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.

Good News Doctor’s Appointmentadoptive momma (China) Sally at Bryson Makes 8!… a wonderful visit with Bryson’s doctor during the week of Thanksgiving

Heartbreakingadoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… describing her daughter’s recent expressions of emotions about being deaf

Orchid Childrenadoptive momma (China) LMGNYC at La Bicicleta… describing the difference between an “orchid” child and a “dandelion” child, especially when looking at adoption

Sensory Processing Disorder, Sloan and Sunny San Diego (My Most Important Post)adoptive momma (Russia and China) Tisha at Privyet, Mei Mei!… a mom details her son’s difficulties transitioning into first grade due to sensory issues, then describes how they are overcoming those difficulties

Pre-K Thanksgiving Partyadoptive big sister (China) Monica at Journey With Reese… a recent visit with the eye doctor to check her optic pressure

a few ideas

I’ve spent the last month working up a Christmas list. Not of my own ideas, but of ideas from other moms. It’s been really fun, and even more than that, it’s been really interesting.

I’ve found some things I had no idea were out there: some I just had to have… and some others I was glad I’d missed ;)

But here are a few that I thought I’d mention. As we all hustle and bustle to get ready for Christmas, these are a few things I think are worth checking out.

Paper Lantern Personalized Necklace

If you’d like more ideas, check out the full list here.

"I Didn’t Think They Gave Away Their Boys"

I’m sorry if that title offended anyone or made your heart jump. To be honest, it offends me and makes my heart POUND. I hear it so often when I share about our waiting son in China, and often this comment is followed up with a question or more of a comment: “Oh, you aren’t going back for a little sister for your daughter?” “No,” I say, “in fact, her brother is older; he is 9.” At this point, I am either met with a blank stare or a laundry list of opinions and pitfalls we may face from people who in most cases have never adopted any child much less an older child. I know I’ve shared a bit of background here that is not pleasant but I felt it necessary. It seems like there is such a lack of unity these days in adoptive communities, even within the community of Christ-followers who are led to adopt. Back on November 20, 2008, I posted the following comment over at NiHao Y’all in response to THIS POST (go and read it; it is worth a few minutes of your time; and then come back here if you want to here me ramble; it is therapeutic for me :)).

Stefanie, You are a gifted writer! Yes, my heart is being tugged by the boys too. We definitely wanted a little girl as we just had two boys. Now, we have a girl and I just don’t think we could specify the next time but who knows. I do know our boys are praying for another brother, and I KNOW God hears their prayers! Thanks for posting what a lot of us think about but don’t have the courage to say.

So now as I sit here on November 20 2009, hashing out this post, I realize I have been thinking a lot lately about a whole lot of stuff. Well, now, that was profound. Can anyone relate? I feel like sometimes I am thinking all the time about all kinds of stuff, or I am not even able to think about anything at all. *scratching head at this point*

The thing is that I feel like I’m continually reminded of how what we are in the process of doing is not something many would consider to be wise. It is not even so much the not-so-well-thought-out comments or even the fumbled words, but it is the overriding thoughts I see lately within the Ch*na adoptive community of the risks of older child adoption, and to add to that: older BOY adoption.

What about bonding?

What about your other children in your home?

What if he resents you taking him away from China or *gasp* giving him an American name that he did not choose (none of our children so far got to choose their own name:)?

How old is too old to be adopted?

Does he even know about you yet, and what does he think?

And on and on the thoughts go, some of my own making.

I KNEW if we went back to Ch*na again, we would be bringing home a son. I can’t really explain it other than the Lord supernaturally impressed this thought so strongly in my mind that I couldn’t get it out of my head, and more importantly, my heart.

As we are now awaiting our Referral Acceptance (61 days today), I am getting into that 2nd trimester of this wait, where quite frankly, I don’t like the places my mind tends to wander. And lately, as I see disruption story after disruption story, I just get so worked up. What if this? What if that? What if this or that? Is it just me or are there more and more disruptions taking place in China lately? Or maybe people are just becoming more and more open about it?

