More Mood-Swings, Paperwork, and Mumbo-Jumbo

There are basically 3 parts to adopting a child from China:

1.  The paperwork done for your dossier - DONE!

2.  Finding your child - DONE!

3.  The paperwork done after finding your child - WORKING ON THAT NOW & here's where we are with that:  (These are all the steps that need to happen between when we were matched to Marilyn JiaBing to when we travel to China to bring her home.  The ones that are in bold are already done, the ones in normal text we still have to do.  I'm adding in the number of days we waited for each individual step with Max as a referance.)

        * Find our child and send in Letter of Intent to China. - Sent hers 9/28/11!

        * Get Pre-Approval from China for that specific child. - Received hers 10/14/11!

        * Get Letter of Acceptance - Received hers 2/20/11! 

        * Get "Provisional Approval" from the USCIS - Received hers 3/23/12 (waited 29 days for her, waited 20 days w/Max's adptn.)

        * "Article 5" issued by the US Consulate in China - 4/24/12

        * China issues our Travel Approval - 5/18/12

        * Wait until we leave for China to bring Marilyn home - (waited 23 days with Max's adoption.)


So here's what we've been up to lately:

5/18/12 - We got our TA today!  We will find out on Monday (most likely) if we got the Consulate appt we wanted and then book our plane tickets later that day.

5/11/12 - I'm feeling quite ancy today; I want our Travel Approval!  Today is day 15 waiting for it.  I know it's possible for us to get it because I'm aware of several other families whose Article 5 was picked up the same day to even a WEEK after ours was and they have all received their TAs.  Come on, China!  Today is your last chance to give me what I really want for Mother's Day!

5/3/12 - We got an update from her orphanage today!  Three new pictures of her and new measurements!

4/26/12 - All our paperwork was delivered to the CCCWA today so our wait for our TA has officially begun.  It should come anytime between a week to three from now.  We are ordering updated pictures and measurements of Marilyn so we will have those before we travel.  Something nice for me to look forward to. 

Have I mentioned, it is HARD to wait.  Even at the end.  We hope to be meeting her in just a few days over a MONTH from now!  Wow.

4/24/12 - Our "Article 5" was picked up today!  Now everything will be delivered to the CCCWA who will issue our Travel Approval in a few weeks.  I've been working on some of the things on our "to do" list to get ready for her.  Bought her a ton more of new clothes, Grandma is finishing the quilt for her bed, made a "track" for toy cars to be driven on out of felt to keep my kids busy on the plane, and today I'm going to buy and paint the letters for Marilyn's name to hang in her room!

4/20/12 - Chris and I and the kids got our travel visas for China today!  We also went to Pottery Barn Kids and bought my dream bed for our little girl.

4/18/12 - Today marks half way through our wait for our Article 5 to be issued.  It will be picked up next Tues.

4/17/12 - I'm estimating we will leave either 6 or 7 weeks from today!!  Wahoo!

4/16/12 - Apparently we never signed our Letter of Intent and Family Summary and Treatment Plan forms so we are overnighting them to FTIA today so they can send them to China with their weekly package so their China team will have them when they pick up our Article 5 in a week.  They turn all of that in with the LOA to the CCCWA so we can get our Travel Approval!

4/10/12 - FTIA let me know that our DS-230 (her US Visa application) was dropped off at the US Consulate last night and our Article 5 will be picked up two weeks later on 4/24.  Wahoo!!  After that the people in Guangzhou, where the US Consulate is, will send it to their Beijing office and the people there will walk it in to the CCCWA.  Then our 2-3 week wait for our Travel Approval begins!

4/4/12 - I'll have a happy thought buzzing around inside of me all day: "My mom is getting her travel visa to go to China with me today!!!!" What a dream come true. What a once in a lifetime trip we are going to take TOGETHER and I get to actually have my mother present when I "have" a baby. I think I'll go cry now. (Yes, I know. I'm happy and crying at the same time. Blame it on the "pregnancy" hormones.)

4/3/12 - Sent NVC letter by email to FTIA and FedExed Marilyn's DS-230 (application for US Visa), her passport photo (which I had to create on Photoshop), our signed LOA, copy of our I-800 approval, and a bunch of money to FTIA.

4/2/12 - Received letter from NVC saying that they had cabled our approval.

3/30/12 - The NVC said that they had already received my I-800 approval, that I was already in their system, and that they would email me my letter soon.

3/29/12 - Got our official I-800 approval in the mail yesterday.  I sent an email to the NVC asking them to please email me their letter instead of mailing it.

3/23/12 - USCIS officer emailed and said she received our physical I-800 application and approved it!  She was now going to forward it to the "National Visa Center".

3/22/12 - USCIS officer told us today that the "lockbox office" finally accepted our application and was forwarding it to her.

3/21/12 - After a whole bunch of back and forth we found out that our applicaton had been received by the "lockbox" office in Texas but that they had rejected it 3 times because we put the USCIS receipt number for our I-800A in the box that asked for the USCIS account number.  Found out they don't issue account #s anymore.  Our USCIS officer emailed them every day for a week trying to get them to accept or "receipt" our application and forward it to her.  FTIA sent the NBC/Hague Adoption supervisor and email in our behalf and I talked on the phone and emailed our officer every day to solve this problem.  We were finally given an email address for the lockbox and Chris sent them an email, FTIA sent them an email, and I sent them an email the next day. 

3/15/12 - Today is 22 days since the USCIS received our I-800 application. It should be approved by now. It should be in my hands by now! I called the NVC Hague Adoption Dept of the USCIS last Thurs and they said that my application was still not in their system yet but not to worry because it can take 10-14 days for that to happen. I guess what happens is that you send your app to the Texas "lockbox" which is actually a bank. That bank process the money, if any, that you sent along with your app and then puts your app through some type of machine and decides if it is "rejected" or approved. If it is approved, they send it on to the actual USCIS officer who is in a different state. (I think it's Missouri.)

