Monday, June 27, 2011

My time, God's time, China time, and why is it taking so long.

"Have you heard anything about the baby? When are you going to get the baby? Why is it taking so long?" I have heard these question for that past 4 years. One of my favorite t-shirts of China adoption says "No I havent heard anything, No I don't know how much longer it will be, Yes, make it a double." When I started the process of adoption the wait time was 9 months. Within a year that wait time had grown to 4 years. I have been waiting 4 years, one month, and 27 days. If I had not found Audrey on the waiting list I would still have an estimated 2 more years to wait. I know the arguements and the frustrations, "if these kids need homes, why is it taking so long?" Here is the best answer I can give you: I don't know. All I can tell you is from what I have learned from my wait and what the Chinese government has done.
 I started the adoption process the summer of '06. After 9 months of paperwork from my agency, but mostly Illinois DCFS paperwork, I could send what is called a "Dossier" to China. That date is called  the Date to China (DTC) and mine is March 5th 2007. The dossier consists of DCFS approvals, fingerprints, paperwork and clearances from various state and international agencies. Once this has arrived in China your dossier is logged in the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA or now known as the CCWAA) and you are officially in line. That date is called your Log in Date (LID) and everything you do from now on is based off of that date. My LID is 4/4/07. All families that are logged in on that date have the same LID and form a group - my group with my agency started with 25 families from around the world. China adoption is not just popular in America, but several European countries participate in the process, too. Each month China releases a certain amount of children for adoption and how many log in dates that number of children covers determines how many days are matched in a month...otherwise called a "batch".

 China has some rules for adoptive families to follow and rules they themselves have to follow. For example, China says that 60 percent of the children in orphanages up for adoption have to be adopted domestically, the other 40 percent can go for international adoption. Private and government run orphanages have to follow these rules but have to pay for the process out of their budgets. Placing a child for international adoption costs alot of money and paperwork for an orphanage so only a few orphanages participate in the program.

 Once a batch of babies are released they are matched to families with their particular LID. When I started the process there was a 9 month back log. I started at a time where the perfect storm was brewing. There used to be many more babies available for adoption that there were parents in line for them and families were matched in as short of a time as 4 months. Soon, with word spreading about China adoption, many people started the process and soon there were more families in line to adopt than there were babies available. Some number have been tossed around like 3 - 400 babies v/s 1 - 2,000 families waiting. It now takes 3 - 6 months to get through on month of families. As of today, families up to June 30th of 2006 have been matched with their children. Next up is July 1st of '06 and no one is sure how many days of families will be included in this batch - history has been that between 3 - 10 days may be matched in this batch. Families that start the process are now being advised that the wait is currently at 5 years and that may or may not speed up.

 What has my dossier been doing this whole time? Sitting in the CCWAA offices waiting to be matched. As you know, last year I felt the call to look at the waiting child list and I found Audrey on that list on May 13th. My file has now been pulled out of our LID pile and is being processed with her file so I can get her in a couple of months. I hope it didn't get too dusty! :) My timing would have been that I would have gotten a referral for a child with in the 9 months I was estimated to wait. China time says nope - you must wait much longer that that. God's time said 4 years, 1 month, and 27 days was all I needed to bring you and Audrey together. And I think it is perfect. Here are some images I "borrowed" from other blogs about China adoption so you can get a little glimpse into what the CCWAA looks like.
        Files that are waiting to be matched with babies to create forever families!

                    Waiting files - mine is in there somewhere!
Each file is color coded by agency - you can see why it takes so long. All of those files are a family that is waiting for a baby and represents a baby waiting for a family.
Please understand that the people working in these offices love and care for the children just as we would love and care for an American child being adopted by someone else from another country. They do the best they can with what they have and really want these kids to have forever families.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What's in a name?

