It Takes a Village: A Letter to My Husband

October 9, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Dear Ryan,

When we began dating in college, I was barely 19 years old, and you were nearly 21. While dating, we spent a lot of time holding hands and dreaming about what our life might look like together. We talked about where we would live, what our careers might be, how many children to have, and what hopes we had for our family.


Although we had always talked adopting in future, I remember the shock we felt when God asked us bring a new child into our family through adoption. Ryan, you quietly listened while I described my encounter with the Lord, never doubting or questioning my experience. You suggested that we pray, knowing that God would continue to lead us.

After making the decision to follow Him, you stood strong, calm, and resolved while my heart pounded and my knees trembled. I remember the initial grief I felt, choosing adoption and walking away from worldly desires I had been chasing. You provided me with hope as we dreamt together, wondering what God had in store for our family. With you at my side, I knew we could do anything.

During our first adoption process, you worked all day and spent your evenings reading adoption books and watching online modules. While sarcasm and snarky remarks can be your weapon of choice, you minimally used those tactics (necessary for comic relief) and completed all requirements with a (mostly) happy heart! You would regularly come home to a pile of papers waiting for your review and signature, and you celebrated each one, knowing we were one step closer to our new son or daughter.

Remember when you had to write your autobiography? Oh my, you were such a good sport! We would sit side-by-side with our laptops, pecking away at the keys and sharing memories of our family histories. You came home early for home study meetings, met me downtown for fingerprints, and celebrated each paperwork milestone with its own special acronym. Me: “Babe, we are DTC!!!” Ryan: “That’s awesome!! I am so excited! Remind me, what is DTC?”

We looked at countless pictures of waiting children together. That was hard for both of us. Tears fell often, as we looked into the vacant eyes of so many children. I remember our first fight about adoption. I wanted to host a fundraiser. You were vehemently against it. You felt like we had made the decision to adopt, and no one was obligated to help us. I argued that it was an opportunity for people to be involved in orphan care, maybe for the first time in their lives.

We began brainstorming, trying to find a compromise. The Spirit led us to a perfect solution. We knew that as part of your benefit package at work, your employer would provide us with $5,000 once our child’s adoption was finalized. We decided to host a puzzle fundraiser in hopes of raising $5,000 and then paying forward your employer’s benefit to another adoptive family. You could’ve said absolutely no fundraising. You could’ve said yes to my desire to hold a fundraiser. Instead, because of your hesitation, not only did our friends, family members, and coworkers help bring our son home, but we also had the chance to help another family raise money for their adoption. We should compromise more often (wink)!


This next one is hard to write. In May 2013, officials in China decided to change their computer system for processing adoptions. We were more than 60 days into our LOA wait, and most of my friends who shared the same LID had already received theirs and were preparing to travel. By the time late July came, and we still had not received LOA, as our family’s case had not correctly transferred to the new database.

Our social worker gave us news that she could not predict when the issue would be resolved. My mind began to spin out of control, as I imagined weeks and months and years of fighting to bring our son home. From the words of my personal blog post, “After hanging up the phone with our social worker, I collapsed to the floor and cried harder than I have cried in my adult life. It was a pure miracle that Ryan was home when it happened, as he is never home that time of day. I am convinced that God placed him there, knowing that I would need him to hold me. I sobbed and sobbed the most horrible, hyperventilating cry of my life. All I could think was of Tucker being stuck in an orphanage for the next 3 years because our files didn’t transfer from an old computer system to a new computer system.” Ryan, you held me. You were a solid rock as I cried out to God. As all the pain and heartache poured out from me, your strength remained a firm foundation to stand on.

A heart-wrenching experience took place during our second adoption process, and once again, I found myself collapsed in your arms, weeping until I could not cry anymore. I even remember waking up crying at 5 o’ clock in the morning, and just like the time before, you held me and remained strong while I fell apart.


Traveling to China together on two separate occasions to bring our sons home will remain in my heart forever. Watching movies and snuggling with you – I would do that on a plane, in a car, or on a train. So, the 12-16 hour flights didn’t bother me one single bit. I love being on an adventure with you. Climbing the Great Wall, riding in a rickshaw, eating dumplings, drinking cold Sprites, and getting drenched in Hong Kong – I loved every minute of it.

Despite your extreme jet lag and need to compensate by eating six meals a day, I wouldn’t want to travel with anyone else. Truly, I was joking when I said Noah and I would go without you next time! To see you become a father for the third and fourth time was such a gift. You stepped up to the plate every minute of every day in China, selflessly serving in whatever way helped our family most.


