Monday, January 31, 2011

More Tears & Some Happy Videos

Last night, Brock was putting the kids to bed just before 9:00. Shaling was stubbornly refusing to lie down. She kept pointing at the clock, which displayed "8:55". I guess she is under the impression that she doesn't have to go to bed until 9:00, not realizing that Mom & Dad are in charge, not the clock. After failing to convince Shaling to lie down, Brock reached over and bumped her clock forward to 9:00. She was NOT a happy camper and got up, went into Preston's room (where Preston was trying to go to sleep), turned on the light and pointed at HIS clock.

At this point, Brock gave her a gentle swat on the bottom (which didn't seem to bother her at all). When she defiantly refused to go back to her own room, he picked her up and forced her into her own bed. THIS bothered her. She was broken-hearted and began crying...this time with audible sobbing, though I'm not sure how sincere the sobbing part truly was. She was genuinely upset, that's for sure, but the sobbing sounds resembled some forced crying sounds I've heard from other kids.

I think Dad felt guilty, because he then carried Shaling down the stairs to my arms for comforting. I told him that I really couldn't coddle her all that much, or I would be usurping his parenting. I gave her a good, strong hug...gave her a quick kiss, but then sternly told her she needed to go to bed. Brock then carried her back upstairs and put her to bed.

This morning, I had to go back to work, so I was out of the house before any of them were out of bed. Brock told me later that she was just fine this morning (as expected). These tears have little to do with adoption fears and a lot more to do with a battle of wills that she lost.

Anyway, here are a few videos of a happier Shaling.

In this one, Shaling is happily singing while riding her bike -- love the sound of her voice.

Shaling rides her bicycle from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

In these next two, Preston & Shaling are riding Preston's motorized scooter together. Before anyone says anything -- she DOES have a helmet. It just seems that she's lost it. They weren't riding far, so we let it go for a bit -- we're in for a slew of bad weather that will make outside play not possible. If her helmet doesn't turn up in the next day or two, I will buy her another one.

Motor Scooter 1 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Motor Scooter 2 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shaling learns how to ride a bicycle

Yesterday was the first good day of weather where Shaling had the opportunity to try out her new bicycle. No training wheels, so she had to learn how to balance right away. It didn't take her long, though...and Dad caught her success on video (well, make that 8 videos).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

School Bus Videos

Yesterday (1-28-2011), I took some short videos of Preston & Shaling heading to the bus stop, boarding the bus to go to school, and getting off the bus when they arrived home. Shaling is very excited both in the morning AND in the afternoon.

Heading to the Bus Stop: Preston & Shaling head out the door and to the unofficial neighborhood bus stop. Kids can be picked up in front of their own houses, but several of them like to be picked up in front of one specific house.

Heading to the Bus Stop from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Boarding the Bus: Preston & Shaling board the bus to head to school on 1/28/2011.

Boarding the Bus from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Arriving Home from School: Preston & Shaling arrive home and get off the bus. Shaling is especially happy.

Arriving Home from School from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Blog Name Change - From Rice to Popcorn

I'm changing the name of this blog. Since Shaling is home now, "bringshalinghome" seemed a bit outdated. The new web address is

I was actually going to keep both names for the next year, but a technical glitch messed that up, and I'm going to lose the bringshalinghome name unless I want to pay $80 to get it back. Therefore, please change your bookmarks to

For the next few days should still work, but eventually it will not.

I really appreciate those who've been following the journey and given us feedback. I hope you'll continue following us at the new address.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Video & Poem

I pulled out the video camera this morning to get a video of the kids going to the bus stop (I'll share that later, as I'm hoping to add a video of them getting off the bus as well). Anyway, I discovered a video I didn't realize Brock had taken. It was Shaling and her friend Crissi jumping on the snow-covered trampoline last Sunday during our football party. Now that I think about it, freezing cold weather & snow-covered blue jeans sounds immensely more fun than watching the ending of that Bears-Packers game.

Jumping on Trampoline with Snow from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

I also want to share this poem, written by my friend Tim Stowell. I've mentioned him in several previous postings. He lives in Tennessee and has 3 beautiful adopted children from China & Taiwan. One of his daughters, Star, previously named Ma Heng Xin, lived in the simulated family home with Shaling in China. The girls have known each other for pretty much their entire lives. Tim wrote this poem recently. He said he was partially inspired by the well-known Footprints poem. I think it is beautiful.