I emailed our USCIS officer this morning and heard back from her that our application had been rejected by the lockbox! I called to find out exactly what that meant. I found out that our application had been, "rejected three times now" (why they couldn't tell me it had been rejected earlier than now then I don't know...) but that the reason is because on the first page of the app it asks for you to put your "USCIS account" number. We didn't have a USCIS acct number so we asked our adoption agency what to put there and she told us to put the receipt number from our I-800A there. So we did. Apparently that is a BIG MISTAKE because that is the entire reason our application has been rejected!! My USCIS officer said that they haven't issued USCIS account numbers for a few years now so I should have left that box either blank or put N/A in it. Can you flippin believe that???

So don't put anything in the box on the first page of the I-800 application that asks for a USCIS account number! Leave it blank!

Just got off the phone with our USCUS officer. She was able to communicate, I think by email, with someone in the "lockbox" office who has our physical application. If I hadn't had called today it probably would've been mailed back to me. Our officer said the lady at the lockbox will review it tomorrow and hopefully get it "receipted" and then forwarded on to them in 10-14 days. Ugh!! I begged for a way to get it to them quicker. Could they fax it? NO. She said there is no way to expedite the application going from Texas to their office. Ugh. At least they found it and it isn't on it's way back to me via snail mail.

Who knows if we will be able to travel in May like we were planning on.

I'm so tired of being the exception to every "normal" in this process. My I-800A took 3 months to process and now they are taking half that time. My LOA took 130 days and some people get them at 40-60 days. The State Department took almost 3 MONTHS to authenticate our dossier when last time we adopted from China 2 years ago they took 2 weeks. This is ridiculous.

Our adoption agency was very sorry for all this, but said they have families who use their receipt number there in place of a nonexistent USCIS account number all the time and never do they have any problems. In fact, she says she has a family who just sent in their I-800 app the same time as us and she knows they put that there and they just received their I-800 approval!!! What a bunch of balarchy this all is. Meanwhile, I have lost another three weeks of my daughters life that I will never get back. As if 7 whole years isn't enough. I'm fed up.

Thanks. I just needed to vent. And to warn. If you are doing a Chinese adoption, don't use your receipt number on your I-800 application!!! (Athough, you know what the USCIS has ASKED for every time I've either called or emailed so that they can look up my status on their computer? You got it. My receipt number.)

2/28/12 - Noah said to me really sincerely this morning, "Mom, why don't we just hurry and finish up our paperwork as fast as we can and go get her?"  I love that he had that thought.  I wish we could!

2/23/12 - USCIS received our I-800 app today.

2/22/12 - FedEx guy brought me our LOA today!  We signed it formally accepting JiaBing's referral, finished up our I-800 application, and sent it off to the USCIS.

2/21/12 - Day 130 and FTIA received the physical LOA today!

2/20/12 - 129 days waiting for LOA and we woke up to the BEST news this morning!  Our agency, FTIA, emailed saying that the CCWAA had notified them that our LOA was in the mail!

2/9/12 - 118 days of waiting for our LOA.  Stinky.  People in China are just starting to wake up for the day.  I hope my little girl had sweet dreams last night.  I hope the person with our file on their desk had an angel appear to them and tell them to speed our approval right along!  One week ago (on day 111) our agency checked with the CCCWA again and found out that our file has moved on to being "reviewed" which is step 2 out of 4.  Well, at least it is progressing...I am still hoping for May.  If our LOA comes in the next couple of weeks it could still happen.  I hate this part.  Alright, Chinese person, work fast today!  Pretty please.

1/14/12 - Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Today is day 92 waiting for our LOA.  I had really hoped we wouldn't be waiting as long for Marilyn's as we did for Max's, which was 111 days, but it seems like we may even wait longer.  FTIA checked with the CCCWA the other day (day 88) to find out what step our dossier was in getting our LOA.  They were told we were still in the first of four steps which is the one where our dossier is translated from English to Chinese.  Ugh!!!  Who knows if this is right, but if it is we are going to have to wait, and wait, and wait some more.  Chinese New Year is Jan 23 this year and the CCCWA will be shut down for an entire week.  At times it's easy to start thinking this is never going to happen, but then I look at Max and remember I felt the same way and see the proof that it will happen because he is standing in front of me.  I'm trying to stay positive by thinking that maybe we will get to travel in May and focusing on all the ways that would be really perfect.

12/21/11 - Day 68 waiting for our LOA, but I survived yesterday so I'm good now.  Christmas will come later this week and then Noah's birthday.  That should keep me busy and by the time the holidays are over it will be day 80 already.

12/15/11 - Today marks 62 days that we've been waiting for your LOA.  I've joined the most popular online support group for people adopting from China and a lot of people who have been waiting the same amount of time as I have have been recieving their LOAs this week.  I so hope we get ours soon!  Next week is a crazy one: I have my 6 week post op appt, Max is going in to PCMC hospital to get a procedure done (and may even have to stay overnight), and it's Christmas.  That sounds like a recipe for getting a LOA, don't you think?  Of course it will come when life is hectic!  At least, I'm hoping so...

11/18/11 - Recieved our revised immigration pre-approval from the USCIS approving us specifically for Marilyn JiaBing.

11/1/11 - Found out from our agency today that our LID was the same day FTIA's staff in China submitted our dossier to the CCAA!  That is fantastic that it moved so fast!  Our official LID is 9/26/2011!!!  Now we know that we are officially 18 days into our wait for our LOA because China goes off of whichever date for our PA or LID came last.

10/14/11 - Got our Pre-Approval from China today.  Our wait for our Letter of Acceptance starts the day we either get our PA or our Log In Date (LID).  We haven't heard for sure about our LID, but our coordinator says it was probably around the same date as our PA.

10/5/11 - Mailed our Homestudy Addendum, I-800A Supplement 3 application, copy of original homestudy, and check for $360 to the USCIS today.  We have to ammend our immigration pre-approval to specifically PRE-approve us to immigrate Marilyn JiaBing to the US.  We are still waiting for China to issue our Pre-Approval to adopt her and that should come any day now.  One week ago today we "locked" her in for our family.

