Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Video- Youth Volunteers in Xi'an SWI (Orphanage)

I stole this from The Adventures of Chou Chou Shu, but it hit home because this is exactly what I wanted to do coming out of high school and never did...It's one of the things I'll regret not doing for the rest of my life. When our kids are teenagers, this is the kind of thing I'll highly encourage they do. It's about 10 minutes long, but really worth the time to view. It shows detail of the SWI, the surrounding culture, and the sites of Beijing and Xi'an.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another Milestone! LID! (and other ramblings)

For those not familiar with the adoption acronyms, I've tried to bold each below to better guide you through what some of us in the China Adoption community know as common everyday language.

Yesterday, we received the email that we are officially LID as of 4/6/07! LID stands for Log In Date: the date that the Chinese government division for adoption (CCAA- China Center for Adoption Affairs) processes our Dossier: compilation of paperwork required by agency and CCAA to request permission to adopt a Chinese orphan, and enters it into their system. We are now officially "in line" in the eyes of the Chinese Government. At this point, we are technically just another dossier in a big stack (click here to see the stacks of dossiers), but our agency attached a letter stating that we are planning to consider a SN: Special needs or WC: waiting child. The way they explained it, this puts our dossier in a different "stack" so it will be easy to find for review when we send in …get ready for itour LOI.

LOI stands for Letter of Intent. It is basically a letter asking for their permission to adopt a specific WC or SN child. Because we will need to be specific in how we describe our intentions for future care of certain needs, possibly referencing his birth province or characteristics, medical statistics, etc., we need to wait to write it until we make our final decision. I already have a draft going. The core of our intent will be the same regardless of the child or his extenuating circumstances (I almost typed circumcisions just then J… another topic discussed often among those adopting boys from China..."to snip or not to snip").

I've received a number of questions recently about why we are logging in traditionally before considering a waiting child. One person went so far as to tell me in a private message that I was doing it wrong and would only get rejected later. The nerve! Typically processing the dossier first occurs when a family is either asking CCAA to choose a SN child for them (expedited dossier… for another post maybe) or if they start out on the regular route toward a "healthy" child and decide to switch to SN later.

Often, those going the SN/WC routes from the beginning find their child on a list, sign with that agency, then send in their LOI…THEN go through the paperchase toward LID. The reason is simply that we wanted to make sure my medical iffys wouldn't put us in a bind if we didn't make the May 1 deadline. For the longest time, it was really unsure how China would handle the new rules, how strict they would be on some medical and criminal things, and whether they would require LID by May 1 or simply at time of DTC: Dossier to China (when it's officially mailed from the agency). We simply didn't want to find our son, fall in love, and then have something happen late in the paperwork process. It would be too much to handle, so we decided to get the paper related niceties out of the way first and then begin focusing on the little faces…every one of them with a valid reason to be our child… which one… which one… This is the part I hate to love. This ugly feeling of "shopping", yet enjoying reading their backstory. Wondering what their life is like. What it would have been like if they weren't abandoned. Wondering how the mother felt as she set the box down in the middle of the night, peeked in one last time to pin a note, then ran, knowing she would never see her son again, but also knowing she couldn't keep him. Couldn't afford to have his lip repaired or his hand mended. Every time I see those pictures, I imagine how she must have felt. It's just a story I tell myself, but I imagine it must be true at least some of the time. And this is how life goes. It's the scary reality of the world that was never taught in school. I always considered myself smart and even worldly (despite not holding a passport until after 30), however I never even knew about the 1 child law in China until I started researching countries for adoption.

So on a more upbeat note, the call about our LID was a great milestone for sure. It's something everyone in process sits on pins and needles waiting for. For those going the regular NSN: Non Special Needs route, that date represents Day 1 of their wait. When people talk about it taking 'X' months (right now it's sitting at about 24 and rising…hopefully going back down sooner than later), it means that many months from Log In Date….go ahead and forget about the 6 months it took you to get there. That time is dead and gone (did I say upbeat?). For us, it is more or less a milestone plain and simple, but in the scheme of things, it still matters a great deal.

