Friday, May 24, 2013

A Known and Some Unknowns

We got word from our agency that our Article 5 SHOULD be ready for pick-up Tuesday, June 4 as long as the consulate does not request more evidence, etc. 

Fingers and toes crossed.

Our agency also told us that they are uncertain as to when we could expect our travel approval, the next step after Article 5, since the CCCWA will be closed the entire week before our Article 5 is picked up to install a new computer system and they will be closed the week following for the Dragon Boat Festival. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Small Step Forward

I have been reading on RQ that Article 5's are being picked up again for people who dropped them off at the end of April/beginning of May.

Perhaps next week we will hear something from the consulate?

In the meantime, we have sent off for our visas. Baby steps, but progress nonetheless.

Can't go to China without a visa!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quality Control

Some days I think, "How in the world am I going to survive three kids?" and then I have days like the last few, where the kids sat and ate dinner with me without wandering around the table and even a crazy day where I ran carpool to swimming, sports camp, had a meeting, drove here and there and back again, grocery shopped with a three-year old successfully and still spent some quality time enjoying our first really warm day blowing bubbles and assembling Emma Claire's new stroller.
 
And, yes, you would think that we would have plenty of strollers since this is baby #3, but we don't. I kind of donated them to charity. We didn't have the storage space!!
 
I have to say, I can't wait to have two little ones at home together. It's going to be fun. Maybe Chloe will disagree being the BIG sis to two pre-schoolers, but I think she's going to enjoy it too.
 
Oliver had to go for a test drive in the stroller. He was telling me that I HAD to make sure to buckle Emma Claire in to the seat that it was "dangerous". I guess he's going to be "quality control" out of the three kids.

...or his crazy, goofy self.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Number Crunching

It's spring and the school year is starting to wind down. Less homework more filler. State-mandated tests are over so there seems to be more field days, fundraisers and fluff. We're more relaxed and the days are warm and long and the kids can play outside (at least until the great 17-year cycle cicada invasion scheduled for later this week, but that's another story).

I am trying to get my to-do list complete before China. There are things I would like to get done around the house that won't be that easy once all three kids are under one roof. Not to mention the packing and preparing for China. Though, in truth, if we got the call that we could leave tomorrow. I could get it done in about 2 hours!!

It seems like I am spending a lot of time crunching numbers. I am still uncertain as to when our LSC paperwork was dropped off at the U.S. Consulate and when our scheduled Article 5 pick-up will be, especially since we are contending with Memorial Day. After last week's cosulate closure, I know they are dealing with more pressing matters but I am still being driven mad wanting to know!!! Hopefully our agency can get word or we will get an email from the consulate informing us this week of the whereabouts of our LSC. Our agency told me that it normally takes 3 weeks all in for the Article 5 to be issued. I just don't know if that means three weeks from when it was sent or 3 weeks since the consulate reopened.

Our goal was to travel to China in June. I wish, but proably not. My number crunching has us at mid-July. In truth, not the best time: Quarter-end, heat, humidity, middle of summer, height of summer swim competition and kart racing. It also makes it difficult for some of our family to watch Chloe & Oliver while we are in China.  Of course, it would be mid-July.

I have our travel dates in my mind. I think I have it in the "window" of time even though our adoption agency won't give guesstimates. Crunch the numbers again and again and it statistically seems the most likely. So, being the planner, I am trying to be pro-active and make calendars for the kids activities and events. Of course, everyone else seems to be laid-back with the summer details and I am turning out to be the crazy lady bugging them for times of swim meets and practices.
We are making some progress, we are sending out our passports for our visa this week and all our adoption paperwork needed to take to China is complete, with the exception of our Chinese visas. Baby steps, but still forward movement.

Oliver keeps asking when Emma Claire is coming over for a playdate. He is very excited but hasn't grasped that Emma Claire is going to live with us. He does talk about being her big brother and loving her. I know Chloe was 5 when Oliver came home and it didn't quite sink in until Oliver was there.

May is almost coming to a close and June will be here--we will celebrate Chloe's 9th birthday, Oliver's 4th birthday, we will get to strawberry picking and enjoy some time on the lake before we go. We also plan to have a real smokehouse BBQ at the track with our friends. All things that we can enjoy before life gets a little more complicated with the addition of Emma Claire.

Also, with Emma Claire coming almost in the middle of summer we can relax into a routine before she is carted from here to there with her sister and brother's after-school activities. LOTS of time outdoors with the little girl to get her acclimated to day and night!! SO, SO, thankful that we are not traveling in winter and cooped indoors trying to get her acclimated!!

