Welcome - ยินดีต้อนรับ

Hello all family and friends!

With great excitement, we started our adoption journey in August 2008. We are now first time parents through adoption of an 8-year-old son from Thailand. We have chosen to build our family through the adoption of a son from Thailand because this is where we feel God is leading us right now.

It took 1 year and 9 months to bring Ray home and it was totally worth it!

We appreciate all of your love and support. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Ann & Bryan

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Are Home!

The plane rides could not have gone better.  Ray was so excited about planes that he jumped out of bed at 2am when the alarm went off and was swooping his arm while jumping up and down to indicate the plane flying.  He managed to sleep probably about 6 hours out of the 18 hours in the air.  We had two layovers of 2 hours each so he could run around and get some food (he didn't like the plane food).  The flight from Bangkok to Tokyo was a nice 6 hour trip with TV screens on the back of each seat that played movies and video games.  That kept him totally occupied...although the button for calling the stewardess was pushed one too many times...we had to keep waving them off...hopefully they understood.  The 11 hour flight only had a movie screen in the middle for everyone and the movies didn't start until about half way through the trip.  Luckily we had matchbox cars, bendy wax craft sticks, and card games to help pass the time.

I was nervous about Customs/Immigration in Minneapolis but it went VERY smoothly and only took about 10 minutes.  The immigration officer remarked that he was glad that the Bangkok US Embassy actually had all the appropriate documentation and everything was in order.  I told him that I was glad to hear him say that since we barely even got the Visa and paperwork before it all shut down in the emergency situation.  The Thai worker handed us the packets so quickly I was wondering if he had everything in order or if the envelopes may have mistakenly been swapped with another family.

On the last flight from Minneapolis to Green Bay, Ray slept the whole way even though it was only an hour.  We were enthusiastically greeted by both new sets of grandparents, great Nana, and Aunt Shelly and Uncle John waving US flags and holding a US flag sign with Ray's name on it.  Tears of joy were shed by all and hugs and kisses all over.  But we were dead tired...so we got our bags and were off driving the 45 minutes to home.

I keep praying for the people of Thailand and the safety of the children at the Thai Red Cross.  Things are getting even worse in Bangkok right now...red shirts are setting buildings on fire now instead of just the tires.  We got out just in time...there's now a curfew from 8pm-6am and they warned that early morning flights might have significant delays...we had a 5:55am flight and that would have been bad for us.  Anyway, the TRC is right in the heart of all the horrible violence and fires.  Please have everyone you know pray for the children at the orphanage and the workers trying to get in to work to care for them!

Thank you all for your prayers...it's what got us through all the tough times and kept us safe in Bangkok.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Last Weekend in Thailand

It was hard to say good-bye to the social workers from the TRC and to the Sutton family all in one day on Friday.  Because of the emotional overload, that's really all we did.  Hopefully we will see them all some time in the future.

Saturday, May 15th
We went to Chatuchak Market today for some authentic Thai crafts...it was HUGE and full of Farangs (foreign tourists like us). We had fun bargaining with the sellers and got some really nice things. Finished the day by watching "Fantasia" with Ray...he loved it...especially the Sorcerer's Apprentice with Mickey!

Sunday, May 16th
We had a great day today outside the city of Bangkok.  Local friends picked us up and dropped us off in their red BMW.  They took us to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767.  It is about an hour and a half drive from our hotel.  We went to a Buddhist temple with (they claim) the largest Buddha in the world.  It's called Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit.  Then we went to Klong Sabua floating market and ate lunch while watching a historical performance at the only Water Theatre in Thailand.  Ray really enjoyed this part of the day!  Afterwords we got some Sai Mai for dessert which is something like cotton candy wrapped in a crepe.  Ray LOVES this so much he didn't want to share at first.  We ended the day at the former Grand Palace now referred to as the Ancient Palace (Bang Pa-In Palace).  It is much different from the Grand Palace in Bangkok as it is more spacious and less grandiose.  I enjoyed it as is was more peaceful and quite....even thought it was raining today.

Our friends explained to Ray at the end of the day that in one more night we will be flying to America and his face lit up with excitement.  I think he's curious about the plane ride mostly.  But it made us both happy to see that he is ready to come home with us!

TODAY - Monday, May 17th
We have nothing planned today other than PACKING!!!  We'll leave between 2-3am for the airport (which is 2-3pm Monday WI time).  Last day in the Land of Smiles!

Friday, May 14, 2010

So Much To Tell

OK.  We haven't posted since last week and so much has happened.  This will be a brief outline of events so you get an idea.

Friday, May 7th
We went back to the TRC and played with the boys until about 11am.  At that point, we said good-bye to the TRC staff and other children and went for lunch.  Our Visa medical appointment was at 1pm and pre-scheduled for us by the TRC staff.  We did have to wait an hour or two for document processing even though the check-ups themselves were very short.  Ray passed his eye exams very well.  They mentioned he is under-weight but we already knew that.  Back at the hotel via Sky Train we all crashed at 6pm and didn't wake up until the next morning.

Saturday, May 8th
We went shopping this morning at Tesco-Lotus and Carrfour.  We bought some basic groceries and tons of bottled water.  Also, we got Ray a small Spider Man remote control car to play with in the hotel room...he loves it!  Ray picked out a watch for Daddy that flashes in different colors.  Daddy needed it since his watch stopped working the day before we got on the plane.  At noon, the Lutheran pastor who is a missionary here in Chiang Mai came to visit us in the hotel.  He wanted to meet Ray and explain to him in Thai who God is and what it means to be a Christian.  Pastor Rob and his wife Nora were very good with him and we enjoyed their company throughout the afternoon.

Sunday, May 9th
No words can describe how wonderful my Mother's Day was!  Ray (and Bryan) gave me a Mom necklace this morning and it brought tears to my eyes.  Ray is now a Child of God, having been baptized in our room and then introduced to church.  He sat pretty well for his first church service and I had tears in me when he and Bryan sat in the front for the children's moment.  We then had lunch with pastor and his wife and said our good-byes.  Back at the hotel, Ray and I were in the pool for 4 hours.  He is such a fish...maybe the next Michael Phelps!

Monday, May 10th
I checked an item off my bucket list today by visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  Ever since I portrayed Anna in "The King & I" it only seemed natural to want to visit but it was so much more exciting to be there with my little Thai prince and fabulous hubby!  Although, I have to say it was the hottest I have ever been...perhaps 2-3pm in the afternoon on a clear day in the hot season of Thailand is not the greatest day to be touring.  But, we did have the advantage of very small crowds so we could take great photos without others in them.  The rest of the day we lounged and swam some more.  Heat exhaustion is really wiping us out!

Tuesday, May 11th
We took a trip outside of the city to visit an Elephant Village and Crocodile Farm.  We went with the other family so the boys could enjoy it together (and so Bryan could get his group discount).  Ray and I got to ride on one of the elephants and then we had a family photo standing by a smaller one.  The elephant even gave me a hug!  In the evening we went with the pastor's former exchange student to eat some traditional Thai food.  What he thought was mild was very spicy to us but it was very good!

Wednesday, May 12th
We went for the Child Adoption Board meeting at the Thai Government building.  We were #4 in line and the Sutton's were #6 so we didn't have to wait too long for the interview.  We had to get to the TRC by 9am and they took us to the CAB meeting in their van.  We sat in front of "the board" which consisted of three ladies.  They asked questions such as why we chose Thailand, and why we chose an older child, what our jobs were, our plan for his education, etc.  Ray was in the meeting as well and the TRC has certainly done an outstanding job of explaining to him what is happening because he had huge smiles when they asked if he was happy with his family and if he wanted to go to the U.S. The meeting ended with their words, "He is yours!"  Afterwords we stopped at the BMK Mall to eat lunch and find Ray this Ben 10 watch that he wanted.  Once back at the hotel his first words were "Daddy Swim, Mommy Swim!" over and over again.  I think he's growing gills!  Just like Mommy was at his age.

Thursday, May 13th
We were at the US Embassy at 7:30am with a room full of mostly Thai people.  Besides the Sutton family that has been staying with us, we met two other American couples, one from Tennessee who was also adopting an 8 year old boy and another couple from Michigan adopting an 18 month old girl.  They had only email contact with us before we traveled here.  The interview questions were much more thorough than the CAB meeting, probably just to verify that we knew everything about Ray's history and that we are financially stable and prepared for a child.  We had Ray's Visa approved after about 2.5 hours of waiting and we we were told to return at 3pm to pick it up.

Between appointments, we went to celebrate with the Sutton family at The Dubliner Irish Pub near our hotel and I was in my glory because I had Shepherd's Pie!  And, of course, Ray wanted to swim a little while before heading back to the Embassy.

Now for the "interesting" part of our day.  When we took a cab the second time to pick up the Visas and we couldn't believe that the cab driver was playing Christian music and when we asked if he was a believer he said "Alleluia!"  When we got to the Embassy at 3pm they had closed early due to the protests and we were not allowed in.  He also mentioned that the Embassy would be closed on Friday due to the police forcing the protesters out of the area...it may get violent.  At this time we were a little disappointed and maybe a bit nervous but we knew we're not scheduled to leave until Tuesday so we could have possibly gone back Monday.  We continued to push to be let in and the Thai guard would not budge and kept saying there was an emergency closing of the Embassy.  About a minute later an American Embassy worker was walking back into the building and he stepped in to our argument and told us he would take care of it and get us our children's Visas.  Two minutes later we were in the building and in 15 minutes we had our paperwork. It truly was a miracle that God sent us this gentleman at the exact moment to let us all in.  When we got Ray's Visa, you could tell the ink was still wet, hot off the printing press!  Even the worker that handed us the Visas looked nervous as he was very anxious to get the heck out of there!  Well, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know "the rest of the story."  We eventually caught a cab in a traffic jam and went back to our hotel and breathed a sigh of relief.

We went swimming, ordered pizza in and enjoyed a nice meal with the Sutton's before hitting the hay for the night.

TODAY - Friday, May 14th
We're just laying low today and staying in the area of our hotel where it's safe from protesters and gun fire.  We were supposed to go to the TRC this afternoon for a farewell party for the Ray, Aaron, and the children BUT because of the military blockade being right in front of the orphanage, we decided not to go.  It's too bad for the children but we want to be safe.  Khun Vo called to tell us that even she did not go into work today.  She'll be stopping by our hotel this afternoon to say her own farewells to the boys.  We have not yet changed our plane tickets but we might look into it if the cost is not too much and we can get seating together.  Either way, we know God is watching over us and we'll soon be home.

- Ann

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We Meet At Last

We started out the day with yet another blessing as our pastor's former exchange student, a local, met us in the lobby at our hotel and took us to the Thai Red Cross via the Sky Train.  We would not have found it without him.

Things could not have gone any smoother than they did today...God certainly provides.  We were SO nervous about everything and how it would play out but as soon as Ray ran into the room, all worries melted away.  Of course, Daddy was the favorite for the day.  Being around women social workers means that Bryan is a novelty.  I'm just glad he didn't hesitate to come to us and I did get hugs later on.

Ray loved our camera and he actually took more photos than we did.  We just keep thinking what a good memory this will be for him to have taken pictures of his friends.  A lot of the children just wanted to be picked up and held and we certainly do wish we could adopt another child, but one at a time...especially since Ray is into EVERYTHING!

We were not sure how long we'd get to be with Ray today but it ended up being 9:30am-3:30pm...a full day for all.  It was hard to leave him there but we know it will be harder yet tomorrow for the social workers to say good-bye as they are very attached to him.

Some surprises for the day were when the social workers pulled out the HUGE bag for Ray filled with clothes and toys that they said we could take with us.  We were told he would not be able to take anything from the orphanage except the things we sent him and now we're leaving with a TON of stuff.  Good thing we have an extra suitcase after emptying the one of the donations we brought for the orphanage.

Then, the social workers also had already scheduled the hospital Visa medical visit for us tomorrow with a specific doctor.  We thought we'd have to figure that part of this process out on our own.  Plus, they let us go to the mall for lunch with Ray for 2.5 hours so we got a little shopping in for a Mickey Mouse backpack to use as Ray's airplane carry-on.

I think we're both a bit overwhelmed by the whole day and SUPER happy to be the proud parents of this energetic little boy with a big smile. We cannot wait to get back there tomorrow at 9:30am, spend some time saying good-bye to the wonderful staff at the TRC, and to bring him back with us to the hotel. 

Luckily, our pastor's former exchange student will again be available and is very willing to help us navigate our way back to the TRC and safely past the protesters.  The ladies at the orphanage liked him helping us so much that he actually was asked to help another family's adoption coming up and he happily agreed.  What a wonderful young man...a true blessing for us.  We could not thank him enough and we will be thanking our pastor and his wife for making the connection more than words can say.

We are speechless.
Love to all!
Ann & Bryan
Why are we adopting internationally and not domestically?
While we think adopting domestically is extremely important, our hearts are drawn to the waiting children in other countries. Some of our closest friends and relatives have adopted, are adopted themselves, or are planning to adopt internationally. This has been a wonderful experience for them, as I am confident our adoption will be for us.

Why are we adopting from Thailand?
The number one reason is simply...that's where our son is living right now. Also, the Thai people are extremely laid back and friendly and the adoption process is very straight forward in Thailand and has been around for decades so there should be no surprises or corruption. After researching our other options, the requirements to adopt from Thailand fit our requirements. If we decide to adopt again, we will reevaluate the different countries and domestic programs.