Hopefully we won't be too far off from having access to new non-published Special Needs profiles. Our agency is expecting them any time now and once they are translated, we are high on the list to review them before they go public on their website and newsletter. We're hoping that in the next 30 days or so we'll have sent in our LOI and wringing our hands for our PA: Prior or Parental Approval: CCAA reviews the LOI and dossier and issues official permission to adopt said child. At that point, we'll no longer be parents to one parrot, two "ironman" fish, and a super spoiled French bulldog, but we'll also have a 2 legged variety to brag about! Who whoulda thought?

Special note: I also wanted to tack on a thank you to my husband, who viewed my blog for the first time since October last night. I don't even think he noticed that it's not on MSN Spaces anymore, which he (Microsoft guy) stipulated as a requirement. I went to the dark side a long time ago, honey! (p.s. he also found out yesterday that I have NOT been brewing decaf coffee for the last 12 years. He really thought that he was caffeine free all this time until he went on a trip and suffered withdrawls. LOL!)

As a final unrelated note: Sanjaya Malakar was voted off American Idol last night. I couldn't be happier despite the fact that he is from my hometown of Federal Way, Washington. So sorry for the Fanjayas. I was not one of them. He was cute and had a great audition, but he went downhill from there. I'm rooting for Melinda, but I also like Jordin (She's 17!!! )…and I loved Phil's country song. He would win Nashville Star, or whatever that show is…

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cleft Video

This video is SO worth 2 minutes of your time. Pass it on (or a link to this post) to anyone you know who might be thinking about considering a "special needs" child.

These little ones would never stand half a chance in China as is, but the resources are so readily available here...or there through organizations like Love Without Boundaries.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Curse of the Black Cat!

An online conversation yesterday posed the question "Are you superstitious?" Not really. I have a few idiosyncrasies from my past related to sports, but nothing shocking. I was a huge horror movie fan growing up and, except for being almost 34 and deathly afraid of the dark, I have come away from an obsession with scary stuff relatively unscathed. It did become apparent in the discussion that I'm OCD, but thankfully, I'm not the only one. Of the replies, almost all of us has an issue of some kind with silverware. That in and of itself is pretty weird, I think. A law of averages would point toward eating utensils being the foundation for many a counseling session.

Anyway, the reason I feel the need to write about this is because Friday the 13th reared it's ugly head yesterday, and not in a "Jason" kind of way. Here's the story. Try to follow along:

Shawn came home from a trip to Chicago yesterday (he spotted Jim Belushi in a restaurant, btw) and upon walking in the door from the airport, he dropped his bags and said he was starving and wanted to go to dinner. He wanted to drive and I didn't plan to drink, so I left my purse, keys, etc. on the table and we left. At the end of our street, a cat ran out in front of our car. I said "Hey look, a black cat & it's Friday the 13th! Freaky, huh?" We laughed and continued to dinner.

After dinner, we started home and he suddenly got quiet and said "Did you bring your keys?". NO, why? "Because I always take my house key off my key chain when I travel". Crap! "Do you have your cell phone?" NO. YOU? "No. They're on the kitchen table." Fudge! IT WAS THE BLACK CAT! WE WERE CURSED!

Also, our hidden key in the yard was mysteriously missing. That's pretty freaky, too. Basically, we had to go to the grocery store up the street and borrow a total stranger's cell phone (we live in a small community with no pay phones) and call my in laws who are the only ones with a spare key....At least they thought it might be our spare key. OMG! Without any other option without a $200 price tag, we drove a half hour to meet them halfway to get the key. We had a prayer circle around our Chai tea lattes and carrot cake with the Starbucks girls in hopes that it was the right one. There was a strong chance that it was actually a key to our old apartment or belonging to another sibling...or nobody's key...just another trick played by the black cat.

