Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lilly Goes to Church
Now that Miss Lilly's nighttime schedule is a little more regular, I feel like a human most mornings now instead of the loser in an Ultimate Fighting Championship. And instead of running back to bed and hopping back under the covers to nap while she naps, I get ready and go places now. Normalcy is slowly returning. One good place to be back in is church. Last week Lilly napped during the service but this week she hung out in the nursery and did great! I don't know if that's good or bad... healthy attachment or not??? But she was happy to see me return and I was refreshed after getting an hour of free babysitting & listening to the service instead of juggling a wiggly baby! Praise the Lord!
Lilly meets Pastor Boyd for the first time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Baby Shower Saturday
This morning the ladies of our church celebrated Miss Lilly with a very sweet baby shower. I had resisted at first... what self respecting Mother of 4 has a baby shower??? but am glad I did it. Mrs. Molly, Alicia & Amy were very kind to open their home and we received so many nice things... including some basics I haven't replaced after Baby #3 outgrew them 6 years ago. Gifts like a baby monitor... a pack & play... life got a little easier this morning!

Whew!!! Thank you to my G-Ma "Mama Ree" for what possibly was the best gift of all... especially for my pocketbook... about 6 weeks worth of FREE DIAPERS! Good things also come in big packages after all!

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Song of Solomon 2:1
Despite my brownish/black thumb, my Mama gave me Lily of the Valley plants for my yard. My Mom & Dad have an equisite yard... one I've mentioned here before... and I may need her to help me not kill these beautiful plants!

Thanks to Mrs. Tomma, Miss Lilly got a comfy set of arms to rock her while the party wrapped up. I can't think of a better way to end her introduction to the church ladies than in the arms of a sweet, kind & generous friend!

Friday, June 27, 2008

It looks like CHOCOLATE PIE narrowly beat out apple pie as the crowd favorite. If you're looking for a good apple pie look no further than your grocer's freezer... Marie Callender's makes the best around. Top w/ ice cream and you couldn't make it better... believe me... I've tried. Since it's summertime I thought I'd pass along my Mama's frozen chocolate pie recipe. She's been making and we've been eating this for years... Big Daddy T even requests this for his birthday "cake" every year!

Sharoney’s Chocolate Pie
Our family’s FAVORITE chocolate pie

Oreo pie crust
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 block cream cheese
1 container Cool Whip
2 blocks of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate baking squares
Allow cream cheese to soften. Mix cream cheese with cool whip & Eagle Brand milk. Melt chocolate squares in the microwave and pour into cream cheese mixtures. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour into Oreo crust & freeze 8 hours. Yum! Yum!
Check out the new poll for the holiday week!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today is June 26th and it's the 1 month anniversary of our "Gotcha Day..." the day Yan Ni Lu became Lilly Lu and our daughter. It's quite appropriate I end our referral story on this day... and I'm glad... I'm ready for some more kitty pictures... how 'bout you? :)
I could not believe what I had done. After all that had happened over the past 2 weeks and 2 days to make this miracle a reality, I had to go and mess it all up by leaving Big Daddy T’s passport in the copier at Staples. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. and the store had been closed for an hour. I immediately pick up the phone and call my friend Harriet. Harriet & her husband know EVERYBODY in our small town.
“Who owns Staples?” I blurt into the phone to Harriet’s husband… not even taking time to say hello or ask to speak to my friend.
“Uh… well…” he stuttered. He was probably ½ asleep or engrossed in a book at that hour and my question was a peculiar one.
“I’m not sure” he continued, “but I know K.K. works for Staples.”
“K.K… great!” I knew K.K. His wife C.K. was one of my mom’s best friends. I could call K.K. and that’s just what I did.
“K.K…. this is ANJ” I used my maiden name so he’d know exactly who I was. I explained briefly what happened… the potentially grievous mistake I had made and asked if he could help. ”Beep” My call waiting was going off. ”Hold on K.K… let me get this in case it’s Big Daddy T.”
It was.
“Did you find out anything?” he asked
“I’m working on it.” I say desperately
“Well, it seems like one of my cousins (who lives in a neighboring small town) used to work at Staples… I’m going to try him.”
“Great… I’ll keep working here.” I clicked back over to K.K. who informed me he worked for the corporate side of Staples, making calls to businesses to sell Staples’ goods & services. But he said that 911 usually has a “call” person to contact in case of an alarm & he would call & see who was the “call” person for emergencies.
“Oh, that would be great! Call me back and thanks a million, gazillion K.K.” I had known K.K. since I was a teenager and he probably thought I grew up not only to be really flaky but down right dumb too. How could I mess up something so important???
I was now waiting on two people to get back to me. In the meantime I went to my closet and literally got ON MY FACE and prayed to God for just one more miracle. I was in a pickle and He was the only one who could get me out. What if we couldn’t get in? Could we call 911 and explain our situation? What if we got in to Staples and the passport wasn’t there? What if someone found it and walked off with it? I was about to throw up. The phone started to ring. I hopped off the closet carpet and ran to answer it. It was BDT.
“Hey… what did you find out?”
”Well, my cousin does still work there and he said he could get us in at 6:30 a.m. I told him that wouldn’t do… we are leaving at 5:30 a.m. so he’s going to try and call the manager.”
“O.K… keep me posted.”
As soon as I hung up K.K. called.
“911 doesn’t have a call person for Staples which is really unusual,” he informed me. Yeah, and really unfortunate too! He also said he knew a girl who worked there and tried to call her to find out the manager’s name but she wasn’t home. Also, unfortunate. He promised to keep working & I thanked him again. About 5 mintues later Big Daddy T called again.
“Hey.” I was almost afraid to ask what he found out. Our options were running low.
“The manager is on his way back to the store. My cousin called him and he was on his way home & has turned around. He knew exactly what we were looking for… he had put it in the store safe earlier… I’ll be home in a few minutes.”
And with that I about passed out from relief. Thank you God… thank you for once again confirming that Your hand is all over this situation and that NOTHING is impossible with YOU! From that moment the verse Ephesians 3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” was upon my heart and mind. I never would have imagined that I would be about to board the same plane as those who had unintentionally left me in the “referral dust” of that April day. I never imagined that it would be possible for all the necessary paperwork and travel arrangements to be accomplished in 2 weeks time. I had prayed for this baby so many times and He gave me everything I asked & more. To sit back and look at where we were and what had been overcome was astounding. It was divine.
It was dark when my Dad arrived early the next morning to drive us to the airport. As I walked out the front door I looked around my dimly lit house. I would come back through that door as the mother of 4. I left with a peace and a thankfulness and an awe about all that had happened. A journey that had highs that far outweighed the lows and with the best yet to come.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I wanted to get moving right away on whatever we needed to do to get ready to travel to China. I had been reading on… what else?... The Rumor Queen that since everybody & their brother was trying to go to China for the Olympics, the time required to obtain an entry visa into China had really slowed down. The process that usually took around a week, was taking up to 6 weeks and sometimes more. We received our original documents via FedEx from CAWLI Monday afternoon, May 5th. I had talked to M. briefly during “The Call” the previous Friday about travel… and specifically that the visa application says to guesstimate an “arrival date” into China 6 weeks after referral, and did she think that would be the case for us? She said yes… they were shooting for June 19th… no earlier. We had talked to Lillian, the director, even earlier than that. We were now a group of 1 instead of 1 in a group of 18. What did would that mean for travel? She assured us we could travel alone but we would not have a doctor accompany us, as is the norm for all travel groups, and that we may incur more costs because we would not be splitting guides, tips, blocks of rooms, etc. with 17 other families. We were fine with that. We would rather go alone to pick our daughter us ASAP, than wait until the agency had another group scheduled to go ??? perhaps even after the Olympics. So, after receiving all our documents Monday morning, Tuesday I emailed M. at the agency to confirm we were ACCEPTING our referral and to please pass along more instructions for our visa applications. I had made myself busy with all the paperwork when the phone rang. It was Big Daddy T.
“Hey what’s up?” I answered
“Not much… have you talked to Lillian today?” he asked.
My heart sank. Talked to Lillian? The big kahuna? The empress of the adoption world? I would probably only talk to her if something was wrong. Was something wrong? T. actually did sound kind of serious.
“No… why? What’s wrong?” I asked worriedly.
“Well, she called me not too long ago and said they’ve been talking at the office this morning and said…
It sounded like his voice was in slow motion… like a record being slowed where the voice is distorted. Said what? Out with it man! Spit it out… I wanted to yell…
“ that they think it would be a lot easier if we could just go to China with our original group and wondered if we could do that?”
Bonk! Crash! Splat! Thud! I hit the floor. Once I regained a level of consciousness and picked back up the phone I said “Are you kidding me?”
“No… she said she didn’t know 100% if we can pull it off but she’s going to try and we need to book tickets and overnight the visa applications no later than tomorrow. Do you want to do that?”
Was he on crack? YES! The chance to leave in 2 short weeks to pick up my daughter? YES! The thought was unbelievable. CAWLI was unbelievable! Lillian was trying to pull off another miracle and my faith in her was as solid as ever. Now, would the Chinese government cooperate?
Within 15 minutes Big Daddy T had booked 3 round trip tickets to China & back on United Airlines. Lillian had told him where to fly in & where to fly out and SHAZAM! It was done! I was a maniac all afternoon doing paperwork, making sure every “T” was crossed and “I” was dotted just right… there was no room for error with the time crunch. I bolted over to FedEx the next morning and overnighted the expedited visa applications to New York City. The expedited turn around time claimed to be 2-3 business days and that gave us a little room to spare. So… 5 days after we received our referral we had:
1.) Tickets to China… check!
2.) Visas applied for… check!
Now all we needed was in the next 13 days was:
1,) TA…. Travel Approval. The province where each baby/child lives in China issues prospective adoptive parents “approval” to travel to China and come pick up their baby. This usually happens 3-5 weeks after parents have accepted their referral. TA’s are usually good for 3 months from the issue date, but families try to travel ASAP… around 2-3 weeks after receiving their TA. We now needed our TA in 2 weeks and all we could do was wait.
2.) CA… Consulate Appointment. Once parents complete the Chinese side of the adoption in their child’s province, ALL American parents must fly to Guangzhou to see the United States consulate to obtain an immigrant visa for the baby to enter the USA. Consulate Appointments cannot be made until TA is issued.

With additional waiting and worrying on my hands, I also had the monumental task of packing for a 16 day trip ½ way around the world for myself, my husband & Baby #1… PLUS, get a detailed scheduled lined up for leaving Babies #2 & 3 home without me for 16 days. What I had planned on doing in 6 weeks would now be crammed into 2… heck, I planned my wedding in 4 months so by golly, this itty bitty trip to China would be cake… right?

Day 6 after receiving our referral I get another call from my agency. The Chinese consulate had our visa apps. but wanted proof that Baby #1 is indeed a student. I needed to fax school records ASAP. Were they kidding me? Did they really think I had the time or energy to be smuggling some 10-yr-old counter intelligence spy into China? NO! The kid is a kid. But… in typical fashion… I jumped through China’s hoop. Mrs. J at Baby #1’s school got hopping right away on the task and within 22 minutes of the agency’s phone call we had a letter on fancy school letterhead & attendance records in New York City! After 3 ½ years, I had this hoop jumping thing down to a science!

May 16th… two weeks after receiving our referral & 6 days from being scheduled to leave our visa’s arrived! Hallelujah! I emailed the agency’s office to see if that was the last major hurdle. No. Darn! We were still waiting on TA… I forgot about that pesky little detail!
“But, no worries… if it doesn’t come in before you leave we’ll just have a copy faxed to the orphanage.” Sounded risky, but I trusted them completely… they had never let me down before! I looked like we were a go!
May 20th… 48 hours before leaving I got an email from the agency. Subject: “Good News!” I clicked on it to learn they had received a faxed copy of our TA… the original would be waiting for us in China. That allowed CAWLI to contact the US Consulate and make a request for our Consulate Appointment.
May 21st… 24 hours before leaving we learn the original TA arrived at our agency. All systems go… our CA was scheduled for June 4th… we’d receive her visa on the 5th and be coming home on the 6th. Do you know how huge that is? What a miracle? Literally three weeks before I didn’t even know if I was getting a baby and now, I was zipping up suitcases and kissing babies goodbye to go pick her up? Folks, all I can say is THIS is when you KNOW what kind of adoption agency you have. All agencies look good at information meetings. All agencies look good when things go smooth. Most agencies can handle little hiccups here and there. But, when things go wrong… when nightmares happen… THAT’S when you see what your agency is made of. THAT’S when you see the character of those who are working on your behalf. How do they advocate for you? How do they fight for you? How do they move heaven & earth to make things happen for you? Go without sleep… make hard phone calls… and ask brave questions? Lillian and her staff at China Adoption with Love had done all those things. She was not going to rest until we had our baby. And we were on our way. This was happening. In less than 24 hours I was going to be on an airplane on my way to China to FINALLY pick up my baby. How many times had I driven past the Atlanta airport and thought about that day? Thought about sitting on those runways and taking off for a land far, far away?

