Thursday, September 26, 2013

A 2nd Grader's Widow's Mite

My eyes are still wet.

I sat here with Oliver before bed, watching the video about a sweet girl who is DESPERATE for a family to choose her. Her video is compelling and it breaks your heart to see her plea for a family...and break into tears. The nanny tells her softly, "No, don't cry. Don't be sad."

But it is just so, so sad.

Oliver and I watched it.

He said very little. He's an inward processor. Very UNlike his momma! ;)

He asked me about Esty, "Why can't she walk, Momma?" 

I explained spina bifida. I explained incontinence.

I then shared that she's been waiting (like the girl in the video) for NINE YEARS for a family to come for her.

It's longer than he has been alive.

His eyes widened.

Still, he said nothing.

He then asked me about the money we needed to go get her.

"How much more do we need?"


"How much would we need if we just started?"


"So...we only need $2,000?" he asked quietly.

"No, actually a lot more than that. Twenty-one thousand," I shared.

"Ohhhh. That's a lot." 

Yes. Yes it is.

But God is WAAAAY bigger.

He was gone then. Not sure even when or how he snuck away. The next thing I know he has returned with his wallet open and he is handing me two dollars.

"Mom, I want to give this to bring Esty home." he said with his hand holding the two Washingtons.

"Oh Oliver, are you SURE? Maybe you want to keep it for later when you are with Esty?" I offered.

"No, mom. I want to get her home. This is all the dollars I have. Please take it.

And he smiled.

I'm in tears again as I write.

It's just like the widow that Jesus praised in Luke chapter 21:

He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

I held the two dollars and prayed over them. So precious. Gifts of the heart. My boy. Esty's future brother.

Sometimes people question whether adopting other children into your family is "fair" to your biological children. I wonder if it's fair NOT to. God is using the adoption of Esty in a powerful way in many people's hearts...and I think Oliver is one of them.

I'd love to share the precious video he and I watched together tonight. You never know, it might spark something in you or your children's hearts too. Emily NEEDS a family!!! And so do SOOOOOO MANY OTHERS!!!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Post Placement Paperwork Chase

So today...we file to RE-adopt Toby.


Why in the world would we do that? Wasn't once enough?

Ha ha! Yes, it was! But apparently some divisions of our government would like to have some more "United States-ish" looking paperwork.


That's right.

I've had a very challenging time getting Toby's American name on his Social Security card. I was able to get a card right away with a number assigned to him, but it was in his previous Chinese name.

Here's the thing:

When you adopt a child in China, they become forever yours on that adoption day. Their names change to whatever you fill in the form, but in order for them to leave the country and gain access to ours, they need to get a passport and visa in their CHINESE NAME.

This has not been a problem at all. Upon landing in America, provided your child is on the IH-3 visa, your child magically transforms into an American! (Expect sparkles!! Actually poor Toby was vomiting the moment he became an American!)

You fly home with tons of paperwork that is very official from China. You get all the necessary Chinese translations and the red stamps to prove that they are real. Documents that have both the child's prior Chinese name and new name and your picture with your child. Sounds like plenty of "proof" that this child is yours and has a new name, right?

Well, maybe not.

Turns out that my Social Security office would not issue Toby's new card in his new name. In spite of pages like this  and this from the actual SS website that state that the Certificate of Citizenship is adequate for a name change. 

However, my local SS worker explained to me that he had gone up to the federal level for an answer. There is a policy that states that the name must be shown on a US state amended birth certificate OR a US state court order showing the name change or a Certificate of Naturalization. No website would change his mind.

{Now I am skipping over the fact that I have made this long trip to this office with 3 preschool children in tow NONE OF WHOM care to sit patiently in the office while we wait to be called to the window. There are NO TOYS, NOTHING entertaining at all besides a water fountain, and the entire place if full of other people who appear rather uninterested in my children's antics. I have currently made this trip 3 times now. Every trip has made me batty as we have waited upwards of an hour before even being seen at the window. (Where it takes another 30 minutes to wade through the paperwork...again.) I have a rockstar friend who thinks going with me is fun and she brings HER kid so we sit there with FOUR children and basically rock everybody's socks off. Yeah. We sure do.}


I now have been on the phone with this office multiple times. I think they have me on caller-id. "It's HER!!! Take your coffee break! Run!!" I can just hear them!

