Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hannah's First (Group) Date

I really thought I'd already posted these amazingly cute pics of Hannah and her first interactions with one of her new baby buddies, Michael. They really seemed to hit it off at her welcome home shower. He's a little younger than she, but he'll probably always be taller. We really love his parents, so we may just draw up a contract and seal the deal now. Oh, wait, Eli might be a little jealous, and he's got a great family, too. Then there's Jack, and of course Logan, and both of their families are great - whatever is a mother to do? [Sigh]

So many choices; so much time.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Happy Girl, Safe Driver

If a picture paints a thousand words, here's a couple of quick short stories for today:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why Adoption? Why China?

I've been mulling this over for months now, and I don't really have my rationale in the best wording yet, but I wanted to begin this while I had a quiet moment. I'll probably come back to it and edit it later, but I know if I don't start now, I may never, so here goes. The following are some of my (many) reasons for adopting and for going abroad to do so:
  • The uncertainty of domestic adoptions: I'd heard one too many stories of biological mothers chaning their minds after the babies were born (a totally understandable thing, knowing the huge emotional impact a baby-in-arms can create), as well stories of biological families taking legal steps to obtain (and winning) custody after a child's birth. While Lee and I might have been able to deal with the risk of facing this loss, we didn't want to do so, and we knew that Jaycie could not handle this type of disruption after praying so long for a sibling. The heartbreak would have been devastating.
  • The large number of parents waiting to adopt infants domestically: In our research, there seemed to be an incredible number of parents waiting in line, so to speak, ones whose "portfolios" were waiting (both online and in agencies) to be chosen by birth parents. From what we could tell, the wait could be short if a family's was chosen quickly, but the typical wait appeared to be 2 years or higher. A "chosen" family might also get part of the way into the process, paying thousands of dollars of a birth mom's expenses, only to find themselves starting over and losing every bit of that money if that bio-mother changed her mind. This doesn't rule out domestic adoption for us forever, but it was a factor this first time.
  • The problems inherent with adopting older children: This issue may be one that touches some people's hot buttons, but it's an issue for many young families, nonetheless. So much happens developmentally and emotionally during the first three years that impacts a person's entire life. With the U.S.'s system of trying at all costs to keep the bio-family unit intact (which is admirable in some ways but not always in the best interest of neglected children), the majority of children who need homes aren't deemed "adoptable" by the courts until they're three or four years old. Having that amount of instability in a young child's life might create problems that no amount of love and care in the world could overcome. At this point in our lives, we didn't want to take that risk or tackle that challenge. Again, we aren't ruling this out for the future, but it wouldn't have worked for us now.
  • The enormous number of babies living in foreign orphanages, particularly in China: Our rationale for going to China was largely influenced by issues raised in this book, The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans. For a great interview with the author, go here.
This is way heavier than recent postings, but I wanted to start the dialogue. More later.

(photo by fellow traveller Trish M.)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Yipes - Another Tag!

This is an interesting tag game. Here are the instructions from my friend Beth:
1) Grab the book closest to you
2) Open to page 123, go down to the fourth sentence
3) Post the text of the following three sentences
4) Name the author and book title
5) Tag three people to do the same

"I had a journey toward acceptance of myself and trusting the way God made me. Paul had a journey toward trusting God as well. God used the weakness in the other to push us down a road we wouln't have walked otherwise."
--from the book Fresh Brewed Life byNicole Johnson

Eek - I haven't even tagged the others from my last post so here goes: I tag Vivian, Dana, and Karen. (BTW, do I have to tell them, or do they just read this and post their tag response? I'm obviously a novice at this.)

Tag, I'm IT!

I was tagged (first time ever, BTW) by a fellow adoptive blogger mom at Dumplings Three and asked to list six strange things about myself. Here goes:
1. I love cheesy pop music - I particularly like the songs on my Partridge Family and a Brady Bunch greatest hits CDs.
2. I began reading at a really early age (somewhere between 3 and 4), and I can't walk or drive past anything in print without reading it.
3. I used to bite my nails, but I don't anymore; instead I chew on my cuticles to relieve tension.
4. I struggle to throw away anything that has writing on it without reading it first, and I seldom throw away letters; because of that, I have tons of boxes of cards letters from friends, several dating back to when I was in third grade.
5. When I was a child, I would get upset if my mom made a PB&J sandwich and put the peanut butter on the wrong side (I think I liked it on the top); flipping the sandwich over didn't fix it (can you say, "type A personality?").
6. I am related to Jesse James.

