Thursday, July 28, 2011

I800 for Alyssia

It is very odd to be in China, completing an adoption, and worrying about what I need to finish our NEXT adoption.

Seriously. Odd.

But, that's my life these days.

We received our I800 (that's the US immigration) approval for little Alyssia on July 22nd. I've been emailing the NVC every day, but we haven't been cabled yet. I'm holding our hope for a Monday drop-off for our Article 5. That would put us waiting for TA mid-August!

Which means Brent may be able to travel for Alyssia before her second birthday (September 25). Maybe not, but we're still thinking it might happen.

Sigh. I have mixed feelings about this one. I want my sweet baby girl home as SOON as possible.......BUT.....I'm so not ready for Brent to be gone for 2 weeks. 

It must be done, so I will get home and enjoy every minute of time we have together before he leaves.

And then we're ALL staying put. Together. For a very, very, very long time :)

Hot Pot Dinner....that wasn't so hot..

Kathy, Alivia, Keith, Dante, and Emma left for home yesterday.

As I've said before, they were heaven-sent :).  God put the three of us solo-traveling parents together and our fun times together truly helped me not be lonely here in Guangzhou.

Until last night, when they were all gone.

God knew I would be feeling a little down yesterday afternoon, so he sent along another family, Ming and Christie, who have one son and adopted a 4 year old daughter this week.  I had seen them in the hotel dining room during breakfast several mornings and we had chatted a bit. Ming is Chinese and likes to dine at more "local" places (more local than Lucy's, lol). They were trying out a "hot pot" restaurant and invited me and my girls to tag along.

We walked several blocks to the restaurant, which, if you're familiar with Guangzhou, is underneath the Holiday Inn. Johanna held my hand the whole way there and back, and I don't blame her. China is a bit creepy at night, although I felt very safe with Ming, his family, and the local policemen I was keeping an eye on. :)

Anyway, I will admit, when I first saw the food at this restaurant, I was completely grossed out. We passed the buffet on the way to our table, and all of the food is raw. Vegetables, squid, goat, beef, lamb, lots of weird (to us Americans anyway!) food, at least half of which I had NO idea what it was.

The man pouring our tea had this REALLY long spout on his teapot. I was amazed.

The idea behind the hot pot is that you start with a big bowl of broth in the center of the table. With your own heating element (the table) and temperature gage, you bring the broth to a boil.  Everyone chooses different meats and vegetables from the buffet (they are raw, remember) and plops them into your now-boiling broth. 

Like I said, I wasn't so sure at this point what I thought. I told Ming that it might be better for him to just choose what they liked and I would try it, since I was willing to try new foods, but not confident in my choosing abilities on the raw buffet.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food tasted. Different foods were ready at different times, so we just picked out what we wanted and ate it. I especially enjoyed the beef, and dipped it in a spicy sauce that was yummy!

Unfortunately, after our walk home, I had another bad round of bonding-time with Mr. Toilet. I don't know what my deal is this trip. I can't seem to get rid of the "issue".....I will be honest: I'm feeling really drained physically. I did take a nap today, but I still feel rather faint. Our guide gave me some Chinese herbal medicine for diarreah, but I'm not sure if it's making me sick to my stomach as well? I'm praying I wake up tomorrow feeling better.

Speaking of tomorrow, I will be PACKING to go home tomorrow!!!!  I am very ready to have all of my children under one roof soon. Tonight I was envisioning snuggling with all of them on my bed, and reading books to them.....sweet times that I've really missed!

God has been so good to me and encouraged me with His word and through various people during this trip. I can't wait to see what adventures the last two day will bring!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's wrong with this?

After our consolate appointment this morning, we ordered KFC take-out for lunch.

Get this: 2 chicken sandwhiches, 2 sides of one wing/leg each, 2 drinks, and 5 nuggets.

Cost? 36 RMB. That's less than 6 dollars, ya'll.

Seriously, if it was that cheap to eat out in the states, I could afford to feed my children something besides the dollar menu. :)

Just thought you'd want to know.

