Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Christmas Present: I-800 Approval!!!

(No, the approval didn't come in this
pretty gift bag from my sister, Michelle!)

Yippee!! I'm so happy to report that our I-800 has been approved! Our officer confirmed by email that it was issued yesterday on 12/22! The next steps can be pretty confusing so here's a quick outline of the process (thanks to Courtney's China Adoption Online site [2014 update: this site no longer exists]):

Once our approval reaches the National Visa Center (NVC), our information will be entered into their computer system. Within a couple of business days, the NVC will email our file -- also referred to as "cable" -- to the US Embassy in Guangzhou, China. This will be the approval of our visa petition. NVC will then send us a letter by mail stating that our petition has been forwarded to the Embassy. This letter is very important as the agency needs it to proceed with our adoption. Since this letter may take several weeks to arrive by mail, it is best to request the NVC to email the PDF version of the letter. So, here are MY next steps:
  1. Now that I know that our I-800 was approved or issued on 12/22, I wait about a week from our I-800 approval date to give enough time for the approval to reach the NVC by mail.
  2. I'll give myself an exact week, so on 12/29 I will email NVC to find out if we've been entered into the system and if we are, to please email me the PDF of the NVC letter. If we're not in the system, I'll email them again after the New Year on the 3rd (they will be closed on January 2nd).
  3. If we are in their system but haven't been "cabled" yet, NVC will reply to my email to let me know that we will be "cabled" shortly; they will also include our "GUZ#" assigned to our case. I will wait 1-2 days and then send another email to NVC with my new GUZ# to request the PDF letter.
  4. Once I receive the PDF of the NVC letter, I will forward it to my agency so they can begin processing our "Article 5" (I will explain this part when the time comes!). The printed NVC letter will arrive shortly after that but I'll just file that away.
Anyway, I hope this made sense :)!

One step closer to baby boy.... Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Receipt Notice for I-800

Lovely surprise today. We received our Receipt Notice for our I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative (quite a mouthful, huh?). This receipt is to confirm that the USCIS has received our application to request permission to adopt "a specific child from China" - i.e. our little guy, Henry. On the notice, under "Additional Accounts" it lists my name and DOB, and also our son's Chinese name and his DOB, which is the first time I've seen our son's personal details printed on a US official document -- awww.

Since the USCIS "received date" was (Tuesday) December 13, this could mean a possible I-800 Approval around December 27. According to the latest data on RQ, families have been receiving their I-800 Approvals in about 2 weeks. However, typical time frame is approximately 2-3 weeks and with the holidays, we may even get it in the New Year, although I'm hoping for the end of this month, THIS year! Everything crossed, please!

(For everyone using the email/text notification by submitting the form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance: I received my email notification on Friday, December 16 at 12:36am -- so, the USCIS/NBC sent the email 3 days after they received our application.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FINALLY received I-800A Approval!

I can't stop smiling! Early this morning, I sent another email to the NBC asking nicely if they could please check on the status of our I-800A. I kept myself busy and avoided my inbox for at least an hour. You see, when I called last Wednesday, I got my second "no officer or approval yet" response, which brought me to tears after the call because I was so sure we were approved after hearing several approval announcements on RQ. My excitement got the better of me, I guess, but I never contacted them again until this morning. When I finally plucked up the courage to open my email at 9:30 am, I quickly spotted the NBC message and read the snippet: "The I-800A was approved on 12/7..." (this was the day I called so they must have approved me later that day!) -- and the official notice should arrive any day! Eeek!

I had a very strong feeling it would come today if it was sent out on either Wednesday or Thursday. Our mail lady arrived around noon at the neighborhood mailbox, conveniently placed right outside of our house. As soon as she left, I darted outside for our mail. Super eeek!!!!! It was finally here...double-folded with three pages of instructions in a #10 envelope! (Last year it came flat in a catalog envelope.)

