Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Final Stretch!

We made it to Guangzhou! It wasn’t pretty and there were tears- both Samuel’s and mine, but we eventually got checked into our hotel and enjoyed some much needed McDonalds. I wish I were a humorous writer because the events of that day were nothing short of torture for all 15 families and 17 children. If you enjoy dark humor, you would definitely be entertained. All I can say is that I learned my lesson-This mama is no match for a 33 lb two year old boy on an hour long bus ride, followed by a 2 ½ hour plane ride and then another hour + bus ride with lots of crying kids and a guide trying to tell us everything we need to know for the week. Samuel did not enjoy being strapped into an airplane seat or falling asleep in the ergo and let me know it! Of course, our next big trip will be 24 hours with lots of airplanes and seat belts, so I think we need some serious prayer! I will definitely be relying on my husband more than I did on the last trip. I am so thankful for the amazing help he has been. I could not have done this without him! These poor kiddos go through so much change in a few weeks. As hard as it is on the parents, I cannot imagine what is going through their little minds. The fact that they act sweet at all is a miracle.

We are enjoying seeing our little guy continue to open up to us and blossom. He is just so sweet! Poor Anna is having a hard time, but she has no idea how good she has it. He wants to share with her, brings her backpack to her, and wants to play together with her. Even though he is such a big boy he is very gentle with her. Please continue to pray that we would have wisdom in helping Anna adjust to having a little brother. They are so cute when they play together, but she is definitely showing lots of frustration with not getting as much attention. She is a very adaptable little girl so I am confident that it won’t take too long, but it is a big adjustment throwing a two year old into her life.

We have enjoyed all the amenities here at our hotel and the surrounding area. Last time we squeezed all 6 of us into one regular hotel room for 6 days. We learned our lesson and planned ahead this time using points etc… to get two suites which come with Executive Lounge privileges. The breakfast is simpler than in the main hotel banquet room and we basically get free dinner every night. Including free wine! (And free beer for my hubby.) The business people in the lounge have been very kind to our rowdy bunch! The hotel also has a little courtyard with a waterfall and play area. Samuel loved playing there and he also enjoys the swimming pool as long as you just let him play in the water and don’t make him get all the way in. Too bad there isn't a baby pool.

Yesterday Samuel had his medical exam required for his US visa. He was such a good boy. He easily let the doctors look in his ears and mouth and examine his arms. The nurses had a good laugh when he got on the scale and weighed in at 15 kilograms! That’s over 33 lbs! It wasn’t even on the conversion chart! He weighs 8 lbs more than Anna and she is two years older. When I pick him up I could swear he is double her weight! This is one well fed little boy. He absolutely loves food and we make sure and pack lots of snacks when we are out. Samuel gave me his first “smile for the camera” smile yesterday. He looked so cute in his P.J.’s that say “Feed this Bear” so I told him I would brush his teeth if he would let me take a picture first. He absolutely loves baths and teeth brushing. I am sure this will change during his pre-teen years!

Thank you for all of your prayers and encouraging words. Adoption trips are stressful on everyone. We are so thankful for how seamlessly Samuel is fitting into our family. He is so attached to his brothers! He loves holding both of their hands when we go places. He gives me sweet kisses before bed and loves to cuddle with me and look at his photo book. He is very protective of his little sister and tells other children “no no” if they go near her. I think her dating life will be pretty closely monitored during her teen years! And of course he just loves his daddy. Daddy has taken over the “bad guy” job of putting Samuel to bed, but when he wakes up he isn’t mad at daddy anymore and usually calls for him first. We are just so impressed with Samuel’s sweet spirit. He definitely lets you know if he doesn’t like something but he has such a teachable spirit. We are so happy to finally be bonding with our boy.

Here is a video of our “Gotcha Day” one week ago. It is amazing to see how much Samuel has changed in a week. He was so dazed and confused when they placed him in our arms and now he is just part of the family. We are so thankful for how God has opened Samuel’s heart to our family. We have loved him for such a long time and now we are receiving his love back. What an amazing gift.

