Monday, February 28, 2011

Friday, Feb 25- DISNEY

Time to go to Hong Kong for our flight home on Saturday!. We packed up (actually the night before, and Adri was in charge as she volunteered her professional world traveler packing services (I do not say this sarcastically). We got on a bus headed for the Consulate again to pick up the infamous BROWN ENVELOPE that everyone who has adopted internationally knows about. They had warned us before as if our life depended on it, DO NOT OPEN THE BROWN ENVELOPE! It was to be given to the important officer in America. So we got the precious envelope and started our projected 4 hour trip through customs to Hong Kong.

We said goodbye to our security, Rosa- our wonderful guide who we felt safe around. It's just odd and a bit frightening to get into a van with someone you cannot even communicate with. We had two minivans. We decided we would put luggage in one and humans in the other even though we had been told this might slow us down going through customs and we should consider splitting up. Again....I Shouldn't Be Alive. We stayed together. The kids ALL did so great. I cannot say enough good things about how great the kids were on the trip. There were MANY situations that a complete hysterical breakdown would have been warranted and it never happened. In fact, since one of us had to carry Hope and the other had to carry Lily, Johnny who would've normally gotten carried in tired circumstances had to pull it together and walk.

We had been forewarned by an adoption friend who had been to Hong Kong a few weeks prior that customs could be dreadful and long! So we had prepared for that. But it all went smoothly and it didn't take long at all. In fact when we got there we were so happy yet sad to see signs for tour buses that were directing people to Hong Kong Disneyland. We felt like we were in the airport in Orlando looking for the magical express.

Let me explain. Or maybe I don't need to. We are a Disney family. That is our splurge in life! We go to Disney World every year at Thanksgiving. We love it. It is our fun time with the kids. We stay in the parks until we are the last ones there. Daniel says he works hard all year looking forward to the trip (and he is the hardest working person I know, no exaggeration). We of course, cancelled our trip in 2010 but had tried to save up some money to attempt to visit Tokyo Disney on a layover or Hong Kong Disney. But it didn't work out schedule wise or finance wise. I was sad for husband but we were thankful for the reason we didn't get to go....Hope and Lily. But then seeing the signs now, it was tough. Adri and I out of compassion for Daniel tried not to mention it much. It was around 6 ish and Disney closed at 8 that night (on a Friday which made husband mad). Front seat riding Adri asked the man and through broken english and chinese, a deal was made. On the way to our hotel the driver would drive up to the entrance of Disney and we could take a photo there. At first I just thought, what's the use (I don't think Husband could handle the pain). Phoebe surely couldn't, which she continually told us! Too sad to go and not go in. But sly Adri had a plan which would thrust her into Daniel's favorite persons in the world category for life!

We saw the Disney signs on the interstate and road signs every mile! We were excited. It made us feel like we were home. It almost felt like America. We pulled up to the furthest place the driver could take us to drop us off for the photo. He told us that we needed to walk about half a mile or more to get to the entrance. It was about 6:40. We shuffled outta the van as if time was ticking and we would be returning shortly. We grabbed Phoebe's epi pen, etc, but nothing else. No jackets for kids, no diaper bag for baby. We'd be right back.....

The walkway to the entrance was divine! Suddenly we were not AT CHINA anymore. We were at DISNEY. Everything looked like Disney in America. The standards were the same or better! I saw the sign for toilets an almost cried! A real bathroom with real toilet paper and a real potty! The music, the lights, the smells! WE WERE AT DISNEYWORLD!!!!!

We get to the entrance and it happens. Everyone starts looking at each other and calculating costs (the cost of going in for only an hour before closing). The kids are begging. Without sounding disrespectful, it was like we were standing at Heaven's gate and could see and smell Heaven but were not allowed to go in!!!! Adri starting working her magic. She volunteered to run the marathon back to the vans and beg/nicely tell the drivers that we were going in! We agreed. We would wait there for her. Daniel asked her how fast she could run (we knew how many noodles she had eaten in the previous two weeks!!! LOL) and when she returned we'd see what the drivers said. We felt like kids and the drivers were our responsible/ fun-ruining parents!

Adri runs off into the darkness (forfeitting our no one left behind rule for the sake of Disney....surely never an I Shouldn't Be Alive episode ever started at Disney!) and we all hover around the ticket booth where the "magic" is already happening! We were given maps and stickers and smiles and warmth! Daniel figured out he could use his debit card to pay for the alarming much cheaper than American Disney tickets. The lady asked us three times if we were aware the park closed in ONE HOUR!!!! We were aware. But we also knew that Disney doesn't kick out people past closing hours who are in their shops!

Tick tock tick tock tick tock. FINALLY Adri appears out of the abyss of darkness. She tells us that the vans are locked and dark and the drivers are no where to be found. ANY OTHER TIME OR PLACE IN CHINA IF OUR VANS UPON RETURNING HAD BEEN LOCKED AND DARK AND UNATTENDED WE WOULD'VE SURELY BEEN STARTING AN EPISODE OF I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE! But right here right now, without thinking we purchased tickets and skipped frantically to the security lines with tickets in hand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HUSBAND HAS NEVER BEEN HAPPIER!!!!!!!!!! inside the park we felt at home. It was no longer like we were on another continent and couldn't speak the language. We were on Disney planet and speaking Disney language and smelling Disney smells and hearing Disney sounds!!! Rob quickly pointed out in bliss that the trash cans on Main Street said "Main Street USA!" Ahhhhhhhhh!!! God Bless America! God Bless Walt Disney!!!!

Like good children we called our Chinese tour guides and Adri informed then that our drivers had left us and that we decided to go into the park. Our guide said HAVE FUN! And we did. We made a deal to return to parking lot A at 9:00! Let the fun begin!!!

We rode three rides but more than that, we had a blast! Lily loved it! Hope slept most of the time (which was great because like a very responsible mother of five with a brand new former Chinese orphan as my daughter, I didn't bring her diaper bag or food!) All I could think of was the blogs, people, books that had warned us of OVERSTIMULATING our adopted children in their first days, weeks, months! Oops.

The look on Lily' face on It's a Small World was worth the risk! She loved it. She fits RIGHT IN with our family. She is wild and confident and fun! We couldn't believe that we were at DISNEY with our new daughters!!!!!! Adri was queen!!! She group hugged and thanked her and laughed and played. And when the park closed we headed for the bathrooms first, then the shops. We had so much fun. The kids picked out a souvenir to which Husband said it HAD to say Honk Kong Disneyland on it. And then we headed to the Bakery where we purchased Hot Dogs, Pizza, Quiche for Phoebe, Tarts, and Rice Krispy treats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We returned to our van at 9:10 and skipped and obsessively thanked our drivers who we feared would be mad. But they weren't. Husband paid them extra to which they told us more was required, to which Husband paid. Hooray. Worth it all and not near the cost we had thought it would be. Those TWO hours in Disney were like a week! It was fabulous!!!! Husband said perfect ending to a perfect trip! Agreed!

We spent the night at our hotel which was connected to the Honk Kong airport. I've heard people talk about the majesty of the skyline in Hong Kong and now we know why. It's breathtaking. Bright sparking city lights surrounded by clean ocean water (first clean body of water we had seen in China) and giant misty mountains! Almost like Hawaii but better I thought.

We crawled into our beds with a smile on our face! I looked at my iphone. The time was 12:01. The date was Saturday, Feb. 26. I gasped! The day we would be home had come! I told Daniel to which he replied, "We are starting the longest day of our life!"

Thursday, Feb 24- Chinese Rat!

Free day. We asked our guide to take us to the Guangzhou Zoo. It is right in the middle of downtown. Tall high rise apartment buildings surround it where they can look out their balconies as they hang their laundry to dry and view the animals.

Because we love zoos, Disney, etc. we loved the zoo. Others could've been critical of the fact that the snack shops contained zero identifiable snacks (could I just find a bag of potatoe chips? no. but i could find freeze dried chicken parts!). We saw unique animals we had never seen before like the pandas and a baby golden monkey and rare birds. But the favorite was the LIGER. This is a breed of half tiger, half lion. As Daniel said, it was the scariest thing he's ever seen. GINORMOUS.

The most fun part to me was the Goldfish Garden. It holds the Guiness World Record for most goldfish in one place, or something like that. At first it looked like a water park with a bunch of kiddie pools but then I noticed there were GOLDFISH in the baby pools. And for a small fee you could buy a ticket to get a bucket, roll up your pants legs, and get it and catct fish! Although the kids wanted to, I feared a foreign parasite invasion through the feet so we said no. In fact, many times on the trip we would try to forsee things that might turn out to be an episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive, and we tried to avoid those situations. Deadly parasite from the Goldfish Garden was one avoided.

Back to the hotel then onto McDonalds for the fifth time for lunch. Our next adventure was to go to the Carrefore (sp?) which is like a french Walmart. Our guide couldn't take us so she gave us instructions for taking a cab (the first one we had to take without our guide). She told us how much to pay hoping they wouldn't drive us around for an hour before dropping us off right down the street. We had already decided (again, because of the I Shouldn't Be Alive visions) that we were going to stay together (all 8 of us) and not split up. Adri and I knew being girls in a cab and not speaking the language would be too risky. But when we got downstairs our nice professional hotel manager wouldn't allow us to all cram into one cab. After giving each other looks like just pray and be on guard me and Adri split up from Daniel. I felt safe with Adri as I have full confidence that the girl would karate chop the driver if he veered off the path that we watched with a hawk eye!!! We made it to the Carrefore safely and proceeded to have a dandy time shopping!

While in the store all I could think of was the books that told us to avoid over-stimulating our newly adopted children! No chance of that! Everywhere we went there were thousands, millions, bazillions of people everywhere! But they did great. Lily, like a normal child, would occasionally point to things and ask for them (or just grab something and throw it in the buggy) and we got her some fun stuff. She did beg for the bag of dried chicken legs which Adri and Daniel said a resounding no to!

After the store we walked right next door to Papa Johns! Yes, Papa Johns! And yes it tasted almost just like American Papa Johns! We had longed for this moment and we were salivating at the thought of getting our pizza! Just then Rob shouts in an oddly calm voice (as if he wasn't surprised), "I just saw a rat run across the floor!" At first I think, yeah right! Then I quickly remember WE ARE AT CHINA and then I throw my head around just in time to SEE THE CRITTER RUN AROUND A LADY'S PURSE AND FEET AND DART UNDER THE BOOTH!

I'm amazed and scared but not surprised either. All of us are just staring at each other and chatting nervously and laughing hysterically. In America, we would have been up and out of the restaurant so fast. In China, not so much. I looked at Daniel and Adri and said something like surely we are not just gonna sit here and wait for our food! Daniel just shrugged his shoulders as if to say he wasn't leaving until he got his pepperoni pizza. Adri reminded me that considering all the places we had lived and eaten in, this was in no way the worst condition and that God had kept us from seeing these kind of things before so that we could actually make it through the trip. (She said this in a missions team leader kinda way as if she was excited she had seen the mouse---Adri is awesome!). I agreed and we all just SAT there knowing the critter was under our table or the one next to us.

I pulled my feet up immediately. Adri and Daniel laughed at me like I was a little scared girl. I was. Lily had NO IDEA what was going on. And neither did any other person in the restaurant (unless this is a common occurrence). Phoebe said we should tell the management they have a mouse in here. I told her they probably wouldn't care (by the looks of the restroom). Rob in his classic boy mode was undeterred and barely thought about it. Johnny moved out of his pouting mode and into red alert/most exciting thing that's ever happened to him in his life mode! Johnny switched places with Lily so he could get a front row seat to the action. I found myself actually hoping the mouse would reappear just to make Johnny's day!

Our food came and we ate/talked about the mouse. My feet started falling asleep because they were wedged horizontally in between people but I didn't care. I watched the floor obsessively. Adri made fun of me and Daniel for wearing "bells" (didn't even know what that was) instead of her choice jeans "skinnys" and she joked that the mouse couldn't get up her leg if it tried!

And just like that, the mouse came out! Johnny as if he was a watchman on a tower shouted, "THE MOUSE! EVERYBODY GET OUT OF YOUR SEATS!" Yes, he shouted this! And waved his hands in exclamation! Our table erupted in hysterical laughter. We were delirious! Johnny was elated! As a quick backstory, Johnny LOVES mice, rats, hamsters, etc. In fact, as a term of endearment we call him a stinky mexican rat (Adri gave him that name) or a stinky Chinese rate. Another fact, we had used the term Chinese rat quite often on this trip for Johnny and now we had actually SEEN one! The joy yet disgust was hand in hand as we CONTINUED TO EAT THE PIZZA. Adri called the mouse Rattatouille! Then ChinaTouille! We were crazy!

I was in panic mode. Johnny "dropped" a piece of cheese breadstick. We needed to get out before pandamonium (sp). And then it happened.... Adri and Phoebe at the exact same time and in almost the exact same octave gasped and SHRIEKED and yanked their legs up (where my sissy legs had been the whole time) and Daniel followed! We erupted into hysterical laughter, delusion, and fear! They said the mouse had quickly emerged from under our booth and made a BEELINE for Daniel's fancy jeans (as if it was a mouse hole)!!!!! Adri says the mouse was centimeters from leaped up Daniel's leg when he yanked them up!!!!!!!

All of us were out of our seats, hysterical with loud wild laughter! Everyone in the restaurant looked at us with curiosity but quickly dismissed it as if to say, "Oh, it's just the Americans." Plus, they didn't speak English! Daniel quickly paid and we were gone!

It was the greatest day of Johnny's life...and one of the funniest for the rest of us! We quickly made a plan to get back to the hotel in ONE cab since it was dark. The plan was, Daniel flags the taxi and starts distracting him with details about where we were going while me, Adri, Lily, Hope, Johnny and Rob crawl into the back. And it worked. We were off. Johnny quickly and brilliantly started singing, "Who let the rats out" to the tune of who let the dogs out! What a night! Adri started singing "Lift up yo legs, lift up yo legs, the mouse is comin" to the tune of Third Day's Lift Up Your Face Salvation is Coming.

Wed. Feb. 23- Consulate Appointment

Wednesday- Consulate Appointment Day

Today we have the infamous CONSULATE APPOINTMENT. This is the appointment that has to be made and determines when we traveled to China. We took the van downtown to an important looking building. The moment we entered we started seeing many American couples with their Chinese babies. We had to go through security and such. Just seeing the signs "American Consulate" brought joy and a feeling of safeness to me. I felt like someone on a movie who finally made their way to the American Embassy where they were finally safe from the mean guys chasing them!!

Adri and I dreamed of what they should add to the American Consulate. They should pass out American snacks, they should have themed rooms (i.e. the California Room where ocean sounds play and it smells like suntan oil, the Louisiana Room where they serve gumbo, etc.) We were so lonely for America that the dreams kept flowing!

