Mom’s Travel Journal

August 9, 2007

       We began today like everyday for the past week. We went down for breakfast at the breakfast buffet. I still get amazed by all the many choices it has to offer. Of course, since I am not very adventurous, my breakfast has remained relatively the same for the past few days (I think I can do without French toast for a little while). It occurred to me this morning that Mandy is going to be so used to this type of breakfast that she isn’t going to know what to do when all she gets at home is Eggo waffles or cereal. Our house won’t be the same as this five star hotel either. She won’t have a housekeeping service (unless of course you count mom), and she won’t get to go out to eat 2 times a day. We can’t forget that she won’t have a beautiful swimming pool in her backyard either. What a shock it is going to be for her!

          After breakfast, the girls got dressed up, and we took a lot of pictures of them in their Chinese silk dresses. There are so many great photo spots in this hotel. Our girls are so beautiful, and they looked just gorgeous as I watched them model in their dresses for their daddy. When we finished with the red couch pictures, we changed back into our sundresses and went shopping. We stopped at Jordan’s to have Mandy’s dress repaired (the hook needed to be sewn on better), and we ended up buying another dress for Mia. Mandy had a pink one given to her by her foster family, so Mia needed a pink one too (or at least that’s what she thought). She is “pretty in pink” so mommy didn’t put up much of a fight. We were able to visit with Jordan, who owns a shop on Shamian Island. He is such an incredibly nice man. He has enjoyed his visits with Mandy the past 2 times we have been in his shop. They chat away in Chinese, and he is very good about translating for us. He was telling us how much he loves children and how he has enjoyed being able to talk with Mandy. She has a very friendly personality, and it still surprises me sometimes how well she has adjusted to being a part of our family (she is still bonding better with Brad, but she and I are making progress). She continues to tell everyone how she is so excited to meet her 2 Ge Ge’s(older brothers) and 1 Di Di(younger brother). She told Jordan that she loves her Ma Ma and Ba Ba, and that she loves her Mei Mei(little sister) very much! All I can say is Thank You God for the incredible heart you have given this child. Wow, so many prayers for her have been more than answered.

       I asked Brad this morning why it is that the homesickness subsides close to the end of the trip. I was feeling not so home sick today (perhaps that is because we know that we leave tomorrow). I enjoyed getting out and visiting the shops. We had a good morning with the girls, and I just felt a bit sad that our trip to China is coming to an end. It was only a little over 3 ½ weeks ago that we couldn’t wait to get here. Now our time here is drawing to a close. I know that a part of me will miss the time we have had in China. We will certainly miss Nanning and the people there! We will miss the comfort and familiarity of Guangzhou. China is an amazing place! It is hard to describe, to those who haven’t been here, the way this country draws you in. It is a land of many contradictions, but it is a land of intense beauty and wonderful people. We have been given a gift of a beautiful daughter and an amazing glimpse into the lives of the people and city where she was born.  We were more than blessed to witness the magnificent beauty of Guilin City and the mountains and God’s incredible handiwork.  We made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

           I have to take a minute to thank all of you who have followed our journey or should I say trip. The journey has only just begun for our daughter. We have so appreciated all of your notes, emails, well wishes, and most of all we have cherished your prayers. Please continue to pray for our safe travels home tomorrow. Your support and prayers have helped to make this trip one that we will treasure for a lifetime.
          I have to thank my three handsome boys at home. They are such amazing young men. They have willingly sacrificed time with their mom and dad to allow us to come get their sisters (not once but twice). They make me so proud. They are so giving and loving, and they have opened their hearts to adding children to our family. The boys have welcomed Mandy by talking to her on the phone (even if they are unable to understand each other). They are so full of love and show an enthusiasm for sharing that goes much beyond what we could ever expect. They are truly my “super heroes”!

          Check our blogs for home updates … we hope to keep everyone updated as soon as the jet lag and weariness ease up a bit.

We will see you in America real soon!!!

August 8, 2007

       Well today was more of the same. The only thing that set this day apart was that today was our Oath Taking Ceremony at the US Consulate. As we were describing what would take place to another couple, I mentioned that it was really kind of a let down after all we had been through already. I actually was a little “matter of fact” about the whole thing that is until the ceremony actually took place. There were about 70 families there in the room to take this same oath as we were about to take. Each of us had to promise that all the information was true and correct to the best of our knowledge, and then our children are all ready to become citizens of the United States of America upon entering their arrival destination. There is just something that gets me every time I stand with all these families taking this oath and knowing that these precious children are going to be citizens of the US forever more. It is yet another big step in their lives.

