Thursday, December 27, 2007

Introducing the newest Knipper...




Sarah! That's right, we're doing it again! We've just started the process to bring Sarah home. She is Henan provence and we figure we'll have her home (hopefully) in the fall sometime. She's 11 and sounds very sweet. We are all very excited about bringing her home.

We hadn't planned to adopt again. In fact, we thought we were finished. We have three great kids and are very happy with our family. But something happened when we were in China adopting Caleb that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. Mom and I were in the elevator at the White Swan, and a woman and the older girl she was adopting were in there with us. The girl must have been around 10. She looked up at me and said, "Oh, you're very pretty." I smiled and thanked her then told her I thought she was beautiful. Her eyes filled with tears, she looked at the floor and said, "No, no I'm not." A few days later we saw them again at the swearing in. The girl was so scared, crying and crying. But so brave. Her mother talked to her. Her guided talked to her and the girl settled a bit.

I've thought of her often since coming home and thought that if we did adopt again, I would like to adopt an older girl. Well, I hadn't been on line for awhile due to computer problems but then a friend emailed me about some of the kids on our agencies waiting child list. And there she was. I called Steve in (thinking he would say No Way!) and showed him her picture. "Okay," he said. So here we are again! Life will certainly be different with a pre-teen in the house but different has worked for us so far!

In Zach's words, "I don't like that she's older than me, but she doesn't have a family. We need to do this." How did my four-year-old become so wise? I am so proud of him.

Really though, as it is almost impossible to know what will happen to this kids if they don't find a family and not act. As I said before, every child needs a home. And we are so lucky that that home is ours.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!






We survived!! And I do mean survived. I came down with a stomach virus on Christmas eve that lasted all through Christmas day, so no turkey for me! On the bright side, instead of gaining weight over the holiday I actually lost 5 pounds! There's always a silver lining.

Anyway, on to the important stuff. The kids. After yesterday, Caleb has realized that Santa is actually a pretty good guy! I mean, who leaves all that stuff and you don't even have to talk to him? Pretty Cool.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas & that Santa brought you all peace and joy this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Caleb and Santa Claus

Well, it's the big countdown to Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is sleeping, especially not Caleb. Why you ask? Because the child is terrified, and I mean terrified of Santa Claus. He's okay with the man in red when he's on T.V., in fact, I believe we have just finished our 50 bazillionth viewing of Rudolph and Caleb loooves Hermie the elf. And I mean loves with a Capital "L". We have a little stuffed Hermie doll and when you squeeze his hand he sings "Why am I such a misfit". Well Caleb loves the doll. He has a little dance with hand movements and everything to to song. And he has to sleep with the doll at night, which makes for interesting noises over the monitor. "Just fixing these dolls' teeth," comes across several times a night.

But Santa, he's another story. Near our house there's a street where every house is lit up. They have big arches of lights down the street, inflatable Santa's in the yards, and a real Santa handing out candy canes to the kids in the cars that drive past. Well, the other night I made the big mistake of driving the kids down the street. Everyone was fine, enjoying the lights until Santa showed up. I pointed him out and everyone was getting excited until I rolled down the window for Santa to give us the candy canes. Well, Caleb had his head turned looking at another house and when he turned back, there was Santa, leaning in the window to give him a candy cane. He screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Santa handed me the candy canes instead. Maybe he felt sorry for me. Maybe I've just been extra good this year!

Anyway, we got home, calmed Caleb down and got ready for bed but he just couldn't get that Jolly Old Elf out of his mind. Over the monitor I heard, "Ana Cwaws, Ana Cwaws!" And the crying started again.

And it's been like that for the past four nights! Next year, remind me to avoid Santa at all costs! Or maybe find someone dressed up like Hermie the Elf so that Caleb doesn't want to have anything to do with that doll and "Why am I such a misfit?" won't keep us awake at night!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why we adopt

So many times people ask us why we adopt special needs kids. Most of the time the person asking really is curious. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes it's like they're saying, "Why in the world would you want to do that?!" But mostly, people really just want to know why.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the answer to that question. In the beginning we decided on special needs adoption because of my Crohn's disease. We knew our way around doctors and hospitals so having a child with physical needs didn't really scare us. Then of course there was Grace. And she taught us that no matter how big the need is, somehow, you manage and it becomes not such a big deal. But yesterday, I found the true answer to that question.

Yesterday, a little boy named Abraham died before his family found him. He was on CHI's special needs list and he had been waiting for months for a family to find him. Yesterday, when he died, there was no family to notify. No mother or father to mourn for him. No Mommy to hold him one last time. No Daddy to give him one last kiss on the cheek.

No child should have to spend their life waiting, and not finding, a family.

