This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Notice the Chinese writing? I believe I wrote (umm...cut and pasted) "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" in Cantonese. The main language in China is Mandarin, but in the south, where Olivia is from, they speak Cantonese. (click image to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Photo of Olivia's orphanage

This is Rong Xian SWI (Social Welfare Institute) where Olivia has lived for her first 3+ years. Built in 1952, the SWI's first international adoptions began in 2002. As of this August, there have been 47 children adopted internationally and 12 adopted locally. Also as of August, there were 27 staff members caring for 15 children under 18 and about 50 elderly people. We are glad that Olivia's SWI/orphanage is so small compared to some of the huge overflowing 8+ story buildings. We're hoping smaller means more individual attention, but it's still a poor substitute for a family.

I found most of the RongXian photos and above info from an organization called Grace And Hope ( that has recently taken on the task of trying to recruit and train foster families in Olivia's town (and 15+ others in Guangxi). They also try to raise financial support for these foster families to get children out of orphanages and into loving foster families since the majority of Chinese orphans will never get adopted.

Since adding RongXian to their foster plan in August, four children have moved into foster homes while nine remaining children still need sponsors. We don't know if Olivia was one of the lucky four (since our info is from June before the foster plan began and Grace & Hope is not allowed to tell us) or if she is still in the orphanage.

I am so grateful that someone cares enough to reach out to these kids--my kid--and amazed that for only $40/m we can get one of Olivia's friends out of the orphanage and into a foster home. We can't adopt them all, but what a huge impact we can make in the life of another child. I hope all of Olivia's friends can learn what parents are, can have a place to call home, can attend school, and can have a chance for a bright future. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all nine get a sponsor!!

Photos of Olivia's Town, RongXian

RongXian Public Square
RongXian City Park
RongXian motor bike
RongXian Park
RongXian farmer at market
RongXian Public Square
Dyed paper or textiles drying

A river that flows like blood. In Olivia's town of RongXian there are more than 170 factories involved in paper dyes along the Xiujiang river with more than 3,000 employees. . .and more than 560 textile enterprises employing 16,100 workers. This is the economic backbone of a county that is classified as "impoverished" in the national ranking system. This industry also has multiplier effect on the rest of the local economy through transportation, food, service, etc. If this industry is shut down, the town economy would be devastated.

I can't find the town's population, but read somewhere that the population of the province of GuangXi has over 50 million people even though 70% of the land has mountains/hills!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Video: All I Really Want for Christmas

Steven Curtis Chapman is a Christian recording artist who is also the father of six children, three of whom were adopted from China. As a result of his passion for orphans, he and his wife started an organization called Shaohannah's Hope to help remove some of the financial barriers to adoption.

Since it's the Christmas season, I thought this would be a good time to share one of his music videos, "All I Really Want for Christmas [is a Family]." I couldn't figure out how to upload the video directly to the blog, but you can view it by clicking:

If the above link doesn't work for any reason, you can also see it here:


Once we agreed to adopt Olivia, we had to send China a Letter of Intent (LOI) stating our plans. It's been almost a month now since we first got her picture on Nov. 20 (my Mom's B-day!) and I mailed our letter to our agency shortly thereafter. I knew it had to be translated before being going to China, but I'd hoped it had long been sent... However, our agency informed me today that our letter should be going out TODAY, Dec. 18, along with four others. While I'm glad it's FINALLY on it's way to China, I'm disappointed that it didn't go out weeks ago. I didn't realize that step was going to take soooo long. But then again, nothing with adoption is quick or easy!

I'm mostly disappointed because this means China has no idea yet that Rong Fu Tan is spoken for and our countdown hasn't even started yet :( According to those who have been there done that, I'm expecting it take 30-60 days from today to get our Travel Approval (TA) which will invite us to China. That means we should get our TA sometime between Jan 18th and Feb 18th. Once we have our TA, we can begin to set up appointments in China and book our flights. Assuming we'll need a few weeks notice between getting our TA and take off, it now looks like we probably won't be traveling until February or (early?) March.

Our travel may be further complicated by Chinese New Year, the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The 2007 new year begins February 18th and the festivities continue for 15 days. I know government offices shut down for at least part of this time, so we may be advised to avoid travel during that time.

The bright side of this is that we will have plenty of time to recover from our 10-day Christmas trip to Florida before having to hop on another plane!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

trouble viewing video?

If you have trouble viewing the video, you may have better luck going straight to the source: There are three versions that have varying lengths. I personally love the full 7 minute version :)

Video from

In our country, we're free to have as many children as we want, but the Chinese aren't so lucky. Due in part to China's sad history of mass starvations, the government decided to reduce the number of people competing for food by telling families that they are only allowed to have ONE child. Since girls don't remain part of the Chinese family (once married, they live with their husbands family and take care of their in-laws in old age), it's imperative to have a BOY to carry on the family line, care for the parents and appease the ancestors (they practice ancestor worship). A Chinese woman feels much pressure to produce a boy and has quite a dilemma if her one child ends up being a girl. The women often try to hide their pregnancy in case the baby is a girl that she can't keep. Those "unlucky" mothers of girls often feel compelled to illegally abandon the baby in the dark of the night, with the hope that the baby will be found be found and cared for by someone else. This is why the orphanages are overflowing with girls with no known birth parents and no known history. I feel sorry for those mothers caught in a dilemma we'll never have to face. What a burden to bear!

It may not have occurred to us to adopt if we hadn't had so many fertility issues, but every time I see this video, I feel privileged to be in a position to make a difference in the life of a child.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Photos of Guangxi province

I found these photos of Guangxi online. I'm not sure what we'll actually get to see, but the Li River in the north and the waterfalls in the south (by the border of Viet Nam) are very beautiful! On the map, they don't look far from where we'll stay in Nanning, but with mountains and bad roads, trips in either direction can take 4+ hours each way. (click on photo to enlarge)

Map of Guangxi

Olivia is in the town of RongXian which is in the southeast of Guangxi, between Wuzhou and Yulin. I don't know the population of the town, but it appears to be a poor community that relies heavily on the textile trade. (click on image to enlarge)

Map of China provinces

Olivia's province in called Guangxi. It's in southern China and borders Viet Nam--light blue in this picture. (click on image to enlarge)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Emily is SEVEN!!

Yesterday was Emily's 7th birthday. She was born at 5:23 am, but when I referred to her being seven sometime yesterday afternoon, she had to correct me, saying, "No, silly, I'm not seven until AFTER I blow out the candles!" So last evening at Chuck E. Cheese, surrounded by a few neighbor friends, she officially turned seven :)

She was awe struck when ChuckE came out and was in heaven when she attached herself to him with the world's longest hug. I think she thoroughly enjoyed her special day!

Friday, December 01, 2006

More Pictures of Olivia!

Today we got the original file (in Chinese) and all FOUR of her referral photos--we'd only seen the two previously posted. The one with her shirt off was attached to her medical report to show her scar from open heart surgery. It's good to see that she's not all skin and bones :)

Granted, Chinese babies are typically smaller than Americans, but Olivia is really TINY! At her last medical exam in June when she was about 3.5 yrs. old, she was 30 in. tall and weighed 21 pounds. According to (American) growth charts, that put her at about the size of an average 10-14 month old here!! However, I've been reassured by plenty of adoptive moms whose children were/are also tiny, but perfectly healthy.

I was starting to shift my thinking towards a "big" girl, but she may look (and seem?) like a baby after all. But a walking, talking one!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can you guess where we were last week?

More good news from school

Not to forget our first born, in addition to our adoption excitement, Emily had a milestone week, too! I'm happy to report that we had an IEP meeting at school during which they officially reduced her services because she is doing so well and no longer needs as much support! She now meets or exceeds the level of her peers in almost every academic area and has become quite confident and independent. There is a classroom aide at her disposal, but she has not been needing or using her assistance. Amazingly, her teacher made no mention of any distractibility and instead assured us that Emily is staying on task and is a good listener :) Based on how well she's doing, they no longer classify her as a "supported ed" student (one who needs support for 60% of the day or more) and at the meeting, her status officially changed to that of a "resource" or consult student. That means she doesn't need much special support, but will be kept on their radar in case she should need more help with the transition to all-day first grade next year.

Her pull-out time (for OT, PT and speech) was also drastically reduced since her fine and gross motor skills are now in line with her peers. Her handwriting has really improved and she LOVES spelling new words on every scrap of paper she can find! In fact, sometimes when I ask her a simple question, she runs to find paper and pencil to WRITE her answer. I've also noticed a big improvement in her ability to listen and understand when I read her stories (her biggest weakness has always been auditory processing). Reading to her used to feel like a frustrating waste of time since she couldn't pay attention and everything seemed to go right over her head. But now I'm actually enjoying reading Junie B. Jones books aloud (sometimes a censored version!) because she's getting it! It's so neat to see her moving towards just being a good 'ole "regular" student! She doesn't even qualify for summer school anymore :) She will still get pulled out 30 min/week for speech to improve her auditory comprehension, but that's about it. Hooray!

I'm SOOO glad we stuck to our guns about wanting her to stay in kindergarten again this year!! I've seen absolutely no adverse effects (at this age there is no stigma or realization that she's doing anything unusual) and yet we've seen so many benefits. With all her preemie issues and hospitalization she essentially lost a year's worth of development and simply was not able to magically catch up for that lost time. Since it was clear that she was still developmentally delayed in some areas, it just made sense (to us anyway) to hold her back a year. Being with kids her developmental age has made a world of difference for her confidence and we're thrilled with how well she's doing.

I'm in awe of God's work in her and also how He's expertly managed to time and arrange our adoption around her needs. Instead of seeing the adoption slow down as a negative, I can now see how His hand was in every step of the way. China's delays allowed us to really focus on Emily this past year and set her on a better educational footing. Now that we're all feeling more comfortable with her educational prospects--and future in general--we're more ready and able to expand our focus to include another child. I just love the way God works! When I let Him lead, He leads me down better paths than I could ever find on my own :) Note to self: Remember this. Learn from this.

digitally enhanced hair

Okay, admit it, you thought she looked like a boy, didn't you? Me too! So, just for fun, I did some digital magic and added some "virtual" hair to her picture just to see what she might look like once her hair grows out. Kinda cute, eh? Even with the scowl on her face :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Introducing Fu Tan (soon to be Olivia)

For over a year now, we've been preparing our hearts for an unknown baby girl in China who needs a family. A few months ago we changed our course a bit and decided to request a baby with special needs (specifically a correctable heart defect). The original reason we considered requesting a special needs child is that the line to get a healthy infant has slowed so much that our documents would expire before it'd be our turn to adopt. However, as I began to explore what issues were considered special needs, I began to think about Emily, our tiny one pound miracle. She'd had so many health issues that I imagine she would have scared off most prospective adopters--after all, her future was pretty precarious. And yet, look at how she has flourished! Having lived through her success story, we now have the courage to offer hope to another child who might seem too scary to others.

On November 6th, we got word from our agency that they had a new list of Waiting Children (special needs or older/hard to place) and that they just might have a match to our request. . . It took longer than I expected for the list to get translated, but we FINALLY got THE call yesterday. The match they presented wasn't exactly what we had requested so we were a bit surprised at first to be offered a child who will turn FOUR in February! However, once the initial shock wore off, we started to get excited about Emily having a playmate (which was actually one of our original desires). We have the option to wait for a healthy baby, but we had previously decided that we would not reject any child who was proposed to us. Age four was a shock, but I'd already told Andy that I felt like God was gently preparing me to get an older child (toddler, I thought). Although we had requested a baby (due to attachment/bonding concerns), I'd been praying that if God had a different/better plan, that He would match us with the child that He knew was best for our family. Based on this, before we even got her files or pictures, we decided to trust that He is in control and has great plans that we can't even conceive.

Rong Fu Tan is estimated to have been born about Feb. 1, 2003 though she wasn't abandoned (in poor health) until June 19th 2003. She was then taken to be cared for at RongXian Social Welfare Institute in the province of Guangxi where they took care of her and tried to nurse her to health. Her file says she is timid, active, has a ready smile, gets along well with others, is quick in reaction, is fairly introverted and sometimes obstinate. "She loved playing the game 'you throw the object and I pick it up...and is sometimes naughty, climbing on the bed rail or chair for 'climbing competition' which is funny as they are like a group of monkeys...she is sociable and plays well with others, never arguing with them. . .and has recently learnt to hug others to show her affection." According to the checklist, she walks steadily on her own, speaks in short sentences (in Chinese!), understands "no" and is able to understand simple conversation and commands

I think He knew that a double shock of ill health AND an older child might push our limits, so He graciously gave us a child who's rare and complex heart issues have already been operated on :) Based on her file and some internet searching, my layman understanding is that her heart is on the opposite side of her chest than the norm and is a mirror image of the norm (Dextrocardia). Also, instead of having just right and left atria, her left atrium was subdivided resulting in three atria (cor triatriatum). In addition to these, she had the more typical heart defects of holes between the chambers (Atrial Septal Defect and Ventricular Septal Defect). As a result of these heart issues, being institutionalized and having frequent upper respiratory infections, she is developmentally delayed both physically and intellectually (sounds familiar!).

The amazing thing, however, is that her records show that last December somehow she was apparently flown clear across the country to get corrective heart surgery at a brand new cardiology hospital!! I'm assuming that her heart is still in an unusual position, but it appears that they were successful at closing the holes between the chambers and perhaps also removing the wall between the left atria. I believe the needed repairs are now complete, but we're having a doctor examine her files to be sure. While recovering, she suffered from pneumonia, but after a stay of 24 days went home as a success and then apparently flew back again for a follow-up in May. I'm amazed by this since orphanages in China don't have the means to take such extraordinary measures with these abandoned kids. I'm wondering if she was a beneficiary of an American surgical mission like you can read about at ?? I hope some day we can find out and thank them.

As you might expect, just like any other expectant parents, we're excited, hopeful, and also a little scared. We hope to travel to China early next year and begin to begin this leap of faith.