First Impressions

Teddy and my weary world-travelers are home – praise the Lord!

Today is day five and I feel I am only just starting to get a sense of what things might be hard about our new normal and what things are going to be awesome.  And it will likely all change again by this time next week.

The first few nights, Teddy was jetlagged, which meant he was wide awake in the middle of the night.  This was when we learned (well, we sort of already knew) that Teddy is a great collector and relocator of things.  He helped himself to a few of the sweets Trevor had brought back from China to share, but not as many of them as we initially thought – he hid a second box in Niko’s bed.  The next morning, he had stashed a few pieces of (fairly important, undealt-with) mail in the puzzle cupboard in his room, my Borax and Trevor’s shaving cream in the fridge, and all the pens and pencils we keep in the kitchen in the big crayon basket in the boys’ room.  We can chuckle about it now, because as he’s slept later each morning he’s had less time to devote his item relocation program, but it was pretty unsettling.

He is mostly very happy and sweet, game for whatever the kids are busy with.  He does have a very strong stubborn streak, which I’m sure we will see more of as time goes on, but for now, he is mostly happy to be with us and do what we’re doing.

He immediately adored Coraline, having apparently identified her as a smaller, squishier version of Bea. He is fascinated with Delia. They both love to give each other hugs, but usually only at times when the other doesn’t want one. It will be an interesting dynamic to watch! Lewis is enjoying him tremendously and suddenly seems like the resident big kid in charge, excitedly introducing Teddy to all the fun things about being a Young (“Teddy! Tuppon (Come on)!” All of the kids are just really excited he’s finally here.

Teddy is super affectionate.  He was uncertain about me when he first got home on Saturday, but I got my first bear hug on Sunday morning just towards the end of our church service.  I then got my second through twelfth bear hug, along with hugs and kisses for Niko, Bea, and Pippa.  At first, we could hear “aww”s from the pews around us, then “aww”s gave way to giggles as he kept relentlessly smothering us with hugs and kisses.  It was pretty sweet, but it got less entertaining when I finally had to try to peel him off his siblings, and that was no easy feat!

All things considered, we’ve had a good first week.  Going from 8 kids (I got a little bit comfy there!) to 11 was an adjustment for me.  I think I had prepared myself for Teddy being hard, but forgot what an adjustment it would be for everyone else.  As always, God’s grace has been huge, I just need to learn to lean into it more.  We are so thankful for the incredible gift He has given us in our new son.  Welcome home, Thaddeus Merit.  You’re officially a Young now!

 

 

 

 

Homeward Bound!

As I type this, Trevor and the kids are having one final lunch in Guangzhou and then beginning their journey to Hong Kong and home.  And that means that I am officially *not* going to China!

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning for them was Tuesday evening for us, and we were all praying fervently for the consulate appointment that caused us so much uncertainty just before Trevor traveled.

He was in a group of a dozen American adoptive families, all waiting, as he was, to finalize their child’s US visa.

The first thing they announced to the group was: we will need just one parent to come forward for the interview, and that parent must be a US citizen with their US passport.  (I am so thankful I didn’t hear the tale until everything was already over!)

Trevor was the very last to be called, and, as promised, the first question was, “US passport, please?”

Trevor showed his British passport and US permanent resident card, and produced the email from that very office stating that he would be able to complete the adoption without me.

The man conducting the interview went to fetch his supervisor and discuss.  I can only imagine how long those minutes must have felt.  Finally, he agreed that the permanent resident card was sufficient, and continued with the interview.

After asking Trevor a few questions, the man spoke to Teddy.  China’s policy (which I knew about but had forgotten since it never applied to us before) is that any child age ten or older must give consent to being adopted.

Well, our boy was apparently not in the mood for an interview.  Though he is fairly verbal and certainly understood what was being asked of him, he refused to answer.  “Well,” the man suggested in Chinese, “Could you point to your daddy?”  Nope.  Teddy could not.

The supervisor was fetched again.  When it was clear that Teddy was to be an immovable force, the man said to Trevor, “I can tell from your interactions with him that he is clearly part of your family.”

And with that, the interview was over.  Praise be to God!

