walk, don’t run.

I’ve never been a runner. Heck, the nickname given to me in high school was “Clyde.” As in Clydesdale. Yeah, the horse. The one who trots along through life. But while I may not have been a runner, I walked fast! And with purpose. Even now, I somehow manage to leave my poor husband in the dust. At the mall, I realize he’s several steps behind me. My children consistently ask me to slow down when holding my hand. Because I’m my mother’s daughter and well, she walks with purpose too. Quickly.

So in the physical sense, I’m kinda power walking through my day. Multitasking. Spinning plates, juggling balls. But in a spiritual sense, I’m a runner. A serious runner. God gives me a task or a conviction or a plan and y’all, I’m all over it. Like they taught me during our three years in Texas, I’m “on it, blue bonnet.”

And you wanna know something? I don’t believe God calls us to run all the time. Run away from temptation? YES. Run to Him? Always.

But in the everyday, mundane? Friends, it’s a walk.

Have you ever contemplated how many Scriptures encourage us to walk? Verse after verse. Passage after passage. Walk.

This year in particular, has been a struggle between walking and running for me. Which is so funny since we aren’t adopting right now and I, like some of you, am guilty of trying to run like mad through an adoption!

Our first son, adopted at age 3, struggles with comprehensive speech delays as well as some learning delays. I’ve posted about him a few times before in regards to these things. But as I was recently sitting in the dentist’s waiting area {four children = cleanings X four twice a year…ugh!}, I read this article. And it reminded me again just how much these babies endure because they are born too early.

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Three of our children were preemies. Joel was the most significant at 28-29 weeks. He experienced several surgeries as an infant due to a perforated bowel {very common in preemies} as well as Reactive Airway Disorder because of immature lungs. He was on a vent for several months which seems to have given him some level of sensory issues too. And while I’m amazed at the level of care he was able to receive in the country of his birth, it’s clear that these things, coupled with being institutionalized until he was three years old, have conspired to set him up for some hard days as far as learning and schooling goes.

And in like fashion, I wanna RUN. If he’s only reading at an F level, I want to blaze through and get him to an H. “Forget G! We can skip it! Let’s just read H books and see how you do!”

But many times with our babies, who’ve come to us with delays, it’s a walk, not a run.

And then there’s our Gabe, {AKA, the Little Prince, my Gabey Baby}, whose urological/genital defects were so extensive that he will endure the 6th surgery on his nether regions alone over a two year period this October. MY plan was to shore this up in two surgeries. Which is laughable to consider now. And the fact that Gabe’s hypothermia at abandonment has contributed to terribly poor skin and healing quality, doesn’t at all help my need to RUN. It has caused the opposite to happen.

With Gabe, we seemingly crawl.

And I see this with so many other adoptive parents {and bio ones too of course!}, who love their babies more than life and they want this stuff to be OVER. We want to be DONE. We want our children to be CHILDREN and not in the hospital or in pain or unable to do things that others can easily do.

But again y’all, it’s a walk.

He calls us to a walk. Our kids don’t need sprinters. They need walkers. Consistent, steady, faithful walkers.

Oh, sure, I’ve got my tennies tied and my hair in a ponytail. I’m ready if a run is ever the best option. But for now, I’m on a walk with Him. And that’s more than okay. Because He’s God of the walk.

“And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
Lev. 26:12

 

10 Tips for a Successful Adoption Yard Sale Fundraiser

After weeks of planning and organizing taking over a good portion of my time, we hosted our yard sale fundraiser on Saturday!  I know many, many, many adoptive families have done yard sale fundraisers with great success who can also give you awesome advice.  But for what it’s worth, here’s my 2 cents on planning and executing ours:

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1. Start early.  Tell everyone about the yard sale and start collecting donations from family and friends 1-2 months ahead of the planned date.  I made a Facebook flyer that advertised the yard sale and also asked for donations.  We received donations from many people that we don’t keep in touch with on a regular basis, and they were thrilled to support us in this tangible way!  Many people have clothes, toys, books, and household items to donate.  Some have bigger ticket items like furniture that attract attention.  Accept it all graciously, you never know what is going to sell!  More donations = more sales.  Don’t be afraid to keep taking donations, even the day of the yard sale!  Over 25 families contributed and our 2-car garage was filled.  We sold a lot of the donations.  I know space can be an issue, we are fortunate enough to have a garage where we stored and sorted everything.  I would suggest having people bring donations to you.  In trying to make things as easy as possible for our contributors, we did many pick-ups and it was very time consuming – I would do that differently in the future.  During the week prior, everyone brought donations to us and that was so incredibly helpful.

2. Ask for prayer warriors.  This was so important!  I asked people to pray for the weather starting several weeks ahead of time and the Lord listened.  We had a not-so-nice looking forecast several days before, but it completely cleared up and we had a super awesome day.  We also asked for people to pray for the event’s success, and again, God totally heard us.

