Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

If you had told us one year ago that we would have a 6 year old boy join our family from China by then end of this year, we would have all laughed!  But, as it is, our plans are not always the way would foresee them.  This year has not been easy, with many life changes taking place and spending a considerable amount of time with the adoption planning.  But through it all we have been able to rely on God's strength, timing, and grace as He has mercifully seen us through each bump of this journey.  All the times I wanted to run away from the adoption, God convicted us to keep going.  Each time we got frustrated through the process or after we picked up Jesse, God gave us the encouragement and peace to keep going.  This has not been an easy journey, nor do we expect the coming days, months, and years to be easy, but 'easy' is not what we 'signed up' for either.  When we place our faith in Christ, our live no longer belong to us and what we want.  Living for Him is not always easy, but it is satisfying to know that we are following His will and He will not leave us during this journey. Afterall, it is not about us, but about Him! 

We are all well rested now, and have had an enjoyable time just playing and hanging out at our home!  We are loving the home cooked meals brought in by amazing friends!  We are avoiding the freezing cold weather and trace of snow by staying in our comfy house. We are learning how to be a family of 7 now.  

Jesse is a builder and loves to explore how everything is put together and how it works.  Can we say …engineer!  He enjoys playing with a marble works toy, cars, and some large Legos. He has found our thinking putty and loves that.  He loves to wrestle and have tickle wars.  He expects every egg that he pulls out of the refrigerator to be hard boiled, so we really need to make sure only the hardboiled ones are in the fridge door!  He is ever so eager to help with anything we are doing around the house.  He's a pretty neat kid with a heart to please .. most of the time. :)  There are times of blatant disobedience that we are working through, but he is a 6 year old boy after all.

Marble creation with 'Baba'

Putting the marbles in

Watching the marbles go down

All the Kopinski boys have loved Lightening McQueen, Jesse is no exception

Monday, December 30, 2013

At Home

Our trip home could not have gone better, and it was only because of all the prayers we received!  God had his hand on all of us through our 30 hours of travel and 3 airplane rides.  Each of the children did fantastic on the airplanes and going through security numerous times.  We are so thankful for the ease of this trip.

Upon arriving home, we were greeted by many amazing friends and family at the airport.  It is such a blessing to be part of a community that supports orphan care of every kind.  And to have that support at the end of an emotionally and physically draining trip, was well needed!  Our family came back to our house and we stayed up chatting until the wee hours in the morning.  After all, our bodies were on a different time zones, and weren't tired enough to sleep, and we wanted to visit with my sister and nieces and Chris' mom and dad.  What a sacrifice they made to drive down to Washington to welcome us and meet Jesse.

Jesse was described at the orphanage as being shy.  However, we have yet to see that tendency.  At the airport he was hanging around Chris, myself and the kiddos for a few minutes before he enthusiastically greeted so many with his adorable smile, sweet personalty and fun loving energy.  His personality did not slow down as he ran from the van to the house when we go home. He was so excited to be at his new house and is completely in love with his dog.  He calls her by name and begged for the first 2 days to have her sleep in his bed.  He could not understand why the dog did not obey her all the time.

Jesse walked (or rather ran) into our house like he has always lived here and he thinks he is the boss.  We have had a few outbursts each day, mainly due to mom and dad restricting his freedoms on a few things, like throwing the banana peel through the cat door into the basement or spitting on people.  But, we are learning how best to approach his misbehavior, as he is learning his boundaries.  He sleeps great at night, has begun eating well for each meal, loves ice cream, enjoys peanut butter sandwiches, and really loves hard boiled eggs and fruit!  We made pork loin and rice for a meal Sunday evening and he wouldn't touch the rice, but had 4 helpings of the pork.  He loves his meat!

On Jesse's first full day in America, we decided (with the advice of wise family members!) to take him to a walk-in clinic for an ear irritation.  He had an outer ear infection, impetigo, and not sure about an inner ear infection because the canal was too infected to see in.  However, he did not complain of discomfort on the airplane rides, so we are assuming his inner ear is okay.  But, he is on several medications now and we are hoping that his ear will clear up by tomorrow.

