“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."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Bridge by Kay Bratt

Below is a short story by Kay Bratt (author of Silent Tears) which is so well written, and so very sad and haunting. In a country in which it is illegal to abandon your child for adoption, this has become the reality for many millions of children in China, including our son...
So many of the children in China are abandoned when they are just days old (due to their female gender, or a visible birth defect such as club foot, cleft lip, or birthmark, or because they are the family's second child in a country with a One Child Law, or for many other reasons we will never know). But then there are the children who are months old, toddler age, or even older when they are abandoned, and I wonder, how does one abandon a mobile child...a child who can attempt to follow you when you walk away from them...a child who has bonded with his/her parent(s)...
Aaron will soon learn what it means to have parents who will love him unconditionally forever. Every child deserves that chance at love!
Nicole

The Bridge
By Kay Bratt

The old woman squats uncomfortably outside her tiny shack while washing the laundry. The muddy ground from last night’s storm has made her ordinarily calming chore a necessary nuisance. With crooked and arthritic hands, she finishes her rapid scrubbing and expertly wrings out the last piece of clothing. The repetitive task always gives her a chance to reflect on the vagaries of her difficult life. Deep lines etched in her face reveal years of accumulated wisdom and incessant worry.

Her aching arms overloaded, she struggles to rise while trying to prevent her only pair of slippers from becoming covered with the muck. Heaving an exhausted sigh, she slings her pail of soiled water into the street, narrowly avoiding soaking a passing bicycle cab and its occupant. Words of apology are not expected or needed in this small and overcrowded community, so she slowly turns to take the clothing inside. She climbs the creaky stairs to the frigid, unused second story to hang the laundry on the metal bar outside her window. In this biting cold, the clothes will need many hours to finish drying, during which time she will ignore the nagging pain in her hands in order to work at her knitting.

The old woman collects used sweaters and knits colorful scarves from the scraps of wool she unravels. With another scarf ready to sell, she will be able to buy meat and dumplings to prepare a special meal for her daughter’s annual trip home. She is too proud to admit to her family that her usual diet consists only of rice and green vegetables. The old woman has never accepted help from anyone, and this time will be no different. She will just have to work harder and faster to earn the money needed to make this visit special.

Later on, from the corner of her eye, she spots a small boy sitting on the first step of the ancient Bridge of Luck. The bridge has covered one of the city’s famous canals for over one thousand years; she longs to hear the stories it could tell. It used to carry only the weight of horses, bicycles, and people, but must now withstand a daily barrage of cars and trucks. On the pedestrian side, with his finger the small boy is tracing the carvings of dragons and phoenixes embedded in the old stone. He was a healthy-looking boy of six or so, with the darker skin and wider eyes of a person from the countryside or a minority village.

Judging by the thickness of his arms, his mother probably let him hold the baskets when his family brought in last season’s crop. The old woman is troubled to see he is dressed poorly, with only one thin layer of tattered clothing to protect him from the bitter wind. She notices he is not as active as a normal boy of his age should be, but instead appears to be in a state of anxiety or bewilderment.

“Not another one,” she mutters under her breath.

Every month at least two or three children, sometimes even helpless newborns, are abandoned at this bridge. The parents superstitiously imagine this is one last gift to bestow on their offspring?leaving them at a place they believe will bring eternal luck.

Back in my time, she muses, we would take care of our own children no matter the cost or burden. These days, however, many children are discarded because their parents cannot afford them, are displeased with having a girl rather than a boy, or are ashamed to raise a child with a disability. For the old woman, the rescuing of these unfortunate waifs has been her lifetime duty. This time enough is enough, and she is determined not to become involved.

Does no one take responsibility for their own flesh anymore? She thinks despairingly. They know government policies put restrictions on how many children a couple can raise. The mothers should be thinking of this before being so irresponsible with their men. They don’t consider the inevitable problems of parenthood before becoming pregnant, because they know how easy it is to commit this act of cowardice?this abandonment?after their babies are born.

She thinks disapprovingly of how China continually boasts of the many improvements and successful developments of the last century, but this one subject remains an unspoken blemish mostly hidden in shame from the rest of the world.

Perhaps she is wrong and this boy is only out exploring the city, or maybe his parents have left him for a short time and will return. With a last worried glance, she returns to scrubbing her stone floors.

Several hours and chores later and following a small meal with several cups of green tea to help ease her hunger, the woman prepares to lie down for her much anticipated afternoon nap. As she reaches to close the curtain, she can’t resist another look. She is struck with the realization that the boy on the bridge is blind. He has stopped crying and has ventured a few steps from the bridge, using his chubby hands to feel the way. He was calling for someone.

I am not taking another child to the orphanage, the old woman argues with herself. Let someone else do it for a change. The many children and babies she has delivered to the authorities over the years have burned holes in her heart and haunted her dreams at night.

She is now a wrinkled old woman with tired bones and a jaded mind. Why can she not live out the remainder of her life without further turmoil? Why had her family’s ancestors chosen to make their home in front of this ironically “lucky” bridge? Why was it she who’d been selected to witness such sadness? Had this also been the fate of her mother and grandmother, who had lived here before her? If she’d had any other place to go, she would have left a decade ago, of this she is sure.

As she stands at the window regressing into her past, she spots someone approaching the other side of the bridge. The young woman wears a tired and discouraged expression as she silently creeps closer. She squats in a nearby doorway, making it obvious she has come to spy upon the boy, though it is equally plain to see she doesn’t want him to know she is there.

The old woman watches. It is his mother, she thinks sagely. What a cruel thing for a wretched old thing like me to witness.

Though disgusted, she cannot pull herself away from the unfolding drama. Wrapping herself in an old quilt, she pulls up a chair to keep vigil. She can see the mother is becoming worried, wringing her hands helplessly while observing the many people casting pitying glances at her son but not offering him help. The cold night is coming on fast, and she is clearly fighting a battle within herself; she probably wants to run to him and hold him close one more time, but does not want to prolong the agony of the inevitable.

From the window, the old woman can see the wash of tears falling silently down the young mother’s scarlet cheeks. She struggles with her mixed feelings of anger and empathy for this young mother’s plight. She battles the knowledge that she could either rescue this boy or watch him suffer through the night.

The old woman returns to her kitchen and prepares a heaping bowl of hot rice porridge. Resignedly, she lays her near-finished scarf across her arm.

Oh, the many children who have worn my scarves, she laments. She allows herself only a short moment to sift through the memories and faces of those in her past before focusing on the current situation.

With one hand on her trusted cane and the other holding the food and scarf, she hobbles out of her home and toward the boy. As she moves closer, the young, desperate woman notices her and prepares to flee. The old woman solemnly stares into her eyes, giving her a knowing nod of compassion. Methodically, she continues to work her way through the evening traffic, pausing to let the hordes of foot and vehicular traffic pass. The mother stares, her shoulders bent in a stance of shame but with relief evident in her haunted eyes.

The boy whimpers once more as he stumbles over the uneven walkway and back to the steps of the bridge. He is not brave enough to go farther and wants to stay where his mother can find him. She promised she was coming back, but now where was she? Why was she taking so long? He wants to smell her familiar scent and be led back to his safe, comfortable home. He is tired, cold, and very frightened. He has tried to act like a big boy but can no longer stanch the flow of tears.

The old woman stops in front of him and stoops to give him a reassuring pat on the head. She wraps the unfinished, multicolored scarf around his shoulders and begins speaking to him gently. He is at first scared by the intrusion into his dark, private world but the soothing sound of her grandmotherly voice and the warmth of the scarf calms him. Lowering her aching body, the old woman sits down beside the boy and offers him the steaming food.

Behind her son, the heartbroken mother blows a soft kiss into the air, says a silent goodbye, and slips away into the dark. As the boy begins to devour his first meal that day, the old woman mentally prepares herself for a sleepless night consoling this latest unlucky child.

“Don’t worry, little one,” she whispers, “for now you will have a warm pallet to sleep on and tomorrow your new life will begin.”

*this short story was inspired by Fei Fei, a small blind boy brought to our orphanage. It is my hope that he was able to be enrolled in the local Blind/Deaf school and is possibly living a much easier life than he was when I last saw him. Fei Fei means to fly– and I try to picture him doing just that, with wings of freedom from his disability.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Package Is On Its Way...(Fingers Crossed!)

My agency just emailed me to say that they received notice from CCAA that a package, with LOAs for 4 families has been sent, and we are all hoping ours is in there. They also let me know that they will be in the office tomorrow, so if it arrives, it will be treated the same as if it arrives on Monday (also a possibility) - They will sign the LOA for us and overnight it back to CCAA.
Fingers crossed that either tomorrow or Monday we will officially be LOA!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have Pharmacy, Will Travel

My packing is almost done. Just have to add my clothing and then FOOD. I packed all of Aaron's things first and that was FUN. Then, it took me two days during Donovan's naps to pack our (okay, MY) prescription meds, and all our OTC meds. Basically, into our carryons is ANYTHING we could possibly need (Sudafed, Benadryl, Pepto, Nyquil, Dayquil, hydrocortizone cream, Feverall suppositories, Children's Motrin, etc., etc., etc.) as there is no guarantee we could find it in China. And then, into my backpack there's the meds. we know we will need (Advil, Immodium, Zyrtec, etc.) And, also into my backpack is quite an assortment of prescription meds, including Z-pack antibiotic, Cipro for Rupert for GI bug, Xifaxin for me for GI stuff (allergic to Cipro), emergency meds for hives (have had several severe cases to unknown allergins), emergency meds for vomiting (compazine, thinking what if we are vomiting on the day of our return flight or an adoption required appointment!), migraine meds (fingers crossed I don't get a single one!). It was quite a sight when I walked out of the pharmacy with a mammoth bag of meds...Hopefully won't need many of them, but NO WAY would I ever go without them. Many of you know what happened to me in Hawaii. I learned my lesson! And, that was in the U.S.! (For those of you who don't know, no sooner had we arrived in Hawaii then I became quite ill in the airport. By the time we got to our hotel I was violently ill, and literally did not leave our hotel room at all for 4 days. During that time I was consulting with my dr. over the phone and she ended up calling in Bentyl to the ONLY pharmacy in Waikiki. 2 days later I was better, and while it was yucky to be so sick for 1/3 of our honeymoon, I can't imagine something like that in China with a new 3 year old son! and appointments to get to. Suffice to say, I'm bringing loads of stuff for GI distress on this trip, Bentyl included). I will be PREPARED and I DO NOT under any circumstances wish to visit a hospital in China!!

Have "New Bills," Ready to Travel

I know those of you who have adopted from China (or many other Asian countries) can appreciate this post. I got our New Bills today. They are now locked safe away until it's time to travel, and what a RELIEF to have them ready. (For those who have not experienced this, to put it simply, those of us traveling to China must bring brand new, PRISTINE U.S. money with us. The banks in China will scrutinize each bill and reject it if it is not 100% perfect (no folds, etc.) And, forget Traveler's Checks...not in China...)
Citizen's Bank ordered us our brand new 100s, and exchanged $40 into Chinese Yuan (for tipping, water, food, whatever, the night we arrive, before we are able to exchange our USD the next morning at a bank), and $75 into Hong Kong Dollars (basically, just for a meal before we leave to come back to the U.S.). I met with the branch manager and we took care of this in her office.
However, our IBM Credit Union (while they cannot order new money as they are not a commercial bank), let me know yesterday they had received $10,000 in 50 dollar bills in December - all brand new, never in circulation, and did we want some of those. Well...not $10,000 worth of course, but yes, we did want to bring 50s in addition to our 100s. So in I went today, told the receptionist who I was, and she said, "I know who you are. The head teller is out sick today but she emailed all of us telling us to expect you today." No sooner had she congratulated me on our upcoming adoption, then the bank manager appeared, escorted me to the a teller, soon joined by two others, who triple counted the bills. Let's just say it caused quite a scene. They talked about how the bills had never been in circulation before and the first teller to count them had trouble because the bills were so stiff and hard to separate.
And I must admit I'm a bit embarrased but I am laughing at what happened at the end of all this. It's a bit ironic that after responding to far too many rude, idiotic, and just totally inappropriate comments and questions the past few months about "it must be very expensive to adopt," "how much is it costing you exactly," etc. etc. ect., that as they finished counting the money out, one young teller said, "Oh you must be so excited to pay that money and have them hand over your baby." I looked up at her smiling from ear to ear, so excited for us, and I didn't even bother to explain what the bills are really for, I just looked at her and sweetly smiled, and said, "We are so excited to meet our son. Thanks so much for your help!" If she had been anyone else I think I would have used my line of, "Of course we are not buying a baby. You know that's illegal, don't you. These new bills are to exchange into Chinese yuan once we get to China to pay fees associated with adopting our son, such as a medical exam, his Visa, our guide, and a payment to the orphanage who has cared for him for 3 years and has many more children to care for now and in the future."
So, while we might not have our travel approval yet (heck, we don't even have our darn LOA yet, but we hear it's on its way), at least we do have our "New Money," and won't have to worry about that.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just Waiting...and Packing!

I'll be calling my agency tomorrow to learn what they found out when they called CCAA yesterday to inquire about our LOA. Here's hoping CCAA is processing it as we speak. It's been 45 days since we sent our Letter of Intent to China to adopt Bao Xinsheng. Our paperwork is all in order, our dossier was already through Review, and so this is just plain frustrating to have to wait, and to know that Aaron is waiting in China for us, and for CCAA to issue this Letter of Approval. Keeping my fingers crossed for some specific information tomorrow!

Today, while Donovan napped, I got a good start on our packing. I packed everything of Aaron's (clothing, a few toys, pullups for at night, while touring and on the airplane home, every possible OTC med we could need over there- Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, and then baby soap/lotion, stuffed animal, sippy cup, etc.) into one large suitcase and there was still quite a bit of room in that suitcase (phew!). I started sorting Rupert and my stuff into checked, carry-ons, and backpacks. I have our 311 Quart size liquid bags done and in our backpacks. I have our prescription meds and OTC meds in the backpacks. Later this week I'll work on our clothing. We are taking three checked pieces of luggage (all rolling). I could easily take four but that would be way too much I know, especially with a 3 year old in a stroller on the way home!. Also, while it would be so much easier to do one piece of luggage for each person, I know to sort so each of us has stuff in each of the three pieces of luggage just in case one gets lost. I think we have a slim chance of having our luggage lost since it will be a direct flight from JFK to Hong Kong, and then we gather our luggage at baggage claim and switch terminals for our short flight to Guangzhou...but you just never know! We also should be flying Jet Blue from Burlington to JFK the night before our big flight to China, and I know to pack everything we might need that night and morning in our carryons, so we don't even have to unzip the checked luggage. I know once we get to our hotel, we are going to want to go right to bed for a good night's sleep before the big flight the next day.
I can see in the next few days I'll be packing, typing up my lists of what I'm packing, and repacking a few times. School vacation this week and this is the perfect (and only) time to get this done!
Hopefully all this advance packing will pay off with a speedy TA (Travel Approval) once we get the LOA.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year Dear Son!

Dear Bao Xinsheng,
Happy Chinese New Year dear son!
We hope you are having a wonderful celebration at your orphanage, with special decorations and delicious foods. As we opened our candy tray this morning and started our New Year off with some "sweetness," our thoughts are of course with you. We hope you are well and having fun on this special holiday.
Oh sweet Xinsheng, this is the last Chinese New Year you will spend as an orphan in China. We will be coming to meet you and bring you to your new home and family very soon. Our family is so very lucky to have you joining us!
Happy Chinese New Year!
Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Donovan

