It’s the final countdown! (*insert music as appropriate*).
Wow, our departure is getting close–we’ll be on a very long flight two weeks from today. Our flights and hotels are booked, we’re installing car seats, and we’re waiting for our passports to be returned to us with China visas. Late last week, we also received our itinerary for our trip. Just in case you’re interested, here’s where we’ll be, and when:
- June 19: Wheels up! We fly nonstop to Beijing (about 13 hours of flight time)
- June 20: We arrive in Beijing and meet our first guide. We’ll hopefully start to get ourselves on China time (one time zone for the whole country!!!)
- June 21 & 22: Tons of touring, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and lots and lots of other places. Families have told us we’ll be exhausted by the end of Beijing, but sounds fantastic!
- June 23: We fly from Beijing to Taiyuan, Shanxi Province and meet our in-country agency rep for the remainder of our trip. We’ll want to rest up for our big day.
- June 24: Placement Day! We will get custody of Alexander at the Civil Affairs office in the afternoon
- June 25: We will return to Civil Affairs with Alexander early in the morning to register his adoption.
- June 26: We’ll take our first family outing to Pingyao, an amazing UNESCO world heritage site.
- June 27: We pick up Alexander’s passport, notary papers, and take a tour of Taiyuan.
- June 28: We fly from Taiyuan to Guangzhou in the late afternoon.
- June 29: Alexander’s medical exam
- June 30: A day touring Guangzho, the Chen Family Academy, and Yuntai gardens
- July 1: More city touring, and visa/medical exam report paperwork pickup
- July 2: Our Consulate appointment. Alexander is approved to immigrate to the US.
- July 3: Our guide picks up Alexander’s new US passport/visa. More local touring.
- July 4: We depart Guangzhou via van for Hong Kong. We fly back to Chicago. With the time zone change and flight times, it looks as though we’ll arrive home in early afternoon and in plenty of time for Independence Day fireworks! We’ll clear US Customs, hand over all of the immigration paperwork we’ve been gathering, and Alexander becomes an American!
Aside from big things (like flights and formal appointments), our schedule is fairly flexible. We can’t wait to explore these cities with our new son!
Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve posted any updates for you all. As we reach the final phase of paperwork and preparations, the reality that we’ll be bringing our little man home soon is sinking in!
Last Thursday (May 9th), we received an email from the American Consulate in Guangzhou indicating that all of our paperwork was ready for pickup. This paperwork, called the Article 5 letter is Our Government’s official stamp of approval for our adoption application. It states that we’re suitable adoptive parents and that Alexander will be allowed to enter the US and become a citizen. This letter is delivered to the Chinese government in Beijing, at which time they basically say “Come on over!” through a formal Travel Approval (TA) invitation. We are wrapping up day 8 of our wait for this TA; most families wait around 2 weeks, more or less. As soon as this letter arrives, we can book our consulate appointment (which is at the end of our trip), then count backwards to plan our flights to and from China. Unless a major delay occurs, we should have our TA before the end of May, and we’ll be traveling at some point in June.
It’s been far too long since Brian has witnessed me have a meltdown at a UPS/FedEx store. Well, it’s about time! Continue reading
Finally! After more than 50 long days of waiting for a DHL truck to arrive, it’s here! Continue reading
Although I feel as though the adoption process is a long series of “hurry up and wait,” I think we’re hitting the tail end of what might be considered the hardest wait of all. Many many of you have asked where we are in the process and when we are traveling.Although I was tempted to wait to make the next post when we received our final letter of approval, I feel compelled to share our frustrations with you too. I promised myself that if we were going to share this adoption journey with friends and family, that they wouldn’t hear the sanitized version where everyone is joyful and patient. In truth, the indeterminate waiting and long paperchases are emotionally exhausting. This week also marked a special celebration for our family, as Alexander turned one on Monday. It was a bittersweet occasion knowing we couldn’t be with him to celebrate such a milestone.
At present, we are waiting on the LOA– a formal Letter of Acceptance/Approval issued from the Chinese government to us for Alexander. It’s funny that in the end after all the electronic log ins and whatnot that we still need to physically sign a paper and FedEx it back to their government. As soon as we sign and return the paper, their government has given us final approval. The LOA also rekindles our dealings with USCIS. As soon as this letter arrives, a copy is included in our petition for Alexander to be classified as a US citizen as soon as we clear customs on our return home.
The difficulty in waiting for the LOA is the huge question of how long it takes to arrive. Some families get their LOA in a matter of days or weeks– others have been waiting well over 100 days! We have now hit Day 46 in our wait for our LOA. Our agency was kind enough to inquire twice to the Chinese government on our behalf; the first time it sounded as though the letter would be issued that week, but a change in how these letters are being cleared and mailed caused a weeklong delay in processing. The latest we heard was a direct promise that our letter would be mailed THIS week. Given the time difference and shipping time, we might not get that letter into our hands until sometime the following week. A slightly sad follow-up is that although we have prepared our care package, we need to wait until our letter arrives in order to be able send anything directly to Alexander (including medical supplies for his cleft-affecting feeding).
Please keep the prayers and warm wishes flowing for Alexander and for our family in general. We are so grateful for your support through all of this, but especially through these trying and frustrating weeks.
