22 ways to raise funds for your adoption

Hello! My name is Amy Abell, and I am so excited to have this opportunity to be a guest blogger for No Hands But Ours.

I began blogging soon after I became pregnant with my first son, Noah, in 2007 and continued to blog when my second son, Liam, surprised us with a cleft lip at birth. We knew Liam’s smile had a purpose for our lives, and when it finally led us to adoption in July 2012, we were both shocked and excited! I chronicled our adoption journey and grew more and more passionate about orphan care every day. After bringing our son, Tucker, home from China in October 2013, my desire for more families to get involved in helping the fatherless has gained a stronger sense of urgency.


Typically, I hear people name MONEY as the number one reason they are afraid to move forward with adoption. Few people have $30,000 lying around to use toward an adoption, and they think they must finance their adoptions alone. Men seem to feel especially ashamed or too prideful to ask for help. When people adopt this kind of attitude, they miss out on three critical opportunities.

First, people miss out on the opportunity to see God work through the people in our lives. Seeing people donating items to our garage sale, running a 100 mile race, fundraising on our behalf, sponsoring puzzle pieces, and selling t-shirts was all so very humbling. The appreciation, love, and reverence we experienced for our friends, family, coworkers, and strangers is still carried in our hearts today. I was brought to tears so many times seeing the people around us supporting us and sacrificing for our family. It still gives me chills to think about how we felt God’s presence through all of their actions.

Second, when people hold fundraisers, their family, friends, coworkers, and strangers have an opportunity to get involved in orphan care. For many, this will be the first time they have lived out James 1:27. When people give their time and money to any cause, it automatically becomes more personal to them.

Third, when people donate time and/or money to help a adoptive families bring home their children, they experience the intrinsic reward of helping someone else, which can result in wanting to get more involved in orphan care. Your adoption could be the door God uses to open other people’s hearts to the fatherless. Maybe they will become foster parents. Maybe they will find a way help children who will never be adopted. Maybe they will host orphans or even adopt themselves. You will never know unless you invite people into your journey.

Information is power, and if you are scared to pursue adoption because of the finances involved, then today I am going to empower you with many ideas to raise money for your adoption.

1. Garage Sale – When you add your items to the collection of items donated from friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, you can really raise a lot of money for your adoption. One family told me that they raised $6,000 just through garage sales! Here are some tips for holding a successful garage sale. Here is a recap of our garage sale adventures.

2. Craigslist or Ebay – Sell more significant items through these websites. I even know one woman who sold her wedding ring. Seriously, when you make the decision to bring a child into your family through adoption, you will do nearly anything to get that child home.

3. Photography Session – For those of you who are amateur or professional photographers, this is another way to raise money.

4. Selling Items for Businesses - Scarlet Threads, Mudlove bracelets, Goat’s Milk products, Mixed Bags, Tukula Bags, bed sheets, cookie dough.

5. Selling Handmade or Homemade Items – nursery letters, quilts, jewelry, key chains, coasters, self-designed cookbooks, Christmas ornaments, hair accessories, knitted or crocheted items, paintings, pizzas, desserts, etc. If you have a gift for creating, you can sell your creations to others.

6. Food-Related Fundraising Event – Ice Cream Socials, Spaghetti Dinners, Banana Split Social, Soup Dinners, Chili Dinners, Lasagna Dinner, Pancake Breakfast, or Murder Mystery Dinner.

7. Restaurant Fundraising EventChick-fil-A, Orange Leaf, Panda Express, Pizza Hut, Fazoli’s, etc.

8. Benefit Concert with Dinner – If you or someone you know is gifted musically, this could be a great option for you. One family shared with me that they planned a nice meal, had a silent auction (63 baskets filled with everything from donated Diamond Rio VIP tickets to oil changes) and had a group of friends come and perform (singing). They charged $10 a ticket and sold between 80-90 tickets. The food was donated, the location was donated, the entertainment was donated, and most of the baskets and items were donated. They had great success with their benefit, raising $4,000!

9. Make and Sell T-shirts – Everyone wears t-shirts, and it is fun to have t-shirts to remember various events in your life. Contact local printing companies or even use an organization like Fund the Nations, 147 Million Orphans, or Adoption Bug.
10. Puzzle Piece Fundraiser – Your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers can sponsor puzzle pieces for $5, $10, or any amount that helps you reach you goal. Then, you can hang your completed puzzle in your child’s room as a constant reminder to all of the people who worked to bring your child home. Here is my post about our puzzle piece fundraiser, along with the You Caring webpage we created (our video is still there) and used to process donations. Here is my post at the completion of our fundraiser after people donated $5,425 in just nine days.


11. Change Collection – One family wrote and shared they passed out containers (paper printable) to their friends, family, and coworkers and asked them to put spare change into them. It is amazing how quickly loose change can add up and help bring these kids home.

12. Grow Your Blog Giveaway – For those of you who have a network of bloggers, one family held a Grow Your Blog Giveaway. Various bloggers donated their ad space for a chance to win a prize. To be honest, I know less about this option, but for those of you who are serious in the blog world, I’m sure you understand what this means.

13. Online Auction – Families can use Facebook or their blogs to host an online auction. You can post pictures and descriptions of various items and services, set minimum bids, and hold an auction. Many artisans from Etsy will donate items and appreciate the free marketing you provide.

twelve year old Grace held a China-themed babysitting night and raised $430 to bring our son home

twelve year old Grace held a China-themed babysitting night and raised $430 to bring our son home

14. Lawn Mowing  or Babysitting Night – Do you have older children who want to help bring their siblings home? They can mow lawns or hold babysitting nights and donate their earned money.

15. Create an Etsy Shop – For those of you who have the ability to create, opening an Etsy shop is an easy way to sell your craft. This is an easy way to raise money if you can make desirable items.

16. Send a Formal Letter - Sending a formal letter to friends, family, and coworkers explaining what led you to adoption, who the child is (if that is known), why their support would be appreciated, and how grateful you are for their consideration. If you have a matching grant or a way for people to make tax-deductible donations, make sure you provide that information, as well. If you have a blog or a website where they can follow your journey and/or make donations online, provide that, as well.

17. Painting Party – Are you a talented artist? If not, could you find someone to donate their time to hold a painting party? You could charge a set amount to cover the materials, and the remainder could be applied to your adoption fund.

18. Both Hands Fundraiser – The purpose of a Both Hands Fundraiser is to help people raise funds for orphans while serving widows through home improvement projects. I have seen several families hold a Both Hands Fundraiser with great success. Not only do they team up with their friends, family, and coworkers to serve a widow in their community together – donating hours of service time – but they are able to then raise money to bring home their children. One family shared that $8,000 was donated to their fundraiser!

19. Create a You Caring Website for Online Donations – The best website, in my opinion, for adoption fundraisers is You Caring when you do not have a matching grant where people can make tax deductible donations. This website only allows certain types of fundraisers, and adoption is one of them. You Caring does not retain any portion of donations. The only fees collected are through PayPal (2.7% + 30 cents per transaction). All other fundraising websites that I viewed kept a percentage of the donations for themselves. This ended up being 10% of total donations for some websites, and to be honest, I will not make online donations to those websites, as I want as much of every dollar I donate to be used. Our total PayPal fees collected on $5,425 worth of donations was only $117 (note: we had some donations made offline by check, so fees were not taken). Here is an example of a family trying to raise funds through You Caring to bring home four brothers from Haiti.

20. Hold a Sporting Event or Participate in One - If you are someone who likes to organize events, create your own 5k, 10k, volleyball tournament, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, or golf outing to raise money for your adoption. If organizing events is not your specialty, participate in an existing event such as a mini-marathon, marathon, or in our friend Andy’s case, a 100 mile race. You can ask people to sponsor you per mile or just donate a lump sum. Have friends participate with you and ask them to do the same! Having friends and family working to support your cause is one of the most humbling feelings in the world.

