Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wednesday -- Part 2

   After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a while to let the kiddos take a nap.  Then, later in the afternoon, we had to go to the district police station for more paperwork and another picture.  Again, back out in public, Emily was scared.  The place was pretty crowded as all adoptive families who were working on the same time frame (gotcha day on Monday and an appointment with the consular’s office to obtain a visa next week) needed to be there the same day.  So, we again met up with other families that we had met/seen at the Civil Affairs office on Monday. 

   Dan and I had been looking forward to seeing one family in particular.  When Emily was brought to us on Monday, she was wearing the cutest little ladybug backpack.  I thought how very nice it was, and was surprised that the orphanage was giving her this gift to take with her.  Just before we had left the civil affairs office, I looked inside to see what was in it.  There were some snacks and a photo album.  I opened the photo album wondering if they had collected some pictures of Emily taken in the past, and realized that it held pictures of another adoptive family.  It was obvious that the caretakers had given Emily the backpack that was meant for another child.  I gave it to Miko to see if she could find the right family, but they had already gone.  In looking for them though, we discovered that another little girl was being adopted that week from Emily’s orphanage.  We kept the backpack and were waiting until we might see them again.  Families often send a photo album of themselves ahead to China hoping that the orphanage workers will show their child the pictures and talk with them about the family that will soon come to get them.

   So, once we were at the police station, Miko found the family (a very nice Canadian couple), we returned their backpack, and introduced ourselves.  We didn’t have a long time to visit with them, but what little time we did have was so very interesting!  Their daughter was younger than Emily, but so many of their behaviors were exactly the same!  The environment in which they had lived had certainly shaped them!  We “compared notes” on their medical files, too, finding out that they were almost identical.  I would now love to see other children’s files from the same place to see if they are all recorded that way.  Very interesting.

     But, soon we were called to take our place in line and had to leave the conversation.  Unfortunately, the other couple was not staying at the Garden Hotel, and they were leaving Guangzhou the next day because the Canadian consular’s office is in Beijing.  So, we weren’t able to see them again. 

As if we needed a repeat, Emily screamed through the photo session!!  Again, the photographer wanted to try to calm her down and get a better picture.  Again, we persuaded him that it was pointless, and that the people in line behind us would really appreciate it if we just took our screaming, panicked little girl and left!!  J
Not interested in being photogenic!!



Monday, December 30, 2013

Wednesday, December 11th -- Part 1

   Another day -- and every few hours seems to bring about a new change.  It's been good to see Emily continue to feel that she belongs with us.  Of course, I have NO idea what is actually going through her mind, but she still wants us close by, holding up her arms for us to carry her, and not wanting us to put her down, especially in strange places.  So, we're still a place of safety for her.

  We knew that today would be another stressful one for Emily.  We have had to go into a crowded shopping center now two different times.... the first being on Gotcha Day when we were going for diapers and wipes, and then yesterday on the way back to the hotel after the Civil Affairs office.  Emily really is afraid in crowds, and while she wants to be held, she still isn't calm when we're holding her.  She is constantly alert and is scared, trying to climb higher and higher in our arms.  She has not once simply sat on our hip and seemed content to let us carry her.  She's like a cat in a tree with a dog on the ground barking at her!!  She climbs and hoists herself up and grabs at our necks and pulls around shifting her body this way and that.  It definitely isn't relaxing!

  So, anyway, when we've been in crowds, she seems most afraid of people with white masks on.  In Asia, people often wear medical masks that look like surgical masks whenever they are sick or are trying to avoid getting sick.  In the crowded shopping centers, we saw several people with masks and Emily would start to cry.  We wondered if she’d had bad experiences with doctors.  At any rate, when we got up this morning knowing that today was the day for us to visit the international medical clinic for Emily’s physical required by the US immigration, we were bracing ourselves for traumatic.

   At least she had (sort of) forewarned us!!

   She whimpered and cried through the registration process with terror stricken eyes, and started ramping up the terror-stricken screams when we walked around to the examination rooms.

   They let us hold her for everything except the blood draw – and we had no desire whatsoever to have to be the ones holding her down for that, because we didn’t want her to think that we were part of the “bad guys!!”

