Never Let Go

March 27, 2017 0 Comments

“Never let go, Mommy. Never let go.”

It took my breath away when my youngest said that as she threw her arms around my neck when I picked her up. As she burrowed her head into my neck, she kept whispering it with her warm cheek pressed firmly against mine, and her little hands grasping my hair.

Never let go.

Considering how she came to be our daughter and all that occurred in the months after we completed her adoption, her words are especially poignant to me. And as our youngest of six children, the eldest of whom will be leaping out of our nest and flying to college in a little more than a year, I’ve come to appreciate how fleeting this season of life is.

“Watch me mommy! Watch me!”

“Kiss my owie.”

“I love you soooooo much!”

I have my regrets, if course. There are the nights that I replay my mothering failures over and over in my mind. I regret wishing the time away as I dreamed of the day that our first daughter through adoption would finally arrive home, although I already had another daughter who needed me to be fully present in the moment. There are the regrets about the times I didn’t take her up on her invitations to partake in making a craft with her, until the painful day it dawned on me that she had stopped asking. And there are the regrets about yearning for peace and quiet when she was a chatty toddler, but now wishing fervently for her teenage self to sit and talk with me.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12

But with those regrets have come awareness, and with each of my subsequent children I have strived to appreciate the sanctity of time more and more, and to trust in its power to heal.

The day that the first hug is received from a child who has struggled with attachment shows that power.

As does the day that the child who did not speak for his first two and a half years home at last articulates his thoughts.

And a particularly poignant illustration of the power of time was the day when our child on life support received a respite from death through the gift of a donated heart.

Never let go.

After she uttered those words, I felt compelled to find a way to honor them and the gift of time, for I know that this season will pass all too quickly. So I have chosen to hold onto the sacred embraces of my children for as long as I can in a very simple way: I no longer break the embrace first. I hold on, I never let go, until they release the hug.

It has been glorious!

There have been so many precious moments of affection, forcing me to slow down and savor those fleeting times between mother and child. Everything else can wait.

I know that in time I will look back with nostalgia on these incredible days of childhood. I will yearn to hear their voices and the sound of their bare feet running down the hall. I will miss the echoes of their laughter emanating from our yard, and wiping their popsicle-stained faces in the midst of summer. And I bet I’ll even miss cleaning up their spills and reminding them to wash their hands and brush their teeth for the umpteenth time.

And I know that I will never, not even once, regret never letting go.

– image by Tish Goff


Feeding Challenges: “I’ve Got This” and Other Things I Once Believed

March 26, 2017 2 Comments

Major cardiac defects? That’s a little more intimidating than we initially signed up for but nothing a good surgeon can’t fix. Plus I’m a nurse, I can handle the hard. God prepared me for this.

Poor oxygenation? That’ll correct itself once her heart is repaired.

Severe developmental delays? Of course she’s delayed, but look at those bright eyes. There’s no way there’s not something in there yearning to breakout. She just needs some TLC and a family to encourage her, she’ll be walking and talking and sitting on her own in no time.

Severely malnourished? Not a problem. I’ve got this.

Malnourishment was not something I thought another think about. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m a darn good cook. My boys eat. They always have. They may not have the best manners or like everything I put in front of them but they will eat it, they know I will wait them out or reheat their leftovers for their breakfast if they give me a hard time.

I believe in vegetables, bacon, butter, and all good things in balance. Even on pizza night the boys eat a handful of spinach or carrots or whatever greenish item I provide before chowing down. They don’t have cereal every morning and chicken nuggets are only a thing at restaurants.

See, I’m pretty great right? I love to bake and eat and fattening people up is a specialty of mine. Toot toot.

The first time I held Lizzie, beyond the warm fuzzy feelings, I was shocked to feel how frail she was. I knew to expect small and blue, her oxygen saturations were in the 50% range on a good day. But she was skin and bones, her hands were constricted, and she was so weak. In all the pictures she had been bundled up so it was hard to tell how disproportionate she actually was.

The nanny let us know she would need to eat soon so I got out the snacks we came ready with. I handed her some Gerber puffs and a sippy cup of water. It was funny to see her finger the puffs, she had no clue what to do with them.

We got back to the hotel and made her bottle per the nanny’s instruction. I warmed up water and mixed the formula with a little rice cereal, even widened the hole in the nipple. She would not take it. I made the bottle a little warmer and the hole a little bigger, still nothing. The water ended up being straight from the electric teapot and the hole was as big around as a pencil eraser before she would touch it; and she would only let my husband feed her.

As those first few days progressed it dawned on me that she truly had only been given scalding hot bottles of formula, albeit mixed with congee and what not, but she never learned to suckle and what she consumed was tasteless.

Lizzie did not know how to eat. She watched curiously as we chewed and mimicked our mouth movements, it was totally foreign to her.

I utilized the hotel sewing kit and took in all of Lizzie’s six month-sized pants and skirts, everything I had packed fell right off of her. We took her to the checkup with the rest of our travel group, again we knew to expect a reaction from the medical staff based on her condition but for some reason seeing she weighed only 14 1/2 pounds at 2 1/2 years threw me off more than the 53% oxygenation reading.

Once we arrived stateside, Lizzie was taken straight to the Pediatric ICU for observation. The doctor took one look at the can of Chinese formula and advised we switch to Pediasure right away. Thus began our affair with canned corn syrup mixed with essential vitamins and minerals…

After being home for a couple weeks the plans for her heart repair were made. We were instructed to fatten her up any way we could and enjoy the bonding time. She began crawling, then cruising, then walking in no time. She said a few words like mama, baba, and bye-bye. She was already blowing everyone’s expectations out of the water.

I began adding coconut oil to her bottles and offered her baby foods and whatever we were eating without much luck. The plan was to hit her hard with feeding therapy after she recovered from her surgery; that should only have been about 3-4 weeks so there were no worries there. She gained five pounds in little over a month so I wasn’t too concerned.

(Remember my sweet skills?) this feeding thing would not be an issue.

Lizzie checked in to the hospital mid-September 2013 and didn’t come home until late January 2014. Two open heart surgeries later, she came home with a ventilator and with oxygen.

She came home highly addicted to pain medications and extremely immunodeficient.

She came home with paralyzed vocal chords from multiple ventilations and tubes crammed down her throat over several months. Even if she knew how to eat she couldn’t without the risk of aspiration.

She also came home with a feeding tube inserted into her belly.

The instructions “fatten her up the best you can” turned into “just keep her healthy the best you can.” Pediasure was her only source of measurable nutrition. Days turned to weeks and months turned to years and, while we had luck with fun foods like pudding and Nutella, nothing stuck.

No progress was made; standard feeding therapies weren’t cutting it.

While Lizzie’s feeding difficulties are extreme and have been greatly impacted by extreme situations, the root of her issues began where many adopted children started as well: she never learned the joy of eating.

There were no Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, no cute first spaghetti mess pictures, no nursing at their mother’s breast or being cuddled while taking a bottle. Often these kiddos come from a survival-of-the-fittest scenario. You eat or you don’t, and if you don’t there’s no second chance or bedtime snack. Going to bed hungry and hurting becomes the norm.

Add to that possible genetic disorders, health problems, developmental delays, sensory issues, attachment disorders, or any combination of the above and you’ve got a recipe for some serious feeding difficulties.

After a couple years of feeding therapy Lizzie became stagnant. The g-tube has been a lifesaver but also a crutch on which we became a little too dependent. The thought of sending Lizzie to an inpatient tube weaning program made me sick; eight weeks in an industrial setting where they force her to eat never felt right. Unfortunately, it looked like our only option.

Over the years I’ve received numerous pointers and have had multiple people tell me things like, “Oh, I have a picky eater, too…” or “Leave her with me for a week and I’ll have her eating in no time…” or “You know if she gets hungry enough she will eat…” And I would think to myself, “Oh gee thanks, why didn’t I think of that??”

At some point I realized I was once just like all the well-intending folks with such awesome advice, sort of like before you have kids and you say/think crazy things like, “My kid will never act like that,” while judgingly observing a toddler having a melt down and watching the frazzled mom cave.

What people don’t get is that she has been hungry. She has been so severely malnourished that she was near death. Being hungry wasn’t enough to make her eat then, and it would be over my momma-bear-dead-body that I ever let her think she had to go back to that place in her past again.

It’s not like she just didn’t feel like eating. She did not know how.

Of course some of what was happening was behavioral and comfortable, but certainly not the simple reasoning behind why my child would not eat. My “you’re gonna eat that or go to bed hungry” approach to mothering would not work on our little lady.

So many things became clear to me after we changed to feeding therapy with Spectrum Pediatrics. Lizzie’s new therapist developed a program around her needs, and when standard treatment didn’t work she altered the plan to fit Lizzie. She introduced me to a book called Love Me, Feed Me and drove home the idea that trust is key. Kids with pasts similar to Lizzie need to know that hunger is not something to be feared and their needs will be met in a loving way.

Spectrum offered us an opportunity to participate in their tube wean program as well. Their website states: The key to ending tube dependency is correcting each child’s relationship with food and as well as helping them recognize and respond to hunger. Being satiated, enjoying food, and enjoying mealtimes with family and peers are the natural reinforcers for learning to eat. We believe treating the whole child with respect and individualized care is essential to unlocking the drive to eat. Any child learning to eat should be doing so in the presence of hunger and in safe social settings and not under the stress of an unnatural clinical or institutional setting.

