Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We got a letter from Shaling! :-)

I woke up to some very exciting news today. Shaling wrote us a letter and seems genuinely excited about her American family. Nothing like starting your day off with a good (but happy) cry! She wrote the letter on June 11, so I’m a bit confused as to why it took the orphanage so long to get it to us, but I’m not going to let any disappointment over the timing dampen my enthusiasm for the content.

Angela at http://www.ladybugsnlove.com is my go-between and translator. Here is her email verbatim:

I have received a letter and pictures from Long Sha Ling today! According to the date on the letter, it was written long time ago. Not sure why the orphanage just sent it to me. Maybe they forgot. They mailed it to me almost end of August, and I just got it.

I will scan one of the pictures (both sides) and take picture of the other one because it is too big.

On one side of the picture, it looks like computer game and keyboard, on the other side she wrote some characters and on the bottom it says “To daddy, mommy and big brother in America…….Let’s have fun together”. Then she draw two smiling people. So cute!

On the big pictures, she wrote a letter:

Dear daddy, mommy (and Preston),

Hello every one! I am so excited to receive the pictures you sent to me! Your smile made me very happy.

My name is Long Sha Ling. I am 10 years old. My hobby: ice skating, draw, play Yo Yo…… I like red. I like to eat bread. I like music, art, and gym (sport). I will look at the gifts you sent to me often.

(I wish I could see you all soon and live with you).

(Thank you very much for the gifts you sent to me. I love the gifts and the cake very much)

Long Sha Ling
June 11, 2010

I will mail the original letter and pictures to you as soon as I can. Before I mail it, I want to make sure the address I have is correct:

Sounds like we might have a tomboy on our hands – she likes sports and we previously found out she likes to play with cars. I’m a little confused as to why she says she’s 10-years-old. Her file indicates a birthday of October 5, 2001, making her not quite 9-years-old. I am following up to try and solve the discrepancy.

Glad she likes music, since we’re such a musical family – Preston with the drums (and piano), Brock with the baritone and me with the trumpet, French horn, & baritone. Plus, Brock & I’s experience with the Marching Illini and Illini basketball band is a big part of who we are.

She’s on her own with art, as I’m not sure any of us have a strong talent or enthusiasm there. However, thanks to the Nelson Center, we’ll be able to foster her enjoyment of ice skating. It also looks like I need to go out and buy a Yo-Yo or two.

With her birthday approaching, I hope to write her back and send another small package to her soon. I plan to let her know just how happy her letter made us.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Staff gifts, orphanage gifts, quilt squares & more

I’m doing what I can to get ready for our trip to China now. We are supposed to bring gifts for the orphanage director and nannies – nothing specific – just some gifts of appreciation. It is recommended that the gifts be practical, rather than knick-knacky. I purchased 8 Old Navy flag shirts for $2.50 each on sale. I also bought some scented hand sanitizers. I’ll pack flattened gift bags and do the actual packaging of the gifts once in China. I would like to buy one or two more items for the gift bags. If you see a great sale on any of the following items, please let me know: brand name cosmetic gift bags, decorative stationary & envelopes, socks, decorative paper plates or napkins, sachets.

We’ve also been told that the orphanage appreciates it when you think of the kids left behind and brings gifts for them. If anyone can help me find an economical way to purchase digital thermometers, pediatric vitamins, washable shower books, colorful posters, cleft palate pacifiers, cleft palate nipples, crib mobiles, or children’s socks, shoes, & underwear, please let me know. I’ll fill one suitcase with those sorts of items and that will be Shaling’s suitcase on the way home.

Over the last week or two, I’ve collected lots & lots of gorgeous and unique quilt squares for Shaling’s quilt. I cannot wait to get to Indiana this weekend and put them with the squares I’ve already sent home with Nancy. We’ve got to be really close to the goal of 100-120 squares. I’m anxious to count them and see. I’m mesmerized by the unique variety of patterns and the obvious effort that was put into selecting meaningful fabrics. My recent thanks for squares goes to Mom, Aunt Betty, Aunt Ann, Darlene, & Aunt Sandee. Some of those ladies also worked as “middle men” for me, collecting squares from some of my cousins & siblings, nieces & nephews.

