Friday, March 31, 2006

Long distance diagnosis

Miles from a checkup
Monica Eckrich wondered about the wandering eye in the photograph of the baby girl.

Not that a wandering eye would be such a big deal, not when Eckrich and her husband, Nathan, had waited so long to adopt. “We had already fallen in love with her 24 hours earlier just by finding out who she was,” Eckrich recalls. And yet, she knew, love and commitment are not identical.

In January, Eckrich was teaching her fifth-grade class at Sunnyside Environmental School when the call came from Children’s Hope International, an agency that had put them on its waiting list for children to be adopted from China. A 10-month-old baby had been found for them in a Chinese orphanage. Within 24 hours the agency sent the expectant couple a package with the child’s medical records and a photograph.

“We looked at the records, and we’re not pediatricians,” Eckrich says. “Head circumference — what does that mean to me?” Eckrich had heard the stories of children adopted from foreign orphanages who turned out to be not as healthy as promised. But she had a resource: Oregon Health & Science University Adoption Health Services, which opened in January and is one of about two dozen clinics in the country set up to handle specific concerns of people about to adopt.

When we received Ally's referral, we went to see Dr. Patrick Mason at the Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, which provides a similar service. I'd recommend it, if only for the peace of mind. It's amazing what they can tease out of what seems like limited information.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

“Infertility to Family”

Adopted daughter fulfills couple
The home of Frederica author Rocky A. De Lorenzo is filled with photographs of his 4-year-old daughter, Shelby-Li.

Baby pictures, Christmas portraits and family photos hang neatly on the stairway wall, showcasing Shelby-Li’s bright, cherubic smile.

It is clear she means the world to Mr. De Lorenzo and his wife, Susan, who adopted her from China in 2003.

She is the inspiration for Mr. De Lorenzo’s publishing company, Shelby Press, and his first book, “Infertility to Family,” is dedicated to her.

Order the book here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Pope in China?

Reports: Pope Says He Will Visit China
Pope Benedict XVI told a delegation from Hong Kong he will visit China in what would be an extraordinary papal visit to the communist nation, but he said the trip's timing depends on "God's wish," media reports said Tuesday.

One of the Vatican's goals is to restart official relations with China, which forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the officially atheist Communists took power. People can worship only in government-controlled churches.

But millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome. They say they are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labor camps by authorities...

No pope has ever visited mainland China.

"Stealing Babies For Adoption": The State Dept. responds

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Washington Post yesterday in response to this article (my emphases):

Regarding the March 12 front-page story "Stealing Babies for Adoption":

The State Department is committed to ensuring, to the extent possible, that all children adopted abroad by U.S. citizens are legitimately eligible for adoption. U.S. consular officers, including in Guangzhou, are prohibited by law from issuing adoption visas to any child whose orphan status cannot be demonstrated. We work with foreign officials, including the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), to protect all parties to an adoption, especially the children. The United States signed the Hague Adoption Convention, which it will ratify and implement in 2007, to add further safeguards to the process. We look forward to having China as a convention partner.

The State Department has sought to determine whether any Chinese child adopted by U.S. parents had been bought or sold. We have not confirmed any such case to date. Meanwhile, the CCAA says it has concluded its investigation into the origins of children from Hengyang adopted by Americans and found that all were legitimately orphaned or abandoned and that no biological parents were searching for them.

The State Department will continue its dialogue with the CCAA regarding Chinese adoption procedures, and it will remain vigilant in adjudicating orphan visa cases in China and around the world.


Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

State Department


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tea party

As promised, the first annual Fairy Princess Tea Party was held yesterday, with about a half dozen princesses scurrying about the house in their pixie regalia. Video was shot, pictures were taken and cake was consumed. These are the moments I want to treasure when Ally is in her rebellious teenage years.

Today we vacuum up the fairy dust before the cat eats it and turns into a warthog.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Colorado parents prepare to adopt

For adoptive parents, families made in China
The classroom sounded like it was full of bells.

"Dong," the students repeated, over and over again, as instructor John Franz made sure they had the pronunciation right.

"Dong. Dong."

