- She loves to swing, bounce, and rock – or any kind of movement. Adding timely sound effects guarantees the most endearing laughter.
- She coos and sings when she is happy.
- She’s so tiny (15.2 pounds), you can slip her into the high chair without pulling out the tray.
- She enjoys having her face wiped and especially loves having her hands washed under running water.
- She is a good listener and is generally attentive to whatever is going on around her.
- She eats whatever you offer, and lots of it.
- She loves to ride in the baby carrier and eagerly helps me position her into it.
- She smiles easily.
- She will play peek-a-boo (!) for hours.
- She babbles cheerfully and endlessly using a multitude of different sounds.
- She stops crying when she hears music – any music.
- She can hum the first six notes of Brahms’ Lullaby recognizably, and does this often.
- She can eat Cheerios like a dainty princess but prefers to stuff them into her mouth like some people eat popcorn.
- She has rhythm and likes to bang. She beats a lollipop drum – with her feet!
- She rides cheerfully in a car seat on long trips.
- She pushes us away less and less everyday.
- She is increasingly affectionate and loving, but doesn’t need to be held all the time.
- She puts herself to sleep in a crib every night. Never mind that she wakes many nights around 3:00 am and needs a little help to get back to sleep. We have Andrea Bocelli for times like this.
- She has slept through the whole night six times since we’ve been home.
- She has a long attention span and explores toys and objects for long periods.
- She reaches out and readily explores her environment (using hands and feet).
- She scoots on her back to move around and often ends up under my bed.
- Her favorite toys are bags or anything “crinkly.”
- She always wakes up in a good mood – even when we have to wake her, which is often.
- She self soothes by sucking her thumb.
The US Consulate in Guangzhou issued Hope’s visa packet on Tuesday afternoon — with a sweet new picture taken at her medical appointment.We celebrated with a photo shoot on the couch in our hotel room, since the iconic red couch at the White Swan (or any other hotel in Guangzhou) is no more. We dressed her in a traditional red Chinese dress or cheongsam, one of several we purchased for her to wear later on as she grows.
Hope’s US visa looks similar to our Chinese visas — a full page sticker in her burgundy People’s Republic of China passport. The officer at the consulate warned us not to open the sealed brown envelope containing original documents required by immigration officials. He told us (and the other families) that we could be forced to return to Guangzhou to get another packet if they found evidence of tampering. You better believe we packed that baby with great care, sealed in it’s large clear folder in our carry on luggage (exactly as instructed.)
It was good to hear the landing gear lock into position and feel our plane touch down at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Airport earlier today, though we actually began our journey on Wednesday a little after noon. With a roughly 12-hour layover in Seoul, we were grateful to whomever had the foresight to build a transit hotel in the middle of the Incheon airport. This meant we could sleep in a comfy bed for the night and wake semi-refreshed for the last leg of our journey. We flew across 13 time zones, leaving Seoul this morning at 9:20 am and arriving in Atlanta at 10:00 am the same day, though the flight actually took 13 hours and 40 minutes. We traveled at varying speeds of 600-700+ mph most of the way, through day, night, and day again. The flight attendants on Korean Air allowed only an occasional peek through the window shades to control interior lighting inside the cabin. I assume they were helping us adjust our circadian rhythms to the extreme time change, thereby minimizing jet lag. We need a miracle, or several, in that regard. Since Hope has no light perception, her circadian rhythm is not continually reset by environmental light. She slept very little on the plane, so we are hoping for a good transition.
You can read between the lines… imagine bringing an 18-month old who doesn’t know you (and doesn’t wish to be comforted by you) on a nearly 14-hour plane ride. She is working through natural and expected grief at being torn away from all she has ever known and thrust into a completely unfamiliar environment with strangers who don’t speak her language. Right now she doesn’t really want to be touched, let alone held for long periods. She is an orphan no more; by God’s grace she has a family. Not a perfect family — but a perfect family for her! Still that emotional transition doesn’t happen overnight. Her joy will come! Every beat of my heart tells me it will come. And it will be sure and sweet and lasting. Lord, give her joy in her circumstances. Give her joy in the journey. You are able.
We pulled out Hope’s sealed brown envelope and presented her Chinese passport as we approached immigration soon after landing. I’m pretty sure we had goofy grins on our faces. Even the stony-faced immigration officers showed emotion when they realized a newly adopted kiddo [i.e., orphan-no-more] was coming through on their watch. It’s difficult to read what they were thinking; but I’m guessing they, too, were celebrating ‘one less’ in their hearts.
For immigration purposes, Hope is considered an IH-3 — a child whose adoption was “full and final” in the child’s home country. According to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, she was granted US citizenship automatically upon entry to the United States. Getting this final step behind us made my heart sing.
It feels so good to be bringing her home!
As we emerged from the baggage claim area, we looked up to see our son holding a whimsical reproduction of the foster family’s welcome sign, with little Hope Wen Jie photoshopped into the picture.
