Wednesday, October 31, 2007

FOREVER FAMILY DAY- November 1st

Tomorrow we celebrate our Zoe being home with us. The journey to bring her home and make her a part of our family has been the most life changing journey I have ever experienced. I am so grateful that God has brought this precious princess into our lives. She is a miracle. We are honored to be her forever family. I made this video as a gift to her and a gift to you. You have followed part or ALL of our journey. :0) I thought we should take a look back together to remember how far God has brought us!
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WOULD YOU PLEASE GIVE ZOE THE GIFT OF LEAVING A COMMENT?
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I don't think I have ever asked for an official de-lurking in my 2 plus years of blogging but I think it would be so cool if everyone left their first name and the general area they live- that's all you have to leave if you want. Then Zoe could see how many people care about her. :0) Would you please help us with that?? Then we can look at the globe with her and show her all the places in the world you live. She is VERY into the globe right now!! It's really easy. Just push leave a comment and choose the anonymous button.
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THANK YOU BLOGGER BUDDIES! YOU ARE AWESOME!! Thanks for being a part of this journey and the many to come.
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Here's to you Zoe girl. :0) Love, Momma


Monday, October 29, 2007

Tom Davis Interview!!!

THAT'S RIGHT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!! Last weekend Russ and I went to a conference where Tom Davis- Author of "Fields of The Fatherless" and "Red Letters" was speaking. He was so gracious and even did a four part interview with us so that I could post it on my blog for our book club and share it with our church. We were so inspired by what this amazing organization is doing. If you haven't checked out his blog you can just zip on over. http://tomdavis.typepad.com/

Here is the web address to the organization they were talking about. You will find out more about this organization in the weeks to come cause I am CRAZY for it!! One of our upcoming interviews is about Children's HopeChest. http://www.hopechest.org/

We did a book club here on the blog covering his PHENOMENAL first book "Fields of The Fatherless." Right now I am reading his second book "Red Letters" and WOW!! We may just have to have a second book club guys! It is awesome. You should just go buy it now. Seriously. It's good stuff.

If you missed the book club and are interested in reading the posts covering the Fields of The Fatherless they are archived on the right under the Fields book club section. In my opinion it should just be required reading. Hee hee. ;0)

Going to this conference was just so cool. It's rare that I get to meet people with the same sold out crazy vision that we do! This is THAT kind of group. You people know what I'm talkin about!!! These are wild and and crazy world changers. I was like SIGN ME UP! I have this gut feeling that we might be at the beginning of a very cool ministry involving this group. I don't know guys. Stay tuned cause you NEVER KNOW what we are gonna be up to next. WE ARE CRAZY, CRAZY, CRAZY!!! :0)

These people are taking on the issues that many parts of our church body has shied away from and tried to ignore. There are countries going extinct right now- on our watch. Millions of children being orphaned because of diseases that are preventable and poverty that could be overcome. It is heart breaking and UNACCEPTABLE. I can't sit on my well fed tushy and deal with it anymore. I am ready for more than that. Guys... I don't know what's cooking but it's HUGE. I don't know when it's gonna happen but it's GONNA HAPPEN.

Adoption isn't enough. We are passionate about adoption and will continue to adopt. Adoption is absolutely beautiful and I praise God for the way He places those in need in homes. It is an amazing phenomenon. BUT it is a band aid on a cancer called poverty and disease. I'm taking it on... I know there are those of you out there who are with me on this. Your hearts just ache with knowing there is more you were meant to do. Don't make the mistake of feeling powerless. There is so much we can do.

All right now the good stuff. Try not to pay attention to my wild head nodding. :0) OK SOOOO HERE WE GO!! Enjoy. Heeeeeere's TOM!





Just precious

I HAD to share this blog with you. This sweet family is picking up their little girl from China RIGHT NOW.
The story of their first day with their sweet little one was so precious. She is adorable. You can also go back and see more about their trip and their overall journey if you are interested in knowing more about what we are doing.
It was too good not to share. I get kinda choked up thinking that soon we will be writing about our first day with Kaiya right on this blog.
ISN'T THAT AWESOME???
Wow. Hugs, Angel

Sunday, October 28, 2007

$$$ FREE ADOPTION MONEY $$$

How You Can Afford To Adopt
(written by Angel's husband Russ)

I know. I know. I know. Husbands are to be seen and not heard, but I enter the blogosphere bearing good news to many who fear the cost of adoption. So many times when people inquire about our adoption, they express their desire to adopt as well as their doubts that they could ever cover the cost. As such, Angel has asked me to lay out how almost everyone has access to at least $13,000 – $18,500 to cover adoption costs – FREE MONEY! Also, I’ll talk about how to get as much of that money up front to minimize any need to take on debt.

First of all…what do I know about this stuff? In addition to having gone through the adoption process, I have a background of tax planning and high net worth investment planning with Deloitte & Touché. That said, I must add the disclaimer that I have been out of the business for a while (4+ years) and before employing any ideas I write here, I would encourage you to speak to a current tax professional.

I’ve done my best to simplify this as much as possible, but it can get pretty complex in some cases. Please feel free to email us with any questions you have.

Boring stuff aside, let’s get to the good stuff.

Tax Credit vs. Tax Deduction:
First, let’s discuss the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction because this causes confusion for a number of people and its important to understand this before we go any further. The most important note is that a tax credit is more beneficial as it reduces your tax liability dollar for dollar.

A tax deduction (e.g. mortgage interest) reduces your taxable income. In other words, someone who had taxable income $50,000 and had tax rate of 15%, they would pay $7,500 in taxes. If they had a $10,000 deduction, their taxable income would go to only $40,000 and their taxes would go to $6,000 (15% of $40,000). They would save $1,500 in taxes.

