Friday, December 17, 2010

One More Thing...

To all my friends and family ~

Well, we've been home a week now and for the most part are over our jetlag and starting to get into the swing of Christmas. I realize now that in my extremely tired state of being, I closed this blog up a little too early. I don't know if anyone else will read this, but just in case, I have a couple more things I wanted to share.

First, because I know how my friends in the adoption world are (even if I don't know you personally, if you're on this journey, we're friends), we love to read blogs of other families who are traveling and share in their experience thru their blogs. After following a family for over two weeks, it's almost like you know them, even if you don't, and it's for these people that I wanted to add one more post. I want you to know that even though little Sophia chose to bond with her Daddy in China and really didn't want much to do with me there, she is doing so much better now. She willing comes to me, pulls me by the hand to her rocking chair at night to put her to bed, gives lots of kisses and smiles to me... I was prepared for it to take weeks, so I'm just thrilled that it's happening so quickly. She is so precious to us! It's very common for children to bond with one parent at a time (it's just too much to process to bond with both at once), so don't be scared if this happens to you. It just takes them time to deal with everything that's changing in their lives and to figure out that they can trust you.

Second, I have been absolutely amazed at how many people have told me in the past week that they are sorry I'm ending this blog. Really! That's makes me laugh, but it also made me rethink blogging. It's definitely too time consuming to keep up with daily, or even every other day, but since we have so many friends and family members who live so far away from us, perhaps blogging really is a good way to keep up with what's going on around here. I mean really, my kids are awesome and who am I to keep them all to myself? ;-) So, after the first of the year, I will start a new blog that will continue chronicling the journey we're on. I may not post but once a week or so, but I'm sure no one minds.

We have been so honored to learn that our story has touched others - at least one family has decided to adopt because of reading our story, others are considering a special needs adoption now (Sophia was born with a hole in her heart which, fortunately, closed on it's own and she's now just fine!), and some are even sponsoring Starfish babies after learning about the amazing foster home Sophia lived in. How awesome is that? There are over 143 million orphans in the world - maybe one of them belongs in your family? There are some amazing kids out there! If you have any questions about where to get started, please get in touch with me!

I'll post once more here in a couple of weeks letting you know how to find the new blog. Until then, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful New Year to each of you!

Karee & Family

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home Sweet Home!

Oh how wonderful to be in our own home again! All is well and Sophia is settling in just fine, but it's definitely been busy the last few days and the effects of jet lag are kicking in. My sweet friend reminded me that an unfinished blog is quite the cliffhanger though, so I thought I should add a few pictures and give an update on how our little Empress is doing.

Our trip home started out quite early Friday morning when our guide picked us up from the hotel at 6:00 am. I have to say, I do kind of miss staying at the Garden -it was an amazing hotel!

Rodney and Madeline walking by the giant Christmas tree in the lobby.
Our flight left on time and was uneventful until the last 20 or so minutes when we flew into a major windstorm going on in Beijing. I have never been so scared on a plane in my life and there was so much turbulence it felt like we were on a boat in very, very choppy water. Hats off to the pilots though, because we landed safely and Sophia never even knew anything was out of the norm - she was so well behaved for the whole flight. We found out later there was actually some wind damage done to the Beijing airport and our layover ended up being eight hours instead of five. We did eventually get off the ground though and although the 11 hour trip to Seattle seemed like it would never end, we made it and she even slept for several hours (in her Daddy's arms, of course).

At the airport in Guangzhou - I suppose a city of 13+ million people would have one that's slightly bigger than Seattle, huh?

Waiting for our flight.

See the woman on the left? She's just one of the many who took pictures of us!
It took almost an hour to get thru customs and immigration - which is where Miss Sophia became a U.S. citizen - and we were so anxious to get to baggage claims to meet our sweet family. I can't even tell how good it was to round the corner and see our sweet kiddoes! They were so excited to see their new sister and started out doing what they do best - showing her every possible thing they could think of! She was shy for a few minutes, but who could resist the antics of someone as funny as Jackson? He had her smiling and laughing in no time and on our ride home from the airport she was laughing harder than we'd ever heard her! We were really amazed at how well she did meeting them and we couldn't have asked for a better homecoming.