They fly home on Saturday.  God speed, my sweet loves!

 

How It’s Going So Far

I’m still having technical difficulties getting photos to load here, but I think I’ve pinned down that it is just because the files are too big.  This is a heavily cropped one that worked just fine, so we should be able to get to the bottom of it now.

Three Peas in a Pod

Trevor and I get about a half an hour of chat time each morning and evening (his morning to my evening, and mine to his -still so weird!) so I get little tidbits of their adventures each day.

On the first night, Niko took one for the team by taking a bath with Teddy to show him how fun and not-scary bathtime is.  Apparently Teddy was fascinated by Niko’s jutting, bony shoulders and elbows (I tease him that he sharpens them when I’m not looking!) and kept reaching out to touch them.  They do have rather opposite body types!

Teddy is quite the entertainer.  He did a rousing bit of interpretive dance in the park, patted a man’s tummy in an elevator (thankful he was a jolly sort of man and patted Teddy’s right back) and collected some leaflets in a goverment office and began handing them out.

It sounds like they are having more good moments than hard, but there has been some hard as well.  Please pray for endurance for Trevor and the kids, and that they would continue to be able to laugh rather than cry in those moments when you don’t quite know which one to do!

As for us, our days have been full and peaceful, which is such a gift from God.

The Big Day

Today was a red letter day: Thaddeus Merit Young is officially ours!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture is worth so many words that you don’t even know where to begin.  This morning, I woke up to this picture, and my heart was full.

If he looks a little uncertain in the picture above, he didn’t stay that way for long.  Back at the hotel Teddy had a blast brushing the kids’ hair and posing for silly photos.  Unfortunately, I have tried and tried to share some of them here, but the files seem to be too big.  I will do my best to fix this technical difficulty soon!

Trevor says that Teddy had a good first day.  Some stubborn moments, but he can usually be persuaded to comply with a smile and a bit if silliness to diffuse the situation.  He slept well (it is already tomorrow in China!) which is a huge blessing in itself.  The kids are absolutely loving him, as you will see if I can ever get my blog to talk to Trevor’s pictures.

Meanwhile, on the homefront, we have had smooth, easy days so far.  This is as much an answer to prayer as Teddy’s good first day.  Thank you for your continued prayers – it is still 13 more sleeps till they come home (though only 12 more bedtimes, which is a bigger deal from where I sit!)

The Adventure Begins

On Thursday afternoon, Trevor, Niko and Bea set off for Hong Kong, their pit stop on the way to Teddy, and today I received photographic evidence that they made it – whew!

These photos from Trevor absolutely made my day, but I received another photo this evening that I wasn’t expecting.  A photo of another adventure that began today.

This is our sweet Teddy in the car with his orphanage director starting the journey to meet Trevor, Niko and Bea on Monday!

How did I get this amazing, behind-the-scenes glimpse of our boy?  It occurs to me that I never really told you the story of how we found Teddy.  Well, grab a cup of coffee, and I’ll tell you now while we wait for the exciting part to happen.

A little over three years ago, I began attending a wonderful, intimate support group for adoptive moms that meets five times a year.  It’s over an hour drive to get there, but so worth it for my sanity and the well-being of our whole family.

About two and a half years ago, my dear friend Kelly whom I met through this group came home with two new sons from China.  Even amid the flurry of excitement and chaos of her own two new boys, she shared with our group her burden for two other little boys she met there.  These two boys, it seemed, were given free rein to wander around the facility and surrounding area.  It wasn’t a good situation.

Shortly after that, one of those boys went missing.  He still has not been found.

The other little boy was our Teddy.

Kelly wanted desperately to find a home for this little guy, but we had just begun our process for Lewis, and adopting another little boy with Down syndrome was just not even on my radar.  I prayed for those little boys, but then life moved on.

A little over a year ago, right around the time we traveled to bring Lewis home, I became a little obsessed with the fact that Chinese adoption regulations allow for “reusing your dossier”, or parts of it at least, for a second adoption started shortly after the first.  I will admit that even while we were in China falling in love with our precious new son, I was looking at waiting children on our agency’s website.

