Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The first time ever we saw her face

Here's our Rachel.

Isn't she beautiful?

This photo of Ba Shu Ting was taken when she was just a few weeks old, and it was published as part of her "finding ad." The social welfare institutes are required to advertise children in their care before the little ones are declared abandoned and available for adoption.

We heard of an adoptive father who has a business that will search for your ad and provide you with a copy and a translation of the text. It's an important piece of our daughter's life history, so we wanted to get it for her. And, because we won't see her referral photos for another week, it offered us an advance glimpse of her sweet little face. The photo is a bit grainy, but we think her beauty shines through!

It's hard to describe what it was like to see our daughter for the first time. The emotions were overwhelming: I cried with joy at finally knowing who she is, but there were tears of sadness for her birth family, too. Looking at this adorable face and reading how she was dressed and where and when she was found just made my heart ache for the pain that family must have gone through. And I was amazed at how much love I already feel for a tiny little baby in a crib on the other side of the world.

Next week we'll get her referral photos. She will be a few months older in those photos, and they will be clearer and sharper. She might be posed in a chair or a walker or in front of a colorful cartoon mural. We'll make dozens of copies and post them here and send them to our family and friends.

But nothing will ever compare with our first glimpse of Rachel this morning.

Where in the world is Rachel?

Rachel is in the Yueyang County Social Welfare Institute in Hunan. Here is a map showing where Hunan is in China:

And here is a look at where Yueyang is in Hunan:

You can see that Hunan is in the southern part of China, just north of the Guangdong province, and Yueyang is in the northeastern part of Hunan.

Hunan is known for its spicy food, so Rachel should have the same tastes in food as her father and her big sister, Lauren.

Rice, tea and oranges are grown in Hunan. The province is surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, and by the Yangtze River on the north.

Hunan is a tropical climate, with warm weather and a lot of humidity most of the year. However, a travel guide tells us: "The best time to visit is in the fall, when temperatures are cooler and the rainfall lighter." It sounds like we planned that just right!

Hunan also is famous for its embroidery and its firecrackers. Chairman Mao was born in Hunan.

I found this photo on the internet of the Yueyang County Social Welfare Institute:

We hope to be able to visit it in person when we're there, but that isn't always allowed.

A few more facts about Rachel:

* All of the babies in her social welfare institute (orphanage) have the surname Ba.

* The character for "Shu" in her name translates to "relaxed."

* The character for "Ting" means "pretty, attractive, graceful."

* We have not yet decided what her full name will be (but we're close!).

* I won't have measurements for another week or so, but Chinese babies traditionally are tiny compared to American children. My guess is that we will be taking 6-9 months clothes to fit her at 10 months old.

* Rachel shares her birthday with Ben Franklin, Al Capone, Maury Povich, Muhammed Ali, Andy Kaufman and Jim Carrey, plus Paul Revere -- the lead singer/organist of "Paul Revere and the Raiders,'' not that other guy (thanks to reporter Ted Gregory for those details).

We're going to be traveling with a dozen other families. We've heard from most of them, and almost all of them have babies from the same orphanage. The age range so far seems to be 6-11 months. So far we know of one couple that will be going to Fujian province instead -- they were referred TWINS! Congratulations to Anne and Alex on their double blessing.

Monday, September 25, 2006

IT'S A GIRL!!!!!

Lance and I are proud to announce the referral of our DAUGHTER!!!!

Her name is Ba Shu Ting. The social worker said she would fax me the characters so I can get a translation . . . Ba would be her surname, Shu Ting her first names.

She was born Jan. 17, 2006 (8 months, one week old TODAY, her father's birthday!).

She's in the Yue Yang County Social Welfare Institute in Hunan province.

I won't have a photo or other details for about a week, but I will post them as soon as I do.

We would expect to travel around Thanksgiving!

WE'RE MATCHED -- it's official!

After I went to bed last night, the China Center of Adoption Affairs posted official notice that they have finished placing children whose families' adoption documents were logged in by Aug. 9. Because we were logged in July 25, that means we have been matched!

As I posted yesterday, the rumors are that the referrals are already in the mail, possibly arriving at adoption agencies as early as today.

Will today be our day? Stay tuned for news of THE CALL!


Saturday, September 23, 2006

We're mere DAYS away!

Well, the Rumor Queen has word from "multiple sources" that referrals were mailed Friday. RQ's loyal subjects have conducted much analysis of previous mailings and DHL routing practices which lead them to believe referral documents could be arriving at agencies as soon as MONDAY! I'm too afraid to hope for Monday, though -- I'm going to think Tuesday so I can keep my sanity (yeah, right).

Speaking of that very special telephone call, I have to tell you what happened Wednesday. I was at work in the middle of the afternoon and thinking to myself that it was just about the time of day that referrals were posted last month when my phone rang. I looked at the Caller ID and saw my adoption agency's phone number. I grabbed it fast and said hello, and my social worker identified herself. I shrieked her name . . . and that's when she realized what she had done. She said, "Ooooh, no, I'm sorry, this isn't THAT call." It turns out that she was just "checking in" as she does every few months, and she didn't think about the fact that it is referral time and I might be expecting THAT news. She apologized about 10 times, but I was shaking and my heart was pounding for about two more hours. She asked how I was doing, and I said, "well, apparently I'm a bit over anxious!" She apologized again.

The folks at work are just as eager as I am for the news. I wrote down the agency's phone number for Nancy, who sometimes picks up my calls, and she has it by her phone so she can be SURE to pick up the call if I'm on another one or in a meeting. When my phone rang Wednesday, she saw the number on caller ID and raced into my office. I had to shake my head at her to send her sadly back to her desk; I think she was as excited as I was, if that was possible.

