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Waiting to be Chosen: Mr. Scientist

May 25, 2017 0 Comments

Cal (who also goes by Mr. Scientist) is a science-loving 10-year-old little math whiz. My family had the pleasure of being his hosts from December 2015 – January 2016, and in that short amount of time, he demonstrated so much growth.

When Cal came to the U.S., he was able to write some words in English but he didn’t know much spoken English. When he left 30 days later, he rarely required the translation software and was communicating with us, his host family, almost solely in English.



But it wasn’t just his language skills that had advanced. Initially, Cal, who is quite small for his age, couldn’t ride a bike very well or go across the monkey bars at the playground. He worked doggedly until he had both mastered.

This is a little boy who is both tenacious and determined.

Cal is smart and polite and while he loved the outings and trips to the park, it was clear that what he really craved was a family. He was happiest just doing normal family “stuff.” He loved helping out around the house, delighting when he got to take part in cooking (especially baking cookies). He even wanted to be assigned chores like the other family members.

Even before he could fully understand what was being said, he loved sitting with everyone, listening to books being read aloud, instead of looking at the Chinese books his host family had for him.

Cal got along very well with my three younger children. He took part in all of the games and shenanigans, and even shared his candy stash! He’s very careful and clean and my kids got a kick out of watching his very thorough teeth brushing.

This is a little boy who will add so much joy to a family.

He was so delighted by the simple things, marveling at the robot in the kitchen (aka the dishwasher) and automated car doors. While he required individualized attention, he soaked up praise and encouragement and flourished in a noisy and active family setting.



Cal is very small for his age (wearing US size 4/5 clothing at age 9) and has a sensitive special need.

Update (received Jan 2017): “He lives with a foster family, now he is in Grade 4 and he does very well in his school. He has great language expression. He can sing and dance, he is active, he is not very tall.”

For more information, please contact meredith@gwca.org or call (512) 323-9595 ext. 3032.

Meet the Contributors: Jennifer

May 24, 2017 0 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a way a traditional post might not allow.



Q: Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have been married to my high school sweetheart for sixteen years and we have five amazing children. I am a teacher turned homeschooling mom, and my husband is a web developer. We were blessed with our three biological children fairly early on in our marriage and felt as though our family was complete.

God had different plans and in the spring of 2011 we began to feel a strong pull toward adoption and foster care, and after the required 36 hours of training we became licensed foster parents. Our original hope was to foster and at some point adopt through the foster system, but as time went on the desire to adopt became stronger and God soon opened our hearts to international adoption which eventually led us to the China special needs program.

In September 2012 we began the process to adopt from China, and in January 2014 we adopted our precious boy. From that point on my heart belonged to China and all of the waiting children, and after being home only six months we began thinking about a second adoption. Although it took a bit longer than we expected due to an agency change, we eventually brought our sweet daughter home in December 2015.


Q: What led you to adopt from China?

I can’t pinpoint any one thing that ultimately led us to China. When we decided that we wanted to fully pursue adoption we researched both domestic and international adoption, and after deciding on international adoption we began researching different countries. All sorts of factors played into our decision, but China was always at the top of our list and in the end we knew that it was the best fit for us.


Q: Which provinces are your children from?

Jiangsu and Jiangxi.


Q: What special needs are represented in your family?

Anorectal malformation and thalassemia.


Q: Favorite aspect of adoption? Hardest?

My favorite part of adoption is watching our children blossom and thrive, and goodness do I love them something fierce! Seeing our older kids with their two youngest siblings has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined and the bond they have formed melts my heart.

The hardest part has been adjusting my parenting perspective and realizing that parenting adopted children is very different than parenting biological children. It has been a learning process for sure and I am still a work in progress.



Q: In one or two sentences, what are two tips applying to any part of the adoption process?

My first tip is to find your tribe, and by that I mean adoptive mama friends who are walking the same road that you are (online and in real life). Make an effort to connect with fellow adoptive moms who are parenting children with the same special needs, who have experienced the same struggles, and who have been through similar circumstances.

My second tip is to just breathe. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the paperwork and seemingly endless steps (complete with acronyms) that you miss other stuff along the way, and I fully acknowledge that I was guilty of this more times than I’d like to admit.


Q: How has adoption grown/stretched/changed you?

I honestly could not list all of the ways adoption has grown and changed me. Visiting an orphanage gives you a whole new perspective on life and it is one of those things that once you know about it you can never turn away. I know I will always advocate for the precious children who need families and I know my heart will forever be intertwined with adoption, orphans, and China.


Q: Can you share a few of your favorite personal blog posts? Some shared by others on NHBO?

