Sunday, October 30, 2005

We figured out how to get the kids to stay still...

It seems that the more children there are in the picture, the more impossible it is to get a decent shot... After trying unsuccessfully to get the kids to sit still and look where they were supposed to for a picture, we ended the struggle by laying them on the grass and physically posing them by dragging their little bodies into position. The picture turned out to be one of our favorites. We can't wait to look at our kid pics and see a sweet little Chinese face smiling back at us. Don't you just want to kiss those cheeks?

More Pics of the Brood

We had a great time last week with our friends, the Youngs. We scouted out some great picture spots around town and took turns playing photographer for each other. A great and cheap way for a family Christmas picture! Or was it a
U of A picture? Anyway-afterwards, we had a barbeque at Catalina State Park. Food, Friends and Fotos-we'll have to make this an annual event! Here are our favorites-these are going to China!

Happy Halloween 2005!

So...last year it was the cast of "The Wizard of Oz." This years Halloween theme...well, uh-let's see. Three animals (a kangaroo, dog, and a dinosaur) and an army guy-things that start with the letter "A." Yeah, that's right!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Janine's Project Question #5

5. How much do you feel the general public knows (or doesn’t know) about the importance of adoption/international adoption?

I think that awareness about adoption in general and particularly International and Chinese adoption is increasing due to media attention (Oprah, News stories, Angelina Jolie, Steven Curtis Chapman....) Also, since more Chinese children are adopted to America than any other country, people are seeing Chinese adoptive families in the public more and more. When we visited Knott's Berry Farm last year, I counted three families with Chinese daughters. We had 1 family with a Chinese daughter at our condo in San Diego. We even saw a family with two Chinese daughters when we went to Mexico. They are everywhere and I hope that my daughter will see them as well and know that she isn't the only asian kid in America that has white parents.

Of course there are people who don't understand why someone would spend the money (about $22,000 if you are wondering) and travel halfway around the world for a child when there are plenty of children right here in our own country in need of homes. That is true but our daughter is in China and there isn't much that we can do about that (except go and get her of course!).

A family at church has adopted a boy from China and has had people ask why they would choose to bring China's problems here. I assume that they were referring to the one-child policy. I can't personally put an end to the policy and solve that problem but I can give a child a home that needs one and that is what we plan to do. These girls are abandoned anonymously by mothers who love them and have no choice. I think that some people think that they are sold and/or that the mothers are led to relinquish them with the prospect of financial gain. This is simply not the case.

Janine's Project Question #4

4. What kind of feed-back (neg/pos) have you gotten from friends, family, and other people when you share with them your plans to adopt?

I've been amazed at how positive the feedback has been. Mom and Dad are very supportive, especially since their recent return from China. I have no problem seeing them as grandparents for my Chinese daughter. Matt's parents were surprised when we first mentioned this to them a year ago but since revealed that they had considered adopting a child from Asia (Vietnam) themselves at one time. Our neighbors are excited for us and ask us continually about our progress so far. One neighbor wrote one of the reference letters for our homestudy. We have neighbors who are Asian and they seemed to like the idea of having another Asian girl on the block and said that we had a big heart to bring her to America. When we took our family to LA' s China Town recently, some of the merchants there looked at us with a puzzled look on their faces wondering why these white folks and their children were so excited about their merchandise. I blurted out, "We are adopting a baby from China" as an explanation then wondered if that had been such a good idea. All of a sudden, the entire store's merchandise was reduced in cost by 30 percent so I guess they thought that was ok.

Janine's Project Question #3

3. Are there any traditions or celebrations that you plan to permanently integrate into your family’s practices?

We feel that we will be able to provide our child with many opportunities that she would not otherwise have if she grew up in an orphanage. At the same time, it saddens us that we will have to remove her from her native country and culture in order to do so. We feel like the least we can do is to incorporate some Chinese traditions and celebrations into our family. We plan to celebrate the main Chinese holidays (Chinese New Year, Autumn Moon Festival, etc), which we will probably do in conjunction with our local FCC (Families with Children from China) chapter. We also plan to enroll our child in Chinese language and dance classes that the FCC offers as well. Our other children will be able to join these classes as well if they so desire. We plan to take our entire family back to China one day when our daughter is old enough to understand and appreciate the experience. Maybe we could learn enough Chinese that we could communicate with some of those people important to our daughter's early months of life. We also plan to bring home some Chinese art, music and books when we visit there and use and display these items in our home.

