Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year!

Just got the word today that we got the approval from the U.S. Consulate in China (this is the one our agency said could be anywhere from 2-6 weeks. It was just over 2 weeks, with the holidays!)

Now just waiting for regular TA (travel approval) from CCAA, which is usually about 2-3 weeks. Then we buy tickets and leave within about two weeks. So January travel is still possible, though it would probably be the end of the month. Looks like we might be over during Chinese New Year--exciting but expensive!

We are very much looking forward to 2010, since it will be the year we finally meet our daughter and bring her home into our family.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy birthday, Sophie Yue!

We wish we were with you to celebrate your turning 1 today! I'm sure your foster mama did something nice for you. I talked about you on "Fox Valley Today," a television show where I was plugging my book this morning. And we raised a glass to you at the dinner following our friend Jon's mom's funeral tonight. And we talked about your birthday with Sam, who still insists on saying, "No like" whenever we mention you these days!

Since our referral, we've been waiting for 1) our homestudy update because of our move; 2) for our homestudy update to be approved by Illinois DCFS; and 3) our I-800 approval, which we got about 2 weeks before Christmas. Now we are waiting for additional approval from the U.S. Embassy in China (which is taking between 2-6 weeks, according to our agency), and then TA from China (another 2-3 weeks). We will travel about 10 days after that.

So while January is still possible, it's looking like it might be February before we get to travel to get Sophie Yue. Please hang in there, honey. Mama and Daddy are coming soon!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Cutest. Dragon. Ever.

Dear Sam,

For your first trick-or-treating, you dressed as a dragon, compliments of Auntie Amy. She bought you the costume last year, but I think we were too exhausted to celebrate Halloween then. We had just celebrated your first birthday and baptism with lots of family and friends.

Our new neighborhood had a little parade starting at the park with all the costumed kids, maybe 100 people with parents. Of course, you were the absolute cutest one there. I don't think you were afraid, but you did seem a little confused by all the kids in their costumes. And you never once complained about the somewhat ridiculous outfit we put on you!

We had tried to practice saying, "Trick or Treat" with you before we went out, but all you kept saying was, "Candy! Candy!" When I'd ask, "What do you say?" you'd say, "Please, candy!"

We only went to a few houses because you kept wanting to stop and look at the candy in your little bag. You also enjoyed seeing the other kids come to our house and ran to the door every time the doorbell rang.

Now whenever I mention Halloween, you say, "Thank you man" with the "thank you" sign. That's what you seem to remember from Halloween: saying thank you to the man who gave you candy. Such nice manners.

It is so fun to watch you experience all the little kid things: birthday parties, trick or treating, etc. You really are thriving. Seeing pictures of little Sophie, it's hard to remember that only a year ago you, too, were this little thing who had some catching up to do. Everyone said we'd be amazed how fast it happened, and we are. Can't wait for next year, with two of you trick or treating.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sam turns 2!

The day started with a new-to-Sam (gently used) tricycle. When he saw it with the bow, he said, "Happy to me!"

Next came a big party with 65 people (including 26 kids) at our new house. Yikes.

There were mimosas and bloody Marys for the grownups; juice pouches for the kids. And chocolate cake for everyone.

Thanks to this cold damp weather we've been having, the pinata had to be taken downstairs. It was filled with Tootsie Rolls and peanut butter cups.

Once the party was over, the sun came out (of course). So Sam went for a walk with Auntie Trish, who was visiting from Philadelphia. She was a great help at the party, too!

Playing in the park. A perfect birthday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More pictures!

There's a little smile! Many people have commented on how (ahem) "healthy" she looks, with those chubby little cheeks. At 6 1/2 months, she weighs 14 1/2 pounds, while Sam at 7 months weighed just under 12 pounds. We're telling Sam to "eat up," lest he get his butt kicked by his younger sister.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How we learned about our daughter

Dear Sophie,

Your Dad and I are embarrassed to admit that we were eating lunch at Chili's, a rather pedestrian suburban restaurant that we rarely if ever frequent, when we learned about you for the first time. Here's why.

We had learned the day before that we had been included with this batch of referrals and that calls would be made the next morning at 11 a.m., our time. Your Dad had to teach his class at Aurora University until 11:45, and I didn't want to get the news without him, so Sam and I traveled with him to Aurora that Tuesday morning. While he taught his class, we went shopping at a nearby Jewel, visited Auntie Amy in the library and a bunch of other AU people, and ran around on the quad. It was a chilly but sunny fall day.

