Sunday, March 17, 2013

Home for 10 days.

Andrew has been so sweet with the girls.  It is awkward for anyone to talk with someone who you don't know and who doesn't speak your language but Andrew has pushed through that.  Here he is helping the girls with a picture book of English words.

Cute, cute, and more cute.

Pearl still isn't sure what to think about her two younger brothers.  They are loud, wild, crazy, and both competing for her attention.

Whoever said that top ramen isn't real Chinese food needs to let my Chinese daughters know.  They can't get enough.  We also stocked up on Costco's pot stickers and egg rolls and they love them.
If you can't tell - we feel so blessed by how well things are going.  While we know there will be more ups and downs, we are grateful that the girls feel safe and happy in our home.  We love them more than words could ever express.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Week Home

We have been home for a week now and things are going really well.  Both girls are more comfortable, happy, excited to go out, and starting to interact more with their brothers.  Esther is really trying to learn English - she is repeating what we are saying and she has even formed a few sentences in the last couple days.  Pearl has gotten pretty comfortable with Esther being her translator but I'm sure soon enough she'll start doing it too.

Yesterday evening everyone got out their bicycles and the girls were so impressed.  We realized that we hadn't gotten them their own bikes yet and headed out and picked a couple up.  They were so pleased with them.  Pearl is riding hers around everywhere but since we couldn't get training wheels on Esther's and we don't have a lot of open flat road we're going to have to take Esther over to the church parking lot to learn how to ride.

Today we visited Andrew's school to watch a performance he was in.  The girls loved it and clapped and cheered and took a million pictures.  Pearl waved to Andrew up on stage nearly the entire time.  I asked Esther if this school was like her school in China and she furrowed her brow, shook her head, and said no in a way that made me think she was thinking, "Are you crazy - no way!"   What a blessing it is to bring the girls to this wonderful country and teach them about liberty, opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness.

Truly, we feel so blessed.  I feel like I can actually feel my heart growing.   When you are in the adoption process your heart opens up and you feel so much love for the girls(or boys) you see in the photos but the love you need when they get home is different and takes time to blossom.  Everyone told me that it might feel awkward and strange with the kids at first - which it did - but our love for them grows.  Day by day we feel more and more like their true parents.  Just today Esther and I were having a conversation via google translate and I told her that while I could never be her biological mom that I wanted to be her real mom - forever.  She looked me in the eyes for a long time and asked, "You sure?"  My heart filled with so much love and I replied, "Absolutely."

Pearl is still trying to figure out the family dynamic and sharing her parents love and attention with others. You would think coming from an orphanage that she would understand it but she doesn't.  Orphanage life isn't like living in one big family.  Families take turns with affection and attention but they will always love you - they will always be there.   Mom and Dad can love all of their children equally - forever.  She'll pick it up.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home for three days.

I haven't posted since we got home because I've been so tired and because most of what we're doing doesn't naturally warrant a photo be taken.  We are taking it pretty easy with movies, games, drawing, playing, loads of trampoline jumping, and sleeping.   Elijah is still down for the count and the rest of us are hoping we can steer clear of that.

OK - so we're missing a few springs!

We're still trying to figure out the girl's new diet(let alone their personalities!).  They were big eaters in China but their appetites have dwindled here.  None of us who traveled have been too hungry but still - we want to make sure they aren't hungry all the time.  Tonight we had our first Chinese cuisine with stir fry and noodles.  They were happy though of the boys only Andrew ate it.  It appears that Cheetos, Doritos, Sunny-D, and fruit snacks are universal kids foods.  We usually wouldn't eat that stuff but someone included it and it has been awesome - the kids are all happy campers with the snacks.

Several times throughout the day the girls will retreat to their room and close the door.  We thought they must need some alone time - which they do - but I think mostly it is to lock the cat in with them.  They have found a new baby in the cat.  It's pretty cute.

Esther has been loving on a hand-me-down doll from a friend.  She has reverted a little bit- which is typical among adopted children.  They will often act younger than they are as a reaction to the stress and perhaps earlier pain in their life.  She is sucking her fingers most of the day, making childish sounds, sticking her tongue out and generally acting acting more like a toddler than a 9 year old.  While I was totally aware that it might happen it is still strange to parent.  We are taking it in stride and she seems to be getting better every day.  I am sure losing some of her language with us is contributing because she cannot communicate with us in her typical fashion and so she reverts back to toddler-ease.  She is helpful and sweet and is totally willing and ready to be loved by us.  We're all just trying to find our way through this.

 Pearl is doing really well.  She is happy, funny, sleeping like a champ, and as cute as a button.  She was obviously well prepared by the ladies who loved her at the orphanage.  We are so grateful for them.