The word is Mandarin Chinese for "understand," an important word for students preparing for a trip to China, and maybe more important for students preparing to be parents of Chinese girls.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ally's three

Actually, she was three a couple of weeks ago, but her fairy princess tea party is tomorrow.

"From China With Love"

BBC world affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan has written a book, From China With Love, about the unique challenges of adopting her children, Jade and Rose. Two articles about Ms. Buchanan appear today, the second one written by her.

Child and prejudice

The maternal joy of our guaranteed delivery

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Crazy Cakes" on DVD

A 'crazy' kind of love
[Rose] Lewis' daughter, 9-year-old Alexandra Mae-Ming Lewis, came to her mother from China when she was 7 months old. She's had the love and support of literally hundreds of family members and friends since her arrival...

"I Love You Like Crazy Cakes," illustrated after real-life photos of Ming's adoption story by western Massachusetts artist Jane Dyer, was released as a DVD by Weston Woods productions last month. Lewis said she just got the call one day telling her it would happen.

Cutest. Illustrations. Ever. The DVD is narrated by adoptive parent Mia Farrow.

The first Chinese adoptees: How are they doing?

Adopted in China, Seeking Identity in America
Molly Feazel desperately wants to quit the Chinese dance group that her mother enrolled her in at age 5, because it sets her apart from friends in her Virginia suburb. Her mother, though, insists that Molly, now 15, will one day appreciate the connection to her culture.

Qiu Meng Fogarty, 13, prefers her Chinese name (pronounced cho mung) to Cecilia, her English name. She volunteers in workshops for children in New York adopted from China "so that they know it can all work out fine," she said.

Since 1991, when China loosened its adoption laws to address a growing number of children abandoned because of a national one-child policy, American families have adopted more than 55,000 Chinese children, almost all girls. Most of the children are younger than 10, and an organized subculture has developed around them, complete with play groups, tours of China and online support groups.

Molly and Qiu Meng represent the leading edge of this coming-of-age population, adopted just after the laws changed and long before such placements became popular, even fashionable.

This is a fascinating article and among the first of many we should expect as the earliest Chinese adoptees come of age.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shanghai Daily article on adoption

Adoption can help blend different cultures
LOVE is boundless. This is again forcefully evidenced by the fact that an increasing number of foreign families are enthusiastic about adopting Chinese children.

According to Peng Keyu, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco, more than 50,000 Chinese children have been adopted by foreign families over the past ten years. And 80 percent of the families are from the United States.

Tricycle across America

Local Family Plans Triplet-Bicycle Ride Across U.S. To Raise Money For Charity
A local family of three is planning to embark on a cross-county cycling adventure together, and they say their little girl is the reason why.

The Nunes family plans to ride a bicycle built for three from Florida to Washington state to help raise awareness of a need to adopt orphaned children from China...

The Nuneses said they have always told their 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Nunes, she can do anything, and now, they intend to prove it...

The Nunes family's goal is to ride across the country from their house in Jacksonville to a new home in Poulsbo, Wash. The journey is expected begin on April 1 and will take them about 5,200 miles through 16 states, and an estimated 4-6 months to complete.

Even using the least optimistic estimate of six months to complete the 5200-mile journey, that still works out to over 28 miles per day every day! Rain or shine, hot or cold. I hope they make it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Texas A&M 66, Syracuse 58

I never thought I'd see the day. The Aggies' first NCAA Tournament win since 1980. Congratulations guys.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Connecticut adoption story

Nicoloro family now adopting third daughter from China
After prominent careers in television on every network, in film and on stage, with a variety of titles and multiple Emmy nominations and awards, producers James Nicoloro and his wife, Kathleen Heller, are now enjoying parenthood. They are very happy to have the titles of “Momma” and “Poppa” to their 5-year-old twin daughters, Leigha and Juliette, adopted in China when they were 12 months old. The couple is now planning to adopt a third child, Wen Tao, 9, a special needs child also from China.

Texas adoption story

Robinson teen goes to China with grandmother for adoption
A few weeks ago, when others his age were counting the days to spring vacation, Robinson High School junior Tyler Jensen was half a world away meeting the newest member of his extended family.

Tyler and his grandmother, Cynthia Jensen, of Houston, traveled to China so she could adopt 2-year-old Gracemarie. The adoption was the second for Jensen, but it was the first visit to China for her 15-year-old grandson.

