Friday, February 29, 2008
AWAA was able to secure a much better price for the group's tickets by leaving a day early. It means one less day to prepare the house and pack, but it also means we will have one extra day in Beijing to settle in. There are currently 18 non special needs families and 3 (possibly as many as 6) special needs families going on this trip, and that extra day will actually give us more time to get to know the other families. We're really looking forward to this aspect of the trip. Eric and I, as first time parents, will have the support of many other 'pros', and Noelle and the other kiddos will have lots of little friends to play with. What memories we will have! I can hardly think of anything else to say other than, "Thank You Jesus!!!"
TIME LEFT TO PREPARE FOR CHINA TRAVEL & PARENTHOOD:
12 days and counting...
(BTW, some of you may be wondering whatever happened with the frequent flier miles Eric's sister Kellie wanted to donate. Unfortunately we found out we would not be able to use them, for a number of reasons. It's okay, though. God has used the amazing generosity of loved ones to provide everything we need. We just really want to say how much we appreciate the bigheartedness of Kellie and her husband Scott. Thanks guys!!)
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
One bit of news came from Longlan, the sweet gal who translated the letter for our care package. She was able to discover that the package did in fact arrive at the orphanage (cool!). AND she was able to speak with the director who told her JiaZhen was doing great (yay!). AND she had the nannys get JiaZhen's current height, weight and foot length for us (awesome!). Noelle will be 18 months on March 2, and from her measurements, it appears that she is growing healthy and strong. According to various children's clothing size charts I consulted on the web, she appears to be almost or right at the 18 mo. size for height, and into the 24 mo. size for weight (our girl likes her meals!). And her feet are just over 5 inches long, so it looks like she's definitely not wearing baby shoes any more.
Having this information is SUPER helpful. Only thing is, we thought she'd be smaller and that we would be traveling earlier, like on February 28th (yeah I know, I know...), so we have all these size 12 mo. winter clothes hanging in our laundry room. When I thought we would be leaving this coming week, I had been scouring consignment shops, and Target's & Walmart's winter clearance sections. So...now I've been sorting through things to figure out what might be large enough. The big tub of clothes donated to Noelle by little Melody Simmons has come in handy (thanks Dana!). Most of the clothes are too large at this point, but I found a couple outfits I think may work. We're gonna get it together. :)
The second bit of news about Noelle was even more exciting. We're talking "10" on the richter scale of excitement - a total God-thing. Unfortunately I cannot tell you a thing about it at this time. Seriously! Not a word, but trust me, it's awesome, and you might even cry like I did!
When I'm able to share, I will post it right here. (This is good stuff! Well worth the wait...)
Monday, February 25, 2008
I've got good news folks...
The Johnson's are goin' to China
Kristen Hussa, our travel coordinator called Eric just after 10:00am this morning to tell us they are putting together a small special needs group to leave 2 weeks from Thursday. Thank you precious Jesus! It looked for a few days like we would not meet our daughter until March 31, but now we will get to hold her for the first time on Monday March 17. Yeah!
When he called me at work to pass along the incredible news, I screamed and jumped, and jumped and shouted, and screamed and shouted some more (I THINK he still has hearing in his right ear...?). I can't stop pinching myself. Is this for real? W - O - W! I'm gonna be a MOM!!!
We will get spend Palm Sunday worshipping in Beijing (what IS the name of that church...?) with believers from around the world - SO cool - and then we will meet Noelle on St. Patrick's Day! Eric and I have a special top all picked out for her to wear later that afternoon. It's green and white, has a big shamrock on the front, and says "Kiss Me, I'm Adorable". Alright, you might think that's weird, but I absolutely LOVE anything Irish. Besides, it's totally appropriate that Noelle wear the little t-shirt, 'cause it's part of her heritage (Eric's mom is part Irish)! ;-)
So. That gives us 16 days to finish preparing for
The Trip of Our Lives.
Oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh man oh......
Noelle is the cutie in the red shirt
The whole evening was an absolutely wonderful blessing. So many dear, special people came out to help us celebrate the forming of a new family as well as to help raise the funds needed to get us to China. The musicians were incredible to donate their time and talents, and Rob K. was a superb emcee. Then, when the donations were counted, the total came out to be over $4,230!!! People absolutely put their love into action. God is SO good!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Eric and I, all my vocal and piano students, a wonderful local group called The Mirthmakers (2 members attend our church), and several other local musicians will perform. We will also be sharing our personal story and testimony of adoption and playing several adoption-related video clips up on large screen. Noelle's face will also be highly evident throughout. :) And this is all topped off with an ice cream sundae bar. Yummm--
I'm feeling a tad (probably more than a tad) nervous about it coming off well, and wondering if the final details will fall into place. It will be an intense and emotional evening. I'm very excited about getting to share in this time of celebration with friends around our community (and hope that several families feel moved to consider or pursue adoption after tonight), but, boy will I be glad when it's over. Whew!
