...Just a Reminder...This story builds FROM THE BOTTOM UP...so if you're joining late, be sure to catch up by reading from the beginning...Thanks.

In case you're interested, we invite you to read Kyle's Story and Dylan's Story

Become a "Follower"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You know it's going to be a STRESSFUL Trip when...Part Deux

You're 4 days from wheels-up and your new sump pump (and battery back up system) decide that they take a little hiatus - together!

If you're not from the area and perhaps don't follow the Philadelphia area weather, we are having an exceptionally WET few days.  Our home is in a naturally low spot and we have a lot of pump activity in heavy rains.

Oh yeah, and we just finished our basement over the late summer - the carpet just went in a few weeks ago!

Anyway, as I type, I am taking a short break from babysitting the sump pump situation in the basement.  30 minutes ago, the backup pump alarm was going off, the pump seemed to be pumping but no water was discharging out (into the drain line), the battery appeared to be draining, and the water was rising (not quickly, but rising nevertheless.)

Luckily, as I was rigging up the shop vac, just in case, I was able to speak with our basement construction contractor.  (Thanks for calling back so quickly, Rick.)  From the series of alarms He diagnosed a float switch problem.

I put the phone on speaker, near where I was working, and with his guidance, I began to fumble around in the 2-foot deep murky sump water.  The solution he described was a little technical, so bear with me...
"Reach in... find the float switch  --  and jiggle it.  Move it around a little to free up the float."
(Slow down, Rick...did you say "jiggle it"?  You almost lost me there.)

Not one to improvise in a situation like this, I jiggled it.  It worked.  The main pump kicked on. The waters immediately began to recede.

I will keep any eye on it for a while longer until the sump drains, but so far, it's all good. I may as well just run back & forth down the basement stairs for the next few hours, I wasn't planning on doing much of anything else - except SLEEPING of course!

Rick will be by the house tomorrow to reset the system and fix the float.

And they all lived happily ever after.

More shortly - gotta check that darn pump!
Be back in a few moments.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You know it's going to be a STRESSFUL Trip when...

You send (2) separate international wire transfers (not cheap, by the way) to cover certain important adoption fees, and ... there are NO records of having the funds received and applied to your case!!!
T-minus 6 Days before wheels-up and we need to find the cash.

Mei Wenti!

So tonight, since we have nothing else to worry about, we scramble to find the receipts, scan them and then email the scans to the other side of the world (where luckily, it's the middle of the morning) to see if they can locate where the funds were routed.

Feel free to post your guess as to what SNAFU will be next to hit.

Packing continues and we're loading up the computer (for posting entries to this story) with all of the software required to circumvent the Great Firewall of China.  Our connections seem secure and solid enough to get through once we arrive in-country.  We will soon see.

If you're interested, tomorrow's (actually already today's) weather in Wuhan at 10 AM:
64 Deg. F (18 Deg. C), 94% Humidity (yes, that's 94!).
Light Rain in the AM, Expected High Temp is 75 Deg. F

More Soon.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Putting Ashley's Crib Together...Again (Me & the Boys)

My helpers and I reassembled the Crib this afternoon.

Just checking to see if it works from my phone. Waiting for Chal to make dinner and talking about packing.


Ashley's Countdown Calendar

Here is the Countdown Calendar in the Kitchen

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Breakfast. Saturday Morning. T-Minus 10 Days to Wheels-Up

"Zhao shang hao" (Good morning) everyone,

Dylan says Hi:
Kyle too:


The above names were typed by the boys themselves - <hunt, hunt, hunt, hunt, peck>!

We're headed to one of our favorite Saturday events - Miss Amy's World Famous "CHOP Playdate".  This is a Saturday morning PlayDate for international adoptees run by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  Miss Amy and the young ladies who help out do a fantastic job with the activities.  Kyle's been going since he first came home and Dylan has gotten the hang of it, too. Thanks in advance to the CHOP crew for a fun morning. (And for tiring the boys out to a point where they usually need a nap! An unusual thing on a weekend.)

