Relocation Plan…no longer a theory

Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea for us to publish “plans”. We’ve made a lot of plans over the years, and not that many have come to fruition. Funny thing is, that’s not really a problem, it’s just how we roll…surrendered to the Lord’s will and working in our family. He’s given us a heart for certain things to be sure, and led us in and through some amazing adventures we never could have accomplished on our own. We haven’t posted all that much lately because…we’re just allowing time for things to unfold, and trying to get a better sense of where He’s leading.

Upon returning from China with Bethany, my work was already in transition and relocation plans were still lacking. The plan to rent a coworker’s house in Prince Frederick, MD was in place, but the timing for him wasn’t great & the company still wasn’t sure if they would move us or send me to another contractor. We knew for a year the project would be relocated to Owego, NY but went to China & still weren’t sure when things would fold up in MN. By the time we got back in December, most of the work was already taking place there & it was clear I needed to travel for a while. That being the case, we figured it was much easier to travel from our current location & we didn’t need to be in a hurry to relocate to MD.

This has actually worked out really well for us, as I set up a home office and travel out to NY Mon-Friday about every other week. We figured as long as it lasts it would allow time to get Bethany adjusted and figure out what sort of surgeries/therapies/etc. she would be needing, get a post-placement visit or two done (since we already paid for three), and get the other kids through the school year. So…we figured sometime in the spring things would firm-up & we would undertake the move. Besides, though we were really looking forward to the milder climate, we weren’t having that much of a winter to escape.

Now it would appear that spring is nearly upon us (expecting 50’s tomorrow, though still in the 20’s today), and indeed there is something of a plan taking shape. I may jinx the whole thing by sharing it, but a lot of folks have been asking & wondering why we’re still here. Details are still pending of course, but the company and our future landlord are on-board with the plan to move in June. The main objectives with that time frame are that Bethany will get to know her extended MN family better, we’ll be able to complete another post-placement visit, and the kids will be done with their school work for the summer. As it turns out, this has also given us additional time to prepare our house in MN for rental, though we’ll assess the market & might prefer to sell.

I must say that through all of the change in family dynamics & moving plans, everyone has dealt with it really well, and of course we have the Lord’s presence to thank for that!

 

Merry Christmas 2011!

Click here to open our Christmas 2011 Family Letter

Bethany Yan Rengert (Zhu Yan)There’s simply no way to adequately express our gratitude for the blessings we’ve received this year, but all praise goes to our Lord and Savior! No family is without challenges and trials, though our response to them is a witness…for better or worse. A phrase we encountered over ten years ago, “A gem cannot be polished without friction”, reflects the truth in God’s word that we should rejoice in the face of trials; not a natural human tendency.  In those trials He can show Himself though, whereas we tend to take personal credit when things go well. We’re certainly not the examples of this that we’re called to be or desire to be, but being human we are a work in progress.

2011 was not a year of extraordinary trials for us, though it probably sounds that way. It was however a year of extraordinary blessing, in many, many ways! The trip to China in November to adopt Bethany was awesome, though at times pretty exhausting. This particular adoption (our third) wasn’t exceptionally difficult compared to the others, but was once again an opportunity for God to work in the way only He does. We were clearly led to this particular child, for what purposes we have yet to fully understand. We do understand however that by trusting God in His leading and provision, His work is accomplished. What a joy and privilege to join Him in it!

Please read and enjoy our Christmas letter, and we will endeavor to fill in details and events here and via other correspondence as time allows. The last few weeks have been fairly hectic, but Bethany is doing great and we’re really excited to share all about it in the upcoming weeks. Just this week she had her first screening visit at the International Adoption Clinic at UMN in Minneapolis. The folks there were great, and quite impressed with her! Another interesting thing we noted just in the last few days: she has started nodding or shaking her head in response to us, indicating that she’s understanding much of what we’re saying even though she can’t say much herself yet. We are more and more convinced that she’s smart, hungry to learn, and probably far more capable than anyone thought.

The thing is, all the kids are so special to us in so many ways, that we could go on & on about each of them the same way. How we have come to be so immeasurably blessed by this experience is hard to grasp. We certainly haven’t earned it. That’s God’s grace.

Please also enjoy these recent pictures!

 

Homecoming

Upon arrival home Welcome home Bethany Yan! Overall the trip wasn’t too bad in terms of fussing/meltdowns, but there’s always some of that when you’re traveling 20+ hours with young children.

Our journey home started on Wednesday in Guangzhou, with a morning meeting with the Holt staff & families to review what to expect and address any questions we had. That was very thorough and helpful…and once again it strikes me that Holt really has this process refined well for families. Since we would be receiving Bethany’s visa and immigration package just prior to leaving for the train, Mama wanted to get a good nap in before the journey began.

Papa & Anna went out to get some last minute gifts from the Dong Fang shops next door, then decided to explore the area a bit, and enjoy the warm weather by going for a walk. We went to the left from our hotel, and around the block where we encountered several interesting restaurants (that we would have tried if we knew earlier), then a nice park across the street. One of the other Holt families was just telling me about their walk through a nearby park, so we decided to take the time to walk through (and maybe get ourselves some needed exercise before travel). It turns out to be a very large park, and we fortunately just decided to go around the one lake. This is a park you really want to check out late in the day when the amusement park is running. We had fun, but were indeed tired out & sweaty when we got back to the room, with just enough time to pack up our gifts and get the baggage ready for the concierge to take down.

We tried to have a big lunch in the hotel cafe, but the kids weren’t that hungry and given the cost of the hotel restaurants we would have been much better off grabbing something from the nearby 7-11 (VERY affordable and friendly). Live & learn. As the girls finished what they could of lunch, Papa met the Holt staff in the lobby to get Bethy’s papers and review the travel plans. Since we had already checked out, we were ready to board the bus to the train station, which at the time seemed daunting to keep track of everything. Families have the option of using a porter to help move their bags upstairs, or even to check them through (the easiest, but more expensive option). Given the size of our party and a bit of confusion we decided to just haul our own bags up and with us on the train as carry-ons. With just a couple large bags on wheels, and a carry-on each it was pretty easy to get the bags up the escalator and onto the train. Immigration/customs and boarding was also easy & the train had plenty of space. The two-hour trip to Hong Kong was pretty uneventful and gave us time to chat with the other families.

When we arrived in Hong Kong we were met by the Lotus travel guide, and got all our stuff loaded on the bus. The ride to the hotel was a longer one, and most of the kids were nodding off by the time we got there. We were all staying at the Regal Hotel since it’s adjoined to the airport & departing the next morning would be as easy as walking to the ticket counter. This hotel however wasn’t the best experience; check-in was extraordinarily slow, leaving us exasperated & ready to climb into bed by the time we got to our tiny room (about 10pm). Between the four of us we had two twin beds to share, and Anna’s cough was much worse by now. Papa tried to use the “free internet” to post an update, but would have had to call tech support since they didn’t set up the account when we checked in.

The next morning I decided to just drop a check-out slip in the box since there was another 40-minute line at the reception desk. The Hong Kong airport has free WiFi and plenty of restaurants to choose from, so we just got up, packed up & walked over. None of us got much sleep, so we knew it was going to be a long day. Airport security screening throughout China was simpler than we’re used to in the U.S. these days, but we were surprised by an additional TSA-level screening on the jetway was we boarded the flight to Detroit. I guess that makes sense, as TSA wants to ensure their “standards” are met, but other countries have their own. What it meant to us was discarding the two bottles of water I just bought from the newsstand for over $7. Good thing I’m not a duty-free shopper!

It seems odd to skip details at this point, but there isn’t much to add about the flight(s). Bethy didn’t want to be put down for a nap, so after hollering/crying for a while we gave up & let her sit up. A few hours later she was dozing off sitting up & still did not want to lay down. Some travel notes: The seats were supposed to have a power-port, and/or USB port for charging devices but did not…so the laptop got run-down even though the iPad held up. I brought a Mophie juice-pack to keep devices charged on the trip, but the flight home was the only required use of it. The hotels all had adequate resources for keeping things charged since I had brought the converter plug. The hotel TVs all had HDMI ports, so we could plug in the iPad (with adapter) and watch our movies.

By the time we hit Detroit we were really starting to feel the effects! Poor Anna was so sleepy at that point we couldn’t get here to eat the breakfast meal they served before landing. Bethy didn’t care for much of hers either, but we expected that. Arrival at DTW meant Port of Entry procedures, and going through immigration and customs. To us it meant standing in no less than SIX lines, and nearly two-hours. To Bethany it meant U.S. citizenship, and somebody better be holding me or I’m gonna lose it!

We were blessed to be met at the airport by Pastor Joe, (who recently adopted a son from Jamaica) to give us a ride home. Once home we were met by Coleen’s folks who brought the boys home from their friends’ where they stayed, her sister Shari, and the Alzen Family (who we followed through their Ukrainian adoption of two boys this past summer). It was a real blessing to be home & share our overflowing joy with everyone. Bethany did very well, and was excited to meet new people, especially her brothers!

Hanging out in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is China’s third largest city, and where all adoptive families come to complete the process. Here we start with a medical check on the first day, compile our paperwork, file for a U.S. entry visa at the consulate, then head home when it is issued. There is more free time here, and fortunately the climate is sub-tropical…a welcome change from frosty Harbin. Each day Bethany seems to be opening up more & more…and getting quite playful. She really enjoys sitting on the bed with Mom, and going through books, pictures, flash cards and drawing. She’s working real hard at learning to pronounce things, but it will of course take a while. Coleen’s experience doing speech therapy with the boys has come in handy, and Bethy seems very anxious to learn.

Holt families used to always stay at the White Swan Hotel, which is on the same island as the medical clinic, but it is under renovation. Since August most families have been staying at the China Hotel (a Marriott property), which is also quite upscale. They’ve done some very nice things to cater to adoptive families, and will likely continue to improve as the staff gets more familiar with our needs. We have a bit of free time here & are looking forward to exploring the nearby parks and of course getting some use out of the hotel pool.

The medical clinic visit went pretty smooth, though it didn’t look that way at first. Our bus was too large to drop us off nearby, so we all had to walk about 10 minutes to get visa photos, then to the clinic…and it was raining pretty good. Some folks brought umbrellas, but most didn’t & showed up pretty wet. The clinic is especially set up to process adoptive families efficiently, but there were double the usual number of us on this day. We got through there just fine however, and the Holt staff were very helpful in herding us through. The check consists of filling out a short questionnaire, then visiting three sections for exam & doctor signature. Kids over two get a TB test also, and that was something Bethany did not care for one bit! Before that however she charmed a local mother out of a mooncake she was about to give her own child, then went for the Happy Sheep toy one doc had in his window. Without blinking the doc gave her the toy (it’s a favorite cartoon show in China, and Bethy had the character on all her clothes when we got her). As Papa held her to comfort the trauma of the TB test, she fell sound asleep in his arms on the bus ride back to the hotel.

Sunday has been a quiet day, with a morning walk to find a few needed clothing items nearby, and a group dinner at a nice local restaurant. We all seem to be dealing with sinus issues to varying degrees, which isn’t too unexpected with the stress, travel and lack of sleep. Given that, we’re trying to ensure we get enough rest and eat well so it’s short-lived.

Blessings, all