As our truck inched back home, we were facing the likelihood that we would have to break a window. No locksmith would be coming to our area that late on a Friday. If I stand on Shawn's shoulders, can I try to open the bathroom window on the 2nd floor without falling and breaking my neck? He was completely ready to take that chance to save the money of a replacement window, although he decided that this would be a great time to comment that I probably wouldn't fit through the window... Umm. So, I've seen him for just a few days in the past 2 weeks. This was probably not going to win him "quality time" with me later, ya think?

Long story, but I now have a new superstition. Black cats...and I'm also pretty sure that the boogie man has our hide-a-key now.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Family Foto Fun Friday "Pets"

Donna over at Double Happiness always has great FFFF (Family Foto Fun Friday) contests. I've never participated because, well, our child isn't home yet. But this week, the topic is "Pets". I couldn't resist.

Polli is the French Bulldog half of "The Boy and the Bulldog". She has been home with us since December of 2005. After 2 years of researching dog breeds, we decided on a Bat Dog for sure. When we saw her picture, we loved her unique coloring and white paw. She had unusually floppy ears for a frenchie, and many untrained eyes assume she is part pug (Polli hates it when people say that to her...what an insult!). Nothing against pugs, but she just isn't remotely related, thank you very much!

The first picture below is her "referral photo" if we were to commission a sketch. The second picture is from her "Gotcha Day Anniversary".

Such a pretty baby!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stuff I Won't Be Able to Do Once I'm a Mom

First, a note... this obviously isn't me, but I love this picture and no, I won't be
able to do this once I'm a mom... but I will be Wonder Woman!

Read a book a week. On second thought, I probably won't get in an article a week unless it's about sleep strategies or how to clean up regurgitated split peas.

Sleep in. Ever. Ever again. For as long as I live. Goodbye pillow. I'll miss you.

Leisurely walks with my dog. OK, so they aren't so leisurely. She pretty much drags me from shrub to shrub. Yes, we must sniff every leaf or else.

Dinner out whenever we want. Every night if we want to, and yes, I'll have another martini, thank you.

Friday night at the movies. With no notice. 7:10 showing? Nah, let's do the 11:15! Who cares if we're home after 1 am?!?

Let the dog have bad manners. Why isn't it OK to let her beg at the table, jump on us, wrestle with our hands or refuse to drop her toys ( or our laundry, or q-tips, or our parrot ).

Cry for no reason. Aren't moms strong, brave, impenetrable fortresses who can endure any amount of sleepless nights while keeping food on the table, holding down a full time job ( plus one ), and somehow finding time to bathe?

Love Affair with TIVO. No more hours of Lost with no break. No marathons of CSI or Crossing Jordan. Sigh. Does this mean I have to give up Spongebob? No? Thank God!

Unlimited Reality TV. Who says I can't fit in a child, dog, bird, husband, house, job, family, friends, chores, errands AND Survivor, Amazing Race, Top Chef, Project Runway, Apprentice, Clean Sweep, Trading Spaces, Deal or No Deal, and American Idol?

Cookies for Dinner. While I do a pretty good job of eating healthy, my dear husband isn't as disciplined. If he wants cookies, or chips, or nothing, that's pretty much what he has. And it's not like I'm going to cook for just myself. That's crazy talk.

Swearing. Moms say things like Darn it, Oh my Goodness, heck, etc. My dad was a trucker and we share a lot of characteristics, so maybe I just naturally have a trucker mouth.

Speeding. I've already curbed this habit. Something maternal must be happening. I thought about getting a sign that read: "Paperwork on Board", but it might cause confusion based lane wandering, thus creating an even bigger safety hazard.

Obscenely priced jeans. I have so many pairs of jeans that they are stacked in 2 piles on my closet floor . . . Only 2 pair were over $100, but still. Who do I think I am, JLO?

. . . There are many more! I thought of about 10 more while proofreading. I'll have to do it again later in the wait.