Coming home and establishing a new normal is hard work. Experiencing jet lag (again), trying to meet everyone’s needs, going back to work, having challenges with attachment, coping with sleep deprivation, and becoming a new family unit – it is all tough stuff. Re-entry is no joke. Still, you were a solid rock of strength, grace, patience, understanding, and love. We love to joke and say, “Whose idea was it to have all these kids?” Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everywhere I go with the boys, people say, “Looks like you’ve got your hands full.” And I can’t help but reply, “They are filled with the only things that matter in this world” or “They are the best thing this world has to offer.” Because of you, Ryan, we have built a life that we never dreamed of. So many husbands say no to adoption, but not you. You said, “Let’s pray” and then ultimately, “Yes.” Thank you!


This month’s theme for No Hands But Ours is It Takes a Village. Adoptive moms need people to support them and cheer them on through this process. You are my best friend, my rock, my encourager, and my defender. The love of my life.

As you well know, the journey to bring our kids home and then create a new life together is hard but so very, very good. Growing closer to the Lord with you while raising our four beautiful boys together has made every bitter moment sweet. Ryan, you are the most essential part of my village. I cannot thank you enough for the daily sacrifices you make for the sake of our family. This beautiful, challenging, extraordinary life we live is possible because of you and your willingness to say “Yes” to God. I’ll love you forever.


It Takes a Village: The Grandparents’ Perspective

October 8, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The announcement that you are going to be a grandparent again… this time through adoption.

Being a grandparent is one of the most amazing experiences we could imagine. When our daughter and son-in-law announced the pregnancy of their first two children, we were so excited. When they announced their plan to adopt a child, we found as grandparents we each responded slightly differently, at least at first. Much of my life’s work had been in foster care and adoption. I had hoped in my own life to be able to foster or adopt, so when we learned of our adult children’s plan to adopt my heart was flooded with joy. So many children need a home and I felt so proud that a member of our family had decided to take action to make a difference.

Because my work had been in Indiana and I knew the needs of children in our home state, I initially struggled to some degree with adopting from anywhere but here. What I easily transitioned to is the realization that all children need the love of a family and that is not limited by boundaries of a state or a country; children need families.

For my husband, he was excited because he loves children, but was initially challenged intellectually because he could not understand the choice of adoption; if they wanted more children, why not have more biological children? What he easily transformed to was that he did not need to understand the choice of adoption, what he needed and wanted to do was to support his daughter and her husband. Doing that came easily to him because he focused on his love for them. After going through the first adoption and experiencing his heart explode with a love never expected, my husband (Grandpa) easily hopped on the road of support when the announcement of the plan to adopt a second child came along.


Preparation as a grandparent.

Because there are differences with bringing home a 2 year old child through adoption than from bringing home a biological child from the hospital, our daughter and son-in-law wanted all of their close friends and loved ones to be educated about how best to welcome the new grandchild into our family. We were invited to participate in a webinar from their adoption agency that explained the needs of an adopted child so that he/she can develop a healthy attachment to their parents and family. This education, coupled by education from our daughter and son-in-law, was extremely helpful.

When you hear that you will not be hugging on your grandchild for 3 months or more it is difficult because as a grandparent you, too, have longed for this little one who is joining your family. When he is finally home you want to love him, as you typically know how to love. But that is where we had to remind ourselves that to love our newly adopted grandson, we needed to follow our training and allow his parents and siblings to love and cuddle him until he had the opportunity to begin to bond with his family and understand that his parents will be meeting his needs.

The goal is that he will learn to rely on them and trust them as his providers. When a child has had multiple caregivers and possibly had needs not met, trust and attachment are not automatic for a child. Healthy attachment allows for trust and when it is learned, it can be transferred to other trusted loved ones, but first we knew our grandchild needed to learn to rely upon and trust his immediate family.

It was interesting to witness the response of friends and extended family when we tried to explain this. Without information and training, which we were fortunate to receive, people want to follow what they intuitively know. My husband (Grandpa) handled this best by just saying, “This is what the experts have explained is necessary to help our grandchild, and it works!” Because we saw that it did work, it was easier to handle for the second adoption. Like anything, knowledge and experience help.

Finding ways to help.

1. Caring for the other children while parents travel for the adoption

With the adoption of a child, and in our case a trip by their parents to China for 2+ weeks, there was going to be a need for the care of the 2 children they already had. For me, I saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime – 2 weeks with my grandchildren. We were blessed to care for our grandkids while our adult children traveled to bring home our adopted grandson, but soon after it was decided that we would be the caregivers during this time, I was flooded with questions. I knew it would be important to follow the routine that their 2 boys were used to following and to handle things as closely to how their parents would handle them as we could. I wanted their parents to trust us fully in the care of their sons so they could be totally available to participate in the experiences they were going to have in China with their new son.


