adopting SN step two: the paperchase

This is the second post (read first post here) that attempts to answer the oft asked question:
“How do I get started? We have decided we want to adopt a child from China through the special needs program, but what do we do next?”

Once you’ve chosen an agency, the real work begins.

It’s time to start the mind-numbing process of collecting paperwork for your dossier.

And as ridiculously long winded and painfully difficult it might seem at times, believe me, it’s totally worth it in the end.

Whether you’ve ‘found’ your child yet or not, you still must complete all the necessary paperwork to be approved both by the USCIS and the CCAA to adopt from China. This phase of the adoption is knows as the “paperchase”. Each adoption agency has specific guidelines to follow for compiling this paperwork, which is one of the reasons it’s generally recommended to sign up with an agency before starting your paperchase.

Shortly after applying to and being accepted by an agency, you should receive a very large binder, or something similarly gargantuan, that will spell out in great detail how to compile your dossier. Expect this binder to be the place in which you will spend every spare moment for the next several months.

I’m not gonna lie. This phase of the adoption process is no fun. But, like I said, every ounce of effort is totally worth it when you are holding your newly adopted child.

The *key* component to a dossier is the USCIS approval, also known as the i800A. It is so important because firstly, you can’t adopt an orphan without it. And secondly, it’s generally the most time consuming portion of the dossier compiling process.

The documentation required to apply to USCIS for your i800A is as follows:

1. Proof of U.S. citizenship
2. Proof that you are married and that any previous marriages ended legally (ie. divorce decrees)
3. A complete and current home study
4. Proof that you have complied with the pre-adoption requirements of the state in which you will live with your adopted child, if necessary
5. The required filing fee for your application
6. Fingerprints for all household members over the age of 18, collected by the USCIS
*more information here

Because a homestudy is required to apply for USCIS approval, the best and most expeditious way to get started on your dossier is to get started on your homestudy. Generally, four or more visits with your social worker are necessary. And that takes time. Also required are state clearances, financial information, autobiographies, reference letters, physicals and, depending on the state in which you reside, various and sundry additional information.

Soooo, the sooner you can get started on your homestudy, the sooner you can apply to the USCIS for your i800A.

Typically, a homestudy takes 4-6 weeks to complete, but much depends on your social worker and your homestudy agency. A good question to ask when interviewing a homestudy agency is their timeframe for a completed homestudy. I made the mistake of not asking this question with our first adoption and our homestudy took a ridiculously long four months to complete. Believe me, once you’ve seen your child’s face, four months waiting on your social worker will be way too long.

While your homestudy is in progress, you can begin to collect the other documents required for your dossier.

Dossier documents you’ll need to collect are:

  • Birth certificates for each parent (less than one year old)
  • Marriage certificate (less than one year old)
  • Physical for each parent
  • Employment verification and, if necessary, non-employment verification
  • Letter of Intent to Adopt written to CCAA
  • Financial Statement
  • Police Clearances for both parents
  • Passports ~ copies of photo pages of each parents’ passport (so if you don’t have a passport yet, apply for one right away)
  • Photos ~ depicting family life, number varies by agency
  • I800A approval from USCIS

Some agencies require a completed dossier before you are allowed to review a child’s file, while others will allow you to review files before you’ve even begun your paperwork. So if you’re committed to bringing home a child from China, even if you haven’t *found* your child, it is the perfect time to start climbing that mountain of paperwork. Yes, now.

I promise, it will be totally worth it in the end :)

Next post up in the series ‘adopting SN: the process’…

Finishing The Paperchase: Authentications, Certifications and Notarizations.

WOOHOO!!

**This post is not, in any way shape or form, intended to be the difinitive guide on compiling your dossier. It was composed under the influence of a faulty memory, mothering many small children, and extreme jet lag. Your opinions, comments and corrections are greatly appreciated.**

Choosing Your Child…SN Adoption…My Thoughts and Experiences


This post originally ran on my blog last August. The response to it was so strong that I felt I should post it here as well.

