December 21, 2012

To: Meili, From: Your Family

Now that we are through all the "official" stuff and are just waiting on paperwork for our travel to China, we have the opportunity to send a package to Meili. If you've kept up with the blog, you'll recognize the little lamb from this post. Browsing around on all my various blogs, yahoo and facebook groups, people suggest ALL kinds of things to send in care packages. However, our agency was quite specific about what should be sent. Apparently, keeping it pretty simple increases our chances of Meili actually receiving it.

It was a bit of a process to get everything gathered and ready.

The first item was Little Lamb. We snuggled with him every night so he smells like us. He's got a soft blankie and he's cute. I REALLY hope the orphanage staff gives him to her. For some reason, I really feel like he could help with the transition when we come to get her. If it doesn't seem like too odd of a prayer request, could you pray that she actually receives this little guy? It's the closest thing to us she'll have until we're actually there.

Next, we included a disposable camera.

This is for the orphanage staff to use to take pictures of her. I didn't even know they made these anymore! I had to pay $15 for it!! I thought that seemed like a lot for such old technology. Ideally, they would return this to us when we pick Meili up and we'd have some images that give us a glimpse into what her life was like before she was with us. Thankfully, we already have pictures and video from the wonderful family who shared them with us. But more would certainly be appreciated.

Third, we included a photo album. The agency specified a "soft" photo album. I learned those are quite hard to find. So we took a not-so-soft one and I made it soft by adding some extras that conveniently provide a little additional sensory input as well.

They were also specific on what should be included in the album.

A family picture, appropriately labeled.

A picture of siblings and pets, labeled as well. We also included individual pictures of each of our kids with their names and ages.

We were really living on the edge here....a "home" picture wasn't on the list. But I think it's kind of important!

Everything had to be translated into mandarin. A wonderful woman named Li helped us with that project. She's Chinese but has lived in America for over 20 years. It was so much fun to chat with her and we REALLY appreciated her help!

We included a letter that explained the items we were sending. This also needed to be translated into Mandarin.

Li helped us with that too! Thank goodness.

Keira decorated the box. By herself. When I wasn't watching. It was pretty darn cute.

I wrapped it in red. Because everything important in China is in RED. I was hoping this might also increase our chances of it getting delivered. Red symbolizes good fortune and joy in China. It is used abundantly during celebrations, gatherings and holiday events. If it is important, it is red.

Ready for delivery! It cost $44 to get it to China.
Estimated date of delivery?

Christmas Eve.

Wouldn't that be appropriate?

It is very common for children to never receive the care packages they are sent. This is probably due to a number of reasons; a few include:
1. Nannies who are overworked and don't have time/energy to manage one more thing.
2. When one child gets something "special" other kids want it and it causes problems so it's easier to just never give them anything.
3. It gets thrown into the pile of things that "need to get done" but never get done.
4. They receive the gifts initially, but other children snatch them up quickly and they disappear.

We may never see any of these items again. But we would be so happy if we did. Please pray that Meili will receive this gift. Not because we want her to have "things," but because we want her to see our faces and smell our home and get just a hint of what's to come, even if it's minuscule.

Our son prays every night that for God to "help Meili to know she has a family" and we're trying our best!

December 14, 2012

USCIS update

Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, for many reasons. But mainly because when I finally got home and checked the mail at 3:30, I found the document we've been waiting for.

I was in such a rush that I didn't even take a picture of it. Approval of the I800-A update was the last piece of paper we needed before I could send the DS-230. I grabbed my paperwork pile and headed to UPS!

Since yesterday was Thursday, that meant I'd have to get the paperwork to our China team in Michigan early enough TODAY that they could go through it, and then send it on to China. If it didn't get there today, the next possible day would be Monday, and considering next week is the week before Christmas, I wanted to avoid that if possible.

I sent the whole packet Next Day Air to Michigan so it would be there by 10:30 today. I could have flown it there myself for what I had to pay for that!

Well not quite, but $50 seems like a LOT to mail 10 pieces of paper.

I've forgiven USCIS for their mistake (more HERE if you care to know) because the I800-A approval came pretty fast, so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and (probably naively) assume that they actually TRIED to hurry it through for us.

