Count of Chicks for Children

God's Plan For Us

This is our journey - God's incredible plan for our lives. When we followed the moving of the Holy Spirit, He opened the windows of Heaven and poured out upon us blessings we never dreamed of! Indescribable joy!

" For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Birthday Xiaoyun!!

Xiaoyun is now 19. Can you believe it? She has grown into a beautiful young woman. 5 years ago we landed at the Louisville airport and sang happy birthday to her with all our family and friends who came to welcome her and Enya home. Time has flown and she has grown up so much. She is capable of running the household and keeping all her sisters in line. I never have to worry when I leave her in charge. If possible, she's a little bossier than me 😁.
I must confess that prior to adopting her a wondered how those teenage years would go. I shouldn't have worried. She is a blessing and is mature beyond her years. I'm so thankful that God blessed us with this very special girl!!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ximi's 8th Birthday/ Mother's Day

I can think of no better way to celebrate Mother's Day than to celebrate it on one of our children's birthdays. Ximi turned 8 today. In true typical Ximi fashion, she didn't care what we got her for her birthday. She is so easy going and cheerful from the moment she wakes up until she goes to bed. Easy to please should be her middle name. Ximi just recently won student of the month at her school. She wins everyone's hearts after being around her a short time.

Meimei, Nini, Ximi

We were both spoiled today. Virgil wouldn't let me step into the kitchen all day. He and the girls handled all the meals and cleanup. I was blessed to be able to worship in church today with many of my family. Virgil's mom passed away many years ago, so I know that it is an extra special thing to be able to have 4 generations together for the day. They all came over to the house for lunch and birthday cake. There is such joy in just sitting on the porch surrounded by so many people I love. It is not something I take for granted.
All the girls had made me a card, and had homemade gifts for me. They are a creative bunch of girls. Virgil bought me a necklace that Love Without Boundaries was selling to help raise funds for the cleft repairs they just completed in China. It was a special gift because not only do we have a child who had a cleft repair done before she came home (Enya), but we also have two children who were in foster care through LWB (Elli and Meimei) .
Though not all the kids were here, we did try to get a family photo. That is a tricky thing with this bunch. This was the best one of the thousand or so taken- lol!

Praising God for my family!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Elli's 6th Year Home

Our sweet Elli has celebrated yet another year home. A few months ago we mentioned that she had been with us half her life. She corrected us and told us the half way mark was Gotcha day, so from now on we can say she has been with us longer than she was without us.  Elli is such a deep thinker, but it took me by surprise that she had even thought about that. We laughed with her tonight watching the videos of our first days together. She seemed like such a baby then. She's grown up so much, and is truly a delight to all who meet her. Her gentle, quiet spirit is so nurturing to the other girls.  She's a little mama, but in a very tender way. She's by far our most introverted, but this year she has started to come out of that shell some and it is like watching a rose blossom.
When we look back at how far we've come in 6 years it's really quite unbelievable. Our world has changed, and we see things so differently than we did before we took our first trip to China. Truly we see life much clearer now than we used to. Priorities have shifted. Worldly things have lost their luster. God is teaching  us how to appreciate life more fully, and He is using the girls to help us learn that lesson. I'm so grateful that we've been given the opportunity to live the life we are living!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Post from Xioayun on her 5th Family Day- to families thinking of adopting an older child

*Xiaoyun, what would you want to say to someone considering adopting an older child?
 There are a lot of advantages to adopting an older child. For one thing, you get to skip the potty training phase and the middle of the night feedings ;-)  .  Of course, adopting a teenager means you get to the attitude phase faster- lol. I think a lot of that is a language and culture issue. You might be saying ' I love you', but they don't truly understand what you are saying. That takes time. There is so many things that are thought about differently in China, and it takes time to learn how you want them to behave. My first year home I didn't think a whole lot about other people. I was pretty selfish. That is what I saw in China and I didn't know that that was not the right way to act. For example, if I put my dog Sammi on a leash, she can only go so far and only sees those things nearby, but if I let her go one day without that leash, all of the sudden she has a whole world to explore. I didn't know what was good and what was bad, until I was adopted and my parents taught me right from wrong. During those first few months home, if one of my younger sisters pushed me, I'd push her back. I thought that was what I was supposed to do.
*What advice do you have for those first months home?
   First patience ;-) . Try to be involved with day to day things they are interested in. Build that relationship with them before they are put in school if at all possible. I felt insecure when I first came home. My parents sheltered me as much as possible and that not only made me feel safe, but also helped us form closer bonds. Try to look over the bad attitude when you can. Sometimes it's the language issue- nothing more than  a misunderstanding. Other times they are missing their old life, friends, or foster family.You need to set boundaries of course,  because they will try to see how much they can get away with.
*What do you think are good things to take to China or have when they come home?
 Try to find out what they are interested in and have those ready. I like to read, and my parents bought some Chinese books while we were in China (and on other trips to adopt since then) and also ordered some online. I like photography and they brought a camera for me when they came. An MP3 is great because I could download my favorite Chinese music and listen to something I was familiar with when I was having a hard time.  Google translate really helped with the language barrier. Ask them while still in China (using the guide to translate) what they are interested in and try to get some of those while in China. Mama brought nail polish and hair accessories and that helped us bond those first few days.
Skype or WeChat is great if not all the family is traveling. I was able to 'meet' my dad and siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents before I even got home. That helped me not be as anxious arriving home.
Xiaoyun, what was the hardest part of being adopted?
 For me, it was making friends. Communicating was difficult. The kids here seemed to have known each other all their lives. Their bonds were so tight that I felt I couldn't be a part. Learning English is especially hard when you are older. I felt like I should be learning it quickly, and it was frustrating for me when I didn't. I feel like I don't have enough time to learn all I need to learn before I graduate. The kids in my classes are younger than me. If I was still in China I would be graduating this year, but instead I am a sophomore. I feel like people might think I am not smart because I am older than the other kids. My parents encourage me by reminding me that I have only been home 5 years and that I am now fluent in two languages. They have also reassured me that they don't care how old I am when I graduate and head off to college.
One important word of 'fashion' advice for the kids- let your mom help you match your clothes, or at least don't let them take a picture of you and then show it to you 5 years later - LOL!!!!!!
Xiaoyun and Emily

