Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Gracie has been a part of our family for almost a whole month now, and it is so hard for me to imagine life without her! Two of our favorite times of day are the bedtime process of tucking her in and when she first wakes up. I love being able to sing her to sleep and place her safely into her crib. I can't imagine her thought processes coming from a room of 20 babies, to a crib of her own in a quiet room with someone to rock her to sleep every night. When she wakes up first thing in the morning Brian and I are greeted with a little hand waving to us from across the room - Blessed beyond words!

We were not able to visit Gracie's home city or orphanage while we were in China. Perhaps one day we will make that journey with her when she is older. I am a part of an online group of families who have adopted from Gracie's particular orphanage. It was at this site that I was able to find these priceless pictures of the building and city where she spent the first 16 months of her life.

I want to honor Gracie's beginnings and handle the story of her early life with love and respect. So many of you have asked about her "story" and I feel these are the things we can share. We were told that she was abandoned at the gate of the Lianjiang Social Welfare Institution when she was estimated to be one day old in February of 2008. We were told that the majority of the children there are discovered in the same particular place by the front gate. The workers are not allowed to pick up the infants, but are to report the discovery to the local police. The police can then take the children to the orphanage to be cared for.

Gracie's "finding ad" was placed in the Yancheng Evening News in June of 2008. Gracie's picture, along with 31 other children's pictures, was placed in this newspaper to give any family member 60 days to come forward to claim their children. If no one comes forward during this time, the children are officially considered abandoned and will be cared for by their prospective orphanages.

Gracie was also named by her orphanage workers. The name "Jia" means home, or family. The name "Shu" means book or letter. The office workers who accompanied Gracie on the day we met her told us she was given these names in hopes that she would one day have a family who loved her and that she would also receive a good education. We will forever be grateful to the women who cared for our daughter in the first year of her life. What a priceless role they play in the lives of these little ones in the small coastal city of Gracie's birth. It is our prayer that every boy and girl within those walls will one day be placed with a loving family who will honor their beginnings as well. I'd take our little treasure over a winning lottery ticket or mansion any day!

The gate of the LianJiang SWI

The side of the gate where we're told most of the children are discovered.

Lianjiang SWI

The baby building

Liangjiang City

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Weekend of Firsts

Playing with my baby doll for the first time!

My first Sunday to go to church!

My first time to feed myself w/ a fork!

My first day at the neighborhood pool!

"Helping" build Quinn's new LEGO set

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Busy Week!

Daddy's Girl for sure

Must be Braham's Lullaby b/c I'm putting Ali asleep!

Poor Erin'sbloodshot eyes after our long flight

My first chocolate - The pics speak for themselves!

Today it's just me and the girls...all three! Brian and Quinn are off on a much needed Daddy-son day. They are in Altlanta catching an afternoon Braves game and also fitting in a visit to the LEGO store. Gracie had her first visit to the library and our favorite coffee hangout - Leopard Forest. She, of course, behaved like an angel!

Monday was her first official pediatrician's appointment. After having her ears cleaned out last week, she was not too happy to be back in that office! She had 2 immunizations, and 5 little vials of blood drawn - poor baby! I had to shed some tears myself when they had to draw blood in the lab. I was so grateful for a skilled technician who found a perfect vein right away, and performed her job pretty quickly. The doctor called yesterday to tell me that every test run (17 in all) were all negative -Thank you God! I'm so glad that's over with!

Tuesday Brian and I took Gracie to visit a surgeon in Spartanburg. Once again, it was overwhelming to hear of all the surgeries that Gracie will be facing at some point, but we were impressed with this particular surgeon and his knowledge of lip/palate surgeries. He travels with the Smile Train and has performed countless lip and palate surgeries in many countries - China included. You can tell he loves what he does, which is basically changing the lives of these children by such a simple surgery. He told us that he recently was able to perform a lip correction on a 45 year old woman in China. She had worn a mask her whole life to hide her defect, and for the first time is able to show her face. Isn't that awesome?! We will meet with another surgeon in Charlotte in 2 weeks, and will need to decide which one we will proceed with. We want to hear God's direction clearly in this. We could potentially be looking at her first surgery being done in August. She will haves tubes put in her ears at that time as well.

Last evening Brian and I were looking at pictures of Gracie in her orphanage. She now has such a bright sparkle in her eyes that wasn't present in those photos. We also noticed that when we first received her, and in almost every one of her pictures, she did this nervous little twitch with her hands. She hasn't done that once since we've been home, and we can only chalk that up to God's grace in allowing her to feel safe, loved and secure in our home. People have told us "She's so lucky"...We are the ones who are truly blessed beyond words.

"A Father to the fatherless is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families."
Psalm 68:5,6

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Life is good!

Happy girl with her sister

Lovin my bath time!

Using my baby signs for "more" blueberries

A beautful sight!

We're still here! We are slowly coming back from the jet lag and starting to feel a little more human! Brian was back at work on Thursday and is feeling much better. Gracie is finally sleeping through the night - 13 hrs! Yeah, Mommy and Daddy are happy about this.

This past Tuesday Gracie saw a nutritionist, an audiologist, a speech therapist, a geneticist and a plastic surgeon all within a four hour time span. She was an angel! She has a lot of fluid in both ears (we knew this could be expected with her palate) so we will be visiting an ENT soon.
It was a little overwhelming to finally be discussing Gracie's future as far as surgeries go, but God is holding our hands through every step.

Tomorrow is her first official pediatrician's appointment. She'll be having blood work done as well as a round of immunizations - fun for all huh?! On Tuesday afternoon we will meet with a plastic surgeon in Spartanburg. We are praying for wisdom as we make decisions regarding who will perform Gracie's lip and palate surgeries.

We could not be more thrilled with how well she has adjusted here at home. She walked for the first time (for us) the second day home, and she hasn't stopped since! She loves making us laugh with her silly faces. She is a little sponge and loves to imitate her brother and sisters, and is quickly picking up baby signs which makes it so much easier for us to communicate! She said "mama" and did the sign for mama the other day and completely melted my heart! She loves to cuddle (answer to prayer) and loves exploring the house and checking out all her toys. Did I mention she loves to eat?! So far her favorite has been lasagna - go figure! She also loves any kind of fruit. Another huge blessing has been the fact that she not only now tolerates her car seat, she actually seems to like it!

We feel so loved and cared for by our family and friends right now. I can't say it enough -It's so good to be home. I even manged shopping at Walmart without totally hating it although I must admit, it was pretty discouraging to come home to "back-to -school" displays. It's still July for heaven's sake!

The girls keep saying "This is so worth the three year wait", and I have to agree. We are blessed beyond imagination and are so grateful for this sweet little girl God so obviously chose for this family.

"Now to Him Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, glory."
Ephesians 3:20-21

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Travel, jet lag, and thank you's!

Sleeping on Daddy's lap

Making sure I follow proper plane procedures

Sunrise in Guangzhou

It's hard to believe our lives were forever changed 2 weeks ago when we met our new daughter! We are so grateful to be home. Jet lag has been a killer! Ali, Erin & Quinn have done so well. They've been waking up around 4am, but have been able to fall back asleep for a little bit. Brian was at the Dr. yesterday and is now on an antibiotic for bronchitis, so added to little sleep, he's been struggling. Gracie has been waking up around 3am hungry and ready to play. We're trying to keep that time as low key as possible to help her go back to sleep, which she does till around 9! We all struggle to not take long naps during the day. I will say it is getting a little easier as the days go by!

