Tuesday, July 26, 2011

China Day 21: Just Doing Life

Photo Album

For the past couple of days, we've had only short meetings or appointments on our schedule.  We opted out of all the group tours.  While we enjoy connecting with other families, we are sure we made the right decision so the seven of us could connect, bond, and just do life together the best we can in a hotel.

Since arriving in Guangzhou, we haven't felt as rushed, antsy, or homesick as we did last week in Fuzhou.  The setting here is beautiful, we have a bit more room, and while it's very humid, it's not nearly as oppressive as it was in Fuzhou.  There is a playroom 4 floors down and a nice park a short, shady walk away.  That and the fact that we're keeping things slow and low-stress have really made this a wonderful last week in China.

It's been nice to get to know the boys better and better.  Each day, even each hour, we see more of their little personalities emerge.  Since we don't have super-exciting adventures to report, I figured I would fill you in on our two newest Brownies.

Travis:  Travis is gentle, cute, sweet, and happy.  He doesn't get angry easily at all, but if he does, he's smiling and laughing again within seconds.  The changes in him over the past week are astounding.  He came to us drooling quite a bit.  He also would also throw a fit by lying down, kicking his legs and banging his head on the floor or the wall.  That behavior is already gone!  He came to us with zero and I mean ZERO language/communication ability, other than laughing or pitching a fit.  Now, he can let us know many of his needs.  We still have a long way to go, but he's sharp!! We gave him the name-sign "X" on the forehead, because he's "smart."  (The "X" is from his Chinese surname Xu and now his middle name Xuen.  He was named Xu En after the man, Mr. Xu who first found him and shared a great affection for him.)  It just occurred to me, I should explain to my non-signing friends that the "X" is a handshape, not drawing an X on his forehead.  I'll post a photo in today's album.

Travis likes:
his daddy!  Better not come between them or you're in trouble!
corn on the cob
looking at word picture books
looking at flash cards on iPad
learning the signs for things
Photo Booth on iPad
sunglasses (we plan to get him some tomorrow)
signing "airplane" and "bear"
after signing bear, acting like a bear and hugging. his daddy taught him this!
Hot Wheels cars (any car, really)
He signs many words now after just a week: airplane, bear, fork, eat, more, helicopter, water, "ILY" and much more.  Those are the ones he signs on his own. He'll copy anything we show him.

Travis dislikes:
being away from Daddy for too long.
brushing his teeth, but he's getting better.  He came to us with brown/black on his teeth around his gum-line, but those spots are already disappearing from twice-daily toothbrushing. 

Tian: Tian is a little spit-fire! He walks with swagger and knows he's cute.  He's also very smart and likes to parrot anything we or his siblings do.  He likes to get his way and will cry and throw a fit if he doesn't.  Today, I had the audacity to not let him crawl back and forth over the seats of the moving van.  He pitched a fit, but Momma didn't back down.  Eventually, I filmed him, then played it back for him to see.  That stopped him pretty quickly.  90% of the day, he's in good spirits, loves to play and be a ham.

Tian likes:
being silly
dancing (TJ has already taught him some MJ moves that Tian happily emulates.)
Hot Wheels cars
dry cereal
getting his way
giving kisses

Tian dislikes:
being told "no"
being away from Momma too long

We are blessed beyond measure to have these boys.  They are very different, from their personalities to their background.  The more we are with Travis, the more we feel adopting him was truly a rescue mission.  I can't even begin to tell you.  We believe he was fed, bathed, and cared for as well as they could under the circumstance, but he would have been lost if he had grown up there in the orphanage.  He was exhibiting some behaviors of someone with mental deficits, but he doesn't have mental deficits.  He was communicated with at an "animal" level, so he behaved accordingly.  It breaks our heart and overflows our heart with joy at the same time.

With Tian, he was in a loving foster home for the past year.  We've already been in communication and shared photos with his foster family via the orphanage.  He had a foster mom he called "Nai Nai" (grandma), a foster father, brother, sister and at least one cousin.

Travis is timid when it comes to playing with his peers or siblings.  If he has a toy and sees Tian, who is more aggressive, coming for it, he'll simply drop the toy and back into the corner.  That is, unless it's his prized airplane, then you better back off, dude!

We have one more day here in Guangzhou, then we begin our trip home!  We have no regrets from our month in China.  It's been amazing and God has had the chance to prove Himself faithful over and over and over again.  It's only by His grace, leading, care, power, that we were able to accomplish this year-long journey.  He's deserving of our continued trust as we transition into the work of making our home home for all seven of us. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

China and America

Someone asked me to compare China with the USA.  Understanding that we are just "tourists" staying in hotels and not living here, I will compare the best I can.  There are major differences and similarities I've noticed while being here.  Some things I prefer the USA's way of doing things, others, I prefer China's.

Health - It seems the Chinese people are very healthy.  We've seen very few overweight Chinese.  They all drink hot tea at least a couple of times daily. Elderly people are out everywhere exercising, dancing in the park, playing a form of hackey sack and board games, playing instruments.  There are exercise parks for adults.  Seeing the activity from the adults, especially the elderly, makes me happy.  I just don't see that in the US.  People go into gyms to workout, but it's different here.  The exercise is a way of life, done in the midst of whatever else may be going on.  It's fun to witness.

Safety - It's just as safe in China, I'm guessing.  There are many things we see here that would be considered "safety hazards" in the US, but after reading some Freakonomics, I think our ideas of safety and danger in the US is totally perceived.  We don't wear seatbelts.  The boys don't sit in car seats.  Many high edges are not well-protected.  (The 9th floor swimming pool or the 1-story high drop into the river across from our hotel.)  We have seen things at playgrounds that would close an entire park here; things such as a broken plastic window or sharp metal edges.  The kids seems to work around these "hazards" and the high ledges just mean adults have to actually watch their kids.  Imagine that.

Fashion - The girls all seems to dress very cute and fashionable.  They wear what looks to be very painful, but gorgeous shoes, too.  I feel totally underdressed in my Teva sandals, shorts and tank tops every single day.
We see many girl/boy couples wearing matching shirts.
When it's hot out, the men of all ages roll up their shirts, exposing their belly.  We have coined the term "belly show" whenever we see this, which is all the time.  :)
We just don't see immodesty here.  (I don't count the belly show as immodesty.)  We also don't see public displays of affection.  Here in GZ, we are in a famous wedding/engagement photo-taking area.  We see girls in wedding dresses and couples dressed to the T all over the place.  Today, a photo was being taken of a sweet young couple.  The photographer had the girl in her beau's arms, her face very close to his.  As soon as the shot was taken, she pulled back, fanned herself and giggled, seeming like she was so shy and embarrassed.  It was sweet!

Hotels - Scales, slippers, robes, and dirty laundry basket are standard in every room. Foot-sanitizing stations at pools are interesting.  Evidently, hotel pools used to require swim caps.  None of our have thus-far  though.

Restaurants - Food is brought out whenever it's ready. No waiting for everyone in your party. We asked our guide why and he said there are too many people.  There is no time to wait for everyone's food to be ready at the same time. (This is true whether you are a party of 2 or party of 20.)

Napkins seem to be foreign to the Chinese.  Most places have a small box of tissue at the tables, others have nothing at all.

Traffic - Many scooters, motorized bikes, bicycles and cars.  We will have to re-train our kids (even our birthkids) to not walk so close to moving vehicles once we are back home.  In our almost-three weeks here, we've seen one fender-bender.  Honking is plentiful here, but not aggressive.  It is used as a way to say, "I'm coming through, do you see me?"  Cars and bikes will just GO and expect pedestrians to wait.  No pedestrian right-of-way here. Pedestrians will walk very close to the traffic and continue walking into oncoming traffic, but they are so good at judging time and distance and speed that the car whizzes by right in front of their toes.  I must admit, we are getting good at this, which is why we will have to retrain our kids.  It's normal here, but would freak out drivers in the US. I am not nervous when we are being driven around.  The Chinese drivers have proven they know what they are doing, so we just trust them. Same with walking across the street close to moving vehicles.
We have seen very few women drivers of cars.  Our female guides always have a driver and proclaim that they don't want to learn to drive.  Car driving is mostly a "guy" thing here.  (Okay, guys in the USA, we ladies don't need to hear your snide comments about that. And I'm sure that has nothing to do with the few wrecks we see.)

Personal Space - You don't really have it here when out in public.  We've had people just walk right up and get 2 feet from our face to stare at us.  In lines, queues and other places we are used to "waiting our turn," we've learned we must be, what seems to us, agressive to keep our place in line.
This must be a learned behavior.  Today at the park, Tian was at the top of the slide, waiting to go down.  Three or four kids were at the bottom playing, climbing half way up, the sliding back down.  In the US, parents would shoo their kids off the bottom of the slide so the child at the top could slide down.  Not so here.  The parents just looked on, smiling. Finally, Tian slid down, running into the kids at the bottom, then climbing over them to get off.  Oh well, when in China...

Personal Freedoms - Internet access is severely restricted. No Gmail.  No Picasa Web.  No Blogger.  No Facebook or Twitter.  Limited results on search engines.  We find it stifling.

Accessibility isn't even a consideration here.  GZ is the first place we came that has "ramps" into hotels and stores, but that's only because of all the adoptive families using strollers.  The ramps are short, narrow, and very steep.  I can't imagine trying to push yourself up one in a standard chair.  No wonder people with different abilities are dependent here.  The environment here does not allow for independence if you don't walk.

Of course, if I lived here and saw people's homes and daily life, I would have more to comment, but this is our perspective as brief visitors.  I'm sure I will think of more things as time goes on.  I may realize more differences once we arrive back in the US.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 18: Medical Check-ups in Guangzhou

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This morning went very well! Despite our late night last night, we got pretty good rest before getting up to prepare for the boys' medical check-ups.

We were happy for some new choices at the breakfast buffet.  We ate tons of fresh lychee fruit and even stashed a few for our morning at the doctor.

Jason, our guide came to get us (the only family in our group staying at the Victory Hotel) to take us across the way to the White Swan.  We then walked with 10 other families to get the kids' visa photos done.  Another short walk and we were at the clinic.  The boys did SO well and, as usual, the older Brownies were a big help.  Both boys cried just a little during the exam when their clothes were taken off, then again the moment they got their TB test shot.  Excellent, considering the stress they could have been feeling.

Ken and I must share about their "hearing test."  It's a joke!  It should be called an "eye tracking test."  The doctor shines a flashlight in his eyes with one hand and then, right in front of their face, moves a colorful squeaky toy over to their ear and squeaks it to see if they "hear" it.  When Travis' eyes tracked the squeaker toy, the doctor exclaimed that he heard it.  Ken, in his usual bold fashion, held out his hand for the doctor to hand over the toy.  He then squeaked the toy behind Travis and out of his field of vision.  He didn't flinch.  When she "tested" Tian, I just smiled and let her do her thing.  We can tell Travis is as deaf as Ken and Tian seems to hear a lot, if not everything, from his left ear.  We can wait until we get settled back home to have them "officially" tested.  I know the doctors are smart, so it totally stumps me why they do the test this way.  I think the atmosphere doesn't lend itself to a reliable hearing test anyway, but that's just me.

Back at the hotel at noon, Tian fell fast asleep.  After some Subway for lunch (we ate the fresh veggies...we'll see how that turns out)  I, too, got in a nap.  By the time I woke up, Travis and Ken were ready for a nap, so I took all the other kids up to the roof swimming pool.  Grandmas, don't look at the pictures unless you want to have nightmares, okay.

We did some walking around our hotel.  It's such a beautiful setting with many statues, banyan (and other) trees, colorful flowers, and water fountains.

At 5:30, it was time to meet up with some other CCAI families for dinner at the Thai place next to our hotel.  Yummy!  And we finally got our family picture!  All seven of us!

We finished off the evening with a swim and even more gorgeous view than during the day time.  Travis even sat on the edge of the pool (it's an "endless" vanishing edge pool, so he could sit on the edge and be in the water from his bottom down) and played and giggled.  Much better than the screaming he does when he gets all the way in.

Back in our room to wind down for bed, the 5 Brownies played on the floor, being so sweet with each other.  TJ started to cut up some of the fresh fruit our housekeepers brought and his two brothers enjoyed taking turns eating fruit.  You'll have to see the photos to see the playtime brought on by the cut-up apple.  We love our family!

Day 17: Travel to Guangzhou

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You know how you feel when you accidentally found out you made a wrong turn or you passed your exit?  I don't know about you, but I always feel restless and in a major hurry to "catch up" until I finally reach the place where I got turned around.  Once I'm back on my correct path, I feel more relaxed.

That is exactly how I felt flying to Guangzhou yesterday!  The goal of our trip has been to adopt Tian and Travis.  Once Travis was adopted, I felt like I had gone past my exit and was now anxious to get back on the right path.

Our final day in Fuzhou was so hot, humid and oppressive that we stayed in all day long.  The older 3 kids and I killed some time bowling a couple of games while the little boys napped.  Otherwise, our day was spent packing and watching the ticking clock.

I can't express how thankful I am to God for answering our travel prayers once again.  I can TELL you all are praying for us.  Yesterday, the 40-minute van ride to the airport, the trek through security, the 2-hour wait for our plane to leave, the hour-and-a-half flight were all uneventful, fun and even restful.

After making our way through security, we headed downstairs to our gate.  The entire area was virtually empty!  Ahh!  Some quiet time with no stares was just what we needed for those two hours.  We were at floor level with floor-to-ceiling windows, so got to watch the bustling activity going on outside.

Tian did so well, keeping a good attitude just about all day.  That boy is already testing me, I'm telling you!  He's smart AND ornery, just like a 2-year-old should be.  The older kids were great keeping him active, which is exactly what he likes.

Travis preferred staying in his stroller the majority of the day.  I think he feels safe there, because he'll crawl in the stroller even when we are in our hotel room and just sit there to watch TV.  He was in heaven sitting at that big picture window! (Don't forget to check out the photos!)  He would get SO excited when he saw an airplane take off.  He signed "airplane" more times than we can count.  People on bicycles also were going back and forth in front of the window.  When they passed, I signed "bicycle."  It only took two times, then the third bike that came by, Travis pointed, got his daddy's attention, and signed perfectly "bicycle."

I have to confess something, but it makes a good story, so I'll expose my own ugliness here.  When we were queuing up to board the bus that took us out to the tarmac to board the plane.  (That was fun. We haven't boarded a plane from the ground in a long time. I was glad the boys got to really SEE that we were boarding an airplane.)  While in line, we were getting pushed out quickly, as usual, because we aren't as aggressive as the local travelers.  I made a snide comment to Ken about how it's really "every man for himself" here and that most people seem to have no regard for others.  Here we were with 2 little boys (one asleep in my very weary arms) and people were still nudging in line ahead of us.

Minutes later, a kind gentleman motioned for us to go on ahead of him.  Then, when I got on the crowded-with-only-4-seats bus, an elderly man quickly got up and gave me his seat (remember, I was holding a sleeping Tian).  I signed something to Ken that I have to think how to translate into English.  Guess I could say "eating crow" or "eating my words."  Those two gentlemen showed me it's just like in the USA. While many can me rude and selfish, most are kind and generous.  Seriously, the Chinese people have been nothing but kind to us on our entire trip.  Managing crowds is just something WE as Americans would have to learn to do here.

On the flight, Travis fell straight to sleep.  Tian woke up and stayed awake through the entire flight.  I'm glad, because it gave me a chance to see how he would do on an airplane.  Other than wanting to walk the aisles at one point, he was happy to sit in his seat, my or Hannah's laps, eat his snacks and look out the window.  (We won't talk about the boy behind us who put his feet up on our seat, around our seat, then threw up as we were landing.  Fortunately, we only had to hear it.)

A sweet Chinese man who spoke English sat next to TJ and visited with him and Mackenzie during the flight.

We landed and were picked up by a driver to head to the Victory Hotel, arriving at 11pm.  We LOVE it!  It's our favorite yet, but that's because we got a suite.  Ken and I have a bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a living room.  The kids have a standard room across the hall.  It's nice to have some space for our last week here.

Tian, Travis, Kenzie and I went straight to sleep. The others got a bite to eat here in the hotel before turning in for the night.

Getting our internet service worked out took a little time, so I'm a day behind on my blogs.  Thanks for all of your kind words and messages.  I read every single one, usually more than once.  It helps me feel close to home.  Love you all! --Sarah

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 16: Fuzhou Zoo

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It's about 5:30pm as I type up this blog.  Believe it or not, I'm here in the room with Tian, Travis and Kenzie and all is well.  Ken and Hannah ran to the store to get some things for the boys to have on the plane ride tomorrow.  TJ is in the other room watching TV and playing with bubbles.

A few of you have been amazed that I'm able to keep up a blog.  I normally write in the afternoon when both boys are napping and the older Brownies are chilling out watching TV.  I'll often type up a few notes so I don't forget what happened, then will put it all together in the afternoon or late evening.

We truly are grateful for our time here.  With all the sympathy I got after my last post, I'm afraid I may have made it sound like we're miserable here.  That's not the case at all.  The "misery" or homesickness comes in waves and are short-lived.  That emotional episode I had in the van yesterday was one of only two since we've been in China, so we can truly say that the vast majority of the time, all is well.  The boys DO take their turns throwing fits and we are looking forward to going home, but we are enjoying our truly short time here in China.  We get out and have fun.  As the kids are now sick of hearing me say, we "go with the flow."

