Monday, June 28, 2010

baby steps

all the kids

the whole travel group

Shamian Island

We are still making progress with Jenna. Though it seems to be baby steps, at least I am seeing some progress. She is kind of moody though. Not sure if that's just normal for the transition or what, but she often goes to sleep one way and wakes up completely different. Today has been a challenge. She seems to have taken a step or two backwards this afternoon after we had a really great day yesterday. ??? At least I have the glimpses I do that let me know she will come around eventually.
Her TB test was negative, praise God. She did have a reaction at the site; it looks like a mosquito bite, but they measured it and apparently it was within the ok range, because she passed as a negative result.
The last couple days have been spent with the group doing touring and shopping. We visited the jade market and a huge wholesale market shopping area. Last night we had a whole group dinner at a Thai restaurant. Not my favorite, but the company was great. Today we were supposed to visit a botanical garden but the group voted against it because of the rain. Have I mentioned it has rained here every day? And not just a quick shower, but lingering, persistent rain. The good side of that is that while the humidity is ridiculous, it could be a whole lot hotter if not for the rain.
I am getting very anxious to go home. I enjoy it here, but I am ready for home. I miss my family and my bed and pillow. Although, it is pretty nice having someone come grab my laundry and bring it back clean, pressed and folded. worth every penny. ;)
And we've really enjoyed hanging out with a couple specific families a lot, I am just ready to get on with things and back to our crazy normal. Hotel living is definitely not normal.

Tomorrow is our last full day here!
We are leaving on the train for Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon and spending the night at a hotel there before flying home on Thursday.

Thanks for following our journey.
Love from China.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, sweet Emily!
Mama misses you so much and every time I think of you, I smile.
I'll be home soon and I can't wait to give you hugs and kisses.
I hope you have so much fun today with Daddy, mattman and ab.
I love you very much ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

no words


hanging out in GZ

Today was pretty uneventful so far.
We went on a tour of the Memorial Palace (I think?). It was built for the man who was the first president of China in 1911 when the gov't re-organized and no more emporers.
The building was very pretty and is apparently an architectural sight.
After that we went to a park and walked through for awhile. Although, it was raining, as it has everyday here, and the humidity is seriously 100%. What a fun day to spend in a park!

Today was huge because on the bus ride after the park I got Jenna to smile!!! FINALLY! Then again in the hotel room, smiling and LAUGHING! Oh, melt my heart. And praise God, I really needed to see that progress today and the encouragement. Amazing how He knows exactly what we need and when we need it, isn't it?

Anyways, a couple of things about Jenna so far:
• she seems to be good at crying, and is starting to be a little dramatic about it. at first I thought it was just really sad, now I am starting to think she's got my number and is playing her cards. ??!! not sure how to balance making her feel very safe and trust me, but not get totally played.
• she will eat anything I give her. anything. without complaining. just opens wide. maybe just a true quality of orphanage life, not sure.
• also, she will just sit wherever for SO long and is so quiet. on the plane to GZ, on the buses we take, taxis, in the hotel room, wherever. I'm curious to see how long this will last!

We're not doing too much these next couple days. Just hanging around Guangzhou. Our hotel is very nice. Like, 5 star, reallllly nice. There are lots of amenities right nearby like Starbucks, McDonald's (which at home I loathe but here tastes surprisingly good!), Subway, Pizza Hut, a fancy mall with a grocery store inside-strange, I know, and lots of small shops.

Tomorrow we go back to Shamian Island to have all the kids' TB tests read. Pray for negative. Then we'll have lunch over there and do some shopping on the island.

Like I've said before, thank you so much for your prayers. They are being felt in a huge way. The last couple days were very hard for me and to have your encouragement has been so appreciated. Many have also asked about Ben. He's doing great. Getting a little bored at times as we always have down time for nap and such and there's just less going on here than the rest of our trip, but he's good. We've gotten several comments to him from young Asian women here saying 'handsome boy,' and asking him his name and where he is from. He gets a little embarrassed but always says, 'thank you,' as I told him we want to be sure to be polite Americans! He has been a huge help and always carries stuff, pushes the stroller, opens doors and whatnot. Please continue to pray for Jenna to show me who she is and continue to trust me and accept my care and love.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