Please be in prayer for Eric and I as we share from our hearts.
Please pray that the Lord provides in a MIRACULOUS way (we believe!).
And pray that the Holy Spirit's presence is felt by all in attendance.
Thank you SO much! I'll be sure to post about the event later this weekend.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Okay. That's good news, right? We have been highly anticipating that final phone call from our agency. The one where we find out that China says, "Come on over and get your girl!"
Well, I'm sorry if I'm not my usual effusive self. It's because we were told that would would likely not leave for another 5 weeks!
Yep, you heard me right. That would be March 27, 2008. That's when then next previously scheduled non special needs group is set to travel (we are on the special needs track due to Noelle's heart defect).
The dates aren't firm as of yet. It all hinges on AWAA getting in several other TA's by, like, this coming Monday! If that happens, an earlier group may be considered.
I'm bummed. Eric is bummed.
But, we're not giving up hope. We have seen God perform some amazing miracles throughout this journey, so we're not about to give up on Him now. Please join us in praying for other families to get their TA's quickly (they are waiting just as anxiously as we have been), and that all the pieces come together smoothly and quickly for an earlier travel date.
We'll keep you posted. Just look for those miracles...
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Oh where oh where could it be?
La la la la la la la la la...
Folks, still no signs of our blessed, yummy, delicious, desirable, wonderful, outstanding, marvelous, happy-happy-day TA.
I see February 28 travel slipping out of my fingers.
I see March on the horizon. (I'm working on coming to terms with that.)
March 6th? March 6th? Is that YOU?
Monday, February 18, 2008
Everything was kept secret from me. I knew the where and the when, but all other details were a mystery. I walked into the dojo (that's "martial arts-speak" for the building where Eric and I teach karate classes) to see it transformed. It was covered in streamers, candles, flowers, colorful tablecloths and more. The room went from jock-tough to soft girlie-girlie. I loved it!
I was also amazed at the great turnout. In spite of the winter storm that had come in overnight and that morning, we had a sizable group of ladies; only a handful were stuck at home due to the snowy roads. And I can say that...
...We kept cozy inside with the warmth of laughter and friendship
(Hey, you think Hallmark Cards will want to hire me for that verse?)
Snack time was a great opportunity for the ladies to get acquainted, many of whom had never met. The crazy games loosened everyone up so the chatting and munching could begin. This group of shower goers was quite a motley crew. We had neighbor friends, ladies from church, friends we had met through various community ministries, parents of current karate students, fellow martial arts training partners, work friends and more. I was also thrilled to have a very dear AWAA friend Lisa W. (and her dear husband and cutie-pie daughter), risk life and limb by driving 2 hours on icy roads just to see me. Awww shucks, girlie! ;-)
Then... The Gifts. :) This grande finale was not for the faint of heart. Joan kept handing me present after present; Dawn feverishly recorded the gift list. I'm telling you, these ladies blew me away with their kindness and generosity. So many thoughtful gifts and several handsewn-with-love items.
Thank you all for making this day such a special one. Thank you for the "group hug" of prayer for our little family. And thank you for making Eric and me feel so loved and cared for. We are SO glad to have you all in our lives!!
(Note: Our friend Lisa R. from church took all the pictures. Thank you so much, Lisa, for capturing our special day!)
The cake table---
Eric and I seeing the cake for the first time (my eyes filling with tears)--
The "throne" or "seat of honor" it was called. I called it "the hot seat". Dawn, do I really gotta sit up there all by myself? Huh? Do I? :)
Fun and highly creative shower games--
The last gift I received, a place for precious momentos of this happy day and times ahead with Noelle--
Friday, February 15, 2008
Waiting for our referral was hard. But now I realize like all the other BTDT (been-there-done-that) folks - once you have a face to go with the name, a defined person who is your child -waiting for approval to travel is akin to torture! Maybe that seems overly dramatic to you. But I can hardly stand the thought of going through another day without our Noelle. We are missing so much of her life. I just want my daughter NOW!!!
(Lord, forgive me. As You well know, patience never was my strong suit.)
On Thursday, FedEx delivered our passports with our visas. The visas are essentially China's "permission slip" for us to enter their country. I had always wondered what a visa was, assuming it was just another document. In fact it is a beautiful stamp (actually, a colorful, official-looking 'sticker') on one of the pages in our passport. There are 16 remaining 'entry & departure' pages
Thursday, February 7, 2008
I am missing my daughter so very much today. And I'm having a difficult time writing this post because my tears are blurring the computer screen. I'm so glad these gifts go before us, to familiarize her with our faces and our smells (the blanket); I just wish that I, rather than one of the kind Chinese women, could be the one to deliver these small tokens of love into our daughter's waiting arms.
Longlan, the friendly woman from Research-China.Org who translated our letter (and for an extrememly reasonable price), asked me to let her know when the package is expected to be delivered. She wanted to know so she could call the Hefei Orphanage just to make sure Noelle had gotten the package. Wow! We didn't even ask her to do this. She also said it would be no problem to check on Noelle's current clothing size and inquire about her health. Another wow! She wants to do this just out of kindness. This has warmed my heart and gives me such comfort. God bless her!!!
(Darn these computer thingees.)
February 7, 2008 is the first day of the Chinese new year.
By its Formal Name (Stem-Branch). This year is the year of Wu Zi.
In the 'Stem-Branch' system, the years are named in 60-year cycles, and the Name of the Year is repeated every 60 years.2008 is the 9th year in the current 60-year cycle.
Current year is Year 4705 by the Chinese calendar.
In one sentence, the Chinese New Year is the second New Moon after the winter solstice.
It is based strictly on astronomical observations, and has nothing to do with the Pope, emperors, animals or myths. Due to its scientific and mathematical nature, we can easily and precisely calculate backward or forward for thousands of years.
In Chinese calendar, one of the scheme for counting years is a 12-year cycle. One counts from Year 1,2,3,... up to 12. Then starts over from Year 1. (In modern mathematics, this is modulo 12.) Instead of inventing 12 special symbols for this purpose, 12 animals are used to represent these 12 years. Rabbit (hare), for example, is the 4-th year of the cycle.See more about this.
This system is extremely practical. A child does not have to learn a new answer to the question, "How old are you?" in each new year. Old people often lose track of their age, because they are rarely asked about their present age. Every one just have to remember that he or she was born in the "Year of the Dog" or whatever.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Well, you can see above that we found an adorable and incredibly soft and warm 'froggy' blanket and cute little stuffed green frog. Eric and I have been snuggling up to Noelle's blankey for the past several nights (though I'd rather be snuggling HER) so our scent will be on it when she holds it. Maybe this will make us more familier to her when we hold her in our arms for the first time. We are also printing out some photos of us and our home so she will recognize our faces when we introduce ourselves as Mama and Daddy.
I'd like to have everything finished this evening. We'll see. I have a couple other details to finish before we can pack it all up. My biggest concern right now is that the mail may not be running in China with the ravaging storms. And then you've got the Chinese New Year holiday as well. If you think of it, please pray that Noelle gets our package before we travel to China. It would mean so much.
For current updates, visit Half the Sky at http://www.halfthesky.org/work/littlemouse.php
You can also make donations there to help these precious children in need.
Regarding Noelle's orphanage in Hefei, they report that the children are warm and well fed but are quickly running out of diapers. They are asking for money to be able to purchase 7,500 disposable diapers.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Yesterday evening we received an email from Melissa at AWAA that we had received updated referral documents for Noelle. The translated information told us that she had been hospitalized on December 5th through 11th for "proteinuria for 3 months". This is the term for excessive protein in the urine, and can be caused by many things. We have very little information as to the cause, severity, treatment, prognosis, etc. as the translation stated that the medical documents were illegible in many places. We have been doing research on the internet to discover what this may mean, and have found a wide range of possibilities, from mild and treatable to very severe. We have emailed Melissa to request the complete medical information from the orphanage / hospital. We have also emailed this new information to our Internation Adoption Doctor from Children's Mercy Hopsital.
Please pray that the orphanage will quickly and happily work with us and AWAA to provide the complete information (don't know how the Chinese holiday Feb. 6-12 will affect this). We are also praying for a swift date of travel so we can be with our daughter to better care for her.
We are trying to stay calm and trust in Jesus for her care. Please join with us in praying for Noelle's full and complete health.
Thank you all,
Jennifer and Eric