Say "YES!" to God's call.
When He calls, He always enables.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Terra Cotta Warrior Day

Here is our first family picture ! Simon hasn't gotten the 'smile for the picture' thing, but as you'll see, I captured a few smiles when he wasn't expecting it. (BTW they don't say 'cheese' here, but rather 'pomegranite', or perhaps I have confused that with another fruit.hmm) The Chinese call the Terra Cotta Warriors, the eighth wonder of the world, and anyone who has seen them would probably agree. The wonder to me is all that work and artistry was deliberately hidden under the ground for no one to see. or ever find. Some farmers were digging a well and discovered it. It was a great place to visit with 10 year old boys. As expected, Simon read everyword and evesdropped on some of the tour guides who were speaking in Chinese (our was speaking English) and Jed skipped through happily, occassionally stopping to look and study something.

Tonight we will go back and forth ( I hope ) between the New Year celebrations at the Xian Temple and an important Manchester soccer game.

As a first course they chose Spagetti (I had fried rice, Jerry went straight to the ice cream course.) The boys finished up with ice cream for the second day in a row. I sense a change in diet awaiting us back in NC. For the last year, since we've had Dominic and Rosie we have eaten rice nearly every day. These two Northern Chinese boys are 'noodle boys'. And I don't mean the rice noodles that I have come to love, but heavy hand made wheat noodles. (David Rusch are you out there??)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Touring and Trivia

Today we visited a Buddhist Temple, did a little shopping and gave the boys their first taste of America. I am not a good tourist or museum goer. I like to walk on by and say, 'mm, that's nice', what's next. Jerry, on the other hand, reads every caption, and asks questions about every piece of information, given by the guide. I try to say, 'oh, wow!' politely, hiding my yawns. If you want to know anything about Chinese temples, buy a book. Or ask Jerry. Simon is like Jerry (see him standing thoughtfully in the first picture), Jed is like me - are you surprised? We saw alot of statues, Buddhas and goddesses. Fortunately for me, while Jerry and the boys climbed to the top of the seven story temple (I've seen stairs before) I got to watch the set up and partial rehersal for the New Years celebration that will be going on at this temple. It will be fun to watch it on TV and see everyone in their costumes.

Simon told the guide that he did not believe in Buddha, but later he considered putting some money given him by the orphanage in a donation box. He and Jed discussed it, laughing , and then apparently decided against it.

Since Jerry discovered there was a Dairy Queen here, he has mentioned several times that 'we should take the boys'. I am sure he only had their interests at heart and was really sacrificing to have ice cream for lunch. We decided on Blizzards and we got genuine smiles and enthusiasm from both boys through the whole event. Georgia Mud Fudge, Cookies and Cream and Strawberry Banana were our choices, avoiding melon, kiwi and a few other fruit flavors. apparently American candy bars are not allowed.

Simon is doing great. We have seen smiles -at Dairy Queen, when we went back to Walmart and bought him the remote control car he refused the other day,,and when we bought the boys books. He chose Pleasant Goat and came home and read it. Jed chose Cars and hasn't glanced at it since I made him choose it. We have heard laughter - watching movies, playing with Jed, jumping on the bed (don't tell). He still isn't making eye contact, but that will come.

In talking to our guide, we learn more about Chinese culture. She and her husband are both only children so they are the first modern generation who will legally be allowed to have two children. She has a two year old son, and is very excited to be able to have another child. When we told her we were taking the boys to DQ she cautioned us against allowing them to have too much as it is not considered healthy to eat cold food in the winter (I wondered why the boys were giggling so much, at stealing ice off the buffet at breakfast!).

She also told us that it gets very hot here in the summer, sometimes as high as 110 degrees. There is a law that when the temperature gets over 100 no one has to go to work. With little air conditioning, that would be nice, except that the weather stations are only allowed to say that the temperature is 98 or 99! So everyone must go to work even though they know they should not have to.

