Monday, December 31, 2007

Feathering the Nest

For the last 9 days, Craig's parents have been visiting from New Mexico. We took advantage of Nana and Pa's Most Excellent Babysitting Service and went on an overnight jaunt to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Lancaster is an outlet shopper's smorgasbord featuring offshoots of some of our favorite stores. I practically had to rip Craig away from the Restoration Hardware outlet. He, in turn, had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the Pottery Barn Kids store - but not before I grabbed an armful of terrifically priced nursery bedding.

Here's the loot:

We picked up a crib bumper featuring a car motif, a matching crib sheet, cribskirt, and a coordinating picture frame for $68.00 We also picked up a matching set for the twin bed that we're going to move into the nursery. Our plan is to relocate Andrew into the baby's room when we have a lot of guests sleeping over and to later transition Szu-Chuan into that bed when he's old enough.

I figured that by the time Szu-Chuan gets home, he might soon start taking an interest in vehicles. We beat the construction truck theme to death in Andrew's room, and I couldn't find a full set of train-themed nursery bedding at the outlet. So, cars it was.

We plan to begin work on the nursery in January (eek! tomorrow!). I have to admit I am cringing a bit at the thought of the labor. I have horrible memories of working on Andrew's bedroom, scratching away at 3 layers of hemp-like wallpaper that had been painted over decades ago, all while 9 months pregnant. And that was just the beginning of the renovations that took 10 years off our lives and those of everyone else who was gracious enough to help us scrape, steam, and plaster.

Thankfully, the work on Szu-Chuan's room should be fairly simple: slap up some crown moldings, then paint.

(Heh, heh, heh... that's what we said about the last nursery.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Manifest of a Ziploc Bag

On our way to our baby is care package #2. All of our love and fondest wishes have been rolled, squished, and crammed into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Specifically, the contents take the form of ("Wonder Twin powers, activate!"):

(1) Disposable camera and (1) disposable video camera, this time with instructions on how to turn on the flash included.

(1) Bible Baby board book. I had every intention of sending a CD of myself reading it. Unfortunately, technology won out yet again and we couldn't locate the program on our computer with which to download recordings from the digital voice recorder. Next month...

(1) Gymboree one-piece jumper. I caved in. I bought him an outfit. And it has a panda bear on it. Perhaps I'm overthinking things, but I hope the caretakers at St. Lucy's don't think I'm trying to make a big deal out of Szu-Chuan's "Asian-ness" by buying him an outfit with a panda. It would be just as bizarre as a family in Tawian adopting a child from America and sending him clothes with bald eagles and Uncle Sam emblazoned on them. To be honest, I'm fond of panda bears and er... um... didn't want to pay the extra $8.00 for the other jumper I liked that wasn't on sale.

(1) Picture of Craig, Andrew, and myself, enlarged, laminated, and threaded through with ribbons for hanging on Szu-Chuan's crib. Thanks, Island Boy's mom, for the great idea.

(1) Crunchy butterfly. Pull the string and the toy wiggles. Squeeze the wings and they crunch. Even a child would enjoy this.

(1) Pacifier clip. If you look carefully at the last set of udpate pictures we received, you'll note the pacifier holder the caretakers have MacGyvered out of a burp cloth in order to secure Szu-Chuan's pacifier. It wraps all the way around his neck and has "strangulation hazard" written all over it (well, no it doesn't, but it very well should). Craig picked up a few clips that should be compatible with the pacifiers used at St. Lucy's. Szu-Chuan will be getting very familiar with these doo-dads over the next few months.

Fly away, overstuffed Ziploc bag, fly away! And perhaps this is wishful thinking, but may you be the last care package we send to our baby before we can go shower him with love in person.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Gotcha Day!

Just before Christmas two years ago, I endured a miscarriage. It was an upsetting incident, but with a highly active two year-old to care for and the busyness of the holidays, life marched on. When things had slowed down a few weeks later, I found myself on the computer researching international adoption. Over and over again, I was drawn to watching videos like the one above, compiled by Holt International Adoptions. Each time, the girl who seldom cries couldn't help but get "ugly-faced" with tears, to borrow my favorite phrase from the Lands. The gears of our adoption process had begun to turn.

One can chalk the emotion up to postpartum horomones or vicious dust allergies or something else, but here's what I think. I believe videos like these touch something deep within us because they hint strongly at our relationship with God. The Bible tells us that our heavenly Father has "predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" and that "we ourselves... groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." There is something within us that desperately longs to be united with God and to experience his unconditional love.

Watching videos of children getting placed into the arms of their overjoyed parents is such a beautiful illustration of this principle. Like those dazed and tearful youngsters (typical Gotcha day behavior, I'm learning), we have no idea how much our eternal Father has longed for the day when at last we join his family. We don't realize the extent of the sacrifice he has made to procure us. Forget about the mounds of paperwork, the expensive agency fees, the long travel and waiting times; it all pales in comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus' life, willingly given so that we could be brought into his family. Did you notice the thrill on the faces of those adoptive parents? It only mimics the overwhelming joy God must feel when we accept that sacrifice on our behalves and enter into that family. What love, what safety, what wealth of goodness is ours to inherit!

Much more could be said about the adoption metaphor. But for now, I'll leave you with this thought: on the first Christmas day over two thousand years ago, the gears of our own adoption plan, already turning for countless millenniums, went into overdrive in the form of a little baby. This child, himself adopted into a human family, would one day grow into a man, and with the gift of his life for us, would victoriously throw open the doors for our own adoption into his family. What our souls have always longed for has became an attainable reality.

Merry Gotcha Day to us all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Smiles All Around

OK, I'll eat my words. In my last post, I was dubious about whether we'd receive Szu-Chuan's latest monthly update pictures and information. Guess what I found when I checked my email this morning? Three pictures of our little guy with a smile that could light up the world. Guess who else is smiling, too?



It's heartwarming to see October's sad face replaced with a happy countenance. Truly, there's nothing more gratifying to a parent than to see one's child laughing.

On a side note, it's also useful to have pictures that show what kind of pacifier he uses. I've been hearing from other parents who have travelled that the pacifiers given to the babies in Taiwan aren't sold in the United States. Now that I can see what they look like, I can shop for something that is remotely similar. I also plan to take Dayla's advice and buy as many of them as we can once we're in Taiwan.

Unfortunately, the pictures didn't come with any updated medical information; this will follow once Laura is able to ascertain the correct date of the pictures. FFC was expecting to receive November's updates from St. Lucy's but instead were sent a batch of pictures that were date stamped in December (yesterday, actually).

In her email, Laura also verified that St. Lucy's has received all of our paperwork. We're still awaiting news of when our case officially entered the Taiwanese courts.

In the meantime, we're delighted to receive this early Christmas gift. I try to use emoticons sparingly, but at times like these, I think it's appropriate to bust out with a :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Lowdown

I've digressed a bit lately. In case you've been wondering what's been going on with the adoption, here's the lowdown:
  1. We're still awaiting news of when our case has gotten logged into the Taiwanese courts. Laura at FFC tells us that this information should be included with Szu-Chuan's December 2007 update.
  2. We still haven't received our November 2007 update with his pictures and basic health information (height, weight, head circumference). It's been 20 days since November (but who's counting?). St. Lucy's must be very busy. Also, with the FFC office closing for two weeks over the holidays, it's uncertain whether we will receive the information by month's end.
  3. We've sent St. Lucy's a request to run several additional medical tests on Szu-Chuan. These were suggested by Dr. Farber, our adoption physician. Some of them are simply standard components of well-baby checkups in the United States. One or two are specific to a medical condition that a member of his extended family has.
  4. We've also sent St. Lucy's a list of roughly 20 questions we hope they can answer about Szu-Chuan, his birthfamily, and other circumstances relating to his adoption in case he wants to know one day.
  5. Our little guy turned 5 months old yesterday. Happy 5 months old, sweetie!
  6. And yes, we're still laboring over his first and middle names. Sandy, our neighbor from New Jersey who's pediatrician in New York City, tells horror stories of parents with similar indecisiveness. They end up defaulting their child's name to whatever the hospital types onto the paperwork: twins named Female and Male (pronounced "Fuh-ma-lay" and"Ma-lay") or "Boya" and "Boyb" (aka, "Boy A" and "Boy B"). Come to think of it, Male is not too bad of a name. I should add that one to our name poll.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Freerice.com

After you've finished merging your head and those of everyone you love onto the body of a 4" dancing elf, try this next one. Go to Freerice.com and play their addictive vocabularly game. For every word whose definition you guess correctly, the site donates 20 grains of rice through the United Nations to people in need worldwide. At last, here's your chance to put to use those words that scored big points on the SAT but marked you as an oddball if you ever tried to use them in real conversation.

Based upon the words you're able to define correctly, the site adjusts the difficulty of the words you're given next. It rates them on a scale of ease, with 50 being the hardest. So far, I've accumulated 3,020 grains and can't get past a level 48. Give it a try and let me know how you did.

Monday, December 17, 2007

And They Dance, Too!

If you haven't gone to the Office Max "Elf Yourself" website and played around with it, you're missing out on a good chuckle. My sister, Diane, sent us her family's version and of course, I couldn't resist fiddling with the program and adding in our own Thing One and Thing Two.

What can I say? Our boys are talented.

Chick Magnet

Psst... don't tell our baby, but here's what we got him for Christmas. It's a Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Kitchen. Five months ago, I found it for a great price in a store and decided that referral or no referral, it was coming home with me.

This hulking mass of molded plastic (sorry, planet!) comes complete with bleeping lights and songs that will aggressively imbed themselves in our subconscious, never to exit.


Sure, the package claims the toy teaches the alphabet, colors, and blah, blah, blah. But did you know it's also a chick magnet? Think about it: what woman doesn't love a guy who can cook? (I know I had to keep wiping the slobber off my face when I found out that Craig was handy in the kitchen.) So, like a good mommy, I'm giving Szu-Chuan a headstart, not that he'll really need one, that cutiepie.

Hannah Claire, Princess Fadely, and all you other little girls waiting in the wings - watch out. He's got a spatula and he's not afraid to use it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What's in a Name?

Many people have asked us what we have decided to name our son. Well, um.... er.... we're still working on the first name. (Actually, I've already made up my mind and Craig is still pondering it.)

We are, however, certain of what his middle name will be. We strongly suspect that his Chinese name, Szu-Chuan, was given to him by his birthmother. We'd like to honor that and keep it as part of his name.


According to my mother, the first part of his name, "Szu" means "Sent" or "Given." The latter half means "Whole" or "Complete." Within the second half is the character for "gold." Altogether, my mother assures me that it is a very well-selected name (you go, birthmother!) I have to agree. I like the idea of Szu-Chuan being a gift from God to make our family complete. And hey, if he winds up a prosperous guy one day, may he have the humility and wisdom to use those resources well.

Craig and I are toying with the idea of re-spelling his Chinese name. Technically, the English spelling is incorrect. The name should be pronounced "Szu-Chien," not "Szu-Chuan." (If you can read the pinyin next to the Chinese characters, you can get a better idea of where the accents fall.)

On one hand, it feels a bit odd to change the spelling of his name. In some strange way, I feel like we'd be tampering with the significant part of his life that is represented by his time in the orphanage. Would it trouble our son one day when he's older? Would he resent us for it?

On the other hand, when you think about it, the English spelling is really quite arbitrary. I doubt the birthmother was responsible for it. Would it bother her if we re-spelled it? I don't think so. I'm guessing she would just want it pronounced correctly.

If we left the name as-is, our son would be consigned to having his middle name mispronounced all his life. Those of us with unconventional names know how much of a nuisance this can be. My mother for one claims that if she could have a re-do, she'd have her last name re-spelled in a very simplistic "Western" way. I don't half blame her; I could probably count on one hand the number of times people unfamiliar with our name have actually pronounced it correctly.

So, "Szu-Chuan?" "Szu-Chien?" "Su-Chien?" "Suchien?"

What do you think?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lights, Camera, Translation!

I don't know about you, but a few pictures of our child per month are just not enough. By the time Andrew was a year old, I must have taken at least 1,000 photos. I kid you not. It saddens me to think we might only have just a small handful of images of our son from his pre-adoptive life to share with him when he's older. (Yes, I know... as the second child, he'll wind up getting short-changed in the family photo albums; it's bound to happen.)

But for now, send in the single-use cameras! We mailed one to St. Lucy's in our last care package and plan to send more with each month's shipment. They're no substitute for actually having him home and blinding him with our camera flash every time he gets pureed carrots on his nose or does that irresistibly cute smirk. But such are the sacrifices of adoptive life.


For anyone who plans on sending disposable cameras to their child's orphanage, here's something that may be of use. My mother was gracious enough to translate instructions for the caregivers on how to turn on the flash and operate the cameras.

Note that the instructions are specific to the Kodak Single Use Digital Camera and the CVS One-Time Use Video Camcorder, both of which can be purchased at CVS.

And while you're at it, here's a printable coupon good for $2.00 off at CVS through January 30, 2008 (thanks, Soo-Jin!) This coupon can be re-printed and re-used several times.

Hopefully these instructions will help yield some better-quality pictures of your little one that will be meaningful to your whole family one day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hastening the Day

There are very few things adoptive families can do to speed the day when they travel to pick up their child. Most of the time is spent waiting and wondering and learning the hard way to trust in God's wise timing. This week, however, Craig and I reached one of those rare points where the ball was back in our court, so to speak. Believe you me, we did everything in our power to hit that ball back as hard and as quickly as we could.

Last Friday, FFC FedExed us 12 documents. After numerous phone calls and emails with the agency and three other offices, we managed to piece together what we had to do with all the paperwork. (Each state has its own peculiar procedures and woe to you if you don't follow them down to the letter!) We spent the last four days dodging in and out of notary offices, two different county courthouses, the Taiwanese "embassy" (TECO) in New York City, and a bank. We drove a combined total of 10 hours beset by snow half of the time, missed one and a half days of work, spent over $8,000 in preliminary agency, notary, and authentication fees (gas and mileage not included), made photocopies until we were bleary-eyed, and wrangled a restless 4 year-old who was none too happy to be dragged along to many of the destinations.

Anyone who thinks that adopting a child is easier than giving birth has got it all wrong (and this coming from someone who delivered a child painkiller-free). Either way, at the end of the day, we're thankful to report that all of the paperwork was duly signed, sealed, and delivered. Yes, it was a very crazy week, but when we look at the picture of our baby's sweet face, we'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Monday, December 3, 2007

10 Things You Always Wanted to Know but...

One of the things I appreciate most about other families' adoption blogs is the wealth of information they contain. Adopting a child two continents and an ocean away can sometimes feel like finding your way through a poorly lit room with only a cigarette lighter to guide you (which, incidentally, is how we saw and settled upon our first apartment in New York City.)

Each adoption agency working with Taiwan has its own procedures and criteria. They each work with different orphanages which operate according to their own rules. Add to that the different governmental hoops families must jump through on both the U.S. and Taiwan sides. Considering all of this, whatever information an adoptive parent can piece together from the sources available is golden.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to chat at length with Laura at FFC. I barraged the woman with a ton of questions that we had about the referral process. Thankfully, she was game enough to respond. With hopes that I might be able to shed some light for other families and anyone else interested in the nitty gritty details, I thought I'd post some of the questions I asked and the answers I received. Much of the information is specific to FFC families only and/or to children residing at St. Lucy's.

Q: Why do infants get referred after several months of being born?

A: The directors at St. Lucy's prefer to wait at least 60 days in order to better evaluate the children for health and other issues. In some cases, the social worker goes through counseling with the birth family during this time. With the amount of paperwork they have to process, St. Lucy's staff can get overworked. They may not always be able to notify agencies of referrals the moment they become available.

Q: How are the children matched with their adoptive families at St. Lucy's?

A: FFC sends St. Lucy's the homestudies of the next few families at the top of their waiting lists. When appropriate children come up for referral, the staff carefully considers the family's suitability for the child. Because St. Lucy's is a Catholic institution, they commit each child and his/her prospectivce family to prayer prior to making a decision.

Q: When should we expect to receive updates on our child during the waiting process?

A: St. Lucy's aims to provide updates during the last week of each month. These should include the child's height, weight, head circumference, and two to five pictures. Recently, they have started sending medical checklists with more detailed information on the child's milestones (ex., how many new teeth have come in, when the child learned to sit) and any other relevant details (ex., illnesses, doctors' visits). It is not unusual for St. Lucy's to be late in delivering the monthly updates to FFC.

Q: Will we be updated on the status of our court process?

A: No. While families with children in the Chung Yi orphanage may get updates on how their cases are progressing, St. Lucy's doesn't provide updates until a case reaches the final ruling stage.

Q: What's the likelihood that we will have a chance to meet the birthmother while in Taiwan?

A: About one third of families have this opportunity. As recently as 9 months ago, St. Lucy's had put an end to birthmother meetings because of the emotional stress the meetings placed up on the women, many of whom were very young. However, they have recently re-allowed them, provided the birth family agrees to the meeting.

Q: Is my child's name one that the orphanage gave or did the birthfamily give it to him?

A: For children who don't have a name already, St. Lucy's provides a name. Children born the same year all receive the same first half of a name, i.e., "X-1, X-2, X-3." (Based on that, I think it's fair to assume our son's name was given by his birthfamily.)

Q: Can my relatives in Taiwan visit our child and take pictures of him?

A: St. Lucy's point of view is that the child doesn't legally belong to the adoptive family until the final decree. The answer to this question should be viewed in this light.

Q: May I request that additional medical tests be run on my child?

A: Yes. St. Lucy's is willing to consider requests for additional medical tests, but they must be submitted through the agency in writing with the name of the physician making the request and a reason for them. Afterwards, it can take about 8 weeks for the tests to finally be run. Note that if the birthmother's blood tests don't reveal anything of concern, a blood test will not typically be run on the baby. Should a significant previously uncovered medical condition show up in the child after the referral has been accepted, a family may have the option of requesting a different referral.

Q: Are birthmothers at St. Lucy's aware of with whom their children are getting placed?

A: They are not given any details of the family until the case has reached the final decree stage in the courts. Information is then available only if the birthmother requests it.

Q: What are the rules for sending care packages to our child?

A: Packages are due at the FFC office no later than the last day of each month. All items must be comfortably condensed into a one gallon Ziploc bag. Do not overstuff it. St. Lucy's has plenty of clothing for babies. They are, however, in constant need of diapers. Right before travelling, FFC will ask families to bring with them to Taiwan a suitcase full of diapers (or whatever it is St. Lucy's might need at that time).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Szu-Chuan Sighting

I've been in contact with another Judy, who recently picked up her son, Eric, from St. Lucy's a week ago. While there, she remembers seeing Szu-Chuan lying in a bed on wheels. Some older babies who could walk were pushing him around. I don't know whether to be concerned or to laugh. I'd like to think the other kids were just executing a plan to bust our little guy out of the orphanage so he could come home to us quickly.

Thanks, Judy, for that precious tidbit of information and gong xi!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Out of the Starting Gates

We had some terrific news yesterday. The supervisor at St. Lucy's has given us her official stamp of approval to go ahead and adopt Szu-Chuan. With this out of the way and his birthmother having already signed off on the paperwork, Laura went ahead and sent out the contracts. This will speed up our wait considerably since receiving them can sometimes add a couple of weeks to the process.

Once we've signed everything, had the papers authenticated at the New York City TECO office, and send them back, it will take approximately two more weeks for our case to get logged into the courts. I'm told from other parents that there are a few faster judges and one or two really, really slow ones. Please pray we don't wind up with "Judge Molasses" as one mom jokingly referred to him, that we can bring our little boy home quickly.

I wanted to get a picture of the FedEx man who delivered our contracts this afternoon. Photographing the FedEx delivery person is just one of those things you have to do as an adoptive parent (though this was probably more popular back in the time before referral details and photos were sent by email, when the FedEx guy used to play the "Stork.") Alas, the envelope already came before I got home, so you'll just have to settle for a picture of you know who, taken by Andrew.

Among the things included in the envelope are three original sets of the contract signed by the birthmother. I got chills just holding the papers, knowing she had also held them at some point, pondered over them, and written her name. Here we are, two mothers unknown to each other, both of us connected by a few sets of papers and one very special boy. I sincerely pray we'll have the opportunity to meet this young woman some day and to convey to her our heartfelt gratitude for such a precious gift.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Baby, with Love

You'd think that in the seven months we waited for our referral, we'd have Szu-Chuan's first care package well-prepared and ready to go. Not so. Thankfully, I had already purchased everything that was to go in it. However, as I found this morning as I prepared to overnight the contents to FFC to meet the end of the month deadline, there was much more involved. This was not a matter of merely squishing everything into a one-gallon Ziploc bag and popping it in the mail. If you have the patience, read on.

Currently on their way to Taiwan via Utah are the following:



(1) Taggies blanket. After just having run a load of colored laundry, I had to run yet another load just to pre-wash this last night. Call us weirdos, but Craig and I took turns over the last 24 hours wearing it against our skin so that our smells would rub off on it and give the baby some sense of familiarity with his new parents. You'd think we were wolves marking our territory. Well, hey - we could use any help we can get in speeding up the bonding process.

(1) Disposable camera with digital capability and (1) disposable video camera. I'm told, thanks to Island Boy's mom, that the caretakers at St. Lucy's sometimes forget to turn on the flash on these cameras, resulting in useless pictures. Last night and this morning, my mom and I waged a war with modern technology to get her written Chinese translation of "Please turn on the flash by pressing the grey button on the front of the camera" sent from Virginia. Alas, I'm sorry to report that technology triumphed. We may have to settle for dark pictures and a blank video. (By the way, in case anyone's interested in also using those directions once I receive them via snail mail, I'd be happy to share them with you.)

(1) Infant toothbrush. We discovered this toothbrush when Andrew was a baby. The child can gnaw on it and the tiny bristles lining the inside will rub against his gums. It also makes a good teether. I hear from people who have adopted older children that while medical care for Taiwanese orphans is excellent, dental care can be atrocious.

(1) Soft-cover photo album. I've had all the pictures ready for a few months now. However, when I looked at the album again, I was dissatisfied with the quality of the pictures produced by my home printer. They left inky smudges all over the insides of the clear plastic holders. So, I made a mad dash to CVS and printed the pictures out on their photo printer. I then summoned up my atrophied written Chinese skills and wrote, "Daddy," "Mommy," "Big Brother," "Our Family" on adhesive labels to be affixed on each photo.

(1) Philadelphia Eagles teddy bear. OK. After moving to the Philadelphia region a little over a year ago, I swore we'd never fall prey to the mania that has beset many people I encounter here. Eagles worship should go down in the DSM as a verifiable illness. I will never erect a 6' inflatable Eagles linebacker on my front lawn nor buy a car that is Eagles' green and plaster it with matching bumper stickers. No, no, no. However, just because Andrew picked out this bear for his Di-Di at his school's Secret Shop Christmas fundraiser, I have agreed to let it occupy half of the precious space in our one-gallon bag.

(1) Soft book with 3-D objects on the inside that crunch when touched. Andrew liked the book so much he made me read it for him 4 times in a row. I had to ditch "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" at the last moment or risk popping a hole in the Ziploc bag.

(1) Set of baby wrist/ankle rattles. I figured these would challenge Szu-Chuan to move about and explore cause and effect relationships, keep him occupied during the periods in which the caretakers were busy tending to other children. (You know, only adults would think of designing such nuisances for defenseless babies; I can't imagine having to live a day wearing rattles wrapped around my ankles.)

You'll notice we didn't send him any clothes. Since space was so limited, we took a triage approach and tried to focus mostly on things that would be of immediate benefit. As tempting as it was to shop for a few cute outfits, I'm told that St. Lucy's has no shortage of infant clothing.

Had I the foresight, I would have taken another parent's advice and recorded our voices reading a few children's books on CD. I've heard the caretakers will actually take the time to play the recordings for the children. I also would have had translated a letter to the caretakers to thank them for tending our little lamb. All that is for the next month. For now, I'm just happy to report that the care package has left the building.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dear World,

We are absolutely thrilled to introduce to you our beautiful little boy, Szu-Chuan.

