Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Future Hokie!! Olivia is doing well and we've all almost recovered from our trip and still adjusting to life with a toddler! Olivia has taken well to her older siblings and plays hard...she is still unsure about the dog. Progress though. Thanks to all of you for your kind prayers and well wishes! Pray for us when you think of us that the Lord will continue the great work He has begun in all of us! A few pics follow!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hello from Guangzhou!

Sorry for the delay in posts as we have not had internet available. Our hotel here is first class but the internet usage is at first class rates so we are trying to add posts and check email from the local Starbucks---their internet capability is intermittent so it has taken us several tries. Our last day in Xian was very good, but long. We spent a rather quiet and leisurely morning packing and walking to the park across the street. We watched a number of men flying kites with very sophisticated equipment. After checking out of our hotel at 2:00, we visited the oldest mosque, dating 1200 years ago, and the “new” part, about 600 years old. Our walk through the Muslim quarter was very interesting--crowded and Turkish-like bazaars all along the roads. Cars and bikes muscled their way through the streets as we pressed to the edges to avoid them. On the short path to the mosque we were overtaken by a funeral procession and had to lean against the building as the body passed just inches from in front of us.

From there we retrieved our luggage and headed to the airport for our flight to Guangzhou. Olivia did very well on her first flight and considering the late hour(8:00 pm flight) and arriving after 10:00. We had to wait about an hour longer as other families arrived from various provinces to bus to the hotel. It was so wonderful to see all of these little ones settling in to their forever families.

Saturday morning started early with the mandatory medical examination for all of the kids. Though it was early after a short night of sleep, we trusted our guides’ wisdom that we would be the first in and out. As we were leaving, other families from all over the world were waiting outside to do the same---and it was becoming very hot and humid and only 11 am. We headed to the store to get some supplies and back to the hotel. That afternoon we had a “paperwork party” to organize and fill out documents for the consular appointment---a two and a half hour affair.

Today--Sunday we visited the oldest Buddhist temple in Guangzhou dating from the Qing dynasty. The carving was quite intricate and the embroideries very detailed--like oil paintings from a distance! The courtyards were beautiful and the weather cooperated--overcast, so it was cooler and the rain held off. Apparently a typhoon was headed toward Hong Kong and we got some of the benefits. We then did the mandatory tea house visit which was actually a nice rest and then back to the hotel. This afternoon was a nice rest time and we are meeting another family to venture out for dinner!

As for Olivia, she is beginning to feel comfortable around us and definitely voices her opinion. She is really very sweet---wanting to share with other children and play with them. She is full of expression--scowls that are priceless--like we saw in pics, and mad faces when she doesn’t get her way, and beautiful smiles. She “speaks” to everyone and waves. She loves to take things apart and put them together. Not crazy about dolls or stuffed animals--hopefully that will change : ). Loves duplo blocks which is great---we have a box of them at home. Loves going out and riding in the stroller.

Right now she is sitting in the box our bottled water came in and loading and unloading bottles. She fights going to sleep and can throw herself to the ground when she doesn’t get her way. If Tom or I correct her with a “no” she scowls and goes to the other parent….hmmm. She fights sleep, afraid she’ll miss the fun. So we let her cry it out if all else fails--not fun but she refuses to be comforted. We are making progress though and can see a big difference in her level of trust in us. We can see how God is working in her heart and learning much in the process!

The next few days will be busy with consulate work and oath-taking before our trip home. Our long trip back will begin early Wednesday. Plans changed about our much needed night in Hong Kong. Supposedly the bus to Hong Kong can only legally have 45 on board and so those with later flights were relegated to an early bus trip on Wednesday (3 hours) to the airport in Hong Kong for our marathon 14.5 hour flight to Chicago, layover and another 4 hours to DC. We’ll arrive at about 7 pm, stay in DC and travel home on Thursday. Whew---tired already. Love to all and we’ll try to post again before we leave!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 4 and 5

We’re are safe in Guanghzou. Olivia's physical went well today. Heard that a Typhoon will hit this area soon …but we have been told that we will be safe in the hotel. Posted some more pics…will also post another blog tomorrow. Unfortunately Internet access in Hotel is very expensive so we will be visiting STARBUCKS to use the free WIFI.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pictures of Olivia

