6.14.2015

Ten Days Home

Allison A. Mayer captured our homecoming and all of these special people so beautifully! 

Today marked our tenth day home as a family! Many of you have asked how Tyson is doing and how our family is adjusting, so hopefully this post will offer you some insight. First of all, I want to thank all of you who prayed for Tyson to feel safe around our dog, Kya. His response to her presence has improved drastically! When she comes into the room or if she gets too close, he will still sometimes scream in terror, but these occurrences are becoming few and far between. Continued prayers in this area are appreciated! We are confident that soon Kya will be a non-issue.

I am incredibly impressed by how easily Noah, Liam, and Tucker have accepted Tyson with open arms. They are very fond of the little guy! Their faces lighting up when he waves hello to them is adorable. Noah is a natural with Ty after having spent two weeks together in China. Seeing Liam play the big brother role has been especially sweet to me. Tucker adores Tyson and is very gentle with him. You should hear his sweet "I'm-talking-to-a-baby-voice!" At the same time, I think Tuck might feel a bit uprooted from his "baby" position in the family. When Tyson is not in my arms or on my lap, Tuck is quick to jump into that space. It is good to be loved!

Ryan and I missed so many of Tyson's firsts over the past 19 months. However, I was thinking today about all of the firsts I have experienced since meeting him 3 weeks ago.

He cut a baby tooth.
I pushed him on a swing.
We took a bath together.
I taught him how to go up and down a slide.
He went to the park with his brothers.
I received my first unsolicited kiss.
He looked into my eyes as he fell to sleep.
I had his intake meeting with First Steps
He rode on my hip while I vacuumed.
I resisted the urge to scratch my nose after he fell asleep in my arms.
I taught him the signs for more, please, thank you, stop, and milk - and he is using them!
I fell in love with his daddy again. This has happened each time we have been given a new son.
I thought of his nanny who is surely missing him but was so happy he had a family.

And today - I cried for Tyson's first momma, who will not see this precious boy grow up.

My heart aches at the thought of her living today, maybe even with Tyson's birth father, and wondering what happened to their son. I have prayed that God will grant them peace in a dream - that He will give them a vision of Tyson in our home, surrounded by his daddy, brothers, and me. I pray that it gives them lasting peace for the decision they made. 

Photo credit: Allison A. Mayer

The last ten days have been busy and wonderful and difficult and amazing. We came home to a stocked fridge and pantry thanks to my dad and Danette! Not only did they take care of Liam and Tucker for 2 weeks, but they really went above and beyond in every way. Our neighbor cut our grass twice when we were gone. What a gift! My friend cleaned our house for 3 hours the day we came home - we are so grateful! Another friend set up a meal train for us, and not only did we have dinner the first three nights we were home, but we have continued to have them every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday since then. These meals are continuing through early July! What a gift to our family!! Not having to worry about meal planning and preparing has helped tremendously, especially since Tyson is super attached to me these days (another praise!). So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart those of you who have already brought meals and those who will bring them over the next 3 weeks. I also want to thank my mother and father in law for asking me to make them a grocery list in order to pick up necessities while they were passing through town. What a relief to have our fridge and pantry stocked while I focus on our children! To everyone who has encouraged us and prayed for us, thank you will never be enough. Your intercession on our behalf means everything!

Tomorrow Tyson has his first appointment with a cleft team in Indianapolis. I appreciate your prayers as I fly solo for this appointment. Tyson will see numerous specialists over the course of 4-5 hours, and after our last medical appointment experience in China, we will need your prayers. We hope...

...that Tyson will cooperate with the various specialists who will examine him.
...to find out the course of action proposed by the team.
...that Tyson's hearing is within normal limits.
...that we will learn about speech therapy options outside of First Steps.
...that we will leave with confidence in the proposed treatment plan.
...that we will feel peace about working with these specialists over the next several years.

Photo Credit: Shannon Gill 

I am going to miss Tyson's smile. I know I will - just like I missed Liam's first smile. At the same time, I am very excited for him to learn how to express himself verbally, as his motivation to use sign language has shown me how eager he is to communicate more effectively. This is going to be a long road, but I am so thankful that I get to be his mommy. It is both a privilege and an honor! He is such a gift to my life.

6.10.2015

My Heart is Finally Home

Almost three years ago, God asked us to take a journey - to follow Him in a way we never had before. Our knees shook as we took those first steps forward, but He guided us to China, Lifeline Children's Services, and eventually to Tucker. Not long after we brought him home, we knew that we would someday go back to China again to bring another sweet one into our family. So, although we were home together, a piece of my heart remained in China. The feeling only became stronger when I felt pulled to a little boy a few months later. The desire and urgency to return grew stronger and stronger even when life at home was still complicated and in transition. 

When we learned this past summer that the little boy's file was being prepared and would come to our adoption agency, we prayed and had peace that it was time to return to China. For Ryan, this was happening a bit sooner than expected, but for me, I felt like I was back in the place where I belonged. As the months went by, we reached several milestones in the adoption process. Although difficult at the time, God ended up choosing the very best family for the little boy, and I have loved watching him thrive in the arms of his mom, dad, and precious siblings the past few months. The urgency to find the son God had been leading us to all along grew even stronger.

One month later, as my littles middles laid down for their naps, I received a phone call from our social worker about an adorable 1 year old boy with cleft lip and palate. Tyson's file arrived in my inbox soon after, and the rest is history! Four months later we traveled to China and met the little boy in the pictures and videos I had memorized. Holding my son in my arms for the first time was a moment I will never forget. Tyson was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. 

As I looked out the window during our final flight home from Chicago to Indianapolis, I was captivated by what I saw. So many thoughts came to mind simultaneously. 

We had made it. We had finally made it home. God had gone before us, He had been with us, and His love was shining down on us as we flew within this beautiful creation. The beams of His radiant light reminded me of the one true home where I will live once I have fulfilled my purpose in this world. With the sun almost out of reach, I pondered how those in China were waking up to start a new day. In those moments, my heart released as it said goodbye. We had finished what we started. A sense of completion washed over me. My heart is finally home.


"From life's first cry to final breathe, 
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home, 
here in the power of Christ, I'll stand." 

6.06.2015

Day 14: Traveling Home

This morning I woke up before my alarm at 4:35 a.m. ready to go! I am not a morning person, but I couldn’t help but smile knowing that, God willing, I will have my two little boys in my arms in 28 ½ hours. It will surely be a long, long day, but this part of our journey won’t last forever. There is something so peaceful about time. No matter what, it is constant. The clock ticks at the same pace whether we are walking or running.

Ryan and I got ourselves ready, and the bellboy picked up our bags in our room at 5:00 a.m. sharp. I got Noah up five minutes later, got him dressed while he slept standing up, and put on his shoes while he laid back down on the couch. In the meantime, Ryan prepared Tyson’s bottle. We were running like a well-oiled machine! I got Tyson out of his crib, and he sucked on his finger as fast as he could. He drank his bottle and finished with a sweet smile on his face. I put on a long-sleeved white onesie on him and a pair of fleece sweatpants. Airplanes get so cold! He was happy and let me dress him without even a whimper. It is usually like dressing a moving train when I put clothes on him. I sat next to him and put on my shoes. Then, we loaded him into my Ergo carrier, put on my backpack that is filled to the brim with his crackers, and walked out the door. Ryan checked out at the front desk, and just as we saw Aron coming to greet us, our friend Rachel and her daughter came walking up. I was so thankful to see her, as we had spent the entire week in Nanning together. However, her husband had to return home early, and I hadn’t seen her much since being in Guangzhou. We waved goodbye to The Garden Hotel, hopped in the van, and drove off.

Ryan is done checking us out of The Garden Hotel!
The hotel personnel had provided us with boxed breakfast, and each one contained 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple pastries, a yogurt, a juice, and a banana. We ate our breakfast on the way to the hotel. Tyson happily finished off his banana! They are one of his favorites right now. When we reached the airport, our luggage was put on a cart, and we made our way into the very busy Guangzhou airport. We walked to Rachel’s designated airline, and with tears in my eyes, I hugged her goodbye. We met our babies together on Memorial Day, and our time together in China has created a bond that will never end. That is how the adoption community is – once you take the leap of faith, you have an instant family for life.

Aron walked us to our ticketing counter. We are flying Air China from Guangzhou to Beijing, and then we will switch airlines. Air China is contracted through United for this portion of our trip home. Ryan is currently walking around the terminal with Tyson. At first he wanted to walk by himself and explore, but now that the terminal is getting busier, he wants his daddy to hold him. When we went through security, one of the officers took him from me as they scanned both he and I, and he was not a happy camper! So thankful that he feels safe in my arms!! I know even this will grow in time. I will celebrate the day that he feels secure enough to be more than an arm’s length from us because his trust in us will have deepened. But for now, I will enjoy my sweet snuggles! Being a parent to all of our children is such a privilege, and adoption has really helped me understand that so much more.

Ryan keeping Tyson entertained while waiting to board our first flight
I am going to try to write throughout our trip home, but much of that will depend on Tyson. I am hoping that once we are on our flight to Beijing that he will fall sleep for a tiny bit since we had to wake him up so early. If not, he will sleep eventually. In some ways, I am sad to leave China, sad to take him from his birth country. However, I am very excited to be home, establish our new normal, and have my family all under one roof! I’ll write again soon.

Getting ready to board in Guangzhou
Waiting for take off
The flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was miraculously on time. Tyson and I sat by the window, and Ryan and Noah sat across the isle in the middle seats. I played with Tyson for the entire 3 hour flight. That little guy didn’t even pretend to be sleepy. We played with his spinny toy and a toothbrush holder. We watched out the window and played peek-a-boo. Although we bought him his own seat, Tyson preferred to just sit in my lap. I turned on Doc McStuffins for him, as our plane had private televisions for each seat. He would watch the show off and on while we played. On Tyson’s seat’s television, I played the latest Hunger Games movie, more or less to help pass the time. I listened to the movie while we played together. I was having fun with him and only had to give him 3 crackers before the flight attendants served a breakfast. I love that most domestic flights I have been on in China include a meal. I chose the eggs with a roll, ham, pea pods, potatoes, and oranges and got Tyson congee with a roll, oranges, and a preserved egg. He loved the roll with strawberry jelly and ate about a third of his congee. He liked the oranges but eventually spit out the pulp, and he attempted to eat the preserved egg but spit it out immediately. I gave him each bite slowly, trying to make the meal last for as long as possible.

Here we go again, guys!

By the time he finished eating, we had about 30 minutes left on that flight. Biting his feet and rubbing the spinny toy all over him kept him laughing and having fun. He needed another couple crackers, but I celebrated that we only used 5 for that flight!! I knew we would need many, many crackers for the long flight to Chicago.

