Orphanage Visit

I predicted today would be a long one, and I was right! We left for the orphanage at 8am and got back around 5pm. It’s 5:30, and James is already asleep. We have another early day tomorrow since we leave at 8am for James’ TB test, so I’ll be heading to bed early too.

It was actually a great day in terms of James letting me hold him more. We’re mostly just letting him choose Joel all the time so that he gets comfortable, but I am in charge of giving him food (since he loves it so much) and Joel usually has to be the bad guy when we take something away. Right before we headed down to breakfast, Joel had to pull James out of the stroller, which he loves, so then James put his arms up to me and let me carry him all the way to breakfast! It made me so happy.

After breakfast we began the 2.5 hour ride to James’ old orphanage. It’s actually a Social Welfare Institute, so some elderly people live there too in a different section. It was so nice to get out of the city and away from the smog. We got to see some tree-covered hills, water, blue skies, and feel the sun on our faces. It made me a little homesick. Anyway, we got there just as James’ foster mom arrived, and she came and picked him up and took him inside. She kind of just left us standing by the car in her dust. :) We went inside and were able to ask her some questions about what he likes and his routine, and she brought some of his favorite treats. This was one of the lows today for my bonding with James because he remembered he already has a mama that he loves. He did not want me to sit next to him on the couch when his foster mom was on the other side (he literally pushed me away), but he would ask Joel to come sit by his side. I ended up feeling a little sorry for his foster mom because it is so obvious that she loves James and misses him, but when we all stood up to go, he ran behind Joel’s leg when she came to give him a hug. At least we know he didn’t want to go home with her, but I imagine that hurt her feelings. He did look sad when he saw her outside going to her car, but she wouldn’t have seen that.

Next we got to take a tour of the orphanage and see where he went to school, played, and slept. His teachers all came running yelling his name and demanding hugs and kisses. We were told several times that he was everyone’s favorite boy. We didn’t get to take any photos of the room where he slept because it was naptime, and we weren’t allowed to take photos of any other kids. The bed that was his was already filled with another child since there were kids sleeping two to a bed (toddler-sized beds). James did let me hold him a few times during the tour, so I think he recovered pretty quickly from seeing his foster mom. When they’d ask him to run to mama, he’d come to me, so that was great. Of course, I did hear over and over and over again about how he’s a baba’s (or daddy’s) boy. Yes, people, I know!!

They served us a huge and quite delicious meal, and then we headed out to see his finding spot. We shot a quick photo and then headed home because we were tired, and it was a long trip back. Now we’re here and will be heading to bed early again for another busy day. After the test tomorrow, we’re going to the tea market, and I’m pretty excited. Our guide says it has more tea than the entire US. We’ll see!
Continue reading

Officially Ours

I’m glad I already wrote a bonus post today because I think the recap of the day is going to be quite short! It was a pretty slow day until 2pm when we went to get the kids’ medical exams. James checked out fine, but I think it stressed him a bit because he was acting out afterwards. He was being extra stubborn and rough but was also clinging to Joel pretty tightly. After that we headed to the police station where they took the kids’ photos. I don’t even know why. Mostly we just do what we’re told by our guides! There we were given our official adoption certificate (or something like that). It’s locked in the safe, so I can’t see the official name but I think it means we are officially his parents!!! How exciting!! Then we headed back to Trustmart (Chinese Wal-Mart) to get gifts to take with us to the orphanage tomorrow. Please pray that this trip won’t be too hard on James! I hope it doesn’t confuse him to be heading back there. We may also meet his foster family, but I don’t know for sure yet. I think it may be a long, hard day.

