Friday, September 30, 2011

Referral Announcement: 1 Year Later

Last night, David, Eva Monet, and I went out to celebrate.

Thursday, September 29th marked our 1 year anniversary since receiving a phone call that we had been matched with a little girl from Jiangxi Province, China.  Her name?  Bo, Jiawan.   She was 9 1/2  months old.

How surreal it felt to finally hear her name, to learn a few basic facts, and to know that after so many years of waiting, we were finally at this moment!

Love pooled in my heart as if to signal that it was finally safe to swim here.  So many years of wading in the 'shallow end', waiting with great hope that 'Our Time' was coming...

A year ago, we had no idea just how much love would flood our hearts and home.  Who knew all that we would experience since the first time we saw those deep brown eyes and jet black hair. Talk about life changing!  What an amazing year!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sweet Reunion: Atlanta Style

A few weeks ago, David, Eva Monet and I had the opportunity to reconnect with several families who also adopted children from China.  Our daughters began their lives at the same Institute and share a special connection.   It was truly amazing to see how the girls had grown and developed since our Thanksgiving Trip together just last year.  There was no question that the families had all formed strong attachments to one another and the girls were blossoming.  What a joy to see!

Enjoy a few photos from our time in Atlanta.  These first few were taken just outside of the Atlanta Aquarium.   It was our first time visiting and Eva Monet had great fun discovering the many creatures that live in and around the water.   Experiencing life through the eyes of your child is the best!  

Okay...  On three!  One...  Two...
Three!   Say Cheese!

Our Sweetie Pies.

Fun to be together again!


Big Sisters.  Beauty from the inside out.

Fellow Mama's! 

Beluga Whales:  Here they come!   Here they come!

Look, Eva, it's a shark!

 So close, Daddy...   I can almost touch them!

Play time at the Westin.  :)

Look what Daddy built! 
I'll trade you a green for an orange...


Did you see those Beluga Whales, Sophie?  They were thiiiiiiissss BIG!!

Great memories!  We are already making plans for our next get together.  FUN!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

20 months and counting...

So... It's been a few months since I've put up a post.  3 months to be exact.  In the world of bloggers, I am a novice at best.  I mean you do have to actually blog to be called a blogger, right?  Well, I've had some emails/calls asking for an update on family and life with Eva Monet.  So with the press of a button and a few clicks of the mouse, I'm finally ready to go.

Here's a little taste of life these past few months:

This past Friday, August 12th, marked 20 months of age for our little Miss E.   We celebrated with some dancing in Eva's very first TuTu,  thanks to our very dear friends, 'Auntie' Susan, and daughters, Leah and Hannah.  Also joining in the fun was Baby Jiawan, another special gift from the Near Family.  It was very sweet.  Like many children, Eva loves music.  It's a joy to dance with her and experience the laughter and giggles.  I enjoy watching how she responds to the music.  

Take a listen to our favorite song of the day called 'I Belong' and view it through the lens of another dancer:  So inspiring.  The song is beautifully written by Kathryn Scott.   The core of the message is a good reminder to all of us that nothing can separate us from Christ's Great Love.  Something that I pray over Eva regularly.  That she will grow into and gain a clear understanding of what it means to experience a personal relationship with her Creator.


In June & July we had some very special friends or family come for a visit almost every weekend.     A lot of laugher and fun and great conversation.  
It was a huge highlight of our summer. 

Sharing between friends.

Eva's been working on her walking or her Linebacker pose.  We're not quite sure which...  But we're proud of her just the same.

We've been so encouraged by her development.  In eight months we've seen her sit up on her own, crawl, walk, laugh, show us where her eyes, nose, mouth, ears, foot, hands, fingers and toes are.  We've enjoyed hearing her sweet little voice begin using words and to express Mama, Babba, Baby, Ball and a wide range of animal noises.   

One of the most tender moments in the last few days is when I was holding her at bedtime.  I begin giving her kisses and she started to giggle.   So I kept giving her kisses.  When I finally stopped she continued to laugh and signed the word 'MORE'.  So I gave her more kisses.  Every time I would stop, she would sign 'MORE'.  When I left the room that night I can tell you that my daughter gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.  Without question, Eva Monet is the most wonderful blessing David and I have ever received.  We give God all thanks and honor for joining us together.   There are really no words to describe the depth of our love or gratefulness in our hearts.  

Pure love.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mother's Day Reminder: Sing your Song

It's been a long time coming...

Beautiful flowers and sweet sentiments.  The calls, cards, & messages; I'm grateful for them all.   But it's the sight of David holding Eva and listening as they interact.  Father with daughter; talking - as only he does - while combing her hair.  They are in their own little world.  No pretense.  Unaware.  Just loving on one another.  And for that moment, on my very 1st Mother's Day Weekend, I am reminded, how very blessed I am.  To be a MOM --  Finally -- Oh Yes!  And to know that I am a wife, loved by my husband:  That's rich.  But deeper still is my understanding more and more that we are "Children of God", adopted into His great family.  From my perspective, there is nothing greater.

For those women who have waited and continue to wait for their 1st Mother's Day, please know that I have been praying for you.    My hope is that you would sense God's peace and grace in your life in a very personal way.  Don't give up.  Your day is coming.

May this video by Third Day be an encouragement to each and everyone of us:  "Children of God, sing your song and rejoice, for the love that He has given us all...Children of God."

And to you, my sweet, sweet Eva Monet.  Momma loves you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Love in a Different Dimension

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."  ~Elizabeth Stone

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Those hands..

Snuggling on the couch, Eva in the middle, reaching out to lay her hand on top of ours as we watch Baby Einstein together,

Cozying up in our favorite chair, holding Lilly (the Lamb), while we read a favorite board book,

Picking up strawberries to feed that dimpled smile,
Learning to roll the ball,
Pointing with the hope of touching, 
Rubbing those sleepy brown eyes,
Reaching up to be held...

Cute little hands and sweet little fingers learning to explore.  

In the 4 months that we have been together, while Eva Monet discovers new and exciting things,  we have found the joy in sharing magical moments with this loving little girl.  Through her, God reminds us of the richness that the simple moments in life bring.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12, 2010: 15 months old

Eva Monet turned 15 months today...  

We've shared almost 4 of those 15 months together as a family.  It's been so rewarding to simply be together, in addition to experiencing the development that Eva has had during these initial weeks at home.  She couldn't really sit up on her own when we first met in China.  Learning to clap, play peek-a-boo and understand the basic mechanics of using a spoon have been celebrated events in the Baltes' Home.  Within the past weeks she has finally mastered the FORWARD crawl in addition to her backward moves.  Eva hasn't stopped since.  Poor Max. 

The strongest development that has taken place is the attachment between the 3 of us.  We have been very intentional about focusing our time together as a family.  We want there to be no doubt in Eva's mind and spirit that we are the people that will be caring for her needs, she is safe with us, and has our unconditional love.   We think she's getting the picture.  Recently she has taken to copying us by picking up all her stuffed animals and giving them a kissing smooch (with a little "smack" sound with her lips) and then turning to look at us for our reaction and flashing us a big smile.  Funny, funny girl.  It's very, very sweet and a real encouragement to David and me that she is recognizing the joy in sharing connection and affection.

Eva Monet has also just pushed through 3 new teeth for a total of 7.  So, yes, we've had some sleepless nights and a few tearful days, but that's to be expected.  Even these times help produce even stronger bonds as  we work through tough times together.  Truly, neither David and I can imagine life without this precious little girl. 

On Thursday Evening, we were asked by our agency, America World Adoption Association, to share our story to some prospective adoptive parents.  It was a really good evening and allowed us to express our passion for this worthwhile cause.  It's interesting to meet people, hear their story, and where they're at on their life journey.  We understand some of the questions and recognize the unknowns that many are currently dealing with as they search to find out what is right for their family.  No matter what, I do believe, adoption - domestic or international - should be an option that is seriously considered.  I applaud those in attendance for doing their research and seeking to get the facts vs many of the myths that circulate out there.  I will be praying for these families and the children that wait with the hope of some day being joined with their 'Forever Families'.  It's life changing for everyone involved.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

3 Months & Counting...

Today marks 3 months since David and I first met Eva Monet.  At some point I hope to upload the video and share those first few moments, frozen in time and forever locked in my mind.  Surreal...   Having said that,  I couldn't let this day pass without posting something to the blog.  After so many years, a long awaited dream has come true.  And as hopeful and filled with anticipation as I was, I never truly imagined just how much this precious child would reach in and fill my heart.   God's goodness.

November 22, 2010

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day:  The Day of Love!  

Do you remember the first time you "fell in love" or realized you had met your "soul mate"?   What a feeling, huh?  And being in love, did you notice how little you cared about how your expressions of affection might appear to the outside world?   You are in love.

Well, I can say, without a doubt, I am most definitely in love.   Eva and Me and David too.  And as foolish as our family may appear to the outside world, we will keep dancing in public, talking in silly voices, making up ridiculous songs, clapping & cheering wildly, and enjoying the effortless laughter in even the most 'simplest' of things.  Our heartstrings are tied.  David, Eva, & Me.  

I am in love.      I am in love.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year began on Thursday, February 3rd - Year of the Rabbit.  

Growing up in the midwest, my family did not celebrate this holiday and, as far as I can recall, there was no one in my community that noted the occasion either.  For those unfamiliar with it's traditions,  I thought it might be interesting to explore a little of it's background.  I've always been fascinated by other cultures.  Initially, another's 'way of life' may seem much different from our own.   As I learn about various societies and uncover some of their customs, however, I find that at the core of so many practices lies a similar theme of family, friendship, and love.  This is encased in a desire for ultimate life purpose towards something or someone greater than ourselves.   

I've pulled some information from The Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco and have posted it below.  Enjoy!

Of all the traditional Chinese festivals, the New Year was perhaps the most elaborate, colorful, and important. This was a time for the Chinese to congratulate each other and themselves on having passed through another year, a time to finish out the old, and to welcome in the new year. Common expressions heard at this time are: GUONIAN to have made it through the old year, and BAINIAN to congratulate the new year.

Turning Over a New Leaf
The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the First Moon of the lunar calendar. The corresponding date in the solar calendar varies from as early as January 21st to as late as February 19th. Chinese New Year, as the Western New Year, signified turning over a new leaf. Socially, it was a time for family reunions, and for visiting friends and relatives. This holiday, more than any other Chinese holiday, stressed the importance of family ties. The Chinese New year's Eve dinner gathering was among the most important family occasions of the year.
Sweeping of the Grounds Spring Couplet 1Spring Couplet 2
Preparations for the Chinese New Year in old China started well in advance of the New Year's Day. The 20th of the Twelfth Moon was set aside for the annual housecleaning, or the "sweeping of the grounds".  Every corner of the house must be swept and cleaned in preparation for the new year. Spring Couplets, written in black ink on large vertical scrolls of red paper, were put on the walls or on the sides of the gate-ways. These couplets, short poems written in Classical Chinese, were expressions of good wishes for the family in the coming year. In addition, symbolic flowers and fruits were used to decorate the house, and colorful new year pictures (NIAN HUA) were placed on the walls.
Kitchen God
After the house was cleaned it was time to bid farewell to the Kitchen God, or Zaowang. In traditional China, the Kitchen God was regarded as the guardian of the family hearth. He was identified as the inventor of fire, which was necessary for cooking and was also the censor of household morals. By tradition, the Kitchen God left the house on the 23rd of the last month to report to heaven on the behavior of the family. At this time, the family did everything possible to obtain a favorable report from the Kitchen God. On the evening of the 23rd, the family would give the Kitchen God a ritualistic farewell dinner with sweet foods and honey. Some said this was a bribe, others said it sealed his mouth from saying bad things.