If they had received a tax credit instead of a deduction, they would have still had $50,000 of taxable income creating a tax liability of $7,500; however, the tax credit would reduce their tax liability dollar for dollar to where they would receive a $2,500 refund rather than paying taxes.

Question #1: Where does this money come from?
Answer:
Your taxes and your company. Let’s break it down.

Source #1: Adoption Tax Credit ($11,000)
In 2007, the current tax laws will allow you to be fully reimbursed for up to 10,960 of qualified adoption related costs (most of you adoption costs are qualified) through the Adoption Tax Credit. A tax credit is more beneficial than a tax deduction. This credit is allowed in the year that the adoption is finalized, but can be limited for high income families ($165,000+).
Any expenses reimbursed by your employer do not qualify for the credit; however, most international adoptions will cost more than the Adoption Tax Credit and any employer reimbursement together so you will be able to receive both in full. See example #6 below for scenario where adoption costs are lower than the total of the employer reimbursement and Adoption Tax credit.

Source #2: Child Tax Credit ($1,000)
For each child, the current tax laws allow you to take another tax credit of up to $1,000 per child. This tax credit is not related to the adoption, but instead to the fact that you have a new child in your home. You can take this credit every year the child is a dependent in your home. This tax credit starts being reduced if your AGI (basically your income less retirement plan contributions, health insurance and student loan interest and a few other deductible items) exceeds $110,000 for families.

Source #3: Personal Exemption (appx. $825)
You receive a tax deduction (different from the tax credits we have shown above) of $3,300 for each person in your family. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, then your taxes would go down by $825 (25% of $3,300). To see which tax bracket you are in, find your taxable income off of last year’s tax return and compare to the table below.

Tax Bracket Taxable Income
10% 0 - 15,650
15% 15,650 - 63,700
25% 63,700 - 128,500
28% 128,500 - 195,850
33% 195,850 - 349,700
35% 349,700 and Up

Source #4: Charitable Deduction (appx. $500)
In most adoptions, part of the adoption cost involves a charitable donation to the orphanage, which is usually around $2,000. This can be treated as a charitable deduction for tax purposes. Again, if you are in the 25% tax bracket, you may receive a benefit of $500 (25% times $2,000).
Source #5: Employer Contribution ($0 - $5,000)
Many employers today will reimburse a portion of your adoption costs. Most employers reimburse between $1,000 and $3,000; however, some are even more generous. Check with your human resources to see whether your company provides this benefit. This benefit is not taxable for income tax; however, you will pay social security and medicare taxes out of it (7.45%).
Source #6: State Tax Benefits ($0 - ???)
Some states offer tax incentives for adoption as well. These benefits differ by state and may be limited to in-state adoptions, so you will need to check locally for more information. I can confirm that Texas does not offer incentive most likely due to Texas not having a state income tax.

Question #2: How do I get the money when I need it?
Answer: Adjust how much tax is withheld from your paycheck. Most people think they have to pay these taxes up front and then wait for a return. This causes a cash flow problem because you don’t have the cash to pay for the adoption. Waiting to get a return is not always necessary. You can get the money up front to use toward the adoption.

You now know that you get to pay fewer taxes so start having less taken out of your paycheck in the year you expect to complete the adoption. First you need to figure out how much tax you expect to owe in the year you will complete the adoption. Then work with HR or a tax professional to determine how much tax to take out of your paycheck to meet your new lower tax liability. Take the money that you’re saving in taxes each month and apply it toward your adoption expenses.

Your personal situation (adoption timing and income level) can greatly impact the usefulness of this strategy, so as with any tax strategy, you want to know what you’re doing. I’m happy to talk with anyone wanting more information.

Example # 1: (No Employer Contribution)
Sammy and Dora expect to complete an adoption in 2007 and they will have taxable income of $100,000. As such, they had planned to pay taxes of about $18,000 and were having $1,500/mo taken out of their paychecks. Now they know that they will get the tax benefits highlighted above and their tax liability will go down by almost $13,500 to only $4,500. As such, they should have no more than $375/mo taken out of their paychecks. This will save them $1,125/mo that they can use toward the adoption. If they needed to be even more aggressive, they could reduce their tax withholding to zero until completion of the adoption and then pay enough to ensure that they pay in $4,500 by year-end; however, this can be a bit more risky.

Example #2: (Employer Contribution)
The scenario is the same as in example #1 except that Sammy’s employer offers adoption reimbursement of $3,000. They can actually use this reimbursement to reduce the amount of tax withholding they take out also. Sammy and Dora will still owe $4,500; however, they can use the employer reimbursement to pay for $3,000 of that tax liability. Now they can pay $3,000 of their taxes when they receive the employer reimbursement and pay the remaining $1,500 of taxes through payroll deduction. This means that they will need to only take $125/mo toward taxes out of their paychecks – saving an additional $250/mo for a total of $1,375/mo that they can apply toward the adoption costs.

Example #3: (Adoption Completes in 2008)
The scenario is the same as in example #1 except that the adoption isn’t expected to complete until next year. Sammy and Dora should not adjust their taxes for 2007 as they will not receive any of the tax benefits or employer reimbursement in this year. Instead, they should plan to employ their strategy next year when the adoption is expected to complete.

On a side note, if you expect your adoption to complete at the very end of this year and there is possibility of it extending into the next year, you will need a contingency plan. Since, you only receive the benefits in the year that you complete the adoption, you may want to consider paying in taxes monthly or arrange to borrow money, if needed, at year-end to pay taxes if the adoption does not complete in time. You will be able to use your tax benefits in the next year to pay back your debt.

Example #4: (Lower Income Scenario)
This scenario is the same as Example 2; however, Dora decided to leave her job this year and made no income leaving only Sammy’s taxable income of $50,000. Their expected tax liability has now dropped to $6,750. They still expect to receive tax benefits this year in the amount of $13,500 and employer benefits of $3,000; however, that is significantly more than the taxes they expected to pay. Unfortunately for them, the government will not allow you to take more of the tax credit than you owed in taxes this year. Any amount that they don’t get to take this year can be taken in future years though.

