Sunday Half a World Away

HBO-Asia isn’t any good. Just trust me on this one.

Luckily we’re not here to watch movies, but rather to take in real-life experience and today was no disappointment. Our coordinator invited us to attend a local church service (pictures, below). I was especially excited about this because we would have been worshipping at the same time our CRCC family was, only half a world away. It wasn’t to be though as we learned that church was cancelled due to the ice storm in the Portland area. Oh well, at least this way the next time we’re at church we’ll get to hear Pastor Dave’s sermon live instead off the website! (Did you catch that Dave? I’m hoping you can do the sermon you prepared for this weekend, next weekend.) We’ve been watching the weather forecasts on the internet. Looks bad, but should clear up soon…hang in there!

The church we went to was the Shamian Christ Church right on Shamian Island near our hotel. We arrived about 10 minutes prior to the church service and found that a previous one was just letting out. It was wonderful to see so many people streaming out of the church! After the building was cleared, it was our turn. We sat in the back (because we had a squirmy baby) and were very touched by this gathering! It was a simple service, with five worship songs (three in English – “Beautiful Jesus,” “As the Deer,” and “Shine, Jesus, Shine”), a bilingual sermon (Chinese and English focused upon God’s salvation through Christ), a time for testimonies (there were three), and an invitation to become a follower of Christ (three in the congregation took this step this morning). Being so far from home yet completely at home brought tears to my eyes. Is this a picture of heaven? I think perhaps that it may be.

It’s no secret that I’ve never really liked “Shine, Jesus, Shine” because I thought of it as over played. But today was another story for me. The song, sung beautifully and with heart by this gathering of about three hundred, is a song that God’s love will shine forth in this nation. What a prayer. Perhaps the Good News of Jesus will spread into China from this multicultural commerce point just as it did in New Testament times.

While there we purchased an English/Chinese children’s bible for Abbie. Then we talked with our coordinator about her experience in the Christian community in Beijing. She said the church we were in today is a state-registered one, which she thinks limits what the pastor can say regarding the PRC. However, the situation here is probably “freer” than in Beijing. In Beijing such churches may have their sermons reviewed by the state before services. Two registered churches exist in Beijing and together they draw thousands each weekend for services. Our coordinator doesn’t attend either of these, but instead is an active member of a local house church. There, as she said, “the pastors can say what they want.”

The rest of our day was very nice as well. We did a little window shopping but didn’t purchase anything. The funniest part was the reaction we got from almost every shopkeeper when they looked at Abbie: Amazement! They couldn’t believe how BIG she was. We were even asked if she was “on a special program in the orphanage.” This made us laugh! It is sad though comparing Abbie to so many of the little ones here in the hotel. We met a father today who’s daughter is Abbie’s age but is literally half of her weight. We’re so glad that she was taken care of.

After shopping a little, we took our coordinator out to lunch – her choice. And guess what she chose? Chinese food… Oh well. It was pretty good, just becoming routine. I chose an authentic Szechwan deep fried chicken dish (you know those red pepper flakes you see in your Chinese food sometimes? Well, imagine a dish that is 1/3 chicken, 2/3 red-peppers) and survived though my stomach is still gurgling a little. When we got back to the hotel I took Abbie out for a walk, which she decided to enjoy. She motored around the halls of the hotel with one of those “Hey, I’m keeping my balance” kind of grins. After we did this for a while we found a group of new parents and their new children playing. Abbie did great interacting with the other kids. This was fun to watch, but the best part was when she’d give me a million-dollar grin and run into my arms after meandering away to grab a toy. She’s starting to like me! To top it all off, we ordered great takeout from Danny’s Bagels here in Guangzhou. Their menu makes my eyes light up…

As I like to sign off of these entries a happy man, I’ll end there. Can’t wait to see you all, it’s getting closer all the time!

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Shamian Christ Church near our hotel.

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Inside the church we went to today. This was five or so minutes before service began. By the time it was in full swing, standing room only was the situation in a building that could pack in three hundred!

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Looking southeast, through the window of our room.

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“Hey Daddy…you want to give me that camera?”

On to Guangzhou

It felt great to make it through today! We are in our final hotel in China and at this time next week we’ll be home if all goes according to schedule! This is so cool!

Our day began with a videoconference with Jackson, who was really wound up. It was good anyway even though we couldn’t understand half of what he said! The folks back home were excited about the possibility of an ice storm (at least the kids were), but we’ll see what really happens.

