Mom’s Travel Journal from China

Tuesday December 6th

Another early morning was in store for us today. It was our Consulate appointment for Toby’s US citizenship. I always approach this day with a bit of “let down” after all the previous paperwork and things leading up to this moment, and it never fails to reduce me to tears. You enter a room after a passport and security check. Then, you stand with a group of other parents on behalf of your adopted child and take an oath (the same oath that all immigrants must take to enter our country). After affirming that all the information is correct and another passport check, your child will be issued a US visa. Toby will become a US citizen upon landing in Chicago (our point of entry) at which point we will turn in his immigration papers. In approximately 45 days from that time, Toby will be issued a Citizenship certificate, and he will be a proud citizen of the United States of America forevermore. We look forward to proudly teaching him of our country’s history and the freedom that others have so proudly fought for in our nation, and as important as that is, we want to teach him even more of the freedom that is given us when we know Jesus Christ as our savior. You see those truths are what brings me to tears.

The consulate appointment lasted about thirty minutes. Our driver and guide met us, and we were off to the Guangzhou zoo. The day had begun as cool and cloudy; however, by the time we arrived at the zoo it was a beautiful, sunshiny day. The zoo wasn’t that much different from any zoo in America except that they have a few different animals. We were able to see red pandas, and they are so much cuter in person than any picture I have ever seen. This zoo was home to several lions and even had to lioness cubs. We enjoyed seeing all the lions and tigers, but my favorite was seeing the Pandas. One was out of the panda house and enjoying eating bamboo. They are very unique animals and look just as cuddly as their stuffed imitations. Toby loved seeing all the animals; however, he seemed to like the monkey’s the best. There were 3 baby chimpanzees that captivated his attention. They were very cute and were having a good time playing and performing for the crowd. It was a bit sad to see that this zoo still kept their animals in cages. Our favorite zoo back home has moved most of its animals into larger habitats. None the less, we enjoyed the day outside with our boys.

We returned back to the hotel in time to go search out lunch. We chose to return to the Italian food place. It was equally as good today. We walked back to the room and spent the remainder of our day there. We watched movies, napped, and played with Toby. He is very funny, and we have laughed and laughed at his antics. He has been obedient and compliant for the most part, but every once in a while we see the two year old “no” emerge. He doesn’t like for daddy or momma to tell him no, and pouts whenever we have to correct him (mostly to keep him from danger). Thankfully his pouting is very short lived and easily redirected. We love to watch his personality reveal itself with each passing day. We know that he will fit right in with our crew that is for sure.

Tomorrow, we will be having a leisurely start to the day and then packing for our departure in the afternoon. We leave Guangzhou in the evening and fly into Shanghai. We will spend the night there, and then meet our friends, Scott and Rachel for lunch. Scott and Rachel live in the states, but he had two weeks vacation and made the trip home (his parents live in Shanghai). When we found that our flight home leaves out of Shanghai, we made arrangements to meet up and spend the layover time with them. Our flight will depart from Shanghai on Thursday Dec. 8th in the late evening hours (China Time). We will fly into Chicago, arriving on Thursday evening (US time) and then on into Springfield late Thursday night. I believe our flight lands around 10 pm. I hope we will have time to update once we get to Shanghai and before we head home. If not, we will see you all in the states…

Monday December 5th

This morning seemed to dawn bright and early for us. We were a bit tired, but we were filled with happiness. Early Monday morning (around 1:30 am) we were able to skype all of the kiddos in the children’s ministry at our church. It was such fun to worship with them via skype and then to share with them about our trip. Toby was asleep, and we chose not to wake him. However, we did take the computer in and let them see him sleeping. They were so excited, and we cannot wait to return home soon to share Toby in person.

We got up (for the second time) around 6:30am, got ready, and went to breakfast at the hotel buffet. Toby seemed in fairly good spirits and has begun to eat lots of things. He ate, ate and ate some more at breakfast this morning. His favorites include porridge (oatmeal mixed with cream), bananas, hash browns, and a little bit of egg. He likes to try almost anything that Brad or Garrett eat.

