Monday, November 30, 2009

First day on our own

Picture 1, 2, & 3- Jonathan wanted to do school work like the big kids.
Picture 4- Apparently the big wheel is too easy, he thought he would try the bike
Picture 5- Jonathan and Jordan

Today Jeremy went back to work after being out for almost a month. This left me home alone with the 5 kids. I am happy to report that we are successfully surviving! (although we do miss having Daddy around!) We started back to school work today after taking last week off. I have come to the conclusion that all of us need routine. The routine of doing schoolwork. Routine gives us something to do instead of wandering around aimlessly looking for trouble. We have started out very slowly, but accomplished what I set out to do. We even successfully navigated a trip to the library and the pet store. Don't get me wrong, it has been a LONG day, I am tired and it is only 3:46- how many hours till bedtime? But all the kids are alive, they cleaned up the playroom and now everyone except Jonathan is watching Home Alone (courtesy of the library). Jonathan is playing trucks and going from room to room checking on everyone. Only 2 more hours till daddy comes home. I think we can make it. I am sure not all days will go this smoothly, but for now I enjoy the fact that today was a good day!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Has it really only been 1 week?

Picture 1: The many faces of Jonathan. He likes to pose and then see his picture in the camera.
Picture 2: Thinking of what he can get into next
Picture 3: The princess gets the sofa for movie night.
Picture 4: The 4 Shafer boys snuggled down for our first movie night as a family of 7
Picture 5: The 5 Shafer men at the playground.

It was only 19 days ago that Li Futing was first introduced to us. It was 18 days ago that he officially became Jonathan Futing Shafer. It was only one week ago that we arrived back home. This last week has been one of the longest weeks of our lives (makes the trip to China seem like a vacation) but in some ways it seems like we have been a family of 7 forever.

Jonathan is a ball of energy who is constantly on the move. He LOVES to be outside. He rides his big wheel all over the driveway. He runs (Jonathan style) from one end of the house to the other pushing his cars up and down the hallway. We are thrilled that he is such a happy energetic boy, but all that energy can wear out Mama and Baba!

Here are some things that have changed in just one week:

  • We are starting to get a bedtime routine in place, and that helps him sleep through the night. I am being reminded that there is nothing like rocking a child to sleep.

  • When we were in China, if you tried to rub his back he would cringe and move away. He now allows me to rub his back.

  • He is starting to repeat and say many English words. He can say the names of his 4 siblings, "where ball?", "uh-oh", "hello", "bye-bye", count to 3, and say "please."

  • We have discovered that parenting 5 children under the age of ten is hard, but rewarding. It is really cool to watch the older children rise to the occasion and help care for Jonathan.

He is the perfect fit for our family, the piece of the puzzle that was missing. (Jeremy says the puzzle is now complete!) The neat thing is that the four older children have said things like- "When we adopt another child..." While this makes Jeremy turns pale, it also confirms for us that so far this has been a good experience for them.

It hasn't been easy for them to suddenly have a 3 year old who thinks it is funny to turn their Wii off in the middle of the video game; to have a 3 year old brother who suddenly is taking up a LOT of Mom and Dad's time; to have a brother who laughs and pours water over your head in the tub!

Without hesitation they have welcomed Jonathan and loved him unconditionally. He is a brother to them, and he is part of the family!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Five Part Harmony

While we were in China, I began to mentally compile a list of things about my “ordinary” life back home that I took for granted. China is a great nation but it is very, very different from the U.S.A. Travelling far away from home has made me extra thankful for these things:

1. In my house, I can get clean, drinkable water right from the tap.

2. Even though I live close to a major city, the air quality is good enough to support the lives of pigeons, sparrows and the like.

3. I can choose to attend (or not to attend) whatever church I choose without fear of retribution or scrutiny.

4. The size of my family not mandated by the government.

5. I have the privilege of having siblings, and my children enjoy that same privilege.

6. I work a 5 day work week, and enjoy a two day weekend.

7. In my country debate and discussion of political ideas is encouraged, and there is a balance of power between political parties and views.

8. I get to vote. I have a voice in selecting my leaders and I am free to influence the direction of my government.

9. I live in a country united by a common language.

10. I live in a country where disabled persons have rights, and may not (legally) be discriminated against.

So, if you were looking for something to be thankful for today… there’s some food for thought there.

Speaking of Thanksgiving; today was Jonathan Futing’s first Thanksgiving with us. He was quite happy at Mom-mom and Pop-pop’s table (he really likes corn) and we were happy to be there too.

While I am thankful for all that has happened this past year, I should also acknowledge that adding to our family has been a challenge. I feel like I am learning how to parent all over again (you’d think I’d have it down by now!) I have decided that adding a child to a family (through adoption or birth) requires Mom and Dad to learn a new variation on their own parenting theme. Just as a musician knows how to play notes and chords expertly but must arrange and deliver them differently with each new piece they learn.

