Monday, February 27, 2012

Travel Approval!

On Feb. 16th, on the way to the airport for our vacation, we received a message that our agency had our TRAVEL APPROVAL! David immediately suggested that we change our vacation plans and fly to China to get our boys that very day. Not to rain on his parade, but I had to point out that we didn't have a consulate appointment scheduled, and we also don't have our Chinese visas yet. I have to mail our passports to get the visas, and we need our passports for our vacation first. we went on our last expensive family vacation! Once we add two more little ones, we'll probably stay home during school breaks. It was lovely taking a vacation without having to stalk my email waiting for the travel approval. So, we're all set. Our house-sitter took great care of our dogs, and I feel comfortable having her here when we fly to China too. Everything seems to be coming together, fourteen months after deciding to adopt again. Wow!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In an instant

Again, I was reminded that our lives can change in an instant.  In 2002, my husband died (fell off a boat) in  the blink of an eye. Yesterday, Austin (our 16 year old) missed the mats when high jumping, and was knocked unconscious. He's going to be ok, but he did have a seizure and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. I could have lost my son, in less than a second. Makes me especially grateful today for the gift of my children.
Speaking of gifts, the chairman of Rustic Pathways called Austin on Sunday to interview him. Then on Monday, I received an email outlining the grant that they have selected for Austin for this summer. Amazingly enough, Austin received a scholarship to spend two weeks in BURMA, and one week in Thailand (volunteering at an orphanage)! From Thailand, he can then fly to Beijing and attend the program that we originally selected for him, which includes 100 hours of Chinese language lessons and 75 hours of community service (teaching English to disadvantaged children). Wow!! What a fabulous opportunity for a 16 year old boy! Now, I just have to figure out how to pay for the airfare. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Power of Attorney!

Yesterday, I filled out (and had notarized) 8 power of attorney forms. Yes, 8! Two for each child, from each parent. However, I wrote both boys' names on each document, and that wasn't correct. Today, I redid the forms, got them notarized again, and then took them to the county office to have the notary seal officially "verified." That cost $24. Now I have to send the forms to an office in NYC to get authenicated or verified at the state level. That will cost $80. Then we need to hire a courier to hand carry the documents to the embassy in Washington DC. That will cost $297!! I could take them there myself, but it will cost me more than $300 in gas, not to mention that it's an 8 hour drive. All this, JUST IN CASE, we need it. We are going to Heilongjiang Province to adopt Leo first, since it's the furthest north, and then we'll fly to Shangdong Province. However, Heilongjiang is known NOT to expedite the paperwork just to accommodate adoptive parents' schedules. We might have to split up, and have one of us continue down to Shandong Province alone to adopt Sam, to keep our trip on schedule. If that happens, we'll need the power of attorney forms. Ugh. Then sometime next week, David will have to draw up NYS power of attorney forms to leave with the caregivers of Austin and Connor so that they can act on our behalf for the benefit of our children. Again, just in case. I have found that if we prepare for the worst, everything turns out just fine. Prayers that this trip goes smoothly and we don't need the documents I'm spending $400 to prepare!

Monday, February 13, 2012


There has been a huge discussion on our yahoo groups about the costs of traveling to China. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for my 10+ years as a corporate travel agent. I do not feel held "hostage" by the agency's "travel package" because I do my own research and book most everything myself. In 2010, we only saw our guides/drivers during the official appointments anyway, so I didn't feel compelled to spend a ton on tips/gifts for them either. It's worth noting, if you ever decide to adopt, that some agencies charge twice as much for travel as the trip actually costs, which is completely unethical. More children would be adopted if the process wasn't so darned expensive!! Speaking of expensive, this weekend I drove John, Connor and Ben to Ft. Meade Maryland (7+hour car-ride) to participate in a taekwondo tournament. Connor captured gold for sparring and forms, John took a bronze in forms and a gold in sparring, and Ben took a silver in sparring. Once again, I'm a proud momma!! Austin received a phone call from a DIFFERENT exchange/travel company, one that he applied to a long time ago, and they are going to offer him a full scholarship for a summer program! Whoo hoo! Now we just have to compare the two programs and decide which one is right for him. Hooray!

Friday, February 10, 2012

New photos! and OMG a video!

