Saturday, December 28, 2013


I know this is the post you all have been waiting for.  We just got to Guangzhou and my VPN is finally working, so I'll be posting more photos, I hope.  Internet was spotty at best in Zhengzhou and the VPN I had set up wasn't working at all, though J. somehow managed to post a bunch.  I know the formatting is weird because of the app I'm using to post, so sorry about that.   Here are the pics: 

Our first glimpse of A. in real life....outside the civil affairs office. 
Getting to know A....inside the civil affairs office. 
Back in the room
More back in the room 
The hotel lobby.  The Christmas tree and "Lao ye ye" aka Santa
Some of the kids from A's orphanage.  We had to go to the city where he lived as a baby to apply for his passport.  This was a four plus hour trip for all of us, one way.  It was a long day and we got there at nap time.  As you can see, some of the kids were *not* asleep!   
Some of the selections at the local Walmart.  I could have wandered around in there for hours.  So many interesting things! 

Shaolin Temple.  This was an amazing side trip into the Songshan Mountains.  I'd highly recommend it if you're ever in Henan.  My middle son is convinced that he wants to come back when he's a bit older to study at one of the Kung Fu schools in the town there.  
A was having a tantrum because it was my turn to carry him, not his dad's turn.  I was trying to distract A.  with "LOOK!  Birds!"  and some of the monks saw what was happening and took pity on me.  They gave us some walnuts which they were cracking to eat/share with the birds.  Worked like a charm!  Tantrum over. 
More views of the Temple
One of the reasons for our last minute travel (TA on a Monday, tickets booked on Tuesday night, left Saturday at 7AM) was A.'s birthday!  We made it in time and we got to share birthday and birthday cake together! 
Our first glimpse into the quieter side of A.'s personality.  He matched up all the animal cards on the floor, showing me each one as he went along. 
Street scene in Zhengzhou
There are literally thousands of mopeds/scooters/motorized bikes/ old school bikes on the sidewalks and streets, sometimes in terrifying traffic. I think I saw three people wearing helmets, including toddlers who ride on the front or back of their parent's bike. 
Our caucasian children are quite a hit here.  This woman approached us in the train station and told us about her daughters (she has two!) approximately ages 2 and 4.  She showed us pictures before suggesting that they would make beautiful wives for our older sons.  
Our brave travel companions, my mom and her BF.  We took the bullet train from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou today.  It was amazing to just look out the window and take it all in...between diaper changes, tantrums, chatting with fellow passengers, stopping for photo-ops and corralling the older boys who were bored at times.  
Scenery from the train.  It's really hard to get a clear photo when you're going 300 km/hour.  Sports mode doesn't really cut it! 
Cuteness, see below. 
More scenery.  Three people walking in the middle of the pic. give you some sense of scale. 
Instant celebrity. 
A selfie.  Wow, so I look tired!  And OLD!  Just keeping it real, folks.  
More cuteness below.  A. crawled into his dad's lap to wake him up and was not impressed when his dad didn't automatically want to get up and play. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

J's dream journal: night of Dec 24 - the day after "gotcha"

I dreamt last night that i was hunting in familiar woods.  It was early winter as the forest floor was covered with leaves and i could see far through the trees which were barren.  In the distance i saw two small animals jumping and playing.  I crouched behind a fallen tree, put down my shotgun, and got out my binoculars.  I saw a standard red fox romping with a jet black fox.  I was excited to have stumbled upon such a scene as well as the fact that they hadn't seen or winded me and ran off.  I picked up my camera to get some pictures, but as the animals grew closer, the exotic black fox became a common black labrador dog.  I thought it strange as i was sure it was a much more exotic creature.  A man emerged from the woods, the red fox was gone, and he called his lab to him and they kept walking.

some thoughts and Q + A

(J again)

1) to my young friend who was disconcerted that we would be "missing" christmas because we were to be in China: let me assure you, they do have christmas in China.  In fact they have unabashed, unironic, guilt-free, secular commercial christmas and nothing else.  There is no backlash against the crass commercialism of the holiday as there is in the United States.  All they have is the crass commercial chirstmas and they have it everywhere - carols and trees and nutcrackers are inescapable.  Trying to get back to our room the other night my two younger sons and i (i have three now!) had to run the gauntlet of a stocking capped chinese children's choir warbling carols to a choregraphed light and sound show. They were blocking the stairs to our room so at a pause in the choreography we tried to as politley as we could to basically squeeze through their show.  Didi and I laughed hysteracilly about the absurdity of this (he is only 6 but he knows when something is bizarre) as we stumbled back to our room.  Maybe China can be a bastion for all the Fox News, mandatory "Merry Christmas" types.  As a secular Jewish family, we find all of this pretty funny.

