“I Can Do Anything You Can Do”

June 28, 2017 0 Comments

It’s funny how you remember the exact moment certain things happen in your life; a phone call about your first job, winning a special award, the first time you fell in love. Moments like these seem to be forever captured in a certain part of your brain, a place that can be retrieved and played over and over again, especially when you are feeling nostalgic.

I feel so very blessed to have experienced one of these moments on November 22, 2010, when we received a very late call from our adoption agency. The shared list had just been released, and our wonderful agency told us they had a file for us to review. We raced over to the computer, opened the email and began reading: age… institution… finding location. And then we read the words “ankylodactlia” and “deformity of left fingers and hand, possible missing left pectoral muscle”.

Questions, fears and what ifs began to consume our thoughts, and the word “special needs” became a reality. Our minds began to wonder…

“Will he be able to cut a piece of paper, catch a ball, ride a bike?”
“Will he be made fun of, seen as different?”

And after a sleepless night, we did exactly what ever other prospective adoptive parent does, and contacted our pediatrician. We sent him the file, asked questions, and worried about the doctor’s worries. But we knew that we had found our son.

On June 1st, 2011, we traveled to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, and five days later we held our son for the very first time.

Once home, we met with our pediatrician, who then sent us to a geneticist, who then diagnosed our son with Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect characterized by underdevelopment or absence of the chest muscle on one side of the body, and, usually, webbing of the fingers of the hand on the same side.

At first, discovering your child has not only a limb difference, but a syndrome is a bit scary, however, we have learned that a difference is just that, a difference, and does not define the person you are.

After his diagnosis, we met with a fantastic orthopedic surgeon. One month later, our son began the first of four reconstructive hand surgeries. Each surgeon took away the webbing from his fingers which allowed for better hand movement, and his last surgery rotated his thumb to help with grasping motion. With each surgery, our son wore “the club”, a shoulder to hand cast that covered his entire hand. And with each surgery, I was amazed by the resiliency our son showed.

Through the years, I often smile and think about the many worries we had when we said yes to our “special needs” son. I smile because his “special need” does not define him. He has adapted to his limb difference in such a positive way, that we often times forget he has a little hand.

He is on the honor roll at school, has many great friends, and yes he can cut paper, catch a ball and ride a bike.

Occasionally he will have someone ask about his hand, and in return he responds, “Oh that’s my lucky fin, I was born like that. But I can do anything you can do.”


– guest post by Heather

Urgent Aging Out Child: YouYou

June 28, 2017 3 Comments

YouYou is 13 years old and has just over six months left until he ages out from the adoption program. His file reveals that he was found around his 3rd birthday. With testing, it was determined that he has Thalassemia. He receives transfusions every 1-2 months.

YouYou is a curious and attentive boy. He is very interactive and engaged in all activities. He seems to be very sweet and empathetic. He is eager to play and even seems to like some competition when playing sports. YouYou is eager to play with other children. He is also a little bit ticklish! He has a great sense of humor and is very smiley. YouYou loves to draw and paint and play sports, especially football. He also enjoys reading books.

He states that his favorite food is noodles with vegetables and cabbage. His favorite color is sky blue. He is afraid of the dark. YouYou can tie his shoes and easily fasten zippers and buttons. He is totally independent with all self-care skills- he even makes his own bed!

He lives in the orphanage. YouYou can do basic math, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. He can repeat a pattern of 8 colored shapes from memory, after seeing the pattern. YouYou is in 7th grade. His grades are 90+ but his best subject is math. Staff report his overall development on par with other children his age.

YouYou is initially shy, but becomes very talkative as he warms up. He answers all questions with long sentences with substantial content. YouYou can speak Mandarin and also the local dialect. He reads and writes. Even his teacher reports that he is ‘chatty.’ YouYou has great balance. He can sand on a balance board for several minutes adjusting his stance to maintain his balance. He can stand 5 seconds on his right leg and 10 seconds on his left. He enjoys ball and can throw and catch the ball across a room. He can do 3 jumping jacks with good form and easily skips and walks.

YouYou is listed with Gladney as part of the former shared list kids program. His file is eligible to be transferred to any agency with a qualified family ready to submit a letter of intent.

YouYou needs to find a family or he will most certainly pass away at a very young age. In the United States, he would be transfused at least every two to three weeks, possibly even more often the first 1-3 months home to help regulate him.

There are agencies which would offer a grant for YouYou’s adoption, such as Madison Adoption Associates ($3,000 agency grant), WACAP ($4,000 promise child grant to an eligible family), and possibly others. YouYou has about six months left to find a family and for them to get to China in time.

Interested families may contact April Uduhiri or Brooke H for more information. We cannot let this sweet boy age out- he could have a much longer and happier life in a family and he deserves that!

How Adoption Changed Our Definition of Perfect

June 27, 2017 0 Comments

My husband and I met in middle school. We didn’t date until right after high school, but were close friends from early in our relationship. We dated through college and got married right after my graduation.

We met a family who had children through adoption, and that was when the seed was planted. We knew we’d love to adopt someday.

We focused on our home and careers before giving birth to two perfect baby boys. We relished their sweetness, and were soon ready to start the adoption process. We had always planned to adopt one baby, one “healthy” baby, because, of course, we couldn’t handle any special needs. That would be too much.

We were too busy.
We weren’t equipped.
That was for “other” people.

We just thought adoption would be a way to complete our family. We’d get to choose the gender, and of course we’d choose a young, healthy girl. Then we’d be the perfect family.

And we waited for that perfectly healthy, as-young-as-possible baby girl for 2.5 years. All the while, completely and totally ignorant to the millions of “less-than-perfect” children who were waiting for families.

So there we were, as a family with three perfect children, two boys and one girl.

We thought we were done. Until we started to feel like there just might be one more little one out there for us. Another baby girl… to make our family even more perfect: perfectly symmetrical and perfectly balanced. Everyone would have a playmate.

Only we realized then that finding that “perfect, as-young-as possible baby girl” who was healthy was no longer very realistic. There were way more families waiting for perfection than there was perfection available. Hmm. What to do?

So we carefully began researching the world of special needs. Cautiously. Of course, it would have to be a “minor, correctable” need.

Nothing that would change our lives or be too hard or time consuming.

Nothing crazy.

We poured over the special needs checklist provided by our agency, and even paid for a consult with an adoption doctor who helped us rule out all the “major” needs that would just be too much. Certainly, we didn’t want any need that wasn’t correctable.

Nothing that required a wheelchair or lifting.
Nothing that might mean life-long support or therapies.
Nothing that would require more than a couple surgeries to “correct”.

We were matched with a gorgeous baby girl with a cleft lip and palate. And we quickly learned that, while she needed more care than we had envisioned, she was indeed also perfect.

She brought joy to our family that we didn’t anticipate. She brought laughter and silliness and cuddles and kisses.

We brought home a child with a special need, and we didn’t break.

We were stretched and challenged, absolutely. We quickly learned that a cleft lip and palate are not minor things. But we’ve only been strengthened by that experience. And, of course, then we were done.

Full car, full house, full plates. Two boys, two girls (two dogs, two cats…). A different definition of perfect than we had envisioned, but perfect for us nonetheless. However….

As a member of online advocacy groups, I see dozens of faces of children who are desperate for families.
Many of them with special needs, some significant.
Many of them boys.
Many older children who have spent their lives waiting.

Countless times, I would be moved by a child’s face or a child’s story and I’d show him or her to my husband. But we’d quickly dismiss it because “we were done”. We had enough on our plate.

But then one day, the face of a particular little boy popped up on my screen.

He had the best smile and simply struck me as extra special. But all I could see were the things he couldn’t do… his knees didn’t bend, his arms didn’t work well, his mobility was greatly affected.

It was a significant need.
It affected daily functioning.
It was not correctable.
It was life-long.

It meant a wheelchair at times and probably surgeries and castings and therapies. We’re a very active family, and this is a kid who has significant physical limitations. It was a need that we had said “absolutely not” to when filling out the special needs checklist for our daughter a while back. Not to mention the fact that he was eight years old! And a boy! He’d be smack in the middle of the ages of our other kids, and we already had an eight year old boy!

Everyone in the adoption world knows that disrupting birth order and artificial twinning were frowned upon. And bringing home an older boy with younger girls in the house would be a recipe for disaster, right? I felt a strong tug toward him, more so than all the other sweet faces I’d seen being advocated for, but there was no way we could bring him home.

He continued to tug on my heart for months. His face continued to pop up on my screen and make my breath catch. I couldn’t get him off my mind or out of my heart. We discussed him off and on for many months, and each time we’d decide “no way” and promised to pray for him and advocate for him instead.

This went on for quite some time. Yet along the way, we began to receive signs from God that maybe, just maybe, we should say yes.

Maybe this child, with his physical imperfections… maybe he was our son.

We finally said yes with nothing but crazy faith.

We knew nothing about his special need. We knew nothing about what this would mean for us as his parents, how it would impact our lives. God doesn’t call us to plans that are laid out in detail. Somehow, along the way, it became more important to us to say yes to God than to let society tell us to say no.

Yes, it made no sense.
Yes, it’s a big need.
Yes, there are risks and hardships involved.
Yes, it has changed the emotional makeup of our family.
Yes, there are lots of appointments and daily implications.
And yes, it’s hard and messy and exhausting.

Our son has arthrogryposis. It’s a condition that affects the joints and muscles. It affects every person differently, and figuring out his body and his needs has been quite an adventure.

It can be improved some with therapy, castings and surgery, but will never go away. His knees will never bend normally. He’ll never have the strength and mobility that most of us have. He’ll probably always rely on a wheelchair at times. He’ll always have to make adaptations.

But you know what?
He’s perfect.
Oh yes he is.
Perfectly made.
Perfect for our family.

He’s adorable and funny and insightful and smart and incredibly adaptive and patient and such a people-person and oh-so brave.

Now we focus on all the things he can do instead of the things he can’t. And our entire family has been stretched in the best of ways. God has grown our faith immeasurably.

We have learned not make our decisions based on fear. We no longer make our decisions based on what society tells us. We’ve learned wheelchairs aren’t scary! We’re learning to live sacrificially, and our kids are learning the same.

We’ve learned that saying yes to God’s plan is exhilarating and rewarding and humbling and freeing and perfect in its own hard, messy, amazing way.

We’ve learned that it’s more important for him to have a family, to know Jesus, and to have hope than for us to stay snuggled up in our comfort zones.

And we have been blessed immeasurably by him! He has softened us and made us laugh and brought us joy and helped us see what a true miracle adoption is.

Our definition of “perfect” has changed completely.

The labels that were put on him (major need, older child, boy…) have fallen away and he’s simply our son. Beloved son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew. Perfect.

I promise you, we are nothing special. We are not anywhere near “perfect”. We do not have this parenting gig all figured out. We didn’t not walk into this journey perfectly equipped.

We still have no idea what we’re doing. And that’s okay. We’ve learned that God equips us when we let go of control. And getting to be a part of God’s Kingdom plan? Well, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

All we did was say yes.

There are millions more children with needs and situations that appear to be “too much”. But I promise you, they are just kids whose greatest need is family.

And they too, are perfect.

– guest post by Jennifer: email || blog

A Life Donated: Part 3

June 27, 2017 0 Comments

Rini, our youngest of six children, was adopted in August of 2013 at end stage heart failure stemming from complex, single ventricle congenital heart disease. She was admitted to the hospital immediately upon arrival home and within two weeks it was determined that she was inoperable, her only hope would come through cardiac transplant. She …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Ifan

June 26, 2017 1 Comments

Ifan, born January 2007, is a sensible and polite child. He puts his shoes away as soon as he gets home, and always greets people he knows. Whenever a guest leaves he says “come back soon!” Ifan is diagnosed with club feet, which he had surgery for; caregivers report that he can walk and run, …Read More

Our Favorite Feet

June 26, 2017 0 Comments

Jude is amazing. He’s taken everything in stride, and I think he even has a bit of pride about his scars, that sense of I did this and not only am I okay, but I’m better and I love who I am! And, of course, I can’t disagree with him. He is awesome and a …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Diana

June 25, 2017 0 Comments

Diana was born in March 2006 and found abandoned as a newborn. She was initially diagnosed with spina bifida and spinal meningocele, and later with chronic kidney disease and moderate anemia. Diana is described as mature, strong, polite and well-liked. Despite her complicated medical history, she continues to work hard in school, treat others with …Read More

What is Attachment?

June 25, 2017 0 Comments

Attachment. It’s a buzz word. Outside the adoption world, people probably have heard it paired with the word parenting to refer to a lifestyle of co-sleeping with toddlers and discouraging mothers and fathers from the cry-it-out method to get their infants to sleep through the night. But, attachment at its core is way more than …Read More

How to Leave a Legacy for Your Children

June 24, 2017 0 Comments

I’ll never forget it as long as live. When I was little, my family would travel from Alabama to North Georgia at the end of every summer to visit my great grandparents. My great grandfather, Wiley was his name, lived on a hillside off US Highway 27. He was the original DIYer. There was nothing …Read More

1,000 Ways to Lose a Father

June 23, 2017 0 Comments

In the days after Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking… there are a thousand ways to lose a father. My youngest girl will probably never know the man who gave her the curve of her smile; the crinkle in her nose; her ability to cross her eyes to seemingly impossible degrees when she’s being silly. Truthfully, …Read More

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