Friday, March 29, 2013

We have our dates! (Now to find hotels & flights)

We received an email from our agency over the night that our appointments in Nanjing and Guangzhou are scheduled!  We now have a time frame and we are researching hotels, flights and all the other details.  Yesterday was also an important day as we received our UPS package with original documents from both governments that are necessary to finalize the adoption.

What we know so far is...

Monday, April 8th we travel to Nanjing (2 hours north of Suzhou by car)
Tuesday, April 9th we sign papers making our daughter an official McClintock
Tuesday, April 16th we fly to Guangzhou (which is north of Hong Kong) and complete our daughter's medical exam
Wednesday, April 17th is our daughter's US consulate appointment
Thursday, April 18th our daughter's US Visa should be ready by 3:30 pm
Friday, April 19th earliest day to return to the US
Monday, April 22nd our daughter's first doctor's appointment with her specialist

I also know that we are super excited!!  Today I started packing.  I needed to pull things out of my "not-so-secret" hiding place for Easter and that led to me grouping gifts to take back to the US.  Then I decided I might as well pull together the special outfits (oh yes, there will be matching dresses for all three girls) and group them together.  We will be experiencing a wide range of climates and temperatures over the next month.

I remembered seeing a friend, who was getting ready to move back to the US, labeling the outside of all of her suitcases with masking tape and the contents of the suitcases.  So smart!  I've started my Nanjing, Guangzhou, gifts for the US and US suitcases.

US clothes
That is gifts for "US" as in United States of America, not
"us".  We're already getting the best gift!

Nanjing & Adoption thank-you gifts

What I didn't know, or at least know to expect, were some of the other emotions that I've experienced this week.  Monday was my last day to lead our Girl Scout troop for this school year and my sweet Scouting moms gave me a card and a tote bag.  Tuesday I told my three speech & language students that I wouldn't be seeing them again until next school year.  Wednesday it occurred to me that my older daughters may benefit from having a "going away" party with their classmates and that we wouldn't be a part of the end-of-school festivities.  And, these parties need to happen within the next two weeks! There are other details about registering the older girls for school in the fall, going through my "piles" (that's how I organize) and getting the apartment ready for our absence.

It is our current plan that all five of us will return to the US together and that the girls (heehee, all 3 girls-love saying that!) and I will stay in Illinois all summer and return to China at the beginning of August.  We don't know what our daughter's recovery will look like, how many follow-up appointments she may have and we've decided that it is best if we remain in the US.  That means 3 1/2 months away from our home in Suzhou and many weeks apart from Jamie.  Of course it is for the best reason possible, but there are still many emotions that go along with trying to pack for a three-month stay overseas.  I told my mom that I hadn't spent more than two consecutive weeks at her house in the last 13 years; this could be a big adjustment for us all!

So, pull out your US flags, your cameras and tissues...we'll see you soon!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Give me a "T", Give me an "A"!

My early morning habit of checking my email paid off this morning.  We received another email from our adoption agency and this one said we had our TA (travel approval)!!!!  As soon as our agency can arrange an appointment, we will travel to Nanjing and take legal custody of our daughter.  This could potentially be as early as April 1st.  We need to have some original documents, which our agency currently has, mailed to us here in China and then we can go.  We will have our first meeting on a Monday afternoon and then we'll return Tuesday morning to sign all of the papers.  At that point we will overwhelm the internet with pictures and video of our beautiful and spectacular daughter.  Please prepare yourself!

Our agency is also working on scheduling our appointment in Guangzhou, which we will travel to after Nanjing.  This is the US immigration side of things and where we will receive permission to bring our daughter to the US and obtain her US visa (she flies in with a Chinese passport and a US visa).

Hopefully the timing will work out just perfect because we chose April 22nd as our first appointment with our daughter's doctor at the Children's Hospital of Illinois so we can discuss her next surgery.

Jamie was in Japan all last week for work and I had an overwhelming need to "nest".  I'm talking about going through bath toys, magazines, clothes, the whole deal.  It's going to pay off because we're headed to the USA baby!

Since the beginning, my blog has been called
Table for Five in anticipation of adding the
fifth member to the family.  The table is set sweet baby,
welcome to the family!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Last Week, Brought to us by the Letter A (as in A5)

I received another great email last week regarding our adoption and we marked off another next step towards finalizing the paperwork!

We received an email from the US Consulate’s office in Guangzhou, China that the paperwork for our daughter’s visa had been provisionally approved and we had been granted our Article 5 (A5).  The next step is for all of our paperwork to be returned back to Beijing for a final look before China will issue our Travel Approval (TA).  

Once we have received our TA, we can make appointments with Nanjing and Guangzhou.  In Nanjing, which is a two-hour drive from Suzhou, we will take legal custody of our daughter and that will finalize everything with the Chinese government.  Then, we we go to Guangzhou and we will meet with the US Consulate’s office to wrap up everything she needs to immigrate to the US to become a citizen.

