family picture

family picture
We "want our very serve as HIS signature to all mankind so that all may know His work," Job 37:7

Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of Year

Well, I have been a little MIA these past few months.  We have been really busy.  My feet hit the ground running and the night brings me hope of rest and renewal  for the next day.  This Christmas break I have really tried to stop and review these past couple of months.  I am asking myself how can I simplify? How can I enjoy more and stress less? How can I best serve my family? So that is where I am emotionally.

The other day I was replacing my 2012 calendar with 2013, as I walked it to the trash can I flipped through and noticed that I made a note of every little step we made in the adoption process, and every super big thing the kids accomplished so I turned on my heels and marched that calendar straight to my bedroom and placed it inside Joel's precious memories box. 
Flipping through got me thinking about how much we have done this past year, especially in the past few months that I have not been blogging. So I'm gonna do a slight recap.
October was full of running around.  I burned up the streets, running to appointments, lessons, activities therapies and general errands. It was in this month that while loading the dryer it hit me that we were coming up on one year since we had our referral of Joel.  I stood at the counter reading those referrel entries on my blog of our little one and tears just streamed down my face because as I read those entries that little boy was on my hip saying, "Momma", "Momma".  It was beautiful, it was amazing and it was redemption.

referral picture October 2011 and November 2012

November was long, I was starting to feel run down but the excitement of Thanksgiving was uplifting.  I had so much to be thankful for.  We also celebrated one little lady's birthday.  She is the spit fire of the family, full of spunk and a true firecracker.  She says certain words funny like tomorrow is come-Mario and ponytail is panti-tail, bandaid is ban-dan, caterpillar is calir-peeple 
She turned three and wanted a blue birthday party.  That chick is obsessed with the color blue.  So we had blue candied apples, blue tortilla chips, and blue velveet cake.
We had also promised to give her bitty baby twins if she would give up her paci's.  I made this promise in September thinking it was gonna take months to actually succeed in getting her to get rid of her, "precious".  But, I was wrong, a week later they were gone.  (Note to self: be careful about making deals with your children.  Especially if it involves an expensive purchase.) 

We then celebrated Thanksgiving with our families.  This was the first time many of my mother's side met Joel and he was a little overwhelmed and quiet.  He relaxed a little bit when we went to Ethan's mom's house. 

Then on the 29th me and my man celebrated 15 years together.  In those 15 years we have been in 3 states, had  6 moves, 5 children, numerous heart ache, but an abundance of laughter, and love. I couldn't imagine walking this earth these last 5,479 days without him by my side. He is my calm in the storm, my anchor, and he makes me laugh.

We celebrated this event with an evening out together.  Our first full evening out since brining Joel home. He let me get all fancy and took me out to dinner and a show.  Westside story to be exact.  We met up with some friends and it was memorable, to say the least.

December, was a typical wild and crazy month.  It was filled with parties,  a mission trip to Haiti, recitals, advent, cookies, candy, a trip to Mobile, Jesus, Christmas lights, Happy Birthday to Jesus and Happy Birthday to Ethan.

Mobile, AL

 Elaina's recital

Christmas cookies.

Tonight we plan on celebrating Ethan. He is now on his last year in his 30's.  He has planned his evening a nice dinner with friends and I can't wait.  You know when we started 2012 he had never left the country and as we end 2012 he will have traveled to 3 different countries.
Mexico in January

China in June/July

Haiti in December

So here we are the end of the year and we have been done SO much.  There have been times it has been hectic and I haven't always been patient and kind.  That is something I have learned about myself and that is something that I am bringing to the feet of Jesus this coming year.  But, it has been a joy watching my children grow, a joy watching Joel being grafted into our family, a joy watching my husband's faith grow and a passion for the lost, poverty and the least of these, a joy hearing good news about our sons health, a joy watching Korinna mature and help make decisions on her own healthcare, a joy falling at the feet of Jesus needing Him to feel me with His peace when I am so exhausted and overwhelmed with my job of Mom, a joy being here, serving here, and loving here.  I don't always get it right but I'm learning and I know that God is not finished with me.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

3 months

At this time 3 months ago our sweet little boy was finally put in our arms. I can't believe how far we have come from those first few days and weeks.  So much little personality has blossomed from that little boy.  He continues to show us his tenacity, perseverance and grit.  He is also funny, silly and LOVES his Momma and his YighYah (Josiah). 
He loves any type of bean.  Quickly eats them and then will hand you his plate for you to give him more.  Just know that you don't want to give him beans for lunch and dinner two days in a row unless you are prepared with lots of wipes and diapers. 

 He has crazy hair in the mornings and he likes to wipe his hands off on his hair.  I don't know what to do with these boys.  Josiah likes to wipe his hands off on his shirt.  Ugh! at least Joel's hair doesn't stain.

He didn't come home with a paci but finds Leila's funny.  He has started interacting with her a little more and accepting her as a friend.
 What a long way we have come.  When we first got home he would scream the whole time he was in the car.  It was exhausting.  Now he can turn any round object into a steering wheel and the child's size john deer gator is his favorite.
 This relationship has truly grown leaps and bounds.  I will have to give the credit to Leila.  She has refused to give up and has not been phased by his aloofness while he has started learning who and what is a family. 
And her perseverance has paid off.  Two weeks ago he started hugging her.