          After the consulate appointment, we went to eat dinner. We chose to eat in the River Garden Coffee Shop. We opted to order off the menu versus eating the buffet (which was largely a seafood buffet). We had some pretty good food; however, it was pretty pricey too. It is not something we could do everyday, but it was good for a change. For lunch we had eaten PB sandwiches in the room, and we were all starving by dinner time. So, it was a nice, it was filling, and it was a change from Lucy’s. The girls did very well and seemed to like at least some of the food they ate. We walked a little around the hotel enjoying the beautiful atmosphere. They have some beautiful pieces of furniture that I would like to have; however, it is just a little too expensive for my pocket book. We made a stop at the Swan Room (a children’s playroom). It was a bit of a disappointment because there weren’t many toys and definitely no toys for kids over the age of 2. After our short time there, Mia and I went to the room while Brad and Mandy went to get us some bottled water. We watched TV and played for a bit, and then it was off to bed.

          It wasn’t a very exciting day, but it turned out alright. It really surprised me that the day went by as quickly as it did. We are one more day closer to seeing our boys.

Until tomorrow….


August 7, 2007

       Today started with our usual trip down to the breakfast buffet. Mandy takes delight in filling her plate to the brim. Brad has started to put a limit as she fills the plate but only eats a little. With limited communication, we are finally conveying that she can always go back for more if she wants it. So, this morning she did better at selecting and finished off her breakfast.  Mia and she are still having a few fights. Mandy wants to care for her Mei-Mei, but Mia is three and has her own independent streak. When Mandy wants to brush her hair, hold her hand, tell her no, and feed her, Mia is always hollering NO, NO, NO.

          After breakfast we took a walk down to the park and let the girls play on the playground. They had a good time and loved being with the other kids. Mom and Dad got to talk to the boys today! It was great to hear their voices! They are such awesome, understanding young men. They love having sisters and are such great brothers. They always ask about the girls and always want to say “hi” to Mandy and Mia when we call. We walked around the park and past a few shops. We were able to pick up Mandy’s chop (name stamp). It was time to return to the room to wait for our guide to call with news from the consulate appointment. She called at 12pm and said all went well.  We went to Lucy’s (yes again). It is the only place we are able to get things that we all like to eat. Mandy doesn’t like pizza, nor does she like fried foods (so Mcdonald’s is out). Mom is not much on Chinese food. Mandy did try to eat a grilled cheese sandwich today. She took a big bite and then made this horrible faceJ! We made her finish the bite (as we had told her she wasn’t going to like it, and she kept saying “Yes, Yes, Yes”!), but she ate only the cucumbers, tomatoes, and extra broccoli we had ordered after that. Next time I guess we try something different.

          Mia is taking a nap, and Mandy and Brad went to check out the electronics market and guitar shop. There is no telling what he will bring back (maybe I shouldn’t have let him go aloneJ). I am not sure what else we have planned for the evening. We may swim a little, and perhaps Mandy and I can take some time together to go shopping. She may reject that idea. She has been trying to get Ma Ma to GO, and Ba Ba, Mia and Mandy STAY!  I am not sure what to make of that… Brad is so good about telling her that Ma Ma stays, and we all do things together. I know we will bond with time! She won’t have much choice when daddy has to return to work. I am just amazed at how well she has done in such a short amount of time.

          Tomorrow is our “swearing in” ceremony at the US consulate. After that we are through with all of the adoption details. We still have most of tomorrow and Thursday to fill. We may check out the Zoo (depends on the heat), or we may find some other sight to see. Our days in China are coming to a close and although I am ready to come home a small part of me always misses this place when I have to leave. More tomorrow….

August 6, 2007

       I want to wish a Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband of thirteen years! In some ways it seems as if it was just yesterday that we promised before God and a multitude of family and friends that we would love, honor, and cherish each other until death do us part. Little did we know then how our love would continue to grow, and little did we know then God would bless us with 5 beautiful children. It has been a great thirteen years filled with the many things life has to offer. We have weathered many storms from miscarriages, family deaths, and job losses to trips around the world to build our family. I am so blessed to be able to share it all with the love of my life and my very best friend.

          Today was Mandy’s physical examination day. It was fun to sit back and watch her take it all in with gusto. She followed every direction that the doctors gave her, and she did it all with that gorgeous smile on her face. When Mia went through her exam, she started crying when the doctor touched her. We were uncertain what a seven year old might think of it all. She (once again) surprised us somewhat. I am not sure why I should be so surprised especially with the way that she approaches everything in life. I know the power of prayer. I have witnessed it so many times, and yet it continues to blow me away. I prayed (and I know many of you have been and still are praying for her) that she would have an adventurous spirit. That only begins to describe her. She takes everything by storm. She loves to learn new things, and she is not afraid to try anything new (at least once). Mandy has begun to discover the differences in foods (partly out of necessity). She may not like what she gets; however, she will try it all.

We have been having some testing and clashes of wills. She wants to do things her way (not much different from any 7 yr old). We are trying to balance setting boundaries with allowing for all the changes that have occurred in her life. Mandy is still having hard time bonding with me. She wants Ba Ba to do everything for her except that she will allow me to fix her hair. Ma Ma is a bit quicker to tell her no and to make her follow rules. She has Ba Ba under her princess spell. Over all she is doing much better than we could ever have expected, and we appreciate all the prayers. They are most certainly being felt.

