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find my family: Lenny

June 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Precious little Lenny is 1 year old and is listed as a special focus file with Lifeline through an orphanage partnership. his special need is postoperative CHD.

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Lenny is a handsome little boy! When his caregivers speak to him he will smile and laugh! He can hold his own bottle and feed himself a biscuit without help. He can roll over freely and sit unassisted. He is described as an active and lovely little boy! He enjoys listening to music and being cuddled. Lenny lives in an institution blessed with a Half the Sky program in Eastern China.

Please watch his video. PW is Lenny

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Please keep in mind that several families may be reviewing this child’s file at one time. At any given time, this child’s file can go on hold or be taken back to the Shared List by the CCCWA. Please contact Lifeline for more information.

Who Would Want a Dad Like Me?

June 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Finishing up our June Feature, Let’s Hear it For Dads, with a post by Mike, a former (and favorite) regular contributor. We at NHBO enjoyed this series so much that we are working on bringing in more “dad” voices. Because dads are awesome, too.
So grateful that Mike agreed to share this wit and wisdom with us, and we think this post is a perfect way to end a great month. You can read Mike’s previous posts here and the other posts in our Let’s Hear it For Dads series here.

………

There are a lot of areas in my life where I have relatively low personal standards (e.g. upper body strength, fashion, lawn maintenance, reality television, etc.), but parenting is not one of them. 

From the day we first saw two lines on a pregnancy test back in 2000, Anne and I have known what kind of parents we wanted to be. We didn’t want to be good parents.  We wanted to be GREAT.

I share this because I want you to understand how high our standards are… so you can fully appreciate how miserably far below them we have fallen over the last few months. 

It is one thing to fail at something where you’re not really trying that hard. It is far more indicting to fail spectacularly at something where you are genuinely trying to do your best…


mike4I love this picture of all six kids because you can see their smiling faces… and the hole on the front of Will’s shoes.


An Engineer’s Guide to Parenting and Adoption

While our family size has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, our commitment to great parenting has not.

And while a passion for parenting might help drive some people into adoption, it almost kept me out of it. 

I am an engineer, and I tend to think of the world in terms of limited resources to be carefully managed and budgeted. We only have so much time, so much money, so much energy, etc. Through this lens, life is a complicated equation to be solved and every adoption is rife with potential to disrupt a carefully crafted balance.

While I know that this logic is deeply flawed, these fears feel very real in the middle of the night when you wake up worried about whether this is the “one” that will cause the whole house of cards to collapse.

Is this the tipping point when I no longer have enough? Is this when I have to start limiting how much of myself I can give to each kid? Is this where I have to give up the goal of trying to be a great dad? Or in the worst case scenario, is this where I start failing to even be a good one?

As Anne and I prayerfully considered each adoption, this was one of our primary questions and focus areas. Can we do this without compromising our ability to be the kind of parents we want to be to ALL of our kids?

And what usually started with some very deep and emotional questions about love and attachment often ended with some very practical, functional… almost boring… answers.

We need “systems.” 

We recognized this early in our marriage. It only took a few tense exchanges at the mall or the grocery store in those early months for Anne and I to realize that we needed a budget. (In retrospect, it’s possible that I may have “realized” it a little bit earlier than Anne… and that might have contributed to the aforementioned tension.)

Early on in parenting, we identified a similar need for tools and guiding principles to help us stay focused on the important stuff and to help hold everything together. A quick look at our weekend “systems” would illustrate this. Every Friday night is “Jutt Night” where we all go out for dinner and then back home for milkshakes, dancing, and family prayer. Every Saturday night is a date for Anne and me, a chance to connect and regroup. Sunday mornings are for church, and Sunday nights feature our modern take on Sabbath: pizza and a movie on the red blanket in the family room. 

I am sure that the above list feels stifling to some of you, but to us… it just feels right. Our weekend traditions are a calendar embodiment of the kind of parents and family we want to be – time together, laughter, prayer, conversation. These are essential to what it means to be a Jutt.

We always valued traditions like Jutt Night, but their importance has only grown in proportion to our family size. They now represent a comforting anchor of calm and connectedness in an increasingly chaotic and disconnected world. These “systems” help insure that we maintain the heart of what it means to be a Jutt even as the literal picture of our family changes.