next to last stop: Guangzhou

It's already the last leg of our trip! We are more than halfway there and one week from today, we'll be home!
We traveled to Guangzhou today. Had to leave Nanning very early to catch flight that was a quick one hour. We were greeted at the airport by Miko and then she took us directly to the medical examination where we met several other families in our group. The physical went well. The place was like no other medical clinic I've ever seen, and swarming with mosquitoes to top it off!?? odd.
Anyways, Jenna had to get 3 vaccinations and a TB test. She cried a lot, but did very well letting me comfort her.
As long as I am holding her, she is fine. Still not a lot of expression on her face, and she is generally very afraid of others. I would love to see her be just a little more playful, but I'm sure I will in time. Today I tried tickling her to try to see a smile or giggle and instead she cried. poor girl.
After all the kids (so far all girls with the exception of one boy) got their shots and exams done, we all headed around the corner to have lunch at the famous Lucy's of Shamian Island! It's nothing too special, just has a few comforts of home like french fries, movie posters in English, US license plates for decoration, and sweet tea. Good enough for me. I like this place!

We came back and checked into our hotel after that and Jenna needed a nap terribly. As I mentioned, she is growing more and more attached to me and likes to be held, a lot.
The minute I put her in the crib, she started screaming. Crazy screaming. Haven't heard that much from her yet and I tried to speak a few words of comfort and walk away to see if she would be ok. After several minutes, she was still hysterical, so I went back over and if I just put my hand on her, she stopped. I started to tear up and think that she is so afraid I'm going to leave. It broke my heart. Anytime I go to get out of a car, set her down somewhere, etc, she has a moment of panic like this and starts to cry. Until I touch her and tell her "it's ok." I leaned over the crib and patted her tummy or stroked her face until she fell asleep.
Even though I have parented four kids before the addition of Jenna, I feel like I have no experience at all. And with this circumstance, I don't! It's so hard what she is going through. I don't think I could grasp that before. I mean, of course it's hard and I knew it would be. But I have to constantly put myself in her shoes before I can respond to a situation. And the way I respond is so much different.


visiting luchuan

the market in Luchuan

here we are with all the items we were able to donate to the orphanage as a result of the Mark Schultz concert: one large a/c unit, one small a/c unit, 4 walkers, one stroller, 2 cases of formula, & 30 towels! Grace for Orphans team, how awesome is this!!!???

the view out from jenna's orphanage

Jenna's finding spot; under the tree right outside the gates of the orphanage, she was found wrapped in a blanket inside a paper box and 9 days old.

jenna's orphanage

the market in Luchuan

on the drive out to her village; looking adorable. She has become very fond of her panda bear. :)

it was about 3.5 hours out to luchuan. had to go right through yulin to get there. yulin is the biggest city around luchuan, although luchuan is bigger than i expected. there was alot of farmlands and very small villages in between each place. all the way from nanning (heading to the east) were beautiful mountains as the backdrop in front of rice fields and small villages. very beautiful. on the back in even better as it was raining and foggy and misty looking. reminded me alot of NC and blue ridge parkway. big green mountains; except with rice fields, water buffalo and farmers with those pointed bamboo hats. :)

first thing we did was meet the nanny and director from yesterday in the market area at the shop to purchase air conditioners, and then the other baby supplies. We got SO much with the money: one large a/c, one smaller a/c, 2 cases (which was alot) of formula, 5 walkers, 1 stroller and 30 towels. that was awesome. we then followed them back to the orphanage. we couldn't go inside the building; apparently gov't won't allow that for anyone; so the main director and another worker came out and we all sat and talked and fed jenna and hung out waiting for a/c delivery. right when we first got out of the car in the village, the nanny asked to hold jenna for awhile, if i didn't mind. i didn't know what to do. i wanted her to have that time to say goodbye but didn't want jenna to be confused. she was fine with her and keep looking at me too. kind of sweet. once in the shop, the nanny needed to talk with shop workers when paying and stuff so she handed her back to me, and jenna came right to me and didn't cry at all!!! YAHOO!

so after we fed her and walked over and took pictures by her finding spot (literally, right outside the gates of the orphanage.) this person would have had to GO to the orphanage to abandon her there; it's not right in the center of town or anything. not terribly far, but kind of off on its own a little. it's some kind of banyan tree, and I took several leaves off of it to press and keep. When david tore the leaf off, it had a ladybug on it. I couldn't get my camera on fast enough before it flew away but it was something i'll remember forever, as much of the day was.

