Thursday, June 30, 2011

Travel Conference Call

We just had our travel conference call.  Ken and I are so very impressed with our agency, CCAI.  They have been amazing every step of the way and today, hearing from the founder/director himself, Josh, was a great comfort.  He let us know that he and his wife Lily have prayed for us and our kids by name from the beginning. 

I'll share some of the wisdom Josh shared with us and that we will take with us on our journey:
- Be positive! that won't be too hard for me
- Be extroverted, at least for these few weeks in China. naturally
- When you arrive at the airport and meet your guide, give them your brain! Your guide will be your social worker, guide, interpreter, advocate and best friend.  Hallelujah! I was hoping I wouldn't need it.
- When the going gets tough (you're sick of the food, hot, ready to be home) just repeat, "I'm going to survive my 3 weeks in China!" I am going to survive my 3 weeks in China!
- CCAI's goal is for families to have a smooth trip focused on the kids and becoming a family, NOT worrying about money, transportation, tipping, exchange rates, etc.  Again, hallelujah!

So very thankful to have the right agency for our family. 

Time to go shop!

Last-Minute Waiting and Thankfulness

We leave in 4 days!! FOUR!

In these final days, we are still waiting.  Waiting for our escrow check that should have been here weeks ago.  Waiting for our final travel itinerary and budget so that we know how much cash we need to take to China.

As for the escrow check, it's pretty much out of our hands, so if it's not here by Saturday, we just won't have it.  Which stinks, because we really truly NEED that check!

Ooh! Just as I was typing this, we got our travel itinerary!  Yikes! Our in-China costs were about $5000 more than we had predicted!  Sheesh!  The boys are worth every bit of it. 


Since we finally have our numbers, we have some last-minute shopping and banking to do!

Now back to the regularly-scheduled blog:
Waiting and being strapped down to our last dime has forced us to depend completely on the Lord every step of the way. He has come through every time, most often in the last moments.  Whether it has been through old friends, family members, or even just acquaintances, God has provided what we need when we needed it.  We could not have done any of this without people willing to listen to His direction and calling.

I wish I could thank each person on here personally, but the quality of people who have helped us don't want their names in lights.

Matthew 6:1-4
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Airport Greeting Crew

Many of our friends and family have let us know that they want to be at the airport when we arrive home with the boys.  We can't wait to have you there to welcome them to the US, to the family, to the amazing circle of people who already love those boys.

Photo from an airport "welcome home" of a friend of ours. 
There are some "rules of the road" I'd like to share with those of you who will be coming.
  • Have low expectations.
  • Be ready to follow a few rules.
Sounds like tons of fun already, doesn't it?

DO:
  • Do show up!  The boys won't realize why you're there now, but as they grow up and look at the photos in their lifebooks, they will see the people who had waited with us to welcome them home.  For the rest of their lives,  they can look back over their lifebook and see your faces and know how much they were anticipated and wanted.
  • Do make a welcome home sign!  You or your kids may want to make a sign to hold to welcome the boys home. That's a fun idea and we welcome it.
  • Do take pictures!  We will be exhausted and holding the boys, so won't be able to snap pictures when we get to DFW.  We'd love for you to take as many candid pictures as you'd like. (Yes, even if we're all crying, disheveled and smelly.)  Also, take photos of the group while you're waiting for us to arrive.  That would mean a lot to us.
  • Do love on our three birth Brownies!  They will have had an intense and exhausting 3 weeks.  They will have taken a back seat when it comes to one-on-one attention from Mom and Dad.  It will be a welcome blessing for our friends and family to hug, hold, and fawn over those three sweet kids all you want!
DON'T:
  • Don't hold the boys.  Even the grandparents can't hold the boys for the first several weeks.  If you realize their history, that they have been raised by many different adults over the course of their life, you'll understand why Ken and I will be working to help them understand what parents are and that we are their parents and that parents are not like any other adult in their life.  They will have just gotten off the airplane and stepped into a new world where the people look different and the air smells different and everything is just...different. We have no idea what fears might be going through their heads.  Passing them around will only intensify their fear of being passed off one more time.  They may hold their hands out as if they want to go to you, but we still can't pass them off.  (That's called "mommy shopping".) We know you all understand, but we also know it will be difficult.
  • Don't have high expectations.  This is as much for me as it is you.  Some of you may drive 30 minutes or an hour to come meet us at the airport.  You may be getting up super early or staying up late so you can be a part of this special event.  You may have a picture in your mind of what this "homecoming" will look like.  Throw out the picture.  I know Ken, the kids and I will all be very tired and emotionally drained.  Our two little ones may not want to look anyone in the face.  They might...we hope they do... but we have no idea.  I'm sure I'll be looking pretty horrid with no makeup and messed-up hair.  I will likely be in tears.  Just be ready for anything.
If I didn't scare you off, I hope you'll come.  It's truly a special time and we'd love to have you there.
We will post updates regarding our arrival date, time and gate numbers on facebook.  If you need to be contacted a different way, let me know soon so I can make sure you're in the loop.  As of now, we expect to fly in on the 29th of July.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friends Matter

Today, I was reminded that friends, yes even if they are "just" facebook friends, matter.

I posted (as usual) about being excited to be picking up the boys soon.  Over 40 people responded, even if just by "liking" my status update.  As I read through the names of people who "liked" it, my heart swelled.  Some of these friends I haven't seen in 5 to 25 years!  But when I see their name come across my wall, memories of them pop into my head and cause me to be so thankful for the people God has placed in my life, whether years ago, for a short time, or even just through cyberspace.

SO, I decided to go through the list of people who either commented or "liked" my update today and share with you how I know them.  I started to post what memories pop into my head with each person, but there are TOO many!


  • Randi: VCC, Cube homeschool friend and blogger/crafter extraordinaire! 
  • Marni: my most bubbly, happy Dickinson neighbor!
  • Laura: my bestest friend and sister
  • Lava: my new friend, Deaf community and adoptive family of beautiful Deaf babies from China!
  • Rebecca: new FAM friend
  • Donna: my momma I love always
  • Elizabeth: my idol in so many ways! Beautiful church friend from VCC, Village, etc. etc.
  • Liz: my Arkansas BFF. No mater how long we go without visiting or how far apart we live. <3
  • Ken: my favorite niece's daddy :)
  • Barbara: my most special Great Aunt (love you!)
  • Amy: church friend, homeschool friend, friend I gotta hang out with sometime!
  • Margie: the most amazing midwife who delivered two of my three baby Brownies
  • Carrie: church friend, amazing supporter and ministry leader, all-around amazing chicka!
  • Dainyell: church vcc, homeschooling and FPU friend, living FAR now!
  • Sheryl: lifelong family friend, since 2 generations back
  • Ivy: jh/hs friend I haven't seen since graduation
  • BrandiK jh/hs friend I haven't seen since graduation 
  • Chad: close family friend and church friend from childhood (Hi, Chad!)
  • Roxanne: hs friend, my sister's bff and my second big sister during hs
  • Massiott: dear friend and sister in Christ in Deaf community here DFW
  • Wayne: one of my most fun fellow terps in Vegas
  • Kristin: new FAM friend from church
  • Karen: childhood church friend
  • CJ: lovely fellow interpreter from Vegas
  • Alan: friend from Deaf community here in DFW
  • Malinda: terp and friend from OKC (way back!)
  • Jennie: church friend VCC worship team
  • Tamara: friend from Deaf/Christian communities here in DFW
  • Breann: friend from church VCC and FPU class!
  • Sandra: new dear friend from church/Deaf community
  • Marti: one of my fabulous peeps from CRCC church in Vegas
  • Kimberly: fab friend from VCC and fellow adopt-two-at-a-timer (mentor)
  • Pamela: elementary school friend I haven't seen in close to 30 years!!
  • Laura Lee: friend (and boss!) and church friend and I babysat her precious kiddos from Van Buren
  • Helen: sweet gal from CRCC and MOPS in Vegas
  • Trina: my awesome Vegas neighbor!
  • Laura: church friend from Arkansas, now living a few miles north of me in Texas
  • Roxanne: my lovely friend from CRCC/Deaf community...love ya!
  • Kristi: new FAM friend from church
  • Allison: friend from Van Buren JH and HS days!
  • Brenda: fellow scout mom here in Texas. We discovered we also had common CRCC Vegas roots!! Who knew?!
  • Jenine: Ken's old girlfriend and now MY friend and sister in Christ/Deaf community
  • Lisa: CRCC (and mom and dad's old church) friend/interpreter :)
  • Leslie: VCC and Cube homechool and scouting mom/friend
  • Amy: VCC and Cube homeschool friend 
  • Sonja: new cyber friend and fellow SODA (wife hearing/husband deaf) AND adoptive family
  • Alene: long-time friend from Oklahoma, church, OSU, Deaf community
  • Jana: church/homeschool Texas friend. (miss seeing you every week at co-op)


To each one of you, thank you! For thinking of us, praying for us, or even just "liking" what we are doing and being happy for us.  I feel it!  And it means a lot.

China Geography 101

Okay, so you're not going to get a lesson in total China geography, but I will show you where we will be traveling through the month of July.


July 4-9: Once we leave the US, we will fly into Bejing (red) and stay a few days.  We plan to see the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and some other points of intrest. We will meet up with our travel group here.

July 10-15: Next stop, Zhengzhou, Henan (blue) to get Tian!

July 16-22: South to Fuzhou, Fujian (orange) to get Travis!

July 23-27: To Guangzhou, Guangdong to visit the US Consulate.

July 28: Fly to the US via Shanghai!

As a side note, it was pointed out that it's typhoon season in the Philippine Sea, but where we will be, it's no more dangerous than living in the tornado alleys of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, where I've lived 81% of my life and never been affected worse than having to seek shelter a few times.  There is good weather forecasting and we aren't anticipating any problems.  Fuzhou is the closest to the coast, but the other cities we will visit are  far inland or protected by other land, so are not a high risk.  We did read that sometimes flights are delayed out of Guangzhou if there is a storm, but the same thing could happen at DFW if a thunderstorm rolls in. 
As a good friend of ours (who was reprimanded by some friends and family for moving his young family to India) wisely said, "We are safer obeying God in [China] than we are disobeying God in the US."  And as Matt Chandler biblically stated over the past 3 weeks, "No one dies early."  With those two things in our hearts, we aren't worried at all about our trip.  We can't wait for the adventure of visiting a country on the opposite side of the globe!"  We can't believe it's finally time to go to China!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Countdown

Since we got TA, I've had a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night.  Even when I'm wiped out, I lie down and get butterflies in my stomach thinking about the trip.  Or I'll imagine the boys lying on the bed next to me, sleeping while I stroke their black hair.  That thought makes me cry.  So, I've relied on going to Hulu.com and watching Jimmy Fallon followed by many clips of the show.  The commercial between each clip is normally when I drift off to sleep, unable to keep my eyes open any longer, normally in the 2 o'clock hour.

This nighttime wakefulness leads to morning-time sleeping in.  (Acutally, I've been waking up at 6am with butterflies all over again, so I get up, do a few chores, then crash back to sleep from about 8-9:30.)

Two mornings ago, I woke to find the Brownies up, having eaten breakfast, working on this countdown chain.

We used to make these when the kids were small and Ken began traveling with Sprint. It helped them know how many "sleeps" we had left before Daddy would be back.  They are old enough to read a calendar now, but they knew this would be more fun!  It is!  Tomorrow morning, we will take off the yellow #8 link, leaving only 7 more days until we go!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What To Expect When You're Expecting


Before I gave birth to each of my children, I knew their gender and had an inkling from the ultrasounds that they were reasonably healthy, but otherwise, had no idea what to expect, especially with our firstborn.

From the moment the kids were born, Ken and I would talk, sign, and sing to them.  I can't tell you how many times I sang the Alphabet Song to those kids!  We played with blocks, signing the colors every. single. time.  We read picture books out loud and signed the names of all the farm animals over and over.

At only a few months of age, each of our kids began to understand our words and signs.  "Milk" and "eat" were two of the first signs/words they recognized, of course!

Somewhere between 10 and 12 months, they began to first sign, then talk.  Our oldest's first signs were "more" and "dog."  The other two first signed "more" and "milk" and "daddy."

That first developmental year is full of great memories of hugging, cuddling, reading, feeding, nursing, napping, playing, teaching and repeating.  And repeating.  And repeating.

I wish I knew who first created this. Love it!
 Here we are, expecting yet again.  The "expecting" we are going through with adoption is similar to our expecting with our birth kids, yet SO different. 

Our two sons will come to us as a three-year-old and two-year-old.  It would be easy to expect them to "act their age," but they won't!  The first year with them, we will be "babying" them quite a bit by rocking them, "nursing" them with a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime and nap time, teaching them very basic words for communication, cuddling, reading, playing, teaching and repeating, repeating, repeating, just like we did with our birth kids during their first year(s).

We have neighbors, friends and family with two- and three-year-old children.  We are preparing ourselves to NOT compare our boys to those kids.  It's going to take them quite a while, years even, to catch up.  Kids who are adopted across national lines must acquire a new language.  Most lose their fluency in their first language.  With our boys, they are coming to us with little-to-no language at all.  We don't expect that to hinder their acquisition of ASL.  We expect that they will be little sponges!  While we know they won't reciprocate language back us to us right away, we believe they will readily understand at least the basics.

So what do we expect?

We expect the boys to:
grieve the loss of everything they know as "normal"
attach to us fairly quickly, but not all of us at the same time
throw some major tantrums
be cute, giggling toddlers
have some sleep issues and night terrors
be frustrated in trying to communicate their needs
soak up language!

We DON'T expect them to act their age for a while, nor do we expect them to be "grateful" to us for adopting them.  Tian has been with his foster family for a year.  It may take that long or probably longer for him to truly know he is with his forever family.

One thing we've heard is that adoption isn't for the faint of heart.  I don't think parenting is in general.  We certainly have an adventure ahead of us!  We could not do it without the hand of God on our lives, your prayers, and the amazing support we have from friends, family, and both the adoption and Deaf communities.

Here we go!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Travel Itenerary

These are our dates!! For the most part, this is accurate, but we may have a few changes here and there.  The one date set in stone at this point is our US Consulate appointment on the 26th. That's THE date the entire trip is based on.

We will be leaving for China July 4!!
July 4: Travel 20 hours! DFW to Chicago, then to Beijing, China.
July 5-9: Sightsee, sleep, adjust to China time and prepare for the boys! 
July 10: Travel to Zhengzhou, the capital of Tian's province.  Our last day as a family of 5!
July 11: Gotcha Day for Tian!
July 12: Adoption Day for Tian!! Exactly one year since we "found" him! Paperwork filled out. One-year marker of first seeing Tian via email.
July 13-14: Wait for paperwork, medical checkups, touring. Tian's bday! Get all official docs back in our hands.
July 15: Fly to Fuzhou, the capital of Travis' province.
July 16-17: Weekend in Fujian
July 18: Gotcha day for Travis!
July 19: Adoption day for Travis!! Paperwork filled out.
July 20-21: Wait for paperwork, medical checkups, touring.
July 22: Fly to Guangzhou, city of the US Consulate.
July 23: Rest, shopping and tour.
July 25: Visa physical exam and visa photo for the boys. Visa paperwork delivered to US Consulate Adoption unit.
July 26: To US Consulate to take the oath! 
July 27: Receive the boys' visas.
July 28: Fly to Shanghai, then to USA!
July 29: Arrive home to DFW!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Travel Approval

Yes!! TA!

We have official travel approval!

We will have verified dates at the end of the week, but for now, it looks like we'll be out of the US July 6 through 30.  That's a LONG trip, but we are SO very ready!

I'll keep you posted about the details of the trip and will be posting information for those who want to meet us at the airport when we come home at the end of June.

For now, we are simply celebrating!!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

I found this I posted on Pappy's (my dad) Facebook wall April of last year:

"Hi, Pappy! I just listened to a Focus on the Family broadcast on which they interview James Dobson re: his new book "Bringing Up Girls". His overwhelming findings after 3 years of research was that girls need to know they are loved by their dads and dads have to constantly tell them, hug them, kiss them, etc. especially during the "awkward" stages when many dads shy away from their girls. Everything I heard made me realize yet again how BLESSED I am to have a dad like you. I never ever once doubted that you loved me and thought I was pretty great, even when I was behaving badly and felt down on myself. You always showed us affection (funny, but I vividly recall car trips where you would reach back and pat us on the knee) and gave us unconditional love. Your love made it easy to understand that God, too, loves me even when I'm at my ugliest. May the Lord richly bless you for teaching your girls the most important thing ever. I love you with all my heart! --Sarah"

Yepper, I was a blessed girl for sure. Now that I'm an adult with a family of my own, I can appreciate even more what my dad did to support us, love us, and help us just have fun.

Contrary to what you see on TV sitcoms and commercials, dads are hard-working, smart, loving, manly men who have an in-grained, God-given desire to protect and provide for their family.*

I married such a man! Ken bears the burden of providing for and protecting his family. I see this in him every day. It's a burden (I hope) I don't place on him, but one that he carries naturally. His loving and caring for us makes me want to do all I can for him.  He loves The Brownies well!

Thinking about dads and their nature to protect and provide for family makes me wonder about Tian's and Travis' birth fathers.  A lot is written and discussed about birth mothers, but not so much about fathers.  I'm guessing because it's easy for a man to impregnate a woman, then be long gone, but we don't think that is the case with our boys' birth fathers in China.

I can assume that when Tian was born, his father was around and helped make (or made) the decision to relinquish him.  How did he feel when he heard he had a son?  A cherished son.  Was he icy and appalled when he saw Tian's ear or was he heartbroken?  For the past year, Tian has had a father.  My prayer is that the memories of his foster father will be warm and rich.

What about Travis' birth father?  What did he name his son?  I'm sure he was bursting with pride an happiness during that first year.  When did he know Travis was deaf?  I wonder the same things about his dad as I do about Tian's.  Was he harsh regarding his relinquishment or was he grieved over the decision?  From the large number of photos we've gotten of Travis, we can see he has many men of all ages in his life.  We are grateful for those "fathers" in his life.

Here's the amazing thing: These boys have a true forever father who thinks about them every day.  Not only does he not care that they are deaf, but he is, too!  He tells me every day, "I'm ready to go get those boys! I hate thinking of them not being able to communicate with anyone."  Hopefully, in less than 3 weeks, those two boys will meet their forever father who will never ever leave them.

The boys also do not yet know they have a Father, God who created them and loves them beyond measure.  They will know soon!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

*I have enough girlfriends to know that not all dads are worthy of admiration and "hero" status. For those who didn't have a dad who modeled what a true father should be, I can only say I'm sorry and it should never ever be that way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pressed, Not Crushed

I'm pressed, but not crushed;
Persecuted, not abandoned;
Struck down, but not destroyed.
I'm blessed beyond the curse
because His promise will endure
and His joy is going to be my strength.
Though sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes in the morning.
--Trading My Sorrows, Darrell Evans

Down. Weary. Dismayed. Disheartened. Weighed down. Worn.

In my years, I've learned not to use the word "depressed" lightly.  When I'm feeling down, I don't say that I  am depressed.  I won't say it here today, either, but I feel like I'm certainly feeling physical as well as emotional effects from being "down."

Over the past few weeks, I've been unmotivated to get up, get dressed, and get out.  I'd rather stay home and in my PJs.  I feel like a fat blob, which doesn't help the getting dressed and getting out.

Since this time last year, I've successfully dropped every outside obligation other than church and immediate family, and have learned I function well on a mostly-full plate.

Don't misunderstand! I'm glad I dropped the other responsibilities because that time will be filled up with 2 toddlers soon enough, but in the interm, I'm just blah.  At first, I enjoyed the free time I had and truly relished it, knowing it will all end quickly, but I'm done.  I'm ready to go already and am ready to be busy again.

Ken and I have a lot we need to do before travel.  We have a few last-minute items to buy, documents to gather, checklists to check, bags to pack, money (or no money) to budget, and some toddler-proofing to do around the house.  Even with so much to get done, I feel (and I think Ken feels about the same way) stuck.  Waiting for these last few steps, especially TA (travel approval), have proven grueling!

Back when we were waiting for LOA, my inbox flooded with emails from a group of adoptive parents on our loop stressing and lamenting over their TA wait.  I ended up deleting the unread messages any time I saw the "TA wait" subject come up in my inbox.  I swore I would not be so stressed out about silly little TA, but that I would just expect to wait 4 weeks and be happy we were on the last leg of our wait.  Ha! Before I had kids, I also said my kid would "never talk to me that way."  Oh, to be young and naive!  Well, I was naive a few weeks ago while waiting for LOA.  This TA wait is a true test of mental health.  Having bronchitis in the midst of all of it hasn't helped much either.

Now that I've shared about my feeling disheartened, lethargic, and unmotivated, I'll tell you what I intend to do about it:
-Tomorrow, I'm getting my blubbery butt out of bed before 9am for a change to go walk/run.  I'm so accustomed to exercise (and truly love it) that I'm pretty sure the lack of it is contributing to my feelings.
-Look to the place hope and encouragement are found.  I fill my time researching the kids' histories, organizing stuff, surfing adoption sites online, and neglect to go first to my Comforter for comfort.  Hello!!

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Lam. 3:22...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Friend

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. 
-Proverb

Last night, I was Google-searching for photos of the Sanming SWI (my actual search was "Sanming City orphanage") and happened upon some photos of a girl I recognized from pictures with Travis.   The pictures linked to this blog from the Olson family.  (The Olsons blogged about our connection here: http://olsonfamilymatters.blogspot.com/2011/06/friend.html.)

A quick scroll through the blog and I recognized the parents as well.  Just the night before, I had spent hours surfing every corner of the Sanming City SWI's website and saw a video of this family visiting the SWI and getting their daughter.  (I had skipped through it though, and didn't see the photos of her with EnEn.)

They linked to a Picasa album of the orphanage and there was our little EnEn, playing with Yi Hong, now named Madelyn.  As I scrolled through thirteen photos of those two playing together, I was laughing out loud!




I view this as a gift for Travis (and Madelyn!).  I assume they will remember each other.  On the SWI's website, they said these two were close buddies.  I can tell!

For waiting and adoptive families, these seemingly small connections to our kids' past are not so small.  For many questions we have, there are no answers, so to find something like a treasured friend is more valuable than jewels.

Because of his life story, we know Travis was very confused and sad when he first arrived at the SWI.  To know he had a friend who brought him joy (and, by the looks of it, he provided some joy back) is a gift from God.

Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

You wouldn't think such little ones would have already experienced "adversity," but they have.  What a treasure that they could be "family" to each other for the short time they were together.

Finding Treasure

In my last post, I shared my internet search for info regarding Travis' home.  Well, I was wrong about him living in the Jiangle County.  I was also wrong in my January post showing the "castle" SWI.

Perusing the Chinese website for Sanming City SWI, I found photos that are certainly from his home.  I've put out some questions (in three different languages, mind you) to find out where the "castle" SWI is compared to the white building where Travis lives.
Sanming City SWI

On the homepage, there is a slideshow of 4 different photos.  One of those is our son!  Why wouldn't he be their poster child?  Look at that face! That smile!

Rockin' the 'hawk!
My heart was racing with each click and I found more and more photos of Travis.  The photos were exciting, but as I continued to explore, I found even more about him and his life over the past 2 years.  I noticed they had a "profiles" section.  Clicking through those, I saw his profile.  There was a little more information there about his "finding" than we have now, so it was exciting to get.

The more I clicked, the more treasures I found.  The SWI publishes newsletters every few months and in addition to his photo being in at least 4 of them, he is specifically highlighted in one of them.  The website can be translated through Google Translate, but the .jpg file of the newsletter could not, so at about 1:30am, I sent the file to our agency.  I knew it was a highlight of him because it was a photo of him, framed with a fancy font text, then a blocked-off story with 4 more photos of him with various friends in the SWI.  Within an hour of waking up this morning, I got an email back with the translation!  It was his story, written in first person from his perspective.  It was thrilling and heartbreaking.  In this story, there is much more vivid detail about his relinquishment, his finding, his first adoptive family, his second relinquishment, and his life in the SWI.  More than anything, I'm happy to have some specific details for him.  We just don't know about his first year of life, but to have so many accounts of how he came to be at the Sanming City SWI is a true gift and treasure.

The grand finale was watching a video and seeing our son in action! It was crazy that we got a video of Tian, but to now have one of Travis, too!?  That's a blessing beyond words.

We copied and saved and printed everything we could from the website so that we can add it to Travis' life book.  The Sanming City SWI looks like a lovely, happy place.  We now have a ton of photos, not just of him, but of his home, his friends, Shushus (uncles) and Ahyis (aunties).

In the next few days, I will blog about some things I have learned about his SWI.  Right now, I'm thanking God for his provision.  From the beginning, He has answered our prayers of protection over the boys.  Tian was in a very special SWI and is now in a good foster home.  Seeing Travis' SWI gives me only peace and joy.  One look at his face tells the story.

This was part of the highlight article about Travis. If you recognize any of these other kids, please contact me!
Note: As if this couldn't get better...before posting this, I was googling, trying to find a better picture of the SWI.  In doing so, I stumbled upon the blog of the family who adopted the little girl Travis is pushing in the walker.  That is also her in the other photo on the right!  They had 13 photos of Travis in their Picasa album.  Amazing!  What a gift this will be to both kids to have some connection.  I'm in awe.  I'll post more when I hear back from them.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.   Matthew 10:29-31

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Zhengzhou SWI

In all my searching for Travis' SWI, I found even more information on Tian's.

Here are my favorite pics:
Ariel view of ZZ SWI. I instantly recognized the architecture from pics of Tian.

Compare these with the pictures below of Tian.

These two are of Tian with his foster mom.

This is Tian with Xia, who works in Colorado for CCAI.

Searching for Answers: Jiangle SWI

Preface: New Information: I learned that Travis is NOT in Jiangle County SWI. He is in Sanming City, but not in the "castle" SWI.  See my next post for the story.  So the entire blog below is null and void, but I'm going to keep it here for posterity.

Way back in January, I blogged about where I thought Travis "EnEn" was living.  Now I am 95% sure I was wrong.

Over the past few days, I've been scouring the Internet for some information.  Any information.  Tian's SWI is in a large, well-traveled, urban city in a providence where many adoptions occur.  He was in the Lily Orphan Room that is operated by our adoption agency.  Because of these factors, we have a lot of information about his orphanage.  We know the location, we've seen a lot of photos, heard stories from other adoptive families and travel groups, and even received a video of Tian in his SWI. 

Travis, on the other hand, is from a more rural, remote city that isn't often visited by international travelers.  We knew from the beginning that he was from Sanming, but we've learned this covers a large area with two orphanages.  

Red Thread Maps, a great resource for adoptive parents, has a beautiful hand-drawn map of the area.  That map shows the Sanming SWI and the Jiangle SWI.  I pinpointed them on GoogleMaps here:
A: Sanming SWI  B: Jiangle SWI
These two SWIs are about 65 miles apart.  Since it's a mountainous, rural area, we have no idea how long it will take to travel.  From Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian Province, it's 150 miles to Sanming, so we're looking at a total of at least 215 miles one way to visit the SWI, but we hope we can.  If there is any way, we want to do it.

Photo taken from www.whatsonxiamen.com
In researching the area, we learned that there are beautiful caves very near the Jiangle SWI.  Only about 5 miles from the SWI, we could visit this:

Photo taken from www.asiavtour.com


This description was taken from en.chinahotel.com: "The caves extend over five kilometers, and the main cave is 2.5 kilometers long. Carlsbad Caverns ‘Big Room,’ by comparison, is but 610 meters long.Since its discovery in early Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), it has always been a hot tour spot."

Certainly worth visiting!  We learned that it's a tourist hot spot for Chinese more than international travelers, so little, if anything, is in English.  Makes sense.  It's in China.

Google Maps/Earth has some beautiful photos of the area.  You can click here to see the photos other people post from the area.  I love technology and how information is shared all over the world now.  What we are seeing is amazing, but we want more information about Travis' SWI.

With My Heart In China is another resource, the best resource, in my opinion, on orphanages in China. The website is in Spanish, but thanks to Google Translate, it is easily read in English.  (Another point for technology and Google.)  If you are an adoptive parent, I highly recommend visiting this website.  She links to every province and has orphanage photos, maps, names, addresses, phone numbers, and even web links the SWI's Chinese website.  With Google Translate, it's easy to peruse those Chinese sites and find photos and info about your SWI.   She links to her own Picasa albums that have photos of many many SWIs, inside and out, going back as far as 2007 and are as recent as March of this year.  Check it out!

We think he's not in the Sanming SWI for several reasons.  The main reason is, from her website, I can see that the Sanming SWI address is not the same as the address for Travis' SWI.  Plus, the name is "Jiangle County Sanming City SWI."  The "Sanming City" is what throws me off, but we'll know soon enough!  (But not soon enough!)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Anti-Entry

This is an anti-entry because I really don't have anything specific to say, but have a LOT on my mind.

We are waiting for TA.  We're at the official "earliest" we could get it, so the jitters have hit!  God has worked everything out in His timing.  I trust that and am also letting Him know the DEEP desire of our heart...to get TA tomorrow!!  That would truly be amazing.  The rest of our fellow waiting families are as giddy as we are and also hoping (and shaving body parts/pets, and soaking Reeses peanut butter cups in rum, etc) with anticipation for the TA news.  It's nice to have people with whom we can wait.  I hope we get to meet at least some of them in real life.

On another note, I took the kids and a couple of their friends to see Kung Fu Panda 2.  We loved it!  I could totally see why some adoptive parents cringed over a few parts, but overall it was very good.  We all agreed it was better than the first.  We're looking forward to the inevitable KFP3.

If you're curious how I felt the movie handled the adoption issue, I think blogger Malinda said it best here.  Yep, I got teary-eyed during the same scene.  I should add that I loved how they used the "paper" technique at the beginning of the movie.  And they worked in a little Chinese history regarding the invention of fireworks.  The fireworks also represent the truth that "things" aren't evil in and of themselves, but how people choose to use those things can be evil or beneficial or neutral.

Also related to Kung Fu Panda, this movie has extra-special meaning to us because of the Kung Fu.  Tian is from what is known as the "birthplace of Kung Fu".  We plan to visit the Shaolin Temple while in Zhengzhou.

Students of the kungfu school perform renowned shaolin kungfu (martial art) at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, central China's Henan Province, April 23, 2008. The 1500-year-old Shaolin Temple is regarded as the birthplace of Chinese kungfu. Its rich history and culture and extraordinary kungfu performance attract numerous tourists from home and abroad every year.
Kung Fu Demo at Shaolin Temple (photo from Xinhuanet)
Finally, I have bronchitis.  After having a sore throat and cough on and off for the past 2 weeks, then after feeling SO worn down all day yesterday, I decided to go see the doc.  Part of me thought the fatigue was just emotions related to our upcoming trip.  At times, I feel so overwhelmed with the impending changes and my to-do list that I freeze up and feel like I can't get anything accomplished.  So when I felt sick and tired yesterday, I figured it was just that again.  I feel better knowing that it's truly illness and not just that I'm going nuts.  Well... hmm.... Don't comment about that, okay?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding Balance Part 2


After more and more reading, I've found some angry, bitter adoptees.  I hurt for them.  My heart aches for their pain.  While I'll never ever know how they feel, I "share in their troubles".  Reading their stories has opened my eyes and heart to some of what my boys may feel and struggle with.  It's certainly helped me see many things to NOT do, say or even imply as an adoptive parent.  However, I will lead my boys down the path of those who have experienced suffering before them.

The boys were born into a culture where a deformed ear is read as a bad omen or misfortune.  Deaf is rarely accepted, therefore a Deaf person will not be allowed an equal education nor job opportunities.  Because of that, their birth families either felt fearful of the bad omen or simply knew they couldn't care for that kind of "disability".  (If they boys had been born 90 years earlier in the US, they may have been placed in a mental institution.  I pray that with the spread of technology and education, Chinese culture will open its eyes to disabilities [I hate using that word to describe Deaf] as Americans did, not many years ago.)

The fact is, the boys have suffered greatly in their young life.  But that doesn't mean they are destined to a life of suffering.  They are being given a chance to continue their life with a family who will love them forever...no matter what...and in a place where the fact that they are deaf won't hinder them becoming all they can be.  They are being adopted into a family, then will be Brownies.  Being adopted will color their life.  Being Deaf will color their life.  Being Chinese-American will color their life.  Having a Deaf parent will color their life as it has their siblings' lives.  These things will all make up an amazing story of who they are.   Some of that story is heart-breaking and much of it will be redemptive and full of joy.

One last comment.  I read somewhere within a blog or blog comments that we, as adoptive parents, must realize that we are "raising someone else's children."  No.  They were once someone else's child, be it for 6 days or 11 months, but now after relinquishment and through adoption, they are our children.  They are not foreigners in our home.  We aren't foster parents, caring for these boys until their "real" family can reunite with them.  They DO have a life and history before they came to us.  They DO have their birth/first/original family.  One of my boys has a foster family who has raised him for half of his life.  These truths of their first families are balanced by the other truths that they were relinquished, have lived as orphans for 2 years each, and are now being adopted into the Brown family.  That adoption makes the boys every bit as much a "Brownie" as the ones born from my flesh. 

As for raising my children, I'm trusting in God's grace, His guidance, His leading my husband and me to be wise and educate ourselves on every aspect of parenting all 5 kids, each unique and set apart for His glory.

Finding Balance Part 1

Since last weekend after the whole "Kung Fu Panda" posting, I have been thinking much about my overall view of adoption.

As someone said so perfectly, I view the aspects of adoption through the filter of my biblical worldview.  While I strongly adhere to the truth that adoption begins with loss, I also believe that God doesn't operate in Plan B.  Those two truths must meet somehow and they do in my theological understanding of who God is.

I think of a few Godly examples of people who have dealt with grief and coming from a hard place.  These are people we will set before all FIVE of our kids as examples of dealing with grief.  People like Nic Vujicic or my pastor, Matt Chandler, or a local friend, Sujo John or my dad, whose mom died when he was nine. or my dearest friend of my life who, as a child went through abandonment, adoption (becoming a multicultural family), eventual removal from her parents, separated from her only sibling, and had to deal with more than I could ever post here.  I hadn't even thought about all she had gone through in her childhood until days after the Panda post when I was thinking of people in my life who were adopted.  She didn't pop into my mind because she doesn't wear her past (nor her "adopted" status) as a badge of anger.

I think of my husband and am so grateful that the kids have him as a life example.  He was born deaf.  He's never heard anything.  People assume he should be angry about that, but he's not.  Being Deaf is a major part who he is.  Being Deaf has made some aspects of life more difficult.  It has made connecting with others more challenging, but it has also enriched his life in ways people just don't "get" unless they are Deaf themselves or unless they are very close to him or someone like him.

Bad things happen.  They just DO.  But God is not bad.  He doesn't cause bad things happen.  He allows bad things to happen and can even cause things to happen that appear "bad" from our shortsighted perspective.  Things like Nic being born without arms and legs.  Like Matt dropping to the floor with a seizure due to brain cancer at age 35.  Like Sujo being in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Like Dad's mom dying due to complications from a routine surgery.  Like my best friend living through some unimaginable hurt during her childhood.  Like my husband being born deaf.  Some of these things, God directed.   Some of it...namely the evil things, God couldn't have directed, but allowed.  I don't understand it because I'm not God.  But I trust Him because He is God.

Since I can't state my entire theology succinctly here, if you're curious what I believe, you can read this position paper regarding suffering.

The people I listed above show the balance of allowing the emotions of anger, sadness and grief, but not living in that anger.

Paul, a follower of Christ, wrote in one his letters:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
Philippians 4:10-14 (emphasis mine)

The Christians in Philipi didn't tell Paul to "buck up" and "get over it".  They shared in his troubles.  He was likely in prison when he wrote the letter.  If not, had been very recently and knew he would suffer more persecution in the future.  He didn't hide that he had troubles, but at the same time, he learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Jesus himself pleaded with God the Father to stop the impending judgement, torture and crucifixion.  Scripture says he was "grieved" and "distressed" and expressed so out loud...again and again.  He also added "not my will, but Yours".  Jesus didn't skip through the garden tossing rose petals and pixie dust, ignoring the misery surrounding him.   He went to the Father with it, asked..begged..for what he wanted, then trusted God to do what would ultimately be right and glorifying to Him.

What does all this have to do with my view of adoption?  See my next post...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Birth Day

Today is June 1, the day we will celebrate as Travis' birthday.  I wish I could feel more celebratory.  The truth is, the boys are always on my mind, so today is no different.  The other truth is that I'm a little sad.

I'm sad about the circumstances that surround adoption.  I'm sad for Travis for all the unanswered questions, including what day he was born.  I'm sad for his first family that they felt they couldn't care for a deaf son.  I'm also sad for them as I know they are wondering about him, especially around the time of his birth.  I pray Travis will retain some memories of his first year.  I'm sad that we aren't in China already.

Today, at the orphanage, Travis' birthday won't be celebrated.  Not because he's in an orphanage, but because Chinese people don't celebrate a 3rd birthday.  They celebrate only a few select milestone birthdays.  Even then, it's not like our extravagant American celebrations and it's not even necessarily on their proper birth day. You can read more here about how Chinese do celebrate birthdays in China.  This gives me peace, because I know he's not feeling like he's somehow "missing out" today.  It's just another day to him and those around him and I like that.

Next year, we will celebrate Travis' 4th birthday on June 1 with our son (unless we learn something new about his birthday).

One of my all-time favorites of EnEn
Today, I will be thankful for my son's life.  I will imagine how his first mom felt when she knew "it was time" for him to be born.  Was he born in a hospital like my oldest?  In a home like the other two Brownies?  I will thank God that he was born and well cared-for by his family for that first year, then the nannies in Sanming.  I will wonder about his first 3 years.  Years I will never truly know about.  Years that I hope, as he gets older, he can share with me what he remembers.   I will celebrate our soon-to-happen meeting and homecoming.

On a side note, June 1 is also Children's Day internationally, so many people are celebrating the lives of kids today.