In a very real way, my ability to concretely picture an extra milkshake on Friday or slice of pizza on Sunday really helped me get comfortable with the idea of adopting more kids. Knowing that some things weren’t going to change helped me deal with the things that might.

4 + 1 = 5 (unless it equals 6)

When God asked us to consider a 5th child (and then snuck in her little brother at the last minute), we knew we would have to double-down on the “systems” if we were going to make it work.

Anne and I both dropped volunteer roles at church. We renewed our commitment to have dinner together as a family each night. We also re-avowed our disdain for Select Sports… declaring never to give up our family time in the evenings and on weekends to worship at the altar of Youth Soccer or Baseball.


mike3This picture embodies a fundamental conflict for me… both the shame of giving into Select Soccer and the joy of being #9’s dad


We cemented our decision to adopt Sam and Ellie when Anne found a set of six different-colored cups, plates, and flatware. Having assigned each kid their own designated color from the ROYGBIV dinnerware collection, we felt like the last piece was in place.

And for the first two years that Sam and Ellie were home, we actually did pretty well. We planned the work, and we worked the plan. 

Then came May.

Starting in early May of this year, everything stopped working. Jutt Night started getting interrupted by budding social lives and select soccer practices. (Did I forget to mention that we signed both Adam and Will up for Select Soccer?  Hypocrisy, anyone?) Family dinners became an exchange of Chick-Fil-A nuggets in the back of the minivan, and weekends became a game of divide-and-conquer with texts as a chief form of connection… primarily to insure that the right kid ended up at the right field or concert. To top it all off, our basement was under construction to add some additional bedrooms, and the pricetag was exploding way beyond the original budget. 

Every system we had so brilliantly conceived and painstakingly maintained began to break down. 

“Great” parenting was off the table, and “good” seemed to be at risk.

The Collapse

And all of this came to a head one Sunday morning in late May.

The load of eight bathers became too much for our under-sized water heater… resulting in three people screaming through ice cold showers.

We were hurrying out the door in an attempt to be “less late” to church than usual. (I gave up any delusions of being “on time” to church after kid #4. But to be honest, Anne and I tended to be late to church before we ever had kids, but they make a much more credible excuse.)

On our way out the door, I tripped on Sam while he was trying to put on his shoes. Already frustrated from the stress of the morning, I snapped at him for taking so long… only to have him respond that his shoes were too small and did not fit any more… a complaint I initially dismissed until I realized that his feet literally would not fit into his shoes. (This was not an issue for Will and Ellie because the holes in the front of their shoes were big enough to release some pressure.)

As we tried to squeeze eight people into an aging minivan, Mia started crying when her hand got pinched in one of the folding seats while trying to climb into the back row. I initially feared that her hand had been caught in the door when it was closing automatically… but I quickly realized that was not possible because our automatic doors had stopped working a few weeks earlier, a problem we were not budgeted to repair given the fact that any extra money was all going against our ballooning basement bill. 

Breakfast was a bag of barely thawed Blueberry Eggos flung like mini-frisbees to the kids while I tried to force the sliding door on our aging minivan to shut against its will. Meanwhile, Abby was trying to jam her enormous cello into the back of the van, but she couldn’t fit it around the piles of soccer-worshipping folding chairs and umbrellas. Ellie and Sam swallowed down their HIV medicine with Adam’s water bottle from the previous night’s out-of-town soccer tournament, and I remember thinking that its (unhygienic) presence in the car was one of the only things that had gone our way the whole morning. 

Our delinquency only got worse when I was reminded by Will that we needed after-game snacks for his game that afternoon… precipitating a U-turn into the Kroger parking lot so I could sprint in to grab 16 snack-sized Doritos and a small crate of lemon-lime Gatorade. 

At this point it felt silly to even keep going to church since half of our kids were wearing jerseys and cleats in anticipation of leaving early for the aforementioned games.

I was stressed and tired and mad… the picture of the kind of dad I never wanted to be.

And then it happened.

I heard Sam’s scratchy voice from the seat behind me.

“Dad, I need to tell you something.”

OK. Here it comes. Now is when he reveals how disappointed he is in me as his father. Now is when he begins to articulate all of the ways that I have failed to live up to the standards of what a father should be… his emotional scars from not co-sleeping, his stunted intellectual development because I let him play too many video games, his doomed athletic career because his shoes did not fit properly. It was all about to come out…and I deserved it.