We just finished breakfast and after CPD we've got a full day of shopping and errands.  This is the 2nd to last weekend, and next week will fly by so we're off to procure some more trip essentials.

Thanks to Grandma & Pop-Pop (that live next to us) for picking up 'da Boyeez from School yesterday - we had a quick schedule juggle and this was a HUGE help.

We continue to count down the days - I'll post the countdown calendar soon.

But for now, we gotta run...Murph needs to go out before we leave and we have to move the carseats - CHOP Playdate awaits.

More later...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Other Stops Along the Way...

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan, or Gui yuan ("Original purity"), Buddhist Temple, located in Wuhan, Hubei Province, is the fourth-largest Buddhist temple in China, and ranks among Chinese Buddhism's most important places of worship. Originally built in the early part of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, Guiyuan Temple, with its many Buddhist sutras and other important Buddhist relics, survived China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Much of the temple has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt throughout its 300 year history. 
Besides its impressive collection of sutras, Guiyuan Temple houses 500 gilded luohans (alternatively, arhats, i.e., a figure depicting an arahant, or one who has attained the ultimate goal of enlightenment, or nirvana, by following in the footsteps of the first such arahant, the Buddha himself, who rediscovered the path to enlightenment and taught it to his followers) in varying poses that run the gamut of human expression, as well as a statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and a 105-ton sculpture of Buddha in white stone, a gift from the new British colony, Burma, in 1935, which had been separated from India in the same year, but which remained under British sovereignty until 1947.
Guiyuan Temple has traditionally been in the forefront of Buddhist temples in the Wuhan area as a popular place of worship, welcoming local devotees as well as pilgrims from far and wide to its many official rites and ceremonies. Many important personages have throughout the years paid a visit to Guiyuan Temple, some bringing special gifts. Among these include Norodom Sihanouk (King of Cambodia), Henry Kissinger (President Nixon's Secretary of State), Li Guangyao (former Prime Minister of Singapore) and Yasuhiro Nakasone (former Prime Minister of Japan) as well as a much larger contingent of ordinary visitors from all over the world, especially Chinese ex-pats from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
Guiyuan Temple, which derives its name from a Buddhist chant ("Guided by original purity, the devotee can achieve anything"), is not only renowned for its role in spreading Buddhism, it is also renowned for its exquisite Han Chinese (southern-Chinese) Buddhist architecture. Guiyuan Temple was thus accorded official protection as a historical and cultural site by Hubei Province in 1956. The official recognition by Hubei Province was followed by that of the government of the PRC, which, in 1983, designated  Guiyuan Temple as one of the key Buddhist temples representing the Han Chinese nationality.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some Stops on the Itinerary...

Good evening, reporting again tonight from the kitchen table (that would be the large one).

Our travel itinerary is firming up, and nearly locked in.  Nearly every day while we are in China we have at least one official event/appointment/interview/meeting/visit/examination...  But, we also have the opportunity to do some sightseeing during our free time.

Some of the stops we will be making while in Wuhan:

Hubei Provincial Museum

Located on the East Lake, Hubei Museum is one of the best-known museums in China, showcasing numerous State-level historic and cultural relics. Since the establishment of the museum, many exhibitions have been held here. The collections currently hold some 200, 000 objects among which the most astonishing are the objects excavated from the Zenghouyi Tomb. The Zenghouyi Tomb was built about 2400 years ago. The richness of the objects excavated from this tomb and their exquisite beauty has made them one of the rare sights of the world. The musical instruments alone have been called an underground musical palace. Among these instruments, the bianzhong or Chime bells are most famous. In 1978, 15,000 articles were excavated from the Zenghouyi Tomb in Suizhou, including bronze ritual vessels and weapons, horses and carts, articles made of bamboo, lacquer, gold, jade, bamboo tubes, coffins, and musical instruments. Exhibited in this hall are very rare items such as the chime bells, gold cups and jade plates. The Zenghouyi Chime Bells are the most historically important relics. The complete set includes 65 bells hanging on a three-tiered rack weighing over 2,000 kilograms. On the bells are gold-plated inscriptions about music. Each bell can emit two tones. After over 1,000 years, the bells still sound perfectly, ready to play melodies. The Hubei Provincial Museum made a special exhibition room for this set of Bell, and specialists at certain times give performances of ancient music for visitors. The Sword of Gou Jian, a king of Yue Kingdom, and the spear of Fu Chai, a king of Wu Kingdom, are both over 2,000 years old but still shiny and sharp. The lacquer wares used by ancient Chu people have exotic shapes and are truly marvelous.

The Yellow Crane Tower

The tower at night:

From wuhan.com:
As one of the most famous and spectacular towers in China, the Yellow Crane Tower is a "must-see". Originally it wa built in AD 223, during the Three Kingdoms Period as a Wu Kingdom military tower. The tower has been destructed several times and is today placed one kilometre (0.6 mile) from its original site.

The tower is today 52 metres high with five stores and the architecture of the existing tower is from the Qing Dynasty and it was completed first in 1985. Placed on the top of Snake Hill you have a 360 degree view from the top of the tower over Wuhan and a magnificent view northwards over the great Yangtse (Chanjiang) River.

On the first floor you find a description that made the tower well known throughout China, written by Cui Hao, a famous poet of Tang dynasty (618-907). The tower has fascinated poets through the centuries, only in the Qing dynasty, as many as 300 poems were written about the tower.

East Lake

From wuhan.com:
This is a lake that offers scenic attractions in and around the lake. Even on a foggy day, the lake has a magic touch, so why not take a trip with one of the locals in their special designed boats and experience the magic of East Lake.

In the spring time the shores of East Lake became a garden of flowers with the Mei blossoms as the king and the Cherry Blossom as the queen among the species. Another famous flower is the lotus. The lake has a long history and especially the Chu Kingdom is well represented around East Lake.

At East Lake you find fascinating gardens like the Mei Blossom Garden, Forrest of the Birds, Cheery Blossom Garden and monuments from ancient times, beautiful hills and green nature. Moreover, in the Moshan Botanic Garden there are all possible types of plum blossoms, as well as lotus flowers.

The East Lake is the largest lake inside a city in China and has lot of scenic spots along its shore. The total area is more than 80 square kilometres of which the lake is covering an area of 33 square kilometres.

More Wuhan sights to follow soon...

In addition to our China tours, we are also fortunate to have the chance to spend some time in San Diego/LA area after the China legs of the trip to normalize and to have some family time before heading home to begin our new life as a family of five.  More on this later as well...

The boys are very much looking forward to leaving, and are asking Mom when they can start packing!  Whenever we go out to eat, Kyle has taken on the task of informing the host/hostess at the front podium that we need a "Table for Four, please."  He has already been practicing his "Table for five, please."

Kyle's birthday is approaching at the end of September so he got a couple of early presents.  A hand-held DS game along with some actual games to play (THANKS Grandma & Poppa - from Michigan).  So as you'd expect, Dylan has benefited as well with an early Christmas present - a DS of his own.  Those of you out there with twins know exactly how that goes!!

Anyway they're practicing very hard and hope to make extensive use of these on the planes, trains and automobiles on which we'll be traveling.

Lots more to do and say before departure day (1 week from Tuesday).
Stay tuned and thanks for following along.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Our Ashley was born on January 1, 2009, and will be TWO years old this year.  She has been in the loving care of her foster family for nearly her entire life, since she was about 3 months old.  We have been very fortunate to have had many reports on her and her growth and development, along with a number of wonderful photos.  Her story and her pictures show that she is doing very well.

Here is a recent photo of her at home...

She's mobile, confident and as cute as the day is long.  We are indeed lucky to have been matched with such an angel.

More story and photos coming soon.

As for the trip...

We depart Philadelphia on Tuesday Oct. 5 and return home on Wednesday Oct. 27.  We are gathering and accumulating all of the "stuff" required for the journey.  Clothing/medicine/baby supplies/toys/games/chargers/adapters.  Soon we will be pre-packing so that we'll be able to see all the stuff we can't take because we have no more room!  We've done this twice already, so we have a good idea of what we can get away with.

Next we need to prepare the all-important and ever-present documents. Rest assured we'll have the originals, copies of the originals, copies of the copies, scans of everything on (2) USB thumb drives each carried by a different person, and of course backup scans that I'll give to my parents to email to us in case we get into a real jam.  That ought to cover us. (The arming codes for the US nuclear arsenal should have a backup system as redundant as ours!)  Last time out I nearly wore out the zipper on the middle compartment of my backpack because every 30 minutes, Lisa would look at me - and I would know what was coming - and before she she got the words "Do we have the documents?" out, I was elbow-deep in the backpack fishing for the folders.  It seems like overkill, and it probably is, but you never know...

More soon...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Preparations Continue for Our October Departure

Good evening from the New (Large) Kitchen Table,

Lisa has begun finalizing our Itinerary with the Agency and the Travel Folks.
(More on that later...)
Suffice it to say - Excitement is building...

I thought I'd do a little more work tonight, so here is a comparative map of where everyone was born...

We will meet Ashley in Wuhan (Capital of Hubei Province).
As you can see, Ashley & Kyle are nearly neighbors.

As for Hubei Province...

And here is some information on Wuhan (no, it's not from Wikipedia...)
This comes from wuhan.com, of course!
I'm not sure how I should feel about Wuhan and PITTSBURGH being sister cities??!!
Should be fun navigating the streets along with the other 9.7 million people!!

WUHAN City Facts

Mayor: Ruan Chengfa

Secretary of CPC: Yang Song

Province: Hubei

Population: 9.7 million (2007)

Urban Population: 6.6 million

Total municipal area: 8,467 square kilometres

Where: East Longitude 113°41'-115°05', North Latitude 29°58'-31°22

GDP: 259.0 billion yuan (2006)

Phone Area Code: 027

Postal Code: 430000

Airport: Tianhe International Airport

Main Train Stations: Hankou and Wuchang

City Tree: Dawn redwood

City Flower: Plum blossom

Tourist season: Spring and Autumn

Administrative Districts: Wuhan has 13 districts: Chudian, Dongxihu, Hannan, Hanyang, Hongshan, Huangpi, Jiang'an, Jianghan, Jiangxia, Qiaokou, Qingshan, Wuchang and Xinzhou.

Climate: Subtropical humid monsoon climate, Wuhan has distinct four seasons with an annual average temperature of 17.0 centigrade with cold and dry winters, hot and humid summers and plenty of sunshine.

Sister cities:Arnhem, Netherlands, Sister city in 1999
Bordeaux, The Republic of France, in 1998
Chungju, Republic of Korea, in 2000
Duisberg, Germany, in 1982
Galati, Romania, in 1987
Gyor, Hungary, in 1996
Khartoum, Sudan, in 1995
Kiev, Ukraine, in 1990
Manchester, United Kingdom, in 1986
Oita, Japan, in 1979
Pittsburgh, USA, in 1982

Anyway, that's all for now.
More on Ashley and her story coming soon...
Thanks for following.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Welcome to Ashley's Story...

So here we are again...

Welcome to ALL, Welcome Back to MANY.

Our journey and this story will unfold in front of your eyes over the next month or so.  We will start with some background on Ashley JianJie Lockhead, then jump right in to the flow of our everyday doings.  Our hope is that you'll be right there with us - sharing the highs and lows - as we try to paint a portrait of what we experience.

Just as we tried to do with Kyle & Dylan's stories, we'll do our best to capture the big moments and the little details, and everything in between.  (Strangely, many times, it's the little details that we remember the most.)

If we're doing a good job, you'll laugh at the stories, you'll smile at the pictures, and you'll feel at least just a little of what we'll be feeling.

I can't believe that as I'm sitting here at our new kitchen table (more on this later) hunting & pecking, we're less than 3 weeks away from setting off on our third adventure that will take us to the other side of the world.

If you're just tuning in, we have already been blessed with two beautiful little boys: Kyle & Dylan.

When you have a few moments, we invite you to share in their stories:

Kyle's Story
Dylan's Story

The boys will be joining Lisa and me on our journey and are eagerly anticipating our most excellent adventure.  They're very entertaining as they describe in detail how they "help" Mom & Dad with taking care of Ashley during the trip, and after.  Luckily, this time around we will have the benefit of a very capable and very welcome Aunt Rita.  Rita is my little sister and has a wonderful and very special relationship with the boys already.

Rita has just finished recovering from her recent trip to Australia, where she joined my older sister and her family on a walkabout in Cairns.  OK maybe not that recent, but she's made the long haul flight before.  (But not with 2 four-year-olds and a two year old - might be a little different this time!!)

Anyway, Rita's really looking forward to the trip and we're really looking forward to having her along.  She's a nurse and will surely be a steadying presence for all of us.

Almost forgot about the Kitchen Table...
Up until three weeks ago, we were making do with a basic 4-person table that had a flip up extension at one end.  It had served us well, but when Kyle and Dylan start asking "Where's Ashley going to sit?", we knew it was time to upgrade.

So we went to Ikea and found a really nice big table that seats 6 comfortably.  Luckily, it also has two leaves, which are easy to install and store right in the table under the main surface.  (Did I mention it was big?) Now, it's safe to say we have a place for the family to gather for dinner.  

With the leaves in, we also have room for (as Kyle likes to say) "Papa and Grandma from Michigan" (Lisa's M&D) - AND "Pop-Pop and Grandmom that live next to us" (Charlie's M&D).  It's a BIG table.  (I'm waiting on the permit from the township that we'll need to post in the window whenever we have it fully extended!!)

So here I sit, at our table, starting the story of Ashley.

It's been curious, not planned this way, but still...
We know a little bit about Kyle's first year (including some great photographs); we know quite a bit more about Dylan and his first years; but, comparatively, thanks to many of the friends Lisa has made and the helpers that she's come into contact with, we know a great deal about Ashley.

Ashley has had a miraculous start to her young life, and we are so very grateful to her foster family for all that they have done and continue to do for her.  They've taken many wonderful photographs and have shared much of her story with us through their emails.

As our story takes shape, we will introduce you to Ashley, and tell you a little bit of her special story, as we are again blessed with a new little life to share.

"But what about the pictures...?"
I know what you're thinking...

This is the first post and the first picture that we post is very important.
So, I'll need to get some guidance.  Unfortunately, Lisa has turned in for the night - we'll regroup in the AM and post some photos then.

As I mentioned, we are T-minus 3 weeks from departure.  We are waiting our final TA, which we hope to get very shortly.

Thanks to Lisa's tireless efforts, we already have a tentative itinerary, based on what we believe will be the date for our Consulate appointment.  That's all I'll say for now, so as not to jinx our recent stretch of good luck.

We are making final preparations, trying to gauge what we'll be needing and what we'll be packing (hopefully these lists will generally coincide, but we all know how things like this go...!!)

We hope to have a good consistent flow of posts before, during and after the trip.  We have set this journal up so that we can post via text message or via email.  We are taking a NetBook computer, so we hopefully don't have to pay far too much for Hotel Business Center Computer time, or wander too far from the hotel in search of an all-night net-cafe.  However, I will definitely miss crossing paths with the interesting mix of characters I have encountered in my past posting experiences (the night near the Poly Plaza Hotel in Beijing comes to mind - check Kyle's blog).

So, until you check in again...Thank you for joining us, it's nice to have you along..buckle up...and enjoy the ride

Coming next, some background on Ashley...