As such, this year they will only receive the total employer benefit ($3,000) and tax benefits equal to $6,750 plus the child tax credits ($1,000). They were planning to withhold taxes from their paycheck of appx. $550/mo; however, they now know that they will receive the tax benefits above. In this case, they should reduce their payroll tax deduction to zero saving $550/mo. that they can apply toward adoption expenses. Because they only received $7,750 of tax benefit in this year, they will have lower taxes next year (2008) also by $5,750 (total benefits of $13,500 less amount received in 2007 of $7,750).

Example #5: (High Income Scenario)
If Sammy and Dora make significant income (as deemed by the IRS), they may receive reduced tax benefits from the tax credits and the personal exemption, which “phase out” at higher income levels. However, they would still benefit from the charitable deduction and employer reimbursement. They should meet with a tax professional to best understand the amount of benefit they should expect to receive.

Example #6: (Lower Adoption Costs)
Let's assume the same situation as scenario #2; however, Sammy and Dora's adoption costs total only $8,000. In this case, Sammy and Dora would receive the child tax credit ($1,000), additional personal exemption ($825), charitable deduction ($500), the employer reimbursement ($3,000); however, they would only receive the Adoption Tax Credit in the amount of the total adoption cost ($8,000) less any employer contribution ($3,000). In this case, Sammy and Dora would receive $5,000 of the available $10,960 adoption tax credit. Yes, Sammy and Dora would actually come out ahead by $2,325 (total benefits of $10,325 less the adoption cost $8,000). Of course, we know that this will quickly be consumed by food, diapers, toys, clothes, etc., but it still helps.

Example #7: (Adoption of Domestic Special Needs Child)
If in example #6, the child that Sammy and Dora is adopting domestic and deemed to have special needs, then they are entitled to the entire adoption tax credit of $10,960 even though their adoption costs are lower. This would provide Sammy and Dora an additional $5,960 compared to Example #6.
The definition of special needs is determined by the child's state; however, the definition considers the child's ethnicity, age, whether part of sibling group and medical needs as special needs factors.
CONCLUSION
I know this sounds fairly complex. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have or leave a comment with your e-mail address. We are happy to help in any way we can.

Russ

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Share your spoon!

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, 'Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.'

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table.

In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.The Lord said, 'You have seen Hell.'

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, 'I don't understand.'It is simple,' said the Lord. 'It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.'

I have an opportunity for you. An opportunity to share your spoon with Sadie. Sadie's family is about to go to China to pick her up. She is a special needs kiddo just like Kaiya. Her family needs some help to raise money for the fees.
They have been working very hard on fundraising but are falling a few thousand short. Would you consider giving them a one dollar or whatever you can give? Please don't make the mistake of thinking that your gift doesn't make a difference because it is not large. If everyone of us gave a starving man one bite to eat he wouldn't be starving. Individually we can only do so much. Together we are unstoppable. That's what the body of Christ is all about. Let's help this family get Sadie home. Here is there blog
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You can donate by clicking below. :0) Hugs, Angel

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dear Anonymous J...

First, before my rant begins I would like to say how AWESOME my blogger buddies are. You people are amazing. I have had so FEW incidents of meany comments it's amazing. I mean if you are doing something different your GONNA get blasted sometimes right?? Shoot... I figure if NOBODY is ticked off at me then I must be doing something REALLY wrong cause we live in a messed up world. :0) If nobody is upset with me I must be just ORDINARY and BORING- the status quo. BLECH! HEAVEN FORBID that EVER happen. Seriously. I don't mind making a few waves now and then. BUT I do believe in kindness, respect and restraint. I refuse to publish comments that do not follow those guidelines.

I just received an anonymous comment which I will not publish because - well it was unproductive and mean. It compared our adoption of Zoe to getting a great real estate deal at someone else's expense....

However, I do want to address it....There are many factors that went into Zoe's adoption. Many of these I may NEVER discuss publicly because they are HER personal life and not mine. The things I discuss openly on this blog are only the things she has given me leave to discuss. I respect her privacy.

I think it is sad to go on someone's blog and read a tiny bit of a story and think you can judge whether that person has truly adopted a child in need or swindled someone out of "real estate." The truth is that I have let you in on a tiny bit of our hearts and you have assumed things you can't possibly know.

I have never told you what Zoe's life was like before the mud slides. Children who are not physically orphaned can come from many circumstances. I have not told you what her birth mother or birth father were like. Frankly you don't know if she really knew them at all. You don't know if she ate like a pig daily or starved for days on end. You don't know if she had a big fluffy bed or she slept on the ground with snakes. You don't know if she was hugged and cuddled daily or hit daily. You don't know if she had clothes or was naked. You don't know if she was safe and cared for or fended for herself. You know the final straw.... the mud slide... and you assume you now know the situation.

You didn't ask if we considered all this. You didn't ponder that I may have cried many nights as we went through the process for her Guatemala mother wondering what we could do. You don't know whether we requested permission to support her Guatemala mommy. You don't know whether or not we have contact with her Guatemala mommy. You don't know that Zoe is scared to even go visit Guatemala.

It just bothers me that you took something closest to my heart- adopting my children and reduced it to a real estate deal. This is my heart and soul.

This is NOT something we take lightly. My daughter knows she belongs with us. Her birth mother was protecting her in more ways than you will ever comprehend when she placed her in foster care. Giving Zoe up was heroic and absolutely right. I respect her immensely. There is nothing simple or pretty about it but it's love all around.


Please know that when you read this blog you see a tiny part of who we are. It's just a glimpse. We are not inviting your judgement. We are just sharing our hearts. If you leave a rude comment I will NOT publish it. PERIOD! This blog is about encouraging each other and lifting each other up. Feel free to ask honest questions. DO NOT feel free to compare my children with swindled real estate. I go all "mamma bear." I just can't help it.

OK. Now I feel better. :0) Nighty night all. Hugs! Angel

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Conversation I overheard

Kaitlyn: Daddy WHHHHYYYYYY do you have to go to work???

Zoe: Daddy works for money for the house and food and clothes. (She is ever my grounded practical princess. It's so cute!)

Daddy: That's right KK I need to go to work so we can earn money for the things we need.

Kaitlyn: BUT DADDY!! You can just go to the BANK when you need money. That's what mommy does. She says I want money and they say HERE!!

Daddy: Sweetheart, Daddy has to work to put money IN the bank so Mommy can take it out and spend it.

Kaitlyn: Ohhhhhhh.....

Mommy: HA! HA! HA!!!! It's true KK. :0) Hee hee...

Gotta love that Daddy!! Thanks for getting that money in the bank sweetie. You're the bomb!!! I'll try not to make the bank hand it ALL over!!! If it's all gone blame it on Kaiya Rain Zhen. :0) Angel

Even MORE Kaiya Q&A :0)


Where are you on the timeline? - We turned in our LOI the day before yesterday. It has to be translated and then sent to China. Then we wait for PA. While we wait we are scrambling to get our dossier together so we can send that to China as soon as we get PA. That buys us a little time. It isn't too hard since we have done this all before. Plus I must say it is a LOT less stressful and more streamlined than the Guatemala process. I am hopeful that we will get it to China quickly.

How are the girls reacting to the exciting news of a new sister?!- OH MY WORD!!! The girls are OVER THE MOON!!! There has been literal BEGGING for another sibling around here the last six months. They can't quit talking about their new baby sister. Zoe wrote about it in her "treasure book" (her journal for school) and read it to her whole class. She said the teacher was excited. :0)

Kaitlyn had to miss her ballet class on Tuesday cause we were busy getting the LOI paperwork done and overnighted. I was worried she would be upset but she said, "Don't worry Mommy. It's OK. Whenever you are working on stuff for my sister I will ALWAYS be right beside you!" Then she told me, "When I get bigger I'm gonna 'dopt lots of kids JUST like you mommy!"

The girls both keep combing through the house finding toys and smaller clothes that are now "Kaiya's things." All day I hear about how they are going to teach Kaiya this thing or that thing. I hear about what she will wear and how CUUUUTE she will be. What more could I want to hear from my sweet girls??? It's pure joy around here people!

I am curious how you were able to choose a waiting child without a dossier done or I-171H? Do some agencies let you do that? - There are ABSOLUTELY agencies that will let you accept a referral of a waiting child when you are not quite paper ready. Especially if you have adopted before. It takes a lot less to get your home study done and all.... There are MANY waiting children in desperate need of homes. Many with small correctable issues or maybe they are a little bit older. Anyone who thinks they might be interested please leave me your e-mail and I will try to point you in the right direction. It means you gotta MOVE your tushy and get that paperwork done but it's worth the scramble FOR SURE!!!!

Any more questions??? Bring em on!!! HUGS TO YOU! Angel and the crew

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kaiya Q&A

Kaiya Rain Zhen
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forgiveness and abundant blessing- precious

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Some of you were curious how we came up with the name. We loved the meaning. We are big on name meanings for our kiddos. We know that our newest sweety pie is going to have a lot to forgive at a very young age. She will need forgiveness for her precious first mother who could not care for her. She will face that she was given up because she is a girl and has special needs. What I want for her in her life is the gift to be able to forgive easily and fully and receive the "abundant blessings" that her Heavenly Father wants to give her.

Then of course Zhen is her legal name now. The director at our agency said they probably call her ZhenZhen which means precious-precious. AND SHE IS PRECIOUS!!! :0) So we will call her ZhenZhen as her nick name and to honor her country.

For those who are wondering what our other daughters' names mean...

Kaitlyn Elise

Pure Gift to God

We pray that is her life is always a pure gift to God. She has such a precious little heart that reflects her name. Pure describes her perfectly.

Krysta Zoe Mirna Aracely

Divinely Chosen Life

We want her name to always remind her that God chose her long ago to be with us even though she wasn't born into our family. He has great plans for her. Also my middle name is Christine which is from the same root as Krysta.

Mirna means "peace" and Aracely means "alter in the sky". Mirna was the name she went by in Guatemala. Aracely was her middle name and is also her Guatemala mommy's name. We did not feel comfortable taking away either name without her permission as she was so much older when she came home. Especially since one was her mother's name. We kept both to honor her and her Guatemala mommy. When she is older she can decide if she wants to drop any of it.

How long will it be till you go to China to pick her up? We are expecting it to be between 6-9 months before we travel. Soooo I think May-July. BUT I am trying NOT to get hooked on a date. If you followed my LAST adoption process you know why! :0)

How does the adoption process in China work? I will do my best to tell you the process. I am just learning the process for myself though. So I can't promise it's all perfect.

LOI- Letter of Intent- This is the first big step. You send your letter of intent to China declaring your desire to adopt a particular child. The government reviews your paperwork and gives you pre-approval if they believe you will be a good match for the child.

PA- Pre-approval - This is the government of China stating that as long as your dossier backs up your statements in the LOI you will be approved. This step usually takes 4-6 weeks

DTC- Dossier To China- When all your paperwork (including your I 171-H- US permission to adopt an orphan from China) is done you mail it to China and wait for a log in date. People wait different time frames. I think it's usually a month or two till you get a log in date.

LID- Log In Date- Getting a log in date means that day is when your file began to be reviewed by the court. This time seems to vary a bit. I think it is usually a month or two after your log in date till LOA.

