Friday, March 28, 2008

We Made It! (part 2)

Hi everyone! Jennifer here-

I'm so glad my hubby had the energy yesterday to let everyone know we made it back safe and sound. I'm still recovering from some icky bug in China (Eric has it now, please pray for him) and a major case of motion sickness / bad airline food, or something. The 30 hours of travel was quite miserable (for a variety of reasons - more on that at a later date) and the last portion was accompanied by persistent nausea and dizziness. I didn't think I would make onto our final flight, but a quick phone call for prayer and a kind soul in the airport who gave me some motion sickness pills helped me feel well enough to board the plane to Kansas City at the appointed time.

Noelle struggled yesterday with her new environment, but is doing much better today. She was extrememly terrified of our 3 kitties yesterday. I mean she would litterally climb up our bodies and scream in fright and flail her arms to get away. We were worried that drastic measures would need to be taken (i.e. the kitties finding a new home - an option which made me sad and miserable to even think about). But amazingly enough, today she LOVES the kitties. She is still a bit scared of them and has to have daddy or mommy or one of the grandparents hold her finger as she approaches them, but she follows them around and keeps working up the nerve to touch them. I think by tomorrow she may actually be able to pet them without assistance.

It's a funny story about how she actually had the courage to approach them. Very early this morning (our bodies are still on China time, so we're waking up at about 2:30am and Noelle wants to get up and play) daddy took Noelle downstairs to avoid waking everyone else up. They snuggled and tried to get back to sleep. When that didn't work, they played with toys, one of which makes doggie sounds. So, Noelle learned how to bark like a dog and she and daddy crawled around the living room barking and growling. Then, when one of the kitties made her escape to the living room, Noelle started growling and barking at her! Daddy did not tell her to do this; she came up with the idea all on her own. And the barking continued all morning, whenever one of the cats approached. Her dog-character seemed to give her the courage to approach her new house mates. It was SO cute! She has had all of us (both sets of grandparents are here visiting) in laughing fits watching her reactions. I think this 'kitty - little human' relationship is gonna work out after all!

(Now, if we could just get her to sleep in her own bed...)

To be continued...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We Made It! (part 1)

After thirty hours of travel, we made it home to Richmond. What an incredible journey we've been on. We left Guangzhou at 6:00 a.m. (read that 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday) and travelled to Beijing. From Beijing we flew to Chicago and then on to Kansas City, arriving at 10:00 p.m. to family and friends. During it all, Noelle was a real trooper and only fussed a few times. Actually, Noelle was the free entertainment wherever we stopped. Her laughs and friendliness won over everyone we met. I think, friends, that God's brought a strong willed, outgoing, why walk when we can run kind of little girl into our lives -and she's thorougly won over our hearts.

We slept in until about 4:45 this morning and then Noelle decided she needed to explore. So while Jennifer's catching up on her rest (I'll let her tell you about what a difficult trip it was for her), Noelle and I've been calling friends and baby proofing the home. Silly me for thinking we were done. She's such a delightful child (did I already say that?).

Anyway, I've got to go for now. I'm sure Jennifer will fill you in on the rest.

Thanks for all your prayers.

God Bless,
Eric (with Jennifer and Noelle!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Christ is Risen!

Happy Easter! I’m writing this at the end of a great Easter Day. We’re in Guangzhou and have finalized all the paperwork. The U.S. Consulate will review things tomorrow and (if we haven’t made any mistakes) will issue Noelle’s travel Visa on Tuesday. The end is in sight! We started the day with a shopping spree on Shaimian (sp?) Island –a beautiful shopping district in Guangzhou. It was weird spending the first part of Easter running around and buying gifts, but it was also fun to select things that we’ll share with Noelle in the coming years. We hope that she’ll appreciate her Chinese heritage.

The high point of the day, however, was joining the other families in a time of worship. We rented a conference room, brought our children and had “church”. Brian Docherty and his daughter Abby led in worship, Brian Woods offered the prayer and I gave a Bible lesson. The children loved the worship. There was no squirming or crying. I hope they sensed the Spirit of God that we sensed. I’d also love to know what the Chinese people around us thought of the Americans singing as we did. When I got up to preach, Noelle decided she needed “daddy time”. So I got to hold and feed her crackers and then let her run back to mommy. It’s going to be interesting to see what we’ll do once were back in a more traditional worship setting. But for today, it was precious. The great thing about traveling with other Christians is that we all get what an incredible thing it has been for God to bring us to this place. We are so grateful that he led us to adoption and look forward to teaching our children about him.

Well, we’re out of time for today. We hope you have a good Easter and look forward to seeing you sometime after we get back.

God Bless,
Eric (and Jennifer)

P.S. Thanks for the prayers. Jennifer is doing much better today.

Thursday's Visit To the Orphanage

Thursday afternoon we had the opportunity to visit Noelle’s orphanage in Hefei City. It is a very, very good facility as far as orphanages go. The building is clean and well maintained, the grounds are lovely and there is a nice playground. Most importantly, however, the children are loved and well cared for. Director Wu, an attractive, professional and very kind woman, led us on the tour with our Hefei guide Jane. Noelle enjoyed seeing the children her age and many nannies called out to her “Zhen-Zhen!” (this was her nickname, pronounced Jen-Jen) and waved happily or came over to speak with us. We were told later by Jane that many of them said things like, “She looks so healthy and so pretty from being with her new parents. She looks so happy. She is going to have such a happy life with her new parents. Etc.”

