Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adoption Update


I haven't been writing about our adoption lately mostly because there's not a whole lot to report.  Unless you like to read lengthy descriptions of paperwork that we've had to fill out.

I didn't think so.

We are finally getting past the paper chase (as it's called) and are now in a position to start really looking at files of children in China.  There's still a long road to go- we will be matched with a child (undetermined amount of time), then have the match approved by China (which often takes 5-6 months), get travel approval (another 1-2 months) and then head over to China to pick up our little one.

But rather than think about how far we have to go, I'd rather focus on how far we've come!

By the way, you'll see the word "dossier" repeated several times below.  Dossier is another word for "more paperwork than you needed to secure your last home mortgage."

Made the decision (after lots of prayer) to adopt from China: August 10, 2014
Contacted and interviewed several agencies: August 11-15, 2014
Agency approval: August 22, 2014
First agency fees paid: September 2, 2014
Fingerprints for home study: October 17, 2014
Finished parent training: October 23, 2014
Home study completed: November 7, 2014
Fingerprints for immigration approval: December 17, 2014
Immigration approval:  January 9, 2015
Immigration approval in our hands: January 21, 2015 (a GREAT birthday present!)
Finish getting everything notarized for the dossier: February 3, 2015
Walk everything into the State Department (in Austin) to be certified for dossier: February 4, 2015
Take everything to the Chinese Embassy in Houston to be authenticated for dossier: February 6, 2015
 Dossier received at agency along with another agency fee and the CCCWA fee: February 23, 2015
I'm just hoping that China really loves the picture of Zak (above).   Hey, even bureaucrats need a little laugh now and then, right???

Now our dossier is going to be bound and translated into Chinese, then sent to China.  We will receive an LID (log in date) once our paperwork is accepted into the system by the Chinese government. Hopefully that will happen in the next 3-4 weeks.

As for a match, we have looked at files of a couple of children, but nothing feels right yet.  It's quite daunting.  Unlike other adoptions, where the birth mother chooses the family, or a baby is placed in your arms, sight unseen, we actually CHOOSE the child.  Because we are adopting through the Waiting Child program, this can happen one of two ways.

ONE:  We receive a referral through our agency of a child that matches our medical checklist (we filled this out with our original agency application), review her file (though medical files included may be 18 months old or more), and decide that she's ours....or not (we've been warned this way may take about 12 months)

TWO: We find a child through one of several advocacy sites.  We request her file, have it reviewed (again medical files included may be 18 months old or more), and decide if we want to lock that file.  This option can take much less time.

Either way, because so little information is included and much of it is old or incomplete, this is not a LOGICAL decision.  It will all be based on faith and guidance by the Lord.

In other words, pray for us. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Home again, home again


My in-laws have been serving a mission in Germany for the past two years.   It's been tough having them so far away and we have really missed them, but are so proud of the service that they have been doing.   They got back in the middle of January and we were able to go to Utah on a much anticipated trip to greet them.  The kids were excited about Grandma and Grandpa but possibly even more for the snow.

A week before our trip, we had our normal "practice the trip FHE."  We have to act everything out before we actually do it around here. 

Our flight left super late in the night. Storey gets louder and louder the more tired she gets (in an attempt to keep herself awake). As we went through security, Storey had a running conversation with herself (loudly) about how we weren't bad people, and why do we have to scan our stuff since we definitely don't have any guns in our luggage, we don't even own any guns??? Thankfully, the TSA guy was very amused by her and did not just arrest us all on the spot.

The first couple of days, we hung around Salt Lake, ate Cafe Rio (worth the price of the plane ticket), went shopping at Utah only stores, and spent an evening at the Bean Museum.
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Keeping with Vermillion tradition, we all had matching shirts for the homecoming.  On Friday, we headed to the airport with our signs, shirts, and enthusiasm.  You can definitely tell that all of these guys are related.  Crazy and more crazy.
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Everyone got emotional as Peggy and Steve came into view. What a fabulous moment.
It was so wonderful to get to spend a couple of days one-on-one with Grandma and Grandpa. I'm sure they were SO tired, but hung out with us anyway. We saw "Meet the Mormons" at the Joseph Smith building, had lunch at Blue Lemon, and stayed up late to talk.

