Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Muffins and Mayhem

This week has been heavy, would you agree?  So many big issues, so much heartache, everybody arguing about what to do about it.  There are one million blogs and articles floating around that offer up one million ideas and "solutions."  Let me be very clear when I say that this is not one of them.  I have absolutely no idea what anyone should do.  Except for this:  eat a muffin.  Pour yourself a hot beverage, and have a muffin.

Sunday morning I woke up sweating, with tears streaming down my face.  I had just experienced a horrible dream.  The bad guys had come here, to the heartland.  They were marching down our quiet country road, headed straight for our house.  Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed my babies and we snuggled down in the fairy tent.

Did you read that?  THE FAIRY TENT.  When faced with true evil I chose, as protection, a pink polyester fairy tent.

You may now praise Jesus that I am not your Commander in Chief.

After I realized that it was simply a dream, I poured myself a strong cup of coffee and decided that perhaps I should lay off the news and internet for a while.  I struggle to find the balance between staying informed and forgetting to come up for air.

It's easy to get caught up in the fear.  Where will they strike next?  Who is the next target?  Are they already here?  When I catch myself asking those questions there is only one thing to do:  hit my knees and pray.  And while I pray for the safety of my husband and my children and all my other loved ones, I also pray that regardless of what happens that I will remain true to Him.  That no matter what, I will cling to His truth.

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27 

I'm going to say something now that half of you are not going to agree with, and that is okay.  I cannot fully get behind the idea of turning away all of the refugees.  Now please do not attack me and call me unpatriotic or foolish.  I get that there might be wolves hiding amongst the sheep.  I get that, I promise you that I do.  I look at my babies and the thought that someone might sneak in and do something that could hurt them chills me to my very bones.

But I also cannot turn my back on those images.  I know you all saw the picture of that little boy that washed up on the shore.  He was all curled up with his little rump sticking up in the air... just like my precious boy does when he sleeps.  Only this particular boy was not sleeping.  I cannot erase that image from my head or my heart.

As a mother I would do just about anything to keep my children from harm, and I can't help but think that the mothers clinging to those boats are doing just that:  whatever they possibly can to save their babies.

I cannot, in good faith, turn them away.  I simply cannot.  But I also love America and want to protect her.  I remember exactly how I felt on September 11th and I never want to feel that way again.  I want my family, my friends, my neighbors, my fellow countrymen all to be safe from evil and harm.

In short, I'm conflicted.  Terribly conflicted.  I desperately wish that these things were black and white, but to me they are not.  Basically I'm the worst Republican in America.

Thankfully it's not up to me.  What I say or think doesn't really matter.  And so I pray.  I pray with every fiber of my being for the people that are actually making these horrible decisions.  I pray that God will lead them, guide them, and direct them.  I pray that a real solution would appear, one that somehow combines compassion with safety.  I pray that this evil would be contained.  I pray for the safety of our troops and the wisdom of our leaders.  I pray that Americans would stop fighting each other.  And when I run out of words to pray, I bake some muffins.

Yes, I said bake some muffins.  I don't have many answers, but I do know one thing:  whatever mayhem we find ourselves in, muffins will surely help.  The particular muffins I made today were pumpkin, cinnamon, and gluten-free.  Did they solve everything?  No.  Were they delicious?  Yes.  Can they be enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans alike?  I like to think so.

In closing, while I cannot offer you any sort of advice or wisdom for our current political turmoil, I can offer you a muffin recipe.  Please bake responsibly.

GF Pumpkin Muffins
*this recipe is for two dozen muffins, because I believe strongly in leftover muffins

2 cups almond flour
2 cups GF flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup honey
1 cup oil (I use coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 can of pumpkin

I mixed everything but the pumpkin together, then added that in last.  Dollop into greased muffin tins and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.  While the muffins are in the oven, brew a fresh pot of coffee.  When the muffins are done, pour yourself a nice hot cup 'o joe, grab a muffin, and for heavens sake turn off the news.  Enjoy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Potato Brain

Good grief.

Is this even allowed?  Is there some sort of law of limitations on how long you can go between blog posts?  There probably should be.  For the record, I had to google myself.  I didn't even remember how to log in!  True story.  And I honestly expected Blogger to have deleted my account.  But, low and behold, there she was.  Patiently waiting.  I am the Queen of Abandoned Projects, and this poor little blog is sadly one of many discarded notions.  But let's dust her off and give her a go, shall we?

How are you?  It's been... awhile.  This is nearly awkward.  I sort of feel like I should reintroduce myself to you.  In fact, maybe that's what we should do.  I'll go first.

Hi.  My name is Jenni.  I love Jesus, coffee, my little family, chats with my BFFs, and binge-watching Netflix.  I used to use this space to write my nonsense.  But then being a mother of three munchkins kind of took my brain and squashed it.  Last week I found a lone potato in the trunk of my car.  I haven't bought potatoes in several weeks, which means this little spud had been rolling around back there since sometime mid-September.  He was soft, lumpy, and had a slightly suspicious odor.  That is currently the state of my brain.  My cognitive capacity is that of a trunk-dwelling potato.

Writing is a huge passion of mine, but these days I often feel like I do not have one single thing worth saying.  Or typing for that matter.  I often cannot string together a complete sentence, let alone an essay.  Why on earth would anyone want to read my words?  There are one gazillion bloggers out there, most of them with really interesting things to say.  How could I possibly add anything of value?

The Hubbs keeps reminding me that we won't know unless I try.  So here I am, lumpy potato-brain and all.  The babies are all tucked in for the night, The Hubbs is off somewhere doing something farmtastic, so it's just me and my cup of Sleepytime tea.  I was going to hop on Pinterest and continue my search for the perfect Christmas tree color scheme, but I suppose that can wait...

Part of what keeps me from writing is that it's emotionally draining.  I do not know how to write without all my feelings spilling out everywhere, and that kind of wears me out.  It's embarrassing to be vulnerable.  But yesterday someone said something to me that resonated.  She said, "We, as Christians, need to be more real.  We are so scared to open up about our struggles, for fear that our fellow Christians won't understand, when in reality a lot of us are fighting the very same battles."

Oh mercy, is that a true statement.  We could all use a little more real, without fear of judgement.  So here I am.  I'm going to dive back into blogging in an attempt to be real, be vulnerable.  Perhaps if I share my seedy underbelly, you might have the same kind of belly and it might give you a stitch of confidence to be honest about it.

I love people that do not hide anything, they are honest about struggles but don't wallow in them either.  It's so refreshing.  The tricky part is that there is a fine line between real and really whiny.  Nobody likes whiny.  Sometimes I think I'm leery of opening up about struggles because I don't want be THAT girl.  You know the one.  The girl you hide on Facebook because all she does is complain about how hard life is and how she can't get anything right.  She wallows.  I don't want to wallow.

There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere.  Can we be honest without being whiny?  Can we share without wallowing?  And when someone opens up about a struggle can we simply listen and love, minus the judgement and piousness?

I like to think that we can.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Still Here

Please don't faint.

Yes, it's me:  your favorite nonsense blogger.  It's been so very long since I posted anything that the pressure keeps building for me to write the perfect post.  I assure you this will not be the perfect post.  My brain is far too fried to dazzle you with my verbiage, so instead I'm just going to throw a few pictures at you to prove that we're all still alive and kickin'.

First things first... this happened.

On September 17th, at high noon, I gave birth to 8 pounds, 9 ounces, of pure man-child.  He had beautiful blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. We named him Duke and fell in love immediately.

Then we came home and I cried every day for 5 weeks straight.  Post-pardum depression?  Exhaustion?  Overwhelmed?  All of the above?  Only God knows.  All I know is that those first couple of months were Rough, with a capital "R."  But we did survive.  And slowly, but surely, we are learning what life looks like as a family of five.

The Duke was welcomed home by his big sisters, Spicy and Sassy.  Which is Spicy and which is Sassy you ask?  They are completely interchangeable.  Equal parts spice and sass.  They are also equal parts adorable and lovable, but that is neither here nor there.

At first the girls thought Duke was a bit boring, but it wasn't long before they decided he was worth keeping around.

They snuggle him and kiss him and smother him with sisterly love.  Emphasis on the smothering part.

Exactly one day after Duke entered the world, we marked 6 months since meeting Lucy for the very first time.  And oh what a six months it has been!  Talk about a whirlwind.  I vacillate between being amazed at how far she has come and how well she has transitioned to being paranoid that she's not getting what she needs from her emotional disaster of a mother.  I worry that we rushed her adjustment time.  I worry that she's been lost in the shuffle.  I worry that she didn't get her full day in the sun.

And last, but certainly not least, we have this little beauty.

I worry about her, too.  She went from being our whole world to having to share the stage with not one, but two little siblings.  Lucy and Duke demand so much of our time and attention that I worry she feels left out and left behind.  I'm fairly certain that she's not getting her 33.3%.  I also worry because she's growing up so very fast, that I'm going to blink and her childhood will be over.

I know, I know... I need to get a grip.  That's what we moms do, right?  We worry.  The truth is that I cannot actually control any of these things.  We've done the best we could and simply have to lay the rest at the Lord's feet.  Every day is a challenge.  Every day I am reminded that less of me and more of Him is the only way to go.

There you have it.  We're still here, we're still kickin'.  We're still hashing out our own version of a beautiful mess.  Thanks for checking in.  Thanks for reading my nonsense.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Three Months, 28 Weeks

Once upon a time there was this girl who blogged.  She would write delightful nonsense about her little life and it was fun.  But that was before she had 2.5 kids and barely had time to change her underwear and brush her teeth.  Now she finds herself wishing she could go to the bathroom alone, forget sitting down to write out her thoughts and feelings.

