Thursday, July 9, 2015

Paperwork galore

20 days until travel! 25 days until we meet our daughter!!

Today I finished gathering and copying and printing all of the paperwork we need for our visa appointment. I find it very ironic that she's already legally our daughter and yet we have to bring almost an inch of paperwork to Taiwan.

This packet is on top of all of the court paperwork, her birth certificate and family registry, passports, etc. How many trees does it take to complete an adoption? Many, I am sure!

We get paid tomorrow and I have to make a copy of our pay stub to include in this packet. Once that's done, we are ready for Taiwan! I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Three weeks to go!

In exactly three weeks from this moment in time, we will be approaching the tiny island of Taiwan. I am excited about finally meeting my daughter. I am nervous about the first meeting with her. And I'm mildly panicked about all of the things left on my to-do list.

My husband has reminded me that as long as we have clean clothes, a passport, and the paperwork needed to get her visa, we'll be ok. The rest of the list can be left undone and our world will still move forward. He's right! I keep reminding myself of that even as I keep cleaning.

Today I am going to fill out one last form that's required for our girl's visa and gather the rest of the paperwork we have to take to the visa appointment. I'm also going to keep working on our kitchen. The top half of the kitchen is decluttered, scrubbed down, and organized. Now to tackle the bottom cupboards, the fridge, and the floor.

Three more weeks until we arrive in Taiwan! 26 days until we meet our daughter!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Yup, it's true!!

Did you know that I have a daughter? I have a DAUGHTER! Yippee!!!!!

Just had to post that tonight...

Can we go to Taiwan yet?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Shopping, shopping, and a travel meeting

This week has gone so quickly because we've been able to accomplish so much. Yesterday was our travel meeting with our agency. We had a phone conference to go over the flight, touring in Taiwan, meeting our daughter, the AIT appointment to get our daughter's visa, and the flight home. We covered a lot of information and I am VERY excited about traveling.

We also accomplished a lot of shopping this week. We are officially done shopping for our daughter! Her wardrobe is now complete. Amazon sent us the cutest box! I think the minions are really cute.

We ordered a backpack from one website but they ran out of stock and refunded our money. So we had to order another backpack through Amazon. The first one was really cute but I like this one too. We're giving her the backpack at our first meeting. We haven't decided yet what to put in it. I was thinking a coloring book with colored pencils, a manga in Mandarin, and... not sure what else! We have a couple of weeks to figure it out.

We also found a lightweight jacket to take to Taiwan in case we get hit with a bunch of rain. It took some searching, but I finally located a blue one.

Last but not least, we found a swimming suit for our girl. Both hotels in Taiwan have a pool and we want to go swimming every evening. It was really hard to find cute one piece bathing suits!

I'm relieved to have the shopping done. Our budget was taking a hit and now we can go back to saving for the trip instead of spending.

26 days until we leave for Taiwan!
31 days until we meet our daughter!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hotels and Skype and clothes shopping

It has been an eventful few days! This weekend went incredibly fast. Sabbath was all about church and naps and resting up for the upcoming busy week.

The other highlight of Sabbath was a Skype call with our daughter, the first one after the adoption has been finalized. It was so amazing sitting there and talking with a child who I know is legally our daughter and that we finally get to meet in only a month. We showed her the suitcase we have for her and all of the clothes we're bringing to Taiwan. She asked if we could bring her entire wardrobe to Taiwan! Sorry, sweetie, but we don't have a suitcase big enough for that!

On Sunday, I spent hours researching hotels in Taiwan and getting our reservations made. I am so relieved that we have both flights and hotels for our trip! Only 29 days until we leave for Taiwan and 34 days until we meet our daughter!!

We also went to the mall Sunday afternoon and found another pair of shorts for me. Taiwan is HOT and there was no way that I could survive a week in 90 degree heat with jeans. We stumbled across a sale at North Face and found a pretty blue jacket for my daughter. I also scoured the shoe websites and found a pair of blue sneakers at half price. Now all we need is a swimming suit for her and she'll be ready to go.

We had a beautiful surprise this morning. I had been hoping that we would receive just one more Skype call before we travel. God is generous and gave us two! We have one scheduled on the 14th and another on the 27th, just two days before we leave for Taiwan. I am so excited!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


We have liftoff! We are now the proud owners of two tickets to Taiwan and THREE tickets for the return flight.

I am exhausted but elated. Between the heat and a personal issue and the stress of trying to make travel arrangements, I am exhausted. I don't know how people do this with little ones already home. My hat is off to mothers who go through this entire adoption process and parent at the same time!

My email inbox is getting really full and my kitchen table is a mess and my Chinese flashcards are piling up. But I was able to clean 2/3 of a kitchen cupboard today! Yippee!!

Tomorrow we're going to start researching hotels. We also want to come up with several ideas of things we can do or see with our daughter while still in Taiwan. The Hello Kitty Cafe is already on our list. We'll ask her on Sabbath's Skype call which of the ideas she's interested in. Hopefully that will give her a better idea of what will happen when the three of us meet. I cannot wait!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's official!!

I have been wishing and hoping and praying that we would be able to buy plane tickets in time for our Skype call this Sabbath evening. That way we can tell our girl that we are coming!

My prayers were answered! Our agency notified us this morning that the judge in Taiwan has issued Final Decree on our adoption. This means that the country of Taiwan legally recognizes our girl as our daughter. I am now a mommy!!!

With that notice of Final Decree came confirmation of our travel dates. We will be meeting our daughter on August 3rd and getting her visa on August 5th. I am so excited!!!

Today I emailed several travel agencies and had one get back in touch with me almost immediately. He and I have been emailing back and forth and we now have plane tickets reserved in our name. Once we get the "ok" from our agency, we'll pay for the plane tickets and be that much closer to travel. Hopefully we'll be squared away tomorrow!

Lilypie Countdown to Adoption tickers

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deep cleaning and other goals

This week I decided it was time to get organized and get some things done. There isn't much I want to accomplish before we travel to Taiwan, but I would like to deep clean my house. I want to come home to a clean and organized home. So I've set some daily goals for myself:

30 minutes of exercise (trying to lose a couple of pounds)
60 minutes of Chinese (trying to become a tiny bit closer to fluent)
30 minutes of organizing/cleaning (beyond my normal chores)

So far so good! I've exercised both yesterday and today. I studied yesterday for 62 minutes and have 45 more to go today. And I've done 30 minutes of cleaning both yesterday and today. Here are a couple pictures of my progress.







I'm not sure the before and after photos look terribly different, but I did get rid of a few things. I am keeping the KonMarie principle in mind as I clean. "Does this bring me joy? If so, keep it. If not, get rid of it." I discarded some really old and ratty kitchen towels, outdated spices, and a few instruction manuals that are available online. And now all three of these cupboards are scrubbed down and organized.

If we have a few dollars extra before we leave, I'd like to buy a spice rack. My spices are almost all bulk purchases from Whole Foods so I have a ton of little baggies on the bottom shelf of my cabinet. It is a mess! It's hard to cook because I have to pull out handfuls of baggies and sort through them to find the spice I'm looking for. I'm doing to do some research to see if the bulk spices are actually fresh or if I should just buy jarred. If I go to the bulk route, I want to buy glass jars to store what I purchase. If I go the jarred route, I want to toss out everything I have and buy the staples I need. Either way, I'd like to organize the spices so that I can start teaching my daughter how to cook.

Half an hour still until the Women's World Cup game between Japan and Netherlands so I'm going to sneak in some Chinese studies before the game.

Happy cooking!

Friday, June 19, 2015


I know I've been completely MIA recently, which is funny because I was finally getting into a good blogging rhythm. But this week has been very emotionally charged. This week was my second time participating in Heather Forbes' Mom's Conference. Heather spends several days leading us through some emotional work, digging into the past and working toward forgiving and healing from childhood scars. Then she teaches strategies to deal with the present and look forward to the future.

It's a fantastic conference, though it knocks my emotional legs out from under me for five days straight. I worked through some specific issues during the first conference and then continued the work during this conference. I can tell that the first conference made a positive difference because the second was difficult but was not quite as painful as the first.

I may post more about the conference but I haven't decided yet. I learned a lot but it made me feel very vulnerable. I'm not sure I want to share that vulnerability online, though maybe some of my observations and experiences could help someone else. Who knows? I'm not sure when the next Mom's Conference will be but I highly recommend that women attend. Heather is an inspiring mentor and I've learned a lot from her.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I love mail!

Today was an awesome mail day! First we received our travel packet from our agency. I'm shocked and impressed by how much information this packet contains.

Reading through it, I started feeling overwhelmed at how many decisions have to be made before we travel. I had to remind myself - one step at a time! One step at a time!

Then we received our Zulily order, which contained two pairs of shorts for our daughter. It was really hard to find shorts that were modest!

I was so amused at how our order came in two packages and they were two different shades of blue. One was delivered by OnTrack and the other by USPS. Efficiency? Not really!