Well, no, you probably didn't care to know. But I spent another night making friends with Mr. Toilet (second time this trip) and checking Skype to see how my sister was doing, so I'll claim sleep-deprivation and sickness as to why I'm posting a ridiculous post today.

Will you forgive me? :)

And yes, I'm the proud new aunt of a healthy little Liam Michael. I'm waiting on pictures and more details now!


I know I've been primarily blogging about our family's adoption journey lately. Okay, that's ALL I've been blogging about!

But tonight, while my girls are sleeping and the people on the streets of Guangzhou are definitely NOT, my beautiful younger sister is in labor with her second child....

I was supposed to be her doula.

And it's killing me.

I did get to skype with her twice so far. Her contractions were getting closer together and pretty intense the last time we talked. I'm pretty sure not too many people have coached someone through contractions via Skype, but I'm thankful for the few minutes I got to experience with her.

I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow with a new nephew. :) 

But I still wish I could be there. Right now. To hold her hand and tell her what an amazing woman she is.

I love you, Lauren!


Imagine for a moment:

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fianc?e. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world?the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to sleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller

I think this speaks for itself. This is, in essence, what our adopted children are going through.
 God grant me the ability to keep this vision in my mind at all times, but especially when the trials come, and to give my time, my love, my energy, my very ALL to help my children thrive in spite of all they have lost.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another Day

Those of you who've adopted from China probably already know this fact, but for the rest of you reading---I'll let you in on a little secret: The trip starts to get old towards the end. :)

I've eaten at all of the good places, I've finalized the adoption, I've bought a few treasures for my children waiting at home, and I've visited the orphanage. Just let me go home now! LOL

Ellie cried hard on Skype last night. I miss her, too. And my baby! Ethan is so little and I need me some "nuggles" from him!

But here, on the China end of things, we are doing really well. Thank you for all of your excellent advice. I especially loved the tip to read Isaiah 43! I read it today, during my quiet time, and it was a tremendous encouragement!

Johanna had a wonderful day. The "issue" we had yesterday presented itself again today, and she obeyed this time :)  Such a blessing!!!! I told her how proud I was of her and I wish you could have seen her smile.....

We had some lovely tickle-chase-pillow-fights today! Johanna LOVES for me to chase her and tickle her. It may seem rather "childish", but these older kids missed out on the "normal" stages of childhood. Often, they will revert back and work through many of those missed stages once they are adopted. So it is completely normal for her to act younger than she is for awhile. I think it's adorable. She just laughs and laughs! What fun we will all have when all of the children are together at home!

Oh, dear, there I go again, thinking about home. LOL Can you tell I just talked with my Hubby and I'm missing him ALOT just a little? :)

I asked Johanna via google translate if she is excited to go home to America. She said, "yes". Then tonight, Ellie showed Johanna her dolls (they're the Elsie Dinsmore dolls from the Life of Faith collection) and explained that one doll was "Johanna's doll" and one doll was "Ellie's doll". Johanna clearly understood and got SO excited I think she would have grabbed the doll through the screen if she could have.

Made me wonder: Has this child ever even owned a doll?

Think about that one for a while, especially the next time you're annoyed at how many of your children's toys are on the floor.

I know I'l be thinking about it, both tonight, and for some time to come.......

"Oh, God, help us to make a difference, one child at a time....."

Just some pictures of girls and our friends...

Emma was adopted one day before Johanna. It took them a few days (they're both rather shy) but now we can't get them to stop talking, laughing and playing together!

Gabbey and Kathy's daughter Alivia. These two have been ADORABLE when they play together. They can't talk, but that hasn't seemed to hinder their communication a bit!

Kathy and Alivia (this is Kathy's 8th child, 6th girl from China!). Kathy has been a GREAT blessing to me, giving me someone to talk with and eat with, and easing my loneliness! Praise the Lord for His blessings.

