Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Last year, it looked like this.

This year, it looked like this!

Our little boys -- Britton and his cousin, Will -- are lions this year and we got some precious pictures of them together.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lia Kate's Adoption Site

Lia Kate is going to have her own blog to document this journey we are on. I am creating a new blog just for her so that I can turn her story into a book, through this site. I am in the process of creating a book documenting Britton's first few months of life, too. Lia Kate's blog will only be active from now until we get back from China and then we will be back on our blog as a family of four.

So ... without further ado ... here is Lia Kate's site.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Over the Moon

Today has been such a great day! First, we found out tonight that we got our Pre-Approval from the Chinese governement to adopt Lia Kate. This is the first official action that has to happen before we travel to China. The best part is that we got it only 5 days after we submitted our petition to adopt. And there was a weekend in there. Hope that is a sign of good things to come. Now we wait for our Letter of Approval, then our Travel Approval, and then we set up our appointment with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. We found out that we can not travel during Chinese New Year which goes from February 14-28, so we are hoping that all the approvals come in and that we can travel between mid-January and mid-February. Most people in our shoes (who have already had their paperwork in China for a long time) usually go from being matched with their child to traveling in about 3 months. If that is the case for us, which we pray it is, we'll be heading to China in late January!

The second bit of great news is that we got an UPDATE on Lia Kate!!! I had asked for this at the end of last week. All of her referral information ended at 9 months, so I was dying for an update and new pictures. And, we got them tonight!!! I am so over the moon for this little, happy girl ...

Her update was short and sweet and said ... she is currently 28" tall, weighs 18 pounds, 12 oz., has 8 teeth and very tiny feet (size 2s). They said she walks alone and understands when you call her name. She loves to eat congee and soft rice. "She is always happy." Melt my heart.

Walking! And holding her pants up to do so.

I love seeing this smile!

Yes, we're over the moon! Can't wait to hold this precious child in our arms. Thankful that we have a busy holiday season ahead to take our minds off of this long wait.

All About Lia Kate

There is a lot more to tell you about Lia Kate. Her file had a good bit of information about her and I wanted to share it all in a post of its own.

Her Story
We don't know yet where or when Lia Kate was found abandoned. All we know is that on August 11, 2008, she was brought to the orphanage. Upon admission, she was 5 lbs., 12 oz. and 19 inches long. Her umbilical cord was gone and a mild heart murmur was heard. I am guessing this was the reason for her abandonment. Her date of birth was determined to be July 31, 2008 (how providential?) and she was given her name. We are not supposed to share her Chinese name or the location of her orphanage on a public forum.

Her Development
Her file says she has had good physical development and has "on target motor and intellectual development."
* At 1-2 months of age, she slept 17 to 18 hours a day and cried a lot. ;o)
* At 3-4 months of age, she began holding toys and would "look at you closely when you talked to her, as if listening attentively."
* At 5 to 6 months of age, she could roll over and support her upper body up with her arms and look around. She cried when seeing strangers (this is a good thing for orphanage children).
* At 7 to 8 months of age, she rolled over well both ways, could sit with support, smiled at the mirror, focused on far away activities, and could identify where sounds came from.
* At 9 months, she supported her body weight on her arms and began to do things with purpose, she passed toys from hand to hand, and started to crawl. She couldn't get her belly off the ground, so she "doesn't crawl well." ;o) "When you hold her in your arms, she will happily smile and look at you."

Tiny Girl
At 1 month ... she was 7.5 pounds and 21.7 inches
At 3 months ... she was 11.5 pounds and 23.6 inches
At 6 months ... she was 14 pounds and 25.8 inches and got her first 2 teeth
At 9 months ... she was 15 pounds and 26.4 inches and had 4 teeth

Her Schedule
At 9 months, she would wake up at 7 a.m., take a nap at 11:30 a.m. and go down for the night at 9 p.m. Supposedly she is a deep sleeper. I am hoping so, as she'll fit in well around here. Though, they said she only naps for 15 to 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon. I'm hoping that's a typo because that doesn't count as a nap in my house!

She has formula, rice cereal and congee (a rice porridge they eat for breakfast) four times a day, as well as "meat soup", bread and fruit.

She laughs out loud and is described as active, restless, fond of listening to music, and fond of playing with toys. She has a "steady smile" and a "quick reaction". She is closest to a caretaker and her favorite toy is bells.

We hope to get an update soon with Lia Kate's current height and weight as well as what she has been up to the last 5 months. Stay tuned ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Makes My Monday

This sweet post from my sister-in-law's blog Makes My Monday! Britton and his cousin Will are the only kiddos on the Giffen side. Until our Lia Kate, that is. I just realized that the three Giffen grandchildren are all born within a year of each other -- Will in July 2007, Britton in January 2008 and Lia Kate in July 2008. This kind of parallels when the three Giffen brothers -- Danny, Scott and Ryan -- all got married within a year of each other! Anyway, I love the pictures of Britton and Will looking at each other ... so cute! Soon a girl will be be turning their Giffen boy world upside down. ;o) Thanks for the great post, Danica.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our Daughter's Name

We have finally decided what *we think* her name will be ...

