Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas to Remember!

We have had such a great time enjoying family time together as a family of 5 and with our extended family.  Ava Grace is learning many new words these days and is starting to talk more and more.  She says (and understands now) Mama, Daddy, Coco, Jace, ball, whoa, up, down, baby, cookie, bye-bye, night-night, hey, cracker, chips, go, teeth, bath, and most of all MILK- that girl lives by her MILK! She loves taking baths, and playing with her baby dolls.  Her hair has grown to about 2 inches now and is getting thick too.  We are able to comb it some now and when she gets up in the morning it is a wreck!  She can feed herself pretty well but is in the stage where she is being pretty picky- she loves some yogurt, noodles, rice, soup and just recently, cereal like Lucky Charms and Raisin Bran with milk and now starting to enjoy chocolate too!  She has grown to love chocolate and cookies over the Christmas season.  Most of the time she will just look at food and shake her head no, but recently she has been watching us eat something and will try a little sometimes.  She likes to do it on her terms though- that will be her strength in life!

We celebrated her 2nd birthday with a ladybug party at our house.  All of her cousins came over and her best buddy Landon too.  Mommy baked a big ladybug chocolate cookie for her party and she wouldn't touch it at all.  She just wanted chips- and it didn't matter what kind.  She tends to eat good one day and then not much the next. 

At her last checkup, she had gained 4.5lbs since we came home on Aug 31st.  She is now on the growth curve for height and weight.  She has filled out all around and is really walking and doing everything she wants.  She stays on the go.

It has really been great to see how much she has changed since we got home, and really great to be able to share our story with many people- not so that we get the attention but so that others can see how great adoption really is for children that need a home.  It is really our hope and passion that we can inspire others to look into adoption because it really gives these children so much more than you can imagine.  It is a family sacrifice, but one that is well worth it!  I recently asked the boys if they would do it again know how they have to give up toys or things and attention from Mommy and Daddy and they said they would- that means a lot to us!  We have been really careful to try and have individual time with each one of them often- it is hard on us but means so much to them and prevents anamosity amongst them. We have been so blessed by this whole experience!!!   And we are so very appreciative of all the support our immediated family has given us- it has been unbelievable!



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finally Home and Settling In!!!

After an long, stressful, yet wonderful adoption journey, our new daughter was safe in our arms, tucked into her crib (that we had to put together and set up as soon as we got home, as we found she was WAY too small for the twin bed we had decked out so beautifully), surrounded by the dearest, most sincere family/community we have ever known. God delivered her from poverty and abandonment back into a family, no longer alone in this big world; now wanted and loved and welcomed with great fervor.

The End ………Not!!

We have been home a little over one month now, and our new life as a family of FIVE is glorious and blessed beyond measure, but the first 2 weeks home were …….hard ….to say the least.  We were exhausted beyond measure ….hence no update on our joyous homecoming until now. 

Let me catch you up ….

We left our hotel room in Guangzhou on 8/31 at 6 am, and arrived home in North Carolina 28 hours later, with Joey and I getting absolutely no sleep.  It was excruciating, physically exhausting, but our kids did so well on the journey.  The boys and Ava slept for a good part of the trip (except when the seatbelt sign came on and the strict stewardess told us to pick her up out of her comfy, cozy cradle she was sleeping in and hold her).  When we stepped onto the ground in RDU and saw our parents, it was the happiest moment of my life!!   I cried tears of joy and pride for our new daughter as I saw their faces see her for the 1st time, it was indescribable …..  We told our friends and extended family not to come to the airport, as we weren’t sure how Ava Grace would do, seeing so many faces, and not sure if we could take it after 28 hours of travel, but looking back if we could do it over, I’d have everyone there!  We missed everyone so terribly ….

For the first week, we were jetlagged terribly, and Ava Grace, who had been sleeping through the night in China, had a fever for 5 days and was up and fussy a lot.  When visitors came, which we wanted because we missed everyone so, she was terrified.  You could palpate her fear, her trembling, as she clung to Joey or me.  She was the happiest little thing with just us, but as soon as someone came by, which was often, she would cling to us and often cry.  This was difficult, but I understood her fear.  We had just taken her from all she ever knew, a place of security, from a room of babies and nannies and strict routines, where she was left either in her crib all day, or in a walker, to a strange house with lots of places to roam around and get lost, with “western” people coming over and trying to pick her up, and most likely wondering who was going to take her away next.

