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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 7: Nanchang - it's MaDonnowwws.... not McDonald's

"I can mock Eli! And my jammies are too small!"

Turns out the taxi driver (see post below), didn't quite understand that my guys were going to McDonald's. He dropped them off at the local WalMart instead, where somehow, Bill was able to communciate their intended destination. So, after about a 10 minute stroll, they did end up at Ronald's eat-o-rama, and enjoyed some good ole American fast food (which Bill doesn't dare eat when we're in the good ole USA:-) They came back to the hotel raving about their COLD cokes - they actually ordered their drinks WITH ICE for the first time since we've been in China. Now, that is quite a risky thing, but hopefully their tummies will survive the trauma. Eli told me they didn't actually EAT any of their ice.

They apparently had a very eventful ride in their Nanchang taxi, and were thankful that the driver ended up MISSING the ten people they thought he was going to hit! One of the boys said riding in the taxi was like being in a video game. :-)

Side note: we have gotten quite used to room temperature (which usually means lukewarm) drinks since we've been here. We order our drinks with NO ice, and only drink bottled water.

It has been a fairly laid back day here. Since missing a group event we didn't know about, we have just mostly hung out in the hotel room. We did go for a stroll around the hotel. We put Ahna into the carrier for the first time, which she totally fought. She did fall asleep after a few minutes, though, so I got to hold a peaceful baby for a while. It has been a tougher day for her; on top of being sick with a horrible cough and congestion, she has been crying her eyes out and voicing her anger and frustration loudly. It has been more difficult to console her today; I want so badly to just be able to pick her up and love on her and make all her troubles vanish. It is hard watching her try to cope and understand and grieve, and not be able to instantly fix it for her.

Bill and the older boys did go to a temple of some sort today, which you'll see in the photos. They think it was a Hindu temple. ? The area around this hotel is filled with street vendors, groups of men playing card games, and people just sitting out in the hundred degree heat. Mopeds and bicycles fill the streets, and it seems like a miracle to watch the cars veer around them without hitting them.

Anyway, enjoy the photos from the day. Actually, the first several are from last night (the bath, etc.) when our little angel was a bit happier. And by the way, Hannah: the outfit you picked out is just the CUTEST on her! Sorry there aren't more pics in it; she wasn't in the mood to sit up today, and kept laying herself back. :-)

Today's photos.....

Stay tuned......

video minute from July 22... jacob & ahna

Good morning, friends and family! (morning to you, anyway.)

Check out this short but sweet video from yesterday. Today hasn't been as much fun for Ahna, but we know that many happy days are ahead.

Hope this works!!
(Oh, well.... it doesn't work!) So sorry! Bill is out for a trip to McDonald's with the boys, but as soon as he's in I'll have him fix this. Might wanna say a prayer for them; they headed out with their handy-dandy Mandarin phrase book, and were taking a taxi to McDonald's. You don't even WANT to know about Nanchang traffic laws..... oh yeah, there are none. :-) Anyway, they could be in another Chinese province for all I know.

But then again, isn't "McDonald's" a universal word?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 6 - Nanchang - progress....

8:55 p.m.

It's hard to believe we've had our girl for over 24 hours, and i
t's amazing to us, the transformation that is already taking place. She is lying over there now, doing her playful little "ahhh ahhh" sounds, seeming as content as can be. To say she was beside herself, when we got her, is an understatement. And she has cried and cried and cried some more. But she is also realizing that we 5 are not leaving her, and I'm pretty convinced that she is starting to believe she might really like us.

I was thinking she might make a few baby steps towards accepting us today, but in fact, she has made long strides. It has been precious. She woke up this morning, after sleeping all night, and within several minutes decided it was time to smile at me. We were surprised and thrilled! It was so much fun to see that silly little curve of her mouth as I kissed her sweet feet. Last night's bottle was given with her turned away from me, facing outward, after much prodding. With her last bottle of this evening, she was cradled in my arms leaning towards me, looking straight into my eyes. Good signs of attachment.

On bottles and feeding: our guide brought us some Chinese formula and cereal last night, since we were given nothing by the orphanage caretakers. Often, families will receive at least a packet of the formula the child has been taking. Not us. She has taken her formula and cereal mixture well from her bottle; we haven't been successful at getting her to take any solid food at all. But that will come.