This cutie is all ours :)...I've noticed quite a few setbacks in her attachment/security this week. She has been GLUED to Mommy again. I don't know if she can remember China, but it sure seems like it. I'll be glad to get her home to her Daddy and siblings who adore her :)


Monday, July 25, 2011

A Rough Morning

Monday morning started out like every other morning. I wake before the girls, update the blog and check emails, then hop in the shower. We get ready for the day, then Skype Brent and the children back home, then head to breakfast.

I'm not going to go into alot of details, for Johanna's sake, but the rest of the morning wasn't good. We had our first big "conflict".

I struggle between comforting and empathizing with her, to establishing my authority early on. I tried to do both, but I'm not sure I was successful. :)

My heart goes out to her. I can't imagine all the changes she's going through, and how out-of-control her life must seem right now. I truly think it will be better when we get home, she has other children to play with, and life settles into a routine.

For now, though, we need to get through this week---together! With our guide Helen's help, we were able to communicate some about what happened, and hopefully it won't happen again :)

I am open to all advice in this area. I am new to both teen adoption AND teen parenting, and I certainly don't claim to know all of the answers. Also, please continue to pray that Johanna will learn she can trust me to make good decisions and that I will LOVE her, no matter what she does-or doesn't-do.

The rest of Monday was better. She's enjoying practicing English. She's already picked up the tune and many of the words to "Jesus Loves Me" and "My God is so Big" as she's listened to me sing to Gabbey. I LOVE that she loves to sing! I can't wait to introduce her to our children's choir. Not only will they love her, she will love the music! :)

I'm afraid I was overwhelmed yesterday and failed to take any pictures. I will try to do better today!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I know I already shared a little about my experience in the Chinese church service, but I wanted to share more about our day on Sunday.

I think it was the best day we've had together, Johanna and I. She seems to have gotten past her initial reservations and is warming up to me more and more! I love it when she smiles at me or says, "Mommy". I'm pretty sure that's a universal term of endearment :)...........

After thoroughly enjoying our time at church, we stopped at the White Swan's Deli for ice cream. YUM!

We headed back to our room around 12 and spent the afternoon making jewelry, watching a little TV (some dog show was on), eating Cup-of-Noodles, and taking a nap. Sometimes the quiet time in our room is the hardest, because the silence is really awkward, but I found yesterday to be really fun, and I think Johanna did, too.

Met our friends for dinner again, and Emma and Johanna giggled, talked, and played all evening.

Johanna was practically SKIPPING back to the room after dinner. I could tell she was feeling really happy. I'm SO glad. We practiced some English phrases and words the whole walk back to our hotel!

Last night on Skype, Brent and Ellie showed Johanna her room, and she chose the bottom bunk to be hers. They showed her the clothes, toys, dresser, turtle :), and I was loving watching her face light up. She genuinely seems excited to see where she will be living. I've noticed she gets bored on Skype,(she can't understand what we're saying) except when Eliana is talking! I think Eliana and Johanna will grow to be wonderful friends. I'm so proud of BOTH my older girls for their willingness to accept and embrace this change.

All in all, the Lord gave us a beautiful day. It's the little things, really, that mean so much. Thank you for your overwhelming support and outpouring of love via comments on the blog, email, and facebook. You can't know how much it means to me to know that people are praying.

And it's working! :) And God is good, all the time. I will praise Him in the sunshine, and I will praise Him in the storm.

Time to get in the shower so we can head to breakfast----I'm starving! :)

Girls' Day Out: Shopping!!!!

After McDonalds on Saturday, Helen took us shopping! I can't say Gabbey particularly enjoys shopping yet, but Johanna and I did. ;)

I don't have much money to spend on unnecessary items this trip, so I kept it pretty basic.

