Sunday, March 16, 2008

Home 2 weeks

Has it really only been two weeks? It seems so very much longer than that. Jeremy and the family are blending together. Jeremy has started with more words lately - this morning he asked, "Jeremy, drink please" when he wanted juice with breakfast. He also knew ever too well that what he rec'd from his Sunday School teacher was "chocolate" - she gave out early Easter treats since she will be away next week. He wanted to eat it right away lest someone else get it, but mean Momma put it in the bag - his pout didn't last long at all, though.

What a kid!! This week, as he was full of himself, giggling and all, he grabbed his socks and proceeded to put them on by himself .... something I had been doing for him all along .... he caught me staring at him as he carefully opened each sock with his toes and stretched them enough to get his foot in and them pull them up with his other toes ... he realized what he was doing and grinned broadly as I commented, "you stinker!" One more thing that he actually CAN do on his own! :) I will get this one on video for sure! I think for his birthday or someday soon, I will have all the church kids/families over and we will all get our hands wrapped with duct tape and try to do all the things Jeremy does all by himself!!

He also thoroughly enjoyed going outside everyday this past week as the weather warmed into the 40s and 50s, melting tons of snow and ice. We chipped ice each day to reclaim the driveway and sidewalk edges that had been encroached upon since December. Jeremy grabbed a small shovel in the garage and proceeded to help in any way he could. By Friday afternoon, his stumpies were really chapped, hot and red - poor thing. He would wear gloves for awhile, but can get a better "grip" on things with his skin and the damp gloves/mittens would come off. We lathered those stumpies up good this weekend and stayed inside most of the time letting them heal.

It is really neat to see the 4 youngers split off differently on different days - Nate and Jeremy were outside on Friday, while Sarabeth and Juls truly enjoyed girlie time playing just dolls inside. But them Jeremy and Sarabeth will team up to do something totally different. They are all not "jockeying" for position quite as much anymore, unless they are really tired. They all enjoyed helping make cupcakes on Friday, cracking eggs and pieces of shell into the bowl, and icing and decorating them was even more fun!

Jeremy freely gives hugs and smooches .... especially when he is "sucking up" for something! "Puleeeeease?" he says repeatedly when he wants something that another child has - he is learning that sharing is part of being in a family.... of course Juls is STILL learning that!! Jeremy and Mommy have a special goodnight ritual of kisses on each cheek, butterfly kisses to each eye and a nose rub ... something I have done with each new child when they have come home - it gives us "up close" time and Jeremy easily says, "I love ooo"!

He is tolerating our food, but makes sure he has fruit at every meal .... that at least tastes the same as it did in China - a banana is always a banana! I have bought 5 times more apples, bananas and oranges in the last 2 wks - of course if one asks for it, everyone wants it. Sooo we are definitely getting more fruits in our diet now! I have found Yo-J is very similar to the Wahaha that the China kids love to drink - unfortunately it is not the cheapest drink on the market! Jeremy also loves ice with every drink usually - probably was a real luxury for him in China and now it just pours out of the refrigerator door! WOW!! And "bean chillin" .... ice cream is frequently asked for - in a cone, in a bowl, with and without jimmies. This place must seem like a resort to him!

We are so very thankful that we took yet another leap of faith in bringing this remarkable child into our family! He goes at life full steam ahead and just amazes us every day. He does get corrected here and there which usually brings wet eyes and a dropped head ... but it doesn't last for long. His "okay" is clear as a bell, even when I know for certain that he has no idea what he just said okay to! We are blessed, he is blessed .... what more could we ask for?

Thank you, Lord, for yet another small life to nurture and train - may his life be used mightily for Your Kingdom and the furtherance of the gospel!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Settling in

We are home for 4 days now and Jeremy is settling in to his new family. He enjoys playing with the other children, and their toys! I suspect he and Nathan are going to have some mighty fierce battles before too long. Jeremy is very inquisitive, likes to look everything over and push buttons to see what happens. He likes Lego's and anything electronic. For several years now we have had the children using, which is an excellent/fun program for teaching reading and phonics. Jeremy already points to the computer and says "Starfall please!"

There have also been times of grieving, as everything he has ever known has been taken away from him, and he's been taken to this faraway country where most people don't look like him, and nobody speaks in a language that he can understand, and it's soooooo darn cold outside compared to anything he's ever experienced, and he misses his friends in China, and the food is NOTHING like what he's used to, goes on and on. Everything is going exactly as anticipated, and as with the other children we've adopted, Jeremy will have these grieving periods which will gradually diminish in frequency as he realizes the love that's being heaped upon him is a "forever" kind of love. Keep him in your prayers.

Attached are a few pics of things since we got home.


"I think I like my new brother" says Juliana!

"Wow, it's never this cold in China, but look at all these neat playthings!"

