10
Jan

Travel Plans

Probably the number one question that any Pre-Adoptive Parent gets asked (after the ever present “Why”, which is a whole different post…) is,

When will you travel?

Finally, we have a better sense of things.

Our facilitator is expecting our TA to arrive before CNY!

We are being allowed to build our own itinerary and travel on our  own (we kind of form our own group with the 9 of us!) in order for us to visit our other kids’ provinces before unofficially meeting Samuel at New Day and then adopting him in Hunan.  We would then return to Beijing for our Canadian adoption process, as our Embassy is there. 

It sounds lilke the next travel group may not be until April and so we are trying our best to gather all our many months of pondering, build a plan and get on a plane the third week in February, with the hope that we can adopt Samuel at the beginning of March. 

At this point my head is swirling (although it may be the remnants of the flu) and we are trying to sort out what will be most important and what will be left for another trip.

We still need to file our requests for orphanage visits and that will help create a framework for our travel dates.  We also know we need to be in Changsha on a Monday for Sam’s adoption. 

My stomach is doing some strange butterfly dance and I am in awe that we are even at this point!

As for who will travel?

Our hope has always been that each of our kids at home could travel with us to meet our new little guy in person.  For months they have played with him over the computer screen, talked about him, made space in their home and their world for the addition of Sam.  And we can’t imagine a better way for Samuel to be welcomed than by the whole overwhelmingly, noisy, crazy bunch.  In order to make that happen on our last two trips, my folks have been able to come “herd the cats” (as Steve calls it).  And so far, that is what we are planning for.

We need to look at the costs and sift through everything first, but at this point we are doing everything possible to make this happen! 

So off I go to make lists, phone airlines, price hotels and trains.  And pray.  We need a whoooole lot of wisdom. 

We thought our 2010 Big Family Vacation was a big undertaking.  Little did we know God had an Ace up his sleeve waiting for us in China.

This trip should trump that one  by far!

 

19
Jun

Rainy Oregon

We woke up fairly early in Sacramento, California.  The hotel we were at had an expanded breakfast and so after eating we were on the road around 9:30 ish. 

Let’s me point out that last night this morning, we pulled into this motel around 12:30 a.m.  That’s a long driving day for Stephen!  We drove a good long day and got to our pre-booked campsite to find lots of black clouds and the beginnings of some good rain. We stopped and ate, let the kids burn off some energy and Stephen decided to keep on driving. 

Now do I really have to be so specific to point out that we had a campsite booked in Oregon?!  Yep.  Rainy, beautiful Oregon.  I really loved the scenery yesterday though.  I’ll upload some pictures later.

Anyway, the highway tat was to lead us to our intended destination was very scenic, or so the signs said, and Stephen ended up fighting against driving rain, deep road ruts and oncoming semis along a two lane, narrow stretch.  blech  He did great!  I was the nervous wreck! 

At one point we pulled off at a junction and took a new route.  And here we are – out of Oregon and (cue drum roll please) out of the rain!

Faith’s one request:  Can we come back when its not raining? 

She really wants to find a beach with some shells.

This new junction turned out to be a better one and if the weaher holds, we will make a detour down memory lane for the four oldest of us, before heading home eventually. 

What a trip!  The kids are ready to be home and our thoughts are turning turning to normal day to day life.  I hope to make a note of all we have discovered and the ways we’ve grown the past few weeks.  But how to put it all into words? 

17
Jun

Driving and Driving and Driving some more!

Today was spent in the van.  We took a round about way to get to the scenic route we had hoped to travel and ended up a few hours short of our intended destination. Ah well.  We are in a motel again tonight and had a very cool swim in a sort of heated pool this evening. Everyone is asleep and I felt the urge to catch up with the blog tonight, so here I am. 

The kids had a tougher time today.  More driving will do that.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the normal stuff.  Well, other than an extremely active bladder on the part of our youngest.  Actually, the day involved some rather tough conversations with one of our other kids.  I am amazed at how the close quarters and long trip have really brought out some of the more “stuffed down” things that we’ve been feeling  – both good and bad.  In some ways it takes my breath away when the stuff comes up and yet in other ways it has been such a relief.  We all know the “elephant is in the room” and all that.  The most incredible thing is finding out who we are all again and some of us for the first time.  Sounds so bohemian.  Really though, I am not even feeling the need to unknot my shoulders or run away for some alone time or anything.  This trip has been such an amazing God thing for all of us.  I know we still have so much to sift through and sort out as a family and as members of this family, but we have been given such a gift of this time.  Thank you Jesus. 

