Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekend with Elli

Last Friday, Christi's mom retired from her job as an elementary school teacher.  Her kids helped throw a surprise party for her in Christi's hometown of Ferron, UT which is about a two hour and forty-five minute drive from our house.  Of course Christi wanted to be there, and with the long weekend it sounded fun to take the kids down and stay for a few days.  As we discussed logistics, it became apparent that it would be best if Elli stayed home with me.  She can get very agitated around large groups of people,and all of Christi's siblings and most of their children would be there as well.  So Ellli and I got to spend the weekend together.

It was a good experience overall.  I thought about taking her to Lagoon, a good-sized amusement park about 45 minutes from Herriman.  The first couple of years we had Elli we took her to Disneyworld and to Lagoon.  At that young age she really enjoyed the rides she could go on, including a couple of small roller coasters.  She would laugh and smile during and after each ride.  As the years have gone on, however, she has enjoyed these opportunities much less.  I thought maybe if it was just the two of us and I could focus all of my attention on her, she might enjoy it again.  Before I spent the time and money on a day at Lagoon, however, I decided to try an evening at a very small park called Trafalga.  It has only three or four rides in addition to an arcade, laser tag, etc.  I figured if she enjoyed the rides there I would give Lagoon a shot.

Elli had been great all day Friday.  We drove to Trafalga and she was great.  But as we entered the doors, we were hit with the cacophony of noises that 200 people in an enclosed area can generate.  The rides were back outside, but we had to get our hands stamped first.  Elli quickly started to shut down.  I hoped that if we could get our stamps quickly and get back outside, she might be ok, but, alas, the line was very slow and we stood there for at least seven minutes.  Elli got more and more distraught the longer we waited.  She started to twist around and lie down and get back up.  Soon she started to scream.  Finally we got our stamps and headed back outside, but by then it was too late.  I tried for about 15 minutes to help her get calm, but it clearly wasn't happening.  We ended up going home without participating in any of the activities there.  Poor kid!

Other than that, Elli was a little angel.  We went to the cemetery together and left flowers on Jacob's and Emily's grave.  We went to a park, we ate at McDonald's twice and I sat outside with her while she played on the trampoline and climbed on her climbing toy.  Once cute thing she did: while climbing on her jungle gym she spontaneously began to sing to the tune of the ABC's:  "Grandpa Green, Grandpa Green, Grandpa Green, Grandpa Green."  Not sure what brought him to mind, but it was very cute.  (In the video below I can't get her to sing it again, but she sure seems to enjoy it when I'm singing it to her!)

My favorite thing about the weekend was the chance I had to get to know Elli better.  Christi provides the majority of Elli's care on a typical day.  Most of the time I'm with Elle, the entire family is around.  During these noisier times, Elli is more likely to get frustrated, riled up and unruly.  It was a real blessing for me to be able to spend so much time with her when it was quiet and serene.  She really is a little angel.  I'm so grateful to be her dad.


Monday, May 26, 2014

First Hike

The other day Conner was sleeping on the couch.  Cali and Graci weren't here, so there was nobody except me to speak Chinese wit.  My limited capabilities didn't excite him very much, so he took a nap.  I'm trying to get in shape for a big hike with Taylor and Parker this summer, so I thought I'd take
Conner on a smaller hike.

I woke him up from his slumber.  Once he was coherent I tried to tell him in Chinese where we were going.  I didn't know the word for hike, so I told him we were going for a walk.  We got ready and set out, driving about five minutes from our home to the base of a precipice I've been wanting to climb.  We set off into the wilderness.  There was no trail, thick grass, lots of large rocks, and a highly sloped surface for much of it.  I was very impressed with Conner.  He held on to my backpack and kept up very well.  He only stumbled a couple of times, no more than someone with sight might have.

It was a great bonding experience.  We talked quite a bit.  He kept saying how tall this hill was and how many big rocks there were.  At one point he asked me if I had ever been here before.  When I said, "no," he was clearly shocked.  He said something that I'm sure translated roughly into, "What kind of crazy family have I been adopted into?!?"

