November News

My goodness, time is flying by these days.  Happy Thanksgiving!  And this year, we have much to be thankful for!

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(The AWANA gang dressed up for Harvest Night.  Our new AWANA leaders are fairly exhausting me with all the theme nights, but the kids are having a ball!)

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Since Verity’s arrival, we have been getting back into our groove with life and school, but there is precious little down time. I always forget how time consuming nursing a new baby is, but I do remember that these early months fly by too quickly.  All too soon, she’ll be wriggling to get off my lap and explore, so I am soaking in every minute of her while I can.

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(First smiles!)

The end of October saw us dressing up an awful lot for people who don’t celebrate Halloween.  First, the kids had their annual “Favorite Bible Hero” night at AWANA.

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(From left to right:Bea as Balaam’s donkey, Niko as David, Lewis as an Armor of God knight, Pippa as Esther, Coraline as Ruth, Romilly as Mephibosheth, Junie as Lydia, and Delia and Annis just jumping in the picture for fun.)

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Then we found ourselves accidentally bound for the zoo on their Trick-or-Treat day, so the kids chose costumes for that, too.  I was particularly impressed with the Anna braid hat that Pippa improvised for Annis that morning!

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On Halloween night, we were visited by these two rather unlikely trick-or-treaters: Honald Clump and Dillary Trinton.  They brought us candy – so we let them in. One of these years our kids are no longer going to be surprised by the “surprise visit” from Pop-pop and Debedee on Halloween, I think!

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In early November the kids had several opportunities to volunteer with Operation Christmas Child.  First, they helped give out and collect shoeboxes at Chick-Fil-A, then they helped out at our church’s collection center.

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And that’s what we’ve been up to.

But if you’ve made it this far and are still reading, you will now be rewarded with the biggest news of our November so far: our dossier was logged into China on November 8th!

Yes.  That means that we are adopting again!  In fact, we are quite far along in the process and hope to be traveling to bring home our new son in the Spring.

I have not been deliberately keeping secrets.  This adoption, unlike our others, has felt very tentative at each step. There have been so many times that it seemed like God might be closing the door only to open it again, that we are only now letting ourselves begin to trust that this is actually happening.

Although I am not allowed to share pictures publicly yet, you can get a sneak preview of our boy here on our Family Sponsorship page at Reece’s Rainbow, and learn a bit more about our new son by reading his little bio on the same site here.  We are so excited for him to join our family!

And with that, I now owe you a birth story and an adoption story.  But for now, I need to sleep while my baby is sleeping!

 

Verity Laine: About the Name

Verity.  From the English word meaning “verity, truth”.  This was one of the virtue names adopted by the Puritans in the 17th century.

(from BehindtheName.com)

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I’ll admit that Verity’s name has left me a little stumped in the “name story” department: how do I spin a name story about a name we have just loved forever?

With each of our babies, we (mostly I, let’s face it) had compiled a list of names, most of which we had considered for previous babies.  Names would come and go from the list, rising and falling from favor based on what middle name we were trying to accommodate or how they fit with the other kids’ names.  Over the years, certain names started to feel like “our names” even though we had never used them.  But with each of our girls, something new arrived on the list to tempt us away from “our names”, and without exception, it has been that sparkly new name that has ended up stealing our hearts and being “the one”.  Until this one.

I blame getting older.  For some reason, this time nothing new was taking center stage.  At the same time, the names we had loved for years seemed to speak to me with an urgency they’d never had before.  If we don’t use them now, who knows if we’ll ever get another chance?  I’m no Spring chicken these days, after all!

So, as the months ticked by, the list stood with names we had loved since way back when we were naming Pippa and Romilly, oldies but goodies that felt almost as familiar and beloved to me as the names we have actually bestowed.

Meanwhile, in the middle name spot… It had been our intention for a long time to stick to family names above our parents’ generation.  That way we would never have to choose to honor any one of our parents before another.  We thought we had a perfect opportunity while we were adopting Lewis to honor both my mother and Trevor’s mother at the same time, but I suffered a miscarriage that summer.  Lewis was still named for my mother as planned, but Trevor’s mum, Elaine, never got her little namesake.  When we learned we were expecting again, we knew that somehow, this little one would be named for her.

