Saturday, December 24, 2016

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men

Merry Christmas from the Tanii! Christmas cards may or may not be coming. It's been a hectic month or three. Can you believe that two years ago we told our families at Christmas that we were beginning the adoption process? Maybe it seemed like it dragged at times, but Jordan is definitely here now, even if sometimes we still can't believe it.

i heard the bells on christmas day 
their old familiar carols play 
and wild and sweet 
the words repeat 
of peace on earth goodwill to men

I've always loved learning the history to some of the more popular hymns. This year especially, I can't help but think of the song I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It's a popular story, and so you can tune out the next few sentences if you want. Based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it was written after the death of his wife and a serious injury to his son during the height of the Civil War and later revised and set to music in the 1870s, which was the traditional lyrics and tune that is still sung in most churches today. I personally happen to like both of these versions (below) a tad better, each for a different reason. The melody we are familiar with in our hymnals always seems too bright and cheery, especially considering the words to the second verse.

and in despair I bowed my head 
"there is no peace on earth" I said 
for hate is strong 
and mocks the song 
of peace on earth goodwill to men 

There have been hospital stays, tests, unexpected health issues, job concerns, deaths in the family, etc. But I can't limit it to just our own family of three, or even our extended family. Even this Thanksgiving and Christmas have been different as we have spent the majority of the two holidays with just the three of us home, keeping Jet as healthy as possible. However, it would be unfair to consider that the world revolves around our little family. The world gets smaller every day I've heard--truer words have never been spoken. There's been political divisiveness, racial tension, terrorist attacks. There's the refugee situation in Europe, the ongoing crisis in Aleppo. There's the persecution of Christians by ISIS. I think our friend Henry would probably come up with the same words in 2016 as he did in the 1860s.

When we first brought Jordan home, his pediatrician wanted us to check his hearing because sometimes heart defects and hearing loss go hand-in-hand. Actually, we never followed through with the referral because it soon became clear to us there was absolutely no problem with his ears. We live within walking distance to four different churches, so depending on the distance from our home, we are able to hear them every hour, half hour, or quarter hour every day, and usually Jordan is the one to point them out whether we are inside or out (although you ask him to pick up his toys and he can't hear you at all...). We hear them in the hospital chapel, or from the storefront bell ringers. Jordan has an obsession with them...but nothing was quite as exciting as our first snow this year and hearing the bells. You have to admit there is something magical about snow falling and church bells ringing.

then pealed the bells more loud and deep 
"God is not dead nor does He sleep" 
the wrong shall fail 

the right prevail 

with peace on earth goodwill to men

Like I mentioned in in our last post, it's all about perspective. In the grand scheme of things, we have no reason to complain and every reason to be thankful. And so I'll share some of the things that have brought us peace, joy, and hope this year and Christmas season. Many of Jordan's doctors and nurses have asked to pray for or with us before or after a procedure or test. I don't know about you, but that's not something I expect anymore. Friends and family coming around us during a crisis--hospital visits, meals, etc. Having Jordan open presents and saying "thank you" (or his equivalent of a Chinese/English Xie Xie/Thank You) without being prompted--parenting win although that should really be credited to his Morning Star Family. Having family understand that things are different for us right now, and with no questions asked dropping everything to drive down to help or rearranging their schedules to accommodate us. Knowing that Jordan's a healthy boy who just needs a little "maintenance" (and really, don't we all?) Maybe most of all--having our son, who has only known us for six months, give big hugs and I love yous when one of us comes home. I'll take that Christmas gift. 

Recently, I purchased this as a reminder to us. It reads If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.--Mother Theresa. This is not my house by the way--not even close; when I say I recently purchased this I mean two days ago and it just shipped yesterday. You can buy this (along with many other fun items) here. But I think the lyrics "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail" can only start at home. So hopefully, we will pass on goodwill and peace toward men as we go along at this crazy thing called parenting, and maybe you can join us in our endeavors. Looking forward to this New Year coming soon and everything it brings! 

Merry Christmas again from the Tanii. Love to you all! 

-Derek, Mary, and Jet/Jordan/Jo

Saturday, December 17, 2016


In case you've missed it, Jordan's been in the hospital. (Newsflash!)  Hopefully and most likely he will be coming home tomorrow, provided he can maintain his current oxygen levels on his own without any supplemental. I'm not going to sugarcoat it...this is the fourth time we've dealt with this since August, but by far probably the scariest and the first time he's had to be admitted for it. (To be fair, one other time they wanted to admit him but we said it was unnecessary because we knew what prescriptions he needed and what they were giving. Since we're experts and all.)  And to continue this honesty train, we are growing quite tired of it.

