1.28.2011

updates

micah woke up with a 102 degree fever this morning.  not exactly what we needed for trying to keep sarahjoy healthy!  please pray with us that she would not get whatever micah has and that his body would feel better soon.  it is really hard to explain to a 5 year old why he has to be sequestered in his bedroom. and why mommy can't really be with him because i have a brand new 2 year old who needs me and cannot be near him!  ack!

my precious cousin rachel is doing well!  her babies are staying put and behaving.  : )  she will be 33 weeks on monday.  continue to pray that her body would hold on to the babies for a few more weeks.  in addition, as you pray for her physically, pray also for her and cameron's hearts as they prepare to welcome two little girls into the world all the while continue to grieve the death of  their sweet makiah who was so excited about her baby sisters.  it is a hurricane of emotions right now as one might imagine.  i would post the picture of her belly that she sent me last night but i think she might kill me.  it is beautiful.

'so let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  there we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.'  hebrews 4:16

1.27.2011

answers

the emotions have settled a bit and we are embracing what God has for us.  certainly not what we would have chosen but nevertheless what has been chosen for us.  we are forging ahead, focusing on what God has given us in our precious china princess, and determined to believe God is for us and God is good whether or not the outcome is what we would like for it to be.

lots of questions have come our way, so here are a few more details.

sarahjoy has what is called a VSD - ventricular septal defect.  for those of you who want a medical description, you can click on the link.  for the non-brainiacs in the crowd it is a hole in the wall that separates the blue blood from the red blood.  so the heart then has to work super hard to get the blood where it's supposed to be going.  

VSD does not cause sudden death.  she is not going to drop dead from a heart attack (trust me, i asked.)  her body is simply slowly deteriorating.  knowing what we know now, we can see all of the signs of gradual heart failure in sarahjoy.  she is less than 5th percentile in weight and 25th percentile in height - her body simply does not have enough energy to grow.  she has rapid and heavy breathing, like you or i would have while we're running on a treadmill.  she sweats like crazy - again, a sign of how hard her heart is working.  and she is the slowest eater on the planet.  something i just learned was a sign of VSD.  imagine trying to eat a meal while running down the road.  not only are you not really interested in food but it would take a long time to have enough energy to get it all down.  which is why we have resorted to grazing...she eats a snack portion of food just about every 30 minutes all day long.

there has been a lot of speculation of whether china was forthcoming in their description of sarahjoy's special need.  i would answer with a resounding yes.  our baby is exactly how she was described - a child with a VSD.  the reality is that special needs adoption is a big question mark.  is VSD generally a 'minor heart condition' as categorized by china?  yes.  in the realm of heart conditions, VSD is minor.  it is repairable, generally does not need a second repair, and sarahjoy should be able to live a completely full life.  most children never even have to have medical intervention and of those that do, many times it can be corrected with a much more minimally invasive procedure.  our little girl just happens to have the worst case scenario.  i have known many, many families who have adopted children with VSD and no one has needed medical intervention.  obviously, that is not our case.  so did china deceive us?  no.  did we ever imagine we would fall in to the worst case bracket?  no.  please do not place the blame on china.  that would be one of the worst things that could come out of this.

instead, sarahjoy's story is the very reason why adoption is compelling.  there are children around the world who need our help.  they need to be rescued not only from loveless environments but from environments that do not provide essential medical intervention.  had God not brought sarahjoy to us, and had we not heeded his calling on our family, a precious little girl would have slowly deteriorated towards death.  a senseless, wasted life.  adoption brings life - emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

but let me be clear.  no one should adopt to rescue.  is it a wonderful secondary benefit, to know that we have been a part of bringing two little girls to a place where there is a hope and a future for them?  yes, but that is not a good reason to adopt.  trust me, the warm fuzzy feelings of rescue will wear off in no less than a few weeks.  when that precious little person has no interest in thanking you and despite the loads of energy and money you have invested, she still is a sinful selfish little being.  we adopted because that was God's calling on our family.  he made it very clear that our place in the care of orphans was to have two become a part of our family.  there is a responsibility for every person who calls themselves a Christian to care for the orphan.  maybe it is supporting a family who is adopting, as so many of you have done for us.  maybe it is regular monthly support of a compassion child.  maybe it is living below your means to be able to make trips to love on orphans around the world.  or maybe, it is adoption.   and if it is adoption, may i be the first person to encourage you to use sarahjoy's story to see some of the wonderful blessings and hard realities of bringing a child into your family.

and now that i have wandered down an important but nevertheless off the subject rabbit trail........we spoke to the cardiologist today.  we will meet with the heart surgeon next week (there are two different sets of doctors that work on hearts.)  when i spoke with dr. vance today he said that the surgeon was leaning towards performing surgery in the next couple of weeks.  they would like for sarahjoy to finish her antibiotics for bronchitis which will be next wednesday, give her a week to make sure she is infection-free, and then perform surgery.  so that puts us around february 9th.   the thing that i continue to realize is that our little girl is very sick.  it is hard to believe when i look at her precious little face and hear her silly laugh.  but she is.

as i have put the symptoms together, listened to the doctors and now are looking at surgery in two weeks i am continually reminded of the one word God gave to me at the beginning of this journey...faithful.  God has been so incredibly faithful to us in this journey.  and he will continue.  but i feel compelled to add, that God's faithfulness does not equal perfect endings.  i am hoping and praying for the best of outcomes but i am spending as much time praying for a perfect surgery as i am reminding myself that God is faithful, no matter what.  that his plans are not always ours.  and that should our life with sarahjoy be suddenly cut short, God will continue to be good.

we are desperate for your prayers.  please continue.  right now, the biggest prayer need is for sarahjoy to get over her bronchitis and avoid any other illness so that we can get her to surgery.

faithful.  he was, he is, and he will be.