Tomorrow morning we are calling to make doctors appointments for them both.  Esther has scoliosis but it doesn't seem too extreme perhaps because of Pearl's back.  Pearl has a lot going on in her back.  Her spine splits into two and does all sorts of weird stuff we can feel back there.  When she bends over or hunches she has a large hump on her back.  She can stand up straight but there is definitely a lot going on back there and we can't wait to see what.  Otherwise they are both in good health.  Though they will both need some MAJOR dental work.  We are so glad to be home.  We are looking at different options to help them learn english and get going on some homeschooling.   It is honestly less stressful than I feared it might be - most of what we're dealing with will take care of itself naturally with the passage of time.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Home Amazingly Sweet Home.

Well folks, we got home yesterday.  Do you want to know a really funny trick to play on your brain?  Get up really early and get on a plane on one side of the earth.  Spend 17 hours flying to the other side of the earth and arrive two hours earlier on the same day than you left.  Your brain will think that's really funny.  Our flights were OK for the first 12 hours or so.  After that they were full of lots of throw-up.  Darn that motion sickness!

Our train ride to Hong Kong.
We have been so exhausted since we got home.  Yesterday every time I closed my eyes it felt like I was on a turntable or like a tumbleweed rolling along.  We took naps and went to bed early and we feel *a little* better today.  Hopefully we can get back to normal pretty soon.

I am so grateful for whoever came into our house before we got home and left bundles of food on our counters and in the fridge and then for the ladies who brought us pizza last night.  You cannot believe how much that helped.   I have so many people to thank for everything from watching our pets, taking care of my children, sending gifts, to expressing their love and prayers for us.

Getting home was fun.  The girls were super excited about their room and jumped for joy.  They loved their clothes and toys and immediately made a disaster of their room.   Only the older boys were home when we showed the girls around. The younger two were still on their way from their cousins in Idaho.  Elijah wasn't feeling well so while he chilled out Andrew showed the girls around.  He jumped with them for their first time on a trampoline, showed them our tree swing, led them all around our property and played games with them in their room.  Once the little ones were home and we were eating dinner Peter kept expressing how he wanted to hold hands with Pearl through dinner.  She wasn't ready for that yet. ;)  Later he wanted a hug SO bad and had to chase her around to get one.  Once we finally got her to relent to give him one he said it wasn't enough and wanted another.  He is totally enamored with her.
Thanks for the bubbles, Carolyn!  They totally hit the spot!

 We are all adjusting and everyone is happy.  We are SO glad to be home.  When I'm not so darn exhausted I'll take more pictures and post more about what is going on.  Hopefully that is soon!`

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monkeys Riding Bicycles.

We are starting to judge ever activity by how long it will take us to complete it.  The longer - the better.  Yesterday we were stuck on either going to the Zoo or to the Safari Park.  The Safari park is super amazing with nearly 200 white tigers, a bunch of pandas, and loads of other exotic animals and you get to drive through and see all of these amazing things.  The price reflects it at $30/person.  I know that back in the states that doesn't seem like much but we're kinda spent out - tired of buying lunch and dinner for 19 days straight as well as everything else that comes up.  The zoo on the other hand only cost the entire family $7 to get in.  So we opted for the zoo.  Our new friends the Whickers chose the safari park and saw all sorts of cool stuff.  They said there was this huge water tank where the glass is right in front of you and you can see into the water.  They dangle meat over it and the huge white tigers leap into the air to get the meat and then splash into the water and swim out.  Sounds pretty amazing.

We didn't see much of that but we still has a pretty good time.  Mike and I had to try not to get too depressed by the animal cruelty but all in all it was a pretty good day. ;)

The chimps were our favorite.  They had a group of them and they were enjoying the weather and wrestling and being as cute as all get out.

For a little over a dollar you could feed the giraffe's - we thought that was pretty cool - check out those tongues!

Cuties.  They had their first falling out today over nothing.  We were waiting for that to happen.

We decided to spring for another $7 for all of us to watch animal cruelty of the 1920's Barnum and Bailey variety. At first we could look past it but it got hard after a while.  We did see leaping tigers, dancing bears, monkeys riding bicycles, a chimp playing drums and parrots playing basketball.

Bad photo but I figured you want to see it anyhow.  These little guys were so terrified of their trainer.  If there is a way for monkeys to happily ride bicycles that would be great because it is pretty darn cute.

I wish I had snapped a photo of the chimp - when he came near us from inside the cage he went nuts like he wanted to tear our arms off.  It was funny in that kind of terrifying "we almost died" kind of way.

Things are going well - we applied for their visas at the American consulate this morning and we leave on a high speed train to Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon.  We are grateful that things are going so well here though we know there will be many things to sort out, work on, and heal from when we get home.

All our love!

Adopted by more than just us.

Chelsea at my brother's wedding in 2010.
Today is my sister Chelsea's birthday and I wanted to not only give her a shout out I wanted to talk about why she has been such an important part of this journey.  Chelsea was the first person I emailed the pictures of the girls to after I saw them - actually it was usually a joint email to both she and Mike.  Chelsea loved the girls as quickly as we did and has been our greatest supporter all the way along.  While adoption might not be part of her family's journey - she played such a vital role in making sure these little girls made it home to their family.  The adoption process can require a lot of a person - sometimes an amazing amount - and having the support of friends and loved ones is priceless.  She was there for me when I was burdened, afraid, stressed to the max, excited, overjoyed, grateful, and more.  She cried with me, rejoiced, stood up for me, and cheered us on.  I truly cannot imagine having walked that road without her.   Adoption requires the hard work and faith of more than one person -  a whole community of people come together to make the miracle of a forever family happen.  We are blessed to have such good family and friends.

Sisters like mine are a true gift.  I am so grateful that she's here and that she is such a good woman.  The girl's are getting one amazing aunt.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Good times in Guangzhou

We have been having a pretty good time here in Guangzhou - on Saturday we ventured out to Shamian Island for some souvenir shopping.  The Island used to belong to Great Britain and France and was a colonial outpost for trade with China.  The architecture reflects that and because of that and the cleanliness of the island we felt a little more at home walking it's streets.  It is really beautifully dotted with gardens and shops and many of it's streets are pedestrian only.

A rockin' Chinese garage band.

No matter rain or shine or freezing temperatures - in China, pants are totally optional. ;)  My favorite is when the control top of their pantyhose is six inches lower than their skirt or shorts.

We had a wonderful time and even went out for some ice cream at Lucy's.  Though it wasn't as good as the stuff at home the girls slowly enjoyed each and every bite.  Pearl was especially careful with hers - savoring tiny little bites so that it would last forever.

Yesterday was Sunday here in China and we decided to go to church.  Another adoptive family here in our hotel is also LDS and was going to church which made it even easier to feel comfortable venturing across town in a taxi to a small LDS branch that meets at a hotel.  It was such a wonderful meeting - the girls even went to primary and said they had a great time.  We were nourished by the Spirit and afterwards went out to lunch with that other family and a couple we met at the ward.  Turns out I knew the wife, Kimi from BYU!  Anyhow, it was great to be a spectacle with all of our Chinese children and white parents.  We spent a great afternoon together enjoying good food and English conversation and got back to our hotel just a little before we had to leave again to go on our river cruise.

Guangzhou is located on the Pearl river and like many Chinese cities - it buildings are lit up with dazzling light shows.  The river passes several different districts and provides dinner and entertainment as well as a deck up top to watch the city pass by.

While we weren't completely dazzled by it the girls were in heaven.  The entertainment for the night was a clown and together with a newly adopted friend Fuyu they had the time of their lives.

Esther videoed the entire performance.  

Things are going so well and our love is growing steadily each day.  The girls both trust us so much more and are eager to share things with us.  We couldn't feel more blessed.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day Two in Guangzhou

After lunch yesterday we headed out to the "pet market" down to road.  Though we know the quality of breeding and care for these animals is certainly questionable - that didn't make them any less cute.  Vendor after vendor had beautiful fish, kittens, rabbits, dogs, mice, turtles and all sorts of little things.  No monkeys though.   The girls were happy as were we.  We ventured out again for dinner and walked a "walking only" shopping street directly behind our hotel.  It was store after store of clothing - who knew the Chinese were so fashionable?  We ended the evening at the hotel with the girls trying out our new preschool apps on our phones.  Esther is doing really well on them and will learn to read English in no time because of her familiarity with pinyin.  Of course - it will take her a little longer to actually know what the words mean. ;)

Sometimes Mike and I feel like we are manic here - one moment as happy as can be and the next completely overwhelmed and homesick.   Honestly, I realized last night that I was on the same path that I had been on many times throughout the adoption process.  After the medical visits that confirmed that Pearl is going to need a lot of medical help when she gets back I was finding myself afraid and overwhelmed.  The spirit reminded me that just as in times past - I needed to seek the Lord and to have faith.   During the difficult times on the way here - and there were many - I would wallow in fear and doubt for a little until I remembered that there was Someone greater than myself that could do all things - that He would be there for me if I only asked.  We have most certainly been praying for those things but perhaps not opening our hearts up to receive them.  So, once again, we open our hearts to the Savior - asking for his compassion, his strength, his wisdom and the peace that nothing else in this world can give so completely.  How grateful we are for that knowledge and power.