No Boys?

September 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

That’s what we were saying back in 2006. We had 4 biological sons and felt like that was a good number. We had one daughter and felt like the Lord had perfectly planned it… we needed more girls! I had always dreamed of a sister for Katie. Of course not one that was 20 years younger but whatever!

We had heard about China’s one child policy and how every family in rural China wanted and needed a son. We read about all the little girls in the orphanages and our hearts ached. So we set off adopting our daughters!

The boys were desired and preferred in the Chinese culture. The little boys were not in the orphanages. They were not waiting for families. They were with their families, so we thought.

I am sure you have heard of the saying- “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans!”

As the years went by we started to see pictures of waiting boys. We learned that a boy with a disability was unacceptable to many families in China. They considered the child cursed, they could not work as hard as they needed to for their elderly parents and the family was unable to financially pay for what ever medical care the disabled son needed.

Our previous decision began to not make sense to us but we still proceeded with the plan.

And then God spoke to me…

As I was looking at a picture of an adorable little boy with a very serious and complicated heart issue the Lord said to me, “He is your son”.
WHAT God? What did you say? Really? How? We said, no boys, how can he be our son?

This little boy wasn’t even paper ready to be adopted. You cannot preplan an adoption of a child that is not paper ready.

When hubby came home from work he looked at me and said “What happened?”
He could see by the look on my face something big had happened. When I shared with him what God had said hubby’s response was an immediate “yes.” Now, that was a yes to God because we had no control over this little boy being ours or not. We believed what happened, we trusted God with the whole situation but we had no idea how or when this was going to happen.

Because of this little boy’s heart we were able to find out that he was going to have surgery before being paper ready.
Of course, if you’re going to adopt one boy you may want to adopt another boy because they like to wrestle and have fun like little puppy dogs! At least that is what we figured after having 4 older sons!

This is how God opened the doors and brought our boys home!
Sam came home in April 2011
Luke (the one the Lord spoke to me about) came home in December of 2011
Ben and Joey came home in December 2013 and now our next little guy will come home in early spring 2015.


Our boys are so precious to us! They adore us and I love that about them! The bonding has been very easy.



So many boys are waiting because they are… boys. Please consider bringing one of these treasures home! We can’t imagine our lives without them! Every day they bless us!


Ready or Not…Kindergarten, Here I Come

September 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

I’m no novice when it comes to parenting. And I’m definitely not a novice when it comes to sending my kids off to Kindergarten. But this year, there was something different about the three times I’d done it previously. This time it was my China babies.


Nothing could have fully prepared me for the first day of school. Walking up to the entrance with butterflies in my tummy reminded me of the days I had walked the entrance to the Civil Affairs buildings in their respective provinces with the same crazy nerves. But instead of wondering whether they would accept me or if I was going to be completely overwhelmed by the newest addition to our family, I was nervous for them.

All of our children are precious. But my little ones from hard places have a whole lot more to overcome than my biological kids do. Their appearance is different from that of their classmates. Their family is more conspicuous than average. They’ve got scars…both physical and emotional…that display to the world that their path has not been an easy one. We’ve learned to adapt at home, making the effects of early childhood trauma a part of our new normal that hardly gets a second thought. School is different though. The new “friends” with stories oh so different from the ones my babies tell. It’s hard on a mama’s heart to begin introducing them to the big world.

Yet when I think of what they’ve already overcome, I know they’ll be their own little Kindergarten success stories. Not everyone can lose their birth family, survive in an institution, leave their home country, learn a new language, deal with doctor visits and surgeries on a regular basis and still have the best giggles on the planet. But mine did…and do. Besides, now they’ve got something they haven’t had during so many of the other challenges they’ve faced: A mama who loves them with her whole heart and will fight to her last breath for them. A mama who waits rather impatiently for the final ring of the bell, when her life is filled once again with those smiles and the accompanying stories of their day. I still can’t believe they’re mine, and that I get to walk through all these experiences with them. Savor their joys, cry my own tears over their hurts. It’s one of the greatest honors of my life.

Two Septembers

September 2, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

He sauntered into the room
While our hearts were beating fast,
The papers had been signed
No longer an orphan, a son at last.


A grin stretched wide
Across his adorable face,
Straight to his daddy’s lap
A picture of grace.


We played, we laughed
We shed a few tears,
But he? He just giggled
Sensing no need to fear.


Lunch time upon us
We watched as he ate,
A steaming, mushy porridge
Just like every orphanage day.


Two hours flew by
They said we must leave,
“Come back tomorrow”
But oh, how he’d grieve.


Morning dawned in Bangkok
Time to visit Joel again,
Today our son could leave with us
Both he and that gorgeous grin.

Three short years later
A new son on the way,
To Henan, China we’d go
For another September “Gotcha Day.”

Meeting Gabe-7824 copy

Tired and timid
Soaking wet and scared,
Gabe came to this mama
Wearing a sad, serious stare.

Meeting Gabe-7820 copy

Meeting Gabe-7891 copy

He held it together
So brave when just then,
We pulled out some bubbles
And he gave us a grin.

Grins led to belly laughs
And huge smiles galore,
It barely seemed possible
To ever love him more.

But adore them we have
Each and every single day,
Both beautiful, chosen sons
Learning to walk in God’s way.

Siblings-8563 copy

Nearly 18 married Septembers
Blessed with four children since,
Among them our Thai Tornado
And our adorable China Prince.

Roberts family 2013-4983 copy

“Cold Feet”

August 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

After adopting 13 children you would think I have it all down to a science! But I don’t… Once again I have suffered from the feelings of “cold feet”…


Am I sure that it will work out adding to this large crew that somehow seems to work well together? Was it just me that thought this child was adorable or is it God telling me she is our daughter? What about the vehicle situation–there’s no more room in our van? Really God, another bunk bed? And what about the love/hate thing I have for traveling to China? I love meeting our new child but I’m not the best mom when I am there because I am dealing with all of my feelings. I get claustrophobic in the plane and a constant nervous stomach. If hubby goes we are without him for two to three weeks. Are we too old for this? And what if…

The doubts the questions come into my mind one after another. It doesn’t matter if it was our first adoption or our last. It’s happened every single time we adopt.

It’s not God that is putting these questions and doubts in to my mind it is the opposition taking advantage of my wavering faith and my weaknesses. He is stealing the joy, and robbing me of an opportunity to put my TRUST IN GOD. The opposition would like nothing better than for us to back away in fear and to stop doing as God desires us to do. Whether it’s missionary work in the USA or overseas, whether it’s fostering, adopting, or service to our Lord, in anyway the opposition wants us to fail… and he will stop short of nothing to cause us to fail or turn around in fear. BUT our GOD is bigger than all of this. He is our armor, our strength and HE fights off the opposition. Prayer and faith are our weapons.

Thankfully my cold feet don’t last very long. Thankfully (each time) God steps in and puts me back together and sends me on the path that he has planned for us.


When I feel this way I get rather quiet and prayerful. I put out an APB for the Lord and I don’t stop praying until I feel His presence, His comfort, HIS peace. Of course He never left me. He doesn’t ever leave us but somehow I had blocked HIM out and allowed the opposition to sneak in…

My cold feet were quickly a thing of the past and my heart overflowed with gratitude for Lord.

I wanted to share with you that questioning what you are doing is normal. Most likely others around you are not adopting so you are going in a different direction than maybe some of your friends. You are stepping out in faith for a child. You are stepping out to serve the Lord and to be His hands and feet. There are many unknowns but if you focus on what you do know you will find abundant blessings! You know that God will never leave you. You know that even though you fear you can’t do it, He can! You know that God’s hands are all over adoption- it is HIS desire that we care for the orphans and widows.

Even when our adoption journey has been hard the best still flow.


What I have found in our adoption journeys is that GOD handles the details. The van will somehow work out or we will take 2 vehicles. The bunk bed will fit into the room–it will be crowded but that’s okay. Most likely we won’t even notice that we have an extra child at the table, it will instantly feel “normal” to us.

But to the child it will be life changing. A sparkle will come to our new daughter’s eyes. Her smile will radiate joy and her health will be restored. She will laugh and giggle as she plays with her many siblings. She will learn about Jesus and what a life with FAITH is like! And the icing on the cake is that she will run to her Mommy and her Daddy for a hug and kiss…

As we serve God we wonder how on earth could we be so blessed…


Find My Family: Shamus

August 12, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

This cherubic little 3 year old is still waiting for his family! He is Shamus with BAAS, and Lucas with Reese’s Rainbow. He has a complex CHD that will require another surgery when he is 5. He had a bilateral two way Glenn procedure in 2011. As you can see from his videos (linked below), he is very active and smart! He loves outdoor activities, and is well cared for in a good orphanage. Check out his sweet videos: 1, 2, 3, and 4!



Please contact Xiaoqing at BAAS for more information!

To the Traumatized Family

August 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 9 Comments

A few days ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and saw a comment on a link for a ministry to traumatized children that broke my heart. An adoptive parent was asking where the ministry was for families who have been traumatized by bringing a traumatized child into their home. This is something I once thought was very rare in adoption, but not anymore. When my own family joined the ranks, I was overwhelmed to discover how many families there are just like ours. Fighting in the trenches. Hurting because of the hurt their adopted child brought into their home. And we do so desperately need to be ministered to.


It is a grief and heartache like no other to joyfully look forward to adopting a child, with visions of a bright future for them, only to get them home and to see the exact opposite unfold. To watch dreams of hope and healing for one traded for the reality of heartbreak and hurt for all. Those who have not experienced it cannot understand it. And because it is so hard to understand, many families who are going through it remain silent. Alone in their pain, with a fear of being judged. It is to these families that I write today. In my moments of crying out to God…in agony, frustration, anger, and hopelessness… on behalf of my traumatized family he has been faithful to minister to me with his word. And I want to pass on a bit of that ministry to my hurting counterparts.

1. You are precious to God. I remember so clearly the calling to adopt. Knowing that God had entrusted me to steward this life was so humbling, yet such an honor. My desire was to please him and steward this child well. I can also clearly recall the day I began to feel like an adoption failure. I was disgraced. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I tried to hide from God in my shame. But just like them, he found me. I never really understood the love of my heavenly Father until I was broken…by my accounts…beyond repair and he whispered to my heart:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–Romans 8:35, 37-39

Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. will ever separate us from the love of Christ. Our worth in his eyes is not dependent upon our success. Our worth was determined at the cross, when the greatest act of love in history was displayed and a perfect savior gave his life up for ours. John 19:30 records that Jesus’s final words on the cross were “It is finished.” and my beloveds, it was. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more…or LESS…than the day his son uttered one final breath and gave up his spirit. We are precious to him because of the cross. And because of the cross, we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). Anything that keeps us from running to the arms of God when we are hurting is a TOOL OF SATAN to keep from having the abundance that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). We have NOT been rejected by God because our adoptions are not fairytales. He literally thinks we are to die for and wants us to bring our pain to him.

2. Make sure you’re fighting the right enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adoptive parent say “this is killing us” or “this is destroying us” in reference to their battle in the adoption trenches. I’ve said it plenty of times myself. A traumatized family is certainly under fire and in a battle for survival. However our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). The actions of the traumatized child in your home may be what are constantly driving you to your breaking point, but your battle is not against that child. That child did not enter your home with the intent to kill or destroy you and your family. However we do have an enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That is the enemy for us to fight. I’m not saying that adoptive parents shouldn’t safeguard their home and put boundaries in place to protect their family. God has not called us to be foolish. But when our family has the flaming arrows of the evil one raining down on us, we need to put on the armor of God (Eph 6) and fight the true enemy. It is much more natural for our sin natures to battle in the flesh than it is to battle in the spirit, but this is a spiritual battle.

3. Remember the Sabbath. Or in other words, take the time to rest. The second chapter of Genesis contains God’s establishment of rest. The third chapter of Genesis contains the fall of man. Our need to take a break is not a result of our sinful state; it is a part of the created order. We as humans were not built to run non-stop. All of us need to make divinely appointed rest a priority in our lives in order to function at the capacity in which God intended, but this especially applies to families who are experiencing trauma. We cannot keep trudging on and pushing through. Respite in some form or another is necessary. It can take many forms, but you need to find one that works for your family and implement it. Date nights, romantic getaways, parent/child outings that nurture the other hurting kids in your home, camps, sleepovers with trusted friends…there are a myriad of options. They may require that you humble yourself and ask for help from others, but your family needs you to.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I have learned too many lessons through my wrestlings with God to share them all here. But the three truths above are the ones I would have to say have made the biggest difference for me. It is my sincerest hope that God uses them to make a difference in your life as well. Please know that I’m praying for each of your hurting families…from here in the trenches.



how we deal

August 4, 2014 by nohandsbutours 7 Comments

I’m not gonna lie. My world has been spinning for a few months. And I try my best during the last week of each month to settle on a topic to write about here at NHBO. But y’all. It’s just been hard lately! I walk through a scenario with our boys and I think “BAM! I should totally do a post about this!” But in the midst of those days, I’m not able to sit and flesh it all out in words on the computer. You know what happens then, right? You betcha. Crazy Kam can’t remember a thing about what she was going to say to you all. It just leaves me.

So here I am. And really, I’ve got nothing to write about as far as parenting a SN and/or adopted child goes. Nothing. Oh, I could tell you that our sweet Gabey who was born with multiple urological defects has actually decided to align with Jesus and answer my prayers for successful potty training this week! Hallelujah! Or I could mention how I’m literally afraid of beginning second grade next week with our Joel who struggles so much with language delays and reading.

But you don’t really need any of that, do you?

I didn’t think so.

However, we did have a couple of odd things happen in our house last week that got me to thinking.

Our Sydney Baby {bio, 11 years old} was so sick with yucky stomach stuff for several days recently. And from the dining room, I heard a shatter and then a crash. I was only 20 feet from her. Sweet girl. She was walking down the steps and carrying a glass of ginger ale when the glass just shattered in her hand. She didn’t fall or stumble or hit anything. It just shattered. And our glasses have heavy bottoms with tapered, thin tops. So that big bottom began to fall as it broke and gashed her thigh. A nasty, huge, wide and long gash. Of course after it cut her, it all hit the hardwood floors and made the most horrific sound.

I jumped up to her and sweet baby was already standing frozen in a pool of blood that was rushing from her thigh and her hand where the glass broke as she held it. Broken bits, big and small were everywhere. Every. Where. She was not only surrounded by them at the bottom of our stairs but her shirt, her hands, her legs and even her hair were covered in tiny shards of glass.

And she didn’t move a muscle. No tears. No attempt to explain. She just became like a statue. But her gaze…her eyes fixed on me as if to say, “Help me. I can’t move. I can’t speak. I just need you to pick me up and move me from where I am.”

And that’s just what I did.

Then the very next day, we had some yummy cashew chicken for dinner {with fried rice, don’t ya know!} and after we walked away from the table, I went to our bedroom. A few minutes later, hubs comes in and says, “Hey, can you come talk to Joel? Something’s wrong with him and he won’t tell me.”

I go to my 7 year old on the sofa and silent tears are falling from his eyes. He doesn’t look sad. He’s scared. But he’s breathing and he answers me and we walk to the kitchen together.

“Buddy, what’s wrong? Are you okay, baby?”

“Mama, my throat hurts. It hurts so bad.”…tears falling faster now.

I go to look in his mouth. Nothing. I ask if he scratched his throat when he swallowed. Nope. I ask him to drink his water. He does. Still crying and tells me that he’s tried drinking all of his water since we stopped eating but it’s not helping. I ask for him to point to where it hurts. It’s low…far from his actual throat but seems to be in his neck.

He’s near hysterical now. But moving air and talking and breathing fine. I realize it must be chicken or a cashew that hasn’t gone down. I know he’s not choking but it’s scaring him to death to feel it. He’s not about to lose consciousness or anything. It’s just really uncomfortable for him. So I give him a cracker since it’s so low and another drink of water.

A beautiful, eyes lit up like the sun, smile comes across his face.

And then more tears and a hug and a big, “thank you, mama.”

Sweet boy. He evidently kept trying to fix it on his own. He kept drinking that water and nothing changed. He didn’t want to tell his dad because it scared him so much to think he was choking. He didn’t want to admit it because to admit it would mean it was real.