   Emily had two “firsts” with us today.  One was actually in the lab where the nurse drew blood.  She told the nurse that it hurt!!  The reason that that was a “first” was that it was the first word she had spoken since we’d had her.  We weren’t in the room to hear it, and wouldn’t have recognized the Chinese anyway, but the nurses told Miko about it afterwards.  The orphanage caretakers had told Dan on Gotcha Day that she only spoke 3 or 4 words.  “Hurt” was not one of the words that they said she knew, so I think that there’s a lot more going on in her little brain than she let on!!

   After we left the clinic, Miko and the van driver took us and the other adoptive family we were with to a Cantonese restaurant.  (Side note:  I've probably said this before, but we enjoy being along with the Varnons so much….  It’s good to be going through all these experiences together – They are great moral support, too!)  Miko and the driver ordered us some Peking duck and showed us how to eat it!!  They got us a lot of other really good dishes, too, and we thoroughly enjoyed it all.  We’re getting more and more adept with the chopsticks!!

One of the waiters carving our duck!!

Miko and the driver (I wish I knew his name!!  He was a great driver, and was wonderful with the kids, too!!)
 When Dan had had his conversation with the caretakers, he’d asked about the foods Emily was used to eating.  They basically named NO solid foods.  And, she had eaten very, very little since she had been with us… basically only some milk thickened slightly with some rice cereal, and some yogurt that you drink with a straw.  Well, Emily was sitting in Dan’s lap (she will never let us put her down outside of the hotel room), and Miko and the nice driver started coaching Emily on taking bites of noodles.  Miko finally got her to eat a bite of “real” food.  And, we all cheered!!  She actually went on to take a few bites from Dan, too!!  So, that was the second milestone we crossed with her.  I was so glad, as I was thinking that she was just too scared to eat, and this appears to be a step in the direction of relaxing a little bit more.




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday, December 10th -- Adoption is FINAL!!

   Today is the actual official day that Emily became a Jacobsen!!  There are many millions of orphans in the world, but there is one less today!!
   Actually, there are quite a few less, and we are privileged to get to know other families that are in the process with us.  They are incredibly inspiring -- some with bigger families than us!!
   All of us adopting this week from this province in China had to meet again at the civil affairs office to do some more paperwork.  Again, we were some of the first to show up, and again, it was a nightmare with Emily!!
   However, she had slept through the night (Woo hoo!... Wish we could say the same!! :) ).  And, she had decided that we were her choice of people to be with.  She is dealing with a lot of fear, and yet she has decided that we are the safe ones!!  I can't tell you how happy that makes me.  She isn't "Mommy shopping" or "Daddy shopping" as many kids from orphanages tend to do.  She pretty much totally ignores everyone else.  She is afraid of strangers (which is likely what had her so upset yesterday when WE were the strangers!) and that is another huge thing to be grateful for!!  I don't know if she really understands that we are here to stay, but she she has accepted us for the here and now.  She wants us to carry her everywhere, and totally freaks out if we try to put her down.  Again -- no complaints at all, because we'd rather her cling than try to run off with every stranger that comes by. She doesn't even interact at all with Chinese people, which just shocks me to pieces.  But, I am glad.
   As of right now, Emily will hold her arms out for one of us to pick her up before we leave the hotel room.  We've learned that whichever one of us it is, that is the person that will hold her for the next several hours.  She won't even transfer between Dan and me.  So, we have to plan our time well.  When we're in the room, she is slowly gaining confidence.  She won't play, but she will watch us play with things.  She doesn't attempt to imitate anything we do or say.  In fact, she is basically non-verbal.  The orphanage caretakers had told us that she will say a few words in Cantonese, and understands some Mandarin as well.  When Miko tries to interact with her, she attempts both languages so that maybe Emily will respond in one or the other.
   Here are Dan and Emily waiting in part of the hotel lobby before we left for the civil affairs office.  Notice that she has toys in her hands.  She latched onto these toys here in the room, and hasn't let go.  She doesn't play with them, but she's not letting them go, either.  We've tried to get her to play with us, but if we try to take the toys to show her what to do with them, she cries...  So, hey -- let her hold them if they comfort her!!!