Playing 5 pieces at once is quite a stretch! Kim and I both sometimes wonder if, perhaps, we have just lost our minds in accepting this challenge. We're stumbling through learning this new arrangement and we’re betting our lives that, somehow, God can make a five part harmony out of all this noise!

Monday, November 23, 2009

It’s good to be home!

So, like, when Kim wrote "Jeremy will post more later," she put me on the hook to come up with something in short order. Fortunately that's not too hard.

It is so good to be home. Going to get Jonathan was the adventure of a lifetime! Still, when I woke up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning and realized I was hungry, and then realized that I could just get up and go into my own kitchen and eat a bowl of cereal ... was that ever nice!

I suppose I should try to fill in the 48 hour or so gap that covers the last bit of our travels. But there's not a whole lot to say: train, taxi, "Wow. Hong Kong is huge! I wonder if our breakable souvenirs will survive this taxi ride?" Hotel, eat, sleep, fourteen hours on a plane, HOME!

Our homecoming was wonderful. It started out with a long and not-so-wonderful immigration line at the Newark, NJ Airport, followed by an immigration officer who didn't know quite what to do with us.

But all that melted away when we were greeted by Mom-mom, Pop-pop, Aunt Suzy, Uncle John, Nephew Andrew and Cousin Lauren and ... KIDS! What a joyful feeling it was to hug and hold Amanda, Tyler, Jordan and Ben and to introduce them to their new brother.

We came home to a cleaned and decorated house (thank you Laura, Gwen and Denise!) and a small feast. I was worried that Jonathan Futing might be overwhelmed by it all. But once again he proved to be a resilient little boy. I think he was just grateful to be able to get down and romp around in the play-room here and his eyes lit up when he saw all the toy cars.

I have absolutely no frame of reference for this experience, but I think we're all adjusting to our new family pretty well. I fully expected that by now there would have been either a melt-down or a knock-down drag-out fight over some toy or another. Instead all is quiet. I even observed at least one instance of (gasp!) sharing.

Saturday night as we were getting ready for bed Ben said to Kim with a smile: "My Mom and Dad came home." In spite of our consistent and repeated attempts to convey to our children that we really were coming back (Kim, Mom-mom, and I all had our part in that) we wonder how much of this "coming back" business his four-year-old mind could handle. Two weeks to a four year old is a very long time. I'm happy to report that Ben is doing well. I'm hearing "Daddy, play with me!" quite a bit, and I am doing my best to give him (and the other children) extra dosages of Daddy time these days I am home from work.

So now we are into a season of firsts. Our first meals together; our first car trips (where will everyone sit?); our first walk around the block as a family of seven!

To give you a feel for the pace of things around here, I started this post at about 7:30 this morning, and it is now 10:03 PM. And Kim just remembered to run outside and get today's mail.

A little here, a little there, we’ll get the job done. In fact, I think that's good for tonight ...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Full speed ahead

We made it home! We thank God that our family of 7 is now under one roof. It is a lot like having a new baby. Jonathan is into everything, leaves a trail of cars and has to be watched every moment. Instead of sleeping with a teddy bear, he sleeps with 2 Hess trucks. Jeremy will post more later but for now here are some photos.

Photo 1 & 2 playground in China
Photo 3 & 4 first family game night as family of 7
Photo 5 playing playdough- (thank you Mrs. Doggett)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2 more sleeps!

We are on day 14 of our 16 day adventure.  We were joking with one of the other couples the other day that if you can come out "still standing" after this trip, you could easily win "The Amazing Race"!  (In fact, some of our taxi cab and bus experiences have reminded us of that TV show.)  This trip has been hard, but very rewarding.  This journey we began a little more than a year ago has taught us that with God's help, guidance, and direction we can achieve what may look impossible. 

God has used so many of you to help us obtain the funds needed to complete this journey; so many of you have partnered with us in prayer; so many of you have supported us in ways we will never forget.  We are thankful to God for each and every one of you who have partnered with us to make this dream of adding Futing to our family a reality. 

We realize that we have been blessed with a little boy who was loved and well taken care of even before we saw his first picture.  His foster mother must be a very special woman.  This is quite evident in Futing's behavior, attitude and disposition.  We will forever be grateful to her for taking such good care of our little guy for the first 3 years of his life. 

