Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Word To My Church and Community

We have been home a little over a week with Will.  He is doing so well and I always hope that our families adoptions will show what a joy growing your family in this way can be.  I want to talk a little about positive adoption language (AKA - what you should say and what you shouldn't!).  I am saying this because before I adopted I never thought about it.  Why should I care?  Well, if you interact with my family or any other family in the world who has adopted it is important that you pay attention.  I would compare this lesson to an etiquette lesson (AKA - how not to hurt my or my children's feelings, or otherwise cause permanent damage to a child's delicate self-image).  Now keep in mind, I don't get my feelings hurt easily and no one who has said anything to me in the past has nhurt my feelings, so don't feel bad if you have ever said something to me which may be somewhat inappropriate.  So, what do I mean:  Example #1: How many kids do you have of your own?  I have 5 kids.  I may respond with this or I may say I have 2 biological and 3 adopted children.  These children are all very much my own and not someone else's.  So, never ask a adoptive parent how many kids they have of their own - because all of their children are very real and very much a member of the family, no matter how they arrived.  Example #2:  Do you know their real parents?  Well, sure - I am their real parent.  All of my adopted children also have very real birth parents, and no, I don't know who they are.  It is illegal to give your child up for adoption in China, so no Chinese child will have known birth parents.  If the child is adopted from another country the parents may know who their bio parents are, but it really isn't any of your business unless the adoptive parent chooses to share that information with you.  Example #3: How expensive was your kid or I heard that adopting from there was REALLY expensive?  Don't ask me how much it cost to adopt unless you have a legitimate interest in that information.  In this case I will be happy to talk your ear off about every single detail of my adoption process including the cost.  If you are asking because you can't believe I would pay that much to adopt, then you shouldn't really ask me the question.  After all, I didn't ask you why you just bought a new car which cost more than my adoption while I am still driving a 10 year old minivan and loving on my newest most wonderful gift from God.  I am sure your new car is just as snugly in the morning and blesses you each day also, OK - so I will digress.  Example #4:  Why not adopt a child from the US?  Because my child was in China.  Have you met them, they are obviously mine.  I don't care where you adopt from, where you sponsor a child from, whatever, just do something!!!  Stop asking me silly questions, start doing what Jesus did and Go ye therefore into all nations - Wherever you need to go - just do SOMETHING (because right now doing nothing is what most Christians are doing and to tell you the truth it reflects poorly upon us!)  OK, so I could give you some more reasons about why China, but I won't!  Example #5:  You all are really good people for adopting. (OK, so this isn't a question, but a statement I have heard no less than 100 times in anticipation of our most recent adoption since apparently normal people might adopt once or twice, but if you adopt 3 times you must be a saint)  We are not saints, we love our kids and have chosen to grow our family through adoption (If I was pregnant for the 5th time you would ask me why I don't use more birth control - but adopting was obviously not an accident).  God very clearly tells us to care for the old and the young in the Bible:  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27   -- Our family could choose to follow this by sponsoring more children, supporting an orphanage, continuing to work on medical missions trips.  I hope we do all these things.  I can't ignore the fact that God has given us the resources and the desire to add another child to this family.  If God has given these things to you, how can you say no?  I thank God every day for not letting fear take over and stop our family from very clearly following his plan for our family.  We are not special, but our kids sure are!  As I hope the number of adopted children in our community and congregation grow - please take a minute to make sure that you are making an effort to welcome these very wanted children with all the respect that they deserve.   Here is a link to a website with positive adoption language in case my long-winded discussion hasn't bored you to death yet:  http://www.holtinternational.org/adoption/language.shtml

Friday, November 25, 2011

We're Home

We have been home since last Friday night (or early Saturday morning depending on how you look at it).  We are back to work and being on call.  The kids have started back at school (nice to start back on a 2 day school week).  Will is jumping right in to our normal family activities.  I went to preschool with him on Monday and then on Tuesday I took him and dropped him off.  He did great and just followed along with the rest of the class.  Preschool only last about 2 1/2 hours so it isn't to much stress on him.  We are going to have Thanksgiving today with family (we can never do holidays on the actual day!)  I plan to keep updating the blog - although less frequently since we will be going through some upcoming surgeries with Will.  His first appointment at the cleft clinic is in about 3 weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Orphan No More

