Warning: This post is looonnngggg and very picture heavy! And it was so hard to leave out so many pictures. I didn't include any of our wonderful relatives who live in HK, no Disneyland pictures (my uncle took me to Disney for my first time ever at age 39...I walked around with a silly grin on my face the whole day), no Victoria Peak pictures, no Star Ferry pictures...I left out a LOT and there are still so many.
Hong Kong is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. I had the privilege of visiting HK and mainland China in the mid-1990's and loved both then, but now that HK is an integral part of our family history and culture, my affection for it has grown. I would highly recommend visiting if you ever get the chance. That said, these pictures are all about Super-T and our first days with him, not about the vibrant city. The Philosopher (new blog pseudonym alert...my eldest, formerly known as LOTL) was my traveling companion. He was a wonderful traveler and helper. I think you'll see from these pictures that the boys' brother-bond started from the first moment.
Words cannot describe meeting my son for the first time. His house mother, Auntie Sue, had delayed his bath time because she knew we were due to arrive at any minute. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of our first meeting. I just didn't think of it, but was living in the moment. After meeting Super-T and getting to know him a tiny bit, Auntie Sue invited me to help with his bath (although I wasn't really any help at all). The first look at his scars took my breath away. My sweet boy had several open heart and other surgeries as a baby. It hurts that I wasn't there for him. I hope someone was, but I'll likely never know.
Our first evening with Super-T we ate dinner (complete with pumpkin pie for these Americans, yum!) and then played with blocks. Note the cute pajamas...more about them later. After building and knocking down many towers, we went into the living room and looked through his lifebooks and photo albums with his house parents. Absolutely incredible. Super-T slept in his own bed that night and we slept in another room down the hall. It was as good an adoption transition as you can imagine.
Just look at these boys! They are less than 4 months apart in age. They were both nine years old at the time. We were heading out to Super-T's (former) school and then to do a bit of sightseeing with Super-T's social worker. The lady in the hallway is one of the founders of the home Super-T lived in from before he turned five until we came and got him. She and her friend started the home back in 1965...two young single British women with a call on their lives. They are both still there and involved in the home. They send Super-T birthday and Christmas cards. Amazing women of God...willing to live radical lives and show crazy love to those society has deemed unlovable.
We visited the school, where I was told that Super-T was a "pop star" and they gave him gifts of a winter hat and long mittens (because compared to semi-tropical HK we live in the frozen tundra). He was obviously loved by his teachers, who were thrilled that he was heading to a new life with a family of his own. We then went to a tiny train museum. This was the first time I had an inkling that there was more going on behind Super-T's non-verbal exterior. He was very interested in how the trains hook up and all the levers and cogs and what-not. I was so excited to find out that my little boy is mechanical just like his big brother.
That night was our first night as a family. Auntie Sue had moved Super-T's sheets, pillow, and teddy bears in onto a cot in our room while we were gone to the train museum. She also brought in his HUGE suitcase FULL of clothes and toys. Again, it was the best scenario possible, but still falling asleep was so hard for my sweet boy. He really didn't understand what was going on, even though he had been prepared as much as possible. How do you comfort a child to whom snuggling and holding at bedtime is stressful and not sleep-producing? How do you make him understand that his mommy loves him, when he has never had a mommy? How can he know he is safe when he is with people he just met yesterday? Super-T was used to going to sleep by himself and now there were two other new people in this strange room. I can't even imagine how stressful it was for him. Fortunately the next morning (early) we discovered that he enjoyed coloring. Whew! What a life-saver. At last he had something to do that he enjoyed and we had made it through the first night.
The next day, Super-T's social worker was unavailable, so we had the privilege of spending the day with the people who had been Super-T's family for the past four and a half years. I cannot even describe how incredible they are. In fact, if I try, I will have a whole blog post about them instead of about Super-T. They are just amazing! We love them and now consider them part of our extended family. We went to a waterfront village that I don't remember the name of. It was super fun, very authentic Chinese-village feeling, rather than the big city. This was the hardest day to whittle the pictures down. It was just wonderful.
That evening was to be our last night there. Auntie Sue made a nice dinner; and after we ate, I told her that I would help with the clean up so she and Uncle Pete could have some time to play with Super-T. I am in tears just thinking of that evening. How do you let a child go who you have loved, hugged, comforted, potty-trained, cooked for, read books to, played with, and really been a mom or dad to for four and a half years? What a bittersweet time. I sneaked out and took several pictures and even some video of hilarious laughter before joining in the fun. I love this photo of after Uncle Pete had bounced the ball off Super-T's head. Do you see that wall behind them? Those are pictures of the kiddos this incredible couple loved for a time and then let go of. They adopted one precious girl from HK to add to their forever family, and continue to love the other children from afar. Uncle Pete and Auntie Sue, you are my heroes!
The next morning we had the privilege of attending church with the family. It was an international church and the pastor was from Texas! It was like having a little slice of home. The pastor prayed for our family and Super-T's Sunday School teachers said goodbye to him. It was a beautiful morning, full of tears and smiles.
After lunch there were the really hard goodbyes and then we were back to the city. It was nice to be back with my family again and thrilling to introduce them to their new nephew/cousin, but there were still things to do. Super-T's social worker took us back to the child care facility where he had lived from when he got out of the hospital at almost age two until he went to live with Auntie Sue and Uncle Pete at nearly five. This is the organization that facilitated his adoption. We saw people who cared for Super-T as a toddler. We saw the room he lived in. We were given gifts from his former caregivers. Everyone was so loving and excited that Super-T's forever family had found him after all those years. Here is the famous stairway picture...I think all children who are adopted from here have a picture on this stairway.
We then did a bit more sightseeing with my family. There is so much to see and so much to do in HK! I love it!
The next morning, it was off to the airport.
The two boys and I began our LONG trek home. By this time I was so missing my sweet girl and home in spite of the wonderful time we had in Hong Kong. (The Philosopher especially enjoyed all the crazy kinds of juice there...note the kiwi juice he had on the plane.)
Neither boy slept much (and therefore neither did mom). We had a long layover in Japan and missed several flights once we got to the USA (Lesson: always leave plenty of time for immigration), but we FINALLY made it home late at night. I don't have any pictures of our airport scene (if any friends do, I would love to get them!), but driving all the way home from the airport Super-T was laughing. I thought that he somehow understood that he was home, now I know better. He just loves riding in the car, and especially riding at night in traffic. :)
The next morning, Little Pud and The Philosopher introduced Super-T to his new life...
We love you so much, Super-T! We are so thankful that you are in our family! Happy Family Day!