3. Organize your donations.  Everyone has their own way of organizing, but I’ll share what worked well for us.  We organized items by type, and then by price (also by size for children’s clothing).  For example, all of the toys were grouped together in my garage, but were sorted by price in larger boxes.  The kids actually helped me sort the toys by price, and it was really fun to have them (and their friends) help!  Children’s clothes were also sorted by gender and size in large bins.  We hung adult clothes by gender with borrowed racks and donated hangers (Old Navy and Macy’s).  This made set up easier because we marked tables by price, starting with $1.00.  Then when all of the donations were brought out, all we needed to do was get the $1.00 toys on that table, $2.00 toys on the next table, etc.

4. Ask for help organizing and tagging.  I would have been completely overwhelmed if I had organized and tagged by myself.  Although I did organize a lot of the clothing and toys myself as we were collecting donations, the bulk of the organizing/tagging happened the week of the yard sale.  When sorting, we didn’t keep some of the donations that were very stained or in very poor shape.  We mass-tagged everything – all children’s clothes were $1.00 a piece, all books were $1.00 for hardbacks, $0.50 for softbacks, all small frames were $1.00, etc.  When sorting toys and households, we tagged by organizing in large boxes labeled with a price – that worked out extremely well.  We also priced everything aggressively to sell.  We were going more with selling quantity over getting the best price (and we didn’t want to pack everything up to bring home!).

5. Advertise everywhere.  Seriously.  We had a strong & steady stream of people coming until about 11am, and they started showing up at 6:15am!  (Advertise “no early birds” if you don’t want that to happen – lesson learned.)  We raised so much money in just a few hours partly because of the sheer volume of people coming through.  I posted a yard sale fundraiser flyer to Facebook and asked people to share it (make sure the flyer is made “public” so even people you don’t know can see it).  It was shared 67 TIMES the few days prior to the event.  That was huge and I was in awe of how supportive people (many whom we didn’t know) were!  It was a nice surprise to see many, many friends who had seen the Facebook flyer!  I advertised on Craigslist many times starting 2 weeks prior, making sure to explain that it was a 25+ family yard sale with loads of stuff. I did the same on every other yard sale website I could find when googling for them.  I did not advertise that it was a fundraiser on those venues – I was more worried about simply getting people there.  Also, our friends advertised for us on all of the local mom/totswap groups and Facebook yard sale groups for us.  Lastly, we put signs up at the big intersections with bright neon pink poster board and large black lettering.

6. Pick your location wisely and organize your yard sale efficiently.  Although it was a good amount of extra work, we hauled everything to the entrance of our neighborhood, which is on a major road.  We put the bigger items that would attract attention on the main road and it worked.  Not only did we sell almost all of those items, a lot of people stopped by simply because they drove by and saw the yard sale.  I’ve heard of other families hosting yard sales in parking lots (with permission of course!). Chose what you think would be best for where you live.  It is worth the extra effort if you don’t think hosting at your house will get a lot of traffic, trust me.  We also organized all of the items in a logical way, starting with what we thought would sell most.  Bigger items and clothes were on the road so people could see them, and then we had a long row of tables set up (borrowed from family and our church) in order of price and type of item.  We started with the toys, a $1.00 table, $2.00 table, $3.00 table, $4.00 table, and $5.00, then a few miscellaneous tables with different items, and then household items, also organized by tables/price.  We set up a bake sale and drinks at the very end, covered by tents (also borrowed from a friend).

7. Ask for help the day of the event.  A lot of help.  And take care of them while they are helping you!  We started setting up at 5am for a 7am yard sale.  That seemed to be good timing.  We had several friends with trucks and family members here at 5am to help us load and haul everything to the yard sale site, and then had other people join us later to help with taking payments.  We also had Grammy spend the night before to take care of the kids in the morning.  I pre-made breakfast sandwiches to be popped in the oven in the morning (by Grammy) to feed all of our amazing volunteers.  We also had coffee, water, and lemonade available for them (Grammy was also on coffee duty).  I purchased bright neon orange shirts ($3 each) for our volunteers who were collecting payments.  This made our “staff” easy to spot, and we gave everyone free reign to haggle with customers as they saw fit.  Some of our friends brought aprons to hold money, others (including me) just used pockets.  DH carried a backpack.

8. Take credit cards and advertise it.  You can get a square reader for free and then you pay 3% of sales.  We had $200 in credit card sales, which may have been missed had that not been available as a payment option.  And it only cost us $6.00.

9. Sell baked goods, coffee, water bottles, and lemonade.  Although selling these didn’t bring in a ton of funds, we’re guessing we probably raised about $40-$50.  It was also a great opportunity to chat and share our story with customers who didn’t find anything at the yard sale to purchase.

10. Be willing to make deals.  That is, after all, the art of yard-saling.  Part of our deal-making came from the result of tagging in volume.  For example, there were some clothing and toys that we probably could have gotten more from if they had been individually tagged, but we just didn’t have time.  And especially as the day went on, we made even more deals simply so that people would take some of the more difficult things to sell.  Having said that though, don’t allow yourself to get intimidated by professional yard-salers.  Some people can be very forceful and we definitely said no to the more ridiculous haggling (especially earlier in the morning).  All of this paid off in the end.  We sold almost all of the toys, as well as all of the furniture and bigger items that we didn’t want to bring back.