We entered a large room that Adri affectionately called the DMV room where rows of chairs held happy looking American couples and families with their babies, who mostly had cleft lips and such. One couple their was adopting their FIFTH girl! Here was the moment we had waited for...the swear (as the Chinese guides called it).
So we all stood at once, every mom and dad, about 20 or so, and held our hand and said a bunch of important stuff that I cannot remember. At the end everyone celebrated.

We went outside and snapped the photo that you may have seen with our hands in the air. FUN!

We went to Pizza Hut for dinner. Just walked right out of of hotel and it wasn't far away. Phoebe and Lily ate steak. The rest of us pizza. Mmmm. The restaurant is super fancy looking. I think it's maybe the young people that think it's fun to come to American restaurants. The older people prefer the local unidentifiable food. Although I ate a lot of it the first week, after two kids had diarrhea we were done with the adventure and just wanted to TRY to eat safe. I really do enjoy and appreciate the Chinese dishes. While they are nothing like Panda Express, Pei Wei, or PF Changs, I was glad to eat what they eat and be grateful for the experience. It was just that we had had enough experience and were thankful for Pizza Hut!

Some restaurants had one go-to person that new enough broken English where they could be called upon when we needed things like forks, more napkins, or hot water.

Tuesday, Feb. 21: Pet Alley and Chinese Lizards, I mean Medicine

Breakfasts of porridge (Phoebe’s new fav), eggs, pastries, and fried rice and we were off to shop! Rosa (our guide) helped us walk back to the “island” to shop. The journey there (about 15 minute walk) was AMAZING! Right outside our hotel (on the other side of all the shops) is CHINA in its most real form! We kept saying WE ARE AT CHINA (Johnny’s letter) as we walked down dirty crowded streets FULL of interesting things. The first street was full of pets! Bowls and bowls and tanks and cages full of turtles, cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, hamsters, birds, and such. Rosa warned us NOT TO TOUCH anything. Adri and I were laughing thinking it must be pretty bad because it seemed like Johnny was making Rosa so nervous getting SO close to things. All the streets look very old and there is nothing modern looking about anything. Only an occasional truck would venture down the street. About the storefronts are two more stories of the old buildings where all the people live who own and work in the stores.

The next street was the famous Chinese medicine ingredient street. The smells were a bit more friendly than the pet street but still very CHINAish.
Again, it reminds us of tea, spices and sewage. There were bags and bags and bags and bags of TONS of unrecognizable dried things. Mushrooms, berries, shark fins, dried lizards, starfish, dried seahorses, dried snakes, etc. All used in ancient Chinese medicine.

At one point we passed some people who had things like real giant bear claws and animal horns on a blanket. When I took their picture they got mad. I asked Rosa why. She said because those are illegal. No kidding I thought! Tiger claws! LOL! It was fun and crazy. NOWHERE IN AMERICA IS LIKE THIS STREET!!!!! WE ARE AT CHINA.

We try to come back each afternoon so Hope gets a good nap. For dinner we ventured out to a place called The Greenery which served “authentic AMERICAN food.” Not. Even the steaks Daniel and Adri said taste “Chinese.” Lily ate her chicken wings AND finished off the leftover steak on the kids’ plates! The girl loves meat! When the waitress comes to the table she smiles and frantically points to the picture of meat on the menu she wants. I don’t think she got much meat in the big O!

We are in China. There is no getting away from it! We all smell like China. When someone pulls out a piece of clothing that hasn’t been worn yet and smells like America we love it! Don’t get me wrong. I love China! I love the culture, the people, the land and cities. It’s just there are things that are a bit disturbing (like the sanitary restaurant conditions and the bathrooms and sewage systems) that make you miss America big time.

From our hotel window you look out and see many old dirty buildings that look like they are falling down. Then you go downstairs and walk down the same street you were looking at and you see new looking storefronts. It’s a façade. They have come in and remodeled the bottom floors and the entire face of the building but what’s left underneath you can still see from the top. It’s not done right from the inside out….just what you can see. That’s a trend I’ve noticed in China. : ( And it’s something that goes against the way I live and Christianity. It’s not on the outside but what’s inside that counts. China needs God. China needs Jesus. China needs the Truth.

When we pray Lily just giggles and watches us all with heads bowed. I can’t wait to teach her about God and how He rescued her from the orphanage and spoke to us to come get her. She has no idea of His great love for her. This is only the beginning.

Monday, Feb 22

Monday- This morning after breakfast we went back to the medical clinic to have Lily’s TB test read. Negative. Then we went shopping on Shamain Island. This is an area that is surrounded by a dirty smelly canal but it is a tradition to visit this place for adoptive families because of the famous White Swan Hotel located here. This is one of the most used hotels for adoptive families and there are red couches in the lobby that everyone wants to photograph their new babies on. So we took our red couch photos after buying Lily and Hope cute traditional Chinese outfits. The hotel is pretty but we have heard from several people that it is no comparison to the Holiday Inn where we are staying.

Our hotel is by far the nicest Holiday Inn I’ve ever known of and it is located directly in a shopping district. There are hundreds of shops right outside our hotel. So we shopped on “the island” for a few hours. We visited quaint little Chinese shops full of souvenirs. The kids all enjoyed it. We found a Starbucks and ate lunch there and drank frappacinos. Just like in America. It was nice.

Back to the hotel and we ate dinner later at McDonalds. Lily prefers the chicken wings. We all ate cheeseburgers. Adri had fish filet. It’s funny because MdDonalds would be LAST on our list in America but here in China we are GRATEFUL for Ronald!

The streets outside our hotel are full of Chinese shops. Almost all of them have an English name. Like CLasSY, or Pizzazz Boy, or other fun things like Wi Wi! Thankfully there is a Papa John’s that tastes just like American ones. There is a place called Dakasi where I get an Iced Oolong Milk Tea every night. It makes me happy and Hope gets my straw after I’m done and it makes her happy too. In fact, other than her hands, straws are about the only thing she plays with. Oh, and my hair! She likes my hair. Hope only cries when she’s tired or hungry. She’s such an easy going baby. She is starting to cry when we put her in her crib. Which is great because the first few nights she didn’t. She had zero attachment to us. But now I think she really likes us! : ) She looks around the room at us with a look like she knows us. Even though she holds her own bottle I still hold her everytime she eats and I stare right into her eyes..

Lily likes daddy best. She is a bit wild. She is wilder than I thought. I thought she was meek and quiet and calm. She is the opposite. It’s really odd to me how quick she has changed. After 9 years you would think it wouldn’t be this way. Even though I am a bit sad that she is testing us, I can also see how God is blessing us. Maybe He is helping her true self come out now, and it won’t take years. Daniel and I thought we might never have to strongly discipline Lily but already we have had to get stern with her. She is ours now. She loves us and will forever be our daughter so we have to treat her like that. It’s great because she is able to see us disciplining our other kids and she sees how it works. How we still love her when we get on to her. On one hand you can excuse any behavior by remembering she has spent 9 years in an orphanage in China. On the other hand, we want to train her in love and see her grow into a healthy relating child. She really acts great. Just a bit untamed. Like she doesn’t know how to act outside of the orphanage in a family.

She has strongly bonded to Daniel so much that I think she has probably never had a man give her much attention. I think that because Daniel has given her love and affection she has grown a bit possessive of him. If he loves on me or another kid she has to get right in the middle of it and get his attention. Daniel is the best daddy to them both. I know in time she will grow to understand how a mother and daddy relate in a healthy way to their children as she sees that we aren’t going anywhere and we still love her no matter what she does.

