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, February 28, 2007

Day #2 at the park

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After the girls (and Daddy) woke up from a nap yesterday, we went to the Nanning Peoples Park in the rain. Olivia was very curious about everything, but a little unsure of what to make of the amusement rides--we don't suppose she's been exposed to much with most of her life inside an orphanage. She agreed to go on a kiddie ride with Emily, but then told Mandy, our guide, that it was not fun. I think it was too jerky and fast for her first ride. She wasn't so sure about the moon bounce either, but warmed up to it pretty quickly with the help of her big sister. When she'd fall down, she'd just giggle and giggle!

We heard her first cry when I had to go down the hall to Mandy's room to discuss our itinerary and Olivia did not like my leaving one bit. She wailed and yelled for Mama, and then was mad at poor Daddy (Ba Ba in Chinese) for preventing her from following me. Although it wasn't fun for Daddy to be the bad guy, it was a good sign that she's attaching to me and knows who her Mama is. Once I came back, she didn't stay mad at Andy too long. It's pretty common for kids to initially attach to only one parent and want nothing to do with the other for a while. For Andy's sake I hope she doesn't reject him, but he knows that may be part of the process...

Emily is enjoying being a big sister, but asks for equal lap time and thinks I ought to be carrying her on my other hip. She's pretty big for me to carry any distance, but Daddy's been hauling her around a bit lately. I'm impressed, however, that she hasn't been possessive of her toys that Olivia (who still calls herself "Tan Tan"--rhymes with won ton) has taken over. They also had a good time taking their first bath together.

Today we're going on a field trip to a mountain. Hope it doesn't rain!

Day #2

Everything is going great on day #2. The only wrinkle we've had is when the adoption official was concerned about Olivia not being dressed warm enough. We were all sweating--including Olivia--but I added a shirt and jacket to appease her.

Here is a picture with our guide, Mandy, as well as the orphanage staff members who were present for official adoption interview. Olivia's doing very well and warms up to everyone quite easily.

Olivia videos from Day 1

While the girls are both napping, I'll try to post a few short video clips. Day 2 is going just as well as yesterday :) And...we officially adopted her today!! Now she is really and truly ours!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Olivia FuTan, all SMILES!!

What a wonderful, wonderful day :) Well worth the wait!!

Gotcha Day :)

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Introverted? Timid? Shy? Huh?? Olivia FuTan is a giggly, sweet little bundle of love that seems far from the reserved child I expected!! She has such a belly laugh and is just too cute!! I'm not sure if the other shoe is going to drop tomorrow, but today was just wonderful!! At first she was a little quiet and shy, but after I held her and fed her a while, she really warmed up and turned into a giggly chatter box who loves to eat like there's no tomorrow! She hasn't cried at all yet, not even at bedtime. She's been surprisingly easy so's my other one who's having a hard time with the adjustment. At bedtime, Emily was feeling a little jealous and sullen and Olivia reached out to her to try to console her! They are now sound asleep next to each other. I'll try to post some video clips later if I get a chance :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hong Kong pix from yesterday

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Here you can see our Hong Kong Holiday Inn, Tai Chi in a park, the Victoria Peak tram and views from the peak, and Hong Kong Park (it's beautiful and we saw several brides getting photographed here). It was such a beautiful sunny day that we shed our jackets and got sunburns! Not missing winter at all!

As we walked around Hong Kong Island we constantly ran into throngs and throngs of young women congregating in parks, subway walkways, and public court yards. They were sitting in clusters on card board boxes or mats playing cards, doing crafts, snacking, or doing each others nails as they chatted away. It appeared as if they were gathering for some event, but when asked a lady said that since it's a holiday (Chinese New Year & a Sunday)they just all like to come out and meet with their friends to talk. The women seemed very social, but I couldn't help but wonder where all the men were. Wish we would have taken a picture.

Tomorrow at 3 pm we'll be getting Olivia!! I hope we'll be able to coax some smiles out of her, but she may need some time to warm up. Can't wait to meet her! Wonder if I'll get much sleep tonight... Better hit the hay now. It's past 11 pm Monday here as you're just starting your day at home.

I'm glad I practiced blogging from home. From here Blogger (the blog hosting site that I use) is all in Chinese!! So far I've been able to remember which buttons I usually click to make my way through posting, but I wouldn't have a clue which Chinese symbols to click if it was my first time posting. There may be a way to get the interface in English, but I haven't found it yet!

Tai Chi

We got to watch some people doing Tai Chi in a park in Hong Kong and Emily had to give it a try! To see Emily in action, double click on the arrow and expect the first time through to stutter.

