September 12, 2010

Jet Lag, Homecoming, and Thailand Retrospective

I tried to post a video the night before we left Thailand to come home, but it was larger than my other videos (over 6 minutes of footage) and the Internet speed kept causing the posting process to error out. Rather than posting an "old" video, I have created a new one that includes footage of our homecoming and of Anderson meeting family and friends.  I wanted to create a retrospective look at our entire trip from start to finish, so the new video contains some familiar scenes if you have watched the others I posted while we were in Thailand.

We have been home 10 days now, and it has taken us this long to recover from jet lag (we are about 90% recovered). We are all very grateful for our church family, our friends, and our families who have done so much to make our homecoming special. Our Life Group (aka Sunday School class or Sunday morning small group) has blessed our family in many ways and we love you all. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Thanks to all of our adoption fellowship friends, too! We thank God for His love and grace displayed in each of your actions.  To our families, we are so thankful for your love and prayers, and for the time you have taken to spend with us in these first precious weeks with our newest family member. Anderson has loved meeting his grandparents, cousins, aunts, and other extended family. And we look forward to seeing those of you who he has not met as of yet!

As we have welcomed Anderson, we remember his Gran who was so excited to meet him and just knew we would have him walking as soon as we got him home. Even when Gran was sick, she corrected Papa when he said they had 4 grandchildren between them.  She told him "No, we have 5...one is just not here yet."  Even though Gran won't meet Anderson here, we are confident that they will meet in Heaven one day. We are so thankful that she put his picture on the refrigerator and talked about him and was excited to meet him even before we were close to bringing him home.

I also think of my mom, who died before any of my children were born.  I know with every piece of my heart that if she were still here she would be more than proud of each of her grandchildren and pour herself into loving them and having fun with them.  She taught me so much about being a mother just by her example, and the childlike joy and wonder she displayed even as a "grown-up" are still a part of who I am as a mom to my kids.  Her love lives on in our family, and I am truly grateful that I had her as my mom for 20 years.

Anderson is adjusting amazingly well, and we all enjoy every moment we get to spend together as a family watching him grow and learn.  Alex and Aerin have settled into their new roles as "big sister" and "big, big brother" and Anderson loves to laugh and play with the big kids.  Please pray for Anderson's first major medical evaluation here in the U.S. which is scheduled for September 22nd.  We are very eager to hear what the doctors and therapists at the International Adoption Clinic have to say about his chances of learning to walk and the frequency and types of therapy he will need. 

I created this blog originally to keep our friends and family  updated on our adoption news and to share our journey with those who wanted to be a part of it. Thank you all for reading and praying and encouraging us throughout this process! God is faithful and good, and we pray that He will use our story and Anderson's story to bring glory to Himself.  This part of our journey (bringing Anderson home) is now complete, but our journey to be obedient to God's call upon our lives has just begun. I will leave this blog intact for a time as an archive of our journey to Anderson, but this post will be my last at this blog address. For those of you who are interested in continuing to read about our family, tune into http://tatertotslovinglearning.blogspot.com/
to read about everything from general family news to Anderson's progress to home school updates to our passionate desire to glorify God, share the Gospel, care for orphans, "defend the cause of the fatherless", and support adoption and adoptive families.

My heart is so full of gratitude and joy that I have to pinch myself sometimes, especially when I see my three smiling children playing together. I know very well that life is a strange mixture of peace and pain, sorrow and joy, difficulties and blessings.  I can say with all certainty that God is faithful when we doubt, gracious when we fail, and loving when we aren't at all lovable. May I say one last time THANK YOU to every family, every person, every group, who prayed, gave, loved, spent time, worked, contributed, encouraged, and admonished us during this journey.  We have seen God's grace displayed in each of you and are more than grateful for the way you have touched our lives and the life of our precious new son. It is our prayer that you will continue to care for orphans and support adoptive families as God has commanded us to in His word.  We love you and thank God upon every remembrance of you.  Hope you enjoy this last video.  All that I can say is "Hallelujah!"
video

August 29, 2010

Experiencing Bangkok and counting down

Before I fill you all in on our adventurous day today, I want to first say thank you for your prayers for Anderson's fever/health. He feels much better today and it is the first day since his shots that he has not run any fever!

Because we had spent most of our time in the room over the last couple of days due to Anderson's fever, we set out to experience some of the sites of Bangkok today. The first part of our "trip" was to the Grand Palace and the Buddhist Wat (a wat is a temple) that is on the grounds of the palace. We shared this time with one of the other Holt families who traveled here to adopt their little girl.

We left the hotel in a shuttle and were taken to a sky train (much like the MARTA in Atlanta) station. From there, we took the sky train to one of the river piers in Bangkok.  Then, we rode down the Chao Phrya River on an express boat. After leaving the boat, we walked for several blocks to the Grand Palace. The sights, smells, and sounds of that walk are difficult to describe.  Imagine the most densely crowded, narrow street you have ever walked on.  Then, add in a street packed with buses, cars, taxis, motorcycles, tuk-tuks (open air taxis in Bangkok) and large trucks.  Traffic whizzes by, horns honk, peoples voices carry, and engines roar.  The narrow walkway is lined on both sides with vendors selling just about everything--from old Thai currency and coins, to toothbrushes and flip-flops; from magazines and religious statues to Thai silk scarves and purses; from used tennis shoes to dentures (yes, I said dentures). All of those things and more are being sold from the street.  And the food! Everywhere we have been in Thailand, both in the South and in Bangkok, there are huge quantities of all kinds of Thai foods and fresh fruits and vegetables prepared, sold, and eaten on the street. Today alone, I saw fried bananas, dumplings, sliced pineapple, whole rambutans (really good fruit you can only get fresh in Thailand), rice, fish, noodles, curry, vegetables in sauce, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, all being sold on the street. The smells from the food mixed with exhaust fumes from the traffic and the sizzling, popping noises of cooking mixed with the voices of the Thai people are just part of what we experienced on the streets of Bangkok. 

At the Grand Palace, everyone must be dressed appropriately according to Thai traditional standards.  All men and boys are expected to wear long pants (no shorts) and women are expected to wear skirts at least mid-calf length.  Girls can wear long pants, and young children (like Anderson) are allowed to wear shorts. Also, no tank tops or sleeveless shirts are allowed. So, if anyone wishing to enter the palace and temple are not dressed properly, they can rent clothing to cover what they are wearing. Thankfully, we all knew about the dress code beforehand, so we were all dressed appropriately.  The beauty and craftsmanship of the Wat and all of the buildings in the Grand Palace Complex was truly breathtaking. You can see in the pictures below the detailed mosaic that covers the entire area where the Emerald Buddha is housed.  I enjoyed seeing the beautiful architecture, but felt in my heart sorrowful for the many very devout Buddhist people who I saw praying to the ornate statue and leaving offerings outside the temple for the various "gods" represented by statues.  I stopped with the big kids and we said a silent prayer for the Thai people. Their culture and heritage is beautiful and honorable in so many ways.  But I am saddened when I think that many of them have never heard of or been given the opportunity to know their Creator, the living God, who is Lord of all. They have so much faith, yet it is in a man who died hundreds of years ago. They pray to a cold, lifeless statue.  Like all of us, they seek truth and hope and peace--it is my prayer that the Gospel is preached to everyone in Thailand that they might know the truth and the truth will set them free from religious ritual and dependence upon "gods" made by human hands. Sorry to diverge from my narration of our day, but those thoughts and feelings were very much a part of my experience in seeing a Wat for the first time. 

After leaving the Grand Palace, we were hot and tired. So, we went across the street to an air conditioned (yes, I mention that because many places here are not) cafe to eat.  We took the boat back to the original station from where we came, and our friends decided to go back to their hotel. We wanted to do a little more sight - seeing, so we decided to walk to what we saw on our map as a "nearby" shopping center.  After walking about 25 blocks, we realized we needed to ask for directions. Jeff approached a man outside of a store and he told us that the shopping center we were trying to go to was closed, because it was Sunday. But he recommended another shopping place and told us he would talk to a Tuk-Tuk driver to take us there. I had declared that I would not ride a tuk-tuk through Bangkok, but Alex and Aerin really wanted to, so we climbed aboard.  The tuk-tuk experience is unlike anything you can ride in the United States.  It is basically an open air taxi (similar to a golf cart, but more powerful) that is small enough to weave in and out of traffic, change lanes, and make U-turns in the middle of crowded streets with ongoing traffic.  To say that I was extremely happy we made it to our destination safely is an understatement.  But Alex smiled the biggest smile I have seen him smile on this trip, and Anderson and Aerin laughed the whole time. So, I guess I am the biggest chicken of the family when it comes to playing in traffic. 

We finished our day walking another 3 or 4 blocks (after the tuk-tuk ride) and experiencing an 8-story shopping mall that is probably 10 times the size of the Galleria in Birmingham. Jeff made the comment that you could enter that mall and complete 100% of your Christmas and birthday shopping for a year for everyone you know without needing to go to a different place. It was unreal how many stores there were and how much of everything was sold there. From the mall, we took a taxi back to the hotel, so that in one day we had used 5 of the 8 major forms of transportation available in Bangkok (not counting owning your own vehicle).  We didn't ride the bus, take the subway, or ride on a motorcycle taxi (which we will never do), but we really feel we experienced Bangkok today. Sorry for the long post, but I thought some of you might be interested in the travel part of our trip.  I will close with some of the pictures we took today.  There are many more, but it is difficult to post too many with the Internet speed here. 

We appreciate all of you and are counting down the days to coming home!

These are tuk-tuks

view from the Riverboat Express

Royal Thai Navy headquarters as seen from the riverboat


Entrance gate to the Grand Palace complex


Grand Palace outlying building

One section of mural painting outside of Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew (home of Emerald Buddha)

Alex on outside walkway of Wat Phra Kaew

Our family standing in Wat Phra Kaew, just outside of area where Emerald Buddha is housed

The Grand Palace (former home of Thai royals)

Grand Palace guard (flanked by two elephant statues-elephants are the symbol of Thailand)

Grace, Peace, and Love from the survivors of a tuk-tuk ride,
Casey    

August 26, 2010

A few pics and an update on Anderson

Well, five shots were too many for our sweet boy. He has been running a fever over 101 (even with Motrin) since last night. He did not sleep well and seemed to ache all over.  He would flinch just when we hugged him or touched his arms or legs. He did eat breakfast this morning, but then proceeded to get rid of it all via vomiting. So, Jeff took the big kids out for the day and I stayed at the hotel with the little guy to try to help him rest. He kept down some food at lunch and took a bottle, and that allowed him to sleep for a couple of hours.  About an hour ago, he woke up with a greatly reduced fever and he seems to be feeling better. Please pray for his breathing, as the shots have aggravated his congestion and we now have to give him liquid albuterol three times a day.  I know he is going to be fine, but he has had a rough day.  So, we greatly appreciate your prayers for his health. 

I am posting a few pictures of the big kids on their outing today and a few random ones I haven't posted yet. I also ask that when you pray for our family, you pray for a sweet little boy named Sterling Davis, who had surgery for his benign brain tumor on August 24th and 25th, and for his family. You can learn more about his story by clicking here.  I went to college with Sterling's mom and uncle, and we are praying fervently for Sterling and for his vision to be spared. 

Thanks again for all of your prayers and encouragement!






August 25, 2010

We are official!

Sawadee ka! ("hello" in Thai)

We attended our DSDW (that is basically the Thai department of social welfare) hearing today in front of a panel made up of Thai public officials. We had to answer some questions from the panel about why we chose Thailand, what our plans are for helping Anderson with his special needs, and some other questions about our family and our daily lives. The panel member who asked the most questions was a pediatrician, so she was very interested in our plans for physical therapy and how we will help Anderson progress and develop despite his delays. She liked our Southern accents, too! She even asked Alex and Aerin some questions about our family and their new brother.  Afterwards, we received the final piece of paper signed by ourselves and the DSDW officials saying that we are approved to bring Anderson home as long as we comply with the requirement to complete his adoption by Thai and American law after he comes to the United States and we complete the post-placement process in accordance with Thai regulations. We are so excited! In Thailand's eyes, we are officially Anderson's guardians. We only have one more appointment to attend, and that is for the U.S. Embassy to finalize his visa application. After that, we will wait for them to process his visa and we will be able to come home next week.

Because of new I800 (that's the U.S. immigrant visa form for adoptees) regulations, Anderson had to have certain vaccinations before he enters the U.S.  He was more behind on his vaccines than the children of the other two Holt families, because he lived in the South and they lived in Bangkok. So, he and I went to the hospital today with Holt staff to get his shots. My sweet boy had to get 5 shots in one day--one in each arm, two in his left leg, and one in his right leg.  It was really difficult for him (as you can imagine), but I am so relieved it is over.  It broke my heart that after the third shot he was yelling in Thai, "don't do it" over and over while we held him on the table.  He was very tired this evening after such an eventful day, but he was still cheerful and sweet despite getting all of those shots and running a low-grade fever. 

I still have to ask the other two Holt families who we have shared some of our journey with if it is okay to post more details about their families, but it has been really great to get to know them and meet their new children. All three of our families have two biological children (all each have a boy and a girl) who are two years apart in age, and we are all adopting our 3rd child.  One of the families also brought their children with them, and our kids have really enjoyed spending time together and becoming friends.  We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people on this trip and to share this time with these families. 

Tomorrow is a free day with no "official" adoption business, so we have plans to take the kids the the Children's Discovery Museum here in Bangkok.

Thanks for all of your prayers. We are excited to introduce you all to Anderson (Garfield) very soon. 

Grace, Peace, and Love from the very happy but somewhat homesick Tatums!!