2) to everyone who wants to know ... soooo ... is your new adopted Chinese son (I'll call him A) as much of a character as he seemed in all the photos and videos of him spazzing out, singing at the top of his lungs, and basically demanding center stage at all times?  In short: yes.  When we arrived at the government office to meet and take custody of him, we were the last family among the Americans who were meeting their new children their that day.  As we exited the van and were getting ready to climb the steps to the building, he busted out of the door with his nanny in hot pursuit.  We got him bck inside and plopped down on the floor in front of the door.  He went and got a small riding toy (despite his joy, putting a little safe distance between us - I get it buddy) and rode back to us on the floor where he proceeded to unpack his small backpack which presumably had been bought for him for this big trip.  He waved a piece of Chinese candy in my face and i feigned expressive astonishment at such an amazing thing.  He liked this and pulled out a pack of chewing gum at which i put my hands to my head in "doh!" fashion as if to say "Holy crap!!  For real??"  He thought this was hysterical and by this time the whole family had crowded around.  All the other American families receivng children seemed to be sitting quietly and calmly on the floor reading books to their docile cherubs.  We were screaming and dancing and singing in hyperbolic exageration as he whipped out pieces of junk food from his pack.  He never stopped laughing ... or moving!!  We are in such a deep debt of gratitude to all his caregivers at Beijing's Angel House for they obviously prepared him so well for our coming.  At various times over the last couple of days with him our guide has told us that he is babbling things like "My new brothers!  My new daddy!" and "I am going to take a train and subway to my new mommy and daddy's house."  He seems to have known what to expect as well as a 3 year old could.  And when we left the office that day for the first time with him, he strained from my wife's arms and wanted Daddy.  Despite the fact that he had some male caregivers at Angel House, perhaps a father is a more exotic treat than a mother for a child who is an orphan.  He rides my shoulders, insists i take him to the bathroom, LOVES playing my guitar, and had a fit when i took Gege and Didi downstairs for dinner tonight and left L in the room bathing and prepping him for bed.  My older boys and I were siting in the lobby restaurant and I heard a scream of "Daddy!!" which echoed off the marble (yes marble.  lots of marble) in the lobby of the hotel as L brought him to eat with us - he wasn't having this going to bed in the room while we were hanging out downstairs stuff.

3) Another question we got a lot prior to the trip: So, are you learning Chinese?  and my answer was always "No, he will learn english."  BUT i have learned some useful Chinese - Gege and Didi for older and little broher.  Now that our previous Didi is the middle brother he like to go by Gedi or Dige but i'm pretty sure those aren't proper Chinese conractions.  Forgive me - this is all phonetic and probably wrong at that, but we also say "How hi ze!" which i think means "Good boy!"  We use that to offset our copious use of "Bu how!" which roughly translates to "What the hell were you thinking?"  We all screamed that in unison when - in a bid for attention - A decided to open the van door on a crowded Chinese highway today.  "Schway" is water which he uses to tell us he is thirsty (or just wants to pouch some water in his cheeks in order to spit all over us) or wants to see the fish in the pond in the hotel lobby.  

4) We are seeing some pretty run-of-the-mill attention seeking behaviors.  Once we get home and get on routine, we will nip these in the bud.  We have already began - each bite of food must be preceeded by a "more please" and accompanied by an approximation of the sign.  After he gets the item, he is prompted to reciprocate with a "Sheshe Mama" or "Sheshe Papa" (oh that's another chinese word i learned - it means "thank you.")  When the concierge in the hotel let me know that what he was screaming wildly in the lobby to all that could hear was basically "I'm gonna shit myself!!"  i waved the sign for "toilet" manically in his face and made him imitate it as we ran for the head.  He has begun to more consistently use the sign to let us know (fingers crossed on that one!).  If left to feed himself he will stuff until he pukes - again, not too surprising for a kid who lived in institutional care.  We make sure to feed him each bite and cut him off when the amount of food he has ingested exceeds our guestimate of his carrying capacity.  He usually ends a meal with the old "I'm gonna shit myself!" so yeah, we are getting into something of a routine ...

5) No worries about inhibited attachment but we will certainly keep our eye on the possibility for indiscriminate attachment.  He is charming and seduces everyone within ear shot.  In the car he has our guide and driver cracking up at the ridiculous things he says in Chinese.  He knows how to get a laugh and loves to work the crowd.  This is certainly functional survival behaior for an abadoned child, but now that he has been "found," it will be important to imprint on him whom he belongs with and whom he must go to.  Again, we are so indebted to his caregivers at Angel House.  On our "gotcha day," after we feigned thrill and astonishment as he emptied his backpack of all its junk food, he zoomed off on his toy car, flipped it over, and busted his lip.  I came up behind him to scoop him up and he clung to me and buried his head in my shoulder.  He had known us in person all of 10 mns at this point.  My sense his that he spent a lot of time over the past year being shown our picture and being talked to about us and what it means to have a family.  He runs to us, he calls out for us, he cries when he can't see his two Gege, and he even had his first "I don't wanna go to bed" temper tantrum tonight.  L did what she does best - she held him and soothed him and held him some more and ... he fell asleep.

"from the sky we look so innocent and brave" - Jason Isabel

(this is J posting)

Its 1:30AM local time on Dec 24 here in Zangzhou China.  I write you from our hotel room - an American chain but far nicer than any hotel I would generaly spring for myself  Don't even get me started on the differences between this time and the last time I was in China back in 1996.  That was the trip where I snuck illegally into Tibet by myself, visited monasteries, slipped small photos of the Dalai Lama to monks who furtively slipped them in their robes and flashed me a grin, and unsuccessfully tried to avoid the Chinese police.  Laura was so releived when my arrest from that trip did not preclude my entry this time!!  Things are very different now.