Adoptive families also celebrate "Gotcha Day" which is the day that their baby was placed in their arms. We plan to celebrate this day by wearing traditional Chinese silk outfits, eating Chinese food, and telling our daughter the story of how she joined our family. We hope to make a video that will help her to see the place that she came from and the process by which she joined our family.

It is very possible that our daughter will just want to be an "All-American Girl" and won't be interested in her cultural heritage until perhaps later in life. That will be okay too. We want her to know that we are happy to provide her with as much contact with her native culture as she desires and will follow her lead as she grows up and is able to voice her views in the matter.

Janine's Project Question #2

2. What steps have you already engaged in to prepare your family for the arrival of the new baby?

We have been talking seriously about doing this for the last two years. We decided to include the three older children in the discussion. They all seemed to like the idea of having a baby sister from the start, especially Audrey who has been throwing pennies into fountains and wishing for a baby sister since February of 2001 (at the winter Olympics in Salt Lake!) We needed to be sure, however, that they understood somewhat the additional considerations that an international adoption merits. Let's face it, with 4 kids already welcoming another child into the family has become almost old hat for most of them! This time though, she won't come from mommy's tummy and she won't look like them. We already know our children to be extremely tolerant and appreciative of diversity of all kinds. In fact, they just don't see it so we tried to bring it to their attention by showing them asian babies in public (discreetly I hope) and telling them that is what their sister may look like. No complaints were made. In fact, they think that asian babies are adorable. Audrey asked for the asian Cabbage Patch Doll for her birthday last April and named her Meili Grace (name for our new baby until Matt revealed that he can't stand it!) She has been practicing caring for her and sharing with her and teaching her about what it means to live in a family. When I asked Audrey what she would tell her sister about the fact that she was born somewhere else she said, "I'll just tell her that I was born somewhere else too because we live in Arizona and I was born in Utah." I realize that this could mean that she just doesn't get it yet but it also means that she has not formed any negative associations with people who are different and I take that as a good sign. Taylor is less eager about a new sibling than Audrey who is of course over the moon so Taylor would have a hard time topping her. I put myself in his position which is easy because I was the oldest and remember anticipating the arrival of child number five (which was you!) I remember thinking, "Okay, here we go again..." We are considering taking Taylor to China with us so that he can have that experience in common with her. We hope that it will help with their bonding and it will also be nice for our baby to have someone else that can tell her the story of how she came to our family. Noah and Xander take turns sitting in my lap as I get my "China Adoption Fix" by checking into adoption websites. I have shown them pictures of "China babies" as Noah calls them as well as pictures that depict aspects of the process. Noah asks questions which gives me an opportunity to have discussions with him. I am always cleaning my computer screen because Xander likes to kiss the babies that he sees there.

We have of course checked out books about China and adoption from the library and purchased a few. These are great discussion starters. Our kids have also seen an edited version of "China's Lost Girls" and love to watch "Big Bird in China." The kids have enjoyed learning about Chinese culture and I anticipate that they will have no problems welcoming their Chinese sister and her culture into our family.

We have discussed the fact that we will become what has been referred to as a "conspicuous family." It will be obvious that our family is different and believe it our not perfect strangers will have plenty to say about this both positive and negative. We have talked somewhat about possible scenarios that may occur and what appropriate responses may be. Before Matt and I attended a China Adoption Workshop sponsored by our agency last Spring, I thought that ignoring or telling people off when they were nosy and negative would be an appropriate response to those situations. I don't really care what other people think about the way we have chosen to expand our family but our daughter will be watching and it will be her eduation as to possible ways for her to deal with inquisitions which she is sure to face on her own probably throughout her life. So, instead of just ripping someone a new one, I may choose to take some of these opportunities as a way to educate people about international adoption. Afterall, some people may be legitimately curious because they toom might be thinking about China Adoption as an option for themselves. Othertimes humor or a "non-answer" might be appropriate.

