Monday, November 29, 2010

Birthdays, Anniversaries, Postponements, and Firsts

Novemeber has been a pretty big month. November 22 marked Troy's birthday as well as the one-month anniversary of Aiden becoming a U.S. citizen. We returned from China October 22. To mark the auspicious occasion(s), we went to Spezias where Troy and I had celebrated many important milestones in the adoption process. Aiden amazed us once again with his exemplary behavior. (Not even joking) It was a wonderful time. Also during the month, after much soul-searching, discussion, and talking with our social worker, we decided that I would stay home with Aiden until after the first of the year. It is another few weeks without pay, pay we're trying to figure out how we'll live without, but we feel me remaining home is important enough to warrant the loss of wages. Although he is an incredibly happy, outgoing little boy most of the time, he is having a couple issues. He is not sleeping well. I am currently sleeping on an air mattress next to his crib (until we get a portable crib in our room). He often wakes up in the middle of the night crying, looking for us. Usually, not always but usually, if he sees me, it's enough to stop his crying and get him to go back to sleep. Sometimes, though, it is even almost as though he is having night terrors. Again our social worker made a suggestion that we stay near him until he adjusts and gets over his fear of abandonment. He is starting to warm up to other people more readily now, but it is still not an instantaneous occurrance. :) My cousin Maureen adopted a child from Guatamala a while back, and what she was told was that these adopted kids, although they are as cognizant as other kids their age, they are emotionally starting at day one when they are brought home. I guess that means we have an infant that can and DOES get into everything! He is incredibly busy - SUCH a handfull! He's not busy enough to burn off all his calories, though. The little turkey has gained almost two pounds in a month! Aiden also got to participate in his first Thanksgiving. He liked the food well enough, but he really didn't have much time for that. He liked exploring the grandparents' homes. He also really enjoyed playing with his cousins. In fact, Abigail even came to our house that night to stay over. We even did a VERY little shopping on Black Friday while Abigail babysat for an hour! The other 'big' news of November? Aiden experienced his first snow. We know that they get a little snow in Xi'an, China, (which we were told usually melts in a day) but judging by his initial reaction, this was his first encounter. When I walked him out, all bundled up, he at first didn't want to walk in it. He kept putting his arms up for me to hold him. Then he'd try to retreat to the garage. I got out his little shovel he and Dad bought, and he started to get to work. By the time Dad got home from work and started to clear off the driveway, Aiden was beginning to think this snow thing is all right! It didn't hurt that Ceit, true to form, was leaping and lunging to catch the shovelsful of snow. :) All-in-all, it has been an unforgettable first month with our beautiful boy! Pictures - Top to Bottom: Abby and Aiden after Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving at Grandpa and Grandma McDonald's, Birthday / Anniversary Supper at Spezias

Friday, November 19, 2010

Photos :)





Bottom to top: Watching the Vikes game with Dad; Playtime! (The game stunk); First American haircut. Not a fan! Katie did a great job, though!; Post haircut supper. All better!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Post Placement Visit and Miracles!



We had our first post-placement visit by our social worker on Tuesday night (11/9/10). It went really well. She was impressed with Aiden's adjustment and said the sleeping would probably resolve itself with time; he probably just needs to reassure himself that Mom and Dad are in fact still with him. He was a character that night. He is really starting to be more comfortable with other people, especially on his home turf.
Our big news, though, comes from our cardiologist appointment (11/10/10). We have experienced a miracle! We went to see Dr. Waltz, our pediatric cardiologist, where they conducted an ECG and an ultra-sound. The ECG took just a short time, and Aiden tolerated it well. During the ultra-sound, which was supposed to last 20 minutes, Aiden fell asleep. It was just as well. It took 40 minutes! Dr. Waltz even came in and took over for the tech. I guess they took upward of 200 images of his heart. They carried on a relatively lengthy conversation, and the only term I heard / understood was aneurysm. MY heart almost stopped. Afterwards, we met with Dr. Waltz (who, by the way, is amazing), and he gave us some interesting news. Apparently Aiden had not had just one hole; rather, he had a major hole and several small holes. Somehow, the large one closed on its own, and all but one of the small ones had closed. The remaining hole is small enough that there is no surgery or medications required. We do need to go back in a year, but that is the extent of it. The doctor says the prognosis is excellent! In fact his murmur is almost imperceptible. What I'm trying to say is, this is nothing short of a miracle (thank you, thank you, thank you for all the prayers)! Dr. Waltz was pleasantly stunned. The rest of the visit was NOT as good. It was determined that we needed to do some basic medical checks since we have no medical history. They tried to draw blood to do eight different tests. Aiden was hysterical. Unfortunately, they had to stick him FOUR times. :( The ordeal last 40 minutes, and they still didn't get enough to do all the tests. The poor little guy cried so hard, he almost threw up. It took 5 adults to hold him down. What a nightmare!
However, he recovered quickly. It wasn't long before he was running around, singing (one of his favorite pasttimes), and laughing. It probably took Mom and Dad longer to get over the trauma. The little guy is a handful! He has an amazing sense of humor. Unfortunately, he thinks he's funny, too! He loves to tease and BE teased. He smiles almost all the time and loves to give hugs and kisses. He also loves to go bye-bye. We think that can be attributed to our early days together when we were always on the run.
In short, we are stunned by the changes we've seen in the month we've been fortunate enough to have him in our lives. Today, 11/11/10 is our one month family anniversary! We are so blessed! I just don't know how I will find it in me to leave him in a couple weeks. :( I will attach updated pictures this weekend (as my dad has hip-replacement surgery tomorrow, I will not have time). Until then.....
Pictures: Tubby time with Daddy; Eating carrots with a Dorito (pretty sure that's ok!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Doctor Appointment




