Friday, December 16, 2011

Settling in at home

We made it home!  We left Guangzhou at 10:15am on December 14 and arrived in Fresno at 11:00am on December 14.  Crazy, we arrived in Fresno before we left China.  It was a total of 17 hours of travel time, with 11 hours of that time being the non-stop from Hong Kong to San Francisco. We were extremely nervous how Jack would fly, especially with our last experience with him flying very fresh on our minds.  People were praying for us and it was evident that God was merciful toward us.  Jack handled the flight wonderfully!!  He started out with an hour and a half nap.  He was then up for about 7 hours or so.  Our seats were not all together on this flight.  Doug and I had the middle and window seat of our row of three, with Hannah and Aaron directly behind us.  A sweet American Chinese woman was on the aisle.  We had asked the flight attendants for help to get the four of us together.  We were told it was a full flight, and most likely no one would give up their aisle seat for a middle seat.  It turned out that there was a middle seat at the bulkhead with good legroom.  The flight attendent offered that seat to the lady.  She checked it out and said sure.  Therefore, we were able to have an extra seat for Jack.  This was a great blessing for our traveling.  Jack sat happily and played between Doug and I for all those hours.  He never fussed. We were even able to watch a movie while he sat and played.   A few other adoptive families were on the same flight having to walk their babies around the plane.  Jack was a little angel.  When he went to bed, he fussed a little more, but nothing to complain about.  Truly a blessing from the Lord. 

When we arrived to the Fresno airport we were greeted by our family and friends.  It was such a great reception, we had so many people celebrating our adoption of Jack. Casey and Grace were the first to greet us.  As we were making our way to the crowd I was getting teary.  Surprisingly, once we hugged the kids I was not emotional.   Our sweet boy was a full of tears.  He was so happy to see us.  Oh, how I love and missed him!!  Grace was just her bouncy little self, excited to be with us.  We got home around lunch time.  Our plan was to stay up until evening.  It was very hard.  We were sooooo tired.  Doug took a nap for a couple hours and I dozed for a little bit.  We wanted to stay up because we missed Casey and Grace so much, we wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.  Aaron sacked out early missing dinner.  Hannah stayed up til 8:30, yet her eyes were very heavy.  We all were in bed by this time.  Jack woke up around 11:30 and a few times after.  We fed him a bottle.  He fussed for a little bit, then stayed asleep until 9:00am.  For the jetlag, I think we all did pretty well.  We felt well rested the next morning. 

First thing on Thursday morning was getting a Dr.'s appt. for Jack.  He has been very congested and coughing and throwing up the week before.  We saw the Dr. and Jack had an ear, chest, and head infection. Poor baby!!  This is why I say the Lord was merciful!  Jack didn't fuss when flying with all of these infections!!  I can only attribute this to my gracious  and kind God and His people praying for us.  Needless to say we started him with strong antibiotics.  The improvements were evident that night.  Jack went to bed again around 8:30, woke up for a minute around 11:00.  We didn't even  need to go to his room. Morning came and needed to be woken up by Doug around 9:00am.  I hope this trend continues! 

We are so glad to be home.  We had a great time meeting new friends in our travel group.  A bond that will last a lifetime.  We feel truly blessed to have gone on this journey with all of them. 

The picture above captures what our last few days have been like.  Jack is soaking up the love and attention he is receiving from his brothers, sisters, mama, and daddy.  This son of ours is no longer an orphan, he was chosen and loved.  He is now a LaCroix with all the benefits of being a member of our family.  He didn't do anything to be chosen.  Just like I have done nothing to be chosen by my Lord and Savior.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intentions of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9  This journey has been one worth traveling. Forever our lives will be changed with Jack.  Our greatest hope is that God would be glorified through this earthly adoption, knowing that our eternal adoption in Christ is far exceeding.  Secondly, our hope and prayer is that Jack will be chosen of God to be His child with an eternal inheritance. 

If I don't have the opportunity to blog before Christmas, may you all be blessed and celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ!

Elise and Jack with Dani and Eli on the Pearl River Cruise

Jack and Eli

The day before leaving

Our travel group

Jack looking at his favorite thing from the airport gate,  "cars"

Killing time on the moving walkways at the Guangzhou airport

Our happy flying boy

First night at home, playing w/ sister Gracie

Cheesing it up

Sweet brothers

Daddy changing his first stinky diaper :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Last Post from China

The last few days have been full of adventure.  Yesterday, five families decided against the planned city tour with our group and deciced to visit the Safari Park.  Another family had visited previously and said how wonderful it was.  So we rented a van without a guide and headed to the park. 
Our first attraction was the Safari on Wheels. We boarded a tram that took us around to numerous exotic animals and it felt like we were viewing them in their environment rather than a cage.  It was quite the sight, and Jack was very interested.  We had to stop for an ostrich that was crossing the street.  The tram was in one lane and there was another lane where people drove their cars.  Kids were standing and looking through the moon roofs.  We saw many different types of animals.  Elephants, giraffes, tigers, white tigers, bears, camels and many more that we weren't familiar with.  It was a great way to see the park.  We then got off the tram and walked around the park.  It was huge!  We enjoyed seeing the animal kindergarten (baby animals).  One monkey was dressed in baby clothes, very cute!  We saw sleepy koala bears and giant panda bears.  One panda was sleeping and pooping at the same time.  Quite the sight.  As we were heading for the exit a show was starting.  The dancing characters were all very different, girls with coconuts, santa girls and boys, and others dressed as Indians.  The best was the monkey dressed as a panda.  A very strange and eclectic group, but very entertaining.  We had a great time and were very glad we made the decision to visit the Safari Park.

Today (Monday), we had our U.S. Consulate appointment.  We took an oath and gave all our necessary paperwork to receive Jack's visa to enter the U.S. and receive U.S. citzenship as we land in San Francisco. 
After our Consulate appt. we visited the pearl market.  It was very interesting.  We walked through shop after shop of different jewelry stores, mostly bead-type jewelry.  Some shops had pearls too.  We however did not know what was fake and what was genuine. I was wondering if that is where all our cheap jewelry comes from.

Our instructions were to grab a taxi back to the hotel before 2:30.  Apparently there is a shift change with the drivers, followed by rush hour.  We made it out a few minutes after 2:30.  We stood out on the curb for 15 min before finding a cab.  Either they were not taking customers or a more aggressive local got in before we had a chance.  One local had mercy on us and allowed us to get in.  Thank you Lord!!!

The last thing we did tonight was take a dinner cruise down the Pearl River with our travel group.  The dinner was traditional Chinese (as the pics below will show) buffet, and in China you don't really line up to go through the buffet, you kind of box-out your competition as if contending for a rebound in basketball.  The key is to get low and use your posterior for position.  After dinner on the boat we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the beautiful skyline of Guangzhou.

This will most likely be our last post from China.  Tomorrow we will get Jack's visa and probably spend the rest of the day cruising around beautiful Shamian Island and then packing.   The following morning we will be up very early to board the first of 3 consecutive flights to get home.  We are so anxious to be reunited with Casey and Grace.  Please pray for the long flight home.  Our 2 hour flight with Jack was not fun so we are praying that he will do better on the long flight. 

The Lord's blessing has already been abundantly evident in the short time we have had Jack, and we anxiously await the future blessing that awaits.  God is so good

Signing off from Guangzhou, China

The LaCroixs

White Tigers

It was amazing how close we could get to the animals

Baby White Tiger

The children of our "Safari" group

Like many Chinese, this monkey hadn't seen an American with a Chinese kid before

The fam at the Safari park

A tempting snack.  Apparently bone-in is a plus

Koi feeding by bottle near the Pearl market

Beautiful Shamian Island

Traditional Chinese chicken feet


Guangzhou skyline from our boat.
The tall building near Hannah's right hand is the second tallest building in the world

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Travel day/Guangzhou

The last few days have been an adventure.  Friday we prepared to leave Jack's province of Henan to go to Guangzhou where the U.S. Consulate is located.  It was a busy day of packing up our hotel room getting ready to leave.  I was ready to get to a warmer climate.  We left our hotel at 3:00pm for a 6:15pm flight departure.  We checked our bags and went through security.  Then we had to say goodbye to our CCAI reps.  They have been wonderful!  I was truly sad to say goodbye, they were a huge blessing to us in our adoption of Jack.  After we made it through security we had about a hour wait until we boarded our plane.  In the middle of the airport was a little playground.  Needless to say our group stopped and took over the playground.  Jack loved it!!

