Wednesday, November 9, 2016

All good things must come to an end!

Continuing on with the play by play:

Sunday 11/6/16

Today we went to a part of Guangzhou called Shamian Island.  It has beautiful architecture and is a favorite spot for all the locals to come and practice their photography.  Sunday also happens to be the day when many weddings are held on the island so we were able to see some happy new least 15 - 20 of them.  Shamian Island, in the past, was the home to the embassies of many countries(including the US.)  Because of that, in earlier years most adoptive families stayed on the island to have easy access to their appointments.  Now it is still a popular destination for adoptive families because of some great gift shops, the beauty of the surroundings and the symbolism it holds for adoptions.  We were able to pick up several souvenirs and gifts from A Gift from China.  It is a non-profit gift shop that uses it's proceeds to help orphans in China.  They also source their items ethically.  Most of the items they sell come from programs they have helped develop for women in China to learn a trade.  It was a great visit, and they even presented us with a gift after we made our purchases.  Sweet ladies. 

We found a restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, to eat at for lunch.  Crazy I know!  This was one of the ones where they speak only Chinese.  Also crazy.  Since they only spoke Chinese and we didn't, we stumbled through the meal.  We kept waiting for someone to come and take our orders.  Finally we flagged a server down and she pointed to an order form on our table.  Obviously we were supposed to write down what we wanted from the menu...which was all in Chinese.  Characters I can't write.  We convinced them to write it down for us as we pointed to the pictures.  The food was good although the table was noticeably napkinless.  And we have messy little eaters with us.  At a restaurant later in the week we were offered packs of napkins to purchase.  So maybe that explains it?  BYON or buy some.

As we were walking the island after lunch, we were drawing a lot of attention as usual.  Dakota was stopped and asked if she would mind having her picture taken.  So she obliged a group of girls with a mini-modeling session.  So random.  Then as we were trying to take some pictures of the boys, we started being inundated by a group of students asking us for autographs and pictures. I would love to know what makes us that interesting to them!

Fun with bubbles!

Sweet Jake

Dakota looking grown

A Gift from China

Dakota's photographers ;)

What we didn't order for lunch

Jake and his lunchtime tea

Seriously, that smile though

Brant giving his autograph!

The required picture that all adoptive families do on Shamian Island

Milo's turn

Brant's moment of fame

Little Mama

Monday 11/7/16

Today was a "mama disappeared into the bedroom" day because sometimes you just need one of those.  Downside = Netflix doesn't stream very well here.  Upside = Brant bought me chocolate.  Brant also took himself and the boys minus Jake for haircuts at a local barbershop.  He said it was quite the experience.  He and Gavin had the full works with the shampoo, warm towels, oils and everything.  Milo was in desperate need of being relieved of his dear mullet and fabulous sideburns.  He looks like quite the little man now!

Tuesday, 11/8/16

Today was the day the boys officially became Maynards!  We started the day at 7:30 so we could run by the medical office and pick up their medical reports that had to be included with our visa requests at the embassy.  Then we walked over to the embassy and stood in line until it opened.  We went through security where the guards made Brant drink from both of the boys' water cups to prove they weren't poison.  No....really they did.  Security is tight.  We could not even take our cell phones in for pictures.  We went through the formalities of the oath that our information was correct and the interview about our boys and it was done!  Never again orphans.  Ours forever.  We are blessed beyond measure!

We celebrated with lunch at a hot pot restaurant.  Think Chinese fondue.  The meat part of fondue.  It was one of the best meals we had thus far.  Jake and Milo were in heaven over the food.  Their favorites were the stir fried green beans and the fish balls.  The fish balls were....different.  But everything else was pretty amazing. I am going to miss the food.  China has been good to us.

About to become a Maynard!

Meet Milo Maynard and his shoes!

If you get stressed during the adoption process, help is nearby.

Hot pot!

Our guide, Lily, getting us started.  Because Chinese.

They have the BEST big brothers
Wednesday, 11/9/16

Today we pack to leave.  We have mixed feelings. Of course we want to be back with our family and friends, but our time here has been so special.  The boys are doing well.  They are bonding.  Jake especially is coming out of his shell.  He is going to be hanging really well with the boys.  He is a tough one and so full of life and personality and words.  Lots of words.  Milo is happy if he is held so I see a lot of baby wearing in my future.  We leave our hotel at 9:00 am in the morning.  That is your Wednesday night at 7:00 pm.  Be praying for our safe travels and sanity as we endure over 26 hours of getting home!  I'll try to post brief Facebook updates as we move from Guangzhou to Beijing to Detroit and then finally home Thursday evening if all goes well.  Pray it goes well. 

Thank you for your support.  The financial blessings that came pouring in were so overwhelming and encouraging.  Our hearts are moved.  I know I haven't contacted you each individually.  I want to.  I am so grateful.  Be patient with me as I find our new normal and know that I haven't forgotten what you did to help us get our boys.  We love you and can't wait for you to meet them.  They are precious and so much more than their orphan status or special need said they were.  They are God's children that He has now entrusted to us.  May we do His will raising them and may we show them His love so they may share it with others.  God bless you all!!  See you in Huntsville!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Guangzhou, China

Tuesday, 11/1/16

Tuesday morning we ate some rolls and fruit we managed to score at a local neighborhood grocery about a block down from our apartment in Guangzhou.  We went there after the kids went to sleep for diapers and a few other necessities.  Quite clearly we didn't know what we were doing because we were kicked out of line for not handling our produce correctly.  Finally finished up though and gave the employees some good conversation for later.  Today we settled into our new digs for the next 10 days.  Here we have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a full kitchen and living area.  Still cozy but better than a hotel room with no doors.  Did I mention that our last hotel in Nanchang had only a GLASS door between the bedroom and the bathroom?  Awkward.  Here we have solid wood doors.  Winning. 

We needed many more groceries than what we purchased at the local market so we walked a few blocks to the nearest mall (Grandview Mall) which has a store called Aeon covering the entire basement level.  It is a mix of a Walmart type store and a supermarket.  We arrived just as the mall was opening and headed down with the masses to begin stocking up.  Um...not sure what was going on.  But I am certain that Tuesday morning at 10:00 is NOT the time to get your groceries.  Not if you want to maintain any level of sanity.  I have never seen anything like it.  Pushing, crowding, no space to walk.  It was like Black Friday grocery edition.  Crazy town.  I have no idea how long we were there.  Seemed like forever (with everyone in tow of course.) We ended up with all sorts of things in the cart.  It was laughable...or cryable....or something.  Not only are there tons of customers, there are also multiple employees in every single aisle trying to "direct" you toward certain items.  No, just no.  The check-out process is eternal.  Your grocery cart has spaces for the small handled baskets.  Then you individually place each basket up on the counter with the cashier.  He removes the items one by one from your basket, places a sticker ON EVERY SINGLE THING to show you purchased it.  Then he places the item in an identical basket on his other side.  You take the new basket and move it to a table at the end of the line.  With all of the other people in China doing the same things.  You bag your own groceries.  And you better have bags with you, because they don't offer any.  Thankfully, I had heard about that and brought some shopping totes.  Never was a I so glad to be out of a store in my life.  But we survived!

We got the boys down for a nap and did some unpacking and relaxing.  After nap, Brant and I had to take Milo to the civil affairs office here in Guangzhou.  He is originally from this province (Guangdong) so his paperwork could not be completed in Beijing even though he was living there.  I would love to explain some of the strangeness that occurred during our visit this morning but I don't want to put anything out there criticizing any government agency and causing any future issues for adoptive parents.  Just suffice it to say a lot of unnecessary steps for some people to save face.  Sigh. 

When we returned to the apartment we took the kids down to the indoor playground and let them run off some steam.  Then back up for a good American dinner of spaghetti, butter and parmesan.  I will not even tell you how much I had to pay for some Kerrygold butter or the tiny, tiny canister of parmesan.  But the taste of home was worth it for the kids. 

Bedtime was ok.  Jake continues to sleep in our bed since it is what he is used to.  He is a great sleeper once he gets there.  Milo continues to wake up during the night.  We are working oh so diligently to figure out his magic sleep formula.  So far to no avail.

 Our new apartment has a washer and dryer!  We were so ready for fresh clothes.  Spent a while getting caught up on the laundry.

A rousing game of hide-and-seek

Just say "no" to Tuesday morning grocery shopping.

The checkout lines go on forever and there are SO many of them.

Boredom buster: Blue painter's tape on the hotel floor for a racetrack, train track, follow the leader line, etc.

What happens when you don't speak or read Chinese and you try to by dishwashing detergent.

