Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keeping up with Claire

Now that "our journey to Claire" is over and we're no longer blogging here, if you want to keep up with our family you can read my husband's blog at:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Very Last Blog Post for Our Journey to Claire

Today was Claire’s third birthday. It was a hard day for me, because it was a realization of how much we’ve missed in the first three years of her life. When Connor turned three, we had so many memories. We only have five months of memories on her third birthday. I cherished every moment with her today, and I am so excited to see all the memories we make over the next few years. We have a lot of catching up to do!

It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since we received Claire’s referral. One year since that night Greg and I woke up Connor long after he’d gone to bed so we could gather around the computer and wait for the e-mail that held our daughter’s picture. One year since I cried at how beautiful she was and how good it was to see God’s promises kept to our family. We’ve been home for five months, and I can’t believe how much everything has changed. We’ve been so busy, it’s hard to write on the blog or keep up with anything, quite honestly. So many people have told me that I needed to write our whole story, from the beginning through our first weeks at home…the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, this is what this is, our whole story and then “Journey to Claire” will be put to rest because the new journey has begun.

Adoption has always been in the back of my mind. I can remember being in high school and thinking about one day adopting. Throughout my life, I had been around people who had adopted, and it always just seemed like such a beautiful thing. I can remember talking to Greg early in our marriage about the possibility of adoption. He felt a little leery of the idea. He’s the practical one….too expensive…too much risk. I can’t remember at what point in our marriage I began praying for God to change his heart, but I prayed because I knew this was something that I wanted to do.

Connor was three years old, it was the Spring of 2007. Greg and I were feeling that it was time to add to our family. We had decided that we would try to start getting pregnant and then I had a big “God moment.” We were downtown at the Dogwood Arts Festival, walking to watch the parade. I saw a little Chinese girl with her family and it was a feeling I’ve never experienced. I had jokingly, always said I would adopt my next one from China because I had such a terrible pregnancy and delivery. All of the sudden, it wasn’t a joke anymore. God put it on my heart then and there that this was his calling for us. Thank goodness I had sunglasses on because I began to cry and continued to cry the rest of the afternoon. I knew Greg was not fully on board with adoption, so I prayed the rest of the afternoon and evening for God to open up his heart that night. I had decided that night that I would ask him to pray and consider for our family to take this next step. When we talked that night, for the first time he seemed open to the idea. He said we could look into the finances and see how it would work. And then from then on it just seemed to unfold.

When we first set out to adopt, we were being led to China. We chose an agency, went to a seminar, and began the wait for me to turn 29 ½ so we could fill out the application. From April to November we thought our little girl was in China. Strange things kept happening, little “God moments” to keep our focus on China. Even though we could not yet apply due to my age, we kept waiting and kept our focus there. As the months went by, the wait began to get scary. People had been waiting for years to receive a referral from China, and adoption was slowing down. We came to the realization that it could be five years or more until we would receive a referral. We prayed for patience and for God’s guidance, and finally on an afternoon in November, we decided that God was asking us to look elsewhere. We looked at other countries, but nothing felt right. I didn’t get a peace about anything, until a couple of days later, Greg called me at work and told me about the Taiwan program. He called around to different agencies, but their Taiwan programs were closed due to long waits. He randomly called one agency, Shiloh Adoptions, and they informed him that their healthy children program was closed…..but wait she said. She informed Greg she had just received an e-mail about a new healthy children program opening up and gave him a number to call. Greg called and there we were…the first family on this new program’s wait list to adopt from Taiwan. You cannot imagine that evening, sitting there, realizing that God had led us to China for seven months…..had Greg call all those other agencies….just in time for him to make a random phone call, minutes after the agent had received an e-mail about a new program. It had to be one of the amazing orchestrations of God that I had ever experienced. All that time….just to lead us to here. Unbelievable.

We immediately got everything in order and began the long paperchasing process. By April, everything was off to Taiwan, and on April 10, 2008, we logged in at Cathwel orphanage, and began our wait for a healthy infant girl….or so we thought. In December we visited Taiwan and met with the orphanage director. She really encouraged us to accept an older child, or one with special needs. She said because we already had a son, our wait for a healthy girl would be very, very long. We left that day feeling so sad and confused. Throughout my life, throughout my big decisions, I have always prayed for God to show me what his plan is for me and to give me patience to walk in the direction I am supposed to go. That day, I left the orphanage without peace. We were so confused.

We returned to the States and decided to press on and wait. I cried , was angry, and begged God to not let the wait go on. It had not even been a year since we logged onto the waiting list, but it was painful. Connor was getting older and we never wanted our children so far apart. My focus was never on the wait, it was just always asking God why our children had to be so far apart in age. There were days that I thought of dropping off the list and just getting pregnant. There were days it was just too much. We so desperately wanted another child, and we wanted our children to be close in age. Every day we waited was another day Connor was older.