So here’s what I know…

Every one of us is different. All of us handle hardship or fear or stress or pain in a million different ways. Some of us freeze like Syd and just wait to be picked up and planted somewhere safer. Some of us try like Joel to handle it all ourselves because admitting it would be too hard or scary.

But what we all have in common is that we can’t do it alone. At the very least, we shouldn’t have to attempt it all alone. And I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that some of you are waiting for a referral or for your child to come home and you’re frozen or your child has come home and days are long and hard and you keep asking yourself “what have we done?” You need somebody to pick you up and plant you somewhere safer. Or you need someone to look over and notice that you are in trouble and that you aren’t sure how to fix it yourself.

Adoption is never easy. And life is never meant to be lived alone. We need each other. We desperately need each other.

So however you are wired, however you deal with the stress and the “hard”…don’t go it alone. Let us know you need something. And for those of us in a pretty good place right now, let’s keep our eyes open for those who aren’t. Let’s be the one to pick them up to safety or to give them a cracker! We’re all in this together, right? :)

Much love and many prayers for you all.

Somewhere to Run

July 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 9 Comments

In my adoptions circles, there is a little bit of a running joke about all the things that start going wrong once a paper chase and the commitment to adopt a child (or children) begins. Somewhere along the journey to China, an adoptive parent can guarantee that an appliance…or three…will break, the car will need repairs, a member of the family will get sick, a storm will hit, their basement will flood, someone will say something discouraging, and on goes the list. In those early stages of the adoption, we call it as we see it. This is spiritual warfare and we have an enemy prowling around seeking to devour adoptions before they even get off the ground.

Unfortunately, the spiritual warfare doesn’t end once the adoption is finalized. It lurks in the background seeking opportunities to hurt our testimony and discredit God’s faithfulness. In fact, adoptive families are one of the most under attack groups of people I’ve ever come across. In talking with adoptive parents, I hear so many of them saying the same thing to me over and over again. The same things I’ve said to myself at various points in the journey. I feel so alone. I feel like I’m failing. The people I counted on for support aren’t supporting me. My social worker didn’t tell me this part would be so hard. The stress is getting to my marriage. Our extended family doesn’t understand what we’re going through. But oftentimes we aren’t as quick to see the see the spiritual warfare on this side of our Travel Approval.

Adoption is a miracle. The transformation of a child who fears their adoption parents on “Gotcha Day” into a child who runs laughing into their parent’s arms is a beautiful sight to behold. The difficult attachment journey…whether it’s a child who isn’t attaching or a child who is anxiously attached…is a journey worth making. Watching two children bearing completely different genetic codes become as “real” as siblings can be is breathtaking. But adoption is also hard. When a child from a “hard place” joins their new family, they bring their trauma with them. Anytime a new child joins a family there are adjustments required, but even more so when a child joins a family through adoption. That’s just the way it is. It’s normal and to be expected. But it does put a strain on the family, oftentimes creating a very challenging season. A season that makes adoptive families feel alone. Unsupported. Like failures. Overwhelmed. Misunderstood. And unable to reach out for help for fear of being judged. Because not everyone can understand that the greatest joy of your life can also be your biggest stressor. The natural response during those seasons is to pull away from anything that isn’t necessary for survival…all the while not realizing that we need so much more than that stack of books our social worker let us borrow.

It never ceases to amaze me how an adoptive family…mine included…can be in the throes of spiritual warfare without even realizing the enemy has attacked. Especially in the first months (years???) home with a child. While this season is full of new joys, obstacles overcome, and milestones achieved it is also a season in which the adoptive family is very vulnerable…spiritually, emotionally, and physically. So many other things scream for the family’s attention that the most important thing quietly slips away.

If yours is a family that was called by God to adopt, and that has a very God-centered testimony leading up to your adoption you need God more than ever once you’re home. My theme verse for our first adoption was “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. –1 Thessalonians 5:24”. I clung to that verse every single day of every single wait. And it’s true. God WILL do it. He’ll get you to your child. And once home, he’ll get you through the sleepless nights. The doctor’s visits. The bad news. The hurtful comments from people who are supposed to love you. The stir-crazy boredom induced by “cocooning” your new child. The questions that you don’t have answers for. The lie that you’re just not quite cut out for this calling. But the place he’s found is the place that adoptive parents so often forget to visit in our need to survive…the foot of the cross. And when we’re in those hard seasons that’s where we need to run. To the one who called us. To the one that chose our child(ren) for us. To the one that is grafting our family tree according to his own unique plan. He is faithful and he will meet our needs right where we are. No one else may understand what we’re feeling or experiencing, but our creator knows us better than we know ourselves. When we need somewhere safe to run, his arms are open and waiting.

walk, don’t run.

July 1, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

I’ve never been a runner. Heck, the nickname given to me in high school was “Clyde.” As in Clydesdale. Yeah, the horse. The one who trots along through life. But while I may not have been a runner, I walked fast! And with purpose. Even now, I somehow manage to leave my poor husband in the dust. At the mall, I realize he’s several steps behind me. My children consistently ask me to slow down when holding my hand. Because I’m my mother’s daughter and well, she walks with purpose too. Quickly.

So in the physical sense, I’m kinda power walking through my day. Multitasking. Spinning plates, juggling balls. But in a spiritual sense, I’m a runner. A serious runner. God gives me a task or a conviction or a plan and y’all, I’m all over it. Like they taught me during our three years in Texas, I’m “on it, blue bonnet.”

And you wanna know something? I don’t believe God calls us to run all the time. Run away from temptation? YES. Run to Him? Always.

But in the everyday, mundane? Friends, it’s a walk.

Have you ever contemplated how many Scriptures encourage us to walk? Verse after verse. Passage after passage. Walk.

This year in particular, has been a struggle between walking and running for me. Which is so funny since we aren’t adopting right now and I, like some of you, am guilty of trying to run like mad through an adoption!

Our first son, adopted at age 3, struggles with comprehensive speech delays as well as some learning delays. I’ve posted about him a few times before in regards to these things. But as I was recently sitting in the dentist’s waiting area {four children = cleanings X four twice a year…ugh!}, I read this article. And it reminded me again just how much these babies endure because they are born too early.


Three of our children were preemies. Joel was the most significant at 28-29 weeks. He experienced several surgeries as an infant due to a perforated bowel {very common in preemies} as well as Reactive Airway Disorder because of immature lungs. He was on a vent for several months which seems to have given him some level of sensory issues too. And while I’m amazed at the level of care he was able to receive in the country of his birth, it’s clear that these things, coupled with being institutionalized until he was three years old, have conspired to set him up for some hard days as far as learning and schooling goes.

And in like fashion, I wanna RUN. If he’s only reading at an F level, I want to blaze through and get him to an H. “Forget G! We can skip it! Let’s just read H books and see how you do!”

But many times with our babies, who’ve come to us with delays, it’s a walk, not a run.

And then there’s our Gabe, {AKA, the Little Prince, my Gabey Baby}, whose urological/genital defects were so extensive that he will endure the 6th surgery on his nether regions alone over a two year period this October. MY plan was to shore this up in two surgeries. Which is laughable to consider now. And the fact that Gabe’s hypothermia at abandonment has contributed to terribly poor skin and healing quality, doesn’t at all help my need to RUN. It has caused the opposite to happen.

With Gabe, we seemingly crawl.

And I see this with so many other adoptive parents {and bio ones too of course!}, who love their babies more than life and they want this stuff to be OVER. We want to be DONE. We want our children to be CHILDREN and not in the hospital or in pain or unable to do things that others can easily do.

But again y’all, it’s a walk.

He calls us to a walk. Our kids don’t need sprinters. They need walkers. Consistent, steady, faithful walkers.

Oh, sure, I’ve got my tennies tied and my hair in a ponytail. I’m ready if a run is ever the best option. But for now, I’m on a walk with Him. And that’s more than okay. Because He’s God of the walk.

“And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
Lev. 26:12


Taking Care of Personal Business

June 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

In other words this is a poop and potty post!

Many of the children that sit and sit and sit on the waiting child list are there because they are incontinent. Which means they cannot control their bowels and bladder.

We have brought 2 children home that were in “that situation.” One was diagnosed with Anal Atresia (or Imperforate Anus and came home with a colostomy) and the other was diagnosed with Spinal Bifida and came home in diapers.

Each time, when I saw our child on the waiting child list I said, “I can’t do this.” But God encouraged us to step out in faith, so we did. At times we felt like it was too big for us but we knew it wasn’t too big for Him. NOTHING is too big for Him.

Somehow, God always works out all the details. I don’t worry about things as much as I used too because I know it is in HIS hands and HE is in control. There is no one more capable to be in control and worrying gets me nowhere. I used to want to have control but not any more.

As we have brought our children with incontinence home we have learned a lot.
The keyword for us right now is “social continence.” That is the goal for both of our children. Social continence means that the child/adult does not wear diapers and can care for their bowel and bladder needs independently. They are able to be in social settings and able to live a normal active life just like anyone else.

When our children came to us… they smelled. It wasn’t a good smell- it was of urine and poop. They needed love, a bath and a new plan to care for this issue. Both of them are incredible kids. We cannot imagine our lives without them. Within hours of them being ours- they didn’t smell any longer. They were clean, happy and actually a bit appreciative- they knew they were being cared for properly. There is NOTHING more bonding than caring for a child when it involves private issues such as potty and poop. I have seen it happen both times for us. The bond between the child and parent is accelerated.

The nannies do all they can for the children and they try to care for them but they do not have access to the supplies and medical care like we do. One of our sons was using a plastic baggy and a cloth tied over it, for his colostomy. It didn’t take long for this energetic little boy to dislodge the contraption and soil his clothes. The director tried to clean him up for us but she was a bit irritated that this had happened. I just wanted to scoop him up and get him back to the hotel to give him a bath. The very first time I cared for him he looked right into my eyes and said, “thank you Momma” in Mandarin. He had my heart right then and there…

Our second little guy came to us in a very soggy and very small diaper (not his size). His clothes were wet and he wreaked of urine. Although he was adorable it was hard at first to see beyond the smell. This little guy was from one of the best orphanage in the country. When hubby got him back to the hotel he immediately gave him a shower and a diaper that fit. This time my hubby was the recipient of “Thank you Daddy” in Mandarin. When they came home I could see right away that Daddy and son had a special bond.

One of our boys has reached social continence and truthfully it’s wonderful for him and for us! Once home he was able to have surgery to “replumb” his intestines and it was hooked up with his “new rectum.” Then 2 months later they took down the colostomy. We followed the Dr.’s instructions and within 4 months after that he was out of diapers!

Our other son is “in process.” His situation is a bit more complicated as he does not feel the potty and poop due to spinal bifida. Our goal and our doctor’s goal is for him to be out of diapers, also. Some children can be regulated through diet alone but we didn’t feel it could be adequately managed that way. So for him the first step is called an ACE procedure- simply put he has a little tiny opening from his belly button to his large colon and each morning we irrigate his bowels with water so we can get all the poop out. That way he can start fresh every day and doesn’t need to worry about poop. In time he will do all of this himself and he will continue to do this as an adult. It’s just part of his morning routine!

For the urine we are catheterizing him 4 times a day and emptying his bladder. He is on a medication that will allow his bladder to do a better job holding the urine. There are many other options for him and for other children. We will see how this works for us and if it does, great and if not, we will try something else. He just needs to bring his catheterizing supplies with him and he can cath himself in the bathroom where ever he is. If he is at school he goes to the nurses office to do this. If he is at the zoo he goes into the stall in the men’s room. Most likely you know someone that does this BUT you are unaware of it. It’s not something that others need to know and that people readily share unless it’s necessary. He will grow up just like any other little boy and have a normal life. As far as sexual function we know he can have children but his private life will remain between him and his spouse. We know it is our Doctor’s goal to be sure he is working that way too.

If your heart has been moved to adopt one of these special kiddos don’t let potty and poop scare you. It’s nothing to be afraid of and I know that now! Step out of your comfort zone and help a child. If you don’t… then who will?



I like you be my mommy

June 11, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

“I like you be my mommy.”

Those six little words, spoken with a beaming smile no less, from my four year old nearly made me come undone recently.

Her heartfelt statement spoke volumes about the positive change in our relationship over the nine months we’ve known one another…because on September 2 of last year, things didn’t seem so promising.

Based on the experiences of our first four children, I went into the day fully prepared for her to grieve and be withdrawn. She did and she was. What I didn’t expect was complete and total aversion to me. Seriously. She did not like me. Not one bit. She let us know early on by hitting, scratching, kicking and biting, and then later by throwing a full-fledged temper tantrum anytime I got near her.

I used all the standard tactics, offering treats, attempting to paint her nails, modeling snuggles, hugs and kisses with my other kids, trying to hold her through the tantrums…

But she wasn’t buying it.

To the point that I clearly remember the first day my older kids went back to school and my husband returned to work. I sat on the kitchen floor and came close to tears as I wondered, “So it all comes down to this…now what?”

I’m not gonna lie, those first days, weeks, and even months were hard. She clearly didn’t like being left at home with me during the weekdays. I was more thankful than ever we had decided not to send our youngest son on to kindergarten this year because he at least provided a distraction and buffer. And in the moments they’d play together, I would madly flip through my worn out copy of The Connected Child (Dr. Karyn Purvis) to find pointers and just be encouraged that we would find our way out of the fog someday.

The constant barrage of visits to see specialists, outpatient surgeries, and what seemed to be 50 million eye drops post glaucoma surgery didn’t seem to be helping the cause.

But slowly, ever so slowly, my often clumsy lead was picked up by the little one watching. I celebrated every milestone as she went from totally distrusting me to tolerating my presence to actually initiating interaction from time to time.

And then the day came that we were side by side in the kitchen, me chopping vegetables and her stirring a sauce when our elbows bumped, she turned to me and said, “I like you be my mommy.”

My soul danced a bit in that moment. Not only has she come to understand the concept of what a mommy is, she likes that I am hers!

And that? Totally makes the months we struggled worth the effort. Totally!

So if anyone out there is still deep in the trenches of the seemingly never ending re-adjustment period, chin up. Keep reaching out to those who have gone before you, keep reading your copy of The Connected Child, keep extending yourself to your child who shuns you. Better days are bound to be coming…



Then and Now

June 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

As an adoptive parent there is definitely one thing that I stress over more than anything else. One might think it would have something to do with doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, surgeries, or something else of that nature. But those things come easily to me. I’m usually sipping my cup of coffee and enjoying my book by the time I get the call from the operating room that the procedure has begun. No, what I struggle with most is the balance of preserving my children’s pasts while escorting them into their futures.

Every adoptive parent views their situation differently. I love adoption, and I encourage adoption. But it breaks my heart that my children had to lose so much in order to join our family. I also love China. I ache for “the land of my heart” on a daily basis. It makes me sad that my children had to leave it behind. One of my more poignant memories from my China trips happened in my daughter’s home city just a couple of days after I had adopted her. We were out for one of our daily walks, and as we were waiting to cross the street, a young couple on a small motorcycle turned around the corner where we were standing. Their laughter echoed through the air as she wrapped her arms around him a little more tightly. In that instant, I realized that was my daughter’s birthright. To grow up in that city, to be a young woman on the back of a motorcycle with the jokes on her lips in Mandarin. And I hurt that she would never have it. Both then and now. Yet, I’m so very thankful she’s here with me.

I feel like I owe it to my Chinese kids to honor their roots. However, I also want them to know that they are fully a part of us. Like so many other adoptive families ours consists of both biological and adopted children, and I am very conscientious about not having an “us” and “them” divide between the two. Birth stories and adoption stories are woven interchangeably into our lives. Red Envelopes full of “lucky” money at Chinese New Year are just as much a part of us as our Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. But I’m always looking for new ways to improve upon the delicate balance I strive to maintain.

So recently when I “coincidentally” stumbled across the website for an American photographer that used to live in China while re-decorating my entryway I was thrilled. My search for the perfect piece ended when I discovered a picture from the small village where my daughter lived with her foster parents before coming to be with us. A little bit of her past, right here in her home where she can see it every day. To anybody else it just looks like a picture of simple, tree-lined stream. But she recognized the location immediately. Once upon a time, she passed it every day. And she’s the one that counts. I’m way out of my area of expertise when it comes to this whole adoptive parenting thing. But this one I got exactly right. She is so proud of “her” picture, not because of the scenery but because of what it says. That photo in my entryway is a reminder that I cherish every part of her. That every, single bit of my baby girl’s life is precious to me…even the parts that came before I did. I am her “now” but I also hold the memories of her “then” very close to my heart.

