Monday, December 12, 2011

6 weeks

Approximately six weeks from today we may be in China. We got our next approval this morning (NVC cable and pdf, for those who have any idea what that means) and we only have a couple steps left, which seems crazy at this point. I mean, aren't we supposed to spend the next 3 years with nothing but paperwork to busy ourselves with?

So what is going on now? Well, our I800 approval went to the national visa center, who looked it over and approved the approval. Then, they emailed us a pdf of the approval which we emailed to our agency. Our agency then emails it to their contact in Guangzhou, who will take the approval to the consulate for review (or something). It's a standard 2 week wait before that same contact picks up the approval, called an article 5. Once we have that we are only waiting on our travel approval, which has been taking another 2 weeks or so. Travel approval is the final go ahead from China for us to come get Nora, so we can book flights and hotels and scramble around for another week or two wondering why we procrastinated so many things. Should be fun!

There is one element that will potentially throw off the timing: Chinese New Year. For those who don't know, the entire country pretty much shuts down for a week or more during CNY. This year, it falls on Jan. 23-28th. Because of how things work with the trip, most people won't be traveling after the first week of January, which means there will be a bit of a backlog once things open up again. It's entirely possible that the backlog will push us into the first week or two of February for travel, but we are hoping it doesn't.

As far as Nora goes, she is doing extremely well. She is walking on her own, can go up and down stairs with help and eats solid food. Apparently, she eats rice, noodles, fish, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables. She has 11 teeth with another one on the way and is very active. She weighs about 22 lbs, and is about 30" tall. She has also said her first word "gege" which means older brother. Since she lives with 6 boys, it's not entirely a surprise. Here's hoping the next 6 weeks cruise by with no hiccups.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More approvals!

We got our I800 approval last week! Hopefully, we will get our cable by Friday. Thursday would be ideal, but I try not to hope for things to go faster than normal these days. With everything that can go wrong and cause delays, I am quite happy with normal :)

It's getting closer now. Odd to think that we are down to only a few more steps. I'm not sure I'll know what to do with myself once there are no more boxes to check, papers to notarize, and dates to obsess over. How will it be to just...be?

Something very cool happened last night. Kevin and I got called out in our Mandarin class on our pronunciation. Our teacher, who is a native speaker from Shanghai, had us get up in groups of two and read a dialog. Obviously, Kevin was my partner and we got up and read our script, which boiled down to having a mutual friend and going out for Korean food after class. A couple groups had gone before us and were told they did a good job. We sat down and our teacher basically said, "Ok class, I want you to pay attention to them because their pronunciation is very good."

After we gave each other some discreet high fives, we talked about how happy we were about the comment. The thing is, we are about 80%+ self-taught. We began listening to pod casts, watching movies, and spending a lot of time saying things to each other like, "I think it's more of a wide sound. Like you're talking with a retainer. Like Shelly from South Park."* We spent a lot of time stumbling through and hoping we were doing it right. During the 3 years we've been working on it (and, oh man, we are still nowhere near passable after 3 years) we have spent a total of 9 evenings in class, only 4 of which have been with a native speaker. So, yes, being told that we are doing well is a huge boost.

Here's hoping the rest of the week is this good.

*Yes, this is actual dialog that happened. The X in Chinese makes a not-quite "sh" sound. If you smile wide while saying "sh" (or pretend you are Shelly saying a "sh") you've got it. Now end it with the back part of "cow". You've just said xiao (small)!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On pictures and updates

Ah, photos! Those little things we take so for granted in this age of digital cameras and instant gratification. Those little peaks into the lives of these kids that are so crucial to those of us waiting to bring them home.

It was hard the first month after her referral going from photos of her at 5-6 months to 11 months in the space of a week or two. I don't know if this is common knowledge, but kids grow and change a lot in that amount of time. I began to worry about how much she would have grown by the time we got there. I had delightful dreams where we were brought a rather sassy 12 year old and told we should have gotten there sooner. It's unreasonable, but I do worry about these things. Then, I am lucky enough to be given a new photo to obsess over. Like this one.

Clearly, an unhappy baby. This photo is less than 24 hours old, so I am assured that she is not, in fact, a teenager yet. I love her cute pink overalls, her full-face smile, and the fact that I can practically hear her sweet giggles.

Pictures and updates are both happy and sad for me. I go through a bit of an emotional sugar high with each one. Fortunately, I have learned the pattern of how they affect me, so I can deal with it.

Step 1: The High. Get new picture and lose focus on all the things I was supposed to do that day
Step 2: Memorize photo, email it to family, post on Facebook
Step 3: Obsess more over picture and look through all the photos again
Step 4: The Crash. Look at calendar and realize it's still quite a while until we will be able to be in the picture with her.
Step 5: Spend the rest of the week hoping for more pictures and being disappointed when they don't come. Pretend that I don't expect any while secretly hoping that I can trick the universe into sending me more.
Step 6: Distract myself with work and getting ready. Avoid looking at photos so as not to get too depressed. Feel bad that I don't look at all her photos everyday. Stop expecting any new information, for real this time.

I don't pretend that it makes any sense at all. I just know that by tomorrow morning I will probably be a bit down. Oh well, for today I get to see my girl.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yes, we are spoiled

This is a long post. There, you have been warned.

For anyone not familiar with the China adoption program and how things typically run, please don't think that our experience is the typical one of all adoptive parents. It's really not. Most children are not in foster care or western-run group homes. Most will get one update with a few pictures if they are lucky. Most have to worry about if their child is warm enough, getting the care they need, or even being taken out of their crib each day. It's not that orphanages are horrible, it's just that there are usually so many children that caretakers are lucky if they are able to get everyone's basic needs (being fed and changed) met each day.

I fully admit that we are one of the very lucky couples who know that our girl is being well cared for. She gets played with and fed more than just thickened formula. She knows her name because the nannies talk to her. In fact, they are now calling her XiaoNora (pronounced kind of like the first part of shower. It means little) so that she will be used to her English name. They help her practice her walking daily, and she is developmentally right on track. It may not seem like much, but believe me when I say that these are huge things that are not the norm.

In addition to that, Eagles Wings has volunteer groups come help out. In October they had a group come and live with the kids for a month. They helped care for, feed, play with, and go on outings with the children (no field trips for the babies yet, obviously). They also made the following video the help educate about what Eagles Wings is and what they do. It's short, but very well done. Watch for Nora being adorable at 3:50



We've watched it a few dozen times now, and I thought it couldn't get better than seeing my sweet girl smiling so big and looking so happy. I was wrong.

A bit of searching led me to the main page of the group that volunteered in October. Imagine my surprise when I saw that there were blog posts from people who had been in China during that time (it's a big organization, not everyone was at Eagles Wings). Then I found a blog post with pictures written by the girl who narrated and filmed the above. I found a picture on Nora and was so excited to see there was a contact link on her blog. I wrote her a quick little note telling who I was and thanking her for what she had done. I didn't expect to hear from her, especially since she was now in South Africa.

That same day I received an email from her thanking me for the kind words and telling me that the orphanage director had told them that Nora had a family waiting for her and they had seen the picture book we sent. She wanted to know more about our family and told us how cute Nora was. Again, awesome and I thought that was it.

A couple days later I got an email that included the following information:

Nora is such an amazing girl and is always smiling (I am sure you saw the video clip of her whipping her head around with a huge smile on her face). She rarely cries and she holds her own around the 6 toddler boys she lives with. There are also two other girls in the house, but they are both younger than Nora.

When I left a few weeks ago Nora was just starting to walk, she could take a step or two on her own but then she sits down. The house moms have been working with her on it everyday though, so I would not be surprised if she is now walking on her own.

The baby house has three rooms. One for the older boys, one for the babies (where Nora sleeps) and one for the house moms. They have lots of toys to play with, which usually end up all over the floor and [orphanage director] is great about making sure each kid has their own set of clothes.

