Wǒmen zàijiā!

Nicholas had long been in our hearts...for Ian and I since last March when we first saw his information, for the kids since last Mother's Day when we told them about him...and therefore  on our van family.  It was therefore a must to show him everyone was represented on the back of our Transit.  His smile of understanding was precious as we pointed out Daddy, Mama, each of his siblings and then himself.

Next came the getting settled into the confinement of his car seat.  Thankfully while there had been no seatbelts available in China as we rode around the cities, he didn't protest the sudden addition of restraints and rode happily home.

Can't tell you how wonderful it was to pull in our driveway and announce "Wǒmen zàijiā" (we're home)! Added to the joy of arriving home after so long were welcome signs and a cooler which held our breakfast (36 eggs, plenty of fresh fruit and assorted bagels with cream cheese).

Nicholas happily followed his siblings in the front door.

And didn't manage to get very far once he saw the playroom.

Legos...containers of building

And so as tired as we were we let him explore for a bit.
After all, you only arrive home for the first time once...

We let him open (and thankfully put away) nearly every container on the shelves before we managed to distract his attention enough to head upstairs and see his room.  Repeat awe and wonder when he saw the boys' Beyblade collection...

It was a late night after a LONG day, but it was worth the additional 30 minutes of awake time to watch him explore his new home.


the journey home

Our time in China was far exceeded our expectations.  We grew by one, enjoyed cultural highlights, loved seeing their birth country through the eyes of our children, and benefitted from the company of two loving grandparents.

We truly hated for the trip to end.  For all its frustrating parts and occasional weirdness, we love being in the land our children come from and would probably visit more if it weren't for the cost and time involved in flying there.

The time involved...the ONLY reason we were the sole folks in the lobby of the China Hotel at 4:10am on Saturday morning (Friday afternoon at 4:10 *home* time) waiting for our van driver to take us to the Hong Kong border.

while this next picture is out of sequence, I just had to show the front/back of our awesome team M8 shirts designed for us by my talented friend Melissa.  If you can dream it, she can create it on a variety of mediums not limited to shirts.  
check her out at Ridge Farm Designs!
did i mention that this is the softest, MOST comfy shirt I've ever owned? 

Our driver was a *wee* bit tired and was giving all the classic signs of struggling to stay awake.  That meant that both Ian and I (he sitting in the front seat beside the driver and me right behind the driver) were on full vigilant duty to react if he dozed off.  Most stressful two hours I spent in the country...

Finally we arrived at the border, piled out of the large van and then into two smaller vans which would actually drive us across the border and then take us to the airport.  So four hours after we left our hotel in Guangzhou, we were zipping through the Hong Kong airport looking for our gate.

After a 15+ minute walk...yes, that airport is HUGE...we found a section of seats and made ourselves comfortable as we waited to board our long haul flight.

Before we knew it we were getting settled in for the 15+ HOUR flight.  (All told it ended up being something like 15 hours 12 minutes in the air.  And yes, it felt that long and maybe longer).

In cattle class the seats were configured 3/3/3, not exactly perfect for our party of 10.  We worked it out with my Irish triplets in a center section and I had "the wee ones."

Grant had the luxury of siting by himself and even sitting next to an empty one to tap him to fix their screen or have to go to the bathroom.  I may have been a bit jealous of that fact...

That left Ian, Daniel and Mom to their little pod.

We watched movies.
We watched TV.
We played video games.
We read books.
We did sticker books.
And when that failed to entertain us, we slept.

For the record I was SO JEALOUS of my new son and his tiny shapeshifter abilities to fold in half and sleep in that seat.  Because for whatever reason I just couldn't get comfortable and had a really difficult time staying asleep when I did finally doze off...probably because of the whiplash I was giving myself as my head jerked about.

After what seemed something like eternity plus a day...honest, you'd think after seven trips back and forth I'd be a bit better of a flyer...we finally landed.  Some of us were even still smiling.

We paused for a second as we deplaned (which wasn't a big deal...we weren't holding anyone up.  We were the last ones off as we had to stop for a barf bag fill up.  Dramamine can only last so long...)

 to commemorate that Nicholas became a US citizen in Newark.  While I wish inwardly that there was a direct flight from China to NC so his immigration Visa would be stamped in our home state, one other of his siblings also achieved citizenship in Newark, and citizenship is citizenship.

I carried my sweet boy down the long hallway to immigration check where our family waited in the visitors line with our Chinese citizen family member instead of going through the returning US citizens line.

