Thursday, December 31, 2009

Soon, soon, soon!

Today 2009 comes to an end and way back in May I thought we'd be spending it with family and introducing our newest daughter to people who have long awaited to meet her. We all know that is not how it has gone. Despite this disappointment I am truly at peace with sitting on the couch catching up on my blogs while I listen to Back to the Future blast from the TV downstairs and smile at the occasional giggles I hear from my three children and husband.

We have waited a full three weeks since our Article 5 was signed at the US consulate in Guangzhou. And while I really hoped to get a phone call this week from our agency announcing that our travel approval (TA) had arrived I really braced myself that the phone call would most likely not come until next week.

I have heard through the grapevine that our agency is hoping they receive a big batch of TAs next week. Another agency has been informed that a package is on its way to them containing a good number of TAs so I've got my fingers crossed that the same is true for our agency.

The last travel group to leave before Chinese New Year will be on Jan. 27th. That means we must receive our TA by the 2nd week of January to travel with this group. If that doesn't happen we will have to wait until mid-February to travel.

In the meantime, we have done a trial pack with our suitcases to check the weight. We are only allowed 44 lbs of checked baggage for each of us while in China. I thought that would be a hard requirement to meet but it might not be so difficult after all. Claire's suitcase is completely packed and sitting in our bedroom, just waiting for the call.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last rung on the ladder

I should be happy, really, I should. We have finally reached the last rung of the TA ladder.
Rung 1: I800 approval
Rung 2: NVC cable of that approval to Guangzhou
Rung 3: Cable and agency paperwork marry and the consulate issues the Article 5 and it is then delivered to the CCAA.
Rung 4: Travel approval

So, we've gotten all the way up to the travel approval, one last step until we book plane tickets to China.
So, why am I not happy like I should be?

Because the process that was moving quite fast has slowed down and of course, I have no control over it. One family with identical stats gets their Article 5 in five days, we waited 19. When our Article 5 should have been at the CCAA last week it was instead delivered today. My hopes of getting our travel approval before Christmas and traveling right after the new year looks just about hopeless. If current trends hold true we will be receiving our travel approval the first or second week of January and our agency told me today that they like to have families travel three weeks later. That puts us into the first week of February.
Chinese New Year is on February 14th this year. Travel is basically non-existent at that time due to skyrocketed airline tickets and everything being closed for 5 days. You can't start or end a trip during those 5 days. You see where this is leading? We couldn't have the end of our trip fall during Chinese New Year, so an early February travel date is just about hopeless as well.

Just another day of deflated hope around here. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today she turned 7

Back in May when we submitted a letter of intent to adopt Claire we never intended that she would still be in China on her birthday, never imagined that she'd still be there by Christmas or even fathomed we'd begin 2010 without our sweet girl snuggled safely in our bed. But, as the paperwork process had proven yet again, this process is cruelly unfair, simply because there aren't any rules or timelines.

But, as life would have it, Claire celebrated her 7th birthday in China this year. Her orphanage will not allow a cake delivery so we can only hope the staff made an effort to make her day a bit more special. Here at home we ordered Chinese food and enjoyed 7 cupcakes in her honor. We made a video singing her happy birthday and making our birthday wishes for her.

And we know that the next birthday Claire celebrates she will be surrounded by a forever family that will be there for every birthday thereafter.

Monday, November 30, 2009

quilt progress and other stuff

First, I have been working on Claire's quilt a lot. I mean a lot; so much so that I started getting blisters on my fingers from cutting and cramps in my shoulders from sewing. So here is what I have so far.

Do you see your fabric?
Don't worry if you don't, that is only 30 quilt blocks laid out. So far I have 79 blocks done and I still have fabric that can be used. Here is a tip for all future good-wish-quilt makers; use only one square or one fat quarter of fabric for each contribution. File the extra away in fabric file 51 and save it. Seriously. I received several contributions (including our own) of 1/2 yard of fabric or more. I thought the more the better so I cut all of it to be put into the quilt. I now have enough quilt squares for a queen sized quilt and it is still growing. This quilt has turned out much bigger than I anticipated but I don't feel like I can stop now; it is certainly a labor of love!

Update on paperwork shuffle-
Our I-800 approval was sent to the National Visa Center on 11/19 and cabled to Guanghzou the next day- 11/20. I read today that another family who was cabled the same day received their Article 5 yesterday. I haven't heard any word from our agency on our Article 5, but leave it to inpatient me to email them last night to check. It would truly be awesome to get our Article 5 so quickly and move onto the last step- our travel approval.

After taking Matthew to the eye doctor today to check the healing of his eye mishap I stepped in and talked with the principal about enrolling Claire in school. I was extremely relieved to hear that she felt the same as I do which is that Claire would be better served in the same school as her siblings instead of a different school receiving English learning classes. She will be required to take an assessment exam before enrolling in which the committee will most likely recommend that she be enrolled at a different school but the principal informed me today that it is ultimately our decision. I had put off meeting with her because I was worried about resistance to what we'd like for Claire so this is a huge relief. She was certain that immersing Claire straight into the classroom would be beneficial and that any kindergarten teacher would be very accepting of the challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Wow, we got our I-800 approval quick! I've paid attention to other adoptive parent's timelines and it is usually about a month from LOA to I-800 approval. We got our approval on the 13th, so we were approved only 2 1/2 weeks after I sent the application. We have a wonderful immigration officer who emailed me the scanned copy of our approval so I could FedEx it to the agency that day instead of waiting for the hard copy to come in the mail and making a copy.

I sent our LOA package to the agency last week and they will be receiving it today. The package contains our original, signed LOA, Claire's US visa paperwork and fee, our travel requests and the copy of our I-800 approval. I also gathered some items to send to Claire and sent the care package with the paperwork for our agency to forward onto the orphanage.

