We did a lot of preparation for our trip to China. When your mind is in that adoption fog and you are excited, scared etc all at once trying to nail down details is a little nutty.
One of the things I did was buy a “deal” for Freshly and have 12 meals delivered the day we arrived home and the following week. This is a HUGE help and one you can really use because you are tired and cranky on the return and having to figure out food is just an added annoyance. Some of you may have friends, family or neighbors willing to do this for you, but if you don’t seriously consider getting the food figured out before you hit the road.
We had stocked up on baby food pouches, puffs, toddler formula and teething biscuits for when we returned. I purchased a Foodii and steamed a ton of apples, pears and yams, added them to the Foodii pouches and froze them all to add to my supply of baby food.
I also found a sale on Little Tikes Cozy Coupe cars and Little Tikes shopping carts, they were delivered while we were gone so I had Carl put them together for us. Apparently there was a lot of cussing during assembly. Glad I missed that.
We arranged to have a car service pick us up and take us to the airport in a town car and then pick us up and bring us back in an SUV when we got back from China. We ordered two full car seats for that return pick up. This was we were not relying on a friend or family member to have enough space of get our seats installed correctly etc. You can check out my review of Seattle Town Car & Airport Shuttle here on Yelp. Believe me the return trip was not so great.
We set up VPN services so we could keep in touch with family and friends following along on Facebook. We bought an unlocked Apple iPhone S4 on eBay as a travel phone and had a China Unicom chip from 3G Solutions in China sent to our hotel for when we checked in. It was easy. We set up the VPN on the phone before heading out too. I bought extra data and minutes and I probably didn’t need to, I did however use it often. We packed a power brick with us every day just in case.
We ordered meals for our toddlers for the flight home. Pro tip: If you have a one year old and a two year old.. order both of them the baby meal. They will not eat the horrendous “toddler meal”. We flew Delta.. so Baby meal all the way.
We booked a guide and driver for our time in Beijing. David Wang came very recommended. I know some agencies insist on providing a guide (and charging you for this) I liked doing it myself, I was able to communicate with David in advance and things went very well. I also liked that David had previously worked in the adoption industry as a guide so he knew what we would be seeing in the next few days. I felt like he was not only personable & friendly but very knowledgeable and just an all around nice person.
I know it has been a while since we have posted.. I am going to try to catch you all up on our trip, and all the things that have happened since.
Our gal with the agency actually went into the office at midnight last night to check on our Travel Approval. How awesome is that? It had finally been uploaded to the system and she immediately wrote to the US consulate in China and secured our consulate appointment.
We got that news on the way home from Ganga’s house last night after having Pho and watching the most recent Game of Thrones. The pho was from Pho King in Tacoma (always good), The Game of Thrones was pretty shocking. I do not feel like this season has stayed true to the spirit of the rest of the George R R Martin books. I can’t wait to see what George R R Martin actually does when his book comes out.
I got several e-mails from the travel coordinator and I was a little annoyed that apparently the provincial guide gets to book your travel. We had booked our own hotels with points and now this gal was trying to get me to cancel and pay in cash. Um no. I said this is a way we are affording the adoption is to be able to cover our hotel expenses with points. Then I find out the provincial guide who get PAID to be our guide AND who gets required tips also wants to book the hotel so they can add 10% or so on. Just ridiculous. At this point we still owe the agency another $5500, plus the airfare for in country travel, and it isn’t like I am going to miss a meal anytime soon right?
I am still test packing, weighing and trying to whittle down. We are allowed 44 pounds on in country flights. Man that other 6 pounds that we are allowed on the US flights makes a HUGE difference. I have crap all over the girls’ room. ALL.OVER.
Then this morning, we got some really amazing news. We were awarded a $5000 grant from A Child Waits Foundation. WHOO HOO They are sending a check overnight to the agency. I nearly burst into tears when I got that call, we are so happy and relieved. The trip will be much less stressful now.
Later in the day I saw a little post from Andrea, the advocate that helped us with Gabby. Her husband Eric posted the most beautiful and eloquent message to any husbands out there, I am re-posting Eric’s words here with permission:
Hopefully there will be a husband out there that will be smart enough to follow his wife’s lead, like I have 5 times, and will understand what a great decision it is to say “yes”. He will think he is saying yes and thus saving a life, when in reality he is saying yes to his own happiness and the life and soul saved is his own. So if you are considering this child or know someone who is, and if you or your husband have fears, I challenge you to let go of the fear based decision making and choose a path of happiness that you fight for. This path brings never ending gifts and eliminates complacency. You will never take your family for granted. You will appreciate the time you have with your wife and children. Even food tastes a little better.
