Monday, February 27, 2012

Foster Home Visits

I am going to backtrack a few days to share about our visits to the foster homes where our boys lived before coming to us. Isaac lived for most of his life at Swallow's Nest. This home is run by Pam and Clay Williams. They also took care of Moriah for a few months before we adopted her. Pam is in the US for awhile, so Rebekah, their intern, picked us up and took us to Swallow's Nest. It was fun to love on the babies for awhile. Kimberly had a little boy in mind that she had seen in pictures, so she was happy when Andy spotted him. Kimberly scooped him up and didn't put him down until we left! There are so many sweet children there. Some of them have families on the way (one had gotcha day today!) but some are still waiting. It really touched my heart how they all recognized us because they had been passing around the little photo album that we had sent to Isaac. After a little while, Isaac began to cry. He asked Rebekah if he was going to stay there. She told him that he would leave with us and would not be staying there. He was a little happier then, but sat in Caleb's lap for the rest of the visit. I was glad that he wanted to be with us and already felt the difference that a forever family makes. Swallow's Nest does wonderful work, though, and I am so thankful for all of the loving care that he received.

Rebekah with some of the little "swallows." I love that delicate little girl in the background.
Wish I could have brought her home, too. Who am I kidding... I wish I could have brought them all home.

Isaac felt better when Caleb was near!
Kimberly's little buddy

Outside of Swallow's Nest

 Next, we went to lunch at a delicious Chinese Restaurant. We had some time before our scheduled visit to Joshua's foster home, so Clay met us at a children's play place. The kid's had a great time running around there.
Lunch at the Chinese Restaurant with Rebekah. 

Thanks, Clay, for the fun time at the play area!

 At 2:30 we went to Joshua's foster home. I do not exactly understand how he came to live there. But it was a wonderful place where he was clearly loved and well cared for. About thirty kids (from babies to teenagers lived there.) The kids his age were at school, so we hung around until they came home. They were happy to see him and glad to meet us. But the sadness in some of their eyes reduced me to tears. They were so clearly longing for a mom and dad of their own. A foster home (however loving) is not a forever family and they know it! They had given him a party before he came to us and the decorations were still up. He served all of us water and snacks. He clearly loved the little ones and was great with them. They told us that they purposely put him in with the younger boys because he was such a help with them. I loved seeing how much the workers there loved him. They could not have been more thrilled to see him with us. It was a sweet visit for all of us. It was great to have Rebekah there with us to interpret and to talk with the foster home workers.

Joshua was so happy to show us off to his friends at the foster home.
The babies were all so cute and chubby. They were clearly well loved.

He loved the babies

Some of Joshua's friends

We took a taxi ride back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed, exhausted.

To add to the emotional nature of the day, one couple in our group decided not to accept the baby that they received on Gotcha Day. She had more complicated medical issues than they were prepared to deal with. The whole situation broke our hearts as we watched this little one return to the orphanage. We are praying that she will not have to wait too long for a forever family who will be able to give her the love and care that she needs. Her Heavenly Father, the defender of the helpless, and Father to the fatherless has not forgotten her and we trust that He has a wonderful plan for her life.

It is hard to put into words the mixed emotions of this journey. We are thrilled with the blessings the Lord has given us. We are sad for their many losses. We are excited for the days ahead. We are scared and afraid about all of the challenges that those days will hold. We have seen things that break our hearts and things that make us laugh. We have witnessed the wonder and mystery of another culture. We have struggled through the cultural and language barriers that make everything harder. We can't wait to get home, yet we will be sad to leave.

We know the Lord is using all of these things to stretch and grow us and so we can only give thanks. 

Guanzhou Adventures

We flew from Zhengzhou to Guanzhou on Friday. I had intended to do a better job of blogging, but  keeping up with six kids in a foreign country is a big job. Especially when two of them are going through the biggest transition of their lives! We are referred to as "the big family." It is not uncommon for Chinese people to stop and stare at us open-mouthed or to audibly count the children while shaking their heads in wonder.