After all that, do you suppose the actual call will be a letdown? Naaah, I don't, either.

Nancy was one of four guessers in my "Name the Time of the Call" contest, but she picked last Thursday (as I would have, frankly!). The good news for Nancy is that The Call didn't come in on Friday, when she was taking the day off! We have three other guesses for this week, so stay tuned to see who wins the special prize from China . . . oh, and for information on our daughter, of course.

I'll post the news here as soon as I'm able.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good things come to those who wait

I really can't wait to see our little one in this adorable romper, can you? A member of the July Dragonflies Yahoo! group told the rest of us about it, and I suspect I'm not the only one who ordered one. It probably wasn't designed specifically for adoptive parents; after all, parents who experience a pregnancy have to wait nine whole months to see their child's face.


Ironically, the romper arrived just before we got word that we were going to have to wait at least another month for news. We won't be waiting much longer, though. I have a feeling the referrals will arrive without warning again this month, and something tells me we're very close.

Let's have a little fun today. Post a comment with your prediction of what day and what time we'll receive The Call. Whoever is closest will win a special prize . . . hmmm, what should it be? Tell you what -- I'll pick out something for you in China.

I'll get it while we're there receiving the most special prize of all.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Could this be the week?

This Thursday will mark four weeks since the last batch of referrals, so it's possible we could get The Call this week. Realistically and logically, I think it's more likely to happen next week, but I'm excited all the same. After 14 months of waiting, we're now down to mere days! Keep us in your thoughts and prayers this week.

As preparation, Lance and I visited babies this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I held our new grand-nephew for the first time. He's not even three weeks old yet, so he slept through our entire visit. That gave Great-Aunt Susan an opportunity to admire him, though. Saturday night we went to dinner at the home of a couple who adopted a baby through Sunny Ridge this summer. Miss Gigi is now 11 months old, and she is a ball of fire! She couldn't bother to sit quietly and be admired -- she had things to do. The great news is that she is happy and healthy and seems to be right on track developmentally. Her parents are very pleased with the care she received at her Social Welfare Institute in China, and they can't imagine her not being a part of their family. It made me really eager to start chasing our own little one around our house!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Anyone have a rumor?

It's awfully quiet on the rumor front the last couple of weeks, so I don't know what to tell you except we're still waiting.

Meanwhile, I got word the other day that my friend Sonja had a litle girl, Ava. Congratulations to Sonja and Doug and big sister Cela!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cat-astrophe in the making?

You're probably wondering why two people in their mid-40s with demanding careers and two older children would think they should add a baby.

Especially when they can't seem to handle a cat.

Meet Cyrus. He's supposed to be our pet, but he thinks he's in charge.

For one thing, he sees our home as his own personal playground. Nothing is off limits; every apparent obstacle is merely a challenge.

He's not bound by convention. If he wants something (for example, the wristwatch my husband bought me on our honeymoon), he takes it. If he's ready for breakfast, he wakes us up by walking across Lance's clock radio and hitting the exact button that turns on the music. If I'm doing something that displeases him, he tells me about it. Loudly. Sometimes in the middle of the night when I thought I was minding my own business by sleeping.

Yet Lance and I are certain that we are the ones paying the bills.

We pamper this cat way too much. For example, when he came to live with us I ordered him a beautiful set of food and water bowls that match our dishes. The food bowl has the word "empty" on the bottom of it, just in case we don't notice he is in need of food. The water dish, as you can see, is quite lovely.

So what does he do when he's thirsty?


You'll notice he's sitting on my newspaper, too -- almost directly on top of my Sudoku puzzle. And don't think that pencil was on the countertop long: One of his favorite games is to swat it onto the floor. I pick it up, I turn my back, he knocks it down. I pick it up again, I start reading a story in the Tribune, he swats the pencil off the counter again . . .

Maybe this is getting me ready for the days when I'll spend hours retrieving things Rachel has dropped from her high chair. After all, we're supposed to be using this "extra time" to prepare for full-time parenthood, aren't we?

Meanwhile, I know one thing: Despite all the annoyances, we adore that cat.

He has a beautiful purr -- his entire body vibrates, and you hear these little high-pitched harmonies in it. We're familiar with his purr because he launches into it right when we're getting ready to discipline him for knocking things off the nightstand into the trash can or for walking across the computer keyboard as one of us is typing. Just look at those beautiful green eyes . . . how can you be angry at a purring kitty?

Cyrus is keeping us entertained as we wait for our little one. And he's preparing us for parenthood in another way -- just as his purr calms our anger, one day the smell of a freshly bathed baby and the sound of her laughter will make all of the work and the wait and the worry worthwhile.

More than worthwhile, I suspect. I hope to be telling you all about it one day soon.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A gallery of babies

Referral photos can be sweet, funny, a little sad -- but always beautiful. Parents will always treasure that first sight of their little one bundled up like the Michelin man or propped up in an inflatible Hello Kitty chair. The webmaster for the July Dragonflies, who recently laid eyes on her own daughter for the first time, has put together this special gallery of referral photos from her little one's orphanage. It's a very sweet collection, and it'll make you laugh out loud. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rachel's newest cousin

Hi everybody!

Say hello to baby Niklas, Lance's sister's new grandson. He was born Aug. 31 (just a day before his Great-Aunt Susan's birthday) and weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces. He and his mom, his dad and his two big sisters are all doing fine. His grandparents are proud as they can be -- Gloria is so busy admiring him that she hasn't had time to refine her plot to steal our cat.

We can't wait to meet Nik! And we REALLY can't wait for Nik to meet his cousin Rachel!