Angel Unaware

Look what I just picked up for Virginia Grace's room! Liz Landgren painted this beautiful work of art just for us. When I look at it, I imagine that God has commissioned an angel to watch over our little girl until she's with us. I also think of her birth mother symbolically pushing her forward on the swing to a better future than she felt she could provide. I just love this painting so much!

Liz also did a similar one for my friend Emily who is in China with her husband now! They got Lia Kate on Monday, and she is just precious. We've been Skyping a bit, and I was literally caressing Lia Kate's cheek on my computer screen. I just wanted to reach in and hold her! You can find the link to their blog on my sidebar and follow their journey.

Have I mentioned that all I want for Christmas is our LOA? (aka Letter of Approval and next big step we're waiting for.) Santa, PLEASE!!!

A Tie for the Toddler, Please

Carter is really into routine and loves following Scott around as he gets ready. A typical morning conversation with Scott as he walks out the door goes like this:
"Yeah buddy, I've got my keys."
"Yep, got my wallet."
"I have my watch on."
"Yes, here's my brief case."
"Car? Work?" (with an extra hard K at the end)
"Yeah, I'm heading down to the car to go to work. Learn a lot, grow a little. And be good for Mommy today."

I never have to worry about leaving without my purse because my little guy makes sure to ask me about it.

When Scott gets home and heads to the closet to change out of his suit, Carter likes to pick out a shirt for him to wear. He also likes pulling out all the belts and ties so he can be just like his daddy.(In case you're wondering and are concerned...Scott was not wearing that tie, or any tie, with that shirt. He put it around his neck to get it away from Carter since it's one of his nicer ones. Just had to clarify! :) )One tie won't do it... he must have 3 or 4.
I guess Carter thinks getting dressed is a hard process because he looks pretty worn out. It's okay, Bud, I sometimes feel the same way after leaving my closet.


The Polar Express

On Friday night, we went to Calera's Heart of Dixie Railroad for the popular (and sold out weeks ago!) Polar Express ride. My sister and I grew up reading this book at Christmas, so it was fun to take Carter. Because it was raining and Carter wasn't in the most cooperative mood, I didn't get many pictures of the train, Santa Claus, the North Pole, or the elves. But I did get one of the bells that Carter clutched. He had so much fun ringing them, and we all heard the jingle. We still believe! :)All the kids wear their pjs on the train, just like in the book.
But it was so cold, we had to keep his jacket on him.
Family picture. Too bad his sippy cup got in the way.
Carter had the most fun watching some of the older kids singing Christmas carols and jumping around. He got shy when Santa came by, but called out "Santa Claus" several times once passed.
Carter loved the bells so much, he wasn't content with just one. He had mine and Scott's in his hand as well.While the ride was fun, I think Carter may enjoy it a little more next year when he's a year older. But he sure loved the "choo choo."



That's how I felt when I saw this picture taken at Bryan's loft office by Stephen Fitts at our book club Christmas party. I am beyond excited if the camera Scott and I are giving each other for Christmas makes my pictures look like this. :) That's how I felt when I saw the time and creativity that went into Stephanie's yummylicious cake pops. You can find the recipe here, and she even made little flags of all the books we've read this year. Amazing! Picture by Abby Maddox

That's how I felt when Bryan (an AWESOME photographer, by the way) was snapping away while we played with our props and enjoyed our goofiness. Photo by Stephen Fitts...and have I mentioned that Stephen is an attorney by day and not a professional photographer?? Would you ever know?!And inspired is how I felt after hanging out with these girls and their hubbies for the evening. We draw so much energy from each other and can have the deepest and most thought-provoking conversations one hour, and a rockstar dance party the next. Photo by Stephen Fitts

Love you girls!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

A Christmas memory I have from childhood is my aunt baking a chocolate birthday cake for Jesus. That moment has always stuck with me, and so when my friend Susan had the idea of doing a birthday party for Jesus, I was so excited. We ended up hosting since Susan was sick the few days before.
We got all the kids together...ate pizza (and don't worry, Carter didn't mind missing out on the pizza as you can tell from his bbq sauce-covered face) blew out the candle amongst cookies (Susan wasn't feeling well so we decided cookies were easier than cake), read a story about Jesus' birth, and let the kids open gifts for Jesus that are being given to our local Sav-A-Life center. When I placed the gift from Carter under the tree, he started to pick it up. I told him it was for baby Jesus. He ran over to our Fisher Price Advent calendar, pulled out the mini baby Jesus, and ran over to lay Him on the gift. :)It was a blast...here are some cute pictures and some adorable quotes from last night. :)
CollinHope: "Mommy, where is Jesus? He needs to come to his own birthday party!"Kaitlyn: Pointing to Amy's 4 month old son, Collin, she asked "Is that baby Jesus?" Travis: "Happy birthday BABY JEEEEESUS!!!!!!!" He was super pumped about singing happy birthday.Ben: He got baby Jesus out of the manger and carried him around. He seemed very pleased that he was the one getting to hold Him. :)Susan did such a great job planning the party. She brought plates...party blowers... baby Jesus in a manger... :) and even balloons and decorations.

The guys managed to escape almost all the pictures. Here's a few of the girls..

Anna holding Collin.
Anna (most sought after bachelorette in Birmingham), Susan (mom to Kaitlyn and Davis), me (mom to Carter), Amy (mom to Travis and Collin), Stacey C. (mom to Hope), and Stacey P. (mom to Ben)
We're not sure the kiddos completely understood the whole birthday deal and why Jesus wasn't physically there. :) But they all loved saying His name and celebrating Him, and I guess that's a first step in knowing Him and learning the meaning of Christmas.


Our Song this Season

A couple years ago, my husband pulled me onto his lap in front of his computer and played me Third Day's "Merry Christmas." Hearing the words, tears quickly began falling. At that point, Scott wasn't yet sure about adopting so I took this action as a sign that he was getting closer to embracing the idea. Anyway, we've listened to it every Christmas since, thinking our little girl wasn't even born yet. In reality, on last Christmas Day, our baby girl turned 1 month! I posted the song and lyrics below. The lyrics are so sweet (and will probably make you cry), and the instrumental portions are just gorgeous.

Virginia Grace... Merry Christmas Darling! This time next year, you will be HOME!!!

"Merry Christmas" by Third Day

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow

But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
And we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his life
And prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas



A year ago today, a mother took her 20-day-old baby girl to a public place in the Guandu District of Kunming, and placed her daughter where she would quickly be found. According to Virginia Grace's records, "On December 15, 2008, the child was picked up by police after being found and reported by common people. After investigation by the local police station confirmed she was an abandoned baby, she was sent to the Kunming City Children's Welfare Institute." Until we meet with the orphanage director, we will not know whether she was left with a note, as some children are.

Over the last couple of years, I've read several stories written by adoptive mothers and fathers who have imagined what it must have been like for the birth mother or father to leave their child. If you aren't familiar with Chinese laws, cultural norms, and economic difficulties of various provinces, it's easy to judge the actions and the hearts of these parents. In fact, placing their children to be found has quite possibly been the greatest act of love that some of these mothers could have performed.

I started to write my own imaginative account of what happened this day a year ago, but at this point, I am too emotional to go that deep. So I have posted a link to a beautiful and poignant story written by another adoptive mom. I think it will help you understand the heartwrenching decisions and the incredible strength involved in leaving a child forever.

We are so grateful our Guan Xue Hua was found quickly. We wish that she could know and understand that her forever parents have been found too. In time...


Celebrating Virginia Grace's Birthday

Scott, Carter and I had a little party for Virginia Grace on her birthday. We videotaped it so that she can watch it one day and know that her family was celebrating her first birthday too! Here are a few pictures from that night...

Scott's sister, Julie, made this plate with Virginia Grace's birth date and initials. (She made one for Carter too when he was born.)
We baked an allergy-free cake so Carter could indulge. (I wouldn't really say that Scott and I indulged in it! At least Carter doesn't know what he's missing.)
Carter and Scott cheering for Virginia Grace!A little dress I bought her.
And some really cute PJs that have Chinese characters on them. (I guess I should figure how what they say!)
Julie bought this dress for her little niece.
This is one of the Asian dolls I bought for her.
And for the BIG birthday present....her very own table and chairs at which she can have a tea party upon her arrival home. (Carter has taken a liking to the chairs and has been found just chilling in one.)
It may seem like assignment of these items to our little girl's birthday is just justification for making so many purchases.... okay, so that's partly true. :) But we did want to make her birthday special, even if she doesn't learn about it until later on.

Happy 1st Birthday Virginia Grace!

Care Package

I am WAY behind on blog updates.... I meant to post this one a few weeks ago. We ordered a care package through Ann at Red Thread, as she is in China and has built a good relationship with various orphanages. She was able to have a cake delivered for Virginia Grace's birthday, but I don't think we'll get any pictures of the party they were supposedly going to have. Her orphanage/foster village rarely sends out pictures like other orphanages do. It makes me sad we won't have a record of her first birthday. I've seen pictures on other blogs of kids with their cakes, and I SO wish we could have one for our daughter's baby book!

Here is a picture Ann sent us of the care package that was sent along with the cake. There's a disposable camera, a cloth photo book with our family pictures, a donation of pjs, tea for the foster parents, candies for the other kids and nannies, a little panda bear, a lovie blanket, and a letter that Ann translated for us. We've been told that, unlike other orphanages, the gifts will probably not be given to our little girl until the day before she meets us. So she won't really be able to become familiar with our faces. I am hoping that just maybe they've given her the gifts already. They also say they don't give any gifts to the foster parents. (Can you tell I'm a bit frustrated with her orphanage's policies??) But I included the tea anyway.

Anyway, we are still praying that they might send pictures! A girl can hope. :)


Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Virginia Grace,

Today, though we're thousands of miles apart, we celebrate your very first birthday with you! It's after 8 pm in China, so you're probably already tucked into bed for the night. We hope it's been a fun day for you! It saddens us that we can't physically be with you on this big day in your life, but we are grateful that you're being so loved and nurtured by your foster parents. 

Your first year has been full of challenges and changes.  When you were just 20 days old, your birth mother did what she must have felt was best for you and your future, and she placed you in a special place where you would be quickly found and taken into the care of the local orphanage. Though she had to leave you, never doubt that she loved you. It was probably the most difficult decision she's ever made. 

At 4 months old, you had surgery to remove the teratoma on your tongue.  I can only imagine the discomfort and pain that you experienced during recovery. The hospital was probably the only place you'd been outside of the orphanage, and I'm sure it was a little scary.  When you returned, the nannies at the children's welfare institute nursed you back to health. Though you would soon be separated from them, never doubt that they loved you. You were being placed in a home where you could experience family.

Adjusting to new surroundings, new faces, and a new schedule, you began to grow and progress in the foster village.  I am sure you grieved a little when you left the familiar faces of the nannies, but you now have a foster mother and father to give you individualized attention and love on you.    Though you'll soon leave your home once again and be separated from your foster parents, never doubt that they loved you.  They desire for you to be with your "forever" family. I know they will miss you and your beautiful smile. 

We still don't know how many more months it will be until we meet you face to face. But when you read this one day, never doubt that we loved you even now.  Carter goes into your room everyday and points out your crib, dolls, and books.  Your daddy and I stare at your pictures and pray for you daily.  We are so anxious to have you in our arms! I tear up every time I think about it.

Baby girl, your first year has been tough. But you are loved beyond measure.  God has ordained each step of your difficult journey.  Nothing has happened that hasn't been filtered first through His sovereign hands. He loves you infinitely more than anyone on earth ever could, and we hope that one day, you will truly know that. 

Today, we celebrate your life. We celebrate the woman who gave life to you. And we celebrate the miracle of adoption. Happy 1st birthday sweet girl! We love you!!!

Mom, Dad, and Carter


We got an UPDATE!!!!!

Look what we got today!!!!!!
As I've mentioned before, the orphanage/foster village where our little girl is living doesn't often provide updates. So we were totally shocked to not only get new pictures, but also to get this description:

She is very active, restless, and happy. She always smiles. She can sit very well. She can walk alone for 4 to 5 steps. She can hold the wall to stand up and walk. She knows her foster family very well. She loves her daddy and mommy. She can say baba, mama, deng (means light). She can do the action to show welcome, bye-bye, congratulations, no. She is very smart and lovely. She can make her face to be funny. She likes to push her toy car to go around. She likes to play with other children and be very friendly with other children.

To be honest, I experienced a wide range of emotions when we received this update. Part of me felt sadness when I saw her pictures, as she is no longer the 6 month old baby we've grown attached to in the referral pictures. She is now a toddler! But she is adorable! I was filled with joy and awe. We are very encouraged by the fact that she is saying words, as this indicates that the scar tissue on her tongue is not inhibiting her speech. We are shocked that she is already taking steps...developmentally on target and right where Carter was at this age. This shows that her foster family is giving her lots of attention and stimulation.

I am thankful that she seems loved and cared for. She loves her foster parents. But that also means that she will grieve deeply when we travel to pick her up. I think about Carter being taken from us - the only family he's ever known. It breaks my heart to think of the confusion and devastation he would experience. That is what our daughter will go through. And I've been praying daily that God will protect her joy and her sweet spirit. That He will give her resilience and healing. That He will bless her with a sense of peace and comfort when she is placed in our arms. Adoption experts say that children who bond and grieve are more likely to bond again than children who never attach to anyone. So in some ways, this news of Virginia Grace's love for her foster parents is positive. Scott and I are also preparing ourselves that the first few days (and even weeks) with Virginia Grace may be difficult for her.

More than anything, I was struck by the similarities between our little girl's personality and Carter's. She seems designed to fit with our family. I can't wait to see them interact and play together!

We are so thankful for this update as we wait on our next approval, the LOA. We're praying that it will come by the first week of January. (and sooner would be amazing!)

Thank you for your prayers, support, encouragement, and excitement!



Kisses in the Wind

A few days ago, I connected with a family who is adopting a little girl from the same orphanage/foster village where Virginia Grace is! Both of our girls are 11 months old, and each is pictured on the same playmat. We've been smiling at the thought that Virginia Grace and Anna probably play together! We're also hoping we might be able to travel at the same time. On her blog, Red Thread to Anna, is the poem below. Scott and I both teared up when we read it.

Kisses in the Wind

We hold you in our hearts and touch you in our dreams.
You are here each day with us, at least that’s how it seems.
I know you wonder where we are … what’s taking us so long.
But remember child, We love you so and God will keep you strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your skin…
Because tonight, just as always, We blow you kisses in the wind.
May God hold you in His hand until we can be with you.
We promise you, our sweet girl, we are doing all we can do.

Very soon, you’ll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, we blow you kisses in the wind.
May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that we send to you each night.

~Unknown Author~



Yay!!! We got our PA (Pre-Approval) to adopt Virginia Grace!! We got the email late last night, as it was already daytime in China. So our PA date is 11/12/09. I was getting antsy for some sort of update or progress, so I'm so thankful it finally came. This the first step I wrote about in this post. Now we're waiting on LOA, which is the approval that can take 3 months or longer. Although, we've had some friends receive it extremely quickly. Please pray it will come sooner than expected! Once we get that approval, it's not long after to receive travel approval to pick her up.

In the meantime, we can now send a care package to our sweet girl. Off to go shopping!


Fall 2009 Family Pictures

Emily Hooten took some family pictures for us last Friday at the Botanical Gardens. Carter had had his flu shot that morning and wasn't in the best of moods, but you'd never know it from the pictures - Emily worked her magic!!

Here are a few of the shots: