Smith Party of FIVE

We are proud to announce that this evening we received Pre-Approval (aka PA!) from China for our son WenXuan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Giving praise to the Lord who is the giver of all good gifts for surely this the best gift we could get – another son!

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(this is an old photo I took from Eagles’ Wings Facebook Page)

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(WenXuan is on the left and his best bud who was adopted last summer is on the right – they are sad here to be saying goodbye but little does WenXuan know Jay’s mom and I have already been scheming a reuinon.   Photo cred. from Jay’s family blog)

What????!!!!

When Philip was moved from House of Love in Guilin, China to Eagle’s Wings in August of 2013, we started scouring the Eagle’s Wings facebook page in search of updates and photos about him.  In the process, we saw photos of WenXuan and thought – hey, he seems like a really cool kid!  Then, we saw an update about him on an advocacy site, and saw a video and Wes and I both watched it and looked at each other and said – that kiddo could be a Smith!  I was especially drawn to the fact that he had such a twinkle in his eye – we couldn’t stop thinking about him.

After some thinking and prayer, we felt led to ask some questions about him and learned that he wasn’t currently up for adoption, but if a family came forward, they would likely finish and submit his paperwork to the CCCWA to be considered for adoption.  We asked more questions, talked to adoptive families who have met him and also got a detailed email from the amazing lady who founded Eagle’s Wings and she too mentioned that WenXuan had a…you guessed it…”twinkle in his eye.”

So, a little over a year ago, we made it clear to our agencies and, in turn, his orphanage, that we would like WenXuan to be our son and we’ve pretty much not had any clue as to when or if this could actually happen, in fact, we were even told it could be unlikely…until a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to our trip to China for Philip…we were up on and off in the night with Rand who got a little sick in Guangzhou and I checked my email and almost fell out of the bed when I saw we had matched with WenXuan!  We immediately requested his file and approved it right away and started filling out forms in the middle of the night we were so excited.  And so TORN UP because we just met him – with extremely guarded hearts – when we visited Philip’s orphanage, less than a week before! It was all we could do to not fly back to Zhengzhou and get back in that van to go hug his neck and tell him the good news.  We even asked our agency if we stayed a little longer if there is anything that could be done, but we have to resubmit a lot of new forms here in the US as well as China so there was no chance to bring him back with Philip.  And we weren’t allowed to announce it formally until we had PA – which now we do!

When we found out in China, Wes and I both knew deep down that it was going to happen, in fact, when we dream about our life and talk about our plans as a family, WenXuan was already a part of those dreams.

In 4-7 months (estimate) we’ll be headed back to China to bring home the oldest Smith brother!  We are praying we’ll be able to celebrate his 12th birthday here, all together at HOME.

And you probably have a lot of questions – so do we!  So far, what we have to go on is this: if we let the questions (the hows and the whys especially!) get in the way, we’d be disobedient and completely paralyzed.  I think of how the Lord told us about Philip and then HE plowed the way for it all to fall perfectly into place.  So we have to just keep trusting that the One who chose WenXuan to be a Smith will guide us through the details.

Please join us in prayer for WenXuan as he continues to wait and, in a few days or weeks, whenever he finds out that he has a family that his heart would be prepared and that the wait won’t be to much longer for him…or for us!

Rand especially is excited to have an older brother, but having a hard time with WenXuan still being in China.  We told him the news back when we were in China and he’s reminded us every day that one Smith is missing.  Yesterday he got us all choked up because he started crying when he saw the photo of WenXuan from the blog.  He was trying his best not to cry, his lower lip giving him a time trying to hide it.  I asked him why in the world he was sad and he said because Wen (what he calls him) wasn’t here and was still at the orphanage.

Thanks for sharing in our excitement over this news! We think WenXuan is an awesome and amazing kid and we can’t wait for us all to get to know him and for him to be here, at home, with his FOREVER FAMILY.

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Philip

Today Philip is Three.  We’ve been home from China almost three weeks now, and tomorrow it will be one month since he’s been with us!  I’m thankful our “family day” is so close to his birth date because for me, and probably someday for him too, his birthday will always be bittersweet.  A celebration, like all of us have, to welcome another year of his life, but also marking the time back to a gigantic loss.  We don’t know anything about his birth parents, or the situation or even why he was abandoned.  We can’t even guess or tell Philip things we “think” might have been the case – we’ve learned (from wiser “been there done that” adoptive parents and countless hours of “parent training”) that’s an unfair burden to give to a child, even if it’s well meaning, so we don’t make anything up, we just say what we know: whoever left him, must have wanted him to be found and to be safe because they put him out side the gate of the hospital when he was a few days old.  We don’t know anything else about their wishes or their needs or their age – or what the factors for their decision were.

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We also know we love Philip’s birth parents.  We have them to thank for the blessing of him.  And we pray for them, that they will come to know Christ, if they don’t already, and we pray for them because we have Philip in our lives and they do not.  And maybe someday, in this life, we will have the joy of meeting them face to face – and we are up for that, if that’s part of this adventure.

In the meantime, Philip is THREE.

And we do know a lot of new things about him…for example…

1.  Right now, yogurt is his all time favorite thing.  Vanilla, Blueberry, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana…doesn’t really matter, he loves it all.

2.  His brother Rand is a pretty big favorite too.  Yesterday, Rand went back to preschool for 3 hours in the morning and Philip didn’t realize what was going on and kept asking for him. Today when Rand left, he knew what was up and oh how he cried and cried for Rand.  He was so excited when I finally told him we were going to pick Rand up!  Rand, in Philip-speak is Ray-And

3.  Philip wakes up happy and is a jokester – not sure if his “silly/slapstick” side is true nature yet or just to get attention, or maybe a little of both but he definitely will drop something on purpose and be dramatically funny or do something he knows is silly and give “that look” – then laugh and laugh.

4.  Philip has warmed up to being outside and loves it now, and also he loves bath time.  He’s brave in the tub.  He’ll put his head under water and come up laughing.  The complete opposite of his cautious brother Rand, I have a feeling we’ll be doing some swimming lessons this summer in the pool with adventurous Philip!

5.  He is mischievous and strong-willed which, to us, shows intelligence and the fact that we are in for it…

6.  Other than Ray-And, some of his favorite English words are Nina, Mama/Mommy, Baba, Yogurt, Banana,  All done, Uh-Oh, OH!, Mommy’s Coffee, and Amen – he’s got that one down really well!

7.  Even though Philip doesn’t know much English he sure can remember English if it’s to a tune.  He has been singing “let it go,” “Old macdonald,” and a silly little song that Wes made up of Chinese words we have no clue what they mean! Today, he’s been singing “dappy durth day do yao”all day long.  Really, whenever we sing a little tune or he repeats a word back to us – even if the word is wrong – he gets the rhythm or syllable exactly right.  He’s always humming a tune or seems to have a song stuck in his head.

Today, I think we were given a song for Philip.  I heard it on the radio this morning as I was thinking about him and thought how fitting for his life right now.  I claim it now as our prayer for him…

“Amen.  Amen.  Let my song join the One that never ends.  Because He Lives.” – Matt Maher

You can listen to it here.  And this one is good too!

On this start of a whole new year of life for our mischievously musical Philip, we pray that his song will one day too join the one that never ends.  Amen!

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Saturday through Tuesday

On Saturday, I set up a table at a local event to promote my Beautycounter business.