Tomorrow we head to the US Consulate to finalize Samuel's adoption. We are feeling very ready to be home with our little boy, and we can't wait for everyone to meet him. He will steal your heart for sure.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wow! What a week!

FINALLY! One big happy family!

What just happend?! It's Official!
Wow! I thought I would have more time to update my blog. Apparently it’s a lot of work having 5 kids! Honestly the big kids have been amazing helpers and I cannot imagine not having them with us. Samuel is go go go all of the time and having extra hands to help and play has been wonderful. To all of you who donated and bought dog treats to help our kids come with us on this trip- Thank You! Samuel is a huge fan of all of his siblings and they are enjoying their loud, rambunctious little brother.

Of course Anna is adjusting the most. Little princess has lost her throne a bit and that is hard, but really she is doing amazingly well. She is enjoying China and learning and speaking a lot of Chinese. She loves her brother but it is hard for her to understand that he is a baby because he is as big as her! Please pray for her to continue to adjust to her new role as big sister. We are so proud of how well she is doing but want to continue to be sensitive to her needs. This is a big transition for both her and Samuel.

Not so sure about these sisters

Before we left I had several friends ask what they could pray for specifically. One of the things I asked for them to pray for was that Samuel would bond with both K.C. and I. For whatever reason, it is extremely common for the newly adopted child to choose one parent to “bond” with and shun the other. Last time Anna “chose” me. It was exhausting for me and so hard emotionally for K.C. I am happy to say that our prayers have been answered and Samuel is letting both K.C. and I care for him. This was extremely helpful yesterday as we were forced to split up for activities. We didn’t know it ahead of time, but Samuel ended up spending the entire day with daddy and away from mom. He did great and got some good bonding time with K.C. Right now I do most of the feeding and bathing and sometimes he seems to prefer me, but he easily goes to daddy and let’s daddy change him and help him. It is so much easier to be able to do this as a team. Samuel trusts us, can understand us, and seems to really understand that we are his family. It always amazes me how someone so little can process that. We still have a lot of bonding to do and I get sad thinking of how little I really know this boy even though I've “known” him almost his entire life.

Fun sharing snacks with daddy
Samuel is doing much better with going to sleep even though it is still a lot of drama. Apparently this is the norm for him. His nannies said he cried at nap and bedtime for them too. He is just an active little boy that wants to play and eat all the time. Sleep doesn’t seem that fun. When we tell him it is time for bed he repeats over and over “Boo Yao”- basically the Chinese version of “No, no, no!” Thankfully once he succumbs he is a great sleeper. He has not had any night terrors and easily sleeps in his crib in our room. He wakes up happy and his first words are usually “ba-ba” (Chinese for daddy) because he hears K.C.’s voice. 

Always eating
Samuel is a BIG fan of food! He basically could eat from dawn til dusk. A few days ago I cut him off before nap time and he was not happy about it! He is soooo heavy compared to Anna. It is like he is made of bricks. I really love the ergo carrier. I can hold him in it pretty easily. He likes to be in it and it is good snuggly bonding time. He is happy if he has crackers in both hands and he will eat just about anything. I'm hoping to get him onto a more well rounded diet once we get home. Right now he mostly wants cookies and snacks all day long. Of course he can still eat plenty of food at meal time too! This is a first for our family of skinny minnies! He is so loving and affectionate. He cares for everyone and easily lets us cuddle and kiss him already. When we visited his foster home the nannies gave him a big bag of cookies and he proceeded to hand them out to everyone. He is very generous and caring. 

Precious ladies from Swallow's Nest
The past several days have been packed full! On Tuesday we received our “Official” Adoption Certificate, had several papers notarized, got Samuel’s passport photo taken, and applied for his passport. On Wednesday we had most of the day free and then visited Swallow’s Nest and celebrated Esther’s 15th birthday. Thursday K.C. took both little ones and the big boys to the Aquarium while Esther and I visited the Zhengzhou orphanage. (He gets big credit for that one! What a great dad!) While we were at our respective places we received word that Friday’s planned activity had to be moved to Thursday afternoon because it was closed on Friday. So K.C. and Esther took care of the little ones and I went with the older boys to the Shaolin Temple- the largest Kung Fu training center in China. We had great time and it actually worked out well that we didn’t bring the little ones. The temple is not designed for a double stroller! Lots of steps! I enjoyed a break from “mommy duty” and getting to spend some special time with my older boys.

Today we finally have a real free day. We ate a late breakfast, took the kids to play in the park, had an easy PB&J lunch in the room and are packing up for our trip to Guangzhou. Our adoption will be finalized there and we will be headed home in a week! Please pray for our first airplane trip with him tomorrow. He does not like to sit still and the airline won't let you keep the kids in the ergo, so he will be forced to sit in his seat at least for takeoff and landing. I may have to resort to lollipops for this one! Thankfully this time it is only a short trip. The long trip home could be really interesting!

Best buds! This little one
meets her family next week!
I feel like I have so much in my heart right now. I want to be able to process it and write it down for all of you. I know this post is mostly just general info. Hopefully, in the coming days I can share with you what this trip has meant to me. My body is so tired but my heart is full of joy to finally be bonding with my son. There was so much emotion in visiting the orphanage. My heart broke when I saw all of the babies at the orphanage-so many babies and so few caretakers. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for the care my China Blessings have received at Swallow’s Nest. Samuel is a bright eyed, conversational little boy who seems exactly at his correct developmental stage. This is not normal in adoption. Although we have missed two years of his life, he has received excellent care, love and nurture in a small family type environment. We are very blessed to be his parents. We are blessed to be a part of his life again. We are truly blessed by adoption.

I posted several photos of our trip to Swallow's Nest on Facebook as well as photos from our "Gotcha Day." For those of you not on facebook, you can access the photos with these links.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A very special day

Well, the first thing I’m going to say is, “I’m EXHAUSTED!” Two year old boys are active! Our little Samuel is no exception. He has been so interested in every part of our hotel room and loves the toys we brought. He absolutely loves his brothers and sisters. I it seems Luke is his favorite right now. Anna keeps telling me how much she loves her new baby brother, and they even managed to take a very long bath together with no fights! He is definitely an extrovert and doesn’t let mommy or daddy go very far.

Our special day has gone very smoothly. On the bus ride to the civil affairs office our guide said that the boys usually don’t cry, but the girls do. She couldn’t have been more spot on! At first there were about four families whose children came into the office first-all boys, not one tear. Then the girls arrived-lots of tears and wailing. Samuel and a little girl from the same orphanage came in near the end. Samuel came right to me but was really overwhelmed by all the chaos. He didn’t really seem scared, just confused. The little playground was helpful and he enjoyed playing on the ride on toys. He was really bothered by the crying little girls so we eventually went outside. This was great for his spirit. We played near the water and somehow managed to keep him from walking right into it. We found out later at bath time that he absolutely LOVES water! There was a lot of screaming and kicking when bath time was over.

 He seems to be enjoying himself and beginning to bond. He struggled with naptime. We played for quite awhile on our bed and when he started getting tired he threw a big fit with lots of kicking (aimed unfortunately at mommy.) Poor guy kept crying for mama and he wasn’t talking about me. Even though it is never fun to watch a child grieve it is healthy for them and an important part of this process. He cried himself to sleep and had a good nap with daddy while mommy got to fill out lots of paperwork. Now it is bedtime and of course he just wants to play. Not sure how this is going to go. He doesn’t seem scared of sleep like Anna was, but more just wanting to play and explore. He is very sweet and concerned about others. He is even pretty obedient. Trying different things and looking to us for an OK or a “no.” He even let me cut his hair. I just wasn’t digging those Elvis sideburns! We are trying to let him have as much freedom as possible right now since his control of his life has been so abruptly taken away. He is curious and fun and just a joy to be with.

As with Anna’s adoption, our ability to communicate in Chinese has been immensely helpful. He understands us and can tell us pretty clearly what he needs or wants. He really likes to go places and was very excited to ride on the bus and go for a ride in the stroller to dinner. He got upset when Anna got in the stroller before he did.

