Friday, October 28, 2011

YEAH - LOAs Arrived

They are finally here. On Wednesday, October 26, I received that all important email stating they were FINALLY here. I sent them on to USCIS, but of course, they emailed back stating they are missing Joshua's Medical Examination report. They have all the other medicals except the first page. I emailed my agency and they need to contact their representative in China. UUGGHHH - I waited so long just to run in to this problem. However, I did contact Senator Cantwell's office and they are working on helping me expedite it through the NVC and U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou. So, wish us luck that everything will be expedited from here on out. Unfortunately, the LSCs will not be sent to the NVC until Monday. Nothing is ever easy. I did get the originals today and mailed them back to my agency.

On a more serious note, I'm actually sitting in the airport as I write this awaiting a flight to go to my dieing father's bedside. Unfortunately, the flight that I was originally suppose to be on hours ago had a mechanical error so 7 hours of waiting in the airport for a 10 PM flight, arriving 10 AM at my destination. I pray he will hold on long enough for me to say goodbye. Yes, it is a bittersweet experience as we are yet closer to bringing home our children, yet bitter in having to say goodbye to one of the greatest men that has ever walked this earth. He is an amazing man and will be greatly missed!!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Here it is, October 7, and we are still waiting for our LOAs. I did get word on Wednesday, October 5, that the USCIS received my 800 file. Our agent at AAI, Ky, felt really strong that we would receive our LOAs no later then the last week in September. Thus, I sent the 800 file in early to USCIS without our LOAs. I was told you have 45 days from the time USCIS receives the 800 paperwork from the Lockbox facility to turn in your LOA before the 800 file is rejected. We are still under the 45 day time limit; however, we are going past the average length of time it takes to receive a LOA, which is 54-56 days. So much for expediting a child’s file based on a severe health condition. It seems that unless your child is aging out, China rarely will expedite a file. But I have also been told that a lot depends on your agency. AAI is a great agency, but not sure how strong the relationship is with their China representative and the CCCWA.

It has been a while since I last blogged (July to be exact) because we have just been in waiting mode. However, we are in the process of purchasing a new home and will hopefully close next week (attached are pictures of our new home, but furniture, etc. is of the current owner). It is only three minutes from where we currently live, but it has six bedrooms and over 4000 square feet that will easily accommodate our family. Phil’s mother, Wray Beth, and her husband, Ernie, are moving in with us in order to assist us with the children due to Phil leaving for Career Course for 6-8 months in April/May of next year. We will then have ten people in our family, so you can see why we need a large home. We realize the difficulty it will be having six children, four with special needs, that will require numerous doctor, therapy, and surgery appointments. Also, due to Joshua’s severe heart defect, there may be a chance they send us to Boston for his surgery. Also, the simple act of going to the grocery store is no longer a simple feat when you have three toddlers where one is deaf, one with a heart condition and one that is unbelievably active he can be a holy terror at times. Having the extra help is almost mandatory so that I can make sure each child gets the proper medical and therapeutic care needed. We realize combining two families in one household can be very difficult, but recognizing the need for this arrangement, we must all do our best to ensure a smooth transition.

The last few months have been very busy with searching for a house and battling our landlord regarding our lease. Our realtor, Nick Radach, has gone above and beyond and we feel privileged that we were able to find him. Unfortunately, on top of the stress of finding a home to accommodate our family, we have had to battle our landlord, Lyle, with repairs and possible legalities. Since late Spring, we asked Lyle to fix the AC unit. We noticed that it would never cool down and we actually felt heat coming up through the vents almost 24 hours a day. On top of that, our utility bills were getting higher and higher. We were dumbfounded since we didn’t use the heat or AC in Spring and couldn’t understand why our utility bills continued to rise.

Unfortunately, Lyle’s only response was to trip the breaker, leave it off for 24-hours to let the ice build-up on the hose melt, then turn it back on to see if that resolved the issue. This went on for about four months, until we just get too tired of our children getting prickly heat and our utilities continuing to send us to the poor house. We originally called the property management company (BCI), but Lyle asked us to contact him directly and not BCI. As we had a great relationship with him, we respected his wishes. Nonetheless, we no longer could tolerate his inability to get the job done so we felt we had no other recourse but to get BCI involved. Sure enough, they had a repair person out here within a week.

However, they became upset that we went to BCI, ‘forcing’ them to have to pay for a large repair. In retaliation, they sent BCI a letter stating they felt we were not keeping the home in proper order. In August, Lyle’s entire family came out here for a few weeks. Early in their visit, the house became so hot it was 93%. Lyle was working in the garage that sits behind our house. This garage is NOT part of our rent. It is over 4000 square feet and he stores carpentry equipment and a large truck in this facility. Twice a year he flies out to visit family and to finish the upstairs apartment in the garage. While he was in the garage, I went out to ask him AGAIN to have the AC fixed because the house was 93 degrees. He simply turned off the breaker, hosed down the ice, told us to wait a few hours, and then turn it back on. Unfortunately, the heat was so intense we ended up taking the children for a drive in our AC van in order for us to cool down.

When we returned, Phil saw his wife outside and not meeting her before, he went over to introduce himself. Upon approaching her with an outstretched hand, her first words were, “I see you are taking good care of my blinds!” She had never stepped foot in the home, but from the outside she noticed a few metal slats on the blinds were bent. Phil drove on past the harsh statement to continue the introduction, but her second statement was, “I see you have all the windows and doors open. There is no wonder the AC isn’t working. This causes it to have to work extra hard. You are breaking the AC” Of course, this was the first time in the entire Summer we had the doors and windows open because it was 93% in the house. She seemed lacking with the knowledge that the AC had not been working for months and that we had been trying to get Lyle to fix it for months. With this, Phil realized the conversation was already off to a bad start so he politely excused himself and came in the house a bit dumbfounded as to her demeanor.

So, it was no surprise that a letter was written stating that we were ruining their custom-made blinds and they expected us to pay for new blinds. Of course, I chuckled at the statement “custom-made” as the blinds are the cheap, flimsy  aluminum you see in most apartment buildings. Perhaps their sizes were custom ordered, but there is nothing fancy about these blinds. As a matter of fact, a few people commented that you can get these blinds at Walmart, and even Lyle later admitted he wasn’t too concerned about the blinds as they are fairly cheap.

To top off the ongoing frustration, a few days later we received a bill for $635 from the electric company. Our utility bills were already double what they should have been (150-180 was normal but had been in the 300s over the past six months), but to see this hike exasperated us to no end. I went down to the utility company to get a printout over the past year to try to find out when this hike started. Upon their review, they agreed that our bills in the 300s were abnormal for our size family and the size of the house. However, having a bill in the 600s clearly indicated that there is something wrong at the house that is causing such a huge hike in our utility consumption. I explained that the furnace’s relay was broken and that the heating coil was on 24/7 trying to melt the ice on the hose. He then stated that a broken furnace with that particular problem would most definitely cause massive utility spikes. However, I was still perplexed why it would double in just one month, especially since the furnace was already broken so what else could have caused such a huge increase. Then it dawned on me that the energy consumption for this bill was during the time that Lyle and his family were here living in the upstairs apartment. I asked him if the back garage was separately metered. Upon review he stated that there is only one meter going to the property. There it is; not only were we paying outrageous utility bills because of a broken furnace, but we were paying for the electricity for their large garage.

Later that day the owner of BCI, Bob, came to the house for an inspection in order to appease Lyle and his wife regarding how they felt we were ruining their home and destroying their blinds. He looked at the blinds and affirmed he didn’t see anything wrong with them and that we had kept the house in great shape. I then showed him our utility bill and told him that the electric company confirmed that the shop was not separately metered. He immediately got a worried look on his face and informed me that he was not aware it was not separately metered and that he felt we had a case in asking Lyle to pay for some of our utilities.

Over the next few weeks it became a small battle as they told Bob they would not let us out of our lease, even if we were asking to move due to medical issues with our son, the addition of the extra children, and Phil’s pending Career Course. Without official military orders showing he is leaving in April, they felt we could not break the lease. However, I pointed out that they already broke the lease since our lease specifically states that the rent does NOT cover use of the back garage shop and since they were aware of this and did not reveal this to us or BCI, the lease is no longer in affect. Bob told us to put our grievance in writing and send to Lyle. I  wrote a 5 page document outlining where they were at fault, including the WA sate law showing where they were in error with each infraction. In a nutshell, they did not fix the AC unit with the 10 days allowed by law. We had also told them the oven was broken and in WA state you have 72 hours to repair a broken oven and to date it is still not fixed. And, most importantly, we were paying for their electricity on the garage that we are not leasing. We outlined our math in detail showing how we came up with our figure for utility reimbursement. Sure enough, they agreed and let us out of the lease. In the end, it was a blessing in disguise as we may have been forced to have to pay rent on this place until other tenants were found as we did not have official military orders that would have legally gotten us out of this lease. It was a headache, but truly a blessing.

Just this week we received great news regarding our home in Louisiana. We put it on the market in August, and had an offer a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was so low we had to decline. Two days later we got nervous at the thought of still having to pay rent and mortgage and felt it was more important to sell the house, even if we would have to end up paying money at closing. When we called back, our agent said they put in an offer on another house. We were disappointed but we both said to each other that the Lord is aware of our situation and we felt very calm and encouraged he would bless us in time. It wasn’t five days later we received a FULL PRICE offer and a request that they be allowed to move in that day if we were willing to take rent until closing. I was elated. Phil is currently in Prague for his Masters Program, so he found out the next day, but was overjoyed at the news. We want to clearly state here and now that WE ACKNOWLEGE AND KNOW that it is because of a loving Heavenly Father that we have been blessed beyond measure.

We are now finally preparing to close on our new home and it can’t come quick enough. This coming Monday was going to be our close date; however, the well test needs to be redone. We are hoping we will close next Wednesday, 10/12, but it all depends on the test results. We have hired a contractor to put in a double sided fireplace between the living and family rooms. I went out to the house yesterday with the contractor, Mike, so he could get measurements. I was able to find a Lennox see-thru fireplace on Craigslist for $250. These units normally cost $2500-3000 new.  Our original plan was for him to start next week and be done by the end of the month. Unfortunately, with closing being pushed out and the fact he already has vacation plans for the last week in October, this will not happen. Nonetheless, it will look very nice once completed. We will post before and after pictures.

Now back to our adoption; again as stated, we are just in waiting mode for our LOAs. I have asked my agency to contact their representative and have him contact the CCCWA on Monday if he does not receive our LOAs. We are praying we will travel by December and hope this does not put us too far behind. Our agent at the USCIS has been very accommodating and told us once we get the LOAs, to email to her and she will email them to the National Visa Center (NVC). Normally they mail the LOAs, but she will help expedite by emailing it to them, which will help speed up the process. We pray we will be able to travel in December to pick up our angels, so please keep us in your prayers.