My Oxygen Mask

January 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Excited to share the first post from Mandy, our newest contributor on No Hands But Ours. Mandy shared her family’s story about a month ago and has joined NHBO as a monthly contributor for 2015. She and her husband Bryson have one daughter, Lydia Grace, and are now in the process to bring home another child from China. Welcome, Mandy.

I could hear the flight attendant making the usual announcements as I was trying to get my two-year old daughter settled for a long flight to Portland.  As a seasoned traveler, I tuned out the flight attendant.  We documented our flight with a selfie.  


selfie on plane


“Ma’am,” I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up.  My face flushed red with heat as I realized it was the same flight attendant who moments earlier was making the announcements — the announcements that I just ignored.   
“Yes, um…is everything okay?” I asked with an embarrassed look on my face.  

“Ma’am, I just wanted to remind you that in case of an emergency, please put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing one on your daughter,” she firmly, but kindly reminded me.  

“Oh, yeah, I know!” I said.  I looked around and noticed I was the only parent who got the admonition.  However, I think something about me must have screamed that I needed the extra reminder.  It is so counter to what I would be inclined to do as Lydia’s mommy, that I whispered it to myself once more, “Mandy, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”  What caught me off guard even more than the tap on my shoulder, was the tears that began pouring down my face.  Eyes swollen, the tears reminded me that in life, I was not putting the oxygen mask on myself first…or second…or even third.  I was so tired.  

Fast forward two weeks later, I rushed to teach a night class at the university looking less “put together” than typical (meaning I went to work with wet hair).  That night, my students were presenting key lessons they learned during their mentoring experiences.  I love how the Lord often uses my college students to teach me profound lessons.  A student of mine stood in front of the class and told us about this conversation she had with a student she was mentoring.  The student talked to the mentor about how self care should never be in the optional lane.  I wrote that down.  Mandy, self care should never be put in the optional lane.  It sunk in.  Self care wasn’t even in my optional lane, I had self care in the ditch.  

Honestly, I think there are a lot of us who put self care in the ditch.  We say, “Oh, yeah, I know I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first” but then our actions show otherwise.  We are tuning out the flight attendant.  Taking care of ourselves can feel selfish, but in order to serve, in order to disciple and shepherd our children with patience, nurture, and care, in order to make stressful decisions about medical care, in order to show that we are safe, trustworthy, and predictable, we must make self care a habit.  

My family cocooned strictly for at least six months because our unique family situation needed it, and in fact, we still keep our life simple and our world small.  Our adoption agency did a great job at teaching us all about attachment and bonding.  But, there was one topic missing from the excellent training we received: the importance of self care and what that looks like when newly home and later.  I think most parents (especially moms) need help with self-care, but, I think special needs adoption adds unique dynamics that make self care that much harder and important.  Deborah Gray (2012), in her book Attaching in Adoption states, “If the parents get too tired to provide nurture, children cannot do well…Parents often implement a program of self-care when they are already too burned out” (p. 307).

When I get too tired, when I fail to take time to practice self care, I forget many of the important techniques I have learned from Dr. Purvis and other attachment experts, and revert to my stressed mommy mode.  When people are under stress and tired, we often neglect to rely on important lessons we have learned.  My stress mode magnifies aspects of my personality that I do not like.  My voice gets strained.  I sigh deep sighs that are absolutely unnecessary and quite annoying.  I am not as patient as I know I need to be.  I am not as patient as I want to be.  When I am on “empty,” I cannot help my family move forward.  I have learned that I do better, and my entire family does better when I say yes to taking care of myself on a weekly basis.  It took time for me to realize that my need for sleep and time away was not a weakness, but part of me being human.  

Recently I talked with my husband about making self care a priority, and he reminded me that even though I have one of the most rewarding roles in society, it is also really demanding.  There are aspects of motherhood that are simply hard work and draining.  In my professional work, when I need a break, I do not go to the office to rejuvenate.  No, that’s more work.  Because of this, I have carved out a little time each week where I go and do something that nourishes me.  This appointment on my calendar is just as important as a doctor’s appointment or a client meeting.  I often found myself canceling my “self care” time to do something for my family.  Now, I ask myself, “If this same situation happened, would I cancel the appointment with one of Lydia’s specialists?”  If the answer is “no,” then I keep my appointment for taking better care of Mandy.  It is about my wellness and my family’s wellness too.  