That's why we adopt.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Two years ago



We met Grace. I can't believe she's been with us for 2 years. Where did the time go? In honor of her Gotcha day, I'm posting the one picture I have saved from our computer crash from her Gotcha day. She was one sick little girl. Boy, has she changed! And somewhere along the way, she changed us as well. She changed us from people who never thought we could handle needs like hers to people who take it in stride.

Thank you Gracie for making me the person I've always wanted to be.

Stephanie

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas trees and Gotcha days





Well we finally put up our Christmas tree. All of the ornaments are concentrated in on spot on the front but it's up and the kids all helped. Even Grace (with a little help from Mommy!) I've been a little worried about putting it up this year. Grace is so much more mobile than she was last year. I have visions of her pulling it down on top of her. But so far, she hasn't been that bad. She's grabbed at it a few times but nothing too bad yet.

After we put the tree up we went out to our favorite Chinese restaurant to celebrate Gracie's gotcha day. On December 12th she will have been with us for 2 years. It's hard to believe that it's been that long. In some ways it seems like she's been with us forever and sometimes it seems like just yesterday we were meeting her. The road has been long and hard but it's been so worth it. Two years ago she was a little girl without a family. She couldn't hold her head up. She couldn't walk. Didn't want to be held. She didn't smile, didn't laugh. She was a little girl locked in her own little world. But gradually, she is waking up. She smiles freely and gives the world's best hugs. I can't imagine my life without her. We are so blessed to share our lives with this little girl. She is not perfect in the world's definition of the word, but she is in ours.

Gracie, we love you. More than you can ever know. I wish so many things for you still. I hope that one day you will talk with us. That one day I'll be able to tell you I love you and have you understand. I want you to know that there hasn't been a day that you weren't wanted and loved. You are perfect just the way you are. I love your laugh, the way you rest your head on my shoulder and tap my back when I hold you. You have made me a better person. I am forever grateful to you for that. My one wish is that more families would take a chance on a child like you. That they would know they could do it. They are strong enough. Yes, our lives are different in ways we didn't expect. We don't think of colleges for you, we think of group homes. We don't dream of you graduating from college, we dream of hearing your first words. And I'm constantly worried about keeping you safe. From little things like pulling the Christmas tree over on yourself, to big things, like people taking advantage of you when you're older. But Grace, it's worth it. It is so worth it.

If you are considering adoption, please look at some of the special needs children through Children's House International (there's a link on this blog.) There are so many children waiting for a family who will love them no matter what and what better gift can you give a child than a home for the holidays?

Stephanie

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Zach's proposal


This is why I love having boys. After dinner Zach came up to me and said, "Will you come sit with me on the couch?" Of course I couldn't resist that so I went over, spread a cover over him and sat next to him while he rested his head on my shoulder (my favorite part about being a mom!)

After a minute he looked up at me and said, "Why don't we get married?"

"Sure," I said with a smile.

He gave me a little kiss and then followed up with, "Why don't we go out and get each other a surprise since we're getting married."

"Okay," I said. "What kind of surprise do you want?"

He thought for a moment. "A big super marbalous. Where you can put the marble in over here and it zooms over there."

I just laughed. This has to beat Steve's proposal!

After a minute he said, "What do you want?"

"I've already got what I want. Just spending some time with you."

Times like this are what I love about being a mom.

Stephanie

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Catching up

Well, it has been way way too long since I've posted. We've had 2 computer crashes, both our home computer and my work lap top crashed and I lost a lot of pictures (unfortunately, all of the pictures from our first trip to China when we adopted Grace - aggh I could scream). Anyway, now everything is back up and working and the kids are settling down into a routine, at least what passes for a routine at our house! So I'm back to blogging.
Finally, everyone seems to have found their place. I know from my last post things sounded dismal here & it was at the time, but now we've just passed our first six month with Caleb & aside from the sibling squabbles between the boys, we've all adjusted well. No more struggles with bed times. Everyone goes to sleep in their own bed & mostly sleeps through the night. It is wonderful!
Caleb fits in perfectly with our family. It's like he's always been here. We had his birthday party in October and he was thrilled to be the center of attention. We definitely have 2 hams in the family (3 if you count Steve!)
All of the kids are in preschool and Gracie is riding the bus! I can't believe it, she's such a big girl now.
Zach is having a great school year. Last year was so hard for him, it's great to see him going to school without all of the separation anxiety he had last year.
Well, enough writing. How 'bout some pictures?





Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rocky Roads..

This is officially my gripe post! I'm outnumbered by kids who are driving me crazy!! As you can see I haven't updated the blog in a while. That's because all of my time is spent refereeing between Zach and Caleb. They do NOT get along at all. It's 8:30 in the morning and already I've had to take away toys, give time outs and separate them more times than I can count. Right now Caleb is face down on the floor screaming (again) because I took a toy away. This kid screams more than anyone I've ever met. Zach stands next to him. He screams. Zach looks at him. He screams. I walk from the family room to the kitchen. You guessed it, he screams. Not just once or twice, but face on the floor, top of his lungs, ear piercing wails. I'm about ready to pull my hair out.

Of course, Zach isn't much better. He spends his days deliberately getting in Caleb's face and doing things he knows will set Caleb off. Then of course he turns to me and says, "I'm not doing anything." Even though I just saw him run up to Caleb and take his ball, jump rope, car, whatever. Sigh. Why did I think this was a good idea? I know in six months everything will be better but boy, time sure crawls when you're surrounded by screaming kids. It's pretty bad when the autistic child is the best behaved.

We were scheduled to meet some adoption friends in Lexington in two weeks but we've had to cancel that. I just don't think Caleb is up to it. Plus Steve is putting in a lot of time at work. The past several nights he didn't get home until just before their bedtime. So I think the bottom line is I need a kid free zone! Or at least some kid free time...even thirty minutes...

It will get better...It will get better...

Stephanie

Friday, June 15, 2007

One month tomorrow

Tomorrow it will be one month since we met Caleb. In some ways it seems like he's been here forever (especially when he's screaming!) In other ways, it seems like just yesterday. I know we'll spend the rest of our lives feeling that way. I look back to March of 2003, when Zach was born, and then I look at this tall four-year-old and wonder where the time went.

Things are still going well, if not smoothly. Everyone is adjusting to each other. There's lots of screaming & crying going on! Seems like every time I turn around Zach is hitting Caleb, Caleb is biting Grace & Grace is pinching everyone! Arrg! It seems like the only time they aren't screaming is when they're sleeping or outside. Most of the day I just want to give myself a time out so that I can sit somewhere quiet!

Other than that, the only real issue we're having is sleep. Caleb is terrified to be without one of us at night. It's normal but hard. We have a mattress on the floor of the boys' room and Steve (bless him) has been sleeping in there with him. I did it the first few nights but my Crohn's has been acting up since we got home and going without sleep makes it worse. Luckily, Steve can sleep through anything! But the good thing is, there haven't been any more 2 am Walmart trips so things must be looking up!

Stephanie

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Finally Pictures!

Okay, so the sleeping didn't go so well after all. As I posted last time, we had everyone in bed and sleeping by 9:30 and thought we were in the clear. Alas, not to be. At 11:00 Caleb started screaming so I went in and slept with him until 2:00 when everyone was up for the day. That's right, 2 am with 3 kids under 5. What a party! So what did we do? What any American family does at 2 am when everyone's wide awake, we went to Walmart.

It's getting a little better but nights are still really hard for Caleb. He gets really scared (and who can blame him? Everyone he's ever loved has disappeared on him) so I've been sleeping in the boy's room and let me tell you, squeezing into a tiny bunk bed with a guard rail is not fun!

Bottom line is, we're all sleep deprived and grouchy. I'll be so glad when everyone's on U.S. time.

Anyway, what everyone's waiting for, pictures!

Stephanie













Thursday, May 31, 2007

We're Home!!

And amazingly, all three kids are asleep in their own rooms! Yay!! Now time for Steve and I to sit down and unwide with a Coke and ICE!! It's the little things we missed. I'll post more later and pictures tomorrow.

Stephanie

BTW - I didn't have time to post after our Consulate appointment but Steve, Caleb & I were interviewed by CNN. They were there filming the swearing in ceremony & interviewed us. I have no idea when/if it will air or if it will be here or in China but hey, we're celebrities now!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two more days!

Well, I tried to post before and somehow my post disappeared. Hmm, maybe the problem is that everything is in Mandarin except what I'm writing. Who knows where I sent that last message.

Anyway, I only have 3 minutes left in the business center here so I'll have to be brief. We leave Thursday morning at 8:20 and couldn't be happier! All I want is a little more space and no more squatty potties!!! Claire had her first experience with one the other day and let me just say, it made an impression. Having Zach with us, of course we have seen every squatty potty in Guangzhou. Even some down dark alleys and up rickety stairs. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. Especially when you are four.

The kids are still doing well but tempers are flaring. Zach is antagonizing Caleb, Caleb is biting Zach and Grace is scratching and pinching everyone in reach, including Chinese ladies who make the mistake of turning their backsides to her. She pinches and they whip around to glare at Steve! By then Grace is back to looking angelic so no one suspects her!

My time's up so looking forward to seeing you all! And I hope this goes through.