Claire's care package included a letter to the director and nannies (in English and Mandarin), a photo album for Claire with pictures of all of us and a little story book I made for her to explain what is about to happen. I made it very simple with pictures and translated the words to Mandarin. Claire will be celebrating her 7th birthday before we are able to bring her home so we sent a birthday card that I also translated into Mandarin for her. We found the perfect card for her- a Hello Kitty 7th birthday card! We also included two bags of Jelly Bellies and I picked up a disposable camera as well. Hopefully they will take pictures with it so we have some pictures to save for Claire.

It is almost becoming surreal that in about two months this journey to Claire will end and our new journey as a family with Claire will begin. To say I'm nervous is an understatement. What if she hates us? What if she was truly happy in China with her foster family and resents us for bringing her here? While we are over the moon about having a new daughter we will most likely not be met with the same enthusiasm. We've talked about this for years and now we are almost to the end but we are in need of your prayers now more than ever. I often return to Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God. This journey is bigger than us and is orchestrated by way more than the paperwork I fill out and file. This is God's journey and I try to remember to be still and let him lead the way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update since LOA

What does one do after receiving LOA? Well, I'm so glad you asked!
First, you freak out, squeal with delight, call everyone you know and squeal in their ear and that signals to them that you must have received your LOA, you go our for a celebratory dinner and then...
You start the paperwork all over again.

We received our LOA package from our agency this next day and wow, what a beautiful piece of paper! It is so cool to look at a document that came straight from China- with our names on it!
Thankfully, I had started the next round of paperwork a couple weeks prior because I knew we were going to be busy starting orthodontics on the boys, field trips and of course the obligatory swine flu that showed up.

We sent out our I-800 to USCIS on Wednesday. The I-800A we applied for earlier was to approve us to adopt an orphan from China. Now we file the I-800 which we will approve us to specifically adopt Claire. USCIS received it the next morning so now we just wait for the approval.

We also sent out visa applications to a courier in Chicago who will walk our application and passports into the Chinese Consulate. We will get those back next week.

We filled out the US visa application for Claire and will send that to our agency with the signed LOA and a copy of I-800 approval when it arrives.

And, we have sat down and figured out the finances; something about traveling in 2 months sets off panic about financing the rest of the journey. I will be listing several crocheted hats for sale on my other blog to help us with this. We sold about 15 hats at our yard sale and everyone just loved them. I will put a link to my other blog here once I post them but for now, here is a preview.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Sweet Words - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
Shortly after leaving the house to take Emily to the doctor my cell phone rang. I've been on pins and needles all day wondering/hoping that FTIA would be receiving a package of LOAs and ours would be included. Of course the call would come in just after leaving the house!

Our caseworker said the sweetest words- "yes, a package did come in today and your LOA was in it!" Praise the Lord!
So, our LOA did arrive in our 12th week of waiting and even better it arrived on day #88. Eight is considered a lucky number in China.

So, what are the next steps? More waiting.
1. The agency overnighted our LOA packet to us so we will receive it tomorrow.
2. We sign the LOA and send it back to them, along with the visa paperwork for Claire's visa. They will send it on to China ahead of our arrival.
3. Tomorrow I will be sending our I-800 off to USCIS. This is the second half of the immigration process. The first part approved us to adopt an orphan from China, this step will approve us to adopt Claire specifically and set it up that she will automatically become a US citizen once on US soil.
4. Once approved, USCIS will send our approval to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. We will have our final appointment at this consulate so they get part of the paperwork ready for us ahead of time.
5. When the consulate receives our I-800 approval, a second LOA that our agency will send and Claire's visa paperwork they will issue a document called the "Article 5." This is sent to the CCAA to let them know everything is in order on the US side and we can travel to China.
6. After all that the CCAA will issue us our Travel Approval, or TA. Once we get the TA we can set an appointment with the consulate and we back our travel up from that.

Right now it is taking about 50-80 days to get from LOA to TA. I think traveling by the end of the year will happen only with a miracle. We are most likely looking at travel in January.

Thank you all for your prayers and definitely don't stop now; we have a lot ahead of us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today is day #84, exactly 12 weeks since our dossier was logged in. Exactly 12 weeks of waiting for the phone to ring, exactly 12 weeks of stalking the China adoption forum for any news, exactly 12 weeks of wondering where our dossier is among the sea of desks in China and wondering if they approve our family to adopt Claire.
Maybe 12 is our number and this will be our week though. We received our pre-approval 12 days after submitting our letter of intent and that was also the day after our 12th wedding anniversary. So, to say I'm hopeful that we will receive our LOA in our 12th week is an understatement.

In other news-
We have asked our agency a question, who passed the question onto their rep in China who in turn asked the orphanage (follow the chain here?). We asked if we could pay for Claire to receive English tutoring while we wait to travel. The orphanage responded quickly that they would like to find her an English teacher and will then let us know the cost. Wow, this could be so valuable for all of us!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Please let this ride stop

I feel like we are on a roller coaster ride with hills, valleys, turns, dips and once in awhile I think we may even be flung upside down. Just like a roller coaster, it takes a lot longer to go up than it does to fly down the hill. I get my hopes up for over a week only to have those hopes fall fast in one day. With each close of business on Thursday I mentally tell myself that 'next week' will be it.

Two weeks ago a flood of LOAs arrived at many agencies. I was secretly hoping ours would be arriving, as we were just over the 60 day mark. The government agency in China would be going on break for over a week to celebrate National Day and the Moon Festival so I knew if it didn't arrive within a short time span we would be waiting at least two more weeks for any news. Obviously, it didn't arrive. I was very bummed and it was made worse by the fact that four other families adopting from Beijing did receive their LOA that week; some of which had waited less time than we have. This process does not make sense; you can't figure it out and I think that drives us every bit closer to crazy as each day ticks on the calendar.
So, today is day #75. The roller coaster has been ticking slowly up since that bummy day two weeks ago. My hopes are quite high for this week. I know I shouldn't do that because it can only lead to more disappointment but it is insanely hard to tell my heart not to jump at every phone call. It is almost reverse of being 40+ weeks pregnant. Instead of relatives calling and sounding disappointed when you answer the phone they get to hear your voice of disappointment when you answer the phone and they aren't the adoption agency. No offense, I love you all but you need to somehow figure out how to change your caller ID to read FTIA.

Please say a prayer for us that we will get that much desired phone call soon. It has been 4 1/2 months since we saw our darling girl's face and committed to making her our daughter. While it may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of life it is feeling like eternity right now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comments and comebacks

It happened. I knew from reading other adoptive parent's stories that the negative and ignorant comments would flow but we had, fortunately, not experienced any so far. Until this weekend.

What was supposed to be a happy family gathering to celebrate a grandparent's 85th birthday turned into an afternoon that still simmers in my mind as the day I had to defend our very personal choice and decision to adopt from China. It's been a few days now and the anger is almost as fresh as the day it happened.

Part of me says I shouldn't blog about this because it won't really help the situation. But, as I've stated before, I honestly hope my blog will bring other people to consider adoption and in that consideration comes the good, bad and ugly. This is the ugly, or at least part of the ugly.

I will preface this by saying I usually try to handle conversations in a polite manner and not this way at all. I think I responded the way I did because I felt like our personal choice was being attacked and what does a mama bear do when their family is attacked? You guessed it, defend.

While this conversation may read innocent enough on the screen, these questions were asked in a very snotty, antagonistic tone.

D: I heard you guys were adopting and my first thought was "why China?" So, why China?
Because that is where God put her.
D: But, why China?
Because that is where God put her.
D: But, there are so many kids in the US.
Have you researched adopting a child in the US?
D: No.
That is why we are going to China.
Mish Mash, small talk and more questions.

D: So, what does Emily think?
Emily is thrilled and can't wait for her sister to come home.
D: Will Claire have her own room?
No, she will share a room with Emily.
D: What does Emily think about that?
Again, she is very excited; she has been asking for a sister for years.
D: Uh huh, we'll see what she thinks once she is here. So, what do the other kids think about all this?
We are all very excited and talk about Claire every day. Things like one chair is left at our table and Claire will make our table full, things we are going to do when she comes home, etc.
D: raised eyebrows: Well, I can't wait to see what its like a couple months after she comes home; see if they are still so excited.
This is no different than me carrying a child and giving birth; a new sibling will be an adjustment.

More mish mash questions. I think I'm on trial at this point.
I had Claire's pictures with me and they were lying on the table. One of them was the original picture and one was the more recent one. Granted, she looks a bit different but she is also not smiling in one of them.
D: So which one are you adopting?
They are the same girl.
D: I hate to say it....I really hate to say it but she looks like a boy.
She's our daughter and it doesn't matter to us.
D: I just hate to say it...
Then don't!
D: I hate to say it...
Then don't, keep it to yourself and don't say it.
D: Well, I wish you luck.
We don't need luck, we have God.

At that point I was finished with this conversation.
A few pointers for people who do not understand adoption and how it works.
1. The choice of what kind of adoption a person pursues is personal; just as personal as the person you want to marry, when you want to have children and what you want to name your children. It is not up for questioning or interrogation. Just as it is inappropriate to question someone's choice to have more than one child or not to have any children, it is inappropriate to question adding children to a family through adoption.
2. Adopted children are no different to a family than biological children. I know this is hard for some people to understand, especially if they have never really thought about adoption. We will not love her any less or any differently.
3. There isn't a refund option for adopted children, even if our children decide in two months that it isn't all pretty and rosy. We don't get to send her back and say this isn't what we thought it would be. You can't do that with a new car, why on earth would that be an insinuated for a child?!
4. Other countries and cultures do their hair differently and may have very good reasons for short hair. There are many children in each orphanage and it makes caring for the children easier if girls do not have long hair.
5. Other countries and cultures aren't snap happy with cameras like we are here in the US. The fact that we have one picture of a smiling child from China is rare. 99% of children available for adoption from China are not smiling in photos; they simply aren't used to cameras in their face.
6. Back to the golden rule- If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all. I can't imagine someone would ever tell a parent to their face that their girl looked like a boy so why would that be OK now? Is it because we haven't brought her home yet?

I honestly hope we do not encounter anymore 'adoption trial' questioning sessions again; unless of course it is by our social worker at our post-placement visits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 54

It hit today.
So far the wait hasn't seemed too bad and even though the days are written in red on the calendar, they have gone by fairly quickly and without a lot of thought or agony. Until today.

Today is day #54 of our wait. On Thursday it will be 8 weeks since our dossier was logged in with the CCAA. I truly hope to get our LOA on day 60-something but worry has set in that we might wait at least 40-something more days.

I pray every day that something will make our file get reviewed quickly because every day we wait is another day that Claire is laughing or crying without me. Even though I have never met her in person or nuzzled my nose in her hair, she is my daughter and I am separated from her.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We got an update!

I spoke with our caseworker last Thursday about trying to get an update from Claire's orphanage. I fully expected to wait a month, at least, to get any information and I tried not to get my hopes up because I know from the orphanage yahoo group that they are very difficult to get updates from. Imagine my surprise this morning when I opened my email to find two new photos of her and answers to a few questions I asked.

Oh how I just cannot wait to smoosh her little cheeks!

Information from the questions we asked:
*Her nickname is YaYa (All children are called by a nickname in their family which is usually their given name repeated. So a girl named Ting would be Ting Ting. Claire's given name is Yuan so they made her nickname YaYa.)
*She does not like meat.
*She likes little cars and is happy when she gets a new toy.
*She is afraid of insects.
*She is still living with her foster family and we are told she knows she's being adopted.
*She is currently 45 inches tall and weighs 39 lbs.

This just totally made my entire week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Contributing to Claire's Quilt

I apologize if the letter for Claire's quilt was confusing. This is how you can contribute a square and a wish (affectionately known as a squish) to Claire's quilt and scrapbook.

1. Pick a fabric you like. Wash it and then cut a 10x10 inch square; this will be sewn into her quilt. **This is a change from the letter. The pattern I bought will work better for a 10x10 inch square of fabric.**
2. Cut a small scrap of the fabric to be included on a wish that will go into her scrapbook.
3. Write a wish; this can be small or large, ornate or simple. Attach the fabric scrap to the wish so Claire can match her wishes to the fabrics in her quilt.