 I had the dreaded “mommy guilt” for my 2 boys, which was totally not necessary, as their worlds’ were blessed beyond measure as they always wanted a lil sis.  Not mention they have lacked for nothing in their lives!!  But yet, it still came ….. I cried some, was sad a lot when they were at school, and thought often, “what have I done to them and their world as they knew it”??  Well I tell you what we did.  We exposed them to something they could not comprehend before seeing it firsthand ….poverty, needs beyond comprehension, heartbreak, orphans, special needs children, other families following God’s call in the adoption community, a HUGE history lesson on China with all of our siteseeing, and most importantly, taught them God’s love for orphans and people in need, and how we must listen to Him and be obedient to what He asks us to do.

But if I may, let me tell you something: If you are intrigued by the “idea” of adoption, with the crescendo storyline and happy airport pictures and the sigh-inducing family portrait with the different skin colors and the feely-feel good parts of the narrative, please find another way to see God's kingdom come.  You cannot just be into Adopting, you must be into parenting.  This is what it’s all about, parenting a new child, one who you have not nurtured for the 1st few years, one who may be damaged, abused, neglected …..And you must parent them, and Love them, no matter what.

I recently read this from a fellow adoptive family on the subject of adoption….
“It is hard, hard, intentional, laborious work. Children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, given away, given up, and left alone are shaken so deeply, so intrinsically, they absolutely require parents who are willing to wholly invest in their healing; through the screaming, the fits, the anger, the shame, the entitlement, the bed-wetting, the spitting, the rejection, the bone-chilling fear. Parents who are willing to become the safe place, the Forever these children hope for but are too terrified to believe in just yet. But "yet" is a powerful word in the context of faith, if we are indeed to believe in the unseen and hope for what has not materialized.”

I thought this described the “work” of the first few weeks, or possibly months, following an adoption, so very well.  Thankfully, our life is wonderful now.  Ava Grace is no longer fearful of being taken away from us or of us leaving, and her “adjustment” period seems to be over.  We love her so very much, every day the love grows more. 

So let me tell you about her!  She is so full of personality!  She makes the funniest faces, mimics everything we do (which her brothers LOVE), laughs wonderfully, has learned that you dance when you hear music, that we have to brush her teeth J, has learned what bath water feels like (yes, she’d never been submerged in a bathtub of water- we video taped her 1st bath as it was soooo sweet to see her face), loved to walk her brothers into their school and wave at ALL the kids, loves playing in our church nursery with kids her own age, and really likes to “show off” for new people!  It has been wonderful. 

I know this post was long, and I will try to post new pics!  But time has been hard to come by with a new little one who likes to get into alot of new things, haha!!
All dressed up for church!!  She loves accessories!  yay!



We get this moody look often, she is something!! 


We have to take new pics, as her hair has grown and she has gained 2 lbs!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 11- August 28, 2011

Is it time to come back home yet???  WE ARE READY FOR SURE!  We are all kindof tired of being in a foreign place, not being able to speak to anyone and not knowing what we are eating and where we are going either.  I guess we have to stick it out another couple of days and then we are homebound.
Today we just had a fun day.  We went to an art museum where local artists are there doing paintings and writings and such.  It was pretty neat to see it all.  We were able to pick up a few souveniors along the way.  The boys were pretty bored with it too but found them some neat things for buying.  AvaGrace, well, she loves her stroller and squeaky shoes that we bought here for $5. 
Next we went to an amusement park.  There they had rides and cotton candy and lots of children.  Here it is Sunday, so everyone was off for the weekend.  I have not seen any difference here as far as Sunday being their religious day or anything.  The park was mainly for smaller kids and Jace and Collin weren’t that into it.  They did like the section that had some exercise pieces.  Lots of places here have little stations to stretch your body and get you to move a little more.  It is not that strenuous for you but more of massages and stretches for your body.  It is neat.
 Chen Clan Temple (now art museum)

Jace getting a glass with his name painted in the inside.

Next we ate lunch and got a ham and cheese sandwich, chicken wings, and spaghetti.  It was all pretty good- they said it was a Chinese and western- style restaurant.   It filled an empty spot. 
AvaGrace is taking to the boys much better now.  She has been going to them and teasing them some and they are eating it up.  We are really glad to see that now.  She has learned to walk on her own since we got her.  The first few days we walked her around by the hand, but now she walks where she wants in the room.  The boys have been playing legos, playing on computer games, and catching some movies while we have been letting AvaGrace walk around the place.   

