I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Celebrate good times!

How did we celebrate Super-T's second Family Day?  

Field trip to our friend's farm:

Super-T loves animals! The goats were his favorites.

Tiny baby calf...so soft.

This piglet was a super squealer!

This cow was friendly and wanted us to pet her.
Little Pud loves horses!

  Quick stop to fill up with gas:

Okay, so this wasn't so much a part of our celebration as that I happened to have the camera with me on our way home from the farm and couldn't resist capturing my girl's unique style and love for helping mom pump gas.

Dinner at a Chinese restaurant:

Although the food was good at this "authentic" restaurant (much better than at the typical Chinese mega-buffet), it couldn't compare to the delicious food we ate in Hong Kong.   We sure enjoyed it, though.  These kids clean up pretty good, don't you think?

Making Valentines for veterans at Campfire:

It was a perfect day to celebrate my little Chinese-American boy!  We love you, Super-T!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two years ago right now...

...we were flying home in what ended up being a VERY long day.  This past week I have been a bit reflective, remembering our week in Hong Kong.   We arrived in HK on Jan. 18, 2010, met Super-T on Jan. 20, and came home Jan. 26.   We are celebrating today as "Family Day" (and combining it with our Chinese New Year celebration just because the dates happen to coincide this year).

Warning:  This post is looonnngggg and very picture heavy!  And it was so hard to leave out so many pictures.  I didn't include any of our wonderful relatives who live in HK, no Disneyland pictures (my uncle took me to Disney for my first time ever at age 39...I walked around with a silly grin on my face the whole day), no Victoria Peak pictures, no Star Ferry pictures...I left out a LOT and there are still so many.

Hong Kong is an absolutely wonderful place to visit.  I had the privilege of visiting HK and mainland China in the mid-1990's and loved both then, but now that HK is an integral part of our family history and culture, my affection for it has grown.  I would highly recommend visiting if you ever get the chance.  That said, these pictures are all about Super-T and our first days with him, not about the vibrant city.  The Philosopher (new blog pseudonym alert...my eldest, formerly known as LOTL) was my traveling companion.  He was a wonderful traveler and helper.  I think you'll see from these pictures that the boys' brother-bond started from the first moment.

Words cannot describe meeting my son for the first time.  His house mother, Auntie Sue, had delayed his bath time because she knew we were due to arrive at any minute.  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of our first meeting.  I just didn't think of it, but was living in the moment.  After meeting Super-T and getting to know him a tiny bit, Auntie Sue invited me to help with his bath (although I wasn't really any help at all).  The first look at his scars took my breath away.  My sweet boy had several open heart and other surgeries as a baby.  It hurts that I wasn't there for him.  I hope someone was, but I'll likely never know.

Our first evening with Super-T we ate dinner (complete with pumpkin pie for these Americans, yum!) and then played with blocks.  Note the cute pajamas...more about them later.   After building and knocking down many towers, we went into the living room and looked through his lifebooks and photo albums with his house parents.  Absolutely incredible.  Super-T slept in his own bed that night and we slept in another room down the hall.  It was as good an adoption transition as you can imagine.

Just look at these boys!  They are less than 4 months apart in age.  They were both nine years old at the time.  We were heading out to Super-T's (former) school and then to do a bit of sightseeing with Super-T's social worker.  The lady in the hallway is one of the founders of the home Super-T lived in from before he turned five until we came and got him.  She and her friend started the home back in 1965...two young single British women with a call on their lives.  They are both still there and involved in the home.  They send Super-T birthday and Christmas cards.  Amazing women of God...willing to live radical lives and show crazy love to those society has deemed unlovable.

We visited the school, where I was told that Super-T was a "pop star" and they gave him gifts of a winter hat and long mittens (because compared to semi-tropical HK we live in the frozen tundra).  He was obviously loved by his teachers, who were thrilled that he was heading to a new life with a family of his own.  We then went to a tiny train museum.  This was the first time I had an inkling that there was more going on behind Super-T's non-verbal exterior.  He was very interested in how the trains hook up and all the levers and cogs and what-not.  I was so excited to find out that my little boy is mechanical just like his big brother.