Lia Katherine Collins Giffen
"Lia Kate"

Lia is part of her Chinese name and Katherine and Collins are family names.

Lia Kate's Chinese name means a graceful willow, beautiful and pure. And Katherine also means pure. We think that's just perfect.

Baby Girl FAQs

Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions on our baby girl...

When will you get her?

We are hoping to travel in February to get her. We will spend about 2 1/2 weeks in China traveling to her province to meet her, and then wrapping up all of the paperwork at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. We so look forward to spending time with our girl in her native land. We will probably fly into Hong Kong (instead of Beijing) since her orphanage is in that area.

Does she have a name?
We have not decided on her name yet! We've only had 2 1/2 years to think about it ... you would think we would know by now. For now, we are calling her Baby Lia. Lia is part of her Chinese name, and we are thinking it will be a part of her forever name, too. So for now, she is Lia to us.

So, the waiting finally paid off?
Well, kind of. We have officially been waiting for a Chinese daughter since our dossier got logged-in on January 11, 2008 (remember this post?). However, the wait to be matched with a child has gotten steadily longer since then. It was looking like we would never get matched with a healthy child (right now our estimated wait time is something in the range of 10 more years), so we decided to start looking for our girl on the special needs list. We are with a great agency that is very proficient at matching families with special needs children. My heart has always been open to adopting a special needs child, and we finally decided it was time. We were hoping to find a child with a minor, fixable medical need -- one that we could handle while also parenting two toddlers.

What is her special need?
Baby Lia has a small VSD (ventricular septal defect). In other words, she has a hole in her heart. But don't worry, it sounds scarier than it is. This is actually a very common heart defect. So many people have them and live with them every day. Her VSD will either heal on its own or she will have surgery to repair the hole. It should be one surgery at most. We will have her evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist as soon as we get home to determine how she should be treated.

Will she need other medical care?
Thankfully, we have a wonderful International Adoption Clinic here in town. The pediatrician who runs it has two adopted daughters from China, and she is the one we have been on the phone with (many times) as we have looked at files and made hard decisions. We will see her as soon as we get home to have Lia evaluated and she can help arrange for other care needed. Lia may qualify for Early Intervention therapy, like we've had with Britton, since she will certainly be delayed due to spending her first 18 months or so in an orphanage.

How did you know it was her?
We had been on quite the rollercoaster of emotions before we found Lia. We spent nearly two weeks deciding on another file and were so up and down and up and down during that time. We felt emotionally attached to this other child, but for whatever reason had so much doubt that we could handle the worst case scenario of her special need. We finally turned her file down on Tuesday. It was such a hard decision but we were at peace. On Wednesday morning, I woke up to find that China had released their newest list of special needs children. A few hours later, Lia's file appeared in my inbox. I opened it up, saw her face and then her birthday, and knew it was her. We talked to doctors, of course, but we just pretty much knew from the start that she was our girl.

Two toddlers, really?
Yes, we'll have two toddlers living in our house next year! Britton and Lia will be 7 months apart in age. They share the same birth year -- 2008. I'm sure that will confuse our doctor's office. We will probably get Lia when she is about 18 months old, but she will probably be more like a 12-month-old in size and maturity. So, for awhile, there will be a noticeable difference, but give her some time and they will probably be on par with each other before long.

Are those recent pictures of her?
No, they are not. Lia's file stops at about 9 months of age. It appears that her orphanage got her file together back in May and sent it to Beijing so that it would eventually make its way to people like us. Apparently, her file and the others in her batch didn't make it onto the official Special Needs list until a few days ago. We are hoping to get an update on her before long, and are really hoping for new pictures. Also, want to know what she is doing developmentally these days. At last report, she was trying to crawl.

There is a lot more to share about Baby Lia, but I'll do that in the next post. Hope this post answers a few of those burning questions!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's a Girl!!!!

We officially have a daughter waiting for us in China! After two plus years of waiting, we finally know her face...

This precious girl with her worried little expression is all ours.

So much information to share ... but I'll get to that in the coming days. For now, here are the basics. Our baby girl is almost 15 months old. Her birthday is July 31!!! If you know me well, you know what a big deal that is. So now, we have three July 31 birthdays in my family -- our daughter, me and my sister. It was meant to be.

She is living in an orphanage in the area near Hong Kong (way down in southern China), and we are hoping to travel in February to go get her. It should take about three months for all of the necessary paperwork to be completed so that we can travel. We are very excited and trust that the next three months will fly by with the holidays and with all we have to do to prepare for our trip and her arrival.

There is SO more to share about our girl, but I'll do that in the next post. Just wanted to get our big announcement out now!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Makes My Monday

These two little guys sure do Make My Monday...

Britton loves having a "daw" to play with tease, taunt, and chase.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Boy.

Just a close-up of our busy boy in his bear jammies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day on the Farm

We went to the Petting Zoo at Oak Mountain State Park for the first time the other morning. It was such a fun time.

We met Britton's friend, Weaver, there.

The animals were extremely docile.

Yeah, that's a goat on the pony's back. The pony was extremely laid back, or tired, or old, or something. I don't think he moved from his spot the entire time we were there.

Weaver kisses one of the friendly goats.

My little curly-headed boy.

Britton didn't just want to get close to the pond, he wanted to get into the pond, which is ironic since he's not the biggest fan of water and only tolerates bath time.

Only the sheep were a little skittish around us.

Britton decided he wanted a snack and had a little meltdown.

After I gave each of the boys a vanilla wafer, the sheep decided we weren't so scary after all.

I think this drainage ditch was one of the boys' favorite things. Go figure.

Until next time ...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Little Whitewater

This video is of my brother navigating his way in a raft through the Lodore Canyons on the Green River in Utah. You'll remember my brother from his last visit here. (The video at the bottom of that post is still my all-time favorite video!) Anyway, my brother lives in Colorado and guides rafts in the summer and skis in the winter. He has a real job too, but it seems like he mostly plays. ;o) Ahhh, the life.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Makes My Monday

It's only Monday for another hour ... so, just in time for this week's Makes My Monday post ...

... is this little pantry-raiding, nilla wafer-eating ..., diaper clad tot.

Caught him red-handed (as if he cared), but too cute not to take a picture!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Together for Adoption

Just thought I would post a bit about the adoption conference we went to last weekend in Nashville. It rocked our world and it wouldn't be right if I didn't post some tidbits about it here. Danny and I have long had a heart for adoption, and are in the midst of our own adoption, so we were very interested in attending this conference in Nashville called Together for Adoption: Our Adoption in Christ ... What it Means for Us and Orphans. It explored both the theology of adoption and the practical "how to" side of adoption. There were some incredible speakers all with personal stories of domestic and international adoption and their involvement in foster care and how they were compelled to do so because of their identity in Christ.

A few quotes from some of the speakers that keep ringing around my head ...
Scott Roley (Senior Pastor of Christ Community Church) said “we (Christians) holler loud against abortion,” so why aren’t we “standing up for orphan care?” In other words, how does the gospel affect our involvement in issues of social justice? Here is Scott Roley talking more about his topic "Adoption and the Pursuit of Racial Reconciliation")

Ed Stetzer said “even the un-churched know that Jesus was involved in social justice, and they often wonder why the church is not.” We cannot separate the great commission (to make disciples of all nations) from the great commandment (love your neighbor as yourself). Many churches become renowned for their service, but never proclaim the message of salvation. Stetzer said, “if we lose the Gospel, we lose our mission.”

Russell Moore said, “We can love the idea (of adoption and orphan care), but when it comes down to it” we need to follow through. He made an interesting point ... “we could learn much in the laboratory of orphan care how we ought to operate as the body of Christ.” There is a strong element of dying to self involved. Which is hard for the American church because it means we must “love people more than we love stuff.”

And, finally, from a woman who was in the foster care system from the time she was 18 months old until she aged out at the age of 17, she said that in being a believer now, the hardest thing she has had to come to grips with is "where was the church?" when she was a foster care child and going from bad home to bad home. With as many Christian families in the U.S., there shouldn't be 500,000 foster care kids bopping around from foster home to foster home.
We also ran across some really incredible stories and ministries. Here are but a few ...

Here is a story of a how a young family grew 3 by 3 by 3. Below is a quick video of their story. Seriously ... take the time to watch.

Promo for "3 by 3 by 3" Documentary from David Watson on Vimeo.

You heard it right ... this couple is only 31-years-old. You can read more about them at their site.

Perhaps, a modern-day Mother Teresa?

Another way God is redeeming the lives of orphaned children is happening in Uganda and by way of a young Nashville suburbanite. As a teenager, a girl named Katie went on a mission trip to Uganda. She returned and lives there today and has 14 adopted daughters. She is only 20 years old. Here is her blog. Here are pictures of her precious daughters. And her newest daughter is here. You can almost see that little one coming from death to life in a matter of days in those pictures. This seriously blows. me. away.

147 Million

This organization raises awareness of the orphan crisis in our world, sells products that go directly to orphan care, and helps people raise money for their own adoptions.

Abba Java
This organization sells coffee beans from Africa and then the proceeds support orphan care in those countries.

Anyway, that's about it. My summary here so does not do justice to the powerful things we heard and saw last weekend, but wanted to share a little bit about it.