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Some of my adoptive family friends have had great success with a “donation only” yard sale and we seriously considered doing this.  But knowing our area, we ultimately decided to tag the items.  We still shared our story openly and many people felt moved to give more.  One dear, sweet woman from our old church gave me $40.00 for $12.00 worth of items, and I heard several other similar stories from our awesome volunteers who collected money too.  The yard sale was such a wonderful way to have others partner with us in many different ways. The amazing people who donated items and contributed baked goods, our prayer warriors, the precious volunteers who helped us organize, set up, and host the yard sale, and the customers who purchased donations all partnered with us! Hundreds of people worked together to help us raise $1900 ($2000 with an anonymous $100 donation) to help bring home our son.  We still have a lot of nice children’s clothing leftover also, so we are going to consign them and hopefully raise a few more hundred.

Although it was a ton of work, this yard sale was such a huge success!  Raising $2000 in just a few hours is overwhelming!  Our God is so good!  I had a secret goal to raise $1000, not really sure what to expect.  But God’s plans were so much bigger, doubling what I hoped to raise.  We considered doing another yard sale day, but ultimately decided against the extra effort and time.  I do wonder how much more money we could’ve raised if we did that though!  I know several families who have raised $4000-$6000 doing multiple-day yard sales, so if that’s an option for you, I’d highly consider it!  I have been so humbled by this experience and am eternally grateful for how He used so many family, friends, and acquaintances to come around and support our family!



Not Bad For 3 Months

It’s only been three months, but she looks like a different child. I can hardly believe how Alea has transformed in the 90 days since she joined our family.

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She has gained 4 pounds, for one. She’s developed a bit of a pot belly and pudgy little cheeks. Alea’s such a little dumpling in more ways than one now. This morning I realized she no longer fits into the 3-6 month clothing she was in the first few weeks we had her… nor does she really need the 6-9 month clothes she’s worn since coming home. No, our 19 month old is solidly in 12 month clothing… not bad for 3 months.

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She has started vocalizing more and more, and she’s demonstrating understanding. My favorite is asking her for a kiss and getting one of those open-mouth, slobbery baby kisses planted solidly on my cheek. Alea has microtia and atresia, so she doesn’t have her right ear or ear canal. In addition to her hearing loss caused by this birth defect, Alea spent the first 16 months in a non-language-rich environment. (With nearly 30 cribs in her room and only a few caregivers, there isn’t a lot of one-on-one conversation happening.) On top of all that, she’s changing languages. It makes for the perfect storm of speech delay… When she came to us, she was only grunting. Now she’s babbling, saying mama, pointing at what she wants and having “conversations” in her baby talk. Our speech therapist told us the other day that she’s made about 6 months of language progress already… not bad for 3 months.

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She knows who we are. I’m starting to see more and more signs that she trusts us above all others… Just today in my Bible Study, I went to the restroom and left her with my friend for a couple of minutes. She cried when I walked away and as soon as I came back she eagerly came back to my lap. That’s a success in my book. She isn’t very interested in being held by people she doesn’t know, and she checks in with us when she’s playing or exploring. She seems more comfortable in our home now and she won’t go to sleep without us rocking her. She’s learning what it means to have a Mama and Baba and JieJie and not just Ayis and cribmates, and we’re learning what it means to have her in our family… Not bad for 3 months.

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She’s getting stronger. When we met her, she could hardly support her weight on her legs. She’d try to pull up on things, but she was incredibly unstable and prone to falling (literally) flat on her back, banging her head on the floor. Now, she’s almost walking… in fact, she could do it if she would just work up the courage to let go. (I think she’s smart enough to realize that if she falls while walking she gets hurt, so she’s unwilling to risk it yet.) She’s getting more curious. When we met her, she would cry if she touched grass or a plant. Now she crawls through the yard. She likes ice cream, solid foods, and our dog, all things she wasn’t interested in when we met her. She regularly empties out my cabinets and eats the dog food, not to mention crawling into or onto anything she can. She’s gone from seeming like a baby to a full-fledged toddler since we’ve come home… not bad for 3 months.

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Our adoption moved fast because Alea had lots of scary-sounding diagnoses in addition to the microtia and atresia, including a subarachnoid hemorrhage and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). She wasn’t an easy baby to place, so we were matched much earlier than we expected when we decided she was a good fit for our family. Those labels are terrifying, and though what we DID know about her didn’t seem to back up those diagnoses as being accurate, we certainly walked into our adoption with lots of unknowns as to how it would all play out. There are still many unknowns, as we’ve elected to put-off some evaluations to give her more time to settle into our family, but at this point all signs point to her being a perfectly healthy toddler with moderate hearing loss whose developmental delays can all be explained by institutionalization rather than underlying causes. We have no reason to think she won’t fully catch up, given the support and time she needs. And that’s not bad for 3 months.

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The adoption process isn’t really the hard part

Picture it—a roomful of adoptive and preadoptive mothers. It’s a little quiet, and you’re in charge of getting some conversation going. Likely, the easiest way to start a buzz is to open up the floor to (1) odd things people have said to you about adoption or (2) the red-tape, long wait, and high costs inherent to the adoption process. Hours later, all those women will be in the same spots they were all night and their husbands will be texting them asking them if they’re ever coming home.

I know about having a hard adoption process. Ours started years before we ever signed any papers, with infertility and multiple miscarriages and heartbreaking losses of babies I’d never hold in my arms. After the healthy delivery of three babies, the process officially started, and we found ourselves working a part-time job in the field of paperwork, with money leaving our account with every paper we completed. It seems so long ago now, but the memories remain of racing to the post office before they locked their doors, fighting rush-hour traffic to make our appointments for fingerprinting in the city, and fighting with legos and puzzle pieces and the children who left them under foot before our social worker showed up in some sort of vain effort to show her that good housekeeping qualified me to be a good parent. Then, when all the chaos abruptly ended with the hand delivery of our dossier (aka. our lives and hearts in two dimensions and bundled into a file folder), we waited. And, we waited. Then, we questioned and waited and reconsidered and waited. Two years later, when we realized we’d be grandparents before we would have our Chinese daughter, we joined the special-needs program with fear and trepidation. We thought the adoption process was hard before that; then it got about 10x harder. Looking at files that represented real children, facing our own humanity and ability to parent a child with varied needs, saying yes to a child and then turning around a week or two later and saying no. It was all hard.

But, here we are, home 4 years. And, all that hard that I remember are only memories. I can talk about those memories readily in that room of adoptive moms and contribute to that buzz with the rest of them. But, when I do, I want to take the conversation a step further because adoption isn’t over when you sign that last paper or stand before a judge or set foot on American soil.

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I saw this image in my Facebook newsfeed one day, a quote put with a beautiful image meant to warm my heart, posted by a large nonprofit supporting adoption. I saw it. I read it. And, all I could think was this: Seriously? Everything about the adoption process is hard except loving the child?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who isn’t feeling warm fuzzies.

I know the adoption process is hard, but loving my child selflessly for the rest of my life is a whole lot harder than a few months of paperwork and a few years of waiting. She needs a lot of love, and I want to give it. I truly do. But, loving doesn’t come naturally to me; it’s hard. In fact, it’s a battle, not against an unloveable child but against my own selfishness. Add to that how children who need the most love often ask for it in the most unloving ways and I’d say that love the way I believe love is defined is all about hard.

When she stumbles into my bedroom in the morning with her hair awry, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, I want to breathe her in and keep her tightly snuggled in my arms. There’s my warm fuzzies, people. But, my motherhood seems to be more in the trenches than being cuddly in the stillness of morning. Most of the time, I feel like I’ve put the black on my face and am ready for the task. But, there are times—more than I care to think about right now—when I feel just plain done and wish there were an app for that.

Parenting is hard; adoptive parenting is even harder as you simply cannot coast and get away with not being intentional and purposeful as a parent. That’s not a bad thing; intentionality and purpose are good things and can keep you moving on the right path, but the task can be harder. I’m sure I’ll still use the listen-to-this-crazy-thing-someone-said-to-me and I-cannot-believe-we-need-a-notary-for-a-notary as ice breakers. Yeah, they’ll get people talking. But, let’s not stop there, and let’s not keep silent about the trenches and lead people to think it’s all rainbows and lollipops. Let’s be honest with each other and talk about the rest of the adoption process—navigating what wise adoptive parenting looks like for our families and for our children and loving unconditionally even when we feel like we have nothing left to offer to meet what seems like never-ending needs. That’s #whatadoptionmeans for this adoptive mama, ya’ll.

#whatadoptionmeans



whatever it takes

Before there was a picture, my heart held an image of you. I penned my name on the adoption application, and your life was written into my heart. “Whatever it takes”, took on new meaning. The forms, the hoop jumping, the check writing, the calls, the fingerprints, the background check, the study of our home, and the steady push toward a hundred unknowns. A list was given of what it would take to be your family, and we checked it off.

Soon, a picture of little you appeared, and oh how I knew. I’d do whatever it took to get to you.

Whatever the obstacles. Whatever the red tape. Whatever the wait. Whatever.

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In China, “whatever it takes” was all new once again. My arms felt the weight of you with your sad eyes, raging fever, infection, no appetite, terrified sobbing, list of medical needs, bag of medical supplies, and wall around your heart. No idea what being your mommy would take, or IF I could do what it would take, I could only do whatever the moment, whatever the trip agenda, required.

Now home, we’ll trek forward with “whatever it takes”, minus the handy checklist.

I’ll simply take care of you. I’ll adjust my days, learn nursing techniques and juggle your appointments with your siblings’ schedules. I’ll creatively battle your veggie aversion and sneak probiotics into your sippy cup. Trusting new instinct, I’ll call the nurse when a low fever feels like something more.

I’ll research and fill my notebook with questions for the doctor, seek specialists, and humbly ask friends to babysit. I’ll check my watch in waiting rooms as I fill out more new patient paperwork, marking “unknown” under family history. I’ll drive to another state for an expert. I’ll add edema (swelling) and febrile (fever) to my widening dictionary of medical jargon. I’ll do pre-op, post-op and listen to discharge instructions. I’ll fill and refill those prescriptions.

