Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas waiting for Lottie Lee

What can I say, 2011 was a very memorable year, as we have been preparing to grow our family and adopt Lottie Lee.  This year, Christmas time held a different meaning to us and we truly felt the Christmas spirit resonate throughout of lives.  It’s a time to be with family and to remember what is most important. Needless to say, Lottie Lee was not far from anyone’s mind and we spoke of her often.  And even though we have a couple more months until we get to see her picture, she is always a part of our daily thoughts.  We just cannot wait until she is here with us every day. 

This year Santa left some very special presents under the tree for Miss Lottie Lee.  I just cannot wait to re-wrap and watch her open next year.  Some of our most treasured gifts were from Grandpa T & Nana, which included the beautiful frame that made me just tear up instantly, "Angels danced the day you were born"...ahhh couldn't say it any better.  We will definitely be using this frame to display Lottie Lee's referral photo.  The Head family surprised us with some more treasured gifts, including Chinese blocks that we have been looking at, but had not purchased.  And such a fun surprise, an addition to her beautiful Alice in Wonderland themed nursery, was a beautiful Rabbit wall hanging (in picture above, left). Lottie also received her very first Cabbage Patch doll & Mulan Barbie doll.  She will be too young but Santa just couldn't resist. And lastly Nana brought a handmade baby quilt during the 2005 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, 2 weeks after Scott and I met, insisting it would be a great blanket for a grand baby (at the time I thought she was crazy).  When we opened the box containing this quilt my heart skipped a beat. 

We look forward to next year, sharing all these wonderful and meaningful gifts, and celebrating our first Christmas with Lottie Lee, it will be such a wonderful day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Holidays

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and very Happy New Year!  From our growing family to yours.
Let Every Day Be Christmas
by Norman Wesley Brooks
Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.

Peace on Earth, good will to men,
kind thoughts and words of cheer,
are things we should use often
and not just once a year.

Remember too the Christ-child, grew up to be a man;
to hide him in a cradle, is not our dear Lord's plan.
So keep the Christmas spirit, share it with others far and near,
from week to week and month to month, throughout the entire year!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

La Mia Bella Photos with Santa Fundraiser

What a blessing and an amazing turn out. We had a blast at La Mia Bella Pet Salon. Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate and participate in our fundraiser to help bring Lottie Lee home. We were able to raise a considerable amount toward our HomeStudy, which will be completed in January. We enjoyed spending time with Perry & Lisa and witnessed firsthand how connected they are with their customers.  We were busy throughout the day capturing photos of pups, kitties, children, and families. Not enough words to express our gratitude. Thank you from our family to yours.  We look forward to next year!  Hopefully, we will take photos of Lottie Lee in Santa's arms, while raising donations for another family waiting to bring home their baby.

"Believe in LOVE. Believe in MAGIC. Believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?”

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Love Without Boundaries

We found this wonderful non-profit program that works directly with children in China, we wanted to share some adorable pictures and some of the background on Love without Boundaries, please check out their website.We just adore looking at all their cleft babies and their sweet faces.

Love Without Boundaries

LWB provides the most loving and compassionate help possible to orphaned and impoverished children in China. We provide humanitarian aid in five key areas Education, Foster Care, Healing Homes, Medical, and OrphanageCare.

Love Without Boundaries Foundation (LWB) began in the year 2003, after a group of adoptive parents came together to help save the life of one tiny boy in China. Following his successful heart surgery, they realized that people with a pure love for helping children can truly make a difference.

LWB incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charity in the state of Oklahoma, and our worldwide team of volunteers went to work. We have watched our foundation grow from providing a handful of surgeries and baby formula in 2003 to touching the lives of thousands of children today through our many program areas. LWB holds Charity Navigator's highest 4 star rating and has an administrative overhead of less than 10%.

