Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dad's Birthday & Chinese New Year Celebration

Today was a day of celebration!  Today is Chinese New Year and tomorrow is my Dad's birthday, so we chose to combine the two events into one! My parents came up this afternoon when the boys were out of school and we had a little birthday party for my Dad.  My Mom made it Star Wars themed and the boys thought that was great!  I think my Dad secretly enjoyed it too.  

My Dad and the boys getting ready to blow out the Darth Vader candle

My Mom brought small 'party favor' bags and Caleb's had a light-up light saber (which Joshua calls a "light saver")

Joshua's had a new My Little Pony, one of his new favorite things! :)
Joshua was not sure he wanted to go to Chinese New Year.  He asked if he could bring his new pony, and we said yes-- especially since this is the Year of the Horse!!!

After Dad's birthday celebration we loaded up and went to the Texas A&M campus.  The Confucious Institute at Texas A&M puts on the annual Lunar New Year Celebration in Sbisa Dining Hall, which I believe is the largest dining hall in the world!  We arrived close to 6pm when it started and the place was already packed.  We got Chinese food from the serving area and luckily found a place to sit.  We also saw friends from church and my Facebook travel group who are adoptive parents of kids from China.  It was nice to see some familiar faces!  Joshua got a tattoo on his hand of a rabbit, which is his zodiac symbol.

Joshua posing with the horse for CNY and receiving his red envelope

After dinner we went outside where it was VERY cold and watched a group from Houston perform kung fu and a traditional lion dance. 

The performers stretching before the Kung Fu show

This guy was amazing!  I had never seen Kung Fu before and really enjoyed it- it was athletic and artistic all at the same time.

The performers had set up gongs and drums and Caleb was so nervous about the noise.  He kept his ears covered most of the time but ended up enjoying the lion dancers.

Traditional lion dancers.  Bryan and I had never seen this type of performance in person-- only on TV-- so it was great to experience it live!

After the performances, Joshua was fading fast.  We headed home while my Mom & Dad headed back into Sbisa to some of the demonstrations.  They had origami and traditional Chinese writing.  My Mom got this young woman to write "Welcome Home Hannah" in Mandarin so she can hold it up at the airport! As my Mom explained to the young woman what it was for, they began to discuss Hannah's age and where she was from.  Out of the billions of people in China and all the many, many populated cities -- would you believe that this woman is from Anyang City, the place where Hannah was born and currently lives??? I wish we had been there to meet this young lady and possibly get her contact information.  I would love to have a connection to Hannah's birth city that we could maintain for her, if anything to have a positive role model and friend of our family!

My Dad enjoying coffee & a cookie with the Mandarin writing

Joshua was pretty wiped out on our ride home.  He pulled his hat over his eyes and passed out!

I am sad to say that this was my first time to experience Chinese New Year.  Bryan and I had no idea that Texas A&M had this kind of event, in spite of being graduates.  The attendance and participation at the celebration was unbelievable.  As we sat and ate our dinner, surrounded by so many people of all races, but especially many people who look just like our Hannah- we watched a Tai Chi demonstration and I almost started crying.  To know that we have this amazing, welcoming community in our midst and that Hannah will grow up seeing the beauty of her culture was such an encouragement to me.  I can't wait to go to China and experience it first hand.  

Happy Chinese New Year to all the people we know & love! May the year of the horse bring you much prosperity, happiness, and blessings! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hannah's Room

I'm glad to say that Hannah's room is finally finished, aside from a few minor things that need to be completed.  I have really enjoyed decorating her nursery and hope that she will love it once she is adjusted to her new home.  

I had ideas in mind for my daughter's room when we designed and built our house.  I always wanted a window seat in my room growing up so I made sure our sweet Hannah had one!  Her room is the largest with an attached bath (the boys share a Jack-and-Jill style bathroom).  We designed it this way knowing that two girls could potentially share the room if needed, although we have no idea if/when we will adopt again.  

I started working on Hannah's room months before we even knew who "Hannah" would be!  I enjoyed picking out fabrics I liked and finding good deals on things as I went along.  We painted it ourselves and my mom & I sewed her crib bedding together.  I love how it looks, but not nearly as much as I love my sweet daughter!  Can't wait to see her grow up in this house, in our family, and sleep soundly in this bed!

Come in to  Hannah's Room!
Sweet little sign on her nursery door

View when you walk in the room
The green glider was in Caleb's nursery so it was nice to re-use it!
I still need to hang two pictures near her window seat.

Hannah's crib with her initials above it
The tiny rocking chair was mine when I was little and is signed on the bottom by my Paw Paw. 
She will also be able to play with the baby cradle and high chair that were mine as a child.

Hannah's fun crib bedding -- so thankful for my Mom's help!
It turned out exactly like I envisioned.
Her crib will someday convert to a toddler bed.

Close up of the inside of her crib, including a pillow made by my friend Barbara whose son is from the same orphanage as Hannah.

Hannah's dresser/changing table
This was the only item I splurged on because she will use it her whole childhood.  Everything else was done on a budget.  I believe the quote from Bryan as we stood in Pottery Barn Kids picking out her dresser was "Just get her whatever you think she needs".  Oh boy, he's in trouble!! :) 

View from the window seat
A family with triplets in our neighborhood gave me the dollhouse bookshelf for free!
I repainted it and think it looks so precious in her room.

Display shelf built for me by my Paw Paw when I was little

I bought a wooden monogram off Etsy and painted it myself to match Hannah's bathroom. Way cheaper than the ones sold by Pottery Barn Kids! I framed fabric from her bedding on either side.
The curtains were my one other splurge item because I loved them so much! So girly and they will match anything we put in her room in the future (this is the justification I gave Bryan...)

Hannah's bathroom
View from the hallway
Her bath will serve as a 'guest bath' when the kids get older and have friends over since it is accessible from the hallway.  This will keep people from having to use the bathroom that two teenage boys will share ;) 

Framed print of 1 Peter 3:3-4 & a custom hand towel made by my friend Laura to match her room!
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Another view of her bathroom

I have loved decorating a girly bedroom and bathroom for our Hannah just as much as I loved getting rooms ready for our boys.  We realize that most of the things in her room are 'extras' and luxuries-- what she needs most (and will receive the most of!) is unconditional love and support from us as her family.  I feel blessed to be able to give her a beautiful room to grow up in and blessed to be her Mama in just 18 days!

Friday, January 17, 2014


I am knee-deep in To Do lists at this stage in the game.  Bryan and I will head to the airport in just 18 days.  It takes a lot of organization, planning, and effort to get ready to leave the country for 18 days, leaving behind two children and two dogs with two sets of grandparents!  We are trying to pack light yet also bring anything we may need.  The process of getting ready has left our house looking like a bomb went off 24/7.

I made a 5 page typed list of things to do long ago.  I borrowed from other peoples lists, including my friend Jennifer, to help me think through everything that needed to be done.  While we have adopted internationally before, we have never done it when other children were being left at home.  I've been working hard on projects around the house, shopping for things we need for travel, packing Hannah's clothes, medicine, shoes, toys, books, etc and also preparing instructions and information for our parents while they graciously keep the boys.

Hannah's room is ready (I'll share pics in another post soon!) and we have set up Joshua's old crib in our room.  Hannah will likely sleep in our room for awhile when she comes home so that we can respond to her cries immediately.  Much of how we will parent her may not make sense to those of you who have had your babies with you from the moment of conception.  We will be working hard in China, and for months to come at home, on teaching Hannah that we are her sole caregivers who can be trusted and relied upon. 