Time went on, June came. I had worked through a lot of anger. I had worked through the feelings of…God, I am obeying your calling. I am doing what you asked, why are you making us wait for so long? Why do our children have to be so far apart in age? I had finally surrendered to God two days earlier. I told him I’d wait, be faithful to his promise, and that I would trust. I was sick in bed and Greg came running up the stairs. It completely startled me because he was supposed to be at work. “We got a referral!” I remember sitting up and the feeling was so surreal. As an adoptive parent, those words are the most important words that you could ever hear. After we rejoiced together, he told me it was not what we had expected, and that the referral was scary and something that we needed to talk and pray about. He told me it was for a little girl about to turn two, born to a mother addicted to heroin, and also HIV positive. This little girl was born HIV positive, but had fought off the antibodies passed to her by her birthmother and was now officially declared healthy and eligible for adoption. She wasn’t even from Cathwel Orphanage. She was from Harmony Home, another orphanage in Taipei that our adoption agency had just visited months earlier. The first words out of my mouth through my tears were, “NO!” This was not what we set out for. We set out for a little infant….a healthy little infant. As the day pressed on, I was so sad and confused. We made a lot of phone calls. Talked to people who had experience with children exposed to drugs. We had a friend who is a doctor look over her medical records. That night I went to bed not knowing what to do.

The next day, I woke up and knew that day we had to make a decision. I think I began praying as soon as my feet hit the floor and I never stopped. As the day pressed on, my heart began to change. I found an old fortune from a fortune cookie that I had eaten from the week we decided to adopt in April of ’07. We had gone out to eat Chinese and celebrate the beginning of our journey. My fortune read, “The one you love is closer than you think.” And here she was, born a few months after we had began the adoption journey. Alive almost this entire time as we waited, only a few years apart from our son. That night as we sat and talked while Connor played at VBS, I told Greg, “ It’s really scary , but I think we’re supposed to do this. “ We agreed that we would try to contact our agent that night. They had just visited a few months earlier and maybe someone had met this Hsiang-Ting and could confirm that she was healthy, and perhaps maybe even had a picture. Our agent had sent off an e-mail to Taiwan to try to figure out which one Hsiang-Ting was, they had all gone by nicknames, so she wasn’t sure.

About 11 p.m. on Friday, June 19th we received an e-mail forwarded from Taiwan. Our agent had asked if Hana could help her remember who Hsiang-Ting was, as a family with her agency had just received her referral. At the bottom of the e-mail, our agent wrote, how is Mei-Mei? Mei-Mei was a sweet little girl who they had all just fallen in love with during their visit. Hana wrote back, “Hsaing-Ting is Mei-Mei!!!!” I saw the name Mei-Mei and ran upstairs to get my journal. In the Spring of ’07, I had been writing in my journal about the whole adoption. I had even scribbled some girl names that I was considering . In the margin, I began writing out names with Mei or Mai in them. I didn’t want any of them for names for our daughter, but I felt that I needed to write them down for some reason. This moment was the reason. I had written down those names, so that when I saw the name Mei-Mei on my computer screen, I knew that this was our Claire…..this was God telling me, don’t be scared, this is your child, the child I promised you all along. After realizing Hsiang-Ting was Mei-Mei, our agent began to e-mail us pictures and videos. We sat around the computer and saw the most beautiful girl we had ever seen. We couldn’t believe we had finally found our Claire. I remember seeing her picture for the first time, crying, and just saying out loud, “That is Claire! That is our Claire!”

Months went by, as we waited to travel. There were so many problems with court, paperwork, etc. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for us. Our agency even told us that they had rarely had a family have this many problems. A few weeks before we left, we encountered some huge problems. Some of them got worked out before we left, but we went to Taiwan unknowing of when we would return. We had gotten all of our problems in the States with immigration straightened out, but there were two things that had not gotten taken care of in Taiwan, and while we knew they would be taken care of soon, we went ready to spend two weeks to a month in Taiwan. We were asked to consider putting off our trip until everything was taken care of, but on a conference call with our agency, Greg and I told them that we’d rather be stuck in Taiwan a month with Claire, than at home another month without her.

The day after we got to Taiwan, we spent an entire day at Claire’s orphanage, an amazing experience. It was so obvious how much Claire was loved…how much all of the children were loved. That night when we got back to the hotel, Greg received an e-mail that told us that all of our paperwork problems were fixed, we could go home on time, and that Claire’s birthmother would be a the meeting the next day. Once again, God had worked everything out.

February 6th, I watched my little girl walk across a hotel lobby. We were so happy and she was so sad and scared. It was such an odd moment. Such happiness coming from us, such sadness coming from a little girl being ripped away from everything that she had known. I loved her instantly. I held her all day and I felt like she was mine all along. It was so surprising to me to feel that way. I felt like her mother from the first second I saw her face on the computer screen.

The first month we were home was very, very hard. She was grieving, adjusting to a new country, trying to learn a new language, trying to get used to strange people, and it made for a lot of very rough days and nights. She frequently had very loud tantrums and woke up with night terrors several times each night. Now, five months later, it is so hard to believe how far she has come. She still has challenging days, but they are far outweighed by the good ones. She is speaking fluent English, loves her family, and is about the prissiest little girl you’ll ever meet. Even though things haven’t been perfect, and toddler adoption comes with many challenges, she is the little girl that I always dreamed of. My mom and dad tell me all the time that I may not have birthed her, but she is me through and through.

Happy Birthday Claire! Mommy loves you! I’m so thankful God made you for us. I am so thankful that God spared your life from a horrible disease. I am so thankful your birthmother loved you enough to send you to the other side of the world to be loved and taken care of. I promise to give you a happy life full of love and many adventures. You were worth the wait, sweet girl!

Friday, March 12, 2010

We've been home for a month!

