Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our Journey to Katie Lin Slideshow

Thursday, February 01, 2007


If you have any questions about adopting from China, please email us,
We would love to hear from you!

Remember to read this blog from the bottom and work your way up!

God Bless You!

Jeff and Sonya
Drew, Ben, and Katie Lin

Friday, September 15, 2006


Friday, July 21, 2006


First Bible Church Welcomes Katie Lin
Short Nap from the Airport Home
Let's GO HOME!
This is Granddad and he could not wait to meet you!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


HEY!!!!Typin w/ one hand! KL is NOT on USA time at all. Jeff took the 1st2 hrs (2am-4am) and now it's mommy's turn. No signs of being sleepyyet! :OAs you can see from the new homepage pit KL loves her new room. Shealso thought Ollie was pretty cool too. I'll add pic of the meeting.(Thanks Alice and Stacy for taking care of him while we were inChina. LOVED his pink bow!)YA'LL.............the airport greeting was AWESOME!!!!!!The Creative Memories book that Sherry Tilley put together and youall signed is wonderful. When my sister gave it to Jeff and me oncewe were home we could hardly contain our tears. WOW!That's all KL can stand of sitting here at the computer so bye fornow!WE LOVE YOU ALL!!!!Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, and Katie Lin

Friday, June 23, 2006

3-5-05 LA


It’s almost 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning in LA and guess who’s been up since 2:30 a.m.? You guessed it….Katie Lin and Daddy! Overall though, she’s done well tonight. It’s really her late afternoon and early evening and she slept off and on for about 3-1/2 hours. I’m so glad we decided to spend the night in LA. Having traveled all the way home from Taiwan twice last year without spending the night, I knew it would be a daunting task for two young boys and an infant.

Katie Lin was absolutely incredible on the flight from Guangzhou. She slept the majority of the time and seemed very content when she was awake. Overall, there were 23 babies on the flight, all coming home to the USA for the first time so, as you can imagine, it was quite difficult to rest. The little girl in front of us cried at least 70% of the time. It was really pretty impressive! I don’t know how she went that long without completely wearing out. There were a lot of runny noses, ear infections, teething issues, etc. with all these little girls, but they were making sweet music (funny, I bet the few business men on the flight didn’t think so!).

When the wheels touched down at LAX the whole plane erupted in applause. It was quite an emotional scene, a true milestone in the journey to bring our daughters home from China. After spending about an hour-and-a-half to get through immigration and claim our baggage. Then we headed to the hotel where we immediately noticed a Burger King across the street. It only took us about 30 minutes to make it to BK, where Katie Lin wore her first BK crown and enjoyed a real American kid’s meal with her brothers.

Here’s the fun part of the story. After we got back to the hotel, Sonya opened to suitcase that we had packed all our stuff in for the overnight LA stay and immediately noticed that it was NOT OUR SUITCASE! It was the exact same piece of luggage that we had bought in Guangzhou (obviously someone else had the same idea) and had a pink bandana tied around the handle, just like ours. I don’t have time to get into the whole bandana explanation, let’s just say it’s a common thing among adoptive parents to identify their luggage this way.

Drew and I immediately headed back to the airport (you can imagine how I enjoyed this task) and, long story short, found our luggage in the “Luggage Services” department of Delta/China Southern. The ladies there were amazed at the similarity between the two suitcases. I was sooooooo relieved to grab our stuff and head back to the hotel. Of course, somewhere there is someone who is extremely ticked at me for grabbing the wrong luggage. I hope they were staying in LA and not wanting to check through to another destination. Oh well, it was an honest mistake.

Well, I guess that’s it. I’m outta here! We will see you all this afternoon. By the way, the last few posts have been great. I am continually amazed by your support and genuine concern for Katie Lin’s best interests. Again, we love you all and God bless!!!

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother



Several of you have asked about the airport greeting (i.e. Is it O.K. to come? Do we want a big crowd?). We welcome everyone who is interested in greeting us at the airport to be there. As a matter of fact, if you want to see Katie Lin that's probably the best time to do it. When we leave the airport we will be going back to our home with our close family members and then trying to get as much rest as possible. We will probably live like hermits for a few days while KL (and we) adjusts to the new environment and time zone.

