Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Happy 13th birthday!

Happy 13th birthday, Cin-Ru!! I hope she had a wonderful birthday today with her friends. 13 years old. Wow! I can't believe she's officially a teenager.

The above photo is when Cin-Ru modeled her new shirt. This was part of her birthday care package and I believe it was a hit.

I'm so glad that we were able to celebrate early with Cin-Ru, even though we couldn't be there in person. Next year we'll celebrate as a family. I can't wait!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last week

Last week was a crazy week with some highs and some lows. I am holding out hope that this upcoming week will be much better!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bye bye, beautiful one...

We had to say goodbye to our beautiful kitty today. She was 15 years old and we've been her minions for the past seven years.

I'll mostly miss her night time cuddles. She loved bedtime, immediately demanding cuddles after I crawled into bed.

Bye bye, my beautiful Fiona. Thanks for gracing our lives these past seven years. I'm glad you're finally at peace.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins - Vegan and delicious!

Today I made Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins. They were so good that I had to take an additional walk this evening so that I could eat another. Definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I am so excited!!! We received news this morning that our paperwork has officially been submitted to court in Taiwan!!!! There are still a few small steps along the way, but this is the last major one before travel. I hope the judge has mercy and pushes us through quickly!! And if not, I hope God helps me develop even more patience. We're in COURT!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Skype call #5

I can't believe we've already had five Skype calls. I treasure each and every one of them, though some have gone better than others. Friday night's call was the best one yet!

We had technical difficulties on Taiwan's side; the audio wasn't working so they couldn't hear us and we couldn't hear them. This actually worked out in our favor, as our girl was SO much more relaxed without the pressure of having to listen to a bunch of English and try to understand what is going on. Instead, we chatted with the translator in the chat window and tried to entertain our girl with facial expressions and miming and showing off various things we've prepared for her. Surprisingly, it went really well.

Friday afternoon, I baked up a batch of sugar cookies. During the call, Jeff and I made a big deal of spreading frosting on each cookie and then decorating the cookies with icing.

Note - Don't buy this icing. It was too watery and ran down the cookies when we tried to show her. Even when we let them sit a few minutes before picking them up, it did the same thing.

She seemed to get a kick out of this so we told her that we can decorate cookies once we come home from Taiwan.

Our girly-girl found Skype's chat window emoticons about half way through the call so the translator let her pick the emoticons to send. She loved doing this, sending us "stickers" as they called them and seeing which ones we sent back. This conversation took place toward the end of the call:

I about died laughing. We'll see if the audio works on the next call! Personally, seeing how relaxed Cin-Ru was without the audio, I'd rather it doesn't work. We have one more Skype call scheduled this upcoming Friday, right before her birthday. Her birthday package will definitely be in Taiwan in time for the call and we'll bake her a cake and sing happy birthday. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Three more months

Yesterday we found out that our paperwork should be submitted to the court system by the end of next week. We also found out that our care package has already been shipped to Taiwan. We are asking that the Taiwan agency hold the care package until our Skype call on the 24th because that is the closest Skype date to our girl's birthday.

It finally hit me that is really happening. So much of the adoption process is a matter of paperwork. You know that there is a flesh and blood child on the other side of the world but all you deal with is paperwork and appointments and writing checks. But all of a sudden I had a realization that we are about to step into the unknown. I have been guarding my heart, afraid that this adoption will fall through like the last adoption attempt. Once our paperwork is submitted to court, we'll be further along in the process than we've ever been. Yes, the judge can still say no but that is highly unlikely.

Our agency told us yesterday that we will probably travel in late July or early August. Cue panic. Only three more months of us being a couple with no children. We've been married for 9.5 years and are very set in our ways. Only three more months and we will be responsible for another human being. But only three more months and we will be able to meet Cin-Ru in person and start loving her. Only three more months until we will have a daughter and our girl will have a mother and father. Panic mingles with joy. Only three more months.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another step forward

This morning we found out that the mayor has finally signed our adoption agreement. I couldn't help but rejoice and say a prayer of thanksgiving because we have been praying for that signature for two months. Our paperwork is now ready to be submitted to court.

Of course, even as I know I am potentially setting myself up for disappointment, I had to go look at other families' timelines once they reach this point in the adoption process. Some families traveled about three months after their paperwork was submitted. Others had to wait six or more months. To be honest, so much is dependent on which judge handles our adoption and if he/she feels the paperwork is complete. I hope for a quick court process so that we can bring our girl HOME. I can't wait until I can finally call her my daughter.

