5 + 1 = so much more than 6

May 5, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Is it okay to confess here that I’m not that great at math? Is this a safe place to let you know that my brain has just never fully comprehended the mysteries of equations and theorems? It’s too true. I have always felt more of an affinity for words because they can be changed and adjusted to reflect what I think and feel. Numbers? They are what they are and people who are “math-y” love that about them. They don’t change. They just are.

Today we are at our three-month mark (a quarter of a year!) of being a family of six in our own home. Today is THE day when, three months ago, brothers met a new sister, grandparents saw a new granddaughter, and living our new normal began. We came through those first tough weeks with the help of many a friend… many a meal dropped off… many a phone call, many a text message of encouragement. And now, three months in, we are supposed to be fairly settled according to outside eyes looking in.

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Our growth may look like 5 + 1 = 6, to the world, but sometimes 5 + 1 equals more than 6, doesn’t it? Adding one to the family is never a simple matter of mathematics; it isn’t even close to being logical or predictable. Adding one more via adoption has proven to take the set-fast rules of math and turn them flat-out upside down.

We’ve added so much more than one. We’ve added…
One plus trauma.
One plus fears.
One plus heartache.
One plus self-soothing.
One plus sleep issues.
One plus communication issues.
One plus emotions that seemed so much MORE than they ever were before.
One plus _______________________.

All of it makes it seem like so much more than six in the family!

During the first few topsy-turvy weeks home, I became very intentional about making lists. I’m not a list-maker by nature but there was something about seeing these particular lists in front of my eyes that gave me encouragement.

There was the “Bad” list – the things I struggled with. The hard things I saw, the difficult scenarios that played out – not just in a training manual or video or book! The hard things were real, and right in front of me! There are fears on that list, and heartache, and documentation of behaviors that spoke of a little one who lived a life without a family for four years.

There is also the “Good” list – the things I rejoiced over! The positive things I saw, the behaviors that proved a kernel of hope could exist in my heart and grow. There are blessings listed, and when I could see bits of shrapnel rising to the surface of my battle-worn daughter I could pluck them out with joy and record that, too.

One of the things I wrote on the List of Good was that “the good list is longer than the bad list”! And it was true.

We deal with All the Things on a daily basis, don’t we? We care for their needs and we care for their hearts and we make lists in our mind about the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. We are so burdened by the hard things that it’s easy to be blinded to the good. But we have to prop our eyelids open and look for it; the good has to be noted. It has to be recorded.

If adding one more adds more than one is hard ways, we have to remember that we’re also adding more in joyful ways!
One plus giggles galore!
One plus family bigger and messier family dinnertime!
One plus sweet kisses!
One plus, “mama, hug?” being requested!
One plus eyes that are awakened to Family more every day!
One plus emotions that seem so much MORE than they ever were before!
One plus ___________________________.

The One + Something Good is what I want to go after; it’s what I want my heart to settle on at the end of a long day.

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I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with this concept, this pursuit of the Good. I notice and respond to and am proactive when it comes to handling the Hard Things, but ultimately I see that the balance is always in favor of Good. The tricky part for me has been how this balance looks on the outside, to others. At home, I find myself content most days, and settled into our new normal. But when we’re out and about, I often have a difficult time focusing on the Good! People notice and acknowledge the positive changes in our spunky girl, and they are the same changes I see at home, but for some reason, I have a harder time admitting the growth and change to others. I don’t want people to forget how much Hard there has been. I want them to know that the hard things are still there, that, some days, it’s still really difficult, that regressions happen, tempers are lost, and nap times come early.

And so, in these first three months, I found myself tending to be vocal about the hard things where I seldom would point out the good. When this awareness that I was almost intentionally focusing on how far we have to go versus how far we have come hit me, it was shocking. One of the things I’ve always wanted to be as a mother is honest and realistic about the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to my children. But for some reason, our Little Miss has been different. I am afraid of people assuming she can be a normal four-year-old and have them overlook her past and the effect it has on her. I’m afraid that she will feel overwhelmed by what she “should” be able to do, how she “should” be able to act. I want her to be free to be the four-year-old that processes emotions more like a two-year-old right now. But I fear that others will see this behavior and judge her because they don’t understand. I’m afraid that the concept of 5+1 = more than 6 won’t be understood.

