Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!-Santa Claus Came to Town

Last night we had our traditional Christmas Eve program as a family complete with music and a nativity. After our annual Winterhaven (neighborhood decorated with lights) run, we turned in for the night. This morning, the kids were up bright and early to see what Santa had left them. We have some happy kiddos on our hands!





Santa even remembered Meili!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Special Night Out With My Girl

We have wanted to take Audrey to a performance of the Nutcracker since she was a three
year-old ballerina. She has always loved the play (in video form) and has been collecting nutcrackers for several years now. I realize that this will be our last Christmas having only one daughter-a perfect reason for a special mom/daughter night out!

We enjoyed the play, then Audrey was treated to dessert and her 5th nutcracker. Love you Audrey-girl!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love this kid.

I almost went to work and skipped the Preschool Christmas Party. I didn't know that parents were expected to stay and would be treated to a performance (The note read more like you could stay if you wanted and maybe you could help pass out cookies, etc.) I'm glad I made a change of plans or Xander would have been the only one there without a parent with the exception of the kid whose mom was at the hospital in labor. My office hours would not have made as acceptable an excuse... I'm so glad I went. Xander was proud as a peacock and did such a good job singing his songs. I love the look on his face here.
ps- The little sweetie in the bottom right hand corner is my Mandarin buddy-only person I know that will practice with me! I've got my numbers down thanks to her!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Some people love to hate family Christmas letters. Truth is, I thought about letting our annual Christmas letter go this year but the kids really look forward to hearing their year summed up in a paragraph and remembering the silly things said and done that might otherwise be forgotten. Before you proceed, let me just remind you that you are here and reading this of your own free will and volition...;o)Matt is still saving the world one package at a time as UPS’s most loyal employee. One of the highlights of his year was traveling to Seattle with his parents in June. They thought he was accompanying them to his cousin, Josh’s wedding. Really, he was along for the chance to visit the hallowed birthplace of United Parcel Service. Photos were taken and a rubbing of the founding plaque now hangs on his office wall. It’s in a 20 x 30 frame. (I’m in a 3x5.) If I could sum up Matt’s year in one word it would be ‘service.’ Matt has been involved with Make Way for Books, United Way projects and most recently organized an aid station for bike riders on the Tour de Tucson route. Next year he hopes to be a rider! Matt also works with the 12 and 13 year old scouts at church. He spent many months during ’08 working with them on their Personal Fitness merit badge charting their progress running a mile, doing pull-ups, sit ups, etc. He couldn’t resist charting his own progress, as well. When he related this at work, a co-worker made the observation - ‘So, basically you’re racing children?’
Jenn is still doing adoption home studies although business has been quite slow. To fill in the gaps, I’ve been reorganizing and managing the files at the main office and preparing Kyrgyzstan dossiers-almost makes me wish I'd studied Russian instead of Spanish. I was able to travel to Minnesota in April to attend an agency partner conference and then planned a small weekend getaway to Sedona with Matt for our 15th wedding anniversary (Time flies!) and to attend cousin Aprille’s wedding. My renewed hobby is grinding wheat and baking from scratch. I've conquered pizza crust and a variety of muffins and have my sights set on tortillas. With all the doom and gloom in the news about the economy, I’ve taken my bargain hunting hobby to a new level. I am now an avid couponer and find pure joy in getting many grocery items for free or close to it. (Check out the sidebar for details! Seriously, coupons are going to be cool in '09. Trust me.) This exuberance coming from the girl who used to hide in the car with the seat reclined to avoid being seen at Target as a teenager!
Taylor turned 13 this year and is in the 8th grade. He still plans to be a meteorologist one day and has registered as a Southern Arizona Weather Watcher. It is a crack up to hear him call in his weather reports complete with precipitation descriptions and estimations of wind velocity. Just yesterday, he met his favorite local meteorologist, Chuck George (For Taylor, bigger than Oprah!), who was kind enough to have a quick chat with him about the colleges that he should be thinking about applying to and the classes he should be taking in preparation. I can't believe that we'll be registering him for high school in just a few months! Taylor plays the violin at school-a self-proclaimed ‘orch dork!’ He is also busy preparing to complete his Eagle project in the next few months. A few months ago, Matt introduced Taylor to the Twilight series. He was quick to initially dismiss it as a ‘girl book’ but gave it another shot when he realized that it is also a 'girls will talk to me if they see me with it' book. Needless to say, he read all 4 books in record time!
Audrey is 10 years old and is enjoying being a 5th grader-top of the elementary school food chain in our state. She plays the flute and the piano and is still attending Achievement Days at church. In February, our family got cable for the first time and our only regret is Audrey’s obsession with the Disney channel. We’re convinced that she would jump through the screen and join them if she could. While the first name of her future husband is yet to be determined, Audrey is fairly certain that her last name will one day be 'Jonas.' Audrey participated in cheer camp again this year and completed Babysitter Bootcamp. She watches the little boys for us for short periods of time and has even babysat outside of our home on a few occasions. She is really good with small children. I can’t wait to see her with her little sister!
Noah, at the ripe age of 7, has a serious crush on Taylor Swift despite Jenn’s standing ‘NO COUNTRY IN THE HOUSE’ rule. He's asked if he can send her a birthday present and often asks to eat at Cracker Barrel 'because that is her favorite restaurant.' He is also strangely enamored with politicians. During campaign season, our otherwise shy Noah chased a state legislator down the street barefoot just to introduce himself and shake his hand. Noah loves 2nd grade and wants Ms. Tinney to be his teacher ‘for the rest of his life.’ He is looking forward to turning 8 next year. He has agreed to postpone his baptism by a month or two if China travel interferes but was concerned that doing so might preclude him from joining cub scouts (?). One of the highlights of Noah’s year was watching a bobcat stalking prey (quail) in the wash that borders our home from his upstairs bedroom window. It was better than the Discovery Channel! Xander celebrated his 5th birthday this year by fishing for ostriches and riding in a monster truck at Picacho Peak. He loves to do his chores, wants to marry his mother and often prays for divine intervention in vital skills like learning to wink. To give you the whole picture we should also report that during 2008 Xander added running away from home, being kicked out of his Primary (Sunday school) class and stealing a sizable amount of cash from Jenn’s purse and stuffing it in his sock drawer to his been-there-done-that list. We are crossing our fingers that he has gotten it all out of his system at an early age and will be a mellow teenager... He attends Mr. Merrit’s class at St. Andrew’s preschool two days a week with his best buddies, Evan and Bennett. His first report card was hilarious. We loved how it described his behavior in terms such as ‘Oral communication is an area of strength for Xander’ when we know it really meant, ‘This kid never shuts up!’
We really hoped that this would be the year that our Christmas card would read, 'Meili Christmas!' and feature 5 faces instead of 4. Nine months of pregnancy culminating in childbirth now seems like a relatively easy way to have a child. In fact, we now have waited for Meili longer than Jenn was pregnant with all four kids combined. What a learning experience this has been! We certainly recognize the children that we have for the miracles that they are and have also learned that patience and faith go hand in hand. If good things come to those who wait, we are convinced that Heavenly Father has quite a blessing in store for us! We are eager to prove that this adoption is not a figment of our imagination by sending out an email and posting to the blog as soon as we have some good news and photo evidence to share (April or May?) so stay tuned!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2009!

