Wednesday, July 30, 2014

China: Getting Here

 Yay!  We finally got Blogger to work!  ...I think.  I guess I'll find out when I hit "publish".  Anyway, after posting pics on Facebook, I realized I never blogged about taking Maddie and Kaitlyn with us to China.  So here's how it went down... we kept hearing how great it was to take a sibling along on the adoption trip to help with the transition of the newly adopted child.  If it could help Jordan feel more comfortable, we knew we wanted to take Maddie and Kaitlyn, but we also to open their eyes to the world and see where Jordan is coming from.  We knew it could be a priceless experience for the girls and they would be old enough to remember it.  We just couldn't afford to.  But our rental home finally sold, (yea, yea yea!!) freeing up enough money to take one of the girls.   We figured Maddie was the oldest, so we would take her, but we didn't tell either of the girls, because we didn't know how to.  We knew it would break Kaitlyn's heart to be left behind.  Maddie and Kaitlyn are two peas in a pod.So, we put off getting passports because we didn't know what we should do.  Finally, we decided to get both girls a passport, just in case we could somehow make it work.  When my parents heard we were taking Maddie, they decided to help out so Kaitlyn could come too.  We're so grateful and happy that both of our girls get to share in this experience!!



One of my favorite moments from yesterday: Ryan has been playing Chinese podcasts a lot in preparation for our trip, so when we got up to board our airplane, and Maddie dropped her neck pillow, a young man (Chinese) picked it up for her, and she told him "xie xie" (thank you in Chinese). He was surprised to hear her respond in Chinese. We ended up talking for a while. When our plane landed in China he found us again and helped us navigate the airport. When I told him he was so kind to take care of us he said he wanted to be nice to us because we must be nice to want to take care of a child who has medical needs. I wish I would have thought to take a picture with "Aaron", our first friend made on the trip.

Here we go!!


Such a looooong flight, but Air China took good care of us. Sometime between 2-3am Utah time, they were passing out meals. Maddie woke up and asked if it was breakfast since we had already had dinner. I looked and saw it was beef and noodles and told her no, it was "second dinner" At this point she was deliriously loopy and couldn't stop giggling.

Did I mention it was a really long flight?  The flight to China was 12 hours but the total travel time SLC to Beijing was 16 hours. The girls were troopers.  I had a hard time sitting that long!

We made it!!  Standing in the "foreigners" line in Beijing.

Another favorite moment: we knew getting from the airport to our hotel would be tricky with all of our luggage... we assumed we'd probably have to split up into two taxis. So when a van driver was in the taxi line and held up four fingers, we though "Yay! We can all ride together!" But when we showed him our hotel name card and he pointed to a price on a chart showing he wanted 580 yuan (about $100) We told him it was too much, we had only exchanged for 200 yuan because we were told that should be enough for two taxis. So, we moved on to see if we could get two taxis to take us, but that van driver followed us around telling the other drivers something in Chinese... we assume something like, "I already give them a price, don't give them a deal" And he kept telling us we had too much stuff for a taxi and that the high cost was because there was so much traffic. We knew we weren't getting anywhere with that van driver following us, so we kept walking until he gave up on us. We finally found a driver that, surprisingly, was willing to take all of us when I said I'd hold one of the large suitcases on my lap. He thought I was crazy, and laughed, but he did it and it only cost us 140 yuan! This picture was taken from behind a 50lb suitcase with a driver laughing and peeping at me in the rearview mirror.

Smashed in a taxi.  Definitely worth it!  We got to stick together and saved over $75 dollars.


When we got to the hotel, we settled in, tested out Skype with Ryan's parents, then went to bed because we were crazy tired.  Unfortunately, our bodies just thought we were taking an afternoon nap and we have all been wide awake since 12:30am.  Curse you jet lag!!!  So we decided to bite the bullet and get up for the day.  I started to work on figuring out our internet issues while Ryan and the girls watched China's Got Talent (in Chinese) and a table tennis tournament.  (we've since found a few english channels) We also spent a good 10 minutes laughing because, as hard as they tried, the neither of the girls could not pronounce the word "oxygen"... they usually CAN say it, but their tired brains just weren't working.  Maddie is a little bit OCD about how bad the air is and wants an "os-i-jigin" mask and was trying to tell us about it, but we couldn't stop laughing.  We are in for a rough day, but hopefully we'll be able to stay awake and get on a China schedule.  Thank you for all of the prayers and support!! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Anticipation

We leave to China in about 11 hours and I'm a bit of a mess.... a happy mess.  We're nearly packed, and the house is somewhat clean and now that I'm starting to relax a little, the emotions are creeping in.  It's just that, after all we went through to be matched to Jordan and all of the paperwork and waiting... and waiting some more......  we are finally going to get Jordan.  Really?  Really!!