Elaine is a beautiful name, but it just wasn’t playing nice with first names that ended in vowel sounds, which was most of our list.  When we considered shortening it to Laine, lots of possibilities opened back up to us. I found myself particularly drawn to word names like flowers and virtues that were transformed into idyllic little street names when paired with Laine.  (Plus, do you hear how the E-laine is still there when you say her whole name outloud? That makes me happy, too.)

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(A not-so-idyllic street sign, compliments of google.)

With two or three old favorite virtue names already on our list, I went on a brief quest for more that I hadn’t thought of (Velocity… Humidity… Manatee..!? It got a little silly.) before finally accepting that “the name” had probably been right under our noses all along.

Then, on a longish drive home from a family day at the lake, Trevor told me that he was already thinking of her as Verity, and I felt that little thrill I’d been waiting for for almost 8 months (the latest we’ve ever agreed on a name!)  It was perfect.  It was “the name”.

As with Lewis’s name, I had a friend I needed to check with first (and, for the record, it was the same friend!) She graciously assured me that name -sharing was considered an honor in her family, and I went home that night filled with that long-awaited peace of having chosen a name I absolutely adored for our baby girl.

Verity was all but named.  All but the small detail of not knowing whether she was a boy or a girl.  But we did know, really, didn’t we?

A New Little Blessing

Meet Verity Laine Young!

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She arrived at 3:52 am on Wednesday morning, October 5, weighing 7 lbs 14 oz, 21 inches long.  I’m sorry I am so late in getting the news out.  That’s because (spoiler for the birth story post!) we just got home from the hospital yesterday!

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We are all completely in love and enjoying getting to know her.  I’ll be back soon to tell you more about her name and her unusual (for us) arrival into the world!

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Catching Up: More Summer Adventures

The rest of this summer has absolutely flown by.  While I am thankful for September and God’s great mercy in switching on the outdoor AC, I do wonder how time keeps getting away from me like this!

Early August saw these two young ladies off to their first ever overnight camp experience with Hopewell Camps at Tel Hai.  I think I was far more nervous than they were.  They both took all the new experiences in their stride, even my book-loving introvert Romilly!

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This little man had to get in on the photo op action while we were saying our goodbyes:

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On the heels of their week at camp we had a long-overdue weekend visit from Megan, of whom I regretfully took not one picture while she was here.  (You know you’re family when I don’t even get the camera out anymore!) I did take pictures of this amazing ever-growing family of dolls she has made for our kids over the years.

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Lewis’s doll was a new addition this trip (a belated birthday present), and each of the old dolls is receiving a new outfit themed around the flag of their birth country.  I cannot even tell you how much joy these little dolls have given the kids (okay, and me!) over the years.  Aren’t they wonderful?  (Please pardon Niko doll’s lack of pants.  They always turn up eventually, just not in time for the photo shoot this time.)

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Thank you, Megan, for your friendship, for spoiling us, and for another wonderful-but-way-too-short visit.

We celebrated our summer and fall birthday girls in late August with a grand party at pop-pop’s house.  (And do you know, my beautiful firstborn is 12 today?!  Happy, birthday, Pippa!)

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(Loch Ness monster and galaxy cupcakes by Pippa, even though it was her birthday party.)

And then, just like that, we found ourselves starting school again!

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With a baby coming in October and a couple of other adventures on the horizon that I will share about in future posts, we thought it would be good to get an early start.  So far, things have been going remarkably smoothly, as long as we manage to stay at home enough.

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We’ve had a busy season of appointments, which has finally started to settle down, but one permanent feature of our Fall semester at least will be speech therapy for Lewis and Delia and OT for Delia at Theraplay.  It has been over two years since we have tried traditional therapies with Delia, and we finally feel like she is ready to try again.  Lewis, I believe, will take to speech therapy like duck to water, since he wants to speak so badly and is very motivated to work at it.  He just struggles with articulation in a way that I don’t feel I have the tools to help with yet.  I was thrilled to find that both speech therapists who met with them know ASL and are very happy to use that as a stepping stone for spoken language, since both Lewis and Delia currently use more sign than speech.  Watch this space!

