Days 4-7: Arriving in Guangzhou, Gotcha Day, and First Days with Lily

Day 4 was the day we flew to Guangzhou. We ate breakfast in the hotel with another family who was leaving around the same time as us, and we met our guide, Tom, in the lobby at 8:15 to go to the airport. Let me just say, security at the Chinese airport was more stressful than the US security! We ALL got a pat down, even Corinne. The flight was uneventful, about three hours long.

We arrived in Guangzhou and met our guide (yay!), who took us to our hotel and introduced us to the other two families with our agency. Our guide then showed us the area around our hotel and pointed out restaurants she recommended. We went to one of the restaurants she mentioned and had quite the experience! We discovered quickly that there was no English anywhere in the restaurant, on the menu or English-speaking waiters. On top of that, it was a hot pot type of restaurant, and none of us know how to order! Thankfully, we found fried rice, green beans, and noodles to order, and Stephen was able to order in Chinese. Way to go, Stephen! Poor Corinne fell asleep at the table three times while we were waiting and eating. This time change has really taken a toll on her little body!

Day 5 was Gotcha Day! Oh my, I have never, ever been as nervous as I was that day, not even for my senior recital in college, or my wedding day, or juries in college, or the days my children were born! I was nervous, excited, and just couldn’t believe we were actually going to see Lily in a few moments! We saw her come in first, along with a younger child from her same orphanage. And then, before we knew it, it was time to meet her! We met her and took her over to where we were sitting to get to know each other. We used a little of the CSL we had learned to introduce ourselves and gave her a few gifts we had brought. She began to smile quickly and seemed happy. When it was time to go, though, we began to see the fear she had been hiding; she didn’t want to go out of the building with us at first, but she did eventually come.

These first few days have been challenging, but wonderful. We have had ups and downs. She is clearly grieving, yet excited at the same time. What is going on in her little head? At times she is withdrawn and doesn’t want us near her, but other times she is happy and laughing and playing silly games with us. We have had fun bonding times and a few stressful times. She has bonded more with Corinne and I, and she is slowly warming up to Stephen.

We’re learning more and more about her personality. She is a beautiful girl! And oh, so smart! She knows her language is visual and she is very aware visually of the world around her. She knows her way around this hotel better than I do and sees things before we do. She loves to tease people and play silly games. She loves to surprise and scare people as they come around corners or come out of the bathroom, especially Stephen! She just laughs and laughs and thinks it is so funny. Her laugh is infectious! She is most definitely a leader and is very independent. She is helpful and thoughtful. She’s been very sweet and kind to the babies we have been around. Her smile is beautiful!

As I said, she knows her language is visual. She will look at me when I sign to her, and is beginning to use some ASL in her signing. She is teaching us the CSL signs she knows, which we are happy to learn. Today she used a sign in the right context that we had only used ONCE in passing – sweetheart! She knows us as mother and father and she knows Corinne’s sign name as well. I have a feeling she knows way more CSL than she is letting on; I’m praying for God to send a Chinese deaf person our way, or another deaf child being adopted. She also knows how to write a few Chinese characters. I wish I knew what she was writing!

We are seeing positive progress everyday. She is a sweet girl and we are so blessed to have her with us! Yes, it has been challenging, and we will have hard times, often taking two steps back to every one step forward. But the Lord will see us through and provide the wisdom we need.

Here are some pictures of Gotcha Day!

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Day 3: History, Rickshaws, Tea Time, and Acrobatics

I’m so behind in blogging! Sorry! I’ll try to catch up today!

Day 3 was a wonderful day!! We all woke up feeling great and excited for the day.

First, we visited Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Our guide, Tom, told us all about the history behind the two places. It was a lot of walking and there were a lot of people there. The weather was beautiful, despite the smog.

Next, we went to the rickshaw area for the Hutong tour. Stephen rode with another man in our group, and Corinne and I rode together. This was definitely the highlight of the day for us! Corinne was anxious before we started, but as soon as we started moving, she was all smiles and giggles. Our driver was hilarious! He LOVED to go fast and would maneuver his rickshaw through tiny spaces to pass other drivers. He would even “hitch a ride” with the rickshaw in front of us by holding onto the back of it. Ha! Stephen’s driver was daring – he would turn as though he was going to go through these impossible spots and then turn back at the last minute. I’m sure the long line of Americans in the rickshaws made quite the spectacle for the Chinese people. We toured one of the Hutong homes, which consisted of a courtyard and rooms around all sides of the courtyard. The older generation would live in the north rooms; the children would live in the east and west rooms, with the boys’ side having a higher roof to show higher social status. Now many of these homes are owned by the government and rented to army generals and other high ranking officials as reward for their service. After we toured this home, we walked to another home that was privately owned and had lunch with the family. This family had opened their home to tourists and regularly serves meals.

After lunch we got back on our same rickshaws for the ride back to the bus. As soon as we sat down, Corinne started giggling and squealing, and our driver just looked back and laughed with her. I think he was hitting the bumps in the road on purpose just to hear us laugh and squeal!

The last thing we did was visit a tea house for a traditional tea ceremony. We tried six different teas, which were all very good! Corinne was a little anxious at first, but once we told her she didn’t have to hold the cup exactly the way the lady told us to (the cup was too hot), she did better and figured out how to sip it. She did great! There was one tea that opened up like a flower when she poured hot water on it.

We went back to the hotel and had a short rest and then left for the acrobatics show. Corinne was enthralled and sat amazed throughout the entire show. They ended with motorcycles going around in a big metal ball – they had eight motorcycles in it!

We were exhausted by the end of the day and had dinner in the room. Egg and tomato soup and crackers was the chosen cuisine for the evening.

Here are some pictures from our day…

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Day 2 – sick day, resting up, and reflecting…

First of all, thank you all for your prayers – Corinne is feeling much better. Unfortunately she was not feeling good enough by time to leave for touring today for us to go. She missed the Great Wall and I know she is disappointed. She has a good attitude about it though and this gave her an opportunity to recover well today. Please continue to pray that she remains healthy. Stacy has had some head-spinning, and we are hydrating, hydrating, hydrating, doing our best to be as healthy as possible for next Monday when we get Lily.

So we spent the first part of our day praying and trying to make the best decision regarding Corinne’s health, and ultimately decided that the main purpose for which God has us here is to bring our precious Lily home. That means that all of this other “stuff”, though wonderful and important, pales in comparison to that main purpose for being here. This has given me a little time to reflect on what’s really important in life. I don’t have this all right, and I probably never will, but I can remember seasons in my life, some not so distant in the past, where I have had my priorities way out of whack. Today was a good test of my ability to not allow my disappointment (mostly for Corinne – Stacy and I have been to the Great Wall before) to control my life, but to allow the Holy Spirit to work and guide my decisions according to His purposes. Thank you, Abba Father, for not giving up on me!

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We have been able to connect with some other families here from our agency, and they are all wonderful people. We have learned of two other families who are adopting older girls. One family is adopting a 7-year-old girl, another is adopting a 13-year-old girl, and you probably remember that our Lily is 9 years old. It has been wonderful to connect with these families and support one another emotionally and prayerfully. One family has their 15-year-old biological daughter with them and she was so sweet this morning to sit with Corinne for a few minutes while Stacy and I grabbed some quick breakfast. Thank You, Abba Father, for your provision and protection!

After the other families returned from touring, the dear family whose daughter stayed with Corinne in the morning came to our room and brought us rocks they had picked up on the Great Wall. They had also purchased gifts from the Cloisonné Factory for us to give our girls – two beautiful little teapot ornaments. They also brought over their SD card from their camera for me to download their Great Wall pictures onto our iPad. This was such a blessing to us, to have this family caring for us in this way, and clearly this was the work of The Lord.

We joined the other families for a Chinese dinner at a great restaurant within walking distance from our hotel. This was our first chance to really all connect together with the other adoptive families, and this was a special time of sharing our stories how God has moved to bring these children into our lives. They all shared concern for Corinne’s health and were happy that she was feeling better. Corinne, by the way, ate like a champ at the restaurant last night, and absolutely loved all of the food! Praise the Lord!

Here are some pictures which the other family so graciously shared with us…

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Day 1: New Day Foster Home and Time with a Friend

Before I post about our day yesterday, I have a special prayer request. This trip seems to have really hurt Corinne’s system. The jet lag has been horrible for her – anytime she sits down she gets a blank look on her face and she falls asleep so easily. Also, she’s not eating or drinking very much. I’m encouraging her to eat and drink, but she just isn’t. This morning she vomited again, and we aren’t sure why or what to do. Stephen and I aren’t sick, so I don’t think it’s contaminated food. I’m praying it’s not a stomach bug!

Please pray that God would heal her little body and help her adjust to this big change.