For real, folks, this parenting stuff is not for the faint of heart.  It's awesome and amazing and arguably the most important job in the world... but it's exhausting.  Truth be told, I blog every day... in my head.  The trouble is that I rarely find the time to actually sit down and type it out.  But throughout my crazy days I catch myself narrating my own life.  I "write" clever little quips and stories about all the things we do all day long.  I "document" what the girls are learning and how they're changing right in front of my very eyes.  Now if I had a better memory this little system wold be fantastic.  But sadly I have a terrible memory, so approximately 7 minutes after I've narrated the day in my head it vaporizes into nothingness.

So much great writing that the world will never read.

Just kidding, most of it's rubbish.  But I do wish I could find a way to sit down more often and type it out because someday I know I'm going to kick myself for not taking better notes of these oh-so-precious years.  And when I say precious I mean like last week when one girl pooped in the bathtub and the other one peed on the floor.  Simply precious.

But before the little darlings wake up from their naps, I am determined to give you a quick update.  First off, today marks the 3 month Gotchaversarry for little Miss Lucy.  Three months!  The Hubbs and I realized this today and honestly we can't believe it's only been that long.  I know it sounds cliche, but it really feels like she's been with us a whole lot longer.

She has transitioned and acclimated beautifully.  We are so incredibly thankful for what a little trooper she is.  She eats like a small horse, she sleeps well, she snuggles and gives kisses and just dives into whatever activity we put before her.  She's loud and hollers at us on a daily basis.  She's learning words, not a lot of words, but she is trying.  We feel like she understands just about everything we say to her, which when you think about it is kind of a miracle.  She's not as girly as her big sister, and I'm interested to see if she falls more on the tomboy side of things.  She loves to dance and we love to watch her... she's hysterical!  She blow kisses and waves hello and good-bye.  She loves to shake hands during "greet your neighbor time" at church.  Now that summer is here we've filled our little pool and she adores the water.  When we pray at mealtimes she folds her chubby little hands and bows her head and every time I look at her I tear up.  She is so easy to love.

In short, she has completely stolen our hearts.

Here's a couple pics from the last couple of months.  You can see for yourself what a little charmer she is!

Not the most graceful of ballerinas, but certainly the most entertaining!

"Helping" Mama in the kitchen.

Me love noodles!!!  As it turns out noodles are also good for your hair and skin.

Chillin' with Uncle Dave.  I know... I'm cute.

Monkey see, monkey do.
Now, in other news, I went to the OB this morning for my 28 week check-up!  Hellllloooooooo third trimester!!!!  Goodness gracious this pregnancy is FLYING by.  Although I suppose it's bound to feel fast when you basically skip the whole first 4 months.

I'm thankful to report that I feel really good.  I'm all sorts of out of breath most of the time and my stomach is growing by the minute.  I want to eat everything that doesn't move, and some things that do move.  I get tired easily, but some of that is due to the two darling little divas that keep me on my toes.  Overall, I really cannot complain.  I feel great.  And we are getting more and more excited to meet this little bun in the oven!  We are not, I repeat, not going to find out if it's a boy or a girl.  The whole pregnancy was a surprise, so we're just going to continue the trend.  Everyone is fairly convinced that it's a boy (including our girls) which just makes The Hubbs and I more and more convinced that it's a girl.  Either way we are excited!

Thanks for checking in on my little corner of the blogosphere, in spite of my absentee status.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Walk For Life

Hello friends, 

I just wanted to post a quick blog this morning and let you know about a little something the girls and I are up to.  There is an organization in our community called the Women's Resource Center.  They provide a whole lot of much needed resources such as 
  • Free pregnancy tests with immediate results
  • Positive pregnancy test verifications
  • Accurate information pregnancy, abortion and alternatives
  • Pregnancy & fetal development information
  • Referrals for housing, childbirth classes and future medical assistance
  • Referrals for ongoing prenatal care
  • Learn & Earn Incentive Program
  • Maternity and baby clothes available for clients
  • Prenatal and infant care education
  • Referrals to community resources and agencies
  • Post-Abortion Counseling
They are a fabulous, caring, and compassionate group of people.  Not to mention they are completely funded through the donations of people like you and me.  Every spring they hold something called a "Walk for Life" where people sign up to walk and then ask their friends and family to sponsor them.  All donations go directly to the Women's Resource Center.  If you would like to check out more information about this wonderful organization go here.

I'm not a huge fan of using this blog to spout my political views or to beg for money.  But I honestly believe that this particular group of people both need and deserve our support.  They share the love of Jesus in a very specific way.  They don't bomb abortion clinics and they don't scorn girls who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.  They just love them and provide them with as much support as they can.

Luella and I did this walk last year and it was a total blast, so this year we are adding Lucy to the mix.  We are signed up as Team Joedeman.  If you are interested in sponsoring us just click on the link below.  If not, that is totally fine too.  I promise to love you anyway.

