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*The following is a guest blog post by Chris Tracy, father of three whose youngest, Ellen Christine (Ellie) was adopted from China and brought home to the United States in March. 

I would like to introduce myself, my name is Chris, my wife, Julie and I, recently returned from China earlier this year in March, with the newest addition to our family, Ellen Christine (Ellie).  Ellie, who is two years old was welcomed by big brother and sister; Summer 15 and Wyatt 13.  It seems like such a long time ago in which we started the process to adopt.  Ellie was in the waiting child program, so our wait was relatively short, just 14 months.    She has quickly become such a fixture in our family, I can’t imagine a time in which she wasn’t with us.  Our lives have definitely changed since adopting Ellie, I would have to say all for the better.

As soon as Julie and I, met Ellie, we instantly fell in love with her.  I know some people don’t think it’s possible to fall in love so easily, but I was in love with her as soon as I saw her picture.  Our time in China was exciting, however, Ellie had a bad cold and we were unable to get out and see all of the sights we had planned.  We were able to visit the Terra Cotta warriors and other sights in Ellie’s home province, Shaanxi.  One of the things Julie and I were both fascinated with was the architecture.  To think some of the buildings were over a thousand years old and still standing, what an accomplishment.

Once we arrived home, we were met by family and friends at the airport.  Ellie, who wasn’t real comfortable around strangers, immediately went to our son and oldest daughter.  I think it was because she had seen pictures of ourfamily we had provided her orphanage.  They immediately took to one another, brothers and sisters in arms, so to speak.  Upon our arrival home, I took a picture of the three of them playing on Ellie’s bedroom floor with my IPhone, just a spur of the moment picture, it remains one of my favorites.

While recovering from jetlag and readjusting to our time zone, we remained at our home for about two weeks, just trying to get settled in as a new family.  Once we recovered, we began taking Ellie to all the places we like to visit as a family.  Trips to the park, local shopping centers, all the places a family goes when they’re ready to venture out and show off their newest addition.  People are drawn to Ellie and ask all kinds of questions about where she is from and her heritage.  We’re proud of her and tell everyone we meet about our adventure in China.

Earlier this year, we celebrated the Chinese New Year at two separate events.  We were excited because we were very close to going to China to get Ellie.  I can’t even imagine what next year’s celebration will be like with Ellie.  Hopefully, we will be in anticipation of travelling to China again, as we have started the process to adopt another little girl. As we move forward, we will be relying on our faith, family and friends, to help us bring our fourth child home.

Learn more about the Tracy family and the latest on their adoption process by visiting their family blog, Hopeful Hearts Waiting Arms.  

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*The following is a guest blog post by Stacie Hrabe, mother of two girls adopted from China. 

I first heard about Chinese adoption in the early to mid 90’s (before I was married or knew my husband) looking at the referral photo of a co-workers niece I knew instantly in my heart that I would some day adopt from China.

Ten years later my husband and I set out on the journey to start a family.  We realized that we would not be able to conceive (without IVF) on our own and after a few attempts we made the decision to adopt.  Chinese adoption had stuck in my mind and heart for those ten years, knowing eventually that we would find our child there but not knowing in what way it was to happen.  I am such an emotional decision maker, but this time I wanted to make sure that our decision was a rational one, as well, so I set forth on many months of research and due diligence into the different adoption programs both International and Domestic.  In all cases China seemed the most stable but most importantly I could not get China out of mind.

Long story short- the power of the Red Thread is unstoppable.  We were meant to be the parents of these two amazing girls. Zoey, our first, was adopted at 14 months old in the non special needs program (after a 2 year wait).  She is now 6. Violet was adopted last month at 30 months old in the minor special needs program after less than a year wait.

It was inn January of 2011 that I felt the tug of the Red Thread, once again.  I knew that I had left a piece of my heart in China and it was time to go back to find that missing piece. We chose to be matched rather than choose from a waiting child list because I wanted it to be a process that was completely out of my hands as I am someone who tends to overthink everything!   We had been unsure up until this moment as to whether we would adopt again but the feeling of “now or never” was so overwhelming that we jumped right in knowing that our daughter was waiting for us to come.

Celebrating Zoey and Violet and their Chinese heritage has become a way of life.  It is interwoven into our daily lives through festivals , celebrations and customs we take part in.  It is present in the Mandarin lessons, calligraphy, Chinese watercolor painting and the food we cook.  It is present in the school we chose that celebrates all countries and customs and welcomes Zoey to share hers from her first country.  It is present in the art and decorating we choose for our house and the friends that we seek out who share our daughter’s heritage.  We are excited to join a family culture camp in the next few years once Violet is old enough and look forward to many trips back to China, the country that has given us so much!

Every Tuesday, we feature a new family whose lives have been touched by adoption. If you would like to contribute by sharing your story, please e-mail amy@ajpanda.com. 

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In the United States, tea drinking is much more casual than in Chinese culture. Here we drink it iced, flavored, sweetened, made from an instant mix and out of vending machines. The practice of drinking tea actually originated in China where the first tea leaf was found in the southwestern region thousands of years ago. Wild tea trees 2,700 years old can still be found there! Tea is drunk in China every day to symbolize good health and for simple pleasure, but there are also several special circumstances when it is custom to prepare and serve tea. It is hard to imagine that the Chinese have been observing these customs for thousands of years!

  • As a sign of respect – The younger generation shows respect to their elders by offering a cup of tea.
  • At family gatherings
  • To apologize – Pouring tea to the one you wronged is sign of regret and submission.
  • In the traditional Chinese marriage ceremony – The bride and groom serve tea to their parents and say thank you for raising them. Tea is always served when introducing large, extended families at wedding ceremonies. Drinking the tea symbolizes acceptance into the family.

Whatever the occasion for drinking tea, don’t forget to do the “thanks” knock! To show gratitude to the one who poured you the tea, tap your bended index or middle finger on the table.

At AJ Panda, we strive to offer our customers the most authentic and unique Chinese teapots and tea sets. We offer yixing teapots, cast iron teapots, porcelain teapots, tea cups and other Chinese tea accessories. Whatever your tea drinking rituals are, we hope we offer a set that suits your needs and tastes!

 

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AJ Panda Goes Live

The dream of AJ Panda has been realized. The dream was born 3 years ago when my family experienced the blessing and honor of adopting beautiful twin daughters from China. It was during my trip to China to complete the adoption process that I was inspired by my daughters’ birth country and became determined to learn and celebrate the culture of their heritage. Since that time in 2006 steady progress has been made to create a website that helps families learn about and celebrate Chinese culture.

Today is the official go-live date for AJPanda.com. While we have great expectations for the long-term success that awaits us, we humbly realize that today is a small step and that much more work and effort will be needed as we strive to realize our vision. As Confucius notes:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So as we take this first yet significant step, I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who has helped thus far, especially Marjie, Andrew, and Ryan. I would like to express my appreciation to my loving wife who provides the strength and support to sustain our family. And lastly, I’d like to recognize the inspiration of this website, my daughters AnMei and JiaLi. You have enriched our family beyond words, and I am excited to develop this business to honor you and your birth country.

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