I've got to tag some of you guys, but I've got mommy duties calling. Be forewarned -- I'll be back!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jamming Out in Her Jammies

The reports we received about Hannah before we met her said that she was fond
of music, and we can really tell based on what she likes to play with. Her Cosby grandparents got her these maracas for her birthday. One is a traditional shaker but the other is high-tech; it plays music, counts, and changes colors when shaken or tapped.They're really cool! She also received an amazingly interactive music table (we removed the legs b/c she can't stand unassisted) at the shower hosted by friends from church. It plays jazz, bee-bop, and other musical styles, teaches opposites, letters and numbers and lots of other fun concepts. Several friends got her the same toy (another fun one that all the one year olds love - a fan-powered musical ball popper), so I exchanged them and was able to get a neat-o drum that lights up with numbers and letters; it responds to Hannah's tapping it with a bongo sound and other fun effects. We love to jam out in our jammies!

Creative Pals

Isn't this adorable? My friend Carla used something called a "Cricket" to make the letters and custom card and wrapping paper. I'm planning on framing it somehow and using it as wall art. My friends are so very creative!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hannah's Big Moves

I didn't get all of Hannah's agility on this video, and her whiny little cry at the end isn't really anything more than frustration (the good kind, Mimi), but this shows a little more of where Hannah is at this stage. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More Partying with Birthday Buddies

Hannah shares a birthday with her Aunt Mabel and her late Great Granddad LaFevor. Today she shared a party with both Aunt Mabel and Lee, whose birthday is today (3 days after theirs). Our special friends Mrs. Dana and her daughter Megan, baked two beautiful ladybug cakes (one especially for Hannah), and Lee baked a cake that looked just like the one he had on his very first birthday. It was the only one he got to share with both Aunt Mabel and his Granddad. Today's family get-together was wonderful. We shared time with the Fowlkes, the Coggins, the Jordans and the Hayes. We tried to get a picture of all the cousins on the couch (just a plain green one), but I'll have to get a copy to post (I was busy trying to get the kiddos' attention while everyone else took pics - a very "red couch" moment).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hannah Turns One!

Happy birthday, dear Hannah (your first), and to Aunt Mabel, too (we'll keep yours a secret)! What a special day!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Poem for Hannah

This is a poem that I wrote just before we left China. I don't know that it is finished, or if you will care, but I wanted to post it anyway. Enjoy!


What was it like…
On the day you were born
To a mother with love so deep
That she was willing to give you up?

Was she young? Was she poor?
Was she just out of hope?
Why wasn’t she able
To give you a name?
Did she know we were praying,
That we’d give you a home?
Did she know that there was someone
Who’d love you as their own?

What was it like…
When they found you there?
Crying and hungry?
Scared and confused?
Was there someone to comfort you,
To hold your sweet hands?
Did they swaddle you tightly
And give you a meal?

What was it like…
In your foster care home?
Did they sing and tell stories
And bounce you on their knees?
Did they look into your beautiful eyes,
Or melt when you smiled?
Did they play Peek-a-boo
Or tickle your belly?

I guess what I’m really asking is…
Did they love you like we do?

What was it like…
On that first Christmas Eve
When you got bundled up
And got ready to leave?
When you and your playmates
Came into that room
And they called you by name
And your whole life changed?

What is it like…
To be given away,
To go live with people
Who aren’t like you?
Who sound funny?
Who smell funny?
Who look funny?
Who dress funny?
Who think they are funny…
But aren’t?

Who call you a name
That isn’t your own
And don’t know your likes
And what each cry means?

What is it like…
To wonder each day
If the next place you go
Is to be given away?

What is it like…
To try to adjust
To a totally new family-
To love and to trust?

What is it like…
When you start to understand
That maybe…just maybe
This is going to be okay?

What will it be like…
To get on that plane
To leave the only place you’ve ever known
To go to a far away place that is your new home?
To leave behind culture, history and art
As well as pollution, poverty and pain?

