Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maren and Her Little Sister

Sara is only six months younger than our youngest, Maren. Tweens. Yesterday Maren and I picked out colors/theme for the girls' new room when we move.

Last Christmas, before any of this began, Maren received a little nail kit in her stocking. She loves the design and colors and thought it would make a great inspiration for the bedroom, She thought it would help Sara feel at home. I thought this was really sweet.

Yesterday the Chinese language book and CD arrived. We've listened to a few pages, repeating them out loud, laughing at ourselves, trying again. Maren has taken to carrying around the book with her, practicing to herself. She greets us as she walks into a room. "Ni hao." She quizzes us. "Ni hao ma?" I search my brain and answer. "Hao." "Shi," she says, and skips off. "Zai jian!"

I think she is awesome.

Zhe shi ni de jie jie.

This is your sister.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Goal: Learn Some Chinese

For Father's Day I got Brandon a book and CD geared toward teaching adoptive families basic Chinese, phrases we would be using specifically for Sara (coming home, words of assurance and affection, etc.) and everyday phrases (bedtime, colors, at the table, playtime, etc.). We are looking forward to playing it often and maybe getting some Chinese down enough that we can say what we need to say. We've looked at a few phrases and the pronunciation, and I'll be honest, it's daunting. However, the CD will help, and we're determined to try.

This week we are working on a pile of documents to be filled out and notarized. This week's Dossier assignment is getting our physical exams, and I already have our appointments made. Filling out the 1800-A form is the biggie.

Also, if you read the run-down of all the other things going on in our life right now here, you know our oldest son, Braeden, is getting ready for a mission for our church. This morning he had his dental exam and the sweet boy only developed one wisdom tooth! It's not pushing out so we don't need to worry about that. No cavities, either. So, one less thing towards getting his papers sent in.

We have found a house in Yakima! We love it. So now we just need to sell this house. We feel particularly eager to get going because we don't start the home study portion of the adoption until we get to Washington. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can begin that, get the Dossier turned in, and get to Sara. We've had several lookers. We are praying hard. Once you lock on a child for adoption, you have a time limit to get everything in. So selling the house is a big obstacle, bigger than if we were just moving and anxious about getting there before Brandon begins his new job August 1st. But we've had really good feedback, and my feeling is it will sell soon. I have to believe that.

Chinese for the day: Mei you guan xi.

It's okay.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

China Looks Different Now

Today I'm posting some answers to questions we've been asked about our China girl.

Our adoption agency is Great Wall China Adoption. We are very happy with them and their support. We really feel respected and guided through this process. I knew there would be a lot of paper work. I was right. Great Wall is quick to contact us by phone, check up on us, keep in contact via email, and they are very organized. I'm impressed. They make me feel like I can do all this and I can do it right. Which is very necessary to feel right now. There is a lot of paperwork. I mentioned that already, didn't I?

Our girl is 10 years old. She will be 11 when we finally get her in 7-10 months. She is 6 months younger than Maren.

In most adoption agencies, each child is assigned an American name, mostly for organization purposes, but also because it's so much nicer than a number and gives potential adoptive parents a glimpse of possibility. Our girl's assigned name is "Sarah". She has no idea of this name and it's connection with her adoption. However, we know it, and we refer to her as "Sarah". I asked my cousin Jessica about how people go about naming older children. I'd already seen her choose names for her little girls (both a baby and a toddler at the time of their adoption) but I wondered how naming an older child is handled, and if they chose their Henry's (10) name. She said the older children most often expect to be given an American name chosen by their new parents. The child's last name (usually the name of their first orphanage or head of the orphanage) is dropped. The rest is up to the new parents and the child.
We thought about new names, made a list of cute and appropriate girl names, taking into consideration what we knew of her personality.
But it didn't matter. In our conversation, our prayers, and our thoughts, she remained "Sarah". So we chose Sara, without the 'h'. We'll keep a portion of her Chinese name for her middle name. We hope she loves it. So for the rest of this blog, I'll call her Sara.