We received two new photos of Dang, Tong (Leo)!!! And a video!! Tears of joy were streaming down my face. This is the first real glimpse we've had of his personality. Up until now, we've only had one little face shot, and he looks completely different now, so it's a very,very good thing we received the photos or we might not even recognize him!  By the way, I stopped posting any photos on my blog for two reasons: 1) I signed a contract with our agency that states I won't put my child's photo anywhere online, and 2) there are wayyy too many crazy people online. When I get time, hopefully this week, I'm going to take off all the photos I already posted. I will add them back in when I "blog to book" for the boys, and then take them all off again. A huge nuisance, but necessary. I had a follower send me a lifesaving email today telling me that our SS.# is viewable on one of our photos. Yikes!! We also received some answers to our questions.
1. Did he receive the photo album that we sent?
2. He will be the youngest of six boys! Is Dang,Tong a spirited, lively boy?
He is active, lively and timid.
3. What games does he like to play?
Bounce the ball.
4. Does he like to play outside?
5.Does he like dogs?
He has never had dog around him.
6. What is his favorite food?
Cracker and fruit.
7. Can the SWI send us a video of Dang, Tong?
See attachment
8. Does Dang, Tong use the toilet by himself?
Yes, he is fully potty trained.
9. Does Dang,Tong go to sleep by himself? Is he afraid of the dark?
He sleeps by himself. He is not afraid of the dark.
10. His updated measurements:
Height: 108cm; Weight: 16kg; Foot: 20. Head: 50cm; Chest: 56cm.
I'm still waiting to receive a video!!!!!!

On another note, today we are driving to Maryland (7 hours) so that the boys can participate in a taekwondo competition. They have four tournaments (all over the east coast), before they can go to nationals in Dallas in June.I hope the new little guys don't get car sick!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Update on Leo! Little Leo is Big!

We just received Leo's current measurements! He is 108cm tall (42 inches), he weighs 16kg (35.2 pounds) and his feet are 20cm long. Wow. Leo is bigger at age 4 than Ben was when we adopted him at age 6 1/2! In fact, he's only 9 pounds and 5 inches smaller than Ben is now! I take that as a good thing though. He's eating well, apparently. Also, Leo is from Daqing, far north, (almost to Mongolia), and the people in that region are known to be larger. Hopefully, we'll receive updated information on Sam soon too. I wonder if Sam, who is 18 months older than Leo, will be smaller. I hope big brother Ben isn't upset when little brother gets taller than him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Anyone who knows me, knows that I am obsessive about travel. Before we had a houseful of children, I worked for Rosenbluth International as the international travel coordinator for Eastman Kodak for 10 years; I've seen everything possible go wrong with flights, and that experience made me picky, picky, picky about our travel. Today, when I did my quick twice daily check on airfares to China, I found that the price dropped to the lowest I've seen it all year!! Less than $1000. per ticket, including taxes. When Austin flew to China in 2008, his ticket was more expensive. So, taking a big,big risk that our dates might have to change if there is a paperwork snafu, I booked our flights into Beijing, and out of Hong Kong. I did purchase travel insurance, just in case. Now, two hours on the phone with Continental, and I finally booked our two little guys' return flights from China to home. I can't book those online because they are one-way flights originating in China. For some reason, one way tickets, China to Rochester, cost more than the round trip tickets! I hate it when that happens. I remember in 2010, I spent many, many, many hours trying to find discounted airfares for the one way tickets home, to no avail. This time, I'm just happy we were able to obtain "cheaper" tickets, although 6 tickets to China will take us a few years to pay off. Thank God for credit cards. Praying now that I booked the right dates!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pole-vault and Football