Saturday, March 1, 2008


We're home at last and going thru the rigors of jet lag. We arrived on time at Minneapolis yesterday afternoon at approx 2pm-- after a scare leaving China. We were delayed boarding the flight to Tokyo by about 30 minutes, and then just as we were about to be pushed away from the jetway, the pilot came on and said they were being held by Air Traffic Control for 1 hour. So, our 8:30 departure became a 10am one. We had a 90 minute planned layover in Tokyo, and we just used up all 90 minutes of it sitting on the tarmac in Guangzhou! Thankfully we had a great tailwind enroute to Japan and the scheduled 4 hour flight was slightly shorter than that. One thing I HATE about the airport in Tokyo is that when you arrive on an international flight, you deplane, go up an escalator, GO BACK THRU SECURITY and then back down the escalator and board your connecting flight. Like I picked something dangerous up on the plane from China!! Again though, God was good to us and there were no lines at the security checkpoint, AND when we went back down the escalator, our departing flight's gate was right there and we didn't have to trudge thru the airport looking for our gate. At the gate, the "Final Call" was flashing for our flight to Portland. We were the last to board before the doors were shut and we were off to Oregon. In Portland, we cleared customs and Jeremy became a citizen of our great country! We connected to our Minneapolis flight and I (John) tried to get some shut-eye, as I knew I had a 2 hour drive after we landed.

The Cox's met us at the airport, with all of our children. They all were very generous with their hugs when we entered the baggage claim area and you could tell they missed us greatly. Jeremy was very shy with everyone at first; he also wasn't feeling too well. He puked twice on the flight to Tokyo and again once on the flight to Portland. No warning was given, he just let fly all over himself, the floor, a blanket, Mary..... you get the point. By this time, we were exhausted, having been up for 24 hours-- our wake up call in Guangzhou was at 4:30am, which was 2:30pm the previous day in Iowa. We arrived in Minneapolis just about 24 hrs after the wake-up call.

We drove home, ate fried chicken and french fries from the Barrel Drive-In and were ready for bed by 8pm. Jet lag quickly reared its ugly head as even though exhausted, we slept poorly and were wide awake in the middle of the night. Finally at 4am today, I got dressed and came out to my chair to read a little and watch the news. Jeremy soon joined me. I've forced myself to not nap during the day today, and as I sit here blogging at 9pm, I've been up for 19 hours. I hope to sleep better tonight.

Jeremy is feeling better and is enjoying exploring the house and all the toys. He went out with Sarabeth, Nathan, Juliana and Daddy to play in the snow today and really enjoyed sledding down the little hill on the side of our house. Now, it is bedtime for everyone. We will blog again and include some new pics soon.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

We're done!!

At the Consulate - we're done!

What a silly boy!!

Our last day in China! Our day was free until 2:30 so we took the morning slow and easy. We hit Lucy's for one last time for lunch savoring the iced tea. John picked up a few pieces of laundry and Jeremy and I went for a stroll - hit the park and some bronze statues. We got the shot of Jeremy on the bronze dog for posterity after we left Lucy's.

Jeremy played with some Chinese children (nationals) at the park and handled going down the bigger twisty slide this time with ease. The day was very sunny and with just a bit of a cool breeze. Of course as the day wore on it did get warmer .... a warmth we will surely miss when we get back to snowy Iowa tomorrow.

We boarded the bus at 2:45 to go to the US Consulate for our swearing in. The place was full! Everything proceeded without problems and we were quickly congratulated for completing the process. As soon as Jeremy passes thru US customs, he will be a US citizen.

We arrived back to the hotel just after 5pm and Jeremy, as usual, ran on ahead of us - he knows all the families in our group. We entered the lobby of the hotel just in time to see him board an elevator with a teen girl from another family that is staying next door to us. We boarded the other elevator with 2 other families and a Chinese gentleman- 12 of us packed in tight. The doors to the elevator closed and the elevator promptly dropped slightly and then everything just turned off. We were stuck in an elevator and Jeremy was not with us ..... such good parents, huh? It took at least 25 min for them to get someone to open the doors from the outside. It was a looong 25 min!! Jeremy was in the lobby and no one seemed to even know we were stuck in the elevator. The teen was freaking out a bit, wondering where we were. All ended well and our guide reminded Jeremy (as we have nearly 6 times a day) not to leave us and especially not to get in an elevator without us!

We and another family then set off for Station 1 - a restaurant we have never eaten at before - known for it's western cuisine. It was very fancy and the food was okay - nothing to call home about! We then stopped for an ice cream, picked up some etchings and a chop and then back to the hotel.

We had to pack, shower and, of course, call dear Grace to sing Happy Birthday to her!! We waited until 10pm here .... 8 am in Iowa .... and unfortunately woke her up.

We have a 4:30am wake up call, leave for the airport at 5:45am and take off at 8:30am. We will be home tomorrow and sleeping in our own SOFT beds tomorrow night!! It will feel sooooo good!

