Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It can't be December already!

December 4th, 2012

Jack has been with our family 6 months today.  I can hardly believe it's only been 6 months because it feels like this little guy has always been part of our family.

It's been so long since I've posted that I hardly know where to pick up.  We had a great summer with Megan and Jack able to enjoy each others company and bond.  Since it was such a hot summer we spent a lot of time at the lake which is probably the activity the kids enjoy most. 

At the beginning of August Jack had his first cardiology appointment at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.  Prior to the appointment the nurse and I had discussed how much(or how little) they might be able to do at that visit as we still had some communication difficulties and didn't want to stress Jack unnecessarily.  Well, we needn't have worried.  Jack charmed them all and was unbelievably cooperative.  Jack's pulmonary valve is starting to become a little floppy again and his pulmonary artery a little stenosed, but he will be reviewed yearly and we were sent home with the assurance that Jack did not need to be restricted in any way...not that we cold slow him down anyway!

Megan started 1st Grade in September and that was a sad day for Jack.  He kept saying over and over, "where Megan go, where Megan go?".  Our reassurances that she would be back in a few hours were lost on him.  After a few days he settled and realized it wasn't so bad having Mom to himself all the time after all.  Around this time his language started to expand from two word phrases to longer sentences.  Now he has little difficulty getting his point across!

Even though Jack has had many tumbles, his first need for sutures came after some wild dance moves with Megan.  Poor Megan was more traumatized than Jack as she bravely put pressure on his forehead while I raced to the clinic.  Jack was silent while Megan was screaming that the "blood is STILL coming out..and we're going to get caught by the police for speeding..and you should have called an ambulance...they are the only ones allowed to drive this fast".  Jack sat perfectly still while the lidocaine took effect and then he was sutured.

At the end of September Granda and Granny Moffitt came back to visit.  They has only seen Jack for a couple of days when we got back from China.  He did a good job of wrapping them around his little finger while they were here.  In October Granny Lee got to meet Jack for the first time, along with Uncle Terry.

Last Friday Jack has his first court appearance.  While he is at that age where he disregards parental rules at times, it was an appearance before the judge to essentially change his name from his full Chinese name to Jack Zanshi Moffitt.  He was a little in awe of the courtroom for which I was more than a little thankful.  He is an extremely inquisitive child who can navigate a laptop, an ipad, a smart phone...He even tried to get to the "innards" of Stephen's laptop by prising all but about 8 of the keys off.  Never trust a quiet 2 year old!

On Saturday we got the most precious gift in the mail of a CD of photos taken while Jack was in Maria's Big House of Hope in Luoyang.  The photos probably covered an 8 month period.  It was so sweet to see him interacting with other children.  In some of the photos it looked like he had the chickenpox.  These are not only priceless to us, but will fill in some of the blank spaces for Jack from his early life in China.

Today we had our 6 month post placement visit by the Social Worker to meet China's stricter requirements.  With all the questions, it was a time to reflect on how far Jack has come and how well he has adjusted in just 6 months.  Even tonight I was thinking how much more comfortable he feels going to bed alone.  For a number of months one of us had to sleep with him as he needed to touch someone.  Now he climbs into his big full sized bed and says "Goodnight".  Of course there are times that he asks for one of us to sleep with him but for the most part he falls asleep on his own and sleeps through the night.

We did discover that Jack is lactose intolerant.  With an adjustment to his diet he has had no more GI issues or pain associated with that.

Jack is quite short and it's hard to believe he will be 3 on Dec 22nd.  What a blessing he is to us and we hope to celebrate that 3rd birthday with all the love that we had stored up for the 10 months that we waited for him.  He is definitely home, where he belongs.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A slightly uncomfortable subject...but necessary

As any who know us well are aware, we never talk about our family's financial situation or make our needs known to others. We have been content to prove God over the years through the avenue of prayer - and we continue to do this. In out last post we mentioned getting a matching grant and some have asked us to clarify (on our blog) what this is. In this unique situation we feel that we should make known that Lifesong (www.lifesongfororphans.org) has graciously given a Matching Grant of $2,000 towards the fees, travel expenses and other costs associated with bringing Jack home.

 We do this for two primary reasons:

1) God honoring - by making known the fact that we have qualified for the Matching Grant, it is an opportunity to honor God by allowing others to be a personal part of James 1:27 (Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction).
2)Good Stewardship -  every dollar friends and family donate will be matched up to $2000, plus those donating in the U.S. can themselves receive a tax receipt for their donation and not have to pay income tax on the amount donated.

It also allows us to highlight the amazing compassion of Lifesong, first towards the needs of the orphan and secondly towards the burden that adoptive parents face.  Some have asked...so we will answer that question here as well - the average cost of adoption from China can be anywhere between $27,000 and $30,000.  These are all fees related to agency application, fees for services provided by the agency, fulfilling requirements by the American and Chinese goverments, travel costs and  "in China" expenses and fees.  This amount does not include Dr and hospital fees or post placement fees.  Again this might be too much information for most, but we have been asked by others with a genuine interest so this seems like the right time to answer the "amount" question as well.

If this post is offensive to you, please know that it was not written for any other purpose than to answer the questions of those who, while they may not feel the call to adopt personally, have felt the burden to walk alongside those who have and in that way have fulfilled the Lord's command.

If you would like to help you can send your tax-deductible gift between now and October 10th to the address below, or through Paypal (details below). Lifesong is a trusted organization administering the funds on Jack’s behalf, and will pay adoption expenses out of funds received.