We’re still waiting on our LID, Log-In Date…but I’ve been told that we may not be notified of our LID until it is actually 2 to 3 weeks old, so I’ve not overly anxious just yet.

I know this blog is focused on our adoption adventure, but I’m going to take a tangent here and offer a public congratulations to our son, Preston. As most of our family knows, he had a big week last week.

He is in 5th grade, which is the first year for band at Rochester. He’s been taking drum lessons for two years, in the hopes that he could play percussion in the band. At band information night we were informed that nearly 120 students joined the band and between 60 & 70 of them selected percussion as their first or second choice of instrument. There were auditions for an anticipated 6 (yes, SIX) percussion slots. Preston made it!

He also auditioned for the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony, which has three different ensembles. Preparatory Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra. We were thrilled to find out that he made the intermediate level ensemble, the Concert Orchestra. He’s going to be a busy boy, but I think it’ll be great for him to get to interact and perform with youth from other area schools.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humor from another adoptive mom

As I've been going over my travel notes and following other families' adventures, I got a kick out of this humorously written list from a fellow adopting family:

I don't care how prepared you are for your adoption once you get your travel approval, things fall apart. The weeks and months you sat waiting for the paperwork to get done, thinking "Ha! I can travel at a moments notice since I've got it all done!" is a load of hughey.

Things I forgot about:

1) Train husband to do all the stuff I do automatically every morning - empty trash, collect recycling, clean up cat vomit, feed kids, do all the dishes that mysteriously appear after they have done their own dishes, clean cat litter, empty garbage cans around house, pay bills, make the beds that are "already made", clean the cat litter, stop kids from fighting, stop cats from fighting, clean the cat litter (repeat).

2) Assist son and daughter (special needs kiddos) to the toilet, get son and daughter off the toilet, clean up the floor, repeat 5x next 3 hrs

3) Ensure enough cat food, cat litter, newspaper available while gone. Train someone to clean the cat litter 18x/day. Explain consequences of not doing so. Explain again. And again....and again.

4) Pack. Repack. Get rid of all clothes as the suitcase is full of gifts.

5) Buy gifts. This cannot be done in one day. Or even two days. This takes about one solid week of going into town, searching the stores, buying school supplies while you are there, spot some gifts on the other side of the store, relocate children, get gifts, go back to groceries, refind children. Repeat Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And the following Monday.

6) Sweat getting orphanage donation in cash because your bank is in Virginia and you live in Michigan. Wire transfer every penny you can get your hands on. Discover how nice the ladies at the credit union are in town when they find out you are going to China to adopt again (even with 7 kids at home). Enjoy bank cheering section when you finally collect all your $100 bills.

7) Make a list of all the stuff you need to do when you get home - vaccinations, dentist, insurance, military ID cards, school uniforms - remember it all needs to be done while jet lagged, totally broke and while wading your way through a months worth of cat droppings, spilled cat food, pizza crusts on the rug and no clean underwear anywhere within a 5 mile radius.

8) Laugh like a mad women when you read your adoption agencies travel packet and the first words on it are "Flexibilty, flexibility, flexibility". If you can't bend over backwards and touch your toes, do the dishes, yell at the kids to stop hitting each other, talk on the phone about travel arrangements, and pack all at the same time - only to be told you have to redo it all because something went wrong - then you shouldn't be doing this in the first place.

10) Remind myself - when I'm an old granny at the grocery store and I see a young mother with a cranky toddler, I can proudly smile and say "I raised 9 kids I know what you are going through", while secretly thinking "boy, does SHE have it easy!"

Raising kids. It's not a sacrifice. I'm not a saint. We aren't nuts. It's a whiplash, mind spinning, gut churning ride through life that doesn't end until the last glass of champagne is drunk at my funeral.

I'm just in it for the adventure.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What still needs to be done?

