Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three Musketeers

This evening Matt, Lexie, and I had dinner together...Lexie's favorite spaghetti. We then went to the Library,picked out some new books & then came home and to watch 'Ni Hao Kai lan goes to China'.   I then put Lexie to bed while Matt went out with a few friends for a drink.  After he left I realized that tonight was our last Thursday evening spent as a family of 3. :-( We leave next Thursday afternoon and will not spend another Thursday night together until we have Emma.

It's bizarre -- our little family of 3 has been together for so long, I am having a hard time imagining it any other way. I  hope Lexie remembers some of the time she got to spend with us 1:1.   I know that sounds stupid...2nd, 3rd and 4th kiddos never get that 1:1 time and they do just fine. But still...I hope she remembers.  If not, I just made a photo album with 2011 pictures to remind her of all the fun things she got to do with us :-).  I plan to use it when she is a teenager and she is telling me how unfair her life is, ha!

This evening when I put Lexie to bed she asked me to lie down with her (of course I obliged, much easier then fighting, lol). While I was laying down with Lexie, she put her hands on my face, gave my forehead a kiss (this is a Matt move btw) and said 'you are my favorite'.  I did the same back to her and said 'Lexie, you are my favorite'. She then gave me a bear hug and said 'you are the best mommy'.  She then grabbed my hand and closed her eyes.  I sat there, lying next to my daughter, holding her hand and just thanked God for everything we have.

Here she is blowing me kisses good night...

I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

UPDATE: 10 mins later...Well, I now hear her screaming my name (perhaps a glass of water, or a potty break) so I guess my blissful evening is over.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Lexie has been telling us for weeks that Emma wants a horse and that she wants "red sparkly" ice skates for Christmas.  She is just in the adorable age when every gift seems magical, it's super cute..

Here we are putting the Reindeer food out on Christmas eve after church and after 'elfing' a few of our neighbors. :-)

Anyway, red sparkly ice skates are not sold at Target, Walmart, or my go to, Amazon.  So I was forced to go down the do it yourself path.  I am pretty much do it yourself outed at this point in the year so Matt was roped into figuring this one out.  Anyway, the skates involved a double bladed pair of skates ordered online,  a product called 'mod podge', a lot of glitter, and a spray sealant.  Ta da!!

Emma's 'horse' & Lexie's red sparkly ice skates

Suffice it to say , I believe we may have red sparkles over our house for years to come. I am also not sure how often the skates will be used but..I think it will all be worth it when we see her face tomorrow morning. :-)

Ok - so on to Emma's gift from Santa.  Do you notice anything weird about the rocking horse? First of all - it is not a horse, it is a moose. Matt pointed that out after I purchased it from Ikea.  Whatever I told him, Lexie will buy this is a horse from Santa for Emma.  Second problem - the moose came with two left legs.  Third, and potentially the largest issue,  we didn't start putting said moose together until 10 pm tonight. I am married to an amazing man though who figured it out and I think we are now good to go....but I should probably get Ikea to fix said horse moose before Emma sits on it though!

Speaking of Emma -- we meet her in 16 days, 'gotcha day'!!  Her orphanage often takes the child from their foster family about two weeks before gotcha day. The idea behind this is that they want the child to grieve the loss of their foster family before the adoptive parents come to pick the child up.  I believe Emma's orphanage is one of the only orphanages that does this but we don't really know for sure.  Anyway, at church this evening it broke my heart to think of Emma being taken from her foster parents on Christmas day.  I want to be there for her.

We will be spending Christmas day with Lexie, the red sparkly ice skates, and a two left legged moose.  We wish we were spending it with Emma but we know God is with her.  God is with her, her foster family, and her birth mother or father this Christmas eve.

Emma: female name coming from Emmanuel, meaning, 'God is with us'.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baby Emma

We were finally able to locate Emma's 'finding ad' this week.   I will not be sharing the entire ad with you but I did want to share her photo!! Given up until today we only had 2 photos of her, I figured you all would like to see the third photo we now have of Emma. It will most likely be the youngest photo we have of her. Isn't she absolutely adorable?!!!

How did we come across this photo you ask?! Well, a friend on a chat board suggested a Google search! We actually used the Chinese version of Google (Baidu) to do an 'image search' of her Chinese name (I can't believe I waited this long to try this technique!).  The result was a series of baby pictures that were all published along with Emma's in the same newspaper that week.  I narrowed it down to two babies that I thought could be Emma.   I wasn't for certain that this was her until I got an email this morning from a professional  - Brian Stuy - who included the entire finding ad, confirming photo #2 was Emma.

I did have a hunch it was initially her though.  A few reasons:

1) You can tell this is Emma because of her Mohawk hair here -- like her referral photo.  I just love it that she had a Mohawk as a baby (I say 'had' because she is now 15 mos and I am assuming has a full head of hair!!).

2)  Lexie had this same hair when she was born.  In fact, when Lexie was born she looked really similar to Emma.  I actually remember asking (in a post c section daze) if that was really my baby b/c she had such dark hair. I had expected a blond haired little girl. Anyway, here are the two sisters side by side.

3) When Matt saw the photo on Google he said - 'God that looks like me when I was a baby!'  His mom has shared pictures that confirm that as a baby he had this crazy dark hair too.

21 days from now I will be posting a picture (well, probably multiple pictures) of Matt and I holding a now 15 mos old Emma!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


We got TA today!! We are trying to get a consulate appointment of January 16th, leaving shortly after the new year - Jan 4th or 5th. We will know tomorrow for sure the details.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2 pm at our house...

Right now we are waiting for our Travel Approval from the Chinese Gov't.  Our agency estimates it will come sometime over the next 3 weeks.   Once we get this approval, we can book our flights (2-3 weeks out).

These approvals come physically to our agency via DHL.  DHL is usually delivered to our agency around 2 pm east coast time.

So..everyday from today until we get our TA, at 2 pm, I will frantically be checking my email.  I also will be checking the blogs to see if other adoptive parents waiting for their travel approval have gotten their TA. i.e. yesterday someone that was 4 days ahead of us got their TA. I almost wet myself I was so excited for them.  

The invention of the smart phone gives me an edge here. I can be shopping, working, working out, or at matter what, I have my phone and my email at my touch.  

On the plus side, Lexie is still napping so I am able to spend this time waiting for the call without her screaming in the background.

So if you want to get a hold of me...just email or call around 2 pm. I will answer. :-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Article 5 Pick up!! Chinese New Year Feedback?

We *think* we had article 5 pickup today in Guangzhou today!

We got an email in the middle of the night from the consulate (amazing services!) indicating it was ready. Our agency said their contact usually picks it up when it was ready and since it was scheduled for 12/6, she assumes it happened.  We are going with a 'yes' with that feedback. :-)

So we now start our official wait for Travel Approval!  Our hope is to get it by 12/22 (our agency is closed the 23 and the 26th so the 22nd is the last chance before Christmas).

On travel dates -- my good friend Torye opened my eyes this weekend and we are know thinking that we may try to stay in China during the Chinese New Year (as opposed to avoiding it ).

We have heard that if you are there during the new year it is truly a once in a lifetime trip.  The consulate is open the Thursday of the new year week so if we can get the rest of the items (medical review specifically) done before the CNY, it just may work!!

Anyone been to China during the NY? Or know anyone who has?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hanging the stockings!

We hung our Christmas decorations this weekend!  It was a blast. Lexie is in her full swing 'ordering' of her parents around the house. So I was told many times where to put things. :-)

My mom recently finished Emma's stocking so we were able to hang all 4 of them!  Lexie loved hanging them this year and talked about Santa filling them all. Too cute!!

We also decorated the tree. It was a ton of fun and Lexie loved this one ornament in particular.  She actually asked if she could take it to show and tell at school!

My sister Catherine gave us the ornament at Thanksgiving. It is Emma's referral photo and has a pin on it that was my Grandma Norma's, who passed away this spring. Emma shares Catherine & Grandma Norma's middle name (along with Matts mother & grandmothers middle names!).  We will wait to see if Emma, like her sister and mother, share Norma's spitfire personality, ha! :-)

Finally, while in the midst of these activities on Saturday I saw one of my friends posted the below song by Third Day.  I was actually floored to hear would have thought it came directly from Matt and I! Tears!! Thank you Tera for sharing!!

We know Emma is in Foster Care and we hope she is being hugged and loved this holiday season by her foster parents.   Next year, Emma will  join us in the craziness of decorating the house and baking cookies. Next year, Lexie will probably be ordering Emma on where to hang the decorations around the house, lol.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble Gobble!!

Given tomorrow is Turkey Day...I wanted to comment on a few things we are thankful for this year:

We are thankful for Emma.  
  • So many ppl have said to us lately how lucky Emma is. Without getting on a soapbox here...Emma is not the lucky one, we are. We are SO SO SO lucky to be Emma's parents. I am not saying this to b/c I think its the right thing to say. It is true. We have wanted to be parents to a second child for years...and now we are able to. Each child is unique and is given gifts. I hope one day Emma reads this blog and realizes the truth in how lucky Lexie, Matt, and I are to have her in our family.

We are also thankful for our wonderful families.
  • We were able to spend the last few days seeing Matt's family at a sad occasion, his grandmothers funeral. His grandmother, Joy Lillie, was an amazing women. Raised 10 kiddos and was one of the first nurses to land on Normandy beach during WWII.  Anyway, it was great to see everyone, even on such a sad occasion. Matt's family is huge, loving, & anxiously waiting to meet Emma!
  • My family is all in town for turkey day tomorrow. My older sister/husband/3 kiddos are in town from MN & my sister/brother in law/dog are in from DC. .My brother/sister in law/kids and my parents live in town already so it has really a full house!! Everyone has been able to spend a lot of time together and it has been amazing to see the kids play with each other and teach each other stuff.  I just love it!
We are thankful for our gifts from God. 
  • Some of us are good with numbers, some are good with people, some are athletic, others are good with languages, well..... you get the point.  Matt and I realize we have both been given unique gifts (come on, you all know it, right?!) and we hope to use them over the next year in a way that would make God proud as our father. :-)
  • We are thankful for our health. We are constantly reminded that being healthy is not an absolute, but it is a Gift.  :-) for an update on the adoption....
As you can see - we were 'cabled' last week!  This means that Emma's US Adoption approval was emailed to US Consulate in China. Emma's Visa Application then met up with that US approval yesterday when the application was dropped off at the US consulate. It will be processed, approved, and picked up by our agency on December 6th.

From there, the visa approval will be sent to Beijing and we will wait for travel approval (averaging about 18 days) before we book our flights.

Here are the few glitches though...

  • Travel Approval can be as quick as 7 days (not bad for us!) or as long as 50 days. :-(  These are really the outliers though, most ppl are somewhere b/w 12 and 25.
  • We would like to get TA by Christmas in order to leave the first week in January.  This is important b/c we want to be returning home from China before the Chinese New year (1/23 - 1/30). That week is basically a vacation week in China so we won't be able to do any of the necessary paperwork required to finalize the adoption in country. 
  • That said, if we can't depart the US that first week in January, we probably won't be able to leave for China until 1/25.  Not the end of the world but 3 weeks later then we would like.

All we want for Christmas is TA and a Consulate appt before the Chinese New Year!! :-)

Monday, November 7, 2011

I800 Approval!!

We just received notice that our 1800 was approved! This means that US immigration has given us approval to adopt Chun Xiao, yea!

3 more steps to go...

1. - US immigration tells US Embassy in China we are approved to adopt Chun Xiao
The US immigration approval needs to make its way to the US Embassy in Guangzhou, China. Physically, the approval is sent from Missouri to New Hampshire. When it gets to NH, they enter it into a computer system. From there it is emailed...they call it cabling but its basically emailing it - to the US Embassy in Guangzhou. This whole process takes about a week. Kind of crazy but it is what it is. We are hoping to be 'cabled' by 11/16.

2 - US Embassy reviews Chun Xiao's Visa application
Once the US Embassy has the US immigration approval, my agency will drop off a bunch of other paperwork to go with it. One of which is Emmas Visa application. The consulate needs to review our visa application for her to make sure it meets the qualifications for an immigrant visa, and then signs off that everything is in order for the adoption to be completed. We are hoping our agency can drop off the visa application by 11/18 and pick it up, approved, 2 weeks later, 12/2. The US embassy has a set process, it is always 2 weeks for this step.

NOTE - although Emma requires an IH -3 visa to come to the US, she will be a US citizen as soon as she gets off the airplane.

3. - China reviews all US approvals & gives us ok to travel to pick up Emma
After the US Embassy says everything is in order, our agency takes those approvals from the US embassy to the Chinese Gov't in Beijing. The Chinese Gov't reviews and then they issue us our travel approval and we book our flights! We hope to get Travel Approval sometime between 12/15 and 12/30. We would book the flights from there  - 2 or 3 weeks out - based on our US Embassy appointment. We won't be able to make the US embassy appt until we have Travel Approval from China.

Clear as mud, right?!

We are getting there!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Emma's wonderful, amazing, beautiful, & thoughtful shower

2 years ago I was invited by my sister in law to to my first official 'wine club' . Fast forward to the present day. I now have a group of ~15 woman that I am lucky enough to call my friends. At 15 people you would think...well you aren't really good friends with all of them. But here is the thing, I am.This wine club is a diverse group of moms-- some stay at home, some work part time, some work full time. But we all have one thing in common....we love to drink wine, lol. And we love each other.

Anyway, these ladies threw me the most awesome shower on Sunday to help Matt and I prepare to welcome Emma home. As always, I had an awesome time with my friends but it also reminded me how lucky I am and how much I love each of them individually.

Matt and I have been through a ton leading up to this adoption and these ladies have all supported me in different ways. Seriously, I could tell you a story about each of them and how they have done something above and beyond for us over the past two years.

Here are a few pictures from the day.

Click here to see the full slideshow of pictures. :-)

Gorgeous shower, right?! We got tons of stuff for the family too...the most thoughtful gifts...matching outfits for Emma and Lexie, a camera and an album for Lexie to make for Emma, thoughtful gifts for Emma ('first words' books/flashcards, airplane toys, etc), tons of diapers, and even a red egg for good luck (see chinese tradition on that here!). I was truly touched by the generosity and love I saw in the shower and in the gifts.

I will close with a saying that I think recap's how I feel about the group:

"True friends are those who really know you, but love you anyway".

When you make friends with 15 people over 2 years & 200 bottles of wine**, you are going to know the real person. And if you still come back every month to see them, you must really like them.

Thank you ladies for a wonderful shower!!


**For those of you who don't know about wine is the gist: Each month, we all bring a bottle of wine to the hosts house to 'taste' via blind taste test (aka bottle of wine in a brown paper bag). During the night, we vote on each bottle. At the end of the evening, the bottles are 'revealed' (aka brown paper bag ripped off) to show the winner. Sometimes the winner is a $3 bottle, sometimes a $20 bottle. If you follow my math here you will see, we are not really alcoholics. If you get ~1o ppl each month (aka 10 bottles/mo), that is 120 bottles a year, or 240 bottles over 2 years. See? Totally legit. :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chinese School!

So I finally got around to looking into a class to learn Mandarin. Matt and I have traveled to a lot of places around the world and we really think its helpful to say some basic things when you are in another country (i.e. 'where is the bathroom', 'how much is that?', 'I want two coffees', etc). For this trip, we could spend the entire trip (airport to airport) with an adoption 'guide' (that we pay through via our agency). That said, Matt and I agree that we want to spend a few days, probably before Emma joins us, to see the country 'on our own'. So we need to have some language skills.

Anyway, without going to an actual university and paying for 'credits', the easiest option I found was our local Chinese school. The class is called an 'adult conversation' class. We also signed lexie up for the preschool class at the same time. I was very happy with my successful registration yesterday morning. In an hour I had planned it all out -- daycare for lexie during the adult conversation class, that Matt and I can take together. Ok, well, it was perfect until we got there and ran into a few glitches --
  • Problem #1 - Preschool class is not drop off. Parents are supposed to stay. - Its ok though, the teacher says if lexie is good we can just leave her. We will be just next door to her in the conversation class. Ok, problem solved.
  • Problem #2 - Preschool class is 98% in mandarin. Lexie is one of the only children (well, potentially the only) who doesn't also speak Mandarin at home. - Its ok though, the teacher says she will just speak to Lexie in english a bit more. Lexie finds a friend immediately and is goofing off with her in English and not listening to the teacher anyway. Ok, problem #2 solved, I head to the 'adult conversation' class.
  • Problem #3- The adult conversation classes started September 15th. We were on Lesson # 5 this week. I walk in (late due to above issues with preschool class) and they are speaking sentences in Mandarin and reading Pinyin & Chinese Characters.- I am not sure how this will pan out as I have no Mandarin background. Further, Matt has zero language background (I can at least speak Spanish, a little). It's ok though, I tell Matt (and the teacher) that I am smart and I will catch us up. :-)
  • Problem #4 - Preschool class is only an hour, our adult conversation class is 2 hours. - ok this was a problem that I couldn't solve. Half way through our class the preschool teacher came over and asked if one of us was going to come and get Lexie, lol! Matt 'took one for the team' and left the room. The preschool teacher suggested he take lexie to the 'youth conversation class'. He explained later to me that the class had kids grade k-5 (i.e. aged 5-10). He said they learned how to count from 1-5 and how to say 'mama' and 'baba' (daddy). While the class i a little old for Lexie, Matt said the class is perfect for him! :-)
So the end result is I am taking the adult conversation class by myself on Friday nights. Matt will take Lexie to her preschool class and then to the youth conversation class. Lexie clearly won't get much out of the youth class, but I think Matt will. Moreover, the people at the school were awesome! We had 3 ppl helping us...trying to get us into the classes, moving Lexie around, and helping us out as we joined late. And of course they all asked about the adoption and were very sweet about Emma's homecoming.

Now, on to that studying...hmm, where did I put those flashcards? :-)

Wish us luck!

Christy's plan this weekend, catch up Lessons 1-5.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Most Common Birthday!!

Emma's Birthday is 10/5/2010. Interesting enough, 10/5 is the most common birthday in the US. The attached speculates why... :-)

Another interesting fact, Emma shares a birthday with the daughter of my good friend Kate (they were literally born on the same day, 10/5/2010). Guess we know what Kate and her hubby, Fernando were ing NYE 2009, lol!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


YEA!!!! Here is how it went down... :-)

I dropped an email last night to my social worker asking what the heck was going on with our LOA. When the phone rang at 9 am this morning and I saw it was our agency, I thought, oh she is calling us to tell us that everything is ok, we just have to wait some more. Well, when I heard matt repeat 'early morning package' and then he started to tear up, I knew we had good news!!!

