Wednesday, October 29, 2008

what we're doing

Since I can't seem to break away and hide long enough to compose a thought-provoking or encouraging or eloquently-written post, I decided to just write about right now.

Right now, Eli (5th grade) and Bill are poring over a logic problem for one of Eli's classes. Eli started working on said problem... oh, 2 hours ago... and has had many frustrating moments along the way. His dad finally arrived home from a long day at work, around 8:15 p.m., to "rescue" him and help him figure it out. That was half an hour ago. Some logic problem.

Jacob (9th grade) is hidden away in his bedroom doing homework. He and I just spent quite a while (way too long, actually) trying to find colored pencils for something he was working on. The colored pencils were supposed to be in a certain place, but magically had disappeared from there. While searching high and low and everywhere in between for this rainbow of color, I ranted - I mean, I gently spoke of - the fact that once these pencils were found, that I was going to collect and organize them, along with other important school supplies. Once I have done this, if a student in this household needs a certain item, I will have it locked away and ready to be "checked out," then returned directly to me. Sounds like a plan; but, will I actually follow through with it? I guess time will tell.

Seth (11th grade) has yet to return home from a small group Bible study that he's part of on this night. He had been home from school less than half an hour, earlier today, when he proclaimed that HE would go pick up Eli from school. I believe his exact words were, "I've gotta get outta here. I have cabin fever." Cabin fever! After just getting home! Teenagers.
And, I know that "outta" is not a word.

From the other room, I just heard Bill explain: "I GOT it!" The logic problem, that is. Hmmm, I think that was supposed to be Eli "getting" it, but I'm sure Dad will walk him through it...

As I sat down here at the kitchen table to type this, I had just started picking up all of Ahna's toys. Yes, they are scattered everywhere. As are all the plastic plates and bowls and lids from "her" cabinet in the kitchen. She is tucked away in her crib, sound asleep for the night.

Ahna is a soothing balm to her Daddy's tired soul, and he was disappointed that he wouldn't get to love on her tonight. I didn't think he'd be home 'til much later, or I would've kept her up a bit later.

And so back to this moment, where I hear much laughter from upstairs, where the Dad and two of his boys have gone. Probably a bit of "boy humor" going on up there, that I wouldn't think as funny in the least. I must go remind them that Sister is asleep.

Good night to you all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ours 3 months

, almost 16 months.

Three months ago yesterday, this little angel became a physical member of our Forever Family. And today she is not the same. Neither are we.

She has brought so many smiles, so much joy and laughter into our home.

The little babe who could not pick ANYTHING up with her fingers or hands, now grabs everything in sight and explores every inch of it.

Her lazy, slumped posture has become more upright and much stronger. She has gone from scooting a little on her belly, to crawling slowly on her hands and knees, and then to crawling so quickly that we can't keep up with her!

As the photo implies, she now stands solidly on her own, and is even trying to take 2 or 3 steps. She LOVES to fall over into Mama's or Daddy's arms!

Her face literally lights up when her brothers get home from school and greet her. She is always at the ready with her "mockingbird" face on, to show them all her silly looks and make them laugh.

She is still quite wary (sometimes downright afraid) of strangers, but is becoming more and more comfortable with friends and family who she comes in contact with.

One of our biggest hurdles has been that she has a fairly significant oral aversion. For weeks she allowed nothing, except her bottle of formula or her thumb, near her face or mouth. After several weeks of playing "face and food games," she has decided that she will try to eat pureed food. She had learned that every time we sat down to eat we would all say "Mmmmm, Mmmmmm," to help her understand that food is a good thing. So, almost every time she sees anyone eating, she makes the same excited "Mmmmm, Mmmmm," sound. So sweet. She is still not willing to bring food purposefully to her own mouth, and still gags alot with anything that has texture, but we are thrilled that she has at least begun to take 'baby steps' toward eating.

She is so affectionate! We in this family are daily recipients of her snuggly hugs and her wet kisses. It has been astounding to watch the transformation from the baby who wouldn't even turn towards us when we were holding her, during those first days.

Love is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today, he turns 15.

He has somehow gotten much taller than me.

His big round brown eyes that captured his mama's heart the day he was born, will capture other hearts in the years to come.

He is determined, with his sights set on a lofty goal; and he refuses to settle for anything else.

He works hard when there is work to be done, but plays even harder.

His passion at this stage in his life involves intense physical training and concentration, and he is living up to the challenges before him.

He is a 'softy' at heart,thoughtful and kind, tho' at times he might not want others to find that out.

He has a tendency toward mischief, adventure, and all things risky; and more than once these qualities have landed him in the Emergency Room.

He is witty without always intending to be, and has a bright personality: the kind that draws people around him.

He has learned lessons that come from making decisions that are not the wisest ones; and he is allowing these to shape him, to teach him.

He is becoming. As we all are.

I am esteemed to be his Mom.

I love you, Jacob.

Happy Birthday

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ahna day revisited: part three. yeah, really.

Don't faint, you loyal few. :-) Part Three is here...... FINALLY. And boy, is it long.

(written in present tense rather than past - I know one is not 'supposed' to change tenses during a writing project, but anyway.) And you'll probably have to reread Parts 1 & 2 before going on...

Here we are, in the same room as our Ahna. We walk into that room with some semblance of order and quiet, but once we're inside, that all changes. We adoptive family groups are hunched together, our gazes fixed on those babies, our c
onversations marked by only one thing: which baby is ours? I sense the activity around me, our guides trying to find the appropriate authorities to deal with so that we can have our girls; family members talking, pointing, searching; the babies becoming increasingly aware that the very air in this room has changed, since all these strange-looking white people entered. The volume in the room begins to increase by a significant amount, and in a moment it feels like disorganization reigns. Though it does not.

This procedure is to be like many others before it. We know that soon our names will be called, and we will be summoned to step forward so that we can receive our new family member. We have done our homework about Ahna's orphanage; we are aware that often there is simply a quick passing of our baby, from one set of arms, to ours. Will that be the way these moments unfold for us? We wait, we watch, we listen, we try to remain calm and focused.

Everything is happening at lightening speed now, or so it
seems. There is a bench to our left: Two Chinese women hold babies, and it looks like one of the ladies has brought her young son along, today. He is maybe 10 or 11 years old. My eyes scan the sweet faces of those yet-to-be-terrified baby girls, trying to match the image we received 6 weeks before that has burned into my head and heart, with the true flesh-and-blood face of our daughter.

My eyes are drawn to the corner of that bench, to a little one sitting alone but directly beside one of the ladies. She has her head tilted down a little, her right arm raised and resting on the bench armrest, her fingers scratching the wood ever so intently. Her eyes are fixed on her little task, but when she glances up to see what all the commotion is about, I see those eyes and I know that it is Ahna. The eyes. The lips. The fine black hair that has grown out some with the passing of time. It is July, and the photo we received was taken in March.

