Neil Waits for a Family

February 14, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Meet gorgeous 21 month old, Neil!


Neil is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates via an orphanage partnership. MAA staff were able to meet him in November. Neil is described as docile and adorable. He will immediately raise his head or turn around when being called and he likes to smile and wave his hands to greet to people. He knows his name and the nannies he is familiar with. At the time his file was prepared, Neil could stand up by holding onto a rail and could slowly sit down when he was tired of standing. He was able to walk with support, but not independently. Neil is able to hold his own cup or bottle. When Madison staff met him, he was babbling, but not speaking. He does have some developmental delays.


Neil is diagnosed as having slightly decreased white matter- all other parts of the CT scan were normal. His orphanage staff feels that this does not affect him. He also had a bout of pneumonia and is diagnosed as having pulmonary disease. His file mentions many tests, including the possibility of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Having the file reviewed by a pulmonary specialist would likely be very helpful!

Watch his VIDEO, Password: Adoptmaa

There is a $2,000 agency grant for Neil’s adoption with MAA. Other grants may be available based on the adoptive family’s circumstances. Agency grants are awarded as agency fee reductions. MAA also partners with the Brittany’s Hope Foundation for matching grants, which are given out twice a year and to families that already have their letter of approval from China.

If you are interested in reviewing Neil’s file or in adopting Neil, please fill out a free Waiting Child Review Form.

On Siblings and Adoption: From the Oldest of 14

February 13, 2016 by nohandsbutours 10 Comments

Upon learning that I am the oldest of fourteen children, six of whom are adopted from China, a typical response goes something along the lines of, “Bless your heart, that sounds crazy.”

My answer is yes, it is crazy! Crazy in the most wonderful, beautiful, joyfully-chaotic way.


Others might say, “Weren’t your parents busy enough? How do they have time for all of those kids?”

As if we biological children are somehow being cheated on our fair share of love and attention. Excuse me as I try not to laugh – with all the people living around here, it’s hard to get away from the love and attention!

“Well, where do you put them all?”

Let’s just say a bedroom in our house is like a Chinese bus. How many can fit? One more! Always one more!

And so it goes… For every question wondering why or how we do it, the answer is that when it is God’s will, He will always show us the way! I think it is puzzling to some people why a family who is already larger than average would want to grow by adoption. They act like bringing in a needy orphan is a burden on those already born into your home, but in reality, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

People often imply sympathy to me (or our family as a whole) for having to “put up with” and “deal with” such a crowd on a daily basis. A common concern is that with so many people to watch after, we older children will not be able to have a life of our own. That is not the case! Along with giving piano lessons, babysitting for friends, and participating in our church’s music ministry, I work at my dream job as a wedding coordinator. My siblings are all involved in sports, music, and other extracurricular activities, besides being great students under my homeschooling parents. Yes, we are still busy at home helping with the younger kids, cleaning, cooking, etc., but that’s just part of living with others – being part of the team, as we say. I would not trade my life for anything!

I have seven sisters who will paint nails, dress up, or just lie around talking with me (what more could a girl ask for?) and six brothers who are just as protective of me as I am of them (it’s as amazing as it sounds). I am incredibly close to my siblings. My bond with each of them, biological or adopted, is unbreakable. None of us ever has to be alone. Whether I want to take a hike, go shopping, bake a cake, or watch a crime show, there is always someone around to join me.

While all of this may sound superficial, I just want to point out that being one of many children (whether adopted or not) is a BLESSING! Not a hindrance or disservice. And not only is my life filled with pleasure because of adoption, but God has used them to sanctify me in greater ways than I could have dreamed!

Having siblings with special needs ranging from barely noticeable to completely disabling has taught me compassion, servitude, and humility like I’d never imagined. My life has been – and continues to be – changed by this miracle of adoption. These sweet boys and girls have shown me daily the characteristics for which I should strive.

My eight-year-old brother, who is in first grade and learning to read despite two cognitive disabilities, teaches me diligence.

My four-year-old sister, who has to sit through frequent blood transfusions to live, teaches me contentedness.

My ten-year-old sister, who has slowly but surely overcome cerebral palsy to walk around the house with a walker, teaches me strength.

My (other) eight-year-old brother, who plays the piano in spite of both hands being deformed, teaches me determination.

My (other) four-year-old sister, who was once unable to straighten her legs but now runs nonstop, teaches me perseverance.

My five-year-old sister, who can only move her head and arms yet still has the biggest smile and loudest laugh of anyone in the room, teaches me joy.

So when you see our family circus traipsing through the public, please do not gasp or feel sorry for us or wonder how we manage. I promise, we are having the time of our lives! Do not wonder if we biological kids are missing out on something because of our adopted siblings. We – I – would be lost without a single one of them. Do we have moments of stress and insanity? Of course! Is it worth it? Yes. Yes, and yes.


I would not be the person I am now without adoption. My life has changed completely since our family started this adventure… in the very best way possible. As have all my siblings – the biological ones now have best friends who share our last name, and the adopted ones have a family to call their own. (Because even a wild, crazy, hectic crowd of a family is 10x more desirable than no family at all.)

So what really makes being in a large, adoptive family so wonderful? It is that rather than losing our individuality in the midst of the group, our personalities and strengths are amplified by the opportunities we have to serve and grow in our own home, which we never would have had otherwise. We are not just someone else to take care of, any more than those in your household. No matter how many siblings I have, whether by birth or adoption, each of us will always be a loved, necessary, and valued piece of our unique family puzzle.

– guest post by Hannah

Love for Leeya

February 12, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

February is Heart Month and we continue to share stories from parents as they navigate life with their heart babies. Each story, each post, each child is special. And for today’s post, this is especially true. Andrea was in the process of writing this post when her daughter Leeya suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Andrea chose to finish the post and share it here – it is our prayer that Leeya’s precious life would continue to impact others through the sharing of her story.


A “Heart Mama”, what a title! I had read stories of these brave women and cried trying to understand how hard that must be, to have a heart baby. And, in the adoption world, to choose to have a heart baby? That was even harder to wrap my head around. I admired them so much, but I could never be one. I didn’t have what it took. Our family couldn’t handle that.

But then, I found myself holding the file of a “heart baby”. Not just any baby, a baby that we had met on our second adoption trip. A baby, who my eight year old fell in love with and asked repeatedly for us to adopt. A baby, who when we met her did nothing, nothing but lie on a mat and smile. A baby who was two and a half years old, but looked to be six months old and acted like a newborn. Really God? I really think this was meant for another family but okay, I’ll look.


For two weeks we reviewed, and reviewed and reviewed. We looked over a pediatrician review, an international adoption clinic review and five reviews from cardiologists. Her official diagnosis was a congenital heart defect (that means she was born with it) called Tetralogy of Fallot. TOF is made up of four heart defects, a VSD (hole between the bottom chambers), pulmonary stenosis (the pathway from the heart to her lungs is either tiny or obstructed), overriding aorta (the aorta isn’t in the right spot), and right ventricular hypertrophy (the right ventricle is thickened because of pumping so hard). She also had an ASD (hole between the top chambers). Even with all that, TOF can be “garden variety” or very severe. Basically, blood was swishing all through her heart in crazy directions and not enough of it was getting through the pulmonary valve to get re-oxygenated but by golly, that right ventricle was going to keep pumping really hard to try to get the blood through that valve.

Other official diagnoses were corneal dermoids and severe cerebral palsy. Her file also threw around terms like hydronephrosis, citrullinemia, bronchitis, pneumonia, lag of brain development and it said she had a weak spirit. Our doctors’ reviews labeled her with global delays, failure to thrive, and they let us know there was a good chance she had a syndrome. Again, Really God??

We just couldn’t do it. We prayed. I cried. But, it was just too much, too scary, too many unknowns. I was to call our agency and say no. I tried to call, but I couldn’t dial the number. I tried to email them, but I couldn’t even type the words, much less hit send. It didn’t feel right; I was not at peace saying no to this little girl. Jon (my awesome husband) called at lunch to see if I had told them. I told him I couldn’t, and he said, “Good, I don’t want to either”. So……
WE SAID YES! A little bit scared, but with 100% confidence that it was the right decision. I took off running down the expedited adoption path because this little girl, our little girl, needed help fast.

We decided that Jon would travel alone. It wasn’t ideal, but we had only been home six months with our newest son. We didn’t feel like he was ready for us both to be gone for that long. Our little girl, Leeya YanQi Grace, was placed in her daddy’s arms on Sept. 14, 2015. No matter what happened from that point on, she had a family.

He did a wonderful job taking care of her on his own; he even kept bows in her hair every day for me. She had to be fed with a syringe because she had no suck reflex. She was so tiny and frail. She didn’t do anything other than lie there, make odd noises, and play with her fingers. And smile, she always smiled.

Finally on Sept 26, they landed back in the US. I flew to Chicago to surprise them which gave us have a few hours together before introducing her to the rest of the family. It was love at first sight; she was absolutely perfect and could do no wrong in my eyes. We made it back to Nashville the same night, and just like that we were a family of eight. I was officially a “heart mama”.


We got 36 hours at home before the doctor appointments started. We were the first appointment in cardiology on Monday morning. She was very uncooperative for the EKG and ECHO so there were no clear answers from those. A heart cath was scheduled for eight days later. She had lots of blood work that day, a CT scan, and a chest x-ray. Not only was Leeya a heart baby, she had a lot of other stuff going on. An anesthesiologist said, “She is so special, it is going to take a long time to figure out all of her medical secrets.”

We were nervous going into the cath, she had only had one done in China, and she crashed afterwards. It was then that she was labeled “no surgical options at this time” and too complex. Leeya’s heart cath showed about what they expected for an almost three year old with unrepaired TOF. The doctors considered doing surgery the next morning, but a transplant heart came in for another little one so we scheduled surgery for one week later. We did stay overnight for observation and it was pretty unnerving rocking her at the hospital that night listening to the alarms as her O2 levels would drop into the low 50’s. TET spells is what these babies have, the oxygen levels drop extremely low, sometimes without warning, they can be life-threatening. Thankfully we were now getting her much needed help.

After only having her at home for two short weeks, surgery day came. We were so nervous. She was the first patient scheduled that morning so she went back at 7am. We didn’t see her again for about 12 hours. The surgeon was pleased overall. He was not able to save her pulmonary valve as he had hoped, and he decided to leave her ASD open to allow blood to continue to flow through it while the heart adjusted to it’s new way of beating. It took them quite a while to get her stable that evening. It didn’t take long to figure out that she was taking the more difficult recovery path that we had been told was possible.

She spent six days on a breathing tube and was only extubated because she bit a hole in the tube. Leeya spent 11 days in the PCICU. We had consults with PT/OT and feeding therapy, general surgery to check for Hirschsprungs disease, ophthalmology to check her corneal dermoids, genetics to discuss a possible syndrome (22q had been ruled out, but now they were thinking Waardenburg syndrome), infectious disease because she had an antibiotic resistant strain of E.coli, wound care because fluids were keeping her skin stretched so much that it was tearing open, she had spots where IVs had been that had to be treated with burn medicine, and of course, she got a very yucky yeast infection. Once she came off of the sedation meds, she went 60 hours with no sleep. She had more x-rays, blood draws, and other procedures than I can recall. But, she fought on and as long as there were no “white coats” around she smiled and laughed and made the best of the situation. The medical stuff was scary but being this little girl’s mama was not! She had me there beside her; she didn’t have to fight alone anymore. Finally, after a total of 23 days in the hospital, we got to take her home.

