Monday, April 30, 2012

Home again home again jiggety jig.

The flight was longish, with an extra hour on the tarmac but the kids did superbly well.


2 little crying spells for miss ava but also lots of blissful sleep.  Thank you Jesus.


It was sheer delight to see daddy and all the friends that stopped in last night. The home cooked meal was a tasty blessing! It was sheer joy to see Ava walk around her new home and see her smile and laugh as her siblings got her imitating all the funny stuff they do.


She warmed up to company quickly and loved having kids to play with even for just a short time last night.


The old bed felt great, especially with 4 children saying our now I lay me last night.


God is incredibly good.  We are so so so grateful, humbled and blessed.

To Him to all glory for this journey and this child.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Ava & BaBa

As I sit down, waiting for our vans to take southward out of Guangzhou... out of mainland China, I find myself with mixed emotions.   A part of me is so excited about getting back to Geneva and back into the routine of the Hill Household.   A part of me longs to linger here to spend time with our family in the protective cocoon of being away.   We've learned so much about the Chinese Culture since our arrival a couple of weeks a go; however, a lifetime is needed to really absorb it all.   I hope to share with you or anyone who wants to know about our adoption journey in the near future.

I remember Ava's gotcha day as it is embedded in my memory forever, just like Lily's... and just like the delivery of my boys.   A  Dad's perspective is unique as we see and experience things differently than Mother's do.   Ava walked in the room with a piece of bread in one hand and she was placed in Cathy's arms.  Though she was crying when she first arrived.. she soon hushed as she realized she was finally in her Mommy's arms.    We all cried, it was a joyful time.   My eyes well up with tears now as I write these words.

Over the past days, I've gotten to know Ava in a different way than Cathy.   My Ava Joy has learned to trust me, to know that I am her Father, her BaBa.. her daddy.  Though I've not gotten to hold her for more than a few moments, she lets me rub her feet and will lean over and kiss me on the cheek.  Cathy kept reminding me she would one day lay in my arms, sit on my lap and hold me.     This moment happened yesterday as I was sitting the floor of our room, leaning back on the edge of the bed.  Ava came to me, speaking to me in some Chinese Baby Dialect.   I looked over at her and smiled....  she continued babbling at me, then literally pushed me over on the floor and climbed up on me to play.  We had a precious time bonding and rough-housing that Dad's know how to do.  

This morning we went to a park and Ava had a grand time... we all did actually!   We're off to Hong Kong for a couple of days, then we'll be back home soon.

I can't wait to show off the latest Hill Girl... like the others.. she's absolutely amazing! It melts my heart when I hear her little voice call me...


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Good byes

Today we visited the US Consulate in Guangzhou.  We sat with our group of three other families as well as a few other families adopting their little Chinese treasures.  There was a little play area.  What an amazing thing to see these children play - siblings, friends and lifelong relationships. 

Due to Consulate rules, we could not have cameras, but picture in your mind the Sunday school song, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight”, and you will get the idea.  Brian and I as well as the other parents were asked to repeat an oath regarding bringing a Chinese citizen to the US as an immigrant.  I didn’t say one word, nor can I remember even one syllable.  The emotions took over that the work the Father began in our hearts some 3 years ago is coming to completion.  He is Faithful to Finish that which He starts.
We returned to the hotel for group pictures. How I will miss this group. The bond we share is lifelong.  There is nothing like seeing 3 families add their fourth child and one young couple becomes parents.  I will never forget the memories of our gotcha day nor the days prior and since.

Ava cried throughout the photo session.  She banged her head just before but I mused to myself I was ready to cry just as hard.  I treasure our memories and fondly look forward to seeing her become accustomed to her new home, her church, her soon to be nursery and Sunday school friends.  What blessings lay in store as we shepherd her to a saving knowledge of the Savior.

Grandpa asked me this morning how soon she will be coming to HOBI. I dreamt of her in my office, giggling through each room, under my desk and the conference table.  Those dreams will soon come true.  What a blessing to watch her grow.

Her siblings do not give her a moment’s rest.  They have learned how to make her mimic them.  They have learned how to make her roar with laughter, and she has learned to trust them. 

I am still the feeder, carrier and diaper changer, but she smiles when she sees her daddy.  She adores his lotion baths and she will soon think he’s the best thing in the world;  as she should.

We will be headed off shortly to see the pandas here in Guangzhou, and back to the Consulate tomorrow for Ava’s visa. We received her x-rays today and the consulate advised us how to proceed on the US side with immigration.

God has gone before us, in front of us and beside us.
Your prayers have sustained us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Scary, Strange and Stunning

Scary, Strange and Stunning ...
That about encapsulates our Wednesday. We began early with our group headed back to the clinic to read the babies’ TB tests.Our guide is stellar here. Marched us right in, through an amazingly big crowd and in to the office where all 4 babies in our group were to display their red arms. We were 4th in line, and in seconds we were up. I knew there was an issue when the nurse started marking and measuring. It’s interesting as during the adoption process one lives and dies by paperwork, but here, like labor, those memories have quickly slipped away. I have felt "done". I realized we had lots more to do, passports, visas, etc. but this was a nonevent for me, until we were on our way to chest x-rays.

I didn’t ask at all what if as I knew the Lord had brought us this far, and He would remain faithful to bringing Ava home. I just didn’t anticipate stripping my little girl and holding her down for chest x-rays. Nor did I anticipate the angst of waiting on results.
In minutes, we had clear film. Praise the Lord. This means we will travel with the x-rays for immigration. We visit the consulate this morning and tomorrow we will have little Miss Ava’s visa. I am confident she will never know this process and in many ways I am glad for that. Like Lily she came to us in a profoundly different, intentional way and my love for her is fiercely strong. Like the grinch, my heart grew 4-fold, last Monday, April 16.
She too is spreading her wings to love her siblings and her daddy. She is a really really funny girl and is finding her home in the laughter and joy of her family. What a joy to my heart.

After x-rays, our little group did some shopping and had lunch. Our guide stayed with us as the rest of the group taxied back to the hotel. She showed us Pedestrian Street, a walking/ shopping street and then the Chin Ping market. It was literally a street staged pet shop. We saw turtles and fish, one puppy and lots of kitties. Some for sale, some trying to eat the fish. Most were in dishpans and organized by breed and price. It was fascinating. The kids marveled at all the different animals. Of course we had a dozen discussions about what might fit in our suitcase but we convinced the kids our menagerie is quite full at home.
Last night was the finale of sorts with our group. We had dinner on the Pearl River and the views were just stunning. My girls watched from the window at the changing lights and lovely venues. China continues to amaze me with its beauty and its people.We are so privileged to have learned about this culture and pray we will continue to cherish those memories in our hearts for Ava. She received wonderful care. You can see the love for children in the grandparents that stroll by and speak with her in Chinese.

She has a smile and a little fisted wave for each one. She blossoms every day, smiling more and laughing lots more. What a gift she is. What a gift adoption is. I cannot imagine my life without her and I cannot imagine life without a heavenly Father that adopts us into His family.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Our guide today told us the expression in Chinese, "everything in china has a price, except jade, which is priceless". Interestingly enough we had just toured a Buddhist temple and were in route to an art museum to view the beautiful jade carvings of the craftsmen here. I pondered those words for some time as the Buddhist temple and the images there had pricked my heart, as well as that of our whole family. We tried to stand at a distance and admire the architecture, but the temple itself was active with worshippers. Incense was sold at the door and locals bought it by the handful. They would light it in a very ceremonious way, then walk to a communal spot where it was placed. Finally most would approach one of the 3 Buddha’s, each 60M high, and pray. Beau wept at the sight.

These are the times I realize, travel, with all the planning, expense and occasional headache of being a family of 7 on the road is all together and without question, worth it. The incense was so strong, we moved to the entrance and talked to the kids about the fact that all of us, born in Asia or anywhere come with a spiritual hole in our heart which needs to be filled. I explained to Beau that the hunger of the people walking in to the temple was real, it was just being filled with something that would not satisfy and our prayers would need to be directed to their enlightenment from false doctrine to the true gospel.

It was a daunting task to explain to my young children, but my mother’s heart wondered if the path was being set in their hearts to return to Asia for missions, or teaching. Lily commented that Jesus would not have liked items being sold in his temple. Again, another opening for her to see that indeed the "price" has been paid for our faith. We no longer need to offer sacrifices or purchase offerings. If jade is priceless to this culture, forgiveness and salvation are without question priceless to our Christian culture.
We will leave China with rich and glorious memories. Ava will hear from all three of her siblings what a beautiful country her birthplace is. But because of today, we will be praying with renewed zeal for the underground church here. For the veil to be lifted and for many more knees to bow to our Savior before Jesus returns. I remember the peace I felt for Lily knowing she was leaving a Muslim nation to enter a Christian home. Today that peace came for Ava. She will know a living Savior. She will know that she was chosen for our family from the beginning of time. I am so grateful that He chose us for her. She has a zest for life that so beautifully seals our family.
She went to the little playground at the hotel today and roared with laughter. She giggles with excitement at the sight of Beau and tickles when Lily combs her hair or helps her get dressed. She let Brian walk her around the hotel today. It was the sweetest thing to see her trust her Daddy. Men are new to her, and she has no idea what a sweet relationship lays in wait between her and her Baba and her big brother Bailey.
Ava’s passport arrived today and we began visa paperwork as well. The steps to the end of this journey seem within reach. We are cherishing every moment here trying to drink in all we can and nurture the memories of this marvelous place. I am overwhelmed by the Father who would so graciously allow such a wonderful trip, with beautiful weather, safety and good health. And I look in the eyes of my little daughter, and see complete trust, peace and joy. That is His Spirit at work. I am incredibly grateful and o so humble.
    Please continue to cover us in prayer. We feel them daily.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What a difference a week makes

We just got back, the four families in our group, for the International clinic where our four babies were weighed, poked and most traumatizing, photographed. Evidently for Visa photos, the government wants happy babies whose ears show. Who would have guessed?
We had several pauses in the process while we waited for the next doctor or nurse, we reminisced that exactly 1 week ago this morning, we were just 4 mama’s, waiting on their Chinese babies. We took a picture that morning too. I remember every detail. We all said we were excited and wanted to throw up all at the same time. What a difference a week makes. From a frightened little girl, my Ava blossoms with every day.

She relishes the fact that Beau will chase her. She loves the fact that Daddy kisses her hand. She watches Lily like her mentor and very dearest friend and she adores to bring things to Bailey and Grandma Candy, which draws huge smiles. She has such a charming personality and is so peaceful. I am amazed at God’s hand in preparing her for the Hill tribe. She fits right in, the icing on the cake and the cherry on the sundae. She is indeed as sweet as sugar.

We will wait for 2 days for the results of her TB test and then process her visa. Guangzhou appears to be a perfectly lovely city. We will explore a bit tomorrow. It is crazy crowded here as there is an international trade show in town. It’s been fascinating to hear all the languages. I pray my older 3 will never forget the blessing of being here and will remember their sister’s culture which we will forever cherish.

Thank you again for your prayers. Ava did beautifully on the flight yesterday, but the big 17-hour journey is still to come! Thank you for the sweet notes, emails and texts. They mean so much! We are humbled by your covering of prayer and support.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Strolls and split pants

We set out Saturday morning for the park near our hotel. I must say, China this morning felt like home. We had our stroller, our ball, and the kids faces were filled with delight. We were early, but then again we are always early. Jet lag has us still getting up well before dawn.
The park is just down from our hotel. I had no idea how immense or beautiful. Saturday was our last official day in Zhengzhou and we wanted to breathe in more of this city. We were blessed yet again with glorious weather and a sunny day. Zhengzhou is a very industrial city and smog is an intense problem so sun and breeze are welcome!

We met several elderly people walking or doing Tai chi. For the most part we are greeted with smiles or the welcome conversation about the baby or "all" our children. We are an oddity here. We made it around to the waterway and watched the paddle boats, then walked upon a little fair of sorts. Beau and Lily got to ride a little ride and then we sat down to enjoy some Chinese children and bubble wands. We soon learned bubbles transcend all language.

We attracted a little brother and sister and got up close and personal with a little boy in split pants. This is a novel potty training device here in China. I am guessing it works very well and so very funny to see children stop, use their splits, potty and move on. I must say our little bubble buddy with the split pants drew some chuckles from my children, but it has to save a bundle in diapers.
We also found an open area where folks were doing Tai chi with fans. There was music playing in the background. It was beautiful to watch the folks rythmically snap the fans open and coordinate each move to the music. I am anxious to ask our coordinator today if the moves are tradition or made up to the music. It would seemed they had rehearsed for years. It was extraordinary. We could not have asked for a more magical morning. We treated the kids to our first Chinese McDonalds after the park. It was very much the same (other than McDonalds squatty potties). We ventured through some streets after lunch to observe the street vendors.

For the most part folks just set out on the sidewalk with their wares. We found live bunnies for sale, chicks and ducks. And yes, the Hill children campaigned to bring a few home.

We found an older woman displaying her hand knit booties. They really don’t fit Ava but were just so darn cute. We even found a book seller and found beautiful children’s books for 2.5 – 10 rmb, $.40 -$1.40. It is fascinating buying and bargaining with no common language. We felt so blessed to have this experience.

We have met a few scowls on our walks, perhaps preconceived notions of Americans, or adoptive families. But overwhelmingly, we have found the Chinese people extraordinarily kind, happy and friendly. They esteem their elders and give their elders the right and the duty to care for their children. The grandparents escort their grandchildren by the drove in the parks. These elders then dispense their wisdom to passerby’s of all cultures. I am confident we have gravely missed something in our country by not following suit.

We are packed and ready for Guangzhou. More from there!

Grandma Candy’s point of view…

Although I have traveled with the family many times – this trip is very different.  I am a seasoned traveler but felt quite “out of control” and nervous about it – Not knowing what to expect when you are half way around the world. It is not our out, not sight-seeing, not relaxing at the beach, and that made me a bit nervous. I loved the days in Beijing; it was our regular type of trip, but always knowing and waiting for our real purpose here, the “gotcha day”.  Gotcha day was a beautiful day, clear and warm.

I have to say that I have never experienced anything quite like it- the range of emotions is hard to describe.  The other families got their families first – oh so hard to watch as they cried and the kids were fearful and crying. I was in tears wondering if it would be so for little Ava.  My heart was aching in anticipation.  As a grandma, you are part observer, part family, so important that mom/dad/ siblings close the bond quickly. Unlike an infant that is totally dependent on you, a 2-year old is a little person already.

It was amazing and so sweet to watch.  No hesitations on Cathy’s part – just took her in her arms and removed Ava away from the orphanage worker.  She held her on her lap and you could see Ava’s fears go away so soon, feeling those arms around her, feeling Cathy’s heart beat near hers.  The little kids were right there as well, talking as Mom smoothed her hair and cooed in her ear.  It wasn’t long before she started reacting to them and to Brian.  Food and drink were offered and she took it.  Big sigh of relief from Grandma as I watched it all unfold. We all get a smile or two as bonding progresses.  Although at this point I haven’t held her, we are progressing, playing the throw and pick up games. Smiles and waves are enough for now as she grows to allow more than mama in her life.

I always love going on trips with family because of time spent with the bigger kids, precious moments of talking, laughing, games, shared experiences – even comforting when mom is not available.  Real grandma time away from home is special to me and this time has the added joy of seeing Ava join the family.  Thank you Lord for blessing me, a woman with no children, with a very special family to love.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens…

Ava is a quiet little cherub girl. I am amazed at her peace and joy with us. The Holy Spirit indeed prepared her. I am amazed she has only been with us for 5 days. It seems like a lifetime.

Beau grieved last night about the 2 years we missed with her, but we reassured him that God had appointed this time, this place, and Ava’s beginnings to make her and us better. We will be, as we told him, more loving people with a bigger heart to orphans and their circumstance in China and the world. Ava Violette is blossoming. Her smiles come much more freely now. We are learning what delights her, and she is showing us she can point and shake her head no to frame her world more to her liking. She has an uncanny love of elevators. When this child smiles her whole face lights up and her little eyes disappear to some private delight. She loves reading. This child obviously received beautiful one on one care; thank you Jesus and CCAI for the Lily care room She loves congee and pumpkin and peaches. She likes to have too handfuls of food, plus be spoon-fed. She will fit right in to the Hill and Boswell clan. She likes to look in the mirror, likes to suck her fingers and loves a lotion bath. These are a few of her favorite things. As Lily keeps saying, "She is soooooo my sista". Amen

We pack today for Guangzhou. Part of my heart will stay here. This was our meeting place, my child’s birthplace, and the setting of a day I will never forget when ZhaoQian became Ava Joy. God, who can do more than we can ask or imagine, has profoundly blessed us. His faithfulness exceeds all we can measure. His love for this little girl is evidenced in her capacity to love. For that and for your prayers

Nap time

The entire Hill clan is quiet at the moment, waiting for Ava Joy to complete her nap.  Although, the nap seems to be over for her, she is awake… mommy is napping beside her.   The time difference does funny things to your energy….one moment we are ready to take on the world, and the next moment we sink into a deep comma type sleep. 