10/1/11 - Received our Homestudy Addendum in the mail from our Families for Children, our Homestudy Agency, approving us for Marilyn JiaBing's specific age, gender, and special needs.


Witnessing the Hand of God in Our Lives

I tried to think of a creative, fun way that I could title this story but all of them came off sounding insignificant or trite, which this story definitely is not, and as I thought about how sacred this experience has been for me there really is no other way to start.

I have felt the hand of God in my life this week. It has been a life changing few days for me, and I’m sure there are many more to come as God continues to mold me into the person that He needs for me to be and into the woman that I someday want to become. What happened? I found my Marilyn. I have wanted a Marilyn for years never knowing that all along I had one. A precious daughter. And it turns out she is someone who is so incredibly special that I feel overwhelmingly humbled that God would have her be mine. What an incredible stewardship He has for me.

Back in January when Chris and I were at the temple God told me so clearly that I had an important work for Him to do, that He was commanding me to be obedient like I had promised, and that He would give me the most precious responsibility of being a mother to another child. I knew it was to someone specific. I felt that it was to someone specific, and I really felt like she was alive already and needing me, but the picture of who that exact little girl was was very vague. Yesterday that picture became concrete. As I saw her face for the first time a feeling that she was the one was powerfully communicated to my soul. It’s not something I can deny. I know she is supposed to be ours. She is the one. And I felt that way almost instantly even though she totally didn’t fit the picture of who I thought my little girl was going to be. Chris was at work when he saw her picture and read her file for the first time. With no knowledge that I was having strong feelings about her at home or even that I was looking at her file, he had a very similar experience at work. Once again, I am so grateful for God’s plan and so grateful that I try not to live my life according to my plan.

God has been preparing me for years for the moments I’ve had over the past two days. It is the literal fulfillment of one of my favorite lines in my patriarchal blessing. A part of how he prepared me started several years ago.

It was Christmas morning 2004, a full year before Noah was born. We were a few months into starting our paperwork to adopt domestically through LDSFS and that Christmas morning our house was quiet because we were childless. Chris, being the early riser that he is, was downstairs reading the Deseret News and discovered a several page story about then Governor Huntsman and his family and how they had just completed the adoption of their new daughter who they had adopted from China. It so touched his heart that he brought the article upstairs, gently woke me up, and sat next to me in bed while we both read it together and cried. We knew right then that adopting from China was in our future. I still look back on that morning with fondness remembering that inspiration as one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

Little did I know that half way across the world a Chinese woman was preparing to give birth and that my Marilyn, and hers, would be born ten days later. Wow.

Way back then in 2004 Chris and I didn’t meet China’s requirements to adopt because we were too young. A year later our precious miracle Noah was born and lovingly placed in our arms by his amazing birthmother Heather. More experiences happened which gave us maturity and experience. Doors were closed and miraculous windows were opened. We met the requirements to adopt from China and it was finally the right time to do it. Through a whole other set of miracles, Max became a precious part of our family. All this time Marilyn Jiabing Parker was growing up in an orphanage in Beijing, China unbeknownst to us. Until yesterday.

I am so grateful for the blessing and opportunity it will be to be her mother.

So with unabashed pride, we introduce you to our new daughter!


Blessings, Miracles, and a Never-Ending Bank Account

...because that's what you need to make an international adoption happen. (:

Adoption Update:

I have purposefully not updated what has been happening with our adoption paperwork because it's been too much for me to think about in as concrete a way as writing it down is for me. The past month has been tumultuous. With God there is a way - that is how I sum this up.

There were moments in this past month where I truly thought God's way was going to be helping me through doing every ounce of our paperwork over again. With a big sigh of relief and a huge smile on my face I can now say that we aren't going to have to do that, but wow - it was close.

How do I relate this so that one day when my sweet child is grown up and reading this she will not feel guilty or resentful for all that we needed to do to bring her to our family, but so that she will see the miracle that her being in our family is? I want her to know how hard I worked for her, how much we were willing to sacrifice for her, and just how involved God's hand was in bringing her to our family because I am absolutely sure the reason we needed to do so was because it was that important that she be with us and because SHE is that important. To us and to the Lord.

I've, we've, put our whole heart and soul into jumping through these many, many hoops and finishing this paperwork. We have spent countless hours working on it. So many trips with kids in tow to here and there and just about everywhere. So many balls to keep in the air. So many questions, explanations, and examinations I've endured. It has definitely built my patience. Max accompanied me on almost every errand and with each one I would look at his sweet face and be heartened by the fact that he was here and so would she be some day because of it. Then we got to the end of that process and were basically told we would have to redo it all.

I've never been pregnant, but I've been working on this almost daily for 8 months and agonizing over each and every of the hundreds of details. On top of the work it's been, I am extremely emotionally invested in this process. I can imagine that being told you have to start the paperwork all over again would feel very similar to going to a routine Dr. appointment near the end of your pregnancy and being told, "Don't worry - there is still a baby there waiting for you, however, the bad news is that you have to re-do your entire pregnancy up to this point." I don't know a single woman who wouldn't break down and cry. The important thing was that our baby was still there, still waiting for us. Facing having to start all over again though, I REALLY didn't want to do that. And I don't have to! Whew! But I would have.

(Here's the technical talk about what happened. Feel free to skip down to here *** unless you really want to know how ridiculous it got.) China is changing some of their requirements for dossiers submitted after October 1, 2011. Way back in January when we were told about these changes I blew them off and forgot about them because I knewwe would have our dossier in by July at the latest. Our USCIS immigration approval took a month longer than I thought it would. Then the biggest hurdle happened when we sent our paperwork into the US Dept. of State to be authenticated and what took them 10-15 days to do to Max's paperwork was now taking them 15 weeks! We didn't know that. No one really knew that. So we sent it in and waited. And waited. Then I realized that the documents in our dossier were getting close to being 6 months old and our agency had told us that the Chinese Embassy, who had to authenticate them next, wouldn't authenticate documents older than 6 months old. I panicked. I tried everything I could do to reach the US Dept of State but they are so back-logged there that this is literally no way to talk to anyone in that dept without physically flying to Washington DC and going there in person. Then we found a "courier service", a business in Wash DC, that does that on behalf of couples trying to adopt. I talked to two or three of these businesses and they all assured me that since we had already waited 6 weeks it was best to just wait what would probably only be a few more weeks for our paperwork to be processed and that the Chinese Embassy wouldn't have any problems authenticating our papers as long as they weren't over a YEAR old. So I rested easy for a few more weeks.

