Thursday, February 18, 2010

4 Weeks

4 weeks ago today, 4 small children were dressed and led from the place that they called home. They were loaded in a van and driven to a hotel. Imagine their surprise when they stepped onto an elevator---imagine their fright, when they stepped off the elevator to a hallway FULL of people, flashing cameras, video cameras and siblings! It was a moment that I will never, ever forget. One of those moments in time where although it is not possible, time seems to fly by and stand still at the exact moment. A moment where faith and prayers meet reality---the moment when dreams are realized, families are formed and where I know without a doubt, that ALL of heaven rejoices! A moment where an orphan becomes a son or a daughter forever! A moment when parents realize that all of the paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, more paperwork, prayers and more prayers, airplane rides, hotel living and all of the preparation has been so worth the REWARD---We are so very blessed to be part of international adoption! These 4 children were orphans no more! They were part of a Forever Family! The next 2 weeks were spent living in a hotel room, doing paperwork and then more paperwork, eating as a huge group with tables that swirled around in circles with more food than you could ever eat, walking everywhere, touring all of the "special" places in China, flying on airplanes, taking pictures on the "Red Couch" getting lots of shots, being examined by doctors, and learning that "Cheese" for the camera is an everyday thing with these new people they call "Family" We were blessed to be joined on this trip by 4 other children also. Although all 8 children were not together in the same orphanage, they immediately became friends and had lots of fun playing in hallways together. They now have an extended family in addition to their "Forever Family"

I can't believe that Andrew has been with us for 4 weeks---wow--it seems like he has been ours forever and yet it seems like we just met him. He is changing so much. He has a smile that will light up a room and a laugh that is just precious. I wanted to document how much he is learning -This week he went to the doctor--He weighs 34 pounds and is 36 inches tall-He needs to have tubes put in his ears soon as he has fluid on them-He is again on an antibiotic to clear up a sinus infection-We are praying that the tubes will help with all of this-

He sings along with all Barney songs---In english---It is just amazing!
He says "I wuv you" in the sweetest voice ever!
He gives Kisses whenever we ask
He now wraps his little arms around our necks and gives the best hugs!
He repeats words whenever we ask
He understands lots of what we tell him---He completely understands when we tell him to clean up his toys, when it is bedtime, ect.
He is very efficient in letting me know when he needs snacks, drinks or potty
He loves to color and draw. He especially loves to draw circles.
He still loves all things cars! His favorite thing to do is drive his cars tricycle around our house with his smaller cars in the basket in the back!
When I am putting him in his carseat, he points to the seat beside him and says "Mei Mei's seat" He wants to make sure his Mei Mei is going with him
He is sleeping all night but he wakes at 6:30 in the morning-He goes to bed at around 9 - 9:30
He LOVES Zoey---He feeds her all of the time-He lays in the floor with his arms wrapped around her and just loves her
He loves Nana alot and runs to her whenever he sees her-
He loves to be outside-He stands at the door and looks at the swingset whenever he can't go outside-He does not yet understand if it is too cold or too dark to be outside
He loves playing with Anna Grace---High heels and lip gloss are common toys around here-Anna Grace loves dressing him up :)

He is just a blessing to our family-God has answered each and every prayer---He is the perfect child for us--We are beyond blessed!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow Day!

On Friday it started to snow :) It was precious to see the pure amazement on Anna Grace and Andrew's faces. I honestly do not think Andrew had ever seen snow. It snowed all night long---It was so beautiful! It was a winter wonderland. Hayne and Adam could not stay inside. They played out in it all night long. By 8:20 on Saturday morning, we were all dressed and looking for a hill to slide :) All of the kids had fun sledding down the front of our neighborhood. They played out side for a couple of hours. It was a great way to spend the morning. We brought the little ones in but Hayne and Adam found a hill at the back of the neighborhood and stayed out the rest of the day. They ended the day by building a snowman with their buddy, Colton. It was a great SNOW DAY(except for all of the extra laundry for mommy ;)

Happy Valentine's Day

Wow-5 kids on Valentine's Day--What fun! Before church this morning, we shared our Valentine's gifts. Anna Grace and Andrew LOVED their memory cards and candy--Hayne was thrilled with his Avatar toys and candy-Adam can't wait to spend his $$$ and loved all the chocolate--Ashton is already reading one of her books while enjoying her stash of Reece's Peaces! It is so much fun to get goody bags together for them. They truly appreciate the little things. I am the lucky mommy of 5 sweet Valentines!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One Week Home & Thank you's

Well, we have officially been home for one week---7 nights--wow! What a week it has been. The kids started back to school, Hal went back to work and Nana spent the week helping me. I have officially decided that I will NEVER have a clean house again :) Andrew and Anna Grace can destroy a house in 6.7 seconds. There is not a room that doesn't sport sippy cups, snack cups, toy cars, princess shoes and more. It is wild-It is crazy but I would not change one minute of it. We were up most nights by midnight--YES, you read that right. My 2 toddlers were up and going at 12 am----I have felt like a zombie. The past 2 nights have been a little better. Andrew has slept on and off until 6 am. Anna Grace is still up at 2 am. She lays in my bed and talks to me while I try to sleep. The others seem to be back on track--this seems much quicker than our last trip. I know it will continue to get better but this mommy seriously needs some uninterrupted sleep.

While we were in China we were very blessed to have wonderful friends and family holding down the fort. Nana ran the shop, took care of Zoey, grocery shopped for us, planned an awesome welcome home party and so much more. She and Jodi spent lots of sleepless nights waiting for Skype calls from us. Jodi spent hours downloading pictures on our blog and on my facebook so that everyone could see our sweet Andrew. She made tons of welcome home signs and helped Nana plan our homecoming. We had no access to blogger or to facebook so we would not have any connection to home if she had not spent so much time doing it for us. I know Craig is happy to have her back and away from the computer :) Gidget did some grocery shopping and made a huge banner that we have on our front porch. Kellie brought balloons to the airport. She greeted us on Saturday with a special Cars cake for Andrew and a home cooked meal. Jodi came to my house this week and prepared a delicious meal for our family. There have been so many people do so many things to welcome our Andrew home. We are so blessed by such special family and friends. I am so sad that Nana has to go back to work this week. I have gotten so use to having her here everyday and Andrew cries for her when she leaves. I hit the lottery with the best mama in the world! There is noone like her. My kids are beyond blessed to have her as their Nana! Thank you Nana for all you do for us! Thank you to everyone who prayed for us, helped us, greeted us at the airport and more! We appreciate each of you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Travel Family

What is a travel family? That is a great question. During our 1st adoption, we assumed that it would just be a group of people that we toured and ate dinner with. I connected with a couple of moms before our trip and we became friends. We had no idea what was in store for us. I often comment that I laugh when I watch American Idol and Biggest Loser and the contestants get so upset when someone is voted off. They keep saying we are family. I thought that was such a marketing ploy. Now I know different. When you spend 13-17 days with the same group of people, when you witness the miracle of a family growing with the addition of a child that has been prayed for and waited on for years, when you cry together over the uncertainities, when you mourn together for what your child has lost, when you celebrate small victories such as passports, visas and bathroom success:) When you search out food that is edible, when you share medicines and advice, when your children recognize each other and call out by name, when you rejoice because your child appears to be bonding to you, when you help each other through countless airports and security checks, when others help entertain your kids, when you watch one of the children in your group get so sick that you fear they can't come home and then get to watch them improve, when you bargain together for items to preserve your child's heritage, when you eat pizza in the hallways with no plates and way more kids than adults, that is when you know you are FOREVER FAMILY. There is no explanation---other than these are the people that I will forever be linked with-I enjoy their company. I love their children. I look forward to watching what God is going to do in their lives. I pray that we will be able to get everyone together a couple of times a year. Anna Grace's travel group is our family and now Andrew's travel group is also. You know you are family when while you are on your 2nd trip to China, each family from your 1st trip sends you emails, prays for you and says they can't wait for Andrew to join their group. Each time we have been so blessed with our groups. These last few days have been made harder as we cope with missing our family. It is so hard to go from being with someone 24/7 to not seeing them at all. We miss everyone. I find myself stalking their facebooks and blogs to just see how they are doing. I am already looking forward to our 1st reunion. Adoption changes so much about your life----Receiving Andrew as our son is the greatest blessing ever, but I can also say that the friends and family we have made along our journey, makes it all the better. We are blessed beyond measure!


Okay-so jet lag is horrible-jet lag with 5 children is undescribable! The little ones have not slept past midnight since we have been home. We are holding off on bed time as long as we can and they are still up and happy at midnight. They consume more food in those few hours than in the whole day. Yesterday I let them lay back down for 1 1/2 hours - just until 10 am. They were awake the rest of the day. Nana had a small cup of water and when they would start to doze off, she would splash them with water---sounds mean, huh? Not really, they loved it. We kept them awake until 7:30 and then they fell over. Instant sleep-it was so funny. I got straight to bed so that I could rest a little. Imagine my surprise when it was 4 am befor"Mama" I am thrilled. They are true twins in every since. They want everything the same. They are on the same schedule. They wake and sleep together. In just 30 minutes this morning, they have already eaten grapes, rice krispie treats and muffins. It is funny what you will let them eat and do to keep the rest of the house asleep.

About Andrew-He is doing wonderfully. His heart breaks each morning when Baba leaves for work. He cries his little heart out. I have started calling Hal's cell phone and he can't figure it out. He loves that he can hear Baba but he can't find him :) He LOVES Barney. It is priceless to watch he and Anna Grace sing through a whole Barney tape. They do the motions and all. I am very impressed that in such a short time, he is singing so many songs in English. He is communicating very well. There are very few moments where he can't make us understand what he wants. He has the biggest smile and is in LOVE with Nana. He hugs and kisses her all of the time. I think it is safe to say that he has his Nana wrapped around his little finger. There is NO doubt in the world that he was meant to be our son. He is such a special part of our family and we are just amazed that we were chosen to be his parents.
I am loving having Nana here with me each day. It is so nice to spend time with her and have her help. She is wonderful with the kids and they do not want her to leave. We are so lucky that she lives so close to us.
Kellie brought over a delicious baked spaghetti for us and we were so grateful. It is amazing how much having a hot meal means to you when you are exhausted and unable to function. She brought Andrew the coolest Cars cake. It was yummy and he loved it! I will have to post pictures soon. Tonight Jodi and her crew are bringing over dinner. Wow-we are going to be spoiled. We cant wait for the whole crew to be together!
I will post lots of pictures as soon as I can get them loaded-

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sticker Fun

Nana brought some very popular stickers to the airport. Andrew loved them as you can tell by his face and hands. He loves putting stickers all over himself. Several times in China, I would have to soak the stickers off of his arms and stomach because he left them on so long. He had so much fun playing with Nana. He did great getting in his carseat. He was excited to see the DVD player in the car. Barney is still the biggest hit and you should hear him sing along--Priceless. We are so happy to be heading home. We stopped off at IHOP and had breakfast before we went to our house. It was yummy. We then headed home to show Andrew his room and toys. More pictures coming soon!

Monday, February 8, 2010

We're Home!

Finally! After 3 airplanes, 15 security checks, checking in and reclaiming baggage 4 times in 30 hours, 5 hour delay in Chicago, We are home! Praise the Lord! I have never been so happy for an airplane to take off as I was when we left Chicago. I could not stop crying as we took off-we were 1hour and 30 minutes from home---from all of our wonderful friends and family who were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Nana had worked so hard to plan the perfect welcome home party. 70 people were scheduled to be there wearing special tshirts that Nana had printed. Fox 21 news was there to do a report on adoption. By midnight, they had to give up. Our flight did not land until 3:30 am. We were so excited to get off of that plane. Anna Grace and Andrew were so sweet walking down the escalator holding my hands. Imagine our surprise at the Welcome Home we received. Our dearest friends and families were still there, holding tons of signs and balloons. Jodi had made sweet tea(with big glasses of ice), brownies, and rice krispie treats. Kellie brought tons of balloons. We are so very blessed. My sweet friend, Bobbi, had driven all the way from Winston to meet Mr. Andrew. Debbe and Caleb were there also with sweet gifts for the kids. Kayla(our precious babysitter) stayed up all night to come, even though she had a full day at school on Saturday. It was unbelievable. We are so blessed and I was so happy for Andrew to meet these people who will love him so much in life. We are going to plan a party very soon so that everyone who had to miss meeting him, can come visit. We are so excited to share Andrew with everyone. He is so precious. He is adjusting well and picking up a couple of english words each day. He loves his home. It is so precious to watch him discover toys and other things. Thanks again for all of your prayers, thoughts, emails and comments. They carried us through this journey!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rice Family Coming Home Today

Hey y'all! This is Jodi blogging on Angel's behalf. I can't believe that February 5th has finally arrived! We have all missed them lots and lots and lots. They are in the air now on their way to Chicago. They are scheduled to land at 4:22 pm. They will then board Express Jet Air flight #5696 at 7:34 pm, and will arrive at Greenville Spartanburg Airport at 10:17 pm. WHOOO HOOOOO! Praise the Lord! So far, nothing has been cancelled and all flights are on schedule.

We plan on having a huge welcome home celebration at the airport. Everyone's welcome! The more the merrier! Angel, Hal and the kids will be thrilled to see everyone there. We may be a little too much for sweet Andrew, but we can't help but be loud and proud! I have also called FOX and they will hopefully be there to cover the homecoming of the Rice family! I am so thrilled - - if you can't tell!

Nana is beside herself! She has been a wreck at times, worrying over her family being so far away without her. Angel is quite blessed that her Mother stayed here to take care of the business, Zoe, and all of the other things she has been so busy doing for 17 long days.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the airport tonight. Nana has gotten some special t-shirts together for everyone so we will look all matchy-matchy (you know how Angel loves that). I have made lots of signs, so come out and hold a sign and scream "Welcome Home Rice Family!"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 14 with Andrew - Red Couch & US Consulate

"Red Couch" photos were so special!!

It is official---We just left the US Consulate of Guangzhou----We all stood as a group and raised our right hands and promised to love Andrew and care for him-We promised that all of our information was accurate--It was very emotional-I could not see for the tears-How blessed we are that God chose us to parent this precious, precious child. To see all of the families who have worked so hard, completed so much paperwork and spent more than 2 weeks in China getting to know these precious children of God, finally complete our adoptions, was simply AMAZING! We are beyond blessed and so very happy. Our travel group is our family-We cannot wait to watch all of these children grow and blossom with their families. There are no words to describe the bond-the pure joy of watching little ones call for their mamas or babas. Andrew actually hugged me today-he has been kissing and letting me hold him, but today he asked to be picked up and then he wrapped those sweet arms around my neck and squeezed as hard as he could----Such a special moment that I will always treasure-He is my son-handpicked by God to be a Forever part of our family. I am overwhelmed at the love we all have for him. My heart about explodes when Anna Grace hugs him or tells him it will be okay. All of our kids are so good with him. We got the privilege of seeing two 14 year olds with their families today at the Consulate. They met their families just 2-5 days before they timed out of the system. Once you turn 14, you cannot be adopted. God orchestrated these adoptions at the perfect time. They were so happy to have families. I am so grateful to see these miracles. It makes you realize what is important in life. I may be crazy, homework may be late, my house may be dirty, I may yell at my kids and lose my temper, I may not be on time and our lives are not perfect BUT we are a forever family of 7---I have 5 wonderful children, an almost perfect husband, a great family, terrific friends and I would not change one thing about my life. I am grateful to the ONE who has called us on this journey---I am blessed

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 13 with Andrew - Pearl River Cruise & Shopping

Today was a free day of sorts. We had to be in the room from 10:30 - 12:00 while Elvin was at the Consulate in case there was a problem with the children's visas. We spent the afternoon shopping for silk clothes for the "famous" Red Couch Photos. We will meet with our group in the morning to take photos on the Red Couch. For those in the adoption community, you know how special this is. Getting pictures on the Red Couch makes it all seem so official :)
Tonight we went on the Pearl River Cruise. Uh-Ho! Can you say motion sick. Hal and I both had to take Dramamine within 2 minutes of boarding the boat. Once we got past that, it was beautiful to see all of the lights reflecting off of the Pearl River. The dinner was not yummy but it was lots of fun to go to the top deck and feel the breeze. It was beautiful. Anna Grace entertained everyone on the bus ride back by singing Jesus Loves Me and You are My Sunshine. She is such a special little girl. We are so blessed with all of our children.
PS---It was hilarious to watch Andrew figure out how to eat Corn on the Cob. He loved it. He thought he was so cute sticking it in his mouth. He loves to say "cheese" for the camera now. He fits right in with our family: