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

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!!!

Almost to Meimei

We spent a nice, relaxing day getting to know a little more about the section of Guizhou that we are staying in. The surrounding mountains are really something to see. Surprisingly, we are just a few minutes from the famous monkey park. We went there when my mom and I were here to adopt Xiaoyun, and will get to go again this trip. It is something I am looking forward to showing Virgil and the girls. We browsed through the little stores all around our hotel. While we were out walking, a Discovery Channel vehicle drove into the park. It will be neat to perhaps one day get to see a segment on a place we have visited. Erin enjoys walking, and is quite patient when we are shopping. She doesn't ask for anything (except audio books), and is content to just be out and about. We did find her a goat that matches the one our guide, Harry, gave her except that it is smaller. I'm not sure, but I think I was just as excited to find it for her, as she was to get it. Having a baby goat to go with her mama goat made her jump up and down with excitement.

Tomorrow is the day we have anxiously anticipated for almost a year. We sent in our Letter of intent September 11, 2014. It is hard to believe Meimei will be our daughter in less than 24 hours. I woke up through the night thinking about her foster family, and the fact that this was their last full day with her. I pray for them (and Meimei) that they will have peace about the adoption. I'm sure it will be difficult. We leave the hotel at 1:30, and meet Meimei at 2:30. If the Lord wakes you up through the night, we'd sure appreciate those prayers!!! We cannot wait to hold her in our arms, but we also know that, though we have been waiting and excited for a long time, she has only known for a few weeks that she will become a part of our family. We look forward to posting pictures tomorrow of our beautiful, newest daughter!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Counting Down

We made it safely to Guizhou, Guiyang. Not even a small delay for the flight.

We enjoyed our time in Haikou, and met many kind people there. Our guide, Harry, brought his two daughters with him this morning when he took us to the airport. When he got ready to leave home that morning, they had asked to come meet Erin. He gave Erin an IPod that he had loaded with songs she liked.

After we got settled in the room, we went for a walk. We decided to be brave, and go to a local restaurant. After about 20 minutes of trying to order, we finally ended up with green beans, plain noodles, and plain rice. They brought out some chicken that looked almost raw, and we politely declined. I am not a brave eater, and I think that unless the guide is with us, I'll stick with my peanut butter and jelly. Thankfully Virgil and the girls really like ramen noodles.

We will meet our Meimei at 2:30 Monday afternoon. Counting down the hours!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Our Last Night in the Room with a Million Dollar View

This morning at breakfast we solved a mystery.  Wednesday morning when we met our guide he told us he had good news - the hotel was giving us a much larger room (free), because they felt our room was too small with the girls. The room they gave us was a lot bigger than the one we had, but what was most impressive was the view. Out our window was an incredible view of the South China Sea. The room we had before didn't even give us a hint that you could even see the sea from our hotel, and until we looked out our new window we had no idea we were so close to the ocean. It  was nice to have the extra space, but it did leave us wondering why? At breakfast today the general manager and assistant manager came to the restaurant and introduced themselves. They said they changed the room because they saw what we were doing for Erin and wanted to say thank you to us. The assistant manager was a younger woman, and she gave me three hugs in those few minutes. It was obvious that they were touched, and it touched us as well. Many times we notice the stares, but there are also many who are kind, and it seems this has been more the case here in Hainan for us. The general manager told us to let him know if there is anything we need, and asked to take a photo with us. We showed him our Easter family photo, and he took a picture of it as well. This afternoon we answered a knock at our door to find that they had sent up a fruit basket for us with an orchid on top. It was a nice way to end our time here.

We took the girls swimming again today, and once again had the pool to ourselves. The rain finally chased us inside, and the rest of the afternoon was spent packing. We leave out at 8:00 in the morning heading to Meimei in Guizhou. Sunday we will get settled in, and count down until Monday afternoon when we meet our little girl.

Continued thanks for the prayers!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Little About Erin

I thought I'd tell you a little about Erin. We've been together almost a week now, and her personality is emerging. It is obvious that music is a vital part of who she is. She is constantly singing or humming. We had uploaded the Frozen CD onto the iPod, and she is already singing "Do you want to build a snowman?" She spends hours listening to music and books on tape. She spells English words all the time, and is a sponge for learning new things. She is bit of a picky eater, and isn't a fan of trying new things. She does like noodles, yogurt, eggs, and rice. So far I haven't had much success getting her to eat too many vegetables, or even fruit. Pizza, chicken, fries and hamburgers are also on her good list.

