Peter continues to amaze me.  Last year, you may remember that he ran a marathon to raise funds for our adoption.  As if that weren't impressive enough, today he ran in the same marathon, and finished 11 minutes faster than last year!  This year, he wore a picture of our daughter on the back of his shirt -- so we definitely had that "full-circle" feeling today.  We feel so extraordinarily grateful to finally have seen the face of the little girl he was running for last year . . . and so very grateful to everyone who donated to help bring K home!

Second, we received some good news from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration office.  They sent us an approval letter this week saying they will allow K into the country!  We are happy to have evidence that she will someday step off an airplane and arrive at her new home.  No word from the orphanage or anyone else in India yet, so please keep praying that someone is paying attention to her case.

Third, my friend Karen gave me a seriously tasty chai mix . . . Big Train Spiced Chai.  It's not too sweet, and has plenty of complex spice flavors.  Just in time for the first cold autumn weather!  (When Peter began the marathon this morning, it was a brisk 33 degrees . . .)

Friday, September 14, 2012

A little back-story

K, these are your brothers celebrating the first glimpse of you . . . and your big sister, who can't wait to teach you everything she knows.

I have been wondering how to write about the whole lead-up to the day we received K's referral.  There are a few details that I've been holding close to my heart, because they just feel like a huge embrace from God.

The only reason I hesitated to share these things was not wanting to make anyone else feel like I have felt in the past -- that we didn't have any "magical" indicators during our adoption.  When we did our first adoption, I read LOTS of adoption blogs, and sometimes there would be these bizarre and wonderful things parents experienced, for example a woman who felt like she received a message from God about their child . . . and looked back in her journal, and it had happened on their child's birth date, etc.  We never had anything like that happen before, and it's not my intention to make anyone feel like they're lacking something if they haven't either.  I just want to record this back story so I never forget, and so K can read it someday.

With that said, here goes:  (It's long, so grab a cup of coffee or something!)

A Dream
First, as I mentioned in a previous post, we had spent over a week researching other country programs and foster adoption, but felt like we weren't done with India yet.  The night before K's referral, I had a weird dream about this blog (that's never happened before!).  I dreamed that there was a 12th comment on my most recent post.  I knew there had been only 11 comments (and it had been that way for days), because I had posted the 11th comment myself to answer someone's question.  So I woke up Friday morning curious about that very specific dream, and checked the blog -- and sure enough, there was a new, 12th comment.  It was from Candice,  another adoptive mama friend, and I clicked over to her new blog post, which had a picture of a sign that said "wait."  She quoted passages from Job and Psalms about God being huge and powerful, and being patient and waiting for Him to act.

Although I felt those verses were intended specifically for me, I didn't understand that they would have such an immediate meaning -- because we'd been waiting over 3 years already, I was kind of stuck in thinking long-range!  So I kind of shrugged and thanked God for the reminder.  Then came the sad, teary morning of doors to other countries closing . . . and then the glorious e-mail and call about K!  In retrospect, it seems God was telling me "Wait just 5 more hours! I've got this under control," and trying to save us from a morning of anguish.  :)  It makes me smile even while I type to think about longing for a sign, then literally seeing a picture of a "wait" sign on Candice's blog!

A Name
Back in 2010, an attorney had contacted our agency with information about a 2-year-old girl who was available in India.  We prayed and tried to discern if this was the little one God had in mind for us -- she wasn't from the usual city or orphanage Dillon worked with, so it felt really out of left field.  But when we looked through her paperwork, we figured out that the age they'd given us was wrong.  She was actually 4 years old, putting her at the same age as Anya Rashi, and too old for our home study parameters.  After some research about "artificial twinning," some phone calls to other adoptive parents who went that route and much prayer, we said no.

It was agonizing -- we know that each day a child gets older, it becomes less likely they will find a forever family, and frankly, I felt like a terrible person for saying no.  But we never felt like we had that "go ahead" from God.  So we put her photo on our computer desktop and kept praying that God would find her family.  (I'm happy to report that she was matched with another family!)

All that to say . . . her name is the same as our K's name!  It was a little confusing at first when Jynger at Dillon called and said our daughter's name was K!  But it seemed as though God was reassuring us that He is in charge of placing children with their parents.  He knew the K who was supposed to be welcomed into our family, and also took care of placing the first little K with the family meant for her.

A Birthday Present 
In late August, in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I had prayed quite often about what a great birthday present a referral would be, and even told a few people what I was praying for.  But my birthday came and went, and at the end of that day, I thought, "Oh well.  Hopefully, we will hear something before Christmas."

After our referral, we spent a few crazy days signing and notarizing a huge stack of acceptance paperwork, and sending lots of e-mails back and forth with Jynger at our agency.  In one of them, she mentioned that she had some trouble opening the first referral e-mail the orphanage sent her.  My heart jumped a little bit and I e-mailed back with the subject line "A Frivolous Question."