21. Christmas-Related Fundraisers – If you are going to fundraise around the holidays, you could easily incorporate the theme into your fundraiser. If you enjoy gift wrapping, offer to wrap others gifts for a set price or ask for donations only. I also remember a family having a Meet Santa fundraiser where they provided breakfast, the opportunity to meet Santa, a craft, games, etc. and charged for tickets. You could sell individual tickets or charge per family. I can’t remember how much money they made specifically, but I remember it being a successful fundraiser!

22. Be Willing to Make Personal Sacrifices – This is so important! When you are fundraising for an adoption, you are putting yourself under a magnifying glass in some ways. People can be very judgmental, and they will appreciate seeing you make financial sacrifices. Working overtime, getting a second job, cancelling your gym membership, cancelling your cable/satellite service (that can be $1,200 easy), going out to eat less often, etc. are all ways to show that you are being responsible. Taking several trips or vacations, buying unnecessary items, and obvious overspending can deter people from wanting to help your family.

Not every single one of these ideas will work for your family, nor do I suggest having 20 different fundraisers at once. People get overwhelmed and confused by how to get involved. Keep it simple and be intentional about choosing your fundraisers. You need to feel invested in them and excited about them if they have any chance of being successful.

example photo we emailed or posted on Facebook for each family who donated to our puzzle fundraiser with a personal thank you note

example photo we emailed or posted on Facebook for each family who donated to our puzzle fundraiser with a personal thank you note

As you determine how to fund your adoption, please remember to raise money with a grateful and humble heart. I cannot stress this enough! People want to know that you appreciate their donation no matter if it is $5 or $500. Find a way to thank each person individually if possible in order to show your gratitude. Making someone feel appreciated goes a long way. Try to use language such as “$5,000 was donated to our fundraiser” rather than “We raised $5,000 with our fundraiser.” By saying it the first way, you are recognizing the support of other people rather than your own efforts. This is so important! Yes, of course you worked hard to execute your fundraiser, but without donations, they would not be successful.

I hope you find these fundraising ideas helpful! My goal is to remove any barriers that exist to bringing more children home. Next week, I will share some other ways to fund your adoption through grants, interest free loans, employee assistance programs, and the adoption tax credit. Additional fundraising ideas can be found at a blog called Walking by the Way. I wanted to highlight these top 22 ideas in order to give you the idea that there is a variety of ways to raise money for your adoption.


Amy Abell
My Passionate Balance

the need is great

This month I meant to share with you about a difficult conversation one of my kids and I have been dancing around for months now. And I will share that conversation at some point.

But it won’t be today.

Today my heart is broken, my thoughts are disjointed and my emotions are raw.

I just got a text from my sister about a boy she and her family have gotten to know during their three trips to work at the orphanage their church sponsors. My nephew, himself less than four years removed from orphan status, considers “Pedro” one of his best friends and talks excitedly about visiting him when they return to Honduras later this year.

But it looks my nephew will not see his friend again. Last week it was discovered that the cancer that took his leg early last year has come back..and apparently with a vengeance. After his exam today the missionary doctor has given him weeks at best.


While I’ve never personally met Pedro, I’ve seen pictures of his contagious smile, I’ve heard stories about his delightful personality, and I’ve seen how he’s impacted my sister, and more importantly, how he’s impacted my nephew. So today I’ve openly cried for him in front of my children. We’ve talked about cancer, lack of good medical options, and facing death as a child in an orphanage.

Then I stopped to think about the thousands of other kids in institutions across the globe with stories like his.

The tragedy of children walking through difficult times without a family to lean on is almost too much to bear.

There are days that I wish I could close my eyes to this crisis. That by distracting myself I could disconnect from the injustice. But eight “ish” years ago when we stepped into the waters of international adoption our eyes were opened and the crisis of the orphan has become part of our reality.

Some days it hurts. It hurts nearly to the point that I feel I will break. I become almost paralyzed at the vastness of the need. I just want to throw my hands up in the air and give up. But giving up won’t make the tragedy disappear.

My family can’t solve it all. And neither can yours. But I have to believe that if we continue to link arms…to support adoptive families…to make more people outside our little adoptive community aware…to sponsor organizations that are working both to provide life-giving surgery to orphans and to keep birth families together…that we will make a difference.

One life at a time.

special need highlight: adopting a child with thalassemia

In August 2011, my daughters and I returned to China as part of a mission team working to help orphanages assist their children with special needs. It is no coincidence that my background as a pediatric Occupational Therapist would be needed in the place so close to my heart. I partnered with the incredible organization Grace and Hope for Children, just as I had done almost every year since 2005, and was close to adopting Mia who was living in a different orphanage within the region with a diagnosis of beta thalassemia major. When we arrived at one particular orphanage, children were everywhere. It was a much different experience than 2008, when I was only shown a few of the kids living there. This time, we were to see every single child. Every single life. My heart broke for all of the children, orphans, who needed to be wanted, cherished, and loved.

The orphanage already knew I was in process for the adoption Mia and had some questions. They were very curious as to why I was adopting Mia, and what the medical care would be for children with thalassemia in the US. As I explained how we live in an area where one of the centers of excellence for thalassemia is, they brought out a baby. He was pale, yet playful. Lianna held him and he looked at me, calmly and cautiously. I was told he had thalassemia, and they never had a child with thalassemia survive. Ever. I tried to encourage them. I told them that there are families who are open to adopting children with thalassemia. That this sweet baby had a chance. Several months later, I was told that this sweet baby had not survived. He never got his chance.


In October 2011, as I was adopting Mia, her orphanage begged me to help find a family for another child with thalassemia who had been on the waiting child lists for adoption for several months already. He was getting sicker and the orphanage was very worried. They already had several children with thalassemia adopted from the orphanage, and were hopeful someone would adopt him too. Nobody had come forward for the boy with a sweet smile who was at the top of his class. He had many friends. He was adored by his foster family. The orphanage pleaded for a chance for him. He never got his chance, and is now smiling that brilliant smile in heaven.


A few months later, I received word from that orphanage we visited in August 2011. They had two more baby girls with thalassemia. They wanted these babies to have that chance. The chance that the pale baby boy never had. They asked me to help, so that they could live. They asked me to find each of them a family, and they would begin the paperwork needed for adoption. The photos were heartbreaking. One of these children was so fragile. So sick. The other had such a sadness in her eyes. These babies needed someone. Someone to come forward and give them a chance. Someone to say yes. I thought back to the baby I met whose eyes seemed to beg me to give him a chance. And how he never got that chance. I started advocating for these two Guangxi girls, and a year later one of these precious baby girls came home to me. She was to be my Hannah Joy. Her orphanage sister came home a few months later to a very special family. The orphanage finally had two survivors of beta thalassemia. First.Time.EVER.



When the orphanage saw these two girls survive, and then thrive, they had hope. Despite the fact that Guangxi typically suffers blood shortage, they committed to trying to transfuse children as much as possible. Three more children entered the orphanage with thalassemia, and they quickly prepared paperwork. And yet, I learned last week that one of them, a precious baby boy, would not survive. Another chance lost.


The thought of my Hannah Joy being one of two who lived from her orphanage, one of the survivors, is a thought that haunts me sometimes. She brings insurmountable joy. A joy that never would have been experienced if she did not survive. If she had been one who did not have a chance, it would have been a void in my life and a void in the world. She is a gift, and it is a privilege to be her mother. Her infectious laugh, her brightness, her sweetness, her inner beauty is gift to all who experience her. And yet, it’s a fact I struggle with this week learning that one more life was lost to thalassemia. The world is now void of these other children who did not have a chance. We will never again have the opportunity to experience the love they could have given to us. The hope they could have shown us. And the courage they could have displayed to us.

