“For I know the plans I have for you…to give you hope and a future.”

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho

With Great Joy We Introduce Our Newest Son Aaron Donald Walsh Ho
Born January 17, 2007 Guangdong Province, The People's Republic of China Forever Ours April 12, 2010
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Big Boys' Bedroom






First of all, I almost do not want to post again, because I LOVE the photos of Aaron and his birthday cake that were on yesterday's post! If you have not seen them yet, please scroll down to see them. They are too cute to miss!
But...as much as I'd like to keep them at the top of the posts, there are more posts to share...
As I mentioned in a previous post, we have decided to have Donovan and Aaron share a bedroom – the bedroom that is currently Donovan’s. Last weekend Rupert and Donovan put Aaron’s toddler bed together (see above photos). Since that time, I moved the glider chair out of Donovan’s bedroom to my bedroom. Our good friend Bob redesigned Donovan’s closet to accommodate a double bar (one higher, one lower) to hang clothes on and two shelves. Now there is plenty of room for two boys’ clothing (whether it ends up being the same size clothing, or different sizes that the boys wear).

This morning, I showed Donovan the Disney Cars bedding sets I recently bought for both his bed and Aaron’s bed. Donovan was thrilled. As we made up Aaron’s bed, and were left holding an empty pillowcase, Donovan said, “We need to get a pillow for Aaron.” I told Donovan he was correct and that I would buy one soon.

I then asked Donovan where he thought we should put Aaron’s bed. I reminded Donovan that Aaron is a “big boy” like him. Keep in mind we are standing in a bedroom with a crib, pink bedding, and dresses hanging in the closet….Lucky for me (and Aaron!), Donovan said, “I think Aaron should sleep in my room.” He went on to say that it was for “big boys” only and Mommy and Daddy cannot sleep in there (not that we were about to!).

Donovan then helped me carry first Aaron’s bed and then the mattress into the “big boys’ bedroom” as he is now calling it. After we got it positioned correctly, Donovan proceeded to climb right up on it. I reminded him that it is Aaron’s bed and asked him if HE would let Aaron climb on his bed if he were here. “Oh yes,” Donovan said. Well, we shall see about that once Aaron arrives…

The cutest thing of all was when I left to run some errands today, Donovan said, “I want you to buy a pillow for Aaron.” Oh, he’s already thinking about his brother so much and looking out for him. I’m so excited for Donovan to have a brother and to be a brother. On my errands today, I made sure to stop and get Aaron a pillow!

Now, the “big boys’ bedroom” is officially ready!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Birthday Photos!!





CLICK ON EACH PHOTO TO MAKE IT LARGER!
I've been sitting here this morning, feeling a bit sorry for myself, as I'm home from work for the third day with strep throat. (I had not thought it was strep as I had the worst sore throat of my life, but no fever. Since there was no fever, strep did not even cross my mind. Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment with my doctor to get prescriptions to bring to China with me, and mentioned how sore my throat was and how awful I felt. She swabbed it and strep it is! I sure wish I had gone in right away. Believe me, when I'm in China if I start with a sore throat like this, I'm taking my Zithromax antibiotic RIGHT AWAY - no messing around!) I'm still contagious until this evening, so home from work again, and feeling quite miserable. I decided to check my email, and what was in my inbox, but two emails from Ann of Red Threads with BIRTHDAY PHOTOS of little Bao Xinsheng/Aaron on the day he got his birthday cake from us.
OH MY! I love the photo of him holding up 3 fingers! And, I'm so happy to see him smile! As you know from my previous post, one of the questions we had Ann ask the orphanage was what Aaron's personality is like, as the only photos we have of him he is not smiling in. I'm sure someone was making sure to tell him to smile in these photos.
It looks like Aaron is in some sort of conference room. On the wall behind him in one of the photos, way up high, I see a framed photo of an adoptive family. I wonder if this is the room we will be taken to when we visit the orphanage to thank the people who have cared for him, present our gifts to the nannies and director, and give our donations for the orphanage. I'm happy to see that Aaron was eating a piece of cake in some of the photos we received. I've heard from others that sometimes the orphanage staff at various orphanages just pose the child with the cake, but do not allow the child to eat the cake...I'm a bit sad that there are no other children with him. I hope the nannies enjoyed the cake, and that the cake was able to be shared with some of the other children in the 2-3 year old room. (It sure looks big enough!)
I'm left wondering if he was told that the birthday cake was from his new parents, and if he was shown our photo...Hopefully the care package I sent with the photo album in it will arrive soon, for him to see us.
My impressions of my new son from these photos...
- he's so much TALLER than I expected. I wonder how high that table and couch really are, because he looks really tall - which is GREAT - it shows us he is growing well. I'm bringing 2T & 3T clothing, which I hope will be right. I'm bringing 24 months for pants, as I think he is like Donovan and has shorter legs.
- I'm so glad to see him smile! His teeth look GREAT!
- I cannot wait to get him a new stylish haircut. Especially on his right side (left side of photo), his hair is over the top of his ear. Melissa and Dana...get ready for a new client at your salon!
- Most of all, I'm thinking, I cannot wait to get to China and get him!!!
Come on LOA (Letter of Approval) where are you????