Following, by Tim Stowell

We knew our child before they knew us.
God knew me before I knew Him.

We loved our child before they knew us.
God loved me before I knew Him.

We prepared a place for our child before they knew us.
He prepared a place for me before I knew Him.

At some point we went and redeemed our child.
At some point He came and redeemed me.

We brought our child home to be in our family forever.
He will bring me one day to His home to be with Him forever.

Realizing this I know that God's heart is in adoption.
As an adopted child of the King, I can do no less than to model His behavior.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Full Day School

Shaling started full day school yesterday. She rode the bus both in the morning and in the afternoon. She came barreling in the door with an excited, "Mom, Mom..." calling for me. She then started pulling papers out of her backpack to show them to me. She had some vocabulary papers, some pictures (which if I understood correctly, a couple of them were pictures OF Shaling, drawn by a friend, Jessica), and a timed multiplication test. I wasn't too surprised to see that she got a 100% on the test, but I was still very pleased to see it.

There was a little glitch in her first full day of school. Her teacher is out sick for a few days (I'm assuming flu) and so she's had a substitute teacher yesterday and today. Yesterday was the first day she was to ride the bus home, but for some reason, ended up at an after school program held AT the school, but run by the YMCA. The school called me in regards to the confusion and luckily the buses hadn't left yet, so she was put on the correct bus to come home. It didn't phase her at all; she came home happy as a lark!

This past Saturday was my first entire day without her. I left the house around 7:30 a.m. to go coach the Rochester High School Scholastic Bowl team at a tournament. I didn't return until supper time. I confess...I missed her. Brock did great as Mister Mom though. Sunday, we had several friends over to watch the Bears-Packers game. What Brock didn't know ahead of time is that it was also a surprise birthday party for him, as I asked attendees to bring "Good God, you're old" cards. He turns 40 today and when I turned 40 last month, he gave me a ton of grief. Shaling played well with all of the kids.

Last night, I took her with me to a Ladies Guild meeting at church (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester). It was soup & salad night and since she loves soup, I thought she'd enjoy that more than tagging along with Dad to Preston's drum lesson. She found a chicken soup with vegetables & shell noodles that she just loved. She had FIVE bowls.

Today, I gave a brief presentation to the Rochester 6th grade on China. It went very well and I enjoyed it. The kids were enthusiastic and asked great questions. Tonight, Preston has Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony Concert Orchestra rehearsal. Tomorrow I have a meeting with the school social worker. Busy, busy, busy...and I go back to work next Monday. How did that happen? The time has just flown by!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I've done my best to describe the toilets on the ground that are found everywhere in China except in the Western-style hotel rooms. Thanks to another adopting family currently in China, a picture is worth a 1000 words:

The family that snapped that picture is the family adopting Joey...the little boy that really took to Brock the day of our orphanage visit. If you are interested, you can see pictures of him (and Jacob) with his new family here:

It sounds like they are really doing well! They have 4 new big brothers.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recent Pictures & a Video

Chase, Uncle Shane, McKenzie, Aunt Heather & Shaling

Shaling likes her piggy bank from Great Uncle Dave & Great Aunt Penny

In fact she likes the piggy bank so much that when we were trying to take her picture with Uncle Shane, Aunt Heather, McKenzie & Chase, and she saw her Dad carrying her piggy bank, she gave him this look:

Reaghan, Aunt Nena, Kayden & Shaling

Reaghan, Kayden & Shaling

Here's a video of Shaling playing the game of
Life with her brother Preston and a neighborhood friend, Adam. Preston has to
help her with reading & understanding the instructions on the cards, but she
doesn't let that hinder her fun at all. In fact, as you can tell here, she gets
a kick out of the getting married part of the game.

Playing the game of Life from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Quick Update

Shaling loves popcorn. I took the kids to see Yogi Bear earlier this week and she ate one of the small bags (which I think are pretty big) all by herself. Then, last night, all 4 of us went with our neighbors Gary & Brenda to see The Green Hornet. I got her a medium bag and she ate all of it! Ultimately, the movie ended up even more violent than I expected. It didn't seem to phase Shaling, but in retrospect I don't think I would have taken either of the kids.

We went to see Dr. Western on Tuesday for her physical. We found out she has an ear infection. Because she never complained about pain or reached for her ear a lot or anything, we had no idea. I felt a bit guilty, but Doctor told me to check my guilt at the door. He says one of his kids has a high tolerance for pain too and they frequently don't realize he's sick until he's vomiting.

Also on Tuesday, Shaling & I met a couple of my friends from work for lunch at a favorite Thai restaurant of mine. While we were eating and enjoying each other's company, I got a text from Brock, who was back at work for the first time since December 22. He wanted to know if Shaling wanted to come see Dad at work after lunch. We think he might have missed her just a little bit. After visiting Dad, we went for her eye exam (required by the school). As expected, it went fine.

Wednesday, I drove her to school and picked her up at noon again. She did great...helped make Valentine's for soldiers, roller skated again, took a math test, etc. Thursday & Friday, she took the bus in the mornings, but I still picked her up at noon. She tells us she wants to eat lunch at the school, so starting Monday, we're going to try full days.

On Tuesday of next week, I'm going to speak to the Rochester 6th Grade about China. They just happen to be studying China & India this quarter, so I thought it might be interesting for them to see some pictures and hear some information from someone who was just recently there.

Today for the first time, she'll spend all day with Dad & Preston WITHOUT Mom. I'm going to be coaching my (Rochester High School) Scholastic Bowl team at an all day tournament. I guess it's my turn to be missing her. Tomorrow, she'll get an introduction to American football parties (perhaps a preview of Super Bowl Sunday), as we're hosting several friends & neighbors for the Bears-Packers game.

I'm sure I've left some fun stuff out, but gotta hurry to that tourney now. I'll work on some new pictures & videos soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Had Our First Tears

Our neighbors have a "little sister" through a Big Brothers, Big Sisters type of program. Well, it started that way, but they've continued their relationship with her on an informal basis and she's part of the family now. They had her for part of the day yesterday and brought her over to play Barbies with Shaling. It was the first time Shaling had met Crissi, but not the first time she'd seen Crissi's Barbie toys.

Crissi keeps most of her Barbie toys at our neighbors' house for safekeeping. Shaling had been introduced to the toys by Morgan, our neighbors' college age daughter. We're not sure if Shaling perhaps thought that the toys belonged to Morgan and she wanted to go get Morgan to have her get her toys back or if she just REALLY wanted Morgan to come play too, but she would not sit down & play like we asked and instead put her coat on against our commands not to do so. She was adamant about going next door.

When she didn't get her way, she went up to her room. Brock went up to coax her downstairs to play, but she would have none of it and was quite defiant. He told her fine, then she could stay in her room by herself and he shut the door. After awhile, we still hadn't heard from her and I pondered whether she might be asleep. Brock went to check on her and she was trying to hide the fact that she was crying. He asked me to go in and console her, but she didn't really want to be consoled.

By this time, Preston & Crissi were in the basement playing on the Game Cube. Shaling worked her way downstairs to the computer and asked her dad to join her. She then watched a movie with us and by late evening, was full of giggles & laughter playing with her brother and her cousin Chase (Aunt Heather, Uncle Shane, McKenzie & Chase stopped by to meet her). So, she was over the episode quite quickly. In some ways, it was a sigh of relief to know that the kid was actually capable of crying since we hadn't seen any sign of it until this point.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowball Fight

Shaling, Preston & Brock had a spontaneous snowball fight in the backyard this afternoon. Shaling laughed & giggled the entire time. Here are some pictures that capture the fun:

We had a very delayed Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa Coonrod's house yesterday as well.

We also enjoyed introducing her to the congregation at Brock's church this morning. We truly appreciate all of the support we received from Rochester United Methodist, as well as from the church I attend with the kids, Good Shepherd Lutheran. Brock did a great job summarizing our journey and paying thanks to everyone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Firsts: Movie, Basketball, Anthem, School, Roller Skating & More

Wednesday evening, we went as a family to the movie theater to watch the Disney animated movie, Tangled. Shaling had a good time and LOVED the popcorn, insisting on bringing home the leftovers. In fact, she thought she would have the leftover popcorn for breakfast yesterday morning until Dad put the nix on that thought. Ironically, Dad then helped himself to some ice cream for breakfast.