I promise you the road may look rough but what a beautiful path it is. All you have to do is take the first step.
Pass that on to any husbands that are on the fence. I will leave it there and post my progress tomorrow of Sunday. The countdown is ON folks!!
Article 5 drop off happened in Guangzhou (at the US Consulate) on and then out Article 5 was picked up on and sent off to the CCCWA in Beijing. We are an expedite so our paperwork was processed without the DS-260. Let me tell you what an annoying document that is. I tried two, three, four times a day and I kept getting a message as if it was not in the system. I spoke to the Consulate and they said it was a WORLDWIDE issue (now this issue has been going on for WEEKS), I am pretty appalled no ones head is on a spike (I know I know I’ve been watching entirely too much Game of Thrones), I think Microsoft should send a Tech envoy to fix this mess. In all of it a gal named Brenda at the US consulate in Guangzhou has been helping us (super nice gal, I hope I get to meet her in person). I *FINALLY* got both our DS-260’s done late last night. I hope I didn’t screw anything up. Everyone is relieved.
I asked about our dates and our agency gal said we could relax because Gabby’s medical update was so good. I really wish that was true but in reality it only means that there is no more organ damage going on currently and that we will not have to hassle with hauling oxygen from the US. Oxygen is not allowed on any domestic Chinese flights so it would be a total nightmare logistically and we would need to take the bullet train everywhere. This is fabulous if the train ride is not 14 hours. The plan was to leave on Wednesday the 17th.. yes of June. We will end up having to push it back one week because apparently even though we are an expedite it is going to take 15 days after TA is issued for the passports to be ready. PPFFTT. That make zero sense.
I am annoyed because we have to change the days and we lost the great room we had. Not happy.
I have not heard anything from A Child Waits Foundation, still hoping for pixie dust.
We got 2 bright orange big girl chairs, I think I need more! The P’kolino Little Reader Chairs are perfect, small and lightweight. I fear the girls will need to fight to use the chairs. The only one that has not gone over to hang out in one is Ginger. Those chairs are the perfect size for the dogs!
I’m ready to just get on with it. Almost everything is packed and ready to go.
I have a dirty mouth sometimes. We have all been having that issue so a year ago I started a swear jar. Recently we took all the proceeds to the CoinStar machine and got an Amazon gift card. It was $75.25! That is a LOT of swearing! Bethany had been saving change and took hers at the same time and got about $74.00 for an Amazon gift card.
With the 75.00 we got the girls each a Little Tikes shopping cart (they were on sale), I picked 2 pack and play sheets because now that my sewing machine blew up I have no way to finish the sheets I was making. We also bought a tall gate with a pet door so the girls can not get to the piddle pad area in the laundry room.
We are chipping away at the things we will need but it seems like there are so many things on that list. Some things are REALLY important like the blackout shades from BlackoutEZ Window Covers, Cool Mist humidifier, a ton of cloth all in one diapers, A food steamer so I can start doing the food pouches, the seat organizers for the car, you know the ones you need because if you do not install this little bit of organization you will never find anything in the car.. E.V.E.R, then there are the other things that might not be quite as important like more books, large bath toy bag, a learning table, beach toys, more little people toys etc.. I feel like I do not have enough toys for two kids. Christmas and Both Birthdays will be racing towards us quickly after we get home (which Paul keeps reminding me). I just can’t help but be nervous. I will add a book to every order from here on in. I want the girls to enjoy books.
Saturday May 30th Ganga took us to lunch at Salty’s at Redondo Beach. We all left starving of course (Salty’s what happened?). The food was perfect and delicious but the portions were teeny. I’m not even a big eater, I can imagine Paul was just completely famished. Later we attended Bethany’s Act 6 send off at the Pacific Grill. It was just a bad day for food.
The Act6 get together was nice, we sat with Meena and her family. Meena has been Bethany’s roomie and cohort for sometime now. I’m really proud of those girls, they are so smart, dedicated and tenacious. I did not cry (but it was close). Meena’s baby sister gave the best speech out of everyone in attendance (this is a future Act6 alumni I tell you). Everyone thought the Act6 deal was a dinner, it was held at 6:30pm at the Pacific Grill, but it was only sweets and coffee. By the time we left we were really hungry and Bethany swears she was near death. Bethany said no to Pho (this is what happens when you have too much micro biology), so we drove down to Claim Jumper thinking it had been really spectacular a few days before. Yeah.. the bad food omen continued. Our steaks were WAAAYY overcooked. Oh.. I seem to have ordered shoe leather. Lovely. Paul was so hungry he ate his right then even though it took 10 minutes to chew each and every bite. NASTY. I should have just bit the bullet and gone home and made something myself.
ON June 1st we took Bethany to the airport. I hate it when she leaves and I pretty much fall to pieces every time and sob in the car. This time Carl came with us and continually harassed Bethany about the lack of Asensio coffee he had been promised for carting her crap out of the dorm apartment and helping her out. That helped. I had a lump in my throat but Carl’s continual banter with Bethany helped make things funny. I hated to see her go, not because its a bad thing, but because I don’t know when I will see her again.
I mentioned I did a test pack earlier.. yeah, I am trying to weed a few things out. I have been advised that eating Gluten Free in China is nearly impossible so bring a lot of snacks. Um ok.. where will those go? Can we go back and talk about that Adoption Sherpa idea.. seriously I need one.
Hard LOA arrived Friday, our agency also has us sign another set of referral papers basically stating we accept this child with this issue. At the same time we received the next bill. I nearly swallowed my tongue. You know its coming, you know you have to pay it, but seeing it on paper was a different deal. It was a total shock! Breathe in, Breathe out..
We got a call from A Child Waits Foundation, they are considering us for a grant. Keep your fingers crossed! They can award up to 10K. Every dime helps at this point. We have one more bill from our agency coming sometime soon for around $5500 for placement fees and the post placement fee.
Our I800 approval letter arrived and the packet from USCIS to the NVC (National Visa Center) was supposed to have gone out on 5/29 via UPS but it did not. After 3 calls and 45 e-mails it went out 6/1 and was received today at 10:11 am. Next step our congressman will call the special congress only BAT PHONE at the NVC to assist us. We are waiting for the PDF with our information to fill out the DS260. So that can go to the US consulate in Guangzhou.
Our Hard LOA has already been sent to the agency rep in Guangzhou for the Article 5 drop off and will arrive tomorrow (or actually tonight because they are 15 hours ahead of us). We still need that PDF from the NVC to complete it but that can be e-mailed.
Our Chinese Visa’s have been processed and our passports were sent back to us yesterday. We used There’s Always Hope, and the turnaround was LIGHTENING FAST!
I found out we have another wrinkle with our proposed dates. Apparently my travel itinerary included the Dragon Boat Festival which is a national holiday in China. UGH. The China rep is contacting the folks at the first SWI to see if they will do a hotel drop off or what we can do about it.
That’s it for now.. but that was a lot right?
I have been collecting things for our adoption trip for a while now. Today I hauled both suitcases (Eagle Creek Tarmac Bags) and our carry ons (Ebags Motherlode Jr. Backpacks) into the girls’ room and started dividing things up and tossing them in. I *think* we will also haul the Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared Diaper Bag so that we have it for the return trip. Plus I can carry all the crap will will need when we do our first pick up in Nanjing instead of putting it in the suitcase just in case our bags go missing. I will look like a total idiot with a huge diaper bag and no kids, but who cares.
I am pretty sure we are not going to have enough room for our stuff after all the kid crap gets put in there, and I have decided we seriously need an Adoption Sherpa. Do they have those? Hey good business idea! Organize the crazy adoptive parents.
I know a bunch of crap will be used up the first week (diapers, wipes, and all the gifts for the provincial officials, orphanage director, nanny, guide and driver), but we will also probably add a few souvenirs to the suitcase. Each suitcase can weigh no more than 44 pounds for all domestic flights in China. AARRGGHH
Our plan is to go to Beijing a couple days in advance to try to acclimate to the time change and hopefully not be a hot mess when we get Isabella. We would also like to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. My number one thing would be the Terracotta warriors in Xian but I am not sure we can do it. It is another flight or train ride but the things I have seen on the warriors is INCREDIBLE.
Tentatively we will leave in about 20 days. Yeah.. from today. We will get daughter Isabella first on a Monday and then Gabriella on a Wednesday. In less than a month we will be going from a family of 5 to a family of 7.
Hard LOA arrived at our agency today, they scanned a copy over, we signed and sent it back and a copy to Denise the courier getting our Chinese Visas (There’s Always Hope) for us and a copy to our USCIS officer so we can get our I800 approval and send our packet on to the NVC.