I hope you all understand we are not trying to be selfish snobs, but only looking out for what's best for our daughter. Obviously, we've not done this before, but based on all the families we've talked to about their experiences, I anticipate all of us being very tired and maybe not very social at first. Please don't be sensitive to this. You all have been so gracious to us and you are all an integral part of KL's journey. We look forward to everyone of you being a big part of KL's life with her forever family.

Oh yeah, one more thing. We want our family (sisters, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.) to see Katie Lin first. Please allow them to be "up front" upon our arrival.

Looking forward to seeing you ALL at the airport Saturday!


Saturday, June 17, 2006

March 3, 2005


We took the oath today! Somewhere between 20 and 30 American families gathered in a small, very hot room at the U.S. Consulate this morning to “promise that all the information on our forms is correct…” Now all we have to do is fly back to the U.S., check in through the New Immigration line at U.S. Customs, and she’s officially a citizen of our great nation! Wow! Can you believe it? We’re almost done and almost home.

This afternoon we shopped more. That has become our favorite past time in Guangzhou. Sonya bought about 10 pairs of squeaky shoes for Katie Lin (at least one of every size until age three or so). I bought a new North Face jacket and an MP3 player (thanks to some spending money given to me by my maw-in-law). The boys continued to load up on Chinese trinkets and souvenirs. Oh yeah, we’ve had to buy TWO new suitcases since being here to get all this stuff home. It’s worth it though. Who knows if we’ll ever have the chance to come back to China? Might as well get it while we can.

When we returned to the hotel we all met at the red sofa on the second floor to snap the traditional group pictures. Sorry, you’ll have to wait until later to see these. The girls are all wearing new traditional Chinese outfits and many of us don’t want to spoil the surprise before we get home.

After filling up on Tai food for dinner again, we headed back to the hotel to settle down for the night. This is my first chance to actually sit down at the computer since this morning. I’m not even sure if I’ll have an opportunity to post tomorrow. So just in case, I need to ask a favor of all of you who are planning on meeting us at the airport. Please understand that babies who have been in orphanages or foster care environments sometimes have issues with bonding and attachment. It is for this reason that adoptive parents are encouraged to not let anyone hold the baby, other than immediate family, for around six months or so after coming home (of course this varies depending on the child). We are respecting and following that advice. So, please don't take it personally, it is just the best thing at this time for Katie Lin. Thanks for your understanding.

Wow! I can’t believe it is our last full night in China. These posts have been a great outlet for me. I will miss writing to all of you on a daily basis. As you can tell, I love to express my feelings and I want everyone to experience what we are experiencing as accurately as possible. Hopefully, I will have time for one more post tomorrow, but if not I will try to follow up with a few thoughts and some pictures after we return home. Thanks for taking this journey with us.

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother

To answer your question, we do get a lot more attention now that we have Katie Lin. For the most part, the Chinese people are very supportive of Americans adopting these little orphans from China. They say things like, "lucky baby" and "she will be very happy." I've also heard comments in the past from the Chinese about being ashamed and/or losing face because of the fact that so many children are being abandoned and we (foreigners) are having to rescue these kids from such an environment.

The older women particular tend to serve as the "China Baby Clothes Police" and they are very protective of these babies. They all think we don't bundle them up enough, although I truly believe if we put 16 layers of clothing on these children it still would not satisfy them. This was cute at first, but to be honest it is REALLY getting on my nerves now. Just 15 minutes ago in the lobby downstairs two Chinese women very rudely told me that I didn't have enough clothes on KL, I very quickly responded by telling them I was not going outside, but returning to my room upstairs. I need to be a little more patient when confronted like this, it's just a cultural thing to bundle their babies up like little Eskimo children. Up until this last confrontation, I had been under complete control and trying to remind Sonya not to get upset about this, especially since most of the time these women are very kind about how they tell us to clothe our babies. I guess the attitude of these two women just rubbed me the wrong way. Oh well, pray that I will be a good witness to these people and love them unconditionally.