I am determined to not let their short lives be in vain. Children with thalassemia intermedia and thalassemia major are just like any other children. They develop, learn, are playful, and add so much to a family. I know this first hand. The difference between kids like my Mia and Hannah Joy and other kids, is that they are anemic, and their anemia is not fixable with iron. They need donated blood for transfusions and then chelators to remove the consequences of these transfusions. The transfusions are given under the care of a hematologist, at a hospital, every 21 to 28 days. It is likely Mia will need transfusions every 14 days as she reaches adolescence or young adulthood. These transfusions continue for life, or until the current research enables better treatments or a cure.


People will ask me how I do it. How do I parent two children needing such care? I just do it. Just like any other parent would. I take care of them, and we live our life with school, piano lessons, Sunday school, and dance class. It really is no different than learning a biological child or family member needs medical care. Biological children develop chronic medical conditions all the time. Unfortunately, no child is immune to diseases such as diabetes, learning disabilities, cancer, lupus, syndromes, asthma, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cardiac conditions, or thalassemia. And yet, we learn to live with these things in our lives, as a small part of what we do in taking care of our children. As parents, we learn to adjust to whatever medical or developmental issue befalls our children. And we do whatever it takes to help them live as normal a life as possible. The issues or conditions never steal the joy our children bring and what they add to our families or give to the world. The same is true for my sweet girls with thalassemia. The world is a better place because they are in it. And I believe that the world is awaiting the gift of the presence of the many other children with thalassemia who continue to wait to be chosen. Take the chance. Choose the gift of a child. A child who just happens to have thalassemia. It’s a chance which will never be regretted.

~Guest post by Cindy

Waiting Children with Thalassemia

These children still wait
These children still wait as well

Micah with Lifeline UPDATE: My family has found me!


Contact the Advocacy Team for more information on beginning the adoption journey.

TEF, TOF, and VACTERL, oh my

Don’t you love those acronyms? I have come to really appreciate the time they save, the space they save, and that I can safely dodge oodles of mispronunciation. For example, until 2012 those letter sequences meant nothing to me. If someone would have told me years ago how much I would come to know about their meaning I would have laughed. I would have laughed a lot, and then I would have freaked. out. As I write this, it occurs to me that it might look as though I ripped my information from a medical journal. Rest assured, this all came spilling out of my brain and heart. If there was a site or a journal to credit I would. Perhaps some of you parents can relate. If you have a child with acronyms in their medical file – you tend to know stuff. You tend to become an expert about those acronyms, about what they stand for, what procedures are required to treat and diagnose and repair. I can hardly remember what I walk into Target for on any given day, but if someone asks me what TOF means I will promptly spew forth so much information in a matter of seconds that I hardly recognize myself.

Moms of kids with acronyms unite!

We brought home our daughter Grace, from China in May of 2013. You can read all about our miracle girl at our blog. We started our journey to Grace in January of 2012, and it has been quite the adventure. I’m forever in awe of how God knit us together as a family. We went from a family of four with zero “special needs” to a family of 5 with a bunch. There were scary times, scary terms, scary travel with a cyanotic baby, and scary surgery (all kinds of scary) – but for all of the scary we have survived together it’s in the top 5 all time favorite seasons of our life as a family – for sure. I have learned a lot as a mom of a child with multiple congenital defects and I am passionate about sharing what I’ve learned because sometimes acronyms can scare you right out of someone amazing and I cannot imagine my life without our daughter, acronyms and all.


TEF: Tracheo-esophageal Fistula: A congenital (born with) defect where the trachea (breathing tube) and esophagus (food to stomach tube) are connected. A baby born with this defect will get very sick fast since half of what they drink goes to their stomach and the other half the aspirate into their lungs through the trachea.

Grace was born with this, I’m sure it is why she was extremely sick when she was found at approximately one week old. She was immediately hospitalized and had the TEF repair surgery at three weeks old. She also had a raging case of pneumonia among other things. When this necessary and time sensitive repair is done (removing the connection between the trachea and esophagus that are meant to be close but separate) there is inevitable damage to both the trachea and the esophagus. The trachea, which should grow and become more rigid with age is left with a bit of scar tissue at the repair site. This almost always leaves the trachea “floppy” which makes for several challenges and concerns: it’s noisy, its a trap for bacteria and things that shouldn’t be in the trachea, it can easily become irritated, it can (in severe cases) fold in on itself cutting off air supply. Next door, the esophagus is also left with some scar tissue, which can and often does cause stenosis or narrowing of the esophagus. When this happens and you’re on a liquid diet it’s hardly, if ever, noticeable. When you begin to introduce solid food, it’s inevitable that unless you are very carefully taking and thoroughly chewing small bites of food, and following it up with a drink of something, what you swallow will get stuck. It’s not choking (choking happens in the trachea) it’s that feeling that there’s too much in there and it will either have to make it’s way down – or come back up.

The second result of the esophagus repair is how it affects the chain of nerves that make the esophagus squeeze food to the stomach in a matter of seconds (peristalsis). When that series of nerves is interrupted – the esophagus cannot function the way it should. It might have some function – but truly gravity is doing most of the work to bring the food into the stomach. We knew Grace had the repair. We did not know until after we were home all that the repair had created. It is very manageable in her case. We closely monitor what she eats and as she’s growing she is learning to drink between swallows and chew well. There is a ton of progress in her eating and swallowing since we brought her home.

TOF: Tetralogy of Fallot: This is one of the most common congenital heart defects (CHD). There are four defects that are accounted for in TOF, but two are necessary to be repaired and the others you live with. One of the two that must be repaired is a Ventricle Septal Defect (VSD) which is an opening between the ventricles. This allows oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix before entering the body, resulting in insufficient oxygen saturation throughout the body. The other repaired defect is a poorly or non functioning pulmonary valve.

When we met Grace in China her oxygen saturation on a good day was in the 70′s. When she was upset, terrified, or crying they would drop into the 50′s. At 19 months old she was 16 pounds and had blueish gray finger tips and toes and sometimes lips, she was cyanotic. Her overall color had a grayness to it.


Her body had adapted to her condition to survive in this way but the older you get and the bigger you get, the more oxygen you need, the harder your heart works. Her heart was enlarged and when she laid down there was a noticeable difference in her rib cage from where her heart was larger than it should be. The doctors in China were ready and waiting for months to operate but she was chronically sick with pneumonia. She had a chance once and spent over a week in the hospital preparing for surgery but the noise in her trachea was concerning and they refused to operate. I’m so glad they did. We traveled to and from China with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) that helped some when she was especially cyanotic.

We returned home from China on May 19, 2013 and on June 21, 2013 we got to be her family when she went from blue to pink and her oxygen saturation read 99%.


pink fingers

Grace and mama hospital

It was a glorious glorious day and we praise God for how He brought about healing in her tiny body at just the right time. Today I’m happy to say that in the almost 10 months since we have had Grace as our own, she has only had three colds (after 19 months of chronic pneumonia) and her cardiac function is great. It’s not even a part of our daily life any longer, other than her “battle scar” reminding us that she is a walking miracle.

