Monday, July 31, 2006

No travel notices today . . .

I really thought our travel notices from China would arrive today, but alas, as of about 10 minutes ago, they have not. The good news (for those whose papework was logged in through July 13th) is that the next batch of referrals has arrived. I'm pleased as punch for all those who are learning about their newest children today and tomorrow. . . Congratulations!

I had seriously hoped our travel notices would arrive today. The "match" and "travel" departments at the CCAA are completely separate, though. And with the CCAA's move, everything closed down. So perhaps our travel notices aren't complete because of glitches with getting the department up and running again. I honestly can't imagine what else would cause it to take so long.

Despite our missing travel notice, Jason and I will be celebrating tonight. Today is our seventh wedding anniversary. I know, I know-- compared to our parents (with well over 60 years of marriage between them-- aren't we lucky to come from "in tact" families?!?), seven years is nothing. On the one hand, it sounds like such a long time-- and I can't even really remember life before we got married. On the other hand, it's gone by so quickly, I can hardly believe it's already been seven years! I guess that's a nice place to be.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

STILL waiting for permission to travel . . .

The next set of referrals is officially on its way to the United States. I'm very happy for these people. I sure hope they don't have to wait as long as we have to go meet their children! I'm tired of waiting. (Yeah, I know-- a real shocker.) I knew this adoption thing was going to be more of a marathon than a sprint (I'm not much of a sprinter anyway), but I'm tired of all the waiting. . .

Speaking of marathons and sprints, I have been training for the America's Finest City Half Marathon (held here in San Diego August 20th) since mid-May. I haven't actually signed up to run it yet because I was under the impression I might actually be in China August 20th. I began training for this half-marathon because of the introduction of the Triple Crown this year. People who run and complete the Carlsbad Half, the La Jolla Half, and the AFC in a single year (one is in January, one in April, the third in August), earn a special medal called the Triple Crown. I wanted to earn it. There is a special ceremony and everything. In my mind's eye, Jason would be there with Marcie and Casey to cheer me on during the easy (read: flat) part of the course in downtown San Diego. Casey would be yelling, "GO MOMMY!" and Marcie would be staring at all the random people in the crowd and wondering how she ended up there. Then, they would find me after the race before the ceremony and Casey would tell me I was "chow" (the pronunciation of the word "stinky" in Cantonese). And I would be. But I'd be happy because I'd have my family there rooting for me.

Well obviously that's not going to happen. I have begun to think I may actually be able to run this third race -- sans Marcie. If I miss it, I won't mind. Marcie is an excellent reason to miss the race. If I run it, it'll be a great story some day (I ran a half marathon and met Marcie X days later-- this is the story I tell about Casey all the time: I ran a marathon and Casey was born 3 days later! It's the truth, too!)

Anyway, we're keeping busy during this part of the wait . . . but that hasn't kept me from focusing on the fact that we are still waiting.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cutie-pie Marcie

She currently weighs 20.9 pounds and is around 30 inches long. She has five teeth and she sits up on her own now. Check out that toosh! Now if we could just get those travel notices so we could go get our little beauty . . .

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Little Miss Antsy Pants

Ok, I admit it. I am antsy about this travel stuff. China has just sent out the next batch of referrals (for those whose paperwork was accepted in China June 28th through July 13, 2005). I'm really excited for those people (I can hardly believe it's been a whole month since we learned about Marcie.) But I'm anxious-- and wondering the same thing everyone else who received a referral in the last batch is wonder-- where is our approval from China to travel?

As you may recall, I did say that we may not receive approval from China until as late as August 7th, but I didn't actually believe it would take that long! Especially because our agency told us people would probably be traveling as soon as August 1st! But I can't (and don't) fault our agency for that.

So what's the hold up? Wish I knew. The CCAA did just move their offices. And they are starting to use a new computer system. But seriously-- it's just authorization to travel, for crying out loud! (Of course, for all I know, that requires a lot of paperwork on their end.)

As of now we are still planning to travel in August. I'm betting we won't travel until the second half of the month. I didn't want to travel until around the 15th anyway initially-- but that was before I knew who Marcie was and had her picture to stare out. Now I just want to go meet her! Now it can't come soon enough!

Anyway, you can be certain I'll let you know as soon as we hear something about travel.

We received an e-mail this afternoon letting us know that the Travel Notices still have not arrived. If they arrive by the 28th (this Friday), our agency will request a consulate appointment that will have us leaving for China some time around the 10th. If they do not arrive until next week, we probably won't travel until around the 17th. (And if they don't come until the week after that, we won't be traveling until around the 23rd. The e-mail didn't say that, but it's what I think is possible.)