What will it be like…
When you see your pet cat?
To play in the yard
To ride in our car?
To have your own room
And toys all your own?
To become an American
For better or worse?

To go to church
And meet your new friends?
To eat at new restaurants
And to see your first movie?

What will it be like…
As you grow older and see
That the world is a place
That can sometimes be mean?
When playmates are hurtful
Or ignorant or rude?
When well-meaning adults
Show their prejudiced attitudes?

What will it be like…
To live in two worlds?
To understand what has happened
And not feel to blame?
To always be different
From everyone else?
To deal with the stares
and the questions they ask?

What will it be like...
To believe in yourself?
To grow up with hope
And a future that's bright?

What will it be like...
To know that God made you
Especially for us?
To know you were prayed for
Since before you were born?
To have a place
In His heart and ours?
To know His love
Perfect and pure?

What will it be like...
None of us knows.
But the God who has joined us
Will sustain us
And help us
And love us
And heal us.

And maybe, just maybe
On a day yet to be
You'll look back at our life
And then you will see
The thing that we already feel.
You are special.
You are loved.
You are ours.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Meeting Mimi and PawPaw

How sweet it is!

Hannah is loving her Louisiana grandparents' attention, and I think they're equally enamored. They'll be here for her 1st birthday - tomorrow - hooray!

Jaycie has loved having them here, too, and when she invited her neighbor friend Mollie over today, I heard her tell her, " you can hear my Mimi's funny stories."

Monday, January 15, 2007

If You're Happy and You Know It...

Hannah In Her Chair and Pretty in Pink

Beth and PJ, Hannah loves her chair! It's really great for helping her stay where she should without falling over, and it's helping her balance. Nannie, her ladybug is now a favorite friend, and Aunt Pam, doesn't she look cute in the shirt you got her for Christmas? Wish you all could be here and see her!

By the way, Jaycie picked out Hannah's socks today. They're pink and orange and teal and purple with cats on them - oh, so fashionable! They're the ones she came to us in the first day we met her.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More Giggles with the Fowlkes Sisters

This video is kind of dark, but it's really funny to listen to. Don't miss the surprise ending.

Super Daddy, Super Sis

Lee is a super daddy because:
He loves his girls.
He cherishes his girls.
He protects his girls.
He loves to make them laugh, but he also seeks out teachable moments.
He is patient when Hannah is a mommy's girl and will do the "dirty work" (make bottles, grab diapers/burb cloths, etc.) when she's being clingy. He is accommodating when Jaycie wants to be held like a baby or carried while asleep (usually pretend) from the car.
He asks me how I'm doing with all of this transition and really cares.
He is amazing.

Jaycie is a super big sister because:
  • She loves to make her little sister laugh.
  • She is quiet when her sister is napping.
  • She is helpful when I have my hands full with Hannah.
  • She is learning when Hannah wants to be held and when she doesn't.
  • She gives us all hugs when we need them and surprises us with them when we don't.
  • She shares her joy fully.
She is amazing.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Fun in the Tub & Yummy New Grub

What a fun night - and a successful one, to boot: both kiddos were washed and in bed by 7:30 p.m. That's 30 minutes earlier than I'd originally planned -- woo-hoo! After a fun bathtime session, Hannah and Jaycie both conked out early. I'm sure it helped that I limited Hannah's nap times today, since her long nap yesterday (4 hours long), made for a too-playful baby between 1:30 and 4 a.m. this morning! Hopefully, she'll sleep all night tonight without too much incident; who knows, maybe I'll get to sleep all night, too. One can hope.

On another note, I discovered yesterday that Hannah loves green beans. I even let her eat some cornbread with them, and was that ever a hit! I think she enjoyed crumbling it up just about as much as she did eating it. She wasn't a big fan of tonight's baby food offerings, though, maybe because she couldn't feed herself (interestingly enought, baby food is called "paste" in China; how appropriate). I just hope she keeps liking the rice cereal and yogurt I've been offering; self-feeding those two items would be icky indeed.

