Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Marital Disagreement and the Reign of Femininity

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? So, being apart the last few weeks, dh and I should have no reason to be in disagreement. The trouble is the timing... after all the excitement of last night's safe arrival of our travelers and the excitement of welcoming little Peter, this morning was my ultrasound. This, of course, brought up our perennial disagreement over whether we should find out the gender of our newest baby -- I want to be surprised, dh wants to know.

Four weeks ago when I scheduled this appointment, I thought there was virtually no chance he would be back in time to go with me. I told him this was to be our fifth mid-pregnancy ultrasound, our eighth child, it was time for me to win. Since he wouldn't be there I wasn't finding out.

I never dreamed that in those four short weeks we would have gotten travel dates, booked tickets, had him travel for two and a half weeks, and be home in time for the appointment. That's how it worked out and I thank God for all the graces he granted our family these last few weeks.

So I caved... absence does make the heart grow fonder, and I knew I was happier making him happy.

We are going to have a sweet baby girl...

The boys could have pulled off a tie, but I think God knew four high school boys was more than I could handle. I do love those boys, but am also excited about the return of all things feminine in our home.

Home!

Final post from DH here. After over 20 hours of flights, the longest of which was 14 hours from Hong Kong to Chicago, we're home!!! And while I went to bed early, I was up at 3 AM putting away suitcase items. I just couldn't sleep. I'm going to be toast today. :) 

Mom was able to hold little Peter for a few minutes from the airport to home. Once we walked through the door, however, the kids took over and showed him all the toys they could find. While he seemed to enjoy his new siblings, he too was quite tired from the flight and went to bed early. He's been up with me since 3 AM so he will also be toast today.

We can't thank all of you enough for the many ways you helped with this trip. We were blessed with meals, extra help with the kids, friends to help distract, and countless other kindnesses. We are especially thankful for all the prayers offered on our behalf.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Down the Home Stretch

Yesterday, or rather last night as we were sleeping, dh should have received Peter's US Visa. This is the last piece of paperwork (until stateside -- the paperwork is seemingly endless) required to bring little Peter home. As soon as the visa arrived, dh, Peter, Bear, and Grandpa began their long journey home. They boarded a train headed to Hong Kong, then they had about an hour cab ride to their hotel in Hong Kong. They should be arriving there anytime now. We are hoping to hear from them when they do, but it depends on Internet availability.

While we are busy preparing for them today, they will be sleeping their night away recovering from yesterday's travels and paperwork, and resting up for tomorrow's (our tonight) long flight home. They leave Hong Kong in the late morning. The flight is two hours shorter than the flight that took them to Beijing, but it will feel eternally longer. Longer because on this flight they have a 14 month little boy that isn't going to know what hit him. A little boy who likes to play, and walk, and move. If the two hour flight from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou was any indication, it is going to be a tremendously long day for our travelers.

I'd like to have more sympathy for them, but I think the next few days are going to be equally long here. I have to somehow keep in check the excitement of FIVE little ones who are more than a little anxious to have their dad home and to meet their new brother. On top of that I have my own excitement to contain, little Peter held his arms out to me over Skype yesterday. I am overly anxious to have that little one in my arms. We also have to clean, clean. clean. Floors need mopped, carpets vacuumed, laundry put away, the list is endless. I can't further dh's notions that it has been bonbons and pedicures while he's been away. Plus the next few weeks are to be spent bonding with little Peter, not extra housework.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guangzhou

Hi everyone! DH here. We made it to Guangzhou a few days ago. We've been very busy since our arrival preparing for our US Consulate appointment. On Tuesday afternoon we leave by train for Hong Kong. We'll see how we manage three suitcases, three carry-ons, and a new baby through security at the train station.

In addition to adoption paperwork, our guides have been keeping us busy with sightseeing excursions. Our latest adventure was to the Guangzhou Xiangjiang Wild Animal World. The best part of the park was the tram ride. The tram was open-air and some of the animals were within touching distance. Our tram door was broken and wouldn't close. The good news is that Bear and Peter made it back to the hotel without being eaten. :)







Thursday, March 15, 2012

Feed Me Cake!

