Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tired But Doing Well

Jet lag is still hanging on here but other than that things are well. I can't wait to feel fully awake again. The boys are settling in and we are working on creating a routine of some sort. The weather has been nice and Jacob especially likes to play outside. His new Big Wheel and the Tonka trucks keep him busy and happy. He also really likes our Thomas trains and train table. This boy is all about things that go. He can be active at times but also very calm and focused in his play. He is much less active than Isaiah was at that age, thank you God!

Levi has enjoyed playing with legos and learning English. We have some picture flashcards and he has been working hard at learning the names of things in English. He is very bright. Yesterday we went through around 16 flashcards and he had them all learned in about 10-15 minutes. The easier ones he got on the second try. I wish I could learn Mandarin so quickly! Jacob likes to copy Levi so that will be a big help as he learns English.

Levi is an eager learner and was showing me how he can write his numbers and do addition and subtraction. He was also working on the alphabet and letter sounds with me. It is a shame he never had the chance to go to school in China but I have a feeling he is going to quickly make up for lost time here.

On Sunday, I took Isaiah and Levi to church and Levi loved the music there. He gave it a thumbs up. The music at our church is very good with a full band of instruments. After church we dropped by the grocery store to get some things. It was such a relief to be back in America and have public places be handicap accessible. It is not something I have ever paid much attention to until now but I can tell you it is a huge blessing. Knowing there are so many places that Levi can easily get around makes life so much easier. Levi does great walking with his walker and is actually very fast when he is using it. We didn't know this when we were in China because there were very few places we could actually use the walker.

We are also thanking God for providing our big open house. I felt like God led us to this house and now I know why. Having lots of room to maneuver the walker in our downstairs allows Levi to be mostly independent and we have made our large downstairs bathroom handicap accessible so he can be independent there as well. Adopting two boys with special needs at one time is certainly not easy but God is providing. It seems doable for me on Day 3 of being home and I am thankful that I am not completely overwhelmed. It really helps that our homeschooling is done for the year so we have time to get adjusted without a lot that has to get done right now.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prayers Answered!!!!!!!

Thank you so much to all the friends, family, and blog friends who prayed for us during the adoption trip. I know so many of you were praying for our family, including my Great Aunt Therese, Sister Vince, and other nuns from MN. The trip was not easy but it was obvious that we were covered in prayer the entire time. All of my prayer requests that I posted on my blog were completely answered. I have copied our prayer requests below and I just have to comment on a few. We definitely had a safe trip and our transition to a family of four has been relatively smooth. Levi and Jacob were not afraid of us and we could see that the boys having each other really made things easier for both of them. No one got sick in China or on the plane ride home. Praise God!!!!! Susu did great on the trip and had only a few very normal Susu moments. She was happy to be back in China with our family and appeared secure for the most part. The biggest miracle to me was that my back, which had been hurting for weeks prior to the trip, stopped hurting on the plane ride over to China. Now really, how in the world did a 30 hour day of traveling and 18 hours of flying in a sitting position heal my back pain. Back pain that was aggravated by sitting. Only God knows that is for sure. Not having back pain in China or on the ride home made things much easier! We are thanking God for getting us through this crazy adventure and home safely. It was pretty nuts traveling with four kids (two mobility impaired) through almost the entire length of China. God gave us the vision to embark on this mission and He saw us through the entire time. We could not have done it without Him!!!!!!! We give much praise and glory to Him!!!!!

Here were our prayer requests from over two weeks ago.

Please pray for:

1. Safe travels our entire trip.
2. That God would mentally prepare all of us for the transition.
3. That Levi and Jacob would not be too afraid and would sense how loved they are by our family.
4. That we would all stay healthy the entire trip and after we get home as well. Last time we went to China, Aaron and I got terribly sick on the flight home. It was awful.
5. That Susu would feel safe and secure with us since this trip may bring up some memories for her.
6. That my back would feel better. It has been bothering me for the last two weeks.