I am writing this post because I have been contacted by several Moms who were in this place in their journey. The place where you are looking at the file of a child and you have to tell your agency whether or not you accept him or her by 5pm tomorrow. Sometimes you don’t even get that much time. Sometimes you are being pressured that if you don’t accept this referral, it may be a long time before you get another.
You are looking at the face of a beautiful child. You were so sure you would know instantly when you saw your child’s face…but you don’t know for sure with this one…you look for any clue, any sign that this is the one.
You read every word in the referral over and over. You forward the referral package to your pediatrician and any specialist you can find. You are typing medical conditions into google search that you cannot even pronounce.
The little face is tattooed in your brain. This is a child living somewhere in the world who needs a family and their fate is in your hands. You could be their mother. All you have to do is say ok.
The anxiety creeps in. Is the file accurate? Can I handle this SN? How will this condition work with our family?
You cannot eat, your stomach is in knots. You cannot sleep…you toss and turn all night long. Is this my child? What should I do?
You pray…literally fall on your face before God begging Him to tell you…give you a sign.

Sophia was the fifth file we reviewed. I had no peace and God was quiet while I suffered through the first four files and let the little girls move on to their forever families. It was hell. That is the only way to describe what I went through. Emotional hell. I questioned my faith, had I not been strong enough to accept the child meant for me? Had I missed a sign from God and let my daughter pass through my fingers?

File Number 1: Beautiful little girl with repaired spina bifida. Her birthday was my Grandfather’s birthday and she had the double cowlick that runs in our family. We thought for certain that this was our girl. Many people fear spina bifida children, but I know through my relationship with Amanda at Starfish that these children can be healed and live wonderful lives and they deserve families. We sent the referral packet off to our pediatrician and he thought some things needed clarification.

The file stated she was standing and walking. He wanted to know if she had bowel control and if she could walk unaided. We contacted our agency and asked them to call the orphanage and ask these questions. They did. IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL QUESTION THAT NEEDS TO BE ANSWERED IN ORDER FOR YOU TO FEEL COMFORTABLE ACCEPTING A REFERRAL, HAVE YOUR AGENCY CALL THE ORPHANAGE. THEY CAN AND THEY SHOULD.
We found out that this little girl was completely paralyzed from the waist down. The information in our referral packet was incorrect. We sadly turned down the referral. We had decided early on what SN’s we could handle positively and at what severity and this was too severe for us. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELVES ABOUT WHAT SN’S YOU CAN HANDLE.

File Number 2: Almost the same situation as file number one, except we could not get the information we needed to feel comfortable accepting the referral back from the orphanage. They would not cooperate with us enough for us to feel comfortable moving forward, so we turned down the file. IF YOU CANNOT GET ENOUGH INFORMATION TO FEEL COMFORTABLE MOVING FORWARD WITH THE ADOPTION, IT IS OK TO SAY NO AND LET IT GO. All of the children whose files we reviewed found their true forever families. It was never us.

File Number 3: This one was the most difficult. Absolutely darling little girl with a heart condition. Thank you thank you to my friend Kelly who gave me the name of a fabulous cardiologist. We believed with all of our hearts that this was our daughter. I will always carry her with me. I sent the referral to my pediatrician who said that she would definitely need a second surgery (she had already had one in China), but that he thought it looked ok. I also sent the file to a pediatric cardiologist who called me within an hour to tell me that this little girls situation was grave, she wouldn’t live past her teens. I have an excellent pediatrician, but he is not a heart specialist. FIND A SPECIALIST WHENEVER YOU CAN TO REVIEW YOUR REFERRAL. If we had not sent our file to a specialist, we would be the parents of a child who would pass away much sooner than we would be ready for her to.

File Number 4: This file never seemed right to me. I got the call from our agency and they sent over the file of a little girl with an eye condition. Her eye would need to be removed. We had asked for the referral of a little girl younger than Eli. We did not wish to adopt out of birth order. Our agency misread this little one’s birthdate and thought she was a year younger than she actually was, she was truly older than Eli. I just knew in the pit of my stomach that this wasn’t my daughter. We turned down the file.

