Lessons from Rudolph

December 23, 2019 0 Comments

Being a family of faith, we try to find most of the stories we tell and lessons we teach to our children this time of year from the Bible where the Christmas story is found. But we do own and enjoy a copy of the Limited Keepsake Edition of the Original Christmas Classics, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

And this is where my story begins…

On our first trip to China in 2013, we spent nearly two weeks at the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou, as our son is from a city in Guangdong. The medical appointment took place on a quiet week day (before all of the other families arrived from the various provinces) instead of an insane Saturday (which we will get to). We and the other family traveling with us may have been the only ones there.

But the lobby of the Garden Hotel where we were staying was a perpetual hive of activity filled with new families bustling about. At one point my husband commented that the lobby of the Garden Hotel reminded him of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I had actually been thinking the very same thing.


Fast forward nearly five years and we find ourselves at the medical which took place after arrival in Guangzhou from the various provinces on an insane Saturday. The entire crowd from the Garden Hotel lobby was gathered as all of the families that had arrived from the provinces hustled through the medical stations.

At one point I looked up and the other mom we were traveling with, overcome with emotion, said, “This is the Island of Misfit toys from Rudolph.” And at that moment I knew this wasn’t just some crazy connection my husband and I had conjured up.

In the movie, the welcome on the Island meant you were also a misfit.

Metaphorically, if you were welcomed you were joining a group who was disabled or incapacitated in some way. On the island there was a Charlie in the Box, a spotted elephant, a train with square wheels on the caboose, a water pistol that squirts jelly, a bird that swims, and a cowboy who rides an ostrich. And then there is the “Dolly for Sue” – who seems perfectly normal -but the producer of the movie, Arthur Rankin, revealed in an NPR interview in 2007 that Dolly considers herself a misfit due to her low self-esteem and psychological problems. She is a doll who feels that she is unlovable; I would say that she suffers from a broken heart.

In the lobby of the Garden or at the medical on an insane Saturday the “misfits” are not toys but children. Children.

Children, not seeking refuge or community on an island, but children, many with broken pieces and all like Dolly, broken hearted, finding family. Family, in the arms of loving mamas and babas who had flown not on a sleigh but on a 747 from places that seem as far away as the North Pole.

Rudolph and Hermey, misfits themselves, end up on this island. As a mom to two boys with limb differences, I would say that Rudolph was born with a “nose difference”. Hermey is an elf who can’t make toys but aspires to be a dentist and this difference makes him feel rejected by the community he is born into.

Rudolph also feels different and rejected. As the song goes, “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games. But then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say…” In a moment everything changes for Rudolph. And in a moment, in a civil affairs office, everything changes for a child.

The title “orphan” is replaced with the title “beloved son or daughter”. Names are changed. Families are born. The process of healing broken hearts begins.

And about those special needs. In the story of Rudolph his “special need” – his nose difference – actually turns out to be more of a special power. A nose so bright that it can guide Santa’s sleigh around the world in a night through fog as thick as pea soup sounds like a special power to me.

This makes me wonder, could the special needs our children have been labeled with on medical forms really be special powers in disguise? When my son with a lucky fin (limb difference) brings the ball up the court, he lights up the gym. When my son with two lucky fins zipped his coat for the first time, the entire kindergarten classroom lit up and erupted in cheers.

What about your kids? Have their lives grown compassion in others? Have their lives given others joy? Have they grown patience in you? That sounds to me like something even more than a special power…

that is the miraculous.

So when you snuggle in with your little treasures to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer this year likely your child won’t make these connections, but I hope you will. I hope you smile when Rudolph takes flight. As the song goes, “Then how the reindeer loved him”…. love really is what changes everything.

I hope that you are seeing glimpses of the miraculous in how broken hearts are healing in your homes. I hope that in the midst of the challenges you have moments when special needs can be seen as special powers that may not “go down in history” as the song goes but become a part of your family’s… your children’s stories.

Merry Christmas.

guest post by Tanya Strong, wife to Luman, mom to Selah 15, Boaz 13, Simeon 9, Shadrach 7, Meshach 6 & Abednego with special powers yet unknown

Dental Health & Down Syndrome: How Parents Can Help Their Children Have a Healthy Mouth

October 25, 2019 0 Comments

Dental health is important to one’s overall well being. Most of us do what we can each day to prevent oral issues by visiting our dentist and having a dental routine at home. However, for children with Down syndrome, they may be at a higher risk for dental issues.