Most of what I do at NHBO is behind the scenes, but occasionally I do manage to turn out a post and my favorite is probably the post I wrote on International Adoption Clinics because I think it is a great resource for adoptive families (and because I’m a research junkie).

As for my favorite NHBO posts it is so hard to choose because NHBO has so many talented contributors, but some of the posts I often go back to read and share are Yes. and I Could Never Do That by Rebecca, Adoption Changes Everything and This Is What I Know by Whitney, and Samaritan by Katie.


Q: What is your favorite book? Quote? Verse?

In what feels like a past life I was an avid reader and would read multiple books per week, but in this season of life I am lucky if I read four or five books a year. Some of my favorite books from my days of avid reading are The Scarlet Pimpernel, Kisses From Katie, and Mere Christianity.

Favorite quote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  – Jim Elliott

One of my all-time favorite verses is “From the end of the earth will I cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:2


Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?

My very first job in high school was working at Chuck E Cheese (and yes, I had to dress up as the mouse a few times).


Q: Can you share a favorite “mom hack” that makes life easier for you?

I almost never sort laundry. I do laundry by room and I only sort it if there are special wash items (delicates, bright colors, or items being washed for the first time). In practice, it looks like this: our boys share a bedroom so on their laundry day my older son takes their dirty clothes basket to the laundry room where I put all of the clothes in the washer (if I can’t fit it all in one load and I have to split it into two loads I might sort it into lights and darks if I have time). Once it is washed and dried I put it back into the basket and my son takes it back up to their bedroom where they help fold and put away. I then do the same thing for the girls’ bedroom and our bedroom.



Q: If you could share one parting thought with someone considering special needs adoption, what would it be?

Keep an open mind and remember that behind every file is a child who is so much more than their special need, and whose greatest need is a family. Though it may not feel like it, you are so much stronger than you know.

jenniferbNHBOsig


Thankful We Didn’t Know

May 23, 2017 1 Comments

Almost four years ago, my husband finally said yes. Again.

We had talked, I had prayed. I’d promised not to nag, prayed some more, and waited for that yes.

When he agreed to begin our second adoption, he had limits. He had the idea to draw some lines in the sand of what special needs we could manage.

But God had other ideas for our family.

Just a few days after making the decision to adopt from China once again, my best friend sent me a photo of an adorable little girl with a pixie haircut and rosebud lips. My heart melted, I knew immediately that she was supposed to be my daughter. The deal was sealed when I saw her advocacy name….Lexi. For years I thought I would have another daughter, and we would name her Alexis.

Lexi’s file stated she had a heart condition and some minor delays but overall was a healthy, vibrant little four year old.

Ten months after seeing her face we were finally meeting her, our Alexis. She was very tiny at five years old, weighing just 21 pounds and was so pale. She could barely walk a few steps, and I was perplexed because only six months prior I was sent a video of her running to meet her foster father.

My baby was sick, I knew that. I just didn’t know how sick she was.

During our time in China, Lexi had horrible stomach pains and, even with regular meals, she was not gaining any strength. We trudged forward and made it through the two weeks in China with the unknowns hanging over our heads.

After a couple of weeks of being home, we visited the cardiologist, expecting to hear that her heart was fine, come back in a year. What we heard was something like that, plus a little more.

Her heart was fine and the surgery she had in China did repair the heart conditions listed on her file. But the echocardiogram also showed that she had a left aortic arch and a vascular ring that was just barely pressing on her esophagus. The cardiologist was not concerned about either of those issues at the moment and said it could be years or never that those could cause problems.

As I was breathing a sigh of relief, he mentioned that the echocardiogram showed something different in her lower aorta and he was going to schedule an MRI to investigate further. He also mentioned that her blood pressure was abnormally high.

Two weeks passed and the day of the MRI arrived. We were anxiously waiting in in the waiting room and were finally told to come back to recovery. When we entered the room, we were met with a team of doctors ranging from infectious disease, neurology, rheumatology and cardiology. We were told that Lexi had what appeared to be a blockage in her lower aorta and her blood pressure was at a dangerous level… she was being admitted into Cardiac Intensive Care. At that time her risk for a stroke was 100%.

After spending a week in the hospital, we left with the devastating news that Lexi had a rare autoimmune disease called Takayasu’s arteritis. Takayasu’s arteritis, also called TAK, is a rare form of vasculitis disease involving inflammation in the walls of the largest arteries in the body: the aorta and its main branches. The disease results from an attack by the body’s own immune system, causing inflammation in the walls of arteries.

In Takayasu’s arteritis, the inflammation damages the aorta — the large artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body — and its main branches. The disease can lead to blockages or narrowed arteries (stenosis) or abnormally dilated arteries (aneurysms). TAK can also lead to arm or chest pain and high blood pressure and eventually to heart failure or stroke.

