The Road To Ren

Our adoption journey to our son Ren William.

Musings by Elaine and other Blitherings. This blog was origonally intended to document our China adoption journey to our son Ren. Now we are home and this blog is about our family. I would love to have you sign my guest book.

Scroll to bottom to see slideshow pictures.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Being a conspicuous family

I tried to prepare myself for our first adoption the best I could. I spent months researching, reading all the books I could find. We went to meetings with other families who were also adopting from China, met with those who had already BTDT and asked all the questions. I felt ready, I knew there would be challenges, but there was one thing I really wasn't prepared for. Being a conspicuous family. Oh I had read about it, heard people talk about it, but actually experiencing it was something altogether different. This has been a most interesting albeit annoying phenomena to me. Our family is now an interracial family, that makes us look different, translation: conspicuous, we kind of stick out in public.

For those of you who know me, you would know I hate being the center of attention. I have never been comfortable with it and would rather just blend in. Now we are smack dab in the middle with other people seeing us as a white family with a colored child of another race. Notice I said "other people" because I do not view my family this way. For clarification there is only ONE race and that would be the HUMAN race. I do not care what color she is. Is this important? It shouldn't be but it is. I have had to acknowledge that there is a white privilege at work here. I need to be aware that when she is with us she will probably experience the white privileges we have and when apart from us she could experience discrimination.

So how do you prepare your child for that?! I will try to make her color aware rather than color blind. We will celebrate her Chinese heritage and teach her about her culture so that she is proud of it. We will celebrate diversity and surround ourselves with our diverse friends. We will teach her to have compassion for all humans and to fight prejudices and racism. We will teach her that God made all people equal and we have to extend that same grace to everyone. Having a sense of humor won't hurt either.

So what is it like to be a conspicuous family? People stare at you. Sometimes I think they are just caught off guard and they do the ol' double take. Some people give you the "stare" this is where they give you a look to show disapproval. I'm Not sure why they feel the need to do this. I get this one a lot from little old ladies. Maybe they think I slept with a Chinese man or something (Heaven forbid!!!!) :-P. Sometimes people go out of their way to smile at us or tell us how good we are. This makes me extremely uncomfortable. We had some selfish reasons for adopting too. One of those being is this is how we chose to build our family, not just to rescue someone. Our children are our children no matter how they came to be in our family, and they don't have to feel grateful for that! We love them all unconditionally bio or adopted.

My all time favorite thing about being a conspicuous family is for some reason people think they can say anything to you! I have had to learn to have fun with this one. People will ask you questions that would be totally inappropriate to ask a "normal" (insert sarcasm here) family. So I decided to create my top 10 list of the most stupid questions and remarks we have received. The only problem is figuring out the order! These are real questions, some of the answers are wishful thinking others are true ;-).

  • 10. Q."Are they sisters?" asked while playing with a Chinese friend

  • 9. Q."Is she your real daughter?" A. No she's our fake one

  • 8. Q."Do you know who her parents are?" * sigh *

  • 7. Q."Will she speak English or Chinese when she grows up?" A. No habla englis.

  • 6. Q."Her eyes are really round, she must be a half breed" A. WHAT???!!! Somebody has been watching too many old sterotype Hollywood movies haven't you???

  • 5. Q." How much does it cost to adopt" A. A lot, how much did you pay for your car?

  • 4. Q." Is she your granddaughter?" I just love this one X-)

  • 3. Q." Is her father Chinese?" A. Yes

  • 2. Q."Is there anything different about her because she's Chinese" does not deserve an answer


1. Q." Are you going to drive to China to get her?" A. Mark "No gas is too expensive to drive that far"(and he answered with a straight face, wow).

"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in
invisible systems conferring dominance on my group" Peggy McIntosh

Friday, March 28, 2008

The paperchase (do not read if sleepy or driving)

Many people ask if it is hard to adopt so just for fun I thought I would list numerically all the hoops we have to jump through to complete an adoption from China. This is only the actual legwork and paperwork we do. I think the hardest part is the waiting and emotional turmoil you go through in the process, but that is a whole 'nother post. So just for kicks here is what we have been doing and gathering for the last couple of months (some are the state of Maryland requirements!).