went back up to the orphanage as the truck came by with delivery of a/c units. while i went to the restroom i asked the nanny to hold jenna. she is very afraid of david, directors, maybe men? (uh oh jas!) so after i came out we were getting ready to leave and so i went to take her back, and she again came right to me without crying! all the orphanage people were like "aaahhh!" excited and I put up one hand as though victorious!! it was awesome. then right after that the one nanny called up to ask her other nanny to come out and say goodbye. apparently these 2 were her closest nannies there and she also held jenna for a moment but did great coming back to me again. i think we're getting there. us three are the only ones i've seen her be ok with, so even if she doesn't know i'm mama, she does know i'm safe.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

it's official!

Me, Ben and Jenna with nanny and director from her orphanage

with our guide in Nanning, David; he's terrific

the final signature followed by my thumbprint in red covering it

So, today we had our meetings with the officials in Jenna's province, Guangxi, and the signing of all the paperwork making it official that Jenna is OURS! That felt good.
I was a little nervous about today because it included meeting again with the nanny and director from her orphanage that brought her to me yesterday. I was afraid that seeing them again would be hard for her. However, it wasn't. She stayed on my lap the whole morning and did fine. If I'm being honest, I think it's because she has basically shut-down. I can see it from the blank stare on her face. She has shut down to protect herself from any more heartbreak. Like the most basic human response. While I know its very normal for the circumstances, it is very hard to see.
After the interviews I had and signing and such, we got to spend some time with the nanny and director and ask them any questions we wanted answered about Jenna's routine, personality, likes/dislikes.... basically all the things I have missed for the last 2 years and need to be brought up to speed on. I enjoyed that time very much. We all exchanged gifts and they gave Jenna a silver keepsake bracelet. It's very pretty and has some chinese characters on it for luck, health and happiness. Grateful to have that to give to her one day.
After our morning we just came back to our room for some lunch and naps. Ben and I watched a movie while Jenna napped and it was a nice restful time.
Both this morning and when Jenna awoke from her nap, she was a little sad. I picked her up out of her crib and put her next to me on the bed and she fell back asleep like that both times. As well as on my lap in the car today. I am thankful that she at least feels comfortable enough to be able to relax to fall asleep. Small victories. :)
After nap, we topped off the afternoon watching Ben swim in the hotel pool with another little boy whose family is here from Ohio, also adopting. After some more down time, our guide took both our families to a nice Cantonese restaurant where we actually enjoyed the food and Ben and I were successful with chopsticks for the first time ever! ;)

Thanks for continued prayers for Jenna's little heart to open and for her personality to start to show through.


Monday, June 21, 2010

jenna day

we've had Jenna for just over 4 hours now.
I haven't felt like I could get away from her for even a second!

Our first meeting was rough.
We arrived at the Civil Affairs office a little after 3. There was one big room that had several other families already united with their children. There was a lot of crying.
You could practically feel the tension in the air. From all parties involved.

All the other families were matched and many had left while we waited for them to bring Jenna in. David, our guide, went out to the hall and came in with her following closely behind. She was accompanied by one of the orphanage directors and a nanny. She was walking and holding one of their hands.

I know now that they have been telling her about us, because the moment that she saw me, I knelt down in front of her, and she threw her head back and started wailing. Not screaming mad, but crying, scared to death. I think she recognized me from the photos as the 'mama' that they have been telling her was coming. I put my arms out to her and said 'bao' (hold). She really wanted nothing to do with me but I picked her up anyways. Tried talking to her. Got the backpack of things I brought for her; smarties, suckers, toys. She wanted nothing to do with any of them. She wasn't reaching for the people she came with though. She was so tense and so scared. You can see from her face how nervous she was. Breaks my heart.