On Monday, I received a packet in the mail. It was instructions from our adoption agency about the next steps in our process. It included the following timeline:

Dossier to China (DTC) to Log-In Date (LID) - one to two weeks
LID to Letter of Seeking Confirmation (LOA) - six weeks to four months
LOA to I-800 Provisional Approval - two weeks
I-800 Provisional Approval to NVC Notification - one week
NVC Notification to Article 5 - two weeks
Article 5 to Travel Approval (TA) - two to three weeks
TA to Consulate Appointment (CA) - two to three weeks
TA to Travel Departure - two weeks
Time in China to complete adoption process - two weeks

Remember we were DTC last week (8/17/2010), with China actually receiving our documents on 8/20/2010. We are still awaiting our LID, which is their official notice that they have our documents and are reviewing them. The LOA is a letter that China sends to us; we have to sign it, confirming we still want this specific child, and return it.

I-800 Provisional Approval comes from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration/Homeland Security and is approval for us to classify Shaling as our daughter. NVC Notification confirms that our case has been forwarded to the U.S. Consulate in China. Our travel will center around the Consulate Appointment, which is

I have begun the task of filling out several forms that will be due once we get our LOA: the I-800 (Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative), the I-864W (Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support Exemption), and the DS-230 (Application for Immigrant Visa).

We also received an informational/instructional packet about our actual trip to China. I have not read through this yet, but am looking forward to doing so. I'll share some of the more interesting excerpts in a later blog post.

Friday, August 20, 2010

As you can see from the screen print I'm including below, our dossier arrived at its destination today. It arrived at 3:42 p.m. local time, which converts to 2:42 a.m. Central time. This isn't our official LID (Log In Date), which will come when China sends an official notice that our dossier is under review. However, I am celebrating this small step of knowing our paperwork has arrived!

By the way, Labor Day is fast approaching, so please get your quilt squares in as soon as you can. We can use a LOT more of them to get to the 100-120 we desire to make a full sized quilt. Don't worry as much about the wish, which can come later. Don't hesitate to call or email me if you have questions.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We are DTC!

My adoption agency received our USCIS approval this morning, just before 9 a.m. Eastern time. They informed me that because two of their employees were out sick, our dossier wouldn't be submitted to China until tomorrow (Tuesday). However, I received an email this evening indicating that it had been shipped via DHL around 7:00 this evening. We are officially Dossier-To-China!

I'm still thinking, praying, hoping for December travel dates.

Of course, this also meant we received an invoice...I just sent a check for $6430...O-U-C-H. It covered an agency fee, as well as 5 other miscellaneous fees, including one for translation, one for China, etc.

Please pray for China to process/review our dossier as quickly as they've been doing so for other families so far in 2010.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Brock's Day at the Consulate

Brock left at 4:30 a.m. yesterday to drive up to Chicago to go to the Chinese Consulate with our I-797 (our approval from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration to adopt internationally). I had taken it to the Secretary of State for Certification on Thursday. He was taking it to the Consulate for Authentication.

We were gambling, because their instructions said you can mail in forms for authentication and pay $20 per document (which is what we had done for the previous 12 items also needing authentication), but it takes two weeks to get them back, or take them in in person and pay $50 for next day service. I had heard that it was possible to have same day service if you got there right when they opened at 9 a.m., but there was nothing official verifying that.

Brock paid $13 to park a few blocks away, then walked down to the office. He discovered a sign on the door indicating that for passports, visas, and document authentication, you had to go to a different location. Ironically and fortunately, the other location was right by where he had parked. He said that at 9 a.m., there were already 50 people in line. When he finally got up to the counter, they indicated that the person who would do the authentication was not in yet, so they were unsure when our form would be completed. He said there were about 150 people in the room by then. Some were there for pick-up, some for visas, some for passports, and he was the 11th for document authentication.

He left to get something to drink and read his book. He returned just before they closed for lunch (noon) and was told that the person who would do the authentication WAS there, but still no promises on when our form would be done. They asked him to return before 2:30 (afternoon walk-ins end at 2:30). He walked a mile over to Lake Michigan to take in the view, then walked the mile back. He was absolutely soaked (due to the heat).

