Thursday, February 26, 2009

3 weeks till DTC

Three more weeks.

If all goes well. Three more weeks until our dossier is mailed to China.

I'm going to ignore the part of me that's screaming "AAARGHARAGHARASSAFRASSARAGHAAA!" and just put forth the part that's all smiles and grins and happy anticipation.

Only three more weeks! I'm counting the days! Then I'll start over and count four more months! Yay!

Am I over-using exclamation points?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yay paperwork (and fees)!

Our adoption agent has come up with a solution to the mismatched USCIS approval form (the one that approved us for a girl although we ultimately chose a boy).

All it requires is a whole new form and a $300 fee!


When the I-800A Section C is successfully filed, we can then move ahead with the authentification process at the bargain-basement price of $500.

No word yet on the fingerprint fiasco, but I assume my agent is hard at work sorting that out too. It will only be a matter of weeks (barring unforeseen circumstances*) before our dossier gets stuffed into an envelope and mailed to China.

Yun Gui, here we** come!

*I mean additional unforeseen circumstances.

**Well, not we per se, just yet. Just our dossier for now. Once it gets there, it should be a measly four months (barring unforeseen circumstances***) until we are hot on its heels.

***Sorry, I mean additional unforeseen circumstances.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I plan to have pancakes. Yes, I know I'm a day behind; pancakes were supposed to be today. Tomorrow I will have pancakes, then I'll go to Border's and have an all-day marathon comic book drawing session, and then an adoption meeting, and then back to Border's where I will draw more during Writers' Group.

Yes, I draw during Writers' Group. I could write, but instead, I draw.

The Lenten traditions are pretty much the only remnants of my Catholic heritage, plus a little tweaking. I love meatless Fridays - I used to be a vegetarian and I'd be one again if certain people would go along with the lifestyle. But I don't drink or smoke so I can't give those up, and there's no way I'm giving up chocolate. Chocolate-free living does nothing to make me feel more holy. Instead of giving stuff up, I add stuff.

Specifically, I add 40 anonymous good deeds. One per day, theoretically, although I find that I can cram 5 or 10 into a good day and find myself scrambling to do one on a bad day. As long as I do 40 in all, which is a breeze once I get going, I'm good. In fact, I find that by Easter, performing anonymous good deeds has become such a habit that I keep doing them.

I follow certain rules:

1) No deed is too small to count. Picking up a piece of litter, replacing a misplaced item in the supermarket, or righting someone's overturned garden gnome are sufficient to be counted.

2) I try not to be caught at them, but if I have witnesses, or if the good deed requires direct interaction with someone, it still counts if they're strangers.

3) It's okay to blog about them in general, but this post will be the end of it. No specific anonymous good deeds will be mentioned.

4) Nothing political or otherwise controversial. In fact, nothing based on spreading ideas, loyalties, or opinions counts. No fund-raising either. I can still contribute, solicit, or volunteer for my usual good causes, but they remain separate.

5) If anyone's interested in trying out anonymous good deeds for Lent, I happily describe my system! But it's not a buddy system. They can't tag along while I do mine.

This is my 4th Lent doing anonymous good deeds. It works out so well, I keep going back to it every year. And it encourages me to develop good habits that I can practice all year long to help make the world a better place.

If Yun Gui is inclined to learn by example, it's worth the effort to be an extra-good example. My husband joins in, and my mother has expressed some enthusiasm too. This country is really aching for some goodwill and some large-scale attitudes of self-sacrifice. (I thought it's been lacking those things for 25 years, but maybe more people will agree with me now that we're in a recession.) Where does goodwill come from?

I think it comes from me. :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paperwork update

The good news: I met with my adoption agent this morning and it looks like everything is going to be all right.

The bad news: The good news is not absolutely guaranteed.

The ugly news: I'm so uptight about paperwork delays because we're hoping to go to China in the summer. If it gets pushed back into September, we're going to have a real problem. Not an utterly fatal problem, but definitely a problem we wish to avoid. I may end up being forced to leave my husband behind. Either that, or the school will reluctantly give him two weeks' leave and then let his department suffer through part of the first month of school without him. If it were second semester, it wouldn't be as big a deal.

