Groceries, Qing Ping Market & Shamian Island

We had another amazing day in China.  We are seriously trying to soak up every second and just feel so honored to see and learn about China first hand like this.  Some homesickness has set in and we are definitely missing Amon, our littlest and family and friends, but China is really amazing.

Everett had a good night and slept like a champ.  He’s still sleeping a lot during the day too, but today he actually slept a little less.  We also saw more of his personality today which was really sweet and encouraging.  He is just freakin’ precious and we all cannot wait to snuggle the crap out of this kid 🙂

For breakfast he tried ALL THE BREADS!!!  It was adorable.  And he took the littlest bite out of each one of them.  So far oranges, bananas and yogurt are his go-to breakfast foods.

We went to a grocery store today which was so fun.  I love love love grocery stores in other counties.  I think it is a blast picking out all the snack foods.  Chips, candies, crackers, treats…just let me try them all.  We brought home quite the sampling and so far only had one major strike out…we thought we were buying dried orange fruit, but instead got dried orange peels…they are crazy potent.  We gave one to Shuai and he chucked it across the room.

We have only eaten at one place twice so far here in China.  Every lunch and dinner we try another new place.  Today we found a little ramen stand.  Everyone loved it…especially Shuai.  It was also nice for our whole family to eat on about $2.

After lunch we went out for some more sight seeing.  First we walked around the Qing Ping Market.  This was a blast!!!!  The market is basically a giant pet/herbal medicine market.  There were dogs, cats, fish, turtles, lizards, rabbits, hamsters and scorpions.  And WHOA…the giant bowls full of scorpions kind of weirded me out.  I just kept imagining them getting dumped out and what would happen after that, ummmmm, probably Armageddon.

There was also a whole section for herbal medicines.  We saw lots of super interesting dried things: sea horses, starfish, giant mushrooms, sea cucumbers, snakes and more.  The smell was really different…very medicinal…kind of like oils on steroids.

The last place we enjoyed today was Shamian Island.  It was beautiful.  Big trees and flowers everywhere.  Cobblestone streets.  Little touristy shops.  And fun treats like ice cream and cotton candy.  There’s a manmade canal that makes it an island and “shaiman” means covered by sand.  It used to be the main area for families adopting, but is really popular among locals because of it’s European architecture.  And I thought this was so interesting, but the same artist created all the statues on Shamian Island.

We walked around for a few hours and found some fun gifts for family and friends back home and each kiddo picked out a pocket watch necklace.  So random I know, but they love them.  And I finally found a mahjong game which was the one thing I really wanted to come home with.

(I spelled Shamian wrong.  Wah, wah!)

(We tried to get him to stand in line with the kid statues, but he was not having it.)

Shuai just rode around in his stroller the whole time.  Shopping is not his thing at all.  We bought him a little bubble wand and it was the best $1 we spent.  He absolutely loved the bubbles.  He reminds us so much of Amon, who loves bubbles too!!!

Josh and I tried to get a picture together.  Dang kids!

We’re all about to crash for the night after yet another yummy dinner.  Tomorrow we’re doing some more sight seeing around town and then Monday is our visa appointment.  We gathered all our documents today and filled out what should be officially our last piece of paperwork.  China has been amazing, but home is sounding really good.

7/11, Shopping & Sun Yat-Sen

Thank you so much for all the prayers you guys are praying on behalf of our family and Everett’s flight.  I simply cannot say thank you enough.  When I say they mean the world, we really mean that.  We are incredibly grateful.  Right now we are still waiting on some doctors’ letters and then on Monday morning we are going to the local Delta office…they are closed for the weekend.  Praying they will be able to help get something done.

Since getting Everett we’ve stayed in our hotel rooms quite a bit.  He is still adjusting of course and is napping a lot.  He gets quite grumpy when we wake him prematurely so we’ve been trying to let him sleep as much as he needs.  He has been so quiet and somber.  Josh calls him Silent Bob 🙂  Every day we get a little more of a glimpse into his personality and it makes my heart soar.

 Right now he does not love being touched (outside of being carried around) or snuggled, but yesterday we were able to tickle him a bit and get him to laugh a little.  Today he played some in the hotel and was being silly.  I just sat there in awe of his little self.  These little glimpses don’t last long, but one day this will all be a distant memory.  I cannot wait for the day when I can snuggle him to smithereens and get him to really belly laugh.

The big kids have been handling the hotel life with trips to the pool and short outings here and there. The weather is beautiful here, but not hot so the pool water hit right around 60 degrees.  Way too cold in my opinion, but they all still took the plunge.  They bounced back and forth between the cold water and the hot tub.  We were the only people at the pool the entire time along with our personal lifeguard 🙂

We’re starting to get out more with Shuai.  He either wants Josh to carry him or he loves the stroller and lounges just like Amon does.  He and Amon actually remind us of each other so much.  We cannot wait for them to meet.  #BFF

The other night we got out for some dinner (by the way we are trying ALL THE FOODS and are soooooo loving everything) and also went into a 7/11 market.  Shuai was hilarious just walking around and gathering up all kinds of snacks into his arms.  We were all laughing and just losing it over how cute he was.

Today we went to a local market/mall.  It was HUGE!!!!!!!!  So many stores and pretty overwhelming, but we still did some shopping.  Chinese dresses for Harper and our littlest, bracelets, key chains, chopsticks, fans, bracelets, ornaments, magnets, paper lanterns and more.  It was really fun seeing everything and picking goodies out to take home to family and friends.  The kids were all on the lookout for gifts for their teachers and classmates.  Harper scored the cutest panda pens for her class and the boys picked out fun pencil sharpeners for theirs.  They are all missing home a bit and especially their school friends and teachers.

“Oh my gosh, please hurry up already.”  This kid!  You guys, he is a total trip.

We also went to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial.  It was GORGEOUS.  Oddly enough this might be one of my favorite places we’ve been so far.  It was simple and small, but so pretty.  The architecture was crazy beautiful and there were flowers and big canopy trees everywhere.

I knew nothing about Sun Yet-Sen before this stop, but found everything so interesting especially that he and Mao had a little beef between each other, but then not.  Confusing right?!?!?  It was not crazy busy and they had little stamp stations through out the place for people to check off areas they’d been to.  There were lots of families and small groups getting their different stamps.  I snagged one for my little China sketch book too.

Tomorrow we are getting back out for the Qing Ping Market and Shamian Island.  We’re all excited to be getting out more and more.  And in 6 days we’ll hopefully be headed towards home.  We miss Amon and our littlest a ton and cannot wait to get Shuai home.

Thank you again for all the prayers and crazy kind words.  I really cannot say that enough.

He Unlocks Doors

Yesterday was our most eventful day in China so far.  We headed to the airport at 8:30am to fly from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou.  Everything was packed and ready to go.  This was going to be our test flight to see how Everett’s little heart handled a flight.  Before leaving for China we had to get a special Delta approved oxygen machine and a certain number of batteries all required by Delta.  It was the biggest mess and made me never want to fly Delta again, but we needed that flight and we needed an oxygen machine so we did what we had to do.

When we arrived for our flight in Zhengzhou we started to check in, showed our Delta paperwork and all our paperwork from our doctor.  Then began the longest process to try and make this flight happen.  Wendy, our guide and translator, was working so hard on behalf of our family and Shuai.  Josh Kelley was pissed to say the least and his mustache was in quite the tizzy.  The airline was refusing to let Shuai fly due to his health.  Paperwork was shown.  Explanations were given.  We even called Shuai’s doctor here in China and had him explain to the airline.  Still they wouldn’t budge and refused our son his flight.

While Josh and Wendy were fighting I remembered something on my phone.  Way back in April of last year I woke up one night with a very specific message I felt was from Jesus.  Let me say here before you think I’m super in-tune to God’s voice…I’m not…I’m terrible at hearing Him and feel like I never have these moments so when they do happen which is crazy rare I document it asap.  I grabbed my phone that night and pecked out the date, time and words.

When we get there, I unlock doors.  4/14/16 10:40pm

I had not thought about the message since…until now.  As I watched Josh fight on behalf of our son I gathered the kids and we just asked God to unlock doors.  I knew those words were for our family in this moment.  Not knowing what would happen we knew we had to trust and believe nothing about our day had surprised God and that He would be His faithful self.

Our airline refused to let Shuai fly.  Wendy then  tried the other airline who had flights going to Guangzhou and again he was denied.  Wendy said the first airline talked with the other airline before we could get to them.  Wheels immediately started to turn because one of the airlines who denied Shuai is the airline our first flight for home is with from Guangzhou to Beijing.  Cindy immediately started calling colleagues to try and get this mess figured out.

Josh and the big kids went ahead and took the flight to Guangzhou.  Shuai and I waited as Wendy took them through security.  We waited and waited and waited.  Then Wendy came running back with the O2 machine and all the batteries because security wouldn’t let Josh through with them.  Their flight was leaving soon and now Wendy and I had to race to the train station to catch a 7 hour train ride to Guangzhou.

The race was on and while riding in the van I nervously ate one remaining Goo-Goo cluster I had brought as part of gifts we gave out.  That part makes me laugh. I wish you could have seen me.  It was not pretty.  We pulled up to the train station, I strapped Shuai in his stroller (Marcie…the stroller has been a life saver), Wendy ran in to get our tickets and then we sprinted though the station to try and catch the train.  We made it just in time.  I kissed Shuai on the cheek in celebration, he wiped it off…it’s what he does…but then he kissed my cheek ever so softly and I died.  I squealed and smothered him in more kisses all of which he wiped away, but who cares?!?!?!?!?!  My boy kissed me.

Then we settled into a long 7 hour train ride.  Shuai was super tired and grumpy and scared.  He slept a lot.  Cried some.  Took a couple of swings at me 🙂  Refused to eat and drink.  Threw a cracker. I might have broken down into the biggest sob while everyone around us looked on in semi horror.  What was wrong with this lady?!?!?!  I can laugh now, but man it was not pretty.  It was more not pretty than me stuffing my nervous face with a Goo-Goo cluster.  Hahahaha.  I bit every finger nail I had off on the train.  It was just kind of a mess.

Shuai went from my lap to his seat and back and forth 1000 times over the 7 hours.  He was quiet and somber.  I read him books and he played with 3 post-it notes briefly.  I listened to Hillsong Young & Free, journaled and creepily stared at him while he slept.  We also worked on the ‘more’ sign all thanks to handsantizer.  Wringing his hands is comforting to him so he loves loves loves handsanitizer.  Figured we might as well start on some sign language.

While Shuai slept I remembered another message on my phone.  One day shortly after starting the process for Shuai, but not sharing with anyone just yet my friend Amber sent me a text with Joshua 1:9 and said she just felt like she was suppose to send it.  I am always so encouraged by things like this…when God is speaking to other people about me or our family…and then they choose to share it.  I grabbed my Bible and looked up Joshua 1:9.  I know the gist of the verse, but I wanted to see it word for word.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The exact words my heart needed in such a stress filled moment and time.  Here I was on a train, in China, alone with my new three-year-old who has been with us for 2 days, who is grieving and sad, and wondering how on earth is our flight home going to work out and did I mention alone?  But that’s not what the verse says…the Lord your God is with your wherever you go.  And I knew He was.

We finally arrived in Guangzhou and made it to our hotel around 9pm.  We were hungry and exhausted.  It had been the craziest day.

We all crashed after some tasty local Chinese and everyone slept so good.  Shuai only woke up twice and both times went back to sleep.  I must say it is the sweetest hearing him in the middle of the night call out “mama”.

Today has been pretty chill.  He had his medical appointment this morning and did awesome except when they took labs which made him and me cry.  This kid is tearing our hearts into pieces.  He is the sweetest and seeing him really cry hard for the first time was pitiful.

As always our day was full of good food and naps.  Josh has been working on flight stuff.  We’re just not sure how all this is going to play out.  The airline says we need a note from a Chinese doctor with a stamp saying he can fly.  The hospital said no one in China will give us that so called letter.  Now our agency is trying to get a letter from Shuai’s doctor back in Zhengzhou.  It just feels so messy, but we know that we know that we know God is good, faithful and always in control.  We are choosing to believe He will unlock these doors and make a way.

If you would pray with us about our flights home we would be so grateful.  Your kindness and encouraging words and prayers already have amazed us.  You guys are the nicest.  Thank you for joining in our excitement about Everett…he really is amazing.  God has truly yet again blessed our socks off with another amazing kiddo.

Zhengzhou to Guangzhou

Today we take a morning flight to Guangzhou.  There we will spend our remaining time waiting on documents and getting to know Everett.  We’re excited to see another part of China and be a little bit closer to coming home.

Zhengzhou has our hearts forever and now holds the greatest memories for us in China…meeting Shuai for the first time, holding him close and starting our journey together again as a family.  My favorite moments from China have been here.