Taste of home

Fan favorite.  They NEED these in the states!
Wednesday 11/2/16

More appointments today with Milo in the civil affairs offices and the notary.  Jake did well staying with Dakota and the other kids today at the apartment while we ran the errands.  He struggled a little yesterday with Brant being gone.  Because he is ALL about Brant.  Based on his behavior on the train ride to Guangzhou, I'm okay with him (temporarily) being Brant's buddy.  They can be designated airplane partners.  *cheese*

Hung out the rest of the day and did a little shopping with Dakota during the boys' naps.  Because no one else in this place wanted to do that but us. 

10 story mall.  Took forever to look around!
Thursday 11/3/16

Today we had the medical appointments required by the United States for the boys to obtain their visas to enter our country.  They were relatively painless and the boys were great.  Jake is 23 months old and weighs 26 lbs.  He is wearing 18-24 month clothing for the most part.  Mile is 20 months and weighs 18 lbs.  So tiny.  He is wearing 9 month clothing.  Such a baby doll. 

Jake's medical exam

Friday 11/4/16

This is one of the days we have been waiting for!!!!  Safari Park!  It is recognized as the leading zoological park throughout all of China.  They have over 20,000 different animals and over 500 species.  And they are extremely close to you.  Monkeys were roaming free in the park as well as toucans and other birds.  They are the only zoo in the world to have twin koalas and triplet pandas!  They also have over 100 white tigers.  It was really something to see.  We explored there most of the day and ended the trip with the safari train ride around the park to see additional animals roaming free.  Much like Animal Kingdom at Disney.  So much fun for all the kids. We were exhausted by the end of it all and headed back to the apartment after we found some ice cream in the park. We haven't found ice cream in a grocery store yet so some people in this family are struggling.  You know who you are.

One of my stroller pushers

Stroller pusher  number 2

Jake with Daddy.  Always with Daddy.

They were actually this close!

Reese has been so good on this trip.  A travel trooper.


Van rides with Reese :)

Such a good big brother
Saturday 11/5/16

This morning I sent Brant, Gavin and Jake out to run some unnecessary errands while Dakota, Reese, Milo and I went to pickup Gavin's birthday cake I had ordered!  Earlier in the week when Dakota and I went shopping, we also picked up a few balloons and a small Nerf gun from the mall.  We brought the cake back to the apartment and did what decorating and setup we could before the boys returned.  Surprise!!!  Gavin is 12 today.  What a blessing he is to us.  He has a kind, sensitive spirit.  He loves his family and is the life of the kid-party.  Hard to believe this will be his last year before the teen years!  It just goes so fast. 

While the new littles napped, Brant took Dakota, Gavin and Reese to the mall where there is an arcade that takes up an entire floor.  Fun day for them celebrating Gavin.  This just so happens to be Gavin's second birthday to celebrate abroad!  His 9th was celebrated in Colombia when we went to adopt Julieta!

Our cake from Breadtalk.  It was SO delicious. 


Milo is not patient when it comes to cake.  Also he isn't being held. 

Happy 12th birthday!
More updates to come!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hello Jake!

Sunday 10/30/16

We got up Sunday morning anxiously awaiting the arrival of JAKE!  He was scheduled to arrive at our hotel between 3 pm and 4 pm.  We had some breakfast at the hotel's buffet.  It is seriously amazing.  Full meals including noodles, dumplings, cereals, made to order eggs, pastries, yogurts, cheeses, fruits, and anything else you could possibly want. It has been a life saver to have that each morning in our first two cities.  After breakfast, we went down and walked along the river for a little while and explored.  We happened upon a convenience store that had some ice cream bars, so we indulged the kiddos and ourselves with a treat.  On our way back to the hotel, we found some more "exercise" equipment in the park to amuse ourselves and all the people around us :) I wish I could count the number of times someone has taken our picture or engage in a full on stare.  We must be quite the sight. 

Do you even Crossfit?

Went back to the hotel to get Milo a nap before Jake arrived.  He was brought to the hotel by our guide Shirley and by the director of his orphanage which was Nanchang SWI.  He was so scared.  Jake has been with his foster parents for a very long time.  He calls them his grandparents.  According to the orphanage director, he was very loved by them. We were told the foster parents took him for some special adventures in the days leading up to his adoption.  He had fun and when they returned to their home he said, "Whew, I am just exhausted!"  Very verbal little one we have here.  While they were happy he was going to a family, they are devastated.  They asked many questions about our family and if we are a good family.  They want us to send pictures to them regularly.  I will be happy to oblige.  So, he left their home and rode with the orphanage director to our hotel.  I can not imagine what was going through his mind.  We met him in the lobby and my very first thought was....Um....he is HUGE.  Seriously, it was my first thought.  After my shock wore off, I held him while they gave me a quick run down of his schedule, eating habits, medication, etc.  Then they left and he was ours.  Whether he liked it or not!