As if it couldn't get any better, she included 9 pictures. 9! That almost doubles the number of photos we have! Since that is what you came for, enjoy!


Nora is in the pink on the left. This is the group that was there. She is getting so big! Don't let the outfit fool you though, she probably has on about 4-5 layers adding to her bulk.
The play area. We've seen it in photos, but never the real layout. Kinda cool!
Nora in her crib. We've never seen this room and didn't know what bed she slept in. This will be so nice to her for her to see as she gets older and wants to know more about her first year.
Two of the guys looking silly, Nora looking cute, and AiBi looking like she is forming an escape plan that involves a helicopter.
Food time. I love her little socks.

I don't really know what it is about this picture, but I love it so much. Its just beautiful.

Awesome sweater? Check! Slightly exasperated look? Check! Chubby (albeit scratched) cheeks? Check! That must be my baby!

This is my new happy thought.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Stumbling Toward Fatherhood

Kevin here! I know, I write maybe one in five posts here, and those probably go unnoticed except by those intrepid readers who notice the faint "Posted by... " text at the bottom of each post. This probably means I will love our daughter 1/5 as much as Jen will.

Anyway, WE GOT THE LETTER OF APPROVAL! We got it a few days ago. This is big, huge, gigantic news. This is the fulcrum of the massive lever of paperwork involved in getting her here. Everything before this was the application process, and everything else after this is just hammering out details. This marks China's official blessing for us to come and bring our little girl home.

I got to sign it. It was on really fancy paper with shiny watermarks and everything.

So we're headed into the final lap of this three-plus-year marathon! Exciting things are certainly afoot, but I've been slowly coming to the realization of how completely clueless I am. I'm sure this will sound trite to those who have experienced parenthood already, but there's a tiny part of me that's freaking out that I'm going to travel to a foreign country and they're going to hand me this tiny person and I'm supposed to just know what to do. There are a few steps missing in my brain between "change first diaper" and "attend MIT graduation."

I'm probably looking at this the wrong way, and I have a feeling other parents will tell me that this is all part of the grand adventure. I have a grand confession to make, though, and I don't want to shock anyone or send anyone calling the authorities: I have never changed a diaper. Ever. My experience in the daily operations of turning a human larva into a viable adult is surprisingly limited considering the sheer volume of younglings present at any given family gathering on either side.

Last weekend, Jen and I had the opportunity to babysit her brother's kids overnight while they had a night out. Neither of us had babysat anyone since we were both maybe 13, so we were both a bit nervous. Jen's nephews are two boys, 4 and 6, who are remarkably self-contained, for lack of a better term. We played in a tent set up in the living room, played a game of "wolves vs. tacos" (don't ask), watched Cars 2 (way better than the first one, I thought), made brownies, and goofed around with our two dogs.

Right at 7:30, we announced it was time to get ready for bed and they both went straight to get their jammies on, brush their teeth, pick a book to be read, and say their prayers without complaint (I should note here that the younger one made sure to thank God for the robots and the dinosaurs).

The next morning, one of our dogs was whining to be let outside at about 6:15 a.m. When I got downstairs from the guest bedroom where we were sleeping, I saw a strange glowing light in the corner. When my eyes focused, I saw that it was the older boy who had awakened, went downstairs, found his dad's iPad and was quietly playing a game, sitting on the heater vent under a blanket. We never heard a sound, even though he had to walk right past where we were sleeping.

When their parents got home the next morning, we had one burning question: how did you do that?

These are the questions that sometimes sneak into the edges of my waking thoughts. I already love that little girl and want to be the best dad ever. In the meantime, I'm more excited about China and finally SQUISHING THOSE CHEEKS (after an appropriate adjustment period) then ever before.

We're coming, Eleanor!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

3 Months

Three months ago we saw her face for the very first time.

I still remember that phone call. I remember how bad my hands were shaking trying to write down information. I still have that scrap of paper, details scribbled in red ink, complete with misspelled name (hey, D and Z sound the same over the phone sometimes!). I still remember Sarah saying, "We have a file we'd like you to look at and tell us if you think she's your daughter." I remember driving home feeling surprisingly calm and thinking I might just wait to open the email with her information until after Kevin got home. I changed my mind, but did manage to say a little prayer before opening it to ask that if she was our daughter, that I might know.

I've already written in detail about that day, but sometimes I have to remind myself to think of how happy we were during this often frustrating wait. We weren't expecting a referral for several months, and certainly not less than a month after our paperwork was logged in. We hoped to have good news by Thanksgiving, or at least Christmas. "How wonderful," we discussed, "to have a referral before the end of the year. To be able to show pictures of our new daughter to our family around the tree." I should be grateful that we are this far along when so many people are still waiting to get to where we are now, and I am. Sometimes I just have to remind myself to stop and think about all the miracles that have happened so far rather than getting caught up in wishing for another one.

Babies in China are called Baobao, meaning "little treasure" and she certainly is that. One we feel honored to receive. Our LOA will come when the time is right, and in the meantime I plan on spending the day filled with gratitude to be able to use the words "my daughter".

的 宝宝, 我 都 爱 你。

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Best Halloween!

No, we do not have our LOA yet. Today is day 70, so it probably wont be for another couple weeks. Hopefully sooner.

First, allow me to thank those who offered kind words after my last post, it really means a lot and does help. Like I said, some days are good, some are bad.

Today looked like it was going to be bad. I follow a chinese adoption forum and several people got their LOA's today. When this happens I am torn between being happy that SOMEONE got something and jealous that it wasn't us. I'm only human, after all.

Then, I opened my email to get a link to the best Halloween present of all time! Talk about treat!

Looks like she got her care package :)

Is she making her ducky give kisses to the photos? Let's say yes.

I need to switch places with that ducky right now!

We needed this. We needed it very badly, myself especially. Then, just when I thought I could keep it together, I see there is a little video included (I hope I can make this work):



She is walking! Taking her first hesitant steps and we haven't missed it, not really. We get to cheer her on and see the joy on her face when she does it. Go baby girl, go! Not too many more months before we get to see her in person. I just hope we can keep up!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And still we wait...

We've been asked a bunch over the last few weeks if we have any news or have heard anything. Unfortunately, no. The wait for LOA can take 3-4 months and sometimes longer. We have now been waiting just over two months (63 days for those who are counting). I assure you, we have felt every moment of those two months.

We've also been asked how we are doing. We appreciate so much that people care how we are holding up during this time. Honestly, some days are good and some days are bad. Nora's birthday was both. We'll post about the birthday soon, but tonight I just needed to write about other things.

So what sort of day was today? The day itself was quite good, but emotionally it was very hard. At church there was a program put on by the children. These have been hard for me for about 4 years, so it's not surprising that my emotions were on edge by the end of it. It's so hard seeing so many cute children waving to their moms and dads and knowing that our girl is still so far from us. Each week my mind obsesses over numbers and average wait times and holidays that affect the process and I see our hopes of traveling get pushed back and back until the idea that I once thought January or early February was possible is laughable. Now, I'm simply hoping it's not March, but it looks more likely.

There are plenty of people who have waited longer than us, and I feel awful for complaining when they have no LOA after over 4 months. It's just so messed up on all sides. They say adoption isn't for the fainthearted and, oh boy, that is an understatement and a half!

I got to hold Nora in my dreams again the other night. She warmed up to me quickly and wanted to play bouncy games on my knees. I heard her giggle for the first time. Sometimes the dreams are short, only a few minutes. Other times, like this one, it seems like I get to hold her for a few hours. of course, when I wake up she isn't there and the months of waiting we still have ahead of us seem to be shoved in my face. I worry that something will go wrong and we wont be allowed to adopt her, I worry that our paperwork will get lost and we'll be waiting even longer, I worry that on days when she is being particularly hard to deal with I will forget how much I ached for her to be with us. I know I'm being melodramatic, it's just been a hard few days (months, years, whatever).

In happier news, she has received the care package we sent to her and the home had a birthday party for her and a couple other kids with October birthdays and they even took some pictures (no, we don't have them yet). She may not be playing bouncy games with me, but she is being loved and played with and cared for by people who will probably never know how much it means to us. We'll get through this and someday it will only be a memory. In the meantime, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, as well as those families who make our wait look like a joke. Here's hoping for some good news this week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Care Package and Donations

Let the record show that we are not the best parents ever. After almost 2 months of having permission to send a care package, we finally got it sent today. Yay!


We managed to get all this into a shoebox sized box and sent on it's merry way to central China. We sent:
-Soft ducky #2 (#1 was discovered by Curry and he was most happy to believe that it was a squeaky toy for him. Sorry, Nora...I'm sure this is something you'll have to get used to)
-Photo album with a few labeled pictures of us, the dogs, our house, etc.
-Noisy toy to help Nora's roommate have some motivation to walk (he is blind and they are thinking a noisy toy will make him want to work at being mobile).
-4 pairs of warm jammies in various sizes for the kids. The monster one is our favorite :)
-A letter to the nannies thanking them for being magical unicorns (or something to that affect, it's in Chinese, after all)
-Disposable camera

Lets talk about care packages a bit. Nora's birthday is on Wednesday and I was a bit bummed out that we weren't going to be there for it. It was suggested to me to send her a cake through a third party. This is a fairly common practice with China adoptions, but one we chose not to follow. Many orphanages don't really like someone coming in with a cake, etc. for the kids. Why? Well, you see, sending a cake and small care package costs about $100. It's not a matter of not wanting to spend the money, but it raises an interesting dillema. $100 can sponsor the care of a child for a month! You see now why I have a hard time spending that kind of money on a cake when it can do so much more good. Also, the orphanage environment is one of haves and have-nots. Not only does this child have a cake and toys while others do not, they have a family who is coming to get them in a few months, while many children will live out their lives in the orphanage.

This brings me to donations. We have had many people ask how they can help or express a desire to send Nora something during this wait. The best thing we can give to her is the help continue the amazing care she has been getting. She is being cared for by the COAT foundation and living in their Eagle's Wings #5 home (#5 is for the fragile babies). They are always in need of donations. You can send a one time donation or sponsor a child or nanny. Click this link to check out the website or make a donation (donation link is on the right side of the homepage).

Allow me to talk about how amazing COAT/Eagle's Wings is. They are an Australian run home that takes in kids from the SWIs ( social welfare institutes. Basically, a state-run orphanage). At EW5, Nora is one of about 8 kids (as opposed to the ~600 at her former SWI) who get the attention they need to thrive and get ready for surgeries, etc. When Nora was taken to EW5 she was about 3 months old and weighed about 7 1/2 pounds. It is very common for cleft lip/palate babies to be severely under weight since it taked so much time for them to eat. It is not uncommon for children of 18 months-2 years to only weigh less than 20 pounds. In the space of about 3 months, they got her weight up to 15 pounds and were able to get her an operation on her lip through Operation Smile. She is being given attention and love and amazing care, which I can't tell you how much that means to us.

Rather than sending a birthday cake, we are trying to get enough money together to help make a difference to the orphanage and those kids who will never know any other home. They need new cribs, diapers, warm clothes, and other things that are easy to take for granted here. Because of the cost of shipping, as well as customs regulations, it doesn't make much sense to ship those things to them. Instead, we are encouraging people to make financial contributions so that they can buy the items they need. We will also be setting up a paypal account specifically for orphanage donations if that is easier for people. This link will take you to the page where you can sponsor a child in Nora's home (or Nora herself).

Seriously, how can you say no to these kids?? (back left is Nora)

Oh, and don't feel too bad for Nora, they are throwing a party to celebrate her birthday as well as the other two October birthdays. Did I mention that they are supremely awesome?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moon Festival and More Pictures

Monday marked the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival. There are various legends surrounding the celebration as well as traditional foods. We decided to keep it fairly mellow. I made some orange peel chicken in my awesome wok. We visited a Chinese bakery and bought a red bean mooncake while practicing our Mandarin on the very sweet lady who rang us up. After that, we laid a blanket on the front lawn, did some moongazing, and talked about little Nora and how excited we are to be bringing her home. With all the craziness in our lives it was nice to take a moment to just be still.

We get asked quite often when we will travel and if there is any news. The simple answer is that it will likely be another month at least until we receive our Letter Of Approval (LOA) which is the next big step. Until then, we won't hear much of anything, and our travel timeframe could vary so much. It's possible (though very unlikely) that we will be going around the end of December. It is far more likely that we will be going around January/February.

Today I went to see the new posts on our adoption group's site and saw the following message:

I finally did a little blog updating, all photos. But thought "some" of you might be interested! Enjoy

This was written by the same person I've mentioned before and I can't tell you how much she rocks! Honestly, my sanity is being preserved by her updates. One of YinCi's friends at the orphanage has also gotten a family and I'm sure that the photos are as much for them as for us, but still. The fact that she would go to the trouble while being so busy means more than I can say. We are getting a few things in order financially to be able to donate to the orphanage and anyone else who wants to put money toward a very deserving group is welcome to do the same.


Now, for the part that you actually came here for. Pictures! It sounds terrible, but it took me a minute to be sure this was YinCi. She's getting so big!!


Squishy cheeks? Check! Gorgeous eyes? Yup! Look at all that hair! And new teeth!

I love her little foot on the table leg! I can't get over how big she's getting and how great she looks. Her lip repair is so amazingly well done you can barely even see the scar!

Come on LOA! Just get here already so I can give those cheeks a good squish!

Monday, August 29, 2011

An Update and a Name!

We got an update today! This afternoon, I was on a little work trip taking a tour of the production facility that spits out the tens of thousands of copies of the films we produce (it was pretty dang cool).

Suddenly, I had an email, then a text message, then a phone call... something was urgent. The text message said to check the email, so I open the mail app on my phone, and this is what greets me:


OH NOES. This is so cruel. Mean and cruel. This is the first pic we have of her smiling and it's just adorable.

I MUST SQUISH THOSE CHEEKS. It is my destiny.

It came with a quick update from the orphanage (apologies for Comic Sans, it was in the original and I am a designer, after all):

8/26/2011 Update

Update from Eagles Wings:

As of August 2, Yin Ci weighed 8.9kg and was 69cm. She is very healthy and happy. She sits unassisted. She is crawling well, and will likely take her first steps in the next couple of months.


So there's that. The thought that she might be walking soon, and I'm on the other side of the earth is crushing.

I still know it'll all be worth it.

--

After lots of thought and deliberation, we've decided on a name! It's actually one of the very first names that came up and we fell in love with immediately. We thought we should at least look at a few other names, and we did, but kept coming back to this one. Friends, I give you:

Eleanor YinCi Jackson

We'll most likely be calling her by the shortened version Nora. Ellie / Elly would be the obvious choice, but there are already 3 Ellies running around extended family right now. Plus Nora is awesome.

We've always been huge fans of the Jane Austen names (Elinor, Margaret, Emma, Mr. Willoughby, etc.), and fell in love with Elinor / Eleanor, then decided on the more common spelling.

So now we have something more concrete to call her, rather than Xiu-Face, Yin-Face, and Mrs. Squirrel-Cheeks.

-- Kevin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Apparently, the world really is small

We had a couple pretty cool things happen this week. I had forgotten (and I don't know if Kevin even knew) that once you receive pre-approval, the agency sends you the physical file that China sent them including original documents and pictures. Some families will go so far as to have their picture taken with the UPS guy since he is essentially playing the stork for them. Yeah, I don't quite get it either.
Friday I arrived home from work and found among the typical letters offering me credit cards and amazing interwebs service our referral packet. Cool! I figured it would be kinda neat seeing the original Chinese documents and it was. What I didn't count on was two pictures that had not been sent to us. The first being a tiny black and white pre-surgery shot. Sadly, the lack of colors doesn't properly display the majesty of the blue sweater, and she almost looks like someone made a part in her hair with a bandsaw. Still, we take what we can get.


