Tag Archives: adoption

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.


That title just about says it all! We had a “yikes” kind of day.

Yesterday I had said that I was hoping we could sleep in this morning past 7:00am. Well Abbie obliged by sleeping until 7:30am. Unfortunately, that was after waking at 11pm, 12am, 2:45am (this one was the long one, up for about 1½ hours). Needless to say, we were tired in the morning and grumpy with one another during the night. Can anyone relate? It all ended up okay, though, as we made it through the day. Abbie still seems terrified that we’ll end up not being around and so any time she stirs she ends up checking to see if we’re around. I don’t blame her, so much is upside-down for her.

As Erin was tired in the morning (surprise, surprise after the night we had) a Father-Daughter breakfast and outing was in order after her bath. Abbie seems really comfortable with me now which helps to take the burden off of Erin. Now she has time to breathe. So she took the opportunity to be a little more leisurely in getting ready for the day and to shop in the early evening tonight. Her shopping was productive and fun for her as she picked up gifts for family and name chops for both Jackson and Abigail.

At 3pm we both took Abbie to her medical appointment. Yikes! I felt for the poor kids in that clinic and the poor doctors who have to deal with all the screaming every, day all day long. While the doctors had to deal with that situation throughout the workday, we were finished in about 10 minutes. There were three stations, one for a physical exam, another for weight and length measurement, and the final one for an ENT exam. Abbie checked out well in all three. She is 79 centimeters long (31.1 inches) and weighs 11.3 kilograms (24.9 pounds). We looked up her size, relative to other babies from Chinese orphanages, and she is doing great. In fact, she’s above 75th percentile for weight and height in AMERICAN populations (and above the 90th percentile for Chinese adoptees at least in one study). No need to worry about her health!

Tonight has been a lot fun with Abbie, though we’re just about ready to put her into bed for the evening so that could change. We’ll see if “yikes” is in order overnight. I hope not, a good night of sleep would do all three of us good. Let’s hope the bottle I prepare works wonders!

Oh, before I go, four or five more tidbits. We didn’t go on the dinner cruise tonight. We were just too tired and we weren’t all that excited to be on a boat with a potentially crabby baby. Second, we turned over the last of our paperwork for the adoption. Our coordinator will take it (and the associated fees) to the American Consulate Thursday morning. It feels great to have the last of these details off our hands. Now we just wait for her visa from the Feds and to take her citizenship oath on Friday. Third, tonight was the first night Abbie cried from our saying “no” to her. It was interesting to see her react to our direction and to comfort her afterward. Fourth, my Blue Mountain coffee was great and was prepared in a way that I’d only read about, in a vacuum carafe (description here / pictures here). It didn’t disappoint (unfortunately, now I want to have all my coffee prepared like this!) Finally, we’ve still not come across a food that Abbie refuses. She’s eaten everything we’ve eaten (Chinese, “American,” gross, bland, whatever), plus all her baby foods. She’s even cried when we wouldn’t give her a another dropper full of medicine (you know, the yucky kind, Ibuprofen for teething pain). She’s a funny girl and we love her lots.

Okay, I really need to get that bottle ready now. Until later…

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“Hi Daddy!”

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Going into the appointment I knew that we would break the posted rules!

Our Abbie weighed in at 24.9 pounds, the heaviest of the girls from Chuzhou (even though she’s the youngest).

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Abbie’s just lovin’ her examination. She passed with flying colors.

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After the examination and ready for mom’s arms.

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We’re on the 11th floor and so was he – outside changing lightbulbs.

Another Dragon picture just for Jackson.

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At the end of the day, Abbie had recovered well…back to her old self and eating like a horse.

Sightseeing in Guangzhou

Well, I’m feeling a little tired tonight so this is likely going to be a shorter than usual post. Oh well, you should have more than enough good news from the Thelanders’ blog because in just about seven minutes, they’ll be welcoming their new daughter, Kelly, into their family. What a wonderful moment for them all! We’re so happy for them.