I am so sad in this seat belt!!

We made it to Beijing!!!

As soon as we reached the Beijing airport, Ryan and Noah used the restroom. While waiting for them out in the hallway, Tyson slipped into deep sleep without me even noticing. Haha!! He continued to sleep for about 45 minutes while we walked through the airport, rode the train to our terminal, and walked through immigration. He woke up just before we went through security, and it’s a good thing since I had to take him out of the carrier anyway.


Once we made it through security, we had about 3 hours to kill. We walked over to a waiting area and found a grocery cart with a car that Tyson could sit in while we pushed our carry ons above. It was PERFECT!! Seriously, Beijing, you are so smart to have those carts for small children. Thank you!! What was really interesting was that only one child could fit in the cart. In the US our child-friendyl grocery carts have enough room for 2 children to sit in the car, but in China, with One Child Policy, their carts only have room for one. Interesting, huh? We walked and walked around the terminal. Tyson was happily riding in the car below, so we just kept walking. Eventually, Ryan was getting hungry, so we started looking for restaurants. I said to Ryan, “Look, I think I see a cheeseburger sign ahead!” Turns out, it was just a mirage. Who knew this Indiana girl would crave cheeseburgers so badly at the end of this trip. 

Is that a burger sign in the background? 

We almost went into a restaurant that served sandwiches and Chinese food, but Ryan saw Pizza Hut, and the decision was made. Noah and I went inside and ordered the “regular” size stuffed crust pepperoni pizza that serves 2-3 people. This was the largest pizza at that Pizza Hut, and as you can imagine, we gobbled down every single bite. I ordered Tyson fried rice with bacon, and he ate a huge portion, as well! Traveling apparently makes us hungry. He was super cute! He kept signing “more” and “eat” to us. He is such a quick learner, and I think he is relieved to finally have a method of communication other than pointing and making sounds at people. I can’t wait to teach him more!

Noah with the Chinese Pizza Hut menu

Stuffed crust pepperoni pizza...SO DELICIOUS! Again, this is the biggest size they serve.

So proud that he is signing for more already!

After we finished our food, we found a play area for children on the way to our gate. This is another thing I love about the airports in Seoul and Beijing. The play areas are small, and there are several to choose from throughout the airports. Noah was able to climb and be a boy for a bit. I took Tyson inside the train, and he stuck to me like glue. I am amazed at how overwhelming it is for kids, who have resided behind orphanage walls, to have new experiences like that. He was trembling and making his sounds that tell me he is scared, and all the while, we were simply sitting inside a playground train. Poor little guy! 

Unsure about the playground
Ok, Mom, I'll get on the train as long as I can have my back against you.
This is why cocooning will be so important when we come home. Ty will need a consistent schedule, routine, and the familiar faces of our family for quite some time before we introduce new people and experiences. It is just so overwhelming to his senses and his mind. We still are not dealing with indiscriminate affection. He sticks to us like glue, but he is very scared to be separated from us. I would definitely say he is functioning in a state of separation anxiety, and by separation I mean walking a couple feet away from him let alone leaving altogether. This will just take time as his trust and security grows stronger.

My first double decker plane!

Noah found a very comfy chair before boarding the plane.

Last picture in Beijing
At 3:00 p.m. we made our way to our gate. The waiting area was already very full. I looked out the window and noticed our double decker plane! I’ve always wanted to ride on one, and I was excited to do so with Ryan, Noah, and Ty. We boarded on time and got settled in our seats. Ryan said he wanted to take the first shift since I had Tyson on our flight to Beijing. By this time it was 3:45, way past this baby’s nap time, especially with a wake up call at 5:05 a.m. CUE THE SCREAMING! Oh goodness, can this boy scream and thrash like no one I’ve ever known. He was beyond tired and overwhelmed by all of the people. Ryan wrestled in a bit, and eventually, we gave him a cracker when we realized he wasn’t close to sleeping yet.


Unfortunately, we sat on the plane for over an hour before finally taking off. I was able to catch a quick 10 minute power nap while we waited, and Tyson was entertained by Ryan. Once the engines began to roar, and the plane lurched forward, Tyson crawled up Ryan’s body like a monkey. Ryan held him tight, and eventually, he finally gave in and fell to sleep. He is still sleeping across Ryan’s body now. Food is being served, but I will write again in a bit. Thank you for your continued prayers!!

Thankful for a sleeping baby

Our total flight time, including time on the ground before take off and after landing, was around 14 hours. We spent the rest of the flight from Beijing to Chicago watching movies, passing Tyson back and forth, playing with Noah, eating a couple meals, etc. Noah was doing really well, but I wanted him to get some sleep, so I gave him a melatonin, and he passed out in 2 minutes. His body was so tired! He stretched out across our seats for about 4 hours. Ryan got some sleep here and there, though none of it was probably very restful or deep. I slept in increments of 5-10 minutes throughout the flight, maybe for an hour total. Tyson got two huge sleeps, one mostly in Ryan's arms, and one mostly in mine. I was so thankful!! When he was awake, he would let us entertain him with toys, eat some crackers, go on walks around the plane, and eat meals when served. I honestly can't imagine the flight going any better with a 19 month old baby, though it was still a very, very long flight to Chicago. Those of you who have traveled internationally understand! 

