Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 20- Captain America has arrived! Welcome Home to our Toby!

The day has finally arrived when we get to come HOME!  When you are so far away for such a long time and you are way out of your comfort zone, home is such an inviting place.  There are so many things that you miss so much more and are grateful for.  I am such a blessed girl!  The emotions that I feel today are more than I can fully comprehend or express. Here are just a few:   I am extremely homesick..... I feel bad that my new child is leaving his homeland permanently so I feel compassion on him for his feeling of loss.....  I am extremely tired and worn.....  I am elated that all the paperwork and fundraising is complete.......  I am overwhelmed at the thought that God gave me another chance to be a Mommy when I thought it was impossible after tragedy struck me years ago....  I am challenged and frustrated when Toby is testing me.......
I am so surprised that Toby fits perfectly into our family....I feel so thankful for so many people that have supported us this year.    Here are just a few of the feelings that I am experiencing.

We started out early to get to the airport, check in our 10 bags and head home.  We had an extra blessing at the start.  We got to the American Airlines check in area and the line was a mile long and moving VERY slowly.  Toby started getting fussy and loud so I wanted to use that to our advantage. wink   I tried to go to the self check station, but it was closed.  I asked an attendant if there was something we could do because our deaf baby was fussy and didn't understand why we were waiting for so long.  The lady quickly brought us to the first class lane that was empty and checked us in saving us about an hour long wait.  I winked at Toby and said "Thank you, Buddy for helping us out."  It was definitely a blessing to not have to wait with a screaming child for an hour!

We all were SO excited to get on the plane, but we all knew how long the ride would be... This time around it was a 12 hour flight because we were going another way (Russia, Alaska, Canada, Chicago)..  On the way there, we flew over the North Pole.  Yeah it was pretty cool to say that you had been to the REAL North  Pole a few days before Christmas.  That way was 13 hours.  Saving that one hour was a great thing!  Toby didn't know that it was that long and he said something funny to me halfway through the trip.  He said "airplane finish"  and he wanted it to land.  For 12 hours, he only slept less than a hour.  The other 11 1/2 hours were a challenge for all of us.. We tried our best to entertain him, but wow... it was hard.  I do not desire to do that ever again.  When we landed in Chicago, I can't express the sheer joy that we all had.  Phew!!!  What a trip!  A few minutes later, we had  to deliver "the package" to Homeland Security where Toby would become a US citizen.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed so I don't have one of those to share, but just know that I can't express to you the joy and satisfaction I felt when the officer said "You are done."    The family picture below was taken as soon as we left the Homeland Security office.  (:  Captain America has finally arrived in America. (I was saving those underwear just for today..haha)

We met a great Chicago friend, David, at the airport.  It was so nice of him to come to the airport. I felt bad that we were SO tired and we were not ourselves, but it was sure good to see him.  Toby was wide awake and really interacted with him.  That was special for all of us.

Our short 47 min flight to Dayton from Chicago was a time of reflection for me.  All the feelings that I had posted above were all hitting me at once.  I couldn't believe that we were almost home.  Toby finally fell asleep at this point and could not be woken up.  He was out cold.  We got off the plane exhausted but delighted to be in Dayton.  When we crossed the security section, we saw something so unexpected..... A HUGE crowd of family and friends with signs, balloons, flowers, gifts and smiles.   We were all so taken back by the love and support that we all "lost it".  The emotions were too much to hold in and when I hugged my brother and sister in law, I just couldn't let go.  I had missed my family and friends so much and I still tear up thinking about that moment that will be etched in my mind forever.  Unfortunately, Toby was out and I was so disappointed for him that he did see all that love pouring over us.    I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone that came to the airport.  That meant more to us than you will ever know.  It was so thoughtful and it was the best way to end our epic adventure.    I also want to say thank you for all of the little gifts for Toby (he can't stop playing with them), the roses (gorgeous), balloons (boy did he love those), signs,(Loved the kids holding them all)  a ride home (Thank you Rohrers) decorations at our house,(Good job Meslohs)  tears of joy, and hugs.  I also want to say a big thank you to my sister in law and brother, Rachel and Matt, who came from Columbus, made us dinner and dessert and gave us a few groceries to start out week.  That was SO thoughtful and touching to all of us.

So now the real adventure begins... on December 9, we were just a family of five and today on December 28, we are a family of six. We are the parents of 4 beautiful children.. gifts from God.  Three are biological children  and one adopted child, but all four are loved the same.  Words can't express how we truly feel on this day..  Thank you for being a spectator on our journey.    All I can say is we love you and as far as  the journey ...."To be Continued......"

Day 19--- The start of our journey home!

Today we began our first stage of our journey home.  We got up pretty early.  Cassidy  had an earache, but we gave her Tylenol and I had many people praying that she would have a pain free trip home.   Unexpectedly, David was very nauseous and I don't need to go into details about the end result.  I think he ate something that didn't quite agree with him the night before.  He was a pretty miserable guy pretty much the whole day.  Well... we went to the airport to take a domestic flight to Beijing.  It was about a 3 hour flight and trying to entertain a little boy who can't sit still was a huge challenge, but after giving him my hand sanitizer, my bath and body works lotion, several wipes, Chapstick, crayons, and snacks, we made it.  Believe it or not, Toby cleaned the tray in front of him for about half of the trip with my lotion and hand cleaner over and over and over again.  I sure hope he keeps up the "clean freak" side of him when he arrives home...maybe he can teach that to the others...(:  

We were picked up by a sweet man we had met with Todd a few weeks before and taken to hotel near the airport.  We got to spend some good time with our dear friends, Todd and Dawn and family.  What a HUGE blessing they have been to us on this trip.  It's so hard to explain the immense gratitude we feel for them...they did so much for us and we are so thankful for all they did for us.

Luke had a highlight of the week.  He got to play pool and ping pong with several pretty flight attendants from an Asian airline.  They were all giggling at him and he was eating up all the attention.  They asked him his age and he was wishing he was older than 16. haha

We were all anxious to go home so we headed to bed.  The funny thing about our sleeping arrangements was that we all had one room, 2 small double beds, and 6 people.   We started out with Bethany,Luke and Cassidy in one bed and David, Toby and me in the other, but it did not work. So we got really creative... Here is how we slept.  Nauseous David and wiggleworm Toby slept in one bed...sweet Cassidy slept on a sleeping bag on the floor, and the two teens and their Mom slept in the other bed.  Bethany and I had our heads at the top of the bed and Luke's head was on the end of the bed ..So basically I cuddled with his feet and legs at night to keep me warm because the blanket was way too small for a double bed. It was quite amusing as we laughed our heads off as we drifted asleep. We are so homesick!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 18-- This is it! The day of completion!

It is time to celebrate for today we were handed the last bit of paperwork that we need to complete the adoption and bring Toby home!  When I was handed the Adoption Certificate, I welled up with tears because all the stressful and tedious paperwork that had been done this year was ending today!  I have never had a more stressful year in my lifetime, but the end result for this voyage has been priceless.  We get to bring home the best Christmas present and the best Chinese souvenir that I can imagine.... our sweet little Toby.  It is hard to believe that he is ours to keep.  We can't wait for all of you to meet him.  He loves to try and talk to everyone he meets and give you his "two cents".  I can just imagine the conversations that he is having as he is "talking" to people he meets.  It is so funny.

Not only did we complete our adoption, we got to talk to our families/friends for the first time since we have been here.  We called our family in Georgia (They were having Christmas dinner) and had a great time talking to each one there.  We can't wait to introduce Toby to all of them!  We also got to Facetime with the Wojnarowski family.  They were all gathered at my parents' house for the Christmas night gathering. I am so grateful I had the chance to talk with and see our family.  It made my day complete.  It was also great seeing our great friends, the Bouchers too!  We are SO blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives who will always be there for us no matter what!

We spent the afternoon/evening walking through two beautiful parks in the city.  What a relaxing and peaceful way to end our adventure.  We cherished the time that we had together as a family.  I will never forget the bonding that all of us made together.  All of us grew closer to each other and to our Lord.  I am so proud of my kids for their wisdom and discernment during this time together.  I have such WONDERFUL children that God has blessed me with.  Thank you, Heavenly Father for the 4 precious gifts that You gave to me.  I am so honored to be the mother of Bethany September, Hunter Luke, Cassidy Hope, and Tobiah JianKe.

I do have a HUGE prayer request for the next two days.  My Cassidy was in some serious ear pain tonight (of course... the night before our trip..UGH)   I am just praying that it is not an ear infection.  We gave her tylenol and she is resting comfortably right now, but as you know, there is a lot of ear pressure when you get on a plane.  PLEASE pray for my baby girl to be ok.  We leave very early in the morning to fly to Beijing.  We will spend the night in Beijing and then fly out the next day with Chicago, Illinois USA as our first stop.  This will also be the place where Toby will become a US citizen.  I think I might cry then too!  Thank you for your prayers for both Cassidy and Toby as we fly back home.  If I can't get internet for tomorrow's update, I will update when I arrive at home.  This has been a priority for me everyday because I want to share this adventure with you, especially those of you  who have supported us both financially and in prayer.  The words THANK YOU will never be enough to express our gratitude.  Until tomorrow...(maybe)   God bless you and thanks for praying for our safe and pain free return.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 17- Merry Christmas!

