Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Angels Among Us

This morning Christi and I had a hold-each-other-cry-together-it'll-all-be-ok moment.  Or few moments.  Cali is doing almost unbelievably well.  She seems to not only feel very comfortable with our family but genuinely seems to love us.  And we love her.  She is a delightful little person.  She deals with her disabilities with dignity and capability.  So much is going well.  And yet it still overwhelming.  We have nine children.  Compressed between the ages of 14 and 4.  Most of them with moderate to very severe special needs.  Between last night and this morning, Christi and I were not sure we were going to make it.  But God always seems to know what we need and when we need it.  Three particular things really felt like tender mercies today.

1.  As I lay pondering this morning (at about 4am-I'm still not quite off of China time), I was impressed with Paul's words regarding faith, hope and charity.  I hadn't read this passage lately, so I really felt as though this was a message from the Lord.  The message was simple.  Have hope.  Although it sometimes feels as though there is no way we can meet all of the needs of all of our kids, we must have hope.  I know-really KNOW-that each of our children is meant to be in our family.  And if it is right to have each of them, then I really can have hope that the Lord will help us and we will be able to lead and love this family of ours.  And once we have hope, we need to have faith to do what we need to do.  Sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world to do something as simple as get up off the couch and face the rigors of getting the littles to bed.  But it can be done.  And when I do it with the right mindset, it is really quite a joy.  So this morning as we were having our "moment," I was able to tell Christi about this communication I had had from the spirit and it left both of us feeling reassured.

2.  Immediately after we were finished talking, I received a text message from a long-time friend.  This friend understands the challenges of the first few weeks following an adoption, as he and his wife have adopted several children themselves.  They understand the jet lag and the language barriers and the bonding issues and the joy wrapped in exhaustion surrounded by love.  The text was very simple, just thanking us for what we were doing with our family.  But it came at such an opportune time.  It reminded us that the things we are doing go beyond just the impact they have on our own family.  It reminded us of how people are touched by our children and what an impact for good these little ones have just by living the way they do. 

3.  Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, I received a call from another friend of almost 20 years.  This is one of those friends you don't talk to often, but when you do, it's like you never missed a beat.  He called me out of the blue and told me about a Christmas tradition his family has.  They work together, kids included, to help another family.  This year they chose our family.  (They were going to leave something for us anonymously, but my buddy forgot to bring our address along when they left:)  So they called to get our address.  I'm so glad they let us know who was giving the gift, because it gave us the opportunity to talk and catch up a bit.  Great family.  Anyway, after they left, we looked inside the gift bag they gave us.  First there was a book with a beautiful inscription, once again thanking us for what we are doing with our family.  Secondly, there was a jar with an incredibly generous donation towards our house.  It included lots of paper money, but also a lot of coins, which I imagine were from their kids.  What sweet, wonderful people.

I just want to express my thanks to people who listen to the promptings of the Spirit and reach out to other people.  You were our angels today.  You were the messengers that provided tender mercies that helped us remember that we really can make it and that Heavenly Father really is there and looking out for us.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Love our Lexi!

Lexi opens our closed door and comes barging into our room about a subtly as a Mack truck.  "Lexi," I remind her, "you can't just come into our room.  You have to knock first."

Lexi:  "So I should try again?"

Me:  "Yes.  Knock, and I'll say 'No.  You can't come in.'"

So sweet Lexi knocks. 

Me:  "No.  You can't come in."

Lex:  "But I want to tell you something."

Me:  "Not right now.  Mommy and I are talking."

Christi then gives me a pouty look with big eyes and an extended lower lip indicating that she thinks Lexi is about as cute as can be and I'm a big ogre.

Me:  "OK, Lex.  What do you want?"

Lexi:  "Can you slip me for 20 bucks?  Get a CD?"  Christi and I start cracking up.  Lexi:  "That's what Parker told me."

Love our kids!!!


Sunday, December 23, 2012


At Cali's request, I put a little bit of make-up on her and curled her hair for church.   Um, wow!  As Jeremy said, "This girl is not going to have a hard time getting a date."

Also, I don't know if we mentioned that our fabulous friends lined up a special homecoming for Cali, complete with Santa Claus!   KSL did a nice write-up on it-- you can find it HERE.  Oh, and I have a favor-- someone on there left a comment asking where we found Cali's profile.  I tried to leave a reply, but because I had already left a reply to another comment, it wouldn't let me (there is a one reply limit.)  If someone happens to go on there and reply to that comment stating that Cali was found on the wonderfulwaitingkids website, that would be so great!  (You can't give the complete URL or it won't post.)  I would die if someone is really interested in adoption but didn't know where to go!!!

We are exhausted.  We are not ready for Christmas.  We are still recovering from jet lag and me from my ear infection/vertigo.  We are a bit stressed.

But we are TOGETHER.  (:


Can't You See, Dad?

Lexi was standing in front of our locked bedroom door, about to be charged with breaking and entering.  (Yeah, we have pretty much no privacy in our lives.  Our bedroom is grand central station around here.)  I noticed her fiddling with the lock and said "Lexi!  You can't go in there!  There are Christmas presents."  Lexi quickly replied, "I can't see."  Me, not catching the significance, "Um, that's right.  You can't see."  Lexi: "I blind!!!"  Suddenly it dawned on me.  "You're right Lex.  You're blind.  You go right on into the Christmas present room:)"


Friday, December 21, 2012

Home At Last!

Just a quick note to let everyone know we made it home safely. The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly, and we had a warm reception when we got here. More on that later.

It was a beautiful moment when we knelt down and had our first family prayer with all 11 of us together.

Welcome home, Cali. We love you!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Are You Kidding Me???

