Tuesday, December 27, 2005

We are expectant parents...

Ariel's mei mei (little sister) is somewhere in this "ultrasound" photo! And there's possibly a second me mei hiding in there, too.
This process feels a lot like pregnancy.
First trimester: The paperchase is the most difficult stage, filled with worry and anxiety. All that anxiety can also make you very queasy.
Second trimester: Once the dossier goes to China,we will enter a period of waiting and wondering what Kavanna (and Mikayla, if we're lucky enough to get twins) looks like, wondering what she'll be like, and preparing the nursery, oooohing and ahhhhing over baby clothes, stuff like that.
Third trimester: Once the referral comes we'll only have a couple of months to go and the waiting will be unbearable!!! When I was pregnant with Ariel, who was born in the beginning of January, the last months of the year seemed as long as summer vacation did when I was a kid. In other words, time slowed and each day went on forever.
Labor and Delivery: The trip to China will be like labor (only a lot more fun!) and then finally we'll meet our daughter or daughters!! Then we'll promptly forget the worry, queasiness, and waiting, because it will have been worth every moment!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ladybug Luck

Ladybugs are a symbol of luck in many cultures (who knew?) and particularly in the Chinese adoption community. They are said to represent good luck, health and fortune. In adoption lore, it is said that ladybug sightings often precede a positive event, like sending a dossier to China or receiving a referral. A few days ago David spotted a ladybug keychain at a store, with hearts for its spots. He bought it for me as a gift. The next day (also his birthday, very auspicious) our agency told us that our dossier was being sent to the Chinese consulte for authentication, the very last step before it goes to China. This should take only a couple of weeks. We're almost there!!! Yay for ladybugs!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Making a difference...


This amazing, and alternately hopeful and heartbreaking book, was given to us by our friend Robin. All proceeds of this book go to Half The Sky, a charity that benefits Chinese orphans.

When we started sharing our adoption journey, many of our friends and family didn't really know much about the abandoned girls in China. Once they learned more about the plight of these girls, they expressed a wish to help but wondered, short of adoption, how could they make a difference? One way is by donating to a charity that helps these orphans. Our favorite charity is Half The Sky, which provides care and resources to girls throughout China by building and maintaining schools and daycare centers where the children build their educational and social skills. HTS also provides support for girls who are too old to be adopted (those past 5 rarely are adopted and at 14 they become ineligible for adoption) by training them for jobs so they have a chance at leading productive lives. Even a small donation will make a difference. In this season of giving, we hope you will include Half The Sky (donations are tax deductible). One person really can make a difference, trite but true!

$25 will pay for the gift of infant nurture or preschool education for a child for one month.
$50 will pay for the loving care of a HTS Nanny for one month.
$75 will pay the costs of private tutors for a HTS Big Sister.
$100 will buy a month's worth of art supplies for a HTS preschool.
$150 will pay the costs of documentation for an entire HTS preschool classroom for one month.
$200 or $250 will pay a HTS teacher's salary for one month.
$300 will sponsor a child.
$500 will fill a new HTS preschool with books and music.
$1,000 will build a lasting endowment.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thank you, Madeleine!

Our friend Madeleine (who is 9 years old) gave this beautiful book to us. This is one of Maddy's favorite books and it is her personal copy. She wanted Kavanna to have the very book that belonged to her, not just another copy of the same book. She signed the inside cover and asked us to add Kavanna's name under hers. We can't wait to read it to Kavanna. We are so moved by Madeleine's very big heart!!!! What a beautiful gesture!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Animal Kingdom Adoption

Adoption can cross racial lines and even species lines! This is a baby hippo named Owen who was orphaned in the tsunami, sticking close to his new mommy (or possibly daddy... not sure which gender the tortoise is) . The 100 year old tortoise adopted Owen and they have been inseparable ever since. Awwww..... You can see another cuddly and cute picture of these two at Becca's blog, too!

Monday, November 28, 2005


This has been a real rollercoaster of a year - a year of loss and disappointment, and a year of new beginnings and accomplishments - and as it draws to a close, we are definitely thankful for all we have and all we have to look forward to next year and beyond. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our wonderful friends Wendy, Jonathan and Madeleine, and their family. Then we went to Santa Barbara for a short vacation at Bacara, which was everything we hoped it would be - beautiful, calm, relaxing, and fun. David and Ariel hung out at the pool... they met a baby orangutan who was visiting the Children's Program... and Nina read books and got some spa treatments. Ahhhhh, the stress melted away....