The newest US citizen!!!
As soon as the plane landed, Tyson was officially a US citizen!! HOORAY! All the of the paperwork, home visits, milestones achieved throughout the adoption process, plane rides, and time away from Liam and Noah - 100% worth it to have this little guy in our arms and on US soil. We were SO grateful to be back in the midwest. We made our way from our terminal through customs and waited for our adoption paperwork to be processed. That actually went very quickly, and we were rechecking our bags for our domestic flight from Chicago to Indy in no time. Then we took a train to our new terminal and got back in line to go through security again. I mean, at this point, I was started to feel a bit unraveled. We had gone through so many security check points, so many terminals, so many gates, so many planes, and I was just ready to see my little boys. We finally reached the front of the line, and the lady took our boarding passes. She looked over them for a long time and then had to call a supervisor. The boy who checked us in at the Guangzhou airport did not put Chicago as the departure city on our boarding passes to Indy. I started thinking to myself, "If they make us get back in line to reprint our boarding passes to then go through this security line again, the dam will break, and my crazy is going to pour out." I had held it together the entire trip so well, and I could feel my grip slipping. Thankfully, the supervisor had mercy on us after seeing our e-tickets, and she let us continue through security. Once again, all carry ons were processed, Tyson was taken out of the carrier, computers and iPads put in bins...you know the drill. Noah could do it with his eyes closed now! We made it through security and even saw some of our first smiles from airport employees. We started to believe that we really were almost home.

Ty-Ty fell asleep in no time
While I went to freshen up in the restroom, Tyson fell asleep on Ryan's shoulder. It felt SO amazing to put on a fresh shirt, brush my teeth with tap water (had to use bottled water in China), put on some make-up, etc. I emerged feeling a million times better! Tyson woke up by the time I got back, and Ryan went to grab some food for Noah, Ty, and himself. I didn't have an appetite and was just eager to get on our last flight to Indy. I started to crash, and Ryan offered to hold Tyson on our final flight. 

As soon as we boarded, we met so many really nice people on the plane. One woman shared that her daughter had just announced that they were going to adopt from China. Her family had already adopted three children from the Congo, and they also had 3 biological children, I believe. Do you see what adoption does to you? It changes everything, and suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by precious children who were once orphans. Such a beautiful picture of the gospel! Being with these friendly people remained us just how close we were to Indiana. The people here are just so friendly and kind overall! I slept maybe 25 minutes on our final flight to Indy and felt quite a bit better. 

Once we were 20 minutes from landing, I started to feel the tears coming. I was imagining seeing Tucker and Liam for the first time in 2 weeks, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. The plane landed, and we raced off toward our family and friends who were waiting for us to arrive. Ryan was holding Tyson in one arm, while holding hands with Noah, who was holding hands with me. We walked as fast as we could, smiles on our faces and crocodile tears in my eyes. And then, Allison Mayer captured our homecoming so beautifully, so perfectly through her Red Thread Session (click the link to read about them) for our family! Aliy, I will never be able to thank you enough for your amazing gift to our family! 


I have tears in my eyes, remembering that moment when Liam started to run toward me. I let go of Noah's hand and ran to my son, something we practiced many times before leaving for China. I bawled as I hugged him as tightly as I could, and before I knew it, Tucker was in my arms, too! Once we had a few minutes to visit with the boys, I began making my way around to everyone. I found Danette first and just cried as we embraced. She had taken care of my babies for 2 solid weeks! Not only did she keep them safe and provided so many opportunities for fun and making memories, but she also met their emotional needs from being separated from us for so long. This was especially crucial for Tucker, who needs abundant love and reassurance and security due to his history. Danette, we are FOREVER GRATEFUL for all that you did for our children! We will never even know 95% of how you supported their needs while we were away, but please know that we love you and are so thankful you are part of our family! The boys called Ryan and me "Grandma" many times that first day home. Liam asked, "Will I see Grandma again?" Clearly, they love you very much!! 

I made my way to hug my dad, Ryan's parents, his sister, and our niece and nephew. What a special treat to have them all there and be able to thank each person for helping Tyson come home!! I COULD NOT STOP CRYING! I was so grateful to be home - so much more than words can describe. After greeting those in our family, I was able to go hug some of our most treasured friends. I was still crying as I thanked them for all they had done for not just Tyson's adoption but Tucker's, also. They all had supported us financially, emotionally, physically, etc. for the past 3 years. Noah's friend, Bryson, even came to welcome his buddy home! It was so fun to introduce Tyson to our family and friends, and he ran around us like he owned the place. I'm sure it was nice to finally stretch his legs, but he was so tired, as he stumbled and staggered all over the place. Ryan finally announced that it was time to go home. We walked toward the parking lot together, our prayer warriors and a huge part of our support system all around us. We put Tyson in his car seat, and he cried only for a minute and fell asleep in no time at all. Ryan drove us home. All four of our sons were finally together, sitting side by side. Our family was together. We were home, and you know what? There is absolutely no place like home. 