I'm so lucky to have such amazing in-laws.

Funny kid stories:
While we were in the Joseph Smith Memorial building, we passed this statue of Joseph Smith.  Jakson's comment: Joseph Smith must have really liked golf!!
A stop in Provo to eat at India Palace. The owner came over to talk to us and Storey asked him if he has a Facebook page because she wanted to leave a review about how much she liked the curry. Also she asked if he took tips because he deserved a big tip for the great food.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Singing Sensation


Storey was obsessed with her boots. They were about four sizes too big, but she didn't care and stomped around in them anyway. 

This spring, Storey realized her dreams singing on the stage as part of the Texas Stars choir.   My friend, Emily, is the director (I have some amazingly talented friends.).  She and I traded services--choir for photography.  I got the better end of the deal for sure.

Storey LOVED it (that's an understatement). And the icing on the cake is that her bestie, Millie, was in the choir too.  Being in front of people, spending time with friends, wearing boots, singing a solo, learning fun songs, dancing...it does not get better than Texas Stars.


They had performances at several neighborhood functions, at a local retirement home, sang the National Anthem at a baseball game, and had a family/friends performance at the church.

Storey was chosen to sing a solo from So Long, Farewell (Sound of Music). I don't have any pictures of it because I was video taping, but she did such a fantastic job. Storey is a hip shaker--definitely something she inherited from Zak.

The unofficial/official 2014 choir portrait during practice for a performance.
Storey and a friend from the choir.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Halloween Fun


I get random emails from marketing people on a weekly basis advertising their services to help me get this blog on the first page of search engines.  Not interested.  This week I got an email actually offering to purchase this blog because she claimed she could keep it up better (not sure if she was going to post about my family or come up with some other topic.  Maybe I should let her try documenting our lives as her fictitious account may be more interesting than real life?).  Mainly her email served as a sign that I need to write more often.

One of my goals for 2015 is to thoroughly document our lives (especially the children).  I've started by ordering these journals and I'm going to come up with some sort of schedule for blogging.  I realize not many people read the blog (something that would have bothered me several years ago), but my motivation is mainly driven by the Blurb books I publish from it every couple of years in lieu of a journal.  The kids love to flip through them to read the stories and look at the pictures. 

For now, I'm going to start by filling in a few of the gaps from this year (um, also I'm still missing a post from the day we spent in Animal Kingdom in 2013.  It's on my to-do list).  Like Halloween....

Storey changed her mind about her Halloween costume almost daily for a year.  It was a little frustrating because she came up with several ideas that I quite liked and had tentatively planned out costume plans....but then she would come to be with a new suggestion and I'd have to start all over.  About a month before Halloween, I informed her that she needed to make a final decision with no take backs.  In the end, she decided on a mermaid.  But not The Little Mermaid.  Just A mermaid.


I absolutely LOVE the way her costume turned out but it was the most time consuming costume I've ever made (and that's saying a lot since Max costumes are a beast to cut and sew).  The top was a breeze (a long sleeved t shirt and felt), but the scaled skirt took FOREVER.   As I made it, I was reassuring myself that at least it will be worn more than once because I plan on this being a costume for our next little one as well.  I hope she likes mermaids.


Jak wanted to be a Ninja and I didn't really want to make that costume, so I bought it during a sale at Target.  He loved it and that's all that matters.  He's never been the type to let me make decisions regarding his costume.  If it would have been up to me, he would have gone as Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Oh well.  He really loved the whole Halloween experience this year, including the trick or treating.  It's amazing how far he has come.


Before trick or treating, Crystal and I attempted to wrestle the kids for a cousin photo shoot.  Most of the pictures are crazy and I didn't get one of them all looking at the camera, but we ended up with several cute ones.



After the photo shoot and dinner (at a restaurant that offers free kids meals to costumed kids), we went trick or treating with our friends the Christensen's again.  Unfortunately, this will be the last time because they are moving to Midland.  It's been a fun tradition.

At one of the houses along the route, a man gave Storey's friend Gabbie a brand new full size Barbie (still in the packaging) because she "had the best costume of the night."  Very very creepy.  Of course Gabbie was waving it around and talking about how awesome it was, which made Storey upset.   A few houses down from Creepy Guy, I noticed that Storey was no longer with our group.  We all started to yell her name, but it was very dark and hard to see.  I was getting a little/lot panicked.  Finally we saw Storey running towards us from the direction of Creepy Guy's house.   Apparently she had decided to right the injustice of not getting a Barbie and had gone back to berate Creepy Guy.  BAD IDEA.  I was not very happy (as you can imagine).  She had to stay right next to me for the rest of the night and got a very long lecture (two if you count Zak's in the car on the way home) about safety.  Any number of things could have happened and she was very lucky to not become a Halloween statistic.

At Trunk or Treat the weekend before Halloween...

Jakson bobbing for apples (a sure way to spread disease).


Storey (with a very soaked shirt from bobbing for apples.  I think she may have dunked her entire head and torso) and her favorite little friends from church: Emme, Millie, Chloe.


Zak went to Trunk or Treat as Tyler Juergens, Homecoming King, which was pretty funny.  He wore his tux from the wedding (how does it still fit????) and his homecoming sash (we changed the year from 1998 to 2004) and then a nametag that said "Hello my name is Tyler J."   Tyler claims he is coming next year as Zak the cheerleader.  Can't wait.


Zak and Bishop were the "judges" for the chili cookoff.  Bishop mainly recruited Zak because he thought one of the chilis was a little "off" and wanted a second opinion. Well, judging by how sick it made Zak, I'd say it definitely had gone south (he only ate a couple of spoonfuls!).  I got revenge on the Bishop several weeks later when I made him stuff 13 large marshmallows in his mouth and sing "Popcorn Popping" in front of the whole Primary. 

Don't mess with the Vermillions.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Pie Night



Every year, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, we hold our annual Pie Night. This was our third annual Pie Night and the biggest one yet (helps that we have a house that is twice the size of our old one). There were around 80 people enjoying good company (it was so loud, but the good, happy kind of loud) and over twenty-five pies.  Definitely one of my favorite traditions.

Pie Night is great because it doesn't take much prep work on my part.  I just provide the venue,  Zak makes a couple of pies (his famous cherry pie is always a hit), and everyone brings a pie.  The most difficult part is letting go of my normal issues about kids acting crazy in my house.   Somehow we have managed to get away without any major injuries or broken bones, a fact that never fails to surprise me.  At one point I caught the kids upstairs having a pool noodle war and shutting themselves in the lockers. Ahhh! 


I am so thankful for all of the amazing friends that we have here. We are surrounded some of the most generous, supportive, funny, and thoughtful people I've ever met.  Lucky lucky us.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Space Cadet


Jakson wrestling with the big trash can at the old house earlier this year.

Jakson's struggles with listening and following directions.  It's always been this way, but seems to be getting worse as he gets older.  Last week he forgot to bring his lunchbox home from school.   The next morning Zak packed his lunch in a plastic grocery bag and handed it to Jakson saying, "this is your lunch."  Jakson promptly trotted out to the trashcan by the front curb and dropped his lunch in.  About a minute later, the garbage truck came by, emptied the trash can into the truck, and drove off.

A few minutes later, as Zak and Jakson walked out to the car, he noticed that his lunch was missing but could not figure out what had happened to it.  Zak searched all over the house.  Finally Jakson realized that he had thrown it away and started screaming that we needed to chase the truck down and get it back.  No way I was digging it out of the back of that truck.

Unfortunately, we only have two plastic sandwich containers for each kid.  One he left at school in his lunchbox and the other he had just thrown away.  The only option left was Storey's pink princess sandwich container.   And we all know how Jakson loves princesses.  A fitting punishment.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Camping, not camping.



A couple of weekends ago we loaded up the car and headed up to the Hill Country to Elijah's Retreat, (a retreat for families with autism). I booked the cabins over a year ago (weekends book up really early. All the weekends for 2015 are already spoken for!), before we moved, before we made the decision to adopt, and before I scheduled a gajillion fall photo sessions. It ended up coming at the exact time that I badly needed a break. I finished all the editing that was due and left my computer at home.  GLORIOUS.


