Farewell China, Hello Home

Gravy, isn't she adorable!
Gravy, isn’t she adorable!

For those of you who wondered if we fell off the face of the earth…no, not really, but when we got back home we had no internet and no phone line.  So, that is kind of like falling off the face of the earth.  Add to that we had the “re-entry” phase of our adoption and well, I decided our sleep was more important than an updated blog.  BUT at the moment all four kiddos are asleep and I want to give you a stateside update before signing off.

Ada happily clinging to her red pinwheel in the park
Ada happily clinging to her red pinwheel in Yuexi park

Our last day in China was spent with the Nowlins and other friends from our travel group.  It was hard to say goodbye to new friends but knowing they are all back home gives me great joy and hope!

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The journey from Guangzhou to Houston was about 28 hours.  It was long, but we managed to have an extra seat on our row for the long flight back and some of the most overly attentive flight attendants ever.  Seriously, if you ever fly on Korean Air please watch them tend to a fussy baby…I wish I had filmed their enthusiastic dance to get our little lady to stop fussing.

The one moment I got teary-eyed was going through the border crossing from China into Hong Kong. In part it was tears of sadness not knowing when we’d be bringing her back to her birth country but in part it was tears of joy in the finality of leaving her country and going home.

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And we did finally get home!

Family!
Family!

When I called it “re-entry” I guess I mean a trial by fire sort of experience.  ‘Transition’ is just too smooth a word to describe the experience of having four kids 5 yrs and under, two of them new toddler twins!

New to being twins
New to being twins

Though, you could probably guess that Ezra was the first to get a smile and a laugh, James was the first to kiss her and tell her ‘I wuv you, Ada’.  And Aaron was the first to give her a goose egg on her forehead.  Conversely, Aaron was the first brother to receive Ada’s fingernails to his cheek.  BUT amidst the rivalry and noise and newness of it all, there are glimpses of a beautiful beginning for our family of six.  Sometimes the peace and laughter is just a matter of seconds, but soon it’ll be minutes….maybe even an hour or so (eventually)!

Waiting for the doctor
Waiting for the doctor

In these first days home, our sweet Ada has had five doctor appointments and one blood draw.  Ugh!  Each of the kids managed to have an ear infection….they’re sharing more than love, folks.

Exhausted after her blood work
Exhausted after her blood work

But Ada has managed to grow and adjust beautifully!  She signs “more,” “all done,” and waves goodbye.  She even say “Mama” with more consistency.  She has taken her first steps with a grin on her face and she’s eager to keep up with her brothers and even seems to want to be a part of their usual shenanigans.

Double trouble with Aaron...I need child locks everywhere!
Double trouble with Aaron…I need child locks everywhere!
Ezra prepping to tickle Ada. He gets lots of giggles from our girl.
Ezra prepping to tickle Ada. He gets lots of giggles from our girl.

There are certainly a few things we are working on.  Ada has a terrible fear of being up close and personal with anything outside.  In our arms, she’s generally all right, but a leaf brushing her arm, a flower near her nose or heaven forbid her feet touch grass and she looses it with tears and clenched fists.  Fear.  The fear is more palpable at bed time when her screams and tears with eyes closed persist until we hold her, rock her or place her between us where she can hold a hand or keep her toes pressed against our sides.

The face when I set her down and she doesn't really want to be out of my arms. It's so sad!
The face when I set her down and she doesn’t really want to be out of my arms. It’s so sad!

We can tell she has some experience at self defense, and we are trying to steer her away from those tactics.  Honest confession, the first time she bit one of her brothers, both Mark and I had to squelch initial feelings of defense for the injured son.  The truth hits hard, she’s our child too and love is perhaps more in the training than in the moment.  It grows.  Oh, how it makes me reflect on the Savior’s love for us, his love afforded to me though I sought His injury.  On a tree bearing my sin…his love extends to me. The Father did not act on behalf of his son on the cross because of his love for the ones who put him there.  Mercy! And mercy.

Such a far cry from her first bath weeks ago!
Such a far cry from her first bath weeks ago!

Well, we are on to more adventures, together, as a family.  Ada has her first surgery scheduled in less than a month and many more to follow.  I pray we are sanctified through it all and blessed in the changing of our hearts and souls to softer clay in the Father’s hands. Blessings to you and yours and thanks for following along!  Please do contact us if you ever have questions about adoption; the process, special needs, the children still waiting for their families…we’d love to share more with you and be of help in anyway we can.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matt 25:40

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One more day!

Yesterday was momentous!  And I had no camera (well, camera battery).  End of story, boo hoo hoo.