Love , The Boutons

Friday, December 12, 2008

Some Progress and a Xander Funny


We can cross two more things off of 'The List.' I was able to sneak down to the health department and get the last round of my travel vaccinations yesterday. Glad to have those behind me! The lady who administered them asked why I was getting them. I said that I was going to China. (Wasn't in the mood for adoption talk, believe it or not...) She proceeded to say, 'Well, don't get sick over there. China wants you to think that they are advanced but they are not. What you saw during the Olympics was the only developed part... Everything else is NOT like that in China. I'm Japanese by the way.' I just smiled and nodded. I guess there is a little tension between the two countries???

I also received a phone call at 7pm from the orphan officer at our local USCIS office. She asked me when I'd like to have our fingerprinting appt. and gave us our first choice. We received our notification letters by email just a few minutes later. How cool is that? On December 20th, we'll have another paperwork hurdle behind us!

This afternoon, our I-600a renewal application will go out in the mail. When we have that new I-171H in the mail it will be such a relief!

So onto Xander... A few days ago, I picked Noah up from school and let the two little boys play on the playground while we waited for Audrey to get out of Band practice. There were a few other kids there as part of the afterschool program. One small boy proceeded to grab two fistfuls of leaves and throw them at Xander. I politely explained to him why that was not an appropriate thing to do and he walked away. Xander then turned to me and said, "Sheesh! Kids these days!" You said it, buddy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ebay and I: Friends Again

Third time's a charm! I lost two other bids previously on two completely different diaper bags but now I'm so glad that I did. I had never seen this style before but when I did, I fell in love. If you can't tell from the photo, it's chocolate brown with pink cherry blossoms. I've wanted a Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag for a very long time but never thought that I would be able to afford one. I can't believe I get to cross this off of my list! I LOVE ebay!!! (-and my husband who rolled his eyes but let me buy it anyway.)

Third Time's a Charm...Let's Hope!

Matt and I made a third trek across town to be fingerprinted for immigration purposes for our adoption this morning. No worries-we still aren't criminals and our fingerprints have not changed since we began the process. It's a minor inconvenience really when we consider what is in store for us when this process is through!

33 Months


I've said this before but when we started this process, we expected a referral 6-8 months after sending our paperwork to China. When timeframes started to lengthen, I never dreamed it would extend beyond a year. We're now looking at three. Each month as we 'celebrate' yet another month since our LID, I can't believe how much reality has differed from our expectations. What really strikes me this month is that after 33 months, we still can't say for certain if our referral is 3, 4 or 5 months away. In a weird way, to write that is frustrating and exciting at the same time. We really are getting close and the thoughts that we have about how hard it is for us to wait are still there but quickly shift now to thoughts about our baby girl who has likely been born and what this situation must be like for her right now.