Jesse enjoys playing with cars, building with the straws and connectors, pretend play cops and robbers (I assume anyway as he likes to put pretend handcuffs on us).  He babbles in Mandarin much of the day, with a few English words thrown in.  I sure wish I knew what he was saying.  Google Translate has helped with many conversations, but we are positive that he understands us a whole lot better than he is leading on.

Overall, the last couple of days have gone great.  He is fitting right in with the family and our day. As parents, we are learning how to teach him his boundaries and not set the same expectations on him as we do with our other 6 year old son.  He is a quick learner and eager to please and step in to lend a helping hand.  He sets the tables, vacuums, puts his dirty clothes away properly, and brushes his teeth without being asked.  We are certain that big bumps in our road are coming very soon, as the newness of the house, siblings, toys and dog wears off, but we are trying to be lighthearted about our days now and make sure that humor is integrated in all facets of our day.  His sense of humor helps this happen, as he is quite comical and dramatic.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Last Full Day

We spent this last full day in China hanging out at the hotel, packing, playing at the playground, and using Google translate to get Jesse excited about the trip to his forever home.  When we told Jesse he gets to go to his house, and showed him the picture of our house, he gave us the biggest hug, telling us that he is ready to come home too!

Jesse loves to talk with us and chatter about so much, I just look forward to the day that we can completely understand him.  He is being very patient with us as we try to understand what he is communicating. He has spurted out many new English words today, with 'sorry' being the most surprising one to me.  What a joy to hear him trying to speak English even though he hears so much Mandarin all around him still.  We look forward to the progress when there is no Mandarin around him.

Jesse is still one of the most affectionate kiddos I've seen.  He loves to be held, which is tricky considering he is 6 years old! He loves to give kisses and rub our face and 'zerber' our cheeks and hands.

As we had our final meeting today with our agency, to retrieve Jesse's Visa, we were able to say goodbye to sweet friends that were leaving this evening.  It was such a sweet group of people to share this experience with, and my kiddos got attached to some of theirs, so we said our good byes after the meeting.  When we got up to the room, Jesse packed up his belongings (his Pooh bear and some glow sticks) into a bag.  I think he is ready to go home too!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day

What a wonderful Christmas day spent in southern China.  We were able to spend the morning at the local park and walked, ran, and hiked for several hours. We hiked up and down stairs, ran through the forests, walked up monuments, watched with respect all of the small yoga groups or bands or artisits, took pictures of some statues, and videos of the large gathering of hackey sack players. We fed the fish, took a motorozed boat ride on the lake, and helped Jonny get away from the large group of high school girls vying for his attention and wanting pictures. 

Sign at the park.  Many users of the park bring in their own trimming shears to assist in caring for the landscape while they are their for other activities. It was fascinating to us how the caring of this park is a community wide project.

Watching the fish eat

Feeding the fish (with nice man who gave my kiddos fish food)

Tropical sights on boat ride

Reminds us of S. Carolina (sigh...)

We all deserved a long rest after that, however Brianna and I were on a mission to shop!  We went to the Pearl Market and were enthralled with the culture, noises, smells, sounds, and interesting way of life for so many in China.  There are really not words to express what we saw today, as we walked through the narrow alleys and buildings lined with booths, all selling the exact same thing.  It was fascinating to learn of this culture and experience just a little bit what it is like to live here.  We found a few items, but the cigarette smoke and street vendor smells were making us rather neauseous and ready to go back to the hotel. 
Alley behind Pearl Market.  

Large Christmas tree at Pearl Market

When there are no more booths available, trunks will do...

We enjoyed a Christmas dinner at the Australian restaurant across the street.  We splurged and let the kiddos share some milkshakes, which was really just a slightly thicker version of milk.  But, hey, the burgers and fries were good.

Jesse has been speaking so many English words today, such as 'yes', 'go', 'shoes', 'Jonny's turn', 'owie', etc.  He loves his siblings so much already and has really shown much tenderness to younder children. He is quite the jokester and enjoys making everyone laugh.  Many times the laughing is at the expense of my humility. For instance, today as we were running through the park, I stopped to take a picture of a large group of women gathered doing a form of yoga.  Jesse ran through the group, tapped a lady on the 'button' and enthusiasically yelled "hello!".  Yup.  And another crazy thing in China is that the light switches for bathrooms are outside the room!  Which makes it fun with my boy who loves to turn of and on switches.  It is one thing when we are in our hotel room and he does it, but when he does it at the restaurant, oh my ...

The other day on the elevator, he pushed every single floor from ours (14) to the ground floor.  We stopped at every floor, and of course had several other people on the elevator with us.  I apologized, but not sure they understood.  When we got to the ground floor, one man got off, turned to me, smiled and said 'finally!'.   I'm just glad I can laugh with him and that he loves to giggle and laugh. 
Now there may not have been a lot of humor found in him running through the wet cement at the hotel's playground.  But, just as Jesse has left a lasting impression on many hearts within China, he has left an impression on his final stay in his home country! Thankfully the wet cement footprints stayed only on the playground and were not tracked to our room.  :)

Jesse is slowly learning what is safe  vs. dangerous, right vs. wrong, and kind vs. mean.  In reflecting over the past 9 days, we can see how much he has grown, how much he has learned, and how fun loving he is with all of us.  We are very thankful that even though we are not perfect parents and we show frustration, he still shows affection and love to us.  We are so thankful that we have been able to spend Christmas away from the materialism and commercialism, and reflect on the one true gift that matters, the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is so very much to be thakful for this year! We are looking forward to sharing the gospel message with Jesse and hopefully he will understand the reason for the season next Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

We had our US Consulate appointment today, where we took an oath with our entire group, confirmed our fingerprints, and finalized the last steps of bringing Fu Lian home.

We attempted a Mexican restaurant for lunch (anything besides Chinese!) and we were mildly pleased.  It took us longer to find the restaurant and convince Fu Lian to not run through the busy street or lay down and throw a tantrum in the hotel lobby, than it did to eat.  We find it funny that when eating in China, the servers bring out the food as it is ready. Which, today meant that Ethan got his food first, then about 10 minutes later, the other kids got theirs, and about 10 minutes later we got our.  Therefore, the kids (especially Fu Lian) were ready to bolt from the restaurant by the time our food came. We ate our food vey quickly and headed back to the hotel.  All in all, the Mexican was a nice change of pace, but we will not be going back this trip.

Random apartment building on way to Tekela's

Christmas decoration on way to Tekela's

McDonald's and Pizza Hut on way to Tekela's

A fellow adoptive father led a Christmas Eve service, in which many adoptive families participated.  It was a great time to reflect on this holiday season and to come together to worship our God and the birth of His son.  What a pleasure to share this adoption process with so many believers that understand that adoption is not about being recognized for helping a child, but rather a commandment of the Lord's to help the orphans and provide them with the same love and grace that our Heavenly Father extends to us on a daily basis.  We pray that we can continue to extend that to our children each and every day, especially this week as we struggle with Fu Lian's behavior that has been approved of for the last 6 years (i.e. hitting, pinching, kicking, biting, spitting (that is a fun one!), climbing up the escalator (not using the steps... another fun one!), and sprinting (we mean quick!) through the hotel lobby, hallways and elevators (thank you God for entry keys needed for the elevators).
Christmas Eve service at hotel with adoptive families

Fu Lian playing with another sweet boy

We topped off our evening with a cruise on the Pearl River.  Many of the bridges, buildings, hotels, and landscape were decorated in colorful lights to entertain us for the short tour.  The kids enjoyed this trip and it was a nice way to spend Christmas Eve in China.
Santa Clause greeted the kids with a treat on our Pearl River night cruise

The lit up TV tower along the Pearl River night cruise

This has been an amazing opportunity to share as a family.  We can all happily say that we are excited to be coming home in just a couple short days and we can not wait for fresh water, our beds, our dog, and seeing our friends and family again!  I say that I do not want to come back to China, but Ethan plans to be a missionary here, flying airplanes and delivering Bibles to people who need them.  So, he is hoping I will come visit him ... maybe by then I will be rested up again and not so tired of Chinese food that I'll be willing to come back.  :) We will continue to pray for the Lord's will to be followed by each of my children and for Him to be glorified through it all.  We are so anxious to see the plans God has for each of our children, and now especially with Fu Lian.  I know there is a great plan for him and we praise God that we will be part of that plan.

A tuckered out boy after a day of fun!

Random picture: if there is a Santa picture hung up in China, it is this exact one!  We have seen it in all 3 provinces and on many hotels, stores, and shopping areas.  We thought it was funny that there is not a variation.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Guangzhou Safari Park

Today started out very nervously.  We all woke up, and we felt Fu Lian was a live wire today.  After returning from breakfast, it was time for Fu Lian to burn off some energy.  He was wound up and we had 1 hour to get him ready for a 60 minute bus ride to the Chime Long Safari Park.  We played soccer and basketball and ran on the tennis courts trying to get everyone to burn off energy for the long ride.

We finally arrived at the safari park...

We really enjoyed the tram ride through the park.  We saw a ton of different animals from lions, tigers and bears (Oh My!!!) to giraffes, zebras, elephants, and deer sprinting throughout he fields. Fu Lian was the resident cameraman.
Camel Herd

Elephants up close

Bears begging for food

Bears resting

Great pic of a lion

Next we went through the dinosaur section, which featured dinosaur animitronics that moved, had sound effects, spit and a major t-rex battle. Fu Lian was a little scared, but he came to us to be  comforted.  As we walked through the zoo portion we saw diving monkey's that got Brianna and Fu Lian wet, tigers diving for food, and of course, China panda bears.

A tiger about to dive for some food

The T-Rex

feeding giraffes

Fu Lian riding a panda before seeing the real ones.

Panda eating lunch

Even though there was a lot of walking and no planned lunch, by God's grace we had packed a few snacks that had to last all of us all day. We were not willing to try the seaweed cowballs or 'hot dogs' that were available for purchase. We figured it is better to go hungry than get a sour belly.  Fu Lian was our resident photographer today and took many of the above pictures.

One thing about the adoption process is how the the group of adoptee families have become fast friends.  We all understand that we will not have perfect kids as we all adjust to new family dynamics.  Not only do we understand this, but we help each other out.  Ethan and a another boy,  Jackson, were inseparable today. I saw parents working together to watch other kids, I watched families help other families out when a child got sick, I saw other families holding other families' new children and I saw needed medicine being shared to help everyone be able to survive and enjoy the time together.

Brianna and her new friend

Ethan, Fu Lian and new friend Jackson petting a snake

As we prepare to celebrate our Savior's birth - as a family of 7, we are excited that as a new formed community, this group of adoptee families are going to celebrate Christmas together with a worship service.  God sent his Son to save us and starting on Christmas Eve we celebrate his birth.  Help us to remember that he loved us first so that we can have a relationship with him.  We are not worthy - but his grace saves us.  Our prayer is for us to be able to share this same grace with each of our children.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Post from Dad 2013/12/21

The first day of winter saw three of my kids wearing shorts.  And many people asking them if they are cold in Mandarin.  We could actually understand them.

We needed shorts today, due to all of the physical activities we were able to do.  From some of the information we gathered from friends and from our guides from the adoption agency, we changed how we worked with Fu Lian today.  We were more ready for him today than any other day..  We had physical activities ready and allowed him to run a lot more.

We were afraid of being out with him due to not be able able to control him.  However, we had a great time exploring Guangzhou.  We went to 2 different parts and an island.  We had a great time and him and I had our best day together.

We are learning more and more about how Fu Lian has been taught these 6 years.  He may never have heard the words THANK YOU or have to say PLEASE.  He was a loved child in his foster care program so he got almost everything he wanted.  This information, your prayers and your information has helped us get more connected with our new son.

For dinner, we got away from Chinese - we went to The Coffee Shop - an Australian Restaurant.  We had 4 hamburgers and shared the fries.  It was really good, but Fu Lian ate his burger bun first, then the actual burger.  He loves dipping things and putting things in his drinks.  It is nasty to us, but he likes it....

Park Day and Shamian Island

Today was a great day!  Chris and I were much more proactive with Fu Lian's behavior and were much better prepared to foresee when he was overstimulated, tired, hungry, etc.  We have been able to learn Fu Lian's personality much better over the last couple of days, and today proved that we can have a great time together, when planning properly, and we can even confidently venture out of the hotel.  Thank you to all who prayed and told us to not give up.  :)

We went to the park across from the hotel, which is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever been to.  We purchased a ball of Fu Lian to kick and bounce and throw and run with.  We had a wonderful time admiring all of the natural landscape, green space, music and dancing from the locals, and simply being a family exploring a park.
Pick up game of Kopinski soccer, almost enough for a full team!

