Monday, May 6, 2019

Hiding in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Mushroom

Last August, our family moved from a large subdivision in a metro area to a house surrounded by woods and farmland, 30 miles from the nearest city.  We own nearly 3 acres of property, but are surrounded on 3 sides by woods and a large creek and a field across from our house.
Since moving here, we've enjoyed having more land and nature at our fingertips and have found joy in harvesting grapes and pumpkins from our garden last fall, cooking up puffball mushrooms found in the woods, and even trapping and boiling up crayfish from the creek out back.
My husband has been eagerly awaiting this season of country life- the time of year where the locals take to the woods in search of wild asparagus and morel mushrooms. I'm not a fan of consuming either, but I'm always up for a walk in the woods and a search of any kind, so I've been playing along the past week or so by keeping my eyes on the ground in pursuit of the prize.  My parents were here visiting last week and they also took to the woods in search of this highly coveted fungus. Much to our surprise, after hours of searching in areas known to be mushroom-friendly (near dead stumps, near other mushroom patches, on sunny hills, etc). This past weekend we enjoyed some beautiful weather, and spent much of our free time outdoors- mowing the grass, planning out our garden, playing with the kids, and yes, mushroom hunting. Despite our best collective efforts, we had come up empty handed.

This morning I was taking a quick walk around the yard before the predicted rain came in so that I could check our mole traps, pick up my son's shoes left out back yesterday and clear my mind for a moment while both kids were at school.   I passed by our swing set, and something caught my attention- yes, there, in plain sight were 3 small morel mushrooms.  No feast by any means, but how exciting to find something you've searched for so hard!  And to think they were in the most unexpected of places- right there by the swing set, in this highly trafficked area, a ways away from tree bases, with bad soil and no protection.

And then that little light bulb went off (you know, that one that would spark a little "ah ha!" bubble above a comic book character).  Isn't this just how life works?  How often in life do we find that what we are searching for is in fact right in front of us?

I'm sure you've been told before that whatever lost object you're looking for is going to be "in the last place you look."  Well of course it will be, because who would keep looking for something after they've already found it?!  But I think the true sentiment behind that phrase is: don't search in the places you expect to find things, look where you'd least expect them to be.  When my sunglasses go missing, they aren't usually hiding in my car, my purse, or on the kitchen counter, they're usually someplace that doesn't even make immediate sense- like sitting near the bathroom sink, near the washing machine, or on top of the dog food bin. 

Anyone know lives with males knows how often things tend to "hide in plain sight."  Your son, brother, or husband asks you where something is, you tell them, they go off in search of said item and then show back up a few minutes later telling you "I looked everywhere but it's not there."  You drop what you're doing, go back with them to the location you had indicated prior, and poof, there is the item, exactly where you told them to look.  Yesterday, it was my son's pajama's-   I told him to go upstairs and check in his bedroom.  He goes, comes back 3-4 minutes later completely exasperated "but MAMA I looked EVERYWHERE! They're gone!"  I follow him back up the stairs, turn the corner into this bedroom, and laying on the floor in the middle of the doorway? His pajamas of course!  His response?  "They must have just magically appeared because they weren't there when I looked!"  mmmhmmm......  I'm sure every mother, wife, sister or friend of the male species could come up with at least 5 stories to the same tune. 

As we poke fun at our male counterparts, how much more must God be chuckling at us and also painfully watching from above while we blindly stumble through life;  ignoring clues, missing signs, tuning out his voice, forgetting his promises, following the wrong paths.  The things we often strive the hardest for in this life are SO OFTEN right in front of us, hiding in plain sight.  Whether it be our relationships, our vocation, answers to family struggles, direction for our future is so often much clearer than we make it out to be.

After growing up in a small town, one of those "where everybody knows your name (and your baggage)" type of places (the same one we ended up back in last summer), I set out at age 18 to find my own path. I moved a few hours away to a Christian college where I only knew one other person and was on a mission to form a new life.  Being surrounded by peers of my age who shared the same beliefs and values, it was sort of expected that you'd find your future spouse at this school, or at least enjoy a dating relationship or two.  Much to my surprise/demise, I never seemed to have luck with either prospect, and my senior year of college I found myself in a relationship with a close friend from my hometown (now my husband of 11 years). That was hard for my pride to swallow;  I was shallowly thinking "I came ALL THIS WAY to end up marrying someone from HOME?!"  But God knew what He was doing with my life.  He knew the ending of the story before I had even opened the book. I spent years dealing with loneliness, longing for a relationship when all along, the person I was meant to be with was right in front of me.

This move to the countryside has been a true struggle for me these past 10 months.  I spent nearly 15 years building a life for myself in the city where I had attended college.  I had a career, friends, a church, a neighbors I loved, and all the other parts of life all settled and figured out.  All of that got left behind with this move, and I'm being forced to rebuild.  Of course there are obvious benefits to our new location and things that I love dearly about living here, but I don't think I was prepared for the amount of loss I'd be experiencing when we moved.  It's been a lonely 10 months, and I've spent most of it feeling as though I was stuck at the bottom of a dark hole.  I no longer have a tribe to call on when I'm feeling down or in need of a coffee date, I haven't had a church family to help me feel supported and lifted up in prayer, and for the first time since I was 15, I haven't had a job to pour myself into and take pride in my accomplishments.  Of course my job as a mother is the most important one I'll ever have, but the rewards in parenting aren't immediately recognized.  There are no incentive bonuses, no employee of the month award, no raises or bonuses for a job well done. I'm learning how to find value and matter in things that actually matter- those little "rewards" that have been hiding in plain sight:  the smiles on my kids' faces, the laughter that fills the house, the chance to attend field trips and kiss ouchies and be in control over what my son watches on TV, eats for lunch, and how he spends his time.  I'm beginning to see that some of the things I've been searching so earnestly for: meaning, purpose, direction can be found right in front of me- through my service and dedication to my own family.

So the next time you're facing big questions about life, maybe you don't need to go soul searching in the woods- maybe the answers are in fact right in front of you.

P.S.  If you're an experience morel hunter with tips to share, I'm sure my husband would be overjoyed to hear them!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Where Am I? How Did I Get Here? Where the Heck Am I Going?

Well, I can't afford a therapist, so you all get to play that role today. 
I will pour out my thoughts, worries, wonders, and struggles for you. 
Why would I choose to do this in a public space? Well, maybe one of you will offer up some profound wisdom for me, or maybe you are struggling to and feel alone in your struggles so my sharing might help you in some way.  I hope that some good comes of this making myself vulnerable for the world to see... if not, well, it was still cheaper than therapy so perhaps it's worth the risk.