1.26.2011

clues

as i write, i am laying in bed in a dark room, listening to my precious baby girl snore like an old grandpa.  she is in the pack 'n play, i in her bed.  both of us together so that when she awakes every couple of hours i can whisper in her ear that mama is here, rub her belly, and send her back to dreamland.  it is a sweetness between mom and baby that i haven't had in awhile.  and one for which i am immeasurably more grateful for tonight.

the first clue should have been when our pediatrician mentioned on monday that she could find no signs that sarahjoy was in heart failure. heart failure???  the second clue should have been when i heard her on the phone with the cardiologist's office, 'i understand this is not your regular routine but she needs to be seen this week.'  the third clue should have been when we were sitting in the cardiology office no less than 48 hours later.

open heart surgery is what the doctor has ordered.  sooner rather than later.  if sj were born in the states, her heart would have been fixed within the first 6 months of life.  without being melodramatic, she is on borrowed time.

i knew something was wrong the minute i held her.  i told eric i couldn't sleep because i was afraid she was going to die while we were in china.  we laughed it off (as i regularly have crazy fears...think fiery plane crashes) but i knew in my gut that something was not right.  at one point i looked up on the internet what a normal heart rate for a 2 year old was.  my gut told me my baby's heart was sick.  i was anxious to get home so that someone could tell me i was being irrational.  after all, we had been told it was a small hole in her heart, probably would heal on its own and if not there would possibly be surgery before she entered school.  open heart surgery was the worst case, super bad news scenario.

so i lay here listening to my baby breathe in and out.  knowing now that her heart is working four times harder than it should be.  knowing that in a few weeks her chest will be cracked open and her life will literally be in the hands of a doctor.  but also knowing that she has been rescued from certain death in the orphanages of china.  knowing and thanking God that he brought her home at just the right time.  thankful that i was prompted in my heart to make an appointment with our pediatrician, before we even left for china, for the day after we came home.  thankful that our pediatrician was gentle with us but aggressive on the phone and made sure we were sitting in the cardiology office.  thankful for the gracious and compassionate cardiologist who knew he was dealing us a heavy blow and did it with great sensitivity and care.  thankful that we have a renowned children's hospital 20 minutes from our house.  and mostly thankful that God is with me and my baby girl.

tonight i am choosing to be thankful.

but i am scared.

1.21.2011

Flight Delay

Ash, Eric and SJ are delayed in Newark.  They are now scheduled to arrive around 9:30ish.  If you want to greet them at the airport please check Continental's website before you leave.  Their flight is CO 3327.

1.20.2011

almost there!

we safely arrived in hong kong last evening.  and safely would be the operative word.  us and the other family we are with were in separate vans.  the drivers were brothers and let's just say that sibling rivalry was at its best on the highway.  unfortunately i had a direct view of the speedometer...

however, we got here and i would have made my father so proud!  we checked in, changed a diaper and we were on our way for an adventure in hong kong.  we took a taxi down to the waterfront and had a GLORIOUS dinner at outback steakhouse (that part my father would not have condoned; however, there were no street vendors selling chicken feet.)  we walked around and had a lovely evening.  it truly is a beautiful city and the weather here is unbelievable.   i am not looking forward to having to bundle up again!  unfortunately, our camera battery died about 30 minutes into our venture but we managed to get some pictures.

we are headed to the airport in about an hour.  we can't wait to see all of you!  our flight into norfolk is on continental from newark around 8:00pm.  i am not sure about the flight number.  if we are delayed, we'll post on the blog.

keep praying for my cousin rachel.  the babies are still hanging out inside!  

off to america!!!!!  

1.19.2011

adios and goodbye

we are headed to hong kong in just about an hour.  our (many) bags are packed and all of us are clean and looking great.  i mention that only because by the time we see you we may be looking rather gnarly and stinking so know that we started our journey on the up and up.  

sarahjoy is not as sick as she was but is definitely not feeling good.  she has a nasty cough and is terribly congested in her chest.  she started wheezing this morning which makes me nervous but there is absolutely nothing i can do about it except pray that God protects her until we can get to a doctor on monday.  

our journey is coming to an end.  at least the far east part of the journey.  i would be remiss if i didn't thank so many you again for what you did to get us here.  our little girl is in our arms because so many of you prayed and gave.  i wish that i could bring you all to china and see the rescue efforts you have been involved in.  i promise you would be overwhelmed.  these little orphaned boys and girls simply have no hope.  as eric and i have been here, we are very much in agreement that our family is complete (i said it, mom!) but our hearts are burdened for the chinese orphan and we are thinking and praying about what role God has for us to play.  

please pray for us if you think about it.  it would be great to start our 24 marathon flight with a good night sleep tonight - sarahjoy has been fairly fitful the past couple of nights.  and this very sweet person has a difficult time being so sweet when she is without sleep!   and please pray that her breathing does not get worse.   other than that, fiery plane crashes are on the prayer list (the lack thereof, that is) and a happy, happy reunion with our families!

and one more most important thing.  my sweet cousin rachel, who lost her little girl makiah in october, and for whom sarahjoy is named after, is pregnant with twins.  i believe she is around 31ish weeks along but has been hospitilazed today with preterm labor.  would you all please pray with us that the babies stay put for a little while longer?  we are praying and believing God for one more month of time in the womb.  the babies names are alena and abigail, and rachel and cameron are the mom and dad.  pray, pray, pray for this family.

i'm not sure what tonight holds so you may or may not hear from me.  if not, i'll see you on the other side of the water!       

all rise

I think they say, 'pictures speak louder than words.'  These pictures are REALLY loud. 

 

The emperess has arrived.  In all of her 2 year old glory.  Yesterday she was so sick and so I carried her around all day and snuggled with her.  ALL DAY.  So the night came and she still wanted to be carried around.  I tried giving in and just holding her while we slept but I was not sleeping at all and she would wake up every 30 minutes and scream.  She needed to sleep in her own bed.  So we fought her for about 2 hours – her screaming and flailing and kicking in her bed.  Us listening for 3 of 4 minutes, holding her for a minute or so, and then putting her back down in her bed.  As soon as our finger would touch her, she would stop crying.  But if we weren't touching her, all hell would break lose.   And she was in rare two year old form.  Thankfully eric's compassion began when mine ended and he took over.  at some point around 1:00am she decided to give in and go to sleep (in her own bed!)  as I type, I am sitting at the starbucks in the hotel and I left eric with a screaming little girl.  As soon as you even get her pajamas out of the suitcase she starts into her fit.  Apparently china doesn't create an easier version of the two year old.

 

So the sun rose on a new morning here in Guangzhou and we needed to go finish our shopping.  We have not used a stroller while we have been here – I have a wrap thingy that she sits in and it was just too cold up north to put her in a stroller plus we weren't out that much to need one.  But today we borrowed one from the hotel since we new we would be walking around a lot.  Do you think that child would go in a stroller?  Uh………no.  she wanted to be carried.  And today, she wouldn't even walk.  Not one step.  She wanted to be carried everywhere.   At one point we got off the elevator in the hotel and she refused to walk to our room.  So I grabbed her little hand and started walking which she did obligingly for awhile.  Well, her legs were moving, but she was screaming to high heaven and her other little arm was flailing in anger.  Then at one point in the hallway she plopped down, kicking and screaming.  i bent down, looked her in the eye, and said, "stop right now.  You walk to the room."  Now I don't think she understood a word of what I said but tone of voice is universal.  She got up, and marched down the hallway with all the attitude she could muster.  Oh boy.

 

Tonight we had a lovely dinner with our guide, his wife and baby, and his mother-in-law.  And by lovely I mean that it was wonderful to get to meet his family.  This is the guide that we have kept in touch with over the years since we brought Lydia home.  His wife was beautiful and his baby was a doll – and he even introduced us as auntie Ashleigh and uncle eric which is a huge honor.   Lovely would not be my description of the food; however, eric and sarahjoy loved every bite.  I carefully took my spot next to sarahjoy so I would put something on my plate, sometimes (rarely) take a bite, and then cut it up and give it to her.  Excellent strategy if I do say so myself.  Thus my need for a trip down to starbucks this evening to get something in my stomach.  I love many things about china, especially their little girls, but the food is not something I will miss.  At all.

 

Tomorrow we begin our journey home!  We pick up sj's visa in the afternoon and then drive to hong kong – we should get there around 6:00 I think.  Hoping to at least get some fun pictures.  And then we spend the  night and leave for the states on Friday afternoon.  Yippee yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!  This trip has gone really quickly – much quicker than the first.  There are parts of me that are really sad to say good-bye.  After all, it is the heritage, the birthplace, the country of our daughters.   And I don't know that we'll ever be back.  Sort of a surreal feeling to have to say goodbye forever to something that plays such a big role in your family.  But I think that whole idea deserves its own blog post.  For now, we'll just be excited that we have suitcases full of presents for 4 special little kids and I am really close to wrapping my arms around those little people.  (and a whole lot more of you too)

 

Now to venture back up to the room and see what the emperess is up to.

 

 

1.18.2011

sick babe

it's been a long time since i have had such a sick little baby.  thankfully, we didn't have much on the docket today.  sarahjoy definitely took a turn for the worse - the entire day she just laid in my arms and was burning up, even with ibuprofen.  this afternoon we decided we should take her to the doctor.  so on our way to the consulate to take our oath as parents, our guide said that we could go see a 'western' doctor afterwards.  however, turns out the family we are with had amoxicillan that they brought!  i had just been thinking earlier in the day, 'i wish i just had some amoxicillan.'  so that was a huge blessing from the Lord.  we thought about taking her to the doctor anyway, but when they said it would cost at least $100, we opted for just taking the antibiotic.  i am almost positive that she has some sort of sinus/ear/respiratory infection so amoxicillan should do the trick.  i had never heard of bringing the powdered form of the antibiotic but i am so glad they did! (and would highly recommend that to any adoptive families who are reading this.)  we were able to give it to her this evening and even within a couple of hours she was perkier.  i literally held her from about 10:00 until 7:00 tonight with a bit of a respite this afternoon when she slept fitfully on our bed.  but other than, she has been in our arms the whole day.  which in some ways is really good.  we are definitely bonding and she is learning that we will take care of her.  but i was more than ready to lay her down tonight.  of course, she didn't think that sleeping in her own bed was a good idea!  after a few attempts we opted to just let her cry a bit to see what would happen as at this point it was obvious she just wanted to be held to sleep.  so she cried for a couple of minutes but when she went from general crying to saying, 'MAMA!  MAMA!' i had to go pick her up.  sweet little babe.  thankfully, i held her for a couple of minutes and laid her back down and she is asleep in her bed.  

so we hung out in the room today.  we had to say goodbye to austin and bethany this morning.  that was sad for all of us.  we thoroughly enjoyed our time with our friends - there is something about friendships that have passed the test of time and distance.  and having them here certainly has made our trip even more special.  

we did have to make a trip to the consulate today.  which is just one more hoop we have to jump through.  we were there with all the other adoptive families that are here in china - about 30 - and we all have to take an oath that what we have reported in our paperwork is true and correct and that we will raise our children properly.  after that, sj was feeling miserable so we headed back to get the amoxicillan and then went to mcdonalds for dinner.  the mcdonalds is right next to our hotel and i had not been there yet.  after my first bit of fries i told eric that i want to eat the rest of our meals at mcd's!!!  to me, the hamburger didn't taste so hot, although eric seemed to think it tasted the same.  but the fries were amazing (and i don't normally like mcdonald's fries) and we got an oreo mcflurry for sj.  and that was yummy!!!  she downed almost the whole thing but i managed to get a few bites in.  definitely going back for another one of those tomorrow.  so dinner was fries and a mcflurry.  nice.   i know that it has been too long in china when i am excited about dinner consisting of mcdonalds food.  

i am really ready to come home.  hoping my baby feels better tomorrow and then we are on our way on thursday.  can't wait!  

the picture is our 'chinese picnic' that we had yesterday.  she loves her noodles!  

(and sj is crying now.....could be a long night............)