Well these were the last of the smiles for a while.  After playing and playing and then waiting, we found out our flight was late.  An hour late!!  We finally boarded the plane around 7:15pm.  No one had dinner and we thought for a 2 hour flight, there would not be any food.  Much to our surprise, we were fed dinner.  Only China flying treats you so good.  There is no such thing on a 2 hour domestic flight in the U.S.  Before dinner was served we gave Jack some plain white bread.  Since he has not been keeping food down, we had been trying to keep his diet very plain.  He had half a bottle in the morning and congee(watery rice) and Cheerios.  He did great and had not vomited all day.  He spit up a little at breakfast, but that was very mild.  I think that was due to his congestion.  No sooner had I started to eat my dinner and started to share some plain white rice with him, he started puking again.  Did I mention we were on a plane with seats that packed us in like sardines?  We got passed that and he seemed ok.  I was given a plastic bag that I kept just in case.  After we finished dinner he started puking again.  I had already handed the flight attendant the plastic bag back.  He started walking past me again and I grabbed it out of his hand.  Hannah and I had been catching the vomit with our hands.  He finally stopped and we were descending down to land.  We unloaded off the plane and Jack and I were covered in vomit.  I think the only fly in the whole airport found us.  We found our guides and slowly made our way to the bus for our 40 min. drive to the hotel. The hotel is a Marriott and is definintely the best we have stayed at this trip.  The hotel has the bell boys deliver our groups bags to each room.  Logically one might think that they would see what bags belong to what room, right?  Not in China.  They take the whole groups luggage and go room to room to see whose luggage is whose.  Wouldn't you guess that we, who had bathed our puking boy and needed jammies, were the last to receive our luggage?  Then to top it off, our luggage was tied up with plastic ties.  We had scissors, in our luggage.  They weren't much help.  Finally everyone got to bed, Doug and I the last, by 1:15am..We were wiped out. 

Saturday was not very exciting. Jack had his physical and I guess he checked out okay.  He was not too happy though.  We walked around a little bit on Shamian Island after the medical exam.  We didn't stay too long.  We then grabbed a taxi, which was pretty uneventful.  I have heard of others dodging in and out of traffic when traveling by taxi.  We then went to the hotel for a few hours, then to dinner with the group.  I am happy to say, Jack has had 3 bottles and congee today and has kept it all down!  Now it is just coming out the other end. lol!  I have run out of laundry for him.  We sent out our laundry to be washed, but won't receive it back until tomorrow afternoon.  I had to buy some more clothes for him today to get us through tomorrow. 

Casey and Grace, we love and miss you soooooo much!  4 more days until we are all back together again!!  We can't wait to hug and kiss you!!

Here are some pictures from the last few days.

Our guides in Zhengzhou

Not happy!

Jack has learned a few English words. " Car" being his favorite.  He loves to watch cars.

Shamian Island

Jack is learning what kisses are now.  He occassionally will give one to mommy. He gave Daddy his first one tonight at dinner.

Mommy's first Starbucks in China!!  It was yummy!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Orphanage Visit & Kung Fu

The last 2 days we have been waiting for Jack's passport, and will get it tomorrow morning.  Once we get it, we hop on a plane tomorrow afternoon for Guangzhou which is where the US Consulate is located.  So for these 2 days we have been planning on 2 different day trips: visiting Jack's orphanage and the Shaolin Temple.  Jack is still having trouble keeping his formula down (please pray that Jack's tummy would settle down), so we have had to split up these last 2 days. 

Orphanage Visit from Elise:

I have thought from the beginning that I would like to visit Jack's orphanage.  This is the place he has been since he was only several days old.  I wanted to see for myself where he spent his short life.  Wednesday was my opportunity to see.  Because I wanted to go so much, Doug and Hannah stayed behind with our sick little sweetie.  Aaron and I got in a van with a local travel agency guide for a two hour ride.  We were greeted by Ms. Li Jun (I think she is second to the director).  The orphanage looked  the same as the many pictures I had received from other families who had visited before.  At the same time I found it far more depressing than I had imagined it would be. Don't get me wrong, the nannies seem to care for the babies.  But there are so many babies, they can't possibly get the love a family can give.  I know I am stating the obvious.  I can't adequately describe the sadness of the orphanage.  I am so thankful Jack is with us now and not there any longer.  I was also able to visit some sweet girls who are waiting for their mama's and baba's to come bring them home.  I prayed for them and took some pictures to send to their parents.  I know how precious it is to receive such a gift during the long wait. 

After looking around, my guide led Aaron and I to an office.  The office seemed 20 degrees warmer than the area where the children were.  It was freezing in the kid's rooms.  It is now understandable why they are so bundled up.  I was then given a gift, a picture of the national flower the peony.  My guide also said they wanted to take us to lunch. Yikes!!  I didn't really want to without Doug with me, but I said yes.  I was very nervous to spend a meal with people who don't speak the same language.  I think they might have thought we were a little crazy.  They asked how many children we had and I said now 5.  All the ladies laughed, I think in disbelief.  I told them that was nothing.  I had many friends with 9 and counting children.  They were very kind and the lunch was not too painful.  I was just a bit nervous.  Aaron was a great distraction.  They took a liking to him.  He is very cute, I can't really blame them. 