Then a miracle happened. God truly will not let paperwork get in the way of HIS plan. Chris was reading through some random emails when he read one from our agency that mentioned how China's rules for dossiers was changing October 1st. After a very sleepless night we learned that the homestudy in our dossier wouldn't be accepted by China if submitted after Oct. 1st because it wasn't done by "Hague accredited adoption agency", it was just supervised by one. This was a huge problem. Unless we could get our paperwork through the US Dept of State and then through the Chinese Embassy in THREE WEEKS we would have to re-do our homestudy. That meant having another company re-do it, then submitting it again to the USCIS immigration dept, then getting it authenticated again at the State Capitol, the US Dept of State, and the Chinese Embassy. It would take over $1000 dollars and several, maybe even more than 6 months longer to do that.

Enter our fantastic courier service. They went in person to the US Dept of State, requested our papers back, and then submitted them to be authenticated. This took a few days rather than 15 weeks. Then we got bad news that the Dept of State had rejected our birth certificates & our marriage certificate because I had made a mistake and had not had them authenticated at the State Capitol. I assumed we wouldn't need to have them done there because they were State orginated and not notarized, but they needed to be authenticated by the State after all. So our courier service overnighted the whole dossier back to us.

When we got our dossier back at the same time as we got an email from our adoption agency telling us that the Chinese Embassy would not authenticate documents older than 6 months old. I really panicked. By the time we got our birth certificates and marriage certificates authenticated at the State Capitol and the whole dossier back to Washington DC most of our documents would be just barely over 6 months old! There was no way we could re-create our documents in time for everything to be finished an in before China's new homestudy rules went into place on Oct. 1st. I was so frustrated and battling feeling defeated.

I talked to our courier again and they told us that the Chinese Embassy WOULD authenticate documents older than 6 months old EXCEPT for any vital statistic forms: ie. birth certificates and marriage certificates. (Is your head spinning yet from reading all this? Mine was from livingit.) That meant that all of our documents in our dossier would be ok except for the birth and marriage certificates. Get this. They were 6 months and 2 days old. 2 days! I thought all was lost. Then we had the idea, "What if we can get our birth and marriage certificates re-issued really fast?" It was, of course the Sat of a LONG HOLIDAY weekend so we could only look online but hallelujah! We were saved. There was a way we could order the birth and marriage certificates online and pay extra to have them expedited and pay extra to have them overnighted to us!! So we did that and got them on Wed.

Max had had his tonsils out on Tues, of course, and Wed Chris came home from work to pick up our new birth and marriage certificates and then take them to the State Capitol where he paid gobbs of extra money to have them authenticated right then instead of waiting for the normal 5 days it usually takes them. Then we overnighted the whole dossier back to Washington DC, and finally had our vital statistic documents authenticated by the US Dept of State.

It all looked like it was going to be ok. I called our adoption agency to let them know what was happening and they put a damper on my spirits. They really thought that the Chinese Embassy was going to reject the majority of the rest of our dossier because those documents were just barely over 6 months old. The courier has assured me that it was only vital statistic forms that they held to the 6 month rule and that everything else was ok up to a year old. I was really, really, really hoping so.

Our courier service dropped off our documents for authentication one day and the next day went to pick them back up again. We of course had to pay more gobbs of money to have the Chinese Embassy "expedite" their service as it normally takes them 5 days if you present your papers for authentication in person. The day they were to pick them up I was nervous as can be. This was it. It was either going to work and be ok or it was really not going to be ok and we'd have to redo it all. Not just our homestudy, everything because it would all be older than 6 months old - except for our new vital statistic forms. This would cost us about $2000 and six months.

It was all ok though. They did it for us! Whew!!!

***So, did you get that? It was a miracle. God's hand was definitely involved. Problems kept coming out of nowhere, but really what was happening was that God was making us AWARE of what the problems would be in just enough time for us to fix them.

And we were able to. And everything is going to be ok. FTIA needed our completed, authenticated dossier no later than Thurs. Sept. 22nd to make the Oct. 1st deadline. Our coordinator got them MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH! Ok with 3 DAYS to spare.

What a miracle.

This little girl is really going to be something special...


And now here is the picture of Marilyn's completed dossier - my "paper baby". Awww, isn't she cute?!

And here's a (in)side view: She's got a cute profile, right?

On the left is one of our "authentications" from the Chinese Embassy. I've never been so happy to see a sticker in my entire life!

Our Paper Pregnancy - Mood Swings & Mumbo Jumbo

8/11/11 - Yay!  We got our tax return today!! 

8/2/11 - Like I said, with Max's adoption we sent two different sets of things to the Dept of State to be authenticated and each time it only took about 10-15 days.  Who knew this time would be so different.  They've now had our entire dossier for 6 weeks.  I spent 90 min. on the phone yesterday calling everyone I could trying to find out what the status of our authentications was, how much longer it might take, and if that was going to be ok.  From all the instructions I have the Chinese Embassy, which is the 3rd step in the authentication process, won't put their seal on any document that is older than 6 months.  When I first sent our dossier to the State Dept knowing they would go to the Chinese Embassy next I had about 2 months before half my dossier would be 6 months old.  I figured that was pleanty of time.  Long story short after lots of phone calls calling all kinds of creative resources, I'm pretty sure the Chinese Embassy will authenticate documents that aren't older than a year so we should be ok.  At one point yesterday I thought we'd have to redo half our dossier though.  I wasn't too happy for a bit, but I think it will be ok now.  Looks like my estimates about how long this entire adoption process will take was quite off again though.  I thought our dossier would be sent to China for my birthday.  Now I think we will be lucky to get it sent by the middle of Sept, which means we probably won't have our LID until November, which means that Nov. or Dec will be the first chance we have to be matched by our agency and I assume it will take several months of lists to be matched to our child.  I'm guessing we will be traveling to pick up our child late summer to fall of 2012 instead of winter or spring of 2012.  Oh well.  I keep trying to tell myself I'm ahead of where I thought I'd be in this because we started a year earlier instead of feeling like I'm months behind.

