Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Turning over a new LEAF......

For the last 8 years, I have been immersed in the adoption world.  I have been active with my business, Ladybugs N Love and active on various yahoo groups.  I have made friends for life on many of these groups and have been prayed through some pretty "hairy" situations in my adoption journeys- as well as my breast cancer journey.  I would be remiss if I did not say that the adoption community is like *home*. 

however...........

God has impressed upon me that I spend too much time on the computer being the "adoption helper" and too little time managing my home.  So, just a little while ago I went to "no mail" on my yahoo groups.  I feel this is the time to step back and turn over a new leaf.  My children need me to be a mother who does better in many areas---

*cleaning the house*  *managing my time*  *laundry*  *record keeping*  *taking care of myself physically* 

and most importantly...

God has called me to make an effort to devote myself more to Him and less on "other stuff"
Imagine how hurt He is that I can actually call it "stuff".....because thats what it is--stuff that I put in front of Him.  He is the God of the Universe and I don't spend time with Him everyday.  He has entrusted me with a beautiful family...and I don't spend time with Him everday.  I do pray---throughout the day--- but I do not devote a period of time to Him.   That. is. gonna. change. TODAY

I have so much to do to catch up and feel as tho I am digging out.
I am going to become a list maker so I can hold myself accountable.  NOONE with TEN children
can do a good job raising the children without a more managed home.  (we have fourteen who live here)
I am going to CHANGE for the better and I am going to show the Lord...He is FIRST.

I am turning over a new leaf---today-- and I am very excited!

So, I leave you with a tidbits I have gleaned from the Lord--

draw near to Him....He delights in us being close to Him and seeking His face.
We cannot do anything without Him that is good.  All of our blessings come from Him and He expects us to care for them in every way.....


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13- Last Day...

Today, as promised, was a day mostly of eating and shopping. We pretty much took shifts...Matt and I would go out while Dad stayed with the kids, and then we would switch. It ended up working pretty well, I think.

We have learned that Jack does not know that his name is Jack (we were under the impression that he did- that is what he was called at the foster care home to our knowledge). It turns out that he actually thinks that his name is "da tou" - big head! Note to those unfamiliar with Jack- he has hydrocephalus and, thus, a very large head for his age. It turns out that, in Chinese culture, it isn't rude at all to refer to someone based on an obvious physical feature- like calling a large American "big old man" or something like that. Shout out to our awesome friend Dan, who was known as "big nose" during his time in China. Don't worry, Dan, they refer to most foreigners that way.....right?

Matt and I had a great time shopping today. It is a rare case that I get my husband to willingly go shopping with me, and even rarer that he has things to spend money on as well. The good news is that when we have jet lag for the next five days, we will be ale to stay up and have tea parties and practice Chinese character calligraphy together. Obviously, the marriage that pretends to be Chinese together stays together!

We had the privilege of meeting the woman that runs a local organization, called A Gift From China, while we were shopping today. Their shop houses goods produced from their many community development programs, mostly working with orphans, and the funds from the shop go back into their kids. It's a really beautiful model, and even better for us to know that our souvenir shopping was going to a good cause- something that you definitely can't be certain of in China. You can sponsor their kids to go to summer camps, and they partner with other organizations (such as Love Without Boundaries, where Elijah was in foster care, and Half the Sky, active in Zhengzhou orphanage) to have monthly programs as well.

We also met another believer, Jenny, who runs aptly named Jenny's Place and attends the Shamian Island Chapel, where we attended on Sunday. She sold me a lovely tea set (hence the tea parties) and told us about going to the church, etc. She was lovely, and just down the street from AGFC, so anyone traveling soon should visit both of those places!

In all, Matt and I got lots of different things on the premise of not knowing when we would ever be in China again. Pearl earrings, calligraphy sets, entire cakes of Pu'Er tea (Missy, are you out there?), chopsticks, etc etc and then some. You can get such beautiful things here for next to nothing!

We are concluding our last night here in the executive lounge- Matt, Jack, and I. Matt just asked Jack, "are you coming back?"- to which he replied "I'm not coming back!" so Matt asked him, "where are you going?" and he replied quickly, "I'm going to America!"

Matt wants to make sure that the point of that paragraph is that he "speaks Chinese like a champ"- this is definitely true, considering he had a basic conversation with a four-year-old, but let's give him props anyway (golf clap). But seriously, this is a kid with some insight. He has been prepared for tomorrow! For the record, America, in mandarin, is "may-gwa". You're welcome.

If anyone is wondering about the chopstick challenge, I think it is safe to say that it fizzled. Considering that, at the past two hotels, we had to ask specifically for chopsticks (very western friendly) we have gotten pretty lazy, and if you're going to blame us, try adopting two special needs kids at once! I used a fork on my dragon fruit this morning and I'm not ashamed. However, I still used chopsticks for my fried rice, which is infinitely harder to eat and therefore gives me more street cred. Props go out to Dad, though, who still makes an effort to get chopsticks whenever possible. He was not going down. I have to say, I'm impressed.

Tomorrow we begin our journey home to the states. We will be up and in a cab at 5:50 to be at the airport for our flight to Beijing, then have a long layover before we board our 6:30 flight to DC. That being said, we are armed with a bottle of Melatonin and plans to run laps around the airport with Elijah before our long flight. Thankfully, biology will be on our side,as the flight will be overnight according to how we (read: the boys) have been sleeping. Hopefully it will go quickly and smoothly because of this

I am happy to report that Matt is feeling much better today-thank you for all of your prayers (and to Les for the official New Hope call to pray- awesome!)-we are ready to be healthy and home! Also, we are so excited that Vanessa and Mira have finally been united! So excited to meet this sweet girl when they get home. What a blessing to be a part of the Newman clan. Love them all so much!

Thankfully to be traveling home to my bed, dog, friends, and car tomorrow. Pray for peace for the kids, safe travel, and unity for the family! See you all stateside :) :)

Love, Karli

Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12- Tired & Sick :(

Today was a long, long day....and it isn't even 7pm yet! We woke up around 6am so that we could leave the hotel at 7 to go back to the medical clinic and then on to our consulate appointment. Matt has been feeling under the weather for the past few days, which culminated in a raging sinus infection this morning that has left him bedridden most of the day. Dad and I had to be really on our game today without Matt- it really helps to have a extra pair of hands for the two kids!

The medical appointment went smoothly- Jack still needed to see an ENT specialist for a signature, and both boys had to get their TB tests read. One of the doctors shared the elevator up to the clinic with us, and helped us see the other doctors and get our paperwork quickly. We certainly have seen favor with the people we are working with on this trip!

From the medical clinic, we took a cab too the US consulate. Being a government building, you would think that it would be freestanding, clean, and orderly- not so. The consulate is a fairly small section of the fourth floor of some type of commercial building, housing everything from airline sales offices to coffee shops to a wine bar. Upon arrival, we were met by our WACAP liaison, Sarah, who basically showed up, handed us a form, made sure that it was filled out correctly, and left. But she was pleasant and helpful, and got us where we needed to be to finalize the adoptions and get visas for the boys.

After passing through a security checkpoint, we were ushered into a room not unlike the DMV- more screaming children than juvenile delinquents, though. We waited for about a half hour until our ten o'clock appointment, when dad was called up to a booth. Here, he handed over his paperwork, was asked to raise his right hand and swear an oath that he was not a liar (hmm....you could just continue lying with the oath? Anyway....) and then told to come back tomorrow and get the visas. Sort of anticlimactic for all of the hype the consulate appointment gets, but exciting in its effects for the boys nonetheless.

The rest of the day has been spent relaxing and healing- trying to get Matt feeling better, and chill out the boys, who have been particularly rambunctious today. I did find time to go haggle over some cute clothes I found at a mall-like thing nearby- I may go back to find something for Sam tomorrow if she is lucky! :)

While out this afternoon, I took a side street that I figured would lead me back to my hotel. Most of the streets around the Holiday In are commercial, so whether they are a mall or a restaurant, they are full of people spending money on things for themselves. This side street looked like something out of a fashion designer's dream- it was literally shop after shop of different things to embellish clothing- beads, ribbon, buttons, rhinestones. You would think that someone was around the corner waiting to bedazzle your every move. It makes sense, though, this street- all of our clothes are made in China, yes?

Tomorrow will really be our last day in China, because we have to leave our hotel around 6am on Wednesday to go to the airport and start our journey home. While I truly have loved my time here, and we have all had such a positive experience with the adoption of the boys, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are ready to return home to some normalcy and routine. We will likely spend tomorrow doing the last of our shopping and trying foods, and get to bed early!