We also realize that this journey is not ending.  It is really just beginning.  In about 72 hours our family of 7 will be under one roof for the very first time.  We
enjoyed our time in China, but we are ready to go home.  We are realizing that once home, the journey will get harder.  Having a 3 and 4 year old under the same roof is a recipe for squabbles and conflict.  All 5 children are going to need special attention as we learn what our new normal is going to look like.  We ask that you continue to partner with us in prayer.  In the next few days, please pray for us as we board a plane for a 14 hour flight home.  Pray for strength for Mom mom as she continues to parent in our absence.  Please pray for a smooth transition for all of the Shafer children.  Pray for Futing as he is introduced to his siblings and especially for Ben, our 4 year old, as he now has to share Mommy and Daddy with this little boy we have been calling Jonathan.

The pictures with today's post are from the famous red couch here at the White Swan hotel.  Many, many adopted children and their parents have had their pictures taken there!  The rest of pictures are from a celebratory romp in the play room and in the near-by play ground.

Tomorrow afternoon we'll be getting on a train headed for Hong Kong, and then its just an overnight hotel stay there and a short 13 hours or so in a plane and we'll be home!  It's likely that this will be the last blog post until we are back on American soil. 

Pray that Futing sleeps on the plane ... a lot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I do solemnly swear ...

Today was supposed to be a slow day where the only thing on our schedule was to check the voicemail at our hotel room's extension at 12:00 noon.  Our facilitator, Shiyan, told us that no news would be good news ... that is if we didn't hear from her, it meant that there was nothing wrong with our paperwork and everything was on track.

So we ran some errands and walked around the square here on Shamian Island.  The photo here is of Futing posing with a statue of a music teacher being followed by children.  There are a number of statues like this around the square.

When we got into our room at about noon and saw a red light on our phone, we both thought "Uh-oh."  But there was no cause for alarm.  Shiyan's message said that our paperwork was fine and that the U.S. consulate wanted us to come to take the oath a day early.  So, off we went with the other families in our group.  The task at the consulate was really pretty minor compared to other hurdles we have cleared: simply wait around with a bunch of other tired-but-giddy adoptive parents and wait for your child's name to be called.  

One couple in our group held eachother's hands over their heads to form a human arch for another family to walk under when their name was called.  That sort of caught on, so we passed through a similar human arch made by about three other couples when the name "Li Futing" was called.

Then it was a quick sign here and sign there and wait a few more minutes and then pick up your papers again.

Then came the oath "I do solemnly swear or affirm that ... " and it was done.  I'll pick up Futing's visa tomorrow and when our plane lands in Newark, he will be an American citizen.   Citizenship certainly isn't the only gift we have to offer Futing ... but it is an awfully important one.  I have come to appreciate my country a good deal more over these past few days.  I'm glad that Futing will be able to call it home!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A rainy day in Guangzhou

Praise the Lord! Futing's TB test was negative so we are good to go!   Tomorrow we have our consulate appointment ... not sure what happens there ... we don't even go! Our guide goes on our behalf, but we do need to be in the general neighborhood if we are needed for some unexpected reason.  On Wednesday, we have the "Swearing In Ceremony" at the consulate, Thursday we get Futing's passport and then (huzzah!) we begin our journey home.

Futing has been doing fabulously well.  His favorite english phrase is "Good Job" and he claps when he says this.  He is now saying "Wuh eye nee" to us (this means "I love you".)  He is giving hugs, kisses, and referring to us as Baba and Mama. He loves cars of all kinds and playing peek-a-boo.  

Don't be fooled though, he has had some melt downs.  As he becomes more comfortable with us, he is pushing more boundaries and sometimes yelling at us in Chinese.  Parenting in full public view is always difficult and it is a tad more stressful when you can't understand what your child is saying ... but EVERYONE ELSE can.  (The potential for humor and/or catastrophe here is vast!)   It will be interesting to see how he reacts when he realizes he is not an only child.  I am sure we will have more squabbles over sharing and learning what it means to be a part of a family of 5 children.  Please keep us in your prayers as we navigate what will be a new "normal" for us. 

Today, it was raining so we went to the mall.  It was about a half hour cab ride from our hotel.  We actually felt normal for the time we were there.  We were probably the only Americans in the mall but shopping in a mall is the same in China as it is in the USA. 

Initially we were going to fly out of Guangzhou at 11:00 PM on Thursday night, but after consulting  with our guide we have decided to take the 5:00 PM train to Hong Kong instead.  This will allow us to arrive at our hotel around 8:00 PM instead of 2:00 AM (which would be our arrival time if we fly).  Friday our flight leaves around 11:30 AM (I think) and we arrive home around 1:30 PM ... just a short 2 hour flight!  (OK really it is about 13 hours!)  It will be so good to be home and back with our other children who we miss terribly. 

Numerous Chinese shopkeepers and people we have just talked with on the street have remarked that he is a lucky boy to have a family in the USA.  But really, we are the lucky ones to be adding such a wonderful, humorous, giggly little boy to our family.