Never Say Never Again

May 29, 2014 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

My husband, Joe, and I never set out to be parents of this many kids. If there can be such a thing as accidental adoptions, we have experienced them. Now though, our adoptions are no longer accidental. This is the way we have chosen to live. The path that led us to this decision, at a rather young age, is long and winding. It’s also a source of curiosity for families with the average one to two children. We understand that, and that’s why we’re okay answering the questions ‘are you done now?!?’ and ‘how many more do you think you’ll have?’ We’re okay answering it now, because the answer comes easily these days.

We don’t know.

We have said we were done, both to each other, and to our friends and family, so many times that it has become ridiculous. Now, when people ask, we just smile and raise an eyebrow. People are so off put by the fact we won’t commit to an end point for our child rearing days that it bothered us at first. We felt pressure to know we were finished. Sadly, that pressure led to us feeling like we should be done. There is no should anymore, there is only watching and waiting to see what life has in store for us.

We started out knowing exactly how many children we wanted. We tried to have your typical American family, and when it didn’t work the typical way, we decided to forego infertility treatments of any kind because we thought that adoption would be ‘easier.’ We learned that lesson the hard way. It isn’t easier, but it’s beautiful. After adopting three little boys domestically, and then a treasured little princess, we declared ourselves done.

The domestic four

I felt sad about this, but comforted myself by working with children who had no parents and needed medical care that I could provide as a nurse. This led me to Ghana…and to our next three children.


People asked, yet again, ‘you’re done NOW, right?’ And, we felt the pressure, so we caved and said ‘FOR SURE!’ We had seven kids, which is three to four times the national average. And, we had just dropped three older children into the middle of the children we had parented from day one, wouldn’t it be crazy to consider doing this again?

Yes, it would be, but we did. Having a medical background as a pediatric nurse makes me unafraid of special needs that scare most parents to their core. And, maybe I should be more afraid. Maybe I’m naïve. But, my naiveté led me to China and to our daughter who was dying in her orphanage of a Congenital Heart Defect that turned out to be much more complex then even we could have imagined.

Tess in the orphanage

We barely made it home with our baby girl. Her heart condition will require an untold amount of surgical intervention in the future. It may lead to the need for a new heart. But, I’m not kidding you, the girl is a miracle. And, watching that miracle happen, right in front of our eyes, has done something indescribable for our family. It has made us never say never.

And, we didn’t. We happily welcomed our ninth child to our home in November of 2013. We could never say never to him.

Bowen and Joe

The world around us says it a lot though. They wonder how it is EVER possible to give enough to the children in our home. How will they have enough one on one time? Won’t they suffer having so many brothers and sisters? How will we have time for each other? How will we have time for them? When will it be ENOUGH?!?

Becky kissing Tess

I feel terrible every time I hear this, like I’m the most selfish person in the world for bringing these children into our home and forcing them to live this way.

Kids Playing checkers

So, yet again, pride made us promise we were finished.

Then, we had a fight. Yes, my husband and I fought. Because, one evening, in a fit of anger over the children on the other side of the world who were suffering with diseases that could be fixed easily here in the U.S., who were experiencing neglect and dying alone with no family, I decided I didn’t care anymore. I don’t care what other people think. I know what I can handle, and if a Social Worker agrees with me, and the foreign government approves it, then I want to keep adopting.

Being honest over the fact that we fought over this is hard for me. Just like I don’t want to be a bad mother, I don’t want to be a bad wife. I don’t want to push Joe into living in a way he doesn’t want to live. And, I was. I still do to some extent. Joe would be happy being dad of a small family. He’s just happy wherever we are in life. I am the one who pushes to the future, and sometimes, the future on the horizon in front of him scares him a little. This time, it scared him a lot. While I see what could have been for the children in our home, he worries about what will be for the children in our home. How will we pay for college for all of them? Will we EVER get to retire?

I called him selfish.

How unfair.

After arguing, discussing, and then praying, we finally came together, to the same spot in this journey. We came to the place where we’re okay taking it one day, and one child, at a time. We came to the place where we could move forward hand in hand, one more time…well, maybe…to China.

We would like to introduce you to our daughter, Cate.

Cate Collage

She is the reason that we keep on saying yes to this adventure. Well, her and the nine other little people who continue to say to me “Mom! We could do this just one more time!!!”

Kids on the Beach

~Guest post by Full Plate Mom

waiting child highlight: Gabriel (urgent medical need)

May 28, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Look at this handsome boy! Gabriel is an obedient, soft-spoken ten year old boy. He loves to play with other children, but due to his complex heart condition, he has a hard time keeping up. So often he just watches the others play games while he plays with blocks and puzzles. Gabriel has normal motor development and attends the city’s special education school.

Gabriel 1 - WACAP

Quite frankly, Gabriel is running out of time. His heart condition is serious: TGA, VSD and patent duct arteriosis have all been noted on his file. Gabriel is to turn 10 this year and desperately needs his family to find him soon so that he can receive the love and medical care that he needs. These diagnoses are often scary to consider…there are a lot of unknowns. But one thing is certain, Gabriel deserves to know the love of a family.

Gabriel 4

Gabriel is currently on the shared list. However, to help his family bring him home quickly, Gabriel has up to $9300 in financial aid available to qualified families who use WACAP as their agency. The WACAP team has met this sweet boy and has a lot of information as well as a video available for his family to view. Please contact Elizabeth for more information, or contact the Advocacy Team for information about starting the adoption process.

Gabriel 5

Plenty of resources and encouragement from families of other heart children are available. The following sites are great places to learn more about CHD:
Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital
Little Hearts
Kids With Heart
Congenital Heart Information Network Resources
China Heart Children Yahoo Group

To learn more about parenting a child with severe CHD, you can check out this family’s blog as well as this family’s blog.

A Silent Event… A Near Drowning

May 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

And it was awful… it still haunts me… I don’t think I will EVER forget about it… the image is forever ingrained in my mind…

In all of our 30 years of parenting it has happened just once. AND once is ENOUGH…

I am not going into specifics. It’s private and it will always be extremely painful. But if I can help just one other family and spare them from this horrible experience than it will be worth it.

It could have been worse… our child could have drowned. Praise God for His saving grace. Praise Him for his mercy and praise Him that our child survived.

It was called a near drowning.

We were all together swimming. We (the parents) were watching closely and being careful. Dad was in the pool with the kids and I was circling around the pool. Accomplished swimmers were allowed to be more independent. While other children that were new at swimming were instructed to follow our safety rules very carefully with included life jackets and pool bounaries. One child found a way to disobey. He/She didn’t intend to hurt anyone or get hurt himself/herself, it was an accident, a bad choice.

It wasn’t at all like the movies. There was no screaming or yelling for help. It was silent and it was almost unnoticed… gulp. It was also confusing because I thought the child was fine and then I watched just a little longer and then saw the almost lifeless body begin to sink… In my mind I still see it happening in slow motion.

We were able to get the unconscious child out immediately and call for help. The child was not breathing initially but by the time help arrived the child was breathing and eyes were open. I was holding my baby and crying – praising the Lord for His mercy.

It happened to us and I don’t want it to happen to you…

Please go to this link below and learn, so this does NOT happen to anyone in your family! It’s different than you think…

The Best Mama

May 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. She threw her arms around me and exclaimed, “I love you, Mama! You’re the best mama I’ve ever had!!!” And every time it’s happened since then is carved on my heart as well. Every. Single. Time.

Cora and Me

The day I met my sweet Cora…just over a year-and-a-half ago…was a hard day. She was blessed to live with a very loving foster family, and the idea of this new “foreigner” claiming to be her mama wasn’t going over too well. Because in her four year old little mind, she had a mama. And she had just left that mama behind to join me. It took her awhile before she even acknowledged me as mama…and for the first months, she preferred pretty much everyone to me. Including a construction worker we met at the barber shop while getting her brother a haircut.

I called and emailed our social worker I don’t know how many times during those early days. It was my second adoption, but with my son we had anxious attachment. I didn’t have to work at all to get him to like me…prying him off my neck was more of the problem. This struggle with attachment was an entirely new concept to me. At the guidance of my social worker (and the many, many books she lent me), my husband and I decided to “cocoon” our new daughter. She didn’t leave the house and was with one of us 24/7. We took turns going to church, we didn’t have guests over, we brought in take-out rather than going out to eat, I cut back on the number of school functions I attended for my other children. It was an exhausting few months, but it worked. Slowly but surely, Cora was able to grasp the idea that we were her new family and a deep level of trust began to be established.

We’ve never stopped talking about her foster parents. We look at pictures of them regularly, and Cora’s foster brother was actually adopted by a family here in our local community. We’ve been able to retain a little bit of her “previous” life. As she’s gotten older, though, Cora has come to the realization that she didn’t grow in her foster mama’s tummy…she had another “China mommy” before foster mama. We talk about “China mommy” too, but I don’t have a whole lot of information to share. I mostly just try to communicate positive feelings about the woman who brought her into this world and parented her for the first several months of Cora’s life. There’s so much she has yet to understand about the adoption process, but she does know that I’m mama number three. And in her opinion, the best.

I don’t know that I agree with that statement. I think about her first mama. The mama that grew her in her womb, gave her life, and held onto her for months…until the day came that Cora was just too sick to hold onto anymore. And on that day Cora was left in a warm, safe place where she would easily be found. I don’t know anything more than the stark details in a short paragraph from Cora’s adoption file, but I do know that Cora’s first mama saved her life by giving her up. That scores some pretty high points from me.

And then there was her second mama. The mama that took her in, knowing that one day she would have to say goodbye. The mama who took care of Cora for two years as if she were her own, then one day put her in her nicest clothes, fixed her hair, packed her a snack and sent her to me. The mama whose concern was not the broken heart she would endure when she said goodbye…but rather nurturing the heart of the little girl who was in her care only temporarily. I can’t think of a mother’s love more perfectly displayed.

I can’t even begin to compare myself with the mothers who loved Cora so sacrificially. I often say that adopting Cora was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. We pursued her adoption for no other reason than simply loving her and wanting her. Our motive was not to “help” her, but to fill a void in our hearts that only she could fill. And we have been so incredibly blessed by the sweet little firecracker who finds new and creative ways to turn our world upside down on a daily basis. Yet…by a sovereign act of God’s grace I’m not only Cora’s third mama, but her forever mama. And in her opinion, the best. I’m glad she feels this way. I’m thankful that she has learned to love me so deeply. But in my opinion, that title belongs to someone else. The mamas who loved her more than they loved themselves. The mamas who put Cora’s heart before theirs…both her physical heart and the multiple complex heart defects she was born with, and her emotional heart…paving the way for her to be here with me. Happy, healthy. And rocking my world. Cora has become such a part of me that to think of losing her is unbearable. I’m not sure I love her enough to ever let her go. It would hurt me too much. But the mamas who did? They’re the best.


April 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

We just had our first grandchild! It is so exciting AND such an amazing feeling having her HERE! Our daughter talked to me every day (from Germany) before her delivery. The anticipation was riveting! When would she arrive, how would the delivery go, who would she look like?

It was a happy moment when I shared it with our 13 treasures from China. They all cheered with excitement. They waited patiently as the baby’s picture appeared on the computer screen.

And then I realized…
how different it was when they came into the world…
and my heart broke…

They are all such beautiful treasures, how could it be that their entrance into this world was less than… stellar…

What happened on that day? What were their parents feeling?

Was their family excited that a new child was about to join their family?
Or were they wondering how on earth they would feed another child?
Were there already older daughters and they could just not keep another daughter?
Were they hoping for a son this time?
Were they shocked by their new child’s disability and would have no means to pay for the medical care their child would need?
Did they keep their child for a while and then realize the severity of their new child’s needs or was it evident right away?
Did they pass away soon after giving birth because they could not get the medication they needed to live?
So many questions that I have…


If I have them…

Then they must have them, too.

I think some of our older adopted children think some of these thoughts and then they- put them away because it hurts too much to think about them.

Our daily life is happy and busy so we do not focus on our pasts but instead live in the present and look toward the future. That’s a nice philosophy but at some point these issues are just going to hurt too bad and they won’t be able to “put them away.”
I will tell you that there is only one other issue that would hurt even more than this one…
And that is if they never had a family… if they had never been adopted…
If they never had someone in this world that truly loved and valued them.
If they never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus and God’s love for them.

Many of the hard questions will never have answers. There were no newborn pictures… no decorated nursery, no baby showers. BUT, we choose to believe that their parents loved them very much and due to circumstances did what they thought was best for their children. There is nothing to gain and no reason to think the worst scenarios…

I am thankful to their birth parents that they chose life for their children even though they were unable to keep them. So as we celebrate the birth of our delightful new grandchild we will also celebrate our delightful treasures from China!

what time?

April 11, 2014 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Difficult conversations.

They happen in every house from time to time. Sometimes they are easy to see coming, other times they can hit just about blindsided.

And then there are the times you lay your own trap…

Last year I turned 40. The morning of my birthday one of my kiddos came in to wake me up and started immediately with the ribbing, “Hey Mommy, you are 40, oh you are 40, yes you are 40!” (sung to a catchy but made up tune)

Now as my birthday rolled by last April, we had just completed our fifth dossier and all the documents were fresh in my mind. So to throw off the child that was mercilessly teasing me about my age, I retorted with, “Actually, I’m not. Not yet. I won’t really be 40 until 2:09 this afternoon.”

Now this had my adorable tormentors full attention. “This afternoon? What do you mean? How do you know what time of day you were born?”

Without even thinking I replied, “It says so on my birth certificate.”

And just like that I launched a grenade at my child. Because the questions that followed are ones for which I have no answer.

“Oh cool! So what time was I born?”

“What time were you born? Well, actually we don’t know exactly what time you were born.”

(Insert incredulous stare upon admission that I had no clear answer).

“What do you mean you don’t know what time I was born? How can you know what time you were born if you don’t know what time I was born? Why does your birth certificate tell you and mine doesn’t?”

So we began a discussion in detail on why my birth certificate is so different than all of theirs. That my mother and father registered my birth at the hospital when I was born and that their respective orphanages assigned theirs at the time they were found. That mine had specifics on exactly what time I was born and what hospital I was born in and theirs give a day and the province (it is assumed) they were born in.

And it hurt.

It hurt my heart to have question after question pile up with no solid answer to give. Yes, my kids all are aware that they were born in China. Each of them knows that while I am their “forever mommy,” I am not their “belly mommy.” They know they were in an orphanage or foster care (or both) from their infancy until they became part of our family. We have for certain the dates they came into the care of their orphanage and the day, even the time, we met them. Those are facts I can give.

But the “whys” for which I have no answers…the ones that find my children living across the ocean, in a different culture from the women that gave birth to them…are overwhelming some days.

I’ve always tried to answer their questions as simply and honestly as I can even though some days I want to distract them with something else so we can avoid the topic of abandonment. (I mean, how do you break that down simply for a child under the age of seven to comprehend?) Of course I usually find that a simple sentence or two, even if part of my response is to say that I don’t really know the answer, is all they need in the moment. Then they’re back off jumping rope or kicking a soccer ball, just like any other 5 to 7 year old.

Don’t get me wrong. The abandonment of my children isn’t in focus on a daily, weekly, or necessarily even a monthly basis in our house. But the topic does rear its ugly head from time to time. And I…we all, as adoptive parents…need to not sweep it under the rug and pretend it will just go away. Instead we, as a community, need to be prepared to sit down and field those difficult conversations, long or short as they may be…for our children’s sake.

Completely Natural

April 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

My virtual twins are thick as thieves. And they act like an old married couple. The bond they share is amazing to behold. They actually have the same type of relationship that biological twins do. The way God has grafted their two little hearts together is most amazing.


With this relationship comes lots and lots of playtime. And given the day, sometimes lots and lots of arguing! But this morning I was in my favorite chair sipping on my coffee when I overheard them playing “house” together in one of their more adorable moments.

Cora: Caden, get in my tummy. I want you to be my baby.
Caden: I can’t. I’m too big.
Cora: Alright, then I’ll adopt you. Let’s pretend we’re in China….

