Day 1: Beijing Boating

We made it to China. Jordan enjoyed his first air travel ever, even though we hit him hard on his rookie experience. After a marathon flight of fourteen hours from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, a three-hour layover, and a two-and-a-half hour flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, we landed very tired and ready to go to bed. We were met by our awesome guide Eve, who escorted us to the Lido Hotel, checked us into our rooms, pointed out the best nearby restaurants and stores, and sent us to sleep. We were snoring by 7:30 pm on Thursday, June 9, which was 2:30 am the same day back home in San Diego, and we didn’t come out until breakfast eleven hours later.

Today, we took a couple of tours with most of the families who make up our adoption travel group. Our first stop was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, home of the emperors of China for almost seven centuries. Both are impressive, but the Forbidden City has an additional air of mystery to it. As you walk through ring after ring of walled compounds, filled with buildings decorated by ornate handcrafted paintings and carvings, you wonder what it would have been like to live inside.

A few of the leftover “residents” are downright spooky… at least until you catch one of your teenagers standing next to them and realize they look a lot alike. After touring the Forbidden City, we headed to the Summer Palace, the place where the emperors moved to escape the heat at this time of year. It’s less ornate and less complicated and it sits on the shore of a huge beautiful lake. Some of its temples are built into rocky hillsides, which adds to the mystique.

The crowds were large, but many people left when a sudden thunderstorm brought a downpour and hail. After waiting out the cloudburst and then hiking several miles along the shoreline, we came to the Stone Boat, a strange edifice that’s a copy of a wooden boat that burned in 1860. On a previous visit, I was told that the original wooden boat never sailed (and clearly the stone one can’t). Instead, it was a place where emperors’ concubines got to “experience” boating without ever leaving the shore. I don’t know that this story is true. I do know that this is the closest Taylor will ever get to being a concubine as long as I’m alive.

We opted not to walk back to the Summer Palace gate. Instead, we chose to hop aboard a dragon boat. It’s the season of the Dragon Boat Festival, so it seemed appropriate. The origin of festival is not completely certain, but the best known variant holds that it commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu. When Qu’s king decided to ally himself with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was accused of treason and banished for opposing the alliance. During exile, he wrote poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River. Locals who admired Qu raced out in boats in a failed attempt to save him. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat races. When Qu’s body could not be found, the would-be rescuers dropped balls of sticky rice in the river so fish would eat them instead of his body. Today, sticky balls of rice are the treat most identified with the festival.

The funniest part of the day occurred just before we boarded the dragon boat. Just like the last time Janet and I were in China, an artist singled me out of the crowd and began to draw my picture on a ceramic plate with a black marker. The last time this happened, the resemblance between the picture and me was disturbingly close. (You can see the pictures and read the story in our 2014 Adoption Trip journal.) This time, my new painter friend turned me into weird Dragon Kevin, complete with claws and a long, scaly tail. I’d like to believe it was the season that inspired him and not the way I looked today.

Our guide helped me negotiate the price and after the purchase was complete, the artist grabbed Jordan and began to use the same pen to write Chinese characters, tattoo-like, on Jordan’s arm. When he finished and walked away, we asked Eve what the characters said. She read it, laughed out loud, and explained, “It says, ‘Am I handsome? I love you, beautiful woman!'” Apparently, our artist friend was helping Jordan get over his shyness and meet an eligible, young Chinese woman without ever having to say a word. Jordan, of course, was a little mortified. His horror increased every time yet another Chinese woman or man glanced at his arm, stopped, looked again more closely, and then walked away laughing. You can see his tattoo and his attitude below after several of these encounters.

Although we’re glad to be able to see some fascinating things while we recover from our jet lag and get ready for the big day, we’re kept saying all day long, “We’re ready. Let’s go pick up Peyton.” Only a few more days to go until we meet her for the very first time. We’re looking forward to introducing her to you. Thanks again for your prayers, gifts, and encouragement. Stay tuned for more updates from halfway around the globe.

Around the World

It’s just before midnight on Monday, June 6. In exactly 24 hours, we’ll be airborne, over the Pacific, just settling into our seats for a fifteen-hour-long flight from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, China, which will be followed just over two hours later by a three-hour flight to Beijing. We’ll arrive a full day and a half after we departed, courtesy of the date line. We’ll be very tired, but at the same time, we’ll be anxiously looking forward to what awaits us just a few days later in a city called Guiyang in the center of the country. That’s where we’ll be meeting our new daughter, Peyton, in person for the first time.

Our first adoption was eight years in the making. We finished our initial application to America World Adoption Association on Christmas Day in 2006. We first applied to adopt a healthy little girl. When we applied, the wait was one to two years, depending on how quickly you finished your paperwork. But for a variety of reasons, the wait increased steadily after we applied until we began to believe we’d never be matched. Then, about six and half years into our wait, we become aware of a number of kids who had medical needs, who needed families. After a lot of thought, prayer, and soul-searching, we began to check out boys with special needs. On Christmas Day, 2014, we arrived home with our awesome son, Elijah, who has changed our lives for the better in so many ways we can hardly begin to describe it.

But in our hearts, we still felt like God had left a space open for a little girl who also needed a home. When our agency told us that China offers a special opportunity to those who have adopted once and are willing to consider other children on their medical needs roster, we went back into search mode and began to pray that God would lead us to a little girl he had picked for us and given us the desire and the capacity to love, a little girl who would change our lives in the same way we would change hers.

In September 14, 2015, we received a telephone call, quickly followed by an e-mail with a medical file and several pictures of a beautiful little girl. Although her medical needs are challenging, it only took us a few hours and a few calls to doctors, experts, and other families who’ve faced her diagnosis to realize that we were meant to be hers. So, we said, “Yes.” And the countdown began.