Finally in Guangzhou!!

Oh we are so happy to be on our last leg of our 3 city journey in China.  We took our 1st airplane flight with Ava last night, and she did good.  She slept in Joey's arms, so his arms fell asleep, though!  Guangzhou is just beautiful!  Very tropical weather, lots of green, and best of all, sunshine!  We have had fog, rain, and hazy days until now.  We traveled to Shamian Island this am for her medical exam, and saw lots of other adoptive familes there!  And we have several families staying in The Garden Hotel with us, so we don't feel so isolated anymore.  The island is a very pretty place, we shopped and ate lunch at I Love Lucy's, a popular diner that serves Americal style lunches.  I had a grilled cheese and, Oh, how it tasted so good!  We met a family from Raleigh here to adopt a 3 yr old daughter, what a small world :) 
 Yay!  Food we recognize  :)

 Outside The Garden Hotel

Jace and Collin braved this meal, and ate their shrimp whole!!


Ava Grace likes to sit in her stroller now, thank goodness!  She feels comfortable and will even fall asleep in it if she's tired.  She cried the 1st several times we tried to put her in it.  The boys will have more free time here in Guangzhou, and they are thankful for that.  We have an outdoor pool we plan to take them all to, are going to a small amusement park tomorrow, and to a safari Monday after her consulate appointment where we take our oath.


Day 10- August 27, 2011
We have arrived in Guangzhou and it is nicer place than the other two places but it is hot here.  This place seems less crowded and people are not as pushy here- a little more civil all around.  We are all really tired and today we had an easy relaxing day.  We had to take AvaGrace for her medical exam and that was it.  There is one place to get these exams done for adoption children.  Little did we know that everyone else had beat us there.  When we walked in the waiting room was overflowing with American families all with adopted Chinese children. It was pretty cool.  That is the nice thing about where we are staying right now too.  We see families just like us at breakfast and in the hallways here at the hotel and we are able to talk with them and share experiences.  From those conversations we have the best story- or maybe we are just a little biased!  HaHa!  Either way, it is pretty different than where we have been before. 
Our facilitator here is named Jack and he knows his stuff.  He has everything lined up for us here already.  At the medical clinic we were the last family to get there, but somehow Jack got us to be the next one to start the medical visit- that was awesome!  She checked out ok and then we had to kill about 2.5 hours for the clinic to complete the paperwork so Jack could pick it up before we left.  We walked along the streets and did some shopping and then went to the park so the boys could play on the playground. We ate lunch at a little restaurant there and Mandy got a grilled cheese and said it was great.  We got cheeseburgers, looking for something like home here, but they tasted really strange.  Jack picked up the paperwork and then picked us up and we went back to the room for some freetime.  We played in the room all afternoon.  The boys enjoyed a little time playing with their Chinese legos that we bought in Shanghai just before we left to come here.  We took a nap and then went out for a stroll beside the hotel.  We found a convenient store and bought some drinks and snacks for the room and then stopped by to get a bite at the McDonalds.  It was just like home!  It was great! We miss home some kindof bad and are really dreading the long flight home.  On the flight to Guangzhou, daddy had to hold AvaGrace as she slept the whole time and it was tough to do on that small plane.  We are ready to get back for sure.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pictures

What a sweet laugh!!


This is a comfortable ride

A quick medical visit for a "favor", but Ava was not sick :)

This is a tall building, huh, Collin?
A happy group

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 7- August 25, 2011

The Buddhist Temple
Where our sweet girl was found at 1 month of age.

Out Cold!!  long day?