As we’re nearing the end of the paperwork on this side of the world (we’ll still have to apply for her US passport, complete follow-up adoption reports, etc.), I have started to think about how far we have come.  In 2010, on a spring evening, after Jamie and I had made the decision to adopt from China, we talked about whether or not we would take our other daughters to travel with us to China.  We decided to wait and see how old our girls would be at the time of travel and look at the cost of the trip and then decide.  What an amazing gift it is to know that we will travel as a family of 5 this spring!  It is a short drive to Nanjing and a quick flight to Guangzhou from our home in Suzhou and the “would-we, should-we, can-we?” has been already answered for us.

On a much, much sillier note, I was really excited to get a packet in the mail last week.  For a moment my heart started beating fast and I thought “oh my goodness” China mailed our adoption paperwork to our home (instead of to our agency in the US)!  This had happened to our friends and I couldn’t think of anything else that would be coming through the Chinese mail that I would require a signature.  Alas, I was wrong, and instead I signed for this...

My Starbucks gold card!  Until I moved to China I could count the number of times that I had been to Starbuck’s on two hands and I now I have the “Gold” card.  I am not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud, especially since I don’t drink (straight) coffee!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's That? Wednesday: Random Adventures

If you happen to be a friend of mine on Facebook, then you saw this post over the weekend...

Really, that is the fun & frustrating part of expat living.  Simple things can turn into a great adventure, but it also means that running errands and tracking down things can turn into a full-day experience.

The goal of our adventure was to find this mythical craft emporium in Old Town.  I miss crafting...I miss running to Michael's, Hobby Lobby and JoAnn's clutching my coupons and looking for a new project to complete.  And now there are so many tempting projects on Pinterest to look at.  I know that all of those supplies (except for grosgrain ribbon which comes from Taiwan) are manufactured in China, but I don't know where to buy them!  (Don't talk to me about TaoBao, which is like a Chinese Ebay, I have not mastered the site.)  

All the good stuff is found at these flea markets that I hear about from friends.  Need rubber bands?  Try the Suzhou flea market outside of the Fabric Market.  How about balloons or gift bags?  The other Suzhou flea market near the old train station.  Luggage?  Wuxi flea market has a great selection.

I wanted to see this place with my own eyes and we needed supplies to make  LBean's "World Maths Day" hat.  Thankfully our friends were also up for an adventure and we piled into our van.

I forgot my good camera, so I did the best I could with my iPhone.  As I looked at the pictures after I uploaded them, I was a tad bit disappointed.  It looks like I walked into a Staples or Office Max and snapped a few pictures.  The visuals do not convey the awesomeness, and randomness, that we discovered.

Seriously lanyards and name tag holders, where were you at the beginning of this year's Girl Scout meetings?

Ahh, card stock, craft foam and colored paper!

Spray paint, yes, there is spray paint!

Pencil sharpeners

First aid kit/emergency boxes, top shelf please.

The skull is what I really came for!

Yeah, I bought this...I'll use it some time.

You'd better buy this...or else!

Oh, the possibilities are endless with these gems!

That elevator looks safe.  What buzzing?!  I'm sure we're fine.

Oh, you poor pregnant woman.  I have been there.  I did not own the matching quilted pj's that this woman is wearing, but I did go into labor with LBean wearing red bandana patterned crop pants, so I think we're equal.

After all that hard shopping, it's time for a snack, roasted sweet potatoes.

LBean found her supplies for her hat project and a bonus, the lovely ear muffs.  She insisted on wearing them for the next two days, inside and outside.

Never would have guessed this building would have so many treasures inside.

After we toured the flea market, we ate lunch in Old Town and then headed to Ancient Street.  I hadn't been to Ancient Street since last fall and imagine my surprise when we walked past this Dairy Queen.  The photo has an ethereal look to it, but it's just because one of my kiddos was playing with my iPhone and got her greasy fingers on the camera.  I'm a sucker for a nice Dairy Queen, in part because of the memories I have from working at one my senior year of high school.  The people I worked with made it really fun even though one guy stole my jacket, dunked it in the dirty dish water and hung it up in the freezer...ahhh, high school!

It was impossible to lose our friends because if they stopped for a nanosecond, a crowd would form to look at their (and sometimes our) fair-haired kiddos and try and take a peak at the foreigner's baby in the stroller.  

Look at the picture below, can you see them lifting up the blanket to look at the baby?

I love this picture too, because I am pretty sure that they are explaining that no, not all the girls are their own (EBean was riding in the stroller too), just 3 of the girls belong to them.  And, they're also giving all of the girls' ages.

We ended our time on Ancient Street with a canal ride.  This was the first time I had taken the boat during the winter, which gave me a chance to see everyone's laundry hanging outside beside their meat.  My parents tell stories about meat staying chilled/frozen by hanging in the attic or in the stairs to the second floor of their childhood farm houses, so I guess it's really not that different.

The day ended at our apartment and we were exhausted, but rallied for some tasty Indian food before our friends left.  After the girls were in bed I looked at Jamie and said, "I'm tired, but it's a good tired."  Hooray for random adventures!