Friday, June 10, 2016

At Home....Our First Week With Eden

I want to apologize for the belated update- so many of you have emailed or messaged us to check in and see how things are going, and we so appreciate that! I promise that we haven’t been ignoring you, it has just been a whirlwind week since we got home last Friday night.

First, just a few words about our trip home. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. We were really worried about how traveling home was going to go, given how our last day in China went with Eden. The trip home started out a little rough. There was a discrepancy with the spelling of Eden’s Chinese name on her passport/Visa and her airplane tickets. Believe it or not, one space in the wrong place in her name almost caused us to be unable to fly home! Thankfully Delta went to work and corrected the issue and we made our first flight. There were some nervous moments in the Guangzhou airport! The first flight was a little rough for Eden. She cried about half the time. It was about a 3.5 hour flight to Beijing. Once we landed we had about a 4.5 hour layover in Beijing, and Eden did awesome the entire time! We were on the same flight with another family adopting with our agency, so it was great to be able to hang out with them. We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us once we boarded for Detroit….the plane was half empty! That meant the three of us ended up with 6 seats- that gave us room to spread out and made the 13 hour flight so much more comfortable! And Eden did amazing! She didn’t cry once. She slept for about 8 of the 12 hours. We felt your prayers and trust me, we were praising God! After we landed in Detroit, Eden continued to do well. She was definitely ready to be done with airports and airplanes, but after 8 flights in two weeks, so were Zack and I! She cried some on our last little flight, but it was only about 1.5 hours, so we could handle that J It was a wonderful feeling to have our feet back on the ground in South Carolina!

Eden has been in her new home for one week now. To say that we are amazed at how wonderful she is doing is an understatement. Her comfort and ease in her new home is truly miraculous! Other than some sleep issues, which are to be expected after traveling through 12 time zones in two weeks and adjusting to an upside down schedule, she has had a seemingly smooth transition.
We know without a shadow of a doubt that having our 3 “big kids” at home has helped her transition tremendously. We can’t say enough about what an awesome job Noah, Caleb, and Emmie have done with helping their little sister feel right at home. They have been kind, gentle, playful, helpful- whatever the circumstance has called for, they have been up to the task. We have seen them be selfless in ways that have brought tears to our eyes. We are so proud of them.  The evidence of their kindness can be seen in the way Eden looks at them, calls for them (it is so cute to hear her pronounce their names), and lift her little arms up to them in hopes they will pick her up- and they do! 

My mom also was here this week to help out with the household chores and daily tasks so that we could concentrate on spending time with Eden and our kids. This was a huge blessing and it was so hard to see her go. We are truly so blessed with amazing parents. We couldn’t do it without them!
She is warming up to everyone, including me- I even get kisses and hugs now! Zack went back to work Monday, and so she was “stuck” with me, for better or worse, and thankfully, she chose to see it for the better. The time together has been great for us, and I think we both feel much more secure and at ease with one another. Again, I am not saying we have arrived, but the progress is incredible. We just can’t believe it and we are so thankful.

Eden’s first few nights in the USA were tough for her and us. Though she went to bed without protest, she also wanted to go to bed very early (jet lag and time zone change).  She would wake around midnight and then about every two hours after. It was a tiring few days.  Thankfully the last two nights she slept through the night- she went to bed around 7:45 and then woke around 6:30, which is a huge improvement! She had been waking at 5am…and staying up! And that made for one tired mom and dad! We are praying that she is adjusting to her new schedule and this pattern of sleeping through the night will continue ;)

Eden’s personality has really started to shine here in America. So many times the grief that a child is experiencing overshadows everything else, and that makes it hard to see the “real” child through all the grief. This is what we experienced in China with both of our girls. Though we realize that Eden still most likely has moments of grief and will for some time, this girl has been nothing but smiles for the most part.  It brings a smile to my face just to think about it! She loves playing with her siblings- whatever they are doing, she is more than happy to be involved. She loves playing outside, she loves going to the pool….she seems happy to be here! She is still very protective of her backpacks, though she has begun to remove some of the things she placed in them while in China. She often will take some snacks out and share them with her siblings. She has a very kind heart and loves to share. She also has allowed the backpacks to stay behind a few times when we have gone to the store. They are definitely still her security, however, and this is evident at bedtime. She wants them either in the bed with her, or on the floor where she can see them. We feel like her backpacks are very much something that she uses to maintain control and a sense of stability, and as she releases control of her backpacks, she is also releasing control of her life, and allowing us to be a part of it. That might sound a little kooky, but from what have seen, it makes perfect sense.