6.03.2015

Day 13: Last Day in Guangzhou

Wow! We made it through a short trip to Hong Kong, nearly a week in Nanning, Guangxi, and almost another week in Guangzhou, Guangdong. This is Day 13, and we are very nearly home to our boys! All of my children will finally be under one roof. Our travel group went to the zoo in Guangzhou this morning, and since we have already visited the zoo, our plan was to go to the safari instead. As time passed the last several days, we realized how nice it would be to not have a busy schedule today. We decided to skip both the zoo and the safari and stay around the hotel. We had breakfast around 9:00 a.m. and then met up with a woman named Shannon Gill is a photographer here in Guangzhou. While her husband is working in China, she takes pictures of adoptive families. How awesome is that? I knew that we wouldn't have professional pictures taken at home until after our cocooning period, an I really wanted to have some beautiful pictures of Tyson's first smile before he has surgery. When Shannon said she was available, I was SO excited! We ended up all dressing in our Family Day outfits, including the clothes that his orphanage had dressed him in that day. She took us behind The Garden Hotel where there are many beautiful trees, buildings, and a waterfall. I cannot wait to see how they turned out! Shannon said she likes to have just two appointments per week so that she can stay home with her 16 month old son. So, if you would like to have your pictures taken while in country, make sure you schedule with her quickly! Thanks again, Shannon!


After getting our pictures taken, Ryan ran a couple errands while I took the boys back to the room to pack. Tyson was SUPER clingy again today, especially while Ryan was gone. We are seeing that he is very much like Tucker was in the way he operates best when all family members are present. When someone is missing, he is more afraid and clingy. His insecurity breaks my heart yet I understand it completely. I tried to pack as fast as possible, but Ty really wanted me to hold him the whole time. In some ways, it reminds me of when you have an infant. Sometimes that baby just needs momma to hold him/her all day long. And you do. Because you know babies grow up so quickly and chores can wait for another day.

Once Ryan returned, we went to the pool to swim for a bit with some friends. The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny! It was nice to cool off in the pool. Tyson is a water baby for sure, and Noah loves swimming, too. We stayed for about an hour and then left to meet our friends, Kelli and Brett and their daughter Landry, for lunch.

Yes, we ate at Oggi's again for the 3rd time. Yes, that is a large quattro format pizza. Yes, Ryan and I ate the entire pizza by ourselves. No, I am not ashamed! We high-fived at the end. 

This family has been such a blessing to us during our time in China. We met them at the airport in Hong Kong, took the same flight to Nanning together (after the lightning struck our plane!), and met our Beihai babies together. They are the sweetest people and make me laugh a lot! In many ways, Kelli reminded me of my friend Carroll Lane who was in China with us for 2 weeks for our last adoption. Their wit and sense of humor are very similar!! This was yet another gift God had for us in China - totally undeserved but given anyway. I miss you already, Kelli!! Brett is super funny, too, and has a very adventurous palate! I am so proud of all of the gross interesting things he chose to eat during his time in Hong Kong and China.

Noah took this picture of us together! Well done, buddy!

Tyson and Landry will always share a special bond, as they have lived at the same orphanage together and were adopted on the same day. I am so thankful that they will grow up and have the opportunity to know one another - someone who shares similar roots. We hope the Munkels will be in our lives for a very, very long time! :)

A quick picture of the guys. 


We had been told in the past that you do not tip servers in China. However, our guide David said that tipping was ok and to just hide the money under your plate. So that is what we did! Because David knows everything and we love him.

Noah standing by a male (ball under foot) Chinese guardian lion that is believed to protect our hotel
We came back to our room and put Tyson down for a nap. When I say put him down for a nap, I mean Ryan had the honor of being Tyson's mattress in the bedroom for 2-3 hours. Like I said earlier, he is clingy today. I packed up about 95% of our belongings while Noah watched a movie and played on my iPad. 
Tyson was a big help with packing!
After baby boy woke up, we went back to the pool for about 45 minutes to let the boys burn some energy. Then we went back to our room, got ready in about 10 minutes and met Lauren, Chad, and their kids for one last dinner before we both leave tomorrow. They told us that The Happy Monk was delicious, and we were excited to try it! 



Noah with Cannon and Carter
 We each ordered a platter of sliders. Lauren and Chad's family's came out pretty quickly, but ours never came. It is very common for food to arrive at different points during the meal in China, so I didn't think anything of it at first. However, the Haun family finished their entire meal, and our food hadn't arrived. We inquired about our sliders, and an employee checked. They forgot to make it. Tyson was signing for "more" puffs as fast as possible, and I was rationing them out to him in an attempt to make them last until our food arrived. When the puffs were gone, the baby began to scream! I went up to the bar and asked to speak to someone who spoke English. The server must have gone outside and asked everyone eating on the patio if anyone spoke English. This nice guy came into the restaurant and asked me what was wrong. I said that they forgot to make our food, and we needed them to hurry because our baby was screaming. He was just a patron, eating at the same restaurant, and he was so nice to help us! He went back into the kitchen to find out an update and learned that it would be out in 1 minute. Sweet relief! The sliders were AMAZING (we asked for no bacon jam...WHAT?!?!), and I highly recommend them to families traveling to Guangzhou.


I am so thankful to have traveled with Lauren and her family! Being in Guangzhou this week with them was such a breath of fresh air. I admire their love for Jesus and their hearts for orphans. Definitely friends for life!!

Love you, Sister!!


We went back to the hotel, and Tyson busied himself with a shoe box (Adidas for $9 - I'll let you decide if they are real) and tissue paper forever. If only I had known that would keep him entertained, we would've been done packing this afternoon. :) We packed all of the last minute items, weighed our bags (49 lbs. each), and got the kids ready for bed. 



Noah, I have a feeling this won't be your last trip to China! Love seeing the city lights behind you. What a joy you have been the past two weeks. I have loved our time together so much!


After FaceTiming with Liam and Tucker, Noah snuggled with Ty and then went to bed. It was a nice long, relaxing day, and it's almost time to say goodbye to China.


It is 11:30 p.m. our time on Wednesday. We leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow for the airport. Our flight leaves at 8:30 a.m. from Guangzhou and arrive in Beijing at 11:30 a.m.. We then leave Beijing at 4:10 p.m. (Thursday) and arrive in Chicago at 4:10 p.m. (Thursday). SO WEIRD! After a 3 hour layover to go through customs and make sure our adoption paperwork is processed, we will be on our way to Indy!!! I am SO excited to see Liam and Tucker! I am going to kiss their faces and hug them like crazy! I cannot wait to see our closest friends and family and introduce them to Tyson AnTao Abell, our new beautiful son. Please pray for a safe trip and that this bag of Tyson's favorite crackers will sustain him until we hit US soil. We have a 28 hour day ahead of us, and your prayers are absolutely appreciated!! Love you all. Thanks for following our journey to Tyson.

6.02.2015

Day 12: Consulate Appointment

Today was a very exciting day for our family! We woke up, got dressed up a bit, had breakfast, and got on the bus with several families in our group to attend our Consulate Appointment (CA)! This is the very last step of the adoption process in country, as it allows for Tyson to receive a US visa to enter the country on Thursday. 

That is pure preciousness! 

There is nothing cuter than a tiny baby bottom stuck up in the air while sleeping

Ryan is the best daddy in the world!



You can't tell in the picture above because his finger is in his mouth, but he had on a bow tie that coordinated with his suspenders. He looked so darn cute! As we walked down the sidewalk toward the consulate, hundreds of Chinese citizens were gathered in an attempt to also acquire a visa to enter the United States. I learned that this consulate processes ALL US visas for the entire country! There are certainly busy there! We walked right through the gate and stood in the line designated for American citizens. You are allowed to enter the consulate with very few items, and no cameras or cell phones are allowed, so I do not have pictures inside to share. It is a very neat building, and I'm glad Noah got to see it! We walked up to the second floor, took a number, and sat down while awaiting our turn. We were number 514, and within 10-15 minutes, we were called up to Window 9 where we handed over all of our required documents. Once the lady finished processing her pieces, we were allowed to sit back down. The man from Window 10 called up one member to represent the twelve families present, and we took an oath that everything we provided in our paperwork and through our interviews was correct to the best of our knowledge. Once that part was finished, I sat back down to wait a bit longer for the gentleman at Window 10 to call us back up for fingerprinting and the interview, which was just a couple questions about Tyson. After we completed that portion of the appointment, we were sent on our way! They kept Tyson's Chinese visa, and if all goes according to plan, we will receive it from our guides late tomorrow afternoon. So exciting! We celebrated our consulate appointment being completed with vanilla milkshakes for Ryan and Noah and a scoop of chocolate ice cream for me while waiting for all of the families to finish at the Consulate.


Several days ago, while Ryan was picking up our first order at Oggi's, he met a mom and a son she had just adopted. Ryan and this sweet boy connected quickly, and every time he sees Ryan, he gets a huge smile on his face! Although his adoption was processed through a different agency, he and his mom rode with us to the consulate together. Ryan and Noah were able to have a lot of quality time with him! He could not keep his hands out of Noah's hair. It was sweet! I share this picture because I want you to see the face of a precious son of the King who turned 14 years old yesterday. In China, this means that had his mother NOT pursued him for adoption, he would have reached the age of being no longer eligible for adoption. Let that sink in. This beautiful boy, in the picture above, the one who loves video games, swimming, and hanging out with people who care about him would never have a family, and there would be little hope for his future. Maybe he would have been allowed to stay at the orphanage to obtain an education there. Maybe they would have dropped him off in the street with a little money in his pocket, left to fend for himself. Maybe he would have gotten involved in a crime ring (75% of aged out orphans) or committed suicide (15% of aged-out orphans). Maybe he would have been part of 10% group who have a positive outcome. Thankfully we never have to find out because this beautiful boy was SEEN by a family who had just adopted 6 months ago. He was then PURSUED by this family. And now he will GO HOME to a forever family and have a chance at excellent medical care, a strong education, a chance to go to college, deep family relationships, healthy friendships, and a successful and lucrative career. He will have his own home, his own family someday. He will learn who Jesus is and what Jesus did for every single person in this world. He will get to see how God called a family to him and how they pushed through all barriers of fear, worry, selfishness, doubt, and superficiality in order to obey the calling that God put on their hearts. I truly believe that God calls SO MANY more people to adoption than the ones who follow through with it because He gave us a free will to make decisions on our own. He will not force us, but like He said to me on July 19, 2012, "This is what [He's] asking [us] to do." I will never, ever forget this 14 year old boy, and he will forever remind me of all the orphans in China who age out and never come home. Once again, please view sweet 10 year old Leo's picture and videos! He is so beautiful and has been waiting too long for a family, simply because he is a boy. It breaks my heart into pieces. I can't imagine finding out that he aged out come 2019 (click link).  I cannot wait to see how God uses this precious boy in our lives. Will we adopt an aging out child someday? Time will tell!


We grabbed some KFC for lunch. Don't you love how the drinks are served in a bag here? They do not call it "take out" or "carry out" here. When you travel to China, call it "take away!" :) See that tiny dixie cup next to the bag? That is my serving on mashed potatoes and gravy. Love the portions here!

