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!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Process and Fundraising Update

Wow, has it already been two months since my last update?!  Time sure flies when you're busy preparing for a 3 year old!

Many of you have been following our journey via Facebook updates, but in case you haven't and need an update, we have spent the last 2 months preparing our hearts and home for Will's arrival.

We finished his bedroom, spent some time finding great deals on toys and clothes at yard sales, attended two baby showers for family members who are also having babies, were blessed by two showers for Will, stood up in James' brother's wedding, and have been putting in a lot of extra hours at work.
                                            I love yard sale deals!

Needless to say, we've been busy, but a very good kind of busy.

Our adoption process has also been moving right along, and we are SO CLOSE to leaving for China to meet our boy and bring him home!  We now have our visas to enter China, and his immigration paperwork will be picked up by our agency rep from the consulate in China on Monday.  After that we enter into a waiting period for travel approval, which should happen in 1-20 days.  Once we have travel approval and a consulate appointment scheduled in Guangzhou,  we book our tickets, finalize our plans, pack, and GO TO CHINA!  

Long story short- we could be leaving for China as soon as three weeks from now.  That is a very surreal, but also very exciting idea.  We are really starting to feel like we have most of the things we need to care for him (and still have one big shower with both of our families on June 4), and our hearts are beyond ready to begin our journey of bonding with him and getting to know him in person.

We have come a long way towards becoming financially ready to go to China as well. We were very blessed to receive one of the grants that we applied for, which covered the remaining fees due to our agency.  We have enough saved up to cover our orphanage fee, so now we just need to make sure we have our travel costs covered- and airfare to China in June is certianly not cheap!  My work has been very very busy, so I've been able to put in a lot of overtime hours recently, which will really help us with costs and hopefully allow us to save a little for the 4-6 week portion of my maternity leave that will be unpaid.

We also have been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to raise money through GoBena coffee sales.  GoBena makes awesome organic, fairly traded coffee, and 50% of the purchase cost will go directly toward our adoption fees.  We've received our first shipment of coffee that we ordered and my coffee drinking husband attests that this is really great stuff!
 Here is the link to our fundraising page:

We are also still working on the completion of our puzzle, and have the new opportunity to collect tax deductible donations for puzzle piece sponsorships through LifeSong for Orphans.  HERE is that link.

Our puzzle is currently about 1/3 of the way completed, so we still have quite a ways to go but I'm confident we can get there!  (The grey pieces are those that have been sponsored, the colorful ones are still available)

For those of you not familiar with our puzzle fundraiser, the complete information is found here

Beyond coffee and puzzle pieces, the biggest thing we could ask for is your prayers.  We all have a big transition coming, and even though I can tell Will has a very optimistic, outgoing personality he is still a 3 year old, and is about to experience a great loss and huge shock, so please join us in praying for perseverance and protection.

We are SO excited to get our boy home with us and enjoy our summer getting to know each other, playing together, and bonding as a family.  Thank you to each and every one of you who have helped support us in this journey of a lifetime!

I hope to include a more detailed update with more photos soon, but it's waaaay past my bedtime!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Where there is a WILL, there is a way!

Hello friends!

Here I am, slacking again on keeping my blog up to date, but this time I have a good excuse... we have been so busy and having so much fun preparing for the arrival of our little guy that I just haven't felt like sitting down in front of the computer.

At least two or three times a week, a great idea for a blog post crosses my mind, but by the time I get home I just can't muster the energy to sit in one place for enough time to get my thoughts out in a post.

This post will be brief, as it's getting late and I'm still recovering from daylight savings time sleep deprivation, but so much great stuff has been happening I wanted to keep you all in the loop.
"hindsight" edit- who am I kidding?  I don't know how to do "brief"

The day after I wrote my last post, we got news that our letter of intent to adopt our son was accepted, and also that our Dossier (big packet of paperwork) was officially "logged in" to China's system... officially putting us in the LOA wait.  Many people say that the wait for LOA is the most agonizing part of the adoption process, but for us it has been the most fun... we finally know who our child is, and can start preparing for their arrival.  I feel like I'm in the third trimester of pregnancy without the swollen feet and ankles, aching back, sleepless nights, and constant runs to the bathroom.

I have been connecting with many other families who have adopted from our son's orphanage/foster home and have been able to find so many photos of him... such a blessing!

Now, for the moment you have all been waiting for... ready to meet our son? (many of you have already seen photos on Facebook, but in case you haven't, here he is!)

Meet William TianYi Hawkins!

Yep, that's right, we've also decided on a name!  His Chinese name is Tian Yi, which translates as Tian= Heaven, Yi=wish   this prounounced "Tee-En  Yee".  I can't think of a better fitting name... wish from heaven... yep, that's him!
We decided early in the process that we would give him a more traditional first name and keep his all or part of his Chinese name as his middle name.  Because we won't want to take away from the full meaning of his name we will push the two names together, but keep the Y capitalized... TianYi.

As I touched on in my last post, Will has malformations of all four of his limbs, namely his hands and feet.  He was born without any fingers, and only one or two toes on each foot.  But don't you worry, this little guy is going to be running laps around us and proving to us daily that you can do anything you set your mind to.  It is clear his nannies have done an excellent job teaching him the importance of having a positive outlook... he is ALWAYS smiling and laughing in all of the photos and videos we see of him.

I love the name "Will" because it means "determined (protector)".  When we got his file they sent us quite a few videos of him performing various tasks, such as stringing beads, turning the pages of a book, drawing with a pencil, sorting toys, etc... the very first thing that James and I noticed about him was how determined and focused he is.  He does not let his limb difference slow him down one bit, and everything I've read about him echos the sentiment that this little boy is determined to do everything for himself.

So there you have it, we have our Will. :)

We started working on his bedroom, and this past weekend my mom and I went to a couple of consignment sales and to Target to pick up some toys and bedroom decor for him.  I got a great deal on a train table, and wouldn't you know my parents, my husband and I spent quite a while working together to set up the track and "test out" the equipment... :)

We still have a long-ish road ahead of us, and we are still not fully funded for our journey, but I have decided to take a little break from grant applications and constant worry about the funding.  We fully trust that everything will fall into place as needed.

Of course we are still pinching pennies and saving whatever we can (and I've been able to get some overtime hours in at work due to the busy season for mortgages starting), but I was just becoming so consumed with financial worry that I was missing out on soaking up this special time for our family.

Our puzzle fundraiser will continue to run until we travel to pick him up, and as it stands our puzzle is still only 25% complete.  If you would like to sponsor any pieces, please refer to the instructions for doing so by clicking HERE.

 Unless we receive any of the grants we have applied for so far, we are currently about $5,000 short of being able to fully cover the costs of our remaining fees and agency costs.  Knowing that it is unlikely that we will face huge medical costs when we arrive home sets my mind at ease, and if we have to take out a small loan to cover the remaining expenses then we will certainly do that. 

I'm also considering a small yard sale in May during our neighborhood sales, but I'm not sure I can pull it off due to having a VERY busy couple of months ahead of us.  Between now and the time we travel we have 4 baby showers, a wedding (that we are both standing up in), and a few small projects on the house we'd like to get done.... but that's ok!  The busier we are, the faster time will pass, right? ;)

I just cannot explain to you the amount of love we have in our hearts for this little boy, and how quickly it grew.  We think about him all day, we dream about being with him and playing trains, and we talk about the things we will learn together and the experiences we can't wait to share with him.  Our first few months together will likely be very difficult months-  he has spent his entire life in a wonderful foster home with very dedicated nannies who love him dearly and care for him as their own.  He will be experiencing tremendous loss, fear, and confusion.  While we know this, we also know that God has a plan for this child and for our family, and that He will be with us as we walk through the dark days and will carry all of us through the struggles.

I will do my best to keep up as things progress, but there are the steps we are waiting on.

We are currently in day 25 of our "LOA wait", and expect to be waiting at least 2 more weeks before we receive word that our dossier and intent to adopt Will has all been cleared.  At that point we go through a series of steps to get immigration approval coordinated between the US and Chinese governements... a process that usually takes around 9 or 12 weeks.  Then we will be issued travel approval, and about 2 weeks later will hop on a plane to China!

We are in the final months (we hope!) of our lives as a "party of 2".... crazy!  It seems like this journey has gone by so quickly, and at the same time the thought of waiting three more months to meet him seems SO LONG!  We are really crossing our fingers that we will be able to travel in June, but anything is still possible...  there are still a lot of steps to get through, so I'm trying not to get my heart set on anything.  At least we know he's in a wonderful place with people who love him dearly.

We were able to send him a small care package a few weeks ago and received word that he did receive the items we sent him.  I can't really say much, but we were told  that he knows he has a family and seems happy about that fact.
Here is a photo of the items we sent to him:

We put together a little photo album with labels in Mandarin introducing us, the pets,and Grandparents so that he will be familiar with our faces when we meet

If you would like to join us in praying for our son and his nannies, that would be much appreciated.  It's helpful to remember that China is 12 hours ahead of us, so when I am getting for work every morning, he is going to bed.  When I'm going to bed he is likely eating lunch, and when I am eating dinner he is probably waking up.  I try to remember this when I pray for him.  I pray that he finds comfort in knowing that he has a mom and a dad, and that he finds courage to face the huge changes that lay ahead of him.  I also pray for comfort and peace for his caretakers.  I worked four summers at a daycare, and I STILL think of those children I cared for all of the time. I cannot imagine working with a child (and possibly even living with?) for 3 1/2 years and then having to say goodbye, not knowing if I will ever see them again.  They have been there for every one of his milestones- his first words, first steps, first bumps and bruises and illness.  They have wiped his tears, watched him laugh and run and play and soon they will have to say goodbye.  My heart truly aches at the thought that our joy accompanies others pain.  

That's all for now, good night everyone!  Thanks for following our journey!

I apologize in advance for typos or grammar errors....I am too tired to edit the post tonight! Take that, grammer Nazis!