Beautiful Life





Hey child up and go; A big world is out there waiting for us to live in every day. Outside you will find, there is love all around you; Takes you, makes you wanna' say; That it's a beautiful life and it's a beautiful world and it's a beautiful time to be here, to be here, to be here. -Fisher

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetry and Love


The Legacy of An Adopted Child


Once there were two women who never knew each other
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother

Two different lives shaped to make you one
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun

The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it

One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name
One gave you a talent, the other gave you aim

One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried you tears

One made an adoption plan, that was all that she could do
The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.


Now, which of these two women, Are you the product of?
Both, my darling, Both, Just two different types of love.


~Unknown
Two years ago, a mother, half the world away was pregnant. I don't know if she was married or single. I don't know if she was young or old or even if this pregnancy was planned or not. I don't know if she needed a son or would have been fine with a daughter. There are very many things I will not be able to explain to Claire about her birth mother or family. But there is one thing I know. She chose life. In a country where abortion is readily available she could have made a different choice. If she hadn't wanted the child to live, she could have changed that. She may have known from the beginning that she could not care for a child and would leave it or she may have had to change her plans to keep the child once the baby was born with a serious medical condition. Again, she could have made a different choice. Instead, she made an adoption plan...the only kind of adoption plan you can make in China, she left her baby where she could be and would be found. I don't know if she waited and watched to see when the baby was picked up but I believe that she knew what would happen once the baby was. She knew that her daughter would get the medical attention she herself could not provide. She knew what would happen once the child was discovered. How she would be taken to the orphanage and given food and a bed. She knew that the child would get the surgery she needed and would later be put up for adoption. She may even have hoped that her daughter get to go with one of the American families that she knew took children out of China all the time. I don't know. But, she chose life and in that one decision, she loved our daughter.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

THE FINAL PACKAGE

Our final travel package arrived Wednesday. It contains some final paperwork that we will need to take with us, a checklist of other paperwork we need to take and a list of the families that are in our group. There are 10 families in our travel group but Paul and I are the only family traveling to Tianjin. Our children range in age from the youngest being 9 months and the oldest being 10 years! In fact there will be three girls that are right at or just under 1 year and 4 children that are over 7 so this should be an interesting group!



WE LEAVE IN 12 DAYS!

Today we received our final itinerary via email. This is where we will be, when we will be there, and what we will be doing!

  • 5/7 Leave Charleston at O'dark 30 in the morning, on a 16 hour adventure through air and time, bound for Beijing.
  • 5/8 Arrive in Beijing, get through customs, meet our guide (Jessie), go to our hotel, The Wangfujing, and collapse!
  • 5/9 Sightseeing: Tour the Temple of Heaven in the morning, have lunch at Dai Jia Cun Restaurant then Hutong Tour and Chinese Acrobat Show in the afternoon.
  • 5/10 Sightseeing: TianAmMen Squre and Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Then have an orientation meeting with the CHI guide
  • 5/11 Take a van ride, with our CHI coordinator, Jessie, to Tianjin City and Check into The Marriott Renaissance Hotel there.
  • 5/12 Go to Tianjin Children's Welfare Institute to meet Claire! Spend the day catching up with her (we missed a few years)!
  • 5/13 Go to the Registration and Notary office to carry out the adoption procedure.
  • 5/14 Free day-we will try to walk around the area, see if there are any parks nearby.
  • 5/15 Sightseeing: Culture Street
  • 5/16 Paperwork Day, we will get our papers back from the registration and will need to complete some forms for our American Consulate appointment
  • 5/17 Fly3 hours to Guangzhou, meet our new CHI coordinator, Elise, check into the White Swan Hotel on Shaiman Island
  • 5/18 Free Day-I'm sure we will end up doing something that just hasn't been planned yet. Other families have gone to the zoo, the pearl market, shopping etc...
  • 5/19 Go to the clinic and have Claire's medical exam
  • 5/20 American Consulate appointment and Farewell dinner
  • 5/21 Go to the American Consulate to get Claire's visa in the afternoon
  • 5/22 Fly out of Guangzhou back to Beijing to catch our flight home! We will cross the international date line and arrive back at home at 10:30 the same day!

OH MY GOSH, WE LEAVE IN 12 DAYS!


Friday, April 18, 2008

A Little Chinese


Because Claire is very young, we understand from other's experiences, that she will learn to speak English rapidly! This is good news since we speak VERY little Mandarin Chinese! But, one of the greatest things about adopting from China is getting to bring some of that culture into our life. We are fascinated with the Chinese culture and are enjoying learning about it. Yes, Claire will be an American girl, but there is no denying that her roots are Chinese and we believe it is important to help her embrace her birth country and it's culture, including the language. Therefore, we have been trying to learn a little Chinese!


