We met him on Monday, April 20, 2015. We traveled to Chengdu, Sichuan (where the yummiest food of all China is...and the spiciest!) and went with some special friends to his orphanage. We were signing some paperwork when we heard them say, "Here he is!" And in came JunJun, carried in the arms of a woman who has spent her past two years loving and caring for him.
We took our time. I had been prepared that he might pitch a big nasty fit because he was so attached to his caregiver, and she him. We spent time just talking with him as she stayed in her arms. We put our foreheads together. I handed him a teddy bear Toby and I had chosen for him at Chocolate World the week before. He pointed to my picture and then at me, "Mama," he told me.
After about 6-7 minutes, we began the handoff. He came timidly, but without tears. He whispered "mama" after I would say it. I then pulled out a few goodies from the "bag of tricks" we adoptive families take to meet our kids. It was the bubbles that we played with out on the porch that coaxed the first teethy grins and began the bonding between the two of us.
One amazing blessing that I never saw coming was the presence of a gentle, kind woman named Christine Keegan. She is a photographer living in Chengdu and had been dreaming of capturing these first moments for an adoptive family...but had not yet had the opportunity. We were beyond belief blessed to be that first family! She has posted a stream of her work on her blog. You can see those pictures here: http://homemadeinchina.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-gotcha-day-story-beginnings.html
We were doubly blessed by being able to stay with some other friends, the Holloways, while we were in Chengdu. They work during the week at a school, so we had their apartment during the day and were absolutely delighted to share time together in the evenings. What a JOY JOY JOY they are! Brandi and I had originally met at Shriner's hospital in Philadelphia when both of our sons (adopted from China) with arthrogryposis were being treated. Each member of their family is a joy and her husband made us laugh so much with his stories of music in China! We would love to come back and see them again!
In the subsequent days, we have just deeply enjoyed getting to know Gable. He is an incredibly SMART little boy and after one time of me teaching him the sign language for "more" he began asking for food that way. His soft sweet little voice saying ,"mo'" looking at me for another bite melts me each and every time.
He took his time learning to eat...he batted most things away before trying them. He's got a serious sweet tooth that may be the reason for his adorable chubby cheeks! I asked the orphanage caregivers what his favorite food was and was a bit shocked when they told me, "candy!" I can see now that they were 100% on!
He is the perfect mix of compliant child and energetic giggles. He can be a challenge to change his clothes as he thinks its the perfect time for a game of "run-from-mommy" complete with giggles that will melt your heart. But in general he is an easy going, happy boy.
(This was taken during the medical exam required for getting an American visa. He was more frightened by the doctors than anyone I've ever seen.)
Evidence of his cancer is found on his multiple scars around his body from the ports and 7" incision across his belly where they went in to remove the malignant tumor. We were given a picture of him with his surgeon that the orphanage wanted us to have. I think that our Gable was really special to them. They requested a special goodbye before we left that day.
Healthwise, he appears to be completely normal. We have an appointment scheduled for the end of this week back home with a pediatric oncology team. Typically in a case like his, they would do monthly follow ups after the surgery and chemotherapy. That has not happened. We will be so anxious to hear how he is doing from a medical standpoint.
His adoption process could not have gone smoother in country and we will receive his visa today. We fly home tomorrow and are so so anxious to be together again as an entire family! Here you can see him interacting with some of our other kids using FaceTime!
What a joyful journey it has been to return to China for this son of ours!