Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We've Got A Golden Ticket!!

AJ!!!! WAKE UP SWEETHEART!!! I know, Honey- I know it's 2:04AM where you are, but I really need you to wake up for me ok. I have something important to tell you!
The last piece of the puzzle- that we knew was coming, but didn't know what day- IS HERE! Our immigration approval came in the mail tonight!
So, here's the plan Little Man- tomorrow morning- we are gonna get your big brother off to school and head immediately for Des Moines, apostille everything and ship that dossier off to your country!!
We are thinking we will be there to see you in November, Sweet Love!!
AJ, listen to Mommy- You will NEVER EVER spend another Christmas in an orphanage. You will NEVER EVER spend another birthday in an orphanage. You will NEVER EVER spend another Flag Day in an orphanage for crying out loud! Not one more Honey. None. We're coming for you. You will be sleeping in your own bed with your toys, in your very own room. You will know what it is to play everyday! You will know what sunlight feels like on that beautiful little face. You will know what hugs and kisses are. You will know who your parents are and that you have a big protective brother who loves you so much!
We love you Monkey! Go back to sleep and have good dreams. We'll talk really soon.
To the moon and back-
Mommy, Daddy, and Big Brother A

Thursday, September 22, 2011

YES!!!!!!! (Insert happy dance, fist pumps, the worm across the living room floor, LOTS of tears of sheer JOY, and remove the ability to breathe for several minutes) So this is what this feels like...

AJ!!!!!!!! SWEET HEART!!!! BABY BOY!!!!!!!!
Can you hear us calling you, Honey??????????? Shouting at you from the tops of our lungs???
2 prayerful weeks ago, USCIS received our file and application. TODAY, at 4:38pm, we received our notice that our application HAS BEEN APPROVED!
(Be prepared to be SO annoyed, AJ!...like SO annoyed!)
At small group last night, everyone laid hands on Daddy, Anthony, and me. They all prayed very hard that our approval would come soon. We know our Father is faithful- today He confirmed that truth yet again!
We really want to go to Des Moines tomorrow, apostille everything, and ship our dossier out. We sent a return email to our officer requesting that he email us a copy of our approval form. Once in hand, we are SO outta here!
I've got more happy dancing and rejoicing to do with Daddy. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH!
It's 2:29AM where you are right now. Did Jesus tell you we are on our way to you tonight too?
Sweet dreams Monkey.
To the moon and back,
Mommy, Daddy, Big Brother A

Friday, September 16, 2011

What does a quarantined Mama do? Write to her Little Love, of course.

