Saturday, March 28, 2009

I forgot to tell you...

Remember that exciting e-mail we received while we were in Illinois- the one from our agency worker about waiving the application fee, etc. etc.?

Well, she said some other things in that email which will be very helpful and encouraging to us as a family during the long months waiting to travel to Taiwan.

See, waiting for an invitation from the Taiwanese government / orphanage to travel to pick up your child can be very lengthy. After we get approval to adopt, the court proceedings in Taiwan can last 6 to 8 months (and sometimes longer). So anything to make the process "seem" shorter is cool by me!

First-- our agency sends monthly care packages to the orphanage. This means not only will we save on the costly postage to Taiwan, but much more importantly, we can send photos, clothing, books, toys, whatever to our (hopefully) daughter every month! This will be a great way to connect with her and let her know we care, as well as giving her something to look forward to each month.

Second-- and even better...we will get to have monthly video conferences with her!!! With the help of a translator, we will get to talk to our (daughter) and see her face and hear her voice. Awesome! And she will get to see us and Noelle (and the kitties- she loves dogs, 'hope she will like cats...) and maybe some of the house, depending on how we set up the computer. I'm afraid I know little about how this tech-y stuff works. But anyhoo, the point is, we will get to have monthly meetings with our (hopefully) little girl! We will be able to tell her that we love her. Sigh. :)

(*From here on out I will referring to this little gal as "her", due to privacy issues.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Week with Family in Illinois

Here's a few photos from our visit to Illinois and Indiana last week. We stayed with Eric's parents (Grandma and Papa) for several days. We visited with Aunt Heather, Uncle Dave and cousins Andrew, Jonathan, and Aaron who live in the same town. We also saw Uncle Kirk, Aunt Katie and cousins Kaelyn and Khloe who drove over on Friday. Sunday morning after church we headed to Indiana to see Aunt Kellie, Uncle Scott and cousins Matt, Meghan and McKenzie.

Noelle did superb on this trip. She met and surpassed all expectations-- Traveled in the car well (first long trip and we had no "accidents" from our rookie toilet user); slept well in actual, full size beds; loved all the cousins, especially Andrew, her "First Cousin" ('cuz she met him first- lol!); enjoyed chatting and teasing with Grandma and Papa and the Aunts and Uncles; she loved the 2 big dogs, Holly (Heather's) and Buck (Kellie's), especially when they were in their "castles" (kennels) and not covering her at-muzzle-level face with doggie kisses; and was just plain happy to have her mommy and daddy by her side for 8 whole days. (we kinda liked that, too!)

It was so wonderful to see Eric's family. The time went by much too fast and I hope we will get to see everyone again soon. Living far apart stinks! We love you guys!!!

Here is First Cousin Andrew. Noelle took to him immediately.
We were watching Heather's 3-5 grade music program ("Pirates: The Musical" - very cute!) and Noelle preferred Andrew to us. And they had just met 5 minute ago!
Getting a better view from up here

There's our Heather! She is extremely creative and gifted musically. Her students love her, and her shows are so much fun to watch/listen to.

Out back at Kellie's house - Noelle, Kenzie, Meagan

Higher, Aunt Kellie, higher!

Noelle really, really wanted to pet Buck, so Kellie provided a little doggie restraint so Noelle could get close.

Awwwww. Now that's more like it!

2 on 1 basket ball with Matt. Not sure who won this game.

You are under arrest! Charge: telling cheesy dad-style jokes (The girl on the right is Kenzie's neighbor friend)

Here's our little Mia Hamm! (is that the correct reference??)

(or maybe not...)

Wait up, girls!

In Kellie's van to pick up some yummy Chinese take-out for dinner. Very appropriate since this was Noelle's adoption anniversary week.

Eric's mom took this picture after morning church. We wanted to have another "happy family" photo to include with our Taiwan adoption paperwork. Please note Noelle's very sour expression. Cracks me up! Can't remember what had her so cranky.

Here is the photo after bribing Noelle to smile (MM's). What a great little actress! lol

**We actually took quite a few more photos, but due to a memory card issue with our camera, they appear to be lost somewhere in the galaxy. Ugh. Eric thinks he might have a way to retrieve a few. We shall see...

A Journey Ending and Another Beginning

Know what I just realized???

Today our journey to adopt Noelle officially ends. Our final post placement visit with our social worker is this very afternoon. And that's our last act with our agency for China to complete Noelle's adoption 'process'. Although the adoption was legal in China, these post adoption visits had to be completed to reassure China they had placed Noelle in a good home. Of course, our journey as parents will continue on, but we've been at this adoption stuff for just about 3 years now. Amazing! So now we can relax and enjoy the ride, right? well...

Today our journey to adopt our daughter from Taiwan officially begins!! We are writing our very first $check$ (many, many more checks to come...) for her adoption and dropping it off with our completed application to our home study social worker. Woohoo!!! (Oh, just wait 'till I show you the list of stuff we have to do for Tennessee. And I though Missouri home studies were lengthy!) We are also FedEx-ing a notarized document (with more money enclosed, of course) to Washington, D.C. to request another certified birth certificate for Eric. This process takes up to 8 weeks, all because my sweet hubby was born in Iceland! (the US Naval base) It makes everything that little bit more challenging when you are a foreign born US citizen. But we did this before. We'll do it again. :)

Well, the day has begun. We have a window open in the kitchen and the birds are singing away and the air smells soooo fresh. Our little munchkin will be stirring soon and I have a shower to take before we launch into the business of this day. See ya'll later!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for this new day, this beautiful morning. Thank you for bringing us down this road of adoption. Thank you for the 'words-cannot-explain' precious daughter you've given to us - Noelle JiaZhen. And we praise your name for the privilege of beginning this journey again to bring another precious daughter into our hearts and home.
We love you, Heavenly Father. Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fallen Angel

Guess what I just discovered in Noelle's room as I was unpacking her suitcase?

A very mangled up porcelain Angel.

The cats, left to their own devices while we were gone for 8 days, chewed the wings of this collectible doll. There may have been some pent-up frustration involved in the incident as well. Many years ago it was given to me as a gift (for the life of me I don't remember who it came from) and thought it would be a nice touch in Noelle's bedroom. Especially since she is a perfect angel.

Unfortunately the wings could not be saved. I had to amputate.

We no longer have an angel, but an angelic doll!

We're back from IL

And we've been busy since we walked in the door 2 hours ago. We unloaded the car, used the toilet (well, actually did that first...tehehe), found the kitties hiding places and gave them lots of lovin, and went out in our fenced in back yard to let them and Noelle run a'muck for awhile.

Currently Eric and Noelle are at a local city park and to the grocery store while I return emails, check facebook, etc. Oh! They have returned! So I'm outta here. We have some really fun photos I hope to post soon.

And more adoption updates...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We are visiting family in Illinois for a week, so I'm afraid the blog won't be getting much attention for a few days. I'll have photos and stories from our visit here, plus adoption updates when we settle in back at home. there is lots to tell!


Monday, March 16, 2009

1 Year with Noelle!!!

See the photo? If you've followed our blog for any length of time, you've seen it before - Noelle's referral picture. I thought the St.Pat's Day sign was appropriate under the circumstances. lol

One year ago tomorrow was the day we received Noelle JiaZhen Johnson-- our sweet, wonderful, cute, funny, smart, energetic, cuddly (I could go on-) daughter!!!

Since we will be an the road the next couple of days as we head to the Chicago area to visit Eric's parents and other family members, I wanted to write this post early. We hope to leave in the morning and travel halfway so we can have a relaxing evening together. Maybe we will be able to find a nice Chinese restaurant to celebrate-- but all the while we will be wearing our green, our Irish paraphernalia to honor St. Pat's Day (remember...Eric's mom). Then Wednesday evening, we will honor Noelle's official Adoption Day by watching our China video's and sharing memories as a family.

Where has the time gone? Isn't it interesting how The Wait seems never-ending as we anticipate the arrival of our child? Then when we have that dear child in our arms, our home, our family-- the times passes much too quickly.

Eric and I are blessed every day to have Noelle as our daughter. The more time we spend with her, the more we see just how perfect she is for our family. She was truly hand-picked by God. A miracle indeed! :)

We love you, Nolie!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Envelope Day

red envelope fate!

Eric and I will be participating in Red Envelope Day on March 31st. We want to make an impression to make a difference. I hope many of you will join us in telling Washington that every life is valuable and God-breathed.

1. Get a red envelope. (You can buy them at Kinkos or at party supply stores.)

2. On the front, address it to:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington , D.C. 20500

3. On the back, write the following message:
"This envelope represents one child who died because of an abortion. It is empty because the life that was taken is now unable to be a part of our world."

4. Put it in the mail on March 31st, 2009.

5. Ask your friends to do the same.

**Below is the explanatory message in the email we received:

"I wish we could send 50 million red envelopes, one for every child who died in the U.S. before having a chance to live."

"It may seem that those who believe abortion is wrong are in a minority. It may seem like we have no voice and it's shameful to even bring it up. Let us show our President and the world that the voices of those of us who do not believe abortion is acceptable are not silent and must be heard. Together we can change the heart of The President and save the lives of millions of children."

