Monday, April 16, 2012


This will likely be my last post from China, as I do not know if we will have internet access at our hotel in Hong Kong tonight and I know I will have no access once we start all of our plane rides home.  I want to start by saying a sincere THANK YOU to all those who have read this blog, commented here, on facebook and in emails.  Your concern for us, interest in Jaxson, prayers, well-wishes and love has TRULY meant the world to us and helped us make it through an exciting and wonderful, but rather tough journey.  I feel that so many of you have "traveled with us" by sending your prayers and love each day, and I will always be grateful for that encouragement.

Next, I would like to thank my wonderful friend, Hayley, who has now seen so many different sides of me and aspects of my life, that she might as well be part of our extended family.  Her presence alone has been comforting and helpful.  To say that trip would have been difficult without her assistance is an understatement.  There were many moments were she entertained Alexis so that we could complete procedures, meetings, appointments with Jaxson, etc.  All those things would have been more challenging - and sometimes nearly impossible - without her.  Hayley, we will always remember your help and support during this experience and will treasure our days here with you.  No one else will be able to fully appreciate and understand this trip except for you!

I was awake a lot last night thinking about leaving.  Don't get me wrong - I really, really WANT to leave and I am so excited to pack everything today.  However, it is very bittersweet because it feels like we are closing a chapter in our lives.  I still want to provide some experiences in Jaxson's life where he can learn about and connect to China, especially since he is not a young "baby" and China has shaped who he is at this point in his life.  However, I want to appreciate his story, his journey to us, etc., but I also want to help him move that into his past and start a new life with us.  I want to treasure the things that were given to me by his foster director (his lock of hair, photo album) and our guide (paperwork, our adoption certificate, our adoption "donation" booklet, etc.), but I want to refocus my attention and energy on the ways he his going to be blessed, and the ways he is going to bless us.  I sort of feel today like I felt during my college graduation.  I loved my entire college experience and it was an amazing part of my life.  I was so ready to graduate and start my career, yet I was so sad to close the door on that four years.  It was also a bit terrifying to jump into the "adult world."  Today I feel like we are closing the door on our adoption journey (yes, I know we still have a big "journey" ahead of us, but it will be a different path) and jumping forward into being a family of four in the "real world."  It's exciting, but frightening at the same time.  After 16 months of focusing on one piece of paperwork after the next, it is hard to wrap my ahead around the comment made to us at the consulate yesterday, "you are all finished!" 

I wanted to briefly write about Jaxson's journey to us just so that I will have it recorded here, and others will know.  I certainly won't mind to talk about it, but I want to try to not dwell on it for a while.  :-)

Jaxson was born on November 4th, 2009 in an unknown location (we assume Maoming, but no one knows for sure).  At around 3 days of age, he was found in a paper box outside an emergency room at the Maoming Hospital.  Police searched for his parents for the required number of days, but no one claimed him.  This is the standard procedure.  He was then registered in the Maoming Social Welfare Institute (SWI for short) as an orphan.  At this point in his life he had an unrepaired cleft lip and palate. Our guide, Simon, told us yesterday that over 80% of children abandoned in the southern cities of China are offspring of urban residents who have come to the city looking for work.  He said the majority of children abandoned in the cities are the children of very young parents who have arranged marriages at home and often develop relationships here with friends or new acquaintances.  He said that the illiteracy rate in China is very, very high - especially in impoverished areas - and there is not a lot of understanding among many teens about preventing pregnancy.  These teens have to return home eventually and cannot care for a baby.  He said that the one-child rule is more enforced in the cities, and that is a factor that contributes to many abandoned babies in the city, as well. 

At around two months of age, Jaxson was accepted into the True Children's Home (started by American couple Alan and Twila True and run by Jenny Smith, who I met last Friday).  A business in the US provided the money to fund his surgeries (very unusual for a baby this young to have both issues repaired at 5 months of age).  He stayed in the True Children's Home (with a ratio of one nanny to two babies - wow!) until he was well enough to go to foster care (just for perspective, we were told that in some of the orphanages, the ratio is around 15-18 babies per adult).

In October of 2010, he went to Guandong to stay with his foster family.  They cared for him and raised him until he was brought to us on April 9th.  The best part of this story is that he has received TREMENDOUS care and love while in China.  His level of care and nurturing is NOT the norm here, and I am so thankful for the wonderful love he received up until this point.