So much has happened - a 33 hour travel "day" from Baltimore to DC to Newark to Beijing to Zangzhou.  Our older boys - 8 and 6 years old - were STELLAR.  Seriously - the 14 hour flight from Newark to Beijing produced not one peep of complaint.  What was there to complain about?  They had unlimited video games, TV, and movies in their seats and food was constantly being served to them.  Our oldest son (I will call him Gege which is "older brother" in Chinese) was in absolute heaven as he lingered over his airplane dinner for 2 hours, perused his kindle, and watched movies.  I was never a slow eater and envy that he is.  We are always rushing him at home to "Finish up!" and "Put that book down and eat!" due to life's hectic schedule.  When they came around to collect the meal trash on the plane, my first instinct was to hustle him along, but i caught myself and said "Buddy, you have damn near all the time in the world.  Enjoy it."  And Gege did.

Even our often needy and busy Didi ("little brother" in Chinese) did fine.  And they both slept the last 4 hours or so of the flight.  Aside from turning around to catch him swinging from the latch on the emergency exit door at 30K+ feet (WTF!!!), he did great.  

The Beijing airport was huge - we took a train from the international terminal to domestic  transfers and then a bus to our appropriate domestic terminal.  Huge.  It was night time and looked like we were in the middle of some pea-soup fog blown in from the coast.  But in Beijing I believe that is just how the air is - almost unbreathably polluted.  Even here in the relatively smaller (though still hosting 6 million + people) town of Zangzhou, the sun only shone yesterday through thick haze.  Our guide - Tina - said it had been cloudy recently but my friend Jack (who accompanied us on this trip with his partner, my mother in law) are betting that this is not weather but pollution.  Tell the anti-government types at home to come over here an see what it is like without an EPA ... but i digress.

So we got in here late - the boys' bodies told them it was morning and they were all fired up.  After rallying through some fatigue during our transfer to Zangzhou from Beijing, it caught up with me and I was in physical pain, fall apart tired.  We all got to sleep.

I went to bed feeling more anxious and fearful about what we were doing here than i had felt prior.  I figured the ridiculous fatigue was exacerbating my anxiety.  When i awoke i was still tired and some of the anxiety abated after coffee and breakfast.  

I practiced picking up cheerios at the table using chopsticks with Didi.  By the way - Chinese honey-nut Cheerios are THE BEST.  I don't know what they put in them but they beat the pants off the ones at home.

We saw other American families at breakfast who traveled in a group here to adopt.  In the elevator back up to our rooms, a friendly guy from Tennessee introduced himself and wished us luck.  For some reason his soothing southern accent made me feel better and i felt a little less alone.

Which is perhaps a good segway to explain why i chose to entitle this blog post with a line from the song "Flying over water" from the brilliant Jason Isabel album Southeastern.  The "we" in the song is all of us - humanity.  It all looks so orderly and neat from 30 some odd thousand feet.  Isabel goes on to describe the reality of civilization as "daddy's little empire built by hand and built by slaves" - which is as true of my beloved (yes i actually wrote that) home country of the United States as it is of China and frankly anywhere else that modern humans have touched.  The song's chorus is "take my hand, we're over land, i know flying over water makes you cry" ... what made Isabel's traveling companion so emotional?  Was it the "great oceanic" feeling Freud referenced in the face of the infinite?  Was it the same thing i felt that late summer day in northern Quebec 20 years ago when - after almost 3 weeks paddling down the remote Harricana River - upon entering the mouth of the Hannah Bay, I looked north to see nothing but open ocean sweeping through Hudson's Bay into the Arctic?  That feeling that automatically, unconsciously had me put in  a strong paddle stroke to shore?  Perhaps so.  Because we are small and finite, the ocean is vast and huge, the water is cold and all we really have is each other.  And faith that that might be enough.

So all of that to say that a friendly guy from Tennessee assuaged some of my anxiety about adopting our little boy from China.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


This is getting real!  We bought our plane tickets last night and our passports were picked up today at the Chinese Embassy.  Thank goodness they all came through and there were no problems!  If you ever have to use a courier in Washington, D.C., I wholeheartedly recommend The Assistant Stork.  Steve is awesome!  I have no idea what kind of magic he worked, but I am so pleased.  

Our house is topsy turvy right now with packing and just general trying-to-get-ready-for a-long-trip.  It is messy!  Well, messier than usual.  I own a small business so I am also scrambling to get everything in order there so that things will run fairly smoothly in my absence.  

I'm off to do some bookkeeping and laundry and hopefully sit a minute or two on the couch.  Tomorrow it's packing inventory and errands to REI and Target and a few hours in the office as well.  Wish me luck- I'll need it to get through the long to-do list!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


We got TA yesterday as I was on the phone with our agency rep.  She was just telling me that it hadn't arrived yet and that the DHL man usually comes in the afternoon.  Then he walked into the office as we were talking!  She opened the envelope and our TA was right there on top.  It's hard to believe after all this time.  I would be shaking my head if I weren't so busy.  

I got up really early this morning and drove to D.C. to drop off our visa applications at the Chinese Embassy.  I had planned to meet up with a courier....and thank goodness because they didn't accept my mom and her boyfriend's passport and visa application because they aren't part of the adoptive family.  If you're traveling on a tourist visa they need to see your airline ticket or reservation.  Doesn't that seem backward?  Wouldn't you want to make sure you can get into the country before you spend thousands of dollars to buy a plane ticket?!  Nevermind that two different couriers told me that it wouldn't be a problem.  I ended up handing off the passports and applications to the courier who assured me that he could take care of it.  Fingers crossed!  

As I left the embassy and checked my email, I had a new message that we got the consulate appointment we had requested.  This is great news because we'll get to our son before his birthday but also before he has to leave his foster care facility and return to his SWI.  Thank G-d!  This means that we leave on Saturday!  Today is Tuesday, so there is just between now and then.   I am so glad that my mother-in-law offered to have a cleaning crew come in and clean up right before we get home!! What an awesome offer-  one less thing to worry about!  

Today has been a frenzy and I'm tired but I'm sure I won't be able to sleep tonight.  *sigh*  I packed for four people, made/received literally about 50 calls and emails to/from different travel agents and our adoption agency, set up a VPN, held the mail, did laundry, emailed coaches and teachers and made a trip to Target.  I have another phone date at 10:30 tonight then I will be grateful to climb into bed.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Heartbreak and waiting on TA

I don't even know where to start to catch you up on what's been going on since I last posted here.  On one hand, life goes on and things have been routine, even boring.  Kids have gone to school, soccer, dental appointments, play dates and birthday parties.  We've had two birthday parties for our boys which were totally different but just right for each of them- one was small, mellow, quiet and the other was big, rowdy and loud.  We've also been preparing for our trip to China.  I've been picking up small things that I know we'll need for the trip for a month or two now.    For folks who are keeping track, we had article 5 pick up on November 26 so TA should come literally any day!  Tomorrow, maybe?  We are so, so anxious after all the hang-ups we've had with timing to get the show on the road, get to China and meet our son!!! Hold on sweetie, we're coming as fast as we can!  

Since we're taking the boys to China with us, they each now have their own electronics.  Our oldest will be fine, he could probably put his nose in a book when we leave the house and not look up until we land in China.  Our other son bounces off the walls at times so that should be really interesting on a 12-16 hour flight! (depending on layovers)  I never thought I'd be the mom who willing buys electronic gadgets for her kids- anyone who know me knows I don't like that stuff!  But it will be worth it a hundred times over if it helps the kids be better traveling companions.  And, of course, they are "learning" toys so I can delude, I mean convince, myself that they are not totally rotting their brains by staring at the little screens for hours.  I am *so* not looking forward the the electronic detox when we come home.  It's gonna be bad. LOL.  

The biggest news, what I actually sat down to write about, is really hard to talk about.  As I start to type it, I have tears in my eyes and still can't believe it's true.  But it is, horribly true.  It will make our trip so bittersweet.  Just four days after getting our LOAs for both kids, we got a late night call from our agency's China coordinator.  I think the first question out of my mouth was, "Are our kids okay?"  It wasn't a referral call, so I knew it wasn't good.  That's when she told me that our daughter was "no longer available for international adoption."  Apparently there was a lot of back and forth as our agency coordinator had spoken with the SWI director earlier that day and was repeatedly told what they thought she wanted to hear.  It's a really rare situation for a family to get LOA and then not be able to bring their child home and this had happened to another family about a year before because China believed that the child was too sick to travel.  I believe in that situation that the story was only partially true and for some other reason, the child was "not available."   

It turns out that our daughter was probably adopted domestically.  This is good for her, I suppose, since she will get to stay in China and I don't think she ever knew about us.  As horrible as it is to write or to say, I hope she didn't.  

She is loved and will be loved.  But let me tell you folks, it really, really sucks for us.  We have all cried for hours over this loss, including our children.  Our oldest, her biggest advocate, took it particularly hard.  He sobbed, body wracking sobs, for hours upon hours after we told him.  He said, "I'll never have a chance to love her."  All I could say through my tears was, "You already do.  That's why it hurts so much."  He is the sweet boy who from the moment he saw her picture said to me, "Mama, you have to persuade Papa to bring her home."   My sweet, sensitive boy.    

We spent seven months planning for her, making room in our hearts and life and home.  The kids have lots of family pictures drawn with two new siblings.  It's been one of the most heartwrenching experiences of my life.  At every turn, there is a reminder of her.  The little trampoline I look at every time I go downstairs to do the laundry.  I bought it because in her file her two favorite activities were stated as "the trampoline" and "going outside".  Last week while rearranging the bathroom closet, I found a little cup with her name on it.  I didn't have the heart to do anything with it, so I pushed it back to a dark corner of the closet where another day, it might not be so painful to get rid of or put away.  We still have her pictures up on the fridge because I can't even bear to take them down.  I did pack up all the clothing, hair bows and girly stuff I bought for her and that was pretty awful.  I won't give up hope that some day I'll have a daughter, so I am not ready to get rid of it yet.  It's waiting in the attic, just in case.  We have had losses before but even my husband had never experienced one like this before.  "She was so real to me," he said.   

I should say that of the friends and family we've shared this with, people have been mostly very supportive and for that I am thankful. I've had a lot of nice emails and people reaching out to let me know how sorry they are.  Our agency has been as supportive as they can be.  If you're unsure of what to say in a situation like this, a simple "I'm sorry" will suffice- better not to ignore the elephant in the room.  