So, as you can tell, we are just blown away with her progress. It’s hard to explain unless you could see the “before” Eden. It’s almost like a house renovation or a makeover- Sometimes the after is so different than the before, it’s hard to believe they were ever the same!  I remember thinking the same thing once Emmie had been home for several weeks, amazed at the difference in her personality, her attitude, and just being in awe of how God truly can bring beauty from ashes. We just never expected so much to occur with Eden in the first week! I guess this could be some sort of “honeymoon” phase that we are experiencing right now, but it certainly feels like the real deal.
In terms of what it has been like to be a family of 6- it has been awesome! Yes, it is a lot of work, and  there are times when I feel overwhelmed with the reality of having 4 kids. I doubt if I have the energy and stamina for it all- the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, the bedtimes, etc.. I am not as young as I used to be, and I admit, I am exhausted at the end of each day. But then I look at these four precious children and I think to myself, what better task could I be giving myself to then being their mom? I have not been able to come up with an answer that even comes close…and I doubt I ever well. Being a family of 6 rocks!

After every adoption, even  our first, we have always said we are done- no more children…the first few weeks home can kind of make you feel that way J This time, however, I feel as though I can respond to future possibilities of another child in a different way. I truly feel that I can say our family is complete. Once we were home Friday night and all of our children were sleeping, an overwhelming feeling of peace and completeness from the Lord washed over me, and I fell on my knees and I felt God’s Spirit tell me- this is the family that I want you to have. It was such an amazing, full, and content feeling. We will always be advocates for adoption and orphan care, but I feel as though God has brought a child to our family through adoption for the final time this time.  I know that He will call our family to orphan care through other avenues- He already has, and I already have dreams of taking all of our children back to their native countries on vision trips, short term mission trips, etc. I never want to stop sharing the story of all God has done in our lives through adoption with interested couples and families. Adoption is something that has forever changed our family’s life, and we are so thankful for it. Now, if in a few years we are adopting again, you all don’t rub these words in my face too much, okay? :)  

 I hope to update once every couple of weeks.  I know this sounds like a broken record, but we can’t think you all enough for your prayers, messages of encouragement, and every kind email, post, etc. You will never know how much they have meant. Words truly do have the power to give life, and you all gave us much life, and we are forever grateful. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Last day in Guangzhou...Could use some prayers!

Today is our last day before leaving bright and early tomorrow morning! We are more than ready to come home, but after this evening we are a little concerned about how the trip home might be....

The day started off great. We enjoyed one last breakfast in our hotel, then we led some of the families in our group to the toy market we visited the day before. They hadn't been able to visit it because yesterday three families had their consulate appointments. They were excited to pick up some souvenirs! Eden seemed to be doing well all morning and she ate s good breakfast and was ready for the day after sleeping great last night.

After leading the families to the toy store, Zack and I took Eden to the local zoo. This is the same zoo we visited during our last trip with Emmie, and for the price and proximity to our hotel, you can't beat it! We hopped on the subway and in about 15 minutes and a line change we were there! It was again another hot day- the heat index was around 110! Eden was able to make it through about half of the exhibits before she fell asleep.

The heat was getting to all of us- we were just one big wet mess! We drank plenty of water and thankfully made it back to the hotel in time to tell the Lunde family goodbye. We are so thankful to have met them and had a great time with them in our daughters province and Guangzhou. It's bittersweet to see them go, but we are happy for them as they are one step closer to being home! Another family that was in a different province but that we met while in Guangzhou also left today as well. We wish them the best and pray for safe travels.

