Mothering Together

September 21, 2014 by Desiree 2 Comments

When I learned my boy was in foster care, I found myself praying for the woman who was caring for my child. She was doing her job and I was appreciated her. When I heard that she co-slept with my boy keeping him safe by her side at night and that Isaac’s favorite activity was listening to music…music she turned on for him…my prayers became intentional. She was mothering my son when I could not. She was holding him and caring for him and making sure he stayed healthy. She was MY hands from an ocean away. My heart suddenly turned towards her. What was this process going to be like for her? Her job (and what I would find out later is her ministry) is to nurture this tiny boy until his “real” & blue-eyed mother arrived with paperwork and passports and money..and then give him away. Her heart must break at the thought!

I pleaded with my agency to let me met this woman. They could promise nothing and gently asked me to have realistic expectations. Once in country, I begged our national social worker. She was kind but again noted in that province meeting the foster family was not permitted. I even asked our Beijing tour guide, “Is there any possible way?” He looked at me like I was delusional; “No. Your child was taken away from his foster family two weeks ago and taken back to the orphanage. No foster family for you“. I was crushed. The joy of knowing I was getting my child was indescribable, but his foster mother…will she ever know how much I owe her?

Miracle of miracles, we met that day. She was gentle and kind. She doted on our son and told me everything she knew about him from the last 15 months; she gave me photos she had taken and showed me how to feed him. She carefully passed the mantel of The Motherhood of Isaac to me while our boy banged on the glass coffee table in front of us. Through the tears she let me kiss her forehead and then she walked away. I never got her name.


Fast forward nearly two years, an intense Internet search and a lot of prayer…a letter arrived in the mail. A family is Pennsylvania found online knew of a Chinese pastor in Isaac’s province. With only her photo, they would help find her. And they did!

“…I have been worried about Isaac. I miss him very much!
Thank you for taking care of him…I thank God!…”

DSC_0133 (2)

As our son sang wildly in his car seat, I stood in the driveway with her letter crying. In her own hand she had written us. She had a name. She loved our boy. She loved our God. My heart could not have smiled any wider. God’s redemptive plan from that pivotal moment in the Garden of Eden included she & I to mother together. To step into the shoes of his birth mother & provide hope for her child. To whisper our Heavenly Father’s love to him while he slept. To worship together across an ocean and to offer our hearts in faith that God’s plan is so very much bigger than us. I love this woman more now than I have words for. And how many more like her are there? Brothers & sisters in China nurturing the forgotten children of their neighbors? In our distance and shared faith, Apostle Paul’s words have new life for me: “I give thanks to God ALWAYS for you, making mention of you in my prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of OUR God and Father” (1 Thes 1:2-3).


To our Chinese brothers & sisters in Christ who are fulfilling God’s calling to care for the orphan…we love you! You are loving on our children and we cannot wait to be a completed family with you in Heaven!

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.

waiting child highlight: Lifeline

April 4, 2014 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The following waiting children are all listed with Lifeline. Please contact them for more information.

Collin Male age 3 years, left auditory meatus, aural deformity, left facial paralysis, HGB, HCT, MCV, MCH are low, suggest thalassemia test. Collin is such a sweet little boy who is described as being quiet and shy. Collin likes watching TV and listening to music with the other children. Collin is closest to his caretakers but gets along well with the other children. Collin’s favorite activity is to sit on the wooden horse. His favorite toys are cars. To learn more about Collin, please contact his Lifeline social worker.


Kyan Male 3½ years. Meningocele (post-op); hydrocephalus (post-op); right hernia (post-op).

Kyan is a sweet and shy little boy. He is currently in foster care at his orphanage. He has had his spina bifida repaired and had a shunt placed for his hydrocephalus. He does not seem to have ongoing issues with these medical needs, but will need to be followed closely. Kyan smiles a lot and is shy, but interactive. His nannies report that he likes to ask questions and that he can be stubborn. For more information about Kyan, please contact your Lifeline worker, please contact his Lifeline worker.


Addy Female 3 years. Skull deformity.

Addy is an outgoing, talkative little girl. She loves playing outside with the nannies, singing, and enjoys bright colors, especially purple. Her caregivers say she is ready to smile, is helpful, and is known to give other children massages. Addy has a skull deformity as well as shortened forearms and fingers. Addy is waiting for her forever family! To find out more about Addy, please contact her Lifeline Social Worker.


Hero (SF). Male. 3 years. Repaired VSD and developmental delay.

Hero is a sweet little boy who is listed as having a repaired VSD and developmental delay. Our team has enjoyed getting to see and interact with this little one during many of our trip to Zhuhai. Our team has observed Hero to be smart and interactive. He likes to clap and give high fives. He is observant and likes to sit back and take in all that goes on around him. His teacher shares that he is active and learns quickly. His favorite activities are riding a bike and playing with balls. To learn more about Hero, please contact his Lifeline social worker.


For more information on beginning the adoption journey contact the Advocacy Team.

agency closings

February 12, 2013 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Two adoption agencies that have been a part of the China Special Needs program – Christian World Adoption and Homeland Adoption Services – have recently announced that they are regretfully closing their doors.

The additional expenses agencies incurred to comply with the Hague Convention, the floundering economy and the recent ban on Russian adoptions have had a negative impact on agencies already struggling with the huge slowdown in China’s Non-Special Needs program.

If you have information to share about additional agency closings, please let us know.

The visit

October 25, 2012 by nohandsbutours 12 Comments

I’ve had occasion to look at the photos from the day we visited Mimi’s orphanage. Due to a computer snafu, I hadn’t seen these pics for quite a while. I’m not sure where God is leading me in this little trip down memory lane. Certainly there is something to be learned by seeing them and remembering, but for me some of the images are so painful. Heck, much of the trip was painful. Yet… I would do it again in a heart beat. It was an amazing blessing.

We knew we would visit with Mimi’s foster parents. In her CWI, (Children’s Welfare Institute) many of the younger children live in the orphanage with foster parents in apartments. So we knew that we would be able to see Mimi’s foster mom and dad and more importantly she’d see them. I approached that day with a flexible attitude and lots of prayer. I prayed in the 3-hour van ride there to have the strength to “go with the flow” and do everything I could to help my daughter with yet another huge transition in 4 day’s time. Please God, help me show Your grace. Please help me give her peace. Let me know what to say and when to say it. Let me know how to help my daughter. When to step back. When to step in. When to be strong. I had heard from the many women who traveled this very road before us that this visiting of the orphanage was a good thing. A tool for transition and closure, and maybe it could be a pivot point for our daughter who just seemed to be grieving almost nonstop so far. On the other hand it seemed cruel to bring her back to the orphanage just to make her leave again. All over again. My heart broke to make her do it. But they said it was a good thing. A good difficult thing. So we went.

She was quiet on the way there. In hind sight, I think it was much more than that. She suddenly had diarrhea in the van. She hadn’t had it before then or since. In hind sight I wonder if she remembered the car ride 3 days earlier that took her from all she knew, and I wonder if her body was in knots with stress.

We got to the CWI and more than anything I just wanted her to have some peace during our visit. When the nanny swooped in, even before I got out of my seat in the van, I let Mimi go to her arms. I could see it all over Mimi’s face. Her body relaxed in the nanny’s arms. She had her peace. And for the following 2 hours, I let her have it. I let her stay safe with in the arms of her mama that had loved on her before me. Arms that knew far more about my daughter than I did. These wonderful generous arms gave her comfort and peace that I couldn’t.

We toured the orphanage. We were invited in to her foster family’s apartment (located in the CWI). We saw her bedroom and her crib, still with her blankets and her name and photo above the bed. We met her foster sisters. We saw the empty shelves for the toys that did not exist for these girls to play with. We witnessed the smiles and love that these wonderful foster parents shared with “their children” and the smiles and the love that the girls shared with them. I saw the way her foster mama held her and seemed to anticipate her needs before she even had them.

She changed her pants. She took her to the potty. She pulled up a sock and filled her hands with her favorite treats. And my girl was at peace.

Then it was time to go. The part I had been talking to God about the whole trip there. Foster mama held Mimi as we walked out to the lobby. This is where it would happen. Our guide stepped in. Our guide asked foster mama to tell Mimi that she loved her and would always remember her and that it was okay to go with her new mama. And foster mama leaned into Mimi’s ear and whispered to her. This woman was so amazing. She was giving me her child and she was going to give her everything she could right up till the very last moment. I don’t think if I would have had such composure. What does a 23 month old understand? I don’t know. Mimi’s body became tense. She leaned into her foster mama… away from me.

Our guide instructed the 3 of us, foster mama with Mimi, and me, to hug one another. We did. Mimi wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with being that close to me. But we hugged, and it was awkward.

I didn’t know what to do next. I ineptly stood there not knowing. The our guide instructed me to take Mimi {from her foster mama} and get into the van.

And I did.

I took my daughter from arms of this amazing woman that was able to give her love and peace.

And I got into the van.

I will not show you the pics of what happened next. Actually I was unaware there were any photos being taken, but one of my teens that was still snapping away. But these images are too much to share.

Our girl who had been filled with grief for days, then short-lived peace for just a few hours, was finally angry. Taken for a second time in 4 days from her “home” and foster family, everything in her was full of rage. Everything I had been fearing finally came out in those moments. The biting. The hitting. The screams. Nobody said anything. It was so in the open for all to see. For the next hour in the van, she raged until she finally collapsed asleep in my arms.

When she woke, as we were pulling up to the hotel, she was back to her quiet stoic self. Except for just a little lighter. In the days that would come, quickly, we’d see more of her heart. Her smiles came more easily, and we were privileged to see who our new daughter really was under all that grief. Was the orphanage visit a turning pint? I’m not sure, but it certainly marked a time that Mimi started allowing herself to open up, feel joy, and I think to be vulnerable again.

Six months later, we looked at the computer screen, and she saw the photos. She touched her little finger to the screen and touched her foster mother’s image. She looked at me with a smile on her face like she found a long lost friend. She pointed to her and said Granna. Then her finger moved to her foster father saying, Baba. She was happy to see them again. I was surprised she remembered them. We looked through the photos together. Mimi’s bed she pointed out. Then she looked up at me and pointed to her bed here at home. Mimi’s bed! And then pointed to my bed next to hers. Mama’s bed! Yes, sweet amazing strong girl. You now have a bed here too. And it’s right next to mine. In her heart I am her mama now, but there’s still definitely a happy place for her first family too. Love and good memories from both coexisting in the same little beautiful soul. I am blessed to have the opportunity to help her keep these sweet memories alive. As we flip through the photos, we come to the ones when she leaves her foster mama. I didn’t mean to go that far, but I did, and then she saw the photos of her anger and her tears.
Mimi sad. she says.
She gets it.
Yes, we were all very sad. Foster mama loved you very much. We were all sad to say goodbye.

And then there are the questions… Should we have gone back to visit the orphanage at all? Could we have orchestrated the final hand off differently? Was it okay to leave her with her foster mama while we looked around? Should I let her see the photographs? Is it okay for her to see the images of when she was “sad?” Should I have said something or done something differently? Do I need to do something more? Can I say something else to help her understand? I guess these are just more of the unanswered questions that are part of the journey of adoption. It’s full of lots of unanswered questions and no promises, except the one that if we fully surrender and follow where God leads then there is peace that we have done His will.

Much of the trip was painful. Yet… I would do it again in a heart beat.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Being a "Special Needs" Parent

October 17, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

So this past weekend, I was driving the car, listening to the Moth story hour on NHPR and feeling lucky. I love the Moth (true stories told live). Hell, I have a story I want to tell the Moth. (The Pringle Fairy.) But mostly, I love that what I expected to be a chore—a half-hour’s drive to a sleepover for Lily—was going to be a pleasure.

Double amputee, athlete, actress and over-achiever Aimee Mullins was telling a fantastic story, about how she didn’t just “come to terms with” her artificial legs but began to love them, to truly love them, and demand that they over-achieve right along with her. It was fantastic, a great listen (available on a podcast, too). She’d just reached a moment when a little six-year-old girl born with one leg dramatically shorter than the other came up to her and told her about how she (the little girl) just flat out demanded that her parents have her short leg amputated so she could have a “better leg.” She was so impressed that the parents had done it, instead of pushing the girl to try to use her short leg and feel limited. They’d said, yeah, get a better, totally different leg and make it yours! ANd that little girl didn’t get some fake-real looking leg. She got a hot pink leg with pictures of High School Musical on it.

Wow, I thought. I hope that if I ever have a kid who needs that kind of support in being different, I’d be that parent who helps her see that her difference is just one of the many fantastic things that make her who she is.

And then the little nagging voice that had been tugging at my mental shoulder as I had that thought whacked me over the head with a two-by-four and said, DUDE! You DO have a “special needs” kid!

Oh yeah.

I’d forgotten. Completely. Rory doesn’t have a limb difference (or I’m sure I’d have clued in long before), but China, at least, thought her “difference” (which at the moment amounts to nothing more than a scar and some orthodontic and speech issues) was worthy of singling her out. Before she came home, I was hyper-aware of it. I examined that scar in every photo. Once she got here, I worried about it. How much did the cleft affect her speech? How did if affect her appearance? Would she want to have plastic surgery when she got older, to lessen the scar? How would it impact her life?

And now, two years later, I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I even saw the scar, if you know what I mean. I’m aware of Rory’s cleft, of course. I was just considering how it might impact her sinuses last week, and she goes to regular speech therapy. But I just never think about it, except in those contexts. I don’t think I deserve a medal for this. I think it’s the way every parent of a kid with a physical “difference” is in moments when the “difference” isn’t brought front and center by some outside influence. I just hadn’t realized it had happened, or that it would be so complete.

Again, I don’t think I’m special. But when we adopted Rory, I think my expectation regarding her cleft and scar was that I would still see it, I just wouldn’t mind it, by which I don’t mean “mind” in a bad way. To get all meta on you, I thought that I would notice myself not noticing it. Which I guess I have, now, but I thought I would always notice not noticing it. I thought that I would be constantly aware of not looking at or not noticing her scar in a very used-to-it kind of way. I know that’s a very amorphous statement, and I hope it makes some sense. I never thought the scar or cleft would “bother” me. I just didn’t realize that eventually you really just don’t see it.

Rory is only six, so her face isn’t something she spends a whole lot of time thinking about, unless you apply a sparkly butterfly or a skull tattoo to her cheek. But I would like to admit, right here, that I really used to expect her to come to us, relatively early in her teens, and ask if there was anything that could be done to make her lips more perfect—or rather, more “normal.” I figured we’d just help her to do that.

Now, when I look at her, I just see … her. I can’t imagine why she’d feel the need to do anything to her lips besides put on some lipstick and rock them. Or rather, because I’ve been a teenaged girl, I can, but only in the same way I can imagine any teenaged girl being dissatisfied with any one of her features. Rory’s lips are fantastic! Her nose is fantastic! It’s her!

So I feel like I have just a tiny glimpse of the way Aimee’s parents, and that little girl’s parents, felt all along. Once upon a time, when I complained about whatever (I actually have a huge scar down my back that I never think about, so this is all a little ironic) and my mother said oh, honey, you’re perfect the way you are, and however you are, I figured that was just what parents had to say. Now I know the truth. We really mean it. We don’t even understand how you could think anything else.

Cross posted at Raising

Half a Year Ago in Kunming

October 7, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

We met one sad, scared little boy.

This passport photo was taken maybe thirty minutes after that traumatic first meeting.  I sat him on the stool in front of the white curtain, my arm on his back to make sure he didn’t fall.  “Smile!” I said in a cheery sing-song voice.  Although an appropriate thing to say at a photo session, it was quite ridiculous under the circumstances, spoken to a child who didn’t understand English and had just left everything he’d ever known.  “Smile!”  The poor boy. 

Even now, things sometimes trigger memories for XiXi and I’m reminded of how traumatic that day was.  I put on a certain pair of shoes last week and XiXi looked at them and said with a very serious look on his face, “Those are your China shoes, Mama.”   I wasn’t sure what he meant until I realized that those were the shoes I was wearing when I met him.  There are no photos from that day of my shoes, so it’s not that he’s had visual reminders, it’s just that the details from that moment are etched in his mind.

His favorite story right now is the picture book, “Are You My Mother?” wherein a baby bird tries to find his mother who left the nest right before he hatched.  One night after we finished the book he said, “I so glad that bird find his mother……In China I no have a mother.”  Then he squeezed my arm, smiled at me, and whispered, like it was a secret between us, “But I found you, didn’t I, Mom?”  

What a blessing indeed that we found each other.  He’s sweet and funny and considerate and helpful.  He lights up our home with his whole-face grin.   It’s humbling to think how easy it would have been to miss out on XiXi, to have let that gift pass us by without ever knowing what we’d missed.  Over a year ago, when we saw his photo on a website, we were in no way ready for an adoption.   At least that’s what we thought.  Heavenly Father obviously knew better.

Happy six months together, precious XiXi!  SMILE!