We left with her about 20 minutes later. She cried most of the time until we left. Would stop for a second with interest of bubbles or something else, but she would grow bored with it quickly and start crying again.
I think just getting out of that anxiety filled room helped even just a little. The drive back to the hotel she was fine and has only cried a little since then. But she is so sad. She has hardly moved. Just sort of limp to whatever I do with her. She came into the room and we sat down on the floor together and played. She didn't move until I moved her. Same thing when we returned from WalMart buying formula and such. I carried her the whole time there and she was fine with that. I did let her walk a bit and hold my hand and that was fine too. I sat her down when we came in and she didn't move until I picked her up to get ready for a bath. She also has hardly talked. Ben played with her quite a bit; we got a brief smile (though when she saw me looking, she quickly removed her smile), and she also said 'ge-ge' (guh-guh, big brother) which was incredible. David and I were sitting in another corner of the room doing paperwork and could hardly believe our ears.

She ate some congee pretty well for dinner but wouldn't take her last bottle of the night. She didn't cry or anything; was just about to fall asleep sitting there, so I just put her down for the night and she's asleep a short 5 minutes later.

I know I'm not doing this day justice by my recount. It sounds all business. Believe me it was not. It was the most anxious I think I've ever been. I was sure I would either vomit or pee my pants before we arrived. Neither happened, luckily.
When we first got to civil affairs I was very emotional and teary eyed entering "the room." But once I saw her it all felt so surreal. My heart is aching for her tonight. She is very cautious of me. I notice her looking at me alot when I'm not looking at her. I pray that she will trust me soon. No little girl of two years old should have to endure the heartbreak that she is feeling tonight. She said good bye to her closest nanny early this morning before leaving to come to Nanning with another nanny and director. I'm sure that set the stage for the day. They both seemed very kind. They were smiling a lot as I tried to calm her. When they left, she was still quite upset. But on our drive after they called my guide to see how she was doing, which made it obvious how much they care for her.

Anyways, I am heading to bed as it's been one terribly long day. Thank you all for your prayers. As rough as the day was, I felt God's presence right there with us. The compassion he gave me. I hope that Jenna is feeling his strength as well. I marveled at the fact that he brought us from east and west to unite as a family. Incredible day. But I am so glad to have it behind us. I can't wait to see her personality emerge!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

the lucky one

Exactly 5 months ago yesterday, we saw the face of a little girl that we felt God softly telling us was our daughter. We moved forward cautiously, prayerfully and hopefully. We reviewed all of her documents, medicals, and information, and sought counsel. The following day, we took a huge leap of faith and said Yes. Yes, we accept her referral. Yes, she is our daughter. Yes, we feel called to adopt an orphan and cannot deny it.

In the 5 months since then, we have seen our family transformed through this experience.

Our faith has grown. Strengthened. Deepened. We hunger for Christ. Our faith has been authenticated. We trust so much more blindly.

We have seen love in a very innocent way through our children: pure and whole. They love Jenna so much already; across the world and without ever having met her. To them, adoption has always been a 'no-brainer.' Every child deserves the love of a family. Simple as that. I think that is huge. It's sometimes hard for kids to grasp things that aren't tangible. But this has not been hard for them. They love her and cannot wait to meet their sister.

We have seen God provide in a very tangible way. Financially and otherwise. The way He has prepared the kids for my being away alone is remarkable. Even little Emily who is such a mama's girl has done so well. About breaks my heart every time we talk to hear her say "miss you mama," but bless her heart, she hasn't thrown a fit for mama yet.

Our prayer life has grown hugely. As well as our entire perspective. About what's really important. I pray that doesn't ever fade.

I have been told by many people during this time how lucky Jenna is. I know that people mean that as a compliment, and their sentiment is very kind. But what we have gained already from this experience is so valuable, I always think to myself when someone says that, 'I think we might be the lucky ones.' And we haven't even met Jenna yet!

The fact that God created Jenna perfect, precious and beautiful in His sight, and cares about and loves her more than I can even grasp (as He does all of us), yet has chosen us to be her family is so incredibly humbling. I know He's got great things in store for her life and we are the lucky ones to get to be a part of it all.


more beijing

Today was also pretty incredible.
I don't really feel I can do it justice with my recounting so I'd like to mostly let the pictures do the talking.
For my journaling purposes though, today we visited:

• Tian'anmen Square
• The Forbidden City
• The Temple of Heaven
• a silk factory- very interesting seeing the whole life cycle of a silkworm and then how they process the silk.
• the pearl market- again, very interesting. learned about freshwater pearls and how you can tell the difference between real and fake pearls and Ben got to fish an oyster out of a tank and they broke it open to show us all the pearls inside. I never knew that pink pearls can only be found in China!
• the Summer Palace- where we got to take a boat ride across the lake.