Lily is VERY smart. I had concerns that she might have mental challenges. While I am still not sure of how she will do at school (she seems to be on a pre-k level), I am amazed at how independent and capable she is. We have not had many challenges communicating. She knows EXACTLY what we are saying. She is very helpful and loving and happy. I look forward to teaching her English and many things at home. It’s difficult to be here because we are off our schedule living the hotel life. I wonder if she thinks this is home! And in hotels and on vacation our rules are a bit more lax so I think she will respond really well to structure (but not orphanage structure this time….happy family structure!)

She really loves the kids. She plays most with Johnny. They (the twins) wrestle and laugh and speak Chinese to one another. Rob kind of acts like the big brother whose little sister (Lily) gets into his stuff (which she does). Rob is quick to point out when Lily breaks the rules. Lily likewise points out when Johnny breaks the rules! “Mama!!! JohnnyYa!!!!’ And Phoebe hasn’t really had any girl time with her so she really kinda relates differently than we all thought. Instead of having a 9 year old sister Lily is more like a 5 year old sister. As she learns English and we get home I think that will change.

Lily doesn’t know what to think of me yet I think. I don’t let her get away with as much as Daddy so I am not as fun. Daniel is an incredible father to them both. He amazes me and I love him even more today than yesterday. I cannot say enough good things about him.

I try to sleep with Lily most so she can bond with me. Every night someone is sleeping with someone else. Lily definitely knows we are a family who loves each other and has fun. She will see the rules and structure more once we get home. I think since she’s only had women in her life telling her what to do she naturally migrates to Daniel more. She kisses me and smiles at me and hugs me, but yesterday we saw her jump into the arms of another man here adopting and love on him and kiss him. So she clearly hasn’t truly bonded with us in a real and healthy way yet. That will take time. We are just trying to provide her with a safe environment where she can learn to trust us and watch how life works outside of the orphanage with a real family.

Lily is going to require more medical help than we thought, as she has a limp and it looks like one hip is messed up. One leg is longer than the other. Although I wish we could just fast forward to about a year from now and see how she has grown and adapted, I know that God is most interested in seeing how we respond and love her and teach her about family and life. Daniel and I have prayed and had honest conversations and we knew it wouldn’t be easy bringing a 9 year old orphan into our family. At the same time, although the challenges are different that what we expected, they are not near as tough as what we thought. Just different.

Sunday, Feb. 20- Amusement Park and things the girls like

Sunday- breakfast in the fancy hotel buffet again. Rob “took down” the French toast and doughnuts again. Lily likes ham. We take her to the buffet and show her things. She sees things that look normal and shakes her head no. She sees anything that looks like unidentified animal parts and jumps. Literally. She jumps around. Phoebe feels scared to eat freely here and I don’t blame her. I told her we would get her something really great back in the states to make up for it.

After breakfast we went to a “park” in Guangzhou. It was really like a pretty lake and amusement park. Our boys finally got a chance to RUN and let off steam. They just took off. So much fun. Only a few things looked American. Everywhere you look is a photo opp! Latnerns hanging from almost every tree.

The older retired people here play during the day. There are parks with exercise equipment everywhere outside. Things that look like ellipticals, see saws, gymnast rings, rowing machines, etc. No expensive gym fees or electricity needed. Just good old elbow grease needed! I think about the same age people in America. I cannot imagine them doing the same types of exercises these fit elderly people do here. They find a breezy place beside the lake and do their Tai Chi (sp) exercises. They look happy and at one with nature. Nothing new age. Just fit and happy.

The amusement park part was fun. We rode the “Lovely Fruit Worm Pulley.” It’s like a mini roller coaster. Lily practically PULLED us to it. Got on it and raised her arms high into the air and giggled the whole way through it. All I could think was how perfectly she fits into our Disney loving family! She has NO FEAR. They only time I’ve seen her fearful is when we get into a large place she clings tightly to Daniel. Its amazing because of the sea of Chinese faces everywhere, Lily wants US. She feels most comfortable with US!

The older people play ping pong and hackysack. They play hackysack like it’s easy. So we all bought us one and the boys say they thought it was easier than it is! LOL.

We came back to the room and did paperwork for our Consulate Appointments and then went to lunch. We were able to walk down the crazy fun filled streets and find our way to McDonalds. Phoebe said McDonalds has never tasted so good. We got Hello Kitty happy meal toys. Then we walked to a department store that doesn’t look too different from Sears and bought a stroller for Lily. She loves it! It was about $40 and nice enough to bring home. Right now as I type she is pushing her two baby dolls around the room in the stroller! Fun. And Hope just had a blowout on the bed with daddy. Mommy likes the poops. Thankful we are not dealing with constipation! We are all healthy today. No one has diarrhea, no one is throwing up! Praise the Lord.

Tonight we walked down to PIZZA HUT. We let Lily pick out what she wanted from the pictures. She got giddy when she saw the chicken wings. We chose pizza. Then we walked down the street as if we were in a parade and everyone stopped to stare at us and say Hello and wonder if they had pronounced it correctly! I don’t mind the stares a bit. They clearly haven’t seen many Americans. Even in Guangzhou, the whole day outside of our hotel we never saw any other nationality other than Chinese. They really love Johnny. They want their picture made with him. They ask him how old he is. He is very gracious to speak to them, because he wouldn’t like anyone talking to him like that in America.

Hope is getting more and more attached to us. When husband tried to put her in the crib tonight she clung onto him tightly!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!! Isn’t it funny that we want that. It’s just so sad that she didn’t want us because she has never had anyone pick her up when she cried so she just quit crying.

Husband told me tonight that I picked a really good baby. He said she is the cutest baby he’s ever seen outside of our others. He says he feels like she has been with us from the start. I feel the same way. He says he doesn’t even notice her “hole in the face” as Johnny calls it. He said we’d never have to fix it for her to be any cuter. None of us notice it anymore. The kids couldn’t care less. The only people that notice it are the Chinese people who STARE because they’ve never seen a cleft lip (because all those babies are abandoned to live in orphanages). I think it’s great for them to see us smothering Lily and Hope with kisses and love. To them Lily looks normal though. They just don’t know how old she is. But Hope is a weird site for them. I think it will do Americans good to see Hope as well, It’s a reality. You could’ve been born with a cleft lip. They are perfect and pure. Just in need of some medical help to look normal. I think you will be distracted when you meet her but you will see how quickly you get over it. She’s so perfect.

We are SO happy with Hope and Lily. Hope is a easy cute fun baby and Lily is wild and free and fun like our other kids. Lily fits in perfectly with our family. She has bonded quicker than I thought. A blessing from God. Lily is a testimony of adoption. God reveals so much to me through her. The other day I was thinking about how easy my life was before I came to China. I used the word convenient. Adopting two kids (especially a nine year old) is NOT CONVENIENT. Things that flowed naturally and easy with the Hook family of 5 have been changed forever. It’s not all fun and games and it wont be maybe ever. But it’s worth it. Lily and Hope are worth inconveniencing our family. I am so glad God found me worth sending His Son for. I will never take His sacrifice for granted. And I will never regret mine and Husband’s decision to take a chance on these two and forever change our family. Life isn’t about us. It’s about reaching out to others. Im not talking about adopting. Im talking about anyone! We cannot live convenient lives and expect to live lives that please God. Convenience and laziness doesn’t change others and bring others to Christ. It’s tough, but worth it. It’s life and death for people. And there are so many lost people in this country. America is blessed. With nice warm homes, clean living conditions, laws that protect, freedom to live! But outside of America the “real world” exists. I know many of you know this. I’m just saying that getting outside of the American routine of life does a person good. Not just to go home grateful we are not one of them, but to go home and ask God how we can make a difference where we are and get out of our pampered sissy American lifestyles where we keep thinking we need more just to lead normal lives. Ok, back to happy things! LOL…

Things Lily likes:
Wrestling with her siblings
Being carried by daddy or on his shoulders
Strange looking bony meat
Getting dressed in pretty clothes
Slurping noodles and congee
Her baby dolls
Drinking everyone else’s drinks but her own
French fries
Green jalepeno peppers
Dancing to Justin Beiber in Adri’s room
Bubble baths
Riding in her stroller
Hello Kitty (does she really have a choice???)