Erin is fixated on being young. She says she is 11, instead of 12, and was very offended when we said she was 12. She wants to know if people are big or little (age wise), and says she only likes little. She wants to be a little girl forever. One of our other girls is also focused on age. I can't help but wonder if it is because there is a clock that ticks for all those kids in orphanages. Here in China, once that clock turns to their14th birthday their opportunity is lost.

She is also very vocal about sharing her Bible knowledge with anyone who will listen. Our guide and driver have been forced to listen to Bible stories because we've been in traffic jams, and driving around for paperwork. They now know the name of Moses' mother, and what happened to Joseph 😀. How incredible is it that an orphan in China, not only knows about God, but is eager to share that news with others!!!

We went to the pool today and she loved the water!! She can't swim yet, but the hotel has a small pool and she played in that until the rain came in. We plan on taking her and Elli again tomorrow. It is good for her to be out and about.

Continued thanks for prayers!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day 543

OK, just kidding. It just seems like we've been gone that long. Actually, it has only been a week, but it certainly seems longer. Didn't do much of anything yesterday. I think everything was catching up with us and we needed a day of rest. We (and yes, I mean we - Virgil and Elli also got in on the fun) did laundry, which was about an hour and half ordeal. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care (or maybe over the bathtub with clothesline brought from home). I am such a spoiled girl. Many in the world don't even have easy access to water, and I complain about washing clothes by hand. (BTW - laundry service is EXPENSIVE; a T-shirt costs over $5 to wash!!! Hence boiling water and scrubbing by hand) That washing must have worn me out, because that was about as productive as the day got.

Today was a better day for us all. After another great breakfast (Elli had stir fry and dumplings and Erin ate the same thing she has asked for every morning - NOODLES!! She will also eat eggs and dumplings, but prefers noodles. Yesterday she had THREE bowls of noodles, three drinkable yogurts, and some milk before we cut her off. She (like the rest of our gang) can put the food away. I'm thinking Virgil may have to plow up the back yard and put in a big garden just to feed them all.
We went to the notary today to make everything legal. Because of the holiday beginning tomorrow, they were just going to mail our paperwork to the next province (which is a little scary, because we're not leaving the country without those documents), but the lawyer called back this afternoon and said we could come late today and get them. They are now safely tucked away with the other million pieces of paper in our binder.

The orphanage director, who was also present when we picked up Erin's paperwork, invited us to come back by the orphanage to get a journal of Erin's time there from 2010-2011. The journal includes several photos and updates on her daily life. We love getting those kind of treasures!!

We also did a bit of sightseeing today. We visited two parks, both of which overlooked the South China Sea. Both parks were beautiful settings, and we all had a good time getting out and walking some. We also went to Holiday Beach, which is a popular area here. Erin and Elli dipped their toes in the South China Sea, which feeds into the Pacific. Hainan is a tourist destination, with a climate similar to Hawaii. Coconut trees line every street. I had my first taste of juice from a coconut that had just been opened up. After we finished drinking the juice (which wasn't very popular with the girls) they cut the meat of the coconut and we sampled that as well. A neat thing to do with the girls even if it wasn't pleasing to their taste buds.

Since everyone has already fallen asleep, I'll call it a night as well.

Blessings, Cindy

Monday, August 31, 2015

Erin Quinglian is ours!!!

Months of paperwork and praying came down to a few strokes of a pen. Erin Qinglian is ours!! Papers were signed today- we skipped the Harmonious Period (the 24 hour period that you normally have before you sign- not that we needed time to decide anyway) because there is a holiday this week which shuts down business, so they are pushing it through to be done before we leave on Saturday.
Erin is absolutely beautiful!! She knows much more English than we anticipated (thanks to great volunteers- like Jessie from Illinois and Anna from Spain), and she is spelling many of the words!!! She LOVES music and has been singing Oh My Darlin' all day. She has also been singing "I've got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart" .  We've got joy too- knowing we now have another daughter, and that she now has a family. Since I am pretty clueless about raising a blind child, I am still trying to figure out what she needs help with, and also how best to help her. It's been trickier since we are in a strange place for us all.
We went to the Civil Affairs Office, then to get photos needed for
paperwork, and then on to the orphanage. We met her teacher from when she lived there (it's been more than 4 years since she left there to go to Bethel in Beijing), and also her music teacher. Erin sat down and played a couple of songs on the piano for us.

Before I go further- We got to meet some of the children in the orphanage. They were all so precious. One little guy in a wheelchair - probably 4-5 years old- reached out and grabbed me, pulled my face right over to his and didn't let go. I can NEVER explain how hard it is to see these children and know that for most, they will sit there year after year, waiting for the one thing they will probably never have - family. It breaks my heart, and I want to encourage each person reading this to pray and consider whether or not God is calling you to adopt or care for the orphan in some way. There are millions of children who need someone to love them.

We ended a long day with another trip to the Civil Affairs Office and the supermarket. Since our flight was delayed and it was after 1 this morning before we got to the room, we are pretty exhausted. The girls have both already gone to sleep and I am soon to head that way myself.
To all those who have been following our journey and praying for us- THANK YOU!! It is exciting to see how God is working.

Friday, August 28, 2015

We Made It!

We arrived in Beijing about 3,  and got to the hotel around 4:00. We'd been going for 24 hours, and were ready to take a little nap. The Lord graciously allowed us to have an empty seat beside us on the flight, which gave us (in truth, it was me, not us) a little more room to get comfortable (as much is possible for 13 hours). Thanks to a tailwind, the flight was an hour shorter than anticipated. We met with Shirley (our agency representative who was with us the last time we were here as well) this morning and took Elli to see the Great Wall. She was as impressed as she thought she would be. We've determined that none of us will try out for a stair climbing class any time soon ;-). It's a wonder I made it to the first section. Pretty sure I had forgotten (since our last time at the Great Wall) that I had those muscles.

After eating at a Chinese buffet, we headed on to the Summer Palace. (We had Elli pick the two sites she had wanted to see, and those were at the top of her list.) As with the other times we have visited, the workmanship there amazed me. The longest covered corridor is there housing over 14,000 paintings. It is a beautiful place to see.

Thank you for continued prayers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We're on Our Way to China!!!

We've checked in our luggage and are waiting to board. All the months of waiting, planning, praying, preparing, and waiting some more are over. It seems surreal right this moment. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that soon they will be in our arms. Soon, two more daughters will call me mama.
Leaving the girls was hard. Ximi just sobbed. They were all pretty upset that we were saying goodbye. 24 days is a long time to be away, but even as I type this I can't help but think of the birth moms, who so many years ago, said goodbye forever to their daughters. All our daughters have health needs, so I believe their moms did what they thought was best for them. They left them somewhere that they'd be found, and hopefully cared for. I wish I could tell their moms that they are loved beyond anything I can explain. They are cherished daughters and we are blessed to call them ours.
Please pray for Erin and Meimei. Leaving all they know will be hard for them. Pray also for our girls waiting at home for us to return.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Roller Coaster of Adoption

I love roller coasters. Prior to neck surgery, it was my favorite part of a trip to an amusement park.

Oftentimes, I feel the journey of adoption is like a roller coaster......

I feel I am in the standing-in-line phase of the ride. As you probably know, the best coasters have the longest line and seem to take FOREVER for your turn. But finally, you are close to the front of the line, and a funny thing begins to happen. In the pit of your stomach it starts to tighten up. You want to ride, but there is some fear of the unknown (and sometimes the known!). Each step tenses you up a little more until finally it is time to take your seat and get strapped in. In no way does the tenseness lessen once the coaster begins to move. As a matter of fact, as the ride inches up that first hill, your heart is pounding, your hands are gripping tightly to the bar, and you can barely breath. It seems as though you hang forever on that first hill before you start down the other side. At this point you're thinking you must be crazy for voluntarily getting on this dangerous thing.

But then.......

You start down that first hill and the screams of terror become screams of excitement. Laughter erupts. You let go of the bar and put your hands in the air. It is a thrill!!

I willingly get back on that coaster and will ride it over and over, and go through those same emotions again and again ( though not to the same degree as the first time, because I know all those twists and turns now).

This particular 'ride' has taken us a year- short by adoption standards, but oh, the line has seemed so long. We are finally at the front of the line and getting ready to board our seats. The knot in my stomach is there. The unknown ride is about to begin. Yes, many things I know quite well to expect. To be honest, they make me tense up even more. I do not look forward to taking two girls from the only family they have really known. It will be hard for them and their foster families. Grieving is hard, but at the same time, I know that it is a good sign because they have felt love (and we are eternally grateful for those who have loved them these past few years!).  Adjustments are hard, and since Erin is blind, I know it will add another layer to that. Each daughter we have brought home has had their own difficult adjustments to make-to a new life and to a forever family. They have done so beautifully, and I know Erin and Meimei will as well. As we climb up that first hill, and before we start down the other side, we will have some tense moments, both while in China and once home. We will all have to discover a new normal. Oftentimes that is not an easy thing to do. Expectations need to be readjusted. Many prayers need to be prayed- day in and day out. My biggest job will be to let go of the bar on the ride I'm holding tightly to. I know that my grip is not what keeps me from falling out of my seat. Actually, it is an easier ride when I take my hands off the bar and relax. That's what I need to do now as well- stop gripping tightly to something I'm not in control of and let God work His mighty works. The journey will be smoother and more joyous.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Travel Approval!! Tickets to China!!!

There is something special about those two little letters- TA. If you have adopted, are in the process, or have someone close to you who has, you understand just what seeing those letters together will do to you heart. So many emotions flooding into the same space in your heart- excitement that soon you will hold them in your arms, relief that the paperwork and waiting, waiting, waiting are almost over, stress over all the things you still have to do to get ready (even though I've had a year to prepare!!!), concern for the little ones you have to be away from for three weeks,

but most of all..


Grateful that God has allowed me this incredible privilege to have two more children who call me Mama.
Grateful for being allowed to see God at work in so many amazing ways this past year.
Grateful He shouted loud and clear to begin the process to bring home more children.
Grateful He guided us gently to those who will soon be called by our name.
Grateful that He has surrounded us with  those who have prayed, loved and encouraged us throughout the journey, and that we know will continue to do so.
Grateful that we will soon be able to share with our two precious girls just how much God loves them.

We will head to China August 26. We would love your prayers as we go!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Nini and Ximi- First Day of School

 I wasn’t anticipating the tears that came with the first day of school.
Nini and Ximi started first grade today. They have been homeschooling since they came home from China, so today was a big deal. They attended first grade camp a few days the past week, and were so excited that they talked about school continuously. When it was time for them to get on the bus, it wasn’t Nini or Ximi who had the tears. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure they even really said goodbye to us. Their focus was on their seat on the bus. The tears were from a 50 year old woman who knows that time moves swiftly. I thought I’d be a bit more excited than I was, but instead it signaled another tick on the clock of life that moves more quickly the older I get. Having a 30 year old son, I know how fast they grow up. I know I will turn around and we will be planning graduation. More than once I’ve told our kids who now have little ones of their own to savor the moments. Yes, even the fussy, cranky times when they are driving us crazy. It is but a breath that we hold them in our arms (and yes, I know that when we are in the middle of a full blown meltdown it feels more like an eternity!!).

So, in our ever changing ‘normal’, we now have Xiaoyun, our sophomore at the local high school; Elli taking academic classes with other homeschoolers; Enya, homeschooling; Nini and Ximi, 1st grade in public school. Soon Erin and Meimei will be coming home, and our ‘normal’ will once again shift. More updates on that soon!!

BTW- When we went to open house, I’m sure it was just my imagination, but almost all the other parents looked quite a bit younger than us J

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Tragic Choice

 I sat in the courtroom today as a jury found a man guilty of murder. He was the driver of the vehicle that hit and killed my 17 year old niece, Brianna, last year, and severely injured her best friend. I listened as first one family member and then another got up and spoke about lives lost, and lives changed forever. My sister-in-law spoke about the fact that she didn't carry hatred toward the 36 year old who had made a choice- almost exactly a year ago- to drive after consuming more than 3 times the legal limit. As a matter of fact, she said she pitied him. He already had 6 DUI's prior to last year's wreck.

                                                                    S I X

This now makes seven times that he has been convicted of driving under the influence.
 Each time he drank he made a choice.
Each time he drove drunk, he made a choice.

She pitied him, because he'd been given a chance to make better choices.

 Six times prior he could have chosen to start doing the right thing. To turn over a new leaf.

And yet, he never did.

This time his choice took the life of a girl just days out of high school. A girl who never left your house without giving you a hug and telling you she loved you. A girl full of life and laughter and sunshine. His choice also left a young girl with permanent brain damage, and the effects of having both legs broken.
If you read my post last year, you also know that Brianna's older brother was returning from a memorial service for Brianna, ONE WEEK TO THE DAY, and was struck by a deer, suffered a severe brain injury and died a few days later. He was buried the day before he would have turned 21 and two days before Brianna would have turned 18. They were Tonya and David's only children.

The choices we make have ripple effects. Many times we don't like to think of that part, because we don't want to acknowledge the opportunity we have to make a difference in other's lives- both for the good or the bad. It is easier to think that our actions don't effect others- it 'takes the pressure off'.

But we KNOW firsthand how untrue that is.

As I type this the jury is deliberating what his sentence will be. Whatever the amount of time, it will not erase the pain felt by Tonya and David as they struggle to learn to breathe again. As they try to go on with a life now devoid of the hopes and dreams they had for their children. Please pray for them, and for all those affected by the choices of this man.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fundraising to bring home Erin and Ettamei

We have avoided fundraising in the past, not because we think it is wrong, but we just never expected to adopt seven children.
However, we have been given a grant through Orphan Care Alliance. They will match up to $6000. So if you give $50, then your $50 becomes $100.
We have the potential to raise $12,000 towards our adoption.
The money is a tax deductible gift, donated through an organization called Lifesong.  OCA then matches the amount and Lifesong sends us a check to help cover adoption cost. Any money that goes into our account beyond that $6000 still is tax deductible, and will come to us, it just isn't doubled. We appreciate your support and prayers! 

To Give: Checks should be payable to “Lifesong for Orphans". In the memo, write (Willoughby / #5285)-  to assure it goes to the correct account.
Please mail to: Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. 
To pay online: DONATE
Note PayPal charges an administrative fee (2.9% + $.30 USD per transaction). Your donation will be decreased by the amount of this fee.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Introducing Erin and Ettamei- our two daughters who are waiting

Now that we have that coveted piece of paper- LOA!!!!!!!- I'd like to formally introduce  you to our two new daughters waiting in China.

Erin Qinglian is 12 years old and currently lives in Beijing in a wonderful foster program called Bethel. If you go to their website she is called Katie.  Bethel cares for orphans who are blind or have a vision impairment. Erin has been blind since birth. She attends the Beijing School for the Blind. She has run the Beijing mini marathon, and plays a percussion instrument at her school. She was told last week that she has a family coming for her. She lives in an apartment with three other girls who are also part of Bethel, and we've heard that two of the other girls also have families coming for them.

Our other daughter waiting is Ettamei Zijui.
She will be the baby of our family.
She is 6 years old and is part of
another wonderful foster care
program called Love Without
Boundaries. She lives with a
 foster granny and grandpa who
obviously dote on her. She
likes the color pink and her
foster granny bought her
some flashy pink shoes. The
foster grandpa walks her to
school each day. She has mild
 CP that doesn't seem to slow
her down any. Her file makes it
seem as if she is quite the
social butterfly. As far as we
 know Meimei has not yet
 been told she is being adopted.
Our paperwork was sent this week for our I-800, so our next big thing we are waiting on is our travel approval. Once we have that, we'll be in the final stages of waiting to travel. It will probably be 8-10 more weeks before we head to China. We were given a gift that will allow Elli to travel with us. She is so excited to see places in China she never saw while living there, but she is even more excited to meet her newest sisters. We think it will be comforting, especially for Erin (since they are almost the same age) to have someone a bit younger there with us.
Soon there will be two less orphans in the world!!!! Hallelujah!!!