It was dated 10/12...a week after Emma turned 1. Anyway, here is what it looks like, yea!!

I got the I800 form and the LOA (copy scanned and emailed by our wonderful SW) overnighted to USCIS by 10:30 am this morning!!

We are looking at January travel, yippe! Who doesn't love Beijing in January?! Looks like I need a trip to REI to get some walking boots for the great wall!!

We are coming for you Emma!! Hugs, Mommy & Daddy

Monday, October 17, 2011

i luv emma!!

My good friend Lana has her own photography business and took some photos of our family last weekend. Lana is SUPER talented and here is sneak peak of a few of the pictures!!

More adorable pictures here..

PS... No LOA today, but my friend Mary got her TA, yea!!!! That means she will be in China anywhere from 2-4 weeks from now! Mary and I got our referrals for our DD's the same evening; she has just had really good luck on the paperwork front. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to meet Gracie the next time I am in Minneapolis visiting my sister!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Emma's Nursery Reveal!

The last project in the nursery is now complete so I wanted to post pictures to share!!

Here is the tour along with some color commentary on the 'projects' that took us through the past 90 days.

View from the doorway

The nursery was originally going to be a pink sea life theme, but then I saw this awesome yellow elephant fabric online in a nursery and the yellow and gray theme kind of took off from there!

'Favorite books' library

  • These are all of our favorite baby books that were handed down to Emma from Lexie.
  • "I love you like crazy cakes" is a recent addition (gift from a good friend). Super good book for those adopting or those interested in introducing the concept of adoption to your little one.
  • Lexie already has been in to check out the room to make sure she is ok that 'her' books are in Emma's room. So far so good...we will see how long that lasts!

  • Emma's closet is really big so we wanted to make the most of it. We ordered this closet organizer and then installed it to allow the dresser to fit in the closet as well. We only used about 1/2 of the shelves from the kit so we are planning to use the rest of the pieces for our entryway closet!
  • The dresser is from Pottery Barn Kids-- we got it at the outlet store for $299, b/c it was missing its feet. You know me though, after 3 weeks of hunting online for the feet, we ended up getting them shipped to the house for free! Bam, $700 dresser for $300. Note - Matt did have to install the feet and there was a broken ledge so it did require a bit of work. :-)
Wall Art from Etsy -

I ordered these pictures from Etsy Seller Finny & Zook. They were actually the wrong size when I got them in the mail so I scanned them in and resized/printed them to fit the Ikea frames. Turned out pretty good!

Window Seat

  • The window seat is really a bookshelf from Ikea turned on its side with cabinet legs underneath. Most of the items in the window seat are hand me downs from Lexie.
  • There is one little guy that is new...Mousie...see below for more on him!


This little guy was my favorite stuffed animal growing up. He was in my bed all the way through high school! I fixed him up with a warm dye bath (Rit dye in the washing machine), new stuffing, and some new eyes. My sister said he looks like a freakish elephant but I think he is adorable!!

Rocking Corner & Shelves

  • The glider may not be pretty but it is oh so comfortable. We literally JUST stopped using this with Lexie about 2 mos ago.
  • The Yellow Chicken and 'bowling' bunnies were gifts from my sister in law Leslie who is super talented and should sell her stuff on Etsy!! They are so adorable I had to put them up for display.
  • I also included a few items we have recently received for Emma as gifts, ADORABLE shoes (just got int he mail today, thank you grandma!) and 2 cute dresses. :-)
  • The subway art was custom ordered on Etsy from My Sweet Prints. I love this quote, it is from an unknown author but is so fitting for how I feel for Emma. Emma, who I still have not yet met, yet who I dearly 'miss' and cannot wait to have in my arms!

Do it yourself stuff
Since we had so much time on our hands, I had a huge list of DIY projects. This allowed us to keep the cost of the decorating down and also taught me a few things. As many of you know I am not very crafty (i.e. I had NEVER sewed before this room, not even sewing on a button). That said, 'easy but functional' was the name of the game while doing these projects.
  • DIY (no sew!) blackout lined curtains using this tutorial. Fabric from with a coupon!
  • DIY Fan - added light shade to existing ugly, 1988 builder grade fan using this tutorial
  • DIY Pillows using this tutorial, fabric from Ikea
  • DIY Duvet Cover using this tutorial
  • DIY Crib Sheet - Rit Dye made a $5 white Ikea Crib Sheet the perfect steal gray. I did use a 'fixative' after the Rit so hopefully the color stays.
  • DIY minky blanket on glider (this project was the most difficult -- sewing with Minky is not a fun afternoon)
  • DIY renovation of Mousie - Rit dye, polyester stuffing, and 'crazy' eyes. :-)
  • DIY wall letters - letters from joann fabirc ($4/each), painted white, and hot glued tacks on the back for easy placement on wall without damage.
That is it! Hope you enjoyed the nursery!!


We are still waiting on our LOA to help us confirm when we will travel. I am a member of an online chat board and we are now in the top 5 families (of ~60 families) waiting for their LOA. We had a two week break where no one got their LOA due to the Chinese Holiday. Then yesterday nine people got their LOA's (we were not one of them).

My hope is that there is another wave of approvals Monday and Tuesday next week and we are in it. This would be Mid January travel to pick up Emma.

Fingers Crossed!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday!

Happy First Birthday Emma

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Suckers, Socks, & Underwear...Happy Birthday Emma!

Emma will be 1 next Wednesday, 10/5! We initially wanted to send her a birthday cake to celebrate; however, given that we now know she is in foster care, we realize that will not be possible.  The foster village is 1.5 hours outside of town and the orphanage doesn't forward items on to the foster families very often (if ever).

So in lieu of that, we are sending the below care package to the orphanage. We wanted a way to recognize Chun Xiao's birthday without leaving any children at the orphanage out. It is 350 suckers, one for every child (excluding the babies), 100 pairs of socks & underwear (for the babies & kiddos who can't have suckers!).

What an awesome birthday party for the orphanage, suckers and underwear!! :-)

We also sent a letter and a camera. In the letter, we practically begged them to send the camera on to the foster family.  No harm in trying, right?

The package should arrive at the orphanage on Tuesday or Wednesday!

Friday, September 30, 2011

National Week of the People's Republic of China

October 1st is the "National day of the People's Republic of China".  National Day is celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau with a variety of government organized festivities, including fireworks and concerts. Public places, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, are decorated in a festive themes.