I grew up white water rafting.  It is something I did once or twice every summer from the time I was about 5 years old.  My family's river of choice:  The Snake River, near Jackson Hole Wyoming.  I really love that river.  Since I have little kids of my own, I haven't been rafting for several years, but I've been thinking about the river of my childhood a lot lately.  The first half of that river trip is mostly a relaxing float trip.  Sometimes we passed the time by jumping out of the raft to float alongside in our life jackets, or practiced paddling together.  Other times we just sat back to enjoy the beautiful backdrop of the canyon. The first major rapid on that stretch of the river is "Big Kahuna".  If you've never been rafting, I don't know exactly how to describe the feeling of anticipation when the first major rapid on the river comes into sight, but it's great.  And this adoption trip has me feeling the same way.  A mix of excitement, a smidgen of fear, and happiness to finally get the good stuff.  We're ready for the good stuff! 


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Travel Approval and a Whirlwind

We received Travel Approval on Monday and had our Consulate Appointment confirmed on Tuesday and then it was "go time".  Airplane tickets were searched and purchased, a hotel stay booked, train tickets planned and purchased, visits to former foster care organization homes coordinated and scheduled, then a packing whirlwind commenced.  So much to do!  So exhausting!!  So exciting!!!
 

This is the first picture of Jordan that Ryan and I ever saw.  Isn't he beautiful?  We've missed so much of his life so far.  I can't wait to go meet this little guy and get to be a part of his life from now on.  We leave to China on Tuesday, July 29th and get to hold Jordan in our arms Monday, August 4th.  This is finally happening!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Home Stretch


First of all, here are our most recent pictures of our dear Jordan:
























Our little boy is getting a little bit bigger!  

I've been terrible at updating but now as we are in the home stretch, I'm going to try to do better. 

We hit two minor snags in the last month that delayed us a couple of weeks.  People who were at the same place as us in the process last month, before the I800 (our last immigration step), are actually in China right now!!  It's been frustrating to have other people's mistakes result in delays, but we're so close now ourselves, that we've too busy to really focus on that.  We should have travel approval this week or next week.  We're going to try to leave as soon as possible after travel approval. 

I met a woman (in an adoption group) that traveled to China in June to pick up their son that had been in the same foster home as Jordan.  She was kind enough to take some pictures and video of Jordan when they visited his foster home.  I don't even know how many times I've watched and re-watched the video footage.  It's so great to see Jordan's big smiles.  Although, I couldn't help but notice that every time the nannies say "mama" his face drops.  It breaks my heart just a tiny bit.  He is obviously in a good foster care situation and the nannies love him.  We'll be taking him from what he knows and probably loves.  The nannies have shown him our pictures and have told him that his mama is going to come for him.  He does not look thrilled.  I have to remind myself that his foster care home is temporary, if he wasn't being adopted, he would eventually end up back in an orphanage.  And that the best foster care organization/orphanage situation can not compare to being a part of a family.   And if he stayed where he is, he wouldn't have access to the doctors and medications that can make a huge difference for him.  We know that Jordan is meant to be a part of our family but I am preparing myself for a heartbreaking first few days, and hope that he will be able to feel our love for him and transition quickly.  


video

Saturday, June 7, 2014

LOA

We received our LOA! This means China has given their final approval for our adoption and we got to check a box saying we "accept the adoptee".  We're on our final countdown to bringing Jordan home!! We should have travel approval in about 7-8 weeks and be on a plane to China a week or two after that!! So very excited!!!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Reconnecting

