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First day of school

Wen and Rand had their first day of Classical Conversations yesterday! I am really proud of both of them and excited for the year ahead!
 

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Sweet days and sweet potatoes

Guess who likes sweet potatoes? We mashed up a microwaved sweet potato for Bo and he didn’t love it. So I roasted some in the oven and Wen helped me scoop and blend them up with a little water and we decided it tasted so much better we tried again and sure enough, Bo loved it (and the other 3 loved tasting it!)


Next up…avocado maybe?
 
 Today the boys spent most of the day in the pool. Bo and I took a dip with them too but mostly kept an eye on them from under the fan on the porch.
 
 They have come up with so many little games and role plays. It’s fun to listen. And our neighbors have probably had it…these boys are so loud!


They all had another swim lesson today too – they have really done well learning strokes and now some dives and jumps.
 
 We also watched our birds and hummingbirds. Rand spotted this tiny goldfinch at the feeder. Can you see it?


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4 months

Today I (almost) finished up our homeschool space and then took Bo to his 4 month apt at the pediatrician. I’m a little behind since he’s closer to 5 months old now. What!?
 
 We talked about starting solid food soon and he had to get a lot of shots:( he did great though and only cried a little! Rand and Wen said a little prayer for him before we left and Rand cried then thinking about Bo getting shots! (And don’t let this fool you – he’s a compassionate kiddo but he also was the only one not obeying during the bedtime routine this eve).
 
 Bo and I made up a game with his burp cloth while waiting for shots…

 Also the boys and I did a science experiment today with some of the shells. Tell you more about it tomorrow as it is still ongoing…
 

 Tonight we swam and had some friends over for pizza and the boys loved it. Tonight I’m turning in early because who knows what will happen in the night with Bo and all those shots.

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Wednesday

Today was Wednesday. The wonderful thing about Wednesday is that my mom comes over and spends some of the day with me. Today Wes started singing “she’s working 9 to 5…” To her because she was really here from 9-5!
 
 Bo was really fussy today – normally he can stop crying or fussing just by being picked up or talked to or fed and today he just seemed to be fussy. Prob a combo of a few things so we tried giving him a bath which worked for a little while.
 
 Wen got a few smiles talking to him before ema and I went to town trying to get rid of his cradle cap.


After his bath mom and I loaded everyone up and took them to go have a takeout lunch with our great uncle (kids great great uncle) at his retirement home nearby.
 
 He had a great time seeing the kids and, as always it was an easy place to take them to visit. If you have really young kids, consider visiting a retirement home with them – it brings so much joy to the residents, the employees are great with kids usually and it’s really safe!
 


Again, Bo was not his usual happy self but did ok, except for the photo.


There are several miracles in just this one photo. Bo, our great uncle and our reconciliation to him, our boys Wen and Philip and the fact that ALL of our family has welcomed them with open arms and without question. We are grateful to God every day but today I was especially thankful for the blessing of family.
 
 
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Around

A few things going on around here…
 Wes and I walked into the hall to see this sight. Rand (not sure where his clothes are) helping Philip (aka superman) squeeze into a tiger costume with a ninja sword. Ha!

 Our afternoons we try and sit on the porch. The boys have been coloring those mindful/stress release, intricate coloring book pages/doodles while I read to them a few chapters. Bo and Nina hang out too. We are currently reading “Sign of the Beaver”

 Wen and Rand have been faithfully watering the garden every morning and patiently waiting on the watermelons to get big enough to pick.


We’ve been having fun with our unruly summer garden.

 We’ve also had fun watching butterflies and hummingbirds and picking flowers from our butterfly garden.

 We have so much basil. Thankfully it makes a pretty arrangement!


That’s all for today…
 
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Boomerang

Have you tried the Boomerang app? It’s really fun!
 
 Today the boys got really into being superheroes after Wes showed them the old school Batman show.
 

 Dressing up and making “Bat-erangs” as rand calls them (bat shaped boomerang) ensued.
 
 I think superman may be doing “the Carlton” here…

 More swimming.

