Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So Proud

Isabel and I took a 90 minute tour of Taliesin West today. I figured we'd have to bail at some point, but my darling girl was so good. I'm sure the other folks in our group were thinking, "OH, NO," when they saw us, but by the end of the tour, they were all complimenting Ibby on her stellar behavior. As for Taliesin, incredible setting, fascinating architecture, interesting was a great morning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Desert Botanical Garden

Today after we dropped Daddy off at work, Isabel and I went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Though I have been vacationing in Arizona for over ten years, I have never visited the DBG even though I have always wanted to. It reminds me of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum except it's filled with desert succulents. It is absolutely gorgeous. We spent over two hours walking the trails and saw hundreds of gorgeous plants, a bunch of butterflies, and a few hummingbirds. Currently, the Garden is featuring a exhibit of Dale Chihuly hand blown glass sculptures. They are sprinkled through the landscape, nestled among the cacti, and when the sun hits them, they are a spectacular sight. Isabel really enjoyed herself. Tomorrow we go to Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona home and studio. I've been there before, but it's a fun place to visit, so I don't mind going again. Never too early to expose kids to culture, right?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fingerprints and Colds

I forgot to mention that we received our rescheduled fingerprint appointment notice in the mail before we left for Arizona. We are going in on March 4. The way things have been going with USCIS lately, I am guessing it will be less than a week before we receive our approval. Hooray!

Isabel and I both have nasty colds. I have the worst sore throat I have ever had in my life...well, that's not exactly true, It's the same degree of discomfort I felt just six weeks ago when this virus or whatever it is started. I don't think I've ever gotten rid of it; it just keeps waxing and waning. I think I am going to have to break down and see a doctor. Isabel is amazing. If she feels as bad as I do, she sure doesn't show it. We are trying not to let our stuffy noses put a damper on our vacation though. On Sunday we went to a Wildlife Zoo (not the Phoenix city zoo) north of the city. I'm not a huge fan of zoos, but this one was really nice. Isabel was mobbed by hungry goats in the kids' petting zoo. I do have a picture, but I didn't bring the proper cord to upload pictures, so you'll have to wait to see it until we get home,

Today, after we dropped Daddy off at the place he's working all week, we went to a mall near our hotel which had a great play area. I found some great deals for the girls at Old Navy. I bought some cotton dresses for TWO DOLLARS apiece. Oh, and I happened to find a very cute spring bag at Macy's for far more than two dollars, but I realized the other day that I had packed away all my purses when we put the house on the market, and since it's spring (well, at least here in AZ anyway), I needed a cute new bag. Strike that. WANTED a new spring bag. I haven't really purchased anything for myself in awhile, and hey, I'm sick, so I needed just a little pick me up. Anyhow, it's a Lucky brand canvas bag with what looks like a cherry blossom print with green and pink suede trim. Super cute.

So Isabel and I are back at the hotel now. I'm hoping she's ready for a nap soon...although she's very busy right now taking pieces of paper from the hotel notepad and placing them all over the living room, and then rearranging and replacing them. I'm not sure what this game is, but she's enjoying herself very much.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feels Like Home

When we left Minnesota bright and early this morning, there was six inches of fresh snow on the ground...quite pretty if you like that sort of thing. Now, just a few short hours later, we are in Phoenix where the sun is out, the bougenvelia are in brilliant form, and the temps are in the 70s. Ahhhhhhhhh. Richard and I have been coming out here at least once a year since before we even got married. We took a hiatus the last two years since we try to slip a Hawaii trip in there every few years, and last year there was only one destination on our mind: Guatemala. Anyhow, it's nice to be back. It's funny, but Arizona feels more like home to me than Minnesota or even Wisconsin. I think maybe I was a southwest dweller in a former life or something. Or maybe it's just the familiarity because we've been here so often. Either way, it's awfully nice to leave the cold and snow behind (I'm no fan as you know) for a few days in the sun. It's Isabel's first time here. She was absolutely stellar on the journey, especially considering we had to haul her out of bed before 5:00 a.m. in order to catch our 7:00 flight. What a good little traveler she is...she only cried once, right before takeoff, and only because Richard pinched her underneath the chin with her special seatbelt when he was getting her situated in her seat. At one point, Richard and I looked at each other and wondered aloud how she'll do on a sixteen hour flight. Guess we'll find out in a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Daddy Wore Me Out

How's this for a romantic Valentine's Day? Mommy stayed home by herself while Isabel and Daddy went to a Wild hockey game. Orginally, both Isabel and I were going to stay home because when it's an evening game, it ends up being a pretty late night. But Ibby had so much fun when we went a few weeks ago that Richard and I decided they should go have fun while I had a quiet night at home by myself. It certainly felt strange being in the house all alone, but I made the most of it by calling a girlfriend I hadn't talked to in awhile and chatting for over an hour. Then I watched "The Visitor," a movie I have been wanting to see for awhile since the lead actor, Richard Jenkins, is up for an academy award. It was a relaxing evening. Richard and Isabel were home by ten, and both Daddy and daughter were pretty exhausted. At least Richard was still upright. Isabel made it out of the car and all the way upstairs to her room without waking up. We couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the girl totally passed out on her changing table.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fingerprint Appointment!

On Friday, we received notice of our fingerprint appointment. Wouldn't you know it, the appointment is set for the week we will be in Arizona. Let's hope that changing the date will be easy. Lately, approvals are arriving about 14 days after fingerprinting. If we get a new appointment during the first week of March, that would mean our approval would arrive in mid-March. Now the only glitch we have for travel is a trade show Richard has the last week of April. If we can't travel early enough in April, that would mean we would go to China in early May. The neat thing about that is the girls' Forever Family days would be close since our embassy appointment for Isabel was May 6.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

USCIS is My Friend

I bet you never thought you'd hear me say THAT. Well, it's true. In the past couple of days, I have been quite impressed with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As many of you know, we had run into a bit of a roadblock when we found out that Isabel's new Certificate of Citizenship was going to take forever to be processed. We cannot apply for her US passport until we have it, so a couple of weeks ago, we wrote to USCIS requesting them to expedite Ibby's CoC. They turned us down! Well, I got on the phone pronto with someone from customer service and explained our situation. I spent a half an hour on the phone with an incredibly nice, concerned, and intelligent woman...YES, she was a USCIS employee...and she rewrote the request, submitted it, and five days later, we had Isabel's new CoC in hand! Whew. I will forever be grateful to that woman who took the time to write a very persuasive request that demonstrated our dire need.

Secondly, we know that our I800A application for Maddie has been assigned to a case worker. She has read our application and our home study, and although she did issue an RFE (request for evidence), it's a very minor issue. Our addendum should be sent to her within the next day or two, and we should be well on our way to a fingerprint appointment and then APPROVAL!

USCIS has NOT been my friend in the past especially when they lost some of Isabel's paperwork. It was an icky mess, and we had to get our State Senator involved. Now, I am quite pleased to see this agency working in a compassionate and efficient manner.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Details about Maddie

Forgive me. I have been a bad blogger. The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity, and I just haven't been able to find the time to post.

First of all, we needed to finish our paperwork for the US government and get that submitted. Our forms arrived in Chicago on January 27, and they cashed our check on January 28, so we know that 1) everything arrived safely and was not lost (a special fear of ours since it happened with Isabel's adoption) and 2) somebody had to open the envelope even if it was just to remove the check. Recent processing times have been much quicker than 90 days, so we are very hopeful that trend will continue.

Secondly, we decided a few weeks ago that we were going to go ahead and move before we sold our house, so we have been doing major home hunting. In two weeks, we looked at 25 houses. We put offers in on three homes, and we came very, very close to purchasing one of fact, when the sellers countered our very lowball offer, we were only $9000 apart. It would have been a steal, but after deep contemplation...and reading more headlines about job layoffs and a sadly ailing economy...we ultimately decided though we are risk takers, we aren't willing to put our entire financial future in peril by being stuck with two homes for who knows how long. So I am done looking at houses until we have a solid offer on ours. In the meantime, we are going to have to do some remodeling in Isabel's room, so it will accommodate two kiddos instead of one. The work will be minor, and hopefully, we will be able to get it completed in the next month, so that all is ready for Madeleine's homecoming.

Speaking of Madeleine, I realized that I haven't yet shared many details about her, so at long last, here is some of the pertinent information about our newest family member. Madeleine turned two on November 22, 2008, so she and Isabel are almost exactly seven months apart. They will be in the same grade in school. In fact, just this morning, I registered for community ed classes for next fall, and both kiddos will be taking the Tuesday morning Movers and Shakers class for toddlers ages 24 to 36 months. Currently, Madeleine is residing in the Social Welfare Institute (SWI) of Huangyan District in Taizhou City of Zhejiang province. For those of you not up on your China geography, Taizhou City is a coastal city just south of Shanghai. Her Chinese name is Huang Qiqi. Huang means "yellow" and Qi means "angel." She is described by her caregivers as extroverted and clever. She loves to be outside and especially likes to play with toys that light up or make sound. She has a ready smile and is close to her caretakers and other children in the orphanage. Oh, and she loves books which will make her a good fit for our family! I'm sure Isabel will be happy to share all of her favorite books with Maddie once she gets home.

Just this week, we had a care package delivered to Maddie through an organization called Red Thread China. We sent a photo album that includes pictures of us, so Maddie can see our faces before she meets us this spring. We also included a ladybug sweater, a picture book, a stuffed animal, a disposable camera, candies for the nannies, and a letter to the orphanage director. Captions on the pictures and the letter were translated into Chinese by Ann, one of the women who runs Red Thread China. She lives there, so she handles package delivery. She is so sweet. She calls the orphanage to verify that the package is going to the right child. When she called Maddie's SWI, she was able to get updated measurements for us, so we know that she is now 34.65 inches tall and weighs 27.56 pounds. She has a couple of inches and just a few pounds on Isabel. This is incredibly helpful information since it will help me plan what size clothing to take for her when we go to get her.

A Guatemala vs. a China adoption are like night and day. With Isabel, we were so comforted because not only did we know she was in foster care, but we had met the foster family and knew how much they loved Isabel and how well they took care of her. We also had the opportunity to visit several times and get to know Isabel during her infancy. With Madeleine, we hope and pray that she is getting the best of care and that there is a special someone at the orphanage to whom she is close and who makes her feel safe and loved. Also, we met Ibby when she was two and a half months old. We will not meet Maddie until she is two and a half years old. We hope the nannies show her our pictures and prepare her as best they can for the huge transition she is about to undergo.

Recently, a new rule was instituted by the CCAA (China Center of Adoption Affairs) that travel approval will not be issued until a family has received USCIS (US Immigration) approval. As soon as that is in place, we should be able to move forward fairly quickly. I am still holding out for travel in April or May. Until then, we keep Maddie in our daily prayers and look forward with great excitement to the day we can finally meet her and bring her home.