We bought both of these tops at Macy's yesterday, both on clearance. I'm a bit worried they will be too big for our girly, but at least they are light material and will work well with the Taiwan heat.

We bought this cute purple suitcase a couple years ago when we made some really short trips. Hopefully she likes it because it's now hers!

Though to be honest, I'm wondering if we will even need a separate suitcase for our daughter. Her clothes are so small they seem like they will fit in our suitcase!

But, the airline gives us two free checked bags each and we're only taking one suitcase for the both of us and one for her. She'll probably like having something of her own to travel with. We also ordered her a backpack as a carry on. It won't ship for another two weeks though. I can't wait until it gets here!

Is it the end of July yet?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

AIT letter

One more tiny step complete. Our AIT letter arrived today.

This letter gives notification that our daughter is "likely to qualify as an orphan for the purpose of eligibility for immigration benefits as an adopted child of US citizens." What's odd to me is that they don't make the final determination until after our adoption is finalized in Taiwan.

If for some reason they determine our girl is not eligible to immigrate, it will be too late. By that point, she will already be legally recognized as our daughter by the country of Taiwan. *insert sarcastic voice here* Oh no. We will have to move to another country. Whatever will be do?" */sarcastic voice*

My husband and I have tossed around the idea of someday moving to another country for a couple of years, just to experience a part of the world. Yes, it would be a shock if we were forced to move rather than making the decision ourselves. But after the initial panic response, we'd be excited for the opportunity. Of course, this is highly unlikely to happen. I'm pretty sure that everyone involved in our adoption is certain that our daughter meets the definition of an orphan and thus will be granted permission to immigrate to the United States.

I am slightly disappointed that we have not been able to finalize travel dates yet. We need to confirm our AIT appointment (where our daughter gets her visa to come to the US) so that we can confirm the day we meet her so that we can buy a plane ticket. But the agency in Taiwan has not yet confirmed this date and our coordinator is now on vacation until Wednesday. Hopefully we will have plane tickets in hand by the end of the week.

Then I can start the countdown for how many more days until we meet our daughter!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Best news yet!

There once was a little girl in Taiwan...

who wanted a family.

And a family in America...

who wanted a daughter.

After lots of paperwork...

and lots of tears...

the little girl and the family learned

that they will soon be united.

We have travel approval!!!

We will meet this beautiful child at the beginning of August. Family Date soon to be confirmed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Say cheese!

Tonight we tasted my homemade feta cheese. It was a tad salty so I rinsed it off before putting it on the pizza.


Tonight I only used up the partial jar of feta. I still have another full jar and will let that age a bit longer. I am thrilled that I was able to make cheese from a gallon of milk.

We want to attempt cheddar cheese next, which has to age for six long months. I love aged cheeses so I'm excited about the possibilities.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Catch up post

Last week was crazy and this week is already proving it will be a doozy. My husband has been working insane hours, projects that require he start at midnight and don't wrap up until 4 or 5 in the morning. Then this weekend served up a huge work emergency, one that will require almost round the clock maintenance this week.

Personally, I hate going to bed by myself. I try to stay up as late as possible to keep him company. Our house layout is the opposite of what one would expect; our living space is upstairs and the bedrooms are downstairs. What makes this hard is that the flooring is cheap Pergo and it creaks anytime you take a step. So if I'm up before my husband, I have to be super quiet so that he can continue sleeping. I'd rather stay up late and get up late with him, even though this sleep schedule is less than ideal for my body.

Sorry if that sounds like I am whining. I'm tired... it's been a stressful few days and looks like it will continue to be stressful for a few more. I'm hoping I can detach myself a bit from his work. Since hubby works from home, I get caught up in the flow of what's going on and it affects my ability to get my own work done. Normally we manage it just fine but with less sleep than normal, we're struggling a bit.

This is going to be an issue when our girl comes home. I can already tell. We don't have any extra space to set up an office for my husband; he works on the dining room table. So staying up late may keep our daughter awake or she may be a heavy sleeper. I'm not sure. I have a feeling I'm going to have to pick a schedule and stick to it, so that I go to bed when she goes to bed and get up when she gets up, regardless of my husband's work schedule. That would be ideal. There are a lot of changes coming!

Monday, June 1, 2015

May wrap-up / June goal

May's 30 day challenge has not actually ended. Yes, May is over but I got a late start to my cheesemaking and it took longer than I expected. The cheese will be ready to taste-test on Wednesday. At that point, we'll decide if it's edible. If so, we'll be making pizza with it.