We are back in school full swing, as well as all of activities are back in session.  This has been a juggling act for sure.  We are slowly finding our new normal and really enjoying this new little personality in our family.  He keeps us laughing and he keeps us busy. 
We go tomorrow for his heart cath.  This should be a very long day for us and I am already praying for quick, easy and no surprises.  I am also praying that Joel's will be secure with me and not frightened.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

8 Years Ago

August 19th 2004, We headed to Children's hospital for another test for Korinna.  She was now 25 months old, still not walking, still not talking and had just had tubes put in her ears for fluid that was so old that it was as thick as Elmer's glue, thus the diagnosis of "Glue Ear".  This test was for a sedated ABR.  We thought we had finally found the answer to her delays.  Korinna wasn't walking because the fluid wasn't allowing her to find her balance and the same with her speech.  So we went in there that day preparing for hearing aids. As we waited for the test results I rubbed my belly while watching my newest bundle of joy jumping in my womb.  I was 3 days past my due date and this was the last test that we had scheduled before planning a "maternity leave". 
While Korinna recovered from her sedation we received her test results.  She was hearing fine! Most parents would have jumped for joy but I was heart broken that our journey was no where near over.  I know for a fact my expression changed and my heart broke a little more.  Of course, you know God has a way of lifting your spirits and filling you with peace.  So we headed home to get ready for a dinner with friends as we celebrated my friends birthday. 
We returned home and I took a little nap with Korinna only I couldn't really relax because I felt that my little bundle of joy and a bundle of contractions.  They were 15 minutes apart and more bothersome than uncomfortable so I got up and trudged away at preparing dinner and getting the house ready.

By 6:00 our friends arrived and we started fixing plates and enjoying dinner while watching our two little ones play in the floor.  We also let them know that I was having contractions but they were only 10 minutes apart.  Now, remember I have unmedicated child birth so I don't freak out.  Also remember, that my friend doesn't have unmedicated child birth and she does freak out.  It was actually kinda fun having her there as I had contractions.  It really helped pass the time. 
At 10 they left both betting on me going to the hospital that night.  By midnight I was hurting pretty bad but my contractions were still only 10 minutes apart.  E was starting to get a little anxious since I could not sleep through them and he wanted to go.  By 1 we were leaving, 2 we dropped Korinna off at my mother's and 3 we were in triage.  Just to let you know I HATE TRIAGE.  They checked me and let me know that I was not that far a long.  I made a mental note that I would never come this early again.  They said if I didn't change in the next 3 hours then they would send me home.  I was furious and E wanted to lay down an take a nap.  I wanted to hit him.  I walked the halls and walked the halls, and watched the monitor and walked the halls.  By 6 I was in a room and we were having a baby.  At this time my totally awesome aunt who was a labor and delivery nurse came in as my nurse (she also delivered Korinna).  She knows how I like to roll and immediately took me off of the monitor and suggested the shower.  Of course because she is awesome she found me a chair to put in the shower and that is were I stayed 15 minutes in the shower with HOT water on my belly and then I would come out get on the monitor for 2 contraction and then back in the shower.  It was E's most boring delivery, it was pre facebook so he sat and watched tv and would yell out "K are you ok? Do you need anything?"  I think he was in heaven actually. 
By 9 am we were getting ready to push.  They coaxed me out of the shower and put me in bed.  By 9:30 I was getting ready and at 10:18 on August 20th I delivered a brand new baby girl 8 lbs 3 oz 19 1/2 inches long.  When I lifted her onto my chest I immediately noticed that her hair was wavy and thought wouldn't it be cool if she had curly hair.  I also noticed how amazing she was, how much I loved her and how happy I was to finally be holding her in my arms.  By 7 pm we had finally chosen a name, Elaina Davis. 

Korinna's first time meeting her baby sister.  I can assure you that this was the most excited she has been for a new sibling.  Each time her reaction gets a little less enthusiastic.

My friends who had come over the day before for dinner came to see her and to hold her.  We celebrated Elaina's birthday and a new friendship that was being grown under my friends ribs.  In 7 months she would welcome her 2nd daughter.  Elaina's friend.
My sweet friend holding Elaina for the first time.  She will kill me for posting this picture and for sharing this little tid bit.  But Oh Well! She was sick, very sick during her pregnancies and this day was no different.  She walked in and said, "Give me that baby so I will remember how worth it this is."  If you know her you know how funny this was and of course holding a baby does remind you of all of your hard work you have had to do on your end and all of the hard work God is doing to get your little one to you. 

Tomorrow my second E will be 8 years old and my- oh- my has my heart wept tonight as I have looked at these baby pictures of you.  You have grown up so much.  You are so mature. You can run this house better than I can.  You have such a compassionate heart and you strive to always do right.  You pride your self on being honest (almost brutally).  You still love the violin though practicing has become less fun.  Reading is an addiction for you and I hope this love continues.  You dream of being a mommy, a teacher at Rise and a violinist.  Your favorite band is Third Day.  You tend to be shy around kids your own age but with grown up you feel at home.  Homeschooling you has been a joy and I look forward to watching you grow. 
I love you little E to the moon and back and God loves you even more.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

4 weeks as a Party of 7

**This was originally written the Wednesday before our cardiology visit.  I decided to wait to post until after the appointment.  Of course, you know what happened at the visit so that had to go first.

Well as of today we have been home for 4 weeks.  I have to admit there are times when it seems we have been home forever and then there are times in which it feels like we have been home for only a few short days.

Since coming home I have had time to reflect on my stay in China.  Many people have asked how was China?  Truthfully, I don't think I can give you an accurate discription.  What I experienced was not something that could be catagorized as a vacation.  We were on a mission, a grand adventure but not a vacation.  It would have been great to see more but Joely Poly needed me more.  So this what I do know.
  • It is weird and sometimes uncomfrotable to be the only caucasion person around.
  • You don't realize how much you enjoy, and use your first admement right of Free Speech.  This affects everything, your internet, books you read, blogs, Facebook. EVERYTHING!!!
  • China is big and there are a lot of Chinese people.  This isn't bad it is just a fact. Think of this 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese.  For this little Alabama girl it is a tad bit overwhelming.
  • I would love to go back and tour the country side.  Our little fast train to Hengyang City unveiled a beauty that I can't explain.  I would love to go back and see that side of China.
  • Whatever your opinion. The majority of the founders of the United States of America were Christians and our government was based on many of their princples.  China well it is not and is not really based on any religion and you can tell.
  • When we flew into Changsha we were greeted with a large sign of things that were allowed and not allowed on a flight.  Many of them were due to the spread of Yellow Fever.  Some of the items included; plants, fresh fruit and vegetables, wild animals like snakes, birds and ELEPHANTS.  Yes people elephants! I think it was just something lost in translation but it has been a joke between me and E ever since.  Imagine us packing up in Changsha headed to Guangzhou and saying to one another, "Make sure you leave the elephant behind."  
  • I like black tea more than green tea.  
  • If you go to China don't be alarmed when they bring you your tea and it looks like it has seaweed floating in it.  That is just the tea leaves (they do not use those little bags or tea balls to hold the tea leaves).  Thankfully E and I are fairly adventrous with our food so we didn't even bat and eye.  If you are you might want to start praying now!  Relax and try as much of it as you can.
  • If you are adopting a little one who is walking or crawling or you pack like you are leaving for a year AND you are staying at the Garden Hotel.  Get the suite.  That is the one thing from our visit to Guangzhou we would have changed. 
  • I can go about 6 days before I start getting tired of Chinese food. 
  • People advertise abortions on the side of buses.
  • I love seeing a Chinese woman sporting long hair.  I just wanted to reach out and touch their silky black locks.
  • I would visit Hong Kong tomorrow just for the shopping.
  • I saw some of the poorest people for the first time in my life.
  • I really feel like the Chinese government wants to help find families for the orphans and has a wonderful program (generally speaking)
  • It changed me and I would go back.
  • E would go back.
  • If God doesn't want us to go back then we will encourage others to and advocate for those who can not.
  • Air conditioning and heat is not something that is found everywhere. This made me realize I am weak and Rin would only work if she could walk and was visiting in the spring.
  • People smoke everywhere.  When we got Changsha people were lighting their cigerettes in the ramp from the plane to the airport.
Those are just a few of the things that I remebered from my trip and the things that stand out over time. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

I love Him with my Whole Heart!

Today was a big day for our family.  It has been 10 months since we first set our eyes on Joel.  Ten months ago that we looked at a little boy who after consultation with a cardiologist was given a "High Risk" label and "very guarded" prognosis.  We had committed to adopting a child with special needs but when you receive a referral it takes the decision to the "next level". It was at this time that Ethan and I had to hold hands and jump into this journey with both feet.  We knew that this was going to be a step of faith and that this was what God wanted for us. It goes against the things of this world.  We were running our family under what we could control and what we could manage and what felt safe to us. Yet, we had been praying for a life yielded to God, one that He would lead and have full control of.  We wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus but our feet were having problems leaving this ground.  I will never forget those 12 hours after receiving our medical review from the International Adoption Clinic and the consult with a cardiologist.  E had called a trusted friend looking for counsel and that friend gave E verse James 1:5, " If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given to him." 
But here is the clencher, the game changer; our friend also told him to not forget to read the next couple of verses. 
"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 1:6-8
Wasn't that what we were doing.  On one front we were writing blank checks to God and saying, "Cash it", "We want to do your will." "We want to help the fatherless." "Break our hearts for what breaks Yours." and then when faced with it we stalled.  I'm so thankful that God uses our brothers and sisters in the faith to speak truth to us.  I am so thankful that the Lord spoke through him and reminded us what we had told him we would do.  So as you well know we jumped not knowing the out come, being told that our sons heart condition would shorten his lifespan and we needed to be prepared to be his parents for as long or as short as God had intended for us. We trusted God, we wanted to have Mary's attitude in Luke 1:38. No matter the prognosis we would be willing and we would give our Lord and Savior the glory. Easier said than done...right?
So we fell in love, head over heels in love with this precious angel and we fought to bring him home.
Today was the cardiology visit.  This was the day where we finally got an actual diagnosis (state side), the day that we made a plan and a day were we would for the first time be told what to expect.. The way we felt driving into the doctor visit this morning could best be summed up by the ever quotable Donald  Rumsfield

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don't know."

Our appointment today started off with an EKG, which he did wonderful in.  I on the other hand was a nervous wreck.  I was so worried that he was gonna freak out and this was going to be stressful for him.  Well let me tell you.  These guys are professionals and this isn't there first rodeo.  Joel did FABULOUS!!
Then we went to get an x-ray.  He didn't like this very much but the nurse told me none of them like this.  Then they put us in a room to wait.  We waited and waited not super long but a little bit longer than I thought we would.  A sweet nurse did come in and tell us how close we were to seeing our physician.  Then the moment came.  They pulled us out of one room and took us to a room with a large ultrasound machine and a EMR set up for the nurse to make notes and print things while the Doctor was there.  She checked his oxygen saturation and then our physician entered and the talk began.  What we knew,  the x-rays the orphanage gave us, looking through the medical records from his last two surgeries and picking out the English we could find.  Then the ultra sound.  Again me nervous and the staff pros.  I sat on the table and layed Joel back on my belly and they gave him his first sucker.  I had the sweetest moment because I got to have an ultrasound of my baby on my belly and see their heart beat on large screens just like my other kids except this time the baby was outside and not inside my belly. I got weepy. Our physician took tons of pictures and talked to himself alot during the ultrasound and I wanted to ask a hundred questions but he politely asked if I would just wait until he looked at everything.  After the ultrasound he sat down and basically said that what he would like to do is tell us everything and then open the floor up for questions at the end.  
This is what he said in cliff note form:
  • He takes his "guarded" prognosis throws it in the trash and puts "positively optimistic" there instead.
  • His diagnosis is Double Inlet Left Ventricle with Aortic Hypoplasia (small aortia).
  • Similar treatment to the 3 stage surgery treatment as the Hypoplastic Left heart Syndrome (what we were originally thought).
  • Joel has what is considered a single pump heart.
  • This is a better prognosis due to the strength of the Left Ventricle and how God designed it.  
  • Joel seems to have a good pump.
  • None of his valves seem to be leaking.
  • He doesn't expect Joel to go to the Olympics unless he goes as a ping pong player.
  • His friends won't notice that he has a heart defect.
  • He can play some intramural sports.
  • We should start a college fund for him.
  • We will have to do a heart cath for accuracy in the next 6 weeks.
  • His next surgery will probably be in the next 6 to 12 months depending on his weight gain.
  • His next surgery has a 2% mortality rate.
  • He will always have to be under a cardiologists care but he doesn't foresee him being to hindered by it.
 We were excited.  No, elated, blessed, overwhelmed, head spinning, grinning, goofy, excited, overjoyed, amazed, celebrating, high fiveing, joy filled, parents.  We asked our questions and spent a few more minutes with the doctor and then we headed out.  

So we prayed for the best and prepared for the worst.  We got an awesome report for our little guy and given amazing news for the quality and quantity of life he could have.  God provided a physician for us that not only took time with us explaining and drawing pictures for us but also we feel like our personalities work together.  That I think is so important when you are building a team to care for your little one.  We hired him on the spot. 

A friend called us as we were walking out of the office.  In fact the same friend that shared the James 1:5-8 verse.  We were a little giddy as we walked and talked back to the car.  I left the parking lot crying and putting on one of my favorite songs that I have in my adoption play list (though I think I am going to change it to my, it's-hard-to-be-a-mommy-and-christian-this-life-is-a-battle-and-I-am-a-warrior play list)

I was singing at the top of my lungs, dancing and my sweet, calm husband sat in deep thought.  I turned the music down and asked him if he could believe the morning we had. All he could say is, "I'm so glad we didn't say no."

Let me stop and say though we were given a better prognosis for our child no matter what we heard we would have given God All the Glory and praised His holy name.  That is our goal in our daily lives.  We accepted something else but God revealed to us another plan for Joel's life.  We are excited and thankful that our child was given a good report today and we are so happy for him.  Because this little guy brings joy to my heart.  I love his little personality, I love his dark eyes, I love his silky hair, I love his laugh, raspy voice, little teeth.  I love how he points me back to our Heavenly Father every single day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

House keeping

I know many of you are wanting to know how we are doing and I promise I will get there.  I first had to do a little house keeping.  I have gone back and added pictures and some "reflections" to the posts that we wrote while in China.  Blogging was a little difficult for us especially in Changsha so I had to cut a lot of the pictures that I wanted to post. 
I have also had time to stop and reflect and remember key things that I have gone back and added.
These will be in italics and usually in noted as a Reflection.  So make sure you go back and take a look at the added stuff.
I hate to leave you with out a few pictures since we have been home so here ya go.
I love watching them play together.

He can be a picky eater but Doughnuts are a favorite

This is what it looks like in our car.  That's a bunch of kids!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama

This will be short.
(Reflecting: I took Joel a change of clothes.  The purpose was for me to be able to change him in the Detroit airport.  Well before we left the tarmac Joel decided to pee through his clothes and all over me.  It was a bit of a nightmare.  E washed out Joel's pants in the bathroom and we hung them up to dry on the magazine pocket.  I  used a wipe on my dress.  More to make it smell better than getting anything off.  I also put a blanket under my dress on my lap so that I wouldn't have to feel the wet fabric on me.  I also never put him back in my lap with out another blankent on my lap.)
It took a 2 hour van ride, a 14 hour flight, another 1 hour 26 minute flight and then a 1 hour drive to get us home.  Joel did fabulous he only slept a total of 4 hours they whole time but never really cried.  He was very content and snacked a lot.  We arrived yesterday at 4:30 in Birmingham with lots of great friends there to meet us
The ride home was a little interesting since everyone was upset because they didn't get to sit next to Joel.  Well Korinna didn't cry because she did get to sit by Joel.  That is the rule Korinna is the oldest so she gets to be the baby buddy. 
When we returned home the three of us were exhausted and it was all we could do to stay awake until the other guys got into bed.  Finally at 9:45 I climbed into my own bed.  E and Joel had already fallen to sleep and frankly I had as well, I had fallen asleep with Leila in her bed.  Elaina woke me up to help her get a drink.  After that I left her reading in her bed.  I don't know what time she feel asleep. 
Thankfully we are home and all of my chicks are in my nest.  I couldn't be happier.  Now if I could just get rid of the jet lag.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our Last 2 days in China

This will probably be my last post in China. Yesterday we had our Consulate appointment and then went to Shemain Island. It was so much fun and I wish we could have stayed longer and Ethan wishes he would've have spent less money. It was fun picking out a few little things for each of the kiddos. It just means we are one step closer to going home. We then ate at the famous Lucy's restaurant. It was fun and we have loved getting to know the other couple from our Agency.  
Joel in traditional Chinese clothing

Having tea at the Chen Family Academy

(The only really awkward moment we had in China.  These older couples approached us talking noticing our babies.  Then they discussed Joel.  The only reason I knew is they pointed at him and made a gesture to his face. Our guide was on the phone working on our paperwork so I have zero clue what they were saying.  Did they think Joel was extra cute or did they notice that his coloring is a little off and suspected him to be a sick baby? I don't know but the other mom and I just smiled nicely.)

We then headed back to the hotel and I have to admit that my stomach was a little queezy the rest of the evening. We took a late nap and then got up and went for a walk around the mall and the surrounding area. We let Joel play pretty late and he is a smart cookie. He has started mimicking almost anything we do. He is also taking better to Ethan. He is figuring out that E will play rougher than me and let him get away with a few more things. E did a little work and then we headed to bed.

Today we slept late and lazily rolled out of bed at 6:30. Down for breakfast then we skyped with the kids. Today was July 3rd in China so we went on and sang happy birthday to Korinna. I have to think she enjoyed it though she was acting like she was too cool for all of this nonsense. After we skyped we took a nap. Yep a nap at 9:00 am and we slept til 11:30. It was kinda funny but since we are headed back tomorrow, we figured it was okay to start getting ready to get back on Central time.
(being lazy and snacking in bed)

(And this is just the begining of our packing. I know, we can really trash a hotel room.)

(Yummy, Ruben at Patty Fields)

Since we slept so late we decided to just piddle and start packing. We went for a walk and then ate at Patty Fields, an Irish Pub. Who would have guessed that you could get one of the best Ruben Sandwhiches half way across the world. By the end of lunch Joel was DONE. He is at that age where long leisurely lunches where he has to sit in a high chair or in your lap is not really fun for him. He is ready to get down and walk around or crawl- just something besides sitting. So we headed back to the hotel. It was time for his meds anyway. We played the rest of the day in the floor of the hotel room. We played so hard that at one point I looked down and he was leaning on my lap munching on a cookie and then literally 2 minutes later he was asleep. Sweet baby boy. So we are back to packing and getting ready to leave. We will leave at 5:30 in the morning (4:30 July 3rd Central standard time) and take a private van to Hong Kong. We will board a plane to Detroit 10:30 (9:30 CST) for the 15 hour flight. Once in Detroit we will board our last flight to Birmingham. We would appreciate your prayers during this time and we look forward to seeing you State Side.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Travel and Guangzhou

Yesterday we had a very leisurely day at the hotel. Joel's passport would not be ready until 3 and our flight was at 4:50. It was nice to get to lay around because Joel did not sleep well. He tossed and turned all night long. He and I took a nap together and then got up for a late lunch. Once done we headed to the Civil Affairs office. Joel's passport photo makes him look so big. It is pretty precious. It was easy to pick up and then the drive to the airport was uneventful.  

playtime in the hotel

At the airport we encountered some problems with luggage. It seems that we might have packed a little too much. We had to pay for an extra bag and then off thru security. It was hard to tell our guide Ashley goodbye. He was such a joy and we truly enjoyed meeting him and learning from him. We decided to take a bathroom break before we loaded the plane. Yes, EVERYBODY took a bathroom break. Ethan first, then I changed Joel then me. (WARNING POSSIBLE TMI! SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU ARE AFRAID) I had my very first experience with their public restroom. I had been so good and had always previously prepared to not go while I was out since I was uncomfrotable with my ability to use the 'hole" in the ground. But, this time it didn't work out that way. My bladder who has suffered through the trauma of birthing 4 babies, 2 of which were pretty big, told me I had to go and I could not wait. So I did. It was clean but it was still a hole in the ground and NO toilet paper. It just happened that I had been a little weepy because Joel was leaving his Province forever so I just happened to have a tissue in hand. So that answered that question. I will spare the other details for the world wide web but if you wanna ask me in person I will give you a play by play account of the event. You just need to know that I was successful in my venture and didn't have to change my clothes due to any mishap or miss-aim.

Joel did great on the plane and we were even delayed on the tarmac for about 20 minutes. He ate almost the whole flight (approximately 1 hour). Our guide Jack met us in the airport and took us to our hotel, The Garden Hotel. It is huge and beautiful and close to a ton of different things. We were so excited to be here. It is more Westernized and tourist friendly. We checked in and crossed the street to pick up some more formula and look for somewhere to eat dinner. We would have never tried this on our own in Changsha but we would here. We found an Italian restaurant and was so excited to have something beside authentic Hunan food. We like Hunan food but it was wonderful to find something different. We also found people of different races there which is something else we didn't seen in Changsha. It seemed outside of the hotel in Changsha we were the only caucasians to be found in the city center but here we have the rainbow and that was a nice feeling.
By the time we reached the hotel we realized that we were exhausted but Joel was not. He fought sleep desperately. We do not know if it was grief driven or just that travel had his clock all messed up or both. It took us a while to get him to bed and even then he had a restless night. Joel woke up at 4:30 ready to go. Thankfully he was content to play in the floor while we let Ethan sleep a little more. At 6 we found ourselves eating a delish breakfast and meeting lots of new moms and dads with their sweet bundles of joy. Here in this hotel there is a gorgeous garden right outside this restaurant with a huge Koi pond. It was the most peaceful breakfast we have had since we have received Joel. The fish kept him mesmerized. I can't wait to get him out there and get some pictures.
After breakfast we had our morning Skype with the kids. They are doing well and enjoying some time with Bebe. It has taken Leila 5 days to realize that Joel doesn't have a paci and she was not excited. She even acted like she was gonna cry. We told her that she could give him one of hers and that did not go over well. We miss them desperately. We then had a special Skype session with some of the college students from church. Of course, by this time Joel was taking a little snooze. I was a little sad that they could not see him awake and in full action. It was so good to see some familiar faces and it just made us more anxious to get home and reunite with our family.
We met our guide downstairs with the other family that is from our agency. Today was the medical visit. It was fairly easy. We did see that Joel knows doctors and he is not a fan. The past surgeries have affected him in a negative way. He was fine until they got the stethoscope to listen to his heart. My heart sank when he immediately turned away from them and started crying. I tried to calm him but he wasn't happy. The physician had read about his heart condition and was trying to listen to his heart. He closed his eyes in concentration trying to hear over Joel's sad whimpers. Joel constantly tried to push the stethoscope away and I cried silently while whispering," No surgery today, No hospital, I love you." The physician took us to the other physician to get a second opinion and see if that one could hear better than him. This time the new and slightly younger one listened while the first and older one handed Joel his stethoscope to push away (ingenious, they have obviously done this a lot). They confirmed that they still hear a murmur like symptom in his heart and they wanted to know if this is what we expected. They also looked at his fingers and toes checking for the blueness and of course they found some. They aren't really blue but more gray foggy looking. I was glad when it was over and we could head back to the hotel.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing. We went for a walk. Joel and I took a nap while E went to go get a couple of things. We then tried to eat a late lunch at an Irish restaurant called Patty Fields. We made it 3/4 of the way before we remembered that Joel needed some medication and we were already 2 hours late so I headed back to the hotel to give him meds and E got the food for take out. It was delicious or either we are so starved for different cuisine but I would like to say it was the latter. Starbucks was our after dinner drink while we walked around and went for a visit in the garden in the hotel. We have now spent the rest of the evening letting Joel play.
He is doing a little better with Ethan and even let me take a shower and played with E without a whimper. Going to bed was so much easier tonight which I am thankful for. A few more randoms-  Joel's breath has not smelled like roses even after I brushed his teeth. I haven't been able to figure it out until today. The formula. We bought the formula that the orphanage was using which he likes but I personally don't like the smell. While napping today E ran and picked up some Enfamil. We daringly tried to change him cold turkey and so far so good. He is a wonderful eater and we have slightly abused that. The past 2 days we have started dropping the local cuisine and since he eats off of our plates his has as well. His stomach would like for us to stop that nonsense and after what I smelled today I very well might comply with that request. He cracks me up in the tub. He makes the biggest mess and loves it.     

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Relaxing day in Changsha

After such an intense and overwhelming experience yesterday we were in need of a little break emotionally. So if I still have any readers, today's post will be light hearted and I hope to let you guys in on a little bit of our sweet boys personality.

Today was just what the doctor ordered. Joel and I were both up early because he went to bed so early. I was concerned that the visit to the orphanage would cause him to have a fitful night of sleep, but he slept fairly well. I on the other hand think that my mind is processing all of the events that have taken place because I had some CRAZY dreams. I woke at 4 because I had dreamed that I had just adopted 5 boys from Africa and I couldn't figure out how to get them all home from the airport. Go on, you can laugh. I did.

We got dressed, skyped with the kiddos and headed downstairs for a leisurely breakfast. I am so overwhelmed by how many families we have run into who are coming back to let their adoptive children visit their birth country and city. It is really popular in this hotel to see new families in the morning. This morning we met a family that was from NC and they were so excited to meet other southerners. ALSO, the dad had come to Tuscaloosa in April on a trip to help out families from the Tornado and help remove debris.

Today we had 2 things on the agenda: Wal-mart and Starbucks.
First was Wal-mart and, Wow was it different and yet the same. It's purpose was the same but the items were very different. Our guide was wonderful about walking through walmart and explaining to us all of the things that we saw. The seafood section was something to behold. 
(please notice the floating fish in the tank.  this is normal and people will still buy them.  Also notice the little tank on the bottom.  Those fish will jump from tank to tank.  Can you imagine having your stroller to close and a fish jumping in on your baby.  I am laughing just thinking about it)
They had an eel section were there were four containers full of eels and someone would come and you would tell him how many kilograms you wanted and they would get it out, kill and clean them for you. This wasn't behind a counter but out in the open. In fact I was inches from touching these things and the tanks are packed.
Same with the fresh fish tanks. There were even fish jumping from one tank to another. It was crazy. I saw two women make dumplings (not in the seafood area but right next door) I watched for a while because theirs were so pretty and mine always look like a hot mess. She actually turned her back to me trying to guard her secret. I was a little sad but respectful. Candy section was about the size of the produce section of the Tuscaloosa Walmart. When I use the word "candy" it is in reference to their candy not our candy. Unless you consider small vacuumed sealed fish bites in flavors that aren't very popular in the States, candy.
We did pick up a few items and it was a fun learning experience for both us and our guide. We were able to see so much of the cultures of everyday life just from the people who were there, the food that was popular and what was important to them materially speaking. Our guide also asked us lots of questions like, the use of the word, apparel and whether it is used in conversational English. There is a matching outfit set that is popular in China and he asked if we had this in the States and how would they do that because here you get a Male shirt, female shirt and one kids shirt. So all in all it was an awesome trip.
Then we went to a Starbucks, there are only 2 in Changsha and that is not alot compared to the sheer size of the city. The Starbuck's is the same with a few minor cultural favorites (green tea frappaccino topped with red beans). I did buy a mug that said Changsha on it. This is the first time I have seen anything in the souvenir type area. Souvenir's are not very popular in this part of China. Just in case you are wondering; green tea frappacinos will stain your clothes and Joel does not like them.
We then headed back to the hotel and laid around in the room the rest of the afternoon. I did a little laundry in the tub and picked up and read and played blocks, played telephone, played throw whatever you can find, played blocks, played ball, watched the traffic out the window (this really is fun) ate dinner and played. All, of course, with Joel.
Speaking of Joel, he has been nick-named Joely Poly. Not because he is round like a roly poly but more like a bean pole. He is very sweet, smiley and loves to play. He is doing better in some things and not in others. He does not want me out of his sight for long. I went to the bathroom today and he cried the most we have seen him cry and even started calling for me, "I-ee, I-ee". If you remember this means "Auntie" to him and to him, Auntie is care giver and in his little world the most important thing. I was super excited that he registers me as a care giver and I can't wait to transfer that to Mommy. All in good time, I know. He only wants Ethan on his terms. He started trying not to make eye contact with me when feeding and wants to feed himself even though he doesn't have the skills to use a spoon. He is even fighting laying in my arms to take a bottle and instead wants to sit in my lap facing away. We are working on that one. He climbs a lot which leads me to my second nick name of Spider Man. He can climb into the tub. It is wild and you really have to watch him. He loves blocks and he will stack them, knock them down, and put them back in the bucket. He is walking more. We have seen him take up to about 5 steps by himself. He likes the tile floors a lot. I'm guessing because they are familiar to him (like the orphanage). We have also noticed that he has a couple of behaviors from the orphanage (we think). When he gets frustrated he grabs his hands and pulls them apart hard and if you try to love on his hands when he is doing this he will stop that and pull at his legs almost in a pinching manner. When he is most frustrated, mad and confused he will pull his hair hard. We even noticed some scratches on his head when we got him and at first wondered if it was from heat, insects or worse. After we saw him pull his hair, we knew it was from that. We are seeing less of the hair pulling but we are still seeing the hands and legs. When he is confused or overwhelmed he gets very quiet and still. We have seen this twice, yesterday when we got to the Fast Train station and today when we walked into Walmart. His naps are crazy and that is making his bed time crazy. I think getting that consistent would help out a lot.
Ethan and I still like each other. This is the most time we have had with only one child in 7 years. He was just as overwhelmed with the orphanage experience. He was still able to keep it together better than me and was so sweet and gentle. He gave me some of the most tender pats on my back as he would help lead me from one place to another or help guide me down some precarious stairs. I could just tell how sweet he was being. He was of course my calm in the storm. I am so thankful for him.
Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of our trip. We have a very relaxed morning planned. It includes packing. We have a 4 something flight to Guangzhou. We will get there around 6 and hopefully be in the hotel by 7 or 8. If you could please pray for our sweet little one. Yesterday he left his hometown forever, tomorrow he leaves his Province forever and we are quickly counting down to leaving his country forever. While we are excited about this chance to unite our family, we can not forget that we are leaving a VERY important part of Joel's history. Hopefully we will get to update the blog tomorrow, even if it's only to post the tons of pictures that I have.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Visit to the orphanage and move

Today was our visit to the City and the Orphanage where Joel was cared for and loved for the past 15 months. We had an early day so we quickly got up and dressed, skyped, packed and ate breakfast. We met our guide and headed to the Fast Train. Hengyang City is approximatly a 2 1/2 hour car drive south of the city. With traffic we would be lucky if it only took us 2 1/2 hours so we opted for the fast train. Good choice. It took us 35 minutes. The orphanage sent a van to pick us up. Today was a very important day in Joel's life and we cannot go into great detail at this time. The best way we can explain today is "Beautifully Painful". We gained a lot of information that will be important to Joel. Most of it will need to be told to him when he is older and has more questions but frankly it is for Joel.

(Video from the fast train. Look at the beauty of rural China)
(Reflecting: We wish we would have taken more pictures and more video.  We were somewhat overwhelmed by the Joel's Rock Star status.)

But that doesn't mean I don't have anything to say.  Oh no, you didn't think you were gonna get off that easily without me sharing my thoughts about something.  Let me tell you today is a culmination of many things in my life.  Almost 2 years ago I took a bold step in my prayer life and started praying to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to "break my heart with the things that break His".  This was powerful and scary prayer and I have lost many hours of sleep with breaking for the very things that break His heart.  Part of that process lead me to this adoption.  I could tell you more about my experience but I think it would be better to tell you of someone elses story.  We will call her Beautiful.  Beautiful was adopted this week and was from the same orphanage as our son.  She is 4 years old.  She was abandoned at 3.  She couldn't walk when she was abandoned but while at the orphanage she was given a walker and low and behold she walked into the Civil Affairs office to meet her forever family.   When the orphange people went to hand her over and leave she fell apart. I don't mean cry.  I mean kicking and screaming and flailing around.  Trying to get away from these people.  Can you imagine what was going through her mind.  NOT AGAIN!!!! If she would have the use of explitives that is exactly what it would have been. The parents just smiled at each other. They were prepared for this.  The grief.  But can you imagine this little one and the pain and agony she felt.  I saw this scene taking place  but I had another job that needed to done and I tucked it away to be dealt with later.  Joel needed to come first.

Today when I went to the orphanage and saw what I saw the scene of this past Monday with Beautiful in the Civil Affairs office came running back to the for front of my mind.  I have to tell you I'm mad.  I'm emotional.  I want to know WHY aren't more people moving.  I am not saying run out and adopt a child but have you asked what can I do? Have you asked God how do you want me be a part of caring for widows and orphans?  If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you haven't asked these questions let me remind you that we are commanded to do so. Not everyone is called to adopt a child but every believer can take part in ministering to the helpless.  After what I saw today I pray that I am forever changed and my priorities will be different.  I had a Schindler's List experience.  Just like the scene at the end were Liam Neeson's character starts ranting about that if he would sold his ring he might have been able to save one more.  Well I'm there.  These kids need families.  These kids need love.  My little boy was loved and cared for beyond my wildest dreams but having a the love of a mother and father is what's needed in these children lives. 

Here is what i want you to know there are numerous things you can do to live out Gods command to help the fatherless and the destitute (many of these kids who have been abondoned because the parents were destitute.) Dont be afraid to trust your heavenly father, it may seem to hard of or big a task but with the power that can resurrect Christ can enable us to do great things for His glory. Consider this you may can give emotional support to adoptive parents,  start or join a support group for Adoptive Families,  financially give to a Christian ministry supporting an orphan or financially give to a family who is willing to make an orphan a son/daughter(Ethan and I did not have the money it takes to do what we have done but God has used people to enable us financially!).  Support a family when they first return home from bringing home their new little one, like bringing them a lasagna (totally holding Tammy S. to this) or offering to help out with errands, household chores and supplies.  There are a many ways to help.  Just ask Him which one.  I promise it is better to walk in His will than in your own. Let's go back to Beautiful.  She did not know that two people were adopting her and about to love her extravagantly, who want to make her heirs to their family she only saw her current state of familiar being disrupted and didnt want to chance that something may be better in store for her. Don't we do the same thing.  We literally try to fight off God's better plan (and even God himself) because we don't want to or are afraid to let go of our old and comfrotable self. So I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone.  I challenge you to seek out your Creator and see what He has to say (in the Bible).

This journey hasn't been easy.  In fact it has been hard.  One of the hardest things we have done.  It is ranked up there with Korinna and the journey to her diagnosis but just like with Korinna and her diagnosis and the daily battle and struggle it is to parent a special needs child it is worth it.  Really worth it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Joel Peter Blankenship

As of today at approximately 11:00 Changsha time we became the legal parents of Joel Peter Blankenship.  

We dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast. He ate well but I noticed he was VERY busy a lot more than yesterday. When we came upstairs to the room we picked up, packed and skyped with the kids. All of them screamed when they saw him. They were so excited, but Joel was not. He wanted to get down in the floor and play. We talked about the day and I am missing them so much but they are having a great time. By the time skype was over Joel was getting very frustrated. I ended up putting him in the sling I brought and walked him around the floor. He fell asleep in it and slept for a good 35-40 minutes.

During this time we meet our guide Ashley and headed down to the Civil Affairs office. It was here that we completed the last of our paperwork to legally adopt him. Yippee!!

Getting footprints for his new birth certificate

 He did wonderful but was ready to get to a place were he could get down and play. We ran a few errands and made our way back to the hotel. Lately we have been eating a big breakfast ordering out for lunch and then snacking for dinner. We have not had a great
experience with room service.
Since Joel had a little cat nap earlier he had a late nap and again fought it like crazy, though he did let me rock him. We are noticing a lot more developmental skills today. He did more cruising today and would even walk to us every now and then. He is also trying to climb EVERYTHING. I think this is grief-driven just because he is trying to play so hard. He has also been a little discontent at times. We can usually walk around the hotel or take him to the play room. (side note: The floor that we are on is the only non-smoking floor and where they put all of the adoption families. They have a play room with some toys that we have actually used and enjoyed.) He is also starting to refuse Ethan. Yesterday Joel would tolerate him and even play with him but today he started refusing him. He is also refusing some of his meds. Paticularly the one we give him in a syringe. It has me a little worried because he is spitting it out so quickly. This is his blood pressure medicine and I am a little freaked out about it. I know how to give meds to kiddos, I do it all the time but the one I give meds to doesn't fight me (a lot anyway) and if she does I have ways that I can fight back.  We have a bond that I do not have to worry about, but Joel and I are still working on that.
We both took a nap with Joel and I set an alarm trying to make sure that I didn't sleep to late. It worked and made me feel a ton better. I am hoping that tonight will be my night for a better sleep.

Tomorrow we head to Hengyang City SWI. This is Joel's orphanage. He was in a specialized wing for sick babies who needed extra care (surgeries, therapies, and sometimes hospice like care). This is how he was able to get his 2 surgeries. This specialized wing is run by an Australian organization called International China Concern. I am hoping to get to ask some more questions and even maybe ask if they have had trouble with him taking his meds and what they do to help get them in him. We are so blessed by their work. It should be a long day tomorrow.

Last night Joel had a fitfull night of sleep. He rolled around moaning, kicking and calling out. At one point in the the night he even called for his nanny, pronounced phonetically 'I-EE'. We moved him in the bed with us at this point. He was never really awake but his little brain was definitly trying to process all that had happened to him. I am still not sleeping well but Ethan had his first night of true rest. I woke up at 4:27 this morning and just tried to relax until Joel woke up at 6:00. He did well seeing us and when I offered him my arms he quickly came to me.