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!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Exploring More of Lanzhou

With me feeling better today we were able to venture out into Lanzhou. Our first stop was the Gansu Province natural history museum. We saw dinosaur and mammoth skeletons, a great deal of pottery, replicas of past Chinese civilizations, ancient jewelry, tools and carvings. It was interesting for us and something to do for the kids. There was a place in the pottery wing where on the wall was a picture of a piece of pottery which was composed of 9 tiles attached to the wall by magnets. One takes down the tiles, mixes them up and the child places them back up correctly to form the picture. Prompted by Steed, Sam began the task of assembling the first picture. A few Chinese people began to form a loose crowd around him to watch the “little boy”. He had such a good time that he moved onto the next picture, and then a third. On the third I slipped in a 10th tile from a different picture to see if I could slip him up, and to solicit a reaction from the group around us. Smiles and chuckles ensued but Sam could not be stumped. When Sam turned around to see the “crowd” he broke into a big smile, but would not take a bow. He can be a ham, but usually in the confines of more familiar settings.

Next, we drove down a back alley way, got out and walked down this intimidating street - but with Steed around we really feel no trepidation. We strode into an open air market, not designed for tourists, and looked around for a while. When here the last time we had a writing done in Chinese characters of Jenna’s name, birthplace and birth date. This time we had Jack’s, Sam’s and Alana’s done to complete the set. Steed gave Sam and Alana Chinese names which I will describe in a future post. Lane - I had to describe you and your personality to Steed in order to get the name just right ;-).

We moved onto lunch at the oldest and best noodle house in Lanzhou. We ate in a private room - yak beef (yes, yak beef) noodle soup with various appetizers (thinly cut string potatoes, radishes, spicy cabbage, bean sprouts, very crunchy celery) to place in the soup around a large lazy susan in the middle of the table. Steed, our ever-trying to please host, knowing of Michele’s wheat allergy was going to have Michele eat some barbecue before heading into the noodle house. As he approached an outside vendor to grill up some whatever, Michele politely, and probably wisely, declined.

After lunch we moved onto a shopping mall, as Sam wanted to see the toys that Chinese kids play with. The Chinese definitely have the whole marketing thing down. Just about all vertical space, outside and inside, is covered with some sort of advertisement. Signs blaze and blink at night, colorful and sometimes humorous signs catch one’s eye while traveling down a street, and street vendors call out at surprisingly hushed volumes. Subtlety is not an attribute which they have applied in the advertising realm. Anyway, advertising they have in buckets - retail presentation - not so much. The mall consisted of stores with shelves with toys and junk piled on. I mean piled on, not artfully arranged so as to be pleasing to the eye, rather just stacked to take advantage of all available space (somewhat similar to their housing situation). The checkout station in each store consisted of a metal desk, calculator, receipt slips and a pouch to hold the day’s revenue. The larger department stores were somewhat better, but still with more emphasis on space utilization rather than presentation. With the Chinese being all about presentation and saving face in so many areas of their day-to-day lives it was surprising to see such mere utilitarian approach to selling merchandise.

On a funny note. We were walking with Steed through the shopping mall and he happened along a friend. They were talking and catching up. The friend handed him a business card and we moved on. Steed showed me the card and asked if I am familiar with this company “Amway”. I described what a pyramid scheme consisted of and he realized exactly what it was all about. Apparently, such businesses had until very recently been illegal in China but now one can pursue such endeavors. China is changing. Steed told me he was too busy for such things - he is a smart guy.

Anyway, yesterday was a very good day as we were out of the hotel room for several hours getting some “fresh” air. Note: If you look up Lanzhou under Wikitravel , under “DO” you will see “Get out. Really”.

Today, we check out, have a late lunch of Chinese pizza, visit the water-wheel park and lady of Lanzhou statue and make the drive to the airport. Our flight is not until 7:45 pm so today will be a long day, probably not settling into the White Swan until 11:30 or so. Fortunately, I am feeling much better so the trip should be just fine. It will be very interesting to see Jack’s reaction to the whole travel experience. Whenever he has experienced something new, like Playdough, he gets a “Home Alone” expression - hands to the sides of the face, wide eyes and open mouth. Wednesday after his nap, Jack became sad, standing by the bed, working very hard to hold it in, with tears running down his face. He let Michele hold him to help reassure him that everything would be alright. In attempt to comfort him we showed him the pictures that the orphanage director left with us, but this seemed only to increase the tears - no sound mind you - only tears. Fortunately, a bath was in order and he perked up, looking forward to putting on his pajamas and sleeping in his inflatable "Cars" bed.

