All posts by Reed Mueller

Exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Ireland

As I write this, our students are at their service placements for the first time. Can’t wait to hear how their experience is! (More on that tomorrow. )

Yesterday was a very fine day indeed! We met up and made our way through the Book of Kells exhibit in the Old Library at Trinity College. History within history within history. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels that “represents evidence of a scholarly and artistic culture of the highest achievement.” (Killeen, 2012) There’s more on it here. After that we were led on a walking tour of Dublin by Sean Finnigan, a Dubliner of many years. On that tour we learned about the history of the south side of Dublin, passing through Trinity College (where we heard some anecdotes about Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, as well as a few other former students at Trinity).

From there we walked through the city soaking in what we could about Irish history and culture. Perhaps the most interesting point of the tour came at its end (2.5 hours into it!) in the old House of Lords. It was there that Mr. Finnigan exlored the political and religious divisions here while invoking William of Orange and his father-in-law James the II,  the hoi palloi, the Protestant ascendancy,  and, eventually, Bill Clinton and the peace process in Northern Ireland. Certainly well worth our time.

We wrapped up our day at Oliver St. John Gogarty where Jamieson impressed us all with his ability to down copious amounts of food! All in all, a great day.

Brief Update

I talked with Erin this morning and she and her students are well. However, their internet connection has been down for the past couple of days and as such she hasn’t been able to post her latest notes and pictures. She’ll be back at GHS tomorrow so hopefully by then we’ll see something new here.

On African Soil

Erin has arrived in South Africa(!) but is without any data access. Still, she managed to call out and give a brief update on behalf of the team. You can find it at the Mhlosheni Go Team’s web site.

Thanks for your ongoing thoughts and prayers as Erin (and the rest of the team) travel about, half way across the world.

-Reed (for Erin)

Quite a treat this week

This week we had quite a treat. But before I get into that, first, I must say that I apologize for not keeping up with this online blog. It seems that time is compressed considerably when you add a new little one into the mix. I figured adding one kid should just about cut my free time in half. Well, that’s not actually been the case, it feels like much more is gone — and yet, so much has been gained. It is truly a joy to see our two children hugging and playing and kissing! Smiles are the norm now, except for the occasional struggles over a toy that has allure for both Jackson and Abbie.

At any rate, we had several wonderful treats this week. Abbie is now putting two-word sentences together (I’m proud to say that “More, Dada” was her first)! In addition she’s using more words in her slowly expanding English repertoire (“Bra Bra” for brother, “Mama” for you guessed it, her favorite person in the world, “Help,” and “Up,” both with nice pronunciation). She amazes us all the time and our hearts do melt as she smiles.

But that wasn’t all. We also received three of her update reports from the Half the Sky Foundation. It seems that she was sponsored by a person in California through HTS and because of that was included in the wonderful Grandma Program we mentioned previously. We’ve even learned of who her sponsor is and have begun correspondence. Very amazing! Anyway, below you can read what we now have: a little more history on this girl who’s now so much a part of our family it is hard to believe these reports are written about her (although, from the descriptions we know that they must be as they fit her perfectly).

Goodbye and Hello!

All right…we’re off.

Our trip to the consulate went well this morning. In fact, we had a nice surprise after swearing to the authenticity of Abbie’s papers – her visa was already completed. We were planning on a short wait for her entry visa (just this afternoon) but it was nice to get it in hand anyway. Why not have all the papers we need, right? So now we’re all packed and ready to head off to the airport in a little over five hours.

As I reflect back on our two week journey to meet our daughter, I am so thankful for the grace God has given us. In Abbie. In Jackson. In one another. In our family. In all our friends back home. In the new friends we’ve made on foreign soil. And finally in the CHI family and Li Na our coordinator. I guess this is the most important lesson that could have been reinforced for me. God is ever-present with his abundant grace; sometimes it’s hard to discern (like when Abbie was inconsolable in the middle of many nights) but I know that it’s always there, sustaining us.

I’m also thankful for what I’ve learned about China. The people here are so kind on the whole. While it’s not yet ready for prime time, I’ve compiled a wealth of information on China to include in the book that we’ll make for Abbie. In its pages will be a (quick) history of her country of origin and information on her ethnic group as well as her home province and city. That, together with the photos I’ve taken and the words I’ve written while here, should be create a good memory for her. I hope so.

Finally, I am thankful for the growth in my heart toward those in this world who are orphans. Outside of Abbie (our gift from heaven), there is another little girl here who sticks in my heart and makes it soft toward the “alone ones.” If you’ll recall, I included a shot of a little one at the Chuzhou Welfare Institute. She was in Abbie’s group, and appeared to me to be the only one left behind, unadopted.