Our flight here was quite turbulent. Isaac had a messy accident. I think it was a combination of stress and my lack of understanding his words. He ended up sitting in his messy pants until we landed because there was nowhere to change him. Since then I have kept him in a diaper just in case! It makes both of us feel a little more relaxed. But we are beginning to understand each other a little better. 

Joshua continues to amaze us with his resilience. He wants to please and tries hard to be a good boy. Everyone we meet who can speak Chinese with him tell us what a smart and charming boy he is. He is very impressed with Andy's strong muscles and tells everyone how strong his BaBa is. We have skyped with our Chinese friend, Gloria, a couple of times. It is funny to hear the boys jabbering away to her. I'm sure it is comforting to them to know that there is at least one person in America who speaks Chinese. Our guides have been a big help, too, in communicating with them. But mostly we just muddle through and do the best that we can. 

Last night we decided to celebrate by going to a fancy restaurant here at the hotel. All of the children behaved beautifully through the long meal. By the end of it, the boys had charmed the waitresses to the point that they were bringing them whatever they asked for.  Joshua ended up getting a hamburger in addition to the spaghetti we had ordered for him. They also brought him a plate of strawberries (compliments of the chef!) They were funny as they chatted with the waitresses while we looked on without a clue about what they were saying. 

His personal assistant at the restaurant.

Fancy food! It was fun to give the boys (and ourselves) this treat. They've come a long way from orphanage life! (Hopefully they won't get the idea that we live like this all the time!)

Today we did some shopping for souvenirs. The weather here has been awful. We were expecting it to be warm, but we have still needed our coats. It is damp and rainy. We went to Shaiman Island. All of the adoptive families used to stay there at the White Swan Hotel, but it closed for renovations for a year and a half! So we are staying in the city itself at the China Hotel. It is a nice hotel, but it doesn't have quite the same atmosphere.

The waterfall in the lobby of the (now closed) White Swan.

Six kids!

Lunch at Lucy's with the Zittles. They have American decor and food. 

Isaac has seemed a little more content today. Both of the boys have a lot to learn about what it means to live in a family, but we are looking forward to celebrating all of their small victories together.  

God has been so good to us! A couple of the kids are struggling with some stomach issues and Caleb and Josiah have colds. So we are praying for good health for all as we draw nearer to our long journey home. Thanks so much for praying for us!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Things We've Learned About Our Boys

1. They are much smaller than I imagined. All of the clothes I brought are way too big! Some of the things I brought for Isaac fit Joshua. And it is hard to get decent looking clothes here. We bought them some jeans yesterday, but they are not like anything I would normally buy. Oh well. Joshua probably wears about a 5-6 and Isaac a 3-4.

2. They can really put away the noodles and rice!

3. Isaac can charm any Chinese woman he sees. He says all kinds of things to them that we don't understand and they smile and laugh and talk back to him. Today, he got the lady at the breakfast buffet to get him a boiled egg, peel it and cut it up.

4. Isaac has very low muscle tone throughout his body. We bought a stroller for him because he really can't walk very far on his own. He is kind of a wet noodle. He has trouble getting from a laying down position to standing up.

5. They both love to name off all of our family and make sure everyone is present.

6. Joshua loves Ultra Man. (He's a Chinese super hero.)

7. Joshua can run and jump even though his back is so crooked. He's like a funny little elf bouncing around.

8. Joshua is also quite an actor. He was pretending that he had a terrible stomach pain and then when I would say, "Oh, are you ok?" he would smile and laugh. He was also pretending to be Frankenstein and he can do an excellent impression of a little crooked old man. Very funny. I know some of his clowning around is a defensive technique. But he sure is cute and funny.

9. Both of the boys wake up smiling and talking. They lay down quietly and go to sleep without a fuss. They are amazing.

10. Isaac can count frontwards and backwards and recognize the numbers 1-9 written down. He goes down the hall of the hotel naming each number on the door in Chinese.

11. Joshua loves the nerf guns. Sure glad we brought those.

12. Joshua is a technology guy. He knows how to play Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. He also like the TV remote.

13. Both of the boys have won the hearts of the others in our group. They give hugs freely and say Ni Hao to all of the families.