Do you know his typical diagnosis for these breathing issues is the common cold? Something that for you and I is just an annoyance or aggravation is quite serious for Jordan. It's not something that we take lightly or that we joke about (much--we do call him a Special Snowflake, but it's all in love--and he's our special snowflake). We're to the point though that if he gets a runny nose, we immediately start our albuterol and have a game plan in place for the next day (or that day, since it is usually 3am).

Typically, the conversation is something like this:

Me: What meetings do you have tomorrow?
Derek: I am free between x and y, and would like to try to be at meeting at z.
Me: Ok. I have an appt at qrs but that can be rescheduled. I'll call triage if it gets worse or I'll wait 'til the peds office opens to see if they'll let us bypass ER this time. I'll text you with what I find out. 

And scene. Back to bed. 

This time, we did get the appointment with the pediatrician, and when we woke up I gave him his prescribed treatment of Pulmicort (twice daily to coat those special lungs). Unfortunately, it didn't help and he got significantly worse--enough that I decided 911 would be wisest thing to do as I can't drive and monitor the backseat no matter how close we live to the hospital (less than five minutes). To summarize, we were admitted within forty five minutes of arriving at the ER and Jordan was given oxygen support as well as his normal breathing treatments (plus albuterol). AND still his oxygen hovered high 80s with 40-60 breaths per minute, while dropping into the 70s when he was upset (and by upset, I actually just mean plain angry). 

Now, I know to some of you that seems super serious. And it could be, or could have been. After all, if this is what the common cold does, what would pneumonia or viral bronchitis or any number of more serious lung issues do to him? We know with 99% certainty that his pulmonary hypertension is the cause of this and we could see a significant decrease in these episodes once the required surgery is done. However, at this time, there are other contributing factors as to why that surgery has not been scheduled. (For example, the mitral valve repair will be more in depth than originally planned, and an unrelated issue regarding placing leads for a pacemaker needs to be solved first.) 

And yes, this was serious, and scary, and as previously stated, getting old fast. But this past week has put some perspective on that. I mentioned somewhere (facebook? Insta? It all runs together...) that this week has been full of ups and downs. For example, a precious little girl, one of J's "sisters" in China, that we very seriously considered submitting for earlier this week but did not, passed away just a few days ago--the very day another family submitted their letter of intent to adopt her--due to her own heart issues, only one week after her file made it to the USA. Other siblings of Jordan's from his foster home are no longer with us, with their hearts healed and whole with Jesus. 

So in reality, what do we have to complain about? Oh goodness, how terrible to live five minutes from the best children's hospital outside Chicago? And an ambulance makes it just that much faster. Oh stars, Jordan's oxygen is in the 80s! Listen, there are heart moms out there that would love for their kids to hit sats of 50. Or even 40. What? We have to wait indefinitely for Jordan's surgery? How inconvenient. We can't schedule our vacation until we know that. There are families who go to sleep every night, wondering if their child will ever qualify for surgery, or if surgery will be able to be done "in time"...or even wake up the next morning. This is not for dramatics, friends. This is real. 

We are blessed. We don't always act like it or show it. I will be the first to admit my frustrations over the past few days haven't been a Christ-like reflection. Our son is healthy and happy. His lungs just work a little harder sometimes, and we have to be extra careful with colds and teething and other aggravations to them, but they are fixable. This is not to say we won't be having a conversation with Jordan's doctor to see what or if something can be done sooner. But we can be patient. (I've been told it's a Fruit of the is self-control...which I did not point out. This is called irony, my friends.) We can be understanding. We can accept answers we may not want to hear...because we all want what's best for Jordan. 

Tonight, before I left the hospital, we snapped a picture of one of our favorite books we read to Jordan. He knows it well enough to "read" it himself by now as it's part of our bedtime routine. It's called The Story I'll Tell, and I'm sure I've talked about it before. It tells the story of a family adopting a little boy from China, and the different, adventurous ways they explain how he came home...ending with the truth, because--as the book says--that's a beautiful story too. It also doesn't gloss over the trauma of adoption, and since Jordan can't actually read we improvise some of the ending about his homecoming (see here). I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially because there are so few books written about boys' adoptions from China. But we know that it's not enough to tell him his history. And right now, there are three verses that come to mind. I know some people claim a life verse, but I tend to go with situational. Life changes too frequently. Right now, it's these:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 

*This is why we read, study, and memorize God's word. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

*God is God. I am not. Plain and simple. 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one....And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deut. 6: 4, 6-7

*This. This is our task. It is our responsibility to teach Jordan his heritage, to tell him the story of his birth and adoption. But ultimately it's our responsibility to pass on our faith, his heavenly heritage: the story of God's adoption of us with the hope that someday Jordan will embrace that as his own--doubly adopted.  Jordan is little, and doesn't always understand, but he is watching us and our reactions. That's something to keep in our peripheral as we proceed in the future. To remember that, in our earthly perspective, in the scheme of things? These little blips? To check our reactions. People are watching us. And we are thankful for our healthy son, who just needs some extra help sometimes. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NAM2016: Six Months In

It has been a very long day. Of course, since I'm a glutton for punishment, yesterday I spent cleaning out Jordan's room and put away all of Jordan's summer clothes that just don't fit plus his Gotcha Day outfit and the toys and bottle he came with. Yes, the bottle he came to us with. The one that is in almost every single one of our China pictures, plus probably most of the photos from the first months home. Yes, we both cried when I put it in the box (but for different reasons). So really, I did not prepare well emotionally (or physically) to get through today.