And so, I remind them. I freely share the struggles, but hesitate to share the triumphs fearing that the depth of the struggle would be overlooked. In the reminding I am not giving HER a fair chance to show off the spunky, brave, determined girl she is. I am not giving them a chance to understand her; I am robbing them of their chance to see how her past is a part of her and show grace. I now see the way I handled things for weeks and know that it cannot continue. If a grace-filled life is what I’m seeking to live, then I have to extend that grace to others and their interactions with our girl.

I foolishly believed that when we jumped from being a family of five to a family of six that I had this. I heard from friends “in the know” that once you get past three kids, you’re already accustomed to be outnumbered, so the jump to four or more is relatively easy to accomplish.

* Ahem *

Friends. This to me is like saying it’s easy to jump across the Atlantic Ocean if you can jump across a puddle! I like to picture myself in these moments of being overwhelmed as being in a boat. I’m just rowing. My job is to listen to the rhythm being called out by my Father. I keep my oars paced with Jesus because He is one with the Father. I feel the presence of the Spirit hovering on the waters all around me. I know that every pull of an oar takes us closer to what our family is meant to be.

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5 + 1 has been SO much more than 6, and it has caused me to reevaluate what “getting there” means. It has meant learning what forgiveness is in a new way. It has meant learning what love is and grace is… all in new ways. It’s a much slower process than I thought it would be, this bonding of our family into a new and beautiful 6-fold unit but in the end, we’re still getting there.

Ultimately, I know that the One who made our family what it is today is not intimidated by mathematics in the way I am. He sees the numbers, and he brushes them aside to reassure me that His thoughts are higher, His plans better.

5 + 1 + God = peace… this kind of math I like.

— photos by Amanda Cross

Get Involved

May 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

So excited to announce our new Get Involved page here on No Hands But Ours. As we continue to grow, we are recognizing more ways for additional mama and babas to get involved in what we do here at NHBO.


Our Get Involved page is a starting place for just about anything you’d like to do to get involved. Below you’ll find some buttons – just taken directly from that page – and, when clicked, each will take you to appropriate next steps. If you are looking for the Get Involved page again in the future, you can find it in the navigation bar under “About”.

Here is a quick overview of each…

Ready to Travel: In our What We’re Reading posts (back by popular demand, thanks to Liberty) we share links to traveling families. If you’ll be going to China soon to bring your little one home, please share your information with us so we can share your joy in a future WWR post.

Become a Volunteer: We have lots of ways you can help out here at NHBO. We wouldn’t exist without all the time and energy volunteered by special needs parents, and if you’ve got a passion for the fatherless, have some time to spare and are gifted in one of the areas listed below, please consider how you might join the NHBO team!

We are looking for some special people who would like to:

– gather content for NHBO (SN and resource pages)
– format content for NHBO (blog posts, etc)
– edit photos for NHBO
– offer my photos to be used on NHBO
– be a Mentoring Mom
– use my knowledge/experience of Special Needs somehow, but not as a Mentoring Mom
– be a regular contributor
– be a guest poster
– help manage social media for NHBO
– share my family bloglink to be used as an NHBO resource

Recommended Reading: There is a plethora of great reading around the blog-o-sphere. If you’re a regular reader of things that pertain to special needs, adoption, and/or China, please consider sharing the good stuff with us so we can share it here with everyone else in our WWR posts! We have a short form (you really just need to input the url of the article) to complete, and leave the rest up to us!

Connect with a Mentoring Mom: Have a question about a specific special need? Want some real-life advice from a mom who has been parenting a special need for awhile? We have set up the Mentoring Mom program to be a way to connect experienced moms with new moms and/or moms considering adopting a child with a specific special need. This program in no way substitutes for professional medical advice, but it can be a great support and encouragement to connect someone who has walked the road before.