   When we got to the office, though, nothing comforted her.  It was the two of us again with all the other families looking on with their compassionate and understanding eyes as our little girl was inconsolable.  We had to have our picture made for the form we had to turn in.  She screamed at the photographer, and he wanted to try to get her calm enough to take a decent picture.  We told him, No thanks -- we'd take the photo with her screaming if we could just get done and get out of there!!   She apparently had bad memories from yesterday!  Well, I was with her on that one!!  Ha Ha!  Another family gave us a small toy that made various sounds and had some little lights.  It has won my award for the best electronic toy for kids -- the sounds are quiet enough that they aren't obnoxious.  It's a pretend key chain with 3 plastic keys on it, and the electronic part is the buttons for keyless entry into your car.  It got her attention for awhile at the office and slowed the crying.  She latched onto it, and does seem to like pushing the buttons a lot.
   Back at the hotel, she settled down again.  No smiles, but no screaming, either!!  She doesn't enjoy tickling, kisses, hugs, or any cuddling, but she does want to be close by us, and I consider that to be huge.
   We went for a walk near the hotel.  The Garden Hotel is really a great place to be -- especially for Emily.  She doesn't like crowds or streets all that much, but the hotel is huge, and has lots of indoor and outdoor places to walk around without crowds.

This is the front view.
   And this is out back in the gardens.  It is really beautiful!  Watching us feed the fish kept her attention for awhile.  She didn't want to hold the bread or throw any to the fish.  She would have to put down her toys/security for that, and there was slim chance of that happening!!
(Note from Anna: Mom is unable to access any blogs while she's in China -- due to an issue with the laptop -- so she's forwarding the posts and pictures to me via email, and I put them together here at home.  So far, the system has worked well, but there was a mix-up with the picture of dad and Emily in the lobby in the last post.  Mom intended for me to use a different picture in the Gotcha Day post, and the picture of dad and Emily in this post! :) I went ahead and posted the picture twice, but I'm going to go back and edit the last post asap! Sorry about that! :) )

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gotcha!!! -- December 9th

   We had originally thought that we would go to the Civil Affairs office for Gotcha Day in the morning, but we -- along with the Varnon family and about 8-10 other families -- were to go in the afternoon.  Miko was prompt, and we were the first ones there.  We had to check over some paperwork at first, making sure that all names, passport numbers, etc. were correct.  Before too long, caretakers from various orphanages in the province started arriving with the kids.  They took the children straight into a playroom, to make sure that all of the paperwork was out of the way before the families started to take their children!!  Then, one by one, they brought the children out.  We videoed the Varnon family as they got their sweet little boy!  Soon it was our turn.


    Out came Emily.  Miko captured the first minute or so on video for us, and then we had to move out of the way for another child to come.  We took Emily to the side and realized right away that she had had a diaper blow-out!!  :)  Quite the initiation back into babyhood for this mom!!  Even though Emily is not a baby (as in, "infant") we were soon to realize that in many ways, we really will get to start from scratch with her.  All of you who heard me say that we were targeting an older child because I was "done" with diapers get to laugh now!!!
   One of the nannies from her orphanage came to the rescue with a bag of clothes and wipes -- and another diaper.  Since we'd been told by them that she was potty trained, I had not come with diapers in hand.  I learned my lesson.  We had a jumbo pack of diapers and wipes before we got back to the hotel room!!
   After she was all clean, we went back out to the ruckus of the main room. And here was where Emily realized that things were swinging out of her control.  The nannies disappeared with Dan and Miko so that they could answer some questions that we had for them regarding her schedule and likes/dislikes.  We wanted to be armed with as much knowledge as possible so that we could do all we could to help her transition be a smooth one.
   Well, I pulled a couple of toys out of the backpack and tried to get her interested in playing with me.  She took the toys, held them tightly, but didn't play.  She tried to run!!  I caught her and brought her back.  From that point on, she was inconsolable.  Even a strawberry sucker wouldn't do the trick.  She held it, but wouldn't put it in her mouth.  She cried and cried. Then screamed and screamed. Then screamed and kicked and wrestled.  She wasn't the only little one crying, but she was the most violent!!  Parents of kids who were holding it together a little better looked on with compassion in their eyes.  I told them quickly that we were OK!!  In fact, we were fine.  I had hoped for tears, and I got my tears!! :)
    I was quickly exhausted, though.  Before too long, Dan came to help out.  We tried to distract her more, but she wasn't having it.  He took her when I couldn't hold her for another minute.  I took this

...but it just doesn't do the situation justice.  I should have waited until at least her arms and legs were flailing so that it would show the true story!!  :)
   Once before he came back, I was so tempted to beg someone to get my camera out of the backpack and take a picture of the two of us while she was throwing her tantrum.  Everyone was busy with their own little new ones, though, and besides that...they would have thought I was out of my mind!!  Who would want a picture of that for their scrapbook?!?!  Maybe only me!! :)
   When we got back to the hotel, Dan had to go with Miko to a meeting room to prepare a bunch of paperwork for the next day.  It took about an hour.  Emily screamed the entire time.  She was pouring sweat, so I thought I would take off her sweatshirt as she had another layer underneath.  Well, to Emily, that obviously meant that she would NOT be going back outside, which is exactly what she wanted to do.  So, she threw a bigger fit yet.  She actually jumped up off the floor so that she could come down and stomp both feet at the same time!!  It might have been amusing in another situation!!
   It had become clear that she was NOT crying out of missing the caretakers.  In fact, even they had admitted that she was not attached to any particular adult.  They said that she liked the other kids at
the orphanage, but it wasn't that she was sad to leave there.  It was simply that she was scared, and actually quite furious with the fact that she was out of control of the situation.  She thought that we might give in and get her back to what was familiar.
   I did click this picture of her huddled beside the hotel room door:

   She later wedged her head into the corner here and turned her back to me.  I just sat with her beside the door and we waited there until Dan and Miko came back.
   For the rest of the evening, she was either crying or very subdued.  She wasn't interested in playing anything, eating anything, or doing anything at all.  She finally fell asleep exhausted, and actually slept all night.  That wasn't quite the case for Dan and me since we were still on American days and nights...but we were just glad that she was quiet!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Looking Back – Then and Now

 Besides adopting from a different country this time around, MANY
differences are apparent in my mind.  One big one is my attitude toward
Gotcha Day!!  I felt very sentimental about Jonathan’s Gotcha Day.  I
was so excited for him, thinking at every moment how he was having all
of his “lasts” at the orphanage….  His last night without a family, his
last morning getting ready with a caretaker instead of a mom, etc.
   We got to his orphanage and he was really excited.  The caretakers
seemed excited for him.  One of them even shed tears.  I thought how
maybe they had truly cared for him.  My eyes filled up when they took
turns telling him good-bye.
   But……  Jonathan felt nothing.  He walked away with no emotion.  He
looked at the director and caretakers strangely when they were telling
him good-bye.  He walked away forgetting to say anything; we had to
remind him to wave.  I saw all of that and thought, “He is just so glad
to leave this place.  He’s leaving without a backward glance.”  And,
that was true.  He WAS happy to leave with us.  He never looked back.
But, I was mistaken about the reasons.  He was happy to go with us
because he would have been happy to go anywhere with anyone.  He never
looked back because he did not have the slightest bit of attachment to
any person there at the orphanage.  And, while that is true in many
cases of children who have lived in an institution, I now know how much
it carries over into all their relationships from then on.
   Our first days with Jonathan were pretty easy when you compare them to
some adopted children.  He didn’t cry or grieve in any way.  He was
always looking for new things to experience, and since we were in a
city that he’d never seen before, there were lots of new things!
   The tough times came later.  The tough times were in seeing that --
because he’d never had any close relationships before -- he didn’t
understand them at all.  It was extremely hard for him to bond with us
because he’d never bonded with anyone ever before.  Maybe some of those
caretakers had tried.  But, in their defense, they just simply had
their hands FULL.  The other children living at his orphanage had
desperate needs, and I fully believe that the director was doing her
best.  She made some really good decisions regarding Jonathan’s care,
and I am thankful for her.  But in the here and now, life can be
challenging as we teach him about social skills and relationships, and
try to help him learn about caring for others, and showing or giving
affection.  He was happy for that first week, but when the “new” wore
off, Jonathan wasn’t happy any more to be with us.  It was easy up
front, but WAY harder in the long run.

