Sunday, May 20, 2012
I don't know that we have ever been so happy to be home. Walking into our house on Friday evening felt glorious! Maybe it was the 2 1/2 weeks in a hotel room, maybe it was the dreaded flight home, maybe it was me not feeling well for part of the trip.....it was probably a little bit of everything. I know we were ready to get home and get back to a regular routine. It was an amazing trip and we brought home a daughter who was heaven-sent. But yes, home sweet home it is!! The Korea-lax flight ended up being an hour shorter than we thought....thank the good Lord for tailwinds....so we were pretty happy starting off. 10 hours on a plane is 10 hours on a plane, however & it was hard to sleep, hard to get comfortable. Leah did have a meltdown on the plane, poor thing, she was just so tired and go figure, it was right in the middle of the flight when everyone was sleeping. Desperate as we were, it ended up being a flight attendant holding her for about 45 minutes that finally calmed her down. I about jumped out of my seat and yelled, "Praise Jesus" when we finally touched down. Makena and Josh were as excited to see home as we were. It was awesome to come home to a "Welcome Home" banner and decorations outside and inside the house....friends, you are too much, thank you!!! Leah walked in like she owned the place and it's been so fun watching her explore and try out new things. Her and Kona are giving each other space. It's amazing that somehow Kona knows not to get too close. She thinks he's funny as long as he's 10 feet away. Oh, and Miguel's Jr. for our first dinner home was A-Mazing! We've been trying to adjust to CA time.....up from 2-4am the first night, sleeping all day Saturday, bedtime at 4am the next morning. We know we're not doing it the way we should to adjust quickly, but we don't care, we're a family of five now & that's what we're focusing on first and foremost. I'll post some pics tomorrow for those of you who may still be reading. Thanks so much for sharing in our journey with us! Goodnight for now, from our Ohana to yours :)
Friday, May 18, 2012
We made it to Korea!! So far so good....the flight was almost three hours & the kids slept for about one & a half of it. The rest of the time they watched movies. Leah got a little restless and wanted to move around, but for the most part she stayed put. We are celebrating that she didn't have a meltdown and she listened when I asked her to put her seatbelt back on. We can already tell that putting her in a car seat is not going to go over real well.....it's going to be a long drive home, in Friday afternoon traffic :). Sorry in advance Uncle Dennis! Praying for a smooth, safe flight back to LAX & will probably post some time in the morning!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Leah has been with us for a week and just in the last few days, she has started to show more and more of her personality. She definitely has a big one :) It has continued to be a busy week.....we visited Baiyun Mountain, had Leah's oath-taking ceremony, done some shopping, had a few meetings, taken a dragon boat dinner cruise, done more shopping....and I haven't been feeling well, so I apologize for not posting earlier.
Baiyun Mountain was a cool place....its a scenic area with a view of Guangzhou at the top. It was beautiful! We took a tram (more like a golf cart) to the top (thankfully!) and got there just in time to see the bird show. The handler was not quite the showman that we would see at the zoos at home, but the birds did great :) At the end, if you hold up money, a bird will fly to your hand, sit there for a few moments while you get a picture, then fly off with your money. The funny thing is, this bird knows the difference between a 1yuan and a 5 or 10yuan. It won't fly to you if you hold up a 1yuan.....not worth the flight, I guess! Most of the kids wanted to do it, so between us all, I'm sure we gave that bird about 50yuan :) After that, the kids went down and got a picture taken with a parrot. So cute!
Shopping has been an experience, as we've been trying to find something off the beaten path. Ralph and A & A had quite the adventure one afternoon while I brought the kids back in the taxi. I was a little nervous when my taxi driver stopped at a stop light, looked back at the cars around him and put his seat belt on. They typically don't wear seat belts here, so I figured something crazy was about to happen. While it was another e-ticket ride, we did get back to the hotel safe and sound. Ralph and the girls were kicked out of a cab and the girls were followed by an interesting young man who wanted really badly to take a picture with them :)
The oath taking ceremony was early yesterday....Ralph and I just took Leah while the kids & Ashley and Aimee slept in. We went to the Consulate and waited in several lines before getting into the room where they have us take an oath that all of the information that we have provided for Leah is true and correct to the best of our knowledge. We raised our right hand, said yes and then waited for our name to be called. They review all of our paperwork, had us sign a few papers and we were done. This part is a little emotional, too, because it means we are done!! No more paperwork (well, until we get home), no more meetings, no more appointments. It is the last thing to be done in China. We just picked up Leah's passport with her visa in it, so we are all set!
The Dragon Boat cruise was fun. We had pizza delivered to the boat so we could have dinner when we boarded. It was Sydney's birthday (one of the little girls of one of the families with us) so we all sang her the birthday song :) We brought glow bracelets for the kids and broke out the lollipops after dinner. The kids had a great time checking out all of the lights on the buildings we were passing. Everything is so lit up with colorful lights......the buildings, the boats. It was a nice last outing for all of us.
We took the red couch picture yesterday....the red couch that came from the White Swan that everyone takes their kids picture on.....it was even more chaotic because we were in a much smaller space. Of course, all of the kids were crying and we were all laughing. It seems crazy, but it is tradition :) After that, it was time to say goodbye to some of the families who were leaving that afternoon. Its always a bit sad to say goodbye to people you have grown close to.....as we said to each other, we've seen each other at our best, at our worst, through the smell of it all :) We plan to keep in touch and hopefully see each other again.
Today we visited the orphanage. We weren't sure if we were going to make it, but it came through just in the nick of time, as we head for home tomorrow. Ralph & I decided it would be best if Leah and I stay outside and not visit. She just didn't seem ready to go through seeing everyone again and having to leave again. Ralph, Makena & Josh and the girls went in, though......took lots of pics and delivered goodies as well as the photo albums. The staff and ayis were all so excited to see them. Leah and I strolled around and I took pictures of the little village her orphanage is located in....its very sweet, very friendly people, very peaceful. Even though the kids likely don't get out of the walls of the orphanage much, at least we know she was surrounded by beauty and love. The director and staff were so kind and they came outside as Ralph and the gang were leaving. They so wanted to see Leah. I'm a little glad she had fallen asleep, but the ladies all wanted to take pictures of her anyway and were smiling and so happy that she now has a family. They gave us a business card and asked us to email them pictures. For Malia and family....they said they would be moving to a new location, I believe in about 3 months. It will be a new building, so hopefully just as nice or nicer. Know that your daughter is being loved and cared for well until you meet her :) Ralph thinks he got pictures of her.....it sounds like they didn't want pictures taken of the kids, but he was looking into a room and asked if it was her and he took some photos.
Well, tomorrow we leave.....we can't believe how quickly the time has passed, we can't believe that we finally get to bring our little Leah home, and we can't believe we'll finally get to eat Miguel's and In-N-Out again!!! Woohoo!! Thank you all so much for your prayers, for your love and support, for following along on our journey. Thank you for all of the fb posts....though we can't get on fb here, we get the emails of the posts and they have been awesome to read. Leaving China is bittersweet.....we're leaving our children's homelands, the place where their lives began. I know I said it before, but China does feel like a second home to us because this country, this culture and this people are a part of three beautiful blessings that are a part of us. We have been asked before, "Why China?" Our answer is, "Why not China?" There are children all over the world that need families. When we prayed about our children, China is where we felt led. And we have a family connection as well, as Ralph's mom is half Chinese.
I hate to cut this short (I know, its really quite long...sorry), but I have to get to bed because tomorrow is a loooooong day. Please pray for us as we travel and especially for the kids that they do ok on the long plane ride. We can't wait to see everyone & will post more after we get settled at home!
All our love,
Ralph, Linda, Makena, Josh & Leah :)
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Sorry that we haven't sent a post in a few days.....its been a bit busy, a bit crazy and just plain fun! First off, Happy Mother's Day to our amazing mom and mom-in-law, our sis and sis-in-laws, and all our mommy friends! Hope you all have an amazing day!