Our "aahh aaah" happy sounds have turned into full-blown fussiness..... but I will try to finish this post. We are slowly forcing her to be comforted by us. It is much easier to lay her down and let her work it out, but we want her to know that WE can console her. She does fight and pull away from us, but it's getting better. She is able to be consoled by both Bill and me, but not all the time. She does love to be carried by him facing outward, checking out her world.

The boys have slowly inched their way in. Well, Eli has come crashing in, but is that a surprise? She truly has responded beautifully to them. By this evening, Jacob was getting a nearly belly-laugh out of her. And not an hour later, she was mocking Eli doing gorilla chest-beating and even letting out a little yelp. Too funny. Seth is approaching her in a very cautious manner, but she already looks at him as if she trusts and knows him. Bill had planned to download a few short video pieces, but the last couple of days got the best of him, and he is snoozing. Maybe tomorrow.

Developmentally, she of course, seems delayed. I belie
ve that as the days pass and she continues to spread her wings with us, the real picture will unfold. She is already proving us wrong in a few areas. For instance, a bit earlier in the evening I was sharing with another mom that Ahna absolutely freaks when we try to stand her up. She was "making us think" that she has very little leg strength; when we put our hands on her torso and try to put her in a standing position, she would visibly shake and look terrified and instantly start to cry. Well, tonight in her little crib, she, after much work, pulled herself to a standing position. She had NO IDEA what to do with herself once there, but she did it. She does roll from stomach to back and back to stomach easily, and can also put herself in a sitting position from lying down. And she scoots on her belly to get around. She's only done that once, but she was moving pretty well. Another thing I've noticed is that she doesn't sit up straight. She was probably in some type of seat most of the time, when she wasn't in a crib, so she has an extreme "slumpy" torso. When she's sitting on the bed playing, she'll almost fold her body halfway down, with her head hanging, as well. It makes holding her even a challenge, 'cause she's not "helping" at all; she just wants to slump down.

Her fine motor skills will need some attention. We can't get her to grasp anything at all, whether it's a Gerber snack with the pincher postion, or picking up a toy. Grace, who is our dear friends' 9-month old daughter, plans to show Anha "the ropes." :-) Ahna scratches at everything, mostly using her thumb and forefinger. When she's fussing, she crosses two of her fingers (photo below) and sucks her thumb (happy, Aunt Becki?:-) And she'll sit forever and just stare at her crossed fingers; and she plays with her feet as if she just loves them: twirls and twirls them at the ankle, uses them to try and get something closer to her... it seems pretty clear to us that she was not exposed to playing with toys.

As you can see from the pictures, she is a healthy size! I'm thinking she weighs at least 20 pounds; her 12-18 month clothes are fitting perfectly. And she looks so adorable in them!! Tomorrow I plan to practice putting a bow in her hair, but if she doesn't like it, we'll skip it. Hannah, she will have "your" outfit on, tomorrow, and we'll get lots of pictures!

It is now 10:50p.m., since I was distracted quite a few times once I started trying to type this. I know this post is more like reading a nurse's chart on a patient's progress, but I hope it gives you some insight into how things are going here with our Precious Ahna. Speaking of her name: we have been using her Chinese name, since she responds to it..... we say "Yi Nan" and she looks straight at us. We plan to slowly work her new name in with it somehow, over the next several days.

More tomorrow on the events of today, here in this capitol of the Jiangxi Province of China, Nanchang. (prounounced Nan - chung) Thankfully, after a busy start, it was a much more laid back kind of day. I think all the families here, needed that.

Let me continue to tell you that we appreciate your thoughts and prayers and comments. They mean so much. And while I can't respond to all your kind messages while here, I will try to do so once we are back home.

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."

Here are more pretty baby pictures for today

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ahna has arrived...

This is Bill. I won't post much, I know you really want to click on the link below and look at pictures. Cindi is exhausted. We both are. Nothing can prepare you for the amount of energy that is just extracted from you. All at once. The travel, jet lag, eating, more travel, nerves, surface of the sun heat finally take their toll.