I’ll wake another day and let you follow me from room to room because you feel safer with me in sight.

I’ll hold you a bit longer than my arm wants to. At the sound of your cry, I’ll stumble into your bedroom at 1AM. I’ll hold you during another church service because you panic at the sight of a childcare worker.

I’ll do a daily “lovie” wash so comfort awaits. I’ll smile at you and pull you into my lap when I’d rather have a moment to myself.

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No doubt I’ll falter. Selfishness will win daily. I’ll raise my voice and grumble. Hopefully though, my heart will refocus and submit to the gift of being your mommy.

If it is what it takes, I’ll remodel my world again around naptime and strollers, tantrums and diapers, board books and fat Crayolas.

With every new hospital ID bracelet, every IV insertion, and every scan or x-ray, tears might roll and my knees might tremble, but your little hand can rest in mine. When that operating room door closes with your daddy and I on one side and you on the other, you’ll still not be alone. I’ll stay on my knees for you, surrendering you over and over, always hopeful. And when “over it” is how you feel, I’ll feel it too.

You’ll need me medically, academically, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and behaviorally. It’s too much for busy, fragile, small faith me. My head spins trying to plan. Likely though, God will keep requiring me to release my grip. I’ll want to take control and He’ll remind me that it’s not mine to take.

My passport has a China stamp now, but I’m still searching our adoption journey suitcase for an elusive next steps checklist. Probably for the best, because if I could glimpse ahead, fear would spill in, I’d take my eyes off today and retighten my grip. So, I’ll grasp only for whatever it takes to love you best on THIS day.

At every intersection, I’ve learned that the Lord will meet us on the path, holding a lamp that usually shines ahead just enough, handing out peace that surpasses understanding and providing immeasurably more than I knew to ask for. Whatever it has taken, He has provided.

So, girl, with a heavy dose of faith in a sovereign over all things God, again, I’ll fight for you. I’ll fight with you. I’ll hope. I’ll blow bubbles for a smile. I’ll sing “Jesus Loves Me” in your ear at doctors’ offices. I’ll find a band aid. I’ll press cookie cutters into Play-Doh.

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I’ll submit to a stretching of my faith, my pride, the capacity of my heart, and the limits of my strength. It turns out that doing “whatever it takes” for you, means taking my life apart and rebuilding it, refined. Better.

I’ll advocate. I’ll be your voice. I’ll love you with all that I am. I’m all in. One day at a time.

Whatever it takes.



Bamboo Project Update

Today is a very special day… in a few short hours, the first of the Bamboo Project children will be in the arms of her FOREVER family! I’ve gotten to walk along side this lovely family from Georgia from nearly the start of their journey. Let me tell you, they are MORE than in love with their little one! God has truly ordained this precious heart and her extra chromosome into this amazing family. I’m SO STINKING EXCITED for them today and all the days that lay ahead.

This story will be repeated this time next week too, as a second Bamboo family just got word they are traveling this Wednesday! (Super short notice, just like with us!) This Michigan family is an experienced adoptive home, but this is their first chromosomally enhanced child… oh, what an adventure lays before them!! This little girl is already so VERY loved and wanted.

Please be praying for these families and their new daughters as they bond, and navigate the cultural, developmental, & medical waters that are before them now. Also for the children that are waiting at home in Georgia & in Michigan; that their hearts will overflow with love for their new sister and their own transition will be seamless with their growing family.

God is so VERY good. He is setting the lonely into families just as He promised. (Psalms 68:6). Thank you to all that have been praying & supporting this incredible project! (Please continue to contend for the five handsome boys still waiting for their new Forever). Four more Bamboo families are due to travel before the end of the summer… let’s get these kids HOME!!

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what we’re reading links: 6.18.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it.

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.

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Gia, just days after meeting her new forever family

blogs

Several bloggers tackled the topic of racism against Asian-Americans, including Dami Obaro’s piece outlining the model minority myth entitled “Why Can’t You Be More Like Them?;” Tara Vanderwoude’s piece I’m Not an Exotic Asian; and Don Lee’s account of a recent encounter with a waiter in That’s Kind of Racist, Dude.

Kasi Pruit shares her journey as she processed the Death of the Picture Perfect Family at her husband’s blog i already am.

Kelly the Overthinker shares a list of 20 key things you need to know about China travel in #ohChina.

At Two Vandalgrads and Three “G’s,” Amy describes their visit to their new daughter’s orphanage in Journey to Gia, Day Four: Brokenness Before Redemption.

Several parents received great news in recent weeks, including Jamie from Hearts Set on Pilgrimage in She Hears! And other exciting news! and Lisa of Pursuing Miracles in God’s Got It!

Margie Perscheid, adoptive mom to two adult Korean adoptees, acknowledges her non-adoptive privilege.

High school graduate Christine, adopted from China, shares her college essay about growing up Asian in a Caucasian culture and having a brother with autism.

Ellen Stumbo ponders the question “what if she lives with us forever?” in regards to her second daughter, born with Down Syndrome.

Maureen of Finding Mei Mei discusses the effects of early trauma on a child in The Past is Not in the Past.

Chris of Apricot Lane Farms proves that being born with limb difference can’t stop you from anything, even one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world – farming!

At My Life in God’s Garden, Diane moved us to tears with her recent post Suffering.

Adoptive dad Jim describes the victories that count at Lanterns, Ladybugs and a Whole Lotta Love.

inthenews

Several Chinese newspapers ran articles about their country’s adoption program in recent weeks, including Chinese parents compete with foreign applicants to adopt health babies, Adopted American Girl in Quest for Her Chinese Birth Parents and International and Domestic Adoption in China.

Researcher ChangFu Chang, creator of the documentary Long Wait for Home, shares the synopsis of his current documentary project Ricki’s Promise and its kickstarter campaign.

In Yahoo! News, ANI reports that a New discovery could soon make epilepsy history.

Chicagoan Lily Born, an eleven-year-old Chinese adoptee, invented an unbreakable, hard to spill cup for her grandfather, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.

Yosemite National Park shared the story of Gabriel, an eight-year-old diagnosed with Ehler Danlos Syndrome, whose Make-A-Wish request involved the park in a huge way.

The Guardian shared a book review about the new book “Leftover Women,” written by Leta Hong Fincher, which details the “toxic vitality of sexism in China today.”

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.

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In China now to bring home their child…

Everything Beautiful
Adding One Morh
Impossible, Difficult, Done
Our Jones Clan

Just Home from China…

Two Vandalgrads and Two “G”s
The Layers of Life
Stop for Flowers
My Life Song
Lanterns, Ladybugs and a Whole Lot of Love
One More Thing
Bringing Home Andi
Homework, Hotdogs and Valium
Love Makes a Family
The Collected Hord
Team Willie Goes To China

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. A big thank you to Amy for sharing a photo of her lovely daughter, and another to those who helped compile this week’s post.


Stamp of Glory

As a medical mom, I went into a special needs adoption with eyes wide open. I dusted off old medical journals, updated myself on the current care guidelines for Down syndrome, consulted with colleagues, and scheduled with trusted specialists. I understood the ramifications of a spectrum disorder like DS and felt prepared for whatever ribbon my new little human came packaged in. I was eager and ready.

On our first morning together, I counted his ten little fingers and ten little toes. I found his two tiny freckles and memorized the color of his chocolate eyes. I inhaled his soft (sweaty) smell and rubbed my nose in his sweet skinny thighs. He was a perfect little boy and I was finally his Momma.

As I explored him I also snuck in his first well child check, jotting notes in the corners of our adoption paperwork:

HEAD: normocephalic
EYES: mild R strabismus
EARS: stenotic canals
HEART: blowing 4/6 murmur
LUNGS: clear throughout
ABDOMEN: small ventral hernia
MUSCULOSKELETAL: hyperflexic, low tone
DEVELOPMENTAL: approx 9months
SKIN: 1cm scar posterior neck…??

Um...mom? We just met.

Um…mom? We just met.

There were several findings that hadn’t been noted in his referral, but expected with Down syndrome. I had prepared for them & wasn’t worried so I mentally scheduled the speciality appointments we would need in order of importance for when we got home. But the scar…where did the scar come from?? There was no medical reason for the scar. The placement, the size, the angulation. In all my medical travels, I couldn’t think of one procedure in any culture that would have left a scar like this. Which only meant one thing…there had been injury…and pain…

My baby had been hurt. Whether by accident or intention, there had been damage. When did it happen?! With his birth parents? Did they have access to medical care while our child was bleeding? Did someone try to hurt him?! Was it with his foster mother? Did she know what to do? Was the orphanage notified right away? Did my little boy cry? Who dried his tears and held him close? Did anyone care that he was in pain??

Intellectually, I knew that pain, emotional & sometimes physical, were-ARE- an inherent part of adoption. It was in my head; I had read all the books, blogs and posts before leaving for China (seriously, ALL the books). But it’s easy to romanticize adoption, especially with a young child who can’t articulate or even consciously remember life before their new Forever. That scar changed everything; my medical brain couldn’t explain it & my momma’s heart was crushed by it.

The scar screamed at me: there was a life that included pain before you arrived and there is nothing you can do about that.

I know my Lord has a deep understanding of scars. In His perfection, He still bares the ugly marks of my redemption. I also know He takes special care for those that have been wounded… “He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds..” (Psalms 147:3). Oddly enough, there is no mention of a lack of scars; I assume they are implicitly implied? Often, I’ll tell my patients before a procedure, “when we are done, you’ll probably have a bit of a scar, but that’ll be the only reminder of what was causing your pain.”

But I wonder if that is really what the Lord sees in His scars? Not a reminder of the pain, but a stamp of His glory: I am both your Great Physician and Heavenly Father. There was brokenness and I healed it. You were hurt and I comforted you. What was, will be no more. MY scars are proof of your adoption.

Isaac3

It’s been nearly two years and those words are still bringing healing to me and the pain I carry on behalf of my son. When he is playing quietly, I often catch myself staring at that little scar. His sun-kissed neck highlights the mark even more now, but it’s a reminder of how healthy he is; not of where he was, but where he is now.

Isaac2

In those times my mind wanders to what possibly happened, the Holy Spirit reminds me of His miracle in our lives and His constant hand of protection over us both. A physical scar may remain, but it can now be a testimony of God’s redemptive story…what was, is no more…we have our own stamp of His Glory.

Loaves, Fishes, and Bedrooms

As a dad, one of the most common concerns from prospective adoptive fathers is on the finances relative to adoption and larger families. This provides some perspective on our experience:

This month will be the 10th anniversary of when we moved into our current house. We built this house, and it was the perfect size for our family of four. (I should clarify when I say “we built” that I did not wield a hammer or screwdriver at any point during the construction process… which is probably why this house is still standing. My main job was to check my spreadsheets each night and explain to Anne why we could not afford any of the upgrades she suggested… ridiculous and superfluous requests like a 5th bedroom.)

When we decided to adopt our daughter Mia a few years later, we knew we would have to make some compromises. So with apologies to our parents who might visit, we moved an old futon into the basement and converted the guest room into Mia’s. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

When we started talking about a second adoption two years later, we immediately assumed that we would need to move. With our suburban bias that every kid needed to have their own bedroom, a fourth child would never fit in a four bedroom house.

But after some prayer and consideration, we identified that there was a loft area that could be converted into a very small bedroom. (I use the term “bedroom” with some reservation. A realtor would probably list it as a “small walk-in closet.”) We had the loft converted, purchased another twin mattress, and went to China to bring home Will.

When we started to talk about a third adoption, moving seemed both obvious and inevitable. But when we started looking, we quickly realized that there are two kinds of houses – ones that can comfortably accommodate a family of seven and very different ones that we can afford. This led to a frustrating conclusion… we could fit a fifth child into our budget or into our house… but not both.

After some prayerful consideration, we challenged our assumption that every kid needed their own bedroom. We determined that a family would be more important to a new son or daughter than having their own bedroom. So with this shift, we found a bit more room (if not an additional bedroom) in our four bedroom house.

The great poet TobyMac, quoting his mama, said, “it’s a matter of fact that when love is in the house the house is packed.”

The great poet TobyMac, quoting his mama, said, “it’s a matter of fact that when love is in the house the house is packed.”

Our brilliant solution began to erode a few months later when our agency called to ask us about potentially adopting twins. After a bit of research, I concluded that there are no “2 for 1” coupons on adoption. Our $30,000 expense was about to become nearly $60,000. When I put these new numbers into my spreadsheet, I stopped worrying about being able to afford enough bedrooms and started worrying about being able to afford enough beds.

As is probably obvious by now, I am anal, I am cheap, and I really like my spreadsheets. (I would also tell you that I am an engineer, but that would be redundant at this point.)

In fact, I have a spreadsheet for every important decision I’ve ever made… from marrying Anne to buying a used 1997 Honda Accord. (Both required more regular maintenance than I predicted, but both have also proven to be excellent investments.)

When I do make a “life” spreadsheet, I use color to help me. When a decision makes sense, the spreadsheet cells starts to turn green. When it doesn’t make sense, the cells start to turn red.

And the tab for “adopt twins” was completely crimson. Other than a small green cell for “What Jesus would do”, every other indicator suggested that this was a bad idea. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough bedrooms. Not enough seats in the Accord… or any vehicle other than those white utility vans used by kidnappers. Red. Red. Red.

But when we prayed, we felt like God wanted us to do it. That stupid green cell simply would not go away. And so, facing a sea of red cells, we said “yes.”

And when we did, I picture that He started to smile. Smiling at our realization that we could not do it on our own. Smiling at the gap between what we had and what we needed… and his extraordinary ability to close that gap. As he watched me struggle over my spreadsheets, perhaps He smiled because this was not the first time his people stood before a Sea of Red waiting for a miracle.

And then He showed up… big time. Within weeks, a couple of anonymous checks arrived in the mail. My company’s stock hit a seasonal high, and I made more than expected from a bonus. With each day and week, the red cells turned to yellow and then to green. By the time we stepped on the plane for China, we had all of the money we needed to bring home Sam and Ellie. No coupon required.

And the bedrooms, they seemed to multiply as well. We saw the power of bunk beds to make two beds where there used to be one. And we saw the power of love when Will and Adam agreed to share a room, Abby crammed her teenaged life into a severely downsized space, and Mia agreed to move into the closet… all joyful downgrades in order to upgrade our family.

The most beautiful closet in the world... courtesy of a beautiful girl who traded her “normal” bedroom for two incredible siblings last year.

The most beautiful closet in the world… courtesy of a beautiful girl who traded her “normal” bedroom for two incredible siblings last year.

Incredibly, we even found an extra leaf in the basement for our kitchen table. A leaf wrapped in bubble wrap that neither Anne or I remembered from when we purchased the table. A leaf that turned our table for six into a table for eight.

As I reflect upon it, I am reminded of the gospel story from Mark 6 where the disciples are worried that there is not enough food to feed the thousands of people who have followed Jesus out into a remote location.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”…
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.

Perhaps my favorite part of this passage (other than the guy doing the math about how many months of wages it would cost… I like that guy… he even did that without a spreadsheet), is how Jesus responds to the request from the disciples.

When it is clear to them that they do not have enough, Jesus challenges their assumption and says, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

And in the end, he takes what they have and shows them that it is more than enough. All are satisfied and there is extra to spare.

That’s how Jesus works some times. Sometimes he does it with five loaves, sometimes he does it with two fish, and sometimes he does it with four bedrooms.

Psalm 133:1 “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.” (And I assume that this does not exclude the occasional brotherly noogie or wedgie...)

Psalm 133:1 “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.” (And I assume that this does not exclude the occasional brotherly noogie or wedgie…)

If you had told me 10 years ago that eight people would be living in this house, my first response would be, “Where did our family move?” But the truth is that it works. We have everything we need and there’s even some extra to spare… but not enough for a 9th person… right, God?



Taking Care of Personal Business

In other words this is a poop and potty post!

Many of the children that sit and sit and sit on the waiting child list are there because they are incontinent. Which means they cannot control their bowels and bladder.

We have brought 2 children home that were in “that situation.” One was diagnosed with Anal Atresia (or Imperforate Anus and came home with a colostomy) and the other was diagnosed with Spinal Bifida and came home in diapers.

Each time, when I saw our child on the waiting child list I said, “I can’t do this.” But God encouraged us to step out in faith, so we did. At times we felt like it was too big for us but we knew it wasn’t too big for Him. NOTHING is too big for Him.

Somehow, God always works out all the details. I don’t worry about things as much as I used too because I know it is in HIS hands and HE is in control. There is no one more capable to be in control and worrying gets me nowhere. I used to want to have control but not any more.

As we have brought our children with incontinence home we have learned a lot.
The keyword for us right now is “social continence.” That is the goal for both of our children. Social continence means that the child/adult does not wear diapers and can care for their bowel and bladder needs independently. They are able to be in social settings and able to live a normal active life just like anyone else.

When our children came to us… they smelled. It wasn’t a good smell- it was of urine and poop. They needed love, a bath and a new plan to care for this issue. Both of them are incredible kids. We cannot imagine our lives without them. Within hours of them being ours- they didn’t smell any longer. They were clean, happy and actually a bit appreciative- they knew they were being cared for properly. There is NOTHING more bonding than caring for a child when it involves private issues such as potty and poop. I have seen it happen both times for us. The bond between the child and parent is accelerated.

The nannies do all they can for the children and they try to care for them but they do not have access to the supplies and medical care like we do. One of our sons was using a plastic baggy and a cloth tied over it, for his colostomy. It didn’t take long for this energetic little boy to dislodge the contraption and soil his clothes. The director tried to clean him up for us but she was a bit irritated that this had happened. I just wanted to scoop him up and get him back to the hotel to give him a bath. The very first time I cared for him he looked right into my eyes and said, “thank you Momma” in Mandarin. He had my heart right then and there…

Our second little guy came to us in a very soggy and very small diaper (not his size). His clothes were wet and he wreaked of urine. Although he was adorable it was hard at first to see beyond the smell. This little guy was from one of the best orphanage in the country. When hubby got him back to the hotel he immediately gave him a shower and a diaper that fit. This time my hubby was the recipient of “Thank you Daddy” in Mandarin. When they came home I could see right away that Daddy and son had a special bond.

One of our boys has reached social continence and truthfully it’s wonderful for him and for us! Once home he was able to have surgery to “replumb” his intestines and it was hooked up with his “new rectum.” Then 2 months later they took down the colostomy. We followed the Dr.’s instructions and within 4 months after that he was out of diapers!

Our other son is “in process.” His situation is a bit more complicated as he does not feel the potty and poop due to spinal bifida. Our goal and our doctor’s goal is for him to be out of diapers, also. Some children can be regulated through diet alone but we didn’t feel it could be adequately managed that way. So for him the first step is called an ACE procedure- simply put he has a little tiny opening from his belly button to his large colon and each morning we irrigate his bowels with water so we can get all the poop out. That way he can start fresh every day and doesn’t need to worry about poop. In time he will do all of this himself and he will continue to do this as an adult. It’s just part of his morning routine!

For the urine we are catheterizing him 4 times a day and emptying his bladder. He is on a medication that will allow his bladder to do a better job holding the urine. There are many other options for him and for other children. We will see how this works for us and if it does, great and if not, we will try something else. He just needs to bring his catheterizing supplies with him and he can cath himself in the bathroom where ever he is. If he is at school he goes to the nurses office to do this. If he is at the zoo he goes into the stall in the men’s room. Most likely you know someone that does this BUT you are unaware of it. It’s not something that others need to know and that people readily share unless it’s necessary. He will grow up just like any other little boy and have a normal life. As far as sexual function we know he can have children but his private life will remain between him and his spouse. We know it is our Doctor’s goal to be sure he is working that way too.

If your heart has been moved to adopt one of these special kiddos don’t let potty and poop scare you. It’s nothing to be afraid of and I know that now! Step out of your comfort zone and help a child. If you don’t… then who will?