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22 posts from September 2006

September 17, 2006

Our beautiful flowers


Sometimes I look at Gwen and she takes my breath away.  She's so lovely.  And what's even more amazing is that her inner beauty is every bit as present.  She's a gentle and affectionate little girl with a mischievous streak and a big passion for everything fun.  She'll often laugh so hard that she gives herself hiccups! 

Gwen's tough as rocks and can fall down hard then jump right up, wipe the blood off her knees with her hands, then keep going!  But if her feelings get even slightly hurt, she'll dissolve into a puddle of tears. 

She adores Mommy, loves her Daddy and enjoys her new sister, Maddy. 


Maddy is also very sweet and quite cute.  She loves to make Gwen laugh and will perform silly stunts over and over again just to get that response from her sister. 

It's obvious she's been well loved and never abused.  She can expertly drink from a cup and not spill a drop but isn't fearful or anxious if she does accidentally spill something.  She's gentle with Kitty but not always gentle with Gwen (something Gwen tolerates pretty well). 

When Maddy smiles, her entire face erupts to envelope that emotion.  Often, a little silly gurgle comes right before the hearty laugh.   It's hard to explain but very endearing!  I'm loving these early days with her as she and I get to know each other better.   

She and Gwen are physically beautiful in different ways.  Gwen is an exotic orchid and Maddy is more like a perfect sunny, bright tulip. 

I think all of our children are like flowers:  perfect and beautiful!  Maybe even more beautiful because we love and nurture them in our own garden -- where they undoubtedly grow extra strong because of all this fertilizer!

Sorry if that was corny.  Mama's on her 2nd glass of wine tonight and the analogies are pretty likely to only get worse if I keep typing!  Tomorrow is my first day all alone with the girls since Andrew returns to work.  I guess I should get some sleep so I can have my strength for the adventures that await me tomorrow!

ACCEPT Picnic #2

This is our 2nd ACCEPT picnic.  Last year, we attended one week after bringing Gwen home from China.  Click <here> for that blog post (and a picture or two).

This year, we're attending the picnic with two daughters!  Who could have ever imagined that?! 

It was great to see so many of our travel mates from last year.  The kids have grown so much!  (I'll post more picture next weekend when we have our 1st reunion celebration in Los Angeles).

We also saw Kelly and Helen and Maggie and her mom, Milinda.  And there was Lisa (mom to Gracie and Cameron) and oodles of other people who don't have blogs but recognized us from ours.   It was really fun!   Oddly, it seemed like Mary-Mia should have been there!  I should have invited her to crash the party!


It was great to meet up with some of the families we've gotten to know so well in the last year:

This is Kat (Journey to Sophia). 

We met her (and hubby, Colin) in person for the first time at last year's picnic.  This year, she's been home with Sophia for four months!  I kid you not, Sophia is right at the top of the list of the most charming and beautiful little girls I've ever seen!  She's 14 months old and weighs just under 18 pounds.  This is meaningful to us because that's Gwen's age and weight when we adopted her last year.  To look at Sophia and then look at Gwen now is to remember just how quickly these sweet babies grow up! 

Maddy and Gwen were not too happy to be participating in a photo shoot when it was 45 minutes after nap time.   People often email me and ask if they're ever grumpy or unphotogenic.  Here's your answer!  :) 


And here's Kristin and Friedrich (wunschmachen blog) who are eagerly awaiting Travel Authorization for the adoption of their adorable (and I mean adorable!) son.  They're counting the days and they're up to 69.  TA's usually come on the 70-something day of the wait so my fingers and toes are crossed that they'll get it this month!

Gwen isn't a big fan of cameras unless there are clown antics involved (mommy and daddy do some pretty bizarre things to get these girls to smile).   Here, Maddy just wants DOWN.   It's a bad picture of Mommy but it's hard to get 5 people in one picture and have everyone look good unless you take 600 photos and hire dancing bears.


And now the picture everyone using USAA is waiting for.  Here are the famous (hee hee....or is it infamous?) Tracey and Yazmine of US Asian Affairs in Monterey Park!  From the left is:  me (holding Maddy), Tracey, Yazmine and Andrew (holding Gwen). 

It was so nice to finally put a face to the voices that I've talked to so many time over the last two years.   

I had about a dozen special requests to get a picture of T and Y from our many USAA friends who were unable to attend the picnic.  So here they are!  :)

September 16, 2006

"Near Twins"

Pearl_river_maddy_and_gwenOur girls were born 36 days -- and 300 miles -- apart in southern China in the summer of 2004. They look like sisters and even though Maddy is much smaller, people often ask us if they're twins -- especially if they're dressed alike.  Our response has consistently been "No, but they're the same age" which brings a second round of questions about half of the time.  For now, the girls are too young to understand what we're talking about.  When they're older, we'll ask them how they want us to respond to these questions. 

About adopting "same age" kids:  Many people have emailed us privately asking about our choice to adopt Maddy knowing that she was the same age as Gwen.  Truthfully, at first, we were worried.  Not because we needed to worry but because we were conditioned to worry by well-meaning people who were also conditioned to worry that adopting same age kids somehow meant both kids were being cheated or injured by the arrangement.

We spent an entire weekend contemplating how, exactly, how they might be short changed and couldn't come up with a single (compelling) reason.   We compared the girls to biological twins or sisters born one year apart and didn't find anything significantly different or adverse about their age gap being 11 months closer.  If anything, it seemed as if there might even be a few advantages.  For example, they'll attend the same school and participate in the same sports leagues.  The nay-sayers (none of whom had same-age kids) said they'd be "competitive" but couldn't tell us what that meant or why it was bad.   We joined a Yahoo Group for parents of "near twins" and never found a single person who wished they'd not formed a family with kids less than 9 months apart in age.  Not one single family.

