2/23-24/13 - Attend Donald Miller's Storyline Conference (Melissa) - it rocks my world - Know without a doubt that I want to live the kind of life that is a story worth telling. I start looking at the "negative turns" in my life and searching for the redemption in them. Inspired by Joseph and Genesis 50:20 (You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.)
3/11/13 - Larry texts Melissa to ask her what she wants to do with some money they have put away... She says, "Save many lives." And he replies, "I walked right into that, didn't I?"
3/12/13 - We go out to celebrate and the kids keep talking about "Leo"... Isaac says, during the conversation, "Dad, who cares about vacations? This is saving a life."
3/14/13 - We decide to move forward with adopting "Leo"
3/15/13 - We send updated financials and nurture letter to CHI ($700 application fee)
3/15/13 - While calling Home Study agencies for quotes and to inquire about expediting, Melissa tells "Leo's" story and then asks about expediting the service. Almost all of the agencies charge $500 to expedite (and have differing definitions of "expediting"). I call one in particular and happen to be speaking to the founder and director of the agency. She listens to our story and says she can expedite the home study for us without charging us the expedite fee because she knows our situation with "Leo's" health.
3/18/13 - CHI sends our paperwork to China to get PA (pre-approval)
3/20/13 - We name him! (Larry picks his name!) Benjamin Li (pronounced like "Lee" and his Chinese name)
3/22/13 - Granddad passes away. We get to spend his last few hours with him and get to tell him about Benjamin. Also find out that an anonymous donor is paying our agency fee ($6000)
AND our orphanage donation ($5600) (This ended up not being the case. But the anonymous donor did cover our agency fee and the fee that was due when we sent in our dossier - $1500)
3/25/13 - We receive PA from China! We overnight our initial paperwork to The Family Network to start our home study. ($300 home study application fee; $28 Fed Ex)
3/29/13 - Larry and Landen get their fingerprints done at Chula Vista Police Department ($168)
4/1/13 - First home study visit... given LOTS of paperwork and assignments and pick up tons of recycling from people and turn it in to put toward the adoption ($2600)
4/2/13 - Melissa gets fingerprints done, drop off teacher reference forms, make calls ($84)
4/3/13 - Get kids' physicals done, start planning the fundraising dinner, get pets' clearances and more (Kids - $60; Pets - $66)
4/4/13 - Life insurance, guardianship, birth and marriage certs, Home Depot for smoke alarm/co2 monitor and child locks ($125)
4/5/13 - Filled out more paperwork, got physical and Emma's TB test read. Got frustrated with the Post offices in Chula Vista when their phones were all busy all day and I couldn't get through directly or by the 800 number. Finally found out that my (Melissa) high school friend Berna works at the Imperial Beach post office and even though they are completely booked, she can get us in to get the kids' passports. (Physical - $20)
4/6/13 - Larry signs all his paperwork and starts the online courses. We are given a TON of recycling by Amanda Cash and Debra Wheeler. (required online courses - $385)
4/8/13 - Melissa starts her Hague Convention courses. Made appointment to get the kids' passports done. Faxed police clearance requests to Indiana. Larry and I both get our TB tests read.
4/9/13 - Stressful day as I finalize as many of the papers for the home study that I can. In the morning I get a call from Rebecca, Dr. Denis Levy's nurse (he is the pediatric cardiologist for Kaiser). She said that he had gotten my message and would be happy to review the file, could I send it right away? I went on the internet and signed up immediately for an email/fax account and then faxed it over. About 1/2 an hour to an hour later, the phone rings and it is Dr. Levy personally. He confirms our fears that Benjamin's condition is very serious but is encouraging and says that he will write a letter for us to add to our paperwork in hopes of expediting things. He also said he was looking forward to working with us on our "team". Within 1/2 an hour I get another call from his nurse saying she just sent his letter over and would I please check it and make sure it says exactly what I want it to say. I was so excited! What an answer to prayer.
4/10/13 - Demi Woodson notarizes all of our paperwork for FREE! After notarization I go to Kinkos/FedEx and make multiple copies of the whole package then deliver it to Larry's work for our social worker, Meg Steinetz. ($45)
4/11/13 - Sad morning as we all say goodbye to Little Bear. Trying to cram all my online adoption learning hours into my brain at record speed. Larry gets his CPR training. Also heard from Brian Stuy of Research China. He has found Benjamin's Finding Ad and will be able to send me a copy next week. Also, Eric Rossini donated a fire extinguisher to have in our home "in as easily accessible place" as per home study instructions. (CPR Training - $85)
4/12/13 - Today was spent finishing up my online credits with Adoption Learning Partners and thoroughly cleaning the house. We also got our physicals back today so I made copies of those to give to the social worker tomorrow.
4/13/13 - Had final visit for home study! Celebrated at BJ'S ...where else, right? :-) we were talking about how things just keep coming together and how I (Melissa) feel like I'm just waiting for something to go wrong. Maddie pipes up with "Maybe God just wants Benjamin to be part of our family." So right, baby girl!
4/15/13 - set up our "registry" online so people could contribute and know exactly where the money is going.
(http://www.simpleregistry.com/benjamin/) (changed to another servicer who does not charge fees - http://www.youcaring.com/benjamin )
4/16/13 - got phone call from Kaisers travel advisory nurse. Both Larry and I need to get the Hep A and Hep B vaccines before we travel.
4/18/13 - filled out even more paperwork...ugh...
4/20/13 - ladybug sighting!
4/22/13 - Home study completion is delayed because a family member of the social worker gets sick
4/23/13 - A little discouraging - find out that we have to prepay all of our post placement visits and readopt fees BEFORE they will release our home study to us, our placing agency or immigration which means, if we don't pay it next week than the process will be delayed. (Post placement visits/readopt fees - $2450)
4/24/13 - Meet with The Benjamin Brigade to lay down some plans for our fundraising dinner and silent auction.