While this can be challenging, there are ways to work to prevent oral problems. I have been practicing dentistry for more than 17 years, and have experience working with children who have Down syndrome. This article will discuss some common dental issues in children with Down syndrome may suffer from and how parents can be prepared to deal with and prevent them.

Dental Issues

There are a number of dental issues that parents who have children with Down syndrome should be aware of and prepared to deal with. Here are the most common:

Periodontal disease

This is a disease that affects the gums and can cause one’s oral health to deteriorate rather quickly. It’s most often caused by poor oral hygiene, bruxism, and underlying issues with the immune system. This can lead to loss of adult teeth if left untreated. Luckily, parents can work with their children on preventing this disease.


This condition is seen in a lot of individuals with Down syndrome as a result of delayed eruption of permanent teeth. This leads to an open bite, poor positioning of teeth, and an increased risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay. While this can’t be prevented, there are plenty of options to help combat the condition.

Other Tooth Anomalies

There are other dental abnormalities that your child may experience which can affect the form, function, or position of the mouth. As mentioned, delayed tooth eruption is one of them as well as missing teeth or irregular tooth formation. If your child is showing signs of any of these, visit your dentist to discuss the best way for your child to have a healthy mouth.

Dental issues can be confusing and challenging. Luckily, there are ways to prevent them and work through them and parents should use their child’s pediatric dentist as a source of information and support.

Going to the Dentist

To help work through some dental issues that children with Down syndrome may face, parents should take them to the dentist. Dental visits are the best way for your child to receive an examination of their dental health to uncover any issues. Plus, you and your child’s dentist can discuss any necessary care and treatment plans.

It’s also best to begin taking your child to the dentist at an early age to help them have the healthiest mouth possible. Not only is this a good idea for combatting oral issues, but it will also help your child be more comfortable at the dentist as they get older.

Dental Care at Home

Parents should also help their children develop an effective oral care routine at home. A good routine includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and regularly rinsing with an oral rinse. Certain behavioral issues or sensitivities may make implementing a routine more difficult, however, there are ways to work through this.

Start by making a child’s dental routine fun. You can do this by turning brushing and flossing time into a dance party and play music or set small incentives to help them get through their routine.

Diet can also play a big role in a child’s dental health. Try to limit the amount of sugar that your child eats as it can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Find your child’s favorite fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains as these are rich in vitamins and nutrients that are essential to healthy teeth and gums.

Dental issues can happen to anybody, but children with Down syndrome are at a greater risks or some oral complications. Parents can help them by knowing some of the common issues, taking their child to the dentist, and practice proper oral care at home. Everyone deserves to have a healthy mouth, as it’s essential to one’s overall well-being. While oral problems can be challenging, never give up on finding ways to provide the best dental care for your child.

Down Syndrome and Dental Care
Questions to Ask Your Dentist Before an Appointment

– guest post by Dr. Greg Grillo: Facebook || Dentably 

What’s in a Name

October 2, 2019 0 Comments

Every adoptive parent dreams of how they will “meet” their new child…

Will they see him or her on an advocacy post and be flooded with warm fuzzies?

Will they get “the call” or open an email to an endearing face that will change their family forever?

I had been dreaming about this moment for over twenty-five years. Yep, that’s a bit of a wait! At age six, my parents bravely moved our family to Russia right after the Iron Curtain fell in the early ‘90s. We spread God’s love in a once cold and shackled land, especially visiting orphanages.

One of my clearest memories from our time there was playing in a room full of love-starved little children. When it was time to leave, a boy probably four years old clung to my mother’s leg and had to be pried off by the nannies. I begged through tears, “Please, let’s take him home! He can sleep in my bed!” My little mind didn’t understand the labyrinth of international adoption, just that this little boy needed a home and we seemed to have room in ours for one more child.

I carried this heavy burden of wanting to help vulnerable children in my young heart and never forgot his pleading tears.

Fast-forward many years later to when I was dating my now husband and I told him adoption was part of my “plan A” for growing a family. Thankfully, God had been working in my husband’s life too, as he was able to see firsthand the need for adoptive families when he visited Romanian orphanages on a youth mission’s trip years prior. Although I wasn’t a big fan of his last name, I agreed whole-heartedly to becoming his “Mrs. Mann” in 2008.

Through a turn of events that can only be accredited to God’s sense of humor, we ended up moving to China as teachers a few years later, despite my serious concerns about Chinese food. Orange Chicken and I weren’t good friends and I couldn’t imagine a whole country filled with nothing but Panda Express-ish cuisine. Thankfully, my stereotypical ideas of Chinese food were completely and utterly wrong! This American quickly learned that there is no such thing as “orange chicken” in China, only oily goodness that I’ve craved every day since.