We had our first doctor's appointment yesterday, 11/3/2010. It went pretty well. Although, Aiden did have a pretty significant meltdown when he saw the nurse. He must have a 6th sense about them and certainly hasn't appreciated what they have done for them in the past. On the other hand, he loved Dr. Van Es. The doctor's assessment of Aiden's overall health was positive. He actaully made the growth chart for weight. Height? Not so much. Oh well. Now, we have scheduled an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist for November 12. We're praying for good news there, too.
Before the doctor's appointment, we visited the high school. Aiden got to meet many students and held up admirably. He also got to meet several of the facutly and staff. Dr. Talcott even "bribed" him successfully with fruit snacks; Aiden smiled for him!
Even though Aiden is playing quietly by himself, not uncommon, I had better wrap this up. I am not feeling well (how fun is it to be sick with a two-year-old in the house who is still figuring out the ins and outs of this new world?) and need to go try to relax on the couch, even though I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up at the doctor's today, this time on my own behalf. It doesn't help that Aiden took a header onto the wooden platform of our bed last night and hours later ran full-force with his chest into our coffee table. He cried a lot last night in his sleep, and the only place he would sleep? On the floor next to his crib. :( So guess where Mom DIDN'T sleep all night. Yep. On the floor next to Aiden's crib.
I will post again soon (if not before, I will post after our doctor's appointment and tests on the 12th) with more information about Aiden's ever-chagning / evolving personality and characteristics. His true colors shine through more each day. For now, we'll just say, pretty much EVERYTHING is funny - including Mom when she says no. Cute. Till later!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Final China Days / Life at Home





Ok, so I have been gently informed (thank you, Jessie) that I need to update the blog. Since Aiden is, for the time being, playing quietly with his ever-present plastic bag full of "treasures" - read: crayons, scraps of paper, a plastic stir stick, and a cardboard coaster, etc - I will try to do a brief update. I believe the last you really heard from us we were in our last day in Guangzhou. I cannot begin to describe the marathon of those last couple of days. Well, actually, I will give it a shot. After a long morning of photos with our Xi'an group and the entire Holt contingency, Troy and I made a final shopping foray into the quaint shops of the old town. I bought two Coach purses, a Coach wallet, and a Samsonite suitcase all for under $75. :) I love to haggle! Alright, trivial information, but pretty big news as far as I'm concerned! Anyway, we had to be ready for the bus to take us to the U.S. Consulate and then to the train station at 2:00. We got the visas without a hitch and then made it to the train station - with PLENTY of time to spare. All of us traveling to Hong Kong that night had to amuse our children for two hours. In a train station. Fun. Then, we had over a two hour train ride to get to Hong Kong. Luckily, there were few other people besides adoptive families in that train car, and I feel nothing but sympathy for those who were there without screaming, crying, fussing kids. It was a scene, I assure you. We'd been on the go since 2:00 with little food (except for the cheerios and other snacks we had in our diaper bags), and a cursory nap. We got to Hong Kong around 8:30 that night, if memory serves, and had to wait for our luggage, and then we had to take a 45 minute bus ride to our hotel. It was around 10:00, and we were exhausted. Aiden got some peanut butter crackers and fruit snacks before he went to bed. I'm sure he was famished as Troy and I were. He barely slept that night; I'm guessing I got in the neighborhood of 3 hours of sleep. We were up early, checked out, and to the airport with what we thought would be an abundance of time. I'm glad we left when we did. We weren't rushed and did have time for breakfast, but we didn't have a lot of time to kill before boarding then. The flight home was interminable. Wow. Even with better parenting through chemistry, Aiden was restless and irritable. He slept little, and when he did, it had to be on me (except for one short stint with Dad). There was no economy plus available, so we were packed in like sardines. 747s are NOT the way to fly! Really, though, the flight was uneventful, and he was remarkably good at O'Hare. (On a side note, when his little feet touched the ground, he became an American citizen! His first meal? McDonald's. Of course!) The 1+ hour flight from Chicago to Sioux Falls was a piece of cake. We were met at the airport by grandmas, grandpa, and a couple of uncles. They were all taken with the little guy who was, as is par for the course, extremely shy. We came home to a house with banners, flowers, gifts, and a huge pumpkin decorated with "Welcome Home Aiden." We snacked, gave Aiden a bath, and put him down for the night. I slept in his room on an air mattress so he wouldn't wake up scared. And wake up, a lot, he did! Sigh. That has been the trend. After a few nights, I moved back into our bedroom, but he continues to wake up several times during the night, a sad departure from China where he often slept straight through. Last night was progress. He only woke up three times and for short periods of time. He only slept for about 8 1/2 hours, but hey! Progress is progress! Pray we're getting things on schedule. I have heard from other families with whom we traveled, and they have said jet lag/time difference has been an issue with them as well. Hopefully it will soon be just a bad memory. Now, if I could just convince Aiden that our pets are not Satan's spawns, and he and I could kick these colds or whatever, we'd be in really good shape! Well, Aiden is still playing quietly by himself, but is showing signs of tiring of it (i.e. chucking his colors around the room and coloring on the tiles). We have to take a brief excursion; we need to replinish supplies. I will try to update in the near future should there be any note-worthy events or activities (i.e. doctor's appointments). Until then....!! Bye!
Pictures: Aiden in beautiful Guangzhou; Train to Hong Kong (this says it all!); Busy with his treasures; Ready for bed;

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're Home!



We finally made it home! It was a long day of travel, which I will recount later, but suffice it to say, we are dubbing it "The Longest Day." From the time we got up in Hong Kong to the time we landed in Sioux Falls, we travelled over 24 hours and 7,700 miles. Aiden slept only a few restless hours on the plane and a few restless hours last night. (I only wish I had slept as much as he has in the last few days. Troy and I are going on far less sleep over a longer stretch.) He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:15 this a.m. Sigh. We'll see how getting his nights and days turned around goes!
Pictures: Aiden with his Welcome Home Pumpkin (Thanks Jenny & Andrew) and his Welcome Home Sign (Thanks, Jenny F!) BEFORE he woke up

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last Post from China


I usually post at night, but that probably won't be possible tonight, so I'm posting on Thursday morning instead. Today we leave for Hong Kong; we're taking a train. We fly out on Friday afternoon. Fourteen hours on a plane with a two year old. It ought to be interesting. He's taking a nap right now while Troy is finishing some paperwork and getting last minute instructions from Holt. Last night was a rough night. Aiden cried out a lot and would hold his arms out and say, "Mama." I committed the cardinal parenting sin and had him sleep on my chest. He needed to sleep, though, and he was obviously scared. I had to cut him some slack; we have to remind ourselves that he has been with us for less than ten days. The real drawback, other than setting an unfortunate precedent? Mommy is incredibly tired today. I need to come up with some energy from somewhere, though. We went to breakfast, came back to change into our tradition Chinese garb and went for the "red couch photo" every adoptive family takes here at the White Swan. Aiden is napping now, but when he wakes up, we have to go buy a new suitcase, and I have to go buy a knock-off purse. At some point we need to get lunch and repack. All of this needs to be done by 2:00. It's 11:00 now. Ah well. I work best under pressure anyway! :)Wish me luck! I'll try to blog from Hong Kong tomorrow a.m. before we leave. If not, please pray for us and that we return to SD well and intact!
Photo: (Kung Fu) Aiden in his tradition Chinese clothes

Relaxing Day



Today was a pretty quiet day. We didn't get out of bed until a little after 7:00 due in part to Aiden's restless night. He cried out several times and tossed and turned a lot. We repacked a little to see if we need another piece of a luggage; we're pretty sure we do. We may have gone a little crazy with souveniers here in China. Huh. Wierd. That doesn't sound like me....
We went for a late breakfast and then hit the playroom. After that, it was naptime for Aiden. Since he was sleeping for a bit, I dediced I deserved a 70 minute foot rub. After all, it was only 88 Yuan (about $14). Yeah. Ow!!! Seriously. I'm relatively certain these guys got a masters' degree in torture and sadism. They had me stick my feet into water that literally burned my legs. I almost cried. Eventaully, of course, my legs went numb, or I thought they had, but when they started to "rub" my feet and calves, I realized they were not numb enough! By coincidence, a fellow Xi'an traveler, Bob, was there at the same time as I was, and we had our massages at the same time. He is a former beat cop from Pittsburgh and a DEA agent, and he was almost in tears. We figured that a Cat 5 typhoon will be nothing in comparison.
When I came home, Daddy and the boy were playing nicely together. I told Troy, the look on Aiden's face when he saw me walk through the door was worth the $30,000! His face split into an elated grin that melted my heart. The hug that followed ensured I would be wrapped around his finger forever! It was so nice, too, that Daddy and son had some more time together.
We went down to the Deli and grabbed a couple sandwhiches and some chips for a late lunch outside. The wind is really picking up around here. Aiden was a super good boy at meal time again, but nothing will compare with supper last night. He was an angel. We went to a pretty swanky restaurant. We hadn't realized that until we were already inside. Fortunately, Aiden stole the show. It was a pretty locals-only type crowd and the waitresses really didn't speak much English, but they loved Aiden!
We went shopping again after lunch today. Our little guy is starting to assert some independence and made walking the streets a challenge. He still wants to be held a majority of the time, but when he's down, he sometimes likes to run ahead. When we got back, we went to spend some time out by the pool and then in the playroom again. We're back in the room for some time for Aiden - he likes to have some alone time. Soon we'll be off to supper. I'm hoping to talk Troy into the Cow and Bridge, Thai food, but I'm not holding my breath. Then we'll do our last bit of shopping. Tomorrow we leave Guangzhou. Sad. I love it here! Well, hopefully we'll be back again someday!! ;)
Pictures: Out by the pool and my burnt leg!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oath Taking Ceremony

We had our appointment at the U.S. Consulate here in Guangzhou today (on the trip there and back, I was reminded just how crazy the traffic is here - seriously, the lines and signs are not even suggestions, rather mere decorations) and took an oath so we could obtain Aiden's visa on Thursday. If everything goes well, we get it that afternoon and head to Hong Kong that night. God willing, we fly out of Hong Kong on Friday afternoon and arrive in Sioux Falls Friday night. We didn't do much else today other than the oath taking ceremony and some shopping. Love doing that! Probably the biggest news of the day is --- Aiden and Daddy have played together a couple times. Both times included Daddy holding, tickling and cuddling with Aiden. Of course, Daddy is willing to do some crazy things Mommy would never dream of doing, and Mommy tends to get a little nervous, but the boys are having a great time and they are bonding! One step closer to Mommy not carrying the little tyke everywhere. It's hard to believe we only have one full day left in Guangzhou. It has been beautiful, amazing, and so much fun. I'm not sure I'm ready to head back home and to reality. Besides, these upper 80s are seeming pretty nice right now. Pretty sure tomorrow will be a nice lazy day out by the pool. After all, there's only so much shopping I can ask Troy to do! :)
video

Monday, October 18, 2010

TB Test - NEGATIVE!



Good news! Our little guy's TB test was negative. That was the "big event" of the day. I knew it was ok, though, because I had to search to even find where they had stuck him for the test. It was still a little traumatic for him. I think he remembered the place, and when the nurse grabbed his arm to check, he had a mild melt-down. But I was holding him, so as soon as I stood up, it was all good. My big news is, after the check, we came back and put Aiden down for a nap, at which point I got to go out with some other adoptive mothers for some shopping. We've made the most amazing friends whom we assume will be so for life. They're great. Peggy, Leslie, and I had some shopping time to ourselves. I love to haggle, and this is the place for that! Troy stayed back with Aiden while he napped, and I got an hour and a half of non-Aiden-toting. It was heaven. Don't get me wrong, I love him more than anything in this world, but I cannot begin to express the searing pain that riddles my back and arms. A week of non-stop lugging (and by non-stop, I mean almost literally constant carrying) is causing some serious pain and strain. When I came back, Aiden and Daddy were just hanging. He'd been up for about 10 minutes, but no tears had been shed - PROGRESS! We then went to Subway. Um. Yuck. It looks the same. It is not. Their mayo? Sweet. Gross. Aiden seemed to like it though. We did a little looking at some souveniers on the way home; our little man had a blast going up and down the three stairs in front of the shops. He and Daddy spent about 20 minutes doing that. We're pretty sure he's not had much experience with that, something we hadn't considered. After our excursion, we came home to reorgannize luggange and check gifts; we had to see what we still needed to get. Sorry Heritage - those presents are not for you! ;) Then, it was off to supper with our Xi'an travel group. Our time with them is getting short, and it makes us a little sad. Hopefully, though, we'll all meet up eventually again; we would love to stay in touch with them. Once we got home, it was tubbie time with Aiden. It's interesting. He's adapted to baths which at first freaked him out. Now he loves to play in the tub! Now he's sawing logs, and I'm getting ready to call it a night. It was a great day. Tomorrow = oath taking ceremony. We are so close. Now, if Super Typhoon Megi will allow us to make it home, we'll really start our quest. Raising Aiden. (BTW, he's turning out to be a HANDFUL!!!! We'll have to fill everybody in on that when we have more time. And energy!) Zai jian!
Pictures above: Troy and Aiden at bed time; breakfast at the White Swan

Saturday, October 16, 2010

We're In Guangzhou




We're in the home stretch; we're in Guangzhou. Friday was a marathon day. Poor kids. In the morning, we went down for breakfast and made plans to go walk the ancient wall around Xi'an. Aiden, who believes we are attached, had to be hauled around in the baby "front"pack. It was pretty warm, and he sweats like no other. When we got done walking the ancient city wall, we tried to get the little man to nap to no avail. We had lunch at Dico's; again, it's China's answer to KFC (although KFC itself is ubiquitous here). It was then back to our hotel to do last minute packing and rearranging. David, our guide, came over to confirm some paperwork and tell us our passport for Aiden had arrived. We left our hotel at 3:30 and didn't get to the airport until 5:15. The flight started boarding at 5:30!! We're relatively certain they held the plane for us. Aiden traveled like a champ until the end of the flight. He was getting tired, but he was still a really good boy. After the 2 1/2 hour flight, we had to take a bus from the tarmac to the terminal. THEN we had to wait for about an hour to get our luggage. Have I mentioned Aiden will let nobody hold him except me? As you can imagine, he did not want to walk at this point either. Everybody was starting to get a little frustrated and tired, and we still had an hour to our hotel, The White Swan. But that wasn't the end. They made us sit in the lobby and confirm some paperwork. Grrr. All the while, since we'd boarded the bus, Aiden had been sawing logs but was restless and sweaty. When we finally got to our rooms (nice enough, but in a faded, worn kind of way and maybe moldy smelling?), we had to wait for the bellboy to bring up our luggage. We were not well-pleased. I should have recognized this for the foreshadowing it was. Saturday was pretty awful. We had to go get Aiden's medical check up and his vaccinations. It was a nightmare. He doesn't like me to put him down in the best of situations, and this most definitely was not the best situation. After his check-up, during which he sobbed, we had to get EIGHT shots. :( The poor kid was treated like a pin cushion, and it is such an assembly line, they just jab 'em in and move the kids along. I'm not sure who cried harder, Aiden or me. He's a trooper, though. We went and got lunch, and then Troy had to do some visa paperwork. Aiden and I chilled in the hotel room. The little man finally took a nap, and then just the three of us went to supper at Lucy's (American / Italian cuisine, so they claim). There were a lot of adoptive parents there; it's nice to talk with them, commiserate. Uncharacteristically, Aiden woke up a couple times, crying out in his sleep. Those darn shots! Today, though, he's been his normal silly self. We went to the pearl and jade wholesale markets today (Aiden, true to his M.O. slept in the Ergo and sweated all over me). I did some damage! Too fun. I love to bargain. Now it's back here in the hotel (Aiden loves playing by himself; we're sure it's a nice change of pace from having to share attention and toys with a bunch of other kids) while we wait for an afternoon tea with the other families. Tomorrow is the TB test check, but other than that, we're free. Peggy, from our Xi'an group, and I are going to see what kind of bargains we can strike in the nearby shops. Hey, I saw a "Rolex" going for 120 Yuan (less than$20). I'm pretty sure I "need" it! ;) More later!
Pics above: The lobby of our hotel, The White Swan; Aiden at his medical appointment - sad day; the fam on the ancient wall around Xi'an

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Terra Cotta Warriors




We just got back from the Terra Cotta Warriors. It was impressive! It's hard to imagine they were made over 2200 years ago. The vastness of the museum / site is hard to comprehend, as I'm finding with a lot of sights in China! Troy has mentioned it would be so cool to take his 6th graders on field trips here! He thinks they'd LOVE it!
We left the hotel around 9:00 this morning after breakfast. A side note, meal times, which we had initially thought would be a piece of cake, are turning into challenges. The kid thinks he's a regular comedian. We'll talk more about that later, too. Anyway, we woke up at 5:30 because Aiden woke up coughing. That would not have been too bad, but it was after midnight when I went to sleep last night, so I was / am a little tired. We got to the original kiln about an hour after we left the hotel. We toured that and bought a small replica of a warrior as a momento of Aiden's home province. It was another 1/2 hour after that tour to the actual site of the warriors. Aiden will still have nothing of Troy carrying him and has decided he hates the Baby Ergo (carrier), so I have to haul him around. This is the third day of lugging him around, and my arms and back are starting to scream! The first site would have been sufficient for us; it was what you typically see when you see documentaries or information about the warriors. It was not to be, though. It was on to the video (standing only), and then a walk to the restaraunt for lunch. Aiden was WAY over tired by this point, and Mommy wasn't holding up much better. To make matters worse, they had no seats for Aiden, and when he's on my lap, he thinks it's cute to grab stuff on the table. This time, my guard was down, and he managed to snag a cup of hot noodle soup. Of course it found its way to my lap. Fun. So, Troy had to hold him while I tried to find a way to clean up as we still had an hour of the tour left. You should have heard the fit he pitched. In fact, some of you may have! Another fun tidbit, bathrooms here are NOT like they are back home. Ask me when we get back if you're interested! There was no way to clean up, so I just air dried on the rest of the tour, all the while lugging our little turkey around. At this point, he's not feeling so little even though he is itty bitty. Thankfully by the time we got to the bronze chariots, he conked out. This kid can sleep anywhere and through anything. It's crazy! Troy got to hold him while we waited to reassemble and on the hour long trip back to the hotel. It was a nice respite!
We don't have a lot planned for the rest of the day and night. We're going to grab a bite to eat and start getting our stuff ready for our trip out tomorrow. We leave for Guangzhou around 6:00 tomorrow night. SO, Heritage students, I will not be posting tomorrow in all likelihood!! God willing we make it to our next destination, I will post on our local Saturday sometime. :) Pray for our safe flight though, ok?!?! We hope you have a great rest of the week; it's hard to imagine we're finishing up here in Xi'an and coming to the close of our most amazing week EVER!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Down Day



Ok. There's not much news from today as it was kind of a "down day." I am posting an update, though, because I didn't want my students to think I had died! ;) Anyway, last night was kind of traumatic. We discovered eye glasses scare Aiden. Actually, they seem to terrify him. I felt terrible. We were going to Skype; I got ready for bed, put my glasses on, turned to Aiden to tell him to come to me, and he began to wail. It was beyond sad. He really hasn't taken to Troy yet (we're pretty sure he has had little to nothing to do with men - only women work as caregivers at orphanages), so he had nobody to really comfort him last night. He did go to Troy and eventually cried himself to sleep (really only cried for about 5 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity). This morning we woke up - late, at 6:30 - and he was still freaked out. Thankfully it only lasted about 15 - 20 minutes. The downside to him bonding with me? My arms are killing me! It feels like I've torn muscles in my biceps. This afternoon we went to a locals' restaraunt thanks to our guide, David. It was FABULOUS! There was more food than I can even describe. The total bill came to about $10 per person. Ridiculous. Too bad we've mostly eaten at touristy places that are way overpriced and not that good (although the food has been amazing). Now we're getting ready to go to an opera-type show and then an 18 course dumpling meal. Aiden only had an hour nap - ON me - today. He was kind of a handful at lunch, so we're praying he won't be exhausted and naughty tonight! Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adoption - OFFICIAL!



Today we went to the Civil Affairs building again, the same place we picked up Aiden. We answered some questions, signed some more papers, and even added our thumbprints to some documents (Aiden added his tiny little footprint), and we are officially Aiden's mom and dad. It should probably seem more surreal than it does. I guess it was just meant to be. It feels right that he is ours, probably in part because the process has been so long, and we were matched back in January. It also seems more than coincidental that he is legally our son on the anniversary of my sister's passing. It seems like she is and has been watching over the whole journey.
Aiden's personality is really starting to shine through. He is quiet and plays very, very well on his own. As I am typing this, he is running back and forth from the bedroom area to the bathroom....throwing his books on the bathroom floor. Don't ask me. He's two and he's a boy! (You should see the disaster area that is our room. It makes me laugh!) He also discovered his stacking cups and loves them. What really cracks me up isn't that he can spread them all out and still get them back together; what cracks me up is when he puts them upside down and makes a tower. (He is a problem solver and appears to be kind of analytical). Another little insight into his personality is his sense of humor. At breakfast, he will pretend like he is going to feed me, pull the food away, stuff it in his mouth, give me a half grin and giggle.
The down side of parenting a newly adopted child? He, as many children do, has bonded with one parent. Me. It sounds fabulous for the bondee, right? Well, it IS wonderful when he says, "Mama." It is just too bad that it usually happens when he is sobbing because I have had the audacity to put him down. My poor arms and back. We busted out the "baby backpack" today. After a full day of appointments, we had to go shopping. We brought 2T, 24 month, and even 18 month clothes. NOPE! He is almost too small for 12 month clothes! He is itty bitty! The diapers we got? Too big, too. He also has a miserable cold, so Troy had to get some medicine for his cough and runny nose. It doesn't seem to be slowing him down. He loves to play with us and by himself. He is, though, very mellow and really goes with the flow. He woke up at 5:30 this a.m. after going to bed at 9:30 last night. He slept for about 20 minutes at the Civil Affairs office, but other than that has gone all day and been a real trooper! We just love him tooo much! We're all shot though. It's pizza in the room tonight.
Well, sorry for rambling on for so long. There's just so much to we want to share! :) Thanks for taking the time to read the rantings of enamored parents!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Introducing......



Aiden Joseph RenJie Sturgeon! We were blessed to have him join us just after 3:00 PM local time. He cried for about 30 seconds, I pulled out a toy car, and he hasn't cried since. At first, he looked a little shell-shocked and maybe sad, but as the day / night has worn on, we're really starting to see his personality. It looks like he's going to have a good sense of humor and may be more than a little mischievous. He did sit quietly through an hour-long meal playing with his toy cars and eating when we fed him. As I type this, he is looking out the hotel window playing with his toy car and truck. In the last few minutes, he has starting pointing and babbling. Well, I think it's babbling. For all I know, he could be saying something profound. He's smiling all the time now, too. Also, not that anybody cares about this, but it is a good sign: he already did his "stinky business." It's good because if a child is unduly stressed, they often become constipated. NOT SO MUCH HERE! :( It would appear he's pretty relaxed with us. Let me put it this way; Troy's out getting supplies and Aiden has been contentedly playing by himself. Ooops. Until just now. He just climbed onto my lap and is watching me type this. I will type more later, but it's past his bed time and we still need to bathe him and get him to bed. I guess the important thing to know is, we love him more than we could have imagined already, and it looks like he may be willing to tolerate us! More later, but that's the quick version. We're head-over-heels in love!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Is It!

Well. Here we go! We've been up since 5:30 and trying to kill time since then. Now, all of a sudden, it's here! We leave for the Department of Civil Affairs in about 30 minutes. My stomach is a giant knot and my chest hurts; I'm relatively certain I should not have eaten at Dico's (China's homegrown version of KFC). I don't even know how to put into words the emotions. There are a myriad, I assure you, ranging from excitement, relief, and happiness to fear and uncertainty. Come what may, this is what we've been striving for all this time. God be with us! Next time I blog, it will be as Aiden's mommy. "Dad" is in the room pacing, chewing his nails, and checking the time. You'd think this was the waiting room in a labor and delivery wing. ;) ......And we're off!

Let Down / Disappointment


We've had a bit of a disappointment today. By a bit, I mean I'm borderline despondent. When we got into Xi'an a couple hours ago, we were informed by our guide, David, that we (there are five couples in our adoption group)won't be getting our children until tomorrow. I could try to console myself with the notion that that gives us time to get our ducks in a row and rest up before we get him tomorrow instead of traveling 1/2 a day and then having to start trying to bond, but in reality, it's just another day to be tense and uptight. It is only one extra day, but these 24 hours may seem like an eternity. At least we know we're in the same town. Of course, it's a good thing I don't know where the orphanage is; if I did, I'd get a taxi, drive over there, and drag him home with me! :) Just kidding.....kind of! Sorry to everybody who was waiting for pics and info. The best I can do is a photo of a photo we got yesterday at orientation. I pray to have the real deal tomorrow. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Here We Go!


