Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Territory For Me

I'm walking new ground today. Today is the last Sunday that the church bulletin was my "baby" for a good long time. I am also taking a break from the leadership of the Moms' Ministry for this school year. Tuesday, I'm passing the torch of coordinating the Meals Ministry for a season. I have a flyer or two to finalize this week for some upcoming events. But then I'm done with my volunteer work for church. I'm not even doing any volunteer work at the library at school or in the Home & School association.

This is new turf. I don't quite know what to do with myself or how I feel about it all coming off my plate.

Don't get me wrong. I know this is the right thing to do for this season of my life. I know that I'm being called to focus on bonding and attachment with my daughter. To center my prayers, my time and my energies into making her KNOW her place in the Gang. To navigate, with The Boss, the new dynamics that will naturally occur with Aidan's arrival. And to attend to the needs of all 5 of my kids while we grow and flex into a family of 7. I know the Lord has been nudging me in this direction for several months now. I think I even knew it back in June when we were first made aware that a referral would likely be coming our way before fall.

But one thing I've noticed about life. Or at least about MY life. Knowing it might be coming and having it actually BE HERE are two completely different things. Walking out of the church offices Friday morning, turning off the copier and locking the door. It all felt "bigger" than just finishing up the bulletin for the week. It felt like "more" than handing this task to the church secretary. It got me thinking. They've not all been pretty thoughts. Rather, I've been struggling a bit with some of the thoughts; feeling unhappy about what they might be saying about me.

I love doing our bulletin. I love to write, I love to network people and offer information and resources. In my heart of hearts, I see doing the church bulletin (and the sign ups, flyers, inserts, and brochures) as my way of keeping the church family connected and plugged in to church life and the community around us. I get how what I write supports the ministry and vision of our church. That's the pretty part of what I have been thinking. That's what I'll miss, both about the bulletin and about Moms' Ministry and Meals coordination.

The not-so-pretty part is that I am having a hard time relinquishing the control and the position of being so connected and plugged in to what is going on in this capacity. I'm facing being "out of the loop" of upcoming events. I won't be part of the plans for how we put out information to our community. And I don't like it one bit. (Yes, I admitted out loud that I'm having a control issue rear its ugly head!) I'm sure it's no surprise to any of you that have come to know me that I love to be right in the thick of what's going on. It's why I blog. It's why I host big parties. It's why my favorite days are those spent with my family and friends. It's why I have tons of kids :) But as I've been laying the groundwork for handing over this and other responsibilities in this season of my life, the Lord has been putting His finger of correction on this area of my life. Tapping on it and asking me why it's so hard to let it all go. Nudging me to evaluate my motives and intentions. Gently and lovingly pointing, but pointing it out all the same.

I came to a couple conclusions this morning during our worship time. First, I'm completely grateful that the evaluations and purifying of my heart has been happening slowly and gradually. Second, I'm grateful that the evaluations have yielded the necessary attitude ajustments and change. I'm not talking major overhaul here and that tells me I'm making progress in this area of my life. That I'm not as hard-headed as I used to be! Finally, even if these tweaks and stretchings were painful and "yanking at the root" in nature, that finger of correction has been attached all along to a warm and loving hand that has held me close for more years than I care to count. Attached to that hand are strong and sustaining arms that keep me on the path and hold me to His heart.

At the end of the day, that's not a bad way to learn something difficult about myself.

Besides, I've also got a beautiful little girl coming
home that makes it all worth it!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rev Gen in the Rain

My boys are going with their youth ministry to Rev Gen today. Right now, Dr. D is picking out appropriate shoes to wear in the muddy wet fields. Apparently, flip flops aren't appropriate for mosh pits. Can I just tell you that this information is not the kind of thing that they should be hitting Mom with at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Before my coffee has hit my bloodstream? The pictures in my head are not pretty! Let's just say that Dr. D is not on the upper end of the growth curves. And his favorite acts appearing today are all screamo metal bands. 'Nuff said.

This outdoor event (yes, of course it's pouring rain today!) is an awesome venue for the youth to check out new bands, hear some great speakers, and have a fun day connecting with each other. It's one of those days that makes me really glad for an awesome youth pastor (whoooo hooo, shout out to Pastor Mike and Taneka!) who exposes the kids to the great stuff that's out there. I love that it helps build up and encourage my boys in their faith. But I'm a little jealous. My boys get to hear Stephen Baldwin speak today.

My little celebrity crush on Stephen Baldwin has been fairly well-documented (here, here, and here) on this forum of mine. I figure, it's my blog and I can have little heroes if I want to. Last night, I made a bet with Shaggy. If he boldly approaches Stephen Baldwin for an autograph and tells him in person about my little celebrity crush and my multiple blog posts about said crush, I will double the money I owe him for his various summer chores. I'm kinda regretting that bet now, by the light of day. Shaggy is highly motivated by the green these days. He's got a great new drum set to pay off and is enjoying the (mini) taste of freedom that his earning potential can purchase. I can only assume that the bet was made in the haze of my mini-adrenaline rush that came in the wake of my BFF's arrival. And the buzz of frantic-joy that followed the email about preparing for a flight to China. I don't know what I was thinking. But you can bet, if I get that autograph, you'll all hear about it!!!!!

And if Stephen Baldwin stops by the blog, how cool would that be?!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Update Of The Day!

Okay, we just got an email from our agency. Apparently, there is still no definite date for our Consulate Appointment. But it's looking very likely that they will be able to squeeze us in for a September 25th appointment. We will know a definite date, along with itinerary and flight reservations, etc. on Tuesday. In their opinion, we need to prepare for a departure date of Sept. 11th.

NOT my favorite day to travel in a big huge airplane. Not that I'm superstitious or anything. Just not this American's favorite day to be leaving family and friends and flying across the ocean. In a huge jetliner. I'm sure you understand. . . .

So. There it is. Nothing definite. But a tentative departure date that is only 14 days away.

14 days! 14 days!

I gotta go pack. And shop. And write notes to teachers. And lists for my in-laws. Excuse me while I try not to FREAK OUT here.

I'm goin' to China.

A Contest & Other Sundry News

There's a fun contest going on over at China, Baby! You really ought to check it out. Even if you don't win, there's some gorgeous stuff that indulge your girly fashionista within. And all the proceeds are going toward fundraising for their adoption. Check them out!

Here's a good report from Alayna's momma after her surgery yesterday. Gosh, they aren't even "blood" family and I was in prayer and on pins and needles all day waiting to hear something. Anything. Please continue to pray, as the coming weeks of healing will require patience, and apparently, a blender!

We have no new news about our proposed Consulate Appointment. It's hard to wait, as really, this stage of the process is supposed to be almost a non-stage. You get Travel Approval and within a day or two you get the Consulate Appointment. Then you get packing. It's been a week, and we have heard some rumblings of opportunities being opened up, but no call for us yet.

Today my BFF and her family are pulling in for our annual Labor Day coffee and chat fest. Coffee for the guys, chats for the girls. We are all super excited. Particularly, it seems, the crows and cardinals who live in our back yard. They've been up squawking and singing since about 5 a.m. Which means I've been up listening to them. And while I have a deep appreciation for the beautiful creation crafted by My Father, I prefer to appreciate it when the sun is actually already up. And when the clock reads anything AFTER 7 a.m. I prefer the 8 o'clock hour if I'm being totally honest.

Finally, I've decided to retire Favorites Friday for a while. Not that I've been totally faithful to do them each week of the summer anyway. So it feels kind of anti-climatic to share the information with you. But there it is. After I have neglected it for 3 or 4 weeks running, I'm announcing that it's done. For now.

Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone! Eat lots, play lots, and enjoy your time with family and friends. And if we hear about the Consulate Appointment, you'll find the scoop (with our travel dates!) right here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Prayer Request

This time, it's not for me.

Most of you have probably read some crazy, funny and enthusiastic comments over recent months from my friend, Kateri. She blogs over at Blessed Beyond Measure. She's got some big stuff going on in her family tomorrow.

Please head HERE and read all about it. Then be kind enough to take little Alayna to the Father in prayer. And don't forget to leave some bloggy love when you visit her site. What mama doesn't need some extra love when her baby is facing a big day like tomorrow will be?!


(And no new news about our
Consulate Appointment yet.
Will keep you posted, I promise!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You Pray?

I'm writing to ask all of you to please be in prayer for our adoption process over the next 24-48 hours. We received our Travel Approval this past Friday, and when our agency proceeded to apply for a Consulate Appt. (with the US Consulate in Gangzhou) we were told that there are no appointments available until October 14th or later. This is not good news, but not totally unexpected either, given the happenings in the adoption world currently. The director of our agency has asked the travel coordinator to forward all of our file to their China offices An employee there who lives and works in China for Living Hope Adoption Agency, will be taking our case in person to plead for the earliest date possible.

We are asking you to keep this employee in prayer today and tomorrow as this is significant for several reasons. First, it's much harder to turn away one family and one case with an official in person. Second, according to (what I understand about) adoption policies and in-country laws, we have a limited window of time to travel once we've received Travel Approval and too late in October might be pushing the limits. Third, and most importantly, we need our daughter home sooner than later, bonding and attaching to her "forever gang!" Finally, we have been praying all along the summer's journey that we be able to be home in time to introduce our daughter at my grandmother's pre-90th birthday party. The party is October 11th.

We should have an answer by Thursday. Please pray with us over the next couple days. God has moved so mightily on our behalf all along the way so far, and we continue to trust that He will be faithful to work out these details for the good of Aidan and her journey home to us!

Thank you so much.

Paper, Paper, Everywhere Paper

Last night, The Boss and I sat down to compile the many packing lists I've been collecting. One of the many benefits I've found in this community of bloggers, and more specifically adoptive mom bloggers, is that they are so willing to share information. So I set about picking the brains of those who have done this trip. I really keyed in on those who have done it more than once. Momma didn't raise no dummy - why make the work harder on myself when there are plenty who have paved the way already?! All of these moms have been gracious to send me the lists they worked from, most of them gathered from other moms who have gone before them! In addition, we had some items listed for us from Living Hope to coordinate into the planning.

Here's the pile we started with (note that the pile
consists of about 6-8 separate piles of 3-5 pages each!):

Here's the final compilation of all the notes and lists and ideas we've been collecting. I have no doubt that I will be exceedingly grateful for this particular skill that The Boss possesses, when we actually start placing objects in suitcases. And more so when we go back to China for Aidan's baby sister. . . someday . . .

I'm an old-fashioned kind of girl, so while The Boss was busy creating his handy dandy spreadsheet and organizing it into neat little categories, I was making hand-written lists. Things to buy now for the trip. Things we still need here at home. Car seats and strollers I especially love. Questions for the doctors and for the agency. My lists have been penned neatly into my handy-dandy notebook, which will be my constant companion until we are home and settled in.

Finally, it occurred to us late last week that the one thing we missed in all of our planning, charting and organizing is our immunizations. With travel dates now only weeks away, we are too late to start the process now, as many of the ones "recommended" for adults are series of immunizations to be done over a specified amount of time and in a specified order (according to our doctors' directive). After consulting with them, we agreed to let that one go and trust the Lord to protect us. The immunizations are not required for us, they are just a series of recommendations to consider. We did a good job of tracking and completing the kids' shots, so we feel okay with the steps we took to protect them from things Aidan might carry and to protect Aidan from childhood illnesses she is not equipped to fight. Please pray with us for our protection and health. We made the best decision we could under the circumstances, but I admit that this question is one that sometimes interrupts my sleep. . .

Monday, August 25, 2008

Snapshots In Time

Saturday we were blessed to host my niece's 1st birthday. There were more than 50 people milling around our deck, eating on the patio and swimming in the pool. As I mentioned in Friday's post, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday: surrounded by family.

Here's a few shots of the fun. Yes, they are mostly of Teagan. She was, after all, the star of the show and if you weren't totally in love with her before this post, you most likely will be by the end of it!

Such a beautiful cake. The Hundred Acre Woods were well-represented today!

Daddy of the Birthday Girl, thanking everyone for coming out to share the fun.

She didn't quite know what to do with the crowd roaring out the strains of "Happy Birthday" to her all at once. That's her pretty momma holding on to her.

"Mmmmmm, sugar good."

"This is so fun! How did I not know about this frosting stuff before?"

Teagan and our little Aidan are only two weeks apart in age, and while we were watching her destroy her cake, I got a little choked up thinking about next year's party. What fun these two little girls will have, growing up together and being buddies. I am so thankful that the Lord saw fit to give Aidan a little girlfriend to share her childhood with. We have some mighty fun times ahead of us.

Thank you, Lord for the treasure of Teagan. And thank you, Lord for the coming treasure of our precious Aidan. My heart is full.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kicking It Off Right!

Okay, so I came in from watching the kids swim and called The Boss at work. I was updating him on our dinner plans, as my folks are driving in tonite for dinner and tomorrow's big birthday bash for my adorable niece. I'm starting on the brainwashing early, convincing her that I'm the world's coolest aunt by hosting her 1st birthday. In my backyard with a big, cool, refreshing and clean POOL! Yup, I'm not above using my material possessions to buy a little adoration. (Kidding, I'm kidding. Sorta.)

Anyway, The Boss answered in a totally up-beat, dare I say cheery, voice. Completely uncharacteristic of him, on a Friday afternoon when he's still stuck at work and he knows we're all out basking by the pool. (NOT that's he's bitter or anything. Just a homebody who really misses his kids by the end of a long week!) I charge ahead, starting to tell him my news for the night, when he asks me if I got his message. "What message? I was out by the pool and didn't have the phone." Wait a minute. The happy voice on the phone is starting to make sense . . .

It figures. The one time this whole week that I'm out for a couple hours by the pool. With out my phone. With out my cell phone. That's when the call comes. Yup. The call we've been waiting all week for. The call that catapults us into the final stage of the journey of a lifetime. THE CALL!


So, I know I just heard it from The Boss's own lips, but I speed-dialed the agency as soon as I hung up with him anyway. Just a weird quirk I have - well, one of them anyway! Plus I immediately had tons of questions running through my mind, with packing lists and letters to teachers and medical releases, and . . . . . Did I mention that I'm working on the bottom 1/4th of a 24 oz. of Diet Pepsi? I just have waaaaaaay too much caffeine coursing through my veins right now!

Okay, breathe. So, here's the deal. The agency is submitting for a Consulate Appointment on Sept. 22nd. This will allow us to travel mid-Sept. and return home by the 24th. Just in time to get over our jet lag and re-cuperate enough to travel to Massachusetts to see my mom's family for my Grandma's pre-90th birthday party. It would be a great opportunity for us to introduce our baby girl. It would be wonderful to share the new-ness of our joy with my Grandma and my aunts and uncles. Please, please. Pray with us that the Lord has an appointment available on that date. The next available might be just late enough to push us back enough to not be up for an 8 hour trip to New England so soon.

So, that's the perfect start to the perfect weekend. Family all around (except for those Norwegians, whom I miss most terribly at occasions such as this! Really guys, you must think about moving your whole lives closer. Just for me. Pretty please?!) (Kidding, I'm kidding. Sorta!). As I was saying. A perfect weekend: family all around, celebrating a first birthday for one cutie pie, and Travel Approval for the other! What more could a woman ask for, I ask ya?!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By the Numbers

I've been doing a lot of numbers tracking lately. Tracking my spending, watching the checkbook, price-comparing for baby needs and school supplies, stream-lining our calendar, and watching stats in the adoption community. I am not a numbers gal. Not at all. But watching the trends in the forums to which I belong in the adoption world has become a bit of an obsession. I mentioned the other day that I desire Aidan to be home sooner than later for more than just the obvious reasons of wanting to hug and kiss those chubby little cheeks. The numbers that go into watching these trends never concerned me terribly much before we got our Letter of Approval. Now, I'm checking the boards often, reading up on other families who have stats similar to ours. It's been driving me a little nuts. For example, here's our family's adoption journey, broken down into "stats" for the boards I'm on:

LID: (log-in-date, date that the CCAA entered our dossier into their queue) 12/16/06
DOR: (date of referral, date on which we rec'd Aidan's records to review) 7/14/08
LOI: (Letter of Intent, date on which we submitted our formal intent to adopt Aidan) 7/16/06
PA: (Pre-Approval, date which CCAA acknowledges our intent to adopt Aidan) 7/23/08
LOA: (Letter of Approval, date on which the CCAA formally accepted our petition to adopt Aidan) 7/31/08
TA: (Travel Approval, date which signifies our approval to make plans to come to China) pending
CA: (Consulate Appointment, date on which Aidan formally becomes the newest Gang member by the US gov't) pending

And then came the Olympics. A whole 'nother set of numbers to track. Overall medal counts, gold medal counts, gymnastics scores, tenths of seconds, hundred'ths of seconds. . . . . Oy! This obsession of mine has risen to a whole new level. Again, I'm not even a numbers gal. Normally, decimals make me cringe and fractions make me cry. My eyes are bleary, my body is aching, and my head is pounding.

Or . . . could it be that my head is pounding because of Shaggy's new toy? Mmmmm, what do you think?

To be fair, he really is very good.
Naturally gifted. Really.
It's just very loud. And the whole she-bang
sits just below my computer area.
Under an un-insulated floor,
in our echo-ey cement basement.
But he is really very good.
Loud. But good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Final Big Reveal

This is a Before and After of a different sort. But no less momentous. And after several appointments and coordination of care and benefit coverage, certainly no less arduous in the accomplishing!

LadyBug ~ Before

LadyBug ~ After

I know, I'm biased. But I am fairly sure that she is the most adorable 9 year old on the planet!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Yesterday was another bittersweet day in our adoption journey. One year ago, on the 15th of August, my sweet baby Aidan was left outside the local police station in her province, to be found by "common people" and turned in to the local authorities.

I spent much of the day running errands and grocery shopping. But my mind and heart were very pre-occupied with thoughts of Aidan. With prayers for her birth-mother. Many adoptive parents feel similar mixed feelings as I've been experiencing, and I've read some beautiful posts honoring the excruciating choice to give up a birth-child. I've also read some sad, heart-wrenching posts about the issues surrounding the choice to abandon.

Sometimes, given the lack of information that we adoptive parents have regarding the circumstances of our child's "finding day," there exists a tendency to romanticize the story and even embellish what we surmise to have happened. To assign feelings that would be ours and put them onto a woman or a circumstance we don't fully know. I understand that some of us adoptive moms want to empathize and understand the choice of a birth-mom to give up her child. In the process of attempting to identify, however, I think that some of us tend to look at the issue through our own lens, through the filters of our Western mentalities and our American sense of justice and right vs. wrong. I've been reluctant to put voice to my feelings about these issues, for several reasons. There is still a lot about the abandonment conversation that I do not understand.

Even with as much as I've learned about China and the circumstances that have created the conditions by which we are blessed to adopt from this beautiful nation, I will be the first to admit that I still do not know enough. I do not understand the deep-rooted belief that boys are more valuable to the institute of the family than are girls. I do not understand the economic structure that contributed to the one-birth policy. Although I AM learning that the details and the contributing factors that played into this policy have often been mis-represented and mis-interpreted by many in the media and in our culture. I do not understand the idea that children with special needs, birth defects, or difficult birth circumstances are considered "unlucky." These things that I do not know and do not understand are only the very tip of the iceburg in the conversation of adoptions from China.

What I do understand, what I am fairly confident of now, is that Aidan's birth-mother desired for her to be found. She wanted this beautiful baby to be taken in and cared for. How do I know this? She was found to be fairly well-nourished, alert and in a place of common traffic. I know this now because I have learned that most provinces and most towns, regardless of their size, have local police stations in centralized locations. I dare not romanticize a story of grief or pain, and I dare not surmise her birth-mother made a "plan" for delivering her baby girl to a specifically chosen location. I don't know those things for fact. But on this day, when my heart was heavy for a mother whose arms are now empty, when my own heart is aching and my own arms are restless in their emptiness, I do know these things.

I know that in HIS infinite wisdom and love, My Father in Heaven is working to bring to fruition the beautiful plan that He has for Aidan's life. I know that Aidan's birth-mother played a significant (dare I say annointed?) role in the journey of her life so far. I know that the plans He has for our Aidan, and indeed our whole family, are beautiful. They are for our good. They are for our work on this earth that is purposed to bringing Him glory. I know that, should she choose to seek Him and cry out to Him, Aidan's birth-mother can find healing and comfort in His arms.

And until the day I die, I will say a prayer of gratefulness for this woman. And I will pray that she find Her Father and experience the filling of her heart that only He can bring.

"I'll show up and take care of you as I promised
and bring you back home.
I know what I'm doing.
I have it all planned out -
plans to take care of you,
not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for."
Jeremiah 29:11 (The Message)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Big Reveal!

Before this summer of my interior decorating frenzy, this room was a guest room. A rather bland, very out-dated guest room. Here is a shot after The Boss remembered that I like "Before" pics, from the hall doorway looking into the room.

This is before the big transformation, but after the older boys spent several hours scraping and peeling an "Old World Maps" border down. Before the fresh paint and pretty girl-y touches, but after the first coat of primer was applied to the ugly, colonial blue, matte-finish trim paint. So, again, not a true "Before" picture. But standard fare for The Gang's home improvement projects!

Here is Aidan's room, now completely finished. I gave you a couple teaser pics a few weeks back, remember? This is the same view as the picture above, from the hall doorway in to the room.

(You can click on any of the photos for a larger view of what you are looking at.)

Tonight, we cleaned up and tied back the curtains, and tried to make a floor lamp work in the corner by the rocking chair. No luck on the floor lamp yet, so we are now thinking of adding a hanging Chinese lantern in the corner by the changing table. LadyBug has one for her reading corner and we love the soft light it sheds. This view (below) is from the corner that is to the far left of the doorway.

Here is the cozy crib that waits for our little Empress to grace it's space. I know, I know, we don't expect that she'll want to sleep in it immediately! We are totally ready for her to need to be in bed with us for a while. We love the snuggle time and bonding that sleep-sharing gave us with the older four, and are looking forward to sharing that with Miss Aidan, too

This is the cleanest closet in the house (for now anyway). Note the suitcases waiting to be packed and the little dresses all waiting for a little baby girl to fill them out. And the cute little swimsuit that we hope she's home in time to wear in our pool!

This antique dresser (below) was a gift to The Boss and I from a dear couple that we knew at our former church. We cherish it and are thrilled that all our babies' clothes have filled its drawers for 14 years now. It was crafted in the mid-to-late 1800's, and I enjoy thinking about the other children who used it for generations before mine.

The pictures to the right of the dresser are of The Boss and I when we were each only hours old. On the dresser is a lamp from my wonderful friend CJ, some pictures of Aidan from her referral and update, and a bunny I picked out when we started the room.
The panda W*bkin is a special present that The Boss and I picked up on her birthday, when we were missing her so much!

Some of the bare spaces on the walls around the room are being saved for pictures that we hope to take in China. We'd love to get a couple frame-worthy ones of her home province, of us together in the early hours of our new relationship, and of the beautiful land that gave her to us. The Boss is a great landscape photographer, so I anticipate quite a struggle narrowing the choices down to a few for her walls here. I also have an art project or two brewing in my mind, but I've just been way too busy to research just how to do it.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing these pictures as much as we enjoyed creating this room. I just know that there will be many, many happy memories made in this room as our new family dynamics form and bond our Aidan into her place in our home. Someday, I hope she can look at this room and catch a glimpse of how longed for and dreamed of she has been.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Pain Of Waiting

Aidan's name in Chinese characters. Isn't that pretty?!

A lot of friends have dropped emails or called asking how they can help or how they can pray for us as the adoption draws nearer to really, finally happening. If that describes you, we are asking that you join us in prayer for expedited Travel Approval and, more specifically, that a Consulate Appointment be open and approved for a September adoption.

In order to make our travel plans, our agency must wait for Travel Approval. Once TA is obtained, they must apply for a Consulate Appointment. That is the day on which little Aidan legally becomes our child in the sight of both the Chinese and American governments. It is the last official appointment before we take wing home to become a family of 7, and the most important day after our Gotcha Day.

I must confess, I've been struggling a bit this week with the wait for TA, for several reasons. I know of several families who have had their travel delayed (some by choice, some by circumstance) because Consulate Appointments are filling up for September. There are quite a few large groups traveling together, as many opted not to travel in August. The prices of travel and lodging skyrocketed during the weeks leading up to and during the Olympics, making adoption travel prohibitive for many families. Understandably, those waiting to travel are pushing to get to their babies in September.

Additionally, while I am grateful that our daughter is healthy enough to be living with a foster family, I am concerned that being with them for an extended period of time will make the inevitable separation harder for both Aidan and her foster family. It may be selfish of me to say this, but I want her to transition to bonding & attaching to me as her mommy to occur as smoothly as possible. Sooner than later. I am very grateful that she is being well-loved and cared for. But the bottom line is that it is not being done by me. I am her Mommy and I want my daughter home. (I am just being super honest here, I'm sorry if it sounds controlling or demanding!)

Finally, I am very anxious to get to China and home before the end of September. You see, my Grandmother is turning 90 this winter. My aunts and my mom are hosting a pre-90th birthday bash for her, so none of us have to travel to New England in the middle of winter. The party is slated for Columbus Day weekend. It is my deepest desire to be able to have my daughter in my arms, to introduce her to my Grandma. That my mom's side of the family can finally meet this member of our family that has been growing in their hearts while they prayed. That my aunts can get their hands on her to hug and kiss her like they've been longing to do for months now!

This stage of the waiting has been harder than I imagined it could be. Seeing her face everyday, praying over her temperament, her growth and her attachment process; praying for our transitions; feeling like I am beginning to know her. All of these things have caused a physical ache in my heart that I can't fully describe. I'm quick to tears at the mention of her name. My arms literally feel empty some days, and the baby's room at the top of the stairs is too neat and tidy for my liking. (Please don't tell the other kids I said that!) This has been a hard week, living the classic cliche: "so close and yet so far away. . . . "

Let me be quick to say here that I KNOW God's timing is perfect, I KNOW He is in control of all things, I KNOW He is watching over Aidan. I KNOW all the stuff that we usually say to each other in times of struggle. I've said it over and over to those who are hurting. Maybe I've even said these things to you. And for that, I humbly apologize for trite repetitions of what I am certain you already knew. I'm just feeling especially tender and vulnerable today. . . and anxious to hold my daughter in my arms.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wild Ride For The Gang

Well, at least for The Gang's mommy . . .

Today is my Shaggy's 14th birthday. We had a family dinner last night to celebrate, and it was funny to hear different family members remember little things about him over these past years. I can hardly reconcile the adorable, precocious toddler that they were talking about with the handsome teen-ager sprawled out on the floor listening. I still startle when I hear him answer the phone, and I can't believe the hulking giant who sits at my dinner table is my baby boy. It's been quite a roller coaster of emotions for me these last 10 days: turning 40, celebrating my youngest daughter's first birthday and now watching my oldest turn 14.

Shaggy has been an amazing first child to parent. He's respectful, responsible, loving and compassionate. He's captured the hearts of quite a few of the little toddler girls in his life, reducing them to giggles and blushes when he crouches down to talk to them. I'm thrilled that he's not terribly interested "real" girls right now, but I have no doubt that his sweet demeanor and polite manners will have a similar effect on them soon, if it's not already happening. I am in awe of his confidence and his determination - he's so self-disciplined already. He recently got a drum set, and has applied himself diligently to practicing and learning the skills. I feel like we haven't suffered the pounding headaches of a novice drummer at all. He's like that with running, weight training, his Bible time, and his weekly chores, too! He is very mature for his age in most areas, but has a great sense of humor and light-heartedness about him that keeps us laughing also.

Shaggy and I have great times talking about our shared interests; of all our children, he's the one wired most similarly to me. He's been very open when I suggest to him that "this" or "that" could be an area in which he can learn from my experiences. He's no dummy, and understands (usually) the value of learning from other's mistakes! He's certainly not perfect, but most of the things that we correct in him are things that we consider to be "fine-tuning" of his character. He's a wonderful role model for our younger children, but lately I've been blessed to see his influence on some of the other young ones in his life. He's definitely becoming an influenc-er, and a leader in the Kingdom. . .

Happy Birthday Shaggy!
We love you and are proud of the young man you are.
God has great plans in store for your life
and we are privileged to be a part of the journey.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Year Ago

One year ago today.

One year ago today, across the world in a little Chinese town, a baby girl was born.

One year ago today, across the world in a little
Pennsylvania town, a family prayed.

One year ago today, a daughter was born, connecting two women who will never know each other.

One year ago today, Her Father in Heaven smiled over her, delighted with His plans for her life.

One year ago today, my daughter, Aidan was born.

Dear Sweet Aidan,

May today be your first and last birthday away from home. May your first birthday be filled with the Father's joy and delight singing over you in the heavenlies. And until Mommy and Daddy can be there to hold you close and whisper words of love into your sweet little ears, may our Father send whispers that speak to your spirit of His love and ours. We love you today more than we ever could have imagined, and we look forward to loving you even more as the coming years pass together as a family!

All Our Love,
Mommy, Daddy, Shaggy,
Dr. D, Baby BlueEyes, and LadyBug

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Giddy About Laundry

Now that I know what my little Chinese peanut weighs, I was able to haul up from the basement (well, let's be honest, Shaggy hauled!) two bins of 6-9 month girl and 12 month clothes. After a quick call to my SIL, Teagan's mommy (the cousins are 2 weeks apart in age, and weigh about the same!), and a search through the photo albums from LadyBug's first year, I determined that I will likely need a blend of both sizes for at least our trip to China. And so the fun began. It was quite a stroll down memory lane for me, and not surprisingly, a few tears were shed in the reminiscing. I had been a little frustrated earlier this week, that we were getting an 'older' baby, frustrated that we were missing her first year. Pulling out these clothes and remembering my little LadyBug in them was such a vivid reminder that a 1-year old is still such a baby! Holding up little denim jumpers next to LadyBug's long, lean 9-year old body brought a fresh rush of tears. I can't believe how quickly the years have flown by. I can't believe she was ever that little!

I put together a nice combination of two-piece 6-9 month clothing with a pile of smaller 12 month jumpers and one-piece rompers. While I was doing it, I was reminded of the prayer times I used to enjoy while folding my little ones' laundry piles. And with four kids in 7 years, I had me some serious laundry piles. And thankfully, some serious times to indulge in little snippets of conversation with my Father about the children He'd given me.

I saved the folding and putting away project for later, when I knew LadyBug and Baby BlueEyes would be around. The oooh and aaaaah fest was a special time to share with them. By the time we were done folding the first 1/2 of the pile, even the older boys had joined the perimeter of the room smiling at the cute combos and outfits. They even remembered seeing some of those clothes on LadyBug. I reminded them of when she was really starting to get her hair back in, how they used to tell me to put a bow or a headband in her hair. Even if we were just staying home that day! It was so much fun to sort all the clothing out and fill her dresser, praying over each pile and covering her from afar with my love and the love of Her Father.

I must say, given this chance to parent "again" after the whirlwind years of raising my first four in quick succession, I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to cherish the time of preparation. I am trying to savor the moments a bit more and remind myself regularly of the power of my prayers over her life. I've seen first hand (and still see daily) the impact that praying over my kids has, now that at least two of them are in their adolescent years. I'm so grateful that even in the crush and press for time when they were so young and "all on top of each other," I found time to pray and fill our home with the Spirit of the Lord. Most of those prayers were of the one-liner, frantic, over-the-kitchen-sink variety. And others were of the falling-asleep-in-my rocking-chair or over-my-Bible variety. But I sit here today, straddling the fence of "experienced mommy" and "new mommy-to-be" and I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that no matter the variety, those prayers were heard. They were attended to with loving care by my Father. And they will not and have not returned void.

So, am I giddy about my first load of baby girl laundry? You bet!

Psalm 61 (NIV)

1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

5 For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Increase the days of the king's life,
his years for many generations.

7 May he be enthroned in God's presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oh the Pink! Oh the Prices!

LadyBug and I stopped by B*bies R U$ today, on the way home from hand-delivering visa paperwork to our agency. We had in mind to start investigating strollers, car seats, and monitors. Well, LadyBug really wanted to shop for bibs, and dresses, hats, and socks, too. But we restrained ourselves and limited our focus to the task at hand.

OH MY GOODNESS! Have you SEEN the prices of strollers lately? Of car seats? And what in the world is up with Rolls Royce-style strollers and car seats, while I'm hyperventilating about it?

I could NOT believe my eyes when I spied the tags affixed to these chariots of wonder. I mean, I'm all about a comfy ride and all (have I ever mentioned how much I love my H@nda @dyssey?), but MY WORD! Do these first time parents know that their precious little new bundles of joy are going to poop and pee and puke on these beautiful works of baby art and precision engineering? I'm thinking these little cutie pies do not know that Mommy and Daddy paid a ka-zillion smackeroos for their new spit-up targets. I'm thinking that these little sweeties would care a whole lot more about where they aimed their body fluids if they did.

And why does one need to spend a goo-gillion bills on a "MONITOR SYSTEM?" Do we really need to spy on Jr. from 70 different angles in the room and broadcast it to the kitchen, the master suite, AND the back patio? Do these little munchkins have so much to say of such import that only HEARING them on a little tiny monitor speaker (without, GASP, a video screen!) will make us miss amazing gold nuggets of truth and wisdom mingling in their baby babble? Really, all I remember my Gang saying (when I actually remembered to turn the darned thing on!) was pearls like "goo," and occasionally a random "mama" or "dada" if we were really lucky. I mean, I don't need a MONITOR SYSTEM to tell me that my three boys were gassy. (Are still gassy. Will likely always be gassy. Ugh.)

I was quite captivated with a couple of the choices of strollers and car seats on the showroom floor, and even found myself seriously contemplating an all-pink stroller. I'll bet those of you who know me well are falling off your chairs in shock right now. I know, I know. But when you wait for 2 years (heck, I've been waiting for waaaaaaaay longer than that if we count the dream stages!) for a precious baby girl with chubby cheeks and an impish grin, being immersed in all that pink makes you a little buggy. (Excuse the pun. It was entirely intended.)

But the prices? Those just made me crazy. And downright scared. I mean, we have at least two weddings to start saving for. Come on!

*Update: I whole-heartedly agree with my commenter, God's Grace in Practice. I'll just say it more strongly: Stay away from second-hand car seats, unless you KNOW FOR A FACT the total history of the seat. Period. They DO expire, they DO get recalled. We DO miss recall notifications for lots of reasons. They do wear differently under different environmental conditions.
It's worth buying new over this issue!

Okay, stepping off my soapbox. . . . .

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Bit More About Our Girl

**This is actually Part 2 of a summary of information we have been able to glean about our new daughter, Aidan. If you have not read Part 1, go here first**

The new report we received on July 30th (from the orphanage phone call that we ordered through LadyBugs N' Love) gives even more insight into the wonders of little WBN's personality and growth. At 11 months, she weighed 17.6 lbs, was 27.5 in. long, with a head circumference of 17.7 in. To give you a comparison, LadyBug (at one year) was 18 lbs., 28.5 in., and a head circ. of 17.7 in. So we know Aidan is tiny, but certainly not undernourished or failing to thrive.

She appears to be hearing very well out of her left ear, locating sound and responding appropriately. Her speech is still developing normally but she has not had further hearing testing to determine details about her right ear. Our docs at CHOP have indicated that the most likely scenario is that she will be permanently deaf in her right ear, and that reconstruction of that ear is going to be purely cosmetic if we (and she) so choose. There is no emergent need for treatment for this condition and it is indeed considered to be a minor special need. She appears to be compensating well. Once we arrive home, settle in and really feel bonded and attached, we will meet with the audiology dept. at CHOP and do the higher level evaluations and testings that they've recommended.

It still appears that she is taking a nice long nap in the middle of the day and rising by 6:30 a.m. She goes to bed at 9 p.m., so that gives The Boss plenty of Daddy time in the evenings after work, even when he gets home on the later train. One-on-one snuggle time will be so good for both of them by that time of the day! The report says that she likes to be outdoors, and that she likes to "make eyes" and stare at people when she plays with them. I'm guessing (from my research and interaction with other moms of kids with Microtia) that's a somewhat of a compensating mechanism to help her focus in on sound location; but from the impish grin in one of the photos, it might be a little bit of baby flirting too. I'm totally cool with that - she can flirt with Daddy, her big brothers, cousins, and uncles all she wants. That's it, though. I'm putting my foot down!

Here's another quote that cracks us up every time we read it:
"She is full of personality. She'll scream loudly if it doesn't go as she wanted (strong will), sometimes she'll clap her hands also."
She will fit in just fine here - all four of her sibs have varying degrees of strong wills (I have NO idea where they got THAT tendency!). I am well-versed in many methods of distraction and re-direction. Another note that melts my heart is that she likes to be sung to, danced with and played with. I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am to begin the singing, dancing, and playing! In fact, Shaggy has been putting together a playlist on my iPod labeled Aidan's Music. It includes kids' praise and worship, Disney soundtracks, lullabies, Scripture memory songs and more. We are searching for a little pair of speakers that we can plug into our iPod to take with us on our trip. A friend of The Boss's from CHOP has suggested that we include some Chinese music to that playlist to help her connect a bit with something familiar in the transition of leaving her foster family and joining our family. We're looking into that too.

So, that's sums up what we know so far about little Miss Aidan. It occurred to me the other day that I really need to come up with a great screen name for this little girl - and I'm wondering what you all think now that you've read this? We have a couple ideas here, but we thought it might be fun to hear from you! Be creative and share your ideas - you might just pick the perfect name :)

A Bit About Our Girl

I thought today's posts could be a bit of a summary of what we know about our little darling. It's been an exciting journey toward learning about her and what her caregivers perceive to be her personality. We look forward to learning even more about her on our own, once we are settled in and "doing life" together. Here is Part One - to help you start to get to know our little peanut!

WBN was found on August 15, 2007 near the local police station by "common people" (to whom we are forever grateful and deeply indebted!). She was sent to the police station where a search for her "relatives" determined her to be abandoned. She was sent to the Children's Welfare Institute in her city, and determined to be approximately 5 days old. Date of birth was determined to be August 10, 2007.

In the examination process, WBN was found to be in overall good health, with "moderate nutrition" and "loud crying." Well, of course she was crying - she needed her mama! At that exam it was also discovered that she had a deformity of her right ear. This medical condition is known as Microtia/Aural Atresia. (More on that in a later post, I think.) All other portions of the exam showed her to be healthy and normal for her age.

In February 2008, (when she was 6 months old AND when we chose to pursue a special needs adoption!) a complete summary of her life at the orphanage and medical information was compiled to enter her into the Waiting Child program. The growth curve that we've been able to trace indicates slow and steady growth, even if she is a peanut on both the American and the Asian growth charts. She was reported to be a sound sleeper, with a generous nap in the middle of the day. It appears that she was eating some solids, but was mostly still on stage 2 formula (send me your Nestle and Good Start coupons, gals!). A fun little anecdote about her love of food: when she saw the workers bringing food to the babies, she would "be happy and wave her arms." (Sounds just like Shaggy, eh?!) At this exam, she was described to be "a child with heroic spirit, firm and persistent with inflexible will like a boy (huh? or like her Mommy-to-be?!) while tender, quiet and gentle like a girl." I'm guessing that these last couple traits helped them choose her two names, which mean "cherished or precious" and "tranquil or peaceful." Additionally, the examiner noted that she likes to be cuddled, she can locate sound and respond to her name being called, and was starting to babble the basics sounds. (All good signs for one with Microtia/Aural Atresia.).

This information was presented to us within the file that we received back on July 14th. It was a lot to take in and the doc in the International Adoption program at CHOP was incredibly helpful in sorting out the details and understanding information "behind" the written words! Next post, the updated information we received on July 30th . . . .

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Signing Off

Yesterday, we roused ourselves earlier than God (or at least God when He's on vacation!) (I'm kidding! KIDDING! I know God still gets up early on His vacations at the Heavenly shores!) and drove down to our adoption agency for the signing of our Letter Of Acceptance. Written both in Chinese and in English, the official document was beautiful! It reminded me of the day The Boss and I signed our marriage license. I even had the butterflies in my still- sleepy tummy fluttering around on the whole drive down. We made it a family affair, as this document represents a huge step forward in realizing this dream that we have all been nurturing and pursuing these many years.

The document only requires that The Boss and I sign and check that we accept the referral of this precious child. But we requested that Miss Ashley make a copy of it, unsigned, so that all 6 of us can unofficially sign it and put it in Aidan's baby book. I heard of another family doing something similar to this. I liked the symbolism of all of us putting our names to a paper that will someday tell our sweet girl in black and white that we willingly chose, on Monday, August 4, 2008, to commit to being her family forever and ever. AMEN.

Next prayer focus, for those of you who are pressing in for us!, is that we'd like to see our Travel Approval (TA) arrive SOOON! Specifically, soon enough for us to request a September Consulate Appointment (CA). More specifically, we'd like to travel AFTER the kids' first day of school and BEFORE Baby BlueEyes 7th birthday. Hey, God sent me LOA for my birthday, He surely can send Aidan home for BBE's birthday, right?!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I Was Wrong

Okay, I know that I left you all with the impression that the updates and surprise pictures were the best birthday gift ever. But I was wrong. By some miraculous move of the hand of God (and I am totally NOT exaggerating in the least - my fellow adopting moms will vouch for me!) we got even better news on Friday, August 1st. I called in to check my voicemails from the car, while The Boss and I drove in to town. I was heading to a work out at the local Curves (are you so impressed that I worked out ON VACATION?!) while The Boss shopped around for fresh corn to add to our dinner feast.

This was the only voicemail I had: "Tracy, this is Ashley from Living Hope. Happy Birthday. I hope you are having a great time away with your family. When you get this message, I need you to call the office, it's urgent that we speak with you as soon as possible."

Now, given the nature of the urgent phone calls that have passed between me and our agency, I'm sure you will understand when I tell you that for a brief second, my heart dropped. Well, to be truthful, it almost stopped. I gulped and dialed back to LH as quickly as I could, while hitting The Boss in the arm, telling him that it was urgent. Urgent, I tell you!

The receptionist was so excited to hear my name when I announced who I was and who I needed to speak with. But it seems Miss Ashley was out on an appointment and wanted to share this news herself. I begged her to tell me first if it was good urgent or bad urgent. She smiled (I could hear it!) and said since Ashley would be out for the rest of the morning, she guessed she'd better tell me. I mean, after all, we're only in town to get a cell signal for a short period of time, right?! Yes, yes, tell me!

So, as much as Ashley wanted to be the one to scream and rejoice with us over this news, the wonderful, sweet receptionist said the sweetest four words in the adoptive family's dictionary:

"We got your LOA!"

Yes, our Letter of Approval. This is THE official document that signifies the CCAA's specific approval of The Gang to adopt little WBN, (known here as Aidan!). It was at that very moment sitting on Miss Ashley's desk. In Pennsylvania. In the United States. Waiting for our signature. Waiting for a return trip to China, to trigger the Travel Approval process for The Boss and I to wing our way to our daughter.

And even more amazing, this beautiful official document arrived at Living Hope on July 31st. My 40th birthday. I cried. I laughed. Oh, my Jesus. He knows just what I need.

See, what I didn't tell ANYONE, at all, ever in this whole process, is that when we submitted our Letter of Intent (LOI, the document to signify to the CCAA that we wanted to be specifically matched to WBN), I just happened to mention to my sweet Jesus that it would be an amazing birthday present to get our LOA for my birthday. I knew it was not realistically likely, as most LOA's don't follow LOI quite that quickly. I mean, we just submitted our LOI on 7/16. Our agency had told us that, with our request to expedite, we'd likely see an LOA in early to mid-August. We received LOA on 7/31. That's 15 days. Two weeks. They were wrong. It's okay, I totally forgive them for it :)

And I was wrong. As great as those precious photos and medical reports are, and believe me, I've hardly stopped staring at her sweet face!, the LOA. On. My. 40th. Birthday. far surpasses anything else I could have received for my birthday. I've never been happier to be wrong in my life!