Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Duchess!

Last month Duchess had her seventh birthday! She spent the day at the doggie spa getting her hair washed and cut. Here are a couple of pictures I took for her birthday. 

The kids love Duchess, and she is learning to like them. 

People have asked us what Duchess did while we were in China.  Well, I think that if she could talk, she would tell you that she had the most wonderful two weeks of her life.  Our friend Brittney came to stay with her and spoil her.  Every day Brittney took her for a ride or to the park or to visit with her family. (After we got home, Duchess ran to the door in expecation every time we picked up the keys to leave.  She looks so sad when we have to tell her she can't go.)  It was a wonderful retreat for her to have before experiencing the reality of TWO children. Thank you, Brittney.  We love you and Duchess ADORES you! 

How has life changed for Duchess since children came into the picture? 

She is not the center of the world more:(
She has to wait until the children are in bed before she can sit in our laps :(
She can scavange food they drop on the floor :)
The children really like to give her treats :)
Andrew enjoys playing with her a lot :)
Andrew enjoys playing with her a lot :(
We have a fenced in yard so now she can go out and wander by herself :)

I'm not sure what she is doing in this picture.  Is she trying to tell me that she doesn't like having a brother and a sister?  Is she saying she didn't like the supper we gave her?  I don't know, but I decided to include it because it reminds me of when she was a tiny puppey.  You see, Duchess has a really long tongue.  If you have ever met her, you may have found out first hand how long her tongue is!  When she was a puppy, she had trouble keeping all of her long tongue in her mouth.  Here is a picture of her as a little puppy!

She was so cute!  She still is a cutie and we love her!

Happy Birthday Duchess!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Dinner with Kerry Lu's Family

It is becoming an annual event for us to meet up with Kerry Lu and her family as they travel through the Atlanta area on their way to Florida from their home in Kentucky.  For those of you who don't know (or don't remember), Kerry and Hannah are from the same orphanage and were friends there before Kerry was adopted by Doug and Virginia Miller when Kerry was a little over a year old.  We adopted Hannah a year later and found the Millers on a yahoo group for families who have adopted children from the orphanage in JiAn, JiangXi.  The first time we met Kerry and her mom, Hannah was still waiting in China, but last year, Kerry, her mom and grandma came and spent the night at our house.  The girls had a great time getting to know each other again and playing together.  Over the past year, they have talked on the phone and skyped a few times. 

A couple of weeks ago, we again met up with them for dinner at a restaurant near I-75.  This time we got to meet Kerry's dad, Doug, and they got to meet Andrew.  Kerry was especially excited because she was on her way to Disney World.  I know they had a great time there.  Once again, Kerry and Hannah-NanNan talking and laughing together very quickly.  All three of the kids seemed to have a good time with each other while we ate, and playing together in front of the restaurant after we finished eating.  Here are a couple of pictures.  Hannah and Andrew are wearing their Jie jie (big sister) and Di di (little brother) T-shirts.  And, of course, I've included a picture of Hannah and Kerry together in the orphanage.  We are so grateful to God to allowing Hannah to have such an important connection with a friend from her past.  I pray that she will always treasure the gift God has given her. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Welcome Home Andrew!

Wow!  Has it really been over a month since we met Andrew?  So much has happened in such a short time.  It has been really good to be home and start searching for a new "normal" (though someone recently told me to think of normal only as a setting on the dryer). We are all back on Georgia time, and It's amazing how much getting a good night's sleep improves your perspective on things :).  Overall we have had a good transition through we have hit a few bumps in the road.  We had our first post placement visit a week and a half ago, and it was good to take a look back and see how much we have progressed already. 

Everyone who sees Andrew agrees that he is doing really well. He is sleeping well, eating well, and learning how to be a part of our family. We are all beginning to settle into a routine. We are trying to spend a lot of time at home, but Andrew is such a social person he gets bored; so, we take some time to go to church or grandma’s, or have people over to visit.  He was doing so well when we got home that we spent 3.5 days the first week going to Vacation Bible School. We wanted Hannah to go, but he got jealous if he didn’t go too.  He did well for the most part, and they both enjoyed it.  On the last day, he learned the signs for "God is So Good" from pastor Steve in about five minutes during music time and came and signed them to me.  Of course I was in tears thinking, "Yes, Andrew, God is good and we thank Him for His goodness in giving you to our family."  On Sunday night after VBS, he got up on the stage with all of the other children.  He couldn't sing the words, but he watched them and did the signs for all of the songs including, "God is so Good." 

