Monday, April 30, 2012

Rylie Girl

I figured it was time to share some pics of my youngest girl.

She's grown up so much in the past year and a half.

She's still as feisty as can be.

But in a more manageable way.

She's learning self-control.

She desperately wants approval.

She's a complete Daddy's girl.

She is super motivated to talk. But it's slow going on that front.

We found out this week that her ears are so bad (a typical issue for kids with clefts), she can barely hear....which doesn't help on the speech front.

So....tubes, round 3 are coming up in a bit.

Hopefully these will stay in for more than a month this time. And she'll make some more progress.

So that everyone else can see...and understand...the amazing little creature that she is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I can't help myself!

Forgive me.

I'm a little smitten with my newest guy.

As you can probably tell.

He is so sweet, and snuggly, and funny, and expressive.

I just can't get enough of this boy.

Head. Over. Heels.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hey Jude

I've gotten a lot of questions about Jude since we arrived I figured it was high time I gave a little glimpse of my boy!

So without further ado, let me introduce you all to my favorite almost-2-year-old in the world!

To start with, he's pretty dang cute.


And his dimples are killer. I'm mush when he breaks them out.

He wakes up happy and is content all day. Really.

Unless you make him work for something. Or tell him no. Or put him to bed.

Then, very dramatically, he lets you know what he thinks of your decision.

But he gets over it quickly, unlike some other kids I know. ;)

He is very sensitive. Even the most gentle correction can bring on the crocodile tears....and quickly at that.

He has a little stubborn streak.

He points. At. Everything.

He is a great eater. But he drinks almost no milk and refuses juice.

He weighs 23 pounds. He is just barely on the growth chart for his age.

He has an infectious laugh.

He loves toys and our dog....2 things Rylie was terrified of when she came home. Whew!

Put him in his car seat, go on a drive, and he'll be out in about 2 minutes flat. Even if he just had a nap.

He is SO close to walking independently. In just the past week, we've noticed a lot of progress. He is standing more and taking 5-6 steps at a time. But usually, this is my view.

He just figured out how to climb stairs. Now, where is that baby gate???

He absolutely loves the tub....

...and peek-a-boo or any version of hide and seek.

He has a super expressive face.

He sleeps great...through the night without a peep!

He is very ticklish.

His siblings are his best source of laughter. And he gets right in the middle of the chaos.

In his first week home, I cannot imagine that he could have done any better. He is just so lovable and we are completely head over heels for him! He's been to 2 baseball games, 1 soccer game, church for the first time, and he happily sat through a 1.5 hour long trip to Wal-Mart. He's gotten 5 shots and 2 sticks for blood draws. He's met a slew of new people and endured a thousand dog kisses, awkward holding by siblings, new foods and cups, a strange language, and the entrapment of car seats. He's handled it all like a champ. The kid rules. I can't imagine him not being here now. And I absolutely cannot fathom why God chose to bless us so abundantly.

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever!
1 Chronicles 16:34

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oh Sweet Girl...

Today, my baby girl is 5.


I know it sounds cliched. But I don't know how it happened! It really does seem like yesterday that she was born. Time just flies.

I adore this girl.

She can be the sweetest, funniest thing.

She is hilarious to have a conversation with.

She can be super helpful and kind.

Or she will kill you as you sleep.

Sometimes it's just a toss up!

Deep down, I love her stubbornness. And spunk. And fierceness.

Usually though, she's sensitive. And sweet as pie.

Just don't cross her! Then, you're on your own.

Today, she got to go to Target and pick out something with her birthday money. I tried not to intervene. It was hard. She chose a Barbie toy, a stuffed toy from the movie Rio, and a hideous Angry Birds shirt, which she insisted on wearing right away. Somehow, I managed to pry it off of her for these pics. Thank goodness.

I'll sure miss my favorite 4 year old. Good thing there's a 5 year old waiting on me. I'm certain she'll be pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday my precious Reagan!!! I love you to the moon and back!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig!