Around 11:30, I still hadn't gotten the call, but Sam and I went to hang out side your Dad's classroom door, just in case. Some students saw us peek in, and your Dad came running out. False alarm. Class let out at 11:45, but still no call. So the three of us found an empty classroom, where we could show Sam Sesame Street videos on the computer and waited.

And waited. By 12:15, still no call and we were hungry. So we decided to go to lunch. Auntie Amy came with us. We were going to go to Panera's, but I decided I needed a little mid-day glass of wine to calm me down. So Chili's it was, since they have a bar. (I ended up going with a strawberry mojito!)

We ate lunch and jumped every time the phone rang, but it was always friends calling to see if we had news yet, so we didn't answer. Dad had a turkey sandwich and I had a shrimp taco salad. Sam ate lots of my shrimp and threw his milk on the floor.

Just as the bill arrived, the phone rang and I saw the 303 area code. So off your Dad and I went to the vestibule, where we put the phone on speaker and got the news that "It's a girl." I was taking notes and crying, because all the news was so good. We had been worried about virtual twinning with your brother, but that won't be a problem. We were also happy to learn you have been in foster care almost your whole short life, though we know that will make it harder for you --and your foster mom--when we come get you. Still, it means you have attached to someone, and that's good.

Auntie Amy tried used her iPhone to see if the email with photo had arrived yet, but it hadn't. So we dropped her back off at work and drove the hour home before we got to see your cute, chubby little face.

Oh, and Auntie Amy paid the bill for lunch. She's always doing that. Thanks, Amy.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a girl!

We are happy to announce we have a daughter!!!!!!

Name: Feng Yue Chun (Yue means "moon"; Chun means "Spring")
Born: Dec. 29, 2008
Feng Cheng City Social Welfare Institute (in foster care since Jan. 5)
Jiangxi Province
At 6.5 months: 24.8 inches tall, 14.5 pounds, 16.3 inches head circumference

Likes to be carried to the street to play
Favorite toy is a rattle.
Likes to be gently rocked or patted to sleep.
Deep sleeper!
Sucks her fingers
Can hold up her head, roll over, grasp toys
Laughs out loud, knows her name, responds to faces
Likes music
Smiles (though not in this photo. And it looks like she might have curly hair!)

We'll have more photos tomorrow. Story of how we got the news to come...

(Also looking for help in pronouncing "Yue.")

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's a boy!

No, not our child from China.

Ed's brother's wife, Kremena, had a baby boy today. They named him Nicholas. Congrats to Tom, Kremena and big sister Elena!

The Butlers will go from two grandchildren to four practically overnight.

BIG NEWS!!!!!!

I've been meaning to post to this blog to let everyone know that we sold our condo, bought a house, moved and that Ed is now teaching a class at Aurora University. Also that we finally got approved for the I-800 immigration paperwork and technically could be getting a referral any month.

But now the bigger news is that we are getting our referral--tomorrow.

I can hardly believe it.

Four years ago (to the month) when we started this process:
* I worked for U.S. Catholic (now I work for Aurora University)
* Ed worked for ABN-AMRO (now he is a certified teacher)
* We lived in a two-bedroom condo (now we live in a 4-bedroom house)
* We had been married one year (we just celebrated our 5th anniversary)
* We had no children (now we have Sam)
* George Bush was president. (Now we have Obama!)
* I had never written a book. (My book of reflections for adopting parents just came out--see sidebar to the right. And I'm working on a second.)

But one thing has remained constant: We can't wait to be the parents of a little girl (or boy--which is a possibility) from China. We'll post the news as soon as we get it tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone for your years of prayers and support.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Kissing cousins!

Sam and his cousin Elena from a visit last month. I took these photos over a few minutes while they were sitting on some steps at Millennium Park. They're so cute together!

Sorry I've been so quiet. We put our condo on the market over Fourth of July and it just sold. Then we found a really cute house in the city and our offer was accepted. We close and move in early September. Whew!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daddy's Day

Happy Father's Day to Sam's Daddy, his two wonderful grandpas, and his biological dad. We had a really nice day, starting with letting Ed sleep late (all weekend!) and homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast. Sam gave "Dada" a tripod for his camera and videocamera so he can take even more pictures of him. We went for a bike ride in the afternoon (pix at Spiritual Knitter) and out for lunch, then went to Foster Beach before dinner.

