Saturday, April 25, 2015

Muffalettas, bread, and jewlery...oh my!

Wow! We have had so many wonderful people working so hard to help us raise funds for this adoption. We are so incredibly blessed! Just a little update on a couple of fundraisers that family and friends have been doing to help us bring home our son!

First, the muffaletta and hummus sale my family did at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Hoover turned out to be a HUGE success! I posted after the first weekend that we were so incredibly overwhelmed just by the generosity we received that weekend. My family took pre-orders again after every mass the next weekend and then took a break for Easter weekend. Then, the week after Easter they were busy, busy making hummus and muffalettas to be delivered after the masses that following weekend. They ended up making more than 250 containers of hummus and about 225 muffalettas. So many people were so kind to volunteer their time to help my dad assemble the sandwiches and package everything. Thank you so much to: Joe and Pam Sinopoli, Brenda Boyd, Stacy Rohn, Marie Bateh, Cindy Crook, Heidi Monte, and of course my parents! Thanks also to my sister-in-law, Heidi Monte, whose idea this was and who helped organize the fundraiser and to my brother, sister, and brother-in-law for all of the time they spend after mass taking and delivering orders. A special thanks also goes out to Najis Pita Gourmet in Birmingham, who so generously sold my dad the hummus ingredients at a significantly discounted price and donated several packages of pita bread! We ended up raising $8673 after all expenses. This fundraiser far surpassed our expectations and we feel so incredibly blessed and grateful!

Second, Todd's mom decided to do a fundraiser making her delicious homemade honey wheat bread several weeks ago. She sold the bread mainly to her neighborhood via the neighborhood Facebook page and raised $466! Another amazing blessing!

Finally, a friend of mine, Heather Loden, hosted a Noonday jewelry party at her home yesterday, where 10% of the sales will go toward our adoption. The party will be "open" for another week and a half, so if you want to order any beautiful jewelry (mother's day is just around the corner!), you can order by visiting The really cool think about this jewelry is that it is all handmade by women from impoverished areas around the world and the profits go to these women to empower them and help them provide for their families. Really cool stories you can read about on the website! I don't know the total we have raised from this fundraiser, yet, since it is still open. But I will update soon!

I read a passage in the Bible when we had just begun this journey. Two of the verses stuck out to me: Deuteronomy 1:9, 13 "You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone...choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes and I will set them over you." When I read these verses, I related this to our fundraising...the enormous amount we had to raise is "too heavy a burden" for us to carry alone. I knew that we would need "wise, understanding, and respected men" to help us raise these funds. This truth is unfolding so amazingly, as so many people have stepped up to help us. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts! And most of all, we thank God for working his miracles in our lives!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Puzzle Update- Week 9

So we got a little behind in our puzzle assembly. We have been so blessed with donations pouring in over the past few weeks, we simply could not keep up! Thankfully, over the weekend, we had a little help from Gigi and Pops and were able to catch up! We now have 677 pieces assembled! We are 2/3 of the way finished. Please help us spread the word and continue to add pieces to our puzzle. Each piece is $10 and we will put your name (or whatever name(s) you wish) on the back. You can buy as many pieces as you'd like. When it's finished, we will frame it with double sided glass and hang it in Zack's room, so he can see all the people who helped bring him home!. Here's a picture of our progress!

Home Study- Complete! On To the Next Steps

I just reviewed the draft of our Home Study Report! Our social worker said that it should be finalized by the end of the week! Yipee!

The next step in the process is for us to apply with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which can take 6-8 weeks to get approval. This part seems to be pretty simple (once you fill out the 16 page application!) While we wait for that approval, we will continue the "paper chase" gathering all of our dossier documents. The good news is that almost all of the documents needed for the dossier have been gathered and notarized, we just need to get them all certified and authenticated, which seems, at the moment, to be a daunting task! Then there are just a few small things that will require a little work on our end that don't have to be notarized like making copies of of our passports, and putting together a couple of family photo pages.

If you're wondering what certification and authentication involves--just about every document in the dossier has to be notarized. Then, each notarized document has to be certified at the state level (the state in which it was issued) and then authenticated at the appropriate Chinese Consulate. There are several Chinese consulates and each state has a designated one. Since we had to order certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate (from Alabama-where we were married, Louisiana-where I was born, and Ohio-where Todd was born), we've already sent those documents to the appropriate state for certification. Once we get those back, we will send them to the appropriate Chinese Consulate (LA and AL go to the Houston Consulate and OH goes to the New York Consulate, both of which don't allow you to mail the documents. You have to use a courier service). Here's the daunting part. All of our Tennessee documents not only have to be certified at the state level, but at the county level, as well (TN is one of the states that requires this extra step)--the county where the notary holds their certification. Of course, we ended up with notaries from three different counties we have to receive certification from. From there, we take it to the state, which thankfully, we can just drive everything up to Nashville and take care of in one swoop. Then, Tennessee's assigned consulate is the Chinese Embassy in D.C., which requires each document to be additionally authenticated at the U.S. State Department before going to the Embassy. So, yes, that's FOUR certifications/authentications PER DOCUMENT we have notarized in TN, which if your curious is about 15 separate documents.

Also during this waiting period before we complete our dossier, we will be working on completing the required training, which includes reading three books on adoption (the first one of which has been very good and informative so far) and 12 hours of online training (10 are China specific and 2 are for adopting an "older child").

The great news is that as soon as we can get all of this completed, we can submit our dossier to China because we now have enough money to make the payment that is due with that step!! All praise and glory be to God!! It will all have to be submitted to our social worker no later than the end of July so that it can get to China by August 15th, which is our deadline for holding Zack's file.

Once the dossier is submitted to China, I believe it will be 2-3 months before we travel. Not 100% positive on that timeline, yet.

Many have asked if Zack knows that he's being adopted. At this time, he does not. Once we receive our official referral approval (RA) from China, they will tell him and we will be able (required, in fact) to send him care packages (with photos of our home, family, etc., to help him begin to adjust to the idea of coming home).

Please continue to pray for us during this long journey: For us to persevere through these next steps. For our documents to arrive safely and timely to the designated places and back to us so that we don't lose any documents or have to do any over. For us to continue to be blessed with the funds needed to pay the fees for the future steps. And prayers for Zack, that he is healthy and happy, and has a sense of peace and knowing that he is soon to have a family.