Not much we didn't already know-- and yet I feel better having heard it from them!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Visas Have Arrived

Here they are, safe and sound-- back in my possession. They even came accompanied by a very nice letter from J C Travel, which offers its "heartiest congratulations" and wishes us to be "blessed and showered with an abundance of all good things, including love, isnpriation and support as [we] build [our] family together." Gosh-- what nice wishes. . . Now if we could just get some authorization to actually use these visas and go get Marcie, we'd be all set!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Our visas are in the mail . . .

I just received an e-mail from J.C. Travel in San Francisco that they have shipped a package to me via Fed Ex. I'm not sure why they are sending it Fed Ex, since I paid for Express Mail via USPS. But I don't really care how they get it back to me. Anyway, that means our passports-- with our visas -- are on their way. Of course, we still can't go anywhere until we receive approval from China and get an appointment with the U.S. Consulate in China. But I'm happy about the visas . . . I'll take whatever I can get these days!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Nursery

When our son Casey was born, we were completely unprepared. Don't get me wrong-- we were emotionally more than ready. But we didn't have anything set up. No crib. No basinet (no idea if I spelled that right. . .). No diapers. No baby carrier. No stroller. No toys. No clothes. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. You see, Casey's arrival was such an unknown-- if it was going to happen and when-- if he'd be a boy or a girl. I couldn't stand the thought of having a nursery all set up to stare at as I passed by every day with no knowledge of whether or not it would ever be filled. When Angie, his amazing birthmother, told us she wanted us to parent her child, we were leaving for a vacation the next day (literally, I think). So off we went. She wasn't due until a week after we returned, so we figured we had time to get things cleared with our employers and to set up a nursery. But Casey arrived a week early-- while we were still on vacation. And most of you know that story. Needless to say, we were a little underprepared for his arrival. Jason returned to San Diego before me, and my brother loaned us his basinet. We bought the stroller and carrier/carseat in Ohio, and generous relatives provided us with the basics while we waited approval to leave Ohio to return to San Diego. So all was fine.

Enter adoption #2. This time we put off setting up the nursery. Sort of. We did paint the room last summer (in August, actually). Well, we mostly painted it. I still have to finish the corner where the two colors meet. And this time we put it off because, well, we use the room as a guest room/ station for wayward clean laundry. (You know, the clothes you pull out of the dryer but don't bother to fold. Or the ones you actually fold but then don't put away. It's become sort of a dressing room for us at times.) Plus, not knowing when Marcie would come-- or if Marcie would even be a girl . . . so we put it off.

Here we are, though-- probably about a month away from traveling (or perhaps a little less), and the room still isn't ready. But we're making definite movements. We had the carpets cleaned on Saturday. Today we bought a new crib mattress, a pack n play (which Marcie will sleep in, next to our bed, at least for the first few weeks), a pack n play mattress (they come with such flimsy ones), and a diaper champ (I'm not a huge fan of the diaper genie, so I figured we'd give this one a shot). I have washed the curtains and the quilt from the crib set. I still have to wash the bumper and the crib sheets. And I can't find the crib skirt. But I think I probably will.

We still have to put the new moulding in (read "we" there as "Jason"). I still need to wash all the fantastic clothing people have generously gifted us. And we need to rearrange the furniture. Truth be told, though, I want the nursery done just so I don't have to worry about it when we return. Since Marcie will be sleeping in our room, I doubt she'll care if her bedroom has a hamper and a diaper genie-- or even a crib. But it's nice to make some progress.

When we get it finished, I'll be sure to post some pictures . . .

Friday, July 21, 2006

Marcie's Update

Today we received information from Marcie's orphanage. We didn't get any additional pictures, and the information is from April 25, 2006-- so it's not really updated information. It's just new to us. Don't get me wrong-- I'm ecstatic to receive the information even though it is a few months old.

So here's what we've learned about Marcie:

Her Finding Place:
She was found around 9:00 pm November 21, 2005 in front of the office building of Chongqing City Yunyang County CIvil Affairs Bureau, wrapped in a bath towel and wearing two layers of clothes. A diaper bag with several diapers was left next to her. She had already lost her umbilical cord, and a medical exam produced no abnormalities. They estimated her birthday to be November 15, 2005.

