Friday, September 30, 2011

National Week of the People's Republic of China

October 1st is the "National day of the People's Republic of China".  National Day is celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau with a variety of government organized festivities, including fireworks and concerts. Public places, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, are decorated in a festive themes.

What this means to us is that all government offices are shut down for a week.

Oh yeah, and since we did not get our LOA this week, we know that 1) we will not travel in 2011 & 2) we won't get our LOA for at least a week and a half more (probably more).

I was really bummed so we decided to get splurge and get Chinese takeout and a good bottle of wine.   I found the bottle of wine, usually $40/bottle, at Busch's, our local grocery store, for 20 bucks! For those of you in Saline, "Bill" recommended it and it is awesome. :-)

The wine and food were good but the fortune cookie was what really saved me.

"Time heals all wounds. Keep your Chin up".

Clearly I am not wounded but this was still helpful today!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Update from orphanage!!


We received an update from the orphanage this morning, yea!! Our awesome social worker is on vacation but  took the time to forward on the good news!!

At 11 months Emma is doing amazing AND is with a foster family. We could not be happier to get the update below!  Now we just need an LOA to come and get our baby!!!


Can we have updated measurements, specifically head, chest, height, and weight?  And can the orphanage give the date that the measurements were taken?
height 71cm, weight 18P, head 42cm, chest 42cm, foot 11cm teeth 1, this month.

Can she sit up unassisted?

Can she stand with assistance , such as holding onto a chair?

Can she walk around a low table by holding on?
Yes,she can walk with holding hands.

Does she live with a foster family?
a foster family.

Can she say any words?
Yes,such as "MaMa","DaDa"

Does she eat solid food?  If so, what food?
Yes,some fruit(pear and apple) and cake.
Note - we sent our family photo album and it it put a picture of us at Lexie's 2nd birthday and said we like to eat cake!! :-)

Can she wave hello or goodbye?

Also, Chun Xiao's first birthday is coming up (it is 10/5).  Her parents would like to wish her a happy birthday.  They would be glad to send a care package for the children. Please advise if this is acceptable to Kunming Children’s Welfare Institute.
Yes,of course.Here is the address of the orphanage:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You had me at hello

We are (still) awaiting the elusive letter of approval from China (85 days after our letter of intent to adopt Chun Xiao). We are officially at the "Average" wait time for our LOA..meaning 1/2 the people wait longer then this to get their LOA.  To be honest, it is really dragging on and I can't imagine how people wait 4+ months...I hope I never have to find out. On a more practical matter, the Chinese Gov't shuts down the first two weeks in October so we really want them to get our approval letter in the mail by this Friday 9/30, otherwise we won't get it for another 2 weeks (at least).

While we wait, we have had a crazy schedule -- new school year, vacations, surgery for matt, time off for being sick...oh, yeah, and redecorating. To be frank, it has been what has gotten me through the last month.  I have needed something to do to take my mind off of Emma sitting in an orphanage - or a foster village - without her forever family.

Anyway, here is what we have been up to during our LOA wait...

Playroom: new storage unit - ikea Expedit, two Pair of curtains (crafty Christy took 2 panels and cut them into 4), Organization tags for the baskets (somehow I made these with $3 of supplies from target!), Free downloadable wall art!

Desk & Paperwork storage area (this is not new however we reinforced the shelf to ensure it can hold all of our adoption file that seems to just get bigger and bigger!)

Living Room - new carpet (out with the grey white carpet!) and & new media center. LOVE the storage, do you see a storage theme in the rooms?! 

 PS - the ferns are more free downloadable art! It took us forever to hang the art evenly next to the TV, are they right?!

A few throw pillows, lamps and curtains can really change a room!

Dining Room - new items for the freshly painted mantle (it use to be a lovely two toned mantle from 1988). I love the crisp white look! Anyone ever painted their brick as well?!

So, all in all, yes, Ikea, you had me at hello.   Ideas start churning, projects developing,  and time passing. Perfect for what we need right now.

I know some of you will think this is crazy...but in reality this is actually normal behavior during "paperchasing" waiting periods. :-). Check out the family below's blog and what they bought did during their LOA wait. This family is hilarious...they are from Canada and the husband writes the blog, I just love reading it.  Kind of like Bridget Jones Diary for husbands. :-) Sums up most of my conversations with Matt perfectly.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hope written!

