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Welcome to my family blog. I have been married to Mike for over half of my life. I love my Savior, Jesus. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to six terrific, interesting children. My 3 oldest were born to me in my younger years, while my 3 youngest were given to me by God in my older years. I am very blessed. ~Cheri



It has been a while since I've posted any -isms.  They are usually of Eva, since she is the more talkative one.  But, Joy's picking up speed in her vocabulary and funny comments.

This conversation took place between Mike and me just a week after Ivy came home.  Joy was listening in.

Me:  This spring we should get Ivy a bike.  I think she will really like to have one.

Mike:  Yeah, I saw her eyeballing the kid's bikes in the garage.

Joy:  I like your eyeball!

Uummmm, where did that one come from?


First Kiss

You would think that I, the one who held her when she cried in China, sang songs to her as we held hands, fed her 3 meals a day since February 1st, played dolls, colored, watched ridiculous Chinese super-hero TV shows would be the one to get that first, coveted kiss.  But, no.  It was Baba, and quite unexpected as he kissed her forehead.  She then brushed his cheek with that first kiss.  I won't steal his thunder or take that place.  I'm happy that he was the one.  

Ivy continues to thrive in her home-life.  She has easily settled in to the place of big sister/little sister.  Since the first night home, Ivy has slept all night, peacefully.  She knows the routine of home and is content.  Dinner time is so much fun.  I love to see if she's going to enjoy the meal or turn up her nose at it.  She has eaten every single meal without complaint and asks for seconds and thirds.  Ivy is a quick learner, especially at all the games we play at home.  Just yesterday I caught her online playing backgammon!?  She's been watching Jack play, and has caught on rather quickly.  Ivy has started putting sentences together.  Yesterday, Mike was dozing on the bed, and Ivy looked at me and said, "Baba sleeping."  Today, while I was stripping the bed because Joy wet her underwear last night, Ivy said, "Joy pottied in the bed."  See, she even put the propositional phrase in that sentence!  She has opened up so much and has even gotten a bit rowdy with the boys.  I am enjoying her so much.

I think we all are looking forward to spring time.  We've had snow on the ground since December.  Today is cold and in the 30's.  I'm sure in a month we'll be enjoying the sweet sounds of birds chirping and seeing the blossoms paint the trees.  Everyone will enjoy being outside, myself included.

 I love how Ivy is playing with Joy's hair.

Coloring with Dad before bedtime

*On another exciting note..Ma Pei's file has been locked.  I'm hoping the family will contact me.


Ivy's Friend, Ma Pei

While we waited through this adoption process for Ivy, I watched her friends be adopted one by one.  I was so happy for the children to have homes, but sad for the children left behind.  A month after making the decision to adopt Ivy, I saw this little cutie on the list for adoption.

 Ma Pei on far left, Rebecca (adopted), another friend, and Ivy

Little did I know that Ma Pei was Ivy's friend at the orphanage.  Ivy has quite a few pictures of the two of them together in her photo album she brought from the orphanage.  As we were looking through the pictures together, I asked Ivy if Ma Pei has a mama and baba.  She sadly and slowly shook her head no.  I wanted to bring them both home.

She has just turned 7 and is available for adoption off the shared list.  She is in school and Ivy was in her class.  She must be quite clever, since she and Ivy were together in school (not just a bragging mama).  She has an obvious deformity of her left hand/arm.  Her right hand has had surgery on the fingers, and I believe she has some issues with her toes on one foot.  But, look at that beautiful face!  I think about her chances of a good life in China...and I'm just praying she finds a family soon.  I have a few more pictures if anyone is interested.  I also have a top-notch agency that I recommend!

Oh...if we were in a position to adopt again.....She needs a family.


Traveling Alone

I have had many people ask me about traveling alone to China.  I thought I'd use this post to share some things that I learned.  I am not an expert on international travel, but will share my opinion and experience.  Ultimately, you need to do what is best and what works for your own family.  I would have preferred that all of us go to China, but financially, we could not afford it.  Hindsight...I wish I had paid more attention on our other adoption trips.  We always followed Mike through the airports, never paying any attention on how things are done.  Mike always took care of the exchanging of currency and purchasing items in China.  So, I learned to do it all on this trip.

*I decided to take our PC because I felt I needed to be in contact with my family (since I had 5 children and a husband at home).  Plus, I wanted Ivy to be able to "meet" her family via skype during my 2 weeks in China.  Other than that, I wanted family and friends to be able to experience our joys with this adoption.  If those are not your concerns, definitely leave the PC behind.  It was a heavy piece of equipment to lug around in my backpack along with a file of paperwork, purse, and cameras.
*Since I was not traveling with a group, I was able to make my own travel arrangements, including hotels.  I also paid a guide fee once in China and took taxis everywhere I went.  So, I think that saved me some money.  The negative of this is that I had to get myself from the airport to the hotel upon arrival.  Actually, my agency would have gladly arranged for airport pick-up, but where's the adventure in that?

*I had to go through 4 airports.  You would think that since I already went through security in one airport, I would not have to go through them again.  Not so.  Be prepared to go through security numerous times; shoes off, back packs emptied, computer out of bag.  My hand sanitizer got confiscated at one airport.  I think it was HK.

*Neither my guide nor I was aware that when only one parent travels, the Bank of China will only exchange $5000 US per day.  All of you adoptive parents know how much money you need on that first day and $5000 was not enough.  I borrowed a family (thanks Marie and your father!) who was already at the bank to help me out with the funds above $5000.  Hopefully, your agency will wire the funds for you.  Our previous agency did that for us, and it was a load off our backs and purses.

*By the time I left China, it was very easy converting Yuan to US Dollars.  I was even doing it in San Francisco on our return trip.  It just became second nature and really was not too difficult once I got going.  I loved figuring out that Ivy could eat dinner for $2 US.

*I did not have any video of the moment I met Ivy.  That is disappointing, although I have many pictures (thanks again to Marie's brother!).  It all happened so quickly.  We were a bit late heading to the Civil Affairs Office, so Ivy was already there waiting when I arrived.  Plan ahead.   Maybe your guide can be of service.

*If you are adopting older, I highly recommend getting your child a digital camera.  I purchased one from Discovery Kids at a local store.  It really helped Ivy and kept her distracted during paperwork time and grieving time.

*I had my guide write down some places I wanted to take Ivy to see.  We handed it to the taxi driver and off we went.  Taxis are easy to get and very inexpensive.  Just because my husband was not with me, did not mean I had to stay in the hotel room.

*I was very glad I stayed on Shamian Island in Guangzhou.  Everything I needed was within walking distance. 

*I'm glad I did not have the early flight out of Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  I always felt miserable getting up before 5:00 a.m.  

*Enjoy your time alone with your child.  It was good bonding time with Ivy, and she grew to trust me over those 2 weeks.  She knows that she is safe when she is with me.

*Regardless of what anyone else says, if your are a Hague adoptive family, your child will return home on an IH-3 visa and become an American citizen upon arrive at your port of entry.  You also only need to fill out the I864W along with your I800.  You will need your Power of Attorney notarized and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy before you leave for China.  I did not need copies of tax returns as some people do for the I600 process.

I'm sure I will come up with a few more things, but right now this is what comes to mind.  I hope this helps at least one person out there, ready to travel on their own.


Home One Week

It seems longer, yet it seems like I was in China just yesterday.  This week has flown by.  Every day, Ivy continues to come out of her shell.  She's not shed a tear since I posted last about her occasional crying.  I'm so thankful for that.  It appears that Ivy is truly starting to enjoy the security, safety, and love of a family.  I am still the one Ivy wants to be around all the time, but she's slowly leaving my side for some adventure.  Today all 3 girls went outside to play for a while since it was quite warm.  It gave me some much needed quiet time.  Ivy seems to enjoy being with her daddy, but she's not ready to be alone with him.  I know that will come with time.

Since I'm such a hard task-master, I decided to put the children to work this week.  No time off school just because I'm home from China!  Seth and Jack actually did quite well while I was away.  We even started some new things in school this week, while finishing some things up.

I decided to print some math worksheets for Ivy.  I wanted to see what she has learned.  I'm very pleased to say (which I already figured out) that Ivy is a very intelligent girl.  She is newly 7 and she can add double digit numbers, write her letters and numbers quite well.  She needs some work on form, size, and spacing, but I'm so glad she knows so much about the English numbers and letters!  She is also very quick to learn knew things.  We've played Legos, Lincoln Logs, Operation, Connect Four, CandyLand, and a bunch of other things; show her once, and she figures it all out.  Since Ivy was doing some school, I took this chance to start some work with Eva and Joy.  Eva loves doing school.  Joy can do about 15 minutes, then she is done.  Still, the structure was very good for them all.

Maybe I should be have more serious about the school attire, but Ivy came to the table wearing this hat.  How could I refuse with that big grin?

Joy is still a little young for school, but she likes the "idea" of schooling.  Plus, she wants to be like the big sisters.
Joy's coloring.

*Ivy LOVES the dress-up princess shoes.  She wears them all day long.
*She will need a bike for the spring time.  I saw her riding Joy on the back of Eva's tricycle today.
*Ivy asked me in English to "brush my teeth"!
*Every meal she has eaten at home, Ivy has had more than one helping.  At this rate, she should put some weight on soon.
*Seth and Ivy made our dinner tonight.
*Ivy loves to work in the kitchen.
*Today on Google translator, I asked Ivy if she was happy to be here.  She replied with a smile and nodded her head yes.
*Ivy made her connection with Jack tonight as they ran around the house chasing each other.  She followed him into the kitchen holding onto his shirt.  Aahh, siblings.
*(I forgot to mention this in China, but thought it was funny.)  Ivy had to be taught how to use a western toilet and to flush.  When we'd use the squat potties in China, she always finished much faster than I did.  I was always afraid I was going to slip.  And, I could never figure out which way to stand?  Facing the door or the wall?
*She always goes to bed with a big grin on her face as I kiss her goodnight.


Ivy Is Doing Well

Ivy is actually doing much better than I expected.  She is still quiet and says very little.  I think she understands much more than she communicates.  Ivy gets along well with all of her siblings.  I believe she likes them all.  Seth and Jordan adore her.  Jack, is slowly interacting with her.  Eva and Joy stare at her and follow her around like a puppy.  Eva even waits outside the bathroom door for "Big Sis".

Ivy has had only one day with no crying.  But, her crying is her usual silent tears.  I comfort her with soft words, hugs, and kisses.  Then she seems to do just fine.  Only one time did she cry at bedtime.  Ivy enjoys her Baba (Dad), but is not as comfortable with him as she is with me.  That is to be expected.  I have had 2 extra weeks with her.

So, we're all slowly adjusting to this new normal life.  I have to admit that it is very busy around here.  I would never have thought that such a tiny little girl from Guangdong, China, could cause such busyness, but she has.  

*Ivy loves bathtime.  She has had a bath every night but one since I met her.
*Ivy has a very good appetite.  Tonight, she had a third helping.  Last night she gobbled up my tacos and Mexican rice.    Dinner time is such a fun time for her.  She loves setting the table!
*Tonight they all had a beanie baby fight in the living room..Dad included.
*She has the most contagious giggle.
*She eagerly says "Hello" when she meets new people.
*I cannot believe she is our daughter!


I had a hard time looking at Eva with her new mullet hair-do.  Remember, she took the scissors to one side of her head.

Jordan graciously took Eva to our hairdresser to get the mess fixed.  I hated the fact that it took so long to get her hair to it is gone.

But, it looks kind of cute bobbed.  I'll be glad when it grows a bit.  It is still too short on that left side, but I could not get her hair cut above her ears.  It will grow.

Even my boys managed to cut their hair while I was in China.


After 39 Hours of Traveling, We're Home

I woke up Thursday morning at 5:30 am, China time, which is 4:30 am Virginia time.  We had a 9:50 am from from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  It all went rather smoothly, and Ivy enjoyed the excitement, sounds, chaos, of the airport.  She seemed in such awe.  The flight was only 40 minutes, and Ivy thought it was so neat being above the clouds.

After arriving in HK, we walked around, and decided to eat lunch at Burger King.  While we were eating in the food court overlooking the enormous airport, Ivy looks at me and says, "May Guo?"  This means America in Chinese.  She thought Hong Kong was America.  I hated to tell her that we had another 30 some hours and 3 more flights before arriving home.  So, I asked the Chinese pilot sitting next to her to explain this to her.  He was very kind to her.

View of part of Hong Kong from our gate.

We left HK on time for our 11+ hour flight to San Francisco.  Cathay Pacific gave Ivy a child's package of goodies; coloring books, origami, puzzle, magna doodle, stickers.  That took up some time, and so did the movies and games on the entertainment system.  Ivy was very excited when we could see the city of SF and "May Guo".  After taking care of immigration/customs (Ivy is now a US citizen), we decided to head to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, since we had an 11 hour layover.  The next flight to Chicago was booked, so we took advantage of our time.  I have never been on the west coast before, and this was a treat for me.  I figured out the subway and trolley cars, and found our way to the Bay.  The weather was beautiful, 50+ degrees.  My exhaustion disappeared once we got moving and I felt that pleasant sea breeze on my face.  Ivy's exhaustion did not disappear.  I felt badly for her because she could not enjoy the fact that we were in a new place.  We spent a few hours walking around the area.

Once we made it back to the subway, I expected Ivy to fall asleep.  She kept nodding off, almost falling over at times.

We had lunch at the airport, walked around, talked to the family, played computer games, and watched people.  Near our gate the airport had a "Kid's Zone".  Ivy enjoyed that for many hours.  I nodded off while sitting at my gate and Ivy was playing!  What a terrible mom!  I'm just thankful she's not the type to take off to escape.


The flight to Chicago was about 4 hours.  Ivy and I slept part of the flight.  I woke up to see Ivy doing her silent cry.  I can only imagine how difficult all this was for her.  She was extremely jovial at the SFO Airport. She talked so much to me, and we played games together, held hands.  Sometimes I just don't know how to comfort her during this moments of sadness.  I just stroke her hand or arm and tell her it is okay to cry.  These moments do not last too long, thankfully.  On our last flight home, Ivy slept the whole hour of flight time.  I am sure I looked ridiculous nodding off.  It is always embarrassing to have people see you in such a vulnerable position.  One man at the airport was snoring away right next to us as he was spread out getting a great rest.
The mountains were beautifully dressed with a white blanket of snow.  I was so glad to see this view.  Ivy woke up once we landed.  I told her, "all done" and she just smiled.  When she saw the whole family waiting for us, she bashfully grinned.  She never said a word, but seemed truly happy to finally see everyone.

Everyone seems to be adjusting well.  We got settled in, and Ivy got busy investigating the home and her room.  It took her a while to say anything, and she is still extremely quiet.  She's had a few moments of tears, and that is what we expect.  Eva and Joy seem to love her unconditionally.  Jack is my man of few words, Seth played a game of Memory with the girls, and Jordan did a puzzle with Ivy before heading off to work.

Thanks for following our journey to adopt Ivy.  I'm sure we'll face many challenges in the months ahead, but I thank our Savior for His love, protection, and prayers of my friends and family, and I know He has the mercy I need to make it through all the issues that lie ahead.  

I'm off for some much needed rest.  I'll be posting again soon to share how everyone is doing.


Good-Bye, China

It is always nice to experience China.  But, it is even better to be home with my family..all 8 of us.  I'm now counting the hours until we leave.  My time here with Ivy has been a wonderful experience.  Things are good with Ivy.  

I'm now able to tell her that we leave in the morning and she does not cry.  She did not cry when my guide, Daniel, brought her passport and paperwork to us. (I have to hand-carry this huge x-ray of Ivy's chest proving she does not have TB.)  I'm expecting the tears tomorrow.  Even I cry when I leave China.  But, I'm looking forward to a wonderful reunion with my family.

Today we just did some packing throughout the day.  I organized, then reorganized, decided what to take on the plane and what to pack up.  I'm sure Ivy will be pre-occupied with the flight's entertainment most of the trip.  I doubt she'll need too much.  I'm also hoping she'll sleep some and not get motion sickness.

Here are a few pictures of the day.

Taking home CNY decorations.

Someone is always being photographed on Shamien Island.

Most people's mode of transportation.

*I found out that Ivy says okay even when she has no idea what I just told her.
*A Chinese lady commented that Ivy looked Korean.
*I accidentally had Yaro ice cream.  It was purple and looked good, but it was actually sweet potato.  Not so good.
*The bathwater here is not clear, but rather a light tan/yellowish color.  That is why we don't drink the water.
*Ivy's skin TB test still looks terrible.  It is still large, raised, and very red.
*At 7 year old, Ivy still has a couple of Mongolian spots (looks like bruises) on her backside.
*I don't think Ivy is used to touch.  Every time I touch her unexpectedly, she jumps or giggles. 
*Next post...from home.  Thanks for following this journey.  I appreciate you all and your comments and prayers.



Ivy is a mess.  I don't know how anyone can get dirty after being on Shamien Island all day long, but Ivy finds a way.  Today, like yesterday, she had dirt and mud all over her pants.  She also ends up with food down the front of her shirt by dinner time.  Today she had yogurt all down her shirt by afternoon, and I did not see it until much later.  Lots of stain remover for her.  She is just like Jack in that regard.

Many places have these orange trees for CNY decorations.

Ivy having her doll color some pictures.

Today, we went for our oath ceremony at the US Consulate.  I signed that visa application that I mailed to my agency when we received our LOA back in November.  After all the families had done that, we raised our right hand and swore that all the information was correct to the best of our knowledge.  The Consulate Officer speaking was the same lady whom I had been emailing back in December who pushed my papers through after my immigration officer held them on her desk for 3 weeks.  I personally got to thank her for taking such good care of me.  It was after 4:00 pm by then, and my guide, Daniel, seemed quite nervous that we would not be able to catch a cab back to the hotel.  So, I quietly prayed all the way down 5 flights of escalators (which Ivy enjoyed thoroughly, and I enjoyed feeling that little hand in mine holding tightly).  By the time we made it to the sidewalk, Daniel hailed cab and we were back at the hotel in no time.  I thank the Lord for those little things as well as the big ones.

Sweet Grace will be going home to Florida soon.  She's a stinker and keeps her mom hopping.

We picked up Ivy's chop and headed to dinner at my favorite place, the Shanghai-style restaurant.  I ordered rice, dumplings, and Chinese cabbage with mushrooms.  When the cabbage came out, Ivy just curled up her lip and shook her head no.  I ordered it for me, and did not think she'd eat it.  But, she ate everything else.  Then played around at the exercise park.  We used every piece of equipment 4 times back and forth.  She giggled and carried on like she had so much pent-up energy.  I was exhausted and was glad when she was ready to go back to the room.  We hop-scotch skipped all the way to the hotel.

We had about 5 minutes of tears on the way to the Consulate.  I am really thinking the sight of our guide upsets her.  I know he has to remind her of February 1st, the day we met.

Ivy likes twisting her hair and pulling it back with many, many hair clips.  Sigh...I prefer one.

One more thing...I wanted to thank Margo and Shelley for their blogs/websites.  They were so beneficial to Ivy.  I showed her pictures of her friends, now Rebecca and Grace.  She saw Grace with her family and playing in the snow.  She watched Rebecca (by video on her blog) bake cookies and open Christmas presents.  It really made Ivy feel much better about a family.  She giggled about the girls and just talked up a storm about them in Chinese.  She used their Chinese names.  The next day, she was drawing pictures of her friends.  Thanks for sharing those things.  She was able to see their happiness after leaving the orphanage.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, but it was an uneventful day.  One more day left!  Please pray once again for our safe travels, and that the Chinese New Year will not make getting out of Guangzhou very difficult.



Today was our Consulate Appointment.  Daniel took care of business for us and all the paperwork was in order.  Once that was taken care of, Ivy and I headed to White Cloud Mountain.  In the taxi, I told Ivy we would be going home in 3 more days.  She then became very melancholy and somber.  The tears came again.  Maybe I should not have said anything, but she needs to know.  She was sad for about 30 minutes.  Even riding the tram up the mountain did not occupy her mind.  Some time passed before I got a smile out of her.

Sad Ivy.

We had a nice time at the mountain.  We went inside a bird sanctuary.  The large area was tented with a net so the birds had their freedom, yet they were confined for their protection.  I enjoyed it.  Ivy seemed content.  I think it takes a lot to amuse her.  After hanging out with the birds, Ivy ate a disgusting looking lunch of chicken, rice, hard boiled brown egg (with and without the shell it was brown), and greens.  I had to turn my head when she was devouring the chicken.  It had bones and pieces I would not touch.  She did not seem to mind, but looked quite experienced at it all.  After that, she seemed to liven up a bit, and we walked around, ate ice cream together.

A little happier

We have a picture of Mike with Eva and Joy in front of this in 2007.

I need one of these.

We took the tram back down.  This time Ivy enjoyed waving at the people in the tram who were going the opposite direction.  She learned to say, "nobody" when a tram was empty.  And, I forgot to mention, after breakfast, she said to me, "I'm done."  I'm thrilled!  She's willingly speaking some English.  She also told me "Thank you" after I gave her something.

We ended the day with a little bit of shopping.  I bought Eva and Joy each one of those tu-tu Chinese dresses.  Ivy is not interested in the Chinese dresses.  I did get her a chop, though.  I figured out that Ivy's Chinese name, Ma, means horse.  I knew Ma meant horse, but thought it was odd.  Now, I realize that she was born in the year of the horse.  The Chinese seem to have a reason for everything.  Xue means "learned" or "schooled".  I have no idea why she was named that.  Maybe that is what they hoped for her.

Our $5.00 meal from the Deli.

Ivy's collection...what a contrast.

Tomorrow we go to our oath ceremony at the U.S. Consulate.  I then get Ivy's passport/visa on Wednesday evening, and head home on Thursday.  I'm sort of sad that my time in China is coming to an end.  I'm sad for Ivy...leaving all she has ever known.  I've enjoyed being alone with her and getting to know her.  But, I'm so thrilled beyond words to be back with my family.  I miss my boys so much.  I miss my goofy girls, including Jordan!  And, I miss my dear husband.  He's been working overtime with his family and work.  I appreciate him more than he knows.

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