I'm not sure why I thought our travel on the way home would go smoothly. It never does, particularly when I'm a single parent shepherding three kids back to the U.S. so why would this trip be any different? We planned layovers that allowed plenty of time, so the travel gods found different ways to play their funny games in our lives.
At the "travel home" meeting with our CCAI guide this afternoon, we got the first hint that all might not go as planned. We booked one itinerary all the way from Guangzhou to Salt Lake City. Usually this means you can check your bags all the way through, giving you more lenient weight restrictions on your luggage because it's considered an international flight. Unfortunately, our layover in Beijing is 12 hours (we have a hotel room reserved) and China Southern would not let us check the bags through. So instead of having a little carry on luggage to get to our Beijing hotel, we have four monster bags in addition. It also meant we were restricted to 24 fewer pounds than if it had been checked as international baggage, making my packing job more tricky. Nonetheless, we got everything in our bags, on the shuttle, and to the airport in plenty of time.
Two of my sweet daughters, who enjoyed their pedicure earlier in the day, had begged me as they were getting ready to go to let them wear flip flops. They wanted mommy to be able to see their beautiful toes when she picked us up at the airport on Friday. So of course, being the softie that I am, I acquiesced. I mean, I know we're flying first into frosty Beijing and then to snowy Salt Lake City, but how much time would we really be spending outdoors? Just a short walk from the airport to our van in the covered, short-term parking lot, right? And a short walk from the airport to the hotel shuttle in Beijing. But no. I forgot about how China builds their airports. Even as everyone on the airplane disembarked, I still didn't realize it. It was only after I picked Cali up and carried her to the door of the plane that I realized I also had to carry her down the double flight of stairs to the tarmac.  On the tarmac we had to walk about 30 yards to the shuttles which would take us to the main building.  So Jesi Graci had to walk through the snow in their flip-flops.  I look back and Jesi is struggling to pull a carry on bag with one hand while pulling up her jeans so they wouldn't drag and get wet with the other hand.  Crazy Americans!!!
We were supposed to arrive in Beijing at 11:15. Our hotel is 5 miles from the airport, so I figured with a little luck, I might have the kids tucked into bed by 12:15. The baggage took forever to come off the plane, but it gave Graci and Jess the chance to further cement in everyone's minds that Americans really are strange.  They were both extremely loopy from fatigue, and they played pat-a-cake type games and chased each other all around the baggage claim area, even slipping and falling on occasion.  When the luggage finally did come out, we were missing Cali's wheelchair. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the airport staff guy who had been assigned to push Cali in the airport wheelchair (until hers came through baggage claim) told us to wait in some nearby seats.  He told us this in Chinese, which was loosely interpreted by Graci.  He made me move Cali out of the borrowed wheelchair into a regular chair and then he took off with the airport wheelchair, which I thought was wierd.  After several minutes Graci said, "Well, are you going to go look for Cali's wheelchair?"  "Isn't that guy looking for it," I asked.  In the flippant way that only Graci has truly mastered she responded, "I dunno."  "Welllllll, didn't he say for us to wait while he went to look for the chair?"  "I dunno.  I don't understand everything in Chinese."  Ah, parenthood.
So I wandered off to see what I could do.  I couldn't really take the girls with me, 'cuz now we didn't have a wheelchair!  So I left the three musketeers (or stooges, depending on how you look at things) alone with all of our luggage and started traipsing into the great unknown of the Beijing airport, looking for someone who spoke a little English.  With a bit of luck the wheelchair was soon located and we headed towards the front doors of the airport, where we were extremely late meeting a shuttle for our hotel.  By the time we got on the shuttle it was 1:15am.  There was one other family on the shuttle-all dressed in heavy winter clothing.  With heavy winter boots on.  And me with my daughters in flip flops.  Remember, I had hoped to have the girls tucked in by 12:15.  But this is China.  This seems to be my destiny as I embark on these trips.  So intead, I got the girls tucked in at 2:20am.
Now would you like to hear the crazy part?  After the girls were tucked in, I wanted to call Christi.  I had to call several times on the pathetic Skype connection I get here before she even picked up.  Then I had to call a couple more times before she could here me.  And when I finally did get a connection we could use, albeit one that kept going in and out every two seconds, I realized it was Chrissy Probst (of Puzzle Them Home fame) that I was speaking to.  Remember, she's going in and out terribly.  I hear her say that Christi was ok.  Dead spot.  They gave her some medicine for the neausea.  Dead spot.
Me:  "Is she at the doctor?"
Dead spot.
Chrissy:  "No.  The emergency room.  An ambulance had to pick her up."
Dead spot, with my laughing almost hysterically over it.  Chrissy has to think I'm the worst husband in the world.  She tells me my wife went by ambulance to the emergency room and I start cracking up.  Remember, it's about 2:00am here and I'm exhausted.  I had called Christi to tell her what zany adventures in travel we had been having, and I find out her news.  It's almost too insane to be true.  But that's our life.  And it struck me as funny.  What sobered me up was when I heard Chrissy say, "They ruled out stroke."  Stroke?!?  Are you kidding me??? 
At that point she explained what had happened.  (The reason she originally started the conversation with "Christi is ok" was because she had left me a voice mail a little while ago which I hadn't yet listened to.)  Christi had been feeling nauseaus and light-headed.  She called Chrissy and asked for some help getting Elli out to the bus.  When Chrissy came over, she found Christi on the floor and unable to get up.  That's what I got with over our terrible connection.  At this point, she seems to be doing ok.  They have her on fluids and gave her meds for neausea.  They think it's an inner ear thing.
So now I'm about to go to bed.  I have to get up in 4.5 hours and catch a plane across the Pacific.  My wife is in the ER recovering from a collapse.  We could use your prayers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I have a confession to make...

Every time we go on a trip, and I mean every time, I pack my own suitcase and Christi packs everything else.  The one exception is for camping trips.  I do man up and take care of the tent, sleeping bags, etc.  But every article of clothing, every carry-on toy for the kids, EVERYTHING else is packed by my sweetie.  So here I am, eyes glazed over, staring at a room full of stuff that somehow has to get to America.  I can do it right?!?  (In case you can't tell, I'm stalling.  If I focus on the computer long enough, perhaps I'll turn around and it will all have magically packed itself...)

My Three Sons

I have been tired beyond words-- to the point of being on the verge of tears at all times.  It's made me feel almost sick-- I hate jet lag!!   I just took some medicine awhile ago that helped me get through the last few hours-- and though I'm still exhausted, I can function.  I'm finally ready for bed, but just had to take a few minutes to record how grateful I am for my three boys.