He and Hannah are getting along well most of the time. They are siblings, however, and there is a lot of competition. It has got to be hard to become an instant twin.  They both always want to be first which causes a lot of friction, but it gives us opportunities to practice learning how to share and take turns.  It is fun to watch them interact some times. One morning they were sitting in different chairs talking on pretend phones to each other. She was speaking English and he was speaking Chinese. This morning, Hannah (quoting a line from “Ni Hao Kai Lan”) said, “Do you want to know how to say ‘pull’ in Chinese? ... Say ‘La.’” Andrew obediently said, “la.” It was really funny to think of Hannah teaching Andrew how to speak Chinese.

Andrew is fluent in Chinese and continues to speak it most of the time though he prefers being called Andrew over An Fu Quan.  Everyone agrees that one reason he is doing so well is because I can speak Chinese with him.  It has cut down on a lot of frustration to be able to tell him what's going on and for him to have somebody he can talk to.  I have started trying to say everything in English as well as Chinese so that he can start learning it and so that David and Hannah know what I am saying to him. Some times I get confused and speak Chinese to them or even to the dog.  They (David and Hannah, not the dog) have actually learned quite a few Chinese phrases through the process.  Andrew is beginning to understand quite a bit of English and is saying a few English words and phrases, but definitely still prefers Chinese.  He's learning some sign language too though he is not as interested in it as Hannah was.   His favorite English word was for the first week "apple," but his new favorite is "no."  (For those of you who speak Chinese, he says it with a third tone inflection.)  He says it all of the time even when he really means "yes."  (Of course there is room for lots of miscommunication in all of this especially for Hannah.  She often gets upset because she thinks he is saying things against her.  Most of the time she is wrong, but it still causes a lot of conflict.)

His favorite word in any language, however, is "Mama," and he uses it a lot and often very loudly.  I think he expects me to magically appear as soon as he utters the word because if I don't answer immediately when he calls, he yells it over and over, louder and louder.  Hannah has taken a cue from him, and is doing the same thing.  Some times I'm tempted to want to change my name, but I did ask for this and went to a lot of trouble to earn the title, and, well, when all is said and done, I like being called "mama" even if it is used a little too often and a little too loudly.  He calls David "Baba" and is beginning to prefer him some of the time.  He likes Papa to help him brush his teeth, he loves playing ball or swimming with him, and it is sweet to see him crawl up in David's lap and snuggle.  He calls his sister, "Hannah," and she calls him "Brother" most of the time.
Here are some important Chinese phrases in our house these days:
  • Bu nung peng - Don't push buttons (He likes to push ALL KINDS of buttons. I just wish he didn't enjoy pushing Hannah's buttons so much!)
  • Deng deng:  wait (He HATES this one.)
  • fen kai - share (Neither he nor Hannah likes this one.)
  • chi fan - eat  (He likes this one a lot, but he is beginning to say it in English now.)
  • Xiu xi - nap (He doesn't really like that one either.)
  • Cha bu duo dao le - almost there (He always says this as we get close to church or our house.)
  • Dao le! - We're here!  (He always says this when we arrive at church or our house.)
  • Fei Ji - airplane (He jumps up and down, points to the sky and yells "fei ji!" every time he sees an airplane - until today.  He used the word "airplane."  I am glad he is learning English, but it made me very sad to think that he will stop saying "fei ji."
  • You Yong (swim), pao bu (run), and da qiu (play ball) - (some of his favorite activities)
  • Women ai ni!  (We love you!)
And here are a few things you might like to know about little Andrew:
  • His favorite songs (in English) are "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "God is so Good," and "The Butterfly Song."  He is beginning to sing along with Praise and Worship songs in the car, and although he still sings in Chinese some times, it isn't as often. 
  • His favorite book is "He Lives," a very short book about the Easter story.  (I read it to him in English and translate it to Chinese.) 
  • His favorite indoor activity is playing games on David's tablet or watching DVD's, but we have let the kids do very little of that since getting home.  He also likes to paint, use scissors, play with play dough, play with blocks, build puzzles and color
  • His favorite outdoor activity is riding tricycles, though "you yong" (swimming) may become his new favorite.  He also likes to "pao bu" (run), "da qiu" (play ball), blow bubbles, swing and climb on play ground equipment.  We don't have a swing set, but we have several parks nearby; so, we go visit them often.  We took their trikes to Patriot Park one evening, and they rode about a mile and a half. 
  • His favorite show to watch is "Maisy" (the mouse).  He also will watch "Curious George," "Ni Hao Kai Lan," "Hermie and Friends," and some "Veggie Tales."
  • He loves music about as much as Hannah does and almost always wants it to be turned on in the car.  He is beginning to sing along with some of the songs.
  • His favorite food is noodles.  He eats pretty well and is more of a vegetarian than Hannah is.  He will eat more meat than he did in the beginning.  He really chowed down on ham and ate baked chicken with honey barbecue sauce.  He has eaten canned turnip greens, green beans, peaches, strawberries, chicken and rice, spaghetti, and tacos.  He didn't really like the tacos, but ate the meat a little better when mixed with rice.  One day last spring I asked Hannah what she thought Andrew would like to eat.  Without having to think about it, she said, "Candy!"  Yes, Hannah, he does really like to eat candy, especially chocolate. 
  • He can be really playful, he loves to laugh and has ticklish feet.
  • He likes baths and stays in the tub until the last drop of water has drained away.
  • He likes to look at the pictures his foster family gave him.  He points out and names each person, and kisses the picture of his foster sister.
  • Sometimes if we don't understand what he tells us, he'll pull one of us down and whisper it in our ear (as if that will help). 
  • He likes to talk on the phone.  It doesn't matter who we are talking to, he wants to talk to them too.
  • He likes to hold onto my hand or hug my arm while he is falling asleep as it he's thinking that if he can just hold on while he's sleeping, he can make sure I'll still be there when he wakes up in the morning.
Below are some pictures of our first few days home and a few pictures of Hannah helping me prepare for Andrew's homecoming.  We painted his room blue, but have done very little decorating.  We thought he would be old enough to choose for himself, and we think that was a good decision. He has definite opinions on what he likes and doesn't like.  He is sleeping in a toddler bed in our room for now.  We'll move him to his room some time this summer probably after his cleft palate surgery.  When will that be?  We don't know.  We have four more doctors appointments already made for the next few weeks; so, we'll just have to wait and see.