Thank you all so very much for upholding us in your prayers - Jeremy has done so very well so far. Continue to pray for his transition into our family.

We can't wait to give all the rest of our kids big hugs!!! We love you!

Mary and John


Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Gracie,
Happy birthday to you!!!

May the dear Lord bless you,
May the dear Lord bless you,
May the dear Lord bless Gracie,
Happy birthday to you!!

Sorry we can't be there with you today to celebrate #14 ... will make it up to you when we get home and are over that jet lag stuff!! We leave in 18 hours. It IS actually your birthday right now, in China AND America .... albeit only 12:23am in Iowa ..... Dad said I couldn't call and sing to you, tho! :) Will try to catch you in another 7 or 8 hours for an early morning birthday wish.

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wed, Feb 27, Consulate appt

Today our CA was at 10:30 am. Connie took all of our paperwork for us. One of us had to stay in the room from 10:30 until Connie called - Mary stayed since she has done all the paperwork and John/Jeremy went out for a walk and to drop off some laundry. Connie called at 12:15 with the "all clear" and that we officially passed the CA - that means the US has approved Jeremy to enter the US and be granted his visa.

When Jeremy and John returned to the hotel, Jeremy asked for a spoon of peanut butter - something Mary had brought with us and she had given him a bit the other day. He ate 3 spoons full, Grace, and loved it!! Soooo, we went cheap for lunch by getting some bread at 7/11 across the street and ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch ..... unfortunately Jeremy wasn't as enamored with the sandwich as he was with just eating it plain.

Most of us met in a conference room at 1pm for a birthday party for Sebastian - he turned 6 on the 13th of February. I'm not sure he actually knew what was happening, but when Connie and Jeremy sang him Happy Birthday in chinese, he smiled broadly. We all ate cake - chinese version - and blew blowers.

At 2:30 we all piled into a bus and went to a "pearl factory" - 7 story mall of shops selling mostly jewelry, pearls and a sundry other items. After that we went to stroll on a "walking street" - which is essentially an outdoor mall of sorts - lots of stores, restaurants, food shops on a long street that has been blocked off from vehicles of any sort. It is nice not to have to worry about cars, mopeds or bikes beeping at you while you walk down a sidewalk (yes cars on the sidewalk). We couldn't figure out how, whenever we go to these places, they are always mobbed -I mean this was a Wednesday afternoon, non-holiday and the place was still packed. Don't these folks ever work?? Jeremy finally found a pair of sunglasses and a "watch" - I wanted it to be digital, but when he found one in the shape of an airplane that clips on your clothes, he was set!

We stayed at the walking street for dinner at Papa Johns - very good - and taxied home (everyone else went home by bus). We took a stroll around for a bit - checking on some granite etchings in progress and walked around the White Swan lobby, too.

Home, again, home again, jiggity jig ..... hotel that is. Our legs are tired and we are headed for bed. Tomorrow is our oath at the US consulate and then pack, pack, pack ...... cuz we will be headed home on Friday .... yipppee!! We are soooo ready.

On the walking street, posing in a rickshaw, sporting his new shades!

Good night!!

Mary and John

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday, Feb 26 Medical and paperwork

Today Jeremy's medical exam wasn't scheduled until 2pm so we hit a few stores before lunch. It was quite brisk today and we had to head back up to the room for coats when we first decided to go out. We found a store that we had never been in before called A Gift from China - most all of the store items are handmade and all the proceeds go back into caring for orphans. They had such beautiful things - the prices were higher, but knowing that it was for a great cause helped. It was also a calm environment without all the pushy sales clerks, too. :)

Our main group of 7 families headed to the Medical Clinic at 2pm, had our visa pix taken first and then on for the exams. The kids have to go through just 3 stations: ENT, medical eval and hgt/wgt with temp. Jeremy and Sebastian waiting for their exams.

Jeremy weighs in at about 47 pounds and 47 inches.

He's all heart! :) .... and wearing his new pendant!

After the exams paperwork had to be done for the Consulate appts tomorrow. When you have 7 families doing the paperwork all at once, it takes awhile - Mary was here for about 2 hours! Tomorrow our Consulate appt is for 10:30 and Connie goes for all of us at once - one of us has to stay in our room until Connie calls with the "all clear/you passed" in case there are any further questions or info needed.

We headed just across the street to a small restaurant we had never been to before. It had hot pots built right into each table - too bad we had never done this with anyone before and had no idea what to do ..... not to mention most of the items were fish/seafood and our waiter kept pointing out how tasty the squid dishes were. We ordered precooked dishes instead. Would love to have had a guide to help us do the hotpot meal!

Hoping it will be warmer tomorrow!!