1. Please make checks payable to: Lifesong. You may preference how the donation might be used by writing Moffitt/Acct# 2871 Adoptionin the memo section of your check.

(*Note: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to Lifesong which retains full discretion and control over its use.)

2. Mail checks to:

Lifesong for Orphans
Attn: Moffitt/acct# 2871
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744

3. Donate online through Paypal.

You may also choose to donate online through Paypal at http://www.lifesongfororphans.org. Click on the Give button on the right and then go to Make a Donation then go down to the Paypal section. Just be aware that Paypal charge an administration fee of 1.9 to 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction which will be deducted from your gift.

With love and gratitude

S & J

Friday, August 3, 2012

Finally...some more pictures!

To the MANY who are waiting...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Has it really been 6 weeks?

So many of you have been asking how Jack is doing, and more importantly you want more photos :-)  I'll write the update and make Stephen responsible for photos!

Jack came home with us 6 weeks ago today.  Like I said in my last post, it's hard to remember life before him...oh yes, we had a semi-clean house, maybe a few loads less laundry, less sticky hand prints on everything, less water on the bathroom floor, less noise...but these are part of the package and we love the package :-)

The second week home Jack visited the Pediatrician.  She thought he was doing great developmentally.  He is at the first percentile for height and weight.  We can't do anything about the height and he seems to be taking care of the underweight issues.  He is eating like food will go out of style!  We had bloods drawn for many things and they have all come back normal.  He was a real trooper having so much drawn.  He also had any immunizations administered that were needed.  We have an appointment at Children's Cardiology in just over a week. 

We had to go back to the Dr last week when Jack developed a cough and some wheezy noises in his airways similar to what we had one night in China.  The Dr felt he has some reactive airway issues, possibly compounded with the fact that we had a long period with high temperatures and no rain.  After about a week of using the inhaler he is much better.
We are hearing a few new words like bottle, milk, Megan(very loudly), up, down, one, two, three(and sometimes, one, three, two:-), go, out.  He says "lub you" which is so sweet.  While he's "all boy" he still is very tender and will give hugs and kisses out regularly.

Jacks LOVES to be outside and is very content combing the back yard for rocks, sticks, insects, etc.  His favorite place is in the water.  I've taken the kids to the lake a number of times and he has no fear of the water.  He loves floating on his tummy and his back and gets huge satisfaction from pouring water from his watering can over an unsuspecting person.  I'm so glad he loves the beach as that is one of Megan's favorite places to be in the summer.  These past few years we've bought a yearly pass to the State Park system and we've always got our money's worth.   On a recent trip to the lake we met another little girl who had the same familiar scar on her chest as Jack.  Her father asked me what Jack's condition was and his daughter had the same defect.  She's six so it was reassuring to hear of their experiences at the Herma Heart Center at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Three weeks home we had our first post placement visit from the Social Worker.  Jack was quite the ham trying all the tricks in the book to get her cell phone.  I hope, when she left, she felt we were a functional family!

Usually the first word Jack will utter in the morning is "bath".  He will also ask for one about 4 more times during the day.  Once he hears the water running, he has his clothes off and down the laundry chute in about 15 seconds.  He is also convinced he needs his nails clipped after every bath so the nail clippers are hidden in an "out of sight, out of mind" move. 

Clothes must be hidden too or you will find him "layering" all his clothes one on top of the other.  Sometimes the underwear ends up being the outer layer!  This past week Granny Lee sent him a shirt and trousers for the cooler weather.  He insisted on trying them on and there was much heartbreak when they were taken off.  It is hard to make him understand that they are in his room and he will wear them when he needs them.  I think much of this behavior comes from fact that he never saw more than one outfit at the orphanage.  He stockpiles shoes as well!  Megan was invited to a beach birthday party and Jack and I got to tag along too.  As I was talking to some of the other Mom's, a little girl was crying because she couldn't find her flip-flops.  Oh, oh, Jack was caught red handed, or pink-footed!

One of Jack's most recent tricks is flooding the main floor bathroom.  It's very small - just a toilet and sink squeezed into a room with no window.  Jack would climb up onto the toilet and from there to the sink where he would stand, plugging the drain with his foot(I had removed the plug).  He would turn the water on and let it run until it flowed onto the floor, with a little assistance of some waves created by his other foot.  You're probably wondering where I am when all this is going on.  He is SO quick.  I told him it was a "No, no" so the next time he went in, he closed the door without turning on the light and did the same thing in the dark!

He is also fascinated with keys and locks.  Right...Cory, Beth, John, Beth, Heather...and everyone else who has been smiled sweetly at and persuaded to hand over their keys?  He very quickly locates the red panic button.  The neighbors probably thought it was cute the first few times, but the keys are now kept out of reach.  You do however need to take them with you when you go to the mailbox, or you will find yourself locked out when you get back!  Now you understand why the house never gets cleaned and the ironing is piling up in the basement.  This child needs an anklet - just kidding :-)

Most people who see Jack on a regular basis know he loves to sing.  We try to sing a few songs most nights after dinner.  Megan gets to choose one and Jack now chooses by demonstrating an action that goes along with the song.  When we get it right he has the biggest smile on his face.  A few times we've absentmindedly started to eat dinner without giving thanks for the food.  Jack will immediately go, "oh, oh" and put his hands over his eyes and start to mumble.  Talk about feeling rebuked!

