Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One Step Closer!

DC Approval is finally here, today is the day we waited for!  We heard from our TX Adoption Agency, Little Miracles that our last background clearance arrived from DC and our home study can officially be  finalized.  It has been three very long months waiting.  But today the wait is over!  There are still many steps until we submit our finalized Dossier to China, but we are one step closer! 

So now we are waiting for the finalized home studies to be signed and notarized.  Our social worker Jenna will send four originals to us by next week.  One copy will be for our I800A application; One for China Dossier, One for Children's Hope International for their files, and one for our records.

Message exchange from Social Worker:

"Any news from D.C.?"

"I have it in my hand right now. It came in the mail today. I am doing a happy dance!"

"I am crying tears of JOY!!!!! Thank you!!!"

Charlotte Lee in Wonderland

Ever since I was a little girl, I fell in love with the story Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I always wanted to have a daughter and adopt, thus a baby girl's nursery has been in the works for years--4 to be exact (way before we decided to adopt) and anyone that knows me, knows I love to bargain shop for unique decorating pieces. TX has the best second-hand/antique stores, where I have spent hours walking and around hunting for treasures. So as you can already imagine--Charlotte’s nursery was the perfect canvas to put my creative mind to work, bargain shopping skills and combine my childhood love to create my own little wonderland. 

So first the inspiration came from a duvet cover that was in the room long before the nursery came to be.  I love the whimsical print and let's face it, I designed the wall color to match and I hate to paint.  So I thought the sea-blue palate was pretty and a perfect match for the reds I would also use. After finding the perfect Alice in Wonderland vintage prints on Etsy, I then bought  a copy of 9 small prints for $5.00 and enlarged them at local office supply store. I scored a 70% off sale at Joanne Fabrics and framed four in a vintage wood frame-- for less than what a regular frame would cost at the Target. So many of the trinkets that make the room so unique and fun were all finds at local second-hand stores in Georgetown, Florence and Bartlett, TX: these include a vintage Cheshire cat, White Rabbit, charming little teapots, key print, doorknob, and wire heart.  The bookcase was an amazing find at my favorite store, Gatherings, in Georgetown, TX.  I bought it as-is for $35.00, and it was the perfect addition to the room and very functional too. I found 3 copies of Alice in Wonderland printed circa 1909-1929--each less than $20.00 and one was free after sharing my story of adoption and love of Alice in Wonderland. 

The dressers, side tables and small chair were also in the room prior to becoming Lottie's nursery. They are the perfect size for a children's room. I re-purposed the light fixture with some spray paint and sand paper. At night, the shadows make a whimsical pattern on the ceiling. One of my favorite pieces has a little story behind it, the small red canvas with a bird says "When I look at you, I can't help but smile." it was made by a local artist in New Orleans, we met the artist and spoke with her for a few moments-I just loved it and thought it would be the perfect addition to the nursery.  The piece was in her clearance bin and after explaining how much I loved it, and it would be a beautiful addition in my soon to be daughter's nursery, she only charged me $5.00. My friend Natalie introduced me to a wonderful, local seamstress who is amazing, and she made the crib bedding with the original duvet cover, I also used "clearance" fabric from Joannes and used our old bedskirt and old sheets to make pillows... it would have cost me more to buy a clearance set from any of the big baby stores, and this had a story for every piece of the fabric used.  The red blanket is the prayer-shawl from a dear friend and is my most favorite part of the room, and it will travel to China with us when the time comes.

This room is honestly my most favorite room in my house- often I find myself wandering upstairs and sitting in the room to read, study, and yes even brush my teeth (strange I know).  I have had long multi-hour conversations with my family and best friends just sitting on the carpet in awe of the beauty of the room. It is my most favorite room in the house and creating it has helped me through this process. However your journey into Motherhood may be, it's not always an easy process, but filled with so much joy, excitement and love.  This wonderland has already given me so much and I cannot wait to share it with Lottie Lee.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thank you

Thank you for all the support and "likes" on CoupAide's facebook Page, there are two days left in the contest.  While we are still in the lead it has become a very close contest!

Please spread the word, "like" and continue to become a part of Lottie Lee's Red Thread.  Ask your family, friends and co-workers to join.  We would love to write the next post on June 1st, with a new post about the amazing numbers of people who have joined together to help bring home our sweet baby Lottie Lee.