After that, we had our last breakfast in Hefei and then took a bus to the airport. It was there that we ran into a little delay…just a small 4 ½ hour one! I was amazed by Abbie, though, as she passed the time with ease. My guess is that even an airport with a bunch of tired adults is more stimulating than an orphanage.

While in the airport I took Abbie shopping and we found a book about her home province. It has little detail and is mostly pictures, but it will be good to show her when she asks nonetheless. While purchasing this book, a Chinese woman came up to me and asked why I wanted Abbie. I don’t know what ideas she had in mind but she seemed surprised by the fact that Erin and I would choose her just to love her. She seemed skeptical until I showed her Jackson’s picture. You should have seen her face (she thought you were very cute, Jackson…she doesn’t know you don’t like to be cute). Then I think it started to click for her: We were choosing to bring Abbie into a loving family. She thanked me graciously for my time and wandered off.

That was a good experience. Another was has by our coordinator when a man in the airport asked her how much our babies had “cost” us. Li Na tried to explain the process but the man wasn’t really interested and so after a while she just walked away from him. If he only had eyes to see how beautiful and worthwhile these girls are…and how much love they deserve.

Our flight (once we got on it) was uneventful. Abbie had no problem with her ears owing, I think, to the fact that the girl will eat nonstop for any length of time if we let her. At least she’s no longer eating half a Cheerio at a time, hoarding the other just in case. I think she’s starting to believe we won’t let her go hungry!

We landed at the New Baiyun International Airport near Guangzhou, Guangdong which is the largest airport in Asia. However, take that with a grain of salt as I’ve not checked this out for sure yet (we’ve discovered that our guides have a tendency to exaggerate). At any rate, even if the airport isn’t the biggest, it certainly was very nice. In fact, it seems as if we’ve landed in a brand new world. The air is warm (around 60) and moist and the scenery is green! It’s so nice on the eyes. Heck, we could even see the sun in the sky (something we didn’t see in Hefei because of the dense smog that was there).

Our hotel is wonderful. Translation: They have great pizza here (I’ve already tried it). Beyond the pizza, the accoutrements are fabulous here at the White Swan where we’re staying. This hotel is located right on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, a city of nearly 10 million people. I just can’t get over the difference in the surroundings. Clean air and a city that any of you would feel at home in. I bet there’s even a Starbucks here somewhere! If there is, I’ll be sure to find it.

Abbie did so well in her day of travel. She’s really getting accustomed to us. Smiling big when we come around and feeling safe enough to enjoy others as long as we’re near. She also made her debut on a video for church tomorrow. All together I think this wore her out, though, and she is now crashed in her crib.

I can’t believe how wonderful my two children are and how great my wife is! Erin is doing fabulously with this little beauty of ours. And on top this, so many friends.

I am so blessed.

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Hi Abigail…she did great passing time at the airport. Our flight was delayed about 4 1/2 hours.

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Look who fell asleep on dad…

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One of Abigail’s “cousins” from the orphanage, Katie (sitting on Mike, her dad).

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Passing the time walking with her friend Katie (her mom, Pat is pictured as well).

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Abbie on her first flight (she did great!)

Discovering "Little Beauty"

As you know, today was the day we visited Abigail’s home city and the only home she’s known until a week ago: the Chuzhou Social Welfare Center. The city, Chuzhou (“Chew Joe”), was about a two and a half hour drive from our hotel in Hefei. Given good roads and light traffic, however, it would have been just a little over an hour long trip. The traffic, by the way, is ludicrous. You know those little yellow lines that are painted on road surfaces? In Hefei they are apparently meant to be ignored. There was a joke that our CHI coordinator told after a near miss about Chinese bus drivers that I might have to subject the CRCC Family to when I return. (Sorry in advance for this – as you know, I’m a horrible joke-teller). Let’s just say that between the traffic, the pedestrians, and the poor visibility (the pollution here clouds the air morning to night; it is by far the worst I’ve ever seen), I’m glad we’re all in one piece.

As you can see from the pictures below, the orphanage is not in a great part of town. This is to be expected, I guess. What you can’t see in the pictures are the feelings you get as you drive to this place, which by all accounts is a wonderful Chinese orphanage (and for this we are so thankful).

Let me give you some details into what we felt.