We came home to find the I-171-H in our mailbox!!!!!!!! The final piece of paperwork to complete our paperchase. Today we notarized it and sent it to our Great Wall China Adoption liason. She'll have it certified and authenticated, and then we'll be DTC (dossier to China)!!! It's hard to believe the paperwork is complete. Next step, DTC... then LID (log in date, in China) and then the wait officially begins.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Families With Children From China

Yesterday we attended our first FCC (Families with Children From China) event, a ceremony to honor both new arrivals and waiting families, like us. We drove to West L.A., not knowing quite what to expect. We parked in the church parking lot and saw many other families arriving, families of all sizes and ethnicities, but with one thing in common - at least one child was Chinese. I felt a whole new world begin to open up. One day, that would be our family.
As soon as we walked in, we were welcomed by wonderful, friendly Susan, who helped organize the event. She introduced Ariel to her son, Zach, who's the same age. Soon the two kids were busy selling snacks for the fundraiser. There were many older children with Chinese siblings, several girls who were around 8-9 years old, and a ton of the most precious, adorable babies.
When it was time for the ceremony, we all gathered in the church. New arrivals were on the left, waiting families on the right. There were so many new arrivals that some of them spilled over to our side. In the pew in front of us, a baby named Mia began to smile and wave to us. She was fascinated by Ariel's "bracelets" (they were actually ponytail holders) and Ariel gave them to her. Mia was absolutely beautiful and clearly happy. Her parents told us Mia has a 13 year old sister and a 10 year old brother at home. Ariel was thrilled to realize there will be lots of families like ours, once Kavanna comes home.
Each family was given a red candle. The new arrivals were greeted and honored... Then it was time for the waiting families to step forward... We lit our candles with the candle flames of the families with new arrivals... It was very beautiful and heartwarming.

China has recently extended the referral time from six months to 10-12 months, which means that instead of traveling to China next Fall, we may not go until 2007. We're definitely being challenged to learn patience (this for someone who's motto could easily be "I want to learn patience and I want it NOW"). I comfort myself with the knowledge that one day we will among those families of new arrivals... I imagine Ariel lighting a candle of welcome and us holding Kavanna in our arms. It may not happen on our timeframe - yesterday - but it will happen!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Being Thankful

For her smile, a gift on the occasions of waking, returning home, saying goodnight.

For her laugh, a radiance of bells.

For her courage, to take the fears of others and make them into paths home.

For her insight, never keener than when turned on herself.

For her resilience, from which she made a home for all our hearts.

For her beauty - she's cra-zee beautiful.

For her brownies. 'Nuff said.

For her flannel pajamas, sexy just because she's in 'em.

For her good-morning emails, like a hug across the miles.

For her head on my shoulder when she's falling asleep.

For her hand on my leg when we're driving.

For her silent I love you over Ariel's head at the movies.

For her.

Wherever you are right now, one day, Kavanna, you will be thankful for her too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The CCAA requires some family photos for the dossier. These are just a couple of the photos we're sending them. We can't wait until we're a family of four (or more!).

The longest wait...

Recently the CCAA (China's adoption affairs agency) changed the wait time for adoptions from 6 months to 10-12 months. It feels as if the headstone should read: These are the bones of someone who's been waiting... and waiting... and waiting for their adoption referral... !!!!!
We had a fun, scary, sugary Halloween. Ariel carved the pumpkin all by herself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bye, bye koi

Goodbye, koi... We inherited the koi when we bought a house with a huge koi pond. They're really cool, for fish... they recognize people, and they have personalities... but when I looked at them only one word came to mind. Sushi.

So the koi are gone... yummy! No, just kidding!!! They went to a new pond and now they're hanging out with dozens of new fish friends. We're razing the pond and putting sod over it (it's 30 feet long!!) to make a bigger lawn. Kavanna will get more use out of a bigger lawn than a koi pond.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Our home study is finished and we are approved to adopt a baby girl or baby girl twins!! Yayyyyyy!!! Next step, sending the completed home study to the CIS (Citizen and Immigration Service, formerly the INS) and awaiting our 1-71 approval form. After that our dossier is sent to China and we await our LID (log in date), which is when the clock starts officially ticking. We're very excited to have our official approval, which brings us one step closer to Kavanna...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Learning to speak Chinese...