Still, we are all quiet, not only to give mom a little rest… but to watch our little bird jabber, tweet and coo next to mommy.   Ava Joy speaks some baby Chinese dialect that has yet to be discovered by National Geographic.  But those around this scene can easily translate what she is saying, this little one is content and peaceful and happy to be in her mommy's arms.

As I write this blog, I look over to see her peeking at me.. I quietly wave to her...she smiles and shyly waves back.   I am flooded with love for this precious little china doll.
 A stillness has settled, I tiptoe over to snap a picture and to get a wave…but Ava Joy has (finally) drifted off to sleep.

Nite Nite Precious One(s)                 BaBa

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Congee & Culture

There is no way I could ever describe the events of the last week emotionally or even logistically. I realized this morning; we have been in China 7 days today. This is our first free day as we wait for the baby's passport. We are doing no adoption paperwork today.  It is bliss.


I talked to another mom today about adoption hormones. Call it hormones or perhaps still a bit of jetlag, but I find myself amazed at the mammoth nature of this journey. Mammoth in the sense that the spiritual, emotional and practical aspects are in themselves pretty big. ``Added together, one can easily feel amazed, bewildered, but always profoundly grateful.  


First is the mission of the trip.  We are here adding to our family and yet I look at this little porcelain doll who I get to carry around and can scarcely believe she is really mine.  She thinks I am the cat's pajamas and is sweeter than sugar.  God's hand of providence absolutely overwhelms me to tears.


Then there is the fact that we have just over 2 weeks to absorb the country of my daughter's birth.  There are moments that seem as if we are on vacation.  We have the hotel, all the luggage, yet our time and thoughts are captured by what is next and what documents and monies we need for that day.  It is daunting at best, but we persevere.  China is an extraordinary country with extraordinary people.  We are humbled to truly take a piece of their culture home and make it ours.  I pray I can honor the legacy that has so graciously been shared with me this last week.


Finally there is the culture of China.  When one adopts and certainly through an agency like CCAI, you are inundated with information about the culture.  What to expect and what is considered normal that may seem odd to the American way.  For example, staring is not rude here.  We got that I thought.  I didn't realize though our entire family would attract so much attention.

In Beijing, it was Beau.  A lone blond haired blue eyed boy amongst millions and millions of dark haired people.  People stare at him, kiss him, photograph him.  He will have earned a rock star medal by the time we leave these shores.


Today, our first free day, we ventured to the local history museum.  It occurred to me that we have added to our brown-haired and blond haired pack a tiny little Asian person.  People literally gathered around us as we moved through the museum.  Some just point and talk.  Some photograph, and some, well some have bigger plans.  


We finished at the museum exhibits and ventured down to the gift shop.  It was divided into a souvenir shop and a bookshop.  In between was a beautiful breezeway opening on to the lawns of the museum.  I carried the baby in a front pack and Beau joined me for a stroll in the sun.  We have been unbelievably blessed with the weather here.  We made it about 8 steps from the museum when 16 or so local people circled around us.  Of course they were all speaking Chinese simultaneously pointing to me, then the baby and finally Beau.  The women felt the fabric of the baby's clothes, pulled down her pant legs to make sure she was well covered although it was all of 75 degrees.  


She was about to sleep and was sucking on her 2 fingers.  The women pulled the fingers out of her mouth and promptly scolded her for finger sucking.  Notice this was all in Chinese, but all mothers can translate scolding.  The men had circled around Beau.  They pushed his glasses up on his nose, felt the skin on his arms, and then for a new twist, lifted him up, obviously commenting that he was a big, strong American boy.  Fortunately for me, my linebacker had stayed in the museum, or we might have caused a riot.


I grabbed Beau, smiled and moved back inside.  


Beau has weathered well all this attention.  It is hard for a 9-year old to be on display.  I keep telling him to pretend he is Justin Bieber and that smiles are an international language of the love of Christ, but in truth it is a lot for the young man.  I am proud of him, he has held up very well.  


The baby delights in the attention.  The Chinese to her is a welcome sound and she tickles with the women fawning over her.  Brian and Bailey keep a watchful eye.  We have at all times felt very safe, but there is so much we don't understand about these people.  We walked through 8000 years of history in the museum.  It is indeed a culture rich in tradition with so very many stories to tell.  I hope I can remember at least some to share with my Ava Joy.