Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Orphans No More

This afternoon we took our group picture on the stairs of our hotel. When we came down to the lobby, I looked around at our group and my eyes teared up immediately. I looked around at all the families with their newest children and once more was overcome with the blessing that is adoption.

18 families gathered to take a photo today and in those 18 families are 19 children who are orphans no more. They now have a future full of endless possibility, and parents and siblings who will love them for the rest of their days.

18 families gathered today and because of those 19 children, the hearts of the parents and siblings will never be the same. Those sweet children will be a blessing to their families in countless ways and will add to the joy and love in their homes.

We have had the honor and privilege to watch these newest children with their families for the last two weeks. And, as I said when I was here with Laura, the change in these children in just under two weeks is unbelievable. Eyes that were vacant and empty now have light and laughter. Screams of fear and grief have turned to giggles with Mama and Daddy. All of the children still have needs, emotional and physical, to overcome. Of course not all is healed in just a few days. But, what has happened over these few days gives us excitement and hope for all that is to come. What a difference a family makes. It just changes everything.

We are so happy to have been doubly blessed by the miracle of adoption. I am glad to call these families friends and am again humbled and thankful to be here.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

The middle of the run....

I lose motivation in the middle of my long runs. About half way through I start thinking things like, "I am never going to make it!" or "This was not such a good idea." or "What was I thinking?" But the thing about mid-run motivation issues is: it is really too late to turn back. There is nothing to do but press on. And then, anywhere from half a mile to a mile later, the motivation returns. I love running again. A fresh wave of energy courses through and I usually finish well...with some exceptions of course.

The end of the week in Zhengzhou found me in my mid-run motivation slump. I was missing my kids at home so much it hurt. Howie was still not bonding all that well with me (which is really hard by the way! My adult self remembers he has suffered a great loss...and comes from a very hard place...and a little time and space and room to grieve will make all the difference. But my selfish self wants to be loved in return.) Those last couple of days, followed by an extremely long day of stressful travel were my mid run slump.

Robert trying herbal tea. (Howie is sticking to water.) 
I woke up this morning (Happy Easter!) knowing only 5 more sleeps until we head into an even longer day of travel...but on the other end will be my precious children whose voices and faces I crave. I love China. I do love it. But it would be better with my babies here with me. Life is not complete without them.

And so...we are at the end of run, crazy motivated to finish well side of the trip. We had a great day today exploring Guangzhou and our new hotel. I got to catch up with a sweet guide who is just precious to me. I had a great time exploring a city I love with Robert, who missed it last time, and our newest baby who is getting healthier everyday.
Enjoying the hotel playground
Howie is doing well. He still loves his Daddy best of all, but he has fun with Mommy too. I am eager to get home to consult with a few doctors about some medical issues...but he seems to be developmentally right on target. He is all boy...runs, throws, jumps, builds, knocks down, makes a mess in the bath...everything a healthy 3 year old loves. He loves seeing his big brothers and little sisters on FaceTime. I can't wait to have them all together!









He loves Magformers as much as his siblings!







Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Orphanage Visit

Laura with her nanny in September 2015,
one month before we met her.
Today we visited Laura's orphanage. I did not go last time because she was still grieving the loss of her nanny and I didn't think it would be great for her to say another goodbye. (For the same reasons, we won't be visiting Howie's orphanage this time.)

Zhengzhou CWI
Gates of ZZ CWI
Laura was found at the gates of the Zhengzhou orphanage when she was one day old and stayed at the same orphanage

until we adopted her at 16 months. The orphanage is huge. It houses about 800 children. I asked how often they get new babies today and they said almost everyday.

We visited her room today and gave her nanny a photo card with pictures of Laura. The nanny remembered her well. She was pleased to have the card and showed it to the other nannies, saying "Hui Jing, Hui Jing" (Laura's Chinese name.) She showed us Laura's crib, which now is the home to a new baby, of course, and we visited with the nannies and children in Laura's room where she spent the first year and a half of her life.

Crib where Laura slept for the first 16 months of her life.
Now occupied by a new waiting baby. 
It was an emotional morning as we saw with our eyes where our daughter started her life, and knew that Howie's start was very similar, but his stay was longer. I am thankful both Laura and Howie had nannies who cared for them, loved them even. I am thankful for their strong spirits and determined natures that helped them in those early years.

As we walked the halls of the orphanage, behind each new door was a room filled with children without parents. Rows and rows of beds. And our hearts broke again for the children who wait.
This little girl has spunk! She captured my heart for sure!
She is living in Laura's old room. She obviously has
limb differences, but she won't let that slow her down!

At the end of the day we met a young man named Chau (but he wanted to be called Phillip.) He approached us in a wheelchair and asked us "How are you?" in English and our heads turned. We then had a conversation with him and found out he had learned English in two years. He said "English is very easy." and we all laughed...Chinese is very difficult! He grew up in the orphanage and now teaches computer classes there to the older orphans. At the end of the conversation he looked at us and asked, "Are you a family?" and it was all I could do not to weep there in front of him.
Lots of little babies waiting...