And if you had told me I would be writing about our six month anniversary of the day we became a family of three from a hospital room, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Although we've known this testing would be coming and expected it, it's one thing to anticipate and push it aside and another completely to be sitting in an uncomfortable chair with interruptions for chest x-rays and vitals and meds. Derek is actually in the comfortable chair. I'm on the couch that pulls out into a bed, but it isn't quite long enough to sit on comfortably. Our room is actually really nice--so I shouldn't complain about anything except for my height not quite working to my advantage for once.

If you've been following our Jet Landing Facebook page then you'll know that Jordan had a stent placed during his heart catheterization, fixing one of his issues. However, the other is still to be decided. Our cardiologist was very firm that he will need surgery, but they (the team of cardio surgeons) will be discussing whether to do it sooner than later. Derek and I personally would prefer sooner while he is still little and won't remember it as much, plus could hopefully bounce back quicker than if he was older. Of course, when they say later, we don't know if they mean next summer or when he's six or sixteen. The risks of waiting would be possibly allowing permanent irreparable damage to muscles, veins, and arteries in the heart but on the other hand, but they just need to evaluate if there is a benefit to waiting.

Hospital Selfie! Happy 6 Months!
 Hi Pom Pom!
We are tired. There is simply no other way to phrase it other than physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally just exhausted. Derek says intellectually doesn't count, but I do, since Jack Sparrow also agrees. Jordan is tired, probably with all of those things too. It really been a long six months of doctors and emergency rooms and conferences and phone calls and medication updates and changes and plain old education about his heterotaxy (which Google tells me is not a word, but it is.)

We're so, so happy to have this procedure behind us. Hopefully anytime it is needed in the future it will just be a routine event (and yes, the stent will have to grow with him, so it will be needed in the future). Our questions for the most part have been answered. We're still waiting on the surgical team to determine the next course of action but at least there will be a game plan in place instead of all the balls up in the air.


We signed up for this. We knew, starting with the submission of our LOI (Letter of Intent--whoa...flashback to March of this past year) that this would be a possibility. Adoption is scary. There are no guarantees. It's a leap of faith that, quite honestly, you just have to close your eyes, take a hugely deep breath, and jump. We didn't know anything about how this would end up--and we still don't.

Yet it's still so totally worth it. Never would trade it, ever. Jordan has brought more joy to our lives and those around him than we could have imagined. The number of people who have stopped us to pray for us and for him--even doctors and nurses--still astounds me. He is silly,sassy, wild, talkative, extroverted, and loves an audience. (Opposites surely do attract; or maybe this is God's sense of humor again.)

Thank you for those of you who helped us bring him home. Thank you for those of you who have supported us so far. We're only six months in, and sometimes that can seem like forever to some people...but in reality it's still just a fraction of his life that he's spent with us--and a very tumultuous six months it's been for him. And although he can't yet tell us, we hope he also agrees that our family is pretty awesome with the three of us.

Perhaps you've tuned in to the blog this month because it's National Adoption Month or to see more in depth about how our trip to China went. And maybe you're tired of hearing about our trip or our adoption. That's fine! Sometimes, we got tired of reliving it. (Is that bad to admit? I'm not sure.) But the one thing I hope that's made a difference to you, whether you are just tuning in now or you've been with us since our very first post when we were just two people recording our travels, is the impact you can have on the life of a child. Derek and I have adopted one child. Just one. We hope to support dozens more. And, welcome more into our home someday. And there are families who adopt three, six, eight, or even ten children. There are good families who foster kids who have no other options but to move on from their biological parents--whether temporarily or permanently. There are children in Syria, in the Middle East, scattered across Europe in general who have no home, no clothes, and no food. There are women--girls--who find out they're pregnant and don't know what to do and how or if to proceed with the pregnancy because they have no other options.