Wednesday (ok, Thursday. Again.) Links

September 22, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

In China, and desperately missing their washer/dryer (we can all get that!): the family of Okkar Life.

Follow the Chryst family, and their delicious toddler, as she recovers from her first cleft surgery and prepares for the second in November.

And see if you agree with Dr. Jane Aronson that “The Trouble With International Adoption Is Not Trafficking: It’s the Global Orphan Crisis.” I bet you will, but not every commenter does.


September 20, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Rory is loud.

I have written about this before, but I feel that I cannot possibly have really conveyed what I meant by loud. When I say Rory, who will be six this week, and who has been with us for just over two years, is loud, I mean LOUD. I mean loud at every single thing she does in nearly every moment of the day. Loud and vigorous. When Rory says “I love you,” she shouts it and then barrels into you at full speed, and at that moment, she’s irresistible. And the she stomps loudly off to do something else with such vim and vigor that I’m afraid the poor dog is going to get hurt.

She’s loud when she walks. When she’s upstairs, the ceiling shakes and the lights flicker. She’s loud when she eats. She’s loud when she breathes. She’s loud when she sniffles. If she’s doing something that can’t possibly be done loudly, she narrates it: loudly. Look Mommy I’m drawing! Is I drawing Mommy? I’m drawing! Look at me drawing! If she gets caught up in the drawing, she’s nearly always snorting, or humming, or kicking her feet rhythmically against her chair.

She sleeps loudly.

Loud, as I said, and vigorous. If it can’t be done loudly, it can surely be done with vigor. Ideally, both. She plays chess, for example, loudly and with vigor. Her knights do not just move across the board, they gallop. Her pawns clack clack clack forward even one space. (Don’t be too impressed, “playing with the chess pieces” would generally be a more accurate description of what she’s doing than “playing chess.) When she watches Rob and Wyatt play, she puts both hands on the coffee table and her feet on an ottoman and bounces. Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!

And I, who really, truly am not someone who assumes everything is adoption, think that the overwhelming volume of every move of every moment of Rory’s every day—-possibly the last thing you’d think could adoption related—-I think that adoption is exactly what at least some of this volume and vigor is.

It’s not that I think that if Rory were Rory in her birth family somewhere in China she would flutter delicately through every situation on butterfly wings. It takes more than intent to stomp your way through life as she does. It takes breeding. Rory surely comes from a long line of stompers.

But the rest of it—I’ve said before that I think that Rory is afraid that if we can’t hear her, we’ll forget she’s there. That if she can’t hear herself, she doesn’t exist. I was mostly joking. What I really think is that Rory wants to hear herself stomping and humming and breathing and drawing and bouncing because Rory does not want to hear herself think.

And I don’t know what to think about that.

From the very first moment Rory walked into our lives, she’s been busy. Busy exploring. Busy cutting up every shred of paper in our hotel room with her new little safety scissors. Busy climbing. You’ve heard the phrase “climbing the walls,” right? With anxiety, maybe, or cabin fever? The first days in our hotel, Rory was literally climbing the walls. She’d figure out how to get handholds on the headboard over our bed, and if we turned our backs, we’d find her dangling, five feet above the mattress. She’s calmer now, certainly, but in some sense she is always climbing the walls. She’s playing the piano or rolling marbles on a track or pushing a truck around the house. She’s moving. She’s playing, but nearly always in a way that’s already been predefined for her, and she’s doing it loudly, so that she, and I, both know at all times exactly what she’s doing.

I try to let it go. I try to let her race the racetrack around the couches and through the kitchen a hundred times in an afternoon without comment. I try to only ask for “quiet feet” when Sam is doing his homework, say, or when I have already exceeded the number of ibuprofin the bottle allows you to take in a day. I agree that she is drawing, I admire the piano practice and I try to make good use of the energy that’s always ready to clear the table. I try to protect the dog, who has taken to hiding under the bed and is dismayed to find that Rory (who wants him to run with her) can follow him there.

But is it enough to let it go? I let it go, and she keeps running and running and running until we pour her into her bed at night. I’d like to help her learn to give herself a break. But so far, I just don’t know how.

Cross posted at

Thursday Links (Just Like Wednesday Links, Only…Later.)

September 15, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The links are belated today because—there’s a really good reason—wait for it—I forgot it was Wednesday.

Travel vicariously with the Jones’ and the Westhavens, in China now, and with the Bergey Dad—warning, if you read through the lines of the Bergey’s pictures, you may weep for the foster parents, saying goodbye to a child they love. Do the whole trip with the family at Waiting for Vivi, leaving next week.

Support a big family in bringing home their TWO toddler boys at The Greatest Treasures.

As a special need, blindness feels, to me at least, particularly challenging. Moving Mountains Hubley Style is the story of a family and a 9-year-old child meeting that challenge.

Wednesday Links

September 7, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is considered rare among China adoptees, but the family at Blue Willow Girl has finally realized what they’re dealing with, and they wonder if more parents out there should consider the possibility.

And although this is a family who’ve adopted from Ethiopia, not China, this post on life “after the airport” with older, frightened, struggling children will make you week in sympathy and recognition.

Language Lessons, Life Lessons, and One Unfortunate Pig

September 7, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I knew, based on research, that XiXi would lose his ability to speak Mandarin.  I knew that on a logical, cognitive level, but on a deeper level, I had a hard time really believing it.  Or at least believing that it would happen as quickly as researchers said it would, 12 weeks.  Twelve weeks to completely lose the ability to speak your native tongue?  It seemed impossible.  Yet, here we are, just past the 12 week mark, and suddenly XiXi can’t seem to speak Mandarin.   Or if he can, he refuses to do so.

We were at a Chinese restaurant about a week ago and the waitress was so excited to speak with him.  She chattered away and XiXi just stared at the ground.  She gave me a quizzical look like, didn’t you say he was raised in China?  Then she tried some very basic questions, asked loudly and slowly.  “What is your name?” and “How old are you?”  He stared silently at the ground.  Finally I whispered in his ear, “San sway” (three years old).  He still said nothing, so I pushed the issue. “XiXi, say ‘san sway’.”  Finally, barely audibly, he mumbled “san sway” and then buried his head on my shoulder.  Just a few days ago we ran into “Ayi”, our friend who’s spoken with XiXi several times since he came home, and it was the same situation.  He wouldn’t say a word in Mandarin, not so much as a Nihao.  When she changed the conversation to English, he responded.
Not surprisingly, with the end of Mandarin, his English has exploded.  He speaks in full sentences, using pronouns, different tenses, adjectives, and prepositions.  I find it truly miraculous.  As we were leaving the library yesterday, XiXi said, “I want to go home and lay on the couch with my library books.”  That’s one heck of a long sentence for someone who was only introduced to a language 3 months ago.  I’ve loved being able to communicate with him on a deeper level.  We joke together, tell stories, and just really converse.  We’re also learning more and more about his life in China.  Reading a book about a farm, he pointed to the pig and pantomimed cutting its throat and said, “In China, cut pig on the head and then eat the pig.  Oh, yummy.”  To get the full effect, you had to see the slaughter acted out by our 4 year-old.  I asked him who killed the pig and he said that China Baba killed the pig.  “XiXi no do it,” he said.  “Baba say ‘stand back.'” Thank you, China Baba for keeping our boy in an observer role in the slaughter!
XiXi saw a picture of himself in China a few days ago and his face became very serious and he said, “No like it in China.”  For some reason that bothered me and I said,  “No, XiXi.  You liked China.”  He emphatically shook his head.  “No,” he said.  “No like it in China.  Like it here.  Want to stay here.” 
I think in his young mind, he has to separate the two lives.  I absolutely believe that he felt love in China; I just don’t think he can mentally be in both places.  If he liked it there, he’d be missing it here, and he doesn’t want that sadness.    He has cannonballed into this new life at the deep end and he’s refusing to sink.  He’s swimming for all he’s worth and he’s making incredible progress.  We feel privileged to be on the journey with him.  We adore this boy.

Wednesday (ok, Thursday) Links

August 25, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I love this post from Cornbread and Chopsticks both for its commentary on “special” and needs (in this case, unusual hands and feet) and really for its reminder about our kids’ extra-sensitive little hearts.

A fellow AP living in Shanghai finds an abandoned (probably special needs) baby. A must-read for a rare glimpse into a part of the system APs never see.

I always like to give everyone a chance to follow a family in China: the family–both the “Vandalgrads” and at Baseballs to Bows are in Guangzhou, on their way home with their respective second daughters. And of course, once they’re home, there’s the settling in. I’m not sure why I want to relive that vicariously through others, but I do!

Finally, a family who’s brought home their daughter knowing that she has a severe heart defect, and needs hope and—if you pray, and I know most of you do—prayers. Hope for Elisyn.

The Pattern Trap

August 17, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I’ve been re-reading some old blog and journal entries from our first weeks home with Rory. Mostly, I’m seeing how amazingly far we’ve come (and how painful it was to get there). But then there was this, taken from an incident just two months after we came home from China. (Because of her foster home, Rory spoke some basic English when she first arrived.)

I decided to make Rice Krispie Treats with Wyatt.

I read Rory a book first. When Wy ran to get the cereal, she strode confidently into the kitchen.

“I help too!”

“No, this is Wyatt’s job. You can help with dinner.”

“But I help too! I wan’ do butter!”

“No, Wyatt is going to butter the pan. Wyatt is going to put the marshmallows in. I will give you a marshmallow to taste, but this is Wyatt’s job.”

Rory wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy while Wyatt dropped butter into the pan to melt. She wasn’t happy when Wyatt added the first bag of marshmallows. She wasn’t happy when he got to hold the wooden spoon, and at that point, I turned her firmly around and walked her out of the kitchen and around to a seat on a barstool.

“You can watch,” I said. “But you have to stop asking to help. This is Wyatt’s time.”

She pulled in a deep breath and I put a hand over her mouth.

“And if you start to cry or scream, you have to go upstairs. This is Wyatt’s time. When we are done, you can help make dinner, and Wyatt won’t help.”

A long moment passed, me with my hand over Rory’s mouth and Rory glaring at me above my fingers. I removed my hand and waited. If she started to scream, Wyatt’s “time” was over: I’d have to drag her upstairs, put her in her room, hold the door shut and go through the entire tantrum ritual. By the time we were done we’d be lucky if I had time to cook dinner, let alone finish the Rice Krispie Treats.

Instead, she nodded. I went back to Wyatt, so happy I handed him six mini marshmallows and gave as many to Rory. We were on! We were making Rice Krispie Treats, just like in the old days! Wyatt began to stir.

“Is I good girl, Mommy?”

“Yes, you’re a very good girl. Wyatt, get the spoon down to—“

“I very patient.”

“Yes, you’re very patient. Get the spoon all the way down to the bottom and—“

“I good patient girl?”

“Yes. Keep stirring, Wyatt.”

“Is you done yet?”

“No. Ok, let’s add the next bag of marshmallows.”

“Is my turn yet?”

“No. Here, let me help with the bag…”

And so on. Yes, she was patient. Yes, she was a good girl. Yes, she would get a turn next. Yes, she would help with dinner. Wyatt never said much at all. I made dinner, with Rory’s “help,” and then I locked myself in the bathroom for half an hour.

I read that with disbelief—because Wyatt and I made Rice Krispie treats yesterday, and—minus the initial teetering on the edge of tantrum—I could have written that fresh today.

Rory and I have fallen into a pattern. One of my favorite writers, Sarah Susanka, says “a conditioned pattern is a set of actions and responses that you’ve set to replay on automatic because it worked for you once a long time ago … and you’ve continued to replay the same pattern every time the circumstances arise ever since.” She says these patterns come from our hidden beliefs: in Rory’s case, that if I’m not constantly acknowledging her presence, I’ll forget her, and in mine, that I need to respect that need of hers even when it’s to Wyatt and my detriment.

This isn’t our only similar pattern. I’ve found a couple areas in which Rory and I are still saying—-to the word—-the exact same things we were saying to each other two years ago. I thought we’d come so far–but it one particular area, that of Rory competing for my attention–we’re still very much trapped. And it’s not good for either of us. I’m getting more and more impatient in my responses, and Rory is getting more and more desperate in her attempts.

And–this is key–I can’t change Rory’s behavior. I can only change me, and hope that my change helps her change. So, what am I going to do, the next time she goes with her frontal assault on my interactions with a sibling? I have a couple of ideas.

I’ve tried getting it out in the open (I’ve been aware of this as an issue, just not how long ago it started and how precisely, eerily similar our conversations are). “I love you so much, Rory,” I say, “But I’m reading with Lily now.” Or even “I know it’s hard for you to see me work with Sam and not you, but I will work with you when I am done—IF you don’t say anything else while I work with Sam.”

That last one works–sort of. In that circumstance, she’ll stand there, as close to us as possible, without speaking. Told to stand somewhere else, she stands on the edge of wherever she’s supposed to be. In other words, she does as much as she possibly can of her pattern unless specifically, in so many words, required not to–to the point where giving her the instruction to get her out of the way is as time-consuming and attention-getting as, well, she wants.

I’m writing those off as failures. Here’s my current plan: I’ll ask her to do something for me. Something that should take her a long time. Something that should get her brain doing something else during the tough moments when she’s not in what she perceives as the inner circle of my attention. But it can’t always be the same thing. In other words, this is going to be a pain in my ass for a while. But two years of agreeing that she’s a good, patient girl–when really she’s NOT–aren’t good for either of us. This is a pattern we’ve got to break free of.

I’m welcoming any other ideas!

Cross-posted to Raising Devils.

What We're Reading Wednesday: Links

July 21, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Follow the Bergeys as Mom Selina and youngest (China) daughter travel to China to bring home their newest, almost 14-year-old daughter. They’ve just met, and they’ve still got their week in Guangzhou to go. I couldn’t stop reading.

Branda at Days Made of Now has been home just one week with her 8-year-old daughter. Reading Selina’s posts, above, made me wonder how long her new teenager would continue mild and soft-spoken. Reading Branda reminds me that the answer is nearly always–not long! Adopting an older child (even just a little older) challenges us in ways we never imagined, although it’s nothing to the ways it challenges them.

Blogger Ann at We Are Grafted In has some beautiful things to say about that challenge in her post, Grief and the Adopted Child.

It’s not China-related, but all international adoptive parents should be pleased that Russia and the U.S. have finally signed a bilateral adoption agreement. You can find all the links to information about it one one of my favorite websites for family creation of all kinds, Creating a Family.

Finally, two long years of fearing that I’m harder on my adoptive daughter than I am on my biological children brought me—with the help of a compassionate nurse-practitioner, a swimming pool, and Rory herself—to the point when I finally know just why that’s only part of the story.

Hey, Jealousy: The Virtual Twin Thing

July 18, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Wyatt popped out of the pool with the traditional summer blue quivering lips and begged for his towel. “Can I sit on your lap?”

I beckoned him in, and he settled, warm and damp, with me in the deck chair. I turned to the friend I was with and sighed. “Twenty seconds,” I said.


“Twenty seconds. You’ll see. Give it twenty seconds.”

Within fifteen, Rory–who just minutes earlier had been happily going off the diving board with Lily and shows no signs (yet) of pool-induced chill, appears. She seizes her own towel. “I wan’ sit in your lap.”

“Wyatt’s already in my lap.”

“But dat not fair!”

Friend is snickering beside me.

Yesterday, under the same circumstances, I scooted Wyatt over and made room for both. But we were about to leave then. Today, we have plenty more pool time ahead, and this is ridiculous. “No. Wyatt is in my lap now, and you can be in my lap later. You sat in my lap yesterday. Last night, I snuggled with you on the couch and I didn’t snuggle wit Wyatt. I love you, but you don’t need to be in my lap right now.”

Disgruntled, she hovers for a bit—-but Wyatt isn’t going anywhere with her waiting, and she knows it. She drops the towel (into the puddle on the pavement, natch) and heads back to the pool.

Five minutes later, Wyatt gets up, joins a friend and heads out for more water time, and I turn to my friend again. “Thirty seconds,” I say.

“What now?”

“Just wait.”

A little over the mark, Rory is back picking up her now soaked-thru towel. “I wan’ sit on your lap.”


But she doesn’t want to sit on my lap. Not really. She wants to swim. She loves to swim like no one I have ever seen. And so she doesn’t cuddle back, or even lean back (the way she usually would). She sits perched on my knees like a coiled spring, and I can’t stand it. I don’t know how long she would stay, but this is just silly. After a minute or two, I kiss her. “I’m getting up now,” I say. “Do you want to stay in the chair?”

Nope, she’s off. I wander around for a bit, socializing, and eventually settle in a different chair. Some days, they both repeat this process all afternoon, but that day it was a one-off.

Those are my virtual twins.

That’s the downside, or at least, the pain-in-the-ass side. The upside is that they play together nearly all the time. Defend each other. One reads to the other. They clear each others plates and take baths and ride bikes and throw balls. I never have to play knee hockey or even Candyland–they’ve got that covered. It took a while, but at two years in, they’re completely intersected in dozens of ways and very happy about it. (They also tell each other they hate each other, poke each other, hit each other, provoke each other, steal each other’s toys….)

For the most part, I think they came out ahead. On the one hand, because I don’t HAVE to play knee hockey or Candyland, I never, ever do—but the truth is that I rarely would have. I only had so many games of Candyland in me, and I my oldest child exhausted them five years ago. The well has not refilled. I love to cook with them, read with them, hang out with them, bike with them and even swim with them, but I really don’t do much in the way of playing with them. And they push each other to greater and faster achievement. If Rory can ride her bike, within an hour, Wyatt can too. Reading isn’t coming along quite as quickly for her as Wyatt was able to pull of the bike-riding, but it’s a whole lot faster than it would be.

But Wyatt’s time as the only baby of the family was cut short, and Rory never had that at all. And when it comes to activities, I tend to gravitate towards things they’ll both like, even though they might be better off with separate teams or places to excel. If every kid gets his or her own separate sphere, I’ll be doing nothing but drive them to activities for the next decade, and it already feels that way. Until someone rebels, if one of them plays hockey or tennis, they both play hockey or tennis. Worse, there’s this competition thing, which sometimes seems as though it will go on for life.

Why does Rory feel like she HAS to get that time in my lap even though she’d rather swim? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe if Wyatt sits in my lap and she doesn’t, there’s the chance that later, I’ll favor him in some other way because she let me give him “more” today. Maybe it’s just too risky not to grab any bit of me that she can get. Maybe Wyatt secretly gloats. Maybe, even after two years, she’s still not sure what could happen next at any moment. Cementing that her place in our family is exactly like Wyatt’s may seem like the best way to go. That last one seems most likely. It’s all of a piece with some other Rory-isms: leaping to help, resisting doing some things she can do for herself and constantly going over the memories we share together. I think she needs to emphasize her connection with me.

And so maybe I should let her perch on my knees instead of pushing her back towards the water. I don’t know. Maybe encouraging her to do what she really wants to do isn’t pushing her away, but giving her permission to go away–and then come back.

Cross-posted to Raising Devils.

ASIA – new list posted

July 18, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

… these kiddos need to find their forever families.

New list from ASIA includes 3 year old twin girls.

Some of the children even have $5000 grants available.

Visit our Children Who Wait page for more details.

Whatever Wednesday Links

July 14, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

This large family (4 adoptions and two bios, all young and all fantastic) is helping one of their girls through her fourth surgery for the burns and head injuries she had when she came home: Oatsvall Team It’s a case of special needs being greater than the family expected, but not, as it turns out, greater than what they can handle.

Young Q at All 4 His Glory has just had surgery to repair her cleft palate.

And Tommy at Blessing2Us has just had his first heart surgery in the U.S., after surgery done in China.

We LOVE to relive our traveling stories with traveling families, so we thought Wednesday should include any links to families on the way to meet their children that we could find. Follow OneHomeManyHearts as they travel to meet 12-year-old Ying later this month. And the family at Generations of Faithfulness, who is set to meet their daughter Hannah on July 15th – tomorrow!


July 7, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

We met our son XiXi in China three months ago. It’s a trite expression but truly, I can’t remember what it was like before he came. He’s blended so seamlessly into our family and community. There are many things I can attribute this to, but one of the biggest is that he observes and then he tries so hard to do what’s expected. This summer we’ve joined our local YMCA and when I took him for his first class, an art class, I explained to the teacher that he’s still learning English and that he might have a hard time following directions. From the upstairs track, I could look down into the kids’ area and spy on our little man. He was always just a slight step behind everyone else, taking the time to first watch, but then he’d jump in and do exactly what he was supposed to do. The teacher raved about him and said they’d be thrilled to have him back any time.

In the pool, he didn’t have such an ideal experience. He loves the pool and is well behaved, but apparently he was leaning on the partial wall that separates the kid pool from the adult pool, and a teenaged lifeguard thought XiXi was planning a move from the little pond to the big. The lifeguard yelled at him, “Do not cross that boundary!” XiXi stared at him, not sure how to respond. The lifeguard said, “Are you listening to me?” and then added, “Where is your mother?” If he’d used the word “Mom” or “Mama” or “Mommy”, XiXi would have known exactly what he was saying, but as it was, he just quietly stared at him with tears welling up in his eyes. I was annoyed at the lifeguard, who I felt was on a bit of a power trip, but it was a good reminder that I can’t get complacent about XiXi’s language. Now that we’re past our initial communication issues, it would be easy to let him stagnate. At home, we know what he does and doesn’t understand, but that’s not the case with everyone else.

He was feeling sick on Sunday and I stayed home from church with him. He was supposed to be the “reverence child” and was sad to miss that moment in the limelight. As his fever worsened through the morning, I brought him some medicine. I told him it would make him feel better and without hesitation he gulped it down. Then he immediately threw his legs over the side of the bed and said excitedly, “Thank you, Mom! Feel better!” He hadn’t even put both feet on the floor before he plopped back down with a dejected look and said, “Still sick.” I laughed and told him that he would feel better later. He kept me appraised of his progress with updates about every ten minutes, “Still sick, Mom!” or “Oh, dudzuh” (stomach) and finally, “Little bit better!” When he made it downstairs and began playing with his trains, he gave me the sweetest look of happy amazement. “Better, Mom!” A teaspoon of children’s Tylenol and suddenly I’m the miracle worker.

While he was lounging in bed, I showed him a book about animals. On the pig page, he pointed and said, “Pig in China.” I asked him, “You had a pig in China?” He nodded his head and said yes. I told him that a pig says oink and he looked at me strangely, shook his head, and made the most realistic animal noise ever uttered in our household. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was in the swine barn at the county fair. I don’t doubt for a moment that his foster family did in fact own a pig. XiXi can now understand “China” and “here” and that’s been a great advance in our communication. I asked him today if he wanted to go back to China for a visit and he immediately said no. “Stay here,” he said. Then he quickly added, “With Mom and Dad and….” And then we went back and forth naming everyone in the family, including the dogs. I thought we were finished when he put his finger in the air and yelled, “And Signing Time!” No, they don’t have the show Signing Time in China and apparently he’d miss it.

Sometimes before an interaction, I’ll dialogue with him to let him practice. He went to a doctor last week and I told him that the doctor would say, “How are you doing XiXi?” and he practiced answering, “Good. How are you?” When the doctor came in, she said, “Hi, XiXi. How old are you?” Dang it. “Good! How are you?” he said with a proud smile. He was so excited to deliver his answer that I don’t think he’d even heard the question! He tries so hard.

In the afternoon, he was lying on a window seat next to me, wrapped in a blanket like a little sausage. Only his arm had escaped the blanket wrap and he kept it on me, making sure I was there. Although I certainly never want my kids to feel sick, there’s something I do treasure about sick days–that all of the mundane stuff gets pushed aside and snuggle time and stories take top priority. I think I need to treat more healthy days as sick days….. and surrender to the fact that I’ll never be caught up on laundry.

Wednesday's Whatever: Links We Like

July 7, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

A few things that caught our attention this week:

A fantastic site “Redefining Spina Bifida,” which is exactly what the blogger’s kids (with and without the disorder) do every day: Spina Bifida Kids

I’m linking to this entire site because of its beauty and fantastic photography, but scroll down a few posts to read about the blogger’s son, whose doctors recommended a rhinoplasty surgery as part of his cleft lip care. Aging with Grace and Strong Will

This one’s just purely fascinating: a man who, with the help of a new, just barely beginning to be tested compound, grew back a severed finger tip.

Finally, many of our “special needs” kids come home as older kids, too. I’ve found that reading the words of parents with children adopted at older ages than mine (who came home at almost four) often helps me to understand her better. The older kids seem to go through similar gamuts of emotion, but because they’re so much more self-aware, they verbalize them more, or at least reveal them more clearly. I get insights into my own daughter from posts like this one, from the mother of a girl adopted domestically at nine, who’s becoming more attached and secure, but struggling with it: Three Hard Words: I Love You.

Everything in a Name

June 17, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

What’s in a name?
Every thought your parents had about who you might be. A goodly dose of who your father’s family was, and possibly, depending on your circumstances, your mother’s as well.

If you’re adopted, what’s in a name?

Maybe everything, maybe nothing.

Casually (as in the non-legal name you’d give, say, a gymnastics class), Rory’s name says nothing much about her except that she’s the child of two people who liked the name Rory. Her name is unisex, and she os often assumed to be a boy. Her surname doesn’t reflect her ethnic appearance or biological heritage. I imagine that there will be times in her life when all of that is handy—I, too, use a unisex first name and although my last name reflects my ethnic heritage, my appearance does not—and there have been times when those things have worked to my advantage.

And I imagine there will be a time when she resents the whole thing.

Naming Rory, or handling her name, wasn’t easy. None of the paradigms about adoptee names felt right to us. When we decided to adopt from China, we planned to keep our adopted child’s name alongside an American name. That’s not how things worked out, and I wonder how she’ll feel about that one day.

American Family’s post on how she and her husband named the daughter they adopted from China, and how her feelings about that name changed once they found her daughter’s birth family led me to adoptee Mei-ling at Exiled Sister, an adoptee blogger who’s unhappy that her parents changed her name—among other things. American Family’s post was about how, after living with their choice, she’d really like a do-over—but only knowing now what she didn’t know then.

I don’t want a do-over. I still think we did almost the best we could. I just wish that fate had dealt Rory a different hand.

Both of Rory’s names, in pinyin, are actually American words, but not words commonly used in a name, or that would be cool in a name. Her Chinese first name is an ugly one–ugly in sound, to American ears, but more importantly, ugly in spirit. Its most common meaning was twisty, or curvy, as in a twisty curvy road. Rory was born with a twisty, curvy lip. Chinese people we asked said it wasn’t a word usually used as a name there, either. Keeping her Chinese first name would have saddled her with a name that begged for mockery in both languages.

Rory’s Chinese “family” name didn’t, as some do, tie her to an orphanage or a finding year. It felt random—and unless we kept her Chinese first name, too, it made no sense to include it in her name. American readers wouldn’t see it as Chinese at all. (It’s “You.” That’s the pinyin spelling on all of her documents and the correct pinyin for the character.) From where we stood (and admittedly, that’s without full knowledge) keeping Rory’s Chinese name as part of her legal name would have complicated her life without really saying anything about her except that whoever found her saw nothing in her but a liability.

But we wanted Rory to have a Chinese name. She was born in China. She has family in China. That’s where she comes from and part of who she will always be. This is where many Chinese adoptive parents turn to nicknames.

There are so many Chinese nicknames that are entirely pronounceable and charming to American ears. Others are less easy to say, but nearly everyone I know (even those who planned to only give their child an American name) continued to call any adoptee old enough to recognize her name by whatever he or she had been called all of her life.

But Rory was called Rebecca.

So there would be no Chinese name for Rory. We considered giving her our own Chinese name (and found some beautiful ones), but that rang false. Rory may be Chinese, but we are not.

So why isn’t she just called Rebecca? Here’s where you could certainly argue that we put our preferences ahead of her needs. Rebecca—well, we already knew a Rebecca. And it’s a very biblical name, coming into a very non-biblical family. My husband, especially, felt it reflected her intensely Christian foster upbringing. He wasn’t comfortable. Meanwhile, her foster family supported our changing her name. We were in contact with them for months before we travelled to China, and they offered to help Rory adjust to a new name by beginning to use it—something they’d done with other families.

We went through dozens of possibilities. Rory seemed to fit the child we’d heard about, the fierce, bright, determined, unique child in the pictures. It began with an “r” sound, like Rebecca. (Culturally, of course, it’s a terrible name to give a Chinese child, as no Chinese person will every be able to pronounce it. But so is Rebecca.) It fit in with the other names in the family–short, cheery.

In the end, though, we didn’t give her “Rory” as a legal name. Her foster family used it. We use it. But her legal name is Lorelei Rebecca—Lorelei for its beauty, its ease of pronunciation in Chinese, and its “Rory” nickname and Rebecca, of course, because it’s the name that her beloved foster family gave her. With no Chinese name at all.

I think “Lorelei Rebecca” is beautiful. Rory hates it. Calling her anything but Rory is a sure way to bring on tears (although she has finally accepted that the people at TSA are going to do it, and it’s better just to let it roll). She is NOT Lorelei. She will NOT be Rebecca. She is Rory and you’d better not mess with it. I imagine that she fears that if we begin calling her by another name, it would mark an impending new family, while a return to Rebecca might suggest a return to China.

Her attachment to her new name marks her attachment to us. It also marks how incredibly hard that transition was for her. Would it have been any easier if we’d simply stuck with Rebecca? Did changing her name make her feel like we were rejecting her past or her past self, or just add to the misery of an entirely new world and new life? I don’t know. Sometimes I blame myself for that, and sometimes I think her cup of misery was so full at that point that nothing else we did or didn’t do could have filled it further. I think she was at a moment in life when things truly couldn’t be any worse.

Rory’s name is not an ideal resolution to her naming story. What I’d wish for her is that her finding person had seen through to her beauty and spirit and given her a name that spoke to that. That her orphanage had a trad

ition of matching up surnames, so that hers would connect her to all of her cohort. But none of those things happened, and so Rory has a name that connects her to us and to her foster family, but not to the parts of her that came before that.

And there it is. Will she feel perfectly expressed by the name that all of that led up to? Surely not. Surely she will wish she was Jane, or Arabella, or Li-li, just as I, in my time, longed to be Katharine (Lily’s middle name), Sarah or Anne. And surely she will play out her own adjustments on her name, one way or another—just as I did; KJ isn’t anything my mother calls me. And just as my mother did: she goes by a short version of her middle name. It’s a family tradition, this renaming and renewing and reflecting on who we are and what the sounds we’re called by say about us to our own ears and to others.

I believe in the power of names. Now, more than ever, as I interact with people whom I know only by their name, their work or emails and maybe a thumbnail photo, I find myself attaching attributes to people by their names, and who or what those names remind me of. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s something to overcome, and there’s not much anyone can do about whether a girl named “Brooke” was really, really mean to me in 6th grade. (That’s “Brooke.” With an “e.” Don’t think I’ll forget it.) But names matter. I’ve give Rory the very best one I knew how to give, for now. I know it’s not of her choosing, and if, later, she wants to choose differently, I’ll happily buy her some new stationary. But just like my mom still calls me “Karin,” and her mom insisted on “Jody,” I’ve got to admit she’s always going to be Rory to me.
Cross-posted at Raising Devils.

Thursday Links (Just Like Wednesday Links, Only…Later.)

June 15, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Morgan’s Wonderland: Wheelchair accessible rides, specially designed swings and sensory activities create an amusement park for kids and adults with special needs (and free admission) outside San Antonio, TX.

Special needs parents of all sorts are linking up by posting their blogs at Kelly’s Korner. It’s not adoption specific, but we all know that there’s far more to our kids than their adoptions, or, for that matter, their needs—but hooking up with other parents who understand day to day life with a child whose needs are different is priceless.

Whatever Wednesday Links

June 8, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Deb from By Grace We Are 6 has a daughter who may be more comforted by her lovey than by her (adoptive, and only three months in) mom. Attachment theory is silent on that one…

If you have a few minutes to roll with laughter, The Womble Times has posted a delicious animated video filled with snarky answers to the brainless questions adoptive parents sometimes face.

ChinaAdoptionTalk has some great thoughts on Kung Fu Panda 2’s adoption story line, if it’s in your weekend plans.

This family at Griff, Em and Rowan Growing have been home from China for just a few weeks with their toddler, and just had the news that her heart defect (VSD) doesn’t seem to need surgery, now or, they home, ever. Read about their doctor’s appt here.

Wednesday’s not over yet! Send me more links–

Whatever Wednesday Links

June 1, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Joy at Red Thread Thoughts posted beautifully on her daughter, a preschooler with a small hand limb difference (symbrachydactyly) who creates beautiful “handprint” projects with the prints of both her big and “little” hands.

Our kids may have “special needs” (or whatever you like to call them), but as parents, we know that ordinary life ends up taking precedence over all of that. Here’s the blog of a family living, largely uneventfully, with Spina Bifida–advocating, dealing, but mostly, just going to preschool and playdates and everything else.

Whatever Wednesday

May 25, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Check out this bike trailer! It’s brilliant for kids with a special need that limits their balance or mobility (it’s also available with a back rest).

Liz at Learning Patience is doing more than just spring clean: she’s paring down to add two new kids to her pack of four, and inspired by living more simply.

Want to think back fondly on your “gotcha” moment (whether you call it that or not)? This family is holding their baby girl for the first time.

At Taylor Ridge, they’re among the families (I’ve heard from lots) dealing with the IRS scrutinizing the adoption deduction, but with a good attitude and good advice as well.

Create a Family, The Adopted Ones and I have all been talking about why we need to preface any complaints or conversations about changes in adoption with “I love my [kid/mom/family], but…”

Writing about an adoption or special needs issue? We’d love to link. email me at

Pack Rat or Hoarder…..When to Worry

May 23, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

We have a small, antique table that sits next to our front door in our entry foyer. Except for displaying a canister of eucalyptus branches and being a dropping off point for mail, it’s largely unused.

