Day 17: Traveling Home & Airport Homecoming

At the hotel before beginning out long trip home

I am writing this post so I can start talking about life at home with our new family of five. :) Reliving the 3 flights and long layovers home isn't much fun for me, but for sake of documenting the entire journey, let's do this. :)

Tucker sleeping the first time on our first flight - it didn't last long :(
Unfortunately, they did not board on time for our first flight out of Guangzhou. I think about 30 minutes after the flight was supposed to leave, we finally boarded. Fortunately, they allowed people with small children to board first...well, except for some people who pushed ahead of us. We got into our seats, and while the rest of the plane boarded, we gave Tuck a small dose of Benadryl. I mean, it was 1:30 a.m., and the poor guy hadn't fallen asleep yet. He crashed pretty quickly, so Ryan and I tried to sleep, too. Unfortunately, we were woken by his screams of terror. My friend Kelley put it best. It's the sound of an orphan's cry. You guys, there is nothing like it. Every child has cries - ones of pain, sadness, fear, etc. But this cry...the one that sends chills down my spine, is the cry that I can only describe as Tucker's orphan cry. It makes you want to grab him and run to a place filled with so much peace and love that nothing can hurt him. For the next 3 hours, we cycled through minutes of quiet sleeping and then minutes of screaming in terror. Tucker was pushing me away. There was nothing I could do to help him, so I prayed. Ryan did his best to reposition Tucker, to give him suckers, to cover his face from the bright lights that were on to serve dinner at 3:00 a.m. That Daddy worked as hard as any daddy has ever worked to keep Tucker calm. With every slam of an overhead compartment, every light turned on, every flight attendant asking if someone wanted a drink, Tucker awoke with screaming terror. You can only imagine my relief when that flight ended.

Oh...except we now had a 6 hour layover in Seoul, Korea. The relief didn't last long.

To be honest, I was done when we got there. I was upset that Tucker was pushing me away, probably more because I was exhausted than anything. I just wanted to be home and have Noah and Liam in my arms again. We had been awake for nearly 24 hours straight, and I had slept maybe 30 minutes. Seventeen days is a long time to be away from your children, and while I really kept a lid on the emotion of missing the boys in China, slowly, that lid was peeling back, and I could finally feel the ache to be home.

Ryan, seeing home poorly I was doing, told me to go lie down for a bit. I slept for about an hour and a half. During that time, Tucker played on this indoor play area at the airport and enjoyed time around some other children. Ryan then laid down for a nap and was able to sleep from 8:00 to nearly 10:00 a.m. when Tucker finally couldn't resist and started tapping his head. While Ryan slept, I did everything I could think to do on that little sleep in an airport. We played on that indoor playground. We watched airplanes. I took him up and down the moving walkways until my vertigo got the best of me, and I had to stop. I even put him in the basket of one of the carry on luggage carts and wheeled him around the airport. He wasn't super excited to hang out with me but seemed to be tolerating it.

After Ryan woke up, we grabbed some McDonalds where the Egg McMuffins cost like 2600 of whatever kind of money is used in Korea, and the pancakes were like 2300. Haha! I had no idea what we were spending and didn't care. We needed some food to keep going. After eating breakfast and passing a little more time, we finally boarded our flight (again, people with young children first) pretty much on time. Already, the pushing and cutting in line had ceased to exist in Korea. It was nice. :)

We got on the flight, gave Tucker a child's dose of Melatonin, and popped in a sucker. He fell asleep with his seatbelt on and the sucker in his mouth while we ascended into the sky. I'm not sure if it was truly funny or just funny because we were sleep deprived. Either way, we were so relieved that this very sleepy baby would finally get some rest, and we would get to catch some zzz's, too. I think we slept about 1.5-2 hours at most and woke up as Tucker stirred. Our flight was 12 hours and 40 minutes long, so for the next few hours, we gave Tucker snacks, put on Monster's University (which he actually watched for maybe 15 minutes or so), played with toys, used his water paintbrush book, and walked up and down the aisle for a bit. Fortunately, we had the 3 seats on the right side of the plane to ourselves rather than being in the middle section. After a few hours, we gave Tuck another dose of Melatonin, and he fell asleep after about 30 minutes. We again all got about 1.5-2 hours of sleep. This was the last sleep I saw until Friday night in my own bed.

