Thursday, April 29, 2010

Volcano Day







Katherine's class has become obsessed with volcanoes. It started with the volcano eruption in Iceland and just keeps going. K.'s teacher brought in ash from Mt. St. Helens and they watched videos about volcanoes. Katherine even asked me if we flew over Iceland on the way to China! This week, the volcano interest finally cumulated into Volcano Day. One of K.'s classmates and his dad built a volcano from a 2 liter bottle and lots of clay. They brought it to school, along with 3 gallons of vinegar and 4 boxes of baking soda. Ever kid got to make the volcano erupt and they loved it! I went out after about the 20th eruption and they still screamed with excitement every time the volcano foamed! Another kid brought in a volcano shaped cake - chocolate with red "lava" icing. What a fun day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1st Anniversary of Referral Day




One year ago today, on April 27, 2009, we saw this little face for the first time. We fell in love with her instantly. We had been through Referral Day before, but with Katherine we knew that referrals werre coming any day and we knew our baby would be among them. Rachel's referral came out of the blue and it was the sweetest surprise I have ever had...


Let me explain the pain and grief that came before Rachel. We started the paperwork for oue second child on January 1, 2006. Katherine was not quite 2 years old and had been home just over a year. We figured that by following the timeline to Katherine's arrival, we would travel right at the end of the school year in 2007. 16 months, no problem! We quickly learned that the adoption process in China had slowed dramatically since Katherine came home and that we were caught in a never-ending slow down. Our paperwork finally was sent to China in July 2006 and we were told the wait times for a referral were at least a year and probably longer. We were disappointed, but still optimistic.


Time passed, but we never seemed to get any closer to a referral. Instead of processing a month and a half worth of log-in dates each month, the Chinese government was processing only a few days worth of log-ins. We had said from the very beginning that we were interested in a special needs child and kept reminding our adoption agency. China sends out periodic lists of children with various special needs and our agency received 2 or 3 lists a year. We checked them all, but there was never a child listed that seemed to fit our family. Then the Chinese government changed the way they processed special needs children and for reasons that were never explained, our agency stopped getting lists at all.


As the process dragged on and on, my longing for a child never stopped. I started searching the websites of other adoption agencies and scanning special needs lists, looking for a child who might me mine. I inquired about a number of children, but all were already taken. Meanwhile, Katherine turned 3, then 4, then 5. I had never intended for her to be an only child and I grieved for the sister she did not have. Steve and I rarely talked about this unknown child we were waiting on. It was just too painful. Sometimes we discussed just giving up, but always decided to hang on a little longer.


In early April, 2009 we met with our case worker, Alison, for yet another home study update. (Our paperwork, including home studies and fingerprinting, had to be re-done repeatedly which only made the whole process even more frustrating.) We told her again that we were very interested in a special needs child, if our agency ever received another list. We had a wide range of special needs that we were willing to consider, but both Steve and I were drawn to the category of "limb differences" - things like clubbed feet, webbed fingers, and unusually formed hands.


On April 27, we received a generic e-mail from our agency stating that, after an 18 month silence, they had received a long-awaited special needs list. Steve and I were excited that the SN lists were finally coming in, but also disappointed. We had heard nothing from the agency, so our girl must not be among the children listed. Still, it was a little ray of hope.


That evening, as Steve was putting Katherine to bed, the phone rang. It was Alison. I was surprised to hear her and figured she was needing something else for the home study. But she didn't. Instead she said, "Dillon [our agency] received a special needs list today and I there's a little girl on it that I think would be a perfect fit for your family." I couldn't speak, could hardly even breathe. Alison went on, "She just turned 17 months old and her reports say she is missing her left palm." I knew instantly she was ours! Before Alison could go on, I started shouting "Yes! Yes! We want her!" Steve had picked up on the conversation and hustled Katherine into bed and then he got on the other line. We listened to Alison read all of Chen Fu Shen's reports and the scanty information included, but we knew in our hearts that THIS was our girl. A few minutes later Alison e-mailed us Fu Shen's pictures. She was beautiful! The photos were undated, but I am guessing that she was perhaps 8 months old in the first picture (my favorite). We stared into that little face and wondered who was behind that shock of hair and those big brown eyes. Then we woke up Katherine and told her. She called our parents and shouted into the phone, "My baby sister's on the internet!"


We didn't sleep that night, or for several more nights. Instead, we ran around with silly grins on our faces and seemed to float through the air. I remember being filled to the brim with joy. And relief. And gratefullness. I had been looking for my girl for so long and I had finally found her. Now the weeks and months until we brought Rachel home were awful, the waiting more painful than I had ever imagined. But that night I didn't know that yet. I only knew the wonder of finding the child meant to be mine.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kindergarten Program




Katherine had her end-of-the-year kindergarten program tonight. The kids sang several songs and did a dance (K. has been singing these for weeks, so we knew what we were going to hear!). Her teacher said nice things about each student and passed out awards. It was fun to see Katherine and all of her classmates, most of whom I have had in class, standing there so tall and proud. Then we went back to the classroom to look at Katherine's art work and read through the huge scrapbook of all the things she has done this year. Katherine has adored kindergarten and her teacher, Mrs. Creamer. She has just bloomed this year, learning huge amounts of information, growing in confidence, and coming SO far socially. It has been a wonderful year for her. But I can tell that she's ready to move on to bigger and better things. The last song of the program ended with the line "Look out 1st grade here we come!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dandelions




The girls and I went "hiking" through a wooded nature trail this evening. The weather was beautiful and the dappled light through the trees was gorgeous. There were wild flowers blooming, but Rachel was fascinated by the dandelions. There were lots and lots of tall dandelion puffballs just perfect for blowing. Rachel picked dozens and blew and blew and blew on each one. It was too cute!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Letter from China