Then we were shown the babies playroom, where Noelle spent much of her time. We were privileged to meet her “Grandmother”, the nanny her basically raised her from the time she first entered the orphanage at one month of age. She was thrilled to see Zhen-Zhen and wanted to hold her. We wondered how Noelle would handle this. Well, she loved it. In fact, she loved it SO much that she did not want to return to mom. She pitched a fit when the grandmother tried to return her to my arms. Jane ended up having to take her and pass Noelle off to me. She said, “Go to your daughter to the courtyard to play. She is very confused.” We agreed.

Separating Noelle from the nannies and children settled her down somewhat, but she continued to fuss. We were disappointed to be missing the rest of the tour, but knew Noelle could not handle it. Before we left, we were able to have a brief visit with her foster parents. Yes, that’s right! Noelle spent the last six months living in a foster home, an apartment right there on the orphanage grounds, with a foster mom and dad who loved her very much. What a blessing! We were able to see Noelle’s crib and thank this kind couple for loving and caring for our daughter. We had been concerned that seeing them again would throw her into more fits, but she did pretty well, enjoying the hugs and kisses from foster dad and the candy and cookies they stuffed into her pockets.

It was time to go back to the hotel, and that’s when the real trouble started. Noelle didn’t want to leave. She threw an all out temper tantrum like I hadn’t seen and fought us all the way into the van. We didn’t get to say thank you and farewell to Director Wu, who was busy holding Noelle and passing her off to Jane who passed her off to us. We were into the van and off to the hotel in a flurry.

Wow! That was a rough day. It really threw Noelle and her new parents for a loop. Usually the return to the orphanage is good for the child (and it may still prove to be so), but it succeeded in confusing Noelle. She didn’t like mommy so much anymore, but now preferred the kindly Chinese housekeeping staff, or any Chinese woman, to mom. She even preferred daddy (which IS good for Eric) to mommy. So it’s been a real struggle these last 2-3 days. It is actually Saturday evening (we’re in Guangzhou now) that I am writing this post, and I am still trying to regain the ground I had with my daughter at the beginning of the week. Being sick and unable to play and care for her as I would like has compounded the problem. But I know that things will turn around. Tomorrow is Easter and we have the opportunity to celebrate our Risen Lord. I know He is with us in this journey. I know He chose Noelle for our family. So, in time, things we be as they should be. Please just pray for us to have strength, patience, compassion, and the wisdom needed to care for the unique needs of a little girl who has been ripped away from everything she knows.

We love and miss you guys (and home, and American food, and our own bed, etc.) SOOOOOO MUCH!


P.S. We will try our best – no promises – to post one more time before we leave China on Wednesday morning. And remember, I will be continuing the blog back at home. Our life is just beginning to get interesting…
P.S.S. I'm sorry, but I put almost all of our pictures on video and won't be able to edit the orphange visit until we get back. -evj

Internet Problems Continue

We’re sorry we have not been able to keep you folks updated, but our internet problems have persisted. It is highly frustrating, to say the least. It’s official. After having IT people at all 3 hotels look at our computer, it’s been determined that our laptop just is not compatible with China’s internet system. I have also been very sick for three days (last night and today were the worst). Between sickness, an exhausting schedule, and difficulty in finding a place to get online, blogging just hasn’t been an option. I remember being on your side of things, following some dear friends’ of ours when they were in China to get their daughter. I checked their blog constantly to see if new information had been added. I was so anxious for any bit of news. So I understand the many questions we’ve received via our parents. Apparently lots of you are concerned and wanting to know what is happening. We’re hanging in there and look forward to coming home on Wednesday. Your prayers for our physical health, strength for the remaining days, and the adjustment/bonding with Noelle are greatly appreciated.

P.S. I know you also are missing photos of each days’ events. In some ways, that’s the best part. Uploading photos is an extra challenge. We’re doin’ good to just get a few sentences posted. After we get back home, and after we catch up on some sleep, I hope to add some more pictures from our trip. So check back to the blog from time to time after our return for more China Trip photos.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday evening thoughts...(cont.)


It's now Thursday morning and the Woods' left us their laptop to blog while they are visiting their daughter's orphanage outside Hefei, about 1 1/2 hours drive one way. We are so grateful for them helping us out this way. In a little bit we will be taking a taxi ride (this should be interesting) with the Denzel family to the local CareFour (like a Walmart/department store). We have a few small items to pick up, but we also want to check out this place that is spoken of often by other adoptive families.

Also, just to let you know, we are unable to get to our accessmo email account. We don't know if it is being blocked, or if the site is down. Please email us at and you'll have a better chance of catching us. We may not be able to respond, but we will try to read the emails when we get online to blog.