We should have been prepared from last time, but Sam surprised us by literally sprinting to the water. Even after falling down and swallowing some water, he went right back in.

For dinner, I made ribs, corn, green beans and watermelon--the perfect summer meal!

He's such a happy little boy!

Token Mama photo: from yesterday's outing to Blues on the Fox in Aurora, to see my nephews' band play. He was spoiled all day by all the Manion cousins.

He even slept six hours in a row last night, though he's going through a phase of going to bed super late (sometimes after 10 or 11). Hopefully he'll give his Daddy one more gift tonight and sleep through the night.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Getting in touch with Sam's German roots

(He does have "Schlumpf" in his name!)

Just another boring Saturday night playing in the laundry hamper.

So Mama and Dada decided to walk up to Maifest, the big German festival in Lincoln Square. Sam and Mama polka'd to "The Beer Barrel Polka." (bad photo, but you get the idea)

Speaking of beer barrels...

All polka'd out.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Happy Mother's Day Week to everyone out there: to my mom, my sister, all those who have "mothered" me throughout my life, to my grandmother who is celebrating her first Mother's Day in heaven, all mothers-to-be and those who desire to be mothers, including those waiting for their adopted children, and especially to those celebrating their first Mother's Day as a mom, including me!

Sam and Ed took me out to one one of my favorite restaurants for Mother's Day, Ethiopian Diamond. Yum! Sam felt at home since everyone was eating with their hands, and he liked the spicy food. Plus that had a little drum for him to play.

Our celebration was on Monday since I spent the actual Mother's Day at Aurora University's graduation. At first I was bummed I had to work all day on my first Mother's Day, but then I figured it was appropriate since my new job has been so darn family friendly the rest of the year. Really, it's amazing how everything works out. Two years ago I was hating my job and Ed was stressed about finishing his teaching credential. Now I have a great job and he's subbing, which has meant Sam hasn't had to go to daycare. It's really worked out for the best.

Sam also gave me a card and a flower. But the best two gifts didn't cost anything. First, about a week ago, he started saying "Mama." This, after about six months of saying "Dada." And... (Insert music from Handel's "Messiah" here), he finally slept through the night!!!!!!! For about a week, since getting over his latest ear infection, he's been doing much better, putting himself to sleep with his bottle (with Ed or me just lying next to him, not holding him) and getting up only once or twice at most. Then, on Tuesday night, he slept from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. He hasn't repeated it since, but I think we've turned a corner. Next: getting him out of our bed and into the crib.

On Tuesday night we went out for pizza with a group of other adoptive families and then took Sam to Lake Michigan. As soon as we put his bare feet in the sand, he got so excited. He said "Wawa" and took off for the shore. It was COLD, but that didn't stop him! He is such a water baby. It should be a fun summer at the lake, neighborhood pool and Lake Keesus.

And, just to remember how far we've come, this picture from Hanoi eight months ago. It's one of my favorites. Happy Mother's Day to me--finally.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trip to Arizona

I'm finally getting around to posting some pictures from our Spring Break trip to visit my parents in Arizona in early March. Mr. Not-So-Happy in his cowboy hat posing near a cactus. This was right before we left. The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there, and my parents were the best hosts.

Grandma made chocolate chip cookies just for Sam.

We spent a lot of time at the pool. We also got to see our friends Kathy and Kevin Misiewicz who spend their ND spring break down there too. They just go back from fall semester in Australia.

Sam is a true water baby. He loves swimming.

We got to go to my Uncle John's 70th birthday party. His four daughters surprised him by showing up for the party. The next day we went to a Brewers game. (Gosh, my hair looks dark next to these guys!)

We went for a hike one morning. Sam got to meet a horse up close!

Hiking with Daddy in the backpack.

Our friend Kevin (a Holy Cross priest) came over for dinner one night. This is his last year in Arizona, so I'm glad we got to see him.

Sam models his new swimwear from Grandma. The floatie vest if built right in. Handy, though it made him top heavy so he had a hard bending over and getting up when he fell.

Froggie robe, also from Grandma. All the cool people have terrycloth robes for at the pool.

Goofy froggy hat is a hand-me-down from Wisconsin friend Susie. I'm glad you like dorky hats, Sam. Mama loves them, too.