Xander, upon arriving home from school, went straight to the kitchen.  Fifteen minutes later, he came in my room, where I had fallen on the bed and was fighting falling asleep.  "Look, Mommy-- I made you a special snack!"  On the tray were two bagels cut in half and spread with strawberry cream cheese.  On top of the cream cheese was a generous helping of red and green sprinkles ("cuz it's Christmas"), a spinach leaf, and a cherry tomato.  I wish I had had the camera with me!   Of course, he had to stand there to make sure I ate one.  (;  I love that creative, thoughtful little guy!  He wants to be a chef someday (along with many other things, including a father of two girls, two babies, and 49 boys with special needs adopted from China).  (:

Parker, also noticing my fatigue and subsequent lack of patience with the little ones' whining, intervened several times to help out and play with them.  He's very aware of other people's needs.  Love him.

After arriving home late from Parker's basketball game, where I had dragged all the little ones because I couldn't bear to get a babysitter after already being gone from them for so long, it was all I could do to get them in bed.  I asked Taylor, who had just arrived home from his basketball practice and was surely exhausted, if he could please just spend 10 minutes and unload/load the dishwasher.  The kitchen was a mess, it was almost 10:00, and I was just dying to fall into my bed-- but knew that I would be frustrated waking up to a kitchen where there weren't clean dishes or places to eat.  He sweetly went into the kitchen and spent three times as long as I had asked cleaning up.  As he finished, he hugged me and brightly said, "Well, I don't have to ask the question 'Have I done any good in the world today?!'"  That made me smile.  It's a line from one of my favorite hymns:

1. Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
2. There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.

So glad I have boys who live by these words!

Last Minute Musings

I am alone in our hotel room.  The quiet is quite therapeutic.:)  At Christi's suggestion, I made a spa appointment for the three girls, so they are all down getting manicures and pedicures.  Ah, the good life.  I started packing in earnest this morning.  Really thought I could get everything down to three 50-pound suitcases.  But no matter how much you squish 170 pounds, you just can't make it weigh less.  So, as I have done on at least two other trips to China, I went down and bought another suitcase. If it lives through the journey home, it will have been worth the money I paid for it. ;) 

I've missed at least seven of the boys' basketball games while we've been here and it's killing me.  Just got a report on Parker's game (Wendesday night local time).  Their team scored 15 points the entire first three quarters and were down by 11 with three minutes left.  At that point they went on a huge run which ended with a three by Parker to send the game into overtime.  They lost by one in OT.  Bummer, but those types of games can be great learning experiences and confidence builders.  I love watching my boys play ball!

On the way home we have a three-hour layover in Seattle.  My parents live in Portland, so they are driving up there to see us at the airport.  I'm so glad they'll get a chance to meet Cali right away.  I called them a few minutes ago to confirm they were coming and while they were on the phone, my mom spoke with Cali.  It was fun to see how excited Cali was and how much she seemed to enjoy talking to nai nai.  As they spoke together, Cali's head and mine were very close together so I could hear and do a little interpreting.  Once they were done, I took the phone again, but Cali didn't move away.  Instead, she wrapped her arms around me, gave me a big hug, and rested her head on my chest.  It was the sweetest thing.  I think she is feeling very secure with her place in our family.

I know I've said this before, and I'll likely say it again, because it is something that continues to be impressed upon my heart.  I am so grateful to Graci and Xander for their patience with me as I was learning to be an adoptive parent.  I am so grateful to have a better understanding of how important it is to just be patient and let things slide as this new, wonderful individual discovers what it means to be part of a family, and specifically, part of our family.  Harsh words or an impatient voice may result in more immediate action today, but it will only create that much more difficulty in the future for the child to bond and feel loved and safe in their new home.  I believe that biological children are sent to families in a specific order, an order that our Father in Heaven knows is best.  I've never really thought about adoption order much, but now that we have Cali, I feel that Heavenly Father's hand was very instrumental in the order that we have adopted our kids.  I needed to learn many things before I was prepared to have such a sensitive child come into my life!  And Heavenly Father knew that some of our other children were resilient enough to endure my shortcomings and make it through intact:).

I am scared.  It hasn't been easy here in China, but all we had to focus on was adoption and loving our new child.  Going home we will have to worry about work and bills, shoveling snow and mowing lawns, making meals and doing laundry (well, not too much laundry-thank you, thank you, thank you Russ and Candace!), homework, English skills, braille, doctor's appointments, paperwork for another adoption, the list goes on and on and on.  I am so grateful for my partner through all of this.  Sometimes people will express some degree of amazement at our family and what we do.  They often make comments about what good people we must be.  I appreciate the things they say and recognize that our family is unique and special.  But truly, truly, the catalyst for who we are and what our family is is my sweet wife, Christianne.  I am just a regular guy caught up in a special work.  Christi is not a regular girl.  She is an angel.  Her heart is big.  Her motives are pure.  She strives to do the right thing more than anyone else I know.  She is patient.  She is strong.  she is creative.  She is diligent.  She is valiant in her testimony of Christ.  She loves her children passionately.  She is not perfect, but she is close.  And somehow, she is mine.  Thank you, sweetheart, for going on this journey with me.



Last Night In GZ!

We took the oath at the consulate today.  Really just one more step left.  We should receive Cali's passport with a US Visa in it by 4:00pm tomorrow afternoon.  We leave Guangzhou around 8pm.  Looking forward to getting home, but I really will miss being here.  The girls have been so sweet and cute.  Graci, particularly, has looked out for me and encouraged the other girls to be sweet and obedient and grateful.  We've done a lot of shopping over the past couple of days.  Visited the pearl market today and then walked down to Shamian Island.  There are several of the shop owners there that know us by sight at this point.  Not on the second and third visit of our trip, but on the first :).  No joke.

Tonight the girls wanted to go swimming.  The temperature was probably in the upper 50s and it is an outdoor, slightly heated swimming pool.  It was a bit chilly!  But they really wanted to go, so we went.  Cali really seems to enjoy the pool.  She obviously hasn't had much experience swimming, but she's starting to get more comfortable.  At first, she didn't know how to plug her nose and go under water, but now she does it comfortably.  She goes all around the edge and like to swim across on my back.  She's even gotten better at that.