This morning after our usual breakfast buffet, we met our guide and headed out in the sweltering humidity to the Fuzhou Zoo, just about 5 miles from here.  The scenery was gorgeous!  This is a tropical climate and all of the greenery made me think of what the Garden of Eden might have looked like.  Huge palm branches, thick bamboo and other lush plants. All of this was set with green rolling mountains in the background.

Ken, who had planned to stay home with Travis, decided to join us after all, but was ready to go back after about 5 minutes.  He endured a long climb up many steps (we knew better this time and took our carriers and NOT strollers) and a peek at some giraffes before we headed over to the sea lion show.  Two of the Brownies got their photo made with a sea lion!  After the show, Ken and Travis headed back to the hotel with our oldest while I stayed back with the others and our guide.  While we were walking, a group of teens motioned excitedly for us to come let them take our picture.  I quickly realized they were Deaf.  We were able to communicate enough for them to learn we were from America and that I was hearing, but my husband (who had already left) was Deaf.  They were even more excited to see us, but they didn't try to say much.  After we walked away, I remembered what our Deaf friends in Beijing had said.  The Deaf people in China never ever see a hearing wife of a Deaf husband who can sign.  Even more, they can't imagine hearing kids who can sign.  I wonder if they assumed I didn't sign.  I wish I had visited more, but it was so hot, we seriously thought we would pass out.

Regardless of our brief communication, our guide was pretty impressed with what we could communicate with each other.  She had lots of questions after that.  I love it! I pray the Chinese people continue to open their minds to the abilities of Deaf people.

We headed a little further up the hill to see a tiger and lion show then peek at leopard before heading back down to the entrance.  We picked up some much-needed drinks, as we had sucked through all of our water fairly quickly, and then waited a few minutes for our driver.

When we climbed into the van, it was sweltering.  The driver messed around with the fans for a few minutes, then announced that the AC was not working.  Even the fan wouldn't turn, so there was no air. I told our guide that I was glad that happened with us and not with Ken, because he might have lost it!  I let her know we could deal with it as long as the windows were down.  Oh? The windows don't go down?  Well, I think we just might die then.  Fortunately, that was even too much for the driver and guide, so they got us swiftly to a taxi for the 15-minute ride home.  Whew!

Once back at the hotel, we quickly changed into our swim suits and hit the pool to cool off.  Tian LOVES the pool and enjoys jumping in from the edge.  Travis, on the other hand, hates it with a passion.  Ken kept him in for a torturous 10 minutes and his screaming never let up. (We were the only ones at the pool or else we wouldn't have kept him there so long.)

After a brief swim and some delivered McDonald's for lunch, Ken and Hannah made a quick taxi ride to the store. (They could have walked, but it was pouring and plus they were coming back with a couple of bags.)  Travis wasn't happy to see Ken leave, but ended up doing great with me.  We put on lotion, looked at books, played with little brother, and watched TJ make giant bubbles.  TJ had concocted a bubble-maker out of hotel shampoo, water, and a plastic rod from a toy the boys have.   It was a huge hit!

3 hours have passed, we've eaten dinner, had lots of laughs with all 5 of our kids, and are now going to try to wind down for the evening.  We will spend tomorrow morning packing.  Travis' paperwork should be completed by 3:30pm, then we will head out to the airport to fly to Guangzhou in the evening.  Ready to be in a new city to get the boys' immigration papers processed. Exciting stuff!

Great Is Your Faithfulness

With 2 1/2 weeks of travel behind us and just over one more week to go, we wanted to thank you all for your prayers.  They have covered us every step of the way, we have no doubt.  We also wanted to share with you what we are thanking God for today.  We sat around during dinner and named things we have been thankful for thus far.  Below is our list, some from Ken and me and some from the kids.

Thankful for:
  • Both boys adjusting amazingly well.  They like us. They choose to be with us among a crowd of people. They both seem to genuinely enjoy being a part of our family, even if they don't yet understand they ARE our family.
  • Kisses and hugs already from both boys to each one of us. They don't "dislike" any of us, even though they do have preferences. 
  • No illnesses, other than simple cough, headache and sore throat that improved.
  • Now having 3 brothers.
  • Nice hotels.
  • Hotel having swimming pools.
  • Having two rooms.
  • Uneventful flights and transportation.
  • AC in our hotels. We can always cool off here.
  • Discovery and National Geographic in English on the TVs.
  • (HBO, too, which we don't watch because it's usually too tacky.)
  • Great Wall Mutianyu trip: perfect weather, clear skies, toboggan and ski lift.
  • No-stress enjoyment at the Great Wall.
  • Hotel non-smoking rooms.
  • American chain restaurants delivery to the hotel! (McDs, KFC, Papa John's)
  • The Brownies. Not only have they been a MAJOR help, but they have gotten along with each other amazingly well these past 2 1/2 weeks.
  • Our marriage! This experience has certainly put us to the test and with God, we make a great team.
  • No stinky diapers!! (Travis fully potty trained. Tian doing well with potty training. About 70% number 1 and 100% number 2. I'm seriously buying some split pants for when we are at home. They are genius!)
  • Except for 2 rough nights Travis had, both boys have slept well.
  • Kindness from Chinese people.
  • Helpful guides.
  • VPN so we can blog, post photos and Skype with relative ease.
  • Banking success while here, even with a few bumps in the road.
  • God's hand over this entire process.
  • Boys having no "surprise" problems or issues we didn't expect.
  • New adventures, beauty, and places to see every day.
  • The opportunity to really experience China, our boys' homeland.
There is so much more we could thank God for, but those are what we came up with over dinner.  If you could continue your prayers on our behalf, we would appreciate them!  We still need prayer for
  • our own patience during the last week here
  • major travel coming up: 1.5 hours tomorrow, 2.5 hours on the 28th, 12 hours on the 29th, 3 hours on the 30th.  That's a lot of air time! The idea of so many hours on an airplane with the boys probably causes me the greatest stress.  I shouldn't worry, because God has answered our pleas so far, so I know He will give us grace in this.  I'm still fighting anxiousness.
  • all paperwork to process on time in Guangzhou
  • medical exams and TB tests to turn out well

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 15: Is It Time to Go Home Yet?

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We had a great night of sleep last night.  Thanks to lots of prayers, Travis slept soundly all night without even stirring.  (He's throwing a massive fit right now as I type, so I guess he's using all that energy he saved up with sleep.)

We had our usual breakfast buffet, then came back upstairs to pack up and prepare for an outing.  Our guide came around 10am and we drove a short way to a mall.  On our way over, Mackenzie asked me how many more days we had left in China.  I told her we would be home in 9 days, but really, one week from today we'll be packing up to head home via Shanghai.  With that, I started crying.  Sobbing.  The kids asked me what was wrong and I said (much like a small, whining child), "I just want to go home."  I couldn't stop myself from crying.  Just typing that makes me cry again!  We truly enjoy our days for the most part, but are also homesick.

The 6-story mall had lots of neat stores as well as an indoor playground for young children.
The kids burned off some great energy. Tian was quickly ready to play. Travis took a little longer to warm up to the chaos, but he eventually ran all over the place along with the rest of the kids.  His favorite thing was the little plastic car.  He was frustrated that most of them didn't have a wheel, so he would go looking inside each one until he found one with an intact steering wheel.

The Brownies were amazing in their new job as older siblings. They were so sweet with their brothers, helping us keep an eye on them.  Hannah and Ken left for a while to explore the mall while I stayed with our 4 younger ones.  TJ and Kenzie were invaluable helping me keep up with Tian and Travis.

After we had played and played, we headed downstairs to eat.  Our guide suggested we eat at a local favorite "buffet."  When we walked in, a waitress, who was in the middle of waiting on a table, looked up, gasped, put her hand over her mouth, and started announcing our arrival to others.  Oy vay!  The boys were restless as we sat down.  As usual, a huge fuss was made over setting up a table big enough to fit us all.  Sigh.  Then about 4 or 5 waiters and waitresses crowded our table, talking with each other and our guide.  I don't even wanna know what they were saying.  THIS is when we grow weary of the attention.  When we're trying to accomplish a goal, such as feeding our family, and we just get bombarded with stares, giggles, and whispers.  In the play area, we got a lot of attention, but it was a relaxed atmosphere where we could smile and gesture to communicate with them what we knew they were thinking.  In the play area, an older woman examined Tian's ear, then began to look over Travis to try to figure out what was "wrong" with him.  Ken just gestured that he couldn't hear.  The lady was satisfied and gave us a big smile.  The people here are kind.  Their stares are never cruel or mocking, they are just curious and, it seems, happy to see us.  Even so, when we are having a tough time with the boys, we just want to look up and yell, "Stop staring, please!"