Next time, I'll itemize the things that I WILL be able to do once I become a mom. That should be interesting.

I have to run . . . My Wednesday Reality TV is starting!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hanging On by Our Fingernails

We're just hanging out waiting.

Some days comfortably, knowing that the next foothold is just a little to the left and up a bit….other days, it seems like we're just barely hanging on by our fingertips, bracing for that feeling of weightlessness as we lose it and spiral downward into whatever chasm awaits us.

The word "wait" has different meaning for us than most in the China adoption process, though. I finally realized that the other night. We had a class at our agency a few days ago focusing on orphanage life and what kids go through before finding their family. It was mostly review of things I already knew, but they had a slideshow, which was interesting. There were picture of the inside of orphanages, the CCAA offices, and medical facilities. While I'm sure they only took pictures of the very best orphanages, leaving out the horror stories, it is apparent that there have been huge changes in the conditions of facilities. Thanks to donations and numerous foundations, such as Half the Sky and Love without Boundaries, better care is slowly but surely finding its way to some of the children who need it.

Anyway, we saw two couples who were in our weekend orientation class back in October. When explaining where we are in the process, I naturally mentioned that we are taking the Special Needs track and, because we are doing things backwards from what most people going SN do (selecting child profile after dossier submission, not before), we have to wait for new special needs profiles to arrive. I made the mistake of mentioning in both conversations that we are still hoping to travel by the end of this year. With both couples, I could see the joy of hearing about our process wash away as they basically heard me tell them that we will have our child home about a year and a half before them. As we drove home, I couldn't help but feel sad for not standing in their shoes first before opening my big mouth. How hard would it have been just to tell them that our dossier went to China almost 3 weeks ago and we are now awaiting our Log In Date? That would have been so simple. Shame on me for not being more sensitive.

However badly I feel for this exchange, I still feel justified in throwing my own little pity party. Yes, our timeline will be different, but I also feel a little sad for missing out on the bonding that these dossier groups will experience. More than this, I am super sad that we need to wait for the next set of special needs files to arrive at our agency. They are expecting a new batch in April, but by the time they are translated and ready for "parents in process" to review, it will be sometime in May. Because there was a chance that we wouldn't make the May 1 deadline and didn't want to put in a request for a child (I know which one, too) and wind up heartbroken, we decided to wait. At the time that didn't seem so bad. Now I know I just didn't understand yet. Thinking about the waiting is like a bruise. You know it's there and that it hurts, but you can't help but touch it to see if it hurts any less than 5 minutes ago...and yes, it still hurts. In time, it will hurt less and then finally not at all. The band aid is a smiling, crying, scared little face thousands of miles away. I know that this mini-wait that I am going on and on about is the first of many delays for us…much like the families in the Non Special Needs track, just a different flavor and not as sour. Down the road, we'll face more delays that are affecting Special Needs families such as Pre Approval, Travel Approval, and even new paperwork exchanges in between these that add another layer of waiting. New bruises to poke at. The paperwork itself was a breeze for us, despite some delays, but this waiting…I don't know how the NSN families are conjuring the strength to do it.

So, while I hang out on this cliff edge for a while, bear with me. My pity parties will hopefully be few and far between. After all, time really does fly if you let it. Before long, I'll be saying I have too much to do before we travel and NO ONE will feel sorry for me, I'm sure.

As an update on Shawn's hockey tournament up north, it didn't go so well. They only won 1 game and Shawn said the skill level, even his, did not live up to expectations. Poor thing. He did have a great time with his brother and family up there, and hopefully we'll get to see them again soon under different circumstances (maybe warmer and different). In his absence, I've been enjoying some "girl time" with my Polli. We had good times and got a lot done around the house. She is a great helper, especially when sorting laundry or making the bed. Also in Shawn's short absence, we had one day of almost 70 degree beautiful spring weather, 2 days of torrential downpours, and one day of snow flurries!