Friday, December 14, 2012

One Year Ago

One year ago today, we received pre-approval to adopt this little boy:



One look at his referral picture and we were smitten. Those eyes!  Those cheeks!  Technically, you are supposed to look at the file before the picture.  Has anyone ever done that? 

One year ago, our lives changed.  We still had mountains of anxiety and a long way to go.  But it was the beginning of a wonderful journey to our family. 



We have so much to be thankful for. 



The road to adoption is incredibly hard--at least, it was for us.  Yet in the end, we get to tuck this little boy into bed each night.



And introduce him to the wonders of the holidays.





Sleep can be hard.  Separation is tough, as are language barriers.  It's not perfect but it's perfect for us.  And it's worth it--oh, boy, is it worth it.

Happy holidays from our family to yours. 







Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Doctor Week

Poor L has endured several trips to the doctor over the past week for a variety of reasons:

**His first well-child visit, which we had been putting off as we were still triaging other areas, such as sinus issues and athlete's foot.  As those have mostly cleared up, we took the plunge into the vaccine-laden well-child, which pretty much sucked.  He received 6 shots and a blood draw (and flu mist up his nose), and screamed like nothing I've ever heard.  I cried, he screamed, it was messy.  And it's over.  He still needs boosters, but nothing like this first appointment.  Tylenol/Motrin staggering helped a lot, but he was running a low grade fever and was sore for a few days.

**Limb Deficiency Center:  We had a meeting at Seattle Children's with the limb deficiency team, consisting of the head of the department, a geneticist, and a dysplasia nurse. The end result--his limb deficiency is not genetic, was likely caused by a blood clot in utero, and will require zero treatment. In the future I may request an occupational therapy referral for things like buttoning shirts and opening Ziplocs, but for now we're just going to figure it out with him. We discussed a prosthetic in-depth, and there are two distinct, colliding schools of thought on this area of limb deficiencies. This particular doctor felt (strongly!) that prosthetics are necessary in certain cases (lower limb deficiencies, multiple limb deficiencies) but for L, it would do no good and would probably be quite frustrating. As he pointed out, hands are used for sensation as much as for grasping, which can be hindered with the no-sensation prosthetic.  L has tendons and nerves that run to the end of his arm, so if our decision changes in the future, he's a good candidate for one. Lots of people use prosthetics for specific activities at different times in their lives.  Again, two very divergent opinions about prosthetics exist, and I'm sure we will try one at some point. But not now.

**ENT: L came home with a sinus infection, which we treated with a kiddie Z-pac, which is pretty standard.  A few days after the antibiotics were finished, I found bloody pus leaking from his ear--yup, ear infection with a ruptured ear drum.  While he still had major antibiotics in his system.  Hmmm.  So, another round of antibiotics.  And this week, another ruptured ear drum (same ear), so yet a third round of antibiotics, and a referral to ENT.  He doesn't even let us know that there is an issue until it's ruptured, dang it.  Of course, we don't have any information on past medical issues, so who knows what's been going on?  So we will throw ourselves on the mercy of the ENT professionals, and hope we get things figured out  as soon as possible.

Other than this, things are going well in our little world.  I'm working 24 hours a week from home, and it's actually really hard, and at the same time I really can't complain as at least I'm at home at all.  I love my job, but working for a social services agency means that I would essentially be working to pay for childcare, so this solution is the only one at this point that makes any kind of sense.  And I'm grateful to have employers that get it and are willing to make it happen.

L continues to be a rambunctious little boy, who is social and funny and obstinate and very, very loud.  He loves all things construction, is very interested in fish and sealife  and seems to consider Maggie his bestest friend in the whole world.  We've done some mom-group activities and he generally does well with other kids, as much as any 3-year-old does, and enjoys having structured activities throughout the day.  And so, frankly, do I, so it works. 

Watching the garbage trucks, holding his garbage truck.  It was amazing, indeed. 
And garbage men are seriously awesome people--they never fail to acknowledge enamored little boys.

Fun at the Seattle Aquarium


 



Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Fun

Another surreal holiday down!  We had lots of fun on Halloween, although I wonder what L thought of the whole thing.  We did a little trick-or-treating, but the overall Halloween creepiness wasn't really appreciated by L--the pumpkins we carved last weekend freaked him out when lit.  Which, of course, we didn't know until it was bedtime, and L said his first actual sentence in English (besides "I love you"--"I lobba"), which was "Bye-bye Dada sca-wy pumpkin!".  Oops.  And then the squirrels came around and ate the faces off, so, you know. We ended up playing Halloween down a bit this year. But he loved his costume and likes some types of candy, so there ya go.

He dressed as a nice doggie (not a "sca-wy" one) and Maggie was a ferocious dinosaur. Yes, we are those people who dress up the dog.   She's a sport.





L had a routine doc appt ahead of time, hence the blown-up latex glove.  Not part of the costume. :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Three! (and other stuff)


Our little L turned three this past week.  I know I've said it before, but the fact that we got to celebrate his birthday with him was one of the biggest gifts we were given in the timing of the adoption.  Choosing just the right present (a Big Wheel) and finding a cake he likes (a brownie--he's not much of a sweets boy just yet) was fun and something we had dreamed about for a long, long time.  We had family over for a small party, and I teared up when we all sang the happy birthday song.  He absolutely loved the attention, and our families were generous and thoughtful, and I think were as excited as we were to be at his party.  It's been a long time coming. 





Checking out his new dump truck and school bus.

 
Getting ready to blow out the candle.

 
Post-party roughhousing with Dada and cousins.  These were some tired kids at the end of the day!


We also had our first post-adoption home visit, which must happen in the first month of custody per China.  The visit went really well, and I was far less stressed than homestudy visits of the past.  Of course, I still cleaned like a maniac, but some things will never change. 

We took L to the pumpkin patch as well, and I think he enjoyed it although sometimes I think he must think we're a bit nuts.  He loves pumpkins, though, and insisted that we not only purchase one for each of us but that we pick out one for Maggie (our dog) as well. 





Fun at the pumpkin patch!

 
Happy Mama






Happy Dada 


Things here continue to go pretty well, actually.  Over the past week or so, L has started to show some real interest in learning English.  He's now repeating most of what we say, and is holding things up so we can tell him the English word for it.  In the past, he usually corrected us when we would tell him an English word --he'd look at us like we were just a bit slow, and repeat the word in Mandarin.  It's complicated, this whole international adoption thing (understatement, yes).  We are dying to communicate with him, and since he talks constantly, we would really love to know what in the heck he's saying.  But losing his native language is sad--it's a big, big loss.  There are certain little catchphrases he says that have now entered our vocabulary that we don't want him to lose, such as "Baloo!" which means stinky and is accompanied by a funny face.  We have lots of video of him speaking Mandarin.  And we need him to have some vocabulary to communicate with those around him, and our Mandarin is pretty limited.  So we're working on it. 