Hello from Nanning

We've just arrived at the Majestic Hotel in Nanning, Guangxi! Today we met Mandy (our social worker and guide) at the Hong Kong airport and she'll be with us here and in Guangzhou. She has mentioned more than once that we need to be prepared that the transition might be more difficult since we're getting an "older" child...but not to get too concerned...relax, keep smiling, and have confidence that we'll warm up to each other eventually. This is nothing new, but it still makes one a little anxious about how tomorrow will go. Yep, tomorrow!! Hard to believe, but at about 3 pm tomorrow we'll finally get to meet Olivia!! I'm excited, nervous, happy, scared, anxious, and...

It's almost 7 pm here, so we need to go get some dinner and meet up with our travel mates, Craig & Caroline. I'll try to post some more pix later. I only posted once from Hong Kong because it cost US$25/day at our hotel, but now in Nanning it's a more affordable 60 cents/day :)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hello from Hong Kong

We arrived safely at our hotel at about 6pm local time (4 am IL time!!) last night. None of us slept much on the plane, but it was pretty smooth and painless. The strange thing was that we followed the sun and so we never experienced dark or night. We flew right over the north pole and got some neat pictures of frozen Siberia and some mountain peaks.

We went to bed within a couple hours of arriving at our Holiday Inn since it was early evening. We all kept waking up throughout the night, checking the time and looking out the window, but we didn't actually get up until 7am (5pm at home). And I'm happy to report that we got the two double beds we requested--they'd previously warned that they this kind of rooms might not be available due to it being Chinese New Year.

We're real adventurous with our meals here--McDonalds for breakfast and "Chicago" pizza for lunch! The McDonalds had different food choices than we're used to and the Chicago pizza had unfamiliar options, too (egg, tuna, lettuce).

Today we wandered around Kowloon, but we plan to take the ferry tomorrow to see Hong Kong Island. We hope to go up to Victoria Peak tomorrow, but wonder if we'll be able to see anything through all the haze.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And we're OFF!

Packing up the laptop and leaving for the airport :) Next post will be from Hong Kong :)

slide show test

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I wanted to test a different format for posting a big batch of pix. I just used a folder of oldies from Emily's first year just to try out a RockYou slideshow. I'm not positive I'll be able to upload to from China to do this, but I thought it'd be worth a try. As the pix loop through, you can pause, go forward/backward and change the speed. Let me know if this gives you problems. I added captions, but I don't see them here. Hmmm....wonder why not. The music isn't of great significance...just part of the test.

If I mouse over a picture, the caption appears, but I'm not sure how to get it to automatically appear. Oh well, good enough for now.

Let me know if this format works for you--I'm especially interested to hear if it works on on dial-up...

We're leaving for the airport hotel tonight and we're packed and ready. Just trying to do some last minute computer stuff :)

New Hard Drive

Success! Andy was able to find, buy and install a new hard drive tonight :) The computer is now fixed, but I probably won't be able to reinstall everything before we leave. That ought to be okay for the trip as long as I've got the basics up and running :)

Thanks, Dan and Cathy, for offering a loaner laptop. That was so sweet of you, but I'm happy to report that we won't be needing it :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The not-so-rosy part (RQ post)

This is a timely post on a blog about China adoptions. It's long, but it explains some of the stuff I wanted to say, but got lost in the computer crash.

Rumor Queen is writing to prospective adoptive parents, but reading it may help you to see my prospective when I say I'm excited and also a little nervous, too. I believe that Olivia will eventually be a happy addition to our family, but we need to have a long term perspective. We have to be prepared for it to not be all rosy from day one.

Here's a snipit of the post:

"We all know this transition to a family is for the best in the long run, but all the child knows is how they feel right now, and they are scared and mad and grieving. Some move through it faster than others. Some seem to move through it in China and then backtrack once they are home. Some show their bubbly personality in China and then show the grief in America (or whatever country they are going to).

I see people who are talking about how happy their child is going to be to finally get a family. And that just isn’t the way it works. I see a lot of people setting themselves up for problems by having expectations that just aren’t very likely to happen."

To read the complete post, click here:

Computer woes

We're leaving town tomorrow and the laptop we bought for this trip four months ago is very ill :( Andy had revived it from it's crash last week and it seemed like it was doing okay... As I re-installed software it was showing signs that it wasn't fully cured, but as the issues came up, Andy'd find a patch or a work around and it seemed to be usable. Until yesterday, that is, when it wouldn't even boot up. Andy recovered it AGAIN with the disk recovery, but a health check has since warned us that hard drive failure is imminent :( ARGGG!! It must have somehow known that it was at the four month mark, past any 90-day return period.