No more delays please! Please, international adoption system, I beg you!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feels like a plane crash

Okay, not really. It's just a paperwork setback. But I was just drawing this cute little illustration of a crashed F-18 Super Hornet, so it's all I can offer you in the way of allegory.

My fingerprints were rejected. The computer deemed them illegible. I have a new appointment to get them redone. I can't see how they'll come out any better. My skin is dry and shriveled, and I've already been using hand cream. Oh, doom.

Also, and this one has me puzzled, but it seems we're being approved for a girl 18 months to 3 years. I know that was our request to the adoption agency, but I'm wondering why they had to be so specific on the USCIS paperwork when the agency itself was reserving the right to offer us matches with boys. In fact our original request was for either gender, and we only decided on the girl thing later. I've always wanted both a son and a daughter, maybe to emulate my brother and me; it's just the birth order that's getting switched up.

But if the government thinks we're A-OK to raise a girl, then it will feel the same way for a boy. Right? This will be a quick fix? Forgive my gut for being filled with dread. I've never adopted before, and I'm trying to translate practical-logic into government-logic so I can figure this out.

What I should do is wait patiently, get my fingerprints redone, and speak to the agent about the next step.

My brother and I were always best of friends when we were kids. I seem to have retained the idea that having two children of opposite genders means they'll get along swimmingly. One can only hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Free as a cloud; noble, and tin

I found out a little more about my baby's name.

"Xi" means 'tin'. Wuxi, the name of the city where his orphanage is, means 'without tin'. I don't know why. However, it is apparently represented using the characters for 'without' and 'tin'.

"Yun" means 'cloud'. In Chinese idiom, a cloud is something high above the common populace, something free - untethered and uncontrolled by terrestrial concerns. Much like a bird is free in English-speaking idiom.

"Gui" means 'noble, precious, valuable, expensive'. This is another name that sets my son above and apart from everyone else. It's a reasonably common given name, not surprisingly. 'Yun' is common as well. I've heard that in China and much of Asia, a child's name is supposed to be fortuitous, and of course everyone wants their child to rise above everyone else's children.

'Xi' is a rare and unusual surname. Maybe it will grow more common due to the practice of this orphanage of gifting its children with the surname. It will be an interesting note in the study of genealogy that people surnamed 'tin' will be able to trace their family back to the orphanage.

The whole thing is pronounced "sure young guay." I had been mistakenly saying, "she young gwee." I still need practice deciphering pinyin, but I'm learning.

By the way, my source was thirdhand, so I can't vouch for any of this. A friend, whose parents are from Taiwan, asked her friend, who grew up in Wuxi. I'd be inclined to trust its accuracy, at least as a starting point if we ever decide to research Yun Gui's history in greater depth. But I'm also kind of lazy and haven't made any plans to start the aforementioned research.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Acceptance into the HAS program

Yesterday a packet came in the mail. I seem to have initially thought it was more important than it was. It was just a document officially accepting us into our agency's China adoption program.

I've been waiting to hear about the fingerprints, and likewise our dossier, and I guess I was expecting something dramatic.

This packet also came with a checklist of items we've completed already. With the transition into Hague standards, it has become common for the steps to be completed out of order. So, even though acceptance into China adoption sounds like a milestone, for us it's been more like a stretch of gravel. (Ack! Weird metaphors!)

It is not, as I'd first assumed, acceptance by China. Our dossier has to get there, and then be translated and looked at, before that can occur.

I guess I was just looking for an excuse to be happy again. I must admit that I've been on a downswing. Oddly, getting matched with Yun Gui has made me feel a little bit alienated from the other families. there's such a feeling of camaraderie among families who get matched at the same time, and nobody has gotten matched alongside us. In fact several families have expressed impatience. They've been waiting longer than we have, but they have more specific requirements in what child they'll accept. The agent has told us all up front that we'll get matched quicker if we want a boy. I took that to heart. The biggest reason why we wanted a girl was that we have six nephews and no nieces, and the kids' grandparents might have gotten their first granddaughter if we'd gone for a girl.

But, we decided, who cares? That doesn't matter as much. Besides, Yun Gui will have lots and lots of older male cousins to emulate. He'll have more role models than he knows what to do with.