Then I turned to the back of the file where the color photos were and wasn't I surprised to see this.

It may not be the most amazing shot, and I'm sure it has a different effect on other people, but when I saw it I immediately started crying. The thing is, if this picture had been included with the original referral, I doubt it would have taken me so long to recognize her. Its those eyes.

Anyway, that is not the coolest thing that happened. I was advised to join a Yahoo group or two, so I did some searching and picked three groups: The FCC (Families with Children from China) which gets together for picnics and Chinese New Year and stuff, Adopt Cleft which is a support group for families adopting cleft lip/cleft palate kids, and a group that is devoted to adopting from Zhengzhou (basically pronounced jeng joe, for those playing at home) province. Fun fact: I tried to join our local FCC about a year ago and they turned me down. I'm tempted to bring YinCi around and shout hysterically, "Am I good enough for your group now??" while weeping and wailing. Maybe not.

I posted a pretty boring and standard into into the groups and got a very quick reply from one of the other newer members of the Zhengzhou group welcoming me. I was glad to see that it seemed like a friendly bunch and figured it would be fun to connect with people whose kids are from the same area and YinCi, maybe even her same orphanage. The next day I got a message that I was certainly not expecting:

Welcome, Jen! Your little girl is totally adorable, healthy and a lot of fun. I will miss her very much, but still wish you could get here next week. Congratulations! PS - And she has about the best lip repair I have ever seen thanks to operation Smile.

Yup, her orphanage director is a member of the same group. She knows our girl, she is there with her and can tell us first hand that she is healthy and happy. I wanted so badly to just write her a huge email with tons of questions and request some more pictures as well as updated measurements and who knows what else, but I stopped myself.

Here's the deal. Our agency has sent us instructions on how to proceed as far as care packages, etc. and one of the big things they have stressed is that we are not to make any direct contact with the orphanage. It could jeopardize the adoption, the agency, and the orphanage as well. There are procedures for these sort of things, and you don't make friends with China by going against the rules. Rather than take a risk, I chose to send a simple message letting her know how much I appreciated her taking care of our girl and assuring her that I didn't want to do anything that could jeopardize anyone's standing with those in charge, so I wouldn't ask any questions or request more updates. It was hard, but I figured it would be for the best. We'd have plenty of years of pictures when we got her.

I got a response from her that night (yay 14 hour time difference!) basically saying that she is in close contact with our agency and told me to feel free to send as many questions to her as I want through our agency contact. In addition she said she would be sending pictures very soon since the ones we had were months old. She sent great info about sending care packages and just further emphasized how awesome she is and how indebted we feel to her and her organization. Seriously, guys, they are an amazing charity and I can't say enough great things about them. The fact that they doubled our daughter's low weight in only 3 or so months should give good indication of how much time and effort they put into these children.

We're so excited! It's finally feeling real. There are actual baby clothes in our house. There are pictures on our fridge. There is a little girl halfway across the world who has no idea what a miracle she is to us and those around us. Hang in there, sweetie! We'll be there as soon as they let us! Zaijian women de bao bao.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Here she is!!!

We finally got our Pre-Approval from China, so we can post info and pictures about our little girl!!

Her name is Zhou Yin Ci (Zhou is the last name and pronounced like Joe. Yin rhymes with tin and Ci sounds like tsuh. Of course, we could be off a bit or it could be slightly different based on local dialect) born October 12, 2010. She's in Henan province in central China and was born with a cleft lip that has since been repaired.

Here is the first picture we saw of her


Those cheeks! That sweater! It was all over for us.




After her surgery.





Monday, August 15, 2011

The Call: Kevin's Side of the Story

Over the weekend, it started to feel like I could finally let some of this sink in. It was like my brain, if not having processed everything, had at least managed to sort things into an orderly line, like at the DMV, to wait their turn and eventually travel across my synapses, splatting at high speed against the wall of my psyche.

Here was my last Tuesday:

Tuesdays are usually fairly calm for me at work. That morning, Jen called me and said that she was at our credit union, we were due for another program fee to our agency and she needed to know the amount. This is the money that keeps them hard at work managing the orderly flow of paper and finding us a daughter. Thus far, I can't recommend them highly enough. They've been wonderful, helpful and thorough every step of the way.

Fast forward to after lunch, wherein my ill-advised giant spicy hot dog from the convenience store declared itself gang lord of my stomach contents. I am at my desk in my work's media office, where myself, our other designer and the VP of Marketing reside in front of our giant Mac Pros and their giant monitors, humming along with the fans we have to run to keep from cooking to death in the summer.

My phone rings, and it's Jen. I usually duck out of the office for personal calls if I think it's going to be more than a few minutes. Many of my conversations at work with Jen deal with the exciting and engaging topics of What We Are Having for Dinner and Whose Turn Is It to Cook.

Jen seems slightly out of breath, but composed. She asks if I have a minute to talk. My eyes are a bit glazed over as I go over some website graphics I'm working on. "Sure."

"I just got a call from the agency." Crap. I gave her the wrong amount and now I've got to run to the credit union.

"Okay..."

"WE GOT A REFERRAL."

There is a slight pause: this idea is a mountain and my brain is attempting to ski uphill wearing rollerskates. Then, as is my fantastic gift with the English language, at times like these I become fiercely eloquent.

"Uh... WHAT?!" I decide that this call will probably last more than a few minutes and sprint out of the office, realizing later that the looks of terror on the faces of my two office mates probably meant that they thought I had just been given horrible news.

Jen explained about her call with the agency and I took in every detail, trying to piece it all together. My heart raced as she told me the details of the call and wished I could just head home. I worked my butt off getting done what I needed to and then told my supervisor that we just got a referral and could I take off a bit early?

In the meantime, Jen had emailed me the file and I pulled it up out of curiosity, though I thought I should wait until I got home to look at it with Jen. The first picture came up and I felt my heart skip for a second... is this our daughter? I had so many questions and my head was reeling. I was starting to feel a bit dizzy and I raced home (safely, observing all local traffic laws and posted speed limits).

We sat down and opened her file together. Jen told me what she knew as we looked into her medical history, the pictures before and after surgery, and I looked at her goofy knitted blue sweater and her big chubby cheeks and tried to take it all in. There was a bit of discussion about her condition and the big question still hung heavy in the air, is that... her? It proved difficult to separate the two opposing halves of emotional response and practical considerations about taking in this little girl.

What sealed it for me was this: I asked Jen to set aside the discussion about surgeries and care. Ignore all that. What did *she* feel on seeing this adorable little girl? Jen said "Kevin, I've seen these eyes. I know this face."

Then the tears came to me, and I felt it. I knew. I knew it because she was reflected in Jen's eyes. Jen had once again proven that she is gifted with a sight beyond my own. There were no more doubts, there was no more discussion. This girl is our daughter.

Holy crap. This girl is my daughter.

- Kevin

P.S. We promise to post pics and more info as soon as we have permission. In the meantime, drop us an email if you want to know more than what we can post openly for now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Call: Jen's side of the story

There is a lot to tell, so I will probably spread it out over a few posts. Also, until we get Pre-Approval from China (PA) we are not at liberty to post too many details about her or any photos. Words will have to suffice, for now.

Tuesday began normally enough. I had a few fittings at the shop to go to in the afternoon and I realized I hadn't blogged in a while. I wrote this entry having absolutely no idea that anything would change about our wait time. In fact, I remember thinking, "Well the shared list for August will probably come out on the 22nd, but I think we won't get matched until the September list. Better fill the time!"

On my way to the fitting I was stressed and called Kevin. We needed to send a check to our agency and I didn't know the exact amount, so he called them. They told him the amount and gave not one hint they would be calling me less than 2 hours later. Jerks.