These are not exaggerations. These are facts. The important thing to remember is that you can do something. It doesn't have to be traveling to China. It doesn't have to be opening your home to foster care or adopting a child. It doesn't have to be permanent! It can be lunch at your local public school with some of the kids who need a role model. It can be donating some diapers to your local women's pregnancy crisis center. It can even be financially supporting a family whom you know is adopting--or has adopted in the past! But please, please, do something. I promise, you can. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

NAM2016: Thankful Thursday

How nice that the end of our adoption trip ends on Thanksgiving Day! We are thankful for so many things this year:

-the process of Jordan's adoption being over
-having our financial needs met before we traveled
-Jordan's arrival
-our health
-Jordan's health
-a fantastic team of doctors who care about Jordan, not just as a patient
-our families' health
-our friends here who are also our family
-safe travels to and from China
-family and friends who love us and want to help us when we need it
-a warm house
-not one, not two, but possibly THREE (3) new Christmas trees
-a church family who cares about us
-Derek's job which provides what we need

But I can tell you, without fail, with absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever in the history of mankind's use of hyperbole, what we were most thankful for in the year of 2016 to date was the wheels of our plane touching down on the runway at O'Hare on June 8 around 1:30 p.m.

That was the longest fourteen hours of our life. It really was.

Let's rewind, shall we?

We departed our Guangzhou hotel around 4:30 a.m. to travel to Hong Kong International Airport via van (estimated arrival time was between 9 and 10). First off, I am not great in the mornings when it's a high stress situation. And I'm not too proud to tell you that when we went through customs from China into Hong Kong and the driver left to use the restroom, I dry-heaved into my purse because that is just how I roll. The fact that Derek opened a pre-packaged breakfast for us that contained hard boiled eggs did not help.

Watching our plane roll up to the gate in HK
However, we made it through customs, to the airport, through baggage check and customs again and security, and to our gate with time to spare. We hit up the Disney store, bought some McDonald's and possibly something similar to Panera, and waited another hour to board. This was probably the first (and last) flight that we had arrived with too much time to spare! That's not a bad thing by the way--just was not our norm for the trip starting with leaving Peoria two weeks earlier!

We boarded our plane, and thankfully had a middle and aisle seat. However, since Jordan was (and still is) under two, he got to sit on our laps for the flight again. This seemed like a great idea at the time when we purchased the tickets almost a month earlier, but it wasn't. Neither of us slept. Jordan fussed the entire trip, even in his sleep. Unknown to us, he was cutting his very last canine. Had we known that, we would have given him some Motrin or something but hindsight is 20/20! Not to mention, the formula still wasn't agreeing with him since we couldn't find what he had been drinking in Beijing anywhere else. We went through a lot of diapers during that plane ride, but we were thankfully only three or four rows up from the bathrooms.

Derek is the most patient person I know. One might say unflappable even. He is, one hundred percent, without a doubt, the opposite of me in every way when it comes high stress and high tension situations. However, at one point on the flight, not even halfway through (eight hours to go to be exact), Derek pretty much threw Jordan toward me (the only way I can describe it) and said "I can't do this anymore" and got up to walk around. Jordan and I had actually just fallen asleep, so we were neither of us happy to have been woken up, but Derek had reached his limit. Honestly, that is the absolute only time I have ever seen that happen. I truly didn't know if he was going to survive the rest of the trip without a mental breakdown. Seriously. And, even though I wasn't pleased to have a now crying toddler thrust into my lap, and a husband pacing the aisles like a crazy person, I kind of...may have...started giggling hysterically. Not really helpful. (Kind of like I am now, just reliving it.)

But, we made it through, and only by the grace of God. Derek is just now--almost six months later--willing to consider flying short distances again. Like maybe, maybe a two hour flight. We've discussed so many vacations and every single one he has said "we'll just drive the twelve, fourteen, thirty-two hours. That is how badly he wanted off of that plane. And please remember...I'm the one with the flying issues.

So....back to "present." When the plane was almost to the ground, I told Derek that as soon as the plane landed we were going to use our elbows and knees and whatever else God gave us to so that we could grab our stuff and get off of that plane. I also said I don't care if the seat belt sign was still on, once those wheels were on the ground, it was GO TIME. Judge not, lest ye be judged, people. And then...then...the wheels hit the ground! Angels sang, I'm pretty sure.

Unfortunately, we were so gungho about getting our junk together that neither of us were paying close attention to Jordan, until our seatmate (who didn't speak English) handed us a tissue and pointed toward his point out to both of us that Jordan's little nose wasn't just dripping a little blood but full on gushing. Parenting fail. Also, it was at that point that we realized his diaper was full. Full. So really, we didn't need to do much elbowing to get off the flight. When carrying a toddler covered in blood (did I mention he was wearing a white onesie and that was all?) that reeked like none other (thankfully Derek and I were both wearing all black) people move out of your way quickly.

So no. We do not have a triumphant "We've landed in America! Jordan is an American citizen!" photo to share with you, or him someday. It was not a priority. It may have crossed my mind, but I guarantee it did not cross Derek's. At that point we just needed to find a restroom with a changing table. For those of you who have traveled internationally though, you know you can't do that until you've gone through customs...and in our case immigration. We had been warned this could take up to two hours.