LOA - Letter Of Acceptance- This is the letter of acceptance. It says that you are approved to adopt this child and you will travel soon. Usually you will travel about 4-6 weeks after LOA. You sign it and send it back to China as a final acceptance.

TA- Travel Approval- comes a 2-4 weeks after LOA... This means you can buy your tickets and get on a plane to go get your baby! You will travel about 2 weeks after TA.

When you travel I think you usually fly into Bejing. You sight see for several days and then fly to your child's province for about 6 days. Then after that you go to Guangzhou to finalize everything. Then you go home!!!!

OK.... That's what I know. If I got anything wrong please to let me know. I know I have some awesome new China forum blogger buddies!

Feel free to ask more burning questions! Hugs, Angel

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An invisible red thread...

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break. -- Based on an ancient Chinese belief


Introducing our daughter from China
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Kaiya Rain Zhen
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forgiveness and abundant blessing- precious
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Meet our newest member of the family!!!!!!! We are THRILLED beyond words to announce that we are in the adoption process to bring home Kaiya!
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Kaiya is 17 months old. Her birthday is May 10th of 2006.
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Kaiya has a cleft lip and palate. Her lip has been surgically repaired but she will most likely need surgery to repair her cleft palate. She is otherwise healthy and is eating plenty as you can see! :0)
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She is described as sweet and happy. Her file says she will laugh without stopping if an adult makes her giggle. She HATES having wet diapers and will scream her little head off. She also loves her sleep! (just like her mommy)
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I KNOW!!! I KNOW!!! We are just as surprised as you. It's the coolest surprise I have ever had. Surprise! God just gave me my little girl! Isn't she precious???? Okay... here's a little of the story. It's WILD. This has literally all happened in the last week. I would have told all of you earlier but we had to wait for certain paperwork to be filed.
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As you all know we have been BACK and FORTH on whether it was time for our next adoption. We had originally thought that this time would be AA domestic adoption or an Africa adoption. We had always thought that our NEXT time around would probably be China. So we are swapping things around it seems.
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I think we will adopt a little boy from Africa or domestic AA adoption next time. We actually have a meeting scheduled with an agency in a couple of weeks that I have to cancel. BUT both of us kept struggling with it and feeling like maybe we were going the wrong direction for our family this time around. We seriously just had this ambivalence about the whole thing. (which is NOT like us!) We really wanted to adopt toddler rather than newborn and are open to correctable special needs. That was not the greatest need with the type of adoption we were pursuing domestically. So we kept praying that God would make it VERY clear to us where what we should do.
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SOOOO a week ago a good friend shared with me that they are adopting an older child with special needs from China. She was showing me the webpage where he had a picture. On that page was a waiting little toddler girl with cleft palate and lip unrepaired.
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Now Russ and I kept saying that we weren't sure we wanted to do an international adoption this time. Mostly this was because our last international adoption experience was SO hard and painful that we have been scared to dive in again. We all know Guatemala adoption isn't for the faint of heart. :0) Plus we know there is a need here too and we've been conflicted about that.
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SO ANYWAY when I saw this little girl it grabbed my heart in such a strong way. I thought "I COULD DO THAT!" It felt so RIGHT and not scary like the path we've been moving toward. Which is so ironic because the path we WERE taking was much "easier" in most people's eyes. Yet my heart was instantly pulled in this direction. It just felt right.
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So I called my hubby and asked him what he thought about adopting a special needs child from China. Now he had been waffling for MONTHS just like me but I prayed that God would give us wisdom and bring us into unity on this. Within 30 seconds of me calling he said GO FOR IT. Let's do this. I HUNG UP STUNNED AND SO EXCITED!!!
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I called the agency immediately and asked about this little girl. They said she had a family already. I hung up the phone completely BAFFLED and confused. I was like HUH???? I really knew God was doing something here but what NOW?
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So I immediately went onto one of my many forums and for some BIZARRE reason typed in "great agencies" into the search engine. Up pops a TON of e-mails all about how WONDERFUL this certain agency called Children's House International is... so I went right to "google" to look at the agency. As soon as I went to the website I saw this part that says "waiting children" and then something that said I could join a forum. I thought, "I gotta join" but it usually takes a day or two to get approved. I applied and was approved within 5 minutes! I immediately went to look at the waiting children and when I saw this sweet little one I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!
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I thought WHAT????? What is going on?? There must be something I don't KNOW! Why has no one accepted her referral?Then I thought they just must not have changed the status yet and she really already has a family. So I did a search on her name on the the messages. Then I saw that SO MANY of the mommas on the forum had been praying for her.... These precious mommas had been praying for her to find her family and every bit of me knew that she was MINE. They kept talking about how strange it was that she hadn't been matched yet. So many other children with much more severe needs had been matched with their families and still she waited. Not only that- her time was running out. They were going to have to return her file to China very soon if they didn't find a match. Then I don't know what would have happened to her.
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I KNOW that God brought me to her because these Godly women prayed for us. The path that brought me to her boggles my mind. It all happened in ONE afternoon. I have known from the second I saw her picture that she was my daughter. I am not scared, I am not worried about the money or the surgery or anything. I am BLESSED beyond words. She is supposed to be ours.
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I am blessed by the women on that forum in a way I can't articulate. They prayed for my little girl to find me.
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With all of my heart I know that God was holding Kaiya for us. She belongs in our family. She truly does....
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Welcome baby girl. We are coming to get you. You just hang on a little longer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

African Lullaby

For my friend who decided to do something about it... I've never been more proud.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My mission trip to Guatemala- 2 WEEKS LEFT!

Some of you mentioned that you would like to make a donation for the orphanage in Guatemala. I will list some specific needs. You can leave me a comment with your e-mail address if you would like to mail something. I will contact you.