Monday, October 8, 2012

10 Days Home

These first ten days have been a pretty amazing learning experience for all three of us.  L is adjusting rapidly to the new home, toys, smells, foods, and schedule.  This is probably a really boring post, but I want to get these thoughts down so I  don't forget them :-) 

Pets: We have three cats and a dog, the youngest being 12, so essentially we own the Home for Elderly Pets. While sometimes one of them gets a wild hair and is playful, generally they lounge, eat, and sleep. L was literally screaming with terror when he first met them--trying to tell us that there is a cat in the house!  Cat in the hooouuuse!! Get it out!! and we were thinking oh, kid, you haven't yet met the dog So the first few days were hard for all four of them as they figured out how to live together in the same (small) space.  Now, however, L is wildly interested in them, wants to touch their eyes and teeth specifically, and is learning to pet gently.  He has gone into a modified time-out for kicking Maggie-dog and being too rough with Dee-cat, although these are actually the only two times he's needed to take a break so far.  He's learned to surreptitiously feed Maggie his food and blames his gas on her, and the cats just stay up high when they are not in the mood, which is most of the time.

Schedule:  We are feeling more and more over the jetlag thing every day.  Consistency is key, so he is going down at the same time each evening, and takes one mid-day nap.  He's sleeping between 11 and 12 hours per night, getting up at least once to go to the bathroom.  I think we may bag the nighttime pull-ups as he's had only one accident since being home, the first night.  We'll see.  He currently sleeps in his crib in our room, and seems to take comfort from having us so near. 

Health:  L came home with a sinus infection, a general body rash, and a raging case of athlete's foot all over both feet.  We met with his pediatrician, who prescribed antibiotics for the sinus infection, which is now gone, Cort-Aid for the rash, which is also gone, and prescription cream for his feet. My feeling is that his shoes were rarely, if ever, off in China, and that the athlete's foot is going to take a long time to resolve completely.  But the itchy-burning feeling seems like it has decreased, which also makes for a more peaceful nighttime.  It was driving him crazy, poor little guy.

Limb Deficiency:  L was born without a right hand.  He has a little wrist bone, so can manipulate the end of his forearm just a tad, which helps a surprising amount.  He is extremely adept to figuring out how to make things work, although he seems to be naturally right-handed as he always tries with that arm first.  His brain has created some amazing work-arounds, however, and he can do almost anything with his left.  We've been doing small activities to work on fine-motor skills with the left, such as putting pennies into a piggy bank, and he does just fine.  We have a meeting with limb deficiency doctors in November and are curious to see what their take is.  Some children wear prosthetics, some don't, and some do for certain activities (such as playing guitar) which require two hands.  The first prosthetic most children use, per our pediatrician, is kind of like a scooper, called a "hook".  Thus, we will be able to tell people:

Mah boy's got a good right hook!

(ha ha!  get it?)

Anyway, we'll see what the doctors say and use their guidance to see what next steps, if any, we will take. 

Language: L talks constantly, and is now showing interest in learning English words.  He has his old standbys of "Helllooooo" and "Bye-bye", and has added a few more, including hammer (hammah), kitty (kitt-AY), Maggie (Magg-AY), please (wuh-LAY), thank you (daydoo) and how are you? (hello loooo).  He has a handful more, and is adding to his list daily.  If he has a question, he still adds "ma" on the end of the sentence, which is a question word in Mandarin--if you add "ma", it makes the sentence a question--"Behfast Mama ma" means "Breakfast, Mama?".  It's been such an interesting process.

Work:
Cory went back to work the Monday after we returned, although he worked short days the first three days back---thank goodness.  He's now full-time so we call several times a day and check in.  L loves his daddy, and wonders often where he is, saying "Dada wo-looo" ("Dada's at work").  I go back part-time from home next week, so am trying to enjoy my last maternity leave week.  Sigh. 

And now, pictures!!  For some reason, I can only attach one at a time--so here ya go. 

Brushing teeth is so much fun!







Sunday, September 30, 2012

Home

We are home safe and sound.  After a lovely meeting of family at the airport, we went home to our clean home (thanks, Mom and Dad!) with dinner waiting (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and attempted to get some sleep.  The flight...well, it's over.  Wasn't horrible, wasn't fun...and it's over.  We got through it, and the best feeling ever was passing through customs.  L continues to do well, although sleep is confusing and difficult right now, and will continue to be for a while, I'm sure. 

There's no place like home, and we are so happy to be back as a family of three.

Ok, another attempt at pictures!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Final Day--Packed and Ready

Today was mostly preparations for tomorrow--the Big Flight Home.  We leave our hotel at o-dark-thirty to head to the airport in Guangzhou.  We fly to Beijing, then have a 5-hour layover, then straight to Seattle.  Total travel time from takeoff in Guangzhou to landing in Seattle is around 20 hours, but after we land we get to go home to our own house, with our own rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and animals that we miss tremendously.  The second flight begins at 5PM China time, so we are hoping that after takeoff, a busy day, and some dinner L just may fall asleep.  That's a lot to ask, but here's hoping!

So we are pretty well-packed, other than nightclothes and toiletries, and our suitcases are weighed and zipped up.  We went back the store today to purchase extra toys and snacks so L just maybe can handle such a long flight.  He's also gotten sort of interested in some of the apps we have on our Kindle, so maybe that will help for a minute at a time or so.

We also have his Chinese passport in hand, US visa inside, and a packet of information that we cannot open, but will hand customs in the US as we enter the country.  This will make L a US citizen. 

So this is it!  Come on, USofA!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 6 - Consulate Appt

Today was the Consulate appointment, which is the last official step before we are allowed to return to the US with L in tow.  We were ushered into the US Consulate, which is in a tall office building surrounded by coffee shops and travel agencies, with the main locators being several small signs and a metal detector.  We joined about 30 other families in a large conference room, where we sat for about an hour waiting for the group oath to be taken.  L ate a snack and practiced his new English words ("Hulooooow" and "Bye-bye bus!") while we waited, and then began to play in the small plastic house at the back of the room.

The adoption officer came into the room--or actually, spoke to us over a microphone from behind bulletproof glass--and explained the paperwork we need to enter the US, what the oath means, and next steps.  We all stood up, raised our right hands, and essentially promised that the masses of paperwork we submitted is accurate and honest.  Then each family was asked to come to a window--sort of like at a bank--and go over paperwork and discuss final details.  This was the point where L completely lost it.  I would guess that most families of toddlers avoid places like the DMV for hours on end, and we've been pretty much spending long periods of time in such places for the past 10 days, and he is just done-done-done.  So in the process, he hit Cory and bit him on the shoulder, which are two behaviors we hadn't seen yet (he later checked Cory's shoulder, and kissed it).  So Cory took him to the back of the room, and gave him some crackers, and he quieted down and fell asleep.  The adoption officer helping me asked, "Can your husband handle this situation?" and I said, well, yeah.  He said, in all earnestness, "I would NEVER be able to handle it.  I would just leave it to my wife."  I thought that was pretty funny and surprisingly honest. 

But in the end we got through it fine, and I think this is the last of the big government buildings we will need to hang around at while we are here.  Thank goodness for that.

Tomorrow we pick up L's visa, and other than that, we will just hang out, pack, go to the pool, and enjoy one more day here in Guangzhou. 

One day and a wakeup, and we are on our way home.

:-)



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guangzhou Day 5

Another somewhat tiring but mellow day down.  We spent the morning at a local-ish garden/playground/museum on the outskirts of Guangzhou.  This was supposed to be a quiet, touristy excursion, except that, by my estimate, at least half of China's schoolchildren were also in attendance.  They were adorable in their matching uniforms, and very, very interested in us.  I had the following conversation one or two hundred times this morning:

Child: Hello.  Nice to meet you.
Me: Nice to meet you, too.
Child: What is your name?
Me: Molly.  What is your name?
Child: (insert name)
Child: Have a great day!

Next Child: Hello. Nice to meet you.

And on, and on, and on.  I taught English in China a while back, and remember how important it was to practice skills on actual English-speakers, so it was fine and funny.  L, of course, had to get in on the action by calling "Hulooooooooow!!" to everyone, and the schoolkids responded appropriately  and kindly to him.  So that was especially nice.

We got back in the afternoon, had a late nap, a quick dip in the pool, and an early Cantonese dinner (YUM!!). 

Tomorrow is the day we've been waiting for: our appointment at the Consulate.  This is where we take an oath to take care of L and finish paperwork.  His Chinese passport with a visa to enter the US should be available Thursday, and then we will wing out way back home. 

So, so close.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guangzhou Day 4

Today was another mellow day for us.  We joined up with the other families traveling on our general schedule, and trekked to the medical clinic to have the TB tests read. Everyone passed--one little kiddo in the group was borderline, but all was fine in the end. 

After this, we traveled to Shamian Island, a European area of Guangzhou where the US Consulate used to be located (and thus, where many adopting families would stay).  Shamian Island is quiet, beautiful, and green. While it is very, very humid and hot here, we had a nice stroll along the main area called The Bund, and did a little souvenir shopping.  After lunch at the famous Lucy's, we headed back to our hotel, where L went down for a nap.  He slept badly last night, seemingly having nightmares or night terrors, so a nap was definitely in order.  We are hoping for a better night tonight.

We planned on staying in for a dinner of instant noodles and fruit, and this turned out to be an inadvertently excellent choice.  We ventured out after his nap to Trust Co, which is essentially WalMart, and it began to rain.  Now, we are used to rain--I mean, really used to rain.  This was something else entirely, sheets of downpour turning the roads into rivers.  We quickly finished up our shopping, which included some new construction-vehicle toys and a play bus for L, some new snacks, and wipes (he's potty trained, but is a pretty messy eater at times).  We were soaked by the time we got back to the hotel, which is when the craziness really began.  Lightning and thunder cracked across the sky about every 30 seconds for several hours, the lights flickered, and the rain is still coming down.  We are seeing some flashes now and again, but the fireworks have mostly passed.  This, plus L deciding to take a ginormous poop in the bathtub, made for an exciting evening.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, will be another quiet day.  The group is heading to a park with a big playground on the outskirts of town for the morning while we wait for L's US visa to be processed.

L continues to do well.  He seems interested in us, wants only us to hold him, is concerned when we are not around, and identifies us by Mama and Baba.  He is showing more control issues around food--all of the food on the table is his, right?  He does not stop eating until all of the food is gone, so we are giving him kid-sized portions of everything until he can understand when he is full.   Things to work on.  On the plus side, he's now eating all kinds of veggies and fruit, especially corn, watermelon, peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  We'll keep giving him as many veggies as we can until he realizes he can say no.  We also figured out the name situation, as he doesn't respond to anyone using his name, even native speakers.  I finally showed him a picture of himself, and asked who it was. While the name he used is correct, he pronounces it completely differently from the numerous other versions we've heard--he drops most of the consonants and has a different order of names than we'd seen in the past.  Once we got that down, we've been able to get his attention far more easily. 

So things are fine here in our weird little international adopting world.  L is a joy and we are so fortunate to have him as our son.  He gets cuter by the minute, is outgoing and friendly, and is super smart and interested in everything.  He's amazing, and we are so lucky. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guangzhou Day 3

Today was exactly what we were hoping for, operating entirely on our own schedule.  L slept for about an hour more than we've seen, probably because we weren't up moving around and getting ready for the day.  We took a trip outside to see more of the area, and found (cue chorus of angels) a Starbucks.  It was such a treat, and apparently if you don't specify the type of milk in your latte, it is made with whole.  Yumminess ensued.

We had some lunch in our room, then L went down for a long nap.  This afternoon, we went swimming, and he proved far more daring than yesterday, going in the big pool and leaving the steps while clinging to one of us.  We think he's never really played in water before, but is absolutely loving it.  Tonight we had some dinner, a long bath, some play time, and he's down for the night.  He's a big-time index finger sucker, with his finger sporting a huge callous--and I swear it's a lighter color, as if he's sucked the life right out of it.  But it's a good indication for when he's getting tired, so we can fend off meltdown behavior at least a little bit. 

I think L enjoyed today.  He seemed more relaxed, slept sounder, and was less concerned with us leaving him-- he's gotten upset with the game peek-a-boo in the past week, but today found it highly entertaining.  He has officially learned a new word: "Hu-loooooow!!!", accompanied by a big wave  and is very proud of himself.  He has yet to learn the word "no", but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.  He did throw a hissy fit about losing iPod priviledges after he threw it on the floor, but it was over relatively quickly and we moved on with the day. 

Tomorrow we go back to the clinic to have the TB test read.  As he has had no reaction to the shot, this should go smoothly and quickly. After the clinic, our guide is taking the families to Shamian Island, where the US Consulate used to reside, and which apparently has a European flair.  We have heard a lot about the area, and are excited to see it. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guangzhou Day 2

Today was the dreaded medical appointment for L and the other adoptive parents on a similar schedule to ours.  This took place in an unbelievably crowded medical clinic, and consisted of four different parts: height/weight, ear/nose/throat, surgical, and a TB test.  Older kids also have to have vaccinations, but we can complete these in the US.  We also had his picture taken for his visa. 

The first three stations went flawlessly.  The doctors were fast, and as this was a Chinese clinic, he understood what they were saying.  They used squeaky dog toys to get the kids' attention, and it worked like a charm.  In the surgical station, they measured his limbs and head, checked his skin for problems (he has some "Mongolian spots" on his back, which should fade in time), and looked in his mouth.  L was born without his right hand, so the doctor spent some time looking at the area.  L was happy to oblige, lifting his shirt, taking off his shoes, showing the doctors his new Magnadoodle. 

The TB test was far, far easier than I had anticipated as well.  Those doctors were so incredibly fast, the entire thing was over in about 3 seconds flat.  I'm not kidding--it was amazing.  He started to cry, but it was over and he spent the next 10 minutes inspecting the little bump that comes with the injection, which has since gone away (yay!).  Some of the older kiddos had to have up to 5 vaccinations and had a pretty tough time, so we were grateful that we got off so easy with L.

We got back to the hotel in time for lunch and a nap, then went to the pool for a swim.  This was also a hit, as the hotel has a wading pool with about 2 inches of water in it.  L was scared of the big pool, even when Baba got in, so we'll work on that later.

In the afternoon, the group met to complete the paperwork needed for the visa.  This was quite a process, as everyone's is slightly different depending on their child's individual needs, the province they are from, and their age.  But our guide was patient and thorough, so that information is now out of our hands. 

After a pizza dinner, it was time for the new favorite activity of teeth brushing, then bed.

Tomorrow we have nothing on the schedule as we cannot proceed until the TB test results are ready.  This is very exciting, as it's difficult to continually find things to entertain a busy toddler in government offices, day in and day out.  Our plan is a relaxing day in and around our hotel.  More pool time, naptime on schedule, etc.  We have been counting down to tomorrow since we landed in China, so looking forward to it!




Friday, September 21, 2012

Guangzhou!

We survived our first plane trip!  It went pretty well, overall.  L loves-loves-loves all things transportation, and we realized quickly that he has likely never been beyond the orphanage compound, or least not often, as he is goggle-eyed whenever we leave our hotel.  So planes, trains, buses (oh, the buses!) and cars are just fascinating.  He always wants to touch parked cars and buses (such big wheels!), and the airport was just a wonderful adventure. 

Before boarding our flight, we decided to grab a bite at a cafe in the airport.  At this point, L was on overload, it was past naptime (and boy, is he sleep-scheduled!) so he began to lose it.  Just the average-everyday fit--throwing things, not wanting to eat, etc.  This is when we met The Smartest Woman Alive.  A waitress came over, calmly told him to sit still and she would bring him a treat. The treat turned out to be a plastic plate, a glob of ketchup, and a straw.  She showed him how to dip the straw in the ketchup and suck it off the end.  She was an angel from heaven, I tell you--this woman was absolutely had his number.  He was instantly transfixed, and we were able to have a short meal in peace.  The kid loves him some ketchup, that's for sure.

During the flight he played with his seatbelt, although he never undid it, opened and closed the window and his tray a trillion times, went with Baba to the bathroom, and played with a sticker book.  He was relatively quiet, fascinated by the experience, and ate most of the meal (yes!  a meal on a 2-hour flight!).

It felt strange to leave Xi'an.  As we took off, L was watching out the window and said, "Bye-bye!".  I teared up a little--I really can't describe how it felt.  Our experience in Xi'an was so mixed.  We are so proud to have a little Xi'an boy, and the history and culture of the city is strong and rich.  I want him to learn about his place of birth and appreciate how much of an impact Xi'an has had on world history.  I think we just happened to go at a strange time.  The protests had pretty much taken over the city and we were advised not to leave our hotel unless with an official guide. While things were not openly hostile against us in particular, the hotel often kept the lights off in the lobby and big plants in the windows, armed police were everywhere, and protesters chanted and yelled late in to the night, most nights. The yelling into the bullhorn was loud, and the chanting was inexplicably mixed with extremely loud Christmas music (?).  Air raid sirens went off most of the day of remembrance, and whenever they went off the government officials would close the windows and shades (we were getting our notary services done that day), and people wore all black for most of the week with red arm bands.  I've been to Xi'an before, and absolutely loved it, so I really think it was just strange timing--a highly charged political situation and a difficult anniversary at the same time.  Again, nothing was directed at us (that I know of).  We definitely felt like we were walking on eggshells, but things overall went well there.  We certainly appreciate how hard everyone at the government offices worked to keep us on schedule; they went above and beyond for sure.  The fact that we have his passport in hand is testament to their dedication to their work.

When we landed in Guangzhou, we met our guide at the gate, and she led us to four other families from our agency who are all on roughly the same schedule, and who all came from the same province.  So it was nice to put some faces to names, and to see some others in our shoes.   

Guangzhou feels very different.  Our guide here made sure we were checked in, told us our dinner options, and then left us to it.  It is far larger, and clearly more cosmopolitan. It's hot and sultry here, and the hotel (Garden Hotel) is gorgeous.  We had a yummy local meal, and gave L his first bath.  We've been sponge-bathing him as we had hot water intermittently and only a shower in Xi'an, and a cold-ish shower for a kiddo who is afraid of water seemed like a really bad idea.  But here, hot water is plentiful and the bathtub is HUGE.  He absolutely loved it once I got in with him--we only put about an inch of water with about 5 inches of suds, and slowly added water until he got comfortable.  He is fast asleep now, and we are regrouping for the rest of the week.

Tomorrow, we go to the US Consulate where L has to have a medical exam and TB test.  We will finish his visa paperwork in the afternoon, and the group will have dinner together in the evening (I think).

And here is another attempt at pictures!

A nice, clean L

At the warriors
First meeting

 





Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 5, Xi'an

Yesterday was much smoother and calmer.  We spent time with our knowledgable guide, Tom, who knows the city inside and out.  Xi'an is a major cultural center in China with a rich heritage. It's a city to be proud to be from, for sure.  We saw the city wall, which was beautiful and terrifying to the parents of a two-year-old boy, a Buddhist monastery with a lovely park right in the middle of the city, and the Xi'an City Museum, which traces the influence of Xi'an for the past millenia.  All fascinating stuff, and we are so happy to learn as much as we can about L's city of birth.  We are already looking forward to bringing him back someday. 

We were also successful in obtaining L's passport.  As we were a day behind due to protests and government offices were closed for periods of time over the same issue, we were prepared to extend our stay in China for paperwork purposes.  Somehow our guide was able to persuade the officer in charge to work later into the evening to get ours to us last night, as we fly to Guangzhou today to complete the adoption.  All US adoptions from China end in Guangzhou, as this is where the US Consulate is based. 

Question: Is there anything cuter than a two-year-old passport picture? 
Answer: No, there isn't.

So today, we attempt our first plane trip as parents.  And L leaves the city of his birth.  Again, complicated stuff. 

Wish us luck, and I'll post again from Guangzhou.

(Oh, and I have no idea what is going on with pictures. Maybe internet service will be a tad better in GZ).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 4, Xi'an


Today was long, tiring, wonderful, and difficult.  We started out going to the Terra Cotta Warriors, a national treasure of China.  The displays are excellent, and our guide is extremely knowledgable about the area and history of the museum.  We had a lovely tour, and then an absolutely delicious lunch full of local delicacies.  We busted out the Ergo, and as L is about 2 sizes smaller than we had originally thought, he fit just right and it worked well.  He didn't like it at first, but then realized that he pretty much had my undivided attention, and talked the entire time we were touring--of course, I didn't understand any of it, but this didn't seem to bother him in the least. 

Generally, he continues to do well.  He eats like a champ as long as the food is white.  Add color (ie, veggies, fruit, meat) and it's the universal shaking of hands and head--no, no Mama.  But yogurt, noodles, broth, Cheerios, bao-zi (steamed bread), and dumplings are filling and accessible--we'll deal with the lack of variety when we get home.  He sleeps well, from about 7:30 to 6:00 with a 2-hour nap mid-day.  Of course, travel across the date line will completely hose that, but at least it's a start.  He's been calling us "Mama" and "Baba", although he doesn't answer to any of the names he was called before, nor the nicknames.  Not sure what is up with that.  He gives us kisses, gives occasional hugs, and is very concerned if we leave his sight.  He loves to take things apart, including the remote control, mouse, and flashlight, and is definitely in the dump-and-fill stage. 

We did have a very difficult and somewhat unexpected experience today.  We hoped to see the orphanage that he was in, although we were also told he was in a foster home for a period of time, so we were never quite sure who he lived with, or when.  Our guide said that we could see the orphanage from a distance, maybe take a picture or two, but otherwise foreigners were not permitted to enter.  As it is located on the outskirts of Xi'an, we decided to head there after the Warriors tour. 

We were, however, invited to enter the orphanage itself.  As it generally looks like a government building, we didn't actually realize we were in it (or that we had been invited to enter it--we were big-time clueless at this point) until the foster parents ran out, scooped L up, and started crying and kissing him, and then took him to their apartment.  Because, as it turns out, the foster family actually lives on site in the orphanage itself.  Foster parents each have a small apartment, and the children live with them, which is a wonderful setup as the kids all get the family experience--it was definitely not a Dickensian, please-may-I-have-more kind of situation. At all.  So this clears up the placement question. 

It was also confusing, surprising, and a little shocking.  The Good:  We got little-guy stories about L, and they are pretty funny.  Several people told us that the orphanage director would only visit L when he was sleeping, as he is "too naughty otherwise".  We also got pictures of the three of us with the foster family, saw his bed and apartment, and met some of his friends.  Priceless.   The Difficult:  The transition was awful, heartbreaking. We had anticipated a tough transition the very first time we met him, as we had some indication that we might take L directly from the foster family.  As it turns out, this was not the case, and the original transition went smoothly and relatively happily.  He was attaching a bit, seemed to generally like having us around, etc.  This transition, however, was another story entirely.  He was screaming, the foster family was wailing, and Cory and I were desperately trying to hold it together enough to keep things somewhat upright.  After about an hour post-visit, L was more or less back to his usual self, and we had a nice, very quiet evening. 

I really have no idea how this will play out in the long run.  I know that meeting them was a gift.  Their love for him was absolutely clear, and they told us all sorts of things that we can pass on to him.  We can show him that we made a connection, and tell him about them and how much he was loved and cared for.  We were able to thank them for taking such good care of our son.  And that was also unexpected.  Adoption: the good, the bad, the confusing, the wonderful--it's a mixed bag, to put it mildly.

So, it was a big day.  A big, huge, exhausting, emotional day.  Tomorrow, we pick up his passport and go to a park.  And that's it.  Seems like the intense political situation has eased a bit (we're not going to sleep to the sound of chanting protesters tonight--yay!), so here's hoping tomorrow is easy and quiet.

Anyway, after that long and involved post...a picture!  (I could only post one--the internet connection keeps timing out).

Meeting L for the first time


 




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Then There Were Three

We met L, and he is perfect.  The transition went better than our wildest dreams, as he was clearly very, very loved and taken care of.  He is funny, smart, healthy, and happy.  I'm sure this is the proverbial honeymoon period, but we'll take it.
Welcome to the family, little L!  We can't imagine our lives without you!
We can't upload pictures right now, not sure why, but I will post some as soon as possible.  Just imagine the cutest Chinese boy on Earth, and there ya go.  :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No-Go

So the whole "we're becoming parents in an hour!" bit was, well, a load of hooey.  Turns out, there's a bit of a situation here, where students are protesting in the streets in front of government buildings--ie, in front of our hotel.  Soooo, we were told to stay in our rooms as a "big parade was going by" (hmmm) and we will try to become parents tomorrow, or the next day. 
We are perfectly safe, just incredibly disappointed by the day's events.  We were totally ready, had everything set out as best we could, and got to call literally as we were walking out the door to meet our son.  And, looking out into the streets, there really isn't any way it could have happened.  So, we try again tomorrow.
We stayed in, watched HBO movies, ate some pretty darned good room service, and went to bed.
Sigh.

T-minus 30 minutes

We are here safe and sound. Internet connection is very spotty, but the hotel is nice and the service is excellent.
We meet L in 30 minutes. I can't remotely explain how it feels, so won't try. But should all go as planned, we will be parents in about an hour :-)!!!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

At the airport!

Did you ever think you'd see this day???  Completely surreal. (And I'm posting from my phone so if this looks especially wacky, sorry!)





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RQ List

In the world of Chinese adoption, the Rumor Queen website, AKA ChinaAdoptTalk, is a wonderful resource for information, questions, stories, and support.  There is also a thoughtfully and carefully organized spreadsheet called "Steps to TA (Travel Approval)", which we have ever-so-slowly been working our way up over the last 9 months.  Today the list for this week came out, and we are at the very top, and instead of listing the next steps, it says "Safe Travels!". 


That's us, MSJ2007.  How awesome is that?  It's going to be strange not to analyze the list every week--seeing which families have passed us by, how fast everyone is getting individual documents, and where we are in line.  But I'm ok with that. Very, very ok with that.

Today is my last day of work before (dun dun dun!) maternity leave!  I will be working from home part-time after L comes home, which was more than supported by my employers. 

Two days and a wakeup!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Itinerary

We received our itinerary for our trip, and it's intense.  Two weeks of pretty much straight meetings, appointments, medical assessments.  We have one day off in the second part of the trip, and I have a feeling that will be very, very welcome.