Last night I ran out of time (and steam) to tell you about our day on Wednesday. It was our first full free day. Praise Jesus! We needed that opportunity to sleep in. (We didn't sleep in, but we could have (theoretically). Does that count??) With all of us being sick, we moved slow and got a late breakfast with the other 2 families (awesome, wonderful people BTW). Then we decided that a visit to the park across the street might perk us up. A little fresh air (ie. pollution) might be good for us all. ;-)

The park is interesting. The "grass" is a funky kind of sod and the trees are some tropical variety. There are no park benches or playground equiptment, but some nice open spaces to run around. Zion Denzel (age 7) enjoyed racing with Eric and playing catch with Brian Woods. We also got some pretty pictures of the small lake bordering the park. If we had been really brave, we could have gone on a paddle boat too. Noelle enjoyed being spun in circles and got out some good giggles. It wasn't long, however, that the Johnson crew needed to head back to the hotel for a nap.

Oh boy, do I love naps! I rarely get one, but I sure do love the opportunity. It's weird how kids fight their parents about going to sleep; and grown-ups are just so grateful when they finally get to go to bed after a long day.

Well, after a 2 1/2 hour nap through lunch, we decided to explore the hotel more thoroughly with Adiah and her mommy and daddy (Amy and Brian Woods). We found a rooftop patio with lots of large plants and tables and chairs. We tossed around a ball for a while until mommy (me) accidently tossed it over a glass wall. Oops! One of the hotel staff was able to rescue it fortunately.

Our further explorations to another floor found a long marble floored hallway. Noelle enjoys walking, so of course she has to check this out. We walked the full length and back and went a second time when she discovered her legs could move faster than she was aware. She discovered running (the toddler version thereof)! We could hardly get her to leave this area to get ready for dinner. She was enjoying practicing her new talent and was charming a whole group of young ladies (hotel staff) in the hall. This was 1 of the breakthroughs I referred to in my last post. Our guess is that Noelle has never had the opportunity or space in the orphanage to explore and run freely. This experience caused more or her fun personality to emerge.

Breakthrough number 2 happened at dinner. All 3 families were eating together in the back dining room. The young ones had finished and mommies and daddies were finishing their meals. Noelle got antsy, so I let her down to explore. First she discovered the full mural of outdoor scenery. Then she found the filmy curtains over the patio door to the street and started playing peek-a-boo with mom. It wasn't long before our little girl was laughing with such delight that the other 2 little girls and Zion came to play along. Noelle just blossomed before our eyes! It was an amazing delight to see her big smile, dimples, and bright eyes practically explode with happiness. Her joy was infectious to everyone in the room. She ran and giggled and hid and chased and giggled, no, belly laughed, some more. What an amazing site!!! God has blessed us beyond measure with this very, very special little girl. Oh how we wish we had the video camera with us. Oh how we wish each one of you could have been there with us.

I could go on. Noelle was goofy and giggly again in the hallway in her pj's before bedtime, but I'll have to save that story for another day. Now we must be off to the CareFour, then to Noelle's orphanage this afternoon. this will be an emotional and informative visit. We will share with you all about this later.

With much love,
p.s. please keep praying for us to get rid of this icky bug

Wednesday evening thoughts...

Hi Everyone!

Did you think I fell off the planet? Sorry. I've been thinking of and missing you all and wanting to fill you in on everything with pictures, but we found out the reason our internet isn't working is because Eric's old laptop isn't compatible with China's internet system. (Tonight -Wednesday evening - we are borrowing the Woods' laptop - yay!) The other reason I haven't posted is due to sheer exhaustion. It's just been absolutely wild around here with a busy 18 month old. No one is sleeping much and Noelle has a head and chest cold and passed it on to me. Eric's trying to fight off the bug. Please pray for us all to get healthy. We just need to have strength and energy for the last week of our trip.

Not to be all down and gloomy on ya', let's fill you in on the really great stuff going on. Eric told you how Noelle screamed for quite some time on Gotcha Day, but the afternoon improved immensly. After 2 hours of slowly coaxing her out of her coat/snow pants, shoes and pajamas (all very poop stained...eeeewww), giving her that first diaper change, she was a new girl. She started to giggle and play and let both of us hold her. That night was long, as I couldn't sleep for repeatedly checking to see if she was breathing, and wiping her stuffy nose.

Tuesday morning, even though we were all wiped out, Noelle was such a sweet cuddly girl in bed. She was quite endearing. We started getting ready for our morning trip back to the local CCAA office for Noelle's official adoption day. It only took us 2 1/2 hours to get this new family of 3 down to the lobby!

It was a little worrisome for Noelle to return to the same room where she left every person she had ever known. That started a full day of mommy-only can hold me, feed me, touch me and look at me. Eric was persona non gratus. Except during diaper changes. She LOVES diaper changes. She gets incredibly silly and likes having her naked butt waving in the air. What a goof!

Back to the adoption proceedings... This consisted of all the babies dipping one foot in red ink and stamping it on the adoption decree. We signed several documents, met with a notary, and had an interview with a CCAA rep who asked us questions about our family and whether we loved our new daughter and would we promise to always love and care for her (THAT was a no brainer). Our love for Noelle grew in our hearts many months ago. She was a dream and a gift placed within our hearts by our loving Heavenly Father. Our love is also a choice; in some ways very much like a marriage. We don't always feel loving towards our spouse, but we choose to care for the person God has entrusted into our life. That is a little like adoption. In our case, we were handed a screaming unhappy stranger. We didn't quite know how to feel. It was a bizarre emotional experience. Who was this little person in our arms? Who was she really? I could hardly wrap my mind around the strangeness of it all.