Wow! We're so sorry we haven't been better at updating our blog over the past four weeks. It's hard to believe how quickly the time has passed since we've been home. We had good intentions of keeping this up to date but wow... by the time we finally get both kids to bed and the house straightened back up from the daily arrival of Hurricane ConnorClaire, we just haven't had much energy to sit in front of the computer. We are in a continual state of exhaustion right now. It's getting better but I'm not sure we've ever been this tired.

Let us bring you up to date on how things have gone for us since we arrived back in Knoxville. When we last wrote, we were preparing to leave Taiwan. I'll start with our journey home.


Everything started out going really well. We caught an 11:30 pm flight from Taipei to San Francisco and it was fantastic. The kids were so tired by the time we got on the plane, they slept for about 8 of the 11 hours. We were loving life... then we got to San Francisco.

First of all, the immigration line was insane. They made us wait in one line and when we got to the front of that line, they sent us to the back of another. Then they made all of us move to another line. It took over an hour. Not cool. After that we had to pick up our bags to take them through customs which was a guy who looked about 14 glancing at our bags for about half a second and mumbling "you're fine". Good to know they're on top of things. Instead of allowing us to recheck our bags right there, the wonderful San Francisco Airport gave us the privilege of carrying all of our luggage about half a mile through their airport where we had the joy of waiting in another long line to check them in with Delta for our flight to Atlanta. Then the fun really started...

Our flight to Atlanta was supposed to take off at 9:30. At 8:30 they said it was delayed until 11:30 because, get this, they couldn't find the crew. Seriously. Well, big surprise, the missing crew never turned up so the flight was postponed until 9:30 the next morning. I got in line to take care of our free hotel and food vouchers and by the time I reached the front of the line and we made it to the hotel it was 4:00 am. I called our travel agent and she was able to switch us to a different flight to Charlotte but only if we could go back to the airport immediately. So, we had about 45 minutes in the hotel room which was enough time to get a shower, then we rushed back to the airport and finally caught a flight to Charlotte.

We were originally supposed to arrive in Knoxville on Sunday morning at 10:45. Because of the missed flight, we didn't end up getting home until close to 8:00 that night. It was great though... many of our friends and family still were able to come to the airport to welcome us home. After all of the uncertainty leading up to the adoption and during the process, it felt so good to be home with both of our kids.


The first week, I'm not going to lie to you, was horrible. Jetlag whipped our tails, Claire was terrified of our dogs, Connor started to act out a little (and immediately had to go back to school), and we were all just generally in a really bad mood. It wasn't really the way we had imagined it but hey, none of our adoption had really gone the way we had imagined it so it wasn't really a surprise.

The good news is, over the past few weeks, things have gotten a whole lot better. Claire is thriving. She blows us away how quickly she has picked up English. She has been able to understand us almost since the very beginning and her comprehension is incredible for someone who had never heard English a month ago. She's learning to say lots of things and her normal vocabulary includes words like "bye bye", "be right back", "eat", "yeah", "no", "shoes", "bow", "doggy", "pizza", "come here", "I love you", "night night", "bottle", "mama", "baba", "Connor", and more. She learns new words every day... all that talk about being a sponge was true. She's amazing.

After a rocky start with the dogs, Claire now absolutely loves them, especially Molly. She wants Molly with her everywhere she goes. She wants Molly to sleep with her, she wants to hold her, she puts Molly in her little shopping cart and pushes her around, she basically terrorizes Molly until she finally just hides under a bed and won't come out. She likes Emmy too but Emmy is too big to pick up and cram in a suitcase and thus, less fun.

Her temper has improved considerably as well. The first week she was tired all the time and we've learned quickly, a well rested Claire is a happy Claire. When she's tired, the smallest little things will set her into some of the most ridiculous conniption fits you've ever seen. I'm talking grade-A grand-mal conniption fits. It's hard for us to figure out how much of this is "she was raised in an orphanage and the loudest screamer got the most attention" and how much of this is "she's a two year old and that's what they do". Probably a little of both.

Fortunately, these fits are down from several a day to one at the most and many days, none at all. As she has become more and more comfortable in her new life, her personality has really begun to shine through. She is really a sweet little girl. She's very compassionate towards others, always wanting to help with things and take care of people. She's extremely silly... always trying to get a laugh out of us. When Connor and Claire get going, look out! They're hilarious together.


We'll have more later but this is all there is time for right now. We've received a lot of questions by email and have tried to answer them all but we wanted to open it up to see if anyone had any questions about the process or how things are going. Leave questions in the comments of this post and in the next post we'll answer some of them. That's all for now! We'll leave you with a few pictures and videos.

Claire at the Disney Store in West Town Mall

Taking Molly for a walk.

Don't you just love her green coat? Too cute!

Trying on a sweater her MiMi made her. This is her "posing for a picture" smile.

She LOVES her big brother... she'd follow him anywhere.

One of the first things we did when we came home was to take Claire to Target to let her buy some toys of her own. She wouldn't put them in the cart but insisted on trying to carry them all through the store. That worked for awhile but here is the point where she started to have trouble.

This is about 2 weeks after we came home and we made her ramen noodles for the first time. She was very excited to get them but seemed confused by both a fork and a spoon so we gave her some chopsticks. That did the trick!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wrapping up and Heading home!

I had grand ambitions to put together another video for you guys but it looks like that just isn't going to happen. Time kind of ran out on us and when I was going to work on the video I chose to just sleep instead. I'm not sure I've ever been this tired... not so much physically but emotionally it has been an incredibly draining week. We are ready to come home.