I've been thinking about June's challenge and I don't think I can set one. We are still hoping to travel to Taiwan at the end of July, though if the judge doesn't issue first ruling soon, we may not be traveling until August. I have an overambitious list of things I want to accomplish before travel. I don't think it's wise to concentrate on just one challenge this month. Instead, I'll be working my way down my list.

Here's what I am hoping to accomplish before travel.

Packing test run
Finish KonMarie'ing my house
Deep clean my house
Write up a menu for the first two weeks home
Grocery shopping for all non-perishables for the above menu
Summer clothes shopping for Jeff, Cin-Ru, and myself
Plan the actual trip
Finish blog design and launch my new blog

And, I want to make decent sized strides in my Chinese ability. I did join a June mini-challenge to read Chinese materials for at least half an hour each day. This means something written by native Chinese speakers for native Chinese speakers, not for those learning Chinese. There is a huge difference. This is in addition to my normal flashcards and my writing attempts.

Looking at my list, I'd better get busy!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing practice

Last night I wrote a Lang-8 post. I received a few corrections and rewrote my post based on the suggestions. My writing is still fairly simple but I am learning a lot. Hopefully I will keep improving. Here's what I wrote:

今天晚飯我做壽司了. 非常喜歡壽司. 壽司當作晚飯是最好的.
晚飯後, 我跟我的先生去吃冰淇淋. 我吃了巧克力冰淇淋. 好吃!
明天早上我要去圖書館. 我得還幾本書. 圖書館是我最喜歡的地方.

Tonight’s meal
Tonight, I made sushi for dinner. I love sushi! Sushi is my favorite meal.
After dinner, my husband and I went to eat ice cream. I ate chocolate ice cream. It was delicious!
Tomorrow morning I want to go to the library. I need to return a few books. The library is my favorite place.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chinese milestone reached!

I just finished the Intermediate Course at Yoyo Chinese. I am incredibly proud of myself! It took a long time but I have learned so much. I highly recommend the website for anyone who wants to learn Chinese.

Since I love numbers, I crunched a few.

Beginner level course
Started - February 4, 2014
Finished - September 6, 2014

Intermediate level course
Started - September 7, 2014
Finished - May 27, 2015

Anki vocabulary deck
Cards: 2,789 (roughly 1,300 words and phrases)
Total: 58,825 reviews
Average for days studied: 108.3 cards/day
Total study time: 76 hours
Due tomorrow: 106 cards

Anki sentences deck
Cards: 1,890 (roughly 900 unique sentences)
Total: 19,481 reviews
Average for days studied: 39.8 cards/day
Total study time: 61 hours
Due tomorrow: 45 cards

Total study time: 316.4 hours

This study time total includes Anki, grammar lessons, writing practice, watching Mandarin television (only logged in 1/2 time since it's not active), etc. This is EVERYTHING I have done to study Chinese in the past 15 months.

Note - it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to reach full academic fluency in another language. At this point, I am only aiming for conversational fluency, not academic fluency. I have a long, long way to go...

All of the vocab and sentences for the last few lessons have been entered into Anki, but I still have to learn a number of them. I have a feeling it will take awhile before my Daily Due numbers decrease. However, I have many, many more vocabulary words to learn in order to become fluent!

I'm not yet sure what I will tackle next. I know that I need to continue watching Mandarin shows in order to gain listening practice. I also need to start writing regular entries on Lang-8 to practice my writing and reinforce the vocab and grammar I have learned.

I will probably start following a Taiwanese blogger (native Mandarin speaker). I already have several blogs bookmarked and need to pick one. That way I can get a feel for the writer's voice, learn the vocab words they use regularly, and get practice reading. I also need to find a way to start speaking Mandarin.

At some point, I need to find a grammar book that picks up where Yoyo Chinese left off. I have no idea which grammar book to use.

I am thrilled that I have come this far and can't wait to see how long it takes to reach conversational fluency. Another year or two? Hopefully my soon-to-be-daughter wants to keep her native language and will talk to me in Mandarin. We shall see!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May Nightstand - full of books!

What's On Your Nightstand

It has been ages since I've participated in a Nightstand post but I finally remembered to write up a post on the correct day!

I have two shelves full of library books. The top shelf is mostly adult books whereas the second shelf is full of kids' books that I am previewing for my future daughter. I'm slowly starting to build up a personal library of children's books but want to make sure they are quality books.

This first book is one I am most excited about - Dinotopia. I'm not familiar with it but a friend recommended it. We've flipped through it and the artwork is fantastic! I can't wait to read the story.