***WARNING: this post is not a slam against any name but an observation on 18 years of teaching and my choice in naming my daughter***
Ask any teacher, "are there any names that you would never name your child?", and we would all answer yes. You know them - those particular students that have taken a perfectly good name and attached to it angst, aggrivation, heartache, tears, and fear. For me the names James, Patrick, Stephanie, Brittany, Nick, and Marcus bring an instant cringe and heart palpitations. There was the year where I had 14 Brittany's and 12 Ashleys throughout the day (average 3 to a class), and in one class add to that 3 Dustin's, and 4 Blake's. Last year I had a class with 4 Breanna's all spelled differently with Dontavier, Daeveon, Devon, Dervon, and Demitrius who all insisted that they sit at the same table together. I've had some students with interesting names: Zenobia, Precious, Eunique, Ravi, Darkayan, Emprince, King Solomon, and my FAVORITE Excedrine. I've had twins named Lazarus and Lazorus, a student who only went by his nickname - Critter - and I never knew his real name, and students whose name I could never spell apologies to Dominyque Ja'bree and Teresa Machejeweski (still not sure if they are spelled correctly). Sigh....we teachers' have a hard time naming our children.
When I began my quest to name my daughter, I had an uphill battle. I didn't want to go trendy, I didn't want to go unique. I just wanted a classic name, spelled in the classic way, and have it be a name that was not so common to avoid the problems previously stated. Having grown up with a name that was not common, I didn't have the problem of getting my work mixed up with others or being mistaken for someone else. That was until Shannon Blair moved here and was placed in my class....but that is a whole other story. I wanted a name that was just for her. I spent many an afternoon looking at baby name books, looking up names on line, and reading the birth announcements in the paper. I finally got a list together and started prioritizing my favorites.
I started with Chloe and Lily - but after looking at adoption announcements and finding that over half of the little girls adopted from China were named these two names, they were eliminated. I tried on Lydia, Lilah, Eliza, Emmory, and Josslyn. I looked at family names, biblical names, and historic names. I considerd Scottish names like Caris, English names like Phillipa and Camille, and floral names like Ivy and Poppy. None of these seemed to fit and my list got shorter. What a found on that shortened list was two of my favorite names Audrey and Tess. I've always like Audrey and Tess was from a character in a made for TV movie - I always remembered it and loved it. The name formed and it was perfect.
Audrey \a(u)-drey, aud-rey\ as a girl's name is pronounced AW-dree. It is of Old English origin, and the meaning of Audrey is "noble strength". Also the root, via Saint Audrey, for the word "tawdry", due to lace and goods sold at Saint Audrey's Fair in England.
Tess \t(e)- ss\ as a girl's name is a variant of Teresa (Greek), Tessa (English) and Theresa (Greek), and the meaning of Tess is "late summer".
I named my daughter 4 years ago without knowing anything about her. I then had no idea how old she would be, what she would look like, where she would be from, I picked and hoped that these names would fit her - and I think they do! I always planned then on adding her Chinese name to the names I had given her and that plan has stayed in place - but with a twist. My daughter has a Chinese name ( Xiao Wan) as well as an English name given to her by her foster home (Sally). These names have been added to the above and I think it is as unique as she is.
Sally \s(al)-ly\ as a girl's name is pronounced SAL-ee. It is of English origin. Variant of Sarah (Hebrew) "princess".
Xiao /she-ow\ comes from the Chinese origin. In Chinese the meaning of the name Xiao is: Early morning.
Wan /waan\ comes from the Chinese origin. In Chinese the meaning of the name Wan: Tender
Audrey Tess Sally Xiao Wan Norris - I like it! I hope that when her teachers call her name that they have good feelings towards her. I hope they can spell her name corretly. I hope she can live up to the meaning of all of her names.
Here are some famous people with her names:
Audrey Hepburn - actress

St. Audrey - Saint

Tess Daly - actress

Sally - Charlie Brown's sister

Sally Ride - astronaut

Sally Field - actress

Xiao He - hero for early Han dynasty

Xiao Wen Ju - super model

Obe-Wan Kenobi - Jedi Warrior

Shangguan Wan - concubine and secretary

Monday, June 13, 2011

100 Good Wishes Quilt

A tradition in China is to give a 100 wishes quilt to a new baby's family. I have looked forward to creating this quilt for 4 years and am so excited to share the tradition with you and my daughter. Here is the story behind the quilt:
To welcome and celebrate a new life, there is a tradition in the northern part of China to make a Bai Jia Bei, or 100 Good Wishes Quilt. It is a custom to invite friends and family to contribute a patch of cloth with a wish for the baby. Part of the patch of cloth goes into the quilt for the baby, and the other part of the cloth can go into a creative memory notebook with the wish for the child. The quilt contains the luck, energy, and good wishes from all the families and friends who contributed a piece of fabric. The quilt is then passed down from generation to generation.
This wish can be for something that would happen soon in the childs life, something that will happen later in life, hopes and dreams for the child, material things for the child - whatever you wish! I have seen some touching wishes as well as a funny one sent to a new cousin from a 10 year old cousin, " I wish you never have to wear braces." Here are some examples of typical 100 wishes quilts and the wishes given for the scrapbook.