We visited NDFH yesterday – what an amazing experience! We took a taxi there, which took us almost two hours because of horrible traffic. About a third of the way through the ride, our taxi driver turned on the international radio station for us – it was incredible how much that one small gesture eased our anxiety!

When we arrived at the NDFH, a sweet lady named Karen came out to meet us. We gave her the donations we had brought, which included 43 pounds of formula, three bottles of Poly-Vi-Sol, two tubes of Benadryl cream, feeding tube extensions, and one Mic-Key button feeding tube. They were very appreciative and excited about all we had brought – thank you to everyone who contributed and a special thanks to the Rabys!

We toured the Home next and heard about the facilities. The caregiver to child ratio there is about 3 to 1, which is incredible since she told us that one orphanage they partner with has a ratio of 15 to 1! I’ll share more about that orphanage later in this post. The Home is bright and colorful and filled with toys, playground equipment, and therapy toys. It truly is a beautiful place and they are doing wonderful things here, changing not only the lives of these precious orphans, but also adults who work there and work for the New Day Creations factory where they make many different items, like magnets for the fridge and other things. They also employ local people who need a job to keep their family together.

After our tour, we spent some time playing with the children. They are so sweet and happy there! New Day has provided life-saving surgeries for these children and many miracles have happened there. God has healed these children in amazing ways. Some of them have received liver transplants – which is incredible because orphans are usually at the bottom of the list for transplants!

The orphanage I mentioned above – this is a new partnership. They don’t have the staff or the training to take care of so many children and children with special medical conditions. Many of their babies die because of this. New Day is partnering with them to teach them proper care for these medical conditions and also by bringing some of the children to NDFH. One child we met, Austin, has improved so, so much since his arrival. He is 11 years old, but he was unable to even sit up when he arrived and wouldn’t respond and was so, so tiny for his age. He has nearly doubled his weight since his arrival, but he is still smaller than my five-year-old. He can now sit up and responds with smiles! He loves playing with blocks.

The Lord is greatly using New Day Foster Home and its staff to change the lives of so many children and adults. I encourage you to look up their website and blog to read more miracle stories. They operate on donations, so if you feel led to do so, please give. It is a very worthy cause!

After our visit, we took a taxi ride back to the hotel (only a little over an hour this time) and met a friend we have known for many years. So great to see him again! He took us to a couple of bookstores and then to dinner for xiaolongbaozi! Yummy!!

The family unit is deteriorating rapidly here and the divorce rate is rising quickly. Morals and values have changed drastically since we were here last and the young people are getting harder to reach. Please pray for China! And also the New Day Foster Home!

Here are some photos from our time there. We are not supposed to post pictures of the children, so we gladly complied. We don’t want to do anything that might thwart the great work going on there!

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Flight and arrival in Beijing

We had quite a few challenges today, but hurrah! We have arrived in Beijing!

We left early this morning at 5:50am. The flight to Dulles was short and sweet. Corinne did great and enjoyed looking out the window. Then we had a five-hour layover at Dulles. 20131009-063353.jpg

Our flight to Beijing was completely full, and we were unable to get three seats together. Corinne and I sat together and Stephen sat a row behind us and to the left. That was our first challenge. Then about two-thirds of the way through the flight Corinne complained of motion sickness and vomited a couple of times. Praise God for a kind young lady sitting beside me who was willing to switch seats with Stephen for the rest of the flight! Once Corinne sat up she began to feel better. Praise God for a wonderful flight steward who was understanding and helpful during the motion sickness and even gave us a bottle of water to take with us when we got off the plane.

Oh, the next challenges were doozies!! First, we finally got through customs and claimed our baggage and went out to meet our guide. Our guide was not there! Second, we put our Panda SIM card in our phone to call our guide and discovered our SIM card was not working and will probably not work!

But praise God again for His provision! While we were waiting for Stephen to claim our baggage, a sweet lady with her toddler came up to us and said hi. When we realized our phone wasn’t working, in desperation I asked this lady if she spoke English. She did! She called our guide twice and let us talk to him. Somehow he had been told we were arriving tomorrow instead of today. We needed to take a taxi to our hotel, approximately a one-hour drive away. This sweet lady and her family (which included her 15-year-old daughter who had just arrived at the airport herself) took us to exchange our money and helped us get a taxi and explain to the taxi driver where to take us.

Praise God that a nice lady from our guide’s office met us at the hotel and helped us check in. Yay!!