It was dark outside. Babies 2 & 3 were already at my mom’s house and in bed. Suitcases sat by the front door. I got my handy, dandy passport neck carrier out and got ready to put all our important papers in it for the trip the next morning. ID… check. Wallet… check. Passport 1… check. Passport 2… check. Passport 3… passport 3… WHERE IS PASSPORT #3??? That afternoon I had 3 passports and now I only had 2 and I was leaving at 5:30 a.m. for the airport…. WHERE IN THE HECK WAS PASSPORT #3. Searching… scrambling… papers flying all around my kitchen… I couldn’t find the passport. I looked through my document file. No passport. Where could it be? No passport… no plane. No plane… no trip. No trip… no baby. SOMEBODY GET ME A XANAX PRONTO!!!! O.K… calm down sister… think. I retraced my steps. I knew I had the passport that day. I had to make copies for both the Chinese and the American sides of the adoption. Yes… copies… I made the copies. Oh &*#*@^… the copies!!! I knew what I had done. I left the passport in the copier. Time: 9:45 p.m. Please God in Heaven let Staples be open until 10:00 p.m… please God, PLEASE! Big Daddy T. hopped in his Chevy Silverado and raced to town like a wild cowboy. Time 9:55 p.m… phone rings. It’s T… Staples is closed.
To be continued......

Monday, June 23, 2008

It was my agency on the phone. What did they want? Was it good news or bad? I didn't want to know... I was too nervous.
“Oh hey M… how are you?” I tried to act casual. I truly was caught off guard. NOTHING had come across The Rumor Queen site that morning. NO ONE had posted any emails confirming a “call.”
“I’m very good. I’m just sitting here looking at a picture of your daughter." she said with a slight hint of pep in her cool voice. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!” I shrilled into the phone.
I could not believe she just said those words. It had happened. We DID INDEED receive a referral. Less than a month after that sad April morning when I thought all had gone wrong with the world, everything had been set right again and now M. at the CAWLI office was holding an assignment sent just for me.
“Hold on, hold on… “ I said breathlessly as I scrambled around my office for that fancy ladybug “The Call” sheet I had printed off another parent’s blog and a pen.
“Okay, Okay… what time is it?” I started filling out the sheet beginning with “Time of Call” and “Person Calling.”
“She was born August 20, 2007.” M. started giving me my daughter’s information slowly. I wrote her birthday on the “Child’s Chinese Name” line and from there it was a hopeless cause with the sheet… I just started writing as fast as I couldm, wherever I could.
“Oh my gosh…” (that would be an annoyingly repetitive statement from me throughout the call) “she’s not even a year old… how old does that make her?” M & I started doing the math in our head. Eight months. Oh mercy this is too good to be true!
“She is Jiangxi Province in the town of Nanfeng.” I got a Jiangxi baby too!!! Could this be real? I had been so excited the month before when I heard my LID group was getting babies from Jiangxi… I’m not sure why… I just always wanted a Jiangxi baby.”
And so it went. M. continued the list of facts slowly making sure to spell each detail so I got it just right. Her Chinese name, her height & weight, her medical information, her schedule.
And finally I thought to ask… what does she look like?
“She’s VERY CUTE!” M. replied.
“Really? Does she have hair?” my kiddos were always baldies and I wondered if this one would be too.
“Oh yes… she has lots of hair.” Cha Ching! Hairbows here we come!
M. assured me she would scan & email her pictures right away, along with copies of all the referral documents with the originals arriving via FedEx Monday afternoon. And before too long the call was over.
I sat stunned alone not only in my office, but in my house. Unlike Referral Day the month before, where I was surrounded by family and had a video camera catching my every move, this Referral Day… MY Referral Day was quite different. It was just me. And my new baby… just us. I called Big Daddy T and then my Mom. She and my very pregnant baby sister rushed right over to be here when the emailed photographs arrived. We told the kiddos who all ooohed and ahhhed over their new baby sister. We managed to go about our jam packed weekend… doing all we had to do from Cloud 9… and woke up early Monday morning ready to move along… little did we know that we needed to tighten our seatbelts… we were about to go on a WILD ride!

To be continued….

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I had no idea what that email would say. Over the weekend parts of me thought perhaps our agency’s director would have an assignment for us right away. That she would talk to the CCAA… that they would apologize profusely for the oversight and fax a referral immediately to the CAWLI office for Lillian’s devastated Southern family. Parts of me worried the CCAA would say that they didn’t even know what was happening with our file and that our wait could be indefinite. Maybe we weren’t approved after all? Maybe we were in parts of the line that still lacked months before making it to The Matching Room? The scenarios seemed endless.

Holding my breath, I clicked on the email to open it up. The email was short. Lillian always was brief in her correspondence. She is so busy, I’m sure.

“The CCAA has approved your application and does not require any additional documents...” was line 1. Whew! What a relief. So we really had made it through the Review Room. It was no longer a question of “if” we would receive a referral, but now “when.”

The second sentence stated she was trying to get us an assignment as soon as possible and ended with the usual “I’ll be in touch.” I wanted her to say “I’ll write back tomorrow at 3:15 p.m.” or “I’ll call you Tuesday at 10:55 a.m.” The vagueness of “I’ll be in touch” drove me batty.