I continue to be encouraged. He let me take him out of bed and dress him this morning. I even got a few smiles. He heard daddy after that, and well, then I was toast. He let me hold him (not without a bit of fussing first) during our drive to the Qing Ping Market. He sat in the stroller as we walked around the outdoor shopping mall and the different outdoor markets. His favorite was the pet market. He loved all the fish, turtles, kittens, cats, rabbits, and puppies. Nate and Toby will be great companions as they share the same love and concern for animals. After walking through the markets, we made our way across the bridge and back to Shamian Island. We had to pay another visit to the clinic to check Toby’s TB shot. It was all clear, and we are clear for the consulate appointment tomorrow. We picked up the items that we had ordered from Michael’s place, dropped by Jordan’s one last time for Nolan’s souvenir and then took Garrett to lunch at Lucy’s. I am afraid it was a big let down. The food was not the quality that we remembered from our two previous trips…not even the French fries. We knew that after our food experience near the Garden Hotel that it would be lame by comparison, but we didn’t expect how much the quality had run down. It is sad that the Island has changed so much from our first visits, but we have been thrilled to experience a different part of Guangzhou this time around. Our guide shared with us that they are making a push to turn the island into a tourist attraction and will ban all automobile traffic in the next few weeks. All shop keepers are being encouraged to display and wear traditional dress. Several shops have closed down, and they moved the playground back behind Lucy’s. The playground is actually better and is devoted solely to children. The previous park was an adult and children’s park with lots of scary metal exercise equipment. After our lunch at Lucy’s, Toby was able to enjoy the playground. Garrett complied and played with him. It brought smiles to our faces as he laughed and laughed. He has the sweetest little voice and an adorable laugh. His favorite still remains the slide. I guess daddy needs to get a slide up and finished so the little boy can slide to his hearts content.

This afternoon we spent time in our room taking naps, doing laundry and just hanging out. For dinner, we walked to an “authentic” Mexican food place called Tekilas. We were pretty positive that it wouldn’t be even close to our Mexican food at home, but we were pleasantly surprised! It wasn’t exactly the same as home, but the food was very good and the green chili verde sauce was superb. We had a bit of a miscommunication problem, and Brad’s order got left off. It was a little difficult explaining that we needed his food, and when he got it wasn’t exactly as he ordered, but he gave up and ate it anyway (at least there was no sour cream or guacamole on it… that would have been a no go in his opinion). Toby is proving to be a Smith through and through. We ordered him some corn chowder as he is a soup lover. He liked it a lot, but he wanted the tacos and tortillas that we were eating. We gave him a bit, and he devoured it. We had to limit his intake a little just because his tummy isn’t used to this type of food. He fits right in with our Mexican food loving family. Dinner was a fun time of bonding with Toby. He still wants to sit with daddy, but I am getting more and more eye contact and he lets me feed him. I even got a lot of smiles and giggles. Tonight for the first time we returned to the room without him crying. He came in and started playing with his toys. Momma saved empty water bottles and we created a bowling game with them. He has been having a blast throwing his ball into these and crashing them down. Tonight he has come out of his shell even more. He has been laughing and talking (still can’t understand all that he says). He even gave daddy a kiss, and gave momma a kiss too! Be still my heart!!!

Tomorrow, our consulate appointment is early (we leave here at 7:45). Immediately following the appointment, we will travel to the Guangzhou zoo, and we will enjoy a fun afternoon there. I cannot wait to see Toby’s reaction to all the animals. He loves to read the animal book Jordan gave him as a gift and seems fascinated by all types of animals. Thanks for your prayers! If you have been following our journey, please sign the guest book. We love to hear from you, and your comments help us feel connected with home. There are only 3 more days left before we make the long plane ride home. Although a part of me always misses China, I cannot wait to see my babies and give them lots of hugs and kisses.

Sunday December 4th

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Jeremiah3:22-23

Today is a good, good day! This morning dawned and a new transformation has begun. Toby is responding more and more to momma’s attention today, and he is allowing me to care for some of his basic needs. It seems as if he is still trying to understand that momma and daddy go together. He gets anxious when I hold him and whimpers from time to time as if I will take him away from his daddy. As we go about our time here, he seems to comprehend a little better that we are all together and NO ONE is taking him away from his daddy. This morning I helped Brad to give him a bath and then wrapped him in a big fluffy towel. He didn’t put up much of a fuss when I dried him off, put lotion on his skin and got him ready for the day. He allowed me to hold him for a little while, and then it was off to Baba’s arms. We went down to breakfast, and he sat beside me without crying. He didn’t even cry when baba went to get his food. He followed him with his eyes all around the buffet line, but pointed and babbled something to me. He consumed more food today as well. We were a bit worried because he wasn’t eating much and has been refusing his nighttime bottle. He needs the nutrition (his special need is malnutrition), and he needs to stay hydrated. Today seems to be a turning point of sorts in all areas.