I called the International Adoption Clinic and they are mailing prescriptions for the kids. We have also been trying to get Maria Cantwell’s office to help us with the NVC step. They have never done this before and are looking at it as an immigration case and not an adoption. We are hoping for the best.
My to-do list is taller than I am. Tomorrow we will run to the base and grab a few things from there. We should also receive the hard copy of the LOA which we will sign, notarize and return so the agency has it Monday bright and early to go out to China for our Article 5 Drop off in Guangzhou!!
I spoke to a Katie over at Adoption Airfare and she found us great flights. I am really worried about purchasing them because what if something goes wrong?!? Always a possibility right?
We are looking for a car company to pick all of us up from the airport on our return (they would need to provide two car seats) I sent a bunch of inquiries out and got one back in less than 5 minutes. AWESOME! The super quick response was from Seattle Town car and Airport Shuttle. I think we will go with them.
We have made tentative reservations for Guangzhou and Hong Kong. We still need reservations in Beijing, Nanjing and Chengdu. and MAYBE Xian (I am still thinking about those Terracotta Warriors).
So what do you think? Adoption Sherpa.. its a great idea right?
We were issued LOA (AKA Soft LOA) on May 25th. Usually the hard copy LOA shows up a couple days later. Our gal at he agency called DHL and they told her it will not be to the agency until tomorrow. AARRGGHH
I got on to our expedite group and the feeling is that we should travel about 14 days after hard LOA. Wait what? Mind you this is NOT what the agency is saying. Breathe in, Breathe out.
We have the last bit of the financing figured out thanks to Paul’s family.. and not a minute too soon. Can you believe it!?!? We could leave as soon as 14 days from tomorrow. Breathe in, Breathe out. FOURTEEN DAYS!?!? I have no earthly idea where the time went. It was taking forever and all of a sudden BAM, it is about time to PACK.
Wait I don’t have enough books and I probably don’t have enough toys. I’m not done sewing the crib rail covers (my machine FREAKED out today half way through the first one and now I have no idea what the issue is so I will need to take it to be looked at), and I haven’t even started the pack and play sheets. AARRGGHH. I do not feel prepared. I listened to videos and read about Parenting with connection.. but it isn’t sticking yet.
There are a million things on my To Do list.. I am FREAKING OUT.
We requested an update through Bridge of Love, which I think is part of the CCCWA. I wanted to use the same company (Ladybugs and Love) we used before but another family at our agency did something with a third party provider (not the one we used) and apparently it caused a HUGE ordeal. So I chose the safe path and used Bridge of Love for this update.
We only needed an update on little Miss Gabby girl to see if she is on oxygen etc. Thankfully she is not but she is having an issue with bronchitis and is having medication and treatment for that issue.
As part of our update we requested and paid for pictures. They sent pictures of her holding our picture (so they have told her she has a family coming to get her!).
We are going to use Ladybugs and Love to both girls a care package this week. I’ve been working on a letter to send to the director of each orphanage. Its hard to know exactly what we want to say. I’m going to include a thumb drive and a toddler soft photo book with 6 pictures inside.
There are a lot of options when it comes to care packages and I had one idea originally but after reading what others have said we chose NOT to send stuffed toys, blankets etc. I feel like those things are hard to keep track of and keep clean for the orphanage staff (we don’t want to cause even more work for them). It also marks our girls as kids who have a family when they get a ton of “special items”. It might make US feel better to send a large package but I don’t want either girl to be singled out by an older child that was not chosen or not eligible for adoption. We also recently learned that some orphanage workers were orphans themselves and sometimes feel bitter when a child is chosen for adoption. That is horribly sad.
Do you just adore Gabriella’s sweet little face?
We got word this past week that our dossier is in “Matching” status, which is a little strange since we are actually matched with and have PA (Preliminary Approval) for two girls already .
The next step is when they send that LSC or Letter Seeking Confirmation, AKA LOA (Letter of Approval). I’m told this should happen next week if recent history is any indication. I have my fingers crossed.
The other thing that happened on the same day we found out our dossier was in “matching” status, was that USCIS reviewed our I-800 and sent out a RFE (Request for Evidence). We were issued an RFE as we sent our I-800 without the LOA attached. They give you a certain number of days to submit an answer to the RFE (Ours will be able to be scanned in an e-mailed because we are expediting for Gabby).
As soon as we have LOA (Letter of Acceptance) Paul and I will apply for our Visa’s to enter China.
After that step with USCIS and they have our LOA, they send our information to the NVC (National Visa Center) so we can get the girls processed through them and all our information goes on to the US consulate in Guangzhou, China so they are ready for us when we arrive for our consulate appointment towards the end of our trip.