For the past couple of weeks, the stool that normally lives in the downstairs powder room has instead been placed next to the little table. I’d never given it a second thought; with five kids, things are rarely where they’re supposed to be. I just always moved it back to the bathroom. This table has deep storage compartments on either side. Since they’re rather awkward, we’ve never used them to store anything.

Over the weekend, I noticed our XiXi, standing on the stool at the little table, with the side lid up, rummaging through the storage compartment. I went to take a look and gasped. It was filled to the brim with food and water. Bananas, oranges, apples, carrots, chips, peanuts, and no fewer than eight mini bottles of water. There were also a smattering of Hot Wheels cars and some chess pieces.
I felt like the Jennifer Connolly character in the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, when she discovers her husband’s secret shed, filled floor to ceiling with newspaper clippings, circled with his “secret codes”. She’d previously thought everything was fine, but then knew that it wasn’t.
And yet, things do seem fine. At the end of the week, we’ll mark two months since we met our son in China. He’s a complete and total joy. He gives and accepts affection freely. He’s kind and considerate and one of the most self-sufficient three-year olds I’ve ever met. We love him dearly. He lived in an orphanage for the first 3 years of his life, then with a foster family for about 8 months, and then was back in the orphanage the week before we came. When we met him, my initial thought when I first saw him was, “He’s so big!” He’s just above the 75th percentile in weight on the U.S. growth charts and he doesn’t look malnourished in the least. He also doesn’t seem frantic at meals and doesn’t typically over-eat. In China, the very biggest tantrums we saw came when someone touched his water or his noodles, but that was the case with toys and other possessions as well.
Our daughter was 11 months old at the time of adoption. When she first came home, she could never seem to eat enough. She’d out-eat her father, which is quite a feat. I honestly think she would have eaten anything offered to her on a spoon–mud, weeds, garbage–you name it, I think she would have eaten it. In just a few months, she went from somewhere below the 5th percentile in weight up to the 50th. We spoke to our International Adoption doctor about her eating and she said that it was very common behavior in a child who’d known hunger and that we should continue to offer her as much healthy food as she wanted and that she’d eventually learn that there was always going to be more. She didn’t have to stockpile it all in her bulging tummy. If she’d been mobile, I’m sure she would have been a food hoarder.
So, back to our son. I showed my husband his stash and he just kind of shrugged. Our oldest biological daughter had been a pack-rat at that age. We’d find little stashes of toys and papers and “Lucy junk” in locations all over the house. Was this any different? my husband wanted to know. Well, I think that it is. And yet, I don’t want to over-think it either. He’s doing fantastic.
I took the perishable items out of the table and dumped them in our compost pile. I kept his chips and crackers and water bottles where they were. Is that the right move? Should I put a stop to it completely and tell him that his days of food storage are over? I’m sure this is something the rest of you have dealt with.
I’d love some advice.

Blowing Off Birth Order, and Thinking Twice

May 16, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

When we adopted Rory, almost two years ago now, she was 3 1/2, 6 months older than our youngest, Wyatt. All of our other kids were biological kids (Sam was 7 and Lily 5), and Rory was our first (and only) foray into adoption. We “adopted out of birth order,” and as I remember it, the decision process went something like this: our social worker, Kathleen, a big, comfortable woman with shorn white hair and a confident, rolling walk, had begun to do what we were paying her to do, which was to pry enthusiastically into our personal lives and backgrounds to ensure that we were fit parents. She asked how old a child we planned to adopt. Wyatt was two then, so adopting a younger girl, as you no doubt know, was likely to be a slow process. We’d rejected it, pretty much for that reason, before we talked to any adoption professional. Although our adoption agency, always happy to be able to place even a slightly older child, sure didn’t discourage us.

My husband was just a little hostile about Kathleen’s intrusion, and by “little” you can infer that he resented the entire process of having a stranger—a less educated stranger, and someone who’d chosen a mighty fuzzy and not at all lucrative profession at that—come in and ask him questions about his childhood and judge his parenting skills. He was more than willing to contradict anything Kathleen thought she might know what he did not, and so he explained our position on adopting “out of birth order” very clearly. Lily, then three, would clearly care if her position as a “big kid” was usurped, but Wyatt was the baby. If we adopted someone in between Lily and Wyatt in age, he would still be the baby. Thus, birth order preserved.

Kathleen (a lovely woman who should consider a career in poker, so impassive was her face at this moment) surveyed Wyatt, who was beautiful and blond and capable of saying “Lily put bow my hair,” but not yet “I no want ‘nother sister.” He sat on my lap. He looked at Kathleen, and she looked back at him. Wyatt chose this moment to slide a hand up under my shirt to grasp at my belly button, his favorite source of comfort. He jabbed a thumb in and began to knead, and I pulled my shirt down over his arm and smiled nervously. I was not yet as confident as Rob that he who signed the checks called the shots, and I thought she might press. But Kathleen just nodded and wrote something down on her pad before asking her next question.

And that was it. Had there been much debate before that? Nope. Much after? Not really. Our social worker is a pro, so I suspect she tried subtly to at least give us a heads up that there was more to this than we thought. But she didn’t break through.

The fabulous Dawn Davenport, who, in a different world where I am doing my whole adoption over again (but, of course, getting the same fantastic kid), has posted a set of rules on her website, Creating a Family, for Success in Adopting Out of Birth Order. They can be summed up as “Please, people, think about what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it” and that’s exactly what I wish we’d done.

Of course I’m glad we adopted out of birth order. Of course I’d do it again. Adopting out of birth order is the only way we could add this: to that ornery image above and get this: We had to adopt out of birth order. Call it fate, call it God, call it the universe ebbing and flowing behind the scenes, but our clueless assumption that we could handle anything led us to exactly where we want to be.


It was hard. To begin with, that “baby?” By the time we were heading to China, he was no baby any longer, and he’d seen enough friends get new members of their families to know that what you get is a LITTLE sister. He knew he wasn’t getting a baby—they’d seen pictures—and that was fine with him. He didn’t need a baby. But a “little” sister was just what he had in mind, and all of our assurances that he would be physically bigger didn’t help one bit. For months after Rory came home, he still got angry every time fate conspired to point out her advanced age, and he wanted us to fix it (so badly that I had mad thoughts of messing around with her birth certificate). But there was nothing to be done. Rory is six months older than he is, so for half the year, they’re twins, and for half the year, she’s older, and he’s relegated to “almost” whatever age comes next. He cared, indeed. It’s rare for the “baby” of the family to see the benefits of being the “baby.”

But harder still was the fact that having a child who was six months younger than Rory meant that I expected her to act her age, or at least his age. Every regressive behavior she seized on stood out in harsh contrast to the kid standing right next to her, not sucking his thumb, not having a tantrum, not begging to be carried, not asking to be fed or seeking out sippy cups and baby bottles. I knew, on some level, that those were natural things for a little girl in the middle of a harsh and sudden transition to turn to. I knew that she needed to be babied. But Wyatt made it hard for me to give her what she needed. I didn’t want him to roll back to babyhood, but if either of them was going to—he was the baby! What’s more, he was my baby. Rory was my almost-four-year-old. She’d never been my baby. I’m more than ashamed to admit how hard it was to let her take on that role, and if she’d really been the baby (always remembering that I would not change a thing about our adoption, because our family is perfect and she is perfect for our family) I think it would have been easier.

If Rory had really been the baby, I think it would have come more naturally for me to let her drop into that role. Now, almost two years later, I’ve changed my thinking. She’s the baby in family years, and in family years, and family things, I let her remind me of a toddler, because in some ways she is a toddler. She gets to be more clingy when there are guests and more needy when other things seize my attention. She doesn’t get the privileges of being the “youngest” when, say, a game’s instructions call for the youngest to go first, but otherwise, she does the baby thing she she needs to, and I don’t push her to act Wyatt’s age, or, for that matter, her age.

But I know, in my heart, that we blew off birth order not because, as Dawn suggests, we really thought through what was right for our family, or who Wyatt was and what he could handle. What we thought about was little more than how long it was going to take to adopt.
We didn’t want to limit ourselves, in the eyes of China, to that small range of “ayap” girls who we knew were tops on many parents’ list in the waiting child program. Partly that was selfish—as I said, we didn’t want to wait. To the extent we did think about what was best for our family, we thought a child who fit right into the pack, rather than being three or four years younger, would fit right in. And less selfishly, we saw first-time parents, parents who a few years ago would have adopted babies, in line for those “ayap” girls, and wanted to be there for a child who maybe wasn’t at the top of everyone’s list. We did have our reasons for ignoring the birth order trope. But they weren’t great ones. Worse, because I didn’t think it mattered, I didn’t give any thought to how birth order might affect us when Rory came home. If I had, I’d have eased her transition (and, less importantly, mine) in a big way.

So: just because I’d adopt out of birth order again in a heartbeat (because I’d cut off my own arm in heartbeat to make sure Rory was the child who joined our family) doesn’t necessarily mean I think anyone else should do it. Anyone else in our situation—young parents with young children—I’d encourage to think harder, think twice, and at the very least to be ready. Because even if you DO adopt out of birth order, that’s still your newest baby who’s coming home.

Cross-posted to Raising Devils.


April 18, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Last week it was reported that Catherine Zeta Jones checked herself into a treatment center to get support for Bipolar II disorder.

My first reaction:
Catherine Zeta Jones?
Bipolar disorder?
Almost everyone knows Catherine as a beautiful, talented, Academy Award winning actress with a charismatic husband (who just beat throat cancer), 2 adorable kiddos and a totally fabulous house…in the Bahamas.
No one would have guessed that she has a special need.
Personally I think we all have some special need. I admit to having a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). No one would know that because it’s not something I broadcast nor is it something that anyone can see or focus on.
Whatever the special need, it should be secondary to who we really are. Just like Catherine, before last week she was just a beautiful wonderful actress. Now that the public knows that she has bipolar disorder, will that change for her?
Unfortunately for the kids waiting on the special needs lists, the child’s special need is the highlight of their description. Prospective adoptive parents look at the lists and see words such as spina bifida, cleft lip and palate, giant congenital nevus, Hepatitis B, limb difference, etc. and those words unfortunately become the “definition” of that child. Obviously highlighting their SN is necessary since they do have a medical condition that should be disclosed. And I am not advocating for parents to commit to adopting a child they do not feel comfortable parenting.
It is just painful to think that the SN becomes the child’s identity. I admit to getting flustered when I see people post messages about “the Down Syndrome kid” or “the missing foot kid”. It’s personal for us as someone who KNOWS our new daughter Bella’s name referred to her as “the kid without a hand and foot”.

 And then there is my personal favorite….they way some people have referred to our daughter Ava as “the birthmark kid”.

My wish is for every person to see every other people for WHO they are instead of “what is wrong with them”.
Heck….I wouldn’t mind a house next door to Catherine in the Bahamas either.

some changes – homestudies and post placement reports

March 29, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Sounds like some changes are coming that will impact the way future adoptions are completed. This announcement, just announced by an agency, covers changes required for post-placement reports and homestudies.

Post-placement Reports:

This announcement indicates that these changes will affect post-placement reports for families that receive Travel Approval after August 1st, 2011.

Currently, two post-placement reports are required by China, one at 6 months and one at 12 months post-placement. This announcement indicates that instead of two, six post placement visits will be required, with each report containing at least eight pictures of the adopted child.

Reports will be required at: one month, six months, 12 months,  2 years, 3 years and 5 years after the child joins the family. If the child reaches 18 during this time, the reports are no longer required.


Additionally, this announcement indicates that changes will affect homestudies for any adoptions initiated after October 1st, 2011.

  • Homestudies can only be written by Hague accredited agencies.
  • Homestudies must be accompanied by three reference letters.
  • Families who have received counseling in the past, or are currently receiving counseling, may require a psychological evaluation, to be determined by the social worker.
  • Training requirements will increase to 12 hours.

It is my understanding that these changes are in hopes that future disruptions and dissolutions will occur.  As an adoptive mother, I can appreciate China’s desire to require more scrutiny of adoptive parents, and their mental health. I can also understand their desire to track longer into the life of an adopted child than just the first 12 months home. Hopefully, agencies can partner with families to provide more post-placement support, something that, in my opinion, has been sorely lacking. I think that a one month post placement is a very good thing – six months is way too long for a social worker to wait ‘check in’ on a new family.

On the other hand, I also know the challenges with arranging, completing and paying for so many post placement visits. And going from a requirement of two all the way to six is a big jump.

What do you think?

I Am a Million Different People

March 18, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Rory has lived with us for 21 months now, and I still feel like I don’t know her. I love her, and I’m charmed by her, and I want to scoop her up and give her raspberries, but I don’t know her.

I’m not sure she knows herself.

I can predict what she’ll do on lots of occasions. If Wyatt pushes her accidentally, she will explode into tears and hollers and shrieks. If Wyatt whacks her over the head with a Thomas train, she will do exactly the same thing. (I can only tell the difference between a reaction to actual, arguable injury and a lot of fuss about nothing if she’s REALLY hurt.) If I have a lengthy conversation with anyone else, she will think of something to interrupt with. If I need a “helper,” she will be right there. She alone will remember to empty her lunch box after school and will almost never omit to clear her plate. She will leave her jacket exactly where she dropped it, no matter where we are, including in the doorway of the grocery store.

But I don’t know which of those things really say anything about who she’ll be in ten years.

With my bio three (and I think this has more to do with how long I’ve known then than with anything bio) I have seen, for so long, how they react to each little thing, the different ways they take a setback, how they are when another kid comes along, or it rains on their parade, to know, I think, at least what their inclinations will be as they’re older. Sam is inclined to be happy. Lily is inclined to see her cup as half empty (in fact, she’s inclined to insist she doesn’t even have a cup) but some of that is just a reaction to Sam, or a habit: Lily rises to real problems and is better at making the best of a really bad situation than she is at accepting that there are no Honey Nut Cheerios. Wyatt is a little uncertain. He would like to be happy, but he would also like to know what’s going to happen next, and whether it will be something to be happy about. He is very ready to take his cues about how to react from someone he admires.

And Rory is … I don’t know.

For so long, I thought Rory was cantankerous. Challenging. Always looking to see how the most disruption could be caused or how to bring a situation under her control. Now, I’m beginning to see those as things she does, rather than the way she is. And I am beginning to suspect that maybe she’s not that way at all.

In between those episodes—in between, say, the time she took the sandwich out of the lunch container I’d put it in, turned it over and put it back in, just so she could do it her way, or the foot-kicking, screaming tantrum she still tosses off daily, usually over something so small that it barely seems worthy of comment to the rest of us—Rory is sweet. Not just occasionally sweet, like Lily bossing Wyatt into his hat and mittens “so you won’t be cold,” but really sweet. Mommy I get ice for your coffee sweet. Don’t worry Wyatt, I bring you your lunchbox sweet. Rushing, frantic, to get a fallen Lily a “boo-boo buddy” for a head cracked on the coffee table. Sweet, empathetic, thoughtful in a way that suggests a whole different person under there than the one I expect to address when I get up in the morning.

And there’s the most important word in this whole post: Expect.

If I expect an ornery, shit-kicking Rory, then I am going to get one, no matter what she’s really doing or feeling or being. I will see the behaviors I expect to see, and I will respond to all the behaviors as though they were what I expect to get. I will focus on what she’s doing that fulfills my expectations rather than trying to see what she really is. Maybe she’ll still grow up into herself. But sometimes I suspect Rory doesn’t know why she does some of the things she does. Sometimes I think maybe she doesn’t even want to. What if I try not to see what I expect, but what’s really there?

Cross-posted at Raising Devils.

Meet Pei

February 10, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Pei came home from China last year to her forever family. Her special need is microtia with facial palsy.

Her mom has shared her story on our Family Stories page.

It was because of one family stepping out to share about their experience with this special need that Pei found her forever family! Please consider sharing your child’s story on our Family Stories page. Your story might make all the difference for a family considering your child’s special need.

For more information, or to share your story, email us at

Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái

February 3, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Chinese New Year begins today.

It starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later.

From Family Fun:

“The celebration of the 2011 Chinese New Year begins on February 3.

Most significant festivity of the traditional Chinese holidays. This holiday is partially determined by the lunar phase and usually starts on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. The celebration lasts for 15 days.

Traditions and rituals, themes of happiness, wealth and longevity embody this holiday. For instance, in order for good luck to not be swept away, people often put away brooms. Publicly, parades with dancing dragons are held to celebrate the beginning of the year. Red envelopes are passed out during Chinese New Year’s celebrations, which often contain even numbers of money. The red symbolizes good luck.

On Chinese New Year’s eve, relatives return home for a family reunion and dinner. Families reunites and give thanks. Visits to friends’ places also occur.

The new year is typically thought of as a fresh start. People often get haircuts or purchase new clothing.

