A wrap up reflection (to the trip)

by Kristi Van Dyk


Oh boy are we tired. :) Some serious realities are settling in (good realities and not so great realities). Tuesday morning at the consulate was a great day - intense and busy - nerve wracking at times, but overall it went well. The consulate has many rules and procedures that I'm sure are for our safety, but I resented leaving my cell phone at the hotel (on such an auspicious occasion) only to have them take my no longer synced Apple Watch at the security counter :). We also couldn't get our boy's snacks inside (which has proven to be the best way to keep him stable and happy). So, we weren't set up for success. Considering all of that, things went relatively smoothly. After two or so hours of standing when told, speaking when told, answering questions when asked, giving fingerprints, etc we were told we would receive our Visa in 48 hours time. We left them with our son's passport and many important documents and trusted that we would see it all again. We were instructed (many times over) NOT to open the visa. We were told stories of families who did open it, or who tampered with the seal and were sent back to China, at US the border, at their own expense, to get the Visa resealed at the Consulate. What a nightmare! 

After the consulate we returned to eat and recover at our hotel. The afternoons and evenings are all about the same - nap, swim (if its not raining) and then find some dinner before baths and bed. The routine is amazing - but will best be experienced in our home! At the same time, we are so thankful for the suite set up - putting the boys to bed and then having a couple of hours of sanity to ourselves in the evening has proven to be the difference between keeping a grip on our sanity and losing our cool completely. We have thoroughly loved our experience at the Garden and its a blessing to have been able to stay here for this really important and emotionally laden week. 


Wednesday was by far our toughest day yet. Both boys woke up crabby and frustrated and over this closeness we have. At various points we had meltdowns - epic ones. Joshua's meltdowns included bathroom accidents that had me sitting on a random street corner soaked in urine trying to figure out how to make do with the shorts and shirts we had while still not having the both of us feel completely disgusting! Needless to say our visits to the Six Banyan Temple was not much of a learning experience for us.  In the evenings, Joshua still needs Momma to fall asleep - and is not yet feeling Daddy's comfort BUT last night, we pushed him a little bit and he allowed Daddy to fall asleep next to him. Benjamin has been struggling with his patience - the constant priority of his brother - and the lack of "new things" to do has been weighing on him. He has been a tremendous help to us and we are so thankful that we brought him along. BUT he is as ready to leave for home as we are - and he can't wait to see his sisters again. 


I am also feeling like I could lose it at any moment. We've had great moments with Joshua that make me feel like we are making so much progress. We also have other moments where I wonder how on earth will I survive the next 6 months ... Joshua likes to babble, constantly. This is great (and not unlike my 4 year old at home) because it means (as a shy guy) that he is comfortable with us. However, I don't understand Mandarin - and sometimes Ben doesn't understand him either. So, we are still left guessing what he is saying. My days are a constantly slew of "MAMA .... MAMA ... (shouted at full volume) followed by "babble babble babble" over and over and over. And it's all completely indecipherable. Additionally, Joshua LOVES testing our limits. He runs EVERYWHERE and he tries something at least 3-4 times (even after we say boo-yaow and let him know it's inappropriate). Each time he tests us to see if the answer is the same, he does so with this giant grin on his face. I have to continuously remind myself that he's learning new rules - not being deliberately defiant. This will be a big part of our new journey together ... learning new rules. I have to patiently teach him our rules and I also have to learn the rules that have made up his reality for the last 4 years. This will be a journey of grace and forgiveness. 


Each of these hard lessons has been (thanks be to God) punctuated by moments of brilliance. For brevity's sake I'll bullet them for you :). Truthfully, I wanted this blog post to focus on the real, the hard - it's not all beauty and its not all hugs and love. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the above pieces of our journey too ...  (even know we are dealing with discipline issues that seemingly re-write the playbook on our parenting and its draining to not know when to push and when to give). BUT, we have to remind ourselves that good things are happening too: 

1. Joshua said I love you to me (in Mandarin) last night. He repeats it also in English
2. Joshua begs for hugs and kisses almost constantly from me
3. Joshua works on repeating English phrases and has incredible clarity in doing so
4. Joshua LOVES to play - be tickled, to wrestle, and is even frequent with the belly laughs. He loves to have fun!
5. Joshua still eats everything in sight (and doesn't have bathroom issues yet (other than the ones described above)!!!! HOORAY
6. Joshua kisses his sisters via FaceTime. He loves talking to them and seeing them. Hopefully this will make the transition back to a big family of 6 easier. 

Areas of focus for all of us: 

1. Prayers as we learn how to teach that hitting/kicking/biting isn't okay
2. Wisdom to know proper consequences when consequences must be applied
3. Grace to ourselves and to our children when we all fall short of even minimal standards of decency to each other
4. Traveling mercies

I'm awake again, at 5:15 a.m., it must be a travel day :). 
We fly out of Guangzhou at 1:00 a.m EST
We are booked on a flight out of Beijing at 5:40 a.m. EST
Our final connection leaves Detroit at 10:10 p.m. on Friday
It will be a long day, but hopefully, at the end of this day we'll be back in a hotel with closest loved ones and left with many stories and memories to tell - and lots to learn as a family of 6.