Friday, October 21, 2016

Cheers to the Weekend, Crazy Town Edition

Wheeeeeeeeeeew. I am glad to see the weekend. Although it's going to be a super busy one, at least it will be on my terms. ;) Things have been crazy 'round these parts, what with adoption stuff and baking and football and gymnastics and Fall activities and Clemson and, well, life. I'm sure everyone out there as their own crazy busy stuff keeping them rockin' and rollin' this time of year, amIright? Wheeeeeeeeeeew.

So, the blog posts are lagging. But I grab this little space whenever I can...such as right now! And so, a recap from what we've been up to the last couple weeks: Some things we are saying CHEERS to:

Adoption. Thank you so very much to all those who have been following along on our adoption journey. On Wednesday, I gave a very exciting update about where we are in the process--and how we got there much sooner than I ever dreamed! Unfortunately, that afternoon, I learned that the timeline we were anticipating as far as finding our daughter via a referral from our agency is much longer than I have been anticipating. In fact, I am now just hoping and praying that we are able to be matched by the end of NEXT year. I'm not going to lie: I was devastated when I was informed. But, thanks to support from family and friends, as well as from our adoption agency, and, most importantly, my incredible husband, I have much more peace about it now. My timeline isn't His timeline. As a wise friend told me yesterday, "God already knows your daughter. He has her in His hands." So, we wait and pray, wait and pray. And do our best to serve others as best we can in the meantime. Regardless, your prayers and love are much appreciated as we wait to find our girl...

Fall Frolic. Last weekend, we visited our town's Fall Frolic for the fifth year in a row: horseback riding, corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin patches, farm animals--you know, all the Fall must haves. ;) 

Girls Night Out. There is an AWESOME new business located nearby called Anders Ruff Workshop, where all different kinds of workshops to make really cool DIY, home decor items are offered (Anders Ruff is the same company for which my Raleigh was featured in this month's Better Homes and Gardens Halloween catalogue). Anywho, earlier this week, four of the six of my LifeGroup ladies went to an evening workshop and we each created our own custom plank sign, from scratch. It was SO fun!!! I highly recommend attending any of their awesome workshops if you live here (or come visit me! I can't wait to go back!).

Field trips. Both Raleigh and Harrison have had field trips during the last two weeks, each to different pumpkin patches. Harrison and I accompanied Raleigh on hers, while my hub took Harrison alone on his. Both were a blast!

Oven repair. Eeeek!!!! Our indefinitely discontinued oven part miraculously showed up in the mail and we had our oven repaired the next day. Y' works!!!!! So my kitchen has been, and will continue to be, buzzing with all kinds of cookie orders, all as part of our adoption fundraising. Yahoo!!! Here is one of the projects from this week: 

Clemson Homecoming. Last weekend, all five of us Lus headed to Clemson for homecoming. We spent the night with some of our best friends (thank you, Frye fam!) on Friday and went to see the homecoming floats that evening. It was awesome! The next day, we went to the nail-biter of a game and were SO excited that Clemson somehow pulled out a W at the last second. Whew!


Getting Boo'd. Man, Fall sure does bring a lot of fun, and our neighborhood always does it up big for the holidays. Earlier this week, we were "Boo'd" and had to "Boo back" two neighbors. My kids always look forward to this each year, and this one was no exception!

Day dates. My hub and I got to sneak away for a day date recently and hit up Cinnebarre (you know, theaters where you can order food and drinks while watching a movie). We saw "The Girl on the Train." Although I enjoyed the book, I was skeptical of the movie based on the reviews, but we both actually enjoyed it! And it was the perfect, rainy day for a movie date. :) 

And that's that!

The busy-ness continues this weekend! Banks and Raleigh are going camping at the Greenway with their Daddy and some friends tonight, while Harrison and I will hang back at the house (no complaints here!). Tomorrow morning I'll be assisting my favorite photog with a photo session before we hit the courts. Courts? Yes, courts. Tennis courts. Because on Monday morning, we have our first doubles match!! So, we'll be practicing by getting our butts whooped by two of our other girlfriends on Saturday. :) I'll then head home so Clay can get out the door and to a fun neighborhood cornhole tourney. Meanwhile, I'll take my little trio to our neighborhood Fall festival. Sunday will consist of church, more photo session assisting, and then a SUPER FUN event with girlfriends Sunday night.

Good gracious. I'm tired just reading all of that! :) Thank y'all again for your prayers for our family. Have a lovely Fall weekend! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wee One Wednesday: Our Adoption Timeline

Everyone's adoption timeline is different. Here is ours, to date, as a means of documenting how far we've come, what we've accomplished, and how much closer we are to finding our daughter:

12/17/15: During a dinner date to celebrate my 35th birthday, my hub and I began discussing whether or not we were going to finally pursue adoption. It is something we had been considering for over a decade. We needed to finally determine whether this was the right path for our family. We decide to take some time to pray, consult with close family and friends, and come back together in a few months to decide. 