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I’ve been on a mission to spread the word about safe products/cosmetics for the past year now.  So, since I’ve got your attention, go and check the ingredients in your products.  And your family’s products.  If you need help, the Environmental Working Group has an app you can download and scan barcodes that saves loads of time.  It’s called Skin Deep.  Or you can go here and type in the names of your products.  Even if you don’t buy Beautycounter, find something safe to use – we can’t control everything in our environment but we are 100% in control of what we put in and on our bodies!  Ok, there’s my PSA for the day.  Also, if you do want to try Beautycounter, or want more info, let me know.

Philip and Rand’s favorites:

Nice Do Shampoo – we squeeze a little in the tub for bubbles too!

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Lustro Body Oil in Rosemary Citrus – this is the only “lotion” I can get Rand to use (strong smells bother him) and Philip gets mad when I tell him he can’t have more.  I put it on both boys immediately after the bath!  And for me, I mix it with a little of the hydrate body lotion.  There’s actually a Mother’s Day promo now with the lotion/oil combo.

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And the boys have been taking frequent baths because we’ve been enjoying springtime and have been outside as much as possible in between rain showers.  The boys collected some “wild” flowers on our walk and learned about dogwoods and azaleas.  Thankfully no shoes were thrown.

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I did a smoothie experiment with my Pilates friends and I’m convinced I might need to sell my juicer and get a vitamix.  These were delicious.

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Other than that we’ve been hanging tight around the house.  Rand went back to preschool today after a week off for spring break.  We’ve still been enjoying lots of yummy meals and sweet visits from friends & neighbors coming to welcome Philip.  Don’t tell Charlie McWilliams (aka the chicken connoisseur), but last night we enjoyed the most perfectly grilled chicken – our friend Caitlin is apparently going to have to teach me how to make chicken because mine has never turned out that good!

Here’s a shot of the boys eating some pretzels today that we made!  Our sweet friend Amy brought us a delicious dinner and her son Walker suggested she also bring us his favorite snack – “make your own pretzels” and lemonade.  Perfect for our rainy afternoon.

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I thought this was cute of the boys and Nina watching Wes pull up in the driveway the other day.  You can tell it’s towards the end of the day around here because of the missing/mismatched clothes.  Ha.  They seem so little yet they make so. much. dirty. laundry.

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And with that, I’m off to bed.  Yes, everyone has asked – we are sleeping great!  However just not in our regular places yet.  We’re still divided up one of us with each boy in separate beds for the night. Eventually we’ll all be straight but we’re taking our time and just savoring that everyone is sleeping until at least 7am  (A real miracle.  Even pre-china, Rand rarely slept past 6am) AND taking 2hr (Rand & mommy sometimes too) and 3hr (Philip) naps every day as well.

Tomorrow is a very important day – Philip turns 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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We’re around

Sorry for the delay in a new post, but we’ve been really busy just doing life!  The kids take a little longer to fall asleep at home vs. in a hotel room for some reason and by the time we get them down for bed, it hasn’t left much time (and some nights we’ve fallen asleep trying to get the boys to sleep…) – although Wes and I did sneak in the season finale of Downton Abbey the other night! And have caught up on a few episodes of Madame Secretary.  It’s pretty good if you haven’t seen it.

Also, April is one of my busiest months!  I have not one now, but TWO boys with birthdays coming up, window boxes/planters to be planted and my garden to plan – these are a few things I really look forward to all year!!!

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It’s a good thing our car didn’t have room for more or we’d go broke.  I think I would be really happy working at a nursery/garden center some day.  There is something about plants and greenhouses that I can’t resist.

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In addition to the window boxes/planters, we planted 30 hosta and 30 ferns for some little “shade gardens” in the new landscape plan.

We also celebrated Easter!  Since we’ve been staying in for the most part in order to teach Philip we are his parents, and to not overwhelm him, we hadn’t planned to go to church – it’s not like he will be able to go to nursery or Sunday School for a while (without one of us), BUT Easter morning, at breakfast, Wes and I decided we couldn’t NOT go to church so we decided to go get dressed and give it a try!  Rand went to nursery and Philip sat with us.  He did really well, considering every time I tried to tell him, in Mandarin, that he needed to be quiet, he thought I was telling him “I love you”…Mandarin is HARD y’all!!!

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After church we went to “Ema and Pops” house for Easter lunch and then took the boys home for naps.  After lunch, Ema and Pops and Uncle Sam and Aunt CeCe did an Easter egg hunt in our yard for the boys and Uncle Fred and Aunt Tina, along with Uncle Wellborn (Rand and Philip’s great, great uncle!) came over to meet Philip and see the egg hunt go down.

The candy and toys were a big hit – Philip caught on right away and wanted to eat as he went…thankfully Ema only put one or two jellybeans or one gummy worm or one graham cracker bunny in each egg!!!

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And Uncle Sam helped the boys work out some of the sugar rush.

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We’ve also taken some walks in the past few days, one to our local Arboretum – as I shared on Instagram (follow me @annafranklinsmith I post a lot more often on Insta!) – on that first walk together, Wes and I marveled at how many walks we’d been on with just Rand and Nina and talked about Philip the whole time and what we needed to do, what was the next step, dreamed what things would be like…etc. We waited a long time for this inaugural walk!!!

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It was “very real” too – because we had to get on Philip at one point about throwing sand and he wasn’t happy that we made him get back in the stroller…so he threw 2 shoes and a sock…But all in all, it was a good outing!

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Rand’s been enjoying helping make popcorn – a snack we eat just about every day.  We’ve been really liking this recipe for a healthy version.  I omit the pepper and coconut oil (we have an air popper – $20 on amazon…) and drizzle with melted Ghee (you can see it melting in the top of the popper!) + turmeric mixed in and a sprinkle of sea salt! YUM.

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And we’ve been taking good naps every day (keeps everyone happy).  Sorry for the scary pic of me half asleep.  I’m not good at selfies, but I wanted to document how Rand likes to cuddle when he’s fast asleep.  I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be doing this, so I’ve been trying to soak it all in while I still can, it’s just about as sweet as it gets!

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Yesterday, we needed to run an errand in a nearby town, so we took the boys with us on a mini day trip and stopped at Smithfield’s on the way.  The waitress brought both boys a balloon.  I’m pretty sure they think that’s why we made the trip.

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Philip thankfully is really content to ride in the car.  I’m thinking we have TWO great travelers on our hands! He even caught a little snooze on the way home…

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Best shot I could get of the boys.  Wes is happy, Philip has a “hand up/peace sign” reaction every time we bring out a camera and Rand is getting down to eating his drumstick. Apparently with some texas pete?!?!

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I’m thankful for my boys and all of our moments of real life (even if some are without a shoe or two).

Thanks for continuing to follow us even though I’ll only be posting “often” and not always daily!

 

 

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Brother bonding

Yesterday and today, Rand drove Philip around on his new Gator and China seemed really far away.

While Philip is still terrified of our gentle dog Nina even looking his way, he was quick to jump right into the passenger seat of the Gator.  Unafraid and completely trusting of his unlicensed, 3 year old brother driving him around the yard on a large power wheel toy. I guess some things are just boy things through and through – no matter what country you are from.

Rand and Philip have really bonded outside driving around on this new toy.  The other day, Philip barely wanted to go outside and today, he wanted to sit in the passenger seat and wait for Rand to get home from school to drive him around.

When we stop and think about what’s actually happening, it seems unreal…

but, in the midst all the moments of the day, it feels like things are exactly how they’re supposed to be.

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A new normal Tuesday

It is clear the Lord has been watching over Philip since the day he was born and one of these days I’ll get around to writing out the story of Philip…it’s really long to write up and I don’t want to leave out any details…because they are all really cool.

In the meantime, check out this cool prayer from Windy & Mike Pratt.  Windy is very gifted in calligraphy – a gift she’s shared with us many times over (including addressing over 250 wedding invitations as a special gift 12 years ago!!!).  They have also been praying for Philip for years now too – so this prayer is extra special!!!

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Last night our friends the Oettingers brought us a delicious dinner (I wish I had taken a photo when they were here!) and we devoured it and then crashed.

We were all in bed by 7:30pm and asleep within minutes.  Thankfully Rand and I were finally able to sleep past 2am (we made it to 4am this morning!) and Wes and Philip made it to 6:45!  I would say we are getting much closer to being back to normal.  Rand may even attempt school today and Wes is going to stay with Philip so I can go to my Pilates class.  And maybe even sneak in a visit to my favorite healthy grocery/kitchen (as Rand calls it… “the smoothie store”) – I’ve been craving it for the past 3 weeks so it will be a huge treat!!!!!!!!!

Wes and I are going to switch off being at home when Rand has to go somewhere or we have other obligations, but for the most part we are all trying to “stay in” as much as possible with Philip over the next weeks so he can acclimate to our home and yard and toys and schedule.  We’ve moved around a lot in the past 3 weeks and he’s moved several times in the past few years so, based on what is suggested by other adoptive parents, we’re going to try our best to not overwhelm him!  Of course, we will add being in the yard and going on walks because it is supposed to be beautiful this week and I am willing to bet sunshine is good for jet lag.

Thanks for continuing to follow along with us!  I have been amazed at how many people – even ones I haven’t done a great job at keeping up with (so sorry!) – have been so sweet and reached out to say they are following along and praying for us.  A good thing about social media, for sure because it has been a huge encouragement to us.

 

P.S. As I write this, I can hear Rand teaching Philip how to say the names of all his friends and different models/types of cars in the background!

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A welcome home

On Thursday night we packed up and said goodbye to our wonderful guides Jason and Grace.  We actually put the boys to bed for a few hours since we didn’t leave the hotel until 10pm.  Our flight was at 1:50am and everything about the ride home went really smoothly!  Grace took us to the airport and helped us get checked in.  By the time we got through security and to our gate, we didn’t really have that long to wait (we let a lot of Nigerians skip us in security check line because they were all about to miss their flight).

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We flew China Southern straight from Guangzhou to JFK and it was even better than the flight over.  Everyone slept for the first part of the flight and then they served us dinner, followed by breakfast a few hours later.  It was so odd!  Philip and Rand did really well considering it was 15 hours!!!  Of course we had lots of snacks, and that helped too!

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One of my main concerns about traveling with 2 toddlers was the long flight and it turned out to really be a non-issue (even if it was a really long non-issue!)

When we landed at JFK we went through immigration and met with the officer about Philip’s citizenship and handed over “the important brown envelope” – because of this we skipped the entire line.  Later, we were moved to the front of another line when we had to go back through security after customs –  because we had a huge stroller!  Sweet!

The flight from JFK to RDU was on a very small plane and incredibly turbulent.  But thankfully it was only a little over an hour and then we were in Raleigh!  We stepped off the plane into the terminal and ran into our good friend Chip King who was flying to NYC and so he got to be the first person to officially meet Philip!  We thought that was cool since his kids, our friends Jonathan and Shelley, and Ryan, have all been praying for us and big supporters through this process!

On the way to baggage claim, we ran into our welcoming party – Wes’ mom Carolyn, along with a crowd of Murrays/Flemings from Wes’ side of the family, were all there with signs and balloons and gifts for the boys!  It was a sweet welcome home and we were so happy to see them and introduce them to their newest grandson/nephew/cousin!   We are really blessed by our extended family who have been praying for us and are so supportive of adoption!

Sorry the quality is grainy on a few – our cousin Joel took a video for us (so thankful because our camera wasn’t working!) and I took screen shots of a few of the frames.

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And thanks to Joel we have photos of Philip meeting his Grandmommy and family for the first time!

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Carolyn drove us back to Pinehurst.  Philip wasn’t too big on the car seat at first but since then he’s adjusted to it fine.

We’ve been home for 2 nights now and I think I’ve slept less than 7 hours total but I don’t feel really tired – I think it is all the excitement  of being home.  It was an exciting welcome too – after the airport, we got to our house and several friends and my aunt were here to greet us along with what felt like a HGTV Big Reveal or something because our yard was completely redone and looked amazing!  I’ll post more on that once I take some pictures!

We can’t believe all the thoughtfulness of our friends and family who brought balloons, signs, stocked our fridge with foods we usually eat as well as chicken pot pies, lasagnas, soups, muffins for breakfast, etc. and flowers and gifts!!!  Check out these cute matching jammies for the boys and welcome home cards from Rand’s class at school!  Rand was pumped!

And we’re so grateful for the meal schedule our friends set up too!  It will be so helpful to not have to think about dinner while we adjust and figure things out.

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Our sister Jax, in addition to stocking us with food and groceries, set up a display of photos we took on our trip she framed!  Peeking out in the back is the sampler Carolyn stitched for Philip – a tradition she does for all of her grandchildren!

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The boys loving their edible arrangement…

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And all the balloons (although this photo was taken the day after we got home at 3am…)

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And now, in spite of the night time wake ups, we’re having fun adjusting and seeing things like this go down around here…

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Sights we’ve longed for since the Lord whispered Philip into our hearts over 2 years ago!

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Dear friends and family

We adapted this letter from Show Hope and Andrea Young.  Andrea wrote it for her own adoptions and it has been used by adoptive families and now even Show Hope – an organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, which makes a huge difference in the lives of orphans and waiting children around the world – especially China!   We should have sent it sooner as most adoptive families are encouraged to send it out before they travel…but we are a little behind over here!!!

Philip is an awesome and smart child.  But he also shows all the signs of children who have been institutionalized – including food issues as well as being overly charming and kissing/hugging to all adults he is around – even if he’s just met them.  Thanks for reading this and, if you’re around us frequently, assisting us in establishing a strong and healthy parent/child relationship with Philip.

This is new territory for us too, so please don’t be afraid of “messing up” – just ask us if you have a question and we’ll figure it out together.  We are taking each day as it comes!

We are grateful to God that He specifically chose Philip to be a part of all of our lives and that He will equip us each step of the way to raise Philip (and all of our children!) to have healthy relationships with each other and with Him!

Thanks for joining us in this adventure.

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Dear friends and family,

We wanted to write to let you know a little about what this transition period is going to look like for our family – and how you can help!

Because our son is new to us being his mommy and daddy, we will have some strict boundaries for the first few months. If you’re someone who we will see regularly at home, church, our just out and about, please take the time to read these thoughts on attachment:

Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need, communicates that need, and a primary caretaker meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses and calms the baby – which teaches him/her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God’s very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will ultimately give children a trust for and empathy towards others.

Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. For our son, he is about to experience the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of his birth country. When he comes home, he will be overwhelmed by this loss. Everything around him will be new and he will need to learn not just about a new environment, but also about love and family. He has not experienced God’s design for a family in an orphanage setting. His world will turn upside down. He may struggle with feeling safe and secure and may lack the ability to trust that we will meet his needs.

The good news is that, with the Holy Spirit, we can now, as his forever parents, rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds. The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the only ones to hold, cuddle, instruct, soothe and feed him. As this repeats between us, he will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and to love deeply. We are, essentially, recreating the newborn/parent connection. Once he begins to establish this important bond with us, he will then be able to branch out to other healthy relationships.

Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on personal experience, research, and instruction from trusted adoption mentors. We will be doing what we believe is best to help him heal from the early interruptions he had in attachment as effectively as possible.

While some of this may seem like overkill or even sound a little bit crazy, we hope that you will understand and trust that we are doing this to give our little one an ideal environment to become a secure, well adjusted, and confident little boy. We can’t give an exact timeline on what this will look like or at what point I’ll say that he is “attached” to us. This takes time and every child is different. We hope and pray that this transition will be smooth, but given the huge amount of new sights, people, and experiences here in America, we don’t know what to expect.

Why are we telling you all of this? Because you will actually play an incredible and vital role in helping our little guy to settle in, heal, and lay a foundation for the future. There are a few areas in which you can help us:

The first is to set physical boundaries. It will help us immensely if adults who are around Philip limit what is typically considered normal, physical contact with a young child who you are around frequently. This will (for a while) include things like holding or excessive hugging and kissing. Children from orphanage settings are prone to attach too easily to anyone and everyone – which hinders the important, primary relationship with parents. Waving, blowing kisses, high fives, or a pat on the back are perfectly appropriate and welcomed! He should know that the people with whom he interacts are our trusted friends.

Another area (probably the biggest as we’ll be keeping him close to us for the first few months) is redirecting his desire to have her physical and emotional needs met by anyone (including strangers) to having us meet those needs.  For example, if his water is just out of reach, hand it to us first to hand to him, or if he asks you for something, say “let’s go get your mommy/baba” – same goes for if he falls down or needs a shoe tied, etc.

Former orphans often have had so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are “very friendly” but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have our son hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. But until he has a firm understanding of family and primary attachments, we would be so grateful if you direct him to us if you see that he is seeking out food or comfort from anyone but us. It is totally fine to let him hug you, but please don’t pick him up or hold him on your lap.

Also, please feel free to ask us any questions at any time. We are so grateful to have a community of friends that will help our son feel loved, safe, and secure. We couldn’t ask for a better extended family and circle of friends for him. Thank you so much for your love and support over this adoption process!

Love,

Anna, Wes, Rand & Philip

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Jet lag and technical difficulties

I didn’t believe in jet lag until now.  We just finished lunch??!? And it is 9:30am. Breakfast was at 3am.

I have so much to post about but the photos are on the camera and it isn’t ideimageal to post image

from my phone because it randomly inserts the photos in the text – above is Rand happy to see nina!

And this is Philip learning about food storage. At lunch he kept eating because he didn’t understand that he could save it for later and it wouldn’t just disappear. We have a long way to go on the food issues! I need to do some reading…

Our internet is down from an issue with cable so hopefully they will come fix it today and I will post this evening!!!

All is going well as we enter a period of adjustment and work on attachment and bonding. And teaching Philip where everything is! I told him to go to Rand’s room and he opened the closet door and looked really confused – our house must seem huge to him!

Today I’m thankful for our new life as a family of 4, google translate and being able to eat fresh vegetables and brush my teeth with tap water!

more later dear friends…

 

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Last post from China

The last post from China, but not the last post for this blog.  And only the beginning for Philip’s story.  We’re at the airport getting ready to board and I’m trying to quickly upload our photos from today.

This morning we went with some of the group to the Guangzhou Zoo.  It was amazing how right there in the middle of the city was this huge zoo.

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This one’s for you Aunt Cece!!!

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This was a funny sign near the goats/llamas.  Wish I’d taken more photos of some of the funny signs we saw.  Two others were “Kids Funny World” (toy store, supposed to be “fun”) and “God Save the Streaking” – no clue what type of place that was!

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Considering the rainy weather, it was a pretty successful zoo trip.  We saw all the animals we wanted to see – zebras, lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, rhinos, elephants, giraffes and more.  I didn’t photograph the lions because they were mating. It really scared some of the kids!  Guess we’ll see some baby lions next time we’re in Guangzhou:)

The pandas decided to stay inside and eat bamboo so they were a little hard to get a photo of!

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After we packed up and got the boys settled in for a nap, Wes and I took a cab over to the pearl market since we missed going there with the group.  We thought it might be a good place to get some gifts for friends and family since we haven’t had time to do any shopping for any gifts yet.

This is typical Guangzhou from the cab:

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When we walked into the pearl market we were completely overwhelmed and didn’t do much shopping.  Maybe next time!  It was CRAZY!!!!  I have never seen so much stuff in my life.  Especially beads and strands of stones.  We just shut down.  It was too much to handle all in one place!

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I haven’t finished this post, but the plane is getting ready to take off so I’m going to publish it and finish it later! (so check back because I may be able to add more photos!)

We pray a special blessing over China as we leave, especially to all the lovely people we met who helped us and all our guides, but most importantly to the one we’ll be back for.  It’s so hard to be so close and have to go.

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Shamian Island

Yesterday, we went to our most important appointment and got Philip’s Visa at the US Consulate.  I took a few photos outside the consulate – the architecture of the consulate was amazing – probably one of the more interesting and beautiful buildings I’ve seen.  Those photos are on Wes’ phone so I’ll have to post later on…sorry!

After we finished the visa appointment (and we got the visa today – phew! some families have been stuck here for a long time because of hangups at the consulate but thankfully all went smoothly for our entire group!) we headed in a cab to Shamian Island where the consulate used to be – it is also where most US adoptive families used to stay in China but because the White Swan hotel is under renovations, most agencies have their families stay elsewhere now.  It reminded us a lot of Charleston or Savannah.

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We dressed the boys up and tried for a family photo…

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Rand was impossible to get to smile.  He was so not into taking photos, until Chinese people came up to take his photos.  He’s pretty much a celebrity around here.  This is pretty typical…

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We also took photos at the famous statue of the children where the kids can get in the “missing place” – the boys enjoyed being a part of this.DSC_0639

When they realized they had an audience, they started goofing off.

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You may see my children on someone else’s facebook or youtube…they’ve been photographed a lot.

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We’ve taken quite a few too.  We have a lot of time to make up for with Philip.

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There is also a Christian church on the island.  I think it is still “controlled” but it’s there and has services on Sat. night and Sunday mornings.  Maybe next trip we can come to one of the English/Mandarin services.

Some friends also helped us find a shop on the island that sells English/Mandarin Kid’s Bibles.  So we got one of those for Philip to have and some traditional Chinese outfits for our group photo in the afternoon and for the boys to play dress up with at home.

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Just like all over China, on the island they also had exercise equipment for the public to use.  So the boys had to try it all out…

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We caught a cab back to the hotel and crashed for a few hours then went down to the lobby for our group photos.

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Best attempt at one of all the kids in our group.  They were a sweet, fun bunch to be with and we will miss them all.  We have definitely been in an adoption friend bubble here!

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Our entire group – minus our two guides Jason and Grace.  I need to get a photo of them!!

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Today we went to the Guangzhou Zoo – I will have to write about that later, maybe at the airport. We are in our room now while the boys sleep for a few hours before getting ready to leave for the airport at 10pm our time to catch our 1:50am flight to JFK.  We’ll be home at 10:30 to RDU (your time) which will be close to 30 hours later than it is right now!  One long day, but worth it to get home.