No, that is NOT Alexander’s current weight! Our little guy, like many internationally adopted children, is very small for his age. Although he turns one early next month, his measurements and weight are much more in line with a child less than half his age. Though that caused some initial panic from us, our medical team ensured us that he’ll sprout up and fatten out as soon as we get him home and on a more advanced diet. Additionally, because of his medical condition, eating is a much more laborious task.
So back to the 44 lbs! As Brian mentioned in a previous post, we attended our first travel meeting this past week. We focused primarily on the itinerary and logistics of our upcoming trip. We were handed a huge suggested packing list with one caveat– for our several week trip, we can each have only 44 lbs of luggage (based on the luggage restrictions for in-China flights). Yes, 44 lbs is a lot of weight, but that has to include a fair amount of baby gear, enough clothing for at least a few days, and several small gifts for ceremonial gift exchanges with various officials. We also hope to do a fair amount of shopping during our journey to gather some things from Alexander’s home town and province.
Does anyone have any suggestions for packing light and packing smart for international travel? Especially you parents out there– do you have any creative ideas on essentials to include and what to just leave at home? One thing we’ve definitely decided is to bring a soft baby carrier to help with attachment rather than to haul a stroller.
This past weekend, we got to share our incredibly good news with several friends in the city during an annual Super Bowl party chili fest. Of course, much was discussed regarding our upcoming travel and grand adventure ahead. The big discussion though, was the important conversation about which order Brian should show Alexander the Star Wars films (answer? Read this) and which Star Trek films are essential for a proper upbringing ala STNG.
Equally important to geekifying our child, if not more so, is that we are now able to request updates and send care packages to Alexander. So far, we’ve received one update of photographs and are waiting on a developmental update. As far as care packages are concerned, we have been told to hope for the best but to expect the worst. More explicitly, we are encouraged to send a few photographs of us and a small comfort object in the hopes that their caregivers will share these to begin our bonding before we even meet. However, given the uncertainty of where Alexander is and who is caring for him, we need to be prepared that the package may never reach him, that it may be given to him on placement day, or that anything other than photographs are redistributed.
After a fair amount of agonizing (too soft! too pink! too tacky!), we settled on a small green and white polka dotted security blanket with a soft polar bear attached and a cushy, colorful photo album with Mandarin captions. The security blanket also came with a larger green and white blanket, which we’ll bring with us to China. Ideally, he’ll come to us with a well-worn album of photos and his little blanket. If the blanket doesn’t make it to placement day, perhaps he’ll remember the feel of the blanket or maybe even the texture/color. After seeing all the photos of little Alexander with stuffed toys and colorful clothing, it’s hard to believe that our little care package will be our first contact with our little guy and the first way of showing him how much we love him already.
The moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived….. we have a son! On Monday evening, January 21, 2013, we received an email from our social worker that will change our lives forever. Staring back at us through my laptop screen were several photos of a little 10 month old boy diagnosed with severe cleft lip and palate. We continued to hold our breath throughout the week as we awaited several medical opinions on his medical records and lab reports. We heard what we expected to hear- that our little man is incredibly tiny for his age because of his medical diagnosis, and that he’ll need at least one surgery in the first few months home.
On Wednesday afternoon after a final consultation with the University of Chicago’s International Adoption Clinic, Brian and I looked at each other and couldn’t stop grinning. This little boy, who we have chosen to call Alexander Thomas, is our long-awaited son. After several phone calls (most of which ended up with all parties in tears), our application was electronically submitted early Thursday morning the 24th to the Chinese government and the countdown began.
Today, we received word from our agency that the Chinese government has issued us a preliminary approval (PA) for the adoption of little Alexander Thomas. Our huge dossier-o-life is now being scrutinized to make sure that we are a stable, loving, and healthy couple and a suitable home for this little guy. Once they have confirmed all of the information in our application, they will issue us a formal Letter of Acceptance (LOA) which we will have to sign and FedEx back to the Chinese government. Then the real fun of governments negotiating with governments begins. We hope, with fingers and toes crossed, that we will be able to travel by sometime in June at the latest.
But all in good time. For now, join us in the celebration that our family is growing, that this little boy, our son, has found his family.
We hope to be able to share more details about our son as soon as we can; until we officially sign the letter of acceptance, we will need to be sensitive about the information we share here. Feel free to contact us directly if you are interested in more details.
Three letters that say so much- we are finally DTC! This is the Chinese adoptive families community’s acronym for Dossier To China, or All Systems Go! Our complete application has been processed through our agency, filed, and overnighted to Beijing. Probably within a week, we’ll be logged in to the official system, and we’ll be ready to meet our future son or daughter!
In other news, our Sunday night dinners took an exciting turn, as we tried making bao for the first time. For those who aren’t familiar, bao is a steamed bun often filled with meat or vegetables. We made bbq and ginger pork bao– which turned out fantastic! We cheated by using this recipe for a lazy Sunday night dinner, but for our first time, they turned out wonderfully!
Anyone have any tips on cleaning bamboo steamer baskets?
Amid everything else going on in our lives, I’ve added a new hobby. I briefly mentioned it in my Portland post, but now I’m officially fascinated with the Chinese language. Brian and I would both really like to become more familiar with the Chinese language, both written and spoken– this is an incredibly overwhelming task considering neither of us knows a lick of Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese). Because we don’t know what provinces we’ll be traveling to until we accept a referral, I’m hedging my bets and starting with Mandarin. Continue reading