We had the medical exam on Friday & it went pretty smoothly. Leah definitely does not like doctors, however, and made it very clear she was not about to have any part of the whole tb test. She is a very strong little girl and it took 3 of us to hold her arm so they could poke her....poor little thing. Luckily, a sucker from daddy made it all better. She got her visa pic taken before the medical so at least they could try to get a half-smile out of her.
Yesterday we went to the park near the hotel & it was beautiful. The lotus flowers are blooming and they are so pretty, they almost look fake. The park was filled with people, families out exercising, playing ping pong, walking....we're getting pretty good at communicating with people. There's lots of smiling, nodding our heads, using hand signals and saying what few words we know in Mandarin.....amazingly, we can usually figure out what people are saying and vice versa. They are very friendly and will touch the kids' heads sweetly, ask to take pictures have their kids play with our kids. Its always an adventure, though & can be very difficult when you know that someone is talking about you and they ask you a question and you have no idea what they are saying. A gentleman at the playground asked something about our kids and I'm guessing it was something about them not looking like us, but I couldn't figure it out. They are all very nice about it, but we do get lots of curious looks and stares here. It was uncomfortable at first, but we get used to it. I always remember times like these when I encounter someone at home that looks out of place, doesn't speak English or needs help finding their way around.
Breakfast at the buffet that morning was great.....the three other families that we were with in Beijing flew in the night before so we got to see them and meet their little ones. It was so good to see them and their kids are doing great.
Ralph went to the paperwork meeting and, whew!, we had everything we need to get all of Leah's stuff processed. They talked about some group activities and mentioned a Mexican restaurant nearby....WHAT?! We had to try that, we've been missing Miguel's! It was called Tekila & was a 15 minute taxi ride away. We travel around as a group on a nice comfortable bus that sits high, so you don't really get a feel for the traffic as much as in a taxi. The taxi we took to Shamian Island a few days before was not too bad.....but on a Saturday evening, when they know they can make a lot more by getting people from one place to another really quickly....oh....my....word! It beats skydiving for an adrenaline rush any day! Never again will I tease about Chinese drivers at home....let me tell you, these people KNOW how to drive....they've got it down. They anticipate each other's moves with such precision, its incredible. We flew across lanes, we merged with 8 different cars in a split second, we flew to within a foot of the car in front of us at 50 mph & stopped on a dime. No seatbelts, no car seats for the kids. The kids love it, they take it in stride & play with the little video screen in the back seat.....its us adults that let out whimpers and screams as the bicycle that flies by misses the side mirror by centimeters and when the tires brush the pantlegs of pedestrians who are calmly crossing the street.
We made it in one piece to the restaurant & it was delicious! Ok, not quite Miguel's, but it was really good. The kids had chicken nuggets that were coated in what looked like Panko breadcrumbs & they didn't love those so much. After dinner, we thought we'd walk around because we were told that there was some good shopping in the area. As we wandered, we started to realize that perhaps we weren't in the best part of town.....you know how you just get a feeling? It was a little of that, and a few things that we saw that were a bit disturbing that prompted us to head back to where we could catch a taxi. We were never in fear, just not entirely comfortable. The taxi ride back was a bit less stressful. Thankfully, we take a hotel card with us that shows where we want to go....when we are headed somewhere, one of our guides writes out where we want to go. We just have to trust we'll end up where we want to go :) Always an adventure!!