And, yet, like I said when I started this post, life goes on.  "The living must go on living" is a phrase that certainly comes to mind, even though it's awkwardly untrue in this situation.  It feels for all the world like a death.  We will surely mourn our daughter's loss for a very long time to come.  She will always be in our hearts and she will probably never know how many people love her a world away.  Be well, sweet Lucy, live well.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013


We got our LOAs for both kids on October 10.  It was 141 days when the average has been running about 50.  Just yesterday I heard of someone getting their LOA after 34 days.  34!!!!  So, 141 was painful to say the least.  Maybe the new system is finally making things more efficient, like we were promised when they first implemented it.  

A few days after our LOAs arrived, we got some devastating news that I haven't had the heart to blog about yet.  We are reeling.  Hopefully in the next week or two, as things settle down a little bit, I'll type it out, but right now we just need to take care of ourselves.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mid-Autumn Festival and Sukkot

I realized at some point recently that the Chinese holiday of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Sue-COAT) will be at the same time almost every year since the Chinese calendar and the Jewish calendar are both lunar calendars!  This is so awesome!  We are so excited to be able to celebrate both holidays simultaneously with all of our kids in the coming years.  Because the Chinese lunar year starts sometime usually in January/February and the Jewish lunar year starts sometime in September/October, the holiday will line up exactly on two out of every three years.  On the third year it is not exact but very close.   Fall is always a very busy time of year for us with many Jewish holidays and all of our birthdays, and the usual Halloween, Thanksgiving and back to school events.  It is great that we will get to celebrate two holidays simultaneously and that one of them is Chinese!  

Mid-Autumn Festival is also called Moon Festival, because it takes place on the full moon.  The festival celebrates three things: gathering of friends and family, thanksgiving (for the season's harvest) and prayer.  I look forward to learning more about it in the future as we celebrate every year.  

For folks who don't know about Sukkot, it is a festival that commemorates the time the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert living on faith and in tents but it's also a time for thanking G-d for the harvest of the past season.  This year when we built out sukkah (SUH-kah), it had a Chinese theme with red lanterns.  I'm sure we'll build on this theme every year.  We build a temporary structure in the backyard to remember the tents of biblical times and hang out in it as much as possible for the duration of the holiday.  It's a really fun holiday in addition to the spiritual part and the kids think that it's great fun to build a gigantic "fort" in the backyard! 

One important prayer that is said at Sukkot (and many, many other times!) is the Shehecheyanu which translates roughly into English as "Thank you G-d for creating me, sustaining me and enabling me to reach this moment".  This prayer and this festival are all about rejoicing and being grateful for what we have and for being alive. Note that this *not* a prayer to ask for anything.  It's just about gratitude and that's something I think all of us should take time to celebrate!  There is more to Sukkot than that, but you get the gist. 

The after dinner jam session in the sukkah, drums and guitar.

This year all I could find were Korean moon cakes, but it was a kind of last minute effort as we have been so year when our Chinese children are home, it will be a priority to find Chinese moon cakes!  The moon cakes I bought were delicious by the way, with a sweet sesame paste inside and an outside that was like a steamed rice dough *and* they were freshly made locally.  I understand that a lot of the Chinese moon cakes are packaged and shipped so not very fresh.  The Korean ones were much more plain than the Chinese ones I have seen which usually have an ornate pattern or design pressed into the top and are actually quite beautiful.  

In other news, the LOA still isn't here.  The Adoption Authority in China has been close for Mid-Autumn Festival so hopefully they will be working overtime this coming week and we will get our LOA SOON!  I did recently hear of several families whose dossiers were "misplaced".  Apparently they were all put in a pile and forgotten about for a month or two.  Our was *not* in that pile (thank G-d!) but do you think it might be in another pile somewhere else, misplaced or forgotten?!  We have been so patient up until now, trying to trust the process, but I am going to ask our agency to check, email, call or do whatever they can do first thing on Monday morning!  So far, they have been super helpful and very efficient as far as what needs to be done on their end, but this wait is verging on ridiculous! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Waiting Kids

I just started a separate page where I am going to be listing some waiting kids.  Please check it out!  So far, I have just one little boy listed and he's been waiting at least three years.  Please help me find his family!  Every child needs a family to love them and help them thrive.

Please email me if you want more information about the children on my waiting kids page.  The kids I'll be advocating for are part of China's waiting child adoption program and therefore many of them have minor and/or correctable special needs.  To find out more about China adoption and if you qualify to adopt a child from China, please read more here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 89

We're on Day 89 of waiting for our LOA today.  I am starting to feel discouraged.  By tomorrow we are officially at the outer limit of the average time it takes to get LOA.  In our minds, our littles are already part of our family and we are so, so ready to bring them home!  

In the middle of last week I was really feeling bummed about how long we've been waiting for LOA until  I realized that our kids have been waiting for a family for almost four years.  That really puts it in perspective for me.  Four years.  To be so little with no mama or papa to tuck you in or kiss your boo-boos.   It makes me so very sad...and while it also makes me feel impatient, I realize that 89 days really isn't that much.  And, maybe, just maybe it will come tomorrow!  (Then we could still be average!  Never thought I'd be striving for average.  Haha!) 