Because it came so quickly, I think there's still a *chance* we could travel in January. If not then, February for sure (assuming everything else goes smoothly)!

If it helps, we're on step 11 of this chart now.
Step 12 takes 1-2 weeks.
Step 13 takes 1-2 weeks.
Step 14 happens while you wait for step 15.
And step 13 to 15 is about 2-3 weeks.

So if everything happens on the quick side, we could travel in January. Because of Christmas though, I'm thinking February is probably more likely.

Jon took this picture in our living room....

We'd really like to see those two pictures in ONE frame.
So we're still praying for January! 

December 8, 2012

Immigration Frustration!

When people say that paperwork and process involved in an adoption is massive, they're right. We, and probably everyone else who has adopted, understand why it has to be this way, but that doesn't necessarily make it less frustrating.

Here's where we're at right now (I'll TRY to keep it simple):

USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services) must have 2 documents from us.

1. The I800-A: Permission for us to adopt a child and bring them to the US.
2. The I800: Permission to adopt a SPECIFIC child and bring them to the US.

We must state on the I800-A the characteristics of the child we hope to adopt; girl, 18-48 months old, "this special need", "that special need", etc. We received I800-A approval before we got Meili's referral.

After we got her referral, our agency sent an I800-A update to add Meili's specific special need to the list. We also were able to send the I800, because we now had the NAME of the SPECIFIC CHILD we intended to adopt.

A couple weeks went by. We received our I800 approval, but heard nothing about the I800-A update. So I inquired with our agency who then inquired with USCIS.

Their response?
USCIS: "We never received your I800-A update paperwork"
Our Agency: "Yes you did. I have a receipt right here that shows proof of delivery."
USCIS: "Well too bad. We don't have it. And since the I800 has now been processed before the I800-A, you'll have to have your client file a Supplement 3."

The cost for filing a Supplement 3 is about $400.

Thank you, US government. (For the record, the Chinese government has been extremely easy to work with. The US

So basically, they lost our paperwork and won't admit it. Even though we have proof.
Keep in mind that the USCIS is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Yes, the one that is responsible for keeping terrorists out of the country.

I feel SO confident in their abilities right now...

We could argue with them.
Demand they search for our paperwork and continue to provide proof that they have it somewhere. 
Not pay $400 for their mistake...

Unfortunately, our agency advised us that that would take WEEKS.
And all the while, this little girl is waiting:

And we cannot bear to leave her in that horrible place any longer than we have to.
So we shut our mouths, filed our Supplement 3, paid our $400 and pretended like we're the ones who screwed up.

But, even in doing that, this is still a setback of about three weeks (in my estimation.) We were hoping to travel in January, but with this error, we are now hoping for February.

Now that I'm over being absolutely livid  about this situation, we're thankful that everything else has gone smoothly up to this point and praying that the rest of the paperwork will get processed as it should.

December 1, 2012

A natural, effective way to clean produce's been a LONG time since I did any REAL food posts! Ever since we got Meili's referral, things have been a bit crazy around here. With a referral comes a significant amount of new paperwork, and the ability to apply for grants, etc.

I actually have a list titled "My Fabulous Blog Ideas." I don't know if any of them are really "fabulous" but titling them that way makes me feel smart :) It's completely full of ideas...maybe someday they'll make it onto the screen.


I read several real food blogs and one of them had a great post today. The topic has been on my "fabulous blog ideas" list for a while, but this blogger wrote it out very thoroughly and just about exactly the same as I would have, so I just want to pass the link along.

It's about how to clean your produce, naturally. I've used the method she describes for a couple of years now and it works wonderfully! Be sure to check out the before and after pictures of her grapes! So interesting!

Take a peek at her post found HERE.

For those of you who just want the facts without all the "why's"'s the short version:

Natural Produce Wash:
Fill a sink enough liquid to cover your produce using about 1 part white vinegar to 7 parts water.
(I also add a couple tablespoons of salt. It helps draw out impurities).
Let produce soak for 10-15 minutes.
Rinse with cold water for about 30 seconds.
Pat dry

That's it!
This method is very easy, inexpensive and effective.
Whattya know....the natural, homemade method is better than the store-bought option - AGAIN!
I love it when that happens :)