I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to their dialogue. My “littles” are now both five years old, and are becoming aware of things. They have three older siblings that are my biological children. All of their friends from preschool are part of their original families, and some of them have younger siblings on the way. We’ve begun having the talks about babies and families…the talks that revealed they grew in another Mommy’s tummy in China.

With these talks come fear. Fear that I won’t give their birth mothers enough honor. With China adoption, we get so little information. The few sentences in their adoption files about their findings give me the only glimpse I have into the mothers who came before me. I fear our talks will bring them pain. And I fear that somehow they will see adoption as “less” than birth. Plan B rather than Plan A. But there’s no difference in my heart…whether their stories of joining our family begin in a hospital or a Civil Affairs office, my babies are my babies. And I want them to know that.

It amazed me…and pleased me…how quickly they made the jump to adoption in their playacting. Babies do grow in a tummy. I can’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean that somehow adoption is an unnatural way to grow a family. In fact, the relationship I have with these two little stinkers is so natural it’s breathtaking. We didn’t get there overnight. We still hit our little adoption-related bumps on occasion. But we belong to each other…and it’s as natural as can be.

she says they’re insane, but I say they ROCK

April 1, 2014 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

So we have some great friends in this life. Tamara & Jason are among them. We met back in the late ‘90’s when our hubbies were attending seminary in Fort Worth. We were carefree… with good jobs, a love for coffee, and no kids between us. We played often, laughed hard, took trips and lived out a fantastic friendship during these years.

After school, the Lord took them one direction and us another. But the ties that bind us remain unbroken and when my phone rang a few months ago, from Missouri, I thought… “I only know one family there…”

Tamara was one the other end and after the usual “Girl! How in the world are you???” stuff…she just began to open up about what the Lord was doing. I was really surprised, desperately happy and a little bit in awe.

They were adopting! That’s always music to my ears!

But here’s the kicker.

Several years ago, during a particularly difficult time in their ministry, Jason and Tamara had traveled to see us. They ended up staying the weekend with our family at my parents’ home. They needed refuge and respite. I’m not sure they got either! But we loved having them here and sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.

At one point, their toddler son, Zach, was attempting to walk up my parents’ staircase. Tamara mentioned to me that they was concerned about him…that they actually had several concerns.

And they were completely founded.

Enter Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

We’ve watched them from afar raise their son with grace and prayerful parenting. We’ve begged God on their behalf and have grown in our love for them as we see the effects this devastating disease has had on their precious son.

We recently had dinner with Jason when he was in town for a ministry conference. He spoke a lot about Zach, DMD and their life…and their adoption. It got me to thinking, maybe some of you need to know Tamara. Maybe you need to hear from her. Maybe THIS is what No Hands But Ours is really about on some level.

So I wrote to her and asked for her help. I sent over several questions that I thought readers here may benefit from hearing the answers to. As always, this great friend of mine didn’t disappoint.

Tell me about your day to day. What does life look like with Zach?
Zach lost ambulation almost two years ago. He uses a powerchair fulltime. We use a hoyer lift for all transfers. We have a van with a built-in ramp. He is completely dependent on Jason and I to get dressed, get in and out of bed, use the bathroom, shower, etc. His arms are still strong enough for eating, brushing his teeth, using his laptop, etc. When we tuck him in at night, since he is lying flat, we have to physically pick up his arms and put them around our neck in order for him to hug us. (sorry, that is so sad but it is true…)

What is your hardest struggle?
Our greatest struggle is watching the devastation of this disease and being helpless to do anything about it. Others have compared it to your child being stuck on the tracks and a train is barreling down and there is nothing you can do to throw him off the tracks. The physical burden of caring for Zach is nothing compared to this. Most days are okay, some days it seems like this disease is devouring him.

What is your greatest triumph?
Our greatest triumph is that Zach has the best attitude and perspective on all of this. He has said out loud that he does not know why God allowed him to have this disease but He must have a good reason. He seems wise beyond his years and understands that God does not always give us the answers and that is okay. We can trust Him anyway.

Tell me about your adoption…
International adoption has always been a possibility for us. We always planned on having three or four biological kids and then adopting. After Zach’s diagnosis and my diagnosis as a carrier, we decided against having any more biological children. We often wondered how adoption would ever fit into our story. Caring for Zach is a full time job that requires so much of us, physically and emotionally. We had sort of put adoption out of our minds.

Then this picture of an orphaned little boy with Duchenne came across our path. We both felt that God had uniquely blessed us with everything we needed to care for this child. We have an accessible home, we have an accessible van, we have good health insurance, we have access to excellent doctors in St. Louis. How could we not share these blessings with this new child? How can we leave him there, knowing that he is going thru the same awful disease as Zach but without a mommy and daddy? We can take care of him, we can show him the love of a family and most importantly, we can introduce him to Jesus.

Since there is no cure for DMD, and knowing what you know as a parent of a child with this disease, how did you come to the decision to choose to adopt a child with the same need?
We felt that if not us, NO ONE may want him. How many families really want a child that cannot be “fixed.” Not terribly many. And that was too much to bear. We HAD to take action. We know that our adopting him will not save his physical life. There is no cure for this. But we can make his life better.

What do you want to say to other parents who are considering a similar situation or an adoption like this?
Don’t do it.! Just kidding. I don’t have a good answer for this.

What have you learned about yourself though this?
That we are insane.

Is this a risk? Aren’t you putting yourself in a nearly impossible position? {I only asked this because it is what so many are thinking. Tamara knows my heart, and our history in choosing a child with CHD after losing one to it in China. There is absolutely NO JUDGMENT intended from me in this question.}
Yes, this is a great risk. We are willfully opening our hearts to this child knowing that we will most likely outlive him. And he will most likely be the second child we will have to bury. But, we believe the eternal benefits outweigh the temporal. That in the end, when we are all with God in eternity, whatever sacrifices we made on earth will be worth it (Romans 8:18). And if our behavior is going to match our theology, we made the only choice we could. To obey God’s call to go get this boy.

Don’t you just love her!?! Don’t you want to reach through your screen and hug her neck and say, “YES!!!” Because no adoption is without loss and pain and heartache. But so many times, we as parents can make a devastating choice to let go of the expectation to play it safe {we’ve played it safe in adoption too…so again, no judgment whatsoever!}, to embrace the risk and the heartache and to LOVE a child that seemingly no one else is willing to love.

As she stated here, Tamara told me on the phone that morning that she knew that outside of an accident or some crazy unexpected circumstance…she would outlive both of her sons. She said to me, with a strength I don’t possess, “I know I’m likely going to bury them both, Kam. But what else am I to do?” She went on to ask me several times over the course of an hour {and a few times since then}…”Do you think we’re insane? This seems crazy.” And in the next breath she’d say, “But we know it’s right.”

I don’t know about you, but I love this kind of “insane.” I’m drawn to this kind of “crazy.” It seems to me that a little over 2000 years ago some pretty smart people were calling Jesus those very same things.

So, Tamara, my dear friend…you’re in excellent company.


{In case you’re unfamiliar with DMD}

About Duchenne (from Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy)

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood, affecting approximately 1 in every 3,500 live male births (about 20,000 new cases each year). Because the Duchenne gene is found on the X-chromosome, it primarily affects boys; however, it occurs across all races and cultures.

Duchenne results in progressive loss of strength and is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin. Because dystrophin is absent, the muscle cells are easily damaged. The progressive muscle weakness leads to serious medical problems, particularly issues relating to the heart and lungs. Young men with Duchenne typically live into their late twenties.

Duchenne can be passed from parent to child, but approximately 35% of cases occur because of a random spontaneous mutation. In other words, it can affect anyone. Although there are medical treatments that may help slow its progression, there is currently no cure for Duchenne.

How To Find Your Child

March 15, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

At least, this is how we found our children!

We started with prayer. Prayers for strength, perseverance, guidance, grace and for the child that HE was leading us too. Once we felt God’s presence we proceeded.


This is a good place to start! The NHBO site is filled with information on different special needs, parenting in adoption and current waiting children. Start by looking at all the other posts on this blog! You will see pictures of children along with a little bit of information on each child. This site has so much information on it! Take it all in, educate yourself and be proactive.

This is how we started- we knew our child was out there so we felt led to search for her/ him. Many times we both agreed- that’s her or that’s him but sometimes we had to step back and pray over it. We had to wait for God to move our hearts.

The children on the NHBO site are listed with different agencies. Most likely, if you find a waiting child on an agency list they will want you to adopt that child through their agency. Of course I have my favorite agencies but then so do others and the good news is my favorites are different from others- meaning so many of the agencies are wonderful! There are occasions when an agency has had the file for over 6 months and they are willing to transfer the file to the agency you are working with.


The next step is to join this yahoo group: They continuously advocate for the waiting children in China. They answer adoption-related questions and they are extremely helpful! This group is so active you may have to sign up for the daily digest! We have found a few of our children through this advocating group! We are so thankful for that!


Next you will want to check out Rainbow kids. This website has pages and pages of waiting children from many different countries and agencies! They also have articles on different special needs that you may or may not be considering. It is very informative!

Arizona update_2

At this point I would start making a list of special needs that would work for your family. Sometimes the names of the special needs seem rather confusing and the information on the internet can be overwhelming but once again pray over it and look for God’s guidance. Sometime the actual need of the child is not as serious as it sounds.


The first time we adopted, our list of acceptable special needs was very short. After the first adoption, I couldn’t fill that list out any more. Our agency would say to me “we need your list,” “we need your list” and I just wouldn’t fill it out… I couldn’t… What if I did and missed our child because I was afraid to include a certain special need?

I will tell you right now we never intended to adopt a child with
Cognitive delays
Cognitive disabilities
Imperforate anus and a colostomy
An older child
An incontinent child

Thankfully GOD intended us to do all of this and we have been blessed because of it!

Unlike me you should still fill out the list of acceptable special needs. But with time other special needs may feel more comfortable to you. Giving your agency this completed list will help them find a child that may be a fit for your family.

Once we know a child is ours their special need becomes insignificant. They simply become our child and we will do what ever we can to help them! We have also found that many of the special needs are more doable than we originally thought and caring for the child becomes part of our routine and daily life.

Zoenatalie ll

So let’s keep searching!

Next I would start checking out the advocating blogs!
Here are just a few that I know of:

There are so many more blogs and websites on the internet, so start searching! Your child is waiting for you!


At this point you have seen many children that need families. You may have even found a few that make you heart skip a beat. Now it’s time to find an agency if you haven’t already found one. You do not need to go with an agency near your hometown. You can go with any agency in the USA. Cell phones, faxing, attaching, emailing, and overnighting has made it a small world. Our family is in Minnesota and we have adopted with agencies in Minnesota, Colorado and Alabama.


After this I would contact a few agencies that you are interested in adopting through and see if you can view their waiting child lists. You will need to fill out a form to have access to their lists. However, this does not mean you are committed to adopt through that agency. There may be a small fee but many of the agencies will allow you to see their lists with just filling out the form.


I hope that this information will be helpful to you and at least get you started on the amazing journey of adoption! I am unable to have a comprehensive list because there is so much information available. We have found that one list or one contact will lead you to another! Somewhere out there is your precious child. The journey to your child will be filled with excitement and challenges! It is amazing and you will see God at every turn! ENJOY!

the need is great

March 12, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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.

Timing is everything

March 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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.


Urology Woes & Successes

March 1, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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.


wounded heart

February 11, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Character band-aids. They seemed to me like a colorful slice of a pacifier that we ever so gently stick on our children’s wounds…sometimes they even actually even cover blood. I have in the past had what you could call a ‘love/hate relationship’ with character band-aids.

That is until a Mother’s Day tea in one of my children’s kindergarten classrooms.
I sat that morning cramped in my child’s classroom chair, sipping weak tea and eating store bought butter cookies along with a bunch of other women I recognize by face but not by name. My child’s beaming face made the awkwardness worthwhile…that and the promise that we were going to hear our children read their writer’s workshop masterpieces.

The prompt they were given for this particular assignment was, “I love my mother because…”

Yes, predictable.

And many of the answers that were given were rather predictable.

I smiled along with the other moms as they heard their child sing their praises with:

“I love my mommy because she takes me to the pool.”


“I love my mommy because she lets me do karate.”


“I love my mommy because she cooks good food.”

Sweet for sure, each declaration brought smiles from all of us. As I listened I wondered what accolade I would be assigned by my soon to be kindergarten grad.

Finally it was my turn to hear why that particular child of mine loved me.

“I love my mommy because when I fall she comes to the rescue and she gives me a band-aid. And I love her because she helps us when we get hurt and I love her just because.”

It hit home to me right then that an often overlooked “special need” is that of the wounded heart.

Hearts that suffer an early betrayal. Hearts that become trained not to expect their needs to be met when they were one of many in their institutions. Hearts that find trust difficult.

And this child of mine with a wounded heart…over time…this child believed in me.

At first I held my breath, trying not to react in front of those other moms I didn’t really know. Then the tears began to fall as I sat reaching for everything within me to prevent the ugly cry from happening right there in my child’s classroom. It was in that moment that I realized those character band-aids were actually so, SO much more than just a pacifier.

Those band-aids were a symbol to my child–my beautiful, precious, tender, tough, wounded-heart child–that I do care. They serve as a tangible picture of my love for my child. A reassurance that someone, particularly me, will be there to care for my child’s needs. That child may have had their heart broken more than once before they came to know me as Mama.

But I’m here now. So are the character band-aids. And now? Well, I’ll apply them with a smile instead of a sigh.



Holidays and Celebrations

February 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

I’m not exactly what you’d call a “holiday” person. I know people who have decorations ranging from Christmas trees to pumpkins to shamrocks to pink and red hearts that they put up as the seasons rotate. Bu I’m not one of them. I’m a minimalist. The only holiday I decorate for is Christmas and that’s typically limited to our tree and stockings…though we did add an Elf on the Shelf to our traditions a few years back. And believe me, that’s a much bigger deal than it sounds for this simple mama!

Being the mother of three children from China, though, I’ve felt the need to add Chinese New Year to our family list of family holidays. Once again, I don’t go to extremes…no decorations, traditional foods, or even silk attire. Every year we simply head to the local Chinatown with some of our friends from our local adoption group. There is a big celebration in the morning at the Chinese Community Center that includes a lion dance, martial arts performance, singing/musical performances, and various other parts of the Chinese heritage and culture. Then we all go to lunch at an authentic Chinese restaurant and the kids get their red envelopes containing their “lucky money” once we come home.

I’ve always worried that I don’t make a big enough of a fuss over Chinese New Year. After all, it’s really the only part of our kids’ birth culture that we celebrate. We don’t attend Chinese School, and I only have one painting from China hanging in my house. I constantly worry that I’m a “slacker” when it comes to preserving heritage. And this year, my worries escalated as we celebrated our teenage son’s first Chinese New Year since coming home. But I’ve become fond of our little family tradition and it’s something I look forward to every year.

Holidays can be hard when you’re away from your home and family. That’s one thing I learned during our years in the military. The old song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has brought tears to my eyes more than once. But aside from a few food-related episodes from our youngest son, Chinese New Year has been a happy time. Until this year.

My teenager just couldn’t get into our celebration. When we asked his opinion on our trip to Chinatown he declared it was “boring.” But we really didn’t need him to tell us that. His body language pretty much screamed it. We hoped being surrounded by Chinese people, hearing the language, and eating authentic food would make the holiday as special as it could be for him. Notsomuch. Epic fail on that one. I have a feeling this is one of those things that will never be as good as the real deal.

But even worse was our youngest son. We don’t know much about his time in China, but we do know that he often went hungry due to this cleft lip and palate. We’ve struggled with food-related issues since he came home just over three years ago, and as the Chinese New Year celebration comes to an end…right about lunchtime every year…he struggles. Something about being hungry and exposed to the Chinese language and culture sets off a trigger for him. There’s always a little bit of a meltdown, and last year I had to step out of the room with him to keep the distraction down for everyone else. Once he was calmed down and got to eat, he was fine. But this year, the impact lingered. The tears lasted all day, even after he had been fed. And we saw emotional regression combined with a reoccurrence of orphanage behaviors that lasted for days. Not to mention the nights he was back to sleeping with us. The past year has been such GOOD year for him, but the celebration triggered a hidden trauma that wasn’t as easy to recover from as it has been in years past. We even witnessed sheer terror from him by a group in authentic attire from a bygone Chinese era.

