Monday, June 30, 2008

Beginning Planning...

I know we still have a way to go until we get our referral but I just can't help but get more and more excited every day. Today is really the first day that I have been home since summer school got out. Friday, I had a Dr. appt. and then Sara and I took Brennen for his FIRST birthday photo shoot. (I'll post those soon!) I've been checking email and catching up and just can't believe how fast the day is going by. I'm so use to being in "high-gear" that this has been very nice.

Today I set up a Skype account. We still need to get a web cam and headset. I want to get our families and friends who are interested set up now before the referral. That will be one less thing to do from referral to travel. It really is simple though. I'm posting this here to let family and friends know what we are up to and if you decide to join us on Skype, just let us know.

I found these at Wal Mart yesterday and picked them up for the trip. They were 97 cents and have a $1 coupon on the back for Hefty bags so really they will end up being free. I am sure we need these for packing.

There are so many details to think about. When I talked to Mei, she suggested doing some of the stuff now. So here we are. We are going to go ahead and talk to our bank about how much notice they need to exchange our money for new money for the trip. I'm also beginning to make a packing list. She said that our guide will be able to help us find a local person to do our laundry that will be tons cheaper than using the hotel.

She also said that we will be staying at the White Swan because that is one of the agency's traditions. We were told that the hotel was closing in 2008 for renovations but so far they have not. I am really glad they make all the travel arrangements for us. Our travel fee includes all meals as well. Of course, if we chose to eat other than the arrangements we will have to pay for it.

Susan, Riz and Sophia are back from China and she has been filling us with great advice! Scott and Hope are in China now! They have Izabella already! I just LOVE watching the magic happen! I can't wait until it is our turn. I find myself emotional over the whole process. I tear up often and just know I'll be a wreck when it is our turn. Mei told me that she would waiting patiently if I cried when she calls! I just went ahead and told her to expect it! I've never been a great list person but I'm about to change that!


I can't believe a week has already gone by since my last post. I was pretty upset last Monday. Well, a lot has happened since and I'm feeling better. We got all the details in order and our application was sent to Atlanta last Thursday. Our check has cleared the bank and today we got a receipt from USCIS. This is progress.

I also talked to Mei at our agency last Wednesday and she was uplifting! We talked about the paperwork issues and she assured me things would work out and that if we didn't have the approval back before we leave for China that there is an expedition process. Then we talked about all kinds of stuff about the adoption for almost an hour! She was awesome. It is getting to be very exciting now as I watch fellow Precious Pandas get their babies and listen to everyone's excitement on the eve of referrals. I am so praying that CCAA will get all the way through January and give us Feb. 1st as a cherry on top!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Annoyed... Annoyed... ANNOYED!!

I haven't posted about this topic before because I guess I thought it would all work out and I could avoid some aggravation. Well, I'm totally ANNOYED! I'm so tired of people that show for work and then don't do their jobs. Last summer we reapplied to UCIS for the immigration approval for Lexi. The paperwork was lost and after months of first waiting for the new approval, we began the process of trying to find it. It was never to be found and we were due for a new home study so we began that process. It has taken FOREVER to get things done with the new home study! It took forever to get the appointment (every time you called, someone was always "out of the office" and then took forever to get back to us). We finally had the home study visit in April (and at that time were told that they had all the paperwork they needed from us) and within a few weeks approved the document, sent out our check for UCIS for the new application and for new fingerprints since ours will expire before we get the chance to go to China. So then we began the wait for the new approval letter. I wasn't really worried because I felt that we had plenty of time.

This is where I get CRAZY! Sometime since Geoff mailed them our check, he realized that the check had never been cashed so he began calling the home study agency. He called every day for over a week and FINALLY last Thursday got a call from them. At this time, he was told that they were missing the local DFACS clearance form. I hit the roof because we were told earlier that they had EVERYTHING. I could have done as I have done the previous 2 times and hand carried the document to them. I've even become quite friendly with the lady who does it. I called her in tears on Friday but she was out of the office and I just cried through my whole message. Part of my tears was frustration and the other was not feeling so well (I've been fighting some kind of virus I think). But persistence paid off and late Friday we hand carried the form and another supervisor filled out the form for us.

