Forever Young

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Convicting Quote

I read this on another adoptive Mama's blog and was very convicted by it....

"Today is Mother's Day. I celebrated with hugs, kisses, and "You're the bestest Mommy in the whole wide world!" declarations from my seven children. I'm sure most of you did, too.

But in every quiet moment of today, I ached way down deep in my soul for the millions upon millions of children who have no mother to hug and kiss them. For the children in Africa who died today from intense hunger. For the children in Sudan who were eaten alive by hyenas today after falling out of the tree they found to sleep in last night. For the teeenagers in Bulgaria who never grew past the size of an infant and spent today in the confines of their crib because of lack of nutrition and the most basic need, a loving human touch. For the children in Eastern Europe who got transferred to a mental institution (to spend their lives with the sick, mentally ill ADULTS) today, simply because they weren't adopted before they turned 5. For the little girls who were sold into prostitution at the age of 9 and whose bodies were used and abused 10 to 20 times JUST TODAY in Thailand. For the babies in America who got their limbs literally RIPPED from their tiny little bodies by medical professionals today, because somebody somewhere declared their life unwanted.

It may be Mother's Day 2012, but there's an orphan crisis in the world today.

Where is God in all of these atrocities?

He's waiting.

For His people to rise up, answer His call to care for the fatherless, and to get off their Sunday morning pew and actively spread His love to a lost world! For us to stop saying "What can we DO about it?" and GO DO SOMETHING."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mothers' Day Poem

As this is my first Mothers' Day with an adopted child, I thought I would share this poem.  It doesn't all pertain to me, but I still think it's great!

Mother's Day

By Jennifer Wilson-Pines

One day a year,
The inevitable card, a dinner.
Mediocre chocolates in a box
elaborate enough to satisfy
a three-year-old's discerning taste.

Every day is mother's day
The hands stretched up for a hug,
pizza smeared kisses,
the soft warm weight
tucked in to my arms
trustingly surrendered to sleep.
Even the tired tantrums.

I am a mother
every second of the day.
My daughter is stitched
into every fiber of my life.
I love her with an intensity
that took me by surprise.
Surpassed only by the fear
of losing her.

But she has another mother,
The woman in the mirror,
The shadow, who comes
and goes through invisible doors.

You first felt her stir, roll
and kick inside you.
The contraction that announced
her impending arrival,
heard the first cry, touched
the downy fuzz on her head,

And left her.

And I grapple with this,
As she will sooner than I wish.

Without you, I would not be a mother.
Your loss and hers is my gain.
I honor you by loving her
shiny black hair, rosebud mouth,
She is made of you,
how could I not?

How could I understand
That a few days after her birth,
in the deep of winter,
she was left outside.

When she cries in fear or anger,
"I'm cold,"
I am seized with a rage
as icy and unforgiving
as that January night.

When she tells me the life story
of our formerly feral cat
is the same as hers,
I want to weep,
that I can't change it
or make it go away.

Can I say I would never do the same?
Judge not…..

Perhaps it was the desperation
of a mother
who throws her children
from a burning building.
Hoping and praying
that someone will catch them.
That they will be safe.
Perhaps, perhaps,
I will never know.

Do you miss her,
wonder at what might have been,
where is she now?

Our daughter is dancing, far away,
dressed in a Cinderella blue gown.
Serving tea to a stuffed turtle,
singing songs of her own invention.
You will never hear her voice.
She will never see your face.

She is neither you or me.
She is the third way,
already crafting her own story.
You gave her life,
I give her a future.

Happy Mother's Day.

Home from China

Sorry to leave you hanging for soooo long!  Last time you heard from me, we were getting ready to leave China!  Well we got packed up and checked out of our hotel and met John down in the lobby.  We went back to the US Consulate to pick up Karis’s passport and US visa.  We actually stayed in the van while John ran in and picked it up and it didn’t take very long at all.  John had arranged with our driver that we would touch his shoulder if Karis needed to go potty while we were waiting and he would drive us to a bathroom.  Our driver didn’t speak any English and John knew that Karis had to go potty all the time and was not a happy camper when we made her wait.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about it though!  So after picking up the passport and visa we headed for the train station.  We had opted to not pay the extra money to have our baggage checked while on the train.  It’s free if you just keep it with you.  We had a plan on how to do it all ourselves!  Todd and I both wore backpacks and Karis’s backpack was on the back of her stroller.  I pushed the stroller and pulled a small suitcase.  Todd stacked our other small suitcase onto the handle of the big suitcase and he pulled that with one hand and our other large suitcase with the other hand.  Thankfully, John helped us with everything getting into the train station and he stayed with us as long as he could until he couldn’t go any farther.  We did manage to get everything down the escalator and to the train by ourselves.  It’s kind of a mad rush to get onto the train because there is not much luggage space and the first ones to get there get to claim it!  Thankfully, we met a nice man from Italy while we were waiting for the train and he helped us get all of our luggage onto the train.  He happened to be sitting in the same train car that we were, so he helped us get our luggage off the train when we arrived also!  I love how God places people in just the right places to provide for our needs!  The train ride was pretty nice.  It was about 2 hours long and the seats were pretty spacious and comfortable.  They came through selling some sort of food a few times, but we were not sure what anything was, so we didn’t purchase anything.  They did give everyone a bottle of water to drink, so that was nice.  I had heard that the squatty potties on the train flushed onto the tracks and I do believe that is true.  Karis used the potty once and then later we tried to use it again, but the doors were locked.  I was trying to figure out what was going on and a man on the train told me there was no toilet service in Hong Kong.  By this point we had crossed the border and I assume that the people in Hong Kong didn’t want dirty railroad tracks, so that did not allow toilet service.  Thankfully, Karis managed to wait until we got to the train station without getting upset.  Our guide, John, had told us that we should hurry and get off the train because it would be hard to get a taxi with all the other people on the train also wanting a taxi.  Well, because we had to find a bathroom for Karis and because we didn’t realize we had to fill out Arrival Cards, we managed to be the very last people through the customs line!!  We thought John would have been so proud of us!  ;-)  Thankfully, we found luggage carts to use in the train station and since we knew we had a 45 minute taxi ride to the hotel, we opted to go ahead and eat in the train station before leaving.  Our options to eat were McDonalds or at a place that had some strange food we weren’t sure about, so we opted for McDonalds.  By the time we got out to find a taxi, there was no line at all as everyone else was already gone.  We didn’t have to wait at all!  We showed the taxi driver our note that John had written in Chinese telling which hotel that we needed to go, and we were off.  It was fun driving on the left side of the road, and the city was very beautiful.  We would have loved to have more time look around and see Hong Kong, but by the time we got to our hotel and got checked in it was bed time.  Our room only had one double bed in it though we had requested an extra bed for Karis.  It took a while to finally get the extra bed brought in so we were just sitting around waiting to go to bed until they finally brought it in.  We had to get up and get going pretty early to get to our flight the next morning.  The hotel was actually connected to the airport so we figured we’d have plenty of time to get where we needed to be and then eat some breakfast while waiting for our plane.  But, there were so many people there and so many different checkpoints and lines that we had to go through that we just made it to our gate in time to board the plane.  We did manage to stop at a convenience store just outside our gate to get some food and drinks to take onto the plane with us.  Then we were told that we could not bring our own drinks onto the plane as there was yet another check point before boarding the plane where they took it away from us!  The most interesting thing in the airport was seeing soldiers walking around carrying their machine guns in the low ready position!  We made it onto our plane and prepared for the 14 ½ hour long flight!  The trip actually wasn’t terrible (or maybe I’ve already blocked it from my memory).  Since we had 3 seats and Karis is small, we had more room to stretch out.  She did pretty well and slept for several hours.  She kept wanting to put her feet up onto the seat in front of her, so we did have to fight that battle, but otherwise it was fine.  We did make several trips to the potty, but it was good to get up and stretch my legs.  When we took off in Hong Kong the plane ride was very bumpy and made a strange noise, so that scared Karis and she cried a little bit, but other than that the plane rides didn’t bother her at all.  She didn’t want to wear a seat belt at first (she’s probably never worn one as they don’t have to use them in China), but we showed her that Mama and Baba were wearing one, and she agreed to it!  After the loooong ride, we landed in Chicago and were very happy to be back in the USA!  Karis got a stamp in her passport and became a US Citizen in Chicago!  We should be receiving her Certificate of Citizenship any day now!  We had to go through customs in Chicago and then make a long trek to our next gate.  We had plenty of time and were able to relax for a while.  I was able to call home and talk to Brandon and Bekah too since our cell phones were working once again!  The flight home was pretty short, and then we arrived in Louisville where we were greeted by Brandon and Bekah and my parents and Todd’s mom and aunt.  It was sooo good to have our whole family finally together!

Transfer from Journey to Me (part 3)

Yesterday afternoon we went walking around the park close to our hotel. It's so interesting to see people dancing or exercising or playing ping pong right in the middle of the park. Karis was taking a drink from her water bottle while we were there and I was saying "aaaah" when she finished and we got a good smile out of her!! After the park we came back to the playroom here in the hotel and she was throwing balls at BaBa and he would fall over and she laughed at him!! We had so much fun watching her smile and laugh! This morning Karis was doing the same thing in our room with balloons! It is sooo nice to see her happy!!
She walks slowly so sometimes we pick her up and carry her. Now when we want to go somewhere she oftentimes just want us to carry her instead of walking. We love that she wants us to take care of her. But, she does not know how to be carried. She is just dead weight and will almost fall backwards out of our arms if we're not careful. She has obviously not been carried around. We love to carry her but when we have a long way to go, she gets heavy! We're going to try to find her a stroller this morning when we go to Shamian Island.
We're headed to the Island soon and then after lunch we have to take her to the Dr. for her medical exam and TB test. I hope she is not scared and doesn't get upset about all that. Thankfully she seems to let us comfort her now when she is upset.
She is copying us all the time now. She has learned to cover her mouth when she coughs. She has learned to do a thumbs up and fist pump too! She is starting to mimic our words also. We have said good job to her a lot and she was listening to Veggie Tales and heard them say good job and she recognized that! She seems to be a quick learner!
Well, we're off for the day.....

We spent a while this morning looking around Shamian Island and had lunch at Lucy's. We did find her a stroller and we just bought one instead of renting it. I want to have it for the trip on the train to Hong Kong and for the airports. We only paid 129 yuan for the stroller which is about $21. It may not be the best quality but as long as it lasts a week until we get home, I'll be happy. One thing I really miss from home is the ability to shop without someone following me around and trying to convince me to buy things! If they would leave me alone I might actually look around and buy something! And nothing has prices here, you have to strike a deal with the seller. We did make a few purchases while we were there, though.
After shopping we had to take Karis to her Dr. appointment. Oh my, she broke her MaMa's heart. She cried several times and MaMa just couldn't stand it. The first time she cried was when they were trying to see how tall she was. They had her stand on a scale and then the part that tells how tall you are electronically comes down and bonks you on the head. She would not stand there for that. Thankfully they found her height the old fashioned way we do it back in America! But then she had to have her blood pressure taken and that was torture. They had to do it twice because she would not sit still the first time. It was so sad. Then she had to have a shot for her TB test. Finally we finished up there and MaMa and BaBa were able to make her feel better.
Then we spent a while walking around in downtown Guangzhou before being picked up to go to the passport office. They basically just took a picture and looked at our passports and that was all. We also received our official adoption decree from China. So, we are completely finished with all we need to do for China. But, we still have steps to complete for the US.
We are getting more smiles and laughs from Karis today and it is so fun. She can get upset with us when she doesn't get her way but so far she hasn't thrown a fit or anything. She just kind of sulks for a while. She has pulled the hairs on Baba's arm and face a few times when she's not happy with him. She has also slapped her hand at his face a few times. I think this is all normal orphanage behavior and she doesn't know that it's wrong or what else to do if she's not happy. We have so much to teach her!
We are missing Brandon and Bekah sooooo much and can't wait to get home to see them! We are ready to have our family all together for the first time! Unfortunately Skype doesn't work very well and it gets very frustrating when trying to talk with Brandon and Bekah. The internet connection seems to come and go and we get cut off during every conversation.
Thank you all for praying for us. I think things are going well and we thank God for being so gracious to us.

We've found it is easier just to put photos in one place, so we've been putting them on Flickr. You can check out this link:
We are adding new ones each day, so keep checking back there!

Things we're learning about Karis....
She does not like animals at all! Today we went to the zoo and she was fine as long as we were far away from the animals, but up close she turned away and did not want to look at them. She even cried a few times when we got close to the birds. We also went to a pet market and once again she did not like any animals. Not even the fish or the cute kitty cats!
When we were riding in the car it was really hot outside so we aimed the AC vents on us and she freaked out. She was fine as long as it wasn't blowing directly on her.
She doesn't like hamburgers! We ordered her a hamburger for lunch one day. She opened up the bun and took out the meat and gave it to MaMa and then ate the bun!
She has learned to say Uh Oh when she drops something! It's so cute!
She enjoys looking at her photo album from the orphanage. There are a few photos from her birthday party that make her laugh. We don't know why she's laughing but she points to a picture of a boy with down syndrome and she angles her head down like his is in the picture and laughs.
She plays finger games all the times. We don't know what she's doing but she is constantly looking at her fingers and playing with them.
BaBa let her try his Coke Zero and she made a very funny face like she didn't like it, but she keeps asking for more. I think he's getting her hooked!
She told John she wants her hair to grow long like Mama's! Yay!

Tomorrow we are going to her orphanage for a tour. Please pray that she will handle this well and not think we are taking her back or decide she wants to stay there! John feels like she is doing well and will be fine, so we are hopeful that things will go well.

We had a good visit to the orphanage this morning. It was very quiet because most of the kids were gone to school. Ms. Zhong, the director, is super nice and all the nannies seemed to enjoy seeing Karis with her new family. Karis was a little hesitant at first going there. She didn't cry or get upset, but didn't seem excited either. John just explained to her that she was going to say goodbye and she was okay with that. Someone asked her if she was happy with her new MaMa and BaBa and she said she was happy!! She definitely didn't want to stay there!! :-)

John agreed that Z is one of the best orphanages around. They take the kids out to McDonalds about 2 times a year. Karis also got to go on a trip to Guangzhou and go up in the Canton Tower (one of the tallest buildings in the world!) last
July. The orphanage seemed clean but there was a definite lack of "kid" stuff. Most of the rooms were almost bare
with no toys or colorful decorations or anything. John told us that most orphanages don't let the kids play with toys because it makes a mess. It was really sad. The play room had a TV and some chairs and that was all. There was some playground equipment outside but they showed us the area where the kids usually played outside and it was just a grassy area with some trees. Karis definitley doesn't know how to play. We have tried to get her interested in toys and she'll look at them and try it for a few minutes but then she's done with it. Most of the time she just sits and plays with her fingers. Maybe some
of that is because of her delays though? I don't know.

While we were at the orphanage Ms. Zhong told us that Karis was extremely weak when she was little. They did not know if she would survive. They did not think she'd ever find a family. Everyone seemed very happy that she found a family! And, of course we are thrilled! They have been surprised by her progress both physically and mentally. They said she was doing so well in school that they promoted her to a new class!
After the orphanage visit we went to her finding spot. She was found in a bus station in Zhongshan. John said that her parents probably bought a bus ticket and then left her there and rode away on a bus. We didn't tell her anything about where we were or why we were there. But we got pictures so that someday we can share her history with her.
We also went back to the Dr. to have them look at her TB skin test. It was fine so we were in and out in just a few minutes.
Tomorrow we have a free day, and John has to take the other FTIA family to do some things, so we'll be on our own most of the day. We have some places we are going to try to go if it's not raining.
We are learning more ways to communicate with Karis but it is still very hard. She's getting good at using her own sign language and most of the time we can figure out what she wants. But we definitley have a long road ahead of us. Please continue to pray for us!

We are having so much fun with Karis. She is smiling and laughing all the time! She loves to be tickled and she thinks it's so funny if you say, "aaaah chooooo!" like you are sneezing. Today we took her to a park close to our hotel. It's a huge park and we didn't make it through half of it before leaving. We found the Statue of the 5 Goats and an amusement park inside the park. Karis had absolutely no interest in riding anything at the amusement park. She seemed interested in one ride so Todd bought 2 tickets but then he ended up riding it by himself! You'll have to check out Flickr for pictures of that!
Karis seems to be learning so much. She is saying some English words like good job, uh-oh, baby, and I love you! She really is a sweet girl. She is compliant most of the time but occasionally does let us know she is not happy! Even when she's not happy she doesn't throw a fit. She has to stop and go to the bathroom quite often. Sometimes if we are not at a bathroom and she has to wait she will cry but I think we've figured out how to tell her we are trying to find her a potty. The plane ride home should be interesting as there will be times when we will not be able to use a bathroom (like during take off and landing). I think we may end up just putting her in a pull-up just in case.
We tried giving her ice cream last night but she would not eat it. I think it was just too cold for her. I bet she'll be eating it soon though!
I brought her some headbands but she will not wear them. But she does insist on having a flower clip in her hair every day!
We are adjusting to life in China, but really miss the USA! We are enjoying our time here, but we really are looking forward to being home! I know that Karis will learn so much from her big brother and sister and they are just dying to meet her.

Yesterday we toured a Buddhist temple and the Chen Family Academy. The Buddhist temple was quite interesting. People were bringing their offerings of fruit, peanuts and water bottles and leaving them there for their "god." Of course we know they were just statues made by human hands. I am so thankful we have a Savior who is alive! We pray that Karis will come to know and worship Him as we do!
We had lunch at McDonald's and ordered Karis chicken nuggets and french fries. She loved them! The orphanage had taken her to McDonalds before, but I have no idea what she ate. Afterwards, we went to a park to walk around. There are some very beautiful parks here! The landscaping is so pretty! You see all kinds of people doing all kinds of things in the parks. People sing and dance or exercise or walk backwards or play games or clap their hands or sleep or whatever they feel like doing. And, they let their kids pee wherever they want to. (I can't wait to get back to U.S. bathrooms!!!)
Last night we had dinner with the other FTIA family and let the kids play on the playground. We have been to a playground several times and Karis has had no interest in playing. But, the other family has 2 daughters and one of them is the same age as Karis. She tried to engage Karis and get her to play with her and Karis actually played some! She went down a slide a few times and was running around and acting silly just like a kid should. We've seen her just sit so much, and it is so encouraging to see her running around and playing like a kid! We can't wait for her to meet her siblings as we know she will have so much fun with them.
This morning we had our appointment at the US Consulate. We had to take an oath and then they looked over our paperwork to make sure we have everything we need to get Karis into the US and make her a citizen. We left her passport there and will pick it up tomorrow with a Visa to enter the US. When we land in Chicago she will become a US Citizen!! We can't wait to come home!

Well, I just typed out a long post and then it all disappeared. Ugh. I really don't have time to type it all out again right now. So, the quick version is that tonight is our last night in China. Tomorrow we pick up Karis's passport and Visa and then take a train ride to Hong Kong. Then we leave from there on Wednesday morning to head for home.

Today we leave the country that Karis has known all her life. It's sad to think she may never be here again (although we'd love to bring her back when whe is older). This place is comfortable to her. The food is normal, the smells are normal, even the potties are normal to her. When we go to the US, it will all be very strange to her. Todd and I feel out of place here in China, but we only have to survive here for 2 weeks. Karis has to survive the rest of her life away from what feels normal to her right now. We are praying that she will adapt quickly to our life in the US.
I was actually not looking forward to our trip to China. Well, I was looking forward to meeting Karis but not living in China for 2 weeks. But, it really hasn't been that bad. We haven't had to eat anything disgusting! However, I have had enough sweet and sour pork (they don't eat chicken here) and fried rice to last me a while. There have been some strange smells, but nothing too bad. Most of the time we can find a Western potty to use. Our hotel is nice and the staff is great. Our AC wasn't working and they had a crew in here and had it fixed within 30 minutes. Our guide, John, is fabulous and makes it easy for us to get around here. We would have never made it without him!
Karis is still doing very well. I hope this isn't just the "honeymoon" phase. I know coming home can bring about major problems with adopted kids. We will not have John there to explain anything to her. It seems like the only times she gets upset now is when she has a need that she feels like she can't communicate to us. But, I think she's getting better and better at sign language. We still have to figure out her eating habits. Sometimes she will gobble food down. Other times she will just hold food in her mouth for a while (or a long while - sometimes when we brush her teeth at night before bed she'll pull out some food she's been hanging onto). And sometimes she will spit out everything in her mouth. And, it's not consistently the same food she is eating or spitting out. One morning at breakfast she spit out everything we gave her. She also put corn in her yogurt one morning! Every meal is an adventure!
We are really not looking forward to the long plane ride. The ride here was not fun. Now we will have Karis with us for the ride home, and I have no idea how she will handle it. I've been warned that most kids throw up. Please pray for us! I think the plane ride is kind of like going through labor. It's terrible, but eventually you forget the pain. We've seen so many families here adopting their 2nd child so it must not be too bad if they're willing to do it again. We've already been asked when we are coming back! Well, let's get Karis settled into our family and then we'll see what God has in store for us.
This morning we'll be packing and then John will take us to pick up Karis's passport and Visa and then he'll drop us off at the train station and we'll be on our own! The train ride is about 2 hours and then when we arrive in Hong Kong we'll need to exchange some money to Hong Kong dollars and then find a taxi to take us to our hotel which is about 45 minutes away. John has written down the name of our hotel in Chinese for us to give to the taxi driver and he said it's a very famous hotel, so we should hopefully not have problems getting there. John says he thinks they speak better English in Hong Kong so we should have an easier time. They also drive on the opposite side of the road there, so that will be interesting!
You know, none of us really have "control" over our lives, even if we think we do. This trip has been such a step of faith for us to just trust that God is taking care of us. He is the one in control of our lives. We had one experience when John wasn't with us and we couldn't find a taxi. An unmarked van pulled over to offer us a ride and Todd accepted it as we really needed to get back. (Later John told us we should stick to waiting for a taxi.) But, the van ride was fine and we ended up back at our hotel where we wanted to be. God was in control! We are trusting that He will continue to get us through the rest of our journey and back home safely.
We have definitely fallen in love with our dark haired girl, and we are thanking God for his blessings!

Transfer from Journey to Me (part 2)

We have been able to access our FB acounts via Logmein. Todd has posted a few videos and he'll be adding more photos on there as well.
We are headed to bed as we have another busy day of sightseeing tomorrow!

Today was another busy day for us! We met our guide at 8:30 and drove to a jade factory and store. It was interesting, but a bit too pricey for us to buy anything. From there we went to The Great Wall of China. We walked up way too many steps (and back down them!), but it was beautiful and such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! After the Great Wall, we went to a place to eat lunch. It was one of those family style Chinese restaurants where they bring out bowls of all kinds of food for your table to share. There was so much food! There were 5 of us at the table (us and the other FTIA family here with us), and when we finished eating, another party of 5 could have sat down and eaten our leftovers and had more than enough to eat. The food was pretty good, but I have no idea what we ate. They didn't tell us anything about the food. In fact, I don't think anyone said anything at all to us the whole time. Our guide ordered our meal and then left "to get a burger," she said! ;-)
After lunch, we did some shopping in the same building. We didn't buy anything as we are trying to get to Guangzhou before we purchase anything. We are going to fly there tomorrow, and they have stricter airline restrictions on your baggage in China than in the US. We were just barely under the Chinese weight limits when we left home, so I don't want to buy anything until after we fly to Guangzhou so we won't have to pay a fine for being over the weight limits.
After shopping we went to The Summer Palace. This is where the emporer lived during the hot summer months. It has a man-made lake and mountains so it is much cooler there. It was very pretty! The Palace grounds includes the world's longest painted corridor. Our guide said it was in the Guiness Book of World Records. It was amazing! We took a boat ride on the lake which was fun too. We have plenty of pictures but Todd needs to get them off the camera, so I'll have to add those later.
Tomorrow we leave here and go one step closer to Karis. 2 more days!!!!!