1.17.2011

another day

our days are getting more and more boring!  not so much to write about tonight.  we went out to get some diapers today at the big supermarket and then headed to the pearl market.  i suppose because we have been here before the pearl market was not as overwhelming as it was before.  nevertheless, it is amazing the millions and millions of jewels that are housed in one place.  

sarahjoy is still not feeling great and was up a lot last night so mommy is not feeling so hot either today.  we hung out in the room this afternoon and got a nap and then i put her to bed a bit earlier than normal.  eric went out with austin and bethany and picked up some of the things we wanted to buy.  i made him promise that he would actually buy them and not just keep bargaining!  after checking in and dropping off the stuff, those 3 are out tonight to try and find the pizza place that we were looking for the other night.  i am sure there will be an adventure.  hopefully bethany will keep the 2 boys out of trouble.  they tend to both act alarmingly like 16 year olds when they are together so i am counting on bethany's refining skills to keep the embarassment of the United States to a minimum.   

i feel completely uninspired for blog writing.  there really isn't much going on.  today marks a week that we have had sarahjoy.  it is hard to remember life without her.  i don't know if it is her not feeling well or just time passing and her grieving but she is definitely a bit more fussy.  nothing major, but noticeable.  eric noted that the ultimate test in whether a child is your own is if you can change a poopy diaper without gagging.  and i would have to say that both of us, despite our incredible lack of desire for the diaper thing again, have loved babying sj and changing her little diapers.  so i guess she's really ours.  : ) 

i reached the wall today - i'm ready to come home.  we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and are still having a great time, especially with austin and bethany, but i definitely turned the corner and am ready to pack my bags.  probably the biggest factor is the food.  i am so tired of eating chinese and chinese-american.  i just want to be able to eat normal (for me) food.  and i think the lack of food is wearing on my body.  i have been really tired today and not feeling great.  i know not having a normal amount of food is taking its toll.  

the good news is that we ARE almost ready to pack our bags!  tuesday, wednesday, and then we start our journey home.  we will take a bus to hong kong on thursday, spend the night there, and then fly out to newark on friday.  so really, just a couple more days to wrap up a few loose ends on the shopping front and the adoption business front.  

oh!  a CRAZY thing happened yesterday.  we were in a shop and all of a sudden i hear, "are you from virginia beach?  do you go to grace?"  turns out, there is a woman from our church who is here adopting also!  how crazy is that?  i can't say that i have ever seen her before but her name sounded familiar.  she is an older single woman who is adopting her first child - talk about an adventure!!!!  so her sarah and our sarahjoy will be in the nursery together!  small world.

well, sj is asleep, eric is out on an adventure and i think i will try to get some food from the old room service.  sooooooooooo ready for my own kitchen!

sorry for the lack of pictures.  i promise i'll get some up tomorrow.

1.16.2011

best price, best price

oh my gosh.  i wish that my father were here because he would be so proud of his son-in-law.  we walked around this little island place that is full of souvenir shops for 5 HOURS and not once did eric let us buy anything.  he bartered and bargained and negotiated until we had to leave (and sj and i had had it).  i was so exhausted by the time we got home.  the man is relentless.  on second thought, i am glad my dad isn't here.  or i might have had to go hide in a corner.  eric tells me when we go back tomorrow we can actually get a few things.  i am holding out hope!  i don't think i can handle another 5 hours of endless negotiations.  i mean really, at some point a woman has to shop!  i mean, actually BUY something!

we hung out with austin and bethany again today.  so fun.  we are having a great time seeing them and i think they are enjoying being able to speak english and have time with some actual friends!  i truly cannot imagine living in a little town in the middle of nowhere china.  we told them last night as we were discussing their apprehension of starting a family that if their marriage can survive rural china, it can survive kids!  we attempted a movie night in the hotel room tonight with them (complete with oreos and pizza flavored potato sticks for snacks) but the tv/computer hookup wasn't working and then sj wasn't cooperating so we just had a good time visiting instead.  

sj was a bit feverish this afternoon.  not sure what is going on - the other family we are with seems to have some sort of contagious virus so maybe it is that.  i am hopeful it isn't an ear infection as flying with one of those could be disastrous.  if she continues to run a fever i might ask our guide if we can see a doctor before we go home.  but after hearing that a 4 year undergraduate degree allows you to be a doctor in china...i'm not so sure i want to go that route.  she has been super congested since we got her - her sinuses are clearing up but she still has a pretty nasty cough.  hopefully she will get a good night's sleep tonight and will perk up tomorrow although i can't say i was sad that all she wanted to do this afternoon was cuddle on my chest...

other than that, things are pretty quiet.  enjoying what we believe will be our final days in china.  (although i do have to report, under laws of full disclosure, that ERIC said the other day, 'you know, i think we could do this again'...to which i replied 'uh, no.')

can't wait to see everyone.  we keep checking the weather in hopes of avoiding a snowy delay in newark.  the thought of walking down the corridor at norfolk and having all my babies together makes me GIDDY!!!!!!

1.15.2011

blessings

oh my goodness.  life is wonderful.  we flew down to the southern part of china late last night (thus no blog post).  this is where we will stay until we leave.  and it is where we stayed for the whole two weeks on our last trip.  so it's like coming home! (well, not quite, but closer...)

the weather is amazing.  high 60's and sunny.  we are soaking it up!  our guide's name is david - he was our guide last time and we have kept in touch over the last two years.  so when we saw him at the airport it was like seeing an old friend.  not only is he an amazing guide but he is a gentleman, great with kids, and super fun to be around.  so we are enjoying being with him again.  he has gotten married and had a little boy since we were here last - we are hoping to be able to take him and his family out to dinner.  we also brought a special gift for his baby (well, that's what we are telling him but it is really for all of them).  we are giving him the 'jesus storybook bible' and accompanying cd's that read the storybook (in english).  under the guise of gifts and continuing his english (which he is amazing at) we are hoping that the Lord will use it to bring david and his family to himself.  the book is a children's bible storybook with beautiful pictures but it specifically points out the story of jesus throughout the entire bible.  if you have little kids, it is a great resource for them.  but anyway, we are having a great time with david, continuing our friendship and hoping to have some influence for the Lord.    

as for that cute little girl of ours, she is a dream.  we are having so much fun with her.  she is absolutely the most perfect fit for our family - how God does that i don't know but he does.  i look around at the multitude of adoptive families that are here (every american family has to come through this city on their way home) and there is no other child that i look at and think, 'gosh, she could be mine'  in fact, we were at the 'doctor' today (i use that term VERY lightly) for the required medical check before leaving the country.  there were so many adoptive kids there; almost all of them special needs kids.  and i just had to stop for a minute and thank God for his amazing blessings to our family.   almost every other child there, with the exception of maybe one or two, had pretty severe special needs - unrepaired cleft lips and palates, albinism with blindness, cerebal palsy, and lots of kids who just sort of looked like they probably had some mental disabilities.  i know that some of those needs are truly a special calling on families; but i also know that we could have been given two little girls who needed much more medical attention.  i truly believe God looked at our family, knew what we could handle, and gave us the perfect little girls to fit right in.  i am so, so thankful.