17
Jun

Wildlife & Car sickness

LOTS of winding roads yesterday.  Lots of upset tummies.  Nothing came of it all (thank you Lord!), but it made for one happy family when Dad fianlly pulled into our destination.  We saw some beautiful  waterfalls today and drove through an extremely long tunnel.  We snacked on junk food to calm upset stomachs and basically broke many of the rules of common sense and yet we are alright, it’s good to be reminded of that now and again.  :)

Edited to add:

Wildlife included an overly friendly squirrel.

A frightened (as in, James claimed he could feel its heart pounding) but adorable frog.

A HUGE cricket that crawled out of a gopher hole.

A couple of different varieties of rabbits, fluffy white tails and all.

A blue jay that sat and squawked for a tremendously long time at us.

A grasshopper as long as my longest finger.

And…

Two lizards (one rather long) that crawled under the doorframe into the women’s washroom at the campsite.

(Fortunately, I was no longer inside the washroom at the time!)

16
Jun

Laughter in the Desert and Our Trusty Navigator has Been Fired (and I don’t mean the GPS)!

It was to be a very long driving day.  We were trying to leave on time (we left around 11 a.m. – later than planned), eat quickly (we got side tracked by a pie sale) and set up camp by nightfall (we never made it and are in a city about an hour or so away). 

I think that this was the most laughter filled day yet!

I – our trusty navigator – let down our fearless pilot as we tried to navigate around a large desert on end up on the correct side of a mountain range.  I still say the road wasn’t marked very clearly.  snort  Instead, we managed to drive directly THROUGH the desert and very narrowly managed to stay on the correct side of the mountain range.  WHEW!

We now know that desert roads have been laid a lot like the first road Lightning McQueen laid when getting to Raidiator Springs.  It felt like a really great roller coaster with all the stomach plunging and floating sensations, large obstacles to dodge (HUGE semis that were WAY overwidth) and no way to get off (Did you know they don’t often have rest stops or view points way out there?).  We eventually managed to do a U-Turn and got to a route that would get us back on track.  All in all it was very funny.  In the midst of it I told James that THIS was my best moment ever.  It reminded me so much of killing ourselves laughing on our family trips over finding oursleves, yet again, on the “wrong side of the tracks”.   I could see the light dawn in his eyes. Yes. This was the best moment ever. 

The pie sale I mentioned was at a Marie Callender’s restaurant (they have the BEST pies and their kids meals are HUGE!). We decided that our pie in Oregon had been a fun thing to have along the way and when we saw the banner sign we new we were going to make a quick meal stop at this restaurant.  It turned into a long stop, but now we have a pie for today. 

Last night we found a motel and a familiar restaurant.  The server was really great and the manager came out chat with us.  Do we present that wierd?  Regardless, we learned a bit about the area we are heading too and reminisced over family car trips of our childhoods. 

Off to wake the troops and get a move on.   Actually, I nee to say that before I could publish this, Faith came to the door, VERY proud of herself.  We couldn’t get one room or even adjoining rooms to accomodate us all, so we had James and Faith sleep next door under lock and key.  The littlest kids are needing to be woken, but Faith and James are all showered and ready for the day!  We should do this more oftern.  Just kidding – I didn’t sleep well with them over there and us over here.

Oh, before I forget.  Every ride we went on, Grace would always ask if the ride had a “buckle up”.  We knew she meant a seat belt or restraint of some sort and so we didn’t pay much attention to the actual wording.  Just yesterday it dawned on me that Stephen always tells the kids to “hurry and buckle up” when we get to the van.  She was parroting him in meaning.  She does this all the time with words and I wanted to record where her language is at.  Most people are surprised at how proficient she is with English at only 6 months home.  You really have to listen to catch some of these things as she speaks so confidently now. 

