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Archive: May 2016

Another Big Day!

We had another super busy day in Beijing today: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Temple of Heaven were on the agenda. This meant HOURS of walking, and sadly, it was not a blue sky day. It was pretty smoggy, and we came close to breaking out the masks.

We started the day in Tiananmen Square. This time, unlike our previous trip, we were able to get close enough to the outside of Chairman Mao’s tomb. We didn’t go in, mostly because the wait is HUGE. Everyone in China wants to make the pilgrimage to see Mao. We settled for a picture outside instead.


After walking the length of the largest public square in the world, we entered The Forbidden City. It is truly spectacular. You can’t imagine the scope of it until you’re actually there. It was just as impressive this time as it was 6 years ago. Jack had a ball rubbing the gold knobs on each door for good luck!

We took a break for lunch at a hot pot restaurant well known for its dancing noodle pullers. I’ll eventually get around to a more in-depth recap of that (complete with video!) but for now I’ll just say that it was both delicious AND super fun. Once we were sufficiently fed we headed to the Temple of Heaven. Again, you cannot fathom how beautiful it is until you’ve seen it in person. Yeah, I know Epcot’s version is pretty, but nothing compares to the real deal.


Finally, we ended the day with dinner with our dear friend Jerry and his wife Ivy. They’ll get a whole post to themselves (hopefully I’ll have a bit of time on the train to Xi’An tomorrow), but for now I’ll just say how unbelievably lucky we are to have him in our lives.

Now it’s time for sleep, and not a minute too soon. This mama is tired!

Great Wall at Mutianyu and The Summer Palace

We headed out early this morning to the Summer Palace, which is located in the north of Beijing. Jack,lived the dragon boats and the Buddhist temple, and of course the huge marble boat. I think his favorite thing was the tags the put on the trees to indicate their ages. Green tags mean a tree is between 100 and 300 yea s old; red ones mean 300-500 years old. There are a LOT of red-tagged trees. <br>

After that, we drove about an hour and a half further to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We stopped for lunch, which was amazing. *Real* Chinese food is phenomenal, and worth the 14 hour flight to experience it. Just sayin’. <br>

After lunch, it was time to hit the wall. We all headed up on the cable cars, spent a couple of hours hiking up, up, up, down, down, and back up some more. We climbed a watchtower or two, and then it was time for the BIG DEAL. Mom and I headed back down via cable car, but Kevin and Jack took the giant toboggan to the bottom. <br>

Jack LOVED it. He loved it so much, in fact, that he slept like a log for the nearly three hour drive back into the city. This poor kid is EXHAUSTED, but he NEVER complains. He is just so excited to be here, and we’re just as excited to see it all through his eyes. The last stop of the evening was dinner, and now we’re tucked back into the hotel for the night.

Welcome Home, Baby

It’s no big secret that Jack has been super excited about coming back to China. He’s fading pretty fast this evening (Good Morning to y’all, by the way), but we were all VERY moved when we got to the hotel room and saw this:



We have big adventures planned for tomorrow. Tonight, though, we’re settling back into China. I can’t quite explain our affinity for this country, but man, it sure does feel good to be back. It definitely feels like a homecoming. Jack is over the moon and super proud to be Chinese. I’ll get into that a bit more another time, but suffice it to say he was crazy excited when we got to the airport in Beijing. He said “There are SO MANY CHINESE PEOPLE!!! I don’t see ANY Americans!” He was just beside himself that he (for once) didn’t stand out as different. I have absolutely NO doubt that this was the perfect time to bring him back here.

We Made It!

25 hours after we woke up, we have finally made it to the hotel in Beijing. We’re working on getting our VPN set up so we can update Facebook, but it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge. Jack was AWESOME. Both passengers and flight attendants remarked about how well behaved he was. He barely moved and didn’t make a peep the entire flight.

Next on the agenda is a shower, some food, and then some much needed sleep.

And We’re Off!

3AM came EARLY today. So far, at least, things have been going off without a hitch. We’re hanging at DFW for a couple of hours, and then we take to the skies one more time. Next stop: Beijing!

And once again, Jack is the chillest child EVER. He truly is super easy to travel with. I’ve never seen another kid go with the flow as much as he does.


Adventures In Adoption, or Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood

Jack informed me this morning that we leave for China in 120 hours. Now it’s more like 110. I think we *might* be a little excited.
Jack has always been an intrepid traveler. He’s been proudly hauling his own luggage since he was 3. I have lost count of the number of plane rides he’s taken. Don’t even get me started on the road trips. He’s a TROOPER. I’ve never seen a kid go with the flow as much as this kid does. Now, I love every little thing about my child. I love every hair on his head. One of the things I love the most, however, is his innate ability to adapt to his environment. He is so. Much. FUN to travel with.

Kevin and I have been around the world (literally). We have seen and done some incredible things (just ask Kevin about that goat). We have collected stories and memories from far and wide, but more importantly, we have collected friends. When our friend Bobby visited us late last year, Jack thought it was totally normal that he was visiting from Kenya.

A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to meet up with our friend Jerry, from Beijing. He was visiting Florida with a Chinese delegation. We met “Uncle” Jerry on our last trip to China. He was our assigned guide, but he immediately became our friend. He explained it to us like this” In Chinese culture, you have a “yuan” with some people, a kind of unexplainable, invisible connection. Your paths are destined to cross and remain tangled for life.