  1. fill out application to adoption agency
  2. fill out application for Homestudy agency
  3. ordered and paid for 2 birth certificates for Mark and Elaine
  4. ordered and paid for 2 marriage certificates
  5. gathered divorce certificates
  6. had physicals to include blood work of ALL kinds (yippee).On a side note my lovely Dr. who I shall withhold her name to protect her identity will now be known as Dr. Frankenstein (because she likes to scare the crap out of people) took it upon herself to "make sure I did not have cancer because if I did she was not going to let me adopt". Good grief. sigh. Well the good news is I now know that I do NOT have cancer. :-P
  7. Try to get Dr. Frankenstein ,a military Doctor, to have her signature notarized on the physical (wondering if a God complex at work here, not sure)
  8. physical for Eden
  9. notarized physical for Mark
  10. clean house ;-), install cabinet locks, lower water heater temperature
  11. arrange and have a Home Sanitation Inspection by county inspectors
  12. install fire extinguishers, post fire escape routes, buy 2 fire escape ladders
  13. arrange and have Home fire Safety inspection by fire Marshall
  14. ask 3 people to write letters of reference
  15. write letter of employment get signed and notarized
  16. fill out financial statement/notarized
  17. write plan to provide space for children
  18. drive to Baltimore to have 4 (four) sets of fingerprints taken EACH (one is for FBI check).
  19. file I600A at the United States Citizenship Immigration Dept in Baltimore
  20. get child abuse clearances from state
  21. get child support clearances
  22. get driving record from Georgia for us both
  23. provide IRS 1040
  24. provide copies of all life and medical insurance
  25. get dogs vaccinated
  26. provide proof of rabies vaccinations
  27. provide guardianship plan and letter
  28. Take 10 hours of very tedious boring online adoption classes (some informative stuff but not new stuff)
  29. provide homemaker letter/notarize
  30. Provide all bank statements
  31. have 4 separate visits with a social worker to be interviewed and basically looked at under a microscope. This is where the social worker determines if we are fit parents to adopt and if we are ready. Even though this can be an uncomfortable process this is necessary and in my opinion very important to the process.
  32. When the above is finished we take 12 documents which have all been notarized from several different counties and take them back to the correct county seats and have them county certified at the court houses.
  33. after county certifying we then get them certified by the Secretary of State
  34. then by the US certified
  35. then authenticated by the Chinese Embassy here in the US
  36. Buy new copier
  37. Make HUNDREDS of copies of everything we have put together!!! (one document alone can be 6 pages and we have to make 5 copies of it, then do that to 11 more documents, and that is just our dossier)!

If you are still reading this, this is just some of the stuff keeping us busy. I have left out all the phone calls, having documents reviewed, redoing documents done incorrectly, and the list goes on. This can explain the cost of adoption because each process costs something and is usually per person ,piece, service etc. This explains how we are NOT buying a child but paying for services and travel etc. :-P. So that is just the stuff up until time to get ready to travel, then the packing mania begins!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

About Ren

More about Ren.
Ren was born in the Province of Jiangsu. This is on the East coast of China on the Yellow Sea. This is a Province that is North of Shanghai. He is at the Wuxi SWI in Wuxi City. Fortunately Wuxi SWI is a very good orphanage where they provide very good care for the children and have many activities for them all day.

Ren's birthday is September 1st 2005. He is said to be "speaking 3 to 5 word sentences and knows what no means"."He is able to dress himself and is cooperative". He is described as "active, restless, fond of imitating, fond of listening to music". "He likes to play with toys and loves sharing them with others". His report goes on to say "he likes using his brain and became interested with new things". "He is polite and gets along well with others. He loves studying and was a very good kid" :-). The last update says"He Ren is active and easy smile...sometimes he is a little stubborn". He goes to early education class and I have seen him in pictures of music class!

His report says quite often that he is active. Uh Oh! I think I need to go brush off the old treadmill and get on there!

His favorite foods are cookies and yogurt! His favorite toy is a toy bear.

He gets up early (6:30) and goes to bed early (8:00), yeah! same schedule as us! This last report is from September so I imagine he has changed quite a bit. I will update this blog when we receive more information. I can't wait to see more pictures of him and learn more!
"A person is a person no matter how small" Dr. Seuss

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The waiting game

Currently we are paperchasing. This is where we madly dash about gathering papers for our dossier. Our dossier is a boat load of documents that we send to China telling them everything they need to know about ourselves and asking for permission to adopt Ren. This includes a homestudy, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical physicals,FBI clearances and the list goes on and on. We are doing this a little backwards this time. We have identified a child we would like to adopt first and our adoption agency is asking China for preapproval for us to adopt Ren. So while we wait for China to give us the OK sign that we can adopt Ren, we are madly trying to put together our paperwork and get it over there as fast as we can. When they do say OK we will be ready to
travel to China to get him!

