Thursday, August 28, 2008
*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
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
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 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 when 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
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
Monday, August 11, 2008
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
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
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
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
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