We greatly appreciate all the people who have been praying for us during this adoption!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Finally Home, A Day Late and 50 Million Brain Cells Short

The trip home went well enough considering it lasted forever!!!! In Beijing our flight was delayed by two hours as we sat in the plane waiting for a problem with the engine to be fixed and then paperwork to be done. As is typical, the paperwork seemed to take longer to get done then the actual fixing of the engine. The pilot kept coming on the intercom to say that all was fine with the engine and not too worry, we would be on our way soon. I don't know about you, but when the pilot keeps reassuring the passengers that the engine is fine it is rather disconcerting.

So we arrived in Chicago two hours late with not enough time to pass through immigration and what ever the others lines were we needed to pass through. When we finally gathered up all our luggage, the four kids, the walker, and the wheelchair and made it to the United counter, our flight to Portland had left and that was the last flight of the evening. The airline put us up in a nice hotel but gave us the news that there was no available seats to Portland for seven people until 7 p.m. the next evening. We decided to try flying standby in groups this morning. At 8:45 a.m., I was able to fly to Portland with Isaiah and Jacob. Aaron, James, Susu, and Levi were unable to get another flight until 4 p.m. They just got home about an hour or so ago, had some leftover pizza, and went to bed. I could not keep my eyes open after 7:30 p.m. so I got a short nap in before they got home which is why I am updating the blog before I go back to bed. Poor Aaron was deliriously tired when he finally got home a little over an hour ago.

The kids all handled the long flight really well. We are soooooo happy to all be home or will be when we are awake enough to realize where we are. If no one hears from us tomorrow, it will only be because we are in some kind of jet lag coma.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sweet Boys!

This morning when Jacob woke up the first thing he did was climb up in my lap for a hug and kiss.  Ching ching means kiss in Mandarin and I get lots of ching chings from both my boys.  There is nothing better than boys who show love to their Mama.

White Swan Red Couch Photos

It is an adoption tradition for every travel group to take a group photo of the children on the red couches at the White Swan hotel.  We may only be a travel group of one family but we sure do fill up a couch pretty well.  We fly out from Guangzhou tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. heading for Beijing and arriving around 12:00.  Then we have a four hour overlay before we have the really long flight to Chicago, almost 13 hours.  Then it is a 3 hour overlay as we get through immigration in Chicago and finally fly home to Maine.  We should arrive around 10:30 on Friday evening.  There are a bunch of adoptive families on the flight to Chicago that we have met here so that will be nice.

Levi is especially excited about flying to America and having Po Po and Gong Gong pick us up at the airport.  Po Po is the nickname for maternal grandmather and Gong Gong is for maternal grandfather.  We have been using our Mandarin a lot with the boys.  Aaron had more opportunity to learn Mandarin since he had a quiet half hour each way to and from work to listen to the Pimsleur Mandarin CD's.  Aaron told Levi that I speak Chinglish (Chinese and English mixed together) and Levi thought that was hilarious. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Levi's Drawings

We bought Levi a drawing book at a book store here and he can draw really well with instructions or without.  Here are some drawings from his imagination.  You will notice the one drawing is of Aaron and all the kids.  We love the Chinese clothing!

More Statue Photos in Guangzhou

Fun at the Playground

Herb Market

Coming Home Friday

Today we had our consulate appointment and all went well.  We will be heading home on Friday and we are ready!  Guangzhou is lovely and the weather has been good but we are tired of living in two hotel rooms for two weeks straight.  The kids are all doing very well.  It is the adults who really want to go home.  I will post some pictures of our activities in Guangzhou.  Please keep us in your prayers as we travel home!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Isaiah and the Statues III

Isaiah and the Statues II

Isaiah and the Statues I

Isaiah sure has grown since we last visited China three and a half years ago!

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf

Both Jacob and Levi love this cartoon called Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.  I have been told it is the most popular cartoon in China.  Isaiah and Susu now also love it even though they don't understand what is being said.  I found some Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf plastic figures and they have been a hit!  Now I am on the lookout for a good deal on the DVD's.  Even Aaron likes Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.  I think the name is very funny!

First Plane Ride

Saturday, May 21, 2011


We made it safely to Guangzhou two days ago.  The plane ride went well.  Levi was a little afraid but got over it quickly.  He asked the guide before we flew whether planes could fall out of the sky.  She told him no.  Jacob was not scared at all and was thrilled with how fast the plane went taking off.  He loves toy vehicles of any kind so I figured he would like the plane which he did.