Have I said yet, that both boys arrived wearing brand new pjs under brand new sweatpants, under brand new jeans and sweater (Simon's is handmade by an orphanage volunteer). And new shoes. They also had the cameras and toys that we sent. Jed had a bag of apples and Simon some snacks. That's it. At ten years old, they owned nothing of their own. Jed knows a bit about computers and could negotiate his way around qq if we wanted him to, but since we didn't we unplugged the cord from the internet in Urumqi and he hasn't asked here. Simon said he didn't know about computers, when he was wailing the first day, and hasn't asked to contact friends on qq at his orphanage, so perhaps they are not allowed to in Xian. (QQ is like the old IM where anyone can wander into a chat room. We prefer to have more control over our kids contacts than that allows.) Sorry for rambling on, we love you all, Catherine

Thursday, December 29, 2011

While You Were Sleeping - a Miracle on Adoption Day

Before I tell the tale, I want to express our gratitude to the many people who prayed and wrote with suggestions and offered help ! We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love shown toward Simon and our family. This outcome was totally out of our hands.
After I wrote last night, we talked to Dominic, who we had hoped would speak some reassuring Chinese words to him , but Dominic is very shy and wouldn' say much of anything. I told Simon, 'Dominic is much like you, very shy' (I demonstrated, eyes down, shoulders hunched, he looked at me and nodded. Later, we received an email from the mother of one of Simon's closest friends at the orphanage who was adopted last summer. I had never 'talked' with her and did not know she was on any of my yahoo groups, but she was responding to a plea I posted on the Xian group. She offered to let her son Skype with Simon. Although, it was very late here, I wrote back with our Skype name asking her to call as soon as she could, realizing that it could be a day or so before she had time to respond. She responded within minutes. Simon was delighted to talk to her son, Jude, who is absolutley adorable and still amazingly fluent in Chinese. They talked for a long time, but to the best of my understanding, at the end of the conversation, Simon was still saying he was planning to stay in China. Perhaps, though, something began in his heart at that time.
Afterwards, he and Jed had fun playing with their remote control cars and took their leapsters to bed with them. It was after 1:00 when I was still telling them to stop talking and go to sleep. I heard the words America and China alot in their conversation. We awoke and went to breakfast not having a clue what the day would hold. Jed was outgoing and big brotherly toward Simon, as usual, and Simon was his 'oh so very reserved' self. Toward the end of breakfast, Jed said, ' Gu Gu (big brother, that's Simon) fei ji (airplane) Guangzhou (the city where we complete our US paperwork). Jerry and I were momentarily stunned, not daring to believe it, not wanting to overreact in any way. Bursting into tears in the restaurant might have gotten us even more attention than we already get, if that is possible.
We met our guide in the lobby and whispered what we thought we had heard to her and she asked him how the night went. He said 'good'. Wow! We were hopeful but still not certain until he put his hand print on the paper, which turned out to be a very ordinary moment, in the midst of the mountain of final paperwork. Between the Civil Affairs Office and the police station , where we applied for his passport (note to anyone coming here, there is almost no heat in those two offices, wear your long johns) Simon asked the guide if he still belonged to the orphanage. She told him 'No, now you belong to a family'. I honestly think that was another hard moment for him.

This is on our way back to the hotel after all the paperwork was completed - Simon is playing the kindle, everyone was physically and emotionally exhausted !

This is in the lobby, waiting for our room to be cleaned, Simon actually was waving at me, almost cheerfully. As the day went on he got more and more cheerful - no, I should really say, less and less somber.

There was a real smile on his face, when we bought him a suitcase for his first airplane ride.

We had alittle adventure this afternoon when we took a taxi to the 'wholesale market' -zillions of people pushing through trillions of shops (think Disney at it's most crowded, but filthier than your local landfill). After buying the boys some sweatshirts, watches, Simon's suitcase and a basketball (which will have to remain in China) we needed to take a taxi back to the hotel. Hailing a taxi on a crowded street in a not so nice area in China is not quite the same as stepping out of a hotel to a line of taxis. We were a weary group nearly an hour later, as the sky was darkening, when an empty taxi finally pulled over. Weary, but feeling more like a family.