So, now Zhong Mao (his Chinese name) is with us.  He is sleeping in the next room cuddled up with his Jie Jie (big sister) Alexis.  We still have to call him Zhong Mao most of the time, but we are trying to slowly replace it with Jaxson.  He is such a friendly child and tells everyone "hayo!" (hello) and "bye bye!"  He is affectionate and loves attention.  He REALLY thinks he is funny/cute and will try to distract us with his "charm" when he is not obeying.  The language barrier has not been as tough as I had thought, but when it is tough, it is very, very frustrating.  We were told he is stubborn and strong-willed and we didn't see a lot of that the first few days.  Now we REALLY have!  He can throw some amazing fits and try his best to do exactly what he wants.  We think that his foster family did not set a lot of limits for him, because he does not like the word no (in Chinese or English).  He is learning, though, and that will start to improve once we establish a real routine at home.  It is just very hard for him to understand that we love him so much - enough that we will not let him be a wild boy! :-)

The plane ride home will be a challenge for him - he does NOT like to be still and has a very short attention span.  He is smart and very inquisitive.  He will not like being confined to a seat!  But, we have an arsenal of snacks and toys and there are three adults.  Surely we will survive!

I am going to try to post some pictures of the zoo from yesterday.  It wasn't the largest or fanciest zoo I have ever seen, but it was nice and we loved seeing the pandas. 

The consulate experience was less than impressive.  The building was was VERY hot....very crowded and hard to contain little ones in all the chaos.  It was an important step - but a little stressful! :-)

Thank you, again, for encouraging us every step of the way.  I will update the blog some once we are home.  I am excited to say that our "waiting story" is almost complete and will unfold into a new chapter very soon.....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Shopping Day

Today our travel group went to the pearl and jade market in Guangzhou.  It was a great experience - but very hot and crowded.  The markets were inside malls and nothing is stroller friendly!  We didn't bring our big double stroller because Jaxson has usually been content riding on Jason's back in our Boba carrier.  Today he was not.  He really didn't want to be in the stroller, either.  Neither did Alexis.  They both wanted to push it.  So, it was a bit hectic trying to contain both of them in the middle of their regular nap times.  :-)

Our guides took us to shops they have relationships with, so we got great deals on items we wanted.  I bought Alexis a strand of real pearls that I will give her when she is older.  They made the strand into a necklace and earrings.  I bought a jade pendant for myself that I will have made into a necklace.  I have a birthstone ring that I wear to remember Alexis' birth, so now I will have this pendant necklace to honor Jaxson.  Our guides told us the story behind how they find and gather the jade and how it is brought to this area of China.  They also explained that the color will deepen over time, especially if I wear it (heat from your body deepens the color).  The pearls and jade were a mere fraction of what they would cost in the U.S. - and they are beautiful!

We also visited an embroidery shop and got some beautiful gifts.  Our last stop at the market was an entertainment store where we bought Jaxson a DVD of the Chinese cartoon called "Happy Goat."  The characters look like sheep to me, so I'm not sure why it's called Happy Goat.  There's a big bad wolf character, too.  We see the sheep and wolf cartoons EVERYWHERE here.  He carried it around for almost two hours - he was very proud of it.

Our guides then took us back to the island where we ate lunch at Lucy's again.  We are afraid we won't like the "authentic" food on the cruise tonight, so we tried to eat a lot.  :-)  We got the rest of our souvenirs we wanted to get and headed out.

We will leave for the cruise in a couple of hours.  They said many new lights and attractions were added along the riverbank for the Asian games last year, so it is supposed to be the highlight attraction in Guangzhou.

Tomorrow is our last full dday in Guangzhou.  That is very exciting, but bittersweet in a way.  I'm sure Jaxson thinks this is our home, as we have no way to explain to him otherwise.  It will be a big transition for him to no longer hear his language or see people who look like him. 