"Barack Obama spoke at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event, uttering the now infamous line, "Well, the first thing I'd do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. [Applause.] That's the first thing that I'd do." An empty red envelope will send a message to President Barack Obama that there is moral outrage in this country over this issue [The Freedom of Choice Act, which will essentially undo every law currently in place to limit abortion in the U.S. (i.e., parental consent laws, parental notification, waiting periods, prohibition of transporting a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion, etc.)]. It will be quiet, but clear."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adopting and Parenting the Older Child

I just ordered this book online today. I found the "Our Own" website a while back and was very impressed with the topics and information covered in this book. Now that Eric and I have a clear direction about our next adoption, I decided this was a resource we would definitely want to have in our adoption and parenting library.

I'll let you know what I think once I start reading it. Click here to learn more about this resource or to purchase your own copy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sweet Tea

iced sweet tea

You'd think I would learn.

Here in our new community you can't order an "iced tea"and expect to receive the cool, brisk refreshing drink I've been accustomed to. You have to specify "unsweet". Even after 7 months in Tennessee, I still struggle with this concept. Up North you say, "Iced tea, please" and it comes to you unsweetened, as a matter of course. But here in the South, an "iced tea" is actually tea with a healthy dose of sugar. This is known as "Sweetea".

I freely admit that I like my sugary treats from time to time, so sometimes I have a hankering for tea with a dash of sugar. I order a "half and half". That's just about right for me. I can still taste the tea, but I get an extra pow.

Today at the local Krispy Kreme shop I was reminded of the South's 'tea culture'. Noelle and I were out running errands and we stopped by to redeem her coupon for a free doughnut. I decided to skip the doughnut and just get something cold to drink. I ordered myself an iced tea and Noelle a cinnamon bun (she wanted 'chocolate' like any properly bred young lady, but I didn't want a wired kid so close to nap time). We handed the nice man our coupon and money, and off we went to the car to head home.

Inside the car I took a long sip of my cold drink...and almost choked. Argh!! Sweetea!! I had forgotten yet again.

I had a stray thought. Why does a doughnut establishment even serve "sweetea" (what I affectionately call "sugar, with a little tea on the side")? People are already eating high-blood-sugar-inducing pastries. Do we want to add "diabetic coma" to that diagnosis??

Disclaimer: I do love Krispy Creme glazed doughnuts. I just eat mine with milk.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Noelle Celebrates Purim*

Although we are not Jewish, Noelle does attend a wonderful Jewish preschool. The children are celebrating the holiday by baking hamentaschen (traditional holiday cookies) and making gift baskets to bring home. Everyone was encouraged to wear costumes for a Purim Parade, then the kiddos will eat lunch in the big play room while watching the Veggies Tales version on the big TV. Sounds like a fun day!

Here is Noelle in her costume-of-sorts-- just some St. Paddy's Day stuff we already had on hand, and...the little t-shirt she wore on Gotcha Day one year ago (St. Patrick's Day) in China!! Amazingly enough, it still fits.

The shirt says, "Kiss Me, I'm Adorable" - very true!!

Our little Chinese leprechaun!

*Purim - the holiday celebrating how God used Queen Esther to save the Jewish people through hidden miracles. Just as God seemed hidden from the people then, Jewish people hide their true identities by dressing up in fun costumes. The story of Purim is read from the scroll of Esther. Whenever the bad guy's name, Haman, is read, everyone boo's and shakes their noisemakers (groggers) to drown him out. It is also customary to give money (tzeddakah) to the poor and gift baskets (mishloach manot) to each other.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Information About "her""!!!

About this little 8 year old gal in Taiwan we are praying about adopting--

This past week we discovered her on yet another agency waiting child photolisting. Via several emails with an agency rep, we received a bunch of photos and wonderful new information regarding her background, health status, and emotional health. The news was so encouraging that I cried onto my BlackBerry as I was reading in the car (don't worry, Eric was driving).

For one, she has a medical condition that we have been researching, wanting to be prepared to provide the care she needs. Her pediatrician says, however, that it appears her body may be, for lack of a better word, healing itself. Yipee!

Secondly, we realize that adopting an older child may have many challenges regarding issues of family integration and developing trust, security and attachment. For a child who has deep emotional hurts in her young life, it is crucial that we be prepared to be patient and loving whatever happens, and ready to seek outside help if needed. Sensing God leading us to "her", however, I've been preparing my heart to love a wounded child. One of the recent evaluations in her file gives us great hope that God is bringing healing to this sweet young lady's heart and spirit. Oh, how I long to put my arms around her and reassure her that she is loved - by her first family and by her new forever family (whomever that may be...). I hate not being there for her as she lives day to day in a Taiwanese orphanage. So instead, we pray daily for her emotional and physical well being. And we pray that she will recognize her Heavenly Father's arms of love about her even when she thinks she is all alone.

