Monday, March 30, 2015

Gideon's tree

Our 16 year old son, Pierce, has been getting into photography - inspired by our oldest son, Tyler, who is a very talented shutter bug and is good enough that he is starting to get paid gigs.  Anyway, about 10:00 PM a few nights ago, Pierce grabbed the camera and tripod and headed outside.   We had just been discussing increasing our efforts to get the kids in bed earlier, so this late night photo activity seemed to be a violation of our newly determined bed time.  With a little bit of frustration in my voice and probably on my face,  I questioned Pierce about what he was doing.  He just gave me his big "can't say no to me" grin and said, "It just rained and I wanted to get some good shots."  In photography, timing is everything, so I let him proceed.  He didn't tell us what he was planning to get "good shots" of.  So of course when he came back in and posted these photos of Gideon's tree on his facebook page, I had a generous helping of dad's humble pie.

This is a tree that was given to us by some very close and thoughtful friends.  It was sitting in our yard with the sign on it when we came home from Gideon's funeral last February.  We hadn't ever seen it in bloom like this before.  

The day we came home with Simon, this is what we saw out our back window. Deanne and I just stared at it with tears streaming down our face. It was Gideon's gift to us and Simon to welcome him home.  
This is Gideon's grave marker that we had placed recently.  We also included Joel on it.  You might have read a previous post about him, but he was another heart baby that we were in the process of adopting when he passed away before we were able to bring him home.  We wanted to remember him even though his body is not buried here,  
We didn't think Gideon would mind sharing his marker with him. 

Simon and Hyrum are getting along just like old buddies. We put this toddler bed right next to ours for Simon and after the first couple of nights, he wanted Hyrum to sleep with him.  A few nights later Simon wanted in our bed with us.  We took that as a very good sign for bonding.  He is getting more and more comfortable with us in his space.

Pierce was the first one that Simon latched onto at the airport arrival.  With goofy faces like this, it's no wonder.

The older kids were bringing everyone to the airport to meet us and they found out that the squeaky pulley we have been hearing lately was the water pump. Sereen saved the day and piled most of the kids from the bus into her Honda Pilot which as a little short on seat belts - thankfully it was only about 5 minutes from the airport.  So we had just about everyone there to see us walk into the terminal.  We had some good Samaritan friends from our neighborhood go to our house and bring our regular van out those who couldn't fit in Sereen and Jared's pilot.  They arrived just as we were getting our luggage.  We could not survive this life without friends....
I told AAA to send a larger tow-truck... somehow the guy made this one work.  Just what we wanted to be doing on the way home from the airport after a 30 hour trip home from China.

This is Michael Morris, a good family friend who was left stranded with Tyler, Jessica, and Britton on the bus on the way to the airport.

Capturing some precious moments on video.  
Tyler took this picture - you can get an idea of his artistry with the camera.

It's hard not to take a good picture of this boy.....

Saturday, March 28, 2015


We've been home for a day now. Simon really likes playing with his big brothers and sisters. He has his own entourage at his beck and call. I had to seek him out a few times so he knew I was still here. Not that he cared but it's necessary for his adjustment. I laid on the floor by him while he played with the trains and he laid down on me. I was shocked!! It lasted about 15 seconds and abruptly ended. I would love to say that he wants to accept me and love me but that's not where he is at yet. He is still angry at me because I am trying to replace his nannies at the orphanage.

Simon spent the day wandering the house and discovering new things. He played trains quite a bit of the time and played outside. He is going to love the bikes. He was intrigued by the trampoline but didn't last too long. Niya was on the tramp with him and noticed that after just a couple of minutes he was breathing hard and climbed down. He is fairly good at slowing down when needed but not quite as in tune with his body as Gideon was. Simon is very active. He is always moving and talking. I know some of that is the anxiety he feels but I also think that is partly his personality. I expect he will begin to feel peaceful in the next couple of months. We were in the car going to get ice cream to celebrate Malia's 9th birthday. Simon was between Casey and Creed. If you know anything about Casey and Creed you probably know they both love to talk. Casey asked me if Simon always talked like this and then followed the question up with who was the first to talk a lot. My answer.... Creed then Casey. They both talk about the same amount. Both the boys then started calling themselves the Three Amigos. Simon does talk a lot just like them.