Attached are some photos of us.  They are:
  1. Futing sporting some cool sunglasses
  2. Futing and Baba goofing around
  3. Kim and her friend Melissa checking out the Mall directory (quick!  Where's the Chinese/English dictionary!)
  4. Baba, Futing and Ultraman!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eleven days in four minutes

Here is a video montage recap of the last eleven days.

I was able to do this because Kim took Futing down to the play room. 

I had a quiet room, and they had a wonderful time as well!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baby Book Firsts

So far this has been a slow-paced morning for us here.  We just wrapped up a longish Skype session with the children and Aunt Peggy and Lauren (who are pinch hitting for Mom-mom at the moment.)

Kim started to sing "The Wheels On the Bus" with Futing.  He peeked in the mirror by his bed, saw me, and said "Baba!" 

I said,  "Ni hao, Futing"

Then it was a giggle and "Ni hao, Mama."

And then it came ... our first, spontaneous hugs from our little guy.  Futing hugged Kim, and then scrambled across the bed and hugged me. 

Kim and I were both stunned and happy and, if we let ourselves, I think we both would have had a good cry just then!

In the play room at Shenyang -- 11/13/2009

Hmm, it seems to have worked!  Here's another video.

By the sea in Dalian -- 11/12/2009

Having trouble posting video.  I hope this works!

Two great compliments

We woke up this morning feeling a good deal more optimistic about our room here at the White Swan.

We slept as late as we dared and then got ourselves down to breakfast, so we could get back in time for Mrs. Shiyan Zeng to visit us at 9:30.

A quick word about breakfast. The complimentary breakfasts at the hotels we have stayed at have been very good. They all have featured an interesting variety of foods: dim sum, bacon, congee, pizza, sushi, corn flakes, leek bread, tofu, pickled eggs, fresh fruit, and more have all been present. When you are serving an international clientèle, I guess everything is up for grabs! The White Swan was like all the rest, and then some. I don't know as I have ever seen a breakfast buffet quite so diverse and bustling with activity as I saw today!

This sort of breakfast has been a real blessing because there have been a number of days on this trip where our schedule was such that Kim and I ended up skipping lunch. So, having a good variety of choices, without the linguistic difficulties in ordering food has been really great.

Anyway, we got back up to the room in time to meet with Shiyan. She helped us request a child's bed to replace the crib, gave us a positive update on the status of Futing's passport and told us when we could meet the rest of the families.

Today was the day for medical appointments. Each child was given an examination. We received two very nice compliments in the doctors examination room. The doctor asked Futing to point out baba, and he pointed to me. The doctor asked Futing to point out mama and, without reservation, he pointed to Kim. This was great!

I also was using my best (and admittedly rehearsed) mandarin phrases on Futing. Stuff like: "This is the doctor," and "It's OK," and "Don't be afraid." The doctor told me "You speak Chinese very well." He was probably just being nice, but it was good to hear!

Shortly after that, each child had to receive between four and six shots. Thanks to the Hague conventions, that's what he had to do. Futing got six shots. This was the lowlight of everyone's day.

One of those shots for Futing was a TB test. Please pray that it comes back negative on Monday!

After the shots we all waited around for the mandatory 20 to 30 minutes. Futing had a "mama moment" just then ... but it passed quickly. When we were all cleared for take-off, the families all went their separate ways.

We went to lunch at Subway. We learned there that Futing LOVES potato chips. Unfortunately, Futing also had a melt down over not being allowed to eat ONLY potato chips for lunch. I think he probably cursed us out in Chinese! (We're not sure, but everyone else in the restaurant must have heard him fine.) After we got him to eat a couple of other things, he got his one bag of potato chips back (he had wanted to eat his, and ours as well!)

We all needed to recuperate a bit from the morning so we took a walk around the square here. After some shopping, a Venti Carmel Macciatto (for Jeremy, not Futing) and nice long visit to the playground we all felt better.

A lot of other stuff happened after that, but it is late and this post has gotten far to long already. I also need to post some pictures or some video, or something!

I'll conclude with this. Tonight, Futing climbed into his little bed all by himself. He did not feel the need to surround himself with his coats and shoe. He went to bed happy, without a mama-moment. Considering all that he went through today, this was a great success!

All right, I am going to hit "send" on this post and then go find some video to share out as well. Good night...

Friday, November 13, 2009

God is Good, All the Time

I thought about calling this post "Get me off this ride so I can throw up", but God was good to us in so many ways yesterday that we do need to give Him the credit for getting us through the day. We had what was probably our first relaxing morning yesterday since arriving in China. We had nothing to do!

It was snowing outside and cold so we just hung out in our hotel room playing with Futing. Nice! We met our guide at 1:40 to check out and then went up to the hotel playroom to wait until we were to leave for the airport at 3:00. (We were to fly from Shenyang to Guangzhou, as planned.)

We cleaned up the playroom and went down to the lobby at 3:00 only to be told by our driver to come back at 3:30 ... so back up to the playroom we went. We came down at 3:30 only to be told our flight was delayed and we would leave at 4:30 ... so back up to the playroom we went. (Did you ever see the movie "Groundhog Day"?) We came down at 4:30 and thankfully got in the van and went to the airport.

Arrived at the airport and checked in our bags only to have my hairspray and shaving cream raise the attention of airport security. Our guide helped us convey that they were not dangerous. (We love Maggie!)

We were then told we had to hurry that our plane could leave at any moment, so we went running through security carrying our bags and Futing and got to our gate only to find ... no plane! I started to panic a little thinking we had missed the flight. No one around us spoke English. Jeremy asked a few people near us as best he could. A Chinese business man gave us a little reassurance, and a very nice woman who spoke English quite well "just happened" to strike up a conversation with us. She was a real God-send! When our flight was announced, there was a surge of people towards the gate and she was able to confirm for us that we were headed in the right direction. We had not missed our flight. We knew that all the flights were delayed because of the snow ... what we didn't know is that all of the electronic departure signs were not being updated to reflect the new information!

Finally, at 6:30 PM we boarded the plane. Futing was great. There were a few issues with him kicking the seat in front of him. But not too bad. When the cabin lights dimmed, he started to have a "mama moment" and we reassured him and gave him his coat to hang on to. (He doesn't like the dark, we think.) He finally fell asleep. Our flight landed at about 10:45. We got to the hotel about 11:30 PM and Futing who was asleep in my arms proceeded to pee all over me while Jeremy checked us in. What can you do but laugh and take a shower?

We got up to the room to discover a crib and 2 single beds. Futing is too big for a crib so we are going to have to make do. Maybe we'll figure out something better in the morning.

All right, that's it for now. We better rest while we can.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Please Pray

Jeremy and Futing are sleeping, but I am awake for now. I got up and looked out the window and the snow is coming down quite steadily. Please pray that there is no delay to our flight this afternoon. When we arrived our guide told us we were quite fortunate that there were no delays to our arriving flight as they are common in good circumstances. We know what snow can do to Philly airports so I am a little concerned about what it can do in Shenyang.

I was just able to confirm with our contact at Children's Hospital that they were able to arrange an interpreter for Futing for our first evaluation appointment with them. CHOP has a fabulous adoption unit and one of their coordinators has been emailing with me during our trip to offer ideas and encouragement.

One more thing

A quick thank you to everyone who has either emailed us or posted comments. We have gotten them and read them. We really appreciate all of your encouraging words and prayers. The one thing that has kept us going on this trip has been being connected to those back home. I don't know how adoptive parents managed this journey without the technology we have today. It has been wonderful to get emails and most importantly be able to skype with our children back home.

Side note- We were able to weigh Futing tonight, he is about 33 pds. This is about the same weight as his brother, Ben. He is also very tall.

Futing is now listening to the Beijing Children's Choir on an MP3 player and slowly drifting off to sleep... we hope.

Back in Shenyang

We are back!!! Back in Shenyang that is. This morning we went to the square by the Sea in Dalian, where it was bitterly cold. It was an awesome view of the sea and of Dalian. We were thankful for this opportunity to see the city where Futing was born.

Futing was wonderful on the bus and fell asleep, when he woke up he asked "Where are we?" The little guy is so confused about where we are and where we are going -- just like his mommy and baba are! We are so thankful for our wonderful guide, Maggie. She has been great and we would be lost without her.

This experience has probably been the hardest thing we have ever done together in our lives and as a married couple. It has been physically draining as well as emotionally tiring. Futing has been wonderful. He has such a pleasant personality. He loves to make faces at himself in the mirror and laugh. As I type this he is trying to help Jeremy fix his CD player. We brought a CD player with us and he LOVES listening to his chinese music. For some reason the CD player is not working and Futing seems to think he can fix it. He LOVES to eat and eats a lot. He has been so good. Our guide asked him what he thought of us. He said he liked us. Whew! That was good news to us. He is just like any other boy and crashes his cars and then lines them all up again.

Night time is tough. When we start dimming the lights, he gets a sad look on his face. He will then either go get or have me get his 2 coats and his shoe. He then piles them all up and will lay there with a solemn look on his face till he falls asleep. You can tell at night time he is thinking of his Chinese foster mama.

On a funny note, last night I told him in Chinese it was time to go to bed. He then repeated me changing one of the words. He is now correcting my mandarin!

I said earlier this has been the toughest thing we have ever done, but it has been so worth it. Our love for this little guy is growing everyday. My views on international adoption are changing, but that is a post for another time. I am so thankful that God has allowed us to travel this road and I am counting the days till our family is all under one roof.

Time to go think about dinner and decide if we want to go out in the snow. Yes, it is snowing here.

-- Kim

Jeremy's postscript: Ditto what Kim said. We are feeling both thankful and tired. In the early morning today I had a quiet time and found myself reading Jeremiah 29:11. I believe that is a very appropriate verse for Futing right now.

I was glad we got to see a little bit of Dalian, but it was so good to get back to Shenyang. Never have I been so happy to see a statue of Chairman Mao!

Not much luck with the CD player. Futing is listening to Chris Rice on my MP3 player ... the most soothing thing I could find.

The Chinese language (Mandarin, I mean) continues to fascinate me, but it also is mentally tiring trying to remember even the simplest words and phrases. The funny thing is that, because we know a tiny tiny little bit of Chinese, Futing assumes we can understand everything he says. He prattles on and looks at us knowingly. We smile and clap a lot... what can you do?? In the end, I suspect we will evolve our own little language between the three of us!

Futing is a great boy, and Kim and I love him already. On balance with that, there are four other kids out there that we are both aching to hug.

All right, I am going to put some pictures on this post and then see about dinner!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the bus ...

OK, I know I said I was going off line for a while. But I completely forgot about my cell phone's capacity to send e-mail.
So, no pictures or video here. But I can send this text as we rumble down the highway to Dalian City.

Our arrival in Dalian will mark the half-way point in our travels outside the U.S. It seems like it was much more than a week ago that we got on board a plane to Beijing.

Right now, Futing is sound asleep on Kim's lap. We are getting along well with our youngest child. We think he may have called Kim, "Mommy" this morning. We're not sure but, if he did, that is great progress.

I need to describe the bus we are on now. It is very much like the coaches my Dad would drive when he worked for Trailways years ago. It is different in that it has TV screens mounted in the front and middle of the bus, but otherwise it is the same deal.

I immediately thought of my Dad when the driver got on the PA system and said a few words to the passengers. My Dad would do the same thing. Only my Dad did this while sitting in the drivers seat. In this culture it apparently is more appropriate for the driver to stand, face the passengers as he speaks, and conclude his address with a slight bow. The driver also has an assistant of sorts (kind of like a stewardess.) She checks on the passengers, hands out bottled water and dramamine tablets if you want them. It seems that there is an unusual amount of people who suffer from car sickness around here. I have no idea why.

The thing that really inspired me to write this was the short video they showed at the beginning of our trip. It featured an anime-style cartoon stewardess who gave instructions about not eating or smoking or walking around while the bus was moving.

She gave some unexpected instructions as well. We were instructed to not sit in the center aisle. We were told how to use the fire extinguisher (how comforting!) We were told how to break the bus windows in case of an accident using the small hammer-like devices located around the bus. Then, we were also told not to STEAL the hammers.

This all seemed so funny to me. I had to work hard not to laugh out loud.

That's about it for now. I am going to click "send" and hope I have a signal.

Thank you to all who have been keeping us in prayer. It is so very much appreciated!

What day is it again?

Periodically Kim and I need to consult with each other in order to remember what day it is. The fact that we are routinely calculating the current time minus 13 hours, to keep up with what the rest of the Shafer kids are doing, doesn't help.

So, today is Tuesday 11-10-2009 and we completed the paper work, finalizing the adoption, this morning. After parting ways with Maggie we got some lunch and made a return visit to Walmart to buy Futing some pajamas and, much to his delight, a toy truck.

I feel like I am finally getting the hang of Chinese currency (repeat after me: "10 Yuan is a buck fifty. 100 Yuan is 15 bucks. " Get that through your head and you'll be o.k.)

Kim is Mommy, not Mama. Jonathan is supposed to be napping but is instead happily horsing around.

Tomorrow we will take a bus to Dalian city. It is a 4.5 hour bus trip (that's better than 6!) and both Maggie and Ms. Pan will join us. Maggie is our guide. Ms. Pan works for children's services in Dalian.

It's doubtful that we'll have internet in our Dalian hotel, and it may be a chore to get it back again when we return to ShenYang. We probably won't be on-line again until we get to GuangZhou late Friday night. It will be so good to meet up with some other crazy American adopting families there!

So, we wanted to make this one quick post and share this short video.

