Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Trip to the Beach!

We like to make an annual stop at the beach to unwind, and Gulf Shores is one of our favorite stops. I tried to prepare Jack, who has never seen the ocean, by checking out some books at the library. My efforts were in vain, however, because he was convinced that the beach was a building! Every so often he would point at a building and ask, "Is that beach?"

When we finally hit the strip that runs parallel to the ocean and he got a good look, he said, "Jack no lika that big water." Have I said that he sounds a little Italian at times? :0) He got over that fear very quickly and loved his time at the beach. He especially loved digging in the sand. He loves to dig at our house, and this provided him the opportunity of endless digging .... and with no restrictions!! Could life be any grander?

We are delighted to follow along with some friends of ours who are currently in flight to China right now to get their little boy in their first adoption. We will be checking on them for the next couple of weeks as they make the journey that is so familiar to our family. Hold on, Jacob, your family is on their way!!

Jack's English is coming along just fine. He is still working on his fine motor skills and, as we suspected, has a little "catching up" to do developmentally, but we have a plan in place for him to assist with that. He will attend preschool in the fall and has a weekly "play class" with an occupational therapist. We've already witnessed progress from his play dates with Miss Karen. His need for sensory input has become more controlled.

We really do take so many things for granted sometimes. I've watched as Jack looked curiously at his cupcake trying to figure out what to do with the paper liner and how he didn't have a clue just how to walk in his new flip flops. What resulted was mighty funny. Little things like these he must be shown how to do. He didn't even know how to crawl - we're speculating that there never was an opportunity to do so since he probably went from a crib to a walker. Can he learn how to do these things? You betcha. He's as smart as a whip and catches onto things quickly; he simply was never exposed to them before. BTW, he's doing just fine in his flip flops and wears them every chance he gets!

His eating, I think, is finally beginning to slow down. He was forever eating 3 servings at dinner until his little belly would stick out. He also wanted to eat really fast, which probably contributed to the amount he wanted to eat. Would you believe that for the longest he didn't gain any weight? Gosh, I wish I could do that? Apparently, he, as many orphans do, had some nutritional deficits that needed to be filled before his body could even begin to think about growing. I remember that with Jenna - all of a sudden, boom, up she grew. Jenna, who was always shorter than Jack in China, now "towers" over him by 2 inches. He can't stand it and insists that he is bigger. Just like a man.

Anyway, enjoy the photos! (BTW, we do have 2 other children, but one of them is a teenage girl and avoids the camera like the plague. Sam is the one graciously allowing Jack and Jenna to bury him in the sand! And, if you look carefully at Jenna's legs, you can see the scars from her hip surgeries. It looks pretty ouchy, but all I see are 2 very strong and able legs that belong to a very determined little girl - our Peanut.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

One Surgery Down ...

Jack had the first of his corrective surgeries for hypospadia repair in February and came through like a trooper! We were sent home with heavy-duty pain meds, but he only needed two doses of regular Tylenol. He was so ready to go home (we had to spend the night) and would ask the nurse each time she came in, "All done?" We're really pleased with the doctor, too. Jack's next surgery is tentatively scheduled for August.

His English is snowballing - he's using sentences. We can understand him, but I can tell that sometimes those outside our family have a harder time interpreting what he is trying to say - much like a toddler's speech. We've learned alot about his personality: he wants to please; he has a mischeivous side; he does NOT want to get in trouble to such a degree that he will quickly point to the person nearest him (which is usually an indignant Jenna); he LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to play outside; he goes totally nuts over candy, and tries to convince me that candy will "make Jack big and strong"; he is very territorial about his food and can eat quite a bit for someone so small; and, sadly, he does a little hoarding. I've found stashes in a couple of places in his room. Surprisingly, he does not hoard food, but his belongings that he does not want anyone to touch or take. But what we can plainly see above all else is his love for life - he wants to participate and try everything with such enthusiasm.

We truly feel as if we have twins, having Jack and Jenna together. They color together, dig in the dirt together, and sometimes ask to sleep together. Jenna is enjoying the role of "big" sister, even though she is really the little sister. She just has the advantage of knowing the ropes. She has started asking some questions about her background, her birth mother, and the adoption. I try to answer, giving only just what is needed to satisfy her, but the topic just seems to make her feel anxious and insecure. I just emphasize what we have told her before in that God put her in our hearts and we searched for her the world over until God brought us together. She loves that.

Jack was baptized last month at our church, and I wondered just how much he understood - not much I'm sure. We've read Bible stories and Jenna has taught him some songs from church. I've talked to him about our Father in heaven, and he nods as if he understands. I know that it is just a matter of time. But I got a surprise when Jack asked to say the blessing this week (we sing one from the preschool that Jenna had attended). We all looked at each other with raised eyebrows. He began, "God, our Father. God, our Father, once again ..." and he finished with some mumbled phrases that left us all smiling. I can just imagine that God was smiling, too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

At Home

I thought you might like to hear a little update on Jack and the rest of us. Jack has settled in quite nicely. He's so full of joy and affection that he amazes us. He has grasped the words, "I love you," and uses them in the correct context. He is stringing words together to make baby sentences like, "Mama drive van. Go home." He is learning the letters to his name, his colors, and can already count objects to 10. And, boy, does he have a sense of humor! He likes to purposely give me the wrong answers to questions, but his face gives him away each time. He can't help but crack a goofy smile at me. He is learning that he can eat until he is full, and that candy does not really count as a food. ;0) Now, if Jenna would just understand this! He sings his heart out to the all-time Barney classic, "I love you, you love me ..." and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." He really dislikes cheese ... even macaroni and cheese. Go figure.

Jenna is getting used to having another brother, as long as he doesn't touch her stuff! The two of them are very territorial about their belongings. I wonder if it is because of the environment that they came from, or simply because of their age. Maybe both? Jenna likes the role of instructor - instructor of English, instructor of puzzles, instructor of Legos, instructor of ... I think you get the picture. But, Jack is quick to call Jenna to task if she steps out of line. He wags his finger at her while calling her name. She loves that, of course (typed in the font of sarcasm).

Sam is enjoying being the big brother to a brother, and finally getting his wish of getting bunk beds. I think that sleeping in the top bunk will cure him of sleepwalking, don't you? And Lane, who is now affectionately called "Nina" by Jack, is wrapped around this little boy's finger. He is just about the only one who can get a smile out of her in the morning (she's not a morning person-comes with adolescence, I think).

I'm posting a couple pictures taken since we have been home. But before I go, I wanted to leave you with one of those stories that makes you say, "Aww." Jenna fell and hurt herself. Jack, who was busy at the table cutting confetti, dropped everything when he heard her cry. He ran into the bathroom to get her a tissue and proceeded to wipe her tears. He was saying what sounded like comforting words (in Chinese) while stroking her cheeks. Then, he gave her a kiss. O.K., now you can say, "Aww" because we all did!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reunion - We are home!

We finally made it. What a return trip.

As we wandered around Guangzhou for the last few times we realized that our China journey was coming to a close. I can truly say that last time around we were more melancholy at this point in our journey. This journey has been quite different as it has had more of an "accomplish this mission" feel to it. We have enjoyed each step; though, most steps have been repeats of our journey to bring Jenna into our family. In short, we were very eager to get home and move onto the next phase of our lives. Such a statement is a bit odd to truly consider. We are moving into the next stage of life as we will no longer be adding children to our family, but concentrating on raising on those we have.

As a practical matter - we were sick of eggs & bacon for breakfast every morning, sick of noodles, sick of hearing people slurp their noodles, sick of being "accosted" by sales staff every time we approached a store or restuarant, sick of being stared at, sick of receiving child raising advice from every "grandmotherly" Chinese woman within 15 feet of us, and sick of really hard beds.

The trip home was an experience. There is nothing like international travel at the holidays to squash the good spirits right out of you. We awoke at 5:00 am (China time) on the 24th in Guanzhou to meet our 9:00 am flight. All went well and we said goodbye to our guide - Elvin - who was terrific during the entire process. We landed in Beijing and after transfering to the international terminal via a crowded shuttle bus (with 2 kids and all of our baggage - to be checked and carry-on) we waited in line to check our baggage and receive tickets. And waited, and waited, and waited, and ..... received news that due to the storms in the mid-west that we would not make our connecting flight and staying in a hotel in Chicago would be our fate. As long as we got to an American city we would work it out from there.