We got back to the hotel around 1pm. Tian, after a short fit, went to sleep.  Travis threw a fit or two of his own (while I was typing this) and is now happily playing with bubbles.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Fuzhou.  Friday we will spend the morning packing, then in the afternoon head to the airport for an evening flight to Guangzhou.  We would love prayers for the boys to fly well during that hour and half.   If you're curious where we go next, remember you can click on the China Schedule tab up at the top of the page.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

China Day 14: Panda World

Photo Album

Last night was very difficult with Travis.  Although he went to sleep around 10:30 without any fuss, he awoke just 30 minutes later, crying and screaming (and I mean screaming) inconsolably.
He would do this for a good 5 minutes or so, then fall back asleep.  Every 15 to 30 minutes, he would wake back up, cry (fortunately not scream any more), kick his legs, hit his belly, reject any comfort from us, then fall back asleep.  We think he was only half awake to begin with.  Now and then, he would let me rub his tummy.  He continued this pattern all night, with maybe an hour and a half of solid sleep between about 6:30am and 8am.  Ken had put up with his constant kicking the night before, so around midnight, I told Ken to just sleep I would stay on Travis watch.  I learned he does better on the floor, where he's free to kick around.  I would crawl in the bed and sleep while he slept, then wake with him every 15 to 30 minutes in case he needed to see that he was still with us.  I used my waking time to pray and listen to some podcasts.  At around 5:30, I handed over the duty to Ken so I could get a little more sleep.  It's 1pm now and Ken and I are feeling fine.  I feel fairly well-rested despite our evening.  We are both praying seriously that Travis will get some solid, peaceful sleep. 

We ended up having to wake Travis in order to go eat breakfast and meet our guide at 9:30.  Travis is still pretty picky with his food, but we did discover he likes boiled corn on the cob. 

We had a hard time getting out the door, making our guide and driver wait about 45 minutes for us, but were finally at the nearby Panda World by 10:30.

Advice to future Fuzhou travellers: Don't take a stroller to Panda World.  It's 90% stairs.  Have a carrier ready, because it's NOT exactly safe for toddlers.  I was amazed at the design.  TJ and I were both holding Tian's hand, but he still could quickly and easily climb up the "gate" where he could have dropped down into any of the animal habitats.  So different from the US. 

Travis was terrified of the bears.  He wanted to stay in his stroller the entire time.  Tian, on the other hand, loved seeing the Pandas and wanted to climb right in with them.  

Warning to future Fuzhou travellers going to Panda World: If you have young kids (and even if you don't) you may want to skip the "museum."  Inside the museum, they had many organs in formaldehyde.  They had set up various organs from a wide variety of animals to compare to the panda.  The Giant Panda has a huge stomach!  There were other organs displayed, but as we rounded the corner, we noticed fetuses floating in jars.  Human fetuses.  We directed the kids around this display, but the girls had already seen it.  They asked if those were real fetuses and the guide said yes.  I just told her that was very disturbing to us since those fetuses represented human life.  Nothing else was said about it. They also had panda fetuses as different developmental stages, so I'm guessing they were there for comparison, by oh my!  It made my sweet Hannah cry.  Although is was disturbing, I almost wish I had taken a photo.  Even when the human fetus was a few inches long, it was very clearly a human baby.   

In all honesty, I wouldn't have minded my kids seeing that display under very different circumstances and with a lot of talking in preparation, but it was upsetting because of the atmosphere.  We were at the "Panda Zoo" having a great time and laughing at the animals, then....dead human babies floating in jars.  *shudder*

On to more pleasant things.  We enjoyed Panda World, although is was very quick and super humid.  at 11:15, we headed to the 3 Roads and 7 Alleys.  Photos will show it best.  We got a couple of small push toys for the boys, Starbucks (cue angels singing...it's been almost 2 weeks), and McDonald's ice cream for the kiddos.  

We had a few tantrums.  Travis throws them for who-knows-what-reason.  Tian throws them when he doesn't get his way quickly.  Tian is pretty easy to manage, though.  He's a spit-fire, but can understand our corrections.  I also believe he knows we love him and are his family, even if he's still adjusting.

Travis takes longer to communicate with.  He will close his eyes and start kicking when he's unhappy.  Often we have no idea why.  So, we have to just wait out the little fit, then show him we love him and will do what we can to comfort him.  We have to figure out what comforts him by trial and error.  On the van ride back to the hotel (fortunately, it was only about 5-7 minutes), both boys were screaming and crying.  Travis just because and Tian because I wouldn't let him kick the seat in front of him.  Whoo, that's when the stress and the sweat really kick in!  But by the time we got out of the van, Tian was fine. I gave him his bottle and he fell right to sleep.  Ken put the still-fussy Travis into his crib since he was kicking.  He had a 2-minute kicking and screaming fit, then Ken offered to hold him.  He gladly accepted and was happy and giggling within seconds, reading through a book with Daddy.

Now, he's begun pointing to pictures and looking at Ken to show him the sign.  He gladly copies.  Another first today:  He gave TJ a kiss.  (He already hugs us pretty readily.)  It was so sweet.  We can tell Travis is very bright.  Working to help him "catch up" will be a challenge, but we're ready for it ONLY with God's help.  

We've just ordered Papa John's (sounds wonderful...hope it tastes like home), Tian is sleeping, Travis is playing with Ken and the older Brownies are watching TV next door.  This afternoon, we plan to go on a walk to the park nearby and swim a little.  I'll add to this blog later....

Monday, July 18, 2011

More About Adoption Day

I don't know when I'm going to have time to refine my notes into an actual post, so for now, here are my notes. Hopefully, you can make sense of them.  This is from yesterday.

Travis not wanting to eat much.
Tian fussy from early morning.

Waiting in lobby, I could tell Tian was fussy.  Peed all over me and the floor in restroom. (Third day of wearing same clothes.)

Met guide, reg office. Kenzie fever and crying. Tian a big fuss bucket.
Waited in a hot room, visiting with the orphanage director and other workers.
Presented us with a beautiful panda plate.

Finally went into room.  Interviewed this time, unlike before.
Tian fussed through the entire thing. Brownies helped a lot.

Finally out, headed to notary office.  Much quicker and less stressful. Across the street was pharmacy, so got Tylenol and Motrin for Kenzie as well as some cough drops for TJ.

Stopped by the laundry on the way to pick up our clothes. Yay! Driving was crazy! Tight squeezes!

Once back at hotel, guide ordered McDonalds who delivered burgers. SO good after over a week of none.  Wish I had gotten a picture, but that's tough considering.

Swimming. Tian likes jumping. Travis not a fan.  Very slippery tile.

Killed time in hotel room.  Getting a little tired of hotel living, but our house will seem like a mansion when we get back.

Played, read books, ate, computer time, ball in the hall, TV, and close family time.  Ken took taxi to the market for some noodles.

Bed time seemed easier for Travis as he went to sleep without crying, but after 30 minutes, woke up crying.

Adoption Day: Travis XuEn Brown

Photo Album
Last Thanksgiving, Ken and I were considering adopting a second boy.  China changed their adoption laws for the first time, allowing families to adopt two non-siblings at the same time.  We read about this sweet boy on the CCAI website and asked to review his file:

After reviewing EnEn's file, we sent this email to our agency:
Shortly after sending this email, we saw this on the CCAI website:

Now, almost 8 months later, EnEn is Travis XuEn Brown, our son and the Brownies' brother!

We've had Travis only about 30 hours, but the changes in him are amazing.  He came to us pretty scared and acting very babyish.  He was drooling when excited or sad and would watch Ken sign words in a book, but not copy them.  He was rough with the book and didn't seem to understand what we were communicating to him.
30 hours later, he's copying Ken's signs, pointing to photos (airplane and bear are his favorites) and signing them without prompting.  I've only seen him drool once today and although he's still acting more like a 2 year-old than a 3 year-old, he's also showing maturity.  He's completely potty trained, even at night.  He has obviously been taught how to hold a pen properly and enjoys doing so.  He loves his daddy and can't seem to get enough of looking at books with him.  
Today, he has warmed up to me, letting me feed him, take him to the potty, kiss and hug and play with him.  He really enjoys playing with his older siblings and is slowly (very slowly) warming up to Tian.

I'll post another blog recounting today's events, but for now, I'm just happy to say we are settling in to being the Brown Seven.  We're so proud of the boys and don't know what we would do without our older Brownies.  Their help has been invaluable and SO VERY needed.  What troopers!

Welcome to the family, Travis XuEn Brown!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gotcha Travis!