Or, in this case, bread pudding. Unlike our other children, Peter needed to be coaxed to eat bananas and still doesn't care for watermelon or peaches. He does like bread pudding and doughnuts, however.

I say, enjoy the freedom while you have it, Peter. When you get home it will be asparagus and brussels sprouts!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free Day

DH here. Today was a free day for us. That means we didn't have any adoption-related appointments or group events that we needed to attend. We decided to be adventurous and take a taxi out to the Yellow River Scenic Region. It cost 300元 for the trip, but that included the chain-smoking taxi driver who turned into an instant tour guide. I'm glad he decided to be our guide because there was no way we would have gotten back to Zhengzhou on our own. Here are some pictures from our trip.




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Adoption Day!

DH here with another update. Today we took a 15 minute bus ride to the China Adoption Registration Center as well as the China Notary. Even though we were done at noon, everyone was rather tired afterwards. Part of this had to do with an overly hot bus and part had to do with the nature of 13 children who were not in the best of moods.

Peter, Bear, and Grandpa were all very patient as Dad checked and double-checked the required paperwork at each government office. It was a good thing too because there were a couple mistakes. Luckily, these were not made by DH. Once these are fixed this afternoon, Peter will officially be ours. It will then be illegal for us to abandon him in China. Given how attached all of us have become over the last 24 hours, there is no chance of that happening.


P.S. Don't tell Nikki that Peter likes McDonald's french fries. I told him to enjoy these while we're in China because when we get home Mom will only be feeding him healthy food. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gotcha Day!

A very happy DH here! Today was Gotcha Day for our little Peter. While he was very serious at the Adoption Office, back in the hotel room Bear had him giggling and laughing in no time.

Peter doesn't want anything to do with the bottle but enjoyed some baby food and seems to be a very content little guy. Tomorrow we go the the Registration Office to finalize his paperwork.

We can't wait to come home and have Peter meet his mother and the rest of his family.

Enjoy the following photos and pray in thanksgiving that this day finally came!










Round Three Gotcha Day

Earlier today I sat thinking that in a few short hours this little boy whom I have never met but love dearly was waking up for the last time without the love of a family. That, God-willing, from now on every morning he would wake to a family who loves him dearly. This thought gave me such joy it brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I watched my other children playing on a playground on a gorgeous early spring afternoon and I knew that having Peter home and playing with them would make our family more complete. Some days I have been so worried about how I was going to get it all done, I lost sight of that thought.

A few minutes ago I was able to watch little Peter playing in the arms of his dad and sister. I watched him curiously explore the new world around him. He waved at me, he even briefly smiled at me. It is so different to be a mom watching these things from half way around the world instead of there with him. I am just not used to sitting on the sidelines. I want to be there as he has so many new experiences; new clothes, new foods, new toys. Instead I continue my countdown till their arrival home and my own Gotcha Day. I imagine this is much how dh feels as I feel the kicks and movements of our youngest child growing within me. I feel a little on the outside looking in and am so anxious for them to be home.

Dh said Peter was very serious and almost didn't make a sound until talking to me on Skype (thank goodness for Skype). He said Peter seems clean, well cared for, his cleft repair looks very good, but he seemed small compared to Joseph and even Gabriel. I think he has just forgotten how small a one-year-old is. He also said Peter's nanny seemed sad to leave him. She took many pictures with them and kept glancing back as they were leaving. I will say prayers tonight for that woman who cared for my son before I could.

I told dh he simply had to get his own Gotcha Day post out very quickly as no one really wants to read a post like this from me, they want to see pictures and hear first hand exoeriences! Hopefully he will do that soon although now he has to go back to diaper duty, and bottle duty, and entertaining a little guy whose world was turned upside down. He does have helpers though and he has had a week's vacation from such duties :) So get that post out!!!

Thank you all for your prayers as we endured this process. Please continue to pray as our travelers finalize paperwork and bring little Peter home.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Six Years Old


Now We Are Six 

--A.A. Milne--

When I was one I had just begun

When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me

When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive

But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.