Good news!! Little Elisyn is eligible (and scheduled) for heart surgery next month at U of M!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Limousine & Emma Jean

Funny story -- my girlfriend Kate has a 3 year old named Anne.  Anne saw a limousine for the first time this weekend and asked her mom what it was. Her mom told her "its a limousine".  To that, Anne replied "oh, just like Emma Jean!" ( In case you don't get it, it rhymes!). Too cute.  :-)

On our LOA...we got an update from our agency today. Our LOA has been "in process" since 9/2/2011. This is good news, it means it is out of "translation" and are now being reviewed to be approved.   Historically, our agency said they get the LOA 3-4 weeks after the date of "in process". This means we can expect to get the LOA the last week in September.

This would put us at mid December for our Travel Approval (TA).  Some folks travel 6 days after TA, others won't travel for a month after TA. It depends on when the US can fit you into their Consulate appointment.

Why is this all so important? Its not just Christmas plans we need to think about. The date we pick up Emma (termed "Gotcha Day") has tax implications If we pick up Emma in the fiscal year 2011, we will be able to apply for the tax credit in late Jan of 2012.  Background on the credit -- it is ~$13,000 and you can't electronically file. In addition, almost everyone filing the credit is getting audited (adding at least 6 mos to your tax refund to end up in your bank account). So if we pick Emma up in December of 2011, we could get the tax credit back in our hands in the fall of 2012.

If we don't pick her up until 1/1 or after, we can't file for the tax credit until late Jan of 2013. Assuming they are still auditing everyone, we wouldn't get the tax credit until Sept/Oct 2013!!  By then, Emma will be 3 (and Lexie in Kindergarten!)!  The credit is a nice to have, I am not complaining. Our timing is just a pickle.

On the upside, Emma's room got painted this weekend! I changed my mind last minute and we decided to paint it a neutral color called "Linen". In all reality, it looks a little like gray cement.  Matt said it felt very "institutional". Lovely. Not exactly the feeling I was going for. I think it will be better once we get all of the stuff in there though.

We also met Matt's dad at Ikea on Friday. Collectively we significantly added to the stimulation of the US economy.  I love Ikea, I can't help it.  I will post pictures when I get things finalized in the nursery.

On Ikea -- my friend Martha's daughters room was selected by Ikea this week as their showcase room - check it out here -- too cool!  Martha also recently sent me some pins of Emma and "CHN" (for China!) -- she is so crafty!

Hope everyone is enjoying fall!  We went to a local fair with my cousin Johnny this weekend.  Lexie had a blast! You can tell by the picture below, Johnny is one of those guys that just shines! We love him to the ends of the earth and we're so happy we were able to spend the day with him. Plus, Lexie saw a pig poop and has been talking about it nonstop since. :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why are adoptions so expensive?

I get asked a lot - why are adoptions so expensive?  Well, for the Lillie family, it is because I am nesting and have somehow started to renovate every room in the house. Seriously, every room has something going on with it.  I tell myself this is fine behavior because it gives me something else to focus on during the LOA wait.  The problem with this logic is that my husband ends up with 90% of the projects himself. I don't think he appreciates it when I get these "great new ideas".

My latest idea -- we decided to renovate Emma's closet (because what 11 mos old doesn't need a renovated walk in closet?!).

BTW - Emma turned 11 mos today! I can't believe she is going to be 1 soon and we will miss it! It totally sucks that we can't be there but I take comfort in knowing she will love the walk in closet when she finally gets home.

Just kidding. :-)  I have to make light somehow of the situation or I will go bonkers.

Hope everyone had a relaxing labor day!   I want to leave you with a hilarious picture of my little farmer from our local fair on Friday.  Gotta love fake cows.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Locked up like Fort Knox

Let me start by saying we are SO thankful for the Kunming Social Welfare Institute (SWI) for caring for our daughter for the past 11 mos. That said, it is like Fort Knox over there when it comes to information.

We have a friend, Carol Oakes, who is in Kunming this week to pick up her son, Samuel. On her tour of the orphanage, she took a photo of Emma (and two other waiting children) to inquire about them.