Yesterday we mailed off Cin-Ru's birthday present and were told it will definitely reach Taiwan in time for our Skype call on the 24th.

I can't wait to see her open her present. Dear one, we're coming for you as soon as we can!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Music thoughts

The only trouble with having two months to put together a birthday care package is that I end up taking the entire two months to finish it! We picked out gifts, changed our minds, and replaced pieces of it. Multiple times. But we really need to get this into the mail so we're calling it quits and making a final decision. My love language is gifts and I am thrilled to have a child to buy presents for. Each piece of this care package is important to me in some way, which is why I had such a hard time deciding which gifts to include and which to save for later.

On an earlier Skype call, we asked Cin-Ru what she wants for her birthday. She wasn't sure, but asked for some music. Then a few minutes later she whispered to the director that she would like a USB speaker. We had never heard of such a thing but searched Amazon and found the perfect gift (in her favorite color!).

We also bought a small USB and loaded it up with music in both English and Chinese. Here are the English titles I chose, after many hours of deliberation:

Gold by Britt Nicole
I Am by Crowder
Beautiful by Jaime Grace
Compass by Jonathan Thulin
Overcomer by Mandisa
Day One by Matthew West
Speak Life by TobyMac
Good Fight by Unspoken
Testify to Love by Avalon
Luv is a Verb by dc Talk

I chose some of these songs because I thought Cin-Ru would like the style of music (Compass, I Am, Luv is a Verb). But I picked most of them because I hope the lyrics will encourage her.

You're one in a million, this, this is for all the girls
Boys all over the world
Whatever you been told
You're worth more than gold
So hold your head up high
It's your time to shine
From the inside out it shows
You're worth more than gold

Day One
It's day one of the rest of my life
It's day one of the best of my life
I'm marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer

Good Fight
Keep fighting the good fight (Never give up, never give up)
Keep letting your light shine (Holding it high as long as you live)
'Cause I'm never gonna leave you
Always gonna see you through to the other side
Keep fighting the good fight, fighting the good, fighting the good fight, good fight

We are also sending her the soundtrack to the very first Taiwanese television show we watched, which happens to be about basketball! Cin-Ru is a huge basketball fan and so I am greatly amused that my first and favorite Taiwan show is about one of my future daughter's favorite activities. I found the soundtrack on Amazon and it's all in Chinese so I hope she enjoys it. If she hasn't seen the show already, we'll watch it with her once she's home. Jeff says she probably hasn't seen it because it aired when she was only five years old. I'm feeling old...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mothering From Scratch - A Book Review

A quick side note - three book reviews in one day! I promised myself no more borrowing books from the library until I finished all of the books I had accepted for review at home. This is my last one and then library freedom! Woohoo!!

In preparation for adoption, I keep reading parenting books. Some are about child development, some are about discipline, and some are general motivation with a lot of rah rah. Some of the books are fairly general parenting books and others deal with a specific issue or topic. Based on the book's subtitle (Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family), I expected Mothering From Scratch to be one of the books that digs into specific parenting philosophies. While there were a few nuggets of wisdom, overall I felt like I was promised something that was never delivered.

First of all, I felt like the authors assumed that my reading material primarily consists of magazine articles or blog posts. Each chapter contains a "Lovin' Spoonful" which is a small sidebar of information. There were also numerous small quotes along the margins scattered throughout the book. The co-authors alternated who shared personal stories, which felt disjointed and kept me from really getting to know which kids belonged to which mother.

Second, the book wasn't really about finding the best parenting style for your family. I was hoping that the authors would present various parenting styles and discuss which styles are best for different personalities and temperaments and life experiences. Instead, the basic message of the book is that you should just do whatever you feel is best for your family. I agree with that but it's such a basic idea that I felt I wasted my time reading an entire book about it.

Scrolling through the Amazon and Goodreads reviews, it seemed most readers really enjoyed the book. It just wasn't a good fit for me. Thank you Bethany House for the free copy in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.

And just because this amuses me, I have to share this photo. This is the first time I've ever noticed the same stock photography being used on two different book covers.