And we will get to celebrate her first birthday at home.

Trying to look on the positive side, which isn't always easy with the ups and downs of adoption. It has been almost 4 months since our referral. She will be 10 months old soon. My sister joked and said that as long as it seems to be taking I might start thinking about registering her for kindergarten! I am also fielding questions from friends as to why we have had to send our paperwork to the U.S. government three times for approval (i800a, i800, Article 5). "What's this approval for?" and "When does China get involved?" seem to be the most popular questions lately.

I just want to go to China and get Emma Claire. NOW.

Monday, May 20, 2013

#43

We spent the weekend at the track. All four of us in a little RV with two large dogs. It was lots of fun! Matt woke up on Saturday morning and Chloe and Oliver were playing and he said, "See, kids don't need to stay at the Ritz Carlton to have fun!".

It certainly isn't the Ritz, but it's good family fun and bonding. We grilled out both nights with other families/friends and the kids ran around during an off-weekend at the track (no racing until Sunday for a motocross).

In other exciting racing news, the nationwide ranking for Micro came out this past week. Chloe is rated #43 in the country. She is so pleased, as she should be. It's pretty impressive and we are so proud of her. Right now she is the 2nd rated female micro driver in the country.

It totally made her week. She Face*timed one of her best friends when the results came out to tell her the news. Her friend was so excited for her too but we laughed when heard her ask, "Is that #43 in the county or the state?" Chloe responded with "neither!!! That's in the COUNTRY!!".

We have always wondered a bit whether this was all fun and games for Chloe--like a BIG playdate where in between she drives racing karts---uh, hello, what kid wouldn't like to do that? But, Saturday afternoon Matt and another Dad scheduled an impromptu race between Chloe and her Micro race pal ranked above her nationally. It was a 5-lap race and it started to rain causing the track to become slippery. Chloe likes driving in the wet. She thought she had it in the bag. BUT...

Chloe spun out. And spun out again and again. She was trying so hard. Too hard.

SHE WAS SO MAD!

Like ANIMATED mad.

TEARS.

STOMPING OFF.

MAD.

It was hard to watch her so upset. She really thought she had it won and wanted to beat the other kid and show him what she had. But, she spun and got frustrated and lost her temper and spun again.

BUT, now we know it's not all fun and games to her. She really wants to win. And her national ranking has made her driven--literally.

She went back to the RV, calmed down, hugged it out with Dad. I think it was a life-lesson for her and an awakening for us that she really wants to win. We just need to work on channeling it correctly. She doesn't need to drive mad and frustrated.

In a week and a half we will be taking our first BIG family road trip for a regional race in eastern Pennsylvania. RV, karts and all. We're a road-tripping race family.

Looking forward to it. It's going to be a little bit fun and games and a lot of racing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Are You Smarter Than a Chipmunk?

Alvin, Simon, Theodore, you may be cute in the movies, but you are not cute in the garden.

Last year I had great plans for our little vegetable garden. Chloe and I planted lots of extra tomato plants and the plan was to donate the tomatoes we grew to the local food pantry. It appeared to work until the arrival of small rodents in the garden. Holes everywhere. Dirt displaced and root systems destroyed. The chipmunks destroyed our vegetable patch. What they didn't destroy below, they would sample above. I was so upset.

So, this year, I am waging war on the chipmunks, taking a preventative measure instead of the more fatal measure the gardener at my local nursery recommended. I don't know if my option will work, but it's the only option I am comfortable with.

It involves chicken/hardware wire and nails. Oh, and lots of cuts on my arms from laying it down. I am fairly confident that IF they REALLY wanted to, then the chipmunks could get underneath it and burrow. Not my best work, but I had a three year old assistant (that's the story I am sticking to anyway).



Oliver really helped in the garden!! He would alternate between the rake and the aerator (which he couldn't really turn so well) but he gave it a shot. We did have a falling out about him wanting to use the wire cutters so he decided it was time to play).

I took the garden down a notch this year. Just back to basics. If we have excess then we will donate it. I planted 3 different varieties of tomatoes, one zuchinni, one yellow squash, some peppers, a cucumber and the obligatory cantaloupe for Chloe (which did well last year until the chipmunks decided to take a sampling from each one).