What this means to us is that all government offices are shut down for a week.

Oh yeah, and since we did not get our LOA this week, we know that 1) we will not travel in 2011 & 2) we won't get our LOA for at least a week and a half more (probably more).

I was really bummed so we decided to get splurge and get Chinese takeout and a good bottle of wine.   I found the bottle of wine, usually $40/bottle, at Busch's, our local grocery store, for 20 bucks! For those of you in Saline, "Bill" recommended it and it is awesome. :-)

The wine and food were good but the fortune cookie was what really saved me.

"Time heals all wounds. Keep your Chin up".

Clearly I am not wounded but this was still helpful today!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Update from orphanage!!


We received an update from the orphanage this morning, yea!! Our awesome social worker is on vacation but  took the time to forward on the good news!!

At 11 months Emma is doing amazing AND is with a foster family. We could not be happier to get the update below!  Now we just need an LOA to come and get our baby!!!


Can we have updated measurements, specifically head, chest, height, and weight?  And can the orphanage give the date that the measurements were taken?
height 71cm, weight 18P, head 42cm, chest 42cm, foot 11cm teeth 1, this month.

Can she sit up unassisted?

Can she stand with assistance , such as holding onto a chair?

Can she walk around a low table by holding on?
Yes,she can walk with holding hands.

Does she live with a foster family?
a foster family.

Can she say any words?
Yes,such as "MaMa","DaDa"

Does she eat solid food?  If so, what food?
Yes,some fruit(pear and apple) and cake.
Note - we sent our family photo album and it it put a picture of us at Lexie's 2nd birthday and said we like to eat cake!! :-)

Can she wave hello or goodbye?

Also, Chun Xiao's first birthday is coming up (it is 10/5).  Her parents would like to wish her a happy birthday.  They would be glad to send a care package for the children. Please advise if this is acceptable to Kunming Children’s Welfare Institute.
Yes,of course.Here is the address of the orphanage:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You had me at hello

We are (still) awaiting the elusive letter of approval from China (85 days after our letter of intent to adopt Chun Xiao). We are officially at the "Average" wait time for our LOA..meaning 1/2 the people wait longer then this to get their LOA.  To be honest, it is really dragging on and I can't imagine how people wait 4+ months...I hope I never have to find out. On a more practical matter, the Chinese Gov't shuts down the first two weeks in October so we really want them to get our approval letter in the mail by this Friday 9/30, otherwise we won't get it for another 2 weeks (at least).

While we wait, we have had a crazy schedule -- new school year, vacations, surgery for matt, time off for being sick...oh, yeah, and redecorating. To be frank, it has been what has gotten me through the last month.  I have needed something to do to take my mind off of Emma sitting in an orphanage - or a foster village - without her forever family.

Anyway, here is what we have been up to during our LOA wait...

Playroom: new storage unit - ikea Expedit, two Pair of curtains (crafty Christy took 2 panels and cut them into 4), Organization tags for the baskets (somehow I made these with $3 of supplies from target!), Free downloadable wall art!

Desk & Paperwork storage area (this is not new however we reinforced the shelf to ensure it can hold all of our adoption file that seems to just get bigger and bigger!)

Living Room - new carpet (out with the grey white carpet!) and & new media center. LOVE the storage, do you see a storage theme in the rooms?! 

 PS - the ferns are more free downloadable art! It took us forever to hang the art evenly next to the TV, are they right?!

A few throw pillows, lamps and curtains can really change a room!

Dining Room - new items for the freshly painted mantle (it use to be a lovely two toned mantle from 1988). I love the crisp white look! Anyone ever painted their brick as well?!

So, all in all, yes, Ikea, you had me at hello.   Ideas start churning, projects developing,  and time passing. Perfect for what we need right now.

I know some of you will think this is crazy...but in reality this is actually normal behavior during "paperchasing" waiting periods. :-). Check out the family below's blog and what they bought did during their LOA wait. This family is hilarious...they are from Canada and the husband writes the blog, I just love reading it.  Kind of like Bridget Jones Diary for husbands. :-) Sums up most of my conversations with Matt perfectly.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hope written!

Good news!! Little Elisyn is eligible (and scheduled) for heart surgery next month at U of M!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Limousine & Emma Jean

Funny story -- my girlfriend Kate has a 3 year old named Anne.  Anne saw a limousine for the first time this weekend and asked her mom what it was. Her mom told her "its a limousine".  To that, Anne replied "oh, just like Emma Jean!" ( In case you don't get it, it rhymes!). Too cute.  :-)

On our LOA...we got an update from our agency today. Our LOA has been "in process" since 9/2/2011. This is good news, it means it is out of "translation" and are now being reviewed to be approved.   Historically, our agency said they get the LOA 3-4 weeks after the date of "in process". This means we can expect to get the LOA the last week in September.

This would put us at mid December for our Travel Approval (TA).  Some folks travel 6 days after TA, others won't travel for a month after TA. It depends on when the US can fit you into their Consulate appointment.

Why is this all so important? Its not just Christmas plans we need to think about. The date we pick up Emma (termed "Gotcha Day") has tax implications If we pick up Emma in the fiscal year 2011, we will be able to apply for the tax credit in late Jan of 2012.  Background on the credit -- it is ~$13,000 and you can't electronically file. In addition, almost everyone filing the credit is getting audited (adding at least 6 mos to your tax refund to end up in your bank account). So if we pick Emma up in December of 2011, we could get the tax credit back in our hands in the fall of 2012.

If we don't pick her up until 1/1 or after, we can't file for the tax credit until late Jan of 2013. Assuming they are still auditing everyone, we wouldn't get the tax credit until Sept/Oct 2013!!  By then, Emma will be 3 (and Lexie in Kindergarten!)!  The credit is a nice to have, I am not complaining. Our timing is just a pickle.

On the upside, Emma's room got painted this weekend! I changed my mind last minute and we decided to paint it a neutral color called "Linen". In all reality, it looks a little like gray cement.  Matt said it felt very "institutional". Lovely. Not exactly the feeling I was going for. I think it will be better once we get all of the stuff in there though.

We also met Matt's dad at Ikea on Friday. Collectively we significantly added to the stimulation of the US economy.  I love Ikea, I can't help it.  I will post pictures when I get things finalized in the nursery.

