Thursday, January 30, 2014

Update (kind of) - Fingerprints, I-800, Home Projects, and Packing List

Happy Chinese New Year! This 2 week holiday begins tomorrow in China. The first week is designated to be spent with family and friends. The 2nd week involves traditions to bring good luck.

It has been 22 days since we got “The Call.” I will say that those 22 days have gone by super-fast for the most part. I will also tell you that it is all still really surreal. I think that is because it has been such a long journey to this point with many ups and downs, twists and turns. A lot has happened in our lives during those 7 years. I keep thinking, “Is this really happening?” It is also a “hurry up and wait” exercise. We rush around and do paperwork as quickly as possible, and then wait. When we get the next round of approvals, we will rush around and do paperwork, and wait again. And, on and on….you get the idea. I’ve heard all my life, “Be careful what you wish for,” and I think that holds true. Many, many years ago, I prayed that God would give me more patience. I think He heard my prayer and has taught me a 7-year lesson in patience. (I’m still not very good at it, by the way.) Waiting is hard, folks…..really heard…especially when you know that there is a precious 2 year old little girl in an orphanage waiting for you to come and get her. Tomorrow starts Chinese New Year. I wonder if they are celebrating. I wonder what she's doing right now….I wonder a lot these days.

 We sent her a care package last week through our adoption agency. I put together a photo album with names in English and Chinese, as well as a monogrammed lovey, and a disposable camera. (One adoptive mother suggested that we send the camera, which I thought was a great idea.) But, I’ll tell ya….those are hard to find in the digital camera era! We don’t know if Olivia will get the package, but we wanted to send it just in case. Perhaps she can start learning what we look like and be able to better recognize us when we get there! Anything we can do now to let her know that she is loved is worth it. 

A sweet college friend of mine and I reconnected a couple of months ago. She adopted a little girl from China in March of 2013. She was sweet to organize a little get-together with a few other people who have either gone through the process or are going through the process right now. It was wonderful to hear what these ladies had to say and for them to answer our questions. I know that they will prove to be wonderful resources as the girls grow up.   What a blessing!

I wish I had more of an update for you, but I really don’t. The only update I can tell you is that I talked with someone in the adoption unit of USCIS (US Citizen and Immigration Services) earlier this week. He gave me our appointment date to be re-fingerprinted. Our fingerprints are only good for 15 months and expire on 2/20, and they have to be up-to-date when we come home. Our fingerprint appointment is set for 2/11 at the USCIS office near the Nashville Airport. This may unfortunately delay our approval slightly longer than I had hoped, but maybe not. (We are still thinking we will travel in April or May.) Our “case” has been assigned to a USCIS officer, which means that someone has our file sitting on her desk, which is a good thing that we already have an officer. My understanding is that when the fingerprints are approved, she should then approve the I-800 fairly quickly. The I-800 approval means that the US approves us to adopt a specific child. Once we receive that approval, we will wait for approximately 2 weeks to receive a letter from the National Visa Center, and in the meantime, complete Olivia’s Visa Application (the DS-something or other). Once the Visa application is sent in, we wait for information to be sent to the Chinese gov’t and for their Travel Approval. Once we get the Travel Approval, they will schedule the appointment at the US Consulate for us. This is the date that they whole trip centers around. Once we have the appointment date, we will know when we travel and begin making those arrangements. Oh, and somewhere in there, we have to apply for our Visas (Jill, Philip, and Ansley). Whew! I think I got all of that right……I’m so afraid that I’m going to miss a step! All of these forms have a different letter and number name, which are all so confusing!!  But, I am so thankful to be going through this right now….it just means we are one step closer to meeting our little one!

We have also been busy with home projects. It’s kind of like fruit basket turnover, actually. We are in the process of moving our bedroom downstairs, renovating the bathroom downstairs, turning the old laundry room into master closet, moving the laundry room to the old “Hobby Room” off of the downstairs sitting area, making our bedroom into the guestroom, and making the office Olivia’s new room. We hope that Phase 1 (the downstairs area) will be complete in late February, and then we will begin Phase 2 (Olivia’s Room!). Philip has done most of the work and is doing a great job!   He's a keeper!

I know that this probably won’t surprise many of you, but I’m already putting together the packing list for our trip. Actually, I’ve been compiling this list for over 7 years, but don’t tell too many people that. Ha! China has very strict baggage requirements on their in-country flights, so we have to keep that in mind, since we will have at least one, maybe 2, in-country flights while there. They only allow one checked bag @ 44 lbs max per person, while the US allows 2 checked bags @ 50 lbs each per person. We also have to think that we will be lugging this stuff around with us for 2 weeks with a 4 year old and a 2 year old in more than likely 3 different locations within China. So, packing lightly brings on a whole new meaning. (So, when you see our pictures and we are wearing the same clothes, please don’t think badly of us.) For a while now, I’ve scoured the blogs of other adoptive families to see what they have taken with them….what they used and what they didn’t use….what they wished they had taken…..etc. It is a very daunting task to think about packing for 4 of us for a 2 week trip in a foreign country in 2-3 suitcases! I’ve also been trying to estimate what size clothes and shoes Olivia will need. The measurements I have are from October, so those will be about 6 months old by the time we travel. From my estimations, she will be almost the same size as Ansley at that age, so that is a blessing. I kept most all of Ansley’s clothes, so we are set in that department. We will take a couple of different sizes with us, just in case. The shoes are where I have no idea. I’m planning to take 2-3 different sizes of shoes as well.