I was struck by the poverty I saw on the way. It didn’t matter if you were in the city or in the countryside, the standard of living her seems very poor. And so I began to wonder where Abbie was born. Was it in the city or the countryside? Wherever it was we’ll never know. What we do know is that she was loved by someone, because they took the risk necessary to make sure that she would be found and cared for almost immediately. There are two pictures below of the place where she was found. It is literally the front gate of the orphanage. Placing her at this location is risky because if you get caught leaving a baby, you’re prosecuted criminally. I’m so glad that someone did in fact take the risk though. Abbie was well-loved as we found out…

Upon entering the Abbie’s floor of the orphanage we were greeted by concrete floors that had been newly mopped and air that was hovering in the 30’s (In this part of the country, they have little by way of heat, although certain rooms used space heaters to take the chill off). But the cool of the air didn’t hinder the warmth of the nannies and “Grandmas” that greeted us. If I haven’t mentioned it before this orphanage is part of a pilot program where children are placed with trained and caring volunteers for two play dates a day – these volunteers are called “Grandmas.”

The Grandma pictured below is Abbie’s (we have her name on our video tape but I can’t play it now because Abbie is asleep and I don’t really want to risk waking her). Anyway, Grandma was so happy to meet her and even though Erin was reluctant to let her new daughter out of her arms, she did. And we’re so glad she did. The Grandma was very wonderful, although she was displeased we didn’t have more layers on Abbie to keep her warm (I guess grandmas everywhere have similar characteristics).

After handing Abbie around several more times to several more people, we then toured the remainder of the orphanage. By Chinese standards it is small in size, housing only 100 children, 40 of which are Abigail’s age or younger (our guide yesterday overestimated the size, saying about 400 children were here). A kind nanny took us to Abigail’s crib and placed her in it (but surprise, surprise, Abbie didn’t want to stay in it – she’s not wild about ANY crib).

From there the tour turned a little sad, as it gave me a picture Abigail’s early days. I went into one of the nursery wards, with the very young housed there. What struck me as I walked into a room with 10 or 15 cribs was that it was completely silent. No crying, no thumb-sucking…just, silence. I looked around wondering if the babies were all asleep, but they weren’t. Many were just lying there, face up to a barren white ceiling, passing time. Even though I knew that it was probably nap time, I still felt sad. No matter how caring these folks are, the ratios just aren’t great, so there’s got to be a lot of this barrenness of experience in their little lives.

On the way out of the orphanage two things happened that were wonderful! First, we learned that Abbie’s nickname was “Little Beauty” and we certainly agree! Second, and the highlight of the day, Abbie really wanted back into mom’s arms after being passed around for a while among her caregivers. It was great to see and I know it meant so much to Erin! This is also a great sign for the bonding that is taking place between the two girls God has seen fit to bless me with. I wonder how important this was for Abbie, too. Going back to her orphanage and then NOT being left there, but rather taken home with us. Do toddlers get this at some level? I think so…

On the whole, we wouldn’t have missed this chance to go be where Abbie had been. We know that she was taken care of by wonderful people. We also know that they loved her! And now we can tell her stories when she asks. Heck, we can even show pictures and a lot of video.

In other news Abbie and I had a wonderful evening together. We roamed the halls and she let her dad show her off to people who didn’t understand a word he was saying! They just smiled anyway at “Little Beauty” (I think that’s gonna stick :^). Things were even going so well that Erin went off to our final meeting here in Hefei and I got to play with Abbie and lay her down for the night. As of this moment she’s still sleeping…way to go dad!

The meeting Erin is going is to prepare documents for the American Consulate, which is our last step in the adoption process. The consulate’s job is to verify her adoption and medication records, her PRC passport, and our visa application. While the PRC considers Abbie ours, we could still run into a hit

Abbie on the road to the place that gave her to us…

On the road near the Chuzhou Social Welfare Institute (about a kilometer from it, in fact).

Erin and Abigail at the place where she was found. This gate would have been locked at the time she was placed here.

Looking at the Chuzhou Social Welfare Institute from just inside the main gate. On the left is the building that handles the infirm-elderly and on the right is the children’s building.

Erin, Abbie, and the previous orphage director in the courtyard outside the orphanage.

Abbie sitting on Grandma’s lap!

Abbie with Mom and her Grandma from the “Grandma Program” the orphanage has. “Grandma” is teaching Abbie how Jackson is her Ge Ge (big brother).

One of Abigail’s peers, all bundled up for the cold air in the nursery (no wonder Abbie’s Grandma didn’t approve of how she was dressed).