It will be a sad departure from Lanzhou as this very likely be the last time we visit this city in the center of China. Both visits have had their ups and downs, and each with their particular memories. Not being able to visit the orphanage to see where Jack and Jenna spent so much time is a real disappointment. We will miss Steed - our guide who has been so gracious, welcoming and attentive to us. We had a rare opportunity to see someone familiar in China - to visit and discuss previous times - what a treat. Steed is the man of Lanzhou. He is great with kids, expert at the paperwork and bureaucratic maneuvering, terrific host, caring individual - a man with a big heart. We plan to continue a long distance relationship with Steed via email and hope one day to see him again.

Hope all is well back home.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pictures (In reverse chronological order)

At the Gansu museum

Karate lessons from a Kung-fu master

Frozen pond at the Five Springs Park

Jack Zack Attack!
It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog!

Anyone need chopsticks lessons?

Jack and his Mom.

The boys getting shut-eye

Our first walk with Jack - about 30 minutes after meeting him.

A dragon hotel.

Making a silk comforter

About to become complete men - by scaling the Great Wall

For luck!

Sam burning off steam!

The intertwined tree at the garden in the Forbbiden City

Noodle House

Cold - so - cold!!

Lanzhou Update.

Well this will be our last full day in Lanzhou. Tomorrow we will fly to Guangzhou, but our flight does not leave until 7:45 so we will still have some significant time here. I have been down the last 48 hours with a nasty sinus infection – not wanting to do much. My meds seem to be kicking in and I feel about 33% better this morning (though still without a continual long sleep period). So we have been stuck in the room pretty much this whole time. Though on Tuesday we went to the 5 Springs Park and saw some pretty cool stuff. Sam and Jack had a great time walking around on a frozen pond with Mr. Steed. We got great video of several older men exercising using a “Chinese yo-yo” (they call it Diablo because of the sound it makes). Sam got to impress a Kung-Fu master with his use of a striking stick. Sam twirled it around as if he had been practicing it a while, so I asked if he had done so in Karate class. He responded no – he had learned on his own by engaging in combat with his light-saber.

We moved on to a real live Buddhist temple – statues, monks, burning incense and cellular phones. Yes, the vow of poverty apparently does not extend to portable inexpensive communication devices.

Not getting out as much as we had hoped is a disappointment. We remained stuck in our hotel last trip and we wanted to explore Lanzhou much more this time. Especially disappointing is my not being able to visit the orphanage. I just do not feel up to a 12 hour day given my not feeling very well. It was a hard decision but probably the correct one.

An interesting event occurred the other morning. I was up walking around at 3:00 am and decided to watch a movie on the portable DVD player. I went down to the main lobby to sit on one of the comfortable sofas. I started up the movie placed my legs, not my feet – just to my ankles, on the sofa and settled in to watch Pirates of the Caribbean III. About 10 minutes later, the commie night supervisor – who to this point had not been seen – in fact there was no one in the lobby – not at the front desk, at the front door – no one – comes out and with a smile but no English explains to me that I have to take my legs down. It was 3:00 am – no one around. Can’t tell if they were busting my chops or if it was a continuation of the “keeping up appearances” that is so prevalent in Ch!na. Maybe it is part of their sleep deprivation program so as to cause me to slip up and give away the secrets to conquering Sharpsburg, GA.

As far as pictures go – we received a cord yesterday, but the fittings were not correct. I am feeling a bit better today so I will be able to buy a cord. But doesn’t the anticipation just make the experience that much more wonderful?

