Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Florida Trip!

The marching band traveled to Florida in December to play at Disney World.  We decided to all go as a family.  Xander and I flew down early to spend some time with my parents and Patrick traveled with the band as a chaperon.   Xander and I had a great week in Florida.  Grandma and Grandpa Warwick took Xander and I to Bush Gardens for 2 days.  It was so much fun!  The park was not crowed at all and we never waited on line for anything.  In fact there were times when Xander was the only kid on the ride.  Xander also really enjoyed swimming in the pool and riding the golf cart while at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Riding on the train at Bush Gardens with Grandma

Xander is the Engineer of the train!

Xander gets a ride on Grandpa :)

Xander LOVED playing in the water at Bush Gardens

Xander playing with his new Jeep at Grandpa and Grandma's house.

Xander LOVED going over all the "bumps" in the pool with Grandpa.

Later in the week we went up to Disney World to meet up with Patrick, Ariel, the band, and Grandma and Grandpa McCoy.  Xander and I spent 2 days at the Magic Kingdom and Xander had a great time.  The 1st day there we spent some time with Grandma and Grandpa McCoy and Patrick and Ariel joined us the next day.  It was so much fun seeing the band march right before the Light Parade at night.  It was a great few days at the Magic Kingdom.

Baba and Xander swimming at our hotel

Xander is very excited to share this ice cream sunday with Mama at Downtown Disney.

Xander and Mama at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom

Xander & Baba ride the Merry Go Round

Xander & Baba in front of the Castle as we wait for the parade to begin.

The Light Parade is AWESOME!

But Xander falls asleep after the 1st few floats go by.

Here is the video of the band marching at the Magic Kingdom and then some of the parade that followed.  Enjoy!

Brown County Cabin

The weekend after Thanksgiving we headed out to the cabin in Brown County with Patrick’s family.  It was a great weekend full of relaxation and it was also when we found out we were having a baby girl!

On Saturday morning there are always some surprises in our stockings!

Kal-el checking out what is in his stocking.

Ariel watching everyone open their stockings.

Saturday night we find out we are having a girl!!!

Xander and Mama

Family Picture

Summer Vacation Part 3- Jacksonville, FL

For the final part of our trip we went up to Jacksonville, FL to visit with Rob, Michelle, Alex, and Andrew Tibbits.  We had a great visit with them and it was so nice to see the boys play together.  Xander thought their house was awesome because it was filled with trains, monorails, cars, and trucks… all the things he LOVES.

Xander, Alex, and Andrew playing with the trains.

Time to brush your teeth!

Our 1st full day with them we went to the beach; Ariel and Megan joined us.  It was a beautiful day and we all had fun in the sand.  Patrick, Ariel, and Megan built a mighty sandcastle before Xander came in and destroyed it.

Alex, Andrew, Xander playing in the sand.

Ariel and Megan start their sandcastle.

The final work of art.

Here comes Xander...

That night we all went out for seafood.  Ariel got her snow crab legs and she was happy :)  On the way home from dinner Xander helped Baba pump gas for the 1st time.

Crab legs, yum!

Andrew, Michelle, and Alex at dinner

Xander tries to feed Baba some crab leg but he doesn't like it.

Xander getting the pump.

Baba and Xander fill the car with gas.

The next day we went to downtown Jacksonville to visit the new Court House where Rob works.  After that we went down by the river to play and see if any trains might come by.  Then it was off for a ride on the monorail that goes through downtown Jacksonville; the boys all love riding the monorail.

The only way we could get a picture of all 3 boys by the river.

Xander and Alex

Michelle and Alex on the monorail.

Rob enjoying the ride.

That night on our way to dinner our rental car was involved in a hit and run :(  We were stopped at a red light and we were hit from behind.  We were all fine and the guy who hit us at 1st did get out and talk with us.  However, when he saw that Xander was crying and that Patrick was calling 911 he (very slowly) drove away.  He was kind enough to leave slow enough so we all could get a great look at his licence plate number.  So we all waited for the police and gave them as much info as we could.  There was hardly any damage to the car and when we turned it into the rental company they told us not to worry about… yay!