While thinking about how long our kids have been waiting for a family, my mind wanders to the other kids who haven't been chosen.  Some of these kids have been waiting far longer than our kids and the older they get, the less chance there is that they will be chosen by a family.  Stay tuned for some pics and short bios of waiting kids.  I think it's a good way for me to spend my time while we wait, don't you?  Maybe some other moms and dads will see *their* kid here...and there will be one less orphan.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Almost there...C'mon LOA

Still no news, but our case manager from our adoption agency emailed yesterday to say that she thought our LOA (Letter of Acceptance, aka LSC or Letter Seeking Confirmation) was right around the corner!  Yay!  Today I spent about two hours today doing more paperwork for round two of immigration for our kiddos.  There were five forms for each child, plus other paperwork that just required signatures.  There were some funny things about the the part at the top of the visa registration form that says: "estimated burden: one hour".  I kid you not.  Hopefully you can see it in the top right hand corner?  

Also yesterday, two families we know visited the foster care facility where our son lives and got a lot of pictures.  Yay again!  Apparently the internet connection hasn't been that not much has come through but we did hear that he is happy and doing well.  Phew.  These are the things a mama worries about, even (especially!) when her kids are on the other side of the globe and she can't be with them to keep them safe.  There have been a lot of reports in the news lately about air quality and general environmental pollution in China.  This is so worrisome, especially as we are stuck in the process and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it!  Very frustrating.  We are so, so close to LOA and we hold on to the hope that it will come through any day!  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

As pregnant as a giraffe

We are on day 73 of waiting for LOA.  Average time is 30-90 days, so we are well within that timeframe, but we are so, so antsy!  We've been waiting for our son since September 2012 and our daughter since March 2013!  It feels like forever.  Apparently I have the gestational length of a camel or giraffe (13-16months)...let's hope we don't stray into dolphin territory (17-19 months)! 

It's been a long time since I've posted anything because, well, there hasn't been any news to report on the adoption front.  But, life goes on while we wait for the new additions and we've been busy!  

Mr. Incredible has been home with the boys as he is most summers and they've been having a great time together.   Fishing, kayaking, bowling, movies, shark tooth hunting and going to the pool to beat the heat have been the most popular activities.  The boys have been in swimming lessons most weekday mornings this summer and in the in-between times, we've managed to get away for a few short vacations. We spent a few lovely days on a large local river canoeing and camping with friends and also a few very hot days at the beach.  We were there over the Fourth of July and the kids got to hang out with their cousins, play in the waves, enjoy very noisy, bright, front row seats to some great fireworks and pig out at our annual visit to Five Guys.  We've made this a Fourth of July tradition because honestly, the burgers are so delicious that they're dangerous!  It would be easy to make a habit of it, so it's become one of our Fourth of July traditions and we look forward to it every year.   It's almost always followed by a trip to a local ice cream place...It's truly a day of gluttony!  This past week, the boys both are in camp while Mr. Incredible had meetings for work.

Based on conversations I've had with other moms in real life, by email and by some adoption forums I visit, it seems that things have really slowed down this summer for China waiting families.  The LOAs are the last part of things to be getting back on track apparently.  The US Consulate in China where our kid's visas are processed is closed for a week in July while they move, so they will have at least a week's worth of visa appointments to catch up on plus all the other work they usually have.  

This past week as we had to put a new transmission in the minivan and replace our washer, we felt sure that our LOA (and final fee along with it) would come any day!  In fact, as soon as I heard that the washer bit it, I called our agency, convinced that our LOA was "the third big thing".  But, there was no news and we continue to wait.   Everyday, we are hopeful that we'll get the call that our LOA has arrived and we can move on to the next step.  

In better news, some families we know are traveling soon, so that means that China's new computer system is working because their paperwork was processed and they will probably pick up their children in August.  These families also have kids who live in the same place as our son and we are hopeful that they will meet him and be able to tell us how he's doing.  

Hopefully next time I will have more (better) news to report!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Good news on the way? Ladybug sighting

I was picking strawberries the other day and came across this cute little ladybug in the middle of the berry patch.  (This was a cell phone pic so not the best quality.  Looks great on the phone, though!) Ladybugs have been considered good luck in the world of China adoption.  I'm hoping that this means good news is coming our way soon!  Come on LOA!  

Our son apparently has his summer haircut (NO hair!).  He is still very handsome and even in this still photo below (also fuzzy, sorry.  I can't seem to win) looks to me like he is plotting some mischief!   In the pic, he's at a going away party for his friend who is with her forever family now.  I'm so very happy for her, but a little sad for my son.  It has to be hard to see your friends leaving and wonder when *your* family will come for you.  I can't imagine.   Our son and this little girl have a special relationship; she is the little girl who he drags the nanny upstairs to greet every morning.  Or did before she met her family.  She's coming home to the US, so our kids will hopefully see each other again in the not too distant future!  They are both sharing the lap of a nanny in the pic below.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's about time

This is long overdue but since the last update, things have been going fairly smoothly.  Last time I went to the State Department and Chinese Embassy, I managed to beg an appointment at the State Department. (Most appointments at the State Department these days are walk-in service only which means that your documents are ready two days later.  If you manage to get an appointment, you walk in and out in ten minutes with your authenticated document(s) in hand!)  Thank goodness the man who answered the phone was sympathetic!  

