It's Done!!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1 comment
Our homestudy update is DONE!!!!!!!! Three months exactly to complete a homestudy update. Everything is in---we're "all clear", we made our edits and our agency approved it. Now we see how long it takes our homestudy agency, who is less than 10 miles away, to mail it to us.

Should I just drive over there, storm the place and pick it up?

I think these little eyes are looking into my soul and telling me...go get that homestudy so you can come get me....

Updated Photos!!

Monday, February 25, 2013 1 comment
After we got our referral, we contacted Ann at Red Thread China and had a care package sent to Emma Claire at Suihua SWI. In the care package was a stuffed animal, some treats for the nannies for Chinese New Year, a note and a flash drive for photos.
A photo of the care package and translated letter Ann sent to Suihua on our behalf.

The package was delayed getting to the SWI because of Chinese New Year, but it arrived last week and when we woke up this morning, Ann had sent us the photos she received of Emma Claire.

I am thinking that Emma Claire is teething as her hand is in her mouth in a lot of the photos. It also took us a while to notice that there is a tape measure in one of the photos and Emma Claire is about 67 cm long.

We got 7 photos in total, but these three are my favorites....

I should note that I showed the photos to Oliver who commented, "She's beautiful". Awwww. Then he said, "That's not Emma Claire. She's a baby and Emma Claire is not a baby!". Ugh.

Winter Break

Sunday, February 24, 2013 No comments
Last week was winter break and both kids were home for the week. Originally we had planned on going to Barbados but we postponed the trip when we received our referral and knew we would be traveling to China later in the year. The kids weren't happy to stay at home and many days Chloe informed me she was "bored", especially the day we went grocery shopping, but I tried to put in a few fun activities. Some were definitely more fun for the kids than for me but it worked as a trade-off since the kids were forced to look at houses (starting the search for a larger home to accomodate the growing family) and I was forced to go to Chuc*k E. Che*ese.

Luckily, the kids swimming was still taking place so we had some structure and continuity to the week.

Matt and I decided to take a mini-break with the kids and we went skiing in the Catskills for one night with the kids. We would have liked to have spent two nights away, but we couldn't leave our houseguest, Skittles, the bearded dragon. Skittles is Chloe's third grade class pet and we volunteered to watch him for the week since we weren't going away. Skittles provided some entertainment, especially when he ate crickets and meal worms.

Skittles, the bearded dragon and our houseguest for the week. It was all Skittles all the time at the beginning of the week, but he lost his novelty by the end of the week for the kids.

Chloe reading to Oliver. They must have been bored.

The kids had gift cards to a toy store, so one day they got to use their gift cards and then we went to eat pizza afterwards. Chloe is playing with Oliver's toy, Spiderman.

Chloe despises pizza, she ate garlic knots, and Oliver loves it. He ate 4 pieces of pizza!

Chuc*k E. Chee*se. This place grosses me out. They just built a new one and it is still gross. The place was packed since it was break and filthy as no tables were cleared. I felt like I should bring Lysol with me. And the food. YUK! Chloe even commented that next time we come we should eat beforehand. Next time?!

Oliver loves all the driving games. Chloe wanted to play games for tickets and prizes.

This is at the hotel we stayed at one night when we went skiing. This is how we found the kids the next morning. When we put the kids to bed, Oliver was on the left side of the bed and Chloe was on the right. Somehow they managed to completely reshuffle.

We came home Sunday from skiing to watch the Daytona 500--Oliver was obviously worn out.

Reality TV

Friday, February 22, 2013 No comments

About a week before we got our referral, someone in our October LID FB group posted that the Ca*ke B*o*ss was seeking a family in the tri-state area in the process of adopting to feature on the reality TV show. I commented that it just happens that the bakery that made the chef and store famous is opening its second location in our town and perhaps I should call. I was sent the email address of the producer and thought, "why not" and sent an email telling the producer that we were in the process of our third adoption from China, were expecting our referral any day and we lived in the town where the 2nd bakery is opening.

Later that same day, I was taking Oliver to swim lessons when my cell phone rang. It was a Los Angeles # and it was a producer of the show. She wanted to know all about our adoption and about Chloe and Oliver. She told me that they were having some difficulty finding a family to feature for the show. They wanted to film in mid-March (at the new location in our town and at the site where they bake). The producers had hoped to find a family bringing their child home and could film the "airport welcome" and make a cake for the welcome party but they weren't finding anyone that knew they would be returning that week. She asked some more questions about the process of our adoption and when we expected our referral and when we thought we would travel. We spoke for about 15 minutes total and she said she would present our story and get back to us.