I think it's important for young children to have older children in their lives to influence them. We adults can't teach them everything. Maybe I only think this because I was an oldest child, and an oldest grandchild, and I feel that I lost direction somewhere around age 10. I want something better for Yun Gui.

Aspirations of camaraderie have never worked out for me; and that's all right. If we end up going to China without any other families, we'll find a way to enjoy ourselves. We've always been starkly independent as a couple, and as individuals too.

It's just kind of a human desire to be one of the crowd, and even though I'm lousy at conforming, I wish for inclusion sometimes too.

And I'll admit one more thing - I'm being very prudent about discussing Yun Gui's special need. This is our own private battle and there's no need to involve hordes of other people. He needs a somewhat simple, if unpleasant, surgery and then he'll be fine. However, I'd be totally lying if I said this doesn't scare the daylights out of me. I do have some valuable resources to help guide me through the medical system and inform me of my options, and I'm deeply grateful for their assistance. Without it, I'd be stumbling into a dark cave of unfamiliar terms and uncomprehended processes. I really... yeah... doctors and I.... ack.

But I'll do it for Yun Gui. Fear won't slow me down. It may alienate me even further from the rest of the world, but it can't stop me from plunging in and getting Yun Gui the very best treatment I can manage to get him. He's worth it. This is the price I pay, but I gladly pay it; I've fallen so deeply in love with him already.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Yesterday we went to Cranston, RI to get fingerprinted. The USCIS office was extremely friendly and efficient. Wow! Not bad for the government!

I'm worried that my fingerprints came out badly and will be rejected and it will delay our dossier. I have vertical wrinkles all over the tips of my fingers. My skin is so dry, and I keep washing my hands, dishes, etc. I have to. I volunteer at a wildlife rehab center, I get icky and sweaty at the gym every day, and I maintain a home. Which of those can I possibly give up?! Even with hand cream, the skin on my fingertips gets so tight.

Maybe it'll be all right. Only 3 of my fingerprints automatically passed, according to the scanner, but I would have stood there forever if the lady had been inclined to keep trying.

I'm only a little worried. Can't you tell? I mean, if our fingerprints are approved, our dossier will go out TOMORROW. See, no sweat!

Currently on my to-do list is a lot of chasing down of pediatric specialists. Thrilling, indeed. Because, you know me - I just luuurve doctors. Heart heart.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Meet Xi Yun Gui

We got a match! He is 10 months old (these photos are from a few months ago - he definitely looks younger than 10 months), bright-eyed and healthy-looking, and as long as all the paperwork falls into place, he is OURS OURS OURS.

[I took down the pictures. Privacy issues, dontcha know. I don't expect any harm to come to him just because his pictures were on the internet, but it's the principle of the thing. I don't post pictures of myself or my husband, either, and I discourage him from posting any as well.]

We're looking at his medical records, and although I won't hash out the details here, they look pretty good, all things considered. We're getting an MD's consultation and R's sister-in-law, a nurse, also offered to look at them. Can't hurt, I figure. Not only is she a nurse, but she has four kids of her own (all boys), and she's generally a very helpful person.

We weren't expecting a boy, nor were we expecting a child this young. It was quite a shock to get the phone call. I was in the middle of creating an enormous pile of invoices - it's the first week of the month, which is crunchtime for me - and suddenly my world started spinning and I couldn't concentrate. I lied to my boss and assured him I had the invoices under control, but I knew I wouldn't be able to think straight until we made our decision. Should we accept or reject the little guy? At the time, we had only the barest of information, and no pictures.

We made plans to go to Hyannis after R got out of work and discuss it over a nice dinner out.

When we got home, it was even harder to concentrate. We were going to be parents. Hopefully. If we could meet the deadline.

The next morning, Friday, I set about making phone calls, doing research, and finishing those pesky invoices. I couldn't step away from the phone from 9:00 AM till almost 5 PM, between my boss and the techie, my agent and my other agent, and the MD who was being recruited to give us a consultation. It's too bad I don't work well under pressure. If I did, Friday probably would have been a breeze. And on top of that, R had a show scheduled in NYC! We scrambled to get our end of the paperwork done, then I drove him to South Station and he headed off to the Comic Con, grumbling that we only ever seem to get matched when he's off doing a dealer table. I came home, banged out the letter of intent, and emailed it and the passport photos to the agency.

And woke up the next morning to find that I hadn't emailed the passport photos after all. Oooops.

Just then, my boss called me hoping to get the stack of invoices from me. I was supposed to drop them off at his house on Friday night, but I'd been running late so he'd told me not to bother.

At 10:30 AM I had the photos sent to the agency and the invoices in my boss's hands. Phew! That's when I had the time to wonder what happens next. While waiting to hear whether we had our papers in in time to accept Yun Gui, I called every relative I could think of. Because I'm not prudent enough to wait for confirmation before spreading the potential good news to everyone.

But I guess it's for real, as long as the CCAA doesn't find any reason to object to the match. I can't imagine they would. Yun Gui is ours, then, and we'll probably go to China to get him this summer.

This whole thing just totally fell into place, and we couldn't be more happy. Truly. There might even be dents in the walls from me bouncing off of them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Are we there yet?

How soon should I announce our referral on the intarwebs? Thursday we were told about him, and after much discussion, we decided to accept him. Friday was spent frantically putting together paperwork, playing phone tag, and getting everyone on the same page with all the same information. Saturday morning I emailed the last of the necessary documents, and last night the agency director assured me it had all been sent to CCAA.

Today is Sunday, when, of course, no new developments will occur.

Meanwhile, I have three photographs, a name, and a whole mountain of hope.

OMG, he's sooo cute. In one of the pictures, he's laughing. Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to have in my possession a picture of the world's cutest laughing baby. Laughing, I tell you! He makes me want to laugh, too.

I'm just not sure at what point I can go ahead and believe that this is all happening.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I have a baby!

I want to go out for a celebratory dinner, but I have no one to go with. Husband's out of town. None of my relatives live on the Cape, and I don't feel like driving all the way to Boston.

I need more friends! I need friends who are close enough so that I'd feel comfortable calling them up and saying, "Let's celebrate my referral. Right now. My treat."


I could go by myself........

Edit: I went out by myself. First I treated myself to dinner out - lasagna at a local pizza parlor, but, hey, dinner out is dinner out! I brought my sketchbook and sketched while I ate.

Then I treated myself to Slumdog Millionaire. Great movie! Frighteningly beautiful and deeply disturbing. It totally deserves an Oscar nod or two. It is not for sensitive audiences, though. Ironic that I will probably always associate this movie with the Lil Guy, even though there's no way I'm letting him see it himself until he's 18. No, 25. At LEAST 25. He should graduate from college first.

Since I had the sketchbook already, I drew a page full of trees while it played. Yeah, now I'm drawing in the dark. Go me. :)

After the movie I felt like dancing (you have to see it all the way through to figure out why) so I did! I bought some celebratory ice cream and came home and danced.

I hope the Lil Guy likes to dance, because I think I need a dancing partner.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rising rate of birth defects in China

China birth defects 'up sharply'.

That's not good news, although it's pretty predictable. The link between pollution and children's health issues is already well established.

The article singles out Shanxi province, which is not where we're adopting from. Xuan is most likely to come from either Wuxi or Changzhou. I wonder if there are coal mines there. I'm sure there's plenty of pollution.

Did you know, additionally, that supposedly 'recycled' computers and computer parts are often shipped to China, where whole families make a living extracting the precious metals in their homes? It happens in several nations in Africa, too. The methods they use are archaic, highly toxic, and dangerous. Do these kids (and the environment) a favor - before you bring your old computer to a recycling center, make sure 'recycling' doesn't mean 'ship it overseas'. There are one or two legitimate computer recycling plants here in the US. Make sure it goes to one of those instead.

Even better, don't replace your computer as often. If 40% of Americans had 10-year-old computers, maybe the hardware/software manufacturers would take a hint and keep compatible merchandise on the shelves for longer. Then we can stop struggling to keep up with the ridiculously fast technology rat race we're in now, AND we'd all save money, AND we'd be sending fewer toxins overseas for young children to poison themselves with in the family firepit.


I'm glad to hear, again, that the Chinese government is taking the birth defect problem seriously. How seriously? I don't know. How seriously are we taking it here in the US?

I know it's difficult to hear, "You can make a difference by sacrificing some of the things in your life." But that's the attitude everyone needs to take. The planet depends on it. Other people's children depend on it. My child depends on it.