Janine's Project Question #1

My sister, Janine, is taking a class on cultural immersion at the University of LaVerne. With a Chinese niece on the way, she chose China as her culture of focus. Her professor has urged her to narrow that focus to China adoption and to use me as a resource. Of course, I am more than willing to elaborate on the subject to any attentive listener. :o) She has asked a few questions and the next few posts are my responses:

1. What first interested you and your family in considering an adoption from China?

I have thought about adoption as something I definitely could do since a very young age, maybe around jr. high. I have always liked the idea of giving a loving home and family to a child that is already here and desperately needs one. After marriage, I planned to have children the old-fashioned way keeping adoption as a thought in the back of my mind for a later time. I love children and I love being a mom (minus the dishes and laundry!) but after 4 kids and with each pregnancy finding it more difficult to carry the baby to term, I knew that my child-bearing days were over. We definitely felt blessed to have four beautiful, healthy and relatively well-behaved children. Still, we couldn't help but feel like someone was missing from our family. This is when we started seriously thinking about adoption. Why China? I just don't have a great answer for that. I just know that while thinking about adoption throughout my life, in my mind's eye, the child was always a girl and she was always Chinese. In fact international adoption from China didn't really get on its feet until 1993 and I know that it was on my mind well before then. Some would say that spending thousands of dollars and travelling half-way around the world to bring home a baby that doesn't look like us is a crazy idea. We feel like this is the way we were always meant to complete our family. The research that we have done on China adoption has just added a degree of comfort to a decision that was already made. The babies are relatively healthy and well cared-for. HIV and Fetal-Alcohol Syndrome are virtually unheard of because of the simple lifestyle of the birthmothers. The system is stable, predictable and uncorrupt because of a centralized government agency that oversees all adoptions from that country. 95% of Chinese orphans are female and we definitely want a daughter. China's international adoption program is actually one of the least expensive, requires only one trip to the country and the adoption is final a few days after you arrive there. We are also fascinated by the culture and think that Asian girls are beautiful!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

We are back from Rocky Point...

Its hard to believe that it has been a week since we left for Puerto Penasco, Mexico! All of our nervousness about trekking with our family across the border was unfounded. Of course, we couldn't have asked for a better set-up. We followed in a caravan of 9? cars, most of them containing families who had made this exact trip before so we were able to cheeze off of their experience. They had already found the places to stop to pee, buy Mexican insurance, pick up the condo keys, the place to stay, the places to eat without picking up giardia, etc... Most of these families will do this again next year. We will have to keep our calendar open next fall for Operation China Baby but hope to catch up with the group the following year. Thanks to Keira and Ed for letting us tag along.

The four day trip had much to offer. The kids enjoyed the sand and shells and brought enough home to open a shop. In places, you could pick up the shells by the fistfull. It was great to see such a variety. The kids even found conch shells (Noah called them "hear the ocean shells.") Corkscrews and clams the size of the kids' heads could also be found. The tide came in and out twice each day. When it receded, there were large areas of shallow water (tidepools?) that were perfect for the little ones to play in. One day, all but Xander took a ride on a "banana boat." It is basically two huge banana-shaped inflatable tubes tied together. You hop on, strattle a "banana," and hold on for dear life as you are dragged behind a power boat. Matt and Audrey actually fell off once. It was a scary mom-moment to look over and see my 7-year-old daughter floating out in the middle of the Sea of Cortez but knowing that the life-vests did in fact do their job made the rest of the ride a little more enjoyable.

On the second night we showered and got ready to go into town for dinner. Here's where we (I) planned to have the ideal family portrait taken on the beach at sunset. That was until Xander fell off the swings the day before the trip and took a roadrash to the face. I didn't even pack the coordinating outfits I was so disappointed. Of course, it all cleared up the day we got home...

Mexican food in Mexico-Ahhhh! Besides the fact that we couldn't have ice in our drinks, it was heavenly. Great salsa and a Mariachi band (Tamarindo!) Audrey mentioned the next day at breakfast that we should have singers at every meal! I guess this will be the food paragraph-The final night we enjoyed a potluck dinner. I tried the shrimp-great flavor but couldn't get past the texture. It just seems like meat should flake, not squeak! We had steak and enjoyed all kinds of culinary bliss! We were able to pick up homemade tortillas as we headed back across the border. I guess they made us crave beans because we stopped at Taco Bell just before reaching home which is just wrong on so many levels.

The kids made some new friends and enjoyed getting reacquainted with cousins Emilie and Rebecca and Uncle James and Aunt Faith. James provided the entertainment-singing G-I-A-R-D-I-A to the old tune of "Gloria" and on Saturday night when heavy winds that reminded us of Hurricane Katrina footage rolled in, he joked, "Everybody wipe and flush, it's all going to come back up anyway!!!" -I guess you had to be there. Because of the septic system in the condo, we couldn't flush any t.p. Joking about our impending doom, all he could think about I guess was the temptation to flush it just one last time.....anyway.....

Well, that's all that I can think to rehash after a week has gone by. Time to get back to reality.

Adoption Update: Our social worker called a few days ago and said that she sent a final draft of the homestudy to our agency who have since e-mailed it off to their office in China for review. I just recieved e-mail confirmation today that our I-600a application arrived YESTERDAY! I sent that sucker out on the 7th. I don't see why it should take 12 days for a piece of mail to get from Tucson, Arizona to TUCSON, ARIZONA!!! Oh well, it's there and can't really be processed until the home study arrives there also and it still has to be approved in China and then get sent through the courts here so I guess it doesn't really matter in the long run. Matt has to redo his employment letter because I forgot to add his position to the draft that we sent to his boss. Tuesday, I meet a notary at our doctor's offices (by far the most frustrating piece of the dossier puzzle thusfar) so that hoop will have been jumped through. That leaves waiting for the passports to arrive in the mail and then we can send it all to Great Wall for the Certification and Authentication process. A December DTC date would be great but will all depend on how fast these government agencies do their part. It will be so nice when it is all out of our hands and all we have to do is wait (and shop!) Even better yet will be when we have little Xiao Fu in our arms and can tell her that she isn't an orphan any more!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Adoption Update: Warning-Long

So, last night we had our last Home Study appointment. Jackie, our social worker (International Child Foundation-awesome!) came over to interview Matt and I separately to make sure that we were on the same page. She also spoke to both of us about the transition period that is expected when welcoming a post-institutionalized child into your home. I joked that with as full as our house is going to be, she may very well still feel like she is institutionalized-or maybe she will have the opportunity soon after to visit me in an institution!!!

Matt explained to her that he felt that "chinese water torture" was a culturally appropriate form of discipline for our new baby. KIDDING!!! (Can you tell that we are a bit relieved that it is over?) He actually tortured me with that and similar accounts of his interview because he knows how nosy I am and how almost impossible it was for me to let him have his interview without interruptions. So...after almost giving myself a coronary shampooing every carpet and upholstered surface in the house, scrubbing bathrooms until my hands bled, and cleaning the downstairs tile grout with a toothbrush, THE HOME STUDY IS DONE!!! (at least the part where our house is inspected is ;o) I wish that I could go back in time and tell myself that a home study is not about seeing how close you compare with Martha Stewart (in the homemaking department at least) but more about getting the information that you need to prepare to be an adoptive parent. I guess that we have passed because Jackie said that she wished that she could clone us. Being found fit to be parents is particularly good news for the four children that we already have!

We now just wait for the home study document to go through the court and be signed by a judge. In the meantime, we are waiting for our passports to arrive in the mail and to receive our I-171H (Petition for Advanced Processing of an Orphan/Comes from Homeland Security) which won't happen until the completed homestudy is sent to USCIS and we are fingerprinted (again). Things have been pretty busy in the adoption department but will slow down as the todo list gets shorter. No one part of the paperchase is brain-surgery, there is just a lot of it to keep track of. Being a type A does come in handy sometimes!

For the few of you who might care and so I can feel a sense of accomplishment, here are the lists of documents that we have had to compile:

fingerprinting process
CPS records clearance
copy of Jenn's birth certificate
copy of Matt's birth certificate
copy of marriage license
copy of top page of 2004 tax return
copy of Matt's paystub
Jenn's unemployment letter
health statement-Matt
health statement-Jenn
health statement-Taylor
health statement-Audrey
health statement-Noah
health statement-Xander
health insurance verification form
copies of drivers licenses
disciplinary statement
reference letter-Judy (Jenn's Mom)
reference letter-Debbie (Matt's Mom)
reference letter-Jen Parsons and Tim Soran (Utah Friends and Vacation Buddies)
reference letter-Diane and Blaine Tuttle (Friends and Kids' second mom when Jenn worked)
reference letter-Torrey Postal (Our next door neighbor and Noah's future mother-in-law)
Financial statement
guardianship statement
copy of kids' birth certificates