 Boomerang is so funny! I can’t stop playing with it…
 
 
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June 7


13 years later…
 
 Yesterday we celebrated our 13th anniversary (a day late) and went out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants thanks to a generous check from Ema (she also gets us some of our real silver place settings each year and this year we got the soup spoons!). Bo got to come too because, when you are 2 months old, you get to do things like that! He was very well-behaved and we get a big kick out of all the attention he gets and comments from people who think he’s our first. They always are surprised when we tell them there are 3 more at home with the babysitter!
 
 On our actual anniversary we had dinner with the boys followed by some fun time on the porch. We both imagined that maybe we’d have 4 kiddos by 13 years of marriage but never imagined having a 12 year old or adding to our family the way it went down. God is good like that -filled with joy beyond what we can dream up for ourselves.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone. (Time for summer and just as I’ve taken away the kids iPads for the summer I’ve figured out how to blog more easily from my phone… Do as I say not as I do should be my motto to the kids I suppose!)
 

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Visa

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On Wednesday we had our Visa appointment at the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  I’ve written about the building before – but found myself admiring the architecture twice this year!

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Thankfully the adoptive families get to skip the long lines and go right in.  Once in, we go to a waiting area that has toys and clean restrooms for the families and children.  You can’t take in anything – no cell phones, etc.  so I don’t have photos of the inside BUT I did find the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP that posted renderings of the project…check out out here.

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(Photo from SOM)

It was pretty wild in there with all the families and kids!  I kept noticing everyone was watching Wen, but not with the same stares we get out and about in China, it was with stares of amazement at how he can maneuver his wheelchair around!  He even can sit on the footrest of it and scoot himself around and use his hand on the front small wheel to steer.  He’s hard not to watch when he gets it going!!!

When you get there you take a group oath.  Then, when they call your name, you talk to the officer about your child and answer any questions they have.  Because Wen is over age 11, he had to answer questions too – did he want to be adopted, did he understand we would be his parents, and had he had any contact with his birth parents, etc.

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It was a long morning and when we got back, we had a group photo (even though most of the babies were really off nap and meal schedule by then and had enough!)  I don’t have the photos downloaded yet so will post them later.

After the group photo Wes and Wen went to get some lunch for us at a nearby noodle shop while I met with the agency and one parent from each of the other families to do departure paperwork/talk about the plan for leaving Guangzhou.

By the time I got back to the room, I was having some really bad lower back pain and cramping and what felt like a few contractions so I climbed in bed for the remainder of the afternoon and Wes took Wen to the park that we’d been wanting to visit across from the hotel.

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They were able to rent a little electric boat and Wen drove it around the lake!

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They also went with the group to one last dinner all together.  I stayed back and rested and put a call into my doctor.  I’m writing this from Beijing and feeling better now – thankful for everyone’s prayers and would love continued prayers for the trip home!  We know everything is in the Lord’s hands and that we are both where we need to be right now with Wen in China.  We are all FOUR looking forward to coming home in 2 days!  Phew 19 days is a long time to be away from home!!!

We are also thankful that we got our Visas and ARE able to leave.  There are a few families we know of, one in our group and one with another agency who can’t get their visas to come home yet and have had to change their international flights.  There was a glitch in the system at the consulate for the groups that were after ours and the following day and they were getting delayed.

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Friday

On Friday we were so tired from getting to bed late on Thursday so we had a really slow morning and a late breakfast.  Wen spent most of the morning with his lego toy he got from the Jioazuo market.  He is really good at lego!

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We had a few things we needed for Wen and the guides were helping us to order/find it so that was good.  After that was taken care of, we decided to go to lunch at a restaurant we liked from the last trip.  It wasn’t as good as we remembered BUT, Wen’s noodles were really good!  He orders noodles every single time.  Boy can he slurp them down! It is quite a feat with chopsticks too, in my opinion.

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After lunch we went to the Zhengzhou aquarium.  It was his first trip to an aquarium – he was a little timid.  Especially feeding the sea turtle (until the lettuce dropped on his head, which he thought was hilarious) and seeing the sharks.