So….between work being busy, home renovations making me crazy, and making sure I don’t mess up with this adoption paperwork, I’m pretty much a nut these days! We appreciate all of your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We definitely need them! We are so blessed with wonderful friends and family.  We ask that you continue to pray for our preparation, for Olivia, for the orphanage workers, for the folks handling our paperwork, and again, for her birth parents…that they know their little girl is loved so much by so many.

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Moment We've Been Waiting For…..

I have waited over 7 years to write this post, and as I sit here, my heart is full of so many emotions that I can't even describe them all to you. It is hard to put into words how I feel: beyond blessed, overjoyed, very grateful, nervous, anxious, and the list goes on and on. On Wednesday of this week, the moment we have been waiting on for 7 years happened. We received THE CALL….THE ADOPTION CALL….yes, folks, it finally happened!

Many of you may not even know that we have been working on an adoption, or many of you may have assumed that we were not pursuing one anymore since it has been so long (2006). But, we continued to keep our name on the list and do what we had to do to remain active in the system. Deep in our hearts, we knew that if God meant for us to have another child, it would happen. After all, Ansley was a miracle baby.

Month after month, year after year, we would receive monthly updates from the adoption agency. When we began this journey in 2006, the wait was quoted as 6-12 months. For those of you have been on this journey with us, you know that China has changed many regulations. Adoptions seemed to have almost stopped for "healthy children" from China. About a year ago, the wait seemed to speed up a little bit, so we renewed our paperwork. (Something we had not done since Ansley was born.) A social worker had to come back into our home and interview all 3 of us (including Ansley). We had to renew our medical reports, our financial reports, our police reports, our fingerprints….well, you get the picture.

Jill would spend time watching the China Adoption rumor websites to see what dates they were referring each month, and time slowly passed by. This summer (2013), we hoped we were getting close, but again, they slowed down again. Finally, in November, we just knew that we would be in the next batch, only to miss it by one day. So, we waited again. Then, at 11:38am on January 8, 2014, our lives changed forever with one phone call. Philip was in California treating his Dad to a trip to see Auburn play in the National Championship game (Bill, Auburn '66), and Jill was at work. My cell phone rang while I was at lunch, and I knew by the number who it was….it was our adoption agency. When I answered the phone, she said, "Jill? It's Children's Hope, and I have your referral." I can't even begin how to tell you how I felt; I could hardly speak. The first few minutes of the phone call are a blur. I had to run upstairs to my office to get a pen and paper. Several months ago, I had printed out some questions to ask when THE CALL came, so that I would remember what to ask. Luckily, I found those questions pretty quickly. While I was doing that, she conferenced Philip in and gave us the great news together.

She told us about a little girl named Yong (last name) Ning Yu who is waiting for us to come and pick her up in the Hunan Province in China. She just turned two years old on January 1st and is just precious. She told us the orphanage where she is and some other minor details. Then, when we got off the phone, she emailed us medical reports, other information, and 2 pictures!!! (I am so thankful for the technology that we have today. When we started this process, folks would have to wait 24 hours to see a picture since they weren't able to send anything over email back then. And, Philip was able to see the information at the same time I was! My, how far we've come!) She then overnighted the entire package to us, which we received on Thursday. In the package was a letter from the Chinese government written in English and Mandarin that said she was ours if we accept her. That was another surreal moment: seeing our names on an official Chinese government document - wow. She was actually "matched" to us on 12/31/13….one day before her 2nd birthday.

This is all still pretty surreal to me. I have to look at her picture to realize that it is real, and let me tell you folks, God is good. Her medical reports look great, and our pediatrician confirmed that today.

I spent a lot of today completing more paperwork that was very tedious. I think I checked over things 5 times before I sent them!! There were all sorts of different questions that had to be answered just so, or it would throw everything off. STRESSFUL!!! One set of paperwork had to go back to the adoption agency. The other set had to go to the U.S. government. Once the US government approves this set of paperwork, then we will receive a letter from the National Visa Center. We will have to file another form in order to get a visa for her to enter the US. Then, after that is done, we can request a travel approval from the Chinese government. Once we have that approval, we can start planning our trip! So, while I wish I could say that paperwork is over; it's not. The estimated travel time is 3-4 months from now. We will spend approximately 2 weeks in China. We can't wait to go to China to meet her and bring her home!!

The next thing on my list is to prepare a care package to send to her in China. We are able to send 2-3 things. I plan to make her a hard-back photo board book that I have seen on Pinterest, and I plan to send her either a lovey or stuffed animal. We also have to start work on her room!

My goodness; we have a lot to do between now and then. You would think that after 7 years of waiting, we would have things ready. But in reality, we didn't want to do anything until we knew it was really happening. I guess the time has come!!

A special thank you to you, our friends and family...especially those who have been with us every step of the way of this long journey. And, yes, I feel that journey is an appropriate word to use. Without your love and support, we would have thrown in the towel long ago! We are blessed in too numerous ways to mention here. Just know that you are on the top of the list.

Please continue to pray…specifically that the paperwork is filled out correctly, that it gets to where it needs to go, that we get the needed approvals, and that we are able to make our travel plans sooner than later. Please also pray for our family and our upcoming transition. This is probably not going to be easy. Please pray for our little girl. Pray that she is well taken care of, that she knows that someone in the world loves her very much, and that we are coming to get her soon. Pray for the orphanage workers taking care of her now. And, last but not least, pray for her birth parents. I can't even wrap my mind around that right now.

Thanks again for everything.

Love, Jill, Philip, and Ansley

I am going to do my best to keep the blog updated as we know more. I also plan to update the blog while we are in China meeting our new little one.