So while our plane arrived 20 minutes early, we did not make it to our hotel until 4:30 or so. Whew!! Makes for a long day. We are exhausted and will head to bed soon. Oatmeal for dinner.

The great unknown…

There are a lot of unknowns in adoption. I know, I’m stating the obvious. Financial unknowns, timeline unknowns, referral unknowns…. The hardest for me has been the unknown of what will happen once we’re home. I try to picture in my mind what life will be like and come up with….nothing! I cannot picture it because I have no idea, not the first clue, of…anything related to the time after we come home.

What will that first moment with Lily be like? What will Lily’s personality be like? Will the kids play together well? What will homeschool look like? Will Lily be able to go to Tennessee School for the Deaf? How will we teach her ASL when we barely know it ourselves?

All of these questions continuously roll around in my head, and I have to confess, I’m feeling very inadequate and kind of terrified!

But God!

I look back on how we got here. All God did to get us here, to provide for us financially, to provide contacts and a support network, to provide encouragement just when we needed it. There is no doubt that we are right where God wants us. Yes, it is overwhelming and scary, but there is no place we would rather be.

We received an anonymous card and donation from a sweet friend last week. Included in the card were two Bible verses, which were perfect (of course!) for our situation right now, perfect for the questions, fears, and doubts swirling around in my head….

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work… Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” 2 Cor. 9:8, 15

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much, whoever you are, for your card and gift. I cannot express how much this means to us, how it came at just right time, and how the Bible verses you shared were exactly the ones we needed. Your gift will allow Stephen to stay home an extra week after we return home, which is, again, exactly what we need! I am hoping this will somehow reach you. Thank you!!

Part of our planning for the time after we return home has included clearing our schedule of as much as we possibly could, so we can just stay home and bond as a family of five. I started school early in July so we can take as much time off from school as we can after Lily is home. Stephen will stay home a week and a half after we return from China. We have no responsibilities outside the home, other than doctor appointments, so we will be able to just stay here at home if needed. So if you don’t see much of us after we arrive home, we are still alive, just taking it easy.🙂

Here is a little bit about our itinerary in China…

Oct. 9 – Arrive in Beijing at 2:20 in the afternoon.

Oct. 10 – Free day – visit New Day Foster Home and spend some time with a wonderful friend there.

Oct. 11 – Visit Great Wall, Cloisonne Factory, Bird’s Nest.

Oct. 12 – Visit Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutong Tour and acrobatic show in evening.

Oct. 13 – Fly to Guangzhou

Oct. 14 – Get Lily in the afternoon!!!

Oct. 15-21 – random adoption appointments and some touring of Guangzhou.

Oct. 21 – Visa appt in the morning.

Oct. 22 – Go to Hong Kong by car.

Oct. 23 – Fly from Hong Kong to the US!

Whew. This is our last day here. We have tons to do! We’ll update from China as able and as time allows. Pray for us and Lily please! And for Brady – he is sad to be leaving us and this will be the longest he has been apart from us (although I know he will have a wonderful time with Nana and Papaw!).

May God bless each of you for your partnership with us throughout this journey – which is really just beginning….

The next post will be from the other side of the world……

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli

IMG_1730We tried a new Chinese recipe last week and LOVED it! This is from a different book, given to us by a sweet lady who works with Stephen. The cookbook is Foods of the Orient, China, edited by Isabel Moore. You can find it here on Amazon. I did change the recipe just a bit to accommodate what I had on hand.🙂

Stir-Fried Beef with Broccoli

1 lb filet of beef, thinly sliced across the grain into 3in x 2in pieces

3 T soy sauce

1 T rice wine

1 t ground ginger

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 lb broccoli, broken into florets

1/3 cup beef broth

1 T vegetable fat

2 t corstarch, mixed to a paste with 4 T water

Marinate the beef strips in the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, and 1 T olive oil (I actually doubled the amounts for the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, and oil because it didn’t seem like enough for the amount of meat I had). Cut the broccoli into florets.

Heat the remaining oil and when it is hot, add the beef mixture and stir-fry until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef strips to a plate. Add the beef broth to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the broccoli and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 4 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the serving dish and keep warm.

Add vegetable fat to the pan and melt it. Return the beef to the pan and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the constarch mixture and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until the sauce becomes translucent and begins to thicken. Remove from the heat.

Pour the beef and sauce over the broccoli. Serve with rice. YUM!