And now on to my monthly mental exercise...It looks like the cut off date is going to be February 23rd this month. That's a six day batch which leaves only 15 LIDs to go until they get to ours. (!)If the CCAA maintains their 5-6 day per month average, we could see a referral in March. However, looking at the RQ polls, it's hard to ignore the huge number of people logged in on Feb. 28th and March 7th. It is quite possible that those LIDs will each constitute a referral batch all on their own. So I have to face the reality that we may not see a referral until May.

Here are my predictions for the next few months. I'm trying to prepare for a worse case scenario and just hoping that it can't get any worse than this.

January-February 27
February-February 28
March-March 3rd or 6th
April-March 7th
May-March 10th or 13th

I really hope that it ends up better than this. I will be particularly curious to see if they can match Feb 28th or not next month. (In fact, CCAA-I dare you.) If so, you'll have to scrape me off of the ceiling but I'm not holding my breath.

We received official notification from our agency yesterday that the orphanage 'donation' has increased by $2000. We knew this was coming but hoped that we would be able to sneak in under the wire and avoid paying the extra $. In the end, if children receive better care and more orphanage directors are encouraged to make children paper ready for adoption, then it is a good thing.

The List-Updated 12/10

I realize that this is a completely boring post. Feel free to skip it. It mainly serves the purpose of making me feel like I am accomplishing something to get our daughter home (and it's in a place where I can't lose it.)
Electronics (aka Matt's job):
-Buy a lap top Done!
-Buy a new camera (I have my eye on this one but would settle for a new point and shoot)
-Buy a video camera Done!
-Learn how to use the above
-Get extra SD cards Done!
-Look into Skype Need to get a webcam, etc. May opt to skip this.

Paperwork:
-renew fingerprints Appt. 12/20 8:00am
-Send off I-171H renewal request Mailed out December 12
-renew home study (if we aren't going to be back from China by June or if we plan to readopt/finalize when we get home) If we don't have a referral by March, we'll start on it then.
-Request that our agency send our referral packet to us via UPS, not Matt's mortal enemy (Fed Ex) They want a pre-paid envelope ahead of time.
-Agree on a protocol if Matt is at work and the kids are at school when the call comes. I need to have Matt in the room with me when the call comes. I want to see his reaction, plus I may not be able to function well enough to receive the call once it finally comes and may need his help. Our agency will send out a 'Stork Has Landed' email and then proceed to make calls. We are going to email right back and request that they not call us until the time we think that we can get in the same room together. Matt might come home or I might drive to his office depending on the time of day and his work load. If the kids are home, great. If not, we'll clue them in later. That way I can focus on their reactions and not be writing, etc when they get the news. I know this sounds OCD but after waiting so long for this, I plan to savor every moment when it finally happens!

For Referral Day:
-Charge phone, cell phone, camera and video camera
-Hopefully, have a person to man the camera and video camera when the call comes in.
-Prep a blog post
-Update email addresses and prep an email announcement-Have Diet Coke, Chocolate in mass quantities, 'The Call' sheet, flower/ladybug pens and Kleenex handy.
-Gather links for Orphanage yahoo groups, Name translation sites, Chinese growth charts, map of China etc.
-Print yard sign (oh yes we are)
-Order a photo necklace kit (not sure if I want a square or rectangle but I'll know when I see the referral pics)

For Care Package:
-blanket Done!
-stuffed animal/blanket thing Done!
-2 disposable cameras with instructions I have one camera.
-Photo album (bought 2-1 to send and 1 to keep) with pics each family member with Meili's pic and labels in Chinese
-SafTPops for orphanage children Order in February
-Jelly Bellys for nannys Done!
-save a shoe box Done!

Shopping Necessities:
-baby shampoo, wash, powder, and lotion Done!
-diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment I'm going to start buying a pkg of diapers every couple of trips to the store.
-bibs, formula, rice cereal, baby food and baby snacks Looking for some cute bibs...
-outfits, pj's and onesies to round out her wardrobe
(Once we know her age, size and the season that she will be home)
-baby bathtub (will wait until after we're home-she may be ready for a seat)
-stroller (will also wait until we are home-we may just buy one in China)
-pack n' play (can wait)
-bouncer (also can wait)
-small cd player for Meili's room In progress.
-Make some bows (if she has hair...) Having a bow-making party in January with my China adoption friends. I've been collecting ribbon.