Mary and John

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday, Feb 25 - Chen Family Temple

We met most of the group this morning at 9:30 am to go to the Chen Family Temple - this is a historic place which a very wealthy family built in which to worship their ancestors. The architecture was quite detailed, but the tour was rather dull. Jeremy, as usual, was active and skipping here and there, socializing with everyone.....especially anyone with a camera. Not only does he love to pose for a picture, but he also loves to take pix and will sucker anyone willing to be suckered!

We also hit a porcelain store but the prices were really high - nothing purchased here. We had some more fun with Sebastian Haske, the 6yo boy we met over the last 2 days. We were then back to the hotel by 12:30. Quite thirsty, we headed for Lucy's for tea and sandwiches. Jeremy didn't care for his first actual "sandwich" - grilled ham and cheese, but chowed down on his french fries with gusto.

John returned to the hotel after exchanging some money, while Mary and Jeremy did some shopping. Mary and Jeremy also went to the park, but there were puddles galore and the slides were quite tacky due to the humidity. It did appear, tho, that Jeremy has never gone down a slide before and was quite taken by them.

I think I've got the hang of this thing!

We were able to get nearly the entire group together tonight - all but one family, I believe - for group pictures and dinner at the Cow/Bridge Thai Restaurant. It was very enjoyable - Jeremy sat across from Miss Stefani and used her camera for nearly 80% of the time there - taking pix of everyone, including waitresses and other patrons! The company was wonderful and we were able to mingle with a couple families that we had not yet shared much with. What a great group of families!! AND we were able to share it with Paula who just rec'd Ben this afternoon - what a cutie pie!

Jeremy with Connie, our guide, who is smitten with him.

The entire huge CHI group!

Just the boys .... who outnumber the girls!

And the girls with their light up crowns that Miss Stefani gave them!

After dinner, I recalled my father's favorite saying after eating ....."mmm, I think I would like something cold and sweet" so we went for an ice cream in his honor!! :) Vanilla for John, Chocolate for me and strawberry for Jeremy.

Tomorrow we will have the medical done, visa pix and fill out paperwork. The camera battery died just after the big group shots, so we won't be able to download pix until it charges - in the morning.

Wan an, all - good night!


Sunday, Feb 24

A slow sorta Sunday day. We went to Shamian Christian Church at 11am, skipping the Safari Park with most of the rest of the group. An evangelistic message was given with the pastor asking who had already received Christ into their heart - most of those in attendance raised their hand! The church was packed as usual with many nationals there for the first time.

We lunched at a new restaurant which was very busy - the food was fair and the staff was always in a buzz.

We were to meet our entire group for dinner at Lucy's but it was raining and cool - we were unaware that the dinner was postponed until Monday night and was set for the Cow & Bridge Thai restaurant instead. We met only one family (the Haske's) from our group at Lucy's who also weren't aware that the dinner was postponed - we decided to go to the Cow/Bridge due to the rain and the fact that Lucy's was so very busy. The Haskes adopted a 6yr old boy and he and Jeremy enjoyed each other's company.

Jeremy sipping a banana juice-milk.

Sebastian, Jeremy's new friend.

The day ended with the three of us sitting in bed watching a food network show, Jeremy "the baloney" in the middle - he fell asleep and John carried him to his bed.

No pix for today.....sorry dear John Guo!


Saturday, February 23, 2008


We are finally in Guangzhou! Another step closer to bringing Jeremy home to America.

The day started out drearily in Changsha, with rain falling as we made our way to the airport. Quite a difference from the sunny warmth of yesterday. At the airport we said our goodbyes to our driver Ben and our wonderful in-province guide, Jacky. Jacky was just super all week long, especially with Jeremy. He greatly eased Jeremy's transition to us by talking with him at length and translating for us. Jeremy really bonded with Jacky, calling him "Uncle" all week. Before we left, we got Jacky's e-mail address and plan to maintain contact with him.

Jeremy then bravely climbed aboard his first ever airplane. He was kind of quiet and leaning on Mary a lot, and then the plane lifted off. Jeremy had a window seat and was intently looking out. As we gained altitude, he looked over at Mary and I with a very large grin on his face. The ride to Guangzhou was only about an hour, and Jeremy soon drifted off to sleep. Upon arriving in Guangzhou, the weather was very warm and muggy. We gathered our luggage and met our new guide Connie, as well as two other families with CHI (Children's House International-- our adoption agency for this adoption) . We all bused into the Victory Hotel together. After a traffic delay, we finally arrived and checked into our room and were quickly off to Lucy's for lunch and a tall iced tea! It's very comforting being back on Shamian Island. We know our way around; most shop owners speak english; there's a variety of food options; several of the shopkeepers remember us; the waterfront is beautifully lit up at night. For dinner, we ended up back at Lucy's. We enjoyed sitting outside for both of our meals here today.

Tomorrow is Sunday and our plan is to attend church at the Shamian Christian Church, just as we have for each of our other three adoption trips here. The CHI group consists of 11 families, and we are planning a group dinner tomorrow evening.