We kept at it and made it to the top.  This is a picture of our destination taken from the front porch of our home.  Together we climbed up to the saddle on the left.  Conner waited there while I climbed up to the peak between the two saddles.

Overall I think he enjoyed it.  I told him how beautiful the views were.  We stopped often to listen to different sounds, to feel the wind and smell the smells and to enjoy the silence.  I asked him several times if he liked it and he said yes.  On the other hand, I asked him several times if he wanted to do it again and he said, "No, no, no, no, no!!!"  He's such a sweet kid.

View from the top

I took this from the top of the peak, looking down into the saddle where Conner waited.  Just to the right of the center you can see a small black dot.  That's him:)

A little shout out to Tiff:)
We made it!!!

Later that day when Grace and Cali came home, Conner told them all about it.  Graci started cracking up and I asked her way.  Barely able to contain her guffaws, she got this out.  "You asked him…(giggle)…if he wanted…(more giggles)…to go on a short little walk…(uncontrollable giggles)…then you took him…(doubles over in laughter)…way up this huge hill!  (Can't stop cracking up.)

It was about 3 miles round trip with a 1000 foot elevation gain.  I guess they had a point:)


Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Great Big Thanks!!!

We've been back for almost three weeks now.  Conner is doing so well!  He really just feels like he's always belonged with us.  It will be fun in two more weeks when the kids are out of school and he has more people to interact with during the day.  He really perks up when Graci and Cali are around and he can speak to them in Chinese!

This is just a quick post to give a great big thank you to everyone who has helped with our adoption of Conner.  A much deserved thanks to all who were involved in the Puzzle Them Home effort.  Bringing  him home to THIS home is such a blessing.  Thanks to Tyler and Laura and Leslie and Jeremy and Grandma and Grandpa Nelson for all of their help with our other kids while we were in China.  Thanks to Leslie for preparing so many fabulous freezer meals that made it much easier on Christi when we returned.  Thanks to our anonymous "food box fairies" who left a giant box of yummy treats and snacks for us.  Not only were there many of our kids favorite things to eat, they also included an extremely generous amount of gift cards for Papa John's and a prepaid Visa card to buy Conner some clothes.  We are SO grateful to you, whoever you are.

Thanks to all of you who continue to encourage us and pray for us.  We are overwhelmed by the blessings we've received.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Goes Too Fast

I had an epiphany at about 12:30 am Thursday morning.  Our sweet Jessica had gone to bed very early on Wednesday evening because she wasn't feeling well.  She took a large bowl with her just in case.  Around midnight she came into our bedroom having utilized her bowl and wanting help.  She was so sweet.  She is an amazing girl.  I've never met anyone who will so acceptingly listen to coaching and suggestions without any defensiveness or push back.  I love her so much.  She was so grateful for my help at that early hour.  She gave me a huge hug as I tucked her back into her freshly arranged bed.

As I was helping her, some of the usual thoughts went through my mind:  "I'm exhausted.  It's hard to be a parent.  Etc."  Then another thought went through my mind:  "Assuming that Sophi remains our youngest child (I know, that's a bit of an assumption when you're talking about our family, but stay with me here!)  Again, assuming that Sophi is our youngest child, we have fewer child-rearing years ahead of us than we do behind us."  That was a crazy realization.  As just about any parent knows, when you're in these crazy years with young kids, it seems like that is the only reality that exists.  You forget that you were once a child yourself, once a young, single person with few to no responsibilities.  You forget that everyone reaches an empty-nest point at sometime in their life.  You just assume that the wonderful, crazy, excruciating, exhilarating rush of today will be here tomorrow and forever.

In that moment of realization, I had two conflicting emotions.  My first thought was, "There's a light at the end of the tunnel!"  That was immediately followed by the thought, "Oh, PLEASE slow down!"  Even just thinking about it as I type, my eyes are beginning to mist.  What will I do when there is no Jesi at home to ask for help and reward me with hugs?  What will I do when there are no boys asking, "Can you come play ball with us for just 5 minutes?"  How will I cope with no make-believe plays being simultaneously written and acted out in our living room?  It will be hard.

How grateful I am for an eternal companion whom I love more than anything.  There will be a challenging transition period, I am sure.  But the thought of having much more time to spend with my sweet wife is a beautiful one.  One thing I hold onto is this.  So far, every stage of my life has been better than the last.  My two- and three-year-old Taylor and Parker are gone, but I certainly wouldn't go back there and give up the 14- and 13-year old versions!  I was once single and care-free, but I wouldn't dream of going back to those days.  With the exception of the increasing fragility of my body, age and time have brought me increasing joy with each passing year.  What a blessing this life is!

So for now, I'll continue to enjoy the ride.  And I'll move forward with faith that when this particular roller-coaster comes to a stop, there will be another, even better experience on the horizon.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parade of Homes all over again

It is such a privilege to live in this home.  We've said thanks to all of you who helped contribute to this wonderful haven for our family.  We'll say it many, many more times and it will never be enough.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I've had several experiences over the last month that have reminded me just how wonderful it is.  Towards the end of our trip to Costa Rica, Christi and I were talking about coming home.  We were obviously sad to leave such a paradise.  We had a magnificent, ocean view room at the Four Seasons Hotel.  We were spoiled with delicious food, free excursions and an amazing tropical climate.  And yet, in the midst of all of that, I felt that tingle of anticipation when I thought of coming home.  I pictured our beautiful house and I was truly excited to get back here.  What a blessing!

Thirteen days after we returned we shipped off for China to get Conner.  After two amazing weeks getting to know him, I came back home with our older kids.  Christi had left China four days before I did, so she and the younger kids were at the airport to greet us.  When I finally came home it was to a spotlessly cleaned and arranged house.  I felt like it was the Parade of Homes all over again.  Each time I went into a different room it took my breath away.  Again, thank you SO much to everyone who helped us get here!

A third experience came last week.  Bret (our builder) occasionally has a potential client who would like to see his work.  He asked if one such couple could come and tour our home.  Of course we said yes.  (By the way, we really feel like it's a privilege to share our home with others.  While we live here, we feel like a part of it will always belong to the loving friends and neighbors who helped us so much.) A sweet, young couple came along with a realtor who works with clients for Bret.  This couple didn't need a home anywhere near this size.  They just wanted to see a home Bret had built and look for some ideas.  As they went room to room, they were (of course) immersed in Lexi, Sophi and several of our other kids.  They felt the wonderful spirit that is here as a result of the love that went into the Puzzle them Home project.  At the end of the tour, the girl said something along the lines of, "I want this house."  The realtor said, "Oh, it's a great home, but you don't need anything near this large."  The girl replied, "No.  I mean I want to live here.  In THIS house.  With THIS family!  We could live in the guest room and be their nannies."

What a blessing for us to live here.  It is truly a home beyond what we possibly could have imagined.  We love it so much.  Thank you!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Last week Christi took Sophi and Conner to Lexi's school.  Lex was part of a dance concert was dying for mom to attend.  After a cute and entertaining show, Christi went up and congratulated Lexi.  Standing there surrounded by Lexi, Sophi and Conner, Christi was approached by another mom.  This woman looked at the three kids and asked, "Are these ALL yours???"  She was incredulous.  Christi had to fight back a giggle.  "Yes," she replied.  The woman sweetly told Christi that she thought it was wonderful and amazing that Christi could handle so much.

My sweet wife just smiled and said thank you, never mentioning that she had seven more at home.:)  We had a good laugh when she told me the story that evening.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Longest Walk

This is a post I wrote for findMe International. Through their Facebook site and other avenues they are trying to find a home for Cameron. Keep praying!!!