The minor damage to the car :(

The other side of the bumper.

The next morning we were up at 4:40 am to get to the airport and we flew home.  Check out our final picture of the trip…  Xander at the airport that last morning.

Disney Day 4- Animal Kingdom

This was our last day at Disney and we went to the Animal Kingdom.  We started our day with breakfast at the Tusker House Restaurant where you guessed it… there were Characters to see :)  After breakfast we headed right over to the safari ride and saw lots of animals.  Most of us loved seeing the animals; Xander was just impressed with the huge vehicle we were driving in.  It was REALLY hot today and it was miserable walking around the park.   Xander spent a lot of time enjoying the playground in the Dinosaur area of the park.  We ended up leaving at lunch time to go back to the hotel to rest.  But not before stopping by the Animal Kingdom Lodge where Grandma/pa Mccoy, Ariel, and Megan were staying.

That night we went and played mini golf.  It was lots of fun and Xander’s 1st time playing.  It took a few holes for him to get the hang of it but then he did pretty good.  There was one hole where Xander illegitimately got a 3!

Heading into the park

On our way into breakfast we met Donald Duck

Xander and Mickey!

Xander says hi to Daisy Duck

Xander gives Goofy a hug

Playing in a Jeep at the playground.


Xander is driving Baba (who is in his "car seat") around in the Jeep.

Coming down the slid with Baba :)

Mama & Xander looking through the window.

Megan getting ready for her shot in mini golf

Xander looking for his ball

Ariel is ready for her shot.

Xander watching Grandma take her shot.

Ariel & Megan having fun!

Disney Day 3- Epcot

Today was Epcot day.  We started our day at Story Time.  AAA arranges for it’s members to have a private story time for their children with a Disney Character.  We didn’t know which Character would be there until they came out and it was Jasmine from Aladdin.  I’m not sure what Xander really thought of all of this but I thought it was fun and Jasmine was one of the characters that Ariel was hoping for :)  After that we went on the Nemo ride and we all liked that.  The highlight of the day for Xander was taking the big boat across the lake.  He had wanted to go on a big boat for days now and he was so excited to ride the boat.  He liked it so much we road it both ways across the lake :)

For dinner we ate at Chip N Dale’s Backyard Grill.  We all loved it!  It was a revolving restaurant and dinner was served family style.  As we ate we saw the different landscapes from the “Land” boat ride at Epcot.  And of course there were several Characters who came by to see us.

That night we ended up staying for the fire works again.  It was a great show and Xander again loved seeing the fireworks.  It was a really long day and we were all exhausted by the end of it.  Unfortunately, this was also the day that I 1st starting feeling sick.  Very quickly it turned into a nasty sinus infection that would stay with me the rest of the trip.  I didn’t feel great but I didn’t let it stop me from having fun so it all worked out well.

Jasmine reads to all the kids.

Xander and I listen to the story.

We get to say hi :)

Megan, Jasmine, and Ariel

Nemo, Xander, and Mama

Baba, Xander, Mama and the boat :)

Riding the boat :)

Dale and Xander

Xander and Pluto

Chip, Xander, and Ariel

Chip and Xander

Xander and Micky

Ariel, Micky, and Megan

Disney Day 2- Magic Kingdom

The next day we went back to the Magic Kingdom again.  Xander again had a lot of fun going on rides.  He really wanted to ride a boat and it turned out that almost every ride we went on that morning was some form of a boat.  We had lunch at the Crystal Palace with more characters.  Unfortunately almost all of the characters came to our table while we were getting our food at the buffet :(  Although, Grandma Warwick did take Xander and track down a few of the characters we missed while they were walking around the dinning room.

