Monday, October 31, 2005

Some Quilt Pictures

Close up and view of the back
Inside the space saver bag with all the air sucked out!
Whole thing!

Travel Approval is Coming

I guess the news has been slow recently, but I have been busy! I've been trying to buy things for our trip as I think of them or am told about them. I have various medications and snacks for Scott & I as well as Gwen, both catagories of items being highly recommended "must-haves" by folks who've been to China and back. I've sorted clothes and acquired outerwear for Gwen (thank you everyone who has helped clothe my girl!), bought jammies and socks for her, and continued to add to my little shoebox of toys to take. I've finally made the purchase of space saver bags, a wonderful invention that you put your clothing or other soft items into so that the air will all be sucked out of them and they will take up half the space in your suitcase than if they weren't in the bag. I'm hoping one of these bags will magically make the quilt I made for Gwen small enough for me take to China!

Friday night I dreamed about Gwen, good and long. It seemed like the whole night. She was so sweet! She smiled and cuddled. In the dream, I took her in the hotel pool in China and she loved it! I don't even know if they have indoor pools at the places we will stay... but we did in the dream.

Today we received an email from the Children's Hope China Travel Coordinator... she said our travel approvals are being mailed from the China Center for Adoption Affairs this week. Again, this doesn't mean actual dates, but it does mean that CHI can now make our appointment at the American consulate, and this is what drives the entire travel schedule. We also received a list of the families that will be getting their daughters from Yibin Children's Welfare Institute, where Gwen is. There are only 3 others, so four families total that will travel to the Sichuan province together from Beijing, where our entire group will be together before splitting to go the different provinces where our daughters are waiting. There was one family who's daughter is the same age as Gwen... maybe she and Gwen are buddies! It will be neat to see. I've emailed these other 3 families and received emails from some of them as well... it's amazing to think about how we will share this life changing experience with these strangers and come away as friends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A New Shirt and Other Matters

Things are happening... we have no travel news yet, but progress is being made!

I ordered a t-shirt for Madelyn over the weekend with this "Big sister" design on it, and it came today. It's really cute, don't you think? I'm not sure when I'll give it to her, but I thought maybe she could wear it to the airport when she comes to meet her sister for the first time. Tears come to my eyes every time I think what that moment will be like... can't imagine the rush of emotions as we introduce our children to each other!

We have sent our visa applications to a courier to submit them to the Chinese consulate for us. We should get our passports with the appropriate stamp in them back by the end of next week. Did you know that's all a visa is? A $50 stamp on one page of the passport, giving you permission to enter the country. I had no idea! Once the visa application is processed, the visa is valid, so technically we could be ready to go by the end of next week... if the visa were the only thing we were waiting on. It isn't!

Last night I went to bed at midnight, but could not get to sleep, probably because Scott was still downstairs, watching the 13th inning of the World Series game. I lay there for about 10 minutes, thinking about Gwen and our Big Trip, then decided not to waste my time in bed when I was wide awake. I turned on a little light in the girls' room where Madelyn was fast asleep and proceded to sort some of the clothes I have in Gwen's dresser. I was trying to choose some things that I want to take with us to China. Funny task for after midnight, I know, and made all the more difficult by the dim lighting! Even though we know her age and the size she supposedly was two months ago when her height and weight measurements were taken, I still feel unsure about whether I have things that will fit her or not. I think we'll probably take 4-5 outfits in a couple different sizes, and then plan on buying things for her there. Clothing is apparently amazingly inexpensive in China. Shoes I don't know what to do about... I can't really be taking a variety of sizes of shoes with me. I suppose she will have some on when we get her, and then we'll go from there!

Next week, the beginning of November, we should be receiving our travel approval. Travel approval is NOT travel dates (I wish!). It is just approval from the China Center for Adoption Affairs for us to come to get our daughter. Once our agency has that official permission, then they are able to request appointments at the American Consulate in Guangzhou. With the confirmed appointments in hand, then they can finalize all the travel plans. So travel approval is really just one more step of "red tape", but it means progress to us!

I guess that's all for now... God is so good to fill our days with things to do and ways to serve while we wait... the time is flying by and soon our family will all be together in the same country, under the same roof!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Our Pumpkins

I have a pretty good feeling that Caleb would not enjoy being called a pumpkin anymore, at the ripe old age of eleven. Eight and three quarters years old Seth... I'm not sure about. He would probably protest mildly but not really mind. Madelyn, at five and three quarters years old would probably giggle at being called a pumpkin. Gwen will not understand pumpkin this year, at least not if it is spoken in English. But I am calling them pumpkins, today, for this season, because I like it and it is the seasonal thing to do. :-)

Children's Hope, our adoption agency, sends out a monthly newsletter via email to announce new referrals, local events, adoption information meetings, and babies that have come home to their forever famililes. In the most recent edition, Gwen, among others, was featured as a "pretty pumpkin" in the new referrals section. We , of course, know that she is the prettiest pumpkin in the group! Thought you'd enjoy seeing this feature... she is the one on the end with the biggest smile!

Finally, the quilt is used...

... by a few deserving dollies! I found these two cosily tucked in under Gwen's quilt, in her waiting crib. Madelyn and a neighbor had been playing in the girls' room this afternoon... I'm sure that's when these two found their way into this comfy bed.

I'm ready for my real China baby doll to be in this spot!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Voice of Truth

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

This song by Casting Crowns has been an encouragement to me from a critical time at the beginning of our adoption process, when I was first beginning to realize the implications of what we were about to do. Every time I've heard this chorus since then in the past year it's brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of how God brought those words to me at a time of real need.

Tonight I was in the car by myself and Voice of Truth came on the radio. The first lines of the song began...

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

As I heard the now familiar words of the first verse, I had this picture in my mind of Jesus holding out not one, but two hands, and He was holding Gwen out to me! It hit me so hard! Out where Jesus is, in the realm of the unknown... that's where Gwen is right now. We don't yet know what her coming will mean in our family, how it will stretch and change us. We strain our eyes, but we can't see that far.

I believe it will be good... I choose to listen to The Voice that tells me it is for His glory. And He will be right there with us, in the realm of the unknown.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Tonight Madelyn showed Scott the cute little hair clips we have waiting for Gwen in the top drawer of her dresser. I just bought them on Sunday at Walmart. Some have little jeweled flowers on them, others are just small colored ones in the shape of a heart. They seem so little compared to the ones Madelyn wears. It's hard for me to tell from the pictures what Gwen's hair is like, but it seems like the fine baby hair that Madelyn had for so long. Only certain types of bows and clips would stay in hers. Of course the pictures were taken nearly two months ago now... who knows how much her hair may have grown and thickened by the time we see her in another 6 or so weeks? I hope she will let me comb it... I love to fix little girl hair!

Monday, October 17, 2005


Why is it that boys think saying things like, "Open the refrigerator, take out a frog brain and eat it" over and over again in a crazy voice is so funny? And why does one of them have 5 or 6 baseballs rolling around in the top drawer of his dresser? Why is their closet so often a total minefield of clothes all over the floor, mixed with random candy wrappers and and baseball hats? I don't understand these things.

Madelyn needs you, Gwen. She's outnumbered in this house!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Yibin Girls

I have recently joined a yahoo group for families who have adopted or will be adopting from the Yibin Child Welfare Institute, where Gwen is currently living. I was so pleased to find that there are several sets of pictures on the site of the Yibin CWI, that other families have taken when they were in China getting their daughters. I was amazed at the photo of the beautiful countryside in the surrounding area... lovely green, green, green terraced hills. The orphanage itself is quite large... looks like a five or six story building, and the estimates are that it houses 300-400 children. Inside, I saw the exact wall that Gwen is standing against in her referral photos! There were several photos of large rooms with double rows of light blue metal cribs down the center of the room, some with little girls standing up in them holding on to the side rails. A couple of pictures showed nannies (what they call the caregivers) interacting with a group of toddlers, and one showed a long row of maybe a dozen highchairs lined up against a wall, a couple with children in them. There were two pictures of a nanny standing at a counter level bathtub, seemingly sunken into a counter, kind of like a large sink, bathing a little girl. There was a stack of folded clothes on a ledge in the background. I imagined that after the little girl is bathed the nanny just takes the outfit on the top of the pile to dress her in. Maybe not.. maybe she looks through the stack and picks out a certain special thing just for that day and that child, like I loved to do for my kids when they were little.

I'm so glad to see these pictures... I don't know if we will get to visit this place in Yibin or not. Our agency tries to arrange orphange tours for everyone, but in isn't always possible. Another option I've recently learned about is that some people send disposable cameras to the orphanage asking that pictures be taken of their daughter, her playmates, and her surroundings, and then returned to them on the day they get her. Amazingly, this process seems to have worked for some families! I guess it can't hurt to try, although our agency discourages sending things ahead of time because they feel it is adding an undue burden on the orphanage workers to try to manage and keep track of extra "stuff", which I can understand.

A kind of funny thing that has been noted in this yahoo group is that the Yibin girls, as they call them, all seem to have their posed referral photo taken in the same white wicker chair! You can see the chair in the second picture we sent of Gwen, with the red background. That red background seems to be standard as well. I even noticed in one of the other recent referral pictures from Yibin, that this other little girl was holding the exact same toy as Gwen is holding in her wicker chair picture. I wish I knew more of how the whole process works... how many little girls have their pictures taken in that chair? Which ones do? And are all the ones who have it taken eventually referred to families?

One thing I do know for sure, though. Before she was born, God knew her. He formed her in the secret place of her mother's womb. And I believe it has been in His plan all along that she would be chosen, not just by the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs, but by His own hand, to be a Liptak.

Dreaming of Our Girl

When Scott hurredly woke Seth for church this morning, Seth jumped up and said, "Oh, I'm sorry Dad, but I was having the best dream. Gwen was already here!" He went on to tell us that in the dream Caleb was taking her picture, and she was doing funny poses for the camera!

I dreamt about her all night long, too. It's hard not to!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Today is Gwen's 19 month birthday! It's early morning here in Chicago, but in China, the day is nearly over. I wonder how she spent it...

Gwen, we look forward to so many birthday celebrations with you in the years to come! Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Love, Mommy

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Little Thing

I've just finished finding and putting pictures into a little photo album we want to show to Gwen while we're in China. I had looked a number of places for this specific kind without success while we were waiting for the referral. I finally found it (at Target, of course!) when I went shopping for her after our dinner out at Panda Express the day we got the referral. It's made specifically for a small child... it has a rubbery handle that could presumably be used for teething on, and it has soft, squishy pages. Each page has a plastic pocket (I'm sure it's not photo safe, all you scrapbookers!) that a picture can be slid into. Now I have each of the six pockets filled... one with a picture of Scott and I, one of each set of grandparents, and one each of Caleb, Seth, and Madelyn.

I hope that as she sees these smiling faces for the first time in this little album that she can sense the love and anticipation in each one!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

And Then There Were Four

We've had her name in the frame for months. Finally, the fourth frame is filled with Gwen's sweet face!

A Little More News

Yesterday morning we received an email from our agency's national office with the translation of some of the Chinese documents that had come in our referral package last week. How exciting to get another peek into who Gwen is. The part we were most excited about was that Gwen was actually in foster care with a family until she was 13 months old! She has been at the Childen's Welfare Institue in Yibin City in just since mid April of this year. It turns out that the dates on some of the paperwork we got last week indicated this, but we had missed it until it was spelled out for us. I feel like this is a huge blessing, that during her first year of life she was not in an institution, but with a family. I praised the Lord for this last night when I was in the car by myself, that this was part of His plan for her. She has been in a family... we won't be a completely new experience!

Other things we learned include her daily schedule, with waketime, naps, and meals listed. It says she eats a variety of foods, including rice (!), noodles, minced vegetables, minced meat, steamed buns and fruits. She has a good appetite and is not a picky eater. It says she holds her bottle to feed herself milk... I'm not sure how current this information is... I think it was completed mid-August at the same time as her last medical exam, but I'm not positive. So, who knows about the bottle? I guess I should take one just in case she is still used to that.