14. They both try to talk with Moriah in Chinese and wonder why she doesn't answer.

15. God has a special plan for these two. I can't wait to see all that He has in store for them.

We had to go back to the registration office to finalize the adoption. Joshua was confused and thought we were going to get on the plane. But once the guide explained to him where we were going, he was fine.

Ours forever!!

Three brothers

Our crew in the hotel lobby. We are so thankful that all of the kids are here. They have been such a help with the boys. I am so proud of the way they all have handled everything. They are such a blessing.

Mei Mei waiting for dinner last night.

We ate at a restaurant near the hotel last night. It was good food and pretty cheap. Just a little hard to order!

Gotcha Day!

We got on the bus at 9:00. The tension in the air was thick. All of our hearts and minds were full as we wondered what the next hour or two would hold. As we pulled into the parking lot of the registration building, Yisha, our guide, said that some of the children had already arrived. I looked up and saw a little guy walking with a nanny. I knew it was Joshua. I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that engulfed me when I saw him. I could tell he was crying and the nanny was trying to comfort him. Isaac was there, too. I could see his fuzzy little head. We jumped off the bus and rushed up to Joshua. He was sitting on a couch trying so hard to be brave. Tears were just streaming down his face. Andy sat down beside him and he let him hug him and wipe his tears. Meanwhile, Isaac was just walking around the room. We brought him over to us and gave him candy, but I don't think he understood what was happening. After a few minutes, the boys and Andy were able to make Joshua laugh. We had some Model Magic dough. The boys put it up to their noses and pretended to sneeze it out. I guess boys are boys in every culture because he thought that was very funny. He had some snacks with him that seemed to help him, too. About the time that Joshua was settling down, Isaac realized that his nanny had left and he fell apart. He was really upset. He was arching his back and trying very hard to get away from us. Finally Andy took him outside and he began to settle down. By the time we got back on the bus, both of the boys were calm. I was awed and amazed at how well they did. I cannot even begin to imagine the anxiety and grief that they must have felt.

When we got back to the hotel, we went to the Chinese restaurant in the hotel. They put us in a private room with Tim and Jen which was perfect for that moment. It gave us some time to meet physical needs in a peaceful and quiet place. The room was neat. It had a couch and coffee table on a raised platform and then the eating table with chairs all around.

The boys amaze me with their bravery and courage. They both have such open hearts toward us. We know this is a gracious answer to many prayers that have been raised on their behalf. God has been so gracious and merciful to us. Thank you so much for all of your prayers on our behalf.


Our flight to Zhengzhou was uneventful. It was only about an hour flight. The drive from the airport to the hotel made it clear that we had left the glitz of Beijing far behind. Henan province is the most populous and the poorest province in China. We saw people living in tents, tending their crops and hauling everything from ducks to junk metal. Of course, I couldn't help thinking about the ones who gave life to my three children from this province. What were their lives like? What were the circumstances of these children's births? So many thoughts and emotions as were drove closer and closer to the hotel. 

Later in the afternoon, we met Clay Williams who runs Swallow's Nest with his wife, Pam. Moriah was in their care before we came for her, and they have cared for Isaac for most of his life. She is the one who sent us Joshua's file to review as well. We were thrilled to see him again. He took us for a long walk through "real China." We went to one of his favorite hangouts called "Cafe Aleyna." It is run by an American who tries to bring some of the comforts of home to Americans living here. Arizona Iced Tea and french fries! Our friends, Tim and Jen, also know the Williams and they came with us. Clay is full of helpful information about the culture, the orphanages, and life in China in general. It was such a rich time of fellowship. Every few minutes, he would say, "Well, tomorrow is gotcha day!" or "In a few hours, you'll have your children!" It was hard to believe that after so many months of waiting, we would meet the boys in a few short hours. We took the taxi home and settled in for a short night. It was hard to sleep. Our minds were full of thoughts and prayers for the boys who would soon be in our arms.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beijing Day Two

Lunch at the Chinese Tourist Restaurant
This morning we headed out for the Great Wall. We stopped on the way at the Jade Factory. It was slightly warmer today. The wind was mild, but it was still quite cold. Andy and the boys wanted to go all the way up, but Kimberly, Moriah and I were content to climb up far enough for some pictures and then hang around on the bottom. It was beautiful and amazing. 