The Festival of Lanterns is celebrated on the last day of the Chinese New Year.

The year 2011 marks the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac signs, that rabbit signifies character traits of compassion, creativity, friendliness. People who are born in the year of the rabbit also tend to avoid conflict.”

I thought it would be fun to share a few things we’ve found to help our children celebrate this special holiday in Chinese culture…

Our own Tonggu Momma has a fantastic list of Chinese New Year books.

Kaboose has put together a few fun Year of the Rabbit crafts.

Disney has even created a collection of some kid-friendly recipes, crafts and a list of Chinese New Year ideas to help celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

If there is something special you enjoy doing on Chinese New Year, to help your child(ren) celebrate their heritage, feel free to share.

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

P.S. To learn how to pronounce this New Year’s and other Mandarin greetings correctly, click here and scroll down to the the audio links.

new summer hosting program

January 26, 2011 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

From Cradle of Hope, some very exciting news about a brand new summer hosting program called “China Bridge of Hope”…

Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to announce that the CCAA has agreed to allow Chinese orphans to participate in our Bridge of Hope hosting program this summer! This will be the first time that Chinese children will travel to the US, attend day camp, have lots of summer fun and hopefully find a forever family. The children will be ages 6 – 9, both boys and girls, in good health and their adoptions will be processed under the Special Needs system which means host families will avoid the 4+ year wait for a referral. We are expecting to bring 30 – 40 Chinese children and 3 – 4 escorts in July for a three or four week visit.

While we have been organizing Bridge of Hope hosting programs for Russian children for the past 14 years, this will be our first program for Chinese children. We’re reaching out to Cradle families with Chinese children for help, as this is a huge undertaking in addition to the groups of Russian and Ukrainian children who will also be participating in Bridge of Hope this summer. Here are some of the ways you can help:

HOST A CHILD: Families on the east coast and in the Chicago area who are interested in adopting an older child are needed. Families in other areas might be able to participate, depending on location. Host families will need a current homestudy approving them to adopt an older child. For more information about being a host family, please contact Bridge of Hope director Patrice Gancie at 301-587-4400, ext 207 or

BE A DONOR: During our annual phone-a-thon in November, we asked Cradle families to send a donation for our Bridge of Hope program. Since we just learned that we can expand the program to include Chinese children, we must raise another $150,000. If you haven’t yet sent a donation or if you can send more, we could really use your support. Could you organize a fundraising event in your area? Do you know any businesses or individuals who could underwrite some travel costs or sponsor a child or two?

RECRUIT HOST FAMILIES: Help us spread the word in your community about the need for families to host and adopt older Chinese orphans. Make an announcement at your church or synagogue, send an email to your friends and neighbors, or share information through your local chapter of Families with Children from China (FCC).

HOST ESCORTS: If you are not planning to expand your family but would like to be involved, you could host several escorts in your home for a few days. Escorts are interested to learn about American family life, schools, and health care systems and will also want to do some sightseeing and shopping. This could be a great opportunity for your Chinese child to learn more about his or her homeland.

VOLUNTEER: We’ll need help with planning logistics, organizing pool parties or BBQs, recruiting volunteer translators, identifying day camps who will accept non-English speaking children, making goodie bags for arrival, transporting children and/or escorts, and lots of other tasks. Tell us how you can help and we’ll put you to work!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda Perilstein
Executive Director
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center

Be My, Be My Baby

December 17, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Last week, inspired by lots of things–one parenting guru (Vicki Hoefle, of Parenting on Track, whose cult I am totally joining), one excellent book that purports to be about parenting the ADHD child, but is really about examining your parenting style in the middle of your kid’s childhood and figuring out who you really want to be as your grade schooler turns into a teen (that would be Katherine Ellison’s Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention), my feeling of relative relaxation due to a decision to knock out whole hosts of activities for December (I love saying no. I really, really love saying no) and just a good day, I scooped up Rory while waiting for Sam to finish his hockey practice and gave her a big snuggle. Usually hockey practice is a great place to be with any kids, because the kids who aren’t on the ice get as much exercise as those who are, and no one cares if they run, climb, jump, shout and otherwise act like the place is a big giant playground. Can’t recommend it highly enough when the weather outside is frightful, really. And three littles had indeed been running and jumping like mad, but now Rory wanted a cuddle.

No problem! Bomb them with love, as Ellison would say. Connect, Hoefle would tell me. So many of my interactions with Rory ) are corrective, or directive–all of them, really, but her more than the others, because they each have at least one activity that I can sit and do with them, whereas Rory is more of a runner-around than a sitter, and we kind of haven’t found our thing yet. Working on that, but that’s another story.

Anyway, up in the lap, snuggle snuggle. After about ten minutes, Rory looks up and says “I your baby.”

“Yes,” I say, stupidly, and not really thinking–I’ve just treated myself to the Maira Kalman illustrated copy Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and because I am a word geek, I’m engrossed. I snuggle hard. “You will always be my baby! No matter how big you get, you will always be my baby!”

Verily, I am the dumbest parent in the whole world. Not thirty seconds pass before Rory says “Goo Goo Ga Ga.” She pops a thumb in her mouth. She makes a baby cry and goos and gas again. When it’s time to go, she wants to be carried. She’s my baby! She tries to crawl out the door. (It’s sleeting, incidentally.) “GOO GOO! GA GA!” I tell her, of course, to hop up and walk. (I might indulge a lightweight 5-year-old in the sleet, but that would raise issues with the 4- and 6- year olds, and I just very rarely do).

“But I your baby!”

I still haven’t caught on. Like I said, I’m none too bright. “You’re big enough to walk, I say–kindly but firmly!–“Come on out to the car.”

“But you SAID I your BABY!”

And that began our three-day journey back to Rory’s baby-hood, which took place, actually, not when she was a real baby, but when she had just been adopted, was full of neediness (and justifiably so) and found the baby act to be a way to get from me what I was often too busy, too discouraged or just too frustrated to easily give. We had a crawling Goo Goo Ga Ga baby for months during the summer and fall of 2009.

Now listen, I get this. I find it funny, how classic a behavior this is and how easily it expresses her needs. I try to meet those needs, and when this kind of thing pops up I recognize that something more is needed. I even know that plenty of adoptive parents with kids who can’t connect would kill for this. That doesn’t mean I don’t hate it.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, you can do that I find more annoying than following me around for hours on end, unless you want to do it on all fours, clinging to my leg and saying “goo goo ga ga” and uppy every thirty seconds, and then add trying to follow me into the bathroom, waiting for me outside the bathroom while periodically shaking the door and saying “goo goo ga ga.” And if you can toss in following me so closely that I trip over you, that if I walk two steps into a room to put something on the bed and turn around I will fall over you–well, now you’ve really got me going. And if you add to that trying to sit on my lap every time I sit down, or insisting on leaning on me for a cuddle for hours–I mean hours, too, real actual hours–well, at the end of a day or two I am going to have a really hard time being nice to you. This is actually a stage all my kids went through, and still do occasionally. I’m frequently saying, as they follow me up the stairs, wailing Mommy, Mommy where ARE you–I’ve just walked upstairs! I’ve been gone thirty seconds! Don’t follow me!

And then they do. No respecters of personal space. I really, really like my personal space, too. But as for Rory–after three days of this, I finally said, I don’t want a baby right now. I’d nipped it in the bud in a couple of ways earlier–given her a job to do in the kitchen, asked her to sit and pet the dog–but it kept coming back. I want you, I finally said, to be just you–my big girl who can do stuff.

“But Mommy, you said I ALWAYS be your baby.”

I did, of course. And I tried to add to that, now–I meant I’ll always love you like my baby, etc–feeling like I was talking into a bowl of Jello, because I know that for the most part, after the fourth or fifth word you’ve lost Rory entirely, especially if we’re talking abstractions. I finally stuck with “I love you, but I don’t want to play baby right now,” and repeated it. Often.

Today, the Goo Goo, at least, seems to have stopped. But she’s still extra follow-y. When I do go to the bathroom, I hear her outside. She needs just that much more knowing where I am, and that much more contact all of a sudden. It’s a small and sudden reversion, and I think I know why.

Part of the Parenting on Track program asks that we do less for kids and let them do more. I’ve had small rules and chores going for a while, but both Rory and Wyatt could often get me to do what they can do for themselves (Wyatt is 4.) I emptied lunch boxes and packed lunches and put away mittens and made sure there were snow pants far more than I should. Wyatt rolled with the change (about which more on my blog, Raising, including a fantastic tale of the temper tantrum and the school concert). Rory is struggling. I can see, now, that if I don’t do stuff for her, she’s having a hard time being sure that I still love her. She checks–often–to make sure that I am also not doing it for Wyatt, Lily or even Sam. She says, again and again, in confusion–but I want you do it! And I say no, and for her, the ground is taken right out from underneath her.

I can see that. The Parenting on Track Guru says that when a kid “pushes our buttons,” we should follow that out to its conclusion. What am I afraid of, when Rory turns back into a baby for days on end? Well, that she’ll stay this way, of course, that she’ll be in middle school and something will go wrong and she’ll come home and drop to all knees and say Goo Goo Ga Ga, and she’ll be far too big for me to shut out of the bathroom., and so on unto adulthood. Parenting Guru would laugh at this point. That’s so ridiculous!

But on another level, it isn’t. Rory, more than other kids, needs her patterns. She has a need to know where she fits with me in a different way, and if this is where–if it’s being a baby and having me do thing

s for her–then it isn’t silly to think it will continue forever. I don’t really think she’ll spend years trying to sit in my lap (or at least not more than another year or two). I do think that if she thinks having me baby her is the way I show my love for her, she is going to need babying all the time.

So really, this all comes back (doesn’t it always) to me. I need to convince Rory that my love for her comes out in other ways. We need something to do together that isn’t cuddling, and she needs to know that just because she makes her own lunch doesn’t mean I’m not there when she needs me. And I need to remember that it’s ok for her to need more and different than the other kids, and that they have their own ways of needing more and different, too.

I have my New Year’s Resolutions cut out for me this year.

The Journey

November 20, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

About 4 weeks ago we made the decision to adopt again. We sent in our LOI on 10/21 for a precious little girl we have named Bella. On 10/27 we received our PA.

Earlier this week I posted a story on my blog of how my husband and I made the decision to adopt another child.

As my day to post here approached I was planning on creating a totally new post for this site. But then I realized I had the perfect post already. I decided I would repost our story to Bella.


Not because I am too lazy or too tired to create a brand spankin’ new post.

But because all of the issues we dealt with in making our decision to adopt again appear to be central to most everyone’s stories (based on the emails I received and comments on my blog).

Issues like:

- Timing (Is this the right time we are supposed to do this? Didn’t we have other
things planned?)

- Special Needs (Is this special need something we can handle?)

-Faith (I WANT to step out but…will God actually MEET ME when I do.)

-Biblical commands (James 1:27 for starters)

-Understanding the magnitude of the Orphan Crisis (If WE don’t step out then WHO will?)

-A reluctant husband (anyone else hearin’ me on this???)

-Real or Perceived Obstacles (AKA Logical thinking vs. Keeping your eyes on God )

- Negative reactions to our decisions to adopt (don’t even get me going on the “just take care of the ones you have/tend your flock” thing again)

Some of these issues MIGHT have no relevance to you. OR….some of these issues just might be ones you are currently struggling with as you make a decision to pursue an adoption or pursue a specific child. I am praying that this speaks to whoever needs it.


Finding Bella was all GOD.

Really. Because we…well more like I…really wasn’t looking. Adopting another child right now wasn’t even on my radar really.

The funny thing is that just a short time ago Brandon and I had an adoption conversation over some hot wings at a local restaurant and we had unanimously agreed that OUR PREFERENCE would be that we should wait 2 years before adopting again. Note I said PREFERENCE. I always hesitate to use the P word…you know……PLAN. I TRY not to use that word much anymore because I have learned over the last 12 years that we don’t actually MAKE the plans…even when we THINK that we do.

I even remember saying to Brandon that our “preference” sounded good…as long as God didn’t have other plans for us.

Oh boy. I said it. That one is even backed up by Scripture:

LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. Jeremiah 10:23

Our main goal was to become debt free and we were both pretty psyched about it. So we moved forward toward our goal and we were making great progress.
Until that evening. The evening when all those well thought-out “preferences” and goals blew up in smoke.

I hadn’t blog hopped in over a week and I wanted to catch up with all my bloggy friends…even if they don’t actually KNOW I’m visiting since I am an AWFUL commenter. I am more likely to open a new email message and send an email then to comment. I’m trying to fix that flaw.
I was bouncing from one blog to another as I normally do and I landed on my friend Tammy’s


The date: 9/29.

Tammy and I met over a year ago when we were waiting to bring Ava home. She found her son Luke and we were using the same agency. I didn’t know she had started advocating for kiddos on her blog. I was just stopping on by to check out how Luke was doing. (BTW…LOVE her son’s name!!!!)

That day Tammy had just posted pictures and information of 2 kiddos that were Special Focus children at our agency. The first one was a cute little boy.

And then I saw her pictures.

I immediately thought she was cute. She was smiling and she had 3 pony tails. Her face was scrunched up and she was just about jumping out of her little chair. I didn’t even focus on finding out her exact special need. It said something about a limb difference. I called my husband over to the computer and said “Look at how cute this little girl is.” He came over to take a look and lingered for a moment and agreed….Yes, she was cute and then he walked away. I said something along the lines of “maybe we should find out more about her”. I’m not sure if he actually responded to my comment because I had already opened a new mail message and shot off a quick email to find out about her.

I had butterflies in my stomach.
Our coordinator emailed a short time later to let me know that her file was being reviewed and she would let us know if the other family chose to move forward.

The next morning I received an email saying the family decided not to proceed. Our coordinator sent her file and some additional pictures. She was sooooo cute, her age was perfect for our family and her SN was not an issue. />

I printed out her pictures and her development report and tried to show it to my husband. He was…..not very interested. At this point it was Thursday. We went to lunch together and I casually told him information about her from her file. Again, he was not very interested.

See, we had set a goal and he wanted to stick with it. And so did I…originally. In fact I was the driving force that got him on board with our debt-free goal…until the day before when I saw her face.

Since she was an agency special focus child we had some time to make a decision. The weekend passed and he was still not moved. I didn’t want to keep her paperwork on hold so on Monday, 10/4 I emailed our coordinator and sadly told her that we were not going to pursue her.

For some reason….my.heart.hurt.

I mean…my heart ALWAYS hurts for the waiting children. The thought of a child not getting a family just tears me up. But this was different. This REALLY hurt. Looking at her file and pictures lying around was making me very sad so I piled everything up and carefully placed it in the trash.
And I tried to move forward.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was on my heart. Honestly I really thought she would get swiped up by a family at any moment. She was so young and a girl and I considered her special need to be very mild. But I tried to put it out of my mind. My heart was burdened for her.

Around day 5 I was exhausted and sad. I spoke to God and I told Him that if she wasn’t our daughter I was begging Him to remove this burden from my heart. And I waited. And waited. And by day 9 it felt like it grew. I began to think that I was supposed to DO something. But I wasn’t sure what.

So on 10/12 I emailed our agency coordinator. I was just so sure this little girl had already been swiped up. I mean if I wanted her then there had to be many other families lining up for her. My email was very simple….I asked if she was still available and if so to please let us know.

Our coordinator emailed back to say that she was available but that a family had her paperwork and had been reviewing it for over a week and that they were set to give their answer by 4pm. So I waited and I wondered and I clock-watched. At around 4:05pm EST I started checking my email. And I checked and checked and checked right up until 7pm. I went upstairs to give our little people their showers and put them to bed. When I came back downstairs I saw that THE email had arrived. Guess I should have asked what time zone we were talking about! Our agency is located in California! I held my breath as I opened it. The family had decided NOT to pursue her and our coordinator wanted to know if we wanted to reconsider! I SAID YES!

And there I was. I had her profile back…and a very reluctant husband…now what? OH GOD…I need you to work in AMAZING ways because this just wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t. And I knew it.

I spoke with Brandon. I told him that she was still available and that I had a strong feeling that she was ours. His jaw dropped. And he was silent. And I remember him slowly taking his hands and rubbing his forehead as he is prone to do when he is extremely tired and unable to concentrate. And I was sitting there holding her referral picture in my hand…no… I was GRASPING it in my hand. All I asked him to do was to think about it and to earnestly pray about it. None of this “Dear God, is this my kid?” then silently waiting for 5 seconds and saying….”Babe, God didn’t answer. I think it’s no”.

I wanted him to just start with earnest prayer. And we would see where that would take us.

And over the days he was willing to talk about it. We talked about it a lot really. Like all the time. And believe me when I tell you we weren’t on the same page….at all. No….we weren’t even in the same SOLAR SYSTEM.

I was very calmly able to state the FACTS: THIS CHILD was an orphan. This child needed a family, a home, medical, dental, an education …..a future. And I believed that WE were her family. For me it was that simple.

For him….not so much.