Technically we celebrated Bophie's birthday last Sunday so that Dad and Bear could be here with us. We couldn't let today go by without a few extra birthday wishes for our sweet Bophie. We went to the Target dollar aisle to pick out a few goodies, new gel pens, a notebook, and for our princess-- a tiara. Then with help from a friend we made a heart shaped strawberry cake, her favorite. This evening we also sat down to watch her favorite movie, Beauty and the Beast. Despite missing Dad and Bear, it was a nice birthday.

Gone Dark...

DH here. Sorry for going dark. We've had a few very busy days and we're all adjusting to the time change. That means we're sleeping in until 6 AM most days now. :) Our latest adventure is climbing the Great Wall. Bear made it all the way to the top! Luckily, DH and Grandpa survived the climb.

This morning we fly to Zhengzhou. The flight arrives at 12:00 PM. It's an hour ride to the hotel and then we go to the bank to change money. Tomorrow is Gotcha Day!

Everyone is up now and we need to start packing. More to come in the next few days. Pray for us that everyone continues to hold up and Bear shares some of her boundless energy with Grandpa and I.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Matteo Ricci

DH here. Apologies in advance to any of Nikki's Dominican readership. In college I read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Johnathan Spence. I enjoyed the book very much. Since our first trip to Beijing three years ago, I've wanted to visit Matteo Ricci's grave. This afternoon we had the chance. Below are a few pictures from our visit.

"Blessed Ricci... ora pro nobis!"




One other sign...

"Needless to say, we didn't eat at this restaurant"


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Signs

A well-rested DH here. Yesterday, after a full day in the brisk Beijing air, I went to bed at 8 PM. It made getting up at 4 AM this morning bearable. I hope I can make it to 9 PM tonight.

Three years ago when Nikki and I traveled to China to adopt JuJu, we made a game out of finding funny signs and adding our own captions to them. In our walks yesterday we came across a few signs.

"A Philosophy For Life"



"Yes, but what about old flames?"


Meanwhile Back at Home...

Things have been uneventful here unless you count syrup on the couch, a rash of biting, a diaper blow out to end all others (necessitating extra baths and two loads of laundry), and a few moments of chaos when everyone seems to need something from Mom as eventful. Other than that it's laundry, and finishing compositions for school, a never ending battle to keep the kitchen clean, and trying to get the house back in order after the the craziness of the last few weeks.

Oh, and I answer the question when will Daddy be home at least 14 times an hour. They wake up asking, they go to bed asking, after the Skype calls they ask again. Yesterday Gabe was overtired and insistent Dad come home now. Every meal, every time the heat kicks on and they think it might be the garage door, every time the phone rings, they ask if it is him and when will he be here. Even the dog, used to dh feeding her when he walks in the door each evening, starts her watch around 4:30-5:00 and barks at every sound hoping it's him walking in the door.

I have also been trying to remember to take care of all those things dh usually does. Take the garbage to the curb, bring in the mail (I forgot this the first day), feed the dog, take the dog out 20 minutes after that, and his newest kefir experiment is looming over me. I just know I'm going to mess that one up. Trying to remember these little things with my ridiculous case of pregnancy brain has not been easy, add to that the lack of sleep because Dad is gone and it gets even worse. Who knew this old house creaked and groaned so much?

Then there are the incidentals. I'm pretty sure one of the boys turned down the water heater when I was pulling something out of the basement freezer. This happened so frequently in the past that we put a lock on the door of the closet housing the water heater. Problem is, I don't know what the heater is usually set at so I guessed. I'll know how well I estimated after this morning's shower. If there's one thing you don't want to mess with, it is my hot shower.  

Uneventful... as if single parenting with five kids, especially since four of them are five and under, could be uneventful. I just found my sock super-glued to the floor, with my foot in it. When I wondered what was so sticky, I made the stupid mistake of putting my fingers in it. So I am missing a layer of skin on one finger and the other is stiff as a rock with the layer of super glue that won't come off. I rather easily unstuck my foot from the floor. Getting the sock off my foot was another matter.

Ah, just another day on the home front.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's 3 AM...