I never thought I was much of a control freak - until now. I know I know.....go ahead and laugh you all. But when I imagined my childs 100 wishes quilt I couldn't quite stomach the fabric not matching. I decided to give the 100 wishes quilt a twist and chose a quilt pattern that I liked and had matching fabrics and patterns chosen specifically for that quilt pattern. Thanks to Jan McCormick and the Sew Sisters at the First Baptist Church in Bethalto for sewing this quilt and to Janene and Macey Allen for shopping for fabrics with me. What will happen with our quilt is at the baby shower, attendies will be given a note card with a piece of the fabric attached. They will then be able to write the wish on the card and return it so that it can be placed in a scrapbook for Audrey to read at a later date. The fabrics are a mix of reds, greys, tans, off-whites, browns, florals, polka-dots, stripes, and checks. It will be so beautiful when completed and Audrey will have it as a reminder of those who love her and wish her well. Here is a poem that was written to match a fabric in a 100 wishes quilt:
"Believe in rewards that await you, believe in the harvest in store. Believe that spring will awaken, believe you'll be sowing once more. Believe that there's a tomorrow, where no one cares if you can't dance. Believe in the future's promise, each new day brings a new chance. Believe you can make your goals happen, they're just dreams with a deadline attached. Believe that you have the power, believe that you're more than a match. Believe in a shared existence, you're not alone this is true. Believe that right now there is someone, who believes in the wonder that's you."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where in the World is Xi'an and how do you pronounce it?

My baby girl is from the Shaanxi provence, the city of Xi'an (may also be spelled Sian). Pronounced like shee-an, Xi'an is in the middle of the country found with in the Yellow River Basin - she is a midwestern gal! Here is a map to show you where it is. For the provence look in the middle, just above the light green one. For the city, look for Beijing and head in a diagonal southwest direction. The city has a dot with a circle around it.

Xi'an is more than 3,000 years old and was known as Chang'an in ancient times. For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi'an is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang dynasties. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it is no wonder that there are so many historical ruins, museums and cultural relics to be found here. It was already influencing the world outside of the Great Wall of China as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Here traders from far and wide brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their native countries. In present day Xi'an not much of its former glory remains within the city confines, due to the constant warfare and political changes that swept China particularly throughout the 20th Century. Today the city has a pleasant cosmopolitan flair to it and it is worth visiting for the famed Terracotta Warriors alone. It has often been said that, "if you have not been to Xi'an, you have not been to China!"
I had always said that I didn't care where Audrey was from, but secretly hoped that she would be from were the terra cotta warriors were so I could see them - and she is! In March 1974, a group of peasants digging a well in drought-parched Shaanxi province in northwest China unearthed fragments of a clay figure—the first evidence of what would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. Near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi—who had proclaimed himself first emperor of China in 221 B.C.—lay an extraordinary underground treasure: an entire army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, interred for more than 2,000 years. The site is found on dry, scrubby land planted in persimmon and pomegranate—bitterly cold in winter and scorching hot in summer—marked by dun-colored hills pocked with caves. Over the past 35 years, archaeologists have located some 600 pits, a complex of underground vaults as yet largely unexcavated, across a 22-square-mile area. The site is a current dig and archeologists are finding new and interesting things everyday. It is rumored that there is a tomb complex that resembles the earth and had rivers of mercury running through the ground and lights in the ceiling to resemble the sky. Here are some images of the warriors!


There are also other historical things to see in Xi'an!
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang. According to ancient stories of Buddhists, there were two branches, for one of which eating meat was not a taboo. One day, they couldn't find meat to buy. Upon seeing a group of big wild geese flying by, a monk said to himself: 'Today we have no meat. I hope the merciful Bodhisattva will give us some.' At that very moment, the leading wild goose broke its wings and fell to the ground. All the monks were startled and believed that Bodhisattva showed his spirit to order them to be more pious. They established a pagoda where the wild goose fell and stopped eating meat. Hence it got the name 'Big Wild Goose Pagoda'.

The Great Mosque
The Great Mosque in Xian is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. According to historical records engraved on a stone tablet inside, this mosque was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a result of Islam being introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travelers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century when some of them settled down in China and married women of Han Nationality.

The area is also known for its dumplings...mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......
Forest of Stone Steles
Once the site of the Temple of Confucius during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), the Forest of Stone Steles Museum is situated on Sanxue Street, near the south gate of Xian City Wall. It was initially established in 1087A.D.. when some precious stone steles were moved here for safe keeping, including the 'Classic on Filial Piety' written by Emperor Xuanzong in 745A.D. and 'the Kaicheng Stone Steles' carved in 837A.D.. All together, there are 3,000 steles and the museum is divided into seven exhibitions halls, which mainly display the works of calligraphy, painting and historical records.

Muslem Street
Just as its name implies, Muslem Street is the hub of the Moslem community in Xian City, Shaanxi Province. This street is paved with dark colored stone with green trees providing heavy shade during summer; the buildings on both sides of the street are modeled on the styles of both the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). The main goods of these stores are authentic hand-making Moslem food which tastes very good. While still there are small stores selling the special local products of Shaanxi Province and yet others provide you with exquisite souvenirs. Can you say "shopping"?

So much to do and see - so much history. This culture is the heritage of my daughter and I hope to be able to see as much and document as much of it as I can for her. While we may NOT be hiking to the top of Mt. Huashan, we hope to do as many things as possible to learn as much as we can about where she comes from so that we can give her a connection to this area. I can't wait to explore this fascinating city with her! There is alot of information about Xi'an on the web if you want to learn more!

Friday, June 3, 2011

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him. 1 Samuel 1:27

It is my joy, my honor, and my priviledge to introduce my daughter. Audrey Tess Sally Xiao Wan. I will, of course, only call her Audrey. In the China adoption world there is a phrase that is used to describe this moment and I am go glad that I can finally say I am, "OVER THE MOON!"

These photos are the newest I have and I think they are up to a week old. I am very lucky to have photos of her when she was younger as well. Most children placed in orphanages only have photos taken of them when they are to be adopted. Audrey was placed in a foster home where photos were taken more regularly. I don't know if I will recieve any more photos of her, but I am so thankful to have these!

Just look at those legs, those cheeks! Precious! And I LOVE that yellow checkered outfit and red sandals.
Audrey's Story
I first of all want to say how thrilled I am to be introducing my daughter to all of you and sharing ALL about her. However, Audrey has a story, like all of us, that is personal to her. Those of you who are visiting here are here because you love me, my family, and this little one. As much as you lover her and us, there will be parts to her story that I will leave up to her to share if she wants to. Please don't think that we don't trust you or want to share this information, but I want to give her the opportunity to make the decision to let the information out if she chooses. She has had no choice in the things that have happened to her in her little life and I want to give her every opportunity to make as many decisions about her life and what she shares from now on.
For those of you who don't know much about China adoption, let me explain some facts. In the 1970's China was facing a problem - too many people and not enought rescoures to feed, clothe, educate, and have jobs for an exploding population. An "easy" communist solution to this problem was to create a law called the "One Child Policy". Every family could only have one child. Sounds good on paper, right? Well, what if you have twins, or have an "oops"? People who love and want more children were/are forced by an unfair and oppresive government to make the hardest choices and were/are caught between a rock and a hard place. With a strong traditional preference for boys, Chinese families began having to make hard decisions - keep the girl child or let her go and try again for a boy. Orphanages started to be over run with little baby girls whose families could not keep her. In the early 1990's word got out and missionaries  started programs that would allow these little girls to be adopted to families outside of China (boys are available also but it is pretty rare). There are two ways to adopt from China: 1. Get placed on a non-special needs list, get a log in date, and wait your turn (for me 4 years), or get placed on a waiting child list and look for a child that is either older or that has a minor to a major special need. I started on the first and ended up on the second. If I had not found Audrey on the waiting list I was still looking at 1 1/2 to 2 more years of waiting. Back to Audrey......
Audrey was found in Xi'an, China on 12/27/2009 and sent to the Childrens Welfare Institute of Xi'an. Her birthdate was determined to be 12/14/2009 according to her growth and development and was named An Xiao Wan. She was found to have an issue that needed correcting and was sent to be fostered by the StarFish Foster Home on 12/30/2009 to be fostered and taken care of after her issue was fixed. She was given the name Sally and has been in their care ever since. (translating Chinese into English is sometimes a hoot so please understand why the sentences sound so wierd) Said about Audrey, "Since she has a good eating function, she has bigger build than her peers and therefore, we give her a lovely nick name "Lafoye" which means she is well cared for. She is a pretty little girl and the caregivers predict that she will grow up to a pretty woman. Alot of volunteers lover her very much."
I had prayed that God would place my daughter in a safe and loving place, that she would have plenty of food and care, and that she would have strong bonds with her caregivers. God has answered that prayer. She is doing well and progressing at an average rate with her peers - a blessing considering some children come from orphanages where they are never held of talked to and rarely fed.
Please pray that God will prepair her for us - her world is gonna be turned upside down in a few months. WE know she is going to be adopted - she has no clue. Please also pray that God blesses us finacially end emotionally as we prepair for her arrival these next few months! Now I am off to stare at her face some more - LOVE THOSE CHEEKS!