Welcome to our story...

God has richly blessed us with a big, fun family...
We have 10 children... 3 homegrown & 7 born in our hearts!

Blake... our oldest is 25 and has a heart for the Lord. He enjoys; church, family, mission trips, making music, playing guitar & drums at church, and writing.

Brianna Faith... is 21 and has a compassionate & tender heart. She's a wonderful big sister. She began talking to us about adoption when she was 11 yrs old. She is "Faith in motion"

Brent... is 17 - he's an awesome guy! He's in highschool. He has a special heart for family and God. He loves sports! Brent loves to laugh & is full of life!

Bethany Lidia... now 15, joined our family in August 2006 at 9 yrs old. She's from the beautiful country of Guatemala. She started school for the very first time (at 9 yrs old) and is now in 9th grade. Lidia's passion is sports & dancing!

Benjamin Ross... 15 yrs old. We first saw his picture in April 2007 & came home in May '08. Ben is deaf, but his special need is that he needed a family. Ben loves making home-runs & hanging out with family & friends. Ben is from Tianjin, China.

Briella Xiyao... our beautiful 15 yr old daughter from Fujian Province, China. She joined our family in July 2009. She's always wearing a big smile! She has a passion for the deaf & very proficient in sign language. She loves basketball!!

Bellamei Ying... our Inner Mongolian princess. Bellamei is 14 yrs old and held my hand for the first time on July 18, 2011. She has melted into our big family seamlessly and it is truly an honor to be her mommy.

Brinley Grace FuChuan... is 9 years old and joined our family in July 2007. She's from Jiangxi Province, China. She has the most gentle, sweet spirit... she's an angel!

Bayla Shea Chao-Yu... our youngest. She's 9 yrs old, 5 months younger than Brinley. Bayla's from Hunan, China & came home at 11.5 months. She's bright, funny (and spicy!) We can't get enough of her hugs & kisses.

and our caboose... Braxton Emanuel Jordan - 8 yrs old? (see post below) He's from Guangdong Province and is now officially our son!

This 1 min video shows how we've GROWN!

Bittersweet Goodbye

Although we are having a wonderful time in Guangzhou, tomorrow will be our last day here. Since everything went so well with the chest x-ray, I called the consulate Monday morning and they agreed to move our appt up 2 days (today!). This means we are going home two days early. Lidia's a little disappointed since we've met such nice families here & made friends. There's a lot to do here and it is pretty relaxing, I admit. But Mike and the other kids need us at home and I miss everyone. So tomorrow is our last day. We'll go to the swearing in ceremony in the afternoon at the embassy, then we'll get her visa to come home. We'll leave the hotel Wednesday at 6 am and take a flight to Beijing. Then from there we'll fly to Chicago, and then on to Charlotte. That's a little over 20 hrs actually in the air, not including the 2 layovers. We're flying stand-by again, but the seat availability looks pretty good & it'll be so great if we get to ride in business class again. That really makes a difference on a long trip. Thanks again Kim & Jeff !!!!

Can't wait to see all my other kiddos and give everyone a huge hug! Briella is so excited about going home. Today she said "America Wednesday" to a shopkeeper. She is so well adjusted - I can't believe we have been so blessed yet again to receive a child that so naturally becomes part of our family. She has been simply delightful, happy & smiley. She is talkative and chats with our guide a lot. She also tries to communicate in English and does quite well. By the way, she's a wiz at math... been testing her on different math problems, and she gets them all perfect... and fast. At one shop, she added up in her head what she thought our total was, and before the shopkeeper used his calculator to add up our items (about 14 items), she told him what she thought it was. Well, she was off by 12 Yuan (their dollar). Turns out there was 1 item stuck in the bottom of the basket that she hadn't seen and it was exactly the difference.

Tomorrow morning will be my last chance to email, as I am packing up the laptop and mailing it off to Nancy's brother who lives back in Briella's province. It is for him, but I've had the privilege of using it while in China. Thanks Nancy!!!

Well, can't wait to see everyone... we're supposed to arrive in Charlotte about 9:45 Wednesday night, about 27 hrs after we step foot on our first flight. I can't wait to see Mike & the kids at the airport. Here are some pics... hugs to all

Briella and our guide Sarah, who took good care of us!

