Wednesday, October 25, 2006

So Much To Do, So Little Time

I can't believe we have so many checkmarks on our homestudy checklist already! Although this is child's play compared to the paperwork for the Dossier of forms that goes to China, it's huge progress in our book.

There's a saying that keeps me going that is the motto to anyone involved in an adoption from China:

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break. - Chinese Proverb

Incidentally, a couple with a blog on my blogroll in the right margin met their twin daughters in China today! Click here to see their adorable girls!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Parents Are Always the Last to Know What Their Kids Are Up To

It seems like parents always complain that they're the last to know what's going on in their kids lives, especially now that we're grown. Announcing our adoption plan was no exception. Today was the day that I've been preparing for, for weeks... wait, scratch that...months.

I wasn't sure when it would happen, but I was fairly certain that I would eventually slip in conversation and say something about..."when the baby comes", or, "while we're in China". We both felt like we had to wait to make everything official to family until after we started our homestudy (kind of like waiting for the first ultrasound to come out OK), whereas telling people at work seemed less permanent. Nothing is more like indelible marker than telling mom & dad, that's for sure! Luckily, I never slipped and didn't have to try to explain away why we wanted a bigger family vehicle and house.

The con for the night was dinner for my dad's birthday, which was a deserved event by itself. However, I had to figure out a way to get all 4 parents together at the same time in the same place without raising suspicion. God planned ahead over a decade ago and matched me with a guy who's parents' anniversary just HAPPENS to fall on my dad's birthday. That has to be more than a coincidence!

So, after dinner, we went back to my parents house for dessert and presents. We also planned to watch videos of their recent trip to Alaska, so there was a lot to get done. After ice cream (mom, please make licorice ice cream for Thanksgiving!) my dad opened presents... great, great, nice Sears gift card dad, let's keep the night moving. We've got news!

Next was the home video of Alaska. After about 30 minutes, I couldn't wait. I felt bad, but I made my mom stop the video so I could start my progressive gift process slowly unveiling our news.... Here's how it went:

The general idea was that each gift had a silk "fortune cookie" with a fortune message that related loosly to the gift and China. I spent quite a while coming up with messages that would relate, but not give it away.

Gift 1: Silk change pouch with rice candy and old chinese coins.


  1. Don't carry in your purse what you can hold in your heart
  2. The makers of silk bring great change

Gift 2: Mini paper lantern lights


  1. Paper + Light = A Fire Hazard
  2. Better to travel into the dark than to sit idle in the light

Gift 3: Chinese food container filled with rice, ginger candy, and cloissone box


  1. A billion grains of rice minus one equals a great celebration
  2. Ginger isn't just for Gilligan fans

Gift 4: Porcelain tea cup with loose green tea


  1. Soon tears will flow like tea
  2. Some relationships are worth all the tea in China

Gift 5: The Big Reveal

Wrapped photo albums with the following picture in the front frame

China Baby Map Pink Mousepad

Trish had to practically spoil everything by guessing on the first gift. We played it off OK, though, and it went pretty fast. If only the map wasn't outlined in pink, it would have been perfect. I guess that's what happens when there's no market for boy colors in China Adoption products. Oh well. I get the feeling this little guy will see his fill of ladybugs and pigtails in his journey.

So, at that point we had to give everyone a crash course in International Adoption. Not easy when we've been eating, sleeping and drinking it and they haven't.

Now, as long as we can keep our parents from buying out Babies R Us before we're even DTC, we'll be in good shape. Now, we can resume the boring paperchase!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who are the Special Needs Children?

Few people who know of our adoption plan are aware that we are considering the Waiting Child or Special Needs route. From my newly constructed soap box, let me explain the similarities and differences as I've discovered them through my research:

Waiting Children- Waiting kids are typically the children who are "paper ready", but just aren't chosen. Paper ready means that their orphanage has filled out the proper paperwork allowing them to be adopted internationally.