It took us five minutes. Five minutes. Let me say again, five minutes. We were through customs, immigration, and had our luggage within a half hour of getting off of that plane. Unheard of. God surely, surely knew we had reached our limit because I do not think that will ever happen again.

That left us with another dilemma. We were supposed to fly home to Peoria at 8:45 that evening--which would leave us with about seven hours to kill at O'Hare. Uh, no. Neither of us (especially Derek) would be getting on a plane anytime soon and we were prepared to rent a car, even though we hadn't slept in about thirty hours. Not our best choice, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Derek went to change Jordan (and throw away that nasty onesie). Also, just an FYI, in the chaos of a bloody nose, a dirty diaper, and just getting off of the plane we forgot our fancy changing pad under the Derek had to engineer some sort of way to change Jordan without him catching whatever diseases were in the public restroom in O'Hare. He would like me to add here that the baby changing station in that particular restroom was literally a piece of plywood screwed to the wall. Hygienic.

This is when I had a stroke of genius! Derek's parents were headed down to Peoria to meet us at the airport back home! And they had a vehicle with a carseat in it already. BOOM! Done. I called them and they had literally just left their house. Timing is certainly everything! I explained the situation and they were at the airport within a half hour and we were on our way back to Peoria! We are so thankful that's how it worked out. I think they could tell we were in a fog, and also trying to reorganize our timeline like the video camera and whatever friends who weren't at work to meet us at the house instead of hitting us up at the airport that evening as planned. Plus, this was Jordan's first time in a carseat. He wasn't thrilled, but we came prepared with cookies. Somehow, we survived that two and a half hour trip home to our house. There was no triumphant entry. Honestly, I don't think my in-laws know this, (but they will now) but I had reached that point of exhaustion and hunger where I was so nauseated I spent the entire time between Prospect Rd. and Sheridan (so basically two miles from our house) bent over trying not to puke in their backseat. (Surprise! Aren't you glad I didn't?)
Three minutes later...asleep

It was so nice to be home. It was wonderful to be greeted be family and friends at the house who had prayed for us before, during, and after our trip, who cleaned the house while we were gone, and left groceries, dry cleaning, and meals for us so we didn't have to worry for a few days. We were and are so thankful that they made the effort to meet us at the house, considering the unexpected change of plans. We were so happy to be home with our son. And to sleep in our own bed. (Jordan and I conked out around 7, if not earlier.) We are so thankful for our son, the people who cared for him in China, and the people who helped us bring him home.

But, truly...never have we been more thankful for the end of that plane ride...and day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Love to you all!

-the Tanii

To view our adoption testimony that our church for National Adoption Month, please click here. We are so thankful and honored to share how God worked in our lives over the past year in bringing home Jordan, and hope that speaks to your hearts as well about God's love for His children.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NAM2016: Guangzhou Days 9-14

Before we left, someone told us that once we got to Guangzhou everything was smooth sailing--and they were right! Not only personally, since Jordan was doing so well and I was feeling better, but also the trip itself seemed to get easier.

Of course, we had to actually get to Guangzhou (gwahn-joe) for that to actually happen. Perhaps the most important takeaway here was that while in the Zhengzhou airport I used a squatty potty. Derek tells me that is not the most important aspect of the trip, but I was pretty darn proud of myself. (PS, this is why the majority of the time I was wearing skirts or dresses. One never knows if there will be western toilets available...and a skirt makes things just a bit easier for women!)

Once again, Derek and I (and now Jordan) made it through security with no issues, but the other two families in our group for some reason were given a hard time. We felt bad and nervous for them, since they were traveling with two kids each--a lot to keep track of! But, we did all make it through with time to spare...only to arrive at our gate to find out there were bad storms in Guangzhou. I have to say, the airline was smart not to post anyone at the boarding gate because otherwise they would have had a million and one questions of when this delay would end. Oh, and remember how there isn't air conditioning or much of it inside the airports (or buildings in general)? This terminal was even hotter. had a McDonald's. And if we've learned anything, it is that McDonald's is pretty much always safe to eat. Yet, without anyone at the gate to update us we were all nervous to leave to get something to eat. So...when our boarding time passed, our take off time passed, and even the time we were supposed to land in GZ passed...we figured it was safe and I took orders and ran up the steps with my BFF for the trip (one of the two family's daughters that came with) to the second floor to get to the McDonald's. Only to have Derek come flying up the steps to tell us our flight was boarding.


Toddler Sleeping. Turbulence off the charts. 
So we all sprinted back down the steps--very hungry at this point--(Derek carrying Jordan) to get to be the last in line to board. Fun fact though, when you're Americans carrying a Chinese toddler--or maybe just a toddler in general--we got to cut everyone and board first. Score! And somehow Derek and I managed to get in preferred seating which had a little extra legroom at the front of the plane. Double points! I want to say the plane provided a meal, but if I remember correctly it was some sort of fish with rice combo. None of the three of us were in love with the option, so we ate the rolls and hoped for the best. Remember, there had been storms...and just because it was now "safe" to fly and/or land did not a pleasant flight make. It was quite bumpy--plus the cabin couldn't regulate the pressure so there was a lot of ear popping. Poor Jordan...everytime he would fall asleep the cabin would lose pressure and his little ears would bother him and he'd cry and wake up. Finally, during the most turbulent part, he fell sound asleep. Out like a light. Us...not so much. (Always strikes a little nerve when you can see the lightning bolts out the windows).

Finally, we landed and after disembarking the plane in pouring rain and dashing to a shuttle that took us to our baggage claim, we made it to the bus to take us to the hotel around midnight Friday night. The kids were wired; the adults were zonked. Also, hungry. Derek and I were able to check into our room very quickly and Derek ran across the street to get McDonald's (like I said, we were starving). Unfortunately, the bellhop had not delivered our luggage to our room and since we had spent approximately eight hours in an airport with two toddlers that were having intestinal issues...there was a diaper shortage. At least I managed to snap a quick picture before a blowout all over our nice white duvet. (It's okay, we got it cleaned up).

BFF that we were actually in GZ, everyone who said it was the easiest part of the trip was one hundred percent correct. We had to go to the international clinic for the kids to get screened for international travel on Saturday, which other than waiting with other families was very streamlined and fast for us! Sunday we did a little exploring of the hotel (there was a Starbucks, and it was amazing) and did some local touring of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, and then some shopping where we bought some authentic souvenirs to hopefully pass on to Jordan. Our guide, Kathy, told us that when a baby boy is born you're gifted a piece of jade and you gift it to the wife of your son--if you like her. I have absolutely no idea if that is true, but I like her style.

This Stroller. Lifesaver 

Mom's shopping wears us out!

The sauce was way better!
On Monday, Derek and I were able to take Jordan to the US Consulate and get Jordan's paperwork in order plus take "the oath" since Jordan is too young to say it. Once that was done, as soon as we landed on US soil, he was considered a citizen and his Chinese passport no longer valid. No cameras allowed, but afterward we celebrated guessed it...McDonald's! (There weren't a lot of options our guide recommended outside of our hotel other than McDonald's and Starbucks.) That evening we dined extravagantly on Papa John's pizza and then went on a cruise on the Pearl River to see the lights at night, which was pretty cool. Buildings here definitely don't look like that at night, unless it's the World Series or something.

We tried really hard to get pictures with all three of us smiling, but there were much more interesting things to look at than whoever was behind the camera. Still, they turned out pretty well!

All pearls. Whoa. 

It's tradition. 
On Tuesday, we did what I had been looking forward to the entire trip...other than Jordan of course. Obviously. We went to the Pearl Market. Picture a huge mall...six or seven stories high...with each store selling precious gems or pearls. Obviously, you have to be careful who you buy from as unless you're an expert gemologist you have no way of knowing what is real or not, but we trusted our guide to lead us to a store that had the real thing. And there were bags upon bags of strings of pearls to choose from, plus preset earrings, rings, necklaces, you name it. It was really fun to watch them string the necklaces and bracelets! But it was a long process, and we were all done and headed back to the hotel. The next day would be an early morning for us, as our family would be departing a whole day earlier than the other families since Jordan did not need to be TB tested because he was too little. We met to go over some final paperwork and documentation and then took the traditional pictures with the rest of the families as well as our own family. Then it was time for early dinner and one last bath in the tub that was like a small swimming pool (And yes, this hotel had the glass window to the bathroom too!) and then bedtime for our 4am wake up to leave for Hong Kong!

NAM2016: And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...Zhengzhou Days 5-9

Just an FYI...this is the post of the video and photo dump. This is where we turned into your stereotypical first time parents. You have been warned.

The rest of the week from Gotcha wasn't exactly a blur, but the days did blend together. We soon found out we could not fool our smart son into drinking from anything other than the bottle he arrived with, so we spent a lot of time with one of us washing and boiling it while distracting him with the iPad. The other families were able to take trips to the orphanages where their children were living, but ultimately the majority of the week the three of us were left alone. We made a lot of trips to Walmart, which as previously mentioned involved climbing lots of flights of stairs, crossing a bridge over a busy street, and then back down the a few more blocks. It wasn't that we forgot things, it was mostly just to pass the time. Jordan was waking up around 6am and since we were still jet lagged it didn't bother us at all...but at 8am you run out of things to do fairly quickly in your hotel room.

We had (have) a good eater!
After a very messy breakfast (I don't know why no one bothered to mention to us that the yoghurt is generally eaten with a straw instead of a spoon because it's so thin...but he insisted on feeding himself and we didn't know what else to do!), we headed back to the government building where we received Jordan. We were a little nervous going back there so soon, but this was actually the start of him really opening up and letting us start to see a little of his personality. He never strayed too far from us, which was awesome knowing that the initial trust bond was starting to form, but he also started to interact with the other kids and started walking around. We knew he was capable, but he was just too scared or unsure with us at the point to do so. In fact, he wouldn't even stand on his own the day before on Gotcha day. But here he was, playing and interacting with us and the other kids! We were so thankful.

Playing with the other kids

We woke up like this. No, really. 
Our sleep schedule went a little like this: Jordan would start out being held or snuggling next to me, then very carefully transferred to his crib which we had lowered the side to become a co-sleeper. Probably not the safest, but since he woke up every two or so hours it wasn't a huge issue. We could tell when he woke up...and when he realized he wasn't "home." After a few times of holding him until he fell back asleep and then putting him back in his bed, only to repeat, we finally just started putting him in between us. He still started out in his crib, but it helped us more easily take turns and still try to catch up on sleep and he didn't wake up as much overnight.

To be honest, that week in Zhengzhou was and is still a blur for me--enough so that I asked if Derek would consider writing about this week but he turned me down. Boo. If anyone recalls, I had been diagnosed with an ear infection the week before we left...and had gotten antibiotics for it but was still taking them until about Beijing. Add in a room on the 20th floor, which--in case you're wondering--is just high enough to make your ears pop every time you go up and down, plus jet lag...and I spent the majority of Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday either lying down or, as our travel group can testify to, with my head between my knees to prevent passing out when we went to apply for Jordan's passport at the police station. I needed sleep, rest (which are two different things), and water. (Apparently, I learned later, this happens to quite a few people who don't hydrate enough when jet lagged.)

It was a blessing in disguise actually, because on our first day together (Monday) Jordan wanted nothing to do with Derek for any sort of extended period of time. However, since Tuesday I was pretty much out of commission all day except for the trip to the local police station for his Chinese passport. This meant Jordan got to spend a lot of time with Derek, whether he wanted to or not! We were also thankful because often times in those situations the baby or child will attach and stay attached to that one parent, but Jordan honestly was good with both of us! By the end of the week, he was catching up on his sleep (waking up less) and staying awake more (fighting that fight or flight instinct). We were seeing his sassy little personality come through. (If he didn't agree or wanted something different, he would very dramatically make his opinion known.) He would play with us, and loved bath time. We had our routine in place of both of us helping with bath time, then I would get his pajamas on while Derek escaped to Walmart for a bit. About the time that Derek got back, Jordan would be asleep and we would transfer him to his crib, where he wouldn't wake up and move to our bed until around 1 or 2 a.m. Pretty good, right? We did a lot of high-fiving. I distinctly remember one of our videos that we posted where Jordan was interacting with us, and I know a lot of people commented about how much he loved us already. I really don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but that probably wasn't true. Were we fun and cool people to hang out with? Duh. Did we have fun toys and a sweet iPad? Yes. Were we his only choice for immediate and necessary survival? A resounding yes. And that is what you're seeing in that video.

Walking around the block
The only other thing we did that week was head to the local notary office, which did not have an elevator--or air conditioning. I was extremely nervous about that since I was just barely starting to feel human again! Derek and I, being the spring chickens we are, practically sprinted up those six flights of steps while holding a toddler and my giant diaper bag/purse filled with every essential thing plus gifts for the government officials...only to be told it was actually the fifth floor. Clearly, although I discovered I was not as in shape as I thought I was, I was feeling better because earlier that week walking across the hotel lobby had me pretty much collapsing against a pillar with my vision blacking out. (Sorry, to everyone who is reading this going "how come you never told us this?" And that answer would be because we didn't want to worry you unnecessarily. Our guide, Tina, checked on me almost hourly to make sure I felt okay, and I had come prepared with every single medicine--prescription or otherwise--known to man so I knew it would just take some time.) By the end of the week, I was feeling well enough to go on walks with both of them around the hotel grounds and block. (Plus here's a few videos to give you a feel for the area...)

Mr. Curious

Mr. Independent

Mr. Tired and Overwhelmed (AKA time to go back to hotel).

Zhengzhou is very urban, as I think I mentioned before. We didn't do any sightseeing, mostly because I was sick but also because there really wasn't an opportunity to do so. We had discussed that if an opportunity came up Derek would take Jordan but that wasn't the case. However, our hotel windows (being on the 20th floor) provided lots of entertainment. It was rainy off and on all week, and so if and when we did venture to Walmart we avoided any and all puddles (you really just never know). These next three videos were part of our daily trip to Walmart...including the funky escalator ramp thing to enter the actual store. (We start the videos at the top of the bridge...we didn't have ten minutes of video space on our phones to record the whole trip!)

My all time favorite--all time favorite ever--video in Zhengzhou we aren't featured in at all. Occasionally, we would randomly hear this music that we didn't have any idea where it was coming from...until we finally figured out it was the street cleaners! You'll have to make sure your sound is on to hear it...and also remember that it was the first week of June. And that we were in China. Which as a rule doesn't really celebrate this holiday.

Merry Christmas!

With our guide Tina in the Zhengzhou airport!

See you in Guangzhou!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In Sickness and in...Death?

Hear me now, no one is dying...and I do have a reason for that title. We've all learned in English Lit at some point in our lives that a good title is what draws people in, and this is way catchier than "Happy Nine Years to Us!"

Today is our ninth anniversary--and beyond that thirteen years since we got together. How did this happen? It's a weird mix of realizing the changes in ourselves and yet still feeling like the kids we were when we started dating in high school.

I like pictures. Pictures tell a story. I promise, I'll get around to explaining the title of this blog, and it's nothing bad. But for now, a not-so-brief walk through memory lane. Humor me. (And also, since digital cameras weren't really a thing until our wedding and after...we are officially that old...I don't exactly have a ton of pre-wedding photos!) I would also just like to note that we were the first wedding to do sparklers at First Church in Lansing...when we asked if that was okay, PK said "well, there's no rule yet..." so sounded like a yes to us! We took a short honeymoon in Jamaica, and honestly felt like actual adults (I mean, we were...but this was one of those fancy-schmancy all-inclusives. Living. The. Life.)

Then...flash forward six months to Derek graduating Valpo, moving to Peoria, buying a house, and starting at Cat (all within about a month's time). Yes, we know. Crazy. But that's generally how we with everything after the fact! Not to worry, we are learning how to process things correctly.

I know many of you don't remember, but yes, we did have some absolutely...intriguing wallpaper and decor when we bought this house and I thought I should include that for the memories. Or for just the shock factor. That is a LOT of floral wallpaper--and forest green trim. And it was everywhere...the hallway to the main floor bedrooms, the dining room, etc. I made the picture big enough for you to get the full effect, because it was important to me to ingrain it upon your memories as it is ours.

After those fast moving months though, came some fun parts. We got our little puppy, Casey, who is going to be nine in May (old man dog). We did some house remodeling--really, more than some--we did a LOT. Our house you could call our baby really, if you want to stretch it a little bit.

Perhaps the most fun we've had thus far was being DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids) for the majority of these nine years. That's not to knock anyone who had or is having kids right away, but it was a special time for us! We were able to do a lot of traveling that I don't think we would have done otherwise, or at least not for a long time.

We did Cabo...

And a Disney Cruise with family where we stopped in Key West, Grand Cayman (sea turtles!), and Cozumel...

We did a Highway 1 roadtrip through California, starting in Monterey and ending in Santa Barbara...

Lone Cypress/17 Mile Drive

Monterey Mission

McWay Falls

Bixby Bridge

Butterfly Beach (Not our dog.)

Guitar Bar

Carr Winery

And as our "babymoon" or last trip before bringing home Baby Tanis, yet unknown, in Seaside, FL.

Obviously, in the past six months, things have changed. There were two of us, and now there's three. And in the spirit of complete honesty and transparency, the last night of our vacation in Florida I did cry, because I knew things would change. I knew things would be better, but I knew things would be different. 

And they have been different! We're still adjusting to a family of three. And that's where the title of this blog comes in. On a particularly rough day, where I was sick and Jordan was sick and Derek was just trying to hold down the fort and all of our sanity, I will admit to being overly emotional and exhausted and just asking Derek is this what he signed up for? And his response was very serious and heartfelt: "of course! I promised in sickness and in death."

Sickness and death. Sure. Those weren't exactly the vows I remember saying, but sure. I mean, I guess we can work with that. 

In high school, we had to write a paper freshmen year about a coming of age moment, (ironically in the class that Derek and I met) and I distinctly remember our teacher's example of coming home from the hospital with their new baby and realizing the changes happening, and that's what these past six months have been for us. Please don't misunderstand, we're SO excited to be a family of three. So excited to see what the next years bring us! But there's that bittersweet element to it too. Midnight movie showings are harder to work into a schedule. Spur of the moment weekend trips require actual planning. Sleeping in? Well...that we can't complain about since Jordan didn't wake up until 9:30 today lol. And one of the best parts about all of this? That's normal. We're completely normal to feel this way, which is such a relief. 

And the absolute, 100% best part? We're still in this together. Now all three of us. How exciting is that!