Sunday, December 18, 2005

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

We're ready for Christmas at our house -- we have the tree up and decorated, the stockings hung, the presents wrapped, the Christmas carols playing. All we're waiting for now is children! Lauren and Brandon will be here Christmas day, but the little one won't be arriving until spring. Still, we have a stocking up for her, as you can see -- plus stockings for the four of us and the three animals. It's difficult knowing that our daughter is all the way over in China instead of here with us, but we have a feeling we'll be making up for that next year!

Originally we told you that we expected to have our referral -- that's the photos and basic information about our baby -- by late January or early February. Things in China have slowed down a bit, so now we're thinking it'll be March before we have a glimpse of her (and likely May before we travel). Our agency tells us that in the 11 years that they've been helping people adopt babies from China, the wait times have ranged from three months to 2 1/2 years! So they -- and we -- still think that a nine-month wait from our dossier being sent over until we have her in our arms isn't that bad. Those of you who have biological children had to wait the same amount of time, after all.

It's hard to tell why the wait times have slowed down a month or two since we applied, but it appears that the Chinese government received an unusually large number of dossiers in March, April and May. Ours was sent in July, so all the ones ahead of us have to be matched with babies before we get our turn. So the same number of children are being adopted, it's just taking a little longer because there are more people in line. And for all we know, it could speed up again next month for no particular reason. We'll keep you posted on what we know.

We hope you all have the merriest of Christmases and a blessed new year!

Susan and Lance

P.S -- Don't forget to send your contribution for the quilt! (you didn't think I'd forget that, did you?)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Quilt is Under Way!

The photo on our home page (EDITED: photo now unavailable) is of the first piece of fabric for our baby’s 100 Good Wishes Quilt (see Oct. 15 entry for details on how to contribute).

My coworker Grace Aduroja gave this piece of cloth to me; it comes all the way from Nigeria. Grace’s parents are from Nigeria, too, so she wanted her contribution to be from that part of the world. She’s promised to get her good wish for the baby to me on Monday (she’s a reporter, so she has trouble writing when she’s not on deadline!)

Some people have asked if we want to use a certain color scheme in our quilt. The answer is no --we want everyone to contribute something they like, and then we’ll see what we have! The more colors and patterns in the fabrics, the more beautiful (and unique!) the quilt will be.

Members of both families are coming to our house Thursday for a big Thanksgiving meal. One member of our family is still in China, of course, but we give thanks for her all the same. We wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving as well.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Baby talk

When I say I'm taking a beginning Mandarin class, many people ask me, with a bit of surprise in their voices, "How old will this child be?" I tell them I'm not learning Chinese to communicate with the baby as much as I'm preparing for our trip next spring. I'm also preparing to raise a child who -- we hope -- will be proud of her birthplace.

Learning a foreign language teaches you a lot about the people who speak it. Our teacher, who once worked as a translator, has traveled extensively throughout China and has many interesting tales of the people he knows. He has taught us a lot about Chinese culture and history even as he makes sure we can order wine or ask where the bathroom is. He has videotapes of Chinese soap operas, newscasts and variety shows that he plays before the beginning of class each week. It's quite the education!

On the other hand, I also am learning the language partly so I can say things to the baby in the only language she has ever heard. Even though the day she is placed in our arms will be one of the happiest days of our lives, it could be terrifying for our little girl. She will be taken from the only home she has ever known, from the only people she has ever known, and given to strangers who don't look, smell or sound familiar -- and then we'll take her halfway around the world. Maybe it'll help if I can say a few things to her that sound familiar.

To answer the original question, though, we've been told to expect that our daughter will be about a year old when we travel to get her. But there is always a chance we could be referred a 2- or 3-year-old. Our social worker says the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs usually will give infants to couples younger than 46, and Lance and I are both 45. But we can't be sure of her age until we get that letter and photo -- if she is 2 or 3, it'll be too late to start learning her language! What I do know, though, is that the little one entrusted to us will be the perfect one. Lance and I both are certain of that.

If any of you are interested in learning a few phrases, you can check out this site. It has all kinds of expressions, from "are you hungry?" to "I love you," and you can click on a little icon to hear someone say each phrase for you. It's a little difficult to read the words because they have the numbers 1-4 after them to indicate the tone used for each word, but you'll have to listen to the voice anyway because, trust me, the words don't sound anything like you'll expect! (Special note to Grandpa: One phrase you might find particularly useful is, "No, you may not date until you are 35!")


P.S. -- Please participate in our quilt project! Read the Oct. 15 entry for details!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

"Rachel" in Chinese?