4/25/13 - Purchase domain name for http://www.BringBenjaminHome.com ($12)
5/2/13 - Thanks to donors from our Indiegogo campaign we have $2470 in our Benjamin account and can pay for our post-placement fees so that we can get our home study
5/13/13 - Receive all of our copies of our approved home study and supporting documents
5/14/13 - Send off I800a to USCIS with $890 check (for processing and fingerprinting two adults).
Send off copy of home study and supporting documents to our placing agency.
5/28/13 - Receive I800a back in the mail because it was missing a signature!!! Quickly remedy the problem and send it back overnight with early morning delivery.
5/31/13 - Receive confirmation that our I800a has been received and we are assigned a receipt number.
6/4/13 - Received word from the Hague office in USCIS (immigration) that we have been approved for expediting!
6/6/13 - Final meeting of the Benjamin Brigade before our Pasta Dinner/Silent Auction event which is next Wednesday on 6/12/13.
6/10/13 - Phone call from USCIS to let us know that our fingerprinting appointment was scheduled and she was going to email it to me so that we could print it and do a "walk in" to expedite the process!
6/11/13 - Walk in at immigration office and they allow us to get our fingerprints done (appointment wasn't scheduled until 6/24/13)
6/12/13 - Pasta Dinner/Silent Auction - over $3000 raised to put toward bringing Benjamin home!
6/13/13 - Receive call from USCIS that we are approved then approval is emailed to us
6/17/13 - Get final document for dossier (Larry's employment letter) and get everything notarized
6/18/13 - Los Angeles road trip... 1st stop Secretary of States office for authentication... 2nd stop Notary Public to renotarize everything because the wording on our cover letters was wrong... 3rd stop Secretary of State office... 4th stop the copy machine in the gift shop ... 5th stop the Chinese Consulate... 6th stop lunch at Sizzler, 7th stop the Chinese Consulate to pick up authenticated documents... 8th stop Staples to make copies... 9th stop FedEx to send it all to our agency
6/19/13 - Call from agency confirms that they received our dossier
6/20/13 - Dossier uploaded to new CCCWA site. Hard copies to be mailed on Monday.
6/26/13 - Confirmation of wiring fees to CCCWA ($7500) finally arrives so our agency is able to send the hard copies of our dossier. Dossier travels from Bellingham, WA to Oakland, CA today
6/27/13 - Dossier travels from Oakland, CA to Anchorage, AK
6/28/13 - Dossier travels from Anchorage, AK to Beijing, China PR
6/29/13 - Dossier stuck in customs...
7/01/13 - Dossier is delivered!
7/10/13 - No news...
7/16/13 - Receive word that Benjamin is doing very well (medically speaking)... this should make the travel easier on him.
8/18/13- Not necessarily directly related to the adoption but now having a significant effect on our entire lives: I strain all the muscles in my shoulder and re-injure an old disc problem that seems is keeping me house-bound and on modified bedrest (almost like a "real" pregnancy!)
8/31/13 - Rummage Sale Fundraiser raises over $2200!
9/09/13 - No news... no clue where our dossier is in the process of China's review... feeling discouraged. Neck injury has only gotten worse. MRI tomorrow morning. Then will be scheduled for a cervical epidural injection.
9/10/13 - Difficult news today. Our agency found out that for some reason (?) our dossier was "misplaced" in China. It was finally "found" and logged in on August 13... SIX weeks after they received it. To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. Besides the delay, the extra fees we paid while we were putting together our dossier in order to expedite make me feel like we were just throwing money away. I know (intellectually) that God is totally in control of this. It's His timing. But that's not a balm to my hurting spirit at the moment.
9/12/13 - News from agency: Our dossier is definitely out of "translation" which means it's being reviewed now (that's 30 days from the time it got logged in)
9/18/13 - So... another snag in the process. China is asking for more information on my history of depression and my management of it in regards to my parenting abilities. We submitted a letter from my therapist. We are praying that will be all they need.
9/23/13 - China received the electronic copy of the letter from my therapist and is now requesting the hard copy. Our agency will be mailing that out. I have heard of other families just conveniently leaving a history of depression or other mental illness out of their dossiers. I have been upfront about my struggle with depression and also my management of it... here in my blog and elsewhere. I couldn't imagine not including that information with my medical history but it's so discouraging to have it come back and bite you in the butt...
11/18/13 - FINALLY!!! Hard copy of Letter Seeking Confirmation is received by our agency. Larry and I are together eating lunch (at BJ's of course!) when Heidi and Nicole conference call me.
11/19/13 - Agency overnights our LSC to USCIS and we overnight my mom's passport renewal forms and fees.
11/20/13 - I800 approval! Yes!
11/21/13 - USCIS overnights our approval to National Visa Center
11/22/13 - I800 approval arrives at National Visa Center; Passport renewal arrives at processing center
12/2/13 - Article 5 drop-off
12/3/13 - Article 5 pick-up!!!!!!!!!!!!
12/16/13- Travel Approval!
12/17/13 - Consulate Appointment confirmation (1/16/14)
12/18/13 - Change of travel date due to VERY high airfare... New CA is 1/24/14. We leave for China on 1/10/14 and finally meet Benjamin Lilu on Monday, January 13th!
12/20/13 - Purchase our plane tickets to and from China today. We used Todd Gallinek to book our flights and I HIGHLY recommend him. He got us great fares on the best airline! And all of our seats are together!
12/25/13 - Our last Christmas without Benjamin.