One last thing that made me smile was that her favorite toy and activity were among the items translated... I had seen that catagory listed in our original documents, but the answer was in Chinese! Jo-Ann had suggested I take the paperwork to a Chinese restaurant to find out what they were! Fortunately, I didn't have to do that since they were in this translation. It says, "Her favorite activity is to have fun in the open air. Her favorite toys are the wooden blocks and puppets."

I need to go find that Winnie the Pooh puppet we have... it's around here somewhere... need to get it in my stack of things to take to China!

Friday, October 07, 2005

The third picture

So now you've seen all the images we have of Gwen. Although she's not smiling in this one, I like it a lot. I think I like it because of the cute yellow sunshine sandles. Those sandles make me feel like someone is really taking care of Gwen. They were chosen for her, maybe to make her smile. They make me smile! I also like this picture because she is holding some toys. You know how toddlers like to carry things around, kind of get attached to having something in their hands? I'm glad for Gwen that she gets to do this where she is right now, at the Yibin Child Welfare Institute.

I hope we get to see this place that has been her home. Usually adoptive parents do not meet their Chinese daughters for the first time at their orphanage anymore, although I know it used to be done this way. Now it is at a hotel, or a civil affairs office. Sometimes orphange tours can be arranged by the agency a few days after you meet your child, but sometimes not. I hope we can see this place, so I can tell her I was there and know some of her history before she came to our family.

Our three and half year old niece is visiting this weekend. (Thank you for letting her come, Jenna!) She has lots of questions about Gwen, as you can imagine. Her little sister (who is nearly the identical age of Gwen, as is our nephew!) came to her the more familiar, biological way... Madelyn seems to be getting a new sister in a very different way! I'm enjoying talking to her about Gwen. Her questions are so innocent and sweet. But it makes me think about the questions we will have to answer about Gwen and for Gwen, for many years to come. I pray that God gives me the right words for the answers!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A New Name

First of all, I must thank so many of you who have been posting comments and emailing us about Gwen. Your encouragement and love is so precious to us and I am printing out all of this affirmation for Gwen to read someday! You are all already a part of the scrapbook that I will eventually put together for her. Thank you SO much for all your love and support for our family.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity after the referral package arrived: phone calls, paperwork, a run to the FedEx Kinko's to mail back acceptance papers, and of course a run to Sam's Club to the photomaker machine... had to have my 8x10 and a page of wallets of our girl!

But before that package came... oh my, were we antsy! Scott had already called me at 9:30 a.m. to see if it had arrived, and continued to check in every hour and a half or so. The kids and I did our morning of schoolwork with one ear always straining for the screeching brakes of a UPS truck stopping by our driveway. At one point Seth slipped outside and rang the doorbell to trick me! Right before lunch I spoke on the phone with a girl with whom I have been exchanging emails, who is with Children's Hope also and right at the same point as us. She and I chatted for about ten minutes, wondering when our packages would come and how many more minutes or hours it would be until we saw our daughters' faces. While the kids and I were eating lunch, a playmate of Madelyn's from down the street rang the doorbell and we all jumped! But no UPS man yet. I knew it HAD to come, the agency overnights the referral packages, but it was sheer torture waiting to see that picture! By mid-afternoon Madelyn and I were in on her bed, reading a book which is coincidentally about a mom going to China to get her daughter and the special blanket she takes to her. Midway through the book, we heard the tell-tale screeching brakes. "I think it's here!" My heart started pounding... Seth got the door and the package. I held it for a minute... where should we sit to open it? I decided on the family room floor. We got it open... and there she was! What an amazing moment it was to see this little stranger and realize that she is the one we've had in our hearts for the last year. Overwhelming! Then the calls to Scott, scanning the pictures in and emailing them to him began. Visits from dear friends to share our joy. A whirlwind.

And so last night, Scott and I sat across the kitchen table from each other with the acceptance papers between us. We fill in the spaces: Child's name, Child's Birth date, parent's names, passport numbers, etc. Then at the end of the form, the last space says: New Name. It caught me off guard a little bit. We were choosing Wang Yu's new name. Gwendolyn Yu Sarah Liptak, I wrote out. It gave me a little shiver, that New Name space. I remember a Bible verse about a new name... what is it? I looked it up tonight. It is in Revelations 2:17~

"To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it."