We will bring her by to visit as soon as we're able.


3/3/05 (p.m.)

Two more days!!! Yes, that’s right! In exactly 48 hours our flight will take off from Guangzhou headed to the U.S.A. When we land in L.A., Katie Lin will be a United States Citizen. All of her paperwork was approved today. All we have to do now is visit the U.S. Consulate tomorrow and take an oath. That’s the easy part.

Our little sleeping beauty was quite restless last night and woke up fussy this morning. She sounded a little stuffy and was pulling at her ear a bit so we were concerned that she might be getting sick, but after a good breakfast and nice long nap she was back to her sweet self. Several of the parents who traveled here with us said their little girls didn’t sleep well either. It could have been the new environment.

The highlight of my day was Sonya going shopping with my mom and the boys while I stayed with KL. Can you believe she left me alone with her? Oh, did I mention it was while she was napping? Oh well, I’ll take what I can get.

We ate lunch at the little coffee shop outside the hotel again (fried rice, of course) and then headed to the pearl market with our guide, Lily, and the rest of the Lifeline group. She really knows pearls. She can distinguish between poor and excellent quality a lot better than I can (which isn’t saying much). We also visited a small CD/DVD store where you can get music and movies really cheap. I’m not sure about the quality or how long they’ll last, but so far so good!

Our evening was relatively uneventful. We just relaxed and enjoyed playing with KL. She continues to improve in her ability to sit up. Who knows, she may be jogging by the time we get back to Huntsville. Another thing we’ve noticed is her ability to jibber-jabber more and more. We have no idea what she’s saying but it always sounds like mama and dada to us.

She’s really part of the family now. She has really bonded well. I’m sure it will take a few months or longer for reality to set in for her and for us, but there’s no doubt that she’s our little girl. I remember filling out the paperwork for the adoption early last year and answering questions about our ability to love a child who was not born to us biologically. Even though I was confident in my desire to do so, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder if I really could love someone that much. I can now say that that has not been a problem. To be honest I haven’t really thought about it that much. I can’t think of a time when I have not loved this little girl. Even before I saw her picture, I knew this was a God-ordained thing. Katie Lin is just as much a part of this family as Drew and Ben. It just so happens they were born into our family biologically while KL was born to us via adoption.

We are so thankful for her and love her so much. When you all see her I’m sure you will too.

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother

Medical Exam

Lily, Sonya, Katie Lin
Katie Lin and Emma
What a GOOD Girl!



Wow, what a looooong day it’s been. Sorry I haven’t posted until now or uploaded any pictures to the website. That should clue you in on how busy we’ve been today.

After waking up at 5:30 a.m. this morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast, packed our bags, and headed for the airport for a 9:40 a.m. flight to Guangzhou. That extra piece of luggage I bought yesterday was packed solid. I’m not sure how we’re going to get our Guangzhou souvenirs home. Oh well, we’ll worry about that later.

We had an interesting snag at the airport. I bought a couple of small swords/daggers to remember Nanchang by (like I needed anything to remind me of that place) and packed them into a bag that we checked in. Security noticed them on the X-ray machine and Grace and I spent quite a long time convincing them that I wasn’t going to kill someone. I wanted to make a sarcastic statement to these guys like, “Well, I can carry them on if you’d like,” but I figured that would probably delay my trip to Guangzhou since I would be waiting on the next available flight from a lovely Chinese prison cell. I’m not sure what Grace said to them, but they wrote down my passport information and finally let me and my baggage board the plane.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for. Katie Lin did great for her first flight. She fussed a little bit during the ascent and descent, probably because her ears were popping. We tried to relieve her discomfort with a bottle which definitely helped. She spent a good portion of the flight in my lap playing with her spoon, a wet wipe package, and her bottle (which was her surrogate drum). It’s amazing what entertains little ones, isn’t it? We spend so much money on toys and they seem to get more enjoyment out of the package they came in.

