Dad’s Travel Journal


          Check the blogs section of the web site for the latest updates!


April 20, 2006

          Well, we’ve been home for almost a week, and things are going pretty well.  We were greeted at the airport by my folks, sisters, aunt, and nieces as well as some other adoptive families who came to show their support (not to mention the TV news crew who came to interview us)!  Jet lag was much tougher on the return trip than on the trip over to China, but that’s what the folks who have “been there and done that” told us to expect.  Last night was the best night so far.  We’ve been struggling with the common sleeping issues with Mia.  The first several nights, she basically slept in a series of short naps with kicking and screaming fits in between.  It hasn’t been much fun, but when you consider the jet lag, the unfamiliar surroundings, the series of dramatic changes she’s been through in the last two weeks, it’s certainly understandable that she’s a bit insecure.  Remarkably, the tantrums have diminished each night, and the “naps” have become longer.  Last night, she went to sleep at about 9:30 with very little whining and no major meltdown, and she slept straight through until about 8:15AM when she woke up with a smile on her face – no crying, just a nice smile with both arms extended to Daddy.  She’s such a blessing!

        This first week at home has been filled with errands and shopping trips as we catch up after a couple of weeks away from home.  Mia has reacted very well to all of the new things in her life.  She is very curious and meets the new adventures exuberantly!  Seeing the wonder and excitement with which she looks at a shopping cart, a highway full of cars, or an aisle full of toys at our favorite toy store really makes me step back and appreciate the simple things in life.  I guess we missed out on the normal temper tantrum that usually accompanies the first ride restrained in a child safety seat.  J  We heard so many horror stories about the ride home from the airport that we were dreading that moment.  As usual, though, Mia had a surprise in store for us.  She LOVES her car seat and LOVES to be on the go!

        Perhaps I’ll have to change the name of my journal to “Dad’s Journal” and drop the “Travel”.  I expect that our four kids and a return to work will limit my ability to update it very often though.  J  (After all, baseball season started while we were gone…)

        Once again, thank you, friends, for your support and your prayers over these past months.  We are praising God that everything worked out so well and asking for his wisdom and strength as we raise all four of our children in His Light.


April 12, 2006

          Wow!  Three days have slipped by with no journal updates from Dad…  At least I stayed on top of the photo albums, which is what I’m sure everyone back home has the most interest in.  J  The past few days have been good.  We haven’t had much sightseeing to do, which is actually good.  We were getting “toured out”, I think.  We’ve had some relaxing time of souvenir shopping, swimming in the hotel pool, and doing a whole lot of nothing.  Mixed in with that, we had some paperwork for the US side of the adoption, as well as a routine medical exam for Mia.  So, all in all, we’ve had some uneventful days, but lots of fun getting to know the newest member of our family.  Mia is doing pretty well with both of us now.  She has moments as “Daddy’s Girl” and times where she needs her Mama.  Usually, she looks to Mom for comfort or to rock her to sleep, and she looks to Daddy for playtime or junk food.  ;)  She is also doing very well with Nolan, who has been a big, big help on this trip!

        There have been a few more firsts these past few days.  Mia had her first swim – just wading and splashing on Tuesday, then swimming with Dad in the “big pool” on Wednesday.  She had a blast and I think those around her enjoyed it even more.  She is just so excited and full of life!  Just watching the way she so enjoys something as simple as a splash in the kiddie pool makes me appreciate the “little things” that I have too long taken for granted.  Mia also had her first pizza at a local Pizza Hut here in Guangzhou.  Tonight, she enjoyed her second pizza from the same local Pizza Hut – but “take out” this time…   …We have to train her right.  Pizza is best enjoyed on the floor in a room full of friends.  (That should be in a fortune cookie somewhere, I think.)  When “The Dads” arrived at the Pizza Hut to pick up the order, the young Chinese lady behind the counter greeted us and said, “I remember you!  You were here tomorrow!”  J

        Now we are down to the last step.  Our paperwork, Mia’s visa application, etc. were turned into the US Consulate today, and we’ll go tomorrow for the oath.  We’ll get her visa then, and the next morning, we’ll begin the long journey home.  It’s hard to believe we’re already less than two days from the homecoming trip when three weeks ago it seemed like we’d never get travel authorization from China to come and get our little girl!  Yet, here we are, and we are so blessed!  Thank you all for your love and support.  Thank you most of all for your prayers!  We still covet those as Mia makes yet another HUGE transition in her life – a long trip half-way around the globe to a strange place with strange smells, strange sounds, and strange-looking people with a very odd language.  Once again, we are asking the Father to prepare her heart in advance for this change.

        While we are trying to meet Mia’s need for smooth transition, we are terribly excited to be heading home.  We long to hug and hold our two younger sons and hear all about their visit with Grandma and Grandpa and their aunts and cousins!  We’ve had the chance to email them and talk to them just a little bit on the phone, but that just doesn’t help much when you’ve been 8,000 miles away from your kids for two weeks!!!  I can’t wait to see them at the airport!!!

        Not sure if I’ll have the chance to journal again before we get home.  If I don’t, it may be a while.  I’ve learned from observing other families returning home that the web site updates aren’t quite the highest priority once you return to the “real world”.  J  Thanks for tagging along with us on our journey!  I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and the thoughts we’ve been able to share.

        Hang in there, boys!  Mom, Dad, Nolan and Mia will be home SOON!

          Love to all,



April 9, 2006

          We visited the Yun Tai Garden, today, which is a very beautiful garden in Guangzhou.  We walked around and looked at all of the plants.  We had hoped to take some pictures of Mia in the flowers, but she slept through most of the visit.  Oh well, there will be opportunities later.  I think Kim and I have a serious case of “I want to go home.”  We miss our two younger boys.  So, Grandma and Grandpa, when you bring them to the airport, Kim would like a Sonic Dr. Pepper with extra ice.  I’ll take a Coke – light on the ice.  On Saturday morning – our first morning at home with Mia, I’m going to Hardee’s for a loaded breakfast burrito.  Mid-morning, I want some Braum’s chocolate milk, and for lunch AND dinner, we want good Mexican food!


April 8, 2006

          I wasn’t feeling very well today – hence the tardiness in getting the photos and journal updated.  We went to the Chen Clan Academy and got some good photos, but the visit wasn’t as enjoyable as it would have been had I been able to breathe.  J  It was fun to see the local artwork, though.  After that, we went to the pearl market to do some shopping, then on to a local restaurant for a dim sum lunch.  It was very good, too, and the jasmine tea helped me feel a little bit better.  We came back to the hotel and rested for a while, then introduced Mia to her first McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.  As expected, they were a big hit!  We had our nightly “I don’t want to go to bed” fit, but eventually the parents won once again, and Mia fell to sleep in my arms.  Nolan fell asleep shortly before Mia, and Mommy followed shortly after her.  Then, I finished watching a John Wayne DVD, “Island in the Sky” and went to bed.


April 7, 2006

          Today was a much better day than yesterday for me.  Mia has opened back up to both of us, and is also quite enthralled with her oldest brother!  We still dealt with the occasional temper tantrum this afternoon, but she is 19 months old.  So, I’d be worried if that wasn’t the case.  ;)

        Today and the next couple of days are sightseeing days, as there is no adoption-related paperwork or government process for us to complete.  We went to the Yue Xiu Park this morning and walked around a bit.  We saw the famous five goats statue, as well as the lookout tower that was used to watch for any invaders who might have tried to attack ancient Guangzhou (Canton).  The temperature was the coolest it has been since we arrived.  So, it was nice to be outside and get some exercise.  We took a stroller for Mia, which turned out to be just about worthless since the park has a lot of stairways.  We finished up there and went to a Cantonese restaurant for lunch.  The food was very good and very inexpensive.  I ordered the pigeon which turned out to be a great hit with the bigger kids in our group.  It is served with the head still attached.  So, the kids were grossed out – or pretending to be, at least…  But when a couple of them tried it and liked it, they all decided to try it, and it was unanimously accepted.