We lost a bag of jackets and 1/2 of our gluten free snacks along with my back pillow on the shuttle bus between the plane and the Guangzhou airport.  That was a bummer and the airline people couldn't find it.  At least it was nothing valuable.  Aaron and James were busy getting Levi off the bus and into his wheelchair so I had the other three kids and in the chaos the bag was forgotten.

Yesterday the boys had their Visa medical appointment.  Jacob did fabulous and Levi did as well until it came time for him to get four shots and a TB test injection.  Our oldest son can be rather dramatic just like his sister.  Isaiah, James, and I went shopping in the afternoon while Aaron stayed in the hotel with the two other boys and Susu for rest time.  Today is a free day for us and we are getting rested up these next few days before the crazy long trip home on Friday.  We have a couple more appointments and a shopping trip planned to replace some of the stuff we lost.

The kids are getting along well considering the very close quarters we are living in right now.  Susu and Jacob are definitely going to be the two most likely to bicker but right now things are good.  Susu really loves being a big sister.  She has always been pretty annoyed to be the little sister so it is fun to see her take on this responsibility with pride.  She likes to help both her brothers when ever she can.  So far Jacob does not seem to mind being the baby of the family.  He has a mind of his own but is very affectionate with all his siblings giving them hugs frequently.  Isaiah has not really lost his place as the oldest because Levi may be 13 years old chronologically but emotionally he acts just a bit younger than Isaiah.  Too be honest, there is a very good chance that Levi is not 13 since he was not a baby when he came to the orphanage and they had to guess at his age. It is very typical for kids who have lived in orphanages to be emotionally less mature than other children.  Levi is very easy going in his nature with other children and both Susu and Isaiah really like him.  I am sure we will have more issues down the road with siblings getting used to each other and their places in the family but is nice to have things relatively calm for now.  We can see God's hand in choosing our children even though it did not initially seem like the best idea to add a 4 year old and 13 year old to our family at the same time.

I can now see comments on our blog and I will be saving the whole blog for our boys, along with any comments, so they have a written record of their adoption.  I will post some more pictures later today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Orphanage and Foster Family Visit

Yesterday we traveled back to Kaifeng for a visit to the orphanage where Levi lived for a couple years before he entered Love Without Boundaries foster care.  We were so happy that the boys foster mother and Jacob's foster grandma were able to meet us there.  We got to ask them questions about the boys and thank them for caring for our boys.  It is obvious that Jacob and Levi were well taken care of.  Both boys are healthy and a very good weight.  The boys were happy to see the foster mom and grandma and spent some time with them while we took a tour of the orphanage.  We got to see a baby room, a therapy room, and the school room.  When we got ready to go, the boys were very happy to come with us. 

Before visiting the orphanage, the guide told us both of our boys said they were afraid we might leave them there.  We assured them they were just visiting to say goodbye and we would never leave them.  I know it is going to take months and years before they really trust that is true after all the changes they have been through.  Every day the boys seem happier and more relaxed with us and that is so good to see.  The transformation in Jacob has been especially noticeable.  He seems most attached to me but also really likes his Daddy too.  He runs to give us hugs all the time now.  We feel incredibly blessed to have our two boys and we are thankful with how smoothly they are transitioning.

Isaiah and Susu really like their brothers too and they have coped well with the traveling and varied sleep.  It is certainly a challenge traveling with four children, two with moderate mobility issues but I wouldn't change experiencing this as a family for anything.  I believe both the good and hard times shared together are what bond a family together.  We leave in less than an hour to head to the airport so we can fly to Guangzhou.  Next post from Guangzhou.

Photos of the Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple

Here was how Aaron was feeling at the temples when people were being rude to our boys and here is a picture of how beautiful it was.  I think the kids faces show you just how oppressively hot it felt and we took the picture in the shade.