A photo of my favorite KFC meal (I am SO SO SO ready to eat a big salad when we get home...or maybe 10.
Tyson had a fruit squeezable and leftover chicken fried rice. Noah enjoyed a PBJ sandwich. Once we had all finished eating, Ryan put Ty down for a nap in the bedroom, and then he and Noah left to go swimming. I used my free time to get on Facebook for a bit, and then I did something that I made sure to do during Tucker's adoption. I wrote Tyson a letter on stationary from The Garden Hotel and shared my heart with him. I will ask someone to help me mail it tomorrow from China, and hopefully it will reach our house in Indiana. Then, I will save it for when he is older and is ready to read the things I wrote. Maybe I will wait until he and Tucker are in middle school or high school. Maybe it will be part of their graduation gifts. I don't know yet. I'm letting future Amy sort out those details. If you are traveling to China soon, this might be something you'd like to do for your child!


When Tyson woke up from his nap, Ryan and Noah were still swimming with the 14 year old boy I mentioned previously. I decided to show him several pictures and videos of our family at home. I wanted him to see what our house looked like, and more importantly, I wanted him to see several pictures of Liam and Tucker. I cannot wait for them to meet for the first time Thursday! I am hoping he will recognize their faces when we see them! I also showed Ty videos of Ryan and the boys dancing to You Tube videos of Dance Revolution. He was cracking up and dancing along! I think this little guy is going to fit right in just fine.


Once Ryan and Noah returned, we decided to go run some errands. Ty is showing glimpses of more courage, as he will let go of our hands and walk with us for small bits at a time. He still appears to feel more comfortable and secure in our arms or holding our hands, but I am proud of him for taking some brave steps forward.

Tyson watching his reflection in The Garden Hotel elevator.


One of our stops included grabbing some items from the grocery store. The store was packed!! My goodness. Ryan said, "Every housewife in China is in this store right now!" I thought maybe the women were all shopping before their husbands came home from work. I told Aron, our guide, how busy it was, and she said, "Oh don't shop on Tuesday or Wednesday! That is double point day and all the housewives are out shopping!" HAHAHAHAHA!!! Won't make that mistake again! We were mostly there to buy 3 huge packages of those circle rice crackers for Tyson for our flight home. Not sure if we've made this clear or not, but "Ty-Ty love cracker" (make sure you say it in our best caveman voice)!! I stood in the check out line for, no joke, 30 minutes. In the United States, we have 27 lines at the grocery store to check out, and usually they have like 6 open. You've shopped with your children, things are barely holding together, and then you had the dreaded wait at the check out. Is this your experience, too? Well, turns out, the experience is exactly the same in China except all 27 lanes are open. It is CA-RA-ZY. Grocery shopping is universally not fun! Haha! For those of you traveling to China soon, make sure you stand super duper close to the person in front of you when in line. If you leave even 2 inches between you, someone will step in front of you. We learned during our first trip to China. So important to know those simple cultural differences to make your traveling easier.


I'm pretty sure a women 6 people ahead of me bought 20 different items and paid for each individual one with her credit card. She kept taking receipt after receipt, signing them, and giving them back. It happened so many times that I honestly thought there was a glitch in the matrix, or I was possibly experiencing my own personal Groundhog Day. It's funny, but I'm really not kidding! I blinked my eyes and thought maybe I was losing my mind. Ryan was walking Tyson around outside the store because it was SO overwhelming there, and Noah stayed with me. He was super clingy, holding onto me and resting his head on my side. When I asked him if he was ok, he said, "I feel sad." While standing in the most crowded grocery store I've ever experienced, homesickness hit my sweet boy. He made it a day longer than me, and I told him I was so proud of him! Noah has really loved our time in China, but sometimes you just miss your brothers, your home, and all that is familiar. I couldn't be more proud of Noah than I've been on this trip. It was such a good choice to bring him this time! Toward the end of our time waiting, a taller guy behind me struck up a conversation with us. Hysan was born in Hong Kong, so it was fun to share our adventures there with him. He loved hearing about our visit to The Peak, our time on the Big Bus Tour, our ride on the Star Ferry, and our time at Kam Wah Cafe eating don tots and pineapple bread. He is the manager of Guest Services at the Crown Plaza Hotel at just 23 years old (I have his card), and he has lived in several different parts of the world for a time, including the US. Meeting him made our time in line much more enjoyable!

Noah is oh so happy with his chicken nuggets

After we finished running errands, we grabbed some dinner to "take away." We were scheduled for a Pearl River Boat Cruise and needed to meet our guide in the lobby at 5:30 p.m. Ryan and I agreed that there was no need for Tyson to go on the boat cruise. Things had been going so well, and we didn't want to overwhelm him. During our trip with Tucker, the boat was SO crowded, and if Tyson became really upset, we didn't want to get stuck on a 90 minute boat ride. They went back to the hotel room and played on the floor together while Noah and I had a date.


Before getting on the boat, Noah said he needed to use the restroom. We had our first squatty potty experience together, in a bathroom stall that was maybe 3 feet by 3 feet. I am laughing as I remember that adventure, but my lips will remain sealed. What happens in squatty potty stays in squatty potty!

Thanks to one of our friends in the travel group, we were able to snap a quick picture in front of this beautiful picture. 


