Monday, January 28, 2008

Travel plans

February 14, morning: Fly to Hong Kong

February 15, evening: Arrive in Hong Kong

February 16: Tour Hong Kong

February 17, morning: Fly to Nanchang

February 17, afternoon: Meet Zhi Yi

February 18 - 23: Hang out with Zhi Yi, fill out lots of paperwork and go to appointments, see some sights in Nanchang

February 23: Fly to Guangzhou

February 24 - 28: More paperwork and appointments, and sightseeing in Guangzhou

February 29: Fly home!

My countdown clock: 20 days to Zhi Yi

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Heinz 57 Mutt

Meet Moo - we always figured she was a lab/border collie mix. Her favorite pasttimes include snoozing on the bay window and chasing the horses (BAAAAAD MOO!). She's gotten kicked multiple times - the most recent time had us taking her to the vet for x-rays of her right front leg. Thankfully nothing was broken but she did damage her tendon. You'd think she learned something...she was under house-arrest for about a month after that kick, yet the first day she was allowed out, what do you think she did??? Yep....dumb dog tried to chase the horses.

Anyhow, the real point of this post is twofold - one is to introduce myself as J's guest blogger for when she's in China picking up E. I guess China blocks access to Blogger, so she'll send me, her little sister, the pictures and I'll get to post them. I could have just done a brief intro, but it's much more fun to have something interesting to read, so I thought I'd introduce you to Moo. On to the second point of the post - back in December, I swabbed Moo's cheek and sent that in to Metamorphix, Inc. so we could, once and for all, discover Moo's true Heritage. turns out that Moo is NOT the lab/border collie mix that we thought she was. Nope. No Lab. No Border Collie. Instead, we found out that she is really and truly a mutt through and through. They say that a significant proportion of Moo is Miniature Pinscher (less than 50%, but still a significant proportion). Huh??? Also in the mix, but only in small amounts, are: Poodle(??), Miniature Schnauzer (???), and German Shepherd. Now, I can kinda see German Shepherd, but Poodle??? She does have curly hairs on her butt, but c'mon really... Maybe they switched her DNA test with another smaller dog's. Moo is 60 pounds - a significant portion of her DNA is made up of dogs that don't generally get over 15 pounds. Sigh....

For some reason, Metamorphix sent me an extra test kit. I told J that I'd give it to her so that she can send in and find out what Kenai is. Anyone wanna take a guess? I believe he must have at least a small amount of Chihuahua in there.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Still waiting

...on the consulate appointment. I was really hoping to hear yesterday. Now we've passed the 21-day advance purchase period, so the airfare will likely cost us more. Let's hope we hear today.

My countdown clock: 23 days to Zhi Yi

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things that go bump in the night

At 1:30 this morning, we woke up to the pitter-patter of little kitty feet frantically running around our bedroom, accompanied by the sound of paper fluttering. Just as I exclaimed "What the f*** is going on in here?!" the racket quickly moved down the stairs -- thumpety thumpety thump thump thump -- and soon went quiet. I went back to sleep.

A few minutes later, the pitter-patter-paper-rattling noise came tearing back up the stairs and across our bedroom. There was a chorus of "F*cking cats" "What the f*ck?" and various other f*ck-laden expletives. I opened my eyes and saw Kitten silhouetted in the window across the room. I could just barely make out the paper necklace B had made for me at school, in the general area of her tail.

I got out of bed, crept up to Kitten, and stealthily grabbed her by the scruff of her neck (she's a notorious 'fraidy cat and would have run away if I'd given her a split-second to think about it). She was shivering with fear and panting a little (a little high-strung, shall we say?). Somehow, this paper necklace was stuck to her tail with a piece of scotch tape. I think Lulu probably did it. That just strikes me as the kind of evil prank her tiny little cat brain would think up. I can just see her little black paws holding onto the tape dispenser, her teeth sinking into the tape to rip it off the roll. And then there's the fact that she never budged from the bed in the midst of all this chaos. Only a guilty cat could remain that calm.

I removed the paper necklace and scotch tape, and we all slept soundly for the rest of the night.

Damn cats.

My countdown clock: 25 days to Zhi Yi

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The agency came through, pulling us out of the purgatory that is the Denver USCIS office. At the very end of the day today, I got an email with our I-171H attached. The travel department will request a consulate appointment for us tomorrow, and as soon as we have that, we can book our travel. We should still be traveling with our group on Feb. 14.

Huge sigh of relief.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Well, I certainly expected to be much happier when I finally got to announce that we have our TA. But it seems that the agency forgot to mention one little detail when they called with our travel info last Friday: until we have our I-171H, they cannot make our consulate appointment.

For those of you who are not fluent in the crazy lingo of China adoption, your TA is your Travel Authorization. It's what China sends at the very end of the process, inviting you to come to China to pick up your child. Once your agency has your TA in hand, they can call the US consulate in China and make an appointment for you to get the visa for your child to enter the US. Your entire trip to China is planned based on your consulate appointment, because it is the last thing you do in China before you come home with your child. The I-171H is advance permission from the US government for you to get a visa for your child to enter the US. Without the I-171H, no consulate appointment. Without the consulate appointment, no trip plans can be made.

The travel department at our agency believes that the applications department contacted the US Citizenship & Immigration Services in Denver last Friday, but they're not sure. (?!) She said that if the I-171H comes in the next week or two, there's still a chance we could travel with our group and leave on the 14th. If not, well, travel is delayed indefinitely until that stupid piece of paper comes. USCIS is closed today so there's nothing anyone can do. I'll call the agency late tomorrow, and unless they tell me USCIS has said the I-171H is in the mail, I'll be calling our US senator next to ask for help.

I sure wish the agency hadn't told us we'd travel on Feb. 14. They really should have mentioned we needed the I-171H before they could make the CA. It's not very nice to get our hopes up like that.

How ironic that as screwed up as China adoption has gotten over the past two years, it's the US government that might mess it all up for us in the end.

My countdown clock: Temporarily suspended until the I-171H is in hand.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


B on a January afternoon. How could you not love that face? Lock up your daughters, my friends.

All the more loveable when that look is followed by a spontaneous happy dance over the discovery of a stick. Right after I snapped the picture he asked "Mommy, is it OK if I hit the window with this stick?" NO! At least he asked first.

B and a buddy went to ski school on Saturday. It was B's third time on skis, but his first official lesson. I think he might need one or two more before you see him on the X Games. [B is smack in the middle of the picture, in the bright blue jacket.]

I really have to figure out how to post videos on here. Actually, first I have to get around to downloading the software for our camcorder. There is one video of the ski lesson that's pretty funny. Imagine half a dozen four & five year-olds on skis and one instructor. At one point, there were four down and the poor guy was going around picking them up one-by-one and putting them back on their feet. Before he even got to the next downed kid, the first one would fall down again. At no point were there six kids all on their feet.

M was rather disappointed in the lesson. We took him to Eldora, which is known for being a good place for kids to learn to ski. We put him in a two-hour first-timers class because I was afraid he wouldn't have the attention span to make it through a full-day lesson. Well, one problem was the aforementioned six kids:one instructor ratio. Another was the forty-five minute break in the middle of the two-hour lesson. So I paid $79 for an hour and 15 minutes? And apparently he only got to actually ski one run during that time. The instructor spent the rest of the time picking up kids and putting them back on their feet. I think Eldora will be getting one of my famous (infamous?) letters of complaint.

My countdown clock: 28 days to Zhi Yi

Friday, January 18, 2008

We're going to China!

OK, they don't actually have our TA yet so this isn't official, but it looks like we'll be leaving February 14th for Hong Kong. Then on the 17th we'll fly to Nanchang, and get Zhi Yi the same day. They're going to request a consulate appointment on the 26th, 27th or 28th, and we'll head home two days after that. They know TAs are on the way & should arrive early next week, and expect ours to be in that batch. We should know for sure next week!

Our visas came today, so that's one bureaucratic hurdle down. The big one still looms though -- the I-171H still isn't here. The agency was going to call USCIS today to see what they could do to move things along.

As always, my heart dropped down to my feet when I saw the agency's name on caller ID. I started to cry when I called M to tell him about it. Let's go already!

My countdown clock: 30 days to Zhi Yi

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Be vewy vewy quiet

I've been meaning to post this for days, but it's been a crazy week. I have to get stuff organized at my job so that someone else can do it for three months. No small task. And no free time. But here's a little B story to make you smile...

He's been very into sneaking lately. Not in the bad way, as in sneaking cookies when you're not looking (only because that hasn't occured to him yet). Rather, he loves to sneak up on people. We have this routine where we take turns putting him to bed. One of us will get him in his jammies, help him brush his teeth, and read books. The way it USED to be, we would then tuck him into bed, and then the other parent would come in to cuddle. Not anymore. Now B likes to sneak up on the parent who's had the night "off."

It's not that easy though. There's a trick to it. If you spot him while he's sneaking up on you, even if he has genuinely surprised you (and thus succeeded in sneaking), he has a major hissy fit. Even if he's two inches from you, if he hasn't actually touched you or said "boo" yet, there'll be hell to pay if you let on that you've seen him. This has been turning out poorly for me lately. Pretty often he'll sneak up behind me while I'm on the computer. I'll be genuinely surprised, and I'll even jump when I hear him behind me. This is not the reaction he's looking for (it's too early), and he'll just plain freak out. On the other hand, if I know he's coming, I can whistle and look straight at the wall for two minutes while he "sneaks up" on me, and as long as I pretend to be surprised when he wants me to be, everything is hunky-dory.

He's developed a new strategy to combat this problem recently. Take tonight for instance. I got him ready for bed. When we were done with books & it was time for bed, he had me yell down the hall, "Daddy, B is sneaking up on you. Don't look!" Daddy can then very studiously ignore B until B chooses the moment at which Daddy should be surprised.

This has been working out very nicely, at least in terms of avoiding total meltdowns. Yet somehow I think he has not yet quite grasped the concept of "sneaking"...

Adoption update: We're still waiting on our TA (travel authorization) from China. Once we have that, our agency can set our travel date. If we had received it in the past couple days, we could conceivably have traveled before the end of January. I think it's too late for that now. Why? Chinese New Year begins February 7, and everything shuts down for a week. Some things for more (all the factories M's company deals with are closing for two weeks). Best case scenario now is that we travel around mid-February. Better news -- our passports are on their way back from San Francisco, via Fed Ex, with our Chinese visas. They should be here tomorrow. Still waiting on the I-171H though (advance permission from the US government for us to get a visa for our daughter). Sigh. So much paper. So much red tape.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cutie patootie

These are some of the pictures that were taken on December 24. An online friend whose daughter was adopted from the same orphanage several years ago took her daughter back for a visit. We asked her to inquire about our daughter while she was there, and they not only let her see Zhi Yi and take pictures, but she got to hold her too. It makes me a little sad that she doesn't look as happy in these pictures as she has in all the others we've gotten to date, especially not in the first one! I guess the nannies are very proud that she's on the verge of walking, but Zhi Yi is not so into it. We are so ready to go get this little girl.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Evel Knievel

I got a ticket today. I was driving B to preschool, and we went on a street we don't usually go on. It's a two-lane street, and there were a whole bunch of cars in front of me waiting to turn left. Since there was no left turn lane and there was a lot of oncoming traffic, it looked like it was going to take forEVER for them all to turn. So I did something I thought was perfectly reasonable: I pulled around them and passed them all on the right, and went on my merry way.

Well, apparently the cop two blocks up the street didn't think that was such a reasonable move. He had somebody else pulled over, and as I approached, he stepped out into the middle of the street to block me, and waved me over to the side. Then he wrote me a ticket for improper passing on the right. I actually thought that was perfectly legal! I had no idea it wasn't. People do it all the time. Not that that makes it legal, of course, but honestly, it didn't even occur to me when I did it that I could get a ticket for it.

It's not a super-bad ticket. Four points. He said since I have a clean driving record and I got "a smiley face for attitude" (good thing he couldn't hear my inner voice screaming BITE ME -- I'LL SHOW YOU MY ATTITUDE!!), the city would probably send me an offer to plea bargain down to a two-point ticket for driving a defective vehicle. Which technically my car is -- I have a headlight out. I actually thought that was the reason he was pulling me over at first.

B was very upset at first. While the cop was back in his car writing up my ticket, B's bottom lip poked out and started to quiver. His eyes filled with tears. He thought I was going to go to jail! Once I explained what a ticket was and made a baby joke or two, he was OK. Then, as we were driving off, he asked me "Mommy, was that thing with a button on his belt a GUN?" Yes, it was. "WHY??" Police officers always carry guns, in case a bad guy is about to hurt someone and won't stop when the policeman tells them to. "And then they SHOOT them?" Yes, but only if they have to. "DEAD?!!!" Sometimes. "Then do they eat the meat?" Oh god. My son thinks police officers are cannibals. Actually, he laughed as soon as he said it, so he knew he was being funny. It's because we'd been talking about hunters the other day, and how they shoot animals and eat the meat. My kid is weird.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Smart cookie

(Photo left over from November -- I know the pictures are the real reason the grandparents come here, but I don't have a new one.)

We've been wishing B would learn to read. M & I both love to read, and hope to pass that on to B. And frankly, life would be a lot easier if B could read for, say, ten minutes? Enough time for me to maybe wash the dishes or, god forbid, have a moment of quiet time in the house. But he has shown very little interest, and we haven't been pushing it.

Then last night, two things happened that astonished me: first, he looked at my sweatshirt and said "Mommy, that blue shirt you're wearing says the same thing as that gray shirt you were wearing yesterday." Whoa. He was right! He didn't actually know what it said, but he totally recognized it. (In case you're wondering, it said 'Kansas.' Rock chalk Jayhawk!)

Then just a few minutes later, M was reading him his bedtime stories. He was trying to show B how when you spell a word, you have to name all the letters in order. He has a habit of picking random letters off a page of the newspaper, yelling them out, and asking what it spells -- think "Hey Mommy! What does W-Y-H-F-R-L-M spell?" Then he gets pissed off when I either say the nonsense it spells ("wifferlim," in this case), or tell him it doesn't spell anything. So anyway, M was asking him to name the letters in a word. B got cranky and starting whining "But I don't WANT to spell that word. Just READ, Daddy!" M said "OK, I just thought you might want to know how to spell 'boy' since you are a boy." B replied "Duh Daddy. It's b-o-y."

I think he can secretly read and is hiding it from us. Crafty little devil.

Totally unrelated, random thing that made me laugh yesterday: We were driving back from my parents' house & passed a hay field. B yelled out "Hey, look at all those big huge clunks of hay in that field!" Some people call them 'bales.'

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Wah. I'm sick. Went to bed last night with my stomach feeling a little gurgly & sloshy, but not actually feeling sick. Woke up feeling the same. Started getting ready for our big ski day, and things went downhill fast (ha ha, bad pun -- sorry). B & I sent M on his merry way up to ski b/c he had a telemark lesson to take (Christmas gift from me) that couldn't be rescheduled. I thought maybe if I laid down for an hour, I'd feel better & B and I could go somewhere closer to fool around a bit. He's never skied before, so it's not like we need to hit the big bumps at Mary Jane or anything. Any 10' x 10' patch of snow, even without a hill, probably would've suited him fine.

Parents to the rescue!!! God, what would we do if we didn't live near family? After an hour of ever-increasing misery, I called my parents. They were here in under two hours, and have taken B and his skis up to their house until tomorrow. After his so-called nap, they're going to take him up in the mountains somewhere to fool around with the skis for an hour or so. I'm hoping M & I will be better by tomorrow. Oh yeah, M left his lesson an hour early & came home sick too. He didn't even wave at me nesting on the couch when he walked in the door. He just went straight up to bed.

I never get sick, so I'm super-wussy when it happens. The last time I was sick was the winter after B was born. I was sick throughout the whole pregnancy and most of the first year after he was born. I never had morning sickness, I just got sick a lot. I think all my immunity went to him while he was cooking & while I was breastfeeding. I caught every single cold, sinus infection, stomach flu, ear infection, and general crud that came along. It SUCKED. But I haven't been sick since. And before that? I remember having the flu twice in graduate school, which would've been 1995-1997. I was teaching English as a second language, so I'm sure I was exposed to all sorts of exotic germs my students brought with them from around the world. But that's it. I can't recall anything other than a cold for the rest of my entire adult life.

I'm not good at being sick. I'm going to go curl up on the couch & watch bad daytime TV until I pass out.

Whine, whine, whimper, whimper.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Scariest thing in the world, if you're 3

For Christmas 2006, M's company had their holiday party at the zoo. Our zoo does this really wonderful holiday thing called Zoo Lights, where they decorate the whole zoo with Christmas lights. A lot of them are in the shape of animals, and they are animated. They move. Think of those little flipbooks you used to make as a kid in order to create animation. The lights work sort of like that. Anyway, it makes for a great company party, and I've gone to at least four Christmas parties there over the years that I can remember.

So last year, it was frigid, just like it always is at Zoo Lights. It's guaranteed that if M or I have a holiday party at the zoo, the temperature will drop down to around zero. (Supporting evidence: this year, my party was at the Botanic Gardens. It was warm and toasty, in the 30s at least. I'm positive that if we'd had it at the zoo again, it would have been positively arctic.) We decided to go into the hippo house to warm up. The elephants were standing off to one side, staring silently at the handful of people inside. The rhinos were on the other side, apparently sound asleep. The hippos, all three of them, were in their pool, swimming underwater. All in all, very quiet and not terribly exciting. Every now and then, a hippo would come up for air, and we'd all go "ooooooh."

After about 30 seconds of this, B's attention span was shot. He started wandering around the open area in the middle of the hippo house, examining the artwork painted by the elephants. At this particular moment, one of the hippos came up for air again, and as it did, it let out a deafening roar. Have you ever heard a hippo? It sounds like a cross between an elephant and a lion. It's a big, BIG sound, and it was amplified by the small, low-ceilinged concrete building we were in.

Upon hearing that noise, B shot straight up into the air, let out a piercing scream of pure terror, did a 180 in midair, and started sprinting for the door before his feet even hit the ground, sobbing hysterically as he ran. A zoo volunteer happened to be walking in the door of the hippo house and witnessed the whole thing, and I distinctly heard her giggle as I ran past her after B, trying but failing to stifle my own laughter.

The poor kid cried HARD for a good five minutes, and couldn't get away from that place fast enough. He clung to us for the rest of the time we were at the zoo, insisting we carry him everywhere. For the next six months, he refused to go back to the zoo. We finally convinced him to go back last summer, but only on the condition that we not visit the hippos, or even go near that general section of the zoo. Just this morning, B was talking about going to the zoo, but he made sure to add, "But not to see the hippos Mommy, OK?"

I'm pretty sure B will have a lifelong fear of hippos. That's OK. B is not terribly likely to run into hippos on a daily basis. Think of his poor daddy, who has had to live with a fear of birds since age five.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


It's a good thing he's cute, because he sure ain't smart.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Holy cr@p, LOA!

You think I was excited last week when we got our PA? Well, you should see me now! We got our Letter of Acceptance today. We got it in pretty much record time. Most families in our position have waited around 40ish days; we waited 28!

LOA is a big, BIG deal. It means (1) we are officially approved to adopt ZhiYi, and (2) we will travel soon and need to start getting ready. Unfortunately, Chinese New Year will probably delay our travel by a couple weeks. It's just impossible to travel in China during that week, and our guides will of course want to be home with their families, not shepherding us around. If everything follows a typical timeline, our most likely departure date will be in mid-February.

Get ready baby, here we come!!!