And then there was our sweet daughter. Unlike her brothers, she didn’t spend much time in an orphanage. She was with a precious foster family that adored her and would have no doubt adopted her if it had been an option. That little bit of China in Chinatown generated an extreme homesickness. To the point that she was telling us she wanted to go “home” to her “China house.” And when we explained that her home was with us now, she told us in no uncertain terms that we aren’t her family. She wanted her family in China. Her varying range of emotions settled quickly, but it was hard to watch her wrestle with her two worlds…the life she had in China was every bit as good and happy as her life here with us. She has much to miss from her “home” and we grieve with her in her losses.

At the end of a day full of “celebrating” I found myself questioning our Chinese New Year celebrations once again. But not because my girls weren’t wearing silk dresses and I don’t have a kitchen god on display in my home. No, I found myself wondering if it’s a good idea to make an annual tradition out of exposing my children to something that hurts so much. Something that triggers memories from a “former” life that they’re not quite sure how to deal with. And for the first time, I found myself wondering if maybe my holiday celebrations are a bit “over the top.” That maybe…just maybe…I might need to go more simply in the future.

Thankfully I’ve got another year to try and figure it out.


One Giant Leap Forward

January 5, 2014 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

It’s been three years and one month since I stood in the Civil Affairs building in Zhengzhou and took the sweetest boy into my arms. It was the end of 13 long months of waiting, and the love I felt for my son during all those agonizing months was nothing compared to the explosion that took place in my heart the moment I finally held him.

Like all adoptive parents, my husband and I completed the required parent training to adopt from China. We learned many valuable lessons during those hours and they prepared us for some of the challenges that we might face once our son was home. But learning about those challenges is nothing like seeing them firsthand. From the first time I fed my son, he acted like he had never seen food before. And as a baby with a cleft lip and palate that was responsible for holding his own bottle and feeding himself while the orphanage nannies took care of the younger, less independent babies I know that he had probably never experienced having enough food.

Through the years, we’ve had to overcome many “orphanage behaviors” but the hardest one for my son to let go of was his struggle with food issues. It’s something that was a gradual process. First letting him have all the food he wanted, whenever he wanted. Making sure that all the food was in place at the table before he sat down to a meal to avoid a meltdown. Telling restaurant staff that his order must be the first one brought out. Warning preschool teachers and church volunteers that if someone else is eating and he doesn’t have food, it could cause a problem. Then less, and less, of those moments. Small little battles that became very large victories through the years as he became more and more secure in the knowledge that his tummy would never know the pangs of hunger again. But always, he is the last family member at the table…eating all of his food and sometimes even a second helping. There has never been anything about him that indicated even the slightest bit that he is a “picky” eater.

But this past week, that changed. Cold weather and a flu epidemic sweeping through our home prompted me to make a batch of homemade chicken and noodle soup. Like always, the bowls were in place when the kids were called to the table. And after we blessed the food, my sweet Caden pushed away his entire bowl of soup and said, “I don’t like this.” He had eaten it before without complaint, but this time something was different. This time he knew he could reject it and still not go hungry. It took three years for him to reject a meal. Three years to develop that deep level of trust that his tummy is safe with us. Long after the angry outbursts were conquered and anxious attachment became healthy attachment, it was the one thing that continued to break this mama’s heart over and over again. My baby worried that I wasn’t going to feed him.

I have a confession to make. Normally, when my kids reject food or insult my cooking I don’t take it too well. I even have a playful sign in my kitchen that says “Today’s Menu: Eat It or Starve” to head off complaints from my more particular kids who make a habit of turning up their noses at dinner. But when my sweet boy pushed that bowl of soup away, I wanted to cheer. Because it was one more giant leap forward in this journey we call “adoption”. A journey that lasts a lifetime and brings new challenges with it along the way. A journey that will never be mastered or perfected. But a journey that definitely makes an impact…even if the results are slow coming.


Her New Forever

December 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

One of the hardest things…for me, at least…about being an adoptive parent is knowing that I missed out on my child(ren)’s life in China. And I’ve found that the older the child is when they join our family, the harder it is to deal with that loss of knowledge about my child’s past. Our early years play such a huge role in shaping us into who we are. It’s great to tour the orphanage and visit with the nannies, but it gives only a snapshot into the child’s “previous” life. There is so much about those missed years that we will never know. So many things that shaped our child(ren) that we won’t even know happened.

It’s slightly different with my daughter. We just crossed over the one year home mark about a month ago. In her years before us, she was in a loving foster home and we have additional insight into her life…which I am incredibly thankful for. But in a way, adopting a 4 year old out of a loving foster family is harder than adopting an (almost) 2 year old out of an orphanage. I have much more information on my daughter’s upbringing and life than we do her younger brother, but she also has memories of her life in China that our son doesn’t. Memories of a life she enjoyed, surrounded by people who loved her and doted on her like she was the center of the universe.


As we approached our one year anniversary as our daughter’s parents, we began to notice some new playacting taking place. Our sweet girl was constantly imagining that she was back in China with her Foster Mama and Foster Baba, with her little brother playing the role of her (older) foster brother. For awhile, it was a daily occurrence and then it became more gradual. But a few months later it still hasn’t stopped. And along with this pretend play has come conversations about missing China. About wanting to go “home” to her foster parents. Questions about why they “gave” her to us.

The one year home milestone is such a huge one to hit with your new child. But there’s one I know many people celebrate even more…the day when their child has been with them longer than they were without them. And even though we’ve had just over 13 months with our girl, she’s still been with us less than half the amount of time that she was with her foster family. This life…though very permanent…is still her “new” life. And even though my husband and I are her forever parents, we’re still the Johnny-come-latelys in our daughter’s life.

It’s hard not to get hurt when our daughter wishes for her old life in China. Even knowing that she loves us and has attached securely to us, I’m still a teensy bit jealous of the woman she called “Mama” for nearly three years. What I wouldn’t do to have those early years. But at the same time, I am so incredibly thankful that Foster Mama did have those years. Because during that time, my baby girl had someone loving her…caring for her…fixing her hair in pretty styles…and spoiling her rotten. I’ll gladly take the trade. But I also know that having been loved so much before joining our family, our daughter is going to need time to grieve the loss of the life that she once had. I know she’ll never forget the first people who cared for her as Mom and Dad…nor do I want her to. I want her years with Mama and Baba to be savored and held tightly to her heart. They’re the reason she is who she is today. And I love who she is today very, very much. So yes, I’ll gladly take the trade. Even if it means it takes my daughter a little bit longer to wrap her mind around the fact that this is her new forever.

you can't keep a good man down

December 1, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I’ve posted here before that I’m an idiot. There’s no denying. And my idiocy is magnified at the pedi urologist’s office. But recently, I scored one for the mommy dummies of the world, because I was right!

Our Gabe wasn’t doing well. I couldn’t put my finger on it. He was cranky and pulling at himself and just not right. I called the urologist about a possible UTI. They had me call the pedi. Pedi said he didn’t have one but that they would begin antibiotics and send a culture anyway. Of course it came back that he had a raging {mostly antibiotic resistant} infection. Score one for mom.

But other things didn’t add up. And after two traumatic urologic instances {I’ll spare you the details of both}, I took him to the urologist. He told me that he was soooo glad I brought him in because his urethra was closed.


With only the tiniest pin hole opening where urine could barely trickle out.

No wonder sweet baby was not feeling well. Can you even imagine? I surely can’t.

So uro surgery #3 {#4 and possibly #5 are scheduled for next year} happened within days and the Little Prince was again living with a catheter. And quite a large one.

But you know something? It didn’t phase him in the least. Oh, he didn’t like having his diaper changed. Could you blame him? Me either.

He went on with life and actually, felt wonderful. And it’s no wonder…without the feeling that he had to pee all the stinkin’ time and the pain of the UTI and who knows what else…he was like a new man!

There was the moment a few days after surgery when, during an intense light saber fight with his brother, he met the mean end of our sofa table…and thus got a black eye. But even that, after a few minutes, was no big deal.

It’s true, you can’t keep a good man down. And this one? He always comes out standing.
the bruiser-1906 copy

Sickness and Snuggles

November 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

There’s been some kind of virus floating through our house for the past week or so. And as I predicted it would, the illness is slowly making its rounds through the family.

Last night we got hit with a “double whammy”. As my husband and I were tucking our sweet China babies into bed we realized that both of them felt warm, and sure enough taking their temperatures confirmed our suspicions: The two littlest members of our family were sick.


I don’t know what sick kids means in anyone else’s home, but it ours it means an extra kiddo or two in Mom and Dad’s bed. So last night we had our littles in bed with us…one on either side of me, with their 100+ degree fevers making me feel like I was sleeping in a furnace! I wanted SO badly to turn on the A/C…even though the temperature outside our house was in the 50’s. But despite my own hot flashes, the contorted shape my body was twisted into by the child on either side of me, and the overall fact that I was just so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep, a beautiful thought occurred to me.

I was there to take care of my babies.

Both of my little ones had surgeries in China that I wasn’t there for. Both of them had illnesses…either at the orphanage or in the ICU…before I became their Mama and was able to take care of them. The privilege of caring for these two once orphans in their current sickness was not lost on me. Because once upon a time, they didn’t have a Mama to take care of them when they didn’t feel well. They didn’t have parents to snuggle in bed with when they were sick. And once upon a time, we didn’t have them.

Every excruciating day of the wait. Every typo and delay that sent me into a frenzy during the paper chase. They had led up to that moment. The moment when I snuggled down with my two babies and was thankful to be up all night taking care of them when they were sick. So many times during the wait to hold my babies in my arms, I lost sleep over a bit of bad news. But the lost sleep that comes from snuggles during sickness…it’s oh so sweet.

baby steps and giant leaps

November 1, 2013 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

I’m not sure if I’ve posted here before about the long and winding road we walk with our Joel in regards to education. In a nutshell, Joel came home to us at age 3 having spent his life in an orphanage. He was not speaking Thai at all and we were told by his pediatrician there that he would endure significant speech delays but that cognitively he was holding his own. We homeschool our kids in a hybrid type way. They attend private school on M/W each week. They are taught all subjects by degreed teachers. We carry out home assignments given by those teachers on T/T/F. They will graduate from an accredited high school {one that scores above the national average}, have transcripts and guidance counselors and the works. But I get to have them home with me three days a week and am not responsible for curriculum choice or benchmarks being met or any of the stuff that scares the daylights out of moms like me!

Last year was TOUGH. Joel was grossly speech delayed. He has been in therapy for three years for language help. It’s worked wonders. Still, he has far to go. Kindergarten was a huge struggle for us because he had never had to sit for 3 hours to do work {even off and on} throughout a day, his speech hindered his ability to learn to read, our 18 month old Little Prince came home from China in September during the third week of school, etc. It was a true labor of love getting this boy through Kindergarten.

We struggled and lamented and prayed for months about whether to retain Joel rather than allowing him to go on to 1st grade. Every week, we made a decision and by the weekend, had changed it. My mind was on overload and my heart was aching. I so didn’t want to make a poor choice for him. And my husband looked to me for more insight on the decision since it was I who spent three days a week schooling him. We met with his teacher, an administrator and others for wise counsel.

In the end, we decided to promote.

And I held my breath all summer long.

We’ve still had hard days. But by and large, this year has been worlds better than last. He struggles in reading, and is in the lowest group; and learning to count by 2’s and 5’s has taken years off of our lives…I’m sure of it! However, I told my best friend, I know that Joel will not be a 20 year old walking around and not able to count by 5’s. Eventually, it will click. Surely, surely, it will click.

Last week, his reading teacher stopped in to tell me {I work at the school}, that she had just done Joel’s benchmark testing for the end of the first quarter. I sucked my gut in, held my breath and waited. To my relief, she informed me that he had improved and had advanced a level in reading! Oh my, ya’ll. This was huge.

All summer, I kept telling myself, “as long as there is positive movement, as long as he doesn’t stagnate or regress…I’m going to just go with it and be grateful.” But he advanced a level! WaaaaHoooo!!!

As if that weren’t enough, his math teacher stopped me in the copy room to say how much she adores Joel. How she is so impressed by how hard he is working…how hard he is trying to improve. I mentioned that we are working hard and that I hope it will begin paying off for our sweet boy. She was so validating…reminding me of all Joel had been through, of where he came from. She spoke of the stark disadvantage that he began with as opposed to all of the other 1st graders in his class. I knew all of this, of course, but it did my heart good to hear that she knew it too. Not to make him a victim or to dismiss his ability or lack thereof. But just to “get it.”

Then, on a random home day, Joel told me that he could do his math problems by himself. I was hesitant, and honestly doubtful, but wanted to let him try. Imagine my joy y’all….


Tears welled up and I had that familiar lump catch in my throat.

We aren’t where we want to be, but we certainly aren’t where we were. Sometimes, those seemingly small steps our children take are actually giant leaps!


October 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever, for always, and no matter what.

Dealing With Grief

September 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

As pre-adoptive parents prepare to bring our children home, we go through hours upon hours of parent training. Not to mention meetings with our social worker, and any reading we may do on our own to help prepare for the day our new son or daughter joins their forever family.

One of the topics that gets talked about frequently is dealing with your child’s grief. Whether a child waits in a less-than-perfect situation, or is in a pretty ideal place, they forever leave their familiar life behind. Nannies and friends at the orphanage. Foster parents and foster siblings. Possibly even classmates in school. Not to mention the sights, smells, sounds, and cultural nuances that make up their birth country. Their entire world gets turned upside down, and as their new parents we need to know how to handle it when our child grieves for the life they lost.

But one thing that doesn’t get talked about very often is how an adoptive parent should respond when they find themselves grieving. Because…no matter how happy the adoptive parents may be or how much they love their new addition…when a new child enters the family oftentimes a part of their old life is “lost” for the adoptive family as well. Suddenly the home that made sense and ran like a well-oiled machine is thrown into chaos and confusion by things like a grieving child, orphanage behaviors, attachment struggles, processing disorders, medical needs, night terrors, or other children in the home regressing due to the addition of a new sibling. If an older child joins the family, then things like language barriers and cultural differences come into play. It can feel like the magic trick where a magician quickly pulls the tablecloth away…only you’re left wondering how and when the pieces will fall into place again.

The adoption process is such an emotionally draining experience. When we’re in the midst of it, we want it to move at least twice as fast as it’s currently moving. Every day counts and we can tell anyone who asks…and even some who don’t!…exactly how many seconds we’ve been waiting to move onto the next step. Getting our child home becomes almost an obsession, and we share that obsession with our friends and family pretty much daily for months on end. So, when we get home and find it’s not everything we hoped and dreamed of during the agonizing months of waiting for the next “A” to arrive…then what?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I do know that with our first adoption, I kept the less-than-perfect stuff hidden as much as I could…and that didn’t work. Spending all day pretending that things are perfect, then locking yourself in the bathroom after the kids go to bed and crying until you have no more tears left isn’t the way to go. However, with adoptions two and three I’ve learned that talking with my social worker and other adoptive parents is a panacea for the soul. Transparency with friends and family makes a world of difference. Leaving my child(ren) with a trusted person while sneaking away for a cup of coffee or a pedicure helps immensely. And going through counseling is great!!! Taking care of myself isn’t a reason to feel guilty. It’s a NEED. I’m human and have emotional needs, too. And to put it bluntly…if I’m not making sure my own emotional needs are being met, I’m not going to be able to meet the needs of my new child. But the thing I’ve found to work the best is to make peace with the fact that I’m not perfect, I don’t have it all together, and it’s okay if our family isn’t the poster family for adoption. It’s a lonely feeling to be in this place. But, I’ve also learned through my own experience that I am NOT alone in my struggles. Other adoptive parents go through them, too. These struggles come in different shapes and sizes, and they need to be dealt with in different ways. But they’re common.

Being an adoptive parent is hard work. And sometimes admitting our failures, having a cup of coffee with a friend, taking a trip to the spa, savoring a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, letting our tears fall into a bubble bath, or even meeting with someone in professional circles to help us is the work that needs to be done. But that’s okay. If you’re in that place, don’t feel guilty. Or alone. Because I’m right there with ya. The day will come when we’re not here anymore. Adoptions one and two taught me that. But for now, what’s important is that we deal with our struggles…whether it be grief or otherwise…the best way we know how.