It's December 25 today on the calendar, but we will be postponing our Christmas celebrations until after we get home.   Today was a very quiet day.  We all woke up and felt a bit homesick.   We ate breakfast, laid around in the room,  ate lunch at McDonalds, laid around some more... ( I know this is such an exciting post. haha)  But in the evening, we had the honor to be with some new friends that live here in China.  We have a wonderful friend in Beavercreek who is a foreign exchange student.  We met up with his parents here in Guangzhou.  We had the pleasure of eating dinner and seeing some beautiful parts of the city with them.   We actually went to a seafood market, picked out our dinner, and a nearby restaurant cooked it for us.  It is such a unique experience.   We were so grateful to have met them.  They gave us an authentic Chinese experience that we will never forget.  God bless them for their hospitality and friendliness to our family!  Our little Toby kept signing "beautiful girl" to their little girl.  He is already a little flirt. haha  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 16... Merry Christmas Eve

Hello there friends... Today is December 24th here in China.  I will admit it is the strangest Christmas Eve I have ever had.  Usually I am running around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready, but it feels quite different this year.  I have the majority of our Christmas traditions finished at home ready to do as a family when we return, but as far as feeling the "Spirit of Christmas", it is very different.  I am typing here in a quiet hotel room with no tree or music.. no hot tea (with Tang..of course) while watching It's A Wonderful Life.  Everyone is asleep... No one is putting up their stocking or putting out the traditional Santa cookies......Quite different indeed.... But as I look over into the Pack and Play bed and see a little black haired baby boy in his Christmas Pajamas sleeping soundly,  I feel a peace.  I guess I have a new perspective on things this year.  Adoption has been on the forefront of my brain this entire year and here on Christmas Eve , our family took an oath at the United States Consulate that everything that we have done up until this point has been true and that we promise to take care of this child that God has placed into our lives.   We swore that we would indeed do this on this day...  It was such a surreal moment to handover our papers to this officer and for her to say "Ok, you can pick up your child's visa on Thursday and then you are free to go home"  All that hard paperwork was over and now the real hard work begins....  molding a child into a happy, healthy, God fearing, law abiding citizen.   I guess the paperwork seems like a cinch after thinking about this challenge, but we know that God brought Toby into our lives.  He never promised it would be easy, but He did promise that He would always be with us through the process before the adoption and now after.  

What a night to reflect on how God himself sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to be born so that He would grow up to die ...for us....and because of His death on the cross, he took the punishment for our sin that we so deserved.  We can freely accept Him into our lives and be ADOPTED by our Heavenly Father to belong to His family forever.  Such an awesome thought to think about THIS Christmas Eve.   I am in awe at this wonderful opportunity to love a child that did not come out of me and to train him and teach him what God says in His Holy Word.   I know he will be difficult to train at times, but thats ok.   God will be my role model in this process.  He adopted me into His family when I accepted Him as my Savior way back in 1980.  I have not always been easy to teach and train, but He has loved me unconditionally and had provided for my every need.  I will do the same for our sweet Toby with God's help.  Merry Christmas to all of you and may you also find the true meaning of this Christmas season.

Several families in our adoption group got together for a Christmas Eve gathering.  We sang songs together and heard a wonderful devotional from another Pastor that was in our group.  I attempted to sign for Toby, but he only lasted 5 minutes.   David has had a cold and he decided to keep Toby occupied in playland during our time.   It is going to take time to get Toby to understand what is going on but it will be ok!

Bethany, Luke and Cassidy and I went on a river cruise ride with several people from our group.  We ate Papa Johns pizza  (YUMMY)  while looking at the beautiful lights of Guangzhou... So beautiful and impressive.   David and Toby stayed at the hotel so their colds would not get worse.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 15- Lions, Tigers and Panda Bears....Oh my!

As you can guess, we went to the zoo today.  David woke up not feeling good this morning... thank goodness it is NOT C-diff, but an upper respiratory issue with coughing.   Please pray that he makes a quick recovery for Christmas and our trip home.  He stayed in the hotel while the kids and I ventured out with the rest of the group.  I want to publicly say how proud I am of Bethany, Luke and Cassidy.  During this entire process, they have been SO awesome,  but especially for the past 15 days.  They have helped us every time we need help and they really love Toby.  They are teaching him lessons and being great role models for him to follow.  I am SO proud of them and am so thankful for them!  We could not have done this without them.  It has been an "all hands on deck" adventure.  Thank you for your support to allow them to be able to come with us.  It was a step of faith and we are blessed that they have experienced this with us. Plus Toby has bonded with all of us at the same time.  Praise the Lord, there are NO attachment issues at all!