Things Lily doesn’t like:
McDonalds cheeseburgers
Getting her hair blow dryed
Leaving her daddy
Watching TV
To be told no
To not get to sleep with daddy

Things Hope likes:
Playing with her fingers
Mommy and daddy
Doing the downward dog and other yoga positions to relax in her crib
Sucking her fingers
Warm bottles
Riding in the baby carrier facing out to see things
Playing with mommy’s necklace
When mommy sings to her a special song

Things Hope doesn’t like:
Any food besides a bottle

***We are SOOOOOOOOOOOO thankful Adri got to come with us. We were short financially and told her that we may not be able to afford to bring her but it all worked out. We say everyday that we couldn’t make it without her! I think in the beginning she would say that we could but I bet she thinks now that there is no way we could make it with out her! LOL. It scares me to think we even considered not bringing her. I am sure we would have lost one of our kids if not for her! She is so helpful, easy going, and has the best attitude. She has dance parties in her room. Lily knows Baby Baby by Justin Bieber and can dance with the rest of them! She loves Adri like a big sister. She calls her Adria!

Lily also calls Johnny, Johnnya! She says it quick and feisty in her Chinese accent. It is so funny! She will also tell on Johnny! She will say Mama! Johnnya! And when Lily cuts loose she gets in her “Chinese mode” as Johnny calls it. She chatters loudly and strongly and giggly in Chinese! I am so thankful that Johnny can translate as he knows “half of Chinese.” In fact He will speak “Chinese” so much to Lily it really appears they are having real conversation!!!

Sat, Feb. 19- Medical Appointments

Saturday- So our rooms are so nice and big. And we have a bathtub which we didn’t have in Lanzhou. Lily loves the bathtub. She is so self sufficient. She washes her baby dolls clothes in the sink with soap and wrings them out and hangs them to dry. She takes Hope’s dirty diapers and puts them in the trash. She is very good at brushing her teeth and bathing herself. I am not sure how many baths she had in her life. Her teeth look like they are in good shape considering. She is such a happy girl. She and Johnny wrestle and laugh and play. She gets this serious look on her face like shes really mad and wrestles with him. Jumps on him, everything. I’ll think oh I hope she doesn’t get hurt! But the girl can take care of herself! And as soon as they are done she turns to us and flashes a big grin and gives us the thumbs up! We use thumbs up a lot. It’s our number one way to communicate. When you try to tell her other stuff she just repeats it like a parrot. “Lily are you ok?” then she would say, “Lily are you ok?” so we just do the thumbs up all the time.

We tells her we love her all the time, but I’ve learned those are just words that aren’t even necessary. She KNOWS love and feels love from us by the way we treat her. We really hug and kiss her a lot. She likes to kiss us on the cheek and she loves to give Daniel Eskimo kisses.

So today we had our medical appointments. That means we had to take Lily and Hope to see a doctor to get approved to leave China and enter America. The doctor looked at Lily’s medical records and asked us if we knew everything that was wrong with her. It’s like they want to make sure we have no surprises. We said yes. He asked if we knew she was deaf. We told him she wasn’t’deaf, and he was shocked the medical records were wrong. We told him her records had been wrong for years. What a shame. Poor Lily. Maybe looked over time and time before because her records were so scary and so wrong!

We have noticed that the vaginal fistula Lily had surgically repaired when she was a baby will need another surgery to re-repair it. We are so thankful we can get this fixed for her as she is 9 years old and probably tired of dealing with this. We also have noticed that one of her hips is out of place. This causes her to kind of limp. When she runs she looks off balance. I don’t think she has ever run a lot. To my knowledge, she may have never been outside much in her life. So she gets really tired when we’ve been walking around. She will whine for Daddy to pick her up. Don’t know if it’s because she’s hurting or tired or because she’s a little girl who wants her way.


Friday- Today we flew from Lanzhou to Xian then from Xian to Guangzhou. So we went from almost the very top of China to the very bottom. Lily sat by Daddy. She was timid and scared. She did great though. She handles her fears very bravely. Hope did great. Easy easy. She did have a crying spell but Daddy leaned her head against the plane and she calmed down. Hope likes to put her head up against things. I think she uses her head the way we use our hands to feel something. I remember seeing the babies her age in the cribs in the orphanage. It seems they all did kind of the same things. They rock on their hands and knees, lean their head continually up against the side of the crib, and they say the same thing over and over again and play with their hands. Its all they’ve got. Their hands. Hope is one talented kid with her fingers. She can cross both her index and middle finger over each other while crossing her pinky and ring finger over each other. And she looks at her other hand and can do the exact same thing! She tells us she has had a lot of time practicing these tricks and that all the kids in the big O (orphanage) try really hard to learn tricks to impress their parents!

Right now Hope cannot be comforted by us. When she gets really tired she wants in her crib by herself. She sucks her thumb and says Ya ya ya ya ya over and over. In fact when she says that we know she is tired. I look forward to the day when she wants me to comfort her and I hope it comes before our long flight home!

She holds her bottle all by herself although I hold her when she’s eating. I sing the same song over and over so she will bond with me. She is starting to look at me a lot. It’s as if she says, Hmmm, it’s still you. She has the blackest eyes I’ve ever seen. They stare at me like we knew each other a long time ago and she’s trying to place where!

We checked into the Holiday Inn Shifu in Guangzhou. It is fabulous. Better than the nice hotel in Lanzhou even. I am grateful for America World selecting such nice hotels because we are in our room a lot. Especially since the weather is cold. And we have said over and over again that the clean nice big rooms have helped to make this trip enjoyable. For instance, our bathrooms are nice. But if you go to a bathroom anywhere outside the hotel you cannot count on it being clean or having a toilet. It’s amazing to me…as if the Chinese people don’t care about bathrooms. Even our guide in Lanzhou would tell us where good toilets were. He would say this restaurant has good food but the bathroom is not in good condition. You kind of just have to look the other way and pray that your food is sanctified and doesn’t make you sick when the bathroom is yards away from the kitchen and is dreadful. Smelly, stinking, and pee on the floor. I know it’s gross, but anyone who has been to China knows its just part of being here. And don’t forget your own toilet paper!

Monday, Feb 14- Valentine's Day, the day we legally have the girls!

Today is Valentine’s Day! Today is the day that our adoption will be finalized. Today is the day they are legally ours forever! Valentines Day! YAY!!! Best gift ever! While all of you were getting chocolate and fancy dates I got Hope and Lily! Thanks Husband! : )

Our hotel is fabulous. All my friends who had previously adopted in this city had stayed at the JJ Sun hotel. After hearing dreadful stories about the hotel and asking them to please tell our agency, we were placed in the luxurious Landison Lanzhou Hotel. And it was great! Clean, fancy, pretty. I cannot say enough good things about it. The rest of Lanzhou seems smoggy, smoky, drab and cold. Our hotel was everything opposite. Thank you America World.

