Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July 2014
Our first official day as a family of SEVEN!
Oh, it was such a treat to have all of my babies under one roof - all were happy, all were talking ninety miles an hour with the stories of days apart!  And, of course, Maryn was the center of attention!
 The day flew by too fast.  My father awoke early and prior to his departure to the mountains, he cooked us a welcome home breakfast of pancakes and bacon!  So thankful!  With laundry piled about the house, we decided it was best to begin the dreaded deed.  And then it was naptime.  And then it was grocery time....and, of course, firework time!  It wouldn't be the 4th without a firework or two!
 The boys strategically let several of the larger packs....
 while the girls stuck to sparklers for their entertainment.
 Sparklers really are the best....the girls wrote their names in the air...
 and pretended to be magical fairies!
 This little one was making us all laugh as she made the funniest expressions during our firework fun.  She loved seeing the lights and hearing the crackles and booms!
So thankful for each of my children!  What a fabulous day to remember and cherish!

Our Journey Home

The short of the story is that we made it!
The long of the story is that it our journey home was less than ideal.
After snapping pictures around the hotel on Wednesday morning, taking an early nap, packing up, and eating a late lunch, we made our way to the hotel lobby to meet our travel buddies and guide for our first leg of the trip - a train ride to Hong Kong.  Let me preface all of this with the fact that we suspected Maryn wasn't feeling 100% from day one.  Though she really was mellow and happy most of the time, we had checked her temp several times during our early days with her and it hovered at 99+ but never crossed the 100 degree mark so we didn't treat her or the fever for anything, we just attributed it to change, etc.  Her tummy was not settled - lots of great diapers to clean up and baths that followed.  We noticed too that her eyes were always goopy when she awoke and we noticed her pulling/scratching at her ears frequently.  All that, but we didn't want to give her meds because for the most part she was fine and we really wanted to get her home and to the doctor!  Our concern did heighten on Tuesday morning following our Consulate appointment when we had an unforgettable dining experience at breakfast - it involved a messy baby, two clueless-as-how-to-deal-with-the-scenario-we-were-faced-with parents, and a cloth napkin!  It was a scene and, unfortunately, it was a scene that played out again later that evening while having dinner with friends.  Our Tuesday night fell upon us and we all settled in for our last sleep in China.  Maryn did not sleep well at all.  She tossed and turned and turned and tossed all night.  Definitely not herself.  So Wednesday came, we fed Maryn the most bland of diets and  we were careful not to give her milk or anything of the sort in hopes of a better feeling tummy - after all, we were not going to be in the most convenient places for cleaning a soiled baby.  We made our way to the train, and though she was a bit more on the fussy side, we chalked it up to circumstances - travel, strange people, strange everything.  We made it to Hong Kong, got through the fever check - phew! - and piled in our taxi.  Taxi rides in HK or China are not the smoothest rides one will ever go on and that became evident when we made our first big whiplashing turn and Maryn cried out a cry of warning before throwing up EVERYWHERE in the cab.  Maddox immediately pinched her nose closed for the remainder of the ride and MK became sad for her baby sister knowing how bad she must have felt.
We were on alert the remainder of the ride but thankfully little Maryn fell asleep and we made it to the hotel without another mishap.  After a good bath and covering her side of the bed in "just in case" towels, we all settled in for a good night's rest before our big day of travel on Thursday.  Four hours later, I awoke and felt Maryn.  She was burning up.  Ryan took her temp and it had soared well over the 101 mark.  Panic set in.  We started antibiotics and gave her Tylenol - she slept peacefully the rest of the night!
Morning came and we were all thrilled to be boarding our plane home!  We made our way to the airport, checked in, got breakfast, and boarded the plane.  The plane ride was a bit bumpy but Maryn did well for the most part though we did notice her digging in her ears during our landing approach.
Chicago greeted us well - beautiful blue sky and much cooler than Guangzhou!  After going through customs and getting our bags and rechecking our bags, we made our way to the gate of what was supposed to be our final leg of the journey.  I noticed right off that the plane was late.  And then in a matter of seconds, our flight to Columbia was cancelled  It was at this point that I was ready to cry out of frustration....however, Maryn kicked in and decided that she would scream like nobody's business for all of us!  In all of my five children, I have never, ever experienced the sort of screaming that this child has in her - when she is mad, she is mad and there is nothing that will divert her.  I gave up even trying to comfort her and just smiled at others as I kindly said, "We have had poor luck with our flight and we are trying desperately to get home - she is really just expressing to everyone how we all feel about this turn of events."
United was less than helpful - the lady who was to help us reschedule our flight simply said as she stared into her computer, "Well, looks like I can get you home on Sunday."  What???!!!  I may or may not have been less than sweet and her response was, "It's a holiday weekend.  I am sorry."  With Maryn still screaming, we searched for other airline options - ok, US Air to Charlotte then on to Columbia.  Great....United lady books it.  We go to check in at US Air and USAir says we have to go to American because it is actually an American flight??  Ok.  Go to American desk.  With Maryn STILL screaming, the kind American lady says that we aren't on the flight - the transfer did not go through and the flights are full.
I walked away sulking.  Maryn continued to scream.  Maddox fell asleep.  MK just kept asking, "Does this mean we have to go through security AGAIN???"  As I sang "Lord, I Need You" in my head over and over, Ryan walked over and whispered, "Ok, we're set.  The lady was able to get us on the flights to Charlotte and Columbia."  Through security we went, we quickly grabbed dinner, gave Maryn some Tylenol, and we were homeward bound.  We were so very thankful to see our boys and hug their necks!  We missed them terribly and could not wait to introduce Maryn to them.  And then our family and friends who stuck it out and waited in Columbia until we FINALLY arrived at 10:30 - we felt so loved!  And Maryn handled herself well with the greetings.  She is so scared and very aware of the changes that have taken place in her life during the last 12 days!
So, that was our journey home.  So glad that one is behind us and the future is before us!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our Last Day in China