I wonder if part of it is the rush to send in a Letter of Intent because of the way the shared system works? I will say that I love a lot of things about our agency, and one thing I love most is that they will NOT allow a family to send a Letter of Intent (this is a piece of paper stating a family wants to formally ask for permission from China to adopt a specific waiting child) until their Home Study is finalized. Our SW was thorough and she asked us some tough questions, ones we needed to be asked and ones we needed to ponder and really digest. I am grateful for that.

Of course she does not have all of the answers and neither do we, but we consider the Letter of Intent to be one of the most important steps on our part. It is a promise. China requires some specific wording in that contract if you will, and The Prez and I don’t take those words lightly. Because The Prez will be traveling to China while I stay home with our Li’l Miss and her big little brother, we have had some deep discussions about my what if scenarios. It would be irresponsible on our part not to have those discussions. The Prez does not have what if scenarios swirling in his head. I don’t get that, but I am grateful for it. When we waited to go and bring Li’l Miss home, I must have driven The Prez crazy with my worrying. I remember I was fixated on her smile … or the lack thereof in her three referral pictures. I asked him, What if she never smiles? What if she can’t? And if she can’t, what will we do?

He responded: I believe she can, but maybe she just doesn’t have much to smile about. And even if she can’t smile, we’ll see her smile through her eyes. I already do.

Well, melt my heart and convict it all at once, will ya! But he was right. And I knew it. He truly had that measure of faith that I was lacking SERIOUSLY at that point in our journey. I am so thankful God works like that in a marriage partnership. When one of us is lacking in an area … say, like in faith … the other usually is overflowing with a huge measure of it. You might think this time around it’d be different, but not so much. I’m the one lacking, and The Prez is the one overflowing … with faith. I remember saying the words right before we left for China last fall, even still. And God was faithful.

I have no reason to doubt He’ll be faithful this time around too. No, He absolutely does not promise us it will always be rainbows and sunshine. In fact, He says it rains on the just and the unjust. But He also says in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” I think the key … at least for my understanding of it, which could be way off … is the word succeed. I wonder out loud here: what does God think is success? So I had to look up the original word used and what it means in the original language. Here is a link to Strong’s Concordance on-line if you want to read the entire definition and original meaning and root. For me, this jumped out: the short Definition is certain. And words from the longer definition: to be erect (i.e. Stand perpendicular); hence (causatively) to set up, proper or prosperous), prepare (self), make provision, be stable, (e-)stablish, stand.

In short, I can know that God’s plans for this journey to our son will be certain, that God will help us to stand perpendicular, that He will give us the provisions we need, and establish His plans in our family. That gives me great hope in the future–both near and far. It makes my heart sing to think of the plans He has for our family and this precious child. No, the path has certainly not always been sunshine and rainbows for our son thus far, and that will always be a part of who he is. And the path will not be all sunshine and rainbows for him once he becomes our child. Even still, God is. Yes, we have been led to our older son in China, and yes, we have already thought of all the looming questions many feel the need to point out to us. And no, we don’t have most of the answers, but we know the One who does. That brings with it a huge measure of success.

And I have to end this post with a plea: if ANYONE has any feeling that your son is waiting in China, I am claiming God’s certainty over the life of this 4 1/2-year-old boy whose file is waiting for his family to find him at Small World Adoptions, who has him listed by the alias “Frank.” Please pray with me for his forever family, whoever they may be.

Whatever Wednesdays

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.

adoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… sharing the progress that her daughter, diagnosed with multiple special needs, continues to make

Session 2
adoptive momma (China) lighthousegal at Lighthousegal’s Scrap Shack… describing her daughter’s second session with an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory issues

11.16.2009adoptive momma (China) Kris at Tell Her This… detailing their recent visit to a specialty hospital following/ treating her daughter’s spina bifida

What should an IEP do?
adoptive momma (Russia and Guatemala) Marcie at the group adoption blog Grown In My Heart… a concise description of an individualized education plan for children with special needs

Mainstreaming adoptive dad (China) Johnny at So, it comes down to this… a recent conversation with his daughter about a new boy in her class, who was recently adopted from China and speak no English

Post-surgeryadoptive momma (China) La-La-Liene at Never a Dull Moment in La-La-Land… a description of the day’s events, especially the goofy juice

Just for a little while adoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… a first date night after older child adoption

Update on Recoveryadoptive parents (China) The Straights at Straight Talk… an update on her daughter’s recent sphincter pharyngoplasty

Surgery Day
adoptive momma (China and Vietnam) Lala at Ladybugs and Dragonflies… about her daughter’s surgery to remove a preauricular pit

USCIS changes filing procedure

As of 11/10/2009, the USCIS has made some changes to filing procedures affecting applications for adoption-based immigrant approvals: forms I-600A, I-600, I-800A, I-800.

