Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Someone Had To Have Made A Mistake....One Year After Meeting Emmie.....

One year ago today I surely thought someone had made a mistake. Either Zack and I had incorrectly heard the voice of God calling us to adopt our third child, a daughter from China, or (and I know this will sound blasphemous, but it is how I felt a year ago today) God had led us to the wrong child. This is what I was thinking one year ago today in a hot, crowded building in Nanning, China.

In this hot and crowded building, a screaming, kicking, biting, spitting, (and everything else you could imagine) adorable three year old little girl was experiencing a tremendous amount of grief, fear, and anger as she watched her only caregivers walk out a door to never return. She was  left with two strange looking white people, and she was not happy. I won’t recount the experience that we all encountered the next few days (you can read it in the blog if you are interested ;), but let’s just say it was filled with lots of crying (by everyone), being confined to our hotel room, and lots of prayers, prayers, prayers. Those first few days with Emmie I was convinced that our lives would never again be the same. And one year later, I have found that I am right. Because of the blessing of a precious girl named Emmie Grace Caldwell, our lives have been filled with more joy, love, laughter and excitement than we could have ever imagined, and our lives will never be the same.  

I do want to share with you all the strides that Emmie has made,  but  what I wish I could communicate to you more than anything is how loving and sovereign God is, and how He has designed adoption to be the process that unites children and families. I am convinced of this now more than ever.  

Emmie finished 8 months of preschool this past May. She started with a very, very hesitant spirit, but finished absolutely loving preschool. She has learned a tremendous amount and is speaking English now, though still with a cute Chinese accent. Most people still can’t understand  what she says, but her family can, so that works out well J She will be starting speech therapy when she returns to preschool in the fall.  
Her personality and the affection she shows to her friends and family are beyond what we could have ever imagined those first weeks in China and first few months home. She is caring, thoughtful, compassionate and concerned. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she also has plenty of attitude to go around and says some of the most hilarious things and has some of the most expressive faces.  Things are never boring around our home! 

She loves her church, and especially her friends and teachers she has come to know. She is always ready with a smile and hug to greet everyone.  Though her first few months at church I could hardly leave her side, she now runs around the entire church like she has been there her entire life. It is beautiful to see!

Her best friends are undoubtedly her brothers, Caleb and Noah. They are her playmates, helpers, and of course the source of her greatest frustration at times.  I can assure you they have a very normal brother/sister relationship! It has been challenging at times to navigate the interactions between the three of them, and she and Caleb have an especially challenging relationship at times. But overall their love for one another always wins out….it just may drive everyone crazy in the process!

I am honestly at a bit of a loss for words for what else to say, for fear of sounding cliché…but here I go.  Being Emmie’s parents has kind of been like being the gardener of a very fragile flower that was uprooted from its original garden, and placed in a whole new land. It has taken lots of care, cultivation, pruning, and attention. It has taken lots and lots of help from the “Master Gardener”. It has taken patience as we have passed through different seasons, and with the changing of each season we have experienced new growth, and new challenges.  We have seen this fragile flower blossom into a strong, vibrant, confident, and beautiful flower, now at home in its new garden and with its new caretakers.  Emmie’s Chinese name means “beautiful/lovely flower”. And that is truly what she is.

 I am so inexpressibly thankful that we didn’t give up, and that Emmie didn’t give up on us. The thought of what our lives would be like without this little girl is too terrible for me to imagine. And yet one year ago, sitting in our hotel room, I was quite certain, somewhere along the line, a mistake had been made. Turns out, I was the mistaken one!  Thank God for the prayers and support of our family and friends, and for God’s guidance, grace, comfort and peace during those first few days.

 God was, is, and will always be in control and sovereign even if we don’t feel it, or at times don’t even want to believe it. God always finds a way to work for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and are called according to His purpose.  As we have found, that doesn’t always mean the “working’ is easy, fun, or what we might have imagined or planned for, but it is always for the good.
Which leads me to my final point- Adoption is good! It is soooo good!  Adoption is hard and challenging and painful at times. But adoption is good, because it is what God has chosen to use to unite children with families. Families that can give children the love they were created to have!  If you need convinced of this, look up James 1:27 for the definition of what “true religion” is. Read the parable of the “Sheep and Goats” in Matthew 25 and see who Jesus  identifies with.