Photo album of the day we met Travis aka "Gotcha Day"
Video of meeting Travis

(no time to proofread or edit)

A little before 4:30pm, we headed down to the 3rd floor to see if Travis had arrived. They had indeed arrived and were waiting for us. The room was a steam/sauna room!!! (Added by Ken)

I heard severe screaming as I walked in, but when I saw the crying child, I knew that wasn't "EnEn."  I looked around an immediately saw Travis, smiling from ear to ear.  He started to run to us, but as he got closer, he began to slow down and cry.  He did NOT want to come near us, but was forced to do so anyway.

Before we could even get down to his level, the guides began to say, "Just let the kids play with him. You need to sign paperwork."  Ooo-kay.  So that's what we did.  The other child was screaming at the top of his (her?) lungs while we visited with the orphanage director.  He was very kind.  Another orphanage worker presented us with a photo album full of captioned (in English) photos of Travis.  Many of them we had seen, some we had not.  There were several pictures of him with Madelyn, so we let them know we had connected with her family and planned to let them meet some day. They seemed happy about that.

The feeling in the air was stress.  With information being thrown at us left and right, trying to sign documents and look over our shoulder as the kids attempted to entertain Travis while still many others gathered around them all, taking pictures in this hot room with at least one screaming child at a time, we felt very uneasy.  

That being said, the orphanage workers were so sweet.  They looked at us happily, took a TON of photos, enjoyed giving us the photo album, and shared with us their email address and skype information.  We so appreciated them and would have loved to chat with them more.  We didn't get to chat because once the papers were signed, the entire group bolted out the door, I'm sure in an effort to not upset Travis, but this backfired.  He saw them run out the door all at once and began running after them and crying.  My heart broke for him.  He clearly had no clue what was going on.  Ken and I were both confused, so asked our guides if that was all.  They let us know that we were finished and could go to our room.  Again...Ooo-kay..  As we walked out the door, someone mentioned, "Oh, and he has a BM every morning."  Have I said this yet?  Ooo-kay..

We wanted to stay put and let him get used to us in that room, but it was SO hot and there was another family (with an understandably screaming child) signing papers, so we gathered our belongings and headed to the hall.  We sat in the hall for a few minutes.  Travis stayed in Ken's arms, but was very unsure about us.  He didn't cry much, but would frown and whine.  He would occasionally kick and flail around while crying. We signed, "You're sad. We know. It'll be okay." 

After quite a bit of traffic passed through the hallway, we decided we'd be better off going to our room. It was at that point that I realized we were given no schedule, no favorite foods list, no real info about him.  The day before we got Tian, we were given a list of answered questions about his daily schedule, sleep patterns, likes and dislikes, favorite foods, formula names, etc.  We were walking away with Travis not knowing much of anything except that he poops in the morning. (We hope to get some answers tomorrow.)

Once in our room, Travis only wanted to look out the window at the beautiful view I posted in earlier Picasa albums.  I'm sure he was trying to process everything.  After a good 20 minutes at the window, refusing to eat any of the treats and snacks we offered, Ken sat him on the bed to show him the camera on the iPad.  Success!  He loved it!  (We'll post pictures later.)  He laughed and laughed at photo booth.  He didn't mind me or the birth kids coming close to him, but he didn't like Tian to get in his space.  Right now, he prefers Ken.  

We noticed immediately: the boy is deaf.  We called his name, clapped, and made other loud noises and he wasn't phased a bit.  Although he is three, he sounds more like a baby, only saying "ma ma" when he cries.  And I don't think he's calling to a specific person, I just think he moves his mouth and this is the sound that comes out.  We can tell by how he interacts with us that he is not used to understanding or being understood.  Looking at a book with Ken, Travis began turning pages quickly and roughly, pointing and laughing at different photos.  He was holding a Hot Wheels car and when he saw another car, he would sit his car on top of the photo.  He also tried grabbing at the car in the book, which tells us he may not have been read to often if at all.  Developmentally, he seems younger than Tian even though he is one year older.  That's the product of being in an orphanage compared to a foster home.  We know he will catch up quickly, but it will take patience and work and more patience.  He's worth it!

It was soon dinner time and we decided we were pretty tired of Chinese food, so made the trek across the lake to Dicos, where we were told we could get hamburgers.  Nope.  It was chicken.  Fried chicken everything.  Oh boy, the stares we got!!  People came inside the restaurant (picture a McDonalds as an open storefront, like in the mall...but it's open to the street) and sat down just to watch us. 
1. Big family 
2. White 
3. Two Chinese boys 
4. Sign language 
5. Very tall husband.  
We totally rocked their world.  Everyone was pleasant enough, but it's SO hard to relax when all eyes are on you.  We just reminded ourselves to take it in stride, looked into their eyes and said "ni hao."  We got smiles back, some giggles, and a lady who even copied some of our signs.  I wish we had an interpreter with us so we could answer their questions.  They had no problem sitting around us, all talking together about us.  Oh well!  Although it gets a little tiring, we look at it as a chance to be ambassadors.  We can show the Chinese people there is nothing sad or scary about being Deaf or having a "deformed" body part.  We can show them that these ARE wanted kids. 

Travis finally accepted food from us: rice, chicken and a boiled egg.  Tian took everything in stride, turning on his charm in front of the crowd. 

On our walk back, it began to pour rain.  Although our guides reminded us often, we totally forgot umbrellas.  So we walked back in the rain, getting soaked.  I can't wait to go back out tomorrow night to get more photos of the dancers in the park.  It's such a fun thing to see.  Several older couples were still dancing, despite the rain, under one umbrella.  So romantic!  When we stopped to watch them, they danced up to us, smiling and giving thumbs up toward the boys.  Okay...we'll put up with the stares for that.  

Back at the hotel, soaked to the bone and freezing, we got the kids dried off and Ken undressed Travis to prepare him for a bath.  Ken called me in to the bathroom and, for the first time since we got him, I began to cry.  We had noticed his black teeth, but hadn't noticed the scratches and scars on his body.  We will find out what it's all about tomorrow, but the sight of him just made me overwhelmed with peace that he's now with us.  I know the orphanage workers do all they can for the kids, but one person can only do so much.  We are just glad Travis is with his forever family.

After his bath, which he immensely enjoyed, and a tooth-brushing, which he did NOT enjoy, but finally gave in to once he saw that the toothpaste tasted pretty good, Ken sat down with him and a picture book. (I need to add...when we first tried to brush his teeth, he pursed his lips tightly and looked right at us.  We wondered if the workers simply didn't have time to fuss with him about his teeth.  Ironic, because we have at least 3 photos of him either getting his teeth brushed or holding a toothbrush.  Maybe it's the water where he has lived? Not sure, but we'll be making a visit to Dr. Patel in August or September for sure.)

This time, Travis was more attentive while Ken signed many words to him.  Travis wouldn't mimic the signs, so Ken took his hands to guide him.  Before they were finished, he was beginning to copy Ken a little.  He did a LOT of laughing, which was a joy to hear.  He still didn't really want Tian coming near.  Although, I forgot to add, while walking back to the hotel, I realized I had left my backpack in the restaurant (I didn't worry, we heard that Chinese people typically aren't thieves and we should be more worried in the USA.  In our experience, that's true.) so ran back with Hannah to get it.  Tian began crying for me while I was gone and when Travis saw him crying, he walked up to Tian and gave up his own Hot Wheels.  Sweet.  Again, it'll just take time.

TJ had been feeling a little sick, with sore throat and headache, but was feeling much better.  By bedtime, Mackenzie began running a slight fever and feeling a little "off."  We would love your prayers for continued health for all of us.

Ken was able to get Travis to sleep after some time spent lying with him in bed.  Tian seemed full of energy, but after a few Skype calls, some milk, and him taking it upon himself to tidy up the room (he folded clothes, put items in drawers and suitcases, etc....all on his own), he eventually drifted off.

Now I'm the only one left awake, but not for long.  We meet with our guide tomorrow morning at 9:15 to go sign our adoption paperwork and go to the notary office.  

After the kids were asleep and I was washing some clothes, Ken and I were able to visit about the day's events.  We both agreed that we are SO very thankful for the past two weeks.  God has blessed our time here and we are trusting Him to continue covering us for the next two weeks.  These boys are ours. They are Brownies.  They were meant to be in our family.  We are sad for some of what they've had to endure in their short life and pray for the wisdom and strength to guide them through from here on out.  

We are The Brown Seven!
I had typed this in the morning and forgot to add it

It's now 1:05pm. 3 1/2 more hours until we meet Travis!  We will head down to the 3rd floor conference room to meet him.  Getting those butterflies like I did before we met Tian.  This time, though, we don't have 13 other families with us for support and comic relief.  It's just us!

At the moment, I can't imagine what meeting Travis will be like.  It was the same with Tian.  I couldn't even imagine it, then there he was!  We don't know if Travis will be quiet and shy like Travis, lively and ready to play, or screaming with fear.  We will know soon enough.

This morning at breakfast, Mackenzie said today will be her favorite day because it will be the first time our complete family will be together.  I couldn't agree more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 10: Travel to Fuzhou & Reflections

Photo Album

Today was mostly a travel day.  After our usual breakfast buffet at the hotel, we headed upstairs to pack for our trip to Fuzhou <FOO-joe>.  Everyone else in our group is going to Guangzhou <GWANG-jo>, where we will be next week.

Now that we've had 5 full days with Tian, here are some things we can say about him:
He's smart.  Really smart.  He figures things out quickly.  I'm thinking he has an engineer's mind.  He is fascinated with cranes (of which there were many in Zhengzhou <JUNG-joe>) and enjoys building things and seeing how things work.  At breakfast, I had given him some chopped melons.  He began stacking them, one on top of the other, to build a tower.  If one was too slanted, he would remove it, and add a different piece that made the tower more straight.

He doesn't always respond to us, whether we are speaking or tapping him.  We can sign/talk right in front of his face and he seems to just be zoned on to whatever is interesting HIM at the moment.  However, if HE wants to know something or is curious to have an answer, he will pay attention with lightning speed.

On the airplane, he crawled into Ken's lap and watched out the window with interest.  Ken was explaining things to him and each time Ken tapped him, he turned his head so fast, I thought he'd get whiplash.  He's smart.  And ornery!

Speaking of ornery, he really showed this side of himself today.  First of all, on the bus ride to the hotel, he cried and cried, wanting to get off the bus.  He seemed upset every time he saw our second bus in front of us.  Apple, one of our guides, spoke to him in Chinese (which he can totally understand) to tell him we would get off the bus in a few minutes.  Then she began counting 1-10 with him.  He was very interested and it seemed to help calm him down.  He was fine the minute we got off the bus.

In the airport, he was super-clingy.  When we went through security (after a long wait for the other 13 families to get through), he did this "freak-out" thing he does when he gets nervous.  He begins to laugh and laugh, all while scratching my face, hugging my neck to the point of choking me, and pulling my hair.  When I get on to him, he just laughs more.  It's frustrating, because I have no way to communicate with him other than "bu" (no) and using my facial expression.  I'm signing it, saying "bu" and "no" and shaking my head and waving my hand.  This only adds to the reasons why Chinese people want to stop and stare.  It's lots of fun.

We got through security (way better than US, I must say) and went to eat lunch.  Another family sat down at the table next to us.  The mom (someone I've been communicating with via email for quite some time) also looked a little frustrated.  We began talking and her daughter was doing the exact same thing.  Scratching, pulling hair, pinching, and laughing the entire time.  We're wondering if they were taught to do that, allowed to do that, or if it's just a product of their stress.  Either way, it was a great comfort to know Tian wasn't the only one doing that.  Even though we have read all the books, talked to our social worker and other adoptive families, it's still hurtful when they act "mean" and we can't really communicate enough to get them to stop nor do we understand what they are thinking.  So glad to not be alone.

Before the flight, I had prayed and prayed that Tian would be calm.  God answered our prayer in a major way.  First of all, Tian chose to sit with Ken, which he has not been doing for the past day or so.  Secondly, he loved takeoff.  He was glued to the window and payed attention to every word Ken said to him.  And the best part?  He fell fast (and I mean fast) asleep the minute after we set to the sky.  We woke him as we were landing so that he would understand what flying meant.

I should mention that, on the very full airplane, we were the only non-Asian people.  Needless to say, we got lots of attention. Our photo was taken with phone cameras as we made our way down the aisle.  A lady sitting in front of the kids enjoyed practicing her English and visting with the kids.  They enjoyed chatting with her.

Just before landing, a short exercise video was shown.  The kids had a great time following along and doing the exercises.  Not a bad idea, I must say!

Fuzhou is humid, but cooler than Zhengzhou.  It's been raining, as it's monsoon season.  It's so nice to see lush greenery, blue sky, white clouds, and rolling mountains.  It's still very crowded here, but nothing like the other two cities.  We still get lots of stares and are still pretty over it.  Oh well, that's more of "going with the flow."  We just smile and stare back.  If we want to get a lot of laughs out of the group, we just say "ni hao."  We never knew we were such comedians.

Our hotel, the Lakeside, is nice.  It's not as fancy as Crowne, but it's still very nice and, Ken and I agree, more comfortable.  The rooms are large and the feel is homey.  Good thing, because this will be "home" for the entire week!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 9: Shaolin Temple Tour

Photo Album

On one hand, we enjoyed seeing the birthplace of Kung Fu.  It was truly a beautiful place.  BUT, we also did NOT enjoy the long bus ride or having to follow a schedule that was not ours.  We've learned that we aren't really "group tour" type people.  We love the people themselves.  We enjoy seeing sights and having a guide to share so much information.  But the schedule is hard to keep.

We arrived a little too late to catch the Kung Fu show, so we ate lunch right then (we had just eaten breakfast less than 3 hours prior, but "go with the flow!"  We then went on to see the Pagodas, then the temple.  At 3:00, it was time to que up for the Kung Fu show.  We were hot, sweaty, and tired.  It's amazing how people crowd in and around.  With so many people, there is no other option.

On the way home from the temple, traffic was horrible, so the already-long 2-hour drive became an even longer drive.  One hour into the drive, Kenzie had to use the restroom.  She held it for another hour before being so miserable she could no longer stand it. She was in tears and I was ready to tear my skin off from sitting on the bus so long.  When traffic refused to budge, we finally asked our guide if the bus could pull over.  He had mercy on Kenzie and pulled over to let Ken, Kenzie and one of our guides, Apple, off the bus.  We went on another 20 minutes to the hotel and they caught a cab back.

Once at the hotel, we got all of our adoption paperwork.  We now have Tian's finding ad, adoption papers, and birth certificate.  His birth certificate made me cry.  It just simply states his birthday and that his birthplace and parents are unknown.  Well, now he has been reborn: Tian Wendell Brown. Parents: Ken and Sarah Brown.

Tian's personality is coming out.  He fusses more and does not like to be told "no." (What two year old does?)  He doesn't like to be separated from me very long.  When he's fussy, he prefers to go to Momma.  Otherwise, he's happy with the entire family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Zhengzhou SWI

Photo Album

This morning, we met 3 other families from our group to tour the Zhengzhou Social Welfare Institute (ZZSWI). This is where Tian was delivered after he was found on the other side of town. (We hope to visit his finding place on Friday morning.)

He lived in ZZSWI for almost one year before moving in with his foster family.  They moved him back to the orphanage 2 weeks ago.

Tian did well on the hour-long bus ride, thanks to our to-go breakfast and some friends with bubbles.  He, like us, also enjoyed looking out the window at the passing people, scooters, cars, and street shops.

Turning down a countryside street (China's countryside is quite different than Texas' countryside.  Their "countryside" still seems quite urban to me.  It's just not quite as high or polished as downtown.) I immediately recognized the clock tower I've seen in so many photos.  Tian also recognized the place and quickly wrapped both arms around my neck.

The director approached Ken and me right away with a little red clothing article inside a ziplock bag.  He apologized that they did not have Tian's note that was found with him.  Evidently, the police still have it, but they do not.  They did, however, have the little clothes Tian was wearing.  It looks like a diaper cover of some sort.  It's red with a very pretty embroidered design.  The SWI keeps it, but allowed us to take photos of it.  We aren't sure why SWI's keep these finding articles, but we had been told that's how it would be.

A young volunteer who spoke beautiful English walked up and recognized Tian instantly.  "TianShi!" She said she had helped care for him.  She also added that he was, by far, the smartest boy in his group.  Of course. :)  She told me he was the only one in his group who could walk at his age and that he also seemed to understand many things.

Tian had to potty, so while everyone else stayed downstairs to walk the hallway, the volunteer took us up to the Lily Orphan Care Room where there was a small potty. As we walked into the room, all the nannies began to exclaim, "TianShi! TianShi!" I had put Tian down to walk, so he quickly turned for me to pick him up.  We went into the restroom (Western toilet...now I know how he knew how to use it) so he could potty.  I made sure I had him in my arms AND had him fastened in before walking out.  The nannies were all very excited and several wanted to hold him.  Tian began to cry and cling tightly to my neck.  I just kept reminding him that I was his momma and we were only visiting to say "bye bye."  He DID love telling the nannies bye bye.  As we walked out the door, he stopped crying and waved and said, "Bye bye!"  From then on, I kept him out in the hall, in the carrier with me while Ken, the kids and the rest of the group went inside the rooms to look around.