Our good friends, the Kolbabas went along. There are very few couples that we can see ourselves traveling with and they definitely make the short list. We cooked outside, OUR CHILDREN GOT ALONG THE WHOLE TIME! (I repeat: our children got along the whole time!!!), the weather was fabulous, we relaxed, the kids got dirty, rode horses, I read a bit, and we didn't miss technology at all. Oh, and it was LIKE camping, but with a bed and a toilet and four walls. Kids were happy, husband was happy, I was happy.


We loved it so much that, while we were there, we booked a long weekend again next May.  I want to go back tomorrow.  The kids claimed it was better than Disneyland (blasphemy!).  Ironic coming from the four children that have the most Disney loving parents I know.


We realized a couple of days before our trip that there was a misunderstanding about our fingerprints for the adoption paperwork we are currently working on, so we made an appointment in a nearby town on Friday morning to get those done.  While we were gone, the kids rode horses.  Mandy took some pictures so I could see how much fun they were having without us.

Storey and Grayden crack me up.  They are are basically the boy and girl version of each other, which makes for the ultimate love/hate relationship.  Fortunately, they were on a "love" kick during this trip.  We kind of want them to get date just to see what would happen (would they kill each other or get married?)

Zak's favorite part was driving the tractor around....in his flip flops.  Next stop: real farmer.  The little barrel train was a huge hit and the kids rode it all over the property.


Lots of playing in the dirt.

Though it was mid-October, we live in The Land of No Seasons, so got to take advantage of the blow up water slide. The adults didn't bring bathing suits, but donned our pj's and joined the kids on the slide. It was enormously fun.

The kids got to feed all of the animals, but their favorite animal to drag around (or be dragged by) was Oreo, the baby goat. Storey asked if we can get one for a pet. I guess then we wouldn't need a lawnmower?

Mandy was the only adult brave (crazy?) enough to get on a horse.  She will most likely throw eggs at my house for posting this picture.

I'll redeem myself with an adorable picture of Avery.  She only sort of looks like she's been eating dirt.

Four kids and a goat (Oreo) in the hayride.

Future blackmail.

Note to self: children will give you their rapt attention if you have a bow and arrow in your hand. 

During our stay, we were able to talk with Jeff (owner of Elijah's Retreat) about his decision to move out to the country and build a safe space for families with autism.  I love hearing stories of God directed paths.  He and his wife felt strongly about this particular piece of land and have watched as their prayers to create a respite retreat have been answered.  He said that all of the work on the property (cabin building, path clearing, train building, etc) has been done by volunteers from churches in the area and professionals willing to donate their time.  So inspiring.


Storey and Grayden were collecting all kinds of bugs, frogs, and creepy things.  Grayden called them "forest creatures."  Storey found an enormous millipede Friday and was carrying it around for awhile.  Grayden caught one Saturday and they made a house for it (aka tortured it).  Both of the kids had weird bright red stuff all over their hands most of the weekend.  We thought it had come off of the water slide or something because it looked like dye.  Mandy sent me a picture of Grayden's hands (looking worse than ever) on Saturday evening asking, "What in the world happened?".    I turned to my trusty (but overreacting) friend Google and found out it was from the millipede.  Of course, the internets only provide the worse case scenario-THEY ARE GOING TO DIE!  It recommended taking the kids to the emergency room and went on and on about blindness.

I shut myself in our bedroom and called Mandy to ask what she thought we should do.  Storey is the queen of eavesdropping and was apparently standing outside my door because as soon as I mentioned the part about going blind, I hear her start screaming about going blind and completely freaking out.  I sent Zak out to calm her down and called poison control.  They said as long as they weren't having labored breathing and it started to fade, rather than get worse, we shouldn't need to take them in.  Basically it's a non-issue (though the kids have been told not to play with that particular bug next trip).

I asked Jakson if he held the millipede (his hands weren't red).  He looked at me matter of factly and said, "No I read in a book that they are poisonous.  I tried to tell Storey".   Nice.  Glad he shared that information with the rest of us.   Oh, kids.

Being overly dramatic, like her Aunt Katy (p.s. I love to blame things on Zak's sisters), Storey took it upon herself to tell every adult in Primary and at school Monday that they needed to watch her for rashes and difficulty breathing.  Because, you know, THE POISON.

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