Tomorrow is the consulate appointment - we are very excited about that.  It is literally the last phase.  We are looking forward to seeing an American flag, too.  :-)

We didn't get very many pictures today, as we were so occupied by our tired and restless kiddos running around expensive jewelry shops. :-)  I'm sure we will get a lot of great shots tonight!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Saturday in Guangzhou

Today we met more families in Lifeline's travel group.  All of the children seem to be adjusting well - at different paces and in different ways - but they are all bonding!  We went back to the medical center - which was insanely crowded.  A nurse had to check his TB test.  He had scratched it and made it bleed (we tried to stop him, but he is a bit stubborn), so it had a scab forming and a red area from the initial injection.  I had been nervous about it because the other kids in our group did not have any reaction at all.  His skin is very sensitive, though.  The nurse looked at it, made a comment to our guide, made pen marks, measured it...........all the while my heart is racing and I'm thinking, "PLEASE do not say we have to do  further testing!"  If a child's arm reacts, you have to have an x-ray.  If TB is suspected or diagnosed, kids have to stay for several more days to complete an antibiotic treatment.  I have enjoyed China, but I did NOT want to be stuck here for another week or more!

Thankfully, after measuring it, she said it was fine and we could go.  Whew.

While we were there, we ran into my friend Mandy who we sat in front of on the flight to Hong Kong!!!  I was so excited to meet her Jackzhen and catch up for a minute.

After we left the medical center, we took a taxi to Bejing Road, which is a large shopping district full of upscale and discount stores.  It was VERY crowded.  We went to see some ancient ruins of old roads from different dynasties in China.  These had been discovered in 2002 underground.  We like seeing the history of the culture here, so it was a neat experience.  Plus, we found a PAPA JOHN'S!!!!  I don't even usually like Papa John's at home, but I was THRILLED today!  HA HA!  We also saw a Dairy Queen, but we had two tired kiddos, so we opted to not stop.

We did, however, walk another block to an amazing temple.  It was one of the most fascinating sites we have seen yet.  I loved it!  I felt like I was in the movie, "Mulan."  Apparently the temple is home to some hero gods who protect the city of Guangzhou.  People were coming in and burning incense.  They had areas to pray and bring sacrificial gifts to the gods.  The artwork and architecture were simply stunning.  I stayed for a few minutes, but Jaxson was starting to want out of his stroller and was jabbering away (as usual).  I didn't want to offend anyone, so I waited outside.  Jason took pictures and filmed, hoping that he wasn't breaking some law in the meantime!  :-)

Here is a link that describes/explains the significance of the temple:

We took a taxi back to the hotel and I am now waiting to submit our last round of paperwork for Jaxson's visa.  WOOHOO!  We will go to the consulate on Monday to submit it and take our oath.  Our guide will pick up the visa on Tuesday when it is ready, and we can leave Guangzhou.  His passport was picked up yesterday (yay!) and I will get it at the meeting today.

Tomorrow is the day we have all been looking forward to (other than gotcha day, obviously)!  We get to go to the pearl and jade markets in the morning, and then we get to take a Pearl River cruise tomorrow night!  I am so excited about that.  We will get to see a lot of historic sites and the lights around the river are supposed to be breathtaking.  I think Jaxson and Alexis will love it, too!  We are served dinner on the cruise, so we are going to be a big lunch! Ha ha!  I doubt they are serving Pizza Hut and McDonald's on the ship!

Monday we get to also go to the Guangzhou Zoo and see pandas!  Hayley and I are particularly excited about that. 

Jaxson is doing very well still.  This morning he was a bit more active (hard to believe...we thought Alexis was "wild" at this age) and a bit more stubborn at times.  He can be fiercely independent and strong-willed.  We know a little girl who is just like that! :-)  I don't know if some of his active behavior and stubborn streaks are part of his adjustment or just who he is!  I still think he listens and follows directions very well despite the language barrier.  He got mad at me earlier today and tried to hit me, so we asked our guide to teach us various versions of "no" so that we could try to express this to him.  There are so many dialects in is hard to communicate even if someone speaks "Chinese."  I feel like we are walking a fine line with trying to bond and connect with him, and trying to help him behave.  It's a bit more challenging than those who adopt a "baby" because he is at that "I want to be independent and wild" two-year old stage.  We are not trying to make any valiant efforts with discipline right now, although we can't let him hit us and spit (his new favorite thing).  We have been trying to praise him when he gets frustrated and doesn't show aggression.  It doesn't happen often, as he is generally very happy.  He just does not like to be still.  Even our DVD player doesn't distract him (it always did Alexis at that age).  Oh, the plane ride home should be interesting...

Here are some pictures from today!

