Friday, December 30, 2011


CORNBREAD AND CHOPSTICKS: Xiaoyun's Testimony: THIS is why!!!! This is Xiaoyun's testimony. You might remember Xiaoyun as the 13 year old on my advocacy blog who was aging out and agi...

Welcome Home! Merry Christmas!

I suppose I should begin with a humble apology for neglecting this blog for almost a week. I know most of you understand why, but I know that you all were left hanging when we left China, so I am afraid this may end up a pretty long post.

We successfully endured the 30 hour journey home. First we left Guangzhou and headed to Beijing. The boys and I hung out at the Beijing airport for 6 hours and then off to the USA!  This last leg of the flight was 14 hours. 14 very cramped (Unit*d Air), very long hours.

Our trip started out rough as none of the TVs in our section of the plane worked for the first 4 hours. Finally, after resetting the system at least two times, they came back online and everyone was quite relieved, especially my two!

At long last, we landed in DC at Dulles International and whizzed straight through Customs and Immigration. This was quite as shock as it took almost 3 hours to get through last time at LAX.  
(Not sure if Dulles is just that much better, or if being Christmas Eve had a little something to do with their speed.)

Here are the boys waiting for the luggage.
As soon as I took this shot, someone from security fussed at me for taking pictures. 

Next, we headed over to my sister's house in Leesburg,VA to celebrate Christmas with a large portion of my family.
"My three sons!"

Per our family tradition, the boys were all given one gift to open on Christmas Eve just before bed.  

That's right! Angry Birds PJs for all!

The following morning, Christmas Day, we heard some rustling around 5:45am.  We always place the kids' stockings at the foot of their beds after they are asleep so they will see them first thing.
Boys were strewn all over the basement floor at Aunt Amy's.
I came out to see who was stirring and it was Colin who was digging into his first Christmas stocking.
After that, each boy woke up quickly and began to see what little treasures were there for them.  Cameron quickly assumed ownership of Colin's stocking and started a new fashion trend.

Then came breakfast and presents!

Jake, Lindsey, Cameron, Tommy, Colin & Ryan

Angry Birds board game from Aunt Amy & Uncle Kevin.

Pretty bracelet from the "boys".

My first "Mom" mug from my boys!

Tommy with his new Dino Jammies!

Toasted Pecans for Dad. Yum!!

Kinex Roller Coaster Set. Cool!

Necktie from Granny

Cameron's first necktie.

Colin with his new Hoodie from Granny

Cameron with his new hoodie from Granny

Fun brother time!

Socks. OK, he DID need socks, people.

Tommy bought each of his new brothers a
glow-in-the-dark mini hoop for their bedrooms.

Cameron's first watch.

My Mom opening her Bookmarks that Colin bought her in China.

Ahhh...that was hard work!

So, we survived our first fun & hectic Christmas morning.  

The following day, we set out to meet some new adoptive friends who "just happened" to live about 10 minutes from my sister.

Anyone remember this sweet face?
This little girl was one that I had the honor of visiting while we were at Colin's orphanage in Shenyang back in August.

If you'd like to read about that visit, 
you can click here.

Well, she is now HOME with her new family and they kindly invited us to come join them for lunch on Monday.  What a sweet time of fellowship we had.  It was so wonderful to see this sweet little one again and to finally meet her mama, baba and sisters in person!

We had a fabo lunch (thanks Ali!) and the kids loved playing with their children.  Despite the fact that this family is full of girls, they were well stocked in all the favorite "boy toys", so there were dart guns and legos to spare!
In addition to a wonderful meal and great visiting, Mama Degan had a nice surprise for Colin. When they were in Shenyang just a few weeks ago, she had many of Colin's friends write him small notes and she delivered it to him that day.  He was excited to see these notes.

Many thanks to our new dear friends. 
We love you Degans!

Well, that will bring us to the long road trip to Charleston (12 hours) that we made on Tuesday.  I will save this homecoming and the early days home for another post.

Many thanks to everyone who has followed along and supported us in prayer.

Merry Christmas to you all and our best wishes for a truly Blessed New Year!
Tom, Angie, Colin, Cameron & Tommy

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heading Home!

Tomorrow morning we leave the hotel at "0 Dark 30". (That's anytime before the sun, ya'll!)  In this case, it is 5:30 AM. 

We will head out to the Guangzhou airport where we will catch our first flight to Beijing and then we fly direct to Dulles (14 hours).

As soon as we land, Cameron will be a 
United States CITIZEN!  
Christmas Eve. What a season of memories and significance this will be for him.

As I think back on this trip I am aware of just how God has provided for us in each location.  He provided us with a fabulous guide in Beijing. 

Angela, from "ladybugs & love" was so kind and helpful. She really made each of her guests feel at home in a very foreign place. Colin even opened up to her more than I have seen him do with anyone to date (even Chinese people) which allowed me to get a rare glimpse into his past life in China. (will likely share more on that at another time) God also orchestrated an introduction to the daughter and son-in-law of some friends from church who "just happened" to be in Beijing the same exact dates that we were. They have lived in China for about a year and were such gracious "hosts" as they invited Colin and me to join them for a little shopping and site seeing.  It was wonderful to have some help navigating the city and enjoying some fellowship of other believers.

In Wuhan, we discovered that the son of a fellow adoptive mom "just happened" to be studying Chinese in that city this year. Seriously?  Wuhan?  He was so kind to us while we were in that city and met us for a couple of meals which gave me a connection point that I really needed. Our hotel was very poorly located for our purposes and we were pretty much stuck there with nowhere to go most days. He was so polite and it was refreshing to speak English in a place where that was not common. Thanks Jack!

In Guangzhou, we were able to connect with several wonderful families who were also adopting. Some of them were "online friends" from various yahoo forums and facebook. 

Johnson Family!

 What a treat to be able to spend time getting to know these families and hearing their testimonies and adoption stories. 
Karen Yingling & daughter Cami
Roy & Lori Cross and their new children, Joy & Joshua!

It was the exact encouragement that I needed! 

Tammy & Jim McIntosh & daughters Nicki & Jessie
 Even the locals were gracious to us and quite hospitable.  

It was as if the Lord was sending these angels to cross my path at the precise moment when I needed them. Traveling alone is difficult under any circumstance, but in a foreign country with sons who understand minimal English, let's just say my week would have been quite different here without these amazing new friends who came along side us.

I would be remiss if I did not also stop to say thank you to each of my sweet friends from "home" who made my stay easier by skyping me each day (the highlight of most days), caring for my boys at home in my absence and sending email messages.  That connection to home really means a lot. I have the best group of friends in the world!  I love each of you.

I am very excited about being home soon, but I am also grateful for this time with the boys and the fun we have had here in China.  It may be a few days before I can post again, but I promise to get homecoming photos and "First Christmas" pics up soon!  Good night/morning all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early on in our journey to adopt Colin this past summer, I received a phone call on my cell phone from a number I did not recognize. Now, I rarely answer such calls.  But that day, I did.

On the other end of the phone was a woman from a small town in Iowa.  A woman that I did not know.  She was calling to encourage me.  Seriously.  This woman had read my adoption story on my blog and felt the Lord leading her to call me and offer me encouragement that day. From that "not so random" phone call was born a sweet long distance friendship.  This new friend and her husband are soon to adopt two precious children from China.  They expect to travel around February.  

I have enjoyed reading her blog and hearing about all the milestones that are reached that are bringing her that much closer to her two new children.  

But today, as I sit in a hotel room in China awaiting my US Consulate appointment in the morning, I read her blog and was moved to share it with all of you.  I hope that you will take the time to read her post from today here.

After nearly completing two age out adoptions in less than 8 months from start to finish, I am now at the place where I can't be the one.  There are so many children just like my boys who wait.  The need is so great and contrary to popular belief, we are all commanded (not called) to care for these children in one way or another. I pray that someone who reads this would be able to pause before they hit "delete".

God Bless, Angie

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Safari Park- we finally made it.

So after being rained out the last time we were in Guangzhou, we finally got to the Safari Park. Friends had told us it was a great place to visit and very worth the money. Well, that advice did not disappoint.  We had amazing weather today, a nice group of families with whom to visit and a comfy bus ride over.

The "gang"

We were able to share this day with the same family that we met in Beijing and who climbed the Great Wall with us.

Additionally, a new friend, Karen, and her daughter Cami joined us and we all had a wonderful time with plenty of laughing!

When you get to this point in the trip, all you really care about is filling time until you can leave.  

Honestly, I don't mean that to sound bad, there are some amazing things to see and do in China and you do appreciate and enjoy those, but at this point, fatigue begins to take its toll and it becomes harder and harder to get excited about yet another day away from HOME.  So, when we were able to arrange this group trip to the Safari park, each of us felt good that this was going to be something fun that could fill the "Lion's Share" of the day.
(Pun intended).

I say all of that to show that for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the kids had a blast, there were plenty of reasons to be happy about our day.

But, all of those reasons, good as they are, PALE greatly in comparison to this....

On the Safari shuttle ride through the park, I sat in the middle of our row between the two boys.  As soon as we got to a point in the ride where we were seeing all the animals along the side of the road, Cameron lit up and immediately tapped me on the leg as if to say, "Look Mom!"  pointing at the latest cool animal.