This afternoon we did group pictures with the seven CCAI families that are here.  I tried to buy Cali a Chinese dress to wear for them, but she would NOT have it.  I finally convinced her to get a shirt and a pair of shoes.  She looked so cute.  During the group picture of just the adopted kids, there were a bunch of 2-3 year olds and Cali.  But she was a great sport, in fact she looked extremely comfortable with the younger kids, which goes right along with what we've heard about her at the orphanage.  She even held one of the little boys for the pictures.  Lots of fun.

Cali continues to get more and more comfortable with us.  She has more spunk, she is talking way more and she is much more willing to assert herself now.  She has been calling us mommy and daddy, which we both absolutely love.  Tonight we were about ready to go swimming and I was on the computer.  She asked several times when we could go, and I just kept saying, "In a couple of minutes."  She finally said, in a loud voice, "Daddy!  1...2...3..."  Way to go Cali!  Needless to say, we got up and went.

Looking forward to snow capped mountaints and blue sky.  Not looking forward to icy temps.  Looking forward to hugs from Taylor, Parker, Elli, Xander, Lexi and Sophi.  Not looking forward to going back to work.  Looking forward to Christmas!  Not looking forward to being on a plane during BYU's bowl game.  Looking forward to seeing all of the kids interacting with Cali.  Not looking forward to seeing her dental x-rays.  (Hopefully they're more like Lexi's than Graci's when they got to America!)  Looking forward to her meeting the wonderful group of neighborhood girls who have been anticipating her arrival.  Not looking forward to her meeting the myriad doctors she is sure to need to see in the first few months home.  Looking forward to Cali getting integrated into school.  Not looking forward to the inevitable tears that will be shed as she adjusts to American culture, language and food.  Looking forward to sleeping in my bed.  Not looking forward to sleeping in my new bedroom:(  Looking forward to seeing Cali meet grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins. 
Heading to bed on our last night in Guangzhou!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A quick check-in!

Jer just wrote a post from China, so you can scroll down and read that first...

I made it home!  I left at 9:30 p.m. Monday evening and arrived at almost 2 a.m. this morning.  With the time difference, that makes for about a 20 hour trip-- not too bad!  Jeremy and the girls have a much longer trip home, as the cheapest way for them to fly is to take a late night flight to Beijing, stay at a hotel, take an early flight to Seattle, have a three hour layover, then fly to SLC.  With three girls.  One in a wheelchair.  Much more difficult than my route, but saves hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  So yeah, Jer's the man.  (:

It feels SOOOOOOO good to be home!  I can't say how much I missed my sweet kiddos!  It felt amazing to hug and love on them this morning.  I woke up at 6 a.m. and went and crawled in bed with Sophi, Xander, and Lexi (who all happened to be sharing a bed).  It was so much fun to have each of them wake up and see big smiles spread across their faces as they realized who was in bed with them.  A perfect start to my day.

I'm feeling a bit fuzzy from jet lag.  I want to sleep all day, but have a million things to do.  Christmas prep and shopping is on the top of the list, as is Lexi's IEP, basketball games for the boys, unpacking, catching up on emails, homework with kids, and house stuff.  Ahhh... back to reality!  (;  It's probably good I have plenty to keep me busy-- hopefully I can stay awake most of the day and be able to get a good night's rest and get my body switched to Utah time...

Mom, Dad, Matthew, Megan-- you are AMAZING.  Thanks for being such angels and taking care of the kids!!!  I love you so much and I'm so grateful for our family!  Can't wait to introduce you to your new granddaughter/niece.  (:

Jesi, Graci, and Cali-- thanks a lot for mocking my heart-felt note.  Love you too!  (;


Loving Guangzhou

In Christi’s much-mocked note to me, she counseled, “Be happy and enjoy this time as much as you can.”  Fantastic counsel.  I can honestly say today was one of the best days of my life.  I have so enjoyed the company of my three oldest daughters.  I am really trying to live by the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff!”  And it really isJ.  It has been an incredibly endearing bonding experience to be half way around the world with just the three of them.  Over the years I have had many opportunities through sports and camping to make some fantastic memories and bonds with my older boys.  But those opportunities have been less frequent with my girls.  As I have now officially retired from coaching, I have been able to enjoy more of these experiences.  And the results in my relationships with the girls are very evident. 

We were up at 7:45 today to get ready for a trip to the Guangzhou safari.  Aside from the rain, it was quite wonderful.  We saw all kinds of wildlife up close as we rode through the “Safari on wheels” portion of the park.  Then we were able to walk through the other areas and see pandas and koalas, tigers and dinosaurs (pretty decent Jurassic Park fare).  We even got to feed giraffes out of our hands.  Those are some pretty long tongues!!!  After resting for a while back at the hotel, we took a taxi down to Shamian Island, did some shopping and had dinner.  There is something about an outdoor meal at Lucy’s that completes my adoption tripJ.  We found some cross stitch patterns for the girls that will hopefully keep them interested for a portion of that long plane ride home.  Also found some good gotcha gifts and grand bag items. 

Today’s best lines:

Jessica (an email novice) while watching me type my email address into an online form:  “Hotmail?!?  What’s that mean?”  Then, after a couple seconds of thought, and with a suspicious look in her eyes, “Does that mean Christianne mail???”

Cali, at dinner after yet another taxi ride, (and through Graci as an interpreter): “Daddy, why do you always ask the taxi drivers the same questions?”  This, of course, was a reference to the fact that I can only ask about two questions in Chinese:  “Are you from Guangzhou?” and “Do you have any children?”  The funny part was that on the way home, we were in another taxi and I asked the driver, “Are you from Guangzhou?”  Cali immediately started cracking up and mocked me in front of everyone.  She has quite the sense of humor.

I am so excited to get home to my family and to the States and to Christmas.  But I am truly going to miss China and Guangzhou and the time I have here to focus entirely on three of my precious children.  Life is beautiful.


Monday, December 17, 2012

A few pics...

Graci with her China neice: Ling Long

Chin brother holding Graci and Bei Bei

Christi and Jesi in the middle of a swarm of elementary school kids who love their hair!
Graci with her 1st and 2nd grade teacher from Hangzhou

We love China Grandma!!!

Ling Long with her America grandparents and her China grandparents.  They decided we were her America grandparents.  We really are part of the family at this point:)

At the zoo.

Jesi, Graci, Duna and Christi
Cali after swimming

Sorry!  These pictures were part of a larger group we were trying to post, but only a few got through and in kind of random order.  We will post more when we can:)

Random Sampler

Three beautiful girls tucked into bed.  One beautiful girl somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  One tired dad feeling lonely and very separated from the love of his life.  But it’s not too long.  Four days and we’ll all be back together again as a family.  

Cali keeps coming out of her shell. She is extremely comfortable around us now.  She is quite the goofball, particularly when she gets tired at the end of the night.  When asked to go to bed, she’ll giggle and lay on the floor and grab my leg and do anything but get into bed.  I am truly grateful for the lessons I have learned over the last six years and five adoptions.  I am much more able to realize how difficult this adjustment can be for an adopted child.  A few years ago, I would likely have become pretty stern with a child who would not obey after repeated requests.  But today I am able to not only not get stern, but not even be tempted to get stern.  I have much yet to learn, but I have certainly come a long way.  And I am grateful to the kids who have helped me learn some pretty important lessons. 

Tonight I had our wonderful guide, Jason, interpret for me as I talked to Cali for a minute.  I told her that sometimes the local people come up and talk to us as they see us with Chinese children.  Since Cali can speak Chinese, she is often the one that converses with them.  As these people learn that we have adopted six children from China, they often give us thumbs up, thank you’s and supportive comments like “very good.”  I told Cali that I truly wished I could speak Chinese so that I could tell these people that we are the ones who are blessed.  That our beautiful Tang Min is so wonderful, and we are the ones who are lucky to have her.  I hope sweet Cali understood.  I think I caught the hint of a smile as Jason explained what I was saying....

I took the girls on a riverboat cruise tonight.  The last we saw of Christi, she was waving good-bye as we drove away on the tour bus.  She left the hotel for the airport shortly after we departed.  When we returned from the airport, I found a love note from Christi on the desk in our room.  It wasn’t super sappy, but included lines like, “I had to fight the tears,” and “I will miss you.  I DO miss you.”  One of the most hilarious scenes I have ever seen ensued.  Graci picked it up and read it.  The three girls then proceeded to do dramatic readings and interpretive dance to this love letter.  Over and over again.  For at least 15 minutes.  In English and Chinese.  I was absolutely cracking up.  They all HATE the video camera, so I promised them five dollars each if they would let me video them.  I’ll try to post it when I get home.  Seriously one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Christi and I have been missing Christmas out here.  There are few decorations.  We’ve heard about three carols since we came to China.  And the weather is in the 60s.  Just doesn’t feel quite right.  So we rented Miracle on 34th Street on iTunes and watched it last night.  Well, we started it last night around 9:30pm.  I couldn’t even make it 45 minutes without crashing, so we finished it this afternoon.  What a cheesy, fantastic movie.  With all my heart I believe in Santa Claus!

Printed on the wrapper of a new toilet paper roll in our hotel in Xi’an:

YAQI. (Whatever genius decided that “yucky” would be a good brand name for toilet paper needs to be re-enrolled in marketing 101). 
although the rose has been given,
fragrant is still here,
although the time has been gone,
love is still here forever.
On your toilet paper roll.  Romantic! J.

Dear Dad,

Missed you on the Pearl River cruise tonight.  Thought about you while standing on the open-air top and looking at the amazing neon lights of Guangzhou.  I’ve been able to satiate my grape juice fix while here.  Wish you could share it with me.  See you in Seattle.


We have a lot of poignant moments in our lives.  Pretty much every day could wipe out someone who was particularly sensitive to these things.  One of the more poignant for me has been watching Cali play with Jesi and Grace in our hotel room.  Don’t  misunderstand, she does fantastic.  She gets where she wants to go.  She gets up and down from chairs and beds.  But in a hotel room, the wheelchair is difficult to maneuver, so it’s easier for her to just ditch it and get around strictly with her arms.  Again, she’s able to do this very well, but it breaks your heart to see the effort she has to put in to do what other children can do without a second thought.  On the other hand, it has been a delight to see what she can do in her wheelchair.  At first, she just let us push her everywhere.  Now she asserts herself.  If we’re not going quick enough, she tears off at pretty fast speeds.  Remember, she’s on wheels.  She can go 0-60 a lot faster than this old guy can on his feet.  If she sees a small curb, she pops a wheelie so the front wheels clear it, and powers herself up over it.  If we’re not adept enough fitting her into tight spaces, she takes control and gets exactly where she wants.  She’s awesome!

Sorry we haven’t posted many pictures.  We’ve literally spent hours trying to, but the internet connection is pathetic.  You’ll get lots next weekend when we get home.  Cali is perfect.

Adoption trips are emotional rollercoasters.  We have had all different versions, from the smoothest, fastest rides, to the rickety old wooden coaster that gives you a pounding headache.  This one has been fantastic.  We feel so lucky to have been led to our sweet Tang Min.  She is right for our family and our family is right for her.  It’s also an unbelievable experience to be with so many other forever families who have just added their latest bundle of joy.  I am humbled to be around so many people who are so good.  I am so grateful that God has led Christi and I to this unforeseen but now ever so appreciated calling in our lives.  I am so grateful to and for Taylor, Parker, Jessica, Elizabeth, Gracelin, Alexander, Alexis, Sophia, Calais, and Conner.

I am so tired.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Plan

OK.  So here’s the big news.  I have been really worried about how we are going to integrate a wheelchair into our home.  Like. Really. Worried.  Christi had gutted out the clutter in Jesi and Graci’s room, with the intention of putting Cali in there, too.  But if you know the layout of our home, you realize that this is not a very viable option.  Yesterday, Christi had an inspiration.  We need to switch rooms with the girls!  I started doing cartwheels and clicking my heels as I realized that this really is the only way to do it.  My heart swelled with joy as I pictured how easily Cali’s wheelchair will navigate the double doors into our master bedroom and how much better it will be for her to have access to our master bath.  The smile never left my face as I tried to figure out if we should put our king-sized bed into the girl’s room (which, incidentally, is painted pink, my favorite color) or put that bed into storage and utilize the bunk beds the girls have been using.