November already! I can hardly believe it's almost 2006. Goals for next year: 1) finish paperwork, 2) transform the office into a nursery 3) learn to speak (some) Chinese and 4) bring Kavanna home!! Well, we're almost finished with our paperwork and our plans for the nursery are moving forward, so...... it's time to tackle a new language. Since our new daughter will know only Chinese (and we're gambling that she'll understand Mandarin, not Cantonese) it will be nice to be able to actually communicate with her. Languages are not my thing at all (unless the ability to curse - mildly - in five different languages counts?!!) so we anticipate a huge challenge. We don't expect to be able to read the language - we'll be happy if we can speak and understand basic Mandarin by the time we're in China.

Some facts about the Chinese language:

It is the oldest written language on record, believed to date to the 2nd millennium B.C..

Over 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese - the dialects include Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese and other regional dialects based on these main languages. Writing found on turtle shells from the Shang dynasty (1500-950 B.C.) are the same as that found in modern China.

Chinese is written with characters - each one represents a syllable of spoken Chinese, but also has a meaning. Each character is comprised of between one and 64 strokes. The writing system is open-ended, so there is literally no limit to the number of characters. The largest Chinese dictionaries include about 56,000 characters, but most of them are archaic and/or obscure. To read most magazines or newspapers, you need to know about 3,000 characters. To read literature, you need to know twice that. To increase literacy, the government has simplified about 2,000 characters.

Spoken Chinese is also challenging. Mandarin has about 1700 possible syllables, as compared to over 8,000 in English. Therefore, many sounds may sound the same but have different meanings.

再见 玩得高兴
(goodbye, have a nice day)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

We are "excellent candidates" for adoption!!

Our final social worker visit was yesterday. Our social worker, Heidi, has made this process very straightforward and easy for us. She's detailed, informative, organized and nice. When we finished our meeting yesterday she asked if we had any questions for her.
David and I looked at each other. Only one question came to mind.
David said, "How'd we do?"
She told us, "Oh, you are excellent candidates for adoption."
WHEW! Since we started this process, a part of me has had difficulty believing this can really happen for us. That probably has a lot to do with our miscarriage. After we first saw the baby's heartbeat, I let myself believe that we'd have a happy ending to our pregnancy - then came that terrible moment when the ultrasound was still, no movement at all, and we realized we had lost the baby. In the past few months it's been hard to let myself hope that the adoption will really happen. Now I'm having more faith, and starting to think we really will end this journey with a baby (or babies) in our arms... which of course will begin a new journey for all of us.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Interesting Books on Chinese Adoption...

"Attaching in Adoption" by Deborah D. Gray
"Just Add One Chinese Sister" by Patricia McMahon and Conor McCarthy"
"Selected China Stories of Elder Respecting" published by the China Center of Adoption Affairs
"The Lost Girls of China" by Karin Evans

Nina & Ariel...

My baby is growing up... She's talking about college already (Yale, because they have the best drama program) and then she's Broadway bound! Right now she's in rehearsals for "Anything Goes" and our house is filled with Cole Porter music day and night, night and day...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Why China?

That's the first question most people ask when we share our plans to adopt a baby girl (or girls, since we're requesting twins!) from China. There are no simple answers to that question. One reason is that babies from China are generally very well-cared-for, and healthy. Drug and alcohol use is almost unheard-of in Chinese women, and most babies are born to married women who take good care of themselves while pregnant. Many orphanages have high ratios of nannies to children, and there are fewer attachment issues in children adopted from China than from other parts of the world.

There are also many resources available to families who adopt from China. Families with Children From China (www.fwcc.org) has chapters all over the country. They provide social and educational opportunities, so that the children have a chance to see other families who look like theirs, to learn about their culture of birth, and more. I don't know what it will be like for Kavanna to be part of a family that is multi-racial. I imagine it might be odd for her to have a blonde, blue-eyed sister, for instance. Thanks to FCC, she'll meet others facing similar issues. Our hope is that she will feel less isolated and more connected to our family and our community given that kind of structured support (and our love, of course!).

That's part of the reason we're adopting from China. The real reason lies in our hearts... After seeing National Geographic's The Lost Girls of China and watching GWCA's informational DVD, we felt drawn to those little faces in a way we cannot really understand or describe. We chose China because those babies touched something inside us and the idea of bringing one or two of them home felt completely right.

There's a saying that's popular in the Chinese adoptive community. It's from an ancient Chinese proverb:

An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.

I've always been too pragmatic to believe in destiny (I'll make my own destiny, thank you very much!!) but maybe there's something to it, after all. The other day I realized the kabala bracelet I wear is... a red thread.

Why China? For all these reasons and more we have yet to discover...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Meeting with the Social Worker...

In theory, having a Social Worker over to inspect our home - and more importantly, us - sounded scary. What would she think of us? Was our house up to par? Should we hide the pile of magazines? Or would a lack of homeyness indicate some kind of emotional sterility? Should we have cookies for her? Or would that make us seem like junk food parents? Blah, blah, blah... went our thoughts along these lines (I exaggerate, but only slightly!).

In reality, our first home study visit went very well. Our social worker, Heidi, was wonderful. Warm, professional, informative, and encouraging. We all enjoyed meeting her, and somehow the process seems even more real, too. Everyone at our home study agency, Partners for Adoption (www.partnersforadoption.org) has been terrific. They do a lot of work with our agency, Great Wall China Adoption (www.gwca.org) and we feel very confident in the process!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Boo! (a month early)

Ghouls? Goblins? Witches? Bah! Everyone knows Halloween is about... flappers! Ariel's ready to Charleston all night. Hard to believe that this time next year (fingers crossed) she may have a little sister to take trick-or-treating.

No school today...

Due to the fires, Ariel's school has been closed for two days. She's so bummed out she took to her bed. Nah, she just gets to sleep in for once!!

A little perspective...

For the past two days wildfires have swept through our community. We watched thousands of firefighters bravely battling a seemingly endless line of fire. We saw flames consuming nearby hills. Our neighborhood was covered by gray smoke and ash. We're so grateful that so many homes and lives were saved, when the outcome could have been much different. This experience gave us some perspective and took our minds off our paperchase. Our hearts go out to the people who lost their home. We're relieved that so many families and homes are safe!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bureaucratic Hell... (Nina)

Everyone warned us there would be glitches in this process. We'd been lucky enough not to run into any so far... until today. The certified Police Clearance Letter we obtained last week wasn't good enough documentation. It had to be notarized. So we drove all the way to downtown Los Angeles, hired our traveling notary to meet us there ($110, yikes), intending to have the police issue another letter which would be notarized on the spot.

Instead, we discovered the original letter shouldn't have been issued, since we didn't technically live in Los Angeles city. We had to go to the County Offices in Norwalk, another 20 minutes away - basically a descent into the smoggiest, creepiest, yuckiest part of town (no offense to Norwalkians). We passed billboards advertising stripper bars and drove past two sheriff buses filled with inmates. Once we got to the right office, the clerk said clearance letters took two weeks to process, and that they might not give me one since I'd had more than two names (as anyone who has been married twice and changed her name would have). Aggghhhh, instant freak-out. I immediately went to the worst possible scenario: I would be the first person on earth not to obtain a police clearance letter for this reason, and the adoption wouldn't go through.

Yes, I went there. And stayed there all the way home. An hour of complete anguish.

David, aka the most understanding husband on earth, tried to reassure me but I was inconsolable. We called Natasha, our Dragon Plan person at Great Wall China Adoption (www.gwca.org) and she'd never heard of such a thing (Natasha is wonderful and is saving our - okay, my - sanity). She offered to contact the clerk's supervisor directly to sort it out. David called the Supervisor first and explained the situation. She said we'd been misinformed and the name changes won't be a problem. She felt bad that we drove all the way from Calabasas only to get incorrect information. We've got an appointment with her tomorrow. Stay tuned...

UPDATE...........SUCCESS! We got the documents we needed! They only do clearances for the last five years, so hopefully that will be sufficient. What a relief...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Choosing the name "Kavanna"

Kavanna (pronounced "Ka-VAH-nah") is a Hebrew word that means to act and to live with intentionality and consciousness. Instead of going through life on 'automatic pilot', you can live with awareness and intentional choice. Kavanna reminds you that you are part of the whole cosmic 'tapestry of being'. Out of that awareness, you rediscover and live from your essence, from your wholeness.

We chose Kavanna's name because we love its meaning, which also resonates with Eastern philosophy. Her name bridges both her cultures, and that feels really perfect!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Thoughts on a Sunday afternoon (David)

Three days ago, we celebrated our 19 month wedding anniversary. The wedding was magical; you should have seen how beautiful Nina looked under a rain-splashed canopy. Days later, we were in Paris, and Venice after that. We stayed at an amazing little hotel there, the Locanda Orseola, owned by some truly wonderful people. They'd become engaged at a local restaurant, and wanted us to dine their before we left for Rome. It was there that we - Nina and I - first talked about having children.

We talked about my fears, that maybe I wouldn't be a good dad, that maybe I'd be like mine, that we as a couple would change in some unforeseeable way. We talked as well about Ariel - her daughter from a different marriage, and my daughter from a past life, it seemed - and how this child I bore no biological relation to felt so much a part of me.

I had no idea that we'd already answered the adoption question a year and more earlier - how will I feel about a child I'm not related to? How will I come to love her?

I already have. We've been through 4 in vitro procedures, and came to the decision to adopt in an indirect, sometimes painful, always united way. But we're here, and it feels like it's where we're supposed to be. Where we were always headed. And when I wonder about that question of loving Kavanna, I remember a candle burning between Nina and I in Venice, and the look on Ariel's face the first time we met (gazing at me suspiciously over an offered plate of cupcakes, as if to say, "who are you with my mom, and did you take any of the vanilla ones?") and the looks we exchange now, and I know the question was answered quite a while ago.

Don't know if you're there yet, Kavanna, but we're here, and we're cutting the distance between us a day at a time.

See you.

The Great Paperchase

8/26/05 Mailed application to GWCA (Great Wall China Adoption)
8/29/05 Spoke to Kathy at Partners For Adoption, our home study agency
9/02/05 Joined FCC (Families with Children from China)
9/12/05 Sent autobiographies to Partners for Adoption
9/17/05 Applied for Ariel's passport
9/20/05 Mailed I-600A Form
9/20/05 First mailing to Natasha at GWCA (our Dragon Plan contact)
9/23/05 LiveScan fingerprinting
9/23/05 Adoption physicals
9/29/05 LA County Sheriff - clearance letters
10/01/05 Fingerprinted by the CIS for I-600A
10/03/05 Social Worker visit (3 hours)
10/10/05 Second mailing to GWCA
10/14/05 Received Dept of Justice (Live Scan) clearance
10/26/05 Second Social Worker visit
11/08/05 Home Study complete
11/27/05 I-171-H Received!!!
11/27/05 Third mailing to GWCA
12/19/05 Dossier sent to L.A. Chinese consulate for authentication
1/13/06 DTC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2/06/06LID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally, yayyyy!!!!!!


This is Ariel and her best friend, Lisa... with Roy, who wanted to get into the picture (it's the only thing that gets him off the couch, besides walks and food).

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A little about us...

This is David and me in Paris on our honeymoon...

We're a family of three (four if you count our pound puppy, Roy, whose name was Elroy when we got him from the pound - he's a German Shephard and Labrador mix who thinks he's a lap dog and spends all his time on the couch!). Nina and David found each other three years ago and got married on 2/22/04. We are proof that miracles do happen and soul mates can find each other!!! Ariel, who just started 6th grade, is into theater and dance. She was "Sandy" in Grease this summer, as well as the Baker in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and now she's in rehearsals for Anything Goes. We're really proud of our rising star!

Journey To Kavanna

Somewhere in China a baby girl is waiting to join our family. Welcome to our journey to bring her home!

A little background... the Chinese government limits families to one child. Since the culture prefers boys (who traditionally take care of their parents when they are older), each year many girl babies are abandoned by their parents. We imagine this is a terribly difficult decision for the birth parents and our hearts go out to them. We're grateful for the opportunity to expand our family by bringing one of those little girls into our family and our hearts.