Have a great day Bloggy Blog Land!!!

Click here to find out how to sponsor us:  Walk For Life

Friday, April 26, 2013

Baby Boom

Grab some coffee and pull up a chair... have I got a story for you.

To start things off, I have a little show-and-tell today, and I feel the need to forewarn you that it involves urine.  It's my urine, of course.  I'd never put anyone else's urine on here, that would just be weird.  I mean who wants to look at some random person's urine?  And now I've typed the word "urine" more times than ever before in my life.  Back to the show-and-tell.

Ha ha!!!  I am soooooo totally knocked up!  That's right, people... I'm preggers, with child, cookin' a bun in the oven.  However you want to say it, I'm pregnant!!!

I know, right?!?!?!

Yes, we just brought a baby home from China.  Like, as in, we only got off the plane 4 weeks ago.  No, we did not know I was pregnant before we left.  Yes, we thought we couldn't have kids.  And believe me, no one and I mean NO ONE was more surprised by this than me.  You seriously could have knocked me over with a feather.

So here's how it all went down...

I had been feeling... ummmm... weird for a while.  I was super tired, I couldn't think straight, I was clumsy and overly emotional (even for me.)  But I honestly just kept chalking it all up to the stress of planning the trip and leaving Luella and getting ready to meet Lucy.  We were so busy running around trying to get everything ready that I simply didn't stop to think that there might be more to it.  People keep asking me if I had morning sickness, and obviously that answer is no.  If I had, perhaps, it would have clued me into what was going on.  I was nauseous from time to time, but half the country was sick so I just sort of figured I had a mild case of the flu.  I only threw up once and that was the night we got our travel approval.  Again, I just thought I had been too stressed and worried and when the good news came in I just sort of, I don't know, exploded.  In more ways than one.

Now I hope this isn't TMI (if it is, I'm so sorry!!) but I also had missed a few of my cycles.  I think I've told you this before, but I have something called PCOS and one of the symptoms of that is irregular cycles.  So missing a couple here and there has always been the norm for me.  Which is why back when we were trying to get pregnant it was so blasted hard.

Again, I just chalked it up to stress and never thought another thing about it.

But then we went to China and my body totally flipped out on me.  The clumsy thing compounded to the point where I was scared to cross the street.  It was like my whole equilibrium just up and walked off the job.  I fell a couple of times right after we got there and was completely humiliated.  Also, my legs swelled up like a couple of life rafts.  So gross.  My appetite was off, I was more nauseous than ever, and kept gagging at unusual things.  This has never happened to me before.  I have done a significant amount of air travel in my lifetime and my body has never reacted this way.

Finally The Hubbs was like, "Honey I think there is something going on.  I think you might be..." And then he said the "p" word.  What?!?!  No way.  NO WAY.  I'm in China I can't be pregnant.  I'm adopting a baby, I can't possibly be pregnant.  I was focused on one thing and one thing only: getting Lucy and then getting home to Luella.  My brain couldn't even process something so absurd as being... pregnant.

The Hubbs has always been smarter than myself.

And since we were in China there wasn't much we could do about it anyway, so we agreed that if things kept up I would take a test once we got home.  Well, I already told you how hairy our flight home was.  And my body rebelled in every way imaginable.  I almost went down in Japan.  The room was spinning and felt like it was 500 degrees and they had just told me that we could leave the airport, but Lucy could not.  I was stressed to the max and my body was trying to tell me something and I just wouldn't listen.

We made it home and a few days later I peed in a cup. Let's pause for a moment here...

I was terrified.  I was terrified that I was pregnant.  I was terrified that I wasn't pregnant.  All those years of praying, praying, hoping, pleading, begging for a baby... and I could be getting two at once?  Are you kidding me????  I had once told The Hubbs that I never wanted to see another negative pregnancy test for as long as I lived.  We had seen too many.  Back when were were trying, month after excruciating month of looking at the words "not pregnant."  And now here I was, on the cusp of actually being pregnant and I wasn't convinced I really wanted to be.

Waiting for that test was the longest 10 minutes of my life.

As you can see from the picture above, the test was positive.  But I still wouldn't believe it.  So two days later I took another test... again positive.  At this point I was finally convinced we should call the doctor.  So, exactly 6 days after getting off the plane, I walked into the doctors office where they had me pee into yet another cup and then I promptly proceeded to cry my eyes out.  I could barely catch my breath, it was all so overwhelming.  I was hit with 27 different emotions all at the same time:  guilt for being pregnant, guilt for feeling guilty for being pregnant, fear, anxiety, gratefulness, SURPRISE, giddiness, embarrassment, hysterical... you name it... I felt it.

Then they did the ultrasound and we got a peek at this precious little human inside of me.

Then we heard the heartbeat and I swear to you time stood still.