The Longest Walk

 I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful day with a beautiful 13-year-old a few weeks ago. While on an adoption trip to China, my wife and I and four of our kids arrived in the country a few days prior to the day we would get our new son. On one of those days we had the chance to take sweet Cameron for a day out of the orphanage. He is a tremendous young man. He was sweet and polite, helpful and willing to try new things. We took him out to lunch, to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and then swimming in our hotel. Throughout the day my heart continued to go out to him. Over and over I thought, "Why not us? Why couldn't we bring this special young man home?" Sadly, with ten other children, including three other 13-year-olds, it's just not right for us at this time. But oh, how I hope there's a family out there that can bring this boy home. His time is running short as he approaches age 14. He would be a great addition! He is a smart young man. He has some health concerns with his heart, but seemed to be able to do typical day-to-day types of things without any problems.

 At the end of our visit, Cameron and I returned to the orphanage in a taxi. He fell asleep on the way back. When we got there I experienced one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I woke him up and got out of the car with him. We were in the parking lot and he led me to his building. The impression I had as this courageous young man plodded forward was that he was a bit like a coal miner headed down into the mine for a day at work. Not loving what he had to do, but knowing he had to do it. He was headed into a place that provided him food and shelter, but one that was bleak and dreary in many ways.

 Once we got inside, he checked in with the staff member in charge. She greeted him warmly, for which I was grateful. Then he told me goodbye...and he left. It was after 9:00pm, and I had to walk back down the long, dimly lit hallway by myself. It was the longest walk I've ever made. Seven times we have been on the other end of this scenario. Seven times we have, at least to some extent, rescued a child who might otherwise have grown up without parents. Seven times we have experienced the joy and pain, sweetness and sorrow, and the overwhelming spirit of love that is adoption. Seven times we have taken a child away from a parentless life. But that night, I had to take him into the orphanage. And leave him. And it absolutely broke my heart.

 Cameron is a good boy. He wants a family. Could he bless the lives of you and your family? Please consider him. We are praying that someone can help him walk out into the light of a loving forever family.

-Jeremy Green

Cameron Sightseeing with the Green Family from findMe international on Vimeo.

Monday, May 12, 2014


After work today I walked in my room and, as is often the case, I felt a bit like the Pied Piper.  In walked Xander, Taylor, Sophi and Lexi.  They all had different things they wanted to share with their Dad.  Or perhaps they just wanted to be near me since they had missed me so much during the day!  For awhile I listened to the various streams of info coming at me.  Somehow it didn't matter how I responded, they always seemed to come up with another item of interest or concern they wanted to communicate.  Finally I said, "Will everyone go out of the room so I can change my clothes?"

Taylor, Xander and Sophi started towards the door.  Lexi said, "Hey Sweetie.  I'm blind!  (Little giggle.)  I can call you Sweetie, right?"

Yes, Lex, you may call me Sweetie!

After dinner we had our weekly family night.  Christi was in charge and we did an art project.  All of the kids were drawing this or writing that.  Lexi said, "Hey Dad.  Do you know what I'm drawing?"  I looked over at her paper covered in multi-colored scribbles.  Hoping I might make a lucky guess I threw some things out:





"Our family?"

"Nope.  Dad, look at my paper!"

What a poignant little comment.  Look at my paper.  She had no idea that I had been looking intently at her paper the entire time.  Look at my paper.  She honestly thought that what she was drawing would be easily identifiable if someone saw it.  Look at my paper.  A perfect melding of optimism and oblivion.  I love you, Lex.  You are the epitome of a Sweetie!

By the way, if I had half a clue I would have guessed what she was drawing.  It was Anna and Elsa from Frozen.  What else?!?


Friday, May 9, 2014

Makes Sense!

Sophi (to Christi):  "Hi, Christianne Nelson Green!  That's your name, huh?"

Christi:  "Yes."

Sophi (to herself as she walks away):  "And I'm Sophia Chinese Green!"