In the meatime, we are still chugging along with Delia’s NeuroDevelopmental Program at home, and seeing some encouraging progress.  She contiues to be more willing to attempt to copy speech (when she’s in the mood!) and has even recently added “water” to her list of words she will use meaningfully.  This is one of our daily flash card exercises.  (If the video works?)

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We are coming down the home stretch to baby time (less than six weeks to my due date!). I *think* we finally have our girl name nailed down.  And that’s probably all we’re going to need, right?  Right?!  (Any boy name suggestions are welcome.  He’s really not going to have a name if he’s a he!)

As always, thanks for hanging in there with my sporadic posting.  We are still here.  We are doing well.  We are just busy in all the best possible ways!

 

Summer Adventures 2016

Compared to last summer’s record-breaking five camping trips (or was it six?!), this summer has been relatively low-key, but we did finally get our act together and do some camping this month.

We started off at the end of June visiting friends in central PA.  (Camping is so much more palatable when you have access to a house during the day!)  We visited this fish hatchery, where the kids got to help feed the fish and see them at different stages of development – from the tiniest eggs and the exhausted mama fishies who just laid them, right through to the eight-year-old rainbow trout who had made himself a permanent home there just out of sheer stubbornness.

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Back at the house, there were four-wheeler rides and biking, archery and berry-picking to keep everyone busy.  It was a wonderful week.

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We traveled on from there to spend the 4th of July weekend with some college friends in Ohio.  The kids (and their mama) had a sweet time reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones as well.

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Back at home, Lewis got to go to his first baseball game with Trevor, Niko, Bea, Junie and Coraline.  We received some free tickets from friends at church to a Trenton Thunder (minor league) game.  Everyone had a great time, except for Coraline, who, try as she might, still does not like fireworks one little bit.

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This week, we had our official Just Us camping trip.  I’m not going to lie.  It was hot.  It was the only week Trevor’s work schedule would allow us to go, and *most* of me is saying it was worth it, but it was crazy hot.  And, you know, being six months pregnant didn’t help either.

But look at these kids!  They had so much fun fishing, riding bikes, swimming, just enjoying life together… no, yeah.  It was definitely worth it. I would do it again.  I think.

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Two big kids who just learned to play rummy:

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This little lady discovered the cutest baby ever in our bumper!

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Just a couple of ten-year-olds reading together.  (No, just to clarify, Delia does not read, that we know of, but she does love some bonding time!)

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Our last night.  The whole trip might have been worth it just for this picture!

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Hope you all are having a blessed summer as well, and keeping cool.  I will never complain about our trusty little window AC unit again!

One More Bit of News

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Can you spot the new family member in the above photo?

How about in this one?

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Little Young number ten will be joining us in October sometime!  We had our “big ultrasound” today, and everything looked wonderful with baby.  We are so excited to meet him or her (you know, probably her) and so thankful that God has blessed us this way again!

Quarterly Update

Well, I guess it goes without saying that we’ve been busy!  But probably the bigger reason for my dropping off the radar for a couple months is a shift in our technology.  Back in October, Junie won an iPad (because, you know, that’s a totally appropriate prize for a six-year-old!) in an art contest.  It’s been fun for the whole family, but has also brought with it a few unexpected issues.  It has become our go-to for taking around the house photos, but for outings we still use our other camera, two of them actually!  We are still working out the legistics of getting all of our photos accessible from the same device, and it has just made blogging that little bit less convenient.  Also we don’t turn on the laptop as often as we used to, and blogging on the iPad which I am currently attempting) has proven a less-than-smooth experience in the past, so we shall see how we get on today!

Now that I’ve gotten my excuses out of the way, hello!  Welcome back.  Here’s a little of what you’ve missed:

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This little person turned 2.  Annis is full of words now, sometimes as many as four or five together, but not quite speaking in true sentences yet.  She makes us laugh constantly and is just generally delightful to have around.

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Our big girl got braces!  Pippa has totally amazed us with her commitment to good brushing and flossing and wearing her headgear.  She’s really taken the whole thing in her stride and impressed us with her maturity.  Also, she looks super cute in them, doesn’t she?

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This is Delia a few moments after getting her pajamas on completely unassisted for the first time (in April).  She was so delighted with herself, and so were we!  She continues to chug along with her neurodevelopmental therapy at home.  She doesn’t always enjoy it, but we are seeing slow steady progress  in her ability to focus on a task and her willingness to attempt speech.  Here she is looking at photos with her baby sister:

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Niko had outpatient eye surgery to correct (a little bit of) his strabismus.  This hasn’t impacted his vision, but it lets him hold his head at a more comfortable angle and still keep his wandery eye stabilized.  He was a trouper, as always. (Although it should, perhaps, be noted that this picture was taken BEFORE his surgery, and that he was not quite so smiley afterwards, especially when we were discharged before he got to finish his Lego creation!)

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In late April and into May, we had Trevor’s parents here from England.  We had a wonderful two weeks despite the weather not being at all what I had promised May in Philadelphia would be like.  Very sorry about that!

[This would be a great place for a picture of that visit, but I don’t have any I can get to from the iPad yet.  See what I mean?  I do have a picture of some very cool candy they brought us, so I’ll show you that instead.]

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Lewis continues to make us smile and bring joy to our family.  He’s definitely feeling secure enough to express some opinions and test some boundaries now, and that is completely fine with us.

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His English vocabulary is growing slowly, but his receptive language is growing in leaps and bounds.  Yesterday he gave us one of his first (to my memory) two-word phrases, asking for his beloved new Thomas the train water bottle: “Choo-choo wa’er” (picture “water” pronounced with a cockney accent, and that will get you pretty close to how he says it.  God knew he’d have a British Daddy!)

We are still three weeks away from finishing our school year (totally worth it for two school-free weeks with Gran and Grandad), but we are finished our testing and evaluations, so we’re definitely in the home stretch.

That’s all the news for now, and I do promise not to leave it quite so long this time!

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A Long Overdue Update Including, But Not Limited To, China and Lewis: Week 2

Well, that was a long break, wasn’t it?  I actually hadn’t realized how long I had abandoned this poor old blog for until people started to ask where I was.  Thank you to those who noticed my absence and reached out!  In fact, we are all fine, life is just full and busy, and if I am honest, I have very little motivation once the kids are in bed for the night to do… well, anything!

But it is all good busy!  Lewis continues to be a joy to us and everyone who meets him.  During our second week in China he continued to amaze us with his sense of humor and easy-going charm.  He still does!

The week was mostly filled with various appointments and paperwork, but we did get to one of the two beautiful parks near our hotel more days than not.  Another highlight was a trip to the Guangzhou zoo.  Lewis was fascinated by all the animals and I got my first ever glimpse of real-live pandas!

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We also had the privilege of visiting Lewis’s orphanage and meeting his caregivers.  He proudly showed us his chair and his schoolwork.  His teacher, through tears, told our guide how very smart and able he is.  The only thing he can’t do very well, she told us, is talk.  (We have found this to be very true of our boy, that as his receptive English and signing ability grow exponentially, his acquisition of spoken words lags behind.  We are currently using an online speech therapy program called Gemiini for both him and Delia, but I also feel he will respond very well to traditional speech therapy once he has a bit more English, and he is very keen to learn and so very determined.) It was obvious from the reactions of all who knew Lewis, even the office staff, that he was very well-loved, and for that we are very thankful.

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Our flight home was long, but the kids did amazingly well.  Our adjustment  at home has been seamless.  We had intended to take a semester’s break (at least) from our home school co-op, but Lewis was so happy and enthusiastic about every opportunity life placed before him that we just jumped right back into that as well as our other activities.  Lewis has not only not made our lives harder, but he has added even more laughter and fun to our days.  We are incredibly blessed to be this little boy’s family!

A reader asked how we decided which child to take to China with us, and another asked in general about taking younger children on adoption trips.  I apologize that I am just now answering these questions, weeks and weeks later!  We have always taken at least one child with us on our pick-up trips.  Pippa and Romilly went with Trevor to bring Niko home, Bea came with us to get Delia, and working our way down in age order, it was Junie’s turn, so she got to go to China.  That worked out nicely, because as we suspected, Junie was the perfect kid for the job.  She was patient and cheerful through all of the not-so-fun parts of the trip, but also a perfect little buddy for Lewis so that he didn’t have to be all alone with two potentially scary foreigners.  This is why I really feel taking a sibling along on an adoption trip is a fabulous idea.  If you have a child that is close enough in age (or developmental age) to be a fun playmate to your newly adopted child and that you know will be resilient enough to handle the travel and boring stuff, they really can be such a blessing.

I don’t think I can possibly update on all that’s gone on here since the beginning of the year, but I do want to share what’s been going on with Delia’s NeuroDevelomental therapy.  She went for her reevaluation in early February, and although she had not made the gains in speech that we were hoping for, she is definitely making progress in other areas.  Her eye contact has improved somewhat, and her ability to look at an object, book, or picture has improved dramatically.  This, in turn has improved her fine motor skills so that she can now unzip her coat, put on her PJ bottoms, and color deliberately in the center of a piece of paper without assistance.  These may seem like small gains for the amount of work we’ve put in, but they are building blocks that are crucial to her further learning.  Now that she will look at things we can begin engaging her in more meaningful flashcard and similar activities.  We really believe the whole world is beginning to open up to her.

But that scares her.  And it seems as soon as we begin to see progress, we watch her retreat from it in fear of the unknown.  She has developed two new “habits” over the past couple months.  One is frequent squinting, as if to close the world out, although her practitioner believes this may just be a new form of self-stimulation now that she is rocking so much less.  The other, which speaks volumes to me about her internal struggle with all this learning we’re trying to get her to do, is an almost obsessive answering of “no.” Anything we ask her or tell her to do is met with a shake of the head and even a verbal “no”, even when sometimes her little hand begins to sign “yes” at the same time!  We can usually break through this wall by saying and signing “yes” back to her, and for the most part, she is fairly compliant, but it just seems like every fiber of her being is saying “no” to all of this progress.

Her new program includes a couple of elements I am particularly excited about.  First, we are playing a “Simon Says” type game with her that requires her to respond to an auditory command without any nonverbal cues.  We are amazed at some of the things she is able to do: “Touch the TV”, “get the baby’s PJs – they have polka dots”, “Find me a purple lego”, “give Lewis a hug”.  We even use this “game” to trick her into saying words she is more stubborn about saying when we do her other activities.  We are also excited that her program includes crawling this time around.  Crawling, as we understood it, was the bones of the NeuroDevelopmental Approach, so we were a little disheartened that her first program didn’t include any, but also relieved we didn’t have to get her to do it!  This time she has to crawl for two sets of three minutes, which isn’t much, but she does it!  And that is exciting stuff.

The last month has brought a steady stream of birthdays, which I can only apologize for not having given their due fanfare.

Romilly turned ten on February 9th, officially commencing the Young Birthday Gauntlet.  We celebrated with a trip to IHOP for the whole gang.  Happy birthday, Ro!

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Junie was up next, turning seven on the 25th.  She was celebrated on her special day by Aunt Paige and Grandmom while Bea and I went to visit my dad in the hospital (he had a brief and mysterious case of amnesia!  But he is doing fine now), and later with cake and ice cream in the evening. Happy birthday, Junebug!

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Five days later instead of the usual four (thanks to Leap Day), we celebrated Trevor and Niko on March 1st.  Niko turned ten!  We had treats and a playdate for Niko on the day, and Trevor finally got his birthday Thai take-out dinner tonight a couple days late.  Happy birthday, boys!

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Lewis will also be included in the boy birthday season, as he will turn nine on Tuesday next week, the 8th.  Since I don’t have birthday photos of him yet, I will sign off with a picture of him from our Chinese New Year celebration with some dear friends (both old and new) who have also adopted from China.  This boy sure does enjoy life!

