Thursday, April 24, 2014

Xi'an


I can’t overstate how helpful it has been to have two sweet girls here who speak Mandarin!   Graci and Cali have made Conner’s transition into our family so much easier on all of us.  This afternoon, after an incredibly emotional, beautiful, heart-wrenching day spent at Conner’s orphanage and music institute (this will be a blog post of its own), we came back to the hotel and told the kids we needed to all spend some downtime in our rooms.  Conner asked to go in the girls’ room.  The boys did homework and rested, we watched shows, blogged, and packed, and Graci, Cali and Conner watched TV and qq’d with Conner’s friends from school.  When I went to check on them, the girls started giggling uncontrollably and told us how funny Conner was.  He was qq-ing with a friend and his friend asked what he was doing.  He said, “I am watching chick-flicks with two babes!   They are very beautiful.  Are you jealous?”  The girls thought that was pretty great!  (;  We have been told that he is very witty and has quite the sense of humor and that is definitely proving true.  (:

I’m going to backtrack a few days and blog about our time in Xi’an.  We started our trip in Xi’an so that Cali would have the chance to see some of her loved ones.  Cali has a biological grandmother and auntie that we were able to meet when we adopted her and she wanted a chance to reconnect.  The only day they could meet us was on Sunday, leaving us a free day on Saturday.  As you know, Jeremy and I have been advocating for a sweet, 13 year-old-boy referred to as Cameron.  A week or so before our trip I put two and two together and realized that Cameron’s orphanage was in Xi’an.  Thinking that I would for sure be told “no” but feeling the need to try anyway, I contacted Mike from findMe International and asked if he would talk to the director of his orphanage and see if they would consider letting Cameron spend a day with us.  I made it very clear that Cameron was to know that we were there to adopt another boy but that we would love to spend some time with him while we were there.  To my amazement, the director agreed.  Our goal in doing this was to find out a little bit more about Cameron for those who might be interested in adopting him, to generate some more interest in him, and to give him a day out of the orphanage. 

I really felt the Lord’s hand in this “day with Cameron.”  First of all, the fact that we were even traveling to his city was pretty amazing.  Secondly, we found out that Dave Peters, director of the documentary “Find Me” (the film that our family is in) just “happened” to be arriving in Xi’an the exact day that we arrived.  He was there to film a segment on the LeSeur family (one of the other two families in the film) who “happened” to be adopting their second child the same weekend as us.  Because of Dave being in the city that day, he was able to come to our hotel, which just “happened” to be right next to his (this without any planning in a city of 12 million people) and give us a camcorder to film our time with Cameron.  He then met up with us that night to film a little segment about our day.  We were also able to meet the LeSeurs, who are the sweetest, most genuine couple and together have a good discussion about adoption.  Dave took the footage we had and put together a short little film to be shared on social media.  Please take a moment to watch it and consider sharing it in any way you can.  We are DESPERATE to find a family for this sweet young man.  He is a GEM.   Sometimes just sharing these videos can completely change the life of an orphan.  I shared “Emily’s” video on facebook and to my complete delight, a beautiful friend of mine from Tennessee saw it and asked for more information.  To make a long story short, that friend, Sarah, is now officially matched with Emily.  It amazes me to see how the Lord can use small and simple things to bring to pass His eternal purposes.  I love it!  And believe it or not, while we were there to pick up Cameron, we asked about Emily and were able to actually meet her!  She is so precious and so happy to have a family.  I asked her if she had any questions and she said, “How soon can they come?!”  I explained that they would be there that very day if it were possible, but that completing all of the adoption paperwork would take many months.  She understood, but was disappointed—just so excited to have a family! 

Instead of blogging about the day with Cameron I will just give you a link to the short film that was done.  Just click HERE.

On Sunday we were able to meet up with Cali’s grandmother, auntie and uncle, nephew and a great aunt and her son.  They treated us to a lovely Chinese lunch and showered Cali and Graci with gifts.  It was an emotional day for Cali.  I think she felt all kinds of feelings when she said goodbye to them—all the way from sorrow to relief.  After they left we were blessed with a visit from Duna.  Duna was like a mother to Cali in many ways.  She worked at the orphanage for much of the time that Cali was there and Cali loved her very much.  We had a great visit with Duna—she is a very special person who does so much good.