Some have asked how Jack is sleeping.  He sleeps well, when he gets over.  Night time and the accompanying tiredness expose his insecurities.  From messaging other families who have brought slightly older children home, this seems to be a common problem.  Jack would cry for up to an hour before he fell asleep exhausted.  We made a decision to have him feel more secure in his surroundings than worry about any bad habits forming.  He does like one of us to be close enough for him to touch as he falls asleep.  If we move before he is fully asleep he will be aware of it, as will you :-)  The time to fall asleep is generally getting shorter.  He has now transitioned to a toddler  bed that is wedged between our bed and the wall.  It gives him more space than the crib and removes the enjoyable challenge of climbing up and out.

Megan and Jack are getting along well.  While he is the one to initiate the hugs and kisses, she is enjoying the bond that is becoming more cemented each day.  Of course, they have their moments where he "destroys" her lego creation, or she takes something from him but they laugh at each other hysterically.  I don't think I've seen Megan laugh so much as I have these past few weeks.  She is proud of the fact that she has a sibling and expresses it to people who really don't need to know Jack's social history, but I guess that will wear off over time.

This update was longer than I intended.  See what happens when you e-mail me and tell me you haven't heard anything about Jack for a few weeks ;-)  Yes, it was overdue.  By the time everyone is settled for the night, I get to do the chores that can't be done during the day, and during the day, Jack would have ample time to flood the house by the time I would have written a post of this length.  I just hope we didn't give the Social Worker the link to our blog!

Jack did receive his certificate of naturalization in the mail, even though he became a US citizen when he landed in Chicago.   This little boy may have been born in China, but God has planted him deep within our hearts.

There is much more I could write but I'm sure most checked out after the first couple of paragraphs so I won't bore you with more. 

Over to Stephen for photos.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thank You

It was one year ago today that we first "met" Jack.  That is, we opened our e-mail to find the cutest (solemn:-) little face looking back at us.  It was love at first sight.

In the 10 months that followed it was a flurry of homestudy's, fingerprinting, passport pictures, visa applications, copies of this and that, notarization, certification and authentication of documents, booking of tickets, packing, more paperwork in China...and then that first image became reality.

We have so many people to thank for making this all possible.  Please forgive us if we haven't mentioned you personally.  You are appreciated, even if your name is not coming to me at 4 am!

Our first thanks and praise is to God for thinking we could be entrusted with this precious little boy to add to our family.  We're glad we let Him choose.  His choices are always the best.

Thanks to family and friends for supporting and encouraging us throughout this journey.  At times it might have been easy to say, "we've waited for years, we can't wait any longer", or, "we can't afford the fees", or "the timing just doesn't seem to be right", but you all affirmed by your words and your actions that God HAD indeed called us on this journey and He would not let us down. 
To Stephen's parents, a HUGE "Thank You" for dropping everything and coming to stay with Megan while we were gone.  While we would have loved to have taken her with us, your sacrifice will never be forgotten.  To my sister and Mom who never stopped cheering us on, even during their own deep loss and sorrow, thanks for loving a little boy I know you are dying to meet.  To Stephen's sister, who instead of receiving gifts for a BIG:-) birthday, asked that money be donated to New Hope Foster Home, Beijing, who are part of Jack's story, thank you for your sacrifice, Shirley.

Thanks to our amazing adoption agency, CCAI.  They held our hands and led us step by step through all the paperwork.  They were very patient with us. They kept us updated constantly.  They displayed nothing but integrity and they made sure everything was taken care of before and during our trip.  Both the Colorado and China staff were a pleasure to work with.  Thanks also to the local agency who did our homestudy and notarized the many documents for us.

Thanks to our travel companions for putting up with us :-)  We traveled with the most amazing group of people who were adopting because God had placed it on their hearts.  Their love for their children and their travel companions was something that we have rarely seen.

Thanks to the Orphanage staff at Luoyang and also at MBHOH for loving our little boy and caring for all his needs.  Thanks to those who work behind the scenes at Show Hope for being there for us as well.  If you hadn't made yourselves known to us, we wouldn't have known some of Jack's story.

Thanks to the group of "online" friends who have encouraged us, answered questions and continue to cheer on all those who are coming after us with every turn of the adoption wheel.

Thanks to Stephen's employer who made it possible for him to take the time off work to travel and continues to be flexible.

Thanks to Lifesong for Orphans , an amazing foundation with a mission to fulfill the command in James 1:27.  Many may not know, but due to the high cost of international adoption, foundations like Lifesong accept applications for grants.  These committed folks review each application thoroughly (all your personal and financial information) and pray for guidance as to how(or if) they can help ease the financial burden.  They asked about our life and took into consideration that much of our adoption "resources" were reallocated to allow Megan and I to travel to Ireland to spend the last 3 months of 2011 with my Dad.  We are humbled (and I can hardly think about this without the tears flowing) that Lifesong felt our family could use a matching grant.  That is, they have designated a certain amount of money to Jack's adoption fees and will match, dollar for dollar, gifts sent to them towards our fees up to the amount they have decided.  Considering the hundreds of applications they receive in any given year, they cannot give freely to everyone.  We believe God heard our prayer and answered it through them and others.

Lastly, thanks to a little boy, (who may not think much about this until he's older), for accepting us as his family, as crazy as we may appear to be.  Hang in there, Jack.  We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

 "Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!"  Psalm 126:3

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Home one week!

I have no idea where the past 7 days have gone, but one thing I do know - we have a little guy who fits right into our family as if he had been there from birth.  Even the language barrier doesn't seen to get in the way too much.