April 6, 2006

          We visited Mia’s orphanage today.  We started off the day with an early breakfast at the hotel.  We ate with our friends from Texas who left for home, today.  It was such a blessing to get to see them here in Guangzhou.  After breakfast, I ran some errands while Kim got the kids ready for our one hour trip to the orphanage.  Mia was in a fairly good mood today, but very clingy to Kim.  She played a bit with her brother and seemed to be more willing to let him hold her and play with her, but she would have nothing to do with me.  She gave me an occasional grin, but if I came near her, she pulled away and cried to Mama.  Guess she was upset that I kissed and told in yesterday’s post.  J  Anyway, the trip to the orphanage is a little difficult to describe.  At first, I was completely at ease about it.  As we got closer though, I began to get nervous and didn’t really know why.  It didn’t help that the driver got lost on the way…  We’ve always believed, based upon the stories we’ve read from others who have adopted from this orphanage, that the children are well cared for.  We’ve seen signs in Mia that leave no doubt she received good care while there.  I wanted to go and thank them for taking care of my daughter, give them a chance to say their goodbyes to her, and soak in as much as I could about the people and environment there in order to answer some of the many questions Mia will have for me as she gets older.  We had also joined with another family adopting from the same orphanage to pick up some diapers and formula to donate to help the kids.  Yet, as we got closer, this indescribable uneasiness crept in.  I guess I was scared she wasn’t going to want to leave with us once she saw the ladies who took care of her for the last year and a half or so.  Or maybe it was the emotional distress – knowing I’d see other kids who I wouldn’t be able to take home and who might never be taken home to families.  Whatever it was, I had a knot in my gut like I’ve never had before.  When we arrived, we were invited to sit in the lobby of the office area and were told where the facilities were if anyone needed them.  Some of the staff greeted the two girls and played with them for a moment in the lobby.  We received a mild chastisement from the director of the orphanage because he felt the sleeves on the girls’ shirts were too short for the weather conditions.  (I had heard of such “instruction” before, but this was my first experience with being told my daughter needs long sleeves on a balmy day when we’re all sweating.)  Our guide then told us that it was an appropriate time to present our donation.  We did, and the diapers seemed to be very well received by the orphanage director.  He expressed his thanks, and we were off to the actual orphanage rooms.  This particular Social Welfare Institute includes the orphanage and a nursing home for the elderly.  The nursing home appears to be quite large, but the orphanage only consists of a few rooms.  It all appeared a bit smaller than the impression I had from the photos we’d seen.  Mia took right up with the nannies.  She was smiling and talking to them.  They fed her what appeared to be a rice and bean sprout porridge and gave her some water.  At first, my inclination was to be offended that they’d do this without asking, but I quickly let that go.  These ladies were her primary caretakers until just a couple of days ago…  In between the spoonfuls of porridge, Mia was off to the races.  She ran around like she owned the place – picking up what few toys were around, sliding down the slide of the small play set that was set up in the corner, and talking to the kiddos in the cribs.  She seemed very comfortable, which made me happy, but also tightened that knot in my gut a bit.  The nannies removed her shoes and told us she didn’t like to wear them, to which I replied, “She cries when we take them off.”  They came back with some explanation that she doesn’t cry because she likes wearing them; she cries because she knows the shoes are hers and is afraid I’m going to take them away.  There may be some truth to that, but I can tell you she loves her shoes just like any other princess.  J  We finished our visit and were escorted back to the office where the director thanked us again and presented us with a small banner/flag from the orphanage.  We were then told that it was their “break” (which I think means lunchtime), and that was our hint to scoot.  We took some pictures outside and boarded the van.  Mia did very well.  She did not fuss at all when we left.  She waived goodbye to her caretakers and blew kisses, but she didn’t seem the least bit hesitant to leave.  Shortly thereafter, she fell asleep in Kim’s arms (after reconfirming that she wanted nothing to do with Daddy today).  As we pulled away, the knot eased a bit.  I’m not sure we got what we expected out of the trip – I’m not even sure what we expected.  But I hope it helped to give Mia some closure on that chapter of her life so that we can move on with the chapter we are now starting together.