For any of you out there in waiting-to-travel-to-China-to-adopt land who are still reading my these random ramblings, I'm going to start posting packing / travel tips as I think of them. In no particular order, here are some things I'm glad packed:
  1. safety pins: I took a box but could've gotten by with about 10; they came in way handy for taking in the 12 month pants that were too big in the waist for little Hannah. I even safety pinned a little pair of slippers that kept slipping off.
  2. clothes pins: We took 5, and they did the trick (albeit in a not-so-fashionable way) when the disposable bibs' sticky tabs didn't work; we also used them for laundry and to keep the formula bag closed.
  3. peanut butter: I'd suggest taking a whole jar if you have a child travelling with you, but it would helpful, too, if you need an afternoon snack yourself (a small jar would do unless you really dislike Chinese cuisine); this can be especially helpful when appointments run long (into lunch) or when the strong smells start getting to you and you need a familiar flavor in your mouth.
  4. ziploc bags: We brought a handful in a variety of sizes; I like the classic kind (not the sliding zipper; those tended to come undone sometimes). They're lightweight and perfect for packing baby snacks. It's helpful to have, too, when you need to snag a couple of pieces of bread from breakfast for that emergency peanut butter sandwich or for extra Cheerios for the road.
  5. long sleeved shirts, short sleeved shirts, a light jacket w/ a hood, & a heavier jacket w/ hood or stocking cap (for winter travellers only): Beijing stayed cold; I was glad I had a jacket with a hood and gloves. Nanchang was warmish during the day and cooler at night most of the week before turning colder right before we left. Guangzhou was short-sleeve weather most of the time and a little cooler at night (I was wishing I'd had a light weight jacket, instead of just fleece pullovers). It was pretty cool the last day there.
That's all. More later.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Pretty Baby In the Bath

As long as I don't get water in her face, Hannah loves her bath time. She loved watching the cups float around, filling them and pouring them out a little, then raising them above her head in delight. Thanks to Aunt Pam for the cute duckie towel!

On another note, Hannah Li slept all night in her crib last night for the first time, only waking a few times (at midnight then again a couple of times between 2 and 3 a.m.) before going back to sleep after some reassuring words and pats on the back from mommy.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

There's No Place Like...Well, You Know

Yesterday, was a day like any other day. We got up, we left Friday afternoon from China, clicked our heels three times and -- poof! -- magically arrived more than twenty-four hours later in America, only a couple of hours before we actually left. Make sense? Nor to me. Fairy tale stories are just like that sometimes. Anyway, after the longest day of my life (literally), I can finally say that we have finally made it home, safe and sound, at last.

After riding on many planes, standing in many lines, walking many steps with many pieces of luggage, we were lovingly welcomed in the airport by our Nashville crew last night around 8 p.m. We stayed overnight at Lee's parents house, which gave us some time to regain our sea legs (after a full night's sleep, I've found mine; after waking up at 3:30 a.m. and staying up, Lee has not). We were well taken care of at the Fowlkes homestead and enjoyed introducing our new little one to most of our Nashville family. It was a blessing to fall into their hands and catch up with things. It was a super transition back into U.S. time. The added bonus of our visit was partaking of several wonderful American meals with them. We enjoyed several much-welcomed comfort foods - mac'n'cheese for Jaycie, hamburgers for us, and some banana bread and banana pudding for all of us! Yum!

As far as our travels went, Hannah did very well on all of our flights. She didn't cry much at all (I probably did more than she), and she slept when we needed her to. She didn't destroy her travel outfit, nor ours, for that matter; I am thankful for the ease with which she travelled. I, on the other hand, was thouroughly exhausted and dishevelled by trip's end by the time we reached Nashville. This a.m.'s shower was wonderful, and I loved brushing my teeth with sink water. Thank you, America, for your sanitation and health policies. I love them.

Several events occured during our travel adventure that were wonderful and only a couple that were not (short note to future travellers: there are 2 airports in Shanghai; double check before leaving which one you need to get to in order to fly home without having to get to the right one via a 1-hour taxi ride; we visited the "other" one; details later). On our long flight from Shanghai/Pudon to Chicago, we were blessed to be given an extra seat (we had only purchased a lap ticket), so we all had extra wiggle room, and Hannah was able to lay down between us to sleep. Our second blessing of the trip was having the Chicago to D.C. leg of our trip cancelled, which resulted in our being assigned to the Chicago to Nashville flight we'd originally been denied. That allowed us ride on one less plane and to arrive in Nashville 3 hours earlier (we were soooo happy about this!), albeit without any of our luggage (not so happy about this). This made the last leg of our journey all the more bearable, and we did receive our luggage - all of it, thankfully - this morning.

When we finally got to our home tonight around 5 p.m. A few little welcome fairies as well as Santa had visited, so Jaycie had a little excitement to get through before unpacking could (kinda-sorta) commence. Our sweet neighbors popped over to meet Hannah for a few minutes, as did some great friends from church who brought us food. After supper, Jaycie was quite happy to crawl into her own little bed , and Lee fell asleep giving the baby her evening bottle. I'm here on the blog, happy and full, and only a little sleepy.

Thank you all for following us on our journey, which is really just the beginning of our story. As we settle into "real life," please pray for Lee and me to be the parents God wants us to be, for Jaycie to grow in goodness and knowledge of Him, and for Hannah to continue to find her way in this world, safe in our arms and in God's tender care.

I'll continue to blog, but with a baby in the house and Lee at work and Jaycie at school, posts may likely be less frequent. However, there will be occasional updates on life here in Bowling Green. Until then, take care. Thanks for tagging along on our trip. Good night.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Lee's Final Post from China

Our last day in China, and I did it. I finally found a Starbucks. I don't know if our tour guides heard us all talking about it or not, but just after our Consulate appointments (where some little thing like taking an oath and getting Hannah's visa or something like that) the bus took a short pit stop outside this Starbucks. It was like a mad rush to pile off of the bus and get some coffee. And as if to make the day complete, they were brewing Guatemala Antigua - my absolute favorite.

I'm like Ashley, there's just so much going on inside that it is difficult to put into words. I am almost afraid that if I start, if I tap into the deep reservoir of emotion and thought, that I won't be able to stop, and that the resulting flood would wash you all away. I've actually been driven to writing poetry, if that tells you anything.

China is such a land of paradox. It is incredibly beautiful, yet strangely ugly; peacefully traditional yet chaotically modern. It is a land of dramatic progress, but tragic poverty. It is ancient and new, mysterious and easily understood. It is a country that is greatly to be feared, and yet even more greatly to be embraced. And now, after two weeks, I'd love to stay, but I can't wait to leave.

We have been treated so well here, and we have truly enjoyed our time. We have done a good bit of sightseeing, and even more shopping, and all along the way trying to absorb so much of the culture so we can transmit that to Hannah as she grows. We want to understand the wonderful heritage from which she comes, even though it is that same heritage that has made her an orphan. We want to know the answers to the questions that one day will come, to know why, what, where and how. We hate that she will feel that pain, yet we are thankful that this has brought her into our lives.

So here I will list some of the things, in no particular order, that I have learned while in China.
1. The Chinese culture is very moral. Couples are not permitted to live together unless they are married, and being an unwed mother is a source of shame. Even the music videos on Chinese MTV are very tame. The clothing is very appropriate (although I can't vouch for the content).
2. Education about sexual things, however, is lacking. It is this, in conjunction with their cultural norms about single parents, that leads to the high number of adoptive children.
3. When you go to the bathroom, take your own toilet paper.
4. We complain/make fun of the fact that many of the products we purchase in the U.S. are "Made in China." However, it is the factories that make these products that provide jobs for the Chinese people and help their economy.
5. When you order something called "Mixed Food in Chile Paste," it will (a)be hot and (b)have something that looks a lot like squid.
6. Squid in Chile Paste doesn't taste too bad.
7. The Chinese people are typically thin. I don't think I have seen anyone who is overweight and Chinese. I have a couple of theories about this. One involves bicycling, and the other involves eating rice with chopsticks.
8. The Chinese people are very polite...unless you are carrying a baby and don't have her legs covered up. They are very protective of their children.
9. The Chinese people are typically thankful and appreciative of couples who are adopting babies from their country. I was concerned about how they would view this, but they seem very aware of the problem.
10. When you go to get a Chinese massage, and they ask if you want to change clothes, wait for them to bring you new clothes before getting undressed.
11. When the Chinese masseuse brings her friends in to see the half-dressed Americans, just try to act natural. Pretend the spontaneous fits of laughter are from a joke their friend just told.
12. When the Chinese masseuse stands on the back of your legs and grabs your arms, watch out. It's going to hurt.
13. Chinese women, particularly those who work as masseurs, are enamored by chest hair.
14. We tend to look at China and make assumptions about it's people based on the limited information we receive. We forget that they are people who have grown up a certain way, and they are a lot like us.
15. The thing in your soup that is called "One Hundred Year Old Mushroom" is just for flavoring, not for eating.
16. The waiter standing next to your table will typically wait until you have tried to eat "One Hundred Year Old Mushroom" before filling you in about #15.
17. China is an incredible place, and I have loved it here. However, it wouldn't be the same without the many wonderful people we have met along the way. We have made some friends for life on this trip, and we will forever be connected through China.
18. I have an awesome family. Ashley has endured so much, not only on this trip but in the two years leading up to this, and she is a fantastic mom. Jaycie has been great, and her life will forever be changed because of her experience here. And of course, Hannah is a joy. She is becoming more and more comfortable with us each day, and vice versa. I enjoy her so much, and I can't wait for you all to meet her.