After only one night of a crazy sleeping schedule Jack was back to sleeping through the night.  I know we are very blessed.  He prefers to fall asleep in our bed and then we transfer him when we go to bed.  It was hard to keep to his usual "orphanage" nap and bedtime schedule this week, but this flexible little guy just rolled with the punches.  On Thursday I had a Drs appointment.  Megan and Jack played with some toys in the room while the Dr was talking to me.  We both chuckled when Jack came over from playing, climbed onto my lap and immediately fell asleep over my shoulder!  He has even been known to fall asleep on the floor, right in the middle of his toys.

While I mentioned in a previous post that he didn't like baths, we have discovered that he LOVES the pool.  Megan had a little paddling pool at the bottom of her slide.  Before we could catch him, he was down the slide and into the pool with a belly-laugh (there was only about 5 inches of water in it).  This continued for about 2 hours.  He is now tolerating his nightly bath a little better.

Food.  I think I've mentioned before that Jack eats well, almost to the point of over-eating and hoarding.  We had to buy a little snack box that allows him to put his whole hand in but only bring one cheerio, or fruit snack out.  Well, Jack has figured out how to make a fist around a handful of snacks and then pull them out with much effort.  For breakfast, he will usually take 2 different kinds of cereal (and more if I would let him) and some grapes or melon.  I have to cut the fruit up without him seeing me, or he screams for it all.  He loves all fruit, apart from blueberries, most vegetables, ham, turkey, chicken, roast beef and salmon.  I baked salmon for Stephen and I on Friday night and made something else for the kids.  Poor Stephen didn't get any fish after he let Jack try one forkful.

I don't know if it's just because we are "new" to him, but he prefers to follow us around rather than play with toys, unless it's a bucket with some water in it.

Jack copies a lot of single words that we say, like "Hi", "Bye", "Jack", Mama", Baba", "jie jie" (for Megan), "No".  These past 2 days he has been using two syllable words, like "Hello", "bye-bye" and "thank you" appropriately.  He also seems to know when we've said something funny as he will cover his mouth with his hand and bend forward, laughing hysterically.  Of course that makes us laugh at him which makes him continue until he hiccups!

Some have asked how Megan is handling the changes to her world!  For the most part she enjoys having him around, especially when they play outside together.  She is trying to to teach him English by pronouncing all the words in the sentence slowly and loudly.  The only problem is that her sentences are very long.  When he looks at her blankly she will say it again, slowly and loudly. She wants him to learn English fast so he can move on to Spanish!  Of course, she doesn't like it when he gets in her "things" like Polly Pockets, but she is tolerating it better now that she realizes he will not eat the doll's clothes.  He usually pops them in his mouth for a second and then spits them out.  In fact he has shown little interest in them these past 2 days.
Just home from the airport last Saturday, Megan didn't waste time gettting her old blocks!

"Now I think if we add some purple reinforcing it will help...what ya think jie jie?"
He has little "quirks" that are both funny and a little sad.  He insists on putting his own shoes on and sometimes dressing himself.  When Stephen gave him a bath last night he took the washcloth off Stephen and started to scrub his feet, getting right between each toe.  He prefers to feed himself with the fork or spoon, wiping anything that strays to the edges of his mouth.  When we don't understand what he is saying, he will pull us by the hand and bring us to what he wants.

You're thinking, "this kid is perfect".  Well, not quite:-)  He can throw a first class temper tantrum when he is told "No".  He lies on the floor and thumps his feet, or will pull at your clothes with his nails, or teeth. Even with limited manpower at the orphanage I'm not sure he was told "No" very often.  The nannies loved on these children.  Remember they would only have one child of their own as the one-child policy is still very much in effect in China.  The children under their care were like the "additional" children they couldn't have.  We saw the love for Jack when we went to visit.  They all wanted to hold him.  They even fought over who was going to change his diaper when I asked where I could change him.  It is not as easy jumping in to parent a 2 1/2 year old, but our desire is to be consistent so he knows everything we do is out of love.

We have learned so many things on this journey and have so much more to learn.  We are so thankful that God brought Jack into our lives.  We don't forget that there may be a mother (and father) on the other side of the world who is still grieving the fact she left their son in the city park.  After experiencing the culture, we know some of the reasons that may have led to that act.

Jack has an appointment with his Pediatrician on Monday and from there we will get him evaluated at Children's Hospital.Cardiology Unit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Settling In

Saturday, June 16th

We had a good rest at the Sky Marriot in Hong Kong on Friday night and a quick shuttle ride to the airport at 7.40am.  Jack had some scrambled eggs after we checked in.  This kid loves eggs, boiled, srambled, fried!  We met the other 2 families who were traveling to Chicago with us.  The flight was delayed about 40 minutes in boarding but they did let our group of squirmy toddlers board first.
Jack did great on the long flight of just over 14 hours.  He slept for the first 2 1/2 hours, they played with stickers and ate, and ate, and ate.  He had a few walks around the plane and then slept the last 2 hours.
There was a relatively short line at Customs and some final paperwork at Immigaration and then we got to see Megan!  Security tape wasn't going to hold me back from hugging my girl!  Jack was still a little groggy but I think he recognized Megan from the pictures.  Granda and Granny Moffitt and a few friends were waiting to welcome Jack.  It was sweet of them to come and wait so long while we cleared Immigration.
We stopped to eat at Perkins on the way home and Megan and Jack really bonded, walking hand in hand round the restaurant.  Once home, Jack settled in to playing with Megan like he'd known her all his life.  Sleep adjustment was a little off on Saturday night but that was only to be expected.  The four of us were up playing after midnight.  I think Stephen and Jack got around 3 hours sleep.  We suggested Megan go back to bed, but she wanted to "tag along just in case Jack needs me".

Sunday, June 17th.  Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Stephen.
We were all a little tired, but functioning :-)  Jack made it to Sunday School and seemed to enjoy being around the other kids.  It was amazing how quickly he sourced out the snack and the Nursery!  He enjoyed the singing and even got into putting his hand up to answer questions.  It's just amazing how much he mimics.

After lunch and opening of presents for Stephen and Granda, Stephen crashed for a couple of hours but Jack just kept going.  He is so like Megan - goes on full speed until the batteries run out!

Jack slept fairly well, Sunday night.  Mom, not so much as she was sure Jack would be up "any minute".

Monday, June 18th

A hot day in Wisconsin.  Megan had a paddling pool situated at the bottom of the slide and spent hours going up and down.  Jack LOVES the slide, he's just not so sure about water.  I think the orphanage report that he loves the bath was a mix up with another child's info :-)  Jack had a good nap and since it was Granda and Granny's last night in Wisconsin they wanted to take us out for dinner.  Jack loved Olive Garden and was extremely well behaved.

Hard to believe this little boy joined our family just 2 weeks ago.  He is such a wonderful addition.  We all love him to pieces.  He is goofy, sweet, loveable and a little bit stubborn :-)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Final Day in Guangzhou

I never thought it would be so hard to pack up and leave China.  This trip has had joyous moments, crazy moments, but above all, a sense that each day we were where God wanted us to be.

Obviously the main purpose and highlight of this trip was to meet our son and bring him home.  We have looked at him every day and thanked God for adding Jack to our family.  We have tried to soak in as much of his culture as we can so that we can tell him about the beautiful country of his birth.  We are missing Megan and can't wait to wrap her in our arms tomorrow, but we have enjoyed China so much.

This morning we gathered in the lobby of the hotel to take family pictures and pictures of the children dressed in their traditional Chinese outfits.  It was quite a feat to get all the children looking the same way at the same time, but we will carry these children in our hearts forever.  Joshua, Jack, Tori, Anna, Allison, Larry and David have been placed with families who we have witnessed showing unconditional love.  We pray that each of these little ones will continue to blossom as they go "home" and settle into family life.  For some it might be a culture shock to find out that their parents really don't live in 5 star hotels and have cleaning ladies and chefs!

We believe God placed us in the travel group that He did with a purpose.  Two weeks ago we were all strangers, but the common desire to obey God's call brought us together.  We have all shared highs and lows, have encouraged and been encouraged and are leaving China with plans to maintain contact.

Our original plan was to leave Guangzhou by train for Hong Kong.  A few days ago, after talking with our rep, we decided it might be easier to rent 3 minivans and travel from the hotel in China directly to the hotel in Hong Kong.  We wouldn't have to keep an eye on babies as we loaded and unloaded luggage at the border and we wouldn't have to get transport from downtown Hong Kong to the airport.  The vans left the hotel at 4.30 and arrived at the Hong Kong hotel at 8pm.  Stephen and I ended up being in separate vans but it worked out O.K.  Jack sat on my lap and happily looked out the window and sang most of the way.  To say the ride was a breeze would be a lie.  The drivers drove like crazy, weaving in and out of traffic at over 120 km/hr.  Theresa and I who were sitting with a child each on our laps, with no seat belts in sight were becoming a little nauseated.  A 5 minute bathroom stop didn't provide the relief we hoped for as all the toilets were stinky squatty potties.

At the border we each had our temperatures, passports and visas checked and the rest of the ride into the city was beautiful.  Our hotel is by the airport as we need to be there just after breakfast on Saturday.

Please pray for a safe trip back to the US.  The flight is 15 hours - a long day for an active little boy to stay seated.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Consulate Appointment

Today we had an early start as we had to leave the hotel at 7.55am for the Consulate appointment.  Each family took an oath on behalf of their child.  Final items relating to the visa were completed and we should receive the visa just before we leave Guangzhou tomorrow.

All the group went out for a final "group dinner" tonight to a fish restaurant called Meijing.  It was a little off-putting when flies were dropping dead on the table, but we managed to get through the meal.  We could have ordered alligator if we wanted.  There were 2 live ones to choose from :-)

We all came back to the hotel and enjoyed a Starbucks.

Time is going fast.

Can hardly believe it is Thursday already.

Some from our group went to the Zoo on Tuesday morning but we decided to have a later breakfast and then skype Megan.   After lunch we took a cab over to Shamian Island, which is essentially a sandbar along the Pearl River.

Shamian Island once served as an important port. In 1859, the territory was divided and given to France and United Kingdom ( 4/5 went to the British and 1/5 to the French). It definitely has a British colonial feel to it and broad boulevards. Many Western families who have come to adopt can be seen strolling around the island. It is just 900m long from east to west and 300m from south to north. There are many souvenir shops and a welcoming Starbucks :-)

Shamian Island Park Sign

Shamian Island Map

Jack getting in line!

Enjoying the slide at the park on Shamian Island

Beautiful shrubs, palm trees and bushes at Shamian Island Park

Looking down the main boulevard on Shamian Island

One of many bronze statues on Shamian Island

Olympic influence is still in evidence all over China four years later

Some of the Consulates are still on the island.  The American one is there, although the Visa department has moved to Guangzhou.

We came back and had a meeting to process the visa paperwork in preparation for the Consulate appointment today.

Tuesday evening we went out with a couple of other families to the Macau Street restaurant and had another great dinner.  The treadmill will be dusted off when we get home.

Stephen took this picture on Shamian Island.

FEDEX - The World on Time

When it absolutely , positively must be there On Time

Note carefully ... driver or possibly his assistant (to be fair!)  is asleep. :-)

Jack and Joshua had to go back to the clinic to have their TB test read.  Everything was looking great so we headed back to the island again to shop for little gifts.  There were some cute shops, two of which were owned by Christian ladies.  It was very encouraging to hear how one of then had been witnessed to by an American family.  They gave her a Chinese/English Bible and it was well used.

Of course we had to cool down with a treat at Starbucks.

Wednesday evening we just relaxed in the hotel and made some Skype calls.  It always makes our day when we can chat with Megan.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Medical checkup and River Cruise

**Blog for June 6 is now updated - our visit to Luoyang & a very full day **
Today was the children's Medical checkup - a requirement for the US Consulate visit on Thursday. Jack did very well including getting a poke for his TB test at the end.

Hustle and bustle at the clinic in Guangzhou

Getting checked out by the doctor in Guangzhou

The Riverboat Cruise

We got on the 3 deck boat around 5.30.  I was a little nervous about how Jack would handle a dinner and then having to be held back from the railings as we viewed the river after dark.  Grace got us all seats along the window of the second enclosed deck.  We ate dinner first and Jack consumed a large bowl of noodles as usual.  As it started to get dark we went out onto the upper deck to see the lights of Shaiman island at night.  It really was beautiful and the light breeze felt just great.  A juggler then put on a show followed by the kids from our group who danced to the music, Jack included!

"Baba" and Jack on Pearl River Cruise
Guangzhou skyline at night

Canton Tower - rainbow color!

Canton Tower - light purple!

Bridge on the Pearl River, Guangzhou

Trying valiantly to keep an uncooperative boy in my arms!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A relaxing day

This morning there was a tour to a Buddist temple and gardens which we opted out of.  It was nice to sleep in until closer to 8am. We all slept well last night.  The beds were comfy and the a/c is much more efficient here :-)

After leaning over the bath for an hour trying to wash clothes, we decided to send some of the heavier items out to a laundry service.  It is almost impossible to get the clothes dried.  We should have a bag of clean clothes returned tomorrow.

The breakfast buffet offers a nice variety.  Jack will eat almost anything and insists on feeding himself.  He is fiercely independent, which is great at times, other times he can become a little emperor :-)  We love him so much!

After breakfast the Williams family and us decided to get orientated to our surroundings.  We didn't make it too far but did find a store that sells glasses.  Jack broke my glasses yesterday so the guide will go back with me to the store tomorrow and help me get new ones. I don't know if I'll have to have my eyes tested, or if they can decipher my english prescription.  It should be interesting!

We all went out as a group to a Portuguese restaurant tonight for dinner.  It was very good and just a few minutes from our hotel.  Another family joined our group today.  They have adopted an adorable 5 year old boy who has spina bifida. 

Tomorrow morning we take all the children for the mandatory medical exam.  The afternoon is free and then we will go on a riverboat dinner cruise in the evening.

Many of you have asked how Jack is feeling. He is so much better.  Still congested, but no wheeze.  We are continuing to use the inhaler 4 times a day.  This boy does not slow down, even when he is sick. It is hard to imagine that at one time he was so sick with a congenital heart defect.

Megan.  Just 7 more days and we will be home.  Miss you lots.  I wear your picture on my lanyard every day and everyone that sees it thinks you are beautiful with your blond hair, blue eyes and missing teeth :-)

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for us while we are in China.  We have been very aware of those prayers.  Thanks to those who left encouraging comments.  For some reason I can't get in to the comment section to respond.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Now to Guangzhou

Jack had a much better night's sleep and we were all down for our last breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel pretty early. The cases were picked up from the hotel room around 7:20am and we were on the bus to the airport around 8am.

At the gate, they had a children's play area which Jack of course made good use of while we were awaiting our flight to Guangzhou.

The flight was just over 2 hours and our agency's representative, Grace, was there to meet us at the other side. Our first impressions of Guangzhou were that it was hot, like Florida in the summer hot. Humid and hot. Yes, it was hot, like 97F hot. (And ladies, you will like this one - Grace had tights on.)

We're staying at the China Hotel which is operated by the Marriott group. It is the most luxurious hotel Jennifer and I have ever seen let alone stay at. Apparently it is popular and has a very high occupancy rate with the result that our party are all separated now on the 6th, 7th, 10th, 14th and 15th floors! We're on the 14th with a beautiful view of the city.

Hotel lobby
Guangzhou is on the Pearl River Delta and this incoming week Grace has arranged an evening dinner cruise to see it up close. It is also home to the world's 2nd tallest structure, China's Canton Tower at 600m (2000ft).

4th floor outdoor play area

4th floor outdoor garden

4th floor outdoor pool

China Hotel, Guangzhou

Nothing else is planned for the remainder of today so we can rest and recouperate.
A well-earned nap upon arrival at our hotel!

Traffic-buses, trucks, cars, mopeds, bikes & pedestrians

It never ceases to amaze any of our group that none of us have been knocked down or killed...

