Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mark's Horrible, Awful Test

They are making everyone in management take some horrible test at Mark's company. I'm not even clear what the test is about - something about a "problem solving process", I think. Mark was VERY (did I say VERY?) EXTREMELY nervous about the test. He was convinced he was going to fail. He was actually convinced he was going to be the ONLY person in the brewery to fail. I was worried he'd talk himself into failing. He walked around like he was going through the lay-off all over again.
So how did he do?
GREAT!!!!!! Passed with flying colors!!!!
Of course.
Sheez! I'm glad that's done. When he got the news, he danced around like a teenager. Things are looking up for the weekend!
(Now I can make him do all those honey-do jobs without feeling guilty.) :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nothing New

.......................Olivia has gone for the glam look... And Jinx is taking over the blog. (She likes to chase the mouse arrow on the screen.)

Just waiting on TA. Our papers haven't even been at the CCAA for 2 weeks yet, so next week would be our earliest estimate on getting the golden ticket. We're hoping for the week after that. Our agency says we can fly, but - they take the temperature of everyone entering China from overseas. If you have a temp, you go to quarantine. I've asked Debbi and she's voting to go ahead and go. So, when we are presented with the opportunity, we're outta here!

Mark is working, working, working and studying for a new test all the managers have to take. He's very nervous, as usual, but he'll do fine. He even gets nervous when they take his blood pressure! Performance Anxiety!

No news on Lola. I just hate to give up hope. But it's like she was beamed up onto the Enterprise.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lots to Catch Up

Mother's Day was great! We took Grandma Sally and Grandpa Howard to brunch at Featherstones, a wonderful little restaurant near us. The food was fantastic and we ate until we were stuffed. And Mark bought me a 2lb bag of Gummy Bears!Grandpa Howard fixed the training wheels on Olivia's bike so she could tear up the highway. She gets to bike at his house because his driveway is flat and long, unlike our driveway which has an almost 35-40 degree slope downhill. She'd shoot down the driveway, across the street and end up in the neighbor's kitchen if she tried that at home. It was warm enough to run thru the sprinkler and Olivia loved it. But she was pooped out by the end of the day. A snuggle with daddy and the puppies was in order. Poor daddy! By the time he gets home from work, he is even more tired than Olivia. He's getting his girlish figure back, tho! Constantly running at work will do that to you...

Olivia participated in her gymnastics performance night and had a ball. She loves her teacher, Miss Yolanda. Yolanda is great with all the kids. They don't get away with anything, but they have a great time and love the class. I'm looking forward to Miss Yolanda working with Brooke later this year. Here is Olivia with Miss Yolanda and her ribbon and medal...

..........................................and Mark...
.........................................and mom...
Then we said goodbye to Grandma Sally and Grandpa Howard as they embark on "Summer Oddessy 2009" and drive to Minnesota for the summer with their two over-sized dogs and a 36' trailer. At least they aren't heading to Alaska again. Grandpa Howard is going to try to Skype this year! Whoo-hoo! Brother Dave, SIL Carol, Garrett and Ivey came to say farewell the night before take-off. Olivia loves her Uncle Dave, mostly because he's still a kid himself...

Ha! He doesn't know about the blog yet - let's see if he catches this one after he looks...
Olivia's last day of preschool is tomorrow. She had her End of Year party Wednesday and it was alot of fun! We'd had a cold snap, but it warmed up again just in time for the Luau. Here she is with "her boyfriend" Ryan. Apparently she has told EVERYONE Ryan is her boyfriend and he's ok with it. She announces it each day at class and he's gotten used to it. She doesn't harrass him, so I guess it's ok... And she's been consistent - he is her boyfriend because she loves his hair... Here's the class goofing for the cameras...
She loved the bubble machine most of all and spent almost the entire party chasing the bubbles...And here she is with Miss Leslie. I can only hope her new Pre-K teacher will be as good. Olivia loves Miss Leslie and I don't think she understands their time together has come to an end. There will be tears this summer...

Here's just a cute shot of Olivia and Smoochy snuggled in together. Smoochy is happy as long as he can touch a human, especially in the comfort of a warm bed. He's got a tough life... ;)
I end this update on a very sad note. Our youngest kitty, Lola, has disappeared. She's too smart to get lost (she found her way home after accidentally taking a ride with a neighbor out of the subdivision), so we fear the worst - that she was caught by a coyote. We never see him, but we have seen signs that he is around (not at our house, but down the street where there are some woods). We were being very careful with all the cats - they have to come in while it's still light, as coyotes are nocturnal. And Lola never strayed near his turf. But apparently that didn't matter. I still hope she'll appear, but it's been 4 days and we're slowly facing reality. She was a wondeful, playful, sweet little kitty and we will miss her. Even the dogs are looking for her, since she was considered "the 4th Boston".

No news about the adoption. China has all the paperwork and we are waiting for Travel Authorization/Approval. But few TAs are being issued since China is still very concerned about the swine flu. I guess they have a right to be -there are over a billion people there and it could spread like wildfire. Better safe than sorry. I wouldn't expect to hear anything until the end of the month under the best circumstances, and I don't know what to think right now. We hope the delay won't be very long. I almost never remember my dreams, but I finally had one last night I could recall: I found myself on a plane to China - with no luggage, no paperwork, no passport/visa, no money, no Olivia and no Debbi. Panic!!! One good note, Qi Meng's new mom and dad received their LOA today. Yeah!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Papers Going to CCAA!

We got the email today that the Consulate in Guangzhou has signed off on our Letter of Acceptance and sent it to the Chinese Adoption Authorities!!! (Technically this is called the "2nd Letter of Acceptance and is also called Article 5.) This is the last piece of paper they need to start work on our Travel Authorization. (This also means the Consulate accepted our DS-230 form, which is Brooke's visa application for entering the US.)
Usually our agency is VERY careful/conservative about estimating wait times, and they have given us a 2-3 week estimate for TA. China is still very upset about the swime flu and several provinces are refusing to let families travel to get their children. Henan is not on the list so far... I have NO idea what will happen, so we'll just have to take it day by day. BUT - with any luck, we should be traveling in June!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Immigration Likes Us

We sent our stuff to China last week and now US Immigration has sent their stuff to China. They sent a little letter stating that our petition has been forwarded to the "appropriate visa-issuing post where the adoption interview will take place" (aka the US Consulate in Guangzhou).
So now we wait. As usual. But we're almost at the end!!!
The Consulate has to sign off on our Letter Of Acceptance and forward it to the CCAA (Chinese Adoption Authority). With any luck, it's already on it's way since the letter was dated May 6th. Then the CCAA will work on issuing our Travel Approval. After we get TA we apply for our CA (Consulate Appointment) and then... we can buy those airline tickets!!!
I've started packing. Only a few clothes will go - a couple pairs of jeans/shorts, about 8 shirts and some underwear. But there's a ton of medications they recommend you take and a ton of STUFF. So... the packing alone will be an adventure. I made a list of all the things to pack and made it into a graph (by person and bag). Then I color coded it. Mark saw it and said he knew we belonged together because my graphs (excel spreadsheet) look just like his. Ha! So romantic!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Picture!!!!

What a great surprise!!!!!! Ke Xin has gone from a very skinny and somber little toddler to a very healthy and happy little girl. I think her foster mother must be responsible for this and it makes me feel uneasy about the big change we're about to put her through. But, she needs a permanent family and we can be that for her. I can't believe this little girl is going to be our daughter in just a few weeks!!! Olivia was tickled that she has Power Puff Girls clothes! Ha!

Here are her latest stats, taken at 2 years and 7 months:
Height: 31.5 inches
Weight: 25.4 lbs. (Mark will fatten her up with his good cooking!)

Visas & Money

Our Visas arrived back today! China will let us across their border! Some people are reporting delays in getting their visas, or getting requests from the Consulates for recent travel histories, supposedly because of the swine flu. We had no problem at all. Thank you Chicago Consulate! I thought I was going to order new money for the trip, but the bank said NO. They can't get new money (hmmmmm...) but they will go through their future money orders (2/week) and pull all the best bills for us. We'll have it before the end of the month.
We've been working on Ke Xin/Brooke's bedroom. I know from experience that kids don't spend that much time in there when they are little, so I'm not going to make it all fancy, but it will be comfortable and cheerful. Depending on if she has sleep issues, she may not be in there at all. There is a daybed and Olivia's old crib, since we don't know where she'll want to sleep. Other recent adoptive moms of China kids her age have reported their children still wanted to be in the crib, even if they were in regular beds at the orphanage. I want her to have the choice. When we're in China, I will pick up some small things to display in her room so that she'll have something familiar to look at and handle, along with pictures of her foster mom and foster brother. The walls are a soft, pale yellow with white trim. Some cute bedding should complete the picture. Its exciting to think we've finally gotten to this point and this is really going to happen!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Boy Crazy?

Olivia has declared that Ryan is her "boyfriend". I'm not sure if Ryan agrees with this, but they seem to get along ok. She is quite vocal at home about him being her boyfriend and that she is going to marry him! Today she announced that she wants to bring him to see the house and then take him on a date!!!! Where has this come from????? She's only FOUR!!!!!!! This has to be something from Mark's side of the family... I'm thinking of installing bars on her bedroom windows. I certainly hope this is no indication of what lies ahead when puberty strikes. Sheez! He seems to be a likeable guy, but really - who is this fellow who has stolen my baby's heart??????
Oh - and the reason she likes Ryan so much??? Direct quote: He has a great haircut!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Provisional Approval!

We were notified today by US Immigration that we have "Provisional Approval" for our I-800: Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative"!! We faxed a copy to our adoption agency and all of the necessary paperwork is winging it's way to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China as I type, for delivery tomorrow. Thank you, FedEx. They have to sign off on our LOA and then they send everything to the CCAA (Chinese Adoption Authority) who then works on issuing our Travel Approval. I don't know what, if any, effect the swine flu will have on our timeline, but I'm not really worried. It seems to by dying down already. The clock is really ticking!!! I'll order "new money" from our bank this week for the trip. China inspects the bills you exchange and won't accept any with tears, rips or deep creases. It's easier to just get new bills and avoid any hassle.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Atlanta Steeplechase and a cat tree!

Last Saturday we went to the Atlanta Steeplechase, held north of Atlanta, near Rome. It sits on acres and acres and acres of rolling farm land and is just beautiful. Every April, they open for one day and hold horse reaces to raise money for the UGA Vet School. Before the races, they have all kinds of family events. There are Jack Russell Terrier races, pig races, petting farm, pony rides, dog-frisbee contests, ladies' hat contest, etc. It's a lot of fun and we look forward to it each year. Mark is usually able to snag free tickets from work and we can even eat in the sponsor's tent for free! The most popular thing in the tent this year was the cold water, since the sun decided to make an appearance and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. According to the car thermometer, it was 94. Sheezz!!!!! The funny thing is that there are many "upper class" people in attendance and the men actually try to get thru the event in shirt, tie and jacket. Crazy! We are common folk, so it was t-shirts and jeans for us. Olivia loves being outside, so she had a ball. The area is really big, so we brought a wagon for her to ride in. Mark was her official "driver".

She saw a ride she'd wanted to ride last year - but she chickened out at the last second. I couldn't blame her - I wouldn't get on it. But this year was different. She got on the bungee ride and loved it so much, she went on it again! They fasten you into a harness, adjust the length of the ropes and let you bounce up and down to get used to it. Then they shorten the cord, raising you off the platform, grab the harness, pull down, let go and you SPRING UP into the air. Here's what I let my baby ride! I couldn't get a picture fast enough at the highest point, but I think these will give you an idea of what it was like...

The smile says it all - she LOVED it. Maybe she'll be a stunt woman when she grows up? Here's a picture of the pony ride with this contraption in the background.

My orchid is blooming and I thought this picture was neat:

The dogs got some sun this week. The cat is Lola, laughingly called the "4th Boston". She runs with them just as if she was one of them. They accept her and seem happy to have her. We're glad she adopted us.

And last, but not least, I got the coolest cat tree! I spent Saturday cleaning out all the old baby stuff from the nursery. It is going to become Brooke's room. I donated it all to the Humane Society Thrift Store. While I was there, I saw this and had to have it!! Isn't it cool??? It really looks like a tree! Someone put a LOT of time and effort into this. It's fantastic! The cats like it so far, and it has enough room for all of them. Lola and Oswald have already fought for the top position. Olivia needs to work on her Vanna White skills just a little bit more...

On the adoption front, we should be getting our visas back this week. Right now we are waiting for US Immigration to approve the paperwork we had to submit after we got our LOA. That approval has to be forwarded to somebody else, who forwards it to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. After that, the US Consulate signs off on our LOA and THEN they send it all to China. (I think - something like that...) Then China gets to work on our TA - Travel Authorization (if they don't stop because of the Swine Flu...). We hope to travel the first part of June. In ONE month!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah! Mark was sort of dazed this morning when, I guess, reality hit him. "It's happening so fast!" he said. Well, April 17th marked our One Year Anniversary of being on this path, so I'm not so sure how fast it's been... But the last couple weeks seem ike they have been turbo powered.