Oh, the ladies are back to wipe down the lobby which has accumulated no dust what so ever since 24 hours ago.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boys, Sinuses, and a Cord

Not too much to report today ... the boys are bonding pretty well, wrestling, laughing, playing cars and play dough. Dan has been in the bed since yesterday afternoon with a bad sinus headache - hopefully, the antibiotics will kick in soon because we are running out of decongestant!!! We tried airing out the room today, figuring the smog might be better than germs. ;0)

And the elusive camera cord. Steed insisted that we not buy one because he has several and we can have one. He did remember to bring it this a.m. Unfortunately, it does not work with our camera. sigh. I want to get those pictures downloaded probably as much as you want to see them!! Maybe tomorrow ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday - "Gotcha!" Officially Complete

Well it is official – Jack is ours. We had the “closing” yesterday, and signed on the dotted line. All went well. Last time the officials came to our hotel to do the paperwork, this time we went to the Civil Affairs Office. The setting is exactly as one would expect in Communist China. The Civil Affairs Office building was generic, plain and functional (almost). We walked into a small lobby area where two “guards” sat at a very plain metal office desk. On the wall was the hammer & sickle along with the Chairman’s picture. The lobby area and elevator waiting area were dimly lit. The elevator took us to the 5th floor where an even darker hallway led us to a conference room. The room contained a large wooden conference table that would seat about 20 or so, and 30 chairs off to one side facing the table (so that these chairs were like an audience viewing the discussion at the table). The same notary and civil affairs official as when we adopted Jenna came and produced the paperwork. While we signed and shuffled the forms, Jack and Sam colored and played. The great thing is that they were coloring out of a Bible stories coloring book. Think about it – an American family comes to the Lanzhou civil affairs office and goes to the communist meeting room, where the adoptee and his new brother occupy their time by looking through a book that references the true King. I love it. After a while, I pushed a toy car back and forth with Jack. It was our first time playing and bonding together. He laughed and giggled as I clowned around a bit. We can tell he is very sharp as he is picking up words rather quickly. That’s my boy! The director and nanny where at the meeting and we took quite a number of pictures. They gave a present to Sam, and gave us gifts for Wan Jin (Jenna) and a few of the other babies that had been adopted out of the orphanage. After about an hour, all was complete and Jack was officially our son. Jack looked a bit anxious as he could tell it was goodbye time, but all went very well. Jack waved goodbye to his former caretakers and walked out of the room hand in hand with his Mommy and big brother. I stayed behind to thank the director and nanny for their sincere and great care of our children. I expressed that we can tell they have done a terrific job. (It was hard to get the words out and remain composed but I am thankful to say I still have my dignity intact).

This was all complete by 11 am and we had the remainder of the day to ourselves. Unfortunately, we spent most of the time cooped up in the hotel room (luckily the room and hotel is much better than the where we stayed last trip – Tony & Gayle: we chose poorly last time). Michele is getting over her illness and her toe is fully functional. Sam has now become a bit sick, but we have started him on medicines and he is sleeping quite well. I am not feeling 100% but hope my medicines will reap results today. Sleep for me is something of the past. Four hours a night – with maybe another hour during the day. Tonight I slept from 7 pm to 11 pm. What to do the remainder of the night – hence this blog entry.

Tomorrow we will get a city center tour (assuming Sam is up to it). We will go to the “5 points people’s park”. We look forward to getting out and exploring a bit as last time we were intimidated by the stares. Not this time. We will go out and meet and interact with the local people in a winsome manner. Actually, we arrived in the city a bit earlier in the day this time round so there was more daylight. The walk to the photo studio and store was not as formidable as we expected. While we were still stared at, it was not the same as 2 years ago. More smiles, less “accusatory” gawking. The smog also seems to be a bit reduced; though, Steed tells us this varies from day-to-day.

I must comment on 3 women, 3 buckets and 6 rags. As I could not sleep last night, I walked around the hotel to pass the time. At one point I watched 3 twenty-something women, use a bucket a piece and a rag in each hand (think wax on/wax off) clean the entire lobby area. They cleaned everything but the main floor itself. Every vertical surface within reach, every banister and railing, every banister and railing support, all base boards – behind planters, curtains, chairs, tables, etc.), walls, door trimming, everything. Though, they never changed the water in their buckets!?! Now, if they do this every day, maybe they do not need to change out the water – we will see this morning as I follow up on my observations.

UPDATE: They were there again this morning – wiping away.

We hope to be able to post pictures today.