Meeting Foster Family

Today we met Jaxson's foster family and got to visit for quite a while with Jenny, the director of his foster program.  In all, it was one of my favorite days (even though it was tough at times) because it helped to piece together some of the puzzle of his life.

When we arrived in Donguan (the city where the foster family and the children's home where he received his surgeries/care) we went to a really nice hotel where Jenny and her husband/adopted son live.  It was gorgeous!  The view outside their hotel room looked more like a Disney resort than any part of China we have seen.  Jenny is an amazing person - she is a Christian and has really devoted the last six years of her life to developing the True Children's Home.  Her husband worked for Alan True, who is a business owner who wanted to start a children's home in China. He approached her about directing the home and developing it from the "ground up."  She and her husband moved to China and she has built a fabulous program that takes orphans out of orphanages, provides medical care, and then helps the children transition to foster homes until they are adopted.  The organization oversees the home (which provides nurturing during and after surgeries/medical procedures), the foster program, and assistance programs that seek to help Chinese families learn to care for and keep their own children so that they will not be abandoned (families with children who have special needs).  She and her husband also started a store that benefits all of their programs.  It is run by an American man who is also a Christian.  Some business owners and manufacturers bring overstock items they need to get rid of and they sell them to profit the programs.  They also partner with a program that supports adults with leprosy.  Apparently, people with leprosy are sent to live on an island.  They make handmade crafts and sell them in the store.  After meeting with the family, we went to the store and shopped some.  It was such a wonderful experience to talk so much with Jenny.  She gave me the name of the business that supported his surgery so that I could write them.  She told us about underground churches and gave us a booklet she and her husband had printed that told  the Easter story.  We feel truly blessed that Jaxson was selected - from a waiting list - to be placed in their children's home and then given such great care in the foster program.

Meeting the foster family was tense.  I was very nervous as we waited for them.  We were told to sit on a couch and leave the chairs "of honor" for them.  They arrived and seemed very nervous as well.  They didn't make eye contact with us for a long time.  They seemed very nice and appeared worried about Jaxson's transition.  It was awkward having to say things to the translator, wait for them to discuss whatever we said, and then hear the feedback.  The foster father is a taxi driver and the foster mother stayed home with Jaxson.  The foster father liked to talk A LOT.  We showed them pictures on the iPad of Jaxson smiling/playing with Alexis.  They told us how much he eats (which is a LOT - he eats way more than I do!).  They kept saying how smart he was and how he was the most intelligent of all their children - foster and biological.  They then told the translator to tell us that they loved him and would have adopted them if they could have (the law does not allow them to foster and then adopt).  The funniest part was when they told us how much he likes to drink and they proceeded to say that he likes to drink beer!!!  Oh my!!!  They said there is no age limit on alcohol consumption in China.

They still had yet to look at us for quite some time.  We expressed our thanks  - from us and our families, told them how we would provide a good education and thanked them for how well they had taught him and raised him thus far.  They told us they were afraid he would not be still in school and that we needed to make sure he was in a good school for children who were smart.  :-) Apparently children are expected to be silent and still in Chinese schools?  Interesting....

We gave them our gifts and they warmed up a lot.  Jenny and the guide told me to put the necklace I brought for the foster mom on her.  The foster father LOVED the photo book we had made.  Apparently they did not have copies of the photos of them with him that we had been sent via email and included in the book.  He looked so proud and told the guide it was the "best gift ever." 

Things were going well and then they started asking to see him.  Our guide explained that we could not do that - it would be too hard for him.  They kept asking.  Jenny and the guide quickly wrapped things up and told them it was time to go.  I felt so bad.  I know they are grieving and missing him so much.  They said to us MANY times to please send emails, pictures and videos (which we will, of course).  It was just not a possibility for him to see them again.

Hayley was a lifesaver and played in Jenny's home with Alexis and Jaxson while we had the visit.  She was very glad to see us return. :-)  Apparently Jaxson likes guns and all the "boy toys" Jenny's son owns.  I think he enjoyed attacking Hayley.

After visiting the store that supports the True organizations, we returned back to the hotel in monsoon like weather.  We are hoping to go to Lucy's - a restaurant on the island that serves American food..  We will see if the rain lets up enough to allow us to go.  We are also waiting on our laundry to be returned. :-)

I included some pictures below of our trip to the park last night.  You can also see some of the farmland that we passed by on our trip today.  There are shacks that people live in.  SO sad...