Your Life Still Counts - A Book Review

I'm going to let myself be vulnerable for a moment and share my biggest struggle in life. I'm currently reading a review book titled Your Life Still Counts by Tracie Miles. I can't tell if this book is helping me or kicking me while I am down. I requested it for review because of the subtitle: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future. My past is rather "tame" compared to some. I've never smoked, never gotten drunk, didn't have premarital sex, never used drugs, have never stolen anything... and yet I'm still a sinner in need of a Savior.

My religious upbringing left me with a very distorted view of God. By the time I graduated from high school, I was a very judgmental person. I fully believed that God required His followers to live perfect lives or else they wouldn't be allowed into heaven. I believed that meant that everyone should live a conservative lifestyle and eliminate all sin from their lives. Otherwise, there was no way that we could stand in front of God. Because God is perfect, we must be perfect to be in His presence.

I know my view of God is wrong and yet I still struggle with overwhelming shame because of my sins. I forever fear that God will not accept me as I am, that He cannot possibly love me. So when I fail, which is daily, I despise myself. If I am unloving toward my husband, I will mentally berate myself for hours because I failed yet again. How can my husband still love me when I act like such a jerk? How can God still love me?

So I requested this book in hopes that it would help me in my journey to better understand God's character and teach me how to move beyond my past. I'm only half way through the book but wanted to write up my review now because I have no idea how long it will take me to actually finish it. More than anything, the book is helping by pointing out Bible verses that show just how much God loves us. This was the passage I read yesterday:

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:2-5

In the chapter titled "Your Pain Was Not for Nothing," Miles points out a lesson I am desperately trying to learn. She writes:
In Isaiah 43:18, it is obvious God wanted them (the Israelites) to look at what was to come and what was ahead of them, not behind them: "But forget all that - it is nothing compared to what I am going to do." The NIV puts it this way: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past."

God wasn't most concerned about what they had done but about where they were going and how they would allow what they had been through to fuel their faith and propel them to spread the knowledge of Him. He wanted them to seek a new interest in Him and embrace a new vision for their future - not be paralyzed and fixated on their past mistakes and circumstances, or even their long-term patterns of sinful and idolatrous living. Although they couldn't erase the past completely from their minds, they could learn from it and move forward and be used for God's kingdom. He wanted them to focus on new miracles, new accomplishments, and new victories in Him, while looking to Him for direction and guidance for the future.
So far I have not internalized this lesson. I am too busy looking backwards and feeling shame and rejection for all of my past mistakes. Hopefully I can learn to move past the shame and find forgiveness. I know God forgives when we ask, and I have begged for His forgiveness, but I am not letting His love reach beyond my past perception of His character.

Again, many thanks to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I hope that I can continue to learn from the book and learn that God does have a beautiful future in plan for me.

Like a Flower in Bloom - A Book Review

I had the opportunity to read and review Siri Mitchell's newest book titled Like a Flower in Bloom. I believe I had now read every single one of Mitchell's novels. I've enjoyed each of them, though to varying degrees.
It's all her uncle's fault. For years Charlotte Withersby has been free to pursue her love of plants and flowers by assisting her botanist father. But now that she's reached the old age of twenty-two, an intrusive uncle has convinced her father that Charlotte's future--the only proper future for a woman--is to be a wife and mother, not a scholar.

Her father is so dependent on her assistance that Charlotte believes he'll soon change his mind...and then Edward Trimble shows up. A long-time botany correspondent in the South Pacific, Trimble arrives ready to step in as assistant so that Charlotte can step out into proper society--a world that baffles her with its unwritten rules, inexplicable expectations, and confounding fashion.
(description from the back cover)

Like a Flower in Bloom was fairly entertaining. Sometimes I feel like I can literally run through a novel. Other times it feels more like a leisurely walk. This novel felt like I was skipping down a dirt road the entire time. I couldn't quite pinpoint what was causing that feeling, but it was a bit disconcerting. Some of the dialog reminded me of The Importance of Being Earnest, which is one of my favorites.

The story, however, was rather frustrating. I am not a feminist but I do believe that women should be valued. When the men in her life believe that it's time for Charlotte to find a husband, they take away all of her duties. Charlotte loves working with flowers and helping her father and feels completely bereft when she is no longer allowed to do either. It was frustrating to see how many people would not listen to Charlotte as she tried to explain how useless she now feels without something productive to do each day. Instead, she is told to learn to dress pretty and to fit in with society so that she can snag a husband. It felt like much of the conflict could be resolved with some simple communication.

It's not a novel that I will return to but I'm glad I took the time to read it. Much thanks to Bethany House for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest opinions.