sarahjoy LOVES her daddy.  she completely freaks out if he is more than a few feet away from us.  she is almost always happy for me to carry her (or 'sack' her as we say since we put her in this little sack thing) but then she will decide that she wants daddy and it is crying, crying until he holds her.  it is pretty sweet to see.  she certainly is attaching to both of us, but she seems to have a special affinity for her baba (chinese for daddy).  and she is EXTREMELY intense when she wants her baba, or when she wants anything for that matter.  sort of like her daddy, who is just a bit on the intense side!  we get asked all the time if she is a boy or a girl (even though she is dressed in pink) because of her haircut.  she and josiah have the same cut; actually, i think josiah's might be longer.  it's going to take some time to grow it out but we'll get there.  maybe by christmas we'll have a nice little bob.  : )  i'll just have to dress her really girlie (or maybe get her ears pierced, heath!)

tonight we met up with two of our friends who actually live in china.  they took a train overnight to come to guangzhou.  austin was in our youth group back in kentucky and he and his wife bethany are teaching english here.  it was so fun to see them.  we hung out in the room a bit and then took the subway to go get some pizza from a little place they knew of.  well, turns out we couldn't actually find the little restaurant but we did enjoy an amazing time walking around the downtown district.  it was the first time i had truly been in a super modern part of china.  i mean super modern - high fashion, upscale stores and malls, could have been straight out of new york city.  it was beautiful - clean, gorgeous buildings and landscaping, lots of very western looking chinese people and things.  a totally new experience.  i guess we have experienced a lot of the lower and middle class but tonight was the high class china -the part that could rival any big city in america.   it was super fun. i could have done without the body to body subway rides that almost put me over the edge (and did put sj over the edge) but other than that, what a fun night with friends.  in the middle of china!  (and we eventually landed at papa johns, and while waiting for a seat snuck a diet coke WITH ice from mcdonalds, which sj thoroughly enjoyed!)

the next few days are pretty quiet.  we have a couple of business things to do to wrap up the adoption but mostly we get to hang out with austin and bethany, do some shopping, spend some great time with just our little babe, and enjoy gorgeous weather!  and then come home to an incredible 5 star marriott hotel that is more beautiful than any place i'll ever stay again!  what more could a girl ask for?  well, i could ask for free wireless in our room.  oh wait, we got that too thanks to the 'executive lounge' being directly above us!  so we're able to get their signal.  so hey, we are happy campers.

enjoy the pics!  i have to say, our little girl is not the most photogenic.  but i guarantee she is super cute!!!!!  

   


1.13.2011

panda bear, panda bear, what do you see?

i see a purple bear looking at me!


out of the mouths of babes

Sarahjoy, what is your favorite toy?

Well, I love the toy that has a light that goes on and off.  It folds up like a phone so I use it to talk to people too.  I love to open and close it and watch the light.  Daddy says that it is really for him to read his book when I go to bed but I think that is silly.  It is much more fun for me to play with.

 

What do you think about your new daddy?

Well, he is very funny looking.  He has a humongous nose and eyes and no hair on his head.   but he has hair on his arms which I think is silly.   But he seems really nice.  Today he told me something that sounded like 'I love you' but he doesn't sound the same as my old daddy.  But I think he does love me.   i always yell for him when he disappears. 

 

How about your new mommy?

She is funny looking too.  Especially because she has this really shiny thing in her nose.  I keep touching it and looking for one on the other side of her nose.  I don't know why there is only one!  She holds me a lot and I really like when she puts me in this piece of fabric and carries me around.  Well, as long as I can see daddy I like it.  When I can't see daddy then I want to get down and go find him.  And sometimes, I just want daddy to hold me.  but most of the time, I'm okay with mommy.  Of course, the first morning I still wasn't so sure about that guy with no hair so I REALLY wanted mommy.  There was no way that funny looking man was taking me to breakfast without mommy along.   Thankfully, I just screamed really loud and they figured it out. 

 

What has been your favorite thing to do?

Hmmm, I like to do a lot of things and daddy is really good at playing with me.  mommy is too but daddy is a little crazy which I like.  He throws me in the air.  And he tickles me a lot.  He is sort of hyper.  I think mommy must get worn out trying to keep up with him.  He puts this machine up to his eye a lot and walks around talking.  I don't know what he is doing.  But sometimes I can see myself on the machine which is super fun, because I am super cute.  And I love to look at myself.

 

How are mommy and daddy doing so far?

They seem a little tired.  Maybe I am wearing them out.   but I am so cute, I don't know why I would make them tired.  I am being so good and sleeping every night so I think they should wake up ready to play with me!   I did hear them talking after our adventure last night.  Mommy said she was really worn out and something about all the people make her tired.  She even said that she wanted just to be by herself which I think is ridiculous.  Why would anyone ever want to be by themselves.    daddy says that the people make him excited.   He wants to go on more adventures.   I guess mommy decided to obey daddy because we went on more adventures today. 

 

Where did you go today?

First we went to a temple.  It was built by an emperor a really long time ago so he could worship his mother.  I don't know if I can build a temple but I do really like my mommy.     Mommy and daddy keep telling me that there are a lot of children who live in the house in America.  Sounds like an orphanage to me but they tell me it is just my new family.  I have never heard of having so many people in one family.  Anyway, maybe I can get those kids to help me build a temple.  I hear they are really good at building things with legos.  I don't know what that is but we might could make a temple.  Anyway, we were at this temple and daddy decided to walk up some stairs.  Mommy didn't want to go and since I was in that fabric thing I had to stick with her.  Daddy was gone for so long.  I kept crying for him and then I made a fist and told mommy that I was going hit daddy when he gets back.   Well, i tried to tell mommy that but she can't understand me for some reason so I had to tell miss tracy and then she told mommy (seems very inefficient to me.)  I think mommy agreed with me. 

 

After we walked around the temple mommy and daddy took me to a really crowded and busy place.  It had big letters with a smiley face beside them.  They told me it was something about a wall and a mart.  Anyway, I got a ball while I was there so I was happy.

 

Is there anything else you want to tell us sarahjoy?