Our Frustation - an Update

On the Eve of Chinese New Year, I'm feeling so frustrated and powerless. In the past 10 days, as I've seen other people who were LOI and PA AFTER US (and already LID and through Review like us), get their LOAs BEFORE US, I was filled with so much frustration and fear. A call to our agency on Friday confirmed what I had already been fearing. Though CCAA told our agency's director LAST MONDAY that they had already processed our LOA and sent it out, it has not yet arrived at our agency. It's very unlikely it was lost in the mail. It's more likely that the Chinese government simply said it was processed and in the mail, when it was not. I've heard of this happening to others. Usually all it takes is the agency calling CCAA one more time to actually get that LOA sent out. But the really sad part is that there is a wonderful little 3 year old boy who is now going to be waiting even longer in his orphanage for his Mommy & Daddy to come. Our agency's director confirmed what I had suspected - it is now highly unlikely that we will be able to leave on March 16th with the March travel group. The good news is she knows that we want to travel ASAP and that we do not want to wait for the April or May travel group.
I realize nothing can be done until CCAA reopens from the Chinese New Year week long holiday- hopefully on Saturday the 20th. In the meantime, I will spend my February vacation, finishing our packing, organizing documents, and preparing for our journey to meet Aaron.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we wait for our LOA and TA, so we can get on that plane for China and go meet Aaron!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hoping and Praying for our LOA...BEFORE CNY

Well, here we are on February 11th, and in China it is already the 12th, and the CCAA is hopefully working, and I truly hope they are about to issue the LOAs and TAs for families including us. Time is of the most importance. The CCAA is about to close for a week for Chinese New Year. If our LOA does not come tomorrow, I cannot imagine that we will travel with the March travel group. Our agency knows we want to travel as soon as possible, and that once we get our LOA and TA, we do not want to have to wait for the next travel group. We will travel ourselves (with a guide in China) and that is just fine with us.
I must say I am so disheartened, so frustrated, and just so sad that Aaron continues to wait for us in his orphanage, as we wait and wait for our next two approvals from the Chinese government, our LOA and TA. What is so very frustrating, especially for me, someone who really thrives on order and predictability, is to realize that there is no rhyme or reason with the CCAA with how their approvals are issued. I have watched as families who submitted their LOI's AFTER us, and got their PAs AFTER us, got their LOAs BEFORE us. (We have been logged in for two years now, and like those other families, our dossier had already made it through Review.) While I am happy for all the children and parents who will soon be united, I am so envious of them, and so very, very frustrated.
More than anything I just want to be able to go to China and get my little boy. No child deserves to have to wait so long for parents to love him.
Hoping that tomorrow will bring our LOA...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Loving His Brother Already

Tonight Donovan was sitting at the kitchen table, looking at his "I'm The Big Brother" photo album, which has photos of Aaron inside. Donovan looked at the first page and said, "There's Aaron on a firetruck." Then he turned to the next photo, a close up of Aaron (for his Visa I believe), and said, "There's Aaron's cheeks," and kissed both Aaron's cheeks. Then, Donovan said, "There's Aaron's nose," and kissed Aaron's nose. Then, "There's Aaron's forehead," and kissed his forehead. And finally, "There's Aaron's hair," and kissed Aaron's hair. Tears filled my eyes! I am so looking forward to Donovan being a brother and having a brother.
We are very anxiously awaiting our LOA and TA. We are tentatively scheduled to be with a travel group in China the third week of March. With Chinese New Year approaching next week, and government offices in China closed for the week of February 15-19, we are certainly hoping and praying that we receive at least our LOA this week!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Meanings of His Name(s)

We've been asked what our new son's Chinese name means, and also asked why we chose Aaron.
First of all, his Chinese name of Bao Xinsheng...
For those of you who can read Chinese, the Chinese characters of his name are 宝 新 盛.
Bao = the surname, with no particular meaning, though it translates as "precious" or "treasured" All children in his orphanage have the same surname of Bao.
Xin = means "new" or "recent"
Sheng = means "flourishing", or "prosperous", or "energetic". It can also mean "popular" or "grand."
Combined, Xinsheng means "newly prosperous" or "newly popular". In either case, it conveys a meaning of blessing or well wishes that his life be fulfilled as a prosperous or popular person.

His new name, as our son...
Aaron (means "mountain of strength," Hebrew) - Needless to say, we find the meaning of the name extremely fitting for this little brave boy who has survived and persevered against the odds, in an orphanage in China...
Donald (after Nicole's father, Irish, meaning "great chief" and "mighty")
Gar (name given to all boys in Donovan and Aaron's generation in the Ho family)
Sing (Cantonese pronounciation of Chinese character which is Sheng in Mandarin, meaning "prosperous")
Walsh (Nicole's last name)
Ho (Rupert's last name)