On Ikea -- my friend Martha's daughters room was selected by Ikea this week as their showcase room - check it out here -- too cool!  Martha also recently sent me some pins of Emma and "CHN" (for China!) -- she is so crafty!

Hope everyone is enjoying fall!  We went to a local fair with my cousin Johnny this weekend.  Lexie had a blast! You can tell by the picture below, Johnny is one of those guys that just shines! We love him to the ends of the earth and we're so happy we were able to spend the day with him. Plus, Lexie saw a pig poop and has been talking about it nonstop since. :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why are adoptions so expensive?

I get asked a lot - why are adoptions so expensive?  Well, for the Lillie family, it is because I am nesting and have somehow started to renovate every room in the house. Seriously, every room has something going on with it.  I tell myself this is fine behavior because it gives me something else to focus on during the LOA wait.  The problem with this logic is that my husband ends up with 90% of the projects himself. I don't think he appreciates it when I get these "great new ideas".

My latest idea -- we decided to renovate Emma's closet (because what 11 mos old doesn't need a renovated walk in closet?!).

BTW - Emma turned 11 mos today! I can't believe she is going to be 1 soon and we will miss it! It totally sucks that we can't be there but I take comfort in knowing she will love the walk in closet when she finally gets home.

Just kidding. :-)  I have to make light somehow of the situation or I will go bonkers.

Hope everyone had a relaxing labor day!   I want to leave you with a hilarious picture of my little farmer from our local fair on Friday.  Gotta love fake cows.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Locked up like Fort Knox

Let me start by saying we are SO thankful for the Kunming Social Welfare Institute (SWI) for caring for our daughter for the past 11 mos. That said, it is like Fort Knox over there when it comes to information.

We have a friend, Carol Oakes, who is in Kunming this week to pick up her son, Samuel. On her tour of the orphanage, she took a photo of Emma (and two other waiting children) to inquire about them.

Here is a recap of the visit:
  • Carol said that almost all of the babies there were < 6 mos of age. 
  • She said that there are 150 children in the SWI.
  • She said that there are 550 children in the foster villages (program attached to the SWI).
  • She said that ~150 children get adopted each year out of both foster village and the SWI. Note - this is about 20% of all of the available kids.  The remainder of the kids may be eligible the next year or may, eventually, "age out" of the system at 14 when they are deemed un-adoptable. So sad.

The bad news --
Unfortunately, Carol was not able to get ANY information for any of the waiting children she was looking into. She was not able to get an update at all about Emma, not even to confirm / deny if she was physically at the SWI.

The good news -
When Carol walked around the SWI, she said her guide made sure she could visibly look at as many of the babies as possible in the hopes of recognition.  She did not see any of the waiting children she was looking for.  Also, the above picture was taken by Carol. So she was able to tour the orphanage and confirm the set up that we had seen in previous pictures.  It is super clean!

In fact, Carol, like so many others, said that the orphanage was strangely sterile, quiet, and efficient.  Here is a snippet from a friend who has been to the SWI.  Again, I am so thankful to the Kunming SWI for caring for Emma. But I also want to share with others what we know about the SWI so they understand WHY we have no information about Emma while we finalize this process and what Emma has been through when she comes home.

"Kunming SWI (Social Welfare Institute) is one of the great mysterious orphanages in the Chinese system (of well over 1000 orphanages).  It is known to be spotlessly clean and efficiently run.  A foreign organization, the Sunrise Education Foundation runs the baby room there and most children by one year of age are placed outside the orphanage into foster care. Older children that have severe medical needs remain in the orphanage past the first year of their lives.  I've heard mixed reports from families that have been there.  Some say that there is a sadness to the orphanage, perhaps because of those who are left behind and perhaps because efficiency seems to dominate over nuturing care for the older children.  Others feel the children are warmly cared for.  Just one of the many conflicting reports about this highly thought of, inaccessible orphanage.  The Director is absolutely famous in the adoption world for her unwillingness to communicate with waiting families.  Her reply to any request for updates or pictures seems to be a strong no, with rare exception.  

In contrast Kunming's active fostercare program which located in Anning county, about 1 hour directly to the west of the city is highly thought of in nearly every way, a model program. There are several villages that house children from the orphanage with foster families. There are 550 children living in Anning who are part of the orphanage system.  The thought is that foster care helps the children experience family life and makes the transition to their forever families easier.  They live in families with 2-3 other children from the SWI and are returned to the orphanage a week prior to adoption day."

I will be honest -- it is super frustrating to see other adoptive parents get updates on their children. They send care packages, birthday cakes, get pictures, etc. We realize now we will most likely never get a picture of Emma until the day we pick her up. Carol said she had a picture of Samuel when he was 4 mos old. No other pictures were ever provided.  Samuel was 18 mos at pickup time. She said she wasn't sure if she would recognize him. :-(  

All of this (whining) said, I need to put this silliness aside and focus on Emma. She is the one who has been through more than anything I can ever imagine. 

She was the one who was left when she was one day old. One. Day. Old.  It breaks my heart to think of a mother having to make that decision.

She was the one who was left at 4 pounds on a doorstep somewhere, in the hopes that the government could care for her better than her biological parents.  

She is the one that is a survivor. She has been through more in her first year of life than I will ever go through in my adult life. If I don't get a picture, or an update, or a measurement until the day we meet, that is fine with me.  God has given be this opportunity to parent Emma and for that I am grateful.


PS - THANK YOU ALL for the prayers for Elisyn.  She has had a HUGE first week of being home.  Her mother, Jamie, is regularly updating their blog, feel free to follow along.

PPS - no.... I have no update on our LOA. We are at day 30 now (with the wait normally being 30-90 days).  Recently, some individuals have been waiting as long as 4 months for their LOA. So we are just going to have to suck it up and hope that we get it in < 90 days.  For those of you following my blog that are waiting > 90 days, here is a shout out (note - this is not my picture but is a fellow bloggers' daughter and the paper was photoshoped in!!)!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adoption Connections...what's in a surname?!

What a small world it is!  In the past week, I have been connected with two other adoptive mothers whose kiddos are from the same city as Emma.  In fact, all 3 children were found in the same district of Kunming and, therefore, have the same orphanage given surname (for those of you vocabulary challenged, surname is the same as last name!).