We had a great time at the zoo.  We were all impressed with the zoo here.  It started with a safari where we all sat in a tram and the animals ran freely around us.  Toby LOVED this part the most.  As we went through, I taught him many new animal signs and he remembered them at the end of the day.  Such a smart boy!   I think he really liked the snakes and panda bears the most from his expressions.  We got to feed giraffes too which was my absolute favorite  part.  I am just fascinated by giraffes. (:

Mr Toby was so tired from our trip that he fell asleep in my arms on our bus ride back to the hotel.  Not a very good nap at all today, but he did have a fun time at the zoo/safari.   David got enough energy to join us for a "delicious" McDonalds dinner.  (We don't think we will be going to McDonalds for a long time after we get home..)  But we enjoyed being altogether.

Toby was very active today at the zoo, (buying a stroller was our best investment of the trip) but my favorite part of the day is when he is just about ready for bed.  He is calm, playful and so affectionate.  He even asked me if he could go to sleep.  (He must really be tired) We all kissed him good night and he held my hand as he drifted off.   It was a much better night tonight.

Day 14- A day in the city

Since today was Sunday, we did not have any adoption paperwork to do, so we took our time getting ready for the day.  We decided to talk a walk in the city and observe the sights and sounds of Guangzhou.  We all agreed that this city seemed a little more like what we were used to..not completely, but definitely unlike Beijing and Zhengzhou.  I really love the weather here.  It feels like a winter day in Florida... not too hot and not too cold.   They even have palm trees here too... (:   We ate at a few local restaurants.  Toby loved his fried rice and playing Chinese checkers.   Funny thing is, when we got our bill for one of the restaurants, we noticed that they charged us for playing with the games..  Oh well..  that was different.  Later in the day, we took a subway to Shamian Island.  It is a cute little section of the city that has a river surrounding it.  We got to enjoy a choir singing Christmas carols in a church called "Christ Church".  It was such a beautiful church with beautiful pictures of the life of Christ on their windows.  We would have loved to have gone to the service that morning, but Toby would not sit longer than 5 minutes in the service.  We have to get him used to going to church because he will be at our church a lot.   We ate at Lucys restaurant and found grilled cheese sandwiches... Hallelujah!  It is the little things. (:

  We enjoyed just walking and enjoying the evening there.   Toby was getting a little restless towards the end of the day so we decided to get back to the hotel.   Today was not too exciting of a day, but hopefully every day Toby is learning that we are his family and that we love him unconditionally no matter if he is happy or has a tantrum.  Prayers are appreciated for us as parents as we have to deal with disciplining this "live wire" in a loving, consistent way.   Do you remember the "terrible twos" stage?  Well I think Toby was saving that stage until he got into a family..  haha  He is cute as a button, but gets into everything and can't sit still more than a few minutes.    I admit that it is a challenge and yesterday my emotions got the best of me.  I cried a bunch.  Thanks for your prayers.  We will happily take the good with the bad.   We wouldn't trade him for anything.  He is such a blessing to our family!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 13....Its a Boy! Weight- 35 pounds Heights- 38 inches

Today we had to go to the required medical exam next to the US consulate.  It was cool to see an American flag blowing in the wind.   Yes indeed, I miss my homeland!  When we arrived it was sort of like controlled chaos.  There were other families getting the exam from other agencies as well as the 14 families from Holt international..... Lots of crying, screaming, and movement going on in that small space.   We waited for a while to get some more paperwork ( Yeah...more papers)  and then we had to visit 4 screening rooms.  The first one was a general screening where they checked out his body and head measurement.  

Then he went to the Ear, Nose and throat doctor to get checked for infection.  He has had a sniffle only in the night which has ended up as a bloody nose twice this week, but that did not affect his exam..(PTL)  I don't think that many Chinese people have exposure to Deaf children.   They would start talking to him in Chinese, but immediately give up their efforts when I would say that he was deaf.  Funny thing is... that did not stop our social butterfly.  Toby was signing to all of the nurses "Thank you" after they were finished...  Teaching him to be polite and considerate of others has been a priority... He is doing a great job of it too!