Again, we are so grateful for the many opportunities we were given in Xi’an—from spending time with Cameron to meeting Emily to reuniting with Cali’s loved ones to meeting the LeSeurs….  It was a beautiful two days (despite extreme jet lag) that will always remain in our hearts.

--Christianne


Parker and Taylor are exhausted!


Arriving at Xi'an at 3 a.m.  The kids were SO happy to finally be at the hotel!




Meeting Emily

Our family with Emily and Cameron

Cameron
Beautiful Emily

Having fun at the Terra Cotta Warriors






Parker at the Terra Cotta Warriors



Lunch with Cali's China family



Spending time with Cali's China family

Lunch with Cali's China Family


Visiting with Duna


Duna and Cali



While They Are Away...

Hello blogging world!
This is Leslie, Christianne's sister, and I get to do a guest post!!!
This is a few of the happenings while the rest of the family has been away.
And I thought pictures speak louder than words.  Let's just say the kids have been happy happy happy!
*disclaimer: I haven't blogged in years and years, and the format might be off, but I'm not going to take the time to change it.  Also, sorry in advance for spelling/grammatical errors!

EASTER WEEKEND:
Cousins lined up to rope with uncle Jeremy.  Xander spent hours practicing his lasso!

Lexi and Sophi became best friends with Tasey and Todd.

 They absolutely adored their 2 dogs.





Jessica & Tatum (2nd cousins) became besties!!!


Lexi and Sophi cuddling during a testimony meeting.

 Getting ready for the big egg hunt put together by Great Grandma Larsen!

A picture of some of the camp.  This year there were over 200 relatives camping!

 Xander loved s'mores!

Lexi singing a Hillary Weeks' song around the campfire.


WE MADE IT BACK HOME!!!
I was able to bring back the 4 kids and meet Elli here at Jeremy and Christianne's house.  The kids have been so so good and happy and easy!

Happy Elli!

One of the girls' biggest concerns was if I knew how to do girl hair, since I only have 3 boys.  I reassured them I was a hair expert.  Jessica skeptically asked, "ya but do you know how to do flower buns?"  I told her I did, and successfully completed one on her hair one school morning.  She said, "don't spray it yet.  I need to go check it out in the mirror first to see if I like it."  She came back in with big eyes and a big smile saying, "Wow!  You really DO know what you're doing!"
Lexi & Sophi kept asking for "Elsa hair" and "Anna hair" from Frozen.  They were so happy I knew how to braid!!!






Sophi amazed me eating noodles with chopsticks!


I got stuck left with the task of purchasing soccer cleats and shin guards for Xander's soccer league he is just starting.  It was tricky but we found the perfect fit!  Xander has been coming home from school every day, completing his homework, and then changing into his soccer gear to practice outside in the yard.  He is so excited!

 Xander can't wait until the rest of the family is home!

…and couldn't stop laughing at the poopoo smoothies!!!

 Jesi working on a Taylor Swift puppet for a book report


 Xander & Jesi being crazy!




Sophi & Lexi like to have matching hairdos every day. :-)

And when Sophi saw herself this morning, she said, "Wow.  I look just like a young woman huh."

 When I looked over the schedule at the beginning I was wondering if I could make it through the first morning!!!  Without the older kids to help I didn't know if I could pull it off! 
However, it has been so much fun helping out!  The kids have been wonderful and easy!   They've been happy and I've had so much fun reading blog posts and emails to them and showing them pictures of Conner and the rest of the family.  It has been so sweet to hear their prayers, and I know they will bless Conner's life, as he will bless theirs!

That's all for now!

Belated Answers

So sorry we haven't been more regular with our posts from over here.  It's been a busy week!  A grueling travel schedule over the first few days, jet lag, managing five kids and of course the emotions of adding the newest member of our family have left us all exhausted!  There's so much to write at this point I don't even know where to start, but perhaps a couple of promised answers to some questions:

Question #1:  Why would losing a piece of luggage along the way be a good thing?  Well...we landed in Xi'an about midnight local time and a full 28 hours after we had left our home.  EXHAUSTED!!!  We got all of our luggage off the carousel (our most important item, Cali's wheelchair, showed up first, and we all breathed a sigh of relief!)  We kept waiting and waiting, but one of our big green suitcases never came through.  It was either mine or the one that Cali and Grace are sharing.  They peeked into the one that HAD arrived and were VERY relieved that it was Dad who would have to do without for a day or two.  The airline assured us that they had found the bag in Beijing and it would be delivered to our hotel by 1:00 p.m. the next day. 