Pray for peace for the boys as we begin this time of travel and transition- and good behavior especially! Pray also for stamina for all of us, and healing and energy for Matt. Finally, pray for our entire family as we all come together on Wednesday night- bravery for the boys, gentleness and understanding for the older kids, and bonding for mom!


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11- Church and a Manicure

This morning we all woke up tired! Angela and I got up around 8- though we couldn't tell because the hotel outfits each room with these lovely darkening shades that might make you mix up your days and nights if you aren't careful (handy for jet lag).

The boys have different stories of waking up in the morning. Jack, the resident alarm clock, wakes up everyone by yelling "hello!" around 6am and slapping dad on the shoulder. When this doesn't work, he turns on the bedside light. This, in turn, wakes up Elijah, who runs to the curtains and opens them wide. I am not exactly sure what happens between that time and 8 when I wake, but I am pretty sure that sleeping is not a part of it.

After a mostly leisurely breakfast in the larger, more crowded (but still complimentary) downstairs dining room, Matt and I decided to go to the Shamian Island Chapel for their bilingual church service. Non-adoption vets out there, Shamian Island is an island in Guangzhou that used to house everything for adoptions- medical clinic, US consulate, and the infamous White Swan Hotel. All of these things have either moved or are closed for renovations now, but nonetheless, every adopting family ends up on the island at some point. This, among other historical and touristy features, makes the island a hotspot for westerners- thus, the very public and very open Christian church, to appeal to them and give a false sense of security for the Chinese church, as seen by Americans at least.

The church service was really nice- almost all Chinese, very few foreigners. Every other song was in english, and both the sermon and a testimony were given with the assistance of a translator. My touch of ADD prevented me from locking into everything that was said (translators are hard to keep up with!) but I know that the sermon was solid, and the testimony, given by a girl who was probably my age, was really encouraging. She told the story of not just how the gospel came to her life, but how it came into her entire family and changed them as a whole. I thought that this was really a beautiful way of talking about the gospel- how it affected her community, and not just her individually. We also met another family, here adopting a little girl with both cleft hands and cleft feet, and the biggest, most beautiful head of curls that I have ever seen on a Chinese child. She spent the better half of the service playing peekaboo with me and handing me the bulletin, and totally captured my heart.

After church, Matt and I stopped in a few shops that were along our route home. All of the shops on the island are cleverly named after the person who owns them- Jennifer's, Lucy's, Andy's, etc, which actually makes them easier to remember. Because the hotel and many other things are no longer operating on the island, business is down and many of the shop owners are desperate for a sale- which resulted in my score of a beautiful, grade A, almost translucent jade ring for about $5. We are still scouting the perfect set of carved wooden chopsticks- but we have a few days!

Fried dumplings and milk tea for lunch, and we headed back to the hotel to watch the kids while Dad went exploring- and came back with a ( fake) Rolex and tales of explaining the gospel to the woman who sold it to him. I admire his love for the Lord and his willingness to put himself out there for the sake of the kingdom so much- what an example I have for a father! He saw a painting of the last supper and explained to the salespeople, who had no idea what it actually was, how significant the event was, and what it meant in his life. what a man of the faith he is!

While he was gone, Matt and I and the kids watched various Nat Geo documentary shows, most notably one about Kung-fu that had both Elijah and Matt running around the room throwing kicks and karate chops at each other. Those two are the sweetest pair. They fight and make up so fast- I can barely keep up! Highlights of the babysitting session include a seriously gross 4-year-old's poopy diaper and watching a show about three grown men pretending to be beavers. I don't know which was more disturbing.

After Dad got home, I decided to have a little cross-cultural adventure of my own. Right next to the entrance to our hotel is a whole in the wall nail salon that advertises an OPI manicure for 20 yuan- about $3.50. This time, my inner diva was unable to be stifled. Angela assures me that a manicure usually costs about 10 times that, and jokes that it is probably the price per finger. After she natured about the price for me, she assured me that it was in fact the price for the entire manicure, and encouraged me to check it out. Well, it might have been the mot pleasant and relaxing manicure of my life, largely because there was no awkward, forced conversation between myself and the stylist- actually, there was no conversation whatsoever! I will, however, freely admit my disappointment that no one asked me if I wanted "dee-zine" or "kritul gel" or another classic phrase from an Asian-run nail salon in America. Nevertheless, my nails are a lovely shade of red-orange and I am only less 20 yuan. I'd recommend it to anyone staying at the Shifu!

Now, we are relaxing in the executive lounge, enjoying our free appetizers and drinks. This is serving as our dinner for the entirety of our time here at the Shifu, which saves us a ton of money on food every day!

Memorable conversation from today- attempting to explain the term "redneck" to Angela. We ended up going with "that family member that would dare to open a beer during the closing prayer at your wedding"- probably accurate. This was in accordance with our conversation about people eating things that shouldn't be eaten- which lead to Chitlins- which lead to a story about a redneck member of Matt's family eating scrambled deer brains and eggs. Oh, was that you, Bobby? :)

Also noteworthy for today- remember the Pleasant Goat cartoon from yesterday? I saw him today! Walking around the streets of Guangzhou entrancing all the little children! I am so lucky.

Praying for Pack the Pavillion at church today- and for Vanessa and Mira, who have either already met, or will meet in the morning! Love you all :)

-karli


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 9 & 10- To Guangzhou We Go!

You guessed it, today we made our trip to Guangzhou, where we will finalize everything for the boys adoptions and soon be on our way home! We enjoyed our last luxurious Sofitel breakfast and spent a lazy day cleaning (and then re-cleaning) the room as we packed p for our 6:30pm flight. The amazing Angela wooed some unsuspecting lobby worker into changing our checkout time from 12pm to 4pm, thus avoiding an awkward several hours where we had to find a place for us to look inconspicuous. Obviously, we were grateful.

Between turns making noodles and picking up puzzle pieces for the 97th time, Matt and I ran back down to the Muslim quarter to pick up some earrings I decided I needed and have one last round of street food. Of all the Chinese cities I have been to, Xi'an is by far my favorite. Maybe because it is fairly easy to navigate, or the food is good, or the people are friendly, or maybe just because my husband is here now and that makes everything more interesting (stop reading and picture Chinese people seeing his blond dreadlocks.....yeah, you get me). For all of those reasons and more, I will miss being in Xi'an.

Around four, we headed to the airport. For the duration of this post, I want you to keep in mind several things:

-I have borderline severe flight anxiety. Not panic-attack worthy but enough to make me cut off the circulation in the hand of the person next to me and swear at small children who are obviously moving too much and are going to make the plane lose its balance and plummet to the ground. Cue brown paper breathing bag.

-My last in-country flight in China I was dropped of alone in the middle of an airport in which there was nothing but Chinese characters. Noth. Ing. And I had to find my way to Washington, DC from there. I might tend to overdramaticize this story but it really was quite terrifying.

-Earlier in the day we watched a show on Nat Geo channel entitled 'Flight Crash Investigation' or something ominous like that. I am sure that In tiny print underneath, it read- 'Oh, you're flying today? Watch this footage of planes crashing, then move your extra undies to your carryon for when the turbulence hits.' Again, cue brown bag.

I have learned to deal with some of these fears. For example, there are pills that make me not visualize my demise everytime we fly through a cloud. Now, I also have Angela, who not only can read Chinese characters, but has a superhuman ability to make everything easier (ie somehow getting us into a special security line...smooth). As for Nat Geo, I mostly am left thankful that the person whose hand I am squeezing is my husbands. I swear I would drive to China if I could.

All of my fears aside, the flight was, at times, almost enjoyable. My favorite part was, as we took off, seeing Elijah (aisle seat next to Matt and I) realizing what was happening, getting a huge grin on his face and spreading his arms out and flapping them around like he was flying. So precious! Close second goes to hearing Jack, several rows up, called out for Elijah, then starting to serenade the entire flight. Another highlight- Matt's face when realizing that the hot yellow pepper sauce that came with his in flight meal is actually really freaking hot.

So, alas, we did not crash- we will not be the next feature on Air Crash CSI or whatever. The flight was mostly smooth, the boys were well behaved and entertaining, I read Tina Fey's book "Bossypants" in its entirety (so funny) and I am safe in my bed at the Holiday Inn Shifu in Guangzhou. Both of the boys fell asleep in the van on the way here, and were easily transferred to their beds. Someone just brought us a bowl of "welcome fruit"- at 11pm- including a "pig kidney mango"- some kind of local favorite. I will call it the "baby mango" because that's what it is. I would rather eat something called 'baby' than 'pig kidney'. Please check your cannibal jokes at the door.