Proud Big Brother Elijah

Olivia brought a big Hello Kitty balloon for Sophia.

Starting to warm up as the boys show her their new watches.

She was even giving kisses before we even left the airport.

We're having to quickly remember what it's like to have an almost two year old in the house again. It's baby proofed as far as breakable things, but she's just the right height to be able to reach up and grab things off the table or counter top... like my Dt. Pepsi... which was cold, so she dropped it.. on the floor. :-( It's almost been laughable how many things we've had to quickly move and say "oops, gotta keep that out of reach too!" She'll get us trained though, I'm sure of it.

Laughing at her new siblings in the van. (Please ignore the car seat strap... at least she was in one, which is better than what we had in China!)

As for sleeping, she woke up for two hours our first night home, but has slept 12-13 hours the last two nights without waking up, so we're hoping she's well on her way to getting her body clock adjusted to the new time zone. It took Jackson and Elijah both about a week when we came home from Russia, so we may be getting off easy with her! (Now, if only I could convince my body clock to do the same.)

We are so thankful to each of you who have followed our journey, prayed for our family, and encouraged us along the way. I have no idea why God has chosen to bless us so, but Rodney and I have an amazing family and are so glad He has put it on our hearts to grow our family thru adoption. It's a journey like no other and if this blog has been good for anything, it will mean the most to me if it has encouraged any of you to consider adoption as well. Feel free to call, email, or talk to us in person if you ever have any questions. There are approximately 145 million orphans in this world - I can't even imagine what it's like to grow up without a family of my own.

Our three little miracles.
Which leads to the next question we've already been asked so many times... are we going to adopt again? We have no idea! If we've learned anything though, it's to leave our hearts open to listen for God's will in our lives. We thought we were done after adopting Jackson... and again after adopting Elijah... what if we hadn't followed His will for us and decided to adopt again? We wouldn't be the parents of our beautiful little Sophia! So we'll leave the door open, and in the meantime, go on enjoying our precious, growing family. Which is a van full already!

This blog has been a true labor of love - it's far more time consuming than I realized blogs are, so this will be the end of it. We'll keep in touch with emails, visits, facebook and phone calls instead. Thanks again for following along!

Empress Sophia ~ She has us all so wrapped around her little finger already and Olivia is loving getting to dress her up each day!

Karee and Family ~

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday in Guangzhou

Today was our last full day here in China. We've had a wonderful time here, but we're so exciting to get home to see Olivia, Jackson and Elijah - we've missed them so much! We leave very early in the morning, fly to Beijing, have a five hour layover, and then an 11 hour flight to Seattle. I can't wait to see how Sophia does with her new siblings. She such a sweetie and her personality is really starting to show more and more each day. She is also warming up to me and today was a pretty good day - she played with me, let me hold her a few times and even gave me a few kisses. I'll take that!

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel home. God has been so good to us and we are so thankful for His blessings! To close this last blog from China, I thought I'd share some misc. pictures. No particular order, just some of what we've experienced here and some cute shots of our doll baby.

Click on photos to enlarge them
Finally! She came over and sat with me for a few minutes yesterday.

This entire mall is nothing but pearls, jade and beads. It's hard to believe they can sell so much, but apparently, they do!

View of Guangzhou from a boat on the Pearl River. Everything is so lit up - it was really very pretty.

Squid on a stick. Want some?

Rodney tried it...

And believe it or not, so did I! I didn't care for it though - it was too spicy for me. (Rodney said I look like I'm in pain here... I almost was!)

We did not, however, try the duck with the head still on it.

Sight seeing and shopping were a great way to kill some time here.

We're staying at the Garden Hotel, but we still did the traditional Red Couch photos at the White Swan. Unfortunately, she wasn't all that into it.

Even so, she was SO cute!

Back at the Garden - we continued the photo shoot with some of our travel group. Here she is just hanging out with Daddy while we waited.

Sisters... I love this one.

She actually gave me several kisses today!

One last group shot before we all head home. It's hard to remember it's almost Christmas when the weather has been so beautiful here. The hotel has done a beautiful job of decorating though, including this enormous tree in front of it.

The Empress doesn't like to stray far from her royal carriage... or her body guard. She loves them both. :-)

 Till next time (and from home!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday in Guangzhou

This afternoon our guide picked up Sophia's passport with her visa in it, so we are now free to leave the country! Unfortunately, our flight doesn't leave until Friday morning. We flew direct from Seattle to Beijing on Hainan Air, and although their price was much better than any other airline (and their service was fantastic!), they don't fly in or out of Seattle on Tues or Thur, so instead of being able to leave tomorrow, we'll leave the next day. We're all so ready to leave, but if we have to stay another day, our hotel is incredible so we won't complain. (After all, when I get home I have a feeling people are going to expect me to remember how to cook and clean again!)

We've enjoyed our time here in China and have learned so much! In fact, we'd like to share a little bit of our new found knowledge with you.

First, if it is at all physically possible for a car/van/bus to pass another car/van/bus/bike/person without actually touching them, they will. No slowing down, just pass within a hair's width of each other. And don't think the sidewalk is safe - bikes and motorcycles don't slow down for pedestrians there either.

The laundry here is done in very hot water... but we're not sure they use any soap. (Our socks came back looking as dirty as we sent them.) However, IF you happen to try your jeans on after having them laundered and you're pretty sure they shrank two sizes so that when you put them on they bring a whole new meaning to the term "skinny jeans" (and not necessarily in a good way), you might want to check to see if they happen to be your teenage daughter's jeans before you start doing yoga moves to stretch them back out. Or, when you discover they are actually not yours, you can do the big time happy dance that you actually fit in your daughter's jeans and yours didn't shrink two sizes after all. Just sayin'... IF that happens to you.

If you're walking down the sidewalk and see a man holding a monkey on his shoulder, do not stop to take a picture and let the man get too close, because the next thing you know, you will have a monkey on your head and a crowd taking your picture. And IF you finally get the man to take the monkey off your head and you don't pay him for the pictures people took of you, he'll chase you down the sidewalk trying to get your money. Beware of people with monkeys.

We have much more knowledge to share with you, but will save it for another time. Thank you again for all your prayers - please keep them coming! (Sorry no pictures tonight, I'm too tired to mess with loading them!)

Till next time,
Bonus info: If you happen to be bigger than the size of a pencil, don't bother doing any clothes shopping here in China, because you won't find anything that fits!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday in Guangzhou

It's like Groundhog Day here. Get up. Go down for breakfast. Sight seeing. Shopping. Go to bed. We are SO ready to go home! We're doing fine though, so we can't complain - we're just missing our other kiddoes so much and want to get home to our own beds!

Today our guide, Elsie, took us to a Memorial Hall of some man whose name I can't recall for the life of me. It had a beautiful garden area, but it was pretty much just a quick walk thru and then we were done.

Click on pictures to enlarge
I will say that if you're interested in architecture, China has some amazing buildings!
She also took us to a beautiful city park that had a statue of the five goats that the city is named after. (Guangzhou has a legend about the goats and is called the Goat City... .that's all you really need to know about that.) Elsie wanted us to have a group photo made in front of the statue, so all five families and our children huddled up for the picture. We got so tickled at all the local people taking pictures of us! The longer we stood there, the more people showed up and we were more of an attraction than the goat statue.

Elsie in on the left with the yellow long sleeve shirt on.

The crowd gathering as Elsie took our group picture.
It was really neat to see all the "older" people there enjoying the park. There were quite a few small groups of people playing some sort of hackey sack and lots of people practicing their ballroom dancing. Rodney even joined in - a hackey sack game, that is - and with the weather so beautiful, it was a very nice visit to a beautiful park.

Since this is the only photo I have of all the kids in our group, let me introduce them to you. We are all with WACAP, and are from all over the country. The three kids in strollers are of course Sophia on the left, Lilly in the middle and Christian on the right. Marie Ling is the eight year old in the red, long sleeve shirt, and Caleb is the teenage boy in the purple jacket on the far right. For the most part, we spend the days together as a group, so we're getting to know them better each day.

Our WACAP travel group.

Our little chunky monkey is actually the youngest of the three, but is the biggest of all of them!
Since I don't have much else to write about, I'll leave you with a few pictures of our darling girl. Keep us in your prayers - we need and appreciate it so much!

Typical two year old - she loves to throw her bow down and see who will pick it up for her.