In general this would be a rather discouraging beginning to a trip, but our lives have helped us to become "glass-half-full" type of people.  As we were walking down to where we could catch a taxi, we looked at what we had.  Six people, a not-very-collapsible wheelchair, ten suitcases and six backpacks!  Christi insisted that we could fit into two small Chinese taxis for the 45-minute ride to our hotel while I insisted she was off her rocker.  Getting there in two taxis was pretty important since that would allow us to have one adult per taxi.  A third taxi would require either a couple of kids or some luggage to be on their own.  Neither sounded like a great option in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar metropolis on the opposite side of the globe from all with which we were familiar.  After a 20-minute ordeal making a phone call to my bank in America, we were able to withdraw enough Chinese currency to get to the hotel.  (You should have seen the taxi director’s face when I asked if we could pay with American money!)  We got to the taxi station and started loading up.  We have drawn our fair share of stupefied looks this trip, and many of them came as we attempted to load these vehicles up like clown cars.  Kids in first. Suitcases on top of kids.  Wheelchair on top of suitcases.  Push.  Shove.  Cajole.  Finally!  Everything in, with no room to spare. Christi was right.  BUT, had my huge suitcase not been delayed, I’m pretty sure we would not have fit.  A little tender mercy in disguise.  Instead of sending it by itself in a taxi, it was hand-delivered by the airline J. 


Question #2:  How can an aching back actually help you have a better experience on a 13-hour plane ride? 

This one’s pretty easy.  Just think a visit to the doctor and a nice hydrocodone prescription J.  Slept better than I ever have on an aircraft!


Question #3:  What do you do when you forgot to book a hotel room in the first city you're staying in? 

I think it would be interesting to chart the intensity and attention to detail we've given to each progressive trip to China.  With the first trip we were like brand new parents.  Every detail was accounted for.  Every itinerary was read and re-read and printed and placed in a 9x12 envelope.  Each step of the way was closely accounted for.  After all, we were going somewhere foreign. Somewhere we couldn't possible function if we didn't have everything ready in advance.  Over the years we've realized that you can buy anything in China that you can buy in the US.  (OK, maybe not Taco Bell!)  If you forget your toothbrush, you can get one here, etc.

Our adoption agency is so completely on the ball.  They take care of all our travel arrangements for the adoption portion of the trip.  But when we choose to stop in Xi’an on the way so we can meet up with Cali’s biological Grandma and Aunt, we’re on our own.  I’m not sure which of us committed to booking the hotel there, but somewhere over Russia, I turned to Christi and said, “Do we have a hotel in Xi’an?”  “Um, no.”  Not great, considering we were scheduled to get into town after midnight.  We figured we’d take care of it during our Beijing layover.  The sketchy wireless at the airport notwithstanding, we were able to book a great hotel at a reasonable price.  We actually utilized Christi’s now-Chinese Telecom phone.  At the airport in Beijing we did something we've never done before.  We changed out the SIM card and she now has a local Chinese phone.  We’re hoping that it returns to normal when she gets back, but in the meantime, she gets cheap data and calling while we’re here. This, by the way, is why she can’t receive your texts if you've been sending any J.


Bonus Question:  How can a mother completely mortify her children less than one hour into a 13-hour plane ride?

Christi often suggests that I have a bit of a bi-polar streak.  I’m sure she’s correct.  But she has one herself.  On the one hand, she’s this accommodating woman who can’t stand to make waves.  If someone offers to do something for her or give something to her (other than me;) she has a general rule that she has to refuse said gift somewhere between 27 and 33 times before she can accept it.  She hates confrontation and can’t stand to make people uncomfortable.  On the other hand, she has this determined streak.  She gets an idea in her head, and no matter how many people try to persuade her otherwise, she presses forward until her concept is proven to be right or wrong. Case in point:

Because of Cali’s wheelchair and the challenges of getting into and out of her seat during a 13-hour flight, we were given an awesome set of seats.  The configuration of the plane was 3-5-3, and we got two consecutive rows of three seats.  The front one was the bulkhead, which gave us an unbelievable amount of legroom!  We also had two window seats.  We were so grateful J.  Thanks, Cali!!!  To start out with, Cali, Christi and I had the bulkhead seats.  Given that Christi and I got exactly one hour and fifteen minutes of sleep the night before we left, we were both exhausted and hoped to get some rest on the plane.  Shortly after takeoff, Christi looked down at all that floor space in front of the bulkhead seats.  Hmmm, she thought.  Why not just lay down there?  She asked if I thought it would be ok.  I thought it wouldn't, but she figured why not try.  So she started to put her pillow down on the floor and lay down.  The boys saw what she was doing and got almost frantic.  They tried to convince her that this was perhaps the most embarrassing thing a mother could do to her children.  Christi confidently assured them that it was not.  Shortly after her foray into her world of slumber, I started to doze against the window.  I was awakened shortly thereafter by Parker’s insistent tapping on my shoulder.  “Dad!  They just came over the speaker system and said we’re heading into turbulence.  Everyone needs to be in their seat with their seatbelt on.”  My eyes promptly rolled back into a hydrocodone-induced trance and I started snoring.  A couple of minutes later, the kids’ world ended.  A frantic Air China stewardess came rushing up the aisle.   “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!” she called out to Christi and me.  Finger waving back and forth in a disdainful reproof.  “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!” once again.  This dragged me out of my coma and I helped Christi up into her chair.  The kids wanted to disappear.  I wanted to go back to sleep. Perhaps the funniest part of all?  A few hours later, when Christi fully woke up, she asked, “How did I get up off the floor?”

-Jer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gotcha

I love the quote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”  The past two days have been filled with those moments for me!  Yesterday morning at 10:00, we finally met our Conner.  It has been over two years since we first saw his face in a video taken by another adoptive parent visiting his orphanage.  By the time I was done watching the video, I had tears streaming down my face and had already dialed Jeremy’s number to tell him that I was pretty sure we had a son in China.  (:  My feelings about whether or not he was right for our family and whether our family was right for him have been all over the place since that moment.  I have had to remind myself many times of how I felt when I first saw that video because sometimes, honestly, adding one more just didn't seem like the right thing and the thought completely overwhelmed me.

After spending the last two days with this young man, I can honestly say that I KNOW that we were meant for each other. (: (: (:   And it’s a good thing too, because at about 10:30 this morning, he officially became Conner Allen Green.   Our son, our brother-- your grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend. 

He is absolutely precious.

We have learned so much about this sweet boy over the past two days.  First of all, we have learned that his mother is smitten with him. (:   Second, we have learned that he is absolutely positively THRILLED to be part of a family.  I can’t count how many times he has said “I love you, Mama,” or “I love you, Baba,” or “I love you, (insert Taylor, Parker, Graci or Cali).”  And we certainly can’t count the number of hugs and kisses he has given us, because they are constant.  I mean, it’s in the hundreds for sure.  He is the most affectionate guy I have ever known.  CONSTANT affection.  (This has proven to be a bit of a struggle for a Daddy that does like some personal space once in a while.)  (;  He has the most PERFECT smile that just lights up his whole face.  He is so, so happy.   So happy.  I LOVE IT.

Conner is very smart.  His ayi (nanny) pulled out a braille book when I asked if he could read.  She handed it to him and he proceeded to read faster than most people can read print.  As he read the book and was talking so fast, it was pointed out that his mouth can’t keep up with his fingers.  I feel  SO bad that he is going to have to learn a different braille system (English and Chinese braille are not the same) but I have no doubt that he will be able to do it quickly.  He absolutely soaks things up.  Today he has been dazzling us with his spelling.  I will say something like, “Cali is behind us,” and he will say, “behind—b-e-h-i-n-d—behind,” just like he’s in a spelling bee.  It’s so cute.  I just said to Jeremy, “Makes you wonder, huh?”  Conner, hearing the word ‘wonder’ said to himself , “Wonderful.  It is wonderful.”  He keeps trying out the phrases he obviously learned at school.  I think he will be picking up English very quickly.  (:

The night before we met Conner, our guide told us she had a surprise for us.  It was a newspaper article that had been published that day (Sunday) about Conner.  It talked about what a gifted piano player he was and all of the competitions he had excelled in.  It spoke of how he was the orphanage “superstar” and how some top Chinese adoption officials have given him special attention because of his talent.  It told a little bit about his life in the orphanage and how he was going to be adopted by a family where both the mom and dad were accomplished piano players and how they had a piano waiting at home for him.  It was so neat.  Today when we were meeting with the orphanage director, she asked if we would be ok with the media being there on Thursday when we visited the orphanage.  Apparently, both the TV and newspaper want to do a story on his adoption.  They were worried that we would not be ok with the cameras.  Jer and I kind of laughed at that, being as how we've had our share of cameras in the past couple of years.  (:  So of course, we said yes—but asked if we could please get a DVD of the segment.  They promised that they would send us two—one for us and one for Conner.  What a special souvenir that will be for him!!!  They also gave us many mementos of his life in the orphanage.  We received a scrapbook, professional pictures, books, and other special things.  His foster mom sent him two big bags of his favorite snacks.  We were told she couldn't stop crying when she said goodbye.  Absolutely breaks my heart.  They also gave us several very nice pieces of sheet music from his piano teacher.  Apparently, he has been a student of a very prestigious music professor who loves him very, very much.  This professor will be doing a concert in Washington this July, and we were invited to bring Conner if  possible.  We are crossing our fingers that we can somehow make that work as it is obvious how much his teacher adores him and would love to see him again.

Speaking of the piano, there is a very nice one here in the lobby of our hotel.  We were so excited to finally hear Conner play, but when we went over to it we were told that it could not be played.  It was for decoration.  Ha.  I had a hard time taking no for an answer and kept pushing it to no avail.  Later I went and asked to talk to someone who spoke English.  I explained how we had adopted Conner earlier that day and had been waiting for two years to hear him play the piano.  I asked if there was any way they would let him play just one song.  The man agreed to let him play two.  (:  Oh my goodness, it was so incredible.  He would be considered a very good pianist if he could see, but knowing that he is completely blind made it all the more impressive and beautiful.  I can’t wait for him to share his talent back home.  I have no doubt that he will touch many people’s lives with his beautiful music.

Last night we took Conner swimming in the hotel pool.  He was such a good sport.  He seemed so nervous, so I asked if he had ever been swimming and he said he hadn't.  It is quite a beautiful thing to be part of so many “firsts” even though he is thirteen years old.   He is very easy going in many ways.  He LOVES to talk and ask questions (so grateful for our guide and for Graci and Cali who can interpret) and always wants to know exactly what’s going on, but he is willing to do whatever we do, eat whatever we eat, etc.  Yesterday he asked what we eat for breakfast in America.  I started to laugh, knowing how hard it has been for all of my Chinese kids to adjust to American breakfast—especially because there are many days when we just have cold cereal.  I told our guide to tell him what we had and that I was sorry it wasn't the kind of breakfast he was used to and he just smiled and told the guide to tell us, “It’s ok.  No worries.”  When he asked what our family liked to do, Jeremy mentioned we like to hike and to swim.  He told our guide to tell us it was ok that he couldn't do those things because he would learn.  He said to tell us he will learn whatever we want him to do.  He is such a gem.

I am so grateful for so many things right now.  I’m so grateful for everyone who made it possible for us to get into our new home.  It has already blessed our lives tremendously and now I am seeing how much it will bless Conner’s life.  I am getting a sense of his spirit and I know that he is worth every moment that was spent on that house.  Thank you again and again and again to everyone who was involved in that.  I am grateful for Leslie, Ty and Laura, and Mom and Dad for taking care of our other sweet kids while we are gone.  I know it is a tremendous task and I am just so grateful that I don’t need to worry about them right now because they are in such good hands.  I am so grateful for a husband with such a generous, sensitive heart who would be open to bringing another sweet child of God into our family.  Lest I have painted the picture that it is easy, I will assure you that it’s not.  Conner is worth every sacrifice and struggle, and there are many.  I am grateful for the absolutely amazing travel companions we have in Taylor, Parker, Graci and Cali.  They have been wonderful.  Adoption trips can have fun moments—but they are not vacations.  There is a lot of work, jet lag, not-so-great food, boring times, sacrifices, etc.  We are so blessed to have kids who have been stellar through it all.  I am grateful for America—for the many, many, many wonderful things about it that we so often take for granted.   I am grateful for China.  There is much to love here.  I am grateful that it has given me seven beautiful, amazing children.  It has given me perspective.  It has humbled me and made me aware of how fortunate I am. 

Most of all, I am grateful for my Heavenly Father.  He has given me the perfect trials and blessings I need to make me turn to Him.  I adore my Savior and am so blessed to know Him.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and can bring us so much joy.  I know because of Him, all of my children will someday have all that is lost in this life restored to them again.  Eyes will see, legs will walk, arms will hold.  What more could I ever ask for?


Happy Adoption Day, Conner Green!  I love you!!!