Thursday, June 23, 2016

Homeward Bound!

It's been a couple of days since we last posted anything, but things have gone well here overall. Jonathan continues to make progress in his bond with us, and each day he trusts us a little more than he did the day before. He's thrown a few tantrums along the way, which have been good opportunities for us to address his behavior while reinforcing our love for him, even if it means that shopping trips and bed time don't go as smoothly as we'd expected. All in all, this has been a good trip, but we are ready to be home now with all 8 of our kids in the same place.

The good news? Our flight to L.A. is scheduled to leave Guangzhou in about 4-½ hours. The bad news? We have no idea what to expect from Jonathan on the flight. He did great on the 2-hour flight here to Guangzhou last weekend, but the 13-hour trans-Pacific flight is another beast entirely, as anyone who's made that flight knows. Please pray for us and for him. It would be ideal if he'd sleep for at least a few hours. The flights home are going to be hard on him; there's no way around that. But they'll be significantly easier if he can get at least some sleep on the plane and then again at the hotel in L.A. before we get back home to Cincinnati.

Thanks for all the prayers over the past two weeks. We appreciate them, and we look forward to updating you all from the other (right) side of the world!


Monday, June 20, 2016


Now that we have had our son for a full week, we feel like we are getting to know him a little bit. Obviously, he will continue to change as he gets more comfortable with us, and we both know that there is a lot about him that we won't discover for quite a while. Even so, we are starting to get to know the real him, and he is a pretty great little guy.

He has some very strange little quirks. He LOVES paper. Tags from clothing, labels from water bottles, wrappers from snacks - pretty much any kind of paper. He will walk around collecting it and clutch it in his left hand like it is a treasure. We have decided that he can have any of the paper from our room, but he is NOT allowed to pick paper up off the street. He threw a few fits the first few days when we wouldn't let him do this, but he has accepted our compromise now. He also loves spinning things. Coins, lids, water bottles, balls. He will stand at the little table in our room and spin and spin and spin.

Several things about him have been easier than we expected. Often children from institutions are afraid to take a bath, and we were expecting this to be the case for him. He was a little timid the first two times, but now he loves his bath. When he is stressed or overstimulated, his bath calms him back down every time. He is a great eater. We haven't found anything that he won't eat, although he isn't crazy about tomatoes or peaches. He is a really great sleeper too. He sleeps 11 to 12 hours at night and takes a 2 hour nap each afternoon. He has appropriate fear of danger. He is very frightened of moving cars, and insists on holding our hands whenever he is out of the room. We took him to the park to play with bubbles, and he loved chasing them around to pop them, but he was very, very careful not to go too far away from us. Finally Greg and I moved to opposite sides of the little courtyard, and he was happy to run all around between us popping bubbles.



Other things about him have been pretty challenging. He has no language, at all. Not even one word. We know that he can hear, because he reacts appropriately to many sounds. He turns to the elevator when the bell dings, and comes running to the bathroom when he hears the water running. He often turns when we call his name, especially if the room is quiet. We have tried to teach him words and signs in English. He seems to recognize several of them now - his name, no, shoes, eat, drink, bath, Mommy, Daddy, diaper, etc - but he does not attempt to use any of them. He will communicate in his own way. He slides his water bottle toward me when he wants a drink. He brings me the bag of snack food when he wants a snack. He will bring us toys to turn on or open. Once, he took my hand and led me to the bathroom to indicate that he wanted a bath.

He has a nasty temper. His level of frustration stays pretty high, probably because of the lack of communication, and it doesn't take much to send him into a fit. We are trying to learn the difference between the melt-downs that he can't control because of sensory overload, and the tantrums just because he doesn't get his own way. We are making some progress in this area, but we still have a long way to go. He seems to get mad at Greg even more quickly, and often gives him trouble over things that he does well for me. He really is a Mommy's boy, and wants to know where I am all of the time. Often he doesn't interact directly with me, but he wants to be near me. He usually picks the hard surface closest to me to do his spinning. If I am sitting on the bed, he will spin his toys on the end table. Then, if I move to the closet, he doesn't say anything, or look directly at me, but he will gather his toys and come spin them on the dresser by the closet. He is a funny little guy. He does enjoy playing with us for short stretches of time, and he has even started initiating play with us by bringing a toy over and dropping it in our laps. He also really enjoys books, and will sit in my lap and turn the pages while I read.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

In Guangzhou Now

The last few days have been busy and challenging for us, but they have been good too. On Thursday, after spending the morning at a local park with our guide, we began packing for the move down to Guangzhou. On Friday, after grabbing an early lunch and picking up Jonathan's passport, we rode to the airport. I was very, very concerned about how he would handle all of the new experiences that day, but he surprised me by doing better than I had dared to hope. I expected him to be terrified at security, but he didn't seem to mind at all. He insisted on holding my hand the whole time, and the girl who checked us with the security wand allowed him to do that. He never even whimpered. Greg and I were both shocked. Then we found our gate and Jonathan and I sat and waited while Greg got us something to drink. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Even through this, Jonathan was very good. He had one tiny fit when I wouldn't let him climb some stairs, but as soon as I said firmly, "No, Jonathan. No fits," he stopped. 



Finally, after our plane was supposed to have taken off, they announced that we were going to start boarding. They led us all outside to a tiny, crowded bus and we piled in. Then they drove us all around the outside of the airport to a set of metal stairs that led up to the walkway which would let us board the plane. About halfway up the stairs, Jonathan finally lost it. He started screaming and thrashing and kicking. It took both of my hands to keep him from falling or kicking other passengers, so Greg ended up carrying both of our bags and Jonathan's stroller. He screamed as we walked into the plane and all the way to our seats. I think I actually pulled a muscle in my right hip or lower back trying to hold on to him. Once we got to our seats, he calmed down pretty quickly. He thought take-off was hilarious. He kept looking around and giggling. He seemed to love the flight. He played with his seatbelt, and ate some snacks and looked out the window. Because of bad weather, we had to circle the Guangzhou airport for about 20 minutes before we could land, but he didn't even seem to mind that. When we made our final descent, he looked a bit concerned, and I wonder if his ear was hurting, and then when we touched down, he lost it again. He began screaming and thrashing in his seat. I think it really scared him, but as soon as I pulled him into my lap, he stopped crying. He did great as we taxied to the gate, and left the plane, and walked to the baggage claim. And then we waited some more. And waited. And waited. He got wilder and wilder the longer we waited. Fortunately we met a nice woman from Israel who offered him some cookies, and I think that might have saved my sanity. Once the baggage finally arrived, we left the airport, met our guide, and drove to the hotel. Once we got to the room, Jonathan finally lost it for good. He was so tired and overstimulated that he couldn't hold it together any longer. He lay on the bed screaming and thrashing and writhing. I curled up next to him, and after about 15 minutes got him calm enough that he let me hold him and help him gradually change the thrashing to a gentle rocking. It only took him a few minutes to rock himself to sleep. I then collapsed into bed, and slept for over eight hours!! That is the first time I have had a whole night's sleep since we got here!

Today we had to do the medical visit. That is one of my least favorite parts of this whole process, and it was every bit as bad as I expected. Jonathan screamed and cried for most of the time we were there. Once we left, we were all exhausted. Greg and I were both afraid that Jonathan would have a difficult day because of this, but after lunch and a great nap, he woke up in the best mood we have ever seen him in. He worked his simple puzzle for the first time, and happily explored all of his toys. We walked down to Lucy's for dinner, and he seemed to love that. He was smiling and chuckling to himself on the walk back to the room, so Greg tried to get a picture of him, but as soon as Jonathan saw the camera, he made his serious duck face. 


Back in the room, he sat down and played ball with Greg for a few minutes. We have been trying to get him to play ball with us since the first day, and this is the first time he showed any interest at all in playing with it. Then he helped clean up his toys (sort of - we are still working on that), listened to his bedtime story, and went to bed. We really can't believe how much progress he has made in just a few days. He is a great little guy, and we are so thankful for him.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Last Full Day in Zhengzhou

After a much needed day off yesterday, we went to a park here in the city this morning with our guide Danielle and her almost-two-year-old son, Patrick. It was a beautiful day to be outside, even though it was almost 90 degrees when we got outside. As we'd suspected, Jonathan hasn't done much walking around outside, and that showed today. He tired out after about half an hour of walking, and the combination of being physically tired, hot, and somewhat overstimulated by the sights and sounds of the park resulted in a handful of tantrums and meltdowns in our last 15-20 minutes outside. Even after just three days with us, though, he's responding better when we tell him he can't respond like that. When he starts flailing about, we sometimes have to restrain his arms and legs, and where this just increased his frustration earlier in the week, it now helps him calm down and come back to himself.


We ate a lunch of instant noodle bowls back in our hotel room, and he LOVED the noodles, so much so that he ate more than Kristie did. Thankfully, even before lunch was ready, he had calmed down from the morning's activity. He spent some time sitting off by himself, playing with toys and spinning bottle tops, coins, and whatever else he can find to spin. We're learning that he occasionally needs some time to himself to cope following a period of intense (at least for him) activity. The good news is that he hasn't yet gotten completely lost in his own world; he wants to make sure we're still nearby, even if he's not ready for us to interact directly with him. Life with him is all about balance, and yesterday and today have been really good for us all as we try to figure out how our life together is going to work.