White sheets for twin beds one double set, Crib sheets, Pack and play sheets, Big bibs, Towels- for kids not babies, Socks all sizes, dvds for children, happy not scary-Spanish or English- of course clothes are always needed...preemie - size 7- girl andboy

You can also just push the button below to donate through pay pal and I will deliver the money to them. There is a donation button on the side of the blog also. I put it in $5 increments. So just enter how many $5 increments you would like to give. If $5 bucks is what you have then AWESOME! $5 feeds a child for a few days. Every bit helps.

I am OF COURSE very happy to deliver packages to anyone's sweet children at Eagle's Nest. Just send it ASAP. I leave on Nov 2nd! :0)

My donation button






Saturday, October 20, 2007

Travel On a Dime

ALL RIGHT!!! Here goes people. Here are my best tips. I don't think it's anything too revolutionary but I hope it helps. I will give you some tips and then spell out how we do our trips.

1. Always try to travel OFF season. If you go places during their main season it's expensive, over crowded and not NEAR as fun. Pick your time very carefully. If your kids miss a few days of school a year BIG DEAL. Of course that is as long as they are doing well and getting good grades... if they struggle then it's a perhaps a concern. In most circumstances your children will remember a special family time long after they will remember what they learned in school that day. Plus you can do their work with them in the car. Yes... I know your school might give you some crud. OH WELL! Perhaps they have forgotten that they are YOUR children. :0)

2. Rent a condo for long trips. You can rent people's vacation condos and timeshares at very low prices during off season. This makes it much more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone. You will have separate sleeping areas and a kitchen. Most of the time you will even have a washer and dryer. NICE!

3. For short trips use priceline.com to book your hotels. Just DON'T accept under 2 1/2 stars and you'll get nice places. Try to go for 3 or above. It will show you what kind of hotels you get for each rating.

4. DO NOT eat out. Before you go on your trip plan out a menu. Include items for the car and easy meals to take with you. Take one day and everyone cook and prep up a storm. Then pack up the ice chest and be ready. You can even do this if you have to fly. As long as you don't take uncooked fruits or veggies you are fine. Just use an ice chest as a suit case and make sure it's duct taped nicely! :0) Also make sure you pack all paper plates and plastic silverware. It takes some work but it's wonderful. There is very little prep work for meals. It costs no more than you usually spend on groceries. You might even LOSE weight on vacation and everyone is eating healthy yummy food!! If you are on a long trip you are in a condo with a kitchen. If you are on a short trip you will be fine using the ice chest with ice packs for a couple of days.

5. Try not to fly places. Choose a location close enough to drive or make it a road trip. When you fly somewhere it racks the price WAYYYYY up. Not only do you have plane tickets but you usually have to rent a car. Then it is also hard to bring every little convenient thing so you end up buying more stuff. Just spend your money on a car DVD player and some great head phones.

6. Don't buy stuff just cause you are somewhere. You know it's just going to end up in a drawer or the trash. If you must buy souvenirs (which we rarely do) give each person a small budget for their use on the entire trip.

7. If there is a great theme park nearby consider season passes. Season passes are usually only a fraction more expensive than a one day pass. Then you can make it a regular weekend getaway with very low expense. Consider making this a Christmas gift to the whole family. You could also have it be a birthday present for someone.

OK... Now I will give you our specific examples. These are a few of our favorite getaways.

SEA WORLD-

We live about 3 hours away from Sea World. We know we like to always have season tickets for this one. So my mom has made this a yearly birthday gift for Kaitlyn. She gets us season passes for the girls as KK's gift. It's a wonderful gift and way better than getting more "stuff." :0) Then we get a season parking pass which is about $20.

Of course we always try to go on off season weekends. There are hardly ever long lines when we go and we get great seats at the shows. We will drive up on a Saturday morning with our meals in the ice chest and stay for one night in a hotel.

Nowwwww.... here's a trick. You have to use priceline.com. In that area of Sea World I happen to know that there are two resort level hotels. I also know I can bid once for each credit or debit card number I use. Soooo... I get our two debit cards and two emergency credit cards and sit in front of the computer. I say that I will only accept a resort level hotel in the Sea World Hill Country. Then I bid $55. In the off season I will usually get it because they have lots of extra rooms. If I don't I bid with another card for $65 and so on.

If that doesn't work I go down to one level lower and we still get a nice place. BUT almost every time we have stayed in a resort one mile from Sea World for $55.00.

We bring a smaller ice chest in the stroller into the park. They have always allowed this with no problem. I think you maybe can't bring glass or straws or throw away cup tops cause of the animals. Anyway, we bring lunch and snacks. We also each have our own large water bottles full of cold water. We hardly ever buy anything in the park unless someone wants to spend their own earned money.

So you can see we can do a weekend at Sea World for $100 to $150 over normal weekly budget including the extra gas. We can usually cover that by everyone contributing their budgeted clothes money, allowance and a little date money for a week or so.

So that is that one.... Does that make since?? If you live near here and need a priceline tutorial I will be glad to talk you through it on the phone. You can do that anywhere though. We always use priceline and have had great results.

GALVESTON-

Again... off season is very important. Find the place you want to stay. Try to find a great resort with lots of timeshares or privately owned condos. Now google "vacation rental" and the name of the resort. We stayed in Pointe West in Galveston. So you would google that. We just did our research and found a good match for us. Renting through private owners is almost always a much better deal. In our case we asked Wendi and Sam to split a bigger place to cut down the cost a little. (plus the beach is just more FUN with friends right?) It would probably be $50-$100 more to do it on our own in a smaller place.

The food is the same idea. Have it all prepared in an ice chest.

This was $350 this last time with everything.

NOW FOR DISNEY WORLD-

As you all know we LOOOOVE us some Disney World. However, my rules are NEVER more important than at the happiest place on Earth.

Go off season if AT ALL possible. We went this last summer for 2 days just cause we happened to be there at KKs birthday but I would not do that otherwise. It's not NEAR as fun during the school holidays.