We decided that maybe we should start mixing in some Western food for James so that going to the US won’t be as huge of a system shock, so we hit up Pizza Hut for dinner. There were some very strange pizzas on that menu that you would never see back home. In fact, most of the pizzas were a bit odd, but we went with classic pepperoni. James ate every bite. Joel said it’s the only thing he’s eaten here that made him feel a bit sick. I haven’t eaten anything that’s made me sick, but my stomach has turned a bit at the sight of chicken feet sandwiches and live turtles at the grocery store. And also something that may have been someone’s reproductive organs… not my thing. Anyway, here’s our day in pictures!

20140416-195451.jpg

We went to the park again to try to wear James out before nap time. In case you’re ever wondering what’s going on with my hair, my straightener doesn’t work here. I’m at the mercy of the terrible humidity.

20140416-195513.jpg

The office where the medical exams are conducted. Does every Chinese person have to have an exam before coming to the US?? Something for Google when we get back… I’m trying not to be on the computer much besides when I’m posting updates.

20140416-195522.jpg

There is a section that is for adopting families only, so we were in and out pretty quickly. Please note the Santa Claus on the door. There were Christmas decorations all over the walls.

20140416-195535.jpg

This is just proof of the stubborn boy we saw after the exam. He was being a tad difficult.

20140416-195545.jpg

But also very clingy…

20140416-195554.jpg

This one just makes me smile. :D

20140416-195604.jpg

Joel was using the translator on his phone for the Pizza Hut menu. He takes a photo of the words, and it’s supposed to tell him what it says. I don’t remember the result, but I do remember that it didn’t make much sense.

20140416-195615.jpg

I could, ahem, stand to lose a few pounds, so I’ve been watching the people around here very closely at mealtimes since they’re so thin. Perhaps here’s part of the answer… Their medium pizza is just slightly larger than what we would call a personal pan pizza. Hmmm…

20140416-195627.jpg

James loved his pizza! It took us awhile to convince him it was okay to pick up the crust with his fingers. He’s going to think it’s so strange when we get home, and I’m not taking photos of him eating every meal.

20140416-195639.jpg

Okay, you can’t see all the clothes very well, but the next time you’re feeling sad about all the laundry you have to do, just be glad that your undies aren’t hanging out for all the world to see!

20140416-195647.jpg

Just being silly after he got a bit of a bump.

20140416-195700.jpg

You can’t see it very well because he wouldn’t stand still, but he got a pretty major goose egg after tripping and hitting his head on the coffee table. The good news is that he let me scoop him up and comfort him! The bad news is that we’ll be bringing him to visit the orphanage tomorrow with a very obvious injury.

Reality Check

I decided to do a middle-of-the-day (for us) post while James is napping, or attempting to nap, because I feel as though I’ve mostly only shared the positive, but that is because at the end of the day, the good things are the ones that I remember to share. I’m sure it’s good news that when I am worn out from this physically and emotionally taxing journey, it’s the happy times that come to mind. (I’m also very tired from lack of sleep thanks to a bed that makes me feel as though I’m sleeping on a rock slab with a smidge of cushioning on it.) This experience has truly mostly been great, but I don’t want to give the impression that we’re starting an adoption cult here where we skip along and all pretend that the road is easy. It’s not. It’s a work of faith that brought us here, and it’s a work of faith that will bring us through it.

 

The first struggle is accepting James for who he is rather than the boy I built up in my mind based on a few photographs and a couple videos. Is he a great kid? Absolutely! Is he the kid I thought he would be? Not at all! Okay, he is a little bit like I imagined. He truly is mostly happy and easygoing, and he is fun and silly. He makes us laugh all the time. He’s also really friendly, but that may actually end up being a hindrance to bonding with us. In the adoption world, they call it “indiscriminately friendly.” That’s something we’ll be working on during the “cocoon” period after we get home, and I’m still planning on explaining more on that later. It’s okay if he waves at everyone we pass, but if he falls down or is hungry, we need him to come to us. I think the biggest expectation I had of him was that he would be sweet, and that’s not actually a word I think I’d use to describe him now. He has a bit of an edge that I wasn’t expecting. When he doesn’t want us near, he’ll physically push us away, and he tends to use his fists to express his frustration. If we don’t do what he wants or understand what he’s saying, he hits us. And he also tends to hit or throw things when he gets too excited when we’re playing together. This is definitely something we’ll be working on. I think he will really benefit from learning some sign language to express himself, and he already does use some unofficial signs to communicate. Also, as I told some of you, I was imagining that perhaps James would finally be the child that’s a little like me. Um, nope! I’m still the only introvert in the house!

 

The second struggle for me is one that I’ve shared briefly already. He prefers Joel to me, and honestly, it’s a bit of a blow to my pride. I know that it doesn’t really have anything to do with who I am as a mom and a person, but it’s hard not to be stung when James pulls away from me. The weakest part of me wants to pull away from him and just leave the room when he chooses Joel, but I know that’s the exact opposite of what I’m supposed to do in this situation. I’m trying to prove that I will care for him no matter what he does and that I’m not going to leave him when the going gets tough, so I stay and push down my frustration and irritation. I’m praying for God to give me the strength to be a better person than I am on my own. It really all just boils down to showing him love. This is a great test for me. Really it’s so easy to love someone that loves you back, but the Bible tells us to love EVERYONE. Everyone…. even those that push you away and lash out at you when you try to love them. So I stay, and I pray. And there are times when he lets me hold him or hold his hand, and each of those times makes the struggle worth it. It’s probably even good for me to realize that I’m not as awesome as I think I am. ;)

 

Part of this journey is remembering that love is a choice we make every day with each action and each word, and that the look on my face and the tone of my voice are just as important as what I say and what I do. Real love is action. I was thinking of it this morning and remembering that even when Brenna was born, I didn’t hear angels sing and trumpets blare the moment I saw her beautiful face. Honestly, I was tired after a hard labor and was one push away from a C-section, and my first thought was, “Thank you, Jesus! She’s finally out of there!” I absolutely loved her, but I wasn’t instantly in that sappy, adoring love place. It didn’t take long to get there, but it was not instantaneous. It’s the same with James. Yes, I really do love him, but I don’t feel that almost in-love feeling that makes it so easy to overlook someone’s faults. I think I’ll get there, but it will take time. And it will take time for him to realize that I love him and for him to love me back. I did have that awe-inspiring moment, much like a birth, when he first walked out and took my hand in his. But then he dropped my hand to take both of Joel’s in his, and I didn’t know then that moments like that would end up being my greatest struggle.

 

Okay, with all that said, I want to make sure that I reiterate that I am thrilled with how James is doing so far, and I have NO regrets whatsoever. I can’t wait for everyone to meet this sunny little boy! I know you will all love him too. I have felt God’s hand throughout this process in so many ways, and meeting James has just confirmed that. I often use “millions” to exaggerate a number, but we chose James out of literally millions of orphans in this world. It is so mind-blowing to me that in that number, God led us to the boy that already seems to be a part of our family. I can just see how much he is like Joel and Brenna and Evan, and I am so thankful. Our house is going to be crazy, but it is going to be fun for sure!!

 

 

Are you satisfied?