Sorry for not posting yesterday. It was a big day, and we were exhausted by the time it was time to call it a night. Yesterday morning was orientation. We got three new pictures and new information about Aiden. What we learned is, he might be a handful! His caregivers say he is quiet and timid and helps "comfort the younger children." He usually is willing to share his toys, BUT if he doesn't want to and they would try to force him, he would throw his toy and run away. Uh oh! Also, if his caregivers ignored him while handing out toys or food, he wouldn't cry, but he WOULD "make a voice" to get their attention. Again. Uh oh! The actual scary information we got, though, was that he is very scared of strangers. If somebody he doesn't know tries to hug him, he will run away. This is not good. We are truly worried about today. Please pray for us.
That was the most important part of our day. After orientation, we went to the Forbidden City. I cannot describe the scale of it. It was impressive and beautiful. I took just shy of a gazillion pictures. Everywhere I turned, there was a photo op! Thank goodness for digital cameras!! We walked through the Forbidden City to Tiannamen Square. Talk about a massive space. According to our guide, about 1 million people can fit in there. We got our shot of Troy, me and Chairman Mao. :) We also took a picture of one of the two remaining original gates to the city. It's barely visible because of the smog. It's been that way the whole time. Annoying. We visited a silk factory where I refrained from buying anything. Yay me! When we got home, we decided we needed to visit the night market and go get a picture of the oldest (implying there is more than one!) Catholic church in Beijing. We wandered the streets and fell in love with the city. Of course we did. We're leaving! Like Troy always says, though. Just know we'll come back!
I have to sign off now. We leave in 20 minutes for the airport. We are finally off to get Aiden. (God willing. Please pray we get there!) The time is here. Oh my goodness!!!! :) :) :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Great Wall was....well...GREAT!



This morning started bright and early. We're still having trouble with night and day, so I was up and at 'em around 4:30 this morning. Troy finally gave up trying to sleep around 5:30 and got up. This gave us time to get ready, Skype with family, and have a leisurely breakfast before leaving for the Great Wall. I'm so grateful we made it there. Words wouldn't do justice to the "creative" driving of the Chinese people - or at least those in and around Beijing. SCARY! And exciting. :) We got to the Wall around 11:30 and spent about two hours walking it. The first half hour to forty-five minutes we strolled and took about a gazillion pictures. Then, I looked to the top of the mountain and said to Troy, "We HAVE to go there." At first, Troy was dead-set against the notion. As we rounded the last corner before we would have to make our final assualt on the Wall, Troy said, "I haven't come this far not to do it." So, up we went; we made the ascent. Talk about feeling the burn. We did it, though. We hiked up to the final "legal" watch towers. Others went beyond the sign warning against it, but we had to be back to our guide by 1:00. Suffice it to say, we had to have set some kind of record for the distance we covered in the time we covered it. After our trek, we were treated to a delicious (real) Chinese lunch. Now we're exhausted. Luckily, we have masseuers coming to our hotel room tonight. Our poor muscles will be screaming before long! After our messages, we plan to finally go for our Peking duck supper, walk the night market, and if we have the energy, walk to the Forbidden City to take night photos. Tomorrow is our orientation!!! We get more information and learn about what the rest of the trip will bring us. In 48 hours, we will have Aiden!! It is hard to comprehend that this journey is nearing its completion. Our son will soon be in our arms. Praise the good Lord! Thanks again to everybody who helped us get this far. We love you!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 3 - The Summer Palace



It turns out I have had to drag myself out of bed to type this latest update. Jet lag is still dragging us down a little bit which is frustrating. Today we woke up to a smoggy (it's being called fog by our guides, but we have our doubts!) Beijing morning. We were understandably disappointed. It makes sightseeing a little less awe-insipiring. Notice I say less; it is still certainly amazing. Our guide and driver picked us up in the lobby at 9:00. We went first to the Summer Palace. It is spectacular. The grounds were breathtaking even through the haze. After that, we went to a nearby pearl store where they use fresh water oysters' pearls from nearby Kunming Lake. I found a gorgeous lavendar pearl (black pearl, but really looks like a light purple)necklace that I thought was more than a little out of our price range. Troy said this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and insisted I get it! It's beautiful! After the stop at the store, we went to the hutongs. We got rides in bike rikshaws. What a sight! I'm sure the man peddaling had doubts about having to haul Troy and me around. :) We even got to stop and see a typical home in the hutong and talk - through our guide - about his life in this ancient part of the city. Our last stop of the day was at a tea house. We learned about different kinds of tea in China. We have learned just how important tea is in the Chinese culture; it's not just a cliche! Jasmine tea is associated with Beijing, but I bought leche (sp) tea and dried rose to use with it. Again, it was money we hadn't planned to spend, and we're not sure how we'll haul it home, but as Troy pointed out, we only come to Beijing/China for the first time once! :) That was it for the day. We had planned on massages and Peking duck, but I laid down around 6:00 (after walking the pedestrian area for awhile) for a "short nap." Well, it's almost 9:00 P.M., I just changed into jammies, and Troy is snoring away as I type. I guess we're done for today! Hopefully we'll get massages tomorrow after our trip to the Great Wall and eat Peking duck as a grand finale. Jet lag is rough! We pray we're over it in a couple days. 10/10/10 = Gottcha Day!!!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Days 1 & 2 - We're in Beijing!


Well, we made it to Beijing! As Troy has said more than once since we got here, "We're not in Kansas anymore!" It's surreal. We've been up since 3:00 yesterday morning which is hard for us to comprehend since the sun never went down on our flight over the Arctic Circle. (Both flights were uneventful, thanks be to God!) Can I just say, a 14 hour flight seems interminable?! We had relatively comfortable seats in economy plus, but nothing really makes up for FOURTEEN HOURS IN A TIN CAN AT 38,000 FEET! :) Now we're trying to imange, or rather trying not to think about, the return flight with a two year old in seats not in economy plus. YIKES!

We've been up for 25 hours now and need to stay awake for another three at least. If we can stay up until 8:00, we will be close to getting our nights and days on track quickly. Actually, neither Troy nor I are that sleepy. Shell-shocked, yes. Sleepy, no. Our room here is nice but has a...well...distinct odor. I'm glad I brought a Yankee Candle car freshner with us! We put it in front of the A/C unit. We need the A/C today, too. It's about 82 degrees here and very smoggy.

Ok, I'm rambling for which I apologize. It has been a long day. We're off to the Summer Palace tomorrow a.m. In the afternoon we may wander, but thus far, the city seems to be lacking much charm. We'll try to find it, though! Till later....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Shower for Aiden



Last night some ladies from work had a shower for Aiden. It was so sweet of them all. Since Aiden's not technically a baby and we're, well, not "spring chickens," I hadn't really thought about a shower. It was a great time, though. We had drinks, appetizers, and cake(s). Then we opened our little guy's presents. Aiden got a lot of toys, books, and gift cards. The people I work with are generous to a fault. We have had so many other details on our minds trying to get ready to go that we hadn't even thought about the fun stuff for Aiden's return home. Now he will be able to play for hours! The shower made the fact that we leave for China in about 2 1/2 weeks more of a reality. It dawned on me that soon, instead of doing paperwork and preparing for travel, in just over a month....we'll have a TODDLER taking over the house with his toys and running our world! We can't wait! :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

China Itinerary

We were hoping to get our in-country information this week and had all but given up hope since nothing had come in by 7:00 our time (5:00 West Coast time). At 9:30, though, on a Friday night no less, we got an email (God Bless the BlackBerry for keeping me constantly linked!) with our tentative schedules. We know where we're staying, when we'll be taking tours, and when we'll be conducting official adoption business. We have also learned that we will never really be responsible for taking care of anything. :) It should be a nice change of pace from our usual travels. Holt, our adoption agency, and Lotus, the travel agency, pretty much handle everything. Expensive, granted, but the peace of mind should be worth it! In Beijing from 10/6 - 10/10, we'll be staying at the Novotel Peace. During that time, we're going to explore Mutianyu Great Wall and Hutong Lane as well as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Holt will also take us to visit a silk factory. Then we're off to Xi'an where we'll stay at the Xi'an Hyatt Regency - for the first time as a family of three!!! After "Gottcha Day!" on the 10th, we have adoption registration and notarization at Civil Affair Bureau and Aiden's passport application on the 11th. On the 12th we'll do some shopping for supplies. The 13th is a visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses. On the 14th, we will tour the Wild Goose Pagoda. We fly (with a 2 year old who has known us for 4 1/2 days!) to Guangzhou on Oct. 15 where we will be staying at the White Swan Hotel. The 16th is paperwork and medical check day, but we have the 17th as a free day. Oct. 18 it's back to the medical clinic if needed. On the 19th we have a visa appointment. The 20th is oath-taking day. Aiden will officially become our son! (Even though he really will have been for our son for 9 months at that point!) On the 21st we will get Aiden's visa if all goes well, and that night we will take a train to Hong Kong. We're staying near the airport that night at the Regal Hotel because we fly out on Oct. 22 at 12:35 PM. We wish we had built in a day to explore Hong Kong, but we'll probably be exhausted and just want to get that 14+ hour flight over with! We'll have to tour it next time. :) Now. We just have to wait for the invoice that accompanies this newly-received itinerary! Sigh. ;) Oh well. In 24 days when we take off, none of the money stuff will matter. We'll be headed out to get our son and bring him home!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Consulate Appointment / Travel Dates!

It's hard to imagine, but it has finally happened. We got our consulate appointment! We leave for Beijing, China, on October 5. Our plan is as follows:
Arrive in Bejing on October 6 (We're scheduled to land at 2:40 PM local time. We had decided to go a day early because all the other flights we had looked at landed at about 11:30 PM on the 6th. Looks like we're going to have an extra day we hadn't really planned on. Oh well!)
October 7, depending on how we feel, will probably be a "down day," a day to adjust and refresh. But, since we are getting in so early the previous day, we may be up to finding some local sights.
October 8 we are taking a day trip / tour to The Great Wall and the hutongs. It's difficult to comprehend we're actually going to see these. We are so blessed!
October 9 we have our orientation with Holt, and then as a group, we will visit Tiannamen Square and The Forbidden City.
The next day, October 10, we are scheduled to go to Aiden's province, Shaanxi, with three other couples. October 10 is GOTTCHA DAY! We will meet our son in Xian. There are no words to express our excitement and joy! We had hoped to make the group traveling in September, but it was not to be. And to be honest, this will just give us some more time get everything ready and make sure we have the essentials. Now that we know it is going to be October 10, it just seems right. I am reminded yet again that God's timing is perfect! We will be in Xian until October 15 while we wait for....paperwork. Go figure. While we are there, we hope to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors and maybe the hanging monestary. There are so many sights to see, we're sure to keep busy - assuming Aiden will have it! :) It ought to be interesting. We'll make sure to take video. I'm sure everybody will get a kick out of watching us try to travel with a 27 month old. It ought to prove amusing; hopefully for us as well. Here's praying we can keep our sense of humor!
October 15, if everything is processed on time and properly, we will fly to Gauangzhou. It's far enough south - Tropic of Cancer south - that it should be really warm. We kind of hope it's cold back in SD so we can feel particularly pleased with ourselves. Sorry. Of course, this means we we're packing for three different climates, though. Ah well. While in Guangzhou, we have our consulate appointment on October 19. We should receive Aiden's US visa on October 21. During this time, Aiden will officially, legally become OUR SON!! (Of course, as far as we're concerned, he's has been our boy since January!)
On October 21, we will take a train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Again, this new experience should be interesting. Catching a train with all our luggage and a two year old? Luckily, there are other families who will be doing the same thing. It will be nice to have other American's who will be doing the "deer in the headlights" thing. We're relatively experienced travelers, but Asia may be a little overwhelming even for us!
We fly home from Hong Kong at 12:35 on October 22. If we're on time, Aiden will put his feet on American ground (after a 14+ hour flight - sigh) around 1:54 CST and officially become an American citizen! Our flight is scheduled to land in Sioux Falls at 7:34 PM. We're so grateful that Mom and Dad are willing to house-sit for us so we know we'll be coming home to well-cared-for pets and a house that is still standing.
It is almost incomprehensible that this journey that has lasted thus far just over a year is nearing its completion, or is just starting depending on how you look at it! We've made it because of everybody's support, prayers, and good wishes. Again, we are blessed beyond belief.
Aiden, sweetheart, we're almost on our way!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

TA!!

Well, we didn't think it was going to happen today since it was getting so late, but it did. We got our travel approval! Yay! I should listened to my instincts. I told Troy last week that we would get it today, and sure enough, we received our email, and a phone call, early this evening. I must temper this exciting news with a dose of reality, though. I talked to the "travel guy" at Holt, and he did NOT excude confidence that we would be able to travel with the others who have gotten September consulate appointments. It's a very real possibility that all the appointments are booked. Now, he did not discount it entirely, but let's just say his tone did not engender a great deal of hope in me. I guess what I'm trying to say in my rambling is, we still have no idea when we will be traveling to China to get our son. We are praying with all our heart that we will miraculously get in and be able to go in a few weeks, but until next week sometime, we will have no further information. It's gonna be a long weekend. On the bright side, it would have been a LOT longer had we not gotten our TA today! Praise the Good Lord we got it and pray we will be traveling in the VERY NEAR future!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Article 5 and visas

Well, we have reached another milestone in this journey - or would marathon be a more appropriate analogy. The international adoption process in general, the China program in particular, is NOT for the faint of heart! After doing a little independent (aka frowned upon, but I'm not known for my patience) research, I learned that the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou had forwarded our Article 5 to the CCAA on July 26. We weren't informed by Holt of our A5 until July 30, but we're holding out hope that we get our Travel Approval (TA) in the next week or two!! We can be ready to go anytime now because we got our visas via FedEx today! After our TA we get our Consulate Appointment (CA), and then we make our travel arrangements. I know. It's a lot of letters and numbers, but suffice it to say, we only have two more hurdles to clear and we should be China-bound. The down-side to all of this is, if we don't get a quick TA and our CA is thereby pushed back, we could be looking at a December "Gotcha Day." :( Holt is sending a group to China mid-September. If we don't get into that group, we may be facing a long wait. In October and November, China has trade fairs, is hosting the Asian Games, and has a government holiday for a week. It could be very difficult, if not impossible, and extremely expensive to get a consulate date or lodging and transportation at that time. We would certainly appreciate any and all prayers and positive thoughts for a fast TA. Thanks! Here's hoping I'll be posting again SOON with good news!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Updated Information

We're so excited! We got some new information today. We can't get any updated medical exams or anything at this point, but we were able to get some general, observable information from the "nannies." Here's what we now know:

Aiden walks and runs well. He likes to play hide-and-seek. He can even tie his shoes!! He doesn't like to talk much (are we SURE this is our boy? Or is he already preparing for Mom and Dad to be talking so much he won't be able to get a word in edge-wise?), but he does like to smile. We've been told he understands adults and that he has very expressive eyes.
His favorite foods are sweet foods - bananas, watermelon....and sugar (he is his father's son!). Every day he eats rice, noodles, porridge, and steamed stuffed bun. Apparently he has a great appetite, according to his caretakers, and doesn't pick at his food. He IS our boy!
Our hearts melted when we learned his favorite toy right now is a teddy bear. They made a point to tell us he likes to hold it in "his hug," but he is willing to share it with others. I may have teared up at that!
They say that for the most part he is a sound, deep sleeper, but occassionally he is awakened by sounds or noises. Most importantly, he has been healthy!

We were so excited to have new news, we wanted to share! We did have somebody on a message board share some rather disheartening information, though. She had heard that if we don't travel in September (the longer we're without our Article 5, the less likely that becomes), chances are we won't travel until December. During October and November in China, there are trade fairs and the Asian Games, so we'd be pushed back until the next month. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers that we go before then. December is an eternity away!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Photos!




Last night I said to Troy, "I need something. Anything. I've got to have something to hold on to, to get me through another week of waiting." Lo and behold, my prayers were answered! We got new pictures and measurements on Aiden. He looks like such a little peanut. We may be partial, but Troy and I think he is painfully cute! His head has been shaved. We may never know the reason for sure, but since I track the weather in Xi'an (the city nearest Aiden that I can check), we may be able to surmise why. It is excrutiatingly hot there - high temps and high humidity. Lately it has been in the upper 90s there with a heat index in triple digits and not cooling much at night. Poor little guy. After doing some research on orphanages in China, it's a pretty safe bet there is no a/c there. We pray he's not miserable. On the bright side, at least he'll weather South Dakota summers like a champ!




Now, we were thrilled to get the pictures today; however, the measurements leave us scratching our heads. According to the newest information, Aiden has shrunk 4cm, lost 1.5kg, has 3 fewer teeth, and his feet are smaller. Hmmmm. We're going with the theory that one of the updates we got was wrong. :) Our adoption agency is looking into it, but by the looks of the picture, our theory is the smaller measurements are probably the right ones. Did I mention he just a little peanut?




It's hard to imagine we can love somebody we haven't even met yet. We do, though! When I look at him, it's an almost physical pain I want to hold him so badly. We continue to ask for prayers that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our First Aiden Post


This is the first post on a blog we really don't know how to operate. We do have a purpose, though. We want friends and family to be able to follow us as we set out on our final leg of our journey to adopt. We began this adventure just about exactly a year ago. At the very end of July 2009, we decided to attend a webinar sponsored by Holt International. When we got done, we discussed and prayed and knew international adoption was our calling! Now, a year later, we are inching ever closer to our destination: our son, Feng Ren Jie - Aiden Joseph - and China. At the end of January, we received our referral and Aiden's pictures. We had our son!
The process has been nothing short of arduous and grueling, but with the support of our friends, family, colleagues, and community (not to mention the amazing staff at Holt), we are nearing the culmination of all the hard work and not a few tears. We had the amazing paperchase, the physicals, the readying of the home, and so much more, but hopefully, within a few short months, we will be boarding a plane that will wing us half a world away to a land where we can complete our family. We will be going to Beijing, the Shaanxi Province, and Guangzhou. Today started what we would like to think of as the final phase. We received our letter from the National Visa Center stating our information had been forwarded to China. Once they ok us, we get our Article 5, apply for our visas, and get our travel approval we'll be off to get our boy! We welcome you to follow us as we conclude our journey and become a family!