Thank you for everyone who participated..please keep them is close and our contest doesn't end until June 1st! Thanks for all the LOVE!
As of 8:00 PM Central Standard Time, here is the latest update:

1. Castagnos (223)
2. Dismuke (210)
3. Flagler (89)
4. Nelson (86)
5. Gordon (79)
6. Yoder (68)
7. Mohr (32)
8. Toth (31)
9. Bohnenstengel (11)
10. Alexander (5)

Only 2 days left.. and the contest is extremely close...If you haven't it's SO easy to help ..all you have to do is like CoupAides's Facebook page CoupAide and then write We support the Castagnos-Lottie Lee on their wall!!!!

If you already participated and would like please copy and paste on your status and ask your FB friends to help! Every vote could help! Thank you ♥ S & W

Monday, May 28, 2012

Set backs

Well in the adoption world... we learn this process is not easy, actually it's very hard.  Each adoption story is unique and of course follows its own path. It's easy to get caught up in the timelines of the adoption process; planning how much time certain steps will take, or should take, but honestly life is not as theoretical and simple as it is in our minds.

This post would have been dated for the end of March... or maybe the middle of April... or finally the end of May if things occurred theoretically as they should have happened--sadly we have been faced with some challenges and set-backs in regards to our adoption timeline.  What have we learned thus far? There is no "timeline", nothing is definite, and although it was a difficult lesson to learn, we feel like we have managed to move on and accept that there will be bumps throughout this process, but all along the process, this will all be most-definitely worth the wait.

To fill everyone in: to finalize our home study we must pass Child welfare/child abuse background checks in every state we have lived since we turned 18 years of age, which includes 6 states in total.  This process is facilitated by our agency and each state beholds similar-yet-unique forms that require us to list previous addresses and personal information.  We submitted to our 6 different states of prior residence: NY, MO, DC, TX, NM, and  MI.  We have experienced some difficulty with the appropriate paperwork for D.C., which has unfortunately needed to be re-submitted 3 times, for various bureaucratic technicalities.  Fingers crossed we hear good news before June1st!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meet Baby Shannon

Several months back we learned about Love Without Boundaries, a Non-Profit that helps provide medical care, nutrition programs, healing homes, and foster care to orphanages throughout China.  We researched Love Without Boundaries, and were astounded by percentages of donation/income that goes directly to benefiting the children.  We LOVE this program and following the progress of many of the children that are currently enrolled in their programs.  We especially fell head-over-heels in love with Baby Shannon.  She arrived at the healing home on Christmas day, and ever since, we have followed her story.  As you can clearly tell from these photos, she has grown so much these past few months.  The love and attention provided by Love Without Boundaries is simply amazing and watching the transformation of these children is absolutely the most rewarding experience.  Recently, Shannon received surgery to repair her cleft lip, isn't she beautiful?  For Mother's Day we sent a donation for Shannon in honor of our mothers, Abbe & Christie.  We pray that Baby Shannon becomes available for adoption and that she finds her forever family.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My "Ah Ha" Moment

Today is Mother's Day, and I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't admit this day was difficult for me.  Part of me, well ALL of me yearns to have Charlotte in my arms, right now! I am tired of waiting..I just want to be her Mother, to love her, kiss her,  smell her,  and comfort her.  But another day waiting,  the reality is today is just not that day.  Waiting is the hardest part- once we decided to adopt I was ready, but unfortunately this process is long and requires an extreme amount of patience.  Some days are harder than others and I wonder will I ever get to meet this sweet baby I dream about? when will it be my turn?  Why not now? 

Today my prayers and questions were graciously answered, as I sat in Church pondering over these very thoughts, on all days- Mother's Day.  About 10 minutes into the service, I looked 3 pews in front of us to see a Mother affectionately loving on her sweet daughter, who I would guess would be about 3 years old.  The sight was beautiful, Mother holding her daughter, rocking her and just soaking in the moment.  I smiled enjoying staring that the woman's back dressed in a navy dress her hair neatly curled and the little girls pink dress ruffles spilling over her sweet little legs which were tightly wrapped around her Mommy's waist. Moments later did I truly understand why I got a chance to witness the pure love between a mother and daughter.  After catching a glimpse of this little girl's precious face I realized she was adopted and if I could guess I would say she was Chinese. Oprah Winfrey says it best.."It was my "Ah ha" moment, everything made sense.  Tears running down my face I got it, God was telling me he hears my prayers, and I need to be patient.  I need to trust him and know in my heart that this will happen, I will most definitely keep going and with a smile on my face....My dear Charlotte our time apart will be a distant memory we must stay strong, for it will be here soon.

