Monthly Archives: November 2013

Michele Reznicek

Friends sometimes are made at the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected of circumstances. We were fortunate to make such friends with Michele, a few years ago at a fundraising event. Immediately upon meeting Michele, she puts you at ease. It’s a combination of we’ve known each other for years/we have a ton in common/she’s the easiest and most interesting person to have a conversation with/she’s loads of fun/I can’t wait until the next event when I see her again. Which is why having her at our home for Yiyi’s lantern party was so extraordinary. She was a fresh burst of energy, immediately began making friends with party guests (namely Nikki’s mom – seriously, it’s obvious as to how that would happen, isn’t it?!), and shared her love for adoption, as well as resources for visual impairment. You might not know it, but Michele has a significant vision impairment and is thoroughly researched in this area. Yet another blessing for how this sweet woman has touched our lives! Michele, we are so grateful for your friendship and support for our us and our adoption. We look forward to Yiyi having a strong role model with a vision impairment and we couldn’t ask for a better person than you! Thank you!

Tim Sernett


Brian has had the privilege of working with Tim Sernett at Virtual Bean Counters, Inc. for the past couple of years. Tim has been a great blessing because of the expertise he brings to Brian’s business in the area of bookkeeping and accounting.

Tim and his wife graciously chose to attend Yiyi’s Lantern Party back in October. He took it all in good humor when we ambushed him and asked him to record a video for the Website. ¬†ūüėČ
We continue to be amazed at the caring people who want to help us out on this journey any way they can. Thanks, Tim! You’re a good friend.


“Four Spoons” 2.0 is here!

Four Spoons Cover-Web

Well, after a bit of a false start, “Four Spoons” is finally ready to go for the holiday season

For those of you who don’t know, “Four Spoons” is the cookbook we have prepared as part of our fundraising efforts to bring Yiyi home. It is a¬†collection of recipes from the four cultures that will make up our daughter’s heritage–Chinese (Yiyi,) Mexican (Nikki,) Italian (Nikki,) and Mennonite (Brian.)

We have gathered 40 recipes from family and friends, and have asked everyone who contributed to send us the story behind the recipe they submitted. Every recipe has a story. ūüėČ

We hope Yiyi will value this book not only as a go-to guide for delicious ethnic meals, but also as a symbol of everyone who is part of HER story.

All profits from the sale of “Four Spoons” go directly to Yiyi’s adoption fund. Order your copy for the holidays today! ūüôā

PLEASE NOTE: This is the revised version of “Four Spoons,” with proper attribution for photographers Angela Kaplan and Doug Hesse. You are both amazing artists. Thank you so much! We deeply apologize for the oversight on the first version.

Four Spoons

Four Spoons Cover-Web

Update–11-14-13: We have made a very big mistake in Four Spoons and we’re correcting it as we speak. Unfortunately we’re going to have to delete the original site for Four Spoons, correct the error and then put up a new link. To all those who have shared…thank you very much, and now we’ll ask that you re-share again as we come out with the new link later today.
The mistake was epic. Beyond huge. It would have been quite something if we just had a measurement of an ingredient off a bit. But I really “pulled a Nikki” on this one and made an epic, huge mistake.
The mistake is that I didn’t credit all the photographers in the cookbook. We have two, very dear friends Angela Kaplan and Doug Hesse, who are very talented photographers who donated countless hours in getting these photos taken, edited and sent out and they were not credited in this book. Angela Kaplan and Doug Hesse are generous beyond belief and donated gifts to us richer than any amount of money. ¬†They donated their talent, which is art, and we are the beneficiaries of it. Not to credit them appropriately is just wrong and I am absolutely in tears over this mistake. They are so kind to have given us these gifts and it is terrible to have done what I did.
To Angela and Doug:
I am truly, truly and deeply sorry for this mistake. I wish words could fix it, but we’re working on fixing it for real. Until we do, please know how sorry I am and know that this was a complete mistake. I do feel awful for this and I am so very sorry. You have given us so much, and so for me to do this to you both is inexcusable. I’m so sorry.
The acknowledgment page will be fixed later to remedy this error so please look for a new link to be shared around. Thank for understanding and letting this be a lesson to everyone so hopefully my mistakes solves you from doing this later in your life.
Bless you, Angela and Doug, and all our supporters as we Bring Yiyi Home.