I’m going to mostly describe the day through photos again because that’s easiest on my brain, but I will share a couple things quickly first. This process is very exhausting, so by 8:00 in the evening, my brain is shot. Also, James did not sleep very well last night. Well, he may have slept fine, but he was noisy and moved around a lot! He was right-side up, sideways, and upside down and back again all night long, so Joel and I didn’t sleep well. We requested a crib for tonight just in case, but we’re hoping he’ll sleep more peacefully.
James had another great day, but his preference for Joel was even more obvious today. I knew this could happen since a majority of the time it’s the mom that gets rejected since most likely they’ve had close bonds broken with female caregivers. Yesterday I didn’t care at all because I was just so happy that he didn’t meltdown at Civil Affairs, but it was a little harder for me at times today. He’ll still come to me for help if Joel’s not in the room, but he pushes me away when I pick him up and will only hold my hand if he really needs it (like on the escalator). We did have some playtime together without Joel, but this is something we’ll have to work on. I am still really happy with how he’s doing.
Today after Skyping with the kids and having breakfast, we headed back to the Civil Affairs office to sign more paperwork and make it official. We took a family photo, and then a lady asked us if we were satisfied with James and would not abandon him. Then we headed up to the notary’s office for some more questioning. The guide warned us that he was strange and to not volunteer anything and only answer his direct questions, so I was nervous heading in there. He asked us again if we were happy with James, and I felt like we were test driving a car. He was also asking us why we wanted to adopt, and that’s a hard one for me to answer quickly. I just said that I loved my kids and wanted more. True enough! He was apparently satisfied, and shook our hands and congratulated us. The rest of the day was ours for bonding fun.

Every time the guide drops us off we get a warning about the kids (we’ve been doing all of the appointments with the other lady that’s here to get her daughter with our agency). Yesterday we were admonished to not let them drink icy cold water, Coca Cola, or eat fried foods. Today she told us that the cold weather was coming and that we needed to dress them more warmly. She would be absolutely horrified to see at which temps we break out the shorts and water toys in western Washington!

20140415-212144.jpg

James started out the morning with a story from daddy (AKA “mama”). He seems to need a few minutes to fully wake up.

20140415-212202.jpg

We got to eat our breakfast out on the patio, and it was the perfect weather for it. James had a plate and bowl, but he only wanted to eat out of the bowl. If we put his food on the plate, he would move it to the bowl when he was ready to eat it.

20140415-212222.jpg

After the Civil Affairs appointments, our guide took us to a cheap Chinese restaurant near the hotel, and Joel and James shared the biggest bowl of soup ever.

20140415-212239.jpg

The elevators have mirrored corners, and he loves to kiss himself in them.

20140415-212253.jpg

After naps we headed to the little playground at the hotel. I took a nap too, and I guess that explains my weird hair poof thing. We’ve been told to drink lots of water since the air is so bad, and I’ve been doing pretty well considering I hate drinking water.

20140415-212303.jpg

James loved the slide! Julie and her daughter are in the photo in the bottom right. I’m just using the one with their backs since I haven’t asked if I can post their photos.

20140415-212317.jpg

We had to go to the store for a couple of things, including a stroller since James is not light, and we decided to get a treat. I’m not normally one for ice cream before dinner, but I made an exception in the name of bonding with James. We learned in a parenting class that ice cream is great for bonding because it’s so close to breast milk. Doesn’t that want to make you go out and grab some? ;)

20140415-212334.jpg

He loves to eat! He wouldn’t pause for the photo, but he made sure to throw out the peace sign.

20140415-212344.jpg

I grabbed this tea at the store because it was actually cold (the soda I got out of a vending machine that said “cold”… not so much), but I couldn’t read the label. I got it because I liked the horse, but it was a bit scary taking the first sip. It has a bit of a kombucha taste. If you’re from the ‘hood, you’ll know what that means.

Worth The Wait

We’ve been waiting for this day for over a year, and it was even better than we’d hoped it would be! I won’t even bother with what we did today before 2:30pm because none of that even matters. Today we met our son! It was amazing. I can’t even describe how I felt when he walked in and took my hand. Here’s our day (the important part) in pictures…

20140414-200426.jpg

Me and Joel right before we met James for the first time.

20140414-200512.jpg

This is right after James came out. He was very intrigued by Joel’s chin whiskers, and then he started bonking him on the nose (softly).

20140414-200529.jpg

Me, Joel, and James at the Civil Affairs office.

20140414-200551.jpg

He LOVED the bubbles! (Thanks for the suggestion, Lindsay!) Everyone was very entertained watching him play and laugh. No tears for this guy!

20140414-200608.jpg

But yes, he absolutely does have a stubborn streak, and he’s quite independent.