        We got back to Guangzhou and had lunch, then did some shopping.  We returned to our hotel room and decided to just hang out there for the evening.  Mia was not too happy about that, as she likes to be on the go.  She decided to throw a few temper tantrums for us, which weren’t pleasant, but we lived through them.  I wish I could read her mind and know what she’s thinking – it all must be very confusing and frustrating for her at this point.  And it made it tough that she wouldn’t let me comfort her.  All she wanted this evening was Mommy.  Then, she decided she didn’t even want her – she just wanted to cry.

        Everyone is asleep now, and I’ll soon join them.  Hoping for a better day tomorrow…


April 5, 2006

          While we were getting ready for breakfast this morning, Mia actually gave her dad a kiss!  Need I post more for the day?!


April 4, 2006 – Part II

          Today was the day we have been waiting for.  We held our Mia for the first time!  She wasn’t too excited about it – at least not at first – but we were thrilled and amazed at God’s blessing!  We went to the adoption registration center in Guangzhou, about 15 minutes from the hotel, at 2:30PM.  The van bringing Mia to us was caught in traffic.  So, she didn’t arrive until 3:30PM.  That was possibly the longest hour of our lives.  Close to 3:30, for some reason, we all looked out the window to see a van pulling in.  We saw a man step out of the passenger side and immediately recognized him as the director of Mia’s orphanage.  (We had seen him on the orphanage’s web site.)  Then, out stepped one of the nannies with our Mia!  We were so excited.  A few moments later, they brought Mia into the room with us.  She looked at Kim cautiously, but curiously.  Then, the nanny handed her to Kim and said, “Ma Ma.”  This was the moment any question about her lung capacity was answered for us.  J  She has a very deep and loud scream for such a small girl!  Over the next couple of hours, the intermissions between the screams became more frequent and longer in duration.  We got back to the hotel, and Nolan and I went to prepare some paperwork.  We left Mia and Kim together for some bonding time.  When we returned, the screaming continued, and Mia was downright ticked off at her Mommy.  She reached for me, and I held her.  She pointed to the soft doll and blanket in her bed.  When I handed them to her, she cradled the doll in her left arm and bunched the blanket up into her belly with her right arm, and all was better.  She stopped crying, for the most part, and seemed to take some comfort in the soft toys.  I rocked her for a while, and she seemed to calm down enough to take in her surroundings.  Then, it was time to go complete some paperwork.  I tested the water a bit by letting her down on the floor.  She began to walk around and play a bit.  Nolan and I made our way to the door and quietly left.  We stood outside and listened, but heard no crying.  So, we headed off to handle the “administrative” stuff.  When we returned, we found Mia happily playing with Mommy on the floor.  They were building with the stacking cups, then knocking them down and clapping.  (She won’t fit in with our family, huh?!)  J  We got some smiles and giggles, then, and got a glimpse of the happy young lady that we hope she will soon become.  In the short time we got to interact with Mia, we saw a girl with a little bit of attitude (which will come in handy with her brothers), a whole lot of charm, and a complete openness with showing her emotions.  There’s not much mystery to what she’s feeling – she let’s you know it!  J  Mia went to sleep in the loving arms of her Mommy at about 8:30PM, and she is still sleeping now, at about 6AM the next day.  She is an active sleeper, changing from her back to her belly or vice versa fairly often.  She also adjusts the blanket and pillow to get just the right arrangement for comfort – all without ever waking up.  She seems to like soft things – she’s kept her doll, a pillow, or a blanket tucked under her arm and pulled to her belly or chest most of the night.  It has been a peaceful night, and we are thankful for the rest.  We are anxiously anticipating a day of discovering more of the personality and beauty of our new daughter.


April 4, 2006

          Well, we made it to Guangzhou yesterday!  The White Swan is as beautiful as everyone had told us, and we are so excited to be here!  Jet lag finally hit me after we arrived.  So, I’m a little bit late in updating my journal.  You may have noticed I had to reorganize the photo albums to keep a little bit better handle on managing the updates…  Anyhow, let’s see if I can catch up on my thoughts from the trip.