Last night Andy bought a new hard drive, but when he went to install it found that the kind that appeared in manual after all, so he inadvertently bought the wrong drive. And it's apparently hard to find the right kind :(

I'm mostly packed so I'm not that stressed about that, but the computer thing bugs me. Lost with the crash is a post I'd been writing about attachment parenting and explaining why and how friends and family can help support Olivia as she learns to bond with us. I'd pulled info from here and there and stayed up way too late writing it...and now it's all disappeared :( Poof. And yes, I'd saved it, but crashed computers don't care. Reminds me of my college days when my entire term paper vanished within a few hours of it being due. Only this time I have no scribbled notes to refer back to.

Computers...can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

P.S. I hope I don't get sued for slander...but it's an HP, if you're wondering. Just now I was about to compliment the 5+ year old Dell laptop that I'm using, but as I tried to type it, things got painfully slow and when I got the "NOT RESPONDING" message, I thought this post was going to disappear, too. I sense dissension in the ranks. If all else fails, we can take this old machine, but it is slow and doesn't have a DVD burner to offload photos. I don't know if it's got enough power or memory for posting video clips... Not the end of the world, but not what we want to be dealing with the day before we leave.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Olivia FuTan

Isn't she cute?! Had to post her pix again since it's been a while since her face has graced this space. Can't wait to meet her!! Today is Chinese New Year. I wonder what she's doing to celebrate China's biggest holiday of the year. It won't too long and we'll be celebrating our Gotcha Day with her on Feb 27th!


If you can see the video images of Emily in the previous video post but nothing happens when you click on the need to click again to start the video :) Try double clicking on the arrow and it should say "loading..." and then play. The first time through may have hiccups.

If you don't see Emily's pictures at all, you may have a firewall (at work?) blocking access to YouTube videos. If you're on dial-up, sorry, but videos may be a lost cause.

I hope you can view them because I'm hoping to capture and post some cute little video clips of Olivia in China so you can all "meet" her :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

She's really going to be ours :)

We're excited to finally meet Olivia, but we also know it might not be an easy transition. Rather than romanticize how wonderful our life is going to be I'm trying be realistic and be prepared in case she has NOT been pining away for us like we have been for her. After 3 1/2 years in an orphanage she just recently got a taste of what it's like to have a foster family. She may be perfectly content there and not welcome these strange foreigners "kidnapping" her and taking her away from everything familiar--strangers that look nothing like her and don't even speak her language. She may be less than thrilled. She may rage against us or shut down. We hope she'll warm up to us, but we have to be prepared that it may not happen right away.

We sent the talking photo album with the hopes that she'll have an inkling of what's going on, but we don't know when or if she got it. Some kids are well prepared, others are told the day of their departure. We have no idea what she knows or how she'll take to us. We hope having Emily along will help Olivia feel more comfortable. We'll also bring some bubbles, a doll, and some snacks to help break the ice. She's going to be ours whether she likes it yet our not :)

Video testing

I thought I'd try posting video so I'll now how to do it from China. I interrogated Emily so I'd have something to post, but she didn't mind too much :) They are short clips (13-46 seconds@), but may stutter the first time through as they're downloading. They should be smooth the second time through.

Anyone know why this bumped my right column stuff way down the page? Or how to fix it?

Thursday, February 15, 2007


  • Wed, Feb 21............leave for airport hotel (to avoid rush hour hassle for our early flight)
  • Thur, Feb to Hong Kong
  • Fri, Feb 23..............arrive in Hong Kong
  • Mon, Feb to Nanning, Guangxi
  • Tue, Feb 27............GET OLIVIA (2:30 pm China time)
  • Wed, Feb 28...........register adoption papers for Olivia
  • Th-Sat, Mar 1-3....wait for notarized documents and Olivia's passport
  • Mon, Mar 5.............collect notarized documents and passport
  • Tues, Mar to Guangzhou, Guangdong (where US consulate is)
  • Wed, Mar 7.............Olivia's required medical exam for travel visa
  • Thur, Mar 8............collect medical report and apply for Olivia's visa
  • Fri, Mar 9................get visa and attend visa ceremony at US Consulate
  • Sat, Mar to Hong Kong by train
  • Sun, Mar home! We leave at 5:45pm and due to time difference, arrive same day at 6:45 pm


I'm feeling overwhelmed and close to tears today. We just got the run down of travel costs from our agency and everything is much more than they estimated. With 16 nights in a hotel, an extra $50+ a night adds up :( And, for that premium price 3/5 of our party will be sleeping on the floor--the rooms with two double beds aren't available so we're getting ONE king bed for the five of us. I'm not sure if they sell air mattresses in China, so we're going to have to see if we can fit that in our 44 lbs @ luggage limit.

I'm mostly frustrated because I've looked online and it appears that I could book our rooms (same hotel, same nights) much cheaper. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a bargain hunter and can't stomach wasting money. I'm asking our agency about the high hotel prices, but at some point soon, I'm just going to have to let it go and stop fretting about it. ...and the fact that Olivia's one-way ticket cost more than Emily's round trip. I'm trying to tell myself it's only money. We'll manage.

Just please don't tell me that we're having a child the "easy" way (getting out of child birth and diapers)! Trust me, "easy" is not the proper word. And yes, adoptive parents say they hear this comment :( It hasn't been easy bringing either of children home, but they are each worth the effort!

Also contributing to my overwhelm is the fact that my new (Oct 06) laptop crashed and after much fussing with is still giving us problems :( We were/are planning to take it to China so this is another headache we could do without this week.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Packing, Emily style!

This morning Emily saw me writing a list and asked what I was doing. A packing list? Can we start packing, Mom? Now? I agreed and started gathering all the meds from the list, but that didn't quite look like packing to her. Unsatisfied, she took it upon herself to get the suitcases out and she kept wanting me to go upstairs and do the real packing. When I asked her to get dressed for school, she reminded me that we still hadn't packed and she needed to do that first.
Since I'm not really ready to commit our clothes to suitcases yet, I told her maybe we could pack some clothes for Olivia now. She looked surprised and said, "you mean we've got to pack clothes for her, too?" I guess she thought she'd come with her own wardrobe in a suitcase?? But she was happy with that idea and said, "Do you mean I get to pick out her clothes??" I said she could pick a few outfits for her, so the next thing you know, she's got an armload of Olivia's clothes and plops them in a suitcase, hangers and all! Then, she wanted to put my makeup bag in too. ...ummm...we've got 14 more days...but that doesn't seem to compute right now. She's eager to go! Now!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Travel Dates!!

Today we finally got word about our travel dates and I was able to book our flights!! I didn't get as good of a deal on the flights as I'd hoped for but they could have been much worse. We leave in about two weeks!! Wow, we better get busy!! We'll fly to:

  • Hong Kong Feb 22 (arriving on the 23rd)
  • Nanning on the 26th (the capitol of Olivia's province, Guangxi)

(probably get Olivia on the 27th)

  • Guangzhou (Guangdong Province) to process immigration papers--US Consulate appointment is March 8th
  • Hong Kong, March 10
  • Chicago! We'll leave Hong Kong March 11 at 5:45 pm and arrive at O'Hare at 6:45 pm (also March 11!) .

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bedroom overhaul

Over the weekend we made a trade with the girls' cousin Sara. She got an extra double bed that we had, and we got her twin Emily and I had fun shopping for new matching bedding and changing the room around for TWO princesses!
For weeks now, Emily has been suggesting that Olivia might need signs to find her room, so she took it upon herself to make 14 numbered arrows up the staircase (but stopped at the top of the stairs, neglecting to give any direction as to which of the four bedrooms at the top of the stairs to turn to!). I sure hope Olivia can find their room!
So, if we've got four bedrooms, why are they sharing a room? The answer is threefold. 1) Emily has always hated having to be in a room by herself. 2) Olivia has probably never been alone in her life except when she was abandoned. She was with multiple kids in the orphanage, and in foster homes, they often share the family bed. Experts suggest letting institutionalized children sleep in the same room as siblings or parents. 3)We're hoping that the two of them can keep each other company so that don't want to be in OUR room :)...but we have haven't taken the toddler bed apart in case plan A doesn't work and Olivia needs to be in our room.

Updated info on Olivia :)

We got some new updated info this morning. I'm glad to see Olivia's gained 3.5 pounds since November! Her feet have also grown a cm. Kids in institutions generally have stunted growth (it's estimated they lose about one month of developmental and linear growth for every three months they're institutionalized--so Olivia could be a full year behind). Once they're with a family they usually start to blossom...and she has obviously benefited from being in her new foster home :)

Updated Information:

Name : RONG Fu Tan
Date of Birth : February 1, 2003
Height : 87 cm (34.3 in.)
Weight : 27.5 pounds
Head circumstance : 46.2 cm (18.2 in.)
Chest circumstance : 52 cm (20.5 in.)
Foot length : 14 cm (5.5 in)
Number of teeth : 20
Favorite toys : Balls, Dolls & Toy cars
Favorite food : Meat, Steamed egg & Fruits
Personality : Introverted and quiet, cry easily but mature
Eating Habit : Breakfast: 8:30 am
Lunch: 12:00 pm
Tea: 15:00 pm
Dinner: 17:30 pm
Feeding Food : Congee, rice, noodle, cake, bun, meat, cake & fruit

Thursday, February 01, 2007

We're going to China!!

This afternoon--on Olivia's birthday, no less--we got THE CALL!!! We have officially been invited to travel! We don't have the exact dates yet, but it looks like we'll be leaving in about three weeks and be back home by March 8 or 9.

So much to do between now and then!! How exciting!!