 As I type this post, at this very moment, I could show you the pictures of thousands of children around the world, and here in the USA who are waiting, just like Emmie, Caleb, and Noah all were, just like I was at one time, to be adopted. They are waiting for someone to give them the love that only a family can. I am beyond thankful for the care and attention all my children were given in the orphanages and transition homes they lived in before coming to their forever homes, but nothing can replace the God created role and relationship of a family.  

I know what you are thinking. It is scary. It is risky. There are no guarantees. And that would be a 100% true statement, at least from our experience. Every adoption we have been scared at times. Every adoption we have had to take some type of risk. And every adoption we signed papers releasing agencies and governments from lots of guarantees.  It is a step of faith. And there is no way around that!

But here is another 100% true statement: If we, the Church, the body of believers who claim to love God and love others, do not begin to do something to bring orphans into families, an entire generation of children are going to grow up without ever having known the love and meaning of a family. Just think for a moment about all that being in a family entails and the meaning it brings to our lives (the good and bad). Now imagine millions of children never knowing anything of family life. This is the current reality of our country and world if nothing changes in terms of orphan care/adoption.

So now I ask you- would you be willing to intentionally pray for a time about how God would have you and your family to respond to the orphans in our world? 

Zack made a statement once that has stuck with me and it basically went like this: It sometimes seems like couples and families that want to have children and children that desperately need a mom and dad and a family are like ships in the night, just passing one another by.

Why is this, when there is this beautiful thing called “adoption”, that can unite families and children?  May God lead us to trust Him and believe in His word as we prayerfully examine this question.

To all our family (especially our parents, Glenn & Linda Toney and Mark & Punky Caldwell) and to our amazing friends and family and our awesome church family at First Baptist Church, London, we could not have blossomed and grown as a family without your love, prayers, and friendship over this past year. Thank you for all you have done for our family, and especially for Emmie.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

6 Months with Emmie.....

Today marks half of a year with Emmie. It seems like just yesterday that we were dealing with the disappointment of being delayed to get Emmie, then flying to Beijing, then meeting a very sad girl .

I remember being in China longing for months to have already passed, in hopes that Emmie would have adjusted to her new family and that we wouldn’t be experiencing the same things in 6 months that we were currently experiencing in China! Now, 6 months later, Emmie has transitioned into our family more wonderfully than we could EVER have imagined during those turbulent first weeks.  

It may sound cliché, but she is hardly the same child that we met in China. Though we certainly saw glimpses of fear and grief for the first months, we now only see them from time to time. Emmie is such a funny, sweet, and affectionate girl. Sometimes I look at her and and just wonder what we ever did without her! She brings so much life to our family!

She has gone through so many changes in these last 6 months, as have the rest of our family members. She now is the “baby” and has two brothers, while Caleb and Noah are now both big brothers and have had to learn how sensitive and delicate (at times) a little sister can be.  For the most part the three of them have bonded and fit in together wonderfully, but there have been some very challenging times for all three as well. But through it all, when we look at them, we can’t help but feel that our family is complete, and has been totally woven together through God’s leading.

Since being home, Emmie has started preschool, probably one of the biggest challenges she has faced other than learning to trust her new family. She was very hesitant and resistant to the idea initially,  but thankfully, over the course of about 8 weeks, she slowly has transitioned into attending preschool 4 days a week, is making friends, and is learning so much.  It is a true praise to see her walk hand in hand with her brothers into school every morning.  She also loves her church family and friends and her Sunday School class. Again, this was a slow transition for Emmie, but she now tells me “bye”, gives me a kiss and off she goes!  Such a miracle!

Emmie’s English is also progressing quite well. She is quite a talker and is learning new words everyday. Her brothers have helped many people,  (including mom and dad) understand Emmie’s “Chenglish” as we call it. These days it is becoming much more like English that Chenglish.  Some of her favorite statements: “No more!”, “Okay, okay”, “I don’t know, maybe”, “It dark…goodnight?”, and my favorite, “I lub de too”  (I love you too).

As I am sure is the case for any other family of five, life with three kids is crazy! Most days are a whirlwind.  My house isn’t really clean that often, and laundry is a continuous process J But there are more laughs, tickles, chases, and hide n’ seek nights than ever before, and for that, we give God all the Praise.  We are learning to have a new sense of “normal” . Our desire is for our “normal” to be one that focuses on the joy we receive from being Children of God, one that cherishes each moment (despite if that moment may be changing two beds full of pee and doing laundry at midnight ;)  one that seeks to guide our children into the Truth of Jesus Christ, and one that above all else, is full of grace.

The last 6 months have been full of triumps,  as well as tough times- there is no way for me to cover them all in this post! The one thing I can say, today, without a doubt- I would do it all again. I look forward to each day. I am very blessed.  We give God all the Glory.

Through all the changes of learning to be a family of five, we have learned so much about what God desires for us as a family that seeks to follow Christ, especially how much grace Zack and I both need as parents! There are so many attributes of God that I am beyond thankful for, but the one that seems to be most prominent to me in this season life is God’s mercy He bestows, new (thankfully), with each morning.

Merry Christmas! Hopefully Emmie will get a chance to enjoy her first taste of sleigh riding and making snow angels this season….fingers crossed!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness”

Lamentations 3:22-23


Monday, July 8, 2013

Three Weeks With Emmie

Three weeks with Emmie……

I actually had to look at the calendar today to make sure that I was counting correctly…..three weeks since we first met our daughter! Three weeks since we watched her lay in the floor and scream, cry, and kick at the thought of being with us. It truly does not seem as if three weeks could have already passed since that day.
There is  no way that we could have imagined the current state of our life with Emmie three weeks ago.  Three weeks ago we were just wondering how to get through each minute with her, let alone hours, days or weeks. Three weeks ago we were laying on our bed in a hotel room in Nanningpraying for wisdom as Emmie had cried herself to sleep in front of our hotel door- this was the farthest she could get away from us. She would not allow us to provide any consolation or to even approach her.  

God has shown us what we thought was impossible is actually possible in a shorter amount of time than we ever thought possible! Here are just a few “impossible” things we have experienced in our short three weeks with Emmie:

-Emmie wants to be carried by “mama” several times each day!

-Emmie wakes up smiling and giggling

-Emmie is beginning to let “baba” and mama give her kisses and will even give us kisses (sometimes)

-Emmie loves her brothers to pieces, but they love her even more!

-Emmie is beginning to sit with us during storytime and is allowing us to read to her

-Emmie is beginning to be able to go into public places without any major “meltdowns"

-Emmie is telling us “good night” in English as bedtime (most of the time….we still have a couple tears some nights)

Yesterday a friend who is also in the adoption process and whom has already experienced much heartache while she and her family wait for their precious daughter posted this on her Facebook page: God often waits until conditions appear impossible in order to remind us that nothing is impossible for Him- Dr. Tj Betts
For our family, this sums up our adoption experience not only with Emmie’s adoption, but also with Caleb and Noah’s adoption, albeit in different ways. God brings us to a place where we can only exist in and through Him. Where each hour of each day we must seek Him to continue to press on. Somehow I think that this must be how God desires for our entire lives to be. Not that he wants us to experience constant hardships, but rather that no matter what we are experiencing, valleys or mountain tops, we experience it with Him as the Lord of our lives.

I will end this post with two pictures. The first is Emmie the first day we met her, after she had cried herself to sleep by our motel door. The second is Emmie tonight, sleeping peacefully in her own bed, in her own room. She went to bed tonight willingly and with no tears. As I left her room, she said in her very best English/Chinese, “Good night. Love you”.

I know that in the big scheme of things, we still have many issues to work on. I know there will be more sleepless nights, more breakdowns in public , more attachment issues- I know that, and we are continuing to grow, pray and learn. But for now, for three weeks with our girl, we are feeling pretty blessed. We are in a good place. God has done great things in all our lives and hearts. Grace has been shown mightily to us.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Untold Story of My Experience in a Chinese Hospital.....