(The photo is so blurry, but captures the first moment we saw her, exactly.)

I tell Bill and the boys that it is her as I point her out from that short distance away. A couple of them initially disagree with me, as we all realize that she has changed. Her precious and fragile form in full view now, we are beginning to grasp the realization that we are here, in this room, to take her away forever.

With our entrance, the relatively calm environment quickly dissipates, and soon one of the babies is crying. Not long afterwards, so are most of the others. Ahna has joined the crying party. An orphanage employee, a pretty lady wearing glasses and with ha
ir pulled back in a ponytail, dressed neatly in jeans and a nice top, has made her way over to where Ahna is sitting. She positions herself on the armrest that our girl had been scratching, and in a few more seconds she picks up crying Ahna.

So much noise, now. I don't want to take my eyes off Ahna, but I realize that parents are stepping forward and the unions are beginning. I am smiling, watching Ahna, who is now crying in the arms of the aforementioned woman; then I'm watching as one baby is being placed in a Mama's arms, then another. Video cameras everywhere. Cameras constantly flashing. Family members moving, dodging, trying to see, attempting to get the best view for a photo. History being recorded. Tears. Laughter. More tears.

Stunned babies.

Then Bill is moving away from me and I realize that it is OUR TURN. I haven't heard anyone's name called, nor did I hear or see our family being summoned. But Bill must have. We are now part of this unstoppable force that is bringing us to the moment that we've waited so long for. Can it be? How many videos and documentaries have we watched with tears in our eyes, seeing strangers receive their long awaited children? And now it is us. I am moving behind Bill, ready to be given this one that we are already in love with.

We walk over to our guide, arriving just about the same time as Ahna arrives in the arms of this woman she obviously knows. Ahna is frantically clawing at the woman's shirt, this woman who is trying to smile and pull our daughter away. I face her now, this woman. Bill at my shoulder. The boys right behind. Bill flashes our documents to her. Or maybe Maggie, our guide has them, and does so. I am only aware now, of this baby. This very sad and scared and tear-soaked baby, who is finally pried from the woman who carries her, and is given to me. She is fragile. Horrified. She is weeping.

And she is in my arms. Just. like. that.

I think I smile and nod a thank you before I turn and begin to move away from all the activity. Later, I feel badly that I did not linger and speak heartfelt words of gratitude to this woman who placed Ahna in my arms. All that mattered in that instance, was trying to help our daughter during these traumatic moments of transition. (We find out when Bill
visits the orphanage, that the lady who gave Ahna to us was an office worker, rather than a caretaker.)

I walk to the outskirts of this large room with Ahna in my arms. She is turned toward me with her head on my shoulder. Sobbing, still. I am elated that I have her, but I do not want to overwhelm her any further. So we just walk. I try to get her distracted by the flags waving along the wall that are being blown by the air conditioner.
To no avail. So we just walk. She clings when I try to turn her around or move her, because she is shaken and scared. I sit down on a bench with her after a few minutes, and the boys and Bill draw nearer. She continues to sob. Bill takes her and walks over to an air conditioner, a stand-type that is in the shape of a small refrigerator. For a moment the tears cease, when she feels the cool air blow through her hair. But then they are back. Such heart-wrenching, devastated cries, from a baby who doesn't understand what in the world is happening to her. She is so worn out.

Her yellow cotton dress (like the other babies are wearing) is quite wet, and she smells of vomit. We find out the next day that she got carsick
on the long trip from the orphanage. She wears some type of disposable diaper underneath the dress panty, but it does not have tabs that close, and has come out of place. So her dress is also soaked with urine; and tears and snot. We are given no information about her schedule or ANYTHING, today. However, we have been told that the next day we will back in this very room, and we may ask the orphanage director questions about our daughters.

In direct contrast to Ahna's demeanor and emotion, I feel an overwhelming relief simply wash over me like a flood. And sweet joy. It has been just over 3 years since we made this decision to add a child to our family. We never could have imagined that the wait would become so long. But we did our best to wait with grace, to live life fully during each season that came and went. We were busy and our time was occupied with raising our sons. But always, we waited with anticipation and a sincere desire that a speed-up in this process would take place. It never did.

Within minutes, we deliriously happy families are being asked to return to the bus. What a sight it is, to see these precious ones being held in the arms of their Forever Families. Ahna again decides to stop crying for a few brief moments, as we walk out of that building and board our bus. She is in my arms again, and her little body shakes with each breath as a result of the weeping. But again, the pause is short-lived, and she sheds even more tears during the short drive to the hotel and as we exit the bus and as we make it to our room. Bless her sweet heart. She must be so weary.

Once in our hotel room, we decide Ahna probably needs a little space, so we place her on the middle of a bed. We don't wipe her dripping nose our her tear-stained cheeks just yet. That will only add to her trauma. Sitting there on that bed, ever so slowly, she seems to pull herself together. Legs outstretched straight in front of her, her trunk bent in a slumped position, she begins to look us over. Just a little. She is able to sit alone, but her posture will certainly need some work. We sit on the other bed in the room, gazing at her. She is definitely the center of attention. Eli wants to creep closer to the bed where she sits. Ahna's whines let him know that he is not allowed. We keep our distance, thankful that she seems less stressed out for a time. Her bare right foot rotates at the ankle, her leg lifted up just a bit. She twirls and twirls and twirls that foot, looking around the room. We are in awe of her.

The next few hours actually comprise another chapter to this story, but for now I will briefly summarize. We are able to keep our sweet girl from crying that first day, only for brief moments and when we hold her facing out, away from us. Bill actually first discovers the best way to calm her: by walking her over to the full-length mirror on the closet door. For the next several days, when she would get upset, we would head for the nearest mirror.

After much prodding and later on into that evening, we are finally able to get her to take a few ounces of formula from a bottle. Our guide had gone to a local market to purchase formula for all the babies, since we were given none when we received our girls. Our plan is to keep Ahna on the Chinese formula that she is used to, and begin the transition to American formula once we are home with her.

And finally, rest comes for her. On this day that has marked her new beginning, our new beginning, she sleeps. It is a restless sleep in a blue metal crib that is beside our bed. In this crib we have put her own colorful, soft blankets as a way to help her understand that she will no longer close her eyes in a cold, stark bed. It will be many days and weeks before she understands this. Before she trusts. Before she allows herself to face us and look us straight in the eyes and smile.

But now? Smile, she does. And joy she exudes. As I finish this and prepare to hit "post," she sits in her highchair moving her head back and forth to music, flipping the pages of the board book that she is looking at. She still rubs and scratches everything intently, just as she did in that first moment we laid eyes on her. She glances up frequently while I sit here, to flash me a big smile with her 8 teeth. And then, it's back to the book. Today is "pajama day," and she looks adorable in her polka dot pants and light blue shirt that has "sweet" written on it. And oh, how SWEET, this life with Ahna is.