Miss Personality


Mommy & me



Today was a rainy day and filled with a couple of tours.  We told the boys that and they were over it before we started.  They have been very patient but “they just wanna have fun!”  Truth is, we are kindof that way also.  Oh well, they sucked it up and went with the flow like we did.  Today we were off to tour a famous Buddist temple here in Shanghai.  On the way, we had a great moment to share what Buddists believe and how it is different than Christians.  We had a good conversation between our family.  We also shared how it is important that we understand where little AvaGrace is coming from and her culture history.  The temple was very elaborate and our guide explained how everything they believe relates back to nature.  AvaGrace was not feeling it today.  She was cranky and didn’t know who she wanted.  I think in the end she wanted mommy the most and today was officially a very good mommy day for her.  Of course, everyone wants mommy when they are not feeling great and that was great to see.  Mommy just has a hard time carrying her everywhere and it can be a bit much for her. 
We went to another silk factory (same as our department stores back home) before lunch.  Here we ended buying mommy a little piece of China (pocketbook) and a set of placemats with matching chopsticks for our future Chinese dinners at home. 
Next we headed off to lunch.  Lunch was great today.  Everything was recognizable and good.  Sweet and sour chicken, soup, rice, fried chicken, fried fish, grilled pork with bamboo shoots and zucchini, and of course watermelon for dessert- that is always the dessert but it is not as sweet as ours back home. 
After lunch we went to the Shanghai museum.  It was located on one side of the People’s square.  There was some amazing bronze, pottery, calligraphy (what they call their writing here), paintings, and furniture in there.  It showcases their long history and how talented these people are.  Some pieces are more that 4000 years old and still preserved very well.  It makes me think about our American history and really how short lived we have been. 
We thought we were done for the day after the tour- and Lord knows we were spent after looking at pottery and such for more than 2 hours- but we had a special treat along the way.  We were headed to the place where our little AvaGrace was found when she was a month old.  The place was at a huge hospital in Shanghai.  We realized just how this mommy cared for her.  We feel like she left her here at this particular hospital because this hospital specializes in dental work according to our guide- and the mommy knew she needed that type of care.  Our guide asked everyone along the way to find the exact place she was found so we could go there with her.  We found it and were able to take some pictures there with her now. That was very special for us and we got a little emotional seeing it and thinking about it.
After that, we headed back home for a little free time, packing up, and PIZZ HUT PIZZA!!!  Mandy was determined to have pizza tonight.  She was one the phone for about 30 minutes and came back in to say it will be delivered in an hour with a Coke!  Were we in paradise or what?  To make it even sweeter, it was cheap too, only 90 RMB which translates to about $15 (large pizza, 1.25 liter of Coke, 2 slices of pie, and delivery by bicycle).  We are headed out tomorrow to pickup our notarized paperwork that we paid for and filled out last Monday and then to the airport to fly to another place called Guangzhou (said as “GuangJoe”).  We will leave there next Wednesday to come back home. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 5 & 6- August 23 & 24, 2011


Day 5 - August 23, 2011
Today started out as a test of our patience and sort of like the honeymoon was over for little Ava Grace.  She woke up and did not want any of us.  It’s like the vacation was over for her.  After about 30 minutes she realized we weren’t leaving and then she was all ‘lovey’ again.  She was so much more relaxed than the first day we got her.  She has been a real trooper.  Our first activity today was to go to Adoption office and then to the Notary office.  At the adoption office, we had to go through the interview process and explain why we were adopting.  It was a little intimidating but was quick.  There was a lot of waiting and the kids did great occupying themselves.  We then had to go and take a picture of mom, dad, and Ava Grace.  We found out that this picture was used on the official adoption certificate.  We met up with our friends from Wisconsin again.  It is funny because neither one of us know where we are going or what the next steps are.  We just see each other along the way.  It’s very funny.  We left the adoption office and went to the notary office.  Here the notary is much more important than in US.  Here they are the official recorders and the only ones that do that.  So we met up with our friends again at the notary office.  Here we took the oath, which was basically an agreement that we would not abandon or abuse our little girl.  She basically read the requirement to all of us together and we had to shake our head or indicate yes.  We were presented Ava Grace’s passport that had only her Chinese name on it.  It was a cute picture there that was taken weeks ago and she is showing off her 2 front teeth.  She did great being patient the whole time and the boys are continuously playing with her and trying to entertain her.  Today she was reaching for them and playing games with them.  That was a welcomed site because the first day she wanted nothing to do with them.  She is mimicking them with funny faces and sounds.  She picks up quickly and is very smart. 
After the notary office, we went to lunch at the Bunder (I think that’s right but it’s a boardwalk that showcases the river and beautiful buildings all around central Shanghai).  Lunch was great!  We had fried chicken, spicy bamboo shoots with chicken, rice, cabbage, soup, and fried pork (seemed a lot like chicken fried steak though).  The boys ate great and have been great at trying new stuff at each meal.  We fed Ava Grace some rice with soups mixed together to make it a little easier going down.  She is a good eater and will tell you when she’s had enough.  So far she has taken almost 2x as much formula at each feeding and eater much more from the table than we were told she was eating.  I think she has gained a pound already.  Right after lunch we took a tour down the boardwalk.  We asked the guide if it was going to be a long tour and he said no justa short ways.  So we didn’t take a stroller or carrier.  Of course, Ava Grace fell asleepas soon as we got going and the short tour lasted more than an hour!  Daddy’s arms and back were give out but by the end of that and couldn’t wait til we got into the van again.  From there we took a stroll through the French Quarter here and it was composed of many small stores and galleries down narrow, run-down alleys.  It was nothing fancy but was a very neat atmosphere.  That was another 30 minute tour, but this time we had her in the stroller.  There were some beautiful pictures there.  The thing that really sticks out in our minds is how artistically talented these people are.  They can create some fabulous works of art here. By this time we were give out and ready to just relax in the room and let the boys play with their little sis.  We asked our facilitator how they usually treat sick people here and he took it as we thought Ava Grace was sick.  He made a call and said that he arranged for us to stop by the hospital to get her checked out since the van drivers wife was a nurse there and it wouldn’t cost us anything.  We insisted several times that she was ok and it wasn’t necessary but he wasn’t hearing that.  So we played along made it another opportunity to see a hospital up close.  The nurses and doctors there were fabulous and had a big heart.  We finally made it back to the room after another long day and the boys finally got to play with little sissy.  They did great and didn’t overwhelm her.  She is getting much more used to them now and now reaches out to touch them and interact with them more.  They are lapping it up.     