The basics:

9/14-9/15: Travel to Xi'an (Seattle-Beijing-Xi'an)
9/16: Take temporary custody of L
9/17: Sign official adoption paperwork
9/18: Apply for L's passport
9/19: Spend time at significant places in L's life around Xi'an
9/20: Visit orphanage, pick up L's passport
9/21: Fly from Xi'an to Guangzhou.  This is where the US Consulate is located, where all adoptions in China end regardless of agency.
9/22: Medical appointment for L, including TB test and all vaccinations (yikes!)
9/23: Day off
9/24: Medical clinic results
9/25: Paperwork/appointments as needed
9/26: Visa interview/oath at US Consulate
9/27: Pick up L's visa at Consulate
9/28: Fly home (Guangzhou-Beijing-Seattle)

We looked up our hotels, and they both look very nice.  The hotel in Guangzhou is across the street from a Starbucks, which is a huge bonus for these overly-caffeinated Seattle-ites.

We have some luggage, and our major fees are paid.  Now it's on to actual packing. 

Holy freaking smokes.

6 days and a wakeup!


Monday, September 3, 2012

His Room

Warning:  Little Boy room pictures to follow.  Please feel free to skip this post--I've done it plenty of times myself. 

We finished L's room this weekend, and are really happy with how it turned out.  We went with an under-the-sea theme--shocking, I know.  We also tried for soothing colors that aren't too cold--tough with blues, but in Seattle, warmer tones can make a big difference. 

I scored this crib/toddler bed from Craigslist (where has Craigslist been all my life?), which we are leaving as a crib right now, but will change to a toddler bed if that is more appropriate.  We are pretty sure kiddos L's age are still in cribs in the orphanage, but he did spend some time in a foster family, so it's a bit of a mystery as to exactly how he is used to sleeping.  Crib, toddler bed, co-sleeping--whatever works for him, works for us. 




The duvet cover is the one thing I splurged on--it was on sale, but still pricey--it features scuba divers and brightly colored sharks wearing snorkels.  It spoke to me.  And the words on the wall make me happy.

We added some lanterns in the corner--

 
 
 
This Etsy purchase was the first thing I bought for L, and is at the entrance of his room.  In between the larger words "I love you from here to China" are the names of major Chinese cities.  Xi'an, where L has lived most of his life, is listed, as well as the Silk Road (Xi'an was on the Silk Road in days of yore) and Guangzhou, where we will end our adoption process in China.
 
 

 

We created a nice little reading area (complete with cat, but what in our house isn't?).  This chair/ottoman set is the one Cory's dad used to read to him in days of yore.



And last, but not least, is my favorite part of the room: a picture of a fish Cory drew for L.  As an art school graduate, Cory is a talented artist, but has primarily worked in black-and-white.  He branched out in this picture of a Moorfish, which he chose as they are the bearers of happiness. 

 
We are feeling more and more ready to meet L and become his parents.  The condo is clean as a whistle, animals bathed, freezer full, and all of the other little things that are nice to have in place before such a huge change. 

We are officially leaving the 14th--8 months to the day since we got pre-approval to adopt L.

:-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Consulate Appointment

We now officially have a consulate appointment!  We take the oath at the consulate in Guangzhou on September 26, and head home the 28th.  Which means we leave.....

September 14!

As in, 15 days from today.  Within a month, we will be home with our son.

Our To-Do list has changed considerably between a few days ago and now, from "Get cars tuned up and animals vetted early" to "Buy L some more underpants and book airline tickets".  And you know what?  That's perfectly fine by us.

This morning I have The Maternity Leave Conversation with my work, which is such a small organization that we don't qualify for FMLA.  I have one month off per the handbook, 2 weeks of which will be in China.  Putting my new child in full time childcare 2 weeks after coming to the US doesn't really work for me, and I think they understand that.  My bosses are very flexible and supportive, so we will see what happens there.  I think they will work with me--at least, I really hope so!

The best part of this timing?  We won't miss his third birthday.  We get to have him in our home, make his first cake, buy him presents and wrap them in Elmo gift paper, light three candles, and sing him a song.  And Cory becomes a father 24 hours before his 40th birthday. 

Pretty awesome.




Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Travel Approval!

We have travel approval!  It came through yesterday, as did our visas from the consulate in SF.  I'll be happy to have our passports back in hand, which should be Friday. 

This is really happening!

The next step is to request a consulate appointment, which is the last thing we do in China before heading home.  We put in our request yesterday, and the 5 dates we have requested are all in.....September!!!  We thought this was a complete no-go, and were setting our sights much later in the year so are thrilled by the possibility.  We should find out today or tomorrow what the consulate appt (CA) date is, and work backward from there (we need to be there 12 days or so in advance).  There is a huge national holiday the first week of October, so we pretty much need to be in and out by then as everything is closed for celebrations.  Which means that we are likely to have our son within the month.  Hoooooly cow.

Cory turns the big four-oh on September 19, and it has been his dream to meet his son before then.  Fingers and toes crossed that this will be the case.  Here's hoping!

We just had some changes at work in regards to phone/computer systems, and had to re-format our passwords.  Our admin noted that when I was emailing her about the new password formats, I kept typing passport instead of password.  Can I say how out of the game my brain is right now?  :-)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Clearly...

I've got this whole parenting thing licked.

Testing out the new Ergo.  Goose was a trooper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

True Book Title: "Cooking With Pooh"

As in Pooh Bear, who is shown on the cover making cookiesAnd it's still just...grody.  Recently found that little gem amidst old teaching materials and all I have to say is yikes

Anywayyyy....

We sent our little L a care package this week.  It's really hard to decide what to send to prepare an almost-3-year-old for what's coming.  In the end there really isn't any way to, and we know that....but we tried.  So we included:
*Lil People cars--the few pictures we have of him all show him playing with various vehicles so this seemed logical.
*A recordable book called Under the Same Moon.  It's a lovely book, and at least he'll hear our voices.  And yes, it's in English so this idea may be moot, but it's worth a shot.
*A teddy bear--we really should have sent a black dog and three orange cats, but there's time enough for him to learn that he's moving into a virtual petting zoo.
*A picture album--including his room, toys, us, us holding his picture, Maggie, and the cats (Tripper, Dee, and Goose).  I used an online translator to explain each picture, so hopefully it makes a little sense and doesn't turn "Our dog Maggie is nice and gentle!" into "Our dog Maggie has large, slavering teeth and eats little boys for breakfast!". 
*Some stickers to share with his friends.