Brandon was worried about a lot of things. Basic things… logical things. Things that men tend to focus and worry about..A LOT:

We don’t have any available seats in the car, how much is this going to cost in medical care, we don’t have the time or the energy, we don’t have any room at the little kids table, she is missing her hand and foot and HELLO can’t you see we currently have our hands full!

I let him list them all out one by one. A long list of things. Things that years ago I would have totally and completely agreed with him about too. And I understood his worries. I did. And I told him I understood.

But for every logical worry….there was one thing that Brandon at that time wasn’t looking at….GOD. I knew that if God was pressing this girl on my heart then I KNEW HE MUST have a plan.

Seats in the car? So we buy a 4th row seat for the Yukon.

Medical care? We have double medical and dental insurance.

Time and energy? God will provide exactly what we need for the tasks before us. Like He does every day.

No room at the kids table? Actually…the little people table is 4 sided….we currently have 3 little people at home. There is a space!

She doesn’t have a foot? We can buy her a foot. Yes…I sa

id this. Children’s Hospital has a great orthopedics clinic and they can make her a prosthetic!

Hands full? We thought our hands were full with two kids…back in 2003…when Jake came home…remember?

But he wasn’t moved by any of MY words. I knew that the only thing that would turn his heart towards her was God. So I asked him to pray some more and I would pray too.

A week passed. And I was surer than ever that she was our daughter. And I told Brandon this and he was listening but he was still apprehensive. He said he was praying and I believed him.

We spoke frequently about Biblical truths. We both knew that God’s heart was for the orphan. Brandon wasn’t disputing that fact. It is in black and white in the Bible. He knew this child needed a home. He knew we were commanded to care for orphans. So as the days wore on for me this became a question of Prayer vs. Action.

For me…I knew that God placed her on my heart and I didn’t need any additional “reasons”. Her picture spoke to me. There was a connection to her. That’s all I needed. I wasn’t waiting or praying for some huge sign to drop in my lap. I felt that God has already given us the go-ahead when He told us in the Bible to care for orphans and widows and then burdened my heart for her. I didn’t ask Him for a billboard or an email or even a piece of Scripture.

I think Brandon was leaning towards the billboard sign or email from God. Because a billboard or an email….those are very TANGIBLE. And humans….we like stuff we can see. We like things that are material and substantial. And I do too. I do. But sometimes God communicates in other ways. Maybe sometimes God wants you to look OUTSIDE the box. Not for the email or the billboard or the blinkey sign or the whole closing your eyes, flipping the pages of the Bible, stopping on a page and pointing at a passage to see what God has to say. (By the way…that has never worked for me. I always get some crazy passage that ends up being a tad bit scary.)

So my question was….were we going to continue to pray about this…and pray and pray even though we both logically KNEW the action that needed to be taken?

Or were we going to move forward KNOWING that God favors adoption, KNOWING that God wants to place the lonely in families, KNOWING that God’s commands are to care for orphans?

And Brandon got this concept. He did. But he still wasn’t ready to commit.

By the 2nd week of praying and talking, after every conversation about moving forward with this adoption we ended up at the same place. The same 2 questions rang out every.single.time. And those two questions weren’t even really about Bella.

His question: How is it that you trust God implicitly?

My response: How is it that you don’t trust God implicitly?

im•plic•it – adjective – unquestioning or unreserved; absolute

My answer…because I do. Because of everything God has shown me. Because He has shown up time and time again. Because His word tells us that He is faithful, that He is trustworthy, that He is not indifferent, that He is our Father, our Provider, our Confidant, that He is not a liar and that every word written in the Bible is true.

I just firmly and unequivocally believe that God will provide everything we need for this journey. Because of who He is and what He says in His Word….but also because He’s done it 5 times before. Repetitively. Not missing a beat. He’s shown up each time. He’s provided each time. He’s walked with us each time.

So I can’t believe that this ONE time He’s going to mysteriously say “Folks! Looks like your handling this one fine on your own. I’m outta here.”

No. He doesn’t do that. He is all about the Work. He’s all about walking with His children. He’s all about helping, aiding and guiding us to be the people He wants us to be. He’s the vine, we are the grapes. He’s the potter, we are the clay. And each faith journey we go on with Him molds us more into the person He wants us to be.

And over the course of the next several days….God changed this man’s heart.

Just like He has done 6 times before. (Gotta count committing to Hunny Bunny)

This is not about Brandon being hard-hearted, unloving or unaffected by the orphan crisis in this world. It is actually the total opposite. He has a very soft heart and he is a very loving and protective husband and father. His first thought is for the family. And the orphan crisis….he’s seen it first hand in Russia and China.

But sometimes it is hard to see things clearly when you only see the potential obstacles in front of you: time, energy, money, etc. When you think things are “good enough” or “just fine” as they are. When you intentionally or unintentionally listen to the words that the world is telling you. When people repeatedly say that we are crazy for adopting so many kids and by the way we are now upgraded to PSYCHO for thinking about adopting this new child. That we need to just take care of the ones we have. To “tend our flock”. (OH HOW I HATE that one. I can’t stand when someone uses a Biblical reference to support turning from one of God’s commands.) That we’ve done “our job” so we should let ourselves “off the hook” and “move on”.

This trash talk…it can cloud your mind. It can sink deep into you. It can pollute you to where you just aren’t able to see or hear God clearly.
God is fully able to clear that pollution. To make His will for us clear.

So Bella’s story is really two-fold:

This is about God turning a man’s heart. ALL glory to GOD!

And about God allowing US to be a part of an amazing journey that will redeem a little girl’s life.

There is nothing more special than being intricately woven by God into the story of a child’s life.

THIS CHILD was chosen by God for our family. And we can’t wait to

bring her home!


'Member? 'Member, Mommy?

November 18, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Rory is bothered by conversation.

She’s largely a native English speaker, since she grew up understanding and speaking more English than Chinese (she was raised in a large foster home with American parental figures and Chinese nannies), but the ebb and flow of conversation still goes over her head, and she’s hampered by a natural 5-year-old inability to tell the difference between a suitable topic for conversation and a random non-sequitur. But she wants to be a part of any conversation that’s going on, especially if it feels exclusive. Rob and I, trading notes on our day; Sam, describing a key moment in his last hockey game, Lily, planning a playdate, Wyatt, offering observations on fascinating mathematical subjects–if I engage in any of these with Rory around, especially in the car, the little voice will interrupt almost immediately.

“‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?”

“Remember what?”

There is now a pause, as Rory never plans what she’s going to ‘member before she ‘members it.

“Member you hit your head on the airplane?” That’s a favorite, along with “‘member you drove away at school” (referring to a time when I started to leave the carpool line at Sam and Lily’s school while the teacher who’d opened the car door was still shutting it), and also “‘member I have lice” (oh, yes, I remember that one), and “‘member I throw up my bed?”

These are mostly memorable for having been emotional moments–I hit my head on the airplane during turbulence, and Rory was pretty frightened, although I don’t think that was her first plane ride with us–it happened another time. The lice were traumatic for everyone, and Rory took the brunt of it, getting the worst case first and having to deal with my barely compressed fury at the general unfairness of life full on. The throwing up was mostly memorable because she really, really did not want to admit to having done it, as though perhaps someone else had snuck into her bed, barfed, and then returned to sleep in their own, but once she did admit it, she was painfully pleased and shocked that I was not angry at all. (The car thing she just found really, really, really funny.) But it doesn’t seem to be the emotion of the moments that’s pushing her, since she invariably engages me not because of something she’s thinking about, but because I am engaged with someone else, and oh, that’s hard.

It used to be harder. Seeing me occupied with another used to prompt tantrums, sudden imaginary injuries, and, until I realized what was going on, the mournful announcement that she wanted to “go back China.” Now it’s just this passionate urge to be a part of things, and while it can be a little annoying–she interrupts indiscriminately; she’s five–it’s mostly endearing just because it is such classic adoptee stuff. It reads like something out of some adoption manual: “your child may be jealous and want your attention constantly. Be sure to respond in a way that shows you understand her needs.” And yet, in a classic Rory way, she preempts my response. Not only has she drawn my attention, but she’s drawn, with her “memberies,” the link between us. All I have to do is grunt out a yes, and her attachment to me is affirmed, and she can go on her merry way. It’s really very efficient. it rarely even gets her scolded for the interruption, since often all I have to do is nod. This kid knows what she needs, AND she knows how to get it.

Think I’m impressed? You’re right.

Cross-published at

National Adoption Month – a word from the White House

November 4, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Check out the Presidential Proclamation here.

Sorry For My Absence ….

October 31, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I really hope this is still my day to post … I am so sorry for my slacking !!!

I will tell you that we have brought home two amazing young angels from Uganda about 4 months ago and yet another journey began … I have often said this to many people, but when you are bringing home a SN angel there will always be more than you expect or less than you expect according to what the PAPERS have said and you should prepare your heart and your family for this … I think part of not knowing everything is a true gift from the LORD … It causes each of us to whole heartedly rely upon the Lord’s strength and peace … You see our sweet boy was supposedly partially deaf … Now that we are home we realize that there are many other WONDERFULLY CREATED BY THE LORD issues … One reason for my absence lately is because of the many many doctors appointment for him and our other sweet SN angel that is still seeing a doctor for her burn  … I was beginning to think that the hospital was going to assign me my very own parking space … It is in these draining no-energy moments that I turn to the FATHER and thank HIM for the many doctors that can help me help my child … It is in these moments when I fall deeper in love with my children  … I mean there is nothing better for bonding than a child clinging to you for dear life and you get to whisper in their little ear, “Mommy loves you and will not leave you.”

I want to encourage any and all (because so many have encouraged me) don’t ever look at the journey as a way to FIX your child … Walk the journey to grow in each other, help your child to heal and thrive, and accept what amazing blessings the FATHER has created in your child ….

blessings and I will do my best to encourage you and allow you to peak into the lives of the OATSVALL TEAM … if you wanna see a picture of my sweeties visit us  !!

Confessions of a Paranoid Parent

October 29, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

When we adopted our daughter in the summer of 2006, I’d only stared at her picture for 2 months and one day before I was able to hold her in my arms.  We saw her picture on May 23rd and met her in Nanning on July 24th.  During that time, we were so busy buying crib bedding and packing that I obsessed very minimally.

With our son, we hadn’t done a lick of paperwork when we saw his picture.   We were quickly approved to adopt him and during the paperwork phase, with a 3 month deadline looming over us, I was so focused on my checklist that I stayed mostly rational, if not a bit testy.  Now, with that behind us, I find myself with a good 4-6 months of time available for every kind of worry and paranoia.

The particular paranoia that I’d like to write about today deals with the referral paperwork.  Not the checklist pages, but the page where a caregiver describes a child’s personality.   I think I have that particular page memorized.  I’m quite sure that I can recite it with greater accuracy than I can recite the preamble to the constitution.  Worse still, I’ve picked apart every single phrase and analyzed word choice searching for hidden meaning.

For example, the first sentence in our son’s referral:  “He is outgoing, smart, active, lovely, and he loves running and jumping.”  This is all good, don’t you think?  Well, if I didn’t have so much time on my hands, I might not obsess over the word “active”.  I might not even have counted how many times it’s used in his one-page description–2.  Well, it’s used 2 times and then there’s the word “lively”, which I think counts as another “active”.  So, how active are they talking?  Active like he might enjoy the hokey pokey or active like international-travel-will-be-a-nightmare?  Active like maybe he’ll be good at soccer or active like buy-some-Ritalin-now?

And then the next line.  “He can eat alone quietly.”  I suppose this is meant as a positive statement, but my question is WHY is he eating alone?  Aren’t there other children in the orphanage?  Is there a reason he’s eating alone?  I picture a big table and one little three year-old boy, quietly clicking away with his chopsticks.  It makes me sad.

Moving on, the paperwork says, “He could express himself by consistent language.”  On first reading, I hardly paused upon that at all.  Now, I have to wonder do they mean that his language is consistent with other three year-olds or that if he calls an apple an apple on Monday, he’ll probably call it an apple again on Tuesday?  Am I over analyzing?

And then the qualifier word “some”, which is used often in his paperwork.  “He recognizes some regular objects and knows the names and functions of them.”  Again, innocent enough, but what types of regular objects are they showing him and which ones doesn’t he know?  If someone shows him oh, let’s just say a turkey baster and he’s unsure of its use, well, I’m not concerned.  If they’re showing him a sock and he’s at a loss, then I might worry.

Then there are the issues of translation.  In this sentence, I think maybe they’re bragging about something special that he can do, something that would make a mother proud, yet, I’ll admit that I’m in the dark.  “He can cross buttons by using glass fiber.”  It sounds advanced for a three year-old, if not a little dangerous, don’t you think?

“He has strong curiosity and is fond of exploring every unseen objects and things.”  I assume this is good.  Curiosity is good.  My five year-old reminded me though that Curious George gets into a lot of trouble.   After the curiosity comment, the nanny was quick to point out that he also has “basic moral sense,” which is a relief.  But with some kids in the orphanage, is she reporting that they have “advanced” or “well-developed” moral sense?  Is “basic” like the bottom floor in the moral sense department?

And then, after I’ve analyzed every word and every possible subtlety in translation, the nanny ends with this:

“He cares everyone and everything around him.”

And then I melt.
And focus once again on the picture.
The big picture: There is a boy in China without a mom and a dad.
And before we ever read a word, his face spoke to us.
He’s our son.

Salt and Light

October 18, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

For the past couple of days I have been thinking about what I wanted to post here.

Was it a funny story about one of my kids?
Was it about Luke’s MRI?
Was it about Ava’s recent transition into good behavior?

No. I wanted to do something more basic.

Maybe answer a simple question that gets asked to me and many others quite often.

Why Adopt?

We started our first adoption process in Oct 2002. 8 years ago. When we started that first process the reasons for adopting were very simple for me. I wanted a child. My arms ACHED for a child after losing our twins. Normal biological means were not an option anymore. And there were children that needed parents. However selfish that sounds….that was the beginning.

And there is always a beginning.

Sometimes you just gotta take baby steps and be spoon fed. Just like reading a book. You don’t know what is contained in the pages so you tentatively open it up and start reading.

And then your story develops.

After bringing Jacob home in May 2003….we could have stopped. We could have said “we have our baby. We’re done”. We saw so many children in Jacob’s orphanage. So many we knew would never find a home and it all felt so overwhelming that I simply couldn’t think of it on a larger scale. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to be content with our new son. I didn’t want to think about the fact that there were MILLIONS of orphans. But God took that little bit that he showed us in Russia and He grew it.

Shortly after arriving home, he offered us to be a part of something else.
He whispered to us about China. About a little girl in China. And we followed Him.

And after bringing Kiah home in November 2005….I was good. Put a fork in me…I was done. I was comfortable with my 2 little munchkins. I mean…adoption is beautiful but it’s HARD and STRESSFUL and EMOTIONAL. And at this point the child-to-adult ratio was good and fun and easy.

And I was settled. But God wasn’t.

And there is always that tipping point….you know….that point where something can either make a difference or not. Where something can either mean something or not.

And then came Luke.

And the minute I held him in my arms…right there God was showing me my tipping point.

A little boy who was in the worst of conditions…physically, mentally and emotionally.

And it wrecked me.

And then the knowledge that kids in this type of condition are out there in large numbers.

Like in MILLIONS. RIGHT NOW. Suffering. In Pain. With No Hope.

God wants us to be wrecked for the things that wreck His heart? Done.

How could I ignore that?

Like the Grinch…my heart grew 3 sizes that day.

And not because my heart sucked. Or because I was incapable before that point.

But because I finally WANTED to see it.

So people ask me WHY adopt? Why keep going back?

Because the choices you make to either get involved or not pay attention… YOUR DECISIONS MATTER.

When you adopt a child you are just not affecting this one little person’s life or your family’s life.

View it in a larger scope.

You are affecting GENERATIONS of people.

Societal norms say that this child will grow up and get married and have kids. And they will grow up get married and have kids. And so will they. And so on and so on and so on.

So with this 1 action look at the impact that has been made.

By investing your time, emotions, energy, prayers, love and $27,000 of God’s money.

Did I say “God’s money?” Yes. I did. God DOES own everything. The chair you are sitting on, the computer you are using to read this, the money in your bank account, the cars in your driveway. He owns it all. No one has ever seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.

And it’s not about trying to be a “Savior”. We already have one of those. His name is Jesus.

Hear my heart.

This is about doing something that has eternal value. And this is not the work for a select “special” few folks. Lord KNOWS I am not “special” like that. If you look at the Bible….God doesn’t choose “special” people to do His work. He chooses” regular joes” to make a difference.

Adoption is an opportunity to be “salt and light”. To help the least of these. To help someone stand when they can’t. To feed someone when they are hungry. It’s about our deeds in this world.

I recently read that our task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding taste, giving meaning where there is no meaning, giving hope where there is no hope.


Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16


Lilah's turn

October 5, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Read more about sweet Lilah on our family stories page.

