The need for adoption talk never expires

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A family for only a few months, I took my toddler daughter with me to visit a friend, an older women, a faithful woman I loved and respected. While Lydia was mesmerized with the dust in the air visible in the sun light, my friend shielded her mouth and whispered:

Are you going to tell her she’s adopted?

I giggled a little. Wait, she’s serious. That wasn’t a joke. I whispered back:

How long do you think it will take before she finds out?”

We didn’t wait until the “correct developmental stage,” when children start to notice physical differences, etc. etc. There was never a day we didn’t talk about her story with her. Bedtime stories are most often adoption stories or China stories; we’ve got nearly every one ever printed. The most watched video on my phone is the adoption movie I made for her. She knows every word of the song I used for it and can narrate every scene. She has been to known to introduce herself with the big 3: (1) name, (2) age, and (3) “I was in another mommy’s belly in China then my mommy came to China and adopted me.”

When she asked to come with me to China on my recent adventure, I wasn’t all that surprised. It was heartwarming really. Oh, my sweet little girl. She wants to go back and visit her homeland. But, then she got me.

Come on. I wanna go. I’ve never been to China before!”

What? Did she just say that? My daughter who is in her second year of Chinese school? who wears her Chinese silks for Spring Festival? Who learned how to pronounce her Chinese name better than I can? After I have made great efforts to incorporate Chinese culture and artwork into our home and rehearsed and rerehearsed her story with her? Adoption is so commonly talked about around here, some likely think we’re slightly odd.

Oh, honey, remember? You’ve spent more time in China than the rest of us combined.

She smiled and off she went, trotting away like a horsey as she does and moving on to the next thing to get herself into. As she moved on, I took pause, realizing that those adoption conversations, the ones some may think should be a finite thing, are never complete. My daughter’s need for adoption talk will never expire. My responsibility as a mother to engage her in adoption talk is never a checked off item on my mental to-do list. I get that it may not be daily; adoption doesn’t need to be every evening’s dinner conversation. But, it’s constant, enduring through every season of her life, a conversation that never actually ends but is more of a run-on sentence like these words strung together with very little punctuation—on that day, two weeks ago, when she forgot she didn’t just travel to China but she was born and lived there and on another day, in another season, if she wishes she could forget.

Let me try to answer the question again.

Yes, we have told her she was adopted, we do tell her she was adopted, and we will tell her she was adopted. It’s her life, and I wanna be the one to walk with her in it.

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Love Tank

All kids have “love tanks” – deep wells within their hearts which hold the fuel they run on: love.

What happens when those tanks run low? I’m no expert, but I can tell you what happens when my Jubilee’s tank is low.

“Mom, what did you buy at the store? Hi Mom. Mom? Mom, where’d you go? Mom, do you have an itch on your leg? Mom, Mommmm? [knock, knock] Mom, are you going potty? Did you have a dream last night? Mom? Hi Mom.”

[Insert something about me feeling INCREDIBLY smothered and frustrated]

When her tank gets low, there is little that can be done but drop everything I’m doing and fill it. That is sometimes quite inconvenient, particularly if we have an engagement for which we cannot be late, or if I must get the gratin potatoes into the oven in time for dinner guests, or if I am literally in the shower with shampoo threatening to run into my eyes.

But there is a better way: prevention. My mom taught me this lesson when I first became a mother myself in 2005.

“You give them 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day, and they will give you hours of space and time,” my mom said.

Wise words, I’ve found. Ten minutes is not that much, but so often we don’t give them even that. I’m not talking about a hurried question in their direction while we push them through the grocery store. I’m not talking about asking them how they slept while we rake a brush through their hair during the morning routine. What my mom meant was completing an entire puzzle together, or sitting down across the table with them and drinking entire mugs of hot chocolate.

Or washing broccoli together, as was the case for me and my little Jubilee this week. For the umpteenth time that day, she followed me to where I was going, stopped where I stopped at the refrigerator door, and asked, “Can I help you, Mom?”

This time I didn’t say no.

“Sure,” I said. “How about you wash the broccoli?”

Rarely have I seen her get more excited. She jumped and squealed with pure delight. And then she quickly switched gears. She was all-business with that broccoli, I tell you, running each small green tree under the water and scrubbing it with her deft brown hands, before piling it carefully into the steamer basket in the pot. I was impressed, and I told her so. She beamed. We talked about lots of things while we prepped for the meal, just Jubi and me. It was a precious parenting moment, and I dare say it was life-giving for her. I could almost see her tank filling before my eyes.

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And all the next day, Jubilee did not follow me everywhere I went. The day was marked with peace, and quick hugs on the fly. It was glorious.



Part II {Genetic analysis: to test or not to test}

{Part I, Dark brown hair, Light brown hair is here}

It’s discussed pretty regularly in the adoption community.

To test or not to test.

Now just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, I’m not talking about genetic testing as advised by your doctor for medical reasons. I’m talking about genetic analysis for children who are growing healthy and strong. I’m talking about collecting some spit, sending it in the mail to a lab, and a relatively inexpensive genetic testing of our children that were adopted to find out more information about them, like what ethnicity they are, the rare chance of finding distant (or not) relatives, and health information. There are several companies that are doing this including 23&me, FTDNA, DeCodeMe, and DNATribes to name just a few.

There are kinda two camps on the subject, (not to mention those of us that waffle around in the middle) and personally I think there are some really important things to think about from both points of view. Our children from international adoption come to us with so very little. Few material possessions if any. Little to no information about who they are or where they come from. So giving them any little additional morsel of who they are seems like a good thing… right?

Well… maybe not. It’s not really so cut and dry and should requires some thought.

Camp A

As parents we can gather that information and present it to our children when we feel it will ultimately benefit them the most. This can include information about their genetic make-up and/or birth families. Maybe we explain and discuss the test results right when we get the results. Maybe children are part of the search or maybe they’re too little yet to participate and understand. Maybe it becomes as much a part of our child’s story as their country of birth. Maybe we use this information to find and possibly connect with biological family members and possibly start a dialog or relationship. Or we might decide keep all this information under lock and key until a child desires to know more or the time seems right. But information is just one of many tools we can use to help our children learn more about who they are, where they come from, their genetics, and the results of the testing can be used (or not) in a variety of ways to help heal the wounds that remain from the loss that comes as an inherent part of international adoption.

After all, our biological children already get to have all this information at their disposal. They can use ancestry.com and look up their family trees and know that great great grandma Sally came over from Sweden. They know who has glaucoma, who died of heart disease and who their cousins are. So shouldn’t we try to give our adopted children the same information and “level the playing field” rather then leave them with empty holes that might be able to be filled?

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Camp B

The process of gathering information should be up to the child since that information is theirs alone. Children who are adopted come from a place of loss and have so very much taken from them. They have little to no control about where they go or who they will live with. So shouldn’t we leave at least some of the power to discover who they are up to them? Shouldn’t we “facilitate” their search on their terms rather than satisfy our own curiosity to know who they are? The resulting information after all is theirs and not ours as parents to uncover. It is a decision that they can make all on their own, and if they ever come to us and say, “Hey Mom, I’d like to do that testing thing,” only then should we guide them on their own journey to genetic testing, as initiated by the child. After all their genetics won’t change over time, so there is no rush to get the test done. A child can have testing done years or even decades later without changing the results or losing information. And as children grow to teenagers and adults they have better skills to process the information they will find, and it should be their decision alone.

And let us not forget that there is every possibility that the information revealed from genetic testing may open a can of worms. Health histories. Maybe no information at all that will help a child heal their wounds of loss. There are of course no guarantees. Genetic testing, no matter how much hope or information it provides, will never “fill the hole” for adoptees. Our children come to us from a place of loss. It can be like a hole void of information. And a place of no control. Our children lost it all when they came into our lives and into their forever families. They lost who they were, a language, a community, security, their heritage and more. And let us not forget that they likely lost it all in a split second and had no say in the matter. So even in our efforts to help them learn more about their identities, we must be sure not to take their power to learn about themselves.

As parents of a child that is internationally adopted, it is very natural to “miss” those early years before they came into our arms. As their mama, I too missed out on their first steps and giggles, and very much want to know as much about our children as I can. But does OUR parental desire to put all the puzzle pieces together outweigh their right to privacy and their right to their journey of self-discovery? Even if their journey may be totally separate and apart from us, their moms and dads?

About a year after Tess and Jude came home we did decide to have Tess genetically tested to hopefully give her a “community” to genetically identify with. In a world full of boxes, she just doesn’t fit into any of them and we worried about the implications of a grown up without a box to identify with. Four years later, we realize that the results of the test really didn’t provide us with any concrete answers. Duh. We certainly don’t regret having the testing done, but it surely didn’t satisfy any curiosity or tell us much more about who she is. She our daughter after all and we already knew that.

And off and on we wrestle with if we should use a different company and have the test performed again, or have Mimi and Jude tested. To be honest, I’ve been way too busy with dirty laundry and dust bunnies to sit down and come to a resolution with Papa about whether or not we should do it. Yes, we’re curious about our children’s background. But this is our curiosity and certainly not “child initiated” at this point. And I’m coming to the realization that the longer we have our children with us, the less that it matter to me who they are and where they come from. Our children are His first and foremost, ours after that, and no test results, ethnicity, or genetic markers will change that.

Still, I very much believe that information is inherently good and a powerful tool. The jury is still very much out, and we’ve yet to decide whether or not to have our adopted children genetically tested.

We’d love your input!

2013-10-08_0001Tess & Jude adopted from Vietnam in 2008 and Mimi via China in 2012

To be continued… Part III {Birth family search from an adoptee’s perspective}

 

 

Always

I am the proud mama of four-year-old virtual twins, both adopted from China. And while they were adopted in two separate adoptions, 23 months apart, they are every bit as much of brother and sister as they can be.

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This has its benefits. The two of them always have a built-in playmate. As their mother, it is fun to watch them as they build a “fort” in the playroom to hang out in while they watch TV. Or, witness those occasions where the dress up clothes seem to explode onto the bodies of two very creative characters as they enter a world of make believe that only they are privy to. And because I am that mom, I can admit that it also makes my heart swell on Sunday mornings when they walk into their class at church wearing coordinating outfits. They are best of friends and stick by each other like glue.

But that doesn’t mean that these two don’t have their differences. Oh no. They are as completely polar opposite as they can be in personality, and on more than one occasion this has resulted in conflict. Recently, however, a new player has entered the game and threats of “I’m not your best friend anymore!” can be heard in the midst of their arguments. I have NO idea where this came from. It’s not something our older three children ever said, and we certainly don’t allow our children to speak to each other that way. But alas…here we find ourselves.

Every time this argument arises and the “disowning” takes place, I gather my two babies and have a talk with them. Over and over again, I tell them that we don’t stop being someone’s friend just because we’re angry at them. That talking to each other that way isn’t speaking in love, and that they need to treat each other lovingly. And I always wrap up by reminding them that no matter how angry they may get with one another they will always be brother and sister.

A couple days ago yet another argument broke out…this time over which pretend world they were going to be visiting on their adventure…and I heard my daughter yell not “You’re not my best friend anymore!” but instead, “I’ll always be your sister!” Only, she didn’t use the sing-song, former preschool teacher voice I use when having my talks with them. She yelled it as a threat, implying that even though her brother was angry with her, he was also stuck with her for the rest of his life.

I have to admit…I laughed. Thankfully out of hearing range of two little sets of ears! Not only did my darling girl prove to me once again that my little “Dynamic Duo” will always be one step ahead of me, keeping me on my toes, but the truth of her words resonated with me. Because…for better or for worse…these two kids from two different parts of China are stuck together. Forever. Nothing will ever change their brother/sister status. Their journeys started out so differently, and yet God wove them together as each child entered our family. Two people who would have likely never met had they remained in their birth country are now “real” siblings in every way but through blood. And that takes my breath away. So of course, I had to gather my two little ones and explain to them what a blessing it is that they will always be brother and sister…no matter how many ups and downs they have in their relationship. That they are a gift to one another.

But these two aren’t just a gift to each other. They’re also a gift to me. Sure, we have our less-than-ideal moments. I will not deny that at times they make me want to pull my hair out. And whether through their arguments or their incredible ability to gang up on me and completely overwhelm my parenting expertise, their shenanigans have resulted in much solace known as “mommy time” after their daddy arrives home in the evenings. I wouldn’t change a thing, though. Because these two make my life a million times richer…even if they do make it a million times more chaotic.

I honestly can’t imagine living in a world where these two wouldn’t always be brother and sister. Or where I wouldn’t always be their mama. So I’ll gladly take all the crazy they throw my way. Their relationship is the miracle of adoption on display, a true example of what it means for new branches to be grafted onto a family tree.

Forever, for always, and no matter what.



