Thursday, January 1, 2015

Day 2 - January 1st

Day 2 - January 1st

Happy New Years!!!

Unfortunately with it being New Years Eve last night, there was a lot of yelling and arguing by, I am assuming from what I heard, drunken neighbors. We all fell asleep despite the noise before 11pm, only to be awoke around midnight to Happy New Year wishes from family and friends via text. The kids however slept through and I got almost 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I am sure at this point, I am running on pure excitement and will crash hard at some point.

Our flight this am is at 6 am, so I got up around 3 to shower. Amazing both kids got up around 3:15 happy as could be, we will see how long this lasts! We have a 4 hour layover in SFO which will allow us to eat breakfast, convert some money and relax a bit before boarding the flight for Beijing.

We have a long day of travel facing us, I hope no one especially me has a melt down and that our flight to Beijing is restful and uneventful. Wish us luck!!

We are excited to be starting 2015 with welcoming Emily into our family!!

Day 1 - December 31st

Day 1 - December 31st

It is New Years eve and we are beginning our journey to China to adopt Emily or as we call her mini mei mei.

I have been packing and repacking for days and in the last 48 hours have logged a whopping 4 1/2 hours of sleep. There has been so much to do and get ready before of family of five could leave and its been hard to turn off my mind when I crawl into bed at 2am as the lists keep flying through my head. However today we leave and after quickly repacking our suitcase of food (yes food for my picky eater Jake - hey I cant let him starve!) we were on our way!

I am proud to say we only have 3 checked bags, 4 carryons and each of us have a backpack. So that makes 11 items in total, I know that it seems like a lot of luggage and I am sure if my friends The Shays are reading this, Chris will be hearing about this forever, as he convinced his wife this summer that their family of three could do two weeks in France with only carryons and if i remember correctly he wanted her to only use backpacks or some crazy thing like that. But before anyone judges me let me provide you with a few facts:

- We will be gone for 16 days
- I was packing for five
- We have 1 suitcase full of 35 pairs of new shoes to donate to the orphanage
- We have 1/2 suitcase that is full of meds, I feel like a walking pharmacy, but I am prepared!!
- The other 1/2 of the suitcase is filled with gifts for the officials and nannies (this is a required adopt custom to bring gifts)
- I was packing for 2 different climates, one in the low to mid 40's and the other in the high 60's to low 70's.

So now that you have the facts, go ahead judge me :)

Lucky for us all of our suitcases fit into my parents suburban and we were off to SFO. Now I know this sounds crazy but here me out before you judge me again! We left today via Virgin America and flew down to LA to spend the night. Tomorrow am we will leave LA and fly back to SFO for a 4 hour layover and then head to China. Yes...yes... I know it sounds crazy, but by doing this, we saved over $300 per ticket over flying direct from SFO. Our roundtrip tickets for four was a little less than 2600 total including taxes and fees. So, for us saving over a thousand dollars was worth a little crazy and lucky for me, John can be tight with the buck and was willing to go along with this idea to save $$.

Anyways we landed at LAX around 5pm, after a uneventful flight. Much to my dismay at baggage claim, one of our duffle bags had been damaged, like the handle was ripped off it is was gapping open. Virgin America was great and gave me a backpack as a replacement and a $25.00 credit towards future travel. As we were leaving the baggage area, I noticed one of our brand new large hard-sided suitcase was been cracked near the wheel. Once again, I was back in the baggage office, only to be informed that they don't cover that kind of damage. So finally we were off to the hotel.

We stayed at the Marriott LAX and it was super easy and convenient as they had a free airport shuttle. They lobby was packed as it was New Years eve and a rose bowl event going on, but checkin was a breeze. We got to our room, only to be surprised 15 mins later by a knock on the door. Our friend Noelle who works there sent up a New Years tray of goodies - Thank you Noelle!!!

We needed to make a trip to Target as we needed to buy another duffle bag as trying to fit my stuff into the backpack was not working. We also had realized in route to the airport that both my children had forgotten to grab jackets. Jake luckily has a heavy fleeced lined sweat shirt with him and according to him and his dad, will be fine. Maddison however needed a jacket. A hundred bucks later and it was off for a quick dinner and back to the hotel for showers, to get organized for our flight in the am and bed.

Everyone will surely be tired for our full day of traveling tomorrow that starts at 6 am!!

Introducing Emily Ann Tong Tao Silva!!

We are thrilled and excited to introduce Emily Ann Tong Tao!!!

 Emily's orphanage is located in Shijiazhuang, China which is in the Hebei providence of China. Shijiazhuang is located about 2 hours outside of Beijing.