For the last 6 hours or so of our flight, I'm honestly not sure how we passed the time. It is a huge blur that involved snacks, some amazing burritos, a full meal, movies, suckers, candy, walking in the aisle, trips to the bathroom, and finally, looking out the window of the airplane as the sun was rising to see the United States of America below. HALLELUJAH! That puts a little pep in your step for sure!

Tucker was finally going back and forth between Ryan and me for the last couple hours. When we hit the one hour left mark, I started to get giddy. We had survived an almost 13 hour flight from Korea with a 2 year old after a 6 hour layover and a flight before that! We were rock stars!

When we landed in Chicago, I was on Cloud 9! Tucker was officially a US Citizen the second we hit the ground. It was so exciting!! We had to go through Immigration where they took some paperwork we received in China and processed it there at the airport. It went pretty quickly. Then we grabbed our luggage and went through Customs without a hitch. We re-checked our bags with American Airlines and got our last set of boarding passes. We took yet another escalator to the second floor, jumped on a train, and rode to our new terminal. I couldn't believe we were just one flight away from Noah and Liam.

Once we reached our new terminal, I went to the restroom to freshen up. It was SO nice to put on a fresh shirt, pop in my contacts, and put on some makeup. I could not believe we were almost HOME. I mean, our journey began July 19, 2012 in that hotel room in Cincinnati, and this chapter of our lives was finally coming to an end. I met Ryan and Tucker at Chili's and had my first salad in nearly 3 weeks. None of us had much appetite but knew we needed to eat something. Before too long, it was time to board the plane. We sat in almost the last row, Tucker and I on one side, and Ryan in the one-seater next to us. He wasn't feeling great and quickly fell asleep. I got Tuck a sucker, knowing much of the flight would just be up and down and that it would help with pressure in his ears. He sat on my lap for take off and fell right to sleep before we even hit our highest altitude.

While Ryan and Tuck both slept on that last flight, my mind kept drifting back to different things we experienced while in China, many of which I've written about, but some of which I haven't...and never will. There is just so much to process - things we've seen, experienced, smelled, tasted, loved, hated. Things that broke us to the core. Things that made me want to shake my fist and cry to Jesus to come back and end this world because the darkness is just too much to bear. The trip to China was so exciting, so amazing, so incredible...and at the same time so difficult and so intense. I am thankful for the opportunities we had to see get acclimated to the culture and time zone during our trip to Beijing. Learning about and experiencing some of China's history was incredible! We are grateful for the week in Chongqing to get a sense of the city, to visit Tucker's orphanage, and to have a chance to see his finding spot. These are things that will be invaluable as Tucker grows older, and we share what we can about his past. The week in Guangzhou was long, and we enjoyed the company of other American families who were also adopting while we waited for our Consulate Appointment.

The trip home was long...lots of waiting and patience and feelings of will-this-ever-end...much like the entire adoption experience. :) God has used this time to awaken parts of me that I never knew were there. He has grown my heart and shaved off pieces of me like impatience, selfishness, and my love for comfort and easy. I have prayed that this experience would make me a better mom - that Tucker would help me be a better person. I can already see how each day, this prayer is being answered. So during those last 50 minutes, I thought about all of those things...how far we'd come in just 15 months since being called to adopt. I couldn't believe we had traveled across the world to bring this little boy home. In fact, I see Tucker all day long now, and I still can't believe it.

This was the 17th day away from the boys, and when the plane landed, tears filled my eyes.

We had made it.

We patiently gathered our belongings and exited the plane. We walked toward the gate and through the terminal. Ryan was holding Tucker, and he put his arm around me. Again my eyes filled with tears. This moment that we had envisioned for so long was almost here. We were about to see our sweet sons, many family members, and many friends and introduce them to Tucker.

As we got closer, I saw Noah and Liam standing there. My heart couldn't hold out for another second, and before I knew it, I was running to them.

...and I just couldn't stop hugging Noah. I just held him and cried. He just stared in my eyes for the longest time without saying a word. It was a moment I never want to forget.

Liam kept looking at Ryan and saying, "Where's Daddy? Where's Daddy?" Ryan said, "You mean Mommy?" Liam said, "Yes!" He pointed to me crouched next to him and said, "She's right there." Liam looked at me for the first time and said, "Mommy!" I loved feeling his arms wrapped around me. He quickly rushed me over to the window to see the airplanes. I stayed a few minutes and then went back to get another hug from Noah.

After having several minutes with just the kids, we started making our way around to our parents.