Stephanie

Only two days left

And we leave! I don't think I've ever been so ready to leave somewhere in my life. Not because it's been a bad trip, but it's just been so long. Plus three kids and two adults in one small hotel room is just a recipe for disaster. I'm going to hide my eyes when they give us the final bill for the hotel. I know we've already got Crayola decorated sheets and a broken glass on there. Then there's the twice daily room cleaning. As the housekeeping staff put it, "You need vacuming two times a day!" It took a staff of three over an hour to clean it yesterday. They will be so glad when we are gone!

Caleb continues to adust well except for the biting and the temper tantrums. We don't think he's ever been told "no" before. He has a complete meltdown any time we take something away or tell him no. It's getting better so I'm not worried about it but it is wearing thin quickly. In fact, I think all of the kids will settle down once we get home. Zach is acting up, I think jealousy is the problem, and Gracie's schedule is so thrown off she doesn't know what to do.

We leave Thursday morning so this might be the last post from China. Our flight leaves at 8:20 am and we leave the hotel at 5:30 am. Fun! Oh well, at least we'll be home that much faster.

Stephanie

Sunday, May 27, 2007

And the biting continues...

As you might have guessed from the title, Caleb is a biter. And not little nips here and there, big, jaw clenching, bruise leaving bites. He got Zach twice, once on the arm and once on the stomach. Poor Zach, he has half dollar size bruises. It looks so painful.

Today we were trying to sort out some money issues with our guide (they didn't give us the right price before we left so when I wired them the money it didn't include Mom & Claire) and the boys were running around the lobby of the White Swan. Now this is a very nice hotel. The kind that if it were a restaraunt, and not the place that almost every American stays when they adopt, would have on its menu - "Well behaved children are welcome." As you can imagine, one blond headed American boy and one dark headed Chinese boy running through the lobby screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs was getting us quite a few dirty looks. Eventually, I felt I had to intervene and tried to pull Caleb back over to us.

That's when he tried to get me.

The minute I reached for him, the screaming began and the mouth opened. Little did he know I've had 18 months with Grace, Queen Biter. He might bight harder but he doesn't bite faster. I grabbed his hands and stretched them out so that he couldn't lean into me and said, "No biting!" Of course his mouth was still open and he was straining with everything he had to chomp down on any piece of me he could get, but I escaped this time. But he didn't give up easily. Since he couldn't bite me, he settled for hitting and kicking. But at least I don't have any little teeth marks anywhere!

We went to the Six Banyan Trees Temple today and even in the rain it was beautiful. Steve, Zach & Claire climbed to the top of a seventeen story pagoda. I made it to the fourth floor but as you have to inch around this tiny balcony that's on the outside of the pagoda and I hate heights, I gave up and climbed down praying that I wouldn't topple over the very thin rail and splat on the concrete below.

Everyone is still well but Grace had a fever this morning. We only have one more official day and that's Tuesday at the US consulate. Then, as long as we can get a cash advance from our credit card to pay the rest of the fees we can leave. If not, they might hold us hostage and put us to work!

Love to all,
Stephanie

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gracie's Midnight Song

That's what Zach calls it when she wakes up between 2:30 & 3:00 everymorning screaming. We thought we had that little issue ironed out when she slept until 6:00 for the past two nights. Not so. Last night she woke up screaming at 3:45 and we couldn't get her to go back to sleep so Steve walked her up and down the halls of the White Swan where she sang and laughed until the breakfast buffet opened at 6:00. Well, it was quite an experience. Those of you who have dined with Gracie know that there needs to be at least a three foot radius of clear space around her. Anything that enters the space either goes in her mouth or on the floor.

Anyway, they were seated and Steve told the attendant not to put anything in front of Grace. Somehow Grace ended up with a glass of orange juice right in front of her and of course, it ended up on the floor, shattering the glass and splattering orange juice everywhere. After this, all of the waitresses mobbed Steve, demanding to know "Where baby's Mama?" I was up in the room with the boys, blissfully unaware of the chaos in the dining room.

Well, they moved them to another table, right next to some Asian business men in nice suits with their laptops and papers out. Steve, knowing Grace as he does, asked to be moved but the waitress said no, he was fine there. So they sit and not more than two minutes later, Grace grabs her bowl of cheerios and flings it over her left shoulder, onto the Chinese man behind her. He was soaked. Milk and cheerios from his head to his toes.

Again, Steve was cornered by women demanding to know, "Where Baby's Mama?!" Then they strongly "encouraged" him to come back later with Mama. Steve said no, they would eat then and finished the meal. Poor guy! Traveling with 3 young kids, one of them autistic, is nothing if not exciting!

Everyone else is doing well, if tired. And we are all ready to come home. Caleb is thawing toward me and even cried this morning when I left to get some food. Having me be his primary caregiver is really working. Even with the difficulty in bonding, we feel like we've hit the Kid Lottery. He is such a character! Mom bought the boys matching shades and you would think they own the streets of Guangzhou! He waives and grins as we walk past people! Such a little ham. He's fitting right in.

