Our Journey to Virginia Grace

We are thrilled to announce that we are adopting a little girl from China! While many of you already know this news, I have recently been finding that I hadn't told others, simply by accident. I've talked about wanting to adopt for years, so I forget who we've told and who we haven't that we've actually moved forward in the process. Since we will most likely not be traveling to China to bring our daughter-to-be home for 3-4 years (that is the estimated wait time), we hadn't thought to share the news yet in any sort of formal way. But because the process has consumed so much of our time and has become such an important part of our lives, not to mention one of the biggest topics of our prayers, we decided to share our journey with you here.

I can't really pinpoint when God first gave me the desire to adopt. I think it might have been in November of 2003 when I joined a mission team to Romania. We visited several orphanages, and I remember feeling so strongly that whether I could have biological children or not, I wanted to provide a family for a child who needed one. Just months before our trip, the Romanian government had closed adoption from their country. The next country I felt a connection to was China. Having always had an unexplainable love for the people of China and a desire to go there, and having friends who've served and continue to serve in that country as missionaries, I developed a strong conviction that the child I would eventually adopt would be from that nation.

The two hardest parts of the next few years were (1) waiting until I turned 30, as the Chinese gov't requires both parents to be 30 or older, and (2) waiting for Scott to be on board. He naturally dealt with the questions that I'm sure any adoptive parent asks: Will I love this child as much as my biological children? Will I be okay not knowing anything about her parents' health history or genetics? What will be involved in raising a family of blended races and nationalities? What if Carter is all we can handle? Should we see how we do parenting just one child first?

In November 2008, after reading Jeff Gammages' autobiographical book China Ghosts, and seeing how the author moved through these doubts and fears into joy and unconditional love for his two adopted Chinese daughters, Scott shared with me that he felt ready to move forward. I was stunned! I had literally been praying for over 5 years that God would give him the same desire to adopt. I also felt an inexplicable joy and giddiness when he shared his news with me - the same emotions I've felt with each positive pregnancy test.

Since December 2008, we've been moving through the homestudy process with Lifeline Children's Services (in Birmingham). We haven't gotten it done as quickly as I'd hoped, but we also had two miscarriages during the last 8 months. It is amazing to me that anyone can decide to have a child, but the process of adopting is intensive and involved! Interviews, home tours, 8-hour online training modules, required reading, physical exams, personal biographies, fingerprints, FBI background checks, reference letters, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork!!! And that's not even all of it. But I know every step will be worth it when we hold our little girl in our arms.

What's next? Our homestudy report will be sent this week to the Alabama DHR and then on to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. This step of waiting for approval can take up to 5 months! So it will be very difficult to wait during this period. We're praying that the approvals will come in much faster than expected. Once we receive our CIS approval, we will send our dossier (collection of documents required) to China and wait for our log-in date (LID). Our LID means we're officially on the waiting list, and we will then wait, potentially 3-4 years, until the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs matches us with a child.

To answer some FAQ:
- How do we know we'll adopt a girl? (this quote comes directly from our Lifeline manual...) "In order to control population growth, China implemented a 'one-child policy' which has resulted in children being abandoned. China does not allow families to give their children for adoption, so if a family cannot care for a child they may have no choice but to abandon the child in a place where the baby will hopefully be found quickly and placed in an orphanage." Due to China's strong cultural preference for a son to carry on a family's name, baby girls are frequently abandoned in the hopes that the mother will birth a baby boy the next time. Almost all available healthy children in the orphanages are girls, and we've specifically requested a girl. (There are some boys with special needs who are also waiting for a family and home.)
-How old will she be? She will be between 6-18 months old.
- Why is the wait so long? Due to various reasons, including the pause of business during last summer's Olympics in Beijing, the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) has fallen behind in the matching process. There has also been a rise in applicants over the last couple of years as Americans (and citizens of other countries) have found China to run a very stable, reliable, and legit adoption process. (Some countries' adoption processes have been shut down due to babies being stolen from their families only to be sold as "orphans.") If we calculate the wait by the rate at which the CCAA is processing dossiers, we actually have a 7-8 year wait!!! But the rumor is that they're speeding up. Many couples who can't have biological children at all have switched to other countries or have opted to adopt a special needs child (shorter wait), so the list is also decreasing. We feel so certain that we're supposed to adopt from China, so we are moving forward with hope and prayers that the wait will surely not be that long.
-What about special needs children? I actually have a very strong interest in adopting a special needs child, independent from the wait being as short as 6 months. Some needs can be easily corrected or cared for in the US. Cleft palates, a club foot, a slight deformity, a minor heart defect...these are some of the less serious needs. However, I want to be sure Carter is old enough that I can give the time needed to any necessary surgeries or doctors' visits. We also want to keep birth order, and many of the special needs children are a bit older. However, if we, God-willing, get pregnant again but miscarry a 5th time, we'll most likely move forward with adopting a special needs girl (younger than Carter) and give my body a break for a while. I certainly can't control everything, but I'd really love for Carter to have a sibling before he turns 4. My ultimate plan (or should I say desire) is to have two more biological children and adopt two children from China - a healthy baby girl and a special needs little boy. I am not sure when I decided that I could eventually handle five children... Scott says to take it one child at a time. :)

