TRAVEL APPROVAL!!!!!!!

July 14th, 2012 by Jill

In case anyone missed the end of my last post……we have TRAVEL APPROVAL!!!!
It came late Monday night, just when I thought I couldn’t take this wait any longer.   My last post was NOT my finest moment.  Sorry.  I was not in a good place, and had seriously considered not publishing that last post, but it was real, and it was how I felt at the moment.  So I published it.  Moving on. :)

We received TA on Monday, July 9th, and we will travel on Sunday, July 22nd to Zhengzhou.  We will get Minyu the next morning, Monday the 23rd.  We will return home late on Friday.  I can’t believe it!!!  We just purchased our train tickets yesterday!  IT’S REALLY HAPPENING!!!!!

Did I mention our niece is in town for the month, and she will get to come with us?!?  She graduated from high school last month and is staying with us.  We will be bringing our entire family, and Javauna!  Awesome!!!  Did I also mention that Todd has been gone for a week?  Yes, he is out of town again and will not be home for another week.  He returns home the day before we travel to Zhengzhou.  Ha.  He will be good and jetlagged. :)  I also get to make all the arrangements for the trip.  How convenient.  Well, it’s a good thing our niece has been here.  She has been such a huge help!  The kids love her, I love her, and she is just tons of fun.  I think it will be really neat for Minyu to meet one of his (many) cousins right away!

It’s been SO long since that day in Puyang when we said goodbye to Minyu.  I am so anxious to see him again, and knowing that there will be NO goodbye this time makes it a thousand times sweeter.  Last time we saw him, we knew in our hearts that he was our son, but at the end of the day we took 5 of our children with us and left one behind–along with our hearts.  But this time, he will be OFFICIALLY ours and when it’s time to leave, he will come with us!!!  I cannot begin to tell you how overjoyed I am at that thought.  Todd and I are ready for our son to come home, and the kids are ready for their brother.  I sure hope he’s a hugger, because I have a hug for every day that we had to wait to bring him home!!!  If anyone’s counting, it will be 40 weeks and 3 days since we last saw him.  283 hugs.  I’ll try to pace myself.  :)  Hey…40 weeks and 3 days.  AH!  I never wanted to be overdue again!  I guess 3 days isn’t too bad. :)

Well, I have lots to do!  Cleaning, organizing, packing, shopping, arranging travel.  Only 8 days until we leave!

Waiting…

July 9th, 2012 by Jill

We got our Article 5 on June 26th…13 days ago.  Another adoptive family who was expedited got theirs a couple days later, received their Travel Approval last week, and their little girl is in their arms today!  SO happy for them!!  Some other adoptive families (without expedites) heard on Friday that their TAs are coming today.  SO happy for them too!!  But…

I can’t help but wonder why we’re still waiting.  With an expedite.  Obviously, the expedite was not granted or we would have had TA last week.  And now it seems we could end up waiting LONGER than the normal 2 weeks for our TA.  July 16th, Trevin’s birthday, is out.  I thought July 23rd was still possible, until I got two pieces of disheartening news today.  First, my agency said, “We have not heard anything about when travel approvals will be issued or arrive.”  They usually know when they’ve been sent from Beijing, and they have no news yet.  The second thing was a conversation with the orphanage.  They received a list of the children being adopted on July 23rd.  Minyu was not on that list.  I want so desperately to hope that he can still be added!!!   But I’m afraid to hope right now.

I am trying so hard to remember that this never-ending wait is a part of a carefully orchestrated plan.  Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time remembering this lately.  Just when I think I can predict how much longer the wait will be, it lengthens.  That seems to be par for the course for this adoption.  I feel like I’m running through the desert toward a mirage, and every time I feel like I’ve run a considerable distance, I look up to find that the mirage is no closer than it was before.  But I keep running, because I think the mirage is real.  And after doing this for the last 9 months, I fell down this weekend.  Instead of getting back up and running, I buried my head in my hands and cried.  And cried.  I am tired.  And I am done.  And I just want him home.

A mirage, but not mine.  Mine is of a certain little boy…

 

Oh my goodness.  I JUST got an email from our agency.  Our TA is here!  Pity party OVER.

7th, and Final Care Package

July 7th, 2012 by Jill

We just sent off the LAST care package on Thursday.  In this last letter, I tried to prepare Minyu for what will happen when we come to get him.  I told him the possible dates we’d come, how long we would be there, what it might be like, and how he might possibly feel.  It was an impossible task, to write a letter that’s supposed to prepare a child for the kind of change he’s about to experience, but I hope it helps.

We also sent him some snacks (chocolate chip cookies and dried green olives–sounds gross, but they’re sweet and yummy) and some special patches to help his scar heal.  (Boring? Maybe.  But I’m a mom and worry about things like scars.)  We also sent one toy.  Spencer wanted to send his brother one of his favorite toys this month, so he ran and got it and wrapped it himself using a yellow piece of construction paper and a glue stick.  On the outside he wrote–in his best kindergarten handwriting–”for you,” and on the other side, “open this.”   It was a little crinkled, there were gaps in places, and it had SO much character. :)  And I am kicking myself right now because I just realized I didn’t take a picture of it!!

Since I forgot to take a picture of the package (typical me) here are some pictures we included with the letter.

"Daddy and Michael building your new bed."

"Bed is finished!"

The LAST care package.  I am so relieved (not the feeling I was expecting) to know that the next gifts we give him will be in person.  It seems that the closer we get to the end of this journey, the longer it feels, and I am tired.  I’m ready for the transition from paperwork to parenthood. I am grateful to know that we won’t have to rely on letters and pictures anymore and when he sees us next it will be IN REAL LIFE!  No more virtual family. :)

Waiting for Travel Approval!!

June 27th, 2012 by Jill

Woo hoo!!! We got the email from our agency saying our Article 5 was picked up, and we are now waiting for TA!  So, for the LAST TIME…here is where we’re at with these final steps in the process:

  1. LOA-(6/1) check!
  2. I-800 approval – (6/11) check!
  3. Cabled – (6/19) check!
  4. Article 5  - (6/26) check!
  5. Travel Approval – waiting.  Should arrive 2 to 3 weeks after Article 5, but hopefully sooner with the expedite. :)

I can’t believe we’re on the last step!!!  The soonest we can leave after TA is about 10 days, so that’s what we’re aiming for.  We want Minyu home ASAP.

Trevin’s birthday is July 16th, and he has been thinking for a while about just how AWESOME it would be to get a brother for his birthday!  He thinks it would be the best birthday ever.  So cute.  So that’s what he’s hoping for…and us too.  July 16th is the earliest feasible date we could get Minyu, but it would require a lightning quick TA.  If not then, then one of the following two Mondays (July 22nd or 29th).  But I’m not even thinking about those dates.  JULY 16TH!  Praying, praying, praying!

GRATEFUL!

June 25th, 2012 by Jill

My heart is SO full right now.  Our request for an expedite has been ACCEPTED by the consulate!  With no small help from some very kind people.

I have been talking with the consulate since last Thursday, trying to expedite this next-to-the-last step in the process.  No expedite=15 to 19 days.  Expedite=2 to 3 days.  Well, the consulate responded to my email saying they would need a signed letter from a U.S. physician.  And I didn’t have one.  The nice lady I spoke with asked if I could get a letter from a doctor in China instead.  So I tried calling the orthopedic surgeon we will be seeing here in China.  And they wouldn’t write one; it’s against their policy.  I was pretty sure that would be the case.  I have had a hard time with the doctor’s here.  They will not even discuss possible treatment/diagnosis/recommendations without seeing the patient first.  Of course, that’s impossible right now since the patient is in an orphanage!

So as of Thursday I was feeling quite frustrated with the situation.  No letter, no expedite.  The consulate was closed on Friday for the holiday, but I continued racking my brain over the weekend, praying, trying to come up with SOMETHING.  Then during the wee hours of Saturday morning my feeble brain was inspired with a name: Dan Hoopes.

So you can see what a sacrifice it was, here are the two cuties the good doctor took time from to write that letter! :)

When we lived in Albuquerque we went to church with the Hoopes family.  Dan Hoopes was a brand new doctor, an orthopedic surgeon.  And I had talked with him about our daughter (about her foot/ankle) before she came home.  Of course, I remembered how incredibly busy he was.  AND I knew his sweet wife just had a baby a couple weeks ago.  So I was hesitant…but I called.  He was on paternity leave.  He had time.   And about 12 hours later I had a signed physician’s letter in my email.  Amazing!!!  I almost cried when I found that in my email.  (Okay, I did tear up.)  I am SO grateful that he was able and willing to take the time to do that for us, and that his sweet family was willing to let him! :)  What a huge blessing!  THANK YOU, Dan Hoopes and family!!!

Just a few minutes ago, I received a response from the consulate.  I have reviewed the information that you have sent, and I have determined that your case qualifies for our expedited processing.  Wahoo!!!  HALLELUJAH!!!  I can’t believe it!!!  And yet I can.  I have been feeling like Minyu really needs to come home sooner rather than later.  And I knew that if he really needed it, it would happen.  Once again, I am truly humbled, and so incredibly grateful for a loving Father that knows our wants and needs and blesses us accordingly.  This must be one loved little boy!

Happy 13th Birthday!

June 19th, 2012 by Jill

The birthday boy! (The cake says, "Pu Min Yu, happy birthday from your whole family.")

I received an email just before lunch from none other than…Puyang!!! 11 birthday pictures!!! Woo hoo!!!  Our “little” boy turned 13 on Saturday. (Wow.)  We sent money for a cake last week. They bought it for him and gave him the remaining 60RMB for spending money. Perfect. :)  They gave him a little party and said he was very happy.

Todd and I were in Australia over his birthday (and Jasmine’s too) and thought about him quite a lot on his big day.  We bought a few Aussie-themed gifts for him (and Jasmine).  Since he’ll be home just a month or so after his birthday, we’re going to wait and have a little party and give him his gifts when he comes home.  Can’t wait! :)

Birthday boy and friends!

Thirteen years old.  I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around that!  He still feels so young to me–about nine or ten–and I’m so glad.  It helps me feel like I’ll have more time to watch him grow up.  Honestly, the pictures today were a little bittersweet.  New pictures always make me really happy for about an hour, but then I miss him more.  And in the pictures we got today, he looked OLDER and TALLER.  Ahhh!  Stop growing up!  We are missing it!!!  The good news is that this is the last birthday we’ll miss.  From here on out, every birthday, every holiday, every milestone, we’ll celebrate as a family.

I-800 Approval!! And shopping. :)

June 12th, 2012 by Jill

WOO HOO!  Another step complete!  Our I-800 was approved on June 11th!  Because we’re being expedited, we even received a pdf copy (after emailing and making phone calls from 3:30-6am) instead of having to wait for the hard copy in the mail.  Yea!  I feel like we’re getting so close!  LOA and I-800–check! and check!  Only 3 more itty bitty steps!!

  1. Cable – 7-10 days.
  2. Article 5 – only 2-3 days after cable, instead of the normal 17ish.
  3. Travel Approval – normally 2-3 weeks.

I know we’re still about 1 month away from travel, but the anticipation is beginning to build.  I can count the number of weekends left on ONE hand!  I feel like the whole nesting thing is kicking into high gear in the last week or two.  I did some online shopping for our boy.  And some big-time shopping at Ikea.  For some reason, buying real clothes for him makes him feel like a real boy that will really be joining our family really soon!  It’s beginning to sink in.  I made space for him in Michael’s closet and put his new clothes in there, and it made it feel so…so REAL!  His belongings are here, and it makes it feel like his arrival is immanent.

We bought bunk beds for the boys at Ikea….and new bedding…and a new area rug…and some curtains…and some organizers.  Because you need all those things when you bring home a child, right?  (Okay, okay.  Rug and curtains…maybe not so much.)  I guess as part of the nesting I’ve been cleaning up other parts of the house too–closets and storage areas, walls and cupboards, other ugly areas (like the one that needed the rug!)  because I want our little apartment home to feel more homey.  I just want him to walk in and love that he’s home.

Underneath that cute little boy is the new rug! We needed it, yes? (Validate me, please.)

So.  I have 9 months to prepare for Minyu’s arrival.  Why do I wait until the last month to do EVERYTHING??  Because I’m me.  And if you know me, that is enough of an explanation. :)

In other news, I am heading to Sydney tomorrow!!!  Todd is already there for work and I’ll be meeting up with him for a long weekend.  So excited!!!  It will be nice to throw a 4 day distraction into the middle of this wait.  After this weekend, we only have 2 weekends to finish getting ready!   The weekend after that, our niece comes to visit for a month (yea!!!!!) and then we’ll hopefully travel to Henan the following weekend!  I better get crackin’!!!

LOA!!!

June 5th, 2012 by Jill

LOA arrived on June 1st!  The is THE letter that we’ve been waiting for, the letter from China that says Pu Min Yu is our son!  And it only took 74 days!  Ha.  (With our first adoption it was 42 days, so this was considerably longer.)  For some reason, there was a big slowdown in the LOA wait over the last couple months.  When I began waiting, most people with our agency were receiving them in 50-65 days.  Of course, as soon as we got in line, everything slowed down!  So we ended up waiting 2-3 extra weeks to get it.  Even so, I will consider us fortunate.  There are people–many people–waiting 100+ days for the LOA.  Well…and then there are those who wait 5 days.  The unpredictability of it all is maddening.