Given the hard times he had at nap time and bed time yesterday (not nearly as bad as on Monday, but still difficult), we were a little apprehensive heading into his nap today. We didn't know whether the morning's activity would have tired him out so much that he'd just fall asleep or have upset him so that he wouldn't want to sleep. It turns out, neither was the case. He was definitely tired from the morning, but not to the point that he collapsed into bed. He had returned to playing with some toys after lunch, and when I picked him up to change his diaper and settle him into bed, he didn't resist at all. In fact, he was sound asleep within about 15 minutes, and he slept peacefully and contentedly for over two hours.

We're just about to head out for dinner again tonight. Our bags are mostly packed for tomorrow's flight to Guangzhou, where we'll begin the last week of our stay here. We don't know how he'll handle the airport or the flight, so we'd appreciate your prayers for that. We can't thank God enough for this little guy, and we hope he'll be able to keep things together tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My thoughts

Greg posted yesterday and filled everyone in on our time here in China. I am so thankful that he did. I really wanted to update the blog, but was too tired to do anything. I have had a terrible time with jet-lag this trip, and I have barely managed to do the essential things. Last night, I finally got some sleep, and I am feeling more like myself now.

As Greg shared, Jonathan really is an incredible kid. When he isn't overstimulated, he is the sweetest, happiest little guy you can imagine. He will entertain himself for long, LONG periods of time. Greg and I are working hard to find the balance between lettting him have the space to process all the changes that have taken place in his world, but also encouraging him to interact with us. All in all, he is doing better than we had ever dared to hope.

I have spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking about the incredible power and goodness of God. When Greg and I started Jonathan's adoption, we knew that we did not have the power to do anything on our own. We did not have the money for the adoption, and we did not have the time for elaborate fund raising activities. We prayed that if God wanted us to bring this child home, He would make it happen. I mentioned in a early post that Jonathan's middle name is Zechariah, and that our banner verse for his adoption was from the book of Zechariah. "Not by might or by power, but by my spirt says the Lord." We knew that was the only way that Jonathan's adoption would be possible. Many times during the adoption process, I wondered if Jonathan was really going to come home. We hit several challenges that I didn't think we would be able to overcome. And yet her we are. I'm typing this from a hotel room in China while my new son takes his nap. God has done this, and it is almost too wonderful for us to believe. I hope that everyone who has been following our story has seen the mighty power of our God, and the deep love that He has for His children. We are humbled and honored to be used by God in this way, and are more thankful to Him for our new son than we will ever be able to express. Please join us in thanking and praising Him for His mighty work.

We could still use your prayers in many ways. Please pray that God will help us overcome the remainder of our jet-lag. Mine has been severe, and Greg's has been moderate. We both seem to be through the worst of it now, but are not back to normal yet. Pray for Jonathan. He is doing so well that it is easy to forget how difficult these last few days have been for him. Pray for us on Friday as we fly down to Guangzhou. I expect the flight to be scary for Jonathan, so please pray that God will give him peace and enable us to comfort him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Now a Family of 10!

(I started writing this on Tuesday the 14th, but it was after midnight here in China before I finished. For the sake of continuity, I wrote the whole post as though it were Tuesday.)

Let me rewind and pick up where Kristie left off in her last update. Our luggage did arrive at our hotel Sunday evening, which helped us relax a lot. It would've been better for it not to have been lost in the first place, but at least everything we packed is here, including all of Jonathan's things. Neither of us slept great Sunday night, but we both got several hours of deep sleep, setting us up well to meet our new boy.

Yesterday morning we arrived at the Civil Affairs office, expecting Jonathan would be there waiting for us. Unfortunately, his orphanage is so far away (a 4-hour drive!) that he didn't get there until we'd been waiting for well over an hour. By that point, the room was sheer chaos. There are 21 other families—including 16 families from one agency moving around in one large group—here adopting from this province this week. It's so good to see so many kids coming home to their forever families, but putting those families in one room to meet their new children at the same time sure made things interesting. A few of the kids had near total meltdowns when they were handed off to their new parents. Others ran around the room with superhuman toddler energy, while others were quite calm in spite of everything going on around them. We wanted so badly to tell the parents of the screaming children that this was a good thing, that it likely means they're already lamenting the loss of their former caregivers, that they can form meaningful attachments with people, and that even though the near-term is going to be very hard, there's great hope that they'll start forging a strong bond before too long. But all we could do was sit there and pray for them as we waited for Jonathan to arrive. As we played out our meeting with him in our minds, we pictured him either being completely indifferent to us or stubbornly refusing to have anything to do with us. Well, we were wrong. When they carried him in through the door and brought him over to us, he walked right over to me and started interacting with Kristie. He didn't cry or show any emotion when the orphanage worker handed him over to us, and that suggests to us that he didn't actually have strong connection with anyone at the orphanage. He seems to have been more dependent on his routine than anybody specific, but more on that later.