LWB is a worldwide group of volunteers dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and impoverished children in China. We provide humanitarian aid in five key areas – Education, Foster Care, Healing Homes, Medical, and Orphanage Assistance – enabling children to receive families through adoption or to become self-sustaining members of their communities

Saturday, November 26, 2011

9 months later...we say your name at least 100 times a day

Special Thank you to Melissa Glynn Photography for capturing some beautiful photos for our Holiday cards. It amazes us that 9 months ago we began this journey and Melissa was right there taking our photos so we could announce to our family and friends that we were adopting our firstborn Lottie Lee from China. She is not only a fabulously talented photographer she is funny and Scott likes her too! She will be following us through our journey and capturing all of our big moments throughout the next couple of months! Proud Mommy & Daddy with Lottie Lee's first photos, hopefully waiting for us at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and of course Lottie Lee's first official photo shoot.

Now we still are waiting until Winn's 30th birthday (April 23rd) to submit our dossier to China (one of the many requirements set by China's government) but it is officially paper-chase time and we are busy with parenting classes, blood work & doctor physicals, letters of reference, background checks, and home visits. It is a scary and overwhelming process but we are taking it step by step and trying to enjoy all the steps that will lead us to Lottie.

In the end we will have our baby girl and be ready to do it all over again!

Tis' the Season

Restaurant.com Gift Cards make great Stocking Stuffers!

During the Holiday Season 10% of donations received from CoupAide gift cards for the Lottie Lee Fund will be given to Smile Train to help deliver cleft lip surgeries to children in need! If you would like to be a part of Lottie Lee's Red Thread please contact us.  We have gift cards and Holiday cards(pictured above)  Place your orders by e-mail winncastagno@yahoo.com

Gift Cards are also available online http://coupaide.com/deal/lottielee/

8 Reasons why Restaurant.com Gift cards make great Holiday Gifts.

1. Your supporting cause collects $10 with each purchase.

2. Huge bang for your buck. You receive a $50 gift certificate with only a $20 contribution.

3. Instant gratification. Receive your gift certificate immediately upon purchase.

4. Certificates make great gifts and never expire.

5. With over 18,000 partnered restaurants nationwide use these gift certificates while your in our out of town.

6. Extremely easy to use. Visit Restaurant.com, find your favorite restaurant, print the custom voucher, and give it to your waiter.

7. You may break your $50 up in $10, $15, or $25 to redeem at multiple locations

8. 10% of funds will be donated to Smile Train

Monday, November 14, 2011

10 Things to Be Thankful for.....

This time of year it is always good to reflect on things for which we are thankful, and we are so grateful for many things in our lives, including these:

A person we don't even know who purchased several gift cards from CoupAide for us on October 1st.

Opening the mail and finding a donation and a pretty little tutu from an old friend of over a decade ago.

That Lottie will have such wonderful Grandparents and their on-going support to get her here.

That Winn's godmother Charmaine and mother Abbe are joining us on our journey to China.

CoupAide's help with fundraising.

Our friends at, La Mia Bella, who have included us as photographers in their Santa doggie photo shoot to also help us raise funds.

A special friend who has been all-ears and supportive ever since we started this adventure 9 months ago. Thanks for always being there.

Prayers and love from Flower Mound, TX and for giving us the best godmother for Lottie.

Our photographer Melissa Glynn, who will help us capture the next year or so with beautiful photography.

To the birth parents who will have made a difficult decision and all others who have taken care of her before us, we are very grateful.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Give the gift of a Smile

This holiday 10% of all donations for the Lottie Lee Fund will be donated to Smile Train

"Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly, aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job.  Being born with a cleft in a developing country is truly a curse. Every baby born in Uganda with a cleft is given the name Ajok which means literally, “cursed by God.” Some newborns are killed or abandoned right after birth.  The good news is that every single child with a cleft can be helped with surgery that costs as little as $250. It's a true modern-day medical miracle that gives a child back their life." Courtesy of Smiletrain

During the Holiday Season 10% of donations received from CoupAide gift cards for the Lottie Lee Fund will be given to Smile Train to help deliver cleft lip surgeries to children in need! If you would like to be a part of Lottie Lee's Red Thread please contact us.  we have Red Thread packets with gift cards to sell. 