The next stop was Maria's Big House of Hope.  The name is in honor of Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter Maria who died several years ago.  She was a special needs orphan. What a difference the two places are.  Maria's was a beautiful place.  Children are sent to Maria's from the local orphanages if they don't have the means to care for these children.  Their preschool teacher Rebecca showed us around.  She is from Alabama.  It was so sweet to see how she interacted with the children and you could tell she truly loved them.  Some of the children there had severe special needs.  Others had them, but were not obvious to me.  It was a wonderful time.  It was so refreshing to be with Rebecca and I ended up giving her a hug.  There is something to be said about having a bond with fellow believers. 

Our last stop was Jack's finding spot.  This is the place where he was left at 2 days old.  It was at a very busy intersection in a park.  The park was a beautiful place with several people bustling around.  It was this place that someone found our sweet boy left alone.  Although he was left physically, God had plans for this boy's life.  He knew that Jack would be a LaCroix one day. All to the praise of our Great and Mighty Lord!!

Here are some pics from our day:

                                                       Jack's Nanny

                                                  Jack's former roommates

                                                      Jack's old room

                                           Maria of "Maria's Big House of Hope"

                                    Rebecca of "Maria's Big House" showing some love

                                           Park where Jack was abandoned and found

                                           Reunited after a long day apart

Next day, Shaolin Temple visit from Doug:

The province where we are located is called Henan.  Henan's claim to fame is that it is where Kung Fu originated and is still currently the epicenter of Kung Fu. Specifically, the birthplace of Kung Fu is the Shaolin Temple, located in the mountains of Henan, about 1.5 hours drive away.  Besides being a tourist attraction, the temple still teaches thousands of students the various levels of Kung Fu.  Their goal: to become the best and get a movie contract.  I'm not kidding, they all want to be Bruce Lee

There weren't many tourists at the temple and I now know why.  It's stinkin cold, I mean really cold.  I don't know how those Kung Fu monks wander around barefoot and bald headed.

After we toured their expansive ancient facility, we were treated to a Kung Fu show which was pretty cool.

Here are some pics from the day.  The last is a picture of our favorite course at dinner tonight.  Some friends we are traveling with offered to pick us up some dinner from a local restaurant, so we thought we would share some of the local fare with y'all at home:

                                                        Shaolin Temple entrance

Hannah had some trouble channeling her inner Kung Fu, Aaron - no trouble at all

Apparently these dragon-turtle creatures are good luck to the Kung Fu monks - Aaron would beg to differ

                                               Mountain backdrop of Shaolin

                                       Chinese Gov't program -  No chicken parts left behind

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jack is officially a LaCroix

Today we finalized our adoption of little Jack and he is now officially a LaCroix! Well at least according to the Chinese Gov't.  He has been officially ours in our minds for quite some time. We spent the morning at two different government offices finalizing the adoption paperwork and after Jack's nap our entire group got in a bus to take a shopping trip to a local grocery store called "Lotus"  It had never been clearer that we were not in CA anymore.  We are not in a city that sees many foreigners, so when a busload of Americans holding Chinese babies wandered into a very busy store we received continuous stares.  The meat, the produce, the seafood, just about everything is so different than we are used to.  I was quite entertained.

    On the Jack front, we feel like we learned much more today about him.  It was a day of firsts:
    • First bath
    • First giggles
    • First time reaching for Dad
    • First bump on his head
    • First tantrum (although very mild and very cute)
    • First poop (thank goodness Elise is here for diaper duty - I am going to take some time to adjust to adopted-kid-poo)
    • First puke
    As you can see we had quite the day.  In retrospect we have probably fed him a little too much.  He seems so hungry and we have been eager to please him, but it seems that this has contributed to upset his stomach.  We are hoping that he does fine this evening and morning as we are planning to make the long drive tomorrow to visit his orphanage, his abandonment site, and Maria's Big House of Hope (Steven Curtis Chapman's orphanage in the same city)  We were all planning on going, but if Jack still is showing signs of tummy probs, then Elise will stay behind with him.

    We are really enjoying getting to know Jack more and our love grows daily.  We can't wait to get him home!

    Here are our favorite pics from the day:
                                                He loves his bath.  His face totally changes when
                                                he laughs, so cute!

                                               Fun with Mom at the adopting registration office

                                                                 More fun at registration

                                                                     Jack is officially ours!

                                                    Fun with Dad at the Notary office

                                              Ouch! Jack fell headfirst into the hotel room door
                                            Don't worry Grandma, the swelling subsided quickly

                                                            dried pig or duck carcass anyone?