Dear AJ,
I hope you are healthy and well- no sore throat, no runny nose, no headache, no body ache. Your mama on the other hand has all of the above, well minus the runny nose now. So, I guess that's better? Daddy worked from home today so he could watch your brother and I remain quarantined to the bedroom.
Ugh. yuck. I suppose if sickness and germiness had to happen, I'm thankful it's now and not while we're there with you.
Here is an update. I had a couple of discouraging days. USCIS gave me their standard answer saying their processing times for immigration approval was currently at 75 days. My heart sunk. 75 days from the time I was notified is November 27. Your country shuts down accepting new dossiers the first week of November through the first week of February. If that was the case, we were facing not getting to you until next spring. We need things to move quickly. We need our I171H in hand. WE NEED TO SHIP OUR DOSSIER!
I sent letters to both of our state Senators pleading for help in getting our case expedited. I cried. I prayed. I thought, surely Father- this can't be Your plan to make us wait until spring to bring our boy home, can it?? One minute I rejoice in whatever He says and reminded that His will is perfect. The next minute, I am tearful and terrified that if we don't get to you, will your orphanage director be able to hold on to you for that long? Would you really end up being transferred to the mental institution anyway and wait for us there? There, in your bed, never moved, questionably fed, never spoken to, never looked at, never touched with any sort of affection or love. Those thoughts are like dull knives being forcefully pushed through my chest- stripping me of any ability to breathe. But that is what the enemy does. That is what he is good at. Threats, scare tactics, disgusting mind games and puppetry. I will not give him a stage. Our God is bigger, stronger, and mighty to save. Take that. And as for your dull knives in my chest- I've ripped them out. My wounds are sealed up. And instead of your dull knives, I hold heavy blades of twisted steel. On my chest is the armor of my God. Armor that you have no ability to pierce. Armor that doesn't rust. Armor that doesn't fray or become weak. You're messing with my son. And now I will fight back. And with my God who goes before me, I will beat you. I will win.
AJ, your mom is pissed.  (My choice of words there for pissed was at first way worse- so throw me a bone and NO, you may not repeat that word...because I'm the mama and I said so.)
I sent letters to our Senators. I spoke with people that know them personally. I was still not feeling great. While crying to my dear friend Brigitte on the phone- she's so great, Daddy came home from work. He, being of sound mind and not a blubbering heap of mess on the kitchen floor did what any strong head of household man would have done. He checked the mail.
He quietly sat down at the table and sifted through it. Amongst the scattered snowstorm of envelopes and ads screaming at us to buy a new car or change our life insurance, were two envelopes that mattered. The return address was from Dept of Homeland Security. In my misery, I grabbed the one addressed to me. I thought, "OH WHAT NOW...you've already told me 75 days- was that a mistake? Is it really 175 days? Is something missing from our file? Did I fill out the forms incorrectly? WHAT THEN, DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, COULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO TELL ME BY WRITTEN SNAIL MAIL THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE ANYTHING GOOD?? Jerks...
Daddy had already opened his envelope. He just stared at me while I fumed. "Open it." Daddy is so calm. I mocked him "OOOPen it.." rolling my eyes I snorted back.
In my hands was the appointment to have our digital fingerprints taken at USCIS in Des Moines. Two days after I was told 75 days for processing and approval. We had the next step in our hands. The appointments were not scheduled until October 5. That would be WAY too late. Daddy said, "I have to go back to work. I'll probably work until 1:30 or so in the morning, but then we will be able to head to Des Moines by 6AM." Yes, we would head to Des Moines prayerfully unannounced and hope they would let us have our prints taken a month early.
We made it to Des Moines with your brother at 8AM. A construction nightmare, we weaved our way through the streets of Des Moines to the Neal Smith Federal Building. We pleaded our case to the inked up security officer in the USCIS office. He looked at the clock and said, "You guys drove down this morning from Waterloo?" Definitely not an Iowan- not with that southern drawl. His words flowed like a river of molasses out of his mouth.  I quietly and meekly (Yes, AJ, your mother can be meek when desperately needed) said, "Yes Sir, we did. Can you help us?" He smiled kindly at me and said, "We'll get you taken care of. I need your ID's, fill this out, have a seat until we call your numbers." And with that we were officially in. YES!!!! If it wouldn't have been weird and I hadn't been coming down with this germie sickness, I would have done the happy fingerprinting dance and a couple of fist pumps. I opted to smile politely and take a seat with Daddy and A.
2 hour drive down. 20 minutes in the Federal building. We were done. We were manuevering ourselves back through the downtown construction jungle.  Daddy and I have gave eachother a high five. Daddy piped, "THANK YOU JESUS!" We were on our way home again.
As soon as Daddy got back on the interstate, I called USCIS to notify them that we had our prints done. The sweet gal on the line said, "Wow- that was quick. You're file has only been here a week and you have your prints done. I'll put a note in the system for your officer.....Officer...oh, you don't have one. Call us back in a couple of weeks and see if you've been assigned an officer."  I will admit, my heart sunk a bit when she said, "couple of weeks."
Within 5 minutes after ending that phone call, I received another one. It was from a rep with Senator Tom Harkin's office. She said he read our email and was calling on his behalf. She asked for more information about you. She gave me her phone number, explained she would call USCIS and ask for expedition on our behalf. She would write up a formal request to be sent if necessary.
Later that afternoon, I received call number 2 from Senator Harkin's office. She said, "You now have an officer assigned. They said they are not backlogged at this time with files. I'm still working to have this expedited. I'll be in touch."
2 days prior I felt a tad defeated but still had some semblance of confidence. 1 day prior I had been reduced to a hot mess of emotion heaped onto the kitchen floor in tears and prayer.
But not on this particular September day. On this particular day, my heart swelled with fiery joy. We will make it to you. We will make it to you in time. You will not spend another Christmas without your parents and brother. You will know what a family is- more sooner than later my little Love.
I posted messages on the RR forum. People are praying for us from all over sweet boy. One mother said that they had the same adjudication officer.  She warned to not ever expect to receive any return phone calls or emails from this particular officer, HOWEVER... and this is the great part. Are you ready? They had their approval in hand EIGHT DAYS after being fingerprinted!! If that's the case for us dear sweet of my heart, we will have the final piece of our puzzle one week from today. And you better believe we are praying for that to happen.
There's no doubt our Heavenly Father's hand has been all over this process. We continue to pray that He continues to break down walls and shatter the mountains in front of us. We're coming Baby. Mommy and Daddy are coming.
It's 10:55pm where you are right now. Man, I can't wait to say we are in the same time zone at the very least. Sweet dreams little monkey.
To the moon and back,
Mommy, Daddy, and Big Brother A

Monday, September 12, 2011

Scratch Cupcakes, OP Pizzas, Four Queens Ice Cream, And All The Hugs, Kisses, and Loves You Could Ever Want!

Dear AJ,
Hiya Buddy. We've been thinking of you nonstop. How's that any different than any other letter from Mommy and Daddy you ask??

Well, I'll tell ya. Up until now, we had so many documents and papers coming and going through our hands. We spent hours scrutinizing every page of our dossier to make sure it would be ok to fax into the fac team. All the notarizing has been done. All the faxes have been sent. We received word that USCIS had received our file and cashed our check. We have an ID number and we wait now for an Immigration Officer to be assigned to our family. I called this afternoon- no assigned officer yet. Ho Hum. Twiddle my thumbs awhile longer. Work on my Russian?...unfortunately I cannot say with any amount of good faith that I can pronounce the word "bread" correctly 100% of the time. Hlep. HHHHLEP. You'll have to help Mama and Papa, ok?

To be completely honest with you Sweetheart- Mama is having a bit of a tough time right now. I look at your pictures. I talk to you. I dream about you. I tell your brother about you. Papa and I talk about you all the time.  And part of me keeps wondering, Are you REAL? Are you really coming home to be our son forever? It seems so far away- when we will finally get to come to you.

I lay in your bed the other day. I held your Paddington and your duck. I prayed for you, that you are safe and not hurting. I feel like now that we have nothing to do but wait and stare at your room and  your pictures in the hallway- time is being wasted. I know in my heart it's really not, but I feel so helpless just sitting here....waiting.

Another thing that's been on my mind is how I feel about all the time you've spent in your baby house. How did you get there? How old were you? I think about your birth family and how I feel toward them. I agonize at the thought that someone has hurt you. And I won't know any of these answers- well, possibly will never know- but definitely won't know until we are in country reading your file. I've thought about this often. On Sunday, we heard an awesome teaching at church on forgiveness. My dear friend, Nicki came to my side at the end of the service and prayed for me. I hadn't talked to her about all the things I was thinking in regards to your past. The anger that was building, the yucky thoughts and images I had of what your life might be like. As my friend prayed this awesome prayer over me, I got the image of Jesus on the cross. Then I heard Him say, Forgive them Father, they know not what they do. And I thought, if Jesus- humbled Himself and took on all of our sin and shame, then asked His Daddy to forgive those that hurt Him- who would I be if I couldn't look with forgiveness on the people of your past? Not the child of God that I've been called to be. And what then, would I be teaching you, my sweet little son? I felt a great deal of peace after that. And that kind of peace is a most beautiful thing.

Today I received a surprise in our email. 3 pictures of YOU. The fac team was able to go and take pictures of you for us. I asked if that would be possible. I never heard anything back and thought it must not be. Then today came and there you were.

I probably don't have to tell you that I cried when I saw your pictures. I was so happy to get the chance to see you! Daddy couldn't stop staring at your sweet face. And we both wonder how TALL are you anyway?!? :D So, the title of this letter to you- what does it mean? After seeing these pictures, you'll find out very soon my Little Love. Very Soon! That's a promise!
It's 3:05AM where you are tonight. Sweet dreams for a little while longer, ok?
To the moon and back,
Mama, Papa, and Big Brother A
PS. Don't fret about that haircut- you're still the most adorable little blonde Anthony ever. It will grow and we'll have Emma fix it.