So, after working with our fabulous adoption agency's post placement department, I have finally determined that I could continue to try to get this name changed myself by trying again in a BIG CITY (risking further answers like I've been getting)...or I could just acquiesce to what the local SS office is saying I need.

A US birth certificate for my child.

Why would I fight getting this? Well, money actually. And that's really all it is because I WANT my child to have official AMERICAN looking paperwork. Lord knows it'll help him his whole life long to not try to prove things with those Chinese charactered crispy papers. Places like schools and workplaces will want a birth certificate...preferably one they recognize. And someone pointed out that if ever (God forbid) Chinese-American relations get strained, it'd be safer to have our kiddos have American paperwork to prove their identity.

So here's the process: we must go to court and RE-ADOPT Toby in Ohio. This is true for every state. You must have a hearing with a real live judge if you want to have a birth certificate. (Sorry, this still is amazing to me.) It isn't enough that all this was done and we've paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to do this on foreign soil.

So you must hire a lawyer, file paperwork, wait 30 days and appear before the judge. Then in another 60 days, you will receive your child's birth certificate. (READ: you cannot do anything quickly!)

So as you can see, this is an easy thing to "put off" because of the finances. ESPECIALLY when you are working to bring another child home! However, we have some reasons we want to get Toby's name changed and his status corrected from "alien" to "citizen" in the eyes of the government. Apparently that $550 piece of paper called Certificate of Citizenship just ain't enough.


But today, I decided to try something. And it worked!! 

I printed off all the Ohio adoption forms I could find, filled them out and showed up at the probate court with every imaginable Chinese adoption related document I could unearth and said, "I need to get this boy an Ohio birth certificate." Cue Toby to flash that amazing smile.  And he did. 

Suddenly, the probate court workers were filing and stamping and photocopying my documents. Would October 16th work for a hearing for me?

Why yes, yes it will!!!

So what just happened here? I AVOIDED HIRING A LAWYER AND DID IT MYSELF!!! 

That means I saved money. That means this whole process only costs me the court filing fee! You can now imagine me leaping around for great joy and wondering what to spend the money on that we just saved.

You can now imagine me remembering that our sweet Esty is still sitting in a wheelchair in a corner of an orphanage in Beijing and see me apply those funds to get her HOME!

Now, apparently there are particular counties in Ohio where you cannot file without a lawyer. But, you can TRY!!! If you live in Ohio, you can try by going here and scroll down till you see "adoption forms." Now let it be known that I am NOT GIVING OUT LEGAL ADVICE here...but you might say click on the first and eighth and ninth forms. That's what worked here.

If you do live in Ohio, keep in mind that you cannot schedule a hearing until your child has been in your home for 6 months. That apparently does not matter whether the adoption was finalized overseas or not. Some states do not have this rule. Some states have the rule, but will waive it for a decent reason. 

I hope this post helps some of you...after posting on Instagram I got many requests for a blog post about this and got the ok from our post placement department to blog and help others! I'm all about that!! So I hope this helps some fellow adoptive families...see you in court!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

How to Apply for a {Boatload} of Grants

I apologize for removing this post. 

I had no idea a sweet adoptive mommy is going to be using this information in her OWN BOOK to sell to raise money for a future adoption.

It IS great, great helpful material...but I cannot rob my sweet friend of her ability to fundraise with her phenomenal organizational skills!! (She shared some of the ideas I wrote out with me personally, neither of us realizing the other would publish!)

Do look for her book sometime soon! Watch for it here on her site: The Adoption Cafe!

In the meantime, if you are interested in receiving a spreadsheet of grants and information I've been accumulating, leave your email address in the comment section below. You will need to do your own research as timing will have changed but the template is helpful. Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, for sending hers to me!

In the meantime, you can do your own research for grants by going here and here.

Happy Grant Applying!!!
(p.s. I will not publish your email if you leave it for me.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Busted out and Growin' Strong!

Today marks six months!

6 months ago today we busted Toby out of his orphanage!!

Six months ago we carefully dressed in our "Love with Abandon" shirts and counted down the hours.