We will post again tomorrow. Thanks again for your prayers and the many e-mails/comments we have received.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday, February 22

It has been an absolutely beautiful day in Changsha. Sunny, with highs in the mid-70's! We went out for a walk this morning to a local department store, but it only carried mens stuff and we needed some new pants for Jeremy. We walked back to the hotel to shed some layers and grab sunglasses, then caught a taxi to Walmart. There we scored a well fitting pair of jeans for Jeremy. After exiting Walmart, we proceeded to walk down the pedestrian mall/walking street that goes by there. It was very crowded-- with people bundled against the weather!! Heavy coats, scarves, babies in snowsuits!!! Those poor babies looked miserable, but this is how the chinese dress in February. We were comfortable, in T-shirts! Granted, we are from north Iowa where kids will go out in shorts on the first 50 degree day, but wow- they were way overdressed. We would include some pics, but we forgot to take the camera with us today....sorry!

After several hours downtown we returned to the hotel to await Jacky's call that the passport had arrived. He called at 3:30 and said "not yet". At 5:45 he called again and said "almost!". He finally arrived at our hotel 6:30 with that long-awaited, most important passport!! We can now go to Guangzhou. Yippee!!! Our flight out of Changsha is at 10:30 tomorrow morning, arriving in Guangzhou about an hour later. We will check in to the Victory Hotel and shortly thereafter be eating lunch at Lucy's-- with Mary's tall glass of Iced Tea that she's been craving for days now.

Thanks to all for following our journey with us and especially for your comments and e-mails. They have been so encouraging and we greatly appreciate them all.

John and Mary

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday, Feb 21 in Changsha; Lantern Festival Day

Thursday was a free day in Changsha. All of the adoption paperwork has been completed and Jeremy is now legally our son. Now, we just wait for his Chinese passport, which we should receive on Friday. Once we have the passport, we can go on to Guangzhou where the US consulate officials will put an immigration visa into the passport, which will allow us to bring Jeremy into the country. Thursday was also the 14th day of the Chinese Lunar Year, which is the day of the Lantern Festival. This day marks the end of the new year celebration. There were many people all over the city enjoying the day, which was quite nice outside. A bit cloudy, but the temps were in the 50's. In the morning, we took Jeremy to a bookstore near the hotel. Mary found several books with pictures of common items, their chinese characters, their pinyin pronunciations and also the english word for them. We hope to use these to help Jeremy learn english, and Sarabeth remember her chinese. After lunch in a local restaurant we met up with Jacky, who took us to a large park in Changsha where there were lanterns everywhere.

Just as in the US, there were people selling trinkets and balloons and toys right inside the entrance to the park, targeting the kids with their wares of course. Jeremy quickly had himself a helium balloon.

We then began walking around the park. We were soon surprised to find out that there was an amusement park area located within the park. There were many rides and carnival type games, which Jeremy was very excited about. He had never been on rides before, but he was ready and willing to try. We did bumper cars (the chinese were very timid about bumping tho, unlike in the US where the whole goal is to smash as many other cars as possible). We did do some bumping, but several folks just rode around in circles, avoiding contact wherever possible! My theory was if someone avoided hitting me, I would not bump them. But, if someone bumped was on!

Jeremy enjoyed this, but really wanted to ride the swing that was located next to the bumper cars, so off we went to this. Neither Mary, Jacky or I wanted to ride this one, but Jeremy was eager to go by himself. He was smiling the whole time!

Next, Mary and I took Jeremy on a ferris wheel that circled high above the park. Jeremy was pointing things out and talking up a storm! We have no idea what he was saying. After this, Jeremy took his first roller coaster ride with Mama, on a small coaster. He again enjoyed! The ride daddy wanted to go on was the big looping roller coaster. Jeremy was game!!! We bought our tickets and climbed the stairs, only to have the gate closed just in front of us. WooooHoooo. We got to get in the front seat of the next ride! The ride operators were quite concerned about Jeremy's lack of arms-- they wanted me to put my arm across his chest during the ride. I dutifully kept it there..... until we were headed up the first hill. Then we just enjoyed the ride. Jeremy again was all smiles!

Jacky said we could come back to the park at night when all the lanterns would be lit, but that there would be no way for a taxi to get there because of all the foot traffic. It would require a long walk to and from the hotel. We opted to stay back and walk down the street for dinner. We enjoyed a great meal. Towards the end of dinner, the fireworks started outside. Oh my goodness!!! All over the city, everywhere you looked, there were fireworks. People were setting them off right on the sidewalk across from the hotel. Big starbursts were going off outside the hotel windows. The noise was incessant, from about 7pm until who knows when. They were still booming when we went to bed at 10pm, and they were still booming when I woke up at 12:30am. When I re-awoke at 3am, it was finally quiet outside.