Shopping Frivolities:
-The remainder of the China/adoption children's books on my Amazon wishlist
-Mei Tai Baby Carrier (espresso straps with 'carnival bloom' fabric on the front)
-Kozy Pal cart cover. After surviving the better part of a year in an orphanage in a third world county, I'm not too worried about exposing Meili to germs. But after 4 kids I've never had one and I think they look cool! They also have this in the same 'carnival bloom' pattern as the mei tai.
-Asian brocade Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag (as soon as the money tree sprouts in the back yard...or I can win a bid on ebay) Proud owner of a Petunia Picklebottom 'Spring Roll' Boxy Backback Diaper Bag!

For Travel:
-Finalize packing list (and pack!) Luggage is purchased. The packing list spreadsheet has been made and many things are already packed.
-Decide if Taylor and Audrey are going to China They probably are. They would handle the trip well and would be very helpful. Taylor could handle all of the electronics-take photos and video, upload to the laptop, update the blog and keep everything charged. I know that Audrey would be so good with Meili and help ease her transition. We play with the idea of leaving them home to have the two-on-one time with Meili and to save a few bucks but we're coming home from China up to our eyeballs in debt anyway so it's not going to make much difference.
-Make arrangements for kiddos All of our family lives in So. Cal. We'll probably drive to LA and leave the kiddos with family there, then fly out of LAX. The trick will be driving back home (7.5 hrs) with a baby who has never been in a carseat before and two jet-lagged parents. Maybe my parents can drive our car (and kids) back and we'll get them a couple of plane tickets home? The more I think about it, the more I think I want to come directly home to my own bed. It would also be less transition for Meili to deal with.
-Make arrangements for dog and bird A friend has recommended another friend who is a trainer and does in-home boarding.
-get cash in new or like new condition from bank
-have a lock engraved with our name and date for the Great Wall We've got the lock-not sure what to engrave on it.
-Get last round of vaccinations I'm done! Need to call and check what Matt needs.
-Finish Quilts (We are making one handmade quilt for each month of the wait to donate to Meili's orphanage) Maybe during the Christmas break...
-Finish OHGW Quilt scrapbook (If it's not done before we travel, it may never get done)
-set up crib before we leave
-put car seat in the car
-Make appt. with pediatrician for when we return
-add Meili to our insurance
-make ahead and freeze some dinners

Gifts for Officials/Nannys:
-Stuff from our state Done!
-Buttons, keychains and small autographed prints by Azuzephre (Jenn's brother) Done!
-Lotion from Bath and Body Works 4 for $10 sale last week-Done!
-Jelly Bellys-I've been pricing them. There is a cute tin that is shaped like a jelly bean that has the American flag on the bottom. I think we'll go with those. I'm curious how long they are good for because I may be able to find them on sale after the holidays...
-red bags and tissue Done!

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Merry Christmas' by Third Day

Matt is deeply touched by the 'Christmas Shoes' song that plays on the radio this time of year. It makes me want to vomit and yell at the radio. I'm convinced that it is a contrived attempt to empty wallets. Whoever wrote it is getting neither a penny nor a tear from me!

I feel much differently about this song, however. It's not played on the radio nearly as often as 'Christmas Shoes.' I'm guessing that is because not many members of the general population can relate to it. We can. If you are a friend or family member, you may want to grab a tissue before watching the video. If you're also waiting for your child from China, several tissues and good fistful of chocolate are in order before hitting the play button.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8RW6aHXWQ

We have already spent several Christmases waiting for Meili. This one is particularly hard knowing that since we are so close to referral, it is very likely that she has been born and will spend the winter in a Chinese orphanage. It's almost too difficult to even think about. I just pray that she will be safe, healthy and well cared for until we can bring her home.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bullets are all I have time for....

  • Rumor Queen has some info that leads her to believe that we may see a 6-10 day batch in December. Holy crap I need this to be true. I'm at the end of my rope.
  • We went to see Twilight this weekend. Twice. Matt and I previewed it on Friday and I took Taylor to see it on Saturday. It was never going to be as good as the book but it was alright. The most entertaining part was seeing the teenage girls all dressed up and twitterpated over Edward. I'm more of a Jacob girl myself. He reminds me of Matt a bit-minus the whole werewolf thing.
  • We took our Suburban in to the mechanic last week. We suspected transmission trouble. They checked out the fluid and ran a diagnostic and told us we just needed to reset the computer codes and flush the trans fluid which we did-well he did anyway. We left the mechanic grateful to only be $350 lighter but on the ride home it was apparent that the transmission was still not 100%. The next day, the mechanic called and said that when they emptied their reservoir, they noticed there was some metallic material in the fluid afterall. Crap. We got teased. It's going to be $3000 to replace the transmission and that doesn't include labor. I think it's a conspiracy to keep me from getting my camera. Guess what I'm getting for Christmas this year instead... Bah Humbug.
  • I have officially weaned myself from C*stco. I didn't think it could be done! I don't even miss the hotdogs! I took the $ I'd usually spend there on our monthly trip and used it to stock up on grocery store sales/coupon deals instead. We spent the same amount of money on groceries this month as we usually do but the difference is that instead of having an empty pantry and fridge at the end of the month, we are bursting at the seams. Stupid thing to be excited about but thought I'd share anyway. I'm going to try to see if I can stay out of the grocery store until December 5th. I'm not sure how that's going to go. I'm usually there every third day or so for something.
  • I need to go get Xander ready for preschool. Let's hope I do better at getting him ready than I did yesterday. I had started a bath for him then had a phone call come in. Do you see where this is going? Yep, water overflowed everywhere. I'm still washing the towels...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Counting Down

  • The crazy people are going to see this movie tonight at midnight. We have our tickets for tomorrow's 1pm showing and that's crazy enough for us. Matt has the day off and we have made arrangements for Xander to go to a friends house. I've read the first three of the series of books and am almost done with number four-and I just started about a week and a half ago! Part of me feels guilty that my usual non-fiction reading material has been replaced by 'vampire smut' but it is just SO good!
  • I've made a little progress on 'the list.' This week I bought a lock for the Great Wall. I'm waiting until after referral to have it engraved. Also, I sent a check off to USCIS for refingerprinting only to have it returned with a notice that our local office no longer accepts personal checks (as of about 3 weeks ago.) So I had to go get a money order and resend everything. I also decided on the camera that we should buy and was fairly close to buying it. However, it looks like the transmission may be going out on the Suburban so I'm waiting to see just how poor we are going to be when all is said and done.
  • I've been busy with work lately and hence neglecting my blog. The director at the agency that I work for is in Kyrgyzstan checking on the program there. Guess who is running the office while she is away???
  • I'm really hoping for some good news in the referral department this month. You would think that after 3+ years of let downs that I would know better but apparently not. 21 LIDs ahead of us-I'm hoping to reduce that number by at least 7. More would be fine with me as well.
  • Noah can roller skate! The poor little guy put skates on for the first time a few weeks ago when I took the kids to the skating rink. It was pitiful but Noah was determined to learn. I think he's practiced everyday since up and down the sidewalk and just yesterday he had a breakthrough and now skates like a pro. I'll try to get a video of him and practice posting a video to the blog. Another China prep skill!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Money and Melamine



Anyone that knows me knows that I love to save a buck. That's why I'm so sick about the speeding ticket I got on Saturday. $135 fine or $190 for traffic school. Ugh! Do you know how many coupons I'm going to have to clip to make up for this?! I was going 60 in a 45. I honestly had no idea. I was driving the Suburban for the first time in a while. I've been driving Matt's Neon to save $ for the last week or so (surprise, surprise.) My guess is that I had grown unaccustomed to the V8 and smooth ride and underestimated my speed. So, I'm adding DRIVING THE SPEED LIMIT to my list of 'Things I Do to Save a Buck.'

I may be a bit delayed in this but is anyone else freaking out about the Melamine issue in China? My agency sent out an email shortly after the news first broke assuring us that they had checked with each of the handful of orphanages where the children referred to their agency usually come from and assured us that none of them were using the affected formulas. If I remember correctly, I think the email said that the affected formulas were very expensive and thus not likely to be used by the orphanages. Fast forward to last week and blog buddy Erin is in China and finds out that two of her travel mates children have just been diagnosed with kidney stones. This means that her daughter has likely had the tainted formula and since she is with the same agency that we are, we can't be all that sure that Meili has not been exposed to it too. I can't imagine what kind of sicko would put poison in babies' primary food source. I hope that they get what is coming them and that the children affected get the help that they need and are on the mend very soon.

In other China adoption news, I just put a check in the mail to USCIS for fingerprinting renewal. Ouch. I guess I should put the fine for my speeding ticket in the mail along with it. Double ouch.

Monday, November 10, 2008

32 Months and 'The List'

Today marks 32 months since our paperwork was logged in in China. Until the last batch of referrals came out last week (a whopping 2 days worth...) I had been expecting a referral in February. Once again I'm having to realign my expectations with reality. Humor me for a little exercise-there are 21 LIDs ahead of us at this point so if CCAA can manage an average of:

6 days per month = March referral
5 days per month = April referral
4 days per month = May referral
3 days per month = June referral

A six day average is about as much as I can hope for and less than a 3 day average is too depressing to think about. It feels like we are splitting hairs here but the truth is that now that we are closer to referral, every day that CCAA can eek out each month is of enormous consequence to us. It's hard to believe that with only 21 LIDs to go, I still need to make a chart to figure out the range of possiblities for a referral...

Regardless, we're plugging along and preparing for a new baby. So, here's my list of things we still need to do to prepare for Meili. After three years of prep, I didn't think there was still this much to worry about but the list is quite long anyway and I'm sure I'll be adding to it.

The List
(Updated 12/10)

Electronics (aka Matt's job):
-Buy a lap top Done!
-Buy a new camera (I have my eye on this one but would settle for a new point and shoot)
-Buy a video camera Done!
-Learn how to use the above
-Get extra SD cards Done!
-Look into Skype Need to get a webcam.