After landing at the Guangzhou airport, we waited for an hour for our other Lifelines families to arrive from Changsha. Then it was off to the White Swan Hotel where we waited for another hour to check in. The best part of the wait was the fried rice I ate from a local coffee shop next door to the hotel while Lily, our guide, handled the hotel blunder. Yummy! It was the best rice I’ve had since my last trip to Taiwan. I’ll be back there tomorrow, I’m sure. Lily was kind enough to treat everyone else to pizza during the wait, but of course my goofy food allergies prevented me from enjoying the pizza with the rest of our crowd.

This hotel really is amazing. I can’t believe we’re finally here. After seeing so many pictures, videos, web sites, and TV shows about the White Swan, it’s surreal actually being here. There are literally hundreds of Americans and other westerners here with their newly adopted Chinese children. I’m in china-girl heaven. They are all beautiful, everyone last one of them. I just want to kiss them all (under the age of five, of course).

We spent about 30 minutes getting settled into our rooms before heading for the girls’ medical exams. Katie Lin is a healthy little baby. They said she weighed about 19 lbs., but that was with her heavy clothes on. I’d guess she weighs no more than 17-18 lbs. I’ll spare you the other stat’s. Let’s just say she measures up to my standards of a beautiful little China princess.

Then it was off to Lily’s room to do the U.S. paperwork. These were Federal Government documents so you can imagine how long it took. It was excruciatingly painful, but Lily did a great job of leading us through it as quickly as possible with her “cheat sheets”. I must say, she is pretty impressive. I can tell she’s done this many times before. We don’t even have to go with her to the U.S. Consulate tomorrow. She is going to handle everything for us. She is just one of many very talented, hard-working people at Lifeline Children’s Services.

After working up a serious appetite filling out so many forms, we all went to a local Tai restaurant. It was, without a doubt, the best meal we’ve had in China. I’m sure we’ll go back before we leave Friday. It’s only about a five minute walk. Many of you may not realize this, but the White Swan Hotel is located on Shamian Island. It is like an isolated city of it’s own with little shops, restaurants, a hospital and schools. It’s very safe and is full of Americans, so everyone is very comfortable here.

Tomorrow we will relax in the morning before going pearl and jade shopping in the afternoon. Pray for me, men, that I will be able to control my wife on this shopping spree. Hey, maybe I’ll keep Katie Lin while she goes shopping! Yeah right…Sonya want let KL out of her sight for more than 15 minutes at a time. Can’t say I blame her though. When you’ve waited and prayed for someone for so long, you want to spend as much time with her as possible. She is a dream come true!

God bless,

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother

Our Last Day in Nanchang

Yes! It was YUMMY!

Who are those BLONDS?


Finally! The sun has set on our last full day in Nanchang. Our business here is done and now it’s time to move on the Guangzhou for the U.S. paperwork. We received Katie Lin’s passport this morning so we can now travel with our little China doll. It’s pretty cool having five passports now – four blue and one red. For the moment, Katie Lin is still a Chinese citizen, and therefore, has a Chinese passport. I’ve loaded a few pic’s under the “2-28-05” folder of our official documents.

After leaving the Chinese government building with our last piece of official Chinese paperwork in hand, we went porcelain shopping. Oh boy! Was that exciting for us guys! Actually it was quite interesting. Drew and Ben even bought a few things for themselves. Of course, the whole time I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs. I just knew the boys were going to break something, but we made it without having to pay extra expenses for broken pieces.

After stopping by McD’s again (remember, I promised yesterday not to say anything negative about McD’s), we headed back to the hotel for an hour or so. Then we (Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother) decided to go shopping – no guide, no interpreter, just our funny looking faces and pretty blonde hair. There’s a shopping area a few blocks away that is for pedestrians only. It’s a very safe area with big crowds and lots and lots of stores so we thought that would be our best bet.

Some of you are already aware of this, but the Chinese are VERY curious about us white people from a distant country. They are especially intrigued by blonde hair, which everyone in our family has been blessed (?) with except for Katie Lin and me. We’ve been followed around by quite a few people, which can be pretty intimidating at best and make you very paranoid at worst. On the way to the shopping area, some young man walked along beside us staring at us the whole time as if he were peering through some one way mirror through which we couldn’t see him on the other side. Weird! I like how Tal Prince put it in one of his posts recently. When you’re in a van or bus traveling with other Americans in this country, you feel as though you’re on display in some sort of rolling aquarium. Oh well, we’ve been told by countless people not to worry about it, it’s just a different culture and the Chinese are very inquisitive people.

After finally losing our biggest Chinese fan in a local grocery store, we hit a few shops before Sonya, Ben, Grandmother and Katie Lin decided they were tired and would wait on some park benches for Drew and me to finish shopping for luggage (by now we are in desperate need of some extra storage capacity). As we walked off, Sonya was showing a couple of local elderly ladies a little card that says, “We have come to China to adopt this little girl. We will always love her and teach her about beautiful China.” I took about 20 to 30 steps and turned around and a huge crowd was gathering around our family (minus me and Drew) so I decided I’d better go back to help out, but not before snapping a few pictures (again, see the “2-28-05” photo file).

When I finally broke through the crowd, Sonya looked pretty stressed, but I think Ben was enjoying the attention. Of course, he had no idea how many people were gathered around them or it would probably have freaked him out. I counted approximately 50 locals gawking at our little girl and beautiful blonde-haired boys. They were all very sweet and were obviously saying a lot of nice things to us, but we made like Bill Clinton’s personality and split as quickly as possible. As long as we kept walking, no one would approach us. Once we got the rest of the family safety on their way, Drew and I decided to finish our shopping and we all met again at the hotel about 30 minutes later.

Our last dinner in Nanchang was at a small restaurant with our guide, Grace. She wanted us to experience some local Chinese food before heading to Guangzhou. To say it was hot and spicy is like saying I’m a slight Auburn Football fan. In other words, it was HOT!!! We did have a great time with our friends, but now it’s time to pack up our things and go.

This is probably the last post you will receive from me until we arrive and settle down in Guangzhou tomorrow. I assume I’ll have broadband internet service at the White Swan Hotel. If not, I’ll find an internet cafĂ© somewhere. I’m sure we’ll have lots of pic’s and stories to post during our last few days in China. Until then, God bless.

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother

Feng Cheng

Hospital in Feng Cheng


Every time I had thought about visiting China, I had imagined myself traveling through the countryside, watching rice farmers tend their crops, seeing an old cow being led alongside the road by an elderly Chinaman, and perhaps watching the fog rise over the distant mountains on a cold morning. Today was that day. Finally, we escaped the noise and crowds of this capital city of Jiangxi province in China and drove almost two hours to Feng Cheng, the city of our daughter, Feng Shu Juan (aka Katie Lin Hodge).

It was rainy, cold and windy as we weaved in and out among buses, vans, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and animals on the way to Feng Cheng. It was sad to see how so many people (probably most of the population) live in this country. The conditions of the small towns and villages we saw would be considered third world by our standards. I wondered how happy these people were. Could it be that they are content with their simple, quiet lives? Do they experience the same struggles we do trying to be successful in business and keeping up with social agendas? And most importantly, have they ever heard the name, Jesus Christ? If not, who will tell them? Seeing this part of China gives me a whole new appreciation of the tremendous challenge of missions.

As we drove into Feng Cheng, I was surprised by the size of the city (population over one million). We picked up Mr. Wang, assistant to Mr. Wu, the orphanage director, and he showed us around the area, including where our little girls were abandoned. I would love to share more of the details with you, but we have decided to keep this matter somewhat private and share it only with some close family members and our daughter when she is older.

Mr. Wang drove us past several landmarks in Feng Cheng, including the hospital and town square, but unfortunately we were not allowed to visit the orphanage. I’m so glad we were able to visit the Nanchang SWI earlier this week to get an idea of what the Feng Cheng orphanage must be like. As it turns it though, we learned that Katie Lin and Emma did not spend much time there, except for monthly medical exams. They were well taken care of by their foster families. We were able to learn a lot about these precious caretakers from Mr. Wang, including their names, but again, I must use discretion about this information until Katie Lin is old enough to hear about her foster family from us first.