During the first few months home, we were all simply surviving.  So I imagine that some of you who are just home are wondering how in the world you can implement ideas from this post when you are still in the trenches.  For us, I could not take time away when my daughter was awake because of bonding and attachment.  Talk to your social worker and see what he or she recommends.  Below are some of the ideas I implemented:

    • Took my daughter for long walks outside in the fresh air
    • Went to late night movies with my dear friend after Lydia was in bed
    • Dinner with my adoptive momma friends – no matter what I was processing, they were encouraging and receptive
    • Napped when my daughter napped to catch up on sleep
    • Asked trusted friends to help me by going grocery shopping for me – one even cleaned out my refrigerator
    • Precious friends brought us nourishing meals for six weeks
    • We brainstormed nighttime sleeping solutions with our international adoption doctor – these solutions helped all of us get more sleep
    • Hired someone to clean my home each week
    • Doing yoga with my two-year old daughter – we still do this several times a week and it adds so much laughter to my day and calms both of us.


yoga 1


In her book, Attaching in Adoption, Deborah Gray shares helpful ideas for self care that can be implemented at any time.  One of the best ideas is called “fifty pleasures.”  She encourages parents to create a list of fifty activities or things that bring pleasure.  For example, my list included taking a hot bath with lavender, watching my favorite TV show, exercising, drinking iced soy lattes, eating Thai food, kissing my husband, walking on the trails in my small town, going to the farmers market,  swimming in the pool, yoga, listening to the crickets chirp, drinking a glass of wine while sitting on the back porch with my husband, eating healthy, listening to classical music, drinking a cup of hot tea, reading a book, swinging with my daughter at the park, laying in my hammock, etc.  Gray encourages the reader to place a check mark next to the item each time you do it every week (you can repeat items multiple times), and by the end of the week, you should have fifty checkmarks.  This has been a really helpful exercise for me.

Now that we have been home almost a year, I take time each week to do something a bit indulgent for myself. Gray states that “indulging” yourself is “part of good self-care” (p. 309), and it is not narcissistic or selfish.  We moms aren’t the best at indulging ourselves.  So, I’ve given myself permission to enjoy activities I never would have without the guilt.  I went to a Katy Perry concert with my sister (and we both wore pink wigs and danced like silly teenagers).  I go see movies by myself or with a friend.  I get acupuncture or a massage.  I go to a coffee shop and read a book for pleasure.  Next month, I am going to Created for Care, an adoptive and foster mom retreat. And each week, my husband and I get away for a date night.  


katy perry


When my daughter asks why she has to go to sleep, I often tell her it is because we make better choices when we are rested and it is easier to be gentle, kind, and patient.  The same goes for parents.  By taking time to practice self-care, we can model for our children healthy self-care and boundaries.  

So imagine a flight attendant has tapped you on the shoulder. Are you putting the oxygen mask on yourself first? Have you put self-care in the optional lane or in the required lane? What are simple pleasures that you could incorporate each week? Are you treating time for self-care as important as a doctor’s appointment? When we are on empty, our families cannot move forward.

waiting child highlight: AWAA

January 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Meet Jessa, a bubbly and cheerful little one looking for her forever family! She is fun and friendly and sure to bring so much joy to the family she joins! She is 3 years old, soon to be 4. An AWAA ACT mission team visited this orphanage in November 2014. The team noted that Jessa is silly, funny, understands directions and has a big personality! Any family reviewing his file can speak to the leader who spent time at this orphanage. She has been diagnosed with psychomotor delays and her file includes an MRI scan, however no abnormalities were noted. Her file is designated by the CCCWA as LID only at this time, so a family must have a dossier logged in at the CCCWA in order to review her referral.



Brandon is an active toddler who likes music and dancing. He enjoys taking a bath follows along with songs and stories told by his nannies. He is independent and curious. He has had a surgery for cleft lip, but his palate has not been repaired yet. He has psychomotor delays and higher muscle tension in his legs. An America World Mission team visited him and commented on his handsome smile, wouldn’t you agree?! Brandon was noted for his fun personality, he loves people and being held, he also knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to let you know! Watch out, his visitors said if you pick him up he might not let you put him down!



