Update on Caroline!

Thursday was Moving Day, and it was one of the most exhausting days I can remember. But in the midst of upheaval and craziness, we got an incredible surprise: new pictures and VIDEO of Caroline!!! For the sake of her privacy, I will not post the videos here. However, I have posted a few pictures as well as the translations of the video conversations.
The videos appear to have been filmed on October 13th, just a day after we received pre-approval to adopt her. So we can't believe that she was told the news so soon! She would have received pictures of us, a letter, and a care package from us a few days after the video was filmed.
Many of the pictures are candid, so you don't get to see Caroline's beautiful smile that appears in the videos. She seems to be a little shy and has such a sweet and gentle spirit.

(As a reminder, I am not allowed to mention Caroline's Chinese name on the blog, so while she may keep her name, we have to call her Caroline for now.)

In the first video, we learned that Caroline loves to play badminton, and her favorite color is purple. She is in the 6th grade, and her favorite subject is literature. She said her English may not be very good at first, and if we would please be patient with her. Her foster mom pipes in and says how excited Caroline is to be going to America. Caroline also says that she is excited to have a new mom and dad.

Paraphrase of 2nd Video with Foster Mom speaking:
She said she did not want her to go, but was not capable of taking care of her. "Caroline" loves her step-sister very much. They love each other so much. She understands that it is the best thing ever happened to "Caroline". She wish her well. Hard to let her go....

We are more anxious than ever to get our dossier to China so that we can officially begin the wait for LOA and Travel Approval. We are still waiting on approval from the USCIS.

In other news, we are settled into the poolhouse until next Friday when we can move into our new home. Our first night here, Grace had a very difficult time. She woke up screaming and crying around midnight and did not stop for 30 minutes. She backed herself into a corner of the room and screamed "NO mommy!" or "NO daddy" if we took any steps toward her. We asked her if she was mad or sad about the move, and she would just yell with rage, "I. AM. NOT. MAD!!!!!!" and other such statements with the words cut short and staccato-like. We hadn't seen this type of rage/fear/grief since our 2nd night with her in China. I am sure that she was scared we were leaving her. After all, every change of scenery she has ever experienced involved a change in caretaker. The last 2 nights have been fine, but please pray that she will know (subconsciously too) that she is with us forever.

Of all times, a big winter storm of snow and ice is predicted for Sunday through Tuesday. Because I only brought enough clothes for one week, I didn't pack gloves, heavy sweaters, or anything necessary for snow. And if ice causes the power to go out (as it has done in Birmingham before), we're really in trouble. It was 65 degrees the day I packed our bags for the poolhouse, so you can imagine what type of items I brought. And have I mentioned how livid we will be (and ALL of Bham) if loss of power happens on Monday night as Auburn (my alma mater) plays for the national championship??? Let's just not go there.

Thanks for all the sweet comments on Grace's coat and hat in the previous post. It's made by Corky and Company, and I found it online during a store's huge sale. (I can't recall the name of the boutique.) If you find one of the coats, don't pay full price because you can buy them for a lot less!!

In the next week, I hope to have some more news and a better timeline to bring Caroline home. I'll update soon!


2010 Wrap-up

Happy New Year! The Brown family is preparing for an exciting 2011, and the events of this first month have had us busier than ever before. (Hence why I have not updated this blog in a month.)

To begin, we sold our house! And this big step set a ton of changes in motion. Initially, we were looking to rent for about 8 months while we built a new house on a lot we purchased two years ago. But after prayer and much consideration (and I admit, tears cried over our house plans), we decided to hold off on this endeavor for a few more years and to buy a house in the same school system as our lot so Caroline won't have to change schools at any point. Thank goodness I did most of our Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving because the weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with showings, negotiations, and all the details and tasks that come along with selling and buying a house.

Everything has happened VERY fast. We close on both houses this Wednesday, and then we move into a pool house for 9 days. Yes, you read that right. Because we can't get possession of our new house for another week, we had to find a place to stay. A family from our church is generously allowing us to live in their guesthouse by their pool during this time. So, I'm boxing up most of our house while also packing for "vacation" in our little home away from home.

Okay, so now that you know what we've been up to, here's what you're really waiting so patiently for....
Carter and Grace bundled up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to search out a Christmas tree.
Every year, we head to the Birmingham Zoo where some guys have trucked in beautiful trees from North Carolina.
Grace's favorite part of the experience was tasting her first candy cane.
Our family of four
We celebrated Christmas with my family the weekend of the 18th. Pics to come, as they're all on my mom's camera. We spent Christmas Eve with Scott's family (who live in town). Here is Grace narrowing her eyes at me because she doesn't want her picture taken. And there's Gram Me trying to coax a smile out of our little diva.
Mind you, the princess is quite fond of posing. She's the prissiest little thing you've ever seen, and loves to show off her outfits or shoes by popping her foot and saying "look at me!"
Carter with Aunt JuJu
Carter loves to be funny and silly with Sam. He has also been really thoughtful and sweet toward his little sister lately. And as we all know, kids can say the darndest things. One evening, he was wrapping himself up in some paper left on the floor, and he said, "Daddy, help wrap me like a gift." Scott asked, "Who are you a gift to?" And Carter said, "To Jesus."

Another day, we were playing with his Little People nativity set. He asked me what the three wise men were carrying in their gold-colored chests. I suggested that one carried jewels, another carried gold and silver coins, and another had treasure. Carter thought for a moment and then suggested that one carried crackers, the next carried juice boxes, and the third man had toys. That made much more sense to him. :)
Carter and Grace both enjoyed learning Christmas carols. Grace's version of "Jingle Bells" goes like this: "Jiggy bell, jiggy bell...HEY! Jiggy bell, jiggy bell...HEY!" Carter knew the lyrics to a lot of songs, but he was most preoccupied with counting the days until Jesus' birthday. (Mainly because he knew that HIS birthday comes soon after Jesus'.) :)
On Christmas morning at our house, the kids ran down to see the gifts left by Santa. Both of them had wanted sleeping bags. Grace immediately climbed into hers and lay there for a while.
Carter wanted to roll his up, put his backpack on, and go camping. Speaking of his backpack, he takes it everywhere! The other day, we ventured into Lowe's with Carter wearing his jacket, a snow hat, gloves that were way too big, binoculars hanging around his neck, and his backpack on his back. We got quite a few curious looks. :)
Grace has so much energy and spunk. Her language and vocabulary have come so far in the last eight months. She jabbers alot in her "own" language (and I don't mean Mandarin), but she also blurts out sentences with 5-8 words. She is incredibly verbal, and her facial expressions are hilarious, even when you have no idea what she's saying.
She is very into her baby dolls and anything maternal.
She is also obsessed with watching "Ni Hao Kai-Lan." She loves to repeat the Chinese words that are taught in each episode. And because of this show, she has suddenly begun thanking me in Chinese. For weeks, she has been so consistent in saying "Thank you, Mommy" for anything I give her or do for her. In the last week, she has started saying, "Xie xie, Mommy." It is adorable!
Carter chillin' in his sleeping bag on Christmas Day.
This is how we found Grace during her naptime. We had no idea the sunglasses were even in bed with her!
Grace and Carter loved naming each person whom a stocking on the mantle belonged to. We had stocking up for Caroline, and it warmed my heart every time I heard her name on the lips of my toddlers. We are currently waiting our USCIS approval, and then we can send our dossier to China. From there, we will most likely have a 4-5 month wait before traveling.
One of the highlights of the holidays was our White Christmas!! On the 26th, the kids headed outside for some snowball action.
I mean, just look at the grin on this kid's face.
We're not sure that Grace had ever seen snow before. (Kunming is nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring for its year-round mild weather.)
She liked stomping in it but not touching it with her hands.
Carter wanted to make snowballs...
and explore the winter wonderland. (Note the backpack on his back.)
Scott, Carter, & Grace
2010 was an unforgettable year, particularly with the addition of this beautiful girl who has captured my heart in its entirety. We've watched our toddler, Carter, grow into a little boy who is developing thoughts, opinions, and ideas of his own. As we launch 2011 (with all the chaos of a big move!), we look forward to making a new home, bringing 12-year-old Caroline into our family, and learning what other crazy plans the Lord has in store for us. :)

May this new year bring optimism, faith, fresh starts, and hope for everyone!