   So, what about this time around?  What are my expectations?  What are
my hopes?  It would be easy this coming week if Emily didn’t cry or
grieve...if she was just happy all the time to be with us.  But, deep
down, my HOPES are that she cries bucket loads of tears, that she has
healthy emotions that would be natural for a little girl whose world is
being totally turned upside-down!!  She doesn’t know that her life will
be changed for the better.  She doesn’t know that these 2 people who
look different, talk different, smell different, and eat different
things will love her and provide for her in ways that couldn’t ever
happen in an orphanage.

  Those are my hopes -- but if they aren’t realized, we’ll have also
learned from experience that things DO change little by little for the
better.  Jonathan has come a LONG way.  When I see all the milestones,
when I focus on the improvements, when I see small glimpses of his
attachment to us showing up here and there…I know that God always has
a plan.  He has a plan for Emily, too, and we get the privilege of
seeing it unfold.

Travel to Guang Zhou

Things have been happening so quickly, but I just really want to keep
the events in chronological order -- just for me, even if no one else
cares about all the details!!  One day Emily might want to know all
about our trip to get her, and I probably will have forgotten half of
it by then!!
   Since we left Atlanta at 1:00 am, we really didn't have much trouble
getting sleep on that flight.  I'd been really busy up until the last
minute getting everything squared away at home, and Dan and I were both
tired enough when we got on the plane that we literally were asleep
before take-off.  We woke up to eat, and then went right back to sleep.
   It was a 14 hour flight to Korea, and we arrived a little late, but we
met up with our friends, the Thiessens, and spent as much time as was
possible with them.  In fact, when we looked up finally toward our
gate, everyone else had boarded.  They had not made a final boarding
call, but the plane was not crowded at all, and everyone else had
boarded quickly.  So, we took several pictures, said fast good-byes,
and headed off to Guang Zhou. Getting to spend that lay-over with them
was so incredible! Naturally it had gone by way too fast, but what
a blessing to see them after these years!!
   We were met in Guang Zhou by Miko, our guide.  She gave us a quick
run-down of the schedule on the way to the hotel.  By this time, it was
Sunday afternoon.  We had eaten on the plane, but she was hungry, so we
got checked in, and Miko took us down a near-by street to show us some
good places to eat.  She stopped to get her lunch, and we headed back
to the hotel for a little while.
   About an hour later, we met up with Miko and another family who is
adopting from the Guang Dong province, too.  They are also from
Alabama, and we had a great time getting to know them and their
biological son who is traveling with them.  Our meeting was to go
through all of our paperwork for the process, making sure that we had
everything in order for the coming days.  We organized it all at
Miko's direction (she's got it down to an art!!), paper clipped each
day's necessary documents together and filed them all away in our big
envelopes to wait for each step of the process.
   Back in our room, we unpacked everything and got our clothes back in
order.  We'd made sure to pack a portion of each of our clothes,
Emily's clothes, and her toys and other items in each of the
suitcases, just in case one of the pieces of luggage didn't make it
all the way with us.  But with it like that, I couldn't find
anything -- so we straightened it all out so that I could easily get my
hands on what we needed when we needed it.  Miko already had written
out on the schedule what gifts we needed to have with us and at what
time to give them, so I separated all of that, too.
   Then it was suppertime, and we headed to a Thai place that Miko had
recommended.  Although we hadn't planned it, we actually met up with
the other family from AL and ate together.  We went to bed early
enough, but of course with being out of whack with jet lag, we woke up
around 2 or 3 am and decided to Skype with the kids back at home!!
   A few hours later we were able to get a little more sleep before our
big day to come on Monday!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

100% Perfect Timing

  There are MANY differences between our first and second adoptions so far.  In preparing for Jonathan to come home, I was so impatient for everything to happen!  Once we had made our decision to adopt, I couldn't wait for it to happen.  Everything seemed to drag, and yet at the end of it all, I was so thankful for the way that God timed it all.

So, this time around, it was a LOT easier to just sit back and let it fall together the way God was going to have it fall.  I knew that if I planned too much, in the end I'd look back and wish that I had just stopped trying to figure it all out and instead had just trusted that God knew best.  Naturally another thing that helped me not get too caught up in counting days and months was the fact that I've been so busy I hardly have had time to think about it too much!!!

I remember about 6 weeks ago I was thinking how I was ready to move from the "unknown" to the "known."  We were wavering between the times of being able to travel to China before the end of the year or needing to wait until the beginning of next year.  I could see several reasons for it being much better for us to go BEFORE the end of the year, but it was "if-y."  Yet, we kept praying that God would just work it all out in the way He knew it was best.

 Now we are seeing what all God had planned, and it is just so amazing to see how He let every single little thing come together!!

  •   Being able to travel right between Thanksgiving and Christmas meant that we got to spend both holidays with our family.

  •   Having Thanksgiving so close to our travel time gave me a built-in holiday from home schooling to get more done than I would have otherwise.

  •   Being at the end of Anna's first semester of college meant that she would be at home almost the entire time that Dan and I would be gone. She'll be a help to the rest of the kids as she won't have any other responsibilities going on.  She can help a lot with the home school managing.

  •   Dan's parents have been out of the country, but they will be returning half-way through our trip.  So, not only will Anna be available, but they will be available to help during the second week of our trip.  My parents will be holding down the fort during the first week.

  •  The company Dan works for has an annual meeting for all of their sales representatives this time each year.  We'd thought that Dan might miss it, but as it happened he was there for the meeting and the 2 following days as well.

  •   We'll return home on December 20th, exactly 2 weeks from today.  The kids will have continued on with home schooling without me.  I left lesson plans and made sure my "home school mom's helper" was still scheduled to come.  She is such a HUGE blessing to be able to help out right now, too!!  The school time will keep the kids occupied for enough of the the school day that it limits the time that they have to find anything else with which to occupy themselves!  (As in, argue, aggravate, irritate, etc.!!) So, we'll arrive home on the last day of our first semester!!  --It's absolutely PERFECT timing, since Christmas break will start the next day, and we'll be able to take off as much time after Christmas that we need in order to make sure that Emily is fairly settled before we start back to school.  We started school a little bit early this year, and then didn't take a Fall break, so we've "bought some time" to spend now.  We would have taken the weeks whenever Dan and I got home, but it just has worked out so nicely to be timed with Christmas break.  We can honestly take off a month if need be, and not be behind at all since the first 2 weeks of it will be a holiday that we would have taken anyway!!!


  •    All of these things worked together to make me realize again that God was giving us exactly what we needed when we needed it!  But, then He added a special gift that was just the icing on the cake!!  Not long after we got our travel dates, I emailed our good friends that we'd been co-workers with for many years in Mongolia to let them know the news!!  They were actually on a short visit home in Canada visiting family.  I told them our departure date, and they emailed back THEIR departure date.  Their return date to Mongolia.  Out of all the days of the months that we COULD have been traveling to China, what would be the chances that it would be the same date that they'd be traveling, too?  And, even so, of all the airlines that we could have chosen to travel on, and airports through which to lay-over, what would be the chances that our routes would be similar to theirs?  And, even if so, what would be the chances that our lay-overs in that place would fall during the same hours?!!?  It probably would not have worked out even IF we'd tried really, really hard to MAKE it work.  Yet, we bought our tickets with NO knowledge whatsoever of their plans, and they'd bought their tickets months before.  BUT, God is just so amazing, and just to give us another sweet glimpse of His sovereignty, HE had already arranged it all.  We get to spend 3 hours in Korea with our good friends that we have not seen in over 5 years.  Is that cool, or what?!?  That's just how God works.  And, even if He DID help me to rest in His plan more this time around than I did last time through the adoption waiting game, He gave us yet another reason to trust His timing ALL the more in the future!!


December 6th -- We're on our Way!

  In just an hour, we’ll board our plane to go get our Emily!!  We’ll be leaving at 1:00 am…. So I’m trying to stay awake currently!!  Our first leg of the journey is around 14 hours – Atlanta to Korea, then later on to GuangZhou.  We’ll arrive in China around lunch time on Sunday.  In spite of being very sleepy, I am really excited!!  It’s been long in coming, but we’re on our way!

  Emily likely has NO idea that her little life is about to change drastically.  She has no idea that we’ve been praying for her and preparing for her for all these months!  It seems very unreal that she’ll be with us FOR GOOD in just 2 days!!