Day 3 (and 4) – Introducing Olivia Jade!

After a good night’s sleep in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province where Olivia was born, we went to the civil affairs office. Trish and I waited with butterflies in our stomachs for Olivia’s arrival. An eternity later, she walked thru the doorway in the arms of the orphanage nanny, and burst into tears. But, Tricia has the best smile on her face holding our sweet little Olivia for the first time.

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We banished the nanny that brought Olivia to us from the room as quickly as possible (with the help of our wonderful guide Ting Ting). Without that distraction, she settled down a little with the devoted but somewhat smothering attention of Julia and Rion.

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Once we left the commotion of the civil affairs office, Olivia calmed down quite a bit. She lay contented in the arms of her new mother, who looked great for just “birthing” a new child.

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She giggled for the first time at lunch when she poked at Rion’s eye with her chopsticks. (As I’m writing here Tuesday late afternoon, the three kids are running around our hotel room shrieking and laughing.) We can already tell Olivia won’t have any problem holding her own against Rion and Julia.

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Finally, after one of the most traumatic mornings of her young life, Olivia fell fast asleep at nap time.

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After dinner at Pizza Hut, Tricia gave the girls a bath together. Julia loved brushing Olivia’s beautiful long hair afterwards. Olivia played with mom’s sunglasses, and she looked too cool for school already.

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For the most part, Olivia’s been scared of me because she just hasn’t had many men in her life yet. At first, when I tried to approach her, she started crying and shied away. But, she didn’t seem to mind if I gently touched her arm or her back while Tricia held her. She’s very observant though, and she’s watched me interact with Julia and Rion. This morning, at the civil affairs office again to finalize paperwork, Rion fell and bonked himself hard. Tricia set Olivia down to comfort Rion, I held out my arms a few feet away, and without much hesitation she walked over and climbed up on my lap. This afternoon, we finally had some hands free to snap a picture.

 

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Overall, we’re so pleased with how quickly Olivia has adjusted. In many ways, she’s adjusting faster than Julia did four years ago. She loves Tricia’s doting, and the comfort of either of our arms. She loves playing with Julia and Rion, and she has a great little chortling laugh. We’re just so incredibly happy that we get the privilege of being this darling little girls’s parents forever.

Prayer time for Olivia and our family

We just got notice that Olivia has left her foster home “The House of Love” to go back to her orphanage in Fuyang.  Her transition to her forever family has begun.  She is leaving the only home and family that she knows, being taken by a stranger on a train to an orphanage she doesn’t remember, and left there on her own with more people she doesn’t know.  In about 10 days, some other person she doesn’t know is going to take her on a train or in a car to the city of Hefei.  Then she’ll be handed to her new family.  But as a two-year old who has never had a mom or dad, can she even understand what that means?  We pray that she’ll remember what her caretakers at The House of Love told her when they showed her our pictures.  We pray that Jesus will fill her heart with peace and let her know she’s in a safe place and that she is loved.

We ask for your prayers for the transition that will come once she is with us.  We hear on occasion that we’ve got it easy since we’ve already made it past the newborn stage.  But adoption is not a painless process.  Some children transition extremely well, like Julia did.  Others deal with a great amount of grief and confusion, like Rion did.  Still others are very traumatized by the losses they’ve experienced and by the neglect and maybe abuse they’ve suffered.  They are never able to attach and bond with their families without years of therapy. Even then, they may not ever relate the way most people do.

We have every reason to believe that Olivia has been cared for so that she will attach to us well and that she will accept love from her family and give it in return.  At The House of Love they not only take care of the children’s physical needs, but also provide as much of a family environment as they can. Still it can be a hard road.  We pray for a smooth transition, but know that it may not be easy.  Yes, Olivia’s two and might sleep through the night, or she might cry out in fear and sadness and suffer from night terrors.  I read a post the other day from a family who adopted one of Olivia’s little friends a few weeks ago.  She seems to be doing well, but spent at least one of her nights in China sleeping on the floor right next to the hotel room door, trying to get as far away from her new parents as she could.

We have to ensure Olivia feels secure and loved.  At the same time, we have to provide structure and discipline appropriate for a 2-year-old.  With Rion that was often a tough balance to strike.  Especially as a rambunctious 3-year-old, we had to respond to some of his inappropriate behaviors, but that didn’t always seem to create an environment that helped his attachment.  In an established family, the structure is part of the loving environment, but in the case of a child that has been raised by different people, in a different culture, and is perhaps acting out due to grief and sadness as opposed to general “terrible twos or threes” behavior, it’s not always easy for parents to know how to respond.

Newborns come with a natural inability to move about (and they sleep quite a bit), whereas toddlers may spend the majority of their days in full destruction mode.  Newborns might occasionally seem “boring” to their siblings, but toddlers come ready to fight for their toys (yelling in Chinese by the way).  We’ll need (and want) to spend a lot of time holding Olivia, who is weighing in at impressive 28 lbs, so our back muscles will be challenged.

The blessings of adopting a toddler are numerous though!  We get to go through about a thousand “firsts” in just the first few days, weeks and months.  First smiles, first giggles, first hugs, first kisses, first games with her siblings, first English words, first “I love you”, and so many more.  It’s like a fire hose sometimes, but then it’s also the most amazing, rewarding experience you can possibly imagine!

News from China!

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It was so fun to receive an update on our little cutie yesterday!  She looks like she’s growing every day!  Here are a few things we now know about Olivia.  She’s 89 cm tall – I’ll make you do your own math!  🙂  I compared that to Julia’s marks on the wall and she’s about as tall as Julia was when she turned 3.  (Olivia turned 2 in March).  She’s 28 lbs, so I’ll be working on those biceps for the next month!

She’s a healthy eater and sleeper (ha, my new baby sleeps through the night!) and naps for 2 hours during the day.  She seems to be able to do almost anything with her hands and doesn’t need any special help.  She’s walking well and won’t need special shoes.

Phil may finally have a mini-me personality-wise.  Julia and Rion are showing strong tendencies of my personality.  (I’m sure the stubborn part of Rion is all Phil though).  Julia’s competitive spirit is alive and well just like mine.  And just to prove that he’s MY son Rion started organizing my very-well-organized pantry yesterday!  🙂  Olivia is apparently much more reserved.  She likes to watch and observe before she gets involved.  They said “she needs time to adapt and understand the stranger” and “she will be very quiet in a strange environment”.  I liked how they described what makes her happy (because it shows how they loved her in the foster home): “Combing her beautiful hair and praise her.  Putting on new clothes sent by her parents will also make her happy and proud.”  I think God knows we needed another quiet person around here.  Of course, I know that won’t always be the case, and we can’t wait to hear three sets of giggles and shouts in our house!

 

Overjoyed! We Have Our Official Referral!

032-Yang Yu Zhen2At long last, we received our official referral from the Chinese government Monday formally approving our adoption of Olivia!  We were so excited.  Tricia called me at work mid-morning right after she got a call from Great Wall.  We could hardly contain ourselves knowing we’re getting closer to being Olivia’s parents.  At this point, the waiting is harder the closer we get to our departure date.

For those unfamiliar with the Chinese adoption system, this is really the last big hurdle.  It’s somewhat downhill from here, although it still takes a bit of time.  We need U.S. immigration approval to adopt Olivia specifically.  (We have general U.S. immigration approval to adopt internationally.)  Then, we need approval to travel from the Chinese government.  Finally, we need an appointment with the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou.  Then, we can purchase our plane tickets, get our visas, and we’re off to China!

We’ve been doing things around the house to get ready.  Trish put her engineering degree to good use and assembled the bunk bed we bought for her and Julia to share.  Tricia’s found a third car seat.  We’ve been spending a couple evenings a week learning Mandarin with Rosetta Stone.  (“Zhe ge nu hai zi you yige jiating” which means “This girl has a family.”)  We’ve got a long way to go though.  Mandarin is a tough language.

Honestly, we get more and more anxious as we get closer.  Olivia’s living situation right now is as good as it gets for an orphan.  But, she doesn’t have a family.  The four of us just want to hug her, hold her close and show her how much we all love her.  We can’t wait to make her part of our family!

We Celebrated Olivia Jade’s Second Birthday!

Olivia birthday gift

Monday night we went to our favorite little hole in the wall neighborhood Chinese restaurant to celebrate Olivia’s second birthday.  We’ve actually had a birthday for each of our kids before we adopted them.  Olivia should have received the package of gifts above by her birthday.  Hopefully, pictures of her opening the presents will show up soon.

It was so cute to see how excited Julia and Rion were for Olivia’s birthday!  It probably didn’t hurt that we gave them each a present instead.  Julia’s got a big grin on her face because she got an “Olivia dress,” which makes her look like Olivia’s cartoon pig alter ego.  Rion got his very own mini camp chair.

The kids are so excited they’re getting a little sister and can’t wait to go to China and get her.  They’d leave tomorrow if they could.

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Happy Birthday Olivia Jade!

Today in China there is a little girl celebrating her second birthday.  We have already grown to love her and very soon, she will be ours, so we wanted to introduce her to you.  This is Olivia Jade (aka Hannah), and she currently lives at the very aptly named House of Love in Guilin, China.

Happy Birthday Olivia!  We’re coming for you!

We hope that along with a little party with her friends in her foster home, that she is getting a very special gift.  She has probably already opened her presents, including a little “Olivia” doll, because that’s going to be her name, a recorded book with some voices she doesn’t know yet, and most importantly a photo album full of pictures of her new family: her sister Julia, her brother Rion, her daddy, and ME, her mommy!  If you’d like to help celebrate her birthday, you can help us give her the best present ever, a forever family, by making a tax-deductible gift to her adoption fund.

