Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Waiting for life to get back to...

... what it was before we left for China. Wait a minute... was that thought in my head?

before we left for China
1/3 2013
Unfortunately, yes it was. And it's been in my head every morning about 1:30 am when my body alarm clock wakes up my brain alarm clock and I stare at the ceiling and wonder when it will all be "normal" again.
Gotcha Day 1/7/2013

It won't be. There is a new normal and God has orchestrated that for me. He obviously has more confidence in me than I have in myself and since He is the one who created me I need to trust that He knows me better than I know myself. So, OK, I'll follow His lead and try to figure all of this out.

On Erik and Nicki's balcony in Haikou City, Hainan Province
Just down the street from Elli's orphanage
Since I'm supposed to be the parent here, most of any given day, I have to figure out how I'm going to accomplish all of this without staring at myself in the mirror and being incredibly disappointed. That was always my dad's job - to look at me with disappointment and when that didn't seem to work, flat out tell me he was. Not sure how he feels about me today but I had vowed I'd never do that to my kids and I certainly don't need to do that to myself, still, after all these years.

You never really know how baths are
going to go. In Elli's case each
bath must last at least an hour.
Josh would let her
play all the time.

So, I have some figuring out to do. The best way to do that, I think, is to allow myself some time, alone, with Him. More than the usual chaotic conversations. I hear His voice pretty well. Tragedy does that to a person; it can if you let it. I let it, I let it big time and it's results were joy in the "mourning" just like He promised.

There's a bit of mourning here, back home. I have had to bury the life that I'd been used to. The life that had allowed me some bit of the selfishness that I struggle with every day. There is no longer, really, one minute of my waking day that I can claim as mine. There is a little person that lives in my house now that doesn't understand one thing that I say to her - mostly. I can give our dog more freedom than I can give to her. I am in preschool bondage - again.

Saying goodbye from the only home she's ever known.
It's not easy, it's not supposed to be.
She is a little too good on the
electronics if you ask me
I have to be careful, though. When I get like this I tend to think in terms of years. At my age years go by quickly and I have this habit of saying "this time next year...". Then it is "next year" and there's barely anything to show for the year, in memories I mean. I allow one whole stinkin' year to pass by me without taking the time to breath it in, to smell the roses, to even take pictures to commemorate the year's accomplishments. That realization usually leads to the requisite head  beating against the wall. Then the slump onto the floor with great disappointment... in myself.
At the Safari Zoo

No one has a better big sister.
I can't do that this year. This year is huge. This year I'm gonna watch a little 5 year old girl become someone she never, in her wildest dreams thought she'd become. A typical American girl with a forever family with opportunities for her future that are as wide as they are long. I am going to see her meet Jesus, and learn about who He is and who His father is in a way that she would not have been able to understand otherwise. I am going to watch more firsts for a little girl in one year than most moms get in 5 years. I cannot afford to miss this. Those firsts may very well be the blessings God has for me for the obedience that I give to Him.

River cruise cuddling
I will have to force myself to look, slow down, take it all in. I may even need a sticky note or two placed in strategic places to remind myself to look up and to look around. I may have to remind myself what I so often remind my kids, to take it like a man, just so I don't miss something big coming out of something little.

The guy who speaks her language
This year is gonna be big. This year is gonna establish our "new normal". I really hate that phrase but it's the one that describes what will happen this year the best. Our adventure in China was only a drop in the adventure bucket. I cannot miss what is coming next.

 This time next year none of us will be the same.

what will next year bring?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The end... But not really.

Nights have been good, no great. The other night, as I prepared to put Elli to bed she ran for her bed to jump in. I really want to make a habit of holding her and rocking her and singing to her. I called her name and opened up my arms. She made a run at me and jumped into them. That would have been enough just to feel her squeeze my neck with her toothpick-frail arms and wrap her equally as tiny legs around my waist but she leaned back to see my face and I started to sing. "Jesus loces me this I know..." As I sang each word she repeated them after me. The truth is, that It was an amazing thing, but not for the reason that you might think.

Just two nights earlier, our first night here, she had another throw-down. It was bad and had as much to do with going to bed in a strange place as with daddy being gone. He left just minutes earlier with Josh and she really wanted to go. So I took her fighting tooth and nail, straight as a board to put her jammies on and get her in bed. Her behavior was unacceptable and when she chooses that behavior she is taken away from the "fun". In this case it was time for bed so to bed we went. We'd already had a bath and were on our way there anyway. There would be no singing and cuddling and kissing goodnight that night. She was thinking she was going to punish me. She actually camevpretty close.

I eventually decided to lay on the bed across from her, stare at her in the face and sing very cery slowly "Jesus Loves Me". I knew she was very angry and she needed the Holy Spirit to calm her heart. She stared at me intently without making a sound or even blinking an eye. By the time I finished the song I was sobbing. I was shocked at how one little girl could be so angry. I had to leave the room. I went back in several minutes later and at that point she had turned her body toward the pillow. I asked her if she wanted to lay down and I touched her back. She melted into the pillow and I covered her up and kissed her cheek. I prayed over her and she was asleep in minutes.

She had heard the song. Not only had she listened to what I was singing, she had learned the words. She was mad at me, but maybe she really wasn't. Maybe she was just mad at the world. Maybe she was mad at what she didn't understand or that she herself didn't understand. Maybe she wasn't mad at all but didn't know what else to do to express her utter dispair at losing any form of control over her life. The paradox of having a forever family and going to America but having no idea of the reality of it. The reality that she did have experience with was not as great as what was ahead but itvwas what she knew... Maybe second best was good enough.

What a lesson to all of us. There is always One who knows whats ahead even if we don't. Only complete trust in Him will open our hearts and minds to what is really the best. Only her complete trust in us will enable her to enjoy completely the life ahead of her.

That trust is coming along more every day. Since Sunday we have been in different situations with people that she didn't know or feel comfortable with. Every time she ran to Michael or I for security. She occasionally messes with Kate's head (and heart) by running to Josh when Kate wants to hold her. There's nothing dumb about her. She is very smart. Sometimes too smart for her own good.

Since Sunday we have learned that her platelet count is normal and we are excited to be able to have and appt. already set up at the International Adoption Clinic so that we can learn what to do about her meds and how to get her off of them.

We had a bit of a scare when we went to the Consulate and they were upset about several date discrepancies. Thankfully we were able to contact Haikou eventually and they altered dates to the satisfaction of the US Consulate.

Wednesday morning we woke up to get ready for a morning of shopping on Shamian Island. We went to grab the camera that houses our 1,000+ photos only to realize no one knew where it was or who had it last. We couldn't download pics bc MJF did't feel good about bringing the laptop. So we left with no time to search for the camera and wondering if we had left it, accidentally, on the boat from the river cruise the night before. I began replacing my petitions to God for the return of my good health with sheer begging for Him to reveal to us where that camera was. As much as I tried not to make it so, the day was a bit hampered by the knowledge that we may have lost every meaningful picture we took from this trip.

Thankfully, it took only the entrance into our room to jog Josh's memory and her pointed out exactly where it was. That was a sweet gift since we were prepared to tear apart the room looking for it.

The evening is ending nicely, the hotel found out it was Josh's birthday and sent up a chocolate birthday cake. Not a chocolate flavored birthday cake, an actual birthday cake made from 6x6 pieces of decorated chocolate to look like a present then the bow on the top made from white chocolate. When you open the present there is cake and whipped cream on the inside. A waiter brought it up on a silver tray with a clear plastic dome over it and a card addressed to him on the front. Very cool, very cool, indeed.

Now it's time to get back to packing. There really is a lot to do. It's ok though because I'll do just about anything to get us back to the states.

Thanks for following along with us on this journey. It's been an amazing one and I hope you'll stay tuned because it's really not the end, is it? It's just the beginning...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The beginning of the end...

What a great couple of days we've had since our last bedtime fiasco. I'd like to say she repented of her throw down but honestly I think I just proved to her that I was always going to be there for her.

She awoke her happy self on Saturday morning and we headed off to the required medical appt. What a fiasco. More people than i've ever seen in my life crammed into a clinic. There's not an American doctor who would have remained calm under those circimstances at a clinic full of children and their overprotective parents.

Elli was all "mommy mommy" that day which I soaked up and relished. She is obviously the "big girl" in our group and I really think she knows it. Josh and Kate are really being excellent examples for her but she is very much her own person. I can already tell she's had to carry too many responsibilites for such a little girl and she is working on letting go of some of the things have been expected of her that no longer are. Her biggest accomplishment has ben using her hands to eat when appropriate. She is now a french fry lover and does a great job picking them up with her little fingers.

Once we got to the clinic we were told that bc she is over two we would have to get her blood drawn. Michael almost had a coronary. We went through all the steps they required and then went to see the doctor who would examine her little body. He floored us when he announced that she was taking prednisone daily and hydrocortisone every other day. UGHHHHH. We know shes been on it for at least 2 years, who know what other damage is being done to her little body. I am so thankful for all the medical professionals at our disposal back home starting with her very own special doctor who has loved her before he met her. Dr. Blanco will be one of the first to greet her off the plane, she already knows his name. I don't have to worry and wonder if those who care for her medical needs care for her as well. I know they will.

Michael was thinking on his feet. He really wanted her platelet count and didn't want to wait til we got home. He thought that if they were gonna stick her anyway, why not get the count. Rebecca, our guide asked what the cost would be. They would send a translated copy of the lab report to our guide on Monday for 30 bucks ( or maybe 30 yuan which is 5 bucks i can't remeber which) either way it was cheap and we would take it. Finally we will be able to see where we stand with her ITP.

We were FORCED to stay out of the room while they drew Elli's blood. When they finished they sent her out with a piece of candy and instructions to hold the area for 5 minutes to make sure she clotted. We did what they asked and went on her way. Not a tear or a scream came from such a tiny little thing at any time. For such a chaotic place the medical professionals are kind and loving and very good listeners.

That night we had Pizza Hut. Not quite the same as American Pizza Hit but still a very nice change. Elli had speghetti bc after all if noodles are available why have anything else.  We had another nice evening and a very pleasant bedtime. We all slept well and woke up to a new day...happily it was somewhat free and included shopping.

Sunday was no different than any other day in China. It was our shopping day. It was a fun day and a day we realized that the Chinese make as poor American food as Americans make of Chinese food. But that was ok. We had fun and were able to mix with the culture somewhat. We've been back from our room resting, Kate, Elli, and I while Michael and Josh are out exploring.

I really think we are on a roll here. There may be another hard night here or there but I believe that she is catching on and feeling more and more a part of our family as the days progress. It's exciting to see her move past her sadness and more toward acceptance. I just wish I could imprint onto her heart that we will never leave her... Ever. One day the light will go off and her life will be forever changed. I pray that once she realizes that she will only be a step away from realizing that she has a Heavenly Father who is even more faithful to her. That will be the best day of her life.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The end of the middle

As most of you know by now, the evening after the orphanage visit was horrible. Elli was obstinate and boy, when she is mad she can really tune you out. She turns herself into a statue and sits in her bed until she collapses in sleep. I had really gotten over it the first night but this was different, she was angry. She was unable to communicate with me and she was unconsolable. I felt helpless, sad and pretty ticked off all at the same time. I had to remind myself of what this little precious child, my daughter, had experienced this week and this day and then remind myself that I was the adult in the room. I had to get over myself and ask for help. 

Michael came and restored order somewhat. We all went to bed and awoke the next day as if nothing had happened. At least i knew Friday...  the day we leave for GZ, was going to be a great day. 

As predicted, Elli loved her plane ride. She watched all of it and smiled the whole way. We were picked up by Miko and her driver and drove for what seemed like forever through thick traffic to the beautiful Garden Hotel. We organized paperwork for a few minutes because the next couple of days was going to be crazy busy with paperwork and misc visits all leading toward getting Elli's visa to leave China for the US.  Michael then went out to bring home dinner. Elli wasn't  thrilled about him leaving but we got her in the tub and played etc until he came back with a great meal. We ate and laughed and in the midst of it all  we realized we needed water and wanted some orange soda. Michael and Josh got ready to go back out and Elli went to get her shoes. Being told she was going to stay was not acceptable and she began to let us know she would have none of it. I ended up carrying her literally kicking and screaming back to her bed. I tried to hold her and comfort her and sing to her but she hated me with all that she had at that point. All she wanted was Michael and no one else was good enough. So, once again I sat the angry statue of a child into her bed and in the dimmed light i began to get more organized. I knew there was a chance that tomorrow would be alright but there was just something in my gut that made me feel like she hated me and was never going to get over it. There was a part of me that didn't care. I was as mad at her as she was at me. 

Once again, I needed a reality check and it didn't take long before God shook some sense into me and I decided to sing to her and talk to her anyway. I sat across from her and stared into her eyes. I sang and talked and yes, even cried to her. Then, after using up all i had i once again walked away. She could think a lot of things about me but one she would KNOW and that is that I will never abandon her, even when she is acting poorly. 

Michael arrived back at the hotel and entered the room. Of course I was adamant about him not  being her rescuer but he can kiss her goodnight. After another several minutes and  the chance for her to see me put Kate to bed and kiss her goodnight, I realized Elli had turned her body toward the pillow and was staring at it.  I asked her if she wanted to put her head down and her whole body relaxed. She fell onto her pillow and allowed me to rub her back, to tuck the blankets around her and to kiss her goodnight. 

I was not sure what happened, what had changed or what tomorrow would bring but what I did know was that I had some kind of God-given victory. I would sleep well because of it.

The middle of the middle, aka the orphanage visit

We left at 9:30am. Lydia had to get the money from the bank that we had sent to take to the orphanage as our fee to adopt Elli. They had to pay for much of the process to get her on the list of those available so they need to recoup that somehow. 

On the way there we wanted Lydia to help us to make sure that Elli understood exactly WHY we were going back. We wanted her to realize we were saying goodbye not going to hang out. Over the last couple of days she had remembered a couple little boys who were adopted a year or so ago and that they left and never returned. I think it had finally sunk in. Lydia said she clearly understood it was time to say goodbye and she was to get all the hugs and kisses she could. 

Orphanages are what they are and they will never take the place of a home and forever family and yet I have been struggling to take her away from what brought her joy. She had been there since the day she was born and although they did not have an official Foster care program they did have little apartment-type rooms that housed makeshift families. She had a "pretend" mama, baba, and three little brothers. Of course they were far from pretend to her. She had lived for 3 years with that family and although her mama was happy for her to be adopted by the time we left she had melted into a puddle of tears. She was trying so hard to be strong but she couldn't hold it in. She was losing her only "daughter" and her big helper. It was hard for all of us to see. I can completely imagine her pain and apparently so could Kate. By the time we loaded onto our van she could no longer be strong for her sister and put her head into my shoulder and sobbed... Not very quietly... her heart was breaking for that mama. 

While we were there we met almost everyone in Elli's life virtually from birth. We met her friends who had been drawing pictures for her that morning and they rushed to give them to her. The adults gave us her artwork from the last several weeks and we got to see some of the crafting they are doing with the kids. Its amazing what they have been doing to help those kids develop their gross and fine motor skills. The work of Half The Sky and the group of volunteers that faithfully go to work with the kids weekly is amazing and you can see it in the advanced development of the children. 

It was/is an impressive place. I am forever grateful to all of those at Haikou City SWI who stood in my place for almost 6 years while I waited for the Lord to bring our daughter home. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The middle

Elli awoke to her daddy's gentle whisper with the precious smile that we had come to love. We attempted an early morning bath and she thought it was heaven on earth as she sat in bubbles and felt the warm water rush over her still falling from the faucet. She stuck her head and face under the running water and rubbed the shampoo into her hair until there was only the white foam covering her head. She laughed and splashed for at least 20 minutes until it was time to get out and get dressed. We slathered lotion all over her tight dry skin and she helped. She thought this was all the most wonderful thing ever. 

She and Josh and Daddy went to breakfast leaving Kate and I (who really would prefer an American breakfast) behind to clean up and get ready. Elli had a glorious time with her favorite men and came home all smiles wanting to know exactly why Kate and I would stay behind. 

Michael's background in Chinese (learned 27 long years ago) has thankfully flooded back and we have been blessed beyond measure to have some, albeit slight, ability to communicate with the Chinese, including our daughter. Elli is as eager to teach her daddy words he doesn't remember as she is to learn the English words to replace her Chinese. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for all those adoptive parents with no ability to speak the language at all. 

We had a few more appointments that morning and then another fantastic lunch with Lydia. She honored our request to give us authentic China while here and has taken us to wonderful sights and eateries and we have trusted her to order our food and each time she has hit the bullseye. I have become a lover of authentic Chinese food and may never be able to eat in an American Chinese restaurant again.     

We then went to their equivalent of Walmart which is at least three stories high to shop for some snacks, some shoes for Elli (a trip to Stride Rite is in order when we get home ) and a bath toy. While there, as God would have it, we ran into our friends Erik and Nicki. Running into them at one of the many stores in Haikou at that day and time is like you running into a long lost friend in the middle of a crowded New York City street. It was remarkable and again, to my shock and almost utter embarrassment I about  jumped up and down like a giddy toddler. We had only ever met via Facebook so meeting in person was such a surprise. Because of our inability to get on Facebook i couldn't grab her phone number or leave her a message. I was slowly beginning to stress out about not being able to reach them. My precious Lord had no desire to let that continue and He made a way that only He could make. 

By 3:00 that afternoon we were on our way to the little Island off and island that is Haikou City. Nicki's apt. Is only blocks from Elli's orphanage. I would love to be able to go into great detail about the rest of our night. Suffice it to say that He refreshed and renewed my spirit and Elli got to see all the volunteers who so sacrificially visit every week to not only play with the children but give the staff a needed respite if only for a few hours. 

We experienced the slower pace of Haikou City and didn't arrive back to our room until almost 10pm. We had shared with our new friends and those back home of our realization that Elli's tears the night before were all about her not wanting to sleep away from her friends and her bed at the orphanage. We were sad to realize that but knew it was natural and all very much a necessary part of her grief. We asked for prayers and knew that many had gone up before we once again had to stare bedtime squarely in the face.

We were concerned that Elli, having just seen all those friends whom she knew only from the orphanage would once again cry herself to sleep. We were prepared to sing and hold and love her through it but first we chose to run a bath . Remembering how much she adored her bath that morning we decided that maybe we would start a new expanded routine. We had a snack and took a bath. She happily brushed her teeth after her slathering on of lotion and to my surprise dove headlong into her bed with a huge smile on her face. I rubbed her back and sang a few songs, prayed and then kissed her goodnight. She was fast asleep before I climbed into bed myself. 

That was an enormous answer to prayer. She has happily gone to bed for two nights in a row. Last night (wednesday) she didn't rush under the covers, instead she sat on my lap as I sang. With my arms wrapped around her tiny little body we swayed to each song then quietly prayed.    She confirmed that I too was headed for bed within her sight and closed her eyes. Once again to head off to dreamland before my body even made it to the mattress. 

Thursday morning we take one last journey to the place she called home from her first day of life. We were told she was 6 days old when she arrived there but it was most likely 6 hours. She was abandoned in a food market, her mother possibly giving birth to her in the bathroom there. She was left to be found by the police most likely because her mother didn't want a girl or was too young to raise this baby and would have had to had her tubes tied to keep her from getting pregnant again. She was most likely not married to her baby's father. 

We are not sure what Thursday will bring for any of us. It will surely be emotional for all of us. How that affects our progress as a family remains to be seen.  
Gotcha Day was an amazing day as we learned just how truly brilliant our daughter is. Yes, I know that all parents say that about their kids but in this case is so true it's almost bizarre. Within hours of being our daughter she copied me in writing her name in English. She mastered Angry Birds and became very familiar with the ins and outs of the Ipad. She loves to do things with her hands, draw, color, write, trace and will do almost any of it with ease. She is, not surprisingly, very orderly and puts everything away before beginning another project. (Don't be jealous). She detests shoes staying on feet once in our room and caught Michael tying his boot with his shoe on the bed and scolded him. He promptly obeyed. 

All went shockingly brilliantly until the sky went dark and snacks were had and it was obviously time for bed. We changed clothes and put jammies on. We didn't attempt a bath (although in hindsight we should have) because I'd heard horror stories of bathing soon after Gotcha regardless of age and didnt want to end the night in tears. 

Tears would flow anyway as once Michael mentioned that it was time to brush teeth she planted her feet on the ground and shook her head no. Her hands went to her tiny hips and upon being asked again she repeated her firm stance. Eventually she gave in and Michael brushed them when Kate and Josh both pulled out theirs to show her that it was ok. We knew she knew how to brush but just thought she was scared. I then sat on the floor and looked into her dark eyes and told her it was time for bed. She put her little fists up to her eyes and twisted them to what I thought was to mean "sleepy" and then I saw it... The one thing I'd not seen all day, her chin began to quiver, then her bottom lip began to move and no matter how much she wanted to fight it, huge crocodile tears fell from her beautiful black eyes. She had no intention of going to bed. 

I carried her into the room we shared and sat down on her bed and put her on my lap. I held her close and sang to her. I rubbed lavender lotion on her dry skin all with the hope of calming her spirit and getting her to lie down. But to no avail. She refused to look at me and continued to cry ever so softly from the depths of her being. Michael, the baby whisperer, took over while I showered and upon my re-entry declared his frustration with her refusal to put her head down on the pillow. 

Experienced mommies know battles worth picking and this one wasn't even a consideration. I have to admit being a bit upset that he'd even bother trying to win that battle when common sense and 22 years of parenting says we would win the war without even fighting. So, we kissed her tear soaked cheeks and let her just sit up in her bed. Eventually she would collapse onto her pillow from exhaustion and I'd be there to see it and cover her little self up. 

It took more than an hour before I heard the tell tale sounds of a sleeping child. She had given in to her much needed sleep. I covered her and went to sleep myself wondering what the next day would bring.

The end of the beginning

We woke up early on the morning of the 7th of January. I woke up earlier than the rest mostly because I barely slept. It's not that I wasn't exhausted but what was about to happen loomed over me like a dark cloud. I couldn't shake the feeling of wanting to pinch myself and awaken from this dream that was just too much for me to continue. When I opened my eyes I was staring at a ceiling that I didn't recognize and realized that it wasn't a dream at all. We were in China and we were only hours away from meeting our daughter. A daughter raised for almost 6 years by other women in a country with a vastly different culture. 

I escaped to the bathroom to find out the time and switched on the TV. Yes, our bathroom has a TV set (but I'd trade it for an actual mattress on our bed and heat in our room). To my surprise it was 3am and the Cotton Bowl was on. Seeing American football gave me a little lift as our failure to secure a hotel with WiFi above the second floor and a less than stellar VPN had me borderline frantic. The anxiety that welled up inside of me when Michael told me of the most epic fail of all, our lack of ability to communicate with our precious friends and family back home, was yet another shock. I never expected to feel so desperate about making contact in one way or another. At 2 bucks a minute though, I wasn't desperate enough to pick up our phone. 

As I climbed into bed I realized that I was not the only one awake at that time. Michael and I talked about a few things, rolled over, and tried to get a few more hours of sleep. I didn't have the heart to burden him with my doubts and fears. After all he had none... Seriously, he had absolutely none. In many ways his lack of doubts and fears made me feel better. I trusted the Lord on this and trusted him to trust Him to and to lead us in the security and rest of that trust. 

At 8:30 we met Lydia and began yet another death-defying attempt at pulling out into the traffic. New to us was the increase in people going to and fro since we had arrived on a weekend and now we were meeting the end of rush-hour. I made the mistake of glancing out of the window when our driver was crossing 4 lanes of traffic to make a left turn... He just pulled out into each lane and forced each driver coming toward us to choose between hitting us or stopping. I was thankful they all chose to stop since I would have been the victim each time. 

As we walked into the government building Michael asked her what bldg. it was. Lydia explained it was the Communist gov't headquarters there. Anyone my age or older will relate to the desire I had to stop in my tracks. What the word Communist does to the soul of a 50 year old is far different than what it does to a 30 year old. I was pleasantly surprised to see two smiling guards at the sign in desk greet us in their best English. It was a nice diversion from the pestering feeling of nausea that overwhelmed me. That feeling increased as we stepped into a small conference room stuffed with the longest table that I've ever seen. They could have seated 30 people at that table. I'm not sure 30 people would have fit in that room. 

We sat down at the table while Josh and Kate took a seat in chairs against the wall. A very young Chinese girl entered the room with a stack of papers and Lydia introduced her as the woman who ran the adoption program for the government there in Haikou. She smiled, shook our hands and proceeded to ask for documents. We soon realized that there is no grace in filling out Chinese government paperwork. It is all done in pen and there is no white out scratch outs accepted. If you make an error you begin the paperwork all over again. Although I would have preferred for Michael to fill it out an alleviate my already stressed mind, the woman explained to Lydia that his printing was just too illegible... The pen was handed to me and i began to fill in the boxes as I was told. Suddenly the door opened and this very pleasant but heavy-hearted woman came in with the most beautiful, itty-bitty child I've ever seen. She looked right at Michael and pointed and yelled "baba"! She then looked at me and yelled"Mama".  Of course Michael's arms seemed to supernaturally stretch far beyond human capacity as he scooped up this beautiful little girl who suddenly became our daughter. Her joy was overwhelming as she was introduced to her "gege" Josh and "jiejie" Kate. Out came the suckers as we had to turn our attention back to the paperwork. 

Nothing of this day proceeded as I had imagined nor was it in any way similar to the experiences others have written about. I thought it cruel to force us to care at all about the paperwork so precious to the Chinese gov't when we had endured pure torture to get to this point. The choice was not ours and a full hour later we had said goodbye to the head nanny who had carried Elli to us and were on our way, little one in hand, to grab some lunch and hit a grocery store. Along the way we found a little Chuck-E-Cheese type amusement park outside (everything is outside) where we paid a stupid amount of money for Elli alone to play... For all of 15 minutes. 

