And it ends…

September 18th, 2009

I don’t really mean for the title to sound as depressing as it sounds, it’s actually a good end.

Finally.

We JUST got back from traveling to Memphis to interview with Homeland Security so they could review all of our documents and give us final approval for Ellery’s citizenship. But first… a little back story about how we got here.

(This may be a little recap for some of you, so sorry)

While in China we learned that our i600A form had expired. This caused us to almost have to spend an extra two weeks in China until we could get another form completed and approved. However, the US Embassy in Guangzhou allowed Ellery to travel into the US with a foreign visitor permit. That expired about 8 months ago. So, we’ve been trying to get her ‘status adjustment’ processed since about two months after we got home. We talked to a lawyer who wanted anywhere from $3000-6000 and so we decided to just file the forms ourselves.

This would prove to be a little naive since we just assumed the process would work. Month after month we’d check the Homeland Security site and Ellery’s ‘process’ date slipped months and months until finally we called and learned that they had misplaced her form. They didn’t lose it, it just more or less slipped out of the processing queue. Awesome!

So, we got someone on the phone who put it back in the queue.

Problem solved, right? Nope. Guess what happened AGAIN? Yeah, it got out of the queue. So, the last time we called we ended up with a sympathetic person who escalated our case and said they would send it to Memphis and then we’d be contacted with how to proceed.

Time frame here? 16 months. This whole process should have taken 3-4 months. Instead it was 16 and we still had to wait another 30 days before Memphis contacted us. We can’t file income taxes because we don’t have a Social Security Number for Ellery so we can’t use the GIANT refund the government is sitting on because they won’t let her be a citizen. There is a cycle in there somewhere and I’m sure it’s vicious.

Anyway, fast forward to two weeks ago and we get a letter from the Memphis office of Homeland Security telling us they would like to interview Ellery and her husband (what the?). Obviously a form-letter, but still a little weird. The date? Right in the middle of the time we are going to be in Florida on vacation.  What’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh yeah: awesome! The letter says that we can reschedule our interview by sending them a letter and requesting a new date and my wife notices we can re-schedule on-line as well. So, we do both and show up today for our timeslot (which we were approved for on-line).

The guy at the window tells us the website schedule isn’t the same schedule as the interview schedule and there is no one there today who can interview us and that we’ll have to come back at some later date.

My heart sank. We had just driven 3.5 hours for nothing…

My wife (bless her) loses her damned mind on the guy telling him that we’ve been waiting for almost two years now and we’ve been misplaced, mishandled and mistreated the entire time. So, the guy at the window leaves to go talk to a supervisor.

And stays gone a looooooong time…

He gives us back all of our paperwork and tells us to go to the interview office in the next room. Which is completely empty (since today isn’t an interview day). A Homeland Security employee comes out and invites us in, checks over the paperwork and apologizes for the problems with the process but he says the magic words “At this point she is approved and is a U.S. Citizen”. All of the frustration and anxiety melted away. FINALLY our baby girl was here legally and this whole thing would be at an end.

The whole journey has been amazing and honestly it’s something I never thought I would do. The experiences are something I will always cherish, the good and the bad. They’ve both been a part of this amazing process of bringing this amazing little girl into our life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything (except maybe the part where I had the flu).

This will likely be the last post here, but I plan on keeping this up as a guide to others. Hopefully someone will learn one little thing that they didn’t know before they came here – and that will make it all worth it for me. I also leave it up here for us as I can still imagine myself typing in the updates on the day we got Ellery and she was playing on the bed behind me as I was typing.

Thanks for being here with us.

2009 Update

January 5th, 2009

Yes, yes. I’m sure you all thought we were so busy playing with Ellery that we would never update again. Well, you were partially right. It just SEEMED like never, but I am updating! Yay!

Here is where we are – we were thinking that we’d have Ellery as a valid, honest-to-goodness US citizen by now, but alas, we do not. However, all her paper work is in and we’re just waiting on them to process everything. We were told it was going to be February and now it is probably going to be more like April-May. Wow, takes a LONG time to get the paper work in doesn’t it?

Developmentally Ellery astounds us with sentences like the following: “Bring it closer to me so I can see it”. Which she said in response to Robyn trying to get her to see a flash card she was holding up. Her vision is still kind of a question mark for us (hence the flashcards – we’re using them to guage her site as best we can). You know, in February of this year she only knew Chinese, now she speaks AMAZING completely fluent (and slightly Southern-hickish) English. It’s really amazing when we stop to think about it. She’s so smart, so funny and such a character. She’s completely and totally embedded into our family and home life at this point and it all came about seemlessly. It’s like she’s been here all along (I think I may have said that before). She is recognizing all her colors and most letters by sight at this point.

We’re just amazed on a daily basis.

Two months since we’ve met

April 14th, 2008

Robyn reminded me that Saturday was two things: First it was the two month anniversary of us meeting our little darling marshmallow and second it was her birthday!

Now, before you go thinking me to be a horrible parent you need to know that I *knew* it was her birthday. We had the parents over, but the party was kinda low-key. Ellery hasn’t been feeling the super-best for the past week and a half or so. It started with her getting a slight cold, which turned into darn-near pneumonia and now the biggest issue is that her little cute tongue is covered in sores and ulcers. And we have no idea why. It’s pretty painful for her to eat, but she still gamely tries to muster up a good attitude. I also notice that she’s got a little trouble talking as well. I think Robyn is debating taking her to the doctor today if they don’t look any better. Whew, you’d think after having two kids prior to Ellery we wouldn’t be the "nervous" parents who take their kids to the doctor for every little thing. But you’d be wrong there.

In lawyer news we haven’t really heard a thing. So, not sure what the deal is with that. Her citizenship seems like it’s going to be a long difficult road.

Apologies for the lack of updates, we’ve just had a lot going on it seems like. I’ll post more when I know more.

Bloodwork back!

March 3rd, 2008

And there is no Hep, no HIV, no TB, no other parasites (aside from Giardia – which the wife and I both think we have). We’re going to be waiting a little while on the Giardia test to come back, but I think it’s a sure thing. Since I’ve not been able to eat much of anything for a while now without some rather "unfortunate" side effects.

Anyway, a healthy Ellery means we don’t have to put her down.

Kidding! :)

How we got home

March 3rd, 2008

One thing that I didn’t mention earlier was how we just barely managed to avoid spending an extra ten days in Guangzhou. Seems we had some paper work complications. Due to an understanding with our agency we thought we had an amended I-600A form, but we didn’t. This form is required for the US Consulate in Guangzhou to give us our "packet" so that Ellery would be allowed into the US and made a US citizen.

And we didn’t have one.

So, the US Consulate and our agency (and our local guy Samson) all worked diligently to come up with a way for us to avoid staying in China for an extra ten days. A B-1 Visa. Which is typically a business-related Visa. Well, that did manage to get us in-country but unfortunately it didn’t allow for Ellery to become a U.S. citizen the second we stepped foot into Detroit.

So now is where the lawyers come in. Seems we have to get one to figure out what to do next. Since Homeland Security in Memphis is telling us that need to keep her here two years and then fill out these other forms. Which means that she’d be an illegal alien for a year? No, not doing that.

I suppose I just needed to spend a whole ton more money on legal fees and I didn’t know it. Since, I’m flush with cash after a trip to China for four people. :(

I’ll let you know what we find out from the lawyers.

Oh, and the Flu is gone now. Thank goodness, that was a rough patch in my life – let me tell you.

Yeah, Flu

February 25th, 2008

Ugh. Aside from only being conscious about twice a day – I’m having some of the most insane dreams. Oh, and I recommend the Flu to anyone looking to lose weight. I haven’t eaten since… oh… Wednesday. Okay, off to bed to go shiver, sweat and shiver some more.

Home, Sweet Home

February 24th, 2008

It was a BRUTAL last few days in China for me. I’ve got the Flu and it was a punishing 17 hours in airplanes to get home yesterday. But, I took a bunch of medication this morning – and if that doesn’t help me soon I’m going to bite the bullet and go to the Emergency Room. I’m just sitting here now praying the meds work.

In other news, seeing Ellery play with all of her new toys and walk around the house is a surreal experience. We sat her down yesterday in the living room with a small pile of a few things and she said “Xie Xie” (which sounds like shay shay) which means “Thanks” in Chinese.

I almost cried.

And speaking of crying, I did, yesterday when a lot of our friends and family were waiting for us there at the airport. My Dad, Wicked Step Mother, Uncle Larry, Aunt Sue, My cousin Melissa (and her two boys which were NOT happy to be there – but were there anyway), The Edwards (Ken was working, but he got his notice in) and The O’Hanlons (who graciously drove our truck to the airport and let me drive it home).

We smelled bad, looked bad, felt bad – but none of that mattered. We were so happy to be home. The emotions of seeing everyone were overwhelming and had I not felt like I was dying already, I would have probably been a lot more overcome. We have days worth of pre-prepared meals and a nice sign on our garage welcoming our dog home (Thanks O’Hanlons!). Our friend Ken (who was working yesterday in the Nashville Tower) made sure to pass along his congratulations, and the congratulations of the rest of the tower as he was the first one to officially welcome us home. The pilot made an announcement to the plane about our family and our trip, we got a nice applause. Again, overwhelmingly amazing friends and family we have. I just want to thank you all for the warm wishes and the good thoughts while we were gone. EVERY SINGLE comment was poured over and appreciated as we battled with home sickness (and regular old sickness as well). In the next few days, providing I don’t die from whatever I have, I’m going to be sharing a few stories of the return and other things you may find interesting.

But now? Ellery is home – and I can hear her downstairs saying “Uh-oh” every few minutes as she is discovering her way around. :)

On our way home

February 22nd, 2008

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In Guangzhou

February 20th, 2008

We made it!

It’s been a LONG time since I boarded an airplane via a stairwell and tarmac, but that’s what we did yesterday. The Air China flight was nice, however. Got us here right about on time.

We’re staying in the Victory Hotel which seems to be pretty nice for us, we have adjoining rooms and for the first time the entire trip Maureen doesn’t have to sleep on on a couch or chair. She appreciates the little things. :)

I came down with a little bit of something yesterday too, that’s why this post is late. But, I’m trying to stage a quick recovery because I was just called by our local guide (Sampson) who told me that the US Consulate wants to move our appointment up to today! That means that we get to have Ellery be official (with the US) one day sooner. The only problem is that Robyn and the kids are all out shopping (as I lay sleeping in the bed). So, we’re going to have a quick lunch, a little nap for grumpy bug and then off to the Consulate!

I’ll post more later, just wanted everyone to know we’re here.

Our Last day in Hangzhou

February 19th, 2008

We’re really starting to get a little sad at the prospect of leaving here. Our guide, Sarah has really been amazing and more helpful than we could have ever hoped for. She’s been a dream.

On our last day here we went to the Tea Museum. Tea is a very important product in this portion of China and there is a nice, large museum devoted to its history. We toured that museum (and took lots of pictures) and then went to her friends house again, since it’s right next to the museum, for some more fresh tea. We sat and ate sunflower seeds and enjoyed the day out on their front porch. It was very relaxing and very nice.

We then asked Sarah and our driver, Mr. Liang to join us for lunch at what Sarah said was the nicest restaurant in Hangzhou. It was on the water and at one time (not so long ago) served lunch to former President Nixon. We ordered the shrimp, a river fish, a beggars chicken and some friend rice. There was PLENTY of food and the best part? It was cheaper for all seven of us to eat there than it was for five of us to have the western buffet here in the hotel! The local food was excellent, and prepared (and served!) with care and pride. I took some pictures of the restaurant because it was so beautiful on the inside. Then we walked through a garden we found on the way back to the hotel. I took a lot more pictures in there, since it was just so stunning.

If we’ve learned nothing else in our time here, it’s that Hangzhou is some place we would like to come and visit again. The people are wonderful and the sights are inspiring.

We’re packing now and preparing for the early departure in the morning. Plane leaves at 9:30, so we’re going to be heading out of here at 7:30. I’ll fire up the laptop again once I’m there and let you know about the plane ride to Guangzhou (a short two hour trip).

Wednesday we’ll be four short days from getting back home! Yay! Did I mention that we’re really starting to miss home now?