First, I am very cute.  They tell me I need to eat more but I eat everything so I don't know what they are talking about.  Plus, those Americans need to stop eating I think.  They are way too big.  And I have been on my best behavior for 4 days.  but pretty soon I am going to have to see if mommy and daddy will always love me so I am going to have to throw some fits in every once in a while.  And this going to bed without crying thing.  That's for the birds.  Who doesn't want to be snuggled before bedtime?  I have started to cry so they pick me up.  Works like a charm.  Eventually I go to sleep but I have to get my snuggles in first.

 

Any messages for your family at home?

Yes.  I want all those children to know that mommy and daddy are mine and I am not sharing.  I will play with them, maybe, after I check them out.  mommy and daddy tell me they are nice.  I do really like that Chinese little girl in the book.  She seems like she might be a good big sister.  But those other funny looking children, I'm not so sure about.  As long as they know I am not sharing mommy and daddy then things will be okay.   And as long as they know I am cute.  Things should be good.  Anyway, we got a week before I have to see them.   So I'm not going to worry about it.   Right now, I'm hanging with mommy and daddy.

 

1.12.2011

amazing race

What a night.

 

The hotel bellboy gets a taxi for our solo (aka no guide) adventure.  But alas, as we are stepping into the taxi we realize we have forgotten our camera.  So we try and communicate that eric is going to run back to the room and then we will go.  Not a big deal, except the language thing.  Our taxi guy wasn't too happy.  Nor was the bellboy who flagged him down.  We're off to a running start.

 

But we were off.  And when I say that traffic in china is horrendous I am not talking about the numbers of cars.  There are a lot but that's not the issue.  The issue is the suggestatory (is that a word?) nature of all traffic signs and laws.  Make that the suggestatory nature of everything.  Sidewalks?  Well, those are what we drive on when the street is too crowded.  Lines?  Purely for looks.  Stop lights? Well, we may or may not stop.  Probably not.  Basically everyone travels at 25 mph and weaves in and out to get where they are going.  Our taxi guy wasn't feeling patient this evening I guess, so when we hit some stopped traffic he did a u-turn, drove on the sidewalk, went down a one-way road (the wrong way, of course), wound through some alley and after narrowly missing several pedestrians, landed us where we needed to go.  If you are a rule-follower, I would suggest not moving to china. 

 

So we're at the shopping center.  Which we were told was 'upscale.'  Well, beings that most of china is way low scale we didn't quite know what to expect.  Think louis vuitton and cartier.  I did spot a purse I would have liked, but eric said I wasn't allowed to spend $2000.  meanie.   Who buys the stuff at this mall I have no idea.  Not so much louis vitton going on in the population that I have observed.  Meandered amongst the stares of all the employees who were gawking at the Americans with the Chinese baby and decided we would move on in our adventure.

 

Off to pizza hut.  Eric hails a taxi (he's got a gift) and we get in.  we show him the card where 'pizza hut' is written in Chinese.  He shoos us out.  Second taxi, he shoos us out too.  Now we are smart and eric checks with the driver before me, sj, diaper bag, camera, coats, etc. all pile in.  third taxi, nope.  We give up and decide we're going back to the hotel and see if maybe what is written down on the card says something other than 'pizza hut.'  Maybe, it says 'leave me in the middle of china' or something along those lines.  Get in the taxi, show him the card and point to the hotel's name.  end up at pizza hut.  How?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it was divine intervention.   

 

Pizza hut.  Manage to sit down but it is obvious that no one speaks a word of English.  We take a look at the menu (our options included seafood fruit salad…) and decide we are going for the Hawaiian pizza.  Eric says, "pepperoni and pineapple" to the waitress.  Now really, I love my husband, but we're in the middle of china.   Not so much 'pepperoni and pineapple' going on in the vocabulary around these parts.  So after an intervention by the wife which involved pointing and hand motions, we managed to get a pizza.  Personal pan size.  But nevertheless it was a Hawaiian pizza.  And it was good.  I applauded eric that at least he didn't keep saying 'pepperoni and pineapple' louder and louder.  Good job, babe.   Entertainment:  trying to get a picture of me without 4 chins.   I am seriously getting a complex people.

 

Off to the hotel.  Oh wait, we must go in the bookstore next to pizza hut.  Seriously?  I know you like books, honey, but we are in CHINA.  Their books are in CHINESE.  But, beings that I am a most submissive wife, we go.  We have to check our bag at the front.  Which means we yank out our passports and money in front of everyone before handing them our bag.  And then we go wandering around the bookstore.  Felt like we were in barnes and noble.  Except for the Chinese part.   And no sofas, or coffee.  And lots of smoking.  I did find 'twilight,' in Chinese.  BUT…………I have to say, we bought our first souvenir in the Chinese bookstore.  A globe.  In Chinese.  So I take back all the mean things I was thinking (and may or may not have been communicating.  With or without words.)

 

And now, to get home.  At this point it is 7:00ish, dark, and everyone and their brother (except that Chinese people don't have brothers.  You know, the one child thing) are trying to get home.  Oh, and it's cold.  Butt.  Cold.  Frazisimo cold.  Bundled up like an Eskimo cold.  We stand on one corner.  And another.  And decide to walk down the street a little.  At this point eric turns to me and says, "why don't you start yelling at me and then it will be just like Amazing Race!"  but I did NOT do that.  Did.  Not. 

 

We finally get a taxi and find ourselves back at our home away from home.    Our very warm, English speaking home.

