After months of hoping, praying, and waiting, we learned this week that our adoption of three-year-old Xuan was finally approved, and we'll soon be flying to Vietnam to escort her back to suburban Connecticut.We can't wait to give Xuan a real home, in a real country.

Roger and I already have three perfectly good natural children, but we desperately wanted to adopt a child from the Third World, to further demonstrate our love and generosity. It was not an easy process: there was a tremendous amount of paperwork, and the interviews with adoption agency staff were endless, but in the end we were convinced it was all worth it, because our little Xuan is the most wonderful, bright, and precious girl in all the developing nations.

Of course, everybody thinks their child is the most beautiful, but I'm a little more justified in this case, because not only am I not this child's real mother, but I specifically selected her from the agency's catalog. Roger and I instantly fell in love with her picture. With her jet black hair in sprightly little pigtails and an adorable, curious grin, she could almost be called a cherub, albeit an Asian one. At first, I feared that the precious little thing was only a sample picture, and was either unavailable for adoption or no longer resembled her photo, but, to my immense relief, I was told that the photo was current, and she was still up for grabs. She far outshined the other children in her orphanage: most looked thin, jaundiced, and listless, as if they weren't even aware that they were being photographed for an adoption catalog. Every child deserves loving parents, but that doesn't mean they can automatically assume they will get some. Would it hurt to put their best face forward? A bright personality has universal appeal.

When the agency showed us videos of Xuan with the other orphans, we saw that she was clearly the most sweet-natured, active, and poised. Her smock was the cleanest, and she avoided playing in the courtyard drain with the others. She even outclassed the potentially cuter and younger infants, who seemed to prefer spending their day lying tightly swaddled in rickety old cribs.

Xuan was already an expert with chopsticks, which is ideal because our family loves to go out for Japanese fusion. Best of all, she was disease-free. I can't tell you how thrilled Roger and I were about that one. We knew that Vietnam was no sub-Saharan Africa, but still, we didn't want our real children catching malaria or AIDS from her.

You really couldn't hope for a better child from the Third World. When I look into her brown, almond-shaped eyes, I don't see light-absorbing blotches so much as a window to another perspective, another way of life. By that I mean the American way of life. And she's going to love it.

We're renaming her Whitney, by the way, so the kids at school don't pick on her. (I'm not even exactly sure how to say "Xuan," but I do know that the "x" is definitely not pronounced like "x-ray.")

But please don't think that we'll deny Whitney her cultural heritage. We have already made plans to serve rice as a side dish for dinner a couple times a week. And once a year, ideally on the anniversary of the day we collected Whitney, we'll have some sort of Vietnamese culture celebration, with cake and ice cream and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, maybe even a piñata.

It was pretty magical when we adopted our first stray, Buster, from the animal shelter, but not as magical as this will be, I'm sure. Whitney and the Hardesty family are going to be a match made in heaven.

Welcome to your new home, Whitney Marie Hardesty.