I finished up my fittings and was getting in my car when my phone rang with a non-local area code. I get a fair amount of brides from all over, so this isn't so unusual. Then I realized it was the area code of our agency. "Crap! They told Kevin the wrong amount and now they want to get on my case to hurry the check up." I tossed the dresses in the back of the car, turned on the a/c, and answered the phone. Transcript time!

Me- "This is Jen."
Phone- "Hi Jen, it's Sarah from the waiting child department. How are you?"
What I was thinking- *waiting child department? Why are they calling about the check?*
Me- "Hi Sarah, I'm good, how are you?"
Sarah- "I'm really good!"
*weird*
Sarah- "So Jen, I'm calling because we have a file for a little girl that we'd like you and Kevin to look over and decide if she's your daughter."
*HEAD EXPLODES!!!*
Me- "SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?"
Sarah- laughing, "Yes!"

Next I scrambled to find a pen in my car, which is a feat even when I am completely aware of the world around me, which I was not. Hooray, I found one! Crap! I dropped it between the seats! Oh good, another one! Eff! Where is something to write on??!?!??!?!?!?!?

Sarah just chuckled and told me to take my time while I explained my various difficulties with all the eloquence of a walrus. Not my finest moment, to be sure. Finally, I found a pen that wasn't under the cruel grips of an unusually strong gravitational pull, and a paper that was bigger than a gum wrapper. Winning!

She then told me her name (which I wrote down wrong since my phone makes it hard to distinguish sounds and my brain had turned into paste), birth date, province, and what her special need was: cleft lip and palate. Operation Smile performed her lip repair in April and she is being sponsored by a charitable organization that puts kids into smaller group-home style orphanages so they get more one-on-one attention and tend to do much better. She then said words like "lively" and "active" and "cutest cheeks ever" and who knows what else. "Would you like me to email the file to you for review?" Honestly, does anyone ever say no? I didn't.

I got off the phone and called Kevin, who freaked out his co-workers by answering the phone nonchalantly, then saying, "WHAT!???!?!?!??" and walking out of the room. I'll let him tell his side later. I drove home and didn't even crash or hit an old lady. Sometimes I amaze even myself.

When I pulled into the driveway, I decided to call my friend Nanette since I had to talk to someone about this craziness, but family was out of the question. We didn't know if we'd accept the file or not and if we told them and then turned it down, well, it would have been hard on everyone. Apparently, Nanette was busy having tea with the queen or something and didn't answer. I was all on my own.

I opened my email and saw a message from Sarah with the little girl's name as the subject line. After a few minutes of trying not to hyperventilate and a quick prayer that if we are to adopt this child that it may be made clear, I open it. She's on our agency's list rather than the shared list, so we have a week to decide. I look at her pictures and there is no instant pull. I just see adorably chubby cheeks and a bulky sweater. Her medical info looks really good, the repair looks great, she is obviously cute and well cared for, but is she ours? I really couldn't say. Honestly, it didn't feel real at all. I didn't know whether to laugh that our agency was pulling such an effective prank on us, or cry that we had to decide the future of this sweet little girl. Talk about pressure and conflicting emotions!

Nanette called me about 5 minutes later, and after the initial shock of it all, we talked about this girl and who knows what else. She told me about feeling connected and not with her biological kids (which helped so much, Nanette, you are made of magic!). I kept looking at her picture trying to figure out if this was our daughter. I knew we had time, I knew we should talk about it together, and I knew we needed to have a doctor look over the file to see if everything looked good. I knew all of that, but I still wanted some indication of what to do.

I didn't have an instant recognition or confirmation. When I first looked at her picture I saw her cleft (it wasn't bad, it was just the thing I was most concerned about so I naturally was going to notice it first), then her cheeks, then a ridiculous blue sweater; a sweater knit by someone who wanted to do a good deed and keep a baby halfway across the world warm. I saw her eyes, of course I did, but I didn't really look at them. I don't know why, I just didn't.

After about 20 minutes of being re-assured that it was a lot to take in and whatever choice we made would be the right one, I looked into those eyes. Really looked. Then it slowly dawned on me, I knew those eyes. I had dreamed those eyes for months. I knew that face. "I think I am looking at my daughter." And I knew.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We Got The Call!!!

Less than 4 hours after my last post about possibly seeing my daughter's face soon, I saw her face and everything changed.

We got a referral Tuesday, August 9th at 2 p.m. and sent our Letter of Intent this afternoon. We have a baby girl!!!!!

Can't post photos or details until we have our Pre-Approval (next week hopefully), but you'll have to trust me for now that she is so beautiful!

I'll write up the whole story tomorrow, but we just wanted to share with everyone!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Symbols







There are many things you start to take for granted once you've begun the process of adoption. Lings like abbreviations (of which there are many for Chinese adoption because of the huge amounts of red tape), time lines, symbols, even basic stuff like why international adoption is in place at all. Today's post is on symbols.

Some have been around for centuries (red= good luck), some have been adapted to fit the adoption community (the red thread legend), and some have arisen as frustrated waiting parents have tried to find hope in little things. Such is the case when it comes to ladybugs.

If you've looked around Chinese adoption forums or blogs you have no doubt seen an unusually high number of ladybugs. The ladybug has been used as a symbol of good luck. A number of years ago there was a major slow down in the referrals that came out of China due to reorganization taking place withing China. Waiting parents were getting nervous, frustrated and anxious about it. One day a number of parents from different parts of the country started reporting that they were having lady bug infestations and sightings. Right after that referrals started pouring out of China making a lot of waiting parents very happy and providing a new thing to obsess over for those of us with nothing to do but wait. It's now said that if you have a ladybug sighting it means a referral is right around the corner.

Some people find the ladybug offensive (not sure why except maybe that it assumes only girls are being adopted) others are downright crazy about the little bug and surround themselves with it on quilts, T-shirts, baby clothes, etc. Us? We fall in the camp in the middle. I am not surrounding myself with them, but I can appreciate that it's nice to find little reminders here and there.

In addition to these symbols that are commonly known, there are those that belong only to the individual. Something they have personally chosen to represent their journey. I have one of those.

A while back, Kevin and I had decided it was probably a good time to have children. About 6 months after that decision when there was still no pregnancy I decided to not cut my hair until I got pregnant. It was mostly a joke, but figured it would give me an excuse to try to grow it. I figured it would be another 6 months tops. Well, time went on an no haircut was needed. I got a bit upset when someone commented that my hair was getting longer (not that they knew what that meant to me, but still). We saw some doctors and, long story short, the infertility diagnosis was given. We could have pursued more avenues and aggressive treatment, but opted not to. Frankly, it was a relief to be done and move onto the next step.

It's not that we didn't want biological children, but we cared so much less about biology than we did about being parents. There were some hard times and dark days. I jokingly asked, "Does this mean I can never cut my hair?" I chose to leave it be for a bit until we had a firm plan.

Then came April 11, 2009. That was the day we decided to adopt from China. We knew we had a long wait ahead of us so I opted to continue with the no hair cut resolution. I figured the longer it got, the closer we were to getting our little girl. So what does our adoption wait look like in terms of hair?

Where I started (well, actually about 5 months after I started):



Where I was the other week:



Three years with only one tiny trim (hey, there was some serious mullet-ing happening! Don't judge me!)

My hair doesn't grow extremely fast and it is now longer than it has ever been. It's no longer just people who know me who comment on my hair being long, it's everyone. Yes, my hair is long and so is this wait, but I'm finding my peace with both. Each month, each inch is one more closer to seeing our precious little girl's face.

And speaking of seeing her face, while working in the room that will one day be the nursery I looked above the window and saw this little friend.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Is that a breeze I feel?

Cause I'm a bit more hopeful than when I last posted.

Just thought I would pop in with a small update. Remember how much I was freaking out over getting our LID? Apparently, I didn't need to be such a spazz. Our agency matches families with the waiting children based on when they sent in their Medical Conditions Checklist and, as such, their estimated 6-12 month wait was based on that date.

