Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alive and well at home!

Yes, we are alive and well at home!  Sorry you all haven't heard from me.  I honestly don't think I've even opened my computer in the past 3 days!  Thanks sooo much for your prayers for our journey home.  It was completely smooth and Anna only cried a couple of times during the 24 hours of travel.  Of course it was exhausting carrying her and helping her walk around the plane to keep her entertained, but she did at least sleep several times during the long 14 hour flight.  We got through customs and immigration in record time and on the last security check the security guards were very impressed with how efficiently all 6 of us got through the check.  They commented that we must have done this before.  YES, we most definitely had.  I should have kept a record of how many security checks we went through on this trip, and how many of our water bottles were confiscated!  The USA is a bit obsessive about the liquid thing!

We we welcomed home by family at the airport and with Welcome Home signs from those who couldn't make it. Anna was a bit overwhelmed by her new family members, but they just had to come and see her as soon as she arrived!

We are settling in well at home.  All the boys (including K.C) have had a rough time adjusting to the jet lag, but all of us girls have done just fine.  Anna really loves our house and her new room.  She loves her dolls and puts them to bed in a little dolly pack and play.  She loves exploring every room and having Esther carry her to see everything.  She's learning how to crawl up and down the stairs, but ever since we brought Chloe (our dog) home on Sunday she hasn't been as adventurous.  She enjoys the dog from far away, but up close is way too scary! Hopefully she will get used to Chloe soon so I don't have to keep her off the ground most of the time.  Chloe has actually been really good around Anna and hasn't tried to jump on her, which is saying a lot if you know our dog!

The kids are back to school, but looking forward to having Thursday and Friday off so they can catch up on missed work.  All their teachers tell us how much they talk about how excited they are about their new sister.  They all enjoyed China but were definitely ready to get home.  

Anna is doing much better with sleeping, even though she still has some night terrors, she goes down for her nap and bedtime willingly.  I've got her sleeping in her own bed for nap time which is nice so that when we transition her out of our bed it will hopefully be easier.  I think having her in our bed at night helped her not to experience jet lag because when she would wake up in the middle of the night she would see us still sleeping and see that it was dark and just snuggle up to us and go back to sleep.  She wakes up in a great mood and gives us the biggest smiles when she sees us in the morning.

She's still pretty attached to me, but is letting K.C. do more and more with her.  He gave her a bath tonight and got her ready for bed, which is how I am having time to write this!  Last night I was the last one to go to bed and it was only 9 O'clock! I think by tomorrow most of us will be functioning more normally.  It's been nice having frozen meals so that I don't have to think about dinner thanks to my sister Carla and Social Suppers.  It looks like we have several more people who want to bring us dinner which is soooo appreciated! Thanks everyone!

It's definitely not easy being new parents again, starting with a two year old, and dealing with jet lag, but knowing we have so many people praying for us and supporting us has helped tremendously.  We couldn't do this without you and the Lord by our side.

I'll end with a funny video of Anna with a new electronic toy.  It just cracked us up!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saying goodbye to friends here and heading to the USA tomorrow morning

It's been hard saying goodbye to all of the families we have been on this journey with the past two weeks.  We had a huge group of 12 families adopting 13 beautiful children.  All the children have special needs.  We were so blessed to build relationships with families all over the US and hope to continue to see their children grow up through e-mails and facebook. Here's a photo of all of us!

Anna of course has no idea what is going to happen over the next twenty four hours.  Please pray that she wouldn't have any meltdowns on the plane.  That's a big ask since we had at least four today. Hopefully she got them out of her system.  We can't wait to get home with Anna and bring her into our everyday family life.  We are definitely ready to get out of a hotel!  Blessings to all of you who have prayed for this journey.  We are so blessed by all of you and by our precious daughter.  I can't tell you how many people here in China (both Chinese and American) have commented on how much she looks like us.  She is and always will be our daughter, and we are so thankful to finally bring her home and raise her to be a godly woman who loves others and serves God with all her heart.