 Emily's Chinese name is Shi Tong Tao and she was abandoned in Nov 2011. She is aprx 3 - 3 1/2 years old (exact age is unknown). Per the updates that we have received Emily seems to be doing well as she is now walking on her own and likes to count. Emily is tiny weighing in at aprx 28lbs and is 30" tall, per the size charts we expect her to be wearing a 2T clothing. As of December she now has 20 teeth, as of Sept she only had 18. They have told us that she likes music and musical toys. In our last update, they shared with us that she will follow you if she knows she will get something good to eat! She is so my kind of girl and will fit in with her always hungry, always eating sister!!

The Decision to Adopt Again

The reasons why people decide to adopt vary widely and its a very personal decision. We are not adopting because we are trying to save a child or because we are saints or because god told us to. Trust me I am not judging anyone if those are their reasons for adopting, they just are not our reasons. For us adopting is purely a selfish decision; we want more kids. We always knew that we wanted three or four kids and we were very blessed to be able with the assistance of drugs to conceive Jake. However, after much heartbreak, additional biological children were not in the cards for us. So we decided that adoption was the way we would expand our family. We looked at many different adoption avenues and for reasons that could fill up another entire blog post, adopting from China was the way to go for us.

John and I have been flirting off and on with the idea to adopt again for the last four years. We would talk about the idea of adopting another one, however a huge concern for us was Madison. We have always said that she would be a ideal only child or first born given her personality, but as luck would have it, she ended up as our baby. We were both, extremely concerned about how she would react to being dethroned as the baby. Add on to that, Jake wanted a brother who was older like him. And while, we agree that our kids should not be the deciding factor in whether we adopt again, their feelings and concerns do and did weigh into our decision on when and the type of child to adopt. In the Spring of 2013, I had been bitten by the adoption bug and even started compiling the stack of paperwork that we would need to begin our process. However neither John or I was overly motivated and I was worried about trying to adopt and finish school. We decided to table the discussion until mid/late 2014.

So imagine my surprise when in Jan 2014, John began pushing hard on the idea that we should adopt again. After much discussion we decided in April 2014, that we would officially begin the process to adopt again. We knew that we wanted another girl, or rather we were told by Maddy that we were going to get another girl, one who looked like her but with shorter legs (meaning younger). Maddy who previously was resistant to the idea of another sibling and who previous answer to the question "Do you want a sister or another brother?" was "I have a brother and I am the sister, we don't need any more" Suddenly was the biggest champion of getting a sister, as she liked the idea of having someone littler around that she could boss around. I began the process of collecting the required paperwork and by early May we were paying our fees and starting the home-study process. We were shocked that within weeks of paying our fees, we received a file to review. Our china program coordinator had locked the file of a little girl with albinism who according to the file was born in Jan 2011.

We were excited, but also nervous as we had not expected to be reviewing a file so quickly. As we reviewed the file, it was apparent that this child was delayed and that there was major questions about her actual birthdate. The file showed the child had been abandoned in late Nov. 2011 but her birthdate was listed as Jan 2011, making her tens months at abandonment, which would be unusual for a child with albinism to be abandoned at that age. The file also showed that they believed she had hearing loss in addition to albinism and was not walking unassisted or really talking. These were major red-flags as according to her file she was almost 3 1/2 at this point. We started questioning the file and asking for updates, all along terrified that this child had more needs than we could handle. Our agency worked hard to get updated information and videos, but there was a lot of unanswered questions still, but we needed to make a decision. Adoption is a leap of faith into the unknown and that leap can be terrifying and the worse thing any family can do is say yes to child's file and then be unable to handle the needs and at worst case situation end us disrupting the adoption. I feel like our family is open to a lot of needs, as we have two special needs kids, but given what we knew and with me feeling completely overwhelmed by the unknown, we had to say no the file We were both heartbroken and I know everyday, I questioned our decision to say no and wondered was she suppose to be our and I was just too frozen by fear to say yes.

I am not overly religious and would probably be classified best a non-practicing catholic (raised catholic, believe in, pray, baptized my kids, but never go to church). However, I prayed every night that this child would find the family that was meant for her. I was thrilled when I saw online (thanks to the wonder of Facebook groups) that another another family with our agency was reviewing the file and truly hoped she would find her forever family. We continued to move our paperwork through the required U.S. steps and by August was ready to send our paperwork to China for processing. We knew that to be matched with a little girl under two with albinism could take some time and did not expect to see a file until after our paperwork had been logged in with the Chinese government.