***Meanwhile, I begin researching various adoption and home study agencies, looking at the adoption requirements of different countries, considering various medical conditions and special needs for which we would feel comfortable being able to adequately seek treatment, etc.***

3/8/16: We decided on the agency we wanted to use should we end up deciding to adopt (Chinese Children Adoption International [CCAI]). We submitted a Medical Conditions Checklist (MCC) to CCAI while continuing in our decision-making process. We also decided on the home study agency we would like to use should we, in fact, decide to proceed with adoption.

***We continued to pray, journal, talk, consult as we waited to hear from God that he wanted us to adopt...***

4/29/16: Decision made. We had no doubt. Now was the time. Our adoption journey officially began. Applications were accepted by our chosen adoption agency (CCAI) and homestudy agency (Nightlight Christian Adoptions) on this day.

***The great paperwork chase begins and continues for the next five months. For our adoption agency, this included obtaining/creating/having notarized the following:

(1) an adoption petition
(2) birth certificates for my hub and me
(3) marriage certificate
(4) employment verifications for my hub and me, signed by employers
(5) financial statement listing ALL assets, liabilities, incomes, insurances, net worth, etc.
(6) comprehensive physical exams for my hub and me
(7) signed doctor's letter
(8) police clearance reports
(9) approved I800A (federal form also requiring fingerprinting appointments for my hub and me with Homeland Security)
(10^) Home study report
(11) 3 photos of my hub and I together
(12) 8 family life photos
(13) 3 passport photos each
(14) copies of our passports
(15) copy of our dossier

^The home study itself required it's own set of documents that were needed before the extremely thorough report could be written. This included:

(1) home study agreement
(2) fee agreement
(3) background information form
(4) consents to criminal background check
(5) child abuse registry form for every state each of us lived in since age 18
(6) financial information form
(7) three reference letters
(8) physician statement
(9) current physicals for all children living in the home
(10) current vaccination record for any animals living in the home
(11) guardianship information
(12) book reviews of five adoption-centered books
(13) website reviews of four adoption-centered websites
(14) copies of driver's licenses
(15) copies of car insurance cards
(16) birth certificates for all people living in the home
(17) report cards for every child in the home who is in kindergarten or above 
(18) 12 hours of specific, online training and education

5/9/16: Home study visit #1 (a joint interview with our social worker and my hub/me) as well as our home inspection

5/18/16: Home study visit #2 and #3 (individual interviews with my hub and me)

5/19/16: All 12 hours of our required education and training completed

6/14/16: Home study visit #4 (interviews with my hub/me and the kids)

7/19/16: Home study report finalized and sent to South Carolina's Department of Social Services (DSS) for approval

7/22/16: I800A form submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

8/23/16: Home study report finally approved by DSS and arrived to USCIS

9/3/16: I800A approved

9/7/16: All required documents sent to S.C. Secretary of State for certification

9/9/16: Certification approved and received back that morning. Documents mailed to courier service in D.C. that afternoon for authentication to begin

9/14/16: Documents couriered to U.S. Department of State

9/20/16: Documents authenticated by U.S. Department of State and immediately couriered to Chinese Embassy for final step of authentication

9/28/16: Documents authenticated by Chinese Embassy and mailed back to us.

9/30/16: Authenticated documents arrive back to us. ALL paperwork, photos, reports, etc. (our ENTIRE dossier) complete and sent to CCAI that afternoon for critical review.

10/10/16: Critical review and approval of dossier by CCAI.

10/12/16: Dossier arrived to CCAI headquarters in Colorado for Chinese translation and binding.

10/14/16: Dossier to China (DTC)!!! Our dossier was sent to the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) in China.

10/18/16: Dossier delivered to CCCWA, with anticipation of a Log-In Date (LID) within the next two weeks!!!!

10/18/16: Evening update: Two weeks 'til LID? -- NOPE!!! We got word last night that we are LID!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This means, it could be any day that we receive a referral of a child's file to review!!! 

After many months of lots hard work, we have faith that we will find our daughter, all in God's timing. The waiting continues... <3 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wee One Wednesday: Doc Momma Bakes

I am so excited to share some big news about our adoption next week, but until then, I thought I'd gather and share photos of the various baking projects I've done over the last few months as an adoption fundraiser. 

I have always LOOOOOOVED to bake (hate to cook! Bleh! Hate it! The worst!). Although I've always made my kiddos' birthday cakes and cupcakes, I have never really ventured far from that. But at a friend's suggestion several months ago, I started baking, decorating, and selling cookies and putting 100% of the proceeds towards our adoption. It has proven to be a really fun, creative outlet that allows me to help with loved ones' special celebrations while getting one step closer to bringing our girl home, one order at a time. :) 

You see, my hub and I just didn't feel comfortable taking direct donations from people to help fund our adoption. This works GREAT for some families!!! It was just not the right path for us. But, we decided that if we (or our amazingly talented, generous, awesome friends!) could offer a product or service, we would feel comfortable using those platforms as fundraising efforts. Since I am a stay-at-home momma, I can't exactly work overtime or take on additional responsibilities at a paying job. But. I can offer up my kitchen services, the majority of which occurs during the early morning, naptime, or nighttime hours so that I can still focus on my main "job" as a SAHM. 