Today we did a little sightseeing around the city of Guangzhou. To tell you the truth, I’d gladly forego such events if I could trim a day or two off of our trip length. Oh well, at least we got some fresh air and saw some interesting architecture and art. After visiting both Yiexiu Park, where the Five Goats statue is, and the Chen Clan Ancestral Temple, we went shopping at a wholesale pearl market. After looking into the selection at several shops, we got a strand of “high-end” pearls for Abigail’s 16th birthday. Who knows what high-end means; for us, it meant paying a whole $15.00 (some families were paying as little as $5.00 for the “lower-end” stuff). The market was incredible as there were just bags and bags and bags of pearls to select from. We had a crash course training by our guide on how to tell good pearls from bad ones. I hope I listened.

After returning to our hotel we decided to walk around the city some and enjoyed ourselves quite a lot. Most of the enjoyment comes when people stop us on the street and comment on what a beautiful baby Abbie is! One of the new shopkeepers we met (“Lucy”) asked what province she was from. When we said “Anhui” she giggled and said “Oh, she’s a Spicy Girl!” Apparently, the food in Anhui is known for its heat. As a dad, I’m not so sure that I like this nickname. Another shopkeeper we’d met the other day stopped us again and remembered our names. They’re good marketers here.

On the walk, I found a good espresso bar. (Which reminds me, I saw a Starbucks near the pearl market, but didn’t have a chance to get anything.) The coffee here so far is better than in either of the other two cities we’ve been in and I’m hoping that tomorrow it gets even better. I noticed that our hotel offers (for a price) coffee from the Blue Mountains in Jamaica. I’ve read rave reviews about this coffee before but have never seen it offered anywhere. I’m looking forward to a steward delivering it to our room in the morning.

As we were tired this evening we decided to order room service. I decided to stray from my typical dinner (either pizza or a burger) and order the hot dog. It was about half way through it that I remember hearing horror stories about hot dogs and what goes in them in the States…then I remembered I was in Guangzhou where they “eat anything with its back to sun” (or so the Cantonese saying goes). I then wondered what things went into the hot dog I was enjoying. At least whatever I was eating tasted good!

In more important news Abbie is doing wonderfully! She seems happier and more energetic every day and we know that she’ll handle her brother well (the only question that remains is how he’ll handle her). On several occasions today she even preferred my arms to Erin’s, which is a good sign of attachment to both of us.

Tomorrow’s a light morning, so if Abbie will sleep in past 7am that would be nice. In the afternoon we have her medical screening and then in the evening we booked a 2½ hour Pearl River dinner cruise. Any guesses how much for the three of us to have a buffet dinner and the cruise? $30.00 We thought at that price we shouldn’t pass it up. We’ll likely not have the opportunity again any time soon. Hopefully it will be a nice evening.

We’ll I’m off…this was longer than I thought and less interesting than I’d hoped :^)

Enjoy today’s pictures.

Sightseeing in front of the Five Goats Statue in Yiexiu Park, Guangzhou.

There were gobs of people “getting their morning exercise” playing with a shuttlecock.

Erin and Abbie outside the Chen Clan Ancestral Temple. Erin says “The flowers here are gorgeous.”

Inside the temple grounds…

First in a series on the creepy sculptures they had here! I’m trying to be artsy (“Here, notice the way the photographer held our interest in this frame by mirroring the focal point the subject being photographed is holding…blah…blah…blah…” :^)

Second in the series…

The face on this one gave me the creeps, so naturally I thought, “Hey, I should take a picture of this!” Mercifully, last in the series…now on to more of Abbie!

Abbie didn’t find the sightseeing all that interesting either.

A bride and groom about town in Guangzhou…she’s already got a wandering eye!

And the award for best fed baby in any Chinese orphanage goes to…Abbie! (Taken just before bed tonight.)

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 aforeverfamily.blogspot.com.

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.