Then the minutes.

We drove to the meeting spot.

We went up in the elevator.

We held our breaths until it was our turn.


For a family.

No. More. Waiting.


It was rather EMOTIONAL. For everyone!

He got to meet his daddy 6 months ago today too...

(don't worry, he fell for him hard!)

Mommy is looking for that precious dimple! Didn't I see one over here?!?!

On the way back to the hotel...

"What is this game of "peek-a-boo" anyway?!"

 Precious first moments together...

Adoption day was the very next day! A Shaw FOREVER!!


And now for a look at Toby's first 6 months in a family...

 Three brothers in jammies!!

 That amazing smile...

 Swinging high...oh my the GIGGLES the first time he ever did this!!

 ...and I WISH I had a picture of his first bike ride...same BIG GIGGLES!!! :)

 With big sister! Oh THERE is that precious dimple!!

On vacation with one of his favorite people, "Gwampa!"

In "wuv" with all his sisters!

First birthday in a family!!

And the final image to represent the change in Toby after 6 months:

He has grown 2 inches and gained 6 pounds...but more than that he has grown so much in his comprehension of how VALUED and LOVED he is and he understands that family is forever.

We rejoice in the gift of Toby in our family!!!

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Now Fundraising for Esty---with Scentsy!!!

We have been blessed again with an opportunity to raise funds for Esty's adoption!

A new friend, Jennifer, has so graciously offered her entire commission to Esty's fund from anyone who purchases Scentsy (super fun, good smelling "treats" for your home!) using her online party website!!


That's 25% of total sales will go directly to help us bring dear Esther "Esty" out of her orphanage and HOME where she can begin school, therapy and understanding that she is TREASURED AND LOVED by us, her family.

Yah, this girl makes my heart go pitter-pat. I want to love on her so badly!!!
All you have to do to participate is to click on this link to Jennifer's site and choose "Scentsy for Esty Shaw" under the SHOP tab at the top (so her party gets the credit!) We have until OCTOBER 15th to have sales come in.

Oh, and get ready for your stuff to get to you PRONTO! My friend ordered her stuff one day and got it THE NEXT DAY!!! Hello late that birthday coming soon? Here ya go!!! Yer welcome!!

So whatcha doin still reading? Get shopping:

...and THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! 

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Matthew is Going HOME!!!

Do you remember Matthew??? 

Well, I have some VERY EXCITING NEWS!!!

He has a family! And that family has FLOWN through the China adoption process!

And guess what?

Matthew ages out THIS THURSDAY...

but his new mama is getting on a plane TOMORROW to go get him!!!


I want to plea with you to pray for her.

She will be traveling to get "Matthew" whom will be named Levi Matthew, by herself.

But WE KNOW she isn't really going alone.

Jesus, Almighty God and lover of the fatherless, is leading her, guiding her, going ahead and behind her and filling her with His presence.

Please pray that nothing hinders her path to get Levi Matthew!!

I would also ask you to be in prayer for Matthew himself as ALL HE HAS EVER KNOWN in this world will drastically change.

Oh yes, he wants a family.

Oh yes, he wants to be adopted. To belong. To have a mama.

And he will...but there is such a loss also that dear Matthew will endure, that we really must uphold his precious heart and emotions in our prayers.

Suddenly all whom he has known, everything he has ever experienced, the food, the language even his name (his Chinese name is not Matthew) WILL UTTERLY CHANGE on a dime.

Once he comes to America, or perhaps even before, grief will need to be experienced. 

And as one who has walked the road of grief (albeit a different kind), I will tell you it is WORK.


Matthew (Levi Matthew that is!) will be desperate for our prayers. 

Please join me in praying for him, his adjustment, his grief work, his acclimation to his new family, his bonding time with his new mama in China, their details of the adoption to be smooth, their trip home and then ALL THAT IS AHEAD of them once he comes home.

You will probably want to read THIS POST from his amazing mother-to-be as she writes from her heart (on her family blog) about what song she will sing to her new son when they meet! (Oh, this post MELTS MY HEART!!!!) Be sure to follow their journey!

What a JOY: He is going home!! 

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lessons from the Dark

Happy September!