Xiaoyun and Baba
Melody and her 'Aunt Queen'

Sammi and Xiaoyun


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Enya's 5th Gotcha Day

We celebrated in our usual fashion- Chinese food and watching videos. This time however, we found some videos we didn't remember ever watching before. With each passing year, I'm more aware of how quickly time passes. There is a little more young lady, and a little less  girl. I see the signs I know too well. I've walked this path before as some of my other children have swiftly passed from child to adult. One day they are wearing their princess dress up clothing, and the next we're looking at an empty bedroom.
Enya is such a blessing. Though time has brought some maturity, it has not dimmed her bubbly spirit. Her excitement for life continues to be contagious to those around her. Her generosity continues to abound. She's had two palate surgeries already this year, and never complained.
Below is a note she wrote me today. It is just one of many that she has written me. Some are with drawings, others I've found sitting beside a bouquet of dandelions and violets.
All are like Enya- utterly precious!!!!

(I am happy for you being my mom. I always wanted to have a mom like you.
Thank you. Love Enya)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

To the Child Who Will Never Be Mine

Dear precious one, I'm writing this letter to tell you I am so very sorry.
I looked at your picture and saw your beautiful face.
I read your brief bio, and also read between the lines.
I saw the sadness in your eyes.
Your face haunts me. 
Your story breaks my heart into a million pieces.

I  want you to know that even though we couldn't come for you,


I know your name. I whisper it in the night and ask the Lord to watch over you.
I know the day you were found wandering in the marketplace, and that the police came and took you to the welfare institute.
I know you were old enough to know that you were abandoned by the very ones you loved the most.
I know you talked a little about your family to your caregivers, and you cried yourself to sleep for many nights.
I know the day that was assigned as your birthday.
I know your medical needs.
I know that you needed surgery you never received, and now  many are afraid to adopt you because of that need.
I know you've watched other boys and girls meet their new families.
I know that each birthday brings you a little closer to losing all hope. The clock continues to move steadily toward your 14th birthday.

I also know you favorite food and your favorite color.
I know you help the smaller kids and comfort the ones who are hurting.
I know you help the nannies with chores, and do it cheerfully.
I know you love to sing and your favorite song tells how blessed is a child that has a mother's love.
I know you like handwriting, but struggle in math.
I know you've posed for several photographs through the years, and that with each one you hope and pray that a family will see the beautiful you on the inside and come to make your their child.

I know all these things and yet I could not bring you home.

Please forgive me for not being able to give you a family to call your own.

Friday, January 15, 2016

My 'Prayer Closet'

Since I normally only post about adoption, it may seem strange that I am talking about a prayer closet. However, I can't help thinking there are other mothers out there who have adopted and have the same issues that I've dealt with. Prior to adopting Elli, there were only three of us in this house. (Emily was 17) It was easy to find a quiet place to do a devotion. I had an entire house where I could study the Bible and pray. After Elli came home, things changed, but still it was easy to find that quiet time. Fast forward five years, and now there are nine of us living in this home. Space is at a premium. Quiet time is HARD to come by. Generally by the time all the girls are in the bed, I'm ready myself ;-)
I have wanted to carve out a dedicated spot where I could leave my Bible, notebook, etc and be alone. It had been on my mind for a while and when we got back from China in September, the need was even more apparent. If I'm not taking time to be with God, everything (and everyone) else suffers. I knew I needed that desperately but couldn't figure out a good location. In October, I told Virgil I really needed a small desk I could call my own and I needed a place I could put it where I could go in and shut the door and have a little privacy. He took me that day to look for something (I think he could see the desperation in my eyes - lol). What I ended up with was a little secretary desk that we found at an indoor flea market. It didn't take up any more space than my nightstand did. I can now shut the door and be able to concentrate on God's Word. This time with Him is vital for me. It is not a want, it is a NEED.