I had high dreams of going into orphanages and rocking crying babies, however foreigners weren’t allowed into the orphanages in our city. However, we did have the privilege of walking beside friends who adopted from China and had another friend who ran a foster home, so we were able to learn firsthand the desperate need for adoptive families for precious Chinese children.

But we didn’t qualify yet to adopt from China and would still have to wait many more impatient years. During the waiting season, God taught us lessons of trust and faith in Him despite serious battles with the one-eyed monster, Mr. Fear. We, who lived in China, knew the language, and celebrated the culture, but were almost paralyzingly scared to dip our toes in this mysterious world of adoption. Thankfully, our loving heavenly Father built a solid worldwide community around us and led us to a church with numerous adoptive and foster families once we moved back to the States. Plus, He gave us a blonde-headed, blue-eyed little girl, growing our family in His perfect timing and perfect way.

Somehow, I found No Hands But Ours and gobbled every post, researching and preparing for the day we could say “yes” to every one of China’s qualifications. It gave us such strength and encouragement that we weren’t the only crazy ones wanting to bring a child home from a culture much different than our own.

Finally, on November 28, 2017, with pounding heart, we sent in the initial packet to our agency and eagerly began combing the advocacy websites for our precious little boy. (At that time, you could be matched at any time to a Special Focus child.) We sweated over and Googled every special need on the MCC (medical checklist) and wondered how in the world could we provide for a child with possibly significant medical needs on our teacher’s salaries.

I begged my husband daily if we could request the file of each precious little soul that paraded across my computer screen. I thought he’d never, ever say “yes!” But then, one day about two months into the process, I saw a profile that caught my eye.

It wasn’t his piercing eyes or seriously adorable look that captured my attention. It was his name.


Yes, the very same name as our last name, minus one letter. His file said the nannies called him “Man Man” and he was ten months younger than our daughter. Ironically, his special needs listed were delayed development and anemia. Through our friend’s experience with children coming from institutionalized living into her foster home, we were already prepared for a child with global delays in speech, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. And funny enough, I had anemia as a teen and already knew quite a bit about it. (So much for those hours of becoming Dr. Google!)

Even though his name seemed like a pretty obvious flashing sign from God that he was ours, we spent a week praying, struggling, and asking medical professionals to review his file. We got opinions that his needs could be anything from minor to serious, making us realize that we just needed to trust God and say a resolute “yes” to this precious child who already shared our name.

A few days before leaving to bring him home, we joined a chat group with the other families in who were in our travel group. We noticed that one family was coming from the same city as our son’s orphanage, which just so happened to be only two-hour fast train from where we previously lived in China. To make a long story short, this adoptive mom used to be a social worker at our son’s orphanage and gave us so many details about our son’s wonderful first home. And the icing on the cake? She not only lived in our same state and city, but just a few minutes down the road from us! Today we go to the same church and our sons play side-by-side while we have community group together in our home. Astonishing!

Our new friend also told us that his orphanage was formerly part of the ICC (International China Concern) partnership program, making this the sprinkles on the icing of an amazingly orchestrated-by-God cake! The man who founded ICC previously attended our church in Hong Kong and we had heard, seen, prayed for, and given to support their work with orphans in China for years.

Only God, in His almighty sovereignty could plan that our son with our last name would be cared for in a place that we were already praying for and that we would be placed in a same travel group as someone who previously worked in his orphanage and now lives a few minutes away!

Sometimes you have to take a giant leap of faith in the adoption world and say a daring “yes” to a child with so many unknowns. But it’s been a beautiful thing to stand back and be awestruck at how God was weaving the beautiful tapestry of our son’s life all the while, making him a perfect fit for our family. God’s impeccable plan was beyond what we could have ever imagined and on November 28, 2018, we made him officially a “Mann,“ one year to the day we started the adoption process.

Two days after our son, whom we renamed “Titus” (because “Man Man Mann” would be just slightly confusing!), was placed in our arms, we had the privilege of visiting his first home and family. We are so thankful that he spent his beginning two years of life in a colorful and caring place, however our hearts left burdened for all those precious souls we left behind. It felt like a flashback to twenty-five years ago, when the seed of adoption was planted deep in my heart.