Continued....
March 10- Medical Appointments

It's about 11am now, and we have just returned from our medical appointments. All you non-adoption vets out there, this is when you take your child to a clinic in a big city building, they look over their medical files, weigh and measure them, look over immunizations and give any that are missing, and usually administer a tuberculosis test that must be read within the next 72 hours. I think each child's experience at this medical appointment is different- I know that, in some of my brothers and sisters cases it was downright torturous and sent my mom into an advocating-against-vaccination frenzy, and rightly so. Children are just beginning to bond with their parents and are then forced onto cold tables and, more than likely, given shots or some other uncomfortable test. If that doesn't make you question your loyalty to someone you really just met a few days ago, I don't know what will. However, many children take this all in stride and are perfectly fine. We pray this for each adoption.

Needless to say, I totally prepared myself for the worst. While Jack does pretty much everything with a smile and a song, Elijah does pretty much everything with a lot of yelling and kicking. He's a six year old boy with an inherent difficulty to communicate because of his Downes Syndrome, as well as a language barrier, and he definitely gets frustrated. I don't think that I was alone in assuming that getting him to hold still for a TB test was going to be a challenge. Thankfully, I couldn't have been more wrong!

Jack and Elijah were both incredibly obedient and patient in the clinic, listening to all of the doctors and letting them do whatever examinations they needed. Our only hiccup was when Elijah decided that he needed to use the bathroom-Matt took him and let him go in by himself. He came out, washed his hands, walked to the middle of the room and proceeded to drop trou in front of all of the doctors (who laughed, by the way) to show Matt that his pants were wet. Upon further inspection of the bathroom, Matt described the events that must have transpired as "spinning around" and that there was pee virtually everywhere but in the toilet itself. I mean, it could've been the kid before him, right?

Funny anecdote from the clinic- the entire time we were at the clinic (probably an hour or so) there was a team of four or five doctors that were attempting to duct tape a line to mark where people should stand to read an eye chart. Not only was in funny because they were all speaking Chinese loudly to each other (aka sounds like they are all fighting) but it was funny because there were FIVE DOCTORS trying to put a LINE ON THE GROUND. They still hadn't succeeded by the time we left.

Anther highlight from the trip was seeing another adoptive family that is bringing home Joy, another child from Starfish, where Jack was! They recognized each other and were completely adorable in a way that only two and four year olds can be- slapping each other in the face, giggling, and pulling on each others clothes. It was so cute to see this little bond that they had.

Our visit to the medical clinic also further confirmed our suspicions that Angela is, in fact, and international celebrity in hiding. Everyone recognized her, and I think there were even more pictures taken. She really is some kind of super hero!

We are back at the hotel now, and thankful for the Shifu's big rooms and nice views from the windows. Guangzhou, which is in the south east part of China, is noticeably more awesome than the other parts that we have visited. Not only is the sky clear (no really, it actually is- I can even see some kind of mountain range beyond the city, before I couldn't see the third block over) but the city itself looks like some kind of magical forest that decided to grow skyscrapers and overpasses for a while before returning to natural vegetation . There are large trees everywhere, and the sides of roads and ramps are all lined with plants and flowers. All of the balconies and rooftops are brimming with life, and potted plants dot the sidewalks. I am sure that this does not only improve the air quality, but emotional health as well. Big american cities should take notes on this.

Continued....Afternoon

Matt and I are currently relaxing in the Shifu's executive lounge- a worth-the-upcharge relaxation oasis with an espresso machine, snacks, and juices as well as couches and TV. In the morning, this transforms into a private breakfast area with a buffet (smaller than the one downstairs for the common folk, but private all the same). At night, a free "happy hour" is available to all executive floor guests including an assortment of snacks and complimentary beverages. This will inevitably amount to a large amount of business execs and pilots getting shwasted, while we sit and eat meat on a stick and sing the ABC's.. Or, as Jack sings them, the ABG's. Regardless, I am more than pumped.

This afternoon, after dad took Elijah out on the town for a little stroll, Matt and I convinced Angela to take us through the nearby pedestrian street and teach us some things about Guangzhou street food. We had some dumplings, egg tarts (like egg custard in a pie shell...nom), bubble tea, and fish balls- spongy round fish-tasting tofu-like balls on a stick that I would rather forget, but I tried, I really did.

Here is a list of the things that we did not (read:will not) taste:

-fried scorpions on a stick. This is not a joke.
-deep fried tarantula. Whole.
-some type of stew made of ALL of a cows innards, chopped, mixed with turnips, and stir fried. Literally everyone was eating this. I could not fathom.
-grilled baby squids, whole, on a stick. This might actually be good but I cannot eat anything if I feel like it's looking at me.

After turning down these very eager venders and walking through the pedestrian streets, we circled around to go through the Pet Market and the Herb Market right in front of our hotel. This was pure torture for me because it's basically aisles of puppies that you aren't allowed to touch because the people selling them are sadists. That's probably not true, I think it's about hygiene and keeping the puppies healthy, but don't they know who I am? I only want to snuggle them! That's snuggle, not smuggle....shhhh.....

The herb market was really interesting, too- mostly because I consider myself fairly educated in herbs and spices, and I have no idea what any of this stuff actually was. I have never seen more types of mushrooms, dried roots, and completely unidentifiable objects that are meant to be ingested in my life. I felt better when Angela explained that they were mostly used for medicine, and that she didn't know what they were either. The venders were especially enthusiastic about their saffron supply- apparently its a very hot commodity here and americans come searching for it.

So, for now, we are all relaxing and waiting for our happy hour spread to begin. We were just brought another plate of fresh fruit, so we are all enjoying some orange sections, distributed by Elijah, while watching Chinese cartoons about a goat named Pleasant and a wolf named.....something menacing I can't remember. This stuff is gold!

I leave you with this joke, courtesy of Tina Fey-
Two peanuts were walking down the street, and one was a salted.

:)


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Friday, March 9, 2012

An update with photos......

Hi friends---
Haven't you been enjoying Karli's writing!!  I think I have found the perfect person to write our family's book!  
So, as you know, the gang is en route to Guangzhou which is where the last part of the process happens.
All of the US immigration forms are submitted along with a medical report.  This will give the Consulate the documents needed to process the immigrant visas for our boys.  They will enter the US on these visas and will be US citizens upon touchdown at Dulles.

I am assuming they are still in the air or at least driving from the airport to their hotel.  The trip is exhausting but on a travel day you are just "wiped out".  Guangzhou will be lovely as the temps are milder and there are many more adoptive families you can spend time with.  And, lets get real....a Starbucks!

So, without further ado---
photos from the past few days.
brothers!

noodles bowls!

caught in the act of slurping!

wiped out....

Matthew and "Patrick"

XiAn street food

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8th- a quiet, rainy day!

Today has been slow and steady here in Xi'an. We woke up slowly, ate breakfast slowly, and have generally gone about our day leisurely. Jack has been keeping us all entertained with his singing all day- not only does he sing recognizable songs (twinkle twinkle little star, and an adorable version of the abc's) but he will also make up songs with people's names. He sang us an 'Amanda' song at breakfast this morning- his foster care director! Precious!

Both boys really love to eat rice and noodles, and are obsessed with apple juice. We finally figured out that the servers had straws on hand for kids, which greatly improved apple juice aim :) When he is full ("chebala") jack has taken to putting whatever leftover food is on His plate into his apple juice glass....ah, childhood. He also like to mash his rice with his hands. This morning, when I told him to stop playing with his food ("boo" means no), he mashed his hand into his bowl, cocked his head to the side, smiled at me and giggled "boo". Clearly, he uses his cuteness as manipulation. It worked.

Today was exciting for us because we finally got confirmation about our new consulate appointment- Monday morning! This means that we will leave for Guangzhou tomorrow night, have medical appointments on Saturday morning, consulate Monday, pick up paperwork, etc Tuesday, and leave for home on Wednesday! So hard to believe that we are in the final stretch. But, we are ready to get these boys home to their family!

After finalizing our travel arrangements and hanging around the room with the boys, Matt and I decided to take to the streets for lunch while the boys enjoyed some noodles in the room. This turned into a 2-hour street food adventure back in the Muslim quarter, where Christian took us last night. To toot my own horn for a second, I have to say that I navigated us to, around, and back from the quarter without using my map- okay, I know, I'm awesome.

A quick rundown of our street food experience:
-Chinese apple ginger cider for Matt, who is getting a cold
-soup-filled dumplings from the original third-brother restaurant (ask if you want the brother story)
-beef steaks on a stick caked with spices, delicious
-more rice cookie cake rolled in sugar things
-a round, deep fried pouch of beef and spiced cabbage that we will call Chinese Crunchwrap
-Baked quail eggs on a stick
-candied baby apples (called "haw") rolled in sunflower seeds, on a stick

This will be forever known as our adventure in stick food. To me, it will also be known as the two hours during which i stifled my inner diva that wanted to buy every knockoff Louis Vuitton I saw. Truth.

Shortly after arriving back at our hotel, Matt and I accompanied Angela out for a dinner food run- fried rice, steamed rice, fried green beans (the boys looooove these), sweet and sour pork, and a Chinese version of potato salad that looks like raw hash browns and is insanely spicy. I was still pretty full from our street excursion, but tried everything anyway. Great as always.

Since dinner we have all just been relaxing, singing along with either Jack or the Chinese cartoon commercials, whichever happens to be loudest. My personal favorite is one where the children climb aboard tubes of toothpaste that turn into rocket ships and they fly around brushing huge teeth. Innovation at its finest, clearly.

Dad told us a cute story from when we were out getting stick food- Jack loves to be picked up. Elijah, realizing this, has started to like being picked up as well. Dad was walking around with jack this afternoon when Elijah came over to him and held his arms up to be picked up, too. So dad walked around with both boys in his arms, eventually settling on the bed and watching tv holding his sons in his arms. So sweet!

We are all relaxing for the night now. The boys are in their pajamas (okay, Elijah has had his on since this afternoon, full disclosure) and we are all watching some funny chinese show where people have to move a certain part of the body as many times as possible in a minute, like shake their head or their leg. It's pretty comical to watch, especially when we have no idea what they are saying.

Tomorrow, to Guangzhou! We are thankful for a late flight (and late checkout from the Sofitel) and we are looking forward to arriving at the Holiday Inn Shifu, famous for huge rooms and executive floor of free and awesome food. Time for me to go start packing...I've got a lot of L'Occitane lotions and shampoos to pocket!

Night all :)


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Update from Bill

Hi, this is Bill writing. I asked Karli if I could take a few lines to describe our breakfast this morning. By now, you have a pretty good feel for the quality and quantity of the food, but today we experienced something that gave me an important view into the heart of many folks here in China.

All of us headed down to breakfast this morning and were shown to a table. As we began to sit down the hostess said we could move to a bigger table in the next section since we have so many people with us. The other diners were a mix of business men and women and touristy types. We, however, were the only ones with children.

As I lifted Jack up to move to the new table, I backed into the path of a young man, likely in his twenties, who was working as what I assumed was a bus person. He was carrying a larger tray of plates and had to sidestep a little to avoid running into me. He seemed fairly agile as no plates hit the ground. As I realized that I had step into his path, I responded reflexively with, "oh, I'm sorry!"

After being seated at the larger table, I was stunned as the young man approached me. Below are his words as best as I recall, all spoken with a smile.

"I am the minority(pointing to himself). You are the majority(pointing to me). You are taking care of the juniors. You do not say sorry to me."

Although his English was good, I had to think to determine exactly what he meant. His point, I believe, was one of showing honor to me and our little traveling group. His use of minority and majority did not concern numbers as in US, but rather position. In a country in which honor is something taken very seriously, this young man humbled himself and honored us for adopting these "juniors."

In a moment, he was gone. I wanted to explain to him that we do not deserve any such honor, that we serve a God Who does. I wanted to tell him, for all the adoptive families out there, that we are the ones who are honored by the children that come into our homes.


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

March 7th- Xi'an Shenanigans

Today has been quite eventful!

After breakfast, Matt, Angela, Guozhou and I took a nice trip to Walmart. If you have been in China before, you know what an experience this is. If you haven't, I'm not exactly sure how to explain it to you! Walmarts here have multiple floors that are connected y an escalator of sorts that hooks on your cart so you can take it up and down with you. Usually one floor is food and another is household goods- sort of like taking a super Walmart from home, chopping it in two, and stacking it on top of each other. As if this isn't novel enough, the goods that you can get are astounding- freshwater fish are all live until you buy them, there is an entire aisle of freshly pickled vegetables, pretty much all parts of a butchered pig are for sale (including the head- seriously). There are many new kinds of fruits and vegetables that we have never seen, including one called the King Fruit, which, according to reputation, smells nasty but tastes amazing. I can only vouch for the smell- and actually it is so rancid that some hotels have banned it from their premises because one fruit in a guests room can smell up an entire floor. These things are as big as my head!

Among various snacks, noodle bowls, coffee packets, and milk teas, we got Guozhou a new pair of sneakers, and he picked out a toy car set for himself and his didi to share. He was so good at Walmart! We were probably there for almost an hour, and even I was getting restless. When he is tired, he definitely pushes the boundaries with everyone and everything-It wore him out, too- he fell asleep after we got back and had lunch!

A quiet afternoon of watching national geographic channel was followed with an exciting evening for Matt and I- we met up with our friend, Christian, who lives in Xi'an! He has been around the city for a few years now, and showed us around easily. We visited the Book Street, where traditional calligraphy of characters is practiced and sold. We also went to the Muslim quarter of the city, saw the Great Mosque, and went through the market. Here, we tried what I can only describe as a sweet steamed rice cookie cake thing, served on a stick and with your choice of cartoon character painted on the front. I had Stitch, and Matt had Patrick, of Spongebob! The cake things are rolled in a mixture of sugar, crushed peanut, and black sesame seeds. They were delicious!

We also visited a tea shop, where visitors inquiring about a tea were sat down and served the tea to make sure that they would like it before buying it. If only we had that kind of service in the states!

After the tea shop, we left the Muslim quarter and headed back toward center city for dinner at a hole in the wall place serving a combination dish: a Chinese version of a pulled pork sandwich, and a bowl of cold square noodles! We had been hearing about these noodles since Dan told us to try them when we went to Xi'an, and they were absolutely amazing. The noodles are long, but squared off rather than cylindrical, and served cold with a spicy sesame dressing, cucumber slivers, and bean sprouts. I am obsessed. They were so good! The sandwich was good too but I was too busy being sad that my noodles were gone to focus....

After dinner we did a good amount of walking and talking before coming back to the hotel. It was really great to see Christian and be able to discuss Chinese culture with someone with our background, and talk about raising a family overseas, adventures in teaching English, etc. It was a great debriefing period for Matt and I as we process our time here.

The Yogi Bear movie is on now, and the boys are watching/sleeping in the next room. I noticed that Jack seems much more mobile today- crawling around on the bed and almost getting up on his knees, like pushup position- I think he definitely is feeling better! He is such a charmer-he has learned to say 'hello karli' and it just makes me melt!

I am le tired. Good night everyone! Vanessa, we are praying for you and your travels in the next few days, and for sweet Mira as she prepares to finally meet her mommy :) :) how exciting!

Chinese word of the day: 'ni ga' is a phrase used for 'that', also used to fill thought in words, similar to how Americans use 'like' ....quite funny in conversation.

<3


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Update from Bill

Hi, this is Bill writing. I asked Karli if I could take a few lines to describe our breakfast this morning. By now, you have a pretty good feel for the quality and quantity of the food, but today we experienced something that gave me an important view into the heart of many folks here in China.

All of us headed down to breakfast this morning and were shown to a table. As we began to sit down the hostess said we could move to a bigger table in the next section since we have so many people with us. The other diners were a mix of business men and women and touristy types. We, however, were the only ones with children.

As I lifted Jack up to move to the new table, I backed into the path of a young man, likely in his twenties, who was working as what I assumed was a bus person. He was carrying a larger tray of plates and had to sidestep a little to avoid running into me. He seemed fairly agile as no plates hit the ground. As I realized that I had step into his path, I responded reflexively with, "oh, I'm sorry!"

After being seated at the larger table, I was stunned as the young man approached me. Below are his words as best as I recall, all spoken with a smile.

"I am the minority(pointing to himself). You are the majority(pointing to me). You are taking care of the juniors. You do not say sorry to me."

Although his English was good, I had to think to determine exactly what he meant. His point, I believe, was one of showing honor to me and our little traveling group. His use of minority and majority did not concern numbers as in US, but rather position. In a country in which honor is something taken very seriously, this young man humbled himself and honored us for adopting these "juniors."

In a moment, he was gone. I wanted to explain to him that we do not deserve any such honor, that we serve a God Who does. I wanted to tell him, for all the adoptive families out there, that we are the ones who are honored by the children that come into our homes.


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6 Update- Jack's finalization and more Sofitel fun

Well, we just got back from breakfast, and I have to say- the Sofitel continues to woo me. I left out that yesterday we almost accidentally ate at the hotels $30/pp lunch buffet- which looked amazing but was definitely out of our price range. We realized our error pretty quickly and high-tailed it out of there and to something a little less refined....little did we know that this same fancy buffet would be the site of our (complimentary) breakfast buffet this morning! I would recommend the hotel solely on the breakfast I just had. An idea for you:

Coffee is served to you in a personal French press.
Fresh pastries and bread are brought to your table.
There is an omelette station, and a western buffet of things like bacon, sausage, etc plus an egg station.
There is a selection of different cured and smoked meats.
My personal favorite, a pastry, muffin, donut, and fresh bread buffet.
An entire tiered table of different types of fruits, cut into decorative shapes.
Freshly made Swiss muesli is served in small mason jars and it is UNBELIEVABLE.
There are four different kinds of fresh fruited yogurt.
And now for my personal favorite- there is a VERY LARGE chunk of smoked Gouda cheese to cut for your fresh bread. For breakfast. I have always wanted to eat smoked Gouda at every meal and now I can!

This restaurant is, needless to say, much fancier than our last buffet, but the servers were equally warm towards Elijah, even when he got noodles all over both himself and the table. He also enjoyed himself a cup of sugared milk in his coffee cup- he wants to be just like Matt, and won't let him get up to go to the buffet without him!

I should've started with this- Dad and Angela took Jack this morning for his finalization and police station/notary appointments this morning, so they ate breakfast while Matt and I stayed with the boys and gave Jack his beloved Cheerios, and Matt, Elijah and I went to the buffet after they left for their appointments. Jack is just the sweetest thing I've ever seen. He has the tiniest little voice and smiles at just about everything- and it absolutely melts your heart. His favorite phrase is 'baba babao'- daddy hold me!

All of the appointments went very well this morning, according to Dad. A lot of waiting around, very official people, and then coming home. I am pleased to report that all of our interactions with the Xi'an civil affairs officer have been incredibly pleasant- he was so thrilled to hear that Brighton is walking and doing so well, and even scolded the orphanage for not discounting our fees and saved us a $130 fee that we hadn't paid yet. He seems to be the nicest person and go out our way to help our family. All that to say- this man, who had a reputation for being incredibly difficult to handle, is very much on our side :) praise the Lord!

Aside here- we have discovered that our beloved Angela is quite famous. The other adoptive family that is here has used Ladybugs and Love in their past five adoptions! Pictures were taken. Too much fun.

Also interesting- there was a group protesting the local government outside the civil affairs office that completely disrupted traffic and made everything take a long, long time. Sometimes it seems like the Chinese swallow their government with a smile, so it's nice to see a bit of civilian action while we are here! And, as if traffic isn't bad enough in China- rather than waiting, people simply drove onto the sidewalk to get around the protest. Every time you set foot near a public street (especially in a cab) you put your life in the hands of thousands of other people around you. Yesterday, our cab driver drove straight across oncoming traffic- like no gap or anything- and expected people to stop for him. Thankfully, they did, and we are still alive.

Once everyone was back at the hotel (jack announced his arrival by saying 'im back!' In chinese and raising his arms) Matt, Angela, and I took a trip to a small market on our block to stock up on noodle bowls and some snacks. Angela helped us decipher between hot bowl and sour bowls, beef and fish favors, and good and bad brands. We also picked up some Chinese candies for the boys (ok, some for us too) and ogled over the different packaged animal parts. So much crazier than I anticipated. Not only can you get different flavors of chicken feet, but pig and duck feet also, which are much larger. There are also bags of whole tiny crabs, small fish, and shrimp that you can eat like chips, and different types of seasoned dried tofu. Intriguing and revolting at the same time, at least to me! To each their own, I guess!

Angela encouraged me to try a favorite drink called 'milk tea', which comes in a cardboard cup and straw. Basically, it's glorified hot chocolate/instant coffee- you add boiled water and stir. Except, there is also a small pack of gelatin-like substance that contains what I can not describe to be hunks of tapioca. Call me crazy, but all mixed together- it was pretty good. Having those chunks in there kept it interesting.... Will I get one, or won't I? Will I have to chew this bite, or not? It's the little things....

The remainder of the day has been very low key- I went to the gym and did laundry while the boys watched cartoons and took a stroll around the hotel. Watching cartoons with the boys is almost fun because every once in a while we pick up a word or two, or even learn a character. I've heard that the way to learn a language is to watch subtitled Soap operas- I think it's cartoons.

We are all excited tonight because we are ordering PIZZA!! Really, it's a bit sad how much we have been commenting about it today. We haven't had a bad meal since we've been in china, but after a week and a half, some greasy cheesy American food is definitely something to write home about. We are also looking forward to seeing our friend, Christian, tomorrow!

Chinese phrase of the day: We learned that 'you want' and 'peepee' sound pretty much the same. 'ni yao niaoniao' is 'you want to go peepee?' :)


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Here's  another video of Jack and Elijah (who is still being called Guo Zhou (JOE)) interacting
with each other.....they look like they will be best buddies in no time at all...........


video

How awesome that our God would give them this bond so quickly. Can I get an AMEN??!!!

Thanks everyone for thew birthday wishes....bought myself a food processsor today!  Love and hugs to all and thank you for sharing our journey!

photos and video----




March 5th Update: Happy Birthday Mom, Jack is HERE!

March 5th Update: Happy Birthday Mom, Jack is HERE!

Our morning began bright and early with sad goodbyes to our now-familiar wait staff at the hotel restaurant and a van ride to the Zhengzhou train station, where we boarded the infamous bullet train to take us to Xi'an. Our two ours aboard provided us with welcome sights of the countryside and-almost- some sunshine. We even rode through mountains and cold see places where people were living in caves carved into the sides! Amazing. Definitely more culture to see than in the big cities.

We arrived at our hotel, the Sofitel, around noon. This place is like the BMW of hotels- I mean, I thought the crown plaza was nice, no. This place is unreal. All of the hygiene amenities- shampoo, lotion, soap- are from L'Occitane, that awesome place that smells up your mall with herb-scented lotions that cost as much as your iPhone. There is both a bathtub (with bath salts and a exfoliating mitt) and a shower, with a head than comes straight down from the ceiling like a waterfall. Everything is marble and glass. The beds are so comfortable, and our outside wall is a huge window with a window seat and pillows overlooking the city. There is HBO, Cinemax, etc. There is Guinness on the room service menu. There are silk robes in the closet for when you are done bath or showering. And to top it all off, a wrapped chocolate, in a GIFT BOX, was left on my pillow this evening, along with a note that said "wishing you sweet and pleasant dreams!". Is this real life?!?

We had dinner at the hotel's Cantonese restaurant, and even managed to order for ourselves without Angela, who was busy making sure our rooms were correct and calling Obama or some other important government thing she does. Soon after lunch, we left Matt and Elijah at the hotel (again, lifesaver husband, love him so much) and set out for the bank, and then to the civil affairs office to meet Jack!

Before I get to the awesome parts that I know you want to read, I have to give a little shout out to our bank experience. Banks in China are massive, so much so that people will sit inside the bank and offer to exchange your money for you for a better rate, black market style, and nobody in the bank will actually notice. So we turn down these shadiest of characters, leave the lurking in the shadows, and proceed to our window where we leave with four very large stacks of Chinese money stuffed in Dad's cargo pants. As we are leaving, Angela also tells us about a string of murders outside banks in southern China. I think I just about pooped my pants walking back outside past those guys!

The civil affairs office turned out to be just two doors down from the bank, so we arrived early, and met Pat, adoptive father of now 9, waiting to meet Jane, another child with spina bifida from Jacks foster care program. He was incredibly nice, and told us how he was here picking up Jane with four of his children, while his wife and other three children were in another province picking up another little girl, who is deaf. So great to meet them!

Several notes to glean from that prior paragraph:
-mom, please consider this arrangement if you adopt two children at once again. Seems smart :)
-everyone else out there in the world- did you catch that '9' kids?? There are people as crazy/awesome as my family out there, I promise!

Anyway, we waited in the civil affairs office for about a half hour before Jack arrived, all smiles! He held out his arms to Dad like he had known him all of his life. At that time, it was the most unbelievable, powerful expression of the Lord I may have ever seen. Jack is absolutely precious, to everyone- it is obvious.

We had the pleasure of meeting Jeannie Butler and one of her friends (I didn't catch her name, sorry!) along with Shang, a Chinese women from the foster care center, and Faith, a young girl who volunteered with Starfish and was very very close with Jack. Faith had bought Jack an adorable backpack, and made him a beautiful scrapbook of pictures of the two of them, of Jacks friends, etc. She also wrote letters, both to Jack, and to Mom and Dad. I read them once we got back to the hotel and positively bawled my brains out. The love that she had for Jack was so wonderful, and he is incredibly blessed to have had Faith by his side these past years. We have her email address, and will definitely be sending her frequent updates and pictures of Jack!

After a quick run around the city to get pictures taken for the red book (this was mostly uneventful, aside from staring and a wheel of jacks wheelchair falling off, but not important, another day....) we rolled back into the hotel. Quick aside about the hotels here- I think they spray men's cologne into the lobbies. It's uncanny- I feel like I'm back in high school every time I walk into the hotel, walking past the locker room after football practice lets out. Nasty.

In the elevator, we had Angela explain to Jack that he was about to meet his two 'gagas'- big brothers! He giggled when he saw himself in the elevator mirrors-so cute. As we brought him inside the room, I think we were all a bit apprehensive to see how Elijah would react to his new brother, and vice versa. No sooner did we tell them that they were 'didi' and 'gaga' did Elijah sit down next to him, put his arm around him, and smile the biggest smile we've seen from him yet. We pulled out a bag of Cheerios that the foster care center had sent with Jack, and he immediately pulled one out and handed it to Elijah. Within the next five minutes, the two were under the covers together, giggling, sharing a pillow and cross-arm feeding each other Cheerios. This- this is the power of the Lord. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!

Another amazing little testament for today- the orphanage is required to provide the family with a copy of a 'find ad' of the child, ran after their abandonment in a local newspaper. Starfish actually provided us with a real newspaper, not a copy- and the date? Dad's birthday. :)

So here we are, a giggling, Kung-fu circus of a family here in Xi'an. We just skyped briefly with mom, and sang happy birthday to her- so sweet. Hopefully mom will upload the videos we sent her as well, of the boys together!

Chinese word of the day: waterfall- "pupu" :)


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4th Update- Adventures of English-Speaking Foreigners

Today began just as each day here has begun- wake slowly, rejoice that it isn't 4am, slide feet into little slippers left for each guest in their hotel room, dial boys room number, go to breakfast. Get Elijah multiple glasses of apple juice, try the mystery vegetables, wrestle with rice and chopsticks, sit as close to the coffee machine as possible. It was after breakfast that our great adventure began....

While walking around the city yesterday, Matt and I found a fairly large park within a few blocks of hotel that we thought Elijah might enjoy running around in. There were various areas of the park that we could see from the entrance, places to sit, etc that could eat up a few hours of boredom during our free weekend here in zhengzhou. At breakfast, we decided that the boys would venture to the park, while I headed next door to the crown plaza gym and Angela set to work on our travel information for the next leg of our trip. After a nice workout-turned-opportunity for businessmen to practice English with girl on next treadmill, I passed our hotel and set out to find the boys at the park.

As I passed through the park entrance, a little boy ran up to me and asked if I spoke English. When I replied, he grabbed my hand and started running towards a back corner of the park that I couldn't see behind some trees. As we approached, I could see a large crowd had formed underneath a pagoda- at least a hundred people. In the midst of them, I could see Dad's-ahem, distinguished-head rising out of the crowd, arms gesturing expressively as the people around him laughed and asked questions. In another section of the pagoda, I found Matt surrounded with college-aged students, talking about philosophy and religion. Elijah was running around with some children, playing games and looking at a child's textbook. I could see that there were several other westerners in the crowd, too- needless to say, I was completely bewildered by this situation. What had my dear family done to draw such a crowd?

What we had been pulled into was a section of the park called an 'English corner'- a public area designated for citizens to come and practice their English with one another. Little did they know that today, they would find actual English speakers to practice with! We were practically celebrities. We took so many pictures, and were totally overwhelmed with everyone's enthusiasm for our general existence. It was a blast!

Many of the people at the park were college students that were studying English, and we're very well spoken. They asked very good questions, both about our adoptions and about American life and culture. I was surprised at how many of them understood the concept of Americans adopting Chinese children- and not only accepted it, but really supported it, and made sure to tell us that we had 'big, good heart' and that the kids were 'so very lucky'. When I look at my family, I have to agree- but I think that even more, we are the lucky ones.

Our conversations ranged from american customs relating to marriage and housing and parents, to cultural things like tv and music. It seems that Gilmore Girls is quite a popular way to learn English here, with Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy coming in close behind. What pictures of American culture! Another highlight was the students attempting to say the name of the governor of California- that even I can't say, let alone spell, so i will spare you- we all got a good laugh out of that. The conversations were punctuated with small children interjecting simple questions such as, 'do you like apple?' 'what is your favorite color?' and 'do you play sport?' -clearly using the little English phrases that they learn in school. I was also sporting my Vibram FiveFingers shoes, which completely bewildered most of the people, especially the older adults. Matt's dreadlocks were also a hot topic of discussion. We must be quite a riot to them!

After about two hours at the English Corner, we headed back to the hotel for lunch. Earlier in the day, we had met several people staying in our hotel that were adoption veterans looking to start a nonprofit foster care program of sorts in a local orphanage- we actually had seen one of their existing projects in the zhengzhou orphanage a few days ago- I don't remember the exact name, something with Gracie? I am sure you'll know, mom :) anyway, they were headed into lunch at the same time we were, so we found two tables next to each other and exchanged adoption stories, comments on the homemade liquors in the front of the dining area (seahorse, being the most notable) and tips on good menu items. This afternoon, they are going to visit Swallow's Nest, a name that I know that I have heard tossed about but can't remember in what context. And yes, mom, they had heard of you. You are infamous, even with people from Denver and Canada! Anyway, I am excited to hear about their trip- hopefully we will see them tonight.

Tomorrow morning we depart for Xi'an via bullet train- exciting- and around 4pm we will meet Jack! We are praying that he is well, and that he is receptive to us. Of course, after Elijah hiding in a pink backpack for an hour, I think we will be okay! We are also looking forward to, hopefully, meeting up with our missions coordinator from college, Christian, who lives in Xi'an- and maybe even a visit to the terra cotta warriors!

Pray for peace and continual bonding for all of us, and especially for Elijah as we transition from one child to two- that he might easily shoulder the role of big brother and that sharing/possessiveness would not be an issue. Pray also for continued energy for all of us- we are finally sleeping well, but tomorrow things will certainly change with Jack.

Mom! You're getting a son for your birthday- how cool! Wo ai ni!


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 2nd, Friday morning...

March 2nd, Friday morning...

Well, we have had our first day and night with Elijah! It has surely been hours of ups and downs. The poor thing was so overwhelmed when he got here. His orphanage worker brought him to Dad and Matt's hotel room. When he walked in, he almost immediately kneeled down and began digging in the pink backpack he brought with him. This basically turned into him hiding behind the backpack for the next 45 minutes or so- so overwhelmed and scared! We tried to coax him with toys, snacks, and even Mom on the webcam (he stole a few glances, which I think helped him feel comfortable) but the turning point was when we found some Chinese cartoons- he finally dropped the backpack and began to look at things we had brought for him- playdough, toy cars, coloring books. He started interacting with me a bit when I would make a playdough shape and he would try to recreate it with his shape. I'm not sure head ever seen playdough before, though!

He eventually got comfortable enough to show us the snacks he had brought in his pink backpack (lays chips, seaweed, some jello-like thing, milk tabs, and a bottle of water) and also to try ours- some trail mix that mom had graciously packed us and some cucumber flavored Pringles that dad had picked up in Beijing- those were his favorite. Angela spoke to him and told him that he could leave his things in our room, and that we were going to lunch. We ordered him some noodles, and shared some steamed buns and gyoza with him- so entertaining to see the little guys with chopsticks! I think he was really overwhelmed with everything- so many people, us crazy looking foreigners, so much food, bright colors in the hotel. It took him a good fifteen minutes before he would eat, but eventually he did some serious damage on the food we gave him!!

After lunch, he and dad went up to the room together while Matt and I walked a bit around the hotel. When we got back to the room, dad said, "first smiles! The bubbles!". Elijah came up to us and promptly blew bubbles into our faces and giggled- and I think we all let out a sigh of relief.

The afternoon alternated between giggle fits and moments of frustration as we tried to bridge the language and culture gap- but all in all, everything seems to be progressing . slowly but surely. He did not react kindly to the pajamas when they were brought out- he quickly packed his little pink backpack and headed straight for the door! But a lot of hugs, some cartoons, and snacks later, and he and dad were both asleep together around 7pm, clothes and shoes still on! It is 645am now, and he is just waking up! what a day!

Today, we go to the civil affairs office to finalize the adoption and then to the Zhengzhou orphanage. Pray for peace for his little heart, more giggles today, and understanding for us all!

Ps happy birthday samalamadingdong!


So, apparently all of that never went through, so I am resending it with my current update.....

Yesterday began with a trip to the civil affairs office, where we waited for about a half hour for the official to show up so that we could sign papers and leave. We were thankful That there was an area set up for children to play in, with some bouncy things, colorful chairs, and balls that kept Elijah quite happy. Speaking of, he is still very much going by "guozhou" or guojo, but we are slowly trying to convert to "lijah" and see if he will start responding to that. Anyway, the official, once she arrived, was very nice, and told Dad how thankful she was and what a great thing it was that Guozhou was being adopted. Dad also wants to make sure that everyone knows that she also complimented him on his Chinese pronunciation- well done, Dad!!

We made a quick trip to the notary, then back to the hotel for lunch. Lunch proves very comical, especially because Dad orders a big bowl of hand pulled noodles for himself and Elijah and then tries to transfer some into a smaller bowl for Elijah....which sounds easy enough except each noodle is about two feet long and is intricately wrapped into the rest of the noodles, making transferring just a portion near impossible. After trying to use the chopsticks as scissors failed, he resorted to mashing the noodles against the bowl with a chopstick, which seemed to work. Needless to say, it kept us laughing...

For those keeping score at home, the chopstick challenge is still going strong. Matt, dad, and myself have not used one fork since arriving! Exceptions are made for spoons, only when spoons are provided- mostly soups and cereals. Rice and noodles- chopsticks only!! We will let you know if one of us breaks the streak...

After lunch yesterday, we took a trip to the Zhengzhou orphanage. I must first point out what a wonderful help my husband is- his incessant Chinese study in the past months, his experience with adults with downes syndrome, and general patience with children have proved such a blessing in the past few days! I am so thankful for him. When we arrived at the orphanage, Matt graciously took Elijah to the playground in the middle courtyard while dad and I toured the orphanage itself. While I have never been in an orphanage in China, I think I can still confidently say that this was one of the cleanest, beautiful, and well run that I have ever heard of. There were so many nannies, the children all seemed very happy, there were murals in every hallway, music and craft rooms- it was really lovely, being that it was an orphanage that serves over 600 children- 300 living on the premises. Each wing was for a different "category" of child (90% of their children are special needs)- infants with severe special needs, blind children, special needs over 6, etc. the children were so beautiful. I honestly expected The orphanage visit to be a very intense and difficult thing for me to process, but I can't stress enough how great this place was. It made my heart glad to see these children being so well loved and nurtured as they wait for their families!

Meanwhile, Matt and Elijah were making friends outside and entertaining each other on the swing set and the "gym"... In China, it is very common to see what look to be colorful, electricity free exercise machines in parks and on sidewalks in cities-they crack me up, but they are brilliant! There are leg and arm press machines, some funny swivel one that I think works your core, and even a "treadmill" which utilizes about 20 cylinder tubes that spin as you 'run' on them. We took lots of video of these with Elijah- hopefully some of them make it to the blog in the next few days.

Last night was very low-key- Elijah fell asleep pretty early (in all of his clothes, still) and Matt and I walked around the hotel and went down for a late dinner in attempts to stay awake to a half-decent hour. The hotel staff are so nice, and really hilarious- I think they sort-of fight over coming to our table to try their English and laugh at/help us with our Chinese. That said, we are extremely well taken care of- and they all smile at Elijah, even when he makes a huge mess of rice on the floor! We are thankful for them.

I am happy to report that we all slept during normal hours last night- about 9pm to 730am! Angela laughed at me this morning when I rolled over and looked at my watch and got so excited- after waking between 4-5 every day, 7:45 was a very welcome sight! I was surprised to find that the boys were just starting to stir in their room as well- definitely a relief for all of us.

Breakfast was normal and uneventful- except that as he was getting ready to leave, Elijah took off his second layer of clothes- another jacket! Little did we know that in just about an hour, he would finally have his first shower- I was not in the room for this blessed event, so you'll have to get a firsthand account from dad, but from what I understand, dad tried to get Elijah in the sower, and he refused, so dad got in instead. Elijah went out to Matt and got a big grin on his face and started undressing- quite a process considering he was wearing 2pairs of split pants, a long sleeved shirt, a sweater, jeans, and socks (remember, he had just now taken off the second of his two jackets- the kid was bundled!). Once his clothes were off, he ran stark naked into the bathroom and ambushed Dad in the shower!! What a surprise when I came to the room and saw a clean, less puffy looking boy in a spiderman shirt and sweatpants- I think that shower and clothes change made him officially a Rumbaugh :)

Elijah is at a really fun point right now where he has decided that he likes us, but doesn't quite want us to know yet. If you ask him to share something with you, he will say no, then throw it at you when you turn your back, and laugh! Matt taught him to fist bump, which he thinks is a passing game- Elijah bumps Matt, Matt bumps me, I bump Elijah. He also thinks he is very clever when he steals people's seats during meals- I think he sat at four different place settings at lunch today! He also loves pushing elevator buttons, and knows exactly what to push to go to the room and to go to meals. He is incredibly smart. We are also showing him a few simple signs, like 'more' which he has pretty much picked up already. This is useful because his Chinese is very difficult to understand- though we are figuring out 'elijahnese' slowly but surely :)

Before lunch, I ventured over to the sister hotel, the Crown Plaza, for a bit of treadmill time- that place is the ritz! They imprint the hotel logo in the sand of their ashtrays every day! Wow. They have a small but functional gym/pool/sauna/steam room, and I found 500 Days of Summer on the movie channel. Definitely worth the trek across the parking lot in the rain/snow to get the blood moving....

After lunch's routine noodle comedy (okay, I tried today, and it actually is really hard) Matt and I set out to explore the city. We found a very large mall-like complex, mostly with Chinese retail stores but some versions of American stores- apple, Nike, adidas, converse. Very expensive- ironic, because most of those things are made here! I found a store that sold products from The Body Shop at 3x the normal price! Nevertheless, window shopping was very entertaining, as was explaining that we didn't speak Chinese and fending off stares from people as we walked through. By the way, the name of the mall was the 'manhattan beauty of street'- so funny.

Dad and Elijah went out walking while we were out as well- not for too long, though- it was very cold! Dad said that Elijah was extremely well behaved on their walk, held hands, and that they only got yelled at by one old chinese woman that he wasn't dressed in enough layers (i said they must not have walked very far haha). Now we are just hanging out in the hotel, thawing and relaxing. Every room has a 'hotpot' to boil water in, and a supply of Nescafé packets- those are so good! They are like instant coffee, but also already have sugar and milk in them, and some yummy malty-nuttiness to them. I usually drink my coffee black but even I think they are great. Very useful for getting through the midday jet lag slumps. I remember Corrie hyping these after her trip to Thailand- they totally live up to the talk!

I have to give serious credit to our dear friend Angela- she ran all around Zhengzhou yesterday going back to the civil affairs office and notary yesterday afternoon, and is currently on her second trip to the train station today to get our tickets to Xi'an for Monday. I don't know that we would do without her- she certainly is our unsung hero for the trip!

We are all praying for sweet Jack, as we prepare for Gotcha Day Monday afternoon and as he fights respiratory issues. We are also praying for Vanessa/Newman family and Mira- meeting so soon! Can't wait to see you in Guangzhou.

Also, I just got word that Elijah just took his second shower of the day. Stripped naked and walked right in without warning. What an addition to the family he will be! He is too funny :)

Peace and Love to all of you at home :) until next time, zia jian!


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bubbles --- 'nuf said


video
---slowly coming out of his shell---

Beautiful Elijah

Beautiful Elijah
God has plans...
plans to give you a hope
plans to give you a future.
May He comfort you in this time of fear
and in this time of transition
May He show you the love of the Father-
through your new father...
Be brave my little sweetie...
I love you.

SAMANTHA IS SIXTEEN!!!

Here she is looking at her special basket of favorite foods. She loves beef jerkey, slim jims, pre made rice, grape tomatoes, and creamy chicken rice soup!!

March 2nd, Friday morning...

Well, we have had our first day and night with Elijah! It has surely been hours of ups and downs. The poor thing was so overwhelmed when he got here. His orphanage worker brought him to Dad and Matt's hotel room. When he walked in, he almost immediately kneeled down and began digging in the pink backpack he brought with him. This basically turned into him hiding behind the backpack for the next 45 minutes or so- so overwhelmed and scared! We tried to coax him with toys, snacks, and even Mom on the webcam (he stole a few glances, which I think helped him feel comfortable) but the turning point was when we found some Chinese cartoons- he finally dropped the backpack and began to look at things we had brought for him- playdough, toy cars, coloring books. He started interacting with me a bit when I would make a playdough shape and he would try to recreate it with his shape. I'm not sure head ever seen playdough before, though!

He eventually got comfortable enough to show us the snacks he had brought in his pink backpack (lays chips, seaweed, some jello-like thing, milk tabs, and a bottle of water) and also to try ours- some trail mix that mom had graciously packed us and some cucumber flavored Pringles that dad had picked up in Beijing- those were his favorite. Angela spoke to him and told him that he could leave his things in our room, and that we were going to lunch. We ordered him some noodles, and shared some steamed buns and gyoza with him- so entertaining to see the little guys with chopsticks! I think he was really overwhelmed with everything- so many people, us crazy looking foreigners, so much food, bright colors in the hotel. It took him a good fifteen minutes before he would eat, but eventually he did some serious damage on the food we gave him!!

After lunch, he and dad went up to the room together while Matt and I walked a bit around the hotel. When we got back to the room, dad said, "first smiles! The bubbles!". Elijah came up to us and promptly blew bubbles into our faces and giggled- and I think we all let out a sigh of relief.

The afternoon alternated between giggle fits and moments of frustration as we tried to bridge the language and culture gap- but all in all, everything seems to be progressing . slowly but surely. He did not react kindly to the pajamas when they were brought out- he quickly packed his little pink backpack and headed straight for the door! But a lot of hugs, some cartoons, and snacks later, and he and dad were both asleep together around 7pm, clothes and shies still on? It is 645am now, and he is just waking up! what a day!

Today, we go to the civil affairs office to finalize the adoption and then to the Zhengzhou orphanage. Pray for peace for his little heart, more giggles today, and understanding for us all!

Ps happy birthday samalamadingdong!


Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Update from Karli!

Day 1- arrival in Beijing

We are here in Beijing! Our flight was wonderful- truly the most comfortable and friendly a international flight I've ever taken. Our upgrade to premium economy bought us more leg room and less passengers, giving Dad, Matt and I each our own row complete with three pillows and three travel blankets! We could stretch out to sleep which made all the difference. Each seat was complete with a touchscreen tv system loaded with movies, tv shows, audiobooks, games, etc. I watched so many- it made the time go so quickly! There was also a map showing us where we were in our flight pattern- complete with current altitude and external temperature- at one time, it was -71 degrees F outside! The flight attendants were so nice and came around with water and tea/coffee every half hour or so. Every meal had a western choice and an Asian choice- my lunch of chinese five spice chicken was actually phenomenal!

Beijing boasts a new airport since I've been here- its massive and breathtakingly beautiful, clean, and easy to navigate. Immigration was a breeze, baggage came quickly, and before we knew it, we were hugging Angela and putting our bags in our van! After a pleasant (and enlightening- traffic and driving is so thrilling here) drive into the city, we are here at the Asia Pacific Garden Hotel, which might be one of the nicest hotels I've seen. Matt and I decided to go exploring- naturally I wanted to find the pool/sauna/steam room, so we ventured down to the basement level, where all signs indicated that these were located. Once we stepped out of the elevator, we quickly realized that this area was completely under construction- empty pools, paint cans and tarps lying everywhere. Coincidentally, the hotel must also have been fixing the elevator buttons, which were broken, and wouldn't let us call for another elevator to come back down to the basement to bring us up. After a bought of nervous laughter as we realized that every sign was written exclusively in mandarin, we let off through a maze of would-be spa halls to finally find the sketchiest set of stairs possible that brought us to a corner of the main lobby. I honestly thought we might be stuck down there until some other explorative soul tried to come down for a dip in the pool. ...

Hesitant to set out again, Matt and I decided to stay in our room and do some yoga, with hopes of easing jet lag and keeping ourselves occupied. This basically consisted of me doing spinal twists and shoulder stands while Matt sat in classic preschool "butterfly pose" and then quickly retired to savasana (you know, when you fall asleep at the end?) okay, he threw in a few upward dogs, I will give him that. But while it didn't keep him awake, it was definitely entertaining for me.

It's about 7pm here, and we are hopefully going to have dinner soon and then go to bed! We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow- the Great Wall, tianamen square, the forbidden city, and a Chinese acrobat show, all before we board an overnight train to Zhengzhou tomorrow. Maybe we will find time to breathe in there somewhere...

UPDATE.... Last night we took an overnight sleeper train to Zhengzhou and we are here at the Holiday Inn Express enjoying fresh espresso and comfy couches in the breakfast area. Gotcha time for Elijah is in two hours! We are all anxious for his arrival and thankful for a good nights rest in the train. Yesterday we went sightseeing (including a Hunger Strike/Willet great wall photoshoot) and concluded the evening with a Chinese Acrobat show. I don't even know where to begin to describe it- the things that they were doing we're unbelievable. At one point, there were six motorcycles riding in a steel spherical cage. Matt had to hold my hand because he was nervous :)

Angela took us to the 'big bowl' restaurant for lunch yesterday where we had REAL Kung pao chicken, crispy fried beef, and Matt and dad ordered donkey ribs! Apparently donkey is a delicacy here- the Chinese saying is 'in heaven, dragon meat- but on earth, donkey meat'! I was not a fan, but they thought it was pretty good. We also had our new favorite, mum flower tea- yes, mums, as in what your mom grows in her front yard- its delicious and traditionally served with large crystals of rock sugar. We want it all the time!

Now that we are in zhengzhou we can start to relax a bit- we will be here for at least a few days. The breakfast spread is great and the hotel is clean and friendly. We are all thankful for good coffee, too! I think I am on my third americano- I might regret those later....

Off to our room now! More updates in a bit when Elijah is here!!

Love, Karli

Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!

Mini-update

Update on the traveling trio--
skyped last night and everyone was gearing up for a full day of touring BeiJing.
As of 9 am (10 pm BJ time)this morning they will be traveling the overnight train to Zhengzhou to receive Elijah at the hotel as we sleep tonight.  I am unsure of the timing as they haved to contact the SWI to set a time after arrival. Gonna try to set up skype after they have him!  Photos from Beijing and "gotcha" will be posted to my blog tomorrow. We covet your prayers as Elijah's life is about to drastically change from everything he knows and loves.

GOTTA LOVE MODERN TECHNOLOGY----SKYPE!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

In. The. Air!

suitcases--- check.
passports-- check.
money----- check.
paperwork-check
camera----- check
tide ------- check
toys ------  check
toilet paper-check
wipes/dipes-check

you get the picture...
All three of my travelers were dropped off safely at Dulles airport this morning.  They said security was a breeze and they were at the gate two and a half hours early.  They even met another Christian family adopting from the same province on their flight.....how cool is that?

Its now 6:42pm and they have been flying about 6 hours.....8 to go!
Thanks so much for your prayers- here's some photos of the kiss off! :)



Bill, Matt and Karli will be met at the airport by my Chinese sister, Angela.  She will be with them the entire trip....what a huge blessing.
They will stay at a hotel tonight and then they will have a SUPER full day of touring.  They only have one day in Beijing so they are packing it in.
First the GREAT WALL, then Tian en men Square and  the Forbidden City...then the acrobat show in the evening.....topping it all off with a 10:00pm train to Zhengzhou.   They are gonna be wiped out to say the least!
Stay tuned for tales of the trio.....

from the homefront,
Kelly  (who would give her left arm to be with them)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ready? SET? GOOOO!!!

Its Sunday evening and I(Kelly) am getting ready to turn in.
The bags are packed and the travelers are about as ready as they can be.

Who's going?  
My hubby--- pastor of New Hope Fellowship church and Physical Education teacher
at Friendship Valley Elementary.  (wonderful hubby of 25 years)
Our oldest daughter, Karli --  graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University and event coordinator/field agent for "The Hunger Strike".
Karli's husband, Matthew--- graduate of Palm Beach University and programs cultivator/field agent for "The Hunger Strike".

We will be heading to Dulles airport in the early am so they can catch their United flight direct to Beijing around noon.  They will be sitting in economy plus which is the extra 6 inches of legroom.....it is also deserted and all of them are hoping to get a row to sleep in!  There are about 40 rows and only 20 passengers in that section.
Well worth the extra bucks in my opinion.
They will arrive in BeiJing around 3:30 pm on TUESDAY.

SO-- this leg of the journey begins.........we are so very excited to have you along for the journey.  We covet your prayers for our boys who are getting ready to have their world turned upside down.  Bill and I know it is better for them to have a family but all they know is what they have now and it is everything.

 Also, my bestest buddy and sister-in-Christ, Angela, will be guiding and representing us at our appointments.  I am saddest that I will not be able to see her.....it breaks my heart after how much she has done for our family.  I am praying I get to go see her sometime before 2012 is out.

So, I leave you with this verse....as the week begins and our lives will be forever changed by the addition of Elijah, this week and Jack, next week!!
 

Hebrews 12:1-3    New International Version (NIV)

 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.