Since LOA was the biggest unknown, we now have a much more predictable wait from here on out!!  Although, with the expedite it’s a little less predictable than it would be.  Here are the next steps!

  • LOA – arrived June 1st!  Woo hoo!  Check!
  • I800 approvalhopefully by the end of this week!
  • Cablehopefully next week!
  • Article 5hopefully the 3rd week of June!
  • Travel Approvalhopefully the 1st or 2nd week of July!

Yes, there’s a lot of hoping in there.  That’s because I’m feeling very hopeful. :)  We’ll travel to Henan 10-20 days after we receive TA.  It’s looking like July 15th, but it could be a week before and up to 2 weeks after.  It all depends on what gets expedited and what doesn’t.

I will be sending emails and making calls from here on out to try and expedite each step.  Should be fun!  It’s a lot more work than the normal sit-and-wait process, but SO worth it.  12 years of waiting for a family is long enough.  So I don’t plan on letting this crazy process take a single day longer than necessary!  So excited to be able to say…Minyu will be coming home NEXT MONTH!!!

 

Medical Expedite!

May 30th, 2012 by Jill

Wednesday.

I admit it.  I was a mess after those emails last Wednesday.  I got the first emails around 4:00, right as I was leaving the house for the evening.  I was shocked, and worried, and sad, and frustrated.  And I just wanted our boy home.  My emotions kept bubbling to the surface during the evening, but I kept pushing them back down.

After I got home, I put all the kids to bed, composed myself the best I could and called our agency.  (I had to wait until after 11pm to call.)  ”I just want him home.”  They understood.  And they would look into expediting us.  I hung up the phone and everything spilled out.  I can’t remember the last time I sobbed myself to sleep.

Thursday.

Morning came, and I wasn’t doing much better.  I was still aching to know if our boy was okay.  There were still too many unknowns.  I needed  answers.  Our Chinese tutor came and I asked her if she could help me compose an email.  After talking for a few minutes she said, “If you have a phone number, why don’t I just call?”  So we called.  Here is what we found out from the ayi.

  • He CAN move his arm enough to eat, dress, write, etc.  Phew!
  • He can NOT lift it high, above the level of his shoulder.
  • He can write, but his handwriting is not like it was before the accident, and he tires quickly.
  • He is not attending school because boys can be…a little rough.  She wants to make sure he’s fully healed before sending him back.
  • He will need another surgery.
And then the ayi put Minyu on the phone.  ”Mama!”
That one word rendered me speechless.  I finally managed, “Minyu…”  Then (in Chinese) I asked him if his arm is still hurting.  It isn’t!  ”We all miss you very much, do you know that?”
“I know that.  I miss you all too.”
Well, that small conversation was enough to heal my heart, and put a smile on my face that lasted for the rest of the day.  (Not to mention, fan the fire in me to get him home ASAP!)
I handed the phone back to our Chinese tutor, and she talked to the ayi a bit more.  She told her we were going to try to expedite the process.  The ayi didn’t know that was even possible.  She gave a sincere offer to help, and said she would do whatever we needed to make that happen.  She seemed genuinely…excited? anxious? at the prospect of Minyu coming home sooner rather than later.  I think he needs to, and she knows it.
Friday.
Our agency agreed to help us expedite the rest of the process!!!  This is GREAT news!  Without an expedite we would travel about 2 1/2 months (10 weeks) AFTER receiving our LOA (which we are still waiting for).  That’s mid-August.  With the expedite, we could travel in as little as 5 weeks–1st week of July.  WOW!!!  Of course, it could also be anywhere in between 5 and 10 weeks.  We won’t know until we complete each step of the process.  We will ask for an expedite with each step, and it will be given–or not.  No way to tell before hand.  Here are the final steps, and the estimated timeline:
  1. LOA: (Letter of Acceptance from China) still waiting, and have been for over 10 weeks.  Fortunately, we were allowed to do the next step without having to wait for this any longer!
  2. I800 approval:  15 days  (normally you can’t even apply for this until after you receive LOA).  Thankfully, we have already been waiting since May 25th!  We’ll hopefully receive approval sometime around June 11th.
  3. Cable: normally 8-10 days  (all these approvals gets sent to the consulate).  If they expedite it for us, it can be as quick as 1 day!
  4. Article 5:  normally 15-20 days.  Expedited can be as quick as a 1-2 days.
  5. Travel Approval: normally 2-3 weeks.  Expedited can be 5-14 days.
  6. Get Minyu!:  10-20 days after Travel Approval.  Let’s hope it’s 10!!
Our prayer for many, many months now has been to get Minyu home quickly–if that’s what he needs.  Well, after little delays all along the way, I was beginning to think getting him home quickly wasn’t part of the plan.  How quickly things have changed!  I feel like Minyu’s accident was a small miracle–injured enough that he needs to come home sooner, but nothing life threatening.  This has helped me remember that I’m not the one in control here.  I know that…but I forget.  It has helped me remember that there is an omniscient and loving Father who knows and loves this little boy in Puyang, who will bring him home exactly when it’s time.

 

6th Care Package sent, 5th got returned, and a scary update

May 23rd, 2012 by Jill

We prepared our latest care package and had it sent yesterday by our Chinese tutor.  (Thank you, Lucy!)  And just before she arrived yesterday I got a strange phone call.  I couldn’t understand what the man was trying to tell me so I told him I’d have our Chinese teacher call and talk to him.  Long story short, it was the post office.  My package was being returned.  What package?  The last time I sent anything was 6 weeks ago.  Yep, it was the April care package.  Ugh.

Well, the 6th package went out yesterday with a really awesome coloring book, colored pencils, and colorful handwritten notes from each member of the family.  Oh, and some of our favorite snacks so he could share with friends–Oreos, Ritz crackers, and Pocky sticks.

I was so disappointed to find out he never got a package last month that I decided I should email the orphanage so they could let him know what happened.  They emailed back.  With a very scary picture and an update.

Not the kind of update picture I was expecting! This is his shoulder.

“Some time ago, Pu Min Yu was skateboarding, wasn’t being very careful, broke his right arm, underwent surgery, and is now not going to school.  He is still recovering.  Now his right arm can not move out, everything is normal. I put current photos, lest you worry about him. ”  And a subsequent email read, “He can lift his right hand now, but not as easily as before, and not very high.”  And later at night I got one more update, the one they sent to our agency.

“On April 3, 2012, [Spencer's birthday] he was playing on a skateboard at the orphanage. He fell and fractured the upper end of his right humerus. He already had the surgery to set the bone, and he spent 14 days recovering in the hospital. He needs to wear the arm cast for half a year.”  (Where is the cast he’s supposed to be wearing??)

I am so sad for him.  For several reasons.  First, I would not want to spend one day in a Chinese hospital, much less two weeks.  In a Chinese hospital, nurses do not take care of you–feed you, help you, etc.  That is the family’s job.  I hope there was someone there for him, because I certainly wasn’t.

Second, he is not going to school.  He is a top student in his class.  He loves school and really excels at it.  The only thing that was making this wait bearable was knowing that he was happy, attending school, and keeping busy to make the time pass quickly.  Well, now I know he is languishing day after day in the orphanage, and has been for almost 2 months.

Third, I think he needs OT and PT sooner rather than later.  I know they can’t give it to him there.  Puyang is definitely one of the better orphanages I’ve seen, but they just can’t provide that.  And where is his cast??  It says he’s supposed to wear one for half a year!  I am worried about permanent damage here.  I want him home.  Now.   And we’re still at least 2 1/2 months away from bringing him home.

Fourth, what are his current self-care abilities?  He was very independent.  I don’t think he can write–which explains why he hasn’t written us again.  Can he feed himself, or dress himself?  Can he bathe himself, brush his teeth, use the bathroom by himself??   His left arm is very short, and doesn’t have an elbow…so I just don’t know.  I will be asking for another update today.

Fifth, why am I just finding out??????  We have been waiting over 2 months (since March 19th) for our final approval letter from China. If we had known about this, we could have requested a medical expedite and probably gotten that letter in a couple weeks.  And yet we’re still waiting.

Where is his cast??? And his smile...

The bright side?  It could have been much worse, and in fact, I know of parents that have received worse updates.  Like finding out their child is hanging on to life by a thread, or that their child is too sick to even make it home.   And I know of waiting parents who have gotten the update that their child has passed away.  I can’t imagine.  So a broken arm is not the worst thing in the world.  But when it’s the best arm you’ve got…sigh.

I have talked to our agency about getting a medical expedite for our sweet boy.  They are contacting China, and  I will be writing a letter for the U.S. side of things explaining the situation.  Here’s hoping we can shave some time off the wait!!  Please keep Minyu in your prayers.   It’s time for him to come home.