Free from the every-watchful eyes of the Kitchen God, who was supposed to return on the first day of the New Year, the family now prepared for the upcoming celebrations. In old China, stores closed shop on the last two or three days of the year and remained closed for the first week of the New Year. Consequently, families were busy in the last week of the old year stocking up on foods and gifts. Chinese New Year presents are similar in spirit to Christmas presents, although the Chinese tended more often to give food items, such as fruits and tea. The last days of the old year was also the time to settle accumulated debts.
Family Celebration
On the last day of the old year, everyone was busy either in preparing food for the next two days, or in going to the barbers and getting tidied up for the New Year’s Day. Tradition stipulated that all food be prepared before the New Year’s Day, so that all sharp instruments, such as knives and scissors, could be put away to avoid cutting the "luck" of the New Year. The kitchen and well were not to be disturbed on the first day of the Year.

The New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations were strickly family affairs. All members of the family would gather for the important family meal on the evening of the New year’s Eve. Even if a family member could not attend, an empty seat would be kept to symbolize that person’s presence at the banquet. At midnight following the banquet, the younger members of the family would bow and pay their respects to their parents and elders.
On New Year’s Day, the children were given Red Lai-See Envelopes, good luck money wrapped in little red envelopes. On New Year’s day, everyone had on new clothes, and would put on his best behavior. It was considered improper to tell a lie, raise one’s voice, use indecent language, or break anything on the first day of the year.

Starting from the second day, people began going out to visit friends and relatives, taking with them gifts and Lai-See for the children. Visitors would be greeted with traditional New Year delicacies, such as melon seeds, flowersfruitstray of togetherness, and NIANGAO, New Year cakes.
Everybody’s Birthday
The entire first week was a time for socializing and amusement. On the streets, the stores were closed and an air of gaiety prevailed. There were numberous lion dances, acrobats, theatrical shows, and other diversions. Firecrackers, which symbolized driving away evil spirits, were heard throughout the first two weeks of the New Year. The Seventh Day of the New Year was called "everybody’s birthday" as everyone was considered one year older as of that date. (In traditional China, individual birthdays were not considered as important as the New Year’s date. Everyone added a year to his age at New Year’s time rather than at his birthday.)
Lantern Festival - 15th Day
The New Year celebrations ended on the 15th of the First Moon with the Lantern Festival. On the evening of that day, people carried lanterns into the streets to take part in a great parade. Young men would highlight the parade with a dragon dance. The dragon was made of bamboo, silk, and paper, and might stretch for more than hundred feet in length. The bobbing and weaving of the dragon was an impressive sight, and formed a fitting finish to the New Year festival.
The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco Chinatown and other Chinese American communitites should not be interpreted as direct transplants of Chinese culture. Due to differences in their social environment and physical limitations, these local celebrations have developed special characteristics of their own. Along with old customs imported directly from China, the Chinatown celebrations also contain adaptations from other cultures in the United States.
Traditional vs Modern
The first point to be noticed in comparing the Chinatown celebrations of today to that described in the preceeding section is that they have been shortened or simplified. Chinese American stores in this country do not close for a week to celebrate, nor is is likely that a Chinese American could take two weeks off from work. Therefore, many of the festivities have been adapted for the evenings or the weekends. This includes the social visits, the family dinners, and even the Chinatown parade, which is always held on a Saturday. In many Chinese American homes, the annual housecleaning is still done at New Year’s time.  Spring Couplets can be seen in Chinatown stores everywhere, but these are now bought from the Chinese Hospital as a fundraising effort - an interesting variation on an old Chinese custom.

