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The Chaos Reigns
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that our lives belong to each other." - Mother Teresa

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rough landing in Denver

We're cycling through some of what can be expected in getting back home, but there have been a few surprises.

Kristy was hospitalized for exhaustion and dehydration last night. They ran lots of tests on her to figure out what this stomach problem is. Everything passes through her quickly, and she was in very bad shape by Sunday night. They gave her IV drips to rehydrate her and restore some vitamin/mineral levels that were very low. She is back home now, waiting for test results so they can treat whatever (likely bacterial) problem has occurred due to the extended overseas travel. Still not holding anything down, so we're very worried about this for the time being.

Right now I have a convenient memory block in place on the flight home. I hear PTSD sucks, so I'm happy to instead push the delete key on that experience. Yowza.

Jet lag, sleeping adjustments, and some fear/confusion response in Jude and Jia, especially Jia. Her male adult anxiety is clearer than ever now that a few other family members have been in the house. I'm sure time will resolve this.

We all had a very tearful reunion with our 2 year old Molly and 4 year old Joel, and the first few days were very focused on restoring their family sense as well as on Jude and Jia transitioning. Joel is rolling with the punches so far. Molly has behaviorally regressed quite a bit, poor little girl, so much upheaval in her life as well. Seems this regression is her way of rebuilding her healthy attachment to us with our absence then this quick change in the household.

Molly/Joel and Jia/Jude were very standoff-ish with each other at first, somewhat threatened by each others' presence and competition for Mom and Dad. Daily progress and good signs.

Emma/Caroline have been so incredibly helpful with the kids. They are the loving referees of engagement, helping everyone get along. No kid has any hesitation in requesting or receiving their embrace and contact, and Mom and Dad have had some household logistics (on little sleep) to work this help has been very appreciated.

We have some angels who have been helping us, Kristy's Dad was in town through Sunday and my Mom and Dad have been helping. Also, our neighbors Craig and Mary are so helpful to us...Mary brought Kristy home from the hospital late last night...

We've been trying to use sunlight and small outings to adjust the time difference. We had an an unexpected tearful reunion with our friends the Roches in the park on Saturday. It was so good to see our good friends again. There were a few other neighbor encounters as well, and from this we can see that Jia will need at least several weeks of adjustment time before too many more visits with others.

Getting to a new normal...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Last post from this side of the Great Firewall of China

All packed and ready to go...flight for Beijing leaves at Friday 830am local time... We head to the airport in a few hours... All passports and visas arrived tonight in good form so we are ready to be on our way... Please keep Mama Kristy in your thoughts and prayers...stomach flu round 2 possibly... We appreciate all the support, emails comments likes etc...means so much to us... Love to everyone and see you when we get home...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Goodbye China- Day 15

Today is our last full day in China. woohoo! We are prepping and bracing ourselves for our flight home tomorrow.

I wanted to write a quick post about how proud I am of our 2 travel companions Emma and Caroline. Our daughters have been like angels to us. They have tolerated stomach logistics...screaming toddlers ...and being in a foreign country with amazing grace. Their unconditional love for their new siblings has been inspiring. I am confident their presence has helped Jude and Jia's transition into our family tremendously.

I also want to thank everyone following us and for all the support and prayers. Especially, the grandparents holding down the fort to watch Joel and Molly. And, to Johanna and Will for rescuing us. We cannot thank all of you enough.

It is kind of sad to say goodbye to Jude and Jia's homeland...all they have ever known up to this point....although my digestive system will be rejoicing. As Dave said before we left, "I am really excited for our trip to China, but even more excited to eventually be back at home with the kids."

But, we know the first week back at home will be hard on everyone. I am sure there will be lots of tears.

Goodbye from China.

I added some classic adoption photos...



Almost heaven...Colorado...Rocky Mountains...West Platte River

Wups got the lyrics wrong. We can't wait to get home!

Kristy pretty much covered the logistics so I'll just post a few cute photos.

Lots of joy, smiles, fun from Jia and Jude. They look for opportunities to share moments of hugs, touch, and laughter with all of us.

Jia is making huge strides with her attachment fears. I got lots of hugs and smiles from her today. And hand holding. She melts my heart...just like the other ladies in my life. Her cry is hoarse, hard on the I try to think of it as and triumph...home in our family...

Jude is doing great. He is quite the handful, however he is overflowing with energy and hyperactivity....which unfortunately causes him to do a faceplant at the top of every minute.

At the moment they seem like normal kids mostly, except that they have some development catch-up to do. The next upheaval, travel home and starting new at home, won't be much fun. But all part of the joyful process.

No more appointments or interviews, bus rides, etc. Yay!

Hope Mom feels better! Kristy is sick again. She is a rock star and the best momma. Grinning and bearing it.

There were lots of tears today for some homesick girls. Emma and Caroline took turns crying about Molly and Joel. We can't wait to see them. It is such a relief to know they are in good, hands, now with Papa Butchko.

We expect that the family integration may have some difficulty...especially all the little ones...but pray that we can step back and let God continue to do His work with His Children...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Highs and Lows- Day 12, 13 and 14

On Monday, we had our medical appointments. We have learned that Jude needs to nap right at 11:00, and if he does not, he goes ballistic. Jia has massive anxiety when going to these government appointments, so yesterday was pretty challenging. Right around 11:00 Jude starting crying uncontrollably, and Jia was having her arch back fear tantrums on and off the entire time. We were all physically and mentally exhausted.

Johanna and Will stayed with the older girls. They took a walk to a classic Chinese style park and took a ride in a paddle boat. The kids loved watching all the adults on the exercise equipment at the park. Johanna said they had lots of picture request of the girls, but she has learned to be firm from living here and basically enforced the no photo rule. We need to learn from Johanna. Too bad we did not have her with us at the Great Wall. It was so wonderful we did not have to bring the girls with us to our medical appointments.

We had a low key afternoon, but Jia could not recover from the morning. Around dinner we had to say goodbye to our friends. Their help was so uplifting on this journey. Johanna gave me some great tips and words of encouragement to put everything we are going through in perspective. It is always great to have someone who has walked in the same shoes. God bless them.