See the whole update on the Center for Adoption Policy bulletin page.

Denying the Homeland…

Denying the Homeland….The Americanization of Ma Weihong

On June 16th, 2009, I stood in a guard shack in a foreign land where I was handed one of the four greatest gifts of my life. I was surrounded by people who did not speak my language. They were having me sign documents filled with writing that I could not discern. In my arms was a child whose looks were so very different from mine. She was crying hysterically, calling out in Mandarin for a woman I did not know. I had been in China for one day. It was chaotic, emotional and bittersweet.

We stayed in Beijing for two weeks. We toured all of the national treasures, The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Ma Weihong struggled some, but overall seemed comfortable with us. We had decided to name her Sophia a long time ago, and she was responsive. But whenever someone asked for her name, she would say “Ma Weihong”. Of course she would…she was almost four years old and this had been her name all of her life. I had very limited knowledge of Mandarin, but I knew how to say I love you. So I would l say “I love you Ma Weihong” in Mandarin and then “ I love you Sophia” in English. Sometimes when I held her at night I would call her Ma Weihong. I wanted her to know that even though I was calling her something else, I knew her Chinese name and that that name did not need to disappear.

After we returned home to the United States, I became dedicated to helping her learn English as quickly as possible and also to helping her maintain her Mandarin as much as I could. We have friends who own a Chinese restaurant near us and also a neighbor who is Chinese who all speak fluent Mandarin. My father had a Mandarin tutor on retainer to help Ma Weihong keep her native language.

At first, she talked with our friends who spoke her language. She was shy, but she would speak with them. She became very excited when Ni Hao Kai Lan came on television. She would talk along with the show and loved it when Mandarin words came through. She would count in Mandarin along with the characters. She would sing beautiful songs in her native tongue in the car when we were driving.

After about a month, things started to change. She was learning English very quickly and was becoming more comfortable with her American family and American life. And with each step that she was taking bringing her closer to us, she was decidedly leaving her past and China behind. My father bought her the Little Mermaid in Mandarin, she barely paid attention to it. She started shying away from the Chinese people we would come into contact with. She would not speak with our Chinese friends in Mandarin anymore. She made it very clear that she only wanted to speak English. I would count along with Ni Hao Kai Lan in Chinese and she would say “No Mama, one, two, three, four”. When I called her Ma Weihong, she asked my “Why Ma Weihong?”. When people asked for her name, she said, “Sophia”.

I was riding in the car with her the other day and I heard singing. I have always loved to hear her sing. I turned off the radio so I could hear her sweet words and my heart just sank. In place of her beautiful Chinese songs, she was singing over and over in English, “yummy yummy tummy chicken”.

As time passes, she has become more and more like all of the other children around her. She now calls Mandarin “China Talk”. She still refuses to speak it. She told a friend of mine that she won’t speak Chinese because she doesn’t want to be different. This saddens me, but I understand. She just wants to be like every other child in her home, her preschool and her ballet class. If you ask for her name today, she will tell you, “Sophia Jane Weihong”. She is comfortable with that. I guess I am too.

giveaway winner: week 5!

How can it be? It’s already week 5 of our Wild Olive giveaway.

Which means this is our last winner….

Congratulations Amy Jo!

Email me at stefanie@wildolivetees.com and let me know what Wild Olive Tee you’d like!

Be sure to check out our site, we’ve got a brand new design. Just in time for Christmas.