 Last year I started suggesting to the track coach (and to Austin) that Austin should learn how to pole-vault. Yes, Austin is a fabulous runner, but I wanted him to branch out a little. I know that my knees are wrecked from years of running, and I thought that a field event would be a great addition to Austin's resume. And Austin has a super strong upper body, and he's light. I mean, the kid can do a standing back flip like it's nothing, so I thought that he could probably throw himself up in the air and over a pole. Luckily, this year a pole-vaulter Mcquaid alumni was available to work with the boys that wanted to try the pole-vault, and Austin was able to try it a few times in practice. Then Friday night an amazing thing happened. It was the last indoor track meet of the season, and Austin was given the chance to pole-vault, instead of running. Wow! Using only half the pole, and taking only 3 steps, Austin cleared heights that others cleared using the whole pole and 6 steps. By the end of the meet, Austin was tied for 12th place in Class A Section V! He ended up vaulting 18 times and cleared a 10foot pole! Everyone was so excited---especially me!! The coaches all hugged me and were just ecstatic.On the way home from the meet Austin THANKED ME! He actually told me that he's happy that I pushed him into vaulting, and that I do know what's best for him. Wow again. I guess that is another thing that makes our sons different from our daughters. Our sons know that I am there to support them; I am not at their sporting events just to embarrass them. In fact, maybe I get along so well with our sons because I totally appreciate the blood, sweat and tears of their sports. And I can't even count the number of times our boys "ran me in" the last mile or two of a grueling race, encouraging me every step of the way. The shared pain and joy of athletics brings us together. Anyway, I was one proud momma at the track meet! Then to top off the fabulous weekend, yesterday was SUPERBOWL SUNDAY, which is practically a national holiday. Gathering around the TV with the requisite junk food has never been so much fun!! This year we actually have an antenna so that we could watch the game at home! Connor made chicken quesadillas, John made pizza bagels and Ben made popcorn. Everyone gathered in Austin's room (it was the only place we could get a strong enough signal to get the station) and enjoyed an exciting game. The boys picked on me mercilessly when I showed my ignorance, and I enjoyed the festive occasion too. Yes, having a houseful of boys is a ton of fun.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Today I spent most of the day writing and mailing letters requesting donations for Leo's orphanage. As I mentioned before, Daqing (where Leo) lives is COLD, COLD, COLD! The children are bundled up so tightly that they actually lose muscle tone. Sam's orphanage (actually called Social Welfare Institute) is a new building, and it seems to be well-funded. Anyway, I created a facebook group, and an online donation page. If you can make a donation, please go to
Thanks! And keep us in your prayers as we take this leap of faith!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do You Want to be Adopted?

As you probably know, John has been helping families write/translate letters to their older child to reassure their fears. John remembers how scared he was of flying on an airplane, for instance, and he knows what it is like to leave behind his friends and his country to bravely join our family. Agreeing to join our family was an enormous leap of faith for John; just as enormous a leap as our deciding to adopt. God is good though, and our adoptions have been great. So great that we're doing it again. But I thought I'd re-post this article below.
  Heidi Wallace from WACAP posted this, and I am quoting her directly:
Looking at Children’s Responses
The Million Dollar Question: “Do you want to be adopted?”

In some countries including China, children who are older must give permission to be adopted. Either during the adoption process or before it begins, children are asked, “Do you want to be adopted?” Families often feel reassured to learn that the child has answered “yes.” And the vast majority of children do.
The question, “Do you want to be adopted?” seems simple, but in reality is very complicated. Over WACAP’s years working in adoption, both internationally and domestically, we have learned what makes this simple question more complex. Let’s look at what this “yes” can mean:

1.      I don’t know what adoption is, but all the adults around me think it is a good thing, so okay.
2.      I will get in trouble or I will upset the adults around me if I say “no.”
3.      It will be really embarrassing if I say “no.”
4.      I always do what the caregivers at the orphanage say, and this is the orphanage director asking me, so I should say okay.
5.      I am just a kid and nobody ever asks me anything. Everyone around me is nodding, so I should say yes.
6.      I have seen other children in the orphanage be adopted and other kids all say they want to be adopted, so maybe it’s a good thing to be like other kids.
7.      My foster parents say I have to go back to the orphanage soon since I am costing them a lot. Maybe this adoption idea is better.
8.      My foster parents said I can leave and make a lot of money in America and then come back and help them out.
9.      This one kid came back to the orphanage with his new family and he was wearing nice clothes and gave everyone candy, so that looks good to me.
10.   Adoption is like moving to a new orphanage, right?
11.   Everyone knows that in America, everyone is rich and kids get all the video games they want, so going to America sounds good to me.
12.   I can come back if I don’t like it.
With all that informs a child’s response, the news that a child has said “yes” to adoption needs to be understood as having little meaning. The affirmative answer is not in any way a reliable predictor of a child’s ability to adapt to a new family.
Adoption is a huge concept for a child. Maybe the million dollar question should be phrased as, “Do you want to leave everyone you know to go live with strangers, who won’t understand a word you say, who eat different food, who live in a new place where you will have to start over in school, knowing you’ll never come back here again but where, of course, in the long run you will be a lot better off?” How would you answer that question?
Kids simply can’t grasp the magnitude of the changes they will experience. They can’t suddenly acquire knowledge of what life in a family is like when they have never experienced family life. Neither can they suddenly acquire the skill to actually assess their own ability to make cultural adjustments and learn a language.
It is important that families understand what can shape a child’s answer to the question “Do you want to be adopted?” and what “yes” may really convey.

Friday, February 3, 2012


I've had a few people ask me lately how I feel being surrounded by boys and men. Our house must be testosterone city, they say. Wouldn't I like to adopt a girl this time? NO WAY!! First of all, I have two daughters (ages 28 and 21), and parenting them was NOT FUN. I simply have no tolerance for drama. In fact, I don't even "get" the constant need to create a crisis over every little thing. Our boys fight regularly, and then it's over and done. I am also extremely direct and honest, and I was constantly hurting my daughters' feelings. Do you think these pants make me look fat? Yes, as a matter of fact they do. Maybe you should cut back on the carbs. Our boys seem to appreciate that mom won't lie to them, just to spare their feelings. When I tell them they performed beautifully in a competition (martial arts), they know I am not just trying to make them feel good. I am just not that kind of a mom. In fact, when David first met me (I was a widow), he said that one of the things that he found attractive is that I am not a "namby-pamby" mom. We were at Holiday Valley Ski resort, and I was telling the kids, "Meet me at 3:00. And  I mean 3:00, not 3:05 or 3:10. Now, tell me, what time are we going to meet?" The only bad thing about having a house full of boys is that I am the only one who is disgusted when, inevitably, someone at the dinner table passes gas. Everyone else in the house finds anything related to flatulence highly amusing. Even the word flatulence, or fart, will send them into hysterics.  I've learned to just ignore it. Boys will be boys.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Honeoye Falls? Consulate email

I noticed that someone who reads our blog is from Honeoye Falls. We live in Geneseo, and our kids attend school in Lima, so I'm just curious if I know you? Leave a comment or send me a note, if you get time. On another note, I received an email today that our Article 5 letter was picked up yesterday, and we are now only waiting for our Travel Approval!!! This final document (TA) is the last, of many, steps in the adoption process. Once we have TA, we can book our flights and hotels. Of course, with the way the timing works, it looks like we'll be on our cruise when we receive TA. I'll probably be paying for the slow and high priced internet on the ship, just to check my email everyday. Ugh. At least we know that we'll have TA several months before we plan on traveling. Last time, in 2010, we received our TA and traveled only a few weeks later! We could travel in March, as I've said before, but we need to wait until a school break so that John only misses one week of school instead of two. Switching gears once again, I read a blog today posted by a family who is in Harbin (where little Leo lives) right now! They said it's -20F there, and they are just cold to the bone, although they do have central heat in their hotel. Brrrr. At least we know that Leo will be used to snow and ice!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Falling into Place!

Several things have fallen into place this week!! I just hope they stay in place! The first thing that happened is that we found a great Chinese language immersion program for Austin to attend this summer.  Austin wants to go to China again, just not on our adoption trip because he can't miss two weeks of school. Austin spent 4 weeks in China (with our former exchange-student's family) when he was 13 years old, but he didn't learn enough of the language then because Xiao spoke to him in English all the time. Hopefully, this time Austin will be at least conversational in Mandarin when he returns home.I am certain that this experience will be life-changing for him. The other thing that happened is that I was finally able to solidify plans for Connor while we are gone. We have found a young woman who will stay at the house to watch Connor and the dogs. Hooray! She was recommended by the pastoral associate of our church, and we can rest easy now. Now, all we need to do is a million other things before our trip! Luckily, this type A mom can be like a hurricane if necessary. Only two more months now, and our family will grow to 8!! Yipee!