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update on Aaron

I received a wonderful birthday present today! Last week I contacted Ann of Red Threads in China and ordered a birthday cake to be delivered to Aaron at his orphanage as a belated birthday celebration. It should be delivered at some time this week. In addition, Ann contacted the orphanage to ask some questions I had. I was thrilled today to receive an email from Ann with the answers.
1) What name is he called?
He is called Xin Sheng or Sheng Sheng.

2) How tall is he and how much does he weigh?
He is 34.3 inches tall and 31.7 pounds. (We are THRILLED!! In earlier reports he had seemed a bit small for his age, even on Chinese growth charts, but with proper nutrition, seems to have grown quite well. Just for a comparison, on his third birthday, Donovan was 36 inches tall and 32 pounds and on the American growth charts, Donovan's measurements were in the 75th percentile...meaning that Aaron's measurements look REALLY GOOD! We had thought Aaron would wear Donovan's clothes from last spring...looks like they just might be wearing the same size now!)

3) Does he speak Mandarin or Cantonese?
He speaks Mandarin.

4) Does he have a good appetite? What are his favorite foods?
He is not picky with his food. He is a good eater too. He especially loves to eat candies and cookies.

5) Is he toilet trained during the day? At night?
He can go to the toilet by himself during daytime. At night, the nannies have to ask him to go to the toilet.

6) We notice that in all of the photos we have received of Bao Xinsheng, he is not smiling. Is he a happy child? What is his personality like?
He is a VERY happy, outgoing, and active boy. Each time we must take him to the photo shop to take photos, he is a little shy and scared of the strange place. He does not like to talk or smile to the strangers in the photo shop, but he is a VERY happy and active boy!

7) What types of things does he like to play?
He loves to play or run outside with his friends in the playing room or outside. He loves to build towers with blocks and to play with balls. (Just like Donovan!)

We are so happy to have the information about Aaron! Can't wait to see photos from the birthday party he has at his orphanage. More than anything, I just cannot wait to get to China and meet Aaron, and bring him to his new home...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Donovan's Reaction

Over the weekend, we showed Donovan photos of Aaron, and told him, “This is your brother.” His first reaction was, “Oh Wow!” and “Okay, but I’m not going to share my toys with him.” He then proceeded to ask, “But, where is my brother going to sleep? You and Daddy sleep in your bed; I sleep in my bed; Where is my brother going to sleep?” Perfect timing, as we had picked up Aaron’s toddler bed recently and it just needed to be put together. Donovan and Rupert put it together over the weekend. Then Donovan said, “But my brother needs a mattress.” We got the mattress out, and put a sheet on it, but Donovan suggested we get “a nice sheet and blanket like mine,” for Aaron. They’ve been ordered! Several times over the weekend Donovan went to check on his brother’s bed to make sure it was “just right” for Aaron. He would walk by the fridge and take off the magnetic pictures of Aaron, and say, “That’s my brother.” He was even seen kissing the photos. When he talked to Grandma before bed, he ran and got the photos and said, “I’m looking at my brother right now. We made his bed today.” I’m so excited for Donovan to be a big brother – as is he!
Today Donovan took photos of Aaron to daycare and at Circle time, shared then and said, “This is my brother.” He did talk about sharing toys with his brother and teaching him some games. One of the other boys who has a younger sibling announced to his mom at pickup time, “Guess what, Donovan’s getting a brother, and he’s the same age as Donovan!” Donovan is now realizing his good fortune at having a brother his own age, who can play like a “big boy,” instead of a baby who would cry and not play like he does. Interesting perspective!
Tomorrow Donovan's closet is being redone to accomodate two bars to hang clothing on and two shelves. We have chosen to have the two brothers share a bedroom, as least to start with. Since they are the same age, I think it will be easier for getting them ready for bed, stories, etc. to have them in the same room. Also, I suspect it will help to ease Aaron's transition. I've seen photos of the 2 and 3 year olds' room at the Bao'an orphanage - 30-40 beds pressed up to each other all across the room. I can't imagine him then moving into a large bedroom all alone. For now, he and Donovan belong together. I would expect bunk beds are in their future, and if they want to have separate bedrooms when they are older, we can do that.
And as I look at the larger bedroom, with the crib and pink bedding meant for a little girl, for right now I'm not ready to put those away. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt for a second that Aaron is supposed to be our son - (I know it in my heart just as I know Donovan is my son); it's just that I'm not ready to give up on that dream to adopt a little girl from China. In a few years I fully expect to be back in China adopting our third child - a little girl. And so for now, the crib, pink bedding, and dresses in the closet are staying, and our two boys will share a bedroom.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where in China is Aaron from?