"Traveling at such a slow pace,
Do you think you can ever get there?"
A fast steed asked the lame turtle
"Yes, as long as I keep going," said the turtle
-From Chinese saying, "Bo bie quian li" "A lame turtle goes a thousand miles"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Lost Daughters of China

"For one who waits, A moment seems like eternity"

One of my most favorite books about Chinese Adoption, was written by Karin Evans, adoptive mother of two Chinese daughters.  Recently I began re-reading the book for the 3rd time.  Adoptive mothers-this is a must-read and so helpful during various stages of the adoption process. This book has given me hope and made me feel normal for feeling anxiety & fear during this process.  I wanted to share Karin's thought process about the initial phase of the Home study in her own words and below will include the Castagno version..honestly couldn't say it any better.

"I walked into an international adoption agency and emerged with a thick folder of forms.  We sat down and pondered a number of questions Please give a brief statement of your reasons wanting to adopt a child.  What is your profession? Education level? Income? If you has experience with infertility, please provide details" (Evans, 2008, pg. 16).

We filled in the basics: One Engineer, one Speech Therapist, Masteres degree (or well on my way), both over 30 (in my case 2 weeks over 30). Married 4 years in October-happy balanced marriage decribed as each others Ying/Yang, Two siblings each, happy childhood, loving parents fair discipline, Good health, covered by health insurance.  Pets? One sweet Terrier Mix & a noisy Miniture Schnauzer.  Hobbies? decorating, golf, traveling, photography. House? brick home in lovely neighborhood, great neighbors, multicultural area. Personality traits? Winn-outgoing & family oriented Scott-giving and kind.

Why did we want to adopt?
We have always wanted to adopt, and this was something we have had a passion for prior to our marriage and agreed it was something we would pursue to grow our family. We believe every child is a miracle and every child deserves a family to grow up with, no matter how a child joins a family—each family is gift.  We promise to provide a loving home and never to abandon or abuse the child/children.  We promise to raise her/them with the full rights of a birth child." S & W

Chinese Consolate Authentication

So the third step in the paper chase process is "Authentication", which basically means any official document that was first notarized, and then state certified, must then be authenticated by the Chinese Consulate.  There are 6 Chinese Consulates in the US, and depending on state where the document originated and certified, determines which of the 6 Chinese Consulates to send the documents..  The People's Republic of China currently maintains one Embassy in Washington D.C., five Consulates-General in the following U.S. cities: New York, NY; Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Houston, TX. We sent our documents to CA, TX, and NY. 

Each consulate varies in some of their requirements, so when working with three different ones, you can imagine how important it is to make sure all the steps are accurate.  For example, some of the consulates require the document to be less than 6 months old, others require only USPS-postage while others require only hand-delivered or courier-delivered paperwork to process the Authentication.  Two out of the three consulates that we worked with required us to hire a courier to receive and send the documents.  This process was  pretty simple, just included a simple fee and some information. For example, some of the requirements set by the courier required an application or a letter from our adoption agency. We are now the proud owners of a stamp and seal from Chinese Consulates in CA, NY, and TX.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Abbegail & Winn

As this special day arrives, I think about my mother Abbegail, who gave so much to raise me to be loving, strong and kind. We speak almost every day, and she is always there to guide me and give me the best advice. I cannot wait for Lottie to meet her and to watch her blossom into a Grandmother-Nanna. I think of my sweet Grandmother Mary Charlotte and her strength and wisdom that she continues to bestow on me. On this day I think of my Grandmother Carol Joyce who is up in heaven smiling down on us and watching over our sweet baby. I think of my amazing aunts, my God Mother Charmaine and all those wonderful Mothers who have touched my life. I think of my Mother-in Law Christie who raised my loving husband and how she will make a very special Grandma to Lottie Lee. I think of his Grandmothers Nancy & Marjorie, and what amazing traits they blessed our family with, Scott's Aunts, and all of the other Mothers who loved him and made him the person he is today.