The step after LOA from the CCCWA will be when we are issued TA or Travel Approval.
Steps on both sides happen simultaneously, its a little crazy. You try to “manage” the some of the steps remotely.. sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t. This is where you need to cross your fingers!
I’m so glad we are moving along, we are very excited to get moving (and a little terrified). I joined an online parenting group to try to change my rather ingrained parenting style to something more for the child from an orphanage background. I think that will be difficult but necessary.
This week I have done a round of Asian inspired meals and it worked out perfectly. I know we will need to incorporate more familiar food for the girls when they arrive so I better get working on my recipes.
Sunday I made three pounds of Asian Style Pork Meatballs. I did not brown them in the pan, I did bake them in the oven until they were done. I like things quick and dirty, I don’t have time for finesse. I served those with Chicken fried “rice” (cauliflower rice). I made a large batch (I needed lunches for Paul, Carl and Bethany, plus I can use it in a second dinner).
The next night I served Honey Soy Asian Beef over some of the left over Chicken fried “rice” from the night before. That one was easy because all I had to do was slap it in the crockpot toss the sauce on and forget it. I would advise not cooking it for the entire 8 hours.. probably more like low for 6. Then check the temperature. I think ours would have been done at that time. I did use real honey, you can use the low carb version if you so choose.
The next night I used up the rest of the Asian Style Pork Meatballs in Potsticker Meatball Asian Noodle Soup. That was also delicious. I love I Breathe I’m Hungry blog anyway. That soup was really good. I wish I had taken pictures of it. I know.. fail. I missed the soup, the meatballs and the beef. In my defense the beef was NOT pretty, it tasted good but it was not winning any beauty contest.
At the same time I made Pork Lo Mein and as soon as it was done I put it in a baking dish and slapped it into the fridge for tonight’s dinner. I used a good 2 pounds of pork for it and 2 packages of the Pasta Zero noodles. All the meals I’ve made (all for the first time this week) got good marks from everyone. My favorite was the Pork Lo Mein. DELICIOUS!!
I have put links to the Pinterest pins with the recipes.
What a total disaster! We had a plan to fund our adoption, we also had a back up plan. Plan A and Plan B blew up, we moved on to Plan C (okay so it was not a plan until Plan B exploded, but at least we had an option) and decided to re-finance the house. We could get the rest of the cash out and complete the adoption. Not ideal but we are working with an expedited timeline.
Our guy orders the VA appraisal and the morning of the appraisal this guy shows up. He just radiates jackass. The appraiser is BARELY civil, he doesn’t like the house, the neighborhood, our dogs (who were penned in the guest room), he was not a fan of adoption or kids (not sure). He missed an entire room of the house, he was just a jerk.
Paul and I both had a bad feeling about the entire ordeal. Fast forward and the appraisal came back more than 30K LESS than it had just a couple months ago, we appealed the appraisal with the VA and won that first part. We were good and they would enter the amount from the last appraisal. Big Sigh.
What we did not know is that all of the appeals have to go through a “VA desk review” with an auditor. A desk review is exactly like it sounds. Some paper pusher in another state decides if this is ok or not. We got a call Friday morning (we had an appointment to sign that evening) that the “desk review” went badly and the paper pusher decided against us because no comps in our area have sold in the last three months. Newsflash there are NO COMPS for this house in the area. ZERO, ZIP, NADA… Our house is overbuilt for the area, I will concede that point. EVERYONE knows the house because it is the only 2 story with pillars in the entire area. It has by far the most square footage and the most design detail. We ended up only getting half of the money we need to complete the adoption. We are freaking out. We thought we were good having a Plan A and a Plan B… you can NEVER have enough back up plans.
We got a call (just before we heard about the desk review) that our application for a grant was going to be put before the board. So keep your fingers crossed that grant works out. We paid for the Resources for Adoption toolkit and ended up only qualifying for a couple of grants. This is a great resource but we just did not fall into one of the bigger more popular grant groups.
For those of you just starting to think about adoption… seriously nail it down as best you can before you start. Have a back up plan (or 3- JUST IN CASE). The stress is crazy.
If you are in the Seattle/Tacoma area we do have several nice items available:
New GE Advantium Oven $400 (Paid $650), New in Box Lime Bumbo with Playtable $35 (Paid $49), and a New Fisher Price SnugaMonkey Swing $125 (Paid $159). We also have a hospital bed $100, recumbent exercise bike $25.