Saturday, September 20, 2014

A few (not so good) firsts...

Thursday morning, we took one last walk through the local park in Kunming with our new friends, Dave, Tricia, and Max, and said our goodbyes to them. Joseph seemed really enthused about the events of the day, and every time it appeared as if it were time to leave for the airport, he would run over and put his backpack on. We met Jane in the lobby at 12:30 to go to the airport. She explained many things to Joseph about the trip, in Chinese, and his responses were all positive.

Jane helped us check in at the ticket counter and guided us to security, at which point we said our goodbyes to her. I always find it difficult saying goodbye to these guides! They are such wonderful resources and you can't help but bond with them over the course of the week. They are your lifeline in many ways! We made it through security, and Joseph was a champ. He insisted on wearing his heavy backpack the whole time. He started to get a little antsy at the gate, and reasonably so. We had two hours to kill, and he wasn't about to nap. We tried our best to entertain him, and since the great big airport was new for him, he really wanted to check out his surroundings.

We finally boarded the flight at about 3:30 p.m. This was already 2 1/2 hours past Joseph's regular nap time, and he still wasn't showing any signs of sleeping, yet he was exhibiting many signs of being overtired. We found our way to our seats, and decided to give him the window seat since he seemed so excited about his first airplane ride. Bad choice on our part.


Our first major parent/child battle began when he became defiant and refused to fasten his seat belt. We went back and forth with him for about five minutes, but he continued to resist, and finally Daddy had to play somewhat of a tough guy to get him to keep it fastened. The look on Joseph's face was of both anger and betrayal. He hadn't seen much resistance from his parents until then. And it was such terrible timing.

He faced the window and seemed occupied with the outside happenings. As we began to taxi the runway, his fingers were plastered to the windows, and I couldn't get him to turn around...it bothered me. We figured he was still angry, so I rubbed his back a bit in hopes that he would warm up. Not so. Moments later, the plane began to gain speed until the wheels went up. I thought maybe he'd fallen asleep, and I could see through the crack in the seats that the man behind me was kind of pointing at him. Jimmy thought maybe he was going to get sick. By this time, our son's fingers were completely gripped to the bottom edges of the window. I tried to get his attention again, but he wouldn't turn, even with slight force, and not even for a lollipop. When I finally managed to peel him away and turn him back towards us, we realized that our son was completely terrified. He had tears running down his cheeks and drool on his chin. I hugged him and consoled him as best I could. Jimmy and I felt like the worst parents on earth. Thank God, he was back to himself within about ten minutes (seemed like an hour). I am happy to say that the rest of the flight was uneventful, and our son was calm.

We shared our van ride to the hotel with an awesome woman from California and her two daughters (one newly adopted), and I really feel like God put us in that van together for a reason. This woman is an inspiration beyond inspiration. She has ten kids...six at home and this is her sixth adoption of major special needs children. This woman has a special heart and her faith is (as you might imagine) strong as can be. Getting to know them passed the time quickly and we arrived at the China Hotel in Guangzhou at around 7:30 p.m. We felt like we'd arrived in paradise! The room is gorgeous...much more spacious than our room in Kunming, so it is definitely a step up in size. And unlike our in-province room with barely working a/c, this unit is cranking! Jimmy quickly turned that sucker down (too down) and the room gradually turned into a frozen tundra. It was a little too icy for Joseph and me but the great big cozy down comforter made it bearable.

This morning we headed out for the children's medical exams. Our boy was a total trooper. The first stop was ENT, and all looked good. We quickly moved to station two, which was vitals. They weighed and measured Joseph, and then gave him an eye test. He failed. Suffice it to say, we think our boy needs glasses.

 

The third station is the medical exam. Basically, a medical doctor asks questions about the child's health and special need(s), then they fully examine each child. We were in and out quickly.

The fourth station is the one that concerned us, and all parents for that matter. It's the TB test, and it's administered through a blood draw. But things have changed since our last adoption, and they no longer allow parents to accompany their children. I wasn't sure how that would go down with Joseph, but the two nurses explained to him that Mama and Baba would be right outside the door, and our son marched in without hesitation. Within several minutes, he emerged with a bandaid on his arm, and not a single tear was shed. Extra brave. We hustled him down to the lobby for his first strawberry milkshake.


It was back at the hotel room that we saw our son's first tears. Upon our arrival to the room I asked him if he had to go pee pee ("neow neow" in Chinese), and he really had to go. He sprinted into the bathroom, with me trailing right behind him, and I predicted what was going to happen when I saw the scene. Seems the cleaning lady had shut the extra thick tempered glass door to the commode. I could see it coming, but I just couldn't stop it, and Joseph's head slammed full force into that door...hard. I grabbed him instantly and began to comfort him knowing that it must've hurt, but I also knew it probably scared the daylights out of him. The upside on the whole unfortunate mishap was that he was able to see Mommy in my element, which is administering lots of hugs and kisses to boo boos. After several minutes of consoling, I wiped his tears and he was good to go.

The rest of the day was uphill. The boys took a nap while I attended the paperwork meeting with all the Holt families to prepare for our children's visa appointments. After, we ventured out to dinner with a few of the couples in the group. Now we are back at the hotel room, and the boys are asleep. I am right behind them.

We have a packed schedule this week, but I'll post as much as I can!  Thank you again for your continued prayers on our behalf. We will be home in FIVE days, people! FIVE DAYS!!! We can't wait!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leaving Kunming.

This afternoon we head to Guangzhou and leave behind Joseph’s province. We have enjoyed this part of our trip, but we are definitely ready for the next phase of this journey, which is one step closer to home.

Yesterday, we walked around the town a bit, close to our hotel because we were going stir crazy in the room. It was cold and rainy, and we did not have a jacket for Joseph, so we decided to get him one. We also intended to get him some new shoes. I can't even explain the look on his face when he realized that these items would be his. Items so basic, yet he's had to share probably everything in his life. Not that we intend to spoil him (which we will when he sees all the toys in his room), but we feel like he deserves this. He's been without pampering for too long.


We spent our last night here with our friends, Tricia and Dave, and their adorable new son, Max. Joseph and Max really hit it off at dinner, and it was so precious. We got to see a glimpse of what a loving little heart our son has. He was so nurturing and gently with this sweet little boy, who is three years younger. It just made us love and appreciate our son all the more.

 

We’ve learned a lot about our little boy in these last few days. One thing we’ve noticed are some major inconsistencies between the real Joseph and the Joseph on paper. His file indicated that he was not as smart as his peers. Well, his peers must be geniuses because this kid is bright! He is definitely going to blossom quickly, at least we think and hope so. His file also indicated that he could say basic phrases but didn’t talk much. We laugh because Joseph is a chatterbox! He doesn’t stop to breathe sometimes! Of course, we don’t understand a thing he’s saying, but we just nod with approval or chatter back in English, and things seem to be fine. I know that sounds strange, but so far it’s working!

Our guide came to our hotel room last night with Joseph’s passport and explained to him that he would be going on some big airplanes with Mommy and Daddy. He seemed very happy about it all and up for the challenge. I think our little guy’s going to be just fine.

I mentioned previously that we’d requested more photos of Joseph from the orphanage. When we met with them, they agreed to send what they had, and two days later, they delivered. This particular photo broke my heart and brought me to utter tears. I look at his eyes in this picture, and I can so clearly see loss and hurt on a precious child's face. God is so good for blessing him with a family. I'm leaving you with this in hopes that you feel moved to do more for the cause of the orphan. Maybe it's not adoption that calls your heart, but there are many ways to bless the least of these, and if we all opened our hearts, couldn't we--collectively--be the change? I know this family is so humbly grateful for the generous hearts of so many who helped to get this child home.

Thank you all for being here in Kunming with us as we received yet another precious gift from God in our lives. You'll hear from us when we are in Guangzhou. God bless you, and thank you for your prayers on our behalf.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Double Celebration

It is hard to believe that across the world our son turned five on September 16th, and we missed it. I love him so much, and it hurts to think about it..he is such a Mama’s boy. I really, really miss the kids. No one said this would be easy...I'm not sure any major leap of faith comes without struggles, but we know it is all worth it. We are so thankful that our village has stepped up to celebrate with Charlie in so many ways…a grandmother who treats him like a prince, a trip to Lion Country Safari with Grandpa and Miss Suzanne, class parties, special playdates with best friends, gifts both delivered and mailed, and the gift of prayer intentions. That is more than we could ever, ever ask for.


Of course, we are focusing on all things good here, and on Charlie’s big birthday, something else BIG happened…our adoption became official in China, and Joseph is now a full-fledged Murphy! So, Charlie has just received the birthday gift of a lifetime—a brother.

We headed back to the official adoption affairs building at 9:00 Tuesday morning. It was a full house when we arrived, since most of the families had already arrived at 8:30. We were allowed to come later because our passport photos were done the day before, which, by the way, they had to take several times because Mommy was looking quite Chinese again, and they couldn’t see my eyes. Sigh.

Shortly after our paperwork process began, other families headed out, and it allowed us some alone time with the four orphanage officials from Xuanwei. We were able to ask questions about Xiao Xiao and the orphanage. We requested additional photos from his younger years. It was our chance to find out as much as we could.  

We signed our names on numerous essential documents to make the adoption official, and then stamped our red-inked thumbprints on top of our signatures. We were asked why we wanted to adopt from China, and we told them all about our family, about our beautiful children back at home, and about our angel, Daniel.

 


When all was completed, we gathered for some pictures for Joseph to remember these people who spent the first five years of his life with him—the orphanage director, an administrative clerk, the orphanage teacher, and we’re still not sure who the other man was, but he seemed very kind. We took the opportunity to give our heartfelt (and tearful) thanks to all of them. We conveyed, through our guide, that we are grateful for the care they gave Xiao Xiao. We told them how wonderfully adjusted he seems and that it is apparent they took good care of him. I also wanted to let them know that I could understand how bittersweet it must be...joyful for them to see these children find families, yet sorrowful to miss their presence each day when they leave. At that, both of the women began to cry, too. I am not sure it is culturally commonplace to show emotions in China, but they did. I hugged them tightly and thanked them again, so did Jimmy. They wished Xiao Xiao well, and I could tell they were offering him words of encouragement. Then we walked our son out of the building, and climbed into our van.



I saw him turn his head and stare at the building. I could only wonder what he was thinking, and it broke my heart. As happy as he was to leave with a family, I know he must’ve felt some pain and confusion leaving those familiar people behind. His Chinese name, remember, means “extra brave.” And, God bless him, he was. We gave Joseph a few quiet minutes to digest it all, and then Daddy was able to divert his sadness with play and it all turned joyful again. 

Back at the hotel room, we ate some lunch, took our family nap, and then took a walk through the park. Joseph loved the bubbles we brought him, and he enjoyed getting outside a bit. I can hardly wait to get him into the Florida sunshine. This boy needs some Vitamin D in a big way.


 

It is such a miracle to watch a child emerge from their shell. All the little things we take for granted in our lives are all new experiences for him. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All About Him.

Xiao Xiao (Joseph) is so incredibly sweet. He really is such a good little boy!

He is fiercely independent. And even though we love his independence, I really try to purposely help with some things that he is perfectly capable of handling. It feels good to give him a little help and he deserves it.

He is very smart, and seems to pick things up very quickly despite the language barrier.

He loves fruits and veggies...chooses them over most other foods. He is a great eater!

He loves to skip, despite his little turned in foot.

He is a neat freak, unlike his little brother! He puts his shoes and toys away...very orderly. He throws garbage away. His Aunt Sheila and Aunt Kathy have remarked that Charlie and Joseph could end up much like The Odd Couple.

He uses a fork and spoon...no chopsticks.

This boy is heavy! I mean, really heavy! It's so deceiving because he's so pint-sized. Jimmy noticed that, even though he's very thin, he has big bones. Those bones must weigh a ton! We are betting that once we get more nutrition in to him, some Vitamin D from our Florida sunshine, and of course his Juice Plus, he is going to experience some major growth spurts!

Mommy has been brushing his teeth gently, and there was some blood the first day. We asked the orphanage about it and they said that with so many kids it is difficult to ensure that this gets done. He will need some dental attention, but he seems to like having them brushed, and he's very cooperative.

He loves his bath.

He can write the number twelve neater than his father!

He loves Legos.

He colors in the lines like nobody's business.

He is very physical! He has shown us that he can do a bridge, a donkey kick, and he takes a mean flight of stairs. He certainly doesn't show any physical limitations!

He is already speaking English! And very clearly! He was quiet the first day, and then yesterday started mimicking Daddy! He can say Madi, Charlie, Grandpa, Bubba, punch ball, and many more things!

He is a Daddy's boy! Jimmy is so playful, and Joseph loves it! He was really not exposed to many men, so I think he's fascinated by Jimmy's silliness! His face lights up like a Christmas tree when they play together.

I know you've been waiting to hear this one. He adores his new backpack, which we let him pick out at Walmart yesterday. I wish you could've seen his face when he selected it! There was no doubt which one he wanted. It's a Chinese cartoon called Boonie Bears and it is the last one on earth that we'd have picked for him! It was very special to let him choose it, and he is so proud when he wears it! It's almost as big as him!


