A bit about the Himsels

In July 2011, we were drawn to a posting by our adoption agency of a little girl that was soon to "age out" of the orphanage in China, and they were hoping to find her family before her birthday in February, when she would no longer be eligible for adoption. After reviewing the information, giving it alot of thought and prayers, we knew she was to be our daughter. So we started the paperwork chase to bring her home. But God had a bigger plan in mind for the Himsels. Along the way, we decided to pursue adopting a little boy, and that journey actually led us to two little boys, who are 18 months and 14 months old. All three children are located in the Guizhou province. We are excited to be so close to bringing home Ella (Jinglan), William, and Ethan, and we hope you follow along with our journey.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bath time fun!

When we first got the boys, Ethan immediately loved his bath. Splashing water, playing with toys, and making a mess is right up his alley. William on the other hand was terrified of the water. It's been a rough couple of bath times, but William has finally accepted that a bath is not the water torture he first thought and he's even starting to show some signs of enjoying himself (if he thinks you aren't watching).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A new normal

We're getting back to normal finally. Both boys have their appetite back and are exploring their new house, and things are settling into our new normal. The little guys are very jealous of each other - what one has the other wants, but on occasion they actually are playing nicely together, so I snapped a picture to prove it.

The biggest change has been William. When we first got William, he wouldn't crawl or use his fingers to pick up anything. I just don't think he was ever allowed to do anything but just sit. He's now crawling all over the place, and I'm pretty sure I saw him standing on his own for just a few seconds. And the big accomplishment this week - we are feeding ourself. Yep, my fear that William would starve if left on his own to eat has been abated. That little guy is really coming around now that he feels better.

Ella and I went clothes shopping the other day - my girl loves dresses. She reluctantly let me buy her jeans and shirts, but she picked out two new dresses that she really wanted. Good thing we did that, as Daddy invited her and Andrew to go with him to an Arts & Music program at Lafayette Schools, where Dr. Eiler (Chris' former superintendent and his mentor) is being recognized. They clean up pretty well, and Chris was quite proud of his kiddos. Can't wait to hear how they enjoyed themselves. In the meantime, I'm putting the boys down for a nap and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Ella and Ethan watching TV.
Ella has a real connection with Ethan since they were in the same orphanage. 
Ethan is going to be our trouble-maker - he gets into everything and thinks he can do anything. 
But he's so darn cute it's going to be hard to ever be mad at him.
Proof that they do play nice together sometmes.
No more being fed like a baby bird - he will not starve afterall!
What a fine group - they clean up nicely.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Birthday Girl

We're trying to get settled into some sort of routine here.  Chris went back to work today and Andrew went back to school.  Things were pretty quiet as the boys were exhausted and slept most of the day.  Let's just hope that doesn't mean they will be up all night.  We really need them to get their internal clocks on the right time zone.  It doesn't help that both boys are still under the weather.  They both have been running low fevers, and now have a terrible cough and running noses.

Yesterday, we had visitors to meet the kids.  Grandma Jean came by to visit, and Uncle Richie and TJ brought the guinea pigs back home, after their vacation in Lima, OH. Ella seemed much happier about the guinea pigs than about Mahli coming home.  MawMaw came late yesterday to stay for a week or so and help out, and brought our barking mess home.  Mahli was very glad to be home, and seems to be pretty patient with the kids so far.  Ethan has started to come around - actually he seems indifferent about the dog, and Ella is trying - she still squeals a little, and she finds creative ways to walk thru the kitchen if Mahli is in there, but she doesn't seem to be totally petrified of her.  William on the other hand has pure panic on his face whenever he sees Mahli.  We still need to work on that - maybe when everyone is healthy, the dog won't look so fearful to him.

The big event for today is that it's Ella's birthday.  Yep, our little girl turned 14 today. We purposefully kept it very low key for her.  We all wished her a happy birthday this morning, then after dinner, we had cake and ice cream, and she opened a few presents.  Grandma Jean and Uncle Richie had brought her birthday presents yesterday.  Although she didn't really realize it was her birthday, she loved her gifts.  Lots of "girly" things - a new purse, jewelry, lotions, lip gloss and a whole bunch of other things.  We got her a new necklace and a "World Traveler" Barbie - China edition. She loves them all. 

I know that Ella is anxious to start school, and she is really wanting to learn English.  She and Daddy read a few Dr. Suess books tonight and she was trying so hard to remember each word she was read.  Hopefully we'll have her in school shortly.  I think she will do well with a routine and making friends. 

Here are a few pictures from our last day in China at the park, and a couple from Ella's birthday tonight. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Back in the USA

Just a short post. We are back in the states. The flight from Tokyo to Chicago was very long, but luckily it was not a full flight and they moved us to a row with an extra seat for Ethan as well. So we really were able to spread out and the boys could lay down and sleep some. Made it easier on them. I really caught something while in China, and was miserable on the flight. I slept little, as I was so afraid little Ethan would flip himself off the seat, as he's quite the restless sleeper. Ella did very well, and slept off and on. And sweet little William was a dream on the trip. Very pleasant, easily pleased and slept some. Andrew used the time to work on some of his math homework. There was a lady from Vietnam sitting a couple seats down from Andrew who was smitten with him. She offered to go over his math with him and check it for him, and he readily agreed (not like him at all).

We were all very anxious as Chicago came closer and closer, and when we finally touched down, our row had a small round of applause for the newest US citizens. All we had to do was turn in the paperwork. Again, glad that Aunt Nay was with us, as she again earned her keep helping us wrestle luggage. We went thru the first stage of immigration, and then was directed to "the man behind the desk" to turn in the kids' paperwork. Just as we approached the desk, he very clearly told his co-worker how much he hated his job. And the sentiment was certainly not lost on his attitude while working us. I counted two rolled eyes, a handful of "sighs of exasperation", and at least 5 rudely given instructions that assumed we knew what every step of this process was. The only time he softened was after he asked Ella to sign her name. When she didn't respond he looked at me with a confused look. I said "she doesn't understand English", let me get the translator. His response "but when i said hi to her, she replied very clearly "hi", so I thought she understood English". Well, she's got Hi, Good Morning, Ok, and Let's go down, but we haven't worked on "can you sign your name" yet. Yes, we got a chuckle from him on that, but overall I can say that if he hates his job that much, get a new one please - he made the experience quite unpleasant.

Next stop was the shuttle to Highland where my dear friend Betsy picked us up and took us to my mom's. Everything went great - kids held up well, and before you knew it we were at Mom's and taking over her house. Everyone seemed to be quite at ease very quickly, and warmed up to MawMaw - even little William. The only small issue - well, maybe not so small - all the kids are terrified of the dogs. Ella wants to like them, but they were all so excited to see us, that they were jumping and barking, and acting stupid, and she just squealed and made sure she was far away. We'll need to work on that, as one of those barking messes goes home with us :)

We had planned to only spend the night at Mom's and then head home, but with me being sick, (and it appears I've now passed it on to Ethan), and everyone suffering from jet lag, we decided to stay two nights, and head home Saturday. Good decision - as Andrew managed to keep mama up both nights because he couldn't sleep. His clock is really messed up. Poor kiddo was nearly hysterical one night he was so tired. But we are now safe and sound in Fort Wayne, and at least for now all kiddos are asleep. Not sure how long that will last, but as for me, I'm going to try to catch up a little on my sleep before someone realizes that it's only 11:30 am in China and they should be eating lunch.

Since I'm feeling much better, I hope to upload more pictures in the next day or so now that we are home. Sorry this post has none - I promise to update soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sitting in the airport in Tokyo...

Whew - we made it thru our first 4 hour flight. The Hong Kong airport was a great frustration. First, they couldn't find Ethan's lap seat ticket in the system. We must have had 4 different people coming over trying to work it out. They finally did something and after about 45 minutes at the checkin, we finally were checking our luggage. Then they told us that the kids needed a transit visa for Japan. We tried to get them to understand we were just doing a connecting flight to Chicago, but they seemed to think we were going to have problems getting them thru the gate. They finally told us to work with ground security upon arrival, so we dashed to McDonalds for an "on the run" breakfast, and was nearly late for the flight. The kiddos did pretty well on the flight, except Ella got sick after we landed (it was a bit rough). Hope the next flight is better.

Sitting at the airport waiting to board so thought I would send off a few photos from our day at the pearl market. We are almost home...oh, and we didn't need the transit visas - thanks Cathay Pacific for stressing me out, and taking up more of our time at checkin - all for nothing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Almost home

It's been difficult to post anything to our blog recently. We've again experienced Internet issues, and with two little ones, it just hasn't been convenient to get away to the lobby to send a post. So I'll try to quickly sum up the past couple of days in one post, with a couple of pictures.

Tuesday morning we had our consulate appointment. A different experience than when we went to the embassy in Russia with Andrew. There was a whole room full of people with the same appointment, and we waited until exactly 10:00 to start. They gave instructions thru their microphone regarding what was going to happen - first a group oath ceremony, then we would get called up one by one to present our papers. The comedy was that they still had 3 windows being used for non- adoption things, and they were talking in Chinese thru their microphones to the people at their windows. So basically it was a crap shoot to know when they called you up.

While waiting we met another couple adopting their first child - a boy who was turning 14 later this month. They were very nice, and even gave up one of their seats so I could feed William. While we were talking, they asked where we were from, and would you believe they both grew up in Fort Wayne? They now live in Winamac, but how ironic that the husband went to Carroll High School growing up? We've actually met quite a few very nice people by staying on the island. There is a couple that just received their 2 daughters earlier this week from Auburn. They are adopting twin girls ages 7. Very sweet little girls. Chris spoke to them more than I did, and I think he said they have 14 children, with about half of them adopted, and 4 of them from China. So they were very informative about what to do on the island. We also met at the hotel two couples that were adopting 4 yr old boys. Their little guys were adorable.

Anyhow, back to the consulate. When they called us up, the man at the window (thank goodness he spoke very clear English), had to do a visual verification of each of us with our passports, and then he looked at me with a bit of compassion in his eyes, and said "perhaps Dad now take the boys back to sit down and you stay up here to go thru the documents?". Yes indeed - standing while wrestling two squirming little ones, while he went thru each document in all three packets would have been painful. When that was done, we were finished. Loaded things back up and we were out of there.

Back to the hotel for diaper changes and then meeting the other couple traveling from FTIA and Eva to go to the pearl market and do some other shopping. I have just a few pictures uploaded from that adventure. On the way to the market, we went thru a pet market area. Ella and Andrew were both distracted by all the pets - lots of turtles, fish, kitty cats and puppies. Along with some bunnies and guinea pigs and what kid wouldn't be in heaven? We had a difficult time keeping them moving, and I woud not blame the other couple if they grew frustrated with us. We were quite a sight - 2 strollers, three adults and Andrew and Ella trying to keep up.

Anyhow, the pearl market was a huge success, and we also were able to pick up some videos and Chinese books for Ella. Now to make sure we have a region free video player at home. The other couple said they got theirs on Amazon so we'll be surfing for one as soon as we get home.

Back to the hotel, dinner and packing was on the agenda.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. Monday night I woke to chills and a high fever, and am now fighting a horrible cold. I'm normally the last one to get sick, but I was down for count Monday night. So Lynné has really jumped in and helped with the boys, so I hopefully don't make them both sick before we fly home.

On Wednesday, we finished packing and did a little shopping in the morning. Although we had a late checkout, we still were going to have to kill some time waiting for the kids' visas to be ready. It was the coldest day on the island, so not good to have the boys out too much, but we took Andrew and Ella to the park for them to play on the playground equipment. They had a ball running around together, racing on the slides, and getting exhausted.

Back to the hotel to meet Eva. She was right on time with our visas, and everything was in order except getting to Hong Kong.

Remember, we were going to take a train? Well, very dear friends of ours who have contacts thru work in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, suggested we take a van - less hassle than the train. After wrestling luggage at the Guiyang airport, I was very willing to take them up on the offer. I can not thank Matt enough for arranging things - we'll be indebted to him, and he will have a special part in the history of our kids adoption journey. Bless you Matt!

So they arranged a van to take us and our luggage to Hong Kong. I think we overwhelmed our driver with the amount of luggage we had - shoot there are 7 of us, so I'm sure we were a sight. But Ray managed to squeeze us all in and we were off to Hong Kong. About a 3 HR drive with rush hour, and luckily the boys slept thru most of it. I think even Ella slept some - exhausted from playing in the park.

We're in Hong Kong now. If I have some time before the boys wake up I'll try to post some pictures from the park. If not, then this will be our last post until we get home. I'm sure Ella will have some mixed feeling when we board that plane later this morning, but so far she has been nothing but excited about each new adventure. The translator has been invaluable to talking with her, and Eva helped us to explain to her what all was going to happen so I'm pretty sure she understands. Now to survive the dreaded plane ride home. And being sick on top of everything else. Yuck. Wish us luck and say a few prayers that we all survive this no worse for the wear. Goodbye China - until we meet again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Safari Park Photos

We definitely made the right decision to go to the safari park. Ella's eyes lit up when we got on the tram, and when the first emu nearly came into our tram, she was so excited,  we all were actually.  It was unbelievable - so many animals that we got to see close up.  The tigers were my favorites, but Andrew liked the elephants and I think Ella did too.  It was about a 1.5 HR ride, and then we walked thru the rest of the park and were able to see other animals.  They had 12 pandas there at the park, and it was great to actually see them moving around and eating.  They had so much personality.  Here are a few photos from the park.

A few pictures of the kiddos

We've been quite busy since we got to Guangzhou, and it's been tough to find time to blog. On Monday morning Ella had to return to the Medical clinic to have her TB test read. She appeared to be a bit nervous to return, although I told her a number of times "no shots today", she didn't seem to be buying it. She was very pleased when it was a quick in/out.

After Ella's appointment at the clinic, we had arranged with Eva to go the safari park. Others had told us about it, and we thought Ella and Andrew would especially like it. I can only email 5 photos at a time from the iPad to post, so I'll post safari pictures after this one.

Here are a few picture of our kiddos - Daddy is learning to handle double trouble pretty well. William has really blossomed in just the week we've had him. He's like a different little boy. He's warming up to Mama, and has won over Aunt Nay. He even has Andrew playing with him now. Ethan is going to be our little trouble maker. But he just so darn cute it doesn't matter. He loves to crawl around and explore, and no telling what kind of trouble he cam get into.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A day of sightseeing in Guangzhou

Today we had a morning of sightseeing - starting with a tour of the Six Banyan Tree Temple. Because it was the beginning of the new year, there were many people there to worship, and the incense was pretty intense. But the sights were spectacular. It seemed Ella was quite in awe of everything, as she took quite a few pictures. The weather was really great for being outside, and the boys did pretty good being pushed around in strollers. Yes, we broke down and bought two strollers the day before, because we thought it would be so much easier to navigate the airports pushing them, rather than wrestling with them.

After the temple, we headed to the Chen Clan Academy museum, which was quite interesting. It houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum now, so we got the chance to really see some of the higher quality folk art and a few artists in action. The architecture was breathtaking but the pictures just don't do it justice. There were detailed stone carving telling stories throughout the rooflines and walls - you can see one of them in our picture below. Again, Ella drained her camera battery taking a ton of photos.

A cute Ella story. Our guide Eva came up to me in one of the stores and said that Ella asked if she thought we would buy her a fan. As soon as I heard, I said of course, which fan does she want. So we went to the fan display, and she picked up a cute flimsy fan that only cost 5 RMB (about $.80). Eva talked to her for a little bit, and then she said to me - she is so sweet. I asked her if she wanted one of the other fans - the higher quality ones. Ella said "oh no, they cost at least 10 RMB and that is too much - I don't need anything that fancy". Yep, 10 RMB is about $1.60. She is quite the sweet girl. She asks for very little, appreciates all, and seems to be quite surprised when we give her the chance to pick something out - and then picks out very small, inexpensive items that she then handles with such care that you would think we had spent a small fortune on it. I know that may all change soon when we get her to the states, but for now, we're so taken by her innocence and sweetness.
We're glad it was only a morning tour though. The boys were hungry and they needed a nap. So we headed back to our room to hang out for a little bit and get some food. Another thing we learned about our girl. Although she likes her Chinese food spicy, when given the choice, she'd much rather order a hot dog and big plate of French fries. And then for dinner, since we were all exhausted, we opted to order a pizza from Papa Johns. Ella very clearly said "pizza" when it came, and ate her fair share. Maybe eating when we get home won't be nearly as big of an issue as I thought.

Another day down. I think we are all ready to head home. Not because I want to leave this beautiful country, but because we're tired of living out of suitcases, washing bottles/cups/spoons and laundry in the bathroom sink, boiling our water, and eating out. Looking forward to a big salad filled with vegetables, a tall glass of ice water, and not having to worry if the public restroom has a squatty potty or a real toilet. Just a few more days and we are US bound.

family photo at the temple
Lotus Tower at the temple
Some of the beautiful decorations still at the temple for the new year, including many orange trees
One example of the detailed stone carvings at the Chen Clan Academy

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Next Leg Of The Journey

We're finally on our last leg of the journey. On Friday, we flew from Guiyang to Guangzhou, which was quite an adventure in wrestling luggage and children. We had a little mixup in our rooms in Guiyang; they had the two families switched. So checkout took a bit longer than we expected, which made it a little tight on our time getting to the airport. Between shuffling kids and luggage, going thru security and then getting on the shuttle to the plane, we were all exhausted. I am so grateful that Lynné was with us - I am not sure how we would have made it without her. She sure earned her keep on that trip :). After we got our tickets, we realized that we were not all sitting together. Andrew, Ella, and I were in the front of the plane with Ethan. Chris, and Lynné were about 20 rows behind us with William. I'm still trying to to figure out how they had 2 adults to 1 kid, and I had 1 adult to 3 kids. Hum. But it worked out ok. Ella was very excited to take her first plane ride. Her eyes got real big as the plane took off and she was so interested in looking out the window. We were pleased that all four kids did great on the short plane ride - it was only 1.5 hours. Hopefully that's a good sign for our next two flights. From Hong Kong to Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Chicago.
So we are now in Guangzhou and on the last leg of the trip. The kids had their medical exams this morning. Lynné and Andrew stayed back at the hotel - we were afraid all the crying babies would be too much for him. After we got there, we realized we could have used the extra hands. They took each child thru a few stations - checking weight, height, vision, hearing, and going over the original medical records. It was quite a challenge to do three kids with only 2 parents :) but we managed. I stayed with Ella and then Chris and I juggled William and Ethan depending on what station we were at. Neither of the boys were happy with the exams, but did pretty well. Ella's exam was a bit more intrusive and she was obviously uncomfortable, but she is a trooper. My heart was breaking though when they told me that Ella had to get 4 shots and the TB test. But again, she toughed it out, and didn't have tear one. My girl is tough.

Little William is finally getting more comfortable with us and we are seei g more of his personality sneak out. Ethan has been a little whiny - we think he might be cutting another tooth - may make that trip home even tougher.

We're staying on Shamian Island here in Guangzhou, and spent a little time exploring. We certainly love the weather here - a nice change from the bitter cold of Beijing. We have a short sightseeing tour of a temple tomorrow, and the rest of the day free, so plenty of time to get in some more exploring time and shopping.

Walking thru the park in Guangzhou - love the green!
another beautiful sight in Guangzhou
William giving kisses
William showing some love for his big brother Andrew
Ethan being silly -I'm afraid we've got a whole lot of silly in our future with this one!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Boys will be boys

We had some Internet problems during our last day in Guiyang, so I'm a bit behind in my updates. We've spent most of the last couple of days getting to know our little ones. Yes, boys will be boys, but our newest ones are complete opposites.  A few things we've learned about our little guys:

Ethan is quite the happy baby - doesn't mind at all who is holding him. And he has a smile that melts your heart. He smiles with his whole face and gives his smiles readily. I've nicknamed him my "little laughing Buddha". William is much more reserved, and frightens easily around strangers.  He is getting used to me finally, but if Daddy is around he only wants him. He seems to be studying the situation at all times.  Ethan on the other hand seems to be willing to get involved in anything.  He loves his toys, and loves any toy that William has.   Although William seemed to be more fussy at times, we're learning that it normally happens when he hungry.  And man, can both boys eat. Keeping them full has been a full-time job.  William's smiles are few and far right now, but when he does smile, it feels so rewarding because you have really earned that smile. He loves to play patty cake and we've actually gotten some giggles and laughs out of him while playing. He's a tough one to win over, but we are coming along pretty well. And a few more pictures of my little guys.

My two smiling guys

Boy do those fingers taste good!

William and Aunt Nay

We left Ethan alone with the powder for 5 seconds, and he showed us what he can accomplish

Loving a good game of "patty cake"