Her Name:
Yang Fu Ji
The Yang is from Yunyang County.
The Fu is from the orphanage.
Ji means season.
We are told it is a pretty sounding name.

Her Daily Routine:
Marcie lives in an orphanage and eats well. She usually wakes up at 6:30 am, eats lunch at 10:30, naps after lunch, eats again at 2:00 pm, has dinner around 5:30 pm, naps again, takes a bath and plays in her crib for a while. She goes to bed around 9:30 pm, wakes at 2:00 am to eat, and then sleeps until 6:30 am. (As an aside, I am hopeful that the 2:00am feeding is a thing of the past!)

Her Physical and Mental Development:
At one month, she weighed 3.8 kg.
At two months, 4.3 kg.
At three months 5 kg.
At four months 6.1 kg.
At five months 6.5 kg. (Could one of you math people out there translate that to pounds, create a pattern, and tell me an anticipated weight for nine months?!?)

At three months, she folowed moving objects and sounds.
At four months, she lifted her head while lying on her stomach, turned from her back to her side, and tried to roll over. She also smiled and giggled during play.
At five months, she recognized her name and she began moving her arms and legs with control. When she was full from eating, she would make a "yi yi ya ya" baby sound. She liked sucking on her fingers while sleeping and played with the baby walker.

She has fair skin and pretty cheeks. She is chubby, gental, active, bright, and lively. She seldom cries. She likes to be held, played with, or talked to.

So there you have it-- now you know pretty much what we know. The information was provided by the orphanage director, so a special thanks to him for providing it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Message to Ann

Ann is one of our son's Godmothers and my closest friend here in San Diego. We met in graduate school, less than a week after I moved back to San Diego from college. It's a fun story-- but not really appropriate for this blog. In any case, Ann has taken a trip to France to attend her cousin's wedding and to be her cousin's maid of honor. She is there with her parents and her brother. Just before she left the United States for this three-week adventure, we learned we would be receiving our daughter's referral information from China. Ann wanted me to e-mail her at her SBC account with all the details, but I put her off and told her to just check the blog. I told her if she could check her e-mail, she could check the blog.

Yesterday, Jason, Casey, and I received a postcard from Ann (the wedding went from 6pm to 7am! How crazy is that?). In it, she explained that she hadn't found an Internet cafe yet and was anxious to learn about our referral (when Ann left we didn't even know Marcie was a girl yet!). So, in the event that Ann gets on the Internet before she gets back to America (or even that she checks her e-mail and looks at the blog before she calls me to let me know she's back in town), I wanted to post this message to her:

It's a girl. We've named her Marcie. She was born November 15th, 2005-- not far from your birthday! She will be nine months old when we meet her. She is beautiful-- click through the archives to see her photos.

Those are the basics. I can't believe I didn't write down what day Ann will be back in the U.S. What was I thinking? She was going to be gone for three weeks-- has it been three weeks yet? Time seems to have slowed down since we received the referral and began awaiting our Travel Notice. Oh well.

"Update" Rumor

I had pretty much given in to the belief that we wouldn't receive any updated information on Marcie before our trip to China. If she continues to grow at the "normal" pace, she should weigh around 18 pounds when we meet her, so I've been purchasing size 9 months clothes, with a few size 12 months mixed in. But I just read a rumor on one of our agency's discussion boards that they have in fact received updated information, which they are in the process of translating. There are no updated photos (hopefully I'll get something back on one of the cameras I've sent), but we'll get other information. Rumor is that we'll here something this week. Their offices are closed for the day, so we should hear something tomorrow or Friday. I can hardly wait!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another Care Package

Well, tomorrow it will be three weeks since we learned Marcie's identity. That means it'll be two weeks since our acceptance letter was mailed to China. Our first care package has probably arrived to China by now, but I'm so paranoid about having not put Marcie's name on it that I've decided to go ahead and send another, small care package. This time, I'm including stacking cups, a sleeper, a couple small boxes of chocolate (for the nannies) and the digital camera. I figure they will just think I'm a lunatic and shake their heads in dismay. But I'd prefer that over the alternative-- no photos to share with Marcie about where she spent the first nine months of her life. I owe it to her to do what I can to share her entire history with her. It's her story, not mine-- and I don't think I have the right to edit it. I'll send the new care package tomorrow.

In the mean time, I can obsess about when the travel notices arrive. I think it'll be at least another week before we receive our Travel Notice. I'm a little anxious, but it's not like we're all packed and ready to go or anything. This weekend we'll get Marcie's room a little more put together (we're removing some furniture we don't need and donating it to Father Joe's Village). I'm not sure if we'll actually set up the crib just yet-- we want to buy a new mattress first (we're donating Casey's used mattress).

This last weekend we met with our social worker for our homestudy update. We needed an update because Jason changed jobs and we changed our medical insurance during the year-long wait. It seems crazy that an update-- basically an addendum to the original homestudy-- costs a few hundred dollars. Then again, it's less expensive than what many attorneys charge for an hour of their time, so who am I to criticize? I'll be glad when it's complete-- one more thing to check of our to-do list.

There are some rumors out there that the CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs), which issues the travel notices, will be shut down for a few weeks during their move. I hope this isn't true. The law firm I'm working at just moved everyone in a weekend. I'm hopeful the CCAA is as efficient. I know things may be a little slower as people pack and unpack-- but a total shut-down? I just don't buy it . . .

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Update on Marcie

After we accepted our referral for Marcie, our agency requested and update from her orphanage. Her lest medical exam was at five months old. So were the last photos taken (at least that they shared). Orphanages are not obligated to provide these updates. And ours apparently did not. Several others who received referrals at the same time we did have received an update, and they were told that families who did not receive an update this week probably will not receive one before travel.

It's a shame we won't get an update. But really, as long as she's being well-cared for and she's healthy, I can live without it . . .

Friday, July 14, 2006

Travel in August

Several people have asked when, exactly, we will be traveling. Right now, all we know is "sometime in August." We think we have about a three-week departure window-- between August 1st and August 15th. But we won't know anything official or final until approximately 7-10 days before we depart. For those of you who are interested, here is how it works:

Once we received our referral, we sent back a letter accepting Marcie's referral. Our agency received our acceptance letter on Friday June 30th, I think. That following Monday (July 2nd), they sent our acceptance letter (along with everyone else's) to China. It takes 2-4 business days to arrive, which means it got to China some time around July 7th.

Once China receives the acceptance letters, they issue Travel Authorizations. This arrives anywhere from 2-5 weeks after receiving the letters. This means at the earliest, we will receive our authorization next week. The travel authorization gives us permission to travel to China to get Marcie.

Once our agency receives the Travel Authorization, they contact the American consulate and request appointments. The Consulate takes 2-4 days to respond to the request. The time and date of the consular appointment determine the travel itinerary (and thus the date of departure). If we receive Travel Authorization next week, we could receive our Travel Notice (date of departure) late next week or the last week in July.

I'm personally betting that we won't depart until the third week in August (around the 15th). I have no hard evidence of this. It's a hunch based on the fact that the CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs) is rumored to be in the middle of a move to a new building. I think this will slow down the authorization process a bit. Plus, everyone from the U.S. can't travel all at once-- it has to stagger a little. I'll be disappointed if we travel much later than August 15th. But this is one of those things over which I have no control, so I'm choosing instead to focus on other things (like helping Casey re-decorate his room in a Thomas motif and setting up the nursery).

Anyway, we'll keep you posted-- please keep checking back!

Gotta love paperwork . . .

If there is one thing you get relatively good at during the adoption process, it's paperwork. It doesn't matter if it's a domestic adoption or an international adoption-- there is a lot of paperwork. There is more paperwork with an international adoption because of all the notarizing and certifying. There is also more paperwork because of the travel requirements (Good Ole Homeland Security).

This week Jason and I had four documents notarized (thanks to Christine at the law firm where I'm summering for helping us get that done quickly!). My mom also had a travel release notarized in San Francisco, which she then overnighted to me in San Diego. I put all the documents in the mail to our agency in Colorado. But that wasn't the end of it. . .

We also had to fill out visa applications and send them in with passport photos to the travel agency handling it for us in San Francisco. My mom is in North Carolina, but she was on vacation out here when we got the referral, so we had to wait for her to return to NC so she could mail us her passport. Luckily we did the photos months ago. Well, when my mom mailed her passport, she sent it Express overnight through the Postal Service (at my request). I had her send it to the firm because I didn't want her passport sitting on my front stoop. She sent it on Wednesday and it was scheduled to arrive yesterday (Thursday) by noon. It wasn't here by noon. . .

So I went hunting. Turns out our law firm has someone pick up the mail each morning at the post office and deliver it. They pick up the mail at 8:00 am and the package arrived at 9:15 am. So off I went to find the package. The first post office I went to sent me to another post office. I had an address but no directions. I got lost and then called my assistant Shelby from my regular, school-year job. She was going to map it out for me and give me directions while I was driving, but then I found the place.