That's all. I hope you can learn from my experiences - I know I have. Next time we write we'll be in the U.S. Yippee!

Last Post from China by Ashley

There's so much that fills my heart right now - where do I begin? Today we did the last bit of paperwork, so that Hannah Li can come home with us. As soon as her feet hit American soil, she'll be a U.S. citizen. Two years worth of work to get to this point, and what a payoff! Our sweet little baby has given us so much joy already, and we'll have a lifetime of love to share with her.

So much has changed and so many blessings have been showered on us since we began this journey. Jaycie has patiently endured the wait with us, praying all the while, and has now become a big sister. There will be giggles all around when Jaycie's near. After almost 8 years as a family of 3, we are now a family of four. Our family is 25% bigger, and we have double the number of children we did two weeks ago. We are now a multi-cultural family. Lee and I will someday (we hope) have grandchildren who are at least half Chinese. We will always view China in a new light.

There's so much to look forward to, and we're so ready to introduce you to the latest member of our family. I've much more to say, but it's late, and I need to help pack. Pray for us as you read this. I think our Friday will be one of the longest days ever.

Good-bye, China, homeland of our beautiful Hannah Li. USA, here we come!

P.S. We're still arriving home late Friday night (10:45 p.m.); we having to go from here to Shanghai to Washington D.C. (Dulles) to Chicago to Nashville (boo!) - that's one too many legs in a reasonable flight, but we'll just have to manage. Again, pray for us!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Yesterday at the Temple and the Mall

We visited a Buddhist temple yesterday. It was a beautiful place, and quite interesting, but I had mixed feelings visiting. Jaycie was not too sure what to think either. It gave us a good opportunity to talk about the issue of "little 'g'" gods, but I think she left still a little puzzled. I think it's hard to fathom that many people worshiping any other being than Jehovah. I was glad we didn't have the monks blessing the babies ceremony; we just walked around and observed.

After that, we went to a mall, with floors and floors of pearls and other beads. The number of stores with strands of necklaces and tons of jewelry showcases was overwhelming. I've suffered several times from sensory overload on this trip. It happened again when we went to find some lunch for us. We found a McDonald's nearby and encountered tons of people in a very crowded shopping mall area.

The huge numbers of people everywhere we've been highlight the severity of the population problem here. There are tons of high-rise apartments throughout the city, and the city stretches way into the countryside. The buses are typically packed, as are all the stores we've been to. Each store has more than enough people working there, too many by American standards. They have people doing every job you can imagine. There are people with brooms sweeping the street. There seems to be at least one salesperson for every customer at nearby shops. Here at the hotel, there are hosts/hostesses at every floor, just waiting for you to get on and off the elevator. They push the up/down buttons for you if you're leaving and indicate the hallway your room is on when you exit the elevator.

I'll have to say that we have encountered amazingly sweet, helpful people in all the stores and restaurants. It seems that they are appriciative of our being here and thankful for our business. Everyone is genuinely polite, although some of the salespeople's flattery seems a little thick. But who can blame them? They're trying hard to make a good living, which I really admire.