Article 5!

HUGE NEWS!!!! Our sweet girl’s Article 5 has been issued! In normal language, that means little Maya Guanxin’s visa application and some other documents have been reviewed by the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, and they have issued the document (Article 5) that tells the CCCWA that the “U.S.Consulate has determined that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that the child may enter and reside permanently in the U.S., and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed”.
 fireworks china

The Chinese New Year is beginning as I type this tonight (it’s already tomorrow there). Although we had told ourselves that we had accepted the fact that the Article 5 would likely be delayed due to government offices closing for the New Year, we really hadn’t accepted that at all…we secretly held onto hope and it worked! Last night, around 9 p.m., the email from the U.S. Consulate appeared, right out of the blue. Let’s hear it for folks who like to clear their desks before a holiday! Me being me, I held this news close until I heard more from our adoption agency, and they’re on Pacific time.

This morning my coworkers threw a beautiful shower for me and two expectant mamas, and during the shower an email came from our adoption agency confirming receipt of the Article 5. As I opened sweet packages of construction paper, and amazing learning games, and crayons and sidewalk chalk and Hello Kitty adorableness, even a hand-knit shawl that is perfectly Maya sized—I couldn’t get my face to stay properly fixed between a stupid grin and a happy cry.

shower

After the shower, back in my office, I got a call from our agency, giving us a tentative timeline for travel and asking if that was okay. YES!!!!!!! I know, I know—it’s the question of the century but we still don’t have travel dates. Patience, grasshopper. But the takeaway is this: the Article 5 was the last document we were waiting for. The. Last. The next news we’ll get will be the travel approval issued by the CCCWA, then we’ll be able to book our trip for about three weeks after that. There will be more paperwork, and appointments, and meetings, and doctors, and a final visit to the U.S. Consulate for her visa, but those will occur as a family with our daughter in our laps. And you know what? We’re perfectly happy with this timeline. We’re happy that our daughter gets this last New Year celebration in before we arrive. It’s a HUGE holiday in China—everything shuts down for a week and people travel to see relatives, and celebrate with music and dance and food and fireworks and each other. It’s a big culture to leave behind so this will hopefully leave a strong and happy imprint. On our end, we’ll just continue to perfect this space for her beautiful little self to fill.
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a tiny, but mighty, update

While there’s not a LOT of news to share today, we have received our travel visas! No news yet on when we’ll get our sweet one, but this is one more step toward her.

Tomorrow the care package and another letter that we wrote to our daughter will be shipped to China from our adoption agency. Have we mentioned lately how awesome Holt International is? The fact that they translate our letters for us just adds to their overall fabulousness.

For her care package, we decided to focus on drawing since we’re told that’s her favorite subject in school. While we have to be careful with weight and size, we were able to send a drawing pad, coloring book, colored pencils and crayons, stickers, and some bling: a purple metal flake pencil bag (nothing’s ever compared to my purple metal-flake Schwinn from 3rd grade, but this came close), and some barrettes since her hair is growing longer. It all fit into a brightly colored iPad case (score!). As I was zipping it up I couldn’t resist one last addition. He doesn’t weigh much:

monkey

For this last letter before we travel, we explained what will happen on pretty much each day of our two weeks together in China–how we’ll get there, where and how we’ll meet, where we’ll stay, how we’ll all fly together as a family to Guangzhou, and how we’ll all fly back home together. We included pictures of an airplane, taxi, hotel room, and more pics of our house and of us. Can you imagine being a little girl watching planes flying all over the sky, then being told you’re about to fly halfway around the world on one with strangers who say they’re your parents?  Crazy stuff. But we hope our letter was at least a little reassuring, and we told her over and over in the letter how much we love her and how we will be with her the entire time.

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Wo men kuai dao la.

Wo men kuai dao la.

We’ll be there soon.

WOW! So much has happened since I last blogged! Things have started to move quickly—VERY quickly—and our sweet Maya Guanxin seems less like a far away dream and more like our bonafide daughter now. I think it happened somewhere between unloading her desk from the truck and organizing her perfect, unused crayons. Or while cutting the tags off of her doll’s clothes. Or when buying cable and clips for her future brilliant works of art to hang from. Staring at that adorable hot pink chair from Ikea, arranging her room a million times in our heads, realizing her room really isn’t our office any more, sitting in there in the quiet late at night wondering if she’ll be scared…and then  googling night lights at 3 a.m. You get the picture.

And it helps that we’ve hit a few more milestones in the ‘ol adoption timeline, too. The heavy paperwork is pretty much over, and none too soon. On a recent trip to the grocery store, after a particularly grueling document-completing session, Lex suggested that instead of going home we just keep driving to Texas and grab a couple of margaritas. But we survived, and did indeed get provisional approval on her immigration paperwork, then quickly after that (quicker than expected!) came the coveted letter from the National Visa Center. The striking thing about these documents is how they tell our life changing story (all three of us) in their mundane terminology. For example, “provisional approval to classify orphan as immediate relative” and “immigrant visa and alien registration”. Sweet stabs to the heart. But we are all three being propelled forward, toward each other, and it’s crazy exciting. After a little over a year, there are literally two more of these milestones to reach then we’re off to get our sweet girl: we wait for the Article 5 to be issued by the US Consulate in Guangzhou (the next step toward her visa), then we wait for the CCCWA to issue our travel approval. After that her consulate appointment in Guangzhou will be set, then we’ll work with our agency and the adoption travel folks to book our travel. If all goes swimmingly we could be a solid family of three by late March.

Our last letter to our sweet daughter before we go scoop her up will be to tell her how our first two weeks together in China will go. We’ll be explaining what a hotel is, a taxi, an airplane, and outlining the scary but awesome two weeks of transition from orphan to forever family. We’ll get one more chance to send her a care package, too. (Basically the most pondered care package in the history of the universe.)

FYI, here’s Wuhan, where we’ll meet our daughter and become a family:

wuhan

And here’s Guangzhou, where we’ll make it official:

 guangzhou

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One Giant Leap

Well, hold onto your hats folks, because WE’RE OFFICIALLY APPROVED by China to adopt our sweet little girl. On Friday at exactly 5:37 pm we got a call from our adoption agency in Oregon letting us know that they had received the hard copy of our Letter of Acceptance (LOA) and that it was being overnighted to us. We got it Saturday afternoon, a mere 113 days from the date we were logged into their system (but who’s counting?). And then we just stared at it, and at each other, then at that thin powerful piece of paper again. At the bottom of the certificate with our names and our daughter’s name on it together was one simple question, both in Chinese and English: do you accept this child? We couldn’t check YES fast enough. Let me tell you: that thing is already signed and on a plane right back to where it came from.

loa pic 12-14-13

We spent all of yesterday completing more paperwork that has to be submitted to customs and immigration here in the US for our little cutie pie, and then we went Christmas caroling with our neighbors who surprised us by offering donations toward our adoption expenses. Watching all of the little kids get so into the caroling had us thinking about what it will be like next year when we are tromping around in the cold singing Jingle Bells with our daughter. Gratitude and wonder are everywhere.

We’ve been asked by a lot of friends when we can go get her, and we still don’t know, but it’ll probably be around March. Maybe a little sooner, maybe a little later, but at least we are far enough along now to have a ballpark time to shoot for. We’ve also been asked about her name, and while we haven’t tried to avoid the question, it’s a little complicated. So here’s the deal: our daughter’s name is Wu Guan Xin. Wu is her surname, so when we adopt her her new surname will be Price. We were dead set on not changing her name at all, but then we heard stories of children from China wanting names their friends could pronounce, so we have decided that instead of changing her name we’ll just add onto it. So without further adieu, let us introduce you to Maya GuanXin Price. As we explained to her in a letter, she can use any combination of this name she likes, and can change her mind as often as her sweet little heart desires.

What’s next? Well, we wait for approval of her immigration paperwork, we apply for our visas, we wait for various other approvals from China, and then we go scoop her up, kiss her little face off, and bring her home. While we wait, we’re going to make her room the best little girl’s room EVER and learn a little Mandarin.

Here she is again, she’s just too awesome not to repost this pic. We’ll have a newer one soon enough.

Wu Guan Xin-November 2013

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Hearts All Over the Place

Today, the Monday after a quiet but lovely Thanksgiving holiday and 101 days into our wait for the elusive LOA, we got a new picture of our little girl. It came in the third email of the day from our adoption agency, the first two being newsletters. When I looked at my phone, because of the earlier emails, I wasn’t expecting what I saw: our sweet girl! All bundled up, wearing her little purple Pleasant Goat pants, looking as though she’d been caught off guard (just like her Mama in every pic ever taken of me).

Wu Guan Xin-November 2013

We imagine it went a little something like this:

“Guan Xin, stop playing and come over here to get your picture taken.”

Guan Xin: “Wait, wha..”

SNAP!

Looking at the picture of our sweet daughter, our hearts were melting and we were crazy elated—a big mess of emotions, really. It’s hard to describe—this feeling of wanting to run and scoop her up with every fiber of our being, all the while reminding ourselves to be patient during this wait. A happy ache? Yep. The happiest.