"Bye bye" for now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Being Real

We are hoping to attach a video to go with this post so that you can see just how cute Futing really is. He loves to watch himself on video and smiles for pictures. It is quite evident that he was well taken care of and loved. Overall, yesterday went well. We got lots of smiles. We learned that he loves watermelon; he sucks his one finger when falling asleep; he loves cars, buses and anything that can crash or go "teet teet" (Chinese horns go "teet teet" not "beep beep".) He also has absolutely no problem getting around. He hops extremely quickly using his hands and one leg. Yesterday we went to the playroom here in the hotel and he climbed the slide (by himself) and went right on down into a ball pit. He is all boy and will keep us on our toes.

If you are paying attention to the time you are reading this post, yes it is almost 5:00 AM here in China. Futing has a very bad cold and is snoring and breathing quite loudly and honestly Jeremy and I have not been able to sleep well with the sound effects, but he is sleeping which is the good news. Yesterday we had moments where he would get a really sad look and just ask for his mama. If we took him to look out the window he would just sit there as if he were looking for her down on the street. I am sure we are going to have many more moments like this. We are going to have our guide talk to him with us today, but I am not sure how you get a 3 year old to comprehend what is going on. We are also going to try and come up with another name for me like "Mommy" or something else as to separate me from his foster mom who must have loved him very much. We want to honor and respect the relationship he had with her we just need to figure out how to do that.

Please continue to pray for us. Pray that Futing will get better, that Jeremy and I will get the sleep we need, and that Futing will allow us to comfort him. Pray also for Amanda, Tyler, Jordan and Ben at home in the USA. Last night we were able to Skype with them and they were able to meet Futing. He was getting tired so it was a short visit. Pray for us as we are really, really missing them.

Some more photos from Gotcha Day

Jonathan is now coloring contentedly. Here are some more photos!

Gotcha Day 11-9-2009

Today is the big day! We're about half way through it. Jonathan is napping. Kim and I are tip-toeing around the hotel room and resting up for the remainder of the day. (And who knows what tonight might bring? Better rest up now.)

We went the ShenYang civil affairs office today to receive Jonathan, fill out some paper work, and get our photos taken. There we met Jonathan for the first time. He goes simply by Futing, or sometimes just Ting. So far he seems most responsive to the name Futing, so we're going to roll with that.

Our first moments with Futing passed so quickly. He wasn't sure what to make of us. Kim showered him with smiles and hellos. I tentatively wheeled one toy train car to him, and then another, and then another, until he had four and I realized he would be unable to hold any more. We got some smiles.

When the word "Mama" was used, Futing gestured towards the window. It's clear to us that Mama, his foster mom, was "out there."

We were pretty good until just after the photos. Then Jonathan started to wail. We did our best to console the boy (under the gaze of a room full of Chinese citizens) but it was pretty tough to do. Kim later said that this was probably the hardest thing she has ever done.

Futing settled a bit when we go to out car, and we suspect that he believed we were now going to see his foster mom. Futing has a cold (sniffles and an occasional cough) and he told us so through Meggie our guide. Futing wanted to know where we would go to get medicine? We made a stopped at a pharmacy for some cough syrup. Baba (Dad) would get it. He would stay in the car with Mama. He seemed pleased with this.

Back at the hotel we have played, eaten lunch (he has a good appetite!) and have gotten along pretty well. We know that Jonathan misses his foster mom. He has situated himself near the window and we think he is looking for her return. This is not as discouraging as it sounds. We are now certain that Jonathan was loved and cared for in his foster home, and that is a blessing. We are enjoying getting to know our youngest son, and tinkering with the few Chinese words and phrases we know to communicate with him.

Funny thing. In Chinese, there is a slang word pronounced Or-La (don't ask me how it is spelled!) it means "all right" and is used in place of "O.K." in English. We haven't had Jonathan 24 hours and he says "Okay-La" appropriately. He's a quick learner!

Jonathan is awake now, so I am going to wrap this up. Thank you to all who have been praying. The next 24 hours are going to be interesting!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A little bit of fun ...

This was yesterday. It took me 24 hours or so to get this off the camera and onto the blog here. I just had to share this ...

Ending One Chapter, Beginning Another

As quickly as we had made friends with the other families from Bethany, we have switched back to being our own again. This morning we flew from Beijing to ShenYang. We hadn't been past airport security long before I looked at Kim and said "I miss Joy." Kim missed her too! She was such a good guide. But Joy has now been replaced by our newest hero-of-the-moment, Maggie. She immediately won points with us by explaining that we had recovered from jet lag so quickly "because you are so young!" (Anyone who has just turned forty likes to hear that!)