After lunching at Smokey Bones with our friends Gary & Thanh, we took Shaling to our office building to meet some of our coworkers. After warming up to the idea of being the center of attention, she really enjoyed it. She also uttered another complete sentence: "Mom and Dad work here." When she saw Dad's office, she sat in his chair, kicked her feet up on the desk and started pointing with a pencil like she was telling people what to do.

In the car, the song "We Will Rock You" by Queen came on and she started singing along with a style that implied that she was quite familiar with the tune.

Last night, we took Shaling to her first sporting event, a Rochester Rockets girls basketball game. We only stayed through half-time, but she seemed to enjoy it and figured out quickly when to cheer. Prior to the game, she stood with her hand over her heart for her first National Anthem as an American:

This morning she had her first day of school. For her first few days, I'm going to drive her to school. She was somewhat confused and disappointed when she didn't get to get on the school bus when it came by. When Brock explained to her via Google Translate that she would be coming home at noon instead of staying the whole day, she expressed disappointment at that as well.

When we got to the school, she led the way to the 3rd grade hallway and then all of the way to her classroom at the end of the hall. Her E.L.L. teacher, Mrs. Bivens, stayed with her for the first hour, which included getting her started at P.E., where she went roller skating for the first time. They told us she was hesitant at first, but truly enjoyed it. She also got to go to music class today, where the students had to mimic rhythmic patterns from the teacher. She caught on to that quite quickly. When we arrived at noon, she was waiting with Mrs. Bivens in the office. She lit up with a smile when she saw us walking in and that of course, gave us great pleasure.

After coming home and eating some lunch, we set up Skype on the computer so that Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds in Florida could watch her open some of her Christmas gifts. She bubbled with excitement, saying thank you for each one. She then got excited to see her brother get home from school and has played happily with him and a friend ever since.

Now, I need to quickly go cook some rice, because our friend James Wang is bringing over a Chinese pork dish to share for supper. He is our friend that taught us some Mandarin and gave us some background on Chinese culture. Though he talked to Shaling on the phone earlier this week, tonight will be the first time they've met.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Power of Three: Sleep, School & Snow

Brock used Google Translate on Monday to tell Shaling that she would either be starting school in 3 days or 8 days. She typed "no". He then told her that she didn't have that choice; she would be going to school -- either in 3 days or 8 days. She reached for the keyboard and pressed the "8" key. I had Brock tell her that I say she's smart and that she is going to like school in America. She shook her head no.

I was mildly surprised, because she is very smart and loves to learn. She didn't seem fearful, so we weren't sure why she wouldn't want to go. When we had the opportunity, we had our friend James (who is Chinese & speaks Mandarin) talk to her on the phone about it. We wanted him to tell her that today we were going to go meet her teachers and tour the school, but we also asked him to prod her about why she didn't want to go. After they talked, he said she is not afraid to go, she just doesn't know anything about it. I chalked it up to the typical kid opinion that it is more fun to stay home and watch tv or play with Mom & Dad than it is to go to school.

Considering the short amount of time we've known her, this might seem odd for me to say, but she hadn't seemed herself the last couple of days. She wasn't really sad, but she didn't seem happy either. It seemed to help briefly Monday night when we let her talk on the phone to Ma Meixin/Natalie in Florida. However, hindsight tells us the biggest problem was lack of sleep. She really wasn't dealing well with the 14-hour time zone change. She kept waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and not going back to sleep. Brock used Google Translate yesterday to tell her that last night she had to stay in bed until the clock showed 6:00. She told him no, but he emphasized that she didn't have a choice, that Mom & Dad make the rules. She said ok. We limited her nap time yesterday afternoon as well.

Something worked, because she basically slept from 9:00 last night to 6:15 this morning in her own bed by herself. She woke up quite peppy. She was singing in the car on the way to breakfast. She enjoyed stomping through the snow in her boots, leaving footprints and deep holes. She was giggling all the way.

The school visit was the icing on the cake. We started out by meeting her teacher, Mrs. Collins and then Mrs. Bivens, who will help her learn English. We took her to the gym to watch a class that was roller skating. She smiled broadly. Eventually, we met up with the assistant principal, Mr. Reed and then went down to see the classroom while it was empty. We showed her the big "3" that labeled her hallway the 3rd grade hallway. She pointed at it and said "three". We then spent time in the room where she'll work on English, the art room, and the library. By that time, the kids in Mrs. Collins class had returned, so we went back to meet them. They all seem very excited about having her in class and one of the girls actually looked up some Chinese on the computer and printed a Welcome message for Shaling's desk.

As we wrapped up the tour and headed back to the main office, Shaling kept saying "three". Brock & I were happy that she remembered what hallway she was in. Back in the main office, I chatted with the nurse and the principal about a few paperwork items while Brock occupied Shaling. She kept talking about three and eventually successfully communicated to Brock that she was not referring to the hallway. She was telling us that she wants to start school in 3 days instead of 8.

She started talking about Preston, but we reminded her that he is in a different school. On a piece of paper, she sketched a picture of our house, two schools, a bus and a car. she drew a line from the bus to a school and labeled it Preston. Then she wrote "Mom" above the car and drew a line from it to the other school and labeled it Shaling. She wanted to let us know she knew he was in a different building. Then, in order to tell us why she brought his name up, she flipped the paper over and drew a stick figure with a backpack and labeled it Preston. Then she drew a picture of another stick figure with a backpack and labeled it Shaling. Like Preston, she wants a backpack so she can go to school too.

As soon as we got home, she sprinted into the house and found the backpack we had given her in China. Since we'd unpacked, it had sat empty, waiting for school. She spread it open to show me that she wanted to fill it. I pulled out the shopping bag of school supplies that my Mom had gotten for us and suggested that Brock go ahead and help her organize & label the items while I ran some errands. He told me later that she was giddy the entire time. After watching him label several items with "Shaling Reynolds", she started writing her name on items herself in order to help him.

For lunch, we met a couple of coworkers at a seafood restaurant that has a buffet. She was thrilled to find boiled shrimp. We were impressed when she told our friends "My name is Shaling." It may be simple, but it's a complete sentence and it's her first week home!

Next, we went to Wal-Mart to get her a pair of sneakers for P.E. and some ear buds for computer class. In the shoe section, Shaling indicated that she wanted me to buy Preston a pair of new shoes too, but I told her I wasn't sure what size to buy him right now. In the check-out line, she asked for some Chapstick. She could use some, so I obliged. She then asked me to buy some for Preston. She was really wanting him to get something new too. As the clerk scanned our items, she leaned across the conveyor belt and said, "My name is Shaling. I'm 9." It wasn't until the clerk replied to her that we realized what she'd said. I guess she's heard us tell enough people her name & age that she's going to just tell them herself. They may be short, but I'm impressed that 5 days into being home, she's using a couple of complete sentences. You go girl!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shaling is officially a Rochester Rocket

We registered Shaling for school today at the Rochester District Office. She is enrolled as a 3rd grader. We don't know her classroom teacher yet, but know she will spend a lot of time as an ELL (English Language Learner) student with Mrs. Bivens. One of the 3rd grade teachers, Mrs. Collins, has an adopted daughter from China, so we think it would be great if Shaling would end up with her as a teacher.

We took her along as we dropped Preston off at school today. We had to drive him because we had the entire contents of his desk and locker at home. He was sick and missed the last two days of school, so he missed his class "field trip" to drop off all of his stuff and get organized in his new classroom in his brand new school building, which officially opened today. Along the way, we showed her where she is going to go to school and she seemed genuinely excited.

We ate breakfast at Charlie Parker's and let her sign the guestbook. For our out of the area friends, Charlie Parker's is a popular local restaurant for breakfast. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives on the Food Network. In addition to traditional breakfast fare, they serve 16-inch pancakes and breakfast horseshoes. Breakfast horseshoes come with toast, topped by eggs cooked to order, meat (ham, sausage or bacon), cheese sauce or gravy (or both), and hash browns or American fries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First Sign of Fear

When settling down for bed last night, Shaling indicated to Dad that she was afraid to sleep alone. She communicated this by putting her hand over her heart and flapping it quickly, to indicate her heart was beating fast. We weren't surprised by this, as we had been told she had probably never slept alone. We were actually more surprised the night before, when she fell asleep on her own.

For last night's purposes, we let the kids have one more night sleeping together (they had slept together the two weeks we were in China), but for tonight and the foreseeable future, I will sleep with her until we feel it is a good idea to start pushing her to sleep alone again.

I introduced her to Sunday school today, but cut out a bit early and did not stay for church, because I don't feel she is ready for big groups of people yet. You can just tell she is uncomfortable when people are trying to get to know her, but she can't really communicate with them yet. I also kept her at home with me this afternoon while Brock took Preston to sing at the dedication of the new intermediate school here in Rochester.

Grandma & Grandpa Barkley stopped by to meet Shaling today. Here she is with them:

They brought Christmas gifts with them and the kids enjoyed opening them:

My sister-in-law, Tanya, is a talented artist and sent along a 3-part wall hanging for Shaling's room. The Chinese symbols are Shaling's name.

The kids continue to do great together, so it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow when Preston goes back to school, but Shaling stays home with Mom & Dad. We all continue to be on messed up sleep schedules, but Preston's is the closest to normal (which is fortunate). Thank goodness I don't have to go to work, because today was rough...I only slept for 3 hours last night. I got in a 2+ hour nap this afternoon, and am hoping to try and go to bed around 8ish tonight. I have to register Shaling for school tomorrow, even though we're not starting her yet.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wrapping Up the Trip

I wasn't able to blog from Hong Kong, because I didn't have free internet access and didn't feel like paying $8/hour for it. We were on the same train as Ben & Sheri (the couple from Texas adopting Xiao-Xiao). Preston was especially happy about this because he enjoyed playing DSi with their son Davey. We were also happy that they were staying at the same hotel as us, as it gave us some good company at supper time. We checked in at the same time, but I got my room assignment first (room 573). I asked Ben to try and get on the 5th floor. He asked the hotel clerk to get him on the 5th floor, so he could be near "his sister". The clerk asked me who was older. I said that Ben was...MUCH older. We had fun with that for awhile.

We even left the hotel at the same time the next morning, since both of our flights left at 11:25 a.m. (us on United to Chicago and them on Continental to Newark). We found a McDonald's at the airport and had breakfast together. I have to admit...the hotcakes & sausage tasted very good after having traditional Chinese breakfast for two weeks straight.

We had 3 seats together on the airplane and 1 seat in another location (but on the aisle). We were successful in getting another passenger to trade seats with Brock so he could sit across the aisle from the rest of us. Shaling absolutely loved the flight. She giggled and squealed at the take-off, the landing, whenever they showed our location on the map, etc. She had some difficulty in understanding why she couldn't put her feet on the seat in front of her and that stressed me for a bit, as the passenger in front of her was a bit perturbed. She & Preston only slept for about two hours, as they both insisted that they weren't tired.

Here is a picture of them playing with the DSi:

We landed a little early in Chicago (11:15 vs. 11:40) and then went through immigration, where we got sent to an office to wait our turn for her paperwork to be processed. There were about 20-25 people in the room. When Brock asked who all had to go to the office, an immigration official told him that it was typically first time entrants to the U.S.A. Our wait was only about 20 minutes. Shaling had to give fingerprints and sign two documents. It was actually somewhat anti-climatic, as she really didn't understand what all was happening. We then went through customs, which took all of about 30 seconds. They didn't go through our luggage at all.

We re-checked our luggage and then took a tram to the right terminal for our flight to Springfield. We found our gate around 12:30 or 12:45. After some bathroom stops and food runs, we settled in for a bit. Our flight was scheduled for a 4:52 departure (4:32 boarding). By about 2:30, I looked at Brock and said, "I don't think I can make it." At this point, it was 4:30 a.m. the next day back in China and we'd been up since 7 a.m. We leaned against each other and took about a 30 minute nap. We eventually made the kids put the DSis away, as they were getting a bit rowdy. Shaling gave it up and fell fast asleep. Preston did not; he read a book.

By 4:20, we'd watched 5 different flights board and depart. Snow flurries had become a lot heavier and we both silently wondered how it might affect us. We anxiously awaited our boarding call when there was an announcement that our flight was delayed because we had no flight crew. They were on their way in from another destination and were an hour behind. We groaned...heavily...but were not alone. Two soldiers were on our flight for their first trips home in MONTHS. They finally began boarding us at 5:15. The pilot then announced that we were still waiting for the First Officer to arrive. We sat on the plane for an hour before they arrived. Then, we had to be de-iced. We finally rolled away from the gate around 7:00 and didn't depart until 7:15 p.m., giving us about an 8-hour layover. Ironically, I had felt really sorry for Carl & Kim (the family that adopted Natalie/Ma Meixin) because I knew they had an 8-hour layover in New York that day).

Fortunately, it was a very quick flight, as we landed in Springfield just after 7:40 p.m. Both Shaling & I had slept during our wait on the plane and a bit during the brief flight. A new friend of mine, Shannon, who has adopted from China 3 times, and her daughter Kaci surprised us a 2-person welcoming committee. Shannon's husband works at the airport, so she knew when we were landing. Brock went out and warmed up the car and pulled it around. The kids helped retrieve the luggage. We went through Popeye's on the way home. As we pulled down our block, Shaling spotted the house (she recognized it from the pictures we sent) and began pointing and talking excitedly (in Chinese). She got her "second wind" and hurried in the house, but not before giving commentary on the snow. "Brrr...."

We let Preston give her the grand tour as Brock finished unloading the car and I got supper ready. She was delighted to see her "Welcome Home" balloons from our neighbors, Gary & Brenda. She has no idea what the balloons or the card said, but she knew it was for her. Her she is standing by her balloons:

After giving her a bath and getting pajamas on both kids, we realized the kids were still happily playing, so we decided to go ahead and get our unpacking done. I figured that would make for a more relaxing Saturday. We finally tuckered out around 11:30 p.m. I told Brock that I would lay with Shaling for a few minutes, but then come to bed. If, however, she cried, even once, I would stay with her the remainder of the night. No need to traumatize her the first night home. She seemed content in her new room. She had asked me in Chinese to confirm that it was her room. I only understood the word "mine", but I could tell by her gestures what she was asking. She immediately grabbed two stuffed animals waiting for her - one from a coworker and one from her Uncle Scott & Aunt Barbara. She slept with both of them.

Well, she made it until just after 5 a.m., when she came bounding in our room and called us by name. She then tried to open our blinds (she's never seen blinds...just curtains). She wanted us to know that the sun was out (time to get up). Brock tried to lay down with her, but she would have none of it...repeatedly gesturing towards the sun. He asked her to close her eyes for a little bit (showing her "a little bit" with his finger and thumb). She obliged, but 5 minutes later sat straight up and showed him the signal for "little bit".

He took her downstairs to watch television. I eventually joined them for awhile, but after eating some breakfast, went back upstairs and crawled in bed with Preston for awhile.. He was snoozing soundly. Preston finally woke up around 8 a.m. and I told him he could go downstairs and watch television with his sister. Brock came upstairs and we went back to our own bed. Then, around 9:30 a.m. or so, Brock went to go play basketball. Yes, I think he's NUTS. The kids began waking me up around 11:40, but I didn't really get functional enough to crawl out of bed until well after 12:30, closer to 1:00.

After showering and doing some light organizing, we welcomed Grandma & Grandpa Coonrod to the house to meet Shaling. She happily jumped right into their arms. It helped I think, that we had Skyped with them while in China. Grandma showed her some new clothes and Grandpa showed her her new bicycle. She immediately wanted to ride it, but ended up wiping out in the snow. She popped right back up with a smile on her face. We decided to go eat at New Buffet City, as I thought she needed some familiar foods. She hadn't eaten very well over the past 24-36 hours.

Here she is with Grandma & Grandpa (and Preston):

She fell asleep on the way to the restaurant, but woke up and ate a good lunch. As she was so tired, Grandma & Grandpa headed out shopping and then home, while we took our tired girl home. She & Dad laid down for a nap from about 4:30 p.m. to about 7 p.m. She and Preston have been playing together well the rest of the evening...air hockey, video games, the piano, computer games, chasing the cat, etc. It is amazing how natural we feel as a family of four already. This girl just continues to amaze us.

Since I didn't have internet access in Hong Kong, I didn't get a chance to post these pictures from our last day on Shamian Island in Guangzhou (these are the obligatory "fun" statue pictures that most adoptive families take):

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Last Minute Stuff

Well, if I may brag...I condensed all of our stuff into 4 suitcases (we brought 5) by stuffing the tiniest one in one of the larger ones. We've got 4 suitcases and 4 carry-ons now (and of course, 4 people). I checked Brock, Preston & myself in on-line for our flight tomorrow. However, I was unable to check Shaling in yet, because I have no visa for her (we get that later). I had to call United for help, because I at least wanted her to get seat assignments. That was probably a $20-$25 phone call. She is sitting with us from Chicago to Springfield, but the big flight had no seats in our row. Brock will probably be sitting in her assigned seat, while I sit with the 2 kids in the 3 assigned seats we have together.

We will be staying at the Marriott at the Hong Kong airport tonight. Here's to hoping we get a room with 2 beds as requested. Just to review, here's what's left of our itinerary:

2:00 p.m. - Connie (our guide) picks up and takes us to get Shaling's visa, then drops us off at the train station.
4:10 p.m. - Our train leaves for Hong Kong.
FYI - those times translate to midnight & 2 a.m. Thursday in Illinois.

11:25 a.m. - Our flight to Chicago takes off (this translates to 9:25 p.m. Thursday in Illinois).
11:40 a.m. - Our flight is scheduled to land at O'Hare (this translates to 1:40 a.m. Saturday in China).
4:50 p.m. - Our flight for Springfield is scheduled to depart.
5:45 p.m. - We are scheduled to land in Springfield (this translates to 7:45 a.m. Saturday in China).

Safari Park Videos

Brock took over 70 videos at the Safari Park. I've narrowed it down to 20 to post here. These first 4 videos are all of the kids feeding different animals -- elephants, giraffes & white tigers.

This video shows a lazy panda, chomping on some lunch.

These two videos some cute little tiger cubs playing.

These 4 videos are of the kids going for their elephant ride. The fourth video shows where the elephant actually goes into a pond with them on its back.

These 3 videos are of a fun elephant show that we watched. Check out the elephant moon walk in the second video.

These next two videos show how empty that park was today. It was cold and drizzly all day...kept most people away. The first video is of the empty parking lot. The second one is the kids riding a carousel all by themselves.

These last 4 videos are from the train ride we took at the beginning of the day.

African Lions

White Tigers

Black Bears

Free Roaming Giraffes, Zebras, etc.

Safari Park Pictures

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the Safari Park. We began by taking a train through an area that had lions and tigers and bears, oh my! There were also giraffes and zebras and much more. Other than the predators, the animals roamed freely. We even had a giraffe cross in front of our train. At the walk around part of the park, the kids got to feed elephants, white tigers and giraffes. Preston & Shaling also got to ride an elephant. Brock took numerous videos and I took 85 pictures, but deleted over half of them. I tried to be selective as I chose what to post here. These are the pictures; the videos are yet to come.

Preston & Shaling ride the elephant.

Some of the many baby tigers and lions that we saw.

The kids feed some elephants.

Brock first tried to hold the husband of this parrot, but it bit him...and latched on hard. The wife was more cooperative. Preston eventually got brave and stood next to him and then Shaling soon followed.

Preston feeding the giraffes.

a lazy panda

the white tigers the kids got to feed

These 4 pictures are from the elephant show. The elephants danced, played basketball, played soccer, did relay races, and did some gymnastics. During one of the head stands, an individual elephant gave us a bonus...apparently it couldn't hold it any longer and did a "#2" while standing on its head.

Can you believe the trash cans?

The rest of these are from the train tour, which was actually at the beginning, but since the kids aren't in them, I saved them for last. The first picture (the giraffe crossing) was actually in the middle of the tour, but the rest of these are in the order in which we came upon them.