In the evening, we ended with a dinner cruise. The lights on the buildings were beautiful to watch at night, and the girls had fun. It was too late and too much for the toddlers. Dave spent the entire time chasing Jude while I held Jia. The food was not so great. I tried a new type of antibiotics for Jia since her diarrhea still had not gone away. (Thank God for all the medicine we brought with us). We think it worked because she got her appetite back and was loving this quite terrible Chinese food. Jia ate more than anyone. LOL. But, seriously this was amazing progress for little Jia.

Yesterday morning when we woke up, we decided to have no agenda....just take it easy. We had a slow breakfast and then let the kids play in the garden park at the hotel. As soon as 11:00 hit, Jude started crying, so we got them both immediately down for a nap. Jia ate a great breakfast ( we had a strategy....protein first, fruit second and then her juice). We will be working on weaning her from her crazy sweet tooth when we get back home. She had many less tantrums. She also drank her entire bottle before her nap. ... First time she drank more than 1 ounce.

When the kids woke up, we went to Shaman Island.. We were dropped off right near a Catholic Church, so we all went to pray. It was a very much needed recharge. We were all a little emotional. Emma asked the man on the grounds if they had any religious items that we could buy. He covertly pulled out a box of Catholic items.

We then spent a little time shopping. Both kids had a great day without any appointments. The kids were all playing and laughing before bed. Jia was actually playing with the girls and her Dad, so I got a small Mommy break. The 24/7 attention Jia needs from me is really wearing me down.

This morning I woke up feeling pretty sick....not sure if it was something I ate or viral. My tolerance for the meltdowns was pretty low, and we had our final government appt this morning. We had to go to the US consulate for our immigration paperwork to bring Jude and Jia home. Jude was really not having it today and has been super cranky. I could tell Jia was in high alert mode...which had me in high alert mode. :) Poor Dave has been trying to manage Jude's crankiness most of the day.

We are on the home stretch. Tomorrow we receive our visas for the kids, which will be the final stamp to give us the green light to go home. I am looking forward to our 24 hour travel I look forward to a root canal. Please pray we have strength for the final leg of our journey.

I will be so happy when we are home and the kids (and adults) are all finally healthy and adjusted. We will then be at the point of understanding the true snapshot of where we need to grow with kids.

Once home, the next big transition will be the introduction of Jia and Jude to Joel and Molly. I am not sure if any of them know what is coming. :)


Pilgrimage...Our Lady, Notre Dame, Shengmu

We had asked God to let this trip be a pilgrimage, in a literal sense. We desperately wanted to plan a visit to one of the obscure Christian churches in China that we studied and were dear to us. For years, we assumed this request would never be denied to us. Then...while confirming travel plans in March...and trying to make a side trek fit...we decided there was too much risk...time, money, and recent ripples in the Catholic Church's good graces with Chinese authorities all weighed steadily against planning on it.

We were surprised to come to this realization. With no time or emotion to waste in our race to pack and prepare, we quickly forgot this sadness and moved on. We figured that God's Providence was protecting our core mission to bring home the kiddos, and that perhaps a future trip to China would receive His blessing as a quiet pilgrimage...and further, that family birth was pilgrimage enough!

We were wrong - pilgrimage was part of His plan for this trip.

What an amazing day we had.

We planned an outing to visit Shamian Island in Guangzho. We set out via taxi from our hotel, with no address or specific destination in mind. When the taxi driver told us we arrived on the island and asked where we were going, I pointed to the next alley up the road and said, "there is fine". We paid our fare, took a few steps up the road, and stumbled upon a Catholic Church.

Quietly and quaintly planted at the end of an alley, with a police station and police traffic barricades surrounding it.

A tiny, chapel-like structure that didn't even have votive candles. Instead of a perpetually burning candle for the living presence (which are found in Catholic churches around the world, next to the tabernacle on the altar), there was a child's nightlight plugged into an electrical outlet.

A Marian grotto outside, almost completely hidden and covered by ivy and thin curtains strung across the front.  Much smaller scale, but similar to the Marian grotto right next to the Basilica at the University of Notre Dame (Our Lady) in Indiana, where Kristy and I were married.

It was Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

We walked into the Church, and the six of us squeezed into the tiny right front row pew and knelt in silent prayer.

I could not hide my emotion. Caroline, seeing tears flowing down my face yet again on this trip, asked, "Daddy, why are you sad?" I choked through...don't worry...I'm not sad...I'm just happy...

God has used fireworks in our lives since we accepted this call to adopt. While a few dear friends know many of the miracles that have happened in our life...there are some that have been too intense, too intimate, to share in detail... for example...there was the time when a sizeable double fee was due to continue the process...and I had just been laid off...and we just found out that we were pregnant again...and we cried, literally, to God for clarity on whether we should stop the process...then two completely unsolicited donations came to us on the due date, one to the penny and the other to the dollar in covering the fees... We just asked for a sign, not for the fees to be covered.

"When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!'. Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!’" John 19:26-27

So many blessings from God have come with Mary our heavenly Mother's touch... the call to adoption during a Medjugorje pilgrimage that Kristy and I made in 2007 for our marriage in our process that have "coincidentally" fallen on Mary's feast days in the Catholic Church...conviction growing in our children for this adoption and the broader family life mystery that it embodies by their encounter with God in our family prayer and daily Rosaries...

Our Lady of Lourdes...who we behold as our Mother...pray for us...continue to watch over us...and all of your Christian children in China...who worship your Son as God...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Racial Contradiction

Hopefully we're on now on the downhill trek from the peak of insanity that we reached on this trip. If there were a literal peak, it would be on top of the pile of flu soiled clothes, linens and diapers that was in our Zhengzhou hotel room. 

It can be hard to accept generosity, even when you desperately need it. We are so grateful for the help from the other families on our trip. Yes, we were the one family with a flu wipeout... and one of the only with two orphans to receive...but, they were also struggling with their own orphans and some with heart wrenching attachment issues...stepping out of their own stifling hot hotel rooms with their own varying degrees of sleep deprivation in a foreign bestow generosity upon us, complete strangers to them only 10 days ago... We have no words to express our thanks. And...the generosity of our Denver friend Johanna and her son Will...amazing...