An hour later, I came home and my phone was ringing. She was calling back. She asked a few more questions to clarify. In total, she called about 4 times that evening. In our exchanges, I started to become aware that a lot of reality TV is not reality as it plays out, but staged reality. The producers were trying to figure out how they could use our family in the show and film in March, before we traveled to China. She asked if I would call her when we got our referral and she did seem genuinely excited for us. But, she also asked if we would tell our friends and family a white lie,  that we didn't get our referral and then tell them in March so there could be a big surprise to film. I didn't have to think about that one. It was a NO. I made it clear that it had been a six year wait, after the references friends and neighbors had given and the excitement in our family to be so close, I wasn't going to lie and tell people we didn't get our referral so a show about cakes could film the surprise. Sorry, maybe the cakes are good, but they aren't that good.

The next time she rang she wanted to know if we would keep the photo "secret" and not show it to our friends and family and then the show could film the big reveal of the photo. I think when you look back on past posts on the blog, you can see the answer to that question as well (considering Emma Claire's photo is all over the place now).

Nevertheless, I got an email the next day with a show questionnaire. I didn't think much about it, especially since the email arrived on the day we got our referral. I didn't respond to the email and about a week later the producer called and asked if we got our referral and if we could submit the questionnaire. I submitted the questionnaire a few days later and the producer called me to tell me the director wanted to set up a Sk*ype call with us and set up a date and time. On the day the call was to take place, I got an email from the producer with what I can best describe how an attorney prepares their client before they testify---be sure to mention this..., don't talk about that..., smile, eye contact, bubbly, tell a story about....

This is reality TV?

Matt and I had our Sk*ype call with the director. She was nice. She asked questions and recorded our answers so the other producers could see if we made good tv. She even redirected us if our answers didn't seem "excited enough". In total, it was a 15 minute video interview of us answering questions and telling out story of adoption, family, what cake we want made, etc.

The best part of the interview is when she asked us why we contacted the show and why our event was special enough that we thought we should be chosen for this honor (of having a cake made by a celebrity baker)?  She had to reshoot our answers, because our first response was, "You contacted us!".

All in all it was kind of bizarre and Matt and I shrugged after the video conference/interview was over and thought "what ever". It was kind of bizarre, especially with the redirection and some of the bizarre requests we were getting on keeping things secret and trying to stage our story.

This week later we got another call from a producer. The show likes our story and they are trying to see if they can rearrange their production calendar to film the episode around the time we expect to return home with Emma Claire.

We shall see what transpires and what more is asked of us.


Friday, February 15, 2013 No comments
I woke up this morning with the feeling that I couldn't just sit around anymore and wait. I'm tired of waiting for our homestudy agency. I am tired of politely asking them each week to forward the draft of our homestudy to our placing agency so that they can review it. I needed to light a fire, so at 7 a.m. I began making calls and leaving voice messages. I called our referral counselor with our placing agency and had a slight meltdown on the phone. I am sure she was super thrilled to get it when she arrived at her desk, but she called me back first thing (I am on EST and she is on CST) and was super nice and reassuring. I felt better.

About an hour after we spoke, I got an email from her, she managed to finally get the draft of our homestudy from our homestudy agency. Its only been ready for review for three weeks. Perhaps my rant on their voicemail finally worked?

And, if by magic (or another tantrum via email) our homestudy agency also made some calls to the two states that hadn't returned our child abuse clearances and found out we cleared.

The frustrating four months of a home study update SHOULD be coming to an end next week!!!!
Our home study should be complete and FINALLY  ready to submit with our i800A and we can get the US immigration ball rolling so we can go to China and pick up Emma Claire ShiWen!!!!

Here's hoping it doesn't take our home study agency three weeks to make our placing agency's edits and revisions to our home study.

Making Valentine's Cards

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 No comments
I "phoned it in" a bit this year on Valentine's Day*. I usually begin thinking about the kids Valentine's cards in January, but my attention was elsewhere this year as we were expecting our referral. I did have grand plans involving photos and lollipops, etc. It wasn't in me this year and I am starting to learn that Chloe just likes writing her name on the Valentine's cards and making her Valentine's box for all the cards from her classmates. She doesn't care if we watercolor or pastel crayon a hand-drawn Valentine's card.

This year, I began thinking about Valentine's on Tuesday. As in two days ago.

I owe all my ideas to other people (why reinvent the wheel I say) via Pinterest and Google. Thanks ever so much. After searching, buying needed supplies, printing, cutting and assembling, it was all done in two hours.

Chloe's class frowns on candy, so I bought Fruit by the Foot and found this Valentine's printable here. You can put a lot of candy with this card---Rolos, Tootsie Rolls, Fruit Roll Up, etc.

