Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Good News on the Adoption (and why I love overnight emails)

One of the benefits of the time difference is that while I am sleeping, those on the other side of the world are working!  Thursday morning I was checking email on my iPhone and I had received an update on the timeframe for finalizing the adoption.  I was a bit overwhelmed by all the information, so I had to write it down and post it on the fridge!

Basically, without a medical expedite, it has been taking 8-11 weeks for families to receive approval from US immigration and to get their travel approval (TA) from China.  Once all the approvals have been granted, we will have two trips to make to complete the adoption.  First, we will go to the provincial capital and that is when our daughter will become legally ours.  Then we travel to Guangzhou and we will finish the US immigration requirements.

Because we asked for a medical expedite, we are hoping to shorten our wait time so we can take our daughter back to the US for her next surgery.  After I absorbed all the information in the first email, I refreshed my email and I had a new message from our placement agency.  The agency said that they had spoken with the immigration officer assigned to our case and the officer considered our case a priority and would put it at the top of her pile.  The officer also said they would try to do all the approvals by email so that we wouldn't waste time waiting for mail.  That brought some tears to my eyes!  I also appreciated the fact that my agency was taking the time to email what was very late at night for them.

My guess is that we'll travel in March, or at least that's my hope.  Maybe this week will bring more good news!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's That? Wednesday: The View from My Window

Some days it seems that the constant in China is change.  The view from our apartment has been changing since the day we moved in.  We used to have a bit of a green space across the street with a small stream and lotus flowers.

We took this photo from our living room
window in August 2011.  See the bit of green
down there?
I took the next four photos in December 2012.  Green space be gone.  I counted at least 6 cranes working simultaneously.  A 74-story building built across the street.  It is supposed to represent the "Gate to the East", but instead it has been nicknamed Big Pants.  When it is completed Big Pants will be the largest gate-shaped structure in the world and a huge mall.

A whole lot of lot of concrete
and construction.

Now, looking out our dining room window, we can watch a large television screen.  It is at a major intersection and replays a video promoting the wonders of Suzhou, over and over.  At night, the screen lights up some of the apartments in our buildings.

And this is what it looks like when it snows!  Last winter we had no snow in Suzhou (maybe a morning of sleet), but it has snowed three times this winter.  Just enough to dust the ground, but no sledding for our family.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Step Closer

We have taken another step towards finalizing the adoption!  Last week we received two big email files from our agency that included forms to complete our newest daughter's immigration paperwork, visa application and other adoption paperwork.  Jamie and I didn't have a chance to go through the files until the night before my father, who was visiting for a few days, was to return to the US.  

As we started reading through the details we noticed that a few of the forms required original signatures, which meant that if we worked late into the night we could get the paperwork done and have my father be our personal courier and take the forms back to the US for us.  We argued with Adobe Reader for a few (ahem, several) minutes/hours and then we were able to work through all of the forms.

My dad with more of
our adoption paperwork.

I am very happy to say that our personal courier made it to the US with our paperwork and our placement agency in Pennsylvania received our forms this past Monday.  We have a few lose ends to finish tonight and our agency plans to forward all of our paperwork to US immigration on Friday (US time). 

Now what?!  Well, we wait some more.  It could take another 3 months until we travel to the provincial capital and finalize the adoption, but we are working on a medical expedite.  Because of our daughter's medical conditions it is important that she travel to the US as soon as possible to receive medical care. Which brings me to our happy news from last week...the preliminary report for the doctors in China is that our daughter is able to fly and she can wait to have her surgery in the US!  We know that there are fantastic doctors and surgeons close by in Shanghai. And, we believe that our daughter would receive excellent care there.  But, after some recent experiences, we also know how much we would miss because of the language barrier.  If complications were to arise, we would not be able to fully support our daughter without the help of a full-time translator.  Trust me, my Chinese skills are okay for buying fruits & veggies and scheduling massage, but they are not good enough to navigate my way through a Chinese hospital!