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China and Lewis, Week 1

**Written three weeks ago, just getting around to adding in pictures and publishing it now.  Get ready to go back in time!**

We’ve been in China for one week now, so we are just about exactly in the middle of our time here.  So far, prayers have been answered beyond our wildest dreams.  The flights have been fine, the kids (including Delia!) are having a wonderful time with their grandparents, and best of all, Lewis is a complete delight and we are so in love!

But let me start back at the beginning.

We received our verbal travel approval in the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, as you know.  What I didn’t tell you was that our travel date was the following Wednesday, the 2nd of December!  We had one day to book our flights before everything shut down for the holiday weekend, and we didn’t receive our written travel invitation (which we needed in country to complete the adoption!) until the day before we flew.  It was a crazy week, but somehow it all came together, including packing for two weeks for the seven kids going to “Not China”.

We arrived safely in Beijing on Thursday afternoon after a direct flight that was the equivalent of two of our usual transatlantic flights.  Several people asked us whether we’d be flying east or west to get to China, and the surprising answer to that is in fact almost due north!  We waved to Santa as we passed right over the North Pole 🙂

In Beijing, we met the four other families who would be our companions for most of our time in country.  It was a joy to hear each of their stories of how God led them here.  Some have been waiting and praying for their child for five years, since around the time that we began our first process for Niko!

For two days we toured Beijing, squeezing in more attractions than our average week of sightseeing would.  Day one began with the Great Wall, which I had no idea would require the level of physical fitness it did!  Junie bounded up the endless stairs like a mountain goat with Trevor, while I struggled along behind, but I got pretty high, and the views were spectacular.  It is worth mentioning that in the days both before and after our time in Beijing, the city experienced debilitating and record-breaking levels of smog, but it was beautiful and clear for our days there.  We are so thankful that God was merciful in sparing us this, but this is an ongoing and dangerous problem for the people who live there.

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After the wall we toured a Cloisonné (copper inlaid with enamel) factory, then headed to a lunch. Lunch was at a beautiful restaurant set in a jade-carving facility, which we also got to tour.  In the afternoon, we saw the 2008 Olympic Village, featuring the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.

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Saturday saw us at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Our guide Tom walked us hard!  (We have seen evidence all over the place of how fitness-conscious Chinese people across all generations are, including a huge outdoor gym in a public park in Guangzhou.  And every piece of equipment was in use!).  We then took a bicycle-drawn rickshaw ride to a family home where we were served a traditional, home-cooked meal.  So. Much. Yum!

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From there the rickshaw took us to another courtyard home where we learned about traditional calligraphy and paper-cutting arts. We stopped for a tea demonstration in the afternoon, and afterwards we were absolutely dazzled by a performance of acrobatics.

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Bright and early Sunday morning we headed back to the airport to fly to Lewis’s province, which happens to be the same one that all adoptive families end up in for the visa interview portion of their process.  Unfortunately, as soon as we took off, the whole plane began to spin for me.  Having never experienced airsickness before, I didn’t really understand what was about to happen to me until it was too late.  Despite cleaning myself up as well as I could, I spent the rest of the three hour flight rather unpleasantly damp and smelly.  Very dignified!

Feeling mostly better once we were on terra firma, we explored the beautiful tropical paradise that is Guangzhou that afternoon.  We found some dinner and called it an early night, not knowing how much sleep there would be once our new little man was with us!

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Monday afternoon at a little after 2 was the moment we had all been waiting for.  Our precious son, longed for and prayed for for 15 months, stepped off an elevator at the Adoption Center of Guangdong Province and into our lives forever.  All of my fears and anxieties melted away.  He is exactly the sweet, bright, happy little guy we had come to love from his photos and file, only better!

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That first afternoon, he came with us willingly, laughed with us, played with us, and ate pizza with us.  Back in the hotel room, we looked at books together and he inquisitively pointed to every picture wanting to have its name spoken and signed.  His speech is very rough in his native language – only his nannies can understand him – but he signs beautifully (someone must have been working with him before he came to us, and for this we are immeasurably thankful), and has a great aptitude and appetite for learning.  He makes himself understood very well using gestures, and he has a hilarious sense of humor.   As of my writing of this post, we have had three days of opening this wonderful gift from God, and so far, he seems almost too good to be true!

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**Note from the future: he still does!!!***