Oliver's Valentine's are super hero lollipops. I stumbled upon this one accidentally and thought it was super cute. You can read how to make them and find the printable here.

Oliver's pre-school class celebrated Valentine's today. All Oliver wanted was his lollipop. He was pulling a "Veruca Salt" this morning with an "I want it NOW!" and trying to convince him this morning that he would get to share the super hero lollipops with all his classmates was difficult to say the least. He had a great time at the Valentine's party and of course, the first thing he wanted was his lollipop. I did make him sit and look at each Valentine from his classmates before he got his lollipop, which he did somewhat oblingingly.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

*I know it would be easier to go to the store and buy the pre-made cards and have the kids fold them and put their names on them. Not going to happen. I like making Valentine's with the kids, but I did see this posted on a few blogs that I read regularly. Perhaps I need to read these ladies new book coming out, Minimalist Parent?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013 No comments
Thanks to Nemo, we had lots of snow to have fun with. We took the kids sledding. Oliver was a little unsure at first and kept running back and forth down the sledding hill following after Matt and Chloe. He didn't want to sled by himself, so he and Daddy had some bonding time while sledding.

The kids and Matt were up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to shovel the sidewalks and play in the snow.

Chloe found a friend from the swim team and they sledded together.

What's Next?

Monday, February 11, 2013 No comments
Now that we have our referral, lots of people have asked about travel and when do we get to go get Emma Claire?

We don't know.

It takes a lot of paperwork to complete an international adoption. In addition to compiling a dossier of your marital and family history, finances and health, etc., you also have to have background searches and U.S. government approval to bring home your child.

Once we saw that things were getting slower with China adoptions, we decided to let our paperwork expire and not renewing it each year. That meant we had to file under the new, Hague adoption guidelines and update once under the "new" i800 process. We began the process in November with our home study agency (not affiliated with our referral agency, GWCA). Our homestudy agency wrote our homestudy for Oliver's adoption and all of our post-placement reports for him as well. They know us, BUT they still insisted on the four homestudy visits. During holiday times. Then there are the child abuse clearances, fingerprinting for the state clearances, your local clearances, etc.

To summarize, it has been over 3 months and our homestudy agency is not complete with our homestudy. They sent our child abuse clearances to our previous states of residence only two weeks ago and we have nothing back yet. Texas says they can take up to a month to give clearance. A month. Our homestudy agency was completely surprised by this. Perhaps they should have sent it way back in November?!

So, we haven't filed our i800. After we file that, we have to get fingerprinted and then we get our i797 and then we file that and then we get travel approval and can make travel plans. This filing and fingerprinting and filing again can and will take months. How many months, we don't know.

Our placement agency has been great and have really tried their best to light a fire under our homestudy agency but there isn't a lot we can do now than just wait for the final clearance to come and hope everything moves along smoothly after that.

Its really frustrating that our homestudy agency has been so lack in some areas (like the clearances) and so strict on others (that we meet the 4 times, even though all they had to do was meet with us once or twice and update our homestudy they wrote for Ethiopa). They insisted we start from scratch like we were totally new to them...that also enabled them to charge us a LOT more money than if they just updated.

So frustrating. But, we hope everything gets done quickly and we can get a move on with it and get the homestudy agency behind us (until Emma Claire is home and they have to write our post-adoption updates).

FedEx Envelope Arrived!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 No comments
Our agency mailed out our referral information and photos of Emma Claire on Monday. It arrived today via FedEx. Our FedEx  man is super-speedy and was gone in a flash, leaving the envelope at the doorstep.

Oliver did the honors...

We got a little more information and details on her finding place. Most importantly, we have the actual photographs!!!

The Referral Day Story

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 2 comments
The first thing I did last week was to check Rumo*r Qu*een and log into our October LID FB group to see if anyone from Europe had posted they got the call. I even got dressed in red (considered a lucky color in China) to bring on the referrals. When there was still nothing, not a word on Friday morning I was a little disappointed. By mid-morning I had started to convince myself that I would have to wait through the weekend for our referral and went to do some retail therapy while the kids were still in school. I got wild and bought a yogurt maker. Oh, I may have also stopped in and bought matching outfits for the three kids for their first photo shoot (but you didn't read that husband).

It made me feel better but didn't stop me from hitting refresh on my email to see if our agency sent out the "Stork Had Landed" email. By the time 2 p.m. EST came, any remaining hope of receiving our referral had gone. I went about my day, picked up Chloe from school and prepared to take the kids to their afternoon activities, soccer and swimming.

It was at Oliver's soccer camp that I reached for my cell phone to take some photos of Oliver kicking the soccer ball that I saw a message popped up on my home screen from another waiting parent from our agency. It said, "Just got the call!!! All you with GWCA, calls are being made NOW!".