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Visit to Zijing Shan Park

Jack had a difficult night with his chest congestion - he ended up lying on my bed where I tried to prop him up with pillows etc. Still he thrashed about and each breath seemed so labored. It was an anxious time which necessitated much prayer. I was exhausted and heading toward 3am I just had to leave Jack completely in the Lord's hands as I could barely stay awake. As I committed Jack and the whole matter to God again, a little children's chorus came to my mind, providing much comfort that my Heavenly Father was particularly and specifically interested in our present source of distress:

He's got the little itty babies in His Hands... (x3)
He's got the whole world in His Hands.

One of our party has a sister who is a pediatrician and who was visiting them from Shanghai for 2 days. She kindly offered to look at Jack and offer advice as the Agency Rep was strongly suggesting we take him to the hospital. He was indeed pretty congested and wheezing badly. She had some Ventolin/Albuterol and a children's spacer with her that we are able to administer 3 times a day to open up his airway and this has helped immensely. Another Dr in our group has offered us antibiotics which we can use tomorrow if he doesn't improve but so far things are looking much better. A huge thank you to all who have specifically prayed about this.

A day of rest today - that is, a day without prearranged appointments and trips. We went with the Williams family to McDonalds at lunchtime to celebrate their son Matthew's eighth birthday. On the way back we stopped at Zijing Shan Park. It is a beautifully kept park, a real oasis in such an urban environment. Jack enjoyed splashing in a puddle there as you can see.

Zijing Shan Park entrance

Jack finds a puddle

Jack investigates puddle along with his friend Matthew.

The children's Chinese passports arrived this afternoon along with various pieces of official documentation, some for us to keep forever, some for the U.S. Consulate next week.

We packed up all our stuff tonight as our party move to Guangzhou ("GWAN-JOE") early tomorrow morning. Looking forward to moving to the next stage.


By Popular Demand ... Giggling Jack

Stephen writing again... going to try and upload a video to the blog. Many of you have asked about this.

Hopefully it should be available below.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Visit to Shaolin Temple

Stephen writing as Jennifer is asleep. Today we opted for a trip with the rest of the group to the Shaolin Temple about 2+ hrs away from the hotel. Jack did great for the most part considering it was such a long trip. Our guide, Mr.T, spoke very good English and even sang a famous Chinese "lullaby" on the way there which amazingly caught the attention of all the children right away. When asked by one of our group how his English was so good, he replied, "I read the Bible every day - today my reading was in 1st Kings. That help my English a lot." What a wonderful testimony to God's Word - we learned later that he's been doing so for about 7 years. On the way back on the bus he sang "This is the day that the Lord hath made..." I know at least 2 or 3 of us encouraged him privately to keep at this most important of readings.

The visit consisted of 3 parts: The Shaolin Temple (Buddhist), The Pagoda "Forest" and a Kung-Fu show by some of the monks. All parts were good - not everyone's thing of course but interesting nonetheless.

The Pagoda is a place for storing ancient relics, often religious in nature. In the monks case, when one of the Buddhist leaders dies, his body is cremated within 3 days and the ashes are placed into a Pagoda. The length of the period of leadership, importance of the leader etc. will then determine the size (girth, height & complexity) of the Pagoda. A closed door at the bottom means only one person's ashes are there - open means, additional ashes have been added.

The Kung Fu part demonstrated some pretty amazing acts of strength, dexterity, agility and suppleness. We got back to the hotel around 5:30am after which a number of us walked to a Pizza Hut that another family discovered last night. Needless to say it was very good and here we are back later than usual tonight complete with a visit to a Walmart like store for necessary baby supplies.

Please pray for Jack who has become very congested and has the makings of a chest infection. Another doctor friend of one of the group said there is very little we can do as it is equated with the change in living quarters to air conditioning at the hotel, restaurants, etc. - something very few of the children would have been used to. Many of them have runny noses and coughs - indeed even I had a troublesome cough tonight. The air quality in Zhengzhou is very poor - a constant haze surrounds the city. Up in the mountains on the trip today the air quality was noticeably better - even the tour guide acknowledged this!

Here are a few pictures of our day.

Statue at entrance to Shaolin Temple, China

Most of the group at the entrance to one of the temples

Jack riding a ferocious "turtle"

Daddy & Jack at Shaolin Temple, China

Most recent pagoda at Shaolin with inscription that marks the period

Close-up of inscription/carving:  look for video camera, laptop & airplane

Jack tackling a pear (YES, not a typo, a ginormous PEAR)

Though a little blurred just by the sheer speed, the pic does show great suppleness of KungFu participants

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Passport Application and Orphanage Visit

Reflecting on Wednesday, June 6th

The main purpose of our drive to Luoyang city today was to apply for Jack's Chinese passport at the Public Service Bureau so that he can leave the country. Luoyang is Jack's "birth" city.  It has a population of 6.5 million people.

We started out early as it is a 2-1/2 hr drive from Zhengzhou, depending on traffic.  I don't know if our driver thought the trip was an emergency, but he sat at 120+ km the whole way there, honking at anyone who dared move into his lane.

Our ride to Luoyang (13 squeezed into it at one point)
 The Public Security building was a mass of people but our guide got us in and out quickly.

PSB in Luoyang where we applied for Jack's passport
She then said we would be able to go to the Orphanage.  I wasn't sure if we would be allowed to visit but the Director who brought Jack on Monday welcomed us and said we could see the room Jack slept in and also the play room.  It is a large building with around 650 children.

Jack's Orphanage in Luoyang

The cribs were placed close together and the bedding was clean (and pink :-). He had a small locker for his "things".

Jack's bedroom at Orphanage (his crib is top right of picture- note lockers on back wall)
We recognized the playroom from his referral photos.  Large rubber mats were on the floor and 2 rows of children were sleeping on their tummies.  They have a fairly rigid schedule due to the fact that each nanny (ayi) looks after up to 20 babies.

Jack finds his old playroom at the Orphanage & peeks inside

Napping babies in Jack's old playroom

The nannies were all dressed in pink and kept calling out to Jack (Zan Shi).  He would go to them but kept looking back to make sure we were right there.  We got a glimpse of the love shown with the limited time the nanny has with each child and that encouraged our hearts that he had experienced love.

Jack's Primary Nanny at the Orphanage

Outside was a small play area.  The orphanage was just off a busy street.  I'm not sure how often it would have been possible to take the children outside.

Orphanage play area

Orphanage bus
After thanking the nannies and Director for taking care of Jack (and Joshua, whose family also made the trip with us), the Director said it would be a pleasure for her to take us to lunch.  She brought 2 of the administrative staff with her.  We had probably the best lunch we've had in China.  I think we counted 10 dishes on the lazy susan and everything tasted good. 

Lunch with Orphanage Director (she is in blue on the right, next on right is our agency's rep Vivian)

When we left the restaurant, the guide told us we would have time to go see both boy's "finding spots", in other words, the place where they were abandoned.  I think this was the hardest part for me.  We drove to the entrance of a beautiful park called Luopu Park.  I would have liked to have spent a day there just soaking it in for Jack.  We just had a few minutes so we had a quick picture taken at the entrance.  Luopu park is the largest park in Luoyang.  It is located on the banks of the Luohe river and has over 20,000 peony trees, which bloom in April (we just missed them).

At entrance to Luopu Park

Wall mural depicting Luoyang City Flower, the Peony
Stephen & Jack at entrance to Luopu Park where Jack was found in May 2010

Our guide told us it is a peaceful place where many go to walk in the evening.  My mind was flooded with questions, which I know will never be answered.  Was he left there in the early evening, his mother knowing someone would hear a baby cry?  Did she stay and watch, or was it too difficult?  Stephen & Joshua's dad Chad were relating to each other during these moments at the finding spots that it's amazing to think that the mothers (and possibly the fathers) were there in the city the very day we visited. As with any abandonment, the police are called when a baby is found and the baby taken to the local orphanage.  It was upon admission that they detected he had a heart defect.

After seeing the park we drove to Joshua's finding spot - the dermatology unit of a hospital.  Again, like ourselves, his parents wonder why he was left there.  The God who knows the end from the beginning has the answers.  Our duty is care for them from this point on, as He has asked us to.

The last stop of the day was at Maria's Big House of Hope which is also in Luoyang.  Many have heard of the Christian music artist, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth who adopted 3 little girls from China.  Many families have been blessed by their generosity.  Their third adopted daughter, Maria died in May 2008 as the result of a tragic accident.  In her memory and working with another awesome couple, Joyce and Robin Hill, who also have been huge blessings to China's orphans, they built a beautiful facility in Luoyang & called it Maria's Big House of Hope.

First glimpse of Maria's Big House of Hope

When we arrived (or tried to arrive :-) at Maria's the road was completely dug up.  We were not going to be deterred by a pile of dirt so we hopped out of the van and climbed over the huge piles of dirt and past the construction equipment with kids under arms :-)  I'm sure we were a messy sight when we arrived in the courtyard.

No obstruction too great to keep us from MBHOH - we climbed the big pile on the right complete with babies to reach the entrance!

Two of the American volunteers, Rebecca and Abby were there to meet us.  They were as excited as we were.

Outstanding volunteers at MBHOH - from left with Jack, Rebecca and Abby
The Chinese nannies immediately recognized the children and came to hold them with obvious excitement and evidence of their love & devotion for the 2 boys.  There is SO much love inside those blue walls :-)

Excited "ayis" (nannies) at MBHOH

We got a tour of the whole facility.  The fifth floor is for palliative care.  Such tender, lovely care these fragile babies receive.  Jack was on the fourth floor so we got to see his crib and his play area.

Jack & Stephen beside Jack's crib at MBHOH
Jack and Stephen in Jack's bedroom area at MBHOH (note the wall decor, which was different in every room)
We saw Joshua's room as well.  The nannies remembered both boys and all wanted to take turns holding them, although both boys wanted to check that their new parents were not going to leave them there, no matter how nice it was!

We met Dr Steve and Mickey from the USA who also have spent a long time at Maria's.  It was a place that was hard to leave.  We saw God's love and care for the orphan there.  Jack had a favorite nurse, Jona (from the Philipines) who was shopping while we were there.  As we were driving off in the van we saw her walking along the road.  The driver slowed down so she could see Jack and the guide let me talk to her on her cell phone.  I'm glad I got the chance to thank her for her special bond with Jack.

It was an amazing day. These boys were loved, then abandoned, then loved again, then placed with strangers, then taken back to revisit some of their past and yet they knew "who" were their forever caregivers.  Remember they had only been with us 2 days at this point.

This experience has not only made our family larger, but our faith deeper and our love stronger.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world....James 1:27 ESV

Living Room / Greeting Area MBHOH

Lobby at MBHOH

Preschool Room at MBHOH