When Jessica learned we were looking for a 10 year-old girl, she sent us a picture and a little bit of information about Sara. She was on a Waiting Child list at GWCA. These are orphans who either have mental or physical disabilities or are older (or both) and will age out of the system within a few years. The adoption process is quicker with these kids because the agencies in both countries wish for them to be given a home quickly. We saw her big smile and her little bit of attitude and all we could see was her fitting right in. We haven't been given permission to post her pictures yet. We requested her files, which gave us 2 weeks to study, consider, and make a decision. And after reading her history, studying her medical records, and seeing more pictures, we decided. Actually it really just confirmed what we already knew. We wanted her.

She does not have a disability. She is learning a little bit of English. She is in the Chinese 3rd grade. She is not the greatest student. :) Yes, we will try to learn some Chinese. Yes, she will laugh at our attempts. She loves to play outside. She is outgoing. She makes friends fast. She can be stubborn. She loves the color red. She likes to play hacky-sack. Yes, we will try to learn hacky-sack. Yes, she will laugh at our attempts.

She was abandoned at a hospital as a newborn. She was raised from the age of three in a foster home. She has been raised by the same foster parents this whole time. While this is optimal for her situation, my heart breaks a little knowing she will be leaving them, and that will be hard. She will mourn.

She knows she is up for adoption. She wishes to be adopted by a foreign family. I am not naive enough to think that she understands what that really means, and we'll do our best to show her the best of what it does mean. Family, future, hope. Trust. Adventure. Love.

When a Chinese orphan ages out at 14, they no longer are allowed to be adopted, they can no longer be part of the foster system, and they are on their own. And because of their last name, they are recognized as orphans. Orphans are considered bad luck in China. Most seriously. They receive little opportunity for any situation as adults.

In studying many many other blogs about adopting older children from China, the consensus is the same. They learn English quickly. Study, immersion, and desire + positive feedback. And occasional help from translation apps. A lot at first. :)

So there you have a little bit about our Sara. We can't wait to take her and Maren camping. We can't wait to take her to our favorite beach. We can't wait for Maren to teach her to make cookies. We can't wait for Jacob to make her smile with his goofiness. We can't wait for the smiles and the tears and the frustrations and the triumphs and for the day she realizes she's ours to keep.

This is a post about Henry, my cousin Jessica's son. It tugs at my heartstrings.

And here is my first attempt at a new Chinese phrase: Zai jian.

Good Bye!

More soon.

The Letter at the Start

Welcome! Some of you are visiting from Facebook or my post at to find out more about our recent news. Below is my letter to the Waiting Child Caseworker at Great Wall China Adoption. It pretty much explains why we decided to make this decision to adopt, and I thought it would be a good starting place for blogging about this new aspect in our lives. I will post more information soon!

April 12, 2013


My name is Krista Jensen and my husband and I would like to know more about Sarah. My cousin, JessicaMcComas (who has adopted 3 times through your organization) is advocating for her and sent us a little bit of information. We are eager to know more and whether or not we have a chance of making her part of our home. 

If you'd like to know a little bit about us, I am an author and I work from home. I've always been a stay-at-home mom and I love to cook, sew, garden, and manage the household. I have two books published and more to come. They are mainly inspirational romance but I'm working on a children's fantasy. My kids are my inspiration.

My husband, Brandon, is a high school principal. Before that he taught Spanish and World History, and coached football, basketball, and track. He values the time he has with his family, especially his summers off, and takes time to be present at their activities and be the Dad when he's home. We have been in Wyoming for six years, but are currently looking for a job back in Washington state, where my family is and where we both grew up. We're fairly secluded here in Cody, and miss the diversity and opportunities we had growing up. Cody has been a good place for our family, though.

We have four children. Chelsea, our oldest, is married and she and her husband are at college. She is getting her dental assistant certificate and he is pursuing a Bio-Engineering degree so he can work in prosthetics. Chelsea graduated 3rd in her class. She is my worrier but is also vibrant, sweet, and they are expecting their first baby in November.