V: Vertebral anomaly (congenital scoliosis for example)
A: Anal (anal atresia or some other type of malformation in that area)
C: Cardiac (congenital heart defect)
T: Trachea (tracheoesophageal fistula)
E: Esophagus (esophageal atresia)
R: Renal (kidney abnormalities)
L: Limb (defects in legs, arms, hands, feet)

When you receive medical information with a referral for an adoption, most agencies if not all agencies suggest (and some require) that you submit that information to “International Adoption Clinic” where doctors are familiar with looking through referrals carefully and giving you a clearer picture of what needs are diagnosed. When we received our response from the international adoption clinic in Minneapolis we were very well educated in what to expect from the cardiac defect, and the TEF repair was explained. What I didn’t know anything about was the suggestion of “VACTERL association”. Even in all of my researching of medical conditions while we were paper-pregnant I had never come across that term.

VACTERL is a collection of congenital defects that often are associated. For example, after returning home we met with a genetic counselor who explained that while there’s nothing really to be done for VACTERL association – it’s a map and fits a fairly common pattern for other potential anomalies that may not have presented in a child yet. If a child presents with two or more congenital defects it is often recommended that the other systems within the VACTERL association be examined as well. One
doesn’t have to have every letter accounted for to be considered someone with VACTERL association but more than 2 suggests a possibility.

At the time of referral, I didn’t think much of it. I researched it, I was prepared to have our docs look into it upon returning home and I brought it up to every specialist we have seen. All agree she fits the pattern – especially when she was diagnosed with congenital scoliosis due to a hemi-vertebrae (a uniquely formed vertebrae which sets everything above and below it a bit curvy. She doesn’t have anal atresia, no obvious limb defects, but she was born with hydronephrosis (one kidney larger than the other) which has since resolved. She may have a tethered spinal cord but shows no symptoms currently (which is a post for another day… perhaps April).


Sometimes it’s comforting, in an odd, way to have a pattern that makes some sense, you know? It has been noted, and docs nod and say – “yes she fits, so we will look into other things to make sure there’s nothing we are missing”.


…Good heavens… What else could be missing?? Sometimes, I have to look back and remind myself she was created, I believe, this way on purpose.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of the sand. When I awake I am still with you.” — Psalm 139:13-18

Grace gymnastics

What do you tell a child born with multiple defects why they were created “like that.” The same thing you tell a child who was created with one – or none. You tell them Psalm 139:13-18. You tell them they were fearfully and wonderfully knit together by a God who has ordained each one of their days, and that nothing is hidden from God even though it’s sometimes hidden from us, and that nothing surprises God, even though it might surprise us. We brought a child home with known congenital defects – and we brought that same child home with even more unknown congenital defects. We were surprised by some, but God wasn’t surprised by a single one. We either believe that or we don’t, and I believe it as much as I will believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. I don’t know why a good God creates some people with no “defects” and others with several, but I believe He is good. I have seen how the hard things in Grace’s life have not just been redeemed but have been used for good. I have seen time and time again the miracles that occur in people with congenital defects, the healing that doesn’t make sense to the experts, the children who out live the odds, and that is precious and rare to behold. The reality is, we live in a world where bad things happen that we can’t explain, can’t prevent, and through no fault of our own – exist. It’s what we do in those moments, and how we live with those things. That is what defines us – not the “defect”.

The “defect” never defines us. The “defects” never define the child. The acronyms, the medicines, the scars, the prognosis – must not define our children and it must not define our life.

Grace and mama

What if we would have known it all ahead of time? If you read our story to Grace you’ll know it was far too late to say no. By God’s grace, and through no effort of ours, we were matched with the one child we already so loved. She could have had two heads and we would have brought her home. What if before that we would have said “no…defects are too scary…acronyms are too hard…she will need surgery(s)? I can’t watch a child suffer like that…” What if we had said no to it all at the very beginning. I shudder to think of all we would have missed out on. I spend my days with the most beautifully, spunky, energetic, loving, hilariously sassy, independent, brilliant, adorable Chinese girl with more “defects” than I can count on one hand.

I wouldn’t change one thing.

what we’re reading :: we’re back

Because you asked so very nicely.

Thanks to those of y’all who messaged, commented and emailed, we have officially revived our What We’re Reading feature.

If you’re not familiar with What We’re Reading, it began 5 years ago as a once-a-week post by Tonggu Momma to share links that encourage, inspire, enlighten and inform those of us on this journey of special needs adoption. Because, don’t we know, this is a journey that is full of hills, valleys and everything in between. It morphed a smidge over time to be a little less frequent (that’s when TM handed the reins off to me, ahem).

We also added links to blogs of families who are in China meeting their new little ones. Because that? Is so. much. fun.

And we would love your help to make our What We’re Reading posts even better. We’ve created some very simple forms to complete with any links you think would be of interest to our readers. It might be a news story, a blog post or a special needs resource – anything adoption related, China related, special needs related or parenting related. If you thought it was a good read, let us know. We’d love to check it out and consider sharing it in a future What We’re Reading post.

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.

Around the Blog World:

Connie at One More Ladybug reviews the last year with her newest child, Khloie. They’ve tackled cardiological, neurological, vision, verbal and motor issues – and Khloie’s progress has been nothing short of miraculous.

Fannie at Crazy Life of the Wilks Family shares her heart after hearing the news of the death of a child in China with thalassemia.

Photographer/Designer extraordinaire, Ashley Ann, on her blog Under the Sycamore shares the story of Noelle – a little one at New Day who is in desperate need of life-saving heart surgery. Amazingly, all the necessary funds were raised for Noelle’s surgery. Yay!

Katie at For the Love of One with a profound post about what it feels like to live with “the constant reality that I will more than likely bury my own son.”

Rebecca at The Sweet Life recently brought home her son from China who, developmentally, has much catching up to do. She shares a bunch of wonderfully fun and effective ways to encourage learning for little ones, especially those who have not received appropriate opportunities to learn.

Hannah at Loving Dangerously reflects on a visit to an orphanage where she visited with the frailest and sickest children of all.

Tara at Gladney’s blog All I Need shares a powerful guest post about the adoption of her daughter with a similar need to her very own – severe burns.

In the news:

Maybe She’ll Go To The Moon – father of a little girl with Down syndrome speculates on all that his very special daughter will be able to accomplish. At her birth, he was told by the geneticist “you’ve probably seen them bagging groceries” in reference to his daughter’s Down syndrome.

The Holcomb C3-R, an alternative to corneal transplants for people with keracotonus, helped make bobsledder Steven Holcomb’s Olympic dreams come true. The Today show has a 7 minute video on the Holcomb C3-R here.

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.

Traveling Families:

precious Maggie, newest daughter to Ginny at 4URuthie

precious Maggie, newest daughter to Ginny at 4U Ruthie

In China now, or just home with their child…

4U Ruthie and Mountains for Maggie
The Oasis – Adopting HIS Children
Is There Not A Cause
Fancy That Design House
Our Adoption Journey
Troncalli Family Adventure

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. A special thank you to Holly and Liberty for your contribution to What We’re Reading this week.

Timing is everything

There’s an old saying that “timing is everything.” And it’s true. The moment at which something enters our lives does make a difference in how it is received. For better or for worse.

My “baby” just celebrated his fifth birthday, which is his fourth birthday with us. This one was bittersweet to me. After nearly 11 years of having a child home with me, my youngest reached the age that he will begin school…in what seems like only a few short months. But he was oh so excited about his special day and that brought a big smile to this mama’s heart.


I was up to my eyeballs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles party planning when a seemingly harmless scroll through my Facebook newsfeed left me broken. Only a few short days before my baby celebrated his birthday, a baby boy in the care of an organization in China died due to complications from exposure after being abandoned on a cold February night. It suddenly hit me what a milestone the party I was prepping for was. Because five years and a few days earlier another baby boy was left outside on a cold February night in China. And by some great miracle he became my son. As I looked at the picture of the sweet infant in my newsfeed, I saw a strong resemblance to the boy playing upstairs. In another time, it could have been him that didn’t make it. I’ve always viewed my kids as miracles, and that feeling has intensified with adoption. That out of all the people on every waiting list my “babies” ended up with me is a phenomenon that leaves me speechless. But as I looked at the sweet face of this baby boy, I realized what a gift it was that my birthday boy was even alive to celebrate his special day.