 

And we are living happily ever after.  

mama come

we are moving right along!

we began yesterday with a trip to the office where we received her.  we stayed there for about 2 hours waiting for some piece of paper that i have no idea why it took two hours to get.  they asked us some questions like our address, etc.  of course, that info is listed about 276 times in our paperwork but for whatever reason they wanted to know it again.  i started to just make a new one up to see what happened.  at one point, we were completely alone in an empty room in an office building in the middle of china.  that was not the most comfortable feeling.  thankfully, our guide and the official returned shortly and we were on our way.  

then we set out on our trip to datong, sj's hometown.  she was a champ on the 4 hour ride.  she took a nap in our arms and ate her way through the remainder of the time.   that kid can put away some food and she is not picky.   the trip from where we are up to her hometown is through desolate, desolate countryside.  there is nothing in sight except beautiful mountains in the distance and miles and miles of nothing.  obviously it is winter here and so there is nothing even growing.  it is a barren frozen tundra.  we did pass one of the oldest sections of the great wall weaving through the mountains and tried to see it out the window; however, you couldn't see out the window very well because there was a layer of ice INSIDE the car.  yep, inside.  need i say more?  

nevertheless, we got there.  went into this little office.  the lady looked at our passports and made sure it was our picture and then we were done.  all in all, about 5 minutes.  eric asked if we could go then to KFC (very popular in china).  which, the guide and driver obliged and so we got some chicken.  make that THEY got some chicken.  there was no way i was going to eat anything in that place.  pretty much i have subsisted on dried bananas, clif bars and diet coke.  thankfully the bananas and coke are in abundance here.  the clif bars are running low.

lest i forget, by the time we got to KFC sj was soaked from her diaper.  and by the way, there is NO place to change a diaper in china, not even a counter in a bathroom.  so while we are sitting at our table i strip her down because i had to get her wet onesie off.  then i change her diaper standing up and redress her, all while the entire restaurant is staring at me.  i am sure i was the subject of many a dinner conversation.

we got home around 8:00.  sj was great on the way home too.  i don't know what these people do with their kids but i have never seen 2 kids who could sit as calmly as lydia and sj.  amazing.  maybe i should send my other 3 to china for awhile..........  we dressed her in her pj's, kissed her goodnight and laid her down and she was out in 2 minutes.  so far, she hasn't given us any fight about sleeping!

there was a super highlight to all of yesterday's travels.  we brought a shutterfly book with us - it has pictures of all the kids and she absolutely loves looking at it.  but she is completely transfixed with the page that has lydia on it.  in fact, it's pretty much all she looks at. and she talks and talks and talks.  well yesterday she was doing this on the ride up and our guide was able to translate and tell us that she was pointing at lydia and saying "chinese sister, chinese sister."  she obviously had been prepared by her foster family and shown pictures that we sent.  she LOVES lydia already!!!!

and then the coolest............she pointed to my picture and kept saying "mama come, mama come."  she knew i was her mama and she knew that i was coming!  so sweet and such a HUGE blessing to know that the foster family had prepared her.  

she is the cutest thing in town.  i am growing more in love by the minute.  she is definitely sad when she wakes up but she quickly warms up and is so animated and active.  she is going to have so much fun with all her brothers and sisters!  

and last but not least, eric has us venturing out on our own this evening.  we are headed to some sort of shopping area and then to track down a pizza hut.  so, if you don't hear from me again, please send a search party to taiyuan, china.  he tells me he knows what he's doing.....

1.11.2011

two

today was a ridiculously long day.  we left at 9:00 this morning and finally arrived back at the hotel at 8:00 tonight.  sarahjoy did great - she slept a lot of the way and was happy to sit in our laps (and eat) the rest of the time.  huge, huge gift from God.
 
so i will update with pics and details tomorrow but tonight i will leave you with two very important things...
 
WAR EAGLE!!!!!!!
 
and http://nextstepoffaith.com/#/pivotal-circumstances/adoption to see our first day with SarahJoy (we can't upload to youtube or vimeo thanks to china's censorship issues...)
 
 

1.10.2011

introducing

she's here!!!!!  our miracle, sarahjoy makiah, is in our arms and she is everything we prayed for. 

 

after waiting for what seemed like an eternity today, we drove to the civil affairs office, walked up a flight of stairs, into an empty room and there she was, sitting on the bench with her nannies waiting for us.  she was with several other children from the orphanage but I knew just who she was.  and of course, she was by far the cutest one!   we didn't notice till later but of all things, what was on her little pants?  GUNS!  she'll fit right in with our family.

 

we learned that in fact she has been in foster care for 2 years.  which is a huge blessing and completely unexpected.  she appears to be a happy, active little girl.  so different than lydia who didn't say a word to us, sarahjoy has not stopped talking since we got her.  and she wiggles and squirms just like a good old fashioned 2 year old!  this afternoon it was almost like she was frantic and couldn't stop moving – i don't know if that is her way of grieving or if she is just going to keep us hopping! 

 

she is really, really tiny.  not necessarily short, but super tiny.   we put on her 6-12 month tights and they fit perfectly on her little 2 year old body.  the first few hours i felt like I was going to break her if I touched her.   she reminds me of a newborn in that she just doesn't have any fat on her.  she also appears to have something going on in her rib cavity around her heart.  i am not sure if that is just because she is so skinny that you see things you don't normally see on a little body, or if it is heart related, or something new that we don't know about.  at any rate, she is ours and we love her and we will weather whatever storms we have to.

 

we went to dinner tonight at the hotel's chinese restaurant (as opposed to the western food restaurant which was less than edible).  she ate and ate and ate and ate.   and then it was bath time  which she was not terribly fond of.   i have to be honest, it is a bit frightening how tiny she is.  the mommy in me is worried about her.  we knew that she was going to be tiny, but when you see her naked little body it is alarming.    after bath time, she ate some more.  she loves her some goldfish.

 

tomorrow we go to her orphanage to get her passport.  if she is as active as she was today, it could be an interesting trip!  i told eric that at times, i feel like a new mom – it has been so long since I chased after a 2 year old, fed someone dinner, changed diapers, and dressed a little person.  but hey, it will keep me young, right?

 

enjoy the pictures!   