We were getting ready to take Malia out to dinner for her birthday so I asked everyone to clean up their toys. Simon didn't like the idea of cleaning so he walked away. I brought him back in the room and he refused to pick up the toys. That is not an option in my house, especially at that age. I held Simon's hand in mine and picked up the toys with him. He cried the whole time and when we were done I held him in the chair. He sat there crying and angry. He started saying something in Chinese and Scott translated. I had been wondering what he has been saying while he was crying. I thought he was most likely saying things like, "I want to go back" "I miss my home" and things like that. Nope, not even close. You want to know what an angry 4 year old that has just been taken from all he knows says to you? Here goes;

"I hate you! I want to go back to China!"

"I don't want you! I have two Mama's!"

These things were not said in a way that elicits sympathy. Oh no, he was mad, mad, mad!! See, I told you all he didn't like me. I just wonder what Bria was thinking. She Hated me. Not fun things to hear when you are thoroughly exhausted, sleep deprived, and running on emotional empty.

He didn't break me but it's not a pleasant thing to feel. Honestly, as mothers we put in the bulk of the effort to adopt. We get to wade through the paperwork. We do the hard part of sifting through child after child and saying no until you find the one that feels right. We put our heart and soul into loving these children while we wait, mostly, impatiently. It doesn't help matters that I have already struggled allowing myself to open my heart to Simon for fear of losing him like we did Gideon and Joel. To hear those words hurt. The part that hurt the most was watching Hyrum. Hyrum adores his mother!! I saw the look in his eyes. The hurt of someone rejecting all that he held dear. He just couldn't understand how Simon could hate his mother. Hyrum never went through that. I got to explain to him why Simon struggled and in that explanation it brought me back to a place of strength and understanding. Soon Hyrum was back to hugging me tightly with excitement and saying "I"m so excited to have a new brother. I like Simon."

The first few months in adoption are the hardest. Trying to find the new norm. Helping everyone adjust to their new places in the family and most importantly helping an abandoned child learn they are lovable and deserve that love. Helping understand what it's like to live in a family and how to get along with others. We have an extremely bight child on our hands which also means some real work to be done by Simon and us as parents.

Simon is incredibly smart. I really can't believe it. He is constantly surprising us with what he can do and how quickly he learns. He can already count in English  up to 5 and recognizes many of the numbers. He can count at least up to 20 in Chinese. We don't know how high he can go because we are limited in our knowledge of counting. He recognizes some of the letters of the alphabet and spontaneously points them out. This all comes from a couple of trial apps on the iPad that he has played. Tonight when we sang Happy Birthday to Malia he sang every word in English. We don't know if it's because they sang it at the orphanage or because he heard another family sing it to their son while at ice cream. Either way, he is good. He didn't even have an accent. Hopefully his ability to reason sets in quickly when it comes to bonding and obedience or I get to learn patience and charity while walking through the fire.

It's been almost a week since this post was written. Stay tuned for the miracles. They are truly great.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Last Days in China

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty busy days. Wednesday started early so we could get everything in that Hannah wanted to do. We didn't end up accomplishing as much as we would have liked. 
We spent some time on Beijing Road. It is a shopping area that also historical value. In the middle of the road are large rectangles in the ground covered with glass. You can see different layers of the road that date back as far as 900 BC. It is very interesting to see the types of road used and to recognize how old and continuous this civilization is. We didn't get any pictures at Beijing road. We were a little preoccupied at the time.

Later that evening we went on a riverboat cruise down the Pearl River. We haven't heard great things about the cruises especially the food served so we have never done it. Doug really wanted to go on our other trips but because of finances, a stingy wife and a sick child we hadn't done it yet. Our guide isn't a fan of the cruises either so he chose the best boat without food.

This was our boat. We sat on the top and were able to see everything clearly.
It was a cloudy night but there was no fog like earlier that week. It was also warm.

The bridges were lit up and some of the buildings. There were a lot of other boats on the river
that were also lit up. We definitely had the coolest boat.

The lighting wasn't great for pictures but I had to put at least one of us in the post.

This is the Canton Tower. If you remember we went there earlier in our trip but the clouds covered it so we didn't get to see the lights. Every few seconds the tower changes color. This was my favorite color scheme.

Thursday morning we traveled from Guangzhou back to Chengdu as the beginning our trip home.
Simon spent way too much time sitting in airports and on planes. He did really well though. He loved the color changing markers and paper as well as stickers.

Back in Chengdu we were a little nervous about getting to the hotel from the airport on our own. Many people speak English but you have to be in the right place. We called the hotel to request the shuttle but the people, yes a few different people, didn't understand what Doug was trying to say. Eventually he hung up hoping we got the point across good enough. We had a security guard take it on himself to make sure the hotel staff knew we were there. Right about then the shuttle pulled up. There are so many good people in this world.

The hotel we stayed at was the nicest hotel we have been to. Definitely a 5 star. The first thing Simon did was jump from bed to bed like every other child we have. It was fun to watch him play like that.

Well, we found the "Great and Spacious Building". This is the biggest building in China, located in Chengdu.

It is six stories of pure marble! There are two hotels, many high end stores, restaurants galore, many activity centers for children, and much more. We couldn't help but think of all the great things that could be done for other people with this vast waste of money.

The building is called the Global Center. With so many other things they have the larges screen in China and possibly the world. What the screen shows outside of the people standing there gawking we don't know. If you look close you can see we are in the shot. Below the screen is a wave pool. It's pretty cool. They even have sand volleyball next to it. Twice a day they say they make it smell like the ocean. I would love to know how they do that. We need some of that smell in my house.

There is also a little fair area with rides. Simon rode a ride and got bored with it before it was even half over. We need to work on attention span.

On the sixth floor is a glass bridge. I didn't thin I would have a problem but it was pretty spooky to walk across. I had to hold on to the rail and half way across look up. Hannah and Simon however, had no issue.

This is the biggest slot car track we have ever seen. We had to hurry away so Simon didn't throw another fit. When Simon saw something he wanted to buy or do that we didn't allow he got angry.
One tantrum he ended up in the corner until he could smile. We knew once he smiled the hitting, kicking and screaming would stop. We have had to do the corner a few times.

Simon loved the bath! It's clear he hadn't taken many baths by how quickly his hands and feet shriveled up. He really didn't want to get out but was compliant and happy in the end.

Consulate - final step

We had an early morning appointment at the consulate last Tuesday in Guangzhou.  That is when we take the oath to confirm that all the information in our adoption paperwork is true and accurate.  Then there is an interview and a discussion to make sure we are aware of the special needs of the child so there are no surprises.  

We had just heard the previous afternoon from some friends, the Whickers, at the safari park that the government computers were down and no appointments happened for the families who were scheduled for their consulate appointments on Monday.   We then bumped into our guide a little later and he told us the same news.  It looked grim for us to have our appointment the next morning, but he said we would go anyway and hope for the best.

So the rest of the afternoon and evening we were contemplating all the options to change our airline tickets, extend our stay, let our older children know so they could arrange their schedules to continue watching the children at home for a few more days., etc, etc.  By the time we had gone through all the scenarios, we knew it would cost us over $2,000 to change the flights and extend hotel stay so we figured we would make the most of it.  The last time there were Embassy computer problems around the globe it was almost a week to get them back online. We started to think about going to Hong Kong for the rest of the week since we have never spent any time there and we actually started to a get little excited about a few extra days to do that.  

As we were standing in line the next morning outside the consulate, we received the news that the computers were back up and they didn't expect any delays for us.  Other families in line were ecstatic and cried tears of relief.  Deanne and I looked at each other and said, "Bummer".  Then the excitement came to get home on time and not spend the extra money.  We will just have to make another trip back to China and Hong Kong for sightseeing one of these years.   

There were no bags or electronics of any kind allowed in the building, so we didn't even take anything with us... hence, no photos for the consulate appointment.  

We went back to the hotel for a short rest, then we went out to Samian Island for lunch, sightseeing and shopping.  We went with the Wickers and planned to go with some other friends we met there, the Danners, but Theresa Danner wasn't feeling very well so we had to go without them.  We have been told about a restaurant called the Cow and Bridge on the island.  The Whickers had been there 10 years before and knew about where is was, so we were headed there for lunch first.  After walking every street and ally of the island searching for the restaurant, we finally stopped to ask a shop owner where it was.  She said it was right be the Subway sandwich place, but she informed us that they changed the name.  We had walked by it within the first few minutes of getting on the island, but the name changed to "Carefree Vegetarian" so we walked right by it.  That was a far cry from "Cow and Bridge".  