So, over the next week, Jamie and I will work on putting together a letter explaining our daughter's medical needs and the importance of expediting our paperwork.  We are also working with doctors in Peoria to get a letter from a surgeon also explaining the need for a medical expedite.  By doing this, we could potentially shave off 6 weeks from our wait.

Perhaps we'll get to experience spring in Illinois this year!

**Last minute update...I wrote most of this post on Thursday and Friday turned out to be a busy day.  The adoption elves were working hard!  Friday morning (China time) Jamie and I received an email from our placement agency that said they would like to send off our I800 forms to US immigration on Friday (US time).  We had two forms that needed to be completed and emailed back to them before they could send off our packet.

Because of the time difference, Jamie and I were able to work on the forms late Friday night China time.  In the email to our agency, I said that I would sleep with the phone next to me in case they had questions or we had made a mistake.  Sure enough, 5:50 am China time, my phone started buzzing under my pillow.  Through the magic of Vonage & the internet, if I don't answer our house phone, the call forwards to my phone.  I whispered "Hello" and tip-toed out of our bedroom to talk to our agency.  I had mistakenly emailed our agency the wrong form and they had a few blanks to fill in before they could stick our packet in the mail.  

After I got off the phone with our agency, I decided to check my email (because, heck, I was already up for the day) and I got a pleasant surprise.  Jamie and I have been waiting to get some specific medical information about our daughter to help plan for the next steps in her care and to use the information to write a letter to ask for a medical expedite to hurry along the final steps of our adoption.  I became very impatient and went ahead and asked the nurse & doctor in Peoria (Friday morning US time) if they might be able to write a letter on our behalf using what information we had already received on our daughter.  Not only were they able to write the letter, but they did it on Friday...the same day I had emailed them!  I quickly forwarded the letter to our agency and then tried to call the office to let them know it was in their inbox.  I wanted to be sure that the letter was included in our packet to be mailed on Friday.  I was afraid that it was too close to 5pm in the US and our agency might not check their email again before the packet was mailed.  I tried calling using our Vonage internet connection in our computer room, ugh!  Plan B was to use Skype on my iPhone.  Again, no internet connection in the living room...what was going on?!  Finally, plan C worked. I called using Jamie's cell phone and I was able to connect with our agency's office in the US.

All that to say...we are just that much closer.  I "think" my agency said things are taking 5-8 weeks to get approval and travel.  And, that's without a medical expedite, but I was also a big groggy and disoriented (funny how not having my glasses on makes it hard to understand a conversation), so I'm not for certain that's what she said.  I just know that we are closer today than we were last week!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best Christmas present ever!

Jamie and I received the best present ever this year for Christmas and it didn't even come wrapped!

On December 21st around 6:00 am, we received "the call", the one we had been waiting sometimes patiently for (and other times not so patiently).  Our adoption placement agency had received our LOA (letter of approval), which means China has agreed to the match with the newest McClintock.  The woman from the agency apologized for waking me up, but trust me, I didn't mind in the least!

Going into this, we knew that the littlest McClintock has some major medical hurdles.  Right now we ask for prayers as we learn more about what medical needs have to be addressed in China before the little one can travel and what can wait until we return to the US after the adoption is finalized.

We don't have a specific timeframe yet, but it is possible that we could be traveling in 3-4 months to finalize the adoption and then we need to return to the US within 6 months to hit US soil and make it official.  

Jamie and I were open to either a girl or a boy, so we didn't know for sure what the littlest one would be, but LBean and EBean are happy to announce that it is a...

Since the big sisters are nicknamed LBean and EBean for the blog, I think it's fitting that we have a ChinaBean too!  And today's Chinese lesson is the word for little sister, which is "Mei Mei" (pronounced "may may").

As you might imagine, I have a lot of paperwork and research to do in the next few months and so blogging will take a back seat (unless I need a creative outlet).  But, I hope to get caught up some day...I still have things from October to post!

Happy 2013!  Our year is off to a fantastic start.