Over the past eight months, we’ve processed paperwork, raised funds, read medical articles, and planned for this day. And here it is. Because of the generosity of many of you who are reading this post, we are actually able to take our entire family to meet Peyton for the first time together. We’re incredibly excited, a little anxious, a little tired from all the last-minute craziness, and filled with anticipation. Our feelings can be summed up by what our two sons, one fifteen-years-old and one three-years-old, have said numerous times in the past week. Our youngest son, Elijah, keeps asking the same question, using his new sister’s nickname, “We go get Xi-Xi? I share my toys!” Our oldest son, Jordan, keeps saying, “Can we just leave NOW?” Our family is about to change forever and we couldn’t be happier about it. Look for more stories to come.

It’s a Girl (Part 4)

We recently received an update from the foster family that is caring for our soon-to-be adopted daughter Peyton in China. The picture above is one of the pictures we got. People have asked several common questions when they saw the pictures. They’ve also been asking other questions related to her adoption. So, here’s our best attempt to answer a few of those questions, in case you’ve been wondering about them, too.

Question: Why is her hair so short? It’s very common for children in orphanages and foster care in China to have extremely short haircuts. We think it’s partly a matter of keeping daily care as easy as possible. Long hair requires more maintenance and makes communicable pests, like lice, a more likely possibility. So, boys and girls are often given very short, very quick razor cuts to reduce the orphanage worker tasks.

Question: Is it cold where she lives? The picture above shows Peyton in a very warm winter coat. The picture was taken in late March, when the daytime temperature varies from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit in her city. It’s possible her foster family’s apartment is cold. But it’s more likely she is bundled up because that is how most Chinese families dress young children. When we picked up Elijah in Guangzhou, it was quite warm and comfortable to us, in the 70s most days. But he was dressed in a winter coat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. We quickly discovered that, if we took him outside in a light jacket, the locals would berate us in Chinese for not dressing him warmly enough. So, she’s probably dressed warmly because of culture more than climate.

Question: How is Peyton’s health? Peyton continues to be in good health, although she spent a couple of days in the hospital at her last transfusion because her blood iron count was too high. We’ve been getting regular updates on her medical condition and have been recently told they will schedule her next couple of transfusions so that she is able to travel without any emergencies. We’re looking forward to getting her home soon.

Question: When will you pick her up? We’re expecting to travel in early to mid-June. However, last week we heard about families who received their Travel Authorization (TA) only a few days after the United States (US) Consulate issued their Article 5 forms, a document which approves the child’s immigration status to the US. We know that our Article 5 is scheduled to be issued on Thursday, May 5, so it’s possible we might be asked to travel in mid-May, instead of mid-June. That would be exciting for us.

Question: How is the fundraising going? We’ve raised a little over half of what we hoped to raise. (You can visit our fundraising page by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.) We’re still hoping to raise the rest in these final weeks before we travel. Any amount would help. Our LifeSong page will become inactive on the day we sign the adoption paperwork in China, so donations that come before that will be tax-deductible. Those that come afterward will not. Feel free to e-mail us at firstname@faithclips.com, using either of our first names, Kevin or Janet. Keep praying for us. We need it.

Help Bring Peyton Home

It’s a Girl (Part 3)

Our last two adoption posts told the story of how we were matched with our new two-year-old daughter, Peyton. They also described Peyton’s medical condition, a blood disease called “thalassemia.” This particular condition is considered serious enough to warrant expedited status by both the Chinese and United States governments, who must approved immigration and travel documents before we travel.

Our greatest concern, as we finish documents and raise funds for this adoption, is that Peyton may not be receiving medical care she needs. Children with beta thalassemia major require a transfusion approximately every three weeks. While Chinese doctors are well-trained, they face a growing problem that alarms us, shortages of blood.

On December 3, 2015, Beijing Today, an English-language news service located in China’s capital, described the situation many Chinese doctors and hospitals are trying to overcome. It said, “Beijing News reported that Beijing’s hospitals are short on blood for three to four months every year. When there is not enough blood, hospitals can only make sure patients most in need get access to blood first. But other patients have to rely on a system called ‘mutual assistance blood donating’ which allows patients’ family and friends to donate blood. Blood sellers make money based on the system. They recruit people online to pretend to be patients’ family and friends to donate blood; then in turn, blood sellers ask patients’ family to pay. The money the family pays is two to three times higher than the sellers pay the donors… Faced with a serious blood shortage, hospitals and doctors feel powerless and don’t know what to do. ‘It’s not just in Beijing, the whole country is in need of blood,’ Ton Chongrong, deputy director of a blood center in suburb Beijing, told Beijing News.” (1)

Given the dire shortages of blood and the fact that orphans do not have family members to donate blood for them, Peyton may be at high risk for not receiving the transfusions she needs in a timely fashion. We’ve also been told that she is not taking any regular medications, which means she is not receiving the iron-reduction drugs that are critical to a thalassemia patient, putting her at risk for heart and liver failure. Although we’ve been assured she is not in decline, we feel very anxious when we think about our little girl being at risk for serious complications or not receiving blood she needs.

We’re expected to travel to China in May or June, so we’re making large fee payments to government agencies now as they process our immigration and travel applications. If we’re unable to fund the trip, we’ll have to wait another month, perhaps more, until we can bring Peyton home. Please consider praying for us and even making a financial donation. Every bit helps. We’ve received a $3,000 matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans. The next $3,000 given will be matched by their donors. All donations made to Lifesong are tax-deductible. Click the “Give” button or link below and spread the word.

1. https://beijingtoday.com.cn/2015/11/blood-shortage-breeds-black-market/

Help Bring Peyton Home