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My child is an orphan no more.  We had another free day today in Guangzhou.  Tomorrow morning we go to the US Consulate where we have the oath taking ceremony for Will’s US citizenship.  He will receive his visa the next day and at his port of entry into the US (Chicago for us) automatically becomes a US citizen as soon as we pass through immigration.  We spent this morning at the park and this afternoon we went to a Buddhist Temple.  Although we are very anxious to return home, I am thankful for this time of bonding that we have with Will and the other kids.  As soon as we return home we will have the normal daily distractions and will miss the time we had here.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Finding Place

On Thursday we went to Will’s finding place.  We also saw the finding places of the other 3 children in our group.  We were able to find the exact place he was found.  The neighborhood looked very poor.  I guess I won’t tell you the exact place he was found.  If he would like to share that when he gets older he will let you know.  I took a lot of photos of the finding place, since development in the area will probably mean that fairly soon this entire neighborhood will be demolished to make way for more high-rises.  When we were returning to our bus the driver found some locals who had heard about the baby who was found here.  We felt very lucky to get so much information on the place of Will’s finding.  At another child’s finding place we met the people who actually found the baby and reported it to the police.  You almost feel as if you could spend more time there you could get even more of your child’s story.  A part of your child’s life that they will otherwise never know.  I have to say that this day was the most amazing I have experienced with all three adoptions.  Actually seeing where my child spent time and the exact place they were found was invaluable to preserving their history.

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Yuntai Park

Yesterday we went to a park called Yuntai Park.  The weather here is beautiful and the park was a nice reprieve from the huge crowds of people that are everywhere (the park was crowded by US standards, but not by China ones).  The kids had fun and Claire was able to part ways with some of her walnut money and buy a bubble blower.  This made Claire very happy.  The theme of the park right now (apparently it changes) was underwater.  I really like the photo where Wesley is dressed just like the giant octopus.  You know the octopus that ate Tokyo (just like Wesley has eaten his way through China).  Ironic, I know.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Changchun Orphanage Visit

 

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We had a great day on Thursday.  We were able to visit the orphanage where our group’s children spent some of their time.  Will was in foster care and went to preschool in a program provided by Half the Sky.  The orphanage is also a Half the Sky facility which provides care to many severely disabled children. They receive physical therapy, education, and from what I could see, very loving care while they are there.  Some of the children have only minor special needs and will soon be adopted by families. 

My child is lucky.  Born by a twist of fate (or by God’s grace) in an area with such a wonderful place to be cared for until he could join his forever family.  I have now adopted a child from an orphanage where my child was fed and changed but received no attention whatsoever to encourage appropriate physical develop.  I have a child from an orphanage where my child was fed and given attention, but the effects of long term institutionalization were very evident in their ability to bond and have close relationships (we have obviously worked through this!).  I now also have a child that was nurtured in the way a child should be and the difference is amazing.  Over the past few weeks I have heard from so many people that what our family is doing is so nice.  We aren’t any more special (or nicer) than anyone else.  I have had thoughts that this was a mistake, more than we could handle, was messing up our normal routing, and I have been scared, but then I saw his face and he stopped crying and he gave me a hug and told me he loved me – where we are is no mistake!  We just love our kids and knew we could love more.  We were open to this gift that God had in store for us.  Thanks to God for leaving our hearts open so we didn’t miss this!  If you want to do something nice for a child or orphan (and you should be doing this on a regular basis), sponsor a child through World Vision, give a generous donation to an organization like Half the Sky or Love Without Boundaries that is changing the world for orphans, send a shoebox gift through Samaritan's Purse, donate food/clothing/toys to your local food pantry this holiday to help a local child in need.  If you have the space in your home, the ability to love a child in your heart, and a knowledge that God won’t give you anything you can’t handle, consider adoption.  It has changed my life and it has changed the life of my entire family and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

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I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!

Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh, the excitement of a large city in China

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Travel Tip:  When planning extended trip to China do not plan to spend more than a day in Changchun.   Yesterday I went to the concierge at our hotel to ask what we could do.  You know tourist type of stuff.  He seemed a bit taken aback.  As if no tourist has ever actually come to this city.  I think he was right.  He looked at my kids (Claire and Will, ages 6 &4) were with me and said it was to cold to go to any of the many nice parks that are very green in the summer.  We could go visit the Puppet Palace (but we were going to do that the next day) or he suggested a nice mall that was a little ways away.  I can think of nothing more painful than to take 5 children to the mall.  So, in the end we didn’t do anything in the afternoon.  The kids swam in the pool and I went with our Holt guide to double check our adoption paperwork.  We went to Wal-Mart, because somehow spending time here is much more comforting in a foreign country than at home (do people really drink black fungus juice and eat prawn candy?).  In the evening we went with another family to a nearby restaurant for a real local (northern China) type of meal.  We had a great time and for 275 Yuan (about $45) had a fantastic meal with more than we could ever eat for our group of 13 people.  Now that’s what I call living!  (I actually don’t have any great pictures of doing paperwork and I forgot to take my camera to supper, so just a couple of new pictures of Will)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Will Joins The Family

Today Will became part of our family.  He is hanging out in the hotel room now, just like he has always been here.  We left first thing this morning for the Civil Affairs Office.

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  We were about 10 minutes late since our guide had to pick up the orphanage donation at the bank.  The children were all there waiting for us.  There were 4 families adopting today.  All the children were less than thrilled with their new situation.  Will gave us some snacks when we came in and then went back to stand with his nanny.

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He did not want to come and be with us and kept moving as far away as possible.  When his nanny left the room he cried and cried.  

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He walked around the room to go and sit by the orphanage official (and as far away from us as possible).  Benjamin showed him the Nintendo and they instantly had a technology bond.  All the kids played Nintendo together until we finished all the adoptions about an hour later. 

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We then went to have our adoption photo taken and documents notarized elsewhere.

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By the time we returned to the hotel he was doing really well.  He has now gone out for noodles with us and is having lots of fun playing with his toys.  So far, so good.  What a blessed family we are!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Day in Changchun

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We arrived in Changchun, the city where Will lives, yesterday afternoon.  We didn’t get to the hotel until after dark (it is dark before 5 pm here) so as usual, everyone except me went to be way to early.  We woke up this morning and had a most amazing breakfast at the hotel.  It is a huge buffet with every Chinese and Western dish you can imagine.  So at least for now our 5 star hotel was worth the price (sort of).   We then did all our laundry in the sink and bathtub – that was really fun.  I think their may be something oxymoronic about having wet laundry hanging all over a $200+ a night hotel room (we didn’t choose the hotel and would normally never spend that much – but this is the hotel our agency chooses – I am assuming it is one of probably only 2 in this city that speaks enough English for families to feel comfortable).   We wandered around the nearby streets of this small city in northern China with only 7 million other people.  Kendell played ping pong with a Chinese man who didn’t speak English for awhile.  I thought the guy was pretty good, but Kendell was pretty sure he could beat him.  The kids went swimming in the pool and had a great time.  I had apparently eaten too much Thai food the day prior and sat out the swimming extravaganza.   We had missed a call from another family while we were out and we went to their room to meet them and their 3 daughters (ages 7 and 9).  We were talking for awhile and I just knew that their 9 year old daughter was familiar.  We found out that in 2005 we had travelled with them to China when we adopted Claire (and they got their 7 year old).  We had gone out to dinner with them back then – kind of ironic meeting them again here.  We then went out to Pizza Hut with their family and then once again back to the hotel to go to bed just after 7 pm.  The jet lag is just wiping the kids out.  I, however, am up blogging at 2 am since I can’t sleep and Wesley won’t let me turn on a light.  We meet will in about 7 hours – I am excited and nervous.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hangzhou, China