Original Post from 11-13-13: Whomever “they” are say that cooking is the thing that binds families together. Cooking together is a time that people can be together, sometimes talking, sometimes not. Sometimes seeing, sometimes not needing to see. Cooking teaches us to learn from one another. It teaches us how to use our senses in different ways. Often times accurately measuring an herb or spice isn’t as important as feeling the amount that needs to go in, smelling that it’s on the right track, and then tasting it to see that it’s just right.

In adopting a 10-year-old who comes from a very rich food culture, cooking is going to be a staple in the Pauls family. If you need to find us on Saturday nights, post-adoption, I can guarantee you that we’ll be at home (with a musical CD on) and all three of us packed into our tiny kitchen, cooking together. We plan to learn a lot about cooking from this little girl. We’re looking forward to never eating overcooked noodles again. We’re looking forward to eating the stickiest of the sticky rice (as many of you know, my saying all through college was “rice is nature’s candy”). We’re excited about steaming dumplings, eating delicious soups with veggies cooked to sweet perfection, and perhaps even going out on a limb or two at the Asian market with chicken feet or other delicacies that our baby wants to eat to make her feel more at home. I’m not saying I’m excited, but I’m open to it!

And we’ll teach her the stories of our families. We’ll show her how to love the sweet fried doughy goodness of her Mennonite heritage with New Years Cookies. We’ll teach her how to throw the kitchen sink in with some avocados to make a flavorful guacamole. We’ll read her stories of her cousins overnight foibles at grandmas house, getting her excited for her first big Italian wedding (don’t let me down Bill and Erin!), and stories of pies made by great-grandmothers she will never know.

This is Four Spoons. A collection of 40 recipes from Yiyi’s family and heritage. All Chinese, Italian, Mennonite, and Mexican Yiyi, the girl who once thought her culture was one, but soon will be four. We put this cookbook together for our girl and now are sharing it with our friends and family members who want to donate to be part of Yiyi’s story. This cookbook has 40 contributions from friends and family as they share stories and recipes that are important to them, that shaped them, and that take them right back to their grandma’s table. Trust me, its good stuff! Often times the recipes are true gems, and sometimes the stories are just the best. At any rate, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed and will have a ball with this cookbook full of love and emotion.

This cookbook was compiled with love by our dear friend Heather and is filled with professional photographs from sweet friends Maggie and Amy. It’s pretty quality! Consider giving one to a loved one for the holidays or just keeping it for yourself.

‚ÄúTo try your hand at doing something new is to find out a few new things about yourself, too. Which is yet another good reason for coming into the kitchen.‚ÄĚ
~ Michael Pollan, Cooked

If you’d like to help out with Yiyi’s adoption, you can order your copy of Four Spoons starting today! All profits go to Yiyi’s adoption fund.

Please note that unlike donations to our adoption agency through Pure Charity, purchases of Four Spoons are not tax deductible.

Norma DeSimone

Oh, Norma! What to say about Norma? ¬†She’s a hoot. ¬†Everyone who knows her absolutely loves her. ¬†She’s fun and funny and loves to laugh. ¬†Nothing gives her greater joy than feeding her family and sending us away with leftovers. ¬†Nothing. ¬†Except perhaps her taking claim to Brian and I getting married, as you will see on this video.