Regular communication began between our daughter and us with questions about everything possible: how to work their three TV remotes, what to do if something goes wrong with their house, but most importantly, what to do if one of the boys got sick, what types of things are comforting when the boys are scared, and what works best to support the boys in their daily routine. To capture all the information, our daughter typed her responses to all the questions we had, along with additional things she thought of, and it was nicely organized under headers. I then created a manual so I had everything I could possibly need from teacher’s names, insurance cards, local friends/resources, fun things to do in the community, etc. The manual was a sense of security to me because I knew what an honor and privilege it was to care for their sons in their absence and I wanted our daughter and son-in-law to feel confident in how their children would be cared for in their absence. We also created a calendar of what would happen each day so we had a schedule/structure and our adult children knew what was happening with their kids each day.

Our daughter and son-in-law provided wrapped gifts for their boys to open each day while they were away. They were not high dollar gifts, but simply little things that helped the boys feel special and thought of while their parents were away. They also made a video for each day that we played and they video -taped themselves reading the kids’ favorite stories. These were a fun part of our routine and helped our grandsons stay connected to their parents. We also arranged a FaceTime call each day so our grandsons could see their parents daily and talk with them, and their new brother. It was a joy to share in that communication, but as grandparents we were conscientious to make sure we allowed this to be time between our grandsons and their parents. We, of course, loved hearing from them too, but our role was to listen and support! We would have plenty of time to catch up when they got home!

For the second adoption we again cared for our grandchildren while their parents and their oldest son traveled with them to China. Although we had been through the process before, I still pulled out the manual, updated it with our new questions and answers, created a new calendar for the days the boys would be in our care, and created some additional sticker charts to help the boys have clear expectations and rewards for behavior. The goal remained the same, to be as consistent as possible to the expectations their parents have for them, so the transition home would be as smooth as possible.

This time we had our 4 year old grandson who had stayed with us before when his parents went to China to bring home his brother, but instead of his older brother with us, his 4 year old brother who was adopted from China just a little over a year ago was with us. This was his first extended stay away from his parents. Although we had had several weekend stays with us in preparation, it was still different for him to be away from his parents for 2 weeks. It was also very hard for his parents, especially his Mother, to leave him when she had worked so hard to assure him she would always be there for him. She had prepared him well though, including teaching him the song from Daniel the Tiger which says “Mommy comes back”. Our evidence that he fully understood that was when his cousin came to play with him and as her Mom left, our grandson sang “Mommy comes back” to his cousin.

2. Supporting adoption through love and prayer

As a grandmother I have crocheted a baby blanket for each of the grandchildren prior to their birth. I wanted to provide the same to our adopted grandchildren, but since they were not infants, I instead made them a larger blanket to coordinate with their rooms. When I am crocheting a blanket, this is a wonderful time to lift up prayers for my grandchild. For me, I feel my relationship really grows during the time of making the blanket because while I am making the blanket, my thoughts are on the new child coming into our family and the hopes and dreams I have for him.

3. Helping with fundraising

My husband (Grandpa) had the opportunity to tour MudLOVE, a local organization which makes bracelets. MudLOVE has a unique business model; they not only sell their bracelets to fundraising efforts at a discount, they also donate 20% of their gross sales to Water for Good, a group that drills wells to bring clean water to villages in the Central African Republic. Each product sold delivers 1 week of clean water to someone in need. When he met them he knew this would be a great fundraiser to assist in bringing home our second adopted grandson!


He told our daughter that we would buy 100 bracelets if she would organize selling them. She chose five different inspirational words bracelets (inspire, adopted, hope, redeemed, be the change) and placed the order. Once they arrived, she wrote the fundraising announcement in her blog offering the bracelets for sale. She closed her eyes and prayed as she hit ‘enter’ to post the fundraiser, hoping they would sell. Within five minutes the first bracelet sold. An hour went by, and 50 had sold. Within 3 hours, 97 had sold and people requested that she order more!

A second, and then a third bracelet order was placed, and MudLOVE provided these with an additional discount as they were ordered within 90 days. In total, 460 MudLOVE bracelets were sold, $5,106 was raised to bring our newest grandson home and 460 weeks of clean drinking water was provided. Our daughter went on to raise additional money through various fundraisers, but we were so happy to have helped by funding the MudLOVE fundraiser.