As we were preparing to hand over our paperwork to our agency so they could send it to China, our China coordinator informed us that the other family had passed on the little girls file, as they had been waiting for seven months for another child's file to become available and it finally had! Our coordinator stated that she had additional videos and information. She asked if we would like to review the file again with the new information and videos and told me that she honestly felt like this child was meant to be ours, but that she would understand if we said no again. Before even reviewing the information John said "You know she is meant to be ours, right?". I also knew deep down in my heart she was our daughter and that we would be accepting her file regardless of what the information was. I knew that we would get her the services she needed to excel and that with some love, a little bit of luck and the right therapies she would be okay. Our biggest worry was potential hearing loss, however we were pleasantly surprised to open the video and see her singing along and mimicking her nanny.

The previously family had a international doctor review the file and shared the information with us, including that her CAT scan and head measurements looked normal. It was obvious that she had some development delays, however that is very common in children in orphanages. Her blood work also showed signs of being malnourished, again another common adoption related issues. It also became apparent that she may actually be younger than originally stated as the orphanage admitted that they made up her birthday and have no clue how old she was at abandonment. It seems clear that she was not a newborn when she was abandoned, however we may never know how exactly how old she really is. If you look at her development and figure that she could be 6 mos or more younger than stated, then her development is more on track to what you would expect of a younger child.

We were thrilled to accept her referral in August and truly believe she was meant to be ours. The process was a great reminder that adoption is truly a leap of faith and I always use to say plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best. However a friend recently told me that instead in life you should plan for the best case scenario but be prepared for the worst case. Either way we are thrilled to be welcoming a new child into our family!!!

Silva Family Update!!

I can't believe that it has been five years since we brought Madison home. In those five years so much has happened. However 2014 seemed to be the year for changes and major celebrations for our family.

Madison is now seven years old and in the second grade. This year she started at Village elementary school which is a parent participation. I am so happy we were able to move her, not only for the opportunities she has such as once a month field trips, weekly enrichment centers and etc.., but also for what it provides me! Since everyone is "required" to participate you have 200+ families working towards the same goal with everyone pretty much pulling their own weight and contributing to the school. After all the hours I logged at Blackford with less than 10 parents participating (@ a school of 600+) its a nice break to not be "needed".

Maddison, or as she likes to be called, Maddy is thriving in the environment not only socially but academically as well. She does not like math, but I don't think being a math major is in her future as she wants to be a artist. Maddy loves to drawing, paint, write stories and dance. Maddy talks about going to college to study Art and then becoming a artist!! I have always said this girl of mine will grow up and leave us someday, probably moving to a city with excellent public transportation. Perhaps living in New Year or Los Angeles is in her future...

Jake is now in the sixth grade and started middle school this year. He is almost 5 feet tall and when he turned twelve in November I kept thinking where did my baby go? I think reality hit me recently when we took him to buy shoes. I honestly thought he was wearing a kids size 3 or 4. I was surprised when he took off his shoes and he was a size 7, however imagine my shock when I couldn't find a size 8 in the style he wanted and was then informed by the clerk that the reason I couldn't find the size 8 was because my baby boy was no longer wearing kids shoes!! He had graduated into wearing mens shoes and a size 8 mens at that!! I am struggling with the fact that my baby boy is growing into a young man, but I am proud of the smart, compassionate and loving person I am seeing develop. I guess mama needs to start cutting the apron strings a little more because in six years, yes SIX years, he will be off to college and a adult. I know better than anyone that six years will go by in the blink of a eye.

This last September, John & I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. The last 15 years has flown by and while we have had our shares of ups and downs there is no other person in the world I would want to share this crazy adventure called life with. When I look back, I realize just how young and inexperienced we were when we got married at 23 & 25. We have had a lot of laughs, more than our fair share of tears and even some fights that have tested our marriage, but we always make it through whatever comes our way together and stronger. I look forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary and many many more with this man I am proud to call my husband. I also feel lucky that I found someone who loves me unconditionally and even more importantly puts up with all my crap!

As if working full time, being a mom and volunteering wasn't enough, I decided with lots of encouragement (ok, pushing ) to go back to school to finish my four year degree and started the program in Jan 2013. I started the program with a piss poor attitude that I was just going back as I had realized that I was going to be stuck at Stanford in my career without it, but I didn't think I was going to learn anything. Boy was I wrong!! I learned so much from my teachers and peers, but I also learned a lot about myself. I am proud to say that I finished the program in Dec and am now a proud alumni of University of San Fransisco. I am even more proud that I graduated with honors and a final GPA of 3.85, this all from the girl who just thought going back to school was all about getting that "dumb" piece of paper. I have to give credit where credit is due, I couldn't have completed the program and been so successful without John and my families love and support. Additionally, I made some amazing life long friends that were there to push me to not only do my best, but also remind me that failure was not a option.

The most important thing that happened to our family in 2014 was that we decided to adopt a little girl from China. My next post will focus on that decision and sharing with you about her. The posts after that will document our journey to get her in the New Year.

I am looking forward to 2015!