Kisses from Katie has been on my to-read list for ages and I finally borrowed it from the library. Hopefully I can finish it before it's due next week.

This last book is one I definitely need to buy. You're Loved No Matter What has been powerful and I'm only 50 pages in. I have struggled to feel worthy of love as far back as I can remember. I'm still trying to find my worth as a daughter of the King and hope that this book helps a bit.

Last but not least, I'm working my way through Christy, this month's Reading to Know bookclub selection. I definitely won't be finishing it by the end of the month but I'm glad for the chance to reread it.

What have you been reading lately? I'll be taking a flight to Taiwan later this summer and am in need of a good book, something engaging but that doesn't require a lot of thought. It's a 12 hour flight so a thick book would be great! Anything you'd highly recommend?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cheesemaking progress

We are plowing forward in our efforts to make feta cheese. After three days of drying, the cheese was finally ready for the next step. It's a good thing I read the directions online instead of relying on the pamphlet in the kit. The pamphlet said that the cheese should dry for two days; the online directions said it could take up to three days to dry. Mine took three full days.

Close up of this beautiful but stinky cheese

Jarred and in a light brine solution. These are going in the fridge to ripen for another 7-10 days and then we'll do a taste test.

Speaking of cheese, we discovered a very happy announcement at the mall.

Beecher's is coming to our local mall! Woohoo! I adore their fresh mac&cheese but we have to visit Pike Place Market in order to partake. Soon there will be a restaurant 15 minutes from our house!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Travel research

I've been poking around at travel websites, trying to get an idea for how much money our Taiwan trip will cost. We're going to aim high so that we don't have to worry about money while in Taiwan. I am getting really, really excited now! Only a couple more months!

Friday, May 22, 2015

I need to hear from you!

Because I am soon going to be a mom (I love saying that!), I've been nesting. As part of my nesting, I desperately want to overhaul my blog design. I have considered switching to WordPress as I know WordPress allows a lot more customization. However, I'm a complete newbie at blog design so I wonder if WordPress would be too complicated for me.

So if you follow my blog, could you leave me a comment and let me know how you follow me? Do you use an RSS reader? Google Friend Connect? Something else entirely?

Please let me know! :)

My goal is to have a new blog design before we leave for Taiwan as I know my life is about to change dramatically. I cannot wait!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Adventures in Cheesemaking

I finally dove into my cheesemaking yesterday. I didn't mean to wait until so late in the month but stuff kept happening and I couldn't find an entire day to devote to the process.

Starting off with whole milk from Whole Foods.

Using the thermometer from the kit...

only to discover that ours works so much better!

At the end of step one, the milk was starting to change form.

I did a really messy job turning it into curds.


Draining some more.

Starting the drying process.

Drying while covered in cheesecloth.

I started the process yesterday morning around 10. I think it was 11PM or so when it was finally ready to add the ingredients for the brine. This morning I had to get up early and lay it all out so that it could dry flat. I've been rotating the cheese every couple of hours today so that it will dry on all sides. I have to do the same tomorrow and then Sabbath morning it finally starts the ripening process. It will be another week before it's ready to eat.

What have I learned? This takes a lot of time and way more patience than I possess. I had SUCH a hard time keeping the milk at the right temperature. It was supposed to be heated indirectly so I placed the pan on top of my frying pan. The frying pan was filled with water and heated, which then heated my pan and the milk. Even with that, I couldn't get it hot enough and then I way overshot the target temperature. To be honest, I might have ruined it. It smells like cheese but it's pungent. It's supposed to ripen into feta cheese, which I know has a strong smell. But this is slightly different. I'm not sure if it's normal or if I ruined the cheese when I heated the milk too hot. We're going to wait until tomorrow to see if the smell changes and decide if we're going to keep the process going or toss it out and try again some other time.

Either way, if I end up with trash or cheese, it has definitely been a learning experience. I had no idea cheesemaking is so HARD!

Friday, May 15, 2015

First court hearing

Tonight was our seventh Skype call with Cin-Ru and it was the best one yet. Why? Because we were told that we had our first court hearing on May 8th. At that court hearing, Cin-Ru, her social worker, and the agency director stood in front of the judge as he or she reviewed our adoption petition. The judge asked Cin-Ru if she wants to come to America and if she wants to be adopted.

She said YES!!!!!

If everything goes well, this beautiful child will be my daughter very soon. We have to wait for the judge to issue a ruling on our adoption petition and then there are several other steps to make the adoption final. But the agency thinks we will be traveling to meet Cin-Ru in either July or August. I cannot wait!