A gorgeous strand of pearls for Johanna's wedding day:

We also went to the bookstore and I was tickled to find Little House books in Chinese! My other children and I adore the Little House books, and I hope, over time, that Johanna will, too. I also picked up a couple of workbooks. She shook her head "NO!" when I showed them to her, then promptly finished one of them as soon as we got back to the hotel room. :)

 Johanna's love is  for MUSIC, not reading, and that's okay. With homeschooling, she will grow to love books. And I can foster her love of music, too. (I play the piano. Used to teach full-time, but now my kiddos get Mommy full-time, lol.) I plan on teaching Johanna to play the piano, and later, we will probably put her in violin with Ellie as well. We LOVE good, godly music in our home!

One other inexpensive thing I bought was some fashion beads. They are sold in wholesale, and are so cheap! (not cheap in quality, cheap in price!) It cost me less than $1 to make two bracelets! Johanna and I have had some sweet moments stringing beads together. I think I'll buy some more before we head home so Eliana and Johanna can make jewelry together.

Lastly, I picked up a couple of DVD's in Chinese and English. I'm so thankful Johanna's taste in movies, for the most part, is YOUNGER than she is. This is another one of those "teen" issues, and while I understand that she's been exposed to things I don't approve of, I also want to be careful to replace those things with good, wholesome things.  In our home, we watch very limited, parent-approved TV. No commercials, no language, no boy-girl flirting and such, nothing we wouldn't allow our own children to emulate. SO, I'm sure this will be a change for Johanna. I pray that over time, we can oh-so-gently teach her why we do what we do. :)

After shopping, we met Keith and Kathy and their children for dinner. By this point, Johanna's mood was perked up again, and we had a lovely evening!

Both girls enjoyed a Chinese DVD before bed! I love Gabbey's little smile in this picture. And I also love the fact that Gabbey is holding Johanna's stuffed bunny. Johanna is NOT used to having her own things (everything was shared in the orphanage, even clothes) she is very particular about anything that is "hers". I haven't forced her to share anything with Gabbey as I want to establish her own personal space. But on her own, she handed her bunny to Gabbey during the movie. I had to capture that moment! 

Saturday's Medical Exam

All children adopted from China must go through a routine medical exam, TB test, and vaccinations (if they're over 2). Poor Johanna needed 4 shots and it was very hard for her.

Otherwise, though, she's healthy! Her eyesight is better than 20/20 and other than being tiny :) she's doing just great.

I found it amusing that the doctor that checked her eyes, ears, and mouth didn't write Cleft lip/palate on her chart. So the next doctor asked "Why didn't he mark this?" Back we went to the first doctor. He said her lip and palate are so beautifully repaired that he didn't even notice it! I quite agree. Her palate is completely closed, and in my humble-non-doctor opinion, looks GREAT! :)

Johanna was a very brave girl at the medical exam, so I took her to McDonalds for lunch as a treat. She loves McDonalds! Apparently the orphanage took about 20 children to McDonalds to celebrate Johanna's adoption. I loved hearing this!


I know I've posted lots and lots of "happy" moments this week. And I AM happy, thrilled really, for Johanna AND for our family.....

But sometimes, especially when I've just woken up or am extra-tired, it's hard.

I mean, I KNOW this is of God, I KNOW it's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, but those horrible doubts start to creep it....thoughts of the immensity of what I need to teach Johanna, thoughts of all of my children back home (and how desparately I'm missing them and my husband), thoughts of all of the "what-ifs" that are yet to come.....

All of this is compounded by the loneliness of traveling across the world by myself.

But then, OH!, but then! My GOD is SO good, at those times when I'm feeling low, to give me precious glimpses of what HE sees, of the BIG picture.

Like the one He gave me this morning. I took the girls to the Chinese church service here on the island. The "official" churches, ones sanctioned by the Chinese government, are very limited in what they can/cannot teach and preach. But I wanted Johanna to see CHINESE people worshipping God, before we bring her home and she is flooded by Americans worshipping God. Plus, I was starved for church and wanted to go :)

They started out singing "Come Thou, Almighty King". I closed my eyes, praising the LORD in my heart, even though I couldn't understand the words being sung.