Gift Cards are also available online   http://coupaide.com/deal/lottielee/

Let's change a child's life and give them the ability to smile! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas Pictures with Santa

When we started talking about adoption, Scott and I had no idea how we would be able to afford the expenses, we just decided that together we would make it work and we would not let the financial aspects interfere with our dream to adopt our daughter. 

Everything would fall into place...

Blessing have continued to change our lives, dear friends Perry & Lisa Silvas owners of La Mia Bella Pet Salon have opened their hearts and provided us the opportunity to participate in their annual Pictures with Santa event.  When they initially called we thought they wanted our help taking the pictures with a donation to the Lottie Lee Fund.  We were so excited.  But it doesn't end there!  Perry and Lisa told us the entire event was dedicated to Lottie Lee and with all their help we hope to make this years Pictures with Santa the best one yet!

If you live in the Austin Area please join us for a fun filled day and get your picture with Santa!  Happy Holidays to all we certainly have more blessings than we ever expected and are so thankful!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

50 Thank yous

The best things in life are not things, the best things are people like you... Thank you for all the love and support.  Each day we find ourselves overjoyed with all the love.  Friends, family, and even strangers have come together to help us raise the funds to afford Lottie Lee's adoption. 

Our favorite "Thank you" story this month, is while visiting family we couldn't pass out the gift cards fast enough ( we actually ran out of gift cards) the love we felt was like nothing else. The enthusiasm to meet Lottie Lee and welcome her into our family was present our entire visit.  We felt so lucky to have such a wonderful, loving and supportive family!  For all of you we are so blessed!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wrapped in LOVE

Scott and I received this beautiful handmade shawl from our dear friend Georganne Chamness, it is a prayer shawl that has been blessed for our sweet Lottie Lee.  Words cannot describe the love and support we receive everyday, but tonight this beautiful handmade gift represents the tangible love.  We will cherish this gift and wrap ourselves in the love from our family and friends as we patiently wait to meet our baby and we will take this beautiful gift to China wrap ourselves in it as we fly across the world, we will cling to it as we wait to see Charlotte for the first time and we wrap Charlotte in it her first night with us. 

Prayer of Blessing
May God's grace be upon this shawl...
Warming, comforting, enfolding and embracing.
May this mantle be a safe haven...
A sacred place of security and well-being...
Sustaining and embracing in good times
As well as difficult ones.
May the one who receives this shawl
Be cradled in hope,
Kept in joy,
Graced with peace
And wrapped in love.
Blessed be!
St. Philips ACTS, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Love you Baby

As October draws to an end, we realized that our sweet Lottie Lee has been born. According to all the timelines for our adoption and friends we have met through the blog world we can expect Lottie Lee to be around 9-12 months when we travel to China in the Summer/Fall of 2012. 

Although many factors can change and everything about adoption is unpredictable it is comforting to have reached this milestone, as we have already been dreaming of this baby for 7 months.  It's a surreal feeling to know that across the world our baby is here and waiting for us. In the past few months we have spent many nights talking about Lottie Lee and all the wonderful things we hope to share with her. We cannot believe how fast time is passing us by, although we wish it would go faster so that we would have our sweet baby in our arms, we are trying to cherish the moments and enjoy this time as we wait.  

As Halloween neared, we made several pumpkins for Lottie Lee this one was the easiest-no carving involved, the Chinese characters read, “Love you Baby”, next year Lottie Lee may be here in our arms and we will be able to tell her everyday how much we love her.

Monday, October 10, 2011

98 Thank Yous

"How beautiful a day can be
when kindness touches it!"
~George Elliston

We are beyond words of gratitude and thanks. Cannot believe that in 30 days so many people have reached out to help us fundraise to bring Lottie Lee home to us! We feel so blessed to have all the wonderful friends and family that surround us with love and support every day throughout our journey.

September was an amazing month and with the help of CoupAide, friends, family and even strangers 98 gift cards were purchased in honor of our sweet baby. As each day passed we sat in wonder how so many people became a part our journey and more importantly a part of Lottie Lee's story.