Top favorite moments:

Being out and about in his city.  Seeing special places and learning more about him.  Seeing his home and realizing how deeply loved he has been.

Trying to get him to try on his O2 mask.  He was not up for this and all the kids tried it on to show him how it was done.  Hudson’s face was cracking me up…not creepy or scary at all 🙂

Eating at a great place where my BIL asked my SILs parents if he could marry her.  We devoured the food and had the best dumplings we’ve had so far.  Plus Shuai had perked up after a sad morning.  We felt so bad for him all morning and finally we went in to eat and he brightened up.

First breakfast together.  Swoon.  He ate a little rice cereal, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges and drank OJ.

Getting his passport photo taken.  I die.  He was the cutest little thing sitting up there all by himself.  He is just a dream!

We’ve had lots of appointments and had to go here and there for them all day yesterday.  He got really anxious and stressed out at every place, but at the police station he had his first little moment when he didn’t.  He was chill and smiling.  He’s got a long road ahead which makes me incredibly sad to think about so I am trying to notice even the tiniest of things which represent progress and trust.

 Finding out you must wear a swim cap to swim and the hotel lending us some.  And Solomon always getting the hot pink one.  The big kids have been awesome.  So thankful they were able to come with us.

Shuai totally comforts himself by ringing his hands together.  He loves all things lotion and hand sanitizer and running water.  He stands at the sink for the longest time just running his hands underneath and filling up leftover water bottles.  He’s also crazy attached to a sippy cup we brought.  He takes it everywhere and even slept with it last night.  We’ve filled it with water too many times to count already.

And the way he sleeps.  He just falls asleep in our bed. It is hands down the sweetest.

He had a rough night last night.  It was extremely sad and we know he’s starting to grieve, but the fact that he’s being more verbal about it instead of quiet like his first night makes me feel better.  He’s 3 and confused and is sad and doesn’t feel well and doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand him.  It’s just flat out hard and makes me want to cry rivers for him, but God is good.  I just keep covering his heart, mind and body in prayer and asking God to be His audacious, wondrous, miracle working, redemptive self.  What a gift we have been given and oh how were trying to handle him with care.

Meeting Everett Louie Shuai

Warning…500 photos to follow 🙂

I woke at 1:30am with nerves.  My phone had sweet messages from family.  My eyes read over them and fell back asleep.  I woke again around 4 and again around 5:30.  I scrolled through my phone.  Josh was already up and gone.  My stomach swirled.  So so nervous.  The kids were all still sleeping…I wondered if our boy was still sleeping too or if he was already awake like his dad and I.  I started to get ready and noticed his little toothbrush.  Hudson woke up first.  He walked in all squinty eyed, grabbed a book and hopped up on our bed to read.  I read in Exodus 10…the ninth plague…darkness…you know, just some light hearted reading 🙂 Hudson and I talked about what his little brother might be doing that morning.

Josh came back from the hotel gym and Harper and Solomon woke up.  We all headed down to get some breakfast together.  Watermelon, waffles, bacon and eggs.  Everyone ate the beautiful dragon fruit and agreed we liked it better than we do kiwi…and we love kiwi.  I stepped outside to get a shot of Zhengzhou waking up.  We went back up to straighten the room and get everything situated.  The kids put on a gynmastics show complete with sword swallowing and a human suspension bridge.  I love them.  Harper kept signing Christmas carols.  My nerves kept churning.  Harper and I sang a small Justin Beiber duo.  She facetimed her friend Zoe and we all facetimed with Amon and our littlest as they were getting ready for bed.

We double checked his bag…cookies, snacks, cars, playdoh, stickers and a sippy cup of water.  Then it was time to go.  9:30.  We walked down to the lobby to meet Wendy and exchange some money.  There were other families gathering in the lobby obviously going to meet their children too.  Everyone was carrying colorful gift bags mostly in reds and golds to give as thank yous to different officials and nannies.

We loaded in the van.  The weather was sunny and warm.  The adoption center was very close by and we were the first ones there.  The building was colorful, welcoming and friendly.  We were greeted with smiles from everyone.  We sat at a table nervously waiting and started going over paperwork and double checking spellings and information.  They said he was in the building.  I started to cry.  Wendy gave me a tissue and said comforting words.  She is the nicest.  We went over paperwork again.  Other families started to arrive and join us in the big colorful room.  Then they said he was coming and I started to cry again heart racing.

