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


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, 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.