He returned around 1:45 and waited in line. When he got to the front he was told our document was not ready. Not knowing what else to do, he got in line again. When he got to the front he still was told our document was not ready and to take a seat. Even though it was already 2:30, he waited around. At around 2:40, there was announcement for people wanting same day service to get in line again. He was about 20th in line. When he got to the front, our document was ready!

Next on his agenda was to go to a FedEx location (which was just around the corner) and make copies of everything (one for our records, one extra copy to accompany the original to our adoption agency). He then sent the appropriate items to our adoption agency via FedEx Overnight. If all goes as planned, they will receive them on Monday. Since they have everything else needed for our dossier already, they might be able to submit our dossier as early as that day to China!

That means we will be able to celebrate the acronym DTC (Dossier To China). After that, we will receive an LID (Log-In Date) from China, confirming they have it and it's under review. The next acronym is LOA (Letter of Approval), which is a letter we have to sign, confirming we want this particular child. Those 3 acronyms together will take 2-4 months (although with some families recently, it's been LESS than 2 months). There are some steps to do after that as well, but it feels so huge to finally get this paperwork in China's hands.

We had our second Chinese class this morning and that is still going well, but slow. It's just so entirely different than English.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Immigration Approval!

We received our approval from U.S.C.I.S. yesterday, while I was in Cincinnati. I'm taking it to the Secretary of State tomorrow for certification. Brock was able to secure a day off on Friday and he'll drive to Chicago to get it authenticated at the Chinese Consulate. Then, we'll overnight it to Madison Adoption Associates to combine with our already completed documents for our dossier. We hope to be DTC (that's Dossier-to-China) by the end of next week. I am excited to take the step of having the ball in China's hands.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Day of Firsts

Brock, Preston & I began our 8-week Chinese class today. What we're learning is that the Chinese language is very tonal. For instance, the word "ma" can mean four distinctly different things, ranging from mother to horse, depending on the voice inflection. The word "mei" can mean pretty, mold, or sister.

The Chinese language also has no tense (past/present/future). In English, we would say "I went to the store", "I go to the store" and "I will go to the store". In Chinese, all three would be "I go to the store" and in fact, "I go to the store" is not a complete sentence without a time frame attached, such as "I go to the store yesterday", "I go to the store today" or "I go to the store tomorrow".

Brock is doing exceptionally well and in fact, was called a genius by the instructor.

Then, later today, my mom came over and we (mostly she, but with some help from Brock & me) painted Shaling's room. It's the first time I think I've ever had pink on any walls of my house. Two walls are a medium shade of pink and two are a lighter shade of pink. Her bedspread is a multi-color floral pattern.

Mom also brought me a nightgown that I used to wear when I was about Shaling's age. It's got girls wearing pink, blue, and yellow dresses on it. I think I'm going to cut out squares to use in Shaling's quilt and good wishes book. Just a reminder that if you're going to participate, please get me your squares by the end of this month and your wishes for the book by the end of October.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We drove to the Robert Young Federal Building in St. Louis today to get our fingerprinting done for U.S.C.I.S. I was thrilled with how quickly it went and pleasantly the staff treated us. We took Preston along, as well as my cousin Maggie (12-years-old). After the fingerprinting, we made a day of it and took the kids to the St. Louis City Museum. It is totally misnamed, as it is an 11-story maze of caves, tunnels, slides, an aquarium and much more. I'm including some pictures below.

Our fingerprinting appointments were supposed to be August 24. I'm not sure if going in early is going to help speed up the process or not, but it has seemed to help some other families, so we thought we'd give it a whirl. I figure we're doing what we can to keep things rolling as quickly as possible.

Preston & Maggie pose on a bridge on the roof of the museum.

Preston & Maggie climbing one of the many structures.

Preston & Maggie, letting Doctor Fish suck dead skin off their hands.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We're headed to St. Louis

We got our fingerprint appointment letters in the mail last week. Although our appointments are for August 24, we are going this Tuesday, August 3, as we've heard that can speed up the process. It's also more convenient to go now when Preston is not in school.

Hopefully that means we can receive our USCIS approval by the end of August and get our dossier sent to China the beginning of September!