One of the advantages of being the only family from our agency here this week is that we can move around a bit more nimbly. We left the Civil Affairs office not 15 minutes after getting Jonathan, and our guide came back to our hotel room with us to fill out some paperwork in preparation for today. Boy, are we glad she did! (Again, more on that later. Spoilers!)

After she left, we fed Jonathan some lunch and got ready to put him down for his nap. That's when he had his meltdown. He was completely fine with the idea of us playing with him, feeding him, even taking him to a strange new place, but he really didn't like the thought of sleeping in this strange place. When we laid him down in his bed, he cried so hard and fought to get out of bed. He never once tried to hurt either of us, though. His thrashing and fighing were all in an attempt to get away; he never struck us. In the end, after about 15 minutes of crying tears of fear and sadness, he gave in and fell asleep. We thought he'd wake up scared all over again, but he was surprisingly calm when he awoke a couple of hours later. Our plan was to walk down to the local Walmart to pick up a handful of things, get some dinner at Pizza Hut, and get back in time for a quick bath before bed. When it came time for us to put him in the stroller, he had another, smaller meltdown. He did NOT want to be in there, poor guy. Eventually he accepted being in the stroller, but only as long as he could hold onto Kristie's hand while we walked. So we set off to find Walmart, and by the time we got there, he was comfortable sitting in the stroller even without holding her hand. I think he wanted to make sure we weren't going anywhere, and especially Kristie; we have another Mommy's boy on our hands here, to be sure! We got to Pizza Hut expecting him to love the food there—he's a great eater—but he ended up eating almost nothing. There was just a little too much noise and commotion in there, and combined with the emotional upheaval from earlier in the afternoon, it proved too much for him. He did drink some wather, though, which is good because he seems slightly dehydrated. He has the oddest drinking motion we've ever seen. Every time we offer him a drink of water, he eagerly accepts, but he just opens his mouth wide and tries to tip the cup to pour water in his mouth. He won't close his lips around the rim of the cup, no matter what we try. We've tried straw cups and sippy cups and several other things—Kristie came prepared with multiple drinking options—but he will only try to drink out of a regular, open cup. He ends up spilling almost half of his drink on himself because he won't use his lips to help contain the fluid. So strange, and we wonder how on earth they were getting him to drink at the orphanage. But, at least he's taking in some fluids now; that gives us something to work with here.



When we got back to the hotel room, it was time for his bath. Past adoption experience taught us to be prepared for the worst, but he surprised us again. He didn't fight us when we took his clothes off or when we put him in the water. He was nervous, though, and at first would only stand in the bath tub. So funny! I helpedu support him while Kristie washed him, and after a few minutes we had him sit down. He didn't resist at all, although he wouldn't let go of the handles on the sides of the tub. He has very weak core muscles and sits with his back rounded pretty badly, so I think he didn't feel quite stable sitting in the tub. He did, however, release his grip with one hand a couple of times to splash in the water with me. He laughed a lot but could only bring himself to participate a couple of times. This was so much better than either Isabelle's or Hallie's first baths that we counted this as a major victory and moved on to bed time, which we expected to be hard. It was. We tucked him in and he cried and twisted for a lot longer than he had at nap time. Finally, he tired himself out and fell asleep. He woke up distressed two more times before midnight, and only after that did he fall into a deep sleep for the rest of the night. Kristie didn't sleep much at all, so we're hoping and praying everyone will sleep more peacefully the rest of the week.

This morning we had to go back to Civil Affairs to finish some paperwork. We arrived before any of the other families, but it wasn't long before the others started trickling in. Jonathan did really well as we waited there, and the variety of toys Kristie packed for him made it possible to get him through this morning. After about an hour of waiting, though, he couldn't take anymore. So Kristie took him outside to get out of the cacophony, but of course, that was about 30 seconds before we were finally called over to sign the forms for the day. Another 5-10 minutes of waiting, and we were out the door. Jonathan calmed down considerably while we were in the van, but unfortunately, we were a long way from done. Our next stop was the notary's office. This is not a notary as you'd imagine back in the States. It's actually an office building where certain official documents are prepared and signed. Similar idea; very different implementation. Again, Jonathan did well as we sat at the desk in one of the offices, but as soon as two other families showed up to wait in the same room, he starting falling to pieces all over again, poor guy. Thankfully, this stop didn't take as long as the one at Civil Affairs, and this was our last stop for the morning. We got back to the hotel and ate a quick lunch (so glad there's a Subway just across the street from the hotel!) before having to head back out for some more paperwork in the afternoon. Poor Jonathan! When he finished lunch, he actually crawled up into his bed to try and take a nap. What a change from yesterday! He was NOT happy when we told him that he couldn't go to sleep because we had to leave again. He'd already had way more than enough by this point, and he cried when we picked him up to walk out the door.

Thankfully, the afternoon errands went by quickly enough, at least for the most part. The first stop was to have his passport photo taken, and when we got there, we were surprised to run into Michael, who was our guide in Guangzhou when we were here adopting Isabelle & Hallie! It was so good to see him again and to catch up a bit on how he's doing. We never expected to run into him here, of all places, but there you have it. Once again, Jonathan started out handling himself very well. He was very good for his passport photo, but while we were waiting to sign the last couple of documents after that, he got a little antsy. Before things got any worse, we signed the papers and were on to our last stop of the day: the police station, where we applied for his passport. Here they had to take yet another photo, this time of the three of us together. The woman there was using a webcam to get the picture, and after several minutes of fighting with the computer, had us move to another computer station to try again. After what seemed like an eternity that was probably more like 6-8 minutes—if you've ever tried to get a child, and especially a newly adopted special-needs child, to look directly at a camera for any length of time, you'll know why it felt like an eternity—they finally got a satisfactory picture and let us go. That was the end of our errands today, and he was so very happy to be back in our hotel room at the end of it all. I found Finding Nemo on TV and let that play while he wandered around the room, exploring things and unwinding from the day. He ate a great dinner, took another good bath (no standing this time), and then went right to sleep tonight. No crying, no fighting, just peaceful sleep. It might be the case that he was so worn out from the day that he didn't have anything left to cause a scene at that point, but I don't think that's what happened. It seems to us that he's already deriving comfort from being with us, and he's already learning what his routine is like here. He really seemed like he wanted to fall asleep, and to fall asleep here in the room with us.

Even though the day was long and hard, Jonathan is now officially our son! The adoption decree was handed to us at Civil Affairs this morning, and his adoption is now complete! We're officially a family of 10, and all that's left now is to finish all the paperwork necessary to allow him to leave China and enter the US. In just over a week, we'll be boarding a plane to come back home, and we can't wait for us all to be together under the same roof!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Safe in China

Well everyone, thanks for your prayers. We did make it safely to China, and we are getting settled in our beautiful hotel. We have had a few challenges along the way, but we also have a lot to be thankful for. 

A good friend from church took us to the airport on Friday afternoon, and we flew from CVG to LAX. Then we had a six hour layover in LA. I was a little concerned about how we would fill that time, but it turned out to be really nice. We found a little pizza restaurant, and had a really relaxed evening. By the time we boarded the plane, it was nearly 3 am Cincinnati time, and we were both exhausted. One of the things that I am most thankful for is that I actually slept on the plane. I never, ever sleep on planes, but I slept for about six hours this time. Some of it was deep sleep, and some of it was lighter dozing, but it still helped me to feel more relaxed and refreshed than I have ever on an international flight before. Thank you very much to the people who were praying specifically about this for me. Please pray about the return trip too! 

Our plane landed late in China, and we were only supposed to have a two hour layover to begin with, so Greg and I knew we would have to hurry to catch our plane. Unfortunately, the lines were all very long, and very slow, and that airport is HUGE. We ran a good bit of the distance, but still arrived just a few minutes after they closed the gate. The airlines did get us on another flight just a few hours later, and they even managed to get us seats that were side by side. So now we are in Zhengzhou, but our luggage didn't make it. We are not sure if it was lost because we switched flights, or if it would have gotten lost any way, but NONE of our checked bags made it to Zhengzhou with us. Please be praying about that. The workers at the airport seemed very confident that they would be able to get them to us this afternoon or evening. I really, really hope that is the case!!

We meet Jonathan tomorrow. I have many thoughts and feelings about that, and I want to share them, but I think I am too tired to get them down in a coherent form tonight. I will try to do that tomorrow if I have time to blog. A lot of that will depend on how he adjusts to us.