And then there he was.  He was walking in on his own through the first set of automatic doors with a nanny holding a baby.  He got through the first set of doors and then hesitated.  He wouldn’t come any further.  There was no crying, but head shakes back-and-forth no.  Wendy and several staff members went to him to try and coax him in.  He stood his ground.  Then we went out to him.  I couldn’t believe it.  There we were face-to-face with our son.  I had dreamed of this moment at least a 1,001 times.  We gave him space and one of his workers at his home picked him up.  Everyone was talking to him.  We gave him some cookies and Josh and I both tried to hold him and he shook his head no.  We tried again and he came to me.  He squirmed a bit and then settled down.  He was wearing 2 giant layers of clothing and holding a piece of chocolate wrapped in a shiny silver and purple wrapper.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon were smitten.

He sat with me for a while.  I noticed he would tap his foot.  I had to do something and Josh tried to take him and he went with ease.  There they sat together.  His little face still had not budged…he was taking it all in.

We spent the rest of the time filling out paperwork and soaking his somber little self up.  I wrote out his name Everett Louie Shuai…he was ours.  We played with cars and ate vanilla wafers.  He played with stickers and little animals.  His worker brought each item we mailed him in his care package.  His little book was well worn…they had been working hard to prepare him for us and it showed.  I cried again.  We all looked at his little book together.  He said the Chinese name for each person and then looked at that person and smiled.  We all sat amazed…just in awe of this little gem we get to call our son and brother.  Every time he said the name and then looked at the correct person we all lost it.

We filled out more paperwork.  Other families were meeting their children all around us.  Some kids were so quiet while others we’re crying so hard and loud.  It was such a beautiful and bittersweet moment.  I tried soaking in every piece of it…what a gift we have been given.  Solomon got him to laugh for the first time while he road on a little push car.  It was the sweetest little laugh.  At one point we had to put our fingerprints on some paperwork in red ink and I got very emotional…the significance of putting my actual fingerprint onto paperwork promising I would love our son forever was not lost on me.  What an honor we have been given.

We needed his hand print next and he wasn’t having it.  Wendy talked and talked and talked to him.  Harper showed him how to do it on her own hand.  We offered cookies and snacks of all kinds.  We tried everything, but finally broke out some candy crush on Josh’s phone.  He clicked away and eventually let us stamp his little hand.

Once paperwork was all finished we walked out of the building with another sweet little boy to call our own.  He was so quiet.  He rode in Josh’s lap to our hotel.  Not many noises at all, but Hudson told him he loved him in Chinese and Everett said it back.  We all died.

At the hotel he checked out everything and was just super quiet.  He loved playing with a sword and Hudson and Solomon had him laughing at catapulting blocks into the air.  The big kids went to swim and we facetimed with Uncle Andy and Aunt Becky and he fell asleep.  We spent the afternoon looking at each other and taking his stats to send to his doctors.

Later in the afternoon we went to visit his home.  I kind of hate the word orphanage and it was his home.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I cried too many times to count.  He is such a loved little boy and was incredibly well taken care of by the staff and nannies and doctors and nurses.  Everyone told him bye and just made over him.  He did great.  I can’t say enough good things about Show Hope and the homes they run in Zhengzhou.  The doctor we spoke with was so kind and actually worked at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for a few years.  Such a small world.

After our visit we headed back to the hotel.  We got take out from a little local place, took a bath, put on fresh pajamas and then chilled out in front of Storks.  He had such a big hard day and he handled it incredibly well.

It was a day filled with emotions, but Shuai rocked it!  I however was a mess.  So many tears for his little mind and heart.  I prayed all throughout the day asking God to be everything he needs and to comfort him like no other.  This was the first day to our forever and I seriously feel like the luckiest mama on Earth.

Beijing to Zhengzhou

Today was our last day in Beijing and it was awesome.  China seriously just gets better and better.  We have been so amazed and in awe of how beautiful and intricate and thoughtful and special this place is.  For our last day in Beijing we started the morning off in Tiananmen Square.  I don’t know why exactly, maybe the history that’s taken place there, but I was really looking forward to seeing the square and it did not disappoint.

One thing I found so impressive were the guards on duty who rotate every hour.  They stand so tall and still.  I also had no idea they did a flag ceremony every morning and every sunset…every single day.  That is wild.  Another thing we all loved was the painting of Chairman Mao who’s eyes followed you wherever you went.  Creepy!