Abigail with the nannie who handed her to us. All of Abigail’s caregivers seemed wonderful!

Abigail’s crib…she was near a window, only one crib and an aisle away.

One of the wards in the orphanage. I went in two just like this and the hardest part to take was the silence.

A shot of a few (by no means all) of the diapers that were hung out to dry.

The area immediately surrounding the Chuzhou Social Welfare Center. This is typical of the neighborhood in which this facility is located.

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Abbie’s dad on his way out from the orphage. The shot it taken from the spot where Abbie would have been left for caring arms.

On the ramp away from the orphanage.

Guess Who's Walking?

As I type this I can hear a little orphan-girl-no-more crying loudly. There is much struggle coming into this new life for these little ones and it is hard to watch, or hear for that matter. The girl crying is Maya and her new family is trying to comfort her, I can hear their voices through the wall. Mary Jo and Jonathan Jordan are great parents, and I can tell that once Mia gets through this phase, she’ll be in a home that knows more love than could ever be found for her here.

Ahhh…quiet now.

I’m happy for Maya (and the Jordan’s). By the way, the Jordan’s also brought their six-year-old son, Thomas, who’s really doing well with this “I’m a big brother” thing.

Oops, there goes Mia again. Better switch gears and update you all on Abigail (who is sound asleep right now).

It seems that our little Abbie is rapidly gaining both emotional and physical strength! In fact, see started walking this evening!!! This was so cool to see in person. From a passive, lifeless little girl a few days ago to a real life toddler now – how cool is that? It’s so interesting to me how mind and body are intertwined; when taken out of her orphanage and given to us, she lost her will to move – at least that’s what it seemed like. Now I imagine if taken from us she would stop moving again. That would be so sad. Toddlers aren’t supposed to be lifeless.

WARNING, PSYCHOBABBLE FOLLOWS (skip to the PSYCHOBABBLE COMPLETED section, if you desire): As I’ve thought about this peculiar “lifelessness” I’ve wondered if it isn’t some kind of learned helplessness. Think about it. Our typical response to an infant who is crying is to go and meet their need. This is good, because infants require servicing, don’t they (actually, TLC, but you know what I mean)? So, the infant cries and as a consequence gets fed, or picked up, or changed, etc. While this isn’t good behavior for a 15-year-old, it is perfectly appropriate for an infant. Now imagine that this infant isn’t in a home but rather in a medium-sized orphanage like Abbie’s (one with 300 to 400 kids, 1/3 of which are around her age or younger). Because there are so many kids there, staff can’t drop everything when a baby cries, no matter how loving they are (and they do love the children). Instead, babies are tended to upon cues from the clock, rather than from tears. They are diapered on a schedule, fed on a schedule, and played with on a schedule…and nothing the babies do will change that. Their cries don’t impact their environment, so why not just give in? This, is learned helplessness.

PSYCHOBABBLE COMPLETED. The reason I wrote on that is because I caught another glimpse of this behavior in Abigail today. It was in the afternoon and I had encouraged Erin to take in a massage (yeah, we’re roughing it over here in China, for about $30.00 you get a 90-minute Chinese acupressure massage, I ended up taking one in too). Anyway, I was looking forward to time alone with Abigail because I’d had about a half-hour in the morning that had gone very, very well. Needless to say, Abbie didn’t like mom being gone for so long. She cried some and then, all of the sudden, “remembered” that crying doesn’t change a thing. She wilted and it broke my heart for her; her voice is no longer one that nobody listens too, only she doesn’t know that yet. The only saving grace in this is that she quickly came back to life when Erin returned, BEGAN TO WALK, and played well with me later this evening.

Let’s see, what else can I bring you up on? Here’s a few items in rapid fire. . .

We went to the store as a group again today and again raised quite a ruckus (but thankfully nobody pinched my nose). I’ve kept to my one hamburger a day rule – only sometimes the day’s blend together, so I may have had an extra one in there somewhere. And finally, we realized that our 14-month-old daughter knows more Chinese than we do. She really perks up when the TV clicks on and she hears people speaking in ways familiar to her.

As promised, there is one picture of me with Abigail below as well as a few others of interest and even some just for Jackson – we miss you so much you little Dragon-Dinosaur!!