Preapproval is the key here. China has the right to say yay or nay to us. If they feel for some reason that we are not the appropriate parents for Xi He Ren they may say no. So we wait on pins and needles, trusting God that if this is His will they will say yes! There is a lot of waiting for a foreign adoption, waiting for preapproval, waiting for china to tell you when you can travel, waiting for others to finish your documents and send them to you. Its a real exercise in letting go of control you don't have!

Meanwhile we have pictures of Ren to keep us occupied and wonder about what he is doing throughout the day. Is someone giving him hugs today? Is he having a good day? I can't wait to kiss those cheeks and squeeze him. Here is one of the adorable pictures we have to keep us wondering until then.

""Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a
pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used
up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -- WOW-- What a Ride!"
Attributed to Bill McKenna,

Birthday Epiphanies and Why China?

Turning 36 was the turning point of my life (for those of you counting that was 10 years ago). For some people 30 or 40 are milestones in their life. For me 36 represented the downhill fast slide to 40 and I was in a downright snit over it. This did not play well in our household. Mark would ask me what I wanted for my birthday and I would say "NOTHING". I had an all out pity party going and it was ugly! He was nice and patient at first but after awhile of asking he very wisely quit. My birthday comes and he hands me a birthday card. I open it and there is a note in there saying that he has given $50.00 on my behalf to a charity to feed starving children.

God has such a wonderful sense of humor. I giggle now even as I think of that birthday. That was the best birthday present I have EVER received in my entire life. It wasn't just a donation it was a wake up call, it was a literal revelation. It was like God said this girl needs some help and walked up and did one of those V-8 smacks upside my head and knocked some sense in there. It was like stepping outside of myself and realizing the world didn't revolve around Elaine and life wasn't about how old I was, it was about living and what I could do. Because I turned 36 years old somebody who was hungry just got fed (thank you Mark)! I realized that age didn't matter, the clock is always ticking so what did I want to do with the rest of my life?

This started me on a new journey and I decided I needed to be more thankful. While watching an Oprah show she suggested we think of something everyday to be thankful for. This sounded like a great idea. Geez what a novel idea (insert sarcasm here). Well that's how it happened sorry to be corny. As I thanked God everyday for something, sometimes different things, sometimes the same I came to realize something. I had a lot. Not wealth per se but I was blessed. I had love in my life, I was warm and dry and every night I went to bed in clean smelling sheets and was comfortable. I had a lot of food. I had a big house with empty rooms. I started to wonder if I could do more than just give to charities and realized I had a lot of extra time on my hands. Soon I began to obsess about those that didn't have what they needed. It became something I felt passionate about.

My 2 older children (who are the greatest :-) were getting ready to leave for college. More empty rooms... I didn't have a career...more time on my hands... it just seemed like the natural thing to do was to start praying about adoption. It fit. We adopted a joyful little girl from China in 2005. She runs around the house laughing and looks like a little sprite. We are now paperchasing for our son and brother. Why? Because we can ;-).

Why China?
I am frequently asked this question and am always surprised to hear it. Not because it is a bad question but because it was never a question for me. I had been hearing for years about the orphans in China and knew there was a need there, so it just stood to reason that is where I would go. It was just that simple. For me it was never about China having girl orphans or what they looked like or the actual country. I loved children + I had the means + Chinese child needs family/love = adoption. It fit together for us like a beautiful puzzle.

America has virtually gotten rid of orphanages. This is good in one way and bad in others. Obviously good because our children are not in institutions anymore. Bad because sometimes they are now stuck in the foster care system. The foster care system is set up with the goal to reunite the children with their birth families. This is a very noble goal, but often unattainable. They are placed in foster care because their parents are deemed unfit or unable to parent them. Substance abuse is a factor in 75% of these cases. Parents are given chances over and over to be reunited with their children only to have it fail and the child go back into foster care. The very system set up to protect these children have now put them in a vicious cycle. While we need good foster parents in America, there were a lot of factors to this scenario which would not make this a good fit for our family. We have/had other children in our household who need a stable environment that introducing a foster child could threaten, and I did not think my heart could take attaching to a child only to have them leave. Foster care is a very bureaucratic system that is not for the faint hearted. Please keep in mind that this is a simplified explanation to a very complex answer.

China has one of the most straight forward and consistent systems for foreign adoptions. While there are many qualifications to adopt from China it is set up so that it benefits their orphans who need homes. These children have been abandoned because of the one child policy and do not have a family or any known parents to take care of them. Some of these children will have no chance for domestic adoption in China. America protects the right of biological parental rights and actually makes it quite complicated to adopt foster children in America.

So why China? I believe God led us there. I believe he knew there were 2 children there that were to be ours. When something is right it just fits.

"I don't want to bring another kid into this world. But how do you argue against
loving one that's already here?" Martian Child