        It was neat to see Hong Kong.  By the time we got settled into the hotel, it was getting late in the evening.  So, we figured we’d better get some sleep.  Our bodies had other ideas, though.  Nolan and I were hungry and fidgety.  So, we made a McDonald’s run.  The Hong Kong double cheeseburgers aren’t exactly like their American counterparts, but they served their purpose.  We returned to the hotel and watched some TV before we were finally able to get some rest.  Our hotel suite was very nice.  In this part of the world, they tend to use “Ricky and Lucy” beds – two beds about the size of an American twin, rather than a queen or king size bed.  Our room had these type of beds, while the living area had a sofa bed for Nolan.  We also had a little dining table and a kitchenette – unnecessary for a one-night stay, but the extra space was relaxing.

        After a few hours of sleep we awoke much too early in the morning to get out and do anything.  We tried to entertain ourselves.  Kim read, Nolan read a little and played his Gameboy.  Dad spent some time on the computer and then laid on the extra firm bed staring at the ceiling.  J  Finally, it was time to get breakfast!  We ate at the hotel restaurant (couldn’t handle another McD’s run…).  It was expensive, but a very good buffet.  One side had typical American breakfast fair, while the other side had Congee, Dim Sum, various rolls, and other treats I couldn’t really identify.  We ate well, then decided to see the area around the hotel as we waited for our train tickets to be delivered.

        We walked around a convention center type of building on one side of the hotel.  The courtyard area (which we had seen from our hotel room window) had several people exercising together – stretching, walking, and practicing Tai Chi.  The harbor was very busy with all sorts of boats.  The high speed ferries zip back and forth all day, while the big cargo ships port to have their containers moved by the huge cranes.  We saw several people cleaning streets and wiping down the tile walls that separated the street from the sidewalk on one side of the hotel.  I found it interesting that they did this by hand rather than enjoying the convenience of a street sweeper or power washer like we’d use in the U.S.

        We returned to the hotel and found our train tickets had arrived.  So, we packed up our things and met our friends in the lobby for checkout.  Then we hauled our bags across the road to the train station.

        We didn’t realize the restrictions on baggage weight applied to the trains just as it does to the Chinese flights, but we quickly learned that was the case.  We were allowed 20 Kg per adult and 10 Kg for Nolan.  That’s 44 lbs. for us and 22 lbs. for him.  We were slightly over and had to pay a small Luggage Consignment Fee.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient Hong Kong Dollars for the fee.  So, a mad dash to the ATM was required.  Then, we were on our way.

        As we traveled across the countryside, I was struck most by the way the landscape abruptly changes from city to countryside and back to city.  On one side of the road, you may have a seven or eight story apartment building, while on the other, you have a small farm.  It was also interesting to see how the Chinese perform modern tasks, like construction, without the convenience of modern technology.  For instance, we passed an area where an overpass was being constructed, and there were the large cement trucks and workers in hard hats like you’d see in the states, but rather then the large steel scaffolds and safety equipment we are accustomed to, these guys used wood and bamboo to fashion their scaffolds and catwalks.  Rather than one man, three “supervisors” and a backhoe to dig a drainage trench, they used ten men with shovels.

        It was a very pleasant train ride to Guangzhou, and the hour and a half seemed to fly by.  We went through immigration and quarantine (for a quick health check), then customs.  We grabbed our luggage and boarded the van for the hotel.  Traffic was quite heavy on the ride from the airport to Shamian Island where the hotel is located, but we made it!  We got unpacked then called some friends from Texas who we knew had arrived here a couple of days earlier.  We met with them and went to Lucy’s for dinner.  (Lucy’s is where many go for American food during their stay here.  Our guide said, “To us, this is American food.  To you, it’s maybe ‘Chinese American’ food.”  Nevertheless, it was good food, and it was great to catch up with our Texas friends.  It’s amazing how small the world really is, when you can travel to the other side of the globe and still meet up with old friends!

        During and after dinner is when the jet lag really began to hit me.  I stayed up long enough to let Kim finish her journal update so I could upload it for her.  Then, I crashed.

        That brings us to today…  I woke up at about 4:30AM and wasn’t able to go back to sleep.  Today is the day I will meet my daughter!  I am nervous, excited, maybe even a little bit worried, but at the same time I can’t wait for this afternoon!  I pray that God will prepare her heart for this transition and will give us the wisdom to make it a smooth one for her.


April 2, 2006

          We arrived in Hong Kong safely and got into our hotel.  Not much excitement, but we’ll get some sleep and should have some stories and pictures of the train ride to Guangzhou tomorrow.


April 1, 2006

          Today was our travel day!  We commented to each other on the way to the airport how the whole situation still seemed so surreal.  After the different phases of waiting, it’s hard to believe that today we are actually TRAVELING to meet Mia.  We got to the airport early, running on adrenaline alone because we’ve been unable to sleep for a few days.  We were told the first leg of our flight was canceled.  After a momentary state of panic, we were reassured by the lady at the ticket counter that we could be placed on another carrier and still make our Chicago connection, and the other families traveling with us could do the same.  So, all was well.  Later, when we compared boarding passes, we realized that we were still on the original Chicago to Hong Kong flight, but our companions had been moved to a flight two hours later.  Since we all wanted to try to travel together, and there were eight of them and three of us, we decided it would be less problematic to ask United to change us to the later flight, and they did.  All was well once again.  When it came time to board in Chicago, we discovered one other minor discrepancy.  We were booked on that later flight, but the other families were on the April 2nd flight.  No worries, though.  There was room on the plane, and all was sorted out.  Long story short, we had a couple of stressful moments, but nonetheless, we’re on our way!  And we learned a few lessons.  Not the least important of which is that those “moving walkways” you see in some airports – the ones that are sort of like flat escalators that let you cover ground really quickly as you walk – are great entertainment for 6 to 9-year-old boys!  They will walk from one end of the terminal to the other, turn around and walk back again and start all over…

        …and believe it’s actually FUN!  J

        As I type this, we are flying in a 747 about 31,000 feet above the Arctic Circle.  They just informed us that the outside air temperature is 74 degrees below zero!  In just ten more hours, we’ll land in Hong Kong!


March 29, 2006

          This morning we got our confirmation of our U.S. Consulate appointment for April 12th.  That means we’ll probably hold Mia for the first time on April 5th.  So, we can be a little bit more relaxed about rushing to Guangzhou.  We won’t leave for China until Saturday, April 1st.  (Our full itinerary is on the bottom of the main Travel Journal page.)  The April 12th appointment also means Mia will be home for Easter!  We are so thankful for all of you who have supported us through your prayers and best wishes.  You mean more to us than you’ll ever know.  I’ll do my best to keep this site updated with pictures and journal entries so you can enjoy this adventure with us!


        March 27, 2006

Well, seventy-four days after our Letter of Intent was sent to China expressing our desire to adopt Qing Cheng Le, our Travel Authorization has finally arrived!  We are so blessed!  We are now waiting for our appointment with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to be confirmed for April 12th or 13th.  If that happens, we’ll be able to leave on Thursday, March 30th!  If that doesn’t happen, we’ll likely see a significant delay because all of the hotel rooms in Guangzhou are booked up for the Canton Trade Fair during the third and fourth weeks of April.  So, we’re praying the Consulate’s Office has availability on one of our requested dates.  The downside to this is that we’ll likely miss visiting Beijing.  With such short notice, getting travel into Beijing has proven to be a challenge.  We likely wouldn’t get there until late on Saturday (after an overnight stay in Hong Kong), and we’d have to leave on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to get to Guangzhou in time to get Mia.  We’ve decided that only 24 hours in Beijing accompanied by travel fatigue and jet lag just isn’t worth the extra hassle and expense.  So, we’ll do our weekend sightseeing in the Guangzhou area.  This will probably be more meaningful, anyway, since Mia is from the Guangdong Province (of which Guangzhou is the capital).  Mark 11:24