For all you date trackers, it has been an agonizing 76 days (almost 11 weeks) from the USCIS' receipt date to the I-800A Approval in my hand but it took 71 days for the actual approval. I can't wait for Mike to finally "turn me to pink" on RQ!

Anyway, bottom line: we have been approved to adopt one child from China! Our next step is to receive ANOTHER approval -- the I-800 Approval (without the "A" after I-800) -- from the USCIS, but this time we are asking for permission to adopt "a specific child from China" -- our little Henry. Our agency had not yet received their copy of our I-800A Approval so I've emailed them a copy and they will add it to the I-800 application package to be FedEx'd to the USCIS. We should receive a Receipt Notice within a week or so, and then about three weeks for the I-800 Approval. Of course, we have the holidays approaching, so I'm expecting a wee delay. It's totally fine though because I know it gets "easier" from here.

Another step to our little guy! \o/

Friday, December 9, 2011

Latest Henry sighting during a family's visit!

16 months

I received an email from an adoptive parent asking if I had seen the photos posted by another family who is currently visiting China to pick up their daughter. There were 100 beautiful photos and although I immediately recognized Henry on three of them, I wasn't 100% sure! The little guy had the same shape head, the same hairline, the same ears, nose and mouth as Henry but was he MY Henry? I sent the images to my husband and within 10 minutes he replied, "No doubt about it....that's my son right there!!!!" :) I was so happy!

Super happy because now we have proof that our little boy is back in Xuchang! One minute, we're told Henry has moved to the Kaifeng orphanage, then we're told he's at the local hospital in Kaifeng (but he's still under the guardianship of Xuchang), and here he is, having a chin-wag and a little snivel :( with his buddies in Xuchang! Thank you, KG!

Still no news about our I-800A and still no officer assigned to our application. Will be sending another email on Monday -- day 76.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sent Care Package #2 while waiting for I-800A Approval

care package #2

Today is the last day of November and we're on day 64 of waiting for the I-800A Approval. Some of the girls on RQ have been told by different USCIS officers that the current wait is around 75 days but it could also go up to the "full 90 days" -- please, NO!! :O Two or three of the girls on the latest "Waiting for I-800A" chart have recently received their approvals (not updated on the chart yet) so I'm planning on emailing the NBC (National Benefits Center) on Tuesday: day 70! Fingers and limbs crossed, please!!

Anyway, I've just mailed Henry another care package. I'm still not sure if his first package was given to him during his transition from Xuchang to Kaifeng so this one is a back-up! Contents include: Sassy's kid-friendly photo album (holds 4 photos), winter outfit, blanket, another disposable camera (in case the first one was left at Xuchang SWI), and two soft toys. The Baby Einstein's panda toy is hilarious; it plays 3 very short melodies, which include an Asian-themed tune! Ha! :)

I also ordered an "orphanage donation" of hats, gloves, books, and cookies for the nannies via Red Thread China but told Ann it was fine to wait until end of next week to request my son's updates as Henry will be 16 months old on Monday :(. I had received the last set of updates in October so I don't really need new measurements but because I have a couple of health/medical questions, I decided to go ahead with it.

Waiting (obsessively)...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Showering Henry with love and great friends

The day for my adoption shower finally came yesterday (11.19.11). I was both excited and nervous, and I felt as though I was getting married! My host friend, Nubia, baked yummy cupcakes, made delicious pizza and sandwiches, and did a ton of things to help make the shower a success, so a big THANK YOU to Nubia! Our favor boxes included: a cool luggage tag, a Hello Kitty candy, a mini pen, and some things for the games -- all loosely based on a "Chinamerica" theme.

After a bit of mingling, we asked everyone to open their favor boxes to pull out their "red card" to write a little note (comment, advice, word of wisdom, joke, etc.) to Henry for my album. Then, we played Celebrity Adoptions trivia where my friends had to guess whether the celebrity was an "adoptive parent" or an "adopted person." We played until there was one winner.

After that, we played "Test your Chinese Calligraphy Skills" which I made up. I printed the two characters which made up Henry's Chinese first and last names on separate sheets. Henry's unofficial last name was "easiest" so I gave my friends 20 seconds to study the character, hid it from view, and gave them another 20 seconds to write the name. This was their practice run, and I was pretty impressed with everyone's result. Then, I pulled out Henry's first name in Chinese and there was a chorus of, "You've gotta be kidding!" (yeah, it was very difficult!). We allowed about 40 seconds for review, and probably about a minute to write out the character as best as they could without seeing the word again. It was so funny (see photo #4), and the cards are a great keepsake for my album!

We ended our games with an American childhood pastime: hula hooping. We had a bag of Chinese coins (I have a small collection of coins but you could make these), two of each denomination, and each participant would draw one coin out of the bag. The "competitors" would pair up with the person who matched their coin, and the one who hula-hooped the longest advanced to the next round. We played until we had one winner!

Finally, for the gift-opening part, I asked everyone to "help" me open the gifts by choosing a gift that was not theirs. I didn't want everyone staring at me for 20 minutes so this was a good move on my part :). I was touched by the generosity from my friends and family, and it reminded me that Henry is a very lucky little man. I can't wait to show him everything: the announcement well-wishes, the Evite responses, the red notes from friends, gift tag messages, greeting cards, and lots of photos. Another big THANK YOU to everyone who came to the shower and to everyone who showered Henry "with love."

1) Favor boxes and cupcakes made by my host friend.
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2) We had everyone write a little note to Henry.
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3) We played Celebrity Adoptions trivia (winner: Alice).
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4) We had everyone test their calligraphy skills (winner: Sara) - hilarious!
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5) This is my friend, Misty, who won the Hula Hoop Contest
(her game face worked!).
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6) Gifts from generous friends and family.
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7) More gifts from family and friends (Henry is so spoiled!).
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8) The next day: our 10-year old Shih-Tzu, Monty,
with helium-filled balloons!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just because it's 11.11.11

Nothing spectacular in the mailbox yesterday and today is Veteran's Day, which means no mail at all (Happy Veterans/Remembrance Day!). Monday will be Day 48 of waiting for our I-800A Approval. Last year it took 45 days but according to Kim's Waiting for I800A - Nov 5 2011 chart on RumorQueen, the current wait is roughly 60-70+ days! I'm still optimistically hoping for an earlier process from the USCIS since we've filed once already...but, this may mean absolutely nothing.

We did receive some news from our agency about Henry a few days ago. Apparently, he's now in a therapy center at the Kaifeng Orphanage but there was no mention of whether this is a permanent move or if they'll take our little guy back to Xuchang. I've already told my husband that we may have to visit both orphanages! I know I'm going to take a ridiculous amount of photos!

I want to end this post with a quote, which my nephew Daniel posted on his Facebook status: I never count the days, I make the days count. Sweet but soooo hard!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Updates | Photos

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Well, today I received another lovely surprise from LadybugsNLove -- photos of our little guy at almost 15 months! We immediately noticed his oversized green sweater as it's obviously about 5 sizes too big for him! Don't you just want to kiss those chubby little cheeks?

Friday, October 28, 2011

October Updates of Our Little Man

Last Wednesday, I visited LadybugsNLove to purchase an Orphanage Phone Call. With this service, you can ask 10 questions plus updates on your child (usually on height, weight, number of teeth, foot size, head circumference, and chest size). You will most likely receive updated photos of your child as well.

Earlier today, I received an email from LadybugsNLove, which included answers to my 10 questions! Weeeee! Henry is doing well; he likes to play with other children; he can "roll over expertly" (lol); he has good appetite; he can say "baba" and "mamma"; and he is an "active lively little man" (yay!). No pictures yet but they will probably come later (something else to look forward to!). I'm also happy to report that Henry has gained 6 lbs and grown about an inch taller since his last update in September.

Although the care package that I sent last month arrived safely at the orphanage, unfortunately, Henry has not personally received it because he is still in the therapy center. I'm sad that he hasn't been given his blanket or shown photos of his parents (and dog) but I'm told he will get it soon.

No worries -- still a happy day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fingerprints - check!

Badda-bing, badda-boom. We had an 11am appointment at the Sugar Land office but due to almost-zero traffic, we arrived 20 minutes early and noticed just a handful of people in the waiting area. We filled in a simple form, checked in, and by the time we sat back down, my husband's number was next! Seconds later, my number popped up! We left with five minutes to our actual appointment time. All-in-all, it took a total of 15 minutes - and we didn't even need to take out our reading material (FYI: no cell phones allowed)! When we were there last year -- on a Tuesday, with a 12pm appointment -- it took an hour and a half because it was so busy!

Since my officer was in a good mood, I decided to ask about walk-ins. He said "it depends." It depends how busy they are, and it depends how many walk-ins they receive. If three couples had walked in that day, he added, they may have to turn away the third couple. He even warned, "Don't use 'work' as your excuse either. Everyone has to work. If you have some kind of emergency, we will try to accommodate you."

What's next? We will be assigned an officer to our case and s/he will review our Home Study update and fingerprints. If everything looks great, they will issue us with an Approval Notice. Right now, I don't know how long it will take (and it took only 10 days last year) but I will be stalking our postmaster once again.

One step closer to our Little Man!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fingerprint Appointment Notice!

So, I was practically running to our mailbox and visualizing the unmistakable envelopes from the USCIS, and voila, there they were! (It works sometimes.) Eeeeek! Our biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment has been scheduled for next Friday, October 21 - only a week away! Since my husband, Dave, has a day off work tomorrow, we're considering a walk-in, so he doesn't have to take the morning off work next week. I've heard that a north location in Houston has allowed walk-ins so we'll see if the Sugar Land office will allow it, too. If not, then "hey, we were just passing by, never mind!" and stick to our original appointment.

I opened my husband's letter to double-check his social security # as it was incorrect last time, and to my surprise, it was still wrong. I called my husband to deliver the good news but to also report the error. As I was ranting on about the USCIS, I decided to check and open our I-800A PDF file. Crap. It was my fault; it was MY fault! I had copied and pasted the majority of our information from the OLD I-800A to the new form but neither of us caught the error on both forms! (Okay, let's blame me because I'm responsible for all our adoption paperwork.)

I'm not going to freak out because the USCIS officers took care of it at our appointment date last year. I know I triple-checked every piece of information on our forms but I guess I overlooked Dave's SS#. Urgh.

Okay, let's see how the walk-in goes tomorrow (if we decide to be brave....or, stupid?).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Project nesting

We started "nesting" this weekend! Very exciting but also exhausting! To get Henry's room ready, we had to clear out the guest room. Our biggest item was the queen-size bed, which was a bit of a struggle for just the two of us (I'm only 5'-0"). While I cried "baby Jesus" all the way down, and broke only two fingernails, we finally managed to negotiate the mattress and box spring down four very tight flights of stairs. After that came the tall book shelf, an old chest of drawers, and multiple boxes of books and junk - ouch, ouch, ouch!

So, Henry's room is now a nice blank canvas! I think one of the most difficult nesting decisions I've made is figuring out what type of crib to purchase! :O Henry will be 17-18 months by the time he comes home so we decided on one of those crib-to-toddler convertible cribs. Man, there are hundreds out there! Using the process of elimination, I ruled out a bunch of features (i.e. crib type, finish, style and price) and managed to finally narrow down to two cribs and bought one online - yay!

Anyway, I don't have a theme yet and it may remain theme-less, but I'll wait until the rest of Henry's furniture arrives! Can't wait! Oh, and I'm HOPING to find a lovely letter (or fingerprinting appointment) from the USCIS next week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Receipt Notice for I-800A

My main goal today was to return our signed LOA package to our agency by Express Mail so they can send it back to CCCWA. The agency also requested that we send them our completed I-800 and I-864W forms so they can send them off to USCIS once we receive our Approval Notice. Thanks to China Adoption Online, I managed to fill out most of the USCIS forms by myself. When I finally received detailed instructions from the agency, I corrected a couple of sections, drove to my husband's work to get one more signature, made copies of everything (double-sided, of course), and mailed out the package. Oh, and we included in the package a set of agency release forms signed and notarized to get a head-start on our next set of checklist documents! Phew!

I was also relieved to receive our receipt Notice from the USCIS to confirm that our I-800A application has been received and is in process. We now have to wait for our biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment but as soon as the Appointment Notice arrives, we're going to try to walk in early (probably at the Sugar Land location). I've heard mixed responses on my Yahoo Groups: some say it doesn't make a difference, and others say it does! We're going to give it a shot because we can't file for our I-800 until we receive the Approval Notice. We'll just take our books or magazines as they don't allow you to enter their building with any electronic devices!

Anyway, I haven't found any comments on whether or not it's "slightly faster" when refiling the I-800A the second time around since we've filed once before and have account numbers with USCIS. I just hope it's not going to be a huge delay. :(

Friday, September 30, 2011

Meet our Little Prince, Henry

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The first two images are two of the five photos given to us by our agency. The last image is a collage of the screenshots I took from the video clips that I believe was made in early September 2011. Currently, Henry is 14 months old and waiting in Xuchang SWI, Henan Province for his proud parents to take him home to Houston, Texas. When he's ready, we will take a trip to England to meet the rest of our families! Oh, we love our little guy!

We have LOA! (Letter of Acceptance)

Eeek! I'm so excited!! Oh my goodness, this was such a lovely surprise! I did NOT expect to receive our LOA this soon as it has been only 8 days since PA. I know people who have been waiting on average between 40-100+ days after PA (and I know most families received their LIDs within the last few months), so I asked my agency if they would kindly offer an explanation. Since I was given permission to share the info, you will find their message below. Okay, it's time to post pictures of our son! :D
Sep. 29, 2011
The very first step when a dossier is received is to send it out to the translation company - you may have heard this name - Bridge of Love Adoption Services (often abbreviated BLAS). They do all the translations of dossiers.

If your dossier arrives in China ALREADY matched with a Waiting Child, then the dossier is marked as "expedited", so when it arrives at BLAS, they translate it right away, send it back to the CCCWA, and the CCCWA reviews it right away - so those families usually receive their LOAs in 1-2 months after their LID.

However, if your dossier arrives in China WITHOUT a Waiting Child match, the dossier is sent to BLAS and waits its turn in line behind all the other traditional program dossiers.

On the CCCWA's intraweb (i.e., the Shared List), they post two very important dates: The first is the date up to which they've matched the traditional program (which is currently LIDs through July 28, 2006). The second date is also very important: this is the date up to which they've REVIEWED dossiers (i.e., the LID through which they've had the dossier translated, received back from BLAS, and reviewed). Currently, that date is November 30, 2010.

So, for all families who have an LID earlier than November 30, 2010, that means their dossier is literally just sitting at the CCCWA, awaiting a match. Some of these families will continue to wait in line for their traditional match, while others like yourselves may switch to the Waiting Child program.

So, since your dossier was logged in before Nov 30, 2010 (your LID is in August of 2010), the CCCWA didn't have to do a thing - they saw you were matched, your dossier was already translated and reviewed, and they issued your LOA nearly immediately.

Now, for families with LIDs LATER than Nov 30, 2010, their dossier is still probably being translated or in the review room at the CCCWA. If matched with a Waiting Child, these families wait the longest for their LOAs. Once the CCCWA issues pre-approval, they contact BLAS, ask for them to speed up the translation for that dossier now that the family has been matched, and then they have to review it once they get the translation back. Those families are the ones waiting forever, often 3, 4, or even 5 months for their LOA (from the point in time they were matched).

Hopefully that helps clear up some confusion! Feel free to educate the other moms on your Yahoo Group! :)
Great explanation!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mail-Out: First Care Packages and I-800A (again)!

I had so much fun preparing our first care package to our little boy, Henry! Since we're not sure if he'll actually get to play with the toys or wear the T-shirt, we wanted to send just a few things for now. I'll be happy if he receives his helicopter baby blanket (that I've been sleeping with) and his photo album so he can get used to our faces. In his album, I also printed (on glossy photo paper) three of the photos that the agency gave us so he can look at his own baby pictures. I'm not sure if we'll get this back either so I took a short video clip of the album. I also hope the agency will take plenty of photos of Henry with the disposable camera and return it to us on Gotcha Day.

The Easy Peel White Mailing Labels (Avery 8167 for Return Address) are very useful to label both the camera with your child's name, and the photos inside the album. Our agency provided some useful words and phrases ("mother," "father," "our dog") in Chinese so I copied and pasted some of them several times into Word. I also looked for some of the words on this Translate-to-Chinese site as the agency's copy was a little pixellated. I just had to make sure the characters matched!

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These items were included in the second care package for the orphanage: random T-shirts and onesies, socks for kids of different ages, plastic bibs, stickers, cookies for the nannies, and a pen for the Orphanage Director. I read on one of the Yahoo Groups to also pay attention to the Director as s/he is ultimately in charge of your child.

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My USPS "shoebox" boxes haven't arrived yet so I went to Target and bought some small Scotch Mailing Boxes (11.25" x 8.75" x 4") - they're PERFECT! Just roll what you can! I got quite emotional packing my son's toys as this is our first connection with him. Sniff, sniff. As recommended by our agency, I also included in both boxes a copy of our PA and a translated letter provided by the agency.

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The package for our son weighed 1 lb. 15.2 oz and cost $18.55 for First Class postage from Houston to China. The second package for the orphanage weighed 2 lbs. 11.8 oz and cost $23.92. Not bad at all! The Express Mail envelope on top of the boxes includes our I-800A package to be refiled with the USCIS - finally!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We have PA (Pre-Approval)!

Received the email as I was waiting in line at the post office and I jumped up and down like I was the only one there - ha! From my agency: "A pre-approval is essentially the CCCWA’s acknowledgement or confirmation that [our] Letter of Intent has been received" - woo-hoo! My agency said we can now start sending care packages to our little guy - can't wait to shop for him! I will probably include something for the nannies and other children at Xuchang SWI, Henan Province. :)

Our Updated Home Study should also be arriving any day so I can finally re-file our I-800A. Next: Letter of Acceptance (LOA)....hopefully, soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Look what I found!

I bought this super soft toy from Takashimaya, NY online (I believe it's closed now) back in April 2008 to be saved for our first child. I'm so happy that we can finally take it out of its box and give it to our little prince when we travel to China!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Letter of Intent submitted to China!

Yay! One down, several more steps to go! Can't stop thinking about our son :). As soon as we receive our LOA, I'm going to inquire about one of those "orphanage phone calls" to obtain some updates on him (if possible). This waiting around is soooo hard and I think we won't be traveling until January of 2012 :(.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Here we go!

Very excited to start this blog about our adoption journey to pick up our gorgeous son in China. This fabulous felt-made bauble is all I would like to show until we receive our LOA (Letter of Acceptance), or if I just can't contain myself, then maybe PA (Pre-Approval)!

We received our LID (Log-In-Date) on August 24, 2010 but one year later, we decided to officially switch to the Waiting Child Program (WCP) because we can't wait another 3-4+ years. Life is short. Here we go - weeeeeeee!