The finished product. I kind of felt like I was putting up razor wire in a demilitarized zone.
Lets hope this works!!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Celebrating

Oliver celebrated his birthday at pre-school on Wednesday. Yes, his birthday is another month away but he won't be in school and his class has a lot of June babies which means his teacher is trying to spread out the birthday celebrations.

I had to bring in a treat for the kids to celebrate. We brought strawberries (an Ollie favorite) and mini-cupcakes with sprinkles. I think Oliver ate 4 (one for each year)!

Oliver's teacher sent him home with this photo from his celebration.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back in Business

The U.S. Consulate reopened Thursday afternoon to process visa applications for the families stuck in Guangzhou and have reopened for consulate appointments. Word is that they are committed to getting the families processed that had their appointments canceled because of the closure and to work through the backlog asap/pdq.

For us, that means that our Article 5 should be "in process". It is a standard 14 day process from drop off to pick up. Just not sure right now when drop off was and when pick up will be.

Now we contend with the CCCWA closure as they implement new software the last week of May. I am not certain if this will really effect us as that should be the week our Article 5 is picked up and we begin the wait for travel approval.

BUT WAIT, then the CCCWA will be closed for the Dragon Boat Festival June 10-12!!!

AND, we can't forget that we will probably be effected by Independence Day, which the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou will close. HMMMM, should I start thinking of a red, white and blue outfit for Emma Claire to wear?


In the meantime, I have worked like a mad woman on our travel documents. Chloe was home sick today from school (well, she came home early from school because she didn't feel well. She stayed long enough to finish her state-mandated test and then I came and picked her up) and both kids have made a mess of the house been watching Charlotte's Web and taking it easy. It's too bad, it's a beautiful day but I am not sure if Chloe has allergies or a cold. While they have been destroying everything in their wake this afternoon, I have been putting together all the documents that we need to take to China. In all honesty, I already had half of it put together---this isn't my first rodeo.

The handy dandy notebook containing pertinent adoption paperwork. This little red, zippered notebook will have been to China twice and Ethiopia once when it is all said and done.





Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Delays

Our LSC was supposed to get dropped off at the Chinese consulate in Guangzhou on Tuesday but a white powder was opened in the offices and the consulate will be closed for the entire week. No consulate appointments for those families currently with their children in China and no drop-off and pick-up of Article 5's. It's a delay for us, but hopefully only a week delay. We are thinking of those families who will be in China an extra week as they wait for their child(ren)s visa approval.

I've been trying to learn more about Emma Claire's province and where we will be traveling (hopefully soon). Our agency has been in contact with us about travel---more paperwork and I have completed our applications for our Chinese visas. Hey, it's progress!!!

Emma Claire is in Heilongjiang Province, which is the most northeastern part of China. Mongolia is to the west and Siberian Russia to the north.

We have been able to get information on sights to see from the Heilongjiang adoptive parents FB group but I searched on the internet to find some videos and travel films about Harbin and Heilongjiang Province.

I managed to find a free, instant watch video made in China about Heilongjiang on Ama*zon. It's subtitled and you have to follow along pretty quickly. Matt and I watched it together and its pretty funny, though I don't think it is meant to be funny at all. They spend a lot of time at the Siberian Tiger Reserve showing how the tigers get fed live rabbits and chickens. Other than that, we learned Harbin floods and it is cold (already knew that one). We did get to see some of the city not covered in ice and snow.

The next video we watched was from No Reservations with Anthony Bour*dain. We enjoyed this one a lot. I don't think we will be showing it to Emma Claire EVER, but it was an entertaining look at Harbin and Heilongjiang from the eyes of a foodie and an American and ever brutally honest as Bourd*ain can be. There are a few other videos we want to watch, one from the local government and another from National Geo*graphic.

Both American travel shows went to Harbin during the winter and for the ice festival for which it is famous. We won't be there then, which I think may be good because both shows used the same description--that it is so cold that you feel like your skin is peeling off. We should be there when it is in the 60s, not -25!!

I also discovered that Lisa,  who does my nails was born in Heilongjiang! Small world. She hasn't been back for many years as she emigrated to Korea and then to the U.S., but she is going to make Matt and I some note cards that we can use as "cheat sheets" in the restaurants and out an about. While I am a fairly adventurous eater, I do want to know what I am eating and it's our understanding that we will not have a guide who accompanies us and stays nearby. Lisa told me that while many of the tourist signs will be in English, Mandarin & Russian, the menus will only be in Mandarin. We will have a guide, but she is used for the adoption-related meetings only and we will have a lot of time to explore Harbin on our own.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day

I didn't have all three kids with me on Mother's Day. I had two out of the three. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that IF our home study had been done quicker and we had our i800a approved when we got our referral then we WOULD be in China picking up Emma Claire. But, that would mean I would be with only one of the three kids on Mother's Day.