I looked over at Johanna, and this is what I saw:

Right then and there, the LORD reminded me again, that THIS IS WORTH IT. If I had to leave my family, travel around the globe, arrive exhausted to be given a girl who is missing all she's ever known(yet trying so very hard to "fit" in), struggle through even basic communication.....if I had to do all of this, for just this one moment....

It would be worth it.

And I'll gladly follw my Saviour if HE leads me to do it again.

Please continue to pray that I can fight off the homesickness and enjoy my time here in China. I'm loving it as long as I don't think about those I left behind :).....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayers and Parties

Johanna is doing better now----THANK YOU for praying. It is such a comfort to know that Christians around the world will gather in prayer for the need of one they might not even know. I believe with all my heart that GOD heard and answered your prayers for Johanna yesterday!

I was getting nowhere with her. I almost called Helen (our guide) but decided to wait until she got here.

We were supposed to go to Johanna's medical exam, but when I explained how sad and withdrawn Johanna had been all morning, Helen said, "We can wait on the medical. Let's talk now." I love this girl!!!

It took about 1/2 an hour of coaxing before Johanna broke and started to talk and cry. Little tears just streamed down her face. Remember the "teacher" she called the other night? I assumed it was her teacher at school, but it is actually a nanny at the orphanage whom she is close with! I had no idea. Johanna was missing her nanny, and her friends at the orphanage.

I immediately encouraged her to call her nanny. She did, and cried a little on the phone, then perked up some when she hung up.

We showed Helen the pictures on my blog from the visit to Zhongshan oprhanage, and Johanna showed us the friends she was missing the most.

Vicki---she pointed to your little girl and said this was the friend she missed the most! What sweet times they must have shared, late at night, bunkmates and dear friends. I reassured her over and over, that I KNOW her little friends' parents-to-be, that they are very nice, and that we will let the girls stay in touch.

I think it helped even more when she realized that all but one of her closest friends are being adopted soon. She would have been left alone in the orphanage, and I don't really think she wants to go back there.

She does, obviously, miss the only life she's ever known. I told her it's okay to be sad, that Mommy expects her to be sad for awhile, and then Helen told her to "Cry it all out" so she would feel better.

I'm still seeing some sadness here-and-there, but overall, she's doing better. I completely expect it to take a long time for her to adjust, and I'm SO very proud of how brave she is being!

I forgot to share pictures from her birthday party Thursday evening. I have been blessed to join a couple of other "solo" parents for dinner every evening. Kathy just adopted Alivia, an ADORABLE 3 year old, and Keith adopted 13 year old Emma. We hoped the older girls might find some comfort in each other, and sure enough, last night they giggled and talked all throughout dinner. :) I found it most amusing when they started whispering, since we couldn't understand them if they were SHOUTING! LOL

Keith and Kathy, with sweet Alivia in the foreground

Emma, who comes out of her shell more and more each day!
Keith also brough his son Dante along

It's been SUCH a blessing have another mom to talk to, and Alivia reminds me of our Alyssia (adopting her this fall!!!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Please Pray

Johanna is very sad this morning. I'm not exactly sure about what, since she won't type anything on google translate right now.

She wouldn't eat breakfast, but I did insist she drink some juice.

I'm pretty sure she is having some let-down now that the excitement over going back to the orphanage is over, and this is "final".

She did shake her head "yes" when I asked her if she was scared to go to America. Poor thing. She must be terrified at all of the changes. She had never even SLEPT away from the orphanage for her whole life.

I've let her watch Tom and Jerry this morning, as TV is a comfort for her, but I'm hoping our guide will be able to help me when we see her at 10:30.

Johanna's medical exam is this morning and she will probably need shots, plus a TB test. This is going to be very hard for her, and trust me, I HATE having to get it done.....

So, dear friends, will you pray for my Johanna's heart to be comforted, her exam to go well, and our bonding to continue? God is able, and I'm trusting HIM to help me help Johanna.

Zhongshan Children's Welfare Center

I am tired tonight. Both physically and emotionally.

Today I saw the only home my 14 year old daughter has ever known--until now.