Friday was an incredibly emotional day. Things started out easy enough... we took a trip to the lovely Taipei Zoo and even though there was a light rain for most of the day we had a great time. The zoo here is just beautiful and we were able to see a lot of animals you don't see very often in the states including koalas, pandas, and some very unusual monkeys.

After we left the zoo we had arranged for a return visit to the Harmony Home orphanage where Claire had lived for the first 18 months of her life. They had asked us if we could bring her by and allow them to say goodbye to her. Someday maybe we'll look back on it and think it was a good idea but right now, it feels like our first major adoptive parenting mistake.

Claire absolutely flipped out when we first got there... she was just inconsolable... she obviously thought we were leaving her again and we were about to just leave and get her out of there. Then the wonderful woman who founded Harmony Home (Nicole) arrived and Claire immediately recognized her and calmed down. At this point she was able to slowly begin to enjoy her visit. The problem was, over the course of the next hour, she began to call Nicole "mama" and began to ignore Jessica and I.

We knew we were going to be in for it when it was time to go. Fortunately Nicole and Hana were kind enough to give us a ride back to our hotel but sure enough when we took Claire inside and Hana and Nicole didn't follow, she lost it again. We thought we were in for a long night of crying, similar to our first day together, but fortunately she was able to calm down pretty quickly. Within 30 minutes or so she seemed to be back to her normal happy self.

So like I said... on one hand I'm glad that the people who loved Claire for so long (and they obviously just adored her there... one worker tried to get us to trade Claire for a newborn and I'm pretty sure she was serious) had a chance to say goodbye to her. I'm also glad that Claire had one last chance to see her friends... a couple of the children she obviously remembered and it was sweet to see her interact with them. One little girl Claire especially loved... she hugged her several times.

On the other hand, we feel guilty for putting her through the confusion. This has been such a challenging week for her and even though most of the time she is happy, her little world is upside down and we know she is still grieving. To put her in such an emotionally confusing situation without the words to comfort her... I just don't know. There's nothing we can do about it now I guess so I'm not sure what else there is to say.

One kind of cool thing from our return to Harmony Home: We met an American woman who is living in Taiwan right now who adopted a two and a half year old little boy. He lived there at Harmony Home with Claire the entire time she was there and apparently they were good friends. The family is moving back to the US from Taiwan this summer. They live in Pennsylvania but we exchanged information in hopes of keeping in touch. It's pretty cool to think that one of Claire's first playmates will be growing up not too far away from her. Hopefully we can get them together again someday.

It's 7:30 in the morning on Saturday here in Taiwan and our flight leaves tonight at 11:30 pm. Our hotel was gracious enough to give us a 4:00 pm checkout time and I'm thinking it will take every bit of that to get all this stuff packed up. We have an insane amount of luggage... oh my goodness you guys would not even believe it. We were packed completely full on the way here and now we've got another child and all of the clothes she came with to add to the mix. We might have to go buy another bag today somewhere. I'm not even kidding... it's crazy!

We'll certainly keep this blog going for awhile after we get home. There is obviously a lot more of this story to tell. For now though, we're signing off from Taiwan. We are so grateful to all of you who followed along on our journey while we were here. The comments and emails meant a lot to us and it was great to have a connection to home while we were so far away. We were humbled by the incredible amount of prayer and support we had while we were here. Thank you for coming alongside us and experiencing this great joy with our family. We are grateful.

We leave Taiwan at 11:30 pm local time Saturday night. We'll arrive in San Francisco at 9:30 pm Eastern time Saturday night (yes, we're going back in time. Instead of a plane, we're taking a DeLorian) and then we leave for Atlanta at 1:30 AM. We arrive at 6:30 Sunday morning and after a 3 hour layover takeoff for Knoxville at 9:30 with a scheduled arrival of 10:50. We hear there's snow so we're praying that won't be an issue.

That's all for now... See you guys when we get back home.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Connor and Claire

Day 8 - A wonderful night

Today was just a wonderful day for the Adkins family here in Taiwan. We had always heard from other adoptive families that when you get your child it will amaze you the ways they fit right into your family. That became very obvious today... we've got a little stinker on our hands. Claire has a fantastic sense of humor and it was on full display today. She was silly all day long.

This morning we went to the National Memorial Hall for a photo shoot we had arranged before we left for Taiwan. We found a local english speaking photographer on Google and he took some family portraits. I'm not sure if we gave him much to work with... Connor had a meltdown (yep, not the toddler we've had for 5 days... the 6 year old we've had since birth) and we had a rough time getting the kids to smile and look in the general direction of the camera. Hopefully something good will come of it.

After that we headed back to the room for lunch and then naptime. We were craving pizza so we asked the front desk if there was anywhere to get pizza in the area. Turns out there was a Pizza Hut and they delivered... 30 minutes later the Adkins family ripped into a large pepperoni pizza in a manner which resembled something you might see on Animal Planet. Best. Pizza. Ever. I hate Pizza Hut too so that's really saying something!

During Claire's nap I went back to AIT to pick up Claire's visa and immigration documents. They come in a sealed envelope and we have to leave them sealed until we get to immigration in San Francisco. I don't know why but I feel like a secret agent delivering these sealed documents. Such mystery and intrigue! I need a fedora.

After nap time we had grand plans to go to the Taipei zoo. Unfortunately when we arrived at the zoo they were closing up for the day... Connor was NOT happy at all. I underestimated his desire to see Pandas. So, we piled into a taxi and went back to the Taipei 101 area and just walked around for awhile. We had Starbucks and a snack from Mister Donut and then walked around the New York, New York mall. We had dinner at an American style restaurant and Claire was just fabulous. She sat in her booster seat the entire meal, ate like a champ, and was in a great mood. One of her favorite games to play with me is to offer me a bite of food (tonight it was french fries) and when I reach out to accept it she snatches it away and eats it herself. She cracks herself up with this and does it again and again. I have to admit, it is pretty funny.

After we made it back to the hotel, the real fun began. Bath time up until tonight had been basically a form of torture. We would put Claire in the tub or the shower and she would scream, thrash, and I'm pretty sure curse in Chinese at us. The past couple of nights had been slightly better... she would scream for a little while and then calm down for the end of it. Well, tonight she saw Connor in the tub and actually went to him and climbed in with him. She stayed in for a good 30 minutes laughing and playing... she didn't want to get out! It was a huge change from the previous few nights and we have no idea what changed. She was so funny... she was splashing us with water, dumping water on Connor's head... all the funny things kids do in the tub. She is such a joy.

Another unpleasant part of our time together has been teeth brushing time. You would not believe the blood-curdling howls that can come out of this child! Each time Jessica would brush she acted like we were ripping her toenails out or something. The only silver lining is that it's easy to brush teeth when someone is screaming. Tonight was a different story... she let Jessica do it and seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards she does the cutest little thing... she comes to Connor and I and breathes in our faces so we can smell her fresh breath. You would have to see it but it's adorable.

Oh yeah, she also peed in the potty 2 different times tonight. They told us she was NOT potty trained but it became obvious to us very quickly that she was ready for it. She lets us know immediately after she goes in her diaper and she wants it changed immediately. We figured any kid who can do that ought to be going in the potty. Tonight we were at the mall and Connor had to go so Jessica asked Claire if she needed to go to (Nee-yow nee-yow is how you say pee-pee in Chinese) and Claire nodded. Jessica took her in and put her on the seat and off she went. Exciting stuff, right?

Then tonight at the hotel she did it again. Afterwards, in what can only be described as a classic display of the phenomenon known as "two steps forward, one step back", she peed in the floor of our hotel room.

It's now 11:00 PM here in Taiwan and everyone is sound asleep. Connor had been sleeping on a couch every night but tonight he decided to sleep in the bed with Mommy and Claire. Claire was so excited that Connor was sleeping next to her... she loves to play with his hair and she ran her fingers through his hair until he fell asleep. As soon as Connor was asleep, Claire closed her eyes and fell asleep too.

Today was a good day. It still seems surreal that she is really ours. We know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us... as well as she's doing there are certain to be many, many challenges but we can't help but be encouraged. Each day brings a few small victories and she already feels like she belongs in our family 100%. Her personality is eerily similar to Connor's... they both like to entertain people and both love to make you laugh. They're also both very sweet natured and caring... it seriously is a little freaky how much alike they are. We are just in love with our little girl and getting to know her a little better each day has been such a joy. We can't wait to get home so everyone can meet her. You guys are just going to love her!

Days 6 and 7 - We've been busy!

Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to fly by in a blur and we haven't been on the computer as much as we were before but here while Jessica and Claire take an afternoon nap, I thought I would try to give you guys a quick update on how things are going. Here are just a few bullet points of what's been going on.

AIT Appointment

Before we left for Taiwan, this appointment was our biggest source of stress. There were so many documents we still needed to get completed and it was seriously in doubt if that would happen. Fortunately, everything worked out just in the nick of time and our AIT appointment was a success. In fact, I'm going back over there in just a couple of hours to pick up Claire's passport and Visa which will allow her to travel home to the United States. What a relief to have all of the paperwork problems behind us!

Taipei 101

On Tuesday night we went to visit Taipei 101 which until about 2 months ago was the world's tallest building (a title now claimed by the Burj Dubai). We had dinner in the food court downstairs and Claire let me feed her for the first time. I fed her vegetables with chopsticks and she seemed pretty happy with that. One moment of excitement was when she dropped one of the vegetables on the food court floor and then picked it up and ate it before we could stop her. Gross! She is a BIG eater, most likely due to the fact that growing up in an orphanage and a foster home, she hasn't had food available to her as often as she might have liked. She will eat until she is sick (literally) so we're having to watch her pretty closely and cut her off. So far her favorite foods are watermelon, grapes, bananas, oranges, french fries, pudding, rice, vegetables, and today (Thursday) she had some pizza! She loved it!

After we ate dinner at the food court, Connor and I went to the top of the building to the observation deck. It was really awesome and we had a great time looking out over the city. We posed for some funny pictures on a green screen they had up there and they photoshopped our pictures to make it look like I was Godzilla and was hanging off the side of the building dangling Connor over the city. When we get home I'll scan it to show you all... it's pretty funny.


On Wednesday night we took the MRT train all the way north to the little community of Danshui. It has a nice little park on the waterfront and there are tons of street musicians, artists, carnival games, and little waterfront shops. It's a great place to just walk around and enjoy being outside.

We ate dinner at Dunkin Doughnuts (don't judge! It is HARD to find food all four of us will eat and they had really good ham and cheese croissants... uh, okay and also doughnuts) and then let the kids run around and play for a little while. Connor and Claire had a great time playing... they both have a lot of energy and letting them burn some of it seemed to improve their moods significantly.