          After the physical exam, we went to the Chin Clan Academy. We had gone to see it last year and nothing much has changed. I love all types of art and craft things, so I enjoyed it a bit more than Brad. They had a pottery exhibit that was phenomenal. It amazed me to think that some of these porcelain pieces had been existence since the 1400’s. They were so beautifully crafted and looked as if they had just come out of the kiln. They also had a puppetry exhibit. We glanced briefly at it, but we didn’t spend much time there.  It looked like a fun thing to take time out to see. We were all hot, tired, and the kiddos were getting cranky. Mandy is not much on heat and begins to whine and complain. She is just staying true to her princess nature. I have to admit that I don’t do extremely well in the heat either; however, I have learned with both trips to China to be tolerant of it. We ended the tour and returned to the room. We made the walk down to Lucy’s for lunch, took a short walk and went to Jordan’s to buy a few things. Mandy is learning quickly how much fun shopping can be. We returned to the hotel to meet our guide to finish paperwork. Our guide will take it in the morning to the US Consulate appointment for us. We will have the swearing in ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. We went swimming after finishing with the paperwork. We all had a good time playing in the water and watching the babies (well mom liked to watch the babies).

          Brad took us down to the Train Station Restaurant. It was a fun place to celebrate our anniversary. We liked the spaghetti even if it was a bit different from home. Mandy tried the sauce, but she preferred just the noodles. I am still uncertain what this girl is going to eat at home. She seems to be rejecting most American style foods. I hope that since she will try things that she will come to like some of these foods as she adjust to them. We had fun visiting with the waiters and waitresses who wanted to practice their English. There was one waitress who came to our table, and she spoke English well; however, it was hard to tell it because she just kept giggling. We had to laugh with her. Our princesses were pretty worn out, so it was home and ready for bed. Mandy, Mia and I put together a puzzle. Once we had the puzzle complete, it was off to bed, and the girls were out as soon as their head hit the pillow. It didn’t take long for us to follow. All in all we had a fairly good day. We are counting down the days until we can get home to our boys. It is great to hear that they are having a good time and being well taken care of.

          Thanks again for the continued prayers, the good wishes, the emails and the notes. The prayers are definitely being heard and felt. We love to hear from you all back home… it is helping us get through these last days in Guangzhou. Until tomorrow…



August 5, 2007

       Today was a very relaxing day for us. We started the morning with the breakfast buffet. The selections of food on the buffet are so plentiful that I think you could have a different thing to eat every morning for a month. Mandy’s eyes got as big as saucers as she saw all the food. The hotel buffet in Nanning was good, but not anything like the White Swan. Mandy found some things to eat that she liked. Mia liked the French toast the best. After finishing breakfast, we took a walk around the hotel and took pictures near the waterfall. This hotel is truly beautiful (but as our travel buddies can attest to, two weeks in one place can get old). I am glad that we were able to experience so much more of China this trip, and it is comforting to end our trip in a familiar place.

We spent the morning walking around Shamian Island. We visited with Michael (one of our favorite shop keepers here). He remembered us from a year ago. We had met his family last year and got to meet them again. His little boy is 2 years old and so adorable. He was talking to us in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. We (of course) had to make another trip to Lucy’s for lunch. I have a new favorite food there (grilled cheese sandwiches). I can see why you were so hooked on them last year, Ms. Tami. (Guess what else Ms. Tami, Mandy is now hooked on peanut butter M&M’s) While we were eating at Lucy’s, we saw several couples getting their wedding portraits done. Mandy’s eyes just lit up as she saw the beautiful girls in their beautiful dresses. She is definitely a princess at heart! A trip to Beatrice’s for bottled water and Gatoraide was in order. Then it was back to the room. Mia and I took a nap while Brad and Mandy went swimming. ** Nolan, it just doesn’t seem the same without you here. We are missing all our boys terribly. So, we are counting down the days with you. **

          We had a nice afternoon, playing in the room. The girls and I got a little mommy and me time. We played with play dough (I am so grateful I brought it with me). We colored in our coloring books. The girls helped me do a little of the “hand wash” laundry. They are such big helpers, maybe a little too much. Mom, Dad, and Mia ate pizza, and Mandy had some sort of noodles that daddy went out and got especially for her. Our day was pretty boring, but it was a great day for bonding and resting. Tomorrow, we go for Mandy’s physical examination. Tuesday will be the consulate appointment, and Wednesday will be the swearing in ceremony. We have a tour planned for the Chen Clan Academy and a trip to the pearl and jade market. So the next few days should keep us somewhat busy. We are grateful for that because it makes the time go by faster. We love China, but we want to be home with our whole family together.

Hopefully their will be some fun pictures tomorrow…


August 4, 2007

       Well I approached this day with many mixed emotions. We were preparing to leave Nanning and to head for Guangzhou. That means that we are that much closer to coming home. I am missing my big boys something awful this trip. It also meant that I must leave Nanning. I fell in love with that city! It was one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and the people of Nanning are so very friendly and compassionate. Everywhere we went we were welcomed and the girls were treated like treasures. I loved to sit and watch the families interact and just marveled at how God makes people so much alike and yet so different. It also meant Mandy was leaving behind the only life she has every known. So a big part of me is saddened that the time here has come to an end.       