Below is a photo of Anna and me taken today.  She reminded us of Dorthy in her blue plaid skirt.  Ready to go to Kansas! There's no place like home.  We arrive back at KCI at 5:30 on Saturday.   Hopefully we can give you all a personal introduction over the next month if you live in Kansas City.
See you soon!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting excited to head home!

Thanks for your prayers for Anna.  The fever didn't last long at all and by the evening she was feeling fine. Today we went to the US Consulate to apply for Anna's Visa to enter the US.  It was fairly uneventful. We just gave them paperwork and took Anna's oath of citizenship for her, but the reality of what it means is monumental.  By becoming a US citizen Anna has so many opportunities she would never have had in China.

About a month ago we were at a Sporting K.C. game and before the game there were about 35 people on the field who had one additional thing to do to gain their citizenship- say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I literally had tears in my eyes as all the people in the stadium said the pledge along with those 35.  I was thinking of how many people around the world long to be in their place.  I am so excited to be able to give Anna all of the freedoms and opportunities that being a US citizen entail.  Our country isn't perfect, but it is a country unlike any other and I am overwhelmed by the emotion of giving Anna everything that the US has to give her. Tomorrow we receive the Anna's official Visa and when we arrive in Chicago on Saturday she will officially become a US citizen!

After coming back from the Consulate we did some shopping and had some of our usual "try to find food we want to eat" adventures.  We found some pizza, wings, and french fries which was fun, and Esther and I found some really pretty jewelry.

As we have been travelling around, Esther has been taking photos of funny signs and "Chinglish" I think you will enjoy it, especially if you have ever traveled or lived in China.

Here's the link if you need it http://youtu.be/5emqGrno7So

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Please pray for Anna- She is sick

Please pray for our little Anna. She started running a low fever today. No other notable symptoms yet. She is just more fussy and just laid down on the floor while playing with toys. She's doesn't want to take the tylenol. She obviously isn't feeling well and is easily upset. A lot of kids and families have been sick. Please pray that she recovers before we head home on Saturday and that the rest of us stay well. Thanks

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy 13th Birthday Esther!

The doctor's appointments went as well as possible.  Anna was a trooper.  We both cried during the TB test but they did a great job making it quick.  The rest of the day we had fun celebrating Esther's 13th Birthday.  We had a delicious Chinese lunch, a Chinese birthday cake, and finished off the day with a cruise on the Pearl River.  Everyone had a great time.  Esther is such a great big sister to Anna and we are so proud of the beautiful young woman she is becoming.

Here's a link to the facebook album of our Pearl River cruise

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Souvenir Shopping Day- Anna gets some China clothes

Today we had a free day so we decided to go souvenir shopping.  As usual, things never go as planned in China and we ended up walking much farther than we thought and ended up in a busy Chinese shopping area but not a tourist souvenir area.  We did happen upon a little store that had traditional Chinese clothes and got Anna an adorable outfit.  We finally found her some shoes that fit.  She just LOVES them and they are totally obnoxious!  She looked very cute and Chinese today. The shopping mall had gelato, so everyone enjoyed a treat.  While we were walking to the shopping area we came to a beautiful park.  It was bustling with tourists and older Chinese men and women playing cards and majang.  The trees had to have been hundreds of years old.  They were just amazing.

I think the exhaustion and stress of being in another country and caring for a two year old definitely got to me today.  I was really disappointed that we didn't find souvenirs for the kids and we hadn't eaten lunch.  It was almost 3 o'clock and we walked a long way to a restaurant we had seen that said it had the kind of Chinese food we liked. Of course it was closed. I was hot and exhausted from carrying Anna and I just started crying right there on the street.  We ended up going to a Middle Eastern restaurant nearby and they were so nice to us.  I think they felt sorry for me.  They gave us cold water and turned the air conditioner on for us in a private room.  (It's really hot and humid here) The food was amazing! And I really felt refreshed and cared for by the Lord after the meal.  When we got to the hotel we found out from our guides that right across the street there are traditional Chinese souvenirs at decsorrent prices.  So I took a nap while the kids played with Anna and after that we went to the mall and the kids had a blast buying exactly what they wanted as souvenirs. We came home, got Anna to sleep and enjoyed Papa John's pizza.  So thankful for some western comforts during this long stay in China.