Day #6 Aug 24, 2011

Jace braved the challenge of this fine dining


Today was a little more relaxing than any of the previous ones.  No paperwork, no appointments, just tour of TV tower and Pearl factory.  So we started out around 9:30 this morning.  We went to the TV tower which is about 1500 feet tall from the best we can interpret.  It had about 250 floors- that is the highest we could go anyway.  It has a skywalk to walk out on and glass floor so you can see under your feet.  It was incredibly high and gave the very best views of the beautiful city here.  It was AWESOME!  We took it all in for quote a while.  Then we went down a ways and to an arcade that the boys really enjoyed.  It was great for them- they have been so patient the whole time and I was glad they had a little while in there to play some games.  We finished at the TV tower by walking through the museum there.  It was huge with many models of what times were like in the older days and explained the history here.  It was nice but way too much for us to take it all in. 
Next we went for lunch.  Everyday before today we have had the very best food you can find here.  Today we went to a very formal place and got the meal we had been worried about getting.  There were many items there that we couldn’t figure out what they were.  Mandy liked some soup that we had.  It seemed to have some eggs stuffed with some kind of meat and some clear chewy things that she said was dumplings.  When our facilitator came back to get us after lunch she asked what was in some of the dishes- BIG MISTAKE!  The dumplings that she liked were tendons and the meat was some kind of mixture of meat.  I could see her getting sick by minute-haha!  There was a chicken foot on one of the plates, no other chicken parts that I could recognize.  They brought us fish and yes that was easy to recognize because it was the entire fish- eyes and all just on a plate.  That was actually pretty decent if you could get past him staring at you while you ate him.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat very much for lunch.  We ate our rice which is always a safe bet here. 
We toured a pearl factory and while Mandy shopped the boys and Ava Grace stole the show.  They have many young girls working in the factories (same as our department stores) to sale items to people.  They love children here and kept telling us that we have a great family.  Of course we agree.  Everywhere we go they say Jace looks like Harry Potter and they just pull Collin with them to show off his blue eyes to all of their friends.  At the pearl factory we bought Ava Grace a pearl bracelet and necklace to give her when she gets older.  The ladies there couldn’t get over how much she was attached to her parents after only a couple of days.  They kept saying we were very lucky and we realize it is not luck but God’s grace that helped us in this union.
Since we didn’t have much lunch today we decided to go out to eat for dinner.  We decided to walk out on the streets around the hotel and came across a KFC.  We were happy to finally get another taste of home, but after we got our food, we found out it was not the same.  The chicken was not the same chicken we have at home.  I don’t know how it was different, but it was very.  None of us could eat our sandwich, so we got a sundae and headed home for the night. 
When we got back we tried to keep Ava Grace up a while to see if anyone would Skype us.  She started playing hard and was talking up a storm.  She is really coming out of her shell now.  Tonight we were able to put her in the boys laps and she was just touching their hair and faces and loving on them. We even got her to kiss them on the cheek for bedtime.  She is warming up to them pretty good now.  She doesn’t see them as a threat but more as friends and playmates now.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meeting Ava Grace

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:20:41 -0700 (PDT)

Gotcha Day!!
What a day today! We went to get our sweet little girl today. It was an awesome experience. We felt so blessed just by her acceptance of us from the first minute. We had been waiting for this moment for a year and here it was all at once it seemed. The setting was not special at all- we were sitting in a conference room and as soon as we signed the last piece of paperwork, they said something to each other in Mandarin and then a lady walks in with our little AvaGrace. She came right to us almost immediately. It was an answer to many prayers!!! Her caregiver got emotional when she saw it and said it was a sign from God and that the last 2 weeks she had started preparing for us and she saw that. It seemed almost perfect the way she received us at once. We were so relieved. We asked the caregivers some questions, they gave us a great photo album of her and her days growing up to now. We were shocked by how much they really cared for her and had taken care of her. Our facilitator did a great job translating for us and he even video taped the whole meeting her. After we met her, we came back to the hotel for about 45 minutes and then were scheduled for a tour of Chinatown in Shanghai. It was at the same time she was supposed to nap, so we trekked out with her and she caught a little nap on our shoulder. We saw some more fabulous temples and ate at the best place we have been so far- Chinese food that is. The absolute best meal we had was yesterday when we ate at Pizza Hut- that was much needed to keep us going here. The good Chinese place today only served dumplings and it was so crowded, we just stood over people eating until they left their table and we jumped at their seats. That is the way it is everywhere here- driving, walking down the street, buying something, anything. After Chinatown we stopped by the Walmart to get some formula, snacks, and some Coke! That stuff holds us together here. Hot tea and warm water just donĂ¢€™t cut it. Then we came back to the hotel for the night and tried to relax for the evening and get to know our newest family member a little more. We have found that she loves formula, has to have something in each hand all the time, and has some personality! It has been an incredible day. Tomorrow we have to sign more paperwork and sit in on interviews.




An immediate attraction to each other
Me and my brothers



Day 2
We had another full day of sightseeing.  Today we went to the Great Wall, then to a Jade factory, next to a copper factory and to get some lunch, to a pearl factory, then to get a quick glimpse of the Olympic Venue for 2008 in Beijing, then to tour Summer Palace and end up with an Acrobatic show. 

Today was a long day.  We left the hotel at 8:30am and didn’t return until 7pm.  We went non-stop and gained a wealth of knowledge of the culture here. 

The Great Wall was definitely one of the wonders of the world.  It was incredibly massive.  We only went out on one small part of it but it was unbelievable.  It was amazing that anyone could build something so huge!  The steps were very uneven and definitely not up to code.  One step would be 4” high and the next 12”.  The climb was straight up it seemed.  Of course there were so many people climbing there that you couldn’t move without being touched and rubbed against and bumped into the whole time.  Collin and I climbed up a long way to the top of the section we were at.  Mommy and Jace decided to go back a little early because of the crowded steps and the fact that when you get halfway up it seemed like you were hanging off a 10-story building- get that dizziness from that height.  They thing that really strikes us as surprising is the uncleanliness of everything we have seen and how trash is just thrown on the ground most places and poor people are rummaging through the trash cans all the time. 

The Jade Factory was very cool.  These people have an amazing artistic ability.  They could carve most anything in that Jade.  We learned the different grades and colors of Jade and how to tell if they are valuable or not.  Of course the boys both had to get a piece and so they each got a necklace with their zodiac sign on it.  Jace’s is a snake and Collin’s is a goat. 

Next we were able to see how they make the elaborate copper vases.  It is still amazing what they do with their artistic abilities.  We had a good lunch that was served family style.  Chris, our facilitator here, got us some chicken and bamboo shoots, some sweet and sour chicken, then we had rice, cabbage, some spicy soup but who knows what was in that, and they gave us some American comfort food of french fries- although not like the ones at home.  After lunch we stopped by to buy an ornament. 

We had some extra time to kill so we stopped by a pearl factory and learned how they make the freshwater pearls and the different grades and types of them.  Mandy really wanted to get some so that one day we could pass them along to our little AvaGrace when she gets older.  So we bought a nice necklace of black pearls.  While Mandy was shopping, Collin and I were getting talked about in Mandarin by the other girls and manager there.  They all liked to hear us speak English and theirs was not that great.  They couldn’t understand where we were from- had never heard of North Carolina.

The Olympic venue tour was a drive by.  Chris asked if we wanted to stop by there to take some pictures and we said sure.  They pulled off on the side of the road and told us to go take some pictures- not exactly what we were expecting but it was ok since we were wiped out already. 

They sped down the road a ways further and dropped us off at the Acrobat show.  It was pretty good and lasted about an hour.  We got a couple of Cokes and a bag of microwave popcorn for RMB 30.  That was about $5.  Chris told us our flights were at 10am the next morning and they would pick us up at 7:30. 

We are so shocked by how dirty everything is here- trash everywhere and places where people got sick right there where everyone is walking.  The housing is little shacks everywhere- we were not expecting that.  To me they have a major issue with the population and it is evident everywhere here.  Chris confirmed the one child policy that was started back in the 80s and said that the rich people just pay the fine like $200k and have as many as they want here.  He also said that some families would have 2 children if both parents are in the one child policy ruling.

Driving is total chaos here.  We were laughing that we would never be able to get around here if we had rented a car and tried to drive ourselves.  There are really no lanes, no turn signals, and no rules.  Our van driver uses on foot on gas and one hand on the horn.  It seems that if you stick your nose out in front of someone, you have the right-of-way.  I am amazed we haven’t had a wreck or killed anyone walking or on a bike yet.  In fact one time today, we were behind a line of cars and the driver just started driving on the other side of the road. It is wild.  The people here walk that way too.  No personal space issues for them, just us.  It has been nice to see their culture and their ways from a first hand experience though.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

We arrived in China




We had a big day.  We are finally here!!  We were trying to get adjusted from jetlag but we also had a few tours to do.  Mandy and Collin couldn't sleep on the plane but about 3 hrs :( We started out at 10:30 am after arriving at out hotel room at 2am, and we all felt pretty good. We toured the Tienamen Square and were able to see all the huge important govt buildings.  Then we walked to one side through the Imperial Wall and went into the Forbidden City.  We were amazed at how huge the place was and it kept going and going. We walked for 3 hours and we were dead by the time we got to the end.  We found out that the people here don't have any "personal space' rules and they will just walk up to you and right in front of you.  People stared at us like celebreties and pointed and took out picture, some even walked to us and touched Collin gently and smiled.  The driving is insane!! Look out if you are trying to cross the street.  I was amazed that no one got hit by our driver!  He was relentless and used his horn more that the brake!!!  They then took us to a REAL chinese restaurant- I knew it was that cause Mandy asked for an eggroll and they just looked at her funny- they had no clue about that here.  The bathrooms were not very welcoming either with just a hole in the ground.  We were able to ride a rickshaw for a Hutong tour of the ordinary peoples housing- it was pretty poor living.  Then we went shopping at the silk factory and then to see the Kung Fu show here and that was amazing!!!  That was really cool.  We are up this morning at 4:15am here- we were all out last night at 7pm (that was the time we finally got home from all the touring).  This morning we are off to tour at 8:30am and hopefully a little better prepared for all the sightseeing.  We are still amazed that we are Beijing, the Capital of China!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Title: We’re Almost There Sweet Girl!!

My Dear Ava Grace,
            We are packed for our journey across this earth to meet you baby girl!  And we have a whole bag of lil clothes, socks, shoes, hairbands, stuffed animals, snacks, bottles, sippy cups and books for just YOU!!  We have prayed so long to finally meet you, for the Lord to keep you safe, and here we are about to leave in 24 hours on this wonderful journey to hold you for the first time!  We are praying for you, that you will be prepared to meet your forever family.  It won't be much longer, sweetie.  We love you so much ……Mommy
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ava Grace, You are So Loved!!

And that is as FACT!!  Our family and friends "showered us" with their blessings this past Sunday, and it was an adoption celebration to remember!!!  We feel so very blessed by the outpouring of love and support for our sweet girl.  We got EVERYTHING we needed, plus some more!    Folks who came ate some authentic Chinese cuisine, practiced with chopsticks, and could learn to write their name in Mandarin if they wanted.  Michelle, Donna, Kristie, Heather, Sue, Sloan, Tammy, Janie, Ben, Mom ...... a HUGE thank you from our whole family for putting all this together and making it so wonderful!!  We love you all :)

Countdown to seeing our girl is ON!!! 

8 days til we leave for China
13 days to see Ava Grace and squeeze her so tight!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CA

We got the email yesterday letting us know our official Consulate Appointment is set for 8/29.  We were VERY disappointed that 8/22 was not available :(  So ..... this means we officially leave 8/17 for China!!!  YAY!  We are booking flights today!  This is our non-descript itinerary, details will be filled in soon of each day.

Wed.  8/17  Flight to Beijing
Thurs.  8/18  Arrive in Beijing (sightseeing)
Sun.  8/21  Travel to Shanghai
Mon 8/22  GOTCHA Ava Grace!!!
Friday 8/26  Travel to Guangzhou
Sat-Sun  Medical Exams
Monday 8/29  CA (Visa issued for her)
Wed 8/31  Return Home!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

TA!!!!

Can you hear me shouting for joy all the way over there??  If so, its because we just got a wonderful call from our case worker telling us they issued us Travel Approval (TA) today!!  Praise the Lord!!!  I was on the way to the grocery store and Joey had JUST texted me asking if I'd heard anything yet, and I of course texted him "nutten"!!  Pulled into the parking space, kids in the back seat, and she called!!  I screamed and they screamed, and then we had to call daddy back to tell him the good news, then call the rest of the family!  So I just completed my longest grocery trip ever, and came home with hardly any groceries cause I couldn't concentrate on a thing!!  We are requesting a consulate appointment (CA) for 8/22 and will find out if we got it, and all the other travel itinerary by Tues or Wed of next week.  If we get that appt, we'll fly out on 8/10.   That's less than 2 weeks away!!  Whew ....lots of emotions right now, and lots of packing to be done!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Culture Shock!!

I've learned alot about the Chinese culture over the last months, and found this info compiled together in someone else's blog who is also adoption.  It made me laugh, and was enlightening, so I thought I would share some of what I learned.....

Did you know you can train a baby to be potty trained at 4 months? The Chinese believe you can! The Chinese diaper a child until around the age of 4 months and then babies traditionally wear split pants. The split pants are like buttless chaps and their little bottoms are free to the air. The babies are fed and after waiting about 30 minutes the children are either held over a pot or strapped to a potty chair and wait for the inevitable to happen. Sometimes the adult makes a hissing sound to alert the baby to let go. Here are some images of babies in split pants.

Can you feel the breeze - I think I would get kind of chilly! Parents also make their formula thick and cut a large hole in the nipple of the bottle so the mixture sort of falls out of the bottle - the babies rarely have to suck.
It is also common for children to publicly urinate and other things in public. The chinese believe that children's waste is pure and not harmful. There are horror stories of people going to upscale shopping areas and seeing a child being held by the parents over or near a trashcan or bush and letting it fly! But, I guess when you have to use a squatty potty a bush doesn't seem so bad. Here is a typical squattly potty that is found in most of Asia. I am so looking forward to using one of these (insert sarcastic tone here).
Sometimes the potties are nice like the one on the left, and sometimes they are a hole in the ground. Basically you just go in and assume the position, use it, and leave...notice no TP.

Spitting is pretty common and alot of caucasians have been told to watch out or you might get spat upon. This is not out of rudeness on the part of the Chinese. We use a kleenex, they spit on the floor. I have been warned by many people to not be surprised, scared, or insulted if a Chinese person just picks my kid up, feeds her, or scolds me because of how I dress my daughter. The Chinese consider a child a treasure and people are free to play with them at will. They also believe children should be bundled or dressed in layers until an older toddler and feel the right to scold those that don't. Since I have lighter hair and lighter eyes I have been warned that lots of people will want to have a photo taken with me. In a land of darker skin and hair, a caucasian is a rare sight.
As lax as their personal space is, there is a formality to sharing dinner and showing respect. Do not accept a dinner invitation from someone if you do not plan to or cannot reciprocate with an equal value meal sometime later. The same with gift giving. It is rude to drink before your host does at the dinner table but it is ok to burp out loud. You also do NOT want to clean your plate because the host will continue to think you are not full. You must sample everything but not take the last bite. Don't be insulted if your hosts askes you why you are so fat or how much money you make. The questions are not meant to be rude, but a show of concern to the guest from the host!
We are so ready to experience this culture and ALL it has to offer. These mentioned are only a few of the cultural differences I will experience and do not encapsulate all that is China. And we may not experience all of this as Ava Grace's welfare institute is in a big city with real toilets, yay!!  We just have to remember not to drink the water, ask for no ice in my drinks, and only brush my teeth with bottled water.