Friday, December 19, 2008

What's outside our window right now

Three to four inches of snow on Tuesday, and a small ice storm last night gave us this winter wonderland

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Finding Miaya Video

This is the video Kimberly created to be shown at Miaya's dedication.

Five Months

November 30 marked five months since a quiet, reserved, and exhausted little girl was placed in our arms. We got a few giggles and laughs that first day, and more were soon to follow. She went to sleep easily, and slept through the night. We were constantly in awe of the wonderful child we had been given.

A few minutes ago, I was watching her sleep, she is recovering from a cold and we check on her often. Every day we marvel at the new things she learns, and the problems she solves on her own. I dislike using the word miracle, but my feelings at the moment make that term most appropriate. I still remember "Hell Week", that first week after returning to Iowa was certainly that. All three of us were jet lagged, our systems were off by 13 hours, and for a 14 month old the transition was especially tough. But, we survived, and learned that parenting is a learning experience with no right or wrong answers, just what works or not. The years we waited and hoped and prayed have been realized in that sleeping child who depends on us for everything. I thought I knew what it would be like, having a child to raise - but I really had no clue. The sheer simple joy when she greets me when I come home from work, the smile that makes the world go away for a while, how wonderful it is!

She has blossomed and now at eighteen months is walking with ease, learning new words, and wanting to be independent. This little girl has touched so many lives in a few short months, most of our community was aware of our pending adoption, and has welcomed Miaya warmly.

We may have found Miaya at last, but the adventure continues!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Miaya's Dedication

Miaya had her dedication last Sunday, including a celebration of her arrival into our family. Her new church family welcomed her with open arms, joining us in the celebration. She was not real thrilled about the water dribbling part, but otherwise behaved quite well. Her godparents are Kim's brother Karl, his wife Julie, and Kim's friend Belinda. She has a great set of godparents who will give her support and good advice when she needs it. Following the service, there was a brunch for all attending invited to partake.

"Why is this man trying to pour water on me?"
Rev. Wainwright performs the ritual.

Michael, Kim and Miaya, Belinda, Julie, and Karl

Aunt Karen shares breakfast - donuts are yummy!

Mommy and Miaya

Gary, Sophie and Zia Joy traveled up from Kansas to take part in the celebration.

Zia Joy, Sophie, Kim, and Kim's mother Veda display the quilt Kim and Veda made for Sophie during the long wait for adoption referral.

Gary and Zia Joy

Miaya with the quilt Aunt Katie made.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Worth 1,100,000 Words?

Kim and I gathered up all our memory cards and spent a couple of hours at the self service photo machines in the local Walmart a couple of weeks ago. The above picture shows the result; around 1100 photos of our China trip. This includes very few duplicates of the 300 we printed shortly after coming home, and then there are over 300 from the other camera that are still in digital limbo! In total, we took around 2,000 images on the trip. For reference, that is a 12 ounce bottle of Sprite to put the size of the stack in perspective. The staff in the photo center were very happy to when Kim returned the next day to collect them!

So, if a picture really is worth 1,000 words..........

Sunday, November 02, 2008

First Halloween - World's Cutest Ladybug!

Miaya had her first Halloween experience, and a mixed one it was. Thursday afternoon, she got sick at daycare, and had a very unpleasant evening. She was steadily better on Friday, and did get to go to a Aunt Katie's and the Fire Station for Trick or Treating. She wore her costume earlier in the week at school and was a big hit with everyone.

Getting ready to go!

Ready for Trick or Treating - Iowa Style!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Visiting Miss Zia Joy

We took a little trip to Kansas for the dedication of Sophie and Gary's daughter, Zia Joy. It was a nice drive and a fun getaway. I doubt they have a lot of trouble with traveling salesmen, unless they are very lost! Their house is a trick to find the first time, but in a nice and very secluded location.

Gary and Sophie's place.

Gary built this neat little cabin 100 yards or so from the house as a getaway and picnic spot.

Kim and Miaya on Miaya's first hayride.
This is fun!

Riding into the Kansas sunset with Gary on the tractor (it was Sophie's dad's), and Sophie with Zia Joy
Three "China Moms", Tammy, Kim, and Sophie with Miaya and Zia Joy

Miaya and Zia

The trip down was good, but we learned a hard lesson about accidentally getting in the drive through lane at Burger King in Maryville, Missouri on game day! The rest of the trip was uneventful, we found our hotel with no problem, and then found our way into the boonies to Sophie and Gary's.

