Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter of Approval

This is it!! This is the actual letter we were waiting for.  It is our "Letter of Approval" or LOA.  We actually received it 2-3 months earlier than we were expecting.  This letter states that Chris and Stephanie Morris can adopt An Ning Yuan (Abram).  Now we have officially moved into the travel department of our adoption agency.  They have estimated that from the time we receive our LOA we can expect to travel to China in 10-14 weeks.  WOW!! Chris and I were just talking yesterday that when we started the process we would say "years," then we would say we'll travel in about 6 "months," now it is down to "weeks." I can't wait for the time when we get to say "days."  It has been a long process, but incredible none the less.  
So, what are we doing now?  We are doing a ton of paperwork and still sending in packets (we have sent two packets of papers off just this week), we are painting, decorating, and organizing Abram's nursery (so fun), and researching the best cleft palate teams so we can have Abram's first appointments lined up before we travel.  
We wanted to share our great news with you and say "Thank You" for your prayers and continued excitement along our journey!  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Registry

Okay, I finally finished it!  After weeks of research and talking to moms of toddlers and adoptive moms I finally completed our baby registry for Abram. I tried to choose things that we will use while we are in China and items that will help him with his cleft palate.  Since many of you have been asking me about it, I decided to post it on our blog.  :) Stephanie Morris and Christopher Morris: Baby Registry

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An Update on Abram

I have been waiting to make this blog transition ever since we knew we were adopting.  Even before we knew we were adopting we titled our blog, "Seeing the Blessings"-- and that is absolutely what Abram is to us already!  We chose his name because Abram is whom God gave the blessing in Genesis 12:2.  It was fun to update you on our latest adventures in Japan, but this is certainly our biggest adventure!  Life is great in Monterey, but not very blog worthy.  So, this site will now be all about our blessing: Abe (and, of course, the occasional fun trip)!

I wanted to start this blog post off with a huge THANK YOU!  When we posted our big news on Facebook about being matched with Abram your kind words and comments meant so much to us.  Thank you for your excitement, joy, tears, and celebrations.  I know this has seemed like a long process to y'all (believe me it has for us, too).  Getting matched with Abe was certainly exciting, but there is still a lot to be done and still many unknowns.  Nevertheless, we wanted to share with you what exactly is going on.  I have divided this post into four parts: what we know, what we don't know, what we are doing now, and how you can pray for us. Let's jump right in!

1.  What we know:
Abram was born on October 18, 2011.  His given Chinese name is An Ning Yuan.  He was born with a cleft lip and palate.  His records state that he was sent to a foster home and that he loves to smile and listen to music. We also know that he is "quite quiet" and a good sleeper. Here's the pictures we were sent of sweet Abram.

We don't have any record of it, but we can tell by one of his pictures that he has already had one surgery to repair his lip.  We don't know yet if his palate has been repaired.
After his lip surgery

2.  What we don't know:
We don't know when we will travel to bring him home.  Our agency told us (in early February) that we could expect to travel in 7 months, but it could be shorter.  So maybe August or September?  We are still waiting for our home study update and our Letter of Agreement (LOA) from China stating that we can adopt An Ning Yuan. After we receive our letter then we will probably travel within 10-14 weeks. But as soon as we know our travel dates, I promise you will know too!!

3.  What we are doing now:
We are still super busy getting ready for Abe. At the beginning, when we said "yes" to Abe, I was overwhelmed with how to care for a child with a cleft lip and palate (CL/CP).  There is a ton of information on line, but it was making me worried.  I emailed Kim (the family we met in Hong Kong two years ago and who introduced us to our adoption agency) and she recommended that I join a yahoo chat group specifically for parents of CL/CP children.  It has been amazing and from the chat group I have found three amazing blog sights written by Christian women who have adopted CL/CP children from China.  Such a huge answer to prayers!  I have learned so much but mainly I have learned that even though there are a lot of unknowns in our future, God's grace is sufficient for every thing!  He has continued to bless and amaze us so far on this journey and I know He's not going to let us go once we bring Abram home.
We are learning simple Chinese phrases that will help us communicate with Abe and we are reading books on not just parenting, but caring for internationally adopted children.  
We are also shopping and getting our home ready for Abram.  It's so much fun to finally start decorating a nursery with our sweet little boy in mind.  Since many of you have asked, we are even working on a registry on Amazon. Many of you have sent us gifts for Abram already and you have no idea how much it touches our heart!  Every time we open one we just look at each other in amazement that these gifts are for OUR child. His room is actually starting to look like a nursery.  A few weeks ago, we were able to send Abram a care package. Chris and I had so much fun shopping for baby items for our son and it was an amazing experience.  We wanted to put everything in the cart but we could only send a shoe box-sized box.  

The contents of Abram's box
We are also still doing paperwork.  We recently finished our home study update visit and we are still sending in many forms to immigration so we can bring Abram home.

4.  How you can pray for us:
We have three specific ways that you can pray for us right now.
1.  We are praying that God takes care of Abram while he is in the orphanage and that he has a peace, calmness, and joy in his heart.  We pray that somehow he will know that his mom and dad will come to get him soon.  

2.  We are praying that Chris can come with me when it is time to go get Abram.  Because he will be in school, we are praying that his professors will allow him to leave for three weeks.  This is a HUGE request!

3.  Also, please pray that our paper work continues to get finalized and approved and that there aren't any delays when it is time to travel.

Words can't express our gratitude for your prayers, encouraging words, and excitement!  Thank you!  We'll continue to keep you updated as time gets closer to bringing our little boy home!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Second Half of our Winter Trip

Okay, so when we were done with our MeKong Delta river cruise, we traded boats and headed to Cambodia.  We had to make two quick stops though... one to stamp us out of Vietnam and then another stop to stamp us into Cambodia.
Here we are at the fancy entrance to Cambodia... we had to climb up this bridge and walk through the forest to get our passport stamped.  It was a little sketchy, but it got the job done!

Our ride from Vietnam to Cambodia.
When we got off the boat, we were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  It's a fun town, but we only stayed here one night because we were trying to get to Siem Reap.
This picture was taken from a rooftop restaurant... we have come to enjoy this places because they give us a great view of the city!
In the morning we boarded another "boat" to take us to Siem Reap.  Everyone called it a boat, I like to call it an extremely uncomfortable torpedo.  Now, y'all know I don't really enjoy boats, but this was by far the craziest one I've been on. They jammed as many people as they could onto this six hour boat ride.  About an hour into it, I realized the windows were too small to climb out off if the boat started sinking and there's no way everyone could get out the tiny doors and of course we didn't have life jackets on... so for the remaining five hours, I just prayed hard!  
Inside the torpedo...
There was another option for seating, and this is where Chris chose to sit the majority of the time simply to give me more room in our seats.  He's so great, he put up with the sun and heat so I could be a little more comfortable! His "seat" was riding on top of the torpedo and pray you don't fall in the water!
Chris' view while on the torpedo.
Only once again by God's grace (His hand was all over our trip) we arrived safely in Siem Reap.
Our ride into Siem Reap

This was the part of the trip Chris was looking forward to the most... He couldn't wait to see Angkor Wat (pronounced Anchor Watt).  This is the world's largest religious monument and it was built in the 12th-century.  Now, all the guide books recommend giving yourself 3 days to see everything, but we were only here for one day, so we saw it at warp-speed.  When we arrived in Siem Reap, we hired a guide and tuk-tuk (motorbike with a covered area to sit in) driver for the day.  When we got up in the morning, our guide and driver were waiting for us at the hotel at 5am.  They said he had to get there early to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat.  

After the sunrise, we were off to the highlights of Angkor Wat.  This monument isn't just one temple, it is many temples spread out over several acres of land.  You can't walk to each of the temples, you have to drive (that's why we had a tuk tuk driver).
Chris with our guide, driver, and tuk tuk.

Everyone rode around from temple to temple in tuk tuks.

Chris sneaking up on our napping driver.  He would take naps while he waited for us.

This is how my husband traveled in the tuk tuks because he didn't want to get a sunburn or have sand in his face.

Monkeys! A common sight on the side of the road while we were traveling.

Now, I know you think I have a problem with posting too many pictures, but because Angkor Wat is so grand, I had over 400 pictures to go through, so I think I did a great job editing. I'm only going to post the highlights from the most famous and well-known temples.  The first one is the one with the trees growing around and through the temples. This place was amazing! The tree roots look like long fingers crawling over the walls.

Then, my second favorite temple was the one with the hidden faces.  Don't you know this took some time to create and build?

Our guide seemed to have a great time taking us to the temples with the most steps.  He would point and say, "you go up, I wait here." Finally, towards the end I just said, "that's okay, I can take a picture from here."

It was fun to find all the unique designs and statues at each of the temples. Like this one, had a reclining buddha built into the back of a hindu temple. They built it into the back so the king wouldn't see it. And there were no simple or boring walls to be found in this place. Each wall had carvings and designs that were so detailed and intricate.

See the face on the far left? 

Chris and I had fun with our pictures. In this one, Chris made the guide nervous because you aren't supposed to climb on the statues. But I couldn't resist a fun picture! You can see the guide waving his arms telling Chris to get down. After he saw what we were doing and I showed him the picture, he couldn't stop laughing!

It was nearing the end of the day and our guide had one more place to take us. He wanted to take us to the best place to see the sunset over Angkor Wat.  I sat up on top of the temple, while Chris stayed down below to take pictures of the temple.  Something amazing happens at sunset to the temples, they change colors and it looks incredible! You can see from all the people that their guides knew where to see the sunset, too!
There I am in the middle of all the people... I'm the one waving!

What the temples look like at sunset.
Okay, now I'm not a big history buff or into old things, but in all the guide books Chris would show me I would notice the pictures of the monks.  I loved the pictures with the monks in their orange robes against the grey temples. So while Chris and the guide were talking about important stuff, I was on a hunt for monks. Every time I saw one I would take off running and snap their picture.  Here's the ones I found:

We had an amazing time at Angkor Wat! Even though we only did it in one day and we were extremely exhausted when we got back to our hotel, we feel like we saw what we wanted to and we had a wonderful time talking with our guide and driver.

Now, here's another exciting "adventure." The next morning we got a ticket for a five hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Bangkok. Well, it turned out to be a crammed van and our trip ended up taking us ten hours. No one thought to tell us about the exciting times at border crossing! After three hours of driving, our driver literally stopped at the border, took our bags out of the back and said, "you go do passport." What does that mean? What do we do after that?  Well, we followed the van load of people we were with (every one was really confused) and came upon our first "line."  It really wasn't a line, it was a huge group of people shoving to the front.  We pushed and shoved here for two hours.

This was to leave Cambodia.  Then we walked over a bridge (Chris and I are alone now because of course our group got separated during all the pushing, it was every man for himself) and found another "line." We pushed and shoved here for three hours! This line was to enter Thailand. 

Now, while we were in line we had no idea what we were going to do when we got into Thailand. We knew Bangkok was still two hours away but we didn't know how we were going to find our (or "a") ride.  We just kept pushing along and chose not to think about it. While we were shoving in line we saw a huge caged truck stuffed with prisoners (I know this because the the truck said "prisoners" on it). They were packed like sardines into that truck.  About twenty minutes later that same truck coming from the opposite direction passed again, this time it was empty.  Where did those prisoners go?  We chose not to think about that either!

After we got our passport stamped, we left the building and started walking.  We must have looked very confused because a man walked up and said, "Bangkok?" We said, "yes!" and he said, "get in."  We got into a covered truck and road in it for ten minutes to a "restaurant" (I use that term loosely, but we were starving so we had to eat) and the man told us to wait.  "Wait for what?" we were thinking.  Again, by God's amazing grace, after we ate a van pulled up and said "if you are going to Bangkok get in."  Now, you are probably thinking "don't get in that van!" but what were we supposed to do? Chris and I got in the front and he said "go to sleep" because he knew it would be a rough ride and that I was extremely worried.  Somehow, two hours later we arrived at the subway station in Bangkok and hopped on the subway that took us to our hotel.  All I could think about that night was, "how are we alive?"  It was just like a scene from a movie! My advice to travelers is this: always cross the border in an airport!

After one quick night in Bangkok, we flew to Singapore to spend New Years Eve.  We arrived New Years Eve morning and met some friends for breakfast then went to Singapore Gardens.

Our friends also told us about a Lego exhibit that the art museum was having, so of course my "lego loving" husband had to go! I have to admit, it was pretty incredible! Every exhibit was made entirely out of legos!

That night we watched the fireworks at  Marina Bay Sands.  The entire day was rainy and cloudy so the fireworks were extremely smoky (thats why there aren't any pictures) but the lights were amazing and I finally got to see the Merlion! It was being worked on while we were there last summer.

The water was filled with these "wishing balls" and every time the lights changed colors, the reflections would cause the balls to change colors, too. It was an amazing sight!

I'm almost done with telling you about our trip, but I don't want to forget the best part! While we were traveling in Southeast Asia we stopped to see a wonderful servant of God and his beautiful wife.  We had only heard of them through our church in Hawaii, but we wanted desperately to meet them, worship with them, and encourage them.  It was such a huge blessing for us and an unforgettable experience to hear them worship in their language. We were fortunate enough to be there for their Christmas program (in a coffee shop) and Christmas service and dinner.  

The women performing in the coffee shop during the Christmas program

And, the men's turn

Chris singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in English while they sang their version!

Delicious dinner!

Our new friends and fellow believers
 We had an AMAZING time on our third backpacking trip!  Thanks for enduring these super long blogs. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and stories!!