Sadly we won't know much about her birthparents, actually most likely her birthday will be an estimate. We won't know why her parents chose adoption or is she has any brothers or sisters. But what we can tell her is how her story started with us.  How much she was loved even before we saw her picture.  We can share all the messages, cards, and well wishes. We can tell her that old friendships were reunited, and because of her new friendships began. We can share our journals and how that not a day went by that we did not think of her.  Most importantly we will share how so many people came together to make it possible to bring her home from China.  

Thank you to everyone, every thought, prayer and well wish has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for all the love and support!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The littlest one that ever sole my heart

You are the sweetest gift, my little pearl.
You are a bright young thing and the
whole world is in front of you.
Take things as they come and you will
weather well.
Go everywhere. 
Be brave and stong and free.
Keep your eyes and ears and heart wide open.
Look for goodness all around you.
And when you feel small in the
great big world, be still.
Think of your beautiful roots. 
They are deep and true and will
allow you to stretch far.
 So go into the world and let you little light shine.
And always remember you are loved
and blessed and the littlest one that
ever stole my heart.
~ Rebecca Puig

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dancing with the Dragon

We were able to watch our first Dragon Dance, while enjoying the 2011Moon Festival. It was beautiful, facinating, and rich in Chinese culture. Here is some information about the traditon, from Wikipedia.com.

Dragon dance (simplified Chinese: 舞龙; traditional Chinese: 舞龍; pinyin: wǔ lóng) is a form of traditional dance and performance in Chineseculture. Like the lion dance it is most often seen in festive celebrations. Many Chinese peopleoften use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" (龍的傳人 or 龙的传人, lóng de chuán rén) as a sign of ethnic identity, as part of a trend started in the 1970s. Another derivation is from (農的傳人) i.e. the descendants of Shennong, the legendary first king of the Chinese people who taught them agriculture, law and medicine, the foundationsof civilization.

In the dance, a team of people carry the dragon — which is an image of the Chinese dragon — on poles. A dragon can be composed of up to 50 people. The dance team does mimic the supposed movements of this river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner. The movements in a performance traditionally symbolize historical roles of dragons demonstrating power and dignity. The dragon dance is a highlight of Chinese New Yearcelebrations held worldwide in Chinatowns around the world.

Dragons are believed to bring good luck to people, which are reflected in their qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility (sex), wisdom and auspiciousness. The appearance of a dragon is both frightening and bold but it has a benevolent disposition, and so eventually became an emblem to represent imperial authority.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lottie Lee's Red Thread

We have been given the opportunity of a lifetime that not only will change our lives, but our daughter’s life. This opportunity can raise awareness about the adoption process and how it can be attainable for any family. Although we didn’t have the funds to finance our adoption, we certainly knew we didn’t want to jeopardize our financial situation by taking a second mortgage, or a high interest loan. We decided cutting back on day-to-day luxuries and possibly starting a side business to help finance our adoption, would be the best way for our family. We started Lottie Lee Photography, taking quality family portraits for a small donation toward our adoption. While looking for free advertising, I stumbled across a nonprofit company in the Austin area, and our journey took an overwhelmingly wonderful twist. We met with the founders of CoupAide, who after meeting with us and listening to our thoughts about adoption, decided to sponsor us and help with a fundraising campaign for Charlotte Lee's adoption. We were told that CoupAide will build a website in our daughter's honor to help raise funds for her adoption: for every Restaurant.com gift certificate sold on the Coupaide.com web page, they will donate 50% of the sales directly towards Lottie Lee's adoption.