Today we flew from Beijing to Guangzhou and arrived safely. The flight was fine and our luggage made it with us. We met our new guide, John, when we got here and he seems very nice and very helpful. We got all checked into our room and John showed us around the area. It's raining here and Todd is feeling sick so we opted to stay in for the evening. John offered to call and order Papa John's to be delivered to us, so that's what we had for our Easter dinner!
I've been working on unpacking and settling into our room since we'll be here for 10 days. In just a few hours there will be 3 of us "living" here instead of just the 2 of us! Please pray for us and Karis as it will be a big adjustment for all of us. We are praying that God will be gracious to us and give us a quick bonding.
I thought I'd mention just a few random things I've leaned in China....
I know I've already mentioned it, but it's worth mentioning it again - The driving is crazy!
They do not have Diet Coke in China! You can sometimes find Coke Zero, but many places you cannot find any diet drinks. And, we can't drink the water unless we buy it in a bottle. So, we have actually drunk "real" soda a few times. We did manage to find some Diet Coke in one store that we bought and our guide was shocked. We mentioned it to our new guide, and he said it must have come from Hong Kong.
Chinese people eat much healthier than we do, I think. People snack on fruits and vegetables and you don't see many desserts or sweets. People walk around eating corn on the cob or a cucumber or an apple. There were no cinammon rolls or pancakes with syrup or anything like that at our breakfast buffet. The sweetest thing I found to eat was some strawberry jelly! Also, on our plane ride here from America we were served chips and cookies. Today when we flew within China we were served fruit, veggies and yogurt (which wasn't very sweet).
I'm not sure what this says about people in China, but there is a glass window between the bathroom and bedroom in our hotel. Thankfully, there is a shade you can close to cover it though!! And, that's all I'm gonna say about that!
There is not much "personal space" in China and pushing and squeezing past people is very normal. It's kind of the same way they drive.
I'm sure there is so much more I could say but I'll stop for now. We are so thankful to be here in this country so that we can add Karis to our family!

Monday, April 9th will be a day we will always remember, I'm sure. We are up and getting ready for our day. After breakfast John will take us to the bank to exchange our money. We have to exchange $6,670 for Chinese yuan. Right now the exchange rate is about 6 yuan per dollar. I'm not sure how large they print their currency, but the biggest thing we've seen so far is 100 yuan. We will need over 40,000 yuan. And if we get all that in 100 yuan bills, that's a lot of bills. John said it will take us over 1 hour to exchange the money, and possibly longer depending on how busy the bank is. And, he said to bring a backpack to put the money in because it will be way too much to try to carry.
After the bank, he said we should have time for lunch and then we'll drive to the Civil Affairs office to meet Karis. She will have about a 1 1/2 hour ride to get there from Zhongshan Orphanage where she's been living all her life. This will probably be the first trip she has ever made. John said we'd probably meet her around 2:30 this afternoon. We are so excited and nervous too. I remember when I went in to be induced for my first baby. It was all new and unknown and I had so many questions. That's the way I feel today too.
John mentioned that many families will get a newspaper from Gotcha Day to save! I'm so glad he mentioned that to us. I have newspapers from the day my other 2 kids were born, so I'll get one for Karis too!
The next post will hopefully include photos of us and Karis!!

We arrived at the Civil Affairs office around 2:30 this afternoon. Karis was already there in a separate room. John saw her and said she seemed happy. We had to look over some paperwork and then we could meet her. I thought it would take longer than it did, so I was a little surprised when John said to come meet her. We didn't have time to get out the phone to take a video and by the time Todd handed John the camera, the first few moments were over. But, when we first met her she came to us with open arms and gave us each a hug and said MaMa to me and BaBa to Todd. She had definitely been coached on what to do when she saw us! I think they had prepared her well and had showed her our pictures so she recognized us. After the hugs she was ready to go back to the familiar faces from that came with her from the orphanage. I opened the backpack we brought her to give her some toys we had brought for her. She just wanted to pull everything out to see what all was in there. We finally got her occupied with a magnetic drawing pad (thanks, Liz!). She seemed pretty content. She also had brought her own backpack with snacks and she wanted to eat everything in there. She had some dried seaweed or something like that and some chocolate and some soy milk. Then I gave her some of the Skittles we brought for her. Then she needed to go potty and she let me take her. She is very independent and didn't need any help in that department. She was quite the squatty potty expert! So, we continued to hang out with her and John took care of paying our money and whatever else needed to be done. It's all kind of a blur. After everything was complete the orphanage workers gave us a gift and we gave them their gifts and they were ready to go. When they said goodbye Karis lost it. She just started crying and crying. Thankfully, the staff just left and did not try to drag things out. John was sooooo great with her. He just kept talking to her and trying to make her feel better. I don't know what all he said, but he told us that food seemed to calm her down. She really didn't cry too long but after she stopped she had a few more bursts of tears. Then John told her we'd go to the store to buy her some food and he was asking her what she liked. So, we left and went to the grocery store and let her pick out some snacks. She had another round of crying in the car but she let me hold her and John talked with her to calm her down again. She cried again when we entered the hotel. We went up to our room and John came with us and we showed her her bed and her toys we brought for her. John shared some information with us that he had received from the orphanage staff regarding her schedule and what she eats, etc. By this time it was after 5 and she was ready for dinner. John went with us down to a restaurant in the hotel and ordered for us. Karis ate about 3 bowls of wonton soup and one bowl of fried rice and some sweet and sour pork. That girl can eat! She had a couple of more rounds of crying in the restaurant before our food came. Thankfully, she let me hold her and John talked with her to calm her down. After dinner John told her we'd take her to they playground they have in the hotel and she seemed happy. Then he told her goodbye and we were afraid she'd cry but she didn't. We took her to the playground, but she wasn't interested in playing so we just came back to our room. BaBa found some Chinese kid videos on the computer that they watched together. She got to see her brother and sister briefly on Skype and then it was time to get ready for bed. I changed her into pj's and brushed her teeth and put her in bed and she didn't fuss at all. She was asleep pretty quickly. We are so thankful that things seemed to go very well even with the bursts of tears. We pray that she will learn to love us and trust us soon. You can check out Flickr for pictures:
We are exhausted and headed to bed!

We've been with Karis for almost 24 hours and are enjoying getting to know her. She slept very well last night despite falling out of the bed and wetting the bed! I had to get creative after she wet the bed because I couldn't put her back in a wet bed. I pulled up the covers and let her sleep on top of them and then found a bathrobe here in the room to cover her up with. We never heard a peep out of her all night and we had to wake her up about 6:45 this morning so that we could be ready in time to meet John. We had to go back to the Civil Affairs office this morning to be interviewed and sign the official adoption paperwork. They asked us about our biological children and why we wanted to adopt. They asked us if we were "satisfied" with our child. What a terrible question! Of course we are satisfied! God has led us to our daughter and it doesn't matter what is "wrong" with her. They also asked us if we would ever abandon her or neglect her. Do you think anyone ever says Yes?? Another crazy question. We were told to bring gifts for the officials that interviewed us and we did give the first person a gift, but the second person said he did not want any more gifts! What do they do with all that stuff anyway?? So, after doing all the official paperwork we left and went back to the store to buy some pull-ups! Then we came back to the hotel and John left us for the rest of the day. We had lunch in the room and have been hanging out. Karis usually takes a "nap" from 12-2 every day, but that doesn't mean she really sleeps. She just has to lay in her bed quietly, so we've just been letting her play quietly in the room. She doesn't seem sleepy at all. In a little bit we're going to head over to a park close by and try to find somewhere to eat dinner tonight where we can order food without speaking Chinese. That should be interesting!
Here are some random facts we are learning all about our daughter...
This girl can really eat a lot. And she stuffs her mouth full! It's so interesting watching the way she eats. The only utensil she uses is a spoon.
She tells us she needs to go potty by grabbing her pants and so far she has not had any accidents other than in the bed last night.
She lets us hug and kiss on her and will sometimes give us a hug if we ask her.
She was a bit slow to let Todd hold her or hold her hand, but she seems to be warming up to him.
She has the sweetest little voice, but she doesn't talk a whole lot. Even when John talks to her in Chinese, she won't always answer him. Her favorite thing to say is MaMa and BaBa when she sees us! It is soooo sweet! John mentioned that she will probably need speech therapy as she doesn't pronounce her Chinese words exactly right. We've found some Chinese videos online and when she repeats a word in Chinese we can tell that she isn't pronouncing it quite right.
She has a funny gait to her walk and will probably need some physical therapy as well. She's a little slow but she gets around just fine. They told us she was getting faster at running.
She seems to listen to instructions and obey pretty well without getting upset. If she touches something she shouldn't and we tell her no and move it out of the way she is fine with that. Well, except when she wanted to play with a knife at breakfast. She didn't want to let go of it. I had to pry it out of her fingers, but then she didn't try to get it again!
She is very independent. She has her own backpack and gets what she wants out of it. She will zip it right back up when she has gotten out whatever she wants. And she'll throw her trash away on her own. And whenever we go somewhere she goes and gets her backpack on herself and doesn't forget it!
This morning at the Civil Affairs office she had a couple of short crying spells. Once again John talked with her and she calmed down quickly. I think being in the office just brought back the memory of leaving the people she has known all her life.
She has a cute little bottom lip and chin quiver. I think it might be some sort of self soothing thing as she does it when she is unsure about what is going on.
I'm sure we'll soon know much more about our daughter and we are enjoying the journey. It is very hard to not be able to talk with her though. I wish she could tell us what she is thinking! And I wish she could understand our words of comfort and assurance for her. I really look forward to her learning English!

Transfer from Journey to Me! (part 1)

I am going to transfer all our posts from Journey to Me here to the blog so that all our posts will be in one spot!

We have our plane tickets purchased, so we are officially headed to China April 4-18. We can not wait to meet our daughter, Karis Joy Young!!

We are counting down the days to meet our precious daughter! It's surreal that one week from today we will be on our way to China! And in 12 days, we'll meet our daughter! We are so excited!! However, we are also very aware that this is going to be very hard. Karis does not speak English and we do not speak Chinese. Many people say that the communication barrier is the hardest part to deal with when adopting an older child. Karis is going to be ripped apart from everything she has ever known in her life and expected to function with people who are strangers who don't look like her or smell like her or talk like her or eat like her, etc., etc. It will be a very hard on her. We are praying for God to work mightily in her life to ease some of her fears and discomfort during this time. We are praying that she will bond well with us and realize that although we are "strange" to her that we love her and are seeking her best interest. I have read so many stories of those first few weeks, or months of adoption. So, we are fully aware that Karis my not like us! She may scream, cry, kick, bite, spit, etc., etc. How would you react if someone "kidnapped" you? But we are also aware that some children adjust very quickly and learn to love and trust their new family. We are praying for an easy transition, but are prepared for it to not be easy! It is definitely scary to think about what the future might hold, but we are trusting that God has lead us into this journey and He will continue to lead us throughout this journey. A few days ago I was reading Matthew 28:18-20 to the kids. I'm sure this "Great Commission" passage is very familiar to you as it is to me because we've read it or heard it so many times. I was explaining to the kids that by bringing Karis home and teaching her the Good News, we are fulfilling God's command in these verses. Then I read the end of verse 20 which says, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." It just struck me that God knew this command would be difficult. He knew that we would struggle when we strive to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, He made a promise that He would be with us. He truly does meet all of our needs. I was so encouraged to think that even on those really hard days when I can't communicate with Karis or she is reacting in a negative way to us, God will be with me. He has proved faithful over these last 14 months as we have pursued this adoption, and I know He will continue to be faithful as we embark on this new journey with Karis!

We'll be heading to the Louisville airport this morning to begin our trip to Karis Joy! We fly from Louisville to Chicago, and then we have a very short layover there before boarding our plane to Beijing! By the time we arrive in Beijing it will be around 2 in the afternoon on Thursday, April 5th. We would definitely appreciate your prayers for our safety as we travel as well as the ability to get some sleep while we are on the plane!

We made it safely to Beijing! Our flight leaving Louisville was delayed about 30 minutes yesterday morning due to an electrical problem that had to be fixed earlier in the morning. We already had a short layover in Chicago, so now we had a really short layover! We walked as fast as we could and when we arrived at our gate most everyone had already boarded the plane. But, we made it! The plane ride was very long and very uncomfortable. Thankfully each seat had a monitor with access to a decent selection of movies and TV shows. We dozed a little here and there, but neither of us really slept on the plane. We were served 2 meals and 1 snack inflight which were decent. The ride was smooth most of the way until the last 30 minutes. We hit some turbulence, and it was not fun. We felt so sick. Thankfully, we didn't need to use the little bag but others weren't so lucky. Ugh.
After we got off the plane, we went through customs and retrieved our bags (yes, they made it!) and then we entered a hallway with piles of people holding up signs or papers with names on them. We were very thankful when we finally saw a sign that said FTIA! Shirley is an FTIA employee who works here in Beijing. She helped us get to our hotel and get checked in. We'll be meeting her in the morning for some touring here in Beijing.
We've been awake for 24 hours and we'll have a pretty early start tomorrow, so we are heading to bed early tonight.
The funnest news of the day is that Shirley gave us a questionnaire about Karis. They had asked the orphanage a list of questions about her for us. We found out they call her DiDi! She likes fruit, but not vegetables. She like stuffed animals and you an make her feel better by giving her hugs and kisses! There were other questions too, so it was great to find out more about our daughter! Only 4 more days!!

Today our guide, Shirley, took us to see Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Olympic Park area. We also went to a tea house and had a tea ceremony and tried several types of tea. Todd and I managed to eat 3 meals on our own without our guide to translate (not without some confusion!), and I got to use a squatty potty! :-) We also ventured out our own to the silk market down the street. It as actually a 6 floor shopping center that sold just about everything you can imagine. The sellers here will practically accost you to get you to buy something! One street vendor kept walking with us down the street and would not leave us alone. It doesn't matter how many times you say, "no thank you!" Or as Shirley taught us to say, "bu yong, xie xie." The only purchase we made was 2 diet cokes (at least we think it is diet coke!).
Todd got to be "famous" for a few minutes today as some Chinese people wanted him to pose with them for several pictures. They told our guide they don't see people like him very often. I think they were tourists from another part of China, as I'm sure in Beijing it's not too strange to see foreigners like us.
Tonight the other family adopting with FTIA arrived and we had dinner with them at Pizza Hut. We were all tired and the Pizza Hut is right in the hotel where we're staying so it seemed like a good idea. We had some pizza that tasted pretty much like our pizza in the US, and we had some fried rice with it which was good. Thankfully they had one person on staff that spoke English as we were having a very hard time ordering. What a fun adventure we are on!
Have you heard about the driving in China? It's very true that it is nuts! The lines painted on the roads for lanes are merely a suggestion. You just honk your horn and drive wherever you want to. Pedestrians and people on bicycles and cars all pass by within inches of each other. But, somehow it works. Only once today did Todd come flying out of his seat because of a very abrupt stop! ;-)
Shirley, our guide, got a phone call today while we were out and heard news that Karis is over the chicken pox and has been moved out of the medical quarantine and back into the regular orphanage! That is great news! We get to meet her in 3 days!!
The first photo is Shirley and me at Tiananmen Square and then Todd and I at the same place. The next 3 photos are at the Forbidden City.