Fundraising Family: We have a heart for fundraising families around here. Probably because many of us have been there. So we are going to feature one family per month here on NHBO. We will share a post about that family, some bits of their story as well as how the NHBO community can come alongside to help bring their child home. Families must be adopting from China and have a completed homestudy.

Submit your Family Story: Family stories are the heart of NHBO. We have been sharing family stories since NHBO began, almost 8 years ago, with 148 published stories. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from readers who were blessed, encouraged and oh-so-thankful for another mom or dad who sat down and took the time to write their story. And, based on our recent Reader Survey, Family Stories are an absolute favorite. No length limit and anonymous posts for more private special needs are a-okay.




So grateful to each and every person who has given of their time, energy and wisdom to make No Hands But Ours the resource it is today. If you would like to join our efforts on behalf of the fatherless, we would be so happy to have you.

Secure Attachment: If We Have It, We Can Give It

May 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The most baffling event occurred today. A client who has lived in several foster homes and a group home, was asked by the court to return to counseling. I received a call from her foster parent saying that she needed to start family counseling and resume trauma counseling. I was puzzled. This child and her foster family were thriving. The child’s negative behaviors were at an all-time low, the child was able to clearly express her life history complete with a realistic expectation and belief that she would indeed, be ok.

“Bring her in,” I stated. After an assessment of her behavioral and emotional status, as well as an intimate conversation with the foster parents, I concluded that not only was this child safe, this child was thriving. Mystified, I called her worker. This is what I was told, “Due to the fact that the foster parents stated they were not ready to adopt AND the court’s opinion that the trauma healing occurred too fast, more counseling is needed.” I gave a respectful reply but all the while ALL I could think was, “So you are telling me, we did our job so well so fast that something MUST be wrong??” Hard to believe isn’t it. It is important that you know, the reason we had so much success with this family is because we followed an intervention designed to strengthen trust and attachment. We followed Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross.

Without secure attachment, individuals will have challenges engaging in meaningful connections with others throughout their entire lives. In her article, “Truth Lies and Intimacy: An Attachment Perspective,” Jude Cassidy outlines four traits associated with the capacity to participate in intimate relationships. These include the ability to give care, to receive care, to negotiate personal needs and to have a sense of an autonomous self. These four traits are beautiful and success in them is something we all strive to achieve and teach to our precious children.

Most experts in the area of attachment agree it is necessary for parents to have a healthy attachment style in order to mentor healthy attachment in a child. After all, good parenting starts with the parent despite how much we despise looking inward!

Let’s start with an inventory of how comfortable you as a parent are with the four traits. Ask yourself, on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the most comfortable, how comfortable are you…

Accepting help from others?
Giving help to others?
In your own skin?
Negotiating your own needs?

If you scored a low number on any of the four traits, you may have some reflective work of your own to do before you can properly model these core beliefs for your child. Often, adults who have difficulty trusting others will score lower on the 1-10 scale than adults comfortable with trust. This mistrust generally comes from early life experiences. Making sense of your own experiences and beliefs will help you model these traits for your children as well as provide you with a general sense of peace and understanding.


Accepting Help from Others:

Many of our foster and adopted children have had to meet their own needs as a way to survive. Some even cared for their younger siblings and assumed a parenting role. Children without a parent able to care for them likely did not learn to trust. Without trust, accepting help from others feels very uncomfortable and scary. A language of playfulness and safety is recommended when teaching your child to accept help. Statements such as these send a message of love and trust: “I love you very much. May I show you by tying your shoes for you?” or “While you go play and have fun, I will make the macaroni and cheese for you and your sister.”

Giving Help to Others:
One way to show respect is to care for others when they have a need. Imagine your child offering a hand to the opposing teammate knocked down during a basketball game or holding the door open for another person. You would beam with pride! Helping others in need validates our belief that humans (and animals) are worthy of love and care. When you find yourself helping another person, point this to your child and when you witness your children helping another, praise them.