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day One

We must remember we now have 10 children.  This morning we woke up pretty exhausted.  We all fought through it and got ready for church.  We rushed out the door just a little late.  Christi and Graci were in the car.  I was in the van with everyone else.  On the short drive I gave instructions as I usually do.  Taylor, you help Lexi in, Parker, you help Sophi, etc.  We parked the cars, walked in and found our usual seats at the very back of the overflow seating.  I moved a chair out of the way for Cali's wheelchair.  I counted the number of chairs in the row and realized we would need two more.  I got two more chairs and put them on the end of the row.  All the kids were getting seated.  Suddenly Christi said, "Where's Elli?"  I looked and re-looked.  "Didn't Taylor bring her in?"  Apparently not.  Christi rushed out to the van and sure enough, there was Elle, bouncing and contended as could be.  Way to go, Dad!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

All things work together for good to them that love God…-Romans 8:28

I love that scripture. The first time I really internalized it was after my sister, Tiffany, passed away. I remember my mom bringing it up to me. I don’t recall the specifics of our conversation, but I’ve remembered the scripture ever since. I think of it often, now. I’m glad that the first time I really understood it was in connection with Tiff, because it often brings her to my remembrance. I miss her. She was a really fantastic person. If you can get the internet on some kind of cosmic airways in heaven, know that I think about you often little sis.

Well, this post IS being composed somewhere over the Russian seaboard. We made it onto the plane. And let me tell you, it took a bit of a miracle to even catch this flight. Last night as we were flying into Beijing, I said a prayer that we would make our connection and get on the 9:00 pm flight to LAX. I quickly had one of the strongest experiences with the spirit I’ve ever had. I had an overwhelming warmth come to me. I hoped this meant we would somehow miraculously catch our plane, but I was also OK with the possibility that we wouldn’t. All I knew was that either way it would be all right.

Obviously we missed the flight, so I started to look for ways to apply Romans 8:28. Once Parker got over his initial frustration at having to wait another night before we left, he said, “Well, everything happens for a reason.” I reflected on that and replied that in my opinion, that’s not necessarily the case. Some things happen by chance. Some things happen as a result of our or other people’s choices. But what I do know is that “…all things work together for good to them that love God.” I told Parker that at this point we were going to be in Beijing an extra night. There was no changing that. But there could and would be good things that came of it. And there have been many.

We were supposed to be at the airport at 11:00 am for our 2:00 pm flight. We had to finalize our new itinerary, retrieve our luggage from the plane last night (including poor Cali’s wheelchair), recheck the luggage on our new flight, get our boarding passes, clear immigration and security, and, of course, do all of this in Chinese. A bit daunting. We were supposed to catch the 10:40 am shuttle from the hotel. We were later than I wanted to be, but still arrived in the lobby at 10:38. Of course the shuttle was gone. The next shuttle left at 11:20, but I didn’t want to chance that, so we took two taxis. Graci, Taylor and Parker went in one. Cali, Conner and I went in the other. It only took about 10 minutes for us to hook up once we got there (during which I was berating myself under my breath at my stupidity in letting three of my kids get into a Chinese taxi on their own) and so we had saved at least 20 minutes over waiting for the next shuttle. And we needed every one of those minutes!

The taxi driver that took Conner, Cali and me was conversational. He talked to me some and to Cali a lot. He asked many questions. He told us how wonderful Americans were for adopting disabled kids from China. He stopped at one point (pretty much in the middle of an intersection, but who’s keeping track) and pulled out his phone to take my picture. And when we got to the airport he refused to take any money for the ride. It was only 25 RMB, about four bucks. But it was his way of helping our sweet kids and contributing what he could to the effort. It brought tears to my eyes. Honestly, the impact our taxi ride had on that driver alone was enough for me to feel like our layover was worth it.

When I got out of the taxi, we didn’t have a wheelchair for Cali. I carried her two or three hundred yards to the first seat I found in the terminal. [OK. Side note. I have absolutely LOVED carrying Cali everywhere. I am so glad things are so accessible in the states and the she doesn’t need me there and that she is so independent. I would never trade that. But there is something so endearing about carrying my little angel. About helping her when she can’t help herself. I think she has felt closer to me because of it and I know I’ve felt closer to her. Another example of all things working together for good….] Cali and Conner waited there while I located the other kids. Once we were all together, I rushed over to Air China to start what would turn out to be a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal. I went by myself because I didn’t want to upset Graci. Grace has been so good on this trip. She hates interpreting, but she has done SO much of it and done it well. As the trip has gone on it has started to wear on her, and I’ve had to bite my tongue a few times when she let me know how she felt about a request to interpret. Earlier in the morning I had pulled her aside and told her that for the next few hours she might have to interpret quite a bit. I asked her to try not to get upset. That there was no pressure. Anytime she couldn’t do it, all she had to do was say so. Just give it her best shot. She said she would try, but I didn’t want to make her do any more than she had to. So I went over to Air China on my own.