Here are a few examples of squishes we've received so far.

Monday, August 24, 2009

100 Good Wishes Quilt

I am starting a Bai Jia Bei, or 100 Good Wishes Quilt, for Claire!

I would love to receive many squares and wishes to include in Claire's quilt so if you'd like to contribute please click on this letter to read it and then email me at and I will send you our mailing address.

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


We just got the email that our dossier was logged in on July 30, 2009; only one short week after our DTC!

That takes us to day #20 of our LOA wait. Most people are waiting anywhere from 60-120 days for their LOA. We are hoping and praying we are on the shorter end of that wait!

Friday, August 14, 2009

No LID news

I am very proud of myself; I waited a full three weeks to email our caseworker about our log in date (LID).
Unfortunately, the agency inquired about log in dates on the 11th and nothing new had been posted. So, hopefully next week when they check we will be given a LID for our dossier. Once we get that date; our waiting officially starts.

Friday, July 31, 2009

So, Why China?

We get this question a lot. Sometimes it is from well-intended family members or friends who are genuinely curious on what made us choose to adopt from China. Other times it is someone who has zero knowledge of the adoption process and thinks we are elitists who won't adopt from the US.

A large part of me feels like I don't need to justify our decisions to anyone. We prayerfully considered the way we wanted to add more children to our family and we feel God is taking us to China. End of story.

But, I do understand the genuine curiosity about what leads adoptive couples to make one of the biggest decisions in their lives and I admit I share the same curiosity when I hear of other couple's decision to adopt from other countries or the US foster system. I hope my blog can reach just one person who is contemplating adoption and to help them understand the thought process that brought us to the China, I will lay it out here.

Domestic adoption
Domestic adoption is typically referred to as an adoption plan set up by a birth mother. They are usually newborn infants adopted by the couple or person the birth mother or agency chooses. The majority of the adoptions are semi-open to open adoptions that allow contact with the birth mom set forth by a plan devised between her and the adoptive family.
I've seen costs for domestic adoption range from $12,000-$35,000 or more.
Our children are all 7 years old or older; we knew immediately we did not want to adopt a newborn. Even though the disruption statistics are lower than what most people assume we still were not comfortable with the idea we could pay a few thousand dollars and have the possibility that the child would not be placed for adoption at the last minute and we'd be back at square one- financially and emotionally.
Domestic adoption was not for us.

Foster Adoption
The foster adoptions are facilitated through Division of Family Services in each individual state. Many, many children in the US wait for forever homes and in the deciding stages of our adoption I felt incredible guilt that I wasn't pulled towards foster adoption. I know they need good homes; I know they need the love of stable parents but at this time we just didn't feel it was a good fit for our family.
The age range and gender of the child we want to adopt is quite common among adoptive families (beyond newborn adoption). We would have most likely waited a year or more to be matched with a child. Due to the age we desired this child would have most likely come to us before their parental rights were terminated making for required visits with the birth family. The goal of DFS is to reunite a child with their birth family. I completely understand that and whole-heartedly support it when it is clear that is best for the child. Unfortunately, it can take years to terminate parental rights in some cases and the risk does exists that the child will be reunited and your adoption plan terminated.
We have three children already and while making the decision to 1. adopt and 2. what avenue we would take to adopt, we had to consider the needs of our current children first. Is any adoption going to be easy, especially when adopting an older child? No. But we felt the risk of a complete upheaval to our childrens' daily lives was higher when adopting an older child from the foster system. This could have been completely untrue but when weighing all of our options we didn't feel like we were the best family for a foster child at this time.

International Adoption
Children who are orphans are available for adoption from many countries, all of which have different guidelines and restrictions and of course, a fairly wide range of cost. Here is a good chart comparing the different guidelines, restrictions and cost.
Our list of countries were narrowed down fairly quickly based on number of children in the home already, children available, wait times, length of travel and of course, cost again. We considered potential situations that may arise after placement based on reported prenatal and orphanage care before the adoption, and how we could use that information to minimize the risk of upheaval to our current family life.

And the bottom line to all of this is- GOD is taking us to China. After comparing, considering and praying about what would be the best way for us to add another child to our family, I kept coming back to China. Is it the orphanage care, the travel, the cost, the one-child policy, the clear restrictions (you meet them and adopt or you don't meet them and you don't adopt)? Yes, it is. But all of that didn't make our decision to adopt from China; the pull at my heart every time I considered another country or option, that I truly feel was put there by God, is why we found our daughter in China.

Is this going to be hard? Yes
Are we going to face challenges due to Claire being six/seven years old at adoption? Yes
Will Claire grieve the loss of her foster family, her culture, her language, her country? Yes
Are we prepared? Eh, I want to think so but no, we probably aren't.
Will parenting her be different from the other children? Yes
Is attachment and bonding going to be hard? Yes
Is it a big risk? Yes

Is it worth it? Absolutely

Just like getting two positive lines on an EPT, you do not know the challenges you may possibly face before and after the birth of that child. Adoption is no different; God brings special children to families in all different ways and nothing is ever 100% risk free.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Acronym speak for Dossier To China!

Our caseworker emailed me a little bit ago to inform us that the review of our dossier was completed and they did not need any additional information or documents from us. I'm going to credit that to the extreme organization skills I've acquired.

It will take approximately 10 days to courier our dossier to the CCAA. Once there it will be translated and logged in. This process may take 1-3 weeks after the CCAA receives it and we will be notified after the fact.

We are one huge step towards bringing Claire home!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The day we've been waiting for

This small little box contains all the information that will be sent to China for us to adopt Claire. All the months of collecting paperwork, sending off paperwork and trying to maintain a decent level of organization boils down to this one 2 lb. 6 oz. box. The anxiety I experienced when leaving the dossier at the Secretary of State's office pales in comparison to the anxiety I feel now handing over months worth of work to a FedEx truck. Hearing horror stories of lost paperwork recently DOES NOT help either!