Oh, I am so happy to be able to say that. I had my personal WORST August ever.

I was allowed to endure an onerous month long sifting. 

It was long.

It was intense.

I thought I wasn't going to make it.

(If you feel like you can tolerate your suffering, then you ain't really suffering yet!)

And now...I feel like the darkness has passed.

At times now, and while I was experiencing it, I was tempted to try and understand it. Questioning constantly what was I doing wrong, why did I feel this way, how could I do better...and eventually, between my tears and abbreviated prayers that only sounded like weak cries from a baby seal, "HELP!" did I give up trying to UNDERSTAND it...

...and I just tried to survive.

I tend to be a very buoyant person. Something goes wrong pushing me under, I end up bouncing up above the water in a different place. Usually happily so.

But this was a dark heaviness. I felt like I could do no right. I failed CONSISTENTLY at everything I did.

I kept meeting with God in the mornings though--that remained in my life. Some days, I felt fine during those mornings.

And then by 7:30 am I was crying again in the closet.

Desperately wondering how I could get OUT of my life. How I could STOP being a parent to all of these children.

It was DARK.

But the truth and the calling remained: I am living what I have been created to do. WHY IS IT SO HARD THEN!?!?!?!?

And the truth is: God doesn't call us to what is easy for us. 

And I'm going to tell you something big now: (listen up)


ADOPTIVE PARENTING IS EVEN HARDER WORK...for so many, many reasons. And parenting a smattering of children who both sprung from your loins and were grafted into your family provides an even different dimension.

But HARD does not equal NOT CALLED. 

HARD does not equal NOT GOING TO DO THIS.


And that was my daily morning cry, "Help me to die to myself and YOU to live through me to parent this mess of children!"

But every single day I was reduced to tears EARLY in the morning and overcome by the weight of all their needs, all their tears, all their baggage (trauma), teenage hormones and then throw in some laundry, financial stressors, string of medical appointments and therapy, potty training and other "surprises" that regularly occur in life (like our home study agency stopping doing adoptions and we have to drop what we are doing and transfer and re-fingerprint and blah blah blah) and also my thyroid being off so I hadn't slept longer than 2-3 hour stretches in all added up and was my perfect storm.

I did a lot of desperate texting to my dear husband and BFF. They carried me, prayed for me and supported me in this "overwhelming flood."

And again, I'd re-examine the situation and try try try to see WHY it was happening. 

But I just couldn't. Mainly because I could not see out in front of my face. The trees of the forest were just so RIGHT THERE. It's hard to see the whole forest when the bark is right in your face.

At one point my husband asked me if I had any idea what God was trying to teach me in all of this. I had no clue. Not even a hunch. I think I just growled at him, wordlessly.

But never did I feel like God abandoned me...but He did not say much. At all. 

For weeks.

And that was H-A-R-D.

One time last week I was sitting in the rocking chair holding a child on my lap, pulling her close to me so she wouldn't see my tears...wondering how we would be able to feed all of them next week... and He spoke!!

"Just feed her today."

And that's all He spoke to me through this hard time. "Just today."

But it was enough.

Scripture came back to my mind about only living today, for each day has enough trouble of its own. And that the ravens they don't plant, harvest or store food yet God feeds them...I'm going to be okay.

I reached out to a woman I greatly respect and long to be like one day. She told me a few things that really helped me in all of this. (Because truly, when it was dark, I could not see or sense that God was doing ANYTHING in me at all...all I felt was "overwhelming failure" and had no sense that there was a purpose in it at all...although my husband and BFF were telling me God was busy doing good things in me!)

This precious mentor reminded me how crazy passionate God is for me. "Even if you never do another thing for Him the rest of your life, He loves you. Period."


That's amazing to me. ...And I think I have a problem. 

I cannot seem to un-think that if I do well in life, that I am more appealing to Him. That my well balanced life, organized family and all I work at doing is more attractive to Him than if I was lying around on the couch day after day eating bon-bons.

But that's not true. I cannot do ANYTHING to make God love me MORE.

And that's a statement about the INTENSITY of His love for me. 

He already loves me MORE.