Today I looked into the eyes of many, many little ones who have never known a mother's love.

And my heart is stirred. Overcome by frustration that I cannot do more for these children. So incredibly saddened by their vast needs, and for that matter, the needs of orphans around the world.

It seems as if it's never enough. I take one, and then, on days like today, God gives me a glimpse of the millions more that are waiting.

Especially touching to me today, was that one of Johanna's very best friends is also about to age out. As it turns out, she DOES have a family, but she doesn't know it yet. When she saw me loving on Johanna, she pulled back from the group and began to cry. I asked her if she wanted a family and she emphatically said, "yes".She was watching Johanna's happiness and wishing for some of her own.  I SO wanted to tell her that her Mommy and Daddy are coming soon, before her birthday, before it is too late! (in fact, it was breaking my heart that she doesn't know and must continue to suffer.)

Johanna didn't get sick at all on the long car-ride to the orphanage, for which I am thankful. She woke up early this morning and was READY to go visit her home of 14 years.

When we arrived at Zhongshan, Ms. Zhong and 3 of Johanna's friends were excitedly waiting for us.

The girl with the bunny is being adopted this MONDAY and we will get to meet her family! Both girls were happy that they would see each other again so soon.

This adorable girl is being adopted by our dear friends, the Buckelews. We traveled with Vicki and Todd back in December, when we adopted Gabbey and they adopted Ellie (our Ellie and their Ellie had such fun together!). Neither one of us knew, until recently, that we were both adopting girls from Zhongshan! Even more amazing, Johanna and this sweet girl slept next to each other in the same room and are friends! Isn't GOD amazing? He can orchestrate the very tiniest details and prove He exists just by doing so. I love the way this story is unfolding. Brent is praying that maybe he can time his travel to coinside with the Buckelews this fall.

The director of the orphanage was very happy that Johanna found a family and planned a LOVELY surprise birthday party for her!

These next three pictures tell a beautiful story.

One of the girls brought Johanna a gift: a GIANT stuffed bear. Lovely gesture, but I quietly pointed out a few minutes later that perhaps it wouldn't fit on the airplane?

Johanna thought for a moment, then decided to GIVE her gift away, to her little friend He Yu (Vicki's girl).

When she did, He Yu gave her the Mickey Mouse ears she was wearing. They traded gifts and seemed quite content.

I thought it was precious!

After the party, I requested information on some children whose parents haven't traveled for them yet. Then we walked to the cafeteria. On the way, we passed a playground with about 20 Down Syndrome children playing. Johanna gave out some lolipops we had brought and they loved them.

We then walked to the building that houses the older children. There are over 500 children at Zhongshan, including those in foster homes. Each bedroom on Johanna's floor had about 18 beds in it. The children sleep on the wooden bed with no mattress.

It was nap time, so when I stopped by one of the boys rooms, they all sat up and wanted their picture taken.

Next stop was Johanna's room! The girls were just as eager to have their pictures taken---and I was happy to oblige them! Johanna had the top bunk and climbed up to show me, and Gabbey wanted to join her!

I realize all of these pictures are not "healthy, pretty" children. But they ARE children. Each one has a story to tell and each one needs a family desparately. Yes, they are fed, clothed, kept warm and clean. But no orphanage can take the place of a FAMILY. In fact, it doesn't even begin to.

I know this, because my daughter spent 14 years in an orphanage, one of the "better" ones, and today, she left without ever hugging ONE ADULT. Not one. What does that tell you? It tells me she didn't attach to anyone except her peers. It tells me that while they are feeding the child's body, no one is feeding their HEART. It tells me that I'm SO thankful we got to her in time.

Ms. Zhong took us back to her office for a snack and a little visit, and then we headed to Johanna's school and finding spot. We didn't tell her what the finding spot was, as I'd like to wait to broach that subject with her, but I was able to get a picture to show her later.

I have more to say about Zhongshan, my impressions and such, but it's late, and I'm exhausted. I wanted to get the pictures up for those waiting to see them.

More tomorrow!