At last, you're probably wondering, "So who's Virginia Grace?" After much prayer and thought, we've decided to name our little girl who is most likely not even yet born. Many adopting families make this step to personalize the process and identify the child they so anxiously wait to meet. I like being able to presently pray for Virginia Grace's mom, and using her name makes her imminent presence in our home more like a reality. We love the idea of crowning her with a family name, truly making her our own as our flesh and blood. We're not sure if we'll call her by a double name, by Virginia, or by Grace (I love all 3 options), but we'll definitely add a third name using a part of her given Chinese name.

This may seem crazy, but I also already have Virginia Grace's bedding! I know....but if any of you shop Pottery Barn Kids, you KNOW that their patterns are gone once they're out of stock. No carrying over from season to season. This bedding caught my attention immediately! I love that this pretty toile features gardens, parasols, and temple-like structures that seem to give a nod to Chinese culture. (You may have to click to enlarge the photos in order to see the pattern.) I bought it for her crib as well as her "big girl" bed. I hope that our little girl will always be aware of her cultural roots and nationality while feeling at home nowhere more strongly than under an American roof with her parents and brother, Carter. We can't wait for her to join us!

We will soon have a site specifically dedicated to our journey to Virginia Grace. If you're at all interested in learning more or following other families' journeys, check out the China Adoption Stories on the MyAdoptionWebsite. The pictures will make you melt!!

I'd love to answer any questions if adoption is something your family is interested in pursuing as well. We appreciate you following this journey with us, and we anxiously await the day we introduce our little girl to you!

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Brown Family Update

I know, I know....two months gone without a post! I have no excuses. Life just happens. :) Here is an attempt to catch you up on what we've been doing.

We spent a couple of weekends in May at Lake Martin. Carter loves floating around but isn't so sure of the water when he's just being held. We've been taking swim lessons, and he is gradually becoming more comfortable with the water. The first lesson, he kept his legs tightly wrapped around my waist! I am sure it's a bit disconcerting to experience the weightlessness and seeming lack of control that you feel when you're in water.

On May 31st, we celebrated my grandmother's 91st birthday!!! And have I mentioned that she just started working out at Curves gym??!! I am so proud of her, and I sure hope I inherited her genes!
Carter had his first haircut in May. His curls began to get out of control! He did pretty well during the process considering how squirmy he can be. Here's a "before" picture, and keep in mind that his curls are actually TAME in this photo! :) With humidity and a good nap, Carter could produce quite an afro!Though almost 17 months, Carter is still taking two naps a day. He'll often sleep an hour to 1 1/2 hours in the morning, and anywhere from 1-3 hours in the afternoon. To be honest, it would be much easier for me if he'd switch to just one nap a day. But I'll take the extra morning time while I can, especially since he still seems to need that extra shut-eye.