Tomorrow is a big day.  Esther turns 13!  She is so excited.  We are going on a cruise of the Pearl River tomorrow evening to celebrate. She bought a beautiful silk Chinese style dress to wear.  She is just so beautiful and grown up these days.  She definitely turns a lot of heads here in China!

The bad news about tomorrow is that Anna has her doctor's appt. and TB test tomorrow.  It will be a long process so pray that we would all have energy, that Anna wouldn't be afraid, and that I wouldn't pass out during the TB test.  Those things make me sooo woozy!  Especially if she is really upset. After tomorrow, we have alot of free time since our consulate appointment to get Anna's US Visa isn't until Thursday.  We are really looking forward to getting that Visa and getting home.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Just a small update today

Hello friends,

Feeling very exhausted after making it to Guangzhou.  Anna wailed the last 30 minutes of the plane ride with no way to console her.  The night before was extremely rough on both of us as she woke several times screaming and crying.  We co-sleep with her but she isn't really awake and pushes us away until she wakes up and realizes we are there.  Please pray for her sleeping.  Nap time and going to bed are extremely difficult.  Not only is she a very light sleeper, she is very scared of going to sleep.  I am sure this is her grief we are seeing.  During the day she is just as happy as can be.  The reason she cried on the plane was that she was exhausted and didn't want to go to sleep.  She wanted me to hold her but kept pushing me away at the same time.  After falling asleep the last 5 minutes of the plane ride she was her usual happy, naughty self!

She is definitely a two year old!  She loves to do things she isn't supposed to and laugh when told no.  We're picking our battles now and trying to let her think she is being naughty when she isn't so that she can have some fun, but also helping her understand that when we say no it means no.

It was a very exhausting day,but our new hotel is amazing. The bathtub is huge so Anna and I had a bath together and made up with each other after a hard night and day.  She's asleep now after at least 20 minutes of meltdown.  Please pray that she will stay asleep tonight and not wake up afraid.  Moving to a new place was not easy on her.

One more week and we finally get to go home. We are all ready, but also looking forward to seeing Guangzhou.  It looks like a fun and interesting city.  I'll try to update you on the past few days tomorrow.  I need to get to bed so I can catch up on some sleep.  No plans tomorrow, so we are going to start celebrating Esther's 13th birthday a little early and do some souvenir shopping.  Anna loves to go out, so all should go well if she gets a good nights sleep.

Thanks for your prayers and comments.  It means so much to have your support from afar.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our visit to Swallow's Nest Foster Home

Anna and her best friend Qiao Hao
With the Nannies and a neighborhood
grandma who helps care for the children
Today was a very special day for our family.  We were able to visit the home Anna has lived in for the past two years.  We got to visit with her nannies, play with the children, and say a final goodbye.  Anna got excited when we got close to the home and her playmates' and nannies faces lit up when she entered the home.  They immediately tried to feed her, telling her that she wasn't going to get that kind of food in America so she needed to eat it now.  Her little friend Qiao Hao was so excited to see her and has such a beautiful smile and spirit.  We are not sure of her condition, but I think it is something that will confine her to a wheelchair for life.  Please pray that Qiao Hao would find a Christian family to adopt her who would be able to give her a full and meaningful life.  She is just a darling little girl.  The hardest part of the trip was watching Qiao Hao cry and cry when we left.  She completely understood that her playmate Anna was never coming back. It was just heartbreaking and K.C. and I were both in tears.

With the nannies and Anna's friends Lan Lan and Qiao Hao
As for Anna, she continues to amaze me.  She is completely confident in us as her family.  I cannot believe that a two year old can understand so completely that we are now her family, trust us to care for her, and have no reservations about leaving her home for the last two years with these "strangers."  My thanks for this goes first and foremost to the Lord, and secondly to the nannies at Swallow's Nest. Ever since we began sending pictures and gifts, they have been preparing her to join our family.  The nanny told us some of the things she told Anna.  She was disappointed that she cried when she met us because she had told her not to cry.  We could tell that they were all so happy that Anna had found a loving family and any attachment they had to her would have to be suppressed to allow her to have a new life in the US.  At one point the nanny tried to hold Anna and she chose me over the nanny.  I am sure it made the nanny sad, but as a mother I was so blessed to be the chosen one.

I fell in love with this little boy.  He is only 4 months old
so he doesn't have an adoption file yet.
 Maybe a little boy would make a nice addition in the future :)
I think I'll keep my eye on him.
Please continue to pray that Anna would let K.C. hold her.  It has happened only a couple of times and I know it is hard for K.C. and it would be nice for me to have a break as well.  Actually, as I was writing this she let him pick her up and he is now giving her a bottle for the first time.  She just isn't used to men, so it is going to take time for her to trust him as a caregiver and not just a play mate.  She just fell asleep next to him.  I know he is feeling very blessed by this.  He loves her so much.

Tomorrow is our last day in Zhengzhou so we are going to the zoo.  Should be fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finally, a day to ourselves!

French fries aren't bad either
Anna loves Coke!
We were so glad to have a day with nowhere to be and nothing we had to do.  We had a relaxing breakfast at the buffet without having to rush, the kids worked on homework, we went to Walmart, walked to a beautiful park, and to top it off- went to McDonalds!

When it was naptime, K.C. and the kids went to a nearby restaurant and I stayed back with Anna to get her to sleep.  Once they left she just cried and cried.  She really wants us all to be together and also seems to be afraid of going to sleep.  I decided it wasn't worth the struggle so I let her play on the floor for awhile and we just skipped nap time.  She was really excited when they came back, especially when she found out we were going out for a walk.  It took some convincing to get her in the stroller instead of the carrier, but Walmart and the Park are really long walks and I'm just not strong enough to carry her that far.  She decided that if mommy pushes the stroller that's good enough.

 The Park was just beautiful and we had fun just walking and enjoying time with another family whose daughter also has club feet. She's three and has a much stronger personality than Anna so she's quite a handful for them!

We just love Anna's personality.  Even though she is a little shy around strangers she’s always up for an adventure.  She is so curious and loves to explore everything!  Things wrapped in plastic are extremely interesting and going outside is always fun for her.  She is so observant and reminds us a lot of Luke and the way he examines everything.  She likes to have things organized.  She cleans up after herself, arranges her toys just how she wants them and always makes sure everything is in order.  She always wants the whole family together as much as possible and asks to have the doors to our two rooms open so she can see her brothers and sisters.  

Anna loves baths and likes to pull herself up in the bathtub of all places!  I try to hold on to her so she doesn’t fall.  Her leg strength isn’t good because she just hasn’t used them much. We have found that with her leg brace, some shoes and a little assistance she can walk holding on to something.  
She is a genuinely happy little girl, talkative, and a little ornery.  I was using the computer and told her not to touch the keys so she decided to touch them quickly and giggle.  She has obviously played with an Ipad or smartphone before because she loves to touch the screen and see what happens.  She reminds us in so many ways of  our other children.We truly feel that God hand picked her for our family.

Even though Anna is 26 months old, she looks and acts much younger. All of the adopted children here still drink formula and rice cereal out of a bottle and just seem a lot younger than two year olds in the US.  Also, she is just so tiny.  The 18 months clothes aren't any too big and her feet are probably a size 4.  I bought size 6 shoes and they are about an inch too long.  The thing we notice most that reminds us of her age is her intellect.  She repeats everything! Even English words.  I don’t think it will be difficult at all for her to pick up English.  

Tomorrow we go to Swallow's Nest for a visit.  Please pray that everything will go smoothly and that she will have fun seeing her nannies and playmates.  The directors of the foster home have both told us that because of her personality and the fact that she has attached so well to us that they think bringing her back home will not be a problem for her.  I brought a Hallmark recordable storybook with me and had a Chinese friend translate it so that her nanny can read it and record it for her.  I want her to have some memories of the people that have loved and cared for her, and what better way than hearing their voices.  Looking forward to tomorrow, although I know it will definitely be an emotional day.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day two-Paperwork!

Today is probably the hardest day for all the families because it is filled with meetings and paperwork and we are all just getting adjusted with our new little ones.  We all had to go back to the registration office to get our official paperwork.  They give all the families 24 hours before they finalize the adoption just in case there is a reason why your family is unable to adopt the child you were matched with.  One family in our group had an emotionally rough day because their daughter had some issues that were not listed on her documentation.  They spent the whole day at the hospital getting her re-diagnosed and making sure they could parent her needs.  I believe they were able to complete their documents later this afternoon and have peace that she is indeed theirs.  All of these children have significant needs and it is really amazing to be with all of these families and see their love for their children despite what difficulties will be ahead. 

We also had to go take Anna for passport photos and to get her passport filed.  It was a long and difficult afternoon and she was such a trooper.  For those of you who have been praying for good attachment I believe God is definitely answering your prayers.  I’d like to be able to go to the bathroom or shower on my own soon though!  Ever since yesterday afternoon Anna has not left my side.  Thank goodness I brought some baby carriers with me!  She loves daddy and brothers but will only let mommy and maybe big sister hold her for now.  And the toys still come along everywhere.  I bought some Velcro straps for sippy cups and such but we ended up using them to attach her toys to the baby carrier so we don’t lose them.  She really is a happy girl and laughs and plays with her siblings.  The hotel we are at has tons of mirror and every time we go by one she smiles and laughs.  She seems so comfortable with our family, and we know that her foster home is to thank for that.  They did an amazing job of preparing her to become part of our family.

Tonight we took everyone swimming.  The boys definitely needed to get some energy out and Anna loves baths so we thought she would enjoy it.  We all had to wear swimming caps which was pretty funny.  We all looked like Olympic athletes, ha, ha!  Sorry, don’t have a picture to share.  It was nice to relax for awhile in the water. 

Tomorrow is the first day since we arrived in China a week and a half ago that we don’t have anything on our schedule.  We really are looking forward to getting out and relaxing with the kids.  Anna saw a child with a toy car at the pool and really wanted one so we told her we would go buy her one tomorrow.  She was all smiles.  She really enjoys toys! I brought a little bottle for her doll that looks like the milk disappears when she feeds it to the baby.  She just loves to feed the baby and her stuffed toy with it. Sometimes she pretends to drink it herself and thinks that's funny.

Thanks so much for all of your prayers and encouraging comments.  It was a long day, but Anna just was happy to be with her mama and family.  She loves it when we tell her we are going somewhere and she always asks to make sure the whole family is coming.  She may not want daddy to hold her but she definitely wants him around.  We feel very blessed by her sweet spirit.  She just lights up the room with her smile.  Our family is just so happy to finally be all together now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gotcha Day Hooray!

We have had a wonderful first day with Anna.  Thanks for your prayers.  We couldn’t be happier.  We headed to the Registration Bureau at 9:30 this morning with the other families here with us to pick her up.  We watched as most of the other children arrived before Anna – then the big moment came.  We recognized her immediately.  It was a moment that is difficult to describe.
Anna was clearly scared, but she calmed down quickly with some toys, some treats, and a lot of love.  The foster home had done a great job helping her to adjust.  She carried with her a picture of us.  They also gave us a book with some pictures of her over the last few months, as well as a camera with pictures they have taken for us of her life here.  We also were able to bring duplicates of the toys we sent her a few months ago.  She recognized them as hers immediately, and has clung to them ever since. We can’t go anywhere without them.
When we came back to the hotel, K.C. went to fill out paperwork while Anna was able to get a nap and a bath with me. She loves the bath!  She played and laughed and had a blast. It was the one time today she really let her self forget all the change happening in her life.  Once the paperwork was done, we ventured out to a small ‘real’ Chinese restaurant down the street.  She loved it and ate the rice and baozi right up. She was determined to use the spoon herself making quite a mess of herself and me.  It is such a blessing to speak the language a little.  She speaks to us and we can easily understand what she wants or can ask her if she likes or doesn’t like certain things.  
It’s been a long, beautiful day.  There is too much to say and even then words can’t describe it.  Anna has been asleep in my mom’s arms until just now.  She already calls us mama and baba (mommy and daddy,) calls Esther ‘Jie Jie’ (big sister) and calls Micah and Luke ‘ge ge’ (big brother).  She is scared at times of course, and has a long adjustment ahead, but we are so blessed by her already.
I’ve posted pictures to facebook so have a look.  Thanks again for everyone’s prayers and support for us. We are so blessed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ready to meet Anna!