We have a luxurious breakfast (included with our room) of noodles!, Udon noodles and famous Lanzhou stretchy noodles! I have video of the amazing process of making these noodles! WOW. Fun fun fun! And Adri was addicted to these noodle bowls (glorified ramen noodles) made right before your eyes. We ate rice congee, fried rice, yogurt and fruit for breakfast each day this week.

After this we went to a government office to do all the official paperwork for around 3 hours. We talked with the orphanage directors.

We signed papers, etc. And Lily had to say goodbye to the people she has known as her caretakers for 9 years. I honestly think they were sadder than her.

Although she cried, she is very compassionate, and after they left, she has never showed one bit of grief. Which could be bad. But I just think she is having so much fun with us she hasn’t had time to remember the old life. The assistant director told me that they were very concerned Lily would have a hard time because when she left the orphanage (or Big O as we now all call it) her friends cried hard. But then when she got to Lanzhou and had to wait for HOURS on our bus to arrive she told the assistant director she was scared we weren’t coming!

Lily is adjusting easily. So is Hope. Everything I thought it would be it has been. There was no crying, no breakdowns, no jealousy yet. It’s all good. Lily is having a blast. Hope is getting stronger each day. She can sit up but is wobbly. She is starting to crawl. Hope is easy and easy going. The hardest part about Hope is remembering all the things she needs. Like bottles, liners, diapers, food, etc. It seems everyday I forget something and have to borrow from other families. I feel like such a irresponsible mom. Husband is great and supportive. But I feel ridiculous! One day I forget her food. One day her bottles, etc! It is very hard to get 5 kids up and dressed and remember everything. I am still learning. Ugh!

One day Johnny was taking a shower and Lily busted through the bathroom door to go potty. After she finished she undressed and jumped in the shower with Johnny! We were laughing. Johnny was a little taken back. But we said, oh well, they are siblings now! They play together wild! Johnny and Lily….we call them the TWINS! They play wild and rough and silly and they both love it!

Tuesday, Feb 15- Thursday, Feb. 17: Life in Lanzhou

TuesdayWednesdayThursday- Ok Im sorry but I am writing this days later and now all these days seem to run together so I will bunch them together and tell you what we did the rest of the week in Lanzhou.

We really didn’t have to do anything else adoption paperwork related. I think we have to stay in Lanzhou long enough to get our kids’ passports. And they are so cute. One day we went to the mountain. It was amazing. It’s a giant mountain that surrounds Lanzhou and it’s like it just goes straight up! The mountains surrounding the city hold all the air pollution trapped in the city, causing it to be one of the most polluted cities in the world. It is considered an industrial city. And it’s very drab, except for the artificial flowers planted everywhere! Which faked us out for a day or so! The mountain was enjoyable and we were just about to go to the area where the panda is when Johnny got sick. Vomiting and diarrhea and we were outta there. We had to leave the rest of the group and go straight back to the hotel. I almost lost it. All I could think about was the prescription for traveler’s diarrhea for my children that I left at the pharmacy before we left America because it was over $400! My urgent messages to America for pray paid off. I am so grateful for prayers and God. It seems like He’s all we have here but I’m thankful that’s enough.

The day before we had to go to the hospital with Hope because of a bad diaper rash that she had when she was given to us. There was one spot on her bottom that looked infected. I know that in Ameica our good doctors would put her on an antibiotic so quick. It really concerned me. I was thinking of staph infections, etc. Daniel and I left Adri with all the kids and took Hope to the hospital. It was a very dirty dark place. I thought to myself why don’t they put better lighting in the hospital, but then I realized then you would see how dirty it was. We waited for hours to see three doctors who told me it was excema! UGH! They prescribed us zinc oxide liquid which burned Hope’s bottom so bad she screamed violently. Our doctor bill was around $30.

Then on the way home from the hospital I had another important matter to take care of. I needed a blow dryer! My curling iron, blow dryer, and hot rollers will not work in China. Not even with my $30 Brookstone adapter! So I bought me a blow dryer. Needless to say, my hair has been a “frizzy red mess” since we’ve been here!!! Oh well, we are in CHINA! That’s what we say. And another think we say is WHY ASK WHY IN CHINA! Haha

Everyday we see improvements in both Lily and Hope. They are becoming more and more our family everyday. I think with Hope its her bonding with us and needing us. With Lily it is the opposite. It’s all five of us seeing Lily as one of us, not a stranger here for a time. And every day that happens more and more. It’s actually been so easy it’s kinda strange. We know that God has created our family!

Lily plays with her baby dolls. She has about 5. We laugh and say she plays “orphanage” because she lines them up and feeds them and puts them to bed. We said she only needs about 30 more babies at home to really play! She is gentle and loving. She smiles so much. And she had “a million dollar smile” as daddy says. She is so tiny. Her hair is growing in very cute. I trimmed her bangs but left the rest to grow. Her hair is prettiest away from her face so you can see her pretty face.

We often say we wish we knew what Lily is thinking. 9 years of one way of thinking and in a moment she has the world in front of her. She has adjusted nicely right now. I know there is 9 years though of institutionalization in her that will need to come out and be processed. It’s ok. We will help her. We will love her through it all. And watch her become the person God created her to be…whole. We forget her age. Lily is Lily. I would say she is about on a five year level, except she doesn’t know any English so that puts her further behind. But she is REALLY SMART! The girl has COMMON SENSE. She has life sense. She is a survivor. She is strong willed and stubborn about what she wants. Reminds me of some other Hook kids I know! A perfect fit for our family. I know just how to parent that kind!

Hope is fun and sweet. She giggles and smiles and coos and babbles. She just goes and does what we do. No trouble. We often say if we had only gotten Hope is would be TOO easy. And if we had gotten Lily it would be TOO easy. But getting them together is challenging because we have to split our time with them. Hope demands so much attention because she is a baby. Always needing to be fed or changed or held. So we go out of our way to spread our affection around. I find myself thinking, OK, who do I need to focus on today! Five kids! WOW! It’s sad but true that each child gets less time with mommy and daddy separately. I think that has made me a little sad. I miss that. But at the same time, this is the life we have chosen. To share our love with two others that had none. To spread ourselves a bit thinner for the sake of two that had no family. So it makes me want to be an even better mommy for Phoebe, Rob and Johnny. I never want them to feel jipped. Ever.

Thursday we had a traditional Chinese meal at the restaurant in our hotel. They brought us a free dessert of rice balls. It looks like white balls floating in watered down milk. Ray told us that because today was the last day of the Lantern Festival that out of the 3 million people in the city that day, 90 percent of them would eat this dessert. So almost all of us tried it. It was the consistency of eye balls. When you bit into it you tasted the jet black gooey center of sesame seeds and no telling what else. It didn’t taste bad, but the consistency was impossible to overcome. Adri cheered us on “CHEW CHEW CHEW!!!” while we ate it after she bravely went first! Ray was nice and not offended. We tried! He even bribed Phoebe with a gift to get her to eat it. She had to spit it out. Lily LOVED it of course!

Another memorable meal in Lanzhou was KFC. After Adri, husband and I all agreed we could not identify the popcorn “chicken” as chicken we ate the rolls and decided KFC in China was a no go.

Before I leave Lanzhou I must tell you the most incredible part of the city! We were in Lanzhou during the last few days of the Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival. The decorations are impossible to describe. I can’t imagine how drab the city would look without them. All of our hotels and flights were more expensive due to coming during this time, but it was incredible. Plus Hope’s name can mean early morning festival, so we found it fitting.

The city was FULL of lanterns and lights and blow up rabbits (it’s the year of the Rabbit). It was like Rhema times a hundred! Well organized, bright, colorful, well designed displays of light! I cannot imagine ANY city in the world outdoing what we saw! We are so grateful to have seen what we did!

The last night, Thursday night, around 7:00 the fireworks started. We were in the hotel safe and sound. Ray had warned us. There were MILLIONS of people on the streets, THOUSANDS of whizzing cars, traffic jams galore and people setting off fireworks everywhere you look. We safely viewed from our hotel window. There are two scenarios I can use to try to describe the six hours that occurred this night. First, it sounded like a war zone. Second, it was like Disney fireworks times a hundred!!!! CONTINUALLY FIREWORKS FOR 6 HOURS. Not a firework here and there….continual! Glancing out our window we could count about 10 different HUGE DISNEY SIZED firework displays. Plus, they were going off downtown through the streets. Right below our window on the street HUGE fireworks were set off! They were bouncing off our hotel windows! I AM NOT EXAGGERATING!!!!! They were being launched from the middle of the street while cars whizzed around both sides of them!!!! I AM NOT EXAGGERATING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact, I could not exaggerate enough to create a scene more amazing that we saw this night! Awe. Craziness. CHINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, Feb. 13- The Day We Got Them in Our Arms!!!

Sunday—After another breakfast of noodles, eggs, etc. we went to church. While our guide tells that it is legal to be a Christian in China and attend church we find that hard to believe when they asked us to show our foreign passports upon entry to the church and Rosa told us she was not allowed in. Rosa (our guide) doesn’t think much about Christianity. She said she has Taoist beliefs but is not that dedicated to the religion. There are millions of people here who don’t give Jesus a second thought. It’s odd because I think they are so innocent in their beliefs. If you tell them we believe that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you will not inherit eternal life they don’t care. Most don’t believe in eternal life so why do they care about what we say. It is heart breaking. China is a huge mission field needing many missionaries!

After lunch we went to Dr. Tea! Our guide had to get creative because it was snowing and no one wanted to spend two hours outside touring the Summer Palace in the dead of winter! Dr. Tea is a tea house/tourist trap/Chinese “starbucks” since they don’t drink coffee here. We went into a private room where two adorable petite Chinese girls gave us an educational tea tasting talk. It was fun. Just to hear them talk in their pretty dresses. I told Adri I would buy anything from them cause they were so cute and talked so proper. She agreed! We tasted jasmine tea, oolong tea, some other tea I forgot and then puer tea. Puer tea comes from tall trees and the tea ages like fine wine. It is super healthy for you and helps burn fat (like the Chinese need it!). After the talk we felt a bit compelled to not look like cheap Americans, and we also felt a bit compelled to buy the tea a watch it “change ours lives” as Adri says! So we all bought tea! So maybe I’ll invite you all over for a tea party in my spare time!

Then we went to the Beijing Museum. Something most adoptive families don’t see because they are at more fun places in better weather. The kids were pretty bored. We made the most of it. There was one little exhibit where they had dressed up locust shells like little people that interested the kids. Kinda neat, kinda gross. But interesting.

Then off to the airport! We are now just HOURS away from getting our kids!!! We meet up with another couple from another ameriican adoption agency in the airport. They are adopting a boy from the same orphange as well! They are thankful to see us. We flly about 2 hours and land in Lanzhou at night time. We are picked up from the airport by Ray, a nice Chinese guy. He startes talking about “getting your babies” and such. He says it so normal! Like we do this every day. All I can think is IM GETTING MY BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!! I am not really nervous, but I’m getting emotional at this point. The other couple has butterflys too.

Ray explains to us that usually parents get their babies early in the day and have 24 hours to decide by the next day if they want the baby. He tells us that since it is late, we will only have 10 hours to decide! He says please take care of baby and no accidents! LOL! I cannot believe all the things I’m hearing. THIS IS REAL. Daniel looks at me and says no turning back now! We laugh. We wouldn’t ever.

We arrive at the hotel. I am trying to wake up Johnny who seems to have settled into a long winter’s nap and is UNWAKEABLE! My moment of the whole family walking in holding hands in slow motion with sparkles around us as we greet our babies is smashed to smithereens when Phoebe yells, “I SEE LILY!!!!!!” My emotions unleash when I see Daniel has lost it and begins to cry. I start bawling and run off the bus, hoping Adri or the nice Chinese man I met an hour before will help get my sleeping child off the bus! I head straight through the doors and fall to my knees to embrace little Lily who is remarkably smaller than I remember and had planned on! She is tiny. About the size of Madison Prewitt I think. She looks confused and emotionless and probably confused why I am crying. I try to hug the director and assistant director of the orphanage and quickly before I turn to my little fat hawk Hope and scoop her out of their arms! She too is smaller than I thought. She looks so foreign yet so familiar. She looks emotionless at all of us. After a few minutes I wonder if Johnny made it off the bus and then I see himcurled up next to our unaccompanied backpack full of all our important documents while a crowd of Chinese men as gathered around him smiling and pointing.

They are finally in our arms. And while I cannot gather all my thoughts, I know it is right. The journey has begun! We spend about 30 minutes there and then go up to our hotel rooms where Daniel has massive amounts of money spread out all over the bed while I am cuddling our kids! We had to bring $15,000.00 cash for the girls combined. The night is unforgettable yet completely unable to recall because of the surrealness of it all! It was February 13, 2001!

The girls easily go to bed in their new cute pajamas, and the day ends. 10 hours to decide…..WE”LL TAKE EM NOW!

GOTCHA DAY!- February 13, 2011!

Today we get our two Chinese daughters!
Today they will be given to us and tomorrow they will be legally ours! Today is One of the greatest days of my life and the greatest day of the Hook family of five! No one can sleep. I guess it is jet lag but mixed in is the excitement of this day! Phoebe just came to me and said she is so excited she can't sleep and that she wonders if Lily will run to her and hug her or be shy. I just thought of the day we told Phoebe we were adopting. She was seven years old. Robert was three and not old enough to know or care. Johnny was about to be 2. So we told Phoebe by herself in her room one night before bed. We prefaced it by telling her about orphans not having parents and a family. We told her there are millions of children like this all over the world and even in America. As her little tiny expressive face began to understand the horror of an orphan's reality, especially in relation to her own, we proudly told her that we were going to go to China and get one and make them part of our family forever. In a split second response, her precious face squinched up in confusion and she spoke two words I will never forget, "Just one?" Daniel and I laughed and both realized the purity of a child's heart and the simple response that comes from love. Love doesn't reason. Love doesn't weigh pros and cons. Love doesn't consider cost an issue. Love responds. Love moves. Love (if I say is a verb will I make this moment any less sincere! Lol!) Yes, love is a verb! Love has been cheapened to something that doesn't resemble our Father's love. But by looking into the eyes of a child we can still find it in it's purest form. And today, at 11, my little Phoebe still has that pure heart. And we aren't getting "just one!" We are getting two! Two lives forever changed! By LOVE! Adoption amazes me. It's the heart of God! I'm so grateful to be a part of God's plan for Ning Li and Xiao Dan's lives! I 'm honored to be their mamma!

