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, January 31, 2007

China:Too Many Boys?

If you've got high speed internet you can click here to view CNN's video (2 1/2 min.) that addresses the shortage of girls as a result of the country's one child policy.

Video: China: Too many boys?*

Olivia's Birthday

Olivia was left at the orphanage gate on June 19, 2003. She was said to be in poor health (due to her heart condition?) and I suspect her parents surrendered her in the hopes that she'd get some much needed medical treatment. I feel bad for her birth parents and can't fathom being in such a predicament.
Though she only weighed seven pounds, an orphanage doctor somehow determined she was about four months old and gave her an official birth date of Feb 1, 2003. I'm sure it's no coincidence that that date was was the very same date that marked that year's Chinese New Year--their biggest holiday. The Chinese are very big on symbolism and luck, so I'm sure giving her Feb. 1 for her birthday was a way of wishing her good luck.
We will probably never know her real birthday or how old she really is, but for the official record, she will be four. I wonder if she even knows. Orphanages don't acknowledge or celebrate birthdays, but now that she's in a foster home, I wonder if she'll know. Perhaps it's not even part of their culture...but it is part of ours :) She will not have any unnoticed birthdays in our house! I'm sad that she had to have another birthday without her family, but soon, hopefully soon, that will change.
Hey, I just realized that since China is 15 hours ahead of us, it is her birthday right NOW where she is. Hope she's having a good day even if she doesn't know it's her special day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Getting ready!!

It's starting to feel real! We are still waiting for our invitation to travel, but our agency expects it soon and has given us a hotel worksheet to rank our room choices! And yesterday we mailed our applications for Chinese visas, the passport stamps that will allow us into China!

Our caseworker said we may travel in February which is right around the corner!! It's doubtful we can get in and out before Chinese New Year which begins on Feb. 18, but we might be able to travel at the end of the month or early March.

It's finally time to get ready! We pulled out the toddler bed Emily once slept in and set it up next to hers (see photo in post below). I also finally bought a few outfits for Olivia. We'd saved all of Emily's old clothes EXCEPT for the size Olivia might be--a few years ago a mom from church really needed 2Ts and at the time our fertility record wasn't looking so good. At least I now have a legitimate excuse to shop :) We still need to reorganize Emily's closet to accommodate two girls, but this readying process is making us all feel like Olivia really is coming :)

I've now got to get serious about making a packing list and going shopping for all those obligatory "gifts" for all those in China involved with our adoption (drivers, orphanage director, staff, etc., etc.-- down to the notaries in some cases). I hear they really like getting Marlboros, but I just can't fathom putting cigarette shopping on my must do list.

pix for Olivia

(click an image to enlarge it)

I've picked some photos of us to send to Olivia in China. I'm not positive she'll get them, but thought it was worth a try. I don't even know if she's aware that she is getting a new family...and may only be told the day we meet her. Sometimes the kids are well prepared and have obviously received their new family's photo album, and other times not....

Here you're viewing the pix in collages, but we're actually sending them in a "talking" photo album with 36 4x6 pix, each with it's own button to play a recorded message up to 10 seconds. Since she doesn't speak English, we'll keep it simple (and add English and Chinese captions), but thought it's be good for her to get accustomed to our strange voices and perhaps even learn some new words.

I hope she gets her photo album and I hope she won't be scared of these strange foreigners.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Chelsea says "Hi" too!

I'm trying to put a photo album together to send off to Olivia. I'm not sure how familiar she is with dogs, so I thought I should add one with Emily interacting with Chelsea so she sees she's not scary...
I bought a "talking" photo album from Radio Shack that holds 36 pix with 10 second recordings for each. I thought it might help prepare Olivia for our strange speech and voices... We might add some Chinese captions (hopefully someone would read it to her??), but will try to leave very short messages since she doesn't know English yet. Maybe she can learn some basics like "house, bed, Emily, Mom, Dad..." Now, if I can just narrow it down to 36 pix!

China Care Video

Here's a great informative video that allows us to peek into some orphanages in China. This organization was started by a 16 year old boy from Greenwich, Connecticut!

High bandwidth:
Low bandwidth: :

(pasted from from
China Care Foundation is truly changing the lives of orphans in China. Through our unique programs that bridge the US and China we provide specialized care for the smallest and weakest infants who are orphaned, life saving medical treatments and surgeries, foster care in loving families as well as encourage and promote adoptions of special needs children.