After our wonderful breakfast, we met up with our guide. She asked that we make a change in plans. So, we went to the Yun Tai Gardens today. I Love, love, love that place!! There are so many happy memories from our visit when adopting Mia almost 6 years ago, and the memories are even happier from our visit today.  The gardens are so amazingly beautiful, and they have such a tranquil and calming affect. The gardens are what we consider botanical gardens in the states but on a much grander scale. These gardens are set with the Bai Yun mountains as a backdrop. At the entrance, there are many beautiful lanterns that introduce a “theme”. This years “theme” was ocean creatures. Toby and I loved the lanterns made to look like fish, coral, and even sea horses. On the grounds, there is a greenhouse that houses tropical plants (like desert plants and cactuses…these are tropical to China). Inside this greenhouse are beautiful plants and my favorite is the walls and walls of various orchids. There is a magnificent rose garden, and a pond, with a fountain, that is home to many varieties of Koi and goldfish. It is a family place with lots of people strolling and enjoying the scenery. Perhaps my favorite of all is people watching. We saw families with lots of little children, young people on dates, and older people strolling hand in hand. We even had a grandma follow us around a bit before she got brave enough to try her English speaking skills. She said Hello and asked about Toby and Garrett. Then, she reverted to her Cantonese with our guide translating. She has a grandson, 4yrs old, that lives in California with her son. She taught herself some English for two years before making a trip to stay with her son for a time. She was very sweet and smiled lots.  In addition, the near perfect weather brought out young brides and grooms- to- be for wedding portraits. Our guide told us that it is a very sought after spot for wedding pictures, and I can certainly see why. It is impossible for me to find words to describe the beauty and meticulously cared for garden. The pictures don’t even seem to capture the atmosphere and the beauty. All I know is that it makes me very happy being there and seeing God’s amazing creations.

 We had perfect weather with lots of sunshine and spring like temperatures. Toby was transformed before our eyes. He loved being outdoors in the sunshine. He grabbed my hand and we walked up and down the steps. He let me hold his hand through most of the park and let me carry him on occasion. Daddy bought bubbles, and he had a terrific time chasing them. When I bent down to talk to him, I asked him if I could have a hug. He toddled up and put his arms around me for a brief squeeze (but a very welcomed one) before he was off and running again. We got huge smiles and lots of laughter from him. We spent most of the morning at the park, and we stopped at 7-11 to get some more bottled water. It was then back to the room. We ate in for lunch with plans to go out at dinner tonight. Toby began to fuss just a little about returning to the room; however, the fussing was short lived when Garrett began to play toss the ball with him. He played and played until momma got his lunch ready. He loves chicken noodle soup! He ate all the entire cup of soup and he started falling asleep at the end of the meal. He wasn’t about to succumb to sleep at that moment and rallied so that he and gege  could continue to play ball  a while longer. He played for a short time longer while Brad finished putting pictures on the web site, and then, Baba rocked him and put him down for a nap. He slept well and woke up smiling. He let mama pick him up out of his bed, and he even gave me a hug. We shared a snack while baba and gege were out playing ping pong somewhere in the hotel. They returned and baby boy was smiling and ready to play ball with his gege. We are off to dinner and then hanging around the hotel for the evening. Tomorrow, we return to the “island” for his TB check. We have plans to spend a little time on the island and to take Garrett to the famous “Lucy’s” for lunch. We have warned him not to expect too much, but he wants to eat there because we have talked about it before. After our food experiences near this hotel, Lucy’s just doesn’t sound that appealing, but we will take him just so that he can say he has been (and I do love their French fries!)

I forgot to mention that we skyped the kiddos today. They are all in good spirits and doing well. We are do grateful to our friends that are staying with them and keeping things as normal as possible for them. It makes our time away so much easier knowing that the kiddos are at home and coping well. It certainly made for a good start to this day and the day just continued to get gloriously better. Thank You all for your prayers and comments. The prayers are being felt, and we are feeling the mighty power of God.  

Saturday December 3rd

It is the medical exam day. We have to travel the 30 min. to Shamian Island for the exam. It was a “homecoming” of sorts to be back on the island. We had stayed there for an entire 2 weeks for Mia’s adoption and for a week with Mandy’s. You come to know the place and the people very well. But, all things must change and change the island did…a lot! We were able to get Toby’s Visa photo and the exam done by 10 am. We asked our guide to be allowed to shop and walk on the island for a little bit. We were able to locate and spend some money at Jordan’s. We love visiting his store and seeing his beautiful family. In addition, we were able to find Michael’s place, which had moved since we were there last. We purchased a chop (name stamp) for Toby. Michael has now made a chop for each one of our children. We also made a few purchases for surprises for the kids back home. I am so excited because Michael is going to make me a set of calligraphy pictures that are the Chinese symbols for the Fruit of the Spirit. A friend of mine has a framed set in her home…they are beautiful, and I wanted a set for our home. I saw that Michael had done a few in his window, and I asked him to make me a set.

After the Island Tour, we made our way back to our hotel, and our guide showed us around the area and where to get food to eat. We came back to the hotel room to deposit our purchases and went out again for lunch at an Irish Pub. It was very good food! We walked around a bit more, stopped at 7-11 for water and returned to the room.