It's not likely we'll get a match anytime soon, but we did send our MCC in before we were logged in. I'd rather not give out dates right now since we still have no guarantee of when our match will be and it's bad enough for us to be disappointed without the rest of our friends and family constantly wanting to hear updates, but I feel a bit more hopeful that we'll see our girl's face before my next birthday (which is in June, btw). Guess I should call Kevin and tell him the good news.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Have you seen the wind?

Because it's been taken from my sails today.

The good news is that I heard back from our agency about the wait time. The bad news is bad. According to them, we are looking at a 6-12 month wait for referral, followed by a 4-6 month wait before travel to China. Yup, we could be looking at a year and a half before we have our girl, making it 4 years of waiting. I'm trying to stay positive. I'm trying to remind myself that this will happen the way it is supposed to in order for us to be matched with the right child and that it will all be worth it. I'm really trying, but I am not having much success.

I'm upset. I'm upset that our agency told us in December that we'd be looking at half the time they are now quoting us. It's not their fault, it's just how things are. I'm upset that the excitement I felt yesterday has been mostly put out by the knowledge that we almost certainly won't have a referral by Christmas.

There has been a huge influx of pregnancies in my family over the last couple weeks and it kinda sucks knowing that these babies that haven't even been born will likely be a year old before we even get to hold our sweet girl or see her face to face. It will happen when it's supposed to, I know that. It doesn't change the fact that today is a hard day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The three letters we've been waiting for!

L...I....D!!!!

Yes, we have our log in date!!

I opened my email this afternoon expecting to get notice that our dossier had been delivered to the CCCW@. Instead, I found out that our dossier had not only arrived, but been checked in. Typically it takes about 4 weeks from DTC to LID, so this is a huge surprise for us!

So what does this mean? We are now eligible for a match at any time. We are definitely eligible for the July list which should come out a week from Monday. We are most certainly not expecting a match anytime soon, especially since our agency told us it would be about 4-6 months, but just knowing that we are finally in a position where all the pieces are in place leaves me (relatively) speechless.

Wow. This is actually happening. Wow. We could see our little girl's face by Christmas.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Time to celebrate!



We are officially DTC (Dossier to China)!!!!!! WOOOHOOOOO!!!! Now we sit back and wait until we get a referral. No more paperwork until then!

Photobucket

Here's hoping everyone else has a happy weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The end of the chase...for now.

The adoption community typically refers to the time compiling the necessary paperwork as the "paper chase." I am extremely happy to report that after a little over 6 months, we have finished our dossier. It is now being reviewed by our agency and will then be sent to China to receive a Log In Date (LID). Once we have our LID we are eligible to be matched with our little girl.

I would be much more excited if not for a couple things. First, I am exhausted. Most of our paperwork wasn't a big deal, but the last month has been brutal. So much mailing back and forth and hoping things go through quickly. So much shifting around my entire schedule so that I can run papers to the Secretary of State's office to be certified. I spent a good three hours yesterday printing our pictures, picking up new doctor's letters (my old one wasn't thorough enough and our agency didn't feel like informing me during the 2+ months they've had it), rushing to the post office. All while calling brides to reschedule and dealing with a house that has no A/C and the swamp cooler isn't working.

Secondly, our agency sent me an email letting me that they hope to send our paperwork to China the second week of July. I was told 9-11 business days and also told that sending what we had while waiting on our I800a approval would speed things along. In what scenario is mid-July speeding things along? At this rate we'll be lucky to be eligible for the August list. I'm emailing them, but I am not exactly sure how to tactfully say WTF.

Oh well, we've hit a major milestone and after 2 1/2 years, what's one more week?

So, now what? Well, once we get our LID we wait to be matched. We were told to expect to wait between 4-6 months for a match. It could be sooner, or it could be later. Each month the list that China releases has different children on it, so it completely depends on how many files our agency is able to lock-in and how many people are in front of us in "the line." I'll probably have to eat my words, but I feel like it's very likely that we'll be matched in December. We would, of course, be thrilled to be matched before then, but seeing as how things have gone thus far I am trying to not get my hopes up for things to move quickly.

So, anyone want to place your bets now about when we'll be matched?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Birthday...

To me!!!

Today I am officially old enough to adopt from China!

It's been an extremely long time coming, but our last delay in this adoption (so far, I guess) is past. This morning I had a whole blog post planned in my head, but then I had to work and pretty much lost all the great insight I was going to lay down for you guys. Oh well.

Instead, I will try to give some idea of how long we have waited for this day. When we decided to adopt from China I was still a couple months away from turning 28. My cousin's little girl (who totally tried to steal my thunder by hopping on the Summer Solstice B-Day Train) wasn't born yet, nor was my sweet niece Lilly. My nieces Charlotte, Hazel, and Chloe weren't even tiny cluster of cells. I have been waiting to start our adoption wait for 793 long days. This is the longest freaking "pregnancy" ever!

I'll post updates tomorrow on our paperwork and the gift that Kevin gave me this morning that made me cry. Today, however, I just want to enjoy my birthday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Approved!!!!

Today has been a good day and it's not even 9 am yet.
I called and spoke with our USCIS officer (we got assigned last Friday) who informed me that we were I800-a approved on Monday and that he mailed the papers Tuesday. Our courier called me yesterday to say that the rest of our paperwork has been sealed and is on it's way to us.

So what does this all mean? Well, if the I800 arrives today, I can get it notarized, take it to the Sec. of State's office for certification and have it ready to send to D.C. by Monday. Also, our other papers will come tomorrow and I just need to make a copy, attach our pictures and a few other things and send it off to our agency for review. To make a long story short, it looks like we will be DTC (dossier to China) in June!!!

In other happy news, I am almost done dyeing scarves and baby slings for our local farmer's market which is good since A) it opens on Saturday, and B) adoption is expensive. We've also had an opportunity present itself that would mean we could actually get the remainder of our adoption expenses saved up by the time we would travel. A few major things have to fall into place, so if you could send some good vibes our way that we can get it figured out that would be amazing.

Here's hoping everyone has an excellent Thursday!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Have the Best Family in the World

Ah, Memorial Day weekend. We were invited to spend the entirety at one of my favorite places in the world, where my grandparents have some property. Jen's work schedule being what it is, she was unable to go, but shooed me out the door to spend some time with all my Jackson kin.

It was a weekend of chatting with my Dad while fixing broken sprinkler lines, ATV rides for the nieces and nephews, of tending lawns, watching cartoons, smashing my foot with a truck jack, and, with Utah increasingly trying to join the Pacific Northwest, lots of rain followed by about four inches of snow.

Mostly what we did is talk. On the second night (my brother unfortunately having left), I ended staying up late with my sisters and my brothers-in-law, something that I have to say I sorely needed. There were a lot of questions and a lot of talk about China, the adoption process, and what it means to be a parent.

The quote of the evening went to one sister, who while changing her months-old daughter, summed up her feelings on what makes a parent: "being a parent isn't the giving birth part... it's remembering that it's field trip day so you need to pack a sandwich and get to the bus stop early."

My awesome sisters seemed so excited for us and eager to hear everything that it gave me a much needed boost. I guess we'd been handling tiny details of paperwork for so long that it's what the adoption process was beginning to feel like.

Much love to my sisters and brothers... it's starting to feel real for me, too.

-- Kevin

P.S. I promised more about the parent training... I haven't forgotten.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally! Some good news!

After a couple months of waiting and many emails back and forth, I have a self-employment letter. It's even notarized! Some of the wording wasn't exactly what our agency had asked for, so I was concerned it would be a problem, but when I called this morning they said it all sounded good and to go ahead and get it certified. They also said we could send in all our paperwork we had finished and they could begin the critical review process.

So what does this all mean? Well, we have a very good chance of getting our dossier sent to China in June! Finally, after all these months we may be at the end of the paperchase! So many check boxes filled out on my dossier reference page.

The only things we have left to do are to gather some photos (we need pictures that are within the last 2 years, have both of us in them, and other family/friends. If you have any, send them our way! We need 8 total and only have about 3 so far), send our papers to a courier in D.C. so they can finish the authentication process, make a copy of the whole thing, and mail it off to our agency. If they can get it sent off to China in time, we may get a LID around the time of the June shared list.

Speaking of shared lists, May's list is being released tonight. Is this the last list we won't qualify for? Maybe. Allow me to explain a bit how the shared list works. About the 3rd Tuesday of the month, China releases a list of adoptable children to all the international agencies they work with. In addition to a shared list, they will send specific files to certain agencies to give them a chance to match the children with their clients. If no family is found within 3 months, that file goes onto the shared list. Because of the time-zone factor, that means that agencies in the US get access to the shared list on Monday evening. Here's how it will go down. Tonight, in a frenzy of epic proportions, agencies will scan the list for children that match the requests of the adoptive parents and "lock" the files that look like a good fit. Once a file is locked, it cannot be accessed by anyone else for 72 hours. The agency then calls the adoptive parents to inform them they have a potential match, and will email the child's information and pictures to the family. The 72 hours allows they to contact doctors, etc. to review the information and make a somewhat informed decision. If the parents wish to adopt that child, they send a Letter of Intent (LOI) to China. They will not be allowed to share the picture until a few days later when China issues pre-approval (PA) to adopt that child. They then spend the next several months going through more red tape to get visas and travel approval to go pick up their child and complete the adoption.

Many families will not receive phone calls tonight, and some families will determine that a locked file is not a good fit. If no LOI is sent, the child's file is released back to the shared list and another agency can lock it. Because of that, some people will receive the infamous call Thursday or Friday. Usually, most matches are settled by the end of the week.

In the case of families who have the same/similar requirements, priority is given to the family who has the earlier LID, at least that's how it is with our agency. They typically match about 30 kids each month. I plan on asking about the number of waiting couples in front of us once we have sent our dossier. We've been informed that it will probably be about 4-6 months before we are matched, but it could be longer or (fingers crossed) shorter.

As you can imagine, this is an exciting week in the Chinese adoption community. Kevin and I have talked a bit about the possibility that we could get a match sooner than expected and what that would mean for things like work, vacations, living arrangements, etc. We're supposed to be traveling with family in December, but what if we have a much bigger trip that month? What if we travel before then and have to scramble to get an extra ticket (or two...twins are rare, but they do happen)? Things are getting very real, very fast.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fingerprinting and frustration

It's been an extremely hectic week and we are both still exhausted. Bridal season is in full force and I decided it would be a good idea to add more onto that and sell scarves at the Farmers Market this year. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about it and glad to be working, I just desperately need an intern or something. I did get some scarves done yesterday, though, so progress is being made.

Adoption news, since that's why you come here. We had our fingerprinting appointment on the 6th. It went off without a hitch. In and out in about 10 minutes with smiles on our faces and a couple extra hours together. Sweet! Now we have to wait for an officer and approval. This is where the frustration comes into place. See, in order to be approved, we have to be assigned an officer, but they are backed up right now and we will likely have to wait another week or two (though I intend to call them tomorrow and check on the status). Once we get approved, we have to make a copy of the approval letter (which will take a few days to reach us), have that notarized, then certified with secretary of state (another 3-5 business days), send it with all our other paperwork to our courier in D.C. so that she can get it US authenticated (about 4 days) and then authenticated with the Chinese embassy (another few days). Then we wait for it to ship to us, and ship it all together to our agency. This fancy package is our completed dossier (I know, "completed" is an awesome word to say at this point!). The dossier gets reviewed and translated (about 10 business days) and sent to China, who check it over and give us our LID (log in date: the date we officially begin waiting, it's usually another week or so). At this point we are what many adoptive parents call "paper pregnant".

"So what's the big deal? It's coming up so soon!" you may be saying. Well, if you do the math, there is basically no way of our dossier being ready to send to China before mid-late June. Technically, we can't have an LID until June 21st (my 30th b-day) but I was hoping we could have it really close to that. It shouldn't matter, and in the long-term it really doesn't, but I am super bummed to have another week or two if delay. We've been waiting over 2 years for this and I hate waiting longer than I had planned. I know, it's weird, but that's just how it is right now. Who knows, maybe we'll luck out and get approved this week and still be able to be on-track for a mid-June LID.

So there it is. I've been having a bit of a pity party for myself this week, but I'm trying to keep the guest list very small. I keep thinking how nice it will be to not have to worry about what papers need certification and how long it takes for letters to travel from here to Texas. Waiting for our referral will be tough, but being able to focus solely on work is what I need right now.

On a more personal note, I've been missing our girl really bad this weekend. Is it possible to miss someone you haven't met? Maybe missing isn't the right word, but I don't know how to explain it. I've had very vivid dreams about her and I find myself smiling at the little baby in church who has her same eyes, or going to my niece's 2nd birthday party and realizing that a second birthday is likely the first one we will get with our girl. I look through names and wish we could pick one, or decorate her room, or something, anything that would make it feel like this is real and not just a series of forms and signatures.

Monday, May 2, 2011

And sometimes things get better

After the last post, I felt I had to address the follow-up.
Kevin and I spent a lot of time discussing how best to approach what happened last week. We knew we'd see the comment-maker (CM from here on out) yesterday and felt like things needed to be addressed in a healthy and non-attacking way. We discussed word choice, who would lead the conversation, and where to draw the line vs. give them a break. The decision was made to wait until after most everyone had left and talk privately. It turned out to be unnecessary planning on our part.

We arrived and only a few minutes after getting there, CM sat down by me and said, "I said something very unkind and hurtful last week and while it wasn't my intention to hurt you, I am sorry I did." I thanked them for the apology and explained that comments like that hurt our feelings and make us question how our little girl will be accepted by our family. CM started getting a bit defensive (I was prepared for this) and said that I was reading things into the comment that were not intended. I told CM that while it was not intended, it hurts us and we need them to think through what they say before it comes out of their mouth. CM agreed, apologized again, and things are a bit better now.

Thanks for all the support, suggestions, and rage on our behalf. It sounds odd, but it helps to know that other people realize how inappropriate some comments can be. We worry about being overly sensitive these days.

Now lets all move on, shall we? I'm sure we'll get more crazy comments and we'll be sure to share funny things, but I am ready to focus on what's important. This friday is our fingerprint appointment. After that it should be a couple weeks until we get I800a approval. Once we get all the documents certified, our paperwork will go to our agency for a review and then on to China. Once we have our LID (log in date) from China we can be matched!!!!

We had an Easter egg hunt yesterday since many of the kids were sick last week and while all the kids were running around trying to find candy and the prized silver egg (which contained candy) my sis-in-law said, "Hey, next year your little girl will be running around screaming too." I guess I hadn't realized that is more than likely the case. I've been so used to counting down holidays with many numbers in front of them (only 3 more Mother's Days, still 2 more Christmases, etc) that it's odd to have a zero in front of the event. Is it really going to be less than a year now? Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The good, the bad, and...well, you know.

Ups and downs all over the place!

In extra happy news, we got our fingerprint notice the other day. We are about 2 weeks ahead of most of the people with our same filing date, which is awesome! Basically, the I800-A is approval from USCIS to bring a foreign born child into the country. Once we get matched we will have to fill out an I800 which is permission to bring a specific child in. Once we get fingerprinted it should only be another week or so until we get approval.

Here's the basic process we have left:
-Finish getting paperwork notarized
-Secretary of State has to certify the notary
- US Dept. of State Authentication has to authenticate the Secretary of State
- Chinese Embassy has to authenticate the Dept. of State
-THEN the dossier can go to our agency and be reviewed before being sent to China

It may not seem like it, but we are so close! Another month and a half, probably.

Not everything has been great, however. I'm not going to name names, but a very close family member made a "joke" on Easter that I'm still figuring out how to address. We were being asked if we had any children and I said, "Not yet." (standard response. I then don't say anything more since most of the time I don't need to and I figure it's not really their business). This family member then felt the need to chime in with:
"Oh, they're buying a baby."
me- "Ok, that is a joke that never needs to be made by you again." (It's not the first time it's happened)
f.m. - "Sorry, I mean they are purchasing a baby."

At that point I just walked away and didn't talk to them anymore. This was said to older relatives of mine who I had met maybe once before when I was 10, and in front of my cousin's girlfriend who is from China as well as the rest of my family. The person in question has said they are very supportive of our decision and is excited for us to bring our baby home. Now, I don't know what to make of their behavior.

Here's the deal. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Jokes like this are never ever funny. They are mean spirited, hurtful, and demeaning. We are no more buying a baby than anyone who pays hospital/doctor's bills after childbirth is. Many Chinese believe that Americans are buying babies and treating them poorly and jokes like this don't exactly change the view. It's impossible to protect her against every hurtful thing that people will say, but I expect her family members to behave better than strangers. Too much to ask?

In addition to all that, you can seriously damage the chances of the family being able to adopt at all. Our homestudy says that our families are extremely supportive of our decision to adopt and will treat our daughter the same as everyone else. Now I feel like that has been made untrue. Perhaps I am overreacting, but we would have some problems if our social worker heard about this. I don't think she would cancel our paperwork at this point, but we'd probably have some serious talks about whether our family was really able to provide an emotionally safe environment for our daughter.

It's hit a point where this is no longer just a minor issue that can be brushed off. We have to have a serious discussion with this person and let them know that their behavior must be changed if they wish to be around our daughter. I don't feel comfortable letting her be around family that could say things like this. I just don't know what to say when we do talk or how to even broach the subject. Help?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Further Down the Rabbit Hole

We are not very good bloggers.

Here's a story about our latest adoption paperwork adventures:

There's a packet of papers we had to fill out for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Jen is so on top of all this that I just had to show up and sign my name across the bottom of about eleventy billion sheets of paper (not true, there were only threeve billion). This is an actual preliminary immigration application for our daughter. Yes, immigration! This is all according to a big giant international agreement on international adoption.

In case you didn't know (and I think this is really cool), our daughter will be an American citizen by the time we board the plane for home, with a passport and everything. She can't sign her name, being a toddler and all, so they will stick her tiny foot on an ink pad and make a tiny footprint on the inside of the passport somewhere, which sounds so ridiculously friggin' cute I'm going to puke up pastel baby chicks all over.

So here's the meat of the story: our application came back, with a sheet in the front stating that it had been rejected.

This is where panic sets in. We start freaking out that there was some deficiency found in our character, some moral failing that was found, someone from our past was spoken to and they squealed about everything we'd done. We would never, ever adopt. Eventually we read the rest of the sheet that explained the reason and we smacked our foreheads in unison:

A page was missing.

A blank page. As in a page that is not even filled in.



For legal reasons, if someone else had assisted us in preparing the paperwork, they are supposed to leave their contact information on this sheet. Jen filled everything out, so this sheet wasn't included. Well, paperwork and official forms being what they are, we printed out a page, didn't fill anything in, then sent the entire stack right back to USCIS.

---

On a happier note: we finished our parent training! Lots to discuss. For example, did you know that China is an entirely different country? With its own culture and everything? Apparently some prospective parents did not know this.

More later.

- Kevin

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trudging through the paperwork

I realized it has been a while since we updated our blog and figured that sounded more fun than sewing. It seems that when we fail to do so for a week or two, people start asking us again what's new with the adoption.

We finished our homestudy 2 weeks ago, but our social worker went on vacation before she could make the necessary changes to it for it to be approved by our agency. She gets back today, so we will likely get the approved copies by the end of the week. We get three notarized originals of our homestudy. One goes to USCIS for approval to bring a foreign-born child into the country, one goes in our dossier, and one comes with us when we make the trip to China. Also, with our homestudy we will be able to apply for some grants.

So what is the USCIS thing? The paperwork that goes to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is called an I800. It consists of some paperwork we fill out and our homestudy. The lockbox (place where it gets mailed to) in Texas processes the paperwork and you get an appointment for a fingerprint check. Then a couple days later you get approval from them. The whole process is averaging about 60 days, so the sooner we get it taken care of, the better. The I800 then goes in with our dossier that will be sent off in June. There are a couple letters we have to write, and we'll have to go through the paper sealing process, but then our dossier will be done! It's strange to realize that we are mostly through it. There's still more to be done, but we are no longer just at the start of it anymore.

In addition to the paperwork, we are doing our 10 hours of parent training. Last night's lesson and test was on grieving. It's not something that many people know outside of the adoption community, but there is a decent grieving period that the children go through (and the parents and birth parents, obviously). While life in an orphanage or foster care isn't the ideal to most of us, it's the only life these children have known. Chinese adoption has the added difficulty of no knowledge about the birth parents, removal from the birth country, and loss of language and culture. They adjust fairly quickly, but the first few days are almost universally filled with inconsolable crying, shutting down, and fear. There are also issues that pop up throughout the life of the child. Our little girl will never know how her birth parents met, how many siblings she has, or why she had to be given to the orphanage. Adoptive children often struggle with feeling like they were chosen, not born, and never fit in anywhere. It's something we've talked about a great deal and feel relatively prepared to deal with, but it's difficult all the same.

Because of the institutionalized care the children receive, they are often a bit behind physically and developmentally. Typically one month for every three months in the orphanage. They catch up quickly, given the one-on-one time. Also, there are issues of bonding. Children in orphanages are cared for as best as they can be, but with the number of caregivers to children being so unequal, they really only get so much interaction per day. As such, they often have a hard time with the concept of primary caregivers. It is hugely important for them to get one-on-one time with mom and dad and be given time to learn that they are the primary caregivers. With that being the case, Kevin and I will be the only ones to feed, bathe, and change her for at least a couple weeks. We'll also need to give her some good structure and routine, without too much extra stimulus for a while. So welcome home parties are a no-go for a while. In fact, we're even going to have to be careful about going outside the house for a bit. I'm probably making it sound a bit strange, but we're just trying to do what is best for our little girl. There is always the chance that she will bond quickly and we can speed the other stuff along. Basically, don't be upset if we don't come over and visit right after we get home from China, is all I'm saying.

Things otherwise have been pretty normal. Bridal season is picking up, Kevin has some side jobs he is working on, and we are going on a road trip to CA next month. All in all, life continues on and we continue making small steps toward China. Not too much longer, now.

Oh, if any of you have Netflix and are looking for some good Chinese movies, we'll post recommendations as we watch them. Here's what we've seen so far:

Lost Daughters of China- a documentary from National Geographic. Should be required viewing. Not only does it show a travel group, but they go into the boys vs. girls issues in China as well as some of the problems that are coming from the one child policy.

Not One Less- Story of a girl who teaches at a rural school while the headmaster is away.

The Road Home- Stars Zhang Ziyi (crouching tiger, hero, every other Chinese movie you've seen that didn't star Gong Li). Girl falls in love with the new school teacher. Story of their courtship.

I should say this. Chinese movies have different pacing than Western films. Crouching Tiger, Hero, all those movies have been Westernized a bunch. Don't expect fast-paced drama from the others. It seems to me like most Chinese films that aren't martial arts movies have a slower pace, are more about mood, and lend themselves to discussion afterward. I look at it similarly to how I look at the language. In English you have so many words and variations on words. In Chinese, there is no conjugating of verbs, and much of a sentences meaning is inferred. You don't say, "Would you care for a drink of something refreshing?" You say "You want drink?" or just "want drink?" Where we might consider it to sound rude and abrupt, many Chinese feel that adding extra words is unnecessary and rude as it adds distance between people. I'm probably not explaining it well, but I'll just say that the more I study the language, the more feel I understand the culture, entertainment, and people. It's just a different mindset, neither better nor worse.