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.
In 2007 I started blogging. That was over a decade and 1,498 posts ago.
In 2008 I stepped foot in my first orphanage. I was blessed to enter many more orphanages via adoption, photography and service in the years to come. And now we find ourselves a decade alter in 2017, and the number of children our family has doubled. So many many things have changed. I though a little update might be in order.
Our parenting journey started way back in 1993 with the birth of our first child, Sunny… complete with big 90’s hair and matching chambray shirts. I had wanted to be a mama for as long as I could remember and I had wanted to adopt child for as long as I could remember too.
But we didn’t start our adoption journey in 2006, when Sunny, was just 13 years old and already had 3 siblings. Sunny is a woman now, on her own and living independently in New Mexico, going to school full time and working saving lives and all. Actually we have 3 bonafide adult children now, but still each my baby. 7 of our 8 kiddos (all except Sunny) still live at home. Livy, now 21, is following in Sunny’s footsteps in nursing school, a job she was born to do, and The Man Child, 18, graduated from high school last spring and is attending community college. He really seems to be doing well there. As the kiddos get older you do see less of them on the blog. Their privacy becomes paramount, because after all this blog was never their idea.
I gotta say, this season when your children turn from child to adult, both legally and more important the gradual change that happened in their souls, is amazing. And frustrating too. And heart breaking. And the most rewarding thing ever. Even as kids grow older, some things in parenting never change. The stakes just get higher. I’ve loved the celebrations that we shared with our big kids even more because of the challenges we’ve gone through. Life is sweet that way, the flowers from the ashes.
Boo, the youngest of our bio kids, just turned 15 year old and really isn’t a big kid yet but not a little one either. He was just a baby when we started our adoption journey, and started high school this year. He’s the consummate middle child. I often wonder what he would have been like had we never adopted, and he had remain the youngest child. I know he’s seen a lot over the last decade. He is definitely a product of his environment, and I know it’s molded the man he’s growing into. He’s quiet. He doesn’t like to rock the boat, but he’s rockin’ life. He’s a great student and couldn’t wait to turn 15 so he could get his first job. Needless to say, I kinda like him a
little big bit. On a side note, when Ru found out about this, he quickly decided he was getting a job to to earn his own money. He was a little shocked he needed to be older to do so.
One thing I can say for sure is that in addition to Boo, adoption has affected us all including our bio kiddos who were 14, 11, 9 and 5 when our first adopted kiddos came home. I naively wondered if adoption would change the our bio kids. And it did, in very big ways. For the better! Yes there’s more chaos and problems to solve. More challenges all the way around. But I really think our kids are just more compassionate and more able to see the big picture compared to their peers.
Some of our kids want to adopt when they have their own families, and some definitely do not. However they do it, I know they will all make their own impact on the world in the ways they are led, and I can’t help but think that adoption is a part of the reason for this.
Did you know we started our adoption journey via foster care? In 2006 a friend of a friend of a relative (whose hair dresser’s dermatologist, met a guy at her high school reunion, whose sister-in-law’s best friend…) needed some help, a place for her son to stay while she tried to get on her feet, all the while trying to avoid Child Protective Services.
We prayed and decided God was calling us to do more than parent our already-busy brood of 4 children. We started down the foster road path in 2006, but sadly the taste the episode left was so bitter – and frankly left us jaded. Enter international adoption.
Tess and Jude, who have been home 9 years now, came to us in 2008 from Saigon and were the reason for starting our blog. They were crib mates in Vietnam, and back in the day where there was no special needs adoption program from Vietnam, both were special needs adoptions, Jude with bilateral clubfoot and Tess a preemie, low-birth-weight baby. I was the queen of research and eyes wide open, but in hindsight I was far from prepared for what happened. They came to us at 12 and 13 months old and so did the surprises. And the trauma.
But they were babies! How can that be? They were so young!
The trauma. It’s real. Even for babies.
Counselors. Mine and theirs.
It took about three years and almost incessant conversations, prayers and negotiations between me and God for me to find a way our of a very dark place. Eventually we did find our new normal, but I realized that I had been changed in the process and molded into a new and a very different me. My view of the world changed. My priorities changed. My friends changed. I could see my faults, wounds and shortcomings more clearly. I learned how to forgive myself and others more easily. I counted my blessings more often. I let of a lot stuff go that I used to think was important.
I feel like I’ve learned what’s really important in this last decade, and maybe even more importantly what’s not. I feel like my priorities shifted from vacations, home remodels and new cars to date nights with my husband, reading a book with my children, holding a little hand in my own, passing it all on our children, and learning how I do it better, to be a better me and help those I love and the world around me.
Sometimes I mourn the loss of old me, the one that had free time to gossip and agonize over which vacation to go on next. And yet I am so ridiculously grateful to not be her anymore. Tess and Jude, the precipitous for the change, just turned 10 years old, and I’m still flabbergasted (not really) how God knitted them together into our not-twins and then grafted them to us. They are exact opposites and simultaneously each other’s best friend.
Keeping it real, I had a the mother of all temper tantrums in 2011. It wasn’t pretty. Papa and I laugh (kinda) about it now. I was certain God was calling us to adopt again, and Papa… well… not so much. The turn in the economy wasn’t kind to us. That’s an understatement. What if I could find a way to fund the adoption myself? And Ordinary Miracles Photography was born. If you took a photography class from me anytime prior to May 2017, you helped pay for our last two adoptions, and for that I thank you so so very much! This forever family couldn’t have paid for these children to come home to us without you!