20140414-200632.jpg

We went to the store afterwards, and James loved going up and down the ramps they had for the carts. He was giggling and having a great time.

20140414-200649.jpg

Next we went back to the hotel to relax for a little bit, and he played with some of his new toys.

20140414-200707.jpg

He loves to take pictures of himself with the phone. He would hold the phone, and then make a little peace sign.

20140414-200720.jpg

He hopped in the big hotel bed, and thought it was so much fun!

20140414-200735.jpg

We grabbed some takeout food for dinner, and James kept taking Joel’s hand and leading him around while we were waiting. It was so cute. He definitely favors Joel right now, but that’s 100% okay with me. I know that this will take time, and I’m glad he likes Joel so much.

20140414-200811.jpg

He ate a lot of food at dinner! More than me and Joel I think.

20140414-200819.jpg

And is better with chopsticks than I am.

20140414-200838.jpg

This is the special plate we received from the orphanage along with a book about Bao’an and a photo book filled with pictures of James that we’ve never seen. The plate says, “Thank you for your love. Loneliness never exists. Love for eternity.”

 

I appreciate all of the prayers that were said on our behalf today. It was an amazing day. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but for now James is as happy and funny as he seems to be in pictures. His laugh is contagious, and we heard it often. The only tears we saw were when he smacked his head on the glass table in the hotel room. I know there will be rough times coming as reality sets in for him, but I’m so glad that the time in the Civil Affairs office was easy and peaceful. It would have been hard to deal with a breakdown there with so many people around. We asked the orphanage how James likes to be comforted, and they said, “We don’t know because he’s always happy.” He is also very, very curious, and the quick baby-proofing I did before we left was not enough. I don’t think he sat still for more than 5 minutes unless he was eating. It looks as though we will have 3 very busy kids at home! Oh my!! He’s also quite chatty even though his only real word is “mama.” And actually, he calls us both “mama.” Okay, now I’m off to bed. Joel and James are already asleep, but I wanted to give everyone an update. It’s only 8:30pm here, but it was an exhausting day!

A Day Of Rest

The time change is definitely catching up with me, but I’ll try a quick recap of our day here. We tried to take it easy today because tomorrow will probably be quite stressful. We started our Sunday with some FaceTime with my parents and the kids. It was so nice to see their faces and hear that they’re having a good time. Then we headed to breakfast at the hotel’s amazing buffet. There are so many choices! I kept telling myself not to go overboard because we have several more days to try everything. There was typical American breakfast fare plus a noodle bar, rice bar, and so much more! It was perfect for me since I like dinner foods for breakfast sometimes. I had teriyaki pork and a BBQ pork bun with my French toast and bacon. Yum!!

After breakfast we just walked around our beautiful hotel. The garden in the back is very pretty, and I can’t get over the detail of everything inside the hotel. Joel keeps saying that it reminds him of a hotel in Las Vegas. We went to the pool, but there were only two people there. Apparently they don’t think it’s warm enough to take the kids swimming yet. Maybe it needs to be in the 90′s? They dress their children very warmly here! I’m sweating in my t-shirt, and I see kids walking by in long-sleeved layers and snow boots.

We went to the Chinese restaurant (probably just a restaurant to them) for lunch, and it was sooo good! The only problem was that I can’t use chopsticks, and I felt like an absolute fool. I finally put them down and used my fingers, but I could probably lose some weight if I had to eat one grain of rice at a time.

After lunch we met up with another woman adopting through our agency and did a little grocery shopping. That was pretty crazy. Everywhere we’ve been up to this point has had both English and Chinese, but the grocery store was only in Chinese. I didn’t know what half of it was! We just walked out with bottled water, Chinese candy, and some cucumber gum.