We are speechless and cannot believe the opportunity that has been given to us. We hope not only to raise the necessary funds for our daughters adoption and possibly help provide surgeries of other children with cleft lip/palate, but also to make it a model for families to realize that although adoption is expensive, there are creative resources to help lessen the cost. With faith all things are possible! Special Thanks to Firas & Matt from CoupAide

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break."
--An ancient Chinese belief

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Children's Hope International

What a momentous day! We have been accepted by our agency, Children’s Hope International, and could not be happier. It was a long road to this point, which seems ironic since being accepted to an agency is a first step in any adoption, but we were relentless in our research that included spending a couple of months interviewing various agencies and reading books that guided us on what kind of questions to ask, plus warning signs to avoid. Ultimately, it came down to our initial intuition. We listed all of our priorities, one being that we were looking for the most transparent agency, that was upfront and honest about the process and cost. In addition, we wanted to find an agency with a strong philanthropic model and one that gives back to the orphanages and children in need. We confidently chose our agency based on those priorities and look forward to building our relationship as we embark on this journey.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why not China?

We have often been asked the question "Why adopt from China?. At first we didn’t know exactly how to explain why, we just felt a pull towards China, and slowly began reading more books and learning about the Chinese culture. Other coincidences occurred that just made us feel that China was the country for us. One in particular, was when we learned of the Chinese belief: an invisible red thread that connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance--a quote we read on a piece of artwork that we purchased and hung in our home. We just felt this immediate connection to China; even though we were worlds apart, to us it just seemed right. 

After a while it became more and more clear why we wanted to adopt from China. After reading several books, we discovered how the one-child policy and deeply embedded cultural beliefs, has played a significant role in why so many little girls in China are abandoned on freeways, bus stations, police stations, near orphanages, or they are just left anywhere that is a very public place. Knowing there are so many tiny babies, just needing a family to love, solidified China as the country for our family. In addition, learning all the resources Lottie Lee will have when we bring her home was so reassuring. Groups like Families of Children from China (FCC) and Mandarin Preschools made it possible for us to provide Lottie with all the Chinese cultural background that we could, to raise her in our multicultural family.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What’s in a name?

“Give her a name that means something.” A quote from Moses Whitecotton, a character from one of my favorite books, Where the Heart Is. Names have always been so important to me and one of the reasons, 11 years ago, I changed my name from Jessica to Winn. So where do we start? How can we choose a name for our Chinese daughter? Do we keep her given Chinese name?

Most of the literature tells us that Chinese orphanages name the children after arrival and not from the child’s birth parents. Thinking about a name and how it defines who we are, her Chinese name no matter how it came to be, is still a piece of who she is. There is some research in the adoption world about choosing a name, but there isn’t any definitive right or wrong answer. We decided to follow Moses Whitecotton’s words, and chose to use both of our family names and her Chinese name.  

We chose a name with great meaning, Charlotte Lee, after two very important people in our lives: my grandmother Charlotte Fogarty and Scott’s grandfather Lee Hall. And as per my grandmothers request, we will call her Lottie Lee. After further research, we found Charlotte is a feminine version of Charles, and is defined as a strong woman. This description just seemed to be the perfect meaning for our strong baby, who is beating all the odds against her. Once we are matched with our sweet baby we will use her Chinese name in combination with Charlotte Lee.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fortune Cookie

In the beginning of March, three days after we decided that we were going to begin the process of bringing Lottie Lee home, we celebrated with our favorite take-out Chinese restaurant Sichuan Garden, a staple in the Castagno home, and one of our favorite places to eat--nothing is better than ending a delicious meal with a fortune cookie. We both opened and read our fortunes, each of us with a blank stare, which quickly turned into smiles. We debated who would read their message first until we both blurted out our fortunes… “A lifetime of happiness lies ahead of you… and "Time and patience are called for as, many surprises await you”. It was at that instant we knew Lottie Lee would change our lives forever, and that our journey had officially begun!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Starting a Family

We are so excited to be starting our family this has been a compilation of many years, trying to plan when would be the best time to embark on this journey, we were young and thought we had many years to adopt, we always thought it would be later in life.  More recently in 2011, we spent more and more nights taking about our future family and thought why not adopt our first child what is stopping us from following our dreams of adoption. Unfortunely the financial aspect of adoption was daunting but we promised  we would do whatever it would take to make our dream a reality.  In the beginning we had no idea how our adoption would become a reality but we had stong faith that everything would fall into place.  And so this is where our journey began.