As most people know, Chinese is written in symbols and it is not a phonetic language so the pronunciation of the words is not related to the written words! This makes it a little difficult to learn it! So, in the late 1950's Pinyin was created to transcribe Chinese characters so people could pronounce them. The writing of Pinyin is similar to the English alphabet. It has 21 initials, which are like consonants in English, and 38 finals, which are similar to our vowels. Of course it is a little more complicated than just putting the letters together because it is also a tonal language with letters having 4 possible tones and a neutral sound. For more information and some lessons check out http://www.chinese-tool.com/ and click on learn Chinese. Here are a few words to try that we are working on. The great thing is that you can find sites online that will pronounce the words for you! I'm hoping we will pick up a little more in China! We'll see!


Hello = Ni hao (nee how)
Goodbye = Zai jian (Zi geean)

Goodnight = wan an (won an)
Good morning = zao an (zow an)

Thank you = Xiexie (see-eh see-eh)

I love you = wo ai ni (woh I nee)

Mama = Mama (mah mah)!
Daddy= Baba (bah bah)
Big Brother = gege (guh guh)
Big Sister = jiejie (jee-eh jee-eh)
Litter Sister = meimei (may may)

Grandpa = yeye (yeh yeh)
Grandma = nainai (ni ni) long i sound

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BOOKED!





We have booked our international flights! We will leave for China on May 7th, our 14th wedding anniversary, and return on May 22! We used a travel agent recommended by our adoption agency, Sue Sorrels. She is out of Texas but specializes in China adoption travel and we are very pleased with our experience with her so far. Her website, for those needing it to book their own travel, is www.here2china.com/Sue .


We will leave from Charleston in the morning and head to Newark, NJ where we will catch our 13 hour 40 minute flight to Beijing! Of course, when we get there we will feel like it's 2AM but it will be 2PM Beijing time! Boy are we going to be tired!


Our return flight involves flying back to Beijing from Guangzhou on the morning of the 22nd. That afternoon we will leave Beijing to head back to Newark and home to Charleston from there. The total trip time will be 19 hours going and 25 hours 32 minutes coming home....YAY! That's going to be fun, I bet! Please pray for us!


21 Days left in the countdown!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

WE GOT TRAVEL APPROVAL!

Photobucket Well, we're doing the HAPPY DANCE because we got the last approval we needed from China~our travel approval! We now have official permission from the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) to go to China to pick up Claire!!

I got the email yesterday that it came in and that Karolyn, the travel coordinator is trying to confirm our appointments at the American Consulate in Guangzhou. Once that appointment is confirmed we can make our international flight arrangements. All of our in-China travel is arranged by our agency so we don't have to worry about that. We just have to get ourselves to Beijing and back home! Below is the "tentative" basic schedule that was emailed to our travel group. From what I understand there will be 8 families in our travel group but we are the only family going to Tianjin City.

Thurs, May 8 – Leave US
Fri, May 9 – Arrive in Beijing, PR China
Sat, May 10 - Sightseeing: TianAnMen Square & Forbidden City, the Great Wall (Juyongguan), CHI orientation
Sun, May 11 – Van to Tianjin City, 2 hours outside of Beijing.
Mon, May 12 – meet your child
Tues, May 13 – Adoption process (registration and notary)
Wed, May 14 – sightseeing or free day in Tianjin
Thurs, May 15 – sightseeing or free day in Tianjin
Fri, May 16 - Get all the paper back, complete forms for the American Consulate appt
Sat, May 17 – Fly to Guangzhou
Sun, May 18 – Free day in Guangzhou
Mon, May 19 – medical exam for children
Tues, May 20 – American Consulate appt; farewell dinner
Wed, May 21 - Go to American Consulate for oath and get visa in the afternoon
Thurs, May 22 – departure to US

All the families in this travel group will arrive in Beijing on the 9th but we go our separate ways on the 11th. We go to Tianjin City, 2 families go to Jiangsu Province, 1 goes to Henan Province, 1 goes to Guangdong Province and 3 go Jiangxi Province to meet their children! We will all be back together again in Guangzhou on the 17th. When we go to Tianjin we will either be accompanied by a guide from Beijing or met there by a local guide contracted by Children's Hope. I'm not sure which but I know we will not be left alone!