Sophia’s File: I got the call from my SW. She sent the file. I opened it up and refused to fall in love. I just didn’t have it in me. I was afraid of investing in another little girl, I was afraid of the anguish again. I sent the file to Tim. He was instantly smitten. I sent the file to our pediatrician and to the same cardiologist who had given us the terrible news about the other little heart girl whose file we had received. It was 2:30pm and I was told I had until 5pm to decide on whether or not I would accept this little girl and that they had other families who they knew would take her. Thank goodness the cardiologist’s office called back within an hour. They told me that this little girl’s condition was much better than the last and that they thought she looked good and that if they were in our shoes, they would accept the referral.
I had been praying to God to please help me, to please give me a sign. I didn’t need a burning bush (although that would be great). And then I noticed the red maryjanes. I know it sounds random, but it was not random to me. I knew it was God and that He had heard me all of those times before and that His silence was my answer regarding the first 4 files. Those girls were not mine.
But this girl was meant for me. I had peace. I had no sleepless nights. There were no knots in my stomach. Every obstacle in our path was removed. Our daughter came home.

IF I CAN GIVE ANY WOMAN WHO IS GOING THROUGH THIS COMFORT, PLEASE FIND IT IN THIS: I do not believe that God will allow you to miss your child. It’s too big. It just is. He will let you screw up a lot of things in your life, but I do not believe this is one of them. God has a purpose and plan for your life and for the life of your child. He is not going to let you adopt the wrong child who was intended for another family and He is not going to allow another family to adopt the child meant for you. I truly believe this. It’s just too big.

I also want to say that I am here if anyone needs someone to talk to. You don’t need to worry about how well you know me or whatever. If you are going through this time in your journey and you need someone to talk to, e-mail me and I’ll get you my phone number

Xie Xie

Thank you.
Thank you for passing the milk.

Thank you for helping me with the dishes.

