Saturday, September 23, 2006

Our Concert Violinist

Hannah has just begun her second year of violin lessons. She absolutely loves it! She chose the violin all on her own (we were encouraging her to try piano). She even asks when she can practice again! The other day, I just had to grab my camera and catch her in action...

Such focus and concentration!

Proud of her performance!


In April 2000, we traveled to China to adopt Hannah (our oldest, now 7). In our group of families traveling together were Greg and Betty, a couple who have grown to be two of our dearest friends. They were traveling to adopt their daughter, Abigail Grace, who was at the Xinyu Social Welfare Institute with our Hannah. While meeting with the Assistant Director who brought our girls to us in Nanchang, we were told that Hannah's and Abbie's caregivers were friends, and often got the girls together to "play". They gave us a few snapshots of the two women standing together holding the two girls. So we have always refered to Hannah and Abbie as "Girlfriends". Over time, they really have become girlfriends, and our families have grown very close. Now, every year, we take the girls to have their portrait taken together (we started when they were three), and have, over the past several years, added Abbie's little sister, Nora, and Hannah's two little sisters.

Abbie and Hannah "chat" at the Hard Rock Cafe in Guangzhou. ("Hey, have they given you something called 'Cheerios' yet? They're awesome!")

The Girlfriends today, age 7!

The Girlfriends and their Little Sisters!

Rachel in Preschool

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel began her second year of preschool. We are so blessed to have a wonderful preschool right at our church, and both Hannah and Rachel have had wonderful experiences there. This year, Rachel's 4's teacher is Mrs. Bloom, the same delightful woman who taught Hannah when she was 4. Mrs. Bloom's primary focus is always the same: quality children's literature and music, and teaching them about God's love.

Rachel adores school! All summer long, she kept asking in a plaintive voice, "Mom, why can't I go to school?" as if we were somehow punishing her by keeping her home! I hope that love and enthusiasm for school continues as she gets older!
Rachel's ready to head off to school in the "rainbow dress" she chose herself! We decorated her school bag in yellow (naturally!). Do you know that ball fringe is making a comeback among the preschool set?
Rachel and Mrs. Bloom were really happy to see one another! It's going to be a great year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sarah's Adoption Paperwork Update

Lots of folks have been asking, so here's where we stand...

Back on June 15th, our much-anticipated I171-H arrived from Immigration - the document that basically stated that we were pre-approved by the government to bring a child into the United States for the purpose of adoption. Unfortunately, I was still in New England with the girls while work was being done on the house, and didn't return home until July 9th. The following week, I gathered everything together, made all the necessary photocopies, and on Friday, July 14th, left Hannah and Rachel with my dear friend Carrie (thanks again, Carrie!), and took Abbie into Chicago with me to get the State of Illinois and Chinese Consulate seals on all 16 (count 'em!) documents. Abbie and I actually had a lovely time together, though it did take all day (and lots of cash for the parking garages!). Our visit to the Consulate office was particularly memorable. The woman at the window who processed my request expressed her surprise at how organized all the paperwork was and how well prepared I was with everything we could have possibly needed. She commented that it must have been becuase I had adopted from China once before (since Abbie was with me). When I told her this was actually our fourth adoption from China, she nearly fell over. She said something like, "Wow, you must really like children!" An understatement, to be sure!
Abbie in front of the Secretary of State's Office in Chicago

After a quick trip to Staples for photocopies...
...and a quick stop at McDonald's for lunch...

...we made it to the Chinese Consulate before they closed at 2:30 (yikes!).
Anyway, we were due to receive the documents back via FedEx on Friday, July 21st. Since I was going to be driving Hannah to Chinese camp that morning, I signed the release allowing the package to be left without a signature. On the way home from dropping Hannah off, I called the FedEx 800 number and got the message that the package had indeed been delivered that morning. I got home and immediately looked for it. No package! Not at the front door, not at the back, not in the garage, not in the shrubs... nowhere!!!!! I questioned the two men hanging drywall and they said the plumber had been by and picked up somthing - I don't think they really understood what I was asking them as English was not their first language. I immediately called our contractor and left a frantic message asking him if we could track down this plumber and see if he had seen the package. I was frantic - it had taken us a year to gather these documents, not to mention the doctor appointments and bloodwork for the medical records, and all the gyrations we had to go through to get Al's employment letter from New York. I was at the point of hysteria when my cell phone rang. It was the contractor, who said he was there when FedEx dropped off the package, and he had assumed it was for Al and put it on his desk! There it was! Thank you, Lord, thank you! Now I could breathe again...

So that weekend I put together the four pages of photos depicting family life (only four?), used up a tree's worth of paper photocopying everything (so glad we have a copier at home - I used to have to schlep everything to Kinko's!), and on Monday, put the girls in the car and drove to Sunny Ridge to deliver the completed dossier. The following Saturday, we received a letter from Sunny Ridge informing us that our dossier had been mailed to China, along with seven others, on Thursday, July 27th. That's our DTC (Dossier To China) date. A few weeks later we learned that our dossier was officially logged in at the China Center for Adoption Affairs on August 14th (our LID, or Log In Date).

And so now we wait... Right now, it's taking about 14 months for referrals to come in from the time dossiers are sent. That time could get longer or shorter, we simply don't know. It took 7 months to get Hannah's referral, 14 months to get Rachel's, and 5 1/2 to get Abbie's, so it's anyone's guess how long it will take for Sarah's to come in. In the mean time, we have three sweeties already with us who keep us incredibly busy, and I think that, in the long run, the wait will go pretty quickly for us.

The completed dossier all laid out (note the photo of the happy Mama and Daddy!)

Consider what went into it, the entire dossier doesn't look like much when it's all stacked up like this!

The girls give each other a Sister Love hug in the little play house on the Sunny Ridge grounds, just moments after dropping Sarah's dossier off!

Our Friend, Suzie

Some of you may remember that on our first trip to China to adopt Hannah, we befriended a young lady who worked in the Business Office of the Lakeview Hotel in Nanchang. For some reason, she seemed to have a real "connection" with Hannah, and was enthusiastic about keeping in touch with us. She called herself Suzie at the time, though she now goes by Christine. Three years later, when we returned to China to adopt Rachel, Suzie was working in Guangdong Province, and traveled to Guangzhou just to spend the day with us (wouldn't you know, that was the day I had the stomach flu!). The following November, Suzie had the opportunity to travel to the US (Las Vegas)with the company she worked for, and took some extra time to fly out to Chicago to spend a weekend with us. When we returned to China in November 2004 to adopt Abbie, Suzie again met us for a day in Guangzhou. In the mean time, we have kept in close touch by e-mails, and also by Skyp, a free international internet calling service. The girls often talk about Suzie as if she were an actual member of the family, and sometimes, Hannah talks about what she and Suzie used to do together in China before we came to adopt her!

Yesterday, Suzie wrote in her blog about our family. It brought both Al and me to tears. Not because we think we're such amazing people, but because Suzie has always sort of made it a point to tell everyone she knows in China about our family (and the other families she met through us), and about how much we truly love and treasure these children we have made our own. I was touched and humbled to read her post, and grateful that more people in China will know how precious all these children are to all of us.

Anyway... here's the link to her blog: It's all in Chinese, except for the post about our family, dated September 12. She also posted photos of the girls. Take a peek...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I've been tagged!

OK, this is the first time I've been tagged! Since the wait for referrals from China is soooo long right now (12 to 13 months), it's difficult to remain positive and optimistic and patient. So here are...
Top 10 Things to Do to Stay Positive During the Wait for Sarah (in no particular order)
1. Decorate and buy furniture for Hannah and Rachel's "Big Girl" room.
2. Decorate and organize Abbie and Sarah's room.
3. Finally get Abbie to go to sleep without me nearby. (I don't need to lie down with her any more, and we've progressed through me sitting in the hall outside her room reading, and right now I'm just staying in our bedroom next door until she's asleep. One day soon, I hope to be able to just go donwstairs after tucking her in.)
4. Get rid of all the clutter clogging up our closets and basement!
5. Go through all the girls' clothes and toy bins and donate what I know they really won't wear or play with.
6. Start buying stuff that I know we'll need for the trip to China (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) so we won't go broke trying to buy it all at once two weeks before travel. Shop the summer clearance sales (this year's and next) for cheap new clothes for the trip.
7. Paint the entire interior of the house.
8. Enjoy some one-on-one time with Abbie while Hannah and Rachel are in school.
9. Go on a few extra dates with Al, since I don't know too many sitters who will sit with four kids who we can actually afford!
10. Make a shopping list for when we're in China (it's gonna be a long one!).
I now tag anyone waiting for a referral on the Sunny Ridge list and on Abbie's list!