Friday was a long day - 26hrs total of travel time. Gracie did great and we were so proud of her. The hardest part of the day for her was when we put her in a car seat for our ride home from the airport. She HATED it! Praying this changes soon!
The 14 hr. international flight seemed like days, but Gracie only cried a little. She was content being passed around and slept quite a bit. Here are some of my survival tactics from the flight:
1. Quoting the same Scripture over and over every time there was turbulence (Sitting in the very back of the plane made for some queasy moments!)
2. Listening to David Walker on the ipod somewhere over Japan.
3. Thinking of ways to distract our three oldest from the at times not-so-kid-friendly in-flight movies.
4. Glaring at the people who consistently did not cover their mouths after incessant coughing - Hello!
5. Going through Bugs Bunny cartoon episodes in my head.
6. Counting the number of bathroom visits Quinn made - He was totally fascinated w/ the airplane restrooms!
7. Drinking water every time it was offered.
8. Telling myself after every movie played -"Two more hours closer to home!"

Finally, there are so many people we want to thank for being a part of this wonderful time in our lives. God has shown Himself over and over through the love and generosity of others and we are so grateful!

To Josh who cared for our family from Greenville to Hong Kong, and to Richard who helped us when we arrived in Hong Kong -Thank you! God definitely placed you both in our path to father us through that time of our travel.
Heather took such wonderful care of our home and pets. It was so awesome to come home to a spotless house! My sister Sue took care of our van repair visits while we were gone, took us home from the airport and brought us groceries and a great dinner - Zaxby's! I also could not have made it without the encouraging, prayer-filled emails from her, Missy and Lori that were faithfully sent while we were away.
Thank you to the wonderful "yard fairy" who took care of our lawn and even put down pinestraw for us while we were gone. What a blessing!
Our CrossRoads family began bringing meals yesterday, and we are so grateful to everyone for caring for our family in this way. I physically at times feel like I did after having a newborn, so the relief of not having to cook is huge!
My dear friend Missy was so wonderful to post my emails as posts while we were gone. I know that was time consuming, and the time spent means so much. It was bizarre to not be able to access blogs while in China. We have enjoyed reading all your comments since our arrival home. How I wish we could have read them while we were there!
Thank you also, Missy, for the beautiful flowers upon our arrival!
Our dear friends, the Pyles, met us at the airport for our late arrival w/ some great signs and an American flag for Gracie. They are one of the most giving, humble families we've ever known.
Our family and friends have all shown so much love and care for us all, and it is so humbling. The consistent prayers of everyone, the loving cards received and words of encouragement spoken are treasured by all of us, and will be for the rest of our lives!

Gracie sees four specialists in one office tomorrow, so your prayers once again would be appreciated! Our new normal is busy, but we wouldn't trade it. Gracie is a joy and we see her personality blossom more every day. We are incredibly blessed!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home as a Family of 6!

We're home.
We're safe.
We're exhausted.
God is good.

I'll post w/ pictures when I'm coherent!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Last Day in Guangzhou

Our last day here. In a way it seems like we've been here forever, and yet it all seems like a blur. It's almost too hot to do anything outside today, so we're just taking our time packing and letting Gracie play. She loves her toys, but will have nothing to do with any stuffed animals or dolls.

I cannot begin to tell you how much we love this baby girl. She is just a part of who we are now, no looking back. After the first three very difficult days, we are given new glimpses daily of the little girl God has created her to be. She is very shy of strangers, and now very trusting of all five of us. She can put down some fried rice and scrambled eggs, but we're still struggling to get milk and/or formula in her. She can be pretty stubborn and picky!

Brian and I have never been more proud of our other three children than we have been on this trip. Alison and Erin have stepped out of their comfort zones with such grace and have been such huge helpers. Even other families have commented on their attitudes and helpful behavior. Erin, our "people watcher" has been in heaven here. We're being stared at & pointed at constantly, so I don't have to get on to Erin for staring while we're here! She and Ali both love caring for Gracie and she is equally comfortable with each sister.

I am so thrilled at how well Quinn has done. We have been on the go almost non stop and he has been such a trooper. He's getting used to going with Daddy in the morning to the exercise room and sauna. He also loves Gracie and has been so good with her. Brian has been amazing on this trip. He has fought some congestion here (the air quality is, um, not so great) & hasn't complained once. He has been such a rock for me through some scary moments and through my emotional melt downs. I'm such a homebody, and I know he is too, but he has been so strong for all of us. I love him so much!