We seem to be out of the woods health-wise, except for poor little Jia... still have seen no trace of appetite or energy...

One of the blessings that has simplified things is that Jude has attached to me, and Jia to Kristy. It would be very hard for all to manage if both only attached to one. The files we have on them cannot explain why this is, obviously, but I wonder why it could be. Maybe Jude was very attached to his Foster Mother, and the notion of a replacement mom in his life is far too painful to allow at the moment. Maybe Jia has never had a male caregiver in her life, or has some real or perceived trauma from a male. In time, we know they will learn to trust that we are here to fulfill all of their needs together. Only time will allow their process to attach (or more aptly, their process to grieve the most recent loss of "parents").

Tiny little fragile Jia.  She has a stick figure for an absolutely tiny body. She has big, sad eyes and so far she rarely cracks a smile. Her lips turn down partially from her cleft lip repair, but also because she is still so sad and confused. Mostly she makes whimpers with a hoarse voice. When she screams and cries, you can clearly see her cleft palate which runs half way across the roof of her mouth but also causes a break in her line of tiny teeth in the front.

She is so precious. I've taken her on daddy walks a few times, to give Kristy a much-needed break from carrying and holding her for most of 24 hours in a day. These sessions start out rough, lots of screaming, twisting, and scratching. After we get through those times, she gives me a tour of the world as her mind views it. She points to lights and objects, looks to me to see my "wow" reaction, and we walk around together. No hugs, kisses, and she won't come into my arms yet. She also steadily keeps her elbow against my chest when I sweep her up, to keep the separation she needs until she can't tolerate such a close encounter any longer and screams until I put her down. Lots of time and patience...

Jude is the center of his own social world. He is studies the world around him with purpose, and can't sit still for more than 30 seconds. He runs up to groups of people and looks up with this "hey guys, I'm here, let's party" look, and they love it. In one of his recent sessions of bolting up and down the Zhengzhou hotel hallway, the door was open to one room. He stopped, cocked his head towards the room, and ran in. When Kristy made it to the threshold, there he was, in this room full of Chinese businessmen who were smoking and talking seriously, sitting on one of their laps. Kristy tried to motion for him to come, but neither he nor they were in any rush to oblige. So he got to participate in the meeting, and loved it almost as much as they did.

He anchors to me, running up to me for a pickup / hug / hold once in awhile wherever we are, before he expects to be plopped back down so he can run off again. Like the energizer bunny, except he runs on heart fuel. He needs his attachment source to refuel him, then he's off again...

He does cry severely occasionally. Pain and mourning, time and patience.

Emma and Caroline, here with an incredible sense of duty for this new family double birth. They are selflessly devoted to their new brother and sister, and now even Jia's fits are dissolved by their Mandarin toddler talk and encounter. They sit for hours with both, giggle hysterically at Jude's antics, gently nudge Jia to social encounters. They have strong sibling protection tendencies, too. When I try to watch this through the filter of bystander and not father, watching these Asian toddlers enveloped in unmistakable sibling love by these Caucasian girls... I can see why the Chinese who pass us cannot take their eyes off of these interactions... whether all these kids are cute or not (and I'll withhold my biased view)... it is a wonder to watch.

Joel and Molly, we had a Skype with them a few day ago where they got to see their new siblings for the first time. Grandma and Grandpa Fantz joined. The two-way video/sound worked, although I think Kristy and I covered our choked up episodes enough from their attention. We talk about how Molly and Joel will be the big kids, who will become coaches and helpers to their new young siblings. They loved it! Jude and Jia didn't follow the Skype much, but Jude did put on a little show for everyone in Denver.

I have strong recall for many things covered in our required adoption education classes. One data point in particular - social researchers now know that humans profile another's race split seconds before their gender, when first sizing up another. What a profound contradiction of sorts... that our minds push us into racial swim lanes before pushing us to procreate.  This is amazing in explaining our programming and hard-wiring, especially as social beings. And now that Kristy and I have a multiracial family, we fully appreciate and embrace that this reality...this contradiction...will always be with us, in every life episode, as an entire family...the good, bad, and ugly of it.

If I lived a life without acknowledging that God is in every particle that surrounds me and every experience that I have, then I cannot imagine choosing to risk or afford living this contradiction. 

Our friend Father Felix Medina Algaba spoke of contradictions during one of his church services. The gist was: Without God, there is no contradiction... we live for ourselves and die with ourselves.  With God, there is nothing but contradiction... the greatest being that we die to ourselves so that others may live and so that we may live in God's eternal presence.

"Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this child is destined to be...a sign of contradiction...and you yourself a sword will pierce...'” Luke 2:34-35

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Guangzhou-Day 10 and 11

Our travel day went very smooth. When we got to the airport it was right around the kids nap time, so they became pretty upset. We created quite the scene with caucasians holding these two crying Chinese babies. It is hard enough to deal with a crying baby..even harder when you have a circle of people watching you. It had all of us pretty stressed out.

Once we got through security, the kids were both able to sleep in the baby carriers, and we had about 1 hour of peace and quiet. Both kids slept a little and did great on the flight. Jia did have some anxiety moments where she went into one of her irrational fear tantrums, but other than that we had an easy time with the kids. They did show a nice violent american film on the flight about a psychopath...seriously when are we going to create a world that considers the mental health of children...or adults for that matter. (OK i'll get off my soap box). Jude is quite the charmer with the Chinese people. At the end of the flight, a Chinese man who Dave was sitting next to (who spoke amazing English) picked Jude up and about 15 Chinese were entertaining him. He was loving it and hamming up all the attention.

When we got to Guangzhou, it was right before a thunderstorm.... so just in time for no flight delays.
Small victory.

When we got to our hotel, Johanna and Will were waiting for us in the lobby. It was wonderful to see them. Johanna and Will took the girls to get dinner and explore the hotel while we got settled and unpacked. It was a great break for the girls from all of our trip logistics.

The hotel is very nice with lots of western amenities which is a nice relief toward the end of our trip. When we were putting the kids to bed last night, the fire alarm in our room started to go off. Amazingly, it did not wake up Jia. Jude was still up. They came up to fix it, but 20 minutes later it went off again. This time waking up Jude. Then, it went off a third time. Thank goodness they both slept through the 3rd time, but we were pretty annoyed.

This morning we decided to all take the optional tour with Johanna and Will for a much needed mental break from 5 days of nursing sick kids in Zhengzhou. We went to a Buddhist Temple, Old Chen House, and a provincial Arts and Crafts shopping center. I added pictures below. Jude was full of energy, but Jia was pretty lethargic today. We are a little worried about her being dehydrated from her sickness.

Johanna took the girls swimming while the toddlers took a nap, and Dave ran some errands. She then took the girls to get their nails done in the hotel They were so excited about all this pampering. They looked beautiful. So, sweet of her.

When Jia woke up from her nap, I tried to feed her with no luck. This child does not eat!! And, she looks like one of those children from the Food for the Poor commercials. So, I resorted to force feeding her some rice cereal and formula. I felt pretty terrible, but I could not let her starve. All she had eaten all day was a few bites of eggs (like 3 bites), and a small piece of chocolate.

I then left to prepare our visa paperwork for Jude and Jia downstairs. When I got back to the hotel room, Jude ran to me and jumped into my arms so happy to see me return. I think I can official say he likes his Mom now. :) All that rocking and singing to him at night is paying off.

Jia had completely perked up by this point from finally having a full belly. I have been really trying to process and come to terms with how much cognitive function she actually has. But, I had a glimpse of hope this evening. When Johanna knocked on our door, she smiled and waved at her instead of going into one of her panic attacks. She then started playing with her brother in the hall and seemed to mimic what he was doing. Jude was also flirting with the housekeeping staff in the hall, and they kept giving him free waters. Go Jude...keep charming.

Johanna helped me brainstorm on all of the challenges with Jia's lack of eating and sickness. I am now realizing her lack of nutrition is most likely a root problem for all her other external symptoms. Definitely need to see a doctor as soon as possible when we get back and get some advice on children who are resistant to food.

We ordered pizza for dinner, so the older kids could watch a movie. When I was feeding Jia, she signed the words all done, more, and food. I was shocked and this was so promising and uplifting.

However, she still only ate 2 tiny bites of her dinner.

Medical appointments tomorrow for both kids...should be interesting.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Love and Progress- Day 9


In our adoption classes, we are taught to remember love is not a is an action. Because it can be at times hard to love (the feeling kind), a child from a hard place. But, it is always possible to love (the action kind) a hurt child.

This has been my mental mantra from this point forward "Love is an action, not a feeling".

But, isn't this so true. Our society tells us love is a feeling, and this is the root cause of so many failed relationships. If we love only those who we feel love for, we fail to love so many. And, the reverse is also true...we feel love for our children, yet when we fail to spend any quality time with them, we are not loving them.

When we have a child who is acting defiant our first feeling reaction is anger. But, when we understand love as an action and not a feeling, we can channel the appropriate response and not take it personally.

God also showed us love as an action by his sacrifice on the cross. It really would have been meaningless if Jesus came and told us how much he felt love for us. But, his love was an action...the ultimate sacrifice. And, the cross also showed us how we should love....

Remembering this perspective has helped me, and the kids have made some amazing progress today on their transition into our family.

Here are my observations so far...the two kids reactions could not be more polar opposite.

He is very independent. He will run and find himself a new family..playmate in a moments notice. He still grieves on and off. He will be really happy and playing and then have this slight whimpering cry for no obvious reason. He loves other kids. He does not like to be held. Whenever I get a when he wants his bottle, I will scoop him up and feed him the bottle in my arms like a baby and sing to him. He will get all squirmy, but will give in to my bonding act.

He is all boy. A ball of energy. He has a thick built just like his big brother Joel. He still toddles a little when he walks, but is very physical. He is still mastering stairs. He kind of freaked out on me when we were practicing stairs in the lobby. It almost seemed like he had very little exposure to them before.

He eats like a pro. We feed him all day, and he is a pretty independent eater. This is what is winning him over to his Mom. (I know the key to every mans hearts is food). You should see the floor in our hotel room. It could use a good vacuum every hour from all the crumbs. He can rip open any package with his teach. I am is hilarious. We gave him a pack of gummies, he ripped them open, and he ate them at rocket speed. He used both hands throwing them into the back of his throat with each hand and did not even chew them. We were giggling at this amazing talent when he stopped for a moment and slowly fed his Dad two of the gummies, then when back to his crazy double fisting throwing gummies into the back of his throat. We think he has a good shot for the Guinness Book of World Records for eating gummies. He also gets extremely cranky when he is hungry....and this could be less than 30 minutes since he was last fed.

He is pretty smart. We feel like he is already starting to understand English. Besides his Mandarin words, he can already say "no" in English... a toddlers key first word. He will also say, "there it goes" when he throws a ball, and "here it is" when he hands us something. He can also kick a ball really well.

He is starting to be OK with Mom. He was adorable tonight. He would hand me the board book of our family that we sent to him in a care package. (I was surprised it was returned.) He would then want to sit on my up the board book to the page with my picture on it, and rub the face of my photo with his finger. No other page...just the photo of me. He did this multiple times throughout the evening. (I think I am less scary in the photo than in person.)

A clinger. Loves to be held and cuddled and wants to be held 24/7. Very easily frightened, jittery, and very scared of strangers...especially men. I showed her this basic very flash card application on the tablet, and she was terrified of it. So, a lot of her behaviors are rooted in fear.

She has a very slender built. We keep finding her with her pants around her ankles. She loves to put accessories on that she she the girls headbands..and even wants to wear the girls swimming googles. I tried to take a picture of this because it was so adorable, but she was pretty terrified of the camera, so I was unsuccessful.

She eats very little solid food. We took her to the restaurant last night, and we put pasta noodles and French fries in front of her, and she just stared at them not knowing what to do. So, I ran upstairs to bring her down some baby rice cereal. Although she will not eat solids, she will eat plastic. Dave was feeding her with a plastic fork, and she ate the end of the fork off. We now know to watch her closely.

She still toddles when she walks and easily falls, but she can climb stairs holding onto a wall fairly well.

She is a cleft palate kid, and I sense that there was no expectation for her to communicate at the orphanage. When she wants something she points, grunts, and screams. Every time she does this, I get down on her eye level and show her the sign for what she needs. She can already sign back to me light and car (her 2 favorite things to point at.) The only sound she knows how to say is ma. I am not sure is this would be considered normal for a child with a cleft palate. I guess I was expecting more...I know a lot of signs...but I am starting to think I may need to take a crash course in ASL. or schedule her palate surgery sooner than later.

She throws some big meltdowns if she does not get something she can not have. But, I am already seeing less of them each day. And, when she does throw a fit, it does not last for long.

I am heartbroken over her past. You can just tell she was initially not giving the love she needed to grow and develop. She is definitely more of a baby than a 2 year old.

Jia had a breakthrough day with Dave, which has helped tremendously with her fears.

Tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou, our final city. We are happy to leave all of our germs in Zhengzhou, get out of this hotel, and have a new start.

Goodbye to Zhengzhou and the evil stomach virus.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Angels and the Light- Day 8

When we are not able, God sends his Angels...

Thank you for all the prayers....they have truly helped turned things around for us. Last night was still rough...Caroline threw up about 10 times. Jude woke up with a fever and cried throughout the night in pain on and off. But, he actually let me hold and cuddle with him until his Advil kicked in. (So, the sickness provided a good opportunity for bonding.)

We did have a few amazing things happen yesterday. When I was having my first crying episode, we heard a knock on the door. Dave answered it. I was on the floor in our bathroom crying. It was a travel companion of another family telling Dave she wanted to help us. The family was doing great, and she had some free time.

Then later in the evening....right in the middle of my second crying episode, I just happen to pick up Dave's tablet and noticed an email from one of our friends living in China. In my despair, something compelled me to read it. It was Johanna who was offering to fly to Guangzhou (our next city) with her son Will to help us (Will is one of Emma's classmates in school. Will's family is spending a year living in China) They are now both fluent in Mandarin. My tears of sadness turned to tears of joy when I read her email. She has adopted from China and has been in our shoes. In my moment of doubt, I felt God was given us these little signs that everything was going to be OK and I had peace.

Then this morning...i was still crying. Although things were getting better, I just think I was dealing with post traumatic stress at this point. We had another family offer to do all of our soiled laundry, and give us there 2nd hotel room. They swore that they were not using it. Their kids wanted to all sleep together in 1 room. This was actually a huge help. I felt like we we living in our own filth. 5 people with the stomach flu in one hotel room was more than tolerable. We were able to find a sanctuary and get out of our room, so the room could get properly cleaned. It ended being a huge blessing because today the virus also hit Dave. And, we had a room to go to when Dave and Jude needed to rest and recover.

But, the most amazing part was my aha moment. I have been praying for wisdom for our little Jia. Her behavior has been very much overwhelming and I have been questioning whether I was even capable of handling it. She is still so much on edge. For example, last night in the middle of night, Caroline woke me up and said, "Mom Jia thinks I am you". I look over and there was Caroline sitting up in the bed, Jia had her legs wrapped around Caroline's waist and her arms around Caroline neck for dear life like a little Koala bear. I tried to talk to Jia to come to me and pull her away....remember Caroline was the sick one. Jia starting screaming uncontrollably when I picked up her. Caroline reacted and said, "Mom, she is fine, so Jia reattached herself to Caroline and Caroline fell asleep with Jia on top of her. She was once again clinging for dear life.

So, when we went to this new hotel room...myself, Jia and the girls. Jia became like a different kid. She was no longer her hysterical self. She was actually interacting, smiling and playing with her sisters for the first time. She mostly had herself under control. When we went back to our room, she once again starting throwing an uncontrollable tantrum, and it clicked for me. She is terrified of Dave. She can't even be in the same room with him. I had heard about this possibility from other adoptive family stories. Some children develop a severe fear of one parent. Anyway, this realization gave me great peace because I know it is just a phase. And,when she finally does bond with her Father (who is a pretty amazing one), she will begin calm down.

Please say some prayers for her. Jude is from a foster family and Jia is from an orphanage and the difference is significant. We can tell Jude has a foundation. He is still grieving, but is a well adjusted kid. He show empathy...shares, etc. Even one of CCAI guides commented on what a easy kid he is. Earlier today, when he spilled some yogurt and I started to clean it up, he completely on his own ran to the bathroom, got some toilet paper, and started to help me clean. I could believe it, and he melted my heart.

Jia's foundation needs to be built....both emotionally and developmentally. We have some significant work ahead of us. It is also really hard to bond with a child who has so many meltdowns. She cannot communicate...she just point and screams for what she wants. So, the behavior is somewhat exhausting. I know none of this is her fault...her behavior is how she was able to survive.

Sorry for the lack of photos. I have taken zero since gotcha day...which is a good thing because we all look like the night of the living dead. Now that we are on the tail end of this evil bug, we are already starting to laugh about it. Seriously....could we have had a more challenging 1st few days with the kids. God wanted to set our expectation bar pretty low. LOL


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cortisol, world peace, and other issues in between

Kristy's blog post captured some of the hardship right now. It is hard to parent, plan, even live when cortisol is surging in you. "The real deal", survival cortisol. We are zooming all over the most populous slice of earth to file compulsory paperwork, with two utterly confused toddlers in tow and a stomach virus that is stalking each of us down, one by one. We can't call timeout or throw in the towel. We don't have cell phones, we can't even read the road signs, we have a litany of night terrors that keep us up all night and prevents the timezone adjustment from sticking. We have guides and daughters who can help us communicate and navigate, but we are abandoned completely to them.

In a lighter moment today, after our guide made a half hour of phone calls to track down "Plan B" which would be necessary because I left our critical documents in Zhengzhou (next to a very sickly Emma, in our hotel), she came to me and gave the option: She would ask her college friend to follow us on the high speed rail to Zhumadian, take leave from work to do so, and bring the document that the authorities needed to process the passport application for Jia. She would ask for this today, but there was a catch. We would need to offer a tip as a thank you, and it would be "big"...about 100 RMB.

100 RMB!? Big? That equates to about $17 USD?! I thought to could add 3 more zeroes to that tip and I would still find a way to pay it by end of day... for the years of my life lost in yet another round of cortisol overdrive. I wanted to buy her friend a motorino. We didn't add 3 zeros to the tip (as they aren't in our bank account after these final adoption expenses... :) ), but we definitely multiplied several times. Pure relief.

All that said, the backdrop of this survival game is so much more overwhelming right now.

For one, our family is torn apart across the globe. Miraculously, when I as the lone family member managed to stay awake to catch Molly and Joel for a skype last night, their camera and microphone had a technical glitch. They could only see and hear me, making goofy faces and saying reassuring things to let them feel some presence of us a world away. My parents (our angel helper caretakers now) say they giggled, listened, responded, had some heaviness in their hearts when the call ended but were able to rebound and refresh from it. I can only imagine how painfully sad the call would have been for them, if I could see their faces and hear their voices. The slight strength and composure I could hold in this survival game would have been dashed other words, I would have been a bawling mess. We miss them, and our minds can't undo the heart confusion we have right at this moment of separation.

For another...and, speaking of our cortisol and stress response...can there be any comparison to Jude and Jia's? These little souls...who we see laugh, cry, hold us, even giggle hysterically with their older sisters now...can we fathom the shroud they have built to hide their pain and sheer terror right now? Even though they had to fight for slivers of attention from their caregivers that we have taken them from, these people were Mama and Baba (Chinese for Dad) to them. They see in a few short days that they can trust their needs will be met, but we smell so different...sound so different...are so different...and for at least the third time in each of their short lives, they have been forced away from the only parenting figures they know.

It is also hard to ignore the backdrop that reminds us wherever we are with them, surrounded by all these Chinese faces... We love the Chinese, they are such wonderful, warm, receiving people. We felt an incredible connection to them before we left on this trip, and after this time in China our connection to them is stronger than we can describe.... We are told by our guides, and we can even see, that they respect and honor what we are doing. We are taking the throwaways of their society into our home, to give them a chance to live and love. This is so, so bittersweet. So humbling and beautiful, so ugly and dark at the same time. Unfortunately every society has its throwaways, but the Chinese orphans have always caused us great sadness (probably no surprise).

All of this bundle of craziness, as if it were a pile of garbage with fine blankets strewn over the top, and here we finally have these beautiful children sitting plopped in the middle of the blanket heap, looking at us, and we are so in love with them. And wanting to hurry through the last half of this amazing race so we can get home and end our family separation.

Other than that, we're having a blast :)

.....And the Ugly- Day 7

"I know God would not give me anything I can not handle, I just wish he did not trust me so much."
- Mother Teresa

The stomach bug Jia has is now moving through the family. Emma spent the night throwing up. Jia slept much better last night. She woke up a few times, but was easily soothed back to sleep. Small miracle. So this morning we had get up early to travel to Zhumadian to apply for Jia's passport (both parents and the child have to be present for this appointment). We got up to eat breakfast, and Jia threw up all over herself and me at the table. I was feeling a little bit frazzled of not having all the essential items available in dealing with a stomach bug. And, i was not looking forward to traveling with a child with a stomach virus once again.

We had to make the quick decision to leave Emma at the hotel. She was too sick to travel. We arranged for adults in our group to check on her in the room. We then left for Zhumadian. I felt terrible leaving her so sick, but we had no choice. When we got onto the bullet train, Jia immediately lost it and started crying hysterically. This was the same train she rode to meet us on Monday. She was terrified. I had to stand and hold her in the back of the car and rock her so she would stay calm.

After about 30 minutes on the train, Dave realized when he took out our paperwork folder from his backpack to give Emma the contact list (to call anyone in case she needed anything), he left the folder with all of our essential passport paperwork on the bed. We were both on the verge of tears. Vivian (our guide) brainstormed on how to handle this misstep. She immediately called Yisha..our other CCAI guide who was able to hire someone to pickup and bring the folder to Zhumadian. Yisha faxed the copies of all the paperwork to the passport office. We were bracing ourselves for a much longer day than planned....which made me sick to my stomach because we had left Emma.

When we arrived Zhumadian, we went to the passport office and Vivian pleaded with the officer to use the fax copies, let us fill out all of the paperwork, take our photos, and then let us go. He said he needed to have the originals, and she reassured him that the originals were on the way, and he would have them by the end of the day. He obliged with the plan, and we were actually done early. Then the evil virus hit Jude at the office. I had just changed Jia's diaper explosion, and we needed to take care of Jude with no public restroom available. Dave took him outside, and we did our best.

We then headed back to the train station, and Vivian was able to get us earlier tickets back to Zhengzhou. She was excited because this usually is never possible. Then, the virus hit me. I had to run to the lovely Chinese public restrooms multiple times. When we got on the train, I was severely sick and dealing with Jia's crying again. Every time I would run to the restroom, Jia would stream for me. Lets just say I was thankful we were on a train with a restroom versus a van. Jude does not like to sit still, so it was a very tough 1 hour train ride. It had me pretty worried about how we will entertain him on our 12 hour flight back to the states.

We finally made it back to our hotel, and I was so thankful because the worst part of the virus hit within minutes of arriving. But, I took some medicine, and I am already starting to slowly feel better. It has been a horrible day, but it could have been much worse. Dave left for Walmart for much needed baby supplies before he gets hit with the virus. (we have had no time pick up things we now need for the kids since we have got them..the diapers we brought do not fit Jia..we are already out of wipes from all of the sickness....the sippy cups we brought leak, etc.) We are in desperate need of trash bags for all the soiled laundry.

Jia is kind of a mess. Emotionally she is very much like a young baby. I know it is going to take some time, but I am hoping she learns to trust other family members while we are here. She throws a massive tantrum if I ever try to put her down, so I am pretty exhausted. She is holding onto to me for dear life. So, pray she can begin to calm down and trust.

I had a good cry this afternoon in the hotel.