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We also wasted over an hour trying to get a cab to take us to the aquarium.  We ended up having to rent a private van to come and get us after no taxi would take us… (but other people were going and coming in taxis)…we feel like we were discriminated against.  In Zhengzhou we even had people wait for another elevator and not want to ride with us – when there was plenty of room.  So strange!  As if a wheelchair would somehow harm them.  We get a lot of looks…and we have yet to see anyone else around in a wheelchair other once when we saw an elderly person being pushed in one.  Handicap access and less ignorance is something we take for granted back home.  Things are WAAAAAY different over here.

One of the coolest things today was Wen kept asking for us to play his favorite song in the room – he heard it on Wes’ ipod on the trip to Jiaozuo.  He’s been singing it nonstop since.  Turns out it was one of the songs of the Bring Me Hope camp he attended over the summer.

I think it could be his theme song now too…definitely the theme song for our trip:

We also got to FaceTime some with the family – since today was Thanksgiving for them!

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We can’t wait for Saturday – WenXuan’s 12th birthday, all the surprises we have planned for him as well as a change of city and weather as we pack up and head to Guangzhou for the next week and our consulate appointment!

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two days ago

I realized when I uploaded our photos we were a little behind…

Two days ago we had a down day because our trip to Jiaozuo was cancelled because of the roads and the snow.  At breakfast we had a surprise visit from Josh and Lilly, the founders of CCAI who were in China for a meeting/training (they are usually in Colorado).

Here we are at breakfast with another sweet family in our group who adopted the little girl that Lilly is holding.
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Wen was thrilled to discover the pool with “baba” (he calls me “Mommy” and Wes “Baba”)

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We tried to get a taxi down the street to eat dinner at the hotel where we stayed in March, but were told the roads were “too bad for taxis”…

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Wen is ready for the pool – so far consistently his 3 favorite things have been: 1. swimming 2. legos and 3. orange juice

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Also, Wen and I went up to the lounge and did an entire jigsaw puzzle.  It didn’t take us very long to knock it out.  Can’t wait to do some puzzles with the Uncles (mommy’s didi – means little brother in Mandarin) when we get home over the holiday.

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If you’re ever at the Hilton in Zhengzhou, we’ve really made good use of the Executive Lounge.  Our room size is slightly larger (good for the wheelchair!) and we get to use the lounge for breakfast, tea time and a heavy appetizers time which has been plenty for dinner.  We can get beverages and fruit there any time during the day (I’m sure if we needed anything else they could get it – yogurt, etc. but Wen isn’t a huge eater like Philip and Rand so we haven’t needed a lot outside of meals other than the snacks we already had).  All this for only around $8-10 more a night than what our group rate was so it worked out well and saved a lot on drinks and dinner.  We had to book our own room since we didn’t travel with the group from Beijing.

Ok…working on yesterday next….

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Frozen Smiles in Zhengzhou

It’s official – Zhengzhou is frozen. Here’s what we’re dealing with…cars stuck everywhere in snow and tonight it is 15 degrees! It actually reminds me a little of what happens when it snows in NC…

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This morning our bus couldn’t make it so we got on a new bus. It took us to the office where all of our adoptions were made official. Thankfully the event itself was quick because there was no heat in the building! The bus ride took a long time (maybe we could have walked faster?) – I remember looking out the window 45 min. after boarding and still being able to see our hotel…

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Our guides are incredible and remain calm and collected.  They even had a little laugh with the bus driver when we got stuck (he probably had to shovel snow the entire time we were in the adoption meeting so we could leave again).

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Here we are with another official Smith boy – WenXuan Murray Smith! Our oldest son!  He’s really a joy and we cannot believe the zero adjustment that he’s had (yet?! maybe it’s coming?) but he seems genuinely happy and excited and just really relaxed – although he does like to keep track of the time and schedule, but I don’t blame him for that, I think I’m the same way:)

He keeps telling me “I don’t know English” (in English) and then when I glanced over at him next to me on the bus ride today, he’d written the entire ABCs on the window as well as the word “zoo” and the word “apple” so I think he’s sandbagging a little.  Smarty.

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Our hotel got a new “decor” the other day – wasn’t trying to capture it but did want to get a photo of my two happy guys…

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Boy can Wen work this wheelchair.  He’s got all sorts of tricks.  I have a feeling we are gonna have 2 more little boys begging for wheelchairs when we get home…

Wen had a hamburger back at the hotel this afternoon for lunch and then we rested.  I wasn’t feeling awesome (but am fine now!) and it was deemed to dangerous for me to go…but Wes and Wen scaled the icy pedestrian bridge to go do some shopping.  Wen made a list of all his special friends, teachers and nanny’s at the orphanage and then he thought about what each of his friends would like to have and he and Wes went on a hunt for it.  Can’t wait for him to be able to give it to them, meet them and say some last goodbyes.

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We were supposed to travel to Jiaozuo tomorrow, but the roads are all closed until the afternoon so we have to stay here and try again on Thursday.  Our guides are going to beg the notary and passport office to expedite the paperwork so it doesn’t delay our entire trip.  Please pray the roads clear up by Thursday so we can make this happen and still have time to get to the orphanage to have some time to visit!

Tonight for dinner we decided to stay IN and try the fancy Italian restaurant inside our hotel.  It was a nice change from Chinese food for us.  We had a good flatbread appetizer, pesto pasta and a really good pizza.  Wen ordered “watermelon juice” to drink – a switch from his usual orange juice – and after waiting a while we see the waitress walking by with half of a watermelon and took it over to the bar where they proceeded to juice it right there for him!  It’s funny in China when you order your child something cold to drink, the waitress or waiter (no fail, every time!) says…”you know it is cold, right?” as if you are crazy to not order a hot water or hot tea!  Wen hasn’t wanted any tea or hot drinks.

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After dinner we went up to the lounge to sit and have some dessert – one of the things that is really nice is all the fresh fruit!  Mama and Bo are enjoying that:)

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(the white fruit with the black seeds is a “dragonfruit” – it’s really good)

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After dessert we got ready for bed, Wen had a bath and then we did his favorite thing – we played UNO!  Wes beat both of us twice and so we gave up and called Rand and Philip who crack us up on FaceTime.  Wen laughs at them the entire time they are so silly.

About 5 min after we hung up, Wes and Wen were both snoring.  Not sure if Wen always sleeps with a smile on his face but I can see him now and he has the sweetest happy expression.  It helps so much to see him happy – especially for me today as I was fiercely missing home and Rand and Philip.  6 nights away, while I know is not going to devastate anyone, is the longest we’ve been away from them and we still have 12 more nights to go.  While I am thankful for the days ahead to help Wen have some closure and see a few beautiful sights in his first country, I have big dreams about the fun he is going to have at home with his brothers.  And that will put a smile on my face as I go to sleep now too…

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Happy 4th of July

Celebrating the 4th of July at the beach with Wes’ extended family. And I’m testing out a new blogging app that will hopefully help me keep up with posting updates better!!! Testing…


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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.

……

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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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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Seeing Beijing

What has surprised me the most about Beijing?  I expected it to be a lot dirtier and harder to manage/crowded but the parts that we have been in are much nicer and cleaner than what I imagined.

This morning we met the rest of our travel group.  There are 5 families total here in Beijing and then we meet up with 2 more when we go to province.  Everyone is really nice and it is fun to meet people who have been going through the exact same things we have in this process.

The biggest blessing from the Lord is one of the other families has a 7 year old boy, Jayson, and he and Rand have become fast friends.  Rand has been really attached to me this trip so far and, for the first time, he doesn’t want to sit with me on the bus or go somewhere because I’m going – he wants to do whatever Jayson is doing.  Apparently the feeling is mutual.  I’m thankful because I know it is going to be hard for Rand to share his parents when Philip comes into the picture and I think his new friendship will really help both boys.  You would think it couldn’t get any better than that, but it does: Jayson and his family live only 2 hours away from us!!!!  You can follow their neat adoption story here and here.

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Rand’s blond hair and the double stroller (one-child policy in China) have made us semi-celebs here.  Lots of people would stop and say hi and take pictures.   At one point, Rand did a photoshoot complete with his entire repertoire of silly faces.

This morning we visited Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City/Imperial Gardens and then rode in a rickshaw to a neighborhood with really narrow streets/alleys and traditional homes called Hutongs.  In one of the homes, the family cooked lunch for our group and we got to see what a traditional Chinese home is like.  The food here so far is really good.  Lots of cooked vegetables!