There is a movie out on DVD now called War Room. The woman in the movie has a prayer closet where she brings her needs before the Lord. It's a great movie, and highlights what I am talking about. Many of us, however don't have the space to use one of our closets. I'm hoping my idea will encourage another mother out there to find some nook that they can call their own and go to everyday to be renewed and recharged by God. Blessings, Cindy

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

This Bed Of Roses

Many people believe we live in a ‘bed of roses’. I must admit that I rarely post the really hard parts of our journey. I’m an eternal optimist, and usually see the ‘glass half full’.  When people ask how it’s going, my general reply is, “It’s going well”. The thing is, ‘well’ is relative. Considering how things could be going, they are going Very Well. I’ve read and heard of many children who have struggled, whether with medical issues or adjustments, and we’ve been very blessed that, for the most part, ours have been easier than others.

With that said, I do want to share a bit of our journey that isn’t usually shared.

Because, let’s face it, even a bed of roses has its thorns (and weeds if we’re not careful)

As I type, I’m sitting at the hospital waiting for Meimei to get tubes in her ears. She has been diagnosed with some hearing loss, and has very small ear canals. Hopefully the tubes will prevent ear infections and increase her hearing. She also has a speech impediment that might improve once she has the ability to hear clearly. She will see a neurologist next week to see if she has craniostenosis, and whether any surgery needs to be done to correct it.

Next week Enya has the first of two bone grafts of her palate. They’ll take a small piece of bone from her hip and graft it into the roof of her mouth. They’ll do the right side of the palate first, and six to eight weeks later, they’ll do the left side of palate. Once that heals, she will have to have another surgery on her eye for the ptosis. The eyelid has started drooping enough that it is causing some impediment of her sight. In the summer, she will also have another lip revision. Thankfully, these are all outpatient, and Enya is a tough cookie. She too has some hearing loss, but her’s is permanent.

Nini’s medical issues are not so clear cut. When you are talking about neurological issues things can get a little murky. She has many different diagnoses that come together to create the perfect storm. We’re left never quite certain what is causing what issue. For example, she has an unsteady gait. Is it caused by the Chiari 1, CP, or ventriculomegaly? (Prior to the tethered cord release we could have had that on the list as well) She is being fitted for braces that come just above the ankles. Because of those weak muscles, her feet are collapsing inward, so we’re trying to prevent growth plate damage, and help with the pain she feels in her feet and legs. She has what amounts to a traumatic brain injury. Because she never had the shunt for the hydrocephalus, her brain received permanent damage. She is at a two year old level, and the doctors aren’t certain how much she will mature. She has memory loss. She does learn, but it is much slower than other kids her age. She recently came home from school and could name a few colors. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been prouder if someone showed me their college degree. What she learns comes with much effort, and is a reason to celebrate. I mentioned before that the neurosurgeon wanted to know if she could walk or speak when he first looked at her MRI. There is that much damage. It is truly miraculous that she does as well as she does. She has behavior issues that primarily show themselves only at home. We’re learning what causes her to spiral down, and try to avoid those when possible. She is on medication to replace a chemical which aids in calming her.  The hardest part with Nini is that she is the sweetest little girl in the world, but there are emotions she isn’t capable of controlling, and learning barriers that cause her to work harder, but learn less. I haven’t found many – actually any- families who deal with these exact issues. (Though I am grateful to know another family who deals with behavior and learning issues, and we can share ideas of what works and what doesn’t.

We deal with so many different medical diagnoses in our home that my medical knowledge has expanded exponentially. It is a new ‘adventure’ every day, and we’re never quite sure what the day will hold. Currently, we’re dealing with a daughter who has some autistic-like symptoms, one with ADHD, another who probably has ADD, low vision, no vision, learning disabilities, language learners,  and of course, attachment and bonding.

These are the thorns on the roses. But thorns (which by the way are really called prickles) are there for a reason. They protect those delicate blooms. For us, it protects us from self-reliance. We learned early on in our adoption process that our strength is not enough. We do not possess the love, patience, or wisdom needed for the garden we are tending. The challenges keep us reliant on the Only One who can do all things.

What is really a danger in that bed of roses are the weeds. When I fail to keep my eyes on God, the weeds start taking over. These weeds are the things that keep me from focusing on Him. There are days my head swims (well, truthfully, this is almost every day- lol!), days I want to cry (and days I do!!), days I think I can’t do this, and many days I feel I’m failing at EVERYTHING. There is so much I don’t know about the medical side of things. Many hurts I can’t heal. There is frustration with not having the answers, especially those that will never be clear-cut. If I allow them, they will keep me from the sweet fragrance all around me. They’ll keep me from focusing on the Master Gardener who blessed me with these precious blooms. They’ll have me looking around at problems and potential problems instead of inhaling the aroma of the bouquet He has placed in my home and in my heart. Our girls are the most beautiful , fragrant roses you’ll ever meet. They are funny, kind, tenderhearted, loving, and generous.

In every area of my life, I must be careful not to focus on the negative-which is not the same as burying my head in the sand. I’m well aware of the problems. I must choose each morning to recognize the weeds for what they are and give them over to God.





Saturday, January 2, 2016

Interview with our family


We were recently asked by one of our local news stations to do an interview to highlight international adoptions. The girls really enjoyed the interview. We're praying that it encourages others to consider this incredible gift called adoption!