Allowing Others To Be Obedient …

I definitely think one thing I learned quickly after bringing home our precious SN angel is that I could not be everything to everyone all the time … If God was truly calling us to this journey that was hard, came w/ many sleepless nights, required more in a day than I had, and required all of us in the family to give unconditionally of ourselves to help Maggie heal, adjust, and learn to love then there were going to be times we needed help … Help to get the kids to and from places, help w/ meals, help with house cleaning, help w/ doctor’s appointment,  and help w/ going to the store, etc … If He called us to this then He called others to walk alongside of us and for the first time in my life I gave up that control that I COULD DO IT ALL … We are the body of Christ and I would have been robbing someone else of their blessing if I denied them access into our world and life.   People wanted to help, they wanted to serve us, and they desired to be obedient to the Lord in doing so … The calls always came at just the right time and we accepted … People loving on us and helping us made a huge difference in the adjustment for Maggie … Because of other’s wanting to help, we could focus that energy on helping Maggie to adjust, attach, and learn to trust …

So my advice would be to take people at their word when they say, “Can I pick up anything at the store for you, Can I organize meals for your family, Can I pick up a prescription, Can I sit w/ you today and hang out, Can I pick your kids up at school today, Can I babysit for you while you go to the doctor, Can I fold your laundry, Can I pray for you (be specific), or Can I just drop you off a diet coke and chocolate.”  Accept kindness and allow the body of Christ the ability to do its mission,  IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A FAILURE TO REQUIRE HELP, IT MAKES YOU A CHILD OF GOD  … We can not stand alone, but when we stand together there is amazing strength …

Blessings to all !!!!

Making the right choice…

Our first experience with the special needs adoption matching process was in January 2006. 3 months earlier we had completed the adoption of our daughter Kiah from the China Non Special Needs (NSN) program. The path for that program is relatively simple. Apply to agency, complete homestudy and dossier, send dossier to China, get Log-In-Date (LID), receive referral, travel to china 4 – 6 weeks later. We thoroughly believe that God has His hand in the NSN matching process. Kiah is the perfect match for our family.

January 2006 was when God pressed the special needs children of China on my heart. I don’t remember what agency list it was but I stumbled onto their site and saw a chubby little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I hesitantly inquired about her but was told that since we had just come home from China that they would consider us to view her file if she wasn’t matched by March. It was during those next couple of months that I realized how much of a “choice” adoptive parents could have in choosing a SN child…..choices for age, gender and the type of SN.

I kept looking at lists and it was months later in Spring 2006 that I inquired about another child. It was another little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I was instantly smitten. The agency told us this little girl had a family already looking at her file so we were put on a list to view her file if the other family declined her referral. DECLINED. Oh. That was the first moment I realized on a very deep level that there was a specific choice to be made when viewing a file… YES or NO. Up until that point I think I thought that after viewing a file…. people just said YES because that’s what happened in the NSN program.

I immediately felt a little uncomfortable looking at SN lists. It truly felt like a whole child’s life was swinging in the balance. I started panicking… what if WE said NO to a child and no one else came behind us to say YES. Would our NO condemn this child to a life without a family? It seemed like such a heavy decision.

A few short months later we were called with Luke’s referral. Before I even looked at his file or his picture… God impressed upon me that Luke was our son. And I was thankful that the Lord showed up in that moment and we didn’t have to toil over a decision. Little did I know that in the future our special needs matching process would not be as simple.

We brought Luke home in May 2007. 3 months later I felt the Lord calling us to step out for another SN adoption. In my mind I thought finding a child would be easy like it was with Luke. And it wasn’t. We viewed at least 7 little girl’s files at various agencies and each time after reading the file and viewing the picture we felt clearly from God that the child wasn’t our daughter. And we had to say NO. And I would pray fervently that SOMEONE would come behind us and they would find THEIR CHILD in the child we had said NO to.

I was then contacted directly by an agency I had never spoken with before. They said they had lots of kids to place and they were looking for parents. They asked me if I would review a file of a little girl who was 15 months old. The age and gender matched our preferences and we were open to a bunch of special needs so without additional discussion I said yes and they immediately mailed the file to us. 2 days later I received the package. I opened it slowly thinking “This COULD be our daughter so I want to do this slowly and savor the moment!” The first thing I saw was the picture of the little girl. She was naked, laying on her side and she had severe scoliosis. They had placed a pink bow in her hair and she was crying… actually it looked like she was screaming. My heart instantly hurt and the air was sucked out of my lungs. I didn’t know much about this special need. All I did know was that it looked serious and she obviously needed a family quickly. A couple of days later the doctor we consulted told us that she had an estimated 35% curvature of her spine… and she was only 15 months old. It was stated in her file that she needed spinal surgery as the orphanage had watched her curvature worsen. We were overwhelmed and heartbroken. My heart actually hurt for her. And we thought about adoption. I did all the things adoptive families do when seriously considering a child…. I contacted families who had adopted children with scoliosis, I contacted our local doctor, talked to specialists, researched therapies. But at the end of each day, when we prayed about what to do, we continually felt she was not our daughter. But I wanted her to be! I wanted to bring her home, get her surgery, help her recover and watch her flourish in our loving home. But first and foremost, I wanted to be in God’s will. And God was not confirming this adoption. So, we prayed for her, sent her profile back and told the agency “no”. And I cried and I ached.

While we were in the decision making process I had lots of contact with a specific family. They had adopted a child with scoliosis however it was not as serious as this little girl’s. This family shared a lot of information with me and I was very grateful. About 1 week after returning her profile I sent this family an email to say we were not able to commit to her. The family never responded back to me. I thought it was very unusual as they had been so responsive before. I sent another email a couple of weeks later and I was not prepared for the response. This family told me all the things I had internally feared… they said that I had the means, the insurance, the time and the ability to adopt that little girl… and that I purposefully turned my back on her… when she desperately needed a family. That I should be ashamed of myself and that “these children” are more than pieces of paper and pictures. And those words stung. Those words devastated me. The words pierced me and I still cry each time I think about them. And then I was just mad. I was mad because don’t all prospective adoptive parents realize what lies in the balance with these kids? That some kids sit on lists for long periods of time. That children with severe special needs and older children sometimes never get matched. But after the hurt and the pain of that email initially subsided…. I focused what I always knew was correct… that relying on God for guidance and confirmation is the only way to proceed into the vast sea that is the matching process of China SN adoption. For us, if we did not have that Heavenly guidance this whole process would be too overwhelming.

It is important for me to focus on the fact that these children… before they are OUR children through adoption… they are God’s children and He holds them in the palm of His hand. And He knows exactly what their future holds.

For us, we slowly and prayerfully consider a child’s file and then petition God for His will…EXPECTING Him to answer. I just couldn’t imagine navigating these waters any other way.

I still think about that little girl. I wonder if she has a family, if she had surgery, if she is now smiling, if she has the warmth and comfort of a home and family. I have found no way to find out these answers. I just have to rely on the fact that God is in the details. The God knows the beginning from the end. And that God has a plan for her life.

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.

Take Me Home Tuesday: The Lost Boysadoptive momma (China) Holly at A Purpose Driven Life… a son, who was adopted from China, shares thoughts with his momma after watching the movie Peter Pan

Early: But that’s okayadoptive momma (China) lighthousegal at Lighthousegal’s Scrap Shack… describing her daughter JB‘s first therapy appointment

My little chatterbox!adoptive momma (China) Chris at The Layers of Life… a momma whose daughter was born with cleft palate reflects on the progress her daughter has made these past few years

Prematurity Awareness Month
adoptive momma (China) and executive director of LWB Amy at A Life of Giving… raising awareness about some of China’s smallest orphans, often weighing just two to three pounds at birth

adoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker’s Sweets… two recent trips to the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland and to see a Nuero-Reorganization Therapist in North Carolina leaves a momma stunned once she hears her son’s diagnosis

Why Me?adoptive momma (China) Elizabeth at Don’t Call Me Mother… contemplating why she got post-adoption depression

Blessing all around usadoptive momma (China) Rina at Bringing Home Myah… plans for their Make A Wish trip to Disney World

adoptive momma (China) Julia at Brought to You By the Letters L & M… thoughts the day before her daughter is tested for ADD/ ADHD