Paperwork:
-renew fingerprints Sent request-no appt. yet.
-Send off I-171H renewal request (December 12-packet ready to go)
-renew home study (if we aren't going to be back from China by June or if we plan to readopt/finalize when we get home) If we don't have a referral by March, we'll start on it then.
-Request that our agency send our referral packet to us via UPS, not Matt's mortal enemy (Fed Ex) They want a pre-paid envelope ahead of time.
-Agree on a protocol if Matt is at work and the kids are at school when the call comes. I need to have Matt in the room with me when the call comes. I want to see his reaction, plus I may not be able to function well enough to receive the call once it finally comes and may need his help. Our agency will send out a 'Stork Has Landed' email and then proceed to make calls. We are going to email right back and request that they not call us until the time we think that we can get in the same room together. Matt might come home or I might drive to his office depending on the time of day and his work load. If the kids are home, great. If not, we'll clue them in later. That way I can focus on their reactions and not be writing, etc when they get the news. I know this sounds OCD but after waiting so long for this, I plan to savor every moment when it finally happens!
For Referral Day:
-Charge phone, cell phone, camera and video camera
-Hopefully, have a person to man the camera and video camera when the call comes in.
-Prep a blog post
-Update email addresses and prep an email announcement-Have Diet Coke, Chocolate in mass quantities, 'The Call' sheet, flower/ladybug pens and Kleenex handy.
-Gather links for Orphanage yahoo groups, Name translation sites, Chinese growth charts, map of China etc.
-Print yard sign (oh yes we are)
-Order a photo necklace kit (not sure if I want a square or rectangle but I'll know when I see the referral pics)

For Care Package:
-blanket Done!
-stuffed animal/blanket thing Done!
-2 disposable cameras with instructions I have one camera.
-Photo album (bought) with pics each family member with Meili's pic and labels in Chinese
-SafTPops for orphanage children
-Jelly Bellys for nannys
-save a shoe box

Shopping Necessities:
-baby shampoo, wash, powder, and lotion Done!
-diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment I'm going to start buying a pkg of diapers every couple of trips to the store.
-bibs, formula, rice cereal, baby food and baby snacks Looking for some cute bibs...
-outfits, pj's and onesies to round out her wardrobe
(Once we know her age, size and the season that she will be home)
-baby bathtub (will wait until after we're home-she may be ready for a seat)
-stroller (will also wait until we are home-we may just buy one in China)
-pack n' play (can wait)
-bouncer (also can wait)
-small cd player for Meili's room In progress.
-Make some bows (if she has hair...) Having a bow-making party in January with my China adoption friends. I've been collecting ribbon.

Shopping Frivolities:
-The remainder of the China/adoption children's books on my Amazon wishlist
-Mei Tai Baby Carrier (espresso straps with 'carnival bloom' fabric on the front)
-Kozy Pal cart cover. After surviving the better part of a year in an orphanage in a third world county, I'm not too worried about exposing Meili to germs. But after 4 kids I've never had one and I think they look cool! They also have this in the same 'carnival bloom' pattern as the mei tai.
-Asian brocade Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag (as soon as the money tree sprouts in the back yard...or I can win a bid on ebay) Lost a bid on ebay two days ago-but I've found a way to get a new one for $100 instead of $172. I'm after the Sunset Dragon Boxy Backpack.

For Travel:
-Finalize packing list (and pack!) Luggage is purchased. The packing list spreadsheet has been made and many things are already packed.
-Decide if Taylor and Audrey are going to China They probably are. They would handle the trip well and would be very helpful. Taylor could handle all of the electronics-take photos and video, upload to the laptop, update the blog and keep everything charged. I know that Audrey would be so good with Meili and help ease her transition. We play with the idea of leaving them home to have the two-on-one time with Meili and to save a few bucks but we're coming home from China up to our eyeballs in debt anyway so it's not going to make much difference.
-Make arrangements for kiddos All of our family lives in So. Cal. We'll probably drive to LA and leave the kiddos with family there, then fly out of LAX. The trick will be driving back home (7.5 hrs) with a baby who has never been in a carseat before and two jet-lagged parents. Maybe my parents can drive our car (and kids) back and we'll get them a couple of plane tickets home? The more I think about it, the more I think I want to come directly home to my own bed. It would also be less transition for Meili to deal with.
-Make arrangements for dog and bird A friend has recommended another friend who is a trainer and does in-home boarding.
-get cash in new or like new condition from bank
-have a lock engraved with our name and date for the Great Wall We've got the lock-not sure what to engrave on it.
-Get last round of vaccinations Might go Thursday night.
-Finish Quilts (We are making one handmade quilt for each month of the wait to donate to Meili's orphanage) Maybe during the Christmas break...
-Finish OHGW Quilt scrapbook (If it's not done before we travel, it may never get done)
-set up crib before we leave
-put car seat in the car
-Make appt. with pediatrician for when we return
-add Meili to our insurance
-make ahead and freeze some dinners

Gifts for Officials/Nannys:
-Stuff from our state Done!
-Buttons, keychains and small autographed prints by Azuzephre (Jenn's brother) Done!
-Lotion from Bath and Body Works 4 for $10 sale last week-Done!
-Jelly Bellys-I've been pricing them. There is a cute tin that is shaped like a jelly bean that has the american flag on the bottom. I think we'll go with those. I'm curious how long they are good for because I may be able to find them on sale after the holidays...
-red bags and tissue Done!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Countdown Has Begun!

