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Baby adopted from China celebrates birthday July 4

Tatum Namie came to the United States in early January

By Brian Conlin, bconlin@patuxent.com

2:52 PM EDT, July 2, 2012

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On the eve of adopting their second daughter from China, Stephen and Tracy Namie looked out their hotel room on a late December night in Nanjing and saw fireworks bursting on the horizon.

To this day, the Catonsville residents don't know why those fireworks were set off in the city on China's eastern shore.

But the moment fit the fabric of their expanding family perfectly.

The next day, the Namies, including daughter, Jordan, now 7, welcomed Tatum into their family.

Tatum will celebrate her first birthday July 4.

"We promised her fireworks every year," Tracy Namie joked.

"She might not get them this year," her husband of 13 years responded. "She's a little young. They might spook her."

Still the family will participate in Catonsville's Fourth of July Parade and use Tatum's response to the blaring fire trucks to gauge her readiness for the popping noises above later that night.

For the Namies, this year's Independence Day will be a combined celebration of Tatum's and the nation's birthday, complete with a cookout with some local relatives that could become a tradition.

"Someday, she'll want pizza for her birthday, and we'll have to say, 'Sorry, that'll be on the fifth,'" Tracy Namie joked.

Aside from some crankiness following two surgeries to repair a cleft palate and cleft lip, Tatum has adjusted to her new family and community swimmingly.

"It's gone amazingly well. She's an extremely happy baby," her mother said. "She's just filled with joy."

In other words, Tatum is living up to the name her parents chose after seeing her wide smile in adoption photos.

Tatum means "cheerful one who brings joy," according to her father.

The Namies pursued adoption because of infertility issues and expanded their family in 2005 with the addition of Jordan, then 10 months old.

"We were very excited to go through the process again," Stephen Namie said. "We always knew that we wanted more than one child."

A shake-up in China's adoption regulations slowed the adoption of a second child as the Namies would have to refile adoption papers each year, they said.

After three years of waiting, they looked into other options, including adopting a child with special needs.

"We did find from an agency that those referrals were moved along a little faster," Stephen Namie said, citing a need in some cases for the child to get proper medical care promptly and smaller demand for children with special needs.

"It really was a decision not to be made lightly," Tracy Namie said. "We really had to take some time to think and pray."

Jordan started hearing at age 2 that she would soon have a little sister, who, like her, would come from China.

Now that the five-year wait is over, Jordan described her feelings in two words.

"It's awesome," she said loudly enough to be heard throughout the house off North Rolling Road.

Jordan must share a bedroom with her sister, but said she doesn't mind.

"I felt really excited, because I got to have a sister and play with her," Jordan said, adding one of her favorite games with her sister is peek-a-boo.

Jordan's enthusiasm for her sister's birthday began with shopping trips that started nearly a month before Tatum's birthday.

In the family's living room of their home in Westview Park, Jordan's theme for her sister's birthday became apparent as she showed off several presents she got for Tatum. She pulled out a red, white and blue anklet, a stuffed Beanie Baby bear adorned in stars and a hand-made card on which she substituted stars for the letter "O."

"I'm so excited because it's Independence Day," said Jordan, who will begin second grade at Lamb of God School in the fall. "She's turning 1."

Tatum's parents have bought patriotic outfits and toys for Tatum's birthday this year but plan to mix it up from year to year like they do with Jordan.

Every other year, the Namies will give the girls gifts they bought during their visits to China to pick up their daughters in an effort to connect them with their native land's heritage and culture. From those birthdays, Jordan has already received a silk shirt and bracelet with a lady bug, the Chinese symbol for adoption.

The Namies have other Chinese-themed presents picked out for their girls but want to keep them a surprise.

People seeing Tatum's birthday as a symbol of her destiny to move to America is something the Namies come across often.

"It's pretty consistent," Tracy Namie said. "They just associate it right away with all that it is. Everybody goes there."

"I just think it's serendipitous to see the date and think the kid was destined to be an American citizen," her husband added.

For the Namies, Tatum's birthday serves more as a neat coincidence.

"It's not necessarily a sign," her father said. "It's been fun for us as a family to make it part of her story."