I am going to miss Guangzhou.  And am sad for Philip to be leaving all he knows – the food, the Chinese-speaking people, his birth country, and somewhere his birth parents, etc.  There aren’t really words for it, but we know it’s the right thing.

This is the view from our room.  We’ve loved seeing it all in bloom – especially the red kapok trees.

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Guangzhou has been my favorite place so far and I look forward to returning in, hopefully, a few months…

See you all soon!!!!!!

 

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Monday part II and Tuesday

So the first half of Monday was fine – eventful enough with the medical visit, etc. and then we thought the second half would be a nice evening cruise on the Pearl River with our group…but things have been pretty wild since then and so that’s why I’m just getting back around to writing!

(excuse the photos – my photography skills are lacking – especially at night!)

Guangzhou is incredible.  I’ve never seen so many skyscraper buildings.  They just go on and on for miles.

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This is Guangzhou Tower – the 3rd tallest building in the world (first and second are in Dubai and Japan).  A lot of the towers and bridges changed colors.  It was different every time I looked up!

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We had Papa John’s pizza with our group below on the first floor of the boat and Rand threw up.  We thought he had motion sickness so we cleaned him up and stayed up top for air.

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On the bus ride home he got sick a lot.  Poor dude.  He handled it all really well and the bus driver was really kind considering the condition we left his nice new bus in… the rest of the night was fine and we got the kids to bed and mom and I decided it would be a while before we could eat pizza again.

Then, in the night last night we got some good news that kept us up most of the night – I’ll share more on that when I have more info…please no guessing in the comments for now as we aren’t allowed to post anything, but I will say it hopefully means we’ll be making another trip to China this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This morning Rand said he was fine and wanted to go to breakfast but he was moving much slower than usual and after breakfast, he started running a fever.  So we let the group go to the pearl market and Shamian Island without us and mom and Wes took Philip to the playground and Rand (who just wanted to be held all morning) and I snuggled and watched Frozen.  He was still feeling bad at lunchtime so we got him and Philip down for early and long naps and he was feeling much better this afternoon.

The stomach bug has been going around here so please pray no one else in our group gets the nasty bug especially with return plane flights fast approaching!

Mom and I took Philip with the group to the special dinner our guides set up for us at a local restaurant – I was just beginning to lose my appetite for Chinese food but the meal tonight was SO GOOD!  I think from now on I just need a Chinese person to order for me and I’ll be happier with the outcome.

Here we are walking to dinner.  It really is a beautiful city – the trees are incredible.

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Philip was a riot at dinner.  He tried everything but preferred the curry potatoes and chicken, pork slices, noodles and the sprite!  We can’t order water at restaurants and they don’t have bottled water, so it was either coke, beer or sprite.  My favorites were the green beans and the fried buns (what could be better than a fried dinner roll?! take that GC!) It’s so weird to be drinking soda again after giving it up so long ago.  I’m looking forward to giving it up again and I am really looking forward to ice in my drinks when we get home!!!

Philip has a lot of expressions…some even remind me of us already.  On our flight here from Zhengzhou, the flight attendant heard him babbling to me and she said, “Oh, how amazing, your baby knows Chinese!” haha – I’m not sure she quite put 2 and 2 together but it was a nice compliment!

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This is my favorite one – he’s so proud of himself for using a real glass and tasting the sprite!

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This is how we spend most of our time it seems with two little ones – in our hotel room playing all together and being silly.  Philip is already switched from the Chinese “mama” and is calling me “mommy” like Rand does.  And he says Rand’s name in 2 syllables – “Ray-and.”  But we still hear “Baba” the most – his favorite – even Rand has been calling Wes “Baba” because we hear it so much!  That and “baba di wa wa” and “mama di wa wa” and “da di dua” (which sounds more like french when he says it!)  – no one can figure out what it is he’s saying but we think it is something like “here it is” or “this one/that one” type thing.  The other “di wa wa” the guides think he’s saying “mama – I’m your baby” and “daddy – I’m your baby” but we’re not sure because he says it for a lot of other things too and when he’s mad!  Funny thing is, now we are all saying it!

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Tomorrow we will hopefully wake up with everyone in good health and then we have an early appointment for our interview at the US Consulate.  This is the most important day of our trip – what they actually set the entire trip schedule around.  After we get Philip’s visa we can come home!

 

 

 

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Monday part 1

The boys slept really well again last night – both have slept through the night every single night – so thankful for that!

This morning after breakfast, Rand and Ema set off to explore the hotel pool and garden/waterfall/outdoor play area and Wes, Philip and I boarded the bus for the medical clinic.

The clinic was slammed with people, but thankfully the adoptive family side was just our group today.  We heard that on Saturday there were over 60 adoptive families waiting so we were really grateful to only have 9 families to wait with today!

The children all had their photos taken for their records and then we went through 4 stations – a doctor exam, an ENT exam, weigh/measure/temp station and the dreaded blood draw station for their TB test.

We find out the results from the TB test tomorrow afternoon and have to go back for a chest xray if the test is positive.  Philip was tested at his orphanage as well prior to this so we don’t expect the result to be positive.

At the clinic, Philip had another little attitude moment when Wes wouldn’t let him splash water in the bathroom.  He definitely got a mad look on his face and then took off a shoe and sock and threw them as hard as he could.  Wes and I were trying not to laugh.  The guides talked to him in Chinese about it and he hung his head and started to sob.  Thankfully he let me hold him as he cried – he hasn’t cried like this since the day we got him and I think it is just all connected to what he’s going through and the language barrier combined with the fact that he’s a toddler and it was close to naptime!

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Even this sweet little girl couldn’t get him out of his funky mood!  Other than that he did great with the checkup and was a good listener to the doctors and nurses.

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When we got back to the hotel, we found Rand and Ema on the playground blowing bubbles and joined in the fun.

Now we are all going to take a good nap before our evening Pearl River cruise.  It will be Philip’s first time on a boat!  I know it will be dark, but hopefully I’ll be able to still get some photos!  More later…

 

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The faces of Philip and Rand – a day in pictures

This morning we went on a tour of Guangzhou.  Ironically, since it is Sunday morning, we started at a Buddhist temple.   Disregarding the fact that we don’t believe a thing about Buddhism, it was peaceful and beautiful – all that we’ve seen of Guangzhou is  beautiful –  for me, a lot of the beauty is in the fact that it is so tropical.

The change of scenery and a new hotel with new things to explore has been good for us.  We are ready to tackle the new week of challenges and appointments – especially the big medical one tomorrow which we know will be tough on Philip (and mama!!!).

When I uploaded the photos today there were close to 300! So I chose a few, mostly of the boys, and let them randomly upload to this post.  I’m tired and it was easiest so excuse the lack of organization!

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This is typical Philip – we’ve learned he likes to keep his hands clean – especially when he’s eating.  So far, we’ve learned there isn’t much he doesn’t like.  Carrots (cooked or raw) are the only thing on the “no” list right now!

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Philip has a HUGE personality.  We know there has, of course, been some acting out, but he is very moody and full of expressions.  When he’s mad we sure know it and when he’s happy he is doing a little dance or laughing!

 

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We see this face a lot!

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The “beautiful” Buddhist temple… I have had a really hard time paying attention to the “info” we are given from the guides.  Part of me doesn’t care very much and part of me is too busy with two toddlers!!!!  Maybe on the next trip I will absorb a little more depth of history and detail.

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This is China in a nutshell – construction cranes E V E R Y W H E R E…

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And this is typical Smith:) Having a good time no matter what/where we are.  One of the best things about this trip is Rand.  We were up against a lot to bring him here.  Extra expense, extra work, extra criticism for sure, but it just wouldn’t be the same without him.  So many people didn’t think we should bring a 3 year old to China, but he has ROCKED it.  This is a rough two weeks for all adoptive parents and we see so many of them missing their other children/making the trip even harder.  We are thankful that we were able to make it work to bring him and that “Ema” could be here to help (we also have her to thank for clean socks and underwear as she has been washing them all out for us in the tub:)

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Other than prayer, the key to this trip has been snacks.  And sleep.  Both our boys have been taking 2+ hour naps each day and going to bed every night around 7:30pm.  Us too…although I usually get up after they fall asleep to write up the day;)

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Rand and I checked out the bone/ivory carvings – pretty amazing – especially the ivory balls with over 40 layers of carvings!

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This may look like a photo or painting but it is actually some pretty incredible embroidery – something the Guandong province is famous for.

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Thanks for keeping up with us and this long/random post.  We had a full and happy day – Philip was much more “adjusted” today as both google translate and our guides have helped to speak to him and explain what’s going on and what’s expected of him.  He continues to prove that he’s one amazing and bright child and definitely our son – and we are grateful to the ONE TRUE GOD who continues to see this journey, which He set in place, through.  5 more days to home…

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Guangzhou

This morning we packed up and loaded the bus bound for the airport.  We said goodbye to Yisha and Vivienne – Rand especially becomes attached to our guides and is so concerned we have to leave them!

All of our travel group was on the same flight. The Chinese people on the plane clapped and cheered when the pilot landed – not sure if that was because of all the kids or something that they do…

Rand did great – he really has the hang of things and likes flying.

Philip slept for most of it – probably because it was naptime and he was worn out from the fit he had when we made him stay buckled in his seat.

When he gets mad he has the funniest little attitude and he takes off his shoes and throws them (now we know why he knows how to put on his shoes and socks so well by himself).  Then he completely shuts down for a little while.

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This is the only photo I took today – he’s been through so much having moved orphanages twice in his life and now probably having no clue what is going to happen. It’s hard to see him worried like this, but he also needs to learn to behave.  We are in new territory with all of that!

Thankfully he is catching on fast because the language barrier is harder than I expected for now.  The guides have given him a talking to in Chinese several times and he stands there and looks them in the eyes and nods his head listening to every word.  But I think he has them fooled:)

Our guides in this new city are great and our hotel is HUGE and connected to a metro – which we use the tunnels for crossing the street it is so busy! We walked around the block for dinner and it was really nice to be able to be outside and breathe the air!

Tomorrow we are going on a tour of the city before our appointments for the week start up on Monday.  I will take more photos to post!

We are thankful to all be feeling good and looking forward to our time in Guangzhou and getting to know Philip better!

love to everyone – thanks for following along!

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Buyao

Several people have asked some really good questions about China and adoption and are surprised that we are adopting a boy from China – most people associate girls with adoption in China and that used to be the case a decade ago but things have really changed.  In our travel group alone, there are 8 boys being adopted and 1 girl.  All are classified as special needs adoptions and they run the gamut from very minor to more in depth.  Here is a link to some really good articles about the situation here in China.  Got any more questions? Just message me or leave it in the comments – we’re happy to answer what we can!

Now, on to some really important stuff like breakfast!  Breakfast is the best part of the day, in my opinion.  The kids are happy and there are some good non-Chinese options like fruit and croissants on the breakfast buffet.  If you’re feeling more adventurous, or not much in the mood for traditional American breakfast, you can find things like steamed buns, green beans, fried rice & noodles, quail eggs and other dishes that I’m not sure about but when I see words like “turtle,” “fish head” or “ox” in the description, I tend to skip past it.  There are also lots of little fruits and nut-type things I’ve never seen before but I’m pretty sure mom has tried them all.

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And this is only one side of the breakfast buffet!  There were at least 4 more stations of things!!!

Rand and Philip both like the “congee” or “porridge” as Rand calls it.  It kind of looks like a goopy/watery rice soup.  I’m honestly kinda surprised Rand likes it so much, but we talked about it a lot before the trip because somewhere we read that’s what kids in China were used to eating and so I think he was excited to try it.  He even had it for dinner tonight too!

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Our hotel itself is quite ornate and really nice – which is ironic since we have no air conditioning during March (it’s so hot in our rooms!!!) and you can’t flush toilet paper:(  Also, it must be a Chinese thing, but all the bathrooms are completely glass – it was like that in Beijing too  Good thing we have 2 rooms.  The tub has a curtain but the shower and toilet are right on the other side of the glass!

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This is the lobby:
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On our floor there is also an indoor pool/ping pong area we take little “outings” to in order to pass the time.  This is Rand with his buddy Jayson and his 2 new brothers!

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The past few days have pretty much been hard work trying to keep the boys occupied.  Our rooms are small and our toddlers are wild!  The poor air quality (even the guides say we should be wearing masks to walk outside), rain,  and the inability to walk safely down a sidewalk have kept us inside.

The past 2 days Philip has been feeling much better and is over the cold/cough he had for the most part.  With that has come a whole new mischievous and wild side of this child!  I think we are saying NO in Mandarin every other second trying to keep him from picking up breakable things in the room, sticking his fingers in outlets, unrolling toilet paper, punching anything that has buttons, climbing the furniture or trying to open the mini bar/fridge, etc. NO in Mandarin kinda sounds like “Boo-yeah” but with a yow on the end – “Buyao” but sounds like “Boo-yow”!

We don’t have a huge mandarin vocabulary, which is hard when you are trying to explain to a toddler why he can’t drink bathwater (or any tap water) or stick his finger in the fan.  When we say no, he thinks it’s funny and tries to do it even more…and you should see the look on his face and hear his infectious laugh!

Philip Samuel Smith is an extremely animated child with many expressions!  Even when he’s playing by himself he’s talking non-stop or singing a little song.  While all these things are really challenging (partly because of age, partly because of the situation & location, and partly because of the language barrier), we are excited to see how bright and interested in everything he is.

Also, we are fully experiencing the effects of orphanage eating – while we learned all about it in our classes, were told by other adoptive parents, etc. nothing quite prepares you for experiencing a child who won’t stop eating – between meals and at meals.  At the table, Philip will even hold a piece of food in his left hand while he uses his fork to eat something else – as if it would get taken or not be there if he set it down.  We know these are all things that, in time, will change and work out but in the meantime, we are going through snacks, cereal and yogurt like none other.

Philip has also busted out some surprising things like blowing me kisses from across the room and humming tunes like “old macdonald”!  He says thank you almost every time I hand him something or help him and he can put his shoes and socks on really well –  all by himself.  This afternoon, while we were all napping, I watched as Philip crawled over to a sleeping Wes and kissed his cheek and then went back to sleep himself.

We also finally got him in the bath last night.   He was really afraid, but finally, after some tears, he realized it was so much fun.  And tonight I had to take him OUT of the bath because he was having too much fun trying to drink the water or dump the water over the side of the tub and would not take “buyao” for an answer.

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Tomorrow morning we pack up and fly south to Guangzhou.  We’ll spend a week there and which is where have more appointments and, most importantly, get Philip’s visa so we can come home…and we are counting down the minutes!!!!!!

Say prayers that Philip and the other children will all handle the flight well and for patience and wisdom for us all as we adjust to our new realities.

