Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Christmas (medical) Miracle

Beautiful Girl (Photo by Kurt Keller Photography)
Bed Head!
The Festival of Trees
Helping do the dishes
Merry Christmas!
Go Minnesota Gophers! (Thanks Aunt Sunde and Uncle Shawn)
A Halloween Pumpkin
Visiting Cousin Connor at College

Last year at this time we were finalizing our travel plans to Taiwan to pick up our beautiful daughter. I will ALWAYS remember this time with such a special fondness, it was one of the BEST trips of our lives. We loved Taiwan! Holding our daughter for the first time and having the opportunity to spend a week in her birth country was simply...beyond. We had a magical blissed out 6 months at home with her before reality set in and we found out that she has some serious brain damage which includes, among other things, microcephaly and seizures. This last 6 months has been a sometimes depressing, sometimes frustrating and confusing time but December 18th will mark the day we met our little sweetie and I will always cherish the Christmas season as a reminder. Kate is doing remarkably well despite her condition. We have been told by more than one specialist that she could just as easily be in a vegetative state, which she is decidedly not. She has always been a bit behind: She crawled at 10 months, walked at 14 months and at 18 months only says a single word, but fortunately for me the word is "mama!" We do speech and occupational therapy since her fine motor skills are delayed. If she grows up to have no learning challenges or even just some serious learning disabilites we will consider ourselves very lucky. She certainly has beat the odds so far.

Of course, her learning differences are just a part of who Kate is but let me tell you another part of who Kate Pei Jung is: Kate is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is happy and sunny with a charming easy going nature and she truly radiates a warmth and gentleness that makes her so very easy to love. She is incredibly social and likes nothing more than to cuddle and play. She loves to be entertained and has an infectious laugh. She is by far the easiest baby we have ever had. She stays on a schedule, sleeping from 8 pm to 6 am and napping for 2 to 3 hours each afternoon. She loves to eat and has an amazingly broad palate. She does not shy away from extreme flavors; spicy, sour, salty, cold, hot, you name it and she will eat it (or at least give it a good try) and enjoy it with gusto! She is very curious gets into everything and doesn't miss anything going on around her. She is incredibly strong, literally doing chin ups on the dining room table. She is tough and rarely cries out in pain unless she really smacks her head.

No one wants to hear that their child is not developing normally. It is a very painful pill to swallow, but so far we have been lucky. It's Christmas time again and time to remember what we are thankful for. I am thankful for so many things: a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, our health, a relative sense of financial security, living in a special place with wonderful friends and family. Of course, most of all we are so thankful for our children...all three of our fabulous unique babies with their individual strengths and challenges all rolled into beautiful little package of DNA. We don't know where you are going in life but we are watching with great hope and anticipation. For our Kate, our sweet little daughter/sister, you will forever be our Christmas miracle and for that, we will always be exceedingly thankful. Happy Holiday season!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

There are no accidents

(Above Kate at one year. Below the first picture we ever saw of Kate when she was 2 mths)

I intended to finish this blog with the last post. However, today I was rifling through some papers and I found something that I wrote on January 30, 2005. This was a full year and a half before we started the adoption process. Sam was over 3 years old and Luke was 15 months. Dan thought we were done having children, but I was really hoping for one more. Specifically, I really wanted to adopt a daughter from Asia. I was thinking China at the time, but that was before I knew about Taiwan. I find it interesting that I found this letter on the one year anniversary of THE VERY DAY we accepted our referral of Kate. But, perhaps there are no accidents. Here is what I wrote over four years ago:

To my daughter should we ever meet,

In this lifetime I have been blessed beyond measure: blessed to be born in a prosperous country with parents who could well provide for me;blessed to grow up in a world of much beauty with an abundance of friendship and love;blessed with time to relax and learn and wonder; blessed with a loving husband and two glorious sons who are my very heart. With all these blessings I have no right to wish for anything more than what I have in this moment. And yet...there is a longing in my heart. You see, I feel a little lost, a little alone without a daughter as you may feel without a mother. I know that I can never be the mother from whose body you sprang and it pains me to think you may never hear her name nor see the shape of her face. But how honored I would be if you would let me be the mother in whose heart you grow to be a strong, healthy, joyous woman. I honor your mother for the love, courage and strength she mustered to bring you forth for I'm sure her choices were limited and her prospects bleak but she knew you needed to come for you are blessed child of this earth and in that way we are truly and forever bound as family. I promise you this, if you cry out to me when you are born, I will come to you. I will gather you up in my arms and never let you go. Sometimes I think I feel you already. Always I am waiting to hear your voice. Much love, your mother.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Penultimate Post

The Sullivan kids in the pool

Thanks for the ride Luke!

This is my friend vacuum

Nothing like a good book!

A chat with my dear friend Francie

Doing dishes is great!

I began this blog in September of 2007 in anticipation of adopting our daughter. We completed our home study in the fall of 2007 and were officially placed on the waiting list with Journeys of the Heart for a baby girl from Taiwan on December 3rd. Pei Jung was born on June 6th 2008 and referred to us just two months later on August 7th. Our court hearings took place on October 16th, November 18th and December 5th . We were united with our beautiful daughter on December 18th when she was just 6 1/2 months old in Taichung, Taiwan and brought her home on Christmas eve. Never will there be a Holiday as joyful as Christmas 2008.

At one year, Kate weighs 16 lbs 4 oz. and is in the 3rd percentile for height. She is an avid crawler and loves to pull herself up and cruise. It looks like she is going to be a climber. She is a great eater with a highly diverse appetite. We are constantly amazed at her love of spicy foods. She is very social and sweet and would love nothing more than for someone to sit with her all day and entertain her. She is a good sleeper who rarely wakes in the night and takes a 2 to 3 hour nap each day. Her temperament is happy, curious and calm. She plays "so big" and "Peek A Boo"and babbles throughout the day. She seems to be saying mama and dada but I am not quite convinced it is totally discriminate yet. The siblings get along very well and the dog tolerates them all. She has 7 teeth and about 5 more coming in, bless her little heart, it's not much fun. She has definitely been the easiest baby of the three (no offense boys, you are VERY easy children) and truly is a joy.
What an amazing journey this has been! With three wonderful children, our family is complete. If we were younger (and less tired!) and wanted more children we would adopt another child from Taiwan. We adored Taiwan and cannot wait to take the whole family back for a visit within the next decade. We feel honored and fortunate to have the opportunity to incorporate this fabulous culture into our lives. We are now Irish, German, Taiwanese Americans and proud of it. While the adoption process was emotionally challenging, in the end it was a very enriching and fulfilling experience both in terms of the education we received and the amazing people we were able to meet. Words of love, wisdom and support buoyed us throughout and came from family, friends and strangers literally from across the world. What a rare and wonderful glimpse into the essential goodness of the human spirit. To the wondrous Kate Pei-Jung, I have said it before but I will say it again, you have enriched our lives immeasurably and we feel incredibly blessed.
With our busy family of five, I never seem to find the time to post. So, sadly, this blog must come to and end. I am hopeful that I will be able to start a family blog in the future. I hope that anyone who is considering adoption or is in the process can find advice or support from our experience. Blessings to all of those on this complex extraordinary journey! I think you will find that great happiness awaits you!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

To our beloved daughter on her birthday!!!

Kate with "Auntie Sara" and her birthday cake
which (hopefully) says "Happy Birthday Pei Pei"
Kate's birthday dawning
Kate with grandma Sue B. and Sam on her birthday

Kate's Zhua Zhou "pick for the future" She picked an orange
indicating wealth and a book indicating literary interests.