Then it was back to the hotel to get to know each other better. What that would mean, I had no clue.

The middle of the beginning

  We went looking for a place to eat in the airport in GZ (Guangzhou). Shockingly, the sight of a McDonalds had Kate almost in tears. She HAD to have a cheeseburger and I desperately wanted a caramel mocha. She was able to have her burger, I've still yet to enjoy the mocha I've come to depend on to get through my day. I did have a chance at something similar about an hour after dinner when we began to realize that the airport in GZ is not heated. I knew they didn't heat their orphanages but it never dawned on me that heat was a luxury below their version of the Mason-Dixon. 

I would later discover that it's only a luxury to the people. It's not an expensive commodity they just don't feel the need to bother paying for it. For those businesses and residents who want heat they get an "all or nothing" amount. The government is the thermostat so many Chinese actually spend much of their winter with their windows open. The more I learn about how the government works the more curious I am. 

Once we finished our hot drinks, including my ten dollar unsweetened caramel mocha, we began to walk toward our gate having less than an hour of our four hour layover left before we were to board our plane to Haikou, Hainan Province. The more we walked the more we realized it was really, really cold. Then the worst news ever stared us in the face as we looked at the large departure board... Our flight had been delayed by hours... Yes HOURS. We had been flying and waiting for more than a day's worth of hours and on the last leg of our trip we were grossly delayed. Why, you ask? Because there was some form of plane trouble at some distant airport which set it back by hours. There was no suggestion of replacing the plane, just waiting until it was repaired and arrived at the gate. Our layover immediately went from 4 hours to 6 hours and then finally to 7 hours. As the sun began to set the airport, with all its double pained windows became colder and colder.  We tried to find solace in Venti-sized hot tea and hot chocolate from a surprise find, Starbucks... But that was only going to warm us up for a short while and we couldn't spend all our money on hot drinks while we waited to board our flight. It soon became clear to me that I was going to die there. There was nothing available to warm Kate and I up enough. It was over an hour into my shivering that it dawned on me that the seats were all metal under the very thinly padded vinyl cushion. Standing up would actually keep us warmer. 

Of course I did not die there and we eventually boarded our plane for Haikou where a very pleasant Mrs. Hu met us at the airport. She told us her American name (which many Chinese have) was Lydia. She led us out to where our smiling driver Si Fu (sure foo) loaded our bags and we began our death-defying drive to our hotel. I learned very quickly that looking out the window while we rode around the city would not be in my best interest. I mastered the art of pure ignorance while in the van every time we rode. I did learn to trust him completely and to realize that what I saw as a life threatening lane change was actually just a minor inconvenience that Si Fu managed with just a blow of his horn. A three lane road became 5 lanes when drivers felt the urge and pedestrians and scooterists (of which there were thousands) would have to find their way whenever it appeared the most safe. Traffic lights are rare and laws are almost never enforced. It's very much an "every man for himself"  mentality on the road and it's pretty much that way for most all Chinese. In many ways I understand that for the average Joe but it is much the same in many businesses. Our hotel experience here in Haikou has been less than stellar in spite of the prices we have had to pay. 

I was shocked to see the amount of English printed below the Chinese on store fronts, menus, and other public signs. I discovered that to the Chinese English is fashionable. Just as an American would tattoo a Chinese character  onto his/her body even though they have no knowledge of the language. Just because there is English anywhere doesn't mean anyone can speak the language in any way. This includes in our hotel. I cannot understand why the room service menu has each choice in Chinese and English and yet not one of the hotel staff can understand enough English to take our order. Even worse is the impression they leave you that you will receive your order in due time and yet an hour later you find they never even took it and had no intention of cooking it. Thankfully I had been given great advice to carry some Ramen noodles along for the trip for Elli. It was the evening of Gotcha day that we all ate a very late dinner of Ramen noodles. We chose not to try to order from room service again. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The beginning......

It's been an interesting couple of days. i would never have expected to struggle in the ways I have. I have learned a lot about myself and how I may not be as flexible as I used to be. I hate that about myself. I attribute it to age and that makes me hate it even more.

We had a great flight from Jackson to Atlanta. The international terminal in Atl. was an excellent place to hang out for the four hours we were there. We ate, walked around, hijacked a wheelchair so the two man-children could race around the terminal. It would have been embarrassing but we were waiting to get on a 1 am flight. We were all a little punchy.

The next 14 1/2 hours would show my inability to be the flexible and easy going person I thought I was. That flight was pure torture to me and I looked around at all the other "economy" flyers waiting for someone to start pounding on the window or escape hatch screaming "let me out, let me out". I never saw it happen and knowing how that kind of thing is frowned upon I chose not to be the first to beg so urgently for my escape.

There was a period of time that I honestly thought the rest of my life would be spent on that plane. I was overjoyed to hear the announcement that it was time to begin the plane's descent. All 240 of us filed into the airport near Seoul, S. Korea. It was a great airport and we were excited to meet 3 other adoptive couples on their way to China. We had our first struggle with ordering food ( not to be our last) but learned a bit and struggled through only to realize that we would be fed on the plane to Guangzhou almost immediately.

The flight to Guangzhou was only 3 hours which was no big deal after the previous flight. When we left that flight the other adoptive couples and our family walked through immigration and waited in line to see what our near future would be. It appeared (key word throughout our entire experience) that only one of us would have to rearrange our day for changed or cancelled flights. They were the veteran couple coming to pick up their 3rd and 4th adopted children. They were gracious as their experience told them to be flexible and to go with the flow. We said goodbye as we all travelled to different gates and to different cities. We would see each other again in a week. We would all have so much to share and talk about when we saw each other again.

I will write more as i am able. I am so sorry that I haven't been able to post the way I had envisioned. Another lesson learned is my almost panicked feeling I got when I realized I'd have limited communication with "my people" .

Until next time...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mrs. Farhart... it's time...

Elizabeth "Elli" Hope Farhart
taken Nov. 2010
NINE MONTHS before I would
ever see her face.
How many times have you spent days, months, or even years preparing for something, putting heart and soul (and even a little blood, sweat, and tears) into something and the big day arrives and you want to run as far away from it as you can to a safe and comfortable place and forget you ever endeavored to do it in the first place?  Probably not many if at all. Most of us work hard for something with the end result being what pushes us on in spite of what the obstacles appear to be along the way. I think, until this experience, I would have answered this question with "never".

Today, well this whole last week or two, has been my first taste of...


I don't expect anyone else who hasn't adopted to understand these feelings because anyone who knows someone who has adopted from anywhere understands the commitment on every level that a person makes when they dive into this ocean of paperwork, gov't intrusion, check writing, fund raising, and for some, family disharmony. 

Elli in Sept. 2012. Celebrating with
her friends at the Orphanage
her adoption.
Why in the world would the day come when it all begins to "happen" and I feel like I want to run and hide?

Thankfully, I have met enough adoptive moms to realize I am not a freak, an insensitive creature, or an idiot... I am totally normal. The changes that are about to happen are monumental and in many ways the tasks are greater and mountains higher than if I were physically pregnant and about to deliver. I find it interesting that when I first considered these feelings I thought "If I were physically pregnant I'd at least know that God was all in it" 

Weird how I forgot that God was/is all up in this as well...  

So, just as I would head off, bag in hand, to the hospital to deliver a new little Farhart, I am off (with a few extra companions) with multiple bags in hand to travel half way around the world to meet my new not as young but still very little Farhart. There's just a whole lot more adventure that goes along with this birth. 

God is no less a part of the change in this family through Elli's adoption than He would be if Elli was born from my body and arrived home as a newborn. I have seen Him work in ways I'd not have seen if we weren't adopting and my faith and awe and commitment and delight are all the better for it. My thrill at watching Him work through my brothers and sisters in Christ has been thrilling and just as Mary tucked thoughts away in her heart as she watched interactions between outsiders and her first born, I have tucked away thoughts, written down thoughts, and snapped photographic thoughts and put them into a special box for Elli. When she gets older, when she hits adolescence (or earlier) and she begins to wonder about how she fits into all of this I will be able to pull out that box and show her how much people loved her. The people that she sits with every Wednesday and Sunday; the people that she plays with throughout the week; the people that she calls her best friends... she will be able to read for herself, see for herself, hear for herself of the love that all these people had for her long before they even knew who she was. That's an amazing reality. I'm excited for the day that the truth of that sinks in for her. 

I love all of you for enabling me to have that moment in time with her one day.  

So yes, it's time, it's time to load up the car, present our tickets, get on an airplane and begin the emotionally exhausting but adventure of a lifetime... and BECAUSE you are praying and petitioning my Lord on my behalf, I know I can do this because it's not ME doing it... It's Christ in me.
Elli on December 23rd, 2012... 15 days before her life and our lives will
forever be changed.