4. Displaying family photos

We are a family that loves to display photos of our family in our home! As soon as possible, we incorporated photos of our adopted grandchildren into the displays. Unbeknownst to me, this is possibly more important than I had realized. Our first adopted grandchild while eating a meal with us in our dining room one day shared with me the number of photos he had found of him on the walls of our home. He had also counted those of his two brothers and with a smile shared the number was the same.


How our hearts have grown.

Each of our grandchildren are so precious to us. We feel blessed by how they are each so unique. We feel thankful that our daughter and son-in-law expanded our family and our hearts through our grandsons who are adopted. We are excited by the learning that has happened in our family as a result of adoption and we are reminded that it will not stop. We feel thankful, lucky, proud, and blessed that adoption is a part of our family story. These boys have changed our lives and we are so fortunate to share in their life journey with them. God has filled our hearts with a love that we are so grateful to share. “We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

One thing to remember… it’s time to revise the will (again).

guest post by Tom and Danette Till – parents to Amy

Waiting Child Highlight: AWAA

October 8, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The following children are all designated to AWAA via an orphanage partnership, if you would like to know more about how to make any of them a part of your family, please email AWAA directly. Also, please be aware that these three children require a dossier to be logged in with China and AWAA only has them on their list for a few more days.

Austin is a cute little 2-year-old boy with a big smile who needs a forever family. His file notes that he especially loves playing outside with his nanny. Austin’s very favorite activity is splashing in the bathtub. Austin’s file also notes some developmental delays but later reports indicate that he is developing normally both physically and mentally.

Austin 2

Steven is a sweet little 2 year old boy in need of a forever family. His caretakers describe him as very active and outgoing. He loves being cuddled by his nannies and he loves to play games with other children. Steven enjoys listening to music and playing with toy cars. He’s very fond of playing outside. Steven has been diagnosed with genu varum, or bowlegs.

Photo 1_Qin Qiu Feng

Willow is a sweet 4 year old girl in need of a family. She has been diagnosed with lymphangioma on her right hip joint and inner thigh. She needs a surgery for her thigh. Her medical file notes good physical development and normal intelligence development for her age. She communicates well, likes to learn and is currently in Kindergarten. Willow is described as active, likes to play with other children, and enjoys listening to music.

Willow 2

Please contact AWAA for more information on any of these children.

Saying Yes Was Scary, Being Her Mother Is Not

October 7, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


When my husband and I began our adoption journey in January of 2013 we, like most pre-adoptive parents, had a profile of sorts for the child we were hoping to adopt. We knew we wanted to adopt from China. We were hoping to adopt a girl and we knew we wanted to adopt a child …Read More

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Adopting a Child With Down Syndrome

October 7, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


October has always been my favorite month of the year. I love everything about the cooler temperatures, family time carving pumpkins and roasting marshmallows over a backyard fire. October is also Down syndrome awareness month, and as a Ds adoption advocate, this is one more reason for me to love October. Since adopting my daughter …Read More

Down Syndrome Awareness Month 2015

October 6, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Every Sunday we go to church and sit in the same general section of the sanctuary — inside middle aisle approximately 5 rows back. It’s not the ‘young families’ section of the church (that’s to the far right), so we are usually surrounded by, ahem… “seasoned” men and women and the occasional family with older …Read More

Waiting Child Highlight: Heartsent Adoptions

October 6, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

image (2)

The following precious children are all designated to Heartsent Adoptions, please contact them if you are interested in requesting more information on any of them. This sweet one year old with multiple medical needs is Hope (please inquire to learn more specifics). She is described as active, sweet, smart and cute. Hope loves being with …Read More

To My Non-Adoptive Mama Friends

October 5, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


You, dear non-adoptive friend, spent months watching us wait for this child that we desperately wanted to travel for and bring home. You cheered when we got new pictures to proudly display, and you faithfully followed the blog posts that detailed all of my thoughts and emotions leading up to the BIG DAY. You were …Read More

find my family: Wesley

October 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


This precious child is Wesley who was born October of 2014 and has postoperative hydrocephalus. He had surgery in January of 2015 where they put a shunt in his brain to help his hydrocephalus and since then he has been a very active little guy! Wesley loves to laugh, watch the people around him, and …Read More

The One Thing

October 3, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


“To be alive as a human being with indescribable mysteries at every turn, and to have in front of us an eternal destiny of spectacular glory or inexpressible horror is a weight that can either press you down with fear and trembling or bear you up with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” – John …Read More

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