a thank you

I was so blessed by this news of a child coming HOME from China, I wanted to share with everyone here.

Last fall, Shelly learned about a little girl in need of a family on No Hands But Ours. And now, Shelly is that little girl’s mama! Now that little girl has an entire family to love her forever! That is so cool!

I just feel incredibly blessed to be a part of advocating for special needs children in China. And I have you guys to thank! So to everyone who has told another person about No Hands But Ours, or posted our button in the sidebar of your blog… to every mama who takes time to share her heart here or read here…thank you. You are helping to make a very real difference in the lives of special needs orphans in China!

Hi Stefanie!

I wanted to share a picture with you. This is me with my newest daughter, Avery Xiaoli. We found her on the NHBO site last September. Today we leave Guangzhou and fly home to Virginia I am thankful for your dedication to Chinese orphans. If not for that, we wouldn’t have our daughter today!

In Him ~ Shelley

Slipped through the cracks

…but always in the hands of the Father. I’m talking about our son, Kooper. Nine months ago we met him for the first time. In April when we received his referral, we wondered why this 13 year old boy had to wait so long for a family to call his own. Little did we know, the more answers we sought, the more questions would arise.

As in many cases, his referral information was outdated, incomplete and ultimately, inaccurate. To this day we don’t know where our son spent the first six years of his life. According to the information, he was at the orphanage, which happens to be a Half the Sky facility, but HTS has no record of his enrollment in their preschool.

As his new language improves, he is able to share more of his past. The biggest obstacle now is the cultural stigma of doing so. He’s obviously never been taught or allowed to express his feelings, therefore causing him to be out of touch or unable to identify his emotions.

He’s also under the impression if he doesn’t talk about it, it will go away or he can pretend the abuse he endured in the estimated nine years with his foster family never occurred. Yes, I said abuse. Our hearts are broken for our son. At this time we don’t know the depths of the abuse, but we know it has calloused his heart. Gradually, he is letting down the barriers. It took six months for him to admit he was abused. We don’t know how long it will take for him to share the rest. We’ve begun counseling, and he is surprisingly open with his therapist.

We’ve explained that his heart is like an open wound (like when he smashed his finger), and it can heal. We’ve learned to read the signals and recognize when the memories haunt him and disrupt his daily life. It’s so hard to be 14…to never know permanency…to experience abuse…to change countries and cultures as a teen…to trust a super-size family who looks, talks and acts different from anyone you’ve ever known…

I’m so proud of how Kooper is adapting to all the changes. There are more to come once school starts, but he is slowly gaining the confidence to accept challenges and trust that we will always be here, no matter what.

The main struggles now are his inability to fall asleep at night, his fear of failure and his desire to be alone. It seems he is consumed by thoughts that keep him awake and cause him worry. Now that we recognize the signs in the morning, we are able to talk to him about his worries and ease his mind.

He’s never been challenged before. In fact, it seems no one had the time to help him learn. Apparently, if he said he couldn’t do something, he was brushed aside and given an easier task or assignment. The truth is, he is a very bright kid whose memory is amazing when exercised! He just lacks the confidence to believe he can succeed.

His ‘safe place’ is to be alone. He doesn’t have to think, talk, feel or try or please anyone. We are learning that he needs some alone time, and he is learning when to try harder to interact with the family. He lacks the ability to solve even the simplest problems. Through a series of questions and demonstrations, we are able to instill confidence and skills to do so.

Though it seems this child has simply slipped through every societal crack, and his past is nearly nonexistent as far as documentation, he has always been in the loving care of the Father, who is ever so patiently drawing him closer!

Today’s guest post is contributed by Connie, mom to eight children… two recently adopted from China through the SN program: Kooper 14, and Kinley 2. Connie has shared their adoption story on our Family Stories page, and blogs about life as a mom of many at One More Ladybug.

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.

July 22, 2006sister to four adoptees (China) Emily at And Now There Are Nine… on their initial log-in date in 2006 – they’d still be waiting had they remained in the non-special needs line

Ear Tubes, Part…4?adoptive momma (China) Amy at Raising Tomatoes… on another surgery for ear tubes, which are commonly needed by cleft-affected children

Brokenadoptive momma (China) Kathy at In the Waiting… a broken hearing aid leads to some language loss

Every month… or when the time is right momma to a special needs child Tammy at 5 Minutes for Special Needs… thoughts and emotions during a monthly blood draw

Single-handed explorationadoptive momma (domestic) Mary Dell at Torrefaction… on touring museums and such with a curious child who has a limb difference

revisit — adoptive momma (China) Stefanie at Ni Hao, Y’all... thoughts and emotions while waiting for a return visit to the geneticist

Updateadoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread & Chopsticks… on how a doctor’s mistake during measurement led to additional tests and a near misdiagnosis

Surgery Tomorrowadoptive momma (China) Kristi at Fireworks & Fireflies… her daughter’s second eye surgery is scheduled tomorrow

Getting her check-up tomorrow!adoptive momma (China) Shannon at Throwing Our Arms Open Wide… on an upcoming cardiologist appointment

Whoever Said Adoption Is Easy?

The 27th day of the month.

It is the day I am supposed to post. Stefanie may fire me if I don’t. :)

Seriously I have so much I want to say and yet I can’t find the words, and even more I am so not ready to share so much. I know those who may read this and really know me are saying this is probably a good thing! I am emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. Our family as a whole is exhausted and I don’t doubt our new sons are exhausted as well.

It has been 36 days since we met our two newest sons in China. In life, 36 days is a SHORT time. And yet, it has seemed like a L-O-N-G 36 days to me … from where I’m sitting … at least for the moment.

I was telling my mother-in-law just this morning that one of the hardest things I’m struggling with now is the loneliness, the isolation and quite frankly feeling completely overwhelmed. It is not even the doctor’s appointments (we’ve had 10 already since home), and we have 5 more scheduled and need to schedule at least 2 more DIFFERENT specialist appointments for one child and 1 more specialist appointment for another. It is so much more though … the unexpected issues (not blindsided mind you but hopeful they wouldn’t surface … and yet they have), the inability to communicate … that one is so minor for some but now we have 2 of 7 family members with expressive communication difficulty and 2 with receptive struggles (one of whom I’m certain is temporary; the other I’m just not sure yet)s. And so a Momma’s heart must adjust.

When well-meaning people say “how are you doing?” … I don’t want to answer honestly because this is VERY HARD WORK right now. And I have been vulnerable and shared before and been told, “Well what did you expect?” While this may seem obvious, it is certainly not supportive. I guess an “I’m sorry you are having a hard time” would feel so much better. But maybe they are right. I just don’t know.

I do have a few faithful friends who call me to check on me and support with their whole heart. Our family is supportive, some more than others. It is hard to ask for help though … at least for me. And it is hard to read about others and wonder “is it really that easy for them?” and “why is it always hard for us?” and “how could this time be harder than the last … we aren’t facing heart surgery soon that we know of at least …”. And then I realize many of us put on a facade and share what we want to, we don’t open ourselves up, it is the blogosphere after all and by and large many of us are talking about our children. We want to brag on them and share fun family photos.

We who feel called to advocate for waiting children certainly don’t want to paint a picture that would DISCOURAGE anyone from adopting a waiting child.

I am not blogging on my family blog for now. I know I’ll be back. I just don’t know when. I had to get away from it and take a break. I don’t have much to share that is encouraging. And so I just don’t want to share it. I have several blog friends who are paperchasing and/or waiting to travel to their children, many of them older. I am also greatly saddened and deeply disturbed by what I see as a RISING trend in disruptions in China. It makes my heart sick.

I don’t honestly know where I fit into all of that. I feel at this point someone needs to be a voice for the children, which does not have to mean I am unsupportive of families who choose not parent a child in China. On the other side, when a child’s adoption is disrupted … a child’s life IS affected. And to me it is time to talk about it, but my feelings are too raw and emotional on this topic.

I want to just share though that even if the best-case scenario presents to you in China, the worst-case scenarios may in fact play out once you are home. I think we faced a rather worst-case scenario on our last trip because our daughter was so ill and we faced so much uncertainty about the days ahead. After we came home quite honestly many best-case scenarios have come to pass.

On our recent trip, we had some best-case scenarios and some times where we had to refocus our expectations. Nothing completely unexpected and yet some things we hoped would be better than they are. We are thus refocusing and moving forward with hope in our hearts and a resolve to do the hard work needed. And right now, we are facing head-on some worst-case scenarios. I won’t go into details but honestly it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this piece. What does matter is that adoptive parents MUST be prepared to face some really TOUGH days in China AND once home.

I have yet to see a rainbow and fluffy clouds beneath a sun-drenched sky since we came home on July 2, but I know those days are ahead. And when the moments of joy and compromise and selflessness and happiness abound, I will relish those MOMENTS even if the days are long.

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.

Journey Into the Unknown — adoptive momma (foster adoption) Deborah at 5 Minutes for Special Needs… on surgery with a newly adopted older child

SPD Diagnosis: Now What? — adoptive momma (foster adoption) Hartley at Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys… what to do after your child receives a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder

A milestone ~ — adoptive momma (China) Denise at Our Treasures… on the milestone of life with the adoptive family equaling the time spent living in China

Language Arts — adoptive momma (China) Sister Carrie at Jiaozi… on language acquisition and older child adoption

OVV Camp
— adoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… a week of summer camp at Ohio Valley Voices with other children who also have cochlear implants

Everyone deserves to be loved — adoptive momma (China) Robin at Dreaming of Tea for Three… on the amazing progress her daughter has made these past 17 months


***This month I decided to repost a blogpost that I published a short time ago. It got a lot of positive response on my blog and I also think it is very timely now that we have committed to adopting another child. This child, a precious little boy, will be our 6th adoption and our 7th child.****

During a fairly normal conversation with a friend I brought up that I was advocating for a child on my blog. A child that grabbed my heart and that we were waiting for God to speak to us about him.

The response: “Another one? Geez guys, haven’t you all done enough?”

I was kinda stunned for a second then threw out a little nervous laugh and reminded him that there were 147 MILLION Orphans in the world. We have adopted 5. Just 5.

That got me thinking about what he said.

What is the perception of: enough?

I actually went to the dictionary (online of course cause I don’t own any other type!) because I wanted to fully understand the actual definition of this word. Not my perceived definition of the word.

enough: occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.

And there it was….expectations.

Because 5 adoptions doesn’t meet the demands of the orphaned children or the need for families to adopt so the issue is then with the expectation of what is enough.

And because we are human….each person’s expectation of what is enough is different.

I mean….last night at Cold Stone Jacob wanted the Gotta Have It cup size of Oreo Crème Filing ice cream (translation: 12 oz LARGE SIZE ) and I felt that the kids size was enough. He also wanted multiple mix-ins (marshmallows, gummy bears and rainbow sprinkles) and I only allowed him to have 1.

The problem with this issue is that….when it comes to caring for God’s children….the only person that can define what is enough….is God.

To my friend, 1 adoption is enough. His baseline thinking is: There is an orphan problem – you adopt one of them -you’ve done your part.

In my view this isn’t about “your part”.

It’s about God’s call and what HE wants YOU to do.

For some families God’s call is to adopt 1 child.

For another family God’s call might be to adopt 9 children.

It looks different for every family.

In my opinion this can’t be defined with our human eyes. Or by our level of comfort. Or by the level of “risk” we want to personally take on.

Because humans are normally all about comfort and low risk!!! I know I am. Which is why I cannot and do not depend on my own self as a determining factor on whether we adopt again.
Adoption is about a lot of things including risk and being uncomfortable and God never promised that following him wouldn’t be risky or uncomfortable. But sometimes you have to experience those things in order to experience God’s BEST.

To paraphrase the Bible and use a quote by Hudson Taylor to do it: God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.

This means that if the Lord has directed you to adopt then He will bless you with everything necessary to accomplish what He has asked you to do. Regardless if it’s the 1st adoption or the 10th. And by everything necessary I mean: patience, love, money, etc.

He’s done it 5 times for us. 5 TIMES.

God is faithful and He doesn’t fail.

The Bible states clearly that only good things come from Him.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jer. 29:11)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

So if God is asking us to adopt again then it must be a GOOD THING FROM HIM.

Therefore we made the decision to let God decide how many adoptions is ENOUGH.

And truthfully…I don’t know what that number will look like.

This is scary and exciting at the same time!

And that’s what following God is all about.



Guilt, and Everything After.

Am I the only person out there that walks through her days with this constant load of guilt? I swear it’s why my back hurts all the time. My personal sack of guilt is so heavy that during the few moments of the week when it lifts, I think I should step on the scale. I literally walk through town with my shoulders drooping. I often have to remind myself that no, whatever I am doing at that moment is fine, so strong is the feeling that I should be doing something else.

I’m not working.
I’m not doing math flashcards with my kids.
I’m not filling their day with happy memories.
I’m not calling my mom.
I’m not emailing my best friend.
I’m not planning the birthday party.
I’m not checking to make sure the vacation will go just so.
I’m not writing my blog post.
I’m not pitching that new editor.
I’m not organizing the pantry.
I’m not walking the dog.
I’m not training the dog.
I’m not reading with Rory.
I’m not building elaborate Lego robots with Sam.
I’m not savoring every charming moment of Wyatt.
I’m not spending any alone time with Lily.
I’m not working on my book proposal.
I’m not riding my bike.
I’m not putting the bathing towels in the dryer.
I’m not spending time with my husband.
I’m not getting a new box of Kleenex for the bed in the guest room.
I am not making a scrapbook or sorting online photos.

You can see why this is a problem. Even if I manage to be doing any one of these things (and most of the time I am not), I am not doing the rest. I tend to spend a lot of time meditating on how very much I suck. Now, I get that the commenter instinct right now is to go tell me no, no, you do plenty! You do lots! It’s all good! Please don’t. ( And if I should happen to be someone you know personally, resist. Seriously.) I know that. I get it. Blah, blah. I don’t really feel this guilt intellectually, and so I don’t need anyone to point out that it’s silly. (Seriously.)

I recognize that I am doing just fine, broadly speaking. I want to meditate on why I do this to myself. Every so often, I get a moment when the guilt lifts, usually when I have checked off a pile on my to do list, and sometimes just when a good song comes on the radio and I am singing along in the car. (Sadly, I think that is partly because when you are driving the car, you are affirmatively not supposed to be doing anything else) the load lifts. I am happy, I am good, I am rolling (or singing) along. Why don’t I just choose to feel that way all the time? After all, this is really about me and my personal emotional reactions to my situation. No one is making me feel any of the above. No one ever–well, rarely–says to me, hey, you really should be doing such and such. And if they do, I’m unusually capable of blowing them off, so much so that I often tell people that I never get any of that unsolicited and annoying parenting advice people complain about. I think I actually don’t listen. So why is this my reaction of choice?

What’s really going on that I need to dump on myself this way? I think I feel empty, and thus like I should be doing something that I’m not because, in the broader sense, there’s nothing going on. For years–decades even–I have always had one single, overarching goal that so clearly trumped all others that I always knew which of the many tasks at hand I should apply myself to. I should finish the project, draft the thesis, apply to law school, make the Law Review, get the job, get another job, get married, have baby, get another job, have another baby, write book, move, move…and so on. And then, of course, adopt Rory. And that’s all done. And I won’t be embarking on any of those again soon. I don’t want to move, I like the husband and jobs I have, and I have pretty clearly Peter Principal-ed myself into more children than I can actually handle. There can be no overarching goals of that kind. And one key thing about those goals is that they came with external deadlines, particularly once launched. Even “write book” had a co-author and thus more specific requirements than are usual. And now, for the first time since childhood, I don’t have any of that, and I don’t know what to do with myself.

I think the mature answer would be to learn to live in the present and enjoy the day to day process of living rather than planning my life and indulging in the artificial sense of busy importance created by looming deadlines, trips and events. And I plan to work on that. (Oh, great, look how I put that. I’m going to work on that! Can I have charts and a list to check off whether I’m properly living one moment at a time? Ummm…) But I’m also going to go ahead and let myself get sucked back into the world of the major project, albeit on terms that will require at least some of that above described maturity. I’m going to get back on the book proposal I’ve been juggling for some time, complete it right, and resolve the looming agent question.

The thing about that project is that with no external deadlines and no joint practitioners, it’s going to require something different from me–it’s going to require me to put first something that, in fact, most of my external world doesn’t see as an important thing at all, but rather as the one thing I can easily do tomorrow. That isn’t going to be easy. The book project is specific to me, of course–but this guilt, and this blankness–I think that’s not. I see at least a few fellow adoptive parents dealing with it (you know who you are)–this what do I do now moment, when the urgency of creating the family and bonding into it has slowed down, and there’s only day to day living to be done. I see fellow parents with a last baby heading off to all-day-school in the same boat. I think we all like our projects, and I think, for everyone, there comes a time when you find you need to begin defining your projects, goals and rewards on your own terms. I’m there.

next shared list

Will be released July 20th!

Exciting news for all families hoping to be matched! If you do receive a referral off the shared listing, please leave a comment, we’d love to share in your joy!

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.

laugh or cryadoptive momma (China) mama d at the life that is waiting… having a laugh-cry at the dentist while contemplating the amount of dentistry and orthodontia that awaits

First English Words adoptive momma (China) snapshot at Somebody Needs a Nap… describing her daughter’s language transition, after just a few months home and adopted at age 2.5

Only 3 months, but it seems like foreveradoptive momma (China) Heather at Noodles, Tea and a Didi, Please!… an update after three months home

Why *This* Makes Us Betteradoptive momma (foster adoption) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… how parenting a child with special needs can grow us in ways we never imagined

What do you do when your family refuses to accept your special needs child?momma Janis at 5 Minutes for Special Needs… asking for advice on this topic

Favorite Developmental Toys adoptive momma (China) Kathy at In The Waiting… a list of her favorite homemade developmental toys

Virtual Twinningadoptive momma (China) wife of the Prez at Room For At Least One More… on her virtual twins, about five months apart in age

A surprise gift

I have a son.

Every now and then that statement still surprises me.

When my husband and I began the road to building a family through adoption from China, we simply assumed that we’d have daughters. (At the time we were oblivious to the fact that there were boys who were waiting for the love of a forever family).  Initially I was disappointed that there would be no little guy to toss a baseball in the backyard or take camping trips with his daddy.

However I quickly got over the letdown and began to build my vision of a houseful of little girls.  After all, I grew up with a sister.  My boy cousins lived three states away.   A few of my mom’s closest friends had boys, but I spent, at most, a few hours a week with any of them.  Based on my limited experience, boys were a totally different species.  They were loud, wild and unpredictable.  I asked myself why I would want to raise one and focused instead on all things pink and hair bows.

The path that brought my little man into my life didn’t happen all at once.  Slowly my eyes were opened to the waiting child program when we were paper chasing for our second child.  At that same time I became newly aware of friends who had raised kids with special needs.  And then I realized that there were indeed boys waiting to be placed in homes.

So we took a leap of faith and checked that we’d be open to a boy or a girl with various special needs in our second set of paperwork.  Less than two months after our second dossier had been submitted we were matched with a little boy from the shared list, and six months to the day from our LID we were stepping off the plane in Beijing, three days away from meeting our son.

Before he walked into my life I thought the phrase “Mama’s boy” had a negative connotation.  Now I fully understand how much love and affection can be behind it.

He has added a “rough and tumble type” of joy and exuberance for life to our formerly “pink and hair bows” existence.

He loves Lightning McQueen, potato chips, God, and his family ~ though not necessarily in that order.  He is amazingly strong, and quite clever.  What he lacks in size he MORE than makes up for in enthusiasm and determination.  What he does, he does with all his heart and might.  He is fast and impulsive, not always a great combination, but an accurate description.

I’ve found that many of my earlier ideas about boys are true.  He is usually loud.  There are times that I’d use the world wild to describe his mood.  And he is predictable only in that you can count on him to be somewhat unpredictable. He is “all boy.”

And yet, even though sometimes I question if I have what it takes to help mold this bundle of raw energy into a respectful young man, he’s stolen my heart and is an integral part of our family.  If I had stuck to my plans or preconceived notions, I would have missed him.  I’m so thankful for the things which opened my heart to possibilities I hadn’t seen and people, blogs, events, and God’s nudgings which overcame both our uncertainty of raising boys and our fears of “special needs” and allowed us to see each child as a unique gift from God.

Oh yes, I received a surprise gift.

I have a son. From China.

photos courtesy Tricia Roller Photography