Ben's favorite part of the day was the Forbidden City. It was remarkable. So historical and hard to believe we were standing in it.....
My favorite part was probably the Summer Palace. Although I also enjoyed the grounds at the Temple of Heaven also. Neat to see how active the Chinese people are. The park was filled with people, mostly older retired people as our guide said, who go there daily just to enjoy activity. People all over the park were dancing, playing jiang si (hacky sack; no idea how to spell but that's what it sounded like!?), people playing cards, etc...
The Summer Palace was just beautiful. It's the place the Emporer and Empress went in the summer because it was so much cooler, being next to a lake (Kunming lake). Really beautiful. It has a very long corridor that's all outside; open sides and along the roof inside and all the posts have different paintings that tell a story about China. Every section was different. No replications. Incredible. Also something to notice when looking at the pictures is all these amazing buildings like at Forbidden City were build without any nails.
Well, that was more than I intended to write, but it was alot of information today! I would have enjoyed history classes so much more if I could have seen it firsthand like today!

In other news, we are doing very well. Feeling a little more settled in, if that's even possible while we're in a foreign land speaking none of the language. But we are. I feel God's hand on us. Protecting us, strengthening us, sustaining us. I have probably never felt it so clearly than I have these last 2 days.
Only 2 more sleeps for us until we get Jenna. Tomorrow we travel to her province. Please continue to pray for her transition. For her caretakers who are preparing to say goodbye. For her to be drawn to me somehow and to be open to accept the love that I can't wait to pour onto her. I can't wait to meet her!


Friday, June 18, 2010

great wall and more!

Ben wanted to be sure we got this on here for you, Jocoa!

the whole family on the Great Wall of China!

Today was amazing.
For starters, we slept all night! Still woke early, about 5, but that was fine as we went to sleep about 8:30. We both woke up and said, "that was awesome!" because we had slept all night and we talked about that right before going to sleep!
It certainly helped our day.....we had a long one and made it all the way through with no nap! :)
We went to the Great Wall first off.
The section that our guide took us to is further away, though still in Beijing, but he said it's nice because it's less busy since its further away. It was another neat drive out; through lots of rural area and up into the mountains. Reminded us of the green mountains in NC. Beautiful.
We took a cable car both up and down the mountain and for that we were glad. It was very steep just walking up to the cable car area!
We walked and climbed for a good hour; it was surreal. We just couldn't believe it. Amazing. Beautiful. So much history. Really fascinating. Couldn't believe how many stairs there were, and how steep and uneven. We commented several times about the soldiers running along there and how dangerous that would have been. The towers were especially remarkable with the lookouts and such. I really can't do it justice by explaining, and even the pictures pale in comparison; though we did get some good ones!
After the wall we went to a local restaurant there in the Mutianyu village. We ate mostly rice, but it was fine. We were mostly thirsty and happy to sit for awhile. Also enjoyed a Coke!
From there it was on to Olympic Park to see the Bird's Nest and Water Cube and all the rest. Such a nice area. Interesting to hear about all the changes made to bring the Olympics to Beijing, and what its meant for the city since then. Things like how the city was so dirty before but they cleaned up and now the gov't pays to keep it clean. People here really like that. Also that the prices of cars were VERY expensive before the Olympics b/c they were discouraging people from having personal cars due to more traffic and even more coming for the games. Now prices are much lower.
Anyways, then we went to a Tea Ceremony where we got to taste and learn about several different kinds of tea. I really enjoyed this, except I had my first run-in with squatty potties at the tea house :(
Then we went to our Hutong tour. We rode in a rickshaw to see a Hutong neighborhood. Which is basically the older preserved Beijing. Most people now live in apartments, because too many people, so they've had to eliminate most of the Hutongs to build apartment buildings. This particular one is being preserved by the city b/c tourists enjoy it.... It was fun.
After that we went to the Beijing acrobatic show, which was amazing and incredible, but I was very tired by then.
Back to hotel brings us here!
Enjoy the photos.
Another big day touring the city tomorrow.
Thanks for your prayers.