Here is a recap of the visit:
  • Carol said that almost all of the babies there were < 6 mos of age. 
  • She said that there are 150 children in the SWI.
  • She said that there are 550 children in the foster villages (program attached to the SWI).
  • She said that ~150 children get adopted each year out of both foster village and the SWI. Note - this is about 20% of all of the available kids.  The remainder of the kids may be eligible the next year or may, eventually, "age out" of the system at 14 when they are deemed un-adoptable. So sad.

The bad news --
Unfortunately, Carol was not able to get ANY information for any of the waiting children she was looking into. She was not able to get an update at all about Emma, not even to confirm / deny if she was physically at the SWI.

The good news -
When Carol walked around the SWI, she said her guide made sure she could visibly look at as many of the babies as possible in the hopes of recognition.  She did not see any of the waiting children she was looking for.  Also, the above picture was taken by Carol. So she was able to tour the orphanage and confirm the set up that we had seen in previous pictures.  It is super clean!

In fact, Carol, like so many others, said that the orphanage was strangely sterile, quiet, and efficient.  Here is a snippet from a friend who has been to the SWI.  Again, I am so thankful to the Kunming SWI for caring for Emma. But I also want to share with others what we know about the SWI so they understand WHY we have no information about Emma while we finalize this process and what Emma has been through when she comes home.

"Kunming SWI (Social Welfare Institute) is one of the great mysterious orphanages in the Chinese system (of well over 1000 orphanages).  It is known to be spotlessly clean and efficiently run.  A foreign organization, the Sunrise Education Foundation runs the baby room there and most children by one year of age are placed outside the orphanage into foster care. Older children that have severe medical needs remain in the orphanage past the first year of their lives.  I've heard mixed reports from families that have been there.  Some say that there is a sadness to the orphanage, perhaps because of those who are left behind and perhaps because efficiency seems to dominate over nuturing care for the older children.  Others feel the children are warmly cared for.  Just one of the many conflicting reports about this highly thought of, inaccessible orphanage.  The Director is absolutely famous in the adoption world for her unwillingness to communicate with waiting families.  Her reply to any request for updates or pictures seems to be a strong no, with rare exception.  

In contrast Kunming's active fostercare program which located in Anning county, about 1 hour directly to the west of the city is highly thought of in nearly every way, a model program. There are several villages that house children from the orphanage with foster families. There are 550 children living in Anning who are part of the orphanage system.  The thought is that foster care helps the children experience family life and makes the transition to their forever families easier.  They live in families with 2-3 other children from the SWI and are returned to the orphanage a week prior to adoption day."

I will be honest -- it is super frustrating to see other adoptive parents get updates on their children. They send care packages, birthday cakes, get pictures, etc. We realize now we will most likely never get a picture of Emma until the day we pick her up. Carol said she had a picture of Samuel when he was 4 mos old. No other pictures were ever provided.  Samuel was 18 mos at pickup time. She said she wasn't sure if she would recognize him. :-(  

All of this (whining) said, I need to put this silliness aside and focus on Emma. She is the one who has been through more than anything I can ever imagine. 

She was the one who was left when she was one day old. One. Day. Old.  It breaks my heart to think of a mother having to make that decision.

She was the one who was left at 4 pounds on a doorstep somewhere, in the hopes that the government could care for her better than her biological parents.  

She is the one that is a survivor. She has been through more in her first year of life than I will ever go through in my adult life. If I don't get a picture, or an update, or a measurement until the day we meet, that is fine with me.  God has given be this opportunity to parent Emma and for that I am grateful.


PS - THANK YOU ALL for the prayers for Elisyn.  She has had a HUGE first week of being home.  Her mother, Jamie, is regularly updating their blog, feel free to follow along.

PPS - no.... I have no update on our LOA. We are at day 30 now (with the wait normally being 30-90 days).  Recently, some individuals have been waiting as long as 4 months for their LOA. So we are just going to have to suck it up and hope that we get it in < 90 days.  For those of you following my blog that are waiting > 90 days, here is a shout out (note - this is not my picture but is a fellow bloggers' daughter and the paper was photoshoped in!!)!!