From Susie: I set up a web site with pictures of Olivia ... I set it up so all can see without registering ... hope it works. We fly to Guanghzou tonight ... Olivia's first time ... should be interesting. Love to all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gotch-Ya Day+2 (Wed, 15 Jul 09)

Today was our first full official day as Olivia’s parents and decided to stretch and test our parenting skills and patience to the max. It was also our first day with no official appointments--we are now waiting for Olivia’s passport to be processed. So we were to be tourists and our target site was the Terra Cotta Soldiers dig site located about 50 min drive outside the city. As usual, were up and going to breakfast so we could leave by 8:30 am--we wanted to beat the heat and be back for a late lunch. Olivia was bright and cheerful as well as playful in the morning. She beamed when we entered the restaurant…she was really enjoying her meals. All appeared well and so off we were with our personnal driver and guide. The drive was very interesting, again dodging everthing from cars, bikes, scooters and people with a degree of skill that left you almost speechless--or was that from fear? Prior to visiting the dig site we toured a factory where they craft modern terra cotta soldiers using the same methods used to build the originals. Quite interesting. When we arrived at the dig site our guide told us that the driver was “connected” and we would therefore be able to forego the very long walk from the parking lot…he literally dropped us at the front gate--received lots of stares as we entered…not sure what they were thinking. The first part of the tour was to take a brief look at the initial dig site and then view the 360 degree movies (in English) that reenacted the making of the soldiers, the rebellion that happen 4 years later…and finally the discovery in the 1970s of the soldiers by local farmers. We had purchased a stroller for Olivia on the first day we met her and decided it would be best to see if she would allow to use it versus carry her everywhere. Although she had demonstrated for us at the Civil Affairs office the day before that she could walk, she still appeared somewhat unstable and preferred for us to carry her everywhere as well as only play on the bed when in the hotel. Life was about to change. Olivia appeared content for the most part in the stroller and really was captivated by the film. However, when we left the theater and proceeded to the 2 dig sites she decided she was not happy to be strolled, nor carried…she wanted to walk…first she was content hold my hand and walk, but soon she only wanted to go her way…she even crossed her arms and turned her back on me when she was starting to throw a tantrum refusing to voluntarily let me pick her up. Then the complete melt down happen . . . for the rest of the tour she was was not happy period and proceeded to cry at the top of her lungs the rest of the tour--funnnn! It was not until we were back outside and walking toward the car that I put her down and tears immediately stopped--she was definitely tired, but she was also trying to play us for everything we had. In the car she proceeded to scream until she passed out … it wasn’t a long nap…but made the difference. When we arrived back at the hotel room she was back to normal--fatigue, heat and over stimulation probably spurred on this melt down. The rest of the afternoon was much better but different. We now had a little girl that now felt comfortable to get off the bed and walk around exploring the room and playing with her toys and anything else she could find. We capped off the evening with a stroll back down to the Bell Tower to a high end mall where we did mostly window shopping except for buying Olivia a pair of red shoes--very cute. We also stopped by McDonalds for dinner…she was very happy--Fries were a hit again. For desert we stopped by New Zealand Ice Cream--not bad…Olivia really liked the banna ice cream. Then we were off for the hotel, more play time, bath time (which she really loves--big splasher, not afraid of getting her face wet), and then to bed--that was the rough part. She just doesn’t like being put to bed…she screamed a good twenty minutes--refused to be comforted and even made enough noise to have hotel management to knock on our door--at least that is why I think they knocked--at that moment I was not sure and didn’t care--we survived…great set of lungs like her sister Alexa. Well tomorrow is an On-your-own day…more bonding time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday, July 14

Finished the bulk of the paperwork today. . . and paid most of the $$ . . . tomorrow is a sightseeing day and Thursday a free day. . . we now wait for her expedited passport . . . we get it Friday before we fly to Guangzhou. Now we get to relax a little and enjoy her. BTW, she gave us our first kisses today--unsolicited--pretty neat!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gotcha Day!