7/26/11 - Today I had some alone time with Max while Noah was at kid's club and so we went shopping at Walmart.  Out of nowhere he looked at me and said, "I want Marilyn.  I want my little sister.  I wanna hold her."  It was so sweet.  We talk about her sometimes, about how we are doing paperwork so that we can bring her home, and we pray for her together as a family but most of the time it is Max's doing.  He almost always remembers to pray for her all on his own and I can tell he thinks about her because he will make comments like the one in the store completely unprompted.  I really feel like she is out there somewhere, and I guess I'm not the only one.   

7/21/11 - We just got a letter from the IRS today saying that they are auditing us because we claimed the adoption tax credit.  If they want receipts, they will get receipts!!  Just give us our refund already!

7/19/11 - "Nothing is happening!"  (Say that like Scuttle from The Little Mermaid.)  The Department of State has had our dossier for 4 weeks tomorrow and still hasn't finished authenticating it yet.  On their web page there is a phone number listed for "authentication status inquiries".  I called that number this morning and got a really nice but completely unhelpful older lady on the phone.  She said she doesn't really even work for that dept, but that they put her phone number as the contact number on the website.  She could give me absolutely no information except to say, "If you are sure they received your dossier, just be assured they will get to it in turn.  They are really back logged right now."  She couldn't even give me an estimate of how long it is taking for them to do authentications right now or even give me a phone number for anyone in the actual authentication department that I could ask questions to.  I'm so fed up with the Federal Government right now.  It's the same story over and over with different applications for every thing I'm doing with them.  Our tax return is still being "processed" - 5 months later.  Ughhh...

6/22/11 - We got our documents back from State of Utah yesterday and worked really hard on getting them mailed off to the US Dept. of State in Washington DC.  They got them today so now they will work on step 2 out of 3 in getting them authenticated!

6/21/11 - It's been a really emotional couple of days for me.

When God first told me back in January that it was time to start working on adding to our family again it was really hard for me to accept. God told me I had work to do for him, that I had promised to do it, and that there was someone special we needed to have as part of our family. I felt Him telling me that He wanted to give me the tremendous blessing, and tremendous responsibility, of being a mother to another child, and that NOW was the time to prepare. I was ready right then to do whatever it was that I needed to do to make that happen, but it took me a few weeks to get used to the idea and really embrace it. It felt overwhelming, but the joy of it was compelling and completely won me over. Ever since then I have felt an undeniable pressure to get what we needed to done as quickly as possible, and I have been racing to complete every step. We are almost done with our dossier and so now comes an even harder part: finding her.

Who is she. Where in China is she. Is she a she? How do we find her?

A few weeks ago we became aware of the picture and file of a sweet little girl named Yao Min Min and she seemed to fit the picture of what we felt was right for our family. I've thought about her obsessively for the past few weeks, mulling over in my mind what it would be like to have her as part of our family, trying to learn everything possible about her, wanting to know if it was right. Two days ago we learned more about her. She most likely has a very serious condition that we were previously unaware of. We also learned that there was nothing holding us back anymore from locking her in for our family. Basically, now is the time to decide if she is "ours" or not.

It has been a heart-wrenching, soul-searching, God-trusting decision to have to make. Her condition is one that Chris and I have previously thought wasn't right for our family, but we want to be open to what God wants for our family, so we have been seriously deliberating this decision. We sincerely believe that He has someone specific in mind for our family and we don't want to miss out on that just because a condition our child might have feels overwhelming or scary. I've spent the past two days learning a lot about myself - my fears, my hopes, my limitations, my strengths and dissecting all of them. It has been an emotional and amazing experience. Once Chris and I both did that we felt prepared to find out what God's answer was for us about whether she is ours or not.

She's not ours.

Part of me is sad that she's not, but part of me is still full of hope. Our next little one IS out there somewhere in China waiting for us and we are doing everything in our power to work towards bringing her home. I believe that the right family for Yao Min Min is also out there somewhere and I pray that they will find her soon.

I've cried a lot of tears the past few days.

It's really, really hard to see the pictures and faces of so many little children who are being denied things that are critical for their development, things like parents, a stable forever home, enough food, love, medical treatments -things every innocent child is entitled to. As hard as it is to see lots of pictures of needy orphans, it's even harder for me to see the picture of one that I've grown attached to, to see her and know the things she needs and that I can't give them to her. It's heart breaking. For Chris and I adoption is not about "saving an orphan" but about finding our child; the fact that we do get to "save an orphan" is just a good bonus. When I look at her picture though, I wish I could save them all - I wish I could save HER.

6/16/11 - FINALLY got our USCIS approval in the mail today! It was a busy day.  The approval was the last document we needed to finish the collection of documents for our dossier that we now  have to get "authenticated".  We can't send the original USCIS approval to be authenticated though, because we have to keep it for later in the process, so we had to get the original, make a copy, attach it to a statement saying it's a true copy and then have both of our signature's notarized.  So, I had to run down to Chris' work, pull him out of a meeting, find a notary in his building to notarize our signatures, and then run everything down to Lieutenant Governor's office at the State Capitol building.  All of this with two kids in tow during what should have been nap time.  I deserve a gold star! 

Now we move on to "authenticating" which is a 3 step process involving the State, the Dept. of State in DC, and the Chinese Embassy in DC where each office puts a seal on every document in your dossier certifying...something.  I'm not quite sure what they are each actually certifying.  The State of Utah is certifying, for $15 PER document, that the notaries who notarized each of our documents is a real notary - I don't know what the other places do. 

There are 3 main parts to the adoption paperwork before you send it all to China: the Homestudy, the USCIS Immigration Pre-approval, and the authentication.  We have now finished steps 2 out of 3!

6/13/11 - Reading up.  Finished half of "Toddler Adoption: A Weaver's Craft" by Mary Hopkins-Best today and I'm taking notes!  The way China does adoptions is contrary to just about every suggestion they have for a smooth, less traumatizing adoption.  I seriously give my babysitters more information on my child's routines and personality than the Chinese gave me when they handed me my child.  Oh well.  I'm glad I have Max to show me that it can turn out ok. 

6/12/11 - Still waiting.  Waiting for the same three things: our immigration pre-approval (so that we can move on to the next paperwork step), our tax return (so that we can pay for it), and to find out if Yao Min Min is our daughter.

It's been just over two weeks since we first noticed a precious little-girl-cutie-pie on the "waiting child list" in our agency's Jing Yi Program.  I cannot get her out of my head.  Tomorrow is her 2nd birthday, well today actually.  It's about 3am in China right now. 

I keep picturing what it would be like to have her as part of our family; thinking about how it would almost be like having twins since she is only 9 months younger than Max.  It feels like a real possibility that it might happen and the longer we wait for the beginning of July when we'll be able to lock in her file for our family if she's still available, the more excited and anxious I get.  The next three weeks are going to feel like an eternity!  Unless I get the bad news sooner than that that she's going to a different family...I think about that and feel sad but remind myself that if that happens, I won't have lost anything because she was never meant to be mine.  What a strange way to feel, to look at the picture of a child living half way across the world wanting her to be my little girl and not knowing if she will be.  It's a strange experience to see the picture of your child for the first time and not know if she is yours or not.  Today Chris and I are fasting and praying for her.  I'm glad that she's in a foster family and not an orphanage.  I hope she'll get some extra love for her birthday.  Happy Birthday little Yao Min Min!

6/8/11 - Waiting, waiting, and waiting some more.  I thought we would have had our USCIS pre-approval in the mail more than a week ago.  It's still not  here.  Every day I have a date with the mail box.  I can't stop thinking about that little, almost, 2 year old girl in China that we might lock in.  Her birthday is in 5 days.  Will she be mine?  I couldn't get her out of my head at 4am last night.  We won't know until the beginning of July if she is still available for us or not.  A few more weeks to wait.  Still haven't gotten our tax return yet.  I'm hoping now that we faxed our return in so they could fix their "coding error" that they won't tell us they now need to audit us because we claimed the adoption tax credit.  Everyone else I know who claimed it is being audited.  I guess you are always waiting for something.

5/29/11 - There is a bunch of paperwork that has to be done to be accepted into the "waiting child" program for our agency and to be ready to lock in a child once we find her.  I worked on some of that today.

5/27/11 - Getting all our notaries done today for our dossier documents.  There is a sweet little girl in our agency'sJing Yi Program that we would love to be able to lock in for our family, but since we haven't got our dossier in to China yet, we have to wait one more month before we can.  If some other family hasn't snatched her up in another month, which they probably will, we will.  Still waiting for our USCIS pre-approval to come any day now.

5/26/11 - Thanks to Heather Jensen for writing us a really nice letter of recommendation for our dossier, for being our friend, and for sharing in all the ups and downs of adoption with us.  This is the last letter we need!

5/20/11 - I kept a really detailed list like this for Max's adoption and I'm so glad I did because I have forgotten so much of what happened last time and it's nice to compare this process in detail and realize how much smoother it is going this time.  We are having so many fewer hang ups and problems this time around and it's so nice!  We are pretty much exactly 4 months into the process this and already we are where we were SEVEN MONTHS into the process with Max.  That is huge!  It's already taken us three whole months less.  Awesome!  I'm thinking that we will receive our immigration pre-approval from the USCIS this week. 

We are still waiting on our tax return, which we are using to finance this so we want it SOON.  I called the IRS, gave them my sob story, and now the Tax Advocate Services dept. of the IRS is going to be working with me to help me get it.  They should be contacting me sometime this next week to help me move forward with solving whatever problem they are having getting it to us.  (Everyone I know who claimed the Adoption Tax Credit is having problems and getting audited.  We filed for our return in Feb. and haven't received any info about what the hang up is.)  We are getting a whooping $15,138 back and $13,000 of that is the ATC from Max's adoption!  Thank heavens for the Adoption Tax Credit.  It has made adoption so much more possible for us.  Max's adoption cost $24,000 and we got $4,000 back from our health insurance and $13,000 from taxes so it really only cost us $7,000 out of pocket.  We are budgeting about $35,000 for this child's adoption because we are bringing Noah, Max and two helpers (probably Grandma Buckholts and Aunt Linda).

5/15/11 - We finished typing up all the remaining documents we need for our dossier and all the cover letters we will need to send with them when we get them authenticated so that when we get our CIS immigration pre-approval we will be ready to start authenticating the next day.  Now we just need to get all our dossier documents notarized and fax them to our FTIA caseworker to make sure they aren't any problems with them before we get them authenticated.

5/14/11 - Hooray for my good friend Tiffany Skelton!  She was kind enough to do a letter of reference for us for our dossier and we just got it in the mail.  Thanks so much!

5/5/11 - For some reason I've really been anxious about our fingerprint appointments.  Maybe because last time around with Max I had to have mine redone.  Did you know your fingerprints could wear off?  This time around I've been trying to baby them and started really lotioning my fingertips several times a day a month ago.  I know.  I'm a bit obsessive.  Yesterday Chris had his appt and this morning I had mine.  Mine went a lot better than last time and we only had a problem with one pinky finger.  Last time I had a problem with lots of my fingerprints. 

Now I need to finish up just a couple documents for our dossier, get them notarized, get them reviewed by our agency, and then write the cover letters for the authentications.  That way the day we get our immigration pre-approval notice in the mail I can get our authentications going and move on to the last big step of getting our dossier ready to send to China! 

We are a few weeks behind from where I thought we would be, but who said it was a race?  It just feels that way.  I've been thinking all along that we would get matched to our daughter this July/August but I'm thinking it's going to take a few months longer than that now.  We'll see.  In order for our agency to match us to a child our dossier has to have been sent to China.  It takes a few weeks for China to tell you what day your dossier was actually logged in and I think that our agency actually needs that date before they can match us.  If that's true then it would take a few extra weeks from what I was planning on to be eligible for a match.  New lists of children only come out once a month, so if we are "DTC" (Dossier To China) just after that list comes out we'll have to wait a whole other month before we have a shot.  Also, I think most families, like us, want a girl so there will be more "competition" AND I think that once you are DTC you get put on a list of first come first serve for our agency to match us and we will then be at the end of the list when we are first DTC.  That means that if another family is open to the same special needs that we are and a child comes up who meets those they will be matched to the family who has been waiting longer.  I think it could take a while longer than I had first thought.  Now I'm hoping to have been matched to our daughter by Christmas.  But I'm still in a hurry to get everything done because I want to be on that waiting to be matched list ASAP!

4/25/11 - Yay!  We got a letter from the USCIS today telling us our fingerprint appointments are 5/5 and 5/6.  I was so hoping they wouldn't be for the following week when Chris is supposed to be out of town.  Hooray, they aren't!

4/11/11 - Got a letter from USCIS saying they've received our application and that we will get a letter from them soon telling us when our fingerprint appointment is.

4/5/11 - The USCIS signed for our I-800A application this morning at 9am.  Let's hope they get working on it fast!

4/2/11 - A lot of expectant mothers talk about what it's like to feel their baby growing inside of them.  Although I'll never know exactly how that feels physically, I know exactly what it feels like emotionally.  The love I have for my little one is growing inside of me. 

They say you grow to love someone as you serve them, and this is one of the greatest ways that the love I have for my next precious child is growing inside of me.  So what did I do for my little one today?  I hurried like a woman running half way across the world to her waiting daughter to the credit union to get a Cashier's Check and then to the FedEx store to send in our immigration pre-approval application when the home study approval letter that I have been longing for finally came in the mail today.  I ran even though I haven't eaten anything but breakfast today.  I ran even though it's nap time and my "break" time.  I ran and I just missed getting my package off in today's Fed Ex pickup (the guy was just loading his truck and shutting the door when I pulled up).  But I didn't mind too much because this is how I'm loving my baby into reality today.

I don't know much about her.  It may even be a he!  But I think it's a girl.  What I do know is that she's tiny, she's never been held by her mommy and only shortly by her birthmom, she's somewhere in China, and oh yeah, that she is MINE.  My daughter.  And I'm doing everything I can for her from this side of the world. 

It's 7am in China right now.  Wake up time.  I hope there are kind women all around her this morning as she starts her day.  I hope they pick her up and coo at her and look at her sweet face.  I hope she feels all the love that I have for her even though it's coming from around the world.

And that is how a baby grows inside a woman who has never held life inside of her.

3/29/11 - Talked to FTIA on the phone today.  They have received our HS, our coordinator has reviewed it and it looked good to her, now they are just waiting for their SW to review it before they send us the approval letter and they hope to do that any day.  She said getting approval on your I-800A is taking about 2 months right now, which was what I expected to hear.

3/28/11 - Filled out our I-800A application and collected everything we'll need to to send with it.  Everything we'll need but the letter from FTIA approving our HS that is.  Still waiting for that.

3/26/11 - Got the replacement page for the mistake in our HS the other day.  Still waiting for FTIA to send us our a letter approving our HS so we can send in our I-800A application. 

3/23/11 - Got our HS in the mail and there was one mistake in it that I'm glad we caught before we included it in our dossier because it could have been a problem down the road.  Our SW just needs to mail us out a replacement page for the one page that the problem was on.  We are still waiting for FTIA to mail us the physical letter saying they approve our HS before we can send their letter, the HS, and our I-800A application (the application for immigration pre-approval) off to the USCIS so it's ok that we have to wait for this seeing that it won't hang anything up.  I should mention that I printed off the I-800A application off with all the instructions and the application alone was 16 pages long and the instructions were about 30!  Apparently, it is like rocket science.

3/18/11 - Hooray!!!  Fantastic news, I got an email from our SW this morning saying that she had received the child abuse registry results from Texas and so we are officially finished with our homestudy!  We are done with the first third of the first of three parts to bringing her home now.  It took us exactlty 4 months to get to this point in Max's adoption and this time we are crusin' along seeing as how it has only taken us 2 months this time.

3/14/11 - Yay!  The agency doing our homestudy, Families for Children, got approval on our homestudy from our adoption agency, FTIA today.  FFC sends the rough draft of our homestudy to FTIA to make sure our homestudy looks good and is compliance with all of China's policies.  Our homestudy is all done now except for waiting to hear back from Texas.  Hurry up Texas!  Grumble, grumble, grumble.  It feels like we are waiting for nothing.  I keep repeating to myself that God's timing is perfect and this won't hold anything up.  We are not going to miss the chance to get matched to our daughter just because of paperwork delays.  Maybe this will even help us find our daughter at the right time.  Maybe without this we'd have been ready too soon.  If only...If only...If only we had used FedEx the first time.  If only it hadn't gotten lost in the mail the first time.  If only they could have re-used the check they did for Max's adoption.  It's not like the information has changed; he hasn't lived their since the check was done and my heavens he only "lived" there two weeks anyways.  And it was on his mission!  I promise you he was not abusing children on his mission!  Or any other time.  Oh well.  Nothing I can do.  I guess it's not even worth complaining.

3/11/11 - Got our marriage certificate in the mail that we will authenticate later as part of our dossier.  Did you know it costs $40 to get a copy of your marriage certificate in Utah?  That's a lot of money for one piece of paper that they don't even send to you by FedEx.  Oh well.  No biggie.

3/10/11 - Texas signed for our FedEx this morning.

3/8/11 - FedExing form to Texas today for Chris' child abuse registry check.  The lady I talked to on the phone this morning said she will email the results to our SW so she can get it faster.  Hooray!