On our second day in Nanning, the second day Emmie was with us,  we had an unexpected turn of events- I got to experience Chinese healthcare up close and personal!
That Tuesday around noon I began having some discomfort when I went to the bathroom (number  1). By the evening, there was blood in my urine, and I knew that I needed to seek medical treatment. Because it was evening time and most doctor offices were closed, our guide suggested that we go to the emergency room. Emmie was already asleep, so I left Zack with her, and I and the other adoptive mother from our travel group went  with our guide to the hospital. It was only about a ten minute taxi ride to the hospital. When we walked into the hospital, it was like nothing else I had seen before. There were people everywhere, children crying and screaming. Basically chaos! There also many different stations and I would have had no idea where to go first! The first station we went to was registration. The registration consisted of me giving them my name, birthdate and age. That is it. No medical history, no allergic reactions, nothing! After they got my name and birthdate, they gave me a little booklet with my  info in it, and a card, similar to a credit card. The guide then explained to me that my name would be up on the computer screen in a few minutes and would tell us what room we would go into to see the doctor. In the mean time I went over to the “nurses station” where they took my temperature and bloodpressure. We then stood and waited.
In a few minutes I saw “R. Caldwell” come up on the board, in the midst of all the Chinese names- it was pretty funny. Our guide showed us the room that we needed to go in and we waited in line outside the door. We went into the room which was a dimly lit room, and consisted of only a few cabinets and a desk with a computer.  The walls were dirty, there was no sink or examination table.  The doctor was sitting by a computer, and the guide told him my symptoms. He wrote something down in my book, and then typed some things into the computer. The guide said I would need to do a urine test. We had to walk to the other side of the hospital through what they call the “infusion ward”. This was a huge room with people sitting in chairs, side by side, with IV bags hanging. No privacy! Right beside this room was a long table with nurses on one side and patients on the other- the nurses were putting in IV’s as fast as they could. Again, no privacy! I thought to myself, “Glad I won’t be here!” Little did I know!!!
We had to stand in line to get a urine sample cup. The cup was about as big as the cups we use at home to measure the boys medicine.  I went to the restroom, which to my dismay was very dirty, smelly, and consisted only of squatty potties. I filled the cup up, and it did not look good- almost totally red in color. I was thankful we had chosen to come to the hospital that night instead of waiting until the morning.
I carried the sample outside the bathroom to the sink and was shocked to see NO SOAP! In a hospital! Then get this- We had to carry the sample outside the hospital, into another building, up to the third story- it was a crazy long way to carry a urine sample! We then waited for thirty minutes on the results. The card they gave us is what we used to check the results. There were computer terminals in the hospital where you swipe the card. We swiped the card and a small report printed out- of course I had no idea what is said, because it was in Chinese.  We took the report back outside and into the hospital to the doctor we I saw previously. The doctor then said (through our guide, who was interpreting) I would need oral antibiotics and 3 injections. I thought that "injections" meant a shot,  so I was okay with that, though I asked if I could just do the oral meds. The doctor said no. So, I agreed. Didn’t have much of a choice! I then learned that “injections” in China mean IV’s in America!
Before heading to the transfusion ward, we had to visit the pharmacy to get the oral medication and the medicine they would put in the IV- again, very different from the US. Also, we had to pay for everything before anything would be done- registration, doctor visit, urine test, IV, etc. and show the receipt to whomever we visited.
 The "infusion ward"  was extremely busy, with crying children and adults sitting and standing everywhere.  Our guide took care of standing in line for me, as the procedure is to wait in line, give the nurse the medicine, then they mix it and call you back up. We waited about twenty minutes, and I was called back up. I admit, I was nervous. Our guide had told us that no one in the hospital spoke any English, but as I sat down for my IV, the nurse asked me what my name was. She did a very good job of putting in the IV. I told her that she was very good- I barely felt anything, and she replied “Thank you”. The IV bag took about 40 minutes to completely infuse.  After it was empty, you push a button on your chair, and a nurse comes over and takes out the IV- no gloves! Oh well. We left as soon as they took it out. We got back to the motel after midnight! To say that I was ready for bed that night would be an understatement. Thankfully Emmie had slept the entire time, and would sleep all night through! A huge blessing.
The next two days I visited the hospital again for my other IV's. It was a much simpler process as each time I only had to stand in line to have the medication mixed, have the IV put in, and then wait in the infusion ward. Below are some pictures of my experience. What memories! Though there are many issues and problems with our healthcare system in the USA, this experience made me thankful for  many things about our healthcare. At the same time, it was very cheap for me to have medical care in China- only about $80 for everything- a doctor visit, 3 IV's and oral antibiotics. Hard to beat that, I guess. Even if you have to carry your urine quite a distance and there is no soap in the bathrooms :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Our journey home....And Life in London, Ky. USA

Our journey home from China was quite an adventure. It started out a little rocky, as Emmie became very upset when we told our Chinese guide and another family in our travel group "bye" at the airport. It was like she knew she was leaving China and everything familiar to her. She cried for quite a while at the Beijing airport, and we received many looks and stares, but we pressed on. A couple of suckers later and some reassurance and she was okay (dum-dum suckers are her favorite). We found our gate for our 12 hour flight, and luckily it had a huge window with a great view of planes taking off. Emmie loved looking out the window, and for the rest of our time in the airport did great. When it was time to board, we were able to board first, along with other adoptive families and children. It was very nice, as this was a huge flight-almost 300 people.