As is often the case in my life, I pressed the shutter release (this time on my camera, often times in my mind) and passed over a moment without a second thought. As it turns out, I wish I would have spent a moment with her, instead of taking her picture. You see, I learned later that there were originally going to be eight families adopting in our group, instead of the seven that actually went. When the eighth family received their referral, they rejected it (rejecting her) and resubmitted for a younger child. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t say this to blame at all – their decision was right for them. But in reality, that decision changed that little girl’s future. From what I understand, there will most likely not be another chance for her. She’s alone and will stay that way as 95% of orphans in China do (at least that was the stat we’ve heard while here)…and in turn another found a home. All this makes me believe that the decisions we make have a real impact that last and last.

While not all of us are called to adopt (or adopt again), perhaps we can all pitch in to support work to make orphans’ lives better. CHI has a foundation doing this. And there are many other organizations working on their behalf as well. One right here in Guangzhou is A Gift from China which supports The Good Rock Foundation. Another organization, Half the Sky, has been active in improving orphanage faciliites and even improved the play area and nutrition at Abbie’s orphange. So, there are lots of ways to get involved, many more than I’ve highlighted here. If nothing else, please remember to pray for the “alone ones” as an application of the story we create with God and others.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Abbie just came to me for a hug anyway, time for her nap… Okay, she’s down (it reads more quickly than it actually happened, but went really well). I guess I should close this down and pack up our computer so that I don’t disturb her.

So I guess this is “Goodbye” from China which is really the beginning of our “Hello” back home. After our 13 hour China Southern flight across the Pacific (flight 327), we’ll hop on Alaska Air (flight 211) from LAX to PDX. So…if all the connections work fine… The next words you hear from us will be words of celebration and homecoming! Celebration in seeing you again (and especially you, Jackson) and homecoming for a girl who is no longer an alone one.

Can’t hardly wait!

ADDENDUM (February 2, 2005):
CHI is so great! After reading the note about the little one left behind, Marge Seaman (our stateside adoption consultant) did some checking for us. She discovered that her name is Chu Yong Xuan and she was born July 1, 2005. She also discovered that the CCAA did end up placing her with another family!!!

Here’s the note from Marge:
I asked Karolyn in St. Louis to follow-up to find out if the 8th child from your group had been placed with another family. She has found her forever home and will be leaving the orphanage soon. Thank you for such kind, thoughtful words Reed – I just wanted you to know the outcome. I hope all of you are getting along just great – Abbie is a beautiful child and such a wonderful addition to your family. Blessings, Marge

Such good news for her and her family!

Abbie looking over her passport and visa.

“Yep, looks okay.” Lets go!

Our last night in China

Man it feels great writing this on our last night in China! Now it’s just an oath, a visa, and a short hop across a big ocean and we’re home!

Today started off great as Abbie slept in until about 7:30 and did so after a pretty good night of sleep. She was awake for fewer minutes overnight and was able to self-soothe in order to get back to sleep upon awakening. She’s making progress! And tonight’s bedtime routine, although a little later than normal because we had a farewell dinner, went wonderfully. She had her bottle in my lap and then into the crib she went. What surprised me was that she just stared at me for a while, and then proceeded to get herself to sleep without a fuss. Again, we’re making progress, so much so that Erin came out of the bathroom and said: “You rule!” I like when she says that.

After we had breakfast this morning we had a 30-minute videoconference with Jackson. It was so good to see him and talk to him. It was great to be able to tell him we’d be home soon and that we couldn’t wait to give him a big hug! He was even calm enough to understand most of the time. After we finished I was sure thankful that Al Gore had invented this neat thing called the internet (which, urban legends aside, he never actually said in so many words).

On that subject, the internet situation over here has been interesting. I’ve found that most commercial sights are freely available over here in China (even news sites and bible sites). I guess I didn’t expect that given that I’ve heard that the PRC limits free speech. Contrary to my expectation I’ve been able to access everything on the net that I’ve wanted to with just a couple of exceptions. Most notably any sites hosted by Blogger (oh yes, I forgot to mention that CNN occasionally “blacks out” during certain stories, too). I discovered this when trying to access the Thelanders’ adoption blog and couldn’t. This was replicated by others in CHI who were trying to access other blogs (or their own) in different cities throughout the country. I find it very interesting that we wouldn’t be allowed to see these free-speech oriented sites. TECH-SPEAK COMING, BE WARNED: Never to be stymied, I was able to get around this filtering by connecting through my business VPN and from there to blogger sights just fine. END OF TECH-SPEAK. By the way, it was so wonderful to see that Michael, Joie, and family are now a family of five. I look forward to meeting you Kelly Johanna!

In other news, our Consulate paperwork went through without a hitch. So tomorrow, at 11am Guangzhou time (7pm Pacific Time, Thursday for you) we’ll take her citizenship oath. At this point we could make a legal case to the US courts that she’s a citizen if we needed to. The deal won’t be completely done, however, until we hit the tarmac at LAX. That will feel great and will be a moment of celebration on the flight, I’m sure.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We did a little last minute shopping and then went out for our farewell dinner. CHI took us to a great restaurant on the water (well, us and 39 other families) where their signature is Dim Sum. Even after two solid weeks of Chinese food, I’d say that the Dim Sum was Yum Yum (I’m so un-funny!).