Now we’re in the room resting up for tomorrow and trying to stay awake. In the morning we’ll go to the bank to exchange some money, and then at 2:30 we get James!!!! That’s 11:30pm PST, so please throw up some prayers for us before you head to bed. I’m getting sort of nervous wondering how it will go. James will be so scared and have no idea what’s going on. :( I know that this will be good for him in the long run, but it’s so hard to think that it will be painful for him now. I pray that he adjusts quickly!

20140413-191643.jpg

The view from our room. Lots of smog and high-rise buildings. This city has a population of 12-15 million, so everyone lives in apartments or condos. They hang their clothes outside the windows!

20140413-191655.jpg

I love all the detailed designs in this hotel. It’s gorgeous!

20140413-191707.jpg

There are Easter decorations all around the hotel, so it won’t be quite so bad missing it at home.

20140413-191717.jpg

Lunch was delicious. Notice the various birds hanging in the background? I’m not used to seeing that while I’m eating.

20140413-191740.jpg

The garden behind the hotel. The klutz in me was quite terrified walking on the stones across the disgusting water full of fish.

China!

Well, we’re in China, but it was a long trip! I hope that the first hour of our trip is not an indication of how this is going to go. At check-in they couldn’t find our reservation (scary), and then the boarding pass printer wasn’t working properly. And apparently they didn’t like the look of Joel because he was flagged for additional screening. That was more than a little nerve-wracking since we had no idea what was going on. The TSA guy checking our passports at security called a supervisor over, and that guy took Joel’s passport and boarding pass and said to meet him on the other side. They emptied out his entire bag, which has all his clothes for the trip among other things, and did those swab tests, and then did a pretty thorough pat down and swabbed the gloves after. At one point I started giggling to myself when I noticed that Joel was wearing the “Believe There Is Good In The World” shirt while being treated like a terrorist. Anyway, they finally cleared him and even complimented his wonderful packing skills, and the rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I took some pictures, but they’re pretty basic since we were mostly looking at snowy mountains for 11 hours on the first flight. (I’m writing this in Beijing as we wait for our connecting flight to Guangzhou.) The very best news is that I wasn’t sick at all on the very long flight! I even managed to avoid using the airplane bathroom (feel free to file that under TMI), but the last 3 hours of that flight were some of the longest of my life!

This is not my first international trip, but I’m starting to feel old. Walking around a very foreign airport does not feel like a grand adventure anymore. I’ve also been awake for almost 24 hours, so I’m sure that’s adding to the confusion. But I’m so thankful that the adoption agency provides a guide and driver for our time in Guangzhou!

And now we’ve arrived in Guangzhou! I tried not to sleep on the first flight so that I could adjust to the time difference more quickly, but I did keep nodding off in the Beijing airport. Joel had to come retrieve me when I fell asleep at the phone charging station. I tried to sleep on the 3-hour flight to Guangzhou, but my behind was thoroughly tired of airplane seats. I spent most of the flight shifting around trying to get comfortable. I needed one of those donut pillows! I’m sure I drive the passenger next to me crazy (not Joel… He was out cold).

We are now safely ensconced in a very nice hotel, and we have a day of rest tomorrow before picking up James on Monday. It is 1:50am here, and I anticipate a good night’s sleep!!!

20140413-015155.jpg

Getting ready to leave Seattle.

20140413-015209.jpg

Hainan Airlines. Our travel agent said some Americans don’t like to fly on Chinese airlines, but the only problems we had were on the ground. The flight crew was kind and helpful, and the food was pretty tasty! And I don’t normally like to take photos by myself, but I wanted the airline to show.

20140413-015220.jpg

Leaving beautiful Washington State! Sorry some of the photos are so big; this was my first time posting them from my phone. Oops!

20140413-015244.jpg

The colors were amazing as we flew over Alaska! I just kept thanking God for His beautiful creation.

20140413-015259.jpg

Our first glimpse of Russia!

20140413-015323.jpg

Lunch was pretty good, and I loved the way they served it. I really wanted to snag the little red tea cup.