Before I sign off tonight, please remember to keep Michael and Joie Thelander (as well as all their children, Kelly Johanna, Braden, and Georgia) in your prayers. They fly out to meet their daughter-to-be (or their daughter-already in the heart) tomorrow. Kelly is a 12-year-old little girl from Columbia who had given up on finding parents. . .but the Thelander’s are changing that. Please pray for their safety on the journey (they are traveling to an area our State Department says to avoid) as well as for their bonding together as a family. You can read about their journey at

Oh yes, one last thing. Please say a prayer for us as well. We’re heading out to Abigail’s orphanage during your Thursday evening and this could be rough on Abbie and us. We’re going, though, to say thank you to those who took care of her and to create memories for one who’s too little to remember on her own.

I hear a little girl crying again…only this time it’s Abigail (at least her crying matters now :^)

Better run…Reed

These shoes are made for walkin’ – will you put them on?

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Walking to Daddy!

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Hey Jackson, can you see the secret message in this picture?(Have Aunt Cindy read it on baby sister’s bib.)

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Can you believe these turtles are in our hotel, Jackson???

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Just thought she looked cute here (aren’t I tricky…that could apply to either of them — well, both, actually)!

Guess Abbie was tired this morning!

Just a shot from a park near our hotel.

Learning to Trust

Breaking News: Today was the first time that Abigail let Daddy in!!!

Yes, today was wonderful in that Abbie really started to warm up to me. It didn’t begin that way though. In fact, the 30 or so minutes that it took Erin to get showered and dressed for the day (she’d probably say it took 20 minutes, but c’mon, let’s be real :^) were tough on our girl. She screamed the whole time. I tried everything, but nothing worked even when I did it to myself to try to get a laugh. The good thing about this was that I knew Erin was seen as security for her. The sad thing was that I knew she probably wondered if Erin was coming back.

Erin did and we moved into our day, which was completely free as we had no official appointments. This being the case, we had plenty of time to work with Abigail and her relationship with yours truly. She woke up in a cranky mood from her nap, which didn’t start things off too well but after an initial inconsolable period, she warmed up to Erin just fine. That was about 1pm. From that point until about 5pm we just all played on the bed. At first, I just watched, moving nearer or farther away depending on Abbie’s cues. Eventually, though, I began to interact. This was completely upon her initiative initially, but later I was able to be more active in the process. By the end of this time period, Erin was able to walk out of sight and Abbie was just fine. That was a great moment for us because we know that she is starting to trust at a deeper level!

As far as her development, Abigail appears to be doing fairly well, all things considered. She’s a hefty 28 pounds and barely fits into her 18 month-old clothes. This is good as she’s developing nicely from a growth point of view. What’s even better is that we are seeing her become more and more active the more she trusts us and gets used to this new environment. On our first day together she didn’t move at all. Yesterday, she moved just a little bit but still seemed very passive and almost rubbery. And today…well she was crawling all over us and even walking with assistance!!! Quite a change! If we get bored enough we may do a developmental assessment, but we’ll see (how geeky is that???)

In other news we reviewed some official documents that arrived today from the PRC (People’s Republic of China – don’t I sound local? :^). They included Abigail’s abandonment certificate, our approval to adopt, and her birth certificate (which just says she was born on the day she was abandoned). We were told to double check these very carefully as the US Consulate will deny her a Visa if any of these documents need to be corrected. So, we both scoured them and they appear to be correct down to every detail, so far as we can tell on the English translation side of things.

Perhaps the hardest part of the day for us was getting a great update on Jackson. It seems odd to write that last sentence, but it’s true. We are so glad that he’s doing well and we wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the updates, but we miss him so and these remind us of that. I know that it’s important for us to be here for Abigail and that we couldn’t have done what we did today with her if Jackson was with us…but…sometimes the heart doesn’t follow the rational to its conclusion. We did hear that he loves to see the pictures every day so that brings a smile to my face as I write this.

Again, thanks for all your prayers. I’ve posted a few of today’s pictures for you below, my favorite is first, of course (and with any luck I might be in a frame or two tomorrow – that is if Abbie continues to trust me long enough for Erin to take a picture).


We miss you all and are getting close to the half-way point in our trip!!!

My favorite shot of the day…both my girls look so happy!!! (Makes my heart sing.)

Close enough to see her tiny dimples (just like you Jackson…must run in the family)!

Hadn’t had a profile yet, so here one is. This is the first toy she played with after separating from a Nannie. Now she’s back to it, but this time on the lap of her forever-mom!

Keeping her hair-do the way she likes it (seems to bug her right now to have it other ways).

