Tag Archives: China

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.

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!

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)

We're Here in China!

Ni Hao Everyone!

Well, we made to China (half way around the world) in a completely uneventful fashion. The only snag was that our flight from San Francisco left about an hour and a half later than expected. But taken in the grad scheme of things, this is a bargain. The flights were great and the people we’ve met thus far are great. And, all things considered, we had it easy getting to San Fran as so many in our group of about 30 families had to travel from the snowed-in midwest and east coast. But I think everyone who was scheduled to make it, actually did (even if, in some cases, the luggage has not yet). Once on the ground in Beijing getting through customs was very simple. A stamp on the visa, pick up our luggage (which did arrive) and we met our guides. Very cool.

Beijing is a huge city. Our guide mentioned that about 13 million live in the city, proper, and that the population swells to about 20 million on any given work day. That’s a lot of people! And today we get to move around in the mess of it all. We’re going to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square (where we’ll see The Gate of Heavenly Peace among other things), and the Great Wall. I’ve linked those so that you can look up their history, if you so desire.

This morning we talked with Jackson, who is doing great by all accounts. The really special part is that we hooked up via the internet for a video conference! We loved seeing our boy, who we already miss, and I think he loved seeing us (as he had about a 2-minute giggle-fest making faces with Daddy). He also thought that the bed in our hotel room looked neat because it has a Dragon-head bedpost design.

Well, for both of us, I’ll sign off and head into our day. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. Check back often as I’ll be updating this site regularly with pictures and our journal.

Reed (and Erin)

PS… Below, you’ll find the update on Jackson’s first day with the Smiths…

Greetings dear brother and sister-in-law!

By the time you read this you will be in China! Amazing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Just wanted to give you a quick update on Jackson’s first day. The day passed so quickly and he did great. He had a good day at preschool – he was “line leader” for his job and seemed happy about that. After preschool we made a quick trip to Costco which went very well. He picked out a big box of the Kraft crackers and cheese for snacks and was excited when he saw how many were inside. He also wanted to get a bag of carrots for Uncle Jeff and that was the first thing he told Jeffrey when we got home. Then he asked “do you know what Uncle Reed told me before he left on his trip?” Jeff said no, and Jackson said that he was supposed to eat lots of Uncle Jeff’s carrots and be sure to have pudding after his lunch…it was very cute. Especially calling you “Uncle Reed” instead of Daddy, Reed!

He wasn’t in the mood to leave to pick up Jenna and Connor from school, so I did have to carry him downstairs and we missed only that one sticker today. But he didn’t get really upset. And he was very talkative with Connor on the way home, Jenna ended up staying after school for a middle school game. Connor asked me quietly if it was ok to talk about Mommy and Daddy to which I said sure. When I went into the post office to get the mail and some stamps I guess they talked quite a bit about your trip. When I got back in, Connor said that he asked Jackson if he missed Mommy and Daddy (which is a question I would have had him avoid, but anyway) to which Jackson replied happily – “A little bit, but they miss me a lot more!” I thought that was so cute.

He got ready for bed well, and did all his stickers and everything. He did not go to the bathroom all day and said he still didn’t need to at bedtime! I said he didn’t have to, but if he chose not to then he would wear a pull-up because we didn’t want his Bob the Builder bed to get wet. He thought about that for a while as he was brushing teeth and such, then he decided he’d rather go to the bathroom. I was glad! And boy I could not believe how long he went. We laughed about it and tomorrow he probably will go more regularly I hope. He fell asleep within minutes and hopefully he’ll sleep well all night.

He seems to have a great understanding of why you are gone, and I’m sure the time apart will be hard, but I really think he’s going to do fine. He liked putting the first sticker on your Trip to China chart, and to be able to see Abigail at the end of the days is a fun reminder of how quickly you and she will be home.

Well, there are many more little details of our day that I’ve probably left out, but I just wanted you to know he had a wonderful first day. I think the most upset he was today was driving home from the airport and he asked for a drink of orange juice. When I reminded him that Mommy had taken the orange juice with her instead of leaving it in the van he was not happy! He’s so funny…after he got over being mad he wanted to know what you would do with the cup on your trip, Erin. He’s so smart, and always thinking! He didn’t think you would want to carry it around all the time on your trip, and you should have left it for him!

Much love to you both. Enjoy your “just the two of you” time before you are united with your beautiful little girl!


The Dragon Bedpost that Jackson likes…

Our Air China 747

IMG_1233.jpgWaiting in the concourse at PDX (why the droopy eye, Reed?)

Jackson as we were saying goodbye (he actually did really well…as you read in Cindy’s email).

The last family photo before Abigail…won’t it be great when the four of us can be in one frame?