I found a web site that has Chinese translations for American names and found one for "Rachel." The internet is wonderful, isn't it? Of course, it's not always trustworthy or accurate, so I decided to verify the translation before I posted it (I was afraid I might inadvertently insult more than a billion people). I took a printout to my Chinese teacher (or "laoshi," as we call him in class). He said it's pretty close -- he read it as sounding something like "Lay-Chair." He explained that they use characters that represent sounds that are close to the American ones, but they have difficulty with sounds that they don't use (and apparently they have few words that start with our "r" sound, although they use it a lot at the end of words!). Anyway, he told me that the first character means "thunder," which I thought was pretty cool.

I only have one more class in my beginning Chinese course, but I'm planning to take the next round. It can be very frustrating because it's an extremely difficult language to learn, but I occasionally have flashes of understanding when I can actually answer a question from our laoshi. Of course, usually he's asking me a real brainteaser like my name or the date, so I wouldn't say I'm approaching fluency!

I read that it takes more than 1,300 hours of instruction to be a fairly competent Chinese speaker, as opposed to less than 500 hours for French or Spanish. Obviously, there's not time for that before we travel to China next spring, but I hope that I at least will be able to ask where the bathroom is or how much something costs.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt

We need your help in creating a 100 Good Wishes quilt for our daughter.

We’re inviting each of you to contribute a patch of cloth and a special wish for the baby. Your written wish -- with a small piece of the fabric attached -- will be kept in a special memory book so that in years to come our child can see how very much she was loved and wanted.

My mother will create the quilt. By sewing together the many different patches you donate, she will make a one-of-a-kind heirloom containing all the good luck, positive energy, prayers and special wishes of the loved ones who contribute.

I’ve been told that such quilts, called Bai Jia Bei, are a tradition in the northern part of China. To welcome a child into the world, relatives and friends donated pieces of cloth from something they had worn, and the expectant mother would make the quilt.

This is a beautiful story, but being a journalist I tried to research it and am having a hard time verifying it! I found many references to these quilts among people adopting babies from China in the last six or seven years, but I am having difficulty finding anything about the original tradition. I found a 50-year-old reference to a similar story, however. The book "Imperial Woman" by Pearl S. Buck describes how a concubine in the Qing dynasty, having given birth to the only child of the Emperor, wants to ensure he is able to claim the throne. She requires each of the highest 100 families in the Empire to send a bolt of the finest silk, then she commands the palace tailors to cut 100 small pieces from them and make a robe for the child:

“Thus he belonged, by symbol, to one hundred strong and noble families, and under their shelter the gods would fear to harm him."

But no matter what the origin of the 100 Good Wishes quilt, I think it will be a priceless gift for our daughter.

Here’s how you can help:

* Please choose a piece of 100 percent cotton fabric to represent your wish. The material can be from something you have worn, or you can buy it new. You can get creative and have fabric that represents something special about you (Vanderbilt logos, Siamese cats), or you can just pick a color or design that you like. Each piece should be no smaller than 7 inches by 7 inches.

* Think of a wish for the baby -- good health, happiness, admission to Stephens College, a sense of humor for her father’s jokes -- and put it on a card or paper. You can be creative with the design of your wish letter, or you can simply write out your thought on a piece of white paper. Please don’t stress over the format or worry about the wording -- what matters is that the wish come from your heart. I will attach a piece of your fabric to your wish in the memory book so that our daughter has a “key” for reading her quilt. The card or letter can be of any size up to 8 1/2 by 11 inches.

* You can contribute one piece of fabric for your entire family, or each member can contribute his or her own wish. The youngest members of your family can draw a picture or write their names on paper for us, and we will treasure that.

* Please send the materials to me (if you need our address, e-mail me and I will send it privately). I would like to have them by the end of the year, if possible (EDITED -- That meant the end of 2005, but things changed! The end of 2006 will work, too!). I can’t wait to see your good wishes.

We were in Brentwood last weekend, so Mom and I conferred on the pattern she will follow and some other details. She was honored to be asked to create this special gift for her youngest granddaughter, and I know she will make it with much love.

Thanks for helping out!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Original welcome

Welcome! We're so glad you have visited our web site!

We are now more than two months into what is expected to be an eight-month wait to bring our daughter home. Our dossier was mailed to China on July 13. We expect to receive our referral photo and information by late January, and we hope to travel in March. What once seemed like a long process is now seeming like just a blip in time.

While we're waiting, Susan is reading everything she can on adoption, China, attachment and parenting; she's studying Chinese; and she's making herself crazy researching the BEST and SAFEST baby equipment! Lance has a new digital camera, and he's geeking out on the instruction manual and practicing so he'll be a pro by the time he has to take the first photo of Susan and baby. ("Hold it! Susan, smile! Don't look at the baby, look at the camera! Hey, Baby -- this way! This way! Woo hoo! Look at Daddy!")

We have decided to name the baby Rachel. We don't yet have a middle name; we're probably going to wait and see what her Chinese name is and see if we can use it (or a version of it). Or maybe we'll just think of another name we want to use by then.

Please visit our guest book (EDITED -- please post comments when you like!), and be sure to check back here regularly for updates.