Honestly, it is probably what we’re going to have to do.  It is taking a bit of effort for me to really accept this, but I’m actually grateful Christi thought about it while we’re here in China.  Having seen the living accommodations that are reality for so many here and around the world, it seems awfully petty of me to worry if my heated, carpeted bedroom is going to be a little bit smaller going forward.


P.S.  Christi just read this post and said, “The problem is, you’re such a good person that some people won’t catch the fact that first paragraph is sarcasm.  So for those of you who have never met me (‘cuz no one who knows me could possibly have that kind of opinion of me!), the first paragraph is rife with sarcasm.  Dripping.  Reeking of insincerity.  J

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Adventure Continues...

So much to share!  Most importantly and most wonderfully, there is no question at all that Cali was meant to be a part of our family.  Christi and I are amazed at how quickly and completely she is adjusting.  Her magnetic smile comes more and more frequently.  She is eating up having a mom and dad.  And her relationship with both Graci and Jess continues to grow.  The three of them will giggle and talk and play together for hours.  Sometimes Graci and Cali will be conversing in Chinese.  At other times Jesi and Cali count together and sing the ABC’s together.  One of my favorite things is when Jesi tries to interpret things for Cali.  Jess seems to think that if she speaks slowly and clearly and uses lots of hand motions, Cali will somehow understand English.  And Jess is completely in earnest.  It’s simply darling.

Cali is also starting to become a Green in the sense of having a fun, teasing streak in her.  The first couple of days we had her, she would watch as Jesi, Graci and I would interact.  I would tickle those two.  Christi would help me tickle them back.  We also learned that Cali is very ticklish.  But she would mostly just watch.  Then last night something clicked.  We were all in the swimming pool.  Dave and Mike were even there with the cameras.  But Cali completely came out of her shell.  Jesi was doing her usual number of dunking and splashing Dad.  Suddenly Cali started splashing along with her.  It started as a bit of  a rebellion against the camera.  Cali has endured, but certainly not enjoyed, the cameras that have been rolling much of the time we’ve had her.  In the pool, Dave had me hold a waterproof Go Pro camera and follow Cali around with it.  Cali was swimming along as usual when she started to slap the water with more vigor than before.  I quickly realized that she was splashing the camera.  The little imp!  I called her on it and she got a big grin on her face.  I pointed it out to Christi and Cali started doing it more and more.  Then she started splashing me.  I got in the hot tub (right next to the pool) with Christi and Jess and Cali started dousing us with the cold water from the pool.  Later, as we were winding down, Cali started to tickle me.  I was trying to help get from the edge of the pool up to her wheelchair, but each time I’d lean down, she would reach out and tickle my stomach or under my arm.  She was having fun with her dad and loving it.  And we loved it, too!  She is an angelJ.

Yesterday afternoon was quite the adventure for us.  Our plan was to go to lunch and then go visit Cali’s friend, Duna, at her work. Dave and Mike came along with us.  After lunch, we went to the nearest busy street to catch a cab.  Taxis in China are ridiculously cheap ($3.00 for a 20 minute ride?!?), but they are also notoriously difficult to hail.  So picture us there:  Christi, Jessica, Graci, Cali in her wheelchair, and me.  Along with Dave and Mike and some of their camera equipment.  The temperature is somewhere pretty far south of freezing.  Standing between the main, incredibly busy road and the “frontage road” that runs along every major road in China.  (Never have been sure exactly what these frontage roads are for.  Buses seem to use them, but so does anyone else who finds they might be useful.  Not to mention there are also many sidewalks that double as another lane to drive and/or park on.  Glad I don’t have to pass the driver’s test in China!!!)  Christi has the girls pulled tightly to her so they don’t get clipped by an aggressive driver (and don’t get me started on the mental state of the people behind the wheel here.  For example, at the Teracotta Warriors the other day, we were helping Cali down a wheelchair ramp. A lady on a scooter behind us started honking at us.  Because we weren’t going quickly enough.  In our wheelchair. Down a wheelchair ramp.  Really?)

I stuck out my hand to stop a taxi.  Multiple taxis drove by without so much as slowing down.  Most had passengers in them.  Some were likely done for the day.  And others were probably just afraid of the crazy Americans.  Then I noticed that a group of Chinese ladies had moved up the street from us.  They, too, were trying to hail a cab and had deliberately positioned themselves so that a cab would stop for them before they stopped for us.  I am sure of this because they were literally in the middle of an intersection.  If you haven’t traveled abroad, you may not be able to envision this, but it really is true.  In many foreign countries, there are simply no traffic laws beyond “don’t hit anyone.”  So there they were, trying to steal our cab!  I pointed it out to Christi.  Her immediate response?  “Be a man!  Go get in front of them!”  So a man I became.  I walked past them and into position to get the next cab.  They started to chuckle, then started to walk past me.  I wouldn’t let them.  I walked farther up the street.  At that point they start to belly laugh at this impudent foreigner, gave up, and let me have the preferred position.

About that time, a motorcycle “taxi” pulled up to me.  He was going the wrong way along the street, right next to the curb.  This is Xi’an.  A city of 8 million people.  I would have to say that the traffic here is worse than New York City.  And he decides he’ll go head-on into traffic to find some sucker who’ll bite.  Apparently I looked like his type.  And it you’ve never ridden in a motorcycle taxi, you haven’t lived.  Motorcycle in the front, rickshaw in the back.  Three wheels (a design notorious for its stability!).  The back has had some metal bars welded onto it to provide a framework.  A rickety floor and thin plexiglass side panels complete the ensemble.  Wanna take your family for a ride through NYC in that?  Well, some nostalgia for my time in Thailand must have clouded my thinking, ‘cuz I immediately thought “Let’s do it.  I haven’t had this much fun since 1996!”  It didn’t hurt that this guy had some limited English and was quite the huckster. 