We had a great lunch of rice dishes (pineapple and mango with sweetened coconut milk), curry soup, potato balls, and Thai chips.  Thai chips is code for french fries.

We had a great time shopping, but we had Hannah and Simon pose with all the statues on the island and it was absolutely hilarious to see what a ham Simon is.  He really go into it.

We bought 23 book marks and four other larger pictures done with finger painting by this artist.

It was really amazing what he could do with just hand - no brushes or other tools at all.

Simon had to have this police car.  It hand sounds and lights and he loved playing with it in the hotel room.  We were pretty glad when the sound broke the next day. :)

The progressive Chinese woman.  Hannah is the latest version.

Very interested in the math lesson with the abacus.

I think that was a little fish she was offered by this nice old gentleman.

You can't complete an adoption without putting your new adoptive child in this line up.  The Chinese government might as well require it because every family does it 

Simon - posing with perfect form.

Hannah planking.  She got the attention of some onlookers with this one.  China doesn't have much access to social media and I don't know if planking has caught on there, but maybe she just started it in Asia.

She was so compliant with our pose requests....

Simon walked right over this statue and posed all on his own.  
He got the idea of what we were doing pretty quickly.

Too cute!!

Deanne and Hannah kissed the cheeks so Simon kissed the knee.  I had to stop laughing long enough to take this one.

Again - this on his own.  No coaching needed.

Feeding the fish at the hotel.  Simon just loves Hannah.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Safari Park

I started this post  while in China but the computer was giving me issues and we were too busy to keep trying to fix it. We had a hard time with Skype as well. We think the problems came from the controls Doug's work placed on the computer. We chose to bring his work computer so he could access things and do some work from China. If we were to do it again we would bring our home computer and eliminate all the problems.

We took a day to go to the Safari Park. It's actually a zoo but the coolest zoo I have been to. I don't particularly like zoos for a few reasons but the Safari Park is a different story. 

Like any amusement park the Safari Park has mascots walking around. 
This guy was being pretty cautious with Simon but he was afraid. 
Against my shoulder was an anxious smile.

Doug and I did a little dance and finally got Simon and the picture in a good position for a picture.

The mascot wanted to get a picture with Hannah. He was doing poses so I made Hannah copy him.
She was pretty embarrassed but she's beginning to step out of her comfort zone. Wait until you see pictures from the next day.

Just a cute picture of how much Simon loves Hannah.

The animals are up close and personal. Hannah and Simon both got to feed the giraffes.
It was over before we knew it and I asked Doug to buy them more branches for the giraffes.
He did so then I found out how much they were. It was an expensive few seconds of pleasure.
But it was fun.

Hannah snapped this picture. I didn't even see this rock. They had rocks
all over painted differently. We have some pretty random pictures.

This picture is for Hyrum. He LOVES zebras. And he LOVES babies.
Did I ever tell you Hyrum puts his hand on my belly and tells me he wishes I could have a baby?
The next thing I say is that I can't have anymore babies and he precedes to ask me if we can get one.
We go through this multiple times a week.

Simon's first imitation ice cream cone. It was actually more like frozen whipped cream

Like every other child in the world he couldn't eat it fast enough to keep it from melting all over.
Of course, Baba, or Daddy as he is called in English, had to lick it clean.Simon didn't like that so next time his ice cream needed a cleaning he wiped it with his fingers and licked them the same as he is doing here. He learns quick.

We went into the aviary where many types of birds were flying free. I was a little anxious about raining bird droppings and was very careful where I stood. Doug had an unexpected visitor perch on his shoulder. Hannah ran and screamed because it scared her. She wouldn't even come near in fear the bird would fly onto her shoulder uninvited.

We watched for a few minutes and as I was ready to turn and walk away the bird flew on my shoulder. I was glad at this point that Simon was in Hannah's arms or her would have been traumatized. The bird finally made it's move for Hannah and she dashed out.

I think this could be Hannah's favorite spot. The baby orangutan. He was adorable.
We watched him do a couple of tricks and just be cute. We started walking away when I noticed a black line on Doug's back. Heeheehee, he got the raining bird droppings, not me. :)