Lidia standing in an underground tomb of an emporer buried 2,000 yrs ago

Octopus for sale at local Walmart

Maybe your in the mood for sting-ray instead?

Such little parking space - so they have double stacked parking

Last year while I was here for Ben, the terrible earthquake happened - this time we had a typhoon that landed ashore this province, but thank goodness I don't think there were any injuries

Fun in the streets!

Inside our beautiful hotel

Photo op!

At Lucy's Diner - wonderful western food. Briella says "hamburger please"!

Dinner with new friends

Out on the town

Happy, thankful, and having fun!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

We arrived last night to our final city here and checked in to The White Swan Hotel... as beautiful as ever. The flight was short and pleasant and Briella was thrilled, especially during take-off and landing. Lidia loves it here in Guangzhou! We've met many families here that are from the states and have had lots of fun with them, walking, shopping and then going to dinner with another family. Their son reminds me so much of Brent. They adopted a 10 yr old girl that was just so scared and we could see her quietly weeping. Briella became friendly with her and they became friends, just chattering away in Mandarin. That is the family we had dinner with and it was a good time. I believe Briella really helped her to feel more comfortable.

The GREAT news is...... Briella had all her medical evaluations this morning and her chest x-ray was perfect. This is great news and means that her positive TB skin test was a false positive from her previous vaccination. Yay! She will now be granted a visa to come home. She also had 4 vaccinations and not a flinch. She has had a perfect transition so far... she is very sweet, playful, shy at first, smart, and confident. She has not shed one tear the whole time. She's already learning some English words.

Here are some things on the agenda for the next few days... paperwork, a museum trip, our consulate appt, swearing in ceremony, the zoo, and getting her visa to come home. We are fitting in a little shopping, swimming, and visiting. A few of the shop owners remember me from previous visits.

Love to all of my kiddos back home and thanking God for all of my blessings

On the way to the airport. Lidia has small hands... Briella's are TINY

1st airplane ride was a big hit!

Beautiful sunset above the clouds

A new boat for Mike.... well, it IS bigger!

Breakfast at The White Swan Hotel... one of the best amenities here

4 shots and a chest x-ray equals a clean bill of health!

Briella did so well with all the medical stuff, including 4 trips to the hospital in her province

Lidia sewing some little silk pouches at a local shop

Time Together

We are really enjoying seeing different things in this province. We took a trip by car, about 3.5 hours away, and looked around Briella's hometown area. It was rainy and overcast, but we had fun. We had local food on the way down, and then more Chinese food later for dinner with some of the adoption officials. Lidia did very well with the food (better than me!) and we had a good time. It was nice for Briella to see her town once more and capture some pictures and memories. Last night after we got settled back at our previous hotel, Briella and I went down to the pool. She has never been in a pool and just stayed in the kiddie pool the whole time. She loved it. We don't have the same room as last time, so now we have a lake view room and it is very pretty at night. This morning we went for a long walk all around the lake that is here at the hotel. So VERY hot and humid!!!!!!!! We leave in a half an hour to go back to the hospital to get the result of the TB test. Briella continues to do very well with the transition. She is happy and sweet. Her personality is very easy going. At the pool, she showed me how she counts well in English... she counted to about 50. She's not the show-off type so she probably knows more than she shows. She really likes running and volleyball. Well, signing off for now. Here are some pics... love to everyone back home... I miss you!!

Briella when she was younger

Briella when she was younger

Lidia and Briella at a restaurant in her town

Lidia can pick up a peanut with chopsticks!

Having fun at the restaurant

Enjoying our time on the boardwalk in Briella's hometown of Xiamen

Making the best of a l-o-n-g care ride!

Very happy to try the pool for the 1st time

So tiny! Bathing suit is a 7-8 & fits perfect - she's 11!!

The heat index is about 100 degrees! The pool is a great place to be

Walking around the lovely lake with our guide Helen

Beautiful area!

Great photo op!

A beautiful lotus flower

Official Paperwork and Xiamen

Yesterday we completed the official adoption paperwork, and now it will be processed this week and we will receive her passport on Friday, before flying to Guangzhou. Then in the afternoon, we played a game of bowling at the hotel, and it was super fun! Briella really liked it, and had never tried bowling before. Next we played ping-pong and spent more time laughing and chasing that little ball around than actually playing the game. We had a blast. Lidia and I were very competitive while bowling; but I did manage to beat her score. Lidia is hilarious at ping-pong :o)

We also went to the hospital twice to accomplish getting the TB skin test for Briella. It is such an event to visit a hospital here and so different than back home. Most of the time, it seems like complete chaos and the conditions are so different than what we are used to. In the end though, she received the skin test and we go back tomorrow to let them look at the result. So far, I don't see a reaction, but it gets looked at tomorrow and the next day we must go back again, as they look at the result both at 48 and 72 hrs.

We packed up our things this morning and left most of our baggage at the hotel, just packing lightly for 1 night because today we traveled to Xiamen. In a little while, we'll go see the orphanage, but we're not allowed to tour it, due to the swine flu. China is taking a very cautious approach with regard to the flu. Hopefully Briella will be able to say a final goodbye to her friends here. We might also be able to go see the spot where she was found at 1 day old. We stopped for a Chinese lunch at a university on the way. We are traveling with Jack, who's the head of adoptions for this province. He's super nice. He ordered all kinds of interesting food for us. When we got back in the car, I told Lidia that I was proud of her... she made no faces or odd noises regarding the food. This is a big accomplishment for her. She was very poised & she did try some new things. She will NOT try using the squatty potty though. This is mostly what's available outside the hotel, so it takes some strategy to avoid. You definitely need stronger leg muscles to use it effectively!

Gotta go now... just got the call that we are leaving. Here are a few pics...

Briella and I are completing the paperwork that will make us a family..... forever!

We Have Briella!!

What can I say? This little girl is precious! She is petite & tiny, with a sweet smile and she is a little shy. She is warming up to us just fine so far. She looked a little nervous, but not afraid. I was nervous too! She and Lidia played Barbies in the hotel room after we finished with paperwork and discussions. The orphanage director is very nice and well spoken. She has known Briella since she entered the orphanage at 1 day old. We meet again in the morning for more paperwork and to have the TB test done.

After the girls played Barbies, we walked around the hotel, showing Briella the pool, the bowling alley, ping-pong, etc. Then we caught a taxi and went to McDonald's. The taxi rides here are like being on a carnival ride. Briella and I had a chicken sandwich, only problem is that mine had a bonus feature... a little roach inside my sandwich wrap. Oh well, I got another one and ate it. You gotta do what you gotta do! Then we walked around the shopping area in the same building as McDonald's, and we learned that Briella's never been on an escalator before. She was so careful (and cute!). We came back and Lidia wanted to go for a night swim. Briella and I just watched. She does not know how to swim. I told her (by way of our electronic translator) that I could help her tomorrow, and so far she just smiles and says no about that.

Well, we need to go to sleep now. She and Lidia are watching something silly on t.v., and they're both giggling up a storm on the bed together. Here are a few pics from today.

We're in Beijing

Lidia and I are now 4 nights into our trip and all is going well. We flew into Beijing and did some sight-seeing there for 2 days, while we got used to the new time zone. We were able to fly 1st class to Chicago, then business class to Beijing... thank you Kim & Jeff !! It was awesome :o)

This evening as I post this, Lidia is sound asleep and I am pensive in the still silence... thinking about meeting my new daughter tomorrow and humbled that God would entrust me once again to have the privilege of being mama to another beautiful child of His. Briella Xiyao has waited 11 long years for her forever family. I wonder if she has butterflies too!

Yes, I am a little nervous... but mostly just in awe. I've learned that the very sweetest blessings anyone can receive are the ones that come by way of true faith. The more I trust Him, the sweeter life gets.

Lidia learning how to stretch silk

After my 4th trip here, my guide finally clarified for me what this sign means...a place of mental rest for the emperor and empress...Mike, maybe you can build one for us?

Our guide takes us to the Forbidden City

Lidia goofing around at the jade factory

Touring the historic Hutong area

Getting ready to climb the Great Wall

Pretty steep!

Working up a sweat now.

Stopping at the top to catch my breath

What a place to take a rest!

Yak meat anyone? We found this at the airport while we were looking for a breakfast snack...

View from the van as we got closer to our new hotel

A couple views from our hotel room

Beautiful area