        We started the day with our usual breakfast buffet. After finishing his breakfast, Brad made a quick trip to Wal-Mart for an extra suitcase. Mandy brought a few gifts from her foster family, and they had given us a few gifts as well. So, we decided not to crowd the suitcases (I am sure we will need the extra one upon leaving Guangzhou). The girls and I stayed to finish our breakfast at a slower pace. I am so glad that we did. I had a most amazing experience! A gentleman (from Nanning) had come in and sat at a table not far from ours. He placed his order, and then I looked up and saw that he had a bowed head and was praying (or at least that is what I assumed). I wondered at the time if he were a Christian. When the girls and I got up to leave, He stopped me and asked about the girls. First of all he thanked me for caring for and adopting the girls (I always respond to their thanks by telling them what an honor it is for us and the blessings children bring to our families). He asked me if I was an America and then the next question “May I ask you something? Are you a Christian?” Of course, my answer was a definite yes!  He then said,” I am a Christian, too.” He extended his hand and shook mine saying,” It is very nice to meet you.” As I responded that it was a pleasure for me to meet a brother in Christ, our eyes met and I felt an amazing connection (that true sense of brotherhood and of God’s amazing love). No others words were spoken, but I knew that God had intended that meeting. As we returned to the room, my thoughts ran crazy. I know what a risk it can be to take opportunities such as this one. I stood amazed at how strong and fearless people can be in their walk of faith. Can I be that strong and proclaim my Lord and Savior so boldly? That is my prayer!

          We were packed and our guide arrived in plenty of time to take us to the airport. It was hard saying goodbye to Nanning, and most especially our guide. She was a true treasure and made our trip a wonderful experience (I just continue to be blown away by the amazing journey God has taken us on this trip). Our flight went smoothly, and Mandy loved flying. When we were off the ground she just made an exclamation of excitement. She wanted to sit by the window and look out. She did amazingly well for the very first time she has ever flown. The only struggle we had was making her sit still with the seat belt fastened around her waist. She will have to get used to that quickly in America.  We arrived in Guangzhou safely. We felt like we had come home. We are staying at the White Swan and have a lovely room. It is spacious and will serve as our home away from home for the next 5 days. The first thing we had to do was make a trip to Lucy’s. Brad enjoyed a cheeseburger, and I ate (more like consumed) a grilled cheese sandwich and French fries (Nolan…the fries at Lucy’s are still terrific!). Mandy and Mia shared steamed rice and stir fried vegetables. Mandy prefers rice noodles and noodle soup Guilin style; however, she settled for the stuff that the crazy Americans were feeding her. We made a stop at 7-11 to get some bottled water and ice cream (of course). Mandy’s eyes got as big as saucers when we walked in the store. She couldn’t take her eyes off of everything. She was very good though and didn’t touch. She loved the ice cream. Brad gave her a coin back at Lucy’s. She put it in her pocket for safe keeping. When they got back to the hotel and put on bed clothes, Mandy forgot the coin. A few minutes later, she realized it was missing and frantically signed to me that she needed her shorts. When I found them she dug into the pocket and proudly produced the coin. She was worried that she had lost the treasured gift that Ba Ba had given her. She is very smitten with her Ba Ba, and he is with her. Mommy is still the caretaker, but she is warming up to me slowly. I think maybe it has something to do with her not wanting to be disloyal to her foster mother. I am stepping into her place, and Mandy hasn’t come to understand it all yet. I know in time this will happen. She is doing extremely well. We are just standing back and watching our courageous young daughter and how she is taking the world by storm.

          Nolan, Garrett, and Nate…mommy misses you guys and your terrific hugs. Save some of the hugs for me! We are halfway through the trip. So not much longer now! 


August 3, 2007

       This was a day for some much needed rest and time for bonding with our daughters. We had a leisurely breakfast at the buffet. We ran into another adoptive mom with her three year old son. They joined us for breakfast, and we enjoyed each others company while the kiddos ate and played. We took a trip around the park. Mandy was the big sister to both the little boy and Mia. It was so cute to see her hold there hands, play with them and speaking with them (Mia looked a little perplexed). After our trip around the park, we were extremely hot. Mandy wanted Ba Ba to take her swimming. They made a quick trip to Walmart for floaties and rolls for our PB lunch. Mandy discovered that “yes,yes,yes” she likes PB very much. We finally got to go swimming for about an hour to hour and half. It was lots of fun and the girls had a blast, but we had to get out as we started to bake.

          We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel room resting and watching movies. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, and then it was back for baths and bed. The clean laundry arrived just in time to pack up for our journey to Guangzhou. In some ways I can hardly believe that we are at the halfway point, and in others I am so ready to be done and back home with our boys. I missed my big boys terribly today. We leave for Guangzhou at 12 pm tomorrow.