We're stuck in the hotel right now because it's raining now. So I'm off to take the kids to the play room to run off some steam.

Love you all,
Stephanie

Thursday, May 24, 2007

One more week!

And boy, will we be glad to be home. Other than the bonding issues with Caleb, which are slowly sorting themselves out, this has been a much better trip than last time. We've been able to see a lot of China, even took the kids to a amusement park where Zach played in such places as "Fruit & Vegetable Land", and "Phrase Land". We even got Gracie on a ride with him & she seemed to enjoy it also.

Even so, we're ready to go home. Two adults & three kids in a room that's about the size of our bathroom is a little tight! Plus it's very difficult to bond with Caleb when we're always going somewhere. I'll be so glad to be home & in a routine.

As I said, things are getting a little better with Caleb. I'm trying to do the caregiving activities -- holding him, soothing him, feeding, changing, etc. And he's beginning to loosen up a bit around me. It's really tough for him since he's lost every mother figure he's ever had. Of course he thinks I'll leave too. I'm just really trying to sort some of it out here because we get home on the 31st & Steve goes back to work on the 4th. Then it's just me and the Terrific Three. It will be much easier if Caleb accepts me then. Oh well, it just takes time.

We will be so glad to see everyone!

Stephanie

BTW - Zach is engaged. One of the vendors has decided that she is his finance. We can't walk more than two feet with him without being mobbed! I think all of the fame is going to his head!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Medical Exam Today

Today is the medical exam and I can't help thinking back to eighteen months ago when we had Gracie's medical exam. Such a hard experience. There we were, surrounded by 3 Chinese doctors being told our daughter was retarded. Turned out they were right, but we didn't care. She's ours and always will be. This whole trip has brought back memories of our time here with Grace, both good and bad. I'm so thankful though that we have her. We met a couple here who were originally given a child with cerebral palsy. They didn't feel they could handle the need and gave her back and got another child. I understand their fear, heck, we lived it, but I can't stop thinking of that little girl who had a chance for a family and it just slipped away from her. Everyone deserves a family who loves them no matter what. I just wish people knew they are strong enough handle situations like that even if it seems they aren't. Sigh.

Well, I'm sure Caleb's exam will be fine. It's in 2 hours and I'll tell you what, there's nothing wrong with this little guy other than a quick temper! This is one child in need of some boundaries!

Love to you all and we'll see you soon!
Stephanie

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cloud Mountain

Today we went to the Cloud Mountain. It was this beautiful mountain surrounded by gardens with sunflowers everywhere. It would have been perfect except that it started raining really hard so we all got soaked. Oh well, it was still really neat. We're getting to see so much more of China this time -- since we can actually leave our room. We went the the Toy Market a few days ago and as we were waiting for a taxi (again in the rain) an old man street vendor came up to me and pointed at all the kids, asking if they were mine. I motioned to all three of them and then to me, and said they were, he smiled and then went and brought his grandson over for us to see. It was really touching to see how proud he was of his little grandson. Zach of course was a big hit again.

Everything is still going well except that Zach and Steve are sick. Good thing we have antibiotics this time! Caleb is starting to come around to me a bit more but still really prefers everyone else to me. At least he's letting me feed him now, although he did try to bite me this morning. Hmm, maybe he's already learning from his big sister?

Stephanie

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A few stumbling blocks

Well, we've had a few stumbling blocks. Nothing big. Everyone is still doing well but whereas in the beginning Caleb really took to me, now he doesn't want much to do with me. It's normal but it's hard on me. He such a great little guy and it hurts so much when he pushes me away. Yesterday he cried at the site of me and went to everyone except me. He'd turn his head away from me and scream if I held him. It really just broke my heart. But as I said, it's normal and expected.

Today was better as he let me hold him and feed him. And last night, after such a hard day, I was in the room alone with Caleb and Grace and he let me kiss him then he'd point to Grace & I'd kiss her. It was really cute. After that, he seemed to feel more comfortable with me. It'll just take time. It's still so much easier than it was with Grace.

Speaking of Grace, we saw our guide, Daniel, from when we adopted Grace. He remembered us because of all the trouble we had. He was such a great guy we were so happy to have the chance to talk to him again and thank him for all of his help when things were so hard with Grace.

Everyone else is fine. Zach has become a local celebrity. We went to the electronics market today and a crowd surrounded him everywhere he went. The salesgirls were making origami (sp?) planes, flowers, everything for him. As we left, he turned to me and said, "I like playing girlfriend!" All of the girls fuss over him everywhere we go. Yesterday he took to saying, "Ladies, ladies. Calm down." I'm sure you can just picture it! As for how all of the kids are getting along, actually it's better than expected. Caleb looooves Zach and gets a kick out of Grace. Zach and Caleb nap together in one bed and it's the cutest thing you've ever seen. Of course, they squabble, but not too bad yet. All in all, it's pretty good.

Still, we'll be so happy to get home. Grace hasn't adjusted to the time and wakes up every night at 2:30 in the morning. So we are all tired.

Well, we're off to dinner. I won't be able to post pictures until we get home, but we've got a lot!

Stephanie

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 2

And all is well. He's still a sweetheart and still just picking up on everything. He definitely has his own ideas about things. He picks out his own clothes, feeds himself and cleans up after himself. He's just a great little guy. We're getting some tears right now so I've got to be brief but just wanted to let everyone know things are still going well.

Stephanie

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WE HAVE HIM!!

Well, we have him & he's great!! He is sooo smart! No delays at all! There were a few tears in the beginning but then we broke out the bubbles & stickers and rice crispy treats and he was sold. That is until he tried to put a sticker on Grace and she bit him. Welcome to the family! He's already learned several words and we've only had him for 3 hours. He's said - mirror, more, baba (mandarin for daddy), bye bye, cars, & more that I can't remember. He has a great personality. Smiles and a great sense of humor. He will be a great fit for our family. We are sooo glad & relieved. After Grace, we were really scared but this kid is smart as a whip. We all love him already. And the best thing is that having Zach & Grace here has really helped.

It has been a wonderful transition so far. Of course we expect some bumps in the road. He has a little cold but they've already put him on antibiotics. It's not a big deal at all. We all just love him already.

Thank you all so much for all of the prayers. They have made a HUGE difference. We just have to thank God for such a blessing.

I can't wait until you all meet him. He is wonderful.

Love you all,
Stephanie

P.S. - Terri, Claire is doing a great job! She is a great kid. You should be so proud of her.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

3 1/2 hours to go...

We don't have him yet but soon! We finally called got in touch with our guide and she will be at our room at 1:00 pm China time. We get Caleb at 2:00. We are all tired, nervous, excited...everything you can imagine. All is well. We got some rest yesterday but Grace is still on US time and not sleeping yet. So hopefully that will work itself out tonight.

Thanks for all of the comments! We love hearing from you all. I'll update again after we have Caleb!

Stephanie

BTW - One of my stories was published on Mother's Day. If you want to read it it's at www.literarymama.com and it's called Hearing is Believing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

We're Here!!

Well, tried to post this once already and it didn't go through so here we go again. We made it to the hotel late last night after one cancelled flight and a missing guide. We flagged down a taxi and made it to our hotel. We checked in around 1:00 am.

We're all tired but good. Today we'll just take it easy because tomorrow we get Caleb! I'll post an update tomorrow evening.

Stephanie

Friday, May 11, 2007

Zach & Grace's last few days as a twosome





Here are the kids enjoying some much needed down time this week. Wonder how Caleb will fit in here? Hope he likes tickles and giggles!

Stephanie

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Well, not yet, but close. Our flight leaves on Sunday at 12:16 pm and we arrive in Guangzhou at 10:45 pm on Monday. Then we have a day of rest on Tuesday and get Caleb at 2:00 on Wednesday! Seems like these past two weeks have flown by!

The good news is that Mom and Claire both have their passports and visas! They got them yesterday morning so everyone is good to go!

We'll be updating everyone through the blog while we're in China but won't be able to post any pictures. We'll be using the hotel business center instead of our own computer so I can't download any pictures.

Stephanie

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Almost time to go...

Well, we leave in 5 days and I'm scared. Terrified actually. I keep thinking of our experience with Grace and I'm so afraid of the same thing happening with Caleb. The past year and a half with her has been many things, but easy isn't one of them. She has brought so much to our lives and honestly, I'm a better person for having her in my life, but I really don't want to do it again! I know we're all worried about it, even Zach, yesterday he asked if Caleb would be "artistic" -- his word for autistic. All I could think was, boy, I hope not.

I know God will give us the strength to deal with whatever comes our way, but I just keep thinking, "Please, let this one be easy!"

Stephanie

Monday, May 7, 2007

New Pictures of Caleb!




We just got some new pictures of Caleb! He's such a cutie, I can't believe we'll be in China in a week!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Passports for everyone!!!

They're all here! Claire got her passport today & we sent it off for a visa. What a relief. We were down to the wire here. It has been so stressful trying to get the passports and visas at the last minute. We really needed someone with us since we will be there longer this time and have Zach and Grace. My Crohn's flared the day after we got Grace last time and Steve and I were both having nightmares of me sick with a Crohn's flare and Steve with all three kids. But thanks to Mom and Claire, even if I do get sick, we have backup.

Have I mentioned that family is wonderful and ours is the best? Really, we couldn't be doing all of this without our families. Every time we've needed help, they've been there. And let me tell you, we've needed a lot of help! Between all of my surgeries (four in the past four years) and Gracie's doctor's & therapists, it's been really rough. So thank you everyone for your help & prayers! Now send up some prayers for safe travel and a good transition for Caleb.

Stephanie

Friday, May 4, 2007

One down, one to go!!

We got my mom's passport today!!!! It came this morning so we rushed around and pulled everything together for the visa and sent that off to the courier today. With luck we'll have her passport back with the visa by Thursday.

I talked to my sister-in-law last night and Claire's passport is finished & we should have it either today or tomorrow. Yay!! Then we'll send it off for the visa and hopefully everyone will be ready, passport & visa in hand, by Friday. Boy are we cutting it close!

Keep the prayers coming. We still have a lot to do. Tomorrow we will paint the boys' room & start packing. I can't believe we leave in a little over a week, but this is always how it is in adoption. A lot of waiting in the beginning and then, rush, rush, rush at the end. Having done this before you'd think I'd learn and be a little more organized. Oh well, maybe next time...or not! Three's enough, especially with Grace. She counts for two!

Stephanie

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Good day for Grace


This morning was a rough morning for Grace, and therefore, for the rest of us. Last week she had a reaction to her seizure medication -- stuff coming out of both ends (trust me, you don't want details) and hives from head to toe. Poor thing. She was miserable. Well, after two trips to the dr (between trying finish painting the boys' room, packing...etc.) they finally decided to switch her meds. Well, she's been a bear since then. Crying, scratching, pinching & hitting anyone who crosses her path. This morning was more of the same. She fell asleep for a bit then I took her to school.

I was anticipating another bad day at school -- yesterday was bad -- but when I went to pick her up, here she comes, walking down the hall and when she sees me she starts flapping her hands and squealing with a big smile across her face. It's the first time she's been obviously happy to see me when I picked her up. And one of the few times she's actually walked down the hall. Normally she flings herself on the ground. I picked her up and tickled her and she laughed some more. Her teacher told me that she had a good day and is making friends with another little girl in her class. It's a structured learning class for autistic children so it's big for both girls. They sit together on a bench and look at books or play. I had to blink back tears I was so happy. Those of you who saw her when she came home know how detached she was from everyone and everything. It's wonderful to see her "waking up".

Now if we could get this medication straightened out before we leave -- and the room painted, and packed...

Stephanie

Monday, April 30, 2007

Still no passports...

Well, here we are, less than two weeks away from traveling and still waiting on passports for my mom & niece, Claire. A friend of ours was going to go with us but at the last minute was unable to go. So Mom & Claire stepped up to the plate. But, if we don't have the passports in the next day or so, looks like Steve & I will be making the trip by ourselves. Not such a big deal until you throw a 4 year old & 3 year old into the mix. And that's before we get Caleb!! So, anyone have any tips for entertaining young kids on very looong flights? I'm just picturing the faces of the other passengers as we walk onto the plane! Boy, will they wish they had booked a different flight! In 2005, on our way back with Grace, she started screaming in Hong Kong & went for 10 hours straight. The woman sitting behind Steve finally lost it and stood up, smacked the back of his chair and stomped off muttering something in Hindi.

I'm picturing the same for this time, only adding Zach into the mix, commenting loudly on everyone around us, "Mommy, why did that woman hit the back of Daddy's chair? Is she rude?", and Caleb, the wild card. As you can imagine, it's a little stressful in the house right now. Hmm, sedate the kids...sedate ourselves? There's an idea...

Stephanie

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Midnight Musings

It’s after midnight and I’ve just finished uploading the slideshow and choosing the music for the site. I should be in bed but picking out all of these pictures and songs has made me a little emotional. In June Steve and I will celebrate our thirteenth anniversary and I’m just thinking how lucky I am. Lucky to have him as a husband. Lucky to have my children. And lucky to be here with them.

I’m so aware that me just being here is a miracle. I’ve had four extra years that I shouldn’t have had and I feel so blessed to be healthy now and to have spent them with my family, and now to be bringing another child home. I’m scared and excited at the same time but I know it will be all right. God got us through my Crohn’s diagnosis and this past year with Gracie, He’ll get us through this.

You know, you never think you’re strong enough to do something until you’re thrown into the middle of it and there you find strength you never knew you had. Some people look at the past four years we've had and are amazed we're still standing but I wouldn't trade them for the world. Everything we went through brought us to this moment and it's right where we're supposed to be.

Stephanie

Friday, April 27, 2007

Itinerary

Well we finally have our flights reserved. It's been a crazy week. Grace has been sick since Tuesday morning & we've been running around trying to book flights, get visas, call the passport office so that Mom & Claire can come with us--boy we hope so--and we haven't even started packing yet!

The one thing that we won't get to do that I really wanted to is see the orphanage. It's 8 hrs away by bus and even though we asked to see it, they said no.

Anyway, we leave on May 13, Mother's Day, and get to Guangzhou at 10:45pm on May 14.
Here's the rest of it:

May.14: Family Knipper arrive in Guangzhou on Flight NW9/22:45, transfer
to* *White Swan Hotel.

May 15: Free

May.16: At 14:00 go to the Civil Affairs to meet the child and sign the
adoption agreement.

May.17: At 09:00 go to the Civil Affairs for the adoption registration,
notarization in the morning.

May.18: Pick up the adoption certificate and apply the child’s passport.

May.19: Free.

May.20: Go to local department store to buy some daily necessities for
the child.

May.21: Visit the White Cloud Mountain.

May.22: Pearl River Cruise.

May.23: Medical and photo for the child.

Mar.24: Free.

May.25: Pick up passport.

May.26: Visit the Six Banyan Temple.

May.27-May.28: Free.

May.29: 9:00 am visa appointment at the U.S.Consulate.

May.30: At 16:00 pick up the visa in the afternoon.

May.31: Family Knipper leave Guangzhou for home on flight NW10/08:20,
transfer airport.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

TA!!!

Well, we finally recieved our TA (Travel Approval) this morning. Teri from our agency called & told us that we have to be in China on 5/15 (yikes! so soon!) and we'll get Caleb on 5/16. We will be in China until 5/31. Boy do we have a ton of stuff to do.

Stephanie

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sad day, Good news

Today is the 6 year anniversary of my dad's death, always a hard day. I was talking to my mom a little while ago and we can't believe it's been this long. It seems like just yesterday that he was here with us. I think the hardest thing is that he never got to meet any of my children. He would have loved them all so much. Zach is so much like him that it's amazing to think they never met. Maybe we'll have another scientist in the family when he grows up, although he's still set on being an architect & pilot. Of course, he's only four. Things change.

Now to the good news. We officialy received and returned our LOA today (yes, we checked the box saying we still wanted Caleb!) I think it's appropriate that we received this today because his middle name will be "Le" in honor of both of his grandfathers - Leroy, my father & Leo, my father-in-law.

Stephanie

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

We got our LOA!

Well, it isn't TA (Travel Approval) but it is one step closer. I just got a call from Teri at CHI and she said that we should be receiving our LOA tomorrow. This is a letter from the US consulate asking if we still want to adopt Caleb--gee, after waiting all this time, naah, I don't think so. Just kidding! The great thing about getting this letter is that the very next thing we get is our TA, which normally comes a few weeks after the LOA. So we could be in China in the next 6-8 weeks. Boy, do we have a lot to do. The boys' room isn't finished, I have to bring up some of Zach's old clothes and sort through them to find things I think will fit Caleb. We have to put together a packing list (believe me, this will take a while, especially since Zach & Grace are coming with us!) But most importantly we have to get our Visas. Well, I know what we'll be doing this weekend...

Stephanie

BTW - I also have to figure out a way to convince Zach we can't bring every child home. He saw this picture of Caleb,
he has been asking if we can also bring home the baby in the high chair. Our conversations go like this:

Zach "Can we also bring home that baby in the highchair?"

Me "No, honey." Then I try to explain that China has a rule where you can only adopt one baby at a time.

Zach "Is that a bad rule?"

Me "Well, we need to give Caleb and the rest of us time to adjust to being a larger family."

Zach "But is it a bad rule?"

Me "It's good and bad. It's good because it gives us time to adjust. It's bad because more babies could come home if you could adopt more than one at a time."

Zach "I could probably pick that baby up."

Me "I'm sure you could."

And there it stays until the next time he brings up the "baby in the highchair."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Welcome!


Hi everyone!

Welcome to our blog. We're entering the home stretch of our adoption journey to bring Caleb home so I thought I'd create a place where everyone who wanted to could follow along. As most of you know, our paperwork is in China and we are just waiting patiently (or not!) for that all important Travel Approval (TA). Which we are hoping to get in a month or two. After that, it's four to six short weeks, and Caleb here we come!

When we started this journey we thought we'd be in China in March. Obviously that's not going to happen! Then we pushed it back to May. Now I'm guessing June which will put us at almost a year since we started the process. With Grace it only took eight months. At the time that seemed forever but now eight months is sounding pretty good!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy following along with us and I will try to update the blog regularly. Although with a four year old and three year old running around, it might not be too easy!

Stephanie