Monday, April 18, 2011

We Got Our LOA Today!!!

Angie got a call first thing this morning from our adoption agency representative who informed us that our Letter of Acceptance had been received. In fact, with an LID of March 14th and a date on the LOA of April 15th (32 days total), the agency said this was the shortest amount of time for any of their families.

Once Angie got off work she drove to Tulsa to pick up the actual LOA, went over our I-800 (Immigration) forms with our agency representative, drove back to Owasso for me to sign several documents, then went to UPS to have it overnighted to USCIS. Our I-800 approval should come back in 2-3 weeks.

In a nutshell, the LID to LOA wait was the biggest variable in determining when we would likely travel, as they had been taking as little as 5 weeks and as long as 10-12 weeks to process. Now, with our LOA in hand, it is looking more and more likely that we will be traveling in July barring any unforeseen setback.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We Are Now LID!

We found out on Friday (March 18th) that we had our Log-in Date (LID) and that it was the prior Monday (March 14th). Our dossier had been sent to China on Thursday, February 24th, and was received in China on Monday, February 28th. So, exactly two weeks from arrival of our dossier in China to LID, and 4 days for that information to make its way from China to us.

Now we wait for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from China. As of a few months ago, it was taking ~6 weeks or so from LID to LOA, but we’ve heard a few rumors that this part of the process has been going considerably quicker for some folks lately. That would be a very welcome surprise. As it stands right now, though, I’m sticking with the timeframe posted in my last blog entry, which puts our travel in the late-July to early-August neighborhood.

We watched The Amazing Race last night since it was taking place in and around Kunming, China. Since this is where Mackenzie currently resides, we were anxious to watch the show to look for some sites we had already gotten familiar with by other families. Sure enough, the show had the contestants spending time at the Stone Forest, one of the sites we want to visit while we’re in Kunming. In addition, the episode ended in a place in the city called Green Lake, an urban lake/park with lots of restaurants, entertainment areas, walking trails, gardens, etc. This happens to be the park directly across the street from the hotel we are asking to stay at (Grand Park Hotel – Kunming), as the hotel has come highly recommended from other adoptive families due to its location and amenities.

Not much new on the home front other than ongoing home renovations and a nearly complete reshuffling of how we store things…..not nearly enough storage capacity in this circa ~1970 house, especially with another child entering the picture, so I’m having to be creative with additional garage storage.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Long Overdue Post

A new blog post is long overdue! Suffice it to say that I have been extremely busy working three different jobs, 7 days a week. It actually works out quite well, but leaves me little time (or energy) for keeping this site updated. Nevertheless, I will attempt to make up for that with this post.

The biggest news, of course, is that we have accepted the referral of a beautiful little girl from the Waiting Child list. Her name is Du Hongmei (Mackenzie Grace Hongmei Hamel) and she is from the city of Kunming in Yunnan Province, located in Southwestern China. We received three initial pictures of her, then 2 additional pictures followed soon thereafter at our request. She has been living with a foster family since July 2010, and is a perfect match for us in so many ways. We are beyond thrilled to be adding her to our family, and eagerly await the time when we can finally travel to bring her home, most likely late July or early August.

At the time of my last blog post on October 10th, we were still putting our dossier together, completing the Home Study, and awaiting our immigration appointment. Since October, all of those steps have been completed. Our fingerprint appointment with USCIS was on January 10th, we received our I-797 (Pre-Approval) from USCIS on February 14th, and our dossier was completed and sent to China on February 24th. The day the dossier is sent out is referred to as DTC (Dossier to China) day. Here are the remaining timeline steps and guesstimated timeframes from each preceding step:

DTC: February 24
LID (Log in Date): 2 weeks (~March 10)
LOA (Letter of Acceptance: 6 weeks (~April 21)
I-800 (USCIS Approval: 3 weeks (~May 12)
Article 5 Letter: 2-4 weeks (~June 9)
TA (Travel Approval): 3 weeks (~ June 30)
CA (Consulate Appointment: 2 weeks (~July 14)
Depart: 3 weeks (~August 4)

It looks like we will probably travel alone rather than with other families. This has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we have much more say in which hotels we stay in, what activities we do, where we eat, and what timetable we are on day-to-day while in-country. While in China we will be in 3 cities: Beijing (2-3 days), Kunming (5-6 days), and Guangzhou (6-7 days). We will arrive in Beijing first and will not yet have Du Hongmei, so we have already requested to go to Cameron’s orphanage as well as visit a hutong. It is highly unlikely that we will be allowed in the orphanage, but we want Cameron to show us those places he visited or spent time in outside the orphanage (his school, local shops, etc.). In Kunming, we definitely want to go to the Stone Forest, even though it is a 2.5 hour drive away. However, from Kunming through the rest of the trip we will have Mackenzie with us, so that is where our focus will be with our daily planning and, as you can imagine when uprooting a young child from the only life he/she has ever known, it can be quite difficult.

Now to get caught up on other things……a week ago we completed Cameron’s readoption here in the States. This will allow him to get an American birth certificate and passport, both of which he will need in the near future. He continues to do quite well in school, although he likes studying about as much as I like the Georgia Bulldogs (NOT!)! Good thing he’s a quick learner. He continues to like all things football, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys are his favorite team. He even wants to paint his room orange for his birthday! He achieved his first Hapkido (martial arts) belt a couple months ago and will be going for his next one in May. He will be celebrating his 12th birthday in early April and his top gift request is…….a power drill! What 11 year old kid wants a power drill for his 12th birthday????? I might have to install an electric fence around the house to keep it safe from Cameron’s experimentation!

We are in the midst of many house changes as we get ready for Mackenzie’s arrival. We are transitioning from 2 bedrooms and a man cave, to 3 bedrooms. I am less than thrilled at my loss of personal space, but Mackenzie is well worth the sacrifice. We are completely remodeling one bathroom and partially remodeling another. Add to that all the handyman projects of multiple ceiling fans being installed, additional storage going up in the garage, etc., and the house is going to look quite different when all is said and done.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention or include a picture or two of the epic winter weather we experienced earlier this month. Claremore, Oklahoma averages about 7 inches of snow a year. The previous high for a day was 12 inches and for a season was 22 inches. Within a span of just over a week we got three snowfalls: 20 inches, 4 inches, and 10 inches. For the first time in its existence, the Tulsa World did not have home delivery, and didn’t have it for 4 days. The physical therapy clinic where I work was closed for four days… took them that long to finally clear the parking lot. The snow was so high that most vehicles, including many 4-wheel drive vehicles, were too low to the ground, and thus acted like snowplows regardless of their traction. On top of that, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Oklahoma was achieved in a town a mere 20 or so miles from our house as the crow flies……31 degrees below zero in Nowata, so I’m sure we were within a few degrees of that at our house. Our cove was frozen solid and, one morning, there were a couple coyotes wandering around the middle of it!

That’s it for now! I’ll try to post more regular updates, especially when each of our remaining timeline milestones get met.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Step Completed, One to Go!

It’s been a rather eventful week. Suffice it to say that things are moving along much quicker on our second adoption as compared to our first. On Wednesday I got an email from a Dillon representative informing us that we could go ahead and begin gathering our final Dossier documents. This is a huge step, as this and the I-800A Pre-approval are the final elements which need to be accomplished to allow Dillon to begin looking for a potential match for us on the Waiting Child list.

What are the documents that go in our Dossier? A Letter of Application to the People’s Republic of China. A copy of our Home Study. A Copy of the Birth Certificate for both parents. A copy of our Marriage License. A Certificate of General Physical Examination for both parents. A Letter of Employment for both parents. A Certificate of Financial Status form. A Police or Sheriff Letter for both parents. A Certification form with a copy of the original USCIS approval (pre-approval) notice attached. Copies of the Photo/Signature Page of the Passport for both parents. Each of these documents must be Certified and/or Notarized, and are time-sensitive (must be dated within the last 4 months or so). Since we had already been working on some of these items, we had virtually everything done by Friday with the exception of my Letter of Employment which, for some unknown reason, takes 3+ days to travel from Tulsa to Owasso via interoffice mail (Argh!). Nevertheless, one way or the other we will have this Letter of Employment by Monday (tomorrow) and Angie will be turning it in to Dillon International tomorrow. Once Dillon receives these documents, they then process them to get translated copies made as well as getting them Certified by the Secretary of State of Oklahoma. At any rate, as of tomorrow, this big step of submitting our final Dossier documents will be completed.

We are hoping that our final Home Study document is completed this week. If so, we will then send it in with our I-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) application. Once that goes in the mail, we wait a week or two to get a response from CIS (Immigration) informing us of our fingerprint date and time in Oklahoma City, usually a month or so in the future. A week or two after that we will officially receive our Pre-approval to adopt a child. In a nutshell, as of tomorrow when we turn in our dossier documents, the CIS step just outlined is the final piece of the puzzle… least until accepting the referral of a child. Once that happens, the paperwork chase begins anew!

On a lighter note… you can see below, Cameron played paintball for the first time yesterday and had a blast. The family of a boy in Cammo’s class owns a large paintball facility in Collinsville, OK, and celebrated their son’s birthday there. A good time was had by all.

Cameron is really starting to ask a lot of questions about the second adoption and seems much more accepting and, dare I say, excited about it now. It has taken a lot of reassurance on our part to convince him that he neither needs to feel threatened about his place in the family, nor will he be expected to assume responsibilities toward his sibling that are more appropriately shouldered by the parents. It has taken quite a while to get to this point, but he’s been a trooper about talking and working through his feelings related to this second adoption.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New Day Dawns

It was little more than a year ago that we returned home from Beijing after completing our adoption of a wonderful little guy named Dang Niu, whose adopted name became Cameron Niu Hamel. The last year has been extremely challenging, yet intensely rewarding, and we have truly been blessed beyond our expectations. Those of you have adopted internationally will know just how loaded, yet accurate that last sentence is.

Ever since Angie and I first discussed the possibility of adopting, we always envisioned two children. After hitting the one year mark following Cameron’s adoption, we had a chance to reflect a bit and decided the time was right to begin the process anew. We emailed a group of 50 or so individuals (family and friends) in mid-August informing them of our plans and, since that time, I have intended to both update the blog and begin posting regularly once again.

Here’s where things stand as of October 3rd……. Since we transferred our original dossier to another agency to complete Cammo’s adoption, we have had a file with Dillon International that we had two years to reactivate, thus saving both time and money with the process. Once we reactivated his file in early August we had to update all of our information (still a rather lengthy process). We completed that about a month ago. Then, we had a series of 4 Home Study sessions to complete spread over a month or so, whereby we met with our Social Worker (Rebecca) both individually and together to go over everything imaginable. Our last Home Study meeting was yesterday. Now it will take Rebecca a couple weeks to write up our Home Study, at which time we will send in a copy along with our I-800 Preapproval application to USCIS (Immigration). Then we will get a letter back from CIS informing us of when our appointment is in Oklahoma City to get fingerprinted. Following that appointment and a week or two wait, we will receive a notice that CIS has preapproved us to adopt a child. We anticipate all of this will be completed sometime around the end of 2010. Until that time, we are just completing paperwork and waiting, but that all changes once we get our Preapproval.

For our second adoption we are on the Special Needs track. This means that we have completed a detailed medical form and spoken at length to our Social Worker about what types of Special Need we are comfortable with in any child we might adopt. China has what is called a Waiting Child List that is updated online about once a month. Dillon representatives will go through this list and, combined with our detailed medical form, information from the Home Study, what they know about us, and much prayer, they will look for a good match. Once they think they may have found a match they will call us with some basic information about the child. If we are still interested, a more complete medical file, photographs and other information is made available to us for several days and, during that time, we can review the file ourselves and/or with medical professionals. If we are still interested, we can accept the child, at which point we begin the arduous process of completing the months-long paperwork process before traveling to bring our new child home. We hope to travel back to China for this second adoption sometime next summer, but this is merely a ballpark timeframe at this point. For now, we wait!

A quick update on the family…….Cammo is now 6 weeks into his first year of school in America. Hard to believe he knew virtually no English a mere 14 months ago, yet is now making all A’s and B’s, including high A’s in both Science and Math, in the third grade at a very rigorous private school. What’s more amazing is that he has aced his first 6 Spelling tests and is one of the top three kids in his class with his AR (advanced reading) status. He still struggles with some specific areas, but is well on his way to adjusting to his new academic environment. He hates homework, but what kid doesn’t??? He continues to take weekly Karate lessons and is still enamored with all things football.

Angie and I are pretty much occupied with our jobs, helping Cammo with schoolwork, and working toward this second adoption. There is very little time for much else!

I will plan to post updates to this blog every week or two now!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Return of the Pelicans

What a title for a blog entry. What does it mean? Well, every spring and fall brings a large migration of pelicans through Oklahoma which is a great indicator that the season is about to change. Last weekend we saw the first of the fall pelicans from our deck, and there are even more in our cove this weekend. Looks like fall is upon us.

It has been an eventful week for Cameron. While visiting his cousins on Thursday (while Dad was watching his beloved Yellow Jackets get trounced by Miami) he decided on his own that he was ready to ride a bike without training wheels. He promptly got on his cousins old bike which is very small and proceeded to just take off on it. Since it is so low to the ground, he can easily bail out when he’s about to crash. So…..we have now raised the seat a bit and he’s riding it all over the place. As you can see from the picture, it is clearly a girls bike, but he couldn’t care less. He has loaded the basket on the front with a newspaper, mail and his football. He likes to ride by the mailboxes out front and pause briefly to deliver the mail. Very cute! Soon he will be riding his own bike.

His swim lessons continue to go well. He is really enjoying them and is beginning to put the pieces together. It will still be a while before he is actually swimming, but his progress is noteworthy. He ought to be swimming like a dolphin by next summer!

This week he had another dental appointment. At this appointment they fixed his front tooth that was partially decayed. This was obvious to see every time he smiled, so now he has a wonderful smile with no blemishes.

This week he went to his first Pep Rally at his cousins’ school and evidently had a great time. Afterwards, he and Angie went shopping at a local consignment store and came away with a great deal on a Halloween costume for him…..Spiderman! He has really enjoyed donning this for everyone to see, and is so proud of it that he has it hanging on the wall in his bedroom. He loves putting it on and then acting like a fierce fighter, mostly with martial arts type noises and moves (he has yet to learn of Spidie’s actual superhero powers, although I doubt it will make a difference.......he'll be inclined to stick with his Chinese version of Spiderman!).

Tuesday was a very busy day. We had an appointment with an orthopedic doctor concerning his feet. We got some good baseline weightbearing radiographs, and are in the process of setting up an appointment with a doctor who specializes in the care of club feet. We are doubtful anything will need to be done right now, as his feet cause him no discomfort or limitation, but want these contacts in place should anything need to be addressed down the road. Following his swim lesson Tuesday evening we finally stopped by Wally World and got him a new MP3. It is at least comparable to his old one in features, but the data we lost on his old one is irreplaceable and priceless. Nevertheless, he seems to like the new one just fine. This one also has an FM radio built in, so that’s something he enjoys. The language can be changed on the MP3, so he has it switched to Chinese. We really like this, as it helps us in encouraging him to retain his mother tongue in reading, writing and speaking. As if Tuesday wasn’t busy enough, we also stopped by the local library and got him his first library card and books to read. Part of his daily schooling now includes reading, although these are the most simple of books…’s a good starting point. He especially likes Dr. Seuss!

We are currently following the blogs of two families we have come to know who are currently in China completing the adoptions of their Hope Project children. Our experiences while in China adopting an older child seem to mirror theirs quite closely, both the joys and struggles. Cameron currently talks with 2 of the other Hope Project children who have returned to America, while we are planning to call the third for the first time tonight. Cameron looks forward to calling the 2 children in China upon their return to the States in a couple weeks, which will make 6 children in all that have returned so far. Additionally, there are a few more families traveling next month, including one family who lives about an hour away who will be returning with 2 Hope Project children. It is heartwarming to see and listen to these children talk to each other and compare experiences and situations now that they are with their new families.

All is continuing to go quite well with Cameron’s homeschooling. His math has gotten much better, and he now breezes through the flash cards quite quickly. The alphabet and Pledge of Allegiance are now memorized. He is reading simple sentences, although comprehension is still fairly low. His vocabulary is steadily increasing, as is his written ability.

Sunday, September 13, 2009