Every child should know the love of family. Every child should know what it means to have a mother and father who loves him. No one should be left behind.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reality Behind the Theory: Gotcha and Adoption Days

Howie's Gotcha Day April 10, 2017
At the end of two incredible but also very long days, Robert said "I understood what was happening here in theory last time. But I didn't understand the reality."

It is difficult to convey all the emotions of Gotcha Day and Adoption Day. In some ways, it is very much like a birth, in that we are so excited to meet our newest child and thrilled to finally have him in our arms and officially a part of our family. However, it many ways, it is very different from a birth. Because as we walk through the happiness of adding a life to our family, we are also walking through much grief and loss.

After Gotcha Day morning, Robert said "That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced." As I said with Laura, it truly is beautiful, but not in an all is happy kind of way. It is beautiful to watch these sweet parents and families step forward and choose to love these precious children. They wrap their arms around these grieving children and love them. They love even when there is no love given in return. Even when it is hard. Even when there is pain. And, it is beautiful to watch the children. They come shocked and grieving for the life they lost. Some stay silent and defensive. Many scream and cry in both fear and sadness. And then...sometimes minutes later, sometimes hours, they begin to realize these people in front of them love them. It will take many days, weeks, months, or even years, to fully heal from their past losses. But, in just minutes, that healing begins. The crying subsides. For the first time in their lives, their needs are met the instant they have them. And they start to learn what the unconditional love of a parent really is.

For us, this time, we waited about an hour for Howie to arrive. We watched many other children arrive before him, and many families settle in with their newest babies. Then Howie arrived after a long 4 hour drive from his orphanage.


He cried for his "Ayi" (nanny) for a long time. He struggled to run back toward the orphanage director who had brought him. From the moment we saw him, we knew he had been loved well by his nanny. He has obviously been fed well and his orphanage director said his nanny cried a lot as they said goodbye that morning. (Howie kept saying "Nanny cry." in mandarin as he cried too.)

After a while, Howie decided that "Baba" (Daddy) was pretty great and clung to him the rest of the day. He wrapped his arms around Robert's neck and rested there for a while. Then we were able to feed him a little snack and give him a car to play with. He sat on the floor and rolled the car back and forth. We saw a smile. We got up and kicked the soccer ball with Robert and scooted around on a little car and we heard a little giggle.

By the next morning, he and Robert were best buds. Howie follows Robert around everywhere. He is warming up to Mommy, but I think he still associates me with loss. He will play with me and sits with me to eat, but when he is sad or tired, he prefers Daddy still. We are praying for his heart to heal and for him to know I love him too...and that he is safe with me. I am not leaving.
Best Buds

Adoption Day was long as we visited three different government offices and everything became official. Howie is now officially Howard Derek Zopp. Now we wait three days for all the paperwork to come through so we can move on to Guangzhou where we visit the U.S. Consulate and Howie becomes an American citizen.
Officially Howard Derek Zopp
Adoption Day, April 11, 2017

Superman was adopted too! :) 



Saturday, April 8, 2017

China! We are here!

After a fairly uneventful but very long 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived in Beijing around 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

We had a good night of sleep and a fabulous day today being tourists in Beijing. I still love China and am happy Robert does as well. Some pictures of our amazing day...


Spring is beautiful in Beijing! Everything is in bloom.

Beijing

Great Wall

I didn't get a good enough picture...but the steps up the wall are incredibly uneven. It was quite the hazardous workout. 


On our way to the top.


Made it to the top watch tower! Wish there wasn't so much smog...the mountains in the background would have been beautiful. 


My true feelings after climbing about 135 flights of stairs (seriously.) 


Ministry of Finance building in the background. (Haha!)



Tomorrow we will leave early to catch the bullet train to Zhengzhou. Monday is Gotcha Day. We can't wait to finally meet our little Howie!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Our Howie turns 3 tomorrow! I am a bundle of emotions as I miss another birthday and also prepare to come and finally see him very soon. We will have a late birthday celebration when we get home with him.

We got travel approval and our consulate appointment confirmed this week! We will be leaving April 6 and have him in our arms on April 10. We cannot wait.

Here are some updated pictures we have received over the past few weeks...




Sunday, March 5, 2017

Name Change

Our little guy's name in China is Hao Hao (pronounced "how how".) For a long time (since we saw him on a waiting child list), we have been calling him by his name: Hao Hao. As the time came near for us to officially name him and send his name in for his adoption certificate, I found I was still calling him Hao Hao. Often, we would call him Hao and then one of us would say, "I guess we should start calling him Derek." But I just couldn't. He is my little Hao Hao. And then I thought about my Rachel. 2 months younger than her newest brother. And what she would think if someone decided to change her name. She would be indignant. Her name is a part of who she is. She is Rachy.

My mom suggested Howie and it delighted us! I love keeping a piece of his history in his name. I love that it is a natural transition from Hao Hao to Howie.

And, so, just like Andrew (who was Noah until he was born) and Laura (who was Susanna for a long time)...our little Howie had a last minute name change...down to the wire. :) Howard Derek Zopp. Can't wait for him to be here!