Now today, Geoff goes to work and faxes in the form to the agency in Atlanta. I went to work and on the way got a terrible case of chills and became so sick to my stomach I just couldn't stand up straight. So came back home, took Tylenol and went to bed. Then guess who calls????? The HS agency! Then she proceeds to tell me that they are now missing the I800 form from us. Our paperwork that we began for this update began in the winter and since then the Hague Convention has taken effect which meant a whole new set of forms. You know, you would THINK last Thursday as the woman goes through our information that had been sitting ON HER DESK for over a MONTH would have noticed!!!!!!! But no, the only thing missing then was the DFACS forms. Ugh!!!! And besides that don't you think that in April when they were drawing up the new homestudy report and looking over our paperwork they would have noticed that the once 2 page application that is now about 12 was the wrong one?? But you can bet they have cashed our check for their services a LONG time ago!

So I call Geoff and drag my sickly self out of bed and meet him half-way from his office to sign the papers so that he can now overnight them to Atlanta. I told her that we would be overnighting it because it is possible that by late summer we will have a referral. (The crazy lady just says "oh, that's really good"... as if she has no idea that we won't be ready if the paperwork issues aren't settled!) The Atlanta website says the processing time is 90 days. So let's do the math... if we were to be utterly surprised with an August referral, we won't have our paperwork at that time. If we get a Sept. referral and actually get to travel in October the ink will barely be dry on the document. This is a nightmare! After all this waiting, to be delayed going because of other people's inability to do their jobs is just like pouring salt in the wounds. We've been too patient in dealing with this agency. We accepted their excuses and just thought that time was on our side. I don't necessarily feel like we have a lot of time at this point. I'm VERY hopeful for a September referral... and of course would feel as if a miracle had occurred if it came in August. This is stressing me out and I'm very angry with all of these people (whoever they are) that have done their jobs half-way! We are checking to see if there is any way to expedite the paperwork in Atlanta but I'm not counting on it. I guess it is a good thing I did get sick this morning because otherwise I wouldn't have gotten a message from her until late this afternoon. I was planning on working in the school garden after work today. And that's another thing... she was supposed to be calling Geoff at work because he is more reachable than I am. He says she never calls the same number twice.

Okay, I guess I'm done venting... but you know you can't make this kind of crap up and I think I'm going back to bed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confused Zucchini!

Okay... so do these two veggies look alike? No. Well, believe it or not they both came from the same zucchini plant. Geoff just swore that there was no way. The round one looks amazing like the baby pumpkins that I am growing on the row next to it. I figure that I grew the zucchini that wanted to be a pumpkin!
By the way, we ate it and it tasted just like it was supposed to!

Another Butterfly Adventure

It's that time again. I've been working at home and at school growing plants for the butterflies. My plan is to have the school butterfly garden full of Milkweed plants in full bloom when the kids arrive in August. It will be just in time for the Monarch Butterflies! I've got over 100 plants at my house and at school and I check on them and take care of them every day. Well last Thursday I popped in at the Outdoor Classroom and as I was walking up to feed the fish, I noticed something on the Dill Weed that I had planted. I have planted Dill, Fennel, and Basil in hopes of maybe attracting Swallowtails to lay their eggs on these plants. The Swallowtails are all over the place around here but I have never seen a caterpillar before so I thought it would be fun to see if attracting the larva is as easy as it is to attract Monarchs. I came right home and began researching this caterpillar! Low and behold it IS Swallowtail caterpillars! Of course, I'm going nuts because there are no kids to share this experience with! But I am documenting it and will show them in the lab as soon as they come back. (To see a close-up, click on each picture)

This picture shows just how small they were! Geoff came home from work that day and I had the pictures up on the computer blown up so I could see them easily. So when we went to look at them again, he just busted out laughing that he had no idea how small they really were!

So here's a blow by blow of the progress so far...

Friday ~
Still pretty small!

Saturday ~
Finally starting to look like a Swallowtail caterpillar!

Sunday ~
Much bigger!

And when I came back to look at them this afternoon... they had 2 new neighbors and about 6 eggs waiting to hatch!

And just imagine, all this excitement is going on in this little clump of Dill Weed! I really enjoy watching Nature at work. I have ordered a Butterfly tent to hopefully transfer the caterpillars into before they finish their development. Swallowtails tend to wander off before they turn into a chrysalis and I really want to see the whole process!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day!

Wow! Another Father's Day in waiting! The difference is this year we really do see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've been a teary-eyed mess on and off all day just thinking that next year we will have Lexi. I know that Geoff is already a father to Sara and Grandfather to Brennen and nothing can ever take away from that but it will be different for him to have his very own baby to love and feel the joy of watching her grow before our eyes.