Friday, January 1, 2016

This Little Girl Will Age Out Soon- Could You Be Her Family?

A friend has asked me to advocate for this beautiful 13 year old. In six months she will age out. She'll turn 14 in July, and then it will be too late for her to have a family to call her own. She has a repaired cleft that may require some more revision (Enya has had these, and another upcoming. It is out-patient, and for Enya, has always been a quick recovery). She was raised by a family that had taken her in, until they passed away in 2012. Hope has said she would like to be adopted. Please consider whether Hope might be your daughter!!!!
She is listed with All God's Children International adoption agency.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to Nini- Surviving a Difficult Beginning

Today we celebrate Nini's 8th birthday. I wanted to share a little about her early years. A friend of mine texted me about a post she had found while looking at Half the Sky's facebook site. They are an organization in China that cares for orphans. I eagerly went to the posts, and what I read broke my heart, and helped explain parts of Nini's difficult life. These post are from December of 2012 (we adopted Nini in May 2013). The last post is from her foster parents perspective.

A HOLIDAY TALE FROM HALF THE SKY - The story of Nini, Part 1

Four years ago, on a wintry day, a baby girl was bundled up and abandoned on a quiet street in Harbin, a city in China's far north.  The temperature outside was 20 below.  When the police brought her to the orphanage, the baby, about 6 months old, was near frozen and barely alive.
The orphanage staff discovered that the child also had hydrocephalus -- more commonly known as water-on-the-brain.  Her head was swollen to almost twice normal size.  She received no medical treatment.  She was placed in a crib in a room with all the other babies who had special needs.  She was given food and kept clean.  That was it.  She never left her bed.  Sometimes children like this would survive.  Often they would not.  Maybe it was just as well.  What future could there be for a child nobody wanted?
Later that year, Half the Sky established a Children's Center at the Harbin Institution. Little NiNi -- for that was the name they gave her -- was assigned a Nanny. And even though everyone assumed that NiNi was retarded and unable to learn, Nanny Wang followed her Half the Sky training and treated NiNi like her very own child.
Nanny Wang wrote:  "When I first met NiNi, she stared at me with her big eyes and was afraid.  She did not want me to touch her.  When I played games with her, she would not play because she was afraid of me."

A HOLIDAY TALE FROM HALF THE SKY - The story of Nini, Part 2

Little NiNi, a child born with hydrocephalus, came to the Harbin orphanage before Half the Sky began its programs.  She was left alone in her bed for days on end.  She languished.
But happily, a few months later, Half the Sky arrived, and NiNi entered our Infant Nurture Program.
"Over time," her HTS nanny said, "I noticed that she would touch the toys with her hands.  Then after some more time, she let me hold her."

With her nanny's patient efforts, NiNi learned to sit up, then to walk a bit.  She began to smile, but there was a sadness about her.

When she was finally ready to enter our Half the Sky Preschool, her new teacher asked if there would possibly be a place for NiNi in the Family Village.  There was!  Her new mother said:  "When I first saw NiNi, she could not speak or walk steadily.  She would sit for a long time, her eyes glazed over.  My husband and I were determined to do our best to help our child get well no matter how hard it would be."

A HOLIDAY TALE FROM HALF THE SKY - The story of Nini, Part 3

Half the Sky's Family Village exists to give children who have lost the love of family a second chance at a happy childhood. Little NiNi's parents dearly wanted their new daughter to thrive.
"We played games and did our best to make NiNi feel like one of the family," her mama said. "I kissed and hugged her whenever we were together. I read stories and sang songs to her to make her smile. Gradually she began to smile at us. Her eyes began to shine. She opened her mouth to speak, from word to words, and then to sentences. Her teacher and nanny are surprised to see her progress. They say, 'Is this really NiNi? I did not recognize her!' But the best change is that NiNi is beginning to have her own thoughts and ideas and she dares to say them out. Every night when my husband comes home, she says, 'I miss you, Baba.'
"NiNi has become more and more adorable. She has made big steps in every way. As her mother, I am so proud. All I have done is worthwhile. I love her so much."
NiNi was never a throwaway child -- a child with no potential, a life not worth saving. No child is. What NiNi found was inside her all along. She just needed somebody to love her. And every child is worth loving.
In this holiday season, thank you for helping NiNi, and children like her, find her second chance.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Meimei's Mama

Mama, mama, mama

With no exaggeration, it is said over a hundred times a day.

It rolls off her tongue all day long.
Whether she needs anything or not.
Whether she is standing beside me, sitting in my lap, or in the other room playing with her sisters.
Sometimes it is yelled- when I am in a different area of the house and she is trying to find me. Sometimes it is whispered in my ear when she wraps her little arms around me.
Rarely she says it because she wants something.
I like to think it is because she finally has what she has wanted- a mama (and a baba).
She has waited 6 years for parents to call her own.
Meimei was in foster care for a large part of her young life, but her foster parents were older and she called them grandmother and grandfather.
Now she has a mama of her own and she is trying to make up for lost time.
So she calls my name all day long and it is now often followed by "I love you" -in English no less.

It is a beautiful thing for this mama to hear!!!!

(In all fairness, I must say it was baba that got her to say 'I love you' first, and I have no doubt if he was home with her all day that 'baba' would be said more often than mama)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

9 Days Home

It is hard to believe we have been home for over a week now. I haven't updated, not because the girls are having a hard time, but because my 50 year old body has a really hard time readjusting to the time difference and dealing with jetlag. On top of that, we began doctors visits this week, and Elli came down with strep throat.
The girls are doing great. It is amazing how well it has been going. A couple of small disagreements, and a meltdown ( Nini, not Meimei) is the extent of it. The girls seem to have almost adjusted to the time difference, though they both want to rest during the day still. Meimei has jumped in with both feet. She acts like she has always been part of the family. Her spunky personality fits right in with the rest of the girls. The only time we have really seen her subdued was the day after receiving 4 shots (she had never been immunized in China, so we are playing catch-up). That day she ran a fever, and was a bit clingy. Even with all the shots and blood work she never shed a tear. She is very affectionate to my mom and step-dad. I think it is because her foster granny in China is called  the maternal grandmother (sounds like wi po - long I and long O sound). The way she handles our granddaughter, Melody, you can tell she was used to being around babies and toddlers. If she sees her getting into something, she'll try to get her away from it.
Erin seems to almost always be in a good mood. It has been harder to find ways to connect, and I know that it will take longer because we have to find activities that she can do. So much of the things we do involve sight, and until you deal with this issue you never think twice about it. On top of that is the language barrier. I know that with time she and the other girls will find more and more things to do together, but it isn't easy right now. She is content to listen to music and books on tape, but that doesn't really promote bonding. After she has been here longer, and we figure out those activities she enjoys doing, it will be better. Thankfully, she is very inquisitive and really wants to learn. She knows quite a bit of English already, and I know she will become fluent quickly. We have an ophthalmology appointment next week, and once we have an official diagnosis we can receive equipment and services from the school for the blind in Louisville.
Today we attended church. It has been a month since we have been. It was good to be back, and see so many who have prayed and encouraged us. The photos above were taken after church. This was our first outing with all the girls. Xiaoyun fixed all their hair this morning, which saved me a ton of time. It takes a bit more planning when you are getting this many people ready to go anywhere- lol! I keep relearning how to take care of a family of this size since we continue to grow. I thank God for this opportunity!!!
Continued thanks for all the prayers!!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Last Night in China

This will be my last post from China. It is hard to believe the day has finally arrived. In a few hours (5:45am) we will head downstairs and check out of our 4th hotel since we arrived 23 days ago. The packing is done, except for a few last minute things, and the girls are already in bed.

Today was spent in the room getting everything organized and packing those suitcases to the brim. We'd packed three of our checked bags already, and part of our carry-on luggage when we realized that we could not find the room key and our cash. We searched this room over. Digging through the trash, crawling around looking under beds- all the fun stuff. We had taken some of our trash out already to the cleaning crew and were afraid Meimei might have thrown it away. I chased down the cleaning cart and tried to explain to the ladies that I wanted to dig in the trash. Obviously, they were pretty sure I'd lost my mind. In my defense, it is quite difficult to use hand motions to explain how a 6 year old who can't keep her hands off ANYTHING might have thrown something important away. Finally they told me to wait a minute and they tracked down the guy who took our trash. After pawing through every inch of the trash bag, there was still no card and cash. By now they were thinking I was trying to say that the guy stole it and they want to call a manager to come to our room. I'm reassuring them that in no way did we think that he took it. About that time Meimei pops her head out the door, and I point to her to let them know we think she is the guilty subject. A minute later Virgil comes out of the room, victoriously holding up the missing articles. Evidently little miss sticky fingers saw us packing and decided to help. She had shoved both the card and cash under everything else in one of the suitcases. I'm still amazed that he found it. When I finally made the cleaning crew understand, we all had a good laugh. The moral of this story is that you must hide anything of value while Meimei is around. If you don't she just might help you 'hide' it somewhere.

Our time here has gone very well. No melt-downs, no tantrums, and the girls all stayed healthy. Each city had many people who showed us kindness. We were blessed with wonderful guides, who were very patient with the girls. The girls are bonding with each other, and we have been able to talk to our girls back home almost everyday of the trip. We are so thankful for all those at home who have loved on the girls. Emily, my mom and David have taken great care of them and it was a blessing that they came and stayed at our house so the girls could keep some semblance of normalcy. Food has been brought to the house, Xiaoyun taken to school each day, the blogs posted for us, our grass mowed, and many phone calls to check on the kids from various people. It seems like some aunts and uncles might have spoiled them while we were gone. They've been taken to dinner, to a play in Louisville, to the toy store, and probably much more we know nothing about. Most of all, we have had so many prayers prayed on our behalf. What a blessing you have all been to us!! We are so thankful for all the encouragement and support- not just while we've been in China- but also in the months leading up to it. We know our girls will be welcomed with open arms, and that there are many who are waiting to love on them. We cannot wait to introduce you all to two incredible little girls!!

BTW- We will have 36 hours of traveling (from hotel to Louisville), to include a 6 hour layover in Shanghai, three separate flights, security checks at least three times, and immigration to clear in Detroit. Please continue to pray!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Guangzhou Zoo - It's All About the Goats

This morning we headed to the Guangzhou zoo. The girls all had a great time checking out the animals. This zoo does not have near the animals that Louisville zoo has, but it was still a pleasant time. I think, of all the girls, Erin had the best time. The funny thing is, it wasn't the red panda, lions, or giraffe that interested her, it was the goats. When we told her there were goats she started jumping up and down and clapping. When she got to pet them she was thrilled. She told our guide she had a very happy day, and when he asked why, she told him it was because of the goats. I think we might have a slight addiction to goats.

We had dinner with the other two families in our group and with John, our guide. After dinner we said goodbye to both families. They will take a train to Hong Kong in the morning, and fly out from there Friday. We chose to fly from Guangzhou on Friday so that Erin didn't have to reorient herself to another hotel room for just one night. The trade off is that we will have a 6 hour layover in Shanghai before heading on to Detroit. Either way, Friday will be a long day for us all. We'd love prayers as we finish our trip to bring our girls home!

Another Day Closer to Home

Today was our consulate appointment. We held up our right hand and stated that all paperwork was true concerning the adoption. Tomorrow our guide will pick up the girls' passports and the final paperwork that we will bring home with us. Once home we will have a bit more paperwork to do- enrolling them on our insurance, KY birth certificates, etc. but for the most part that aspect of our adoption is complete. I can't say I'll miss doing the paperwork.

Waiting for our appointment today was a great time to meet other adopting families and hear their stories. We also meet many new families each morning at breakfast. Some received their first child yesterday- one couple after waiting 10 years. One family was adopting their 12th child (10 of which are adopted). We've talked to families from South Dakota, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, and more than one family from Kentucky. A family we met yesterday is from a town 30 minutes from where we live. So many like-minded people who share the same passion to help these precious children. It is certainly an encouragement to us.

After our appointment, John took us to a newer area of town, where the 7th and 8th tallest office buildings are located. For a girl from a smaller town, these cities in China are pretty astounding. Guangzhou has a population of about 14 million people.
Two more nights in China!! Can't wait to hug our kids at home!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


We stayed up later last night, and had an early wake up this morning, so at this moment everyone is taking a nap but me. I thought this would be a good time to share a little of our trip while it is still fresh in my mind.
I am so glad we brought Elli. She has been such a blessing-never once complaining about all the inconveniences that this trip has brought. She is a gentle soul, and is willing to help in whatever way is needed. She has done so well with Erin and Meimei. It is a blessing that she was able to come with us.
Erin continues to amaze us with how much she knows and her thirst to learn more. She is constantly asking questions, not just about what is going on here, but also about animals, the climate in Africa, etc. She has a thirst for knowledge. She is slowly becoming more affectionate. She tells us often she loves us, and is starting to give us hugs and kisses. You can tell this is not a normal thing for her. It is still awkward seeming, like learning to do something new, but she is trying. They are not affectionate here in China like they are at home, but she obviously wants that affirmation and closeness. We are letting her adjust to us at her own speed, but it is a good thing to see her warming up. It has been more difficult to find ways to bond because we are limited on games and such that we can use as a bridge to connect us. Once we get home, we’ll have more resources to use, plus Xiaoyun to translate.
It seems as though Meimei has been our daughter forever. She is so comfortable with us, and her personality is shining through. She is playful and quick to tease with Virgil. Busy is her middle name. Her information said she was social, and it was right on target. She told us both- in English- this morning that she loved us. Melted our hearts. She and Erin have started communicating more, and she has really attached to Elli. One of the children in our group is in a wheelchair, and when she realized the dad was trying to get the wheelchair open, she hurried over to help. She will watch what is going on and when she sees a need she will start helping in whatever way she can.
Though the girls have done well, it has been a hard trip. I will confess that there has been more than one time I’ve shed tears. There has been more than one time I’ve thought I can’t do this (from parenting more children, to physically caring for more kids). There has been more than one time that I’ve said absolutely no way I can do this again. And I know that once I am home, I will go through these same emotions again. It is a scary thing to add more children to your family, even when you are sure God has called you to this. So many ‘what ifs’ and ‘am I capable?’ that swirl through my mind. It is a daunting thought to think about teaching a child a new way of life. Will I be able to meet their needs? Will I be able to juggle the laundry, schoolwork, meals, etc for 7 girls? Will I be able to give them each the time and love they need? Will I be the godly example they each deserve?
The answer is no.
No I can’t.
I know this, and it is what frightens me at times. But I also know that God set this plan in motion. He has placed each of our children in our family- through birth and adoption. He knows I am weak, and that is where He wants me to be, for it is in my weakness that His strength can shine through. Just as the Israelites were only given enough manna each morning for that day, I, too, must trust Him for my ‘daily bread’. I know He is faithful, and I am so thankful His mercies are new every morning

Monday, September 14, 2015

Another Major Hurdle Cleared

We found out today that both girls cleared the TB test, as well as the other children in our group. So very thankful!! I would like you to pray for the families of three children who did not pass the TB blood work, that the chest X-ray they have to have next will come back clear. If not, they will not be able to go to the US until they receive treatment or get a special waiver. I can't imagine how hard that would be, knowing that you were only a few days from home and having to postpone.