He had to then get his eyes checked and his weight.  He was a whopping 35 pounds and I can believe  that at the end of the day when all of my muscles are sore. (:  He did a color blind test as well.  Toby passed..David failed,,,,  haha  

The last but not least room was the TB testing room.   The parents were not allowed to go in.  We just had to hand the child to the nurses and they would close the door, draw their blood and then return a screaming child back to the parents.  Fun Fun!   Most of the smaller ones were very upset by this for many reasons...leaving their parents and experiencing physical pain, but our Toby was a trooper.  He walked in with the nurses, and came out smiling showing us his bandaid.  We were so proud of him.  I think he has a high pain tolerance because in just 5 days of having him, he has fallen a hundred times, bumped his head a couple of times and then had a needle stick with NO tears....  The boy is a tough guy!

 After we left ,  we came back to the room, ordered Papa Johns Pizza... YEAH!!!!!!!!!   Good news... we all dove into it and savored each bite.... Bad news.... Toby spit it out...  OH NO!  How could one our family members NOT like pizza?  Well.. I guess it has to be a acquired taste... We will work on that. ;)   I grabbed my pizza and went down to a meeting room for a two hour paperwork meeting while David and the kids stayed in the room.  We went over the schedule for the rest of our time together as well as gathered our important documents needed for our consulate appointment.

  For dinner, we found some "western"  food... I had a BLT.  It would have been better if the bacon was completely done ...  OH well...  We all enjoyed something different for sure.

  We are so thankful for all of your prayers each day.  We are all excited to come home and start our life in America.   One prayer request.... Our Toby has a couple of new knicknames... Crazy Ninja and Live Wire.. Can you guess why?   He is the cutest thing ever, but boy oh boy, does he move..  He keeps us on our toes constantly and if we are not watching him every second, he could open the door and take off down the hall. (which he has done already)  Having a deaf child that might be confused by this HUGE change could make him extra fidgety... especially on a 13 hour flight.  My prayer request is that he will act ok on this flight home on Saturday (28th)  I know we are still 6 days out, but I would love for you to start praying now...otherwise it will be a pretty stressful time for all of us.  Thanks ahead of time!

                       Here he is saying "Thank you" to one of the nurses as he exited the room...

                                                           Our reaction to his cuteness!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 12- On our way to Guangzhou

Well our time in Zhengzhou (Toby's hometown) is over.  Today, we got on a plane to Guangzhou to complete the adoption paperwork at the US consulate.   This was Toby's first plane ride and he was a trooper.  He had a short attention span with the items that I gave him, but he did good for the 2 hour flight.    We had such a wonderful escort named Echo in Zhengzhou.  We are praying that she will discover the true meaning of Christmas this year.   We checked into our hotel and Toby was cracking   all of us up with his unique personality.  We are so blessed already by this little boy!

Day 11--- We found a Chinese Santa.

Thursday was our day to relax.  We took our time getting up and going down to the breakfast buffet.  The breakfast buffet has so much variety that it is easy to stay at the restaurant for hours.   Yes, I even ate Chinese food (fried rice, noodles, and Chicken dish)  for breakfast.   They also have typical "American" goodies as well so we got the best of both..   We just hung out in the hotel, played with Toby, and took a walk to Walmart and Starbucks.  In the evening, the hotel lobby had a choir of girls sing Christmas music.  Mostly "secular" type songs, but it still gave us some Christmas cheer.  We even found a Chinese Santa.  As some of you know,  I force my kids (all of them) every year to do a Santa picture.  (Luke loves it... haha)   I have done it now since Bethany was 2 months old in 1994 and it is a tradition of mine.  I was worried that this year my tradition would be broken because I wanted Toby to be in it, but I knew we would not be arriving back in America until after Christmas.  Well we found one here.  It may not be a professional shot, but at least the tradition lives on.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 10.... The Finding Spot

On this day (Wednesday) we had the opportunity to go to the place where Toby was abandoned.  He was abandoned in an outpatient building of one of the hospitals here in Zhengzhou.  We tried to find someone who would remember this situation that happened a little over 2 years ago, but we could not.  The people that we did talk to did show such gratefulness for taking this child into our family.  Apparently there are a lot of children that are abandoned in their facility.  Toby did not seem like he remembered anything, but while we were there we gave him extra hugs and kisses. (and M&M's)..It really was a strange feeling knowing that we were in the same spot where he experienced so much pain and sadness, but at the same time, we are happy that we could change those feelings into joy and happiness.

  In the evening we got to eat delicious roasted Peking Duck..  They detached the head right in front of us.  We had a really good day and it ended with our bedtime prayers, hugs and kisses and lots of love.