We are all so ready to be in our own home.The kids will miss the huge breakfast buffet every morning - Back to the reality of cereal and juice! I actually can't wait to cook and have the use of a dishwasher myself. I'm proud of how well we have all done being cooped up in two adjoining hotel rooms for 15 days. God is good!

I do have mixed emotions about saying goodbye to the country of Gracie's birth. I know she must have a beautiful birth mother because she sure is a beautiful girl herself. We did find out that she was abandoned at the orphanage gate and found by the local police when she was just one day old. We're so grateful that God had chosen her to be part of our family even when she was being formed in her mother's womb. Our prayer has always been that her birth mother would be a Believer - What a reunion in eternity that will be! We are grateful to her for her sacrifice, whether or not we will ever know her reasons. We are anxious to get Gracie home and begin the medical care and surgeries she needs.

We leave for the Guangzhou airport at 6am. As you prepare for bed (Thursday evening in the states!). Would you please pray for us as we travel? We're asking God for safety and His favor everywhere we go, as well as for a calm Gracie on the flights! When we go through immigration in Chicago she will officially be a US citizen - Praise God!

Thank you for sharing our journey and praying us through the last 2 1/2 weeks. We love everyone and can't wait to be home!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Playing with Bubbles

Never a Dull Moment

The past two days have been crazy. Yesterday God moved yet another mountain for our family. We were one of four families who received a call from the American Consulate saying that they had not received an approval cable for Gracie's Visa approval (The wonderful angel God brought across our path at the Charleston USCIS office had taken care of this for us before we left - There was no fault on her part!) When we found out, it was midnight in the States. We immediately emailed our social worker as well as our contact at the Charleston office. She responded first thing in the morning and emailed and faxed the appropriate form to the Consulate here. We were SO grateful and once again in awe of how God takes care of us. Only one family is still awaiting their approval cable and has already had to delay their travel by one day. Please join us in praying for them!
Yesterday afternoon we had the Children's Hope group photo and then all went to dinner together. I have to admit, I am so ready to be home, but I am going to miss all these precious babies. We are all so blessed.
Today we spent more time at the pool and actually started the re-packing process. This afternoon we found out that the Consulate did indeed receive our Visas 37 Cable, so we're literally good to go! All the families went to the American Consulate to receive children's passports and Visas and to take the oath for our children. (No cameras allowed)Have mercy - I couldn't hold back the tears.I was a mess! Three years had come down to this moment. There were over 30 families there (not just our agency) taking the oath and it was a surreal, beautiful experience. I'll tell you what, even walking in and seeing our American flag got me choked up. I pray I will never take our country for granted again.
Tomorrow will be spent packing and probably more time by the pool. We leave the hotel Friday morning at 6am for the Guangzhou airport. We'll have a one hour flight to Hong Kong where our international flight will leave at noon. Then the 14 hours of fun begin! We covet your prayers for that last leg of our journey.
Goodnight form China!
1. Our Whole Travel Group
2. Tooth Brushing Lesson
3. Priceless

Monday, July 6, 2009

Talking on My New Phone

Posting note-- an extra picture from Rachel's last e-mail.

One Week With Gracie

1. The hotel's apology for a leaking bathroom ceiling - Dragon eye fruit (Very good!)
2. Waking up w/ Ali
3. Daddy's girl
4. Yeah, well...
5. With our new friend Jordon at his shop
We cannot believe the difference one week has made in little Gracie's life. God has been so good to us and we are all head over heels in love with our girl. At dinner tonight Brian and I said it is so obvious that God created her specifically for our family.
Today was her first time on the pool. She stayed w/ Daddy and wasn't too adventurous yet, but at least she got in!
We headed back to Shamain Island this afternoon. We took our time shopping and ate dinner at Lucy's again. Gracie got a little toy cell phone.. She'll hold it up & say "Hi!" We need to change that to "Hey!" before we head back to SC! She is such a little copy cat. She'll grab a tissue & pretend to blow her nose, and even though she isn't verbal, she'll imitate the inflection in our voices. We are truly blessed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zoo Trip and Belly Laughs