And boy, do I wish we could take a spa day together…


September 2, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

My mind has been doing the very same thing this week that it did three years ago. In 2010, our son, Joel {aka The Thai Tornado}, would be celebrating his first year home in the coming days and I couldn’t get the images, the smells and the memories out of my head. They came flooding back with the entry of September.

And in like fashion, Gabe {aka our Little Prince} was a “September baby” for us. And so those same experiences, in a different land, are replaying in my head like a classic movie. One that you want to watch over and over at first and then you kinda forget about for a while. Until something triggers it again. Then you can’t get enough of it for a time.

I’m stuck on that movie this week. That movie of Gabe and us becoming family. The movie that will never win any awards but is an Oscar contender in my life. Not because it’s worthy of any accolades whatsoever. Those belong only to God. But because it holds the images, the sounds and the experiences that are burned into my memory.

So I’m pondering and reliving our lives from this time last year. How on this night {I’m writing this on Sunday because I’m a terrible NHBO contributor and my post is due TODAY!}, how on this night, the Sunday before Labor Day, we were meeting our Gabe. It was actually Monday morning, of course, in China. How I was so glad that our kids back home could wait up late into the night to meet their brother via FaceTime because with the holiday, there would be no school the next morning. And how Jase and I had been awake in the middle of the night {Sunday afternoon here} singing “Happy Birthday” to Joel through heavy tears via Skype.

A year ago.

An entire year with our Little Prince.

So much grace. So much love and complete joy in grafting him in.

For months, this video made me so happy…happy that Gabe didn’t cry and wail when we took him. Happy that he quietly came to us without a fight. Now, a year later, it makes me a bit sad. He was scared to death. BRAVE. But terrified at first of course.

Yet God in His grace made a way for Gabe. Unworthy as we are, He made a way through Jase and I. And I know without question, there are many of you whom He would use in the very same way.

Take a leap of faith, y’all. Dare to see the orphan as God does. Risk fear and heartache and financial strain and difficult days. Trade them in for all that stands to be gained…the love and joy of a forever family. The sound of your child whispering your name in the middle of the night.

Because in the whole of it, He makes beautiful things.

Are you ready?

August 11, 2013 by nohandsbutours 7 Comments

Our sweet Natalie.

It’s been over two years now that we’ve prayed for her to find a family and nearly one year since we’ve been racing to make her part of ours. In pictures I’ve watched her go from a baby to a toddler to an adorable preschooler.

While it seemed the wait would be eternal for a while, finally we are closing in on the end and the days are slipping by quickly. Most conversations with friends these days seem to start with them asking, “Are you ready?”

Are you ready?

Wow, that’s a loaded question…

Ready for the trip?

We’re close. Nothing is in suitcases yet, but clothing for the kids has been laid out, I’ve decided what I’m taking for me, and all gifts have been purchased. Our international air is booked, we have orders in for our train tickets from Beijing to the provincial capital, and we are talking with several guides about our add on days. So yeah, we’re pretty much ready for the trip.

Ready to meet Natalie?

You have no idea. While I honestly believed that we were to advocate for her when I first saw her in April of 2011, she simply looked…well…familiar to me back then. Over the months that passed I fell in love with that sweet child and eventually we embraced the idea of having five children within 3 1/2 years in age. At times during our paperchase it seemed that it was two steps forward, one step back, we just couldn’t get to her fast enough. My arms can’t wait to feel the weight of her and we long to hear her voice. Yes, we’re ready to meet our little one!

Ready for the transition?

This is where I struggle. Oh, I know that one day, in six months or a year, maybe more, maybe less, we’ll step out on the other side of our metamorphosis as a stronger, more resilient family of seven. But I also know that it isn’t an easy process…

Adoption is beautiful, but it comes out of something not so much so. And creating a family through adoption is amazing, but dealing with grief and fear in the beginning isn’t for the faint of heart.

I think back to my other kids transitioning into the family. One accepted us initially but cried silent tears for months instead of letting us know that she had needs to be met. It made me feel a failure as a mother that i couldn’t seem to find a way to get her to trust us…that we were there for her and would at least try to meet her needs if she’d just signal us.

Another appeared to be the most happy-go-lucky kid by day though nights in those first six months seemed endless. During the day he loved big, but when it was time for bed, and anytime he’d awaken while it was still dark, he poured out his grief of losing his beloved foster mother and having everything in his life change before his eyes. Initially he’d push me away and scream even louder if I tried to hold him and later he’d cling to me as if his life depended on it, screaming all the while.

We experienced a child who stayed close by our sides in China and ~ with the exception of our initial meeting ~ never shed a tear…until we got home and he’d stand in the corner of the room and scream the most pitiful cry of heartbreak for an hour at a time, slapping my arms if I reached for him. Unsure of what else to do, I’d sit on the floor at arm’s reach and cry right along with him.

And then there was one that never shed a tear at all (beyond those at our initial meeting) but couldn’t allow herself to let us help her. Such independence built into a little girl who felt the need to show us she could do it all herself. No tears, yet equally as heartbreaking…I’ll never forget the day within weeks of coming home ~ within days of her third birthday ~ when she proudly grabbed some of the laundry I was folding and showed me how well she could fold too, as if to gain approval.

Y’all, these days of transition are not my favorite time. They hurt. It is a difficult time where my husband and I have truly found out what we are made of. We have been stretched, sometimes to the point that we think we will break. To make matters more difficult, parenting a child who experiences such trauma isn’t a cookie cutter process. What worked to help one of my children as they learn what it is to be part of a family isn’t necessarily going to be the answer for another.

And now we are getting ready to bring home a child who has spent almost the entire first four years of her life in an institution. A good one, but an institution. She is in good physical condition, but right now she has no idea what it means to be part of a family. We’ll have to show her and prove to her that we are good…that we can be trusted. It’s a slow and often painful process.

But growth often is…

So are we ready?

Yes. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Just excuse us as we enter our cocoon for the last time as a family of six and re-emerge later as a family of seven. We’re probably going to look/act/seem a little different and It may be messy in the meantime. But we have hope and a promise from the one who directed us on this adventure and know that He has good plans for us…all seven of us.

A Few of My Favorite Things

August 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

It all started nearly three years ago. As soon as we brought our first son home from China, I began scheduling appointments at our local children’s hospital to have specialists review the needs listed in his file. Initially there were four doctors we were working with…then three…and finally we were left only with two as we received an “all clear” on two of his needs.

Those early days meant many hours at the hospital during and between appointments. And as surgery after surgery began to take place I truly felt like our children’s hospital was becoming my second home. Walking through the halls, sitting out by the fountain, relaxing at the play area, or even grabbing a cup of coffee often had me bumping into someone who had recently worked with us…either in an office, a lab, a sound booth, or radiology. I joked that it was my “Cheers”. Like the old sitcom, our children’s hospital became the place where everybody knows my name.

Recently my son and I were back at the hospital for another round of pre-op appointments. His sixth surgery in his four years of life, and the fourth surgery for his cleft lip and palate. In between appointments we had the same lunch we have countless times through the years…baked potatoes from a little café eaten in the sunny Atrium. This meal of styrofoam plates, disposable silverware, and a plastic tray has become quite the tradition. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve done it. Not just on pre-op days, but on post-op and check-up days as well. And as I sat there most recently, I realized that those lunches are working their way into my heart as one of the favorite memories from my son’s childhood. Our special “dates” on the days it’s just the two of us.

When my husband and I first started the adoption process, we looked at all the needs on the medical checklist given to us by our agency and tried to determine which were the most manageable for us to handle. The needs that would be easiest to balance with the children we already had in our home. It never occurred to me that when we checked off our list, I was going to be spending the time at our hospital that I do. It never occurred to me that I would bump into nurses and technicians and chat with them like they’re old friends. It never occurred to me that one day my son and I would be playing at the courtyard fountain and joyfully waving at our ENT through his office window. It never occurred to me that our plastic surgeon would follow our progress for two more adoption journeys. It never occurred to me that our cardiologist would welcome us back as a “new” patient with our daughter after my son left his care. And it never occurred to me that these days at the hospital, working with our medical teams, would become such an integral part of who I am.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that baked potatoes from a hospital café, a great team of doctors, and the playground on the first floor of “Building A” have become a few of my favorite things.


expect the unexpected

August 1, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

So the last time we chatted, our Gabe had a surgery looming. As we say in the South, a “big, honkin’ surgery.” We knew what we wanted to have happen…a graft to be taken from our Little Prince’s mouth {ouch} to build his urethra {as well as tubes placed in his ears for recurrent and terrible ear infections}, and a spica body cast to keep him completely immobile for the following two weeks to ensure the survival of said graft.

If you’re curious about the details of that day, you can get up to speed by reading here.

Suffice it to say, things went extraordinarily better than we could have ever hoped. The graft was taken, not from his mouth, but from his nether regions {best case scenario} and no cast was needed. We were floored. And we were devastated later that night when his urinary catheter slipped out and our Gabe endured the reinsertion of a new one in the ER of our children’s hospital.

It was completely unexpected by everyone involved that the surgery would be that great of a success. But it was somewhat expected that the graft would break down in some way or some point and that a hole {fistula} could make surgery #5 for our sweet boy a reality.

And that it did.

So this gorgeous boy,

Gabe post op post-8973 copy nhbo

with cinnamon roll icing on his sweet face,

Gabe post op post-8978 copy nhbo

will head back to the OR in a few months for what we expect is his last urological surgery.

Gabe post op post-8977 copy nhbo

But as I’ve said, it’s wise to expect the unexpected.

Gabe post op post-8984 copy nhbo

Whatever those details and plans will be, however they play out, we are grateful. To a team of brilliant pediatric urologists who have made life, “normal life,” much more possible for our beautiful boy. For family and friends who didn’t let his special need scare them and who came alongside us and said, “whatever he needs, we support you!” And for a God who knits these precious ones together…for His glory, and for our complete joy.

We’re so grateful for the whole of it.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20



The One

July 6, 2013 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

It’s hardly been a month since we finalized our son’s adoption. We’re still in the getting settled in and trying to discover our “new normal” phase. The jetlag has passed, we’ve had our first post placement visit with our social worker, and bonding through movies and board games is a key focus of mine.

Our journey wasn’t a normal one. We’ve adopted three times now, and while one thing I’ve learned is that adoption is unpredictable at best, this one went well beyond that. We weren’t planning to adopt again now. We had only been home a few months with our most recently adopted daughter when a young man on the verge of “aging out” crossed our path via the World Wide Web. It occurred to my husband and me almost instantly that there was something different about this one than all the other waiting children that stumbled onto my computer screen, so we began to seek God’s path in prayer.

Right away a friend of ours came alongside us. Praying with us, supporting us, encouraging us. And when we said “yes” despite all the obstacles standing in our path, this friend was our greatest support. We had only four months to complete an adoption…and an adoption started from scratch, for that matter. And not only that, but since we had just finalized an adoption and weren’t planning to adopt again on this side of the five-year plan we were totally lacking anything that could be considered an adoption fund. If by some great miracle the paperwork got finished on time, we knew we would still be several thousand short at travel time.

Our friend told us not to worry about fundraising. She would take care of that. We needed to concentrate on the paperwork. And since she is a notary, she even notarized all bazillion of our documents for us …and at our beck-and-call. Nights or weekends, it didn’t matter. Every step of the way, she was there with us. Slaying our dragons and lifting us up when the journey made us weary.

When it came time to travel, she didn’t stop. Knowing that my parents and grandmother would be here with our other five children while we made the trip, she arranged for a yard service to come do our mowing every week at her expense…including the week we were preparing to travel. She provided “relief duty” and took our girls for fun outings while we were gone. And when it was time to go to the airport to welcome us home, she and her husband led a caravan to ensure that my small town family wouldn’t get lost in the big city traffic. When we walked through those double doors leading out of Customs, her husband was even manning the video camera while she snapped the pictures.

Now that we’re home, she still hasn’t stopped. I sat on the couch and watched her, her husband, and my Mom do all the work for our son’s “Welcome Home” party. She is the one emailing me and texting me regularly to see how things are going. Sending her teenager to come hang out with mine. Stealing me away and buying me dinner and Bubble Tea while giving me 100% of her attention as a safe place to share my heart.

Often times in adoption circles we complain that others don’t “get it” and that adoptive parents are the only ones who understand. But this friend is simply someone who is passionate about adoption and has found a priceless ministry in caring for our family. And everyone going through an adoption needs someone like her on their side.

I know many of the people reading this are adoptive families and are nodding their heads in agreement right now. Perhaps even wishing they had someone like my friend in their life. That’s not who this post is directed toward. This post is for the people in their lives…friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, Bible study members, etc…that could maybe be THE ONE for the adoptive families they know. That could do the same thing for them that my friend has done for me. Because the journey is more difficult than we let on. One harsh word from a critic will paralyze our tongue and keep us from sharing the hard stuff the next time around. And sometimes…even after we’re home with our new child…we feel like we’re drowning in a sea that we have no control over. It would be nice if the whole world understood and were in our ring throughout the adoption process, but just ONE person makes a whole world of difference. So if you’re reading this and you are not currently in the process of adopting a child, I have to ask…could you be THE ONE someone you know is wishing for with all their heart?

perspective and prayers {7.1.13}

July 3, 2013 by nohandsbutours 9 Comments

I wrote most of this post at 12:37am Monday morning. Before anything happened. Before reality came. I was broken and sad and pondering some weighty things. And sleep just would not come. Do you ever do this? Does your mind spin and swirl and succumb to hard thoughts late at night? Do you see faces of precious littles who need to be healed? Mine does, I do.

I was asking God to give us peace. To hear our cries.

About unknown outcomes.

And hurting hearts.

And hopeful answers.

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it has been lighting up for a few weeks and months really, with links and prayer requests for little Teresa. Beautiful Teresa whose heart transplant was unsuccessful recently. I have been broken for this family. Holding on to the hope that God had a miracle waiting in the wings for this precious one.

With this struggle in the early hours of this morning, before the sun dare show it’s face, I was remembering a conversation that my husband and I had when we were praying about adopting our Seth, born with five serious congenital heart defects, from China.

Him :: “What if he dies, babe? What if we get him home and he still dies? How will our children ever get over that? How will we?”

Me :: “I don’t have an answer for that. Only that at least we would be with him. That I could hold him and he would know the love of a family for however long God gave us.”

Him :: “How can we do this?”

Me {crying} :: “I don’t know.”

And a few days later….

Him :: “How can we not do this?”

That was the real question. How can we NOT do this?

Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of special needs beyond the realm of comfort for our family. It is a decision that parents must make with the utmost care and consideration. I’m in no way placing blame or judgement on anyone for what or how they choose their children.

Only to say, that we were led. We were called. He spoke. We wearily, fearfully obeyed.

Though I didn’t see it then, I can now say it was a measure of God’s grace that our Seth went to Heaven before coming home to his forever family. Grace that our babies never hugged him or laughed with him at dinner or howled as he streaked through the living room buck naked after his bath.

A devastating and wondrous grace.

Yet my arms ache for him. And my mama heart longs to whisper to him how loved he was. How loved he is. How he was chosen and so wanted. I wanted to be there to hold him when he died. I pray his foster family was there in my stead.

Grace. That our Gabe came home in place of his brother. That he is here and is adored and is the happiest and sweetest prince you could ever hope to meet.

And so I know that Teresa’s parents are recipients of grace as well. They have been given the blessing of her…touching her, kissing her and telling her about the beauty of the Savior. Their grace is devastating and wondrous as well. In a manner far beyond my comprehension.

And I’m so torn tonight.

Because Teresa’s parents begged for her life to be sustained. And I and thousands others joined with them in that prayer. Petitioning for healing. Our God answered that prayer perfectly. Not in the way we wanted. We know now only in part, one glorious day, we shall know fully. But we trust Him.

Torn also because our little prince is facing a surgery of his own next Monday. One whose success we’ve been told is looking bleak.

Not life threatening at all.

But potentially, drastically life altering.

And my heart hurts for him.

We didn’t see this coming. Our surgeon didn’t see it coming. The plan has changed. His body has so scarred down that a necessary repair may be impossible.

Yet we trust Him.

This beautiful boy,
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who comes outside in only a diaper to ride his favorite toy,

and who is asked 100 times a day for a “pucker kiss” by his sister,

and who, in recent days, has become an absolute fish in the water,

is our utter and complete joy.

It’s true, we didn’t expect the prognosis we’ve been given. And I’m sure that while Teresa’s precious parents fully accepted the risks in beginning her adoption, they surely hoped and prayed that her path would be a miraculous one with minimal struggle. And they would do it all over again.

We would all do it again. Wouldn’t we?

Because these babies are our treasures. Toddler or child, baby or teenager…these babies are our treasures. And whatever, whenever, however we need to help make them well, and give them every chance to be healthy…we gladly do it.

Are you afraid of adopting a child with special needs?

Don’t be.

Instead, be prepared for blessing to be heaped upon blessing in your life. Because every Teresa, whose very life is in jeopardy by a heart that needs healing…and every Gabe, whose body just doesn’t work like it should, deserves a family. They need someone to say that they are worth it. The pain, the heartache, the risk and even the strained finances do not compare to the unsurpassing joy of grafting them in to a forever family.

Will you be the one? Will you say YES? Will you dare to imagine how beautiful and blessed it is to change these precious orphans into sons and daughters?

You may regret it if you don’t. But I promise, you will never regret it if you do.

Best friends

June 11, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

This school year one of my closest friend’s daughters has helped keep Daniel and I company one day a week.


Our Mondays together have included some preschool lessons, lunch time, rest time and of course plenty of play time.

Two precious kiddos, born on different continents in 2008. These “built-in best friends” now live in the same neighborhood, are on the same swim team, and before we know it will start kindergarten at the same elementary school. I watch these two together and their interaction brings a smile to my face.

The way she jumps in and plays monster trucks or tool guy with him without skipping a beat…


The way he irritates her by calling her “Cordie” ~ even though she calls him “Danger.”


The way they create and play with legos for the longest time…


The way they can just sit, side by side, happily together.


Two best friends, brought together through special needs adoptions. It isn’t lost on me how easily they ~ and we their parents ~ could have missed out…

Gotcha Day

June 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 12 Comments

It was two-and-a-half years ago that I approached the very same building and found a precious baby boy already inside waiting for me. That was the moment I had dreamed of for so many years…I was finally adopting from China.

Today was a different scenario. I found myself waiting (not so patiently) in that room for my son to arrive. Watching the other families receive their babies. Some happy to meet their Mama and Baba, some not so happy, and even one that arrived at Civil Affairs sound asleep and transitioned into her Mama’s arms without even noticing. I was a bundle of nerves with tears in my eyes, reliving my first two “Gotcha Days” as I watched new families form right before my eyes.

When the van arrived, I knew it was finally our turn. With the one other family that had a child coming from the same orphanage, my husband and I looked outside in eager anticipation. And when the doors opened, there he was. My breath caught as I rushed to the window to take pictures of him. The first moment of laying my eyes on him in real life. I cued Dad to get the video camera rolling and headed to the door to greet the boy had waited so long to hold in my arms. I snapped a picture as soon as he walked in and he smiled at me, knowing full well that I was his new Mom. That scrapbook I worked so hard to put together for him paid off.


It was a magical moment when I walked up to him with open arms and he returned my embrace. But it was even more magical watching him sign the forms saying he wanted to come with us. So many people throughout the wait had expressed wonder at our willingness to adopt a teenager. The truth of the matter is, though, he took a much bigger risk by signing those papers than we did. The weight of the moment was not lost on me. Watching this young man entrust his entire future to us was one of the bravest acts I’ve ever witnessed. My prayer is that as our days together continue, he feels the risk was worth taking. Because…after only a few hours with him…I already know it was on my end.

miles to go

June 1, 2013 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

So the little prince and I were at Target the other day when my phone rang. Our dear friends needed a little help and thought of us… Because she said, “You guys ‘get it!’” And I guess she’s right about that. They have been home from China for six months with their sweet boy and have just begun recently to let him stay in nursery at church without them. But they were in a quandary. Their daughters had a special morning at school coming up. One they knew would be too much for their son.

Four long hours.

That’s an eternity for an active 2 year old to be expected to sit! So she wanted to know if he could hang out with us. I checked my calendar and let her know we were a go!

Gabe and their son have played together several times…with both mamas present! They do so well together and it makes my friend and I just giddy to watch them enjoy each other.

They came around 8am and only a few, quick tears were shed. We went outside to play {and distract!}. Everything was going great. It was just at one point when I needed to pick our friends’ son up for a second that I noticed something.

Rewind to our first three months home.

Although we fully realized that it takes an immeasurable amount of time to completely settle, Gabe was adjusting better than we could have ever hoped. He was showing great signs of attaching. Sleeping like a dream {no pun intended!} and was affectionate, happy and seemingly fine for the most part.

But he made a sound constantly. And when he was clearly stressed, the pitch was higher and louder. I wish I could describe it. Almost like a bird’s cry. Only more like a rattle. Where he would do something with his throat and push air out of his mouth.

It was a funny little sound. And back then, got to be a little unnerving at times. One day, almost out of the blue, he just stopped doing it. It was as if we looked at each other and said, “Hey, did you notice!?! He’s not making the crazy sound anymore!”

Only last Friday, he began again.

We haven’t heard that sound since January I bet. But when I picked his friend up to tend to him, Gabe was at my leg in a flash, gazing up at me and that little rattle was flying out of his mouth. And with it, the words, “My mama. My mama.”

It all came back to me then. I’ve told y’all countless times, I’m such a moron. And it didn’t occur to me, when we were in the throes of re-entry, that this sound has a purpose.

Our little prince was coping.

I was just too exhausted or idiotic to see it at the time. It was crystal clear on Friday though. Crystal clear that while we’ve come so far, we still have miles to go.

In helping him realize that we are inseparable now.

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That we are as much his as we could ever be.

Easter 2013-4977

And that we will love him with fierce, mad love until we die.

Easter 2013-4990

It’s been eight wonderful months. Everyday we lay more groundwork in attachment. Every night we solidify his safety and well being as he falls asleep smiling in my arms. And every morning, when he stands up in that crib to look for us, we assure him all over again…that while there are still miles to go, we are here forever and are more than happy to walk those miles with him.

Chinese Cowpokes

May 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

The process of watching an adopted child become a part of their family is beautiful to behold. The “Gotcha Day” videos get me every time. But beyond that comes the intertwining that takes place over time.

My husband and I already had three biological children when we adopted our son from China in 2010. And while he was immediately adored by his new brother and sisters, it was quite clear that our newest addition was from a different background and had a different life experience in his baby years than they had. Slowly, though, as time went on he became more and more like his older siblings. And then the day arrived when a friend of mine told me that she doesn’t even think of Caden as being adopted…to her, he’s just another one of our kids.

It’s hilarious to see the mannerisms he’s developed. Clearly “nurture” is showing its advantage over “nature” in many of these areas. Because, aside from his dark hair and almond eyes my little Chinese boy is just like his older siblings.

When we brought Cora home, the grafting process began all over again. And once again, we saw that there were four kids established in our home that were very different from their newest sibling in many ways. Because Cora had been in a loving foster family and had already been grafted into a home and family, we had a harder time teaching her the ropes.

Over time, things gradually changed and we saw Cora beginning to take on the traits of our family. Her foster brother became a “friend” that she talked about, meanwhile her relationship with her new siblings began to thrive and blossom. With her own special brand of spunk, she began to “tick” with the workings of our household. But it became especially clear how solidly Cora has become rooted in our family when we attended “Rodeo Day” for her older sister’s class at school.

Here in Texas, we have our own unique culture. That culture was being celebrated on this particular day. Boots and bling. Tex-Mex snacks. Stick horse races and other “old west” themed games. My China babies decked out in their cowboy attire, cheering their big sister on as she participated in her events. There was no difference between them and the other siblings there…except that they bear features of a different ethnicity than their sister. There was no sign that Caden has been home two plus years, and Cora only five months. They were brother and sisters. Nothing more, nothing less.

I always have the knowledge in the back of my mind that two of my children are from China. And I treasure their heritage. But at our first grade rodeo, I forgot that they were different from all those other little Texans running around. I forgot that salsa and queso aren’t foods that are native to their taste buds. I forgot that they came from different beginnings than their other siblings. Because they’ve been absorbed into us. Part of me mourns the loss of their birth culture. The loss of Cora’s accent as she has perfected the English language…complete with a Southern drawl when she pronounces the word “y’all”. But an even bigger part of me is glad that they’ve both reached the point where they’re just well grafted in members of our family. So much so that I “forget” they are adopted from another country.

Though I gotta admit…I do think Chinese cowpokes are especially adorable.



May 1, 2013 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments

So that is the question I hear out of our Thai Tornado’s mouth incessantly.


I can’t remember when our girls went through this stage. It seems they were much younger. Joel will be seven in four months. He seems old to me…but maybe I’m just old and can’t remember. Yeah, that’s more plausible.

Why does it lightning when it rains sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t?
Why do I have to do reading today?
Why are we having that for dinner?
Why is dad at church so late tonight?
Why can’t I watch TV?

And on and on they go.

He’s not being rude when he asks. Even about the dinner thing. It’s just where he is right now. He’s all about the why.

And y’all, some of these “whys”, I have no answer for. Or at best, an incomplete one.

Why do I have black hair but Kennedy and Sydney have blonde?

Why is my skin dark and your skin is white?

Why doesn’t daddy have brown eyes instead of blue?

Sure, I can tell him that he was born in Asia and we were not and so our hair and our skin and our eyes don’t look like an Asian person’s would. And that’s the truth. But is it enough?

As I’ve posted here before, he’s learning to read this year in Kindergarten. Homeschooling this 6 year old has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted. But so rewarding as we come into May and see how far he’s come.

Just the other night, he was holding his favorite stuffed animal, a black cat {weird, but true} and as I tucked him into bed and walked away, I heard him say…

“Black cat, black cat what do you see? I see a brown Joel looking at me.”

And it stopped me dead in my tracks. And made my knees falter a little. Because these questions that he consistently asks me, are swirling around in his mind even at bedtime. When he puts head to pillow, even then and after nearly four years together, he is thinking about the differences between us.

Why did you come get me?

Why don’t I live in Thailand anymore?

Why am I YOUR son now?

Again, we have answers. Insufficient ones to a degree.

Because we loved you. Because we desperately wanted you. Because in God’s sovereign plan, you are one of us. And because your first mom made a heart wrenching and selfless decision.

In Thailand, by and large, children who are abandoned are not eligible for international adoption. The vast majority of orphans in that beautiful country will languish in an orphanage, without the hope of a family, until they age out as teenagers. So children, if they are to have the greatest chance of being adopted, must be relinquished rather than abandoned.

That was the case for our beautiful boy. We have the papers his first mom signed. We know the reasons for her choice. We are beyond grateful for her maturity in the face of unfathomable circumstances.

Yet, I ask again. Is this enough of an answer?

I try every month when I’m given this tiny voice at NHBO, to speak to special needs or to stretch our thinking or to encourage us all to be the hands and feet of God where the orphan is concerned. I may be failing this month because I just keep coming back to this. That special needs or healthy, abandoned or relinquished, international or domestic…there will be why questions.

And at best, our answers will be incomplete ones.

Joel is here to be our first son.

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He is here to be a big brother for our little prince, Gabe, from China.

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And just recently, it seems he is here to begin to realize his own sinfulness in light of God’s perfection and to wrestle with some pretty weighty questions about salvation and the Gospel. The Gospel that he himself asked the other day if he would have ever learned about in Thailand.

spring break-5454 copy

And though these are all good and great things, is it enough? Will it be enough for him when he’s older? Will these things satisfy the “why” questions that he has?

Only God knows the answer to that. I rest in the sovereignty of Jesus. Our sons are our sons because before the foundation of the earth, God ordained it to be. Did God cause their plight? I don’t believe so. Sin, as is always the case, is the root for pain and suffering and hardship and death. So no, He didn’t cause it.

But He ordained it.

I don’t know how to reconcile those two things. I don’t seek to do so anymore.

Rather than dwell on what I don’t know, I lean into what I do know.

Namely, that Jesus is infinitely good. That our sons needed parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles. That we needed them. To open our eyes to the Gospel of Adoption, to have a smidgeon of a bird’s eye view into the heart of God and the grafting in of us into His family.

I know of families who avoid these questions and more aptly, avoid answering them. I don’t agree with them…but I affirm their right to raise their children in the manner they deem best. I don’t ever want to be guilty of “filling in the gaps” of our sons’ beginnings with things that aren’t there. I don’t want to lead them to see or believe something that may or may not be true as far as their stories go. And I surely don’t want to be flippant about them either.

But I do want to embrace the questions. I whole heartedly want to embrace the dark skin and black hair and brown eyes questions. Not to make less of them or to elevate them. Only to help him see that he is made fearfully and wonderfully made and that those very things that are different about him, are some of our favorite things about who he is. Along with his tender heart and his unbelievably quick sense of humor and his tenacious spirit.

That for some reason we may not fully know on this side, there is a means to the ends.

The whys are swirling around at our house these days.

And really, that’s just fine.

Everyday girl

April 11, 2013 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

I watch her run across the yard, her straight, black ponytail bouncing over her self-selected outfit (which today, for once, is rather tame) and from the back she seems like just any other, everyday, six year old girl.


Then something grabs her attention and she turns around. As she glances past me her face breaks into that slightly lopsided grin, her eyes disappear as she smiles behind what would have been “coke bottle bottom glasses” back in the time of my childhood and I see the purple, circular bruises that cover half of her face.

…and suddenly I’m lost in thought…

Everyday girl?

Our appointment schedule over the past week would suggest something slightly different. In a span of six days we went to Duke Eye Center for a exam with her nationally known pediatric glaucoma specialist, to Chapel Hill Dental School for a specialized consultation and back to Duke to the Department of Dermatology for laser surgery.

Now that she’s been through eight pulse-dye laser treatments, she handles the thought of them well. It would be misleading to say that she doesn’t mind them ~ and she gets really hacked off at having to miss a day with her beloved kindergarten teacher ~ but the promise of a fun surprise just for her and a strawberry banana smoothie on the way home from the procedure help smooth things over. She’s becoming more and more confident immediately following her polka-dot days. A first innocent, “What’s that?” doesn’t bother her at all. She’ll happily reply, “They’re my polka-dots.” And that does it for most people. Just don’t ask her to elaborate ~ she has a stone-cold stare that she’s perfected for when anyone, even adults, asks one too many questions about her bruises.

Stares…her eyes…she’s an old pro at eye exams. While neither of us likes the seemingly endless wait at the Duke Eye Center, (it’s not uncommon for us to be there for over four hours for one appointment) seeing Dr. F is always pleasant. It took three eye surgeries and numerous “tweakings” of her drop regimen, but finally we seem to have stable ground over the port wine stain induced glaucoma that threatened to steal vision in DQ’s right eye. Dr. F still shakes her head in disbelief sometimes and calls DQ her poster child for glaucoma treatment.

The news we received at the dental exam in Chapel Hill left me speechless though. While the primary reason we were referred ~ her dentist wasn’t sure quite how to deal with her port wine stain affected gums ~ turned out to be a non-issue, the rest of the terminology from that visit still has my head spinning. Short version of the story is that her upper jaw has a severe cant ~ hence that sweet, lopsided grin ~ and I was given the name of a cranio-facial team to consult when her orthodontia years come along. Seriously? Jaw surgery?

Sometimes I wonder what else medically will be thrown at her. It often seems like when it comes to all things medical, she got the short end of the stick in our family. Just when we get to the point that one thing has become routine, something else comes along…though of all my kids, she’s the one with the tenacity to get through all the procedures and come out the same bubbly child on the other side.


…back to the world in front of me…

Suddenly whatever had her attention behind me ~ likely a bird in flight ~ disappears from her vision and she turns back, refocused on joining her brothers for swing time on our backyard playground.  Just that quick my reflections end.

I see that her focus isn’t on all the time we’ve spent in doctor’s offices and children’s hospitals this past week. She just wants to feel the breeze on her face as she checks to see just how high she can swing, laughing all the while with her siblings. And I realize, we may have many specialist appointments in our history and many, many more to come…

…but she is indeed an everyday, six year old girl.


The Broken Point

April 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

My husband and I are in the throes of adoption for yet a third time.  I think any adoptive parent would tell you that the process isn’t easy.  It’s frustrating and disappointing.  Rarely are the waits shorter than you expected or the news better than you expected to hear.

