Friday, September 30, 2016

So the File is In!

On Monday we got the great news that our girl's official file is in! Several other families with our agency (AAC) got the same good news, so a whole batch of files must have come in at the same time. The file is pretty much the same as the pre-file we saw back at the end of July, but there are a few fun details that have been added. Some of the facts that made me smile were that her favorite activity is playing on the slide and her favorite toys are plush toys.

We had already written up our Letter of Intent (LOI), which is a letter to the Chinese officials saying we wish to adopt this girl, so our agency was able to submit that on the same day the file arrived. Now the countdown is on. Once a dossier arrives in China, it goes through a translation process for about thirty days. Then it goes through a review and match review process, which supposedly takes a few weeks. Our dossier was logged in (LID) on September 5, and the average wait until LOA is about forty days right now.

LOA (Letter of Acceptance) is the hugely big milestone step where China basically says, "This kiddo is yours!" It's at this point that we can request updated pictures and information, share pictures publicly, send her a package, possibly Skype with her, etc. We will definitely be celebrating when this happens!

Basically, to have any chance at all of being with our girl for her fourth birthday on December 28 (it's going to kill me if she has to spend another birthday without a family), we'd need to get LOA from China by mid-October. But with the Mid-Autumn Festival and next week's Golden Holiday break thrown in there, we've lost a lot of Chinese work days. It's looking pretty unlikely that we'll travel before 2017, but I'm still holding on to a tiny bit of hope.

In other news, her bedroom is coming along. Bye bye beloved music room! Zack was kind enough to move his guitars and stuff downstairs. I've picked some paint colors and found some very cheap (or free) furniture at consignment sales and on Craigslist. I'll even admit that I picked up a pretty cool white cube thing next to a dumpster in our alley the other morning! Hey, adoption isn't cheap, so I'm not above dumpster diving at this point!

And so now we wait. After LOA, it's a pretty predictable 8-10 weeks until leaving for China, so things will move quickly at that point. Come on mid-October LOA!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Have a Heart

Every child adopted from China nowadays has some sort of special need. Needs can range in severity from minor and/or correctable to very severe. Our daughter's special need is a ventricular septal defect (VSD) in her heart. It was already repaired with a surgery in China, so all she should need in the future is some cardiology follow-up appointments.

I didn't really know (okay, I had no clue!) what a VSD was, so I figured I'd educate you all along with myself. Basically, it's a hole in the wall (septum) separating the two lower chambers of the heart. Normally, the wall closes before birth, so the oxygen-rich blood on the left side can't mix with the oxygen-poor blood on the right side. A VSD causes the heart to have to work harder to provide oxygen to the body's tissues.

Our girl's VSD was diagnosed because she had an ongoing heart murmur, an extra or unusual sound heard with her heartbeat. Other symptoms include shortness of breath or poor eating, but we don't know that she had problems with that. This is a very common heart defect; about 1 in 500 babies are born with it.

In November of last year, our girl had a surgery to repair her VSD. Instead of having an open-heart procedure, she was able to have her repair done by catheter. The surgeon in China inserted a thin tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in her groin and guided it to her heart. A specially sized mesh device called an occluder was inserted to patch the hole.

We had a couple of cardiologists review our girl's file, which included results of her echocardiogram after the surgery, and they said everything looked great. We already know that Children's Hospital here in Denver is awesome, so we'll definitely be taking her to the cardiology department there for a check-up right when she gets home. But overall, we're very happy that she's so healthy, she didn't (and won't) have to have open-heart surgery, and that her prognosis seems so positive!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our $660 Decision

When we originally completed all of our paperwork for this second adoption, we indicated that we were open to a girl up to age three with a minor or correctable special need. When we were going through the Kyrgyzstan adoption process, we were originally hoping for an infant, but we ended up with 2-year-old Jonas! So from our experience with him, we knew it actually wasn't scary to bring home a toddler. He caught up and caught on quickly, yet there was still enough "baby" in him to satisfy that parenting desire. We assumed we'd get a referral of a girl of about the same age, perhaps even younger.

Well, near the end of July, just before our dossier was going to be sent to China, we got an e-mail from our agency saying that they had a file they wanted to talk to us about. We called and were told there was a little girl living in one of their partnership orphanages whose file was being prepared. The coordinator said that the girl had a minor heart condition that had already been repaired (so she fit our desire for minor/correctable needs), but that she was older than we were open to on our paperwork. "She'll be turning four at the end of the year," we heard, and immediately thought of Jonas's fourth birthday on December 23rd. At that point, she couldn't reveal the girl's exact birthdate, but she laughed and said, "Well, there are a few days difference between them!"

We agreed to look at the file, knowing that there was no harm in checking it out. Our agency is very understanding of clients saying "no" to files that don't feel right, so we didn't feel any pressure or stress about looking at it. Their theory is that one family saying "no" allows the child's meant-to-be family to say "yes." Our coordinator said that she'd send the file that evening (including pictures), and we could think about it for a few days. I refreshed my e-mail feed every two seconds all night long until I finally had to go to sleep! I woke up early the next morning, and it was finally there.

Zack and I opened the attachments and looked at the pictures and video together. We often get asked if we knew right away that Jonas or this girl were "our children." And I know several adoptive parents do feel something special when they see their kid's picture for the first time. That's not the case for us. Personally, I just kind of think, "Hmmm...okay..." That's what happened for both Jonas and this girl. Maybe it's just my rational, left-brained personality...I don't know. For what it's worth, when we met Jonas in person, I did feel like, "Okay, this is definitely MY son!" So, sorry to disappoint, but we didn't see her picture and fall in love and say, "Let's do it!"

AAC Adoption Agency Fee Sheet
We talked about it for a few days, and we came to the conclusion that the only reason in the world to say "no" to this file was because of her age. We researched "artificial twinning," which is what we're doing by creating a family with children of the same age. We contemplated what our family would look like with two children of the same size, possibly in the same grade, who would be reaching milestones at the same time (driving, going off to college, etc.). But in the end, it came down to the fact that here was a basically totally healthy beautiful little girl without a family. How could we say no? Why should we?

So we said yes. And that decision cost us $660! We had to pay $300 to get a home study addendum, since our original one said we were approved for a child up to age three. We also had to pay $330 to USCIS for a Supplement 3 to our I-800A form. Basically that means that the US immigration department had approved us to adopt one child up to the age of three, and that needed changed as well. Pretty ridiculous, eh? We were originally quite annoyed and wondered if it was a sign that we shouldn't go through with it, but we're trusting that when this girl joins our family, we'll understand why she was meant to be a Keys kid, and that we'd gladly pay $660 to have her be ours forever!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mid-Autumn Festival

The cool part about adopting a kid from China is that you can start celebrating all of the fun Chinese holidays! Our daughter might not be home with us yet, but we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival yesterday (a day late) anyway. It's also called the Moon Festival, it's the second biggest holiday after Chinese New Year, and it falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of China's lunar calendar each year.

On this festival day, it's customary to eat mooncakes, admire the bright full moon, and think of family and friends who live far away. Seems rather appropriate! We have an awesome Asian store just a few miles away from our house, so Jonas and I picked up some dumplings for dinner and mooncakes for dessert. The best thing about celebrating a day late is that the mooncakes were 20% off! Mooncakes are beautiful circle-shaped pastries imprinted with Chinese characters for longevity or harmony. They are filled with sweet bean paste and a salted egg yolk, which represents the moon. They're pretty good, but very dense. We all shared just one!

It's also customary to celebrate with lanterns. Jonas picked a green lantern to light and send off to his sister underneath the full moon. Some day, we'll be able to tell our daughter we were thinking of her before she was even home. Next year, we look forward to eating mooncakes and lighting lanterns together as a family of four!
To Our Girl in China

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What is Where?

I know that I definitely did not know much at all about China when we started this process, especially where certain cities were located, so I thought it might be helpful to educate others as well. Let's start with the big picture...

See Kyrgyzstan? The little yellow-colored country on the Northwest side of China? Yep, that's where Jonas is from. Only the Tien Shan mountain range separates his homeland from hers. Now let's zoom in a bit...

Our girl is from the Jiangxi province. It's the greenish colored one in the Southeast side of the country. Beijing is straight North of there, indicated by the B in the Hebei province. We'll also have to travel to the Guangdong province, South of Jiangxi (in yellow). We'll probably fly out of Hong Kong, indicated by the H just South of Guangdong. Time to zoom in some more...

Here's our probable path of travel. I totally copied this map from another adoptive family! We'll probably fly into Beijing and get over our jet lag while hopefully doing a bit of sightseeing for a day or two. Then we'll head to Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi, probably by bullet train. That's where we'll pick up our daughter and spend a few days doing paperwork. After that, we'll head to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, probably via another bullet train. Our girl will have a medical exam done there. That's also where the US embassy is located, so we'll get her visa. From there, we'll probably take a bus to Hong Kong and fly home. Okay, one more map...

So our daughter currently lives in a foster home on the grounds of the Fuzhou orphanage. Fuzhou is a city that's a bit Southeast of Nanchang, a couple of hours away by car. You can find it above the 'X' and 'I' in Jiangxi on this map! We are hopeful that we'll be able to take a day trip from Nanchang to visit her orphanage and possibly her foster family. Fuzhou in Jiangxi is not to be confused with the more well-known Fuzhou in the Fujian province to the East.

Well, hope that was helpful for getting an idea of where things are in China. Just don't ask me how to pronounce any of these words correctly! Now if our girl's official file would just come in, we could start getting a lot closer to getting to all these places!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

So What's the Scoop?

So I know that it's a bit of a pain to navigate all of the pages on this blog and figure out what the heck is going on. I'll do individual posts on some of these topics in future posts, but lots of people just want a general idea of what's happening. So here's the scoop in an easy-to-read bullet point format:
  • We started the whole adoption process in mid-April. There were a few things we didn't have to redo (like training classes) because it was our second time around, but basically, we had to start from scratch, especially since we used a different agency.
  • We received an e-mail in late July and then talked to our agency about the pre-file of a little girl who was outside of our original desired age range. On August 1, we accepted this pre-file, and when her official file comes in (which it will, as she's with one of our agency's partnership orphanages), it'll be designated to our family.
  • Our future daughter's special need is a repaired heart condition called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). More about that in a future post, but basically she'll need nothing other than cardiology follow-ups.
  • Our girl is five days younger than Jonas. She'll turn four at the end of the year. We had originally hoped we'd have her home by then, but it's looking like we won't get there until January. This isn't in our control. Right now she lives with a foster family (including a foster brother who's her age!) on the orphanage grounds in a city called Fuzhou in the Jiangxi province. Maps to come!  
  • Around January, once all of the paperwork is done (more on that in another post), we'll go to China for a two-week trip. We'll probably fly into Beijing and spend a couple of days there, take a bullet train to her province to pick her up and do paperwork, and then take another train to Guangzhou, where everyone adopting in China has to go for embassy paperwork. We hope to bring Jonas along with us (if financially feasible) to aid with bonding and help with attachment (for both him and her). 
  • We can't share our daughter's Chinese name (and we haven't decided on her English name) or her picture online at all yet. That can happen after we get something called Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from China, which should come through about a month after her official file comes in. Her official file should/could come in any day. We do have pictures and a video from May. I can show you on my phone if you see me in person. Our girl seems sweet, quiet, and cute. She has a terrible haircut though (think bowl-shaped with short bangs!).
  • We are doing a puzzle fundraiser to try to raise $10,000, which is the amount that Zack's former employer provided to us in adoption assistance when we were in process to bring home Jonas. More on our reasoning and thoughts about fundraising in an upcoming post! The link is on the right side of the blog; it's only $10 to help us "Bring Home Our Missing Piece."
Hopefully that helps give an idea of where we're at and what's going on. The FAQ tab has a lot of this information (and more). I'll be posting more on specific topics in the upcoming weeks. Thanks for reading! Oh, and here's a screenshot of our very first step (the online application) in this process back on April 12!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Help Us Bring Home Our Missing Piece!

"Adopting one child won't change the world; but for that one child, the world will change."

Purchase your puzzle piece here!

On the other side of the world, a young girl waits for her family. She's been waiting for a Mommy and Daddy for almost four years. She's never splashed in a swimming pool, had a puppy lick her face, enjoyed an ice cream cone, picked a pumpkin, sat on Santa's lap, hiked in the mountains, played at the park, had her own bed to sleep in at night, or felt a loving hug when she wakes up in the morning. Our family feels called to change that for her, and we'd like to invite you to be a part of this mission.

Zack and Aubree Keys adopted their son Jonas from Kyrgyzstan in 2015. They believe that this little girl in China is the missing piece to completing their family. They'd love to welcome her into their home and make her a Keys kid forever. However, international adoption is not inexpensive. Visit our Cost tab to see all of the expenses already incurred and those to come, but our agency estimates it will cost about $35,000 total to bring home our daughter from China. It's going to take a village, and you are our village. We are humbly asking for your financial assistance in the form of a puzzle fundraiser we're calling "Bring Home Our Missing Piece." 

Here's how it works. We have created a 1000 piece puzzle with an adoption-themed word cloud around the shape of China. Each piece can be "purchased" for $10. A $100 donation would get you 10 pieces! "Buying" a piece means your name gets written on the back. You can buy as many pieces as you would like. Maybe you want one for each member of your family or one in honor of someone special. As the pieces are purchased, we'll assemble the puzzle. When it's complete, we'll preserve it in a clear frame, and it will hang in our future daughter's room. She'll be able to read all of the names of the loving and generous people who helped bring her home. Go here to purchase your tax-deductible piece(s) now!
Our goal is to raise $10,000. We know this is a large amount, but we believe it can be accomplished with everyone's help. We're hoping that $10 won't hit your pocketbook too hard, yet you can still feel like you are a part of bringing this girl home and giving her a family. When Zack worked in a traveling position for Accenture, the company gave us $10,000 in adoption assistance to help bring Jonas home from Kyrgyzstan. Zack quit his position there in order to work locally when we adopted Jonas, taking a nearly 50% pay cut so he could come home each night to his new son. His current employer provides no adoption assistance, so we are hoping to replace that now-missing $10,000. The donations from the puzzle fundraiser will go directly toward our agency's Phase 2 Processing Fee ($3000), the Paper Processing Fee in China ($2200), and the required Orphanage Donation ($5800). So your contribution will be helping other orphans as well!

Saint(!) Teresa once said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if the drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of the missing drop." $10,000 is a very large ocean, and your $10 drop is needed. A little girl in China without a family is counting on your drop. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for helping us to bring home our missing piece. Even if you are not able to help financially, we greatly appreciate your love, prayers, and support as our family grows through adoption once again.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Adopting Again!

An Announcement Limerick

Our life's full of joy with our son,
but soon there won't be only one.
To China we'll go,
Jonas now the big bro.
Adopting a girl sounds like fun!

That's right...Jonas is going to be a big brother! We are excited to announce that we are adopting a little girl from China. She's also three years old...only five days younger than Jonas! The whole process has moved incredibly fast (we just started in mid-April), and she should be able to come home with us around January. We are excited to share this journey with you via this blog and our Facebook group. Follow along if you're interested. Please also check out our puzzle fundraiser. Lots more to come!