And please consider sharing your story with us. If you’ve adopted a special needs child from China, we’d love to add yours to our family stories page as well! It’s a huge encouragement to families considering special needs to be able to read about other families that have gone before them… sharing your story might help bring a child home!

Just leave a comment or email us at

Truly Friends Forever

September 17, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Most of us had friends as kids that we promised, with mixed results, to love forever—but what must a friend from your orphanage, from your foster home, from your past mean to a kid? We adopted Rory at nearly four, and from the first, she’s been asking for “Bethany.” As often as she cried for her foster mother and father, and maybe even more often, she cries over Bethany. She wants to see her. She lingers over the pictures we have of them together, talks about they way they played, tells us stories about the birthdays they spent together. As recently as last week, Rory told me (after being scolded for a fight with Wyatt) that she wanted to go “back China.” I asked her why (it’s still not an unusual thing to say, and I try not to put a whole ton of weight on it) and she said, sadly, that Mama Deena (her foster mother) “never send me my room if I hit.” I was a little surprised by that–Mama Deena being a known, and excellent, keeper of order who I imagine was even more vigilant than I am about hitting, and said “Mama Deena didn’t get mad if you hit someone?”

“No,” she said indignantly, “I not hit! I not hit in China! I not need hit Bethany!”

I was relieved that it wasn’t that Mama Deena was vastly preferable mommy than me (although that’s often true), but that Rory herself felt herself to have been a nicer person in China (who wouldn’t have been, before her whole world got yanked out from under her) and that Bethany, of course, was much nicer than Wyatt.

We’re in touch with Rory’s foster family, an American couple who runs a foster home in China, and so—very occasionally—we’ve seen Bethany on Skype, or had some news of her. Up until last night, I thought Bethany was going to stay in China, and it worried me. Any American’s position in China is always precarious, and I feared that Bethany might get caught up, somehow, in crazy bureaucracy. I feared for a lot of things, and I wanted this kid that Rory loves so much to have the kind of future Rory will have, here in the U.S., instead of fighting her way into some adult life in China.

Last night, I found out that Bethany will be adopted by a family in Ohio.

I haven’t told Rory yet, but I’m overjoyed—and a tiny bit worried. I don’t know a thing about what her new family knows about Bethany (and I won’t use her Chinese name here, or offer any identifying details or use a picture). I don’t know if they know her foster family yet, or that she will speak English. I don’t know if they have other kids, if they’ve adopted before, or where they’re coming from—and most importantly, I don’t know if they’ll want to help Bethany keep a place for Rory in her life.

It would mean so much to Rory to see Bethany again. I’m already imagining this wonderful future for them together, of visits and letters and cards (the number of cards and pictures Rory’s drawn for Bethany over the past year, and that I’ve saved, would fill a USPS priority mail box) and Skype without a 12 hour time difference. I imagine, for me, too, another parent of an older adopted girl with my own girl’s slightly weird past, her almost-English, her half-family, half-foster status, and the connection we feel with the adoptive family and the home in China, still staffed by Americans, where we hope to visit, help and work someday.

But what if they don’t want any of that? What if China, as it always wants to, manages to keep Bethany’s foster family information from her adoptive family? Or what if they don’t want her to keep her links with her past? Or what if they just don’t like us—if I’m too outspoken, if our faiths and convictions, which lack the organized affiliations of so many of our fellow adoptive parents, aren’t enough for them? I see this as a future for Bethany, but at the same time, I’m afraid that she’ll somehow disappear entirely from Rory’s life. And as much as Rory has lost, I have a sense that to lose Bethany—who has never abandoned her, or given her to another family, or turned her attention away, or, even to hear Rory tell it, snatched away a toy or hit her or called her “poopyhead,” would be huge.

I guess the silver lining would be that Bethany, if she’s never again a physical part of Rory’s life, might hold onto her iconic status even better than the real Bethany will. Maybe my dream of somehow giving Rory back this little piece of her past is would actually mess with Rory’s dream. Maybe the real Bethany, a year older, a year changed, won’t be Rory’s Bethany at all.

It’s out of my hands, of course. But if anyone knows a couple in Ohio about to adopt a 5-year-old girl from Fuzhou, Fujian, please: send them our way.

Read more about family blend, bonds and balance at


September 13, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I know this is not rocket science, but this morning a thought crossed my mind about the way an adopted child becomes FAMILY.

It seems like one day you wake up and realize how far your child has come. I realize how much more a part of the family he/she is than the day, week, month or year before.

Each adopted child has their own time frame and experiences in this process. But there is one common factor I see in them all.


Time solidifies relationships.

Books on attachment are extremely resourceful. Advice from other B.T.D.T. adoptive parents can be like fresh water in a desert land.

But in many cases, time is a vital player in the game. And it’s the one thing that requires a lot of patience, because there’s no sure fire way to say how much time will pass before a real bond occurs.

I’m not saying one should just sit around and wait, doing nothing to help the attachment process. Not at all!

I guess I’m just realizing how time (and lots of prayer) has strengthened our cords.

Time keeps marching. Our relationships keep changing and growing closer.

Much like in our Christian faith, we are ever growing in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It’s how it is with our children.

Not rocket science, right? Not by a long shot. But maybe it might encourage someone out there who is in the thick of it.

If you build it, they will come

September 7, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

My husband and I are not impulsive people.  We tend to research ad-nauseum.   Then we make lists.   Then we weigh pros and cons.  Then we go in the direction that seems most logical.  If the direction we’re drawn to doesn’t seem logical, we go back to step one and start all over again.  Notwithstanding that bizarre day when I went to the pet store to buy dog food and came home with a miniature dachshund puppy, it’s how we roll.  We spent four years in Iowa, so excuse the Field of Dreams allusions, but I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that we would not mow down a cornfield to build a baseball diamond.

After adopting our daughter, we’d always said we’d love to adopt again.  If the timing felt right.  If our finances were secure.  If we’d remodeled our already too-small kitchen.  If…..

Then one little picture completely rattled my brain.   I literally gasped when I saw this boy’s face.  Joy just seemed to radiate from him.  But thinking logically, our finances weren’t exactly prepared for an adoption. Our kitchen was too small for a family of six, let alone seven.  And I could think of 20 reasons just off the top of my head why now was not ideal.  I breathed deeply, did that nervous foot shake thing that I do, and then wrote what I’m sure is the most wishy-washy e-mail I’ve ever composed.   It went something like this:

Dear So and So,

We are an adoptive family of six and up until this morning hadn’t really been considering starting another adoption, but then I saw the face of the little boy labeled B-22X and now I’m considering what just a few hours ago I wasn’t.  If there are lots of people already seriously looking at his file, which I’m sure there are since B-22X is the most adorable boy I’ve ever seen, then that’s great and I’m so happy he’ll have a family.   BUT, in the off chance that no one is reviewing his file, could you please consider sending it to us?  

P.S. We’ve done no paperwork whatsoever, and if that’s an insurmountable problem, I completely understand.

I heard nothing.  I figured that meant he was already spoken for, which was probably for the best considering our postage stamp kitchen.  A week later,  I e-mailed again.  Maybe the first e-mail was lost in cyberspace, you never know.  Once again, nothing.  I let another week pass and then e-mailed a third time. When no reply appeared in my in-box, I dialed their number. A woman answered and apologized profusely.  Apparently their person who deals with special needs adoptions had been in China.   Regarding B-22X…..No, there was no one looking at his file. “But,” she said, “It’s unlikely that we’d allow you to lock any file considering that you haven’t done any paperwork……” At the end of the conversation, she mentioned that his file was on a shared list, something new to me.

My husband and I fasted and prayed.  For us, this felt incredibly impulsive and if we were going to mow down a cornfield so to speak, we needed two things: confirmation and information.  As we prayed, we felt strongly that we should pursue this adoption and that if we stepped out in faith, people would come into our lives with the information we needed.  If we built it, they would come.  And they did.   One friend knew the ins and outs of the shared list and told me I could use any agency and not just the agency who had listed his picture, a revelation to me.  Another friend, just ahead of us in the paper chase, confirmed my decision to call the agency we’d used with our daughter’s adoption.  That agency locked his file almost instantly and said, “Let’s do this warp speed.”  Then I moved into panic mode.  This was too impulsive, too quick.  After all, he’s an older child.  He speaks Mandarin, I don’t.  We don’t have the money ready and waiting.

The day after we locked our son’s file,  I met a man at my kid’s swim lesson who introduced me to his four children.  All of them were from China, all had been older child, special needs adoptions. One charming eight year-old boy was adopted from foster care in Kunming at age four.   Our little guy would be nearly four at the time of adoption and was in foster care in Kunming.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from our agency’s china representative.  She said that when she heard we were adopting again, she called her friend who just happens to be over foster care in Kunming.  She asked about our little guy and her friend said, “Oh, he’s such a great boy.”  Such simple words that meant so much.  I haven’t panicked since.

The next week, I happened to run into a Mandarin-speaking friend at Costco.  I hadn’t seen her in months.  When she heard about our newest adoption, she immediately offered to tutor me in Mandarin, free of charge.

That same week, my husband’s business partner discovered that there were several expenses we’d been paying for through our personal accounts, when we should have been paying through the corporation.  With the reimbursement, we now had enough to cover all of the initial fees.

If you build it, they will come.  I know that for a fact.  Now I’m just waiting for a general contractor who specializes in free kitchens to knock on our door.  It could happen.

All The Things She Doesn't Say

August 20, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Sometimes the things our children don’t say are the most important.

We went on a walk yesterday.

Cheeky is much smaller than my other kids. Shorter legs, weaker body, sweet, sunny personality that gives her no need to move fast, those things make walking a little challenging for my youngest. She tries, though. Oh, how she tries. Walk. Fall behind the group. Run to catch up. Walk. Fall behind. Run. Walk. Repeat for six or seven miles and you’ll get how Cheeky’s hikes go.

Anyway, we went on a walk, and she was wearing shoes that were a little big because she couldn’t find her sneakers and had to borrow a pair of her sister’s old shoes. I didn’t think much about the big-ish shoes. Cheeky was smiling, after all. Happy. So enthusiastic about the blue sky and the orange hat her brother let her wear and the walk and just…well, just being alive.

Her cheeks were red from heat, but she didn’t complain about the bright sun. She just walked and skipped and sang, and I thought all was well.

Until we walked up a steep hill.

I made sure Cheeky was in front of me, because she isn’t always very good at balancing. That’s when I noticed the back of her foot. Blood was oozing from a broken blister that looked red and raw and very painful.

“Cheeky,” I said. “Does your foot hurt?”

“Yes. It hurts a lot,” she replied.

And she just kept on going, climbing up that steep hill like she didn’t have a two-inch blister on the back of her foot.

We cut the walk short so we could go buy bandaids. As we walked through the first aide aisle, Cheeky spotted Dora bandaids. “Look, Mommy,” she said. “Dora!”

That was it. No begging me to buy them. Not even a polite request.

She wanted them. I knew she wanted them, but she wouldn’t ask. Not even when Sassy picked up a package of neon bandaids and asked me to buy those. Even then, Cheeky was silent about the Dora Bandaids.

I put them in my cart, of course. Cheeky had the blister. She got to choose. That’s how it usually works in our house. I think Cheeky has noticed that, and I think she noticed that she got what she wanted rather than Sassy getting what she wanted.

And think that mattered to Cheeky.

But she didn’t say that. She just watched those Dora Bandaids go into the cart and onto the conveyor belt. She watched them be put into a bag, and she watched that bag as it traveled from cart to car and from car home. Then, she asked if she could put a bandaid on her blister, and she gave me a huge hug and thanked me.

For a bandaid with Dora.

But, I think, for something more.

Maybe for buying her what she didn’t ask for. Or maybe for letting her have her way. Or maybe for putting her wants above the wants of my other daughter.

My little one loves to talk, but I have come to realize there are many things she doesn’t say.

She does not always tell me when she is hurt. Especially if we are doing something like taking a long walk. She won’t tell me if she is overheated (an issue because she really doesn’t regulate her body temperature very well). When we eat dinner, she consumes what is put on her plate without complaining that she doesn’t like it.

Those are little things, but one day, there will be bigger things on her mind. I think that maybe there already are. It is obvious to me that she watches to see what the other kids are getting, and she is anxious about getting her share. It isn’t that she is greedy or even that she wants a lot but simply that she wants to know that I am treating her the same as I do the others.

If I give someone a slice of fresh baked bread, Cheeky hovers in the kitchen doorway, waiting to be asked to join in. If I buy The Professor a book, Cheeky stares at that book as if I’ve given him the moon. She is the same with chores. If the older kids have been asked to do a job for me, she waits by my elbow, hoping and praying that I will ask for her help, too.

As I watch her watch me, I can’t help but think how strange it must be for her. She has been brought into a family related by blood, and she is the only member who is not related that way. Cheeky knows that. She has seen baby photos of her siblings, stared hard at their red newborn faces. She has seen pictures of me holding each of my other kids when they were tiny infants. She has pointed at photos of me playing with the other children when they were toddlers. She has flipped through photo albums of Christmas and Easter and birthday and every-day photos.

And she is not in any but the most recent ones.

Cheeky loves to talk, but there is a lot she doesn’t say.

She doesn’t say that she worries that I might not love her as much as I do her siblings, but I feel it. I feel it in the way she hugs me. The way she kisses my cheek as if she must stake her claim, lay herself fully upon my heart so that I won’t turn her away.  She doesn’t say that she still feels like an outsider, a newcomer, a child who was pulled in but who might not be able to stay, but I see it in her eyes when she watches me have one-on-one time with another one of my kids. I see it again, in a different way, when I spend alone time with her. I feel it in the way she holds on tight as I grasp her hand and lead her on a walk around our field…just me and Cheeky. I see it in her glowing face when I say, “Come on, Cheeky, let’s knead the bread dough together. That will be our job today.”

There is no doubt of what I see reflected in her face when she is watching me. She longs, with a desperation I cannot fathom, to belong.

It is a desperation that I hear in all the things she doesn’t say.

Oh, Cheeky, if only you knew how deep my love is for you. If only you knew how truly and wonderfully you belong.

That is what I want to say to my little girl, but to a child who has lost everything and has been forced to rebui

ld her family, to rebuild her entire world, words are only a small part of what she needs.

So, I do what I have been doing for a little over a year. I tell her the story of how she came to be. Of Birth Mom and China Mom and Me. Of the empty place at the McCoy table, the empty seat in the McCoy van, the empty place in my heart that was waiting to be filled.

Waiting for her.

And then I treat her as I must… if she has always been mine, always been here, always been part of this family.

And all the while my soul keeps listening and my heart keeps breaking for all the things my darling girl cannot say.


August 19, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

We have hit our stride.
Rory has been home for almost 14 months, and it’s time to call it good. And oh, it is such a relief.

The past year been like hitting my head against a wall, in that it’s so much better now that it’s stopped. I’ve never, ever been so glad that a year was over, and I would repeat sixth grade before I’d live through the first six months again. Of course, we had our beautiful moments. Of course, it’s always tough to see calendar pages flip, and I’m always telling myself not to “wish my life away.” But it has been a tough year, and that’s putting it mildly. And suddenly, with little fanfare, it seems to be over. Last month I posted to No Hands But Ours about how I wasn’t ready to do the squishy lovey one year post. If this month were our one year marker, I’d be more inclined, although I still resist putting a rosy haze over the changes any of us went through last year. I can’t imagine our lives without Rory now, although sometimes I still do. (I also sometimes contemplate what life would be like with Sam as only child, or with Sam and Lily as a tanned and tow-headed pair of co-conspirators, a role they took on tonight when Wyatt and Rory went off to do some twin thing in the playroom. It’s not personal. It’s just one of those things.)

Things that felt impossible six months ago, like taking all of the kids to the swimming pool without another adult, or the three youngest to a bead store for a little craft action, today manage to seem like good ideas. (Although there are some situations, like kid concerts, that I still avoid like the plague. I can’t see any possible way that would be fun.) The house is cleaner, our lives slightly more organized. We buy milk in glass returnable bottles, and the process of returning the empties no longer strikes me as the straw that might break the camel’s back. In fact, I broke two full ones the other day (it was bound to happen) and dealt with the result with far more equanimity than I would ever have expected of myself. We make plans. We look ahead. We sit at home, and I periodically actually sit down on the couch with a magazine without anyone on my lap.

On the Rory herself front, too, we’ve made one of those startling leaps. Her language suddenly shot up to a level where she feels she can talk to other people, outside people, even people she has never met (whom she really likes to tell that she is from China, and rarely fails to ask if they know Baba Mike, her foster dad). She chats with us about all sorts of things, about how she feels and what she thinks and what she did and will do today (all of which she avoided before). Lest you think it’s perfection, very few people can actually understand her, and she’s still got a weird sort of noun fatigue, with little gaps of common words simply not finding a place in her hear (like sausage and soup, which she forgot yesterday). She handles the gaps so much better, though. “I don’ know what that is,” she’ll say. Tonight she turned to me from the kitchen counter and declared that she wanted to make “a nakkin.” You can have a napkin, I said, and reached for one. “NO! I wan’ make a nakkin!” Well, I said, you can make a nakkin, here’s the paper towels. “No! NO! A NAKKIN! A NAKKIN TO GO ROUND MY NECK!” I was still obtuse (she often makes these sort of napkin bibs for herself or for dolls) and she was near tears. “It’s ok,” I said. “Stop. Breathe. We’ll figure it out.” And she actually did stop, and hold back the howls of frustration I could see right on the edge, and I looked at her, and what she had, and what she was doing, and I said “oh! a necklace! You want to make a necklace with your beads!”

Which was what she wanted to do, and then sat and did, very calmly and very well, too, considering that she made the beads at art class and I never, ever thought she would get the tiny thread through the tiny holes. Of course. A nakkin. We had another, similar near breakdown a few nights ago, when we had guests (which is always tough on Rory). She wanted a tub, she kept repeating it, getting angrier and angrier and more and more determined. It was 9:30, there would be no tub and I was getting frustrated, how could i make her see that there could be no tub and not have her loose it so badly that we might as well have just had the tub, because it would take less time? And just as I was getting my stubborn reared up and ready to go, (and pretty much matching her and forcing us both into a standoff) she stopped, thought, and said, “then I have tub tomorrow?”

Well, yeah, sure. You have tub tomorrow. Situation defused by Rory, who might, at that moment, have been more mature than I was (but note how she found a way to control it, too. I think that’s ok). She’s come far, and all of a sudden, it shows. We both have. I know it was gradual, but it has a way of feeling sudden, as if someone quite quickly uprighted our household snow globe, and things were settling gently into place.

Cross-posted at

Dads and Adoption

August 13, 2010 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I admit, it is very late, and I have been at a loss on what to write! So in scrolling through my pictures, I came to a very endearing shot of Kevin and his daddy. And it got me to thinkin’…

I post my thoughts, my experiences, my feelings on everything from attachment in adoption to open heart surgeries. The mom’s perspective is abundant. But what about dad’s side of the story? (…and I realize there are many single moms…I admire you a whole bunch. I have a close friend who is a single adoptive parent and she is a blessing! I mean that whole-heartedly.)

Since my husband is not about to get on this blog and write a post, once again you will get a mom’s perspective on the dad’s perspective. Clear as mud? ;)

Each of our four adopted children have attached so differently to Rob. Our first son, Quan, trauma bonded to him. Our first daughter, Kimmie, bonded to me (after lots of work to get her to attach to either one of us). Our second daughter, Candie, bonded equally well to us both at first, though clearly she is a daddy’s girl now through and through! Our second son bonded to me ferociously.

Since our most recent adoption is fresh on my mind, I will focus more on it. Kevin came home in March with the idea that I belonged to him, and Rob could take it or leave it! Rob has always been so patient. He would say, “She was mine before she was yours, buddy!” But he would have a big grin on his face. Rob is so patient with our children…his motto is “You will like me one day! You’ll see!”

Slowly Rob has inched his way in. With tickles. With silly peekaboo games. And with me talking about “Daddy” lots during the day while he is at work. Kevin and I call daddy so he can talk on the phone (which he loves to do!) So when Rob gets home from work, Kevin is delighted! He may not run into his arms, but he will at least give him a small hug now.

He used to not let Rob do anything for him, but now he is 90% okay with his daddy taking care of his needs. My favorite part has been watching this relationship blossom. I guess because I love seeing Rob melt when Kevin gives him love. I love hearing Rob carrying on a three year old conversation with Kevin. I love seeing the two of them sit next to each other at the dinner table; Rob coaxing Kevin to try new foods. I don’t particularly like the worry lines that pop up around Rob’s eyes when we discuss Kevin’s future heart surgeries. But I do love the fact that he loves this little boy with a passion. And he has from the moment we were matched with him.

I’ll never forget it. Not ever.

We had been praying for God to show us if Kevin was our son or not. We were scared. We knew his heart condition was intense.

I was in the shower one morning and Rob came in, opened the shower door and proclaimed “He’s our son. I know it!” He had big tears in his eyes.

I said, “Rob, are you prepared to possibly bury a child?” (not that we’re guaranteed tomorrow with any of our children, really)

“I know that’s a possibility. I’m in.”

And at that point, so was I.

There’s just something about your husband being 100% sold out. It’s good. And I love it. And I love him. And him. And Him.

Posted by Picasa

The Proof is in the Pudding

August 1, 2010 by nohandsbutours 7 Comments

I posted a similar version of this to my adoption blog. I think it is important for those of us who have had easy transitions and whose children have adapted brilliantly to remember that no matter how much it seems that they understand, they still wonder if what we offer is forever. 

I am back from Orlando, and there are a million things I could tell you about my trip.

I could talk about my dear friends Brenda Minton and Stephanie Newton and the fun we had together.

I could talk about the flip flops Brenda talked me into buying.

Or the pain that has resulted from wearing them.

I could talk about the hotel.

About the fabulous dinner I had with my agent.

Or the huge pile of books I signed.

But all I really want to talk about is pudding.

When I woke this morning, I was thinking about A Christmas Carol: The Movie. If you’re a fan (and I am), you’ll remember the moment when the Christmas pudding is presented to Bob Cratchit. Remember his face when he took the first bite? The way he frowned as if it was not good, and then smiled broadly and announced it to be the best pudding ever?

The proof was, indeed, in the pudding that day.

Why, you might ask, am I thinking about pudding and proof?

Before I left for Orlando, I made brief mention of Cheeky’s incessant questions. “When will you be home? When will you be home? When will you be home? WHEN WILL YOU BE HOME?” she asked over and over and over again until I wanted to scream in frustration.

I refrained.

When I returned yesterday, my family greeted me with joy (the children) and relief (the husband), and I greeted them with hugs and kisses and thanksgiving. I loved getting away, but being home….being home is like a cool breeze on a hot day. It truly refreshes the soul.

Cheeky and Sassy clung to my hands as we waited at the baggage claim. Sassy’s hand was dry and warm, her face glowing with joy. She was anxious about me leaving, too, and there was no doubt she was glad to have me home. Cheeky, on the other hand, had a sweaty, sticky, cold little palm. Every few minutes, she’d lean close to me and inhale deeply and then she’d say, “I need to hug you, Mommy,” and I’d hug her, and the entire ritual would begin again.

Cold, sweaty palm.

Lean close.



Over and over again.

When we walked out of the airport, she clung to my hand as if I were her lifeline to the world, and when we got in the car, she stared at me as I settled into my seat, buckled my seatbelt and made myself comfortable.

“Did you have fun, Mommy?” she asked.

“I had a great time,” I replied. “But I missed you all, and I am so glad to be home.”

“I missed you, too. I didn’t know when you were coming home.” She said, and I thought about the hundred-thousand times I’d told her I was coming home on Saturday. Apparently, Sassy was thinking about the same.

“She told you she’d be back today, Cheeky.” She offered in her impatient older sister voice.

“But I didn’t know if it was this Saturday,” Cheeky responded, and the two began bickering discussing the subject, and I had to step in and referee explain that it really didn’t matter.

And it occurred to me that I was Mom again. Not Shirlee the Author, the lady who dresses in clothes that can be worn to nice restaurants and to cocktail parties, who signs books and talks about the business as if she knows it, who doesn’t have to worry about cooking dinner or cleaning up after it.

And it felt so good, people. It felt like my heart was back where it belonged, as if all the little pieces of me had come back together, and I embraced my frumpy momhood, pulling my nicely coiffed hair back into a ponytail and letting the cool Spokane air whip it into a frenzy while my kids and husband regaled me with tales of their trials during my absence.

Later, I went into my room to put something away and was tempted by the bed. After being up until three Saturday morning and waking at four so I could leave for the airport at 4:40, I was exhausted. The kids and husband were occupied with Saturday stuff, and I lay down. I think I was there five minutes when I heard her coming down the hall.

“Mommy? Where are you, Mommy?”

“In my room.”

Seconds later, my youngest climbed onto the bed.

I was lying on my back, and I turned my head so we were face to face. “Did you have fun while I was gone?”

“Yes. We went in the pool and we ate chicken, but I missed you, Mommy.” And she rested her hand on my stomach.

“I missed you, too.”

“You did?” She looked into my face, her eyes drifting from side to side as they only do when she is nervous or sad or worried she is in trouble.

“Of course, I did. You are my daughter. You are more important to me than anything. When we are not together, it is like a piece of my heart is missing.” And I thought we will have this conversation again. It will be repeated a hundred-thousand times.

She smiled, then, her hand drifting along my stomach until she found a piece of flesh not covered by my shirt. Her palm rested there, and she cuddled close, inhaled deeply.

“My Mommy.” She said.

Just that. My Mommy.

And I thought of Bob Cratchit and that Christmas pudding. The sense of anticipation that filled everyone as he tasted and found it pleasing. That, I think, is how Cheeky felt while she waited at the airport.

Will she come? Will she hug me like she did before she left? Will she still be my mommy? Will I still be her little girl?
Those must have been the things she wondered as she waited.
And then I came….like a perfect pudding on Christmas morning. The perfect smell, the perfect texture, the perfect flavor. Everything just the way it should be.
My mommy.
If I live a hundred more years, I don’t think I will ever forget the longing in her voice when she said that.
I patted Cheeky’s cold little hand, and we lay there for the longest time. Just the two of us. Mommy and Cheeky. Family forever.
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. That is true of love, too. Yesterday, Cheeky tasted and found that it was good.

May every child who longs for forever taste and find the same.

Blessings for the day!



July 19, 2010 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

***This month I decided to repost a blogpost that I published a short time ago. It got a lot of positive response on my blog and I also think it is very timely now that we have committed to adopting another child. This child, a precious little boy, will be our 6th adoption and our 7th child.****

During a fairly normal conversation with a friend I brought up that I was advocating for a child on my blog. A child that grabbed my heart and that we were waiting for God to speak to us about him.

The response: “Another one? Geez guys, haven’t you all done enough?”

I was kinda stunned for a second then threw out a little nervous laugh and reminded him that there were 147 MILLION Orphans in the world. We have adopted 5. Just 5.

That got me thinking about what he said.

What is the perception of: enough?

I actually went to the dictionary (online of course cause I don’t own any other type!) because I wanted to fully understand the actual definition of this word. Not my perceived definition of the word.

enough: occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.

And there it was….expectations.

Because 5 adoptions doesn’t meet the demands of the orphaned children or the need for families to adopt so the issue is then with the expectation of what is enough.

And because we are human….each person’s expectation of what is enough is different.

I mean….last night at Cold Stone Jacob wanted the Gotta Have It cup size of Oreo Crème Filing ice cream (translation: 12 oz LARGE SIZE ) and I felt that the kids size was enough. He also wanted multiple mix-ins (marshmallows, gummy bears and rainbow sprinkles) and I only allowed him to have 1.

The problem with this issue is that….when it comes to caring for God’s children….the only person that can define what is enough….is God.

To my friend, 1 adoption is enough. His baseline thinking is: There is an orphan problem – you adopt one of them -you’ve done your part.

In my view this isn’t about “your part”.

It’s about God’s call and what HE wants YOU to do.

For some families God’s call is to adopt 1 child.

For another family God’s call might be to adopt 9 children.

It looks different for every family.

In my opinion this can’t be defined with our human eyes. Or by our level of comfort. Or by the level of “risk” we want to personally take on.

Because humans are normally all about comfort and low risk!!! I know I am. Which is why I cannot and do not depend on my own self as a determining factor on whether we adopt again.
Adoption is about a lot of things including risk and being uncomfortable and God never promised that following him wouldn’t be risky or uncomfortable. But sometimes you have to experience those things in order to experience God’s BEST.

To paraphrase the Bible and use a quote by Hudson Taylor to do it: God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.

This means that if the Lord has directed you to adopt then He will bless you with everything necessary to accomplish what He has asked you to do. Regardless if it’s the 1st adoption or the 10th. And by everything necessary I mean: patience, love, money, etc.

He’s done it 5 times for us. 5 TIMES.

God is faithful and He doesn’t fail.

The Bible states clearly that only good things come from Him.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jer. 29:11)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

So if God is asking us to adopt again then it must be a GOOD THING FROM HIM.

Therefore we made the decision to let God decide how many adoptions is ENOUGH.

And truthfully…I don’t know what that number will look like.

This is scary and exciting at the same time!

And that’s what following God is all about.


Guilt, and Everything After.

July 18, 2010 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

Am I the only person out there that walks through her days with this constant load of guilt? I swear it’s why my back hurts all the time. My personal sack of guilt is so heavy that during the few moments of the week when it lifts, I think I should step on the scale. I literally walk through town with my shoulders drooping. I often have to remind myself that no, whatever I am doing at that moment is fine, so strong is the feeling that I should be doing something else.

I’m not working.
I’m not doing math flashcards with my kids.
I’m not filling their day with happy memories.
I’m not calling my mom.
I’m not emailing my best friend.
I’m not planning the birthday party.
I’m not checking to make sure the vacation will go just so.
I’m not writing my blog post.
I’m not pitching that new editor.
I’m not organizing the pantry.
I’m not walking the dog.
I’m not training the dog.
I’m not reading with Rory.
I’m not building elaborate Lego robots with Sam.
I’m not savoring every charming moment of Wyatt.
I’m not spending any alone time with Lily.
I’m not working on my book proposal.
I’m not riding my bike.
I’m not putting the bathing towels in the dryer.
I’m not spending time with my husband.
I’m not getting a new box of Kleenex for the bed in the guest room.
I am not making a scrapbook or sorting online photos.

You can see why this is a problem. Even if I manage to be doing any one of these things (and most of the time I am not), I am not doing the rest. I tend to spend a lot of time meditating on how very much I suck. Now, I get that the commenter instinct right now is to go tell me no, no, you do plenty! You do lots! It’s all good! Please don’t. ( And if I should happen to be someone you know personally, resist. Seriously.) I know that. I get it. Blah, blah. I don’t really feel this guilt intellectually, and so I don’t need anyone to point out that it’s silly. (Seriously.)

I recognize that I am doing just fine, broadly speaking. I want to meditate on why I do this to myself. Every so often, I get a moment when the guilt lifts, usually when I have checked off a pile on my to do list, and sometimes just when a good song comes on the radio and I am singing along in the car. (Sadly, I think that is partly because when you are driving the car, you are affirmatively not supposed to be doing anything else) the load lifts. I am happy, I am good, I am rolling (or singing) along. Why don’t I just choose to feel that way all the time? After all, this is really about me and my personal emotional reactions to my situation. No one is making me feel any of the above. No one ever–well, rarely–says to me, hey, you really should be doing such and such. And if they do, I’m unusually capable of blowing them off, so much so that I often tell people that I never get any of that unsolicited and annoying parenting advice people complain about. I think I actually don’t listen. So why is this my reaction of choice?

What’s really going on that I need to dump on myself this way? I think I feel empty, and thus like I should be doing something that I’m not because, in the broader sense, there’s nothing going on. For years–decades even–I have always had one single, overarching goal that so clearly trumped all others that I always knew which of the many tasks at hand I should apply myself to. I should finish the project, draft the thesis, apply to law school, make the Law Review, get the job, get another job, get married, have baby, get another job, have another baby, write book, move, move…and so on. And then, of course, adopt Rory. And that’s all done. And I won’t be embarking on any of those again soon. I don’t want to move, I like the husband and jobs I have, and I have pretty clearly Peter Principal-ed myself into more children than I can actually handle. There can be no overarching goals of that kind. And one key thing about those goals is that they came with external deadlines, particularly once launched. Even “write book” had a co-author and thus more specific requirements than are usual. And now, for the first time since childhood, I don’t have any of that, and I don’t know what to do with myself.

I think the mature answer would be to learn to live in the present and enjoy the day to day process of living rather than planning my life and indulging in the artificial sense of busy importance created by looming deadlines, trips and events. And I plan to work on that. (Oh, great, look how I put that. I’m going to work on that! Can I have charts and a list to check off whether I’m properly living one moment at a time? Ummm…) But I’m also going to go ahead and let myself get sucked back into the world of the major project, albeit on terms that will require at least some of that above described maturity. I’m going to get back on the book proposal I’ve been juggling for some time, complete it right, and resolve the looming agent question.

The thing about that project is that with no external deadlines and no joint practitioners, it’s going to require something different from me–it’s going to require me to put first something that, in fact, most of my external world doesn’t see as an important thing at all, but rather as the one thing I can easily do tomorrow. That isn’t going to be easy. The book project is specific to me, of course–but this guilt, and this blankness–I think that’s not. I see at least a few fellow adoptive parents dealing with it (you know who you are)–this what do I do now moment, when the urgency of creating the family and bonding into it has slowed down, and there’s only day to day living to be done. I see fellow parents with a last baby heading off to all-day-school in the same boat. I think we all like our projects, and I think, for everyone, there comes a time when you find you need to begin defining your projects, goals and rewards on your own terms. I’m there.