While I was there waiting for my documents, I met a really nice older Chinese man who was in line after me.  It was just the two of us waiting and we had a nice chat.  He wondered what I was authenticating because he saw some Chinese characters on one of my documents so I told him about our adoptions...He so politely told me that our son's surname was "not very common."  "Not a name I've heard before" is what he said.  Our son's surname clearly identifies him as an orphan- it is literally translated as "Party", as in political party.  The man said it was probably because "the party gave him life."  

In case you've never seen a seal from the US State Department, here you go:

Very official looking, wouldn't you agree?  

Because I got my documents back that day, I was able to go right over to the Chinese Embassy.  I got an awesome parking spot which can be a major challenge.  So far things were going great!  
As soon as I got into the Embassy, I realized that it was the day after the May Day holiday (Embassy closed) and the Embassy was absolutely crazy due to the backlog.  There must have been close to two hundred people crammed into the room.  It's just a big room with several glass windows at the front of the room, sort of like a bank.  The Embassy is in a mid-rise building and very unassuming.  The visa/Authentication office is not at all what I had imagined when I thought "Embassy".  When you go in, you go down a long hallway then through the metal detectors and take a number.  From a deli ticket counter!   Most people who are adopting use a courier because they live too far away to go to the Embassy in person, so this might be interesting to some folks reading this who imagine that the Embassy is a grand, beautiful and intimidating place, like I thought at first.  See what I mean?

I got number 422 and they were only serving number 353.  I thought my luck was running out.  As soon as I sat down and asked the guy next to me how long the wait was, he told me he'd already been there 2 1/2 hours.  Ugh!  Then he gave me an extra number ticket he had so I was 397.  Due to a series of unexpected events, the kindness of strangers and the continued passing of number tickets, I got an even lower number which I gave to the original guy I sat next to.  He had been waiting three hours by that point and I was able to pass on my other ticket to the older Chinese gentleman I met at the State Department.  He was so thankful!  He told me if my son ever became famous he would remember his name and think of me.  It was a funny scene there- a really great place for people watching.  I ended up waiting only about an hour, thanks to the kindness of many people and a lot of luck!  Mission accomplished.  I-800A sealed!  Totally official looking, right?!

The last piece of the Dossier was done!  Once the labels were translated by our agency the Dossier was on its way!  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Little Couple Adopts A Little Boy from China

If you have a TV, tune in to TLC tonight at 10 (9 central) to see Bill and Jen, aka the Little Couple, become parents!  I don't follow the show but I've seen a few episodes which I really enjoyed.  I do know that they've waited a long time to be parents, so I imagine it's going to be fun to watch!  

Another Bump In the Road

Just when we thought we were about to be back on track, we hit another bump. If you are an adoptive parent, or even if you're not but have ever trusted FedEx with important documents, make sure you are sitting down before you continue reading. This is like a bad dream and you hope it never happens to you.

FedEx has lost the envelope with our immigration approval. They say that it was delivered to our house last week but it never showed up. After many phone calls back and forth with FedEx and even talking to the regional and national offices, the best they could do is offer an apology and tell us to contact the person who sent the package so that we can get a replacement. UGH!

Our immigration officer was nice enough to send us a new one but "warned" us that if this one gets lost we will have to file more paperwork and pay $360. for another replacement! Seriously?! Does she not understand that *we* didn't lose it?! It never got to us!

I spoke with a courier (who has some of our other documents) and he said that he's heard of FedEx messing up like this only three times before in twenty years of being in the courier business. One time he said the documents were found two weeks after FedEx delivered an empty box to a very irate adoptive family. Their documents were floating around the FedEx sorting facility for two weeks before they were returned to the family. So, on the bright side, I guess they still might find the envelope with our approval inside.

We are feeling frustrated. We hope that there is still time to get our dossier to China before the end of May, when the Chinese agency that processes adoptions takes a two week break in receiving dossiers to do a software update on their computer system. We've been trying to avoid getting stuck in the backlog of work that will be piling up while they update their systems.

Please send us prayer, good energy or whatever you believe in! We could use a little bit right about now.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

He knows we're coming!

We recently got an update on our little guy!  He knows we're coming for him and he likes to look at our family picture (the one we had to send when requesting pre-approval), point to each of us and call us by name, mother, father and brothers! How sweet.  Knowing that he knows we are his family makes it that much harder to wait! 

We hope to have some more information and maybe a few pictures of our daughter in the next week or so.  

In other news, our home study addendum, which approved us to bring home our daughter in addition to our son, was sent to USCIS last week.  (Just getting the addendum was like pulling teeth...and probably not a story I can tell here.)  I called USCIS to speak with our immigration officer to let him know the addendum was on the way.  Remember the kind and helpful man who was ready to approve us and then was going to move our file to the top after he got the revisions?  Well, he's not our officer anymore.  It turns out that we were assigned another officer while waiting for our home study agency to wrap up the revisions.  I've corresponded a few times with the new officer and she is not nearly as efficient or kind as the last one, and definitely not helpful.  She seems not to care that the bulk of our paperwork has been waiting since the beginning of February!  Seriously, how long does it take to read an additional two pages and issue the approval?!  

According to the most recent email from our immigration officer, our paperwork is "in line to be reviewed".  Not, "let's get this going", "I know your kids have been waiting two extra months already" or even a hint of kindness.  I am trying to breathe deeply and be as zen as possible.  Obviously there is nothing we can do but wait.  And wait some more...and try not to have a pity party for myself.  Haha.  We just want to go get our kids!  