We have been incredibly lucky to spend the last 2 days in Hangzhou with Lynn’s parents.  They have been so nice and generous.  We are staying at the Overseas Chinese Hotel.  I am having a lot of trouble with my internet here so I haven’t been able to keep in touch.  We have also been very busy.  We took a boat ride on West Lake this morning and then went to an area called Old Town for shopping/people watching.

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This is a shopping area where they sell typical Chinese crafts.  The kids had a great time watching the artisans there working on their crafts. 

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We also got to taste some really great candy fruity like snacks (I know that doesn’t explain it well – but I have no idea what they were.)

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We walked through a food market there where they sold chicken that had been covered in mud and then buried and cooked underground.  Sadly enough I didn’t try it.  Also didn’t eat the duck or rabbit heads that looked yummy or the tofu that smelled like rotten badness.

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We did however eat Thai at a nearby restaurant that was fantastic.  Last night we went to a performance called Impression West Lake.  It was great.  I can’t describe it – but I am sure you can Google it if you like.  It was produced by the man who did the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  Well that is my update for now.  Hopefully I will have better internet access tomorrow and can give so more interesting details.  Right now I am tired and have 4 sleeping kids in my room, which makes it very hard to stay awake.  I will work on getting some photos to upload tomorrow when I am at the airport, hopefully.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ready To Go!

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I have spent all day finishing up the packing and cleaning the house and doing a whole bunch of laundry so I don’t have to come back to dirty clothes at the house. (I am pretty sure that was a really long run on sentence.)  I have kept my mind occupied this weekend by working, it has worked well and between that and things at home, I haven’t worried much at all.  We have packed sort of light.  All the kids have a carry on and a backpack,  Kendell and I have a backpack each and one carry on and one larger bag.  I had to pack a bunch of presents for our trip and I also have all of Will’s things and backpack in my bag.  I think we have done fairly well.  I have packed 4 outfits for each person, one pair of shorts that can double as PJ’s, actual PJ’s, a swimsuit, winter clothes, hat/gloves.  The kids all have to take their homework, books to read, numerous electronics, and candy.  You know, just the important things.  I am so excited to be able to share this trip with our whole family.  One week from today at exactly this time we will be meeting Will (if you consider we will be on Chinese time).  What a lucky mom I am!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thoughts Of China

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Today I was talking with someone about how much things were going to change for our family soon.  I don’t really think things will be much different.  Most people probably think we have too many kids already (by most people I am generally referring to our family).  I can’t see that going from 4 to 5 kids will be that big of a deal.  I am nervous about starting with another preschooler after having all the kids in all day school for the last couple of years and I am nervous about having a child who will need surgery.  Other than that we will just keep being a family – going to work and church, bedtime stories, eating together, playing Uno, playing with the puppy, watching I Carly – you know, the usual.  In 10 days, Will is going to lose everything he has ever known.  This never really hit me that hard with Claire and Benjamin.  I realized they had big changes, but leaving an orphanage seemed like a good deal, at least to me.  Into a family, with a mom and dad, your own room (sort of), love, hugs, and all the food you could ever want.  Will is different.  He has been in a foster family.  I don’t know for sure, but I think he has been in the same family for a long time, he probably has been loved, well fed, held, hugged, and talked to.  He will be leaving a relatively good situation to come into our family.  I can’t imagine how scary this is going to be for him.  I pray that they have read our letters to him and showed him our pictures and prepared him for this big move.  In a couple weeks he will lose everything he knows – his language, his family, his food, his home, his school.  There is no future for him in China – his special need will make him undesirable, he will never go to a good school, he would have little hope for a permanent family.  He is only 4 though and my daily prayers this week are that God will make this transition as easy as possible for him. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The One Week Countdown