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The “Olivia” doll is of her literary and television namesake OLIVIA.  Isn’t it great to have your own theme song?

This will be the first time she sees her new family.  Perhaps it will be the first time she’s even told about that she has a new family.  We sure wish we could be a fly on the wall.  In this scene, Olivia’s friend Lydia recently saw her family for the first time, and you get to see the beautiful place, Guilin, where Olivia is being fostered.  Olivia’s other little friend Emmie also recently found out about her family!

Logged In!

Today we received a pretty, formal letter from our wonderful adoption agency, Great Wall China Adoption.  The letter gave our log in date with CCCWA, China’s adoption oversight agency, of February 26, 2013.  This took a little less than two weeks after our agency sent our dossier to China.  Now, the wait begins for receipt of our official letter seeking confirmation, which is the official referral of Olivia from China.  (Then, we can post pictures of this adorable little girl for you to see!)  Great Wall says referral is taking between 5 and 12 weeks right now.  To be honest, we’ve almost always received things faster than the average or estimated time.  God works in the details, thankfully.

We’re Off to China! Err, Our Dossier Is Anyway

We’re triple certified!  We found out yesterday that the Chinese consulate in San Francisco finally authenticated our dossier.  They sent it out Thursday Fed Ex overnight to our adoption agency Beijing just in time for the weekly package to their Beijing office.  Great Wall hand delivers to the China Center of Adoption Affairs, which is the Chinese government agency that oversees all adoptions in China.

The international adoption process involves a surprising amount of certifying this, that or the other thing.  You need many signatures notarized.  Your doctor’s signature on your physical needs to be notarized.  Your social worker’s signature on your home study needs to be notarized.  Of course, your signature needs to be notarized as well.  Then, you have the state government secretary of state’s office certify that the notaries your used are in fact notaries in your state.  Finally, you send it to the Chinese consulate so they can certify that the secretary of state is in fact your secretary of state.  That’s the simplified version.

What’s timeline look like now?  Our adoption agency estimates it’s taking between 2 and 6 weeks to get a “log in” date, which is confirmation they’ve received your dossier and put it in their system.  Then, it’s taking between 5-12 weeks for the “letter seeking confirmation,” which is the official Chinese referral of the potential child to us.  So, our current wait time is between 7 and 18 weeks.  After that, we’ll need travel approval from the Chinese government, our U.S. consulate appointment, our Chinese visas, and our tickets to fly!  Then, we’re off to China for real!

Wait, We Weren’t Supposed to be Doing This Yet!

For a couple who decided not to pursue another adoption until 2014, we were doing strange things.  Tricia never did stop looking at waiting children in China on the internet. I began looking for a new adoption agency, making some inquiries and asking others for recommendations. I looked at a few, and sent emails to a few.  But we remained committed to give it a year or longer before pursuing anything seriously.

By fall, thoughts of another adoption started to enter our minds.  After all, it’d taken us more than a year after submitting our dossier to China to find Rion on the waiting child list.  So we knew that it would take a while for an adoption to happen even if we did get started.  Meanwhile, Rion was starting to bond with our family and we were bonding with him.  He and Julia started to build an amazing friendship.  It was great to see him blossom and grow.

After our social worker recommended Great Wall China Adoption, we began to look at them more seriously.  They’re one of the largest agencies working in China, and they had private partnerships with six different social welfare institutes.  As a result, they have a bigger list of available kids than most agencies.

About six months after bringing Rion home, Tricia called Great Wall and spoke to someone in the China Waiting Child program.  They discussed the possibility of reusing some of Rion’s dossier which you can do if you adopt within a year.  (Dossier is short for lots and lots of documents regarding your life that take an endless amount of time and effort to gather.) But the child we would adopt would have to be a Special Focus child – a child with a more complicated special need, possibly an older child, definitely one who would be more difficult to place.  We were looking for a young (maybe 2 year old) girl, with minor special needs.  Kimberly, the woman from Great Wall, agreed that it would be pretty unlikely to find a child that would fit that profile, except, she said for one little girl’s file.  It had just come in that day.  She said she’d send us the file of this little Special Focus child.

We opened our email to find the cutest little girl just under two years old with medical issues that we definitely felt we could handle.  Our hearts just melted, and we almost couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Throughout our adoptions, God’s demonstrated that He absolutely works in the details.  We were not in any kind of hurry to pursue another adoption even though we were making preliminary inquiries.  We still can’t quite understand how Olivia was labeled “special focus”.  But there was at an error in her file that suggested she had a problem that she actually didn’t even have.  Tricia happened to call Great Wall before they made Olivia’s availability public.  Given her young age and her minor medical issues, it’s likely that another family would have quickly chosen her.  But we believe that God meant her to be ours and He just made all the pieces fit.