Merry Christmas from Tam, Mike and Sarah Grace Dunn!

Let’s see now, what news do we have for the Christmas letter this year? . . . Well, there’s mostly what we did on our summer vacation.  We added the long-awaited third member of our family!

After two years of paperwork and waiting, we went to China, where Sarah Grace Dunn, formerly Chang Xiao Chao, joined our family. After spending two weeks in China doing still more paperwork and getting to know our daughter, we brought her back to the States as a new little American. One more Yank, one less Chicom: winning geopolitics one baby at a time.

Everything else that happened this year is overshadowed by parenthood in middle age; the horrors of September 11 were made easier to bear by her presence, and as tired as we are, it is also invigorating. As Michael has said for years, as our contemporaries are facing the empty nest, we are facing the full diaper; and loving every minute of it. When she wakes up and says “Daddy”, or “happy”, it all becomes more than worthwhile.

As many of you will already know, we kept a log while in China and regularly posted it, from China, to our personal website at; the log is still there for those who haven’t seen it, and records events as they occurred, actually with the last stuff first. It’s a good thing, because already we have trouble remembering anything that happened before Sarah Grace.  The website has a lot more pictures and other stuff about her, all of it accessible from And amazingly, we were able to update the website from Changsha, where Mao went to school, more easily than from Hong Kong; globalization forever. They sell Pabst Blue Ribbon in Mao’s hometown now. In fact, it’s the only beer we could get at the airport.

We learned of our match on May 24, left Washington June 27, spent a couple of days in Hong Kong and then flew to Changsha, Hunan the night of July 1; we received Sarah Grace around 1 pm on July 2, adopted her on July 3, and so on July 4 she was already rapidly becoming another little Yank. (Though she has a Communist Chinese passport for the time being, which she may find quaint someday . . .). We returned to the US on July 13 and to Washington on July 14.

If you’d told us a few years ago that we’d visit China for two weeks and never see Beijing, or Shanghai, or the Great Wall, or the Yangtze gorges, or the terracotta army, or any of the other sights, we’d have dismissed the idea. But we went for two weeks and saw none of those places. We were in Changsha, Hunan, the provincial capital of her home province (she’s a “chili baby” from Hunan, said to be spicy in nature), and then in Guangzhou (Canton in the old days), where the US consulate handles the formalities of all American adoptions from China. We also spent two days in Hong Kong on the way in, but all the pre-Sarah Grace era has faded from memory.

Sarah Grace Dunn was born April 10, 2000, so she’ll be some 20 months old this Christmas, presumably the first she’s ever celebrated. She was found abandoned in Changde, Hunan, on May 13, 2000, and raised at the Changde Social Welfare Center (an orphanage) until we adopted her. When we got her, they claimed she could say a word or two of Chinese, but we never heard any, and she’s picking up English; she could only walk with help at 14 months, but two weeks or so after getting back she got tired of needing a hand, and while Tam was talking on the phone and not giving her enough attention, just got up and walked across the room to Michael. She was considerably less surprised than we were.

So what else is new with the Dunns?

Who cares?: back to Sarah.

There were 13 babies being adopted by our group, and thus a huge busload of American couples and Chinese babies were running from government office to government office. Although other parents probably think the same, we believe we got the cutest, smartest, and best behaved of the 13. Sarah has heavy black hair, beautiful dark eyes, a little pug nose and pouty lips. Michael says he does not plan to let her date until she’s 35 or 40. Now that military academies are coed, he supposes we’ll have to send her to convent schools.

Oh, we suppose there was some other news. We took a few short weekend trips before the big China journey, and had to cancel a Memorial Day trip to North Carolina when the match came through days before and we suddenly had a baby room to get ready. (We couldn’t do it sooner because we didn’t know what age we’d be getting.) (I guess the non-Sarah Grace news just became Sarah Grace news again.) Michael’s still at both his own The Estimate and also is Editor of The Middle East Journal, and got a fair amount of media attention during the post-September 11 and Afghan war periods; Tam is still Associate Editor of Air Force Magazine, so it’s a busy time for her too. Michael is currently telecommuting from home two days a week so Sarah isn’t in daycare more than three days, and she is also popular at both of our offices. Some other stuff must have happened this year that didn’t involve Sarah, but we can’t remember it anymore. We enjoyed having our own lives once (when we can remember them), but enjoy being her parents even more.

A Merry Christmas, belated Happy Hannukah and Ramadan Karim to all our friends, and a Happy Chinese New Year coming up from all of us here at Chez Sarah Grace.

See the Christmas Letter for 1999

See the Christmas Letter for 2000

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