Child Who Waits: Whittingham

January 16, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Yi, er, san, qiezi!” (One, two, three, eggplant!)

I can still hear these words in my head and remember exactly how he says them. Every time I took my camera out, he would yell this phrase loudly and throw his two fingers up in the air in “V” and put them right in front of his face as a snapped a picture.

I met Whittingham at Children’s House International’s (CHI) winter advocacy camp in Wenzhou. We had 18 kids and 18 advocates attend the camp and he was my buddy for the five days we were there. He’s eight-years-old and will turn nine in February 2017. His special needs include epilepsy, left-sided hemiparesis, strabismus, and developmental delays. He was abandoned around the age of two. His file was prepared over two years ago and in those two years he has been overlooked by many families for adoption for whatever reason. He attended this year’s winter camp because CHI wasn’t able to find a family for him in the past when his file was prepared, and after making the rounds with other agencies he still had no family.

But, wow. This kid is one of the friendliest kids I have ever met. He says “thank you” and says “hello” to everyone he meets. Every time we were in the elevator he would say “hello” to the other people and start telling them about his day and where we were off to next. At one particular restaurant, as you were leaving, you walked down the line of all the chefs, and he waved and smiled and told each of them “hello” and “goodbye” as we walked out. Everyone that met him for even a few moments couldn’t help but smile at his sweet spirit and kindness.

His seizures are definitely his greatest special need at this time. He is currently taking three medications for his seizures, but that medication is not controlling them. I witnessed at least five seizures every day that I spent with him. They were all very minor and came and went before most people would even notice them. I noticed them most often when it was time to eat. That is because when he would have a seizure his head would drop onto the table and then he would immediately pick it back up – typically only one second from start to finish. So it’s very possible he had more than five a day and I just didn’t catch them because they were so quick. The doctor at his orphanage said he had recently been in the hospital for a month to change his medications and observe him. She said his seizures have greatly improved since this month-long stay in the hospital.

Even with his left-sided weakness, Whittingham is a fairly normal boy physically. He can walk, run, jump, dance, color, feed himself, use the toilet, and put on clothing/shoes. When asked to use his left hand, he completes a task much slower than with his right hand, but he can do it. He seemed to really enjoy coloring with crayons and markers, but his coloring skills are very far behind. He would draw circles around the paper and not color inside the lines at all. When asked to count a few objects in front of him, he could not. These are areas of development that concerned me, but with how well he memorizes songs and poems and how good his fine motor skills are, I’m not sure why he is behind in these areas. On Thanksgiving, he participated in a performance that included singing and dancing and while he was a little behind the other children on the movements occasionally (he had also been in the hospital for the past month before attending camp, so that could have been part of the reason), he belted out each song like he was on American Idol.

Whittingham found adventure and joy in every activity that we did during our time together. Simple things like playing with a balloon in the hotel room, to riding in a shopping cart at a Chinese Walmart, to getting to pick his own food at the hotel buffet. I truly got to experience a lot of “firsts” that adoptive families typically get to experience. I got to see what a potential adoptive family would go through in their first five days with him. I saw joy. I saw hope. I saw love. I saw excitement.

Before I left, his nanny from his orphanage begged me to help him find a family. She knows this child and she knows how eager he is to please others and make friends. She knows how other kids/adults can be bullies and take advantage of kids like him. She’s afraid of what will happen to him if he ages out and never has a family.

He called me “mama” for five days. At first, it was hard to hear. I told him to call me “ayi” (aunt) instead. But he constantly reverted to “mama” when he was calling for me. He’s longing for his “mama”. It was very clear. He had so much joy in his voice when he would call out “mama.” And every time he would say “xie xie mama” (thank you, mom), my heart would break a little. This little boy deserves a family. He needs a family. He needs someone to love him and protect him. Are you the mama or the baba that he’s longing for?

For more information and to request this child’s file, email Nina at CHI. To contact this child’s camp advocate, email Amanda at The Lily Project.

Reluctant Spouses: Of One Mind….

January 15, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Choosing to grow your family is a monumental, life-altering decision. And choosing to grow your family through special-needs adoption? Even more so. Which makes this decision an understandably difficult one to make – one that is typically easier (or harder) for one spouse than the other.

This month we’re focusing on Reluctant Spouses. Or, when one of you is ready to adopt, and the other isn’t.

The topic of adoption first came up in our marriage when we had been married about two years. And when I say it came up, I mean I mentioned it in the context of ….one day.

One day when we are ready for kids.

One day when we are more settled.

One day after we have our own kids (ugh… I know… I know… chalk it up to being 23 and having no clue).

It was one of those things that was a desire of my heart but I had no idea what that would look like, how to do it or even if it would be a reality. It was just a dream for…

one day.

Life took off and we added two biological children to our family. We worked and played and schooled and worshipped like the families around us. The desire to adopt “one day” would show up from time to time and would always be tucked away for later.

Our family also underwent many changes during that time. The death of my father, school struggles for my oldest, a move and new schools and a new church.

In 2008 we finally felt like our lives had settled and the desire to adopt began to grow again. I researched and read and prayed and we decided to take the next step. We attended an information meeting at a local agency. And instead of leaving there excited to take the next steps we felt discouraged and unsure.

We thought wanted to do this, but…

Not long after that our oldest was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Not life threatening, but definitely life changing. Soon after, our daughter was diagnosed with the same disorder and then life took off again.

What we couldn’t know then was that the little girl we would eventually bring home was just now being born and would not be available for adoption for nearly four more years.

During those four years, life would continue to move forward. But the Lord was growing that seed of desire into an unmistakable calling.

He was honing the dream from just adoption to international adoption.
From international adoption to China.
From a healthy young girl to an older child.

For much of the year leading up to our final decision to move forward we were praying separately. I was to some degree trying to reason our way out of what I knew the Lord was calling us to, but the call was unmistakable and my prayer became to make us of one mind.

At no point did I want to talk Shane into this.

No guilt, no wearing him down, I wanted us to be of one mind.

It’s amusing to me how the Lord sees fit to put people together sometimes. Shane is the calm, thinking counter to my passionate forge ahead. It sometimes takes him a while to come to a decision, but when the decision is made it’s full steam ahead. No wavering.

So when we had the final discussion and he was hearing the same calling and message, we knew it was time.

We moved through the process and as we completed our home study, I came across the picture of a little girl. A little girl who on the surface met our “criteria” but that we soon learned was more involved than what we thought. Again, he was the calm and I was the crying. Again we prayed together and separately and we waited on each other to figure it out.

We moved forward and brought Sarah home in November of 2013.

That all sounds kind of long and involved but also kind of simple in a way. My husband was never resistant to the idea of adoption, it just took us a long time to finally get on the same page time-wise.

So how do I know he felt the same calling I did? How do I know that we are of the same mind? Well… as we prepared to travel for Sarah, another face popped up on my computer screen. Another face I cried over.

Another face I couldn’t forget about.

Only this time she was 13 and in a wheelchair and had a host of unknowns. It would be only a few months after we returned from China with Sarah that we would begin the process again to bring Emily home. This time we were quickly on the same page, and 14 months after Sarah came home, we brought Emily home.

And that, dear readers, is when life got hard and I was reminded of why it was so important that we were in total agreement from the beginning.

Everyone reading this likely knows that adoption is such a gift but it is a gift that brings with it heartache and hard work. Attachment is hard work. Connection is hard work. There is the physical work of therapies and doctor appointments. There is the heartache of hearing the hard truths of your child’s past.

We needed each other. What we didn’t need was resentment and guilt.

So what do you do when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page? When he (or she) is reluctant and you are feeling impatient?

Well, first you have to do what I tell my kiddos when they are being impatient… put your patience pants on. Put them on every day and pray for the Lord to bring you and your spouse to the same conclusion and in his timing.

Then learn all you can, share what you learn but repeat after me…. no guilt. Share your heart, be honest with one another. Hear what your spouse is saying and really listen to concerns. Pray together. Pray separately and as hard as it may be sometimes, respect your spouse’s wishes.

I believe the Lord gives us dreams and desires so that we can use those to further His kingdom and bring Him glory. I also believe he gives us spouses to work in tandem together for that end. What that looks like and how that dream plays out may ebb and change as life moves forward, but we want our marriages to be strong and built on respect and love so that when the dream becomes a reality, and the dream is sometimes hard, we can work together as a team.


And in all honesty, now that the stress of two back to back adoptions has leveled out, now that we have overcome some attachment challenges and we are feeling more comfortable with our ability to care for the special needs our children have, that familiar ache is back in my heart.

And I am thankful again for his calm, thinking head paired with his father’s heart.

I’m thankful we can talk about things freely without guilt or resentment clouding the discussion.

I’m thankful we have learned how to wait together for the Lord’s timing for our family.

guest post by Stacy who blogs at Huff Adoption

Homemade Jiǎozi: Making Chinese New Year a Family Affair

January 14, 2017 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

I learned to make dumplings a few years ago when we hosted an exchange student from China. Everyone in the family enjoys eating them, and the process is so fun!

Making dumplings, or jiǎozi, is definitely a social affair – it’s meant to be shared as a group. We enjoy making and eating them to celebrate Chinese New Year, and sometimes just for fun when we’re craving traditional Chinese food.

I was intimidated to make them at first, but I assure you it’s not hard! With some prep and a little time, you can enjoy traditional, authentic jiǎozi from scratch. I’m going to share a recipe that is very similar to the one our exchange student received from her mother. The filling is delicious and comes together quickly. You can use store-bought dumpling wrappers or you can make them yourself – I promise making wrappers is easier than you think, and it only require 2 ingredients.

You will need a Chinese-style rolling pin, like this one. Attempting to make wrappers with a traditional American rolling pin will not end well and I guarantee will only create frustration. I know from experience!

Wrapper Ingredients:

(makes about 32 wrappers)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup just-boiled water (wait 90 seconds after bubbling has stopped)


Put 2 cups of flour in a stand mixer while waiting for the water to boil. With the mixer going, slowly add the just-boiled water to the flour until a dough ball forms. Add more water or flour as needed to make a dough ball that’s not sticky. Knead the dough by hand for a minute (dough will be warm and someone rough), and then quickly place in a ziplock bag, making sure to squeeze out all the air before sealing. Set aside and let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, but up to 2 hours.

Filling Ingredients:

While the wrapper dough is resting, mix up the filling

2 cups of packed Chinese cabbage (I use Napa), chopped finely
1½ tbsp fresh, finely minced ginger root
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup fresh, finely chopped green onions
¹⁄₈ tsp ground white pepper
¼ water
2 tbsp regular soy sauce (not lite)
1½ tbsp Shaoxing or cooking wine
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb of ground meat (pork is traditional but I prefer 93% lean turkey)


Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl, keeping the meat refrigerated until adding it at the end.

Next it’s time to make the dumplings:

1. Take the dough ball out of the ziplock bag and knead it on a floured surface for a few minutes. The dough will be wet from the condensation in the bag, and will need a little flour kneaded into it. Place the dough ball on your work surface and keep covered with a towel to retain moisture.

2. Cut off a small ½-ounce piece of dough (you will need to use a kitchen scale) and roll into a ball. With your hand, flatten the ball on your work surface to make a circle.

3. Using your Chinese-style rolling pin, roll out the dough, leaving the middle slightly thicker than the outside. To do this, roll from the middle out and rotate the dough, working your way around the whole wrapper. The wrapper should be thin (especially on the edges) and large enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon (depending on the size of the wrapper) of the filling into the middle of the wrapper. Make sure not to over-stuff the wrappers, or they will be difficult to close.

5. Fold the dough in half over the filling to create a half-moon shape, and then press the sides together. Make sure to squeeze out any excess air. Dumpling folding is a real art that I have not mastered. But if the dumplings stay closed, I feel pretty good about that.

Note: If you are using store-bought wrappers, you will need to use water to close the wrappers (dab your finger in water and run along the outside edge of the wrapper). This process is a lot easier if you are using homemade wrappers, because the dough sticks together without this extra step.

6. Place your finished dumpling on a tray and cover with a towel.

Repeat steps 2-6 over again until all of the dumplings are made. Remember, it goes much faster if you work as a team!

Next it’s time to cook the dumplings!

There are a couple methods to do this, with the easiest being boiling:

Boil: To do that, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Depending on the size of your pot, add about half the dumplings to the water and give them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. When the water has returned to a boil, add ½ cup cold water to the pot. When the water has returned to a boil again, add another ½ cup cold water. When the water comes to a boil the third time, allow to boil for a few minutes. Then remove dumplings from the water. Use a meat thermometer or cut one open to make sure the dumplings are cooked through. Serve alone or with a dumpling dipping sauce of your choice.

Fry: Pan-frying dumplings is another delicious alternative! To do that, add 1 tablespoon of frying oil per every 5 dumplings to a frying pan. Add dumplings to the pan, pinched side up, when the oil is hot. Fry for about 1 minute, and then add ½ cup water to the pan. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes or until the water has boiled away. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the pan, and then turn to medium heat. Cook off any leftover liquid, about 1 minute. Remove the dumplings from the pan and serve alone or with a dumpling dipping sauce of your choice.

Boil and fry: One last way to cook the dumplings is to boil first (with instructions above) and then pan-frying for a few minutes to make the outside wrappers crispy. Again, add dumplings to a hot pan with 1 tablespoon of oil for every 5 dumplings. Fry until the outside wrappers are crispy. Remove the dumplings from the pan and serve along or with a dumpling dipping sauce of your choice.

One last idea to keep in mind is that dumplings can be frozen and boiled directly from the freezer with the same directions as above. Also, extra dumpling filling can be frozen to use later. They are so versatile and are a fantastic snack to have on hand. And making them is a terrific way to celebrate Spring Festival with your family.

Xīn nián kuài lè wǒ de péng yǒu! Happy New Year my friends!


Waiting to be Chosen: Gia and Gage

January 13, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Meet Gia. Gia is 5 years old. She is a special focus child, on Lifeline’s individual list, and has a left finger deformity, G-6-PD deficiency, and Down syndrome. Gia gets along well with children in her class and uses gestures to express her own needs. It is reported that she is fairly attached to her …Read More

In the Meantime

January 13, 2017 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

Right now I am in a place I like to call the sweet spot. The paper chase is finished. There are no more adoption documents to sign or forms to fill out or fingerprints appointments to attend. All of our paperwork is submitted and everything on our end is done and out of our hands. …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Danielle

January 12, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Introducing precious Danielle! Danielle was born in November of 2012 was admitted into the CWI in January of 2013. Her special needs are macroglossia, heart disease, and hypertrophy of limbs on the right. Danielle was found abandoned at the park in January of 2013. When she was first admitted to the CWI, her height was …Read More

My Plan vs. His Plan

January 11, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

You know how you make plans for your life and then God has something completely different in mind (and probably laughs at you for thinking your plan would measure up)? That was me. In fact, I had my whole life figured out. I was going to go to college, fall in love, get married, and …Read More

Child Who Waits: Seth

January 10, 2017 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Meet Seth! Little Seth is 5 years old and is on Wide Horizons For Children’s Individual list. He lives in one of their orphanage partnerships so I have met with him a few times. Seth is described as a social butterfly! He loves playing with the other children at the orphanage. He is quick to …Read More

Reluctant Spouses: Am I Ready To Be Ready Too?

January 9, 2017 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

Choosing to grow your family is a monumental, life-altering decision. And choosing to grow your family through special-needs adoption? Even more so. Which makes this decision an understandably difficult one to make – one that is often easier (or harder) for one spouse to come to than the other. This month we’re focusing on Reluctant …Read More

Child Who Waits: Lydia

January 8, 2017 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

We had the joy and blessing of hosting 11.5 year old Lydia this Christmas. Lydia is from the Jilin province, China. She lives at a boarding school for orphans and is a great student. Lydia absolutely LOVES to read and while she was here, she read Chinese versions of Harry Potter and Charlie and the …Read More

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