(Click on maps to make them larger.)
Aaron is living at the Bao'an Social Welfare Institute in Bao'an District, Shenzhen City. This is in Guangdong Province. We were amazed when we learned this. Basicially, as far as orphanages within China, (and there are THOUSANDS) this is as close to Hong Kong as possible. The top map shows Shenzen City in relation to Hong Kong and Guangzhou (where we will be staying on Shaiman Island). I also wanted to include a map of all of China which shows the provinces, and then a close up of Guangdong Province. The bottom map shows once again that out of the massive country of China, Aaron is living basically as close as he possibly could to Hong Kong. We can't believe our good fortune (since Rupert was born in Hong Kong)!
Interestingly, when we submitted our original paperwork to adopt a baby girl from China in March 2008, we made a special request of the Chinese government, that they please consider referring us a baby from Guangdong Pronvince, near Guangzhou. We made this request knowing that Rupert was born in Hong Kong, and his mother's family was from the Guangzhou/Canton area. We made sure to explain in our letter to China that we would happily welcome any baby they referred to us from anywhere in China, but that we wanted to make this request, especially since that part of China tends to have more people speaking Cantonese (versus Mandarin in the majority of China), and it is Cantonese that Rupert speaks. We felt this could help ease our new child's transition to our family - if Rupert were at least able to communicate with our new child in the only language she/he had been spoken to in.
On November 18, when I saw little Bao Xinsheng's sweet face for the first time, all I knew was that he was almost 3. There was no information about where he lived in China. When I requested his file, I inquired as to which province he lived in, and was told Guangdong. Yet there would be many orphanages (50!) in Guangdong, and so it was not until I received his full file the next day and began reading over it, that I saw he was from Shenzen City, and in looking at a map and talking to others who have adopted from that same orphanage, that I realized how close to Hong Kong it is.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Care Package for Aaron


Tomorrow I will send our care package to Aaron at his orphanage. This will be our first contact with Aaron; it is how he will learn the wonderful news - that he is going to have a Mommy and Daddy and brother. Most importantly, we are sending a photo album, which has photos of each of us, and our house. This is how Aaron will begin to know us. If he is able to look at these photos often, it may help to ease the transition on the day we meet - that at least he has seen our photos before. In addition to the photo album, we are also including a soft teddy bear, a shirt with a soccer ball on it and pair of pants, a soft blue blanket, and several packages of M & Ms. We are also including a disposable camera, for the nannies to take photos of Aaron and the orphanage. These photos will be so important not only to us, but to Aaron when he is older. We also wrote a letter to Aaron, which Rupert then translated into Chinese characters. It reads:
Dear Bao Xinsheng,
We are sending you this special package. We are going to be your Mommy and Daddy. We will love you and take care of you forever. You are also going to have a brother who loves you. His name is Donovan. We will be your family forever. We will love you forever.
We live far away in a place called America. We will take a plane ride to meet you. Then, you will ride an airplane with us to go to your new home. There is a photograph of your new house in the photo album we are sending you.
We hope you like the small gifts we are sending you. We hope you like the sweet chocolate candy. We hope you like the soft blanket, and brown teddy bear, and clothes. We hope you will look at the photo album and see our pictures.
We love you, Bao Xinsheng.
Love,
Mommy and Daddy and brother Donovan

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why a Boy?, You Might Ask...