My heart was for another child with Down syndrome, which just hadn’t turned out to be the scary special need it had once seemed AT ALL.  In fact, it was quickly apparent that Lewis’s extra chromosome, rather than leaving him deficient in any way, had actually made him a little bit extra awesome.

Our agency had pages of beautiful babies with Ds – oh, how they tugged at my heart strings!  But they were all babies.  Not one over the age of four or five.  Knowing that older children can be much harder to find families for, and having seen first hand what a blessing they are, that was where my heart drew me.

After we were home, I was mentioning to Kelly that we were interested in adopting another little boy with Ds, perhaps an older one, maybe 9 or 10.  She could hardly contain herself!  “That’s Didi!”

She sent us his file, and we knew immediately that if we were going to reuse our dossier, this was the one.

We began asking our agency about reusing our dossier.  They were open to the idea at first, but then Verity made her presence known.

We went back and forth for about two months, but in the end, despite having let us adopt while pregnant twice before, they said we would have to wait until after baby to begin our process, and waiting would make it too late for a “reuse”.

That could have been the end of it.  I thought it probably would be.  But meanwhile, the agency who had a partnership with Teddy’s orphanage had reached out to let us know that they would love to work with us.

When one door closed, another appeared.  Let’s push it, Trevor suggested, and see if it opens.

And open, it did.

So, with a new agency and a new home study social worker, we set out on a completely new adoption, not a “reuse” after all.  Because once we knew this boy was ours, we just couldn’t walk away.

Here we are, one year later, days away from receiving this precious little man into our family.

Thanks to Kelly’s ongoing connections with the orphanage director as well as a missionary couple that work nearby, we have been able to have regular updates and new photos of our boy throughout the process.  We were even able to “send him” a birthday cake last summer!

And so it is that we have a backstage pass to his journey to meet us.  Today he is on his way to the city where he will meet Trevor and the kids, just as they are on their way to meet him.  I can only imagine what he is feeling.  I don’t know how much he understands of what is about to take place, but please pray for his heart, that he would feel safe and loved right from the beginning.

A Gift from God

I promised an update on Tuesday, and I did not deliver.  Sorry! In fact, Tuesday ended up being a completely uneventful day.  We stayed home, we did school, we went to small group Bible study.  But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Last Monday morning, I woke up to an email from our agency, simply stating: It looks like we may be okay for Trevor to travel without you (?!) Below that was a forwarded chain of correspondence between our agency and the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  While parts of it were unclear, it does seem that there is an exception for Trevor’s type of residency visa, and we have it in writing now that he can complete the adoption without me.  This was an answer to prayer, a gift from God beyond what I had even hoped for (though Trevor was praying for exactly this)!

And now, I want to tell you a story about a little boy with no name.

We found out about our newest little man from my dear friend Kelly, whose son came from the same orphanage.  She came home with her boys two years ago desperate to find a family for little “DiDi”, back when we were just at the start of our process to adopt Lewis.  Adopting a second little boy with Down syndrome wasn’t even on our radar yet.

We found other adoptive moms and agency advocates who knew him, always by the name of DiDi, the word in his language for “little brother”.

One mom shared with me that her husband had asked an orphanage worker what his name was, and she had answered, “He doesn’t have one.  He has Downs.”

Let that sink in for a minute.  The people looking after our boy did not even think he was worthy of having a name.  Words cannot express how this broke my heart.

When we received his file, we discovered that his name is, indeed, just Di – also the character for little brother.  It seems that when his file was prepared, they just wrote down the name he had always gone by.

Well, we aim to give this boy a name.

We are calling him…

Thaddeus Merit Young

We will call him Teddy for short, to echo DiDi, the name he has so long been called.

His “Di” is still in there (he WILL be a little brother, after all!) but his new name, Thaddeus, means “gift of God”, and that is exactly what he is.

His middle name was my grandfather’s.  An English word denoting worth or value.

This boy, once deemed unworthy even of a name, is a gift from God.  He has immeasurable worth.  He is worthy not only of a name, but of a family, of a home, of love, and we cannot wait give him all of those things.

Adoption Update and Prayer Request

I hope you all had a blessed Easter – we certainly did!