14 Jul 09, 4:30 am China time

Well, we finally have Olivia Xin Rui Walrond in our arms, Let me catch you up--it has been an exciting adventure so far and we are now just getting the time to write--BTW, I am writing this in the hotel room bathroom while Susie and our new princess are sleeping. For us, Monday started hard and fast with all the America World Adoption Agency (AWAA) families being required to show-up in the Hotel lobby of the Radisson Hotel at 0530. We were only dragging our carry-ons, which still weighed a ton, because our Guides (Sherrie and Liniker) had the Bellboys pick our bags at 10pm the night before so they could be delivered to the Beijing Airport in a separate vehicle--which worked great, but would have definitively violated US security protocols that require all passengers to maintain positive control of their luggage until the bags are checked in at the airport--but it apparently didn’t matter when we checked in at the airport. We were one of 24 families who were about to be sent to several different China provinces to meet their new sons and daughters. We split up into two groups and arrived at the airport at around 0615--when arriving I quickly concluded that I was glad that AWAA had arranged for our guides. Beijing’s New Airport is magnificent in its beautiful design and organization, but a native speaking guide definitely gave us the edge of navigating the course of getting checked-in. Susie and I were the third family to be checked in because our Air China flight was leaving for Xian at 0730. We had been limited to 44 pounds each for luggage but noticed that they were not even weighing it--overcoming the chaos of Mon morning had taken priority. Security screening/check-in appeared very similar to US, except we were not required to take off our shoes. We were also told that no liquids, not even eye liner/make-up items at all were allowed in carry-on.
Our China Air flight was great…more foot room than United, plane was not full, and they served a full western breakfast to economy.

We arrived in Xian at 0930 and quickly met our Guide “Rae” (female)--very hospitable and engaging. Since we were the only family traveling to Xian, we had a dedicated car and driver when travel was required. Travel to downtown Xian took about 45 mins where we checked in to the Aurum International hotel with is inside the ancient city wall built over 700 years ago. For those of you who have lived in Turkey or Korea, the city reminded us of the older areas that we had visited in those countries. We checked in and began to unpack and organize our room for our new child--we were told we would get to meet her at 1400, but it turned out to be about 1530 because the orphanage team who was bringing her had to drive from Hanzhong City which was originally about a 14 hour train ride because of the mountainous remote region but a little over a year ago new 4-lane highway with tunnels through the mountains (one as long as 18 Kilometers) had been opened reducing the travel to about 4.5 hours without traffic. Traffic had delayed their arrival.

We met Xin Rui for the first time in a Civil Affairs Office. She was accompanied by two ladies, one we had seen before in a previous picture and we had been told that she had been her foster mother. As expected, you could tell that Xin Rui was very attached to her and was very timid of us strangers. They had dressed her up in a beautiful yellow sleeveless dress with socks and sandals. She was absolutely beautiful. Susie helped break the tension by presenting Rui with a toy--first was a doll but she showed very little interest. Then she brought a very sophisticated rattle with lots of moving parts--she really liked that and the fear subsided as she began to play with it--she had been strategically distracted. The orphanage presented Susie with 2 books, one appeared to be a very detailed book about Xin Rui and the Orphanage (still had not had the time to review), but it had shot records, growth charts, list of foods she likes, favorite book and a CD of pictures (which I have not looked at yet. The other book was like a baby book. It was at least 20 mins before we got to hold her and she was still not very happy about it until Susie broke out the mini-goldfish crackers. They were in a Kid’s spill proof container that allowed Rui the ability to hold and feed herself. She was hungry and this definitely kept Rui distracted from who was holding her for the moment. I knew we were OK when Rui, without prompting, started to feed me and Susie her goldfish crackers--she captured our hearts. I finally signed the papers that allowed us to take her for the night…all in Chinese, so who knows what I signed--we officially sign the adoption papers on Tues.

By 1630 we were on our way to a photographer--Civil Affairs requires pictures of the Mom, Dad, and Daughter separately and then as a family unit…if Rui was not confused by now, she would be. Two non-Chinese people had just grabbed her and turned her world upside down. Susie brilliantly distracted her with a bottle of juice--she was also thirsty and this really hit the spot. We also noticed that she did not want any help holding her bottle. Also, she wanted to be held the entire time--lucky for us, we wanted to hold her. After the pictures, we then went to a Chinese super market for supplies (extra diapers, food, and a stroller). That was an experience in itself…we were definitely a novelty with the local population gathering lots of looks and smiles.

We arrived at the Hotel at 1830...both Susie and I were not very hungry from all the excitement and decided to concentrate on making Rui more comfortable with us and the hotel room. Susie mixed some rice cereal and heated up some whipped sweet potatoes--both were a great hit, especially the sweet potatoes. She kept gesturing for more of the potatoes. After eating and more play time--all the toys Susie brought were a hit, but especially loved the toddler duplo blocks. She liked having me put them together and then she would take them apart...then she had me show her how to put them together. We find her to be very strong and strong-willed in a good way--she knows what she likes and wants. Susie finally introduced her to bath time, although apprehensive a first, in the end she had a ball. She loved playing with cups in the water and continued to play after the bath--gesturing that she was feeding me and Susie from the cups with her hair brush as pretend spoon. After some more play time Susie began to put Rui (Olivia) down for the night…

I can’t tell you any more since I fell asleep, except it is now 0600 and they both are sleeping soundly and I’m here typing in the bathroom in anticipation of signing a lot of papers and handing over about $6K of the US money we have been carrying around since arriving--however, now instead of a ½ inch of stack in each of our money belts, it grew to a 5 in stack in RMB…we definitely look like we gained weight. Our Tuesday adventure starts at 0900...more to come, God bless you all, thank you for your prayers and support…

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We made it!

After more than 23 hours of travel, we are safe in Beijing! The Chinese are very efficient. Our airline dropped the cabin temp about 15 minutes before landing to help ensure everyone passed the "temp" test. Officials scanned us upon landing and then we were all on our way. There were no long waits in lines to process through quarantine, immigrations or customs. Not so sure the same would be true in the US. Our hotel is nice and more importantly, the bed is comfy : )! We are awaiting our timetable for tomorrow--"Gotcha Day". So it will be back to the airport in the morning for a flight to Xian. Can't believe the day is finally arrived! Please pray for our big moment tomorrow and Olivia's travel to us! Much love to all of you!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Prayer Requests and Itinerary

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Why would God lead us down the adoption road after giving us what we felt was a complete and wonderful family? He wanted to bring the Gospel to life for us! He wanted us to experience this joy from His perspective. Loving us unconditionally even before we were born, His plan and His desire to was to be our Father. He experiences overwhelming joy when we finally trust Him and receive His love. When we are handed this precious little one and gaze into her eyes, I believe we will understand "how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" We pray that God continues to reveal the great depths to which He has gone to bring us-- once orphans-- into His family.

The wait is finally over!! We are officially heading to China to get our precious little girl! We are trusting the Lord to keep us from any pre-conceived expectations and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our every thought and action as we help Olivia transition into our family. Please agree with us in prayer that she will recognize our love for her, that we would all remain healthy and strong, that our family still in the US would be kept safe and healthy as well, and most importantly, that we would represent Christ well and be a reflection of His love to all we meet! Many thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement of our family as we follow God's direction! We love you very much!!

Remember that the current China time is 12 hours later than EST in the US. We'll receive Olivia during your early Monday morning! Hopefully, we'll have something for you to see on our blog by your Monday evening! :o)

Adoption Itinerary

July 12th –July 22nd

v Sunday, July 12th Arrive in Beijing

Gotcha Day!

v Monday, July 13th Morning-flight to Shaanxi

Afternoon-meet Xin Rui!

v Tuesday, July 14th Civil Affairs Appointment

v July 15th -16th Paperwork, Sightseeing & Shopping

v Friday, July 17th Flight to Guangzhou

v Saturday, July 18th Medical Exam

v Sunday, July 19th Consulate Paperwork

v Monday, July 20th Consulate Appointment

v Tuesday, July 21st Pick up Child’s Visa

Depart by bus for Hong Kong

v Wednesday, July 22nd Depart from Hong Kong

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


We are enjoying a family camping trip with the Manes family in Nashville while Josiahand Brennan are at Camp Electric. Josiah sent Lauren a text pic of the Barlow Girls holding a sign that said"Hi, Lauren"....she was ecstatic!! Thanks for thinking of her Josiah! Went to the Grand Ole Opry tonight and relaxed afterward around a huge campfire! Can't believe we'll be with our little Olivia in less than 2 weeks!