ShenYang is noticeably colder. My jacket and hat feel good. Once we got into our hotel room, we started to discuss details about our meeting with Jonathan tomorrow. I won't get into too much detail here ... but there was a slight change in plans. We will meet Jonathan tomorrow as scheduled, but we won't travel to Dalian city until Wednesday. We'll return to ShenYang on Thursday and then we'll be back on schedule to travel to GuangZhou on Friday. It's all good, no worries. We lose a day of sightseeing (Thursday) but we gain a 24 hour period in which to get to know Jonathan before we get on a long bus trip with him. This suits us just fine! Don't get me wrong, I am sure that the Forbidden City in ShenYang is impressive (yes, it is different from the Forbidden City in Beijing) but having Jonathan with us is the whole reason we are here!

After we got some related details straightened out (thank you, Maggie!) Kim and I were free to spend the afternoon together in ShenYang. This was great. Kim and I both agreed that this was the most fun we had so far on the trip. The tourist attractions have been great, but this was just the two of us exploring and running a little errand in this busy city.

We ate lunch at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (managing to order without the aid of an interpreter, thank you) and walked I-don't-know-how-many blocks in search of a Walmart.

Side note about food: we have not been sticking to a strictly American diet here ... we have just had limited opportunities to stop and eat! And KFC was, well, THERE and familiar and we were hungry! Our breakfasts have been unusual, consisting of things like bean curd, fried noodles, and rice. Yesterday we had great lunch with other the other families. It was a variety of Chinese dishes served family style. It was different and fun.

OK ... back to our Walmart trip. Our purpose was to go buy a piece of luggage for Jonathan, but the excitement was in getting there. When walking on a ShenYang sidewalk, you must watch out for bikes, mopeds, and even cars! Crossing the street is especially perilous, and I was certain that I was going to see two pedestrians crushed as they walked between two buses.

The Walmart was unlike one you have ever seen. It was three stories tall. The ground floor was a cross between a grocery store and a farmers market. In the upper stories we found a bag for Jonathan, and also a variety of books and DVDs that he will enjoy (it's hard to find these mandarin language materials in the U.S.A., you know?)

Now we are back in our room and Kim is seriously nesting ... getting ready for Jonathan to arrive. I'm excited too. I know that he will likely have difficulty adjusting to these strange new people who call themselves Ma ma and Ba ba. But we are eager for a new chapter to begin in this story of ours. The chapter where we finally meet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The best is yet to come!

I am writing this from the hotel lobby, since the internet connection in our room seems to have been prematurely disconnected.  Side note: there is something just not right about hearing instrumentals from "The Sound of Music" while sitting in a Beijing hotel!

We have met up with three other couples from our adoption agency.  Two of them have already been united with their children.  Kim and I, plus one other couple, remain.

We have discovered that, out of the four families, we will have the most in-China travel.  This tests our stamina.  But I am also glad about it because it means that we will see the more of this enormous (and interesting) country.

Today we all went to see The Great Wall.  We were escorted Joy, our tour guide.  (Kim and I had our picture taken with her in one of the photos above.)  The Great Wall was really amazing.  It is hard to imagine the effort necessary to build and maintain that wall over many centuries.  It is also sad to realize that the Great Wall, for all its might, failed more than once to keep the barbarians out of the Emperor's domain.  It made me think about how some things are inevitable, no matter what great lengths we go to to prevent them.

So after a long (and sleepy) bus ride back to the hotel we came into the lobby to find ShiYan (another one of the guides) with details regarding the next steps in our journey.  We had to jump into action and begin preparations for our departure tomorrow.  We'll leave the hotel at 6:30 a.m. to travel by air to Shen Yang.  In less than 48 hours, we will finally, FINALLY meet Jonathan.

The tourist stuff has been nice, but this is the main event for us.  I won't kid you, we are tired.  We have moments of self-doubt (do we really know what we are doing?)  But we are excited too, we are learning a great deal, and we are very happy to be making a big difference in the life of one little boy.

That is about as good a write up as I can muster right now.  I need to go help Kim pack.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tourist Attractions in Beijing

Once we get Jonathan on Monday, there won't be much time for tourist type stuff.  (We also won't be in Beijing by then!) So, today our guide took us to see some sights.

We had the opportunity to go to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and a tour of Hutong which included a rickshaw ride, and a tour of a home. Because we leave Beijing before the other families in our group, it was just Jeremy and I with our guide Joy for the majority of the day. Tonight we went to an Acrobatic Show with one of the other families. The show was amazing! As I type, we are waiting for a Pizza Hut pizza to be delivered which will be our dinner. Not sleeping well last night has caught up with us so we will let the pictures tell about our day!
  • 1st picture is the Rickshaw ride
  • 2nd picture is Tiananmen Square
  • 3rd and 4th are of the Forbidden City (and no we do not know the little boy and women in the picture)

Feeling kinda tired.  But we're keeping our sense of humor.