GETTING THERE- We drive. This next time we will leave on a Thursday right after school. We will drive as far as we can. I will book a priceline hotel in the same way I mentioned in the Sea World portion. Then we will drive the rest of the way on Friday. We will be there Friday through the following Sunday... so 9 nights. Then Sunday we will drive part way pack and stay at a priceline hotel. Then we will get home that Monday. It's a long drive but the girls watch their DVD's and play their video games. I also bring lots of colored pencils and coloring books. We also bring magnet dress up dolls and all that good stuff.

WHEN TO GO- Here are the best times to go to Disney World in my opinion. The first two weeks of December it is decorated for Christmas and a virtual ghost town. That is an AWESOME time to go. They also have Mickey's Christmas Party. DO NOT go the two weeks of Christmas break unless you are ready to be mobbed. They actually often have to close the gates because they reach capacity at those times. The second week of January through end of February are great times to go. It is the second slowest time of year and nice and cool. March is BAD- Spring Break. April and May are iffy but not AWFUL... June through August are AAAAACCCCCKKKKKK!! CRAZY!! September is so so. October is pretty awesome. It's warm and not super busy. Plus you can do Mickey's not so scary Halloween party. November is good except for Thanksgiving which is NUTS!

To do more research just google "best time to visit Disney World."

TICKETS- Here's the thing about Disney... It's better to go for a LONGER amount of time. A ten day ticket costs only a little more than a three day ticket. They want you to stay longer cause they THINK you will spend more money but HA HA!!! We will trick them!:0) So here's the deal... for a family of four the base tickets for 3 days is a total of $748.00. For ten days it is $824.00!!!! SO SEVEN MORE DAYS FOR $76.00!!!! WOW!

ALSO staying longer is better cause it's a LOT more fun and more relaxing. This ticket is the base ticket. It means you get to go to one park a day. You can use it over 14 days total. So if you stay longer you can take off days. Plus really one park a day is PLENTY!! There is so much to do at each park that you could go for days in a row and not do everything. So if one day you only go for 3 hours WHO CARES! Just go with what you want to do and have fun.

We don't buy the park hopper option to go to more than one park a day. We don't see the need. It's $50 more per ticket.

We aren't going to get the parks and more option this time either. We got it last trip. It's a cool option. You just have to decide if it works for your age kids and time of year. It gets you 6 passes into the water parks and Disney Quest. Disney Quest is a GARGANTIOUS arcade. It's truly so cool. It's all included and has every game and fun electronic toy. There are virtual roller coasters and light sabers. There is skee ball and pac man. It's so fun and like 5 stories high. BUT I think it's more fun when your kids are older and everyone can go there own way. We took the girls last time and they like the little kid games. It was just not quite as great as when Russ and I could run around alone. So in a couple years we'll go again. Plus we are going in the winter so the water parks are not a draw for us. That is also $50 more per ticket.

So for us the base tickets will do this time around. :0)

WHERE TO STAY- We DO NOT stay on site. Now remember we drive so we have a car. There are TONS of awesome condo resorts within minutes of Disney. You can find a wonderful 1-3 bedroom condo with full kitchen and washer/dryer during the off season for $300-500 for a week!!! Just google "vacation condo Disney" or "vacation condo Orlando". You can also stay in Kissimmee. It's really close. Condo living is MUCH better. Mom and Dad get sanity time and a kitchen. WAYYYY better.

http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/2310.html
http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/3224.html
http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/5470.html

For just a little more you can get a rental house with it's own heated pool!!! So if you want to go in winter but need to swim TA DA! :0)


WHAT TO EAT- Remember that all your snacks and food is already prepped. All you need is your microwave in your condo at night!! :0) You CAN take food into Disney. We do the SAME thing at Disney as at Sea World. Just take your small cooler and put it in the stroller. Then make sure everyone has a water bottle. I will do our usual menu at the bottom.

SPECIAL ACTIVITIES- We have to do a princess dinner. We have done Cinderella's castle and I thought it was OK. It's in the Magic Kingdom. The one that is the BEST is the one at Epcot. It's a BUNCH of the princesses. It's called Akershus Royal Banquet Hall dinner. It was around $25 a meal. We will pop for this one! It's worth every penny if you have your own little princesses.

Cirque de Soliel La Nuba- This is at Downtown Disney. It is pretty durn expensive. I don't remember exactly. It depends on what seats you get. BUT it's VERY cool. We liked it a LOT but we will probably just wait and see if the funds permit this time.

Downtown Disney- Downtown Disney is just FUN!! It's beautiful at night with all it's lights. There are tons of fun stores to look at and yummy treats. We usually go one night to get ice cream and window shop. It's also fun to maybe let everyone choose a special hat pin of their favorite Disney character for each trip. They have all kinds of fun pins that are very inexpensive.

FAST PASSES- You gotta know about these. For almost all popular rides you can get a "fast pass." That means you have a "reservation" to go on that ride at a certain time. During off season there will rarely be lines but you will hardly EVER wait in line with this plan. You go into the park and decide which ride you just HAVE to go on. Go straight there and if there is a wait put each of your tickets in the fast pass machine. It will then give you a time frame that you can return and ride. When you return you can skip the whole line and get right on!!! :0) While you wait for your reservation time you can go on the less busy rides. Then after a certain amount of time you can get another fast pass for another popular ride and do the whole process again. Does that make sense?

PARENT SWAP- Parents! Never fear... you can ride the big kid rides even if you have a little bitty one. Here's what you do. Assuming you have two adults- you go through the line with your children. Let's say this is my family. Zoe wants to go on "Test Track" but Kaitlyn is too scared. I can go with Zoe while Russ waits with KK at the front of the line. When we finish we can swap and he can go with Zoe while I wait with KK. See ??? Cool!