To our darling Kathryn Pei-Jung,

Today you turned one year old!! What a blessing!! For your father, brothers and me it was the first time we could relish your birthday, smother you with love and whisper sweet nothings into your ears, regaling you with stories about the great joy you have brought to our lives. For you, of course, it was a second birthday. Your very first birthday took place in a far away land in the dawning hour of a new day. We were not with you then, but we were dreaming of you. We were not able to sit with your birth mother; to hold her hand, comfort her, look into her eyes and thank her for giving you life, but we wish we had been. We did not watch you slip into this world and take your first breath and for that we will always be a little sad because we are so sorry that we were not there to care for you EVERY SECOND of your precious life. We are so grateful, however, that you were able to spend time in Taiwan, the country of your birth. What a gift that your birth mother was able to hold and cuddle and coo to you when you were born and even in the months that followed. She made her deep love for you clear by nurturing you in her body for nine months, bestowing upon you a beautiful name and allowing you to become the treasured daughter in a family who could care for you in a way that she could not. We take such comfort in knowing that your early months were spent with a loving foster mother, Mrs. Lee, whom we had the great pleasure of meeting when we were in Taiwan. She was a lovely woman who emanated love and warmth and wept with joy and sadness when she placed you into our waiting arms. How exceptional that you were able to marinate for 6 1/2 months in the incredible sights, sounds and smells of La Isla Formosa, a country that enchanted us from the moment we set foot there. How thrilling it will be to return with you to visit this fascinating land.

We want all three of our children to enjoy rich satisfying lives, which may or may not include having children. There is really only one reason that we hope you might have children (in the VERY DISTANT future, mind you) and it is entirely selfish. Only when and if you have children of your own, either through birth or adoption, will you be able to FULLY comprehend the immeasurable unparalleled and profound sense of joy and fulfillment that a child brings to your life. Only then will you truly understand what a gift you have given to us simply by being. You are so loved dear Kate Pei Jung. Happy Birthday sweet daughter! Thank you for letting us love you. Mom and Dad.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

And a few more pictures...

Aww! Springtime in the Rockies! (late March)
Luke clowning around with Jack Panda
Sam and Dad at the top of Big Sky
Kate enjoys a dip

Dying Easter eggs (and look, the snow is gone!)

Oh Where Has The Time Gone???

The good shepherd Look mom! One hand!

Ski weekend at Sophie's cabin

I love my bath!!

Playing with my friend Ellie

Well, I find it absolutely unbelievable that I have posted nothing in almost 2 months! Where has the time gone? I feel like we are enjoying a golden era in our family. Everyone is healthy, happy and busy (knock on wood, throw salt over shoulder) Sam and Luke will be wrapping up their school year in June, Dan can breathe a well deserved sigh of relief after finishing our taxes and Kate is growing in every way every day. Me, I am just basking in the joy of my wonderful family. We are so very blessed. I guess I don't have to much to report at this point so I'll just get to the good stuff and post some pictures.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Notes from the Peanut Gallery

Just sitting around with my puppy
Kate has a playdate with pals Sara and Lewis

Swinging with my brothers

Really mom, don't you think I'm outgrowing this hat?

Geeez! I can't believe it is already the end of February! So, I need to sneak an update in before the end of the day. The shift from two to three kids has been easier in some ways and harder in other ways that I could not have imagined. Kate is such an easy good natured baby that her transition into her new life has been much smoother and more seamless than we had anticipated. In addition, her sweet nature makes her a total joy as a daily companion. The jealousy that I thought would ensue on the part of the boys after the honeymoon of her arrival had worn off has failed to materialize; they just love her. The difference is this: I just feel BUSIER! A lot busier for some reason. The laundry seems to have grown exponentially, I run the dishwasher twice instead of once a day now, the dog has gotten the short end of the stick in terms of consistent exercise (now that I think of it, my fitness routine is not going that well either) the house is definitely not as clean as it used to be, I'm behind on all my correspondences and I can't seem to keep the pantry stocked. How can this be with just the addition of one little person?? I don't know the answer to that. I can only tell you this has been my experience. Despite being more tired and busier than I have been in a while I am thoroughly delighted with our family of five!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!

January 26th ushers in the New Year throughout much of Asia. The earth rat must skitter away to make way for the powerful earth ox who achieves prosperity through fortitude and hard work. According to the Chinese horoscope, Ox people (like our new President Barack Obama) are dependable, calm and modest. Like his animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in his work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

So Happy New Year to all! The above phrase "Xin Nian Kuai Le" is Mandarin for Happy New Year and is generally what you will hear in Taiwan. Many are familiar with the oft uttered New Year's greeting "Kung hei fat choi" which is Cantonese for congratulations and be prosperous.
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is considered the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays and is celebrated in many parts of Asia including China, Taiwan, Korea, Bhutan, Vietnam, Macau, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippians and Thailand.