I have written before about Rachel's foster mother and the day little Fu Shen became ours. I am so grateful to her for the care she gave Rae. When we left that civil affairs office with a screaming and terrified Rachel, our guide handed us a bag of goodies that the foster mother had left for us. Included in the bag was a little photo album stuffed full of pictures of Rachel and her foster family. On the back cover were their names and address. This winter, I wrote them a letter (translated by a Chinese friend) and sent pictures. I was hoping to find a link to Rachel's past and the mysteries of her first 21 months. I also wanted to tell the foster family thank you.
Friday, I found a gift in the mail. A letter from the foster family, written in beautiful Chinese. I took it to be translated today and am deeply moved by what Rachel's foster mother had to say. Here is the letter, roughly translated:
Dear Fu Shen's family, We received your letter and pictures. Our family appreciates that you sent news about Fu Shen. We send greetings to all of Fu Shen's grandparents. We wish them a happy and healthy life. Our family has read your letter over and over again. Thank you so much! It was a happy day for us when the letter came. Fu Shen is a very smart and a happy child. We can see your love for her. We are grateful Fu Shen has your family to love her and we are glad that you have the good fortune to have her. We praise God for that. Fu Shen was a very lovely child. When she was in our home, everybody liked her. The whole neighborhood liked her. All of the neighbors have come to see the pictures and letter. They look at them over and over and talk about good times with Fu Shen. In our hearts, we give Fu Shen to you. It was very hard to give her up. From the pictures, we know she is growing and happy. You said Fu Shen remembers us. This makes us very happy. She is still young, so you have lots of time to teacher her and watch her grow up. We would like it if you could continue to send us letters and pictures of Fu Shen. We will pray to God for you from far away China and wish you happiness and joy.
Beautiful, isn't it? I will certainly send more letters and pictures! It's a rare and amazing gift to be able to connect with someone who know and loved my daughter before I did. I will treasure the words of this other mom.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Trike Time




Rachel has been longing for a bike. When she sees someone on a bike, she gets excited. When Katherine rides her bike, Rae watches and points and sometimes cries because she can't get on it. We still have Katherine's old tricycle, but it's too big for Rachel. So, today we went trike shopping. Rachel now has her very own bike - a pink Radio Flyer tricycle with a big steering handle attatched to the back. She can't quite pedal it yet, but she is thrilled to ride!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pow Wow


This evening, I took the girls to a nearby All-Tribal PowWow. They were both fascinated. We sat and listened to the drumming and watched the dancers for a couple of hours. Katherine asked lots and lots of questions, only some of which I could answer. All of us were inpressed by the fabulous clothing of the dancers - everything from eagle feathers and badger fur to rainbow ribbons and sequins. Katherine looked longingly at the little girls in jingle dresses, but her favorites (and Rachel's, too) were these dignified older men. I was in awe, too!

Tulip Time







We went to Tulip Time at the Arboretum in Belle Plaine this morning. The weather was beautiful and the Arboretum was gorgeous! The girls had a grand time wandering through the flower garders, playing on a giant swing, having their faces painted, and dancing to music. Photo opportunities abounded!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kindergarten Zoo Trip


Katherine's class went to the zoo today. My Aunt Sharon went with her. By all accounts they had a terrific time! The weather was beautiful, the animals were active, and aunt and great-niece enjoyed each other's company. Kate went to bed tired and I imagine Aunt Sharon did, too. I'll bet it's been a looooong time since she's ridden a school bus!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Welcoming Jacob

Last evening Katherine and I drove to the aiport to greet friends of ours as they brought their new son home from South Korea. We met these friends 5 years ago, when they were waiting to be matched with their daughter Piper, who is from China. Since then we have been to FCC parties, China Camp, and lots of adoption agency events with them. They first saw Jacob's picture in August and have waited all these long months for him. And now he is HOME. And he is adorable!
Being at the airport always brings back memories of bringing my girls home. Our social worker was there last night and we discussed what wonderful moments we had witnessed in that hallway. I loved being able to be there to welcome a new child and to give my support to his parents. Jacob doesn't realize it yet, but he is now part of a huge, amazing, extended family of adoption. And I can't wait to watch him grow up surrounded by all of us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter is here!











Since we live in a house of Early Bird girls, we decided to go to our church's just-past-sunrise service beside a lake in a local retirement community. It was gorgeous out, even at 8:00 AM! Afterward we went to the church for breakfast and Sunday school. I played bells for the service and Steve took the girls home to get a start on Easter dinner. Mom and Dad came for ham and all the fixin's. Later, Mom and I took the girls to a photographer friend for some Easter pictures with real rabbits. Rachel and I took a walk this evening in 81 degree weather - the nicest Easter I can remember!




Now for the pictures. Mom made the girls' dresses, just as she used to make Easter dresses for my sister and me. Both girls look darling in them! They wore sweats underneath for early church and added spring hats later. The next two pictures are shots Mom took during the photo shoot - I'm sure the photographer got some great pictures, too! The last picture is how Rachel entertained herself on the drive home. Can you do that? I sure can't!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Coloring Easter Eggs
















We dyed Easter eggs this evening at Granny and Poppy's. I decided it would be safest to just strip Rachel down to her diaper - good idea, since she ended up with dye on her chest, belly, hands, and lips! She adored dying eggs and stirring them, tasting the dye (yuck!), dropping eggs in the dye cups, cleaning up the spilled dye, etc. Katherine would happily dye eggs all day long, so she was disappointed that we were only coloring a dozen. It was all a glorious mess!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters

Sisters

Sisters
Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way