While we were telling the Lunde's goodbye, Eden's disposition seemed a little off- I hadn't seen her this way in a couple days. I thought it was because she had just woken up from her nap a few minutes before, and maybe that was part of it. Then she did something she hasn't done the entire trip- she just stood and peed in the floor! We were told she was potty trained by her nannies, but I brought diapers and pullups because she is only 2.5, and we were told the same thing about Emmie who was 3.5 when we adopted her, and it turned out to not be true at all! She was definitely not potty trained :) However, from the first day we met her, Eden hasn't had one accident and sleeps through the night without peeing. It's pretty amazing. That why today's incident was so curious.

After that we went upstairs and gave Eden a bath. She had a great time playing in the tub and everything seemed fine. At the same time I was packing things up, Zack was helping, we were just working away and taking turns playing with Eden. I could tell when she got out of the bathtub that she seemed sad, and that's when the grieving started again. She grieved hard, crying and shouting for about 30 minutes. She let us hold her, but could not be consoled. And she was again calling out for her foster mother and friends. It is so sad and makes me feel helpless. None of the things that had made her happy the last few days seemed to make her happy this evening.

When she calmed down we walked across the street to McDonalds and got her a Happy Meal. She ate part of it but again was very sad. We walked around our hotel a bit to see if she wanted to play outside or even swim, but nothing seems to make her happy or catch her attention.

Once back in the room she seemed like she might cry again, but she pointed to her bed and let me know she was ready for bed. I was getting her pajamas when she again peed in the floor. I had just taken her to the potty but she said she didn't need to go. I really think this is part of her grieving- it's almost like she is regressing as she realizes that more change is coming? She got back in the bathtub after that and seemed happy as she could be- singing snd playing. After a while I heard her hollering and peeped my head in- she pointed in the bathtub to some poop! Again something she has never done! Three accidents in the course of about 4 hours. I just pray this doesn't continue tomorrow at the airport!

Thankfully she was happy at bedtime and we went through our normal routine, and she allowed us to read to her and we were silly and giggled and had fun :)

She fell asleep fairly fast which is a blessing as we still have some packing to do and would like to go to bed early tonight.

We know so many of you have prayed for us during our time in China, but would you please continue to pray, especially tomorrow? If you count our flight times and layovers, we have around 25 hours of traveling ahead of us- a flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, a flight from Beijing to Detroit, and then a flight from Detroit to Charleston. We should be home by 10:30 Friday night....
It's going to be a long day, and then I have a feeling it may be a long night too.

Could you pray specifically for:

-safety in every part of our trip

-peace and calm for Eden and for us

- if and when Eden becomes upset we will know how to comfort her and that others will allow us to do so

- for all flights and connections to be on time

- for Eden to be able to rest on the flights

-for Eden to resume her normal bathroom habits :)

- for our kiddos back home- for them to understand that as much as we will want to hold them and hug them for the longest time, we might have to deal with Eden once we arrive home.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We know we still have a long way to go, but we also know we serve a God who has the whole world in His hands, and He has promised to never leave us.

With that, I will bid you one final goodnight from China. Not sure when the next post will be, but it should be interesting :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Favorite night part 2 :)

Eden stayed awake until we got back to our hotel. She was in good spirits and even a little playful tonight at bedtime. She also allowed me to hold her several times tonight and even reached for me a few times- my heart was delighted! Still a daddy's girl, but we are making progress, I think- a good test will be to see how things go at the airport!!

Every smile, every laugh and positive interaction gives us so much hope, and we praise God from whom all blessings flow for the subtle, yet beautiful changes we are seeing in our sweet girl. Adoption is truly one of the most challenging, yet rewarding blessings we have ever experienced!

Goodnight from China! One more full day here and then we will be coming home!

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One of my favorite nights ;)

Today was a beautiful and once again hot and humid day in Guangzhou. We were able to really take it easy today as we didn't have a scheduled tour until this evening- and it's one of my favorites :)

After breakfast a few of the other families and our family went to the giant wholesale toy store. It's pretty much exactly like the jewelry wholesale market I posted about except it consists of floor after floor of toys, jewelry, home goods, clothing, shoes, more toys, it's like a flea market on crack- I think it is at least 5 stories? It's pretty amazing and it's just a few subway stops past our hotel, so it is easy to find and convenient. Eden did very well on the subway today and at the toy market, which is pretty impressive because both of them were very busy, crowded and hot :)

We arrived back at our hotel a little after lunch. I followed the lead of another couple in our travel group and this morning at breakfast made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and saved them for lunch. Talk about a welcomed treat! It was so good and Zack and I were thankful to have a break from ramen noodles for lunch....there is only so much your belly can take and both of ours are to their limits :) Eden was not too impressed by the pb&j but hopefully it will grow on her.

We rested and stayed around our hotel until this evening. Our guide met us and gave us Eden's passport compete with her Visa! This is a huge praise as there was some talk about a delay in the Visa processing/approval. If we hadn't gotten it by tomorrow that would have meant we wouldn't have been coming home Friday....and that would have been bad news! Please pray for the remaining three families in our travel group to get their Visas tomorrow as scheduled.

After we got our Visas half of the families loaded up and went to the river cruise this evening. This is my favorite night in Guangzhou because it is such a beautiful and relaxing time floating down the river and seeing the sunset and then the beautiful lights of the city. Eden seemed to really enjoy it and be intrigued by the sights as well. We opted to not eat the traditional Chinese buffet like we did during our last trip and instead ordered Papa Johns and carried it on...yum!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fun in Guangzhou part 2 :)

Later in the afternoon we went with our group to a wholesale jewelry market. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before- floors and floors of jewelry booths- every kind of jewel and gem and stone you could imagine had to be under that roof! We didn't buy anything- just window shopped.

After the market we made a stop at Shaman Island. This is a beautiful area of Guangzhou that is usually not very crowded and has beautiful architecture. It also is a beautiful spot to take pictures and we saw many brides being photographed during our visit yesterday.  Eden seemed to really enjoy herself here, even interacting with the other children in our group and running and skipping. It was good to just see her be a kid and carefree even for just a few minutes. 

When we got back to the hotel, Eden was more than happy to take a bath while we waited on our food the guide ordered for us.....Papa Johns Pizza! I can't even tell you how excited I was to eat that pizza!! It wasn't exactly like home, but it was a wonderful treat and we had no leftovers ;)

Eden was so content during bath and bedtime- no tears, happy to look at books with us. It was a true blessing and a hallelujah moment! She was a little restless while trying to go to sleep and it took some time, but she eventually she went to sleep with no crying- unfortunately she rolled off the bed in the middle of the night and that was quite traumatic for her, but she was consoled and slept the rest of the night. Her restlessness remind me of when Emmie first came to us. She was very restless also and especially once home, it took several weeks for her to sleep through the night.

I was more concerned about Zack resting well last night, as his cough has not improved and even with the antibiotic he isn't feeling much better. Thankfully he slept well too :) 

We had to be up early this morning for our Consulate Appointment. We left the hotel at 7:30 to make sure we weren't late for our 8:30appointment. Sadly that meant no big breakfast....haha.

The Consulate is in a new location since our last trip- the building was very crowded and there was a line all the way around it. It was pretty chaotic getting to the right line, but our guide led us all the way and we ended up in the right room. I would have loved to have taken some pictures, but they don't allow pictures near the Consulate (we did take some pictures before however in our lobby :)

Once inside we were there for about an hour or a little more. Eden did great and even played with some other children in our group for a few minutes. We are so proud of her- she is being very brave :)

I believe that the consulate appointment is the last of our "official" appointments. Everything went well and we are now good to go! I wish that meant we could go home now, but we do have to wait for Eden's visa before we can leave the country, which is why we aren't leaving until Friday morning. While we are here we still plan to visit the local zoo, go on a river cruise, and maybe visit the park once more- hopefully that will keep us occupied :)

This afternoon was very hot once again. We tried the pool but Eden accidentally swallowed some water and after that she was done with the pool! Some of the families in our group went with our guide to a new park this afternoon. Though very hot, I am glad we went. It was very beautiful and it was good to get out of the hotel.  

We plan to spend the rest of our afternoon just hanging around the room and maybe trying the local noodle restaurant for dinner. Just taking it easy and spending time with Eden.

Before I go, I want to take time to thank four very, very special people- my parents and Zack's parents. They have taken amazing care of Noah, Caleb, and Emmie while we have been away. It is wonderful to not have to worry about them, along with everything else we are experiencing and feeling here:) of course we miss them like crazy, but we know they are being loved by wonderful grandparents....and for that we are so grateful. We love you Bobbi and Pap and Nanna and Papaw :) 

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Fun in Guangzhou :)

Yesterday was our best day since meeting Eden- so thankful to be able to say that!

She seemed more at ease with us yesterday, and there was only one brief moment when she seemed to be visibly grieving. I am sure she was and is still inwardly grieving, but outwardly things seems better. Praise the Lord! We know we still have a long way to go, but we are so thankful for each positive step along the way :)

We visited the park nearby our hotel yesterday during the morning hours. It was very hot and humid yesterday, and in no time we were all wet with sweat, but that didn't keep us from having a good time :) There is a small amusement park inside the park and we discovered that Eden likes to ride- the more adventurous rides seemed to be her she will fit in well with our boys who love the scary rides!!! After the amusement park Eden took a nap and Zack and rested up as well. This was the first day that she took a nap at her regularly scheduled time (according to her nanny) and I do think it helped to set us up for success for the rest of the day.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A New City & Maybe a New Start?

Today marks our second full day in Guangzhou. I do love this city. Both today and yesterday, thought still marked with grieving moments, have been better for Eden. We are so thankful and feel encouraged. As always, Thank you for your prayers. One other prayer request and setback is that Zack's sinus/allergy issues have moved into his chest and he began to feel very achey and very fatigued this afternoon, along with a deep cough. He began an antibiotic today, so please pray that it will do the trick. He has done such a wonderful job with Eden and I can't imagine going through any of this without him. As you can tell from the pictures on Facebook, Eden is so fond of Zack, and for good reason- he is a wonderful husband and father, and he has been amazing with Eden.

Yesterday we had medical appointments for Eden and all the other children. She did very well, especially amidst a crowded room full of loud and crying children and nervous parents (we all were). Each child was first seen by a nurse that takes their basic measurements, then an ENT evaluates them, and then finally a general pediatrician does a complete physical. We went with Eden to each evaluation and she did very well. She even allowed me to hold for her a little while, which thrilled my soul! She still strongly prefers Zack, but I will take whatever I can get! The most difficult part of the exam comes at the end when they draw blood- the nurse takes the children alone into a room and it doesn't last long, but it's very scary for the children and hard to not be with them during such a frightening ordeal. Eden came back crying, but she did at least come to Zack for consolation.

After the medical appointment our guide took us to Wal-Mart (yes, another trip ;) to pick up any supplies we might need while in Guangzhou for the week. We have learned that Eden loves pistachios and peanuts, so we picked up some of those, along with some fruit, which Eden also loves- she is a very healthy eater :) The Wal-Mart in Guangzhou is much nicer than the one in Guiyang- still underground but much more calm and cool.

Eden took a nap on the bus and during part of our Wal-Mart trip- it was a much needed nap as we didn't get much sleep the night before because of our late arrival, and we had to leave the hotel at 8:30am for the medical appointment.

When we got back to the hotel, we finally had a chance to let Eden explore our amazing hotel- it is the same one we stayed at during our trip with Emmie. This hotel is a huge part of what makes the stay in Guangzhou so nice!! There is an indoor and outdoor playground, a pool, Starbucks, and lots of shops to browse through with the stroller. There is also a beautiful park not far from the hotel and it's super close to the subway, so it's easy to get around the city.

We explored the hotel and we found the pool. Eden seemed pretty interested, so we went back to the room to change into our swimsuits. Back at the pool, she was a little hesitant to get in the water, but after Zack and I showed her how much fun it could be, she sat down on the side of the pool and slid right in :) Our kids all love the water, so it was exciting to see that she seemed to like it as well.

After the pool we relaxed in our room, then we went to dinner with some of the other families to a local noodle restaurant. On the way to dinner Eden fell asleep on her stroller, and we had to wake her up to eat- I think she was just exhausted from the day and didn't want to wake up- and on top of that she began to grieve again, so Zack and I took turns eating as our food had already been served. The other took Eden outside and tried to console her. We ate as fast as we could and went back to the hotel.

She had almost calmed down by the time we got back, and a nice warm bath seemed to calm her down even more. She was a little restless at bedtime but no tears and she slept well. Overall, a better day for her than the day before.

This morning we didn't have to leave until 9:30 for some sightseeing, so we were able to sleep in and take our time at the wonderful breakfast in our hotel- think Shoney's or Frisch's breakfast buffet but only on steroids and with a Chinese twist :) Let's just say it's amazing and you could easily over do it without some self control :)

This morning we went to a local museum and also a local store that sells traditional Chinese art, tea, dresses, etc. we had a tea tasting experience and the tea was amazing! It was very hot and humid in Guangzhou today, but even still the hot tea was refreshing. For lunch we took some noodles and beans to go from a local restaurant and ate them in the hotel room- very yummy!!

We played for a long time in our room this afternoon as it was rainy and stormy here. I was a little nervous about how this would go as Eden hasn't been able to tolerate being in our hotel room for long periods of time, but she did well. We went for a stroller ride outside when the rain quit, and again she fell asleep- a double edged sword as she needed the rest but waking up from nap time has been difficult for Eden. Zack and I are partly to blame as we are still trying to figure out her nap times and the timing- it has been quite a while since we have had nap times and we are a little rusty :) It was tough for her for a little while, but we headed on over to McDonalds and a Happy Meal and some weird tasting green tea ice cream seemed to do the trick :) She allowed Zack and I to feed her and laughed with us and smiled a lot. Very thankful for times like these :)

Once we got back to the hotel she became very serious and it wasn't long before the grieving began. I would say this time it lasted around an hour, but the wonderful thing was that she allowed us to hold her the entire time, and even thought it didn't stop the crying or sadness, she didn't reject us, and we are thankful for that. I think that we have accepted the fact that she may grieve everyday for some time. It of course still saddens us greatly, but I think we feel comfortable with it and are okay with the fact that we can't make it better right now...if that makes sense. We can just continue to love her and provide safety and security for her.

It is now bedtime and Eden is resting quietly. A few funny things I want to share about this sweet girl- she came to us on her Gotcha Day with a backpack with Pleasant Goat on it- a very popular kids cartoon here in China. The backpack had the things we sent Eden in her care package inside. We also brought a backpack with us that was given to us as a shower gift and was filled with lots of fun toys and snacks for Eden. We brought this with us on Gotcha Day. Eden didn't want much to do with it that day, but ever since, she won't let either backpack out of her sight! Anytime we go anywhere she has one backpack on her back and the other in her hand! They are definitely a security "blanket" of sorts for her. She also puts her most prized possessions in her backpacks and gets very upset if you try to remove them, even if it just to try and play with the items. Bottom line- don't mess with Eden's backpacks :)

We also found a new favorite fruit of Eden's today. It's called dragon fruit. We passed by some today in the tea store and she went crazy pointing and moaning! We are all about doing whatever we can to please her right now (remember we are in survival mode :) and so we bought a bag for her. The fruit itself tastes like a sweet raisin or fig. Eating them is quite an adventure. I posted a video on Facebook where Eden displays how to do it :)

Goodnight from Guangzhou! And Happy Memorial Day!!

She also loves
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