Where Am I?
Well, I'm 32 years old.  I live in a small town in the Thumb of Michigan, a town a grew up in and left when I turned 18, swearing I'd never return.  I'm married to a man I went to high school with- another thing my 18 year old self swore I'd never do.  I'm a stay at home mom (yes, you guess it, I swore I'd never...).  I have two boys, who are currently ages 3 and 5.  Each of my sons was adopted from China at age 3.  And just for fun, I also share my home with my 11 year old Beagle named Chester and my two 10 year old cats, Griffin and Cosmo (whose sole purpose in life lately seems to be making my house stink, destroying furniture, and racking up expensive vet bills >:-(  ).

I'm tired, stressed, lonely, confused, overwhelmed, exhausted, wore out, and a little lost.

My husband is an incredible spouse and father. My boys are amazing, smart, and hilarious (and loud, disobedient, strong-willed, and wild).  A few months ago, we  moved into an absolutely beautiful home  nestled on a wooded 3 acre lot with a creek running through the backyard, a big garden, grape vines, apple trees and some pretty stunning views.  I finally got the hot tub I've been BEGGING for the past 10 years.  I finally got the chance to be a stay at home mom, not having to feel the constant pressure of managing both a career and a family.  We have reliable vehicles, food to eat, a warm home, a comfy place to lay our heads at night- WHAT ON EARTH DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO WHINE ABOUT?  WHY CAN'T THIS BE ENOUGH?  DON'T I REALIZE THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING IN PAIN, ARE HUNGRY, HOMELESS AND ALONE?! HOW CAN I BE SUCH A SPOILED BRAT?!  Rest assured, these thoughts go through my head quite regularly, along with the "pull your chin up, lady.  Put a smile on, buck up buttercup, life's not really so bad, be thankful for this stage before it's gone, you don't know how good you have it, etc etc"

Maybe I'm not praying enough, maybe I'm low on Vitamin D, maybe I need a cold hard dose of reality to make me appreciate what I have, maybe, just maybe, I'm just tired and lost and in need of respite.  But how do you find respite when you can't afford a babysitter, your mom is battling cancer, your boys are a total handful, and your family depends on you to run everyone to and from school and manage the appointments, chores, and finances of the home?

How Did I Get Here?
How did my 18 year old self, who planned on going to college, running off with the Peace Corps, starting an orphanage in Africa, and later settling down in the South while managing a successful career as a guidance counselor end up married to her 9th grade best friend, and living in her hometown as a stay at home mom?
I'll spare you my entire life story, but here's a snapshot:
 I spent a college semester abroad living in a 3rd World country-an experience I totally loved but one that also opened my eyes to a level of loneliness I'd never felt before.  I lost a close family member to cancer while I was there, and felt helpless being so far away and not getting to come home and say goodbye. I found true companionship and understanding through a long-distance relationship that sparked up during my time away with my now-Husband.  It became aware to me that most important things in life aren't the accomplishments we tally up, but the relationships we build and feeling loved, understood, and accepted for who we are.  I knew that James was meant to be my partner in life, and that meant giving up my dream of living in the South- a compromise I was willing to make (but of course, still slightly bitter about).  We married young, the economy was turbulent and our student loan debt was out of control so I put off that Grad School degree for the sake of instant income.  I spent a year doing Americorps working with Refugees in a social work setting.  Although I LOVED the work, I immediately recognized that my personality sets me up for complete burn out in that field- I'm a worker, a problem solver, a "don't stop until the job's done" type of gal.  In social work, the job is never done.  I worked myself into the ground for a year and realized that if I wanted that career, I was destined to end up alone.  I chose the family route instead. (Now that I'm a little older and seasoned I think I could figure out a way to do it the right way, but... that opportunity has passed me by). 
 I spent the next 7 years building a career in banking, paying off debt and enjoying a job with a lot of structure, tasks, relationships, and learning.  3 years ago, we felt the call to adopt from China, and began that process.  We brought our first son home a year later and I continued working in banking full time the first year he was home.  In May of 2017 his daycare provider passed away unexpectedly, and I decided to quit my job in order to stay home with him and also care for the friends he had grown so close to.  He was thriving and I was trying to minimize disruptions to his life after he had gone through such massive loss the year before when he moved from China into our lives. It was summer and I was longing to spend it outdoors with children instead of stuck inside, pouring over loan documents in a cubicle.
 We had gone back and forth for a while about adopting a 2nd, but had firmly decided to hold off for another year or so.  The very same day I quit my job in order to pursue the daycare dream (aka financial ruin),  our adoption agency called and said they had a file for us.  I couldn't bear not to look, and the minute I laid eyes on that little boy, I knew he was our son- and that this level of "sink or swim" was surely another call from God to trust his plan and surrender control. 
I mean really, who says know to THAT face?!

And so, from May to February I ran an in-home daycare, started a side-business selling children's books, managed a bunch of household repair/improvement projects, prepared to adopt our 2nd child, and learned what it meant to merely survive. My beloved 6 year old hound dog was diagnosed with cancer in November and passed away in January. I spent the coldest winter in years cooped up inside a small house with 5 boys under age 5. I felt like I was losing my mind.
 I loved the kids I cared for intensely, and loved feeling like a blessing to their families.  But I didn't enjoy the work of juggling screaming infants with hungry toddlers, bus pick ups and drop offs, preschool runs, messes, dirty diapers, bottles, naps, and ear infections.  I was looking forward to our China trip and adoption as a temporary escape from the insanity of daycare.  Enter our new son Isaac, who I had dreamed up as a quiet, shy, tender little boy (he was indeed tiny- wearing 12-18 month clothes at age 3).  HA!  He entered our life screaming, and we immediately learned that instead of the quiet little lamb we planned for, he was a fiesty, intense, opinionated, aggressive, vocal strong willed little guy who was used to using his voice to make up for his small size and who was NOT afraid to let you know when he didn't like something. 

Yep, this about sums things up for those first few days...

Those first few weeks were traumatic for all of us- our 5 year old son had to learn that rules he was just learning to follow suddenly didn't apply to his new brother- mom and dad didn't have the patience or energy they used to, and we all struggled through the loud screaming fits that seemed to occupy most of our day (even if they were only a few hours combined).  I threw my firmly held-to beliefs about parenting and structure and never letting kids be in control... anything to quiet the screaming boss baby.  ANYTHING.
We returned home from China and I felt torn between wanting to get back into my role of helping my daycare families out (I did miss those sweet faces dearly, and served a few single moms who really relied on my care) and needing to focus solely on helping our new son adjust. We needed the income and they needed care so I started working again before any of us were ready for it.   We all suffered.  (well not my older son, he was just happy to have his playmates back in his life, and so proud to show off his new little brother).

My first few weeks back to work, someone was cry-screaming for about 10 hours a day- be it my new son, or one of the two infants I cared for, or one of the toddlers crying out in search of my attention.  I felt alone, my husband was gone from 7am to 6pm and by the time he walked through that door at night I both hated him and saw him as my hero.  Isaac was still going through major food anxiety after living in an underfed orphanage for 3 years, and I would lock myself in the bathroom just to escape and screams and sneak a snack.  Life felt hopeless, I needed help and knew I couldn't keep going on with the status quo.  I was trying to hold out for summer, when my school-aged kids would be there to help with the little ones, and we'd be able to get outside and play and do the things I loved most about running a daycare (trips to the park, playing in the yard, picnic lunches, crafts, and board games with my big kids during naptime).   I also knew it wasn't fair to any of us to keep going like this.  I couldn't be the provider I wanted to be for so many little people when I was running on fumes. 
I wanted my mom, my aunts, my cousins, grandma, ANYONE who might be able to step in occasionally and offer company, advice, respite.  My friends weren't showing up for me in the way  that I needed them to (they were all overwhelmed with new babies, careers, and young families of their own), so I saw moving back home near family as the answer to all of life's problems. 
My husband was offered the chance to work from home (which meant being away 9-5 with a break for lunch instead of 7-6- MUCH BETTER!).  I found a house for sale that I loved, and felt it was time to give my husband the life he had longed for after 10 years of him chasing my dreams. the housing market where we were was HOT and we were able to sell our house for a big profit, paying off the rest of our college debt and getting us ahead a little bit.
 And so, 4 months home from China we packed up everything, said some extremely hard goodbyes, left a church we loved and felt so cared for in, left a city I had lived in for 15 years, and headed home. We threw another big curveball into poor Isaac's world, when he was already struggling to handle the changes he was dealing with. We left a huge subdivision just miles from every convenience known to man for a dirt road with more tractor traffic than cars.  A trip to Target is now a half-day affair instead of a quick run around the corner.  I left so many amazing friends who had had been my rock during hard times but gained the proximity of both sides of our family.  We left an award-winning, diverse school district for a struggling, all-white school filled with teachers and staff who already knew and loved my kids. We don't have a park to visit, but our backyard resembles one.  We gained SO MUCH in moving here.  But I wasn't prepared for the losses.  Telling my daycare parents about my decision was one of the hardest things I've ever done, along with saying goodbye to the kiddos who I loved like my own.
I wasn't prepared for "back home" to feel so lonely- I had been gone so long that most of the people and places I knew and loved at age 18 were gone.  I wasn't prepared for my mom to be re-diagnosed with cancer the month we moved, for my mother-in-law to land the job opportunity of her life (which also meant working full time 3rd shift), my sister-in-law to start working full time (in a job she loves and I'm so very happy she found for herself), and for the reality that having two kids in two different school districts (and counties) meant that I'd be spending about 2 hours of my day playing taxi driver. 
I wasn't prepared for being a stay-at-home mom of a 3 year old with rage issues to be more exhausting than running a whole daycare by myself.  I wasn't prepared for how tight finances are trying to raise a family of 4 on a single income.  I wasn't prepared for the constant internal pressure to keep a perfectly tidy house and cook 3 healthy meals a day simply because I'm not working (I hate cleaning and despise cooking... you can imagine how great I am at staying on top of those tasks living with three hungry males who don't pick up after themselves-ok, my husband does, but not the kids). I wasn't prepared to feel the constant pressure to host and entertain family even though I'm falling apart at the seams internally. I need company, but I'm too anxious to handle it.

So here I am: I'm tired, stressed, lonely, confused, overwhelmed, exhausted, wore out, and a little lost.

Where the Heck Am I Going?

How do I move from the place I am in now to a place where I feel like more than just a mom, drive, cook, and maid?  How do I know which move to make next?  Going back to work full time doesn't feel like the right answer, because it would mean pulling Isaac out of preschool and he's thriving here.  I felt like my older son went from toddler to Kindergarten in the blink of an eye and I missed most of it.  I don't want to miss my time with Isaac.  But I'm also aware that I'm not even enjoying it right now, and I want that to change. I want to savor this time together, to spend it playing and laughing and learning together.  Instead our days are filled with arguments, tantrums and time outs.  I need to lower my standards, I'm becoming more and more aware of this. I need to learn not to resent myself for all the things I DON'T get done in a day, and learn to praise myself when I pour into my kids instead of my Iphone, or when I manage to keep my calm in the midst of a meltdown, or when I find the time to spend one-on-one time giving my kids attention, affection and eye contact each day.
I'm holding out hope for February, when Isaac turns the corner from age 3 to 4 (my least favorite age to my favorite), and we cross that magic "one year home" mark that for so many adoptive families, is associated with a turn from darkness into light.

But where am I really going, long-term? 
I'm often resentful of the simplicity of my husband's heart, focus and drive.  He's fascinated by technology and computer programming, so he has made a career as a programmer.  He enjoys his work, feels confident about his career path, and works hard and successfully. 

I on the other hand, have ZERO idea about what direction I should be going.  I attended a liberal arts college with a huge focus on finding your vocation in life.  For a long time, I felt that if I wasn't out creating sustainable water systems in Uganda, or teaching children in Guatemala, or using my clear God Given talent as a nurse or engineer I wasn't measuring up.  Surely God never calls someone to be an assistant manager of a bank branch, or a mortgage processor.  I liked the jobs I had, and found them rewarding in their own ways, but never felt like it was enough. I always worried I had settled.
So I've got a voice in the back of my head lying to me and telling me I need an "impressive" job, and I also am faced with the reality of the fact that I love secretarial jobs. I love retail. I love team management. I love counting money and sorting coins and counting things. I love taking inventory and working in a stock room. You see, I've never really had a job I hated, unless I was working with personalities I found unbearable.  I've worked as a daycare assistant, store clerk, grocery bagger, stockroom associate, babysitter, bank teller, customer service rep, assistant manager, mortgage processor, daycare owner, animal shelter volunteer, and salesperson. I've enjoyed each job for different reasons. Should I return to the workforce, any of them seem like viable options.  I'd also love to work in a post office, vet clinic, school, as a case aide for a social worker, or a flight attendant. I could see myself doing so many different jobs and being happy, but how do I know which path to follow?  I LOVE being able to drive my kids to school, attend their field trips and class parties, but I also long for a career and a feeling that I'm contributing financially to our family. I cannot fathom adding another child into the mix right now, but I also have a strong desire to continue adopting- so why even think about work when I'd just want to quit again as soon as child #3 enters our family?

Do I reach out and try to make new friends with others who are possibly in this same stage of life, or try to invest my energy into the countless relationships I already have, that I miss and are in need of attention?  Do I give into every social invitation on the weekend to ensure we don't miss out on quality time with loved ones, or say no in order to get the rest and relaxation we need as an immediate family?  What will people think if I keep saying no?  I moved over here with the intention of constantly hosting friends and family into our home, but at the moment I'm just too tired to take on anything else.

Part of me also longs to go back to school, obtain my Masters in Social Work, and finish the path I abandoned for sake of income and debt repayment.  But why take steps backward at this stage in life? what if I rack up a bunch of student loans and end up hating it?  Perhaps I'm too risk-averse to go that route. I could probably just volunteer in a social work role and end up financially better off.
How about the kids; how do I know what's best for them?  Do I put them into the school district where I think they'd feel a sense of belonging and acceptance for who they are, or the one that's closer, has better academic and athletic programs, but they won't get busing or free lunch and will be feeling more pressure to "keep up with the Jones'?"  Do I spend our free time chasing down specialists and therapies to ensure they're getting the best possible medical care for their conditions and staying at the front of issues before they show up, or just let them be kids, and handle problems as they arise?  Do we enroll them in as many extracurricular activities as possible to ensure maximum exposure and chances to find their niche, or let them just rest, play and go to bed early? HOW DO PEOPLE FIGURE THIS STUFF OUT?!  HOW DO YOU EVER KNOW IF YOU'RE DOING THE RIGHT THING, AND IF YOU DON'T EVER KNOW, HOW DO YOU KEEP THE CONSTANT WORRIES AND WONDERING OUT OF YOUR MIND?!

Well, I'm sure I've lost you all by now, but if you have any insight to share, by all means, please do!
It did feel really good to write this all out.  I can't explain it, but somehow seeing your thoughts before you helps to make sense of them.  I still don't know where I'm going, but maybe the answer is just to stop worrying about it.
I understand now where I am, and how I got here.  Maybe the answer is simply to just BE HERE.  Quit worrying about everything else.  Just BE HERE.  I'll have to get back to ya'll on that one.

As always, thanks for reading, and please leave input.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mom Guilt and Halloween

MOM GUILT.  I'm usually drowning in it, how about you?

But have you ever stopped and asked yourself why?  Why do we all feel that we're not measuring up to some invisible standard of parenting? Why, even though our kids are happy and loved and safe we somehow feel like we're never doing enough for them?  Why, even when our parents, spouses, community and friends tell us that we're wonderful mothers, we still convince ourselves that we're utter failures? Is it because of social media? Pinterest? A deeper issue of low self-esteem, anxiety, or feelings of inadequacy?

Recently I made the shift from working full-time to becoming a stay-at-home mom.  Before doing so, I imagined that not having to split myself between work and family duties would mean that I'd feel like such a great mom, a better wife, and more productive person.  Then why is it, that in this season of life, where I have the option to devote 100% of my time and energy into my household, without the distractions of work, social obligations, or other outside commitments, I am finding myself feeling more anxious about my role as a mother than ever before? Why do I let myself believe that if I don't prepare 3 nutritious meals a day (from scratch), do an afternoon craft with my toddler, and have healthy after school snacks ready for my kindergartner I'm a terrible excuse for a housewife?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this lately, and trying to really understand why we as parents put so much guilt, blame, pressure and negative self-talk on ourselves.

Let's use Halloween as a case study.

When I was growing up, Halloween was one day of the year.  Sometime the week of Halloween you spent about 10 minutes carving a face into a pumpkin.  Said pumpkin came out of a big cardboard box at the grocery store. Then you woke up that morning, put on a costume, went to a school party, and trick-or-treated after school that night.  Our costumes were usually some terrible flexible plastic mask with a thin elastic string that was sure to break before the night was over.  The rest of the costume was the equivalent of a garbage bag with printing on it.  It would also surely rip during all of those trips in and out of the conversion van while you trick or treated.  But did anyone care? NOPE! It was all about the candy!  We didn't have cute coordinated trick or treat pails... you had a free plastic bag from the telephone company, a pillow case, or a brown paper sack from the grocery store.  If you were real lucky, you had a McDonalds happy meal pail... yep, that was the DREAM.  But if you didn't have one, you surely didn't question your parents love and devotion for you.  Some kids had homemade costumes-  but let me tell you, they weren't masterpieces- they were cobbled together, had less than perfect seams, and were usually comprised of items found around the house.  There were no pinterest-perfect face paint jobs walking around on Halloween night. You never really cared what your friends were even wearing- you just wanted the candy!  Of course there were a few students whose mothers just loved sewing and crafting and they looked perfect... but no one really cared. 

We never went to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard unless it was a school field trip.  Trunk or treat was unheard of. Halloween camping? Nope.  Spending the three weekends before Halloween trick or treating at 5 or 6 different events?  Definitely not.  Once in a great while we visited Crossroads Village, a local amusement park with the girl scout troop for a haunted train ride and trick or treating... but it was by no means an expectation.

How did we get to where we are today then? Why is it that I feel like a bad mom because it's October 29th and we haven't been trick or treating yet?  On one hand, I'd be a terrible mom if I allowed my boys to live on candy for the next 4 months, but at the same time I'm failing them for not taking them trick or treating 5 times?  WHY?  Do we honestly think our toddlers will care if they miss all these events they don't even know about?  Of course not! One hour of trick or treating on Halloween night is more than enough for them! So why can't I convince myself of that?

We were just at DISNEY WORLD for last weekend for crying out loud!  Disney World! And yet I still wallowed in mom guilt this weekend because I didn't take my boys to ride the haunted train at Crossroads.  Did I even stop to think about how many trains, trams, and trolleys we rode at Disney and airports last week?!

Mom Guilt. Is it because we're all competing for the award of busiest family? Have we come to pride ourselves on the number of family outings we do with our children?  Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why can't we just savor the holidays through our kids' eyes?  They surely don't care about the fact that we spent 20 hours shopping for and preparing that perfect homemade costume.  In fact, it probably resulted in numerous tantrums because they wanted our attention and we were too busy. 
They don't care about the incredible jack-o-lantern we spent 3 hours carving.  They got bored 20 minutes into it and ran around the house while we sat yelling at them, and poured a mixed drink just to get ourselves through it all.  For WHAT?!

Why is it considered "lazy" if we just go to the store, let them pick out a costume (that THEY are excited about), carve a simple pumpkin, and then take them through our community getting candy on Halloween night?  They surely aren't holding us to the standard of perfection- they'd honestly probably have more fun this way.  So why do we silently compete with each other for the best Instagram photo? Why do we tell ourselves that we're not good enough?

And of course this isn't just true for Halloween;  this stuff pours over into everything we do as parents:  every holiday, every family vacation, weekend, camping trip, etc.  We convince ourselves that we need coordinated outfits, themed snacks, homemade crafts, and those picture perfect moments for everything we do! But do any of us really even care what the others are doing?  Do we value people more who have cuter snacks, matching outfits, or best holiday decor? No, in fact, we secretly resent those friends- because they are reminders to us that someone else has it more together than we do.  What a silly game we play.

This morning I attended my son's preschool Halloween party and I noticed another parent snapping pictures her child (as we all were... gotta blast those onto Facebook or we didn't really do it, right?!- Yes, I am making fun of myself). She kept saying to her daughter "look like you're having fun!"  Now let me say this, I'm not shaming her.  I'm sure we've all done this at one time or another.  However when you're removed from the situation, you realize how silly it is.  Shouldn't we focus more on making sure she IS having fun than if she appears to be for a photo op? Why can't we resist the urge to capture it all, share it all, show it all off?  (Yes, I've already posted my own pictures of said party to social media- I'm not above any of this behavior- I'm just realizing how silly it all is). 

I don't have the answers to this dilemma, but I am working hard to become more self-aware of my actions, to focus more on my kids' actual happiness and enjoyment than on what I THINK might make them happy.

We all have moments were we could do better- of course, we're human. But the fact is, there are millions of kids in this world who don't even have parents.  And even more who have them, but aren't loved or cared for by them.  We need to stop the guilt game.  If your children are loved, clothed, fed, and have a safe home to live in- YOU'RE WINNING!  Maybe you don't even have all of those boxes checked off, but you're working your hardest to get there-  you're winning too!

At the end of the day, our kids aren't going to remember whether they had the best homemade costume, coolest pumpkin, most trick or treat events, or best porch decor-  they're going to remember having fun, and whether their parents were joining in on the fun with them or standing on the sidelines yelling at them.  I'm ashamed yet honest enough to admit there is typically more grouchy mom moments around here than the moments where I put my phone down, lower my expectations, and just have fun with my kids.  It's hard. But there's just got to be a better way.  Let me know if you've already found it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Travel day 5- Gotcha Day!

I'm behind on my blogging, so this is post was started on and is about Monday- the day we got Will.

Today I woke up at 5am and there was no chance I was getting back to sleep.  I spent some time getting caught up on Facebook and let James sleep until 6 and then we headed down to the lounge for breakfast-  this hotel has the biggest breakfast spread I have ever seen!

We came back up the room around 7 and we got ourselves ready, tidied up the room and finished getting our bags packed.  We ended up having a little time to kill before we had to be in the lobby to meet the group so we had fun goofing around with our selfie stick and chatting with a few friends.
Will's bag all ready to go!

We're ready to go!

My (un) traditional "pose by the door" oh your way to the hospital (government building) to meet your child shot :) 

We met our group downstairs at 9:30- what an exciting time for everyone!  We were.  all so happy and in such an eager, anticipatory state it was just a room full of energy.  We soon left to head to the civil affairs office to get our kiddos- it was a short bus ride, maybe 15-20 minutes.  Our guide Yisha gave  us some last minute tips and instructions and before we knew it, we had arrived!
Going in as Two, coming out as Three!  

I expected Will and his caretakers to already be there when we arrived but when we walked in I did not seen them anywhere. I started watching other families get their kiddos and about 15 minutes after arriving we heard someone call out to us- is this your son?  And sure enough, he was there with another boy- I Have no idea if they had been there the whole time and if so, how we missed them.

We walked over to them, and I tapped the caregiver on the shoulder and she turned around and got Will's attention on us.  He was very happy to see us and immediately gave us a huge grin, and then began sharing the dried fruit he was eating with us- and the other 10 people in our vicinity.  I had given the caregiver a bag full of gifts for the caretakers at Angel House,  and Will found his way into that right away and tore into one of the boxes of jelly beans, then of course he needed to share those  with everyone else also.  One by one he/we began unpacking the bag of goodies/toys I had brought and playing with each item inside: bouncy ball, cars, toy planes, balloon (we also learned that he very well may be a champion volleyball player one day). We spent the next 30 minutes or so sitting on the floor in the middle of the room laughing, playing games, and having a blast.  I got to speak to the two girls from Angel Home a little bit and they showed us some really special gifts that were sent with him.  Cherries from his/our friend who is a volunteer there, and a special traditional style outfit she bought for him along with a ver special paining of one of his portraits which was extra special to me because it was of one of my favorite photos of him- the same or or very similar to the photo I've had framed on my desk at work for months.

Thanks for the cars, Becky! 

Admittedly,  I felt a little guilty because while he was running around laughing and having a blast most of the other children in the room were crying and screaming, terrified what they were experiencing- how I had always imagined our child would be on this day. I think a little bit of our situation has to do with his outgoing, happy demeanor, but I credit most of it to the amount of preparation Angel House had done for him- they had spent months talking to him and preparing him for this day. Showing him our photos, explaining to him what was about to happen, and reassuring him how much we loved him.  I do believe it also helped  tremendously that we had the chance to visit him at Angel House a few days prior to this.  He recognized us as soon as we arrived and was able to associate us with the fun, loving people who he had already spent hours playing  with just a few days earlier.
After a while we had to go up to have our photo taken, which went very quickly and smoothly, and then shortly after that they said one of us needed to go to the desk to fill out paperwork.  Since Will was in James' lap I went up, and when I returned I discovered that the nannies had left during that time.  I was very bummed I didn't get to say goodbye but I understand they needed to get back and they had already stayed quite a long time already.  Will was crying very hard and was understandably extremely confused.   He did recover much faster than I would have expected him to and before too long was back to playing volleyball with the balloon.   And then all of the sudden he was just done... He crawled into James' lap and refused everything offered to him.  At that point we picked up our belongings and moved from the center of the room to the wall near the hallway where it was much quieter and darker.  I could tell he was exhausted ad overwhelmed.  Not long after that he fell asleep in James' arms, and then a little while later we were able to load up on the bus to head back to the hotel.
Our first family photo1 

I can't remember if he woke up before or during the bus ride, but I do remember him sleeping the morning ajority of the way here.  Thankfully he did wake up when we were getting off the bus, which I was happy about because I didn't want him to wake up in the hotel room and panic not knowing where he was.   As soon as we arrived to the room he was a burst of energy. He ran into the room, immediately found the photo album we were given from Angel House and brought it to the bed and showed us all his friends.  I was worried this might trigger a meltdown, but I think it was very helpful for him.  He closed up the book and then started jumping on the bed- this was was our first glimpse into the bundle of energy we had just brought into our lives.  He has the most infectious lalaught I've ever heard and it filled my heart with joy to see him to so happy so quickly.  Here's a video I shot of him walking into the room-

So my absolute favorite moment was when I gave him his stuffed monkey.  Backstory:  I bought two of these monkeys and mailed one to him in the care package we sent shortly after being matched.  I had never seen it in any photos of him, so a while ago I inquired on whether or not he still had it, and was told that when asked what happened to it, his response was "oh that was a naughty monkey- he jumped out the window".  Of course he's three so you have no idea what that might actually mean so we just sort of left it at that.  Well when we got into the hotel room and I gave him the duplicate, he immediately, without any hesitation walked right over to the window and threw the monkey at the window.  He has made it very to clear to us even still that he does not like that monkey!  That's even funnier to me because twice the dogs had gotten ahold of it at home before we traveled and I was so upset and had washed it and dried it so carefully to be sure to preserve it perfectly for Will-  well, I guess it's destined to be a dog toy because he hates it!

He told us all of the sudden  he had to go pee so we rushed him to the toilet- being the first timers we are, we didn't do something right and he ended up with pee on his shorts, socks, and all over the floor. I know from many hours spent reading brace book groups that many of these kiddos are terrified of their first bath and really don't like you taking off their clothes that first time so I panicked a little in my heart knowing we'd have to do this so soon.  He was apprehensive but willing except for his socks- so we took a bath with socks on.  In my mind, I thought we were still doing awesome by getting him the tub at all so just go with it.  He accepted the new outfit I presented without hesitatation and began running around the room laughing.  We had a snack of jello and bread and then tried seeing if he might take a nap but he made it clear that was no going to happen.  James had to leave for a while to go do some paperwork to prepare for our next day so I stayed in the room with Will.  We explored every toy I had packed for him- cars, play dough, books, balls, etc.  Then we sat in the window for a while watching the traffic below.   He is a total chatterbox and he never stops talking.  It's so sad for me to have no idea what he is saying but the few times I've had people watch his videos and translate he's basically just saying every single thing he sees.

James came back and then it was my turn to go.  When I arrived back to the room I found them throwing pillows and running around- oh my, boys will be boys!  We decided we needed a couple of things from WalMart so we loaded Will into the ergo carrier on James' back and made the trip out.  Walmart here is nothing like it is at home.  You enter on the ground floor, and then the actual store is split up into two levels on the 2nd ad 3rd floor.  As soon as we left our hotel room he got very quiet and seemed to be a little nervous about what was going to happen next.  We got up to the third floor and I was trying to engage with him when his face turned solemn and he said with extreme urgent envy "Niao Niao!"  Which means pee-pee.  James began to panic, assuming he was about to end up with urine running down his backside and legs.  I frantically searched for a worker and the first one I found I pointed at him and said "toilet"" - blank stare- pointing at Will, "Niao Niao" and she understood, and escorted us to a trash can and took the lid off.  Yep, nothing says welcome to parenthood like holding your child over a trash can in the clothing department of Walmart so he can pee into it.  We couldn't stop laughing and we're just so thankful that he told us and that James stayed dry!

After that we decided we had enough adventure for the day so we returned to the room and had noodles for supper on the floor.  We knew he could feed himself but it was amazing to watch how meticulous he is with the fork.  He focuses so hard and will go for each and every little piece in the bowl and then drink the broth when he is done.

He's a very regimented child- he takes care of his dishes, wipes his face washes his hands, dries his hands and then is ready for the next task.  This is clearly a sign of growing up in a group setting but this Mama is not sad about having a boy who insists on washing his hands before and after every meal and after going potty each time.

After washing his hands he began throwing his toys into the tub and turned the water on!  Bath time again, ok!  When he wants something he goes for it!  We had so much fun watching him laugh and play in the tub.  His joy is overwhelming and even though he is a handful to keep up with, it's just such a blessing to me to see the joy we have been seeing in photos for months manifest itself in real life.  One of my biggest fears of this adoption would be that he would lose the joy we had fell in love with through pictures, and that does not seem to be the case, praise the Lord!

Loves the bathtub!

We got him all ready for bed and put his favorite show, Super Planes on the IPad and cuddled up in bed together.  One of the many little details we are so thankful to know about him that we learned through the staff at Angel House.  Now we are on day 3 together, and he knows every time he hears that music he climbs into bed with us and that means it's time for a nap or bedtime. Two episodes and he's out!   That first night we did move him into his crib next to our bed because he was a sweaty mess and we have a big down comforter on our bed. He slept through the night- I think about 10 hours straight, and we actually had to wake him up the next morning for breakfast.

Thank you all for praying for this day and praying us through this day.  It was magical and we really couldn't have asked for a better situation.   We are so in love with our boy already and our hearts are so full.  I'll try to continue getting caught up on the blog but in the meantime, enjoy the snippets on Facebook. My number one focus is on bonding with him and most of the time when when he's asleep this momma is too tired to do anything but join in!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Travel Day 4- Arrival in Zhengzhou

Today was a travel/prep day for us.  We got to take the high speed "bullet" train from Bejing to Zhengzhou (pronounced Jeng-Joe), which is in the province of Henan.  This is where Will was born, so this is where we have to take custody of him and finalize the adoption.
We woke up at 5:00 am to finish packing our bags so the bell boys could pick them up at 5:30.  We finished getting ourselves ready and met the group members who were taking the train with us in the lobby at 6:15 we boarded our bus for the train station and had our pre-packaged breakfasts handed out- 2 apples, a peach, one juice, and about 5 slices of bread for each person.  We all chuckled about that one but it was better than nothing! :)
Our guide Jason was kind enough to get us right to the correct gate once at the train station to make sure no one got lost and everyone managed their luggage ok- CCAI guides really are amazing!  One of the many, many things that really set them apart- they really take great care of every single step of this process.
James and I with Jason, one of our Beijing CCAI reps
Zhengzhou/Will, here we come!

The smog today was the thickest it has been since we've been here, and my throat has been feeling pretty scratchy all day.  I'm assuming the two are related, but I'm loading up on vitamins and airborne just in case.
The bullet train was a great experience.  We paid just a little extra (still cheaper than the option to fly) for VIP seats, so we had a ton of room and had big comfy seats, and a private car with just us, another family, and one other Chinese man in it.  I was shocked at how quiet and smooth the ride is, even though we were traveling up to nearly 200 mph at times.
There's our train!

Waiting for the Train

It was great to see more of the landscape of China- we saw a lot of different farm crops as well as a ton of tree nurseries.  I'm not sure if it's related to the hundreds and hundreds of newly planted trees we saw all over the city or if China has always grown so many trees but it appears they are really working hard at greening up their cities.  China is so much more westernized than I could have imagined, and in many ways more advanced and cleaner than any US city I've ever been to.  One big difference is the landscape though.  There are no small towns or even small cities here. Our entire journey here I saw farmlands juxtaposed against enormous high rises everywhere you looked.

You just can't fathom how many people are here until you see the astounding number of high rise housing developments.  It's easy now for me to understand how 1/5 of the worlds population is Chinese.
Mopeds everywhere!

The view from our hotel room- 21st floor
The Hilton in Zhengzhou- our home this week- 38 stories!

We arrived in Zhengzhou (ZZ for short) around 12, and our guide brought us back to the hotel.  Then she took one member from each family group to the bank to exchange money.  When I walked into our room for the first time I saw the crib all set up next to our bed for Will- I definitely choked up a little bit at this sight.

Once James returned from that trip he and I went to a local noodle shop for lunch and had a good laugh at ourselves trying to learn how to eat ramen-style noodles with chopsticks.  We eventually got the hang of it and the food was delicious so I'm sure we'll be making a few trips back there during our 5 day stay here.

Shortly after lunch our group headed to the nearby Wal-Mart to prepare for the next few days with our kiddos.  We stocked up on snacks and of course had to sneak in a few new toys for
Will.  We recently found out that his favorite show is called Super Wings so I found a few of the figurines/toy planes to play with in the room.  We came back and were so tired we wanted to go to bed right then but we both knew we'd be torturing ourselves if we did- we would wake up way too early tomorrow and then would just have to sit around and wait for our time to go and meet Will.

We finally motivated ourselves to get outside and go get some dinner, and just settled on something easy, close, and familiar- KFC.  Little did I know that it was going to be so spicy my lips and mouth would be on fire, but it was still very good.  It's so weird trying to order food that you're used to in a restaurant chain from the US but no one on staff speaks any English.  They are always so sweet and kind to us and we eventually get our point across by pointing and using gestures.  The Chinese are such kind, helpful people and the level of customer service we receive here is unlike anything I've ever experienced back home.  It dawned on us during dinner that this was our last time eating out as a "party of 2" for quite a while.
Our last date night out without a kid or a babysitter. After 9 years together as just the two of us, things are really going to be different now!

We got back to the hotel room and got everything prepared for tomorrow- gift bags, money envelopes, and Will's bag- full of suckers, toys, and treats. I'm also packing a LOT of Kleenex- there will be 17 families receive 18 children tomorrow, all in one big room- I imagine a LOT of tears, from both the parents and the kiddos.

By this time, Will is on a train on his way here with one of the caretakers from Angel House. He will sleep on the train tonight and arrive into the city around 7am. Please pray for this little heart- that his fears are calmed and that he knows his mom and dad love him and are waiting for him.  Also please pray for the many volunteers at Angel House who have cared for him the past 3 years- it is beyond evident how much they really love him and it's going to be heart wrenching for them to see him go, even though they are happy to know he has a family.  My heart just hurts thinking about it.

Once again, I'm falling asleep as I type this so it's time for bed.  Please know that around 10:00 pm Sunday night (Michigan time) we will be receiving Will into our arms forever.  He is already our son in our hearts but now he's going to be with us for real. I have no idea what to expect for tomorrow but I'm so excited to see how it all unfolds.

I will try to post an update and photos as soon as possible after our "Gotcha Day" but no promises- we just have to wait and see how he is doing with everything.  Have a great day everyone!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

China Trip Day 2 & 3

It's been a very busy, yet very fulfilling couple of days here in China.

Yesterday after I left off we headed to the hotel lounge for breakfast, and then loaded up on our bus at 9 am to head to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to tour.  That was an incredible experience- to walk on stones that were laid down in the 1400s and to see the history we've been reading about and watching documentaries of come alive.

  I continue to live in a state of having to continually remind myself that I'm really here- it all just seems very surreal at this point.  One pleasant surprise I've found is that I really haven't noticed the effects of jet lag too bad.  I think staying awake for a full 24 hour window actually helped so that on the very first night here I went to bed at a somewhat normal time and made sure to stay awake the entire next day.  I think if we had allowed ourselves to take naps yesterday when we were feeling tired it would have really messed us up.  We each woke up at least once in the night last night, but we both managed to fall back to sleep until the alarm went off at 5:30 am.  Waking up that early isn't nearly as hard as I would think, maybe because it's already daylight out, we're eager to see what the day holds, and also because we are going to bed much earlier here than we do at home (8/9 vs. 12/1).
After our tour of the forbidden city and the square we took a short bus ride to a traditional Chinese housing area, and took a rickshaw ride to a local family's house for lunch.

 Because our group is so big (12 families or so) we had to split up into smaller groups and we each had lunch in a different area.  Our group consisted of us and three oth er couples.  This was a great time to get to know some of the families we are traveling with. Up until that point we were feeling a little like outsiders in our travel group as some of them had already started to get to know one another.  We are the youngest couple in the group, and also the only first time parents.  

After lunch we came back to the hotel and then James and I got to experience something very special which I will tell you more about later.  For those of you who know that the special event was, just know that it went better than I could have ever imagined. :)
We arrived back to the hotel pretty late- it was almost 8pm and we were extremely tired, so rather than venturing out to find food we just ordered a pizza and sat outside in the hotel's "beer garden". The pizza was very overpriced and tasted like cheap frozen but we were too tired and hungry to care. I was so tired when we got up to the room I fell asleep while chatting to a friend, in my clothes from the day and with my jewelry still on. James was in getting ready for bed and said he heard my phone hit the floor and came in to find me completely passed out.
This morning we had to leave the hotel a lot earlier because they wanted to beat the traffic for the dragon boat holiday.  We got up around 5:30, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and met in the lobby at 7:15.  We drove to one of the many sites of the Great Wall and when we got there they gave us a few hours to climb.  It was really stressful at first because there were a ton of people going up and down and it was really congested and people kept stopping but once we got up to the first pass the crowd thinned out quite a bit. This was unlike any climb we had done before- this section of the wall was extremely steep, and sometimes there might only be a few inches between stairs and sometimes they are so far apart I feel like I'm going to do the splits trying to get my leg up high enough to reach the next stop. We managed to get to the highest point at the section we were in and then had to turn around and get back down, which was actually more strenuous than the climb up.  My legs were shaking so bad and it doesn't help that I'm afraid of heights and the stairs are extremely uneven so you can't really get a good rhythm going.  


After the climb we had a while before our bus left so it was another good chance to chat a bit with  some of the families in our group.  Once everyone was back together we boarded our bus and headed to a government run restaurant and jade factory/store.  This was another group lunch, filled with lots of good stories and laughter.  There are a few families in our group who have adopted from China already so they had plenty of good stories to share with the rest of us.  Both days our lunches were served in tradiontal family style, where a large number of dishes are served to the group and they are placed on a big lazy suzan in the middle of the table and everyone shares.  Both lunches consisted of WAY more food than our group could possibly eat but this is a great way to try a lot of different options at once.  Many of you know what a picky eater I am, and it's been a huge relief to find that every meal we've had there have been a lot of options that I have really enjoyed.
Following lunch we all boarded the bus again and our driver drover us near Olympic Village to see the water cube and bird's nest that were constructed for the 2008 summer games.  One thing I've noticed about Beijing from driving around is how green it is- there are little mini parks everywhere and the big main streets are all divided with parks running all along the center.  I've never seem so many trees and flowers in a big city before.  Many people think of Bejing as very dirty and full of pollution but it's really exrteremly clean.. The air quality is certainly an issue but today was bright and sunny with blue skies and clear air for most of the day.  When the pollution does get really bad it just looks like a hazy/foggy day. It's easy to forget that it's anything other than weather.
After our lunch we went to an acrobatics show which was a really cool- it reminded me of a cross between Shen Yun and Cirque de Soleil.

James and I lost track of our group's plans for the evening so again we just did our own thing for dinner.  We went for a walk in the area near our hotel in search of a good noodle shop but didn't find one so we just ended up at Pizza Hut instead.  It was nice to get out and walk around without a big group so we felt like we just blended into the crowd a little more.  We wlalked through the big shopping district with the big Apple Store and all the designer name stores (Prada, Tiffany & Co, Rolex, Gap, etc).and then also stumbled across the well-known "food alley" street with the all street venders selling everything from steamed dumplings to cooked starfish and cockroaches on a stick. Interesting experience but no we didn't try anything.
We got back to our room and took much overdue showers and got our laundry going.  Tomorrow morning we have to have our luggage ready by 5:30 am and then depart the lobby at 6:15 to head to the train station for the bullett train to Zengzhou, where we will get Will and our adoption will become official.  I'm really excited for the train ride- the train goes over 200 mph and  we are traveling with one other family so it will be nice to get to know them a little better.
Well, that's all for now, I'm struggling to keep my eyes open and my alarm goes off way too soon!  Thanks for all of the prayers and well wishes- we are having a great time and are so excited to get Will on Monday. I hope you're all having a great week!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

We made it to China!

I started this post half-way through our flight, continued it right after we got to the hotel, and finished it this morning after waking up here on our first morning so it's a bit fragmented but at least you get the whole thing :)

Our luggage all packed and ready to go the night before we left- the big one is all Will's stuff!

Written from the airplane:  Of course between finalizing our packing and preparation and pure excitement about the journey ahead, I only managed about 2 hours of sleep the night before our big journey was to begin.  Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from eagerly waking up to the 4am alarm this morning-  I cherished a few extra snuggles with each one of the cats and then got up to get in the shower and prepare for our flight.

You got it IPhone!

 We left the house around 5:15 am and had a very easy time at the Grand Rapids airport.
Adios Grand Rapids!

By 7am we were in the sky, for a very short 29 minute flight to Detroit.  We landed in Detroit around 7:30 am and after a short walk around the terminal, settled in for the next 5 1/2  hours.  It was a bummer to have such a long layover, but I managed to get some thank you cards written out from the last two adoption showers, have a nice long catch up phone conversation with Amanda, and got to chat with Melanie quick while James took a nap.  I took a walk to find some postage stamps and a mailbox to arrive back at the terminal to find the gate agents had arrived and a line was starting to form.
There's our plane!

Because we didn't have seats assigned yet we were a little unsure of what we needed to do in order to  ensure our getting to sit together.  We got in line but then they told us they were working on the seating arrangements and would page us to the counter.  This was a little stressful because it was 1 1/2 hours before takeoff, and we hadn't eaten lunch yet, but when I asked the gate agent he said not to leave.  So we sat for an hour, they never called us up, and then it was time to board. I gave up my hopes of indulging in some Chik-Fil-A and settled for some snacks from the closest gift shop and a couple of overpriced salads.  We boarded our plane and were pleasantly surprised that the did get seated together, and James had a window seat.  We are right in front of  the bathrooms, which are incredibly busy, but at least we're not split up and we have a window to look out of.
Here we go!  
So excited! (And tired!)

So far I've watched two documentaries on the in-flight entertainment, one about a man returning to China after having lived in the US for 40 years (My Life in China), and another one about Janis Joplin.
I should be working on practicing/learning some Mandarin but I don't think my brain can really retain any new information right now... Hopefully I'll find a little time for that between now and Monday when we take custody of Will.
So far it doesn't really feel like this is actually happening.  I think it's just been such a long process of one task after the next and weeks of running errands that it just seems like we're in the midst of another errand.  It's hard to comprehend that in another 9-10 hours we will be IN CHINA, and in just a few days we will get Will.  5 days until we become parents in real life and not just in our hearts.
I don't really feel nervous or anxious about anything anymore, I think the best way to sum up how I am feeling is curious. I just wonder what it will be like when we land, how I will feel, how many hours I can make it on no sleep (I'm totally incapable at sleeping on planes) and how bad the jet lag/exhaustion is going to be from going nearly 48 hours on just a few hours of sleep.
I know that we will be experiencing every kind of moment in the next couple of weeks- moments of pure magic, pure exhaustion, confusion, feeling overwhelmed, doubt, confidence, joy, fear, etc.  But I also know that the same Great God that has carried us this far is also going to carry us through this time of great transition.
As I sat in the airport earlier today (or was it yesterday... Hopping 12 time zones is confusing!), I was overcome with awe at how many people God has used to carry us through this journey-  so many of you have prayed for us, bought t-shirts, coffee, purses, donated cash, shared our story, spoken words of encouragement, loaned us items, gifted us stuff for Will, thrown us parties, and just shared in our joy and excitement.  I cannot tell you how much it means to us, and I also hope you realize that you were all part of a bigger plan- a promise that I heard that night back in March 2015-  that if we stopped worrying about the logistics that God would provide.  And He worked through so many of you to do just that.  I'm seriously convinced we have the best circle of people in our lives imaginable.
So far, I know that we have about 9 hours left on our flight, and when we land in Beijing we will be greeted at  the airport by 1 or 2 guides from our agency who will take us back to our hotel.  It will be 2:30 pm local time on Thursday when we land, 2:30 AM Michigan time.  I'm hoping we can manage to stay awake until at least 8:30 local time so that we can go to bed at a somewhat "normal hour" as Friday is a BIG DAY.
Well that's it for now.  They made everyone shut the windows on the airplane and I'm getting drowsy.  Maybe I'll try my hand at a little nap again.  It's SO COLD on the plane- I'm wearing yoga pants and a long sleeve knit top plus a cardigan, wrapped up in two blankets and I"m still freezing (note to self, dress even warmer next time)

Written from hotel room:
The rest of the flight went well.  The only thing that really bothered me during the journey was that a few hours into the flight they made everyone close the window shades and kept them close until the final hour of the flight.  I can never sleep on airplanes, especially when I'm sitting right in front of the lavatories and an on my way to pick up our son, but regardless, my favorite thing to do is to look out the window every few moments to see the world from above.  It was a bummer I couldn't do this especially since we were flying over places I had never seen from the sky.  Hopefully they don't do the same thing on the way back.  I passed the remained of our flight watching more movies and attemping (without success) to fall asleep.
So close!  
Hello Bejing!
When we got off the plane we went through customs and got our bags and then were greeted by our CCAI rep.  She had to stay at the airport to wait for another family, so a driver took us back to our hotel. Our hotel room that CCAI booked is huge!  It's bigger than our first apartment was, and has a kitchen, laundry, dining room, leaving room, and 2 bathrooms.

Written next morning (today)
We got checked in and settled into our room, and then had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  The wait staff was really sweet to us, and right before we left, they came out and explained today was a very special holiday (Dragon Boat Festival) so they had some complimentary special dish for us to try- sticky rice wrapped up in bamboo leaves- delicious!   We were both so tired that we came right back to the room, got ready for bed and fell asleep around 7pm local time.  I slept until 5am and though I knew I should try to get another couple of hours I couldn't fall back asleep.  Now it is 7 am and  we we will get ready, grab some breakfast at the hotel and then meet up with our travel group.  Today is a big day! We have our tours mentioned above and then something even better that I can't tell you all about just yet (hey just be thankful you get updates! ;) )
Have a wonderful day everyone!