Most often, these kids are boys who are either beyond the desirable infant age classification, or have a Special Need. Some girls make the list and many with correctable issues, but just not as many and they don't stick around long. Look at almost any website, blog, book, or forum regarding Chinese adoption, and you'll see a million references to the "Lost girls of China", or "Waiting for ", but almost no references ever to boys. Many people simply come to China adoption because they want to be guaranteed a girl. There's nothing wrong with that. After all, we want to be guaranteed a boy and many don't understand why we're adopting from China. However, there are boys, but they simply get passed over again and again.

Unfortunately, many boys "age out", meaning they never get chosen and either leave the orphanage at 14 or, in the larger facilities, stay on as permanent residents, becoming a caretaker or worker of some kind. Because most orphanages are also hospitals or "elderly facilities", those with considerable needs have a place to stay, but again, without parents or any sense of identity or root system. 9 times out of 10, though, the healthy or healthy-ish kids must leave and find jobs or wind up homeless...14 years old. What a burden. These poor kids were simply forgotten and are among thousands of others who will never find parents of their own. Considering that they account for about a thousandth of a percent of China's population, they really are "lost in the system" in every sense of the phrase.

Special Needs- Take a look at almost any agencies Waiting Children's lists for China and you'll see right away that they are almost all boys that range from 1 to 14, some with severe medical needs ranging from paralysis to down's syndrome with everything in between. The most common special need in Asia is Cleft Lip and Palate. These boys are often abandoned because they are no longer the idea of the perfect son, who may not meet the cultural standard that identifies them as healthy and able to care for parents in old age and carry on the family history, including good genes. With a facial disfigurement or scar, he may not find a good job or a good wife (who will also take care of them as they age). More than anything else, this simply means big medical bills. There is no question that they love their children and don't want to give them up, but the one child law combined with cultural standards means that they really have to be picky. The reasoning must be that they'll try again for a child better suited to their cultural and social standings.

This is why we decided to go the special needs route, most likely a Cleft affected child. These are boys with a need that can be resolved almost completely with a simple surgical procedure, by US standards. Yes, there are sometimes speech and dental needs as well as additional surgeries later in life to correct small issues, but overall, it is almost a non issue. To give one of these little guys a chance at all the opportunities life has to offer was a no-brainer for us. We also have some of the best pediatric craniofacial doctors in the US and world, right here in Seattle at Children's Medical Center (hey, the people at Children's pretty much saved my premature life, so I have no problem trusting them with my child).

There are other special needs that are correctable, such as club hand/foot. I always thought this was when their limb looked like a club. So much for my great medical knowledge. Typically, it just means that the limb was twisted in the womb and needs to be straightened. Again, there may be some residual effects, but nothing we can't work through.

There are also limb differences or missing digits, which may, if deemed necessary, can be corrected with surgery or prosthetics. That's a little less "correctable" and a little more "get over it world", but that's OK, too.

Lets not forget the kids with birthmarks. Yes, birthmarks.

Regardless, these little ones really deserve a shot at a real life and should not be subject to the "scratch and dent" pile. I think we just happened to get lucky and figure all this out early on in the process.

I'll elaborate on Cleft Lip/Palate in a future entry.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What We've Accomplished So Far

Although it's October, we went to our first adoption orientation in April. We already knew we wanted to adopt, specifically international adoption, and we knew we would most likely go through WACAP. We witnessed two great adoptions through this agency and liked what we knew so far about their programs.

We went into the orientation sure we wanted to adopt from Russia. India was also a possibility...oh and then there's Thailand....or what about Vietnam? Obviously we had some research to do. I had been doing research on Russia and the more and more we read, the more and more it didn't feel right. I'll go into why at another time, but basically, we no longer felt that maintaining Shawn's Eastern European heritage was critical.

Shortly after a visit from Shawn's cousin Troy, his wife Shannon and their little boy Alex, from Korea, we made the decision to change countries. Ironically, we didn't consider any of the countries listed above. It was unanimously China. The more research we did, the more it felt right.

In June, we sent in our agency application to start the process. Now it was real! Could we change our minds? Maybe we could just get another dog.

Summer of 06 was quite the whirlwind. Shawn traveled much of the time, which meant that we needed to put the progression of our plans on hold for a few months. After his trip to the Philippines and our trip to Hawaii, we felt ready to move forward. At this point, our family still had no idea what we were up to and only a few coworkers knew about our plans. Telling them meant we really couldn't turn back. Dog 2 was sounding pretty safe at this point.

The next step was a weekend class at our agency offices that kicks off the homestudy. Homestudy is basically that, a study by a social worker of whether or not we can provide a stable home environment for a child. Sounds easy, but this is when we're really under the microscope. FBI checks, fingerprints, home visits, taxes, net worth, medical scrutiny, etc. Is it OK to have nothing in the pantry but martini fixings and a boboli shell?

So, we're in the midst of this process and the "paperchase" that goes along with it. This will be the boring part for everyone, including us. Next weekend, we will be revealing the news to our parents. I'm sure there will be a huge story to tell.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Story of Us...A Travelogue

Many of our viewers already know this about us, but for those who don't, Shawn and I have been married for 10 years (2/27/96) and have been childless by choice (some people wonder what MUST be wrong for a couple to wait so long to have children). When parental pangs hit, we started with fish and our beloved Quaker parrot Gonzo about 6 years ago, then added our long awaited puppy last December. After researching breeders for almost a year, we found Polli. Life has, quite literally, not been the same since!

Most everyone has seen their fair share of pictures of her and has heard countless stories about her crazy antics. Although most parents probably roll their eyes behind our backs, we truly believe she is like a human toddler. She has been great practice for the real thing!

Shawn and I have enjoyed traveling, especially in the past few years. We were married on the island of St. Thomas on an empty white sand beach. My family's love for the tropics made this a dream come true for me.

We took a very long hiatus from serious vacations (almost 10 years) as we were the typical young couple with no money, which gave way to building and filling a new house. During our first several years of marriage, our most worldly travels were trips to visit our Mrzena family friends, Dawn and Wally Pfeiffer (possibly the most gracious hosts on the planet) at their mountainside home and lakefront property in Coeur d'Alene Idaho. Both during the summer and winter, it is one of the few places I would stay in the Northwest to live long term. It is really heaven on earth in the middle of nowhere (not to mention the best coffee shop I've found...this is a shameless plug for the “Bowl of Soul” at Java on Sherman!)

I traveled around the country several times a year for my company, which was a great opportunity and we took a great trip up to chilly (understatement) Fairbanks, Alaska to visit Shawn's brother Matt, wife Kristen, and kids Cade and Taylor. Sadly, it has been almost 4 years since our trip up and we can't wait to visit again. Round that out with a few trips to California, an "exciting" trip for Shawn to Fargo, a long weekend to Whistler BC, and a trip to Vegas for my 30th B-Day (does Vegas really count?).

Fast forward to October of 2005, when we set off on a long planned and much anticipated 3 week trip to the Mediterranean. We quickly realized that life is too short NOT to enjoy the world when we can. We cannot wait to go back to Rome, specifically. It was so hard to leave. I've never loved a place, people, or environment more. This is also where a budding amateur photographer named Shawn Mrzena found his hidden talents.

In July, we received the good news that Shawn's team at work had won a well deserved trip to Maui. Because I vacationed there as a child and had heard a million stories from my parents about their annual trips, I was excited to go with Shawn in September for his first Hawaiian experience. It definitely lived up to the expectations. Add Maui to the list of places we can't wait to return to.

Backtracking a bit, Shawn traveled to train a team in the Philippines in August, gone almost the whole month. The trip exposed Shawn to 2 things that he quickly developed a passion for: SE Asia and First Class. A quick stop through Japan to pick up a magnet for my collection rounded out his trip. More places for that list.

So that brings us to present day, as we plan to take more leaps. One, the head first dive into the big scary ocean that is first time parenthood, and another, an exhilarating trip halfway around the world to meet our child in China. Part of us can't wait for another travel adventure, but another part can't wait to see first hand what these children live through and why they should not stay another day. It is an opportunity that few get to experience and we certainly won't take for granted.