While he's beginning to play more with his toys, he mostly enjoys dvds right now. I have to fight him throughout the day because all he wants to do is watch Elmo. I'll admit there have been days where he probably watched it more than 3 times! (I know, bad mom! Bad mom!) But I try to keep him engaged with other games and limit his videos to morning (while I sip my coffee) and evening (while I prepare dinner).
Lovin' Elmo (or "Melmo," as he says)

"What Elmo? You want me to watch you on TV??"
In addition to playing with his favorite toys (i.e. tupperware), Carter loves playing basketball with his daddy. Scott will lower the goal outside so he can lift Carter up to it, and Carter proudly dunks the ball in! Often, as soon as Scott walks in the door from work, Carter says "Shoot! Shoot!" He is also into climbing. In fact, we're anticipating him to climb out of his crib pretty soon, as we've caught him throwing his leg over the side! He also managed to climb into his stroller (the big Graco one) the other day when he got into the garage. I was actually pretty impressed that he maneuvered his way into the seat with the cross bar there, but I also had to fight back images of him (potentially) falling backwards onto the concrete floor and hitting his head. From now on, we'll have to keep the doors locked. He's into closing and opening doors. He likes to say "Bye bye," while shutting a door. Then he'll open it back up and repeat 20-30 times.

Every day, he seems to pick up a few new words. I've been trying to write them down, and he has about 40-50 words now. (probably only discernible to us!) :)

He can repeat almost any word, so we're a bit perplexed by Carter's persistence in calling his paci a "cha cha." But hey, why crush a child's creativity?

Lately, I have witnessed a compassionate side of Carter. When a little girl in the church nursery was crying one day, he offered her his cracker. Actually, he was practically force-feeding it into her mouth! But if you know my son, you know that he NEVER gives his crackers away. :) I have also seen him offer his paci and his sippy cup to another baby if he or she is crying. I hope this sweet attitude of sharing keeps up, but knowing the nature of toddlers, I doubt it. :)
Speaking of toddlers' natures, Carter is definitely starting to throw fits. If he doesn't get what he wants, he screams, cries, and throws an all-out temper tantrum. I haven't been really sure how to handle them because I can't quite reason with him yet. But I do know it's got to stop soon...parenting books, here I come!

His favorite foods right now are bananas, sweet potatoes, chicken fingers, hot dogs, grapes, baked beans, green beans, waffles, and toast. In fact, one day, I walked into the kitchen to find him opening the cabinet door where we keep the toaster. He had already gone to the pantry, found the bread, and dragged it around to the toaster. He kept saying, "Toast, peez! (please)" He also adores ketchup. We're talking about loving it so much that he licks his plate clean. He even dips his fruit in it. :)

As for Scott and me, we're doing well. I still have what I call my "sad" days, when I suddenly realize all over again that we lost the twins. It seems that that word catches my attention everywhere I go, and my heart always skips a bit. God has given me remarkable patience as we continue to wait for my body to return to normal. (If you know me, you know I am probably the most impatient person you'll ever come across.) It's scary to think of another pregnancy, and even stranger to think that this will be my 5th pregnancy and 7th baby! And though I should only be praying for a healthy and successful pregnancy, I can't help hoping and throwing a sidenote up to God's listening ears that I'd love twins again. :)
We're still waiting on our house to sell. Lots of showings but no offers yet. Please pray it will sell soon because having the house on the market with a baby and a dog makes life very crazy! But the exciting part is that we finally bought a lot - in Altadena Park in Vestavia - and it's so fun to know that we'll eventually begin building. This is something we talked about wanting to do for several years.

We have one more piece of news (that many of you already know about), but I'll devote a whole post to it. Maybe I can get it done over the weekend.

Thanks for checking in with us!

Much love,

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Happy Father's Day!

After shooting hoops and running around, Carter loves kicking back and relaxing with his daddy! This picture was taken on Friday, which was Scott's 35th birthday! This was probably his favorite gift of the day. :)
Like father, like son....chilling in front of the tv and enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Jackson wanted in on the couch time too.
Carter celebrated his daddy, his Grand Dad (pictured here), and his Papa (in North Carolina) on Sunday. He is so lucky to have such amazing men in his life.

I knew when I married Scott that I was a lucky woman. Every moment that I witness him interacting with Carter, I realize how lucky I am as a mother to have him as my partner in this journey of parenthood. I love you Scott...Happy Father's Day!

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