Thanks Whitney, Jr. I love you to the moon and back… you amazing, warm, funny, silly, lovable, big brother to two Littles and little brother to one Big. I am so blessed by you. ❤︎
We are now in Guangzhou in the Guangdong province of China. This is where everyone comes to get a visa to the United States since the US consulate is here. We traveled to Guangzhou from Huaihua City on the high speed bullet train, having adjusted our itinerary in order to spend one night in Wen Jie’s hometown. We were very blessed to get this opportunity, as adoptive families have long been denied permission to visit, presumably because it is a military city. (The orphanage director most likely had something to do with our gaining permission.) Our guide, Wendy Wang, and Peng (the lady who brought Wen Jie to Changsha and signed the adoption papers with us) handled everything. We were told the staff was very pleased that we were adopting Wen Jie and they were eager to meet us and have us visit her orphanage — her home, as they called it. Wendy has taken families to this SWI twice recently and they too were welcomed warmly and with great joy. I’ll make a post with photos and details of our visit soon.
We could hardly pull ourselves away from the orphanage or Huaihua City, as there was much to soak in regarding her community, her people and their way of life. So much to learn about Wen Jie’s way of life, her babyhood, and the circumstances regarding how she came to be there. But her doctor’s visit for final visa approval could not be further postponed.
The day before we left Changsha Wendy took us to visit Orange Island. It is one of many alluvial sandbars located along the Lower Xiangjiang River and is considered to be the largest inland island in the world. Despite the heat and humidity, we enjoyed strolling through the park among the beautiful flowers and fruit trees.
After the park, we enjoyed a lunch of pork and crazy hot peppers at a small restaurant adjacent to the park. (Wendy warned us not to eat the peppers but they gave a terrific flavor to the meat). On the way to the van, we purchased a small wooden comb for Wen Jie and some charms with her Chinese name on them at a local souvenir booth.
Back near the hotel, we perused a local bookstore and found a Chinese lullaby CD and a few classic children’s books, in Chinese of course.
We also bought some authentically Chinese jumpers for the girls (which later turned out to be Korean) and several matching shirts for a few dollars a piece. Lily got some new shoes for $9.00! Things here our very inexpensive, so we’re gonna need an extra piece of luggage before returning home. After a tasty dinner of Chinese noodles, we headed back to the hotel to repack everything for our 2-hour trip by train to Huaihua City the next morning.
Wen Jie is very happy riding in the Ergo baby carrier on my chest, but as soon as we get back to our hotel room she is eager to get out and play on her red blanket on the bed. Though she refuses to let me put her down anywhere else, she knows when we are in the room and eagerly anticipates getting out. She plays happily by herself for an hour or more (lying mostly on her back) and seems to have a long attention span with toys, crinkly bags or packages. She sucks her thumb for comfort, though she doesn’t seem to be very good at it and sometimes forgets she has it. I wonder how long she has been a thumb sucker.
The Sanders Family just grew by two feet.
Sweet baby footprint
We returned to the Civil Affairs Office with our guide this morning to complete the adoption registration, certification and notary process. The two officials from the orphanage who brought Wen Jie by train yesterday to Changsha (capital of the Hunan province) were there to sign with us. When they came over to greet Wen Jie and wish her a good morning, she cried and objected loudly as though they might attempt to take her back. We are surprised and delighted that it seems Hope Wen Jie is not only open to us but she seems to be actually choosing us. Our most recent reports from the agency were pretty clear that she had developed a fear of strangers. Last week when WACAP officials visited her orphanage, she would not allow anyone to touch her. Our guide, Wendy, was in attendance for that visit and she can hardly believe this is the same child.
She told me she believes this is a miracle!
We can’t imagine how Hope is going through this whole process with no apparent grieving. It’s as though she was waiting for us and she is ready for us to be her family. She just soaks up the attention we lavish on her and relishes being held, carried, loved on.
God has done a tremendous thing in preparing her heart for us and in preparing our hearts for her. We asked for a miracle. I remember asking the Lord countless times since February to accomplish this, so I’m not sure why it comes as a surprise. I just know it is a crazy, amazing answer to our prayers and I’m thrilled to be taking it all in. Oh Lord, use this to increase my faith that You will accomplish what concerns us in the next few months as we learn to parent this precious gift.
During a short interview, the adoption officer reviewed our paperwork and then asked, through an interpreter, if we were happy with the baby.
Happy with the baby?
Do birds sing? Is the earth round? Will the sun rise tomorrow?
As sure as a stone drops from the hand that lets it go. As sure as birth and death. As sure as day and night succeed each other. As sure as gravity. As sure as Heaven…
As sure as anything that ever was sure, we are so very happy with our baby girl! And we praise the God that made Heaven and Earth for bringing us together.