Only 23 days until Black Friday!!! This is a shopping day that even Matt can get excited about! We are really simplifying Christmas this year in preparation for our China trip but still plan to get out and do some shopping the morning after Thanksgiving. Afterall, it would be un-American not to. Click here to see the latest leaked Black Friday ads and feel free to spread the joy. Here's a tip: If you don't want to fight the crowds (which is really half of the fun anyway), you can usually find many of the sale items at the larger stores online at midnight the night before and many times there will be free shipping. Happy shopping!

Catching Up

  • We've been busy as can be around here over the last couple of weeks. Surprisingly, nothing has occurred that is particularly blogworthy-hence the lack of posts.
  • Two weekends ago, we had our annual children's program at church. Since I'm the president of that organization, you can imagine why I'm relieved to have it behind us. My children (all 40+ of them) did great, though, and I'm so proud of them.
  • On the adoption front, here we sit on the 5th of the month and still have no concrete news as to what the CCAA will have to offer this month. Early rumors of a 5 day batch were depressing. Now the latest rumors of a possible 2 day batch make the original rumor seem like an early Christmas present. Funny how that works.
  • I am famous for being a list maker. I've been working on a list of things that need to be done before we go to China and most of them can and should be done before we get our referral. I may share the list in the next post in case my paper list should mysteriously disappear. I'm disappointed and relieved at the same time to find that the shopping portion of the list is rather small.
  • So, the election is finally over. My guy didn't win but I voted so I have earned the right to complain about it for the next 4 years.
  • I actually have hobbies and interests that don't involve adoption. Shocker, I know. Soon my sidebar will reflect my addiction to bargain hunting, food storage and playing the coupon game with groceries. This, coming from the girl that would wait in the car with the seat reclined to avoid being seen at Target as a teenager.
  • The weather here is finally down in the 70s during the day with overnight lows in the 40s. During the summers here, you feel as if you will never be cool again. I'm glad we do get the nice crisp weather, if only for a few weeks. It makes me start to crave turkey and pie!
  • Last weekend as I was opening the blinds in the boys' room early in the morning, I noticed a creature in the wash that borders the east side of our home. At first I thought it was a dog, then thought it looked more like a cat. Then I realized that it was a cat that was the size of a dog-a Bobcat! We pulled chairs over to the window and watched it hunt quail for a few minutes. It was better than the discovery channel. Xander still talks excitedly about the day that we watched the 'bobblecat' outside his bedroom window.
  • Halloween has thankfully come and gone. Taylor was a ghoul-type thing. Audrey was Alice in Wonderland, Noah was Indiana Jones and Xander was a dinosaur-really a dragon but we aren't going to spoil it for him. It seems like less and less families are participating in the event each year. In our neighborhood, the kids had to knock on about 5 doors to find one person home. Taylor was our official hander-outer and only counted about 40 trick-or-treaters at our doorstep. We usually have more than 100.
  • The kids came home with their report cards last week. We have a monetary reward system in place and lets just say that Matt and I are officially broke. They all did really well and we are proud parents.
  • Taylor had a boy scout court of honor last week where he earned the rank of Life. The next step for him is EAGLE! He has already earned all of the Eagle-required merit badges so he just has to complete his eagle project and let 6 months pass. He is researching the requirements for the project now and hopes that he will be able to do something to help the Humane Society. His goal has been to earn his Eagle earlier than his dad did-which he is on track to do. He recently announced though that his new goal will be to earn each of the merit badges by the time he is 18. I think there are 205 so we have some work to do!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WooHoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It looks like the petition worked!!! I received a phone call today from a friend who delivered the good news while I was at work. I was so happy that I cried! This is a huge relief on so many levels for our family. Thank you (again!) to all of our friends and family who signed the petition!!! Here's the email we received from our agency today. I keep reading it over and over again to make sure that it is real-

Dear Great Wall Family,

After advocating on behalf of adoptive families for the past 6 months, Great Wall and Joint Council are very pleased to confirm that USCIS has formally announced on their website a very positive ruling concerning the I-600A process.

In summary, it is our understanding that, effective immediately, families who filed Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, prior to April 1, 2008 and whose USCIS approval of that petition (aka the I-171H/I-797C) has not expired, will be able to proceed with their adoption under the I-600A process if they take certain steps while their approval remains valid. This means that families with valid Form I-600A approvals will not be required to transition to The Hague process via the Form I-800A. In order to maintain their status as ‘grandfathered’ cases, families with non-expired Form I-600A approvals must request a one-time free extension. Then, prior to the expiration of the one-time free extension, families must file a new Form I-600A and pay the appropriate fee.