Please keep praying, Simon and Jed are becoming buddies, oddly enough, with Jed as the acting 'big brother'. Jed has been with us two days longer, so of course, he already knows everything ;). Simon has not shown any particular affection or even interest toward Jerry or I. While Jed jumps to help us at every turn, Simon throws things on the floor and expects us to clean the up (not in a mean way, it is customary here - in the civil affairs office , he threw a paper cup on the floor after he was done with it- there are people with push brooms everywhere, sweeping up stuff people throw or spit on the floor...but enough local color). he responds very well when I tell him to do something but I don't want to push too hard right now. I do appreciate Sammy telling me, she thought her older kid adoptions were easier because she is strict - I am , too, but I am holding back alot here, smile. Tomorrow we begin touring - Terra Cotta Warriors on Saturday. Again - thank you, thank you , thank you !!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Simon's Gotcha Day- not quite Picture Perfect

Our initial meeting with Simon was......difficult, to say the least. When he entered the room with the orphanage workers, he was quietly crying. I totally understand that, I would be, too. After they left, it escalated to wailing while we filled out paperwork and by the time we traveled to the photo office it was a full blown fit, yelling and hitting things. I understood alot of the yelling because it was mostly bu yao mei guo, which is 'NO NO America!...... Our adoption guide, the people at all the offices we visited, as well as people on the phone from the orphanage tried reasoning with him, but the fit went on. We stopped at walmart on the way back to the hotel to pick up a few things to eat and buy a toy and some jeans for Jed , but Simon refused to choose anything. After we got back to the hotel, he continued his fit, through the lobby and up to the room. Jerry and Jed left , to go borrow a screwdriver for his remote control car so I got out a map to try to explain in sign language where China and America are on the globe and that when one is awake the other is sleeping. That captured his interest and we began exploring a world map I downloaded on my Kindle Fire (if i could have brought only one thing on this trip, that would be it! and p.s. I was able to download new apps on it from China, but so far no new books). I told him with my Chinese dictionary app that he was a smart boy and he was old enough to decide whether he went to America. He said he was staying in China. Technically at 11 he is going to have to agree to go and sign his name. I don't know how they will handle it if he still says no tomorrow. I am not sure it would be right to drag an 11 year old, kicking and screaming to America, even if I think it would be best for him. Jerry disagrees. I certainly hope it doesn't come to that.
Anyway, since that conversation, he has been subdued, but pleasant. We went out to dinner and saw some unusual things to eat (notice the frogs!). Jed has been his irrepressible smiley self except for a moment in walmart, when Simon's misery obviously got to him and he quitely asked the guide if America is a good place. She assured him it is.
We could use some prayer. His will, not mine, be done. C

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Urumqi to Xian

Here is our official adoption picture. Confession - when the photographer pulled down the red backdrop I complained that it would clash with my magenta-ish shirt. Since I don't speak much Chinese (understatement) I am pretty sure they didn't have a clue what I was saying, so it was pretty nice to see that somehow they had managed to turn my shirt red in the picture.
Since today was officially a travel day we didn't have time do do much except a very little shopping. We were looking for the N+rth Face jackets we had seen, but the street vendors weren't out with them so we just bought Jed a hat and sweater. I only brought the boys three outfits with me because I didn't believe their measurements (I thought they would be bigger than Andy) but Jed's were exactly right.
This morning Jerry and Jed played a little ping pong. We were puzzled when we checked in and the lady at the desk handed us two mesh bags each. Jed tried them on as a glove and Jerry put them on the handle of his pinpong paddle. The lady came over to explain that they were to cover our shoes! The carpet in the whole entire hotel is so noticeably filthy (our room didn't get vacuumed all week) that that we burst out laughing!
Our flight to Xian was uneventful (yay!). I had my comfort music and book on my Kindle (Annie Moses band and Agatha Christie), together with my X and I did fine. In retrospect (in other words now that I know I survived it) I agree with everyone (Cheryl) who said Urumqi would be a special and unique place to visit. first of all , it was nice not being 'the big Americans'. We were average sized there, with many being much larger than us (unlike in Guangzhou where we will finish up the trip). The ethnic diversity was also facinating. Yesterday we spent a long time at the police station and a group of Kazaks or Russians were there at the same time. In fact, when we were shopping today, a man asked if we were 'Rusky?'.
Now that we are settled in Xian, Jed has finally taking the toys out of the backpack I gave him and is playing with them. Yesterday, he seemed to be in a waiting mode, just watching to see what was coming next. I forgot to mention that when he put his new pjs on last night I saw that all day he had been wearing pajamas with a sweatsuit over that and bluejeans lined with flannel and a sweater over it all. Today I just laid out his blue jeans and a tshirt and a sweater to wear but when we got on the plane I noticed that he had his spiderman pjs on underneath. smile.
Tomorrow, we meet Simon about 4:00. If the pictures are an indication, he will be much more reserved than Jed. Tune in tomorrow. And thanks for your prayers!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jed's Gotcha Day - Picture Perfect !

