Thursday, August 20, 2015

More updates!

Our I800 (petition to the U.S. to classify Hannah as an immediate relative which will make her a citizen) was approved on August 18th - yay!

Next step is for the National Visa Center to send our approval information to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China.  :-)  They will send a confirmation letter to us which we need to request our Article 5 letter which is the next step in the process.  The Article 5 letter lets the CCCWA (China's adoption authority) know that our immigration file is complete for the adoption.  (It sounds like it is basically a 2nd copy of the LOA, signed by someone at the Consulate?)  After the Article 5 letter has been sent to the CCCWA, we are officially waiting for Travel Approval at which point we can travel!

At this pace, it looks like we will be traveling more like early October (if we keep getting good turnaround on timelines)!  We could even possibly travel in September, but China shuts down the first week in October, so it looks like even if our paperwork gets ready in time, the earliest we will travel is after that first week since we have to have government agencies open while we are there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's in a name?

So, we are naming our daughter, Hannah Catherine Sykes.  Her Chinese name is Long Yin Xue - which American style means her first name is Yin Xue and her last name is Long.  Apparently everyone in her orphanage (Social Welfare Institute) is given the last name of Long and it is the Director of the Orphanage's last name.

So, we picked an American name for her for many reasons.   The main being we tried to put ourselves in her place and what type of name she would want.  This is the same thinking we did with each of our boys.  And we figured she would want a name that is not hard to pronounce or spell.  A name not too common, but not so unique it is weird too.  We want all of them to have a name where they could be President one day.

Now, I know that Hannah is pretty common nowadays, but Andy wasn't agreeing to any names and came up with that one.  And Hannah's advocacy name was "Alice" and we had a baby niece Alice about to be born any day.  So I really wanted to start calling her by her final name - so I jumped on him liking a name :-).

We also really like our children to have names with some meaning - i.e. some tie to a family name.  Mack is Mack Warren.  Mack was my paternal grandfather's nickname and Warren was Andy's paternal grandfather. Then Cooper is Cooper Andrew.  Andrew is obviously his daddy's name.  I really wanted to name Cooper a variation of Andrew, for his first, but I just thought it would be too confusing to have two Andrew Sykes in the house :-).  We thought about Drew for him, but (no offense if you are a guy and your name is Drew), but I have not known any male Drews of whom I am fond.  It kinda seems like a jerk name to me.  So that was out.  So it became Cooper's middle name :-).

So Hannah's middle name is Catherine.  And it is after her paternal grandmother (or my mother-in-law), Cathy.   Her name is Cathy, not Catherine, but Hannah Cathy didn't roll off the tongue to us, so we did a variation.  And if you know Cathy, you know that if Hannah has any of her attributes, then we will be the luckiest parents around.  I haven't met a sweeter, kinder or more generous in nature person than her.  She is the mother-in-law/grandmother I hope I will be one day.  I frequently worry that Andy is comparing me to her because she is a domestic goddess and where I have many talents, my home-making skills would not be at the top of that list ;-).  But luckily, he seems pretty happy with what he got.

So, that brings us back to Hannah.  I am in the process of sending her a care package that tells her that we are her forever family - including a picture book of us, a letter to her, a cuddly blanket and a doll.  And the lady sending the package sent me the following information about Hannah's Chinese name.  I am so happy!  I have been pronouncing it so wrong.  

She sent us her name in Chinese Characters (I had these, but only in picture form so I couldn't cut and paste it), a link to the meaning of each and it also has a sound on how to pronounce.  I had been pronouncing the Xue part completely wrong.  I had been pronouncing it shyue and it sounds like you are supposed to pronounce it shiyeh.  Take a listen for yourself:

Long Yin Xue: 龙吟雪

If you click links above ,you will find out the meaning for each symbol ,if you click the Speaker ,you will know how to say long yin xue in Mandarin !

I love having this information!


Okay, we actually have a TON of good news!  I should have been better at updating here, because lately it seems as soon as we get one piece of good news, we turn around and there is more good news...  And so now I have so much to document!

So, the first bit of good news was that Hannah's file actually got in the database and designated to Gladney on July 21st!  So Gladney quickly "matched" us to her.  This has been the step that we have been waiting for what seems like FOREVER... So seriously, we were on cloud 9!    The file finally being in the database means that Hannah is available for adoption.  Then our agency gets designated the file and has the opportunity to match her with a family.  If they don't match her, then her file goes to the shared list.  (This is my understanding and could be wrong....  Just gotta throw in that caveat in case I am really messing things up here!).  But because Gladney knew her file was coming, they told us about her and we had already done our due diligence and committed to being matched with her.  Yay!