In other news:

  • Our Article 5 was picked up today and forwarded to Beijing, so we are now officially waiting on travel approval.  This should take 2-4 weeks, but as of tomorrow I will be back to checking my email roughly every 20 seconds, you know, just in case. 
  • Visa requirements for us to enter China have changed as of August 1.  We are trying to figure out what this means, but it looks like we will need confirmed hotels and flights before we can apply for a visa (no longer available through a rush service), which will push everything out further, as we now need a visa to enter China before applying for a Consulate appointment in China (kind of a major part of the process).  US embassies/consulates seem to have different information, however, so it's all a bit up in the air. There is a chance we can apply for a visa with unconfirmed travel, which is what we are attempting with our travel agent.  One more set of instructions to follow and things to figure out...but it still feels pretty darned awesome to actually be talking about travel.   To China.  To pick up our son.  Holy moly, that feels good. 
  • We celebrated our 5 year anniversary last week.  We went diving for Dungeness crab in the beautiful, hot Seattle weather.  The Pacific Northwest may actually redeem itself this year.  We cooked 'em up right on the beach--very fun.  I got pretty crispy, as my gleaming white skin was touched by the sun for more than 30 seconds, but it was totally worth it. 



Come onnnn, travel approval!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cabled!

This morning we received notice that the National Visa Center forwarded our I800 visa information to the US Consulate in China.  The Consulate will review the visa application, and then issue a document that states that everything is in order for the adoption to be completed.  This document is called the Article 5. 

It takes 10 business days for the Article 5 to be completed.  Therefore, since our information will be dropped off tomorrow, it will be picked up on Wednesday, August 15, and then forwarded to Beijing.  After that, we wait for travel approval!

One step closer...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I800 Provisional Approval

One more step down!  We received our I800 (visa for L) provisional approval today--phew!

The next step in the process is to have the National Visa Center cable this information to China to begin paperwork processing there.  While the term "cable" has an official ring to it, this is basically an emailed PDF with a hard copy to follow.

In the next 1-2 weeks, we should receive a copy of the letter that is sent to China, and have chosen to receive it via email rather than waiting for the hard copy.  We still get a hard copy, but an email will shave a few days off, and the faster this can happen, the better.

In the meantime, we are prepping away, trying to view our home through the eyes of a 2-year-old, which means things like moving medications to high, locked areas, reorganizing our pantry to get rid of rickety, old shelves, etc. We're trying to spend lots of time with the furballs, whose lives are about to go to hell in a handbasket.  And, of course, enjoying summer, as the sun is slowly deciding that maybe we are worthy here in Narnia the Pacific Northwest. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Now?

We are ready to hop aboard a plane for Xi’an right now, but there is still a lot that needs to happen.  The next step in the process is our I800 approval.  Back in March we were fingerprinted for a general I800A, which is essentially the immigrant visa that brings L home (he travels home on a Chinese passport, and becomes a US citizen when he crosses through Customs in the US).  The original approval was for a child between ages 1 and 5.  Now that we have approval from China for a specific child, we need the US to approve a visa for him in particular.  This should take 3-5 weeks at current timeframes.  Our paperwork was submitted on 7/10. 
Most likely we will travel in October.  L’s birthday is 10/15, and I admit I’m pretty fixated on being there by that date, if not sooner.  We’re not sure that will happen, but have hope.
So, we’re good.  Waiting is hard, but at this point everyone who got to have an opinion on our ability to parent little L (our agency, the Dept of Homeland Security, and the Chinese government) have made their decisions.  The rest is just processing, and so far seems to be a bit easier to take than will they or won’t they question. 
In the meantime, we are re-motivated to finish our library of parenting and adoption-related books, getting our condo ready for a toddler, and figuring out leave/work issues for when the time comes (we both work for teensy companies, so don’t qualify for any leave time per FMLA.  Tricky stuff.) 
Thank you all for your kind words and emails.  It means so much to know we have folks in our corner. 
J



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

El Oh Aye

LOA.

Letter of Approval.

We got The Call yesterday, and are officially approved to adopt our little boy.  I left work for the day--it's hard to type when your hands won't stop shaking and your brain has turned off.

Then we were emailed this form:


(Identifying info removed as this is on the internet 'nstuff)















which makes it all very, very official.  His name and birthdate are on it, as are ours. 

It's hard to wrap our minds around, really.  After the road we have been on, to actually think about planning for him...it's wonderful and amazing. I really don't know what to say beyond that. 

Fortune has smiled upon us. 

We are so, so very lucky.


 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Out of translation

We are officially out of translation.  We are now waiting on our letter of acceptance, or LOA, which can take 1-8 weeks.  The LOA document will mean that in the eyes of the Chinese government, we will be Little Guys parents.

So, you know, kind of a big deal.

We're waiting on tenterhooks over here.  It's scary.  And wonderful.  And scary.

But wonderful.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Quick Update (of pretty much nuthin')

I’ve had a few emails, etc, so just an update to say we are still waiting, waiting, waiting.  There are two steps to this particular part of the Great Wait for Approval: translation and LOA.  We are currently in translation, which means our dossier is, well, being translated into Mandarin.  Once that is done, our agency will notify us, and I will begin biting my fingernails again, because that is the actual LOA (Letter of Approval) wait.  The time between translation and LOA is usually 3-4 weeks—could be more, could be less. 
So, for now, we are doing our best to keep as busy as possible, and honestly are doing all right with this part of the wait.  So far.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d hop on a plane tomorrow if I could, but ‘tis not an option.  Another month and I’ll be climbing the walls, but for now, just hanging in there.
 So…how’s that for a boring update?  
J

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Finding Ad

We received something truly amazing in the mail yesterday. 
Virtually all adoptions in China are abandonments, so “finding ads”, or ads placed in newspapers that identify found children, are required before a child is placed for adoption.  This should give families a chance to find their children if indeed a child was lost or taken.  Of course, as with many aspects of adoption, the horror stories of finding ads being placed far away from a child’s hometown or after a child has been adopted out of the country are forefront in everyone’s minds. 
We hired a researcher to look for Little Guys finding ad, and he found it fairly quickly.  We received it in the mail yesterday, with a translation.  A few things stood out:
*We received the actual newspaper containing his finding ad.  The actual newspaper, not a copy.  And it’s a national paper, from his hometown, and printed about 3 months after he was found.  Holy cow.
*The story in the ad absolutely matches up to what we were told. 
And the big one.  Huge.  Enormous.
It contains a picture of him as an infant.
Be still, my heart. 
We now have an infant picture.   We never thought we would have something this important. 
We are so, so happy and so, so fortunate. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

LID

We are officially logged in!  Our LID (Logged In Date) is today! 

Next steps?  In the next 2-4 months we will (hopefully!) get our LOA, or Letter of Approval.  I can't think much beyond that. 

Until then?  We have lots of money to save, lots of things to get ready, and lots of books to read on toddlers, adoption, special needs and all things pertinent to Little Guy.  We will continue to spend inordinate amounts of time talking about him, wondering about him, and planning for him. 

And, of course, hoping for fast and careful bureaucratic processes.



Friday, April 13, 2012

DTC

We are officially Dossier-To-China today.  This means that our paperwork was approved by the powers-that-be in the US and was re-approved by various Chinese Embassies here in the States.  We are taking this as a good sign.
Next step: our paperwork is “logged in”, meaning that it is officially there and the officials in charge of adoptions are starting to work on it—getting it translated, etc.  After that, we hope for an approval notice.  This will likely take 3-6 months.
And so we wait.
And, just a little bit, to hope. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fingerprint Approval (Updated-yay hand surgeon!)

Our immigration approval came today--phew!!  One more thing to check off our list.

Next? 

Tomorrow our dossier documents from Washington, including a "true and exact" copy of our immigration approval letter, go to the Secretary of State in Olympia to be "verified".  This means that they have the seal of the Secretary of State attached to prove their authenticity.

When those documents are received back, we send the WA and CA documents to the Emba.ssy of the PRC in San Francisco to be authenticated there. 

After this, the entire kit and kaboodle will go to China, where it will be (eventually) logged in, and a final decision about our case will be made (this also takes quite a while).

I was going to drive our docs down to Olympia myself, but my darling hubs had a bit of an incident at work wherein part of his ring finger got chopped off (well, it's dangling).  So he's off for a fairly disgusting surgery tomorrow wherein they will sew two fingers together for a while to try to save the ring finger--something about blood flow to the cut-off portion. (Note: When we got married, my father-in-law said to me, "Welcome to the family.  It'll never be dull."  He was absolutely, totally and completely correct!)  We have a lot of faith in the hand surgeon, so hopefully all will go well.

Happy Friday!

(Update:  Surprisingly, the hand surgeon was able to reassemble Cory's finger without using skin from another finger, and he is on the mend.  YAY!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Waiting Weekend

Thursday and Friday of last week I called to check on the status of our fingerprints.  Hey, I'm a taxpayer and those things are darned expensive, so I feel like I can give a little ringy-dingy now and again.  Also, our case manager is heading out to a well-deserved 2-week vacay, so I really wanted to give her an update and develop a plan before she left as a lot happens really quickly once the approval document is received.  So anyway, when I called on Thursday, the woman who answered the helpline said that our fingerprints were "under review" and to call back Friday.  I called back Friday, was transferred to the officer in charge of our case, who was surprised I was calling as we weren't scheduled to be fingerprinted until 3/27, right?  True, that was our original fingerprinting date, but we were able to get in early (like, over 2 weeks ago!), which he had not been informed of because I hadn't called to tell him.  Was I supposed to do that?  That seems like an internal process to me, but of course I am in absolutely NO position to question the powers-that-be, so just was a nice as humanly possible and got off the phone.  He said that maybe he could bump us up, but I'm not betting on it.  So I guess getting in early was fairly pointless in the end, but it is what it is.

So we decided to go into denial mode this weekend, and pretend we are a normal, not-waiting, not-watching-every-penny couple and actually have some fun.  Mother Nature smiled on the Pacific Northwest this weekend with blue skies and sunshine.  On Sunday we spent the day diving in Edmonds, which is just north of Seattle and which hosts an underwater dive park with sunken boats and such.  We did 2 dives and they were unbelievable--everything from 4-foot starfish, 5-foot ling cod, octos and beautiful anemones.  It was much more challenging than any other dive we've done, as the park starts quite a ways out from shore and swimming with an inflated vest is actually really hard.  Sunken boats screw up compasses, so we did get turned around a bit, but the entire park is marked by rope lines so we just followed those back.  The advantage was that it is really shallow, and we never got lower than 32 feet. 

So a really fun weekend in the midst of it all, which was very much needed.

It was also my sister's b-day so a shout out to her--Happy Birthday, Amy!


The SUN!  My eyes!  My eyes!


Such a beautiful day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Answers

We got some short answers from our many, many, many questions today.  I can't write anything particularly identifying, but here are some highlights:

*His favorite food is "snakes". Mmmmm!
*He's seriously HUGE.  So quite possibly older than we thought?  I think I need to start doing pushups.
*He is "irritable", "restless", and "active".  Well, he is two....

We did not receive pictures, but maybe at some point some will come through. 

We also found out that his name was completely wrong. It was very close, but has been written in a variety of orders and spellings.  However, his nickname confirms (for now) what his name actually is.  It may change again, who knows? 

Happy (early) St. Paddy's Day!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fingerprinted!

We got our fingerprinting appointment letter in the mail a few days ago and, although the appointment wasn’t for another 3 weeks, we scurried on down to US.CIS today to have them done.  They accommodated us after I shamelessly flashed Little Guy’s picture to everyone in sight, and we are finished with that step.
This was a much better experience than our last fingerprinting date, which took place March 1, 2011 (for the Ethiopia program).  The woman who was working with me casually asked, “Where are you adopting from?”  When I replied that we were applying for Ethiopia, she thought for a second, and then said “Didn’t they close that program this morning?”  My heart fell into my toes and I thought, You know what? They probably did.  And while the program wasn’t actually closed, we all know what happened next.
Anyway, onward and upward!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Yummy

While we wait on our fingerprinting appointment, I've decided to spend some time learning more about the Chinese culture, especially in the nom-nom-nom category.  This weekend I tried a new favorite, Chinese Beef (which I think is a take on Mongolian Beef).  It would be amazing with tofu, chicken or shrimp as well. 

_______________________________________________________________________
Ingredients:
Sauce
2 tsp. Hot chili sesame oil (I'm a spice wimp and this was right on the edge of being too spicy)
1 tbsp. Garlic, chopped (I doubled this)
1/2 tsp. Ginger, minced (I doubled this)
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

Meat
3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 lb. Flank Steak, cut into 1/4” thin strips
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
1 large Green Onions

Directions:
Over Medium/Low heat, add 2 tsp. of vegetable oil to the wok.  Add the garlic, ginger, water, and soy sauce.

Dissolve the brown sugar, and raise the heat to medium to boil for 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  And remove from the heat.

Dip the steak into cornstarch, a thin dusting to coat the steak.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Heat up the vegetable oil in the wok, and add the beef and stir-fry for 2 minutes. 

With a slotted spoon, take out the meat, and lay it onto paper towels and pour the oil out of the wok.

Place the meat back into the wok, and let simmer for a minute, add the sauce and cook for a minute longer.

Then add the onions and cook for another minute.

Remove and serve with rice.

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We are both pretty in love with this recipe, and I think it will become a regular menu item.

Enjoy!