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After a rest at our hotel this afternoon, we walked to dinner with our new friends from our hotel to a nearby mall that had 2 entire floors of only restaurants.

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It was clever – in the mall, they had a little place where you could stand and it broadcasted you up on the jumbotron.  Now we are back at the hotel and everyone is fast asleep (almost) and it’s around 9:30pm.  Hopefully we will sleep through the night and be more on “china time” tomorrow.

Goodnight!

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Article 5

We got an email from our agency today that our paperwork was dropped off today at the US Consulate in Guangzhou!  We are officially in the wait for our Article 5.  It takes approx 2 weeks to get it, so most likely they will pick it up on Monday, Feb. 9th and we’ll be in the wait for our Travel Approval (aka TA).  Once we get travel approval, we’ll most likely head to China within 1.5 – 3 weeks of getting that TA.

We also got another update on Philip – probably our last one before we travel but it helped us to know more about his size, also we learned he must know a considerable amount more of Mandarin than we thought – our report said he could sing 6-7 songs in Chinese but could not yet write very well!  I would say that is pretty great for a 2 year old!!!  We must start learning some Mandarin right away.  We also got some new photos!

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In other news, I just started a new bible study by Beth Moore called “Children of the Day” on 1st & 2nd Thessalonians.  A week in and it’s really good.  Check it out…

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Other than that we are just hanging out by the fireplace A TON and eating a lot of Vitamin C to try and stay well (me) AND get better (Wes & Rand).

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Nesting

We got our 1800 Approval!  Now we are in the wait for our Article 5.  I guess I’m probably the adoption equivalent of nearing 8 months pregnant – we think we could even travel as early as the very beginning of March if we get TA (i.e. “travel approval”) before Chinese New Year (in Feb. when everything shuts down in China for a week for their biggest annual national holiday).

I remember before Rand was born all the “unfinished projects” we hustled to get done…here we go again.  Not that any of these require being done for us to travel, but I sure will feel better if I can finish a few of them before we go.  They are:

-Cleaning out the garage – probably the most important but least fun!

-Finishing up the kitchen, not sure when it will end but it is SO CLOSE

-Making the guest bedroom into an actual guest bedroom/playroom (not much to do there except clean out all the stuff we stashed back there while the kitchen was being done!)

-We re-arranged the living room and took out some furniture and so I’m looking for two chairs and 2 rugs to define the 2 separate spaces we made

-Shutters and an exterior landscaping plan (we won’t be able to plant anything until spring, but I want to have the plan)

-Boys bathroom – Rand has always used our bathtub because his had a door on it that wasn’t conducive to taking kid baths/adults helping so we are taking it off and switching it to a curtain.  I took down the granny window treatments and it left holes in the wallpaper, also the mirror is cracked and dangerous so we may have it cut down and put a frame on it…here’s what I’m thinking currently:

This “look” (image sourced here)

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Here’s what I’m considering to get the look:

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1. Add wood to original mirror & stain it 2. use some vintage boat pics we already have, add gold or wooden frames 3. This wallpaper 4.  This shower curtain x2

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Merry Christmas and…

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Rand (3.5 years old) and Philip (2.5 years old).  Philip is waiting for us in China.  More details to come!

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My summer find

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I recently discovered Turkish Beach Towels…I can’t believe the difference it has made saving space in my beach bag, it dries super fast and also can double as a cute wrap or sarong.  I will never go back to lugging terry cloth towels to the lake or beach again!

As a fun giveaway to two lucky clients and friends, I’m gifting a Turkish striped towel, our Beautycounter Protect SPF 30 Sunscreen (toxin free and recently recommended by the EWG and GOOP/Gwyneth Paltrow!) and a Beautycounter pouch – because summer isn’t over yet!

In order to be entered to win (there will be 2 winners drawn randomly!), all you have to do is place an order over $40 between now and Saturday 7/26 11:59pm.  To shop, go to: anna.beautycounter.com and click on the black button that says: July Friends/Family

I hope you win!

Did you know: The United States has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938?  What is Beautycounter doing about this?  Check out this informative video!
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