After many more tears, we started introducing him to our friends.

And I snuck in as many kisses and hugs as I could with the boys.

I think the only person missing here is my friend Abigail. So sad we didn't take the group picture before she had to leave. You can see two of my friends to the right who have already adopted from China. I met Stephanie through a mutual friend from church, and my friend Jenn (in red) is one of my 3/20 sisters. :) The girls in the middle are several of my very closest friends here in Greenwood and their children. These women each prayed us through this journey, donated money, celebrated with me, cried with me...all the things your dearest friends do. Lisa was on a mission trip to Africa helping perform heart surgeries on children, and her presence was very missed this day, as she and her husband Andy had done so much to help bring awareness to orphan care and to raise funds to bring Tucker home. To the left you see Ryan's parents, my parents, Ryan's sister, and our nieces and nephew. This picture shows some of the greatest blessings God has given us. I love each of you!

One of our first pictures together...

Before leaving, everyone gathered together, and Ryan led us in prayer. It was beautiful and perfect and just the way I hoped to end our time together. What a special homecoming for all of us!

We love you, Tucker YiMing Abell! You have so many people who have prayed for you and loved you right alongside us. We cannot wait for you to fall in love with all of them, too.

We drove home, all three boys in car seats next to one another in my CR-V. Tucker was a little afraid of the car seat, as he had sat on our laps for 11 days in China whenever we were driving anywhere. Noah held his hand, and then he was as happy as could be. As we pulled in front of our house, we saw that our yard was neatly mowed. We had fresh mums on the front porch along with several pumpkins, including three little ones for the boys. A welcome home balloon was floating above our mailbox. We were home! When I walked inside, I seriously didn't recognize the place. I know that sounds crazy...I mean, we weren't gone that long, but that is how I felt. Everything looked brand new and so so clean! My fridge was full of groceries. The mail was stacked neatly in a pile. We were home!  So many people worked very hard to make sure our transition home was a smooth one, and it has been exactly that. We have been able to spend the last 4 days pouring into our children and being super engaged with each one. It is exactly what each of us has needed. Lots of love...lots of hugs...lots of kisses. There is no place like home.


Day 16: Last Day in Guangzhou

Last Thursday marked our last day in Guangzhou! I will call this our day of packing and finding random things to do to pass the time. :)

We woke up and had our usual breakfast buffet at the hotel. Oh how I already miss that breakfast! To have someone make you eggs, steamed buns, toast, noodles, fresh fruit, Miso soup, chicken (yes, I ate chicken from breakfast once), and pretty much anything your heart desired...there is nothing like it. I didn't have to go to the grocery...I didn't have to prepare the food. It was just there for the taking! I skipped breakfast today because I was grieving the loss of that buffet.

After breakfast we worked on packing our suitcases for a bit, had lunch, and put Tucker down for a nap. We packed some more, and when Tuck woke up, we decided to walk around some local malls. The malls in China are SUPER SUPER fancy. Like, 90% of the stores I saw are really high end. I believe the first one we went to that day was called the Friendship Mall. After riding about 12 escalators (hence the vertigo issue), we left and walked toward the hotel and ended up going into the Peace World Mall (I think there was an error in translation). Again, this was a nice mall, but we were so excited to spot a place to get Tucker's hair cut. There were two young guys who helped us, and it cost 50 RMB (less than $10 US).

His poor hair was almost covering the top 1 inch of his ears. He started off a little scared...

...but tried to be brave...

...but then the fear became too much. There were tears, but they didn't last long because he got a sucker when he was done. :)

After getting his spiffy new hair cut, we hurried back to the hotel to give him a bath. He was covered in hair! After taking both a bath and then a shower, we went for a walk around the hotel.

Walking down the hallway of the 13th floor
We must have ridden up and down these elevators a million times. I think all of the van rides, elevators, escalators, etc. got the best of us because toward the end of our trip, Ryan and I both were experiencing quite a bit of vertigo. So thankful to have my feet on the ground. I haven't left the house since we got home Friday, and it has been SO nice to just be HOME!!!

The elevators on the 13th floor

The lobby of our hotel. This is the check in/check out area.

How beautiful is that staircase? I was so dizzy walking down it. Vertigo I tell you!
We finally made our way to the children's indoor play area we had heard about...took awhile to find it. When we finally go there, we were a little underwhelmed, but it was still nice to have something to do that was low key. I think the reason I was a little sad is that it honestly reminded me of an orphanage play room. Tucker had a good time nonetheless!


Can you tell how ready Ryan is to leave? We were stuck at the hotel and in the immediate area with nothing to do until we got picked up at 9:30 that night. We ended up grabbing some books on the table behind Tucker and making up crazy stories because everything was in Mandarin (of course). They were all about different creatures and people peeking from behind different objects. Lots of creepers lurking around...we had fun with it! The things you do to pass the time!

There was a castle in the room, and Tuck did have some fun playing inside it for awhile. Ryan even got in there for a bit and was CRACKING ME UP! I have a video but can never figure out how to upload videos to blogger, so I guess that memory will stay between us. Ryan is probably really grateful because he would be so embarrassed if I posted it. We watched it for the first time last night, and I was crying I was laughing so hard!

After playing as long as we could in that room, we left to go grab dinner. We decided on Subway for our last meal, and Ryan got cut in line. Funny how different the rules are in China! We grabbed our sandwiches, both eager to get home.
We ate our dinner, but the butterflies had started for me. I was feeling a little anxious about the traveling that needed to take place to get home. We changed into our travel clothes, finished packing the backs with all of our last minute stuff, and FaceTimed the boys! It was SO SO good to see them, and we loved saying that the next time we would see them, we would be HOME! We were so ready to squeeze them and kiss them!
I went to the lobby to check out. A few minutes after returning to our room, a young guy came up to retrieve our bags. We followed him down the elevator and waited for Miko to arrive. Soon after the van pulled up, and we rode about 30-40 minutes to the airport. By this time, it was around 10:00 p.m., and Tucker was still awake. We walked over to the Asiana Airline area to check in to find the LONGEST line you can imagine. There were SO many people with SO many bags to check. We took a deep breath and settled in for a long wait. I think it took around 45 minutes or so just to get our boarding passes. After that, we tried to give Tucker a bottle, but he was super distracted. By the time we reached security, he had drank the bottle down to 100 ml, which is what we were allowed to take beyond security. It was a funny coincidence! We made it through security but then had to fill out some forms for each of us and go through another area since we were leaving the country, I think. Honestly, we were super tired, Tucker was not happy, and we were a little overwhelmed by all the steps we had to take just to get to our gate, so the details are a little fuzzy. We made it through that area, and then I think we finally got to walk to our gate. We had about 90 minutes until boarding time. We grabbed some sandwiches and ate them as fast as we could. Tucker still hadn't fallen asleep and was being quite the handful, as you would expect with any 2 year old who was still up at nearly midnight.
We knew we had a long day ahead of us still...


Adoption Through Dad's Eyes

Adoption is beautiful.  Adoption is painful. It seems like the hardest things are always the most rewarding. 

Adoption is difficult.  There are countless steps, and the paperwork is never ending.  Lucky for me, Amy organizes all of that.  The waiting is even harder.  I am "lucky" so to speak.  I "manage" my emotions by simply turning them on or off.  It is quite controllable for me.  If I am feeling anxious - I can flip the switch.  Turn it off...  Maybe watch a game.  If I feel sad - turn it off.  Go play with the boys...  In reality, I still feel the emotions, but I am really good at pushing them down so that I can do other things.

Waiting, for a father during the adoption process is probably different that a mother. I would wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner and play with the boys and that was it.  Next day, the same.  I could get through the waiting by focusing on my life and my responsibilities.  Then again, I am a big picture kind of person.  My wife is not.  She is a DETAIL person.  I know this made waiting more difficult.  She physically felt each step.  Waiting for a step to be completed physically hurt her.  She knew there was a little boy waiting for her half way around the world.  She literally fought each day to complete a step and start a new one - because, that is just one more day in an orphanage.  One more day during the time in Tucker's life where he is able to learn the most, in the shortest amount of time.  In other words, at 2 years old, he is in a developmental period where he can flourish.  For Amy, the race was on.  Not only was the developmental time precious, but how is it ok for a little child to go to bed without a mommy or daddy?  Unexplainable...

In reality, (and I will probably get in trouble for writing this) half the battle is supporting your spouse's emotion.  In my opinion, Dads, it is our responsibility to keep it together.  Tell your wife that everything will be ok.  It is ok to show the emotion from time to time to let her know she isn't alone in this.  But, don't let her see you down too often.  It will be difficult to wait, and you will get frustrated.  But, you need to keep it together.  Give her someone to vent to.  Let her cry on your shoulder.  Reassure her that everyone is doing there job and eventually each process will be completed.  Pick up the slack around the house because you know she's done the majority for years!