TIP BOARDS- At some of the parks you will see lit "tip boards" all over the park. They will tell you how long the wait is at the popular rides. Pay attention to those times. It can really help you to know when you should head to those favorites!

CHARACTER VISITS- Each of the parks now has character visiting areas. Epcot has a huge indoor one with the classic characters. You can usually catch Mickey and a lot of the gang. The Magic Kingdom has a huge indoor one too. You can either visit the princesses or classic characters. They are in separate tents. You get to speak to 3 princesses and pose for pictures. It's in the little kids area of the Magic Kingdom.

PLAN AHEAD FOR RIDES- Before you go look at the Disney website. They have lots of great info on which rides are age appropriate for your kids. You have to be careful. Some of the 3-d stuff can be scary. Disney appeals to many ages. Disney will also send you a free planning kit with a DVD. It's great.

NOT TO BE MISSED-

Spectro magic- The night time parade at Disney is my absolute favorite. It is absolutely gorgeous. Don't miss it.

Soaring- This ride is at Epcot and it's our favorite ride. The WHOLE family.

The safari- At The Animal Kingdom- LOTS more animals in the morning so "fast pass" it as soon as you get to the park in the morning.

The Lion King Show- At the Animal Kingdom. SOOOO AWESOME!

Turtle Talk With Crush- Epcot

Philharmagic Show-Magic Kingdom- beware it is 4-d... not SCARY just IN YOUR FACE. KK sometimes has to shut her eyes and put in her ear plugs but still likes it.

Belle's Story Time- Magic Kingdom

The Ariel Show- MGM Studios- can be a little scary for tiny ones cause it has the evil URSULA!!!

Buzz Lightyear- Magic Kingdom

Disney Playhouse- MGM Studios- has Bear in the Big Blue House and Jo Jo and much more

THINGS TO BRING-

BUY YOUR DISNEY DRESSES AND PIRATE GEAR BEFORE YOU GO!!! If you want princesses dresses get them on clearance after Halloween the year you want to go or at least go to Target before the trip. Dresses in the park are CRAZY expensive. We pack our special outfits to bring with us.

ear plugs- Kaitlyn is sensitive to some of the loud noises so we put ear plugs in her ears if things get too "intense". It really seems to help.

Sunglasses, suntan lotion, water bottles, food, chapstick,a map with your favorite rides circled


SOOOO THAT is how you do an less expensive Disney trip. :0) Our last trip cost $1,500.00 over our normal budget money including everything.

OKAY ONE MORE THING.... Here are some foods I have found are easy to transport for travel. When we go on trips with a kitchen I bring lots of the things. If we are on a short trip with no frig I bring only foods that are good cold. For the car I bring a smaller cooler with car snacks and lunches packed. I guess I might need to put my recipes on later if you guys want them. Do you want them?


Chicken Nachos
Deviled Eggs
Sliced turkey meat
Salad with chicken, golden organic raisins, walnuts, and Parmesan with honey mustard dressing
Tostados
chicken salad
candied pecans
crock potted brisket meat
yogurt and granola
sliced cheese
LOTS OF FRUIT
carrots and dip
bean and cheese tacos
enchiladas
pistachios
cashews
dried cranberries
dried mango
gluten free brownies
baked potatoes


Brita water filter for the condo

Well there you go friends. Those are my best tips. I hope it helps you ALL have awesome family memories that don't have you reaching for your credit card. :0) Love to my blogger buddies~Angel

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Galveston getaway

This last weekend my family found a new favorite place!! We live about an hour away from Galveston and have never liked it much. The beach has generally been dirty and they didn't have any nice resort type places to stay. BUT I had heard there was a new place that was really great so I coerced our friends into trying it out with us. IT WAS SOOOO GREAT! We all had a blast and are now IN LOVE with Galveston. If you live near us you REALLY need to check this out. Just e-mail or comment and I'll give you the 411 on it. ANYWAY!! We totally surprised the girls with this special weekend. We are also celebrating Zoe's upcoming one year anniversary with our family!! (Nov 1st)So this was a great family time.
This is the condo we shared. It was 3 bedroom and so NIIIICE!!

Here is the thing.... I LOOOOOOVE to travel and do new things. If you read my blog you know that.
I used to want to be a travel agent or flight attendant... ANYTHING that would let me travel for free. :0)

I also hate staying in cruddy places. :0) I like shnazzy! What you don't know is......

I AM ALSO REALLY CHEAP!!! Well, I PREFER to go with thrifty but CHEAP is also pretty accurate. Hee hee.

There are just too many awesome deals out there to go spending a lot of money on a vacation. We have figured out how to do a weekend at Sea World for $100-150... a weekend at the beach for $300-400...2 weeks at Disney World for about $1,500..
AND YES that includes food, tickets, hotel, and transportation for a family of 4...

We are seriously NOT independently wealthy. :0) HA HA!!! My thrifty friend Wendi and I just make it our mission to take the coolest, cheapest trips possible. It takes a little more effort and preparation but for me it's WAY worth it!

If you guys are interested I'll write a post and share all my best secrets for cheap family getaways. Any takers???


OK. Back to business... Here is the view from our condo.


This is the beach club. It has an infinity pool, kids pool, lazy river, hot tubs, work out room, restaraunt, bar, cabanas, grills.... it was so cool!
Here is the boardwalk to the beach.
Here are the footprints of my favorite little beach bums.

little model!




making sand castles

Taking some family beach pictures




Madeline-4, Lilly-2, Wendi and Sam holding William-almost 1






playing horsey




sparklers


4 screaming girls against one helpless Daddy!!

My buddy for life ,Wendi
Awwww my sweet hubby. I love this man!


Cooking s'mores around a camp fire



THE END! YAY!!!! We can hardly WAIT to go back!!!! :0) Angel