But, the good news didn't stop there.... Nope, 6 days later on July 27th - that's right - just 6 days - we were told that China had issued their "Letter Seeking Confirmation"...    Which basically means they approved us to be Hannah's family!  Up until this point, we don't have any guarantee that she will be our daughter.  Now, we do.  B/c we have been approved!  Also, this step normally takes 30-90 days.  But because we have been LID (Logged In Dossier) since Feb 28 (which basically means China had all of our paperwork), we got LSC super quick - 6 days!  Yay!  So the waiting wasn't all for nought.  But this is "soft" and until you get the hard copy, you can't proceed to the next step...  So, what do you think happened?

...Four days later, on July 31st - same week - the Friday to that Tuesday - we got Hard LSC which means our agency got a hard copy of the letter.  Woohoo!  This letter is needed to file the i800 paperwork which (to my understanding) is us applying for permission to the US government to immigrate Hannah here as our child.

So... I actually goofed here a bit.  I didn't realize that I was supposed to print and sign the original i800 docs and mail them to our agency.  I had already filled everything out for us, and we had signed them and we had emailed them...  But I hadn't physically mailed them the original copies.  Oops.  And they needed those to submit for our next step.  So, of course, I had them shipped overnight to our agency.  So one day delay b/c of me.  But, oh well, that isn't the end of the world, right?

So, i800 application and supplemental forms was submitted Monday, August 3rd.  And our agency over-nighted it, so it should be received by tomorrow August 4th...  So, yet another clock starts ticking....   We've been told to expect 14 to 21 days for this step - so here is hoping for 14 days or less!

So what does this all mean?  It means that finally the clock is ticking.  From when we get our Hard LSC, families typically travel in about 10-14 weeks.    Y'all, that means we could be going to get Hannah in 10 weeks!!!  And it means she is ours!  AND, it means we can share her picture!

So here she is!  Isn't she so beautiful?  I can't stand it...  She doesn't seem quick to smile and, yes, that worries me, but we have some of her having a smile coaxed out of her.   Stuff like that is why I am so glad our Lord has shown us without a doubt that she is our child.

OH, and you think the good news stops there?  No way. Our agency actually had a dinner for families in the area interested in and going through their China program last Thursday night...  AND, we met three different groups/people who had met our Hannah!

The first family had met her when they went to get their daughter this summer (late June).  This picture is actually from them!  It was so fun to meet their daughter, and them and to hear about Hannah's orphanage, their experience with their daughter, etc...  It actually was a bit creepy/cool b/c the husband's name is Andy, they have two bio boys ages 5 and 3 and are adopting a little girl.  But it is also so cool b/c they live in Ft. Worth and it will be so wonderful to have another family and friend for Hannah from her same orphanage :-).

The second person was the pediatric physical therapist who actually travels twice  a year with a team associated with our agency where they meet and evaluate the children potentially being placed for adoption so they can advocate for them.  So, we had actually already talked to her on the phone, but it was great to see her in person.

And the third group that had met our daughter, was a mother and daughter pair who had gone recently to Hannah's orphanage as part of a service trip organized through our agency.  So they had actually played in Hannah's room with the kids not that long ago.  We actually were just talking to them - didn't realize they had gone to Changsha and Hannah's orphanage...  They were like - wait, show us a picture of her - maybe we saw her...  And low and behold, they did!  They said she was playing and going from one thing to the next...  And seemed like a perfect little girl :-).

Now how amazing is that?  So amazing.  God is so good. Another adoptive momma told me she felt the wait was so that our love would grow for our children, and I can testify that that is so true.  It is amazing how much we care for a little girl we have never even met.  Seriously, my heart bursts with love for her.  In many ways, it is like being pregnant.  Imagining what she will be like...  Getting giddy over any piece of information about her (sonogram high anyone?)...

So, that's all for now... There are actually other things we have been up to too, but this at least gets us caught up.  And beware, now that we can share pics, we may be doing that a LOT :-).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happiness is a choice, right?

So, there are a ton of Facebook groups out there for adoption support, info, etc...  They are actually really great.  Honestly, without them, I would feel like we know so little.  They are good to give you estimates on timelines, to understand the process, etc...  Also, there are groups that are there for the special need your child might have - like cleft lip/palate...  ...And then there are the ones about having a child of a different race in your family...