One week until we leave for China. I have been listening to way to much Dave Ramsey lately as I have been getting the house picked up, bags packed, and paperwork organized for our trip. He had a show a few days ago where he had a discussion Occupy Wal* Street supporters. I basically took from that show that this movement has little organization and is unclear on what their purpose is. They also offer few thoughts on how to fix the problems they see in America. I agree that there are problems with America, but every day I thank God that I was blessed to be born in the US. Having travelled to Africa, Dominican Republic, and China, I learned that we have so many advantages. We have clean running water, free education, and poverty here is so different than it is in other countries. Any child, boy or girl, has an opportunity to be whatever they want, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, where they live, or who their parents are. We are free to worship God without fear. We are free to vote for our government and if we don’t like what they are doing we are free to speak out against them. If our children don’t have food to eat we have programs to feed them and hospitals to treat their illnesses. I know things here aren’t perfect, but we should be so thankful for everything we do have. Thank God for our democracy! (This is not meant to be a political statement as I would like to avoid that sort of discussion, just my thoughts on this as I get closer to meeting my son who was born in a country where children are discarded for having a minor birth defect – whether that is because his birth parents couldn’t afford to fix it or because they didn’t want him because of it I will never know.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Are Going To China!




We received our Travel Approval on October 3rd, but because of holidays in China had to wait over a week for our consulate appointment date.  This is the date Will receives his visa so he can travel to the US on a Chinese passport.  Once he arrives in the US he becomes a US citizen and can no longer use his Chinese passport.  Here is our itinerary as it stands now:
Nov. 1 - Leave for China, Fly from hone to Chicago, connect to Shanghai on Korean Air flight #5893
Nov. 2 - Arrive in Shanghai at 7:30 pm, stay one night at the New Harbor Service Apartments
Nov. 3 – Tour Shanghai in the am, take the high speed train from Shanghai to Hangzhou in the afternoon, meet Lynn’s family
Nov. 4 – Tour Hangzhou with Lynn’s family (they don’t speak English and we don’t speak Mandarin – we are excited!)
Nov. 5 – Fly from Hangzhou to Changchun in the afternoon, stay the at Shangri-La Hotel
Nov. 7 – Adoption Day!  Child Handoff at 9 a.m. at the Civil Affairs office – It appears we complete the adoption that morning
Nov. 11 – Receive Will’s Chinese passport and fly to Guangzhou at 5 pm
Nov. 12 – Will’s medical exam, TB test, and visa paperwork
Nov. 14 – TB test read
Nov. 16 – Visa Appointment/Oath Taking Ceremony at the US Consulate
Nov. 17 – Receive Will’s visa, take train to Hong Kong at 6:15 pm, stay overnight at the Regal Airport Hotel
Nov. 18 – Fly Home via Korean Air, Arrive home at 10:10 pm the same day (thank you International Date Line!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Introducing Will

This is Will.  He lives in Changchun, Jilin, China.  He apparently knows how to drive a motorcycle at the age of 4 and a 1/2.  He is joining our family in November and we are so excited about his arrival. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Can't Wait To See This

I am very excited to see the movie "Courageous".  This movie by the makers of "Fireproof" should be fantastic.  Here is the trailer:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Colorado Vacation Fun 2011

We spent the first week of August in Estes Park, Colorado. We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies. We have been here several times and every year we can't wait to go back. It was over 100 degrees in Missouri the week we were gone. The temps in Estes Park reached highs in the 80's. The weather was perfect. Why do we love it?
* Absolutely amazing day camp programs that the kids LOVE!

* Hiking daily in Rocky Mountain National Park

* Enjoying the peace and quiet away from TV, phones, internet

* Spending time with family


* The craft center at the YMCA (Oh, how I love thee)

* Having a great meal in Estes Park (try the Dunraven and Poppy's)
* A great price (other than the cabin - we don't spend a lot on this trip)
I must admit, I am already looking forward to our next trip. I think the kids are too.
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