Soon enough we will all be together.

I did get what I wanted for Mother's Day. Don't laugh. It's just what I wanted. A power washer.

Matt assembled it and I got to fire it up on Mother's Day. I have a list of many things I would like to accomplish/clean/get done before Emma Claire's arrival home. One of them is power washing the house and our back patio. We have a whole list of toys we can also use the power washer for---go-karts, RV and a boat. It will come in handy.

But, what a mess. Our back patio is next to our neighbors yard. Our town only allows 3 ft. fences so in order to screen your backyard people plant trees and hedge rows. Our neighbors, nice as they are, have possibly the messiest screen of trees---an evergreen and a holly. Every needle and prickly leaf lands on our patio. He also has his vegetable garden next to our patio so when he waters we get the run off. Yea for neighbors!!! It is a mess. But not after the power washer tackles it!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Having Fun with Uncle John

Uncle John came back in town again this year on his motorcycle, driving cross-country from Arizona. The kids enjoyed seeing him and spending time with him. He got to trek around with me in the day, karting the kids to their activities. He and Chloe also had their musical jam session that included the violin, two child-sized guitars and a keyboard. We took him to the track on Saturday and he drove karts with Chloe (in the rain).

Chloe had begged for this blow up ball the kids can roll around in. We had purchased it before Uncle John's arrival but the weather hadn't cooperated and it has about 400 seperate compartments to blow up and I wasn't looking forward to that task. But, guess who the kids got to blow up the ball and roll them around the yard---Uncle John!!!




The ball was a big hit and it hasn't popped yet!! The kids loved having Uncle John roll them around the yard!!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

LSC to China

We received the email confirmation from GWCA on Friday that our LSC (Letter Seeking Confirmation) is on its way to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. It will arrive in China on Monday and it will be hand delivered along with Emma Claire's visa application. This will be a 2 week wait for the final U.S. approval to bring Emma Claire to the U.S.

After this two week wait, we wait for Travel Approval.



Thursday, May 09, 2013

Cabled!!!!

I received word on Wednesday from the NVC that they received our file and we got our GUZ#. Today, I received the PDF that our file was submitted electronically (a.k.a. "cabled") to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.

Yesterday I sent all of the remaining documents to our agency, sans the NVC letter, and I emailed our NVC letter to them as soon as I received it today. Everything is in order. WE'RE DONE WITH OUR END OF THE PAPERWORK!!!

We're getting closer to travel!!

Our next step is having our agency's in-country rep. take Emma Claire's immigration petition to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou along with our LSC (our referral acceptance). The consulate will review the application and sign-off that it meets all the U.S. requirements and everything is ok to proceed. This step is called the Article 5 letter. It takes exactly two weeks to get issued from when it was dropped off. Once the Article 5 is picked up, it is taken directly to the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) and we wait for Travel Approval (TA)!!!

Fingers crossed that we get a quick TA as the wait can vary!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Eight Years Ago Today

we became parents on Mother's Day 2005. We walked into the Civil Affairs office in Guangzhou as two and left as a family of three with a 10 month old baby girl. My original posting on events that day is here.

I somehow missed writing that when Chloe was handed to me she took one look at me and tried to do a backflip out of my arms!! That was my first welcome to motherhood.

Here are some "scenes" from our first meeting that I don't believe I have ever put on the blog---


We flew from Beijing to Guangzhou, went straight to the White Swan Hotel and started getting ready to meet the babies. When we walked into the hotel room, it became really real--there was the crib all set up. You can see the shirt we had made with Chloe's referral photo on it.
On the bus over to the Civil Affairs office from the hotel. Lots of nervous energy and smiles and people frantically trying to put together gifts.

The moment when you are waiting and your heart is pounding and you are trying to stay cool under pressure so you nervously take photos.

Waiting. Everyone was prepping the video cameras and pacing and trying to get the gifts together and toys out of the backpacks. You could cut the tension with a knife!!

Completing the paperwork before the arrival of the children. This is where we officially named Chloe.

Chloe with the orphanage director. She was his favorite--I didn't think he was going to give her back to me!! He is telling us that Chloe ("Wen Wen") would sit on his desk and play when he would work. She was trying to grab the pen that was in his pocket.