Now even though yesterday was rough with Noelle being scared of daddy and clinging to mommy, things started to take a turn for the better when we decided to grab the strollers and go to McDonald's for dinner with the Denzel and Woods' families. This was a 30 minute trek through the heart of Hefei. This was the real China. And boy did we get some looks! Mostly inquisitive, but some very enthusiastic greetings from the locals. We had to cross some busy rush hour streets. (Now that is a whole other story in itself. Traffic is insane. Traffic signs and lights are merely a suggestion. Honking one's horn and powering through your own created path seems to be the preferred method of driving. We just stuck really close together and followed the locals.) But McD's was a big hit with the kiddos and the jaunt back was better as we took a new route. The babies had mixed reactions to the strollers, but Noelle really loved it. She was so chillin'.

Back at the hotel, we decided it was time to attempt the first bath. We stripped her down and carried her into the waiting bath wrapped in a warm blanket. While she was surveying the scene, she promptly soaked the blanket and bath mat with "tinkle" (that's what we call "pee" in the Johnson household). Now we really needed that bath! Gratefully Noelle loved the tub. She acted as if she has maybe had a bath before. I almost drowned her once (babies are really slippery when wet!), but she just giggled. Whew!

Eric came in to investigate at the end of the bath and to hand us our pj's. This was all well and good, except Noelle started screaming again. She was still not wanting her daddy around. This was rough and a bit discouraging for my hubby. He totally understood, but ached to cuddle his little girl. But praise Jesus, we hit a turning point. While Noelle was sitting in the bed playing and Eric was sitting gingerly on the corner of the bed, he discovered that putting cups on your head and letting them fall off is very good humor to an 18 month old. After several tries, Noelle was helping Daddy. Then came the giggles, big giggles. She discovered how great her daddy was. In fact, the two of them had so much fun together, they played way past bedtime. It was difficult to get Noelle to go to sleep because she just wanted to play with her daddy. I was so grateful, I just cried out my thanksgiving to our Lord for this precious gift.

Well, I'm sorry to say I have to return this computer back to our friends. They have a Skype appointment with family and have bloggin of their own to do. Today had some more Noelle breakthroughs that I'm anxious to share with you, but will try to find some time tomorrow (?) to finish. Please know how much we love you, and thank you for the emails. Tonight was the first opportunity to check them ( - I haven't looked at the other email account).

Blessings to you all!

Love from,
Jennifer, Eric and Noelle

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Consequences...

When you people get home, you will suffer the consequences of making us wait to see Noelle's face! I don't know what I'll do to you but it's not going to be pretty. STEAL a computer if you have to! Write us!

I'm so excited I could scream (but then I'd wake Reagan and I avoid that at all costs) so I'm screaming on the inside and my guts have to wear ear plugs.

We want Noelle!! We want Noelle!!!

Hope you can feel our love, prayers and excitement all the way in China!!! :)

PS Happy St. Patty's Day, Jen! ;)

Gotcha Day (part 2)

What an incredible day! I think the last time I wrote, it was about 8:00 a.m. and now it’s closing in on 6:00 p.m. And during that time I became a dad (and of course Jennifer became a mom). Noelle JiaZhen Johnson came into our lives at about 9:10 a.m. Like most babies, she came screaming –which was quite intimidating for first time parents. I know you kind of expect kids to cry when they’re first delivered, but then they settle down and sleep twenty hours a day for the next three months (OK, maybe it’s not quite that easy). Noelle cried and screamed non-stop for the first twenty minutes and then on and off for the next four hours. Jennifer tried to entertain her while our guide translated orphanage instructions and showed us how to prepare a formula/rice kind of bottle. Once we got a bottle into her, she started to relax. Next we changed her out of the confining snow suite she came in (this was a two-person job as Noelle wasn’t sure she wanted to let us get that close) then a diaper change (which was another two-person job and quite the introduction into parenthood). Once she started to feel more comfortable, Noelle let Jennifer hold her and then walk with her and finally she let me carry her back to the room. By 4:00 we were ready for a nap (only 3 hours off her schedule). Now she’s sitting next to me and playing with her stacking cups, content as can be. I’m amazed at how quickly she’s settling into life with us. It’s great being a dad!

P.S. I know that you miss Jennifer's attention to detail and style. She just seems incredibly distracted today and didn't have time to write. We'll see if we can get her to check in tomorrow! -evj

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gotcha Day (part 1)

It's 8:00 a.m. Hefei time and we have 10 minutes to post before we meet our guide and drive to the CCAA office where we'll meet Noelle for the first time. As you can imagine, we're jumping out of our skin excited.

Jennifer wanted me to hit some highlights for now and we'll blog later. Our computer still isn't connecting, so we're borrowing a friend's computer.

We had a great time in Beijing. Our guides were wonderful and almost all of the sales people spoke sufficient English to help us buy things! We also had a chance to attend a multi-national church service yesterday. It was incredible to worship God in both English and Chinese. We'll share more about that later.

Last night we flew into Hefei and met our guide "Fussy Nanny Jane" (her words). Jane is a very intense, highly organized woman and we already feel secure in knowing that she won't let anything slip past us. She also has a wealth of information about caring for our babies, which is helpful to us first-time parents.

We're in Hefei with Brian and Amy Woods (San Antonio, TX) and Bill, Amorisa and Zion Denzel (Ventura, CA). It's fun to be sharing this part of the journey with them. We're already making plans for hanging out in each other's rooms and letting the girls play together.

We'll leave the hotel at 8:30 (sharp! acording to Nanny Jane). She's gotten us the first appointment at CCAA. Noelle and the other children will arrive about 9:00. We'll spend about 30 minutes with the orphanage directors and have them answer some basic questions. Then we'll stop by a supermarket to pick up diapers, formula, water, etc. The plan is to be back to the hotel by lunch and to relax during the afternoon. Tuesday will be a big paperwork day. Wednesday is completely "free". Thursday we'll visit the Hefei orphange. Friday we'll travel to Ghangzhou. The way things work, this is the "bond" day where we officially announce our intent to adopt. This intent has been posted/needs to be posted to give relatives one last chance to claim their child. Since Noelle was abandoned and none of her relatives know her by her orphange name, this is just a formality. I'll let Jennifer fill in the rest of the details about what the next few days will look like.

Well, my ten minutes are up. So as much as I enjoy "chatting" with you, I have more important (daddy) things to do!

Love ya'
Eric (and Jennifer)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Saturday Evening Post

Hello family and friends,

I'm sure you read Eric's post from yesterday evening (he offered to try his hand at it, since I couldn't think straight or even keep my eyes open), as he gave a short summary of our first day and a half in China. I'm afraid tonight won't be much better, as we are both just running on steam at this point. Our wonderful guides, Rosa and Maggie (their “chosen” western names), have kept us running nonstop early until late. Beijing is a fascinating city and the sights have been truly enjoyable. We are just facing overload at this point. Aside from being extremely tired, we are feeling very well and are adjusting to the new time zone. We are also thoroughly enjoying the other families and look forward to the friendships being formed for the years to come.

Today was a beautiful, sunny and mild day to be outside. We explored the Summer Palace, which was the vacation home (more like an exquisite lakeside “compound”) for the emperors. Then we visited the Jade Factory and shopped in the lavish showroom. We purchased the traditional jade animal pendant for Noelle (a small dog representing her birth in the year of the dog). After another lunch of Chinese fare, we toured a cloisone (spelling?) workshop, getting to see the crafts people assemble, paint and fire beautiful copper pots. The finished product is amazing! Then lastly, we made it to The Great Wall. Eric was jumping around like a kid at Christmas, he was so excited. He was ready to run up the wall, but slowed down a tad to let me keep up (mostly). He beat me to the top, but I amazed myself and kept going. The view was incredible! (We took pictures and video, but I'm afraid they won't possibly do justice to the real thing.) Going down was much easier, but not for the faint of heart, as looking down the steps was like looking down a sheer brick ladder. Wild!

Now we are back at the hotel eating a late Pizza Hut dinner. Eric certainly did not complain that we were eating his second favorite meal (lasagna is first). You see, Rosa and Maggie were sensing that the group was tiring quickly of Chinese food (they witnessed the large amounts of food left in the serving dishes at our tables after each meal) and wanted to give us a break. Sunday dinner is Peking Duck, so they wanted us to be ready to enjoy that meal.

Tomorrow morning we will attend the foreigners-only (passports must be shown) International Church Palm Sunday service where we will worship in Chinese and English with Christians from around the globe. We are greatly looking forward to this experience. Our risen Lord transcends all languages and all barriers. What a blessing we are anticipating!

After the Peking Duck we will load the bus for one last tour, the Pearl Factory. We hope to purchase a bracelet or pendant for Noelle that we can give her, along with the jade, when she is older and can understand and appreciate the cultural significance. In Guangzhou we hope to purchase other items we can give her every year at Gotcha Day to help connect her with her heritage and the country she has lost.

But out of all these amazing things we have done the past few days, what we are looking forward to most is the flight tomorrow evening (early Sunday morning for you) to Hefei City in the Anhui Province – Noelle’s city! We are told we may have Gotcha at 8:30am Monday morning (our time)!!! When you are getting ready for bed Sunday evening, we will be holding our precious daughter in our arms! Praise Jesus!!!

As we know that you are keeping us in your prayers, we would ask specifically that you pray for 2 things: that the Nannies prepare Noelle for our meeting (showing her our pictures and telling her about us) and that Noelle, in spite of her confusion and grief, feels peace in her spirit that she is safe and is just where she is supposed to be.

Well, it's late and we still have to figure out how to post this to the blog tonight. We are unable to get an internet connection in our room, and using the computers in the hotel business center has been confusing and difficult. I'm not sure when we will be able to post again, as our flight to Hefei arrives late and we have to prepare our hotel room for a toddler (wow!). We will write when we can and try to post pictures (I know that's what you all really want anyway!). Please know that we love and miss you all.

Signing off—


Friday, March 14, 2008

We're Alive!

Hey everyone. This is just a quick note to let you know that we've arrived safe and sound. Unfortunately, we can't get our computer to connect in the room and have to use the business center. I'll try to get the connection issues sorted out so Jennifer can bring you up to date. Until then, you'll have to deal with my more to the point comments!

The flight to Beijing went well. Jennifer got to sit next to another family that's adopting from Hefei. Jen and Trish really seemed to hit it off -at least it sounded like non-stop talking from where I sat. Trish and her husband (I'm afraid I didn't catch his name) are with another adoption association, so we haven't seen them since the airport. Hopefully we'll run into one another in Hefei. I got to sit next to a mother and 2 year-old named Kevin who were traveling back to China for an extended visit and another young woman who was taking her 2-month-old nephew to meet his grandparents. In short, I got to practice being a dad, playing with the toddler and holding the baby. It was quite fun.

We got to the hotel about 7:00 p.m., ordered Pizza Hut! and crashed. Jennifer woke up around 2:00 A.M. and had me join her around 3:00! That was fine until she fell back to sleep and I was left with a mind that refused to shut off. I don't think sleeping is going to be a problem for either of us tonight.

The tour today was quite amazing. We walked past Tienem Square (forgive me if the spelling's off). It was close to tourism because the Chinese equivalent of congress was meeting this week. We spent about three hours walking through the Forbidden City and have some great video and pictures that we'll share when we can. I'm a little awed at the age of things, realizing that the newest parts of the palace are older than our country. From there we drove to an older district of Beijing. It's an historial protectorate made up of multi-family dwellings set around a central courtyard. We had lunch in one of these homes and learned that the family had owned the "house" for four generations (somewhere around 150 years). We travelled most of the afternoon by bicycle rickshan and went places that a bus could never go. One of those places was a pre-school/kindergarten. Again, we have some neat video and pictures to show of the precious children as well as the older parts of the city. At 5:00 we caught a performance of the Chinese acrobats and were amazed at their flexibility and high-flying stunts. We wrapped things up with dinner at a Chinese restaurant and are turning in as soon as I finish this post.

The last few days have been amazing. Jennifer and I can't wait to get Noelle, but it's also been fun to be with other parents who are going through the same thing and getting to learn more of this wonderful country. I think that's about all I can squeeze out of this tired brain so I'll say goodnight for now.

God Bless,

Anyone, anyone? might expect that since they left me with authorship powers (insert evil laugh here), I'd know what was going on with the Johnsons.

However, I haven't heard SQUAT from them. Has anyone else?

Please continue to remember them in your prayers. I'll post here once I hear from those silly people!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Posters Unite! That means YOU!!!

Oh yeah. I also wanted to say to those of you out there in cyberland who read this blog but never post (I won't mention any names (uh...Mom and Dad...)), we would LOVE to hear your thoughts on our journey while we're in China. We probably won't be able to respond, but we will read them when we do our nightly ("hopefully") blog post from China. It will be a big encouragement to know our friends and family are out there, following along and praying. This is also a great way to "meet" and chat with each other. It's super easy. You don't have to be "registered" with or anything. Just click on the comments tab at the bottom of one of our posts, and type away. Thanks!

Later gaters~

Prayer Requests

We are blessed to have so many faithful prayer warriors out there. And knowing that it sometimes helps to have some specific requests, here are the Johnson Family's :

In no particular order, just as they come to my brain-

1. That nothing important will be forgotten at home - to do, or to bring

2. Health & Safety while flying and in China (Eric's been fighting a cold & I've been fighting flu-like symptoms)

3. Smooth adoption process (there is major red tape and tons of paperwork to be dealt with)

4. Easy transition for Noelle into her new family

5. Quick bonding with both Eric and I (sometimes the babies bond slower with the daddies)

6. Wisdom for parenting a toddler and her unique needs

7. Health for Noelle / wisdom to handle any ailments she may have (this part is a bit scary - you know, first-time parents and all)

9. Building lasting friendships with the other families

10. Health, safety, bonding, transitions for the other families and their new children

11. Grandma(s) and Grandpa(s) ('nuf said!)

12. Health and safety for our 3 kitties back home, who have never been left this long without their human mom and dad (thanks Houstons for lookin' out for them!)

13. That Eric and I will be a shining light for Christ wherever we go (...but not get arrested) ;-)


(I'll add more if I think of them before we go.)

Thank you so much! We love you all!!!

The Final Count Down...!!!

1 day...WowWeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Whew! I think we're actually going to be ready in time. To be honest, I was wondering. And we might even fit 95% of our items in our luggage (still trying to decide what I can do without)! ;-)

We will head to the Kansas City airport at 5am tomorrow morning, fly to Chicago, then on to Beijing. It is SO weird to be saying that. After the many months of hoping, and waiting, and dreaming, this day is finally before us - FOR REAL!! I feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience. I'm not me. I'm one of those other AWAA people I've been chatting with online.

Then it hits me. It IS me, silly! We really are adopting a little girl half a world away. I never would have thought we would be doing this. But God knew. He knew all along. Doesn't He just have the coolest things planned for our lives if we just make ourselves available to Him? Amazing! Thank you, Heavenly Father, for blessing our lives with this incredible, life-changing experience. And most of all, thank you for Noelle JiaZhen Johnson!!!

uh oh. the tears are starting again. i've just been a happy cry baby all day. better run.

This family of 3 will see you all in 2 weeks!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

two days...

2 days and counting...

Our Travel Group 132 conference call starts in 20 minutes. Well get the complete low down on our trip and have the opportunity to ask questions. We will also get to "meet" the folks we've been visiting with online. That will be fun!

Boy, this is really happening!!! :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

three days...and a prayer

3 days and counting...