Fu Lian and Bri at the park

Kopinski 5

Beautiful tree that reminded us of S. Carolina :)

Watching boats at the park

After some rest, we took a taxi cab to Shamian Island.  It was so beautiful there, with the Pearl River on one side of the island to admire, and the quaint hotels, buildings and landscape throughout.  We walked for a long time and played on their play equipment, took pictures with the statues, and were photographed ourselves more times than we can count.  My kids are getting a bit too comfortable with their 'fame' here.  Next thing, I'm sure they will start to sign autographs. :)
Jonny found the parallel bars on the island

Another playground on the island

Daddy and his boys

Brianna and her fan club

Pretty church on Shamian Island

Sean and Ethan exercising

Big kids being crazy

Daddy helping Fu Lian on the parallel bars

Getting 4 kids to sit still for a picture was hard... 5 kids is nearly impossible.  

Shamian Island

We did make a few purchases from the shops on the island.  Jonny has wanted a chess set since we got here, and was finally able to purchase one.  The boys played chess the rest of the evening.  Fu Lian calls us all by name now and for the first time said "I love you" in Mandarin to me.  He is a sweet affectionate boy that loves to skip and gallop.  He is not a competitor (yet) and wants everyone to win.  He prefers fruits, veggies, and water chestnuts (and sometimes dumplings) over any other food.  When given a sandwich of any kind he deconstructs it and eats it one layer at a time.  He prefers forks over chopsticks.  His visual needs do not slow him from anything, other than going down steps, which he prefers to hold a hand or railing with.  He understands English more than we know he does and uses it to his advantage.  He is extremely quick when running, if only we could get him to go in a straight line.  But Brianna is prepping him for cross country already! The iPad is his favorite game and is used to reward his good behavior.. hey it works!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Doctor Appointment

Today our very large group of adoptee families (15 just with our agency) drove to the doctor's office to get the customary medical check and visa pictures.  Fu Lian did fantastic for the 2 hours we were there.  He first got his photo taken for his Visa to come to the US.  We waited a long time for him to move to the next step, but he did well.  Next he got his height and weight checked, then his ear, nose and throat checked, then a full body general exam, them a more thorough vision exam, and finally a blood test to check for TB.  He was nervous for the vision exams, and wanted to hold my hand through most of it.  But, when it came time for the blood draw, he needed to go in the room without either of us.  When the door opened again, he was all smiles.  What a big boy!

Being cool in their sunglasses

OK... we are all cool!

Photo bomb by Jonny

Poor guy was so nervous for this exam. Then the doctor asked him to sit in a chair and look in a mirror across the room to test his eyes.  The poor kid was so confused why he needed to look in the mirror across the room, when the eye chart was over his head!  

All smiles after the blood test

Showing off his bandaid

Holding his bandaid, just how the doctor asked him to.

After the appointment, we attempted to eat lunch at McDonald's, across the parking lot from our hotel, but Fu Lian was done following directions.  So we headed to the hotel and let him have a temper tantrum in peace.  There was not quite as much physical frustration today, but still so much anger, fear, grief, (insert you own emotion) being released.  We are discovering that he needs much more physical playtime than our other children, so Chris took them to the hotel playground for a long time.  After returning to the room, Fu Lian had another outburst.  We decided to try to have a guide speak with him and let him know that we love him and will not leave him and need him to not hurt himself or others.  Even though google translate has been speaking to him about this, we wanted a human to express it.  Plus, when he is in his mood, he sticks his fingers in his ears and refuses to listen to google translate. :)
Fu Lian swinging with daddy.

Ethan is hanging out at the playground.

Our guide was gentle with him and gave us a few pointers. So, we will attempt a few adventures away from the hotel tomorrow, and hope he doesn't have an outburst around a busy street (or parking lot like today!).  He is catching on to English quite well, although not speaking it, as he has not had to communicate verbally prior to now.