Well, this year we had a very nice Father's Day celebration with my family. We all went to my sister's house to cook out and play in the pool. It was so nice having everyone there and we all had such a nice time. We had a feast!!! To make the day even more special my mom had a GREAT surprise for Geoff and me! She finished the 100 Good Wishes Quilt!!! It's been mostly finished for over a year now but still had a few stitches to be completed. Mom finished them yesterday morning and wrapped the quilt in the most precious baby girl paper and put the most perfect card in the box for us. As things started to wind down, they called my Dad to come inside and I followed to find everyone gathered in the living room. (Sneaky Geoff hid behind the camera so that is why he is not the pictures!) I had no idea what was in the box and was quite confused as to why I was opening a present on Father's Day. Needless to say, tears welled up in my eyes as I began to realize what was in the box! I did complain about the fact that I was in my bathing suit, no makeup and hair all messed up for the pictures... some warning would have been nice! Apparently mom has been waiting for quite some time to put the finishing stiches in the quilt and for a family gathering. I can't even begin to express how happy this quilt has made me. It started out as something to do to help pass the time and it was a huge request to make of Mom. It turned out to be a very special "event" over time where I bonded with family, friends, and strangers over the making of this precious quilt. It is time with my Mom and a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I can't wait to meet everyone at the airport with my Mom and Dad there waiting with the quilt. Lexi will get wrapped in it at the air port even if it is hot! The pictures below show that she most likely won't mind because Brennen sure loved playing in it! We've really had a great time looking at the fabric in the quilt and remembering who sent the scraps. I used to know almost all of them but have gotten a bit rusty during the wait. I love the star fabric on the back as it reminds me of the many wishes in the quilt and of our very own wish to bring our daughter home. Mom has made me promise not to put it on my bed and sleep with it to make sure it stays clean and fresh for Lexi ... but I know that every so often I'll be cuddling with it dreaming of the near future and the little bundle that will be wrapped inside!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Enjoying the summer...

Tomorrow marks two things in my mind... Most importantly~ Susan and Riz head to China join Sophia and then non-remarkfully - - - the end of the 2nd week of summer school (2 weeks to go!) I can only imagine how the Susan and Riz must feel! I can't wait until it is our turn! I also can't wait to meet little Sophia! This is so exciting!

I can't remember a more busy summer than this one. I am not sure if I just have packed it full of business or what! Today I told one of the custodians at work that I would NOT be back at work getting dirty in the garden. Well, after lunch with Sara and Brennen what did I do but head BACK to school and work in the butterfly garden until almost 6 o'clock! I counted the number of milkweed in the garden before I left and have a little over 100 plants to work with! I have about the same number at home! I am making sure that the Monarch butterflies that come my way this summer find a plenty of milkweed to lay their eggs on. This is my "mission" for the summer!

On another note... a few weeks ago I was just venting about not having a "vacation" over the last 3 years. We DID book a condo on the beach just one hour away for July! It made it easier that my sister and her husband split the cost. She loves the beach as much as I do and we will gladly soak up some sun in our nearby habitat! With the cost of gas, we really didn't want to go too far away. Afterall, a beach is a beach... is a beach, if you really love the beach! Both of us have invited our daughters and their husbands and children to come up for a few days. We will have plenty of room and I'm sure we will have an awesome time. I actually had a DR. appointment tomorrow but postponed because every day I teach Summer school pays for about one day that we will be there. After tomorrow, just two more weeks!

And speaking of July, on July 2nd Brennen will be one year old! I can't believe that last year this time we were awaiting his arrival! If I had not witnessed his development over the past year, I could not be certain that he is ours! I do think that in December he will welcome a baby sister! I just have a "feeling". Sara's pregnancy has been so different this time! I just think a baby girl would be perfect but who knows... our heavenly father knows what is best for all of us! But you never know.... my feelings about a baby girl could just be a sign for our Baby Lexi! The time is near..... we still patiently wait.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Summer Fun With Brennen

What fun summer is through the eyes of a child! Especially when that child is experiencing things for the first time! Sara and Brennen came to see me today to play in his little pool. These are some of my favorite shots of him that we took today. By the way, he now has another tooth coming through up top and the two bottom two are on their way. Before his first birthday next month he will have 4 teeth! I just can't believe how that little black haired infant has morphed into this sandy blonde boy!

This is Brennen's cheese ball grin!