Tomorrow is a long day of paperwork. I am sure it will be an adventure keeping a very curious and active little guy occupied while we finalize the adoption and apply for his passport. After that we have several free days which will be good. It has been a good day. We are so blessed. It was a beautiful reunion with our son. We are excited to continue to bond with him, understand him, and most of all show him how much we love him.

Good night. I'll try to post more pictures when I am not so tired. The internet is very slow and we have a tiring and early day tomorrow. (And as I finish this post Samuel has snuggled down in his crib with his book of photos and is going to sleep.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

One day til Gotcha Day!

Hello everyone! To all my Kansas City peeps- Congratulations on another KC Royals win! World Series here we come! It’s funny, in the US we don’t have cable so we haven’t been able to watch many of the playoff games, but here in China my hubby has been able to watch all the games! We definitely brought our Royals gear to cheer on our hometown team here in China!

Tomorrow is a VERY exciting day! Our adoption agency calls it Gotcha Day. It is the day where you receive your child. The following day is the “official” adoption day when all the final paperwork is signed, but we consider Gotcha Day to be our adoption day. It is the day we become a forever family with our new child. Zheng Xiao Fu will no longer be an orphan, he will become Samuel Xiaofu Allen. Although his past will always be a part of his story, and his abandonment will be something he will work through his entire life, he will always and forever be a wanted, loved, and desired child. In fact he has almost always been our child, we just did not have the opportunity to spend the first 28 months of life with him.

I find that I am grieving the loss of those months even more than I grieved the loss with Anna. I think it is because I did not meet Anna before her adoption. As soon as we submitted our letter of intent to adopt Anna our hearts were inexplicably bonded to her and she was our daughter. We loved her with an intense love even though we had never met her. I cried on her second birthday, experiencing it in photos but not together with her. If you ask her how old she is she will tell you she is four years old, but if you ask her how many birthdays she has had she will tell you two. She clearly remembers her “Elephant” and “Minnie Mouse” birthday parties and they are extremely special to her. She knows that she was celebrated in a special way on those days. Of course it could be that she was just too young to remember her China birthdays, but I think there is more to it than that. Anna knows that she has a family. She talks about it often. She always wants us to be together as a family. Honestly, if we had not brought the whole family to China this time she would have been devastated. She loves her siblings so much and celebrates being together. She is absolutely thrilled to become a big sister and prays for her little brother Xiao Fu every night. She is prepared to comfort him and love him and she has seen an excellent example of how to do that from her older siblings.

But back to grieving. Adoption, while it is beautiful, amazing and love filled it is essentially about loss. Loss of a mother, father, and possibly siblings. Loss of the love and nurture that should have been part of a child’s early development, and in the case of international adoption-loss of a child’s country and culture. Tomorrow, Samuel Xiaofu will experience the loss of everything he has known about life for the past two years. Yes, he knows we are his family and he is excited to meet us, but there is no way that he is prepared for the loss he will feel when these “strangers” scoop him up, take him to a hotel, and take him away from his friends, his caregivers, his routine- Forever. He is going to grieve. He will be scared, he will cry, he will act in ways that show his grief. And I will be grieving with him. I will grieve that I was not there for all of his “firsts.” I will grieve that I was not there to comfort and hold him when he was scared or hurt. I will grieve that he is grieving. In all the joy that the next few weeks will bring, there will be grief.

The term “Gotcha Day” has gotten some flack lately in the adoption community. Some people call it “Forever Family Day” instead. Personally I think either term is fine, but there is something about the term “Gotcha Day” that in some ways captures the essence of what is happening even better than alternative terms. Some people think it sounds like you are capturing or taking a child. For me it symbolizes that finally in this little boy’s life someone is there for him in a way that he has never experienced before. Someone has “Got Him,” and will never, ever let him go. We will learn his nature, his likes, his dislikes, his anger, his pain, his love. We will do everything in our power to communicate to him that no matter what, we will never abandon him. We will ALWAYS be there for him. We will do whatever it takes to connect with him, to value him, to show him that he is deeply truly loved. We will do this not because of what he can do for us, but because he is our son. We have his back, we will fight for him, we will move mountains for him, and we have “Got Him.”

So as you go about your day today, Sunday October 13, 2014. Would you please pray for little Samuel Xiaofu? Would you pray for our family as we prepare to welcome him into our life, our home, our family? This evening around 9pm Central time (10am Monday morning China time) we will be excitedly waiting in the Zhengzhou Civil Affairs office for the first glimpse our very loved little boy. Fifteen families and fifteen children from our agency will all be in that room. In fact there will be other families from other agencies as well. It will be chaos. There will be tears, wailing, and also smiles. There will be lots and lots of photos and video. Most of all, there will be a lot of love. All of these families have waited months and years to finally hold their children. It is a day that forever changes your life and the life of a precious child. It is Gotcha Day!

If I haven’t already made you cry with this post, here is a beautiful video that captures the essence of what I have tried to describe with words. Watch if you dare, but beware. It could change you, in the best possible way. http://vimeo.com/97464005

click here to watch: Gotcha Day Video

Our China travel adventures begin!

These kids are ready to fly
Hello from China! We made it here and everyone is doing well, but the trip was not without a few hiccups. We knew when we booked our flights that our layovers were a bit short for international travel, but never in our history of travel (and there has been a lot!) have we ever missed a connection. So we opted for the cheapest most direct option. Unfortunately our run has ended and our flight out of Detroit to Seoul was delayed 3 1/2 hours. This put our flight to China leaving at 8:45 and us not arriving at the airport until 9:15. Yes, we missed our connection. Luckily the airline put us up in a nice little hotel inside the airport so we didn't have to get our bags, go through customs, and find a hotel. A Delta rep had our tickets and the hotel reservations ready for us as soon as we got off of the plane. We enjoyed having a bed to rest in and a hot shower in the morning and were able to head to China first thing in the morning.

Funny story- While we were checking in at the Seoul airport hotel a Chinese woman on her way to the US for a wedding was checking in. She didn't speak English and the hotel concierge didn't speak Chinese. You should have seen her face light up when I told her in Chinese that my husband could help her. The concierge was more than a little surprised that we spoke Chinese and we were happy to be able to help the woman out.

In the morning we all woke refreshed and headed to Starbucks for some breakfast and then to our flight. Unfortunately we realized right before we boarded that we were holding tickets and not boarding passes! We went to the check in desk and found out that we were supposed to have checked in at the transfer desk, a LONG way from where we were! Apparently the Delta rep had forgotten to put this vital info on our instructions and we weren't the only passengers in the same situation. A very frantic and upset Korean Air employee got us and our fellow rerouted passenger our boarding passes and notified them to get our luggage on the plane. They actually held the plane for us AND our luggage. Kudos to Korean Air! They definitely lived up to their stellar reputation.

Ready for our final flight. Zhengzhou here we come!
So, in addition to never missing a connecting flight we also have NEVER lost a bag. Well, that has ended as well. At some point one of our bags decided to take a trip to the Philippines. We have been told that it should be delivered at our hotel by tomorrow morning. So K.C. is currently missing his wardrobe and I am makeup free.

All in all it really hasn't been bad and our kids have been amazing travelers. I only heard a couple of complaints when we were waiting the extra 3 1/2 hours in Detroit for our plane to leave. I think the kids were actually glad for the break from flying last night and a bed to sleep in instead.

We have lovely, newly remodeled hotel rooms and even got a free upgrade in one of our rooms to a suite. It is quite the "open" floor plan with glass doors to the toilet and shower and a bathtub front and center. Thankfully our older kids are in a separate room! Not a lot of privacy in this one.

We are so excited to be here and had a wonderful lunch catching up with dear friend that we actually adopted with last time! We received our daughters on the same day in 2012 and this time we will celebrate adopting our sons together as well. What an amazing gift from God!