At first I thought it was a joke. Where was the email they sent out to alert you that calls were being made. No way I thought. I was at soccer practice. They couldn't be calling.

Then it hit me and I started to freak a little. What if we didn't get the email from our agency because our referral didn't come? What if we got skipped?  Panic.  I told Chloe, "We have to go, we're getting the referral call for your sister!". And then I thought, Oliver wouldn't agree to leave soccer. He was having too much fun. I could wait another 30 minutes surely. What's 30 minutes when we have waited over 6 years?

Then, Chloe said, "I don't want to miss swimming! I have state championships tomorrow. I want to go to swimming!"

What? I could wait another 30 minutes, I couldn't wait another 90 minutes. So, when soccer practice was over, we were out of there like a flash and in the car on our way to drop Chloe off at swimming. It was a kiss and fly, you can see the photos when you get home. Then, Matt called. He was walking down the street to the house. Should he answer the phone if it rings?

I may have been speeding through our idyllic little village at this time and was probably doing 40 mph as I hit the driveway of our house and came to a screeching halt, unlatching Oliver's car seatbelts and making a mad dash for the door. Once inside I grabbed the printed "The Call" questions and a pen, set the video camera up and looked to the phone to see the red voicemail message lit up.

Matt had walked in by this point. Oliver had picked up his DS and I was FREAKING OUT!!! Dinner was the last of my concerns and everybody was hungry and grouchy as it was 6:15 p.m. Matt went to the kitchen and got some celery and blue cheese. CELERY AND BLUE CHEESE. Do you know how much noise celery makes when it is being eaten and he wanted to take the referral call while eating celery? I WAS IN SUPER FREAK OUT MODE.
Celery. Really?!

I got enough gumption to press the "play" button on the voicemail and heard the voice of Deidra from GWCA saying they had some exciting news for us. This was the call and then she told us to call. They would be waiting for us and then gave her extension #, which I forgot to write down. I realized this, of course, after we had sat down to call Great Wall. I had to hang up, go back and listen to the message again. It took several times calling the number and extension to get through. I may have been near hysterics at this point.
Matt and Oliver having a good time while I freak out trying to get the phone extension for our agency off the answering machine.
But, we did get through!! And we got the call (or we made the call)!! You can see Matt's reaction when we finally got through to speak to Kristin & Deidra....

And here's our reaction when they told us how young she was and that she had the same tulip lips as her big sister....

You can see I am in a much happier/less stressed mood once we received all the information. Here's my sheet I was writing on....

After we hung up with our agency, we waited a few minutes for the email to come through with her photo and some basic, translated information. While we waited, we looked up information about her province, Heilongjiang.
She way north, surrounded by Russia to the north and east and Mongolia to the west.

Then, we saw her photos....

We picked up Chloe from swimming shortly after and she was super-excited to find out about her sister. It seems that had been all she spoke of at swim practice!

We ordered Chinese for dinner and read up on her province and through the brief materials we were emailed from our agency. Next, we wait for the FedEx envelope to arrive with more detailed  information and the actual printed photos.

The Weekend After

Monday, February 04, 2013 No comments
We had lots of calls from family and friends and lots of congratulations. Some people were surprised that we continued with the adoption and others shared memories of when we began the adoption that we had forgotten, like Chloe always drawing Emma Claire's stick figure as part of her family when they colored at pre-school.

We had lots to keep us busy this weekend and also lots of time to look at her referral photo and read about her province (which is VERY cold BTW, like -21 degrees F cold).

Chloe had the NJ state Y swim championships this weekend. She swam her personal best in freestyle.

Matt and Chloe went skiing on Sunday. Matt texted me a photo of Chloe sitting by a fire apres ski. Oliver and I went to church and played Hungry Hippos all afternoon, which was a huge hit.
I was really happy that we got our referral on Friday evening and didn't have to wait through the weekend to get it on Monday, which many people had to do.

We Got THE CALL!!!

Friday, February 01, 2013 17 comments
It was 5:17 pm when GWCA called and we weren't home (more on that later). Matt and I got to call GWCA together though around 6:20 p.m. and get our referral information. We are over the moon excited to introduce you to Emma Claire ShiWen...

FULL CHINESE NAME: Sui Shi Wen (same middle name as Chloe)

PROVINCE/ORPHANAGE: Heilongjiang Province, Suihua Orphanage

DATE OF BIRTH: August 6, 2012 (she's a baby!)

DESCRIPTION: She is a deep sleeper; quiet; holds her head up when she is on her stomach and will locate sounds and voices with her eyes.

She's beautiful and she's ours!!!!

We should get all her translated, written information middle of next week.