Takayasu’s arteritis can be fatal.

This is what happened to Lexi. TAK attacked her lower aorta causing blockage but it also caused damage to her superior mesenteric artery which feeds blood to her colon, pancreas, and appendix. Lexi’s femoral arteries were gone and were being fed by feeder arteries from the damaged aorta.

For two years the doctors tried to stop the inflammation from TAK, but it would not go away. Lexi’s symptoms were getting worse: her feet were always cold, her blood pressure was generally 150/120, and the fear of her having a stroke was growing. In November 2016, her team of physicians made the decision to bypass her lower aorta in order to alleviate those symptoms.

On December 6, 2016 Lexi went in for surgery. The surgery was scheduled to last 8-10 hours, but just two hours after leaving her side, we were called to meet with the doctor. Before they could even begin the actual surgery, Lexi went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. The surgeon and anesthesiologist were in tears while they were trying to tell me she was alive but on a vent, and they could not continue the surgery.

We could see her briefly before they moved her to ICU but until neurological testing could be done they could not determine the extent of brain damage, if any, that might have occurred during surgery. The two days spent waiting for the sedation to wear off and the 24 hour EEG to be completed were the longest two days of my life.

On December 8, the surgeons took her back to surgery and successfully bypassed her lower aorta. She came out of surgery with pink feet and blood pressure that was almost too low, but no one was worried. Her recovery was difficult, she weathered setbacks… but she made it.

TAK will never go away for Lexi, and she will always have to have some sort of medication to help fight the inflammation. She currently receives an injection at home every other week and we will find out in June if that medication is continuing to work. She will have to take blood thinners for the rest of her life which is difficult because she also has a bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand Disease.



Despite all of the challenges she has faced, nothing has stopped Lexi from doing the things she loves. Not even TAK.

She practices Shaolin Wing Chun, which is a form of Chinese Martial Arts. She runs (yes, now she can run), she plays with her sister, and she loves to play with her dogs.



I am so thankful we said yes, that she is ours. I cannot imagine our lives or the world without Lexi. I am also very thankful we did not know what the future was bringing us when we said yes….

We would have missed having her as our daughter.



If you have any questions about Takayasu’s arteritis (vasculitis), Von Willebrand disease, or congenital heart disease, please feel free to email me at kendi.allen@gmail.com or handinhand.kendra@gmail.com.

– guest post by Kendra

Waiting Child: Billy

May 22, 2017 0 Comments

Five year old Billy needs a family to give him unconditional love and affection. Billy lives in a foster family and was born with microtia of his ears, which impacts his hearing and speech. Billy is the definition of adorable! He’s a handsome, happy, cuddly, active, helpful, and athletic 5-year-old boy. Billy lives in a …Read More

Returned to the Orphanage: the Children of Guangdong

May 21, 2017 0 Comments

On March 21st, I came across a post from Lifeline’s China program director that said: “Please join us in praying for the precious children who are being cared for in our Foster Center in Zhanjiang, China. Because of some new laws being implemented this year in China, we were notified very unexpectedly last night that …Read More

Sofia Waits for a Family

May 20, 2017 0 Comments

Sofia is an extroverted 3-year-old who always has a smile on her face. She gets along with her friends and she likes to climb and play outdoors. Since Sofia likes climbing so much, she tries her best to walk by holding onto objects and can climb up a table and climb down. Sofia is expressive …Read More

Find My Family: Jude

May 19, 2017 0 Comments

Oh goodness, just look at this sweet smile. Read on… he’s even sweeter on the inside. Sweet-natured Jude celebrated his 11th birthday in October and is living in a foster family at an excellent facility in Beijing. Diagnosed with mild CP, Jude has worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges he faces. Recently he has taken …Read More

For Life: When Exhaustion Meets Glory

May 19, 2017 2 Comments

Are you one of the Mamas who thought that the orphanage delays would relent? You thought a year later you would stand on mountain tops and shout of the greatness and miracles of our God? And a year came and went and then another. And suddenly you wake up feeling like you are living your …Read More

Waiting for You: Wes

May 18, 2017 0 Comments

Precious little Wes just celebrated his third birthday! Wes is described by his caregivers as sweet, gentle, and good natured. He was born with a spinal lumbar meningocele. He was found as a newborn and received surgery around one year. His legs are weak and have poor sensory input but he can stand with assistance. …Read More

Full of Surprises

May 17, 2017 2 Comments

When we started our adoption process we wanted a healthy child. That’s what everyone wants – adopted or biological – right? Our hearts changed when we had the privilege of working with special needs kids, and we saw so much life and strength in them that we changed our adoption papers to special needs. When …Read More

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