**Don't give up on my blog yet! You have no idea how much I want to continue what I started, here. I love it. Yes, life itself has had me in its clutches, but I am trying to make myself find a specific time of day to invest in this.**

Thursday, September 11, 2008

still here

In the words from the cartoon that most of us once loved to watch, "Good grief, Charlie Brown!!"

It was an unintentional blog hiatus... it all started with a trip out of town, then settling back in, then simply life itself.. Ya'll know (that's the Southern girl coming out in me:-) what I'm talking about.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for PART 3 of the saga! One thing I am learning about this bloggy world: when writing something long, in sections, I should probably actually write it all before I begin to post. But, oh well. I am a student here, a Freshman, the new kid on the block who has just moved in and doesn't yet know the ropes. I am not blog-savvy yet, nor am I blog-confident.

I can't get over how kind and gracious your comments have been.... via the blog and via personal email. Thank you so much. It is confirmation for me that though I may not know WHAT I want this blog to be, I DO want it to BE.

If you decide to leave a comment, please do tell what YOUR blog routine is. I haven't quite found mine yet. Does it take you a long time to post? Or can you write and publish something in 10 minutes? If you don't post on a blog, but just read, when do you work it into your day?

And by the way, I am looking forward to catching up on your blogs over the next few days. Not only have I been on a hiatus from posting, but from reading blogs, as well.

Oh, and one more thing: my sweet blog friend Lisa at The Long Road to China has bestowed upon me my first blog award! How fun!

I consider it a great compliment. I am not sure yet, what I am to do with my diamonds, or whether I am to pass them on to others, but I will do my research and do the right thing! I guess there are rules that go along with receiving awards in bloggy world?
Thank you, Lisa. It has been a pleasure to get to know you through your blog, as you await your next great treasure.

And finally, thank you all for reading.

Have a really great weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

ahna day revisited: part two

*Before I begin, let me thank you for reading and for your gracious comments. I constantly question myself about what I should record here versus in a personal journal. For now, this seems the most appropriate platform for all these words I have floating in my head.

So, where were we?

The flight to Nanchang was fairly uneventful. Bill did some reading. Eli did some card tricks. Seth and Jacob listened to some music. I had not put my book (Saving Levi) in my carry-on, as I knew that I would not be focused enough to be able to read. We did, of course, keep speaking of the fact that this event was really going to happen. "We're in China. Today is the day. We finally get her." Bill would check the time ever so often. When the day started, he'd said, "8 hours." We both knew what he meant. So, as the day moved on, he'd speak the number of hours it would be before we held her. And we'd just look at each other and smile.

One of the more interesting aspects of the flight turned out to be the lunch meal. Along with a chicken or beef entree, we received our juice of the day; it was "white fungus and pear juice with rock sugar soup." Ever try it? It was of a cloudy consistency with odd-looking speckles inside. None of us drank from that cup. AND when Bill bit into his (quite regular looking) roll, he discovered a good-sized chewy red thing inside. This, our wonderful guide Maggie confirmed, was a large red bean. She said they were very good. Bill did try it, and said the bean was fairly sweet. I passed on the opportunity for this new taste experience.

But, I digress. The flight would last just over an hour longer. I can't express here, the calmness and peace that I was feeling. Sure, my heart felt at times that it was beating 200 times a minute. I jotted on a piece of paper, "Soon. So soon. Doesn't seem real. But it finally is." For the most part, though, I just had an overwhelming sense of quietness in my heart, in my spirit. I knew that whatever the remainder of this day brought, that it was the very thing that God had prepared us for. I spent the remainder of our flight combing through scripture, while some of the other family members napped or read.

Psalm 118:23 "The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Isaiah 25:1 "Oh, Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."

Our plane landed in Nanchang around 1:50 p.m., just a bit ahead of schedule. We retrieved all our carry-on luggage, exited off the plane, and scurried on to wait for our checked luggage. Then almost single file, we marched directly out of that aged, warm, muggy airport to a waiting van. There seemed to be much less conversation in the group now, but maybe I just don't remember it. I'm sure we were all quite distracted with thoughts about that next destination.
I haven't mentioned that we were originally scheduled for a much earlier flight, which would have allowed time for our travel group to make a stop at the hotel where we would be staying in Nanchang. As it turned out, that flight was canceled, accounting for the rushed feeling that this whole experience seemed to carry with it.

Knowing we had no time to spare, since we would already be cutting it close to make it on time to our official "appointment" at the Civil Affairs Office, Maggie was leading us as hurriedly, but as graciously, as possible. Once ouside that airport, I realized that there may not be time for a restroom break for the remainder of the day. So as we're practically jogging to that bus - I asked Maggie about going to the restroom. She looked at me with a question in her eyes as if to ask, "Do you REALLY have to go?" but she did kindly give permission. I rallied the few other moms that needed to go, as well, and we were handed off by Maggie to Mary, our local Nanchang guide whom we had not yet officially met. She rushed us back into the airport - I think now of a school bell ringing and students running off to their classes.... So, back in the airport, she pointed the way, and we hurried off to take care of business as fast as we could. I can almost still smell that restroom, which is not a good thing to have to recall. That turned out to be, by far, one of my worst experiences with a squatty potty room in China.

Back to the bus we all went, at marathon speed (OK maybe not that fast). Maggie was waiting at the door, trying her best to have a patient, smiling face. This time we were near the front of the bus, Seth and Jacob not far behind us, Eli in the very back with his buddies. The Nanchang bus was not nearly as nice or new or comfortable or cool, as our bus in Beijing. There was an air conditioner, but on this particular day in this particular heat, I guess it was trying its best to do the job. I simply cannot overemphasize how steamy it was! Whether inside or outside, the effects of the heat and humidity cut to the bone. We had become accustomed to carrying around bottles of water and drinking as constantly as we could - usually warm water. This day, that had been a bit more difficult, since we couldn't have liquids of any kind in our carry-on luggage, and hadn't had time to purchase water before leaving the airport.

The bus ride lasted about 45 minutes. Mary, using an intercom on the bus, was telling us what to expect once we arrived; telling us about the city and the province where our daughters and sons were born; about the agriculture and economy and poverty level of most of the people who inhabit it. I believe I may have taken some video of what she was saying, because I knew that I could not take it all in at that time. And I didn't, because now I scarcely recall anything she was telling us. I was looking out the windows of the bus at this city, thinking over and over, "This is where our daughter is from." I wanted to appreciate it, see it, experience it. But I couldn't get my mind to wrap all around it, then.

