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!
The countdown has begun. In less than 30 days, we’re going to become parents to a 15 month little boy in a foreign country. Are we excited? Absolutely. Are we a little terrified? As if you have to ask!
We recently received an update on our little Alexander which has given us a lot of comfort. He’s gained a fair amount of weight and is now the height and weight appropriate for a 6 month old– a tremendous gain for our little guy. Armed with this update, we hit the stores to make sure we’ll be able to clothe our new son once we gain custody on the 24th. Brian spearheaded the efforts this weekend, and the photo above is indicative that no one will mistake Alexander for being anyone’s son except for my loving husband!
In the paperchase news, we drove our passports and visa applications to a courier this afternoon after much drama. Three trips to Office Max, two different UPS stores, and one FedEx later, our passports will soon be in the hands of the Chinese Consulate in order to be issued visas.
Though the time will clearly be flying by, we are blessed to spend the next two weekends gaining new Godchildren. Brian will be the Godfather for our dear friends’ daughter Allison Claire tomorrow afternoon, and we’re both blessed to be able to travel to Kentucky to be Godparents for our cousins Bart and Catherine’s newest daughter Aoife Frances next weekend. I know life tends to be a series of ebb and flow… I’m grateful to be in a period of such joy in new life!
We received the news we’ve been eagerly anticipating…. our Travel Approval (TA) arrived today! As we’ve said many, many times on A Wide Sea, things are starting to happen FAST! We are so very grateful that our approval arrived today, as next week the CCCWA is completely shut down to upgrade their computer system.
So back to our travels to China to get Alexander! Our agency thinks that if we can get our consulate date confirmed (which usually takes a day or so), that we can be on a plane in a little less than a month. We still need to confirm travel logistics with our agency, but it looks good to us. In less than a month’s time, we’ll be on our way to our little boy! And to think, I’ll spend my birthday with OUR SON!
“When are you guys going to China?”
“How long will you be there?”
“When is Alexander coming home?”
Things are getting real.
We are now at the point in our paperchase where we don’t really have to do any more “work.” After checking in with my newest friend, the National Visa Center, we got word that Alexander’s application and our petition has been logged in and will be cabled to Guangzhou within the next two business days. (For those who need a map– our little man’s application was mailed to Texas, where it was forwarded to Missouri to the National Benefits Center, then forwarded on to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire (?), and will finally land at the American Embassy in China.) We’re incredibly grateful that with only one minor hiccup, our paperwork is still all together and headed onward. From this point, our agency and the American and Chinese Consulates take over– the end product being a formal letter to us inviting us to travel to China within a specific 90 day window (called a TA- or travel approval). So now, we just have to sit back, relax… and pace our home in anxious anticipation of our big adventure.
Back at Casa Kelly, Alexander’s room is beginning to fill with baby gear and clothing, almost all of which is the result of our generous family and friends. Brian’s sisters, neither of whom live in Chicagoland, hosted a baby shower in honor of Alexander last weekend at the home of one of Brian’s cousins. Family and friends drove and flew in for the occasion, and we were truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for the little man waiting for us in Shanxi Province. We can’t wait to share with him the stories behind all of the thoughtful and handmade gifts he’ll be surrounded by once he comes home.
I thought about posting a photo of my first attempt to wear our new soft baby carrier (compliments of my good friend Teresa), but it was just too embarrassing. I tried strapping in a stuffed polar bear unsuccessfully. I think Brian and I have several hours of reading instructions ahead of us before we attempt with a human!
For the past 40 days, more or less, I have been channeling my energy and frequent impatience into something productive. Although I know that my needless worrying and meltdowns is bringing Brian infinitely closer to sainthood, I am glad to see a tangible product of the past few months. As a focal point on the wall opposite Alexander’s crib, I have been working on a three panel artwork– a triptych of some sorts. I found inspiration from a small sand painting that my friend Irvin brought back from a trip to China several years ago. I’ve had that painting on display in my home since I received it, never knowing how symbolic it would become years later.
I pulled colors from Alexander’s rug and walls and used the theme of the connections between the elements of earth, wind, and water and our blog title of “A Wide Sea.” I found hunkering down in Alexander’s room with a dropcloth and some canvas panels did me a world of good. I’m still tweaking a bit here and there, but as my wise husband said just this Friday– “The art is in knowing when to stop painting.”
A small paperchasing update for you as well– I received a text from Immigration on Thursday that our file was received and was being sent to headquarters for Alexander’s visa processing. The next few weeks are pretty much out of our control as Our Government works its magic to arrange for its newest little citizen.
Happy Easter to all of you!
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.
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.
In the middle of searching for some gifts for an upcoming baby shower tonight, the email arrived from our social worker.
We are logged in! That means that our social worker could find a referral for our future son or daughter RightThisMinute. We’re feeling giddy and a little overwhelmed– especially after spending the last weekend with some of our closest friends (one couple is REALLY pregnant, and the other couple has recently adopted the sweetest little boy from Russia). We’re seeing our lives change right before our eyes, and we couldn’t be happier!