Jed is exactly the smiley, adorable rascal we thought he would be ! Our first meeting was textbook perfect. We were running a few minutes late to the Civil Affairs office and we heard that his car was also, due to the terrible smog/fog slowing down traffic (he had about a two hour drive, ours was about 10 minutes). As we emerged from the elevator he was standing alone in the hall. As he saw us, he gave us a look of recognition and I gave him a big smile and a little wave, not wanting to be too 'pushy'. I was surprised and delighted when he ran right to me and gave me a big hug!

Even through a rather boring day of hours and hours of waiting in many offices while mountains of paperwork were completed he has remained affectionate and good natured.
He is tiny, no bigger than Andy, but he orphanage director says he loves all sports and is good at them. She also told us again that he is 'knotty' (did I say 'rascal' ?)

We ate at our first Muslim restaurant and enjoyed the famous Xinjiang noodles and Shishkabob (somehow that doesn't look like it is spelled right but I don't even have a guess how to fix it)

Unfortunately, this is what most of jed's first day with us looked like. I was so glad I downloaded all those apps on my Kindle Fire ! I don't know what most of them are, but he didn't have any trouble figuring them out ! At the moment he is laying on his bed watching Clifford the Big Red Dog with Chinese subtitles, although he has already watched about 10 minutes each of all the Chinese movies I brought. Not sure if it is short attention span or just a desire to investigate everything ! He is giggling - it's as cute as his dimples!

Later tonight we will Skype with his new siblings for the first time and tomorrow we fly to Xian - his first plane ride and I'll be half way through flying for this trip !

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Urumqi

We awoke a tad early this morning to enjoy skyping with the children while they were enjoying our traditional Christmas eve celebration- when the siblings give gifts to each other. There are alot of them, so the gifts are not lavish, but the merriment is. I think the hit of the night (at least in my mind) was Everett and Kathryn's gift to Clara of a doll and stroller. Clara spends alot of hours being pushed around town by her mom and it is obviously a 'like mother like daughter' situation. The children's favorite might have been Travis and Lindsay's gift to them of a drum set. I told Lindsay that I will pay her back one day.
Everett warned me that I should wait to put my mascara on, and of course he was right - it was hard to see all of them and not be able to put my arms around them!
After praying with them, the little kids went to bed and Jerry and I went down to breakfast. We had to laugh to find Minnie and Santa greeting us on Christmas morning ! The breakfast buffet is not your typical western fare.

We try to be a little daring but some things are definitely outside our comfort zone!

This is in a Muslim neighborhood near our hotel. Although the temperature was below zero today, commerce went on as briskly as usual and these men were outside cooking food that looked amazing.

I must have been right about that mix up between Santa's elves and the Seven Dwarves. This was the scene in our hotel lobby tonight.

We have spoken to our adoption guide and he is coming to our hotel at 9 o'clock tonight to help us with some paperwork and give us the plan for tomorrow. While you are finishing Christmas dinner we may be headed to meet Jed ! Merry Christmas !