After the great wall, we headed to a government run tourist restaurant for lunch. I think it's mandatory when leaving the Great Wall! We liked the french fries as a compliment to the Chinese food.

Next stop was the Olympic Village. There was a huge park full of people flying kites. They were beautiful and I thought it was very brave of people to be out doing that when it was only about 30 degrees outside.

Finally, we went to the Acrobatic Show. It was amazing, but Andy and I felt that the show three years ago when we were here was even more incredible. Perhaps they had pulled out all the stops that year because it was the year of the Olympics. It was still amazing. It doesn't seem natural to be able to bend the human body in that way!

We ended our day with a trip to Pizza Hut. It was kind of a funny experience as we were all so tired and hungry that we could barely function. Communicating with the waitress was a little difficult. But the pizza was so worth it. It tasted just like a little piece of home.

We enjoyed the bus ride as it gave us opportunity to visit with the other people in our group. It is amazing to have such a large group. I can't wait to see all of these families with their new children. We, too, are feeling the impending change in our family. We have mixed feelings...excitement, fear, joy.

Six of us on the Great Wall

Moriah and me on the Great Wall!

Beautiful Chinese Archetecture

Moriah trying to show a mean face.

Amazing Jade Ship

Two boys climbing the Great Wall with Dad

Friday, February 17, 2012

Welcome to Beijing!

Our agency does a great job of keeping us busy the first day here. There is no time for jet-lag! We began with a delicious breakfast buffet at the hotel. We were glad we ate well because the meals that followed in the day left something to be desired!

We met our group at 9:00 to board our pink bus. We headed to the Hutong Tour first. Hutong are the ancient style of homes which are build around a courtyard. There used to be many thousands of these homes, but they have slowly been torn down to make room for high rise apartments and office buildings. The main drawback, as our guide shared with us, about this old style of living is the communal bathrooms.  We felt bad for the rick shaw drivers, as we were quite a heavy load for their little old bikes. Our guide told us that the Chinese ride three to a rick shaw, but for Americans, only two!

We enjoyed a tour of the silk factory. We ended up buying a comforter for our bed. They sucked all the air out of the bag, so it will pack pretty flat for us to get it home. 

After lunch at a traditional restaurant, we headed to Tienamen Square. We made our visit brief because it was so cold. The wind was whipping. It was kind of miserable. We boarded the bus and headed to The Forbidden City. We hurried through because we were so cold! It is an amazing place. I always think it is fun to watch the Chinese people enjoy looking at this part of their history. It is obviously a big deal to them to have a chance to visit such a historic location. 

We were happy to see our warm hotel, but we decided to head out again so that we wouldn't be tempted to take a nap. We joined another family in our group, the Zittles, to visit the Wang Fu Jing shopping district. It made us think of Las Vegas. Lots of very high end stores and lots of lights. We ended up eating at a steakhouse. We enjoyed the company, but the food certainly wasn't anything to write home about. After dinner, we visited the night market. I'm not sure my nose will ever be the same. That was quite an olfactory assault! We bought a fried star fish, some fried scorpions, some fried cicada bugs and a fried seahorse. I have heard it said that anything tastes good fried. After last night, I do not agree. But it was fun...definitely a memory maker. Kimberly freaked out a little when she realized that a scorpion leg was stuck in her braces!

It was such a fun, full day. The kids have done a great job of embracing the adventure. Even though they are fighting jet lag, they have been pleasant and cheerful and willing to try new things. I am so proud of them.

Our group is awesome. I am excited to get to know each family better. In total, there are four little girls who are returning to their homeland to add a brother or sister to their family. The Zittles were here just a few months ago to adopt their son, and now they are returning for another boy. Their son was at Swallow's Nest, where Isaac has lived for most of his life. When they were here before, they were able to see him and love on him. So neat that they have met him.

Moriah was pretty quiet yesterday, but she seems to be handling things well. She loves having rice for every meal!

Thanks so much for your continued prayers for us. We appreciate it so much!