In addition to the Spring Couplets, the Chinatown lion dances have also been promoted as a fundraising event for the Chinese Hospital. In the earlier days of Chinatown, lion dances were relatively rare. In the 1920’s, a fundraising program was started whereby lion dancers would go from store to store to dance and wish them luck. In return, storekeepers would give Lai-see packets which were donated to the Chinese Hospital.

Chinatown Festival & Parade
The Chinatown parade is a bend of typical American marching parades and the traditional Lantern Festival. Although the dragon dance is adopted from the Chinese celebration, the rest of the Chinatown parade, including the beauty pageant, floats, and marching bands, was obviously inspired by non-Chinese models. The parade (San Francisco) was first started in 1953 by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and has since attracted thousands of spectators each year.
Family Associations
Some Chinatown festivities also reflect the earlier history of Chinese Americans. Prior to the present generation, the Chinese American community was essentially a bachelor society. Restrictive immigration laws had made it extremely difficult for Chinese families to emigrate to the United States. As a result, most Chinese Americans in the past were not able to hold family dinners at New Years’s time. In place of the family banquets, Chinatown developed a unique tradition of Spring Banquets hosted by the " family associations" in certain Chinese restaurants. These Spring Banquets, originally developed to take the place of family dinners, are still held today, even though Chinatown is no longer a society of single men.

Chinese Lunar CalendarChinese CalendarThe Chinese calendar will often show the dates of both the Gregorian (Western) calendar and the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Gregorian dates are printed in Arabic numerals, and the Chinese dates in Chinese numerals. Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar.
Family Associations: organized according to family surnames, such as the Wong Family Association, etc., are social clubs or lodges which were first set up in Chinatown to serve the social and personal needs of Chinese workers.
Flowers: Flowers are an important part of the New year decorations. In old China, much use was made of natural products in celebrations as well as in daily life. The two flowers most associated with the New Year are the plum blossom and the water narcissus
Lai-See Envelopes: (Also called Hong-Bao) Money is placed in these envelopes and given to children and young adults at New Year’s time, much in the spirit as Christmas presents. Presents are also often exchanged between families.

Lucky Character: The single word " FOOK ", or fortune, is often displayed in many homes and stores. They are usually written by brush on a diamond-shaped piece of red paper.
Plum Blossoms: stand for courage and hope. The blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on a seemingly lifeless branch. In Chinese art, plum blossoms are associated with the entire season of winter and not just the New Year.

Spring Couplet 4Spring Couplet 3
Spring Couplets: Spring couplets are traditionally written with black ink on red paper. They are hung in storefronts in the month before the New Year’s Day, and often stay up for two months. They express best wishes and fortune for the coming year. There is a great variety in the writing of these poetic couplets to fit the situation. A store would generally use couplets hat make references to their line of trade. Couplets that say "Happy New Year" and " Continuing Advancement in Education" are apprpriate for a school.
Sweeping Out the Old: Welcoming in the New.  Old business from the past year is cleared up.

Tangerines, Oranges, Pomelos: Tangerines and oranges are frequently displayed in homes and stores. Tangerines are symbolic of good luck, and oranges are symbolic of wealth. These symbols have developed through a language pun, the word for tangerine having the same sound as "luck" in Chinese, and the word for orange having the same sound as "wealth". Pomelos are large pear-shaped grapefruits.
Tray of Togetherness: Many families keep a tray full of dried fruits, sweets, and candies to welcome guests and relatives who drop by. This tray is called a chuen-hop, or "tray of togetherness". Traditionally, it was made up of eight compartments, each of which was filled with a special food item of significance to the New Year season.
Water Narcissus: Flower that blossoms at New Year’s time. If the white flowers blossom exactly on the day of the New Year, it is believed to indicate good fortune for the ensuing twelve months.

Chinese Zodiac: The rotating cycle of twelve animal signs was a fok method for naming the years in traditional China. The animal signs for one another in an established order, and are repeated every twelve years. 1976 was the Year of the Dragon, 1977 was the year of the Snake.
2011 Year of the Rabbit