In it, I asked if she would mind checking the date when the orphanage first sent the referral e-mail about K.  She e-mailed back that the orphanage had sent an earlier e-mail, but the attachments with information about K couldn't be opened.  It was first sent on my birthday, two days before she called us!  It makes me tear up, even a few weeks later, to think of that answered prayer.

The Bible says that God is our good father, who loves to give His children good things.  What were the odds that, after three years, our referral would happen to come right on my birthday?!  But it did . . . and I think He was just showing that He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts, even down to the timing of this best birthday present of a lifetime.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At first, I hesitated to write out all of these details, because I've also been in the position that so many are in right now:  waiting and waiting, without the benefit of any dramatic or spiritual signs that all is unfolding as it should.  I finally decided to share these things as an encouragement for other waiting families -- that His eye is on your sparrow,  even when you can't see it.  Most of the time (for the first three years of this adoption!) we don't get to see how He's working on our behalf.

But I wanted to remind you during the hard days that He sees your agonizing wait, and He sees your child all alone in the world. And He is cheering you on as you work to make sure one less child will grow up in an institution, and He is saying, "well done" as you help make sure that a child will get to experience the loving arms of a family.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And for you, dear K . . . most importantly, I hope this account will reassure you that God truly sees you.  He has a plan for your life, and loves you beyond measure.  The circumstances and loss of your first family will rightfully be cause for sadness and grief -- but God specializes in redemption.  He can take a tragedy and make something beautiful from it.  I hope that when you grieve the circumstances that left you alone in the world, you will take comfort in seeing these details about how you came into our family.  You are a beautiful creation, and we are so humbled and grateful that God is weaving the stories of our lives together.

I am also hoping to find out that another prayer has been answered -- that you, sweet K, have been able to feel the Father's love for you while you wait for us. I have prayed so often that you feel His loving arms comforting you when you're sick or in pain, or when you wake in the night.  I hope someday to be able to hear that those prayers were answered too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Yesterday was our kids' first day of school.  We officially have a 6th grader, a 5th grader and a brand new kindergartener!  Aaron is happy about having a locker for the first time and having a group of friends to play soccer with at recess, and Nathan is happy about being with friends again, as well as lunch, recess, gym and music. 

Given the way that her preschool experience went, I expected some tears from Anya Rashi when it was time to go into the school.  She surprised me, however, by chatting happily with a pair of twins we know from our local Y, and walking in with a wave and a smile.  After school, she seemed chipper and excited about her new adventures (which may have been helped by going out for ice cream after school.)  She reported that her teacher is "beautiful."

The tears did appear this morning, however, while she was getting dressed. She says the day away from me was just too long, and cried for about ten minutes.  Oh my heart!  We'll see how tomorrow morning goes . . . and I will have a little one-on-one time with her while the boys are at their piano lesson today.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I also wanted to record another "first" for our K -- her brothers' and sister's first reactions to seeing her first photo.  Anya Rashi loves to hear what her brothers thought of their first glimpse of her, and we hope K will be just as happy to hear everyone's reactions.  Just as we did for our first referral, we gathered everyone on the couch with the laptop, then opened up the document with K's photograph.

Aaron was overwhelmed that we had some news at last, after waiting and praying for 25% of his life.  He came over to the end of the couch where I was sitting, leaned over and gave me a huge hug.  He was a little choked up, and said into my neck, "I can't even believe this is really happening."  He just stayed that way for a few minutes, then went back where he could see K's picture.

Nathan absolutely LOVES babies and little kids (and says he wants six kids when he's a father), was beside himself with joy.  His first words about K were:  "She looks so cute!  SO CUTE!!!"  He also came over and gave me a great big hug, then scrambled back to his seat next to Peter so he could look at her picture a little while longer.

Anya seemed entranced by the fact that there was now a face to match up with what, for as long as she can remember, has only been an idea.  We started the adoption when she was still two years old, so waiting for a sister is literally all she can remember.  Her first words were:  "She's a tiny little fairy!  Her name has to be Hello Kitty!"  (This is high praise from a girl who would wear her two Hello Kitty shirts every day if her mother would let her.)

So, dear K, this was your first introduction to your big brothers and big sister.  We hope they will be your teachers, your protectors, your companions in everything our family does, and most of all, your lifelong friends.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

GET OUT OF HERE! Announcing our long-awaited referral!

First, we scrapped our original plans for Friday night, and headed out to our favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate! Then after we received our package of acceptance paperwork, we got busy with our pens.  One of Peter's finer qualities is his willingness to dive head-first into government forms. 

* * * * * * * * * * *

YES!  It finally happened!  I am so, so happy to announce that today we sent out a giant sheaf of paperwork to officially accept the referral of our next daughter!

(After 3 years and 5 months of waiting, I can't believe I just typed that!)

And the title of this post is really, truly what I said when Jynger, our agency's India program director, called us.  I was taken completely by surprise, because earlier in the week we had some communication from her suggesting that some of us who have been waiting a loooonng time may wish to consider other country programs.