Back to the title.  There will be more stress, but that is manageable.  Chances are, you have already started feeling what I would call the real pain.  When you consider adoption, you have already opened your heart and mind to the reality of the orphan.  There is a sadness there beyond description.  I automatically think of my two year old and my five year old.  When we say prayers to God to thank Him for what He has done for us, both of them start the same way. Your kids might begin like this.  YOU might say something like this... "Thank you for Mommy, Daddy, and Noah/Liam" (depending on who is praying).  Sometimes they will say things like "thank you for our family", or "thank you for our home".  I remember as a small child being scared in my room.  I would be terrified of a shadow or something like that.  If dad or mom came in, the fear was instantly gone.  I knew I would be fine because they would protect me.  I was never scared that I wouldn't get enough to eat, because they always made sure I had enough.  I was never cold - our house was always warm.  I wasn't alone.  They loved me and so did my sister.  They taught me EVERYTHING and so did she.

The VERY most important thing to me in the world is my family.  This poor little guy has never had one.  I think of how worried I get when Liam's fever spikes.  How closely we monitor him over the next few days.  We get his medicine, cool him with a cloth.  Take him to the doctor.  Monitor his eating and drinking.  Can that be done in an orphanage setting?  That's when the worry sets in.  What if he's hungry.  What if he falls down.  If he's sad, will someone hold him?  The truth is, it depends on the orphanage.  And that is the hardest part...  The knowledge that these needs are not being met.  And the number of orphans is staggering.  153 million.  Roughly half of the US population.  This isn't a post to tell you that you need to adopt.  Chances are, if you are reading this, you found it because you are an adoptive father.  So back to the topic.  I will list some of the painful parts, and then you will see the miracle.

1.) the reality of orphans
2.) knowing "your" orphan is just waiting for you
3.) mountains of paperwork
4.) the amount of wasted time in the process is astounding!!
5.) managing emotions within the family as this can be a volatile time
6.) answering the question "how much longer until you leave"
7.) worrying about the impact to other children in your household
8.) EVERYTHING in your life has to stop in order to proceed with an international adoption as you will be required to travel.
9.) many times in the first days, and probably many other times, your child won't even like you - or so it seems...

1.) unbelievable outpour of support by friends and family (it can be hard to accept the generosity, but accept it).  God has arranged for others to help you.  Let them.  This can be hard for men.
2.) seeing your son for the first time - wow.  Just like the delivery room.  Disbelief, overwhelming gratitude, and pride.
3.) sitting with your son the first time he hears a prayer or a song about Jesus.  Literally the very first time :) This introduction will last a lifetime - and then some...

Hang in there.  Do your part.  Support the team.  Change a life FOREVER.



Day 15: Guangzhou Consulate Appointment

We woke up early yesterday (Wednesday) in order to have plenty of time to get ready for our Consulate Appointment. This was the very last thing we had to do in China before coming home. We had breakfast in the lobby as usual - boy am I going to miss having someone to make me eggs every morning! I have got to find the egg and butter steamed buns at an Asian Supermarket STAT. Those things are delicious! Oh...and congee for Tucker. He loves it!

The Fontenots, our guide Miko, and our family all got in the van and rode to the US Consulate. There were so may Chinese people standing outside the Consulate. I'm not sure if they were hoping to be allowed in to apply for their Visas or if they were people watching or if they were waiting for their appointment for later that day. All I know is there were dozens and dozens of people waiting outside. You are not allowed to take wallets, purses, cameras, watches, or anything like that into the Consulate. We only had a clear plastic bag with diapers, wipes, and snacks for Tucker. Miko snapped a few pictures of us before going inside. 

We walked right in to the front of line (that was a first for China!). :) Ryan said, "It sure is nice to be on US soil again!" He was right. It just made me more excited to get home. :) You can't see Tuck's shirt very well, but it has a tie sewn on it with the letter "T". My friend, Kelley, sent it to us before leaving for China. We didn't represent "red" very well, but we had "white" and "blue" covered. 