At that moment, the frustration fell away and was replaced by a wave of disappointment… not in the kids, not in the situation… but in myself. This is not who I meant to be.

And so with a deep breath of resignation, I prepared to face the justified wrath of my youngest child. “Yes, Sam.  What do you want to tell me?”

“When me and Ellie was in China, I was wanting a dad like you.”

I must have misunderstood what he was saying. Perhaps he meant, “When I was in China, I wanted a REAL dad… not one like you” Or “You are such a bad father that I wish you lived in China.” Or even “When I was in China with NO dad, it was still better than the miserable job you are doing.”

And so I asked the question of clarification, “What did you say, Sam?”

“In China, I was wanting a dad like you.”

And then I turned around to look my boy in the eyes, and I started crying like an idiot. I cried because I still wasn’t sure the sliding door was really closed all the way. I cried because I was so stinking exhausted by soccer and by mud-tracking construction workers in my house. I cried because I was dying for a date with Anne. I cried because shampoo is much harder to make than you would probably guess. 


mike2The teenagers have started asking for bigger cups, but we are afraid to mess with the system. (Sam still seems pleased with his.)


But mostly I cried because my systems, my planning, my whole hope for pulling this thing off well had completely failed, and somehow this beautiful, scratchy-voiced boy (who was wearing his sister’s pink Crocs) wanted a dad like messed-up me.

Suddenly I saw the whole ridiculous mess for the beautiful dream-come-true that it really is. And then I cried some more, remembering that I almost said “no” to bringing them home because I was afraid of a day just like this one.

What a merciful, merciful God we serve.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:17

Let’s Hear it for the Dads

June 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Baba. Daddy. Dad. Your name is worthy of celebration. You are worthy of celebration.  


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Your name is powerful. For our children, your name means comfort, safety, strength.

Perhaps you were the daddy that our child was scared of, and so lovingly and patiently, you pursued our little one. It took time, lots of time – months, years even. But you did it. You pursued our child with a father’s love. You showed us all that love is patient.  

Or maybe you were the daddy our child had to be held by at all times. In the time before our child was ours, she learned that mamas leave. So in those early days, weeks, and months, baba was the one she clung to. Felt safety. Daddy, she felt safest with you and in your arms, so that is where she stayed.

You carried her in the baby carrier all over China when you would’ve felt more comfortable demonstrating your strength by carrying all of our luggage. But she wanted you, so you showed up and stepped into that role that she needed from her daddy, even though that was out of your comfort zone. You said “yes” for her, and in that yes showed real strength and vulnerability.    

You changed every diaper.  


mandy


You were patient and calm when our child was scared. And whatever made her feel safe, you did it, because before love can bloom, felt safety is the soil that must be tended to. Tending to soil is such messy work, it is not glamorous, and sometimes, you want to rush that part to see the bloom, but that part cannot be rushed. You get that. But once love blossomed, that painstaking time tending to the soil made it more beautiful than you could’ve imagined.   

You lead our children in nightly prayers, and point the way to The Father.  

Daddy, that older child you adopted, you cradled him like an infant. You stepped into that gap that was, and filled it with your tender strength saying “yes” to rocking, saying “yes” to singing lullabies, saying “yes” to nurture. And even though your child might be too old to be cradled based on other’s opinions, you cradled him, because you know that is what your child needs. You know that your child missed out on all of those opportunities with us…with anyone, and so you do it now. You lovingly do that now, even after a stressful day at work.  

Daddy, you said “yes” to my idea to grow our family through adoption, even though at first, you were hesitant. You took on more projects at work to help us pay for our adoption too.  

You embraced adoption, the fear, the paperwork, the financial hurdles, the social worker visits, the questions and the detailed family biographies, the red tape, the unknown, the slowdowns, the adoptive training, the background checks, the foreign culture, the special needs, the surprise diagnoses. You embraced the child who was once an orphan and is now your beloved son, daughter.  

When I saw our son’s photo in the waiting child advocacy group, you said “yes” to becoming a daddy again. With fear in my voice, I said, “I think he might have more needs than what is listed in his file.”  You said, “That’s okay. When we say ‘yes’ to adopting him, we are saying we will love all of him – the known and the unknown. Saying yes to love and yes to family often means loving through fear, and saying yes despite fear.” And you were right. You realize his little life is precious and that he has been through so much.  


Mandy4


You say “yes” to co-sleeping even though for years you swore we never would, but our child needs us close. During the night terrors – his cries for mommy and daddy – you knew that at night time, he needs us the most.  

You play with our children for hours.  

You read books on attachment and trauma. You say yes to “connected parenting.”  

You listen to me when I have a hard day and remind me that I am a good mom. You take days off work so that I can go to adoptive mom retreats or out with girlfriends for respite.  

Daddy, you say “no” to racist comments and “jokes.” When others say, “That’s just our generation” or “that was just a joke” you say no more. You remind people that we are a transracial adoptive family, and that means stepping into conversations about race, educating others, and setting firm boundaries. And because of love, you step into those conversations. You educate yourself about issues and topics you were ignorant of before our family grew through transracial adoption. You do this, because you know it matters for our children. You talk with our children about race, about racism, and help model how to handle such interactions. You do your best and push yourself to learn more and do better, because you know our kids’ experiences will be different than ours.

Dad, you make mistakes. It is okay, we know you are not a superhero. You aren’t perfect, and we don’t need perfection. But, you show our children the importance of repair when you lovingly say, “I’m sorry. I love you.” By showing them that you are human and make mistakes, you are teaching them important lessons. Lessons that demonstrate they do not have to be perfect to receive our love.  

You say “no” when people want to know private matters about our child’s history. You are protective of her story, her finding spot, her sensitive diagnoses. And in saying “no” to others, you are saying “yes” to protecting her.  

You said “yes” to embracing our child’s culture. You learned about Chinese culture, and you tried your hardest to learn Mandarin and Cantonese.  

You said “yes” to finding the best schools, doctors, therapists, support for our child. You traveled halfway across the world to adopt our children, and all over the country to give them access to the best care possible.  

You help educate people about the importance of language when discussing race, adoption, and special needs – and you do all of this in a loving, but firm way. You get that if people knew better, they’d do better. So, as their daddy, you help people know better.  

And in doing so, daddy, you make this world a better place, a kinder place for our children.  

Let’s hear it for the dads! What do the dads in your family do that is worthy of celebration?


mandy2


find my family: Katie

June 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Katie is, and always has been, a favorite at her orphanage! She was born in August of 2013 and found shortly after birth. Her file says, “the child is optimistic, has rich facial expression, the child has a ready smile, although there are so many small dark spots, this does not affect her lovely, she …Read More

God of My Children

June 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

rebecca2

Ever learn something, quickly forget it, and need to be reminded again? During our daughter’s extensive surgery last November, God tapped into my medical momma’s fearful heart, comforting me with the revelation that I don’t have to be God of my children. It was a breakthrough parenting moment.  Little by little though, I again started mentally and …Read More

God’s Plans are Always Best

June 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

suzanne

God’s plans are always best… even when we fight them. After years of dealing with infertility and finally placing our desire for children into the hands of our Father, He revealed that His plan A for us was adoption. When my husband and I first started our adoption process, we told our agency that we …Read More

Night and Day

June 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

lanz

In the mid 1980’s our family adopted two biological brothers from the USA’s foster care system. Both were diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Fast forward to 2013 when we first adopted from China, cerebral palsy was a special need that was familiar to us and one we were confident in handling. According to CerebralPalsy.org, “Cerebral palsy …Read More

I’m Ready to Adopt: Choosing an Agency (Part 8)

June 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

agencyfeatured

Today we’re back with our I’m Ready To Adopt series with the eighth in a 10 post mini-series by Kelly – who blogs at Mine In China – on How To Choose An Agency. You can find links to the previous posts here.   Financial Considerations   If you have stayed with me through this series it is likely that by now …Read More

Maddox Waits

June 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Meet Maddox who waits for a family of his very own. Six year old Maddox. Look how cute and sweet he is. Maddox is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates. Not only is Maddox super handsome, but his caretakers describe him as smart and lovely. He was abandoned at about 3 years of age and …Read More

Going Backward to Move Forward: A Dad’s Perspective on Attachment Challenges

June 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 12 Comments

bryson

Of the many conversations we had with our caseworker from the adoption agency, I remember one much more clearly than the others. During this phone call, our caseworker (who, by the way, was amazing) was role playing and asking questions to help us prepare for the day we would meet our daughter, Lydia. One of …Read More

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