So we called our agency back and told them that we'd happily accept Maddy.

We were lucky that our Social Worker agreed to the arrangement since several SW's would not approve a home-study for the adoption of a "near twin" and many agencies also would not allow the adoption of a child who is the same age as an existing child in the family.

So here we are 10 days after returning home with Maddy and it's been less bumpy that we could have dreamed.  Both girls are typical 2 year olds and, as such, they enjoy being the sole recipient of all of our attention (and all of the toys) but they're surprisingly accepting of each other too.  They are so similar and so different at the same time.  Gwen is sweet and gentle but big and athletic.  Maddy is super happy but short tempered.  Gwen is our little acrobat but Maddy has better language skills and is already speaking English words more clearly than Gwen.  Gwen loves to snuggle and Maddy loves to play.  They both love Elmo and slides and our Kitty and strawberry yogurt.  And, of course, they both love us!   Our near-twins have truly brought this family a double dose of Double Happiness!

September 14, 2006



We bought new high-chairs and have finally started a new tradition of eating together - as a family - in the kitchen. This mostly involves breaking our old habit of eating in the family room in front of the TV. Today's lunch menu was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sugar free juice and some cheddar Pringles. As you can see, Gwen and Maddy approved! 

The other reason for the change was that we bought a new sofa.  We have a favorite furniture store in Cupertino and for several years, we've admired one particular sectional sofa.   It wouldn't fit in our old house but it fits perfectly in this one! 


September 12, 2006

How did we do a 2nd adoption so fast?

I've had several people ask how we managed to adopt Maddy so soon after Gwen's adoption.  You may have noticed that we had our 1st anniversary of Gwen's adoption while we were in China adopting Maddy.

In most cases, you have to wait one year after your last adoption before you can even start your 2nd (be DTC).  But this isn't the case with "Special Needs" (SN) adoptions. 

I'm reluctant to share this on my children's blog (so I'll probably delete this post soon) but Maddy is SN.  She was on our agency's Waiting Child (WC) list.    Look at her!  Can you guess what makes her imperfect enough that she's doesn't qualify for the Non Special-Need (NSN) program?    What is "imperfect"?  Are any kids really perfect?)


If you choose a child from a WC/SN list, you can adopt them much faster than the regular program.  You can also start your adoption pretty much any time after your last adoption.  In some cases, China wants you to have completed your 6 month post-placement home-study on your last adoption before you petition for your new child. 

You can also adopt TWO children at the same time and they don't have to be related.  They need to be from the same orphanage and have SN's that are similar in severity.

How do you find the child?  You can ask your agency if they have a WC list.  Some agencies have fierce competition for their WC's.  Others (like mine) have a small program and offer the kids to families who call and ask about them (no competition since they only offer one child to one family at a time). 

That's what we did.  We simply called to find out about a WC and - to our surprise - got a referral right on the spot.  We didn't look at any other children since, for us, it would have been to hard to reject them in favor of just one (how can we choose?).  We knew Maddy's SN and we had her picture and we knew her age and sketchy medical history.  This was exactly how much we knew about Gwen when we got her referral and we'd never consider rejecting her so we felt comfortable taking the same leap of faith and accepted Madeline.  And look how blessed we are!

There are many severities of SN's.  As a veteran parent, I strongly believe that ALL kids have SN's so there was no over-riding reason to pursue a 2nd adoption through the NSN program.  If we'd known that the SN program had so many kids with absurdly minor SN's, we probably would have considered that at the time of Gwen's adoption.  But, of course, we have no regrets since our Gwenny is our little darling! 

Maddy's SN is very minor and she'll probably not even know that she has this "flaw".  Honestly, it's so minor that we might not even need to correct it.  Some SN's are less minor and many are visible but still no big deal.  Kids are kids.  They're all beautiful and deserving of families! 

Some common SN's are listed here:  http://www.asiadopt.org/pages/waiting_children/glossary.html

Here's our time line for Maddy's adoption:

  • Feb 2006:  We found her on Our Agency: USAA  list.
  • Mar 2006: (six weeks later) we got Pre-approval from China
  • Apr 2006: We finished our home-study and turned our documents over to USAA
  • May:  We got our 171 and USAA sent our dossier to China
  • June 2006:  We waited for Travel Authorization (TA)
  • July 2006: We waited and waited for TA!
  • Aug 2006:  We got TA!! (Day 77 of the wait!) and flew to China and got Maddy on 8/23/06!
  • Sep 2006:  Home!

You can be just starting out or you can already have your dossier in China.  But, if your dossier is in China, you need to pick a child from your agency's list.  99.9% of the time, China won't transfer kids to another agency (so don't fall in love with a child on another agency's list).

Everyone gets Pre-Approval (that I know of) so don't feel like you really need to have that before your start your home-study. 

If your dossier is already in China and through the review room, you could pick a Waiting  Child and skip Pre-Approval and get your Travel Authorization in just a couple of weeks!  I've seen this happen as quickly as 2 weeks!!!!!!!  (Yes!!!)

I hope that nobody picks a WC because they can get them sooner.  Honestly, the kids are usually a bit older and adjustment is somewhat harder since the child actually mourns the loss of the only family they've ever known.  Maddy was in foster care since age 8 months and she cried for her foster mommy for three nights.  Yes, she loves us now but she also misses her other mommy and we have to be understanding and respectful of that.  I look at Gwen and try to imagine what it would be like for her to leave us and go live with another family forever.  It would be HARD.  It doesn't mean she's a problem child --- it just means she's normal.

If you're adopting from the WC program, please feel free to share your thoughts on this!

If you have questions, there is a wonderful WC support group on Yahoo: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WaitingChildrenChina/

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