As I looked around, I saw why the girl had said Tian was the "smartest."  He was the least "disabled."  Tian is hard-of-hearing. That's it.  The other kids had more pronounced disabilities.  Ken and I were interested and a little sad to see how people with disabilities are viewed here.

We got to meet Tian's doctor, who let us know that he was very healthy.  A nanny told us to be careful to keep him warm because "he gets sick very easily."  Hmm...story of our life with this guy...always unknowns.

We eventually walked outside where a group of older children (ages 7-10, I'm guessing) were making their way across the courtyard.  It broke my heart to see them.  It is nice that they have a safe place to learn, eat, and sleep, but it's not a home.  Like one mom in our group said, we are seriously on a rescue mission for these kids.  She turned and said, "If we weren't here now, that would be our kids in just a few years."

She adopted a sweet young boy with albinism.  You probably noticed him in my photos.  He is precious!  She and her husband had both lived in China for a while after college, so were talking with their Chinese friends about the adoption.  When they showed a photo of their son, the Chinese friends asked, "Who gave you this child?"  She explained that they were matched to him, but that they chose him. They wanted him.  The friend said, "I think you better choose another child."  Amazing.  The same friend has noticed that Chinese people flock to get their photo made with their blonde haired, blue eyed little 3 year old son, but then nearly recoil when they see their newest son.

When we've been out and about, many people look at me and point to Tian's ear, as if to let me know they recognize his "problem."  I just gesture with my hand over his ear, then give a thumbs up, like "it's all good."  Quite a few people have even come up to touch his ear.  As long as he hasn't minded, I let them.  I want them to see that it's not a bad omen or something to be frightened of.  After they touch his ear, they give me a "thumbs up" then smile and shake Tian's hand.  I love my little ambassador.

We were happy when it was time to go.  It was nice to see the SWI and we were glad he was in a colorful place where the nannies seemed to have an affection toward the kids.  We were also more thrilled than ever to have gotten him out of there.  Praise God!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

China Day 7: Adoption and Shopping

Photo Album

It's almost 11pm here and I need to get to sleep.  Everyone else in my family is out like a light.

This morning was wonderful and hot and sweaty.  Tian cried for the first time since we've had him.  As we pulled up to the registration office (same place we picked him up yesterday), he looked out the bus window and started crying.  He looked around and I'm sure he recognized the place.  He was likely wondering what was happening to him next?  He was fairly clingy at the office, but did get down to play with his siblings.  

Once the adoption papers were completed and made official, all of the families headed a few minutes away to the notary office.  We trekked up 7 flights of stairs to a warm, muggy conference room and got our papers filled out to be notarized.  As hot and sweaty as it was, I must say it was quite efficient considering the size of our group.

We were happy to head back to the hotel just before noon.  When we got here, Ken fed Tian, then Ken and Kenzie went to get some pizza for us while I got Tian ready for his nap.

Just after Tian woke from his nap, Hannah and I headed out with the group for a visit to Lotus Center (supermarket).  Hannah and I agree we are "over" getting stared at.  We don't mind at all when we're out just walking the streets, but when we're in the store, with a list, trying to decipher language and figure prices, we really don't wanna deal with the stares and questions.  Sales people are abundant and pushy! Seriously putting items into my cart and trying to convince me (in Mandarin) why I need it.  This is one major reason you aren't seeing tons of photos of the hilarious things I see in the market.  We get enough attention as it is...I really don't want to be taking pictures of random items to make it worse.  

I wanted to buy some clothes for Tian because the 2Ts swallow him.  18 month is a good fit.  All the clothes had English words on them, but the translations were WAY off.  One shirt had a picture of a  school of fish and said, "There is many group fish."  Another shirt had a cool picture of an African elephant with the words "Totally Extinct."  Hannah and I cracked up. What a chipper little message to have on a kid's shirt.  I wish I had taken pictures of some of the other stuff, but with the hovering sales people trying to tell me that my 2 year old (who was not with me) couldn't possibly wear a 55, but needed a 60, whipping out the camera was far from my mind.  Another mom was picking out a bottle when a sales lady approached her, took one look at her 2 year-old daughter, "tsk tsk"ed, shaking her head and took the bottle, returning with a sippy cup.  

The people are very nice and are just trying to be "helpful" but sometimes, we just wanna look around.  And most of the time, we DO know what we want to buy.  :)

Tian is very congested and has a yucky runny nose.  Upon the advice of a doctor traveling with us, we started him on antibiotics today. So glad we had those ready.  He was coughing like crazy when he first laid down for bed, but is sleeping quietly now.

Tonight, he didn't seem as eager to sleep as he was last night.  He started to cry (he's cried a few times today either when he wants something, when one of us is walking away, or when he got a bath...he did NOT like the bath at all). This cry was just a non-specific, sad cry.  (His cries are very soft and quiet.)  I cried with him, feeling so much sorrow for him.  I'm sure at night time, when the kids go to their room and it's still and quiet, he has time to process some of what's happened to him over the past days (Weeks? We don't know when he was removed from his foster home).   I know he misses his family and everything that is familiar to him.  We would appreciate your continued prayers for his little heart.  Also to prepare him to embrace his brother, Travis. 

Tomorrow morning, we go visit Tian's orphanage and will stop by his "finding" place.

Adoption Day: Tian Wendell Brown

It's adoption day!  Exactly one year ago today, we saw Tian's photo for the first time.
I sent this email to Ken:
Today, July 12, 2011, here is little Tian Wendell Brown!

It's been a long year in almost every way.  This year has challenged us to trust God.  It's tried our patience and stretched our willingness to let go of "things" for what's truly valuable.  Looking at this photo, I can't think of anything worth more.

We love you, Tian Wendell Brown!

Tian's First 24 Hours

What an amazing day! It was everything I could have imagined and more.

I'll have to blog in more detail about it later. (I've recorded notes so I won't forget.)  For now, I'll answer some of the questions I know you're curious about.

Tian didn't cry once during our first 24 hours together.  We think he was a bit in shock, as you can imagine.  When he was brought up the steps and into the office, he was very shy, covering half of his face with the back of his hand.  I was sure he would start crying, but he didn't.  He sat right in my lap and just stared back at the sea of faces looking at him.  Within minutes, he was holding his Hot Wheels car and eating some snacks.

On the bus ride home, TJ made him giggle by playing hide-and-seek.

He hasn't seemed to pick a favorite.  Right now, he likes all of us. He does look for me when he's fussy. Today, when Ken and Kenzie left the room to get lunch, he pointed at the door and cried.

He does seem to hear at least some things.  He heard the phone ring and the kids knocking on the door.  He doesn't seem to hear the door bell or us talking when we aren't right next to him.  He says two or three words in Chinese.  I hope to find out what those words are later today.  He may talk more after he's with us longer.

He's already signing!!  We taught him how to ask for more food.  Today, he's signing "more eat" and it's SO cute!  Yesterday, Ken sat down with Tian and a picture book.  Tian copied every sign Ken showed him: airplane, rocket, mouse, lion, cow, etc.  It was precious!  Today, he has signed "potty" ("P" on the nose") and "daddy."  When we sign "I love you" (the one-handed ILY sign), he will stick out his hand with only his index finger pointed up.  It's adorable.

The kids have also taught him how to fist-bump with "explosion."

He is potty trained.  We read that he was, so when we arrived at the hotel, Ken took him to the bathroom.  While Ken was working on getting Tian's pants down, Tian lifted the seat! (Was he around Western toilets?)  Ken sat him up there and he peed!  We had read he has on BM every morning after eatgin, so this morning, after he had his bottle, I sat him on the toilet.  Poop!  Yay!  We take him to potty every few hours.  A time or two, he has indicated he needs to go by grabbing himself.  :)  I took him to a squatty today and he seemed to know exactly what to do in there, too.

He came to us with painted toes and hands.  He must have been around kids.

If you didn't see, I posted pictures of "Gotcha Day" and am now uploading some photos from today.  More will come, as we've had travel mates taking pictures, too.  I can't wait to blog more about yesterday and today, but free time is limited, so I must go!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three More Hours

In just one and a half hours, we meet our group in the lobby and take a short drive over to the registration office.  Some of the kids could be there waiting for us.  Some may arrive later, depending on traffic.  Since Tian lives here in Zhengzhou, we are hoping that means we will either be there waiting or will arrive pretty quickly.

My last thoughts before going are simply that Ken and I can't wait to love this boy!  We know this week will be challenging and beyond anything we expected.  We also know Tian will bring us joy beyond what we could expect.  In our hearts, Tian has been our son for almost one year.  Now it's time to teach him what that means to HIM.

Tian, we're on our way!

China Day 5: Zhengzhou

May I preface this by saying I'm too tired from here on out to proofread these entries. It's good enough that I get my thoughts down, so I apologize in advance if it's jumpy or awkward. I'm just going to write with my train of thought then post.  :)

Ken and I got up around 5:30am and began packing up for our flight to Zhengzhou.  At 6:00, the kids and I went down to eat breakfast at the buffet while Ken ran to McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin.

By 7am, our bags were out in the hall to be collected by the bell hops and by 8am, our travel group was on the bus, headed to the Beijing Airport.

While waiting in line at the airport, one of the moms from our group blew up a balloon for her 3 year-old son to play with. This is what happened: (Pictures tell it better)

Our flight was quick and uneventful. We Browns sat at the very very back of the plane. The Zhengzhou airport is beautiful and well designed.  Ken liked how departing passengers were on a higher floor than arriving passengers.

Our bags were on the carousel and our three CCAI guides were waiting for us by the time we arrived at baggage claim. We boarded our charter bus (very nice one, by the way) and headed to Crowne Plaza.  While en route, each of the 13 families were given our name badges, complete with Tian’s name in both chinese and Pinyin, our names, and our hotel name and address in case we get lost.  We were then given a question sheet that the nannies at Tian’s orphanage filled out.  The sheet tell us what Tian is eating, lays out his basic schedule, and let us know a bit about his personality.  We read what we’ve seen for the past year: He doesn’t like strangers at first, but will be okay if you give him a toy, especially a car.

We have bubbles, Hot Wheels, a beach ball, stickers, and some snacks ready to go.  We meet our group in the lobby pretty early tomorrow and head over to the registration office get our kids at 10:30am!  Surreal, but it’s TIME!

The hotel rooms are NICE! We are thrilled to spread out in two rooms after 6 nights in one small room.  AND these rooms are bigger.  Ahh...

I’ll have to blog later about Ken’s experience with USAA’s after-hour customer (non)service.  They refused to help him unless he called via TTY.  WHAT?! Idiots.  More on that story later.

Ken and TJ walked down the street to Wal-Mart.  I can’t wait to go Tuesday!  Tonight, he got a Coke Zero for me (angels singing), some Lays Stax, and some Oreo Cookies: Green Tea Ice Cream-flavored Oreos!  Yummy!

As usual, enjoy the photos!

How I’m feeling right now:
Ready. Anxious. Curious. Giddy. Amazed. Nervous.  I have our bag packed with a couple of diapers, some toys, books and snacks, and a sippy cup and bottle.  I try to imagine what tomorrow will be like, but just can’t.  We will know soon enough!

It’s been a great week of touring, but now, as our guide said, sightseeing time is over and it’s time to focus on being a family.  We will still be able to see a few things here and there, but that is our secondary priority from here on out.

China Day 4: Free and Acrobat Show

Loved the day!  Took it easy all morning, swam, watched some TV, ate delicious Chinese food for lunch.  In the afternoon, walked about 1.5 miles to meet our group at the acrobat show.  Excellent!  I should include that we got there just on time and thought we were late.  It was quite the experience to try to communicate with the ticket agents at the door that we were with a big American group and I wanted to go in and look for them.  I was showing them a photo of our guide, George and trying to explain what I wanted to do.  Eventually, they let me in to look while the rest of the family waited at the door.  They were very kind and let us stand inside the door.  They said, "Too hot! Inside. Come."  It turned out that our group was about 5 minutes late.  I was so thrilled to see them, because the kids, especially Kenzie, were really looking forward to the show.  Our group showed up just as a few tears began to be shed, so it was a relief.

We walked back to the hotel to meet up with Jeff and his friends. (Our group went back on the bus to drive by the Olympic stadium, but we had already seen it.)

Jeff is a Deaf Chinese man who grew up here in Beijing.  Our friend Dan connected us and I'm so thankful for that!  Jeff brought a few other friends to visit and while chatting with them, we learned that his friends, David and Kelvin, are also headed to Zhengzhou.  150 Deaf Chinese university students will be meeting here in Zhengzhou this week!

Jeff and David filmed and interview with our family and will be showing it to the students.  Here in China, Jeff explained, Deaf don't often marry hearing people.  If they DO, the hearing person doesn't sign.  The guys said that the fact that our kids sign will be a total culture shock to the students.  The guys wanted to film us to help open the minds of some of the Deaf students who have lived in a very "closed" country all these years and have been taught to think one certain way about things related to being Deaf.

Depending on how Tian is doing and how far we are from the University, we may go meet the students and visit with them ourselves.

We were able to communicate with our new friends by a mix of ASL, international signs, and gestures.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE that we can do this in the Deaf community! It just would never work from spoken language to spoken language.

Side note: When the guys were filming the interview, TJ was asked how he felt about his dad being Deaf. He shrugged and said, "I like it. I wish I was Deaf, too."  That comment was a huge hit with the guys.  It was so sweet!  All three Brownies really enjoyed visiting with our new friends.  I should add that they have been AWESOME on this trip.  Wow.

One more note: While sharing the story of our boys, specifically Travis, David suggested that Travis might be a minority (because of where he lives in South China).  David explained that the majority of Chinese are Han, but 50% make up about 50-something other minority groups.  He said, "You can tell by looking."  Maybe HE can, but I cant.  So we showed him a picture.  His eyes lit up and a broad, proud smile crossed his face.  He said, "No! He's 100% Chinese. Not a minority.  He's Han!  I want to adopt him!"  It was fun to see David be excited for us and for Travis. Man, these boys have NO idea how many people already care so much for them!  I'm happy to have connected with some other Chinese and China-born Deaf guys that can be role models for our boys.  Only God could orchestrate such an amazing meeting of friends!

See pictures for more of the story.

Jianguo Hotel Beijing

We spent 5 nights here.  For the benefit of other adoptive families who might stay here, I wanted to share my thoughts so far. I've also included directions and info to a fabulous restaurant a short walk away.  I encourage anyone staying in this area to visit Xiao Wang's Home Restaurant. Here are the directions with photos. (Just past the first photo of Starbucks.)

This has been an excellent hotel.  They allowed the 5 of us to stay in one room, which saves us since, for the remainder of our trip, we will have to have two rooms.

Room: Very clean. No smoke smell at all (although we could sometimes smell it in the hall, we never smelled it in our room). Large king size bed. Frim, butwe like it that way.  Desk for workspace. Chair and ottoman. Wardrobe, safe, fridge, hot pot, bar area. Typical hotel restroom.  Again, very clean. Nice view of the koi pond outside.  We had to make SURE we closed our curtains in the evening though, or the people dining in the restaurant would see us.
We could run the AC as low as we wanted with the digital thermometer. My husband likes an icebox, so it was FREEZING!

Water: The hotel provides some water bottles.  We bought a flat of water at a grocery store across the street.  You can brush your teeth with the tap water.  (We also had ice in our drinks at McDs and Pizza Hut and no one has been sick.)

Food:  I will encourage you again to try Xiao Wang's. The 5 of us had more food than we could finish for 150 RMB ($23).
Outside the hotel for Western food, there is a McDonald's and Pizza Hut within short walking distance.  Steps, really. The Pizza Hut is much nicer than those in the States.  They also have a huge selection of food, both Western and Chinese. I thought their pan pizza tasted just like it does in the US. (We actually don't eat Pizza Hut pizza, but it did taste like a Western pizza to us.)

The breakfast buffet in the hotel is very good, plentiful, and diverse, but expensive.  Under CCAI's reservation, two breakfasts are included, but on our own, the price for one person is 120 RMB.  For the past 2 mornings, we have enjoyed the buffet.  Our kids are half price, so we pay a total of 180 RMB out of pocket.

The buffet has: cereal with milk, waffles, eggs, ham, bacon, chicken sausage, made-to-order eggs, yogurt, and all kinds of fruit.  They also have croissants, pastries, kolaches, and rolls.  They have international selections as well: Some fruits we didn't recognize, a salad bar, congee, muesli with fruit, dumplings, tofu, steam bread, deep fried bread dough sticks. (My kids' favorite...they ate them with syrup...said they tasted like funnel cakes.) To drink, they had all kinds of fruit juices (the apple juice tasted like cider), milk, and a coffee machine that served coffee, cappuccino, and espresso.

Swimming pool:
Extremely clean and comfortable temperature.  Pool/exercise area includes steam room, sauna, showers w/shampoo, soap, conditioner, lockers (they will provide a key when you sign in), towels, and even sterilized sandals. They do not require swim caps.  Since there are 3 girls in our family, we enjoyed using the pool showers to all get ready at the same time without feeling cramped.

There is a business center, massage, and hair salon.  We didn't use any of these services, though. Laundry was way out of our budget. 25 RMB per article of clothing.

They found us a great driver/car to take us to the Great Wall.

I will add more here if I think of anything else to say, but if you stay here on your trip, I believe you'll be very pleased.