3/7/11 - Well darn.  We mailed Texas a form for Chris' child abuse registry check on Feb 8th but Texas says they never received it and our SW needs the check back from them in able to finish our homestudy.  Their form says it takes 30 days to get checks done and the lady on the phone said she couldn't expedite it, but we think they will be faster than that.  Shucks though!  So today Chris had to get the form printed out, filled out and notarized AGAIN so we can send it, this time FedEx, tomorrow.  Do you know how lame this is that we even have to do this?  Chris "lived" there for two weeks on his mission and he hasn't lived there since.  It seems lame that he'd have to have a check done for short  length of time he "lived" there anyway and we had it done for Max's adoption and the information hasn't changed because he hasn't moved back to Texas!  Oh well...stupid hoops.  There's at least a 1000 of them and it's just a race to see how fast you can jump through them.

3/5/11 - Hallelujah for people who work late on Fridays!  The company we did our 10 hours of approved adoption training with back in 2009 sent us emails today with our completion certificates attached so we could easily forward them to our SW to print off and include in our HS.  Seriously.  The hoops we have to jump through.  It all feels so needlessly meaningless and yet we have to do it.  Meanwhile, there's a little baby girl somewhere in China who is spending her babyhood half a world away from her Mama.  Oh well.  That's just the way the world works and according to China she's "not ready" to be adopted yet anyway because she's not on a list to be picked from yet and I haven't found her.  That probably won't happen until sometime this summer.  Still, my heart knows she's there and God knows where she is.  I know what needs to happen between now and when we meet each other - she's blissfully unaware.  I just have to jump through these hoops, be patient with the process, and know that we'll be together in the end.

We also got our birth certificates in the mail today that we'll authenticate later.

3/4/11 - There was a little drama today with our homestudy.  FTIA is moving their office and will be shut down for a few days in a week or so.  I really want to get our HS in to them to review before they move so it won't be the end of March when it's approved.  Our SW has been working pretty hard getting it done but keeps finding things she needs to include that she has questions on so we've been emailing back and forth a lot.  She needed us to complete 10 hours of an approved adoption education class but FTIA said we did that for our first adoption and wouldn't need to do it again.  In able for that to work for our HS she needed the certificates we got after we took the training and passed the tests back in 2009 to include and that was the one thing from Max's adoption that we didn't save a copy of.  Also, Texas still hasn't sent our SW Chris' Child Abuse Clearance so I need to call them on Monday.

3/2/11 - Emailed back and forth with our social worker about information she's including about us in our homestudy.

3/1/11 - Ordered certified copies of our Birth Certificates and Marriage Certificate to be authenticated.

2/28/11 - Emailed our social worker with the specific special needs we want her to approve us for in our homestudy.  If God sends us a child with something else then she will just need to ammend it.  This is what we asked her to include: "Christopher and Laura would like to adopt one child, either male or female, age 0 to 4 years old, from the People's Republic of China.  Christopher and Laura would be willing and able to consider moderate to severe special needs including Hiatal Hernia, Inguinal Hernia, Hepatitis B or carrier of such, extra finger or toes, missing fingers or toes partial or complete, missing hand partial or complete, missing arm partial or complete, Syndactyly, birthmarks including Hemangioma or Nevus, scars, Nystagmus, Strabismus and similar special needs."  When the time comes later this summer we will ask our agency to match us to our child and at that time we will fill out a more specific check list for them to work from.  We are going to ask them to match us to a girl, but just in case God has other plans, we had our HS written for either a boy or a girl.  We are also hoping that this daughter will be younger than Max, but in case for some reason it takes a long time to bring her home our agency recommends we be approved up to the age of 4.  Just in case you were curious.  ;)

2/26/11 - Heidi mailed her letter of recommendation to our social worker.  Did our financial statment for our HS and our dossier.  Mailed that and our medial exam forms to our social worker.

2/25/11 - Things kind of went on hold because we were all so sick with strep and colds, but we're back to getting things done.  Today we closed on our home equity loan to help pay for this, we got one of our dossier docs notarized, and we got our physicals done for our dossier and homestudy.  Our social worker says 2 of the 4 background checks are back, and that we've done all the face-to-face visits that she needs.

2/18/11 - Mailed our Federal Tax Return in so we can get our huge adoption credit back in a few weeks and start paying for all this fun stuff.  Chris wrote rough draft of his employment letter that he can type up on State letterhead and have his boss sign for our Homestudy and dossier.

2/16/11 - Got our fingerprints done at the Davis County Jail on our BCI form for the State of Utah and mailed it.  (That's for the State's criminial background check that we need for our Homestudy.)

2/12/11 - Got our blood drawn in preparation for our adoption physicals to be done on the 25th.  Now the results will be back in time for the Dr. to have the info from them for our medical forms he will need to fill out.

2/11/11 - Went to the Layton City Police Dept. to try to get our fingerprints done for the BCI form, but they don't do them on Fridays.  Had them do our local police check letters that we will need for our dossier.  It was a bit of a fiasco...and we will leave it at that - but it got done.

2/10/11 - Called and scheduled adoption physicals, emailed FTIA & our social worker about some questions.  Printed off and filled out our State BCI forms and now we just need to get our fingerprints done on them so we can mail them off.  Chris met with our social worker so he could sign releases for her to get Child Abuse Clearances for Mississippi and Louisiana since they won't let us do them ourselves.

2/8/11 - Met Chris at his office with Texas' Child Abuse Clearance form so he could have it notarized and mailed it.

2/7/11 - Called the state agencies in charge of Child Abuse Clearances for the states of Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana to find out what procedures they have for getting those clearances for when Chris lived there on his mission.  We have to get them for every state either of us has lived in since we were 18.  Again.  Even though nothing has changed since we got them for Max's Homestudy.  Ugh.

2/2/11 - Updated a few forms we will need to have authenticated for our dossier and printed them off.  Now I will just need to get them notarized before we send them off for authentication in a few months.

1/25/11 - Emailed our social worker to let her know we were starting this again and to ask her to start updating our homestudy.

1/18/11 - Mailed off our application to adopt again to Families Thru International Adoption (FTIA)!