Thanks for all the support and encouraging words and prayers. They have been helping us carry through these hard times.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Good, the Bad- Day 6

The bad news is we have a very sick little Jia. I probably got a total of 20 minutes of sleep last night. When she did sleep for her 20-30 minute stretches, she was either on my chest or I was standing up holding her. She had a fever, running nose, cough, diarrhea and pink eye.

The good news is Jude is a sleep rock star. Jia had about 20 episodes of high pitch wailing last night, and he did not even startle. He slept a solid 10 hours. We also noticed he has a talent for sleeping in the sitting position. For his nap, he didn't want to lay in his crib, so instead of pushing things so soon with him, Dave just set him down in his crib and gave him some toys. Five minutes later, I found him sound asleep sitting up. We have found him like this many times over the last 2 days. He still hangs with Dad, but when I smile at him, he will smile back. I am still taking it slow with him. He has been pretty easy going so far. From our update reports from the orphanage, I had the impression he was going to be sad and crying a lot. But, he smiles and laughs a ton. (Although I know he is on his best behavior since he barely knows us)

Jia made a little progress today. She actually let me set her down in our hotel room as long as I was about 4 feet from her. I think she is still scared someone is going to take her again. But, she is a quiet, sweet soul.

We started the day to finalized our adoption in the Chinese government eyes at the registers office. We received our Chinese adoption certificates. (The same place we got the kids yesterday). We then went to to the notary office for more paperwork. Jia had about 4 diaper blowouts up to this point. I went to change her diaper again before we left, and when I took Jia's diaper off, she had another blowout that got all over me, her clothes, and the floor. I typically do not drag my kids to government appointments when they are this sick, so this government paperwork day has been a challenge.

We went back to the room, and Dave realized we left our ergo carriers on the bus. Our CCAI guides tracked them down and hopefully, they will be returned tomorrow.

Jia then had yet another blowout and appeared she had eaten a large sharp eggshell in the orphanage...larger than a quarter. I am really hoping this may have been the reason for all of the late night screaming, and there is not more eggshells inside of her.

We then had to spend the afternoon applying for Jude's passport. Jia then took a 2.5 hour nap in my arms...the longest stretch of sleep Jia has had since we have met her.

Tomorrow we take a bullet train to Zhumadian to apply for Jia's passport. Hoping for easier days ahead.

More gotcha day photos from yesterday....

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gotcha- Day 5.

This morning started with a lot of energy and excitement from our group. We spent most of the morning prepping for our gotcha appt at the register office. Once we arrived, Emma and Caroline spotted Jia right away. She was already there with a caretaker. My first reaction was that she was so tiny. Dave held her first. She went right to him without any tears. i took the opportunity to sign all of her paperwork,and when it was Dave's turn for paperwork, he put her in my arms and she has pretty much been in my arms ever since. The nannies told me she likes to be held....that was an understatement. She would just snuggle and would give me hugs over and over again.

Very soon after we received Jia...Jude arrived. Dave knelt down, andJude went right over to Dave and gave him a big hug. He was happy at first...until I held him then the crying began. He did better in Dave's arms, but he would still cry on and off. He loved all the snacks we brought and was content while eating.

The atmosphere was surreal. Lots of babies crying...all sorts of reactions from babies and parents. Families being formed for the first time.

When we got back to the hotel, Jude was still having his crying moments. Jia was completely silent. She would just cry if I put her down. I noticed she had a really horrible head cold and cough.

We decided to leave the room and spend some time in the lobby to give Jude a change in environment,It felt about 90 degrees in our hotel room. The hotel has not turned on the AC, so this hotel stay has been brutal.

Once we got downstairs, we fed the kids lunch...they both ate everything we gave them. Then jJude was able to run around a bit in the lobby and he became a completely different kid. The girls started playing with him, and he was laughing and so full of joy. rThe girls were speaking to him in Mandarin and they understand the few Mandarin words he knows. Ever since, he been rolling with the punches. He prefers his Dad, but he will also let the girls hold him....still working on

Jia has attached herself only to one else can hold her without her hyperventilating. She would not nap today...only in my arms for about 10 minutes, and she kept waking up startled like a little infant. She has to have something in her hands at all times. She also eats whatever she has until it is about 3/4 of the way finished and then wants Something new. She is so petite... Has the longest fingers I have ever seen. She is also extremely quiet.

We got her to sleep pretty easily. But, then she woke up after about 30 minutes wailing at the top of her lungs. She went back to sleep after I rocked and sung to her, but then same scenario happened over and over again.maybe 4 or 5 times. Then, she was up. She is up in my arms as I write is pretty rough. It is like she is terrified to stay asleep.

Please say some prayers for us....especially that we figure out this sleep issue. I am not equipped to pull all nighters the next 2 weeks, or once we get back. I am also really missing our kids at home.

Pictures to follow....


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Game Changer- Day 4

This morning we had rise early to pack and say goodbye to Beijing. We actually woke up to our alarm clock this morning....big improvement from our first 2 days in China. All 13 families took a bus to the airport where we had to say goodbye to our amazing guides George and Michael. It is really true that the CCAI guides make this trip effortless. We really do not have to think about or plan anything. They are there to keep us on time and on schedule and available to rescue us from any potential hiccup. If we only had a George or Michael at home...or for any future travel abroad.

Two of the families flew to other provinces (but we will see them again in Guangzhou- our third city) and 11 of the families flew to Zhengzhou in the Henan province with us.

When we arrived in Zhengzhou, our new guides Yisha and Vivian met us all at the airport. I could feel my eyes burning from the pollution once we landed. We also experience a weather change because Zhengzhou is much warmer than Beijing. So thankful I brought warm weather clothes for everyone. The guides immediately emphasized that we need to make the mental adjustment from moving from a tourist group to a "new parent" group. Each family received a Q and A sheet on each child which included detailed info such as schedule, diet, and the brand of formula. The guides told us today our goal is to be 100 percent ready for our kids tomorrow.

When we got to our hotel room, there was already 1 crib in the room. We unpacked all of Jude and Jia belongings and prepped for our gotcha day. I kept finding myself holding back tears all day.