          On a side note: Mandy has bonded so well with her daddy today. She has wanted Ba Ba to play and hug, and I stand amazed again! She hasn’t let me get too close except to be the care taker of her needs. As we were watching a movie she climbed in bed between Brad and I. She snuggled close to her daddy. It made his day! Mom and Mandy made a small step tonight as she let me wash her hair at bath time and after drying off mom was allowed to rub lotion on her arms and legs. All baby steps…but we are doing great. I so appreciate all the prayers, emails, and notes. We are so blessed.

           I want to take a minute to thank our tremendous guide here in Nanning. Cindy was so wonderful, and she went way above and beyond anything that her job would require. She was so genuine and loving. She was compassionate about all our needs. She cared for Mandy as a treasured child. We are so forever grateful to the wonderful job she did, and we are forever in her debt. We leave behind a little piece of our hearts as we leave this place. It is an amazing place filled with wonderful people, and we will always treasure our stay in this city where our daughter has lived the entire seven years of her life.

Until tomorrow ….from Guangzhou.

August 2, 2007

       **I know, I know, there are people waiting to read my journal. I am having a hard time keeping up with a three year old and a seven year old needing momma’s attention. I can’t just lay the blame on them… I have been exhausted with all that this trip has entailed.**

       Today was a very emotional day for all of us. We started the day with a good breakfast and rushed to meet our guide. We were going to take a tour around the city and see a bit of the area where Mandy has lived all her life. She started recognizing areas and talking excitedly with our guide and the driver. We just kept laughing at her as she was so excited to show us things, and we couldn’t understand a thing she was telling us (this is where mom and dad acted very excited and shook our head a lot). The guide took us to Mandy’s finding spot. Wow, this was a lot harder than I thought. For a moment we forgot that Mandy was seven. When we stopped and got out, Mandy asked our guide where we were and why we were stopping. Our guide explained to her what this place was and that we would have pictures for her later. This brought on a deluge of questions. She is just at that age to start wondering about her birth parents and why she was abandoned. Praise the Lord for our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful guide! She explained to Mandy that there were several reasons parents have that cause them to leave their babies. She told her that it didn’t matter and that she was loved by her adoptive parents and that she was a worthy part of society. She told her to work hard and be everything that she could be. Mandy seemed to accept this answer well. When she becomes more efficient in her English language skills, we will further that explanation and help her see her worth as a child of God. We hope to instill in her His love for her and teach her of the plan that He has for her life. I have spent the last three days on the brink of tears … it has just been so emotional. It is emotional anyway, but when you add the vocalized thoughts and feelings of an older child… it can just make a wreck of your heart.

          Following the city tour, we went to the Elephant Trunk hill. It is a beautiful rock that has the natural shape of an elephant. The city of Guilin has created a famous tourist spot around this hill. It is a very beautiful park that was very nice to spend a little time in. It was getting a bit hot, and our princesses thought they might melt if we stayed out much longer. So after an ice cream treat for all, we headed back to the hotel to rest before taking the train back to Nanning (more on this later).

          The last few days that Mandy has been with us she has not had any grieving time. She has been so eager to please and do the right thing. She has expressed some frustration to the guide about not being able to understand us, but we haven’t seen much else. This afternoon (with all the pent up emotions) we had an incident with Mandy. Brad scolded her after she defiantly said (more like shouted) at me, “NO,NO, NO”. When daddy scolded her she fell apart. The tears started flowing and turned to sobs. I held her tightly (she was stiff as a board, but I held her tightly none the less). After holding her for a little time, she curled up under the comforter on the bed and sobbed her little heart out. We let her have this time alone. It seemed to help her immensely. She seemed more relaxed and able to play. She giggled and copy-cat everything we said. We had fun helping her explore new things and new English words. We enjoyed a room service lunch of noodle soup. She ate it with gusto. I was amazed at how well she can use the chopsticks. She worked them almost as if they were a pair of knitting needles.

          Shortly thereafter we met our guide for the trip to the train and then back to Nanning. You have probably read Brad’s description and I am in agreement. As wonderful as the first train ride was, this returning trip was bad. It was extremely hot, and the noise and motion really got to me. The one thing that did cross my mind was how understanding and considerate of Mandy we should be after that trip. It was a hard side trip to take; however, it is one that I am more than pleased we took the extra time and effort to make this latest leg of the trip. It was such a blessing, and we learned so much about the culture and Chinese people.     


August 1, 2007

       ** I am typing this a day late but wanted to share my thoughts of these incredible days**

       Today we took the Li River tour.  It was yet another amazing experience. We enjoyed the boat ride and the majestic scenery. It is almost indescribable with words. Tall towering mountains with greenery growing right out of rocks filled much of the banks of the river. We saw lots of bamboo growing and towering as big as trees. We saw lots of water buffalo and fisherman on their boats. My favorite was passing the many villages and waving to the people or watching them as they went about their daily chores. We saw children swimming and playing together.  As we went further along the tour, we saw many of the famous picture spots and famous rock formations. Lunch was served about half way to the stopping point. We played it safe with the food as Brad and I were both feeling a little sickly. The ride was a bit long for the girls. They are true princesses indeed and preferred to stay in the air conditioned part of the boat. We would go outside from time to time, but they wouldn’t stay for long. I am glad that I had brought sticker books in their backpacks. When we disembarked, we went through a touristy area called West Street. They call it this because it runs westerly in direction and because many westerners visit and stay I a hotel nearby when they come to vacation.  They sell many of the traditional Chinese goods and a few of the local dress.  We bought Mandy a fan (as Mandy was looking longingly at one), and we bought a coffee table book of all the scenery of this beautiful city.

          We rode back to town in a Taxi cab. It took about an hour and a half to drive back (the boat tour was over four hours). Mia has been doing well, but she was tired, hungry and a bit overwhelmed. She was a bit cranky on the ride back. Mandy was doing well, but appeared a bit sad all day. She was missing her foster mom. We were trying to be understanding. It gets a bit trying though when you are unable to comprehend what each other is saying. She has come to rely on our guide a lot. We are a little concerned about this from the attachment to us perspective. As we continued the ride back, we had a little incident that worried us a bit. She had asked our guide to play the game on her cell phone (Cindy had let her play it before on the boat). Cindy agreed and the next thing we know we hear her talking on the phone. She had called her foster mother. We were unsure how to react. We tried to explain it to Cindy as being too soon, and that Mandy needed to attach to us and not rely on her “Chinese” momma. I think our intentions might have been slightly misinterpreted. We want her to know of her foster parents love for her, and we certainly don’t mind her staying in touch at a later time; however, we want her to bond with us and trust us as her parents. We marked it down as yet another cultural difference and pray that we didn’t offend anyone by our reaction. Brad was most upset that she was sneaky about making the phone call. We are definitely seeing a few of the challenges with having an older child.

          When we returned to the hotel, we rested a bit, and the girls watched videos. Then Brad took Mandy swimming for a while. Mia and I played Barbies, and then I took her down later to swim too. When we returned to the room I started having the dizzy, nauseous, overly tired feeling again. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Mia fell asleep at 7:30 and I was asleep right behind her. Mandy and her Baba got some more good bonding time again last night. He had to see to it that she got ready for bed. I am ready to be done with this tiredness…tomorrow is another big day, and we leave on the afternoon train to return to Nanning. Until later…

July 31, 2007

       ** I am typing this a few days late but wanted to share my thoughts of these incredible days**

       Today was adoption day. Mandy became “officially” ours! We went back to the civil affairs office this morning and answered a few questions. They congratulated us, and the orphanage director presented us with a gift for Mandy. It was all of her records and information from her preschool (Half the Sky Little sisters program). It is all in Chinese, so we will have to have to have it translated at some point. There are some of the cutest pictures of Mandy as a 3yr old. Her smile is just adorable. After the official ceremony (which was slightly more formal than what I remember Mia’s being), we went back to the hotel. Our guide took us down to a restaurant on the bottom floor of the hotel. She said it was where a lot of locals eat. We were grateful for her assistance as Mandy hadn’t liked much of the other foods we had offered her. As it turned out, we enjoyed the food very much ourselves. We were able to find noodles for Mia and some milder selections for momma (beef fried rice). Brad is much more adventurous and tried “spicy” chicken. It was so spicy that it looked like it was glowing. He loved it! 

          After lunch, Mandy, dad and Cindy (our guide) made a trip to Walmart to pick up some things. Mom and Mia packed and repacked our suitcases. Since we were leaving for our side trip to Guilin, we were able to leave some of the suitcases at our hotel.

I had to fit enough stuff for all 4 of us and anything we might need into 1 suitcase. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I wasn’t sure what we might end up needing. Mandy and dad returned just in time to pick us up for our trip to the train station. When we realized that we had to take the luggage on the train with us, we were more than thankful that we had only 1 suitcase. Managing 2 little girls, backpacks (with entertainment for a 5 hour train ride) and luggage proved to be a little harder than we had imagined. We made it onto the train with only a few minutes to spare. I felt sorry for Mandy. We were so rushed that she hadn’t gotten to go to the bathroom. She needed to go badly, but had to wait until the train was underway. You could just sense her discomfort. She finally was able to go and made it just in time.

          Now the incredible part of the train ride was to begin. For a little while, all Brad and I could do was sit back and take it all in. We were surrounded by the local people throughout this train ride, and for a little while we could just sense what Mandy’s life will be like entering a strange country, with strange sounds, smells and many things different than she is used to.  It didn’t take long for us to feel entirely welcome. The Asian people were very curious about us and about the girls. Our guide translated for us, and we were welcomed. They were extremely complimentary and told us how nice we were for adopting orphans from China. We kept saying “No, It is our honor, and we are truly grateful and blessed to have these children.”  Not only was this a train ride, but it turned into a most incredible experience. We were sharing in the lives of this culture. It was a bit overwhelming to say the least. Many times I would get teary eyed at the amazing experience. A mother, her 8 yr old son, and his grandma (I think) shared the seats beside us. Brad had brought the DVD for the girls to watch. We had bought the Chinese version of Mulan at Wqlmart. So all 3 of the children sat together and watched with glee. I am not sure if Mia understood what was being said, but since she has watched Mulan so many times at home, she could figure it out. This family started breaking out the food. They shared with everyone. The kids ate bananas and what appeared to be maybe small Jello snack cups (about the size of a candy). Although language was a barrier for us all, we were able to communicate with hand signs and body language, and it certainly helped that our guide was with us. After the Mulan movie, Brad brought out the computer to share pictures with Mandy. It turned out to be the hit of the train ride. Words really can’t describe what it was like to look up and see 20 or more people crowded around to see pictures of America, our kids at home, family, and the like. They got so excited to share with us. To add to the wonder of it all, the scenery that we passed was breath taking. I just can’t help but marvel at all of the wonders and beauty of God’s creation.

All I can say about it all is that God has orchestrated this amazing plan for us this journey. How amazing is He!!!

          We arrived safely at our hotel in Guilin to hear news that there is some civil unrest in the town. There is apparently talk of striking workers and police are taking precautions. So our sightseeing is limited to the things our guide takes us too. We have to stay at the hotel otherwise. We were pretty beat anyway, so we ordered room service (or rather Brad did). He ordered for both of us. While we were waiting for room service, I helped the girls with baths and got them into PJ’s. They chose to eat oatmeal for dinner. When room service arrived, mom was a little worse for wear. I had started feeling nauseous, dizzy, and extremely tired. I think I am experiencing some sort of “altitude” or “motion” sickness. It is just strange! I start out the day doing well, but start to wear out quickly. I am getting frustrated because there is so much I want to see and do, and I want to spend time bonding with both my girls, ugh!

July 30, 2007

       I am not sure how to journal about all the events of this day. There is so much to tell.  It is a day that will forever be treasured in my heart. Today our daughter Wei Dan Na joined our family forever.

          I must back track a little and describe the magical day we had in Nanning. Our day began with mom suffering from a migraine headache and all that it entails (I’ll spare you those gruesome details). I think it was brought on by a serious case of jet lag and lack of sleep; however it disappeared after I ate a little, drank some delicious tea and took some medicine. Thank you to all my friends who lifted me in prayer. We left after breakfast for a trip to the Wal-Mart store (you knew we couldn’t get away from here without shopping at Wal-Mart in China). I fell in love with the People of Nanning on this given shopping trip. Our guide told us that this city is considered the friendliest city in China. After our experience today, I do not doubt. Every where we went people took a few minutes to either say Ni Hao or to try out their English. They take great pride in being able to speak English and use it very properly.  Wal-Mart is on 2 floors here. The upper floor is clothing, housewares and household items. The bottom floor is filled with groceries and is set up much like an open air market. This was my favorite part of the shopping trip. For all the cooks out there, there isn’t anything like this where we live. There were more herbs, vegetables, and seasonings than you can imagine. While we were shopping and experiencing (the word shopping doesn’t do it justice) this floor, a young boy of around 12 approached us to try out his English. He said “hello” and then continued to ask Brad’s name. He told us his name was “Kim”. We complimented him on his proper English usage and then he got shy and moved away from us. We walked around the outside shopping areas and had an equally fun time in this particular area of Nanning.  We returned to the hotel to rest and get things ready to go meet Mandy. It took FOREVER for those last three hours to go by. We got the things together, met our guide and the other family that received their daughter today. They were a very nice couple and live in Chengdu. The van ride to the Civil Affairs office was one filled with nervous chit chat; although, we did enjoy getting to know the other couple. You could just sense the nervous tension and the excitement. We arrived at the office. We were just getting out of the van when we here the sliding door open (this office is housed on a floor in a hotel). We look up and THERE SHE IS!!!!  They had been waiting on the bottom floor. Dan Na (Mandy) recognized us and ran to greet her Mama and Baba. She was almost more excited than we were if that is possible. She turned that beautiful smile on full force and boy were our hearts sunk for more than forever. I had to turn away because my heart just sang with the goodness of God! He had more than prepared her heart for her family! All glory and praise go to Him who is more than able. I didn’t want to burst out in sobs and scare this precious child.  It was an amazing scene, and it was a bit awkward at the same time because we still had to go through the formalities. So upstairs we went for our child (this child that God planned for our family) to formally welcome her. It was so very much worth any wait that you have to endure. The unconditional Love of God just shines through these children, and we are so blessed to be called their parents.

          Mandy seems to be making the adjustment better than we could ever have expected. Throughout this whole process I felt that God was telling to Trust him on this one and let him have control. It is terrific to have that peace in your heart and to watch God work. You truly are blessed beyond measure. Mandy seemed to enjoy her first afternoon with us, and we only sensed a few times when the language barrier got in the way. She seemed a bit weary before bed but she made it through and fell asleep when I handed her the photo album given to her by her Foster mom and dad. She is sleeping peacefully now.

Nolan, Garrett, and Nate… one of the first things Mandy asked was where were her Ge ge’ s (brothers). We explained that you were at home, and then she wanted to know when we would go to America to meet you. We told her in another several days. We are all counting the days until we get home and see you all. We miss you and know that you are having fun with Aunt Tracey.

          I could go on forever about this glorious day, but I am tired and it is Brad’s turn to journal. Good night from Nanning!


July 28-29, 2007

          Somewhere around here I lost a day! We spent the night in Guangzhou in a hotel adjacent to the airport. The hotel was very nice. We enjoyed a very traditional type Chinese Breakfast Buffet. It had a variety of Chinese dumplings, noodles, and western style foods. My favorite was the rice noodles and Vietnamese Style Spring Rolls. I was amazed at myself for even trying them. They were delicious! Does this mean I won’t lose the 10 pounds I lost last trip?

          We took our flight from Guangzhou to Nanning and arrived safely. It seemed like we were up and then we were down compared to the flights yesterday.  We were met by our guide, Cindy, and then took a 45 minute ride to get to our hotel. We didn’t mind a bit as we watched the scenery, listened to Cindy tell us about her city, and asked a ton of questions.

I can only describe the scenery with a “wow”. As we neared the Nanning airport, our plane flew over several areas of China. It took my breath away! We will be making a side trip to Guilin (Mandy’s city), and I can hardly wait. We will post as many pictures as we can, and we will pray that the photos will do justice to the beauty of this part of the world.

          Mandy joins our family around 4pm Nanning time. We are so excited and look forward to holding her in our arms for the first time. We have been so in love with her pictures, and can hardly wait to fall in love with her in person. Alongside of the joy there is a feeling of sadness. Mandy’s life will be changed forever. She will leave her foster family, her school, and the friends she has made. Please pray for her. Please pray that she will not have much heartache as she says good bye. Pray that she will be excited and adventurous about her new life. We want to pray for her foster family as well. I can hardly believe that the time is here!

          Well jet lag is setting in for the evening. Brad and Mia have already turned in and Mommy is not far behind. We have some free time in the morning and will get things prepared to go get Wei Dan Na (Mandy). Until tomorrow…


July 27, 2007

          It is a very unsettling feeling to have your agent call on Thursday afternoon (the day before you are to travel halfway across the world to get your daughter) and to hear her say “Your flight has been canceled”.  It fills your heart with a terror that only another adoptive parent can know; however, God is good and He gave us a sense of perfect peace. We have said from the start of this adoption that we put our trust in Him. Both times he has provided us with a travel agent that we consider to be our guardian angel. She was on top of it all and made sure that another flight was booked and that all adjoining flights were booked as well. So, as we prepared to leave on our flight, we were at peace that everything would go well.

          All of our flights were wonderful. We were feeling rather spoiled as the plane we took to Tokyo was rather large and fairly new. We had plenty of leg room, terrific service, and a TV screen for each chair. As it turns out, Mia is a terrific world traveler. She did a tremendous job on each of the flights and just went with the flow of things. She (of course) is enjoying having a little time with mommy and daddy to herself. She does miss her big brothers though! She keeps asking about them and when reassured says” we see budders in two sleeps”. We tell her it is a bit longer than that. She is excited about Mandy joining us. After the first flight landed she clapped and exclaimed, ”Mandy we’re here!” . It was just slightly difficult to explain to her that we had only completed the first hour and a half of our journey. She loved being in the plane. Her favorite part was to tell us “It’s up mommy and daddy. The plane is up”.  It still amazes me the way that Mia can work a crowd. We had lots of people talking to us and most especially to her. She loved to start conversations and smiled at everyone. On our flight into Guangzhou she met 2 of the most adorable little girls. One of the girls was older (maybe around Mandy’s age) and one was Mia’s age. They had a hard time understanding why they looked like her but that she sure sounded funny. The youngest little girl sat behind us on the plane. Mia had fun sharing her fruit snacks with her and they played across the chairs with each other.  I find such joy in watching all children and the amazing people God is creating them to be. Perhaps one day, our Mia will want to make connections with people from her birth country. She has been given such a gift of joy and drawing people to her.  It is our prayer that she can use this gift and spread the word of our Lord Jesus Christ.

          As you can see, we arrived safely in Guangzhou and enjoyed the majority of our travels. It can be very taxing on your nerves and your body to be flying for so long. The jetlag/time differences are somewhat difficult to adjust to too. I have been praying for Mandy since we learned about her. One of my prayers is that she will have an adventurous spirit that will enable her to transition well and to enjoy all the travel we will do until we finally arrive home. I think God has been working that prayer into my heart too. I am loving every adventure and feel so at peace. Those of you that know me (all our travel buddies from 2006), know that this is amazing. Plane trips make me very anxious, and I learned last year that I loved my comforts. This trip I am finding joy in each new place, each new sound, and each new smell.  Thank You all for your thoughts and prayers. They are most certainly being felt.