Here we are just off of the plane surrounded by our luggage.  It doesn't seem like so much in this picture.  It seemed like a lot more when we were carrying it.
Grandma, Aunt Harriet and Uncle Dave, Grandie, and Aunt Carisa with us at the airport.  Thank you for coming to welcome us home!
As soon as we got out of the car from the air port, Andrew found the trikes and had to try them out
even before going into the house.  We have another tricycle for him that he and David recently put together.

Hannah painting Andrew's name.

After we finished preparing the bed, Hannah sat on it while we prayed for him.  We also had another one of those conversations where I explained to her again that we had to take turns having the sun.  Andrew got the sun while we were sleeping and we got the sun while he was sleeping. 

Andrew enjoying his first night in his new bed.
Loving on Ernie.  A few days later I asked him if he liked his bed.  He shook his head no; so, I asked him why.  He pointed to our bed to let me know he wanted to sleep with us.  We don't want to start that.  Letting him sleep in his bed in our room is a good compromise until we think he is ready to move to his room probably after his surgery.
Playing with play dough with Papa.
Painting together.
Playing ball with Papa.

Riding tricycles in Patriot Park.

Popsicles with Grandma.

First day of Vacation Bible School.
Goggles the kids made in VBS.
Home is where you hang your backpack (or something like that!)  We are so glad that Andrew is finally here and that we ALL get to have the sun and the moon AT THE SAME TIME!  (Or as Hannah put it tonight, we don't have to "pass it back and forth" anymore.)

 Welcome home Andrew!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

We're Home!

At 12:40PM CDT, Friday afternoon, June 8th, 2012, our little Andrew set his feet on US soil and became a US Citizen!  The flight from Hong Kong actually went very well - thank you so much for praying.  The kids took turns playing with my tablet, then slept a little, then played some more, ate some, slept some more, well you get the picture.  The battery on the tablet died about an hour outside of Chicago, which was about the time we had to put it up anyway - that tablet has been quite an asset on this trip ...

The now famous window at the Hong Kong Airport :>)

Waiting to board the plane in Hong Kong

Finally on board and ready to start the long journey to Chicago
By the time we goth through Customs and to our gate for the final leg of our journey to Atlanta, we only had about 30 minutes, so we indulged one last time and got the kids something to eat at McDonalds (let's just say the last meal on the plane was not one of their favorites ...).  They slept almost the whole way from Chicago to Atlanta, which was OK, but made bed time a little harder.

Lois' Mom, sister and brother-in-law were waiting for us when we got to the airport and my Dad and sister walked up to the baggage claim area just as we finished retrieving our last bag.  We are so thankful for our families and so excited that some of them were able to meet us at the airport and welcome us home.  My sister took pictures that I'll post later ...  It has been a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks, but we are very glad to be home.