U.S. gov't to CCAA: What up?

China says no babies improperly adopted
BEIJING -- The Chinese government says that an investigation found no children involved in a recent baby-trafficking case were adopted by American families, a U.S. State Department official said Wednesday.

The U.S. government asked the official China Center for Adoption Affairs to investigate after state media said abducted babies were sold to welfare homes in the southern city of Hengyang and later adopted by foreign couples. The United States is the leading destination for Chinese babies adopted abroad.

"The CCAA informed us that it had concluded its investigation into all of the children from Hengyang adopted by Americans and found that all of these children were legitimately orphaned or abandoned and that there are no biological parents searching for them," the U.S. official, who declined to be identified further in line with State Department rules, said from Washington.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gordon Gekko hits bottom, digs

Star of stage and screen Michael Douglas is under the mistaken assumption that anyone will take him seriously when he comments on Brangelina:
"I don't know about Brad Pitt, leaving that beautiful woman (Aniston) to go hold orphans for Angelina. I mean how long is that going to last?"
Now I don’t know what’s worse. That stupid quote or this one from something called The Defamer:

Better Angelina should have taken a page from Douglas' own book, and married a fading actor twice her age … then bear the old man a couple real kids…

Someone should tell the nincompoops at The Defamer that adopted kids are real kids.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


From today's Parade magazine's "What People Earn" issue:

2005 Median Weekly Wages

Petroleum engineers: $1,923
Actuaries: $1,639
Lawyers: $1,609
Economists: $1,569
Chiropractors: $1,531
Aerospace engineers: $1,362
Medical and health-service managers: $1,089
Meeting and convention planners: $912
Loan counselors and officers: $861
Elementary schoolteachers: $826
Funeral directors: $768
Social workers: $700
Pest-control workers: $508
Animal trainers: $482
Actors: $481
Child-care workers: $332
Dishwashers: $296

So remind me again why we left Houston? Also, I'm always surprised economists, of all people, don't make more.

Mississippi adoption story

Families celebrate upcoming Chinese adoptions. Like most first-time mothers, Christi Gardner said she was shaking when she saw her daughter Grace's face for the first time.

Stealing Babies for Adoption

This morning we were greeted with a front page above-the-fold story in the Washington Post about the topic of Chinese babies being abducted and later being adopted by foreign families. While the intention of the article is to focus on the unseemly aspect of baby trafficking (which occurs in every country), one line in particular jumped out at me:
But over the past decade, a wave of foreigners, mostly Americans, has poured into China with dollars in hand to adopt Chinese babies, 95 percent of them girls.

As if all it took to bring home a child was to head to China with a wad of cash. News flash: All adoptions, foreign and domestic, cost money. They also involve a mind-numbing amount of paperwork and time. To reduce adoption to a simple cash transaction is to do a diservice to the many families who have waited years to start a family. Some have gone through expensive fertility treatments, some have tried other adoption avenues and and some even have biological children of their own and want to give an opportunity to a child who would not otherwise have one.

I know for a fact that any adoptive parent would be heartbroken to learn that the child they have welcomed into their family had been stolen from his or her birth parents. I know I would be.

To its credit, China has taken a particularly hard line on this problem. When the Hunan traffickers were caught, they were prosecuted and sentenced to prison time. I hope they are going after other such trafficking rings with as much zeal.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Should your wedding guests fund your adoption?

Miss Manners weighs in:

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am getting married in October. My fiance and I want to adopt a child from Guatemala; however, the cost is preventing us from doing so.

We currently have a house and are living together. We really have no need or want for wedding presents such as a toaster and china.

Many of the adoption agencies that we have contacted have given us information about setting up our own foundation in order to have friends and family donate money toward the cost of the adoption.

How do I let people know that I do not want wedding presents and instead would like money donated toward the adoption?

Gentle Reader: If only it were a question of how touching and worthy the cause, you would have a sympathetic case. Miss Manners would certainly put you ahead of all those couples who want their guests to give them money for the wedding itself, for the honeymoon, to pay off their credit cards or to take out a mortgage.