A Cute Little Ladybug Just in time for Referrals

Last Saturday we were working in the yard and I came across this beautiful ladybug on one of my Milkweed plants. I know there are hundreds of kinds of ladybugs but I've never seen one like this. She looks very Asian don't you think? (Click on the picture to see a great close up!) She hung around for awhile and then left. So far we have no aphids for her to eat (and hopefully it will stay that way!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ahh.... now that's better!

I can't believe after my long winded "vent" last night that this evening we got an email from our agency informing us that the official "cut-off" date for referrals this month is Jan. 22! That's really good! I'm happy with that! Now there are 36 days between where they are and US! I know in the world of Chinese adoption 36 days could take a long time still but I am hopeful that this trend will continue. If and that's a BIG IF, they were to continue to this kind of progress each month we very well could have a referral in the fall! I know too well though to get my hopes up too high. Patience, Wanda... Patience.

Things were better at work today too. I had to ease up on myself and just realize that it is okay to not have things PERFECT. My brother has been helping me at school too. He is always a terrific help! Before we left today, I checked on the garden and low and behold I had 3 zucchinis ready to pick! I'm like a kid in a candy store! I had to take them to the office and show everyone and of course, we had one of them tonight! I love watching things grow! Especially things that I planted, nurtured and picked! I know sometimes it takes so little to amuse me!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's June 3rd... What is going on?? Time to get real!

Ahhh.... I'm frustrated!!! Normally by now referrals would be out or at least RUMORED to be out but this month nothing concrete so far!!! It's driving me a little nuts. ME.. the one who has grown accustomed to WAITING with PATIENCE! Don't get me wrong, I still have patience and I still will wait but I just need to know SOMETHING!

Maybe it is just TODAY that is bothering me so badly. I am in my 3rd day of Summer School. I had one day to prepare and did not get my list of 450 students until the last three hours of work time on our "preplanning day". I didn't have kids on Monday but began with ever bit of effort in my body today. I'm working with teachers from all around the county that think I am also a trouble shooting technician... NOT!!!!! I was coping fairly well today until about mid-morning when a "group" of teachers decided to rearrange my schedule WITHOUT telling me. This in my #1 pet-peeve! I AM an educator who PLANS for her class as much as ANY OTHER TEACHER and this threw a curve ball in my plan. I had stayed late... worked at home for 2 hours to plan to TODAY'S classes. Needless to say, I was NOT a happy camper! I did make sure the teacher knew that I was irritated with THEM... and as professionally as possible let the kids know that this was NOT my normal routine. .... TIMEOUT... I'm teaching Summer School not because I need something to do but because I don't want some random teacher in my room messing with my stuff!!! I've been teaching 21 years and this is my 3rd summer school class with the first two being my FIRST TWO years of teaching.

I know I'm venting! Bear with me.

So after another hard day at work, I came home and laid in bed for a few hours just trying to relax. Tomorrow will be better... tomorrow will be better.... yes! And referrals WILL come soon!

As I laid in bed today I began to think about the YEARS we have waited. We have not taken a vacation since we began. Can I tell you how many vacation days Geoff has LOST in the name of "our referral will come THIS year"???? I don't need a fancy vacation... I just want to not plan our entire life around WHEN the referral will come. At this point, I'm REALLY thinking we should brace ourselves for a December referral and the dreaded trip DURING tax season. (The best thing here is that Geoff's new employers totally get it and will not balk if he is gone during the height of tax season... God bless them!!) This does hurt a lot. At this point, I'll be happy if I'm wrong.

So my thinking is that all of this AGGRAVATION of teaching summer school should fuel a much delayed vacation for us. I don't need a fancy long vacation.. just something beyond our pitiful little town and not a visit to relatives (no offense intended!). So we are on the look out for a place not too far from us but not too close either. Gas prices are KILLING everyone! I like the beach... Geoff likes the golf course. So where oh, where do we go??? Maybe a vacation and spending money that we SHOULD be saving for our adoption expenses will turn things around. We shall see.... and please CCAA PLEASE send some referrals!!! I am ready for some news. I don't care if it is ONE day of referrals as long as we see that progress is being made.

On another note... Sara, Chris and Brennen returned home yesterday from a week long trip to visit his family. Let me just say... Brennen IS NOT allowed to go away for another whole week EVER again. I missed the little guy so much!! He even cut his first tooth last week while away. Sara brought him to see me today at work during the height of the frustration of my day and I must say I now truly know what it is like to be ADD. All I wanted to do was scoup him up and kiss him all over! To my dear grandson's credit though, when I did have a "moment" for him, he gave me a KISS! He melts my heart like no other!