Suddenly things became okay.  Suddenly I began to remember that yes, I did really want to be pregnant.  Does it feel rushed and crazy and overwhelming?  You bet my ever-growing baby bump it does.  But God knows all of that.  He's known all along.  He's had this perfectly planned from the very beginning.  Six and a half years ago when we decided to start a family HE KNEW this was how it was going to go.  And what a spectacular plan it is!!!

I read an article while we were in China about that saying "God will never give you more than you can handle."  You've heard that, right?  Well, the author of this article had an interesting take on it:  they suggested that that is completely bogus.  Of course God is going to give you more than you can handle, because it is those times that we need to depend on Him.  This was going through my head as I lay on the examining table in the OB/GYN office.  No, I cannot do this on my own.  I cannot bring home one kid and then turn around and have another one.  I simply cannot.  And even though The Hubbs and I make a fantastic team, this is still a fairly tall order.

But God can handle it.  He will give us everything we need and more to make this work.  He can take care of Luella and Lucy and this new little one all at the same time.  All I have to do is play along.  It's going to be rough at times and I foresee a lot of hairy days and sleepless nights in our future... but I think it's gonna be worth it.  Because I wouldn't trade my two beautiful China dolls for the whole world and I am so stinking excited to meet this little human inside of me that I can hardly stand it.

Three blessings... can you imagine.  We went from wondering if we'd ever have kids to having 3!!!

So now we are in full-on baby mode, all the while carefully watching Miss Lucy to make sure she's adjusting okay, as well as keeping an eye on Luella to make sure she's still feeling like she's a big part of all of this.  Which, thankfully, so far everyone seems to be doing okay. The girls definitely keep me on my toes, but I just look at it as a great way to keep from gaining too much preggo weight.  If I'm chasing them around all day I don't feel quite so guilty when the craving for ice cream hits me at night.

There you have it:  Baby boom on the Joedeman Farm.  And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  This little bundle is scheduled to appear sometime mid-September!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Longest Trip Ever

Ten days.  We've been home for ten days!  Part of me feels like it was 10 minutes and part of me feels like it's been 10 months.  Goodness gracious.  I have started writing this post in my head about 17 times but I never get very far because my brain has turned into applesauce.  I cannot, for the life of me, put together a coherent thought.  This post may not be clever or well-written, but I wanted to get something up here about the end of the trip before I forget everything.  Even now I'm losing precious details at an alarming rate!

Our last couple of days in-country were fairly uneventful.  Some of the things we had planned on doing were cancelled due to the rain, so mostly we just hung out at the hotel.  We did venture out one night and took a near life-ending cab ride across town all because I had heard there was a Mexican restaurant.  People, I don't know if you know me that well but if you do not please take note:  there are very few things I would not do for Mexican food.  And apparently that includes convincing my husband and brand new baby girl to get into a cab driven by a small Chinese man that speaks absolutely no English, hand him a hand-drawn map, and hope to heaven he takes you where you actually want to go.  Well we did, and the driver delivered (but not without raising our blood pressure just a bit!!!) and we found the infamous Mexican restaurant.  We were served by the cutest little Chinese waitress wearing a Mexican peasant dress you've ever seen.  Because I know you've seen a lot of Chinese waitresses wearing Mexican peasant dresses.  The food was good, not great, but good.  It was at least enough to tide me over.

We spent part of our last day out on Shamian Island, home of the great White Swan Hotel.  The hotel is currently being remodeled, so the island is more quiet than normal, but all the little shops are still there.  We enjoyed a few hours of wandering around, reminiscing about our trip to China two years ago.  Part of me wants to adopt from China a third time, if only so we can stay on the island again.  I love it there!  We took Lucy out for lunch at Lucy's and feasted on cheeseburgers, onion rings, and sweet tea.  It wasn't Nebraska beef, but it sure tasted good!

Okay, now for the trip home. Ahhhhhhhhh... the trip home.  You know that saying, "the best laid plans"?  I'm not exactly sure how the rest of that saying goes, but I'm betting it goes something like this, "When traveling home from China with a brand-new baby, it's possible that the best laid plans will go flying out the window and you will find yourself curled up in the fetal position, crying for your mama."

Here's how it went down:  We were slated to fly out of Guangzhou at 9:10 am, so we were up long before the crack of dawn, had everything packed and ready and were waiting for our guide in the hotel lobby long before the designated time of 6:15.  We piled our belongings into the van and were whisked off to the airport.  There was a bit of thunder and lightening and lots of rain but we didn't think anything of it.  We had checked our flight times online and everything was good to go.

We arrived at the airport, checked in, found our gate, and munched on the boxed breakfast that the hotel had put together for us.  Lucy charmed the other passengers waiting to board and had them all eating out of her hand.  We boarded the plane, gave Lucy a bottle and she promptly fell asleep.  At this point we are patting ourselves on the back and thinking, "Man!  We are really good at this!"

Then the pilot came on the PA and announced that due to the weather we would be experiencing some delays.  No biggie, we had a 3 and half hour layover in Tokyo.  We could afford to be a little late.  So we sat and waited and Lucy slept.


By the time we actually were cleared for take-off Lucy was fully awake and we were fully 4 hours behind schedule which meant that we would miss ALL of our connecting flights.  Have you ever felt completely helpless before?  That is how I felt:  completely and utterly helpless.  All I could do was worry.  Then I would tell myself not to worry, there was nothing I could do.  And then I would start worrying again.

We landed in Tokyo amid a plane-full of angry passengers.  We certainly were not the only ones to miss their next flight.  But I will say this:  the good people of All Nippon Airlines were fantastic.  They had already completely rebooked the rest of our flights.  It was not ideal and times were a mess, but it would get us home and that was all we really cared about.

In order to get us on a flight that could get us to LAX we had to hop on a bus and take an hour and a half ride across Tokyo to another airport, which would not have been a big deal normally.  Apparently Americans are free to roam about Tokyo as much as they please, but Chinese people are not.  They took one look at Lucy's passport and said she couldn't leave without a visa.  What?!?!  A visa?!?!  All we wanted to do was go to the other airport!  So we had to go through yet another immigration line and have someone help us fill out a transit visa form so Lucy could hop on a bus.  Mind you, this was all done in Japanese.

Finally that was taken care of and we loaded up our luggage, and climbed aboard a bus and went careening across Tokyo.  Which would have been interesting, had it been daylight rather than the middle of the night.  We did drive past Disneyland Tokyo, so I guess that is something.  We arrived at the airport and re-checked in and went through security again and found our gate.  We had a couple of hours to kill so we chatted it up with a nice Canadian lady and munched on Japanese fast food.  I will tell you this about Japanese airports:  they have the nicest bathrooms I've ever experienced in my whole life.

Eventually we boarded the plane for our longest flight of the trip, a mere 10 hours.  This is the flight all international parents dread.  How will the kiddo do?  What do you do if they go berserk?  Will the attendants actually throw you off the plane at 30,000 feet?  Well, we shouldn't have worried, Lucy was such a trooper.  She cried for maybe 10 minutes the whole trip.  The rest she either slept or just hung out.  She's a keeper, she is.  The Hubbs and I didn't sleep, mainly because we were worried that she would wake up or fall off the seat or who knows what.  But she slept, and really that is what counts.

We landed in LA feeling a bit like a wet dog.  We were hungry, tired, dirty and completely confused on what day or time it was.  Our eyes were bloodshot and we'd been wearing the same clothes for waaaaaaay too long.  We sailed through immigration and customs, rechecked our luggage (again!!!) and worked our way from the international to domestic terminals.  We had to go through security (again!!!) and the first TSA agent we met took one look at The Hubbs' Nebraska shirt and said, "All Cornhusker fans get an automatic pat-down."

God Bless America.

We found our gate and whipped out our long lost cell phones and turned them on for the first time in 2 weeks.  We called our parents and let them know we were alive and still working our way home, albeit much more slowly than originally anticipated.  Since our itinerary had completely been revamped we would be arriving in Denver at 1:00 am, missing our last flight into McCook.  I called Great Lakes airlines and explained what was happening and was informed that our original flight had already been cancelled and we were booked the morning on the 12:45 pm flight.  Perfect!  We hopped online, found a hotel room that was close to DIA and had a free shuttle to the airport.

Lucy slept most of the way to Denver and The Hubbs and I simply held hands and prayed that soon this would all be over and we would be home.

We landed in Denver and collected our luggage and waited for the shuttle that took us to a nearby LaQuinta and possibly the best shower I've had in my life.  We had absolutely no clean clothes to wear, but we were at least able to wash up and brush our teeth.  I didn't even have any shampoo and had to use bar soap on my hair but I didn't even care because it just felt so good to get clean.  by the time we had Lucy calmed down and asleep it was nearly 4:30 am, and by 9:30 am we were up again to catch the shuttle back to the airport.

Now I know what you might be thinking:  why bother getting a hotel room for 6 hours?  Well, by this point we had been traveling for nearly 36 hours with a small child and had been in 4 airports in 3 countries and I was borderline homicidal.  It was either fork over the cash for a soft bed and a  hot shower or someone was going to pay with their life.  We chose the room.

We arrived back at DIA and went to check in at the Great Lakes counter where we were told that our flight had been... wait for it... cancelled.  I nearly hit the floor.  The look on my face must have indicated that this was less than ideal because the lady behind the counter gave us some meal vouchers and suggested that we go have something to eat and think over our options.  The Hubbs gently guided Lucy and I to the nearest food court and found us a place to sit.  I heard him call my dad and explain our predicament and I heard him say something to the effect of, "Jenni isn't really talking right now."

It was decided that we would change our flight so that we would fly into North Platte, rather than McCook and my parents would bring Luella to meet us there.  This meant that we had yet more time to kill in an airport.  We picked a deserted corner, took off our shoes, and basically set up camp.  There is such a stark difference between the beginning of a long trip and the end.  At the beginning I was so careful about where I would let Lucy crawl around, always making sure she was in a clean space and not wanting her to get into anything yucky.  But by this point I didn't even care anymore.  She was beginning to lose her patience with us and I can't say that I blame her.  Here we had been filling her head with visions of farm and life and I think she was starting to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax.

Finally, finally, finally we boarded our last flight.  The guy in the row in front of us was wearing a cowboy hat and it made me smile.  Things were beginning to look up!  As we began our descent into Nebraska and I could look out the window and see farmland and grassland I began to weep.  Oh home sweet home!

We landed and walked across the tarmac and into the terminal and there waiting for us was the most beautiful 3 year-old in a fluffy yellow dress I have ever seen in my whole life!  She looked like she had grown a foot while we were gone!!!  It was as though we left her a little girl and came home to a teenager.  Which of course made me cry all over again.  We introduced the girls and watched them interact for the very first time.

Precious memories, indeed.

So now here we are, ten whole days later and that trip feels like a lifetime ago.  It was hairy and frustrating and maddening and I cried in 3 different countries in the span of one day, but here is the good news:  we made it home in one piece.  Lucy did sensationally.  We never lost our luggage and were never in any real danger, at least not that we know of.  God was with us every step of the way!

We are now adjusting to life as a family of four.  We were plagued by jetlag for a few days, but every night gets a little bit better.  My mom came and helped for the first week and I'm convinced we would not have survived without her.  She cooked and cleaned and snuggled and encouraged.

I'll close this with some pics of our reunion at the airport.  I would add pics of the trip home but I didn't really take any.

Again, thank you so much to those of you that prayed for us before and during the trip.  Please know that those prayers were answered!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just Another Manic Monday

It's a rainy, drizzly day here in Guangzhou. We are glad to see the rain, because that brings the temperature down just a bit and keeps the humidity from suffocating us with every breath we take. I'm curled up on our bed with a cappuccino, The Hubbs is watching some Sly Stallone movie on one of the three English channels, and our little Peanut is snoozing away. She had a big morning, she took her first big step towards becoming an American citizen!

But let's talk about yesterday first.

Lions, tigers, and panda bears... oh my!!! We spent the day at Guangzhou's Safari Zoo. We did this two years ago and readily accepted the invitation to return. Such a fun place to roam and explore. Seven of the nine Holt families loaded into a van, armed with diaper bags, cameras, and strollers. We had a great day, and again it was rainy and overcast, which we were more than happy with. Our guide kept apologizing for the rain and we kept assuring her it was better than the alternative!

They have added a few attractions since we were last here, including a Jurassic Forest and a White Tiger Show. The Jurassic Forest was just what you imagine it to be: a tropical forest filled with with fake dinosaurs that growl and groan and spit and steam. But here's the kicker: while I know in my head that they are nothing more than well-designed animatronics, I was still scared out of my wits. Lucy handled the whole thing like a champ while I nearly had to be carried out on a stretcher. Sheesh! I'm such a wuss.

The White Tiger Show was nothing short of impressive. They have 15 beautiful white tigers and they've trained them to do all sorts of tricks. It does make me a bit sad for the tigers, though. I told the Hubbs that if those tigers could get organized I'm fairly certain they could take the three small Chinese trainers.

We didn't get back to the hotel until about 6:00 and were entirely too tired to go hunting for food so we settled for Papa Johns delivery again. Turns out Mondays are half-price pizza days in China. Score!

This morning was breakfast and then we loaded back into the van, but this time our destination was quite different: the office of the Consulate General of the United States! Cameras are not allowed in the building, so I can't show you what it looks like, but I will tell you it's the first time we've seen an American flag in 12 days! When we passed through the security checkpoint and the guard was looking at our passports, I saw the American flag patch on his arm and suddenly I was teary! It is at this appointment that we turn in the paperwork that was completed in each child's province. We all had to stand and raise our right hand and take an oath. Then each family is called up to a window where we submit our documents, along with our child's Chinese passport. Now we wait for tomorrow when Lucy's visa to the U.S. will be issued.

At this point Lucy officially belongs to us and as soon as she touches American soil she will be processed through as an American citizen! Woohoo! In my heart I was belting out some serious Lee Greenwood, but I managed not to actually sing out loud. This is, after all, a really big deal!

Like I said before, I don't have any pictures of the consulate appointment, but I do have plenty of the zoo, so I'll share some of those with you. And just in case you were wondering, we begin our journey home Thursday morning!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Well Hello, Guangzhou

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are officially about 2/3 done with this trip. We are headed down the home stretch!

We arrived in Guangzhou late Friday night. It had been a crazy day of packing, checking out of our hotel, getting all four families and their luggage to the airport and checked in, and finding our plane.

I could tell that Lucy was picking up on the high stress levels. She wanted to be held a bit more than usual. Or, at least, what little bit of "usual" we had been able to establish in the last 4 days. She handled it well, just wanted to be close. And we were more than happy to oblige!

The trip was fairly smooth, except for a couple of small bumps. First, we sat in the plane, on the runway for nearly an hour before we took off. This is not a great environment for kids that have just been placed in brand new families and are leaving everything they've ever known. We all grew more than a bit antsy waiting for some sort of movement. Eventually we did take off and the flight itself went off without a hitch. We gave Lucy a bottle as we taxied down the runway and she fell asleep about 15 minutes after we were in the air and slept for the rest of the flight! Praise The Lord!!

Once we landed and went to collect our luggage we were disgusted to find that somewhere a bottle of vinegar had burst open and one of our bags was completely soaked. So gross!! Shanxi province is known as the vinegar kingdom of China and even I had bought some to bring home. But here's the kicker... it wasn't my bottles that broke. Mine were still completely in tact. In fact, I had gone to great lengths to make sure mine were well packaged. It never occurred to me that my clothes could be attacked by someone else's vinegar. Ugh.

You win some and you lose some, I guess.

Finally we made it to the hotel, checked in, showered, attempted to wash out the vinegar-soaked luggage and then totally and completely crashed. I swear to you that bed felt like heaven. I could have slept for days, but we had to get up Saturday morning for the Medical Check.

There are 70 American families adopting kids from China this week, which means we all have consulate appointments this week, which means we all have to be at the Medical Check Saturday morning. Because of course there is only one place this can be done and of course they are only open until noon. Of course. That makes perfect sense to cram 70 families into one clinic that does not have air conditioning in a town where the temperature is 80 degrees in the morning with about 99% humidity.

But we survived, and as per usual, Lucy was a total champ. We were able to chat with lots of the other families and met some great people and heard some amazing stories. I love talking to other adoptive families, because even though we come from all over the country and hail from all walks of life we all share a common passion, these precious babies that have very recently been placed in our arms. Immediately there is a camaraderie. There are a couple stories specifically I want to share, but I feel my eyelids getting heavy and we have another big day tomorrow. We'll save that for another post.

The rest of the day we were on our own, enjoying our hotel room and getting to know the neighborhood. We ordered Papa Johns pizza for supper and they delivered it to the hotel. Hallelujah! It was delicious. Although I will tell you that ordering a Hawaiian pizza from a Chinese restaurant, masquerading as an Italian pizzeria, was no small task. It was a phone call I will not soon forget!

This afternoon we loaded a bus with several of the other Holt families and took off for the pearl and jade wholesale markets. We went to these 2 years ago, and I was more than excited to go back! It combines two of my very favorite things: jewelry and bartering. We had the little Peanut in the stroller and she and the Hubbs just followed me around, letting me shop and barter to my heart's content.

It's not a bad way to spend the afternoon, really.

I'll wrap this up with a few pictures of the last couple of days. Tomorrow we head to the Guangzhou Safari Zoo and then Tuesday is our consulate appointment.

Thanks for following along!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Yesterday was our last full day here in Taiyuan, today we fly down to Guangzhou. This is bittersweet as part of us is really ready to move on. We have officially hit the half-way mark which means we are that much closer to going home and seeing the Munchkin! Oh how we miss her! But there is also a sense of sadness at the thought of leaving this beautiful city. This magical place that gave us our daughter.

Yesterday morning we toured a local temple and it was completely lovely. We saw cypress trees that were over 2,000 years old. There were fresh springs that gurgled up out of the earth and beautiful stone bridges and flowering plum trees galore. Again, I took a million pictures but I'm not going to show you any of them right now. Because what I am going to show you is soooooooooo much more awesome!

I love plum blossoms and giant koi fish and dragon fountains, but this makes my heart sing.

Last night I was feeding her a bottle and singing rocking her and singing her some of my favorite old hymns. She snuggled right down into me like she's been there all along. The Hubbs came over and kissed her on her little tiny forehead and she looked up and said, "Ba ba."

Ba ba! It means "father" in Chinese!!! I wanted to sing and weep for joy all at the same time! The Hubbs rewarded her with another kiss and she just grinned at both of us.

For those of you that have been praying specifically for her to bond with us I think this is what we call answered prayer! We have had some tears the last day and a half. I think the reality of the situation is sinking in. While I think she likes us, that doesn't mean she's not missing her foster mom and dad, who clearly loved her very much. We are seeing some pretty clear signs that this kid was very much cared for. And we are so very thankful for that!

Okay... enough babbling and on to the good stuff. Wednesday night we were playing on the floor and The Hubbs was trying to look at a map of the city and see what he could see.

And that is when this happened. Enjoy.

For whatever reason I cannot get the actual video to appear in this post, so you might just have to copy and paste the link into your browser. I promise it will be worth the effort!

Here it is: