Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Travel Plan Day!

We woke up this morning to find that we have a confirmed Consulate Appointment and can now make our travel plans! We'll leave on Friday Feb. 23rd and receive Piper Grace on Monday February 26th.
Because of the time difference, on our way home, we'll arrive in the U.S. about the same time we left China! China is 14 hours ahead of us. It feels great to be able to make our travel plans and get this show on the road! We are so grateful for everyone who is going to keep our house running while we are away. We know it is a big job and it feels so wonderful to know everything here will be taken care of. Thank you!!!
We are fairly confident that we'll be able to post pictures here from China.
Ni Hao, China - here we come!!!
Dena

Monday, January 29, 2007

Some babies come by plane & Some people LIKE paperwork

I have learned so many valuable lessons during this 2.5 year adoption process, but one of the most astonishing came to me in a major "Ah Ha" moment last week. It was one of those moments where something that has been hazily lurking beneath the surface of your life, is suddenly illuminated and crystal clear. Here it is: I abhor, hate, can not stand in any way shape or form, doing paperwork. Up until last week, I thought everyone felt this way, of course, who, in their right minds, would enjoy paperwork? Well, I now know that these people exist and they are actually people that I like - funny, kind, interesting people. Who knew? I am still in shock over this. This revelation began when someone I really respect casually mentioned, "I've really enjoyed doing the paperwork for our adoption." WHAT??? Time stood still as I pondered what I had just heard. I immediately felt the shame of being a terrible adoptive parent who complained about every stinking paper we had to fill out, stamp, sign, notarize, wave above our heads 3x while hopping on one foot in front of a social worker. But something about this person and the way she said it, made me believe her - she really enjoyed the paperwork. She must be a complete freak I thought, but shortly thereafter I came across, we'll call her Susan. Susan is a mom in the process of adopting from China, just like I am. She has two biological kids, just like me. She has a website, just like me. The 1st time I read through her website, I thought, wow - we have a lot in common, until I got to her description of herself. She says that she loves paperwork and "the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and Scotch Tape". I laughed, thinking she was being sarcastic, but then I started seeing her posts on the yahoo group we belong to for China adoption. Someone had posted a long, tedious, ultra-boring post about all of the paperwork we will have to do in China. I immediately forwarded it to Scott. She replied with great glee how exciting that was b/c that gave her something to look forward to. And then she said it again, "I just love paperwork!". Those words jumped off my computer screen. It hit me - people really exist who like paperwork. It made realize how much I can't stand it! I don't know why this is so astonishing to me, but it is. It feels very freeing to just realize it and admit how much I hate filling out forms and reading about filling out forms. I was a teacher. I hated grading papers and filling out report cards. There, I said it. But for me, adoption paperwork trumps every other kind as being the absolute worst offender of all paperwork. The paperwork that goes into filling out the paperwork is what gets me. EX:
"This section contains instructions for filling out form 189-TOR-6581-TURE-5961-H."

The form itself is one page. The instructions - 3.5 pages of tiny type of if/then statements.
I just know they are trying to trick me, and I will not be fooled. No way, no how, no mam. So I read each if/then statement 5x before placing any mark on form 189-TOR-6581-TURE-591-H.
It's me against the form instructions.
Ex: Box 53: If your mother's, neighbor's 1st cousin's, coach's wife's, sister's maid ever cleaned your toilet, then mark "yes" in box 53.
Add to that, the forms we are now filling out have Chinese characters next to all of the English words. For some reason, this has thrown me for a loop.
Some babies come by plane and some people really do love paperwork - who knew???
Dena

Friday, January 26, 2007

WE ARE GOING TO CHINA!!!


Well of course we are, but now it's official! We were totally surprised yesterday to find out that we received our Travel Approval yesterday. We weren't expecting it for another 3 weeks. I think this is the first time in 2 years that we've been surprised by something going quicker than expected, I like these surprises MUCH better! Travel Approval means that we can now make our Consulate Appointment, which happens at the end of our trip, and then make travel plans based on that. We will hopefully have our CA (Consulate Appointment) confirmed by Monday, and then book all of our transportation and hotel. It also means that the CCAA has contacted Piper Grace's orphanage and let them know that she has a family and will be adopted. They have made sure that she is still healthy and she is ready for us.
Right now, we think we will leave the weekend of February 24th and receive Piper on Monday February 26th, 1 month from today. We are sooooo excited! Hunter was so excited about it last night as we put him to bed, he just couldn't quite smiling.
I found this map on someone's website. It shows Chongqing, Piper's province, where we will be when we receive her and for the first week with her. It also show Guangzhou, where we will end our trip at the U.S. Consulate.
We would really appreciate your prayers as we make all of our travel plans and book our flights. This weekend we have to compare flights, travel times, costs, etc., and come to a decision so we are ready on Monday to book everything. Our travel coordinator, Patricia, told us to get ready because next week would be "Busy with a capital B"!
We are really grateful to God that He has taken care of so many details. We have our renewed I-171H in record time and now our Travel Approval in record time.
Yipee!
Dena


Thursday, January 18, 2007

9 months old!!!

Our little cherub is nine months old. Our days are full of thoughts and prayers for her and getting ready for our trip. Every night Ella prays for her that God would "keep her healthy and warm and give her good food to eat", and then she says " and I know God will answer that prayer!".
There are soooooo many details to take of. We have a wonderful woman from our agency who is walking us through what must be done each day. She emails us several items a day. Right now we are finishing up our shots, getting prescriptions for meds for us and the baby that we may need in China, looking into flights and travel plans, trying to figure out what water will be safe for us to drink, reading and rereading packing lists, gathering gifts for the orphanage workers, preparing Piper's room and clothes, preparing H & E, getting things organized for us to be gone, and the list goes on and on and on!
As I write this its about 11:00 pm in China. Piper has had her bottle of formula and egg yolk, and is hopefully, nestled warm in her blankets dreaming sweet dreams. I cannot express how much we treasure knowing that others are praying for her too! Thank you.

Friday, January 12, 2007

China's Gender Imbalance

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070112/ap_on_re_as/china_gender_imbalance_2
This article is part of a piece of the puzzle that we will someday help Piper Grace put together about her beginnings. We have decided not to post about all the details in her referral documents concerning the circumstances around her being found because these details really belong to her and she can share them when and how she wants to. I would like to say that she was swaddled, well nourished, and placed in a place where she would be found quickly. Whoever placed her there, in such a public place, took a great risk to do so, as it is against the law in China. This article gets one thing wrong, it is no longer against the law in China to abort a baby based on their gender. I believe that law was done away with in early 2006. We will never know a lot about Piper's birth parents, but do know that they chose to give her life.

We will travel with 10 other families to China who are with our adoption agency and who were referred babies from PG's orphanage. All of the babies were born in April of '06 and brought to this orphanage shortly after birth. The situation there is really something that our American minds cannot understand fully. In certain provinces of China, the penalties for having more than 1 child can be more than the family makes in an entire year. We are hopeful that we will be able to stay in touch with these other families, so that PG will have connections to her first 10 months of life, with girls who can truly understand her situation. I am so grateful that each one of them were given life. There are so many that aren't given that chance.

Psalm 139:5-13
"You hem me in-behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,
even darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Family of 5

I'm trying to really soak up every moment of this journey to PG. I was telling my friend Linda the other day that it is the smallest, seemingly insignificant moments that seem to fly around a corner and take me surprise. After we had gotten the good report from the doctor, I had to go to Fed Ex to send in our official acceptance letter. It was one of the many things on my "to do" list that day, something to be checked off so I could get on with the other tasks of the day. But as I pulled into the Fed Ex parking lot, a wave of emotion hit me out of nowhere. I sat in my car and just boo-hooed as I looked at the acceptance letter written in Chinese with the English words underneath, with both of our signatures at the bottom. I walked into Fed Ex, wondering if anyone could tell that I had just given birth in the parking lot. The man at the counter assured me he would take extra good care of my letter.
I read this quote from Beth Moore this morning and it so clearly articulated so many moments on this road to Piper Grace:
"Like all families, we will have sorrows and losses amid daily doses of dishes and dog hair. But when a near-perfect moment comes, I hope we always choose to take it. To stop long enough to feel it."
Please pray for Piper today!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Our "textbook" baby!

This will have to be quick as I'm in a big hurry this morning, but just wanted to let everyone know what the doctor said about PG. He said her growth and development are remarkable and if it were him, he would not hesitate to accept her referral. His experience is that China's medical and developmental records are very accurate. He is actually in the process of adopting from China himself.
Our other good news is that after I emailed the orphan officer in Oklahoma, in charge of the form we need I171H, and told her that we had a referral, she pulled our file, approved us, and called to say our I171H would go out in the mail today!!! I take back everything I said about them!
Now, I've got to start on my mile long "to do" list!
Please pray for Piper Grace today, that she is getting plenty of food, warmth, and interaction.
Dena

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Getting to know our little girl

We woke up to find our translated documents in our email box this morning. My favorite parts are the ones that describe Xiu Fu Zhu (Piper Grace).
"At 4 months, Xiu Fu Zhu gives you a big, bright smile. When under her blankets, she also likes to kick her legs and wave her hands in excitement (sound like anyone you know?!). When pulled to a standing position, she can support her body with her legs, and can also stomp her feet. Xiu Fu Zhu is a very smart little baby girl. She can recognize her caretaker from a crowd and shows interest in her surroundings. Xiu Fu Zhu is an extroverted, active little cherub who likes to smile. She has fair skin, and a gentle manner. We wish that this pretty flower will bloom to all her colors under the sun." There is a lot of information about her eating and sleeping habits, her medical exams and blood tests that were taken each month. We covet your prayers for her each day.
We long to go get her, but will probably have to wait until the end of February. Please pray the I-171H from our government will get here very soon so we will not be delayed in traveling. Of course they just came up with a new rule that you can't even schedule your US Consulate appointment in China until you have your new I-171H, and you can't schedule travel until you have your Consulate appointment! So we are waiting on travel approval from China and our I-171H from Homeland Security. We will have her medical forms and information evaluated by a doctor tomorrow.
So, please pray for our "extroverted, active little cherub". We pray that God would keep her healthy, happy, protected, and loved, and that He would be with her there in the orphanage, preparing her for us and us for her.
Dena

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Anyone read Chinese???

Pictures of Piper's orphanage...
They sometimes sleep 2 to a bed.
Click on a picture to enlarge.

From the bits and pieces we can put together from Piper Grace's report, she was about 4 months old in the pictures we have received so far, with one of them being much younger than that. There is a lot of information in the report, but we just cannot read it! I am so tempted to go to a Chinese restaurant and ask someone if they can read it for us. We should receive the translated version from our agency at anytime now, but I want it now - wa, wa, wa! A friend from our agency who lives close by taught me how to read the numbers. I think Piper was brought to the orphanage on her birthday, April 18th, and weighed about 7.5 pounds. I think at 4 months she was 12 pounds, but this is based on me reading the Chinese numbers.
We have joined a yahoo group with parents who have adopted from her orphanage and are learning so much wonderful information from them. The parents are extremely happy with how their babies were cared for there and have shared information which is just invaluable to us. Her orphanage has a special nutritional program sponsered by a wonderul charity, Love Without Boundaries, whose goal is to improve the lives of China's orphans. They are supplying her orphanage with high quality formula.
God is great!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Introducing...

Piper in Pink!
I found the following verses at the very beginning of our adoption journey, about 2 years ago, and wrote them in my journal. I thought they were such a beautiful picture of how God takes his children and gives them a new name and a new identity.

Isaiah 62:2-4 "You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name.

You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed forsaken...but you shall be called 'my delight is in her' for the Lord delights in you."

We have always known we wanted our baby's middle name to be Grace because it was the Lord's grace which completely changed our hearts and eventually led us down this road that led to her. It is by His grace that we were adopted (Ephesians 1:5). And besides that, Grace is just a beautiful name!

Piper - a little different, but spunky and sweet. We have liked this name for a while, but wanted to wait until we had some information about her before giving her that name. Based on her description, we just knew this had to be her name.

So, Piper Grace _____ it is! She will have 2 middle names, one being one of her Chinese names given to her by the orphanage. We need to do a little research to figure out which one would matter the most to her.

We received so many well wishes and congratulations yesterday and they mean so much to us, thank you!!!

I'll end with an ancient Chinese Proverb that sums up our journey thus far:

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread my stretch or tangle, but will never break"


We know who our "red thread" is, and that He is watching over little Piper Grace right now.

The picture above: We had fun knitting Piper Grace a sweater and giving her a hair bow. (Mom, this ones for you!)


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Finally, Our Girl!!!!

Itty bitty baby picture


4 months old "Do not be afraid, for I am with you ; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." Isaiah 43:5

There are no words to describe the emotions of this day! We are thrilled, overjoyed, and relieved beyond measure. We are filled with gratitude to our Lord for this unbelievable gift.


Her name is Xiu Fu Zhu and she is 8.5 months old! Her birthday is 4-18-06, and God willing, she will be home well before her 1st Bday. According to her paperwork, she is very healthy, has a ready smile, laughs out loud, is fond of listening, active(uh-oh!), quick in reaction. At 4 months old she could locate sounds, visually track toys, roll back to front, front to back by herself, hold head up well when on her tummy, and is a "moderate" sleeper...hmmm, wonder what that means! She is at the Xiushan Social Welfare Institution (orphanage) in the Chongqing Province, sort of central China. I found some pictures of the baby room at her orphanage and it is pretty rough, but the babies look happy and well cared for.
We think the first picture was taken when she was fairly young. The other pictures are at about 4 months. We may get more updated pictures later, before we travel. How about that Teletubbies outfit?!!! She doesn't look too happy about it!

We will finalize her name tonight. We're pretty sure of her name, but want to take a few hours to stare at her picture first! She is so precious and just looks "familiar" to me.

Thank you, Lord!
We love you sweet girl!



Referrals have arrived at our agency!!! We pray ours is in there! Should get "the call" in the next couple of hours!

Get Ready...

We think we should hear something by this afternoon!!!
Dena

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The stork is somewhere b/t Ohio and Texas!!!

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 12:12
Referrals are arriving in Europe! I still think we won't see ours until tomorrow, but at least we know it is on its way!
It is a miracle and a mystery to me, that God would plant this dream in our hearts and cause it to grow, inviting us on this unbelievable journey. It feels like we are in the delivery room, but without all of the fear of pain, just anticipation and joy!
So, how will this work? At some point we will get a phone call from our agency telling us basic information about the baby that has been referred to us - her age, place of birth, where she is now, weight, etc.. An hour or so after that we will see her face for the first time when our agency sends us her pictures through email. A couple of days later we will get a very large packet of translated info. on her including her medical records, which we will have reviewed by a pediatrician who specializes in these things. Once that has been reviewed we will send an acceptance letter to China and wait for them to send us Travel Approval. That could take 3-5 weeks. After we get that, we could leave for China in1-3 weeks, depending where Chinese New Year falls in all of this.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord!

Monday, January 01, 2007

This morning I was praying for our daughter to be (still haven't decided on her name, I'll tell you about that later). My heart gets so heavy for her, wondering where she is, who is caring for her, is she hungry, cold, alone, etc.. As I was praying, my mind began to wander - thinking about the powers that be that get to decide who gets to have a family and when, and the injustice of it all. I then remembered some verses I'd seen referenced yesterday in a completely different context, about not putting your trust in rulers and people, but in the God who made heaven and earth, Psalm 146:2-6. I decided to look those verses up to get my perspective straightened out. As I read on, God gave me the most precious gift in verses 7 & 9, a total surprise.
Here it is:
Psalm 146
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in rulers
in mortal men, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them-
the Lord, who remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the stranger
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations
Praise the Lord!

Dena