We found our seats, and at first it seemed as though the flight was going to be quite empty- then we learned that another flight had just arrived with many passengers who were supposed to be on our flight, so we waited, and the plane filled up. We thought we were ready to take off, but noticed that we were past departure time. That is when the speaker in the plane came on and we heard a friendly flight attendant tell us that due to some weather issues our departure would be delayed....to  make a long story short, our departure was delayed for almost two hours! Not only was this not good because a child gets restless in an airplane that does not move for two hours, but we also knew we only had one hour to catch our connecting flight in Detroit once we landed. Uh oh!

Emmie really did great despite the delay, and once we did get up in the air, she had a great time. After we had been in the air about 3 hours, she pretty much let us know she wanted to go to sleep, and she did. She slept for about 5 hours, which was great. Our plane left around 6:30pm, so it was perfect timing for her to be able to sleep. We did the best we could to make her comfortable on the airplane- it involved a lot of twisting and turning, and the bottom half of my body going numb often :)

Once we got near Detroit (a full 12 hours after leaving Beijing, and we had already been on a 3 hour plane ride from Guangzhou!) we found out that the weather again was going to cause some delays in our landing. We flew around the airport for about thirty minutes in some turbulent air. I don't care much for turbulence, but Emmie thought it was fun. Once we landed we knew we had to pass through customs, then claim our baggage. Customs takes a little longer for adoptive families. You have to go into a special room, they take the brown envelope from you (it is very secretive- every time we have adopted all they tell us is don't open the brown envelope and give it to the customs people once you land), look at all your paperwork, then tell you are free and clear!

It really didn't take that long to go through customs and claim our baggage, maybe 30 minutes, but by the time we had, we had missed our flight home by ten minutes. I wanted to start crying, but Emmie continued to be a trooper, and we prayed that we could get another flight home that night. Otherwise it was going to be a night's stay in Detroit. Boo. That is what made me want to cry!

Praise Jesus, there were seats on a 9pm flight to Lexington. We had a few minutes to get something to eat and I was never more excited to see a Wendy's! It tasted delicious!! I was also so excited to use a bathroom in the good ole' USA. If you have ever used a squattie pottie, you know why!

Before we knew it we were on the plane to Lexington, Kentucky!! The plane ride was only one hour, but was quite turbulent and by this time we had been on 8 different planes in 14 days. I was done with flying, and so was Zack and Emmie.

 We arrived in Lexington at almost 11pm. We were greeted joyfully by my parents, our precious boys, Zack's mom, sisters, and close friend of the family, Aunt Nancy :)  Emmie clung to me at first, but then started putting on the smiles. She did well until it was time to get into the van and head home. Of course at this point she had been traveling for over 20 hours, and I can only imagine what she was thinking. There was also the car seat to deal with- she wasn't too happy about it. She cried and screamed for about 15 minutes in the car, then calmed down. She stayed awake the entire ride home. By the time we got home it was 1am. We introduced her to her new room, and basically the entire house. Yes, at 1am. But remember, this was really like 1pm to her (and us :). We gave her a bath, read a book, and did everything as close as we could to what we did in China to try and keep a consistent routine. When bedtime came however, she was not a happy camper. Lots of crying and unhappiness. It ended up being after 3am when she finally went to sleep. She woke on and off throughout the night, but the last couple of hours slept soundly.

The next day went very well. She loved getting to know her brothers, and continues to love getting to know them. They play very well together and enjoy many of the same activities together. We could not be more proud of the boys. They are the best big brothers! I could not imagine them being any better with Emmie. They are very patient, kind, sweet and of course fun!! It is a joy to watch them together. You can tell they feel so proud when they help their "sis" around the house.

The big issue since we have been home has been.....sleep, well, lack thereof :) Here is how the sleeping went- we would put Emmie to bed around 8:30, she would go to sleep for about 2 hours, then wake up screaming and crying, almost as if she was having a terrible nightmare. We could not console her because she would not allow us to. It was very difficult to watch.  Heart wrenching. A couple of nights there was lots of kicking, throwing pillows, sheets, whatever she could get her hands on. And loud, loud, crying. The worst night involved non-stop screaming and crying from about 4am to 6:30am. That night I cried, also. We didn't know what to do, as we had never experienced this before. We knew her schedule had to be way off, but she played happily all day long every day, which was great, but also meant no rest. As of Sunday I had about 7-8 hours of sleep over the last 72 hours, and that is no joke. I knew this couldn't go on much longer. I  remembered a fellow adoptive parent who had success with melatonin, so I inquired of her for more info. She put me on the right track and our sweet and wonderful pharmacist friend ordered some for us and we had it the next morning. We gave it to her about twenty minutes before bedtime and PRAISE THE LORD she slept all night long. That was last night. Hoping for the same result tonight. Don't get me wrong- we don't want to look over any significant issues she may have with sleep like nightmares, night terrors, etc. but from what we experienced the biggest issue was that Emmie didn't want to be in bed (her internal schedule told her it wasn't time) and she was going to let us know one way or another. Thankfully we had each other to get through the nights, and it didn't last too long. There are sure to be more bumps in the road, but for now, all is well, and we are very thankful.

Emmie's attachment to us is going well also. Today she wanted me to hold her several times, and she ran to me and hugged me a couple times as well. This was initiated by her, which is amazing. She also let Zack kiss and hug her, which is also amazing, as she had been very resistant to him up to this point ( a very normal reaction). We are excited and joyful, but not naive enough to think that our bonding and attachment won't take work. It will, and we are doing the best we can to prepare ourselves for any setbacks that we may face. We also are being very guarded on where we go, what we do, etc. Yesterday we left the house for the first time only to go to Kroger to get the magical melatonin. Today we made a short trip to the library to return some books. She did well both trips. We hope to be able to go to church Sunday, but we are not sure at this point. We are just taking it day by day and trying to go off of her cues.

The last two plus weeks have been quite a journey- probably the most intense journey of our lives, much different than our previous two adoptions. One thing that has been wonderful is the time that Zack and I were able to spend together. With kids, and now especially with three kids, that kind of quality time doesn't happen often. We learned to lean on one another, but most importantly on the grace of God- without His grace and the prayers of his people, there is no way we could have made it. I have never felt the prayers of the saints as much as I have over these last few weeks.

So, that is all for now. Not sure when the next update will be :)  We can't thank you enough for all your prayers- they have been felt over and over, we promise!

Attached are some pictures and video- Emmie still a little camera shy, but we are working on it ;)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