“Where you go?”  I showed him the address.  With a disgusted look on his face: “Very far.  You no get taxi.  I take you.  100 Yuan (about $17.00).  Me, looking about as intelligent as a wide mouth bass coming up alongside the boat and into the net: “Uh, OK.  Yeah.  I’ll stuff my wife, my three daughters and me into this rattletrap and then we’ll maybe carry the wheelchair in our laps.  And why don’t I write you into my will, too?”  Or something like that.  I walked back to Christi and tried to sell her on the merits of this entrepreneurial transportation guru.  “Honey, it’ll be fun!  It’s an adventure you’ll never forget.  We’ll never get a cab and it’s getting late and we may miss Duna and….”  “NO!  N.O. No!  Are you completely insane?  Go get us a cab!”  (Said in the sweetest possible way.)  So there we are.  Six Americans, one adopted sweetie and one very motivated motorcycle cabbie.  I kept trying to convince Christi it was the only way we’d get anyone to take us there.  As the cabbie kept telling me we’d never get a taxi, I used my little Chinese to say, “Mama shua bu! (Mama says no!) and then threw up my hands like ‘what’s a guy to do?’  The cabbie and the group of taxi-stealing-ladies caught the humor.  At this point, Christi gave up on the idea of me being a man and decided to take things into her own hands.  She charged down the street hollering at every cab that passed.  When one stopped to let someone out, she held the door open so the cab couldn’t leave.  With my yelled encouragement (she was 50 yards away by now) she hopped in the back seat and tried to encourage him to drive to where we were waiting.  The driver eventually helped her understand that he was now off work.  She jumped back out and continued her gesticulations until she successfully found a taxi that would take us.  Poor Dave and Mike were left with motorcycle man.  We all got there safely, but our trip only cost 21 YuanJ.

The time with Duna was extraordinary.  This wonderful lady has a heart of gold.  We’ve mentioned before how important she has been in Cali’s life.  They both arrived at the Hanzhong orphanage at about the same time.  Duna quickly sensed how sweet and sensitive Cali was and how much she needed a friend.  They have become like family in the five years since.  Recently, Duna transferred to a spot in Xi’an.  Here she works in a facility that houses six boys who have “aged out.”  All of them are 15 years old and are no longer eligible for adoption in China.  They live in an apartment that also serves as their school.  They have staff there around the clock, but Duna comes in for a normal work-day and helps these boys develop skills that will hopefully enable them to get jobs someday.  She has spearheaded this type of care in this area and clearly loves the kids she is working with.  Christi and I quickly fell in love with them, too.  At Christi’s suggestion, we quickly went down to the store around the corner and brought a bunch of treats and fruit for the kids.  They were very excited when we came back, mostly for the opportunity to hand all the things back out.  You had to be careful, or a grubby skittle might find its way right into your mouth.  Felt like an early Christmas.  Cali enjoyed seeing Duna one last time.  They really do love each other.  It was a great final day in Xi’an!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Just a few pictures...

Internet is sketchy here.  I spent a good deal of time last night trying to get photos uploaded.  I only got four, but I guess that's better than nothing!  If I would have known that it wasn't going to work well, I would have chosen four pictures all with Tang Min, but as it is, there's just one... At least it's super cute!!  It  is of the three girls on the night we got Tang Min.  We had gone swimming and they had just had baths-- aren't they precious?!! 

This next photo is Graci with "China Grandma."  She is one of my favorite people in the world-- just as sweet as they come.  We LOVE her!

Here is one of the meals that Graci's aunties prepared for us.  Graci has let me know that if they ever come visit us in America, I need to step it up with my cooking!  She's very proud of the many dishes they served.  (: 

This is Jesi and Graci with Bei Bei, Graci's friend from China.  They used to spend a lot of time together when they were younger.  Bei Bei is ten and full of spunk and personality-- she reminds me so much of Graci when we first adopted her-- quite the character.  (;

And there you have it!  Tomorrow we will be traveling to Guangzhou and will hopefully have better luck with the internet! 

Cali is doing so amazingly well!  We're heading to breakfast right now, but I'll try to wrtie more later and maybe try for some more pics...


Monday, December 10, 2012


Recieved on 12/10/2012 at about 8:30 PM EST

Sorry we haven't posted pictures yet.  Our internet connection is not the greatest.  One of the filmmakers for the documentary has been posting several of our pictures to Facebook.  If you would like to see them, his name is Michael Rottina.  If you send him a friend request you can see us with Graci's China family and with Cali.

Today made it final-- Cali is our daughter, sister, granddaughter, neice, cousin!  Watching her sign the papers that said that she formally accepted us was a beautiful thing.  We've never adopted a child old enough that they were involved in the decision-making process of finalizing the adoption.  I'll admit, there was a tiny part of me that was nervous that when the time came, she wouldn't be able to sign the papers-- it takes so much courage to leave all you know behind for some crazy American family!  I wish more than anything that I could get in her head right now and really know everything she is thinking!  She has to be experiencing so many thoughts and emotions right now.  She is typically smiling and sparkly-eyed, but she also will get thoughtful, sometimes overwhelmed/sad looks and I just want to reassure her that everything will be ok and that things will get easier.  It's so hard to watch her during those more serious times and not be able to communicate effectively with her.  In some ways, I just want to fast forward time for her...Sigh.

After finalizing the adoption this morning and doing lots of paperwork and official adoption stuff, we were given the special privilege of being able to meet Cali's biological grandmother and auntie.  We had to fight pretty hard for this, as it isn't common practice-- but we felt it was important to meet them, get pictures, and let Cali see both families together.   It isn't often that Chinese adoptees are true "orphans" in the sense that both parents have passed away.  Because this is the case with Cali, we know of her roots and background.  Seeing her grandmother and auntie was a beautiful experience.  The grandmother looked so much like Tang Min (Cali's Chinese name-- and the name we are mostly calling her right now.)  She was younger and more vibrant than I had imagined.  The auntie was just darling-- so smiley and happy to meet us.  Her husband was there as well-- all wonderful people.  Perhaps the greatest blessing of meeting them was that they were able to give us pictures of Tang Min when she was younger.  Two of them were pictures of her with her biological mother and father.  What a precious gift!  We were also able to exchange phone numbers and email addresses.  I love and appreciate the fact that she can remain tied to them because of this.  We will be seeing them one more time tomorrow, as they were rushed to get to Xi'an (they live a few hours away and it was decided very last minute that they would be allowed to come) and they wanted to buy some gifts for Cali and bring them tomorrow.  As we left today, her auntie said, "Now we are all like family."  (:  Tang Min seemed to be happy that we were able to see them, but she also seemed ok leaving, which was good.  Jeremy and I decided that whether or not seeing them made it harder or easier for her right now, that later on she would be glad that we had made the connection so that she would have the opportunity to continue a relationship if she wants to.