I have worked hard on several things to help the boys while we are gone.  Caleb thrives on a schedule and predictability so I am trying to help them know what will happen each day we are gone by making little picture schedule books.  I also created personalized storybooks for them on Shutterfly that tells the story of our family.  It is our hope that all of our children will see the common ground in each of their stories, and that God was the author of it all.  I am also hoping that in reading about Hannah's story it will build empathy and love in them for their little sister.  I want them to understand as much as possible the circumstances she is coming from. 

In the midst of all this preparation, we are still the parents of two silly, fun and happy little boys!!  After dinner we heard giggling coming from our room and walked in to see this:

They have been happy to 'play baby' and get extra love and attention from us:

Trying out the Ergo

Shhh, the baby is sleeping!

Most importantly, I have loved looking back on the past year and seeing how God has prepared my heart for my daughter.  A year ago we had just turned in our medical conditions checklist with our agency and began our paperwork.  Now, a year later, we are in the final stages of preparation to become the parents of our third child. 

I can tell you I have felt like the parent of a third child for many, many months now- even before Bryan's heart was ready to start the adoption process again.  I knew in December 2012 that our daughter was out there and felt God's nudging to seek her out.  Throughout our 'paperchase' and time of waiting, God gave my heart a burden for her that is hard to explain.  I loved her and worried for her and longed for her without knowing her.  I don't expect many people to understand that feeling, other than my fellow adoptive parents who have been through similar journeys. 

During our wait I kept a calendar and would write down different moments in our time of waiting.  Specifically, days when my heart hurt for our unknown child.  I look back on those notes and see tangible proof of God's work.  He was equipping my heart for a time such as this-- for the very moment in the Civil Affairs office in Zhengzhou where we will receive our Hannah into our arms.  For the moments in the hotel room when she is crying and the only people to comfort her are strangers speaking a different language who look and smell different.  For the possible hard days that lie ahead as we seek out the best medical care for her.  God used those heavy feelings to build compassion in me for my new daughter. 

 I'm overwhelmed by what God has done and how He uses each of our kid's stories to bring glory to Himself.  We are honored to be a part of Hannah's story, and it is my hope that in following us on this journey to China you will catch a glimpse of the joy our Father has when He adopts us into His family. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

About Hannah & Amazing Hannah Video #2!

The time has come to share the second amazing video of our sweet daughter! In order to understand just how incredible it is, I think you have to understand Hannah's medical needs and background.  This video clip, while short, shows that Hannah is a strong, determined and accomplished little girl!

We are adopting Hannah through China's Waiting Child Program, or special needs program.  When we signed up for the program we indicated what medical conditions we felt comfortable with, and with limited knowledge we checked off 'arthrogryposis' on our list.  We must have been one of the only families who were open to it since our very large agency matched Hannah with us first.

Hannah was born with bilateral club feet and AMC, or arthrogryposis mulitplex congenita.  Most people have never heard of AMC, and honestly most of what we have learned has been since we reviewed Hannah's file and said 'absolutely yes!' to her as our daughter.  To explain briefly I'll borrow from the AMC support website:

What is Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (commonly called AMC)?

Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita is a condition that causes many joints to be stiff and crooked at birth. A newborn with Arthrogryposis lacks the normal range of motion in one or more joints. A joint that lacks normal range of motion is called a joint contracture. These joint contractures develop before birth (prenatally) and are evident at birth (congenitally). Arthro means joint, Gryposis means crooked, multiplex means multiple and congenita means existing at birth or present at birth. Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita is an umbrella and descriptive diagnosis. This means Arthrogryposis can be caused by an underlying condition or syndrome. This underlying condition is usually the type of Arthrogryposis.

No two people with AMC are affected in the same way.  There are actually 400 types of AMC!  For Hannah, we know that her ankles/feet are affected, hence her bilateral club feet at birth, and that her wrists are affected as well.   We have studied every photo we have of her and suspect there could be some issues with her hips and knees as well.  We are lucky to know that Hannah can bend and straighten both her knees and elbows.  Many kids with AMC cannot.

Here is a picture of our sweet Hannah in the world's largest diaper.  I'm guessing she is approximately 2-3 weeks old here, so only a few days after she was found in her birth city.   Unfortunately she appears to be doing a 'hook em horns' hand gesture, maybe due to joint contracture, so we hope to improve on that ;)  This picture shows her ankle and wrist contractures.

As I've mentioned before, Hannah was blessed to receive medical treatment from two different organizations in China.  The first, Little Flower, performed serial casting on her feet followed by utilizing a brace for up to 23 hours a day to help correct the placement of her feet.  This method is called the Ponseti method and is a hugely successful, non-surgical way to correct clubbed feet.  Hannah will likely need to wear the brace (which looks like a little pair of shoes with a bar in between) while she sleeps until she is in preschool.

 Hannah on the left in her Ponseti brace- guessing 4-5 months old?

After her bracing and casting was completed, Hannah went to live at another fantastic, loving group home called Eagles Wings.  She was loved and cherished at both foster homes and we are eternally grateful for that.

One of her caregivers took this precious video of Hannah crawling in one of the rooms at Eagles Wings.  When you understand what physical limitations her body has and the challenges she is up against, it is absolutely INCREDIBLE that our baby girl has the strength to pull herself across the floor all while wearing her brace.  We are just so in awe of her!  My favorite part of the video (which I have watched over and over and over!) is when she pauses and turns her head to look straight at the camera :)

We know from one recent orphanage photo that Hannah can stand up in her crib.  We don't know if her orphanage has been compliant in bracing her feet or if her feet have regressed, but we do know Hannah has met a developmental milestone while there and we are thrilled with her skill and determination.  We cannot wait to see all that God will accomplish in the life of our Hannah!

Under normal circumstances, I would not publicly discuss our daughter's medical needs.  Because her needs are visible to anyone, I wanted to use this opportunity to educate others on her medical condition and share all she has been through and accomplished.  For more information on AMC, here is a great FAQ page:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Travel Approval & Consulate Appointment!

Guess what?!?! We are D.O.N.E. done waiting on approvals and papers and emails and appointments-- this baby girl is going to be ours!! The only step left is to get on a looong plane ride and GO GET HER!

After waiting for nearly 3 weeks, our travel approval finally arrived last Friday at our agency's office.  The travel approval, or TA, is the final approval from the Chinese government that basically invites you to travel to China to adopt your child.  Once that TA was in hand, our agency submitted requests to the US Consulate in Guangzhou to obtain a visa interview appointment for Hannah.  The US Consulate normally responds in 24 hours but our process took longer because it was over the weekend.  We got word today that our consulate appointment (CA) is February 19th at 8:30am!

The rest of our travel itinerary is all dependent on the CA; it determines how soon we need to arrive in Beijing and when we can begin the long process of flying home.  I was thrilled to receive an email full of details from our agency once that CA had been made! They gave all kinds of instructions about booking flights and parameters on when to arrive and when we could depart.  It is so helpful to have guidance on these steps, especially because I tend to get emotional and flustered when we reach another adoption milestone!

I quickly went to work contacting several travel agents who specialize in adoption travel.  I also looked into booking our flights with air miles since we have been trying to accumulate them during this adoption process.  It became clear that because of our travel dates, using miles was out of the question.  I got similar quotes from all the agents and booked our flights with the one I thought was the nicest.  HA!  It is important to have the help of a travel agent during adoption trips - if something goes wrong in our adoption schedule it will be wonderful to have someone else working to rearrange our flights, etc. 

I also booked Hannah's first pediatrician appointment and contacted Shriner's so I can begin the paperwork to get her signed up as a patient.  We are thankful that they have physicians who treat her joint disorder on a regular basis.

Things are moving right along, and in the very best, most exciting direction.  We could not be more thrilled that we are nearing the end of this long but worthwhile journey!  Our daughter will be in our arms on Monday, February 10th (which will be the evening of Sunday, February 9th in the US).  34 more days and she will be an orphan no more.  We are coming, Hannah Ping!!