The first family I met, the Oakes Family, is leaving in 3 days to pick up their two waiting children from China, Benjamin and Samuel. They are also bringing their 6 other children with them on the journey (the youngest of which is 2.5 years old)!!  Samuel is just over 2 waiting in Tianjin &  Benjamin is ~ 18 mos old and is waiting in Kunming. Carol is obviously a busy busy woman but is going to try to visit the orphanage AND has agreed to bring Emma's picture and inquire about her!! Either way, this is a win for us. If Carol inquires about Emma and is unable to see Emma b/c she is in foster care, that is really good news for us b/c it means Emma is with a loving family.  That said, if Emma is at the orphanage still, we would be so blessed because Carol could actually hold her and tell her how much we love her!  That is about the best thing a mama could hope for. Anyway, if you are interested, you can follow Carol when she travels here -

My second connection is actually a fellow Michigander...Deitra went to Adrian college with my good friend Lana and we recently connected over email. Funny enough, her waiting son, Hayden, is also in Kunming AND was found in the same area as Emma with the same surname!  Deitra will be traveling with her mother later this fall (sometime before us but after Carol) to pick up her son.  He is adorable, check him out here --

Finally, if you are interested in a good cry (who isn't, right?), here is a recent article I was forwarded.  If this doesn't make you bawl your eyes out like a baby, you must have a heart made of coal. Seriously. Keep it to yourself if you don't cry. It won't do you any good to share that information. 

Lost & Found -

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kunming Social Welfare Institute & What's Next?!

Since posting pictures of our care package, I have gotten a few requests on making a donation to Emma's orphanage. There are two things I would suggest: 1)  Spread the word about adoption. There are TONS of ppl in the US that I think would have the heart to adopt, if they only had a nudge to really look into it. 2) If you able to donate financially, I suggest Love Without Boundaries. You can sponsor a child for surgery, for foster care,etc.  Sponsors receive updates and photos on their sponsored children and get to see firsthand the difference they are making.  What a great way to teach your kids some perspective on the world as well when they are asking for that new toy!

Also, if you are interested, I was able to get my hands on some pictures of both Emma's orphanage & the foster village.  If you are interested in seeing where she may be living, check out the links here:

What's Next for us? Well, you may need a PhD to follow but here it is...
  1. LOA -this is where we are now. Our dossier (i.e. 100 pages of paperwork) will all be translated to Mandarin and reviewed to ensure compliance with the guidelines. This step can take anywhere from 30-100 days. Our Pre Approval should have only taken about a week but instead it took 32 days, we don't know if that put us way behind or if any progress was made during that time. 
  2. I800 Immigration approval -  we have previously submitted paperwork to the US to be approved to adopt from China. The I800 paperwork allows us to adopt Emma specifically. The US Gov't requires the LOA to submitted with the I800 paperwork.  This step can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
  3. NVC Cable- Once we have our I-800 approval, our officer will forward the approval to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC will upload our approval into their system and cable (send) our approval the US consulate in China. Then the NVC will issue a letter stating they have done this. It takes about one week to be cabled, and another week to receive the letter.
  4. Article 5 - Once we receive the NVC letter, we will send it to our agency. The agency will deliver this letter to the US consulate in China.  Once the consulate has your NVC letter, they will issue your Article 5 in 2-3 weeks. The article is the consulate pre-approving your child for an immigrant visa. 
  5. Travel Approval - Once the CCWAA receives the article 5, the Travel Approval will then be issued. This takes around 2-4 weeks. 
  6. We would actually get on a plane 2-4 weeks after receiving Travel Approval.  So, essentially, we get 2-4 weeks notice to book flights, hotels, leave work, etc. :-)
I have run the dates a few times. Of all of the above steps, #1 is obviously the most volatile.  The rest of the steps are pretty stable in terms of estimates.  In order to get Emma home by EOY, I think we would need to receive our LOA by 9/15.  That would by 45 days after PA but about 70 days after our Letter of Intent got there. 

If you followed all of this, you are amazing!! :-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Care Package is on it's way!

Now that we have our pre-approval we are allowed to send Emma a care package with goodies! We finally got everything I wanted today for the package. Here is a picture of everything in neat little baggies!

Items for orphanage staff / foster family from Cherry Republic - Dried Cherries, Cherry Jam & Crackers, & Chocolate Covered Cherries.  My girlfriend's father who has been to China several times suggested the cherries. My girlfriend quickly agreed and actually said when she was in China she met an insane number of people named "cherry" (that was their chosen American name). Anyway, since cherries are a local item to Northern Michigan, we decided to go with it! :-)

Items for Emma -

  • We made her a little book of flashcards (laminated pictures) of our family. The project was a bit more labor intensive than I had anticipated. Frankly, my non Martha Stewart ways showed their colors today to my hubby. I also used babblefish to translate the words on the flashcards to Mandarian so it may or may not be accurate.  All in all, the project ended up being a little ghetto to be honest (I was using packaging tape instead of double sided tape and I went a little crazy with the scissors when "trimming" the laminate). Oh Well, it is definitely creative!! Check out the crazy flashcards here...
  • We also are sending her a little pink outfit with a hat, a super soft small monkey blanket from a local boutique baby store, & colored pictures from her cousins, Jayden and Devin. The picture from Jayden is awesome - it is  map with a compass, a drawing of china, an airplane and him waving to her as she is coming home. ADORABLE!  The dress is actually one that Lexie wore but you can hardly tell.  Emma is still under 17 pounds so we needed something 3-6 mos and it was the best thing we had from Lexie's box! 

Cameras! - I went a little camera crazy. I got two disposables and a digital camera (5 MB brand new for 29.99 - you can't beat it!!).  This is the key to the entire package, we REALLY want the orphanage staff to like the gifts we sent them (aka the cherries) so that they will take pictures of Emma for us. These pictures are priceless -- the only real documentation we will have to share with Emma on her first year of life.  Unfortunately, I have heard Emma's orphanage doesn't take a lot of pictures and often doesn't actually even send the camera's to the foster families (they are very protective not to allow the adoptive parents to reach out to the foster family or vice versa). I have heard people get the camera's back with pictures of the orphanage itself, but not a lot of the child.  So its a slim shot but I had to try.

Items for orphanage - just a few item of donation for the orphanage.  Baby Clothes, Crayons, Glue Sticks, etc.

$43, a stop at USPS, & it should be in Beijing in 6-10 days (the package actually has to go through our agency before going to the orphanage). It will then be in Kunming about a week after that! Luckily, we crammed everything all into one of those neat medium flat rate boxes.  However, the 10 mins of rearranging things and convincing Matt that it WILL fit in the damn box is not something I really want to remember. It is alright though - we will be sure to tell Emma that we were loving placing each of her special items in the box safely (and not swearing at each other about how to make it all fit).

A lot of you have been asking about "what comes next". I am too tired right now to do that process justice but I will reserve a future post for the explanation.  Suffice it to say, we would LOVE to have our baby home by Christmas (its looking pretty slim right now though that will happen). So we could use all of your prayers that our paperwork falls to the top of someone's pile in Beijing. Pray that tomorrow morning a CCCWA employee gets a yummy iced coffee on a hot August morning on his way to work and that all the caffeine leads him to be ultra productive and that he processes a ton of Letter of Approvals that day (including ours!). :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

PA -- After 32 long days!!

We got our Pre-Approval today, after 32 long days!!  This means the Peoples Republic of China has officially given of pre-approval to adopt Emma.    We also are allowed to share pictures now -- here she, ADORABLE!!

The next steps is our Letter of Approval from China (a 30-100 day wait). Prior to travel, the LOA is the last approval we will recieve from China.  Obviously 30-100 days is a huge variance in wait time but we know now that China has reviewed our dossier and translated part of it so hopefully some of the hard stuff is done. 

On another exciting note -- I was in MN this weekend visitng my sister and I picked up some adorable crib bedding at a garage sale. For $14, Emma now has starfish, crabs, and seahorse pottery barn kids bedding, lamp, and wall decorations. :-)  Matt even agreed to paint the room a sand color and do some wainscotting (I am a freak for wainscotting).

Also, while in MN I was able to meet a fellow adoption blogger for an "adult only" coffee on Saturday morning. I love Mary and am so excited for her family to bring home Gracie -- you can follow their blog here!

Yea for Pre-Approval and thank you to Living Hope (our agency) for putting up with our regular phone calls checking in our status!! I promise not to call again to check on my status for at least 60 days. :-)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Waiting...Empty Strollers....Both Ends Burning

We are still awaiting news of our Preliminary Approval (PA) from China.  We are waiting much longer than the "usual" but we hope that is b/c they are taking their time with our PA that the next approval from China (Letter of Approval - LOA) will go a bit faster. Then on to the "US wait".

On the topic of waiting...

I have a friend online who is going to DC in late August for the "Empty Stroller" march on Washington. Families are marching for their waiting children that are sitting in orphanages around the world. The march is being organized by the Both Ends Burning Campaign, a global movement to transform the broken system of international adoption. During the march, protesters will be pushing empty strollers wrapped in red tape to represent the bureaucracy that prevents children from being with families.

For more information, see two videos below...the first provides a horrific impact of the broken process in Vietnam.  The second provides an overview of Both Ends Burning Campaign and their objective.

And if you need another reason why --

Emma will sit in either foster care or orphanage care for months longer than is necessary b/c of the delays during the process (on both the US & China side). While the process is required to keep adoptions "legit" by the Hague convention (the international body that governs adoptions), the time delay to complete each step due to staffing levels, lack of automation, etc is something that is frustrating beyond belief. I truly believe that if the people that process this paperwork and/or make these decisions had to look at these children's faces, the process would be radically different. 

As an example of the process... our I-800A took less than 2 hours to be approved once an agent was "assigned" to the file but it sat "in queue" for 49 days prior to being assigned.  It also cost us $1,000 to USCIS to be processed.  For <2 hours of work. While we didn't have a child referred to us yet, many other families do! Their children sit in orphanages for months longer than necessary.  

Many ppl point to the adoption credit as a step in the right direction for the US.  While the US gov't has done miracles for the adoption community with the most recent tax credit (it will rebate families ~40% of the costs of the adoption), it doesn't fix the underlying problem of WHY it takes so long for adoptions to be processed (and why its so expensive). I can't help it, I have done tons of business cases at work before and the process of international adoption is ripe for opportunity.

Anyway, for those of you interested, please sign their petition here!  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Name Selection: check!

We wanted to drop a note to everyone to formally announce our dear daughter...we are absolutely honored to be able to parent her and so excited to bring her home!!

Emma Jean Chunxiao Lillie
  • Emma – two meaningful inputs...
    • Emma comes from the name "emmanual", meaning "God is with us".
    • Emma means "strong", which we know she is, she is a fighter!!
  • Jean – two meaningful inputs....
    • Jean is a family name on both of our sides. She is named after Grandma Lorna Jean Scheid, Grandma Glena Jean Lilley, Aunt Catherine Jean Weber (aka Lilley), Great Grandma Norma Jean Clough, and Great Grandma Linda Jean Ballantyne.
    • Jean also means "God is Gracious", which he is! We gave Lexie the middle name Grace for this same reason. We feel so lucky we will be able to parent both of these girls! :-)
  • Chunxiao - means "Early Spring".  As I mentioned in my last post.. Chun means "spring" and Xiao (pronouned like "shower" minus the "er") means "early morning".  Since she was born in the city of perpetual spring and was born early, we think this makes perfect sense!
  • Lillie - of course!
We are absolutely excited to share her picture with everyone...its just not going to happen today. The CCCWA (China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption) wants some more information from us before providing us with Provisional Approval (PA).  Our agency has assured us its nothing to worry about and that this is common.  We still *hope* the pre-approval comes in the next week or so but it could be a while longer so we thought we would share the name now!

On the positive side, we got an update on Friday morning from Emma's orhpanage! At 8 mos she has continued her phenomenal growth and is actually getting herself onto the American growth charts, even without adjusting for her prematurity! I didn't initially realize it but apparently the American growth charts are always larger than the international ones, b/c Americans are "large", ha!. :-)   Also, we were told that at 8 mos she could roll over & sit up unassisted!  This is great news for any baby in an orphanage but even more phenomenal given that she was born so small.

In closing, I've included a few crazy pictures. We tried to take a family photo over July 4th but Lexie was not having any part of it! I attribute it to the fact that we did it at the end of the holiday weekend and she was exhausted from playing with her cousin Wesley. In any case, here are a few of the shots (with Emmy's face removed b/c we don't have PA yet!).

Welcome Emmy to the Lillie and Lilley clans, you are in for a wild ride!! :-)