So here is what is involved in a China dossier.
  • Intent letter to Chinese officials (basically says who we are, why we want to adopt and the condition/age of the child desired.)
  • Home Study (Refer back a few posts to see what all went into that. It was condensed into a 14 page narrative of our life; a bit weird to read.)
  • Birth certificates for each of us
  • Marriage certificate
  • Health examinations for each of us
  • Financial statement
  • Employment letter for J
  • Non-employment letter for me since I stay home with the children
  • Criminal history check for each of us from 3 states (states we've lived in within the last 5 years)
  • Copy of I-800a approval and affidavit that it is a true copy
  • 3 original letters of reference
  • 2 passport photos for each of us
  • Photos- couple, family, house exterior and house interior

All of these documents with exception of the reference letters had to be notarized, certified by the secretary of state and authenticated by the Chinese consulate. Documents from two states had to be certified by the county clerk prior to certifying by the secretary of state and one state had to be certified by the US secretary of state prior to being authenticated by the Chinese embassy. Confusing? I've kept a checklist and flow chart to keep up with it all. Oh, and we've gotten great use out the FedEx account we established a few years ago.

This afternoon I will drop off my 2 lb. 6 oz. baby with strangers and pray that she reaches the correct destination on Monday (FTIA). They will review it to make sure it has all necessary documents and everything is correct and if so they will courier it to China next Thursday. What a birthday present!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Almost there

We received our I-797C via email on Tuesday. That is the sheet of paper that immigration sends to us saying we are approved to adopt from China. I'm so glad we were given a pleasant caseworker who readily emailed me the scanned copy so we wouldn't have to wait until the hard copy came in the mail.
So this is how it works:
We will take the original copy of the approval with us to China but we have to include documentation in our dossier that we are, in fact, approved. So we make a copy of the original and attach an affidavit stating it is a true copy. That must be notarized, certified by the state. yada yada paperwork shuffle.

Thankfully it is summer and the children are out of school so we got the affidavit notarized Tuesday evening and the kids and I were downtown Wednesday morning at the secretary of state's office. We had to certify the home study and the affidavit to complete our dossier. Before leaving downtown we walked to a market and purchased a money order for the consulate fees and stopped at Kinkos to FedEx all of it to Chicago. Sometimes I feel like this process goes from 0 to 100 mph in a matter of hours. OK, I guess it really does.

Our last two documents are being authenticated in Chicago now and when we get those back we will finally be ready to send the completed dossier to FTIA!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where oh where...

...can my approval be?
Where oh where has it gone?
I sent it priority and paid the fee;
Where oh where can it be?

Even whilst on vacation I have our USCIS information to call and check on our I-800A status. Yesterday we were assigned a caseworker who was very pleasant to speak with. She had 2 cases ahead of ours so I really thought we'd get our approval yesterday but we haven't. Maybe things will sail through without a glitch today and we'll get the approval email.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Because our government agencies can't talk to each other we were fingerprinted for a second time this morning. Last time we were fingerprinted for our homestudy through the FBI; this time we were fingerprinted by Dept. of Homeland Security for our immigration approval.

We had the kids up at 5:30 am and left shortly after 6:00 only to arrive almost 30 minutes early. Oh well, it was definitely an appointment we didn't want to be late for! We were pleasantly surprised to find the staff friendly and efficient and we were on our way by 8:30.

I called USCIS this afternoon to see if our case had been assigned a caseworker and it still hasn't...BUT, they are working on applications through June 2nd and our date is June 4th. So, hopefully we will be receiving a caseworker and an approval in the next few days!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Little update

Here is a picture of the care package sent to Hongyuan at the orphanage. We don't know if she is still in foster care or has been moved to the orphanage but either way I really hope they share the photos with her and use the camera to take pictures of her. Any bits of information or pictures we can get will help Claire with understanding her adoption story as she grows up. One bit of sad news is the orphanage will not share any updates or photos with Ann at Red Thread China. Prior to sending a care package Ann makes a phone call to the orphanage to ask the questions and ask for new pictures. Usually she will get new photos within a couple of days so we were really looking forward to that. We will request an update through our agency in a month or so and hopefully they will share updates with them.

The wonderful lady that I talked to at USCIS actually did call me back the next morning; she is so pleasant and nice! She got our fingerprints scheduled for June 23rd at 8:00 am. This is fantastic because it's early enough for J to not miss work and best of all- we will still be in town!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Care package and news

We had a care package sent to Hongyuan today. We wrote a letter to the orphanage director and nannies and asked them to use the disposable camera to take pictures of her. We asked several questions and included candy for the kids and photos of us for Hongyuan. I can't wait to find out if she received it and was able to look at the photos. We will be absolutely delighted if we receive new photos or updated information.
We ordered the care package through Ann at She is a wonderful lady that lives in Guangzhou that sends care packages for adoptive families and communicates with the orphanages to receive updates and photos. She can also be hired as a personal shopping guide in Guangzhou; we will definitely be doing that!

We also got our first notice of action from USCIS. They received our I-800A on May 29th and logged it into the system on June 4th. I called to ask if we had been assigned a caseworker yet and was told no, and we have about 50 ahead of us. :( Several minutes later she called back and tried to schedule our fingerprints over the phone (a HUGE thing, usually you receive a postcard in the mail with your time to show up) and when she couldn't she highlighted our name and is going to call tomorrow after she tries again. Wow, a huge thank you to her!
I was really hoping our I-800A would follow the current trend and be done in about 30 days but when I heard there were 50 families ahead of us I quickly realized it wouldn't be 30 days to approval. Having someone on your side in any of these steps is a huge plus.

Monday, June 1, 2009


On our 12th day of waiting (which is one day after our 12th anniversary!)we received our pre-approval from China! The CCAA was closed for several days last week due to the Dragon Boat Festival so I didn't expect any news until the end of this week, at the earliest. When I opened my email just before noon and saw the pre-approval message from our agency I squealed so loud I scared the dog.

What this means-
China accepted our letter of intent and nurturing/care plan and officially locked her file for us. We still have to get our dossier to China and get through the review room before we will be issued our Letter of Approval (LOA). The LOA is the no-kidding-she-is-yours document but the PA allows us to announce our intent to the world, with photos!