 

 

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Unbelievable

Unbelievable.  That’s the word Wes has us use when things can be either amazingly good, or amazingly bad (and you don’t want to be too negative).

First of all, before I launch into the account of yesterday, we want to thank everyone for surrounding us with prayer on this trip!  We know you are keeping us lifted up as things have gone so very well and our boys are doing so well.  Both boys have been sleeping through the night and they wake up happy!  Also, we’ve loved reading all your comments – it has been a great encouragement to us!

Yesterday was unbelievable.  And it went both ways.

At 8am we loaded a tiny van with 5 children and 7 adults (including our guide and a driver) and drove over 2 hours to Jiaozuo to where Philip and our new friend Ray Ray, who will be living only 2 hours away from us in NC), were both born.

Our first stop was some sort of social security type office where we went to get Philip’s passport photo made and fill out the application.  It was dirty and crowded but thankfully our guide pushed to get our paperwork done quickly as we were quite a spectacle.  At one point, a woman and her friend (who were crying) asked could they take photos of our friends DeAnna and Jonathan and their family because they were so touched by the adoptions.  The province we are in is not as used to seeing Westerners and most people (outside our hotel) don’t know any English.

After we left the passport office, we rushed across town to the notary office before it closed for the afternoon and had to answer questions about our occupation, salary, how we planned to care for the child, why we wanted to adopt, etc.  It didn’t take too long although everything feels a little longer when you are trying to entertain hungry children (in between trips to an “unbelievable” squatty potty bathroom).

Next, we went to Dico for lunch.  Our guide assured us it was very similar to McDonald’s and that the Chinese couldn’t really tell a difference.  We could.  But we were thankful for coke and fries and a break from riding in the van.  The plus side to lunch was the kids got a really cool and unbelievable quality lego-type toy with their meal.  Rand has been playing with his ever since.

Speaking of Rand, he has continued to be an amazing traveler.  We knew he would be but he hasn’t complained once about all the car rides (it probably helps that there are no seatbelts or car seats) and waiting and has been a really helpful big brother.

After lunch, our driver pulled over in traffic for us to see the place where they found Philip.  According to his “finding notice” he was abandoned at the gate of the People’s Hospital of Jiaozuo City when he was approximately 2 days old.

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Mom and I looked at each other and realized Philip’s bio parents were probably living somewhere nearby. I can’t even describe the mixed emotions floating around.

Next we drove to the Social Welfare Institute where Philip lived for the past 19 months (before that he was in a healing/foster home in Guilin, China that is no longer in operation).

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Philip lived and went to school in the foster-type home on the 9th and 10th floor of the building.  Those were the only floors we were allowed to visit because they were run by an outside organization, Eagle’s Wings.  Eagle’s Wings groups the children into “families” and they sleep and eat and do things with their group.  Then they attend the school every day in small classes based on their ages.  You can read more about Eagle’s Wings here.

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Above is Philip’s group area and here he is showing us which bed was his.  We were already emotional but then Rand got me and Wes really choked up because several times during the visit we looked over at him and he had tears streaming down his cheeks.  He got really upset seeing where Philip lived and was really concerned that we were going to have to leave Philip there and not bring him home with us – which was probably made worse by the fact that Philip was really excited to see his teachers and friends.

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The teachers above he has had since last September.  The little baby in the pink was in Philip’s “family group” and Philip went right over and tried to pick him up.

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Next we went to Philip’s class where most of his friends were.  They were all so excited to see him!

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As you can see from the photo above, his buddies were really interested in his new shoes and coat!  And Rand helped him pass out some toys we brought for Philip’s friends.

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Here is Philip hugging his best friend.  Oh I wish we could have captured the look when they saw each other again and it was so sad when he had to say goodbye.  All the children were crying and saw us to the elevator door but this little boy was hysterical that Philip was leaving.  We had to bust out the gummy worms and they shared one before we said goodbye.

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Before we left, we also got to meet this special 12 year old we’ve been praying will be adopted (they are working on his paperwork now).  We were delivering a letter from his friends who were adopted and now live in California.

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We also had a HUGE surprise and got to meet Linda, the founder of Eagle’s Wings who we’ve spoken to over the phone and communicated with via email but never thought we’d get to meet since she lives in Australia.  Turns out she was just arriving as we left!  Also pictured are 2 of the directors with Eagle’s Wings.

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While we knew visiting the orphanage would be difficult, it was important for us to document and see where Philip lived and learn as much as we could about his story.  The teachers and nannies told us they love it when families are able to visit because they too get attached to the children and like to be able to meet their moms and dads.

As we pulled off in the van, Philip was really upset and then he was very quiet for the rest of the trip back – I could tell he was thinking about everything and was emotionally and physically exhausted from the day.

We made our trek back from Jiaozuo to Zhengzhou, across the Yellow River and through lots of traffic.  When we got back to the hotel we ordered some room service and were all in bed by 7:30pm – the boys were out within minutes of hitting the pillow (all 3 of them)!  And this morning, everyone woke up happy to be together as a family.  Especially Philip, who fell asleep tonight wanting to hold my hand after calling my name and giving me kiss after kiss.

Even though this trip has been unbelievably hard and unbelievably amazing, we feel at peace with daily confirmations that we are right where the Lord wants us to be knowing that there is much more going on – much more at stake – than we are able to even know about or comprehend.

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For now, I can’t help but think how unbelievable it is to find myself in China and to have my eyes open wide to all the children here who I never knew of or thought of before, but who I can’t stop thinking about.  And the unbelievable blessing that in three short days my son has learned to call me mama and give me sweet kisses and wants to hold my hand as he falls asleep.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 4:7

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It’s official

Philip is officially a Smith!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This morning we rode the van back to the registration office (where we received the children yesterday) and we were presented our certificates as official parents – our adoption is done!  Philip is forever in our family.  Finally.

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And now the countdown begins…to come HOME!  10 days.  Why so long? Because now we start the paperwork process to apply for Philip’s passport and then his visa.

Tomorrow we’ll travel 2 hours, depending on traffic, to Philip’s home town of Jiaozuo (pronounced more like jow-jo).  First we’ll go to the notary office and show our adoption certificate to do the paperwork needed for his passport and visa.  Then we’ll go to the police station in Jiaozuo to get his passport made.

We are hoping to also be able to go to see the spot where they first found him, and to the orphanage where he lived.  Visiting his old friends and caregivers is going to be really hard, many families even choose not to go to the orphanage, especially if their child has not attached to them yet.

When we got back from the registration office, we met up with mom and Rand and had some lunch in the hotel adjoining our hotel as we are trying not to go outside too much in fear of being hit by a scooter or choking on smog (the pollution level is severe right now).  Philip is not a picky eater and is really good with a fork.  So far, I think he has eaten the most!

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We all took 2 hour naps and then spent the rest of the evening in the room playing and then ordered some room service for dinner.   Philip has really gotten good at saying Mama, Baba, Rand and Ema and loves to hand us things and say our names.  I will have to post some videos tomorrow so you can hear his Chinese too!

We can tell he’s more comfortable with us too because he’s beginning to show us his personality and he has been babbling away in Mandarin!  At one point, we even heard him sing twinkle twinkle, little star – in Mandarin.  He also has a really silly side and will do something he knows is silly just to get a reaction from us (like acting like he’s drinking his drink but the lid is still on).

Signing off for tonight as an official family of 4.  To God be the glory for choosing me and Wes and Rand for this special adventure and for blessing us with another child.  Going to bed with full hearts…and a full bed!!!!

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One less, one more

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Do we look excited???  This morning after breakfast, we met with the other families here in our travel group and prayed together for our children and for the day ahead.  Then we boarded the van bound for the registration office.

When we pulled up in the parking lot, our guide looked over and said, “oh, two children have already arrived!”  And Zhi Yong (aka Philip!) was one of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So we followed him and the officer who brought him in through the doors, set down our stuff and went over to him!  Right away he said “mama” and “baba” and “guh guh” (big brother”) and also something else which now we think they tried to teach him Rand’s name and he was saying that.  He wouldn’t come to us at first, but when we pulled out a lollipop he came right to my arms.

He was very quiet and had tears in his eyes but wasn’t crying – you could tell he was trying to be very brave.  Every time his bottom lip would quiver, he’d try to stop himself from crying.

We were at the registration office for several hours as some of the children had to come from orphanages several hours away in the province.  It was so amazing to see our new friends meet their children for the first time too!  We took loads of photos from the morning of everyone receiving their children, but I’ll post those later.

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Lollipops for the win!

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He loved all the snacks Rand picked out, and Rand has been a great big brother so far – we knew he would be!

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Our attempt at a family photo – I imagine you’ll see a lot more of these in the next week too.

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Getting to know “baba”

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Signing the guardianship paperwork.  The actual adoption will take place in 24-48 hours, but until then we are his legal guardians.  This also gives families a chance to make 100% sure they are able to handle the child’s special need, etc.  We get to go to Philip’s home town of Jiaozuo to do the final paperwork and apply for his passport.  We are hoping to get to visit his orphanage while we are in Jiaozuo to and let him introduce us and say a final goodbye to his friends and nannies.

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Philip’s Aunt Mary Devon got him a cup to match Rand’s cup and we filled it with hot water and brought it with us hoping he’d be able to drink from the straw (on his file it says he takes a bottle of hot water or milk).  He did right away!  Popping open the lid and shutting it closed again has been his favorite thing to do of the day.  I think he must have done it over a hundred times and he would look at me to make sure I saw that he did it each time.

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Back at the hotel, he ate a banana and some yogurt and I changed him out of his multiple layers of clothes.  The Chinese bundle their kids majorly and will scold you in public if you take your child out without at least 2 layers on!  He fell right asleep next to me on the bed, twisting his little new blanket from the Butler’s in his fingers, which are really long – maybe even longer than Rands!

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He took a good long nap and when he woke up he was pretty sad and so he and I sat together while I tried to console him while probably butchering the language which is so hard!  He was definitely grieving not being back at the orphanage and being with strangers in a hotel room, but after about 15-20 min of cuddling and another lollipop he was ready to take on some stacking cups and lacing toy (which he is really good at).

He has a really bad cough and runny nose so I took his temp and it was over 100 so I gave  him some motrin which he took like a champ.  I think it really made him feel better, because after about 30 min (and some more paperwork) he perked up and said a few words and even cracked a smile for us!  I wish I could show the photos of that but I’ll have to do that tomorrow because they are on Ema’s phone and she and Rand are asleep across the hall.

Philip is not a picky eater – for dinner he ate apples, kiwi (which he can say both words now!), pizza, yogurt, cheerios and another banana in the room – we were all too exhausted to go out for dinner and so we got to-go pizza. He’s asleep again now next to me and hasn’t really fussed or cried – he just went right to sleep.  He’s really helpful and will hold his feet up for me to put his socks on, and lift himself up for me to fix his clothes, etc.

Overall, it couldn’t have gone better and he’s really bonded well with me for the first day!  Please pray his fever and cough and whatever virus he has goes away. We have one paperwork event/meeting in the morning but for the most part will take tomorrow to help him rest up and get feeling better and more used to us.

I’m off to bed myself, but may be too happy/excited to sleep knowing there is one less orphan and one more Smith.

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Transition day

Today was a transition day.  We got up at 4am and packed up our bags in Beijing.  Said goodbye to our amazing guides/teachers Alice and Laura (we miss them so much already!!!), and then took our bus over to the train station.

I can’t leave out that Rand and Jayson got to take one more ride around their favorite part of our Beijing Hotel – the electronic revolving door.

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Our bullet train ride (over 300Km/hr!) was a nice break from flying – 4 out of our 7 families in the travel group asked to take the train instead of flying from Beijing to Zhengzhou.  It was an easy, comfortable 3 hr. trip.  Rand did great eating his breakfast aboard and doing a few activities with Ema.

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Our new guides picked us up at the train station and took us to our next hotel where we will live for this next week.  The hotel is amazing (five stars) and we are in a newly renovated area.  But it has lots of quirks.  For example, they are still renovating so today we could hear jackhammers and see dust flying.  Also, ironically on March 15 is the day the heat system shuts off and they “clean the system” for 3-4 days before the air conditioning can be turned on…so it is really hot and stuffy.  Zhengzhou temps are pretty similar to back home and tomorrow the high is going to be up in the 70s!  AND…you can’t flush toilet paper!

Today, the pollution level was so high, our guides suggested we wear our masks.  It was so foggy looking and it made your nose and throat burn.  Hopefully tomorrow the smog will clear out.

 

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Henan, The province we are in is home to over 94 million people, but is considered to be one of the less developed areas in China.

Zhengzhou is really dirty and the sidewalks are all cracked and caving in on some parts.  Probably because the traffic is so bad, they allow bikes, scooters, motorcycles and other small vehicles (yep – saw a car even today) DRIVE ON THE SIDEWALKS!  And most of the sidewalks are taken over by construction barriers so they’ve made new narrow walking “lanes” (also shared with scooters) in the streets! This afternoon when we walked to the bank and Walmart it was scary to even walk on the sidewalk and cross at the intersection!  No one stops.  No rules.  No lights.  I probably was being to risky to try and snap a photo while walking, but I did get a few so you can get an idea of what it looks like here:

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Adoptive families with children from Henan Province stayin in Zhengzhou because it  is where the notary, registration, etc. offices are to complete the adoption paperwork.  They bring the children from the different orphanages around the province to Zhengzhou and that’s what we’ll be doing tomorrow!!!!!!!!!

They will bring us Philip sometime between 9:30am-1pm our time. In 2 days, we’ll drive 1.5 hours to his home town, Jiaozuo, to get his passport made and hopefully get to visit his orphanage and meet his friends and nannys.

To get ready for the days ahead, the guides took us to the bank to change our money for all our fees and then to Walmart to get formula, diapers, snacks and any supplies we need.

It was not like an American Walmart but we were able to get what we need, we think. It’s all written in Chinese!  Rand enjoyed seeing the turtles, fish, frogs, and squid for sale.

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Another interesting thing here is they are not used to seeing many foreigners so everyone stares at you and takes your photo.  It’s even more so with Rand now!  And not many people speak English.  At dinner tonight Rand asked for a straw for his drink and they never could figure out what we were talking about after several people tried to help and we wished we’d never asked!  Everyone is very kind that we have met, even if we can’t understand each other.

As I type this I can see the crib in our room out of the corner of my eye.  It has Philip’s blanket on it and a little stuffed panda bear Rand brought for him.  I packed his clothes up tonight to take in case he needs a change, and some diapers and wipes and some snacks.  I can’t believe it is finally hear – doing these things makes it finally feel real.  And it’s fun to hear Rand’s little voice saying “I’m going to have a brother – yay!”

Yay and goodnight!

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