And that was that. Two short sentences. And though it did not provide all the nitty gritty details I craved, it was proof she was on the case. She had spoken to the CCAA. They knew about our situation. She was committed to working on our behalf for a referral. I was able to sleep a bit easier that night.

Monday morning dawned and it was time to get back to Georgia. Our Spring Break had been a memorable one for sure… unfortunately for reasons we did not prefer… and it felt good to be home and back in the routine. Big Daddy T. needed the weekend to process Friday’s events and was ready to get in the “driver’s seat.” You see, for 3 ½ years, I was the one who was in charge of the adoption. I spent months researching agencies, I set up interviews, I picked CAWLI, I collected all the documents, I wrote all the checks, I handled all the paperwork, I communicated with the office, I read all the rumors all the while Big Daddy T did what he was told, showed up when necessary and signed on the appropriate dotted lines. But now, he was ready for action. Not only was he tired of the process… he had seen me devastate and I don’t think he liked that too much. Once the kids were back in school on Tuesday we formulated a plan under the direction of Dad:
1.) The past was the past. It was not going to do any good to focus on what had happened the previous week. The best thing for everyone was to move forward and work together for a common goal.
2.) We weren’t going to wait for CAWLI to contact us… we were going to be the “squeaky wheels” that got the grease. We decided to set specific times to call the office & speak with the director.
3.) We wanted the agency to know we trusted them. In all my research I had never heard anyone have a negative comment about our agency… NEVER! Bad things happen. That’s life. It could’ve happened to any client with any agency… and it does! Now is when we would see what kind of agency we had signed with. How would they handle this problem? What kind of reputation did they have with the CCAA? How willing would the CCAA be to work with them in resolving this issue? Did our director have problemsolving skills as well as a big heart? We would see.

Big Daddy T wrote an extensive email to the director outlining our plan and set up the first scheduled call from us to see what progress was being made. We would call Thursday afternoon. Very graciously, Lillian replied thanking Big Daddy T for the email, apologizing AGAIN and ended by confirming she would be ready to speak with us later in the week. And that is how the next few weeks passed. Lillian always took our calls, and if she was away from the office, she always called us back. She was kind. She was gracious. She was working hard. We began to learn that what I had read about on The Rumor Queen was true. Being “skipped” is a very real scenario for families who are asked questions in The Review Room. For those of you who are confused let me break it down a bit to try & make it easier to understand:
1.) Families send their adoption paperwork to China in a packet called a “dossier” (pronounced doss-e-ay.)
2.) Upon receipt, the CCAA logs families into their system. That day is your place in line… it’s called your LID or log-in-date. Our log-in-date was 1/5/06. Families with a LID of 1/4/06 and before were ahead of us in line… people with a LID of 1/6/06 and after were behind us in line. Everyday paperwork comes in and new LIDs are assigned. It’s quite automated.
3.) Once logged in, files sit on a shelf, in order, and wait their turn to enter The Review Room. Once in The Review Room, reviewers look through families paperwork to make sure everything is in order. If they have a question, they ask. Questions can be about medical information, employment information, immigration approval information, home study questions, criminal record clarifications, etc. Until the questions are resolved… your file stays open and “under review.” If there are no questions about your file, it is approved and passes out of The Review Room to sit on another shelf until it’s ready to enter The Matching Room. What happened with us, and other families as well, is that the rest of the 1/5/06 families files were “approved” and left Review before ours did. Once all the questions about our file were answered, maybe they were on 1/10/06 or 1/20/06… we never knew for sure. Back in the good ‘ol days when the CCAA used to refer months at a time, you would never know if you had moved from 1/05/06 to let’s say 1/16/06… because ALL January families would get referrals at the same time. Since the MAJOR slowdown, though, where only days are being matched a month… it is a HUGE deal to be back further in line. Being simply days behind can mean the difference in MONTHS in receiving an assignment. Our agency therefore was basically asking the CCAA to pull our file out of line where it sat and match us with a baby since our original LID group had already received assignments. Whether they would or not was another story.

Lillian told us according to the CCAA, there were no more babies that month so we knew we would have to wait until referral time came ‘round again to see if we would be matched. Lillian continued her conversations with the CCAA. They agreed to “consider” giving us an assignment in May but did not guarantee it. One week down. Then two. Three went by and before we knew it, rumors began trickling in about the May batch of referrals. Would we be included? When watching the rumors that month I didn’t really care about how far they would get… I was focusing on WHEN they would arrive. Lillian told us if we did receive an assignment it would be sent with the entire group of US referrals. Lillian was hopeful we would be matched but admitted she was “nervous.” Great… if she’s nervous that made me double… no, triple nervous! We didn’t even begin to address the question of if we didn’t receive a referral in May then what? June? July? And if we received a referral in the summer what did that mean for:
1.) Travel. Rumors had already been circulating that travel would possibly be suspended to China for adoption due to the Olympics in Beijing beginning in August. Would we receive a referral and then have to wait again to travel in the fall? The torture would continue!
2.) Paperwork. Our home study would expire the first of June. Would we need a valid home study at the time of our referral? That would mean more paperwork… more money… more documents… more meetings. How much were we going to put into this before we yelled “mercy!”

May 1st arrived. The first solid rumors from the European agencies that the January 12th would be the cut-off for May referrals. Many speculated that since the CCAA would be closed for a holiday on Friday that they may have already sent the referrals before closing up shop for the week, yet no official “stork alert” was issued. Would they arrive Friday, May 2nd or would families have to wait until Monday, May 5th? Would we be included?