So, without further ado, I introduce...
Claire Hong Yuan

She is 6 years old and waiting for us in Beijing.
One small speed bump is Beijing requires a 14 day stay before flying to the US Consulate in Guanghzou. Instead of our adoption trip being 12-14 days it will be 18-21 days. It will be very hard to leave our other children for that long but on the flip side we will be able to tour Beijing with Claire and have a lot of pictures of her in her birth city. Claire turns 7 in December and we would absolutely love to travel by then so we can celebrate her birthday with her.
Our next step is to complete our dossier and get it to China ASAP. The only thing we need to complete the dossier is our USCIS approval. Once our dossier gets to China they will thoroughly review it and then issue us a Letter of Approval.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Onto the next wait

We finally got five notarized copies of our home study last Thursday. I had the I-800A prepared to mail once the home study arrived...
That is until I read that we'd need a letter from FTIA to go with the home study or USCIS wouldn't accept it. Hats off to FTIA, they mailed the letter that day and we got it on Saturday. So we put our I-800A packet in the mail today. The packet contains the 12 page application to adopt an orphan, our home study and FTIA approval letter, necessary documents and of course a check; everyone wants money in this process.
We will get a letter soon saying they received it and then another letter telling us when our fingerprint appointments are. Once the fingerprints are accepted it will take a couple more weeks to get our approval. I'm hoping we will have the approval by the beginning of July.
We are on Day #6 waiting for our PA. All this waiting; I will either be a master at waiting or never want to wait a day for anything the rest of my life by the time this process is over.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The very next day after posting about the process dragging on we got a huge speed up! Last Thursday we were granted permission to join the yahoo group featuring all the children on the shared listing. That morning I sat in my pajamas until noon while looking through all the files and adorable pictures. I made myself read the files before looking at pictures so it would be a bit easier to make a clear decision with my head. We narrowed it down to 3 girls and emailed the agency to check and see if any of them were still available; two of them were.
I was drawn to one girl so on Friday night I sat down with her files to thoroughly look through all the test results, convert all her measurements to figure out her growth pattern, etc. One result in the urinalysis threw me for a loop and after figuring it probably wasn't a sign of good things I closed the computer and told J that I was too uneasy about it. I told myself she wasn't "the one" and tried to think of other things. I tried all weekend but my mind kept going back to her.

Monday morning I received another email from the agency saying more files were added overnight so again I sat in my pajamas until noon reading through them (they really take a long time to read!). I specifically did not open her file so I could consider the other children with a clear mind. After looking through all the others I opened her file once again and read it over; I knew her file was better than the others. I decided to call a doctor who reviews the files of special needs children and ask her to look it over. She got back to me in two hours (!!) and told us the result I was worried about was nothing; she is fine!

I feverishly started working on paperwork to lock her file. J called the bank to make sure this was something we could pull off with less time than we originally thought. We barely got all the paperwork done and emailed before the agency closed and then we just had to wait. Great, back to that waiting and patience thing!
We showed the kids her picture (Emily had already seen her) and told them we were moving forward to adopt her. I wish I had videotaped Emily; she was shrieking- shrieking "She's going to be my sister?! For real? My SISTER?!" It was so cute watching her try to contain herself but she had so much excitement she couldn't.

We took her picture with us while we ate so we could decide a name for her together. We haven't come to a clear decision yet.

At 8:30 this morning we got the email we were waiting for- her file was still available and they locked it for us. They are submitting our Letter of Intent (LOI) today. Once China receives our LOI we will be waiting again. China will send us a Pre-Approval (PA) in 1-4 weeks and after that I can share her name and photo with the world. Until then here is a sneak peak.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still waiting

I have heard to never pray for patience, so I don't. But, I'm beginning to think I may come to the end of my patience soon.

We still don't have our home study. Our home visit was one month ago today so we should have several final, notarized copies of our home study in our hands. We don't. The home study is caught up in review between our home study agency, our international agency and us. It's like playing the telephone game on email.

Not as time critical but our documents that went to DC on 4/21 are still there. They did leave the state department and journeyed successfully to the Chinese embassy but they are still there. The longer they are gone the more I think they might be getting lost.
The majority of our dossier is at the Chicago consulate. That was 11 documents so it might take a bit longer. Once we get those back we will only need two more documents to complete the dossier; our home study and the I-800A approval from immigration.

I think getting our dossier complete by the end of June is probably not going to happen.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Workshop complete

We traveled several hours this weekend to attend the 7 hour international workshop required to complete our home study. It was long but informative and mostly, we are just glad it is behind us. We can now get our final home study and hopefully that will arrive this week.

While the kids were in school Friday morning, J and I drove downtown to a satellite office for the secretary of state to get our documents certified before sending them off to the Chicago consulate to be authenticated. When dropping off the documents we realized we didn't have the 1 1/2 hours to wait so we would need to come back and pick them up this week. As the office attendant took the papers and paper clipped them together I had physical anxiety symptoms, which is rare for me. I felt my stomach flip-flop and my heart race as if I was on a high, very long bridge; one thing I despise. I am so worried one of those documents might fall from the paper clip and get lost. My inner being was screaming "You have no idea how long that has taken or just HOW important each of those papers are!" When leaving the office I told J that I felt as though I had just dropped my baby off with an unknown babysitter and he told me "well, you sort of did." Yes, I guess I did. I hope they have taken care of her this weekend and didn't lose her blanket or teddy bear our financial statement or medical forms.

Our GA paperwork made it home safely from the Houston consulate last Thursday but the US Secretary of State is taking their time with our TN paperwork and has not sent it onto the Chinese Embassy yet. I'm sure there are very critical national situations that might take precedence but I need our paperwork!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sec. of State

I got an email today saying our documents made it to the authentication department at the US Secretary of State. Now they must make it from there to the Chinese Embassy and then back home. And that is only for the documents from Tennessee.

Our Georgia documents were delivered to the Houston Consulate last week but have not started their trek back home yet.

