Past Contributor Throwback: Kelley

August 10, 2017 Kelley, older child adoption, Past Contributors, Throwback series 0 Comments

Since our inception in 2008, No Hands But Ours has relied on the shared stories of regular moms and dads as our foundational way to encourage, inform and support those in the adoption world – in any phase of the adoption process. And since our first post, the list of regular contributors has changed, well… fairly regularly.

Each time we dig into the archives we are struck at how much good stuff is back there – buried under more good stuff, and topped with even more.

So what to do? We can’t just leave all those posts unearthed.

We decided to begin a series in which we go find our past contributors and ask them to come back for a throwback post. Where they share an update on themselves, their family, and reminisce on a few of their favorite NHBO posts.

Ready? Us too.


Big changes are in store this month as school ramps back up. My youngest starts kindergarten, my 9-year-old heads to a new school for 4th grade, and my oldest enters her junior year of high school – the notoriously hard year full of ACT prep classes, college tours, and lots of studying to keep that GPA up.

I have to admit, I’m amazed to see Caroline (who was adopted from China six years ago at age 12) practicing test problems for college admission exams. It seems like yesterday that she was starting ESL classes and translating conversations through Google Translate. I’m also in shock that her time living under our roof is passing so quickly.

After six years of working to convince Caroline she doesn’t have to be so independent, and that she can depend on us (her parents) for guidance, protection, provision, and more, I find myself at a strange crossroads. We’ve now begun the process of preparing her to live out on her own when she heads to college.

I’ve recently had to make a mental shift in how I approach everyday situations with her. From laundry and cooking to managing a bank account and car tune-ups, a new aspect of my role as Caroline’s mother is to equip her with skills to live outside the safe boundaries and loving walls of a place she’s come to call “home.” My heart flutters with anxiety and heartache just thinking about it!

How did time fly by so quickly?

As I’ve looked back at posts from her first two years in America, I almost feel like I’m reading about a different family. Caroline has become such an integrated member of our family that it’s difficult to recall a time when the dynamics weren’t so natural and comfortable. When she didn’t yet trust us, and change was overwhelming.

But there was such a time, and the struggle was real! Reliving the highs and lows in past blog posts reminds me that bonding is a process, not an event. That time often plays a key role in older children developing a comfort level in their new home. And that small victories amount to incredible change and progress! My heart is encouraged to see just how far God has brought our family since those early days of adjustment.

To give a quick update on our family, here are a few highlights:

Caroline (18; adopted from Nanning in 2011 at age 12) is entering her junior year of high school. She dances on the high school dance line and also with a competitive company. This past year, she got her first job as a waitress at a local Chinese restaurant and enjoys speaking Mandarin with the customers when possible. She still loves to read and play piano. And she actually now eats foods she once wouldn’t touch (i.e. cheese, cereal, and chocolate).

Carter (9; born in 2008) is our biological son, and he continues to look up to Caroline while also being super protective of her. Whenever we’re asked about adopting out of birth order, I share my belief that it worked because of the relatively large age gap between them. Carter has never felt like he’s in competition with his big sister. He loves watching, playing, and talking sports. Based on the crazy amount of facts and stats stored in his mind, we’re predicting he will be a sports commentator one day. Did I mention that he frequently petitions for a brother? I guess life with three sisters can be tough on a boy!

Grace (8; adopted from Kunming in 2010 at 17 months) was the second addition to our family, adopted when Carter was just 2. Grace loves dancing, just like her big sister. She also enjoys art and baking. With Grace, I’ve learned that bonding is a continual process. Her “love language” is quality time. So as an introvert, I have to make sure that she doesn’t interpret my “alone time” to recharge as a rejection of her. Outside our home, people comment that she always wears a smile. And she is apparently very quiet, polite, and reserved. One of these days I’m going to show everyone a video of her sassy, loud performances at home, and it’s going to blow their socks off. She’s a bundle of energy and joy, and she keeps this house hoppin’!

Maryn (5; born in 2012) was born just a few weeks shy of Caroline’s first Gotcha Day anniversary! She is incredibly loving, and as the baby, is definitely spoiled by all of us! Maryn and Caroline have the sweetest bond, and she’s probably the one person in the family with whom Caroline is 100% comfortable being affectionate. Maryn and Grace are also very close and will spend hours playing together.

If I could go back and make any changes to our first year as a family of six, I would be much more intentional about making Grace feel loved and secure. Between her little mind grasping that she had grown in her China mommy’s tummy and not mine, and her watching me hold someone else in my arms to feed and nurture, it was a disconcerting and challenging time for my Kunming sweetie.

Only recently have I realized the full consequences of those changes. The great news? It’s never too late to reverse, restore, or improve bonding! But that’s a topic for another day.

You know how people joke or talk (or sing) about what they’d tell their younger selves if they could go back in time? Well, I find that rereading my past posts alerted me to some truths I need to remember in the present!

These are a few of my favorite NHBO posts that remind me of how far we’ve come:

I have to occasionally remind myself that there are still situations or social cues Caroline may not be familiar with.

When I wrote this post, the idea of preparing Caroline for college hadn’t even remotely crossed my mind! But it was probably a great baby step in teaching me how to release control.

I wrote the update above before I reread this post, and I laughed that I so accurately pinpointed the food changes! And I’m thrilled to share that Caroline professed faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior a few summers ago!

Small victories lead to big change! It’s fun to look back and celebrate the journey.

While I feel like Caroline has found her niche, this post, might be a good reminder and encouragement to her before she heads off to college for yet another new start.

Many of you prayed for and supported us through the various steps, and we’ll always be grateful for the community of fellow adoptive mommas.

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