1. Ready for the zoo
2. We were jealous of the water...It was so hot!
3. Baby bears
4. Snack time
5. Our kids love our guide Elsie - She's a gem!
We are all ready to rest after a very busy day! We spent almost three hours at the Guangzhou Zoo this morning. It really was fun, but it was pretty telling that the kids cheered when we saw the exit sign to the parking lot. The heat and humidity is truly unreal.
We ventured out with another family this evening to an awesome Italian restaurant. The owner is form New Jersey, and the food was incredible. Gracie eats bread like you wouldn't believe & really loved pasta tonight as well. The taxi ride back to the hotel was the worst (Brian thought it was great) yet. It made the Scream Machine at Six Flags look like a kiddie ride. Oh, I miss my safe little mini van and the fresh air of Greenville!
We got our first belly laughs out of Gracie today. I cannot tell you what that does for my heart. I can't believe she's the same girl who was so frightened on Monday. She really knows how to make us laugh - a true baby of the family. We are so blessed. We are so grateful for the Father's love and protection.
Tomorrow is another free day. We plan on finishing up our shopping. Counting down the days till we can be home. We love and miss everyone!

Low-Key Fourth

1. "Dear Grandma..."
2. Coloring with Ali
3 Sweet!
We kept Gracie in yesterday to monitor her cough. It was a rainy day & the only thing that had to be done was the paperwork for the US side of thhe adoption for Gracies' Passprt &Visa. Poor little one...She is crying so hard in her passprt photo! :(
She is such a little copycat. If she sees us eating something, her had is immediately out for her portion. She was "typing" on the computer, coloring with Ali and using the TV remote. She would aim it @ the TV & clap for herself making sure we all were watching. We attempted a bath w/o much success, but Daddy came through by taking her into the shower with him. She loved it, and I feel like she's "officially clean!"
We decided next year we will celebrate the Fourth of July like we never have before. We're all getting pretty homesick and are literally so grateful to be Americans. Our Independence Day dinner was Papa John's Pizza!
I am so gateful to God this morning. After coughing half the night, Gracie is sleeping soundly. It seems it may be an environmental thng. She is from a coastal, small city (We are in a very polluted city of 12 million) and she has never been in air conditioning before. Last night we turned the air off (Oh, a paren'ts love) and gave her Zyrtec before bed. We prayed into the night for healing and we are choosing to believe God for this.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Ups and Downs

Yesterday was another busy day. We visited the Chen family temple which was actually more of a museum of local arts and crafts. It was beautiful and fascinating, but the heat makes things, well, not so much fun! After our tour, Brian, Quinn and Gracie headed back to the hotel while the girls and I went to the pearl market. Talk about sensory overload. Five or six floors of nothing but jewelry vendors. I had my list of what we wanted, so we were done pretty quickly.
After Gracie's nap we spent a good hour in the hotel playroom. She was finally playing with toys on her own and actually crawled a little to get her toys. She still hasn't walked for us so we're anxious to get those little legs moving.
As we walked to dinner I thought she felt warm, and sure enough Gracie had a pretty high fever. She has had a cough since the second day, and we weren't sure if it had to do with teething, her palate, or getting used to air conditioning. We came back to our room to give her Motrin and started her on an antibiotic. Her fever is slight today so we're just going to hang around the room for the day & let her rest. She has been playing on the bed with Erin for quite a while. She will hand her a toy and clap for herself & then do it all over again. Its' so fun to watch little glimpse of her personality come out! She is a brave little girl, but is very cautious with opening herself up to trust.
Please pray for her complete healing. We're scheduled to go to the zoo tomorrow morning, and I would love for her to be able to go and enjoy it. Last night the rest of our travel group arrived her in Guangzhou- 18 families in all!
I have never in my life been more happy to be an American on the Fourth of July. Seriously - We are so blessed.