When I was in college, I took a semester off and spent about 6 months in China teaching English in a boarding school.  It was a growing, eye-opening, incredible experience.  I was able to travel and see a lot amazing places in China and learn to appreciate the Chinese culture.  But really, my favorite part of the whole trip was the kids I taught.  It was hard to say goodbye, realizing I'd probably never see any of them again.  I left them all my address and email address, but figured that since they were 6 years old and their English was still very basic,  that wouldn't amount to much.  About a month after I was home from China I got a simple email from one of my favorite students.  It said:  

Amy: I love you! -Vern

then a few days later another: 

Amy: How are you?  Nice meeting you!  I love you!  -Vern

Such little emails made me so very happy.  But it was another ten years before I heard from Vern again.  We started emailing back and forth when he was 16.  Then two years ago Vern came to the US to go to school in Illinois.  It's been so much fun to see Jack (he changed his English name when he came to the US) grow up.  He also recently put me back in touch with some of my other students.  I can't believe how grown up these kids are!  It makes me feel so old.  It really feels like it was just a few years ago that I was in China teaching them.  I have loved looking through my China pictures and remembering how much fun I had with these darling kids and comparing their old pictures to them now.

The little boy in my lap is Vern/Jack.
And here he is again.

This is him now.

 And this is sweet Nicole then...

 ... and Nicole now.

 Mischievous Seth then...

 And Seth now.

 Funny Adria then...

And Adria now.

 Quite Anthony then...

 Anthony now.

Dear Maddie then...

 Maddie now (on left)

 Darling Eddie and Reid then...

Reid now.  (I haven't been able to reconnect with cute Eddie yet)

Smart little Emma then...

Emma now.

Funny Tony then...

 and Tony now.


Shy Jennifer then...

 Jennifer now (on Left)

 
 
 

 My face is either pasty white or bright red in these pictures depending on if they were taken at the beginning or end of my trip.  I went over in the winter and came home in June when it was starting to get very hot.  In this picture my face and eyes are especially red because it was day I was saying goodbye.  I still miss those cute faces.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What To Expect When You Are Expecting: Adoption Edition



People have asked me if being pregnant 9 months/birthing a baby is easier or harder than the adoption process has been.

I don't know. 

Both have their benefits and drawbacks.

Call me vain, but I am thrilled that this is the first time we've added to our family with out me gaining thirty-something pounds.

Then there is missing out on a year and a half of life and milestones of a dear little one... hard.  Or not having to recover from birth and sleepless night... fabulous. 

And not having a baby box me from the inside has been nice, but I also miss having a baby box me from the inside, knowing that they are in there, in a safe spot, until I can hold them.

Even though I don't have the usual physical reminders that a baby is joining our family, (huge belly, baby hiccups, heartburn, Braxton Hicks, etc) I am lucky enough to have visual reminders.  I have pictures of Jordan all over the place... in my wallet, on my nightstand, on my fridge, in frames, on the computer desktop... scattered all over my actual desk top.  I get to see his face every day while I wait to touch it.

Another thing to consider is that while growing a baby is exhausting, it isn't time consuming.  Adoption paperwork is enough work to be considered a part time job.  A part time job that, instead of getting paid for, you get to drain your savings for.  And with so much time being spent "at work", it's hard to keep up on other things.  I think it will take me months for me to catch up on everything that I've let slide while working on adoption paperwork. 

The one thing birthing a baby definitely has over adoption is that I always knew that come 9 months, the wait would be over.  Waiting, with no predictable time frame, is one of the hardest things I've had to do.  We are currently on day 54 of waiting for our LOA... Letter Of Approval.  I've seen people get their LOA after only waiting 35 days, and I know of people who are still waiting for their LOA after waiting 100+ days.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason for issuing LOAs.  They aren't processed in any sort of order.  We just cross our fingers and hope we don't have to wait 3 months longer than everyone else.  This makes it really hard to plan out the next few months of our lives.  The not knowing is kind of killing me... and there is no epidural for that.

I really can't say that adopting is easier or harder than pregnancy, but I can tell you that I feel the same love and longing for Jordan as I did with all of our other children.  I already love him every bit as much as our other children and I can't wait to get to know him... hear his little voice, hold his little hand, and tickle his little tweaky toes.  We're praying that all of that will be sooner rather than later.