He was born in Tainan, Taiwan on July 19, 2007, making him 4 1/2 months old as of this writing. He weighed in at a solid 7.5 lbs. and measured 19.7 inches.

Around 6 p.m. Monday, Eastern time, I called FFC to inquire about the status of our wait. Since our fingerprints will be expiring in May 2008 and one of our medical notarizations is due to expire in July 2008, I sought feedback on whether we should renew them. After several rings, I resigned myself to leaving a message. Suddenly, James, FFC's Business Manager (and Laura's husband) picked up the phone. He and Laura were driving in their car on the way to purchase some office supplies. He told me he couldn't give me a firm answer since he didn't have our paperwork in front of him. We were about to part ways when he mumbled something and I found myself on the phone with Laura. Following some greetings, she blew me away with those six magical words: "You've been matched with a child."

Come again? Whuh? "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?!"

I wasn't sure if I heard her correctly. With the advent of the holidays, we were prepared to not receive a referral until after the New Year. Regardless, my body went into involuntary shaking mode and I nearly fell over with shock and excitement. It was a miracle that I remembered to push the "Record Memo" button on the answering machine to preserve the conversation for longevity. It took several tries, but my shaky fingers finally managed to jab at the right button.

Surely enough, Laura confirmed that our dossier had been sent to St. Lucy's Orphanage in Tainan and that we were one of ten families recently receiving referrals from there (3 of those 10 are FFC families; the remaining 7 are with other agencies). The referred children had birthdates in either June or July of 2007. She listed some other details that I attempted to scribble down on the back of an envelope in wobbly chickenscratch. The actual referral details and pictures of the child would follow later that evening.

After I hung up with her, I went on a mad dash to find our video camera. I wanted to record my conversation with Craig when I called to tell him the good news. Camera finally secured and balanced atop the fruit dish, I called him twice at work and once on his cell phone. No answer. I called his work number again. The playback of the video shows me doing a restless jig a la frenzied Rumplestilskin. When he finally did pick up his phone, I was put on hold as he launched into a conversation with a co-worker in the background. More Rumplestilskin dancing.

After a seeming eternity, Craig broke free. The following conversation then ensued:

"Are you sitting down?"

"Uh, no."

"Guess what?! Guess what?! Guess what?!"

(Long, heavy pause.) "Are you pregnant?"

"NO!!! We got our referral!!!"

(Alas, Craig, you'll never live that one down.)

It was a wonder that I managed to cook dinner that night in all my nervous excitement. Craig was similarly thrilled when he came home. Yet, as delighted as we were, the realization lurked in the back of our minds that we had not officially committed to adopting this relatively unknown child. (Receiving a referral is ironic in this way, isn't it?) Still, we were as overjoyed as caution and our own plain vanilla temperaments would allow.

Since we hadn't yet received the referral email from Laura, we decided to continue with our regular plan to go to Bible study that night. It was our turn to bring snacks anyway. Boy, I wish we could have taken a picture of ourselves grinning from ear to ear as we announced the news of our match to the group. The genuine rejoicing of our friends who had prayed for our referral over the last 7 months was heartwarming and well worth the delay in opening the email.

Later, with Andrew tucked into bed and the video camera trained on the computer monitor and our anxious faces, we opened up Laura's email to find the following pictures of the most wonderful little baby:





These two photos were taken when he was two months old.

We were also blessed to receive an October update photo, featuring Szu-Chuan at 3 months old, decked out in pink:



Upon first seeing him, we were struck not only by how gentle and sweet he looked, but by how serious and forlorn he appeared. If he is indeed as serious as the photos suggest, he will fit in very well among Craig and myself. But the sadness - if it exists - really tugs at my heart. Someone please tell me that our son only looks so plaintive because the photographer's a dud at making babies smile or because the baby's just been awakened from his nap or because he's straining to push out a poop while the camera flashes in his face. Who wouldn't be sad about that? Seeing that little face, I wish I could just reach through the computer monitor, pick him up, and give him a big hug. These next 4-6 months that we'll spend awaiting the court ruling and our travel date will feel very long.

Of interest, Szu-Chuan's birthmother has already signed off on the consent to adopt form. This doesn't officially relinquish her parental rights; it only grants temporary guardianship to St. Lucy's and gets the ball rolling on the adoption process. Process-wise, this will save us anywhere from 2-8 weeks waiting time since in many adoption cases, this step usually happens after the referral is given, not before. We could be due to travel as early as late February and possibly as late as May of 2008. Chinese New Year during the beginning of February could slow things down a bit in the Taiwanese courts. Either way, we'll have about one month's notice to pull together our travel plans once our case is finalized.

So where do we go from here? On Tuesday, we reviewed the medical records we were sent with Dr. Farber, a physician from the adoption center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. We have verbally accepted the referral over the phone with FFC today. Our families have been duly notified. We now await the FedExed contracts and forms, which we will sign and have authenticated. We're hoping to receive these early next week. Afterwards, we re-enter the Waiting Room one last, long time.

What once seemed like a distant reality is all beginning to take shape. Houston, we have lift off.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Towamencin Turkey Trot


Earlier today, Craig, his sister, Christine, her husband, Dave, and I hit the streets of Lansdale, PA to run the 2007 Towamencin Turkey Trot 5k.

At the end of the day, none of us walked away with the grand prize turkey or even placed within our age groups. Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. There were over 200 runners, twice as many as last year. They all braved 38 degree weather to -

Wait! Stop! I've got a few awards of my own to hand out. Cue the music!

Honorable mentions go to: Andrew for a top-notch cheering job, as well as Craig's brother, Kevin and sister, Kaity, for tending Andrew while we ran. Believe me, this is harder work than running a race.

Third prize goes to Dave for pressing through a last-minute back injury to run his first 5k. While circumstances were not ideal, it was evident that all his hard work in training over the past several months paid off. Happy birthday, Dave!

Second prize goes to Christine for finishing her first 5k in admirable time. Did I mention she was also pushing her son, Isaac, in a jogging stroller? Don't let her small stature fool you; this girl is a physical force of nature.

First prize goes to... drumroll... dear hubby, Craig! I can't tell you how proud I am of him. He resurrected after 15 years of couch potato-hood and started training to run this race just 2 months ago. He beat me fair and square with a time of 26:10. Way to go, Bear!

As for me, this marks my 12th 5k since the day 2 years ago when God told me to peel my lazy rear off the sofa and exercise. The fact that I, a passionate hater of running, can now run 3.1 miles without collapsing is proof enough to me that God is real and can perform miracles of such mind-blowing proportions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

He Said, We Said

Lately, the conversation in our home has followed this script:

Andrew: "I don't want a MeiMei or DiDi."

Us: "Why not?"

Andrew: "They cry too much."

Us: "All babies cry sometimes. You used to cry a lot when you were a baby." (See exhibit below.)


Andrew: (Silence)

Us: "Plus, when MeiMei or DiDi gets a little older, you can play with him or her."

Andrew: (Long pause.) "What do I have to eat before I can have dessert?"

Poor Andrew. I've given him a bit of a bad rap on this blog, but he really is a wonderful little boy. We know that he'll eventually come around one day and be the best big brother in the whole world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Time

Detail oriented person that I am not, I just noticed that the dates on my last two posts don't correspond with the content of the posts. Election day was Tuesday. The name post appeared on Monday. Our seven month wait list anniversary was yesterday, though the post header reads "April 7th, 2007," 2 days before. Apparently, Blogger.com uses the date of the post when the entry is first drafted, not the date when one hits the "publish" button. Who'dve thunk?

Since "yesterday's" post, I found out that we are not #3 on the male infant waiting list. We are actually #4. There is another family that submitted their homestudy draft a few days before we did, thus securing their spot on the List. I don't know for certain, but they may be eligible to adopt from both Chung Yi and St. Lucy's, so we might just have to wait a little longer.

While the wait must seem interminable for families who have been on their agency's list for close to two years (some families adopting from the Cathwel orphanage are in this boat), our wait is still relatively short when compared to those who have just signed on to adopt from Taiwan. Within months after we got on FFC's waiting list, the projected wait for a healthy male infant skyrocketed to about 18 months and about 24 months for girls - and that's just the time to receive a referral. Those figures don't include the 4-6 months court processing time prior to picking up one's child.

At the end of the day, we're confident that God has the perfect child picked out for our family and that this waiting process is one way in which he will bring that baby to us. As challenging as Andrew was to raise during his earlier years, we couldn't imagine our family with a different child. (Case in point: as I type, Andrew is on the potty looking at a book and singing "Deep and Wide" in a falsetto voice.) I know that one day, we'll look back upon our time with our second child and feel the same way.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Big 7

Today marks our 7 month anniversary of being on the FFC waiting list. In commemoration of the day, I had Andrew draw the number seven in Chinese. He got a little wild and crazy during the photo shoot and refused to hold the paper upright.

You might remember that our wait was originally projected to be 3-6 months to receive a referral. We're now one month past, but, shhh, I won't tell if you won't.

As far as I know, we are #3 on our agency's list for a boy. If I understand correctly, families #1 and #2 plan to adopt from Chung Yi, one of the two orphanages with which FFC works. Since we are open to adopting from either, there is a chance that we might receive the next healthy male infant that arises should he hail from St. Lucy's.

I have no clue where we stand on the female infant waiting list. Based on Laura's comments in a previous conversation, I'd guess we are somewhere toward the top 5. Given the unpredictibility of referrals and their cyclical tendencies (i.e., a string of all male referrals, followed by female-only) it will be interesting to see which gender we get. To date, this has been the most nail-biting and intriguing part of the wait.

In the meantime, I remain disappointed that no one has voted for Second Corinthians or Methusaleh-Roy. Come on, people!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Name That Child

Since Election Day is today, I thought it'd be fun to post a poll of our own, a name poll.

Unlike some adoptive parents who already have their child's name chosen and ready to go, we're on track to take the approach we did when Andrew was born: generate a shortlist of names, then look at each other in panic when the nurse asks us what we've decided to name the baby. We'll then do a frantic scan of the baby (in this case, via pictures and any video), carefully take in his/her features and personality, then nervously proclaim, "His/her name is X."

Right now, our plan is to give our child a Western name for either his or her first or middle name. We'll most likely keep his/her Chinese name, especially if it's one that the birthmother has given. (This is not always the case; I'm told the orphanage will assign one if not already given.) Finally, we'll append our last name. Those of you who know us personally know what that name is. For those who don't and for the sake of online privacy, I'll give you a hint: it's a standard 3 syllable Polish name beginning with "K." Think along the lines of that Unibomber guy.

Finally, what fun would would the poll be without a little suspense? Sneaky people that we are, we won't tell you which name we've chosen until we've accepted the referral, hee hee..

So, without further ado, I present you with our ever-changing shortlist of names. Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to the polls on your left.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Change Is Gonna Come

Nothing momentous has happened over the last two weeks. We continue to await a referral - and to be quite honest, this is fine by us. Inasmuch as we're quite eager to find out who our new child will be, we also realize that life will change dramatically once #2 comes along. We're trying to savor the status quo while it lasts.

Right now, I can take Andrew to his gym class and chat leisurely with the other moms. I don't have to chase down a crawling baby in between sentences. When Andrew pops out of bed at night to talk about Superman's laser vision, I can bellow "Superman says to go back to bed!" from where I sit downstairs. I don't have to worry about waking his sleeping sibling in the room next to his. The more I contemplate the changes that will come, the more I'm realizing what a luxury it is to grocery shop with only one fussing child in tow. (It's true that whatever concerns I have are all selfishly motivated.)

Needless to say, amazing changes will also come. Working in the church nursery this past Sunday reminded me of how sweet it is to cuddle with a baby. I look forward to the day when Andrew and his brother or sister can play together; my friends with multiple kids all tell me there is nothing better than watching your children enjoy each others' company. And of course, there is the joy of witnessing your child grow, learn, and discover. You just can't beat that.

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On the adoption newsfront, we're finally ready to mail out our Child Referral Request form. Craig got a call back from FFC with the answers to our questions, including one about a few baby girls up for referral soon. (We had learned of their existence from another family waiting to adopt through FFC.) Instantly, we began to wonder if hair ribbons and Mary Janes were in our future. However, according to James at FFC, there are 3 or 4 families who have requested only a girl and who have been on the waiting list longer than we. The girls would go directly to them, assuming they matched their criteria. Of course this doesn't preclude the possibility of our seeing pink down the road, but for now, I don't have an excuse to start shopping for miniature dresses.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Merry Christmas, Chung Yi!

A few months ago, Ahma Penny, the grandmother of two children adopted from Taiwan, decided to organize a Christmas project with her daughter, Nicole. The goal was to fill a shoebox with Christmas gifts for each child at the Chung Yi orphanage.

Andrew and I decided to take up the challenge. We hit up Target to shop for 6 children in all age ranges, newborns to older teenagers, boys and girls. We crammed 6 large Ziploc bags with inflatable globe balls, a train set, pink pouffy hair accessories, a soccer ball (apologies to FFC's Laura Trinnaman and the other volunteers who will be transporting our items when they go there in November for a work project - more on this to come), t-shirts, pajamas, character toothbruses, journals, pens, deodorant, a puzzle, Christmas cards, die-cast cars, a beading kit, mints in a pretty jeweled box, toothpaste, a soft baby book, and assorted other sundries.


I enlisted Andrew to help me paste into the Christmas cards a typed message to each child; my handwriting is far too frightening for anyone to make sense of.

We packed everything up and took it to the local post office this afternoon. Goodbye, box! Here's hoping the children will enjoy the gifts. More importantly, here's hoping that they will feel loved in what can be a lonely and harsh world for orphans.

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We continue to await news of a referral. This weekend, Craig and I spoke at length with Dr. Abigail Farber, head of the International Adoption Health Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). We've contracted with them to review our referral once we receive it and to perform the physical evaluation of our child once s/he's home. Dr. Farber walked us through all of the medical conditions listed on the Child Referral Request form and helped us to consider more thoroughly the ramifications of each. We are awaiting FFC's answers to some questions that arose when filling out the form before sending it back to them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More and More


Let me depart from the usual adoption-related chat and rave about the round silver thingydo currently spinning in my CD player.

Rachel Passante, the worship leader at our former church, Grace Redeemer Church in Teaneck, NJ, has teamed up with her sister, Sarah Mininger to put out a wonderful CD entitled More and More. Collectively, they are known by their maiden name, Biscaye. The album features nine spiritually honest and uplifting songs powered by earthy, tight harmonies. My personal favorite is the title track and the very catchy #7, "Your Children," featuring backup vocals by our friend, John, who with his wife, Jackie, filled out one of our four adoption reference checks (Ha! I have succeeed in making this post adoption-related.)

I received my copy in the mail yesterday and drove home listening to it. I sat there for a long time in my driveway as it played, staring out at the forest in our backyard, wet leaves everywhere. The album was the perfect soundtrack to an idyllic October afternoon.

You can check out samples of the songs and puchase the CD yourselves at http://cdbaby.com/cd/biscaye or at iTunes.com

Saturday, October 6, 2007

And the Winner Is...

What's Wrong with Mud? by Gillian Colley. Congratulations to Ms. Colley!

Congratulations also to my sister, Jenny. Meiling's Dumplings came in 2nd place in the ABC Children's Picture Book Competition. I just received the news today. There were 25,585 votes cast this year (significantly down from last year), with the winner clearly in the lead. A slim margin divided the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers.

I want to extend an enormous "thank you" to all of you who took the time to cast your votes on behalf of Jenny's entry. You guys are awesome! While she didn't win the coveted book contract, this is not the end of Meiling's Dumplings. She still plans to pursue other means of publications and I, for one, am glad for that.

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Meanwhile, we continue to wait for news of a referral. We didn't receive the Child Referral Request form that was supposed to come this week. I'll follow up with that on Monday.

This blog is starting to look too "texty." Realizing I've gone three posts without a picture, I'm throwing in some random pictures taken earlier today of big-brother-to-be Andrew rolling around in leaves.





Tuesday, October 2, 2007

7 Days from 6 Months

Well, the big news this week is that there is no news. We're still waiting for a referral, seven days away from the anniversary our six-month wait.

A few days ago, we received an email from Laura at FFC telling us that we would be receiving a Child Referral Request form sometime this week. I'm not really sure what this is, but from the context of the email it sounds like we'll be asked to give more specifics about the child we're seeking. According to Laura, FFC uses the information we supply to help the orphanages find a child who matches our criteria (healthy male or female under 12 months old at time of travel). Hopefully, this means we are getting one step closer?

In the meantime, congratulations are in order to:

Mel, also adopting through FFC, who recently accepted a referral of a cute boy (http://ramblingsandrumblingsbymel.blogspot.com). We're particularly excited about this because they joined the FFC waiting list on April 4th, just 5 days befeore us, heh, heh, heh...

Rob and Mary, a great couple from our church who have been seeking to adopt a child from India. They weren't expecting to receive a referral for a long time and were pleasantly surprised to get matched with a waiting child, a 17 month-old boy named Anant.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Getting Closer

I spoke with Laura Trinnaman at FFC earlier today. I asked her where we stood in the wait process as we haven't received an update in the last two months. (Apparently, FFC did send one out to us this past month, but it was lost in cyberspace.) Anyhow, here's what I learned from Laura. I hope I understood what she said correctly; part of my attention was occupied by a very loud and exuberant Andrew who got to splash around in the tub for an extra long time while I spoke with Laura.

1) There are three families ahead of us on the waiting list for a healthy baby. The first two are currently considering referrals that have just been presented to them. The third couple is seeking a healthy male. We are waiting right behind them.

2) The timeframe for our wait could be anywhere between very soon up to two months from now. Apparently referrals often come in once a week, though lately they have not been as consistent. One possible cause could be the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan, which could be causing delays in the communication of referrals.

3) There's a strong likelihood that our child would come from St. Lucy's orphanage instead of Chung Yi. The latter's baby unit is undergoing renovations, so there are very few beds available for young children.

4) The age at which the child is when referred to us is dependent upon many factors, including delays in paperwork, whether the birthmother decides to keep her child with her for the traditional four week "lying in" period, and whether the child is initially relinquished for an unsuccessful domestic adoption.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Keep Voting for Dumplings

I really want to thank everyone out there who has been faithfully voting for my sister's book, Meiling's Dumplings. I know some of you have been logging onto the voting site (see the post below) and registering a vote every day. You guys definitely get a gold star!

I learned today from the contest organizer that an overwhelming 53,000 votes were cast for all the books the first day the competition opened. An additional 100,000 or so were received the second day. Wowee. Last year's winner pulled in about 50,000 votes, barely edging out the 2nd place winner by a narrow 100 votes or so. Thus, considering all the votes needed to win, we've got our work cut out for us.

Please help get the word out to everyone you know. The contest ends on September 30th. I don't know about you, but I'd really like a copy of this book and hope this competition will be the means by which I can get my hands on one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mei-Ling's Dumplings


My younger sister, Jenny, has had a big year. She married a great guy this past June, graduated with an MA in Elementary Education from U.Penn, and was recently selected as one of 12 finalists in a children's book competition.

Mei-Ling's Dumplings is a story she wrote for her Master's program. She submitted it to the ABC Children's Picture Book Competition (http://www.abcbookcompetition.org/third_comp/index.htm), a contest that solicits works from unpublished authors. Finalists are paired up with an illustrator who draws a mock-up of their manuscript. (The illustration above was created by artist, Lisa J. Roberts.) The winner is then selected through an online vote and receives a royalty-based contract and 1,000 copies of their book to market on their own.

Mei-Ling's Dumplings was inspired by our own mother, Mei-Ling Hsu, dumpling maker extraordinaire. It tells the tale of a plucky young Taiwanese immigrant of the same name who attempts to befriend her classmates at her new school. Some of them mock her for bringing dumplings for lunch. Instead of retaliating, she rises above and wins them over by focusing on their commonalities.

This is the only children's story I've come across that features a young Taiwanese-American protagonist. Its message is not only hugely relevant to children of Taiwanese descent, but to any child who has ever felt alienated by his or her peers. It takes just a few minutes to place your vote. You can vote once a day.

Please join with me in making sure this important and inspirational tale finds its way onto bookstore shelves.


The Dream Life of PAPs

As of this writing, we are 25 days away from our 6-month wait (but who's counting?).

Keep in mind that our original projected wait time was 3-6 months to receive a referral of a child. From my conversation with the FFC program director this past Monday, that timeline still holds true. Do you realize that this means that any day now, we could get The Call? Wow.

Apparently I've been thinking about this more than I realize. Last night, my subconscious was in overdrive trying to process it in dream-form. In my dream, we received news of the referral by mail. There were several colorful pages enclosed in a large, clear envelope. For some reason, two obnoxious high school girls were going through my mail and found it. While sitting in their car, one of them opened up the envelope and started reading it aloud. I reached my hand through the crack in the window and furiously snatched the papers out of her hand.

The letter contained a blurry picture of a baby and a vague statement about being referred a child who was at least one year old. I was so ecstatic that I simultaneously cried and vomited.

In reality, when we get The Call, I don't think there will be many tears and certainly not any involuntary ejection of my stomach's contents. I'm just not that emotionally expressive a person. I didn't cry at my wedding, nor I did I shed a tear when Andrew was born. The weepy-eyed reaction is Craig's hallmark (gotta love my sensitive hubby :) I will however be internally overwhelmed with a million emotions, not the least of which is joy.

Meanwhile, the long-distance nesting continues. I've picked up a couple more things to mail to our baby once we receive and accept his/her referral. (I realized all too late that the turtle book is upside down in this picture - whoops!) If there's a positive to waiting 4-6 months until we pick up our child, it's that our agency will mail one care package per month to him or her. That's great news because there's no way all this stuff is going to squish into the single gallon-sized Ziploc bag to which we're limited each month.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Now You See It, Now You Don't

No, your eyes weren't fooling you.

If you've been following this blog closely, you would've noticed a post on August 29th, 2007 entitled "The Big Ai-Yo!" It summed up an unexpected invitation we received to adopt a baby girl independently from Taiwan. It concluded with a promise to follow up the next day with our final decision. That post mysteriously disappeared the day after.

I wasn't trying to be coy in the cybersilence that ensued during the subsequent two weeks - I promise! In the interim, I was writing back and forth to the woman who referred the little girl to us. We tried unsuccessfully to find another family with Taiwanese contacts who would be interested in adopting the baby. (I understand from her that independent adoptions can be notoriously difficult unless you have someone in-country willing to shepherd the paperwork on your behalf, assuming you are unable to do it yourself. In addition, finding someone to foster the child in Taiwan for 4-6 months can be challenging.) We also gave a great deal of thought to posting the lead to the Yahoo group of which we are both members. In the end, at the moderator's suggestion, we chose not to since there were far too many variables and risks, not to mention the possibility of compromising the birthmother's privacy.

As for us, we chose to remain with our agency. We feel we are so close to receiving a referral that we wouldn't want to jeopardize that adoption by pursuing a route that may never come to fruition.

So why am I re-instating the original post? In answer to much prayer, I am quite delighted to report that Little Miss Baby Girl was born this past Monday via c-section, two weeks before her due date and healthy. The hospital in Taiwan found a Taiwanese-American family to adopt her. She'll be staying with their relatives in Taiwan until the adoption clears the courts. I'm sure this takes a huge load off the birthmother's mind to know that her daughter will soon be joined with a loving family.

So, all's well that ends well. God speed, little princess.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Note to Self

Presbyterian heavyweight, Tim Keller, once pointed out that we humans have a tendency to sell ourselves short. He cited the case of Olympic athletes who spend the best years of their lives training for their one moment of glory. They devote and perhaps even deplete themselves, physically, mentally, emotionally towards this singular pursuit. Then, when the Olympic flags come down, the medals are hung up (if they were fortunate enough to have snagged any), when the humdrum pace of real life returns, disappointment sets in. Some of them even fall into severe depression. They begin to realize that that one moment of glory is not grandiose enough to continually sustain the heavy burden of their high hopes and expectations.

I've been thinking a good deal about this case as we are hopefully rounding the corner toward getting our first glimpse of our child. It's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the adoption process, to be buoyed by the joy of those parents we've "met" online who write with news of receiving their referrals, to thrill at the thought of coming face to face with our little one for the first time. But then I wonder: will we, too, feel the big letdown in the months after our child comes home? Are we setting ourselves up the same outcome? Certainly some shift in emotions is to be expected once the reality of 3 a.m. diaper changes, feeding wars, and general baby chaos sets in. And for some families, PAD - Post-Adoption Depression - might be a valid diagnosis (incidentally, there's a good article about this subject in this month's issue of Adoptive Families magazine).

As Christians, Craig and I are painfully aware of our own tendencies to try to make gods out of anything and everything. Me? I worship my own comfort and status, my immediate family, and sadly enough, potato chips. (I'll let Craig rattle off his own top 3 some other time.) Lately, the adoption has been edging in on my list of God-wannabes. It's not that there's any wrong in getting really, really excited about meeting our child - not at all. The problem comes when I look to the adoption for spiritual fulfillment, comfort, and identity. Like the 30 seconds of glory on the Olympic podium, the adoption of our child can in no way sustain the weight of my worship. As someone once put it, there's a God-shaped hole in everyone's heart that will perpetually yearn until we allow God to fill it with himself.

Lest I forget in all of my adoption frenzy, I write this as a reminder to myself.

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In specific adoption news, we are still awaiting a referral. We're hoping to receive our monthly update from our agency sometime in the next few days. It should give us a more solid idea of how much longer our wait will be. Since we never received our update last month, we're particularly curious to see what this one has to say.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Big Ai-Yo!

Ai-Yo! is a Chinese phrase that expresses shock and disbelief. It appropriately describes my reaction this morning upon opening up an email from another member of one of the Yahoo adoption groups we've joined.

In a nutshell, she wanted to find out if we had any interest in adopting a Taiwanese baby girl from an unwed mother. The child is due sometime in September. The poster herself is Taiwanese-American and completed an independent adoption not too long ago. In fact, her son was born at the same hospital at which this child is due. Based upon that connection, someone at the hospital called to notify her about the baby for adoption.

Understand that the tricky thing about adopting independently is that you have to find foster care for the child during the 4-6 months in which the adoption case sits in the Taiwanese courts. Not many American adoptive families have family or other contacts in-country whom they can persuade to raise a newborn for that long. Because she knows that I have relatives in Taiwan, she very thoughtfully decided to contact me. It so turns out from a conversation with my mother earlier today that I just might have a relative or two who would be willing to foster the child until the court process ends.

Now I am a person who values predictibility, thrives on it. I am the Meyers-Briggs poster child of the INFJ to a fault. Just when I thought things were chugging along smoothly with our agency adoption, when we were ever so close to a referral, this proposition came along. Ai-yo! Don't get me wrong; we'd jump at the chance to speed up our wait. This adoption promises many advantages, i.e., a chance to get to know the birthmother more personally, for the child to establish better contact with her should s/he one day choose to do so, to ensure that the baby is in good hands with relatives and receiving one-on-one nurturing. Who wouldn't want that? I have to admit it's so tempting. I know there are countless parents on the Taiwan adoption message boards who would give anything to be in this position.

But alas, my risk-adverse, stay-the-course side screams out, "Crazy woman, what are you doing?!!!" We are this close to receiving an agency referral. What if the birthmother changes her mind and keeps the child during the 4-6 month court process? I don't know our agency's policy on switching to an independent adoption, but I would not be surprised if we got bumped to the back of the waiting list (which at last report was now at 18 months to referral for a health male child or up to 24 months for a healthy girl). What if we foul up the paperwork? We have no idea what we're doing when it comes to adopting independently. We're working on the assumption that this is a legitimate adoption offer, but in the back of our minds, we have to be extremely cautious. There are many horror stories about birthmother scams and we would be wise to take my Yahoo group member's advice to dispatch a relative to meet with the birthmother and her family to investigate further.

Ai-yo indeed.

This is definitely a matter for deep consideration, talk amongst ourselves, and prayer. I'm due to call back the woman who contacted us tonight. Stay tuned to hear what we've decided...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best Face Forward

We just returned from a one-night vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey. It was a whirlwind 24 hours of sandcastle building, endless kiddie boardwalk rides, and subpar food, the stuff of which summer vacations are made.



While there, I decided to take some close-up shots of the three of us to send to our baby in a photo album. It's an odd and somewhat surreal thing to pose for a picture for someone with whom you're trying develop a close-knit relationship via FedEx. The closest equivalent might be submitting a photo for a dating website. Therein, you want to put your best face forward for your ideal date, to look attractive and confident - and if you're the average American, slimmer.

But how do we pose for a picture for a child halfway around the world? What exactly do we want to convey to the baby? Warmth, security, happiness, gentleness, I would guess. That's a tall order when squinting into the morning sun on a beach.

Here are the photos I've settled upon:




"Come on, Craig, smile at your baby!"



The picture above was salvaged out of 7 takes.

Considering we had our eyes open in these pictures and our six chins mostly tucked away, the pictures are good by our family's standards. We usually have to take at least 5 bad pictures to get one good shot of ourselves. (If there is an advantage to our child not sharing our genetic makeup, not inheriting our unphotogenic tendencies is a big one!) And no, there isn't yet a picture of Andrew; true to form, he was in constant motion and hard to photograph. At the end of the day, I figure if our baby doesn't break out into tears at the sight of our pictures, we've done well enough.

In specific adoption-related news, we are still waiting for our referral. September 9th will be our 5-month waiting anniversary. It's hard not to wonder whenever the phone rings or whenever the answering machine light flashes whether it is "The Call." Since our agency's last update nearly 2 months ago estimated our wait to be 2-4 more months, it could be any day now... Wow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

St. Lucy's Orphanage

As I mentioned before, St. Lucy's is one of the two orphanages from which our child might hail. It is located in Tainan, in southwest Taiwan.



I came across this post from Val, one of the members of one of the Yahoo Taiwanese adoption groups I've joined. She adopted two absolutely beautiful twin girls not too long ago from St. Lucy's (http://taiwanadoption.blogspot.com/). With her permission, I've excerpted some of her comments about the orphanage:

"St Lucy's isn't your "typical" orphanage that one might imagine in one's head. It's very, VERY clean, extremely well-staffed, and the children receive excellent medical care. When they go out in cars, they ride in car-seats (not the norm in Taiwan), they have lovely strollers, wonderful, clean toys, and lots of sunshine. I only tell you this in case you are wondering if SLC is like some of the horror stories we hear about in relation to Chinese orphanages.. it's not. St. Lucy's is like a big, wonderful daycare center.. except the kids have to wait longer for Mommy to pick them up. :( ... I arrived, expecting to find detached caregivers, lonely children, and sadness.. but what I found was a place filled with warmth and graciousness. Children who had the staff wrapped around their fingers, gifts that were purchased for my girls with the staffs own money, because they loved them so much. After we got home, SLC staffers sent a handpainted photo album to us, with pictures of the girls and letters of love written by those who cared for them their first 10 months. SLC staffers cared for my girls SO well that even though they were born at 29 weeks, and were VERY tiny babies, by the time *I* got there they were only slightly smaller than their peers, and developmentally they were on par with their American counterparts. My daughters were driven to physical therapy, 3 times a week, and special exercises were part of their routine at "home" too."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Di-Di Mei-Mei, Meet Stick Figure Jesus



More and more, Andrew has been asking about his sibling-to-be, including him or her in his bedtime prayers of his own volition. Over lunch today, we were talking about all the things he could teach Di-Di Mei-Mei ("Little Brother or Little Sister", as we've taken to calling the child).

"You could teach him all the different names of construction trucks."
"You could teach him not to eat the marbles that came with your birthday present."
"You could teach him not to drink the poisonous stuff in the cabinet below the kitchen sink."
"You could teach him about Jesus."

The last suggestion was apparently enough to inspire him.

Now just when I was beginning to despair of Andrew ever showing interest in using any sort of writing implement, seemingly overnight, he has taken to drawing rough stick figures of whatever strikes his fancy (lately superheroes.) Following our conversation, he decided to illustrate memorable scenes from the Bible for Di-Di Mei-Mei.

There were the standards: a resurrected Jesus next to a big rock, Daniel in the lions' den, Adam and Eve being tempted by a tightly coiled, blue snake. And then there were some that made me wonder just why they would especially embed themselves in the memory of a 4 year-old boy - Rahab and the spies, the plagues of flies and frogs upon the Egyptians, Jesus changing water into wine.




At any rate, I was both bemused and touched Andrew's efforts. Like every human being, our child is going to one day make the choice as to what to believe about God. It goes without saying that we will love him regardless of what he or she chooses. Still, Craig and I will make every effort to share with him or her the great hope we have personally found in Jesus Christ in every way possible. We pray that our child would share in the joy of knowing this Savior that has our souls' need in a way that the best of relationships, money, worldly success could never. Of course it's remarkably un-politically correct. But having found something so good, why would we hold back? I don't know if Andrew shares this conviction yet, but if drawing a picture of a bald Jesus lacking a torso, hands, and feet will bring both him and his new brother or sister one step closer to this faith, I'm in full support.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bittersweet

It's both odd and exhilarating to think that our child could already be born now. Alternately, he or she could still be in his or her birthmother's womb.

In light of this, I've been thinking about the birthmother lately. This is the first of what I'm sure are many bittersweet moments to come in our lives as an adoptive family. Certainly, this time is full of joy for us at the thought that we will soon be seeing the first images of our new baby. But at the same time, somewhere on the other side of the world, a young woman is going through the very heartwrenching process of giving her baby up for adoption. No doubt she's cried a lot over the decision, has run through every possible scenario trying to figure out if she can raise the child on her own viably. She might be feeling a lot of guilt, wondering if her child would ever forgive her for making the conscious choice to step out of his or her life at this point. She is in the unenviable position of holding her baby in her arms, the child she has carried in her womb for 9 months, and then forcing herself to relinquish the baby into someone else's care.

Perhaps I'm projecting too much, but my own instincts as a mother tell me that any woman of sound mind would sooner tear her heart out than be in this situation. I am deeply humbled by the birthmother's selflessness, courage, and determination to forge a new life for her child. I find myself praying for her, particularly that she might be stengthened and comforted as she goes through such a heartbreaking time. I pray this not because I stand to benefit - she will make the decision regardless of us - but because I cannot help but imagine the agony she must be enduring out of love for her child.

My hope is that one day our child will understand the depth of her sacrifice and the selfless love that motivated it. If the birthmother extends an invitation to meet her when we travel to Taiwan (I understand some choose to do so), I would leap at the opportunity to communicate our gratitude in whatever poor bits and scraps of Mandarin I can muster. The words "Shieh-Shieh" dont' even begin to encompass the sentiment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ah-ha....


Here's an interesting tidbit I read yesterday about the speed with which families have been receiving their referrals lately. It comes from an email that Laura Trinnaman, the FFC Taiwan Program director, wrote in response to someone's question on one of the Yahoo Taiwan groups we've joined.

"On average, FFC receives 2-4 healthy infant referrals from the St.
Lucy Center per month. In addition, we receive 1-2 healthy infant
referrals from Chung Yi.

Chung Yi's nursery at the moment is quite small holding about 7
infants at a time. Not all are available or identified for
international adoption. Because of the need for adoption placement
for many additional infants, Chung Yi is opening an additional
infant nursery on August 11, 2007. The size of this nursery is
approximately double the size of their current nursery. And we hope
to see more infant referrals soon as the need grows for families.

Since May, FFC has received many healthy infant boy referrals to
only one girl. Just more boys available right now. This of course,
leaves families waiting in the long list for girls, frustrated to
say the least:)"

Incidentally, FFC is trying to raise some funds to purchase some new cribs and beds for a new infant wing in Chung Yi. The new facility will accommodate 11 babies. Chung Yi is one of two orphanages (the other one is St. Lucy's) from which our son or daughter will come. If you are interested in making a donation, please let me know and I will gladly give you more details.

(Note: the picture above was taken at the St. Lucy's orphanage in Tainan, Taiwan. You can see more pictures of St. Lucy's by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Getting Ahead of Myself


OK, so we don't have a referral yet. I'm guessing we're about a month away. Nonetheless, the shopping craze has already kicked in to the extent that the adoption process allows. I understand that we'll be able to send a care package to our baby once we accept the referral. Contents will be limited to whatever can fit inside a shoe box. So alas, that giant baby swing that served Andrew so well will just have to stay Stateside.

I've taken a picture of what I've picked up already: 1) a soft photocube in which we can insert pictures of our family. It plays music when you press the pictures, 2)a soft photo album, same idea (this seems to be the ubiquitous item in all adoptee care packages), 3) a disposable camera, 4) a single-use digital video camera. I've read that the caretakers in the orphanages will take pictures and video of our child if you provide the cameras. We'll get the cameras back when we pick up our child. It will be fun to see how s/he grew up in our absence, and I know the images will go a long way in helping fill in the gaps when our child is old enough to wonder.

Maniac baby item bargain hunter that I am, I was overjoyed to discover a Tiny Love Symphony in Motion mobile on clearance at Target for $9.97! This marvel of rotating spirals, bizarre stuffed animals, and classical music standards typically retails for over $40.00. It keeps the child kicking and laughing non-stop. When Andrew was a baby, this should've-won-a-Nobel-Prize toy made the difference between whether my teeth went brushed or not any given day. Unfortunately, it's too large to fit into a shoe box. Still, I'm plotting ways to get this mobile to our baby, even if I have to mail it to one of my relatives in Taiwan and have him or her carry it to the orphanage.

While the care the babies receive in Taiwanese orphanges is better than in most countries, they don't receive the one-on-one stimulation that they otherwise would if they grew up in a normal household. This mobile is by no means an adequate substitute for human nurture. However, if it will make even the slightest difference in his or her development, if it will even elicit a tiny smile from him or her, I'm all for it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sojourn to the Granite State


This weekend, I have been up in New Hampshire visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and their 12 week-old baby, Mei-Ling. It was certainly hard to leave Craig and Andrew behind, but no doubt they're having a good beat-the-drums, dance-around-trees, manly man weekend.

Here is a picture of her royal cuteness, Mei-Ling, yet another living affirmation of why Taiwanese/Polish kids give others a hard chase in the adorability contest.



In other adoption-related news, we received our updated passports this past Friday. We decided to suck it up and pay the extra money to expedite them. Although it may be several months before we're due to pick up our baby, we never know when Craig will get called upon to travel out of the country for work.

My passport turned out fine, though the picture surely attests that 4 years of motherhood have aged me. Poor Craig's looks like a bonafide chop job. The picture was photocopied into the blue booklet showing the staples that originally affixed it. I'm really hoping this won't give him any problems at the airports.

Five W's

It is said that every good journalistic piece should address the five "W's": Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Realizing I haven't explained much of the thought process behind our adoption, I'll attempt to apply the same framework to our answer:

Who: Our current family of three: Craig, myself - Judy, and Andrew, who just turned 4 years-old a few weeks ago

What: Adopting a male or female infant (Craig votes for a girl, I lean towards a boy, but we'd be thrilled with either)

Where: From Taiwan. Our agency, FFC, works with two orphanages, one in Taipei, the other in Tainan, in the south of Taiwan

When: We started the process in January and have been on the waiting list for approximately 4 months now. We were told by FFC that it would take about 3-6 months from the time we got on the waiting list to receive our referral (a.k.a., getting matched to a child). Given that, we could receive our referral any day now or in a few months. After that point, it would take 4-6 more months for the adoption to be finalized in the Taiwanese courts and for us to then travel to pick up the child. We're thinking our "Gotcha Day" would probably be sometime in the early spring of 2008.

Why: We're still trying to figure out a good, pat answer for anyone who asks us this question. If, like us, you're a Christian who believes God has a specific will for every person, then the answer would be "because we're convinced this is what God has planned for our family." If this logic sounds kooky to you, then I might also add, "because for some inexplicable reason, after seriously pondering the question for over a year and a half, our hearts feel more drawn toward adopting than trying to conceive another biological child." And you know what? At the end of of the day, both A and B are true.