In Changsha, Ashley was our assigned guide. The minute we landed at the airport we recognized him. He is the only person on earth who has known Jack *exactly* as long as Kevin and I. Again, he became so much more to us. On our last night in Hunan, he and his family hosted us AT THEIR HOUSE. To this day, I’ve never heard of another family who has had that experience.

Since we brought Jack home, we’ve kept in touch with both Jerry and Ashley through email. We send pictures and updates a few times a year. Kevin installed WeChat so now we actually get to talk to them, too, which is super fun. When we planned this trip, we made sure that we included plenty of time in Beijing and a side trip to Changsha with the hope that we could squeeze in a visit with both of them. Jerry is busy, though, and he travels all the time. Same with Ashley. This was by no means a sure thing.

The Universe did what the Universe does, though, and sure enough, I’m BEYOND excited to say that we will get to spend a little time with them BOTH! We’ll see Jerry next week in Beijing. He had a last minute cancellation of his planned trip to France, which sucks for him but works out great for us. In an even crazier turn of events, Ashley was actually assigned to be our guide for our trip to Chenzhou, so we’ll be spending the ENTIRE DAY with him. We’ll even get to see his wife and kids later in the evening.

I am a lucky, lucky girl. I have friends on almost every continent (I don’t know anyone in Antarctica, sadly). Even better, my child has people in his global village he can call on. He knows that the world is so, so much bigger than his backyard. His neighborhood is HUGE. He will grow up knowing that, while home is a wonderful, safe, happy place, it’s also the place where adventure begins. He will be able to leave the nest with the confidence that only comes from navigating the world outside his comfort zone. His passport, already half-filled with stamps and visas, will tell the story of a life spent exploring. He will learn that people all over the world have SO MUCH to teach us, if we’re willing to learn. Xenophobia will never exist here.

And in 106 hours, we get to make HIS world a little bigger, by making THE world a little smaller.

Adventures in Adoption, or, You CAN Go Home Again

We leave for China in 7 days. One week. This trip, one that’s been a year in the making, is finally upon us. Hard to believe. Visas have been obtained, i’s are being dotted, t’s are being crossed, bags are being packed, house sitters are being paid. In short, we’re just about ready to go. Those of you that know me know that I am one hell of a Cruise Director. If you’ve ever travelled with me, or if I’ve ever taken you to Disney, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pretty sure this is me.

Our itinerary is…well, let’s just say it’s “ambitious” (because in reality, it’s straight up crazy town). We are packing every big thing about China into 15 itty bitty days (and yes, I AM HOLDING A PANDA). I have obsessed about planning every detail of this adventure. I’ve spent countless hours on YouTube researching each and every stop, from the Reed Flute Cave to the Summer Palace. I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Chinese street food. BUT.

NONE of that is why we’re doing this. Yes, we want to see all the cool stuff. BUT. This trip belongs to Jack. He asked us if we could go back to China. We said “Of course”. He has shown more than a little interest in his heritage. It’s not surprising, then, that our house has turned into China Culture and Adoption Discussion Central.

It began to ramp up around Christmas: subtle questions about China, an increase in discussion about his Birth Family, a bit more of a struggle with his identity. Lately (read: in the past three weeks) there are almost daily conversations about whether or not he is a Chinese citizen or an American one. He knows the difference, and he knows his truth. BUT.

The inevitable pull to be more of who he is has surfaced. Right now, he wants to be more Chinese than American. That’s okay. The tide of his identity will ebb and flow. Right now, he’s still young enough that American cultural bias against China has not set in (making it, by the way, the perfect time to take him on a tour of his Homeland). Right now, all of these feelings are bouncing around inside of him. He doesn’t quite know what to make of it all, but that’s where his Daddy and I come in.

If you think I can research travel itineraries, you have NO IDEA how much effort I can put into broadening my parenting education. I have read every book on taking your kids back to their birth country (this one is my favorite). I have read JACK every age appropriate book about returning to China. We talk about it all. The. TIME. No subject is off limits. Lately, he’s been fixated on the orphanage visit (so have I). He *really* wants to go back to Chenzhou. He told me “It’s a happy building, Mommy”. I love that so, so much.

Jack and I both have some apprehension and anxiety about returning to Chenzhou, though. He’s been having a little trouble sleeping lately, and he’s been a bit more sensitive than normal. I, too, am admittedly, on edge, especially when it comes to him. Never in my life have I wanted to protect him more than I do right now. Even watching him from afar during PE at school today, I wanted to fuss at a couple of the kids who were being less than kind to him. Sure, it was typical First Grade trash talk, but still. Every slight hurts a little these days. I want nothing more than to lock his tender little heart in a box so it won’t be damaged. Feeling that and acting on it are two entirely different matters, however, so instead I put on my Big Girl Panties and move on. We’re navigating this emotional minefield together, and so far, we’re doing okay.

On any given day, by bedtime, we’ve talked about his Birth Family (who and where they are, and why he doesn’t know them), culture, citizenship, his orphanage, and the first 18 months of his life before us. Think about that for a second. It’s a whole lot more than most families tackle during the car ride to soccer practice or piano lessons. That being said, we are VERY fortunate that there are such great resources available to us. Mostly, though, we’re lucky that we have such a resilient, curious, loving kid.




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