A lot has happened since my last adoption-related post, most of it very good.  Most recently, we received our travel approval on April 18th!  It seemed like every thing was falling into place for Trevor to go to China in a week or two and bring home our boy… until yesterday.

Our agency called to say that because Trevor is not a US citizen, I must be present for our US consulate appointment in China.  They somehow missed the fact that he is British, and we missed the fact that that was a problem, especially since it wasn’t an issue for Trevor completing Niko’s adoption without me.

They wondered if we could just switch – I go to China, and he stay home with the kids.  After all, my visa is still good from our trip to get Lewis.

Well, we have a saying we use a lot in our home: “Play to your strengths”.  Solo international travel is certainly not one of my strengths, but breastfeeding a baby is an unequivocal weakness of Trevor’s.  Switching places is not going to be an option!

Our current plan is for Trevor to travel with Bea and Niko as planned, and for me and Verity to join them just for the last few days of the trip, including the consulate appointment.

In order to do this, Verity will need a passport very, very quickly.  We plan to walk in to our local passport office on Tuesday (the first available appointment was Thursday, but we have been told they accept walk-ins) and ask them to expedite her passport and give it to us the same day.  Then the week that Trevor goes ahead of us will give us time to get her visa.  If this happens, our travel plans can remain unchanged.

Would you please pray with us that we find favor on Tuesday and that this can happen?  I will try to come back and update when we know more.  Maybe I’ll even tell you about his name when I do!  I have left you hanging far too long on that front.

Winter Haps

Trevor asked me a couple nights ago if I still had a blog.  I’m not sure how kidding he was, but this is for him and anyone else who checks in once in a while despite my gross neglect.

As usual there has been much busy-ness, and most of it has been very good.

Most recently, just this morning in fact, we received the hard copy of our Letter of Acceptance from China!  This means our dossier has been approved and all that remains is the final step of his US immigration paperwork.  It also I can now share with you the boy that will soon be our son.  (I could also share his name with you, but what would be the fun in that?  Names deserve their own posts.  Don’t you think?  Stay tuned!)

Isn’t he delightful?  We can’t wait!

We’ve had two birthdays this month, with four more in the next two weeks!

Romilly is now 11…

And Juniper, the baby of our “Original Four”, is 8.

 

Happy birthday, girls!

This little one, like her sisters before her, has refused to stay tiny and new.  Sigh.  In a fit of rebellion she even went and sprouted two teeth at just four months old!

But oh, how we all adore her.

School is moving along.  We are just about two-thirds through our year.  People are learning things.  We’re in a pretty good groove.

Coraline is reading beginner books thanks in large part to the efforts of her biggest sister.  Pippa is learning algebra and loving it, which just fills my math-minor heart with the greatest joy.  Delia has made some strides with independence getting dressed, and she will be trying out a tablet-based communication device in the next couple months. Lewis wrote his name by himself for the first time a couple weeks ago.  I think the whole neighborhood heard our cheers!

One of the greatest blessings of this school year has been our dear friends, the Weavers, volunteering to have our five “readers” at their home each time I take Lewis and Delia to Theraplay.

 

These days are not just free childcare for me, but amazing, enriching, educational experiences for our kids.  They do art  and photography lessons, science experiments that I have neither the equipment nor the time to do at home (they actually looked at broccoli DNA under a microscope!) and sometimes just play educational board games.  It has transformed what felt like wasted time each week for our big kids into one of the highlights of their week.

Not to mention it gives me some much-needed downtime hanging out at Theraplay with my little girls.

Trevor is working 12-hour shifts again (with long weekends) after several brutal months of Monday to Friday weeks (how do people live like that?!), and life is feeling manageable.  That can only mean we are in the calm before the storm as we prepare to bring home our newest member.  I will take the calm wherever I can get it!

 

 

 

 

November News

My goodness, time is flying by these days.  Happy Thanksgiving!  And this year, we have much to be thankful for!

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(The AWANA gang dressed up for Harvest Night.  Our new AWANA leaders are fairly exhausting me with all the theme nights, but the kids are having a ball!)