We haven't had good internet access the past few days so I'll have to catch you up on our time in Beijing a little later.  Right now we're definitely focused on the purpose of our time here- Getting Anna! Tomorrow evening around 10pm Kansas City time we will finally meet our little girl and welcome her into our family.  So much emotion and excitement can't be put into words.  We have been told that she is shy around strangers and it is going to be pretty crazy when we get her.  At least 10 families will be welcoming children all in the same room, maybe more.  We are praying that we can somehow find a quiet spot,get her to enjoy some snacks and juice and pray that she isn't too scared.  Please pray forher adjustment and our adjustment and that we would be sensitive to her needs and be able to communicate with her.  She has photos of us and gifts we sent her so hopefully she will recognize us and feel comfortable with our family.

We look forward to posting photos soon and sharing with you how things are going.  Thanks for your prayers!  Getting ready to go to bed here a mother of 3 and tomorrow become a mother of four!

Pomegranate Garden

We spent a fun day with our dear friend Joshua at the Pomegranate Garden in Zaozhuang.  It's really the only tourist destination in Zaozhuang and it is actually very beautiful.  The orchard is the largest Pomegranate Orchard in the World (or so they say:) Like all Chinese tourist attractions it requires alot of walking up hills and seeing various shrines.  Esther enjoyed meeting a new friend, Joshua's niece from Beijing who had wonderful English.  They really had a great time together.  I think it was nice for Esther to have a female companion to talk to after having to be with her brothers so much.  We hope they can continue their friendship over e-mail and that someday Joshua's niece will come to the US to study.  She is actually home schooled with the ABeka curriculum through a Christian School in Beijing. My, how things have changed!

As usual things weren't exactly how we had planned them in Zaozhuang but we felt that we gained what we were looking for in reconnecting with dear friends and showing the kids where we lived for two years.

Here's a little video of our tour of the Pomegranate Garden.  The Pomegranates' were delicious!

The youtube link is http://youtu.be/3pNX4n5ZWdA if you can't view it here

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life in Zaozhuang

Our time in Zaozhuang been the type of experience that really is impossible to put into words.  Honestly, I don't know if we will ever be able to fully explain the complexity of this city and our feelings for the people here.  It has been so wonderful to connect with friends we haven't seen in over six years, but dealing with the difference in culture is always interesting.  The kids have just been troopers.  Poor Luke finally ate dinner last night after falling asleep before dinner every night we have been here.   Thankfully that also led to a much better night of sleep for him.  We are really glad that we will be over our jet lag by the time we get Anna.  I think we will definitely have an advantage over the other families in that way.  They will be dealing with jet lag and culture shock at the same time as meeting their child.  You can definitely keep them in your prayers.  I believe there are 4 other families who will be with us in Zhengzhou.  We have met them a little through e-mails but are excited to meet them all in a few days.

Here are some photos of some of our experiences in Zaozhuang and some of our friends. I plan to post some video of the city and such a little later.  It's alot to try to capture in one video. 
Enjoying the new park

Jessica and her daughter.  She was Michelle's Chinese Language teacher.

Micah and K.C. enjoing a cuddle at the park

Jessica's mom makes the best food in Zaozhuang!

These three little cousins are little terrors! Three daughters born from three daughters.  Jessica's sister's children.  All were born within a year of each other.
The bakery owner wanted to celebrate the kid's birthdays.

Our dear friend Joshua took us to a restaurant for pizza.

In front of our apartment complex we lived in called Apple Garden

Luke hitching a ride on Joshua's back

Monday, October 1, 2012

Crazy day of sightseeing in Shanghai on the busiest tourist day of the year- The National Holiday.

Here's a link to the youtube video if you need it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ9MWAUWbSk
 Enjoy the show!