After the hayride, we returned to the cabin for a cookout.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanks Grandpa!

Miaya got a new toy this weekend. Michael's mother, sister and niece came to visit and surprised her with a new International Harvester pedal tractor. When the carton was opened to assemble it, Miaya immediately grabbed the steering wheel and took off.
After a few minutes, she came back and "helped" Michael sort the parts as he prepared to assemble it. Cousin Kassondra helped distract her and they played in the living room.

When the tractor was ready, and the cameras and camcorder were ready as well, Miaya was called in. As she rounded the couch and saw the tractor, she ran straight to it and climbed on. Though her legs are a bit short to reach the pedals, she quickly learned to straddle it and push along backwards.

On Monday after Miaya and mommy returned from school and daycare, she ran straight to her tractor and patted it before doing anything else. When her legs get long enough, that tractor will surely get a workout.

Michael's father always gave the first grandchild in each family a pedal tractor. Though he was not around to see Miaya come home to her forever family, he made arrangements for Miaya have one. So thank you very much Grandpa, and thank you Grandma and Aunt Laurie for delivering it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wishing Them Well!

Our friends Sophie and Gary are in China right now, and should be holding their new daughter in their arms!

Welcome Zia, to your new family!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Sad Farewell

Nike (left) and Diva, October 2007

Diva, June 2007

We lost a member of our family today, our cat Diva passed on this morning after a rapid decline in health. After we had been home about a week we realized that she had lost a great amount of weight, and was not eating. A trip to the vet did not reveal much, and after a few days of frustration we went to the vet again, and for a couple of days, it looked like she might be holding her own. Finally one of the vets at the clinic was able to feel a mass in her abdomen, possibly a tumor. This morning, before we had fully decided what to do, we got the news that she had weakened and passed on.

Diva came into our lives the last spring (1999) we lived in Illinois, appearing at our house one morning. Friendly and eager for attention, we brought her with us when we moved to Iowa. She proved herself to be housebroken, and well trained by whoever had been her previous family. We estimated her to be about a year old when she came to us as she did grow some more, although she was never a very large cat. She was a great companion for Kim during the several months when I was finishing up farming obligations in Illinois, and when I was making numerous trips moving our goods to Iowa.

Shy around strangers, she was warm and affectionate to those she liked. In the times when she was allowed to sleep in our bedroom, she could tell when bedtime was approaching, and would grab a few bites of cat food, get a drink of water, visit the litter box, and be waiting for us on the stairs. Quite a good bit of planning for "just a cat".

In a way, she was our first "baby", gave us unconditional love, and seemed to know when we were sick or down and needed some extra affection. Playful and fun, she learned several "tricks" over the years. In the later years, she took some abuse from Nike, our younger cat, but she got back at him by attacking him in the middle of the night when he was asleep!

We will miss her, and think of her often as the days become weeks and then months. She brought us joy and amusement as well as unconditional acceptance. We hope that her spirit now dwells in a kind and gentle place.

The Rainbow Bridge

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things are getting better!

It is getting better around our house, the first week we were home in Iowa was brutal. Miaya took nearly a week to adjust to the 13 hour time difference, and no one got much sleep that week. Finally on Sunday night, she went to sleep at a near normal time and slept through the night. There are still problems getting her to sleep some nights, but things are generally improving and becoming more "normal" all the time.

The trip to China seems more and more like a dream, but one look at Miaya brings the reality back. We feel more blessed every day, and soon it will feel like we have had her forever. Oh, yes we remember the long wait and how it felt like it would never end, but that has paled in the reality of finally having our daughter home where she belongs.

We can see so many advances in her development in the month we have had her, she is now toddling around, and soon will be walking with ease. Her coordination is improving, and her verbal skills are improving, and although talking will take a while, it is no longer all baby babble. She easily recognizes mommy and daddy, but is still open to meeting new people. There have been real challenges, but her smile makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Home And All Those Things

An armload of Miaya for Cousin Nora

We did make it home in good order, the trip on Amtrak was good, although for the last two hours of the trip we were ready for it to just be over. A chocolate break brought things back into perspective, I guess low blood sugar does have an effect on your attitude. Kim's Aunt Carol and Uncle Kenny, and her teacher friend Belinda and Belinda's mom and sister met us at the station in Creston. Miaya scored big points with Aunt Carol when she went right into her arms. We made a quick stop at WalMart for necessities, grabbed late supper at McD's drive-through and hit the road for the last 20 miles home. A big thanks to Belinda who looked after the house, cats, and dog while we were gone.

We got to see some of the flooding in the Burlington, Iowa / Gulfport, Illinois area where the train crossed the Mississippi River. It will be a long time before all the water drains away, and many people can return to see what can be salvaged of their homes, farms, and businesses.

I guess I should step back a little bit and tell about our arrival in Champaign, After gathering our planeside luggage, we paused in the gate waiting area to change Miaya into her party dress that cousin Kassondra picked out for her over two years ago, change her diaper, and collect our wits a little before heading out to meet some of Michael's family.

We rounded the corner and there, out past the security point was Michael's mother, sister Laurie, and nieces Kassondra and Amy. AND, a woman with a very large video camera! It was Checky Beckford, a reporter from Channel 15 TV in Champaign. Michael's sister Laurie had called the station about our story, gave her the address for this blog, and she decided to do a story about us, our Illinois connection, and a little about international adoption in general and some about adopting from China specifically. She did a great job on the story, got the facts straight, and put together a nice piece. We were the second or third story on the 1o o'clock news. It took a lot of concentration to sound coherent after being up around 26 hours at that point, and spending nearly 20 hours on airplanes! But, we pulled it off.

There was also the little fact that we were about an hour late leaving Guangzhou on the flight to Tokyo! First, they had to work on the air conditioning on the plane, then there was a line of severe storms to the north that prevented flights from taking off for a while. With only a ONE hour layover in Tokyo, we knew we were in trouble! On arrival in Tokyo, we had to wait for space at the gate, and we were getting really worried. Then came the announcement over the PA that would all passengers NOT connecting to Northwest flight 26 to Detroit (we were to be on NW 26) please remain seated to allow those who were to exit quickly -- yeah, that REALLY worked!! After we finally got off the plane, there were NW people with signs directing us directly to gate 22 as they were holding the plane for us! It was a mad dash up and around and across, frustrated by the security checkpoint, but we made it. Less than 10 minutes after we stepped on board, the doors were closed and the plane was being pushed back from the gate. Now we were free to wonder for the next 11 hours if our luggage had made the flight as well. The appearance of our gate-checked stroller was a good indication when we arrived in Detroit. (yes, all four suitcases made it) At the security check in Tokyo, they confiscated Kim's sewing scissors (short, blunt nose), the same ones that had made it through at least 5 other security checks including the same checkpoint in Tokyo. It had been a bit worrisome in Guangzhou when there was a special security point for NW 28 passengers (our flight), and another security check on the jetway just before boarding.

Irene, Miaya's possible cribmate, and her father and godfather ("Two Men And A Baby" as we referred to them) were also on flight 26 to Detroit. The two girls must have been close, because whenever Irene cried or fussed on the long flight, Miaya would turn around to look for her (three rows back), yet would ignore the cries of any other baby on the plane.

The first week home is kind of a blur, Miaya was kind enough the share her cold with Michael, and he was really out of it for several days. That plus trying to get a schedule established, and getting Miaya changed from China time to Iowa time made for a very sleepless and exhausting week. Things are getting better, Miaya is going to sleep easier, and earlier now, and we are beginning to recover. We felt very helpless, clueless, and inadequate on those long sleepless nights as we tried to convince an overtired toddler that it really was time to sleep. It really did not help on the occasions when, about an hour after she went to sleep, she would be standing in the crib screaming, so mom or dad would go to comfort her, and at the first touch, she would giggle and laugh! A great little actress this one is.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

MorePictures for Ms. Sophie!! Per Your Request.

Early morning on the plane.

Do I look Pretty Mommy?
Miaya at the Champaign, Illinois airport in her party dress ready for her family debut.

Extreme Cousins!
Amy (in black) age 25, and Miaya age 14 months, the oldest and the youngest.

Miaya at her first antique tractor show.
Take a close look at the sign! A big thanks to Uncle Jon for the surprise.
Miaya meets Cousin Jennifer

Miaya with Uncle Jon (Michael's brother).
Thanks again Uncle Jon for bringing the tractor Michael inherited from his father to the show.

Miaya with Aunt Dee

Newest American Citizen

Detroit, Michigan - July 10, 1:32 PM EST

Miaya Annalyn Marie Fourez became America's newest citizen when Northwest Airlines flight 26 touched down at Detroit Wayne County Airport. Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2001, Miaya became a citizen the moment she landed on American soil. The law confers immediate citizenship on minor children adopted abroad when both adoptive parents saw the child before the adoption was finalized overseas.

Back In The USA

Yep, we are back on American soil, though not all the way home to Iowa. We are in Eastern Illinois visiting Michael's family, and will continue the trip home to Iowa in a couple of days. We were sweating it for a while, as we are returning to Iowa via Amtrak, and flood damage had closed the rail line across southern Iowa. But, the line has been repaired enough to allow traffic, and we will be able to keep our original travel plans intact.

I have been a bit lax in my blogging lately, but we have been caught up in getting to know our new daughter, and in enjoying our last days before returning to reality. In Guangzhou we visited the Chen Family Temple, went to a Buddhist temple where our babies were blessed in a traditional ceremony, enjoyed time in a local park, and haggling with shopkeepers on Shamian Island for souvenirs. Eating at Lucy's, a semi-American style eatery near the White Swan Hotel, and at the Cow Bridge Thai Restaurant were also high points of our stay. Of course, the highest point of all was the hair-raising bus trip to the American Consulate to get Miaya's visa and other paperwork for entry to the United States. None of us had a death wish, but we were not so sure about the driver! As we settle back into "normal" life, I will review my notes and the 1,700 or so photos to post more about what we saw and experienced.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Worth A Thousand Words -- And Then Some!

Quality time with Mommy in Nanning

Based on pictures we received, and Irene's (in green) parents received from the Guiping orphanage, we think that Miaya and Irene were cribmates. Miaya certainly seemed to recognize her when we were taking the picture. We were told that Miaya was always concerned when her cribmate was gone.

My new life as a pack mule.

A sleepy traveler.

On the bus in Guangzhou

Happy Miaya at the White Swan Hotel

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The things we talk about!

We talk about pee
We talk about poo
We talk about every
little thing
they do

(with apologies to Toby Keith's I want to talk about me!)

But that pretty much sums up our days right now, we should probably have a scoreboard for who's child has done what! Miaya passed her final milestone of the "necessities", it was a memorable one - and it was quickly hustled out of the hotel room. The topic of conversation when our group meets for meals or in the hallway, etc usually involves the bodily functions of our children.

Today was a light one, a late start, then a trip to WalMart here in Nanning. This Supercenter is a lot smaller than one in the States, and the selection of many things is much more limited. It is located on the second and third floors of a building near downtown. The shopping carts steer on all four wheels, and brake automatically when you ride the conveyor between floors. We were able to find several things we wanted, although it was a bit of a treasure hunt interpreting/guessing at the labels on some packages. We had lunch at a KFC downtown before heading back to the hotel and a free afternoon,mostly spent resting, a heavy rainstorm postponed till tomorrow a visit to the Peoples Park a few minutes from our hotel, a beautiful park where people gather for all kinds of activities.

Miaya is coming out more all the time, she recognizes both of us, and wants us both near whenever she has her nap. I did not know it was possible to feel so much love for someone so fast.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Where Miaya Is Now

What more can I say?

Except that under Chinese law, she is ours now and forever! This morning, we went to the government offices and signed all the papers and promised to "never neglect, abuse or abandon" her, and that yes, we did want to adopt her. Once we get her passport, it's onto Guangzhou, and the American Consulate for her visa and other paperwork. Nine more days, and we'll be back in the States, and 12 more days and we will be home.

Monday, June 30, 2008

We Have A Daughter

Please join us in welcoming Miaya to our family.

It was the longest day of our lives, the waiting all day was horrible! Then the moment almost came too quickly, as the babies were swiftly passed out to the waiting parents. Jin Yu Zhu, now to be known as Miaya has been a "perfect baby". Our guide/facilitator has repeatedly warned us that we may not get a "perfect baby", and that there may be issues to face. It has only been a few hours, but so far it has only been smiles, giggles and laughs. She has eaten well and enthusiastically, and enjoyed her bath. Oh, we know there will be some rough times ahead, but so far it has been great.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

This is where Miaya will be soon!

We walked into our room in the Majestic Hotel in Nanning, and there it was -- The Crib. Ordinarily not an imposing sight, but in this case a glimpse of things to come. It hit us both hard, tomorrow night this simple crib will be occupied by OUR daughter!

At 3:30 pm tomorrow June 30, we will be at the Ministry of Civil Affairs office where we will meet Miaya for the first time. She will arrive from the orphanage in Guiping (guay-peeng) where she has been living,in the company of three other girls, several nannies, and the orphanage director. Tuesday, we return to the office where we will file the papers to permanently adopt Miaya, after that, under Chinese law, she will then be ours forever.