Toby has been a bit more responsive to momma today but only in spurts. He has played a bit with me in the room, allowed me to hold him (after crying a little) while daddy got his breakfast, let me feed him some of his lunch and let me hold him and give him a snack this afternoon. I had hoped that we were making good progress. Brad took him out to walk around and explore the hotel, and when they came back, Mr. Toby’s obstinent self came out. He kept shaking his head at me when I tried to pick him up, he backed away. He started the wailing again when I picked him up, but it stopped after a little while when he had his oatmeal for dinner. About halfway through the dinner, the wailing began again. He refused to eat from me. So, we stopped eating and he went to watch TV with daddy. I tried again a little later, after getting a few coy smiles, to hold him and give him his nightly bottle. He refused, clinched his jaw shut, and then started crying. When I stuck the bottle in (which the orphanage said he took 1 at night), he wiggled his tongue around and kicked out the bottle. I took away the bottle and just rocked him wailing and all until he went to sleep. Brad was exhausted and needed to have some time off and sleep (shhh, don’t tell him but he was getting cranky). He has been great throughout this and showing extreme patience with Toby and me. He has been trying to help, but he also stays close by if Toby needs comfort. I am still hopeful that tomorrow will be even better on the attachment front.

We are off to the Guangzhou zoo tomorrow. We have never gone in previous visits and will enjoy getting out if nothing else. We have to return to the island for Toby’s TB check and to pick up the things Michael is making for us on Monday. Tuesday is our consulate appointment very early in the morning, and then we will go on to tour Yun Tai gardens. We have been there before, and I requested another trip there so Garret can see it and because I love that place. It is a beautiful place full of plants and flowers. Wednesday, we hang out at the hotel and pack, pick up our guide at the consulate (she will have our brown envelope ready) and go to the airport. We are flying to Shanghai, staying the night, visiting with friends, and then boarding a plane on Thursday night (China time) and returning home. Missing my babies and cannot wait to see them again.

Friday December 2nd

Today was packing day. We ate a leisurely breakfast and visited with our newly made friends. Then we hung around the hotel room until our guide brought Toby’s passport and documents needed in Guangzhou. Our guide was a previous guide and friend to some friends of ours back in the states. We were able to skype them in order for our guide to visit with them again. As they were visiting, momma was packing, and Toby was clinging to daddy. Around lunchtime, we left the room to go to lunch and to just sight-see a bit. We were staying near the “Confucius Temple” area. Brad and Garrett had already explored the area one night late. It was fun to just walk through the area; however, there were lots of people. We returned to the room to pack our last few items, and we met our guide at 3:30 to make the trip to the airport. Our plane left at 6:30 from Nanjing to Guangzhou. It was a smooth and fairly uneventful flight. Toby sat between his dad and I with him whimpering all the time. Not because he didn’t like the flight, but because he had to sit near me. Apparently, I am very scary to him. Brad told him that he had to sit there. I got out the cheerios and goldfish, the books to read and his magna doodle. He loves to play with that and to draw and draw (thanks Ms Jill for that idea). As the flight continued, he felt more comfortable around me. We played and talked, but I cannot hold him without a screaming, crying fit. Our guide was there and waiting for us in Guangzhou. She is so nice and very sweet. She hugged me the first time she met us and seems to be very affectionate (unusual around China).  All of our luggage arrived with us and so, we were on our way to the hotel (about 30-45min from the airport). All of us were very exhausted, and we had to wait for them to check us in. Our guide wanted to accompany us up to the room to check everything was arranged for our comfort. I am glad that she did as the hotel had assigned us to the wrong room. She made calls and they sent us to another room. There was still no extra bed for Garrett and the baby bed hadn’t arrived either. She made another phone call… the extra bed arrived and was made up in 2 minutes and the crib came in two minutes after that including all the baby bedding. They brought us a snack tray and extra water as well. We are staying at the Garden hotel this is our first time here (we have always stayed at the White Swan, which is now under renovation). I must admit it is a very luxurious hotel and a nice change.

We have an early morning start which means that Brad had to make a few copies and get the money needed for Toby’s medical exam on the Island tomorrow. He ran to the business center and bank. Toby went down to sleep fairly easy when Brad put him to bed. I laid my head on the pillow and was out in a flash. 