Shaolin Temples

I have fallen a day behind on my blog posts because we got in so late yesterday evening from our visit to the Shaolin Temples which is known as the birth place of martial arts. It was an absolutely exhausting day filled with some amazing and heartbreaking moments. We started implementing some limits on that sweet baby boy of ours. He wasn't too pleased but you know what it was worth it because he is learning so quickly. Today his behavior was greatly improved and we only had one minor temper tantrum moment. He let Mama help him with his messy yogurt drink instead of throwing a fit or pouring it all over himself. He used some good manners by saying Ching Mama or Please Mama when he wanted something instead of whining or grabbing at it. He has also started to learn to come when we call him over at least half the time versus none of the time. We are so proud of him!

So more about the Shaolin Temples. The whole area around the temples is absolutely beautiful. We got to see the most amazing martial arts performance and my brother James was even called up on stage to give the very strong and focused martial arts master the best two punches in the stomach that he could and then hold onto a battering log with about 8 guys to see if they could knock this guy over. That man had some strong stomach muscles. The kids loved the show and it was definitely the high light of the day. After wards we went to have dinner at a local vegetarian Budhist restaurant up in the mountains. The food was delicious and the views were amazing. So that was the good stuff.

Now the very hard stuff. First of all it was boiling hot at the Shaolin Temples and there were stairs to climb everywhere. Aaron and James hauled Levi in his wheelchair up many flights of stairs and then the heat just got to be too much. I stayed with Levi while everyone else went to the top. Everyone was staring at us and we are used to that but it was the people who would come around to stand a foot or two in front of the wheelchair just to stare at my boys legs and feet that really got on my nerves. I ended up turning their wheelchair around to face me whenever we sat down so people could only stare sideways at them. When we finally got back down to the bottom of all those stairs, we had to wait for a trolley bus to take us to the building where the martial arts show was. Since there was nothing else to do but wait we became the sight to see or more our boys became the sight to see. The funny thing is that the rudest people were a group of German tourists. Now I am about 1/3 German myself so I certainly don't have anything against Germans but these particular ones were incredibly rude just standing in front of the wheelchairs and staring at my boys feet. Aaron was hot and exhausted and when anyone got in front of the boys to stare, Aaron would step in between and stare them right in the eyes with a very angry look on his face. Well people moved away pretty quickly when that happened. I had to calm Aaron down or he was going to be practicing some martial arts on some tourists in the park.

We were actually allowed in to see the martial arts show twice. Once with a group of Chinese officials who allowed us to see a private show with them and then the regular show as well. There were a couple people who helped us with the wheelchair so not everyone was rude. The last straw for me though was when we were getting up to leave the show and people were rushing in to get good seats. We were helping Levi and Jacob get settled in their wheelchair and we were literally pushed out of the way so people could get the seats we had just gotten up from. I could not believe that!

The very hardest part of this trip is not the lengths we must go to to get Levi around because almost nothing is handicap accessible except our hotel. What breaks my heart is the thought of what his life would have been like if we hadn't adopted him and what other children who have special needs that make walking difficult will face if no one adopts them. Sometimes God wants your heart to break so that you can be a witness who truly knows what is happening and can spur people to do something to change the situation or at least make a difference to one other child who would be facing these insurmountable obstacles. Levi has a wonderful future ahead of him but my heart hurts for all those children who do not.

Levi is really the sweetest boy who is so incredibly happy to have a family. He radiates love for us. Yesterday he sang us a beautiful song on the bus and he told our guide a very imaginative story that he made up on the spot to entertain us all. Our guide and driver are amazed at his vocabulary and ability to convey his thoughts. They asked him who taught him that and he said no one, he learned it by watching T.V. Levi is a wise old soul in many ways but emotionally he is more like a 8 or 9 year old versus a 13 year old. He has led a very sheltered life and has gone very few places. He has been thrilled to go all the places we have gone and we are blessed to be able to open up the world for him and watch his sense of wonder and joy! People think he is very lucky to have us but I think we are the lucky ones and God has given us a very special gift in Levi. Not an easy gift but a priceless one!

It is time for bed so I will try to catch up on my blog posts tomorrow before we fly to Guangzhou. Today we went to visit the orphanage and got to meet Jacob and Levi's foster aunt and grandma. It was a really good day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Best, the Worst, and the Most Funny!