A very tired DH here. After going to bed at 10 PM, I find myself up at 3 AM unable to sleep. I've prayed Morning Prayer over at iBreviary, chatted with Nikki over Skype twice, and have tried to go back to sleep, but it's just not happening. I've finally decided to get in the shower. It's 6 AM and Grandpa and Bear are still snoring peacefully. I'm going to be toast today...

14.5 Hours; 6,500 Miles

DH as guest blogger again. After 14.5 hours of flying, we arrived in Beijing and made it to our hotel. The room is small even for China standards, but dinner was good. Grandpa remarked that the food was better than he expected. Bear had been dragging a bit, but perked up when we passed a McDonald's and decided to have fry-pies for dessert. Don't tell her mother she didn't eat her broccoli at dinner!

Here are a few pictures Bear snapped when we went out for dinner. Given the latest news on the HHS mandate, I think the second one is quite apropos.





Monday, March 5, 2012

On Our Way To Peter!

DH here as guest blogger. We're leaving for Chicago soon bound for Beijing! When the alarm rang at 5 AM, my first stop was to wake up Bear. As it turns out, she had already been up and dressed since 4 AM. Think she is excited?



Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Update

On Tuesday we received a message that we had indeed been able to get the earlier Consulate Appointment. This means dh leaves in just a few days and will meet our little Peter in less than two weeks.

We are in the midst of packing, preparing, cleaning, finishing up paper work, etc.

I was reminded last night of some advice given to us as we were preparing for marriage. The priest encouraged us to cling to the underlying peace we felt about our upcoming marriage when our wedding preparations seemed chaotic. While that time of our life was in some ways chaotic, we had no idea what was in store for us.

Right now the house seems constantly abuzz. Six children make quite a bit of noise. Six children excited about the arrival of a new brother, feeding off the intensity of parents stressing about getting everything together, and loving the unseasonably warm weather, make even more commotion. There seem to be a million things to pull together. Adding to this I am still tired, not just regular tired but pregnant tired. However, underneath the surrounding chaos, there is a peace knowing we are doing the will of God and bringing home another one of his children. In a few relatively quiet moments I strive to cling to that peace.

The Modest Princess

Recently Juju and Joseph started speech therapy with a new therapist who comes to our home. It is wonderful not to have to load everyone up in the car and wait for the sessions to be over. The girls are able to continue with their school day uninterrupted, and the only worry I have is that my house is presentable. Under most circumstances I find that easier than making sure they are presentable and in the car with all the necessities (shoes, coats, sippy cups, etc). Plus, I get a clean house rather than fidgety kids in a car waiting for the session to finish.

On a recent visit, the speech therapist presented a picture of Disney princesses and asked my Juliana who her favorite princess was. Juju is mostly unfamiliar with this genre of princess having only seen Beauty and the Beast. Most mentions of princesses in our home have to do with being a daughter of Christ, or talk of some saints who were queens. At first she was just silent, but when asked again who her favorite princess was-- she responded, "ME!" I was in another room, but still chuckled. What an apropos answer for my sweet four year old.

She continued with her session, I continued the lesson I was working on in the kitchen with Sophia and thought little of the exchange, except that it would make a good blog post. Sophia, however, had also heard this conversation and she had seen the paper in question and it was clear she was mulling it over. I had not actually seen the princess paper. Sophia quietly whispered to me, "Mom, some of those princesses aren't wearing enough clothes and it sort of makes me not like them."

When Juju came running in the room a few minutes later so proud of earning stamps on this paper I have to admit I was a little stunned too. There, front and center, were scantily clad princesses on display. We so closely monitor what our girls watch that when those things make their way into our home they are quite shocking to all of us.

I have to admit it's hard sometimes to feel so counter-cultural, but Juliana's response and Sophia's observation remind me that the job I have of raising these girls to be Godly women is a monumental task and it is my job to ensure that our home is a refuge from the rest of the world. Here they are princesses, not in the worldly sense of being catered to and physically attractive, but rather in the Godly sense of serving those around them and striving to be the best Daughter of the King. I'm glad they realize at such a young age what true beauty is all about.