But how is she going to make everyone understand that their guests are not their creditors? And that decent people do not instruct their friends to pay their bills?

Wedding presents are voluntary tokens of affection from people who should care enough about you to put some thought into the selection.

Children are worth sacrificing for. As you have a fully equipped house, Miss Manners gathers you are not destitute, so perhaps you could find a way to pay for the adoption by sacrificing -- for example, by having a modest wedding and honeymoon. But she urges you not to sacrifice your dignity.

Arkansas adoption story

Benton resident, new daughter to appear on VTB network broadcast about adoption
Benton resident Mary Malone of Benton and daughter Jenna will be appearing on a Victory Television Broadcast program scheduled to air several times in the next week...Malone said the program "centers around how God led us to the idea of adoption and ultimately to our precious Jenna."

Wealthy Chinese skirt one child policy

From Officials are proposing adding additional fines for the rich should they decide to violate the family planning law.
A Chinese official reiterated the need of legal measures to stop rich people from having too many kids, which helps to ensure people's equality facing China's one-child policy.

"Every one should be equal in terms of the right of birth-giving," said Pan Guiyu, vice-minister of the State Commission for Population and Family Planning, during an online interview with a popular Chinese website.

Legal actions will be more effective than the current fining methods in restraining the rich from having more offspring, said Pan, also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is in a ten-day annual session in Beijing.

"Imposing fines makes little difference to the rich," said Pan, noting that many business tycoons and show business celebrities are finding a number of ways to have two or more kids, including hiding in some remote rural areas, bribing birth-control officials and even emigrating abroad for giving the birth.

Pan's remarks came three days after another CPPCC member urged the adoption of tough measures in addition to monetary penalty on the same issue, which is arousing great social concern.

Yang Kuifu, a CPPCC population expert, has called for the government to give poor ranking to the rich who have breached the family planning policy.

Civil servants or people with state-run institutions generally abide by the one-child policy for fear of losing their jobs. But little stopped private business people or celebrities from having as many children as they wanted, Yang said.

The one-child family policy was enacted in the 1970's to curb a huge population explosion. In 2002 the law was amended to allow ethnic minorities to have more than one child and peasants to have a second child if their first is a girl, while restricting urban couples to only one child.

The fines can be as high as 150,000 yuan (about 20,000 U.S. dollars) for urban dwellers or as low as 7,000 yuan (900 U.S. dollars) for rural residents if they are found of violating the rules.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Houston's new soccer team...

...has already changed its name, before playing even one match.

Goodbye 1836, hello Houston Dynamo

After nearly a month of brainstorming, research and at least three missed target dates, Houston's Major League Soccer team has shed its 1836 name and replaced it with Dynamo.

The team formerly known as 1836 will now be called Houston Dynamo.

The identity-starved team unveiled its new name at a news conference today at the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Wiess Energy Hall.

Last month, the team decided to drop 1836 because its connection to the year Texas gained independence from Mexico offended some Hispanics. The team has maintained that the name, unveiled Jan. 25, was meant to honor the founding of Houston, also in 1836.

No word yet on whether the New England Patriots or the New York Yankees are going to change their names to avoid upsetting the British.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The price of noodles in China

Noodle Prices Rise, Along With Chinese Tempers
One difference between China's remote west and the rest of the country is what people choose to put in their stomachs. Noodles, not rice, are the favorite dish, none more so than the steaming bowl of beef noodles named after this decaying provincial capital on the Yellow River.

So in February, as noodle patrons across the city arrived for their morning fix, an unexpected notice awaited them: The price of a bowl of Lanzhou pulled beef noodles was going up. A large bowl, once only 27 cents, would now cost almost 31 cents.
Four cents. An amount most of us wouldn't think twice about is enough to cause a full-blown controversy for those living on the margins.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration"

This story from Foreign Policy discusses the implications of the widespread use of ultrasound technology in China and other Asian countries to determine the sex of babies in utero. The desire for male children in these societies has resulted in an epidemic of sex-selective abortions and, consequently, a gender imbalance that may bode ill for the future when these men seek wives from a dwindling pool of available women. By the year 2020, China estimates it may have as many as 40 million “frustrated bachelors”. Although I’m not sure I buy the conclusion that rampant homosexuality may result, the potential for a more militarily hostile country might be reason for concern.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gotcha Day + 2 years

I watch the video of our trip to China all the time, mostly, I think, because I can’t believe I actually finished putting it together. It was my first time using a video camera and it shows. Some of the zooms were a little too fast, some of my subjects weren’t centered, some of the lighting was too dark. I managed to pare down almost three hours of video into a more endurable half an hour, complete with music and fades and text. Those videos are probably the most valuable archives we have. Not only do they include shots of Beijing, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and other places in China but they also capture the first moments with our daughter.