We took a tour of the Chen Clan Academy, as well as a very old pagoda. This evening we went out with the other families and John (who is in some of the pictures I've included) for supper. Once again, John did the ordering, and this time he ordered a little more adventurous. It is nice to have someone order who actually knows what is in the dish ;-).

Tomorrow we go to the US Consulate for our citizenship ceremony. It is a special day for us, as all that paperwork will become a little more official. Once we land on US soil they will become US citizens. Just a few more days until that becomes a reality!! Thank you all for your prayers!

Shamain Island Tour

Yesterday we visited Shamain Island. It is our favorite place in Guangzhou. It is a beautiful place of cobbled streets lined with large Banyan trees. It used to be controlled by the British, and most of the architecture is British. It has a restaurant, Lucy's, that serves American food. Today we feasted on chicken fingers, hamburgers, fries, and onion rings (with a couple of bowls of noodles thrown in). It was quite different than our meal last night. Our guide, John, took us and the other families to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. He ordered for everyone, and one dish after another kept coming to the table. I have subsisted almost exclusively on peanut butter and jelly since getting to China, basically because I'm not a brave eater. I did end up trying, and enjoying all the food on the table. The girls loved it, and we finally had to make them stop so they didn't get sick. The other families we are with are also Christians, and it was nice to break bread together with other believers.

I wanted to mention a little about one of the families. When we were introduced, I knew that I had seen their adopted daughter before. I was pretty positive she was a little girl we had considered adopting. It broke our hearts to say no to that sweet little girl, but she was wheelchair bound, and I didn't think with my neck problems, I could handle the lifting. God orchestrated it so that not only did she end up being adopted, but He also allowed us to meet her and her wonderful family. What a mighty God!!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Meimei's First Plane Ride

We have arrived in Guangzhou. The next time I pack a suitcase it will be to come home!! Yesterday morning started with a little excitement. Our guide met us to go to the airport, and she brought our paperwork from the notary. As we were checking out of the hotel she told me to look it over and make sure everything looked fine. Unfortunately it did not. They had some dates wrong. These were papers they had been working on all week, and we're hours from flying. Our guide was able to get in touch with Meimei's orphanage, have them make corrections, fax it to Guiyang, get it fixed in the book and notarized, before we flew out. Her colleague got the correct paperwork to us as we were waiting in line at security. We thought we were in the clear right until we went through security, and they wanted a piece of identification for Erin that we didn't have. We handed them her passport, a ton of paperwork with her picture and name, but it wasn't good enough. We ended up having to go to the police area and get a temporary identification pass, just to clear security. It was a bit stressful, and we were so relieved to get on the plane, with all the correct documents in hand. Meimei did great on the plane ride except for one small issue. She did not like that seat belt. Virgil finally had to put his hand over the clip so she couldn't undo it. If looks could kill, I'm pretty sure Virgil wouldn't be here now. Little miss Meimei is used to getting her way.

We met the other families that are with our agency this morning. Both families have adopted a child before. We spent part of our day doing the medical exams and it went better than expected. No tears from either of the girls. They drew blood to check for TB, and we are praying the results come back negative. I have enjoyed every time we have went for medicals with all our adoptions. So many people adopting (so many old people - even older than us) so many beautiful children all in the same room. I've said before that I could sit there all day and listen to the stories of all the families, each on their own special journeys.

Our part of the paperwork is now complete. We have our consulate appointment on the 15th. We will do some sightseeing the next couple of days with the other families. One more day closer to home!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

We finished our time in Guizhou with a wonderful day exploring the Great Lucky Temple (which we refer to as the Monkey Park). We had a choice between walking to the top, or taking a sky tram, and not realizing quite how far it was, we chose to walk. We ended up climbing more steps than we did at the Great Wall. The girls were all troopers, and made it to the top without complaining. I wish I was able to vividly describe all the sights and sounds we encountered. From people singing traditional Chinese music, older men playing Chinese instruments, water falls, a large  lake surrounded by mountains, women performing graceful dances (video below), several pools full of turtles and koi, lush vegetation, and a 1/2 mile tunnel ,cut through one of the mountains, that we walked through to get to the lake. It was truly like something you would see on the Travel Channel.

Oh, yes, did I mention the monkeys? Once we got to the top of the mountain, they were everywhere. The girls were pretty impressed with them, right up until....

I'd had a soda, and Elli had asked me for a drink. She was holding the soda when a monkey started toward her. Elli tried to get away but the monkey reached for the bottle. Virgil yelled at her to let the bottle go, and she dropped it and ran. Scared her and Meimei half to death. But then it got funny. The monkey grabbed the bottle, went over to his perch, opened the bottle, and proceeded to drink the soda. Turned that Pepsi upside down and drained every last drop. If we had had a video it would have went viral, except for the fact people probably would have thought it was fake. We laughed and laughed- everyone except Elli. She still doesn't see the humor in it.