With the lengthening wait for a healthy baby girl projected to be many, many years away (4-8?), we changed our mindset from what we believed we wanted, to what we know a child needs.
There are hundreds of children on lists of Waiting Children from China. These are already identified children, most with medical conditions (some correctable such as cleft lip, club feet, minor heart defects; others with chronic conditions), and many who are healthy, but are toddler age and older - and harder to place due to their age. The majority of Americans logged in to adopt from China are seeking "healthy baby girl, as young as possible." Interestingly, though people continue to think of only girls being available to adopt from China, looking over these lists for many months, the truth is that there are many, many more boys available on these lists. On the most recent list of approximately 600 children, over 450 were BOYS. (And when girls with minor health conditions do appear on these lists, they are chosen immediately. There is intense competition to adopt these baby girls.) It is very positive for China that less baby girls are being abandoned; the Chinese culture is finally beginning to change and accept the value of baby girls more, and due to this, there are less baby girls available for international adoption. And yet, there is still a One Child Policy, and in some provinces, along with that is a minimum age a woman must be to have a child (even if married), and so, even healthy baby boys are abandoned. Even slower to change (than the acceptance of the value of girls), is the view of children born with birth defects and medical conditions; deep in the Chinese culture is the belief that these babies bring bad luck and shame to a family, and of course, then there is the inability to provide the costly medical care within a communist country with a government run healthcare system. So, while we like most others were waiting for a healthy baby girl, as young as possible,the reality is that the great majority of children waiting in China right now are boys...and after searching these lists for months and months I suddenly realized my mindset of what I wanted needed to change...it needed to change for a child and what that child needed most of all.
And so I began to wonder,

What kind of person takes a complete leap of faith? Apparently, we do.

What does it take to make a choice to parent a child that is not a baby and has lived in an orphanage for several years and/or has a chronic medical condition? Love, and the belief that every child deserves a family, and knowing that child is YOUR child…

How does “healthy girl 0-12 months” turn into “boy, believed to be almost 3 years old?” By just one photo, that’s how… (The photo in our photo header at the top of our blog is the first one we saw...and instantly we knew...)

Some people have asked us, “Why?” Why? Because we know he’s our son… It’s as simple as that!

Our BIG News!

We know this is not exactly the news everyone has been expecting! Everyone (including us) knew we were waiting (for over two years now) for a referral of a baby GIRL, under age 2, from China. Now, here we are introducing our SON, almost age 3! We know this is taking most of you by surprise. All we can say is the moment we saw our first photo of Bao Xinsheng we knew immediately he was supposed to be our son. It felt no different than looking at a photo of Donovan. We just KNEW.
In the past month we've done a lot of waiting (see Timeline), until we got our Prior Approval (PA) and were given permission to share our news and our new son’s photo. The CCAA agreed to transfer Bao Xinsheng's file from the agency listing him on their Waiting Child List, to our agency - something that is not commonly done. (We are thrilled about this because we love our agency, and we did not want to have to transfer agencies.) There is MUCH MORE to our story, which we will share in the coming weeks and months...
Now, here we go on the next part of our journey...hoping to travel in Spring 2010 to be united with Bao Xinsheng.
We hope you will join us in celebrating our wonderful news - that we now have a second son (also age 3!). We cannot wait to go to China to get him!

We have PA!

Today, officially 12 days after submitting our LOI (Letter of Intent) to adopt Bao Xinsheng, we received our PA (prior approval) from China. We may now officially share our wonderful news and his handsome pictures! We are so excited to have a second son, and can't wait to travel to China this spring.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

Oh Dear Sweet Xinsheng,
Today is your 3rd birthday. No child should have his birthday pass unnoticed in an orphanage…
There are so many things I wish for you. I wish that we had received our PA (Prior Approval) in time to order you a birthday cake. Unfortunately, the PA has not arrived yet. (We hope it arrives next week!) We will order you a belated birthday cake as soon as we can, and have it delivered to your orphanage!
Oh how I wish you were already in your new home, or that we were in China right now to show you what it means to have a birthday.
In America, in our family, as our son, you will have a family and you will be a regular kid and live a full life. Your birthdays will be celebrated; you will be celebrated!
This is the last birthday you will spend in China, without a family. You will have a wonderful 4th birthday next January with a mommy, daddy, brother, and friends and relatives who love you.
We will be there soon, sweet boy!
Love,
Mommy, Daddy, and Donovan who all love you so much!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Our USCIS ROCKS!

On December 23rd, I mailed our letter to USCIS/Homeland Security asking that our I-600A/I171H approval (from 2008, which had approved us to adopt a baby girl up to a year old) be extended to adopt a BOY up through age 4. Our wonderful home study social worker, Ann, had quickly completed an addedum to our Home Study recommending us for this. I sent the letter to our USCIS (Homeland Security) on Dec. 23. On New Year's Eve, we received our approval. That is insanely fast! Loving our USCIS! What a way to start the New Year!