 Today is our final day in Guangzhou. Tomorrow (Thursday) at 5:30am we will leave our hotel for the airport. We will fly to Beijing, and then in the afternoon we will depart from Beijing and fly to Detroit, then finally home to Lexington!
Yesterday we had an interesting time. We went to a 7 story building called One Link Plaza. The best way to describe it would be to say it is like a Vendor's Mall, only seven stories and about three times the size on each floor! It was overwhelming! We were able to find some nice souvenirs and some gifts. Emmie was a trooper, especially considering we took the subway to get there. It took a few minutes for us to figure it out, but once we did it was a great way to travel. Very cheap, clean and fast. Last night we ate dinner in our hotel with two other couples in our travel group. One of the couples left today for America. The other couple leaves Friday.
Today was probably one of the best days we have had in Guangzhou. Our family was completely on our own today. We slept in, then ate a great breakfast in our hotel- the last one! Emmie had her usual- watermelon, french toast, ham and corn.....she likes to eat! 
After breakfast, we decided to venture to the Guangzhou City Zoo. Our guide told us the zoo was very cheap- only about $2-3 per person. She was right! We again took the subway to the zoo and arrived about 11am. It was a hot one today- the Weather Channel said it felt like 104 degrees! I would totally agree! Thankfully the zoo was mostly shaded by trees, but I still lost a lot of sweat! We saw lots of animals and the zoo was very beautiful- pictures are attached. Emmie's favorite animals were the bears and swans. She did very well at the zoo- only a couple of grumpy moments when she didn't want to walk the way we were walking and we had to pick her up- she didn't like that! We stayed at the zoo until after lunch and then rode the subway back- it was a little crazier this time- more people. We ate across from our hotel at The Coffee Club and Emmie had one of her favorites- french fries and ketchup!
We took a break for most of the afternoon, then went on one last great adventure.  We had heard from fellow travel members that there was a Mexican restaurant not too far away from our hotel. We were determined to find it, as Mexican food is our favorite! Zack got out the subway map, and he was sure we could get there via the subway. We wondered if we were crazy- we would be trying to find the restaurant right at rush hour. But we thought, why not, and set out on our great adventure. The second we entered the subway we knew that it was definitely rush hour- it was packed! Hundreds of people everywhere! I felt stressed instantly as Emmie is very independent and usually insists on walking on her own. She didn't have a choice this time- crying or screaming, she was going to be held! We did let her down when we had to use an escalator (which she loves) and she did great. I looked at Zack and basically asked him if he ever thought this would be possible a week ago.....when we couldn't even leave our hotel room??!!!! And now we are standing in a subway car packed in like sardines with hundreds of Chinese people and Emmie is happy as she can be, holding my hand!! It is truly a supernatural work of God. He has moved in Emmie's heart and healing has begun! He has removed the fear and sadness from her heart and has made way for love to begin to grow inside her for her mama and baba!! We are so humbled and blown away by God's grace and faithfulness to our family, and by the prayers of so many of our friends and family.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but we never thought we would be this far along by the time we left China.
So, to finish our Mexican adventure. We did make it to the right stop, but once we got there, we weren't really sure where to go. We knew a general vicinity by looking at the map, but no details. We had gotten off in a very nice part of town, by another huge hotel where we knew other American adoptive families were staying. This area of Guangzhou was very quaint- tree covered streets, lots of little shops, Starbucks, very modern. We walked about a block and stopped and asked if anyone knew of the restaurant, but had no luck. We walked another block- no luck. We were starting to get a little discouraged- we had walked a lot today, we were tired and sweaty and smelly :) Emmie was hanging in there, and was thankfully riding in a stroller. We gave it one last chance and asked a police officer- he didn't know either, but went inside a salon and asked the workers. They didn't know either, but there was a Mexican man inside who knew the restaurant and overheard us!! He pointed us in the right direction, and we found the restaurant, named Tekila :) We had fajitas, chips and salsa. It felt like home! The taste was different but good. They don't serve rice and beans with the fajitas, oh, and they don't refill your chips and salsa :) Emmie didn't care too much for the salsa, but she loved the fajitas and especially the guacamole. She will fit right in with our family! It was a great celebration dinner. Pictures are attached.
It was getting dark by the time we finished eating, and we were hoping the subway wouldn't be too packed.
Thankfully, it wasn't, and we had a nice ride back to our motel.  After a bubble bath and story time, Emmie is now asleep and we are finishing packing. 5:30 will come early!
I can't believe I am saying this, but it is hard to believe it is already time to leave China. Our first week here was so difficult, it seemed like it would never be time to leave. We missed the boys and our parents terribly and just wanted to come home. However, our time in Guangzhou has been much more fun and a great time of bonding with Emmie.  Our hotel has been amazing. The site seeing has been super. The food is pretty good, too. But we are ready to go home. We are so excited for Emmie to get to meet the rest of her new family, see her home and her room, and realize that she is HOME FOREVER. I am reminded of some of the lyrics to "When Love Takes You In" by Steven Curtis Chapman. For Emmie, "in a moment what has been is lost in what will be". Her "what will be" isn't far away now. Perhaps more than with any other adoption our family has experienced, we have truly seen in a tangible way the redemptive work of God through the miracle of adoption. It's not that our boys lives were changed any less, or that our lives were changed any less with their adoptions- they are miracles and our lives would not be complete without them, no doubt about it.  But with Emmie we have seen the most sad, angry ( I mean kicking, hitting, screaming, pinching angry) and broken little girl become a happy, strong, fun loving,
and smiling bundle of joy. It is just a beautiful reminder not only of the redemptive power of physical adoption, but even more so of the mind boggling gift of spiritual adoption, and the amazing way that God takes all of our brokenness and redeems us from a life of death, into his eternal family. Praise be to God.
This post also woudln't be complete without us saying a huge THANK YOU from the very bottom of our hearts to my parents, and to Zack's parents. We could not have made this trip without them. They have done a wonderful job taking care of our precious boys- and it isn't an easy job! How blessed we are to have not had to worry about their wellbeing, even for a moment. And to have such amazing support throughout our trip through talking with them on the phone via Viber, or the computer via Skype. We couldn't ask for more wonderful parents. We love you guys!
Well, that wraps it up. This will be all from China. We would do it all again- the long plane rides, eating food that you really aren't sure what it is composed of, visiting Chinese hospitals and getting IV's, being asked to have your picture taken (yes, apparently tall, pale, white women with blonde permed hair is very special in China :) being confined to a motel room for three days with a precious child that rejects everything you try to offer her, heat indexes of over 100 degrees and all the rest. We would do it all again in a heartbeat. No questions asked. It has been an amazing adventure and we are so blessed to have had it. Even more blessed to be bringing home this good and perfect gift from above!!
See you in the USA!!!! Keep those traveling prayers coming!!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

 The last couple days in Guangzhou have consisted of more sightseeing and shopping and have been nice, but WE ARE READY TO COME HOME!!! Yesterday we visited the new city square of Guangzhou. It is truly remarkable with impressive buildings and gorgeous landscapes. This city rivals New York City in size and archetecture, and I dare say that is more beautiful and unique.  Unfortunately it was so hot and humid (around 95 degrees and full humidity) that is was tough to enjoy. Emmie had a small meltdown, but honestly, I couldn't blame her....I was almost ready to meltdown too! She was fine after about ten minutes on the bus. Our next stop was an art and history museum. Again, it was lovely and very interesting, but the heat was just too much. Thankfully there were some shady spots where we could sit and relax. Our guide told us that June isn't even the hottest month- July and August are much worse! Thank God we won't be here then, and may God have mercy on any families that will be traveling then! We enjoyed a nice meal at a western style restaurant nearby our hotel. We ate dinner with another family in our travel group and met another family from North Carolina. Emmie did wonderful again in the restaurant. She is so well behaved! We enjoyed interacting with Emmie yesterday through just playing around in the room, tickling each other on our bed, and playing superman- she really loves that! She is getting more and more comfortable with us, and allowing us to show her affection and care. She will give us kisses and allow us to hug her- most of the time. She is still fiercely independent and at times appears to want nothing to do with us, but even then, we can usually get a smile.
Today we went shopping at Shaman Island for the first half of the day. This island is constructed to appear as a European town and the shops and other structures share this type of architecture. It really is a beautiful place. We found some nice souvenirs here and the weather was much nicer- cloudy/rainy and only around 90 degrees- it felt like heaven! Emmie enjoyed the shopping and she got some new squeaky shoes which she loves to run and skip in. We had a great morning on the island. We ate lunch in our room then visited a nearby park. It was beautiful and felt like we were walking around in Florida with all the palm trees and the nice breeze! For the first time since we have met her, Emmie reached up for me to carry her! Of course I picked her up as quickly as I could!! I carried her for as long as I could, then offered her to Zack, but she isn't quite ready for that yet. She really has made tremendous progress these last few days. We also played a fun game where we swung Emmie down the steps on the way to the park. Now everytime she sees steps, she expects us to do this :) It was great to see her smile as she held our hands.
This evening we went on a dinner cruise on the pearl river. The food was so-so, but once it got dark, the views were spectacular! The city of Guangzhou lights up like Las Vegas at nighttime and is quite a sight to behold. We went on the top floor of the boat, and the views were phenomenal! Emmie loved watching our boat and other boats move through the water. They also began playing fun music and had a short show for the kids. After the show, our very sweet guide began speaking to Emmie and playing with her. I knew what was coming. I could see it in her eyes. She began withdrawing from us and interacting only with the guide. This guide was a different guide that the one we had in Nanning, so she did not know the experience we had there with Emmie and her attachment to our previous guide. Sure enough, after the guide had finished talking and playing with her, Emmie didn't want very much to do with us at all. It is heartbreaking for us, but we do understand. She began to cry and would not allow me to pick her up. Thankfully she did let me hold her hand and we made it back to our van okay. She calmed down shortly after, and everything was normal again. We explained to our guide the situation so from now on she will be aware. It just makes us even more sure that the best thing for Emmie will be for us to go home! I can only imagine what she must be thinking- every morning we wake up, go eat breakfast with lots of other Chinese people and white people with Chinese kids at a huge buffet in our hotel, then we get on a big bus with other white people and Chinese kids and go to random places. Then we eat lunch. Then we play, etc. I keep trying to show her pictures of home and reassure her we are going there, but I am sure it is difficult to understand. Please just keep praying for her!!
Attached are some pictures of sights we have seen the last couple of days, and of course, sweet Emmie. You will notice that some of the same buildings are in the pictures during the day and night...pretty cool!