I am so glad we took the time to travel to Feng Cheng. I think we would have regretted it deeply if we had not been so assertive about our desire to go there. This trip was not part of our original agenda with our guide, Grace, but she was gracious enough (I guess that’s where she gets her name) to take us there anyway. We captured much of our trip on video. Thanks God for modern electronics. Please pray for a safe journey home for all our video tapes and other electronic media. What a priceless treasure!

Now for the fun part…On the way home we stopped by, you guessed it, McDonald’s! Anyone who has ever traveled to Taiwan with me can tell you that I love rice. I eat it all the time, but 2-3 times a day for two weeks gets old fast. I promise I will never speak curses against McD’s again! You can hold me accountable to that.

Later this afternoon, after returning to the hotel, we had an artist paint banners with each of the children’s names (see pic’s). It really was fascinating. Hopefully Drew and Ben will appreciate all the Chinese culture they are soaking in for years to come. We have committed to teaching Katie Lin about her Chinese heritage as she grows up. Something tells me that she might notice at some point that she looks different than us.

By the way, we took her with us on our trip today. She slept most of the time on the way there and learned how to eat Cheerios proficiently by herself on the way back. She has pretty impressive fine motor skills, if I may say so myself. She’s also really enjoying her bath. She’s learned to splash like her brothers did when they were her age.

Tomorrow we will get her official passport. Then the next day we will FINALLY fly to Guangzhou for the last leg of our journey. We’ve valued our time in China tremendously, but there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…oh, I’m still here.

Until we see you all again on March 5, 2005…wan an (good evening) and we love you all.

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother

Pizza Hut with the Browns

Gary, Sommer and Emma Brown
Emma and Katie Lin
Grandmother, Sonya, Katie Lin and PIZZA HUT

2/26/05 (p.m.)

It's a rainy, cold day in Nanchang, but that didn't stop us from doing a little site seeing today. As you can see from our pictures (ref. the "2-26-05" photo album), we visited the Nanchang Pavilion with the Browns and our guide, Grace. We saw a lot of beautiful architecture, gardens, art, and were entertained by a small Chinese theater team. It made for great video action. I think the best part for the boys was all the souvenirs they collected. We also posed for a few pictures. Don't you just love the one we've posted on our home page?

This afternoon we spent time doing what we enjoy the most -- getting to know our little girl. She is getting stronger everyday. She's becoming more comfortable on her tummy and will even roll over onto her back from that position; however, she still prefers to be held. I don't blame her, don’t we all?

For dinner tonight, we ordered from Pizza Hut with the Browns. I ordered a hamburger from room service since I have so many food allergies. It came complete with bacon, fried egg, cucumber and pineapple. It was delicious! I just hope it was really hamburger meat. And of course I ordered TWO orders of french fries. Emma and KL seemed to enjoy playing together. We're thinking about throwing them a dual birthday party at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou sometime after we arrive next Tuesday since they probably didn't get to experience one (at least not American style) before meeting their forever families. Emma's birthday was in January and KL's in February.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day. We are traveling to the city where KL and Emma were born, abandoned, and then lived with their foster parents. It's about a two hour drive so the boys are staying with Grandmother at the hotel. We will visit the location where each of our babies was abandoned, but probably will not be allowed to visit their orphanage. Please pray that somehow God will open that door for us, literally. I don't want to miss that opportunity if at all possible. Also pray that He will protect us from sickness as we're traveling.

I know you all are probably tired of me saying this, but you're the greatest friends in the world. We are so blessed to know each of you. Your support has been incredible and means so much to us. Katie Lin will, no doubt, be the most loved little girl in the world (of course, I'm a little subjective in my opinions).

God bless,

Jeff, Sonya, Drew, Ben, Katie Lin and Grandmother