We spent the afternoon napping and swimming and then headed back to the park that night.  We met up with the rest of the family and went on several rides together.  Then we got a great spot right near the castle for the fireworks.  We were kinda far away to see the parade but it was a great place to see the fireworks.  Xander had so much fun and LOVED the fireworks.  We all agreed that it was one of the best firework shows we’ve ever seen :)

Xander driving an old fire engine on Main St.

Pirate Goofy, Xander, and I outside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Winnie the Poo at the Crystal Palace

Ariel and Megan with Winnie the Poo

Xander riding the Carousel.

Getting ready for the Buzz Light Year ride :)

Xander and Megan waiting for the fireworks.

Almost time for the fireworks.

Wow, they are amazing!

Xander taking it all in.

Summer Vacation Part 2- Disney World Day 1

We all headed out next to Disney World.  Grandpa/ma McCoy, Ariel, and her friend Megan went a few days ahead of us because we thought a few of the parks would not be as good for Xander.  Patrick, Xander, Grandma/pa Warwick, and I headed up to Orlando on Saturday, July 7th.  We stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort.  Xander was so excited to stay in a hotel and couldn’t wait to get there.  He loved it!  Once we were checked in we took the bus to the Magic Kingdom.  I think that would have been enough fun for Xander… he loved the bus ride :)  As soon as we got into the Magic Kingdom we saw Pluto and Xander wanted to meet him.  He waited very patiently and was so excited to say hi to Pluto. (Before going to Disney, Xander didn’t know any of the characters but he soon learned them all and loved seeing them!)  We went on several rides and Xander had so much fun.  Right away he wanted to go on the train so we did that 1st.  Then we went on the Dumbo ride which he loved.  Patrick and Xander road the cars.  I think his favorite ride was the Rocket Ships in future world.  As the ride started they call you a pilot and Xander go so excited.  He took his job of driving the rocket very seriously :)

That night we ate dinner at Chef Micky’s at the Contemporary Hotel.  We had so much fun at dinner!   Xander LOVED meeting all the characters and the food was really good.  He got so excited when each new Character came up to our table and he would give them a hug and a high five.  After dinner we went back to the hotel and went swimming.  When we got to the pool they had a camp fire going so Xander got to roast his 1st marshmallow.   He did a pretty good job and liked eating it.  It was a great 1st day at Disney.

Riding the bus to the Magic Kingdom.

Xander and Baba waiting in line to ride the cars at the Magic Kingdom.

Riding in the car!

Mini Mouse & Xander at dinner

Xander meets Goofy.

Xander and Micky Mouse

Xander, Mama, and Donald Duck

Xander & Mama roast marsh mellows by the pool.

Time to swim!

Summer Vacation Part 1- Ruskin FL

We just got back from our summer vacation in FL.  Our 1st stop this summer was Ruskin, FL to spend some time with my parents.  Patrick, Xander, and I flew to Tampa while Grandma/pa McCoy, Ariel, and her friend Megan drove and spent some time with their friends Peggy and Katie.  Xander has been looking forward to flying to FL for months now and he was so excited to fly on the plane.

Just after take off on our 1st flight of the day.

Xander eating on the plane; something he pretends to do all the time :)

On July 4th we spent the morning at the beach.  It was Xander’s 1st time at the beach and he loved it.  He was a little scared of the “waves” in the Gulf of Mexico but he loved playing in the sand.

Look at all this sand!

Grandma showing Xander how to pack the sand.

Baba and Xander working on their Sand Castle as Grandpa watches.

Then that afternoon we headed to Peggy’s house for a cookout and fire works.  We all had lots of fun catching up with old friends and eating good food.  Then we enjoyed some fireworks.  Xander LOVED them :)

The boys playing before/during dinner.

A little brother/ sister love. Xander didn't want his picture taken with Ariel :(

Then next day, Grandma and Grandpa Warwick took Patrick, Xander, and I to Dinosaur World.  It was a pretty cool place with lots of dinosaurs all over the place.  Xander wasn’t real happy when we 1st arrived but he warmed up to the experience after a little while.  At the end of our time there Xander got to go on a fossil dig.  He did a great job digging through the sand and he found his 3 fossils very fast.  That afternoon, Xander played with Grandma and Grandpa while Patrick and I got to go see a movie :)  It was a great day.

We are ready to see some dinosaurs.

Playing in the play ground.

Getting ready to enter the woods and look for dinosaurs.

Xander in a bad mood and about to be eaten by a huge dinosaur.

Some of the dinosaurs we saw along the walk.

Xander's fossils

Xander showing off his find.

Our last day in Ruskin, Xander, Patrick, and I drove down to Venice, FL to see my good friend Devon.  We got to see where she is living now, the church she is working at, and then headed off for some fun at the beach.  Today Xander had lots of fun in the sand and the water.  He came to love the small waves of the Gulf.  We ate lunch right on the beach by the pier.  It was a fun visit.

Hanging out at the beach.

Xander sitting in the water with Mama and loving it!

Xander drives the ship outside of the restaurant.

Devon and Xander with the Pirate.

This ended our time in Ruskin.  Some of the highlights for this part of the trip was riding in Grandma and Grandpa’s golf cart, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, and seeing fireworks.  Stay tuned for the next part of our trip… Disney World!

Final Thoughts on the China Trip

Here are some final thoughts (albeit 2 weeks late) on our trip to China.

What Surprised Me

  • Women in stilletto high heels – they even wore them walking up and down the stairs on the Great Wall of China – they also all had umbrellas with them even when it wasn’t raining to keep the sun off of them
  • Not too many Chinese hats except all landscapers on side of road seemed to have them
  • Men didn’t wear T-Shirts but wore short-sleeve dress shirts
  • Men everywhere were hacking up phlegm – apparently an acceptable practice in China
  • Lots of smoking – especially in elevators and bathrooms and pretty much anywhere else
  • China Air from Beijing to Nanning was our nicest flight – much nicer than our other Delta flights
  • Most everywhere had air conditioning, but they didn’t always use it – shops would turn it on when white people walked in – the train station was a sauna
  • The familiar American Restaurants were McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut – Pizza Hut was very fancy like our Olive Garden and was referred to locally as “The Italian Restaurant”
  • McDonald’s had no one over age of 25 – all teenagers and young adults
  • Squatty Potties – I’d never seen them before but they wound up being preferable for our family versus the traditional Western toilets as they seemed more sanitary
  • Nanning – it was so green with beautiful blue skies (versus smog of Beijing where we never saw the sun or the stars)
  • Guangzhou – there were so many people that spoke English
  • How modern the cities are
  • More cars than bicycles (I had expected the other way around) – nice ones too + mopeds
  • Traffic was crazy – no traffic cops
  • Advertisements – mostly white people except for Yao Ming (NBA star) and Liu Xiang (Olympic gold medalist in hurdles)
  • The lack of suburbs – it seems to be either high-rise apartments in the big cities or extremely rural villages out in the farmlands
  • And last but not least…the FOOD was DELICIOUS (I didn’t think I’d like it and expected to lose 15 pounds) :)

What I Miss

  • Our guides – Shirley, Mary, and Helen
  • The Food – I grew to love it and can’t quite get the same thing back in the US. Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fortune Cookies are American items and were not found in China. I miss things like pork dumplings, Oolong tea, fried rice that isn’t brown, etc.
  • Practicing my Mandarin
  • Employees at the Nanning Marriott were so nice and obviously trying hard to practice their English with us – we got to know them after a few days and I miss seeing them
  • Being in another part of the world really helped get away from stresses of home & work
  • Beautiful architecture in some of the temples, etc
  • The Views of beautiful cities (especially Guangzhou) lit up at night