The thing that’s so cool about my mom is that she just accepts things as they are. ¬†She always has. ¬†If something is negative, rather than fighting it, she just accepts it and finds the best possible way to make the best of it. ¬†She recently ended a 17-year stint working in management with a large company. ¬†Through these years, she worked countless 60+ hour weeks, supervised over 40 employees at one time, and dealt with a myriad of HR issues, countless employees illnesses from working in close quarters, and bouncing between two languages. ¬†And she came home every night with a smile on her face and enthusiasm to cook a twilight meal, lend a listening ear, and deal with a discouraged kid. ¬†She worked only so my brother and I could go to a private university of our choice and give us so many extra things that have helped us succeed. ¬†And one day, a couple of months ago, her work thanked her for her hard work and 17 years of service and let her go in a large-scale corporate layoff.
And in true Norma fashion, she picked herself up by her boot straps and has now entered into the world of job searching like a pro, accepting that this is just the way it is, and making the best of it. ¬†She’s finding joy in getting dinner on the table by¬†6 p.m., learning how to navigate technology, getting more fit by working out at the gym numerous times per week and shopping for her new granddaughter. ¬†Oh yes, and Dr. Oz..she’s discovered daytime television as well.
When Norma found out that I had a gentleman caller who was 12-years-older than I, never once did she mention this being an issue. ¬†Rather, she gave me the lecture on how I’ve always been an old soul and couldn’t have actually been successful with a guy my own age, so this is just perfect. ¬†And praise God, only Norma has a way to talk with Joe and get him aboard things that he might not have been aboard at first, so that was a non-issue in our family.
So when Norma found out that she was going to be a Nonni (grandma), she accepted it as it was, with gusto and enthusiasm for her new “baby.” ¬†When we were telling her that this child wasn’t a baby and that she was blind, she was nearly in tears of joy. ¬†When dad asked how old Yiyi was, mom said “is she 9? I have a feeling she might be 9-years-old,” with absolutely no prompting or foresight that she would, in fact, be 9.
Never once has Norma said that she’s sad she’s missing the call that her baby is having a baby and that we all must rush to the hospital. ¬†Never once has she indicated anything less than over-the-top enthusiasm for buying size 6 and 7 clothing, rather than a newborn layette. Never once has she differentiated that our child will be adopted and not our biological baby who we are not getting from Day 1. ¬†And never once has she greeted this adoption with anything except the same overwhelming support and love as she always has.
Because that’s Norma. ¬†This is the way it is and she loves it. ¬†And if she doesn’t, you’ll never know because quite frankly, she will never even know herself. ¬†It’s just the way it is.
I really can only aim to be half the mom she is, because even if I was only half, Yiyi would still be pretty fortunate and turn out great. ¬†She’s an amazing person and role-model for what it means to be 100% devoted to her family. ¬†I have a lot to learn about being a mom, but of all people to learn from, I’m getting to learn from the best.

The very official paperwork

Perhaps the most fun difference between domestic and international adoption is the crazy amount of fun, government issued, paperwork.  The really neat thing is that internationally adoptive families get to sit and wait on very official paperwork from not one, but TWO governments, as they are journeying through the process!  And it all comes through the regular, old, USPS, so even more time is spent in the transit.  All of these documents have very important numbers and acronyms attached to them.  It is very official. Let me introduce you to our LOA (aka. Letter of Acceptance).

LOA approval

This is the official document from China that states we’re a-ok people and we are all officially approved by the ¬†CCCWA (aka. China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) to adopt Yan Yiyi. ¬†This is a piece of paper that can take anywhere from 30 days to 4 months to obtain. ¬†We got ours in 30 days! ¬†Awesome! So now that China’s all set for us to adopt this little girl, now our USCIS (aka. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) needs to step in and tell us that they have looked at both Yiyi’s file, and ours, and all seems to be cohesive, so they are going to do a merging of the files. ¬†That produces this beauty…the I-800.


In all her beauty, the I-800 has proceeded the I-800A, which has resulted in the I-797, which was our pre-approval to bring an immigrant into the country for the purpose of adoption. ¬†The I-800 states that we are approved to bring Yan Yiyi into our country for adoption, as well as assign her an alien registration number for her impending journey with the Department of Homeland Security, which will allow it to be successful and swift post-adoption. After getting this I-800 approval from the NBC (aka. National Benefits Center), I will be spending the day on the phone today with the NVC (aka. Nation Visa Center) to see if I can get the next document we need in PDF form, rather than paper. ¬†Now, I know all you naysayers out there are thinking “But, no, Nikki, you can’t do that! ¬†How will the fancy paper companies continue to survive if not for these very official government-issued documents?!” ¬†I know, I know, I shouldn’t side-step the process and ruin this finely interwoven relationship between the paper companies and the governments (foreign and domestic) but we really can save ourselves a good two to four weeks in the process if we dabble in an electronic form, so I’m going to take the risk. ¬†My apologies to Dunder-Mifflin.

After this, we basically have just one more thing we need before we can once again show the CCCWA that we’re all official and request that they approve our travel.

We’re asking Santa for TA (aka. Travel Approval) for Christmas this year. ¬†We’ve been pretty good, Mr. Claus! ¬†And we’re hoping you understand these very fancy and official acronyms and approvals needed for an adoption from China (and are not also in cahoots with the paper companies who will take offense that we’re taking the next leg of the journey electronically).