Our immigration officer welcomed us home, asked a few questions about our adoption process, offered congratulations and then sent us on our way to have Nicholas' documents checked and collected.

Before long we were reunited with Mom and Grant and made our way down to our gate for the final leg of our trip where my son once again made me jealous with his ability to get comfortable and sleep through anything.

Three of his siblings did the same.

And then finally we were in the air.

This time I wasn't interested in slowing down...

I knew that we had quite the crew waiting for us on the outside.

This is my sister and her kids plus most of our "Sunday family adoption fellowship group" that met for about five years plus one other local adoptive family we've become friends with.  
And let me tell you that when you're tired out of your mind and have been missing home, there's not much of a sweeter sight than your big kids running ahead and being embraced by some of their closest friends.

We chatted a bit, men went down with Ian to retrieve our luggage and then we were noisily escorted to our van by folks we love.  It was an awesome welcome home!

Wordless Wednesday {what's your sign?}

May 18, 2017
Yuntai Gardens


the oasis that is Shamian Island

Guangzhou is a bustling, sprawling city estimated to have around 14.5 million inhabitants.  There are so many buildings, so many people, and so many vehicles.  Yet one thing this city has done right is to keep massive green spaces...several of which are quite close to the China Hotel that we've either walked to, toured, or ridden the metro to visit.  (Liuhua, Yuexiu, Baiyun, Yuntai and there are SO many others!)

Another place that I like to visit to escape the fast pace of the mega city is Shamian Island.  

From our hotel it is just two metro stops, a line change and then four more stops then using a pedestrian bridge over a busy street and then crossing another pedestrian bridge over a canal.

The island was originally an important port for Guangzhou's foreign trade starting in the Song Dynasty and going through the Qing.  Later it became a place for foreigners to live and do business and during the time China was closed it was one of the only places foreigners could live in the city at all.  It is very Western in architectural style and very quiet as traffic control exists and very few cars are on the island.

We enjoy visiting for the fun statues,

strolling the wide, tree lined streets,

and shopping for souvenirs.

Ian was hoping to figure out a way to make this Tesla a souvenir.
this was in the lobby of the white swan hotel...apparently you can buy a tesla while on vacation
 And the kids seemed to wonder how we could get this boat carved out of one giant piece of jade home with us.


Each time we've gone to a park we've seen folks playing Chinese hackey sack.  Finally today Daniel decided to spring the $1.50 and buy himself one.

While they have a while to go to be half as good as the foursome playing behind them, after about 10 minutes of trial and error they were at least getting four bounces in before it went out of control.  Maybe we've found something to replace the Four Square craze at Quail Hollow this summer.

Another part of visiting Shamian Island is taking in the view of the Pearl River, the third longest river in China.

Before we left the park at the riverfront, we had to stop for a quick photo recreation.  How could it be 10 years already (including the link because the picture of us setting in this very spot all those years ago won't come up for me to copy) since our first visit to Shamian?

We paused to pose with a few more of the statues we came across.

And then grabbed a quick lunch to go from Subway as we wanted to have a big dinner out to celebrate a wonderful trip and we needed to get back to the hotel to meet Lee and get Nicholas' passport and immigration packet.

All day long though, I've been wrestling with the tension of being both beyond ready to go home and wanting to stay in this country forever.  There were a few stressful days when we first got to GZ as we relearned the lay of the land to know where we could get food.  (Thankfully we've had an amazing Mandarin tutor ~ Linda is worth every penny we've paid her ~ and Ian has a mind for languages as he's done most of our ordering in Mandarin good enough for several folks to assume he's fluent).  But overall it's been a trip far exceeding my expectations...and I feel like I have reasonable ones because this isn't our first rodeo.  And then you have the fact that while I feel like I stick out *just a bit* here and endure second, third and often fourth glances, one of my children commented that they love being in China because here "pretty much everyone looks like me." My discomfort is found in the midst of their comfort.   So here I'd stay because like any other mom, my heart wants theirs to be at peace.

I'm rambling.  It's late and the alarm is going off in just a few hours.  We've got an early start to the day to get to Hong Kong for our 10:30 flight back to Newark where Nicholas will officially become a citizen of the United States once we clear immigration...something that makes me both want to leap for joy and weep at the same time.

This is a complex road.  But it is a beautiful one and I'm thankful beyond what words can express that we, the M8, are walking it together, one step at a time.

{the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step} ~ Lao Tzu