Negotiating Needs:
Children from hard places were often on their own or were mistreated by adults who assumed power and control over them in hurtful ways. As a result, the idea of shared power, choices and compromises is likely new to them. The first step in teaching this skill to our children is by negotiating with them ourselves. We give them a voice by offering compromises and sharing power. You can say something similar to, “It is time for snack, would you like apples or bananas or another healthy snack as a compromise?” In this example both you and the child have their needs met. You ensure the child has a healthy snack and you shared power by allowing the child to choose the snack. In addition, playfully teaching them how to share with siblings and peers reinforces their ability to negotiate their own needs and the needs of others.

Being Your Authentic Self:
To be authentic we have to feel safe. To feel safe we have to be validated and given the opportunity to show our identity and creativity. Psychologists and therapists accomplish this with children by allowing opportunities for connecting through child-led play. As parents, our interactions with our children usually revolve around teaching, correcting, and questioning 24-7. Children explore being their authentic selves through play. Playing with them, without leading, allows for the opportunity to get to know them and validate their unique ideas and creativity.

Wanna know how the foster child that “healed too fast” scored on the above categories? This was her reply:
Giving help to others? 9
Accepting help from others? 7
Negotiating needs? 10
Comfortable in her own skin?

I think she is well on her way to a healthy and happy future despite the obstacles placed in front of her.




Cindy R. Lee is the Executive Director of HALO Project, an intensive therapeutic intervention program for foster and adopted children. HALO Project relies on the strategies developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross. Cindy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and recently published several children’s books specifically for foster and adopted children.




— photo by Tish Goff

aging out child: Anna

May 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Anna, born August 1, 2001, is now 13 and will age-out of the CCCWA system on her next birthday. As of this writing, that is less than 3 months. She is a thoughtful and kind young lady with a good friend already here in the U.S. Anna was found when she was 5 ½ months …Read More

I’m Ready to Adopt: Choosing an Agency (Part 1)

May 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Today we pick back up with our I’m Ready To Adopt series with a mini-series by Kelly, who blogs at Mine In China, on How To Choose An Agency. Because this very complex subject deserves a mini-series of it’s own. Kelly has published a series of posts on her own blog and has graciously reformatted them into …Read More

what we’re reading: 5.2.15

May 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


So….is it possible it has been six months since our last “What We’re Reading links” post? Sorry about that. We’ve been hopping in these parts with some amazing series and posts, but regardless we have some articles and traveling families to share with you today. As always, if you’ve read or written something you think …Read More

Corina’s Story: Adopting a Child with Sturge-Weber Syndrome

May 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


“You can’t direct the wind but you can adjust your sails.” – Unknown No truer words have I ever read that bring home the reality of our daughter’s diagnosis. Our adoption journey is a story in itself, and best for another time. We have had several wise friends point out that the complications of even …Read More

Attachment: Parenting Through the Hard Stuff

April 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


A few weeks ago we read a post on Lauren’s blog and thought it would be an excellent resource to share here. Lauren was gracious enough to allow us to use it. There is so much good stuff, we broke it down into two posts, this is post two, post one is here. Thank you, Lauren, …Read More

Urgent Medical Need: Justus

April 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 3.30.19 PM

Adorable Justus is 2 years old (born December 2012). Justus is a very smart little boy that already knows how to sort shapes and colors, point out and say objects in a book, and say several words! He gets along well with other kids and loves to ride on the rocking horse and play catch …Read More

Making The Decision to See an Attachment Therapist: How Theraplay is Helping My Family

April 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


My phone rang and it was a call from my adoption agency’s post-adoption team.  “So Mandy, how is it going?” the post-adoption social worker asked.  We had been home just a couple of months from China, but it felt like so much longer.  Everything was hard in those early days.   “We need help,” I …Read More