After we were settled, Dave went to the bank with the group to exchange money for all of our government fees this week and bought our train tickets for the bullet train we will need to take to Zhumadian City on Wednesday. I took the girls swimming at the hotel pool for some downtime. Then, Dave went with the girls to Walmart to buy some baby items for tomorrow. (Emma will have to blog about that experience)

We then walked around Zhengzhou to find a place to eat. It is crazy here...there are a ton of motor scooters riding on the sidewalks, so you really have to be vigilant to not get hit. We went into a local place where no one spoke any English, so we had to 100 percent rely on the girls to order. They did great...the food was the best Chinese food we have ever eaten, and our bill was only 8 dollars with no tip. I guess if you leave a tip they will chase you out of the restaurant saying you left your money.

Thank you so much for all the prayers and encouraging words!! So far,the trip has been amazing. It has been really great to spend some quality time with our older girls. They have been impressive international travelers. They have really just embraced being in a foreign country.

We are also 3 for 3 for on time flight departures and arrivals. As far as trip logistics go, we will receive our two wild cards tomorrow. The travel difficulty level will substantially move up a notch. Just like my labors, no matter how difficult the task ahead of me, I am ready.

Tomorrow our travel group expands by 11 people...


The Great Photo Shoot- Day 3

This morning we woke up to giggles at 4:30 am instead of 4:00 am which is a 30 minute improvement from yesterday's 4:00 am day. I was not as ready to get up today. The girls are loving the Chinese food at breakfast...especially the ba sai which is basically Korean Dim Sum. Caroline's chop stick skills are still developing as she flung her sausage across the restaurant this morning which rolled under a man's table. She announced that she did not want to leave tomorrow because of how much she loves the breakfast at our hotel. Caroline loves the Beijing breakfast sausages...Emma loves the architecture.

We met up with our group which is now composed of 13 families. The first stop today was our government obligatory stop at the Jade factory. Any tour group going to the Great Wall must make this stop. We then headed to the Great Wall about 2 hours outside of Beijing. We thought the Great Wall was going to be the main attraction for the day, but it turns out we ended up being the main attraction.

On our first day in Beijing, we did get asked a few times to take pictures with the locals (which we knew was typical.)However, it got a little over the top at the Great Wall visit. As soon as we got there, the girls got swarmed with people asking to take their pictures with them. It was almost impossible to break away. We spent the next 2 hours getting our photos taken. We had heard about how much of a work out your legs would get climbing the wall. We didn't feel a thing because every few steps we had had to break for the photo shoot.

Emma kept asking "what in the world they are going to do with all these pictures of us?" It was funny because since she could understand them..She would say to us "why do they think I am from New York City?" "They are confused how my Dad has dark hair, but I have blonde hair" Caroline and Emma got to the point where they were very annoyed with all this picture taking. I told them this is why they should never desire to become a celebrity.

We then ate lunch and headed to Olympic Park to see the Birds Nest. It was way more beautiful and impressive in person than in the photos. I went back to the hotel for some much needed rest, and Dave and the girls went to an Acrobat show with our tour group.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Zhengzhou. We are sad to leave Beijing, but we are ready to meet our newest family members.

Here are some picture from yesterday in Beijing.....and the Great Wall today.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Hi! This is Emma!

I can't believe we're finally here! Well, I didn't have time to post any blogs yesterday, or the day before.
Yesterday was so much fun! We went to the best places ever!


We went to an old neighborhood owned by the government, where we listened this really nice lady talk


We went to the silk factory and watched how silk was made, to make silk clothes and sheets, first they take the single cocoon of the silk worm, it can stretch to about 1200 meters, then they boil it, then turn about eight silk threds into one, to make silk quilts, they take the double cocoon, boil it, then stretch it
over a table over and over again, then it turns it into a silk quilt


We went to the Tiananananananamen (how ever you say it) square, and the forbidden city. We saw where the Emperor and Empress lived.

Well, it's about 5:30 am Beijing time, and later today we'll go to the Great Wall of China, then we'll go to an acrobatic show.


Getting There is Half the Fun- Day 1 and 2

Greetings from Beijing. We have had 2 very full productive days.  So far, we spent about 50 percent of our time traveling, and the other 50 percent on our 1st day in Beijing.

Our travel day was pretty uneventful. All of our flights departed and arrived on time.

The 13 hour flight from LA to Beijing was manageable but pretty brutal toward the end.  I just kept thinking how much worse the trip will be on the return end entertaining 2 toddlers who do not understand any English. The girls did amazingly well except for the last half hour....we had some tears from the exhaustion. When we finally made it to the hotel at about 8:00 pm Beijing time, we all went straight to bed. We were pretty wiped.

I woke up this morning to 4:00 am giggling. I felt like a new person (thanks to some very helpful melatonin). Dave said he heard the girls whispering as early as 2:30 am.  (Glad I did not hear them until 4) I made the girls stay in bed until about 4:45, and then we woke up and went to the pool. They had way too much energy for their 5:30 am swim. 

We then ate breakfast at the hotel. The food was fabulous.  The hotel had both an American and Chinese cuisine.  So, we were able to get a little taste of everything.  We met up with our adoption group to head out on our 1st day of touring Beijing. There are about 12 families total with lots of kids in tow. 

The first stop on the agenda was old Beijing.  We rode in rickshaws around the area and then visited a local residence. I rode with Emma, and she spent the whole time talking with our rickshaw driver in Mandarin.  It was cute and really built up her confidence in speaking with the locals.

We then did our government obligatory visit to a silk factory.

In the afternoon, we spent time in Tennaman Square and the Forbidden City.  It was really beautiful.  We are loving Beijing.  Emma especially loves it and has already concluded she wants spend a year studying here in college. Caroline is enjoying being on the trip; however, spending the day touring architectural sites was not her idea of fun. (nor was it any of the kids idea of fun under the age of seven in our group.  They all cheered at the end of the day when our tour guide announced it was time to head back to the bus.) I think Caroline was envisioning more of a theme park adventure.

It is hard to imagine that our group will expand with 14 new children in a few days.

I'll update with photos soon. (The ones from my camera are too big to upload. We will take photos from my ipad tomorrow.)