Thirdly, she really wants a family to call her own. She understands that she will likely be adopted separately from her siblings (ugh! so painful - wish we could take them all!), though hopes to remain in contact with them. She knows she will probably go to the United States. She has learned some English, and spent 5 weeks here in the U.S. during a summer hosting program. Awesome! I am told that everyone who spent time with "her" absolutely fell in love with her. She is described as a very sweet, fun loving, girly-girl; cute, curious, active, and personable. And there are currently a couple families expressing interest in adopting her... (:~0

We have also been given the contact information for her host family so we can ask questions to our hearts content. What a blessing and an amazing resource! I'm currently compiling a long list of questions to ask...
Thank you, family and friends, for all your kind words and prayers regarding our loss of Shadow. It's always hard to lose a pet. The Internet sure has become a great way to reach out across the miles to those you love.

We are okay. Fortunately, Noelle doesn't understand enough to be upset. But I think the other 2 kitties are confused and discombobulated. They saw us take Shadow out the door in his cage - then he never returned. I wonder if their little kitty heads think the same may happen to them...


Friday, March 6, 2009

Toilet Training On the Road

Driving home last Saturday night from my parents' house, Noelle makes this announcement from the backseat: "I need to go poo-poo!" (Alas, she abandoned "potty", my preferred term going back 3 generations.)

Since our daughter is still so new to this world without diapers, we take all such pleas very seriously. We both asked, " Are you sure?"

Noelle's reply was, " I need to go poo-poo NAH-ow!!" This statement was immediately followed by a rumble from her nether regions.

"Okay okay okay! We'll pull over, just please hold on!"

Fortunately there was a big rig pull-off just ahead. Eric quickly stopped the car, I grabbed our potty chair from the trunk, and together we got Noelle unhooked from her car seat. I sat our little munchkin on her potty next to the car, but within a few seconds realized it was too cold to be doing business outside. What now? Into the car we went, Noelle sitting on the potty chair on the front seat, like a princess on her throne.

Noelle thought this was great fun. She promptly asked to wear the seat belt and to be covered with her yellow blankie. She asked for the dome light to be turned on so she could "see what [she was] doing" Then she needed one of us to rub her back and read a story while she concentrated. Hey, whatever helps!

Somewhere in the midst of our waiting for the event, a concerned motorist stopped by our vehicle to see if we were alright. We explained our daughter's potty emergency, and he quickly backed off.

So the hilarity continued inside the car-- the singing, playing patty-cake, pretending to drive. Then "it" finally happened. Some movement. And more movement. Until we became concerned that the tiny toilet bowl would be too tiny. When Noelle appeared to be finished, Eric handed me the wipes and I pulled our toddler off her throne and out to the side of the car.

"Alright, Nolie, hands on the car and spread 'em." And we cleaned her up. It was like a pee-wee version of COPS. I had to laugh, and laugh hard. Soon, we were all busting up. Even Noelle, who didn't quite know what all the hoopla was about. Although I certainly don't hope for a repeat of this episode on any future car ride, it sure was funny this time. :-)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Goodbye Old Friend

Here is Shadow sitting on my lap this morning while I was checking email. 'Love those huge ears! ;-) His arthritis is so bad, he had to have me lift him up.

As I write this post with tears falling from my eyes, Eric is taking our nearly 11 year old cat Shadow to the vet-- he is leaving us and this world.

He has been failing these past several months and has quickly gone down hill the past several weeks. We tried to deny it, but we finally had to come to the realization that he was miserable and would never get any better.

So today we say goodbye to a dear, sweet cat-friend who has been in our home since he was 3 months old. He has always been a gentle feline who never bit or scratched us, Noelle, or anyone for that matter. His name fit him, as he tended to prefer to be in the shadows, looking on at the activity around him. His litter mate, Stormy, who we lost late summer 2007, was the one who got noticed. Shadow was the quiet one. And now he quietly leaves us.

I wonder...will the 2 young cats notice that their older friend and companion is no longer around? The one they like to tease by grabbing at his tail as he passes by. The one they (Rainie especially) likes to sleep with during the day and night.

And I wonder how Noelle will handle this loss of her first pet, whom she really seems to love. In fact, he was the first of the 3 kitties that she took to when she arrived in the U.S. And his name was one of her very first words learned in English. Noelle has learned about love and compassion by having our kitties, especially frail Shadow, in her life.

Our pets are very special to us. Shadow and Stormy were in our lives for many years and played the role of "children" in our family before Noelle came along. They were and are precious to us-- the playfulness, the cuddly times, the cheerful cat chatter, their goofy wrestling, their calming presence in our arms or on our lap.

Shadow-boy, we love you, buddy. You are are a great kitty and will be missed!!!


Shadow is now resting peacefully in the woods behind our house. We said our goodbyes. Eric said the time at the vet was all very gentle and humane. Eric held Shadow the whole time, and our kitty was peaceful and relaxed in his final moments.