So we did.  We researched three different programs last week, even participating in a conference call for an hour with another country's program director.  But one after another, the doors kept closing on the other countries for a variety of reasons.  Finally, Friday morning, one final door slammed in our face.  Peter and I sat on the couch and began searching the U.S. foster system for a child that met our home study parameters.  There was only one match in the entire foster system that fit the age range allowed in our home study.

And then I broke down and sobbed.

I told Peter that I felt like I was grieving the dream of having another daughter from India, and grieving the idea of our girls sharing the same heritage and birth country.  We sat together on the couch like that for some time.

We started to fill out an inquiry about the 3-year-old child in the foster system . . . then Peter said, "We have an e-mail from Jynger.  She wants to know what time would be good to call today."  We didn't think anything of this request -- we had been on the phone with her several times last week.  And I had to leave in 15 minutes for a mammogram (T.M.I.?), because I'd spaced my appointment the previous week.

So when I answered, and Jynger very calmly said, "I have some information about the referral of a little girl from your orphanage," naturally I said, "GET OUT OF HERE!"  Honestly, that thought had not even entered my mind!  Peter heard me, and saw my eyes popping out of my head, and said, "WHAT??  SHUT UP!"  And he knew instantly what Jynger was calling about.

And now, thanks to our first responses to the good news, we shall forever be remembered as the least profound, least noble, least spiritual parents in the history of adoption.  :o)

But we don't care!  Because we have seen the first picture of our daughter . . . and I would love nothing better than to share her sweet, smiling photo, but the new rules say I can't do that until we receive guardianship in the courts!  Argh!!!!  But I can tell you that "K" is 14 months old, and has endured so much in her short little life.  She is a survivor, and a treasure, and a perfect little dear lovingly created by our Abba.

What next?  Why, we wait, of course!  We now wait for K's case to move through the court system in her city, and pray like mad that we pass through each step in the process as quickly as possible.

And for now, we thank God for weaving this little girl into our family, and stare and stare at a tiny photo of our dear K.

Next time, I'll share a few more details, and the kids' reactions -- they were priceless!  But right now I must take the oldest three to school to meet their new teachers.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Third time's the charm . . . right? (Please?)

So.  This week we must drive two hours to our local Citizenship & Immigration office to be fingerprinted.  This is our third time during this particular adoption.

(Maybe you didn't know this, but your fingerprints EXPIRE every 15 months.  Yes, they do.  All of your life, your fingerprints have been expiring right there at the end of your hands, and you didn't even know it.  Or maybe it's only adoptive parents' fingerprints that expire . . .)

There are other adoption-related things we've done this summer -- right before India Heritage Camp, we completed and submitted tons of paperwork, and had a visit from our social worker to update our home study.  It's our second update since the original home study, and luckily we really enjoy Mary, our local social worker. 

She is a wonderful woman whom we know VERY well by now -- she has worked with us all three times for this adoption, and did our home study and update for Anya Rashi's adoption.  She is a funny, lovely person who is one of the unexpected blessings along the way.  Mary actually tells her families not to freak out and uber-clean their houses -- she is there to get to know them, "not to do a 'white glove' test."  What a comfort to nervous parents!  And she is a pro who takes many things in stride (including the unexpected appearance of a child wearing nothing from the waist down during our first home study visit!).

I have had a difficult couple of weeks this summer, wondering when we will hear anything from the orphanage we were matched with in March.  There had just been absolutely no news of anyone receiving a referral through the new process devised by CARA following the 18-month shut-down and restart in January.

Just when I'm at my lowest, however, there have been glimpses of hope:

1.) For families who have found a child on older child lists, or special needs children, there has been progress.  Their cases are moving through the court system, and some of them are achingly close to travel!  It has been so much fun to see them finally be able to share photos and names of their children as they receive guardianship.  Seeing those sweet faces really keeps me going!

2.) God has placed other parents considering adoption in our path, which keeps wind in our sails.  Last Friday, we went to a premiere of an independent short film at a university in our city.  Peter was updating some friends on our adoption, when he noticed a couple in the row ahead of us blatantly eavesdropping.  Turns out they are interested in adopting from India, and are seeking information about it!  They thought they were on the receiving end of that blessing -- but it was just as much of a joy for us to share what we knew, and meet some other like-minded people.  A couple at our church is also interested in adopting from India, and we made plans to have them over next week to talk about it.  They are newlyweds -- we attended their wedding this summer -- who are going to be fantastic parents, and I love that their first thought about starting a family is through adoption.

3.) And last but NOT least, we finally heard of a referral happening through the new process!  I don't know anything else about which city or which orphanage, but an internet mama friend shared the good news with me late last week.  It's so, so good to hear that the new process is slowly creaking to life, and so kind of her to tell me right away.

And life goes on, with the summer days growing shorter.  We've been out and about hiking, swimming, visiting an old-fashioned amusement park, and more.  And now we are adding to that list: praying that the third time being fingerprinted is our last!