All In

We are fast approaching the one year mark of the anniversary of Grace’s adoption. I remember feeling confident in the decision to go and get my baby girl across the world. The Lord had confirmed that decision a thousand different times in a thousand different ways…it is an exhilaratingly joyful thing to hear the Father and walk in the way He directs. I remember being mostly concerned about my other three children and how it would affect them. They were from the beginning, ALL IN. So full of love and excitement and crazy fundraising ideas! So now that the “honeymoon” is over, I asked them tonight how things look presently…

Me: (asking William, age 4) What is the best thing about Grace being in our family and having an adopted sister?

William: I really wanted to have a baby sister. She is funny.

Me: What is the worst thing about Grace becoming a part of our family?

William: When she knocks down my guys (super heroes) on my Batman house. That makes me mad. Sometimes it’s funny but mostly makes me mad.

My older two children agreed that the worst part is when she cries or throws a fit. My oldest daughter is happy for the company of another girl and thankful that Grace got our family because we know Jesus. My oldest son, like his little brother, loves having a really little sister to play with and read to. When I inquired about this more, he actually does really love it. I watch him choose her all of the time. What I love about their answers is that they are so normal. I have heard these answers every time a new baby was born. They aren’t particular to adoption, but very particular to a funny little two year old who is very cute and very loud in her fits but also very much their sister. I know it doesn’t always look this way but there is a very normal atmosphere growing among my children. I can try and complicate it with my book knowledge and constant monitoring of this forever family and it’s possible disruptions, but they are siblings. And they are all in.

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This picture proves it. We recently went to court to re-adopt Grace. When the judge asked us (I’m pretty sure he meant my husband and I) to raise our right hand to pledge that our statements were true, everyone raised their right hand. These kids were for real. I think that prior to approaching the bench, I may have threatened at least one of them with some possible jail time if they didn’t calm down and act right. My oldest had already dreamed about the possibility of running in the court room, throwing open the doors and yelling, “I object!” Not because he objects to Grace, but just because it would be fun. So when it got serious and down to business, everyone in the family stepped it up. The policeman was so tickled by the unanimous response that he started laughing, took a picture with my phone and then proceeded to the back offices behind the bench to show the secretaries the line of hands raised and at attention.

It speaks to my heart, it really does. My children wanted to be there, to stand there, to participate and show their solidarity for their sister. It drifts me to a deeper place too. How the judge was pleased to celebrate with us. How I thought there must be much that grieved him but that this was a really good thing to preside over. How the policeman took our picture and showed it to not only the judge sitting to his left, but to everyone around him. How our lawyer counseled us in what to say and when to say it and how he humbly guided our steps that day. How all three took joy in being on our team in those moments and how they all advocated on our behalf. Working in a system designed for justice that often by necessity and reputation is known for dealing with the “bad” when in fact it protects and promotes goodness and righteousness and truth. And new names and new lives and new families. New inheritance.

The natural always reflects the supernatural. The earthly things point to their truest representation in the heavenly things. A little picture here of a lot of glory there. With hands raised we are “in” for adoption. The judge asked me, “Why are you grinning ear to ear?” The answer is, my wonderfully amusing children and the fact that we were made for this! And the knowledge that no one went to jail, despite glee filled running down the long corridor of the court house, erupting in laughter as they hit the finish line (doors of another court room).

Happy Adoption, Re-Adoption and every good gift that comes with it sweet Grace!



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So excited to welcome our newest contributor Carrie, a friend and fellow orphan advocate. Carrie and her husband Jacob spent four years caring for orphans at New Day Foster home in China, where they also welcomed daughter Cora. Now, back in the US, Carrie and Jacob are beginning the journey to adopt through China’s special needs program and she will be sharing with us here as she goes…

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I’ve loved rain for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the drought-struck Panhandle of Texas in a family intimately tied to agriculture (which is intimately tied to annual rainfall), rain was like our manna… necessary for our survival. Except it didn’t come every day.

One of my earliest memories is of praying. Staring out the window of our small trailer, feeling the worry and stress of the adults, I prayed for rain to fill the deep cracks splitting open the soil. I was only 3.

And, predictably, my next earliest memory is of bargaining with God.

There was a downpour the next day. The adults were thrilled but started worrying about the possibility of hail destroying the bedraggled crops. I, on the other hand, was quite pleased with myself. God had heard my prayers and had come in on a rain cloud, just as I imagined. But I had something more I wanted.