Being playful

Snuggle time with Daddy

Till next time,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday in Guangzhou

Yesterday was another day of exploring here in Guangzhou and our guide took our travel group to the Safari (Zoo). The weather here is really nice right now, but it's "winter" for the locals and it's kind of funny to see them in their jackets when it's in the 70's. Rodney has been looking for a couple of short sleeve T-shirts to buy and you can hardly find anything but long sleeve shirts right now!

The Safari was great - we saw lots of animals that we wouldn't normally see in America (at least not at the zoo in Seattle), including white tigers and pandas. Sophia is so good at being on the go all day long and was quite the little trooper. As long as she's in her stroller, that girl is ready to roll!

She slept right thru the elephant show... and the tiger show...

No words for this one...
As for us, we're constantly amazed at how crowded it is everywhere we go. I suppose in a city of 13 million people that's just the way it is. We can't wait to get back to little old Burlington though!

It was this crowded - or worse - everywhere in the Safari.

We went back to Shamain Island for dinner at Lucy's (and American style restaurant) and ran into Callum's family. He was adopted from Starfish the same day we adopted Sophia, and it was so cute to see the two of them "chatting" together.

They had quite a little conversation about their shoes.

I have no idea what he's doing, but it sure was funny!

Today (Tuesday) we met up with our travel group to head to Shamain again - the other four children being adopted in our group are all over the age of two and had to have their TB tests looked at (those under two aren't required to have that done), so we had a couple more hours free time to walk around the island. It's so beautiful here. We've been to a store called Jordan's a couple of times, but the owner (Jordan) was always out on the sidewalk greeting people when we where there. This time, he asked if he had written Sophia's name in Chinese yet and when we told him no, he ran all the way back to his store to do it for us. He's a very sweet Christian man who does this for free for all adopted children. What a sweet keepsake for her!

Jordan, writing out her name and what it means.

She's wearing her "worth the wait" dress I made her. She definitely is worth it!

I mean really, could they be any cuter?

Today was also a very important day for us because it's the day we had our oath swearing ceremony. They don't allow pictures inside the consulate building (in fact, they make you leave your camera at the front desk when you first come in), but we did at least get her picture as we were leaving the building. Now the only thing left is to get her visa later this week and we'll be ready to come home! Well, we're ready now, we just can't leave until we get her passport back with her visa in it. :-)

After the oath swearing ceramony. She'll become a US citizen as soon as we get to the Seattle airport and go thru customs!

Since we had nothing else to do with the rest of our day, we did what we seem to be getting pretty good at... we when shopping. Someone told us about this huge, HUGE, market about 20 minutes away by taxi, so we decided to check it out. It wasn't nearly as touristy as the shops on the island are and we managed to find a few good deals. I mean really, if we must be here a few more days, we might as well make the most of it, right?

As for Sophia, she is doing really well, though if you'll notice, I'm rarely in any pictures. That's because as she has bonded more and more with her Daddy, she wants less and less to do with me, so I'm the official picture taker since he is always either holding her, or pushing the stroller. I know it's absolutely normal, but it's a little hard right now. I've got a great little support group of other Starfish moms whose little ones did the exact same thing to them, (thank you Brooks, Julie and Wendy!) and I know it's because she was so loved by Big Sophia and the nannies at Starfish that she's pushing me away. There's no way she's going to let me replace the ones she loved and is missing so easily. I completely understand it, but honestly I had hoped we weren't going to have to go thru this since we started out doing so well together. So, your prayers are appreciated in regard to her bonding with me. I suppose we should have been more specific - we prayed that she would not be scared of us (she's definitely not scared of me - she just doesn't want me around right now!) and that God would prepare her heart to come to us. She really seems to adore Rodney, and I'm so grateful for that. Especially with what he had to go thru with Elijah - he deserves to have her adore him! I know it will happen eventually, so for now, we're just taking it one day at a time and letting her set the pace for what she does or doesn't want from me. So far, she wants any food that I may have, but that's about it.

Loving on her Daddy

Olivia - this picture if for you :-)
Tomorrow our guide is taking us to a few sight seeing places here in Guangzhou - I'm really not even sure what they are right now, but we're looking forward to getting out and passing the time learning more about China. This whole trip has been so fascinating so far!

Till next time,