And the entire ordeal wore her out. She was asleep before we left the Civil Affairs office.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Frustrated

Its always something when adopting. I know it will all work out in the end. I know we are getting closer to traveling to China. But, I also know that we have a few more steps to go through before we can travel.

That's why I am a little perturbed with this next step--confirmation that our paperwork has been forwarded to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. I know two other families who received their i800 approvals around the same time as us. One on April 30th and one on the same day as us. They have both gotten their confirmation in the form of a PDF from the National Visa Center.

We're still waiting. In fact, we're still waiting for a response to the two emails we've sent the last two days. We've gotten the canned "got your email, now wait for us to respond", but nothing else.

I'm hoping when we do get a response that it will contain our PDF so we can move on to the next steps...the ones that don't require us to contact government agencies for information (unless of course it's our nice USCIS officer).

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Nice Note

Our i800 provisional approval arrived in the mail today and in it was a note from our USCIS officer. It made my day!!!



Club Race #2

We spent the weekend at the track. The weather was fabulous.

Oliver was concerned about spending the night "in the deep, dark woods." I don't know where he gets some of this stuff. Chloe came in 2nd place in Micro and drove really well. She is improving--getting faster and managing the other drivers.

Scenes from the weekend---

Oliver jumped in and helped clean up the RV on Sunday morning.

Chloe after a race. Our babysitter braided her hair on Friday night.

Matt in his DD2. Matt had to leave the track early Sunday to catch a flight to Florida for business.

Oliver took a nap on Sunday---a sure sign he had fun.

Chloe accepting her trophy.

Oliver accepted Matt's trophy. He knows the drill.

Oliver also knows how to talk smack and ham it up against competitors. Another little boy wasn't very nice to Oliver, causing lots of tears and a few meltdowns at the track this weekend, refusing to have anything to do with Oliver and calling him "too little"  and other names. He refused to play with him and would try to convince the other kids to ignore him. We had the same incident with the kid at the regional race last weekend. He isn't a very well-behaved or nice child.  After Oliver received the trophy, he went up to the other boy and said, "I have a trophy and you don't!".

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Lordy, Lordy, I Turned...

OLD!!!!

Besides celebrating the approval of our i800, Matt and I celebrated my BIG birthday together in NYC. After picking up Chloe from school, I rushed to get dressed and drove to the city and met Matt at his work. We ate at a French country restaurant (which was very good) recommended by a friend and then went to see The Book of Mormon (which was very funny).

After dinner and the show, we went for drinks at The Four Seasons and Matt surprised me with a nice purse from Louis Vuitton.

It was great fun and a great night out. A very good birthday!!

Friday, May 03, 2013

i800 Approved!!


We just got the news that our i800 was approved on May 1. That means that USCIS has given their approval for us to adopt Emma Claire and bring her in to the U.S. Next step, getting the notice from the National Visa Center that Emma Claire's immigration file has been forwarded on to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou.

Its great news on my birthday!!!!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Rotax Regional Race

This weekend was the Rotax Northeast Regional Race in south Jersey. Last weekend, Chloe's micro chassis broke at a weld and it meant that we had to purchase her a new chassis and get it put together before she and Matt left on Friday to race. It all came together at the wire and Chloe was able to participate.

It was a stressful week purchasing and ordering a new chassis, having it shipped and then assembled in time to race. To add to the stress, Matt's DD2 needed repairs. Matt spent some late nights trying to pack and organize.

Matt loaded up the RV with the karts and drove 2.5 hours to south Jersey for the race weekend. Chloe came in third place on Saturday and Sunday. Oliver and I stayed at home on Friday and Saturday and came down to watch the racing on Sunday.

Some photos from the weekend---
On the podium on Sunday. The kid in 2nd place looks confused because he is...he didn't race, he's a photo stand-in because the kid who came in 2nd had to leave early.

The fan club. Oliver meets Chloe at pit inspection for a high-five after her race.


Waiting for inspection.

 
 
Chloe and Matt at the track.
Chloe racing, this is a professional photograph.
Some of our racing pals & Chloe with their trophies after Saturday's race.

And in case you think it's all racing all the time---this is what Chloe does with her pals in between racing while Dad is wrenching....
Chloe and others going for a ride on a kart stand.

Why don't we all get on the kart stand and see what happens when we go down hill? Yea, she kind of got in trouble from us for attempting this one.






 
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