Meet Ana, a sweet 5 year old girl in need of a loving family! Ana is described as a pleasant girl who gets along well with other children. She cheerfully greets people when she meets them and loves to be helpful. When adults are busy she likes to help them whether it be with caring for other younger children or with chores. She is described as active, bring and obedient! She has developmental delays and Hepatitis B. She is attending school and imitates activities and actions of others well.



John is a happy little guy who is just over two! He’s extroverted and loves to be held. He also likes to play games, watch cartoons and listen to music. He has repaired cleft lip & palate and Cryptorchidism. Some things John can currently do are: walk without help, with his limbs moving freely. He can take blocks out from the cup, control his defecation and urination during the daytime; has normal hearing, is able to express his own needs, say hello and goodbye, express discomfort and dissatisfaction; he can unbutton buttons, cooperate when getting dressed and take and give objects based on adults’ gestures.



Meet Beth! Beth desires to be a part of a forever family, she’s seen other children find their parents and is hoping to have her own mom and dad. Would you help us find Beth a family? Beth is 11, almost 12 and enjoys sports, singing and dancing. One year on New Year’s she performed a song/dance routine and earned the nickname of Snow White from her care takers. She has a vision condition called ametropia. She has expressed that she would like to be a part of a family. Beth is outgoing and active always ready with a smile. She may be a bit shy at first when she meets someone new but warms up quickly. She is loved by her teachers, friend and caretakers. She is smart and a quick learner.



Meet Marie! Marie was described by her visitors from an America World Mission team as quite, sweet, beautiful and as a ‘bright little girl.’ Marie is just over a year old and is diagnosed with congenital developmental anomaly of palms and fingers, syndactyly, psychomotor retardation, alimentary anemia and syndactyly of the right foot. Her list of needs might sound long but upon meeting her all you’ll see is her sweet spirit and adorable personality! The team who visited her said that they watched her play with a rattle, hold a ring and that she always seemed like she wanted to be in on the action, whether it was watching the other kids play, squirming to join the group, and she would light up when she got your attention. Marie can use her fingers to grasp toys, play with her feet, and support a bottle. She can pass toys with her feet to her hands. She seems to adapt to strange places/people quickly, she gets excited to see those she recognizes and is quick to reach out for a hug or a cuddle!



Contact AWAA for more information on any of these children who wait for families of their very own.

it was a good year: a look back at 2014

January 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

2014 was quite a year for No Hands But Ours.

The Mentoring Mom program launched in June to an amazing response from over 100 mamas.

The No Hands But Ours site was masterfully overhauled by Northstar Marketing over the course of a year, and the beautiful, super-functional site went live in September. Each of the Special Needs pages was carefully reconstructed by our Mentoring Mom team; and new pictures were added and resources and blog links were painstakingly edited and updated.

Several No Hands But Ours Mentoring Mamas saw a need and created the China Adoption Special Needs Information Facebook group in late December. Now, just a month later, over 1000 mamas are using the group to support, encourage and share information about their experiences with China special needs adoption.


No Hands But Ours on Facebook:

Our “likes” grew from 884 to 2579. As of today, we have 2717.

(If you haven’t liked us yet, please do. It’s an incredibly easy way to keep up with the NHBO content as well as help get the word out about orphan care, adoption, special needs and children who wait.)

Our 2014 post with the largest FB reach (tie): 

Everyone Stared by Amy S. with over 22,000 people reached via Facebook
Loaves, Fishes and Bedrooms by Mike with over 22,000 people reached via Facebook

From January 2014 to December 2014, our post reach went from 405 to 12,614.
From January 2014 to December 2014, our total reach went from 46 to 12,152.


No Hands But Ours Blog:

A total 322 posts were published in 2014.

The average number of page views in early 2014 was 1865 per day. The average number of page views in late 2014 was up 455 per day to 2320.

Our most commented on post of 2014 was Sometimes Love is War by Carrie with 45 comments.

The top 10 countries who visited No Hands But Ours (stats from November and December 2014):

1. United States with 64,326 sessions
2. Canada with 3,007 sessions
3. United Kingdom with 967 sessions
4. Australia with 721 sessions
5. Netherlands with 433 sessions
6. Germany with 305 sessions
7. Italy with 214 sessions
8. Singapore with 196 sessions
9. Sweden with 173 sessions
10. Finland with 160 sessions

The top 5 referring sites to No Hands But Ours in 2014 were:

1. Facebook
2. Ni Hao Y’all
3. There’s No Place Like Home
4. No Greater Joy Mom
5. Blog Lovin’

And a flashback to a favorite post from each of our contributors in 2014:

22 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Adoption by Amy A.

The Greatest Special Need of All by Amy S.

Fish Out of Water: Adoption Mamas We Need Each Other by Andrea

A Birth Story by Carrie

Eleven Simple Steps to Successful Single Adoption by Desiree

I Know That She Was Loved by Hannah

Cold Feet by Jean

The Party Blower by Jennifer

The Looking Glass by Kam

The Adoption Process Isn’t Really the Hard Part by Kelly

Sleep by Kristi

Day 366: Trading “Likes” for Love by Mike

Saying Yes to Complex Conditions by Rebecca

To the Traumatized Family by Tara

Advocacy and Social Media: What’s Not to “Like”? by Sheryl

40 Fundraising Families. And A Challenge for You. by Stefanie


No Hands But Ours Advocacy:

134 of the 322 posts published on NHBO in 2014 were advocacy related, with more than 200 children featured. All were published by our amazing Advocacy Team, headed up by the tireless Liberty Joy, in an effort to find forever families for the thousands and thousands of children in China who wait.

Of those children, 42 (that we know of) have found their forever families.

And of those 42, 6 were found directly due to a post on No Hands But Ours.

The best part of the year, knowing six little ones will now have a family to call their very own. Forever.


Click the name to see the original post about each of these kiddos:



2014 was a spectacular year here at No Hands But Ours. Heartfelt blog posts were published. Special needs were discussed. Waiting children were spotlighted. And little ones found forever families.

I’m hopeful that, by God’s grace, 2015 will be filled with all those things and more.


not disabled. differently abled.

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


When I was fourteen I taught Sunday School for a year. One of the kids in my class of four year olds had a short left arm. The first day of class I found myself thinking “that poor little guy was born with only one arm.” It took next to no time at all for …Read More

find my family: Lacy

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Lacy is a beautiful 9 year old girl, who has recently had surgery to correct her club feet. She is new the agency list at Hawaii International Child! Lacy was born with a meningocele, and club feet. She was found when she was an infant, and stayed with that family until 2013, at which time …Read More

find my family: Kyle

January 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Wonderful Kyle! Please read about this precious boy who participated in Lifeline’s Hosting program and very much wants a forever family. Precious Kyle is 10 years old and is designated to Lifeline’s special focus list. This sweet child is stated to have an eye condition called cryptophthalmus (missing eyelid) and caligo cornea (speck on the …Read More

Chronic: The Race Set Before Us

January 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


I am coming to terms with it.  This is not passing.  It’s not over after a surgery, or two.  Or after a therapy session, or three.  The first year is behind us, but there are more miles in this marathon.  I’m discovering what chronic means.  I’m learning that adopting a child labeled medically complex truly …Read More

HIV: Stigma and Disclosure

January 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Two of the biggest topics in the HIV adoption world are disclosure and stigma. They are very closely related. So let’s talk about them. Stigma can be defined as a stain on one’s reputation, or a mark of disgrace. HIV sure does have a blemish on its reputation. So much fear of how it is …Read More

find my family: Kevin

January 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Precious Kevin. Please read about this adorable little boy who participated in Lifeline’s 2014 Hosting Camp and is currently waiting on our designated list. Kevin just turned 7 years old and is listed as having mild CHD, finger abnormalities/syndactyly and unsteady but independent gait. Kevin is an absolute sweetheart who loves to be cuddled and …Read More

Adoption Allergies

January 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


“He’s been home for over two years. Isn’t it time you stop thinking about attachment?“   I stared dumbfounded at the face in front of me that had just uttered those hurtful words. I knew in my heart, they were said both in overly-asserted kindness and in ignorance, but I kinda wanted to scream back …Read More