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Adoption and the Promised Land

Since Jerry and I aren't doing much besides shopping in our local neighborhood and recovering from jet lag before we meet Jed, please forgive me if I stand on my soap box for awhile.
Not having been brought up in church ( I didn't become a Christian until I was in college), I was unfamiliar with many Old Testament Bible stories. I knew some about the Patriarchs and about God giving the Promised Land to Israel but not much about the details. A few years ago, when Jerry challenged our family to read through the Bible in 90 days, I was amazed to discover a few things about the "gift" of the Promised Land. I had thought it was like, God said, "It's yours!" and Israel moved right in and opened up their lawn chairs. But it wasn't like that AT ALL. They had to fight for almost every inch of ground. They had to learn to listen to God to know when to fight and when to hold their ground. They had to believe that He was powerful enough to help them win their battles, when they obeyed him. And they had to obey even when they were afraid.
And what does this have to do with adoption ? Well. Over the last 20 some years since we first adopted, many people have said to us, 'Oh, I would Love to adopt......... if only God would just place them right on my doorstep. I see those pictures of orphans in magazines and I would love to have a dozen of them!' I want to say to those people, that I learned from the story about the Promised Land that it doesn't always work like that. Sometimes, in order to receive a very special gift, like the Promised Land, and like sons and daughters, there is work involved. And sacrifice. And struggle. So I want to say, if You are one of those people, who look at those pictures of orphans and your heart melts, please consider that this may be a true call that God has on your life and you Can do it ! It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, old or young, fearful or lazy (like me!), I can tell you stories about other people, just like you, who God has used in this way. And they have been richly blessed. As you will be, also, if you obey God's call to 'care for orphans'.

I want to note, that I am old enough now to know that God does not call everyone to the same thing. Some of you are not called to adopt. If the call on your life is in some other area, I want to support you in that, to the best of my ability. But to those who Are called, Do not be afraid! Rejoice ! I can't imagine anything else that is so hard, but so much fun and full of blessing!

Can you find us in these pictures?

Shopping in China is like Disney World - Very Crowded and occassionally Mickey shows up!

Here is the manger I told you about, guarded by a dwarf. Today, someone put a fish in beside the bell. Christmas carols are played everywhere - in English- and today we saw big signs in one of the stores proclaiming "Joy to the World- Merry Christmas!" So,opposite of places where, because they understand the meanings, they don't allow the words. Here, the words are everywhere, but no one understands.

Friday, December 23, 2011

In China !!!

We have arrived at the 'ends of the earth'! At least it seems that way to me, since to travel here, we could have gone east from NC or west from NC and it would have been the exact same distance. I am sure some of you adventurous people would have chosen to go east, fly into Moscow and arrive in Urumqi, China from there, but being a fearful person, who always chooses the safest path, we flew west. Or rather, I thought we were flying west. This time, rather than flying west across America and then hugging the coast of Canada and Alaska before turning south (did you know that you never fly straight across the ocean? I didn't. Jerry says there is some rule about how far you can be from land.) we flew due north, across Hudson Bay and over the North Pole before heading south over Siberia and Mongolia. The flight was unevenful, unless you count the fact that our frequent flyer miles put me in Business class, which meant my chair turned into a bed and gave massages ! Even the cheap seats get to choose from hundreds of movies to watch, so I caught up on a few I had missed. We spent the night at the exquisite Shanghai Hilton , which Jerry says cost us less honors points than a night at a Hampton at home.
The five and a half hour flight to Urumqi on a smaller jet, in those squishy seats, wasn't as much fun. We were the only Westerners and they tried hard to accomodate us by making the annoucements in English, some of which we actually understood. After it was over, Jerry said there was some amazing scenery and at one time we were flying through a mountain pass, but I don't like to know about those things, particularily since there is a probability we will be leaving here on another plane (did I mention that xanax is my flying friend?)

The hotel in Urumqi is more than slightly less exquisite than the Hilton. Just so Scotty and Nikki don't have all the fun, they decorated their lobby for Christmas with Disney characters (well actually only the Seven Dwarfs. Must be the Chinese version of elves) ! There is also a manger with red bells (and Only red bells) laying inside.