Afterwards we went into the Forbidden City which was huge.  I feel like that is how to explain everything in China.  Massive.  Ginormous.  Large.  All applicable.  And the details were crazy.  We couldn’t believe after lots of walking we still were not actually in the Forbidden City…only through the gates leading to it.  To think this place was meant for one family…so crazy.  Cindy, our guide, said it would take 3 full days just to see 60% of The Forbidden City.  Wow.

Two things I personally thought were so interesting:

1. Female lion statues show a baby under one of the lion’s paws.  Male lion statues show a ball under one of the lion’s paws.  The rest of the day Harper was calling male and females like it was her job 🙂

2. There are zero plants of any kind…grass, trees, flowers, etc…at all in The Forbidden City until the very end when  you enter the garden.  Then it’s like whoa!!!!  Incredibly gorgeous and again we want to come back in the spring to see it in bloom.  And the tree below is over 500 years old.

Harper and Hudson took plenty of selfies.  Harper even got Ms. Cindy in on the action.

After we finished our family got on a van and the other two families headed for lunch.  Our train left first so off we went to the train station.  When we got loaded in the van it hit me, we’re going to Zhengzhou and our son is there.  I immediately got teary eyed and wanted to capture us all in the van together.

The train station was a bit chaotic.  Our guide could not go in with us so it was a little stressful manuavering around and figuring out where to go.  Plus we had to haul two suitcases down a giant stair case to our train.  When we got to our train gate and sat down moral was low.  I will be honest if there’s one thing our kiddos are struggling with its all the attention from other people they are getting.  Photos and stares and touching has started to really bother them so Josh and I are having to step in more and more and it actually pushed one of them into tears today.

Once we got settled onto the bullet train every one started to perk up.  We ate some treats and chewed gum.  The kids rotated time on our iPad.  Josh taught Harper how to play Sudoku.  And I journaled the whole train ride.  We we’re headed to our son and I wanted to remember what the ride was like…white buildings with red roofs, rows and rows of green farmland, tall skinny trees that resembled upside down brooms, dirt mounds, windy dirt roads, white greenhouses, city buildings, gray skies, power lines in heart shapes, large blue canopies, water canals, interstates, developments everywhere and a sinking sun by the time we finally arrived 3 hours later in Zhengzhou.

When we arrived in Zhengzhou our new guide Wendy was there to meet us.  She is super nice!  We went straight to our hotel, got settled and then Wendy, Harper and I went out to pick up some dinner.  We had our best dinner yet tonight…spicy tomato noodles, small pork dumplings and cooked broccoli.  Delish.  We went over some paperwork for tomorrow morning, I packed our little guy a bag with his blanket, cookies, cheerios, oyster crackers, a ball, a few small cars and plastic animals, stickers and a cup for water and we got together some gifts for to give officials and nannies.

And now I sit here exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open and yet my stomach is just turning with nerves.  Tomorrow.  Tomorrow at 9:30 am we head out to meet our boy.  I just keep covering his little heart, mind and body in prayer.  Asking God for supernatural, unheard of things…to work miracles.  I am grieved over the loss he is about to endure and simultaneously elated I get to be his mama.  Praying tonight we would feel Jesus so close to each one of us tomorrow.  Praying God would simply be His mighty self and sustain, lift up and love us like He always does.  Tomorrow will be such a beautiful, bittersweet day.  Cannot wait to meet our son.

Beijing Day 2

It’s in the 3am time in Beijing and I can’t sleep.  I keep waking thinking about our boy and my nerves grow more and more.  We meet him tomorrow and that’s it…he’ll be ours forever…his Gotcha Day.  We’ve been sight seeing like it’s our job, but all the while it’s just a cover…just a try-and-keep-our-minds-off-the-ginormosuness-of-whats-really-about-to-happen facade.  We have loved our time seeing and learning about China’s rich deep culture, but our hearts and heads are with a little guy in Zhengzhou and the thought of him is ruling those spaces.

I was too tired last night to try and document the day, so here I am because my nerves make me want to vomit so I’m typing away instead of puking 🙂  Yesterday was yet another awesome day.  We’ve been enjoying breakfast every morning in our hotel.  They have a huge spread…something for everyone.  Our kids are rocking the chopsticks.  Hudson and Harper use them all the time…Solomon is still working on mastering them.  Harper gives all the credit to her Uncle Andy and Aunt Becky because she uses chopsticks at their house all the time.  Made me smile when she shared that with us.

After breakfast we headed to The Great Wall.  On our way we stopped at a huge jade factory.  I found this incredibly interesting.  We got to watch men working on happy family balls and saw the step-by-step process.  The intricateness of each piece created is crazy and the skill is only passed down from generation to generation through family.  There are no schools that teach jade carvings and so one day the skill could disappear if other generations choose not to learn.  I could have bought 1,001 bracelets…I was really loving the yellow jade…so so pretty.  We ended up finding the perfect little jade snake for our house…our little guy was born in the year of the snake.

After the jade factory we loaded back up and started for The Great Wall.  On the bus my mind was on our son.  I wondered what he was doing today while we were out learning about his culture and history and buying a jade snake in honor of him.  Is today a day full of his regular ins and outs or are they preparing him for us?  Has he seen our faces like we’ve seen his?  Will he recognize us at all when we meet?  I just keep begging God to be everything He needs.  To comfort his little heart.  To give him peace that’s unexplainable and irreplaceable.  To allow him to some how, some way know he is safe and loved with us.  I keep asking God to tie up all the fear and be his comfort.  I keep asking God to heal his heart and body.  We meet him in one day…one day stands between us and our new son…my heart might explode.

Josh Kelley got my attention and pointed out The Great Wall in the distance.  Excitement started bubbling from everyone in the bus.  One of the other little girls we’re with yelled out, “This is the best vacation ever.”  Everyone laughed.  Oh the thrill and excitement…it was so sweet.  Currently my calves hurt and I thank The Great Wall for this.  We hiked pretty far and the kids did amazing.  Solomon led the way for us and I was right on his heels because at one point I looked back and got nauseous so I just tucked my head, never looked back again…until I had to come down…and pressed on.  Coming back down was a different story.  Harper held my hand.  Hahahahaha.  It wasn’t dramatic, but truth be told my stomach turned a bit and I got shaky legs.  We were really high on some crazy steps so yeah, I was a bit nervous, but it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Great Wall Fun Fact:  Did you know the wall actually started out as 7 different square walls ruled by 7 different rulers?  Then one very ambitious ruler ended up killing the other 6 and took the whole wall for himself and made it one long wall.  Totally did not know this!!!!  And it’s like the world’s largest graveyard as well.  A little morbid, but so many people died while making the wall and they couldn’t take bodies down so they just buried them in the wall or in the mountains around the wall.  Crazy town!

On our way up the wall we passed through a group of vibrant, fun Tibetan ladies.  We couldn’t communicate except through smiles and at one point Hudson was yelling back for Harper calling her name and all the Tibetan ladies started yelling, “Harper.  Harper.  Harper.”  It was really sweet and funny.

Solomon and Hudson have been a huge hit.  Everyone wants to take pictures with them.  They’re both a little over it at this point…makes them feels funny they said…especially Solomon.  During one picture with a big group of ladies Sol snuck out the back and before we knew it a lady physically picked him up and put him back in the picture…hahahahahaha.  It was hilarious and he was a good sport about it, but we finally nixed some pictures last night at dinner because we could tell it was really starting to bother him.  At the great wall though they both bought wooden katanas (swords) and put on a show using them to do their karate katas in unison.  Oh the pictures.

(This picture makes me laugh because of Harper over to the side like “Wah. Wah.  Whoa is me.”  She was not like that at all…she was glad she wasn’t center of attention, but this picture makes it look different and makes me laugh every time I see it.)

Josh and I tried getting a couple of pictures together.  We tried jumping together to no avail.  Harper took these and we all love the lady with us.  I mean, Josh and I clearly nailed the jumping and the lady is really loving being in our photo.  PS:  I have a huge mouth.

After The Great Wall we headed to lunch at another little local place that made gorgeous vases too.  We were so hungry and food was already on the table when we arrived we all just dove in and I snapped zero pictures.  We ate and ate and ate.  Real Chinese food is out of this world…so so delicious.  I ate my favorite dish so far which was a spicy tomato soup with white rice.  Like soooooo good.

After lunch we went to the Summer Palace.  The Summer Palace was massive massive massive.  Like HUGE!!!!  It was definitely the busiest place we’ve been so far.  Our guide Cindy told us it’s still a very popular place to go for locals and not just tourists so it’s always very busy.  We definitely would like to come back in spring to see everything in bloom.  Cindy said there are cherry blossoms, peonies and water lilies everywhere.