Braeden is 17 and a senior. He is quiet and funny. He is gifted, very smart and musically driven. He plays piano and sings and has the lead in the school musical, which is something new to him. He tends to shy away from the spotlight. He is very kind and has an innate sense of what is fair and what is not. He was bullied in middle school, but we worked through it and he's overcome that. He's just a likable kid with a gentle heart. He'll be leaving the house soon, to college or a mission for our church.

Jacob is 14 almost 15. He is one of those kids who will do things because they are the right and good thing to do, no matter what anyone says. He is confident and has blinders on to ridicule and bullies. He is nearly always smiling or eating, and sings to himself a lot. He is very social and loves being surrounded by family and friends. His little cousins love him and tackle him. When he was little we called him Taz or Tornado. He plays football, runs track, and plays the trumpet in band. 

Maren, who just turned 11 on the 8th, is the youngest. She loves school and is excited to learn to play an instrument next year. She is silly, playful, and thoughtful. She is often loud. :) She likes to read, draw, and use her imagination. She loves to swim and is interested in playing tennis. She is a great helper and just likes to be part of her family. She is social, too. She misses the older kids being around.

We love to camp, read, play games, go on trips, play ping pong, hang out. Both our families have reunions every year, with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. We laugh a lot and try to be there for each other. Brandon and I are both the oldest in our families.

We did lose a baby girl between both boys. When I was pregnant she was diagnosed (through amniocentesis) with Trisomy 12, and we prepared ourselves as best we could to have her home with us for a short time, or not at all. That was difficult. At 6 months I went into labor and Kate was born. She lived for 1 hour and 45 mins. We held her and loved her. All the children, even Maren, feels she is their sister and they miss her and who she may have been in our family. It was a very bittersweet experience, but we still felt blessed and comforted.

We also have a dog, Brodie. He's a goofball.

I've always felt, even as a teen and in college, that I would like to adopt. I just thought that it would be part of my future. I knew people who had adopted and had been adopted. I was very touched by stories on the subject. My husband and I talked about it on occasion as something that might be part of our future family. When I just had my two oldest kids, I was talking to a friend and the subject must have come up. I confided in her my desire to one day adopt. I was surprised at her quick reprimand. She told me that I should leave adoption to those couples who are unable to have children. I would be taking their opportunity. This friend was quite a bit older than me and I looked up to her a lot. Sadly, I let her words affect me and I put adoption to the back of my mind. I would hate to take someone's opportunity to have a child. But I'd never viewed it that way. Though I understood that people longed to have children, and that adoption was a way to fill that longing, I always considered that adoption was for the child. Adoption was not to gain something to fill a lack, but it was an offering to give a child what you did not lack: a home, a family, love, hope, a future. Lots of love.

For the last year or so, watching my kids grow and get ready to leave, I started thinking about my adoption idea again. My cousin, Jessica, who had 3 kids of her own, adopted a China baby. I would read her blog and tear up. Then she adopted another China baby, a special needs this time. And my interest was renewed. But Maren was growing up, and I asked myself did I want to start over with a baby? We are young (even for grandparents), but there had been a lonely age gap between Jacob and Maren. I didn't want to have another large gap between kids again. And their were many times Maren wished she had a sister around, or that she'd been a twin, or that Jacob wasn't so old. And then my cousin adopted a 10 year old boy, again from China. Then she started advocating for other China babies. And then she posted the picture of a ten year old girl and I cried. Because I knew if I could bring her home we could give her a family and a place and love. That maybe we already had her place waiting for her.

So, I don't know at this point if any of this counts for anything. Maybe she's already been placed, and that would be wonderful. But honestly, if we have a chance, we would like to know all we can about possibly bringing Sarah home. I've attached a few photos of our family.

Thanks so much. I appreciate your time and the work you do,

Krista Jensen