Thank you for the Christmas present.
In most situations, thank you works. It’s appropriate and conveys the intended message. But sometimes, words just aren’t adequate.
On July 27, 2006, I stood in a sweltering reception room in the Guiping Social Welfare Institute in China’s Guangxi province. I had in my hand a little green box containing a gold necklace with a heart-shaped charm, a good gift for a foster mother, our guide had assured me. Most of the people from our adoption group had already left the room to go to lunch, and our translator was poised with her pen over a tiny piece of paper, waiting for me to tell her what to write.
Over a year before, in the very beginning stages of our adoption, I’d happened upon a stranger’s “Gotcha’ Day” video that affected me deeply. A toddler was being adopted and for some reason, going against protocol, the foster mother was delivering this child to her adoptive parents. The foster mother handed the girl to her new mother, but then quickly pulled the child back, hugging her to her chest and sobbing. A man in the room spoke harshly to the foster mother and with large hand gestures insisted that she give the child back to her new mother. The little girl was hysterical and the foster mother, clinging to her, ran for the door. The man stopped her and forcefully pulled the girl from her arms and gave her to the distraught adoptive mother. The whole thing lasted probably less than thirty seconds, but it disturbed me so much that I called our adoption agency that day.
“I don’t want to go to China and take a child away from a loving family,” I said to our adoption coordinator. “What I saw today is not what I signed up for. I completely support foster care, but if a child is loved and cared for and cherished, why am I even there? I can’t do that.”
Kathy, herself an adoptive mother many times over, listened calmly and said that it’s a great gift to adopt a child who can form strong attachments, that it may be harder initially, but that in the long run it’s always better. I agreed. Of course a foster family is preferable to an orphanage. “I’m sure it’s better for the child,” I said. “I’m sure it’s better for the adoptive parents. But what about the family left in China? Was it better for them? Did that foster mother want to adopt the child she’d raised from a newborn and keep her as her own? Was it only money that held her back? Shouldn’t the love of a family trump money?” Kathy, our ever-patient advisor, listened and reassured. “Foster families go into this knowing these kids won’t stay,” she said gently. “They are the heros of the adoption world. If you’re fortunate enough to adopt a child who’s been in a loving home, be thankful.”
When we got our daughter’s referral, we saw on her paperwork that the box which said “institutionalized” was checked. She was living in the orphanage in Guiping and at age six months the nannies there described her as “a very obedient baby who will not cry to affect adult’s work.” I couldn’t even read that sentence aloud when I called our extended family members to tell them our good news. My voice caught every single time. Babies should affect adult’s work. That’s just what they do. This baby needed a mommy and we so wanted her in our family.
When we arrived in China, our guide handed us a paper with updated information. After reading her schedule, and her likes and dislikes, we read at the very bottom, “living with foster family.” I told our guide that that was wrong. We saw her paperwork only two months before and it said she was in the orphanage. He said that it had only been a few weeks, but that she was now with a foster mother, father, and older brother. I rejoiced for her, for our daughter who I knew needed a mother, but I couldn’t shake that heart-wrenching video. Like a mantra, I just repeated Kathy’s words in my mind: This is a great gift. Be thankful. Foster families are the heros of the adoption world. This is a great gift. Be thankful. Foster families are the heros of the adoption world…..
We met our daughter the next day, a charming and developmentally on-track little 11 month-old. She was absolutely perfect. And I was thankful, oh so thankful for her foster family, truly heros of the adoption world.
So on our visit to the orphanage, I brought my little gift of jewelry, feeling it was silly and inadequate and wishing I knew what they really wanted or needed. We spoke with the orphanage director and she said they could not divulge the name of the family, or supply a photo of them, or facilitate contact. She did say that they are kind people and an experienced foster family.
Now it was time to leave and I wanted to write a note to go along with the gift. The translator had pulled out a piece of paper only slightly larger than a credit card. She stood waiting, looking toward the door where everyone else had already gone.
“Thank you,” I said quickly. “Tell them thank you.”
“Xie Xie” she said, writing.
“And that we’ll always be in their debt.”
She looked confused.
I tried again. “That we can never repay them for their kindness.”
The translator nodded and wrote, nearly filling the paper. “Anything else?”
“Yes, ” I said. “We love her.”
She wrote the characters. “Very good,” she said, folding the paper and placing it in the box.
On the bus, on our way to lunch, I looked at the envelope of pictures the director had just given us–pictures from every month she was in the orphanage, and starting at nine months, pictures from the foster home. The difference was startling. Yes, the environment had changed, but more than that, the pictures showed a change in our daughter. The blank expression was gone. She was eager and happy. Her eyes sparkled with a light that hadn’t been there before.
The photo below was taken on the day she left the SWI. In the orphanage, staffed by kind and loving women, whose work she did not affect, she never smiled for the camera.
In her foster home, I get the impression she affected their work, oh just a little bit. Either waiting for someone to give her a ride…
….or sitting in the middle of the desk. The desk, which I noticed held photos of other babies, presumably others babies they had also loved and sent off to permanent homes.
And because these babies knew what it was like to give and receive love, they were better prepared to meet and attach to their new families.

There truly are no words to express the gratitude that I feel for them, these heros of the adoption world. All I can say, with sincerity and a horrible American accent, is Xie Xie. From the bottom of my heart, Xie Xie.

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.

When all else fails: Get on your knees!
adoptive momma (China) Rina at Bringing Home Myah… navigating a year of trials as they struggle to get their daughter the medical care she needs

Freak Show and And I Came to Realizeadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… overhearing a recent conversation at her daughter’s dance school sets this momma’s blood to boiling, but then she realizes something important

Testing Again adoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… her daughter’s therapist recommends another test, this time for autism

The Long and Winding Road: Day 11adoptive momma (China) Robin at Tea For Two… pictorial diary of a therapy session

bye bye Tonsilsadoptive momma (China) Sharon at In the Light of Eternity… describing her son’s upcoming tonsillectomy, which will be performed before his p-flap surgery

Avatar and other movies with disabled people momma Ellen at To The Max… two movie lists: ones that have characters who happen to have a disability of some kind and another list of movies where the main storyline centers around ability/ disability

A special need defined: Giant Congenital Nevus

*I wrote this post back in March 2009 shortly after we were matched with our new daughter Ava. Ava’s special need is Giant Congenital Nevus. I have added some additional detail now that she is home.**

I have had several people email me requesting that I post some information about Ava’s special need. A commenter suggested that I should provide some information in the hopes that it may assist another family in accepting a child with a special need like Ava’s.

Ava’s special need is called giant congenital nevus. The plural of nevus is nevi. Essentially, Ava has a large birthmark on her face and scalp as well as some large birthmarks on the trunk of her body, her arms and her legs. A birthmark is skin that is highly pigmented with melanin. Melanin is human pigment. Normally melanin is distributed evenly throughout the skin. In instances of congenital nevi, the pigmented cells are not evenly distributed. When many of these types of cells are clumped together, they can result in moles on the skin because of the higher concentration pigment.

The term congenital is used if the birthmark is present at birth. One in every 50-100 people is born with a small mole. Moles can be very small or they can cover a very large part of the body and be so large that they are diagnosed medically as “giant nevi.”

A nevus is considered large if it covers more than 2% of the patient’s total body surface area, or is larger than the palm of the patient’s hand. The term giant is also used when describing nevi. By definition, a giant nevus covers a very large part of the body, usually involves the torso, and is usually accompanied by a number of satellite nevi. Satellite nevi are smaller nevi. When a child is born with a giant nevus, it is common for satellite nevi to be present at birth. It is also common for satellite nevi to appear after birth.

Approximately 1 in 20,000 newborns is found to have a large congenital nevus. Large congenital nevi form in the womb very early in development, within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. They are caused by a defect during embryologic development. There is no known method of prevention. They appear in either sex, in all races, and on any areas of the skin.There are several characteristics of nevus skin. Normally, nevus skin has fewer functioning sweat glands and too little fat where the nevus is located. Besides producing increased pigmentation, the area covered by a nevus often produces increased amounts of hair. Large nevi can also be delicate and tear easily. People with large nevi also have a higher risk of skin cancer however the medical community is unsure of how high the risk actually is. The risk of cancer is the main concern with congenital nevus.

In a small percentage of cases, pigment cells can be found in the brain and spinal cord which is a complication of large nevi called neurocutaneous melanocytosis (NCM). I would have to say that this is the complication that most parents of children with giant nevi are worried about.NCM can cause neurological issues. Studies have shown that most individuals with NCM do not develop neurological issues however those with neurological issues can have complications that are very serious. An MRI of the brain and spine can rule NCM out. Most professionals consider NCM to be a rare occurrence.

Currently the best method for removing large nevi is surgical excision by a plastic surgeon. Adjacent skin is stretched using a technique called “tissue expansion. During tissue expansion a series of expanders which look like deflated balloons are surgically placed under the skin. At regular intervals the expanders are slowly inflated with saline. The inflation of the expanders can take as long as 4 months. As the expanders are inflated the skin will slowly begin to stretch. When the skin has stretched as necessary the nevus will be excised and the expanded skin is used to cover the area where the nevus was removed.

This procedure has a very high success rate and after looking at before and after pictures I was stunned! This is something I am struggling with… we have every intention of working towards having Ava’s nevus removed primarily because we are concerned about the risk of skin cancer. On the other hand… her nevus is such a part of her… of who she is. It will be an emotional time on many levels.

I found the most fabulous support group called Nevus Outreach. The group consists of family, friends and medical professionals who are dealing with congenital nevus as well as individuals who have congenital nevus. We have been able to locate 2 doctors who are very highly skilled at treating facial nevus. I have learned so much and I have actually found several families who have adopted from China on that group!

This special need is consider moderate to severe primarily because of the treatments necessary to remove the nevus. A high percentage of children with this special need have no additional medical issues. I have had people tell me that her special need looks overwhelming. It may look like that on the outside but once your heart is invested… that special need just becomes a part of who they are.

Now that she is home I can tell you with my whole heart that we truly don’t SEE her nevi. We see Ava’s beautiful eyes, her full cheeks, her vibrant smile and her silky hair. That nevus just fades into the background… which is exactly how it should be.

taking down the "adult adoptee" post

In the interest of this site, I took down the post about the “adult adoptee”.

I would like to say that I am no expert and as I said in the original post, “maybe I’m naive and am missing a valid point”.

for those of you who know me, you know that I am the first to raise my hand and get in line, eager to learn. i love that adult adoptee sites exist and that there is so much literature for me to delve into… i’m eager to understand.

i am for adoptee rights and understand much of their perspective. i stand by my belief though that ultimately we do have a choice in how we move, breathe, and live in this world and that what we suffer has the power to transform us – if we let it- for the better.

i appreciate the heated discussion. i’m glad we’re talking to each other. i don’t think it’s necessary to be disrespectful. i’m just one little human in a large, complicated, puzzle. like you- all of you who commented- i struggle to find the right balance for my daughter and want to give her the best opportunities possible. i want to embrace every part of who she is- grieving, joyful- no matter what. i want to understand what she may face as she grows.

thank you for letting me share a bit of Hopgood’s story with you. as i said in the post, i realize her case might be rare… but it’s good to know there is a wide range in the human spectrum of our life experiences.

i hold no ill feelings toward anyone who slammed me. what’s the point of being here if not to hash out our opinions? i just hope we can come to a common ground without continuing to flame one another, and realize that we’re all just muddling through this in the best way we know how.

i’ll be the first to hold out my hand…. and I apologize for offending anyone. i will never claim to understand the challenges the adult adoptee faces, i’m not one. but again- i will continue to try to bridge that gap as much as it can be bridged.

Our first birthday together!

Last year she celebrated with her beloved foster mama.

This year she celebrates with her forever mama and forever family! ;) Thank you Jesus!

We brought our 7 year old, Candie, home on Halloween of 2008. Her birthday is 8/23/00. Her special need is bi-lateral microtia/atresia. Candie is a happy little girl and for that I am very thankful. Most of the time she is kind, caring, helpful, and content. What a blessing!

Do not believe that it is all sunshine and roses though. She has her moments like all kiddos. Actually, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past 11 months with her…

When we first adopted her, the transition was perfectly seamless. She fit right in with our crazy bunch. Even though she couldn’t hear well at all, she seemed to understand our gestures and our communication consisted of mainly that–gestures. I knew she couldn’t hear within normal limits (Candie’s SN is bi-lateral microtia/atresia) until she would be fitted with her BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) and so I never pushed her to speak clearly or learn a whole bunch of words. Her speech was unintelligible even by our Mandarin guide in China and translator that we had here in the States. So…what’s a mom to do? We grinned and beared it. And we played and smiled and yelled so she could hear us.

In March she was fitted with her BAHA and in April she began speech classes. The speech therapists at the HEAR Center for hearing impaired children assured me she was at an infant/toddler level of speech because her “hearing” age was so low…she had only been hearing well for a month or two. While wearing her BAHA, her hearing is well within normal limits. So subtract one negative impact on her development…she can hear now! Hooray! But her speech would take a LONG time to develop. On top of that, she’s learning a whole new set of vocabulary….in a whole new language. Whew!

I contemplated sending her to school instead of homeschooling her. I felt like her needs may be more than I could help her with…but the school therapists suggested I home school her. They said she would be placed in a 4th grade classroom and be SO BEHIND. (wow, they were SO right)

So May came and went and I did Candie’s speech homework with her faithfully. I also tried teaching her some academics but her vocabulary was so low, she just wasn’t ready. I resigned that I would begin her in Kindergarten in homeschool in the fall. Candie continued attending private speech therapy all summer and we worked diligently with her at home. DILIGENTLY. ALL of us. It became a full time job for the family. Teaching Candie English.

In August she resumed her speech therapy at the elementary school putting her up to four speech classes a week. We do lots of speech homework everyday. And I will be honest, it’s taxing. Downright frustrating at times. I know her auditory processing skills are “off”. She cannot repeat what we say if it has more than two syllables. She cannot recall verbal directions. I know a lot of this has to do with her “hearing” age. She has never really had to listen closely to anything in her whole life. Now that she CAN listen, she has to be TAUGHT to listen. To hang on every word. She doesn’t like having to learn new things. She pouts and shuts down and gets very discouraged. And so do I, frankly! I want her to persevere and try…but she is so content staying in her world of playtime and not school-time. I knew academically that she was very behind, but since starting kindergarten work, I’ve really been hit with the reality of it.

I have a 9 yr. old daughter who only knows half the alphabet, can’t count to 20, and can’t hold a conversation.

BUT THANK YOU GOD…she is home. She is with her family. We love her too much to allow her to remain the same little deaf girl that she was in China. We push her, we make her try, and we reward her greatly for her efforts! We tell her we love her and that we want her to be able to talk and learn and succeed! We go over and over and over and over and over her speech homework until she “gets” it. Even if that means we are late going somewhere. We don’t give up on her. We desire her not to give up on herself.

Hmmmm…as I’m typing that, I’m reminded of how much the Lord does that for us. What a parallel.

Me: “Candie, I don’t want you to be complacent about your school—(not like she understands that word…but I did tell her that one day b/c I had to get it off my chest, ya know?)
Jesus: “Laine, I don’t want you to be complacent about two areas of your life that you have left undisciplined”

Me: “Candie, I’m helping you learn this because I love you. Sometimes it’s not easy. You just have to try.”
Jesus: “Laine, I’m helping you learn this lesson because I love you. Sometimes it’s not easy. You just have to try”

Me: “We are going to keep going over this until you get it, Candie!”
Jesus: “We are going to keep going over this until you get it, Laine!”

Me: “Candie, I love you too much to let you play around and not keep trying”
Jesus: “Laine, I love you too much to let you stay the way you are.”

Me: “That complaining is not acceptable. You need to be thankful, Candie.”
Jesus: “Your complaining is taking your eyes off of me, Laine…be thankful in this.”

Me: (to Rob) “I’m so tired of having to correct my daughter’s speech all day long”
Jesus: “I will never get tired of sanctifying and refining you, daughter.”

What a Mighty God we serve! How He shows us our own heart issues through our children! Thank you Lord. What love…

To sum up this post, I will say that the first six months of Candie’s adjustment have been much easier than the second six months. Her attachment to us is still strong and sweet as ever, but the academic and language issues have been a hurdle we’re learning to jump over. We may fall down, but we know with the Lord’s sweet Hand as our guide, we will pick ourselves up and keep trying!

(Just to add, this post was written in Sept. 2009…and since then she can now count WAY over 20, knows ALL her letters AND sounds, is reading three letter words, can understand more of what we say and can make 4-5 word sentences! But most importantly, she is gaining confidence, assurance, and security in her abilities. GO GOD!)

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.

My Silent Boyadoptive momma (China) Shanna at Our Big Crazy Family… navigating life with a child who has apraxia

Our Journey to Sienna Graceadoptive momma (China) Diana at First a Pearl, Then Two Rubies… a story of how child sponsorship leads to adopting a child with special needs

Snow!!adoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… snow photos and an update on her Lia, who has cerebral palsy

Doctors Appointmentsadoptive momma (China) Amy at Finally a Family of Five… a doctor’s appointment (with a blood draw) takes a mom back in time to the first year of her (bio) son’s life, which was fraught with worry as the doctor’s tried to identify his special need

Speech Therapyadoptive momma (China) Sherry at Our Adoption Journey… describing the first speech therapy session for her daughter, who still has an unrepaired cleft palate

Sensory Processing: Our First Steps and My Learning Curve: Match My Voiceadoptive momma (Ethiopia) Thankfulmom at A Bushel and a Peck… describing her son’s first appointment with an occupational therapist at Seattle Children’s Hospital

A Beautiful Smileadoptive momma (China) Super Mommy at Me and My Two Chickadees… chronicling week one of her daughter’s orthodontia treatment, including a palate expander

The Trooperadoptive momma (Ukraine, Russia and Siberia) Christine at Smiles & Trials… a photo story of her son’s recent cranial-facial surgery

Photo of the Week: Amazing Changesadoptive momma (China), as well as executive director of Love Without Boundaries, Amy at A Life of Giving… before and after photos of two children who recently received cleft surgeries

The Puzzleadoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker Sweets… her four-year-old son hits an important milestone and completes his first puzzle

Me Museumadoptive momma (China) Kim K. at Musing from Kim… creating a poster for school takes one momma down memory lane

Please Don’t Pity Him: A Word From A Mom Of A Kid With Special Needs
momma Ellen at the Storked! blog at Glamour… a plea for others to stop pitying her and her son

Different Kinds of Sensory Issuesadoptive momma (China) the Rumor Queen at China Adopt Talk… describing the differences between her two daughters, one with sensory-seeking sensory issues and the other with sensory-avoidance tendencies

No, She Doesn’t Have Red Eyes

That’s what I said to my mother-in-law last week.

Six months since Cheeky joined our family, and this stereotype of pasty-white, red-eyed people with albinism is just coming out and just being addressed.

I’ve been thinking about that all weekend.

My mother-in-law lives on the other side of the country. She’s never met Cheeky face to face, but I’ve emailed photos and invited her to read my blog. It isn’t like I haven’t tried to include her in Cheeky’s life. It isn’t as if I haven’t tried to help her feel like Cheeky’s grandmother.

But from the beginning of this journey we have danced a strange tango, the two of us. She wasn’t happy about the adoption, less happy to hear we’d be adopting from China. When I announced that we were entering the special needs program, her silence spoke volumes. My parents were silent, too. So was my younger sister, the one I have always felt closest to. Special needs and we already had four kids? Four healthy kids.

No one wanted to say it, but I knew what they were thinking – You don’t know what you’re getting into. What if things go wrong? What if you bring home a child who is just too much to handle?

My husband and I moved forward anyway. My parents began to talk, my sister began to talk. They asked questions, they said wonderful things and stupid things and things that I will never forget because of the sheer beauty of them, and we have all moved forward to Cheeky together.

But my mother-in-law has been left behind.

She sent money for Christmas, and I brought the kids out to let them spend it. When we returned home, I phoned my mother-in-law and let the kids thank her and tell her what they’d bought. I hovered a few feet away as my eldest son handed Cheeky the phone.

“Hi, Grandma!” she said in her cheerful, chirping voice. And then she proceeded to tell my mother-in-law about the strawberry shortcake doll and the dress she’d picked out. She ended with, “Thank you very much. I love all my stuff. I love you.”

Even the hardest heart would surely melt at the sound of my daughter’s sweet I love you. And, despite her seeming unwillingness to be part of this journey, my mother-in-law has never had a hard heart.

Cheeky handed me the phone, and my mother-in-law said, “So, how do you say her name? I keep forgetting”

And we began to talk about Cheeky’s Chinese name and why we chose to keep it, about her foster family, about the surgery that Cheeky had in September, about Cheeky’s eyes and how they would never be perfect but how that doesn’t stop Cheeky from achieving great things.

And that’s when my mother-in-law mentioned that people with albinism have red eyes.

“No,” I said. “They don’t.”

“But I’ve seen one. He was really white and he had red eyes.”

“People with albinism have green eyes and blue eyes and even brown eyes. Sometimes their eyes are violet. Cheeky’s eyes are pure blue. In some lights they are violet. They are never red.”

“So, her eyes are blue?”

“Yes. And she’s no fairer than son #3.”

“But most people with albinism have red eyes. I’ve seen it.”

And it was my turn to be silent.

This is where the author in me would like to write a happy ending.

But I cannot.

In a perfect world everyone would understand the worth and value of each human life, but our world is not perfect, and people in our lives may be blind to the beauty of our SN kids. We can choose to harbor resentment and anger over that, or we can choose to accept their weaknesses and move on.

After thinking about this for several days, I have come to the conclusion that how I treat those who refuse to accept Cheeky’s differences will impact her life more than their words or opinions ever will. It is, after all, my arms, my eyes, my words through which Cheeky will learn strength and determination and confidence. It is through my actions that she will learn grace and mercy. It is through having a forever home that she will learn the true meaning of love.

I am her mother, her example, her safe place to come home to.

And, so, I let go and I move on.

Happy Gotcha Day, Miss Vivi!

Miss Vivi is finally right where she belongs, in her mama’s arms!
If you haven’t already, please run on over to Stefanie’s blog and leave them some love.
 And check out the video of Miss Vivi while you are there! It will make your heart smile!