I've probably left out one hundred things, but we have plenty of time to share his milestones and firsts! We are seriously praising the Lord for His goodness and provision here!

Love Crosses Oceans--Gotcha Day

Gotcha Day started when our guide, Jane, came to our room at 10:00 a.m. to present us with a special book containing updates and recent photos of Xiao Xiao (Joseph).

As we learned more about him and how he's been lately, she mentioned that when she'd called the orphanage to check in with them this week, they'd thought we were coming in August.

You heard me. He thought we were coming in August.

Our hearts were instantly stabbed with daggers at this notion. That extended month and-a-half was a long time for us, but can you imagine how he must've felt?

Jimmy and I were both sick to our stomachs. We don't know how this happened, or why they weren't notified--or maybe they were and there was confusion. In any case, it happened.

I do believe I was more nervous going into this than any of our adoptions, and then this.

We headed over, at 2:30 p.m., to our meeting place, which was an apartment-type building they use for adoptions. There were two different rooms with about four families total and some children still waiting to meet their parents. Xiao Xiao was nowhere in sight. We found out that he was en route and would be there soon.

 

Then I looked over and spotted Max...the son of our new friends Tricia and Dave! I knew they would arrive soon, so I kept an eye out for them and armed myself with camera and video recorder. This is their first adoption, and I knew it would mean so much to preserve one the most meaningful moments. And we did! We captured so many photos for them, and it filled the anxious space as we waited for our son to arrive.

About ten minutes later--too quick to blink--I saw him coming through the door. It happened so fast that Jimmy missed it! I squatted down as I heard someone point to me and say "Mama" and before I knew it, he came flying across the room and wrapped his arms around me in a hug!

Oh my heart.

All that nervousness went right out the window. Of course (you know me) I was in tears, and I could only look up and thank God for this precious gift. It was all good.

He is precious! One of the total mysteries to us was his size. We just couldn't grasp it from the photos. Was he big? Was he little?

He's perfect in every way.

He met both of us, and we could instantly see hope and peace in his facial expressions. The interpreter asked him if he was happy, and he replied, "I am so happy to finally have a mama and a baba and a family." It still chokes me up to hear that. There are so many children who wish the same wish. Why can't they all have a family? They are so deserving.


We handed Xiao Xiao a few toys we'd brought, and we proceeded to complete some of our necessary paperwork. He continued to do well in our presence. So well--tear free and somewhat smiling--that they decided to take our official family photos a day early!

We completed everything in about half an hour and then it was time to head back to the hotel. The four orphanage workers said farewell to him and told him they would see him tomorrow. He never looked back.

 

As we headed to the hotel, I'm sure his little mind was reeling, and his body was exhausted. We're guessing he didn't nap, because he fell asleep in the van, and I took him on my lap to hold him.


He woke up when we arrived back at the hotel, and we went upstairs for some bonding and play time.


We grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant--we found it quite divine that they were playing Christmas carols for our first meal together. We gave our little boy his first bath, and then the three of us crawled into bed. Do you think he likes cuddling with Daddy? And as he was sandwiched there between us with the covers pulled to his chin and a slight smile, his head turned left and his head turned right as if in disbelief that everything was real...hoping we're here to stay. Yes, Xiao Xiao, we are here to stay.

 

I will save all the details about him for another post, but you guys...pictures don't even do him justice. He is such a cutie pie! Thank you for your continued prayers on this journey. We are so grateful for your love and support.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Home away from home.


The church is alive and full here in Kunming! We made our way over, about five minutes before ten, to the Trinity Church this morning. We were ushered upstairs to a packed house, and a kind group of American tourists rearranged their seating to accommodate us. Jimmy noticed that some of the Chinese people were taking photographs of the group (some taking selfies, too), and they had headphones for us English speaking guests! Is it me, or do I look more Chinese when I'm in China??


After the sermon, when it came time for the Christian version of the Catholic "peace," Chinese folk crossed the aisles to shake our hands and greet us. Then the Pastor asked all of the guests to stand up and a woman came over and passed out flowers to all of us. The congregation sang a beautiful welcome song to us! It was pretty awesome...we were both slightly choked up. I couldn't help but rejoice in the fact that our appearance is totally different, our language is completely foreign, yet we share this common bond and blessing...our faith.


 

The weeks leading up to our departure from home, I found myself humming a tune. It was a tune I remembered from protestant church before we became Catholic. When I heard the tune of that song in church yesterday--even though it was in a different language--I still recognized the tune instantly and it gave me a tremendous sense of peace.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. 
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye Heavenly host. 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  
Amen.
 