Andrew wasn't at all excited about being confined to a car seat on the ride home, but he did OK.  After a brief stop so Grammy could welcome her new grandson home, we headed home.  Duchess was beyond excited to see her family once again - and Andrew seemed to take an instant liking to her (even though he was very afraid of the dogs at the park in Guiyang); another small miracle from our Father :>)  Andrew immediately spied the tricycle's in the garage and he and Hannah rode around the driveway for at least an hour (they needed to burn off some energy :>)  My Dad and sister were kind and gracious to stop by the store and pick up a few essentials to tie us over until we can make a family outing to the store :>)  Then it was bath time and bed time.

Andrew woke up at 2:30AM, and started crying - I think he was confused and disoriented.  Mama got him up and put him in the bed with us.  He finally went back to sleep around 4:30 and slept until 6:30 - not too bad for our first night home.  Hannah slept through the night ...

Today has been a good day.  We played outside this morning (it was really nice and cool). then played around the house most of the day.  We've been able to find things that Andrew will eat - and that's a good thing.  Our first few weeks home with Hannah were a real struggle trying to find things she would eat.

With each passing day we are learning what it means to be a family of four (well five, if you count Duchess, and she certainly has some adjustments to make as well :>)  We are constantly amazed at how well Andrew is doing, and we are so thankful for his foster parents who did such a good job preparing him for us and this time.  God is good!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Farewell from the Hong Kong Airport

We have successfully navigated Hong Kong and made it to our gate.  We should be boarding soon.  Thankfully our plane is here so we should be on time.  I think we are all ready to be home, just 20 more hours to go ...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Hong Kong Day 14 - Farewell to China

Greetings from Hong Kong!  We made it here safe and sound, the kids are fast asleep and we are not far behind them; we have an early morning ahead of us ...

Before we left the Garden Hotel this morning, we asked our friend Wade if he would take a picture of us in front of the waterfall at the hotel - kind of our farewell picture.

The trip from Guangzhou would have been great, had our driver not been practicing for the Indy 500.  I am sure he was travelling well above the speed limit and he was weaving and bobbing through cars and trucks.  Unfortunately, all that weaving and bobbing got the best of Hannah and she was not able to hold onto breakfast (she has never had any trouble with motion sickness before), Lois had taken Dramamine and did OK, but definitely was not feeling her best.  Andrew, on the other hand sat in the backseat (with Lois) and scarfed animal crackers all the way to Hong Kong - I guess that answers the motion sickness question (at least for now).  I did OK and tried to console Hannah, keep a wet towel on her forehead, ...  She finally fell asleep about an hour from the Hotel ...  Once at the Hotel, she seemed to be fine ...  There is just no easy way to get home from Guangzhou with 2 kids and luggage - all the options have pros and cons.  We thought the van would be the best way, and it might have been, had we not had Dale Earnhardt, Jr for a driver ...

Oh well, the adoption process is a journey and this was all part of our journey - one day we will look back at this and laugh about our trip to Hong Kong ...  We arrived at the Hotel around 2:00 and started looking into our options for the afternoon.  The kids were absolutely stir-crazy and needed to get out and burn off some energy, so we elected to go to Victoria Park.  I can HIGHLY recommend this park for families, particularly with children.  There are several well-stocked children's play areas scattered about the park with lots of different things for the kids to do - it was great and just what we needed.  We let Hannah and Andrew run around and slide and play until about 4:00 or so, then started the hunt for dinner.  Here are a couple of pictures.

There was a "model boat pool" next to the playground where men were racing really fast boats.  You can see the rooster tail from the boat in the top left - Andrew was mesmerized ...
We went to a huge mall, thinking maybe we'll find something there - but, alas, it was an upscale mall with only upscale food; not what we were looking for.  So, with time running out and not many options, we found ourselves, once again, at McDonalds, hopefully for the last time for a while, though we will still need to eat a quick meal in Chicago before boarding our plane to Atlanta ...

A couple of funny stories from today.  In the Taxi from the park to the mall, Hannah asked why I was sitting up front.  I told her someone needed to tell the driver where to go (or in our case, hand him a pre-written piece of paper with the name of the mall in Chinese :>) and also to pay him.  She, of course asked "Why", and I asked her if she had any money to pay him.  She of course said "No", to which the driver responded (in perfect English, mind you), "Then you will have to stay in my Taxi and clean up".  We all laughed (and were a bit surprised that he was following our conversation; in China, you never expect the local people to be able to understand you, I guess that is not the case in Hong Kong :>)  The other funny story is that I popped in one of the "Kung Fu Panda:  Legends of Awesomeness" DVDs, just to make sure it would work on the computer before the long ride tomorrow, and guess what?  It's all in English!  No Chinese voice over - there are Chinese sub-titles, but no Chinese audio.  I checked all of the DVDs we bought, and they are all the same.  Are you kidding me?  We bought DVDs in China and they don't have Chinese on them?  Who knew - it never even occurred to me to check the language on the DVDs ...  Oh well. Hannah has been watching cartoons in Chinese and still seems mesmerized by them, even though she can't understand them; hopefully, Andrew will feel the same way about English cartoons ...

And so there you have it.  Tomorrow we will say goodbye to Andrew's homeland (really we did that today, though I guess technically Hong Kong is now part of China).  It is sad and exciting all at the same time.  Lois told Andrew that we were going to fly on a plane tomorrow for a long time and go to America, and he seemed to understand - he was very well prepared by his Foster family and we are grateful for that.  I am sure there will be more grieving once we get home and the reality of no longer being in China sinks in - nothing will be familiar, the language, the faces, the smells, the sights, the sounds, ...  It is just mind-boggling to think of all the changes Andrew has been through in his short 4 years.

There have been a few bumps in the road the past two weeks, but mostly lots of great memories and most importantly, a new family of four has been born.  Thank you for following along, for praying and for encouraging us.  We would appreciate your continued prayers as we start our long journey home tomorrow (a little over 24 hours total).  Particularly for Hannah and Andrew (who does not like to wear seat belts, sigh ...)  That is a long, confining flight for a four year old used to running around all the time ...

We hope to keep this blog somewhat up-to-date, but I remember how hard it was to do that when we got home with Hannah; with two at home, who knows ...  But keep checking back, we'll eventually post something :>)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Guangzhou Day 13 - Last Day

Hey, me again :>)  Today was an interesting day, but aren't they all?  We went to Shamian Island to do some shopping, and of course have lunch at "Lucy's" (famous for it's western food in the adoption community - they serve sweet tea in huge mason jars :>)  The kids were done shopping after about 15 minutes, so we did what we could, then headed to the park and let them play on the play ground.  They had a lot of fun, and we learned that Andrew is quite adept at climbing, jumping, sliding, ...  Here are a few pictures.

And then there was lunch at Lucy's.  We have two very different eater's among us now and it is hard finding a place that will satisfy both of them.  Hannah was very content with her burger and fries, Andrew not so much (though the fries seemed to be OK).  Of course it didn't help that he had a minor melt down just before our food arrived ...  Hannah now prefers Western food to Asian food; Andrew, of course, heavily prefers Asian food and noodles of just about any kind seem to be a favorite.  Here are a few pictures from lunch.

After lunch we said goodbye to 2 families who headed out today, then put the kids down for a long-deserved nap.  After nap time, it was time for "you yong", that's swimming in Chinese :>)  Unfortunately, the children's pool is still closed, but we had fun in the "big" pool.  Andrew was definitely feeling more comfortable with his swim ring and with me today, as he was jumping unafraid from the side of the pool into my arms - Lois was able to catch a couple of them on video.

A very trusting position ...

About the only place Hannah would sit on her ring :>)  Though today, she did walk with mama up and down the first three stairs into the pool.  This is quite an improvement.
We finished the day having dinner with some (now) dear friends who only live about 30 minutes from us -  how amazing is that!  They have adopted an 18 month old little girl, and Andrew has really enjoyed being around her (and all the other little girls).  You may remember that he had a younger foster sister in his home, so he is really drawn to other little girls (and he calls them "mei mei", which is little sister in Chinese).  We hope to see more of the Grubbs once we get home.

Andrew is quite the singer; in fact he likes to sing almost as much as Hannah does.  He has a favorite song that he sings all the time; according to Molly, it is a fairly traditional Chinese children's song.  The difference is that Andrew is also a bit of a ham, so it was fairly easy for Mama to talk him into singing it while I took some video :>)  So I leave you with Andrew's rendition of his favorite song.

Tomorrow morning at 10:30, we start our journey home.  We will take a van to our hotel in Hong Kong (more expensive than the train, but *much* less hassle - and with 2 young ones in tow, we are all about less hassle these days).  Spend the afternoon in Hong Kong (or as much of the afternoon as the kids can take), then head to the airport on Friday morning for our 11:00 flight to Chicago.

It has been quite an amazing experience these past 2 weeks; watching Andrew begin to adjust to us and his new life is both exciting and humbling.  He is quite the trooper - I can't even imagine all that he must be feeling and trying to process.  He has left everything and everyone he has ever known and has willingly (OK, sometimes unwillingly) accepted us.  He is an amazing little boy and we are truly blessed to be called his parents.  Have a blessed day - and maybe say a quick prayer of thanks for your family :>)