We were assigned to Table 8 with a mom in our group and her daughter. I share this picture for two reasons. First of all, this woman is a teacher who works with visually impaired children. Her knowledge, resources, experience, and natural gifts have led her to adopt two visually impaired children! I love that so much. I love how our experience with cleft lip led us to China, which led us to Tucker, and now we are back to adopt our newest son with CL/CP. God has put certain experiences in your life, and He has given you natural gifts. Is it possible that those might be preparing you for a child who is waiting somewhere in the US or Internationally? Did you parent a child with a heart condition, and now your heart is more open to adopting a child with heart disease? Are you a nurse who works with orthopedic surgeons? Maybe your knowledge and experience helps you feel more prepared to parent a child with limb differences. Those gifts might just be leading you to a child who is waiting for a family.

I love this kid SO much!


I enjoyed a piece of light cake and some hot tea while Noah nibbled on his cake and some corn on the cob. He has a loose tooth, so I couldn't help but laugh each time he tried to take a bite! He brought that apple juice on the boat with us. I asked if I could have a drink, and he said, "Sure." While I was taking a swig he said, "I probably should have warned you that you have stuff in there to chew." I almost spit it out as chunks of pulp (I think) poured into my mouth. Hahaha! I like my juice liquid only. Live and learn I suppose. 


I cannot say enough good things about Noah on this trip. He has complained maybe 1 time this entire two weeks. He is constantly anticipating needs and jumping right in to help. For example, when we are packing to leave, Noah will start grabbing items we will need for Tyson. He is such a gentleman, too. Noah is always holding open doors for me. It has rained off and on a lot here, and I mostly wear my favorite flip flops from Old Navy. The sidewalks are made of tile instead of concrete here, so when it is wet, it becomes SUPER slippery. While we ran errands yesterday, Noah kept guiding me to the tiles that had bumps on them to give me traction so I wouldn't fall. He held my hand super tight as we walked through areas that looked more slippery than others. He is going to be a great husband someday, and after seeing him with Ty, a great father, as well. He has the best spirit! When we were sitting at dinner on the boat, the little girl across from him wouldn't eat while her mom was getting food for herself. When the mom returned, she asked her daughter why she was not eating. Noah said, "Maybe she is waiting to pray with you first." It was really sweet! He and I have laughed like friends so much on this trip. It has given me the best glimpse of what life could be like with him as a teenager and adult! Oh, did I mention that we hadn't even had Tyson for maybe a day or two when he started asking us when we could adopt again? I started to laugh, but I think Ryan began to cry! He has continued to say this whole trip that we need five kids in our family. Haha!!

Noah snapped a quick picture of me on top of the boat.

A picture of us with the Canton Tower in the background

Canton Tower lighting up the night's sky

Selfie with Noah

Noah and me posing with his ballon animal. 


When we were upstairs on the roof of the boat taking pictures, I saw this young kid and did a double take. In person, he looked SO much like my Tucker but grown up! Tyson looks a lot like the men in his province, but when we were in Chongqing adopting Tuck, I didn't see his face reflected in the men around us. You could really see it when this kid smiled! Our guide translated for me, and I showed him a picture of Tucker. His eyes got really big! He agreed that Tucker's picture looks very much like his picture as a child. We took some more pictures, and he made sure to take a picture of Tucker on on my phone. It was a fun encounter!

video

A juggling act took place with 20 minutes left on our boat ride. Noah enjoyed it! Oh China, I will miss you!


Noah has spent almost every minute of our time here with Ryan, Tyson, and me. This was one of the only times he got to just be a kid and play with another boy. They were having fun sword fighting with their balloon dogs. I loved seeing him laugh and just let loose with this boy. I think it was God's gift to him after missing his brothers and feeling homesick.


The boat tour ended, and Aron took one last picture of us together. It was such a special night to share together! I mean, how many 7 year old boys get to ride on a Pearl River Boat Cruise? This was our last official tour with our group and a perfect ending for our time here.


Aron has been such a wonderful light here in China! I have loved spending this past week with her and Rebecca, who I hope to grab a picture with today (Wednesday). She has helped make this trip to China so enjoyable, and we are so grateful for the work she does! While we are at home, waiting to bring our children home, Aron is working on the China side, helping families move through the process. She is a gift to adoptive families!!


When we got back to our hotel room, Tyson was just getting ready for bed, and Ryan was on a conference call for work. I scooped my sweet baby in my arms, and he snuggled right in, quickly accepting my presence and love. I cannot tell you how much that meant to this momma's heart. I had been away for a few hours, and he was quickly happy to let me snuggle him to sleep. This is a gift! I've done nothing to deserve it, and yet, the Father has made a way. After Tyson was fast asleep, I went back out to the living room and noticed a cake sitting on the table. Someone from the hotel sent it to us, along with a notecard apologizing for the noise from the construction. It was a nice gesture, as the noise has definitely been frustrating at times. It was beautiful and covered with whip cream, so we dove right in. We took our first bite, and it was all cool whip. We took a second bite, the texture was still like cool whip. We realized that there was a small, 1 cm cake layer at the very bottom, and the rest was the texture of cool whip. We got so slap happy eating that cool whip cake! See the video below for some late night silliness.

video

Today was such a special day, and I found myself watching out the windows of our van a bit more, taking in all the sights. I have such great love for China. She has given me two of my precious sons. I will forever have a place in my heart for this country and look forward to returning with Ryan and all of our sons someday together.
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