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Since Verity’s arrival, we have been getting back into our groove with life and school, but there is precious little down time. I always forget how time consuming nursing a new baby is, but I do remember that these early months fly by too quickly.  All too soon, she’ll be wriggling to get off my lap and explore, so I am soaking in every minute of her while I can.

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(First smiles!)

The end of October saw us dressing up an awful lot for people who don’t celebrate Halloween.  First, the kids had their annual “Favorite Bible Hero” night at AWANA.

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(From left to right:Bea as Balaam’s donkey, Niko as David, Lewis as an Armor of God knight, Pippa as Esther, Coraline as Ruth, Romilly as Mephibosheth, Junie as Lydia, and Delia and Annis just jumping in the picture for fun.)

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Then we found ourselves accidentally bound for the zoo on their Trick-or-Treat day, so the kids chose costumes for that, too.  I was particularly impressed with the Anna braid hat that Pippa improvised for Annis that morning!

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On Halloween night, we were visited by these two rather unlikely trick-or-treaters: Honald Clump and Dillary Trinton.  They brought us candy – so we let them in. One of these years our kids are no longer going to be surprised by the “surprise visit” from Pop-pop and Debedee on Halloween, I think!

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In early November the kids had several opportunities to volunteer with Operation Christmas Child.  First, they helped give out and collect shoeboxes at Chick-Fil-A, then they helped out at our church’s collection center.

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And that’s what we’ve been up to.

But if you’ve made it this far and are still reading, you will now be rewarded with the biggest news of our November so far: our dossier was logged into China on November 8th!

Yes.  That means that we are adopting again!  In fact, we are quite far along in the process and hope to be traveling to bring home our new son in the Spring.

I have not been deliberately keeping secrets.  This adoption, unlike our others, has felt very tentative at each step. There have been so many times that it seemed like God might be closing the door only to open it again, that we are only now letting ourselves begin to trust that this is actually happening.

Although I am not allowed to share pictures publicly yet, you can get a sneak preview of our boy here on our Family Sponsorship page at Reece’s Rainbow, and learn a bit more about our new son by reading his little bio on the same site here.  We are so excited for him to join our family!

And with that, I now owe you a birth story and an adoption story.  But for now, I need to sleep while my baby is sleeping!

 

A Long Overdue Update Including, But Not Limited To, China and Lewis: Week 2

Well, that was a long break, wasn’t it?  I actually hadn’t realized how long I had abandoned this poor old blog for until people started to ask where I was.  Thank you to those who noticed my absence and reached out!  In fact, we are all fine, life is just full and busy, and if I am honest, I have very little motivation once the kids are in bed for the night to do… well, anything!

But it is all good busy!  Lewis continues to be a joy to us and everyone who meets him.  During our second week in China he continued to amaze us with his sense of humor and easy-going charm.  He still does!

The week was mostly filled with various appointments and paperwork, but we did get to one of the two beautiful parks near our hotel more days than not.  Another highlight was a trip to the Guangzhou zoo.  Lewis was fascinated by all the animals and I got my first ever glimpse of real-live pandas!

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We also had the privilege of visiting Lewis’s orphanage and meeting his caregivers.  He proudly showed us his chair and his schoolwork.  His teacher, through tears, told our guide how very smart and able he is.  The only thing he can’t do very well, she told us, is talk.  (We have found this to be very true of our boy, that as his receptive English and signing ability grow exponentially, his acquisition of spoken words lags behind.  We are currently using an online speech therapy program called Gemiini for both him and Delia, but I also feel he will respond very well to traditional speech therapy once he has a bit more English, and he is very keen to learn and so very determined.) It was obvious from the reactions of all who knew Lewis, even the office staff, that he was very well-loved, and for that we are very thankful.

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Our flight home was long, but the kids did amazingly well.  Our adjustment  at home has been seamless.  We had intended to take a semester’s break (at least) from our home school co-op, but Lewis was so happy and enthusiastic about every opportunity life placed before him that we just jumped right back into that as well as our other activities.  Lewis has not only not made our lives harder, but he has added even more laughter and fun to our days.  We are incredibly blessed to be this little boy’s family!