Another day closer to coming home! We can't wait to see the rest of the family at the airport in Minneapolis next Friday.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday, Feb 20 Orphanage visit

Today we set out at 9am to drive 2 1/2 hrs to visit Jeremy's orphanage in Yueyang, Hunan. It is in the northeast corner of Hunan and is a very large city, prominent port for the Yangtze River and home to Dongting Lake - the 2nd largest fresh water lake in all of China. Our guide told us that Yueyang is one of 3 prominent cities in southern China and well known all over China. Enough trivia.

We arrived at the SWI (orphanage) just as the older children were arriving home for lunch from school. Many hellos were raised, but we were to meet the director first. We proceeded inside the main building and were ushered to an executive meeting room. The director, a man, greeted us as well as the two women assistant directors that escorted Jeremy to the civil affairs. We were served apples and bananas and very hot green tea. The building was cold - no apparent heat. We shared with the director about the hard winter and if they had any needs - they apparently have more generators than we thought and maintained power - they were ever so thankful for Half the Sky's help as well as many parents who forwarded funds in their time of need. They gifted Jeremy with a golden plate from Yueyang city for a memory.

We then met Jeremy's preschool teacher who is employed by Half the Sky (HTS) and were given only part of his portfolio from his time with her. It seems that Jeremy was an exemplary student and the remainder of his portfolio was taken by another teacher with HTS as an example of the work HTS can and is doing for the orphans in China. We will be seeking this teacher out who works for HTS to obtain the rest of his portfolio of work. Of course, in true Mary style, tears were flowing as we saw pictures of the progress Jeremy made over the years. This teacher and Jeremy's ayis greatly encouraged and taught him to work hard, do his best and work around his limitations. Words of thanks were hardly enough for me to express my gratitude.

We were then taken to Jeremy's living area - the building just behind the large main building. It seems that in December the older children were moved from the prior living quarters where he was since he was six. We found out that he was in the main building up to his 6th year when he started primary school - then he was moved over to the older orphans' living quarters. So his move from the main building was just within the last year, as he is now only in the first grade. We saw his newest bedroom - with two other beds. Each child had a bed, a desk and a large plastic container for personal items/clothes, etc. The room was stark and cold with just 2 fluorescent lights and a couple fans on the nearly 12 foot ceiling. The entire buildings are masonry, with plaster/cinder block walls and tile floors. Hard to imagine how cold it must get in there in the winter. This area is noted for its exceptionally hot summers tho, not very cold winters.

The other children were there in a "classroom" where they could do homework, watch tv, read. Jeremy gifted each one with a bag of treats and we gave the shared gifts to the ayi. Kelly, we gave Ying Hong his gift, and his only main concern was "when will they come???" We explained the red tape of all the paperwork and said it could be as early as May, but can't be sure due to unforeseen delays. There was one girl there that captured John and my hearts - her smile was so sweet and tender. She uses a walker or wheelchair and must have spina bifada. What a smile, tho!! She was also in Jeremy's class at school.

We then went out to lunch with the directors - to a very fancy, schmancy place. Most of the dishes were VERY (Hunan spicy) hot - Steve you would have loved them! I stuck to just a few of the milder ones. We were introduced to the office director who also had taken Jeremy to his OWN home for Chinese New Year just two weeks ago. This is a man that Jeremy refers to as "uncle baba" - as he does the director of the SWI.

After our meal we returned to the SWI and then walked the normal path to Jeremy's school .... oh, my. The shortcut is via narrow broken walkways thru tenement housing strewn with garbage. I only assume these children walk here alone as the only ayi pushes the young girl's wheelchair via another longer, well established route. Jeremy happily skipped on ahead of us, knowing the route all too well.
We reached the school and it was loud with hundreds of children playing on the concrete schoolyard - running, playing dodgeball with a tennis sized ball. Some girls had the job/privilege of sweeping up trash .... as I remember being a safety/guard in elementary school. Jeremy's classroom was wall to wall desks - double desks, side by side in neat rows totaling 50 students with only 1 teacher ..... and no assistants; bars on the windows, broken panes, kids with coats, hats, scarves that all remain on for the duration of the classtime. Stark walls with only a few posters - like alphabet with pictures. Jeremy proudly personally handed each child a chocolate bar and the teacher a chinese bag of cracker treats for later. Mary sang two children's American songs and the children in turn shared a few of their own songs with us. The teacher seemed a bit put out by our presence and we left just as the bell rang for class to resume. We were also able to meet the principal outside the classroom door.

Back at the SWI we waited for the elder 16 yr old big brother in the older orphan area to return so as to gift us with one of his calligraphy works. It is an essay on the famous Yueyang Tower. This young man is not only very handsome, but exceptionally personable. We graciously accepted his gift - totally unexpected. We have his email and hope to keep in contact with him. He plans to study hard and go to the university and further study calligraphy. We told him he was welcome to visit us in America anytime ... he said all of the adoptive parents have said the same thing. What a gift he was for Jeremy - we were told that when Jeremy heard of our intent to adopt him, that he was very scared and slept with this older brother for awhile.