May is a busy, busy time at our house. Babies #1 & 2 play softball. Baby #3 plays baseball. We spend 2-3 nights a week at the ball fields. Baby #1 swims on our local swim team 4 days a week. Juggle that with school that was about to be out for the year and it keeps me spinning. Unlike the month before when I was waiting for referrals on vacation with not a lot I had to do, this month I had so much to do that it was easy to keep my mind busy. That weekend was Baby #2’s birthday. We had a party planned for Saturday night… I had to get ready for that. Baby #2 also had a spring recital for her Youth Choir that Sunday… I had to get ready for that. Big Daddy T was out of town for work as usual that Friday morning. I had a gazillion things to do that day including getting Babies #1 & 2 portraits made that afternoon so I was using the morning to get organized. Of course as part of my daily ritual I checked my email & The Rumor Queen several times. I knew the drill. People would start posting furiously the happy news of their new arrivals. I also kept an eye on the clock. I knew that referrals usually arrive at the CAWLI offices in the morning… approximately between 10:00-11:00 a.m. EST. It had been a little after 10:00 a.m. that crazy April morning that I heard referrals were at the office… everyone’s except mine. Would ours arrive this month? If the phone rang it could be good news or it was just as possible to be bad news. It was quite possible CAWLI would “regret to inform us” that we did not receive an assignment and that they would keep working. I was prepared for that scenario. I had no clue…no hunch as to what the outcome could be. The CCAA is unpredictable. They don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to do favors or make exceptions. It’s their game and they make the rules. We comply because they have what we want… what we work for… what we pray for… our children.

Day: Friday
Date: May 2, 2008
Time: 10:56 a.m. EST
My cell phone rings on the table behind me as I sit at my desk. I lean back in my chair and grab the phone. I instinctively look at the screen to see who’s calling. I don’t recognize the number.
“Hello?” I say cautiously. I didn’t want to talk to someone trying to sell me car insurance or give me a better rate on my mortgage.
“Amy?” the young girl’s voice asks.
“Hey, this is M. from China Adoption with Love.”
I was caught off guard. This was it. Was it good news or bad?

To be continued….

Friday, June 20, 2008

The video camera continued to roll.
“Ummm…we did not receive your assignment… there was… uh… “ S. was fumbling for the right words. Her thick Chinese accent and soft voice was fading …
I wanted to say “put M. on the phone!” I needed an American telling me in plain English what was happening to the last 4 years of my life… the blood, sweat and actual tears I had put into this “paper pregnancy” that was due to deliver that morning.
“Hold on,” S. said quickly.
I looked over at Big Daddy T who was still pointing Sony Cybershot video camera in my direction. It had been a Christmas present to me in December and instead of capturing the thrill of a long-awaited phone baby announcement, it was capturing my worst adoption fear come true.
“Stop filming! Stop!” I yelled over at him, trying to control myself from lashing out at anyone & anything that crossed my path. Big Daddy T quickly put the camera down & turned it off.
“What’s happening?” he said.
“They don’t have anything for us.” I replied sharply.
“What do you mean?” he was trying to understand.
“It happened. We got skipped. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.” I mumbled. And I did know it. Ever since those questions, although simple, were asked while our file was under review… I knew that it was a very real possibility that we would not remain with the original batch of dossiers we began with.
“Hi Amy… it’s Lillian.” The director of my agency was on the phone. Not M... this was the big kahuna… the one who had the power to tell me what the heck was going on and what that meant for my future as an adoptive parent.
“I don’t understand how this could happen… “ I began… my voice for the first time beginning to shake with emotion.
“Oh Amy, I am so very sorry. It seems that we had some delay with your assignment.”
That part was obvious.
“Well there were some issues in review. It was about T.’s salary.”
“WHAT???” Now the tears flowed freely. I was confused. “No, no, no… we were asked a question in Review about our original USCIS approval.” I corrected her… beginning to sob.
“Ummm… with Todd’s work they wanted a specific salary number. You sent a letter from your accountant.” it almost sounded like she was scrambling in the background… flipping through our file… searching for an explanation as to why one of her families did not receive an assignment.
“I have NEVER heard that before… I thought we were asked about our USCIS approval. We had an updated one… we faxed it to you and you faxed it to Beijing.”
The room full of my children, my husband & my brother-in-law were deathly quiet, sitting stunned and staring at me as I sobbed into the phone… going back & forth with Lillian about what exactly went wrong with our file.
“I will talk to CCAA next week and find out what happened.” she finally said.
“NEXT WEEK?” I shrieked into the phone. Next week? Was she kidding? I’m sitting here devastated on a Friday morning with a million unanswered questions and no baby and she expects me to wait until NEXT WEEK to get some answers?
“Uh, yes… next week… CCAA is closed now it’s nighttime and they are closed for weekend.” Dang! She was right. But who cares! Wake someone up… sound an alarm… make an exception!
“When next week?” the original answer was too vague. I needed specifics and I was going to demand them. I was verging on angry. How could they not see this coming? How could they be as surprised as we were?
“I will call them Sunday night and then I will be in touch. I am so, so sorry.”
“O.K.” was the best I could come up with. What could I say? What could I do? I was powerless. I had no control. The only option I had was to wait.
“O.K. then so I’ll be in touch,” Lillian said. I could hear the sadness in her voice… this kind woman. She is a true champion of Chinese children & orphans. She is good & honest & hardworking & self-sacrificing. I knew she would NEVER do anything to intentionally hurt or confuse or sadden one of her families. She’s like a mother bird… working and flying around furiously all the time to make sure her chicks have what they need.
“Bye.” I blubbered out and I hung up the phone.
I didn’t look at anyone as I walked back to the master bedroom of the beach condo and crawled into bed… assuming the fetal position and continuing to cry. Big Daddy T gave me a little space before coming in and asking me exactly what Lillian had said on the phone. I told him and then the phone began to ring. It was my Mama. I heard Big Daddy T giving her the abridged version of what had gone down over the past 15 minutes. Then he walked back to the room and handed me the phone. What is about when you talk to your Mama about what’s hurting, you release all you have pent up inside. Like you’re a little girl again… cuddled up on her lap as she blows on a skinned up knee and wipes your tears. And as I talked about what happened I began to think out loud. Am I working too hard for something’s that’s not meant to be? Am I pushing for my plan instead of being open to God’s plan? Why is this so difficult? The road up to this day had not been easy. Wait times that increased from 5-6 months to over 2 years… expired paperwork… renewed home studies… hoops to jump through, hurdles to cross. And I began to let go. I can’t fight anymore. I have 3 beautiful children. Am I being selfish to keep needing more? Why am I doing this? The line is so, so long… do these babies even need me? Do they need our family? There are thousands waiting.
My mom promised to check on me later and Big Daddy T took the kids out on the boat. I was left alone to lay in bed with the curtains drawn, closing out the bright Florida sunshine and process what had happened. I eventually got up and got back on the computer. I looked through my Inbox and found the specific emails I sent with the old agency staff member who assured me we would be fine even though we were asked questions. I have saved EVERY email my agency has ever sent me. It’s a sacred folder that I protect heavily. I forwarded them on the director and telling her we trusted our situation would be a top priority for them the next week. Not long after I received another very apologetic email from the director, promising to “be in touch.” How long would that weekend seem?
Later Dad & the kids came back from fishing and we all dressed to go out. My kiddos were so sweet to me… like I was a wounded little kitten that needed careful attention and coddling. They talked softly, held my hand, watched my face carefully to see if I was crying. We went and saw two movies, we rode a ferris wheel, we ate at Johnny Rockets and fed nickels to the jukebox. It was a fun evening with my babies. But in the back of my mind, unable to be shaken was Lilly. My “China baby.” Was she ever going to happen? Would she always remain a dream? Would she be something I tried to do once? And before long the weekend came to a close. The time had passed more quickly than I expected. We had played in the sand, swam in the pool and tried to maintain normalcy despite the looming questions of our adoption. I received lots of emails of support from cyber friends in the IA community as well as many phone calls from worried friends back home. As I got ready for bed on Sunday night I looked at the clock. 9:30. It was Monday morning in Beijing and the CCAA was open for business. Was Lillian on the phone right then? Would she call us the next day or would she wait a couple days until she had some solid answers before getting in touch? I hated not knowing. And as my mind played games with me an email popped up. Gulp… it was from Lillian. Subject: Talked with CCAA.
To be continued…..