A reader asked how we decided which child to take to China with us, and another asked in general about taking younger children on adoption trips.  I apologize that I am just now answering these questions, weeks and weeks later!  We have always taken at least one child with us on our pick-up trips.  Pippa and Romilly went with Trevor to bring Niko home, Bea came with us to get Delia, and working our way down in age order, it was Junie’s turn, so she got to go to China.  That worked out nicely, because as we suspected, Junie was the perfect kid for the job.  She was patient and cheerful through all of the not-so-fun parts of the trip, but also a perfect little buddy for Lewis so that he didn’t have to be all alone with two potentially scary foreigners.  This is why I really feel taking a sibling along on an adoption trip is a fabulous idea.  If you have a child that is close enough in age (or developmental age) to be a fun playmate to your newly adopted child and that you know will be resilient enough to handle the travel and boring stuff, they really can be such a blessing.

I don’t think I can possibly update on all that’s gone on here since the beginning of the year, but I do want to share what’s been going on with Delia’s NeuroDevelomental therapy.  She went for her reevaluation in early February, and although she had not made the gains in speech that we were hoping for, she is definitely making progress in other areas.  Her eye contact has improved somewhat, and her ability to look at an object, book, or picture has improved dramatically.  This, in turn has improved her fine motor skills so that she can now unzip her coat, put on her PJ bottoms, and color deliberately in the center of a piece of paper without assistance.  These may seem like small gains for the amount of work we’ve put in, but they are building blocks that are crucial to her further learning.  Now that she will look at things we can begin engaging her in more meaningful flashcard and similar activities.  We really believe the whole world is beginning to open up to her.

But that scares her.  And it seems as soon as we begin to see progress, we watch her retreat from it in fear of the unknown.  She has developed two new “habits” over the past couple months.  One is frequent squinting, as if to close the world out, although her practitioner believes this may just be a new form of self-stimulation now that she is rocking so much less.  The other, which speaks volumes to me about her internal struggle with all this learning we’re trying to get her to do, is an almost obsessive answering of “no.” Anything we ask her or tell her to do is met with a shake of the head and even a verbal “no”, even when sometimes her little hand begins to sign “yes” at the same time!  We can usually break through this wall by saying and signing “yes” back to her, and for the most part, she is fairly compliant, but it just seems like every fiber of her being is saying “no” to all of this progress.

Her new program includes a couple of elements I am particularly excited about.  First, we are playing a “Simon Says” type game with her that requires her to respond to an auditory command without any nonverbal cues.  We are amazed at some of the things she is able to do: “Touch the TV”, “get the baby’s PJs – they have polka dots”, “Find me a purple lego”, “give Lewis a hug”.  We even use this “game” to trick her into saying words she is more stubborn about saying when we do her other activities.  We are also excited that her program includes crawling this time around.  Crawling, as we understood it, was the bones of the NeuroDevelopmental Approach, so we were a little disheartened that her first program didn’t include any, but also relieved we didn’t have to get her to do it!  This time she has to crawl for two sets of three minutes, which isn’t much, but she does it!  And that is exciting stuff.

The last month has brought a steady stream of birthdays, which I can only apologize for not having given their due fanfare.

Romilly turned ten on February 9th, officially commencing the Young Birthday Gauntlet.  We celebrated with a trip to IHOP for the whole gang.  Happy birthday, Ro!

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Junie was up next, turning seven on the 25th.  She was celebrated on her special day by Aunt Paige and Grandmom while Bea and I went to visit my dad in the hospital (he had a brief and mysterious case of amnesia!  But he is doing fine now), and later with cake and ice cream in the evening. Happy birthday, Junebug!

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Five days later instead of the usual four (thanks to Leap Day), we celebrated Trevor and Niko on March 1st.  Niko turned ten!  We had treats and a playdate for Niko on the day, and Trevor finally got his birthday Thai take-out dinner tonight a couple days late.  Happy birthday, boys!

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Lewis will also be included in the boy birthday season, as he will turn nine on Tuesday next week, the 8th.  Since I don’t have birthday photos of him yet, I will sign off with a picture of him from our Chinese New Year celebration with some dear friends (both old and new) who have also adopted from China.  This boy sure does enjoy life!

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