At 6:00 PM on March 1, 2004, in Nanchang, China, we were waiting in our hotel room at the Hotel Gloria. At 6:30 we, as a group, were to go downstairs to one of the large conference rooms to meet our children for the first time. I decided to film my wife and our room as a reminder of what it was like, for posterity’s sake. Off camera, I asked Lauren what time it was.

“Six o’clock.” she said, looking at her watch.

“Six o’clock? Oh my.”

It was a nervous “Oh my”, too, because I realized in 30 minutes our lives would change forever. The long flight from the States, sightseeing in Beijing, the flight that day to Nanchang, painting the nursery, the mountains of paperwork; all were a distant memory. All that mattered was the present.

And the future. But we didn’t want to think about that just yet.

Six-thirty came around before we knew it, almost like time was compressed. We took the elevator downstairs along with another family in our group, exchanging anxious chitchat on the way down. When the doors opened, we arrived at a room that was by now full of activity. Children had already been placed with their new parents. As the bonding was taking place, some of the babies were crying, along with some of the moms and dads. It seemed like chaos.

We found our agency’s coordinator and the orphanage director, Mr. Wu. We told her our names and the name of our child. She checked her sheet and spoke to the orphanage director.

“Shi Shi?” he asked?

“Yes.” All of the babies had double names. Shang Guan Shi was called “Shi Shi”.

He called over another orphanage worker who seemed to already have Shang Guan Shi in her arms. She handed Shi Shi to my wife. We agreed beforehand that Lauren would hold her first while I filmed the moment. We sent ahead a Pooh bear holding a picture of us, so that she would know what we looked like. I don’t know if it worked or not, but the bear, with the picture, was handed back to us as well.

We also sent ahead some clothes, but like all the other girls (they were all girls), Shi Shi was wrapped four or five layers deep, which I understand is common in China. They keep their children warm. This was reinforced in us when we went shopping in Nanchang a couple of days later and some of the older women would check our daughter’s pants to make sure her legs were covered. That strangers would do this tells me that the Chinese care about their children. Sometimes it felt like we were being judged and we were relieved when the women smiled at us, as if we’d passed some sort of test.

She didn’t cry, at least not right away. She clutched a tag with her name and picture on it. We gave her a toy that she held in her other hand and was equally reluctant to release. She seemed bothered by the woman who had handed her to us; when the woman tried to touch her face, Shi Shi moved her head away, almost annoyed. It was as if she was making her own transition. “Quit it, I’m bonding here”, she seemed to say.

Once the exchange was made, the newly expanded families started going back to their rooms to bond with their new daughters. I had this “Now what do I do?” feeling. When do we feed her? Change her diaper? Give her a bath? Now it was as real as it gets. Shi Shi had spent her last night as an orphan and was now in the care of two people who never had such a responsibility in their lives. For a moment it was overwhelming.

Then she decided to cry, seemingly for no apparent reason. Maybe she was overwhelmed, too. Maybe she realized how clueless we were. But she made it easy on us. She slept through her first night in the hotel room, unlike her new dad, who didn’t get a wink.

We missed out on the first year of Ally’s life. We know very few facts about her from that time. She only spent about a month at the orphanage in Shanggao. For about eleven months she was with a foster family, who obviously took splendid care of her. I doubt we could have done any better. I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet them; some families wish to remain anonymous. It must have been hard to let her go but I’m sure they know it comes with the territory. I hope that another lucky child was placed with them.

In the China adoption community, the day you receive your child is called the “Gotcha Day”. That’s when one story ends and another begins. Our story began two years ago today. As expected, our lives haven’t been the same. And we wouldn’t trade it for anything.