Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Warning! Very LONG and overdue post!

Wow, where has the time gone? It's been almost 5 yrs since I last blogged. I guess I stopped after Grace came home and we moved to Florida! Aside from moving to Florida and me having a few big surgeries, there hasn't been much out of the ordinary going on. We're in our third home since moving and praying our next move is back to the Midwest, likely back to Rochester, MN. We all so badly miss the seasons and I personally miss the midwestern lifestyle. Not to mention how much I miss being closer to family and a lot of friends! So all 5 kids have been in school full-time for about 3 yrs and I'm still a stay at home mom. I attempted to go back to work last year and lasted 8 months until I needed to have a cervical fusion. The atmosphere and ethics there did not match my own so I did not return. However, a few months in, we felt God asking us to adopt once again. When I started my job, there was not thoughts about this but after I was able to start saving some money, the voice just got louder. When we had adopted Grace, the "plan" was to eventually adopt another girl with Down syndrome so they'd have each other when the older 4 kids leave home. However, Grace has been a much much bigger challenge parenting than we could have ever dreamed so we really thought she was to be our last. When we adopted Grace, we knew she had a cleft lip/palate and Down syndrome but were not prepared for her to have autism as well. This has thrown us for a loop. However after 5 yrs, we've had plenty of time to adjust to her behaviors and her personality and although we struggle still a lot, we wouldn't have it any other way! So....let's talk a bit about Gathering another Angel! God started working on our hearts around March or April 2013. We really weren't on board immediately as how does a less than average income family of 7 afford a $30K+ adoption? We decided we just could not go into debt to do this and so we told God yes but that we'd rely fully on Him for the financing of one of His precious angels! This was NOT about us needing or necessarily even wanting another child. Adoption is not about US especially when adopting special needs and sometimes very difficult children. It's totally about the child without a family needing someone willing to accept them as their own and giving that family...that chance to feel the love of a family of their own. We already have a lot on our plate with the 5 we have with medical appts and therapies and all the issues that come along with parenting any children on top of the extra needs several of our kids have. Trust me, I had a lot of selfishness going on in my head thinking things are just "normal" now so why would we want more on our plate? But in the end, neither Jon nor I could come up with a valid reason to say no. From day 1, we put this entire adoption process into God's hands. This is the first of 6 that we truly and whole heartedly have trusted in His timing. So as you can imagine if you're Christian, that this has set us up for MANY obstacles from satan. Satan has tried to derail us almost literally from day 1. Here's our story so far.... So to begin any adoption process, a family needs a home study. This is basically an approval from a social worker to say we are fit to care for another child and that we have room in our home and that it's safe. She's also responsible to obtain all background checks, medical reports and much more. It's A LOT of paperwork. We already had a child in mind at our first home study visit. We were quickly approved to adopt a girl with Ds from China between the ages of 3-9. We found this girl on a website called Reecesrainbow.org who's an adoption ministry to advocate and raise money to help family's adopt children with Ds and other special needs. This child was listed with an agency we knew nothing about and who refused to transfer her file to the agency we wanted to use. First red flag!! We requested an update on this girl before we were ready to fully commit. The strangest thing happened, this child became unavailable. Our agency had never experienced this over the past 30 years. She had a significant amount in her grant fund as well which now was to be given to another child. Since we were the ones trying to get her, we were gifted the grant to go towards another child we'd later choose. We now know why the other child became unavailable and that's because she was not the one. Cao XiXi is. We came across another child, a few years older, that we instantly felt a connection too. I had remembered seeing her picture 5-6 yrs ago when we were adopting Grace actually. She too had a bit of a grant and combined we already had enough $ to cover 1/2 of the entire adoption expenses. Wow!!!!! After getting more information on this girl and learned how high functioning she is, we knew she would fit in perfectly. She's exactly in the middle of Ivy and Iris in age and is very much a girly girl which Ivy was instantly excited about. So we committed to her and sent the necessary Letter of Intent to adopt this specific child and just a short time later got pre approval to move forward. Now the real paper chase begins to compile and lot of papers that will all collectively be called our dossier. After a 2 month loss of time due to a very basic error our agency made, we finally sent this dossier to China in Feb, 2014. Remember how I mentioned God has provided everything for this adoption so far? Well we had depleted our savings account for the several thousand $$ we needed up front for our home study and initial agency fees and such. Despite being very upset and disappointed about the paperwork delay issue, it gave us extra time to do some fundraising as we had our 2nd big agency fee due when our paperwork went to China as well as the first part of the China program fee due. Through some generous donors, t-shirt sales, jewelry sales and an online auction I had, we were able to raise almost exactly the amount we needed for this step. Awesome huh? I think so! So our dossier is safely logged in at the China center for adoption on 2/12/14. This date signals the beginning of an average 60 day wait for China's final letter of approval to be issued. About 2 weeks later, another sabotage hits us and I find out on facebook of all places, that our agency went bankrupt and closed. We were told we could choose any agency to help us finish our adoption and we did. We were also told they had notified China of their closing and who our new agency was. This was a LIE! They did not tie up ends on the China side which left us in limbo for about 2 months, the length of time we should have gotten our approval letter. After our new agency did some digging, the China center decided all the families affected by the agency closing needed to use the same agency so we were forced yet again to change agencies losing several more months! As upsetting as this was, it allowed my family to spend 2 months in North Dakota this summer and allowed our kids to experience many things they've not been able to do here living in such a large city. Believe me when I say they got a lot of fresh air. So we get back to Florida in August and back in the school routine. I'm missing ND terribly and slip into a slight depression coupled with the stress of the wait for our approval letter(LOA). Mid September rolls around and we still have not heard a word from China. I start nagging our agency to dig deep into our case. I just have this unrelenting feeling that something is terribly wrong and I just couldn't let it go. I believe that feeling was from God Himself as sure enough, things had changed at the China center and our paperwork needed to move to a different office. FINALLY on Sept 29th on day 227(of the average 60 day wait) we received that coveted LOA. Just 2 days before China was taking an entire work week off for a holiday. Thank you Jesus!!! In the mean time, we needed a home study update as they're only good for 1 yr and ours expired the end of August, more $$, more time waiting for background checks etc. The next step was to file another form with immigration which will allow our daughter to become an American citizen the moment her feet touch American soil. The paper copy of the LOA is needed from China to get this approval although we were able to file with just the emailed version. It takes about a week to get this official paper copy. But, since this is "our" very frustrating adoption process, ours took 3 weeks to come!!! Ha, not funny satan! But it eventually came and we got our final immigration approval 2 days ago. Yay! Throughout the past 17 months, we've also experienced so many other attacks on the family but every time, God was right there to rescue us in most cases, literally seconds! Our God we serve is so faithful and loves us so much! So what steps are left for us before we can get our now almost 9 yr old girl home? Our immigration letter has been sent to the National Visa Center(NVC) that will issue as a number that we need to file another form. Then we wait a couple more weeks for an important letter to be picked up in China. Then we wait for our invitation to travel. We do not know our travel dates yet which makes planning for childcare for our other kids a bit tricky. We are in the race against the calendar to get her home asap and hopefully before mid December. After 12/9, flight prices skyrocket over the holidays and we just can't delay getting her due to that but since we aren't quite fully funded yet, we may have to wait until January. However, that's not even our biggest issue with waiting even 1 day longer than we need to. We've been renting our current home for about 2 1/2 yrs now and our landlord gave us a blow and told us he's needing to sell. He told us on a friday and it went on the market Saturday. The timing couldn't be worse when planning a trip to China to bring home a confused child and then into an unstable home environment of top of that. So here are a few immediate prayer requests: 1. That our house does not sell anytime soon(like February or March) 2. That these last few steps of our process are supernaturally expedited so we can leave for China before 12/9. 3. That the rest of the funds needed will come through by way of donations or a grant (approx. $5K to be fully funded) 4. Childcare to work out for the kids we're leaving home (Grace is covered already) 5. That God provides a level of peace and calm for me as we prepare to add another child, move(possibly twice), and navigate these next few months. So after this novel, if you're still with me, stay tuned as my next blog post will be all about our new daughter!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Update

Well, things have been going pretty good. Grace's cleft palate, ear tube, clogged tear duct surgery is postponed until 2/17 due to her having an ear infection. It's all cleared up now, thank goodness. She's doing well although she started grinding her teeth again :( She is making so much progress in therapy and her therapists are just thrilled, as are we. She is getting stronger every day and has even gained almost 3 pounds. I'm trying to bulk her up a bit as I have a feeling she'll lose some weight after her surgery. The surgeon told us to plan on being in the hospital for at least a week. I will be with her most of the time and our other kids will go to back up daycare. We've done this type routine before and it's hard but we make it work. We are just praying for a successful surgery the first time. Ian's cleft palate repairs have fallen apart and he still has a hole in the front. Grace's is much less severe though so we're hopeful. Feedings are still quite difficult but once her palate is healed, we'll really hit the therapy hard. Grace also recently got glasses. She is quite far sighted and has nystagmus(cross-eyes). We were able to find frames that are made specifically for kids with Down syndrome but she won't leave them on yet. They need to be adjusted properly. Once she has her surgery, the surgeon will actually put casts on her arms to prevent her from putting anything in her mouth. Since she won't be able to bend her arms, she won't be able to take her glasses off. We will really try to get her used to wearing them at that time. The kids really love Grace and are very protective of her. Sam and Ivy are big helpers. Ivy keeps an eye on her while eating as Grace loves to get bored with her bottle and play with it. She tips it upside down and since it has a huge hole in the nipple(she can't suck or swallow so the hole is huge to allow the food to flow out when she bites the nipple and gravity pulls it down her throat as she lies flat to eat), she can make quite a mess. I'm usually cleaning up mealtime stuff by then as it takes Grace quite some time to finish a bottle. Ivy loves the responsibility. Sam holds her arms for me when I change a messy diaper as her hands go right in it otherwise. Iris is so sweet when playing with her and Ian...well, he could really care less, lol. Jon and I have adjusted to life with 5 kids. It really isn't that much harder once you already are out numbered with 3. I'm posting some family pictures we had taken just a few days after we got home with Grace. I'm not really on the ball lately and haven't even mailed out Christmas cards yet. They are coming soon though :) So here they are:

Happy Family of 7!

Our Gorgeous Girls!

Our Adorable Boys!

Beautiful Grace Nadja!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Giggly Girl!

Ok, so we've been horrible about posting since we've been home but seriously with 5 kids age 6 and under, who has time? After a rough couple weeks, things are going great now. Grace is really relaxing with us and we are in a routine. Her stimming noises have decreased although the teeth grinding has intensified a bit. Just yesterday, she started smiling quite a bit and today we got actual giggles from her. Turns out she's quite ticklish even though we had to "teach" her how to be. Kinda strange but she never responded to touch when we first adopted her. She's also recognizing her name as well. I will admit openly that our first week home was horrible and I cried A LOT wondering if we had done the right thing and if I would be able to accept the noises despite my super sensitive hearing issues. A lot of ongoing prayers and I can happily report that I'm so in love with this little girl and I really feel like her mom already. It took close to a year with each of our other kids to truely feel like their mom and not just another caretaker. Sure I loved them all right away but it took time for that mother/child bond to form. Grace is truely an angel on this earth and I can't imagine life without her now. I believe the drama we faced those first couple weeks was a blessing in disguise. What's equally sweet is how much our other kids adore her. As you'll see in the video, Iris is ALL about Grace and is "helping" me tickle her. Iris is VERY protective her baby sister and tells people not to touch her. Iris is also her biggest cheerleader and anytime Grace does something, no matter what it is, Iris says "good job Grace" with a thumbs up and much enthusiasm. Can't help but smile. My heart is so filled with love and joy tonight as I type this and I thank God for blessing our family and entrusting our 5 beautiful children to us. Enjoy this little glimpse of heaven and please ignore my annoying giggles. In Him, Sarah
video

Friday, January 1, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Happy New Year to one and all from the Maples family! Sorry for the delay in posting. We've been back home since 11:30pm on Tuesday 12/15 but there just never seemed to be enough time to get it all done. I've worked on this post 3 or 4 times before but haven't finished it, so I'll finish up the adventures of our travel day and then update what's been going on since we got home later this weekend.

Let's start with our travel day experiences. We woke to several inches of snow in Belgrade on Tuesday morning, so the concern of would we be able to even leave was in question. A quick check of several websites showed that so far everything was still on time, and per Sarah we were leaving even if I had to get out and push the plane. :)

Our car arrived around 10:20 but the driver had to park a block away, so we got our first adventure of hauling bags and a stroller through the snow. The drive to the airport was pretty slow, lots of cars and pretty bad conditions didn't help make it a quick trip. Luckly we had planned in some extra time so we still made it to the airport in plenty of time. The parking lot at the airport was still completly covered in about a foot of snow so we had another fun time dragging and pushing all our stuff around. The driver and I had our hands full of bags and Sarah was having a hard time pushing the stroller even when sticking to the ruts from previous cars. Thankfully a kind stranger helped her get to the section of sidewalk that had been cleared. We had an easy time checking in at the airport, checked our large bags and even had some time for last minute souvenier shopping (also useful for using up the remaining dinar we had).

From Belgrade to Munich was a pretty quick hour and a half flight, Grace managed pretty well. She enjoys the feeling of movement and wasn't even phased by the rough take off. We landed in Munich on time but had to ride a bus from the plane to the terminal, up a couple of floors and then over to our gate. The gate attendents helped us find the elevator and get down to our plane. Because of our last minute flight changes Grace had a bulk head seat while Sarah and I had seats in the last row of the plane. Thankfully a kind young woman in the bulkhead row agreed to switch with us. This allowed us to have a bassinet for Grace to sleep in during the flight which was a real blessing. Grace was pretty fussy for the first hour or so of the flight as she was tired, but not comfortable enough with her surroundings to let herself fall asleep. Eventually she did fall asleep and slept for most of the rest of the flight off and on.

Finally we made it to the states when we landed in Chicago. As this was our port of entry into the US we had to claim all of our luggage and go through passport control, customs and immigration for Grace's paperwork. Being that it was evening by this time the immigration desk had only one staff member working on paperwork and with several groups ahead of us we doubted if we would be able to make our connecting flight. We talked to one of the custom agents nearby and told him about our connecting flight and I think he rearranged the order to get our papers processed next, so big thanks to him.

After we got through with the immigration paper work we quickly ran to the recheck area and learned that we had about 30 minutes before our flight. The clerk told us if we hurried we "might" make our flight, but that our luggage would not make it to the plane on time. At this point we just wanted to get home and there was nothing in our bags that we had to have, so we went for it. To get to the gate, we had to take a train to a different terminal, we were in terminal 3 and we had to go to terminal 1, which took about 10 minutes. Then in the terminal we had to go through security again and have all our stuff checked, which took 15 minutes, so we were running close on time. We raced from security to our gate without even putting our belts back on. As we ran to the gate, the gate attendant called out to us asking if we were the Maples and to hurry as the door was closing! Thankfully they held the door for us and I think if we had been any later, there was a gentlemen on "stand by" waiting to take our seats. But we made it, settled in for our last flight of the day.

We landed on time and and we were back in the land of Minnesota. Our friend Sue meet us at the baggage claim, and our other friend Kristin drove our van from Rochester to pick us up. I quickly verified with the baggage claim attendant that our bags were not on our flight, they were on the next flight, so we made arrangements for them to deliver our bags the next day which was nice. The drive back to Rochester wasn't to bad, Grace seemed pretty at home in her car seat and didn't give us any problems. We stopped to get some snacks and coffee to stay awake and eventually arrived in our driveway at about 11:30pm. Home Sweet Home!

Sam came upstairs soon after we arrived to greet us, it was sure great to see him and he had the biggest smile on his face. We quietly went around and kissed Ian and Iris who were very much asleep. Ivy did wake up but you could tell she was basically sleeping with her eyes open, she didn't even remember talking to us the next morning. We talked to Holly for a little while to get the updates on how everything went, and her sister came to drive her back to her house, were I'm sure she enjoyed sleeping in her own bed. A great big thanks to Holly for watching the 4 amigos, I know they all loved her and had a great time, we couldn't have done this without her.
Then it was time for Sarah and I to go to settle in to our nice cozy bed, safely at home at the end of another wild adventure.

All packed up and ready to leave

The snow covered street outside our apartment

Our plane arriving to pick us up at the Belgrade airport

They had the snow plows out cleaning the terminal area

Sarah and Grace all settled in on the plane just waiting for takeoff

Here we go!

So long Serbia!

Sleeping in the bassinet on the flight from Munich to Chicago

I'm tired of being in an airplane now.

Holly and the Kids made us this great Welcome Home sign.

Grace having her first bottle in our house, she hadn't eaten much during any of the flights.

That's a lot of snow to come home to! Thanks to Holly, Nate & Kristen, and our neighbors for cleaning off the drive way and sidewalks!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday


Monday was a jam packed day. We had to take Grace for a medical exam, get the visa papers prepared, pickup the passport, pickup the medical exam, and have an interview at the US Embassy to get the visa. All that and we had to hope and pray that we could get the visa back early enough on Tuesday that we could make our flight home. If we couldn't fly on Tuesday we wouldn't be able to fly until the weekend.

The medical exam was pretty painless, then Grace and I and went back to the apartment to pack while Sarah went with Jasmina to do the paperwork and pickup the passport. There was some confusion as to who could pick up the passport, but it all got worked out. A special thanks to the social worker from Blace who took the 3+ hour bus ride to Belgrade early Monday morning to help get it all cleared.

In the afternoon we had our interview appointment for Grace's visa from the US Embassy. We were a little delayed from getting the passport, but there were only a handful of people at the Embassy when we got there. During the interview they asked when we were leaving Belgrade so we told them our situation and the workers graciously said they thought they could get it done by the end of the day. So we hung out for a little while in the waiting room and only a couple of hours after getting there we had Grace's visa and we could official depart for home!!

In the evening we meet with Vlado and he and I walked to the Police station, even though it started snowing, to terminate our temporary Belgrade address. On the way we walked across the alley from the President's offices their "White House", no fences no special bars, we could have walked over and touched the building. Next to that was the Mayor of Belgrades offices, which the workers were happily removing the snow from the sidewalks, as the Mayor's office is in charge of all the departments in Belgrade. The President still has plenty of snow in front of his offices. After leaving the police station we spotted the President's car driving down the major bullivard on his way home with only one escort car. In the five minutes it took us to walk from there to the President's offices we could already see all the workers making quick exits themselves.

That was our last day in Belgrade and now we are all packed up dressed and ready to head to the airport. It's still snowing but so far all the websites show that there are no delays. The next update will be after we make it back home and can introduce Grace to the rest of the bunch.

Bye Vlado




"Ciao, ciao" Serbia

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're breaking out of here

Friday we got to bring Grace with us back to stay at our apartment. Before we left we got a tour of the orphanage to see many of the children there. Let me tell you there are some awesome kids in this orphanage that would be great in a family. One boy of about 6 was my best friend for awhile. He just talked and talked and talked. He kept telling the workers that he was going home tomorrow. After the tour I had to go get my passport so I could sign Grace out of the orphanage for her official file and then we took a taxi back towards our apartment.

First we had to stop at a Lilly's store to buy bottles and some food, then we walked to our appartment and settled in. We all took a nap for a couple of hours and then we made Grace a bottle with some fruit flavored baby food, cereal, and water. Grace then got acquainted with our apartment, She quickly learned that she could move well on the carpet, but only slide backwards on the hardwood floors. We played in the apartment for a while and then made supper, pasta and tomato meat sauce for Sarah and I, and Chicken dinner baby food in the bottle for Grace. She didn't really care for her food, later we got an email from Jasmina that said she prefers sweet foods.

After supper we decided we needed some more water and some bread and pasteries from the bakery. We got Grace all wrapped up and went for a stroll, of course the minimart is 3 buildings away and the bakery is across the street so our stroll didn't take but 10 minutes. I think it took longer to get Grace in her coat and hat. We played in the apartment for a little while longer and then it was bed time. It didn't take her to long to settle in and fall asleep, when I went to check on her later her legs were all twisted up. It looked like she was sitting crosslegged and just fell over asleep.

We're looking forward to spending lots of quality time with Grace over the weekend and learning her schedule. Then on Monday we've got the medical appointment, paperwork, pickup her passport, and apply for the Visa at the Embassy. Then fingers crossed, we'll be able to pick up the visa Tuesday morning and make it to the airport for our flight home.

Good morning Princess are you ready to break out?

Yeah!

One last rest in her crib while we went on the tour.

Signing the official papers so Grace can leave with us.

Party dress to celebrate leaving.

Bye, bye Jasmina

Grace has left the building

Standing at the gate waiting for our taxi.

Grace has already picked up pulling on my whiskers from Sarah.

Taxi ride to the apartment.

Our first bottle in the apartment.

Checking out the hardwood floors.

I was trying to take this picture myself. Got a good one of Grace, but the look on my face is a little bizarre.

Grace was really interested in the picture of Ivy.

Sleep tight little angel.

Did I say angel, I meant contortionist.

Please....Someone save them!

I'm posting this in hopes that someone reading my blog may be feeling led to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Please consider saving one of these precious angels before they spend their life "behind bars" in a mental institution where they will surely die. 90% don't survive 1 year in these places and once transferred, they will not be able to be adopted. Maybe not you, but maybe you know someone who's considering adopting. Please share as these kids are SO worth it!!

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URGENT PLEA!


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URGENT PLEA!


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URGENT PLEA!


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URGENT PLEA!