Our Missouri documents will be authenticated by the MO secretary of state soon (maybe this week if we have time) and then shipped off to the Chicago Consulate.

It's a good thing I still have a good grip on US geography from school.

It's here!

We have been patiently waiting for the first copy of our home study since we had our home visit. The agency was quick, in my opinion, getting it to us only two weeks to the day after we were interviewed. Reading your life story in 13 pages is a bit weird but also kind of cool in a way too.

And there it was, page 12:
This agency approves and recommends J and C as prospective adoptive parents...

WOW! Now this is getting exciting!

Of course it came when J is out of town for the week but he should be able to review it for any corrections in the evening and then I'll send it back to the agency who will then send it to FTIA for review and it will then be sent back to us for final approval. We attend our workshop this weekend so it would be wonderful to leave there with several notarized copies in our hands.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


We are thinking of several different ways to raise funds for our adoption and our first attempt is a Tastefully Simple catalog party through a consultant will donate 50% of her profits towards our adoption. Fill up on some good, EASY food while helping us bring our new girl home! (I can't wait until we get matched and decide on her name so we can stop saying "new girl, new sister or new daughter!") Click on the Tastefully Simple logo to order through our fundraiser.

My favorites are the beer bread mix and the almond pound cake. The beer bread can be made with any carbonated beverage making the possibilities endless! Check out the recipe section for many different uses for both products.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Whew, glad that is over!

Our social worker was here last night to do our home tour and interviews. The interviews were easy, just questions about ourselves, each other and adoption. I was most apprehensive of how the kids' interview would go.

I think Jacob was secretly drinking kool-aid and eating candy bars downstairs prior to the questioning because he was bouncing off the walls hyper. Emily barely talked; she said because Jacob kept saying what she was thinking and then, Matthew. When asked what the new child might not like about our family he pipes up and says "well, she probably won't like Jacob punching her like he punches me in the face." WHAT?!!! What happened to all those briefings we gave them? Just kidding, we actually didn't brief them on what to say at all. Jacob did say he doesn't like Matthew in his room and that he has broke a trophy before so the social worker asked what if his new sister does that. Jacob's reply? "Well, I understand because she would be curious because she's never seen it before but Matthew has been here long enough that he shouldn't be curious anymore."

Hopefully she understands some normal sibling rivalry! Beyond that we have a few things left to do like outlet plugs and cabinet locks on the cleaner cabinet. We figured we would hold off to see if either of those things created issues after we bring her home. If she is particularly fascinated with outlets we will buying a few packages of outlet plugs.

We all celebrated having this step done by feasting on a piece of cake once the social worker left.
Our next step: We will have to wait a couple of weeks to get a draft of the home study. We will review it and our caseworker at FTIA will review it for an errors or needed additions and then once the review process is done we will be given our final draft. We will then send a copy of our final draft with the I-800A application (petition to adopt an international orphan) and supporting documents to USCIS. We will then wait for their approval which is currently taking around a month.

While that is going on I will be taking all of our documents to the MO secretary of state office to be certified and then shipped off to the Chinese consulate to be authenticated. Once we get our USCIS approval I will send it and our home study off to the secretary of state and consulate. That will complete our dossier and then we can send it to the agency who will translate it and send it to the CCAA.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


After all the cleaning and organizing I have done this week to prepare for our home study visit tonight, it was rescheduled this morning due to our social worker being ill. I do completely understand that getting sick is beyond our control but I am still disappointed. I think the biggest reason I'm disappointed is I was mentally prepared for tonight, as was everyone else in the family.

I now have a clean house that I have to try and keep clean with kids home for a long holiday weekend. I guess things could be much worse though!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On the calendar

The home visit is written on the ink! Next Thursday at 6:30.

Part of me is nervous and part of me is very excited; it's taken awhile to get to this point and we have to get through it to get any further. What a great Easter present to have the visit done and behind us!

Originally we thought we could begin the matching process once we had an approved home study draft, which would be early next month. But, the CCAA has decided that most children with minor special needs can now only be matched with families whose dossiers are already in China (or LID- log-in date). For that reason we will now be waiting until our LID to be matched with a child. This will afford our family the opportunity to be matched with a child with more minor needs, as we have requested.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Language School

We have been researching different programs to start learning Mandarin and one day I found a program for the Nintendo DS! Now we can try and learn some basic Mandarin without spending $350 on Rosetta Stone and the kids have created a profile to learn some as well. I'm hoping we will all learn enough Mandarin to communicate with our new girl while she is making her transition to English.
On a side note; we wrote our caseworker about changing the special needs checklist of what we would accept. We originally asked to be matched with a girl, aged 2 to 6. We have now changed our age range to 4 to 6 years old.
Our home study agency has received our completed packet and is in the process of typing every thing into a nice "life story." We will be having our home visit in a week or so and then waiting a few weeks after that to have the completed copy in our hands. Once we have the final home study and approval, things should start moving quickly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In the mail

Finally, the home study will be mailed! We had our first visit on February 2nd so all this paperwork took about 6 weeks. A lot of it was done in the first and last two weeks.

Here is what is included in the packet.

*Birth certificates for all family members
*Marriage certificate
*Income tax return
*W-2 forms
*Statement of income difference
*Medical insurance verification
*Photos- immediate family and home
*Driving directions
*Reading agreement (We must read 5 books each)
*Home Study application (14 pages)
*Autobiographies (J- 7 pages, mine- 8 pages)
*Criminal check waiver
*Confirmation of employment
*Reference forms (6)
*School reference form (3)
*Health physicals on all of us
*Preference form (identifying the special needs we would accept)
*Release of information
*Authorization form
*Identifying documentation
*Fee agreement

I forgot to add that some things went directly to our agency. That would include:
*Fingerprinting results
*Child abuse clearances from 5 states and 1 country
*Current state criminal record check
*Federal government criminal record check

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tape, tape and more tape

Thanks to the government (states and federal) I have successfully had 2.5 hours sucked away from my life. Here is the tape I navigated through this morning.