Then we saw the tall building in the distance, and Mary was pointing it out, telling us that our children were waiting for us there. To see the building with our eyes, to know that in a very short time we would meet Ahna, brought a bolt to my heart. It was 15 minutes or so, before we pulled up to that building. And as hastily as we had been moving for the entirety of the day, we piled out of that bus and onto the hot pavement, rallied our families together, and headed into that tall building and straight to the elevators. Maggie and Mary were telling us we would go to the 26th floor. There were lots of Chinese people also waiting for the elevators, peering at us, which we had become accustomed to.

Was this it? No last minute instructions or coaching session or prayer time? Rush, rush, rush. There, the elevator door is opening... pile in before that other crowd does so. Maggie was inside the elevator, already looking filled to capacity, and she says exasperatedly, "Come, come come!!! There are more rooms in here!!!"

Jacob, our 14-year old, was in charge of the video camera; Seth, 17, the camera. We were all just stealing glances at one another, smiling. Eli's face was lit up like a Christmas tree. Sometimes words just aren't needed.

Then we were on the 26th floor and we exited the elevator. We walked a few feet down a dim and stuffy hallway, around a corner, and then entered a large open room with wooden benches lining much of the walls. And there, to our left, sitting on those benches or standing close by, were a few Chinese ladies holding a few Chinese babies. Our babies.

Stay tuned for Part Three.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ahna day revisited: part one

*I warn you: this may be long and boring. I tend to get stuck on details, but in remembering and recording this day, I don't want to leave even a tiny one out.

In the adoption community, the day that you receive your child is widely known as Gotcha Day!. To our family, the day that we got Ahna will always be affectionately named Ahna Day; or maybe Ahna Forever Day. Whatever the title that we decide to appoint to that momentous and extraordinary day in the life of our family, the memories are etched in my mind like an engraving.

July 21, 2008

Sixteen (or so) adults and almost as many children left our hotel in Beijing to embark upon the most long-awaited point in our journey. By the end of this leg of the trip, we would be sitting in a new city, in a new hotel, with the newest member of our family. Traveling by bus, plane, then bus again, we would go from our present location, some 800 miles, to the Civil Affairs Office in Nanchang, China. And within minutes of arriving there....

The day was proving itself to be as hot and humid as those had been before it. When our bus pulled out of the parking lot at 9:15 a.m., the temperature outside read 38 degrees Celcius. That's 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Earlier that morning, looking out our huge window from the 16th floor, we had surmised that this was the smoggiest day yet, since arriving in Beijing. The haze that floated in the air seemed even whiter than usual. And we were headed further south.

We positioned ourselves, Bill and I, near the back of the bus, so that we could sit near the children. Several of them had become fast friends, and loved inhabiting the very back row every time we boarded. We figured it was our turn to keep an eye on them.

The atmosphere inside that bus? I would call it electric: full of the hope and anticipation and the anxiety that almost 3 years of this adoption process had wrought. Could it all finally be culminating in this reunion with our daughters? As the bus traveled on to the airport, some couples sat quietly, seeming deep in their own thoughts. Others chatted away, visiting and laughing with each other. The children, giddy and rambunctious, went about their business as usual, seemingly unaware of the passage they were getting ready to make with their families.

I sat there trying to gather my thoughts, constantly counting bags and cameras to make sure something hadn't been left or misplaced. We had been told by Maggie the day before, that we would need the following items for this day: our Approval of Adoption letter; our Passports; our cameras; our tears. Check. The orphanage donation and gift-giving would take place when we returned to the Civil Affairs office the next day. Today, we would be given our babies and taken to the hotel. She made it all sound so simple.

I jotted down quick prayers in my journal as the bus moved on..."Praying for the transport of our children to the place that we will meet them: for health, safety in the vehicle, that they will be kept hydrated and nourished, that they will rest. Praying that the new sights and sounds they experience will not overwhelm them, but they that they will somehow even feel prepared for what this day will bring upon them." I felt a calm and peace amidst the thrill and anxiety of the day.

We arrived at the airport in Beijing and were greeted upon entrance, by a flock of security personnel with their search dogs. After the dogs had sniffed to their satisfaction, our checking-in process continued without a glitch. We proceeded to find our gate, then tried to get the boys a bite to eat before it was time to board the plane for Nanchang. TCBY. Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were moving fast, finding restrooms, trying to get back to that gate. The boys were hot and tired and argumentative. And maybe, so were the parents.

Snacks eaten and attitudes improved, we boarded the plane for Nanchang. It would be a 2 hour, 4 minute flight. It was just after 12 noon. I was pondering, trying to picture the meeting, seeing if my mind's eye could grasp what our reaction might be to our daughter. How will the boys do? How will Ahna respond to us? I had decided that she would either: 1. shut down and seem unemotional. 2. scream her head off (this would actually be a good thing). 3. be even-tempered, not freak out, and hopefully accept us a bit.

So, the plane flies on, and Part One comes to an end. I certainly planned to get more of this written, but life beckons: Ahna is awake, and a son has already called from school saying I need to bring him something. (the post-time is from last night, but I didn't quite finish until this morning.)

To be continued....

Monday, August 25, 2008

5 weeks ago today....

.... our sweet girl was placed in our arms. She was already part of us...

I am working on remembering and writing the details of that day - Part One will be posted tomorrow.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from the past week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Our 10-year old is on my mind much, these days. He was BABY for a very long time. And tho' he LOVES LOVES LOVES his sister, he is, in many ways, trying to ensure his place, his position, in our home. In our lives.

I'm not sure it's the easiest of things for him adjusting to our new family structure... and I do not want him to think for a minute, that how we feel or think about him is jeopardized even a fraction. I want to see his heart and not just his actions. I want to see HIM.

Written below, is something I wrote in March of this year. Reading it again was a fresh reminder that I need to be very intentional about spending time with my boy.

200 Million Loads of Laundry

It was around 7:15 p.m. Darkness was approaching yet distant. A wonderful, warm air still lingered, and 10-yr. old was taking full advantage of it. Crazy that 5 days ago we had over a foot of snow on the ground!

He had been asking since we arrived home several hours ago, “Will you play with me? After you do this…… and that? And that? And take older brother? Then? Will you play??" Basketball, that is. He LOVES it. Loves it. And in the hustle-bustle of a typical day, I had indeed put him off, thinking of all I had to accomplish inside the house. Tho’ with Dad working late, I continued to be the chosen one, the target, the pick.

So around 7:15 when I pulled back into the driveway after taking older brother, he was there. Waiting with basketball in hand. “Will you play now? Just P I G. Not even HORSE. We’ll just play Pig." My reply, among other words, “ I have 200 million loads of laundry to do!!!!!!!” Of course, the words were spoken with mighty gusto and great meaning. And the very second that the words came out of my mouth I realized their impact. Their power. I instantly remembered that in a few years, I won’t have a 10-year old begging me to play basketball. I’ll only have the 200 million loads of laundry. He'll be off somewhere, finding enjoyment in someone else's company.