God must be CRAZY SAUCE  for His people. He's GOT to be! Otherwise, how could He send His only Son down here, deny Him heaven and put the weight of all sin on Him and let Him bear all the punishment?!?!?!

That's crazy love. Crazy.

My mentor also told me something else. Something that has lead to a real epiphany for me.

She told me that if I want to later be remembered by my children as a loving, wonderful mommy...then I need to relax. A TON.

Oh dear.

That one hit hard. I don't relax well. I multitask well. I do intense well. In fact, I can't remember when I did not give something I'm excited about 110% of my energy.

Relax? "A ton?" Oh my.

And then I read some questions in a book our church is using called How People Change. The questions are actually called, "X-ray Questions" because they cut right through your fluff and get at the core.

One question stood out to me...mainly because my answer showed me that I was actually frustrated and striving for something preposterous.

Somehow I have gotten off. WAY OFF.

Somehow I went from using chore charts and organizing bins to the idea of being out for TOTAL PERFECTION.

I seriously was looking to produce: a spotless home...every corner tidied, every meal well balanced and prepared on time, cupboard stocked and organized, obedient children willing to serve others and ample finances to support the whole production. I was looking forward to the moment when EVERY SPACE in our home was organized, picked up and clean (oh the pet hair and dust bunnies!) and THEN I would simply maintain it.

So, you see that as I was working toward that idea above...and turned around to discover another mess (usually in an area that was just cleaned) or the same child repeat-offending an offense,  or running out of milk and toilets overflowing...I felt further set back from my goal: to when I'd have this all cleaned up and put together.

Oh, that elusive moment.

For some reason when my mentor told me that I was just going to have to relax...(she also told me to figure out what was MOST important and let everything else GO!) I was able to see what I was doing: striving for unattainable perfection and STRESSING about it when it did not go smoothly and forgetting that THIS IS A JOURNEY

And that it is NOT a journey toward the moment WHEN all things become perfect, but that they never will. However, this is not to frustrate or discourage, but to reshift my thinking.  I need to still do these things (parent, potty train, cook, clean, re-clean, teach math,  can tomatoes, drive to therapy, coach in drama practice, train hearts, etc.) but allow them to happen as they the imperfectness of this world.

So, that means that when something goes wrong now (and they will keep going wrong) in my spirit I do not need to unleash the "oh well GREAT (roll eyes)" monster, but rather go with it as "okay, let's see what needs to happen now," patient mother who even actually smiles at her offending children.

This is in Esty's soon-to-be bedroom. Been cleaning it out and had left neat piles of books. Turned around 5 min later to see this. Oh yeah. Life is messy!

When I walk into a room and discover an enormous mess created by the three amigos, (THAT I JUST CLEANED) I do not need to allow sabotage to reach my heart. When I turn the corner to next room and discover the table has not yet been cleared by table-responsible son who is outside playing blissfully even though I reminded him after dinner---doesn't need to upset me. 

A journey. NOT to perfection, but to growing up. (Both kids and me.) A journey to train the children's hearts to love Jesus and follow Him amidst the messes we encounter in life. 

No perfection needed.

My kids are watching me. They see how I act when things don't go right. 

How do they learn to react? They watch me. They imitate me.

{Like it or not: they DO.}

I want to follow Jesus and encounter life's messes patiently and in faith. I want to model trusting in a God who IS ENOUGH...not panicking in the face of a problem.

I really can't say what brought the end of the time of sifting. Finances are still uber tight. Kids are still kids. Entropy still rules. Maybe my thyroid is finally regulating. (I'm beginning to sleep better, praise Him!) School has started and there are less people here all day. I'll probably never know why the darkness has lifted but I can begin to see again...but I do hope that what I've learned and processed is gonna STICK.

I shared some of this aloud with my dear friend wondering if I should blog it. She declared emphatically that YES! I should, that other people are probably trying to achieve perfection too.

So, for the sake of YOU, stressed out mama, I share this publicly. I hope that you will be encouraged and find hope for your own journey.

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{During this season of intense sifting, I was encouraged time and time again through my readers that this blog has blessed and encouraged them. Even a family is in process to adopt some children I've advocated for here!!! These words have brought me great joy and a renewed sense of purpose amidst the dark time. Thank you, dear ones.}

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