I wish we didn’t live in a world where babies were left on cold nights. I wish we didn’t live in a world where families are unable to keep their children due to medical needs. But since we do live in this world, I’m thankful beyond words that on a February night five years ago my baby boy stayed warm enough to make it home to me.

Had I seen the picture of this precious baby at any other time, it would have broken my heart. But the close proximity to the anniversary of my son’s “finding day” definitely made the impact stronger. As they say, timing is everything. And in this instance the timing made me fall to my knees in gratitude for the little boy that’s not so little anymore. For his life. For the chance to be his forever mama. And even for the green icing on that cake he just had to have on the day we celebrated his birth. Yet, at the same time, I hurt a whole lot more for the one that was lost. Because in the face and story of that sweet orphan baby, I saw a piece of my own heart.


This is Goin’ Out to all the Second Opinions…

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So there we were driving into a parking garage of a strange new hospital with a strange new hospital smell to ride the elevator up the flights to the long row of specialists and into the fish aquarium waiting room to wait. To wait for the second opinion.

The second opinion that became necessary after two not so great surgeries with two not so great complications. And we feel like traitors in that fish aquarium waiting room, me and my surgeon husband, abandoning the ship that feeds us to jump to another with hopes of something better for this little one. This little one who is resilient and adjusted and beautiful.

My eight year old biological daughter is self conscious of her smile with crooked teeth that braces are aligning. How much more will this little one be at eight with a mouth and nose that don’t look like they should even though we think she may be the cutest thing that walked.

So we listen and ask and listen some more to a completely different treatment plan with more surgeries, small surgeries, grueling sounding surgeries and this doctor is kind and confident and asks where she is from. She opens her mouth and tilts her head back like the professional she is to let him get a glimpse of this mouth and nose and she smiles and nods. And we are so proud of this little fighter and so broken hearted that things have not quite gone as we had hoped for her medically. And we know there is hope and that she will be fine but we grieve this process for her. It feels like starting over.

And we leave the hospital in a fog of “what ifs” and tears come down my face as she happily asks from the backseat, “What doc say bout’ my lip?” “He says it’s beautiful.” “We say it’s beautiful.” “He’s going to make it even more beautiful for you, is that ok?” “Yes!” (Big smile) “Do you like him?” “Yeah!” (Big smile). And we crawl through rush hour traffic to get home to our other children who are waiting amidst board games and crayons. Dinner that would have been cooked is now pushed aside because there is too much on our mind to cook it and clean it and “How about cheeseburgers?” is met with a round of applause. So we go to a new restaurant that has TVs everywhere and two children push their seats around to try and block their view so they can’t see the chaos of the news and the angry comedy and boxing. And we sigh over not so great burgers and I feel the depravity of this world closing in. Loud and foggy and overwhelming and sad. We get in the car to go home and my car pulls a random song from my phone (still not sure how it does this) and it is “Silent Night.” Silent Night in late February. A newer Silent Night with a “Hallelujah He is King” chorus and it’s dusk and our hearts settle. Grace (the little one) is singing “Jesus Loves Me” as we are silent and I close my eyes and remember that He does. There is no pain unseen and nothing that He can’t work for good. Suffering, no matter how big or small, is not for loss. I close my eyes and focus on Him as we drive home in dusk. Yes, He is King and yes, He loves her.

Urology Woes & Successes

So happy March, y’all! Are you as excited about spring coming to your neck of the woods as I am about it coming to mine? Whew. And I only live in the South. Can’t imagine how you folks in other parts of the country are still managing to maintain sanity right about now!

But hold fast! It’s coming!

I’m a big dork and missed my February post…partially because our Little Prince had his umpteenth surgery and mostly because, like I said, I’m a big dork.

I shared in January that Gabe would be headed to the OR yet again for yet another urological reconstruction. We knew that this time would require a large buccal mucosal graft from the inside of his mouth to build a much needed urethra through which he could urinate normally. Amazing, really. The tissue from just inside your bottom lip is nearly perfect for constructing a tube that most all of us take for granted. We prayed for this day and dreaded it.

A mere few days before surgery, the South was slammed {don’t laugh, people!} with a winter storm. We were blessed to be home that day and not stranded like so many others. Our kids played and we soaked up a fantastic morning in the snow…all the while, thoughts of Gabe’s upcoming operation lingered in our heads.

snow jan 2014-5825 copy

Monday came and the surgeon walked in smiling and simply said, “Big day.” We agreed. He went on to say that he wanted to admit Gabe to the hospital for a day or two and that post op would be very difficult. To give the graft the greatest chance of survival, he would have an anchor pressure dressing stitched into and across his groin and would need to lay flat for 10 days. No sitting, no standing. At all.

Our son was to turn 3 years old just a few weeks after this surgery.

A very busy, near three year old… laying down…for ten days.

I’m sure our faces, hubby’s and mine, were laughable. We just stared at the urologist. {The one who intimidates the heck out of me and whom I routinely make an idiot of myself in front of…}

This was to be a double surgery…Gabe, sweet baby, was also very tongue tied. We wondered if he was just speech delayed or if there were more to it. Five minutes with the speech therapist confirmed, he’s got a tongue that’s cemented down. :( So that was getting “clipped” during the same OR visit as his urological reconstruction.

The ENT came in to tell us that his tongue had been successfully “loosed” and said that she just had to share with us…the urologist, the brilliant man in front of whom I fall apart and say the dumbest things, was telling everyone in the OR about our family…and about some of you.

She said that he shared with them how diligent we are with Gabe’s care, how it’s so evident that we love and adore our son, and that “somehow” we manage to refer many China adoption families {some from other states} to him for the care of their children. She said that he told them that he thinks so much of Jase and I.

We were floored. And humbled.

Because you know something? It’s not us at all. It’s the Lord. It’s His goodness in maintaining perseverance in us. It’s His grace that grafted Gabe into our family and it’s most definitely His hand that has led some of you to us for advice or encouragement about adopting a child with extensive urological needs.

Make no mistake. We would do this over and over again. We would choose him again and his SN again and the whole lot of it again. There are MANY special needs that we’re NOT equipped for. And no, we didn’t anticipate that Gabe would need this many surgeries. And no, I wasn’t open to some of them when checking off boxes on the waiting child application.

But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

As the surgeon said would be the case, Gabe was admitted to the hospital and had a hard few days post op. The Lord was so faithful to honor the prayers of so many people who were lifting him up…

For TEN DAYS, this boy did not sit or stand. And what’s more, he didn’t fight us when we reminded him. His pain was managed well and within three days, he was off the meds. But he never complained, never fussed. We took turn about pulling him in a wagon when the sofa or the bed wore on his nerves. And we got through a long ten days successfully.



The jury is still out on whether or not this graft will be sustainable. We are 8 days post catheter removal and there are concerns. But still, we hold fast to Jesus and entrust Gabe to Him…knowing that His ways are higher and His heart is trustworthy.

Like my dear friend, Rebecca, posted a few days ago, please reach out to someone here if you are feeling led to a certain special need but are fearful. We would count it a privilege to speak to you and encourage you with honesty and grace.


Coloring in the Back Seat

This time next month, we should have our little one in our arms. Those words don’t feel real even as I type them. Our application was approved on April 26,2013, and we settled in to what we thought would be a 2-3 year process. But if all goes as planned, we should be back in America fighting jet-lag and getting to know life as a family of 4 before our one-year adoption application anniversary.