I’ve gotten fairly good at speaking in Chinese. I can communicate a lot of things. I was able to tell the Air China lady that we had missed a flight yesterday and needed to find our luggage and check in for our new flight. The problem is, I can’t understand hardly anything. She went on for about a minute before I gave up. I called Grace over and our adventure began. Grace was wonderful. She tried harder than I’ve ever seen her try. First we were sent to the ticketing desk (took over an hour to get our replacement tickets correctly processed!) then to the lost luggage desk, then to the oversize luggage area. I was starting to see that this was going to be a long ordeal and started to wonder if we’d make it or not. The two of us sprinted to the oversize luggage area where we were told it would be a 40 minute wait! We sprinted back to the lost luggage desk to tell them we couldn’t wait 40 minutes or we’d miss our flight. He said the oversized luggage people were wrong. We sprinted back to oversized luggage and waited about 15 minutes. Finally our luggage, including the wheelchair, showed up. We sprinted with all of our luggage back to the lost luggage area. By this time I had worked up a decent sweat. This was exactly what I had hoped for prior to our 12-hour flight. Lost luggage now checked our bags and printed boarding passes. During all of this craziness, Graci and I were able to spend time together. It was one of the sweetest experiences I’ve ever had with her. We were working together, even running together, for a common goal. She opened up about Chinese and why it’s so hard to interpret. We had a beautiful time. This experience alone would have been worth our missed connection.

Once we finally had our boarding passes and Cali had her wheelchair, we headed to the shuttle for the international departure area and the immigration and security we had to clear there. Just getting to the exiting immigration area took about 15 minutes, and by the time we got the actual security area it was 1:25. Plane leaves at 2:00. Gate E31. (Yes, dear Christi, we did go by gate E32, but we were all in a dead run at that point, so no massage chairs for us!) They moved us to the last line in security. It wasn’t the disabled line. It was the “you look like you’ll be a big hassle and take a lot of time” line. We were behind a family that was, indeed, a big hassle and took a lot of time. We didn’t all get through security until about 1:40. We ran to the gate and were there as the last passengers were boarding. Whew! We made it. BUT…our tickets (I’m not making this up) were all middle seats with no two together! This means Conner would have to sit between two strangers. Conner is an amazing, sweet, wonderful, talented, thoughtful, good, easy kid in many ways. But suffice it to say he has a bit to learn about social boundaries. He takes the old AT&T marketing line, “reach out and touch someone” to the extreme. Not to mention that if someone just handed him a meal tray, it might get a bit messy with no one to help him prepare it. The gate agent looked at me like I was crazy. “The flight is very full. You will not be able to sit together.” “But look at us! We have to have at least a couple of seats together!” “Go talk to the flight attendants on the plane.”

In the end, being the last ones on probably helped our cause. As I carried Cali in and Parker led Conner, all eyes were on us. The purser was quickly able to find a couple of people who traded seats with us and we ended up all in a group with Conner and Cali right next to me. People are so good. I’ve had a conversation with one lady on the flight who was in tears as she learned about our family.

Many lives have been blessed as a result of our missing that flight. I am humbled by the way the Lord can take a single event and make it work together for good in the lives of many. I’ve seen this many times in my life and I’m grateful any time I’m a part of it.

Conner (as well as everyone else) has done great so far on the flight. We’re just about halfway at this point. It’s getting late in China and it’s an early Saturday morning in Utah. Looking forward to some awesome jetlag over the next few days. Oh well, all things work together for good…well, you get the point!


PS. We are now officially in our Puzzle Them Home home.  Conner is tucked into the bed that's been waiting for him for 8 months.  As we said family prayer tonight and Conner was there with us, it felt complete.  He belongs.

Friday, May 2, 2014

We'll Get There Eventually...

(written in the very very early morning hours of Saturday morning in China)

I was supposed to be composing this on a plane somewhere over the Russian seaboard.  No such luck.  Here I am at the Golden Phoenix Hotel, just a hop, skip and a jump (or a short shuttle ride) from the Beijing airport.  Real quick, in light of my propensity to miss flights from time to time, or at least to cut them VERY close, I would like to clarify that THIS IS NOT MY FAULT!  We booked this itinerary before we came to China.  We had a full two-hour layover scheduled in Beijing.  Our bags would be checked all the way to the USA, so two hours should have been PLENTY of time. Unfortunately, when we got to the airport in Hangzhou to check in for our 5pm flight, they informed us that it had been cancelled.  Cancelled?!? Can they even do that?!?  Apparently so.  As luck would have it, we were quite early and they said, “Hey, we might be able to put you on the 4pm flight.  But after getting our hopes up, they quickly dashed them with, “Nope.  There are too many of you.  You’ll have to take the 6pm flight. Scheduled to arrive at 8pm.  Exactly one hour prior to the departure of your international flight.”  And then our 6pm flight was delayed.  We deplaned at 8:30pm.  Not a chance.  So here we are in a mid-level hotel with a mostly edible buffet for Air China passengers with missed connections.  Sadly, they forgot to turn on the AC.  On the bright side, Taylor found an awesome little market in the Hangzhou airport with some genuine American snacks.  So I’m sitting here munching on Sour Cream and Onion Pringles after having eaten 1.5 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and wondering why I can’t ever seem to lose weight.  (I’ll let you decide if that’s 1.5 actual cups or 1.5 bars….)  But really, I’m once again in China as a single parent.  With FIVE kids this time.  I’ve kept my cool quite well through some very stressful situations.  Who’s going to begrudge me a calorie or two?

It does seem that we can’t do this trip without some sort of mishap.  Missed connections in LA.  Obstinate customs agents (and subsequent missed connections) in Canada.  More missed connections in LA.  Christi having to go to the ER while I’m still in China.  Missed connections in Beijing.   Jessica falling off a luggage cart and flat on her face.  All kinds of fun stuff.  I’ve actually been very impressed with all of the kids. They’ve taken things in stride and are making the best of it.  We’ll get home about one day later than anticipated.  It’s not costing us any extra money.  We’re all bone tired, but we have beds to sleep in tonight.  (Or as Taylor refers to them, box springs.)

Hangzhou was terrific.  Everybody in Graci’s foster family were their usual, wonderful selves.  They fed us, housed us and entertained us every moment we were there.  We went to an old part of town for a self-guided tour.  We were able to cross the grand canal.  This canal is over 1000 years old and over 1000 kilometers long, flowing from Beijing to Hangzhou.  (Maybe we should have taken a boat to Beijing?)  Part of the walking tour was a trip over a 1000-year old bridge.  1000 years old.  How do you even wrap your head around that?  It’s neat to be able to experience such ancient history.  On the other hand, they didn’t have accessibility regulations when this bridge was built, so three of us just lifted Cali’s whole chair all the way over the bridge.  Probably 60-80 feet uphill.  Did I mention that Graci’s family hardly let me do anything for Cali while we were there?  They are so sweet and always want to take care of everything.  We also rented boats, picked strawberries and had a virtual all-you-can-eat buffet for two straight days.  (Poor Taylor doesn’t do so well with Chinese food.  He didn’t feel so great for much of the timeL.)

The boys’ favorite part was Friday morning.  Prior to our trip Graci’s family had asked what we would like to do.  On a previous visit we had a chance to play ping-pong with a cousin of Graci’s, so we mentioned ping-pong as something that would be fun.  They arranged for a ping-pong coach to come out and give the boys a lesson.  That’s the kind of people they are.  So thoughtful.  I’ve never met anyone more attuned to what their guests want.  If there is anything we ever mention that we enjoy doing or eating, we are guaranteed to do or eat more of it the next time. They are amazing people.  (For those of you who don’t know, Graci lived for four years with a wonderful foster family.  We keep in close touch with them.  So if I refer to her China Dad or her cousin, etc. this is referring to her foster family.   Christi and I have also been deemed “America Grandma and Grandpa” to Graci’s foster niece, Ling Long.  We are both completely smittenJ.)

Outside of adopting Conner, my favorite part of this trip has been seeing our kids bond with each other and with me.  I feel like they have grown much closer by traveling together for so long.  I’m so grateful for each of them and feel so blessed to have them for the next few years.

I got all the kids to the airport and on the plane!

Cali has this awesome "mean face" that is hard to capture on camera, but I got it!

Our granddaughter!

At least they give you the choice!

Graci and China Mama!

Graci, Ling Long and Ting Ting

The princess comes down the bridge!

The whole group

The cute girl next to Taylor developed a just a bit of a crush despite his being 6 years younger:)

Graci with China Mama and Baba

Taylor and Parker on a ropes course type of thing that definitely didn't have to pass any safety inspections.  Good thing mom wasn't around to use some common sense?

Strawberry greenhouses.  The catch was, you could only eat them as you picked them.  No taking them home.  No washing them off.  Intriguing.  Not sure whether this or the ropes course was more dangerous...

Boat rides!

Taylor fell asleep and Parker woke him up with typical brotherly love:)

Basketball stars

Graci in the clothes China Mama gave her

Graci's two dads!

Basketball stars

ping pong lessons

Graci and Grandma

The group!

Grandpa Green

 Exhausted at the airport.  Waiting to figure out what flight we'll get after ours was cancelled

 Cali's wheelchair is still at the airport with our checked baggage.  The loaner they gave her is huge.  She got completely wedged in while trying to get to her toothbrush.  Poor kid!

 Finally checked into the hotel, we're all exhausted and starting to get a bit loopy.  Parker puts two shopsticks in his mouth and becomes a walrus.  Good-night!!!!!!!

Home Again…Well, Sort Of

I’m writing this on 4/30/14.  I’m not sure what day it will get posted.) 
Some of the magic left with Christi.  All of us have been kind of dragging the last couple of days.  We can’t really take taxis anywhere because some of the kids would be without a parent.  The weather has been mostly rainy in Guangzhou, so we didn’t even get out of the hotel much.  All of the adoption paperwork was finished early on Tuesday morning, so all were doing was waiting for Conner’s passport with the US visa in it.  In other words, we were all bored to tears.  This morning Parker said to me, “You know, I’m ready to go home at this point.”  And honestly, I felt the same way.  We’re all pretty tired.  It sounds nice to get back to our own house and our own beds and a bit of a routine.  And yet we still had Hangzhou ahead of us.

Graci was the exception to the rule.  She was looking forward to the Hangzhou portion of our trip more than anything else.  Her beloved foster family and hometown were waiting for us.  I knew it was important to her, so I didn’t let on that I was anything but ecstatic, but inside I was really lamenting that we couldn’t just leave Guangzhou and head straight back to the good old USA.  I felt that way through the packing.  (I think Parker was worried I was going to lose my cool, but I did not!  I have been a pretty patient papa the entire tripJ.)  I felt that way through airport ticketing and security.  I felt that way on the plane.  I felt that way as we retrieved our baggage.

And then I saw China Mama.  And I was at home.  It really was a beautiful experience.  I felt like I would feel if my parents picked me up at the Portland airport or if I pulled into Christi’s childhood home in Ferron.  I was home.  I can’t say enough good things about this beautiful extended family we have half way around the world.  I love them dearly. 

In the hereafter, I look forward to many things, including:  receiving a huge bear hug from my sweet Sophi’s arms, gazing into Lexi’s eyes and asking her if I look like she imagined, having a heartfelt conversation with China Mama and China Baba in a language we can all understand.

Of course it will be wonderful to return home on Friday night.  But a piece of my heart will always live in Hangzhou.