Poor sweetie
Daddy's 1st Jake hold

Daddy calmed him down. This has been a continuing theme.
Jake with his foster parents. 

Back to the room for a little play time and getting acquainted time while I finished some paperwork with our facilitator.  We then headed to the hotel's playground for a bit of fun.

Kota getting in some Milo cuddles

Our sweet boy in all his many Chinese clothing layers. 

Do you see the difference in the boys' sizes???  Craziness.

After some playtime and rest time, we walked over to the mall to look for some dinner.  We looked at several menus that we couldn't read before we saw a place that looked like a buffet.  I ventured inside to check it out before we committed and saw they had labeled things (mostly correctly) in English as well.  I thought it might be the best way for us to find some foods we liked as well as explore what the boys like.  It was really delicious but a bit comical.  The staff followed us around smiling and offering us foods.  There were at least 100 different selections.  Much of which we did not attempt.  We found out that Jake likes food.  Pretty much all food.  He also hates a mess and tries to clean up his hands and table constantly.  Thank you, Jesus.  In addition to all the buffet items, they did the Brazilian steakhouse thing to and brought all of the mystery meats in the world by our table.  All of them.  Finally, they found a piece of paper that explained some of the items they were offering.  The titles also validated our many "no's." They also insisted that we eat the "hairy crabs" that came with our meal.  I guess as a dessert since they insisted at the end of the meal?  No idea. 

Not necessarily "international"

The "hairy crabs"

Always ask, "What is it?"

We headed back to the hotel to get everyone ready for bed.  Milo insists on being walked to sleep before we put him in his crib.  Jake slept with his foster family in their bed.  Given the limited sleeping arrangements in our room, it seemed like the best fit for us as well.  He cried quite a bit but finally settled down and slept a full night's sleep.  While we have struggled some with bedtime with the boys.  I am SO thankful that they do sleep.  All. Night.  I'll take it.

Monday 10/31/16

Today we had to get all packed up to leave Nanchang very early in the morning.  Between leaving the hotel and making our train to Guangzhou (our next city) we had a full morning of appointments.  Thankfully the other children were able to stay in the van and play games and rest instead of sitting in government offices waiting.  We had to go to the civil affairs offices and the notary with Jake for his passport and visa photos and all our other paperwork for the China side of the adoption. We were strapped for time, so our guide ordered some pizza for us to eat at the train station while we were waiting on the train.  Once again we were the center of attention while we doled out our pizza to 5 children.  They are just so curious, I imagine.  First of all the idea of such a large family is completely foreign to them.  Plus two are clearly Chinese. So there's that.

Waiting to checkout of our Nanchang home

Right before Reese got in trouble for climbing the railing.

Van with table.  Perfect for games and cards while riding and waiting. 

Waiting on the train.

Now we get to board the much anticipated bullet train.  Our first train in-country was a sleeper so it wasn't the fast variety.  But this one went over 200 miles an hour! And we all go to enjoy it!  Except Brant.  Because today Jake decided that only Brant will do.  Only.  And only if Brant was standing up or walking him.  And sometimes not even then.  Brant enjoyed his train ride by standing up the vast majority of the 4 1/2 hour ride.  He was so glad to disembark and go straight to the hotel for some sleep. 

Bullet train pulling in!

Before it all went downhill ;)

We have been settled in Guangzhou (in Southern China) since Monday evening.  I'll get the rest of the updates up as soon as I can.  Know we are well.  The boys have their struggles.  Milo has a cold and could use your prayers to get that cleared up.  Jake is grieving.  Some times heavily.  Most specifically at bedtime.  But throughout the day as well.  He doesn't let Brant leave his sight.  He tolerates me at most.  But I see glimpses of him coming around.  He truly has a smile that will light up the room.  And those dimples....sigh.  Milo is just a baby doll. He loves cuddles and kisses.  What he doesn't like is being put down.  We are learning about each other and figuring it out.  Keep praying.  More updates soon!