So much can happen in a year.

After 6 months of paperwork, our Dossier was sent to China on November 1, 2013, and we joyfully discovered our little one just a few weeks before, receiving Pre-Approval on October 25, 2013. We received our LOA on Christmas Eve, and the last few months have been a blur of last-minute paperwork and mental preparation. We are waiting on TA now, and could be on a plane in 2-3 weeks.

Just a couple of months before we found Alea’s file… when we were still in “this will take 2 years” mode and we were diligently working on a savings plan to fund our adoption, there was a family in our church who stopped us after the service, saying they felt like God wanted them to help us with our adoption as they pressed a folded check into my hand. When I opened the check in the privacy of my car a few moments later, my hands started shaking as I saw the string of zeros and realized they had just given us enough to cover over 1/3 of the total amount we needed to save to pay for the adoption.

We continued with our savings plan, and it has worked out that our adoption is fully funded right when we needed it to be… I know it is because God pressed upon their hearts to be involved in our journey that we were able to say YES to Alea’s file and move forward with confidence that we weren’t trying to make our own way.

God’s faithfulness and kindness and tenderness extended far beyond financially providing for this adoption. He has heard my prayers and answered them – from assurances about her health to whispers about her name. I made Alea a quilt shortly after we were matched. I know it was risky sending something hand-made to an orphanage in China, but I wanted to risk the chance that she might not get it with the possibility that she would. I have wondered, though, if it ever made it to her. A month or so later, we were sent an update from her orphanage, and it included a couple of little videos. I have watched them countless times, but just a week or so ago I thought to pay attention to what was being said in the background. I caught bits and pieces of it, but called in a friend to listen and translate what the nannies were talking about. They were talking about the care package. I think she got her quilt, and I think God winked at me.

I’m surprisingly calm about everything right now… As these stories illustrate, God has proven himself through this journey, and I trust that He will continue to sustain us along the way. If I could choose three words to describe what I have learned about my Abba over the last year, it is that He is tender and He is gentle and He is kind. He has shown me His heart for us, Alea, and adoption through a thousand seemingly tiny reassurances, and now as we stand on the edge of one of our life’s biggest transitions, I know He will continue to be tender and gentle and kind.

You know, when I started this journey out, I wasn’t focused on Him nearly as much as I was on myself. I thought I needed to be sufficient. I needed to be strong and wise and savvy and ready. I needed to read books and attend seminars and dig down deep to my 4+ years of professional international adoption work experience and 4 years of direct orphan care work experience and BE enough.

Please hear me… I am a HUGE fan of preparation. I literally feel physically ill when I overhear prospective adoptive parents singing the “Love will be Enough” refrain. Love is all you need, but Love looks like therapeutic parenting, well-informed insights into their trauma and their stories, and a willingness to change the way you’ve done things in the past to meet your child in his deepest place of need to bring hope and healing.

But, for a gal who had just about as much international adoption preparation as one could have without actually adopting a child, I’ve gone through much of this process frantically focused on just how INADEQUATE I feel for the task at hand. (And, as a result, frantically scrambling to cram as much preparation into the time that I have as I could.) I think in some areas of life, the experience I’ve had would make you feel like an expert. In this arena, it makes you take off the “Ignorance is Bliss” rose-colored glasses far earlier than most of your first-time adopting peers and shake in your boots.

To be honest, at times I felt so woefully unprepared that I questioned whether or not we should even be DOING this.

I’m a striver. I always have been. As I said before, I will strive and strive and strive until I feel like I AM enough. Do you catch the words there… I AM. I too often make an idol out of myself and my sufficiency. But the One I follow tells me to cease striving and know that He is God. He is the great I AM.

It isn’t that I’m not to prepare for my child’s trauma and transition. It isn’t that I’m not to carefully consider what special needs I feel best-equipped to handle. But at the same time, it isn’t about me being smart enough or a certain (unattainable) caliber of mama. It’s about saying yes to the journey with Him, allowing Him to be wise when I am ignorant, strong when I am weak, and sufficient when I am at the end of my rope. So if you sense God inviting you on this grand road trip, my advice to you isn’t just to say yes and let go of the wheel. It’s to say yes, let go of the wheel, hop in the back seat and color. He is so worthy of our absolute trust. It’s a wild ride, but He’s the best driver of all… and you’ll be there before you know it with something beautiful you’ve created together in hand.



Children’s Adoption Books

I may hesitate a little when I part with teeny tiny onesies and sneakers that have run one too many miles. But, our children’s books? They aren’t going anywhere. In fact, we converted one of our bedrooms into a “library” to house them all. They are overflowing and really need a good purging. But, I just can’t get myself to do it. Hope my little reviews here inspire you to overflow your own shelves because books are great conversation starters**.


We-Adore-book-cover1-300x300I really like this one. Not only did Valerie write and publish a great book here, but she has a terrific website to go with it with all sorts of add-ons for the book including a coloring and activity book and translation downloads in 7 different languages. General enough to read to children adopted domestically or internationally and specific enough to lead them to believe it was written just for them. As I read Searching For The You We Adorealoud, Lydia follows the glossy red ribbon with her finger as it travels around the globe. It’s a story of a family’s journey and unconditional love and a must have for every adoptive family. Seriously. And, Valerie is a big supporter of some great adoptive charities too.

GiftForLittleTree_CoverIt’s the story of a fruitless apple tree, an abundant apple orchard, one wise farmer, and the gift of family—that’s A Gift for Little Tree by Colleen Marquez. The book captures the pain of childlessness in the fruitless apple tree whose branches would droop and her whole trunk ache. The book captures the sovereignty of God as the wise farmer reminds the tree that he has not forgotten her and masterfully helps a tree who cannot bear its fruit and grafts in a new branch to the fruitless tree. Colleen gently brings in birth families and the community that adoption builds between families. Appropriate for domestic and international adoption and interracial or not, this book would make a great gift for a waiting mommy who has felt the ache of infertility, a young child to open doors to talk about adoption, a sibling waiting for a new brother or sister, or even a high school or college graduate who joined your family through a grafting process. Since this book reads like a parable and is full of beautiful art you would want to hang on your wall, it really is one worth having. It’s actually one I’d like to have several of on hand for when the right situation warrants a special gift.

motherbridge-of-love-268x300Grab your tissues and sit down to read Motherbridge of Love.Written to benefit well known author and women and children’s advocate Xinran’s charity The Mothers’ Bridge of Love, the text of this book is a poem that was written and given anonymously for this purpose. With amazing illustrations, the poem tells the story of a little girl and the two mothers who have been a part of that story. From the first page, I was hooked: “Once there were two women who never knew each other. One you do not know. The other you call Mother.” Specific to China (with the poem translated into Chinese in the front), it would be appropriate to read with any girls who were adopted and wonder about the birth mothers they likely will never know. This book would be a really nice Mother’s Day gift for a waiting mommy, a nice tradition to read with your daughter in recognition of the day you became a family, a good way to open a door to talk about birth mothers, or simply a good read if you just want a little reminder of who you are and your calling as a mother…or if you simply need a little cry.

sweet-moon-baby-300x241Karen Henry Clark’s book reads like a fable that will invite all sorts of interesting conversations for your family. When Karen faced the fact that her daughter’s whole first year of life in China would forever be a mystery, she created a story of her own, a fairytale, to inspire her daughter’s imagination. That story about a perfect baby girl’s journey down the Pearl River to her forever family struck such a chord with her little girl that she shared her story for everyone in an adoption folktale Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale.Using beloved items in her daughter’s life, she tells the tale of a Chinese man and woman who release their baby girl because they cannot care for her as they would want. She floats in a basket over the river guided by a turtle, a peacock, a monkey, a panda, and even some fish until she is welcomed into the arms of her new parents on the other side of the river. This one is a beautiful, figurative fable, and a good one to use to open conversation up with your child if the timing is right.