Hope this entry finds you well.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

You've Seen the Video - Now Here's the Story

Jack was already at the hotel when we arrived - just as the case with Jenna. He seemed a little overwhelmed at all of the attention, as you would expect. He turned 5 the beginning of December, so he has some knowledge about what is happening ... enough to make the whole event somewhat frightening. To make things easier, Mrs. Yang and the nanny came up to the room with us, which gave us an opportunity to share photos of Jenna and other Pingliang children, videos of Jenna's progress, and pictures that Jenna made for them. They really appreciated getting all of the updates of the children and were quite happy that we Pingliang families keep in touch with one another.

Meanwhile, Sam was trying to coax Jack into playing cars and ball with him. Jack did play and even smiled, but when he saw Mrs. Yang getting her purse, the tears began. It was a little difficult, understandably, for both Jack and Mrs. Yang, who was tearful, too. We had to walk a few blocks for Jack's passport photo, so Mrs. Yang and the nanny walked down with us. But, when Jack, Sam and I walked through the rotating hotel lobby doors, they did not follow. Jack kept looking back, but was soon overcome with all of the sights and sounds of a bustling city. After the passport photo, our guide took us to a store to pick up supplies. Our guide and Sam were both holding Jack's hands at this point, and surprisingly, Jack kept looking back. Except this time, he was looking for me.

Once we got back to the hotel room, he got a little fearful again and cried, but he did not resist me picking him up and comforting him. We were even able to get a few smiles out of him. His first English word to us was "Sammy," which pleased his brother very much! Sam is SO proud of his little brother and has already begun watching over him.

I was dreading bedtime, thinking that he might really miss the familiar. However, that was not the case. Both Sam and Dan fell asleep early and Jack had gotten into his bed and quietly watched me as I walked around the room. When I got into the bed next to his, I put my hand over the side. A few seconds later, I feel a little hand clasp mine. I peeked over to see his eyes finally close.

Today, we have begun to see a little personality! He's talking to us. Of course, we can't understand most of what he is saying. He made friends with his "Baba" today (that's Daddy), and even held his hand. He said, "Car, Baba!" to the astonishment of us all this a.m. And he got to see his sisters on the phone (Skype w/camera). What many people have wondered was if he remembered his old friend. When he saw her on the computer, he said, "Wan Jin" - that's our Jenna.

So, now we wait on his passport to be completed and will leave Lanzhou on Friday to go to Guangzhou, our last stop before home.

We cannot find the cord to connect the camera to the computer, but our guide is helping us with that. We hope to be posting some pictures soon. I am feeling better (maybe because I started antibiotics?). Unfortunately, Dan is now feeling under the weather. Hopefully, everyone will feel good by the time we reach Guangzhou. Thanks for all your prayers - they were definitely felt! Love you, Girls!! Talk to you soon!

This should say it all!

Hopefully this works.

Saturday, December 13, 2008







Our Last Day in Beijing - from Michele

It's 2:30 a.m. here in China, and we're up, but we are making progress to our goal of sleeping through the night! Sam usually conks out about 6 or 7 and we cannot seem to wake him up, so we have opted to let him sleep..

I will let Sam post about what we did yesterday. We got a little shopping in before returning to the hotel. The smog is annoying my sinuses (my cold/cough), and I've lost my voice here and there, so I'm going to go ahead and start my antibiotic since we are now going to a city where the smog will be worse. Better safe than sorry, I guess. I just wish I felt better for our first meeting with Jack later today. We will be posting pictures once we are in Lanzhou. Talk to you soon - love you, Lana and Jenna!

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Day of Touring

As one might expect, yesterday was a great day - both with highs and lows.
While I grew up in the New England and am used to below freezing weather - there is something about being on Tianenmen Square with a good stiff breeze to chill you to the bone. The day was filled with awsome sights, pictures (we will try to post some later) and experiences. I must say the highlight of the day for me was lunch at an authentic Chinese noodle house where the locals dine. Great food, casual and a busy atmosphere - my Mom would have really loved it. First, no waitresses only young men - they emphasize the traditional roles at this place. When a party enters the door the first waiter yells "party of 4 needs a table". You then walk around a partition and greeted by the 10 or so other waiters all stationed at their tables, who yell "Welcome". They then proceed to loudly coax you to their table. Now, you don't tip, so I'm not sure if there is any sort of financial motive behind the coaxing - but it sure was fun to watch. The cadence of the shouting was like "Here we go Braaahaves [pause] Hooray!"
Sam is pretty much a rock star here. They are very interested in western children and as we were walking in the Temple of Heaven (like an expansive park) about three or four upper middle aged men came up and touched him. As you would imagine it was a bit disconcerting to him and me at first, but as we soon realized that while unusual for us, it was merely a friendly gesture. It was like an older uncle coming up and patting his head and squeezing his shoulders. Now that I have scared everyone concerned back home, let me reassure you, I am watching Sam with an eagle eye and Sam has embraced his fame. Everyone wants a picture of the "little boy". What a treat for our young man.
The low point of the day was having on three occassions persons come up and ask for money. One was a man on crutches who had lost his foot, another was a mother clutching her bundled baby, and the other a man with no hands. What do you do in such situations that come upon you suddenly? We were in tourist areas, pickpockets all over, you take out money and you become a target, even attracting more of a crowd around you. Fear, apprehension and doubt come to the forefront of your thoughts. (The mom and baby will stay in my mind for a long time). Now the real hard part - your son asks, "Dad, why are you telling those people you don't have any money?" Convicted. We were not prepared for such events but hope to be so today. We did do the least of what we could for those people, which happens to be the absolutely most we could do for them - prayer. However, faithfull preparation may serve our actions better today.
We were scheduled for dinner in, yes, a Chinese restaurant, last evening, but Sam conked out, I was feeling queezy, and Michele has caught a bit of cold. So our day ended somewhat early and we will strike out again today. We will see the Great Wall and Summer Palace with a stop at the Cloisenee factory/store.

Blessings to all.

Sam's First Day in China

(From Sam) - It was very cold. We had a very good breakfast. We saw the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. I liked doing the video camera. Our guide is nice.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Arrival in Beijing

We have made it safe and sound to Beijing. Despite a rather tight transfer at Dulles (Michele limping along) we made our connection and had a relatively uneventful flight. Sam handled the ordeal rather well with only a slight meltdown about 9 hours into the flight. Thank goodness for the portable DVD player!
The sights, sounds and smells of Beijing are familiar as we are staying at the Novetel Peace Hotel not far from where we stayed 2 years ago. Tomorrow we head out to Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven and we will probably venture out on the "Walking Street" in the center of Beijing. We will also go to see a side street nearby where you can see all sorts of strange barbecued items for sale! We will look but not sample. Sam is looking forward to this with much excitement.
One of the things that jumped out at me on our last visit was the number of workers working at any number of tasks. Not sure if it is driven by work ethic or an authoritative management style coupled with a huge number of people needing work. A couple of examples. First, at the airport there is a yellow safety line painted around each luggage carrosel. I saw a woman on hands and knees scrubbing one of these yellow lines. This is simply something you do not see in America - we just repaint. Second, as I was typing this post in the internet cafe in a French hotel in Beijing, an Australian guest was walking across the lobby and tripped on a raised piece of tile. Looks like she may have hurt her foot. Immediately, at least two workers went to her aid, and what looks like a floor supervisor did the same. Next, within about two minutes the French "shift supervisor" has come down to talk to the guest, offer appologies, etc. What appears to be the Chinese hotel manager has come down to inspect the floor. No less than 4 workers have looked it over. The amout of attention to such a detail is remarkable compared to our standards (not sure what the personal injury practice is like here in China). Now before you get to be too impressed, through all this attention the problem will be solved by taping down the tile with clear packaging tape. The world is an amazing place.
Our thoughts remain on Jack, and our two daughters back home. Michele and I breifly discussed the fear creeping into our thoughts as we approach zero hour. Apprehension, excitement and fear are all not far from our minds as we get ready to take on this new responsiblity. It is a joy and blessing to have this opportunity, nevertheless, we cannot help but feel anxious.
Blessings to all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Last Post from U.S.A.

We're off in the morning for China! We're still in a state of disbelief that this is happening, even though we've been working towards this and planning for a little over a year now. Sam is excited and nervous. Our girls are safe with their MorMor (Norwegian for grandmother). Our bags are practically packed. Paperwork has been checked and double checked both by me and my husband.