A big trend on all of these groups is to recognize that adoption starts as a tragedy.  And that is true.  For some reason a birth mother did not feel like she could keep her child and felt like she had to abandon or place her child with another mother.  In China, a reason many mothers do that with a child with special needs is because they simply cannot afford the healthcare costs associated with caring for the child.  Chinese hospitals and doctors require payment up front and there is no national healthcare from my understanding.  Many times to get the child the healthcare he or she needs, they have to abandon the child as children in orphanages do get healthcare.  Fortunately, charities have sprung up that help to provide healthcare to these children and parents.  No one would want a wanted child to be given up just so they can get the healthcare he or she needs.  Then factor in the one child policy...  My heart breaks to think that might be what happened to our little girl's mother and father.

So, yes, that is a tragedy.  But there seems to be this movement to focus on that tragedy and not the redemptive part of adoption, where a child does find a family who loves and cares for him or her.  It is almost like people want that one event over which the child has absolutely no control to define them and their entire life.  For instance, it is not politically correct to say an adopted child is lucky to be adopted.  The politically correct answer is that they are not lucky, they were abandoned at birth, don't know their birth parents and in our child's case she will have lived her first three formative years in an institution.  But to me that seems so negative and ungrateful.  Yes, I think our daughter will be lucky.  I think our biological children are lucky too.  They will have a home in the greatest country in the world; to parents who love, adore them and strive to put them first; in a home where they will never hunger or thirst; where they will never not have shelter; they will receive one of the best educations in the world; and opportunity will abound for them....  To me, that is lucky.  The fact that you have something bad happen to you, does not mean you are unlucky or somehow permanently damaged goods.   Yes, that experience will define and shape you.  But that is not all you are.  In fact, if the trials and tribulations in my life have taught me anything, they will make you better and we pray this is true for our daughter.

What is even more perplexing to me is that people of faith are many of the ones pushing this narrative.  Do they not believe in redemption?  Do they not believe in giving thanks for our many blessings?  I really do not understand.  And, also, do they not understand that this narrative also discourages people from adopting - when so many children need families and homes?

Now, I do think in the past, adoptees have been told they are lucky, and sometimes adoptees have not felt like they could talk to their parents about the feelings and hurt they have surrounding being adopted.  So, maybe that is why there is this narrative?  And, of course, we will listen and talk to our daughter about any hurt she will have as a part of her story.  We are not in the trenches yet, so maybe we do not fully understand...  But in general, there seems to be this trend in our society to focus on the times in our lives we have been wronged and dwell on them and let them define us.  I do not understand that.  I just don't understand how it is helpful.  It leads to sadness and self-centeredness, no?  Any child adopted or born to parents, is lucky when there are children out there in orphanages who will never be placed with parents.  Who will age out of the orphanage at age 14 and will likely end up as sex workers to survive.  We are all SO lucky.  Why do we all focus on what we don't have and not what we do.  I do it too.  I am not saying I don't - but I recognize it as sin and me being self absorbed.  And I won't encourage my children to do that.  Isn't there a fine balance between not dismissing your child's pain and being open to hearing their concerns, fears and sadness - and between letting them dwell on those things and let them define their future?

Along the same lines, there is the transracial adoption crowd who seems to push the narrative that our daughter will experience racism on a grand scale because she is Asian and that because we are white we can have no idea what that is like.  Yes, I am sure our daughter will experience racism.  But these people seem to seek out and see racism where it doesn't exist.  Now, maybe that is because they have experienced so much, that is their default.  But they have called me racist for espousing a different view from them, so, honestly, it is hard for me to take them seriously.  Does racism exist?  Yes.  Do I expect to have our daughter come to us in tears from an unkind interaction?  Yes.  But do I think she should give power to others who are ignorant and cruel to make her feel sad?  No.

It seems like people don't realize that most children are picked on and I do think that if you are a minority race, that is probably the easy thing to pick on for that child.  But I had mean things said to me b/c I was chubby and wore coke-bottle glasses as a young child.  I was picked on because of my religion growing up.  I kinda think this is part of life - that some people can be cruel and it is up to us to equip our children to handle that with grace.

And as part of that equipping, I also believe in teaching our children to willfully misinterpret people's intentions towards them.  What does that mean?  It means assuming the best about someone's intentions even when they may not be the best.  This seems a lost art nowadays as being offended is definitely in vogue.  And, those offended may even have legitimate reason to be offended.  But here is the thing...  Being offended and angry does not hurt the offender.  It hurts and consumes the offended!  Why are we choosing to let others hurt us and make us sad?  It does nothing to them.  And who wants to give that kind of power to another?  So, yes, we will teach our children to see the best in people even when maybe the best isn't there and to shrug it off as much as possible when someone is mean.  I mean if someone is being cruel, they are the ones I pity, not our child.  And these other parents seem to be teaching their children that the world is a horrible place with all these people who don't like you because of your race.  How does that help their child?  Am I missing something?  I do not get it.

So, anyways, it makes me sad that this is the narrative that we are seeing by adopting parents.  It seems all doom and gloom and that are children have such a horrible road ahead, etc...  I guess we don't see it that way.  I suppose only time and experience will tell.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Red, white and blue...

So, pretty excited about the outfit we just got for Hannah's appointment where she becomes an American citizen.  Pretty sure she will look adorable in this!  Just wish she were here to celebrate July 4th with us this year.  Guess we will just have to be happy with her being here for next year's :-). 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Two steps forward...

That's the expression right?  "Two steps forward.  One step back."  Sometimes I mix up expressions, because I am not detail oriented, so forgive me if I am doing that here....

But this sentiment sums up where we are right now...

I feel like we have actually been very patient this journey, but will admit this waiting on her file "wait" has become extremely long...   On Facebook, there are these great China Adoption groups that group people based upon where they are in the process.  So, on there, someone was talking about timelines for getting LOA (Letter of Approval) once you were LID (Logged in Dossier).  LID means you have submitted your paperwork to China.  And Letter of Approval is China telling you, you have been approved to adopt the child.  When you are LOA, you are official and you know you will become the child's parents...   Apparently, a lot of people are "matched" with a child prior to getting their paperwork done and submitted (LID).  But, then there is another crowd, like us, that gets all their paperwork done and then waits for a referral (or file).  We have our referral, but not the official file and that is what we are waiting on.

So, these Facebook groups are great, because others are going through the process and many of these steps take a range of time depending I guess on how many people are currently applying, the amount of employees China has processing paperwork, holidays, etc...  So it's nice to hear, from LID to LOA is typically taking 53 days for people who are matched prior to LID.  But the upside of being LID but not being "matched" is that China has our info, is translating it and hopefully already reviewing it.... so that when they get our file, they can quickly "approve" us to be Hannah's parents.

So, I asked that question on this group - what the timeline was for people in our situation and two people responded that they got LOA in a week or less once they got their file!  That is amazing news. We were expecting the next step (to get LOA) to be 2-3 months and now it sounds like that could be only a week.  And the step after that is to get immigration/travel approval which is typically 8-10 weeks.  That means we could be traveling in 12 weeks or less if we got her file today!  This made us so happy!  Two steps forward, right....

But then came the step back.  After the high of getting Hannah's update, we also were encouraged to hear that we would be getting her file "any day" now.  So, as you can imagine, I have been checking email and hoping to see the email saying we can finally move onto the next step!

We were told we would get her file in Spring which was then clarified as being May - worst case early June...    Well, it's definitely early June now and no file to be seen.  We asked for info on what was going on and got the depressing update that the original time estimation did not include accounting for 3 China holidays in April and May.  And that several employees had taken holiday at Hannah's SWI slowing down the paperwork.  Uggh!!!!  This wait has been the longest.  It's now been 5 months since we first saw her picture.  5 months!  And nothing more has happened.  She continues to get older without a family when one is here waiting for her.  It is so frustrating.  It seems so silly.  6 months in the life of a child age from 2 to 3 is big.  What does this mean for her long term?  Children are resilient, but we don't want her to have to overcome things that she shouldn't have to just b/c we all have to wait.  I know people say the Hague convention was good in many ways, but in many ways, it just seems like it makes it harder for children to get families that will love them.

And we weren't able to get an ETA on when we would be getting her file.  I assume worst case it should add a month because 3 holidays cannot be more than 1 month, right?  So I am still hopeful for late June. I will die if it is July and we don't have her file.   I do best if I just put it out of my mind, but then I feel like I forget to pray for her and we want to have her in our mind.  Mack has been talking a lot about our sister and it is so cute, but I am scared to talk too much about her until we get LOA because what if for some reason, we don't get it?  So, pray for us to get her file.  Pray that we can go get her and provide her the home she and every child deserves.  And pray for the other families that are also waiting for this batch of files (apparently 7).  And all those families after...  I imagine if ours are delayed, then the next batch is also delayed.

Oh, and lastly, Hannah's name will be Hannah Catherine Sykes, but we were toying with calling her Hannah Cate as her regular name.  I kinda love the double name for an everyday name, but I also think it is long and hard for a little girl to write.  No one else seems to like it but me...  So, if you have any input, let me know!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just got an update on Hannah!

So, we are still waiting for our agency to get our daughter's file.  Supposedly, they will get it any day now which would be amazing because we are really getting tired of waiting :-(.  It's been 4 months now since we first got "soft-matched" with her and the thought of her being in an orphanage when she could be home with us is depressing!  Also, the other steps have known timeframes which seem shorter.

But, while we have been waiting, our agency (Gladney)'s SuperKids team has visited our daughter - in the past 3 weeks or so.  And we just got the information from that visit!  We received a bunch of pictures and two videos of her yesterday and today, we spoke with the head of the SuperKids team and received information about how she is developing!  We literally just got off the phone with her, so I want to write this all down so we have it!

So our little girl has a repaired cleft lip.  They don't see any cleft palate which is so wonderful and apparently very rare to not have both.  She had surgery at about 1 year of age to repair her lip so she has a healed scar there.  Her lungs were clear and heart sounds normal.  She also has a skin tag next to her left ear, but looking at the ear, the structure appears to be normal.  They did a rudimentary hearing test with low noises, high-pitch noises, etc... and she seemed to respond to all with both ears.

She came to the evaluation with the head nanny.  Apparently, Hannah is now part of a program where a family takes her home on the weekends and at nights.  The family consists of a mom, dad, little boy and a little girl and they say Hannah has become very close to them.  This makes us so happy because it means she is getting much needed attention and she is developing attachments which is a concern for children when they have been in an orphanage.

Since she has been with this family she has made huge development strides including language development.  In February, her language started exploding and she has a relatively large vocabulary and is speaking in 3 to 4 word sentences.  She was asking questions and saying stuff to the SuperKids team.  Her caregivers also state that her language is understandable.  This is so great, bc with a cleft lip, a lot of times speech can be a relatively major issue and children can need a lot of speech therapy.  So the fact she is at least talking and sounds like pretty well, is a big deal!  Yay!

She goes to the Half the Sky pre-school program at the orphanage and really likes it.  She is very girly and likes dolls, playing kitchen and stuffed animals.  What a difference that is going to be!  I just got her a dollhouse from an online garage sale, so it sounds like that will be a good fit!  We also have already gotten her a baby doll :-).    They also apparently told her about us and gave her the gift that we had them bring her (a stuffed panda bear).  I wonder how much she understands - she is 2.5 years old.

She has a serious personality which I love and reminds me a lot of Mack.  She is also fairly timid.  But the team did get her to smile and giggle with bubbles.  :-)  She really loves  tabletop activities like puzzles, stacking cups, writing.  She has a good attention span, because she is doing all this with a ton of other children in the room.  In the video you can see her concentrating - it is so cute!

Her gross motor skills are fine, but behind - which sounds much like our kids.  She walks great, but she wants someone to hold her hand going up and down the stairs.  She also just isn't interested in the gross motor skills.  Like she wouldn't jump when they asked her to jump.  She started walking in June 2014 which means she didn't walk until 20 months!  But Cooper didn't walk until 18 months and he lived in a home with a mom that stays home and got a ton of attention.  It sounds she has a cautious personality.

She can already imitate a line by drawing one which apparently most of the other children in the orphanage cannot do.  She likes crafty stuff.

She is starting to show interest with other children and does parallel play, but not playing with other children.  She showed off toys to the older children.

She is telling her caregivers when her diaper is wet or dirty, but isn't potty trained.  I think that's really good!

She gets overwhelmed by loud noises.  We need to make sure she has an environment where she feels safe.  She eats well and is not picky.

We love love love getting these updates!  Our main concern has been language development and sounds like that is falling in line.  Oh, we can't wait to get her home.  Hearing how she is thriving being a semi foster family, makes us so excited to see how she will thrive once she is home with us!  Pray that our agency gets her file quickly!!!