Criminal records check, notarized $29
County clerk certification- verify that the notary is valid $2
Secretary of State- Authenticate that the notary is valid and the county clerk is real $3
US Secretary of State- Apply an authentication to say- Yes, this is the signature of the TN Sec. of State. $8
Chinese Embassy- Authenticate to say this document can be accepted in China because all these signatures and seals are legit. $20

Criminal records check, notarized $10
County Clerk certification- $2
Secretary of State- $10
Houston Chinese Consulate- $20

It took phone calls to each office except the consulate and embassy to verify the address, amount charged and correct procedure. Every office requires a cover letter and self-addressed envelope. The embassy and consulate require overnight delivery and the same for returning the documents.

I guess all this had to be figured out eventually so it is 2 hours now or then but you nearly need a degree to navigate all this! I think I need to write a book.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We were scheduled to attend our training workshop this last Friday but due to low attendance (read-only us!) they had to cancel it. We were fairly bummed because J had gotten 2 days of leave, my mother-in-law took a day of vacation to keep the kids and we had reserved a hotel near the agency to stay. The next workshop is in April but we have already paid for our oldest son to have a sleep over with school so we will now have to wait until May. The delay is upsetting but I try to think that the timing isn't up to us; we are just along for the ride.

We had planned to participate in our neighborhood garage sale to raise money for our adoption but the May workshop is scheduled for the same day.

We received our last reference letter in the mail this weekend; Yippee! My wonderful, procrastinating husband is nearly finished with the autobiography questions and when he prints a final draft we can finally send in our entire packet!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Moving along

Since posting last we have sent out all of our child abuse clearance and police report clearance requests. Those go directly back to the agency so I'm hoping they have made it there. I've spent 4 solid days doing nothing but paperwork, figuring numbers, tracking down information, etc. to finish all the forms.
J, Emily and I have our physicals scheduled for this week and the boys' physicals are scheduled for next week.
We have received all of our reference letters except one and I am going to call today and gently poke him to send the last one along.
I have my autobiography nearly complete and my procrastinating husband hasn't started his. :)

Once we all get our physicals, get our last reference letter and finish the autobiography we can send in the completed packet and move onto the next step-- Our official home visit and tour! We will be traveling to the adoption agency's office next week for a 8 hour workshop so our goal is get everything completed and hand carry the packet to the workshop so we do not have to rely on the mail.

In the last couple of weeks we have also changed our mind on probably the biggest aspect of our adoption- we changed agencies. We hadn't formally applied to WACAP (we had submitted the pre-application) but did have the full application filled out with the check, addressed, stamped and sitting on the table. It sat for 3 weeks when I finally took it out and shredded it this weekend. For some reason I just had a hesitant feeling about WACAP and despite the wonderful recommendations I've received, something just didn't feel right. I went with my gut and decided to pursue information about other agencies. Several people recommended Families Through International Adoption (FTIA). They are smaller, more personable, have cheaper travel rates and are less expensive for children under 7. WACAP will subsidize adoptions for children aged 7 and over and this was our initial pull to WACAP; this made the adoption much more affordable. But if we decided on a 6 year old little girl we would be paying the full adoption rates and in that case, FTIA was more reasonable.
I have absolutely no doubt that WACAP is a wonderful agency; many people have had wonderful adoptions fulfilled with WACAP and been completely pleased. For us though, I did not feel WACAP was the right agency.

I've spoken with a few people from FTIA on the phone already and they have all be so helpful and eager to answer all of our questions. I have the application filled out, with a check in a stamped envelope and it is going in the mailbox today! We also sat down with the checklist this weekend to mark what special needs we would be willing to accept. We put down our desired child is a 2 to 6 year old girl. We could be a few short months away from seeing our new daughter's face! I thought last night that she is in China now, waiting for us and has no idea we are getting all of our ducks in a row to come pick her up. I can't wait to see the face of the daughter God has chosen for us!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Jeramie and I went for our fingerprint appointments yesterday; check another box on the long checklist. It was all very official; we couldn't even be in the same room together. I politely told the man "he is my husband, he's seen my fingerprints before" and he responded with "having someone else here is distracting to the one getting their fingerprints done." HA! So maybe that is why I can't get a room clean when someone is in it- it is too distracting! So we each had to sit in the hall while the other one was in the office.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The visit

Every thing went very well with our initial visit with our social worker. We received our folder with loads of paperwork to sort through and went over the process. Turns out, the social worker lives right around the corner from us!

I think the funniest part of the entire night was the one with the most needs ended up the dog. He wanted off his bed, then he needed to go outside, then let back in, then wanted his water which was in the closet I closed, then he drug the water bowl out into the kitchen because it was all gone. Good grief, couldn't he take the same suggestions of quietly playing like the kids did?!

We jumped in with both feet once the kids went to bed. Books are on reserve at the library, reference forms have been mailed, fingerprinting appointments are made for tomorrow, child abuse clearances are mailed and I've started my autobiography. My goal is to have the packet mailed back to the agency by the end of the month.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Visit #1

We have our first visit with the social worker this evening. She will be coming by for about an hour to drop off and go over our paperwork packet. I'm interested to see all the documents and letters we will need for the home study. She sounds very nice on the phone; I hope all goes well!
But now I must get back to cleaning.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Home Study

I called Adoptions & Beyond today to start our home study. They are a partner agency to WACAP and a few other agencies so they will do our home study here because those agencies are not in our state. They will be mailing a paperwork packet to the social worker who will then call us to set up our first appointment to go over the packet. We will work on gathering all documents for the paperwork packet, as well as medical physicals for all of us. Once that is complete we mail it back to the agency with our fee and they set up an appointment to come out to the house. A few weeks of typing and approvals and we should have a final copy about 6 weeks later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We did it!

We had the application to WACAP's waiting children program filled out...twice. The first application was thrown away after 2 months of sitting on the counter and the second application was filled out, and in an envelope for 3 weeks before I finally placed it in the mailbox yesterday. A check dated in November, an application dated in December and finally placed in the mail Jan. 6, 2009.