We went inside, got a number, and played with Tucker/waited patiently. At 10:00 a.m., a man asked all of the adoptive parents to stand up and take our oath. We sat back down and waited maybe 10 more minutes or for our number to be called. I went to the window to hand over our paperwork, and Ryan brought Tucker over so that they could see that he was the correct child. They went back to this little area to play while I finished the paperwork. Then, we were done! While the Fontenots finished their paperwork, Ryan and I went outside and just smiled in the sunshine. We saw the American flag waving in the cool breeze, put our hands on our hearts, and said the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a sweet moment. Tucker grabbed the hand of one of the Fontenot's little boys, and they walked out of the Consulate hand-in-hand together. Again, so sweet.

We met Miko by the medical clinic, hopped in the van, and made our way back to the hotel. Tucker's Visa to enter the United States should be ready today (Thursday) at 4:20 p.m. Then we can leave the country!

Tucker was pretty antsy at the Consulate and really needed a solid nap, so Ryan and Tuck stayed back at the hotel while I went to Shamian Island (pictured above). This is a very famous area of Guangzhou for adoptive families because previously the White Swan Hotel is on the island, and that was where all adoptive families stayed in China. Because it is being renovated, that is no longer the case right now. I joined the other two adoptive families (Fontenots and Parsons) for lunch and shopping at the island. 

We ate lunch at Lucy's Diner (not Lucky's, Brad). They have several American food options, and we sat outside because it was such a beautiful day. 

The famous lemon tea.

My club sandwich and fries...delicious!

Our first stop after lunch was Peter's for some souveniers for family/friends. I cannot share what we bought because the recipients read this blog! :)

Below you'll see my friend, Carroll Lane, bargaining with Peter. This chick can shop!

We stopped in a few other stores but didn't buy anything until we reached Jenny's. She and her husband are super sweet! I was able to buy Tucker an English Standard Version of the Bible where one column has English and the other column has Mandarin. So so special! I also got a couple Christmas gifts for my nieces, and a few things for adoptive mommas at home who are trying to raise money to benefit orphans. 

I'm sad to say that I didn't take pictures of the last store we went to called A Gift from China. This store is especially unique because all profits benefit orphans in China. I found a few items here and called it a day. My favorite kind of gift is one that blesses the person receiving it and blesses a charity of some kind. Here are some more beautiful pictures of Shamian Island. There are models and photographers everywhere taking pictures. It was fun to see in person after seeing so many picture on other momma's blogs. 

The Fontenots had a bit more shopping to do, so I took a cab back to the hotel with the Parsons. They really are the sweetest family! We have been together since the flight from Beijing to Chongqing. Their sweet daughters were so well-behaved and had the most positive energy. I loved it! Carroll Lane has become such a dear friend to me. We have bonded over so many experiences here in China. Her husband, Brad, was such a good sport and is clearly such a great daddy. Ryan got along with him very well! We are hoping to see each other next Spring or Summer...and FaceTime very soon.

After getting back to the hotel, I took the elevator up to the 13th floor and noticed that Tuck and Ryan were walking toward our room after coming back from the pool. Tucker hadn't taken a super long nap and was pretty wild, so we decided to get him dressed and go take a walk. 

This is the waterfall at our hotel. I cannot explain how surreal it was to finally stand on that bridge with my son. I have seen family after family take pictures in this very spot over the past year. We had made it!

This is just another beautiful area on the hotel grounds.

I love this sign: "Mind your head." The ceilings and walkways often have low passages, so you really must "Mind your head." After walking around our hotel, we decided to make a quick run to the grocery store for formula. Tucker was NOT into it at the grocery. Cue the screaming and thrashing side to side in the carrier. We grabbed a few snacks and the formula and high-tailed it out of there. Something that I have never gotten used to seeing is the items available for sale at the check-out area. In the US, you will see batteries, gum, candy, and small toys to lure in kids. In China, you will see condoms...lots and lots of condoms. At home, they are located in a more private area, but here, they are just out in the open to grab on your way out the door. Very interesting. 

We met up with the Parsons and another woman named Caroline, who had her Gotcha Day a few days ago, and Caroline's brother Jeff. We all went to Tekila for dinner. It was the first time we had dinner with anyone else in China, and since it would be our last night together, it was perfect. After dinner, I started to say good bye to Carroll Lane, Brad, and the girls, and I couldn't help but cry. We had been through so much together, some of which will always stay in China. It was such a blessing to experience nearly two weeks in China with this family. Seeing Caroline with her daughter brought tears to my eyes. We made a toast to "Three Less!!!" 

Three children who will never again live behind the walls of an orphanage. 

Three children who will forever be loved by their families.

