Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sisters & Friends: Katie & Rose

This afternoon I took Katie for a visit with her sister/litter-mate Rose and their breeders. The silly girls would not be still for a picture because they were having way too much fun playing. All I could get in the yard was this picture of their rear ends.

I had to wait until they got behind the chain link before I could get both of them to look at me at the same time. (Rose is the one standing up.)

Here’s a close up of Rose - a cutie & a sweetie!

Katie and Rose were raised by wonderful people who I am forever grateful to for giving me my sweet girl and for teaching me so much about Newfs.

Today Bonnie gave me a much needed lesson on trimming Newfie ears. Katie’s ears were a furry mess before, but now they are smooth, defined and silky. She looks like a new dog now. It’s funny that I have not stepped inside a salon for over 18 years, but I’m concerned about my dog having the right hairdo :-)

Doesn’t she look beautiful? I love her big brown eyes.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Best Seat in the House

Scarlett and Katie both have the same favorite lounging spot which is in the dirty dog room under their grooming table. Any time Katie moves out from under it Scarlett gets under there and stays for hours without moving (probably just to keep Katie from having it). Gary managed to get a pic of K under the table while she had the sweet spot for about 10 minutes this morning.

Notice Katie’s lovely handiwork on the corner of the grooming table? Ah, the joys of puppyhood. I really can’t complain though; she rarely tears up anything that isn’t one of her toys. She is a fabulous puppy - a big bundle of drool, hair and love.

My Sweet Grandmother

The last time I visited my Gmother she gave me this wonderful gift. It is so special to me because she made it herself and I thought it was very fitting for the Happy Haus. My Mom just happened to have this wooden frame that suited it perfectly. It now hangs in our kitchen.

My Grandmother has a little plaque hanging above her kitchen sink that depicts a little owl winking and with a dish towel over its wing. It reads “You never hear of a man being shot by his wife while doing the dishes.” That has always cracked me up! When my granddad was alive he always did the dishes in their house and Gary usually does ours ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2007

New Zoo Revue(Room)

For some crazy reason the theme song from this children’s show from the 70’s popped into my head as I was about to type this post, so I decided to include a picture of it. It was a goofy show, but it came on so early in the morning when I was a child that I really enjoyed it in my half asleep state.

Now to the main point... we just got a nice LID anniversary present! I found out today that our dossier is now in the review room at the offices of the CCAA in China. It took our dossier over a year to reach this point - WOW! In the review room each family's dossier is throughly checked to make sure that the family meets all of the requirements of the CCAA and that all of the paperwork is in order. I do not expect to hear any feedback during this part of the process since our wonderful agency throughly reviewed our dossier before it was sent to China. However, it will still be a relief for me and my July 2006 LID friends to hear that we have made it out of the review room. Hopefully, we will get that news in a month or so.

After the review room comes the match room where our dossier will eventually be united with Lily's file :-) It gives me such a thrill to think about that moment. There is a huge bottleneck of dossiers in line between the review and match rooms, so I am still anticipating receiving our referral in late 2008 or early 2009. If that time frame changes you will definitely see a post about it here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

MILESTONE: 1st LID Anniversary for Natalie

Today is our first anniversary of being logged into the adoption system in China (LID = log in date). Here is a picture of a Lily in place of a picture I will post at some unknown time in the future of our Natalie. For those of you who have to deal with me on a regular basis, just consider me to be pregnant right now because I am going through all of the emotions that a woman goes through when she is about to become a mother. Even though my “gestation” period will be longer than that of an African elephant, I am quite capable of keeping up my emotional state until the day Natalie is placed in my arms. I’ve never had a shortage of emotion and I like it that way :-) Right now though, the smallest thing can touch me so deeply and invite me to cry. It feels good to embrace it all. In my mind, heart and soul I am already the mother of a little girl who is probably in her birth mother’s womb as I am writing this. I already love Natalie so much even though I have no idea what she looks like or what her personality will be. For some people this is a difficult concept to grasp. I can’t put my hands on my belly and send love to my child, but I do send my loving energy around the world every day to the child that will one day be a part of our family.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lots and Lots of Shrooms

The beginning of July was unseasonably rainy here. Gary and I felt like we lived in Washington or Oregon instead of the deep south. As I was walking the dogs in the park I saw tons of mushrooms - many varieties that I had never seen before. I decided to go back to the park with my camera (and without the crazy critters). [Note: this was originally posted on iWeb, so if you want to see all of the beautiful mushrooms click here.]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What’s The Story Morning Glory?

The Morning Glory is one of Gary’s favorite flowers. I took these pictures for him at the park near our house. I love the way the light shines through the white base of the flower and up through the middle to give them that nice glow.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sweets for the Sweet(ies)

Scarlett and Katie have recently started eating dried sweet potatoes. It’s kind of like veggie rawhide. Back in the old days when Lincoln and Scarlett were young I used to give them real rawhide, but I started hearing scary things about it and immediately gave it up. Both of the girls love to chew and the sweet potato treats keep them busy for awhile. Katie likes the Sams Yams the best, but she will happily eat the Snook’s brand. I like the fact that both are 100% sweet potatoes with no junk added. If you are interested in getting some for your pooch, the best deal that I found was at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

I was too tired to go to my yoga class this evening (for me that is quite tired), so I headed straight home after work. These beautiful sunflowers were waiting for me when I walked in the door of the Happy Haus. My sweet husband bought them for me :-) I was so energized by the bright yellow sunflowers that I decided to make some Fettuccine Alfredo for supper. Yes, it was a semi-healthy organic version. The recipe is below... it’s very easy.

1/2 pound of pasta cooked until al dente

Saute 1 clove of garlic in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Add cooked pasta to garlic along with 1/2 cup of Organic parmesan cheese and 1 cup of milk

In a separate bowl mix 1 cup of organic plain yogurt with some of the pasta to warm it a little so that it doesn’t curdle, then add it to pan.

Stir and turn off heat. Cover and let pasta sit for about 12 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Katie’s first time in the pool

Autobiographical account by Katie (pictures by her awesome Gdad, John :-)

My first time swimming in GMom and GDad’s pool. My Mom is trying to help me swim... doesn’t she realize that I am a NEWF?!?! I was born to be in the water. Didn’t she notice that I have webbed feet? Now she is saying that she’s going to make me wear a life jacket until I get stronger and more confident. How embarrassing - I just hope no other Newfie sees me with that contraption on.

See Mom... I can do it by myself!

I’m trying show off my special white foot, and my family is herding me. I really couldn’t figure out what they were trying to accomplish.

Mom is shepherding me to the stairs because she didn’t want me to try climbing over the edge. I’ll tell you - sometimes she can be such a stickler for rules and regs.

Mom and Dad doting over what a good swimmer I am. They must love me quite a lot.

Shake it Baby!

Watching the crazy people in the water. I gotta make sure none of them start drowning.

It feels so good to be loved :-)

Latest Referrals from China

Last week, the CCAI in China sent out the latest batch of referrals. This time they covered seven calendar days. The chart below shows what the trend has been on the number of calendars days referred each month since January of 2006. The outside world may think that it is a bit strange to track such minutia, but parents adopting from China have so little information that we like to make the most of what we do know. These details help to keep some of us sane. It really helps to see progress being made every month even if it’s not a lot of progress. Also, for people who are not familiar with adoption from China, I must explain that one specific week may have many more dossiers logged in than the following week. So the chart below just gives us a rough idea of how things are going. (Sorry, the chart format got messed up in the transition to blogger, so I deleted it. New chart available in a January 2008 post.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Katie, my gardening assistant

Katie, our 8 month old, 88 pound Newfie loves to assist us with all of our projects. She stayed quite busy Saturday morning making sure we had plenty of "help". First, she spent a few hours outside with Gary helping him while he was laying down bricks for the backyard walkway. She watched his every move to make sure that he did not make any errors. Also, she sniffed everything to make sure that all of the appropriate materials were used. I'm sure there was also some slime involved... most likely she allowed him to use her drool as an excellent additive to keep the sand in place.

For me it was the most lovely weekend that I've had in ages. Mostly because for some unknown reason I felt very peaceful. I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings working in my backyard which had grown pretty wild this year. I had so much fun watching things shape up as I worked. Katie was by my side the whole time keeping me company. She made sure that I took breaks once in a while, so that I would squirt her off with the water hose. She loves to chase the water stream around the yard. Each time I moved to a different area of the yard she would come up to me and lay down right beside where I was standing with her big body gently pressing into one of my legs. Her presence was such a comfort to me. I don't think I would do nearly as well during this long wait for Lily without Katie. I think she is going to be an awesome BIG sister for Lily. She is the sweetest dog I have ever known.

Why Sooooooo slow?

(Dossiers awaiting a child match at the CCAA in China)

As I mentioned in a previous entry, the wait period for adopting from China (from dossier submission to referral) has increased from 6 months to 19 months with the likelihood of getting up between 24 and 36 months. We have no way of knowing when we will receive our referral for Lily.

For those of you who are curious about the causes of the slowdown, I'll explain it as well as I can with the limited amount of information that I have. The CCAA is the Chinese governmental organization that is responsible for the adoptions of Chinese children. The CCAA says that they have been receiving more dossiers from potential adoptive parents than the number of "paper ready" children that are currently needing families. "Paper ready" is a key part of this statement.

There are over 1,000 orphanages in China, it's currently estimated that only 1/3 of these participate in international adoption. A conservative estimate puts the number of orphans in China living in these institutions at 60,000. This is where the "paper ready" part comes in. Tens of thousands of children are not paper ready and are therefore not eligible for international adoption. China is obviously a huge country and it is difficult for them to micromanage over 1,000 orphanages. It is up to each of these orphanages to complete the extra paperwork required to make these children eligible for adoption. There are many reasons, mainly political and financial, why this does not get done. There are about 30,000 families waiting to adopt Chinese children and more importantly twice that many children waiting for families. I don't mind waiting for my daughter, but I think it's so sad that these babies and children have to wait so long for families and that some of them will never be placed. There has been some discussion about more orphanages getting into international adoption; I hope it happens soon. This is an incredibly complex issue, so please forgive my oversimplification of it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The down and dirty details of the paper-chase

The photo above shows all of the documents that we compiled for our adoption dossier. Each pile is topped off by the Authentication from the Chinese Embassy - shown below.

In late 2005 I couldn’t wait to get started, so I consoled myself by working on the application to our adoption agency - one part not controlled by the state of Arkansas. We are using CCAI located in Denver, Colorado. Of all of the agencies I researched they were the only ones that I did not hear a single complaint about. They are so professional and very caring. If anyone is interested their website is Our timeline is as follows:

•12/28/5 - Approved by CCAI
•2/15/6 - Physicals
•2/06 - Collect letters of reference
•2/25/6 - Our first homestudy visit
•3/06 - Began collection of birth certificates, marriage certificate (each document had to be notarized locally, certified by the Secretary of State and then authenticated by the Chinese Embassy. The process for Gary’s b.c. cracked me up. I ordered it from the state of NY and received it in the mail. Then I had to send it back to NY to be certified by their Sec of State. Once I received it in the mail I had to return it to NY again, this time to the Chinese Embassy. So, just to get Gary’s b.c. ready for the dossier took a lot of mailing back and forth and about 6 weeks to complete.)
•3/06 - Got letters of employment, created adoption petition, created financial statement, got clearances from the local police department and the report of physicals from our doctor. Then got all of the above notarized locally, certified by the Secretary of State and authenticated by Chinese Embassy in Houston. [A couple of documents were not notarized to the satisfaction of the Sec. of State, so I had to take them back to the notary for revision. One particular document was done 3 times before it was accepted. The moral of the story is make sure your notary has read their manual and knows what they are doing.]
•3/25/6 - Our second homestudy visit
•4/24/6 - Homestudy complete (our second anniversary)
•4/06 - Fingerprinted and submitted I171H form to Dept. of Homeland Security
•6/06 - Received approval to adopt from Federal government
•6/06 - Got copy of I171H notarized
•6/6 - Hand delivered copy of I171H to the Secretary of State to be certified
•6/6 - Fedx I171H to Houston, TX where courier hand delivers it to the Chinese embassy to be authenticated
•6/16/6 - Dossier compilation complete - Dossier is now sent FedEx overnight to Denver for complete review and translation
•7/14/6 Our dossier passed review without a hitch. Now we are officially DTC.
•7/22/6 Dossier logged into China’s system (This is our official LID, or log in date - yeah!! :-)

Since there has been such a long delay we will have to apply for a new I171H and be re-fingerprinted. I really hope we don’t have to do this 2 more times. It’s quite a nerve racking process because you never know if they are going to find some tiny thing to question and make you start over again. It takes them 8-12 weeks to process your paperwork.

When we finally get our referral it will contain pictures of Natalie, her Chinese name, age, the name and location of her orphanage, and a brief summary of her personality and the part of her history that is known. After referral we will have about 8 weeks to go before we travel to China and meet Natalie for the first time. We will be in China with Natalie for about 12-16 days. Our adoption will become final the day after we meet her. We will spend the rest of the time in China getting her visa and passport and most importantly getting to know our daughter and letting her get to know her mama and daddy.

Gary and I requested a 12-18 month old girl. We had to put an age range down, so that is what we submitted in our dossier. It doesn’t mean much though. We will be matched from whatever group of children are available at the time that our dossier goes through the matching room in China. Natalie will likely be 10 - 12 months at referral. But, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or 3 years, her age doesn’t really matter to us. We just want to bring Natalie home to the happy haus where she will be so loved and will likely be covered in Newfie slobber from Katie :-)

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...” Confucius

The photo above was one that we used in our adoption dossier that was submitted to China in June of 2006, but let me start at the beginning...

In February of 2005, Gary and I decided to adopt a child. After I did a lot of research on different programs we made the decision to adopt a little girl from China.

One book I read that helped us reach this decision is called “The Lost Daughters of China” by Karin Evans. It does a good job of explaining the causes and implications of the child abandonment problem in China. For those of you who are not familiar with this, I will try to give a brief summary of the issue. Many provinces of China have a one child policy meaning that families are only legally allowed to have one child. If they have a second, unauthorized child they will often be fined an astronomical amount. Most of the people affected by this law are peasants who live in rural China and do not earn enough money to pay the fine for a second child. Also, due to the fact that China does not have any form of social security, most families hope that their one child will be a boy. This is because in rural China most sons will stay with their parents for life and take care of them in their old age. Daughters will typically leave to live with their husband’s parents. So, if a woman gives birth to a girl she may decide to abandon the child with the hope that her next child will be male. Sometimes the decision is made for the mother by the father or in-laws. Frequently, these children are left in the middle of the night (it’s illegal to abandon a child, so they do it surreptitiously) in a public place where they will be found the next morning. Often they are left in markets, parks, or in front of orphanages. When a child is found the police are called to take it to the closest orphanage. A finding ad will be run in the local newspaper in an attempt to locate the family of the child. Since the family does not want to be found, these ads rarely do any good. Before a child can be eligible for adoption the orphanage must go through a long process involving health checks and a great deal of paperwork. Due to the length of this process most children are not eligible for adoption until they reach the age of at least 8 months. It is unusual for China to refer children under this age. Lately the average age at referral seems to be about 10 months old.

So, Gary & I decided that we would adopt a little girl from China. One of these little girls that could not be kept by her birth family will be so very loved and cherished in our family.

After we made our decision in February of 2005, we wanted to get started immediately so that we could bring our daughter home as soon as possible. We found out that there are three main parts of China adoption: the compilation and submission of the dossier (about a 4 month process), the wait for referral (in Feb of 2005 there was a 6 month wait) and the wait between referral and travel (6-8 weeks). We thought that in less than a year we would be bringing Natalie home.

Unfortunately, when we talked to a local social worker we found out that the state of Arkansas has a requirement that couples be married for two years before their home studies can be approved. From my previous research we knew that China only requires one year of marriage, so we were blind-sided by this news. We were married in April of 2004, so at this point we realized that we had to wait a whole year before we even started the adoption process. I was really devastated by this news, but eventually I got used to the idea of waiting for Natalie for two years instead of one.

I decided to spend lots of my free time reading and learning about adoption, parenting, and China. I joined several online support groups. People who have already completed one or more adoptions from China have been great about giving advice to newcomers. My favorite group is a small one of about 20 people who were all logged into the China system in July of 2006 and are using the same agency as Gary and I. Many of us have become very close friends. I feel so fortunate to share this experience with them. Some members of this group will travel to China at the same time, so eventually we will get to meet face to face. We are also planning on having annual reunions with our daughters. Last year I also started studying Mandarin. I thought it would be helpful to be able to speak a little mandarin when we travel to China. Also, if Natalie decides she wants to learn Mandarin someday I can practice with her. However, the most important thing I have learned during this wait is to live in the present moment. Hopefully, this will help to make me a better parent.

As we were living our lives until we could get started on our adoption in early 2006, the wait for referral started to increase. By the time we submitted our dossier, this part of the wait had increased from 6 to 13 months. I really didn’t think much of it at the time because I knew that the wait times had historically fluctuated. Most people seemed to think that there was a big chance that the wait would go back down closer to 6 months. What we didn’t know at the time was that the China adoption program was undergoing some major changes. Each month since then the process has continued to get slower and slower. For families who are being matched now the wait has been about 19 months. By the time they get to our dossier it will likely be a wait of 24-36 months. For us that means getting a referral sometime between summer of 2008 and the summer of 2009. So, counting from the time we made the decision to adopt until the time that Natalie comes home, it will end up being 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 years. The Asian elephant has a gestation period of 645 days - we will definitely have that record beat.