Okay…so tomorrow I’ll likely have a one last chance to post an entry before leaving for the US. In it, I hope to have a few final reflections on our experience her in China and in meeting Abigail.

I’ll sign off now. We can’t wait to see you all! Please pray for our safe journey home to Jackson, and to all of you!

The Chuzhou Welfare Institute group (plus a few extra families from other provinces).

Little girls refusing to take a nice picture on the “red couch.” Oh well! Left to right I’ll introduce you to the little girls from Abbie’s orphanage: Maya (lower left), Abbie, Lauren (1 spot right of Abbie), Kira (2 spots right of Abbie), Zoe (3 spots right of Abbie and crying like mad), Jillian (all the way on the right side of the couch with her Dad, Mike, touching her), and Katie (Bottom right corner of the frame, barely seen – at two, she’s the oldest of this group) Note:We had a couple of extras on our couch we didn’t have in our group. They posed with us because they were in a province by themselves.

They’re now getting ready for Chinese New Year in the hotel. This rooster is part of the scenery now.

A shot with Li Na, our coordinator. She rules!

Abbie learning to like oranges (didn’t take any convincing).

Sunset and Sunrise

Got a little later start than I usually do on tonight’s entry, but I made it. Our room is dark and Abbie is asleep. It took her some time but she made it to dreamland. More on that in a moment.

After yesterday’s post, I bet you’re wondering how our night went last night. Rest assured it was much better. I ended up taking lead on it, not so much because I would be better (who could be better than mom?), but rather because it would have a chance of jarring the messed up sleep routine into rhythm. Why not try something new, right? Anyway, it was easy last night, she was out like a light in my arms by the time her bottle was finished and only woke up once the whole night. Man, I’m a great dad :^) Well, it was a 1½ hour wakeup but it was the only one. So, all in all, she got a much better night’s rest, and so did we.

Tonight yields a slightly different story thus far as she wasn’t asleep after her bottle and fought hard going down. Maybe I’m not the all-star dad I thought I was :^) It took about 30 minutes but she’s resting peacefully now. She’s a funny girl who doesn’t respond the way Jackson did in similar situations. I know this is to be expected – I just need to remind myself to keep thinking and trying new things if my usual methods don’t prevail. Tonight, stroking her hair finally did the trick. It occurred to me that this is probably what happened at the orphanage as every other square inch of her body was covered with four or five layers of thick clothing – one could have rubbed her back through all that, but she wouldn’t have felt it unless she was the Princess from Princess and the Pea. Anyway, I’ll try stroking her hair again at her 4am wakeup (unfortunately I’m banking on this) and see if that’s the cure to what ails us. Probably just got lucky though.

In the midst of the bedtime routine – Abbie’s crying, the crying next door, the distance between us and our loved ones – I felt sad. Don’t get me wrong, comforting Abbie is a good experience. It just struck me that both my kids were sleeping at the same time (Abbie just after sunset and Jackson just before sunrise) and how nice it would be to snuggle up by Jackson, with Abbie and Erin. Maybe we’ll have to do that when we get home! At any rate, I want us all together. I don’t ever want to be so far away from him for so long again. Pictures just don’t cut it. Videoconferencing just doesn’t cut it. Enough. Nearness will come soon. We’re now down to hours now, not days.

Which reminds me, we’ve been asked by some if it’s okay to meet us as the airport when we arrive home on Friday night (please God, get us home on time Friday night…out of Guangzhou on time…into LAX and through customs on time…and into PDX on Friday night…please). Of course, we would be honored. It has been so good knowing that you care for us and want to welcome us home. However, prayers aside, do check with Cindy before heading down to PDX to make sure that we are going to make our connection. We should know that by about 8pm Friday night (your time).

Nothing else much to write about tonight. The day came and went without any big appointments. However, if you’re reading this on Wednesday, we could use your prayers as our papers for Abbie’s visa and citizenship are being submitted to the US Consulate here in Guangzhou then. This is the second to last step and the last one remaining that leaves us with any possible hitches in this adoption process. In addition, please keep Shirley Vaughn in your prayers. We received a prayer request via email for her after she was in a pretty severe auto accident. She is going to be okay, but will healing up for a while. She is mother to Janel McCoy, Sharon Hocking, Karen Hawley, and Brenda Christensen. Janel, Sharon, and Karen are CRCCers. Thanks!

Okay, I’m signing off now. Abbie’s still asleep…must’ve done something right!!!

Shot of the day…Just Abbie being a cutiepie!

Okay…I’ll come on back!

Abbie in the playroom at the White Swan.

Another for Jackson…Just some more BIG fish that swim around in our hotel.

Just because: A water feature at our hotel.