We were supposed to have walked down further to where even more monkeys were, but since Elli wasn't too happy, we skipped that. We climbed some more steps and came out to an overlook at the top of that mountain. There was an unbelievable view of the city below us and mountains all around us. We finished by taking the sky tram down. Virgil and Meimei were two cars in front and me and Elli (Delorece our guide was in the middle car with Erin, describing the view to her). At one point Meimei looked back and realized we were there, and I could see her trying to get Virgil's attention to tell him. She kept looking back and waving and when we stepped out of the tram she came running over to me.

This afternoon was spent packing and preparing for the flight tomorrow. We leave the hotel at 1:00, and if the flight isn't delayed, we will arrive in Guangzhou about 6. Our time here has been good. We've had so many people showing us kindness (surprisingly, when we were here 4 years ago, this was the province who was least friendly to us- thankful that wasn't the case this time). The temperature has also spoiled us. It has been in the 70's the entire week. Guangzhou will probably be hot like Haikou was, but we've enjoyed the respite from the heat this week.

This will be Meimei's first flight, so we'd appreciate prayers for her. Also, as our time gets closer for us to head home, Erin gets more and more anxious. She is nervous about meeting everyone and learning a new way of life. Please pray that God would calm her heart.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

This morning we met our guide and went to Joshua Park. It was built 400 years ago, during the Ming dynasty, for students. It sits right in the middle of modern high rises, but it immediately takes you back in time. It is a peaceful setting that seems at odds with the hustle and bustle around it.

As we were getting out of the van, we were met with music and dancing. In front of the park were mostly older people doing a beautiful dance. What I didn't realize right away was that they were using what I would think of as a type of whip to keep a gyro spinning, all the while keeping in step with the music. I could have sat and watched these graceful people all day. What a way to get your morning exercise (which is what they were doing).

Our guide asked if I'd like to try. The people were gracious, and showed me how it SHOULD work - in theory. Let's just say that I could keep the gyro spinning, but it was anything but graceful. I've threatened Virgil's life if he shows anyone that video-LOL!!

The girls did great again today. As I looked back at the pictures of today, I noticed Meimei wasn't smiling in any- the little stinker-pot! She must wipe the smile off her face (which she always seems to have) right before every picture. Erin was happy that we found a bookstore and bought more books on tape. Our guide also downloaded an app for us that has Chinese audio books and music, so that should keep her busy for a while. She loves to ask the guide questions throughout our time with her. She is very inquisitive.

Elli and I went out for a little shopping excursion this afternoon. The girls all love hair bows, so we went to a shop right down from the hotel to buy more since our girls at home saw the ones we got yesterday and wanted some too. It was nice to be able to go out for a bit with Elli. She has been such a help on the trip. She's incredibly patient, and never complains.
We have one more full day in Guizhou. Tomorrow will be our trip to the monkey park, and then packing for our next leg of our journey. We are getting closer to home!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Well, incredibly Meimei went right to sleep last night, and slept well. Still no meltdown. We went back to the civil affairs office this morning, and the ayi who brought her from the foster home, was there. Meimei asked if she could call her foster granny, which she did. She talked up a storm, none of which we understood. The guide said she was asking her foster granny if she woke up all right this morning, and said she was being very sweet on the phone. The paperwork had a misspelling, so they have to go back and make a correction, but we should have the final documents in plenty of time to leave Friday. Meimei was given two gifts- a silver necklace and a doll dressed in traditional Miao costume. I know she will treasure these as she gets older. As we were waiting for the officials this morning, I realized there is a wall with photos of some families who have adopted from Guiyang. The lady (Annie) who advocated for Xiaoyun was in one of the photos with her husband and one of her daughters. It was neat to see their picture.
After paperwork we came back to the room, had another gourmet meal- ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches- and took a nap. I couldn't believe that all the girls rested (which meant I got a nap too). This afternoon we went out walking again, and found another bigger grocery store near our hotel. The girls enjoy picking out different kinds of candies. 

Meimei continues to be very outgoing and happy. Erin is struggling a bit with sharing the limelight, but we know that is something that will take time. Once home, we will have more readjustments, as the girls figure out how they fit into the family.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Our New Daughter!

We have a new daughter!! Meimei walked in with one of the representatives from the orphanage about 2:30.  She called us Baba and Mama immediately and started showing me what was in the backpack she had brought. It was obvious that her foster granny and grandpa had been talking about our photo album we'd sent, because she was saying some of the names.

She is an absolutely adorable FIRECRACKER!! There is little doubt who was in charge at her foster home. She is quite independent. Poor Elli tried to show her many times how to play certain games on the iPod, but she'd push Elli's hand away and keep pushing buttons until she figured it out. It is unbelievable how much she knows about electronic devices. She actually taught me how to play some game where you cut fruit (no kidding- she grabbed my finger and started showing me how I was supposed to slice that fruit). She's taken a million pictures, and Virgil has already had to start hiding his phone. If we aren't careful she'll have bought a small island online before we get home - lol!

So far no tears. She's given us numerous hugs without us even asking. She's laughing and playing and acting like she's been with us for years. I realize we'll probably catch the meltdown at some point, but so far she's been very happy. She is sleeping sweetly beside Elli as I type and I'm praying we all sleep well.

It is late and we have an early day tomorrow to finish paperwork, so I'll write more later tomorrow.
To all those who are praying for us - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!