FOR THE DOSSIER (fancy word for "stuff that goes to China")
Application letter-done
Home Study-more or less done
Certified Birth Certificate-Jenn-done
Certified Birth Certificate-Matt-done
Certified Marriage Certificate-done
Medical form Jenn-need to have the doctor notarize it
Medical form Matt-need to have the doctor notarize it also
Unemployment letter-Jenn (should be a letter saying that I am employed, just unpaid!)-done
Certificate of Financial Status-done
Police report-Matt-done
Police report-Jenn-done
I-171H-could have this in about 6 weeks
passport pics Jenn-done (no place to hide in those mugshots!)
passport pics Matt-done(somebody teach this boy how to smile!)
passport Jenn-should arrive by Nov. 2
passport Matt-should arrive soon thereafter
Family Life Photos-6 (After finding a notary to go to the doctors' offices, this will probably
be the most difficult part!)
cover letter-done

Most of these documents have to be notarized, certified by the secretary of state, and authenticated by the Chinese Consulate. The last two steps will be done for us by our agency (Great Wall China Adoptions: GWCA) Usually adoption applicants do this themselves. Our agency offers a Dragon Plan where they do this part for a fee. We actually will pay nothing since we won a free Dragon Plan at the "East Meets West" conference that we attended last April-so nice!

So-we are almost there! We are getting ready for a trip to Mexico with neighbors and affiliates. The kids are so excited, especially that Uncle James, Aunt Faith, and cousins Emily and Rebecca are coming. Should be a great time to relax. Of course, I'll be worried about squeaking some "family life photos" out of the weekend but it shouldn't be a problem... Hasta la vista!!!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Why Am I Posting an Easter Picture in October?

Because I am an amateur blogger that is why!!! I thought I was adding a picture to the profile information but there it is nonetheless!!! Oh well, if you didn't know what we looked like before, now you do! Let's talk a bit about pictures... We are required to send a variety of "family life" pictures to China. This is the source of much stress for us especially since the Chinese officials use these pictures to match you with your child. Despite the stress, I had determined that it would be much more difficult and time consuming to "stage" these pictures so I went through our recent pictures looking for some that might be passable. In so doing, I have discovered a few things... First of all, since one of us is usually behind the camera, there are very few pictures of all of us as a family. Second, the one behind the camera is almost always me. If I sent what we have to China, the officials there may not believe that this child will in fact have a mother. Third, apparently I am not very creative in the "what to wear when we go on a family outing" department. Matt and I went to New York City almost two years ago. While there, I purchased a black visor with a NYC logo on it. In my picture search, it appears that I have worn that hat and a ponytail everytime I have left the house since that vacation! So... it looks as if we will be off to the studio for some portraits and planning to stage some photos afterall. If I still want them to appear to be an accurate representation of how we live, does that mean that I should submit one entitled "toilet scrubbing"?

The Bouton Brood

Easter Sunday-2005 Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005

Finally...A Blog of My Own

Well...after spending the better part of a year reading other people's blogs and websites, this is my meager attempt to create our own. It is so exciting to finally be out of the "talking about it" phase and into the "doing something about it" phase. So what if we have been subject to everything short of a full body-cavity search! (With my luck, we get a request for that tomorrow! :o/ We are going to get our China-Girl!!! Once I figure this thing out, I'll transfer our timeline to the blog from my spiral notebook. But, suficeth to say that right now we are about to wrap up our homestudy-last meeting with our social worker on Monday evening. We have all homestudy documents in hand ready to heave them over that night. We recieved Matt's elusive birth certificate in the mail today (Thank you Grandma Debbie!) so we were able to send off the I-600a. The homestudy should be wrapped up and certified at about the same time that our passports arrive by mail (in about 4 weeks.) At that point, once we recieve our I171-H, we should be ready to send our dossier documents off to our agency. For those of you who don't speak adoptionese, we could be ready to send our papers off to China as early as December!!! That means that we could possibly be travelling to China as soon as September of '06. But don't start counting down yet-many things could change that estimate. Right now I am trying to enjoy the process (not the journey!) knowing that our baby is safely floating in amniotic fluid somewhere on the other side of the globe without a care in the world. Once we know that she has likely been born, the mood will be a bit more frantic!