Please pray for safe travel for our daughters as they stay with family and safe travel for us as we make the numerous flights throughout China and back home. Please lift up Jack to help him cope with what is about to happen to him.
See you in China!

Dan ADDS: Well as one may have predicted, I cannot sleep - so I thought I would add to this post. We are ready to head out on this new adventure. Michele has added a bit of drama to begin the trip. Monday evening, she knocked a table, which sent a mini-speaker crashing onto her 2nd toe on her right foot. It has swelled a great deal, though the pain is not so bad. Last evening she was hobbling a bit - thus, is quite prepared to dash through the airport, climb the Great Wall and tour the Forbidden City. In an attempt to ease her pain, I sprang for 1st class upgrades on the Atl to DC leg of the journey. For those who know me - and the long tradition of, shall we say, "thriftiness" of the men in my family, this is quite a big deal for me :-).
Thanks to everyone for the great support, kind words and heartfelt prayers. China 2.0 here we come!
Lane and Jenna, we will miss you and be thinking of you the entire trip.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We're Going to China!

We got the call late Thursday night - we got our requested consulate appointment of 12/22! So, we leave this week to go to China! Wednesday to be exact! We've been so busy either on the phone or the internet trying to finalize our travel plans to China and in China, that I'm only just now posting our good news on our blog. Whew. Whirlwind is an appropriate term to describe what we have just been through. We will get Jack on 12/14 and return on 12/24. What a Christmas present!

Thank you to all of our friends and family who have been praying for us - it got a little sticky there for a while. Let's just say that there was a glitch with our paperwork (imagine that?) and that our agency advocated for us. Then, there was the matter of not only finding reasonably priced tickets (we had watched them go up steadily all week), but finding tickets at all, such is the Christmas season. I was told some flights were sold out. And to top it all off, you can't just reschedule your requested Consulate appt. ... you better be there.

So, I think our eldest daughter will testify that her mom and dad were a little stressed. Not to mention that we were going on very little sleep (since China is 13 hours ahead of us, our approval was going to come in during the night). The pattern formed: search for and hold tickets for 24 hours in hopes of getting our appt. Stay up and wait for phone call so that I can buy the tickets before they expire. No appt. Search for and hold another set of tickets for 24 hours. Stay up and wait. No appt. You get the picture.

We were so anxious about all this that both Dan and I turned to God for help the same day, but at different times, realizing foolishly, that we should have done that from the beginning. Once we gave it to God, we finally relaxed that evening and left the computer. We got the call that night. :0)

We purchased tickets the next day - paying more than we budgeted, but trusting God in His plan. Later that day, God blessed us with a sweet, sweet lady from our agency (she handles our internal travel arrangements) who called me and politely informed me that we paid too much for our tickets. She helped us fix that and has since saved us quite a bit of money. To borrow some language from my 13 year old, "Betty, you rock!"

Throughout this adoption, when we have experienced some kind of delay, God has blessed us with a photo of our son, as if to remind us of His goal for us and for us to not be discouraged. During all this, our friend Andy, who had surprised us with a great photo of our son when he visited the orphanage, forwarded another photo he had received from LWB (Jack is in the orange shirt.). And, yes, we know ... Jack is a cutie pie. ;0)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Travel Approval

We got the call today!!! China is ready for us to come and get Jack - goodness knows, we've been ready for quite awhile now. We are still waiting confirmation of our Consulate appointment to finalize our travel plans, but will post that information when we hear from our agency. BTW, I've posted a Smilebox below - the last two pictures are of Jenna, then Jack - the jacket is the reason I spotted Jack on the internet. :0)

I spent some time today working on our blog and reflecting on this journey so far. Wow. We are almost there, but we surely didn't get there alone. Though the prayers of friends and family have sustained us through the ups and downs of the adoption, we certainly wouldn't be at this point today if we hadn't taken a chance on God. This has been a walk of faith for both Dan and me. When you decide to walk the path God has laid out for you, you will be afraid, but you will also feel more alive and closer to the Heavenly Father. Gosh, it would have been so easy to not go through with this second adoption, but God is faithful and keeps his promises to us. I'm overwhelmed with God's goodness and His plan for these two children and our family as a whole. The words from the hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" come to mind:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Click to play Together Again .... Soon
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