Therefore, under these guidelines the following steps apply:

Families who filed the I-600a prior to April 1, 2008 will receive an I-171H/I-797C approval that is valid for 18 months.
Families are eligible for one free extension of their I-171H/I-797C if they file the request for this extension prior to the expiration of their original I-171H approval. This extension is valid for another 18 months.
Should the family need to extend their I-171H/I-797C approval a third time, they will be able to submit a new Form I-600A and pay the appropriate fee. Their approval will then be valid for another 18 months.

If the adoption from a Hague convention country is not completed after the third filing of the I-600A, the family would then be subject to the guidelines of the Hague Adoption Convention and would then need to file the I-800A. Families with a Form I-600A approval that has expired and who have not obtained an extension or filed a new Form I-600A, will also need to undertake the Hague process

We offer our collective congratulations to everyone who participated in the Joint Council Call-To-Action. Our collective voice is definitely stronger than any singular organization or individual.

If you wish to read the full text of the announcements issued by USCIS, they can be found at USCIS Announcement and USCIS Q&A.

Thank you again for your support and participation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Our Journey to Meili

Today marks 31 months since we were LID. Slowly but surely, we are getting there. We often hear that after referral, the wait seems like a distant memory. I honestly can't imagine that being the case , but I figured why not document the process just to be safe. I can't wait to watch this with Meili one day when she is old enough to understand, not because I want her to feel like she owes us anything, but because I want her to know that she was wanted and loved for a very long time before she joined our family. So, here it is. A huge thank you to those of you who sent pictures and especially to those friends and family who have been so supportive along the way!

video

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Photo Scavenger Hunt-Please Help!

*UPDATE* You guys rock! I have everything that I need with the exception of the 'out of review/CCAA Box.' Thanks so much!

I'm working on updating our 'Waiting for Meili' video and need a few pictures to make it complete. I'm putting this plea out to blogland hoping that some of you might be able to help me out. I'm looking for:
  • pictures of CCAA before and/or after the move. Anything would be appreciated. I'm hoping for the picture that has the stacks of dossiers on the shelves...
  • A picture of the Great Wall that won't be blurry when it is full sized in the video
  • a picture of 'the box' that used to be on the CCAA's website when our LID (March 10, 2006) was out of review. I can't believe I didn't save this somewhere.
  • The China Ultrasound picture
  • a Map of China that also won't be blurry when it is full sized
  • The China 'Stork' photo-again, can't get a clear one
  • February DTC Yahoo Group Logo

If you have any of these, I would be so appreciative. I'm itching to finish my project! My email is azboutons@comcast.net

Counting Down to Meili

Apparently, I'm not the only one getting a bit anxious to have a baby girl in the house. We have a chalkboard in the hallway downstairs where we keep an ongoing to do list for Matt and I. Audrey noticed that my side was blank and decided to help me out...
The batch of referrals at the beginning of September went through February 9th, leaving only 29 LIDs until ours. I decided that it was probably a safe time to get the kids on board with tracking referrals and making some sort of visual to count down the LIDs until it is finally our turn. For Family Night two weeks ago, we made a Countdown to Meili sign and 29 paperchains to tear off as the CCAA gets closer to matching us with our baby girl.

Last week, 6 more days worth of referrals were sent and six paperchains were torn off. That leaves only 23 more ahead of us! I'm starting to get excited (We might get a referral as soon as February!) but I'm stressing big time over our USCIS paperwork but that's another post for another day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Xander!

Like it or not, our baby boy is growing up! Here's a pic of him on his first birthday.
Age 2
Age 3
Age 4
And 5!!! Xander woke up this morning and said, 'I like my 5 year old self!'
We have to agree. We love you, Xanderbonie!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mission Accomplished

When we asked Xander what he wanted to do for his birthday this year, the only thing he came up with was, 'Drive a monster truck.' OK, great. How on earth are we going to pull that one off? Well, just a couple of weeks after having the conversation with Xander, my parents came through town and had stopped off at an Ostrich farm about 45 minutes away and mentioned that they also had a monster truck tour. So, a plan was set in motion.Xander got to invite his best two buddies (both named Evan) to join us. They got to feed deer, miniature donkeys and ostriches. The kids used the safety tubes to feed them but Matt had to prove his manhood and hand feed them. He got nipped at a few times.
Next, we went into an aviary and fed lorikeets. They were quite friendly as you can see below.
The grand finale was the monster truck tour. The kids had so much fun learning about how the ostrich farm is operated, off roading and fishing for ostriches!














Since Xander was the birthday boy, he was chosen to stand on the ostrich egg (A full, fresh one can support up to 350 pounds!) AND drive the monster truck! We had one happy birthday boy on our hands!!!