She came home on three medicines, 24/7 oxygen, and an NG tube for all her feeds. However, none of that mattered because she was home. Her happy spirit was back full time, and her five siblings were thrilled to have their baby back. We only ventured out for doctor appointments or therapies the first month back home. Thank goodness for online Christmas shopping. Her first post-op check up was good, and she was able to come off one medicine. The doctor decided to leave her on the oxygen until spring, through cold/flu season, just so that her heart wouldn’t have to work quite so hard. She didn’t like going to therapy, but we were seeing improvements. She started rolling over and even stayed in a sitting position sometimes.


She gained seven pounds and started to thrive. It was like watching a miracle take place right before my eyes. We are all so in love with her. She has such a happy, joy filled spirit, and I am thankful each day that we didn’t give in to fear and say no to being her parents.

She is worthy of love, worthy of family, worthy of being given a chance at life.

No matter how long that life may be.

On January 22, 2016 our little Leeya passed away. She went into cardiac arrest at a local hospital as we were trying desperately to get her to the children’s hospital. The details of that day I’ll save for another post. Her heart was so very tired. Even on oxygen her O2 levels hung around 78-85, her right ventricle was just worn out. She had just seen her cardiologist 10 days prior and there was nothing to make us think this was coming.


My heart shattered that day. We were left with so many unanswered questions, what-ifs, and why now? Things I will never know or understand this side of heaven. Those feelings, like the day itself, I will also save for another time. I do know that she left this earth as a treasured daughter and sister, not an orphan. She touched more lives in her three short years than some people do in 93.

I am honored to have been Leeya’s mom. I feel so much hurt because I felt so much love. I wish I could have been her mom for longer but aside from that, I wouldn’t change anything about the last five months. There are no regrets, and I would do it again and again, because she was worthy.

– guest post by Andrea

Find My Family: Mallory

February 12, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Mallory is an adorable 11 year old girl who is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates via an orphanage partnership. Mallory came into care as a baby and was showing delays at 8 months of age. Because of the delays, the orphanage had her get a CT scan. The CT scan showed low density shadows …Read More

My 2¢ on Adoption Fundraising: Applying for Grants

February 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Today we continue with the second of five posts in a guest series by Laure Kline, who will be sharing everything she knows about adoption fundraising with us! We know that many potential adoptive parents say that lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to adoption and it is our hope that this series will …Read More

Her History Matters

February 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We have been highlighting ideas for ways to honor Chinese heritage while celebrating Chinese New Year (and Chinese holidays). I have some goals as the mother of a four year old Chinese daughter. I hope to have a dumpling making day with our family and extended family and feast on homemade dumplings, and oranges, and …Read More

Find My Family: Cam

February 10, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Courageous Cam is 7 years old and is deaf and mute. Cam was found at 2 years old and upon admission was given a name that indicates loud and clear. Although he cannot talk the staff hoped he would learn to communicate. The staff observed that Cam could understand sign language and meaning through watching …Read More

Preparing Siblings for Adoption: Five Simple Guidelines

February 9, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


If you are reading this, I am guessing you are close to saying YES to adoption or have already done so. There is a great chance you are somewhere in the middle of the paperwork race or nearing the finish line. You have countless hours under your belt thinking about how you will love, parent …Read More

15 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year

February 8, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Lunar New Year is here! Our celebrations have morphed over the years, especially depending on the season of life and ages of children. Some years are more festive, while others simply get a “Happy New Year” and a nice meal for recognition. Although we’re trying to establish a few traditions for the children, we don’t …Read More

Rock-a-Bye, Baby

February 7, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


I love how furniture has a history – how it tells a story – and nursery room furniture is no exception. When I was pregnant with my first child, I received a rocking chair from my sister-in-law, who had used it to rock her three babies. So many middle of the night feedings have taken …Read More

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