Umm, yes! This was exactly what I was trying to say and exactly the type of program I prayed would exist for my daughter. Up until this point, Lizzie never associated fulfillment with eating by mouth. She enjoyed the taste of things but had forgotten the concept of “If I’m hungry, I need to eat.” Just a few months ago, if Lizzie was hungry, she’d lift her shirt and point to her tube.

There are still many hurdles to jump and mountains to climb, but she has come so far. Lizzie has learned to love certain foods and she is no longer tube-dependent. She gets more calories, fats, and nutrients by mouth than she ever took by tube.

In December we were able to stop tube feeding all together. We’ve had to hide all the cheese in the garage fridge (she hates the garage) to keep her from raiding the cheese drawer and restock her allotments daily in the kitchen fridge (don’t worry, every single person in the house has been guilty of giving her extra because she is so stinking cute and irresistible). I spend a fortune on yogurt and if someone leaves the peanut butter in her reach you better believe she will be in it.

We are now to a place where she knows what to do to satisfy her hunger and she likes the way eating makes her feel. It is safe to introduce new foods and cut back on some of her favorites, just as one would for any baby learning to eat.

Unfortunately we discovered in late January (completely unrelated to the feeding therapy) that Lizzie’s heart is not doing well and needs repair. Her overworking heart is burning more calories than she can consume and she has begun losing weight quickly. It was decided best to start giving nightly supplemental tube feedings until she has the corrective cardiac surgery.

This initially felt like such a devastating set back. Just when we were making ground we had to put everything on pause. But, really, it is okay and I know it will be okay. She has continued to eat by mouth and no longer asks for tube feedings; in fact she seems annoyed by the ones we have to give her now.

After her surgery in April, we will hit the ground running again. She will have a healthy heart and will be recovering from a very different starting point than before. Once she is ready we will apply the same loving approach we did for the tube wean. We’ll continue to include her at family meals, we’ll feed her when she’s hungry, and we’ll say no when all she wants is chocolate pudding (or six pieces of string cheese) just like we would for any of our other kids.

We will sometimes lose patience and get frustrated with her and – in the next moment – be encouraged over the slightest interest shown in a new food. We (I) will stop letting new diagnoses, such as level 3 Autism, be an excuse to keep her (me) from doing hard things. We’ll take breaks and hang tight where we are, if need be, but we will not quit.

Rather than be frustrated by people staring at what seems to be a normal six year old child eating like an eight month old infant, we’ll keep doing our thing.

We will meet her wherever she is at the moment and celebrate how far she has come – and all she will achieve.

– guest post by Whitney

Waiting to be chosen: Get ready to fall in love with these three boys – Bates, Canaan, and Heathton

March 26, 2017 0 Comments

It’s all about the boys today!

“Listen” as these Storytellers from America World Adoption – Journey of Hope – share their stories about three darling boys.

Meet Bates:

This cute little boy grabbed my attention at the opening ceremony as he made wantons out of play dough during craft time. Whenever I saw him, he was always smiling and laughing. He is great around kids and acts like an older brother to those who are younger. He might be shy at first, but once he gets to know you, he will become more open and wild. He is a very energetic and upbeat kid. He loves to play outdoors, he especially likes biking. He also loves to play with legos, but one of his favorite hobbies is to dance. During the Sports Festival he was one of the quickest and most competitive little boys. If you have been thinking about adoption, please look into this little boy who just wants a forever family to be able to share all his amazing talents and love.

Another team member share about Bates:

Bates is a smart little boy with a fun personality and a contagious smile. He has great gross motor skills…running, jumping, hopping and balancing on one foot. He said he loved to dance and ride his tricycle! His fine motor skills were on target as well. He can write with a pencil, build beautiful creations with Legos and has mastered chopsticks like a pro! Bates’ caregivers report that he is kind and compassionate, friendly and easily occupies himself when he has extra time. During our time with Bates, he had great communication skills, demonstrating very good expressive and receptive language. His diagnosis of hydrocephalus does not appear to have slowed this smart boy down in the least. The redness on his face and neck appeared to be a port wine stain and does not seem to be causing any issues for him. His overall health was very good.

We feel that Bates would transition very well into a family because of the strong bond we saw between him and his caregivers. It was obvious that he was well-loved and well cared for and knew how to love in return.

He is a precious boy and would be a blessing to any family.

Meet Canaan:

I met Canaan on my first day. He reminded me a little bit of my brother when he was about five or six years old. Like my brother, Canaan had soul searching eyes. He was quiet and inquisitive about his surroundings, but I could tell he was looking me over. He would look me straight in the eyes as if he were searching for something from me, but when I asked if he wanted anything he would quietly shake his head and pick up a toy and play.

Canaan can dress himself and take care of his hygiene appropriate to his age. He follows instructions and speaks and is learning English. He can juggle and toss balls in the air and loves to play. He runs and jumps and kicks the ball.

We started a game another adult and four children including Canaan on our third day. We took a parachute and a beach ball. The object was to keep the ball in the parachute, but make it go around by waving the parachute and lifting it up in different areas. We had a lot of fun, and the children were quite good at it. Canaan wanted to get on the floor under the parachute to experience what that was like. Everyone was laughing. Typically, he is quiet around other children and does not usually interact with them much and prefers playing by himself, but occasionally Canaan likes join in.

I was told Canaan did not like to be held or hugged and during my visit with him, I respected that. However, I have to tell you that was hard to do because like all the other children as they came around me to play, it was a natural thing to hug them. The children were constantly coming up to us for a little hug, but not Canaan. He spent a lot of time circling me, as if he really needed to know me, but he looked like a little boy in need of a hug. On the third day, as we were playing, the group of children and I were having so much fun. Canaan was sitting next to me, I wasn’t really thinking… and before I could stop myself, I reached over and put my arms around Canaan. Guess what happened? He leaned right into that hug like we were best friends

Canaan has been diagnosed with autism and is in need of a forever family to call his own. We’d love to see Canaan home for Christmas next year!

And now meet Heathton:

Heathton is four years old. From the moment we met him, he stole our hearts. In the middle of a crowded room, he would make the decision that you were the one -for that particular moment who would receive his “love hugs”. So whether it was hugging your leg or wrapping his arms around your neck and laying his body into a leaning hug onto your back, you knew that for that moment, you had been blessed by Heathton’s love hug.

Heathton is nonverbal, but is a very busy little boy, wanting to walk everywhere and be in the center of what you are doing.

His forever family would be very busy keeping up with Mr. Heathton!

We are confident that a special family seeking God’s will would know the Lord has chosen them to care for this very special little boy.

Heathton will likely require a life-time care commitment from a very special family.

Is God calling you to be Heathen’s forever family?

Please contact the America World China staff at if you are interested in any of these precious boys.

To learn more about the China waiting child process visit

*These files are special focus and can be pursued by a family at any stage of the process.

An Unfinished Family Portrait

March 25, 2017 2 Comments

Looking up from a pile of leaves, a young, beautiful blonde-haired college girl smiles while being kissed on the cheek by a “somewhat handsome” college-aged boy. That young, twenty-year old girl, now even more beautiful than ever, is my wife, Amber. That college kid, who has not graced the twenty years since quite as well, …Read More

This is Us, Adoptive Families

March 23, 2017 2 Comments

I am thankful for my family. I’m thankful that we’re all safe 
and there’s no one in the world that I’d rather be too hot or too cold with. – Jack Pearson, This is Us Time’s been storytelling with us. Our family life is a sitcom and a drama. Our script has been sweet and …Read More

Glad We Didn’t Know: Adopting a Child with Von Willebrand Disease

March 22, 2017 1 Comments

For four years I prayed that my husband would say yes to adopting again from China. And out of the blue he mentioned – in passing – that he felt like we had another child waiting for us. Within 24 hours, a friend had sent me a photo of a four year old little girl …Read More

Medical Mama-Ness: Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

March 21, 2017 0 Comments

One foot here, another foot there.   How we walk — it’s a bit of a balancing act, isn’t it? A bit of an awkward dance in a minefield. Jolting, yet fluid. Slippery, yet steady. Unexpected potholes, but given with Sovereign purpose. The sun rose with a crying little girl in my lap, her alligator …Read More

Waiting for a Family: Wallace

March 20, 2017 0 Comments

Three-year-old Wallace couldn’t be cuter! He started rehabilitation training shortly after being found as an approximately one-month-old baby. Wallace loves to share and play with other children. He is shy around strangers, but opens up once comfortable. Wallace loves to be praised and enjoys spending time with familiar people. His file diagnoses him as having …Read More

Different Routes Toward Adoption: Always Worth the Fight

March 19, 2017 1 Comments

We all have our buttons. One squeeze of the trigger, and we fire away. One of the quickest ways to trigger a release in my momma bear persona is to hear or read an often used comment in regards to adoption. No, I’m not talking about the things we all hear as adoptive parents when …Read More

Seeing Him in the Daily: A Transforming Perspective for the Hard Days

March 18, 2017 2 Comments

Today. Today feels like one of those “the days are long but the years are fast” kinda days — busy, demanding, a mile long to-do-list sort of seasons of motherhood. Have you been there? Maybe you are like me and feel like you live there! It’s in these impossible laundry-piled days that’s it’s easy to …Read More

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