China Care was founded by Matt Dalio, who at the age of 16 knew he wanted to make a difference in the lives of orphans in China. Although Matt was young, he had a vision of how he could help these orphans who have no one to speak out for them. Since its beginning, China Care has grown tremendously, allowing us to help more children than we ever thought possible. Through our Children’s Homes, Medical Program, foster care and adoption financial aid we touch countless lives each year. We invite you to learn more about our programs and how you can become involved in our work. To learn more, click here

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Governmental red tape

Yesterday Andy and I got fingerprinted for the FIFTH time since we started the process to adopt. And we're not talking re-dos for mistakes--each time was a separate requirement.

#1 First we had to be finger printed by the state for DCFS/CANTS clearance...

#2 Then we got caught in ILLINOIS' new requirement to get FBI clearance BEFORE we could proceed with any international adoption we had to get inked at the police station and mail our prints off to the FBI.

#3 Then, once we got a clear background check from the FBI, Illinois allowed us to proceed. The next step was to clear the Federal government's (USCIS) criminal background check with another finger printing session (in spite of just clearing the FBI check for the state!) we paid and printed AGAIN.

#4 Then, in the mean time, unrelated to adoption, Andy & I had to be fingerprinted by a nearby school district so we could volunteer with at-risk kids... You'd think our FBI clearance would have been good enough...but at least they didn't charge :)

#5 Then, yesterday, we had to go back to USCIS to be fingerprinted for the Federal government AGAIN because it had been 15 months since we last printed and those were now "expired." As if our fingerprints changed and expired?? You'd think they could just run a criminal check on our prints already in their system?? Seems like just another way to get $140 out of us!

Seems a bit redundant doesn't it? This is just one of the many hoops required for international adoption. Wouldn't want to make it too easy now would we?

Allison needs oxygen

You might be asking, who's Allison? And why does she need oxygen? Why, Allison is Emily's stuffed bear, of course! We noticed the scotch tape across her bear's face the other day and after some questioning, Emily explained that she was pretending Allison needs oxygen! It's been about four years now since we've had to hook Emily up to oxygen, but apparently she remembers. She's very matter of fact about her bear's needs...perhaps she thinks all kids needed to wear a nasal cannula for oxygen?!
She is quite the little mother and has many kids to tend to. She takes her job very seriously and she sometimes requests that we be very quiet because her kids are sleeping. Last weekend she HAD to bring Allison and her (doll) stroller along to the mall and we had a couple people ask if she was pushing a real baby under the blanket. I believe it was also Allison who was acting up in church a few weeks ago when Emily wanted to excuse herself to "calm her down." Since we were sitting in the back row, I let her stand behind us and it was cute to watch her jiggling her hip, bouncing Allison and patting her back to soothe her. I think she's going to be a great big sister :)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Balancing Act

One of Emily's favorite shows is Super Nanny. At first I was hesitant to let her watch it because I didn't want her exposed to and imitating bad behavior, but that really hasn't been an issue. Instead, the show has helped to reinforce her understanding of the need for rules and consequences. Now, at the beginning of the shows, she gets a little concerned about the family's bad behavior and is anxious for JoJo to come and give them some rules.

Yesterday, she informed me that when Olivia comes we might need to call Super Nanny. "Mom, when you call Super Nanny, you'll have to tell them we have TWO kids, one named Emily and one named Olivia..." When I asked if we'd need to call Super Nanny for HER, she let me know it'd be for Olivia. It's been hard to find a balance in preparing her for her new sister, and apparently now she's expecting the worst :(

I want to prepare her for the reality that it might be a tough transition with Olivia, but I don't want to turn her excitement to dread. The reality is that many adoptees have a hard time adjusting and go through a period of grieving the loss of their life as they knew it. Some have raging tantrums, some just shut down, while others try to be angels so they'll be accepted. We've had months to prepare, but often the orphans aren't told anything until the day of the family's arrival. Then, they're sometimes shocked and disappointed to be handed over to people who look strange, sound strange, smell funny and don't even speak their language. That's a lot for a little one to digest! It's going to be a tough balancing act for all of us. Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

PBS show about women in China

China From the Inside:Women of the Country
(This is one of four different episodes debuting this week. Will be re aired throughout the week. Click here to check your local listings)

"There's a saying among men, 'Marrying a woman is like buying a horse: I can ride you and beat you whenever I like.'" -- Xie Lihua, Women's magazine editor

Photo: A woman prepares food for a New Year meal.

China's women have always been under pressure: from men, from family, from work. Now more and more are under new pressure -- from themselves -- to take control of their lives; to get an education; to have a career; to marry for love. It's a slow, difficult process, and it is changing China.
Mass migration from the countryside to the cities is increasing prosperity, but fracturing families. It also gives women new roles -- whether running the farm back home, or as wage-earners in the city. Xiao Zhang has lived in Beijing for 14 years, cooking and cleaning. This episode follows her home to her village 600 miles away for Chinese New Year, where she is reunited with the children she hasn't seen for a year. The cameras capture the visit of the local Birth Planning Officer to check on young wives, the plight of unwanted girl babies and abortion issues, and a village wedding which turns nasty.
The film also explores the discrimination suffered by Xinjiang's Muslim women, the hardships of life in Tibet, and China's tragic suicide figures: China has one of the highest suicide rates for women in the world: 150,000 a year. One every four minutes.
Finally, we see a glimpse of urban life where the younger generation of women has left the countryside for factory work in the cities. The hours and conditions are tough but the women are slowly gaining confidence and independence.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Olivia Update, translated

We still have not gotten the official translation, but Andy's coworker, Hang, came to the rescue :) Thanks, Hang!
  • she is now in a foster home and is closest to her foster mom
  • she can count "1,2,3,4" and if an adult says, "1,2," she finishes with "3,4"
  • speaks in 3-5 word sentences and can make her needs known
  • she understands when adults talk to her (Chinese, of course)
  • will go through a book page by page
  • can build a tower of eight blocks
  • is fond of listening to music
  • is timid and fairly introverted, shy with strangers
  • will sometimes cry if spoken to too loudly
  • gets along well with others
  • is obstinate sometimes
  • has a ready smile
  • goes to the bathroom by herself
  • is a deep sleeper
  • likes fruits and breads (in addition to staples of rice and soup)
  • knows to take pail and cloth in preparation for bath
  • if hands are dirty, knows to clean with water
  • can go up and down stairs
  • can hold a pen and scribble and can imitate straight lines
  • uses thumbs and fingers deftly--can pick up a pill with thumb and index finger
  • can eat by herself with a spoon--no chopsticks yet
  • will comfort other babies if they cry
  • plays with other kids with no problems
  • likes to imitate adults, pretending to take pictures, use phone, sweep floor, etc.
  • can put on shirt, button clothes, and put on shoes
  • favorite activity: outdoors
  • favorite toy: new toys (in foster care, she may finally have something of her own!)

It's also interesting to note some of the items NOT checked. It's hard to know how accurate the information is, but according to the report she:

  • might not know opposites
  • might not know "big" and "small"
  • might not know the color red or two kinds of colors
  • might not ask "what is this?"
  • might not be able to name ten animals or objects in pictures
  • might not know what "cold," "tired" and "hungry" mean
  • might not be able to imitate drawing circles or crosses
  • might not be able to jump off floor with both feet

Overall, it sounds pretty good for a kid who has lived most of her life in an institution! We are happy to learn a little more about her and can't wait to bring her home :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

RongXian, Home of Overseas Chinese
Rongxian County, Home of Overseas Chinese
Zhenwu Pavilion, the only ancient building in China in good repair without the aid of reconstruction. (click image above to enlarge)

RONGXIAN County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is famous as the hometown of overseas Chinese. They number 700,000 -- equivalent to the county's current population.
Rongxian is also well known for its tourist destinations. The Zhenwu Pavilion is well preserved, despite no rebuilding of any kind over the past 400 years or more. The pavilion comprises a structure of some 3,000 pieces of timber, perfectly assembled according to the lever principle. The four hypostyle columns on the second floor that are suspended from the ceiling and support it, the roof girders, tiles, and roof-ridge ornaments, are its most impressive feature. Shiliyangwai Village is the birthplace of Yang Yuhuan, favorite concubine of Tang Emperor Xuanzong, and a renowned beauty in Chinese history. A park has been built in the village enshrining the life of this legendary lady. A Taoist sanctum, Duqiao Mountain is noted for its red-rock geology, graceful soaring peaks, lush forests, and labyrinthine caves. The 108 by 88 meter character for Buddha engraved on its Qingshou Rock, in the calligraphy of Zhao Puchu, late chairman of China Buddhism Association, is the largest of its kind in the world.
Rongxian County has an established reputation for its local products, such as Shatian shaddock, anise, litchi, longan, Yanxia chicken, tea, and turpentine. While maintaining the output of its traditional produce, the county also cultivates new businesses, such as fast-growing forest, mulberry, and bamboo. Agricultural industrialization has led to a marked improvement in the local farmers' standard of living. In Heding Village the anise growing annual per capita income stands at 8,000 yuan. All households are two or more storied and own motorcycles.
Rongxian is a hotbed of investment. The HK Zhonggang Auto Body Plant and Rongxian Lisheng Auto Decoration Plant co-invested 88 million yuan in setting up the Lida-Zhonggang Auto Decoration Engineering Co. Similarly, the HK Huanan Building Material Co., Ltd. and Guangxi Gaofeng Artificial Board Co. co-invested 150 million yuan in founding the Guangxi Gaofeng Artificial Board Co., Ltd. The county also houses over 150 industrial projects transferred from eastern China. Meanwhile, the county has stepped up contact with overseas Chinese of Rongxian origin, and gives incentives to overseas Chinese-invested enterprises. To date, such enterprises number 25, at a total investment of US$ 60 million. Burgeoning overseas investment and tourism is believed to have given impetus to the county's agricultural modernization, industrialization and urbanization.
Rongxian is traversed by the Yulin-Rongxian and Rongxian-Cenxi grade-one roads. The asphalt and cement roads linking its 16 towns weave through and across the county, and its picturesque Xiujiang River makes visitors loath to leave this luxuriant and beautiful landscape.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Just playing with virtual hair again

I think she's adorable just the way she is, but it's fun to imagine what she'll look like when her hair grows out! It's interesting how much older the hair makes her look!

Sponsoring an orphan

In response to some questions about how $40/m can provide a home for an orphan...

There are some wonderful organizations formed by adoptive parents with a desire to help those left behind. One such organization happens to have recently partnered with Olivia's orphanage and is called Grace and Hope. Of course you can donate any amount, but for $38-41/month you can make a huge impact on a child by enabling him/her to move out out of an orphanage and have a more normal life in a Chinese foster home. Sponsors get quarterly reports about their child.

If you're interested, you can donate online (via PayPal or check) by clicking here This link will walk you through the process asking if you want to sponsor a child at a specific orphanage and then if you'd like to sponsor a "healthy" child for $38/m or $41/m for a "special needs" child, and then gives you the choice of paying monthly or in a yearly sum. Note that there will be a 3.5% charge for using PayPal, no charge for checks.

If you're interested in sponsoring a child, but aren't in a position to part with $40/month, let me know and maybe we could pool money from multiple families :) It would be wonderful if we could get all nine of the RongXian kids a foster home! It'd also be neat for Olivia to learn about her friends in the quarterly reports!

Grace & Hope For Children
465 N.E. 181st #210 Portland, OR 97230


The photo with the bear is dated 10/24/06 and the one in the pink vest is dated 11/29/06. Isn't she cute??!! I can't make out most of her update (anyone know how to read Chinese??), but there are some check boxes in both Chinese and English that I can read. It appears that she is now in a foster home!!! This is exciting since I knew only 4 of the 13 had been moved to foster cared and nine more needed a sponsor ($40/m through to move out of the orphanage.
She's grown a bit since her last report in May. She is now 33.5 inches and 24 pounds which puts her at about the size of an average American 18-24 month old, according to growth charts. It also appears that she IS potty trained (there was no check mark there on the last form). Other boxes are checked for timid, shy, fairly introverted, having a ready smile, gets along well with other, obstinate sometimes, and closest to caretaker. A new item that was checked is that she CAN point to eyes, ears, nose & mouth when asked (the lack of check mark on the previous form had concerned me a bit). She is also able to put on her own shoes and can button & unbotton her clothes.
Most adoptive parents don't get an update so we're fortunate to have received this!! I love the new pictures which makes it a little easier to imagine what she'll be like in person. I'm excited to get to meet her and make her a part of our family! Hopefully soon! Hopefully Andy and Emily will recover soon so we can start thinking about our next trip. And I hope we'll all stay healthier this next time around.

Christmas in Florida

My sickos recuperating at home

Some of the cousins--there were two more there.

2/3 of my sisters and me.

Our home for Christmas.


We are home recuperating from our trip to Florida. We had a nice time with cousins and enjoyed swimming in our backyard pool, but two days before the cousins left, Emily came down with a fever of 103. Fortunately she responded well to ibuprophen and had stretches of near normalcy, but the fever kept coming back for five days straight. She was sick 7 out of our 11 days and still has a nasty cough. I could feel my body fighting off a fever and so far have escaped with just a cough, but Andy has been feverish for the last three days. We're all quarantined in our family room with the suitcases around us, still unpacked!

However, we do have some good news...our agency got an update on Olivia that we're expecting in our mail box soon. It will be in Chinese (with translation to follow, hopefully soon) so we won't know what it says yet, but will have a new photo! I'll post it when it arrives.