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!

Sent from my iPhone

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!