Our last day in China was spent taking a few pictures around the hotel....
 I really wish I could tell you that everyone is always willing to take photos but that would be the biggest story ever told!  With sweat dripping down their faces, and bugs biting them on their legs, the quest for the "perfect photo ever" came to a screeching halt!  
 We ventured down for one last fish feeding with our friends....
 and we saw this guy diligently cleaning the water - he was out tending to the pond....
 the fish were loving the bread - they are maniacs really.  They see people and they begin to swim in their direction....some even make a wake!
 More fish:)
 And then there was this sweet girl. Bless her heart, she was/is feeling a bit under the weather but still up for a happy expression!
 My three Chinese blessings!  
So blessed to be chosen to be their mommy and daddy! 

Consulate Appointment Day

As we walked towards the new and improved American Consulate, we noticed the Canton Tower.  Ryan has been doing a bit of research on this is the largest tower in China and it was recently home to one of the Amazing Race challenges....
the kiddos were all dressed to impress....these five littles have been troopers during our stay in China!  They have all enjoyed each others company....little Lilah may have been missing her two big sisters at home but MK and Maddox were quick to step up and engage her in a bit of girl play while Zach taught us a little Chinese - first on his "most important Chinese words?"  Trash can!  We all know where each trash can is strategically placed in Guangzhou, China thanks to our little trash can guide, Zach!  What an awesome little guy!  
The Consulate was all new to us....and it was filled with people waiting for their opportunity to enter.  We even saw a young Chinese couple adopting a baby....very sweet!
We quickly snapped a photo outside before entering to take our oath and fulfill the US side of Maryn's adoption....
we were in and out in no time!  We came back to the hotel with thoughts of taking pictures around the gardens but during our breakfast buffet, we looked out to see a pouring down of rain!  So, we came to our room and rested for the better part of the afternoon.  
Finally, when we had reached the point of no return due to being trapped in our room all day, we called up our friends, the Faulkners, for a playdate at the hotel playroom.  The children played beautifully while the adults chatted and took care of some money business.  Then it was out to dinner one last time in Guangzhou!  Tekila Mexican was our choice for the evening, not too shabby!  
We have had a good time getting to know these guys!  We are always so thankful for the friends we meet during our China days!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A few observations....
the housing in China is a bit different than the housing at home, builders are competing to build the best subdivision with the largest pool,, it is all about apartment high rises....some are older than old while others are just being built with more stories than one can count - it would seem they touch the sky!  And bars on the windows at home would indicate one lives in a not-too-safe part of town.  Bars on windows in China, it would seem, are an added bonus to apartments as they provide a place for owners/renters to hang their laundry.
 I love the signs here....MK made an interesting observation one day when she asked, "Why are they all written in English and Chinese?"  This particular sign was located at our hotel but there are signs all over the city - street signs, hotel signs, restaurant signs - all in both languages.  
 The transportation in China is always a sight to see.  This guy is carrying a light load while others can be seen steering a bicycle with boxes stacked and stacked all tied on with bungie cords....or three people on a moped....the driving is amazing - little trucks who play chicken with the buses three times their size...the drivers just have one mission and that is to get where they are going, whatever it takes, as fast as they can while they could care less about those who may have the same mission in mind, there is no sharing of the road, no rules.  The incredible thing?  We have yet to see an accident!
 Pretty sure this is the only vending machine we saw during our  And it was located in the medical office building....wondering exactly what the reasoning is behind this one?!  On a drink note, we noticed this trip that most drinks are served hot....maybe this is how it has been in our previous trips but we haven't noticed because we traveled in the winter???  Whatever the case, a warm drink (sprite, coke, water) served on a HOT day is a no-go for this southern girl.  Bleck.  
 This is the one trip that we have not encountered a WalMart with fresh chicken feet and/or alligator heads available for purchase.  But, this morning during our drive, we came across this truck filled with crates of fresh meat.  This is why cheese pizza has been my staple while in China:)
 And while we are on the subject of food, I am pretty sure I have gone against all Chinese etiquette when dining out during this trip.  In previous trips, my lack of chop stick knowledge has not been an issue.  And, frankly, Guangzhou is the last place I expected to be served with only chop sticks as a utensil.  However, this was the case on several occasions.  Picture trying to cut up chicken with one chopstick and a spoon and then feeding it to your baby with the oversized spoon....and there are no napkins to help in this process....just note that my hands have been used for eating and feeding both me and the baby....our girls haven't touched a thing unless it has come from the breakfast buffet, Pizza Hut or McDonalds so their chopstick issues were avoided.  And Ryan is the chopstick king so he has been a well-fed man!

Our Boys

Oh how I miss our boys!
It was a hard decision to make - to bring them or not to bring them, that was the question everyone was asking.  We have always had them with us during our previous trips to China and we have loved every moment of our trips with them in tow.  They are the best of travelers, super easy and can be huge helping hand when the girls are a mess.
One really, really wanted to come for Maryn's trip.  Why?  Because he could not imagine NOT being with us on the day we got her.
One really, really was indifferent on coming or staying home.  He has gotten older.  Being in one room with three little sisters singing the Frozen music and watching Tinkerbell for two weeks just may not be his thing.  But, then again, tell him he can sit on a jet for a long flight and watch any movie and/or play any game, well, he was all in.
Finally, the decision was made.  The boys would stay behind.  At the end of the day, we were going to be in one city our entire stay and our boys have been to this city two times already.  Plus, they are older which means our agency tags them as adults and they pay as an adult for their stay - insanely expensive really.  And, its summer.  It's hot.  We knew our activities would be few while our down days would be our norm.
It was a decision well made.  The boys have spent the last two weeks making memories of their own and I could not be more thankful for the family and friends that have been there for them during our stay away.  My parents took their role seriously and entertained them from dawn to dusk for the first few days we were gone.  They spent hours at the lake fishing, jet skiing, boating, eating out, and then some.  Then the boys packed up last Tuesday and made the first plane voyage alone to Nebraska.  The two of them boarded a plane to Omaha, with a short stop in Atlanta.  Once in Omaha, they were greeted by our good friends, the Mohrs!  The Mohrs traveled with us to get MK in 2008.  They adopted their daughter, Chloe.  Their son, Zack, is close in age to our boys.  All of the kiddos are great together and we have developed a special bond over the past several years through our girls.  The Mohrs have gone above and beyond in the entertainment sector!  We have kept up with their adventures through the likes of Facebook and thoroughly enjoyed seeing their smiling faces as they have toured Nebraska.
It warms my heart to know that our boys have made lifelong memories during our time apart!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shamian Island Part Two

Oh, how we have missed this place during our trip!  
We had to go back one last time....and it was fun to go with our friends and show them the ins and outs of a place dear to our hearts.
Lucy's for lunch....not an adoption trip to China until you have eaten wasn't quite as good as we remembered but the chatting and cooling off was worth every moment spent there!
The school children out for an afternoon break....
Our smiley girl and her very proud big sister!  Maddox adores Maryn!
Miss Bright Eyes....
Silly girl....she has so many different expressions!
After some shopping and picture taking, we all took in one last Starbucks treat!
Goodbye Shamian Island!  Until next time....

Guangzhou Zoo Day
Prior to coming to China, we did not really have an itinerary of activities we wished to take part in.  So, we have been winging it each day with our friends, the Faulkners, and planning morning outings and then spending some time at the hotel pool each afternoon....a couple of hours outside here and anyone is ready for a bit of air conditioned refreshment!  
The zoo here is quite different from home.  They had raccoons in an exhibit :0
This bear was swimming around and people were throwing food to him - he was like a fish, he would swim over, eat something, and look up for more.  
And this tiger was sound asleep on its can't really tell from the picture but his mouth was open and his big, sharp teeth were quite impressive.  Each caged animal had a sprinkler mist from above to keep them cool....
except the panda.  There was one panda.  And the panda had a glassed in habitat with air was hard to see and even harder to photograph so I took a picture of a picture just to remind the girls one day that they did actually see a panda in China.
MK has been such a helper during our trip!  She is quick to push a stroller or carry a bag and we are so thankful for the time we have shared with her as we witness her taking in China, her birthplace.  

Out Of Darkness, There Comes Light...

 Exactly one week ago, we were in a room filled with people awaiting to meet our baby girl, our fifth child, for the very first time.  
There are no words to describe the moment when you see a picture, an image in your head, come to life right before your eyes.  It is indescribable.  And in the blink of the eye, two worlds change forever and the new parents go into parent-mode as they comfort their screaming child or engage their happy-go-lucky youngster.  
The picture above was our Maryn Gentry just after she had been handed to us forever.  It was not her day.  She was not pleased at all with the cards she was being dealt and she let the room know.  I tried all of my tricks to no avail.  It was a dark moment for this little one.
Thankfully, after a bit of time and a lot of snuggling and comforting, light began to shine through and a little personality began to present itself.  No longer are we having to pull teeth to get this precious angel to smile.  One week later, she knows her name and the moment we say it, she turns towards us and gives a big, toothless grin that has the ability to melt anyones heart.  And the once silent baby girl who clung to me for dear life, well, let me share with you that each day this sweet girl babbles and sings like no other and it is music to all of our ears!  And her squishy little legs.  I told Ryan on day two that if it weren't for the videos of her walking, I would not believe that she was a walker - she showed no interest in moving from Point A to Point B at.all.  We would set her down and she would play cautiously but if we tried to coerce her to get an out of reach toy, she would just sit and stare at it.  Of course, sister magic always intervened and toys were always quickly handed to her!  Today, this girl is showing off!  She walks all over - not the steadiest of walks but she is all over the place and when she sees something across the room she wants, she gets up, looks so proud of herself for standing up, and then she takes off to retrieve her item.  One week ago, this little one was not at all happy with people, especially Ryan.  Today, as I type this, Maryn is sitting on the floor playing happily with Ryan, giving him smiles - her tears over this man in her life are non-existent!  
We are so thankful for everyone's prayers....they have been answered!  Our little one is adjusting more and more each day....and we are so excited to be entering the final days of our journey in China so that we can introduce her to the ones who have prayed her home forever!