So today at 5:11 am in Beijing as I write this I'm also thankful for my incredible husband that said YES to TWO as well! Who has worked 18 hours a day for months preparing for this trip! And also for carrying whimpering AND crying Johnny thru the entire 2 and a half hour frigid tour of Tienanmen Square today! : ) And Rob in his many words of wisdom just two days back home, woke up early and went to Husband and explained to him, that the reason our adoption took so long was so that we would get Lily! And he's right because if the backlog hadn't occurred we never would've considered special needs first and then we would've not met Lily and gotten to adopt TWO! What a great big little brother he will be for Lily! (He also turned to Husband before take off from Seattle and said, "Dad, I got a good feelin this is gonna be a great 12 hour flight!") And Johnny in his own way is so excited about being here to get Hope and Lily. It's all he's ever known. That one day we'd go get his Chinese sister from China! And his heart is so sweet! Just the other day we were
watching Animal Hoarders (hey, we were snowed in for two weeks!) and when Johnny watched a sweet old man's story who had 60 chickens in his house Johnny asked, "Mom, is this in real life?" I said yes. He said, "We need to help that man." I know that's a funny story to tell but Johnny was serious and sad for the man and he felt compassion for him. And you know what? Orphans are in real life. They aren't just a religious TV show on we change the channel on. There are millions of Hopes and Lilys! And compassion moves us to act just like the compassion Jesus had on the crowds of people who followed him. And now we have that living inside of us as believers! And that's how the world sees Jesus! Through us! Christianity just isn't a world religion. Christianity is a verb. Christianity responds! It MOVES! I cannot say it enough. We are so grateful to everyone who loves and supported and gave to us to get us to this day!!!! We could not have done it without you. The cost reached over $55,000 with my trip Last summer included and the high cost to get our whole family here in the middle of Chinese New Year (the most expensive time to travel here!) I do not feel like this is the Hook family adoption. It's OUR adoption! To everyone reading this! You have moved out of compassion to change these girls' lives! And it's about to happen! Can u believe it? Yay!!!! I'm not scared or nervous! I am just READY!!!!! I've dreamed of "Gotcha Day" for years. I've watched perfectly edited YouTube videos of glorious moments when the child was given to the adoptive parents with a tear jerking Steven Curtis Chapman song playing in the background. I've waited so long for OUR moment! But right here right now I couldn't care less about that! Just give them to me!!!! Lol!!!!! I don't care if they scream and cry or run and hide! I am ready to be their mamma! (Of course, adri will be capturing the moment on her iPhone so don't get worried!!! We will take whatever moment we get and share it with y'all!!!)

To be continued.... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, Feb 12- GREAT WALL

Saturday- First whole day in China! Breakfast at the hotel. Adri asks us what will happen to her if she eats so many noodles?! We are all gonna find out! We eat them by the plateful. Noodles for breakfast, noodles for lunch, noodles for dinner! The breakfast at the Beijing hotel is nice and tasty. We eat normal looking stuff, along with steamed buns (little white steamed rolls), fried noodles, lemon cake (Johnny’s favorite) and rice congee (like cream of rice). Fun!

Off we went to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City! The first few steps off the bus Johnny starts crying. He begs to go back to the hotel although the bus has dropped us off for 2 hours! So for the next two hours Husband has to carry Johnny around. The Forbidden City “started to all look alike” as Rob said. Everywhere we looked the same. Now in perfect weather conditions I would’ve actually listened to the nice guide (Rosa) explaining how wondrous everything is, but in FREEZING weather (we estimate it was 20 degrees but we all agreed China 20 degrees is colder than Tulsa 20 degrees) the only thing we wanted was to be indoors. It was so cold that I found myself wanting to buy a cup of hot tea from a stranger that had just whipped out there thermos from home! And we even had on our long johns, our ski jackets donated by friends, and our expensive hats and gloves bought just for this day so that we could ENJOY it. But the cold was bitter! And to top it all off, we realize Rob had FORGOT to put his long johns on under his cheap $7 slicky athletic pants from Target! Ridiculous. This is only the FIRST of many things mommy will forget on this trip. Just keep reading.

Onto lunch at a government certified jade factory we had a tour. They showed us how jade is found in the mountains of China and how it is carved into relics in the showroom. It was amazing. The boys even were impressed and all three kids picked out a jade souvenir (which as I am writing this several days later I can say that Johnny has already broke his). The jade is pretty and it is very Chinesey so we bought some. It is a tradition to buy a jade bracelet to wear and then hand down to your daughter when she is older. Daniel asked me if I wanted to do that. I said I would rather save the money for diapers! The bracelets were around $100-$300 each. Maybe our tradition can be a The Vintage Pearl necklace! : )

Onto the GREAT WALL! At this point, I was fearful of frost bite so I said my plan was to step onto the wall, take a photo, and then retreat to the small snack shop with whoever wanted to go. So after paying no telling what, I did just that. Now I am sure others reading this will think that is pretty sissy of me, however, I cannot explain to you how cold it was that day. At one point one of the kids complained of numb fingers (even they had had their gloves on the whole time) so I was fearful of frostbite. We had our neck turtles on pulled up to our eyeballs. STILL COLD! But we endured to take some great forever cherished photos. Adri, Husband and Rob (with his Chinese underpants on now bought by our driver while we were at the Forbidden City) were brave and stayed on the wall for about 30 more minutes. Meanwhile, me, Rosa, PG, and Johnny were enjoying Chinese hot chocolate at the Great Wall snack shop, located just steps away from the wall. Just as memorable! And we met some nice Italians in there!

Let me take this time to mention the nice family that is traveling with us on our whole trip. The Bensons. They came with their 12 year old son and are adopting a little boy from the same orphanage as Hope and Lily. He has a bilateral cleft palate. That means instead of one separation of the mouth, there is two. He is about 2 and a half years old. They are athletic and do not have small kids in tow. They ventured far on the wall and chose the “hard” side. We will be with them in each city.

After the wall we went for supper and then back to the hotel. The supper was a smorgasbord of strange looking Chinese food. Our kids were so tired Nathan Benson (their 12 year old son) gave Phoebe oreos and she fell asleep at the table uninterested. They are experiencing jet lag a bit more than me, Adri and husband.

Friday, Feb 11- The day we never saw

This day we skipped due to the time change. We got to China at 6 am on Friday morning by American time, but it was already 9:00 pm at night Friday evening on China time.

Thursday Feb 10, LEAVING FOR CHINA

Travel Day! We are so thankful to Paul Meuniot, Russell Prewitt, and James Roberts for getting us to the airport in all the snow! What a day to leave for China after Tulsa has received record snowfall in the past week! Praise God we never missed a connection, We scarfed down burgers in Seattle as our plane was boarding knowing it would be our last American meal for a while!

The flight to China was good. Husband did great. Adri did great. Rob turned to husband before the plane took off and said, “Daddy, I gotta feeling this is gonna be a great 12 hour flight” in his classic optimist attitude, and he was right. He did great. Rob barely slept the whole time. Johnny and Phoebe both had near breakdowns because they were so tired and needed to stretch out so I put Phoebe on the floor under mine and Johnny’s seats and I gave my seat up for Johnny to stretch out. I spent hours walking around the plane and praying for my feet! They puffed up like I was pregnant! It scared me so bad. I felt trapped. I started thinking how we are so far away from any place to land, what if my feet bust (I’m sure I was delirous) or what if Phoebe cant breathe! Adri assured me it was just due to flying but I don’t remember my feet doing that last summer. I drank tons of water but then I thought maybe I should drink coke to act as a diuretic. So then I started drinking coke. Needless to say I didn’t sleep a wink and was so thankful to finally get off the plane.

The Beijing airport is fun. We couldn’t believe we were really in China! The kids were great the whole trip! We got to our hotel room and were thankful for beds to sleep on…even if they were hard as a rock. And I mean that literally. It’s like a dining room table with a comforter on top. The Chinese say it promotes health. While I am sure that is true, to Americans used to their termperpedic mattress, the Chinese beds promote sleepless nights!