God sets the lonely in families. ~Psalm 68:6
We flew into China from Seoul on Saturday evening around 6:30 pm. Our guide, Wendy Wang, was waiting at the airport with a driver. We loaded our luggage and rode about 45 minutes to the Huatian (why-tee’-in) Hotel in Changsha (Chang-sha’) and fell into bed, exhausted. God is so good! We have felt the presence of angels several times since we left home. One had the face of a young Chinese girl chasing after us with a passport we must’ve dropped on our way out of the airport. Carrying a sleeping 5 year-old while managing heaps of luggage is not our favorite way to go through immigration and customs. I have to admit, more than once since we left home I’ve agreed with many of our friends that we must be
How did we ever think we could do this?
And yet, inexplicably, I have a song in my heart and peace in the deepest places of my soul as we proceed forth with great eagerness. Very soon there will be one less orphan in the world.
And one more little Sanders to love.
Wendy had a few pictures on her phone since she was also the guide who accompanied several WACAP agency representatives to visit our little one’s orphanage last week. When I saw those pictures, my spirit was renewed and I remembered this one is ours – she was always meant to be in our family and we can hardly wait to woo her and make her our own little daughter.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5
Please join us in asking God for a miracle. There is nothing He cannot do. We probably need a series of miracles to heal her broken heart and quiet her countless fears as she is transferred to our care. So sad that you have to break her heart to give her the blessing of family but so glad she has been loved up to this point. He is able!
It won’t be long now…
We will always treasure our time with this sweet family. They rented a large van so we could travel together, especially helpful since Koreans drive by a different set of rules. During our brief two days in Seoul, we visited the Social Welfare Society (SWS) and the Baby’s Reception Home and had lunch with Hyejin (Hay-chin), who handled our adoption.
We had planned to purchase a hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, while in Korea since these are difficult and expensive to purchase in the states and her first hanbok has been long outgrown; but Lovey received two as gifts while we were there! Omma and Appa bought her a traditional one that is very beautiful and fits perfectly, with just a little room to grow. She looks lovely in it, as you can see in the photographs. Hyejin presented Lovey with a more modern or ‘fusion’ hanbok with a skirt made of tulle — so precious and fun! She is delighted with both and will wear them with the poise of a true Korean princess.
We enjoyed walking around the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds, also known as the Palace of Felicitous Blessing. This was the main Palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). We took pictures just like Omma and Appa had done with Sarang before she came home.
After the palace we visited Omma & Appa’s home. We are so impressed with this precious couple who has loved and cared for 11 orphans while they waited for forever families. The walls and shelves of their home are decorated with photographs of these children smiling and laughing with the forever families who obviously adore them. So many lives touched! We are amazed as we begin to see how much Omma and Appa have given to help these kiddos do well. I am humbled thinking how much fostering has cost them and yet how blessed and fulfilled they are for saying ‘yes’ to such a calling.
We also had the opportunity to have dinner together at a Chinese/Korean restaurant and then walk to visit the church where Sarang was first taught to pray (gido).
We met their pastor, who laid hands on Sarang and prayed for her and for us, and for God’s continued blessing and provision in our lives and for her new little sister who will soon be home. Many friends who had prayed for Sarang when she was in Seoul came by to see her and to rejoice again that God had chosen her to be adopted by a family who loves the Lord. These are people who continue to pray for her and they celebrated with us when they heard what God is doing in our lives.
We also managed to squeeze in a few precious minutes of shopping! I was able to find chopstick trainers and sweet, inexpensive COTTON pajamas for the girls, which are next to impossible to find at home.
We spent the better part of two days together and, since we had an interpreter most of our visit, we were able to communicate many things that had previously been left unsaid. We asked questions, they asked questions, and we took every opportunity to understand and be understood. During our time together, Sarang pieced together a little more of her story and renewed a special fondness and intimacy with this family who still loves her and remembers her with great affection.
Words in any language are completely inadequate to express how I feel, but these sweet friends will forever have a place in our hearts and in our daughter’s story. What an incredible difference they have made for this one – and for ten other orphans in Korea.
“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” ~Matthew 18:5
From the bottom of my heart I honor, admire, and esteem these precious friends and will forever hereafter consider them as family — the best kind of family.
May God bless the tie that binds our hearts…
Greetings friends and family. I am re-starting this blog from our hotel in Seoul because I have something special to share. Our story comes full circle in this place because we’re on our way to bring another daughter home from Asia — this time from the Hunan province in China.
We couldn’t come so close to the land of Lovey’s birth and not allow her to be reunited with the people who loved her and poured life and faith into her while she waited for a forever family — the ones who prayed for her and continue to pray and wonder about her 4 years later. This is where her story begins.
What a joy-filled reunion! We arrived yesterday to a warm welcome at the Incheon Airport and have been the recipients of a crazy love lavished upon us in warmest ways imaginable.
Details to follow… but suffice it to say these folks know a thing or two about love and hospitality and they have spared nothing in making us feel welcome.
Join me in the next few days for updates and pictures celebrating what God is doing on our journey to Hope. ♥