The Lunar New Year is based on the Chinese calendar (this year it is actually year 4706!) and falls on the second or, less often, the third new moon after the winter solstice depending on intercalary events.

Common traditions to celebrate the New Year include: thoroughly cleaning the house in the days prior to the New Year to rid homes of any bad luck left over from the previous year. Conversely, one does NOT sweep the house for the first three days of the New Year so as to avoid sweeping out any incoming good luck. Before the New Year many families decorate their homes with paper lanterns and banners in which the color red is liberally applied. Parades with firecrackers as well as dragon and lion dances are seen in homes and in the streets and feasting is a central event in the New Years celebration. There are many traditional foods associated with the holiday and many of them have specific meanings: bamboo shoots, oranges, egg rolls and seaweed - wealth; dried bean curd-happiness; chicken -happiness and marriage; eggs-fertility; pomelos and fish served whole - prosperity; Lychee nuts - close family ties; noodles and peanuts- long life; tangerines - luck; and different types of seeds for having many children. Happily for me, since white is a color associated with death in China tofu is avoided.

Gifts are also given during the New Year as is "hong bao" or red envelopes generally given to children and filled with coins (real or chocolate!).
We were eager to begin some Lunar New Year traditions of our own (personally I find it much more interesting than the January 1st New Year!) so we jumped in but started small. No, I did not do a thorough spring cleaning, although I think I managed to get most of the laundry done the day before N.Y. (does that count?) We decorated (albeit minimally) with a red paper lantern, a red double fish table runner (the double fish being an important symbol of abundance) and a bounty of oranges. We ordered Chinese food and sat around the table reading the story of how the Chinese zodiac came into being. My kids love to talk about what animals we all are (from oldest to youngest: dragon, sheep, snake, sheep, rat) The kids received special chopsticks of their own in addition to their hong bao. We intend to grow the tradition through the years, but thought we best get going on it this year. We also attended a community Lunar New Year celebration at the experiential children's museum here in town put on by the Congee Club, our FCC chapter.
I am now beginning to understand something about International Adoption that I didn't FULLY realise (at least not on an emotional level )until recently. You honor your child's traditions, of course, because you want them to be familiar with and appreciate their heritage. I got that from the beginning. But now I see it a bit differently. You learn, grow and celebrate in these traditions because now it is a part of who YOU are as a family. It is definitely about the "whole" not the "one". You have adopted not only a child but an entire culture of which you will incorporate at least pieces of into your life. Much like marrying into a family from a different background you are now merging as one unique unit that weaves together diverse traditions. It isn't about Kate as an individual rather, it is about the Sullivan's and who we are now and who we are becoming. I must admit, the cultural anthropology major in me could not be more thrilled with this expansive development. Thank you Kate for bringing this richness into our life. You are so loved sweet girl.
Note: I recognize that Kate often looks very serious in her photos which is ironic as she is actually a very happy smiley baby. I don't think we have a model in the making though. She is highly suspect of the camera.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

Sam pushing Kate in the "Baby Train"
Since bringing Kate home we have been doing a lot
of just this: hanging out in our p.j.s

Dan on diaper duty.

"Why yes, I can sit up by myself"

"Do y'all do Pilates?"

My master plan was to wrap up Bao Bei Baby on New Years Eve and begin a new blog dedicated to the whole family beginning January 1st. You've got to admit, that would have been so perfect right? And yet...Somehow I just have not found the time to pen a meaningful farewell and launch a new era. Sigh ~ So my NEW plan is to keep this blog going until Kate's first birthday (June 6th) and begin working on a family blog in the meantime. So, here are a few pictures of Ms. Kate. We have been home for 2 weeks now and she has been settling in very well. In fact we are surprised by what a seamless transition this has been. She continues to be a very sweet easy darling baby. She eats and sleeps well and has a very happy disposition. I am so grateful that JOH required the education plan because we felt it prepared us for how to handle Kate's transition to her new life. We have mostly stayed around the house with her and had limited interaction with other people. We have kept things VERY low key and I am thoroughly convinced that this is the way to go! She sure is a fun baby! Once again, we have been incredibly blessed!