 

 

16
Jun

Legoland, Sushi, Earthquakes and Bullseye by Firelight

The title sums up our day nicely.  Legoland was very busy and so we picked our favourites and enjoyed them.  We are all pretty wiped out and you know all those things we were hoping to work on with our kids?  Well they all seemed to come to a head today.  That’s actually a good thing.  When Stephen in away for work or when we are so pulled in many directions it is tough to be immediate and consistent with our parenting.  I think the kids are finally realizing by this point in the trip that we are not only back to boot camp, but it’s boot camp with a united parenting front.  By today, three days later, I can see it making a difference already.   Anyway, on with the photos.  We did eat Sushi for dinner at our campground (well, they all ate Sashimi, I ate sushi and tempura) and Grace was overjoyed to eat noodles again.  The earthquake happened just after we put the kids to bed early (it was  a tough day) and Stephen and I were standing outside debating on what to do.  The ground shifted side to side for a couple seconds and then it was gone.  Only James felt it too, but we noticed other people c0ming to stand outside their RVs so we know it wasn’t just our imagination.  Another thing to add to the experience list this trip.  We haven’t felt an earthquake for sometime so it was kind of cool.  We finished of our night by the campfire where Stephen finished up the day’s work and we tried one of those packets that colour the flames of the fire (not sure what it is that makes it work – a new question for our homeschool book of questions). 

What a different day!

16
Jun

The Zoo

The morning was spent swimming, leading a game of grounders with a whole pile of kids in the white sand playground, showering and washing our mound of laundry.  We went to the zoo and then to Old Town for authentic Mexican food and a stroll through the area (okay – it was a mad hunt for a public washroom for our youngest member). 

Grace’s comment?  “Today LOTS of loading and walking and walking and walking…..”.  Loading is her word for waiting due to the first time I used it in regards to wiaitng to have the computer load a slow webpage.  The word has stuck and now when she is exhausted she uses that word instead of “waiting”.  It was nice to escape the heat under the trees in the beautiful zoo.

We paid for parking in a church’s parking lot (brilliant idea as they are right in Old Town next to a historical landmark) and chatted with the attendant (perhaps the pastor?) who wished us God’s Blessings.  He directed us to a great restaurant. 

(Note to self: upload the day’s photos from Faith’s camera later.)

16
Jun

Surf City… Here We Come

We had to try the In and Out Burgers our friend raved about...

 

Surf City

 

A different sort of coastline. Almost to Mexico!

 

Trust me. The actual tent is much larger than the ground sheet. It almost touched the picnic table on this end!

Or perhaps it should be called the “Land of a Thousand Coin Operated Laundromats”.

After a bit of shopping, we drove on to a new location from our week of fun with the Mouse.  We passed many surf camps along the way and really enjoyed the drive along the ocean.  Once we arrived at our campsite we had a good, sort of wry, laugh over the size of our tent versus the size of the pad.  Let’s just say that we were very cozy with the nice family the next site over.  Their oldest boy was a really nice kid and we had a good chat over the laundry machines the next day.

Speaking of laundry, I have a funny memory of driving around the city looking for a laundromat.  The camp’s had closed for the night and we were in need of some unmentionables, so we drove around and around looking for a laundromat that had drop off service.  We were hungry and really all just wanted to get some sleep.  After asking and using the GPS we came up empty, so after much debate we ended up eating at a greasy, dirty pizza reaturant / arcade that showed graphic TV over top of children’s birthday party tables. Nice.  Littlest Miss was quite transfixed by the TVs and so we spent the meal trying to distract her.  Not easy when she was almost asleep with her eyes open. 

   Ahhh these are the moments that make us shake our heads at the wisdom of such a trip.  But onward we went. :)

 

16
Jun

Stephen’s Phone Camera

Just as it sounds… a few photos from Stephen’s camera.

16
Jun

Day 5

The final day here.  We were all exhausted by this time! 

We chose to do many of our favourites repeatedly today and we were able to close out our day in a memorable way.

We had just walked up to the gates and Stephen turned to us and said that we should go for one last ride around the park on the train.  He ran up and asked if there were any more trains that day and was told that there was.  The final train was used to pick up passengers from the closed “lands” and bring them back to the main gate.  For the first bit we were the only ones and then we shared the train with only a few silent riders.  The park was earily quiet, but it was so amazing to see it all at night. The music still played.  The lanterns glowed.  But save the few of us on the train, there was no one around.  It was a treat to end the week so quietly. 

Here are a number of photos of today.  Click on any of them to see them larger.