Walking with assistance for the first time today.

Pigtail motion… (so I got a little bored and decided to go time lapse on this frame. Just wish I had a tripod).

Getting Used to Us

Warning: Long post…

Today we had quite an experience with our little angel!

It began around 6am after our Abigail slept through the night. This surprised us but really shouldn’t have as yesterday was such an emotional day for her. When she woke up the poor thing just laid there for a while limp. One can only imagine what she might be thinking waking up in a world that is still so new it is counted in hours, rather than days. She looked confused and sad, but was comforted well by Erin (in fact, she appears to have bonded more readily with Erin than with me, which is actually good, or so the research says). After a few minutes getting ready for the day, we video-conferenced with Jackson (and Aunt Cindy and Uncle Jeff), which was fun! Jackson just loves making faces in the camera. He seems to be doing great and even told Abigail that he loved her. That was wonderful. Seeing him was definitely bittersweet, being so far away is hard, but at least with technology we can feel a little closer.

We’ve noticed some things about our little girl that make us sad for her, but are the natural consequences of being institutionalized. First, she doesn’t like to have her clothes changed, let alone her diaper. Our guess, judging from the clothing she arrived in and from the stories of others in our adoption group, is that she was moved out of her clothes only very rarely. As the infants and toddlers here where split-bottom pants, there would not be any need to remove clothing to diaper her. Add to this the fact that there aren’t extra clothes to change a baby into, and, well, they’re probably just kept in them. Even in the midst of all of this, Abigail was finally able to smile during the transition into her blanket sleeper tonight. She’s starting to trust us!

Another thing that we’ve noticed is that she doesn’t let any food go to waste. She would eat all day, and anything placed in front of her, if we’d let her. Again, this is typical but you just don’t have the sense of it until you see it happen right before your eyes. So, if there are four crackers placed in front of her, she’ll stuff two in her mouth right away and hold on to the other two so they don’t get taken. It’s not even that she does this secondary to being malnourished (she’s actually pretty chubby). So it must be just a “fend for yourself” mentality that she’s had to develop. What’s really sad to me is that this little 14-month-old has learned to conserve what is important to her as well. When there’s no more food in sight and all she has left is what’s in her hand, she moves into conservation mode, extending the life of stores. For example, if she’s down to two Cheerios, one in each hand, she starts eating them bit-by-bit. And then when she’s done with those, she’ll come back and search the plate or bowl for crumbs she can pick up. Remember, this is coming from a child who’s been well fed. The moment of the day in this domain was when Abigail decided that she could spare a little of her food in order to feed us!

Finally, we’ve noticed (until this afternoon and evening, that is) that Abigail has been very passive, having to be moved instead of moving and not initiating play or even much in the way of self-soothing behavior. But after her nap this began to change and she started being more interactive with us! She began dancing a little bit, waving to us, playing tickle games, and laughing a lot! That was so fun. Tomorrow I may try to post a very short video of a moment of this with Erin.

The most precious moments of the whole day happened just before Abigail went to bed. She was laying down on Erin’s stomach while I laid beside them. Over the course of fifteen or twenty minutes Erin and I rubbed her back, played with her hair, tickled her, or just looked into her beautiful eyes (she has the longest eyelashes!). Half way into this Abigail began reciprocating our actions, just looking into our eyes and patting our hands and arms. It was great!

Well, that’s Abigail’s day. Again, we imagine that she’ll sleep well, after taking so much in today in addition to grieving the loss of all she’s known. Oh…I almost forgot, she’s starting to respond to a few English words – like “more” (as is food) and “wave,” I even thought I heard a Mama today, but who knows.

Okay, what else happened? We went to a supermarket in downtown Hefei and were quite a hit with the locals. I guess they’d never seen six pairs of American’s each with Chinese babies. I myself was a hit too, at least with one woman, who came right up to me, pinched my nose, and giggled. Our guide said she was probably mentally ill, but they could just be trying to make me feel better. Which reminds me, the notary we met yesterday thought I looked like a little boy and then complimented me on my choice of wife, thinking that Erin must be taking great care of me. On the brighter side, I discovered that our hotel has the greatest 1/3 POUND BACON CHEESEBURGER! I’ve made a pledge that I won’t eat more than one a day. We’ll see if I’m successful.

Well, I didn’t snap too many shots today…but what I did take, follows. Before those, however, thanks so much for your prayers, everyone! And thanks also for your emails, we love them and are responding when our internet isn’t giving us fits.

We miss you all and are one day closer to being home again.

Until later…


Playing with mom at the end of the day!!!

All dressed up for the day.

Time for lunch together…mmm, I LOVE noodles!

Learning the sippy cup!

(She actually didn’t like it)

Day is Done…

Well, the day is done! I cannot believe how smoothly it went for us! Thank you all for your prayers, I know they have made a difference. But don’t stop now…keep on praying that Abigail will sense our love and attach quickly to us so that she feels as happy as can be!

On that subject, all signs are good that she loves being with us. As I mentioned in the caption of one of the photos below, it was completely amazing to see her affect brighten up by the end of the day. She was interactive and smiling wide just before bath time, which was a complete contrast to her “flat” look for the majority of the day. I can’t imagine how terrifying this must be, at least initially, for these girls. After that its just got to be darned confusing in every imaginable way. But she is doing great now, and is sleeping as I write these words. I pray that this is the case for the other six girls in Abigail’s group and the other six parent-groups here with Erin and I.

The adoption papers we had to sign today went through without a hitch and the donation to the orphanage is now right where it should be: There helping others. Every official was very kind and seemed genuinely happy for the girls and for us. And now, we just get to spend time with Abigail! Tomorrow we’re heading out to the supermarket and expect to have people checkin’ her out (and us). Americans holding Chinese babies apparently draw a lot of attention.

Our coordinator has been wonderful and came through again today. I had an interesting conversation with her during one of our waiting periods, as well. She is a believer and part of a house-church. She shared some interesting experiences that I won’t relate now, but may in another medium. Suffice it to say I would like to help out with her community in any way I can when I return to the states. She was very interested and excited to hear that I am a Pastor (she also made me laugh when she asked if I’d read The Purpose Driven Life (she hasn’t but wishes she could get more good books to read over here).

Well, I’m going to try and get some sleep…and as I do, I can’t help but think that God is so good: Abigail, connections of faith, it’s all Grace in plain sight!

Our first smile (worked hard for that one). It was amazing to see her countenance brighten up by the end of the day!

Oops! That smile just went away. Her first real bath (really) and not too sure what to make of it.

And back to laughing!

Back to playing, but now in her new PJs!

Getting ready to sleep…

"Gotcha Day"

Well, overnight a change indeed! We are so happy!!!!

I probably will have just a few moments to post this, so let me just give you the quick details. The nannies from the orphanage arrived a few minutes early this morning, which was a real treat, for sure. The only problem was that we had no interpreter there yet…so we just rolled our video tape and shot a close up of our Abigail (we knew right away who she was). After a few minutes of this, Li Na made it down and things moved quickly from there.

As you can see from our very first family picture, things started out quietly. Abigail seemed at peace for the first few minutes and then, as the screaming of her friends became louder and louder, Abigail decided she’d give it a try. And man did she ever. We both tried to console but to no avail. All in all though her big brother (“Ge ge”) gave us enough practice in similar situations, so we weren’t worried. What finally did the trick was taking her out of the room and walking the halls. She settled down quickly as I sang Zip-a-dee-do-da (one of Jackson’s favorites, too, at her age).

As I was keeping Abigail happy, Erin was left to complete the initial paperwork, which went smoothly. In fact, things are going so smooth that we’ll have the final notorization on her adoption forms in just a few hours. This is unusual (there’s usually a 24-hour waiting period) but we’re not complaining, it will be so wonderful finishing the adoption process so soon!

As you’ll see in the photos below, she is doing well, all things considered. Poor thing must think her world has been turned upside-down, because it has. After talking with her nanny, we know she’s a fit in our family. When asked what her personality was like, the nanny laughed and said “Well, she’s very active…and she really enjoys taking things from other kids!” Sounds like she and Jackson will get along just great — after he learns who the boss is!

I’ll post more pictures as I have a chance…

Our first photo together, just moments after we met!

Hello, Abigail, women ai ni, xiao baobao (We love you, little treasure)!

Concentrating on her blocks!

Sleeping peacefully…

…on mom!

After her nap, we met with a Registrar of the People’s Republic who officially proclaimed our adoption official. We’re holding the “Red Book” in our hands that contains the official adoption record, which authorities will want to see from time to time.

Abigail’s Welfare Center Directors, right after we signed the papers making her adoption official!

Change, overnight

Change, overnight…

Abigail. Tonight is the last night you will spend not knowing Mommy or Daddy.

Tomorrow is the first day we will walk together.

While we were awake into the night, anxious to meet you, you were sleeping,

unaware of the love and life that is waiting for you in the bright morning of a new day.

I feel joy!

Change, overnight.

I know this feeling…

Jackson. I remember these feelings. Yes, just before I met you.

Then, as now, we waited for you to come into our life.

Then, as now, I knew I had but hours

until I would hold you in the bright morning of a new day.

I feel joy!

And I cry.

Change, overnight.

I know this feeling.

And a gift is given…

I soak in warm moments of remembered joy, present joy; the gift comes into focus.

It is not that we are giving you so much, Abigail.

It is not that we have given you so much, Jackson.

The gift given is in both of you, to us.

In you we see angels dancing and the nearness of God’s love.

Doubt fades away and we sing the song of heaven.

I feel joy!

And I cry.

You are grace.

Change, overnight.

Our Day as Tourists…

Well, good morning to you all! As I write this it is your Saturday afternoon and our (early) Sunday morning. Today’s itinerary is simple: Fly to Hefei, where we will meet Abigail in about 27 hours.

Yesterday was a very full – and a very cold (around 20 and very gusty in the morning) – day. But all went extremely well…pictures are below. We began in Tiananmen Square, which didn’t seem as large as I thought it would, given that it can hold 1,000,000 people. I was struck that the student protests of ‘89 were held right next to the tomb of General Mao (“The Great Man” as our guide said). The people we’ve talked to seem quite satisfied with their life, though, and perhaps just a little jealous that recent reforms toward an open market have created challenges. Our guide “Judy” mentioned that she has it much more difficult than her parents did because she has to “buy” her own “home” whereas the previous generation did not have to. “Buy” is in quotes because “buy” really equates to a lease that returns to the government after 70 years; the government owns all land. And finally, don’t confuse “home” with anything remotely close to a single-family dwelling. So far as I’ve seen, any such places would be extremely rare in this city.

Back to our day…

From the mausoleum we moved past the People’s Heroes Monument and toward the South Gate of the Forbidden City (called the Palace Museum by locals). This was a very interesting tour and I’m sure that I would have had wonderful commentary on all I saw if this were any regular trip. It is funny though, as I’m not really here to “tour” but rather to discover a much greater treasure than the sights I can see I felt a little detached from it all. My mind wasn’t all that engaged, I suppose, thinking of the next couple of days and how they will change the rest of our lives – all of us, Erin and Abigail, Jackson and me!

We then went to lunch at a famous restaurant in downtown Beijing (the name escapes me now – I’m not myself :^) and had their signature dish: Beijing Duck. Quite a process to make this dish and it yielded wonderful results (although I could go for a cheeseburger right now).

From there we went to outside the city and ended up at the Great Wall, where apparently, I became a real man by climbing the Wall (I even got a certificate that says “He is no man who doesn’t reach the Wall”). It amazes me, given the terrain, that this wall was ever constructed. The grades rival anything you’ve every walked up. But I suppose if you were worried about raiding parties from enemies, you’d do what you could to protect yourself.

For all those people who might be worried that we’re not being taken care of well (read: my mom :^) I can assure you that we are. The people who have coordinated our trip and the entire adoption process are wonderful. Our coordinator Li Na is a buoyant soul for sure; very quick to laugh and ever ready to help out. All the coordinators truly care about the babies that are to be adopted and they truly care about this strange group of Americans! All-in-all there are 33 couples here and all have different stories. It has been fun to meet them and learn where they’re from and what they do.

Today the group will split up considerably as all the couples will now fly to meet their children (one woman is adopting an 11-year-old boy!) in one of eight provinces. In about a week, we’ll all meet up again, though, and I know that will be an experience!

I’ll write more from Hefei, tonight…

BTW…you can click on the pictures posted for better resolution shots…

Erin, Reed and Mao, outside the Forbidden City

In front of The Gate of Heavenly Peace (we feel so peaceful!)

Shadows on the wall

Through the Wall…

The Great Wall

Detail: Firepot inside the Forbidden City

Just for Jackson — wow a Dragon-Turtle!

Inside the Forbidden City

“Judy,” our guide for the day and a CHI coordinate (front right) and Li Na, who is our coordinator (back left).

A monument outside General Mao’s tomb

…and the mausoleum

Erin at the “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” (Tiananmen)

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