Thursday December 1st

Our tour for the day was at the Nanjing City Wall. I had forgotten that Nanjing was the seat for the Nationalist party before the rise of the communist party. I have thoroughly enjoyed the historical adventures of this trip, and I can hardly wait for our studies next year on countries in the eastern hemisphere. Since we will be studying about the country of China, and I will have photos and a more in depth insight into the things we will study. We explored the city wall and many tunnels that were used to house the many soldiers that protected the city. Several of the tunnels are now used as a museum of sorts telling different parts of the ancient history of Nanjing. We also walked out on the wall itself and got a splendid view of the whole of Nanjing city and a very hazy view of the Purple Mountain. I carried my baby boy, much to his chagrin, around in the carrier throughout the whole tour. He cried and fussed, not at being snuggled in the carrier, but that I was the one doing the carrying and his baba was not. He calmed down in a short amount of time and snuggled in. I even think he went to sleep for a short amount of time. He endured mama’s holding him until we returned back to the van. By this time (we had walked about a mile on the city wall and back), my back was giving out with muscle spasms, and so, I relinquished the little boy back to his baba. From that point on in the day, he would only look at me with angry looks or divert his gaze, looking at me with a side glance. We met up with a family from Connecticut (they were staying at the same hotel), and we all decided to go to lunch together. We made the trek back to the mall (mentioned in yesterday’s post). We decided to eat at a Mexican food place called Tacos. We knew not to expect much, and it was quite amusing that they had only one page in their menu dedicated to Mexican food. Our choices were 3 tacos (made with strips of beef), fajitas (made with same type of beef strips), and Katie pockets (what we call quesadillas…well kind of). Brad, Garrett, and I decided to order all three and split them amongst ourselves so that we had a sample of each. Not the best Mexican…not even really close to what we know as Mexican, but the food was edible, filling, and better than another order of noodles or fried rice. Toby had spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce, and he loved them. He is a very happy boy as long as he has his daddy close to him. Following our lunch, we walked around the mall a little and took the kiddos to a small indoor play area that had just opened at the mall. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Portions of the play area were automated with moving carousel like toys, and it had ball pits, foam building block area, a multi-colored slide, and ride on animals that moved automatically. Toby fell in love with the place and was running around from activity to activity. His very favorite was the slide, over and over again, and secondly he loved the ball pit. We were able to witness some smiles and laughter.

He is still screaming and crying every time I try to pick him up; however, he is not totally rejecting me. If Brad is holding him, I can feed him some things. I can change his diapers on occasion with only limited screaming (on his part, not mine). So, I keep cautiously trying. I must confess… I am a bit depressed. It is hard not to miss home and my other kiddos whom I know love me and want my care and attention when I am being rejected here. I continue to look on with hope and never give up trying to hold him. Poor baby, he is just so scared! He shivers and shakes if Brad sets him down, and if I hold him he starts wailing. We have gotten a few smiles out of him, and I play a bit with him when he lets me. My heart and my head continue to be at war. I know it will get better, and that he will come to accept me in time. But, my heart is saddened just the same and I am a bit fearful that he will have a difficult time attaching to me. He is already very smitten with his daddy and big brother.  My head knows that it is still early and my head knows that most adopted children attach to one parent or the other at first. My head knows that he was extremely attached to his nanny.  I know that it takes time for him to let go of his” Nai-Nai” (as he called his main nanny), but I fear and hurt none the less. It has been such an extremely difficult struggle in the past with each of our kiddos more so with one over the others. That fact weighs heavily on my mind. I know I can do this again…I know that God will give me the strength to do this again, but It is so very hard… I anticipated that this might be an “easier” adoption (Every adoptive parent knows that none are ever really easy). I had hoped and prayed, but God never promises easy. I continue to pray and work at getting to know this adorable child, this treasure that God revealed to my heart a year ago.

So, I dealt with my depression by going to bed early tonight. It is difficult to care and nurture Toby at present which leaves Brad to be the caregiver. I didn’t have a lot to do, so I read for a little bit and went to bed. How can you know that you are doing all you can do and still feel like a lousy mom? Yep, that’s where the depression is coming in big time.

Wednesday November 30th

Today we went to the Silk Brocade Factory Museum. It was a chilly, rainy day which called for an indoor activity. We enjoyed hearing the history of the factory and how this factory was selected to make the wardrobes for the Emperors from the Ming and Xing Dynasties. Our tour included walking through the area where they hand weave the silk threads into brocade. I found the hand-weaving to be fascinating. It was amazing to watch a team of people create a magnificent piece of material. There are two people working together…one sitting at the top of the loom and another “master” weaver controlling the beautiful patterns and colors of thread. The tour guide told us that the “master” weavers train for ten years or better to be the pattern makers. These teams are usually a husband/wife, sister/sister or some close family members. I suppose because they must work almost in sync with one another to weave the cloth. Each piece that is hand-woven can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. Machines have now replaced much of their weavers; however, they make a limited number of these hand-woven pieces that sell for a large amount of money. They are beautiful but a bit pricey for my pocket book. We settled on a couple of less expensive pieces, one for me and one for Toby to have from his province. At the end of this tour, our guide took us to a local mall not far from our hotel. It was a very westernized mall with several stores (like Guess) and restaurants (like Papa Johns, Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks Coffee) that we would find at home. We just walked around and explored for a little while. Our guide took us to a local Chinese restaurant just a short distance from the hotel. The food was very good, at least the part that I could eat. Brad ordered a chicken dish, and in China that means the “whole” chicken minus the head this time; however, when he started pulling out the pieces out came a chicken foot, ready to eat …Yuck, yuck, yuck!! Needless to say, my stomach was churning a bit at that point. I did manage to eat some very good fried rice and some veggie dumplings that were yummy. When lunch was finished, we returned to the hotel and chilled out the rest of the afternoon. That evening we had the chance to meet a cousin, Jaime, of our friends Keri, Ryan and Abby. It was fun to spend a little time visiting with her and delivering some American items from her family.

Toby seems to be doing very well adjusting; however, he has begun to pull away and reject mama. My heart and head are at war with one another. I know after doing this adoption thing that this happens frequently, but my heart feels as if it is being ripped in half. When you are the one God reveals the child to, when you love this child for many months, and when you endure all it takes to get this child home, it hurts when they look at you and scream. My head knows that it is something that many of these children do, and that it often reverses it self in time. I am a bit impatient though and want to hold and love this precious boy.

Tuesday November 29th

He is ours! Toby officially became our child in the eyes of the People’s Republic of China. He has been ours since the moment God placed him on our hearts back in December of 2010. To say this has been an easy journey would be untruthful. It has been a long, tedious, drawn out journey full of paperwork, waiting, longing and waiting some more; however, God never ever gives us something that He can’t and won’t accomplish. He is more than faithful, and His love, plan and desire for a little boy half a world away was to have a mommy and a daddy. He always keeps His promise and today He did just that…He gave his precious child a forever family, and He gave me another glimpse at His amazing love. How do I describe the love and astonishing joy that fills my heart when God places a child there? I find it impossible to communicate the abundance of love that my God gives me. We are so in love with this precious little boy! He is a Smith through and through. Our God orchestrated all of this and His plan for our Toby is beyond anything we can imagine…to Him be the Glory! Thank you God for this treasure!

Our Toby is funny, ornery and oh so very smart. He is snuggly and cuddly and loves nothing more than to wrap himself around his mama or baba in a “koala bear” like hug and not let go. He loves to draw, play, get into things, and to talk. He is spending lots of time jabbering away, unfortunately we cannot understand but he likes to talk none the less (ok, no wise cracks about him being just like his mother). I told you he was a Smith through and through! We are so truly blessed!

In addition to the emotions of the official adoption proceedings, we added the trip to see Toby’s orphanage today. We met the nanny who has cared for Toby the longest, and you could tell that she loved him so very much! We were blessed with a gift memory book in which she wrote him a goodbye letter…and this momma’s tears flowed. She hugged and hugged on Toby, and he smiled and smiled. But, he never let baba, mama, and his gege get too far out of sight. To make matters even more emotional, we stepped into the area where Toby had lived…the “special needs” area. As far as we could see, the only true special need for these babies was a family to love them. Brad, Garrett, and I were surrounded by precious treasures. Brad had one little one who just wanted him to hold him. He crawled over and climbed up as Brad bent down to hold him, and the smile on his face said it all. I sat on the floor surrounded by babies, and my heart just ached. I held and touched and prayed for these precious darlings (some of them deemed “un-adoptable”). I had a hard time squelching the tears. …and then my Toby crawled across the floor, climbed in my lap and gave me a “koala bear” hug. Yes, I am even crying now as I type this! Garrett was a super big help, taking pictures and loving on all the treasures. He gave out lollipops to those that the nannies indicated it was ok to do so. He hugged, talked with and played with several babies. Not too surprisingly, he had the exact same reaction that Nolan had almost six years ago when we visited Mia’s orphanage. He was very anxious and keeping his eye on his baby brother. He wanted to make sure that he was coming home with us. Never to fear… when lunchtime arrived for the babies, it was time for us to take our leave. Toby’s nanny picked him up and carried him downstairs. We met with the orphanage director, took pictures with he and the nanny and then Toby reached out for his momma. I took him in my arms, and he wrapped himself “koala” style around me. We got in the van and he never looked back. He was ours and we are his.

Thank You Lord Jesus for the precious blessings of your sweet children! Your wrap your arms around me, and I feel truly loved and amazingly blessed. I lift those precious babies that we left behind up to you. Wrap them in your arms Lord. Keep them safe. Open hearts and minds to hearing your call, so that they too can know the love of a forever family. I praise you Father God for all Seven of my treasures! I praise you for answering my prayer to be a momma many times over. I praise you for your abounding love!!

Monday November 28th

What do you say about a day like this? Words never, ever do it justice. You wait for so long to finally touch and hold this child you have only seen in pictures. You wonder what this child will be like. You wonder if this child will love you as much as you have loved them through their picture. You wonder how well they will transfer from their care givers to you. You wonder how and if they will grieve. You worry about this child’s attachment and how you will react to this child that God has placed on your heart. You are nervous, excited and scared all at the same time, and you know this is only a small portion of what the child must feel. Yet, you know that this is all orchestrated by a God who loves this child beyond measure and whom loves you. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It never fails to bring me to tears! Our guide was a bit surprised by our nervousness and excitement… “You have done this twice before…”. Yes, but it never, ever, ever gets old!!! Our love just multiplies and grows, and we are thrilled beyond words that God has given us another gift, a treasure to love. I can only imagine how God must feel when one of His children accepts Jesus and thus becomes adopted into God’s family.

We couldn’t have asked for a better transfer. This teeny- tiny little boy walked in the door, looked inquisitively around and followed the nanny over to meet his Baba, Mama, and Gege. His curiosity got the better of him, and he had to take a look in the backpack we brought filled with goodies. His attention went right to the little “chuck” trucks, and then to the cheerios and goldfish we brought. He munched on cheerios, played with his trucks, and chatted a bit (in Chinese of course) as we completed paperwork and then left happily in the arms of his Baba. He seems to transfer back and forth between the two of us really well. We made a quick stop at the big grocery store “Carrefour” for formula. He is still taking a bottle of formula at night before bed, and we wanted to pick up a few cans of formula and a few packs of diapers as a gift for the orphanage. He loved looking around the store and kept chattering away at all the things he had seen. He came back to the hotel and played for a couple of hours before tiredness got the better of him. He came to us with a bit of a cold and is running a fever. I gave him some medicine, and he slept in my arms for about 20 minutes and then another 15 minutes in his crib before he woke up crying. He is having a rough time at this point. We are seeing tears, but he wants to be held. He has been clinging to Brad and doesn’t mind which of the two of us carries him around (not that we mind snuggling with this precious treasure). When Brad and Garrett went to the bank to exchange US dollars for Yuan, Feifei and mama played cars, sang songs and built stacking cup towers. He has a precious giggle and smile. We can hardly wait to “get to know “this sweet baby boy.  As I began typing this post, he and his baba were having some quality time. They have been exploring our room and all the clothes and things we brought for him. He is very frightened but trying so hard to be brave. As the tears and fear became more prevalent, mama paused typing and just held my baby close, whispering “Wo Ai Ni”…”I Love You”. He is now sleeping in my arms, and I am typing one handed. We are blessed that he accepts us holding and cuddling him. We know that he was very loved by his nanny at the orphanage and feel certain that he will bond with us quickly. Please keep praying. We feel the results of your prayers! Tomorrow will be another emotional day as we finalize the adoption and pay a visit to the orphanage. Will you please pray that Toby will find closure and not too much anxiety at the return visit?

Our blessings abound and our cup overflows with love!!

Monday November 28th

Today’s the day! Today’s the day! We have waited so long for this moment. It seems like an eternity! But, to day we will hold our baby boy in our arms. We are scheduled to leave the hotel at 9am, and we will meet Toby at 9:30 am. We were up at 5 am and so excited that we gave up on sleeping any longer. We went down to a huge buffet, a mixture of Asian cuisine and western foods, at around 7 am. Then we gathered our things and we are ready to be off. We will continue this post upon our return when we have our baby Toby.

Sunday November 27th

 It was a little difficult to wake up and get moving this morning. We are still struggling with jet lag and have been waking at odd times and returning to sleep for a hour or so, and finally giving up and just starting the day. So, we sleepily began this day with a nice breakfast at the hotel buffet. It was not the usual buffet, not even close to the White Swan. Actually, the hotel we were staying at was a service apartment. The hotel we were supposed to stay at was closed for renovation (must be the time of year, as we are unable to stay at the White Swan once we get to Guanzhou for the exact same reason). The apartment turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was large, spacious and had a kitchenette. It was as nice as a hotel room, and yet, it had some extra niceties. The breakfast buffet was much smaller and had some very interesting foods available. I was able to find a few things for my “non-adventurous” self, and Brad and Garrett tried several different foods in addition to cereal and eggs. After our breakfast adventure, we met our guide for another adventure to the Forbidden City in Beijing. We learned some important details about the city. Things like, Beijing was the capital city during the Ming and Xing dynasties. We learned that a center line down the middle of the entire property actually ran down the center of the city as well, and that only the emperor was allowed to walk down this center line. We learned that the entire “city” was designed to protect the Emperor and his family. It was surrounded by a moat and there were three outer courts before you even reached his personal residence. We learned that the colors red, gold, blue and green were specific colors to the Imperial court and could not be used by any other citizen. So, any buildings bearing those colors were indicative of an imperial residence. We learned that the country was actually run by a woman “behind the scenes” for several years as many of the last Emperors were infant or young boys. Yes, I geeked out over all the amazing history. I got to walk through history, and I loved every minute of it! It was a lot larger than I had imagined from the pictures we had seen, and you had to walk and walk and walk some more. I loved the soaking in all the details. The beautiful architecture, the brilliant colors (much had been repainted and restored before the 2008 Olympics), and the amazing lay out of an enormous compound that housed ancient rulers drew me in, and it made me want to learn more and more about this country’s ancient history (lookout kids…we study Eastern Hemisphere next year which means we study the history of China). Immediately following our Forbidden City tour, our guide took us to Tianamen square. Not really a place that Brad and I wanted to visit, but it was a part of China’s history. We had no desire to tour of Chairman Mao’s tomb, and walked the square praying for this beautiful country. I believe our guide sensed our unease at being at this place (you see Brad and I both watched the tragic events unfold before the world in 1989). She allowed us to set the pace and schedule, and so, we took a short walk from there for a nice traditional lunch (but Americanized for us). After lunch was finished, we drove to the airport and we departed early afternoon for Nanjing. The flight wasn’t overly long in length but felt like an eternity as it was hot, loud and we were struggling with jet-lag. I was even more glad when that plane landed than when we landed in Beijing after a thirteen hour flight. In addition, it meant that we are only “one sleep” away from getting our precious baby boy. I need to sleep tonight, but I think I will find it hard to do. 


November 26th

Today, I saw many amazing things. Today, I saw antiquity and modernism within the same city. Today, I saw young and old alike trying to make their way in this world. Today, I saw a mass of wealth, and a mass of poverty. Today, I saw modern cars and I saw rickshaws. Today, I saw automated street sweepers and people cleaning the streets with homemade bamboo brooms. Today, I saw modern high-rise apartment buildings and small lean-to shanties.

Today, I climbed one of the seven ancient wonders of the world (even if I only climbed to the first level). Today, I stood in a place filled with ancient history and looked around me with awe. Today, I saw people of every nation looking, climbing and celebrating. I watched young and old alike determined to climb and be a part of history. I saw a people filled with pride, cheering and happy, to be a part of the history of this beautiful and ancient land. Today, I saw the Great Wall of China.

Today, I looked on in amazement to watch artisans create beauty from stone native to their land. I watched as they carved, polished and created amazing pieces of art from one single piece of stone. Today, I got to tour the Jade Factory. Today, I watched as a salesperson tried to convince me to buy many of the treasures in her store. I watched and listened as she explained all about the treasures, and then we got to the “big-budda”. I watched as she explained about rubbing his belly for good luck, his bald head for happiness and good fortune, and I felt sad. I was reminded that I am in a country that has placed its hope in many false things, and I felt sorrow. I watched as they hoped for wealth, prosperity and happiness, and I just kept thinking none of this brings you the hope, wealth and prosperity that I have in my Lord Jesus.

Today, I saw the beautiful multi-million dollar buildings designed to showcase the world’s finest athletes. I saw the cube where Michael Phelps won his historic 8 gold medals. I saw the Bird’s nest where China put on its brightest and best face as the world watched the beautiful opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics. I saw the latest and greatest in apartment living in the converted athlete’s village. But, Today, I also saw people walking the streets dirty, hungry and homeless.  Today, I saw desires for change, for freedom and capitalism. Today, I saw young people who wanted to leave the “old ways” behind and to have a modern westernized country at their fingertips. In some ways, this idealism is good, and in some ways, it is sad. This ancient city, this ancient culture is a contradiction of beauty and what some would consider harsh living. I hate to see a country filled with such history and such a rich heritage dispose of historical treasures in lieu of modernism. Yet, I love to see the young people striving to make change in and for their country. I love to witness their hope and optimism about what the future holds for this amazing country. I pray that this country so near and dear to my heart will become a country of hope, not in the things they have or accomplish, but a country that turns to the one true God, and that someday they will experience the freedom of knowing Jesus and His saving grace.

Today, I saw ChinaBeijing (Peking), China!


November 24th&25th

Traveling to China is never easy; however, we were blessed on these two days with nice weather, on time flights, and a super flight crew that made traveling 14 hours on a plane easier. We made the trek from Springfield to Chicago ahead of schedule and arrived at Chicago O’ Hare Airport a little earlier than scheduled. We had plenty of time before our connecting flight, and took time out to have a small Thanksgiving celebration for the three of us at Macaroni Grill. It wasn’t our traditional Thanksgiving dinner (grandma was busy making that for the other kiddos at home as we left…), but we enjoyed our Chicken Parmesan and spaghetti none the less. We were thankful for many things, not the least of which is this journey that God has orchestrated every step of the way. 11 months from the date that we saw our Toby’s precious face, we are on our way to China, and we get to hold our baby boy for the very first time on Monday November 28th.


Nov. 24th & 25thMissouri to Beijing

Nov. 26thBeijing touring

Nov. 27th – Travel to Nanjing

Nov. 28th – Gotcha Day

Nov. 29th-Dec. 2ndNanjing

Dec. 3rd – 7thGuangzhou

Dec. 8th – Shanghai

Dec. 9th - HOME