I really don't know exactly what this verse means. But I guess that maybe someday in heaven we'll have a new name? A name given to us by the Father who has adopted us as sons.

Monday, October 03, 2005

She is the picture of beauty

Why do we want so dearly to see the picture? It doesn't really matter what she "looks" like. The truth is that we have slowly begun to "see" this child over the past several months. As we talked about her, closed our eyes and imagined her, and even dreampt of her. Ah, but to see a photograph of her... does it speak a thousand words? You bet it does! For me it allows one to see her eyes, her smile, her soul...

I imagine as I look at this precious child that somehow she knows what lies ahead for her. You see, because that is what we have prayed for her - that she would know that we are coming to invite her to be a part of our family. To join the five of us- so that we can now be six. So that we can offer her something that she may have never received in her current life. The comfort, support and love of a family. Our hope is that it will restore her to what should have been for her from the beginning. She as an integral part of a family. A valuable child, sibling and friend to a household.

Gwen... you are invited to be just that in our family. As you join our family, you complete a miracle. A simple desire, realized. Gwen, we very much look forward to meeting you. I should think that we will bring healing to each others lives, and in the end - we will be the most blessed to have you as a part of our family.

Love Daddy - (Ba Ba)

Cold Water

"Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land." Proverbs 25:25

Today we received wonderful news from a distant land... the Sichuan province of China, to be exact! Our daughter, Wang Yu, is waiting for us there! She was born on March 14, 2004, making her almost 19 months old. From the height and weight stats we got, she sounds tiny... she was 17 pounds in August, when she was 17 months old. Sharon at our agency said she could make out lots of hair in the picture, but she had a faxed copy that she faxed to Scott's office and then he emailed me~ the resulting copy was too dark for me to see her face at all. I could see faintly a sleevless, light colored top with little flowers scattered on it, and it appears to be a wicker chair that she is sitting in. Tomorrow, tomorrow, TOMORROW we will see her pictures when we get the overnighted package with the hard copies of our referral. Will I sleep at all tonight?!

I took my phone with me this afternoon... we had to go out for Seth's orchestra rehearsal. We dropped him off, bought some birdseed, and then headed to the Naperville library to hang out while we waited for Seth. I actually took the list of questions I had printed out to ask when the referral call came into the library with me, just in case. I read to Madelyn, helped Caleb with some research for a history project... no call. I realized after we left the library that I'd left the question list there somewhere. When we got home, I checked the messages... two from Sharon at Children's Hope!!! I started to shake. Then I checked email.. two messages from Sharon, one saying that Today Is The Day, She's Here! I tried to print a new list of questions to ask, but couldn't seem to make it work, probably because I was still shaking! I finally called Sharon and the first thing she said was, "She's beautiful!"

I know she is. How could she not be? She's our girl, and she's coming home soon.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Crib, Picture and Waiting

Madelyn and I put the crib together this afternoon. I ironed the dust ruffle and we put that on. Then came the mattress with it's cute flowered sheet, then the bumper pad, which I very much doubt we will need but it's just so cute. I added some pillows and stuffed animals and then the quilt, folded up at one end of the crib. I stood up the white wooden letters that spell out Gwen's name against the bumper pad~ they will be hung on the wall once we decide for sure which wall the crib will go on.

While we we working on this, Madelyn said, "When we get Gwen's picture, let's take it with us everywhere." I had actually already thought about this, how I will want to have it with me at all times, maybe even tape it to the dashboard in the car. I asked Madelyn who she would show it to, and she said cashiers and neighbors. So, both those who know we're adopting and those who don't.

Just now, Madelyn and her friend Sarah from down the street went into Madelyn's (and Gwen's) room to play. Sarah exclaimed about the crib, and right away Madelyn said, "That's for my sister. We're going to get her picture this week, maybe even tomorrow."

I hope it's tomorrow... it has to be this week at least, because we will take the last link from what was once a long chain off the wall tonight! Once that link is gone, it's time for us to see her face!