After playtime we walked up and down the street giving Jessica and Claire time to do a little shopping and Connor and I a little time to play some of the boardwalk games. I dominated the "hit water balloons with darts" game but failed big time at the claw-grabber game. Connor had a good time looking at the unusual foods being offered by the street vendors. I tried to convince him to try the world famous Danshui "Squid on a Stick" which is exactly what it sounds like. He wasn't having it. Can't say that I blame him... I don't think I could eat something that was starting at me... those squids still had eyes.

A Few Things about Claire

Jessica is still going to write a blog post at some point but who knows when that will be. Claire still wants to be in her arms a good bit of the time. I know you guys are wondering about how she is doing so I thought I would fill you in just a bit on how her adjustment is going.

Overall, she is doing wonderfully but that doesn't mean there aren't some challenges. We have figured out in the few short days we've been with her that she did not come to us from a very disciplined environment. She can be a little wild and she cries passionately when she is told no. Fortunately this doesn't happen much and each day she's getting better at listening. We say "ting ting!" (stop!) and she gives us puppy dog eyes... I think she's used to getting by with things just by being cute. She can be pretty persuasive!

She is slowly warming up to her daddy... each day we have made a little bit of progress. She still won't let me hold her, feed her, or change her diaper in general but she is starting to let me do more and more with her. This is all perfectly normal and it is also a cultural thing. The men in Taiwanese culture don't really treat their children the way American fathers do. I haven't seen any of the dads here EVER touch their children. No pats on the head, no kisses on the cheek... not much of anything really. Men are usually stern with their kids and assume the role of disciplinarian. Add that to the fact that she came to us from a foster home with no father in it and you can understand why she's a little bit cautious around me. I'm slowly seeing little cracks in her defenses... I'm getting her to smile at me more and more.

Her bond with Jessica and Connor is great. We are so glad we brought Connor on this trip. He has been a wonderful big brother. Considering that he's been dealing with jetlag, an upset tummy, and the stress of adding a new sibling to the family, he's been nothing short of amazing. He has been so patient with Claire and is really helping her adjust to life with our family. I can't imagine him not being here.

The other night they were playing and Claire hit Connor in the face hard enough to make him cry. It was basically a sucker punch! Connor cried pretty hard and Claire just stood there with a horrified look on her face and then the sweetest thing happened. She came to Connor and rubbed his cheek with one hand where she had hit him and ran her fingers through his hair with the other. Then she went to the bathroom and got a tissue and wiped his tears with it. She has such a sweet and mothering personality. She likes for everyone in the family to be together all the time and if she detects anything is wrong at all, she tries to figure out a way to fix it.

She also has a very prissy and sassy little personality. Jessica is just in heaven! I'll let Jessica tell you later all about it but I'm already thinking I'm going to be in trouble when we get home because this little girl loves clothes, shoes, and shopping. Uh-oh!

That's all the time I have to write... we're getting ready to head out to the Taipei zoo for the afternoon. We'll have more later. As I wrap up, here are a few pictures from the past couple of days for you to enjoy.

Claire LOVES escalators. We have no idea why but she cracks up laughing every time.

At the Danshui night market

Connor on the streets of Danshui

Burning some energy at the park in Danshui, Taiwan

Connor and Claire playing at lunchtime - Splendor hotel, Kaoshiung City

Claire just loves her big brother and has a very nurturing personality.

The princess LOVES playgrounds!

Too cute!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All the Good Things

Music: "All the Good Things" by Jill Phillips

Day 5 - Travel and Transition

Sorry we've slacked off a bit on writing and updates... we have more pictures and videos to share hopefully tomorrow but we've just been so busy and when we haven't been going, we've been absolutely exhausted. We're all drained.

Jessica has a blog post she's going to make whenever she gets a few minutes free but at the rate we're going, that might be after we get back to the states! Claire pretty much insists on being held by Jessica the whole time we're in the hotel room. Once we go out, she's sassy, fun, and independent but at the hotel she's extremely clingy. It makes sense though... just 3 days ago she was taken to a hotel by her foster mother and left with us so we understand her being nervous.

Jessica has so much she wants to share about Claire's personality. It has been a joy to discover new things each day. She is smart, funny, sassy, stubborn, adorable, and especially brave. She has been through a lot of pain in her short little life... she has been taken away from everything she knows 3 different times now and there is certainly evidence of that. This isn't going to be a quick fix... it might take years before she is able to overcome all that she has been through. It's going to take a lot of patience and love... we're anxious to get her home so we can begin working on all of these things.

So, I'm going to let Jessica share a lot of little things about her that we've learned and I'm going to stick to letting you know the sorts of things we have been doing.

Day 5 in Taiwan began in Kaohsiung City. We got up early and went to breakfast at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at was AMAZING... it is commonly referred to by tourists as "The Transformer Hotel" because it looks like a giant robot. It's about 80 stories high and is the tallest building in the city. The breakfast buffet was fabulous... a huge selection of traditional Chinese breakfast foods (they eat some unusual things for breakfast... salad with thousand island dressing is very popular) but they also have tons of fruit and western style foods too. Connor was excited to find they had pancakes and bacon. Claire mostly eats fruit and she can flat put it away... this little girl can EAT!

You guys wouldn't believe the stir we create when we show up to eat in there. I would guess there are several hundred people eating at a time in a huge dining room and when we walk in with our red headed boy and our Taiwanese daughter, heads turn and people stare. It's really funny too... they don't even try to hide their stares... they just stare at us and don't even care if we notice. Connor generally is met with smiles and we have been told several times "he is very handsome". I'm not sure they've ever seen a red headed boy before. We've been here 5 days now and we've only seen one other American couple and zero American children. You just don't see foreign kids here... it's not much of a tourist destination I guess... I mean how many of you have ever heard of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan before now? More interesting than the reaction to Connor is the reaction to Claire. People look at Jessica and Claire like they just stepped off a flying saucer. When Claire calls Jessica "mama" people's jaws literally just fall open and I'm not exaggerating. It is hilarious. In Taiwan, adoption is basically unheard of.

Anyway, back to our day... The hotel has a little playground in a room off of the side of the restaurant similar to what you would see in a McDonalds back home. Connor and Claire had a great time playing in there... she loves to go down the slides, especially with Connor. It's amazing to watch Connor play with the Taiwanese kids... he can't speak a word of Chinese but with kids, it doesn't matter. Within minutes he is able to make friends and play just like he would back home. It's really sweet to see him having this great experience. Being the only red headed American in the entire country hasn't seemed to phase him one bit.

After breakfast and play time, it was time to pack up and head back to Taipei. We were worried about how Claire would do on the high speed train but she did really great. She got a bit antsy towards the end of the trip but overall, it was a success. A two hour train ride is a lot different from an 11 hour flight but it gave us a little hope that maybe the flight won't be all bad.

By the time we got back to Taipei, we were exhausted. Travel with 2 kids and 4 suitcases took a lot out of us... cab rides, escalators, lugging our bags around... it was just a lot. We decided not to really do anything once we got to our new hotel in Taipei (the Fullon hotel, recommended by the Dunn's. It is lovely!). We ordered room service for dinner and then settled in for bed.

Well, we thought we were settling into bed. Claire took her bedtime bottle and then got sick. Big time sick. Think "The Exorcist" and then double it. It just kept coming and coming and coming. Bless her little heart... the new foods we have been giving her are probably confusing her little tummy not to mention the nerves of travel with people she still basically doesn't know. After a traumatic bath (Claire HATES the bathtub with an intense passion. Seriously... she goes boneless and just shrieks!) and a change of the bedsheets, we finally got Claire to go to sleep.

Then about an hour later, Jessica heard someone pacing around the room talking. Connor was sleep walking and having a very bad dream. He was confused and disoriented and didn't know who we were or where he was. It took us a little while to get him calmed down but we finally did and the Adkins family finally all got some sleep.

That's all for now... hopefully later on we'll have a little more video for you to enjoy. Thank you all for the comments on the video we posted yesterday. We're so glad to have so many people following along on our journey and keeping us in your prayers. Keep 'em coming!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Finally some video for you! February 6th, 2010

Day 4 - A Few Pictures

We took Claire to Toys R Us and she picked out this jewelry. The necklace and ring light up and she loves wearing it!

Connor thinks Taiwan is A-OK! Seriously, he's having a great time. We asked him tonight if he liked it and he said "It's just like home except everyone looks different and the food is weird."

This afternoon Claire fell asleep in her carrier. Such a sweet little girl!

We spent the afternoon at the "Dream Mall" in Kaohsiung. It was a BLAST and on the roof is a huge outdoor carnival complete with a giant "Hello Kitty" Ferris Wheel. For $2.00 Connor got to climb inside this giant ball and bounce around in a pool. He thought it was awesome.

Proof that Greg is actually here. So far he's been the one behind the camera most of the time. This picture cracks us up... it looks like Connor's being punished. Go sit in your giant ball while I pose for this picture! Now!

Mommy and Claire at the famous Taiwanese restaurant "TGI Fridays".

When signs in Taiwan are written in English, they're usually hilarious. This shop is supposed to be called "That Toy is Funny". You see how things turned out...

At the Dream Mall, they have these giant panda bears you can ride. You get like a five minute ride for fifty cents and you can literally ride them all around the mall. They're on the fifth floor and everywhere you walk there are people coming and going riding on these giant pandas. They have a gas pedal and a forward / reverse switch. Connor LOVED these things.

Seriously, they need to get these at West Towne Mall.

Mommy and Claire playing at a little playground we found in our hotel.

More fun at the playground. It was a great day! We'll have some stories and observations on our daughter for you later.

DAY 3 - A Family of Four

What an amazing day it was. The day our daughter finally became a part of her forever family. There is plenty to tell and not much time for me to tell it in so I'll get right to it!

We left Taipei at 9:00 and took the High Speed Rail to Kaohsiung City. The bullet train was amazing... crazy fast, very comfortable, and it gave us a great look at the Taiwanese countryside. It's amazing how in places it didn't really look all that different from something you might see in middle America only instead of fields of corn there were fields of rice. It was a great experience.

We didn't arrive in Kaohsiung until 11:00 and we were supposed to meet Claire for the first time at the hotel at only 11:20. All along we had imagined that we would be comfortably settled in our hotel room and there would be a knock at the door. We would open it and there she would be... our daughter.

That's not quite what happened. The foster mom and the social workers beat us to the hotel by a good 15 minutes so when we arrived they were walking around the shopping mall that is on the first level of our hotel (I'll tell you more about this hotel later... it's amazing). We were standing there with our social worker getting ready to go check in when we saw a group of people come around the corner and... there she was. We'll never forget that moment... the little girl out of all of the pictures was right there before our eyes. It took our breath away.

She was curious about us at first but VERY clingy to her foster mom. We all went up to the hotel room together. It was Jessica, Connor and I, our social worker Bernadette, two social workers from Kaohsiung, Claire, her foster mother, and also a boy and a girl who were in foster care with that mom as well. It was quite a crew we had packed into our room... good thing we sprang for the suite for these 2 days in Kaohsiung.

We got out some toys we had brought for Claire and she was really happy about that. She played with Connor and they were doing great while the grown ups talked. We asked the foster mother tons of questions through an interpreter. Mostly boring stuff about diapers, feeding schedules, sleeping schedules, and that sort of thing. Then it was time for the foster mom and the social workers to go. It was tough... the foster mom was a little bit emotional and Claire was a LOT emotional.

When the foster mom finally made it out the door, poor little Claire just lost it. She wailed and sobbed and thrashed and screamed. It was heartbreaking. She knew exactly what was happening as the foster mom had been preparing her. Through our interpreter she told us Claire was crying things like "You aren't my mama" and "I want my auntie". Over and over she went to the door and cried "I want to go look for my auntie".

The good news is that during this time she finally went to Jessica and let her try to comfort her. Jessica held her while she cried and finally after a couple of hours she was able to get her a little bit calm which was a good thing because right about then we had a visit from Claire's birth grandfather, her half-sister, and also her birth mother. We didn't know until that morning that we would be meeting the birth mother... we had been told all along that we would not. We're so glad that we did.

The details of that meeting will remain private... some parts of the story don't need to be spoken. All we'll say is that we're really glad we were able to meet the birth family and also that we were able to get some pictures and video. We think Claire will be grateful for that someday.

After the family left we said our goodbyes with our social worker and all of a sudden, after a whirlwind day of craziness, there we were. Alone in the room, a family of four, together.

The rest of the night was spent hanging out in the room at the hotel. Claire slowly started to come out of her shell a little bit and by the end of the night, we all had earned a few sweet little smiles. She is joined at the hip to Jessica and will not leave her sight. She is already calling her mama and seriously, if Jessica leaves the room, Claire freaks out immediately.

She absolutely LOVES Connor. She has been more affectionate with him than with anyone rubbing his hair and even giving him a couple of hugs.

As for me... well, she's not quite sure what to make of me so far. If she is the one to initiate a little bit of play, she'll tolerate me for a few minutes. If I try to talk to her or touch her though, she will push me away and sometimes even cry. This is not surprising to us at all... it is common in toddler adoption for the child to bond tightly to one parent and somewhat reject the other. All of the books we had read prepared us for this and we're alright with it. It hurts a little but hey, this isn't about me! This little girl had her world turned upside down... she can have all the time she needs. She'll be a daddy's girl before too long I'm sure.

All things considered, Claire did incredibly well on her first day. She ate like a champ (dinner was apples, bananas, cheese bread, and a little bit of a doughnut) and she let Jessica give her a bottle (Asian children tend to stay on formula until they are 2 or 3). She finally fell asleep around 10:30 and slept soundly until about 7:00 the next morning.

Sorry I don't have time to go into more detail... we have absolutely been spending every waking moment with Claire. We'll have much more to tell later and hopefully some video soon as well. I'm slowly working on editing it but I have to do it when Claire is asleep because if she hears her foster mom talking on the tape she cries for her.

Thank you all so much for the continued comments, emails, and prayers. They have meant the world to us.


Jessica and Claire with their matching bracelets.

Connor and Claire looking out our 56nd story window at the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Claire had a very hard and emotional first day. As joyful as it was for us, it was scary and confusing for her. She is such a brave and resilient little girl.

Connor with Claire's half-sister. They are both six and hit it off immediately. Claire's and her sister look a lot alike... we're so glad to have some pictures!

Just moments after meeting Claire for the very first time.

Connor was so wonderful with her all day long. He is so excited to have a little sister and he has been unbelievably sweet. We are SO GLAD he came with us.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Introducing our daughter, Claire Elizabeth Adkins

Today was an AMAZING day, full of wonder, joy, and tears. We will tell you all about it... there are so many stories to tell, but for now, we are going to bed. We are beyond exhausted. It's almost 11:00 here local time and Claire is still wide awake and we just haven't had much time to be around the computer. I intend to have a video online for you all to see tomorrow morning sometime (hopefully by Saturday night Eastern time) and we'll try to update the blog with the full story by then too.

Good night!

Friday, February 5, 2010


Great news! We just received word that all of our paperwork has been finalized and we are clear to now come home on the 14th as originally planned! No $1000 airline fee! No living in a hotel for a month! Praise God!

And that's not all... Claire's birth mother has been missing for the past month or so. The social workers had been trying to find her to get one last document signed to ensure we would have no trouble getting Claire's Visa. Turns out that she finally came in to see the social worker and it looks like we have that final document too.

Even when we first received Claire's referral, we were told that we would not meet the birth mother. They told us that she did not want to meet us. In Taiwan most adoptive families meet their child's birth mother so this was a little bit unusual.

Well, we also just received word that Claire's birth mother will possibly be coming today to meet us! I have prayed so hard for this to happen. For us to be able to look her in the eyes and say "thank you" will mean so much... not to mention to have some pictures.

We're just hours away now from holding our daughter for the first time (7 hours and counting...) so please keep praying! We'll try to have a least a small update for you all by the time everyone on the east coast gets up Saturday morning.