Shopping here is a blast !
We bought a new suitcase to replace the one destroyed on the plane (never travel without duct tape ) two scarves and a cute leather Armani purse for me to carry our pasports in- or rather a 15 dollar purse with an Italian name on it. smile.
Here is a Santa with a new twist - he is holding a metal detector, waving it over people as they enter the store. Here in the ends of the earth they do things a little differently, but the food is fabulous!

We don't meet Jed until the 26th, so hopefully we will have our days and nights turned around by then. Blessings to you all! catherine

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wrapping Things Up

Both figuratively and literally.
Tonight we wrapped up Aladdin. What a fun show! It was predominantly a 'school show' with only two evening performances. That means audiences packed with the heightened excitement of 1500 squealing/screaming kids. Aladdins arrival at the back of the theater riding on a lifesized elephant led by the genie was pretty impressive. Everett played the evil Jafar and it was perhaps my favorite of all the roles he has played. It was certainly the most gorgeous costume!


Here's a picture of Jafar and his siblings, the street urchins (Dominic, Nellie, Rosie, Andy).

Jafar and Ariel, another sibling, playing the role of a fan in the lobby after the show.

This is Henry, Jafar's nephew, surrounded by Aladdin and Jasmine.

And as to the literal wrapping - the Christmas presents are nearly all wrapped and under the tree

and these 5 bags each contain a Dec/Jan calendar counting down the 22 days until we return and a wrapped present to open each of those days. Phew! That was 110 presents to wrap and my aching neck is still recovering!

Walking away from the theater tonight was a little sad. There is always a let down after a show, especially one that was put up in less than a month and we didn't begin to get tired of yet.
Now I have practically nothing to distract me from the enormity of what lies before us. We have been on this path to pick up our two new sons in China for over a year now. Tomorrow I will begin to sort through the "stuff" I have accumulated for this time and begin to see how much of it I can fit in our suitcases. We say good-bye on Monday night.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Word from China Re: Simon and TA

While we still do not have Travel Approval from China, we have heard that it will arrive this week. The good news is that we will finish the adoption (it is finalized in the province) this year and benefit from this years tax perks. The bad news is that we will be away at Christmas. We expect to leave around Dec 20th and return around Jan 7th. We will get Jed first, in Urumqi, Xinjiang (near Kazakstan....I call it the ends of the earth from here because it is 6 of one half dozen of another, whether we travel east or west to get there. Since I am a nervous flier and don't relish arriving in China on Aeroflot from Moscow, we will go west!) A few days later we will get Simon in Xian (think St. Louis with terra cotta warriors).

Good thing for those tax perks, because, once again, we are traveling at a time when air prices to China are outlandishly high. We could have saved about a thousand dollars per ticket by traveling a week earlier or a week later. We are hoping that the tax benefit will be more than than. We will travel with the zillions of Chinese Americans who are traveling back to China while their kids are off school on Christmas break (like Ric's Aunt and Uncle). Ariel will hold down the home front here, as she did last time. All the big kids, except Ryan and Julia (he has a new church), will be here for Christmas, so everyone is expecting to have the normal fun and chaos that is traditional, with us watching by Skype. The younger kids have had various responses, with Dominic the most reluctant for us to leave and Ric asking if he was going to get a present everyday I was gone (A tradition I began with Nellie when we went to get Andy, which meant 17 wrapped presents in a bag, one to be opened each day we were gone. When we got D and R that was 17 times 3 presents for Nellie, Andy and Ric. This time it will be 17 times 5! Not to mention, having everyone's Christmas presents wrapped and ready. Good thing I decided to cut back a little this Christmas. No wonder I was checking out at Walmart at midnight Friday night - and I don't mean black Friday.)

We also heard from someone in Xian who sent a few pictures of Simon. He also told us he hoped we wouldn't be afraid when he laughed and has convulsions. What??!! As they say, international adoption is not for the faint of heart (not sure how I qualified, my heart is often exceedingly faint). Of course, I began googling and have some idea what this could be, but since it could also just be Chinese translation error, I am trying not to go there, yet. Obviously, we could all use your prayers. Thanks.