Wow, today was a long and crazy day. I am too tired to share all the craziness but I will share the best, worst, and most funny. More pictures and details coming tomorrow when I have the energy to download them from James' camera.

The Best:
1. Today was Jacob and Levi's official adoption day. They are our boys now forever and ever! That is definitely something to celebrate.
2. We explored a beautiful park and let the kids go on some fair type ride together which they all loved. I went on it too and it was sweet to see how excited our boys were to be on this ride. Afterward we had icecream in the park as well and that also made them very happy!
3. Jacob has become a Mama's boy already. He can still be very naughty with his Mama but is more likely to calm down if I hold him. When he sits on my lap in the van or I carry him, he will often put his cheek right next to mine. Those cheeks have gotten a lot of kisses which he seems to like.

The Worst:
We had to have some of our adoption paperwork notarized. They needed pictures of our family and the notaries office was five stories up an unairconditioned stairwell that was in the middle of being completely renovated. There was drywall dust everywhere, wheelbarrow full size piles of dirt on at least one landing, and they were spackling the walls too. Poor Aaron and James had to carry Levi up 5 flights of dirty slippery stairs in his wheelchair to get to the office. Wheel chair accessibility is a novel idea in China. Levi can walk upstairs on his own power with a little help to steady him. The problem is that it would have taken a very very long time for him to climb those five flights of stairs on his own. Did I mention that Uncle James has been worth his weight (or his ability to lift weight) in gold on this trip. We could not be managing all this without him because I certainly could not have helped Aaron carry my son up five flights of stairs. It was a big enough challenge carrying 35 lb. Jacob so he wouldn't get covered in drywall dust. This is called the China Adoption workout. Guess who stuck his hand in Spackle on the way down the stairs and tried to wipe it on Mama's clean outfit but this Mama was smart and caught his hand in time to grab a wet wipe.

The Most Funny:
So after the stair escapades, we finally got back to the van in one piece covered in a fair amount of drywall dust, a little spackle, and a lot of sweat. Just as we are about to get in the van, Jacob starts insisting that he must use the bathroom now. The guide is telling me to let him go because he is getting upset. We are right next to a road with lots of traffic going by so I am not about to let go of my mischievous little son. There are bikes lining the sidewalk so it is hard to get to the van from the sidewalk and lots of people walking around and some guy trying to install a newer air conditioner about 20 feet up in the air on this building while being hooked to this rusty window grate with a rope wrapped around his waste. What the guide was really trying to tell me is that Jacob was planning to use the bathroom right there at the base of a tree on the sidewalk and she was all for this plan because that is what people do in China when their kids need to use the potty when they are out and about. I do not let go of Jacob but I do let him lead me to the tree where I help him pull down his pants and then very awkwardly held him up at some strange angle so he would not pee all over his clothes. That was a partial success! I didn't even look around to see who is staring at this American mother holding her Chinese son at some odd angle so he can pee on a tree in public. Everyone stares at us all the time anyway so I know anyone who is close by is staring and the least odd thing is that I am a mother helping her son pee in public. I can see the wisdom in the split pants so common for youngsters in China. I am sorry to say that no pictures were taken of the whole comical routine.

Other Best, Worst, and Funny (you guess which category each falls under):
We started out taking a walk to find a nice but cheaper restaurant to eat at and I swear we must have walked a three mile circle or more around the local area and the neighboring park. By the end we were hot, sweaty, exhausted, and back at the same fancy restaurant we ate at last night which is part of our hotel. After I got back to the room I noticed I had a halo of frizz around my hair which was up in a ponytail. I looked a sight and then I took Aaron and James to task for not mentioning that I might want to comb my hair before entering the nice restaurant. James lied and said me hair looked fine when we went in and it must have happened between the restaurant and our hotel. My husband told me he was too tired to notice.

Levi is already using quite a few English words and phrases. He must have been taught some. Aaron also did a fabulous job of learning some basic Mandarin so he understands 1/3 to 1/2 of the main idea Levi is trying to get across. My husband is a Mandarin speaking rock star to me! I am quickly learning the other most important phrases besides the ones I already knew.