We. Are. Home!!!

I have to say, Jonah and Jude are awesome travelers! Both boys did great on the flights....they were much better than I anticipated, especially considering Rush was not seated with the rest of us. No one would switch seats for us, so the two of us switched off some here and there and it worked out well. I do not enjoy 24 hours of traveling though....even if things are smooth sailing.

And now....Jude is an American!! He became official when we came though customs in Newark.

It was awesome to see the girls and the rest of our family welcoming committee at the airport with signs and hugs. And then to come home to food...and coffee! Reagan is obsessed with Jude, and Rylie is obsessed with Rush. :) Jude is doing well....exhausted considering he had about 4 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. He fell asleep pretty quickly along with Jonah and Rylie. Reagan has been pretty emotional tonight.....she keeps asking us not to go back to China. It breaks my heart! I know the trip is rough on them at home too.

Now to start the next part of this journey here at home.....

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hong Kong Saturday!

Oh man, I love this city!!!

Out hotel connects right to the subway station, so this morning we walked over and caught the train into central Hong Kong. The subway is gorgeous and so easy to use!

Now that's an Apple Store!

We then hopped on a bus and headed up to The Peak....there is a cable tram that takes you up a mountain to an area with a viewing platform of the city, and lots of shops and restaurants. We had lunch and hung out for a few hours. Jonah was pretty impressed with the views, which are amazing, even despite the cloudy conditions today. We went there on our last trip as well and had much better views, but regardless of the weather, it really is breathtaking!

One of the old cable trams

The observation deck is on top of this building

Beautiful Hong Kong

The weirdest mascot in the world. It was actually a little one wanted anything to do with the "foot" other than a few kids here and there. There was one point in which it was surrounded by a group of kids who started to yell and taunt it!

Then we headed back to our hotel and let the boys swim in the pool here at our hotel. We weren't sure how Jude would react, but I'll go ahead and show you......

(Sorry for the poor quality of this video, and that it loops. I am tired of messing with it!)

Needless to say, he was MAD when we got him out!

We splurged a little bit and ordered roomservice for dinner in celebration of our last night before heading home. So, now we pack up and leave in the morning! I am dreading our 15.5 hour flight (yikes) but so looking forward to getting home and seeing my girls!!!! I can not wait to squeeze them!!

Thanks to all of you who followed along on this amazing journey to get Jude and bring him home. Thanks for your prayers, support, and encouragement along the way. This has, yet again, been a long road, but it has been a little easier to travel thanks to you!

We absolutely and completely praise God for again bringing us to this path, providing for our every need, choosing Jude as our son, and seeing us through every challenge, struggle, and moment of the past 13 months. He is so faithful and loves us so extravagantly!

Next stop....the USA!!!!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Should I stay or should I go? Rush's perspective on leaving China

It's a really long trip. It's a really long flight. It's a lot of nights to be away from loved ones. By the end of both trips to China I certainly have had a deep longing to be home. To see my girls, to drive a car, to get a cup of Dunkin' Donuts Cinnamon Spice coffee (first thing I'm doing when we get home). Things we often take for granted during the day-to-day routines of life gain significance when you are on the other side of the planet.

I also can't wait for Jude to become an official citizen of the United States when we land in Newark on Sunday afternoon. For him to become a part of the greatest nation on earth and to enjoy all the rights and privileges that come along with carrying the title "American". I'm especially thrilled for him to meet his sisters, grandparents and extended family. To carry him off the airplane and into the terminal in Richmond knowing that at the end of that long tunnel a small crowd of folks will be there waiting for him. I'm excited for him to be able to explore his new house, to meet his dog, to crawl on the floors of the home in which he will grow up. I can't wait to take him to church, out shopping, to the bus stop, to restaurants, to my kid's sporting events...just to show off the newest addition to my family.

I just can't wait to be home.

At the same time, I don't want to leave. I know that when the wheels of that 777 lift off from Hong Kong on Sunday morning there is a good chance I won't return to China for a very long time. Maybe never. I certainly hope this isn't my last visit to this amazing place, but I realize the costs and logistics of visiting again are somewhat overwhelming. Life happens. Kids grow up, they need braces, the heat pump breaks, the roof leaks, tuition is due. Mentally I am preparing for the possibility that I will never see the birthplace of two of my children ever again.

China is a place so monumentally different from home that it does little good to try to explain it in words. Language, religion, customs, sights, smells, government, food -- it's all different. But what China has taught me is that different is good. It's not always better, but it is good. Good to experience. Good to witness first hand. Good to learn from. There are of course things about China that I don't particularly like and many things I have seen here break my heart. But I have to push past the overbearing communist party, the centuries of customs and traditions that devalue children with special needs, the lack of liberty the people of this "People's Republic" possess.

What I find when I am willing to do so is a place of supreme beauty and an amazingly unique people. A nation with breathtaking landscapes and an equally inspiring rich history. Most importantly, I find a country that allowed me to step foot onto its soil and scoop up two children and make them my own. I cannot adequately express the gratitude and appreciation I have for the gifts the people of China have given me. No amount of money, no token and no words can repay this nation for my daughter and my son. This country and these people are so special to me. I will never forget my time and the memories I have made here. Now and forevermore a part of me will remain in this ancient land.

I so badly can't wait to get home. I so desperately hate to leave.

In Hong Kong!

It was another rainy day in Guangzhou today, so we just hung out and packed up. We met our guide about 3pm and headed to the US Consulate to pick up Jude's visa, passport, and paperwork for him to enter the US. Then we headed to the train station to catch our train to Hong Kong.

Holy. Cow.

I will never get used to train stations in China. Never.

To say the phrase "mass chaos" seems to be an understatement.

There are no lines. There is no order. Only pushing and shoving and trampling and rushing.

It doesn't help that they don't let you board until 10 minutes before the train leaves.

With 2 adults, 2 kids (one of whom does not walk), 3 backpacks, 1 camera bag, 1 shoulder bag, 3 huge suitcases, 1 rolling carry on, and a stroller....and about 5 escalators....well, it's craziness.

One lady in our group tripped and fell at the top of an escalator....which was packed. It was almost tragic. No lie......bad times.

Anyway, we safely boarded the train, rode for about 2 hours, caught a cab to our marvelous hotel, and here we are. We grabbed some dinner here at the hotel, and now, at 10pm, we just got the boys to bed.

Tomorrow, we'll hopefully do some sightseeing, although they're calling for showers all day. :( Bad come to worse, we'll hit up the indoor pool, do some luggage rearranging, and call it a day.

The boys are doing great! I told Rush tonight that I feel a little guilty having Jude. He is such a happy guy, I just can't help but feel bad for his birth family. They're missing out on so much. He is amazing and just brightens our day in every way possible. I'm sad they couldn't experience him and all the joy he brings. But I sure am glad that we get to. I can't wait to introduce him to our family and friends!

This afternoon at the train station, we said goodbye to our guide, Kelly. I really cannot say enough about this lady. She is flat out awesome. We really have come to adore her over the past 2 weeks, and were so sad to say goodbye. I think a good guide can really make or break your trip, and she completely made ours amazing. I am so grateful we were placed with her and will miss her tremendously!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slow Day

This morning, we headed to the US Consulate for our appointment so that they can issue Jude's entry visa into the US. It sounds like a much bigger deal than it really is. Basically, you take an oath that all the information you have provided is truthful, go up to a window, sign a paper, and that's it....almost the equivalent of going to the DMV, only on the other side of the world.

Anyway, tomorrow afternoon, we can pick up Jude's passport and visa, and then hop a train to Hong Kong. :)

Today was a rainy one here, so we really did nothing. We were back at our hotel by 9:45 this morning and didn't even leave the room until about 5pm, when I thought I was going to go crazy. All we did was take a quick walk to the 7-11 just down the block, and then make laps around the lobby. Jonah has been begging for pizza, so we had the hotel concierge call and order us a Papa John's pizza to be delivered for was just like home, but it was probably the most expensive pizza on the planet!

I don't even have any pictures from today to share.

We check out tomorrow around 3pm, which is 3am for all you folks at home, and should be in Hong Kong a little before 7. It's about a 2 hour train ride. We'll hang out there until Sunday morning when we fly home! We should arrive about 6:30 Sunday evening. Jude will officially become a US citizen when we go through customs in Newark before heading to Richmond.

It's hard to believe we're wrapping up this part of the journey. This really has been a GREAT trip, aside from the sickness we experienced. Our new son is amazing and makes us smile almost all day long (although he is starting to show a little willfulness!), Jonah has been a real trooper and has gotten to experience a totally different culture, we had an awesome guide who really went out of her way to ensure a great time for us, fun travel mates, and a renewal of our love for our country and adoption in general. We are so very blessed!

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Memorial Hall and Local Neighborhoods

Today, we visited the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. It is a large beautiful blue pavilion that I remember seeing on our last trip, but we never visited it. I am so glad we was very interesting!

The hall was built as a memorial to a man named Sun Yat-Sen, who hails from Jude's hometown of Zhongshan. He was born to a Chinese farmer, later became a medical doctor and a Christian, and helped stage the uprising in 1911 which brought down the Imperial form of power in China and ushered in the Nationalist form of government, which reigned before the Communist party took over. He is called the Father of the Nation, and apparently, in each large city in China, there is a road named in his honor.

Anyway, it was an interesting building to visit and an even more interesting history lesson. Our guide was a history major, so she has lots of great things to tell us about! Now we totally have to rent the movie "The Last Emperor" when we get home!

Afterwards, we went to a noodle restaurant for another delicious meal. It is really helpful that our guide takes us places and just orders a bunch of food for us...she certainly has picked some good dishes!

This afternoon we headed back, once again, to the neighborhood behind our hotel. I wanted to be sure to take some pictures of it, although, I must say, I was very self-conscious about taking pictures there. For starters, we stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone watches us as we walk down the street and it made me feel a little like an intruder. No one was nasty to us at all...I didn't want to exacerbate any feeling that I was invading their privacy or anything by taking pictures left and I took a few and left it at that. Anyway, we've really enjoyed walking down there. We love getting a feel for "real" China, away from the tourist stops, and this has been a perfect spot for that. Kids come up to us just to say "Hi" and giggle and run away when we say "Hi!" back. It's hilarious. We're so glad our guide showed us the area when we arrived...we were thrilled to turn the corner and see this staring back at us.....

It's a rather busy place, especially around dinnertime. Farmers bring in fresh produce to sell, everyone is out and about visiting with their neighbors, buying food for dinner, running errands. There was a lot going on, but you could also tangibly feel the sense of community there. It's been one of our favorite parts of this trip.


Tomorrow, bright and early, we have our appointment at the U.S. Consulate, which in turn issues Jude's visa on Friday so that he can enter the U.S.A.!!!

Everyone is doing well. There's not too much else to report! Another adoptive dad here today said that he feels like every day is Groundhog Day....repeat, repeat, repeat. It's starting to feel like that, even though we've seen some great things. For a good week, we've felt like we're just killing time. However, as much as we are ready to come home, it is a little bittersweet. Who knows when/if we'll ever be back here, to Rylie and Jude's home country. I appreciate it so much, and while I desperately wish conditions here were different so that no child was ever abandoned, that is not the case. We are so grateful that we have had the opportunity to expand our family in this manner, and we are so thankful to this nation for allowing us to do so. It's been an amazing to experience this culture, so vastly different than ours, and it makes us appreciate the good ol' US of A all the more. As our guide said, "You have so much freedom in your country." How often we forget.