What I Don’t Miss

  • People staring at us everywhere we went without smiling – it was creepy (although we’ve had some of that back here in the US…our new reality)
  • Using bottled water to brush teeth
  • Smoke
  • Long Airplane flights

What I Loved To Come Home To

  • Schubie
  • Clean Air (or relatively clean air)
  • Safe Tap Water
  • My Bed
  • Family and Friends – telling stories from our trip

The Rest Of Guangzhou

Sunday, Aug 21, 2011
Today we went to the zoo. Wow – what a zoo! It was enormous. We only saw a tiny portion of it. First we went on a safari ride. Instead of seeing a camel, we saw a dozen camels. Same goes for bears, lions, tigers, ostriches, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes. It was unbelievable. The after the safari ride we walked to the panda exhibit – again with about 10-12 pandas (not just 1 or 2). Our last stop was the koala exhibit. The other families didn’t want to go because they were hot, tired, hungry, and dealing with their whiny kids, but I said that I wanted to see the koalas so we all had to go. :)

Ariel carted around Riley on her back for much of the zoo trip; she was so patient. I rewarded her with a neat Panda hat as a souvenir.

For lunch, we ate at McDonald’s in the heart of Guangzhou. It was very crowded there – we felt like sardines. It was also interesting to note that there was no one over age of 20 at McDonald’s. Apparently the adults in China haven’t adopted it.

For dinner, we decided to eat at one of the nice restaurants nearby the hotel. We chose a Thai restaurant. I’m sure the food was fine but all I can remember is what a meltdown Xander had there. Kimberly had to take him back to the hotel before we finished eating our meal. Ariel and I finished eating and paid the bill.

Ariel and I went swimming that night – what an awesome pool with a beautiful view of the city, a waterfall, etc. We had a great time and were able to relax/unwind after the crazy dinner episode.

McDonald's was very crowded

McDonald's was very crowded

Monday, August 22, 2011
Today we visited two temples. The first was a Buddhist temple and the second was a family temple (Chen family) where we got a scroll for Xander and a calligraphy set. At the Buddhist temple, one of the families had their child blessed by a Buddhist monk. It was interesting to watch and involved a chant, some incense, removal of shoes, and bowing 3 times to the statue of Buddha. Kimberly was adamant that we not do that with Xander. I suppose that would be pretty bad for a Presbyterian Minister to participate in that. :)

On the way home, we stopped at the clinic to have Xander’s TB test read and it was OK. We then stopped at Subway for lunch which was pretty much the same as at home.

Next, Xander took a nap and Ariel and I went shopping which was a lot of fun. Our favorite shops were Michael’s where there was a really nice lady there who would play with Xander and help me practice Mandarin (I also bought a few children books with Mandarin/English in them). There was also another place where Ariel got her tailor-made dress where we spoke with a guy named Jack who told us all about where he grew up, how he learned English, and his thoughts on China vs the US. He didn’t hold back any viewpoints which was fascinating.

We had dinner at a really neat outdoor restaurant with Red Lanterns lit up and hanging from the trees above us. We were served tea and ordered the Oolong tea that we had liked so much in Beijing. For our main course, we tried eel fried rice; the eel didn’t have much taste to it.

That night, Ariel and Kimberly went night swimming while I had the bedtime duty with Xander.

Food offering at the Buddhist Temple

Patrick eating eel

Tue, Aug 23, 2011
Today 3 families from FTIA as well as other families from other adoption agencies went to the US Embassy for an Oath and Visa paperwork. The US Embassy wasn’t really all that neat to visit to be honest. Just a big building, like any other office building.

When we returned to the White Swan hotel, all six FTIA families met to get the traditional Red Couch pictures. Just beforehand, Ariel and I ran to the shop where we had ordered her dress. It fit perfectly.

Of course, for the picture of the children in their traditional outfits, guess whose kid was the only kid screaming and not smiling?

We also got pictures with our Guangzhou guide, Helen. Three of the FTIA families left to head back home while we still had one more day.

We had lunch again at Lucy’s. We ate dinner at a deli right next door to the White Swan. What excellent food!

That night, we took our river cruise. The city was so beautiful all lit up in different (and changing) colors. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We took a taxi home and then Ariel and I went night swimming again.

The six adopted children

Our family with our Guangzhou guide, Helen

My favorite picture from the trip

Ariel looks beautiful in her new dress

Wed, Aug 24, 2011
Today we did our final shopping. We bought souvenirs for family and friends as well as heritage gifts for Xander for future birthdays. We left for the US Embassy around 2pm where we got our Visas. We then went to the train station which we hated (no air conditioning, no money so no food, Xander not happy).

The train ride was awesome! We loved it – great seats & leg room – very smooth ride. Ariel sat next to and made friends with Alex, a 15-year-old who was from another adoptive family. Xander waved goodbye as we left the station. He didn’t realize it, but he was waving goodbye to his country.

We entered Hong Kong at night. We could tell that it is a very large city and is very built up with lots of neon and advertising. At the Hong Kong train station, we and one other family ate McDonald’s on the floor by our luggage as we waited for our driver to arrive. We spent the night at a very expensive hotel (although not that great and no breakfast). It was over $400 a night.

We all loved the train ride

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 – the longest day of our lives

We had 3 plane rides back home. They were awful and I am already starting to repress them in my mind.

Ironically, of the entire trip, our own country was the one to give us the most trouble. When we arrived in Seattle we had to wait almost 2 hours for the immigration officers to even look at our paperwork. We felt so loved by America.

Once we arrived home in Cincinnati, Mom, Dad, Aunt Ree, and Aunt Bev met us at the airport. Aunt Marlene got there a few minutes later at the baggage claim. We exchanged gifts and took pictures. Ariel left her butt buddy on the Fast Park van – we took that thing to the other side of the world and back and left it in a van in Cincinnati. Oh well.

We ate dinner at Arby’s where Xander was pretty happy and his grandparents and aunts got to see him and hear about our trip.

Our family greets us at the airport. Not pictured is Aunt Ree who took the picture.

Adoption Timeline
  • Summer 2010 - started talking about adoption
  • Aug 19, 2010 - participated in webinar
  • Sep 22, 2010 - mailed in adoption application
  • Sep 28, 2010 - adoption application accepted
  • Oct 8, 2010 - fingerprints for home study
  • Oct 14, 2010 - fire inspection done
  • Oct 25, 2010 - Patrick & Kimberly complete physicals for the adoption
  • Nov 4, 2010 - finished Heart of the Matters Parent Education
  • Nov 9, 2010 - Ariel's physical is completed
  • Nov 15, 2010 - 1st Home Study Visit
  • Dec 10, 2010 - Kimberly's Individual Interview with Social Worker
  • Dec 16, 2010 - Patrick & Ariel's Individual Interview with Social Worker
  • Dec 19, 2010 - Received rough draft of Home Study to review
  • Jan 7, 2011 - Received Final Home Study
  • Jan 7, 2011 - Sent I800A form into USCIS
  • Jan 18, 2011 - We see our son's face for the 1st time!
  • Jan 21, 2011 - Submit Letter of Intent to China
  • Jan 27, 2011 - Receive Pre-Approval from China
  • March 7, 2011 - I800a approval
  • March 24, 2011 - Dossier to China
  • April 2, 2011 - Log In Date
  • May 16, 2011 - LOA
  • June 2, 2011 - I800 Approval
  • June 10, 2011 - Cable sent by National Visa Center
  • June 13, 2011 - NVC Letter & final paper work sent to Agency!!!!
  • June 23, 2011 - Article 5 papers dropped off
  • July 8, 2011 - Article 5 pick up
  • July 19, 2011 - Travel Approval!!!!!!
  • August 15, 2011 - Forever Family Day!!!!!!
  • August 25, 2011 - Arrive home; Xander becomes a US citizen :)