So without another word I dropped my purse in the house, and went to play with my son. We actually played a much longer version of Horse, even. And we had fun. I had fun. He kept bringing up the fact that we were playing longer than he thought we would, and I could tell it meant so much to him. When Dad did get home from work, well after dark, Basketball Boy was still in the driveway waiting. They played a game to 108, if I remember correctly.

The laundry? I’m down to 197 million loads, but it will get done, in due time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

school. and life.

School started today. It came crashing in, seemingly out of nowhere. I knew that today was the day, but I don't guess that it had quite sunk in (even after attending the 5th grade orientation 2 nights ago - and how did 5th grade even HAPPEN??). But today came. And we were up bright and early to begin another year of academia and all that it entails.

School supplies had been gathered, lunch accounts paid, quick breakfasts devoured. The messy trail left behind in the wake of the morning's rush only added to the ever-growing messiness and clutter of a home being taken by.... what? Life, I guess. My constant movement seems to produce little or no result whe
n it comes to the keeping of the house, these days.

The photo on the left is the real deal. It was actually taken a few days ago, just before our weekend company arrived. That particular clutter has since been (kind of) cleared, due to the gracious deed of one of our sons. I was thinking at the time, that there is a certain "comfortableness" in being able to leave such a messy area, even when company is due. I have accepted that I will never be the world's greatest housekeeper, the universe's most organized inhabitant. And I am OK with that. Most days. Do I want and need and strive for a certain measure of organization in my life, especially in the area of keeping my home? ABSOLUTELY!!

But this post was not about my housekeeping skills. It was about school. The school day came and went: there was discussion over dinner about classes and teachers and lunchrooms and recess. Dishes were done, laundry was a work in progress as always, sweet Ahna played with and laughed at. School forms were brought to me by the piles and I read and signed and read and signed.

The boys argued, the parents argued with the boys, voices were raised. At one point in the evening I thought of a seashell getting constantly battered by waves, its tough exterior being slowly worn away. I felt like that seashell.

Why do I tell you this? Because it is what is real. In the midst of astonishing blessing, life moves on at a pace that is often difficult to keep up with. Great gifts from the Father. Great responsibility. Forgive me if I speak in riddles. I guess I just needed a bit of a ramble.

But - my life was meant to honor the God who gives wisdom and counsel and all that is needed. And seek to honor Him, I will: even in the daily stuff of life, the seemingly trivial, and the challenges of the mundane. He is sufficient in the big and the small.

Monday, August 18, 2008


This past weekend, we were fortunate enough to have both sets of grandparents visit. It was nice to be over the jetlag and be able to enjoy the time with them. Ahna was a serious charmer and did a fantastic job at keeping us all entertained.

She is beginning to interact with people on a much-less-guarded level. For the most part, once someone has spent a little time talking to her or playing with her, she doesn't mind them patting her back, touching her feet or hands, etc. Picking her up? A different story. She is still most secure in mama's or daddy's arms, which is to be expected and means she is attached to us. (YAY!)

Ahna is even warming up to Boo (our other baby:-), and Boo to Ahna. See Boo taking Ahna a toy to throw? The girl hasn't quite caught on to that game, yet, so Boo will have to be patient. Ahna was too busy examing the underside of that rug.

On Saturday, we relaxed at home with my parents until the afternoon, then went to a local park and strolled for a few minutes.

Brothers took turns pushing sister in the stroller, which she loves. She is totally fascinated by the cup holder .

Then, Jacob decided to take her on the slide. She was very uncertain about that venture.

And even though the sliding didn't go over swimmingly, Daddy wanted his girl to try the swings out. Mama was hollerin' (I mean sweetly saying) to Daddy, that she wasn't going to like the swing, BUT:

A while later and after a burger-and-fries meal at Red Robin, my parents headed for home, around a 4-hr. drive for them.

Ahna was literally giddy about being back home. She is an angel on the go, but is always so happy to return to her comfortable zone. Guess she's gonna be a homebody, like me.

Her diaper was really wet at one point in the evening, so I told Bill to just strip it off, leaving her in her cotton pants only, giving her little butt a break. (sorry to say "butt" in my blog) We were laughing hysterically as she jumped around on the couch, as with every movement her pants moved a little further DOWN. This is the modest photo.

She was loving the newfound freedom!.....

until this happened:

Bill of course loved saying, "I told ya so," because for some reason he MIGHT'VE mentioned that this would happen. I don't think I heard him....... and I have been wanting a new rug, anyway.

To continue the weekend story: Sunday morning, we attended church. I am frustrated that we forgot to photograph Ahna in her pretty dress...

A bit later in the afternoon, Bill's parents arrived. We stayed at home and visited, then grilled steaks for our back porch dinner.

Hope your weekend was enjoyable, too!

This day marks the end of our 4th week with Ahna. It is astounding to think about it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the many faces of ahna

What do a couple of decent naps do for our blossoming girl? Bring out various facets of her personality, silly expressions included!

Monday, August 11, 2008

blog pressure

I think I just nailed it. I officially have blog pressure.

I don't have new pictures to post. The few of you who follow this blog want pictures!

I don't have words to say. (Well, I do, but they seem stuck inside me.) I have found since starting this blog, that I really do LOVE to express myself through my feeble words. And as I surf around and see the beautiful words that OTHER people say; as I see immense creativity written and posted across other blog pages..... well, my insecure self just pops to the surface. But, I don't want to be them. I really do want you to see ME. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The wordless, the tongue-tied, the insecure.

So I will ponder that; I will close this post and spend some time with the One who inspires me, the One who gives me words. He fills me and refreshes me and showers me with good things.

The Lord has indeed showered this family with good things in these past days, weeks, months.

Ezekial 35: 26 I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season: there will be showers of blessing.

I'll be back in 24 hours or so. :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Today, Ahna went to church for the first time ever.

What fun to adorn a sweet girl in pretty dresses: figure out where to place bows in her hair, decide whether or not she should wear a hat....

We even had to SIT in a different pew today, the one in the very back of the sanctuary designated for "Families With Small Children."

We're a family with small children again. :-) Who woulda thought?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

6 days home

We still look at her and marvel that she is really here. When she's awake, we only want to sit and play with her, or just sit and stare at her. The photo on the left is what we see when we go into her room after a nap...pure sweetness. I took the photo, and am surprised Bill let me post it - note the shadow...

She LOVES being taken from her crib; most usually she giggles and twists her little body in an air-dance as she is being lifted into our arms. She is adjusting to the new time zone pretty well (the old one is 12 hours ahead). Naps are still a bit of a challenge. Since she was used to spending so much time in a crib, we are working on teaching her that the crib is for sleep; she'll go down for a nap 3 times before she actually gives in to sleep....

She is changing every day. She now crawls on all fours and doesn't just scoot; we call her a slow-poke because everything she does seems to be in s l o w motion. She has even decided that it's ok to crawl OFF of the area rug in the living room, and explore her way into the kitchen (next to the living room).

Her first appointment with the pediatrician was yesterday, and although she was not thrilled to be there, she did pretty well. She did cling tightly to Daddy through the whole thing. And she does have bilateral ear infections, which we weren't surprised about.

She is cautious, calculated, and careful. Yet she has a light in her eyes and a vibrancy in her smile that speak volumes to us about how much she is growing to love us. And there is nothing like it.

I know you're really here to SEE her, so click HERE.
Daddy had a little photo shoot with her earlier...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Awake before 5:00 a.m., I decide to go ahead and get started with the day. Envisioning my cup of coffee and Bible in the stillness of the living room, I quietly walk down the stairs. I make a pot of coffee and prepare Ahna's bottle for her next feeding. Bill has left a note saying she was fed at 12:15 a.m.; he wasn't feeling well yesterday, so was awake when she was, and left me sleeping.

Cup of coffee in hand, I head to my spot on the couch, turn on the lamp, and sit. Within seconds I hear her rustling about in her crib. Gladly, I set the coffee aside and get upstairs to her room, before the monitor wakes Bill. Thumb in mouth, towel pulled up to her face, she rolls over and sees me. Gives me a slow but steady grin. My heart leaps that she is happy to see me. She reaches up with one arm, and I pick her up. Together, we go back to the living room, to my spot on the couch that I am happy to share.

She drinks hungrily from her bottle. Still, she won't allow us to put solid food of any type in her mouth. I put the new Hillsong United CD in, pick her up, and we sway to the music. Inspiring and beautiful words of praise come from the CD player, and my heart is renewed. I rejoice this morning again, at this little gift, swaying back and forth in my arms. Music, she has heard before. I'll never know if someone sang to her, or if she heard music from the T.V. that was in her orphanage room. But she knows music. We go near the stereo speaker so that she can touch it and feel it vibrate. She still wants to touch, scratch, rub everything.

We move to the floor and play silly mocking games and scratch favorite board books, She pulls up to stand proudly at the couch. Trusting enough to stand without hands, but not strong enough to keep herself up, she leans back against me, head turned to look at me, grinning. A sweet baby girl. Her eyes are beginning to see that we are constant. We tell her all the time, "See, we're still here.... we're not going anywhere..."

And we are thankful that she is showing more and more, that she believes us.

It is a good morning.

Monday, August 4, 2008

We are home

From Bill - I know many of you are wanting to know how we fared getting home. Well, we made it. 30 hours from Guangzhou to Cincinnati. A long and endless day. But we were so thrilled to see so many faces at the airport. It was overwhelming. Thanks to all those who made it, we won't ever forget it.

Cindi is a serious writer, and the demands of being home are preventing her from writing what she really wants to say. You will hear from her soon. I have posted a slide show that captures some of the event as well as a few pictures the night before our departure.

We will have some photos of Ahna at home very soon.

I can say that this girl, Ahna, has overwhelmed me. My heart has been enlarged by her. This morning I went to her room and got her out of her crib. She is my little angel princess. On my way to get her, I thought how foreign those types of words were for me, prior to this journey. Yet now its as though those words have always been there, and flow so naturally. While she has perhaps always been a part of my heart, she has surely stolen it now.

Click here for some more photos

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Final Post from China

We did a little shopping today and had the first rain during our entire stay in Guangzhou. You could actually see blue sky at times. Amazing!

We are tired and frayed, and so ready to be home. We can't wait to get up in the morning and start our return voyage.

We fly Delta flight 18 from Shanghai to Atlanta, and arrive in Atlanta at 6:45 pm, where Ahna will officially become a US citizen. We leave Atlanta on flight 1708 at 9:30pm with a 10:56 landing in Cincinnati's CVG airport. Ahna looks forward to seeing friends and family at the airport, and oh by the way, we will be with her.

See you all soon!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

winding down, one more day

From Bill: Internet very slow, not sure if this will work, but am hitting "post" anyway.

Simmons Family, all together

Our attempt at the red couch photo at the White Swan

It's 9:00 pm here. Internet has run very slow for the last couple of nights around this time. I am going to post pictures while I can. They cover 2 days. Enjoy.

Find Pictures Here

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

day 13 - guangzhou, and the countdown to home

What do you get when you try to photograph about 13 babies and young children in the middle of the afternoon during naptime? A little bit of chaos! Add to that: siblings and parents and other family members, the very patient travel guides with 5 or 6 cameras each around their necks...... and it is just pure craziness! Poor fussy babies - all so that we self-absorbed parents could get the group photos and the famous red-couch photos, that we all wanted.....

So, after the photo shoot, our trip took its final turning point. We traveled to the U.S. Consulate here in this capitol of the Guangdong Province. There our entire travel group went up the escalators to the 5th floor, where there were probably 20 or so other adoptive families waiting. After getting in line and showing our passports, we took a seat for just a few minutes. An official stepped forward and congratulated us all, then asked us to raise our right hands. We then swore before the powers that be, that everything we'd signed and reported during this long adoption paperwork process, was true. It was that simple. We were not able to take a camera in that place, so it is just a memory to have in our heads and hearts. There, they handed us Ahna's passport and visa, and her very valuable immigration papers which we will carry into the United States. And the moment we land on U.S. soil and meet with immigration authorities, our daughter will be declared a citizen of our great country.

It is with bittersweetness that I write this. How blessed we are that she is ours. But there is a tinge of sadness for the country she is leaving behind. Some would think me crazy for thinking such, but it is hers. This China. Our sweet guide, Maggie (who has lived in China always), reminded us all today, that though our children are American, they will also always be sons and daughters of China. She said during the first few days of our trip, that although we are visitors in this country now, once we've adopted our Chinese children, we are considered friends. She asked us to appreciate the homeland where our daughters came from, and to teach them to do the same. And we will do our best.

Most of the families from our travel group leave tomorrow morning for travel home.... we are ready to go, but must wait until Friday morning. Since we were able to fly using air miles, our flight leaves later....

Sorry to leave you with my mixed emotions, but the internet here is really acting up tonight. We will not post photos until tomorrow, since the service is not lasting but moments at a time. I know...... how dare we!

So, until tomorrow....

Monday, July 28, 2008

is it day 12 in china? i am so losing track....

It's Cindi....

I gave up last night on getting to type anything, when Mr. Photographer's "I'll be done in 20 minutes" turned into an hour, then I got sleepy and lost track and thought I'd get a good night's sleep, and left him with his photos and the computer.

It's a bit after 9 p.m. here in Guangzhou, and Mr. P. and Jacob and Eli are just returning from McDonalds. Eli didn't fare so well with our yummy meal at The Banana Leaf tonight. He was doing great with all the new food when we first arrived in China, but I think he's ready for some roast and mashed potatoes. As we all are. He did try a little pork neck and banana pancakes, but the lamb and chicken cartilage skewers just didn't do alot for him. There was also some sort of citrusey chicken and a noodle-bean sprout-shrimp dish, both of which were quite good. We went to the restaurant with our travel group, so Maggie and Rosa, our amazing guides, took care of ordering for us.

And about the trip to McD's: on the way back from there, as they were crossing a pedestrian bridge, my guys were asked if they wanted some "Hashish?? Marijuana??" Of course, Mr. P. politely declined. "Bu yao, xie xie." (Don't want, thanks).

The earlier part of our day was spent relaxing in the hotel room before meeting our group for an afternoon trip to a temple. Honestly, I don't remember its name, but it's in the photos. I only remember the heat. :-) It was more of a museum and had beautiful relics from past centuries. It was pretty much an open-air courtyard with rooms of art and shops, which were not air conditioned. So, since it was 100 degrees by 9 a.m. this morning and probably 110 when we were there, I pretty quickly took Miss Ahna back to the waiting bus. Let me tell ya, the heat and humidity and smog here, are every bit as REAL as one reads that they are. When we woke this morning, I mentioned that it looked like it was going to be a cloudy day. Mr. P. reminded me that there was not a cloud in the sky.... there is just this white haze that hovers over the city. It is something else.

We also spent about an hour on Shamian Island, which is a short bus ride from our hotel. We'll shop there more, later this week, but today we headed straight for the White Swan Hotel and browsed a bit, before plopping a sleeping Ahna down on a famous red couch to nap for about half an hour.

Our little flower, or Bean Sprout as her daddy has called her today, just keeps blooming a bit more every day. Her sweet high-pitched giggle comes easily, and she evokes much collective laughter out of this family. We get back to this room, and she starts smiling; then we approach the bed and she starts leaning back, as she anticipates falling onto that mattress to just PLAY and cuddle with her towel and her family. Family. I think she knows we're hers, now. She knows that we're madly in love, smitten, completely taken with who she is.

To God be the glory!

And one last note: Ahna is officially cleared to be a U.S. citizen, and tomorrow we attend a Swearing-In Ceremony for her at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. Yay!

Today's Photo's Here, by Mr. P!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

China and a girl

Bill posting-

Its late and Cindi could not stay up to wait on the photos to post, so I will leave a quick update.

We had a great day today again. This little girl likes to wake up slow, but she finishes strong and hard. The video clip is from late tonight before bed, and you will see what I mean.

She really has become Ahna in these last days. She has just been a joy to be around. It just makes your heart smile all day long.

We were up this morning to join the group on a shopping trip to Shamian Island. It is the required stop for all adoptive parents. Think Gatlinburg shopping for adoptive parents and you get the picture. Ahna fell asleep in her carrier and got a good nap in.

We came back to the hotel around lunch time and went to the Pizza Hut next door. It was either actually better than home, or we just missed home a lot. I don't know which one was truer, but we loved it. Ahna did not like pizza, and still thinks we are crazy for eating solid food.

We had some chill time in the afternoon and Ahna took her nap. We later got a taxi and ventured out on our own for some shopping. We found a Chinese restaurant to eat at while we were out. At the restarant next door they were pulling eels and fish from live tanks and smacking them on the sidewalk to prepare them for the chefs. We passed on the live seafood, but were the only anglos in the restautant. It was a lot of fun. We stuck to things we could identify and somehow we never got the rice we ordered.

Back to the hotel by 9:30 and time for Ahna to make us all laugh until our sides hurt. At least a good hour of hilarity. She is something else.

Tomorrow our consulate appointment comes. We don't actually go, our guides take our paperwork on our behalf. Then Tuesday we go for the swearing in of citizenship for Ahna. We have to stay around the hotel until noon tomorrow in case we have to sign something or these is a question about our documents.

That's where we are now. We continue to spend every moment reminding this little wonder that we will be here everytime she wakes up. That we won't be going anywhere and that she can count on us. She is learning that it is true. And the truth is changing her. It is a beautiful thing to behold.

Here is the video for the day:

Here are today's photos, sorry if there are too many

Saturday, July 26, 2008

our little hermit crab - Day 10: Guangzhou

I thought today of days on the beach when the boys would "chase" hermit crabs, as if they could really catch up to one. Hermit crabs, with their borrowed shells discarded by other crustaceans and found on the beach, and taken on by Mr. Hermit as a temporary home. A shelter from the elements. A haven and a place to hide. According to Wikipedia, this name of the hermit crab is a reference to the idea of a "hermit living alone in a small cave." There is, however, a species of hermit crabs who have "abandoned seashells for a free-living life." One of these is the King Crab. Or in our family's case, the Queen Crab.

Today, we have seen Ahna creep out from beneath her protective shell in a miraculous way, and we praise the Lord for His work in her sweet life. It's as if she all of a sudden decided that her "borrowed shell," her protective coating, was just too heavy to bear anymore, and she just ran out from under it. Oh, she still hides and retreats, but we see clearly that she's starting to discard that shell that was never hers to begin with. It was but temporary....

She has let us smooch her to pieces today; has giggled and been the silliest little girl; has mocked us and rolled and is scooting herself all over the place; and has loved being pulled up so that she can try to stand. There has been very little resistance to our affection today, and it has been a blast to watch. Yesterday, she was the little one who cried or whined most of the time. Today, she has had a smile for most anyone who tries to get one out of her. We know that there is still much adjustment to be made, but we are thrilled at the happiness and light we have seen in her today. (most of the photos posted today are of yesterday's events, but we'll try to get back on track tomorrow.)


Not much to say about our day, since Bill's photos tell the story so well. The medical exam experience was just like we'd heard it would be: big crowds, lots of crying babies, and waiting. Ahna did weigh in at 21 pounds! For a baby who doesn't yet eat solid food, she is coming right along. :-) The boys stayed in the hotel while we took Ahna for the medical exam. Eli still has a fever and sore throat, but when he's had Motrin he feels like a new guy. Thanks for praying. He read all those comments today, and I know he appreciated them.

Tonight we walked a couple of blocks to an Italian restaurant, where they have purified water and ice. Cold drinks were wonderful! Most of the families from our travel group went; what a supportive, bonded group we have become. It is great to be a part of it. I'm sure a few photos of that meal will be in the next grouping by our resident photographer, Bill.

That's it for now. More tomorrow!


From Bill:

We are sorry we weren't able to post anything new yesterday. Cindi will post more details later, but I thought I would feed folks' hunger for photos this morning.

We left our hotel in Nanchang about 3:00 yesterday and got to our hotel in Guangzhou at 9:00 p.m. This morning we were up and at 'em to take Ahna for her Visa photo and her medical exam. The photos in the link cover this journey.


Click Here for Today's Photos

Friday, July 25, 2008

don't hate us :-)

It's after midnight, we've had a busy day of travel, and we're pretty tired. Please forgive us for not posting photos today.

All is well....Ahna is showing us a little bit of her true self every day, and we are loving it. She is just precious.

Do pray for Eli. He woke with a fever today, has felt quite ill with a sore throat and body aches, and then got ill after the plane trip and vomited... He feels pretty rough.

We are starting to miss home, but are THANKFUL to be here, and are looking forward to exploring this even more southern area of China. Tomorrow we go for Ahna's medical exam, which puts us one step closer to meeting all of China's requirements.

Our love to you all. Thanks for reading and keeping up with us.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 8: still in Nanchang, until tomorrow

Ni hao!

This will be short, as I've been having a tough time getting photos to upload, and it is already 12:30 a.m. here.
The pictures will do most of the talking.

Last night, Daddy gave Ahna her first bottle. We had thought it best for only one of us to do so for at least several days, but since she had a rough day and refused a bottle from Mommy......

Today, she awoke in a really sweet mood, so after her morning bottle, I dressed her and we had a little photo shoot. She loves the pretty shirt Aunt Becki gave her.

She invited Eli in for the shoot......

Then spent lots of time playing with he and Seth on the bed, since Daddy and Jacob were away, visiting the orphanage. (be sure to see that post, below.)

She LOVES this towel, and has chosen it over all the pretty blankets I brought for her to "attach" to. :-) She has slept with a little towel in the orphanage......
"Did you say something to me? I'm busy scratching the fabric on this chair...."

At some point in the morning, our laundry was delivered. We should probably bring a few more clothes next time we come to China. We heard it was inexpensive to get laundry done, but when there are 5 of you..... the yuan do add up. (yes, I know there are 6 of us - but I don't send Ahna's laundry out. :-)

Eli brushed up on some more card-trick skills.

Then Bill and Jacob were back, and we spent lots of time talking about their trip and looking at pictures and video.

At 5:00 p.m. we met our wonderful travel friends and guides, loaded up on the bus, and went to a few porcelain shops. This province is quite famous for its porcelain, and we saw some beautiful items. The store clerks followed close behind, holding the pieces up to the light and chattering about I'm not sure what.

Then, off we went for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which included entertainment. Lots of music and dancing as part of their show - when we filed out after our meal, there was a Michael Jackson sort of singer performing. Interesting.

After dinner, we loaded back up on the bus and drove about 15 minutes to a place on the famous Gan River, where we watched a lovely light show set to music. It was hot and humid and there was not a breeze anywhere. Even my shirt was soaked when we left. Did I mention that it is hot here, in southern China?

My camera doesn't show the pretty lights above the water, but our girl was completely mesmerized.

Then, it was back to the bus to head back to the hotel.

This is what she does EVERY time we get on the bus. She hates the bus. She has gotten quite a reputation for being the "cryer" of the bunch. :-) That is SO OK with us...... we know she is just learning how to deal with this new life of hers. She doesn't yet know how amazing it will be.

Once back at the hotel, she was a happy camper immediately.... you can't see her grinning, but she was.

They're all sleeping soundly now, so I must get some rest, as well. Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Guangzhou, where we will be for the remainder of our time in China. I feel an attachment to this province where our daughter was born, and hope to come back some day to explore it more.

Until next time, zai jien!

Oh, and one last thing: we read your comments and emails daily, and SO SO SO appreciate every one. Thank you. It is so good to hear from friends and family while we're here.

Another quick video

More posting later, just thought some of you might enjoy another short clip from July 22.

A path to the beginning

From Bill:
If there are spelling errors I will correct later.

Today was a journey to Ahna's beginnings. Through circumstances that only God could arrange, 6 of us, (including my son Jacob) were able to make a trip to the orphanage today. It was 2 and a half hours each way, and worth every minute of the ride.

The journey out of Nanchang revealed a nation in contrast. Outside the already confused Nanchang, is a countryside that returns you to China as it has been for centuries. Rice and clay are the main sights to be seen. We must have passed 50 brick making factories along our journey. But, Jiangxi province is the largest rice producing province in China. Today many if not most of this rice is farmed by hand and not by machines. We passed rice paddy after rice paddy being worked by hand. They must plant and reap 3 times a year with almost no rest for the weary. Most of the farmers must dry the rice by the side of the road since they cannot afford the machinery required to dry rice. This is the type of community into which Ahna was born.

If you have been to any developing nation in the world and seen poverty first hand then you will understand the surroundings into which our precious daughter was born. Circumstances that we will never know or understand led to her being placed into the care of this orphanage; our day's destination.

The road we traveled was rough. It reminded me of places in Africa that I lived in the past. Once roads are bad, they are just bad, and narrow to nearly impassable at points. So we went to the middle of nowhere, 2.5 hours from Nanchang, and then went a little further to get to Ahna's home for the past year of her life. Such a small village, Za. Yet, surprisingly there is an oasis where the orphanage is situated. Some new apartments have been built and the orphanage is new as well. The director later told us that they only moved into this facility in May of 2007. Ahna was found July of 2007, only 2 months after they had moved here.

Our tour of the facility was welcoming and well hosted. While I would not wish this place on any child, I was prepared for much worse. I believe all of us who made the trip were relieved that the conditions were not worse. The room that Ahna was in had twelve babies on this day, and 2 nannies caring for them all. These precious little faces all gathered around in walkers and potty seats was certainly pulling at my heartstrings. Would that I could have simply picked a couple of the precious ones up and taken them with me.

We discovered that another baby in our group, Li Ming, fromdatingtodiapers , was in the crib next to our Ahna. What a special bond for our families. The most touching discovery I made was the location of Ahna's crib. Seen in this picture:

Since we have had Ahna she has been obsessed with touching our wooden headboard in our room. It was so obvious why after seeing this. While many of the beds were out in the open, Ahna's was up against a wall. She was able to sit and play with the wall, like a headboard while in her crib. It made tears come to my eyes as I thought about her sitting in this little bed playing. She also curled up with the towel that was in her bed as a blanket. This explained the affinity she had for our hotel bathroom handtowels.

Seeing the porch outside her room where her little referral photo was taken, the tv inside her room (which we discovered she loves yesterday), and the area where she would take a bath somehow all helped to weave part of the fabric of her story into ours. Pieces of thread for a larger piece of fabric.

It was worth every minute of that rough road to see the part of my daughter's life, It truly was an errand spent on a path to her beginning. One which helped me see into a part of my daughter that otherwise would have been forever lost. Now, it is a treasure to be cherished and understood.

I love this little girl. We are blessed indeed.

Here are more pictures from my journey