We brought our three-year old daughter with us to China and as we were leaving, she asked, “Where are mommies and daddies for these boys and girls? They need mommies and daddies too, just like my brother.” We are so grateful God is at work in her young heart and she already has big plans of filling our house with as many brothers and sisters from China that she can!

Titus has transitioned splendidly into our family and most of his developmental delays have been addressed with a nurturing family atmosphere. Now, he’s able to jump, climb (furniture is his specialty!), swim, run, and do just about everything his big sister does. He approaches life with caution, sitting back and observing before diving into something new. For example, it took him about three months to step into the pool on his own, however once he realized it is a safe and fun place, he’s been our little water bug ever since!

His language abilities are still a bit delayed, however he is adding to his vocabulary every day, with his most favorite sentence being, “I want more bacon!” We are so grateful for our daughter who has become his personal translator and can understand about 95% of what he says. Most of the time though they seem to communicate in their own little language and their adorable tight-knit bond is nothing short of miraculous. Their favorite activity to play together is loading their backpacks with toys and pretending to fly to China…to bring back another brother or sister of course!

And after a few months of home-cooked meals and green smoothies, his anemia has been resolved! He’s gained five whole pounds and grown two inches in the last ten months, mostly due to his love of bacon!

Of course we couldn’t shake our daughter’s pleas or the faces of the beloved children we left behind, so we started our adoption journey again this summer as soon as we were able. We know some families are surprised with a child whose needs are much greater or different that what was in the file, however we are thankful our son’s special needs have been easily manageable, allowing us to pursue another son or daughter as quickly as possible.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and that is definitely true in adoption. We wish we could take back those wasted hours and squandered energy worrying about how we would be matched to our son. We spent many hours lying awake at night doubting if this new child would truly fit into our family, bond with us and our daughter.

If only we could have seen a snapshot of our home today, with our son and daughter spending every waking moment playing, laughing, and learning together.

We wondered how we could afford the adoption expenses and life with a child possibly having major medical needs, only to see now how God has provided everything that we need. And we worried how we would preserve our son’s Chinese culture and identify with his given name. Never in a million years would we have guessed he would get to keep his name, just adding an extra letter to it. He now interchangeably calls himself “Titus” and “Man Man,” while we marvel at how our little man is flourishing in our family!

So what is in a name?

Every child is just one courageous family’s “yes” away from being called son.







– guest post by Brittany: email || Facebook || Instagram 

We Are Their World

September 30, 2019 0 Comments

We are their world and they are ours….. A few months back I wrote about the first time I rocked my son to sleep. He was four and had never let me rock him in the two years we had been home with him. It was a little thing for most moms, but a huge …Read More

With Open Doors and Open Arms

September 2, 2019 6 Comments

Our son Falcon’s adoption story began three years before he was born. We were in China adopting our first child, a baby girl, through the NSN program. Touring her orphanage, I remember cresting the top of the four flights of stairs, excited to hear the sound of little voices. We asked our guide if we …Read More

For Kids, By Kids

August 28, 2019 0 Comments

“Mom, can we please do a lemonade stand today?” begged the kids. They had been wanting to do one for a long time, so I reluctantly agreed to do a stand that hot day in May 2015. We got a poster board, some lemonade, a table, and headed down to a park in our neighborhood. …Read More

Letting God Write Our Story

August 23, 2019 5 Comments

Life is full of things we thought we could never handle… until we have to. As we considered growing our family via adoption, one thing we thought we “couldn’t handle” was a child with limited mobility. We already had three very active children. We love to hike, bike, go to the beach or spend a …Read More

Treasuring the Gift of Communication

August 19, 2019 0 Comments

My husband and I love talking about adoption. Among our greatest joys is sharing our journey with others and communicating that God uses the most ordinary of people (like us!) to participate in something extraordinary. I always feel a deep need to impress upon those who are considering the call to adopt that every family’s …Read More

Ethan: Adopting a Son with Cleft Lip and Palate

August 14, 2019 2 Comments

Early in our marriage, my husband showed interest in the idea of adopting. “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to give a family to a child who doesn’t have one?” he said one day. I remember thinking, “I don’t know if adoption is for me. I don’t know if I could do that.” Throughout …Read More

The Power of Touch

August 7, 2019 0 Comments

Touch is a powerful thing. It can hurt tragically, and it can heal supernaturally. It makes neurons fire in our brain like the fourth of July. Touch is a remarkable God-given tool to build relationship and connection from the neighborly casual to the most intimate. And, it’s something our children who have had hard starts often have …Read More

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