 

 

1.09.2011

a letter

to my sweet sarahjoy,
in just a few hours, you will be in our arms.  we have prayed for you for so long, it is hard to believe that our prayers will be realized today.  you will be our little girl.  you will have brothers and sisters, and a mommy and daddy.  you will have a family and you will discover love.

it's our wedding day.  we have prepared for you and you have prepared for us.  we will come together and become one.  and we will promise to love you no matter what.  you will be ours and we will be yours, when life brings hardship and pain and when it is filled with joy and laughter.  God is our witness and today, we will be bound together as one family.  though we come from opposite ends of this world, after today, nothing will separate us.  we are together.  you are our princess.  you are no longer alone in this world.  

i know that there may come a day when you wonder about your journey, when you question its rightness.  and when that day comes i will remind you of the miracle it took to get you here.  i will remind you of God's faithfulness to provide what we needed.  i will remind you of God's mercies to bring us together and his perfect plan for us to be your family. we will discover again, that God created us to be together.

i will also remind you of your sweet cousin makiah.  and why your name is like hers.  i will tell you stories that will make us all laugh and stories of how God works in the hearts of little girls.  i will tell you the story of how she lives with Jesus now but will always be a special part of who you are. i will tell you the story of how her mommy and daddy, in the middle of their pain and sorrow, gave us the rest of what we needed to bring you home.  that pain and sorrow will come but in the midst, God's grace and love shines brighter.   

you are almost ours.  in just a few hours the journey will have come to an end.  and yet it is just the beginning.  of new life, of new love, of new hope.  

we love you.  and we can't wait to hold you in our arms.

love,
mommy 

tomorrow, tomorrow, i love you, tomorrow

so.  we're here!  taiyuan (tie-u-an), china - the capital city of sarahjoy's province. 
we flew in this morning (note: NO extra baggage fee!) and have spent the day hanging around and preparing for our little girl.  the hotel rooms is, well, a bit miniature.  so we have had to be creative in how to get all of our stuff in here and also be able to walk.  however, it does have a huge mirror that takes up the entire wall of the shower - not quite sure what that is for but it might make for some fun bath time with itsy bitsy. 
taiyuan is a smaller city than beijing, a mere 15 million people.  we will receive sarahjoy tomorrow afternoon and officially 'register' the adoption.  then we will take her to datong (dah-tohng), her hometown, on tuesday to get her passport.  makes sense, except that datong is a 4 hour ride from here.  so she will come to us tomorrow via a 4 hour ride, and then we will turn around on tuesday and take her back (4 hours) and then return (4 hours) the same day.  our guide said the business we need to take care of in datong will take about 10 minutes.  seems seriously inefficient to me and downright tortuous for sj but oh well, we got to do what they tell us!  let's hope itsy bitsy likes sitting on laps and looking at books.
eric and i are both feeling a lot different this time around.  i can't really put my finger on it - maybe it is simply that ignorance is bliss and so there was not nearly the aprehension with lydia as there is with sj.  we know a lot more of what the possible difficulties are, and beings that lydia was the absolute most perfect and easy adoption, i suppose we are anticipating that at least a few of those difficulties will come our way this go round.
we are also all alone in taiyuan.  there are no other families with us - just me and the lover staring into each other's eyes all.day.long.  i am afraid come wednesday we will have run out of things to talk about!  it is freezing outside so we are sort of sequestered in the (miniature) hotel room.   we feel a bit isolated.  lonely.  disconnected from the outside world (NOTE:  we love comments on the blog!!!!!)  unlike last time when we were with 2 other families adopting from the same city as us, this time we are it.  no one to talk to, no one to share experiences with, no one to video or take pictures while we are getting sj, no other little girls to play with (or note how much cuter our little girl is than them...)  i feel a bit like a caged zoo animal with throngs of visitors staring at me.  so far they aren't throwing me anything good to eat (HELP!!!  get me out of here!  i need a diet coke with ice and fajitas from chili's!!!!!!) 
however........................WE ARE GETTING SARAHJOY TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!   we are so excited.  a new daughter, tomorrow!!!!!!!   a new little sister, tomorrow!!!!!!!  we have been talking, praying, waiting for her for two years and tomorrow it will all culminate in being handed the little miracle we have been given by God.  it is a bit surreal but as i sit in our (miniature) hotel room and the (miniature) metal crib is right next to our bed it is becoming more and more real.  we have her toys set aside, her snacks put away.  her blanket folded in the crib and her dollies ready to receive some love.  tomorrow, exactly 24 hours from now, she will be in our arms.  wow. 
i know i have said it before, but we are so thankful for all of you.  so many of you have contributed financially to this journey and for that we are eternally grateful.  we absolutely could not have done this without your help.  tomorrow, your investment will be realized.  i hope that in some sense you can feel the excitement.  and many, many of you have prayed for this moment.  your prayers are what have brought this miracle to fruition.  thank you, thank you, thank you.  i cannot wait to let you see our miracle in our arms.
(and please note the serious lack of people in the pictures as well as the flag blowing straight out...did i mention it is FREEZING!!!!!!!  even 20 million people in beijing know better than to be outside.)
 

you may be in china if...

.....there are continual horns honking at all hours of the day and night
.....being violently shoved doesn't even phase you
.....the smoking section in the restaurant is larger than the non-smoking section
.....the parking garage has a polished concrete floor and is immaculately clean
.....there are noodles and red beans at the breakfast bar
.....you ride a bike weaving in and out of 5 lanes of highway traffic
.....every third car is a volkswagon
.....high rise apartment buildings surround you as far as the eye can see
.....you are from a small city, population 10 million
.....the government controls whether you heat your house

1.08.2011

summertime!

10 words to describe today…

freezing

frozen

chilly

bone-numbing

sub-zero

icy

frosty

bitter

wintry

arctic

 

so forgive the typos.  my fingers are still recovering from hypothermia.  as are my thighs and nose.   a full body snowsuit would have been appropriate for today.  our best educated guess was the temperature was around 10 degrees with the windchill well below zero.    

 

however, we are strong, tough, and willing to sacrifice our appendages for a few good pictures and some memories.  so we ventured onward to the forbidden city, tiananmen square and the great wall with a stop at the olympic park.   i was thankful we had been to all three sites before as i was not exactly in the frame of mind to meander around enjoying the wonder of it all.  and we took far less pictures as my finger had a hard time even pressing the button.  eric forgot his gloves at the hotel so he bought some from a street vendor – i believe the word she used to describe him was 'stingy.'  pops would be proud of his bargaining skills.  and it gave our group a good laugh.

 

we fly out tomorrow morning to the capital of sarahjoy's province.  i met an adoption guide today who was from sj's city.  her description...'much colder than here.'  o yeah baby.  the long underwear and i are becoming fast friends.  in fact, they might be permanently stuck to me after the next 6 days.   should look great under a bathing suit this summer.    speaking of summer………….i could really use some about now.

 

**pictures are being very slow in their cooperation (probably because they are freezing)  so i will figure that out and have some more for you tomorrow!