Last week was one of *those* weeks for us.  Hands down the hardest week of any of our three adoption processes.  And that’s saying a lot when you consider that my husband was deployed for a portion of our last two adoptions.  To be perfectly honest with you, the week wore me down.  Completely.  I got to the point where I just wanted to walk away and not have to talk to another social worker or USCIS officer about another mistake or delay.  It wasn’t just the process itself that was taking the biggest toll on me…but all of the other outside “stuff” that was hitting us from every angle.  It was a defeating week all around, but the setbacks in our adoption were the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After more than three years of back-to-back-to back adoptions, I had hit my emotional limit.

There’s a quote by Derek Loux that says, “Adoption is redemption.  It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”  Now, I in no way believe that my adoption of my  children is a full-scale comparison of my adoption into God’s family…but I do believe it is a small reflection of it.  I have a diploma hanging on my wall that says I’m well versed in the Bible.  But these three adoptions have taught me a whole lot more about the Gospel than those four years of college.  Through them, I’ve been able to grasp God’s love for his children on a whole new level.  But this past weekend, it got kicked up another notch.

For me, the celebration of Easter is normally about the empty tomb.  But this year my heart was focused on Good Friday and the days just prior.  The cry of my Lord and savior from Gethsemane to have the cup of God’s wrath taken from him if it was possible.  The surrendering of my Christ’s desires for the desires of his Father.  The beatings, the pain, the suffering.  The man from Cyrene who was called out of the crowd to help my Jesus carry his cross when the weight became too hard for him to bear.

This is the part of the redemption story I relate to most strongly in this season of adoption.  Because last week, I was emotionally beaten.  I wanted God to find another way to redeem our soon-to-be son’s life…because I know that He is the redeemer in this story, not me.  I had to surrender to his will, even though it was not what I wanted.  And because when I stumbled under the weight of the burden I was carrying, my friends rushed forward to help me carry the load.

Last week…and even into the Easter weekend…I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I wanted to run away and lay on a beach somewhere pretty and warm, where I didn’t feel like the weight of the world was crashing down on my shoulders.  But through the Easter story I was able to see my trials in a new light.  I was able to understand on a deeper level how costly my adoption into God’s family indeed was.  And to appreciate the fact that Jesus didn’t call down a legion of angels to save him, even though it was in his power.  He stayed committed to adopting me, even to the point of death.  No sorrow or pain or physical weakness would stop him.  No sacrifice was too big.  I reached a new point of brokenness, not based on my own battles…but on my Lord’s love for me.  And our “Gotcha Day” in a couple of months is going to be so much sweeter due to this new lesson I’ve learned.

“Through adoption God graciously brings us to participate in the reciprocal love that ever flows between the Father and his Son. Not only is this the very heart of adoption; it is also the very heart of the gospel.” {Dan Cruver, Reclaiming Adoption}

not in a million years

April 2, 2013 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

So I’m a moron. I mean it. A complete and total dork.

My idiocy seems to come out NOT in front of fellow idiots, but around uber smart, genius type people. You know, those who intimidate the heck out of you and before whom you know ahead of time that you should just keep your mouth shut and nod “yes” and “no” appropriately…because if you do say something, the whole world will know that you are moron supreme?

That’s me every time we go to the pedi urologist. This man is brilliant. Brilliant I say. He has served as president of the American Association of Pedi Urologists and is on Fox News from time to time as an expert {the national Fox, not your little local one} and is just so darn smart and I generally become a flustered mess around him.

Case in point. I spilled an entire snack container of Cheerios in the exam room while he was giving me our son’s prognosis back in January. A million Cheerios. We both tried to ignore it. But every step the man took…


And I, in turn, would CRINGE in embarrassment. And he would say, “Mrs. ‘so and so’, you seem very distracted today.” And I would say, “Oh, no. This is just me around you. I’m generally really on top of things.” Said the idiot to the genius.

And then once he said that we would schedule another appointment in three months {June} and I counted four months ahead to July for the scheduler and the doctor overhead me and came OUT OF HIS OFFICE to correct me and say that, in fact, “March to June is really only three months, not four.”

For the love of all that is holy and reasonable, why could I not count that day? Of all people to be a dork in front of, why this man? I could go on and on with all of the stupid things we’ve done since being the parents of his patients {both of our sons have had their urologic surgeries performed by him}. But sufficed to say, our latest visit, took the cake.

Because this brilliant man said something that I didn’t see coming and wouldn’t have for a million years. After our son’s next extensive urologic surgery this July, he will be placed in a spica body cast for two weeks.

Complete immobility.

For two weeks.

During July.

In the South.

Now to be fair, I’ve learned a TON about these things over the last month. :) And the biggest revelation is that I need to put my big girl panties on and stop whining about it. Because most kids who find themselves in a cast like this do so for weeeeeeeks at a time. Eeeek. 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks. Heaven help them.

It’s just that I didn’t see it coming.

And I forgot one of the biggest rules in parenting our sweet babies with unknown beginnings…expect the unexpected.

Roll with the punches.

Keep calm and shut up around the urologist!

I must have had the dumbest look on my face when he told me his plan. Because he just looked at me with the same dumb face! But I see it now. I see the plan. I understand the whys and hows it will all play out.

Grafting the sweet tissue from his cheeks {ouch} to correct what our Gabe is lacking for normal function “down there”.

Complete immobilization to ensure that the precious graft’s blood supply stays in tact.

Spica cast and yet another urinary catheter for two weeks this July.

Nope. I didn’t see it coming at all. But really, who cares that I didn’t plan it this way? I mean, look at this beautiful boy?


He will do so well…and I get to be his mama and love him through it and eat ice cream together and crank our AC down to 65 degrees and just relish the fact that our Gabe will have completed three surgeries in a matter of seven months…and that God has met us at our point of need every step of the way.

I didn’t see it coming. But I know Who did. And I trust we will find Him faithful yet again.

A Special Family

March 5, 2013 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Recently one of my friends directed me to a quote that ended with the phrase, “Raising a child with special needs doesn’t TAKE a special family, it MAKES a special family.” I’m a lover of quotes, but this one especially resonated with me. Not just because I’ve adopted two children with special needs and am part of a special family now, but because I grew up in a special family.

When I was three years old, my baby sister made her premature entrance into the world and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I have no memory of any other kind of life. As a young child, I tagged along with my mother to doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and hospital visits when my sister had to stay overnight…or for a couple of months. In fact, one year my Christmas “wish list” was full of items from the gift shop at the children’s hospital. When my sister got older and was able to attend a camp for children with special needs, I went with my parents to “camp out” nearby to see my sister on the weekends. And not unlike the China adoption community, my parents became part of their own little community of special needs parents. I grew up surrounded by kids with needs on all ends of the spectrum, just like my kids are growing up surrounded by children adopted from China. I saw how much their parents loved them and would stop at nothing for them. I knew more than the average person how special kids with special needs truly are. I had felt it through my own love for my sister.



And yet, when we first started our path to China adoption my husband and I didn’t consider the special needs route. One thing I learned early on is that being part of a special needs family requires sacrifice…and not just for the parents, but for every member of the family. I had waited hours in the lobby for my sister’s appointments. I knew about medical bills. We went on trips that were special needs friendly and skipped out on many of the popular vacation spots because they weren’t. We bought cars and homes that complied with my sister’s needs. We rocked our handicap tag. And I had seen my parents with a fire in their eyes that almost scared me as they fought the system on my sister’s behalf. I had a fire in my own eyes and a swing in my fist when a boy on the school bus made fun of my sister. Growing up, my family wasn’t your average family…and that’s exactly what I wanted now that I had a family of my own. Something easier than I had known as a child.

But when I was just a little girl, God planted a seed in my heart. The first time I looked into an incubator and saw a tiny baby with tubes hooked up to it I fell in love. And as I researched China adoption during the LONG year I was waiting to hit the big 3-0 and meet the minimum age requirement, that seed grew every time I saw the words “special needs adoption program”. Finally I came across a website called No Hands But Ours and I knew there was no turning back.

I’ll never forget the day my husband and I announced to my parents that we had decided to adopt a child with special needs. My big, strong father (who could very easily be mistaken for Paul Bunyan) looked right at me with his solid stare and said, “You know what you’re signing up for. Are you sure you can handle it?” I reassured him that we did know the path before us wouldn’t be easy, but we felt children with medical needs deserve a loving family. His tender reply to me was, “Yes they do. Maybe even more than the others.”

When we started researching needs and preparing our medical checklist, my parents were almost comical. Especially my mom. For every need on the list, they seemed to have a story about a child they knew with that need and nothing on the list seemed unmanageable to them. My mom was listing off the medical procedures to repair needs I had never heard of like they were perfectly routine. Because to them, they were. My parents and the friends they had made through the special needs community didn’t get to do down a list and choose what needs they were open to. They had their child’s needs thrust upon them unexpectedly and found out how many different versions of normal there really are. Like the beginning of the quote I mentioned above they learned through first-hand experience that “God doesn’t give children with special needs to strong people. He gives children with special needs to ordinary, weak people and then gives them strength.”

I have a special family. My parents are the best. Definitely rock star caliber. When I was growing up, they somehow always found a way to meet my needs and my sister’s needs…both physical and emotional. They showed me through their actions that just because someone is differently-abled doesn’t mean they possess less worth. In fact, they taught me that sometimes the biggest blessings are the people who are just a little bit different from the rest of the world. The ones with a unique walk, their own language, a special chair, or an extraordinary combination of chromosomes. My parents lived out a life of sacrificial love and instilled in me a selflessness (whether I wanted it or not!) that equipped me to be the wife and mother I am today. They taught me to be flexible and to be prepared for the unexpected. Because they had to be. And when my husband and I decided to join the circle of special needs parents ourselves, they were our biggest cheerleaders. As grandparents, they adore all their grandchildren and spoil them rotten. They schedule their vacations around our surgeries so they can help out. They tag along to appointments when they’re in town. My mom knows the gift shops in our children’s hospital almost as well as she knew the ones at the hospital my sister was in thirty years ago. And in their own right, they’re also becoming members of the China adoption community.


My biological kids are growing up in a similar manner to the one I did, only they’re being raised to embrace a different culture as well. And aside from the same lessons they’re learning through their siblings that I learned through mine, they’re also having the lessons instilled in them through their love for their aunt. They get so excited when we pick her up to spend the day with us or just order pizza and watch a movie while we hang out at her apartment. Before my sister walked unevenly down the aisle at her wedding on our father’s arm my girls proudly performed their flower girl duty and dropped rose petals to lead the way. My biological children get asked the same types of questions that I did about their “different” siblings. And they are learning to handle them with grace…for the time being, at least.

We’re a very close knit family. My parents spend a lot of time with their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. And when we all go out together…whether it’s for dinner or on some touristy, fun adventure…the eleven of us make quite the crew. Two Chinese kids with surgical scars, the woman who walks with an unbalanced gait…and the rest of us who just love them all like crazy. There is nothing “average” about us. But nothing is better than being part of a special family…unless of course it’s being part of a multi-ethnic special family. Sometimes the most difficult journeys are the ones most worth making.

one thing remains

March 3, 2013 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

Well, February came and went like a flash, didn’t it? And I don’t know about you, or what the neck of the woods you call home feels like today…but my neck and my woods feel COLD!

So, Hello March! This mama is soooo happy to see you. Because March means spring is just around the corner and with spring comes some of my favorite kind of stuff.

Easter. He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Spring Break. Can I get a “holla” from all of the mamas out there!

And the end of the school year.

All of these make me happy, happy, happy.

The talk of new dresses and daffodils blooming and flip flops lining shelves where there  were just knee high boots…gets a lady beside herself with spring fever. But I can’t get all excited just yet. We still have  52 days of school left {but who’s counting, right?},  another month before spring break and Easter is yet a few weeks away.

And my resolve to finish strong is taking a hit. Mostly because homeschooling a son through kindergarten is HARD.

Add to that scenario, that said son was adopted internationally after having spent three years in an institution and one who was NOT speaking his own language at the time we came for him.

I distinctly remember sitting in the orphanage in September of ’09, listening to his pediatrician {super nice orphanage with a pedi on staff!} tell us that Joel’s special needs were nearly completely resolved. That though we began the process for a sick little boy with RAD {Reactive Airway Disorder} because of  premature birth at 29 weeks, NEC {Necrolizing EnteroColitis with ileal peforation, ileosotomy}& PDA {Patent Ductus Arteriosis}…he would be considered non-special needs if he were to be put on the list for adoption that day.

And had that been the case, he wouldn’t have been available for us to adopt because of that fact.


She went on to say that Joel had one remaining special need…lack of language. He wasn’t speaking at all.

We kinda glossed over that fact to be perfectly honest. I mean, who cares? So he can’t talk yet! Big deal, right?


Big, big deal.

Because though our beautiful boy was doing wonderfully medically speaking, his language deficiencies would prove to be an ongoing daily struggle.

Three and a half years.

We’ve been home three and a half years and every single day, we work and work and work on speech and language issues. He’s been in speech  therapy for 2 years {it took me nearly a year to get him qualified for help…grrrr}.

Teaching him to read has been exhausting and as frustrating as anything I’ve ever attempted to do. We have a unique school situation…we private school two days a week and home school the remaining three. It’s not a co-op…we don’t choose certain outside classes for our kids to take. They are taught every subject by degreed teachers each week for 2 days and then I facilitate the carrying out of their daily assignments {given by their teachers} on the other three days. But as you can imagine, kindergarten is a lot more “hands on” than say, my 7th grader is.

Honestly, some days, I feel like throwing in the towel. I’m discouraged and beaten it seems. And others, he reads like he’s been doing it perfectly for years.  I’ve called his teacher sobbing…and called his daddy elated with the day’s progress. I’ve prayed, cried, laughed and had to walk away. I’ve nearly called the public school to see if a 5 day week program would be better for him, though I know between the four of us {his teacher, me, his reading instructor {2 days a week} and his speech therapist {also 2 days a week},  he is getting a fantastic education and is doing so much better than he was a few months ago.

I’ve listened as his God honoring, precious teacher told me that when we have a bad morning, to just love him, to pour into his heart and to not let it get to me. Because it’s kindergarten. Not life and death. Wise, wise is this woman. Still, it’s easier to say than to do.

And at this point, I’m not sure if he or I are going to make it! Lol.

Make it to 1st grade, that is.

The jury is still out on what’s best for Joel. He is showing good improvement and making steady progress, just not as much as we would like to see. And he’s an “old” kindergartener…having turned 6 just after school started. So next year, if he repeats, he will be a 7 year old kindergartener. Again.

I’ve had to repent of my pride and my fear of failure. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s not my fault…and it’s most assuredly not Joel’s. He tries soooo hard. He doesn’t have a learning disability that anyone suspects. It’s not that he’s lazy or doesn’t want to try. It’s not that we aren’t providing adequate help to him.

It all comes down to language.

And sometimes, that just takes a long time to sort through and figure out. In the meantime, our Joel is happy as can be, healthy as can be, and handsome as can be. So we give God glory for the work he’s done in Joel physically and emotionally.

Only one thing remains. Substantial speech deficits. And  praise God, it’s not life and death. But it is certainly life as we know it.




All About Love

February 13, 2013 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so let’s talk about LOVE! One of my favorite subjects!

Some say, “Actions speak louder than words.” In some cases, that may be true. But we must never underestimate the power of words.

When we meet our adopted children for the first time, we always say I love you lots and lots and lots. They may not understand what it means, but we know eventually they WILL understand. We want to make sure they hear us express our love, and so we express it LOTS!

Over the first few months home (and really forever….), we hug them as much as each child will let us, we kiss, we smile, we listen…we do all the love “actions”, but we pair those actions with words of affection, too.

“I love you”

It’s said over and over and over.

Our recently adopted children have been home a little over a year now. Our three year old, Crickett, knows she’s loved! She can hear it. She sees it. And recently, I know she FEELS loved. How do I know?

Well, when she walks in my room, and I smile and give her a wordless hug….she says,

“I love you too, Mommy”

Notice I hadn’t told her, “I love you Crickett”

I didn’t have to.

She felt the love.

Isn’t that precious?

Happy Valentine’s Day, and may you all hear, see, and feel lots of love!!!!!