After the long ride home, we took Jeremy out for his first ever Pizza! He, of course, loved it. We all slept very well last night and are ready for a new day. Today, Thursday Feb 21, we will visit some cultural sites here in Changsha. Tonight is the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We are going to walk to a park where Jacky says there will be many people celebrating, and most likely a large fireworks display.

Thanks for following our journey and thanks for your continued prayers,
Mary and John

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Jeremy Videos

Video of Jeremy eating his french fries:

Jeremy bowling:

Jeremy signing his adoption certificate:

Back in the hotel room playing Volley-balloon with dad:

Tuesday, Feb 19 Adoption Day

We left for the Civil Affairs office at 8:15 this morning. The first paperwork to complete was the signing of the adoption paperwork - with red ink thumbprints for John/Mary and a very large red right footprint for Jeremy. A very special thing happened this time, though, that has not happened in our previous 3 adoptions. Jeremy was asked to sign under his red footprint. He very neatly signed his name in Chinese characters and then dated it as instructed - the clerk was ever so impressed by his penmanship and our hearts simply soared - video of this will be attached.
Wherever we walked in the CA building, Jeremy was the center of attention - wooing everyone he came in contact with .... soon to be a politician or a preacher, I think! :) Several folks wanted his picture and were so very taken by his demeanor/manner. Of course, Mom and Dad thought he was a bit out of hand, dashing here and there and walking into offices with our guide, serving water to whomever he could find to take it!! He pulls out a cup, fills it at the water cooler and carries it carefully to his next 'customer'.

Our pockets were drained as this is where most of the overseas monies are paid ... money well spent to be sure! Jeremy is now officially

Jeremy Yue Yuanrong Kamberger .... now that's a mouthful.

After finishing the paperwork we went to a local supermarket/dept store and had Jeremy choose many things to give to his friends at the orphanage tomorrow. Of course, in true kid style it was mostly treats! We also bought two sets of badminton rackets and a soccer ball for the kids to use in their courtyard area. Back in the hotel room, Jeremy was eager to help fill 8 bags of goodies to take tomorrow. "Yueyang, mingtian!!" he squealed ... Yueyang, tomorrow! We hope to see his finding place, speak to many of his past ayis, get some records/pictures and visit his only previous home and school.

Jacky, our guide exited just prior to lunch and we played a bit in the room. Then we were off to McDonalds - he certainly did not forget that I had promised we could go for lunch today! He tolerated the cheeseburger, but devoured the french fries - see video of his french fry eating technique when it's posted! Amazing! Of course we got the usual stares and gawks - even more than usual for a pair of westerners adopting one of China's own.

Upon returning to the hotel, Dad took a rest and Jeremy and I played war with our Skipbo cards (skipbo's removed of course). He loves to throw the cards down and scoop up his winnings!! We also enjoyed a couple games of bowling at the hotel alley - Jeremy ... with a bit of help from Mama scored a huge 30 the first game, but got tired and dropped to only 8 for the second!! BUT he had a blast!! Giving us high 'fives' for every turn! The attendants stood by and smiled! See yet another video when it comes out!

Jeremy is another hot-n-tot just like our Juls - he sweats at the least bit of exertion. He loves playing volley-the-balloon in the room and squeals with sweet laughter throughout the game.

There is very little down time for Jeremy though - I pulled out one of the magnetic picture games I brought and it held him for, oh, about 8 minutes. Geez, what's a Mom to do to get a few quick winks of shut eye?? I had him copy the entire alphabet and he did so with great finesse - and he wrote numbers until I told him, okay, that's enough! He then wrote Jeremy as easy as pie - what a kid!

He has finally fallen off to sleep - a busy day and another busier one tomorrow. Pray for his final goodbyes at Yueyang tomorrow - it's all he has ever known.

Oh, and by the way .... he sweetly said, "Wo ai ni" to me today ... several times. To those without chinese kiddos that means 'I love you'!! Yowza!! He still disdains being told no, but carefully backs down when we become "stern" with him ... smiling all the while. We've come to know the chinese are very, very lax with their sense of discipline and breaking through to the tender heart inside may take a bit of time.

We continue to be in awe of his spirit of determination and pray that the Lord will use him mightily for His kingdom!

Blessings from Hunan,

Mary and John

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jeremy videos

Jeremy's Gotcha!