One thing I loved was all the art.  Summer Palace has the longest art gallery in the world…it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records.  I was so curious how many artists contributed to it and Cindy said over a million.  Can you even imagine that?  It was out of this world.

After the Summer Palace we headed back to our hotel.  We had met that morning at 8:30am and arrived back at our hotel after 5pm.  Definitely a long full day.  We snagged dinner at another little local place…Fried rice, noodle soup and sweet and sour pork…dropped by a grocery shop for waters, Oreos and Mentos, and then back to our hotel to crash.

This trip has been unreal so far.  We feel insanely blessed to be able to experience our little guy’s culture like this and the Chinese history is so deep and thoughtful and quickly changing.  Definitely an experience of a lifetime.   Today we get to see The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and then onto Zhengzhou by train this afternoon.  Another great day in China ahead and tomorrow we meet our son.

Beijing Day 1

Today was our first full day in Beijing.  On our drive back to our hotel late this afternoon I just kept saying what a great day it was.  We had the best time, the weather was awesome, we learned so much about Chinese culture and just enjoyed ourselves.  Our guide Cindy is The.Best!!!  She is crazy kind and shares so much information about China and it’s deep, beautiful culture.

Everyone was dead asleep by 8 last night.  Josh and I woke up around 4, but the kids slept until 6.  We kicked our day off with a yummy breakfast…eggs, bacon, waffles, cereal, fruit, noodles, rice, french fries…hahahahaha, so many many options.  I love our busy city view from our hotel…Beijing was waking up.

After breakfast we headed out for the Temple of Heaven.  It was a massive area and had gorgeous temples and marble everywhere.  One thing we are learning is that everything has meaning or symbolism…even the number of stairs are deliberate sometimes.  So much thought was put into the designs, materials, colors, use, etc.

We saw several temples and also enjoyed the huge park area too.  The boys would have been thrilled if we’d brought their bikes…tons of open space.  Kids we’re playing with kites and riding scooters and bikes.  We were able to explore the whole place and even played shuttle cock…aka hackie sack…with a bunch of older men.  Back in the day, Josh Kelley played a mean hackie sack.  He got out there and showed off some moves.  And we all stepped on some Beijing snow together too.

Breaking News:  Josh and I have decided we’re going to retire to China.  I know some people choose Florida, but not us.  All the older, retired people in China live it up.  Groups of them dance in the park, yell at the trees, smoke, gamble, play shuttle cock, knit, play chess and just party in general.  Yep, China is where it’s at for retirees.

Next up we did a tea tasting ceremony.  This was a blast.  I don’t even like tea and I loved this.  They served us peanuts and showed us how to prepare 5 different teas and we smelled and tasted each one.  It was super fun to hear what everyone thought about each tea and what each tea is used for in China.

After our tea tasting we headed to a little local place for lunch.  It was family style so each of the 3 families here ordered a couple of dishes and we all shared.  We ate noodle soup, pork dumplings, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, beef pancakes, kung pao chicken and wait for it, donkey.  The food was out of this world, Solomon ate the donkey and Josh Kelley ate a sichaun peppercorn that made his tongue go numb.

Last part of our day we spent in the Hutong Courtyards.  The courtyards use to be associated with the poor or lower-class, but now if you own one it’s incredibly valuable and if you choose to sell it to the government you can become very wealthy.  They were simple and so gorgeous.  We saw a local artist creating in one of the courtyards and I snagged a beautiful cherry blossom piece he’d painted.  Cannot wait to add it to our home.

We road in rickshaws in and through out the little alley ways.  Josh and Harper road together and Solomon, Hudson and I road together.  Our guy ran into Harper and Josh’s rickshaw not once, but twice.  He also almost hit a car to which he yelled, “Oh my gosh.” and then almost hit a lady in her wheelchair.  It was hilarious and fun!!!  Everyone loved them.

 We’re ending our day in our hotel.  Josh has already crashed and the kids are semi losing their minds in a delirium and eating chewy Sweetarts.  Everyone is exhausted so we’re headed to bed soon.  Tomorrow we’re going to The Great Wall of China and The Summer Palace.  Only two more full days until we meet our boy.  We’re over the moon and enjoying every second of our time here.