That evening we ate with Super-T's house parents and played with his house-sister, who he had lived with since they were two years old.  The kids loved playing the drums so much that they broke one.  Whoops!  Back to the pajamas...seriously, it is the little things...these pajamas that Super-T is wearing and the monkey ones from the first night were thick heavy-weight 100% cotton flannel.  The kind you can't buy for kids in the USA.  They were gorgeous.  And the slippers?  Boiled wool!  Are you kidding me?  Are these orphan children loved or what?!?!  Auntie Sue and Uncle Pete (Super-T's house parents) bought them in England and carried them back to Hong Kong so the kids would have warm and cozy pajamas.  Seriously NO kids in the USA have as nice pj's as these (don't even get me started on that one...what a rabbit trail...)

That night was our first night as a family.  Auntie Sue had moved Super-T's sheets, pillow, and teddy bears in onto a cot in our room while we were gone to the train museum.  She also brought in his HUGE suitcase FULL of clothes and toys.  Again, it was the best scenario possible, but still falling asleep was so hard for my sweet boy.  He really didn't understand what was going on, even though he had been prepared as much as possible.  How do you comfort a child to whom snuggling and holding at bedtime is stressful and not sleep-producing?  How do you make him understand that his mommy loves him, when he has never had a mommy?  How can he know he is safe when he is with people he just met yesterday?  Super-T was used to going to sleep by himself and now there were two other new people in this strange room.  I can't even imagine how stressful it was for him.  Fortunately the next morning (early) we discovered that he enjoyed coloring.  Whew!  What a life-saver.  At last he had something to do that he enjoyed and we had made it through the first night.

That day we again went out with Super-T's social worker (who was also WONDERFUL...seriously the people we dealt with in HK were incredible!!!)  We went to a hands'-on science museum.  Below you see The Philosopher driving a car simulator (note the steering wheel on the "wrong" side).  We love museums, and Super-T was a trooper.  He especially loved the transportation to get from one place to another (buses and trains and taxis).  We also went shopping that day for traditional Chinese clothes for the family and gifts for Little Pud.   And my jet-lagged self found out that a Starbucks vanilla frappuccino doesn't have any caffeine in it...yes, I am that sheltered.  I was very disappointed (and sleepy), but the boys were happy since they got to drink most of it.

The next day, Super-T's social worker was unavailable, so we had the privilege of spending the day with the people who had been Super-T's family for the past four and a half years.  I cannot even describe how incredible they are.  In fact, if I try, I will have a whole blog post about them instead of about Super-T.   They are just amazing!   We love them and now consider them part of our extended family.  We went to a waterfront village that I don't remember the name of.  It was super fun, very authentic Chinese-village feeling, rather than the big city.  This was the hardest day to whittle the pictures down.  It was just wonderful.

That evening was to be our last night there.  Auntie Sue made a nice dinner; and after we ate, I told her that I would help with the clean up so she and Uncle Pete could have some time to play with Super-T.  I am in tears just thinking of that evening.  How do you let a child go who you have loved, hugged, comforted, potty-trained, cooked for, read books to, played with, and really been a mom or dad to for four and a half years?  What a bittersweet time.  I sneaked out and took several pictures and even some video of hilarious laughter before joining in the fun.  I love this photo of after Uncle Pete had bounced the ball off Super-T's head.  Do you see that wall behind them?  Those are pictures of the kiddos this incredible couple loved for a time and then let go of.   They adopted one precious girl from HK to add to their forever family, and continue to love the other children from afar.  Uncle Pete and Auntie Sue, you are my heroes!

The next morning we had the privilege of attending church with the family.  It was an international church and the pastor was from Texas!  It was like having a little slice of home.  The pastor prayed for our family and Super-T's Sunday School teachers said goodbye to him.  It was a beautiful morning, full of tears and smiles.

After lunch there were the really hard goodbyes and then we were back to the city.  It was nice to be back with my family again and thrilling to introduce them to their new nephew/cousin, but there were still things to do.  Super-T's social worker took us back to the child care facility where he had lived from when he got out of the hospital at almost age two until he went to live with Auntie Sue and Uncle Pete at nearly five.  This is the organization that facilitated his adoption.  We saw people who cared for Super-T as a toddler.  We saw the room he lived in.  We were given gifts from his former caregivers.  Everyone was so loving and excited that Super-T's forever family had found him after all those years.  Here is the famous stairway picture...I think all children who are adopted from here have a picture on this stairway.