Now I have to get back to my packing lists! I scoured 20 pages worth of packing list advice to figure out exactly what most people thought was most important to take with us. So far my personal packing list is only EIGHT PAGES LONG!!!!!!!!!!! How am I going to fit all that into two suitcases under 40 pounds and 2 carry-ons???? Packing for the trip is going to be an adventure in itself!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

PRICELESS!

Some people have asked, "How much does it cost to adopt?" and others want to know but won't ask! I know, when we were first embarking on our journey, I would scour other's blogs for information about the costs of this process looking for any sign that there were hidden cost that I needed to prepare for. We were told to estimate $20,000-$24,000 by our agency and honestly, that is what it is coming down to. Here is a break down of what we have paid and what we have yet to cover.

Paid:
  • $3300 paid to Children's Hope International Adoption Agency for application and dossier fees. Our dossier fee includes the cost of counseling, review, translation and delivery of our dossier to China.

  • $ 685 paid to US Citizens & Immigration Services to process our application for advance processing of an orphan petition. This includes FBI fingerprinting.

  • $2000 paid to Child of the Heart, a local agency that did our home study in place of our agency which is not licensed to do home studies in SC. This includes the 3 post-placement visits required by the CCAA.

  • $30 paid to Adoption Learning Partners for required adoption education.

  • $393 paid for various documents. These fees covered the costs of acquiring required documents for our dossier and having them certified by the states they came from as well as authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in DC. It also includes my passport fees and our local background checks as well as all the Fed-Ex fees for transporting all the documents here and there. All of this was required for our dossier to be complete.

  • $165 paid to Dependable Adoption Courier Service for taking all our documents to the US State Department for an additional certification required for documents coming from certain states, like SC, and for taking our documents to the Chinese Embassy and for getting our Visas for us.

  • $510 paid to the CCAA to process our dossier.

  • $466 paid to Child of the Heart to update our home study after our documents began to expire from the long wait! This includes a fee for a background check needed in SC.

  • $2400 paid to Children's Hope once we found Claire. This is the International Program fee paid to Children's Hope's office in Beijing and covers liaison with government and agency authorities, social services, development fee, facilitation and adoption travel coordination. This fee is discounted $1000 because we chose a waiting child and otherwise would have been $3400.

  • $25 paid to CHI to ship a care package to Claire.

  • $268 paid for vaccinations (we aren't done yet).

  • $260 paid to the Chinese Embassy for our visas

  • $ 30 paid to Walgreen's for extra passport sized pictures that are required for the process in China

If I did my math right, that comes to a total of $10,532 that has been paid over the last two years since we started this process.

Yet to be paid:

  • $4400 paid for international flights to and from China. This is approximate, based on flights I looked up recently. Our tickets are round trip but we must also purchase a one way child's ticket for Claire (because she is over 2 she does not qualify for the $100 "lap ticket") which we have been told is about 75% of the cost of our tickets.

  • $3000-3700 paid for travel inside China. This is $500-$700 higher for us because Claire is over 2 years old. It includes hotels w/breakfasts, flights in China, ground transportation, sightseeing, coordinator expenses, service fees and tips for local guides and drivers.

  • $2000 paid in China for various notary and legal fees. This is approximate and the actual fees add up to $1700 but you are STONGLY ADVISED to bring $2000 with you (break down: $200 for registration, $550 for notaries, $200 for passport fees for Claire, $65 for her medical exam, $15 for Civil Affairs fees, $380 for US Consulate fees, $300 for Service fees specific to her orphanage)

  • $3000 paid to Tianjin Children's Welfare Institute, her orphanage. This is a required "donation" that is supposed to compensate them for the care they gave her. Lets be honest, we all know it costs more than $3000 to take care of a child for 2 1/2 years! Provinces are in discussions now about raising that fee to $5000, but as of now, her SWI has not.

  • $1000-$1500 for food and incidentals. This is approximate but is what is recommended that we carry with us.

  • $100 for gifts brought to China. It is customary (required) that you give gifts to important people while you are in China. This includes the orphanage director, the notary, the registrar, the aunties and the child's foster mother. These gifts should be simple tokens of appreciation from America and preferably things not readily available in China. The nannies like to get deodorant, room freshing packets, pretty post cards, make-up kits, and Jelly Bellies! These are all things they can not get over there.

According to my calculations we still have $13,500-$14,700 to go! This may seem like a lot of money, and it is. But what is that in relation to the life of a child. Claire Hope Kangtong, like all of our children, is PRICELESS.

Did you know that if just 7% of all Christians adopted one orphan, there would not be any orphans!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Go Fly A Kite!




Today was a beautiful spring day that we could not ignore. After church we headed to the beach with some friends for a little picnic and some kite flying fun! It was fresh and relaxing and just what we needed. Since we live so close, we spend a lot of time at the beach each year. Pretty soon we will have one more sandy little beach bum in the minivan! We leave for China in 32 days!






Get over it!



The bridge that is! Saturday was the 31st annual Cooper River Bridge Run. Last year the race had over 38,000 participants and they were expecting a similar turn out this year. Paul ran this year for the first time in many years! In the last 7 months, my wonderful husband has lost 55 pounds by eating a very healthy diet and exercising.........a lot! He began running again in time to train for this 10K race and he did very well, finishing in just over 1 hour (62:20 according to his shoe tag)! Unfortunately, we were not there to see him cross the finish line. The weather looked very ominous and I didn't want to chance being down there, no where near the parking garage, when the bottom fell out. But, we are very proud of you!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Disaster Averted!


I am happy to say, that after a phone conversation with my local CIS office, and several with my agency................ and a few emails to my social worker, we think we have this situation under control! Let's just say that the CIS office in South Carolina ROCKS! Our fix will be relatively painless and it should be taken care of in a matter of a few weeks. In the mean time, we are just waiting for our travel approval and counting down the days until we leave! It's been a WILD RIDE!

video

Noah's Wild Ride!

video

Parker's turn.

video

Now Isabel!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good News, Bad News


Okay, the good news first- Our visas came back from the courier in Washington DC today. We had to send her our passports too because the visa is actually a sticker that is put on one page of the passport. So, those are safe and sound again in the fireproof, waterproof lock-box! I was also informed today that the Beijing staff checked in with the CCAA and they said that they will be issuing our TA (travel approval) very soon. CHI said that there is still plenty of time for us to travel with the May 8th group!
FYI- the courier service I use in Washington DC is Dependable Adoption Courier Service. It is run by an adoptive mother, Carol Fredericks. She does an excellent job and is very attentive! Here is the link to her site- http://www.dependable-acs.com/

Now, the bad news-We were informed today that the American Consulate in Guangzhou, PR China has issued a new.... rule, if you will. Previously, if you accepted the referral of a child with special needs but had not originally requested one, all you needed to do was show up at the American Consulate in China with a notarized addendum from your social worker stating that she approved you to adopt that child. We got that last month! Well, now they have decided that if your original approval from US Immigration was not for a special needs child, you need to pay $585 and file a form to have your approval amended! We can not go to China without a new approval! In some places, it is taking 10 WEEKS to get this approval! Didn't anyone tell them, yesterday was April Fools Day!?!

I emailed the officer at our Citizens and Immigration Office here and asked her what we need to do. The agency told us to fill out and file the I-290B form with an updated home study, our original approval, and our fees. We just had an updated home study done to extend our original approval so I am trying to find out if we need yet another updated home study! And, in this state, if you need to submit a home study to CIS, it first has to go through DSS! Of course, that takes weeks. Our sweet social worker already begged everybody to get everything pushed through so we could have our extension in time to travel. We just got it two weeks ago! Now it looks like we have to start over! We seem to be wrapped in red tape right now. Could someone had me the scissors?
HOLD ON CLAIRE, WERE TRYING TO GET THERE!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

OUR 15 SECONDS OF FAME!


Apparently our blog caught the eye of the Communications Coordinator that writes the newsletter for our Agency!


This is what our Priest would call a "Glory Story". It's all about His Glory and how God has worked in our lives and the lives of those we don't even know, to bring this child to us! We truly believe she was made for us and we, for her.

This link will take you to the newsletter.
We have also gotten some feedback on this story. I agreed to let CHI post our story in the hopes that someone might be touched by it in some way:

Thanks for including the story "The Other Family!" We were offered a referral that we refused and felt terrible about for awhile. But we were hearing that same voice telling us that [he] was just not our child. We knew we could handle any disability he may have had, but it just came down to knowing that he was not our child!....it was a strange thing to refuse a child for any reason. It was very awkward and we felt guilty. We were also eager to hear that [he] had been placed and were so thankful! This story was one we don't often read...thanks!
---

Thought you might want to pass on to Chelsea and Paul that we, too, fell in love with Claire! She was listed with our agency, CCAI, and was posted on the website. When I saw her sweet face, the name “Claire” immediately popped into my head. We requested her file and realized she was not meant to be ours. I am so happy that God brought her to her forever family. I thought her family might want to know that she touched our hearts!