Mimi the epilogue. Mimi, who we all thought would be a boy, came home in 2012 right before her 2nd birthday. Mimi is currently in 2nd grade and is a beautiful, girly, joyous, piggie-tail-wearing, sparkly and twirly ray of sunshine that was just what we had been missing even though we didn’t know it. Mimi’s special need was labeled “physical developmental delay” by China which isn’t a diagnosis at all, but rather a symptom of something bigger.
We knowingly jumped into the unknown with Mimi’s adoption, and in accordance with the doctors that reviewed her file we prepared for cerebral palsy and/or brain damage among other things. Mimi is 100% healthy and a “typical” child. She always has been. We’re not sure why her file was obviously mislabeled, and I’ve called out a couple key people about it, (like the orphanage director and our agency) but we have our theories. I think the answers to this may matter to Mimi someday. And maybe not. All that to say that Mimi’s adoption was very unusual in regards to special needs.
Around 2014 we all started to talk that we thought a boy missing from our crazy family, an older boy. We jumped back into foster care, and despite how it ended, part of my heart still remains with the broken foster care system and the children in its care. I still can’t fully accept how we couldn’t make it work for us. We told anyone and everyone in the system that we were looking for our next child, a boy, and not a baby. We had several amazing children come and go through our doors, and I cried the big huge ugly cry as each one of them left, even the more challenging ones.
Ultimately we gave it two years and unhappily closed our foster license, again bitter due to the complete ineptness and disfunction of the system. I commend and weep for the wonderful families that give their all to be foster parents, especially in Arizona. I wish I had it in me. I don’t. We looked all over Arizona for so so long for our son but he just wasn’t there.
So in 2016 back to China our hearts went, knowing full well that there were so so many older boys that desperately needed a family to give them their forever. And we needed him too!
We first saw Ru’s photo in the fall of 2016, and last April he finally came home to his very own forever with us. Again this was a special needs adoption, (Ru has a life-long vascular disorder) and again it wasn’t easy. And now I say with a better understanding, that older child adoption really ain’t for sissies! Until you’re in the throes of tantrums and unwrapping seven years of institutionalization, you really don’t know what you’re missing!
With six months behind us, I think we l can say now that we totally lucked out with Ru. He is simply amazing. He wants this family, and he wants to be obedient and fit it. He works so hard for it all, and his resiliency, the same resiliency that helped him get through surgery after surgery in China until his forever family could come for him, is strong and abundant!
We’re currently working with a team of doctors to figure out a plan for Ru’s medical needs, and in hind sight I wish I could tell ten-year-ago me how little the medical needs of all our children (both our bio and adopted kiddos, because the bio kiddos have had thrown some doozies at us too!) affect us so little, especially when compared to trauma and attachment.
For the most part, if you’ve been reading about what goes on here, you know I’m a pretty open book. I believe that honesty and truth make both of us better. But I will tell you that there were failed adoptions in the in between times that I was just too devastated to tell you about. There were times that I was certain that I broke my family, and we’d never recover. There were times (are times) that I was positive I had completely failed as a parent, and my child would never reach their potential because of it. All of us are far from perfect and have made both small and big mistakes, sometimes really big mistakes. Marriage and parenting is hard under “normal” circumstances. I’ve personally learned the reality of what a panic attack feels like. It’s easy to put the good and happy stuff on a Christmas card, or Facebook… or a blog.
But the hard stuff is hard, and not everything can or should be shared with on the www. For that I’m sorry, that you get an incomplete picture of the crazy, wonderful mess that I have shared with you over the years, the one that’s slanted to the good and the beautiful. Thankfully we’ve also had more than our fair share of good and beautiful moments too, and funny joyous, successful and the oh-dear-God-we-made-it-though-that moments too! Those are the cherished moments that I savor when the rubber meets the road.
And then I blinked, and 10 years flew by.
Getting things done promptly is evidently one of the many things I’ve let go.
I’m getting wrinkles and more grey hair than I want. My children are growing and several have already grown up. Our blog, which started out as Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 8, morphed into the the Crazy 9 and ultimately Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 10. More children have been grafted into our family in the last decade, yet it all seems like yesterday.
We’ve tied up the score with four girls and four boys so we’re pretty sure that we’re done growing our family. For all of you that have read over the years, I want to be very intentional with thanking you for being my online family and friends. I honest to goodness mean that. I’ve been honored to meet many of you in person, and even if I haven’t I’ve made so many friends from all over the world in those 1,498 posts, and counting.
Thank you to those of you that reached out and commiserated with me when times were tough, and there have been many. Thank you to the people that said You’re not alone. Thank you for telling me that maybe I inspired you to try something new and amazing. Thank you to those that donated to my service trips to Chinese and Viet orphanages. Thank you to those of you that supported us financially by taking a photography class, or two, or more. Thank you for your advice when I’ve asked for it on everything from slow cookers, to deodorant to surviving teenage drivers. Thank you for your prayers through it all. We needed them.
There’s still so much more to come, and at least for now I have no intention of stopping this crazy blog. I’m not sure where we’ll be a decade from now in 2027, but I know He has amazing things in store for us likely with quite a few more bumps in the road along the way.
Here are a few of my favorite NHBO posts that remind me of how far we’ve come in the last 10 years!
A tiny bit about me and my own battle with loss.
When we took Mimi back to a visit at her orphanage.
Another letter of reflection.
What adoption feels like from a child‘s perspective.
And a note I wish I could give the strangers.