We also have a little more info about her likes and dislikes. Her favorite color is yellow. And she’s a foodie—her favorite foods are mushrooms with pork and sweet and sour spare ribs. She likes to play hide-and-seek, to read, and to draw. She likes to color too, but “she always colors outside of pictures”. That’s our girl!

That’s all for now, hopefully we’ll be updating again soon with news of our LOA. 🙂

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Tom Petty sure did have that one right! We wanted to wait for something to happen in our adoption timeline before updating the blog, and then yesterday we got word that we’ve reached yet another important milestone in the process: we are OOT! In adoption-speak, that means our dossier, which was logged into the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) database on 8/22/13, is now officially Out Of Translation and moved to the Review Room. Next step? LOA, baby! The glorious Letter of Acceptance from China–the last official document we’ll need before we begin the Immigration/Visa paperwork. Overall, the timeframe between your log in date (LID) and receiving your LOA is roughly 1 to 4 months, so we’re a little more than two months in and that letter could come ANY DAY NOW. So, the answer to the BIG QUESTION is that we’ll travel to China to scoop up our sweet little girl in roughly 3 to 6 months.
In the midst of all of this waiting, we’ve been preparing. Earlier this month, a very good friend of ours, Cheryl Steele, held a Pampered Chef fundraiser to help raise funds to bring our daughter home. Not only did we have a great time at her party, but lots of fabulous people placed orders, and we raised $257 to go into our AdoptTogether fund! To those who ordered, and to those who have made donations to our fund including the anonymous “Peaceful World Enterprise”, we can’t thank you enough. We didn’t anticipate the sweet offers to help, and our hearts are humble and full. There’s a lot of lesson learning and heart opening going on over here, y’all.
We also wrote a long letter to our daughter explaining as best we could what is happening, reassuring her, and letting her know about the family and friends and neighbors who are all waiting to meet her. Then we made a photo book/social story for her that had pictures of us, the front and back of our house, each room in the house, the garden, her school and classroom, local parks, an airplane, etc. Each photo had an explanation and we also tried to explain the process to her in simple terms, so she’d know why we weren’t there yet and when to expect us. Here are a few pics from the book:
Photo Oct 05, 11 11 49 AM Photo Oct 05, 11 11 58 AM Photo Oct 05, 11 12 07 AM Photo Oct 05, 11 12 20 AM Photo Oct 05, 11 12 51 AM Photo Oct 05, 11 13 59 AM
Photo Oct 05, 11 14 05 AM
The package could only be so big so with the book and letter we were able to include a coloring book and some stickers, with extras for sharing. Photo Oct 05, 3 08 53 PM
Later we’ll be able to send a  larger care package.
Our agency also suggested we make a DVD of us so that our daughter could get used to the sound of our voices and our mannerisms, since she’s a little older, so today Lex and I played hooky (the weather was amazing!) and made a little movie. We filmed each other walking through Dragon Park, in our backyard, then Lex played “You Are My Sunshine” on mandolin and I read from a Dr. Seuss book. It turned out really well!!! Thanks to our buddies at FedEx, it’ll be at our adoption agency, Holt International, tomorrow (Thursday) and will go out in their Friday shipment to China. A new list of questions from us is also going out in that shipment. We’re dying to know her opinions and to hear her feelings about all of this! And we’ve vowed not to add one more pink or floral thing to her bedroom until we know for sure that’s her jam.
Well, maybe just this one more thing…Photo Oct 27, 1 17 46 PM
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What a BEAUTY!

When we accepted the referral for our daughter, we had a few photos of her, but they were at least a year old. We requested updated photos and were told that since the orphanage is still 2so large, it could take up to seven weeks. But yesterday on September 16th at 5:00 PM we received VIDEO! AMAZING! Four brief videos, of a shy sweet girl that melted our hearts all over again. She barely smiled, nervously twisted her little dress in her hands, and whispered Mama. She sang a little too, just a hint, then shook her head no and walked off. Here’s a still shot from the video. Isn’t she a heartbreaker?

 

When not being interviewed, she confidently strode down the sidewalk and up and down the steps with loads of attitude. She’s a camera hog, but on her terms. We love her. still 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we watched her on video oh, about a thousand times, we went back to planning her bedroom and getting her album together (the album that will introduce her to us, her home, and her community).

Here’s her principal and her future kindergarten teacher. whitsitt 2We met with them this afternoon and talked briefly about how ESL and Speech Pathology can work together to help her learn English. Her teacher even showed us a children’s book about two creatures learning a new language together and becoming friends. Spoiler: the cow and pig end up bilingual, each able to both  Moo and Oink.

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