If you build it, they will come

My husband and I are not impulsive people.  We tend to research ad-nauseum.   Then we make lists.   Then we weigh pros and cons.  Then we go in the direction that seems most logical.  If the direction we’re drawn to doesn’t seem logical, we go back to step one and start all over again.  Notwithstanding that bizarre day when I went to the pet store to buy dog food and came home with a miniature dachshund puppy, it’s how we roll.  We spent four years in Iowa, so excuse the Field of Dreams allusions, but I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that we would not mow down a cornfield to build a baseball diamond.

After adopting our daughter, we’d always said we’d love to adopt again.  If the timing felt right.  If our finances were secure.  If we’d remodeled our already too-small kitchen.  If…..

Then one little picture completely rattled my brain.   I literally gasped when I saw this boy’s face.  Joy just seemed to radiate from him.  But thinking logically, our finances weren’t exactly prepared for an adoption. Our kitchen was too small for a family of six, let alone seven.  And I could think of 20 reasons just off the top of my head why now was not ideal.  I breathed deeply, did that nervous foot shake thing that I do, and then wrote what I’m sure is the most wishy-washy e-mail I’ve ever composed.   It went something like this:

Dear So and So,

We are an adoptive family of six and up until this morning hadn’t really been considering starting another adoption, but then I saw the face of the little boy labeled B-22X and now I’m considering what just a few hours ago I wasn’t.  If there are lots of people already seriously looking at his file, which I’m sure there are since B-22X is the most adorable boy I’ve ever seen, then that’s great and I’m so happy he’ll have a family.   BUT, in the off chance that no one is reviewing his file, could you please consider sending it to us?  

P.S. We’ve done no paperwork whatsoever, and if that’s an insurmountable problem, I completely understand.

I heard nothing.  I figured that meant he was already spoken for, which was probably for the best considering our postage stamp kitchen.  A week later,  I e-mailed again.  Maybe the first e-mail was lost in cyberspace, you never know.  Once again, nothing.  I let another week pass and then e-mailed a third time. When no reply appeared in my in-box, I dialed their number. A woman answered and apologized profusely.  Apparently their person who deals with special needs adoptions had been in China.   Regarding B-22X…..No, there was no one looking at his file. “But,” she said, “It’s unlikely that we’d allow you to lock any file considering that you haven’t done any paperwork……” At the end of the conversation, she mentioned that his file was on a shared list, something new to me.

My husband and I fasted and prayed.  For us, this felt incredibly impulsive and if we were going to mow down a cornfield so to speak, we needed two things: confirmation and information.  As we prayed, we felt strongly that we should pursue this adoption and that if we stepped out in faith, people would come into our lives with the information we needed.  If we built it, they would come.  And they did.   One friend knew the ins and outs of the shared list and told me I could use any agency and not just the agency who had listed his picture, a revelation to me.  Another friend, just ahead of us in the paper chase, confirmed my decision to call the agency we’d used with our daughter’s adoption.  That agency locked his file almost instantly and said, “Let’s do this warp speed.”  Then I moved into panic mode.  This was too impulsive, too quick.  After all, he’s an older child.  He speaks Mandarin, I don’t.  We don’t have the money ready and waiting.

The day after we locked our son’s file,  I met a man at my kid’s swim lesson who introduced me to his four children.  All of them were from China, all had been older child, special needs adoptions. One charming eight year-old boy was adopted from foster care in Kunming at age four.   Our little guy would be nearly four at the time of adoption and was in foster care in Kunming.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from our agency’s china representative.  She said that when she heard we were adopting again, she called her friend who just happens to be over foster care in Kunming.  She asked about our little guy and her friend said, “Oh, he’s such a great boy.”  Such simple words that meant so much.  I haven’t panicked since.

The next week, I happened to run into a Mandarin-speaking friend at Costco.  I hadn’t seen her in months.  When she heard about our newest adoption, she immediately offered to tutor me in Mandarin, free of charge.

That same week, my husband’s business partner discovered that there were several expenses we’d been paying for through our personal accounts, when we should have been paying through the corporation.  With the reimbursement, we now had enough to cover all of the initial fees.

If you build it, they will come.  I know that for a fact.  Now I’m just waiting for a general contractor who specializes in free kitchens to knock on our door.  It could happen.

A Way With Da Ladies

 Today’s guest post is by our first contributor who isn’t a mama… he is a baba. Adrian is father to four children, his youngest daughter adopted from China, and blogs at Forever Family.

I know there are some stories of adoption out there, where the bonding between child and parent(s) is instant and wonderful! Yes, the heavens open up, doves fly down, and the whole world slows to a crawl as your new wonderful, beautiful child runs to your arms – clearly un-inhibited by the past – and falls softly into your chest as tears of joy roll down your cheeks!

This… was not… our adoption. At least, not for me and our daughter. Our scene was more like, the heavens opened up, doves flew down, the sounds of angels singing could barely be heard over the joyous sounds of laughter and our precious daughter looking up at me and my wife softly sighing the words Ma ma and Ba ba – and then quickly realising that although her new Ma ma was a true beauty to behold, her new Ba ba happened to be the Yeti incarnate! She quickly tried to find a wooden stake to drive though my heart, garlic, and a silver bullet to try to rid herself of me…

But that was OK (well actually, it hurt worse than anything else I’ve experienced, but that is for another post). I was prepared for this type of reaction… and I should thank my wife for that.

*begin wavy flash back to our wasted youths*

Friend: So, who do you like? Anyone right now?
Younger Version of Me: I kind am digg’n R right now.
Friend: For real! That is so cool! Hey, HEY R! Adrian LIKES you!

(younger future wife – R)

My Future Wife: What?! Adrian!? Ewwwww! I would never date Adrian!
Younger Version of Me: I’m right here! I can hear you, you know.
My Future Wife: I want a man who is manly – and strong!
Younger Version of Me: I have a very deep inner strength. Don’t take my lack of arguing and getting mad as a weakness. It takes much more strength to deal with things properly than it dose to explode and get mad! And hey, you know what, I’m from Flin Flon! I wrestle Bears Wrapped In Bacon!
My Future Wife: I want someone, who is macho – who will make my decisions.
Younger Version of Me: Well, I think that is kind of silly.
My Future Wife: I want someone who will order my food for me!
Younger Version of Me: But you haven’t told me what you like yet.
My Future Wife: I would NEVER date Adrian.
Younger Version of Me: I’m still right here!

(younger me)

My Future Wife: You are so not the man I want.
Younger Version of Me: But I might just be the man you need.

* end wavy flashback*

To say that my wife and I did not hit it off that great, would be an understatement. We met at a young age in Sunday School – but were only “friends”. But, I do have a way with da ladies! I wear ‘em down!

When we were young, and we were out with our friends, I would go to the other guys who had cars and ask them “not to give R a ride home” – because I liked her, and I wanted to give her a ride home. Then, after she was safely confined in my car, (after not being able to find anyone to give her a ride home), with no possible chance of escape, I would drive her home as slow as possible just to spend as much time as possible with her.

Now I know that might sound a little creepy... but hey, it worked! She fell in love with my rugged good looks, charming personality and my humor (some would add obvious denial of reality). Had it not worked out between us, I would have just been some creepy guy who kept threatening people not to give R a ride home, and stalking R all hours of the day… but never-the-less, it all worked out in the end.

(still wearing her down)

Now, what has that to do with our little Ping and our adoption?

Well, true to form, I did not hit it off so great with this new girl either. I was confident though that I would woo her and win her over! I would wear her down

(Ping showing her playful side as she tries to stab me with a fork)

I’m sure Ping was sitting there, looking at me going, I want a Dad who is:

  • less hairy
  • less smelly
  • more Chinese
  • less hairy
  • less loud
  • less scary
  • less tall
  • less cuddly
  • more further away

She was not impressed by me at all! It was only this last week (after being home with us for 8 months) where she crawled up into our bed, and without me saying anything, just wrapped her little arms around my neck and said “Daddy, I lub you!”

(still not impressed by me)

What a difference a few months can make. Just a little while ago, when she entered the bed room, she stood at the side of the bed and just stared at me. She would not come close. She would not climb up on the bed if I was there. And if I was there, and she really wanted her mother, she would walk a wide berth around the bed (keeping her eyes fixed on me, lest I try to reach out and touch her) and crawl in next to her Mother. If I tried to touch her, or hug her, or pick her up, or even talk to her… oh boy! Did I get a mouth full of Mandarin (I know a little Mandarin and I’m pretty sure nothing she said was covered in my “Introduction to Mandarin” classes – had I taken the “Swearing Like a Truck Driver” course, I’m sure I could have understood a little of what she was saying).

(just trying to get away)

But each day, I just loved her. I let her cry, yell at me, run away… what ever. She would say “Daddy, I NO love you!”, and I would say “That is OK, because I love you. Maybe tomorrow you will love Daddy?”, (“Maybe” she would reply, on a good day, normally it was “mmmmm, I tink abot it, an No!”).

I would hold her, talk to her, take her out one on one and have cake. I let her cry, listened to her babble. Held her when she was scared (even when she thought she was brave) and prayed for her every night. I tucked her into bed, and carried her when ever I could. I never demanded she love me, held it against her when she rejected me, or got angry when she pushed me away. And slowly, ever so slowly, I could see the chinks forming in her armour – and slowly, I knew I was winning her over… and I knew I would. Because, I have a way with da ladies.

(still wearing her down)

Current Wife: You know what, you were right all those years ago (like you are right about everything, ever, in all of ever-ness!)* – you really are the man I needed.
Current Me: Yup, I know. And don’t look now, but I’m also the man you wanted. I am able to order your favorite food when we go to a restaurant – because I have watched you, listened to you, and learned what you like and don’t like (instead acting out in a macho manly way). I am able to help make decisions – because I have the needs of our family deeply routed in my heart (instead of making decision because “I’m the man!”). I am the type of man who dose the right thing, even though it is hard and requires great strength (instead of being the quick tempered man).

So maybe I wasn’t the man that my wife wanted…
… but I am the man she needed.

And maybe I wasn’t the Father that Ping wanted…
… but I know I’m the Father she needs.

(totally wearing her down!)

So to all the Dads out there (or Moms) out there struggling with attachment issues – it’s all good. Love will come around. You just have to have a way with da Ladies**!

* = Edited by me, but it was SO implied in the statement though.
** = Or, boys… if you adopted a son.


About Forever Family…
We are a Christian family of 6 – pretty typical in that we are not typical at all. My wife and I have been married for over 13 years now, and have 4 children (so far). Our oldest child is our son K, who is 12 going on 30. Next in the line to the throne is our son D, who is 10, going on… well… 10.
Thankfully, after two boys, we had our first daughter, G who is 6 going on 16. 

And then came our beloved Ping, who is 4, and who thankfully has stopped yelling at me in Mandarin. Ping was adopted from the Waiting Child’s Program from China. She was 4 years old when we brought her home, and yes, she has a “special need” (though you would be hard pressed to figure out what it is). So I guess *technically* that makes us an “Adoptive Family of an Older Child from the China Waiting Child Program with Special Needs”.

But more importantly, what it *really* makes us, is a Family. 

Read more about our family at our blog here.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

I could get used to this healing stuff
adoptive momma (domestically adopted a sibling group who experienced a disruption after being adopted from Haiti) Christine at welcome to my brain… her daughter, diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, has a break-through day

She’s got skillz: Part 2adoptive momma (China) the Gang’s Momma at The Gang’s All Here!… on preschool and her daughter’s unilateral hearing

Li’l Dude’s Heart (and Larry’s Heart PTL)adoptive momma (China) Wife of the Prez at Room For At Least One More… good news and bad news during their August 3 cardiology appointment

Overjoyed!!!adoptive momma (China) Jean at There’s No Place Like Home!… hearing the results from her daughter’s MRI and assessing her development

The Octopusadoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker’s Sweets… on waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to medical diagnosis

make mine a double
adoptive momma (China) Stefanie at Ni Hao Y’all… on the joys of collecting a stool sample

Just hanging at Hershey Medadoptive momma (China) rachelle at with one step… a post-op update after her twin boys both received surgeries on their palates

A looooong awaited update on Cassandra
adoptive momma (China) Karen at Always in My Heart… on an infection her daughter caught after having surgery

Vision Therapy… What We Learned Over the Past 4 Months
adoptive momma (domestic) Dorothy at (Sub)Urban Servant… on vision therapy – what it is and how it worked

it changes everything, it changes nothingadoptive momma (China) Mama D at the life that is waiting… a mom ponders a new diagnosis for her son

Medical Journey Continuesadoptive momma (China) Paulette at Love You Forever… on her daughter’s urology appointments, medical progress and continued challenges

The trenches. The sacred place. adoptive momma (China) Rachelle at with one step… a mom writes a devotional several days after tonsil surgery

First day of school.adoptive momma (China) Julie at Journey to Malia Jo… a wrong-colored van brings disappointment on the first day of school

Adoption Reality #2: Special Needs Do NOT Define Children

This post is a bit of a detour for me from my original plan for my #2 Adoption Reality. I feel the need to share this though, and to add a disclaimer that these Adoption Realities I’m sharing are MY realities. They may not be the same for all of us, but for me this is how I see it and have experienced it as we’ve stepped out and been blessed through the miracle of adoption.

I read on our agency’s blog that there are so many children available on the shared list with heart disease. There are also girls and boys available with cleft lip and palate. Just waiting. And then there are those children waiting … who have both needs. Those are the ones for whom my heart truly aches.

You see, two of my children were born with heart defects and cleft lip and palate, and another of our five children was born with heart disease. He had another marker that made him hard to place … he is 10 years old.

I know many of the children who wait with heart disease have complex conditions and/or have secondary conditions listed as well. I also know many of them are older with repaired heart conditions and perhaps unrepaired as well.

Our 10-year-old son was born with a PDA and had open-heart surgery in China a few months before we traveled to bring him home. We brought him home in June and in August our ped. cardiologist pronounced him healthy and to be treated as such with no restrictions. PTL!

Our 5-year-old son, who also came home in June, was born with TOF (tetralogy of fallot) and cleft lip and palate. He was seen in August as well. It appears his heart has some other issues going on, which is not totally a shock but we were definitely disappointed for his sake. And still, we will move forward one day at a time. We will be taking him this Wednesday for an exploratory and possibly invasive cath. After that, we’ll know if he will need another open-heart surgery. We are praying he does not. If he does, we’ll face it when the time comes.

Our 4-year-old daughter, who came home in Sept. 2008, was born with transposition of the great arteries along with several other defects and cleft lip and palate as well. She received open-heart surgery on Sept. 30, 2008, and has had 4 other surgeries since she came home, 1 on her heart and three for her cleft repairs (lip and palate).

But what is all of this really like?

I hear people say so often: we couldn’t do that; you are special; you must be superwoman, etc.

The answer to all of that is we are not special and I am definitely not superwoman though some days I wish I had her superpowers! In all seriousness, we couldn’t do it either without the Lord’s help.

Most days though are really not that different for our three children born with heart disease, ranging from minor to complex. They run, play, skip, swim, dance, etc. Some of them take daily meds, some have to face unbelievably huge surgeries and they do it so bravely. I admire their courage every day.

We do spend more time at doctor’s offices than we used to, we do have to schedule around our children’s surgeries and we have to endure those alongside them, we do have to make sacrifices in order to care for our children’s needs financially, but we are blessed immeasurably more by their love and the joy they bring to our family. We know that our family is different now and that many people do not understand why we would choose to adopt children with known medical conditions. We really do not have any grand answer other than to say the Lord led us to each one of them.

We like all other parents wish for a long and fulfilling future for all of our children. We however do not dwell on the what ifs as we’ve learned that each day truly is precious and that nothing in life is guaranteed. As we heard the news earlier this month that our 5-year-old son would most likely have to face open-heart surgery this fall we were heartbroken and saddened, but we also know we serve a mighty God who has shown His great love for our children and our family.

I really do pray every day for all of the children who wait, especially those born with heart disease and cleft lip and palate. I know they don’t have a huge chance of being chosen when they have those two needs listed by their name. And that breaks my heart when I watch our two youngest sleeping soundly in their beds or riding their bicycles down our driveway or working a puzzle together.

I know that many doctors and specialists say they are too risky or there must be something serious going on inside their bodies like a syndrome. And often that is true, they do have a syndrome.

Yet having a syndrome does not mean a child is not worthy of love or finding their own forever family to love and cherish them, to choose them.

As of the other day according to our agency’s blog, there is a smiling little 9-month-old boy who is waiting for his family. He was born with a cleft lip and palate and a heart condition, but I believe he was born to also know the love of a Mommy and Daddy and maybe brothers and sisters too.

I believe he was born not to remain an orphan, but to be chosen as someone’s son, as someone’s somebody.

I know there are other children just like him waiting, whose needs seem like too much to handle. I also know the BLESSING of being Mommy to children just like them too, and I can’t imagine our life without all of our children in it.

PLEASE if anyone has read this far and has any specific questions about heart disease, I would be happy to answer any I can from a parent’s perspective. I do not mean to make it sound rosy because many days are very difficult. But many more days are just normal, fun, carefree, crazy, and love-filled!

a blessed surprise

Since entering the adoption realm in 2004, admittedly painfully unaware, I’ve done my share of reading.

My share of gleaning.

My share of asking.

Since then I have also been asked many questions about adoption by potential adoptive parents. And one question in particular has always stood out to me. Maybe because it was one of the first questions I asked myself at the very beginning of our own journey into adoption….

“How will our biological child(ren) feel about an adopted sibling?”

And the answer, at least in our experience, has been one of the biggest surprises in this journey.

And one of the biggest blessings.

Not to imply that adding a new child to any family isn’t without challenges. But worrying about our biological children not ‘accepting’ an adopted child just wasn’t necessary.

No bitterness.

No jealousy.

Okay, occasional jealousy over who got a few more M&Ms.

But really, just love.

Real love.

My kids surprised me… their hearts were exponentially more open and accepting than I ever anticipated. In fact, they’ve completely embraced their new siblings as just that.



I bet your kids surprised you, too.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Biting the Medication Bullet
momma to a child with special needs Elizabeth at Three Channels… on patience and God and parenting a child with special needs

Sensory Diet for Schooladoptive momma (foster to adopt) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… on her son’s sensory diet during the school year

Skipping a Teachable Momentadoptive momma (domestic, transracial) Mary Dell at Torrefaction… on one child’s curiosity again and again – and again – about her son’s limb difference

What Were We Thinking?
adoptive momma (China) Ann at Our Place Called Home… on her daughter’s transfusions and bone marrow transplants and a lack of donors as an adoptee

Special Needs
adoptive dad (China) Adrian at Forever Family… on his daughter’s abilities beyond what he is “supposed to be able” to do as a result of her special need

Late Breaking News Direct from China
adoptive momma and waiting to adopt (China) Shelley at Learning Together at Home… a momma’s reaction to a video of her future son WALKING

Want to See What FASD Looks Like?
adoptive momma (Korea and domestic, transracial) Dorothy at (Sub)Urban Servant… a great link that shows what many infants look like who are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome

a red letter dayadoptive momma (China) Stefanie at Ni Hao Y’all… a boy with clubfoot receives some exciting and unexpected news

Dearest Gift
adoptive momma (Taiwan) Sara at Precious Wonders & Little Monkeys… on parenting a child exposed to Hepatitis B & C – along with some wonderful news [HAT TIP to Sarah of my little lantern]

All The Things She Doesn’t Say

Sometimes the things our children don’t say are the most important.

We went on a walk yesterday.

Cheeky is much smaller than my other kids. Shorter legs, weaker body, sweet, sunny personality that gives her no need to move fast, those things make walking a little challenging for my youngest. She tries, though. Oh, how she tries. Walk. Fall behind the group. Run to catch up. Walk. Fall behind. Run. Walk. Repeat for six or seven miles and you’ll get how Cheeky’s hikes go.

Anyway, we went on a walk, and she was wearing shoes that were a little big because she couldn’t find her sneakers and had to borrow a pair of her sister’s old shoes. I didn’t think much about the big-ish shoes. Cheeky was smiling, after all. Happy. So enthusiastic about the blue sky and the orange hat her brother let her wear and the walk and just…well, just being alive.

Her cheeks were red from heat, but she didn’t complain about the bright sun. She just walked and skipped and sang, and I thought all was well.

Until we walked up a steep hill.

I made sure Cheeky was in front of me, because she isn’t always very good at balancing. That’s when I noticed the back of her foot. Blood was oozing from a broken blister that looked red and raw and very painful.

“Cheeky,” I said. “Does your foot hurt?”

“Yes. It hurts a lot,” she replied.

And she just kept on going, climbing up that steep hill like she didn’t have a two-inch blister on the back of her foot.

We cut the walk short so we could go buy bandaids. As we walked through the first aide aisle, Cheeky spotted Dora bandaids. “Look, Mommy,” she said. “Dora!”

That was it. No begging me to buy them. Not even a polite request.

She wanted them. I knew she wanted them, but she wouldn’t ask. Not even when Sassy picked up a package of neon bandaids and asked me to buy those. Even then, Cheeky was silent about the Dora Bandaids.

I put them in my cart, of course. Cheeky had the blister. She got to choose. That’s how it usually works in our house. I think Cheeky has noticed that, and I think she noticed that she got what she wanted rather than Sassy getting what she wanted.

And think that mattered to Cheeky.

But she didn’t say that. She just watched those Dora Bandaids go into the cart and onto the conveyor belt. She watched them be put into a bag, and she watched that bag as it traveled from cart to car and from car home. Then, she asked if she could put a bandaid on her blister, and she gave me a huge hug and thanked me.

For a bandaid with Dora.

But, I think, for something more.

Maybe for buying her what she didn’t ask for. Or maybe for letting her have her way. Or maybe for putting her wants above the wants of my other daughter.

My little one loves to talk, but I have come to realize there are many things she doesn’t say.

She does not always tell me when she is hurt. Especially if we are doing something like taking a long walk. She won’t tell me if she is overheated (an issue because she really doesn’t regulate her body temperature very well). When we eat dinner, she consumes what is put on her plate without complaining that she doesn’t like it.

Those are little things, but one day, there will be bigger things on her mind. I think that maybe there already are. It is obvious to me that she watches to see what the other kids are getting, and she is anxious about getting her share. It isn’t that she is greedy or even that she wants a lot but simply that she wants to know that I am treating her the same as I do the others.

If I give someone a slice of fresh baked bread, Cheeky hovers in the kitchen doorway, waiting to be asked to join in. If I buy The Professor a book, Cheeky stares at that book as if I’ve given him the moon. She is the same with chores. If the older kids have been asked to do a job for me, she waits by my elbow, hoping and praying that I will ask for her help, too.

As I watch her watch me, I can’t help but think how strange it must be for her. She has been brought into a family related by blood, and she is the only member who is not related that way. Cheeky knows that. She has seen baby photos of her siblings, stared hard at their red newborn faces. She has seen pictures of me holding each of my other kids when they were tiny infants. She has pointed at photos of me playing with the other children when they were toddlers. She has flipped through photo albums of Christmas and Easter and birthday and every-day photos.

And she is not in any but the most recent ones.

Cheeky loves to talk, but there is a lot she doesn’t say.

She doesn’t say that she worries that I might not love her as much as I do her siblings, but I feel it. I feel it in the way she hugs me. The way she kisses my cheek as if she must stake her claim, lay herself fully upon my heart so that I won’t turn her away.  She doesn’t say that she still feels like an outsider, a newcomer, a child who was pulled in but who might not be able to stay, but I see it in her eyes when she watches me have one-on-one time with another one of my kids. I see it again, in a different way, when I spend alone time with her. I feel it in the way she holds on tight as I grasp her hand and lead her on a walk around our field…just me and Cheeky. I see it in her glowing face when I say, “Come on, Cheeky, let’s knead the bread dough together. That will be our job today.”

There is no doubt of what I see reflected in her face when she is watching me. She longs, with a desperation I cannot fathom, to belong.

It is a desperation that I hear in all the things she doesn’t say.

Oh, Cheeky, if only you knew how deep my love is for you. If only you knew how truly and wonderfully you belong.

That is what I want to say to my little girl, but to a child who has lost everything and has been forced to rebuild her family, to rebuild her entire world, words are only a small part of what she needs.

So, I do what I have been doing for a little over a year. I tell her the story of how she came to be. Of Birth Mom and China Mom and Me. Of the empty place at the McCoy table, the empty seat in the McCoy van, the empty place in my heart that was waiting to be filled.

Waiting for her.

And then I treat her as I must…..as if she has always been mine, always been here, always been part of this family.

And all the while my soul keeps listening and my heart keeps breaking for all the things my darling girl cannot say.


We have hit our stride.
Rory has been home for almost 14 months, and it’s time to call it good. And oh, it is such a relief.

The past year been like hitting my head against a wall, in that it’s so much better now that it’s stopped. I’ve never, ever been so glad that a year was over, and I would repeat sixth grade before I’d live through the first six months again. Of course, we had our beautiful moments. Of course, it’s always tough to see calendar pages flip, and I’m always telling myself not to “wish my life away.” But it has been a tough year, and that’s putting it mildly. And suddenly, with little fanfare, it seems to be over. Last month I posted to No Hands But Ours about how I wasn’t ready to do the squishy lovey one year post. If this month were our one year marker, I’d be more inclined, although I still resist putting a rosy haze over the changes any of us went through last year. I can’t imagine our lives without Rory now, although sometimes I still do. (I also sometimes contemplate what life would be like with Sam as only child, or with Sam and Lily as a tanned and tow-headed pair of co-conspirators, a role they took on tonight when Wyatt and Rory went off to do some twin thing in the playroom. It’s not personal. It’s just one of those things.)

Things that felt impossible six months ago, like taking all of the kids to the swimming pool without another adult, or the three youngest to a bead store for a little craft action, today manage to seem like good ideas. (Although there are some situations, like kid concerts, that I still avoid like the plague. I can’t see any possible way that would be fun.) The house is cleaner, our lives slightly more organized. We buy milk in glass returnable bottles, and the process of returning the empties no longer strikes me as the straw that might break the camel’s back. In fact, I broke two full ones the other day (it was bound to happen) and dealt with the result with far more equanimity than I would ever have expected of myself. We make plans. We look ahead. We sit at home, and I periodically actually sit down on the couch with a magazine without anyone on my lap.

On the Rory herself front, too, we’ve made one of those startling leaps. Her language suddenly shot up to a level where she feels she can talk to other people, outside people, even people she has never met (whom she really likes to tell that she is from China, and rarely fails to ask if they know Baba Mike, her foster dad). She chats with us about all sorts of things, about how she feels and what she thinks and what she did and will do today (all of which she avoided before). Lest you think it’s perfection, very few people can actually understand her, and she’s still got a weird sort of noun fatigue, with little gaps of common words simply not finding a place in her hear (like sausage and soup, which she forgot yesterday). She handles the gaps so much better, though. “I don’ know what that is,” she’ll say. Tonight she turned to me from the kitchen counter and declared that she wanted to make “a nakkin.” You can have a napkin, I said, and reached for one. “NO! I wan’ make a nakkin!” Well, I said, you can make a nakkin, here’s the paper towels. “No! NO! A NAKKIN! A NAKKIN TO GO ROUND MY NECK!” I was still obtuse (she often makes these sort of napkin bibs for herself or for dolls) and she was near tears. “It’s ok,” I said. “Stop. Breathe. We’ll figure it out.” And she actually did stop, and hold back the howls of frustration I could see right on the edge, and I looked at her, and what she had, and what she was doing, and I said “oh! a necklace! You want to make a necklace with your beads!”

Which was what she wanted to do, and then sat and did, very calmly and very well, too, considering that she made the beads at art class and I never, ever thought she would get the tiny thread through the tiny holes. Of course. A nakkin. We had another, similar near breakdown a few nights ago, when we had guests (which is always tough on Rory). She wanted a tub, she kept repeating it, getting angrier and angrier and more and more determined. It was 9:30, there would be no tub and I was getting frustrated, how could i make her see that there could be no tub and not have her loose it so badly that we might as well have just had the tub, because it would take less time? And just as I was getting my stubborn reared up and ready to go, (and pretty much matching her and forcing us both into a standoff) she stopped, thought, and said, “then I have tub tomorrow?”

Well, yeah, sure. You have tub tomorrow. Situation defused by Rory, who might, at that moment, have been more mature than I was (but note how she found a way to control it, too. I think that’s ok). She’s come far, and all of a sudden, it shows. We both have. I know it was gradual, but it has a way of feeling sudden, as if someone quite quickly uprighted our household snow globe, and things were settling gently into place.

Cross-posted at RaisingDevils.com.

China introduces "special focus" children

CCAA will now be spotlighting certain children on the shared listing as “special focus” children, opening up new opportunities to help place these older and/or children with more significant special needs.

The opportunity to adopt two children at the same time is addressed and seems to be something CCAA is more enthusiastic about, when at least one of the children being adopted is a “special focus” child.

Read an article outlining the new program on Rainbow Kids.

And another article about the new program on China Adopt Talk.

"What’s wrong with him?"

I have three delightful children.

When I have them all in tow, we get a lot of politely curious question in public.


We hear, “Are they all siblings? Are the girls twins?  Are they all triplets? and Are they all yours?” (especially when my blond haired, blue eyed husband is with me) almost every time we are out of the house.  I have three really close in age Asian children.  I’m not Asian.  We attract attention.  I get that.  And most of those questions don’t bother me or them.

But then there’s the line of questioning centered on the fact that one of my three is a boy.  From China.  And people are educated to the one child policy ~ to a point.  So I’ve also heard, “He’s from China?  How did you get him?” more times than I care to count.  Because I’ve learned that series of questions is frequently followed with, “I didn’t think they let their boys out.” 


Mercifully it usually stops there.  But sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve become wiser since then, but I’ll never forget the first intrusive questioning along “the boy line.”

I was standing outside the preschool where I had just paid the registration fee (one month’s tuition ~ per child) and first month’s tuition (per child) to secure my older two a spot for this past school year.  The director told me that I could take my kids out, show them the playground, and meet the two year old teachers as my son would be in one of the two year old classes.

As I stood there watching them interact with the children nearby, one of the teachers came over and commented on how adorable my kids were.  Usually that type of comment would bring a smile.  But that time it was in “that tone” of voice.  The tone that let me know ahead of time to brace myself…

(In retrospect I now know I should have scooped my kids and made a strategic exit).

I smiled and mumbled thanks, hoping that my lack of eye contact would make it clear I was not in a chatty mood.  But she would not be deterred.

“Are they both adopted?”  and when I affirmed her question, she quickly followed with, “From China?”

Right at that moment my 2 1/2 year old son was running and tripped.  As I bent down to help him up, I heard, “What’s wrong with him?”

In my typical, trusting that people are kind, sort of way, I began to answer that he was fine, just a tiny hint of a skinned knee.

It was as I stood back up and saw her face that I realized she wasn’t talking about his fall.  Rather she was prying, in a very rude manner, into my son’s personal business.  It was one of those rare moments that I could find no words.  By the time I had completely righted myself, she repeated herself, “What’s wrong with him?”

Luckily he had already headed off to join a kid at the sandbox, but my oldest, the one that doesn’t let a word of conversation slip by, had joined my side.  She had heard the woman’s question and was looking up at me, mouth hanging wide open, waiting for my reply.

So I gave the most eloquent response I could muster as my three year old watched (and listened with rapt attention).  I simply said, “We are blessed beyond belief to have him in our family.”

In my mind that was a “conversation ending” response.  One that signaled that I really didn’t think it was appropriate for her, a complete stranger, to be asking me such an intrusive question, especially in front of one of my young, impressionable children. 

But it wasn’t.  Instead she came again with, “But China doesn’t give their boys away, so what is wrong with him?”

In that moment the sun was shining, but I was certain the birds stopped chirping as it occurred to me ~ maybe for the first time ~ that some people really were going to ask that type of question about my children.  I became somewhat jaded toward all future folks who gave our family a second glance. 

In my total unpreparedness for such a line of questioning, I glanced down at my watch, got out a cheerful, “Come on kiddos, we’re going to be late for our play date,” (which was true, we were headed to meet friends at the pool), and got the heck out of dodge as quickly as possible. 

When I found out the next week that “question lady” was going to be his teacher, I promptly withdrew my kids from the school.  And lost the before-mentioned deposit.  That may have been an overreaction.  It may not.  What I knew was that she asked an insensitive question, in a blunt, callous way in front of me.  (And that she asked it in such a negative tone, in front of my kids?  We won’t even go there).  I couldn’t risk my son’s first school experience to possibly be marred with a teacher that brought about self doubt.

In the months that followed, I prepared myself to answer that question with more confidence.  To simply smile and say that there’s nothing wrong with him.  In that tone of voice that commands that the conversation is over ~ at least in front of my children.  Or even more proactive, I’ve learned tactics to head the “what’s wrong” question off before it comes.  To respond to, “He’s from China?  I didn’t think you could adopt boys from China?” with a quick, “Actually, many people don’t know that there are boys waiting for families in China.  If you’re interested in finding out how to add a Chinese son to your family I’d be happy to share some of our experiences.”

Because it’s a fine line between me sighing and taking a deep breath when someone is uneducated about boys being adopted from China (hey, I didn’t know when I started this road myself) and being…well, whatever it is that I felt when the first person asked me, “What’s wrong with him?”