“Now that I know you’re here,” I remember saying as I watched the deluge, “please bring me a baby brother or a baby sister.”

It was only a few months and my parents got the phone call every waiting adoptive parent longs to hear. I met my little brother in an airport, upon my return from a visit to my grandparents. My mom handed him to a nun waiting in the airport to hold while she greeted me and introduced me to the answer to my prayers. I will never forget the third most vivid memory of my childhood… seeing that nun in her full habit holding a tiny baby boy, my new little brother.

“I always knew that’s what angels looked like,” I said of the nun, convinced she had materialized right then and there to answer my prayer.

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Adoption has been a part of my story for as long as I can remember. It’s literally the focus of my earliest memories. As the only biological child in my family, there were times when I wished I had also been adopted. It seemed, to one not experiencing the grief and loss that comes with the territory, like such a cool way to join a family.

After college, I went to work at an adoption agency – entering the hyper-promotional stage of my adoption frenzy, convinced that every living/breathing adult needed to adopt an orphan. A few years later, my husband and I moved to China to volunteer at New Day Foster Home. Four years of hands-on orphan care taught me so much, and I came away more committed to the idea of adoption yet more fearful of it as well. I certainly no longer thought the only requirement for becoming an adoptive parent should be a pulse.

In the midst of all this, my husband and I had our first daughter. She is wild and free. A hurricane of love, determination, joy, and sheer exuberance. She is healthy, advanced, and besides a freakishly strong will, has no issues that make parenting a challenge. And yet it is. Parenting eats my lunch. I love her more than anything, but I’ve grown quite convinced that I’m in desperate need of parenting manna.

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Yet here we are.

Waiting on our immigration approval. Staring at a pile of paperwork we’ve worked 5 months to assemble. Wading through a list of 190 different medical conditions trying to say yes and no to each of them. (And learning fairly quickly that Wikipedia is NOT the way to research the more obscure conditions unless you enjoy feeling terrified and overwhelmed.)

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One might think that the more experience you have with adoption and exposure you have to orphans, the more equipped you would feel to become an adoptive parent yourself. I think for us, the exact opposite has been true. We don’t get to wear rose-colored glasses. Ignorance can be bliss, but we’ve seen too much to be blissful.

The other day I was speaking to my grandma and we were talking about our adoption process. She told me, “Since you were a little girl you said you would adopt a baby and maybe have one baby. At the time I would just smile and nod, but here you are! Doing just what you said you always wanted to do.”

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And she’s right… This journey started way back when I was three years old and praying for rain. Jacob and I feel strongly this adoption is meant to be a part of our family’s story, but it isn’t a chapter we take lightly. We’re starting down this road filled with equal parts excitement and terror… and praying for that daily manna to get us through.



Why you may hear me singing daily

I love shiny. Shiny is pretty. I love shiny….

She’s the finder of pennies. Everywhere she goes, she manages to find a penny. Today’s found treasure led to a song.

Your turn to sing a song, Mommy. You make up a song.

Not feeling particularly like a Maria this morning,

Oh, I don’t know what to sing about, honey.

Which warranted this reply,

I have an idea! Why don’t you sing this, ‘I love Lydia. I love Lydia. I love Lydia…’ [put to her own version of music]

At that point, I couldn’t help but be all in. I belted out my own rendition, adding a bridge about how cute she is.

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I watched her making funny faces wearing her “I love Mom” shirt, and it struck me how secure she can be as my child while insecurities live right beneath the surface. She can tell me to sing a song about my love for her because she knows I do. She can ask me to push her on the swing and tease me about her growing bigger when I’ve told her I want her to stay small forever because she knows she’s mine and I’m hers.

And yet…

She walks a bit ahead of me in the store and loses sight of me for a second then runs to me, “I thought I was lost. I thought you left me.” It’s time to take the kids to school, and she sees us all putting on our shoes as we do every morning, and she panics to grab hers quickly, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave without me!” She yells for me from her room, and I don’t hear her right away or respond right away, “You didn’t hear me. You forgot me!”

It’s the juxtaposition she lives with all the time—knowing she belongs and she’s loved and yet experiencing something very hard called abandonment followed by a year of missing the earthly relationship she needed most of all.

I’ll keep singing, “I love Lydia, I love Lydia, I love Lydia…” It won’t make the hard stuff go away, but I pray that all our love songs will make her journey through it all a little easier.

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Chinese if you please

Once we’ve had our adopted Chinese children home for a while, they become very American, don’t they? Fluent English speakers, pudgy and healthy, faces aglow. Video games, Kraft mac-n-cheese, Gap Kids clearance clothes, and all the rest.

But then there are moments when Jubilee will stop what she is doing and stare off into space, her mind a million light years away. Or a seemingly insignificant struggle might bring tears of deep anguish, and I’m pretty sure she is feeling something deeper than the disappointment of losing her favorite jar of nail polish.

One might figure things would be different for our family, since we live in our daughter’s home country. It is true, she has “her people” all around her. But still, she is growing up in our home, speaking our language, eating our food, and wearing our clothes. She won’t relearn her mother-tongue until she is old enough to join her brothers’ private tutoring sessions, which happen from 1:30-2:30, Wednesdays and Fridays.

She can see her previous world, but she can’t quite touch it. It is a very interesting dynamic.

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And so we are in much the same boat as most of you. We are white Americans raising a Chinese child. Being a blended family, however, is far from a negative thing to be. It is an opportunity! A blessing! A chance to celebrate God’s creativity and taste for variety.

This gets sticky, though, because we don’t want to assume our adopted Chinese children want their “other-ness” celebrated. Many adoptees would rather fit in than stand out.

But many adoptees also want their loved ones to recognize their unique heritage, their great loss, and their need to know the blood that runs through their veins.

(even though all blood is red, but I digress)

Jubilee is incredibly aware for her age, and loves talking about her Chinese heritage. She is proud of the fact that she can wield chopsticks better than the rest of us, even though she didn’t learn this at the orphanage but picked it up at our table, just like that. She loves that she can memorize verses and facts like a computer (something that is very Chinese, by the way, if you’ve noticed your children having the same remarkable gift). She prefers indirect communication, and has a high need for physical contact. These traits, too, are prevalent among Chinese. Jubilee cannot wait until her Chinese language lessons can begin, and she begs me to read to her from our Chinese/English children’s books.

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And then there is my cousin, Abbey. Adopted as a baby from Korea, she grew up in a white, middle class Midwestern family, happy as a lark. Her favorite food as a kid was chicken spaghetti. She took dance lessons, cheered exuberantly for her brothers at their football games, sang country western music, etc. And yet, as an adult adoptee, she wears a shirt that reads, “Asian soul.” She joined the Asian Student Union while in college, and just went to her first KAAN conference (Korean American Adoptive Family Network) with her mother, my wonderful aunt. I think my sweet cousin would suggest that we as adoptive parents learn to read our children, pray for insight into their hearts, and take their cues as to how “Chinese” they want us to help them be(come).

I personally love Chinese culture.  I love eating the food, speaking the language, and making friends with the people.  I think it would be very sad to pretend – or wish – the Chinese heritage out of our kids. Of course, the fact that they are Chinese does not make them any less ours (or less American, Canadian, or whatever your nationality might be), but I say if they want to be connected with their roots, more power to ‘em. I propose that by denying who they were, we risk denying them – and ourselves – the pleasure of fully enjoying who they are.

 

 

Free to Dream

What a joyful noise it is when we hear our children tell us what they want to be when they grow up!

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It was only a few months to a few years ago when words like that would have been completely futile. There was no future and there were no dreams. Life was purely an existence. Each day was filled with managing their surrounding in an orphanage. Always trying to get enough food even if it meant taking others’ food away. Trying to navigate relationships and avoiding being the victim. Laughing at others before they laughed at you.

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An orphanage is no place for a child to live, to grow or to dream.

A child growing up in an orphanage does not get to pick “what they want to be” when they grow up. Anywhere between the ages of 14-18 they leave the orphanage and are on their own. Sometimes the orphanage will try to get them a job as they age out and leave the only life they have ever known. Many fall into the age-old career of prostitution and many commit suicide as they realize they have no other options.

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In China’s society there is no place for the orphan because they have no value. The individual is not important. All that matters is what the government decides is best for “all the people”. The orphan is the lowest of the low. They were not wanted by their family and they are not wanted by society. An orphan with any kind of a disability is of no value to anyone. They consider them a hindrance and bad luck.

On all of our trips to China we have met wonderfully kind people. People that want to love and care for the orphans. People that are trying to change China. People who believe that each individual has value. People that are learning about Jesus and learning about God’s love for everyone.