This year I will think of my friends those far and near who truly show me the definition of what it means to be a mother. As each year passes, I watch more of my closest friends embrace Motherhood, and it’s just a beautiful experience and I love each and every one of their children. It’s amazing to watch pure the love of a new mother, whether it’s the concerned glances, loving smiles, or their purest words describing their new found love that they never expected to be so instant and so strong. Throughout this process, I have "met" many new Blog friends who also fell in love with adoption, and a tiny picture of a baby miles away. These mothers encourage me with their stories and daily words of wisdom, and on this day I think of them and their beautiful children that they too adopted.

This year in particular, I think of Lottie's birthmother, although I think of her often and will never be able to express my graditude for giving me the best gift, on this day I will think about how much love she has for her daughter. How hard it must have been to let her baby go. I pray for her in the most sincere way to give her peace and comfort. I wish I could tell her how I appreciate her and her decision to therefore make me a mother. How nobody else will love her more than me, and how I promise to do everything in my power to make her happy and raise her with the best intentions. I will promise on this Mother's day and every day forward to share my visions of her to Lottie Lee, how beautiful she must be, the wonderful traits she passed on, her strengths, and how much she loves her. I will never meet this woman, but she will always be in my heart and a part of it always.

Happy Mother's Day to all the fabulous women who have taught me exactly what is most important and this is LOVE.

As Mother's Day is quickly approaching give the gift that makes a difference
Help fundraise towards Lottie Lee's adoption.

Michigan LOVE for Lottie Lee

Friday, May 4, 2012

Michigan Baby Shower!

12 years ago I joined Delta Zeta sorority and met some of my best friends.  We spent the majority of our college years living in close quarters at 600 West Forrest Ave and our friendship grew into a true sisterhood.  Although graduation was a short 4 years later, we all continued to stay as close if not closer through the years, we experianced our first real jobs, we attended and stood up in each others weddings, and now watch as each other become mothers (All boys-Liam, Lincoln, Lucas, & Blake until later this month the first DZ legacy-Iris Elise).  My DZ sisters surpised me this past weekend with a baby shower for Charlotte.  It was such a wonderful and fun evening.  And did I mention "oh so perfect"

Knowing,Alice in Wonderland is my absolute favorite, as well as the theme for Lottie's nursery the girls decked the tables with teacups brimming with flowers,  gorgeous teapots, decks of cards and some of LewisCarroll's best quotes.  The dinner was set with fine china, as 10 friends sat and shared stories of our past, sipped on wine and discussed how  all hope we can share stories for decades to come.  We laughed, we cried, and decorated onesies and bibs for Lottie Lee.  The girls showered me with gifts and the cutest of cute outfits for our sweet baby.  Each outfit was sweeter than the next, and truly so fun to open, and reopen throughout the weekend.

These past few weeks have been difficult and often I lost touch with what really matters, and having the love and support of my best friends as they share this time with me truly made it all worth it.  My DZ's genuinely love and care for Lottie and cannot wait until they can meet her. Thank you DZ's!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CoupAide Fundraiser Thank you

Ya'll did it again...and we are amazed with the number of people who have taken a moment to change our lives and help become a part of Lottie Lee's Red Thread. Two weeks ago we asked friends, family, and co-workers to help us take part in a fundraising contest that CoupAide began on April 16th. We asked for others to go to and “LIKE”CoupAide’s Facebook page and to leave a comment We support & love the Castagnos- Lottie Lee"

167 people reached out and commented WE SUPORT & LOVE the CASTAGNOS & LOTTIE LEE...yes 167 people and we are only halfway there. Truly how amazing to have that many people send their wishes and prayers and possibly help us win $200.00 for our adoption, in addition other wonderful prizes including a painted portrait of our sweet baby. Of course every little bit helps as our Immigration fingerprints will cost close to $1000.00, we LOVE the portrait and the idea of one day sharing it with Lottie Lee and telling her the amazing story of how many people loved and thought of her even before we share her beautiful little face.

Thank you to all of those who have taken a moment to help our family, shared with your friends and family and continue to love and support us during this journey. What an amazing journey it has been thus far.