Monday, April 27, 2015

An Orphan No More!

We are so thankful for the redemption story that is shown through adoption and we are beyond grateful that the Lord saw fit to see the orphan in each of us in need of a Father. Adoption is messy but adoption is oh so beautiful. We are all so messy, but Jesus makes us beautiful and we are overwhelmed by His goodness and grace. Our family's journey to adopt Emma may have come to an end, but our family's journey to live out the gospel is only beginning. 

Our Adoption Timeline

January 11, 2013--Completed the initial application with BCS
January 14, 2013--Application approved and given our list of country options
February 8, 2013--First meeting with BCS
March 5, 2013--Formal Application submitted
March 27, 2013--Additional paperwork for China submitted
March 28, 2013--Approved for China!!!!
April 11, 2013--Submitted contract
April 18, 2013--Home Study paperwork received
April 27, 2013--Garage Sale Fundraiser
April 29, 2013--Home Study paperwork submitted
May 7, 2013--1st Home Study Interview
June 6, 2013--2nd Home Study Interview
August 29, 2013--Home Visit
October 15, 2o13--Received the email to begin the Dossier
October 22, 2013--Submitted Immigration Papers to USCIS
November 26, 2013--Biometric Fingerprints taken with USCIS
December 29, 2013--Received Approval from USCIS
January 2, 2014--Dossier Submitted to Global
January 7-28, 2014--Dossier was in Authenticating Process
January 22, 2014--Began Adoption T-shirt Fundraiser
January 28, 2014--Dossier Delivered to China!!!!!
February 11, 2014-Log In Date
February 20, 2014--Conference Call with China Team to discuss openness and matching process
June 20 2014--Dossier is out of translation
July 14, 2014--Dossier is out of review and approved
September 16, 2014--RECEIVED OUR REFERRAL
September 18, 2014--Submitted our Intent to Adopt our Baby Girl
September 22, 2014--RECEIVED OUR LOA!!!!!
September 23, 2014--Submitted our signed LOA and also submitted our I-800 paper work to USCIS<
September 26, 2014--I-800 Lockbox Receipt Date
October 2, 2014--Lockbox Receipt Received via mail
October  11, 2014--Received I-800 Provisional Approval
October 20, 2014--contacted NVC to get GUZ case number
October 20, 2014--submitted DS-260 online
October 29, 2014--received via email GUZ number (this took longer than normal due to a mistake on their part with the email address. Frustrating!)
October 30, 2014--DS-260 delivered to US Consulate in Guangzhou, China
November 17, 2014-- Article 5 Issued
December 2, 2014-- Travel Invitation Issued
December 10, 2014-- Leave for China!!!!
December 15, 2014-- GOTCHA DAY!!!
December 24, 2014--HOME AS A FAMILY OF 5!!!

Welcome Home Emma!

Thanks to our cancelled flight in Dallas, we had a bit of a different homecoming than we had expected. We are so thankful for our family who stayed up way past bedtime to welcome us home!

Our first picture as a family of 5!!

The Sykes family drove home through the night after waiting to see us. Thankful for these precious friends. 

Could it have worked out any better that Jordan and Ross were home for Christmas? So happy they were here!!! 
My aunts made precious signs for all over the house to welcome Emma home. So sweet! Thanks aunt Carolyn and Aunt Diane. Love yall!
Kay Kay and G had Ella Kate duty while we were gone. I don't know what we would do without them!
Haley and Emma have become fast friends (although this picture doesn't look like it! It was after midnight by this point and we had been up for 36+ hours thanks to Miss Priss refusing to sleep on the plane.)
Walker had a big time at Nana and Pop's house. We loved seeing Pop but missed Nana who is taking care of Meemaw in the hospital.

We are so thankful to be home and there is much to update but please be patient with me! We are dealing with crazy jet lag and nasty sinus infections but I promise to post more pictures as I can get them loaded. Thanks for investing in our story. We love you deeply.

There's No Place Like Home!

There's No Place Like Home

Last Day in Guangzhou

We had our appointment at the US Embassy this morning.  We believe that everything went as planned and we will receive Emma's visa tomorrow. Yay!!!

Sister girl celebrated the day by wearing her bow! She kind of thinks it is a game to pull it out once I put it in, but then she attempts to put it back in her hair once she pulls it out. I am counting this as a victory since no tears were shed today!
This city is enormous but they have several park areas kind of like Central Park. I love that there is green space in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the big city. We made our way to one park near our hotel because our guide told us to take our picture by this statue. Apparently, it is super famous and everyone Chinese person that sees the picture will say "oh you went to Guangzhou."

We had a great view of the city (and soccer field) when we made our way to the peak of the park.

Our visa is scheduled to be picked up tomorrow afternoon and we will leave Guangzhou at 4:30 pm (2:30 am in MS.) We will be taking vans to Hong Kong which is about 3 hours away and will stay in a hotel that is attached to the airport where we fly out on the 24th. Our flight leaves on the 24th at 1:40pm (11:40 pm in MS on the 23rd) and we will land in Dallas at 2:55pm. Emma will officially be a US citizen as soon as we land in Dallas! Yay!!!  We leave Dallas at 7:10 pm and will land in Jackson at 8:23pm on Christmas Eve!!!!  We are so very ready to be home and if you are bored and in search of a Christmas Eve activity, we would love to see you at the airport! (Absolutely no pressure though! We totally get that we are flying home on Christmas Eve and completely understand the timing is not ideal for a homecoming party.)  Whether we see you at the airport or not, please know how much we appreciate each and every one of you who have played such an important part in our family's story. We are truly grateful and look forward to introducing this sweet girl to all yall!  Much love and we will see you soon!!!

Shopping on Shamian Island

Today we went to Shamian Island in Guangzhou. The buildings looked a bit like those found in Savannah and it was really beautiful. There is a large hotel on the island that is closed for renovations. For years, it was the main hotel that all adoptive families would stay in while in Guangzhou for Embassy appointments. So around it, there are many little shops set up strictly for tourist. We didn't buy much, but enjoyed the pretty day and the pretty scenery.

We walked along the Pearl River.  It looks quite a bit different than the Pearl River we are used to though.
I can't even deal with this. It's just too much.
Along the river, people are everywhere. Some do Tai Chi.  Others play checkers.  Some kick around a hacky sack. It was a cool place to people watch....even though I feel like everywhere we go, people are watching (and taking pictures of) us.

J found a hat while shopping.  Unfortunately, we didn't know how to pack it without it getting squashed so we decided to pass. Bummer.
We ate lunch at a place called Lucy's. They offered Western food, so we were all pretty pumped. We were seated next to a map of the US, so we showed Emma where we will be going in just a couple more days.
We have our appointment at the US Embassy in the morning (5:30pm on Sunday in Mississippi.) Please pray that everything will go smoothly and that we will be able to come home as scheduled on the 24th. We are beyond ready to be home and see Ella Kate and Walker.  It has been a long 2 weeks for all of us but we are so thankful that they are well taken care of.  We can't wait to spend Christmas as a family of 5 (3 of which will be suffering from wicked jet lag...but at least we will be together!)

Guangzhou Zoo Day

We had the perfect morning at the zoo.  The weather here is fabulous and we all enjoyed being out of the hotel! Our guide told us this was a small zoo...she obviously has never been to the Jackson Zoo!  This zoo is right smack in the middle of the city, so you can see all the big buildings just beyond the animal habitats and you also hear the constant noise of the highway.

 Emma tried to throw her hat into the red panda exhibit so she spent the rest of the morning with that sweet bald head exposed.  I am sure people were talking about me. Good thing I can't understand them!  Side note, several people have asked about where her bows are...well....we are going to have to break her in slowly. Everytime I have tried to put one in, she cries and pulls it out. Seriously, the only time she has cried has been over the bow.  I'm hoping that once she sees Ella Kate's bow, she will want to look like sissy and change her mind?!?!
She did a little walking practice this morning. She can't walk independently yet but I have a feeling it is going to happen quickly.
We loved the pandas!

You could pay a little bit to feed the giraffes.  We decided against it because we thought it might be scary for her. I just love giraffes though. So pretty.
For all our CUMC friends...we found Christy the Camel!
Sister girl was worn out after seeing all the animals and decided a nap was necessary. Bless her sweet heart.
We got back to our room and Emma was hamming it up for the camera. I just can't get enough of her sweet little smile.  Love, love, love my little China doll!!