Now, I realize that this is not much of a milestone for the average Mother and son. But, it is a "set off the fireworks" moment for an older boy and especially for one who has been adopted at such a late stage in his development.  All those things that our other children experience with us as toddlers and small children are things that Cameron has experienced (to a much lesser degree) with caregivers.  Many caregivers.  Not a mother. NOT. THIS. MOTHER.

What makes this even better is that is was not a one time thing. He did this over and over on the riding portion of our trip. Once we reached the end of the ride and walked around the remaining sections of the park, he even ran after me and motioned that I had to come look at something. Even the other mothers there noticed his enthusiasm to share this experience with me. Not his brother, who to this point is the only person he has really connected with, but ME!  Did I mention that I was excited?  It is a small thing really, but a glimmer of hope that he can trust me and that he wants to share with me. 

Praising God for his faithfulness. He knows what my heart needs and he knows and loves Cameron more than I ever could.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Passed TB test

This morning we awoke early, (and by we, I mean ME) and headed down to breakfast.  We enjoyed our meal with another nice couple from Charlotte, NC who was in GZ adopting their new daughter, Sophia.  For those of you who have traveled this road before, and especially those who have traveled alone to get your child, you know how important it is to connect with other families.  For me, it has been a true breath of fresh air to enjoy a meal with, not only an English speaking family, but one who has or is adopting. That camaraderie is so special. They are always a source of encouragement.

My sweet friend Kim Jackson 
(veteran adoption mom and all around gal pal) 

reminded me today that at this point in the journey, you start to fatigue quickly and all that was new and interesting can quickly become annoying, so I am to take care of myself right now. Moms are never that good at that task, but in this case, it is important that I do.

So, I have taken every opportunity to enjoy the company of other families and to share a meal or a conversation as often as I can.  It really has allowed the days to pass more quickly and it is a good distraction from missing the rest of my family back home.

So, today was the day we get the TB test read. We joined a guide that was subbing for our guide and went off the the medical center.
Luckily, Cameron's TB test passed and so we were not required to do a follow up chest X ray.  (For those who do not know, it is not easy to get a child home if they test positive for TB and it does happen)  

After that hurdle was jumped, we all went off as a group and explored the herb, animal and fish markets. Even saw some Scorpions along the way.

We are told that they boil the poison out and then use them for making wine, soups etc. Yum. NOT!

After the cultural excursion, we proceeded to the pearl market (now, we're getting somewhere!) where I was able to get the requested pearls for my sister's daughter.  
The funniest part of that trip to the Pearl Market was that the ladies that were there immediately remembered Colin and me. They even asked about Tommy (who was with us in August). They remembered exactly what Tommy purchased with his money that day.  I was a little shocked that they would remember our family in such detail, although I suppose we do stand out in a crowd (LOL) even with the large number of American families that they encounter each week.  

Now we are enjoying a little downtime in the room. Tomorrow, we join a couple of other families and head out to the Safari Park.  The boys will really enjoy this I know.  I will post pics tomorrow evening for everyone.  All in all, this week is going smoothly. Our next official activity is Thursday morning at the Consulate. Until then, we are on our own.  Thursday, we go to the immigration ceremony, Friday afternoon we receive Cameron's visa and Saturday morning we leave for home!  So, if all goes well, we will arrive back in DC on Christmas Eve.  I am looking forward to seeing my other boys and to Colin and Cameron meeting the extended family for Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday in Guangzhou

Today after breakfast and skyping with Tom, we found our way to the local grocery store.  There we picked up supplies for the week---noodle bowls, oreos, Sprite & Pringles. (the necessities!)

Then, we dropped off our groceries and headed back out to Shamian Island to meet some fellow adoptive parents for lunch at Lucy's. (ok, yes, for those who are counting that is twice in two days.)

Of course it is conveniently located in the midst of a very picturesque location, perfect for picture taking.

Photographer: Cameron

Photo compliments of Roy Cross from Lancaster, SC!

With the "required" rabbit ears....

and without.

Of course, there is always a lot to see on the island, especially the "local color" if you will. Today's theme, Christmas!

Guess who took these photos?

Miss "North Pole" here was happy to pose for a picture.  

Of course, the big guy himself had to make an appearance.

I, on the other hand, was more interested in this kind of local  scenery.

Not sure why, but it surprised me to see Palm trees in China...

Plan for the rest of the day?  Blog, read, and back to the island to meet with our friends from the Great Wall who are here after getting their new daughter.  The Orient Express I think is on the agenda.  (for dessert and much needed fellowship. Noddles in the room for dinner tonight!)

On a completely unrelated note, I ask for prayer for a family we know who is prayerfully considering one of the children that I posted about on Wednesday.  We are thrilled that the Lord is laying a burden on their hearts and the hearts of other families who have responded to our HIS call.  Pray that sweet Matthew, Willow and Stewart from Cameron's orphanage in Wuhan will have committed families soon!