We then waited for our plane to arrive, and waited, and waited, and waited ..... as it arrived 3 hours late. We began to get hungry so searched for a place to grab a little something - but all that was available was ...... noodles - we passed. The boarding process was something out of a movie. Chinese nationals everywhere screaming, yelling, shoving, pushing at each other and us trying to get on the plane and stow their carry-on bags - mad house comes close to describing the scene. We all (kids especiallY) actually slept most of the flight - skipping the mid-night snack of noodles and the arrival meal of noodles (please don't offer me noodles for about 3 months - else your life may be in danger).

Arrival into O'hare, through customs - Jack is now a US citizen - and waited to see if we could make the last flight out to Atlanta. And waited, and waited, and waited ..... no go - hotel bound for the night. United put us up in a nice hotel on Christmas eve, we ate room service (hamburgers), slid into soft beds and everyone crashed to sleep until our wake up call. The next morning we made it to the airport, checked-in, with me taking on an unusual role of "complete jerk" with the United staff as I had begun to grow very impatient with inconsistent information and people who clearly did not know what they were talking about. We made it to our plane, had an uneventful ride and met our family at the Atlanta airport about 2:00 pm on Christmas day.

The reunion between Jenna and Jack was very nice to see (caught on video). He clearly recognized her, jumping up and down saying "Wan-Jin, Wan-Jin, Wan-Jin". He craddled her face in his hands and kissed her on the cheek several times. Jenna took it all in stride, but clearly did not recognize him from her time in China. While we were in Guangzhou, one of the sales girls in one of the numerous shops gave Jack a simple bracelet to wear. He wore it everyday and could not be without it. At this reunion meeting, he took off the bracelet and gave it to Jenna (unfortunately, I did not capture that on video).

As we move to adjust our bodies to the time change, celebrate Christmas, open our gifts and eat a great meal, we wish to thank a whole lot of people for helping us through this journey - many of which I will likely unintentionally leave off here. Our guides in China (Cecilia, Steed and Elvin) - all of whom were wonderful and made the trip as comfortable and enjoyable as could be. Al for checking on our house while we were gone. Our neighbors the Wrights for the same. Jim for a ride to the airport early in the morning on the 10th. Nancy who kept me sane at work during much of this process. AGG for allowing me to be away from work for such an extended period. Betty and Patricia who helped us organize a trip around the world in a very short period of time. Mor-mor, Susan and Jim, and Mimi who kept the girls safe and sound while we were away from them. Our many friends at church, at work, around home, through the internet, and all points in between who have listened to us, shared with us, helped us and most importantly, prayed for us and Jack through this journey.

We have finished this mission. I think we prayerfully followed the direction of God to begin and finish this journey, though, we may not have always executed and performed the individual tasks in a manner that glorified Him. My prayer is that if you are reading through this blog and have doubts that the living God walks with us, encourages us, guides us, comforts us - will begin to consider that such doubts are holding you back from a wonderful and unique relationship that He yearns for you to undertake. Please know that without this relationship in my life, I would not have even begun to consider taking on 2 additional children - and I would have missed 2 wonderful gifts and countless blessings in my life. Consider the events articulated in this blog and really ask yourself if these events could merely be coincidence. Please feel free to contact me should you ever want to discuss the reason for the hope that I have and I promise to do so in a respectful manner.

Our family is now complete. We move on from here with prayerful hope that we live our lives for Him. Ups and downs will come and through it all we will love Jack with all our might as he is a part of our family as if he arrived by the stork. We are the fortunate ones.

Jack is now home.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


While visiting the zoo this morning, our guide received a call from his colleague to let him and us know that our paperwork "passed" the consulate. Now, I feel like I can truly exhale - my journey with adoption paperwork is, for the most part, over. Tomorrow we will travel to the consulate to take our oath and receive Jack's Chinese passport and the brown envelope.

We had trouble with our computer yesterday and couldn't post or answer e-mails, but with a little tinkering, my husband got it to work this a.m. Yesterday we visited a temple and witnessed monks and nuns doing some kind of ritual, as well as a monk leading a group of believers in a class. Interestingly enough, the monks have entered the 20th century - the monk leading the class was using powerpoint. We took the boys to a local park and to the Swan Room to play. They are getting along well, but I can tell that Sam is ready to go home. He misses his sisters. Jack, while sometimes mischievous, is adjusting well to his new family. We've had a few time outs, and he seems to be beginning to understand the concept. As with Jenna, Jack will need to learn volume control. He announces to the entire White Swan restaurant that he needs to go to the bathroom, usually to the accompaniment of light laughter of nearby people. He'll even wake up in the middle of the night and call it out. We've gotten used to it now, but the first night, it scared the life out of his sleeping family! We finished off the day with a little Papa John's Pizza - a little taste of home.

This will probably be the last post in China, unless Dan downloads some more pictures or can't sleep tonight and decides to blog. In any case, it will be my last post here. We are looking forward to getting home to the girls, but not to the travel. Hopefully, there will be no delays at the airports. Thanks for joining us - all of your comments have meant the world to us!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

AAHHH ... the White Swan

We are here! We got into our room about 11:30 last night and crashed. Yesterday, Steed took us to a Lanzhou pizza place for lunch and then we went to a park so the boys could run off some energy. Our flight was to leave at 7:45, so by the time we were approaching the airport we had worked up an appetite and were tired. We got stuck in a little traffic on the way there and had the opportunity to witness local Muslims getting out of their cars with their mats so that they could pray. By the time we arrived at the airport, we were running just a little bit late, so Steed dropped us off and left to park the car. As we made our way into the surprisingly crowded airport, we noticed that the majority of people were Muslims, evident to us by the white caps that they wear. As we waited for Steed, the crowd began to grow to about 50 people. Being an American surrounded by so many Muslims in a foreign country in a post 9/11 world was, I'll honestly admit, a little disconcerting. Sam was somewhat overwhelmed for a bit, but took it in stride and waved and greeted some of the children who peered around their mothers. Boy, we were glad to see Steed come through the doors. Without us saying anything, he assured us that they were just curious about us and understood that there was a difference in their dislike for our president and their feelings about us. We decided NOT to announce that we had voted for Bush. ;0)

We were unsure how Jack would react to the plane ride. He had become attached to Steed and was sad to leave him. Jack had also shown us that he has, let's just call it, a mischievous side. We had no idea what to expect. Jack, apparently, LOVES airplanes. He was excited beyond words. He kept doing the Home Alone face and saying the Chinese word for airplane (sounds like fee-jee) and doing the sign for it. Of course, we got food, too, which made the trip totally awesome for Jack. He even gave me a thumbs up. I, however, picked the wrong meal. It was sushi, some green gelatinous square, and for a snack - preserved olives. For those of you who know me, I'm not an adventurous eater (primarily due to getting sick last time I was in China) and have to be careful because of my wheat allergy. Danny picked the same meal. Thank goodness for protein bars!!!

Needless to say, we were happy to see the breakfast buffet at the White Swan this a.m.! We met with our guide to go for Jack's medical exam. The facility hadn't changed much - sterile, with a few toys; crowded with adoptive families and their children. Jack was petrified. After the more personal exam, they decided that because he is 5, he needed a vision exam. The two ladies in charge of this procedure, clearly tried to comfort Jack, but he was still upset from what he had just been through. Plus, the exam was to be given in the waiting area. So, it was very chaotic. I assured our guide that our family has an eye doctor that we use that we would take him to. I was told that it was O.K. and that it would just be reported that Jack was uncooperative. A positive note - Jack kept crying for me and had a death grip around my neck afterwards. We are trying to encourage some bonding with Dan, so Baba carried him out of the building. Thank goodness Jack is affectionate and likes to cuddle! Bonding with Dan has been a little slow, primarily, I think, because we have had male guides who are Chinese. How can you compete with that? Having been through this before we know -it will come.

Jack, it appears, has an Italian accent! Eat is "Eatsa." Thank you is "Sanka you." Don't touch (believe me - we need this one!) is "No toucha." Cute.

Well, we're off for a day of shopping! We miss you, girls!