We then did a bit more sightseeing with my family.  There is so much to see and so much to do in HK!  I love it!

The next morning, it was off to the airport.

The two boys and I began our LONG trek home.  By this time I was so missing my sweet girl and home in spite of the wonderful time we had in Hong Kong.  (The Philosopher especially enjoyed all the crazy kinds of juice there...note the kiwi juice he had on the plane.)

Neither boy slept much (and therefore neither did mom).  We had a long layover in Japan and missed several flights once we got to the USA (Lesson: always leave plenty of time for immigration), but we FINALLY made it home late at night.  I don't have any pictures of our airport scene (if any friends do, I would love to get them!), but driving all the way home from the airport Super-T was laughing.  I thought that he somehow understood that he was home, now I know better.   He just loves riding in the car, and especially riding at night in traffic.  :)

The next morning, Little Pud and The Philosopher introduced Super-T to his new life...

We love you so much, Super-T!  We are so thankful that you are in our family!  Happy Family Day!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Widowhood, single-parenting, and adoption

Yesterday I went to an international adoption seminar to fulfill some of my agency's adoption education requirements.  It was a wonderful, informative, and fun seminar (I just love adoption education), however it was a tad uncomfortable at times and brought up some interesting thoughts.

At the beginning of the seminar, we all went around the table and introduced ourselves.  There were five or six married couples, two presenters (one was the social worker who did Super T's home study and postplacements and my current home study), and me.  When I introduced myself I chose to say just that I was a "single mom" and didn't mention being widowed.  I also said that I had two children by birth, one adopted son, and that I was in the process of adopting again.  My social worker is also a widow whose husband died a number of years ago when she had small children.  Immediately upon my introduction she put in a good word for me, saying that I was "amazing" or something like that.  At the moment I downplayed her complement, but as the day wore on, I appreciated it more and more.  I'm sure she had an inkling that I was not going to fit in and wanted to help the situation.  Although no one was rude or ugly, or even overtly standoffish, it was abundantly evident that I was "different."  This was interesting to me because I don't have a chip on my shoulder, I am friendly and easy to talk to, we had important stuff in common (adoption!), and in my almost nine years as a single mom have had very few times where I have felt left out or put down because of my situation (unlike many of my friends who are widows and have horrible stories of people being downright rude to them).  In the two situations I can think of (this one and one other) both times people didn't know I was a widow.  They just knew that I was a single mom.  In the other situation, (a long-term, ongoing situation where people weren't mean or rude, they just weren't warm and friendly), as soon as one of the non-warm people found out I was a widow (a year later), her whole demeanor toward me changed.  Interesting.

After the adoption meeting I wondered if people were judging me, thinking, "This woman can't even keep her marriage together and now she's adopting?"  It was not a nice thought.  I regretted not telling that I was a widow.  It is always a decision whether to tell or not.  Usually the opportunity doesn't even present itself without it being awkward, and it really isn't an issue.  The kids are thriving, I am happy, life is great, and we are just people like everyone else so why make a big deal out of it?  But this is the first time that I remember being presented with the perfect opportunity (i.e. "introduce yourself and tell us something interesting about yourself") and not taking it.   I really dislike the pity that inevitably follows the revelation that my husband died when I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, leaving my toddler son and I alone.  However, that pity is quickly dispelled when I tell how God has been faithful and how great we are doing.  Apparently "single-mom-stigma" is not quite so easily dispelled.  Lesson learned.

The other lesson I learned after reflecting on this is how often I judge people based on very little information: maybe how they look or what they wear or the make of their car or a single comment they make in a meeting.  Is it right to judge like that?  Is it godly?  Pot, meet Kettle.  I really can't complain about those truly nice couples in the meeting.  How many times have I done the same thing?  How many times have I seen someone driving a very expensive car and thought, "What a waste.  That would fund an entire adoption."  (Seems to me that Judas said something similar.)  I remember thinking that and later found out that the car had been given to the family as a gift and they were almost embarrassed to drive such a nice car.  Very humbling and totally changed my thoughts toward them.  Another lesson learned.

As for the question of whether or not a single woman should adopt, Linny at A Place Called Simplicity answered it very well here:  http://aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/2009/08/should-single-woman-adopt.html

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where am I? (a.k.a. adoption timeline)

Oct. 19, 2011   Found Baby Girl on Reece's Rainbow
Oct. 20, 2011   Wondering if this is not just for advocacy...maybe she is ours.  (See "Rosa")
Oct. 25, 2011   Turned in Application Part 1--approved the same day!!!
Nov. 18, 2011   Super T's adoption is finalized.
Nov. 21, 2011   Turned in Formal application and piles of supporting documents.
Dec. 6,  2011    Formal application approved!
Dec. 19, 2011   First home study visit (we had 3 more visits in late Dec. and early Jan.)
Dec. 29, 2011   Turned in Family Sponsorship Program forms to Reece's Rainbow.
Jan. 9, 2012      Home study rough draft turned in

After the home study is approved, I will send off for immigration approval, and after that my paperwork will go to Baby Girl's country to await official matching approval and finally the court order saying I can come get her.  I will likely put a version of this post on a permanent tab at the top of the page so I can keep it updated.

The beginning stages of this adoption process are moving much more quickly than they did with Super T's process.  His whole process took 18 months.  I know you aren't supposed to compare one process to another because they can all be so different, but I am really hoping that Baby Girl will be home before next Christmas (14 months from the start).  I don't know if that is realistic or not, but that is my hope.  I trust in God's perfect timing, but I am praying for quick approvals.

Friday, January 13, 2012

An experiment...

The June 13th reading of Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest has a startling statement.
If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you.

My first question (as it should be any time you hear something from outside the Bible):  Is this scriptural?  The answer:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  Rom. 12:1

It is very exciting being God's holy experiment!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ten chapters per day revisited

Last February I wrote about the new Bible reading plan I had started in January 2011. Today I want to update how that went and tell about my Bible reading plan for 2012.

As of today, I am on day 106 of my original 10-chapter-a-day plan linked above.  If you click the link, you'll see that on Feb. 25, 2011 I was on day 40.  Hmmmm...that's not much progress.  As a geeky math teacher I couldn't help crunching the numbers.  The first 56 days of 2011 I read 71% of the reading I was "supposed" to, then the next 309 days of 2011 I read less than 21% of what I was "supposed" to read.  Do I feel condemned?  Discouraged?  NO!  Fortunately God doesn't accept us based on our performance (whew!)  BUT to a large extent my spiritual growth is tied to my ingestion of the Word, so reading, studying, and thinking about the Bible is VITAL!

Why the low rate?  Well, I wrote about it a bit here and here.  Basically, life got busy and sometimes I didn't follow through (in other words, sometimes I slept in and didn't read my Bible at all).  On many days I would only get half the reading done, so one day's worth of reading would take two (or more) days.  Also I spent some time going in-depth in a topic or two rather than reading the 10-chapters-per-day.  In-depth study is just as important as an overview.  We need a balance of in-depth study and reading the whole counsel of God.

My plan for this year is to just continue.  I consider this method a rousing success even though I have been slow getting through it.  It has helped me make connections like no other Bible reading plan has.  Although I have only done 105 days of this plan, I have completely read through each of the four New Testament sections and two of the six Old Testament sections.  In fact, I am on my third reading of the shortest New Testament section. (If none of this makes sense you can click on the first link above for a more in-depth explanation of the plan.)

Many parts of the Bible have linked together for me more than ever before.  Pieces of the puzzle are coming together.  I am starting to see the Bible more as a cohesive whole with a single author and a single message, rather than a bunch of good but somewhat unrelated ideas.  And I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  I love making it through all ten chapters in a morning! (But I also love delving deeply into a topic.)  I like having a plan, but I am willing to deviate from it as led. 

I am looking forward to being more consistent and growing even more in 2012.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Confessions of a paper pregnant mom

For those new to adoption lingo:  being in the process of adopting is often called a paper pregnancy.

I let my kids watch cartoons for way too long while I filled out reams of paperwork.

I think about fingerprints.  A lot.  And not fingerprints on the windows or doors...my fingerprints.  Will Homeland Security be able to get good ones?  I am now obsessed with hand lotion in hopes of having better prints.  Why do I always have to get fingerprinted in winter?

It doesn't seem strange to write checks for $1000, $2000 or even $4000.

I am obsessed with all things adoption (ummm...except for "adopt a highway").  Just like I read What To Expect When You're Expecting, I now read adoption books and blogs, anything I can get my hands on.  I love adoption education. 

I can't help comparing this paper pregnancy with my two physical pregnancies.

{My sincerest apologies to those of you on this road to adoption after dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss.  The thought of your grief stabs me to the heart and almost makes me not want to publish this post.  Please don't read further if it will cause you pain.}

Right now I feel like I am in my second trimester.  The really rough exhaustion and morning sickness of the first trimester is over...it came in the form of mountains of paperwork and preparing for my homestudy.  The really truly hard part of the pregnancy is still far ahead (in paper pregnancies it is the WAITING while you are powerless to do anything to help things along).  I am now in the happy part where I am starting to "show" (i.e. tell everyone), and I still have some stuff that I can do to make the process move a tiny bit faster.  There are still things that are in my control.  All of this will soon end and the waiting will begin.

I would estimate the first trimester of a paper pregnancy lasts about 3 months usually (for me this time it was only two months...trying to get it moving along), the second one maybe 2-3 months, it is the third one that is rough.  And it can last a LONG time.  Probably 6 months at the very least, but for some people it can literally be years.

One major bad thing about a paper pregnancy:  the undetermined amount of time.  Some people are paper pregnant for 3 or 4 years.  Uggh!  With Super-T it was 18 months...twice as long as a "regular" pregnancy.  With Baby Girl I am hoping for 12-14 months, but as I said most of it is out of my control.  

One good thing about paper pregnancy:  I will be able to bend over and tie my own shoes even up to the day they put Baby Girl in my arms.  When I was pregnant the old-fashioned way, the thing I looked forward to, second only to holding my baby in my arms, was being able to bend at the waist again. 

Monday, January 2, 2012


Back in mid-October I went to the Reece's Rainbow website.  I was just checking in and browsing around and saw that they needed warriors for the Angel Tree.  I decided to sign up.

I found a sweet little girl "Rosa" who didn't have a picture and who was medically in basically the same situation Super T was in at that age.  I always think the kids from the countries that don't allow pictures are at a disadvantage on a photolisting site, and I sure didn't want this sweet girl to wait nine years for a family like Super T did.  I could tell a few additional facts about her because of her ID numbers at the top of her listing and these things intrigued me.  Also her date of birth caught my eye.  I emailed the person in charge of Angel Tree and said that I would like to be Rosa's Christmas Warrior.  I would advocate and raise money for this baby girl so she could find a family.

By the next day my thoughts had changed...

Here is the link to the information Reece's Rainbow has about Rosa

I think the name situation is confusing.  "Rosa" is just a made-up-name for the website.  She also has a legal name, another name that her carers call her, and we will be naming her something completely different from any of these names.  I uses pseudonyms for my kids on this blog so "Rosa" will be Baby Girl.  I do have pictures now, but won't be able to post them here for legal reasons.

If you see me in real life I would be thrilled to share her future name and cute pictures with you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

...DRUM ROLL PLEASE...Our #1 for 2011 is...

We started the process to make a little girl a member of our family!

Baby Girl has been living in a hospital in Asia for nearly her entire twenty months.  Her health situation is very similar to what Super T's was at that age.  She should be released from the hospital soon to move to a child care facility where she will be well taken care of until we travel to bring her home.  

I am so thankful that Baby Girl won't have to wait until she is nine years old to have a family of her own.  She should be home before she turns three!  Please join us in our rejoicing and follow along with us on this wonderful new adventure!  More of her story and ours will be coming soon.

                      {Next year we will have five silly faces in our Christmas party photo booth pictures!}

Happy New Year from our joyful family to yours!