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today is June 19th. This is the day we were supposed to leave for China. Instead I am home and my Lilly Lu is sleeping in her nursery directly below my office, in her blue kitty cat pajamas with her Silky! blanket. How did we get here? For the next couple days I'll bring you our story. It starts off bad but has a happy ending. Enjoy!
It was a Friday April morning. The news was filled with segments remembering the anniversary of the assignation of Martin Luther King, Jr. I didn’t expect referrals to come until Monday, and so when I routinely checked The Rumor Queen website that morning I was surprised to see reports that the assignments had arrived in the U.S. A bit of panic set in. This was it. Today was our day. After 26 months of “official” waiting, it would finally be our turn to receive the exciting news we had been waiting for for so long. I had my email open as well as an Internet browser to constantly watch for new developments on The Rumor Queen. Emails came. It was confirmed shortly after 10 a.m. that my agency, China Adoption with Love, Inc. had indeed received referrals and calls were beginning to be made. I had my cell phone & Big Daddy T’s cell phones charging on the kitchen counter. Since we were at the beach for Spring Break I had left my cute ladybug adorned “THE CALL” sheet at home & instead rustled up a phone bill envelope and wrote “Lilly’s info” on the back in blue ink. Back & forth I went between the email & The Rumor Queen. Emails continued to come in as the clocked ticked from new CAWLI parents. Brief stats were reported. The babies were from Jiangxi Province. YAY! The babies were young. Double YAY! I could not believe the news was so good. The phone rang. I ran to the kitchen chanting “oh my gosh! oh my gosh!” and ‘bout threw the thing across the room when the caller ID displayed Big Daddy T’s number. He had snuck it from the kitchen and called me as a joke to get me all flustered. It worked. Mean joke. Back & forth… back & forth… burning the keys on the laptop computer. 11 a.m. and no call. I posted a quick email that I was going crazy with no call. I received a quick response from a mom who was last to be called in her group with her first adoption and how she too was nuts waiting for her turn. Gentle assurance…. the call would come. 12 p.m. Noon and no call. Now I was getting worried. In the back of my mind were messages left on The Rumor Queen forum of families who were skipped. I was haunted by warnings from The Rumor Queen herself that being skipped happens sometimes when families are asked questions in the Review Room. We were asked questions. I had obsessed over this years before and had specifically wrote an email to my agency asking this very question: “since we were asked questions would we be reassigned another LID or would we return to our original place in the very slow, very long line of waiting parents?” I was assured by an office staff member that no worries were necessary… things remained the same. I began to debate… should I send CAWLI an email or just wait? I knew these first phone calls were brief. Most CAWLI families live in the Boston area, where the main office is located. I knew the protocol for Referrals Day. Families are called and congratulated with some brief information… sex, birthdate, province. Then a time is scheduled for the families to come to the office to go over the referral documents and see pictures of their child. How long could that phone call take? Three minutes? Five? Seven max. Surely it didn’t take over 2 hours to make fourteen 5 minute phone calls? Finally I made a decision. My stomach tangled in knots could NOT take the suspense one more minute. With Big Daddy T filming my every move with the camcorder I walked to the kitchen & got my cell phone off the charger. I dialed the agency’s office. “Welcome to China Adoption with Love please listen to the…” uggg the prerecorded greeting… was there an option for finding out where in the heck my baby is? What number do I select for referral status? I pressed 0 for a live body.
“China Adoption with Love… this is S.” the voice answered.
“Hey S. it’s A. from Georgia.” I tried to sound cool, calm & collected.
“Oh hi.”
“I know referrals are in & well, we will wait here all day if y’all are still making calls but I just want to double check that nothing is wrong. I know calls started a couple hours ago.” Was I making sense or were my butterflies confusing all my words?
“Uh… yeah… uh… we didn’t receive anything for you.” S. stated nervously
What? Had it really happened? Really? It wasn’t just a horrific scenario from the land of the Rumor Queen… this was real. We had been skipped.
To Be Continued…..

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lilly & Buzzy

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cool in the Pool
Yesterday was the first time we got Miss Lilly out in our pool. She LOVED it! Even though she wasn't feeling 100% she enjoyed splashing around & riding the noodle with Daddy in the deep end. Enjoy the pics!

Daddy's so shy... I couldn't get him to smile for the camera. Like most other times in the day... Lilly is happiest when someone is holding her.

Her first little bikini! A friend of my baby sister's gave her two HUGE tubs of baby clothes and I found this suit in the mix. Since my new neice only weighs about 7 pounds my sister let me have first call on what was in the tubs. I haven't found a lot of spare time to shop for swimwear for Lilly, so it was very convenient that I came across a bikini in the tubs. What did you say? You want a close up picture? O.K... if you insist!