All right, it wasn’t really that sad.  Our day started early, especially for our late-to-rise little one.  We had our U.S. Consulate appointment to get Ada’s visa and all the paperwork we need to have her sworn in as a citizen once we hit U.S. soil on Thursday! Yay! Thursday!  We had a swift appointment and Ada got an early nap so we headed out for an antique market in a different district of town.  We found some lovely and really pricey antiquities, but we also found some tasty dim sum at a restaurant on a lake.  I commented to Mark that we must stumbled upon the senior citizen discount hour because the dining room was full of elderly folk nibbling baozi and shrimp shu mai.  Many of the onlookers were trying to get our daughter to smile.  No luck! She just wanted to be fed more red bean buns!

Back to the hotel for a failed attempt at a second nap.  Then out again with two other families in our group and our guide Helen.  We booked a riverboat cruise and dined as we trekked down the river looking at the sights of night in Guangzhou…with camera AND battery this time.

Me and Jennifer fighting off the wind on the boat
Jennifer and I fighting off the wind
Ada eager to get down and move around on deck, but then not too sure about that decision!
Ada eager to get down and move around on deck, but then not too sure about all that rockin’ around!
Our guide, Helen. Can you tell she's a strong woman?
Our guide, Helen. Can you tell she’s a strong woman?
Sweet baby out like a light on her Daddy...certainly her favorite place to sleep
Sweet baby out like a light on her Daddy…certainly her favorite place to sleep

There was also some entertainment on the boat that included an older woman with balloon ears on her head, who juggled a bit to Ricky Martin.  Pictures cannot depict the odd hilarity of the show!  Just know, it happened!

Today was a free day for us as the older kiddo’s had their consulate appointments this morning.  We Facetimed friends and family this morning (love technology for this reason when traveling) then spent the morning back at Sha Mien Island.  It’s a popular place to stroll but still feels unhurried.  There was a particular store I wanted to do some shopping at where they support Chinese orphans and empoverished women (A Gift From China).  We also stopped at Starbucks, and gosh darn it they were out of Lemon Ginger Fizio with Mango Jelly, so I had coffee.

Sha Mien charm
Sha Mien charm
Ada snuggles under the shaded walk on the center of the island
Ada snuggles under the shaded walk on the center of the island
This dude is riding on a gas powered wheel, like a Segway without the handle?
This dude is riding on a gas powered wheel, like a Segway without the handle?

Next we bopped across the bridge to the Qingping spice market.  Helen warned us that we were being very adventurous and would have no idea how to use the ingredients…she’s probably right about the “having no idea” part.  What would you do with sliced caribo horn or dried grubs?  It was still a fun adventure….and we picked up gifts for the whole family back home 😉

I think this is caribo horn, and feet!
Some sort of horn, and feet!
Sifting through the dried sea horses
Sifting through the dried sea horses
Roots, insects, herbs and varying sundries
Roots, insects, herbs and varying sundries
Preserved ginseng with goji berries
Preserved ginseng with goji berries
Dried baby roses which we've had in tea a few times
Dried baby roses which we’ve had in tea a few times

Tonight we are having dinner with all the families here represented by our agency, AWAA.  Tomorrow is our last day in Guangzhou, our last day in China!  We are so eager to be with our whole family…but I’m not excited about our nearly 27 hours of total travel.  Please pray that it goes by quickly and smoothly, and that our reunion with our boys is sweet.  Our transition home will be a new stage to this adventure and an exciting part of our becoming family.

A few pics from this evening….cuz there’s not enough baby cuteness on this blog post.

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Ada double-take

So I finished writing yesterday’s post during nap time and didn’t post it until this morning because just following her nap, our dear Ada awoke in a screaming fit that lasted for…well…I don’t know how long.  In all the screaming and hyperventilating we moved from the bed to a chair to snacks to finally a nearly 2 hour walk around a nearby park.   Even after the crying and tears ended, she was having a rough time catching her breath and fully calming down.  Thankfully the beautiful Li Hua park had plenty of distractions for the three of us.

Our rather unhappy, but at least not screaming sweetheart
Our rather unhappy, but at least not screaming sweetheart
Trying to interest he in the water and the huge Banyan trees
Trying to interest her in the water and the huge Banyan trees
Between the loving couples, the fishermen, badmitten games, ping pong and general exercising going on, there was a lot to see!
Between the strolling lovers, badmitten games, ping pong and general exercising, there was a lot to see!  this man did these bars 4 times in a row before hopping down! 
Ada starting to look at our faces more intently
Ada starting to look at our faces more intently
Back to giggling at Daddy's tickley kisses
Back to giggling at Daddy’s tickley kisses

The walkways had a sound system playing soothing music throughout the park.  God truly led us the right direction as we exited the hotel in search of a way to help our daughter feel at peace in that moment of sadness.  Maybe it was sadness? Grief of the loss of what she knew? A fear of the unfamiliar?  Frustration that we didn’t know she wanted more lemon wafer cookies?  We don’t know.  We just walked and prayed through.

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She had a rough time going to sleep at night too, but we worked it out and she slept in this morning.  Good thing too because today was a busy day!  After breakfast we loaded our group onto a bus for the Chen Clan Academy, a family temple now turned into an arts and crafts museum.  Some of the art was being demonstrated by local craftsman within the building.  Ada was asleep on her Daddy’s chest as he bounced her around from room to room, Mark was happy to pass through the many courtyards filled with bonsai trees.

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Sleeping Ada at the Chen Clan Academy
Ivory carving on display in museum
Ivory carving on display in museum

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Next we we did a little shopping for crafts and lunch and went back to the hotel for a brief rest before group photos and an afternoon outing to Shamian Island.  Our tour guide told us that if we see a restaurant full of Chinese people then we know it is good food, BUT if we see a restaurant full of Americans, it is not good food. Ha! Probably true.  She also thinks we all live on McDonald’s and Coca Cola.

Our travel group of 5 families from our agency
Our travel group of 5 families from our agency
Ada wasn't too sure about these little bronze kiddos...no worries...me neither!
Ada wasn’t too sure about these little bronze kiddos…no worries…me neither!

The island’s history is centered around expatriates who lived and traded in the area.  It has a very colonial feel with a large central park and many shops geared towards tourists.

The church on Shamian Island
The church on Shamian Island

Thankfully our sweet tuckered out girl went to bed pretty easily tonight.  I lay next to her and try to keep my eyes closed hoping she gets the idea and stops patting my face (or grabbing my hair!).  She has already learned, though, that if she starts to call out, “Mamamama” that more than likely I’ll open my eyes or at least show a little smirk.  Clever girl!

Eventful Guangzhou

Our last night in Lanzhou was made memorable by a meal at the hotel restaurant with our new friends (check out Mark’s Facebook profile for the astounding English interpretations of some dishes).

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Ada is trusting us more and more with our everyday routines.  We are still having to spend lots of patient effort to get her to sleep though.  It takes over an hour or two and requires lots of dancing, jiggling, and loving insistence that she needs to sleep! She has refused the crib since day 2 and sleeps next to me or between us in bed.

Ada gets her teeth brushed by her Daddy
Ada gets her teeth brushed by her Daddy
Ada has an increasing interest in books
Yay for an interest in books!

It has been wonderfully special and reassuring to have another family alongside of us on this trip.  Our little ones (Ada and Jake) were crib mates at the orphanage for at least a little while, and they both have bilateral cleft lip and palate.  Ada had her lip repaired in Kaifeng the week we found out about her in May.  From there, she went to a healing home in Anhui until just a few weeks ago when she moved back to the orphanage in Qingyang.  Jake has not yet had his lip repaired, but both of our youngsters will face many more surgeries before adulthood in order to repair their palate and gum line. Thelse two had a little tussle over Kit’s iPhone the other night that ended with laughing from them both!  We hope to remain in close contact with Jake’s family upon our return to the States.

Ada waiting to take off on her first airplane ride
Ada waiting to take off on her first airplane ride

Our departure from Lanzhou was not eventful, Ada fussed and promptly fell asleep on the plane.  She woke up when the meal trays were passed out.  She always seems alerted at the smell of food!

Oh, for shame! Jk.
Oh, for shame! Jk.

And as much as I hate to admit it…our first night in Guangzhou I was hankering for some pizza.  So yes, we found the nearest Pizza Hut and beelined for my very American tummy to be satisfied.  Thankfully, Ada’s was satisfied too!  She ate quite a bit and we had a lovely interaction with the Chinese mother and daughter dining near us.  They kept trying to make her laugh and kept reminding me that my valuables (purse) are not safe in Guangzhou! It’s hard to hold a baby and a backpack in your lap, though!

Enjoying our pizza together!
Enjoying our pizza together!

Through much patient effort, Ada finally fell asleep to ready herself for her big medical exam today!

Ada was okay with her general exam....
Ada was okay with her general exam….
But she was not a fan of th ENT! Thankfully she walked through it all safely nestled in Mark's arms.
But she was not a fan of the ENT! Thankfully she walked through it all safely nestled in Mark’s arms.

It was neat to see so many adoptive families here at the hotel and at the medical exam.  Just to count the number of kiddos no longer orphans is a unique blessing.   If you are considering adoption, especially of a special needs child from China, we would love to talk to you about our experience and about the number of precious little ones still waiting for their family.   It is a privilege to carry their stories in our hearts and hopefully into conversations with those that might be equipped to claim them as their own sons and daughters.

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To end this post on a much lighter note, if your ever in a Chinese WalMart….please don’t miss the dried fish section!

Perhaps you'd prefer the to-go snack option?
Perhaps you’d prefer the to-go snack option of chicken feet?