All day long we had the most surreal feeling. Can this really be happening? Is this us? Will we really have a daughter in hours, then minutes, then seconds? And bam, you have a crying baby in your arms. Inconsolably so. And off you go.

No time to unpack, organize, figure out where things are. Just bang, you are in the hotel, to the room, and trying to figure out what to do with this new blessing. I finally figured out that she was quiet if I held her facing out from me and walked around. Cindi went downstairs to work on our paperwork, since I was working some magic at the moment.

After a while, I decided to take our angel down to see her mother. I found her mom in the paperwork room of the hotel with all the other adoptive families. Cindi barely had her eyes open. She was exhausted and dehydrated. I had to rush downstairs with a baby in my arms and get my wife some water and quick.
I forced Cindi to drink. Ahna had fallen asleep in my arms and I left her in our room with our two oldest. I returned downstairs to Cindi. We finished our paperwork and immediately Cindi had to go leave her lunch in the bathroom of the hotel. I took her up to the room and she fell on the bed and began the road to recovery.

Whew. Later, around 8:00 I finally took two of the boys down to eat. While we were away, Ahna decided she could take a bottle. Cindi was thrilled. Later we had some special times with her when she sat on the bed and played and were quiet. Still no smile out of her, but I can tell she has one in there.

It is 11:20 here and Ahna is alseep and so is Cindi. We have to get up tomorrow and fill 4 hours of paperwork and official appointments. In the blistering heat, in buildings with no ac, with our baby. And I have no idea where all our things are. The morning will come too quickly.

But, of all things, I praise God for Ahna. She is so sweet. Her unrest is a good sign. She misses people she knew which will bring both grief, but new attachments to us as well. She is without a blemish on her body and has the brightest eyes. She can't stop watching Eli. Pray for Cindi that she will rest well and recover during the night.

Pray also for one of the babies in our group, which was sick and dehydrated. They took her to the hospital and I have not heard a report. Pray for all 7 families here. May God give all of us wisdom beyond our own.

Okay, so I lied about not giving a long post. Anyway, here is today's photo link.

Here are more of photos of our day

Day 5 - Nanchang - WE HAVE HER

We got to Nanchang around 2:15pm Beijing time. Straight to the Civil Affairs Office. She was not happy for a long time. She is not sure yet about these new faces. But, she sleeps finally, after much, much crying. So much more to come, but here's what you want. She is beautiful, and appears to have been well taken care of.

We are busy trying to get air conditioning fixed in our hotel rooms. I am recovering from a minor pass-out episode a while ago, but we are good. And we promise the full story later. We will have tons of photos and video.

Thank you for praying, for thinking of us, for your messages.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 4 - Beijing - almost there, ahna....

8:15 p.m. Beijing time.

As I sit down to write this, my heart is nearly beating out of my chest and my fingers are shivering, just thinking of what the next 24 hours will bring. I don't know how well I'll do
with a blog post, but hopefully we'll at least have some great photos for you to look at.

Today, we have attended a Christian Church service, had 2 more Chinese meals, and scaled the Great Wall of China. OK, maybe just a bit of the wall. In addition, we spent a little time learning about the importance of jade to the Chinese people, were given the opportunity to purchase some of this jade, and went to the Friendship Store in Beijing, where we were also given ample opportunity to buy every kind of trinket you could think of.

The church service we attended this morning was not held in a traditional church building, but in a theatre. We
were told by Maggie, our trusty guide, that by order of the "police station," this can not be called a church. It is a place open only to foreigners of China, so Maggie has never been inside. We had to show our passports twice, and I was wanded by the security personnel. The service itself included some worship songs, one of which was sung in English, the others in Mandarin. They were beautiful songs, and it was touching and humbling to be part of that multi-cultural experience. The message was given in English, then translated to Mandarin.

On to the Great Wall... We had less than two hours to spend there, and the heat of today equaled that of yesterday. Actually, Bill will tell you about our fun time at The Wall a bit later.

(Ok its later -- There is not much I can say about The Wall. A few thoughts. Its steeper than you think. There were not as many people as we thought. It was worth seeing for sure. And the pictures that are on the link, say it all. If you want history on it, look it up on Wikipedia. You don't need me. Enjoy the photos later; after all, it's all about Ahna at this point!)

Maggie told us that the Great Wall is usually much more crowded and "very loud," but since people are having a harder time getting Visas into the country because of the Olympics, the crowds were way down today.

I will close for now and start going through Ahna's bag. All her things are separated into different ziploc bags and have been closed up in the duffel bag we brought them in. We have had a bottle sitting out, her little diaper tote, and one of her blankets. Everything else - put away. Until now. I opened the bag when we first came back to the room tonight, and that's when the butterflies started and the inability to concentrate. I want to have beautiful, meaningful words to describe what this is like, so that I never forget this feeling. But, words seem to fail me now. My heart is full, and my eyes are open to this blessing that the Lord is giving. He is so faithful and He is so good. Every bit of what He has done has been good, teaching us patience and trust and contentment, while we waited on Him. And now to have this gift at hand, to feel so lavished with love by my Father in heaven, is more than can be described.

So, I'll get our little bag ready for Ahna. We'll take a bottle, water, a formula pack (I purchased the single-use type), an outfit, a blanket, some Gerber snacks, a toy. Hopefully, when we receive Ahna, her caretaker will have some of her Chinese formula to give us, but we will be prepared, just in case. We and 5 other families leave this hotel at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, and will arrive in Nanchang around 2:30 p.m. From the airport, we will go directly to the Civil Affairs Office - we think it's about a 45 minute drive. And at the Civil Affairs Office, we will receive our daughter. Ahna will placed into my arms (or Bill's), and she will instantly be ours to hold forever.

Today, she spent the day with her little friends for the last time. To her, it was an ordinary day, no different from all the other days she had spent in recent times. This evening, she had her last supper at the orphanage, probably congee or some sort of soup. She was readied for bed, given her bottle, and laid down in her crib. I hope she was given extra hugs and kisses and some tender loving care. Tonight, she sleeps for the last time in her orphanage crib, probably with her crib-mate.

And tomorrow, Ahna's life, our lives, will change forever. She will never be an orphan again. I can't begin to write that story yet, but I'm so thankful that God already has.

It means so much to have friends and family along for this journey.... thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and for your kind comments on this blog.

Today's Photos - The Wall

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 3 - Beijing

Blog post Part 1

While riding on a bus at 12:30 p.m. today:

Even though we will go to 3 popular tourist attractions today, it seems our time is spent not so much learning about Chinese culture, but about getting to know the families in our travel group a bit. There are 13 families, all of which are here for ONE thing: to get their daughters or sons. This is the first day that we’ve all been together, since most everyone arrived in Beijing last night. For a couple more days we will sight-see and enjoy Chinese cuisine, and continue to recover from jet-lag. (So far I haven’t spoken to anyone who slept through the night.)

Tiananmen Square

Forbidden City

Summer Palace

We’ve been to the first two already today, and will go the Summer Palace after lunch. It is so hot today, and there are no clouds to shield the ferocity of the sun. The humidity is quite high, as well, making the temperature all the more toasty. We walk around with the droves, shoulder to shoulder, and constantly trying to navigate through groups of people to stay in close proximity to our own group.

Our guide, Rosa, is a like our mother duck. She waves her little blue America World flag as she walks along, to keep all her little ducklings following close behind. She leads, we follow. She shares about the different places we visit, the ancient history inside these walls, but it is very difficult to follow her soft-spoken voice. There are so many people here, so many other sounds competing with her words.

We are all trying to stay hydrated, drinking lots of water, making sure our kids drink lots of water. We take many pictures, get so much of this captured on video, wipe the sweat away, move onward with the throngs of people. This is a tough day to absorb information. It seems enough of a task just to stay ahead of the heat and keep the 5 members of our family together, then the 38 in our group together.

It is now 9:15 p.m. in Beijing. It feels GOOD to be back in the hotel room, snug in this bed. It was quite a day. We sleep 2 more nights, then we fly to Nanchang. I believe the flight takes a couple of hours, but am not sure, since we don’t have our detailed itinerary for that day, yet. Within a few hours of arriving there, we will have Ahna. And there I end this post.

Part 2

Miscellaneous Info. for the Day:

1. Our guides for this trip are Rosa and Maggie. They work with America World, our adoption agency, but are employees of a Chinese company that works for the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA). They have worked together for 6 years (I think), and will be with us every step of the way until we leave this country with our daughter.

2. There are throngs of people in this city. Everywhere. All the time. Tony, our guide from OCDF our first day here, told us: there are 14 million people in Beijing; 8 million bicycles; 3 million cars.

3. Umbrellas are standard accessories here, and are used to keep out the sun’s rays more than they’re used to keep out the rain. Many times my scalp has been grazed by passing umbrellas.

4. I have been to the much talked about squatty potty in China. And NO, there was no tissue provided. Do take your own. And do not drop tissue in to said squatty potty before using it, as it will be of no use to you, then. I know this from experience.

5. Speaking of potty: Day before yesterday as we were walking the streets to find food (actually a restaurant), we came across a mom holding her baby over an overpass to potty. Think Michael Jackson. There were 4 busy lanes of traffic below, but when a baby’s gotta go, a baby’s gotta go. So, I wonder which vehicle got plastered? This photo shows the Chinese split pants the children wear here. We saw this sweety today.

The end. And hey out there, if you're keeping up with our journey, leave us a comment to say hello. We'd love to know who we're connecting with.

Today's Pictures - Click Here

Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 2 - Beijing

9:30 p.m. Beijing Time.

Today we had the driver, Mr. Lieu, meet us at 9:00 a.m. for another eventful day in Beijing. Tony, our guide from yesterday, set the day up for us. It really is quite interesting to be in this country where there is a total language barrier, and be on THIS side of that barrier. Mr. Lieu knew no English, so when he would drop us off somewhere, Bill would just write down the time that he needed to pick us up again.

First stop: Beijing "Sport Street," a street lined with several stores containing sports clothing and shoes, most of which seemed like knock-offs of other brands, such as Nike and Adidas. But what do I know? This is how our day began..... Imagine if you will, the 5 of us emptying out of the van into a torrential downpour of rain. Fortunately, our driver loaned us umbrellas, a few of which worked, a couple of which went inside-out the moment they were opened. Puddles everywhere from the hard rain, some ankle deep. There we were, trudging along trying to fix our umbrellas, the only Americans in a sea of Chinese people. They were mostly plastered against the storefronts under the eaves to keep dry, watching us slosh by. I'm sure we were a sight. Before long, though, the force of the downpour did subside, and before our hour on Sport Street was up, we were able to put our umbrellas away. The really cool made-just-for-the-Olympics wrestling shoes that we were on a mission to find, we did not; a wet adventure, we did.

Next: The Temple of Heaven. This is a massive structure of amazing architecture where the Emperors of China came twice a year to pray to the gods of heaven for bountiful harvest. The photos of our time here speak better than these words, though. And speaking of photos, until we figure something else out, it seems like the best way to provide these is to just have you follow a link. We are having a bit of trouble getting them on the blog the way we want, and haven't had a great deal of time to spend on it. SO, follow the link for the photos of the day. Bill has placed great captions on them, so most of them "speak for themselves."

After the Temple of Heaven: lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Mr. Lieu went inside with us, and led us through a very loud and vibrant atmosphere, through a smoky haze and up the stairs and into a private room. It was pretty humorous watching Bill with his Chinese phrase book and that menu, Mr. Lieu looking over his shoulder, the two of them trying to figure out how to order lunch for us. Finally, they succeeded, and we were served a delicious chicken dish with rice and some noodles; then some not so delicious pork with strange-looking items in it that I decided not to partake of. There was also a huge plate of broccoli which we thought was to be beef with broccoli, but, oh, well. :-)

The final planned event of our day was a Hutong Tour, which was fun and quite interesting. We took rides in pedi-cabs on the ancient streets, then were shown life as it used to be in Beijing by the very animated tour guide, Lou. More on this later.

Bill is standing here to help me load the photos now, so I will close. Please know that we appreciate all your thoughts and prayers, and the comments you leave on this blog. While we are enjoying every experience here and trying to take it all in, we are counting down the days (just a bit over 2 more) until we have that baby in our arms. We are praying that God is preparing her for us, and us for her. And we know that He is.

Todays Photos - Click Here
(Hold cursor over text on photo for full description)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 1 - Beijing

Its Bill posting at 10:27pm Beijing time. Cindi is passed out cold in bed. She just could not keep her eyes open another second. So I will put up a short post and some photos from our day.

We were up at 7am to get ready for our day. We would be meeting our guide, Tony from OCDF, who would be taking us to an orphan care facility for the day.

We were able to get a pretty good set of rooms here at the Best Western Premier in Beijing. It is probably a 2.5 Star hotel by US standards, but our rooms are clean, are next to each other, and have ample space for our 5 night stay here.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel was great. Plenty of typical American food and plenty of Chinese food that we could not identify. More unidentifiable food to come.

Tony was in the lobby on time and we were off to the orphan care facility. This place is run by Children's Hope International . When an orphanage is unable to afford surgery or treatment for a special needs child, they request help from an orphan care facility like this one. They take the kids in, help get them the medical help they need, and then apply them for adoption.

It was a great place and a meaningful day. It appeared that these children receive excellent care. We were amazed at the number of caretakers and the tenderness they showed these children. From some physical deformities, cleft lip and palate, heart surgeries, and cerebral palsy, to blindness, these kids had it all. But, they were so happy.

You will see in the photos some of the beautiful faces of these kids. One little girl with a double cleft lip and palate blew me away. She was the cutest thing. She just laughed and laughed at me. Not a little giggle, I mean make yourself cry kind of laughing. I kept telling her how beautiful she was and that her problem was so easy to fix. I am so excited that they will be helping her get the surgery they need.

It was just a great experience to spend almost 4 hours with these kids. I have no illusions about how much impact we had there. We were certainly more like tourists than useful. But, it was wonderful to have God help us see into the lives of these kids. The memories we have of them will not leave us. May God use them to help us help more.

Here is a slideshow of part of our day. Cindi will be up early tomorrow adding to this story. She held a little baby for quite a while that had recently had heart surgery. The baby could never get enough oxygen and struggled for breath. Cindi knew the baby needed some oxygen but there was nothing we could do. As a result this little one can almost never sleep because he can never rest. I am sure she will share more about her experience later.

Enjoy. More soon.

**********My slide shows are not working correctly from China for some reason***********
***I am going to just paste the link to the album from now on and you can view them on photobucket. I am trying to keep this simple enough and make it not so time consuming******

Here is the link ***** PHOTOS

Travel Photos

Here are the photos of our trip to Beijing.... Day 1 photos from Beijing coming next..

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're in Shanghai

July 16, 2008

4a.m. EST

4p.m. in Shanghai

**I have posted our China travel itinerary in the sidebar on the right.**

It is hour 23 of our almost 28 hour voyage to Beijing. We are in the Shanghai PudongInternational Airport, and we wait a couple more hours before we board our China Air flight to Beijing. That flight will last almost 3 hours, and then we will have arrived at our final destination. Everyone is trying to nap, but me. The four of them are stretched out across 3 or 4 seats each; the seats happen to be cushioned and quite comfortable. This airport seems very nice, and so far it has been easy enough to communicate. We are already encountering many stares and glares, and when seated together in one place, seem to be the entertainment for those around us. One elderly lady slowed as she walked by us earlier, then turned all the way around to stop and stare some more.

I sit here looking out at the runway, the overcast, humid, smoggy day. My body and my brain, a bit numb right now, and I suppose they will be, until sleep comes. Many more hours from now. I napped for only an hour or two on the 15-hour flight from Atlanta to Shanghai. The time passed quickly, though, the boys entertained by complimentary flight movies and games, by reading and writing.

Once we arrived here, getting through customs was no big deal. We were prepared to have all our bags emptied, so were pleasantly surprised when all we had to do was put our luggage through the radar machines, then pick them right back up. No emptying, no opening, no questions.

A guide will meet us in Beijing and escort us to our hotel, then I will try to post this on the blog before calling it a day. So, by the time you read this, we will be somewhat settled in our hotel in Beijing, hopefully sleeping soundly.

That’s it for now. The numb brain refuses to produce any more words here.

I must say that it is quite wonderful to be in China, to be almost 10,000 miles closer to Ahna than we were this time yesterday. In 5 days, we’ll have her. Wow.