That being said, here is what has been keeping my kitchen buzzing the last four months: 

For a donuts and milk birthday party: 

For a flamingo pool party:

For the 4th of July: 

For a 15-year, Red Bull distribution party:

For a pink and blue puppy party:

For an Avenger themed party:

For a sweet 2-year-old's party:

For a cat-lovin', 8-year-old's birthday party:

 Back-to-school bundles for the teachers:

For a prankster birthday party (yes, those are poop emojis):
For a 40-year-old's birthday party-some of his favorite things:

For a football party:

For a mermaid-themed pool party:

For a soccer birthday party:

For a Minecraft-themed party:

For a pumpkin-themed baby shower:

And, with any luck, our oven (which has been broken and out of service for the last month?...two months?...way too long as we have waited for the broken part, which has been on indefinite backorder, to find it's way to our home) will be repaired by the end of the day TODAY!!!! This means I'll be able to resume taking more orders, including some special offers coming up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. :) Stay tuned! And as ALWAYS, thank you for your orders and support. Please let me know if there's anything I can bake for you! <3

Friday, October 7, 2016

What I'm Loving Now

I haven't written one of these posts lately and thought it'd be a fun way to kick off the (wet! gross!) weekend. Here are a few things I am loving lately:

The "Luton" Reece Blaire bracelet. Meet my very favorite new piece of jewelry! My dear friends at Reece Blaire and I designed this piece as an adoption fundraiser for our family. Every decision that was made in it's design has meaning, and I will treasure it forever. And Emily and Kaitlyn, the amazingly talented women behind Reece Blaire, so, so kindly offered to donate !00% of the proceeds from this bracelet's sales to our adoption. Please let me know if you want one (they are not available on the Reece Blaire website). They are limited and going FAST!!!

This Is Us. Please tell me y'all are watching this show! It may rank up there with Parenthood and Friday Night Lights. The first two episodes have been SO good! If you haven't already, you must check it out!

Queen of the Fill. One of my girlfriends (fist bump to you, J.Land) recommended this product and it is amazing! For people like me with pretty sparse eyebrows, this filler makes a HUGE difference!

R+F products. I know I don't post about it much, but yes, I am still an R+F consultant (and am using all profits straight toward, what else, our adoption). I know there are a bajillion consultants out there these days, but let me know if you are looking for one (pick me! pick me!) and know that you'll be helping to fund our adoption in the process! <3

Friends' ovens. Yes, our oven is STILL broken, thanks to the one part being on indefinite backorder. There is a rumor it may be shipped next week; so, I am crossing my fingers and toes that it (1) arrives, and (2) works. In the meanwhile, my sweet friends (thank you, Ashleigh and Volree!) have been letting me borrow their ovens to bake my adoption fundraising cookies. Here are three of my latest batches: 

Pure Barre. I am still obsessed with Pure Barre and am still convinced it is the absolute best workout for lifting, toning, and burning. If you haven't already, find your closest studio and be prepared to shake, rattle, and roll!

Daddy haircuts. Yesterday, Banks and his Daddy went out for haircuts and Banks decided his hair to look just his Dad's. So he went from this: 

To this. Swoon. I love it!:


Fall decor. Fall has arrived, and we are excited! Although our original pumpkin patch plans tomorrow are going to be rained out, that hasn't stopped us from spreading a little autumn 'round these parts, with Halloween decor on tap by the end of the weekend! We love you, Fall!

Children's ministry. I love our church and love being a part of the children's ministry. There are so many people who work behind (and in!) the scenes to make sure our kiddos are learning all about God and His love for us, and in such a fun and engaging way! With songs and skits and storytelling and crafts and prayers and painting and snacks and more, it is just awesome to witness. 

Clemson football. It is no secret that my hub and I are avid Clemson fans. Although we stand behind our coach and team win or lose, it sure is fun to be on the winning side right now! And you can bet your bottom dollar we'll be cheering loud and proud as our Tigers take on the Boston College Eagles tonight! 

Impromptu evenings. The other night, my hub suggested a last minute excursion to our local Greenway (which is located across the road from our neighborhood). After a quick stop at the grocery store for individual ice cream cups, we spent the evening strolling, having an icecream picnic, petting the horses and donkeys, and exploring our favorite creek and bridge. It was just lovely. I love that at least one of us is good at spontaneity (hint: not me). :) 

Low key weekends. They are few and far between these days, so we take 'em when we can get 'em! Our Nana and Pop arrived last night to surprise Banks at his flag football game and will be hanging with us during this rainy, plan-free weekend. Just what the doctor ordered after a crazy, traumatic (read: Banks' procedure. Never want to re-live that morning :0 ) week. 

Thumbs up for the weekend, y'all! Have a great one and stay safe out there!