elfa-and-the-box-of-memories-282x300I love books that open up doors to rich conversation–this one does not disappoint. Elfa and the Box of Memories,published by BAAF (a London based adoption/foster care charity) and written by their marketing officer, is seriously a must-have book for foster families and an excellent book for any families with children who struggle with navigating memories—both good and bad. Elfa the elephant carries a box of memories on her back that starts to interfere with life really. Marvin the monkey offers to sit with her to go through the box, full of pictures and mementos of his childhood. But, there are memories not there, ones she’s lost and she doesn’t know how. She goes back to some caregivers (zebras from a nursery, a rhino doctor, and hippos–who fill the role of foster parents though the verbiage is never used, and a giraffe teacher) who give her more little tidbits to help her remember. When the gaps are full enough, she thanks Marvin for his help and tells him, “I would never have been able to remember all those special times on my own. It’s not easy when you haven’t got anyone to share your memories with.” Marvin then helps her take the box off her back and put it in a safe hiding spot so that she can “play with the other animals and run through the trees without worrying about the heavy box on her back.” Excellent opportunity to talk to your children about releasing burdens and the freedom we can experience in that release. And, to make it even more practical, the book comes with a little book in the back called “My Book of Memories” where your child can write his or her own information in there. I’m imagining a great bonding day for parent and child—a special lunch out, completing the book together as best you can, and then hiding it somewhere safe…together.

staroftheweek-293x300Brilliant. Love Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinklesby a husband–wife team dealing with how a kindergarten girl adopted from China handles being “star of the week” in school, an exciting yet challenging experience that entails a poster all about her. Darlene deals with birthparent questions and feelings beautifully, setting a great example for the rest us parents who may feel unprepared. Told by Cassidy-Li’s perspective, she explains how they’ve talked about “all the reasons people can’t take care of their babies. They might be very poor, or maybe too young.” No promises are made. No over dramatizations or emotional imagery. Just acknowledgment that a child can love her parents but still feel sad about birthparents. And, that is totally okay. Only thing missing? Maybe a few discussion questions or conversation starters for parents at the end…and a boy version…and maybe some versions for kids from other countries or domestically adopted or in foster care. Darlene and Roger, more please.

kids-like-me-in-china-300x300Kids Like Me in China gives an incredible inside view of an orphanage in Changsha, Hunan Province through lots of photos and the sweet words of an 8 year old girl named Ying Ying Fry. Ying Ying tells about her experience of being adopted and her American parents and then shares about the two weeks she spent visiting the orphanage where she spent her infancy and the ayis who cared for her until her parents took her home. An absolutely fascinating book that is simply compelling. There are a lot of pages and words, too much to read to a toddler. But, when my little one was littler she enjoyed flipping pages and simply touching the faces of “her friends” in China. I’m pretty much a sucker for the last page: “China isn’t my home anymore, but it’s where I was born. Even though that was a long time ago, it’s a really important part of my life. If I hadn’t been born in China, I wouldn’t be me.” Well said, Ying Ying. Interesting to point out, the photographs are all their own since the Chinese authorities would not let their professional photographer in to take pictures; expect snapshot looking pictures rather than professional looking ones. And, Ying Ying, who you see throughout in her cute glasses, used proceeds from the sales of the book to pay for vision exams for all the children from her orphanage and glasses for all the kids who needed them.

red-in-the-flower-bed-cover-231x300Red in the Flower Bed is a hidden gem. A poppy seed falls from the flower upon dry ground where it cannot grow and so it travels from east to west by the wind until she lands in the perfect garden. “What a tiny seed. It’s just what we need,” chimed the garden flowers as they wondered what that tiny seed would become. With some rain and lots of sun, you watch the seed grow and become a beautiful red poppy, the red flower that the garden was missing to make it a beautiful rainbow. A beautiful, subtly communicated story of adoption and one that will allow you as the parent the freedom to talk about how he or she “landed in the perfect spot,” what a joy it has been to watch him or her grow, and the blessing he or she is to your family in a totally unique way.

tell-me-again-book-300x259I found Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born at a yard sale which turned out to be a good find. The story of an infant domestic adoption, each page starts with “Tell me again…” to string together the story of how a baby joined her family from the phone call in the middle of the night to the fun adjustments of having a new baby at home. The family tree page in the middle showing a birth dad and birth mom along with the words: “Tell me again how you couldn’t grow a baby in your tummy, so another woman who was too young to take care of me was growing me and she would be my birth mother; and you would adopt me and be my parents” may be inappropriate for some. But, you can skip that page if you want. My kids all love this book and the fun illustrations. My favorite part? The page showing the parents arriving at a chaotic hospital and the words, “…when you got there you both got very quiet and felt very small.” Sums it up well.

night-you-were-born-300x297I’m cheating. Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born is not an adoption themed book. But, it has become one for us since it was one of the first gifts given to us for Lydia way back when, actually 2 years before she was even born. With beautiful illustrations, the words emphasize what a beautiful moment it was when the child was born (not mentioning an actual birth or birth family at all). Instead, this book gives simply lovely prose explaining how “you are the one and only ever you” and how “Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.” Check out Nancy Tillman’s other titles as well. She’s got a handful that work well for adoptive families.

crazy-cakesPublished in 2000, I Love You Like Crazy Cakes has become a Chinese adoption book classic. It’s the story of a single mother and a Chinese baby girl as they become a family. Not really applicable for a lot of families (married parents with other kiddos or adoptions from the special needs program, for example) and not great for reinforcing attachment practices (talks about passing the baby around at the airport and “more and more” people coming to visit at first…eek!), but some of you will find it sweet all the same. I like it for a few poignant quotes: “How did this happen? How did someone make this perfect match a world away?” and on their first night together, “I held you tightly, kissed you softly, and cried. The tears were for your Chinese mother, who could not keep you. I wanted her to know that we would always remember her. And I hoped she knew you were safe and happy in the world.”

orange-peel-233x300Rose Lewis strikes again with Orange Peel’s Pocket. Confronted with a classroom wanting her to tell them about China and realizing she didn’t know much of what to say, a girl nicknamed Orange Peel (adopted from China) decides she’ll learn some things as she runs errands with her mom that day. As they visit their regular haunts (tailor, antique store, florist, noodle shop, ice cream shop, etc.), the shop owners slip little trinkets into her pocket that she can use to teach her classmates about China. She then nervously but excitedly takes the treasures into school and stands up front to teach her friends about all the things she knew all along about the place she was born. I love this book–the illustrations are adorable and the story is even better. It’s a great one to read if/when your child is struggling with how to explain her birth place to others. And, it you could use it as a great starting point to gather your own little bag of treasures that help her to share about China with her family or friends. Love it.

god-found-us-you-300x238Looking for a book for a waiting mom…or a mom no longer waiting? God Found Us You is a good one. I can identify with that Mama Fox who prayed and prayed, wondered and dreamt, and waited through the seasons for God to find her her child. As Mama Fox tells the story, Little Fox asks her, “Did you ever want to give up?” to which she replies, “Sometimes…But I trusted that God knew you, and knew me, and knew when we’d fit perfectly together.” (sigh) Little Fox does ask about his birthmother, and Mama Fox’s first response is just right: “She must have had very big reasons to give you up. She must have thought it was best for you.” But, that’s followed with Mama Fox’s belief that she “prayed like crazy” that Little Fox would be safe: “I think she prayed for me as much as I prayed for her.” Not a promise I can make my daughter, so I usually change the words a bit here. Beautiful illustrations and beautiful words that remind me of our own story and my journey as a mother. And, I love that cute foxes can apply to domestic or international adoptive families AND that Little Fox is a boy (finally, an adoption book that features a boy! Not that I need one personally…).

oliver-300x231Foxes, kangaroos, birds, and now….lizards. Oliver: A Story About Adoption is unique to the other books we have in that it shares about the feelings and thoughts Oliver (a young adoptee) has when he’s punished, wondering what it would be like if he lives with his birthparents instead of his adoptive parents. He imagines all the things his birthparents might be doing, what they might be like. In the end, he’s comforted knowing that his nonadopted parents also wondered when they were kids what it would be like to live with another family and decides to stay put right where he is. Not one I’m going to start reading to our almost 5 year old now, but one I want to have on hand for when I feel like she’s ready for this type of conversation…not sure what readiness looks like yet but trusting I’ll know it when it’s time. Illustrations are simple sketches that you could even allow your child to color in to customize it if you’d like, allowing you to make the lizards different colors if desired.

the-name-jarThe Name Jar is a Korean book and it isn’t about adoption. So, why is it on my list? It’s the story of Unhei, new to the country, new to her town, new to school. When her first trip on the school bus ends with kids making fun of her name, she decides in class she’s going to pick a new name but doesn’t know what to pick. So, her classmates start a name jar for her with all their suggestions for good names, stumped by this new girl who doesn’t have a name already. When a classmate overhears a Korean store owner use Unhei’s real name, he becomes the hero by kidnapping the name jar and encouraging Unhei to introduce herself as herself. Though this isn’t about adoption, I think it’s such a great book to read with older adoptees newly home who may be struggling with their English skills or, if they kept all or part of their original name, how to fit in with all the American kids. Yangsook Choi is a favorite of mine.


book_Me_and_my_familyMy older kids LOVE books they can fill in about themselves…okay, maybe some adults do too. It’s fun to have a book about you. For families bringing home older kids, this would be helpful. It isn’t cheap though since you have to order it from BAAF, the publisher in London. This large, spiral bound book is divided into 3 sections: (1) to introduce yourselves and welcome the child before he or she actually joins your family, (2) when the child is “moving in” and getting to know all of you, and (3) living together for the long haul. You may need to adapt it some if you are doing it together once the child is home, but the beauty of the spiral binding is that you can remove pages easily that you don’t want in there. You can view sample pages from the book here courtesy of BAAF. I formally requested that they reprint this book with content in different languages and a little different layout so that it could work with children adopted internationally. The powers there weren’t interested since the target population is getting smaller. Boo. I’m thinking I may have a project in front of me. Stay tuned.

I-Hate-EnglishEllen Levine’s I Hate English! isn’t directly about adoption, but is an awesome resource (seriously) for families adopting a child from China who is old enough to be fully verbal in Chinese and struggle with the transition to English in his or her new family. The book is about a girl from China who moves to New York and finds herself angry that no one knows Chinese. It deals with the anxiety of losing something special as well as the frustration of learning something new. Great book at a great price.


dont-have-your-eyes-300x260I Don’t Have Your Eyes is a good book for children who look physically different than their families—bio or adoptive (don’t be fooled by the cover, by the way. Lots of diversity represented, not just Asian). The illustrations aren’t my favorite, but the text is simple and easy to read. And, the message is a good one for toddlers and preschoolers as well as their older siblings, in our case—though there are many ways we look different, there are just as many ways we are the same. This book helps families celebrate their differences while also emphasizing that our hearts are what matter most.

Sisters-coverA book about international adoption of an older girl. Sisters is a cute story about Melissa, the bio older girl, and Kika who has just joined the family through adoption (country isn’t named, but parents do travel for a couple weeks to bring her home and she has dark, wavy hair and fair skin). In simple language and cute pictures, Sisters touches on Kika’s fears and adjustments as well as Melissa’s. In the end, they argue and make up…just as sisters do.

the-day-we-met-youThe Day We Met You, in very simple, easy language tells the story of a family hearing they have a child for the first time and then meeting that child. Not my favorite illustrations or book in general, but since it’s gender and type of adoption neutral, you can easily read this one aloud and personalize it and expand it as you see fit for your little one. A good attachment prop, in my opinion.

mr.Rogers-236x300Since when does 1994 qualify to be called “the olden days”? Fred Rogers’ Let’s Talk About It: Adoption has great content, very matter of fact about what a family is, what adoption is, and feelings a child may have about it. But, the pictures? Really? Real photos of children and families that are as early 90s as you can get. Call me shallow (no, please don’t), but I can barely stand the mom jeans and big hair. This one is staying on my shelf for now since the content is so good, but I am officially requesting that the Putnam & Grosset Group republish this one with either illustrations or new photos (that someone else can cringe at in another 15-20 years).

motherforchoco-300x300A Mother for Choco celebrates transracial adoptive families through a bird, a bear, a hippo, an alligator, and a pig. Choco sets out to find a mother and learns that his mother doesn’t have to look like him, she just has to care for him. Good for all adoptive families—especially transracial ones and ones with adopted boys.

blessing-from-above-300x300A Blessing from Above…literally…when a baby bird falls out of the nest and into the empty pouch of a kangaroo. Cute little story with adorable illustrations. I wonder how a child may respond to how the mama blue bird keeps a nestful of babies but is okay with her “littlest one” being adopted by a kangaroo since she knows “her nest was not big enough for all her chicks.” Don’t really like that part. But, maybe I’m just overthinking things (I have a tendency to do that, you know).

red-thread-300x237A king and queen who have it all feel like something is missing and set out to find it in The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale through following a red thread clear across the world at the advice of an old peddler to a baby in a basket. They question the villagers there who she belongs to, and an old woman tells them she belongs to them. They take her home where she becomes the princess, and they “never felt the pain in their hearts again.” When they try to seek out the old peddler to reward him for his help, they find that he’s traveled to another kingdom to help another king and queen with pain in their hearts. It’s not my favorite adoption book since the missing piece of birth parents leaves a lot missing to me. But, fairy tales are what you make of them. My advice? This isn’t a “let’s-read-a-quick-book-before-bed” type of book. You are going to need to take some time afterwards to talk about who could have put the baby there with the red thread tied to her foot and why.
WeBelongTogetherToddParrIf you want simple language for little ones and simple drawings to catch little ones’ attention, We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr is one you’ll want for your shelf. Every page set starts with “We belong together because…” and starts with “you needed a home and I had one to share” and then goes through a handful more including “you needed someone to kiss your boo-boos and we had kisses to give.” Designed to work for all sorts of adoptive families with pronouns that change and people of different colors (think blue and purple!). I like this one and find myself wanting to take it and make my own book for each of my kids from it bringing in what I believe are the reasons we belong together.

finding-family-for-tommyFinding a Family for Tommy was written for young kiddos (18 mo-5 years old) in very simple language with lift-up flaps (and a spiral bounding…which I like). Tommy needs a family and each page shows places with families that wouldn’t work—the farm, the pond, the zoo, etc. In the end, just when you think Tommy will never find a family, a picture with lots of people with friendly faces is revealed with the text, “Hooray! Here are some families. Not too smelly or soggy or scary. Which one is right for Tommy?” I’m well aware of the lack of good books for foster kids; this is a good one. And, what I like about it too, is that you can read it with children adopted domestically or internationally from birth or as toddlers, etc. just to open up the discussion about what makes a family and how a child new to a family may feel. Another good resource from BAAF.

Have any titles on your shelf that aren’t yet on mine?

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