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I am thankful for the ray of hope that those people gave to our children in the orphanage. The smile, the hug, the food and whatever they could do to help the children in the orphanage.

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And now onto the best part of this post!

Their dreams, their desire and their hopes!

  • Sarah – Wants to be a preschool teacher, in the Olympics on the USA gymnastics team, a dentist, a swimming instructor and a mother. While she is still at home she would like to scoop ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s, work at the local grocery store, be a lifeguard and honestly her ideas never stop!! We LOVE it!!
  • Emma – A teacher and a Mommy.
  • Ellie – A missionary and a Mom.
  • Mia – “I dona know” (she needs more time at home to dream!).
  • Ava – A teacher, an artist, a doctor.
  • Melissa – We think she should be an artist but she answered “I don’t know”- again, she needs more time at home to DREAM!
  • Abby – Just wants to be a Mom.
  • Anna – A scientist, an artist.
  • Sam – A fireman, a scientist, a cowboy, a policeman and a farmer.
  • Madeline – “Ahhhh, no comment…” After awhile she decided she wanted to be a Momma. Then Hubby asked, “What about a Daddy?” To which she promptly responded “I notta boy!”
  • Luke – A fire truck, a policeman or a dog.

YEP! He really said that! It was so cute!! And it was that answer that prompted this post!

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I love their hopes and dreams! I feel blessed to be their Mom!

We are excited to watch their lives unfold right in front of us! We look forward to where God leads them!

I know He has a special plan for each child and whatever it is…
it’s a good one!

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Light Brown Hair :: Dark Brown Hair

I was putting Tess’s hair into pig tails, getting her ready for school and tying bows in her piggies.

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We live in a Caucasian community bombarded with messages about what beauty is, and in its absence what it is not, in every magazine, billboard, and television commercial. I figure I need to counter balance the mass messaging she already receives.
I finish
Every.
Single.
Morning.
of our primping-in-front-of-the-mirror-time the same way.

Tess, you’re gorgeous.
You’re beautiful.
Stunning.
Do you know how very pretty you are?

Today she has a reply.
Tess: I like your hair mama. It’s light brown.
Me: I like your hair, Tess. It’s a beautiful dark brown. And so are your pretty eyes.
Tess: But I like your hair. I wish my hair and my eyes were light brown like yours.
I know what she means. This is about looking like your mama and wanting to be closer.
Me: Tess, I think your first mama probably has gorgeous dark brown hair and eyes just like you. I think she is beautiful just like you!
We talk about their first mamas as if these women are another person in our family, just ones we haven’t met.
Tess: But I wish my hair was light brown like yours.
{maternal sigh}

Back to me.
My mom has auburn hair.
My birth mom has blond hair.
And my hair is brown.
I get what Tess is saying.
It’s taken me no less than 40 years to come to my own peace regarding moms and first moms and wanting something so badly that just can not be. And it breaks my heart to think she might struggle with who she is and who she does and does not look like. I want her to love herself in the here and now and feel how she is perfectly made and a perfectly shaped puzzle piece to our family puzzle. I don’t want her to continually reach after something that may never be attainable. And grieve the loss that could define her.
Says the lady that tries hard 4 decades later to not do just that.

Yet, I want to help her discover who she is and help her piece together her own identity if that’s what she wants.
It’s a balancing act that parents who adopt constantly walk.
Give them the information they crave, but only if or when they crave it. Attempt to satiate their curiosity, but not your own. Tell them their story but don’t let it define them. Help them figure out where they came from, and help them accept that they may never really know.

Back to hair.
Humor me; Let me do a mom thing and tell you how beautiful she is.
Tess has the most amazing hair. It’s dark brown with a slight wave. It’s not coarse or stereo-typically Asian hair, yet so shiny. Not to mention her eyes that are just-can’t-stop-gazing-into-them gorgeous. Her eyes are huge and so dark that one can’t really see her pupils amidst the very dark irises. This makes them appear huge. And again not really Asian looking. And her darker than normal skin tone. Which makes her appearance, although undeniably beautiful, not stereo-typically Asian. But an absolute beauty!
I know. I know. I’m biased of course! In fact she’s often mistaken as Mexican in our very Mexican community. Or Hispanic in general. Or even middle eastern. Or even Italian once.
And all of this makes us wonder if she’ll have trouble identifying herself with any culture at all.
And what we should do about it.

To be continued… Part II {Genetic analysis: to test or not to test}