Jeremy drawing

Jeremy and our guide, Jacky

Gotcha day February 18th

What an amazing new son we have all been blessed with. He can do almost ANYTHING! He is extremely intelligent, can write many chinese characters with his "stumps"--he wedges a pen into his "elbow" and leans way over the paper and writes. He's very meticulous- can pick up french fries, dip them in ketchup and stuff them in his mouth-- many many french fries! He loves to eat. He'll wedge a fork in his elbow, stick it in some meat, then balance the fork on his stump and use his other arm to flip the fork over into his mouth-- just amazing to watch. Nothing is going to hold this child back. I forsee him doing great things in his lifetime. He just picked up a paperclip from the table and handed it to me!
He's very inquisitive and will get into anything that's at his level. We're gonna need to keep some things up for a while. He's not sure what's his and what he shouldn't be touching--such as Mary's eyeglasses, so he just starts grabbing. That will improve over time.
He was very soft-spoken when we first met him, but as the day wore on he got a little louder. Now he is often calling out "mama, mama"!! Now we'll have 4 vying for Mama's attention all the time!
We are beyond words to describe this young man - we could not be happier except to be able to understand all of his talking! How we wish we were fluent in Mandarin! I wrote Jeremy's name on his mini doodle and he erased it one letter at a time and rewrote his name. Then he erased it all and wrote it all out. He is very quick to learn.
He is so sweet - he will sporadically just lean over to John or I and smack our cheek with a kiss - then smile big. I think he is very happy to have a family.

We arrived at the Civil Affairs for 10:30 and Jeremy was waiting for us. He shyly stood at the doorway waiting with the assistant directors that brought him. He was smiling and not afraid at all - he said "Mama" right away to me as I approached him. Our first encounter couldn't have gone any smoother. When we showed him his few things in the book bag we brought, he quickly took out the mini magnadoodle and started writing chinese characters - for his name, for 'mama' and 'baba', for his main ayi back at the orphanage. He proudly holds up any work he has done for approval.

We left and returned to our hotel room to do some paperwork - BUT Jeremy was way too full of energy for us to get any paperwork done. We played keep the punch balloon up/volleyball and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He investigated each and every item in our room - the TV,the computer, the phone, the light switches, etc. He was like a toy that was wound up way too tight, darting from thing to thing. He did not respond to "boo-shing" (no) at all at first - simply smiled and went right on doing what he was doing. By the end of the day, this changed - when he stopped what we asked him to stop, he would smile and kiss us - I in turn hugged him, wanting him to know that just because we told him 'no' doesn't mean we don't love him or are mad at him.

We ate lunch at a local chinese restaurant - Jeremy said he wasn't hungry. Well .... if that 'wasn't hungry', I do NOT want to see what 'hungry' looks like! He ate and ate, asking for more of everything. He thoroughly enjoyed his coke!

We returned to the hotel and our guide remained with us - he would tell Jeremy he was going to go, but Jeremy wasn't ready for him to leave yet - Jacky, our guide is terrific!! We played in a playroom down the hall and then some more in the room. Then we put Mulan on the computer in mandarin, thinking this might calm him a bit - it did, but it took 1/2 the movie before he actually sat down to watch it. When it was over, it was nearly 5pm and we decided to go to dinner - Jacky told Jeremy he needed to leave and Jeremy was okay with that - so we were finally "on our own". We set out in a cab to find some new shoes for Jeremy - his are fully plastic and his feet sweat alot ...and stink alot!! :) We went to Walmart, but the only shoes they had in his size were all plastic. Walmart was connected to a walking street/mall - we don't have these in America and they are really neat. Store after store we only found adult shoes. Jeremy proudly walked ahead of us by several yards, skipping or looking all around - really enjoying himself. We finally found a place and he walked out with new sneaks. We then went into a nearby KFC - there was a McD's just before it, and Jeremy's eyes lit up and said McDonalds! We said mingtian (tomorrow) as we preferred chicken tonight. He really, really likes french fries with lots of catsup ... just like Sarabeth!! We had to encourage him to eat his chicken and when it was all gone he wanted to finish off all the fries, too! Then we enjoyed some ice cream! While we were at KFC, there was an older man with his 10yr old grandson - this man gently asked us how long we were together with Jeremy - he was astounded that this was just our first day!! He has been an english teacher at a local university for over 40yrs. We had a very nice chat with him while Jeremy amazed him with his ability to eat french fries with his stumpies!!

We headed back to the hotel in a taxi and gave Jeremy a bath first thing. He enjoyed it and didn't seem to mind water in his eyes too much. He braved his new electric toothbrush ..... he, too,like Nate and Sarabeth will need braces! After getting pj's on, Jeremy grabbed the remote and proceeded to turn on the TV and check the stations - nothing good on for him to watch. We brought out a pad of paper and he drew me a picture of me ... Mama!! and then wrote mama in chinese characters by it! How sweet!

He is tough to get to lie down and he is still restless in the bed after 40min of trying to go to sleep. Jacky told us that Jeremy said to make sure we wake him up at 3am and take him to the potty ... oh, joy!! The job was relegated to John, since he can get back to sleep so much easier than I can ... he's not all too happy about it!!

Well, I'm off to bed. Thanks for following along! We will be going back to Civil Affairs tomorrow at 8:15 to complete the paperwork.
Mary and John

Sunday, February 17, 2008