We have made friends with a very sweet family from PA who are here adopting their fifth child, third from China & we see them several times throughout the day coming and going. They mentioned they were going to church on Sunday, so we asked about where they were going and what time service was starting. They were so kind, they asked their guide if we could join them, so us and another Holt family rode over to Shamian Island for church this morning. It was really cool to be going to church on Mother's Day, in China, with my family.....the perfect start to a day! It soon fell apart, however, but that's ok. Makena was not feeling well at breakfast, but she wanted to try church, so off we went. The church is a beautiful little building right next to the White Swan & it had an English/Mandarin service that started at 11am. Apparently it is a government-run church.....not sure what that means, perhaps it is limited on what it can preach, or perhaps they just keep an eye on their outreach & keep it to a minimum. It was warm inside and I'm sure that didn't help Makena's tummy...Ralph ended up taking her back to the hotel. I stayed with Leah, Josh & the girls and everything was wonderful until I decided to exert my mommy authority by taking away the lip gloss Leah was playing with. She was not happy....at all.....so I decided to take her out of the church. She had been sitting on Aimee's lap & I think it may have brought back terrors of being taken away from somewhere she was comfortable.....or it may have been a plain old temper tantrum, but oh......my....word. For the next half hour, she screamed, she cried, she hit, she kicked, she squirmed and wriggled and was just darned mad at me. It was really, really hard to have this little person who has been clinging to me for the past 5 days suddenly not want to have anything to do with me. I ended up peeking my head back in to get A & A and they came out.....it was chaos, all of us trying to comfort Leah, Josh getting in the stroller and pushing himself around with his feet....it ended up that Leah wanted to go back to Ashley. I gave up & gave in and when I tried to take her back once she had calmed down, she pushed me away. All I could think of was, oh...my...word, we've lost that connection and we have to start from square one again. It was really hard thinking that, she already didn't want much to do with Ralph, now she doesn't want me, what are we going to do?!? It ended up with me, A & A all crying and Leah and Josh looking at us like we were crazy. I pulled out some magic...a bag of m&m's....and I was mama again, thank God.
Once we were finished with our meltdown, we sat outside and listened to the service. It was on the book of John & was a little hard to follow, as they would speak in Chinese, then translate to English. They handed us little bibles, one book for one book of the bible.....I'm looking forward to comparing the translation to our bibles. At the end of the service, they had a man give his testimony....it was a bit difficult to hear everything that was being said with the kids running around, but words that struck me were how difficult his life had been, but when he came to know the Lord, his life became much richer.....I thought, wow....he's not saying his life became easier, just richer....what an awesome way to describe his relationship with God!
We thought we would do a little walking around before heading back to the hotel & it was nice out, but the wind shifted and the sky got really dark & thank goodness we brought our umbrellas.....it started POURING! Literally, we stopped and stood underneath a tiny little ledge just to save us a few drops per second that were soaking us. It let up enough for us to take a taxi ride...yes, another fun one, back to the hotel, long enough to drop our bags, get changed & head out with the group to the jade and pearl markets. The jade market was an open air market with rows upon rows of vendors selling jade jewelry of all kinds. We made a few purchases & found a cool temple in the middle of it all where people were doing their daily worship. After that, we headed to the pearl market, a seven or so story building filled with shops that sell pearls, crystals, jewelry of all kinds. We took a family picture in the same spot as a pic that we have of Ralph & Makena when we were there in 2005.....we're kinda quirky that way. We made a few more purchases....pearl earrings for Leah to wear on her wedding day and for Josh to give to his bride. Now the trick will be to make sure I can find them in about 20 years :)
Back to the hotel & we thought we'd try a cantonese restaurant suggested by our guides. We got there & there was a two hour wait, so back to Shamian Island we go....another crazy taxi drive, but we ended up at the Thai food restaurant we had the other day. We were with the Kyle family from AL, their kids & our kids are having a fun time together, so it was a nice, relaxing dinner. We have discovered that Leah LOVES vegetables.....broccoli, tomatoes, bok choy, she goes nuts over it! Yay!!! She's really opening up and daddy even got a few smiles out of her tonight. Between that, the beautiful card that Makena made for me at dinner and Josh telling me, "Happy Mother's Day, Mama", right before he fell asleep, it turned out to be...oh....my....word....the best day ever!
I'll try to post again in the morning...got a few prayer requests for ya'. A family is having some paperwork issues and is a little concerned, a family that was met with their daughter having a more serious medical condition than they had thought, us going to visit the orphanage and how Leah will do with that. Know that we're praying for everyone back home!
Sending some more random pictures to post.....the man in the park was playing a saw - he played Jingle Bells for the kids; the policecar - one officer asleep in the front, one asleep in the back (that was just too funny to pass up); the kids at the playground; I think you can guess most of the others....