My brain is fuzzy with tiredness-- I hope I'm writing coherently.  (;

Taylor, Parker, Elli, Lexi, Xander, and Sophi-- I MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY!  I miss YOU, blue skies, and my curling iron-- in that order!  I love you all more than I ever have before and I can't wait to get you all back in my arms where you belong!  I'm so glad that you are with Grandma and surely having a wonderful time, but it seems like you are worlds away and I am just dying to be with you again!!  Isn't it wonderful that in just a couple of weeks it will be Christmas, and we will all be enjoying it together?!!!  I'm sure that Santa has a few tricks up his sleeve, but the best gift of all will be your new sister.  She is honestly just perfect for you and you for her.  I am so grateful that she will have you as her brothers and sisters.  You are all so special and amazing and treasured more than you will ever know.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE you!!!!!!!!!!!!

At nightime, we have a tuck-in routine that includes calling each child by their nickname-- Sophi is "little butterfly" (from the movie "The Butterfly Circus"), Xander is "little Dang Xu Chu"-- he wanted to keep his Chinese name as his nickname), Elli is "little ladybug"-- and so forth.  Jer and I threw around a couple of nicknames for Tang Min, and knew immediately we had found the perfect one when we thought of "little angel." 

There is not a better word to describe her-- she is an absolute angel.

So so so grateful to call ALL of these angels mine... I LOVE MY FAMILY.


PS-- I was intent on getting pictures posted tonight, but we can't find our camera case.  We hope it's in the girls' room, but don't want to wake them by ringing their doorbell.  I'll try to do it in the morning...  (:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Early Morning Clarity

Last night was the first night I’ve slept well in China.  Yay!!!  I got a solid eight hours and feel much better:).  I think it helped that we kept the windows open.  The temperature in our room has been blazing hot, but last night it was crisp and cool refreshing.  I’m also very grateful to have two hotel rooms.  The girls enjoy their little slumber party atmosphere in the other room.  They’re old enough to take care of their basic needs on their own.  And we’re right next door if anything major does come up.

So this peaceful morning has offered me the opportunity to think.  Here are some of my thoughts:

Cali is far more wonderful than I had envisioned her.  She is exquisite.  She is (no pun intended) like a piece of fine China.  Exquisitely beautiful.  Exquisitely precious.  A treasure to be shared and yet guarded.  Her spirit is as innocent and pure as anyone’s I’ve ever met.  She will be a great blessing to anyone she comes in contact with, of this I am quite sure.  And yet I want to be careful to keep her shielded from some of the coarse this world has to offer.  She is an extremely precious spirit of our Father in Heaven.  Of this I am sure.

The wheelchair is going to be far more challenging than I had envisioned.  This understanding for me is mostly about our home.  I’m not yet sure how this is going to work out, but I am trusting in Heavenly Father that with His help we can do this.  My already inexpressible gratitude for Chrissy Probst and the rest of the amazing people who are striving to build us a home has multiplied many fold in the last 18 hours.  A new home will make worlds of difference for our sweet Cali and for our family as we support her.

One comment on our last post included this sentence: “What a blessing Cali Rose will be to your family.”  As I have been pondering this morning, a little stroke of inspiration came to me.  It said, “One way that Cali will be this great blessing is by the spirit of peace she will bring to your home.  You, Dad, can never utter another harsh word.  Voices cannot be raised in anger.  Patience must guide your actions as a father.”  You will have to meet Cali to feel of her sweet innocence.  It just cannot be described in print.  But clearly, becoming impatient with this one is out of the question.  Such an action would simply be unacceptable.  She is as pure as a baby straight from Heaven.  Again, you will have to meet her to understand.  But once you do, you certainly will.

A reaffirmation of a thought Christi and I have discussed previously:  Our adoption journey has given us the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.  People we never would have come in contact with otherwise.  Good people are drawn to our children, and Christi and I get the benefit of coming along for the ride.  There are many that fit into this category.  People in the local community.  People in the blogosphere.  Other adoptive parents.  People who have supported the Puzzle them Home project.  People we’ve known for years.  People we’ve barely met.  It’s just amazing how many wonderful people are drawn to our amazing children and how blessed Christi and I are for the association.  Two of these people particularly came to mind this morning.  First is Kristen, the wonderful woman who laid the groundwork for us to adopt Cali.  It was her who first discovered our sweet little girl in the orphanage.  It was Kristen who pushed for her to become adoptable.  It was Kristen who first yearned to add little Cali to her own family, but eventually found that it wasn’t right for them.  It was Kristen who posted Cali’s profile to the waiting children list.  It was Kristen who communicated with us regularly as we went through the adoption process and who expressed so much joy at each step of our journey.  Cali remembers and loves Kristen and will be excited to meet her again.  I am so grateful that our journey to Cali has brought us in contact with such a wonderful person. 

The second person that came to mind this morning is sweet Teri.  Teri, who loved Graci before we ever saw her profile.  Teri, who wanted to adopt our little Wang Chun Ling, but found that it wasn’t right for her family.  Teri, who has offered tender and tongue-in-cheek commentary to our blog for the last several years.    I look forward to meeting her in person someday.  Graci won’t quite understand the depth of feeling and emotional investment that Teri has had for her over the years, but I am sure that Grace will feel Teri’s love. 

Oh, we are blessed.  “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”  Our happiness and our quiver is full!  At least for now…:).