It was hard to get any big smiles or giggles out of her yesterday... this weak grin is about as good as it got. Poor little dear... it's awful to have a summer cold! At least she looked good even if she didn't feel good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whew... What a Weekend!
TGIM... Thank God it's Monday... I don't think I could handle much more of this weekend. I'm tired.

I went to the pediatrician's office 3 out of the 5 days last week. Once for Lilly's check up and twice when Baby #3 and then Baby #2 had strep throat

The weekend started out on a very sad note when we learned that NBC's Tim Russert died suddenly of a heart attack Friday afternoon. Most TV news personalities drive me nuts... but I liked Tim Russert... I think everybody did. My dad summed it up best: "we're all just a heartbeat away." Live each day to the fullest... I think Tim would agree with that.

Saturday morning while my kids were visiting the in-laws I treated myself to some "Mommy Time" with a quick pedicure. Walking around China for 16 days was hard on the tootsies... and it was a bit of a return to normalcy to do something without a baby on my hip!

We got a night out Saturday night when my great friend Harriet's daughter got married. I paid for it later... not with a hangover, but with a baby that wouldn't sleep. I got in the bed by 11:30 she was up at 12:00, and never really settled back down again for good until 4:30. That "I just got ran over by a bus" feeling returned Sunday morning when I woke up. She finally went down for a nap at 10:00... was up at 10:30... down again at 10:32 and up at 11:00. I contimplated running away.

This is part of the problem. That child's nose has run like a faucet since the day after we got her. I first blamed it on the air conditioning. Next I pinned it on her two front teeth coming in... then possibly a cold. Now it's turning yellow & she has a small fever. She's also thrown up twice after a bottle and I think it's because she has so much mucous on her stomach. I'm giving her one more day & then she's heading BACK to the doctor.

Yesterday we took Baby #1 to college. I can't handle four kiddos so we had to make one go off to school early. Oh, I kid. We did take her to college though... but only for a week of Swim Camp. I did think about what it would be like 8 summers from now when we really will drive her there... set her up in her actual dorm room... and leave without her. I will be sad... very sad.

So with all we had going on we didn't have much of a Father's Day. It was Father's Day raw & real... no escaping. After lunch my Dad laid on the couch watching the U.S. Open... laughing inside at my husband who now is in the trenches he once occupied. My Dad's battle scars are healed and fading... all of his kids now grown and parents themselves. And so instead of wiping noses, heating bottles, changing poopie diapers and calming fussing, he instead enjoyed the rest & leisure he has earned. Thanks Dad & hang in there Money Maker... your time on the couch is coming!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Poll for a
New Name
I'm not happy with my husband's screen name. I originally dubbed him "The Money Maker" because that's his main function. He's not "The Bath Giver" or "The Homework Helper" or "The Pancake Maker" (even though he occasionally thrills the kiddos with the breakfast treat "egg bread.") He works away from the house... gone for 3-4 days a week and so, mainly out of frustration one blogging day, I gave him his current title. I'm ready for a new name. His current name sounds kinda haughty... like he brings home bags of salary money or like he's some corporate kingpin. That's not the case. He's just a regular Joe... with an irregular job. So I'm putting up a new poll to help pick his new name. See the sidebar on the right and cast your vote... please... I'm still too jetlagged & sleep deprived to do it on my own. Here are the choices:

A.) My Baby Daddy (it is what he is)

B.) Demo Dad (he's in the demolition business)

C.) The Bossy Boss (he is kinda bossy sometimes)

D.) Papa (a nickname the kids use sometimes)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another New Girl in Town
It's baby city 'round here. I was too frantic packing to announce her birth three weeks ago, but my baby sister had her beautiful baby girl the day before we left for China. A big storm blew threw on a full moon night and POP! went her water. Baby Elis was born 3 weeks early but is doing fantastic. She joins her big brother & new cousin Lilly, who is smack dab in the middle of the two. They'll be three peas in a pod soon!

Sharon Elisabeth

May 21, 2008

6 lbs. 4 oz.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A New Crop

In the blink of an eye we're old "has beens" and a new crop of babies has landed in the US. Click HERE to see some of this month's batch! Congrats to all the new families!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

We're Home

Home Sweet Home. Were there ever more truer words spoken? We are so glad to be home. Downside is I feel like I've been run over by a train... is there a way to pause life for about 2 days so I can crawl in a dark cool room and sleep uninterrupted? No? Darn! Like having a newborn, I am trying to sleep while Lilly sleeps... and that just drives The Money Maker crazy... he teases me ruthlessly about my napping... but call me a lightweight... Mama needs some zzzzz! Lilly is adjusting marvelously well- even though our nighttime is just one big nap... 3 hours down, 1 hour up. Last night she practically passed out at 8 (we're trying to keep her up as much as possible during the day to switch her days and nights) but then she was up at 11 down at 12... up at 3 down at 4... up a little before 8. Whew... that's tough! That's the WORST part of having a new baby... the sleeping! I can handle just about anything during the day if I can sleep through the night. Getting up is rocking my world! I love my new Lilly... but I'm done... stick a fork in me... I don't want another baby! So besides feeling beaten by a gang of hoodlums my house looks like a tornado went through it! I've emptied one suitcase but have 3 more to go. But I've been repeatedly kissing and hugging my washer and dryer... it has been a beautiful experience to wash my own clothes again with laundry detergent & fabric softener. Ahhh... simple pleasures! More later... after another nap... and then another!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Going Home

"Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong...
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old.
So I'm going home.
I'm going home."

~ Chris Daughtry, "Home"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let's Walk 'Round De Island Mon
Today was a beautiful day here on Shamian Island here in Guangzhou. When it's not raining, it's hot but it felt so good to get out and walk around without an umbrella... and Miss Lilly seems to like her stroller which makes walking even better. Let's see what we can find:

Bidding us farwell in the hotel lobby are two ATM machines. The Citibank one is in English and specifically for International financial institutions. You receive your money in RMB and away you gooooooo...

Right ouside the White Swan is another ATM machine. I think this one gives you money in American dollars or can... I think... Some shop owners love American dollars... some do not... some you can use your credit card.

Let's talk a bit about these shops that surround the "baby hotels." Illustrated in the picture above are the 3 major features all of them have: a ramp to get you AND your baby into the store, laundry services and clothes, shoes, toys, art, fans, jewelry... you name it- specifically targeted at adopting families. And yes, I'm a sucker... I visited them all!

One of the first shops we encounter is Ben's Gallery/ The Lucky Tailor. See if you can find the 3 major features of Shamian Shops... they're there! I liked the girl here... her name is Grace.

My new friend Kelly was looking for a snuggly little blankie for her new daughter Addie. While visiting Grace's shop she found some big blankets & Grace offerred to make her small ones in only a couple hours. I had some made too! Custom, handmade little snugglies... I picked my fabrics. 4 for 200 yuan... that's 200/4= 50 yuan a piece... 50/6.9= $7.24 American dollars each! What-a-deal!

Grace also has a little kitten she calls "Meow Meow." We are used to seeing Meow Meow each day... he's a playful little sucker!

Here's looking back towards our hotel. A couple shops offer you the use of a free stroller during your stay in Guangzhou. We chose this one because it's right out the back door of the hotel & we took our laundry here ALSO because it's so conveniently located. They did a good job & it was inexpensive... double bonus!

Looking out across the street there are shops lining both streets of the corner... one after the other. Also, roadside kiosks. These shopkeepers are clever and smart. They know what you look at, when you're leaving and talk to you as you pass by... quite high pressure. Today as I walked passed one shop the sales girl says "You still want painting?" I had looked at a painting in her store and she remembered which one. "Yes... but we're headed to Starbuck's now," I replied. "O.K... you be back before Friday... when you leave?" She had my schedule down. Scary!

There are about as many 7-Elevens here in Guangzhou as there are KFC shops in Nanchang. This one is across the street from the hotel. Great for picking up inexpensive drinks, snacks (stay away from the aisle with the pickled chicken feet) and diapers.

There's also a photo shop across the street. We easily had our children's visa photos taken here and had the cameras from the orphanage developed. Parents are invited to send a care package to their child after referral and are encouraged to send a disposable camera. We missed out on this tradition... our agency said we'd get to Lilly before the package would! We were happy with the trade!

I bought some really pretty artwork in this shop. The girls followed me around which was typical, but annoying, BUT... they were very sweet. This store is also at a pivotal intersection. Turn right for Starbuck's... left for A Gift from China.

The sidewalks around the island ALSO have convenient ramps for strollers and bikes.

Look familiar?

Yep, you guessed it... the inside of Starbuck's. Looks just like home... except for Guangzhou coffee mugs. Baby #1 thinks we gotta stop every time... it's too hot for a latte in the middle of the day and we won't buy anything cold because you shouldn't eat the ice. But she looks happy doesn't she?

We turned left and visited my FAVORITE shop on the island... "A Gift from China." No pressure, but friendly sales people is the BEST! You can look & browse at your leisure. You can see in the left of this picture a guy from another store acosting Baby #1 to go visit his store. Some of these stores are not only on you like white on rice IN the store... the come find you on the street. That drives me banans! I won't shop in a store that stops me & bugs me while I'm walking. It's my personal shopping policy!

The owner of this shop is an adoptive mother from the UK. The sale proceeds from the store go to help orphans here in China. They have really neat merchandise... it's different and unique... not the same 'ol stuff you find in all the other shops.

Back down the main street there is a "beverage" store... perfect for cheap crying baby & bad food relief!

Take a look at the bike parking for this apartment complex!

Turning left at the next intersection and down a bit we come to massage center. We didn't go but some other adopting Americans did and they said it was AWESOME! Only thing... if you girls get the willies having a male massuse you outta luck... the Chinese belief in "ying & yang" makes girls get guys and guys get girls. But the other Americans said "totally worth it!"

On the corner of the next intersection is the Thai restaurant "Cow and Bridge." There are some suspect things on the menu like "pork intestine" and "beef tongue" but the noodles and rice are great AND the Spring Rolls were awesome! We ate here twice!

Next we pass the Victory Hotel. Another major hotel on the island that adoptive families use for their stay here in Guangzhou. I just have to say, it's not even in the same league as The White Swan. It is a fine hotel... but The White Swan is so much more in every way! I have a friend staying at The Victory now and so I know this first hand. Daily you hear of families switching from The Victory to the White Swan. If you're on a strict budget though... The Victory is a good choice.

Nestled away in the center of the island is this Catholic chapel. The first and only "church" I've seen in the past 2 weeks!

Here's another restaurant choice "The Station." We didn't eat here but families in our group did and said it was pretty good. It's on the opposite side of the island than the massage place.

A mote of sorts surrounds Shamian Island separating it from the city. Here you can see the pedestrian walkway that you can use to walk safely from the island to the city sidewalks. The traffic of that main street is pretty brutal... you'd be pretty courageous to brave it. Take the walkway!

One day on our walks we heard children laughing and found a school. All the kids wear white shirts and purple pants. The were eager to pose for our pictures... this cutie flashed the peace sign at the prompting of her teacher.

Lucy's Restaurant is popular with the adoptive families though I've heard many mixed reviews... people didn't get sick until they got to Lucy's and ate "western" food. The Money Maker and Baby #1 ate here one day and were fine. They said the burgers tasted like home... much better than McDonald's.

Jordon's is another typical Shamian store but Jordon is just doggone nice I had to give him a mention. He sells clothes, diapers (only the Chinese brand "Fitti"- I liked them by the way,) squeaky shoes, and trinkets of all sorts.

Jordon speaks very good English and is good with the babies. Little Miss Lilly just giggled away... I think she liked hearing sweet Chinese baby talk again... I'm not too good at that.

And, Jordon will write your babies name in English & Chinese with translation for free. He's also very low pressure... we were free to shop at our leisure without someone on our arm with each step.

And before you know it we're back at The White Swan. Though pricey, the restaurants in The White Swan are the best on the island... and you don't have to stay here to enjoy them. Even a snack at the bar on the 2nd floor is delicious. We didn't eat anything here we didn't like and the breakfast buffet is so grand it just about ties us over until dinner.