P.S. - (From Bill) We made it to our hotel at 10:30pm Beijing time. That is 29 and 1/2 hours after we left our house in Mason, Oh. What a day! It appears we lost a small camera on the way, so we are down to two cameras. We are awake on Thursday morning now and are off to an orphanage in Beijing today to volunteer. Will post pictures later.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I have failed to mention this OTHER member of our family named Boo. She is our 3-year old shih tzu, and is the sweetest pet on the face of the earth. Obedient. Quiet. Adoring and adorable. Loving and cuddly. She is just the BEST dog ever. 2 days ago Eli and I drove to TN with her, to leave her with members of our family until we return from China.

We sincerely miss her, but know that she is becoming even more spoiled than she already is. You see, when we are able to visit family in TN, most everyone is thrilled at the prospect of getting to see Boo. Granted, they're happy to see us people, too, but Boo is the center of attention.

Now I must get back to the piles that are slowly making their way into suitcases. We are getting so much closer to moving from the packing stage, to being actually packed.
I have walked around all day with what I can only describe as a heightened expectancy.... I am certain that my heart has been beating much faster than it normally does. In 34 hours we'll be driving to the airport...

But this post was about Boo...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

in 75 hours...

... it will be time to get ready to catch a plane...

5 of us will leave, 6 will return.

Oh, the thought of it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

a break for fun

It has been a crazy week getting ready for our trip to Ahna which is only 5 nights away! This is Bill writing and invading Cindi's beautiful blog space. I apologize for destroying the serenity so many of you come here for. But, things have been so wild I thought, hey why not have a little fun.

I have been accused of being stoic from time to time. I am not sure why, I feel so fun on the inside. Anyway, I thought I would share a few photos to prove that I know how to have fun. I mean if you can't have fun at your daughter's baby shower then when can you? If you can't laugh at spilled paint on the floor of your daughter's room, you are too uptight. Since I am sure Cindi will post something wonderful soon, maybe these pictures will tie you over.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

there's a tutu hanging in my closet.......

.....and it doesn’t belong to me. It hangs just inside the door on the left side, on the top hanging rack. It greets me with its multiple layers of glittery pale pink tulle, all fluffiness and frou-frou. Most days I stop and just gaze at it, imagining the sweet girl that will someday fill it. I finger the fabric, as if straightening the wrinkles and smoothing the layers will somehow make her appear more real.

In my mind she is rushing through the house giggling, jet black hair flowing, our dog Boo at her feet. Or maybe she is playing hide-and-seek with Eli, or running to find Jacob and give him a hug. She might be rushing on her way because she heard her biggest brother strum, and she wants to go watch his fingers delicately work the strings of his guitar. Of course, she might have heard the garage door opening…. and she well knows who’ll be coming through that door, and has sped away from whatever she was doing, to run into Daddy’s arms.

So the tutu hangs there, and reminds me that she is coming. Soon.

And I cannot wait.

(written February 22, 2008)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I am pondering today, the blessings of God. His faithfulness. His unchangeableness (yes, it is a word).

I am grateful that we said "Yes" to His call; grateful that we "stayed in the line" and stood steadfastly in the path that He had us in. Many wondered why we didn't do something to make the process move more quickly; there are options in this adoption community. But we never doubted; felt a little discouraged at times, maybe. But we never doubted. And because of God's unchangeableness, we have been changed.

From part of Isaiah 30:21, the Message: "This is the right road. Walk down this road."

I am grateful for family and friends, near and far, who share in our joy. They bless us with words, with precious gifts for Ahna, and with prayers. Many sweet and unexpected and overwhelming acts of kindness have been taking place around here.

I am grateful and humbled to be the recipient of such a gift as this child; grateful to God that He chose this family for Ahna. I am confident that He has a more amazing plan for her, and for us, than we could ever imagine. He is like that.

And I am grateful that in 2 weeks, a mere 14 days, the 5 of us will be flying over that vast body of water to the other side of the world. And a few days after that, the sweet girl that we already know in our hearts, will be held in our arms. I know that we have yet to experience the full joy of these moments; there is still so much anticipation.

So, for these and so many more things, I am grateful.

What are you grateful for?