James and I spent a 1/2 hour bonding over doing laundry by hand in the tub. We found out the laundry service would be charging $1.50 for a pair of underwear and decided to save ourselves a bunch of money. Nothing like wringing out and hanging up socks and undies with your brother to bond you together forever (ha ha). James put together the best four row shower clothes line with that nifty lobster trap twine.

Tomorrow we are off to see the Shaolin Temple and a martial arts demonstration at the birth place of martial arts, specifically kung fu. All our children are excited about this and I am hoping tomorrow is not quite so crazy as today was. The less stairs we see the better! Mom, Dad, and Uncle James need to gain back just a smidgen of the mental sanity we lost today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No More See Through Showers or Shoemaking!

After lunch we played with toys, drew pictures, watched a movie, and the boys wrestled as boys love to do.  Nothing like male bonding which fortunately I am very used to after growing up with four brothers.  Speaking of brothers, we are incredibly thankful that Uncle James came on this trip to help us.  It would be nuts without him and he is the official camera man.  I need to take some more pictures with him in them when I am not wrangling children.

We decided to look for a restaurant for dinner and let someone else clean up our mess.  We ended up at the one closest to our hotel since we are a wee bit tired which ended up being very fancy but with quite reasonable prices.  The food was amazing and it only cost $50 to feed our whole family.  We had our own private dining room with a large screen T.V. which had cartoons we could turn on while we were waiting on the food.  Perfect!  We will adventure farther afoot tomorrow when we are less tired.  I think we need to spread our messy somewhat wild family around town a bit so one restaurant does not get all the clean up work.

All the kids are now asleep after a very busy day.  We did get a new hotel with solid bathroom walls instead of see through and we are very happy here.  Jacob has been testing Mama and Baba to see if there are rules as any good strong willed boy will do.  He had a ten minute melt down but let me hold him through it without too much of a struggle and then I fed him sugary honey chex afterwards to get back in his good graces.

Jacob fits into the rubber bottom Skidder slipper socks I discovered about a month ago.  They look a lot like shoes which he has never been able to wear before and he really seemed to like them.  Thanks Nancy for getting them for us!!!!  Now I won't have to be enlisting little elves to help me with shoe making.  Thank you Jesus and Skidders!!!!!

Levi called me Mommy right when he first met me and seems to really enjoy saying it whenever he can.  During dinner he kept saying thank you Mommy when ever I game him more of something he really liked.  I gave him a kiss on the cheek at one point during the day and he gave me a kiss right back. 

Well I better head to bed because we have to go back to the Civil Affairs office tomorrow morning to finish up some paperwork.  I am one happy Mama and Aaron, Uncle James, and I made a good team today.  The men were a little more overwhelmed with all the crazy transition of the day but they held up well as did Isaiah and Susu.


The Perfect Noodle Storm

Everyone was ready to eat lunch after we got back to the room so I decided we would make up instant noodles for lunch.  That worked fine if you don't mind a perfect noodle storm.  Fortunately noodles do not stain carpets or clothing so it was not a terrible choice.  Teaching the boys to eat a little more neatly might just be on my to do list once we get home.  I did not get a picture of the noodle storm because I was busy preventing it from becoming a noodle tornado.

Getting to Know the Boys

Family Photo

After we met the boys at the Civil Affairs office, took lots of pictures, and signed about a hundred forms that were all in Chinese (who knows what I signed away or agreed to), we came back to the hotel to hang out and get to know the boys better.  This adoption trip there was no screaming or crying as we left the building which was a nice change.  It obviously helps Jacob so much to have Levi there and the boys seem very close.  These photos were taken about five minutes after meeting the boys.

Meeting Our Boys

Well today was quite a day and it went as well as it possibly could.  Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us.  The boys did great today and are both incredibly cute and sweet.  O.k. Jacob can be a bit naughty and we hear he was spoiled by his foster grandma which I totally believe but this Mama has already fallen in love with my huggable naughty baby boy! 

Levi is just so obviously overjoyed to have a family.  When he met me the first thing he said was Mommy you are beautiful!  Now he may have been coached but how could that not melt a mother's heart.

Since I can only post two pictures at a time I will write this in short blog post installments.