Three children who will become US citizens as soon as their feet hit US soil.

Three children who will know the love of Christ and what He did to save them.

There are few things more beautiful in this world. I am convinced.


Day 14: Guangzhou

Yesterday morning we woke up and spent a little time in the room before going down for breakfast. It was fun to just have a lazy morning and actually straighten my hair again. :) It's the little things! After breakfast, we met up with the other three families and our guide. She took us to another wholesale market where we were able to find some Christmas gifts for the boys and other family members. The shops were all quite small, and many of them sold the same items. I think the mall was like 7 or 8 stories high, and we only walked around the bottom four floors. It was SUPER overstimulating to see so many items for sale, so many people (we were told to hold tight to our wallets/purses), and so much noise. It was a busy place! Think Black Friday on steriods - that is the market! :) It was so overwhelming and busy that we did not even snap one picture. Our guide gave us 3 hours to shop, which was about an hour more than we needed, so Tucker, Ryan, and I all went to the area where the bus would pick us up to take us back to the hotel. We gave Tuck some snacks, took some pictures, and then visited with the Fontenots for a bit. What a sweet family! We are so blessed that God crossed our paths.

We got back to the hotel, put Tuck down for a nap, and then finished the movie we had started the previous day. Finally, at 5:30 p.m., we woke up Tucker and decided to walk around our hotel and play at this little playground on the roof of the 4th floor.

The rock garden and elevators on the 13th floor where we've spent the past week.

The pool and showers on the 4th floor roof.

The baby pool (Ryan and Tucker spent time in there today, but the water was freezing!).

How cool is this whale? It was made from these large rocks. 

We took several pictures to remember this night. 

Woo-ta-da! A phrase Tucker is often saying, but we have no idea what it means! Carroll Lane, we have to figure that one out.

Tuck was sad when I wanted to hold him for some pictures.

But then he decided I am silly and funny and let us snap a few pictures. :)

A precious "CHING" from Baba. 

The cute little playground on the roof. I can't wait to take Tuck to our parks at home!

The slide is fun!

So much fun I even went by myself. :) *I was trying to get Tucker to not be afraid of this particular slide.

He liked climbing the steps...

...and the stairs.

After helping him down this tunnel slide several times, he attempted to climb into it by himself. He started to doubt his abilities and almost turned around, but we started encouraging him and cheering for him. He tried again, swung his legs around, and went down that slide all by himself! I was SO SO proud of him! I may have missed his first word. I may have missed his first steps. But, I saw him have the courage to go down that slide by himself for the first time, and I almost had a tear in my eye I was so proud. 

We had so much fun playing that we didn't even notice the sun went down.

Finally, we decided it was time to go get some dinner. More steps and trusting Mama to hold his hand down them. 

We walked to Oggi's for dinner, where they serve Italian food, including delicious pizza. We had waited about 20 minutes too long, and Tuck was in NO MOOD to wait. I am pretty sure he is screaming here while stuffing crackers in his mouth. Ryan is probably taking a deep breath and praying. We do that a lot! :)

After enjoying a sweet dinner of Quattro Formaggi pizza on the floor of our hotel room, Tuck got really silly! It is not easy to take pictures of a moving, wild 2 year old boy (Eek - do I really have 2 two year old boys????). 

Sword fighting with Baba...

Bedtime was quickly approaching. Tucker was standing about 8 feet from me. I looked at him and said, "Tucker." He looked at me, gave me one of his very best smiles, and ran to me with his arms reaching out, and jumped into my arms. 

I melted.

I just hugged him and started crying and thanking God for that moment. Ryan saw the whole thing and came and sat beside me. I just held Tuck and said, "It was worth it. In this moment, I know it is all so very worth it. 

The paperwork.

The waiting.

The suffering.

The pain.

The longing.

The trip across the world. 

It was all worth it. 

Jesus gave His life because He loved us so much...so that we could be adopted into God's family for eternity. I cannot imagine the excrutiating pain and suffering Jesus endured before and during His crucifixion, but He knew the result would be salvation for anyone who places faith in Him. I am so thankful that God loves us so much that not only would He allow us to spend eternity with Him, but He also walks with us every single moment of every single day. We could not have endured the events of the past year without His strength, His truth, and His love.

There is one less orphan in the world. And it's all because of The Lord. That simple truth will never cease to amaze me. I stand in awe of the One who redeems us all...even a little 2 year old boy from China. 

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