It felt like such a gift to be there today. When we returned to our hotel, we received a call from our guide, Jane, and found out that we will meet our son around 3 p.m. tomorrow while you are sleeping! 

Jimmy and I walked around the park again today, in such gorgeous weather (much like Florida in the winter) and as I watched little children run about, I soaked up the magnitude of it all. After tomorrow, Joseph will never be without a family again. He will have a mother. He will have a father. He will have a sister. And he will have a brother. I know our life as we know it will surely have trials and challenges, but how incredibly awesome is that thought? In less than 24 hours, we will finally see his face; we will touch his skin; we will hear his little voice. And we will love him unconditionally.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day One in Kunming

It feels so incredibly good to be here. Yesterday and-a-half-was really long. By the third leg, it felt almost torturous, but I have to say that we had some comical moments in between.  About an hour into our Beijing flight, the flight attendant says over the intercom, "James Murphy please ring your call button."  Our reaction was priceless. I just kept staring at the light panel on the ceiling of the plane waving my arm around in a lame attempt to find that elusive button. Jimmy looked like he'd seen a ghost, and we were both in a near-panic. Couldn't imagine why they needed him, and our hearts were pounding. The mystery was solved when the flight attendant walked toward him with a tray. We'd forgotten that he'd ordered a special meal when we purchased our tickets a month ago, and then we had changed our seats at the ticket counter in Detroit. As he says now, he thought they were going to send him out of the plane in a parachute for some reason. I think it must've been funnier than it actually sounds, but we were hysterical over it.

When we finally landed in Kunming last night, we were seriously done. Apparently more than a few people on the plane were done, too, because a man who Jimmy describes as "a Chinese mountain man" bolted up to the front of the plane before we were completely stopped at the gate. When the male flight attendant chased after him, he hit the ground and balled up into fetal position as if that were going to make it all okay and allow  him remain at the front of the plane. No such luck. They escorted him back to his seat. Again, we were in tears at the craziness of it all. Jet lag does that to a person!

Unfortunately, there were three exits out of baggage claim at Kunming Airport (one of the most beautiful airports we've ever seen), so it took us a while to find our guide. We were so relieved when we finally found him after pushing our cart around for ten minutes. Thankfully, this isn't our first rodeo, so we weren't terribly freaked out, just tired.

We rolled in around 11:00 and took showers once we got to the room. The two of us smelled like a couple of goats...actually worse. I think we might've even offended a goat, if that's possible. Those showers totally gave us what we needed to relax, along with some melatonin and by around midnight we hit the pillows. We managed to get a decent night's sleep and woke up feeling very refreshed. We really wanted to Facetime the kids at 7:00 a.m., which we did, and then we went down to the breakfast buffet. It was awesome. I'm not sure we've ever had a bad one on our China trips, actually!  

When we went back up to the room I put together the gifts for the orphanage children and workers. I also spread out all of the things we brought for Joseph. Do you think we have enough stuff for him??


There is a beautiful park across the street. We were told by our guide that Kunming means "Eternal Spring," and it is unique because the center of the city has a lake and the city is surrounded by mountains. It really is gorgeous. The Chinese culture is so neat. The park was filled with groups of people singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. There is a little amusement-type park there, too! We know a little someone who will be on those rides this week!

 
 

After the park, we decided that it would be a good idea to scope out our church for tomorrow, so we ventured out and found Trinity Christian Church nearby. They have a 10:00 service that is half English, so we'll definitely go. We then walked about five miles checking out all the shops, convenience stores, and everything in between. It was a fun and active day. 

We agree that we are so glad we came in two days early. As the day has progressed, we are both fading fast. We attempted to go for an authentic Chinese meal for dinner, but ended up walking out of three places (embarrassing) because we just couldn't make a decision, LOL. We decided that it was not the night, and that an authentic meal might be much more enjoyable when our guide is around to help us order! There are not many English speaking people in the city, but they are very kind and they really do try. We ended up in the hotel lobby restaurant and ordered a club sandwich and pizza. The waitress, at one point, asked Jimmy if he wanted another beer, and he replied, "Si."  As she walked away, he looked at me in a daze and asked, "Did I just say Si??"  LOL...we were laughing hysterically again. Now we are back in the room relaxing. We know that we need another good night of sleep so we can be rested and ready to receive our son on Monday!!! Jimmy and I are so drawn to all of the little kids here.  We can't wait to meet ours!