Once I got to the post office place, they wanted the address of the firm, not the name (duh!). But I don't have the address memorized. Nor do I know the phone number. So I had to call one of the other summer associates on her cell phone to get the information (thanks, Jennie!). Anyway, once I got the package, I had to get back to a different post office to mail all our passports and visa applications to San Francisco (it needed to get there this week so there would be enough time for processing before we leave the country). Anyway, I made the deadline and it should arrive in San Francisco before noon today. Phew!

Lest you think that's the end of the paperwork, it's not. In addition to all the travel paperwork, we also have to update our homestudy because Jason changed jobs. This required a letter from his employer regarding his salary and dates of employment and a letter from my employer verifying that Marcie will, in fact, have insurance coverage when we return. We meet with the social worker this weekend, and she will write an update/amendment to the homestudy document, which we will hand-carry to China. This is a requirement by the U.S. government, not the Chinese government.

And as all this is going on, Jason's wallet has gone missing. No idea where it is. We already cancelled and received new credit cards, and Jason already went in for a new license. Yesterday I cancelled our debit card. It will be 10 days before new ones. Jason was going to pick up temporary ATM cards for us since there are no branches of the bank near where I work-- but of course he won't be able to do that because he has no license and I just put his passport in the mail to San Francisco for the visa. So now he is ID-less and money-less. Good times.

I know it will all work out just fine. This is just how life goes sometimes. And once we see Marcie, we won't care about the cost or the paperwork or any of it-- we will just be so happy to hold our daughter . . .

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pictures of Marcie's orphanage

Some people who recently returned from Chongqing and received a daughter from Yungyang County Chengxiang Social Welfare Institute posted photos they received on their blog of the orphanage. It's the same orphanage where Marcie is currently living. You can view these photos at their blog. I thought about posting the photos here, but they aren't mine and it doesn't seem right t0 post someone else's pictures on this blog when their owner already has them posted.

On the topic of photos, I did send both a disposable camera and a photo album labeled (in Chinese, thanks to my mother-in-law who helped us by writing the Chinese characters). The camera is intended for the nannies and caretakers to take pictures of Marcie and of her life. The photo album is so that Marcie can start to get familiar with our faces before we get there. But I forgot to put Marcie's name on the camera. So now I am obsessing that maybe they won't know the camera goes with her (it's the only item we asked to have returned in her care package). Should I send a new package with another camera? Should I leave well enough alone?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Simplification of the Chinese Characters

In a moment, I'll be going back to edit the previous to posts with a name update, but before doing so, I wanted to explain why. Apparently, in an effort to promote literacy, China has simplified its the written language over time. You can read a bit of basic information about it here. In doing so, though, some of the details of the language are lost, making the meaning of the characters less obvious.

Marcie's current first name, which we thought was Li, is actually Ji. How did we find this out? Well, when we received our Fed Ex package with the beautiful new photos, all the paperwork had "Ji" crossed out and "Li" written in. So I faxed a copy of our acceptance document to a good friend of mine, whose mother was born in Chongquing. She and her mother reviewed the characters and reported that the name was actually "Ji" and not "Li." Then, I showed the paperwork to my mother-in-law, who is from Hong Kong and reads Chinese characters, and she confirmed for me that it's "Ji." The difference between the two characters is an extra stroke at the top of the character-- a single line. It's very subtle. But the difference in the name's meaning is enormous.

"Li" means plum (there are actually 4 ways to pronounce the word Li and four meanings, but the one given to us was plum). "Ji," on the other hand, means season. Again, there are different meanings for the word "Ji," but the character "Ji" in our daughter's name is season. So instead of her name meaning "plum rich fortune," her name means "season of rich fortune." How cool is that? What a great name! So Marcie will actually be Marcie YangFuJi.

On a separate note, for those of you wondering why we are keeping the surname Yang (which does NOT rhyme with "twang" but is more of a cross between how Americans would say "yung" and "yong"), we have been advised (by our Chinese friends and family) that the surname is actually quite important-- and in some ways more important than the first name-- and that the name would be incomplete without it. Even though Yang is probably the name of the orphanage director, or maybe it comes from the nearby Yangtze River, it's what will tell Marcie who her "siblings" from the orphanage are if she decides to trace back her roots. So we're keeping it. And we like how it sounds better than just FuJi. So there you have it-- my expose on Marcie's name.