I'm pretty sure that any parent going through this process is going to be impatient, but this woman is just really unsympathetic about the sense of urgency.  Yes, I realize that she deals with other impatient parents every day and maybe she's jaded but these are kids and they are waiting to come home!  I wanted so badly to tell her how to do her job and hurry up while she's at it, but I was on my best behavior!  Nothing but a grateful heart and gentle words, I promise.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big News

Big things have been happening in the Incredible Household! I know you all are dying to know what it might be, so I will just come out and tell you and fill in the details afterward. The big news is that we are now bringing home two children! A boy *and* a girl!

When we started the adoption process, we had planned to bring home one child, our son, so having the option of bringing home two children was a huge mental adjustment for us. We had talked about and thought about another adoption...a few years down the road. The timing of our second adoption was honestly a big surprise. If there is such a thing as a surprise adoption, our second adoption is probably as close as it can get!

We had been plugging along with our Little Guy's adoption and had already sent our paperwork to USCIS/Immigration to be approved to bring him home. While we were waiting on our approval, we got a phone call late one night. When the phone rang, I startled awake wondering who was calling. Who calls you at midnight unless it's bad news or an emergency? Apparently, our adoption agency does! They are a few times zones away on the west coast and I guess they don't always think about the time difference when they call us on the east coast. Plus, when the new shared list comes out, they are working on China time, which often means that they are up in the middle of the night anyway! I let the call go to voicemail and picked up the message when my heart stopped racing and I was a little more awake. The message was from the China coordinator at our agency and was very vague. I called her back immediately after listening to her message and was expecting bad news. Instead she told me that they had locked the file of a little girl who they thought was a perfect match for our family. Needless to say, I didn't sleep very peacefully that night...I tossed and turned, trying to puzzle it all out. It didn't help one bit that Mr. Incredible was snoozing peacefully right next to me! There's little worse for insomnia than listening to someone breathing deeply and sleeping calmly.

We had 72 hours to make a decision about a second adoption. We had some serious work to do! First, the soul searching-could we open our hearts to another child? How could we say no now that we "knew" her? We had our daughter's file evaluated by a doctor, and had to consider family dynamics, space, finances, you name it and we thought about it. Everything was mulled over, distilled and percolated....and then we said "yes".

But wait! It's not that easy. If you've read other adoption blogs or my previous posts, you already know that. After you decide that you would like to parent a child from China, you have to write an official letter to the Chinese agency that oversees adoption (CCCWA). This letter outlines how you and your family will care for your new child and what plans you have in place for him/her. And then you wait until they answer your letter. This can be quite painful because by the time you submit the letter, you've already made the mental shift to having another family member. The CCCWA will either decline your request or agree to process the adoption. China agreed to process our adoption so now we have six months to get all our documents (dossier) gathered and sent.

Luckily, we are planning on completing both adoptions concurrently which means that most of our paperwork is already done. We'll have to make some ammendments to our home study and that will hold up our immigration approval, but folks, we are close! I even called USCIS to let our immigration officer know what was happening on our end. Would you believe that he was a cheerful, helpful, kind soul?! I've honestly never had a nicer interaction with a government employee. Hopefully the rest of the journey will continue this way and all of our paperwork will land on the desk of equally helpful and kind people.

And, without further ado, here is a picture of our daughter

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Power of Family

This video is too awesome not to share.  It's been floating around the adoption blogs that I read for a while now.  Originally my sister-in-law sent it to me but I was reminded about it last week when I saw another video of  one of the sons of this family playing the guitar.  It might not sound that special at first.  Except...this guy was born without arms.  When you're done watching this one, Google "George Dennehy and guitar".   You'll find several amazing clips of him playing his guitar...or piano...or cello.  See the power of family.  Watch and enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Week In Review

What are the chances that on the day our home study is approved (finally- hallelujah!) I would unknowingly buy a loaf of bread with our new son's name on it?!  First of all, I rarely buy bread because we just don't eat that much bread and when we do, I usually make it, so it was on a whim that i even bought the bread.  Secondly, by the time I got to the store, I had exactly twenty minutes to tear through the store and shop for and buy a week's worth of groceries before racing off to pick up my younger son.  I was charging through there like a crazy woman!  I quickly squeezed a few loaves and chose the squishiest, freshest one.  Imagine my surprise when I took the loaf of bread out of the fridge the next day, I was shocked to see "Julian", our son's advocacy name*, printed onto the bottom of the bag!  I'm pretty sure that I've never bought a loaf of bread that had our other son's names printed anywhere on it!  As our seven year old, Smushy, said, "That's called a coincidence, Mama".  It sure is, son.   I wonder if all the bread at Whole Foods says "Julian" on it?  Do you think "Julian" made the bread?  Inspected it?  Bagged it?  Maybe I should go back and check...because would it seem more or less weird if every bag said Julian?

*Most agencies give the children that they have listed an advocacy name, an English name that is meant to protect their privacy.  

We also got a new picture the night our home study was finalized!  Here he is in all his glorious cuteness!  

And, last but not least, our I-800A was finally sent off to USCIS on Friday for the first round of immigration approval.  Yay!