Today is a much better day. Actually, things started to improve by yesterday afternoon. We got out of the house (beautiful sunny day), helped my aunt and uncle move into their new house in Kansas City, and ran more pre-Noelle errands. Eric and I had some really great talks in the car (as is often the case) about the Lord and our future. Is was so nice to just be together. Then we ended the night with a visit to a bookstore and read for a while in the cafe (one of our all time fave things to do). It suddenly hit us that that was the last time we will do this as a foot-loose and fancy-free no-kids couple. Weird. But good.

Something else that made today such a good day was the Sunday morning service. One of the leaders in our church and his wife asked Eric and I come down front at the end of service. The entire congregation then surrounded us and laid hands on us to pray for Noelle and our trip. They made us feel so loved and cared for. As a pastor, Eric is often caught up with meeting the needs of his flock, but having our church family reach out to us in this way just warmed our hearts and moved us deeply. We are blessed beyond measure!

BTW, thank you so much for everyone who has posted or emailed me to offer their prayers and encouragement. You guys are just terrific, you know?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

four days...and a funk

4 days and counting...

I'm feeling weird today, or 'in a funk', as my husband would say. I'm all weepy and emotional and scared and overwhelmed and just wanting to just go back to bed and forget all the tasks that still need to be completed before Wednesday. In some ways, I just wish the whole China trip was over with, and we were all back home settling into life as a family of three.

Any of you other pre- or post- adoptive parents feel this way just before The Big Adventure? THIS adoption is really happening. Maybe I'm a little bit in shock. After the years of praying for and desiring a family, and the many, many months of waiting, IT is happening. Parenthood, and all the responsibility it entails, is upon us.

Jesus, just hold me close. And hold me together.

(gonna go read me some Psalms - that always sets my heart and mind aright!)

Friday, March 7, 2008

This is only a test

Not of the Emergency Broadcast System, but of another blog posting method I was told about today. Want to make sure everything is set before we leave.

(YAY! It worked!!)

Trip Itinerary

Kristen from AWAA sent us our itinerary today (pretty cool, huh?!). If you'd like to know where we will be each day, just follow this schedule. Just remember, China is now 13 hours ahead of Central Standard Time (due to this weekend's Spring Forward).

-Wednesday, March 12th
Depart from KCI to Chicago, then on to Beijing

-Thursday, March 13th
Arrive in Beijing

-Friday, March 14th
Beijing Tour: Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City and Hutong tour

-Saturday, March 15th
Beijing Tour: The Summer Palace and Great Wall

-Sunday, March 16th
Palm Sunday church service
Late afternoon flight to Hefei (we're finally getting to Noelle's city!)

-Monday, March 17th GOTCHA DAY!
Meet Noelle JiaZhen Johnson (this is what we've been waiting for!!!)

-Tuesday, March 18th
Civil Affairs Appointment (official adoption ceremony)

-March 19th –March 20th
Paperwork, Sight-seeing, & Shopping

-Friday, March 21st
Flight to Guangzhou (home of the US Consulate)

-Saturday, March 22nd
Noelle's Medical Exam and Paperwork Party

-Sunday, March 23rd
Easter Sunday church service and Shopping

-Monday, March 24th
Consulate Appointment

-Tuesday, March 25th
Pick up Noelle's Visa

-Wednesday, March 26th
Depart from Guangzhou, to Beijing, then on to the USA!
Arrive home via United Airlines at 9:38pm - yipee!!!

Blogging from China

As many of you know, Eric and I wish to share our journey in China with all of our family and friends via this blog. I have been told by many people, however, that blogging from China is sometimes very difficult. It seems that many folks are unable to access the website. If that happens, some dear friends of ours, Danny and Lisa W. (who adopted their little girl from China last summer) will be posting our pictures and information to the blog via emails from us. (Thank you guys! You know how much we love you, right?!)

In regards to photos specifically, I was told by another adoptive parent today that any pictures we attempt to post from China may be blocked by the government. In this case, or if we just have an incredible volume of adorable Noelle photos we wish to share (duh!), we will attempt to post our pictures on To make it easy for y'all, we will just put a link on the daily post that you can click on, which will take you directly to the photos (are you paying attention, Mom?). So to test this theory (remember...I'm self-taught at this whole blogging thing), please click the link below to see if you are taken to the Johnsons2China4Noelle Flickr photo page.

NOTE: If the author if this blog is unable to post pictures and information to said blog whilst residing in China, D & L have my permission to just make up a fabulous story for Noelle's fans to follow while we're away. :)

five days...

5 days and counting...

More organizing, more cleaning, more (re)packing, more running, more, more, more--

Thursday, March 6, 2008

six days...and a perm

6 days and counting...

Guess what I did this morning? Got a perm!!

Believe it or not, Eric talked me into it. For two reasons:

1) He knows how frustrated I've been for months with my hair. I've been just sick of it. It's been flat, icky and lifeless - time for a change!

2) He wants to get me out of the bathroom quicker in the mornings. ;-)

I don't blame the guy, though. I hate all the fussy things I feel I need to do to be presentable each day. (I'm starting to loathe hot curlers. Can I get a witness!?!) I wish I had the thick lustrous locks of a model, yet the Lord did not see fit to bless me thus. So, women like myself make do with what 'man' has created - the "Permanent Wave". (God bless the inventor, whoever he was!)

Besides all that, I'm having to come to grips with the fact that chasing an 18 month old around the house will leave little time for primping. Someday soon, after a long day of mommy-ing, I'll slump into a chair, flick dry crusted food off my pants, and sigh, "I was pretty once..."


~A big thanks to Amy C. at JP's Total Image - you are the sweetest ever and the cut and perm is fabulous!!~

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

seven days...

7 days and counting...

I'm off to run more errands today. I've got about 5 or 6 stops and am heading into "The City" for all of these errands (that's what we folks who live outside Kansas City call it; and actually I'll be mostly in Independence, MO but we just chunk all the larger outlying cities into the phrase "The City").

You really wanted to know all that, didn't you? :)

BTW, let me just say-- This packing thing is a super challenge. I really think we need to take a third suitcase. However, my dear, sweet, precious hubby informed me this morning, "No more suitcases!!" My eyebrows went up on that, so we very congenially decided to call United to see what they think... More on this later. ;-)

Later gaters--

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

eight days...

8 days and counting...

So sorry, too busy to write. I'm on a roll with packing and organizing and such. 'Will get back to bloggin soon when I feel like I'm at a good resting point...

Hugs to everyone!

Monday, March 3, 2008

nine days...

9 days and counting...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

ten days...

10 days and counting...

Noelle Turns 18 months!

Happy Half Birthday, Noelle!!!

Mommy and Daddy wish we could be there with you today to celebrate what a big girl you are becoming. We will be there very soon. We look forward to all the birthday celebrations ahead of us, when we will all be together.

We love you very much!

Hugs and kisses,

Your mom and dad

P.S. Don't forget - Jesus loves you, and He is always right there with you!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Benefit Concert Video

Here's the link to a YouTube video of the concert finale as posted by my student Natalie's mom Angie. Enjoy!

(I haven't actually seen it yet. Darn that dial-up! :( Let me know what you think!)

Future Topics

I must tear myself away from the computer now. I have open cabinet doors in the kitchen calling me back to my project from earlier this morning: My "move-the-sharp-objects-and-poisonous-liquids-to-a-higher-shelf and clean-this-mess-up-while-you're-at-it" project. My friend Dawn also dropped off some boxes today for other organizational tasks awaiting my attention.


When I do return to Cyber Land, I hope to write on the following topics:

-Noelle's Benefit Concert: The Compete Story (with pictures)**

-Lessons I've learned through this adoption journey

-God, Our Provider; God's Many Blessings

-Noelle's Awwww Sooooo Cute Little Girl Clothes (thank you friends!)

-Last Things (i.e. "The last time I will eat a bowl of ice cream without sharing." This topic is actually not my own, but my friend Lisa W. had a post on her blog like this, pre-Reagan. Very cute!)


Disclaimer: The author of this blog has entered a deep wormhole of packing, shopping, baby proofing, organizing, cleaning, studying (toddler adoption issues, Chinese phrases, baby sign language, "What to Expect When You're Expecting: The Toddler Years", etc.), and much more. If she manages to briefly escape said wormhole, the posts found here may be thin, sparse, and poorly written. Blog topics mentioned above may or may not not be completely or accurately addressed until returning from a distant land with a living, breathing, giggling, pull the kittys' tails, running around the house, toddler in tow. And even then, especially then, the above discaimer ("...thin, sparse, poorly written...") shall still apply.

Just so you know.


Oh, the Stuff!

11 days and counting...

Yesterday Eric and I blazed through Kansas City running some errands and purchasing more baby items and things for the trip. Our first stop was 'The Compete Traveler' (awesome shop!) to purchase money belts, passport wallets, travel system packing envelopes (they squish LOTS of clothes in a tight space -cool!), No-Jet-Lag homeopathic tablets, and other odds and ends.

Neither one of us has ever traveled internationally (well, unless you count the fact that Eric was actually born in Icelend), so even aside from the whole first-time-parent thing, this China trip is quite the adventure for us. I also think the luggage size and weight limitations are bringing out the MacGyver in Eric. He's the packing KING! He's having way too much fun with his tape measure and angles and equations and stuff. (Don't forget the duct tape!)

Look out, China! Here come some more of those crazy photo-snapping touristy-type Americans heading your way!

(Nah, we'll be good...)

[Next international trip - Ireland! Right, honey?]

We also went to 'Gordman's' for their sales and a new suitcase. We purchased a nice, big expandable one with losts of extra compartments. It even swivels 360 degrees on its nifty wheels. I probably had a bit too much fun "trying it out" in the store... I also purchased a couple pairs of lightweight walking shoes so I can take on The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, downtown Hefei, etc. with the best of them. Eric will be trekking through China in his tough ol' Man-Boots, and he wanted me to surrender my cute (but cheap and uncomfortable) girly shoes for something practical. He's figuring on carrying Noelle on his back, but doesn't seem to want to carry me on his back as well. Dude! What gives??

Our last errand of the day took us to BabiesRUs for a couple last baby-proofing items and a seat protector for the car. We ended the evening by relaxing with friends at Barnes&Noble. Whew!! Next week we should be able to finish up our list with OTC's, snacks for the plane and hotel room, and other last minute items from Walmart and Target.

Then-- then-- then-- Oh my goodness! We'll be flying to CHHHIIIIINNNNNNNAAAAAAA!!!!