Archive for May, 2013

  • Quick Update

    Date: 2013.05.31 | Category: Family Life

    I haven’t been getting much sleep.  The kids are pretty much up at different times all through the night.  I get two to sleep and then the other wakes up.  I feel like I have triplets.  My hat is off to all the parents of multiples out there.  I have been sleeping from 7 a.m to 9:30 a.m. every day.  It’s the only time everyone is consistently asleep at the same time.  So last night, I had just called in Zach at 3:00 to help me try to get Eli back to sleep.  (Zach is a computer programmer and works odd hours.)  Zach came in and we had a nice little talk while rocking Eli.  Poor little Eli has no clue how to self-comfort.  He doesn’t take a bottle, use his thumb, doesn’t like blankets or stuffed animals.  The only way he gets to sleep is by laying his head on your shoulder.  You can’t cradle him or sit down with him.  You have to be standing, with his head on your right shoulder.  He just won’t let you put him down.  This has made for some very long nights.  We had to take more drastic measures so when we got home, we let him cry it out.  This is a hard task with a heart child.  He is stubborn, unbelievably stubborn.  He cried for almost 3 hours straight.  I sat right there, as I’ve seen them do on the SuperNanny.  Yes, I was resorting to parenting techniques learned from t.v.  It’s been a long couple of days. Please don’t judge.  I let him know I was there.  I patted him and I sat.  He finally gave in.  My heart was breaking.  This mommying business is tough.

    Today a friend of ours brought over lunch.  It was so nice not to have to think about cooking.  The kids loved it.

    Part of the reason that I am so tired is that the person who would have helped me in the afternoon so I could sleep is my mom.  I posted a little bit about it the other day.  Zach ended up taking my mom in for emergency surgery while we were in China.  She had a perforated gastric ulcer.  To top it off when they opened her up, they found a mass.  Suffice it to say that my mama who is 67 and would love nothing more than to be here helping, is out of the picture.  24 staples will put you on your back no matter what your age is.  The initial tests came back non-cancerous so we are all cautiously optimistic that all well be well with time.

    Dan has to work.  He has to sleep.  He has patients he has to care for.  It’s a big deal for him to keep his job.   Plus, he has to drive Eli, Evie, Lainey and I to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics tomorrow.  Someone has to be awake in this household.   Zach and Cassie have been trying to relieve me as much as possible.  It just never seems to line up for me to sleep in the afternoon or early evening, but tonight was different.  I got to sleep from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and I feel like a new woman.  It’s not helping me right now at 2 a.m., but I do feel so much better. Everyone is asleep right now so I took a benadryl in hopes that I can drift off for the next 4 hours before we have to get up to go to Iowa City.

    In the midst of all the chaos of trying to figure out sleep schedules and meals, there have been so many wonderful moments.  Yes, it is hectic.  Yes, it is tiring.  Yes, it can be frustrating especially for the woman who likes her chaos organized, but there have been so many wonderful moments throughout the day.  Gracie and Shuang are always together.  Shuang is teaching Gracie Mandarin.  Ben wakes up every day and tells me how much he loves everyone.  Maisey is in love with Evie or “her baby” as she calls her.  Lainey is so much better.  Her first couple of days with us felt like it was all temper tantrums.  Now she runs through the house, giggling, running up to you for hugs, and playing with the other little ones.   They all play well together. They share.  They want to be together.   At 4 a.m. yesterday, when I was at the end of my rope and was finally going to go wake up Dan, the littles (Ben, Maisey, Eli and Lainey) all chased each other around in the sunroom.  They were laughing so loud and hugging each other. Evie sat and cheered them on.   Suddenly, it didn’t matter that it was 4 a.m.  I would have hated to miss that.  What a beautiful memory to treasure.

    Once the sleep schedules are fixed, I can see that this will work.  Even with the harder diagnoses and more work involved, it is going to work better than I had hoped.  That makes this mama’s heart very, very happy.  We’ve even got to go shopping and it went well.  Watching Shuang pick out clothes was so much fun.  She got three new pairs of shoes and sat and giggled at Payless.   Everything is possible with time and effort.  My house might even get picked up some day.  I’m gonna go ahead and say without outside help, perfectly clean is way out of the picture, but liveable is well within reach.   We are working on our new normal and I must admit I really like it!

     

     

     

  • Thoughts rolling around in my head (part 2)

    Date: 2013.05.28 | Category: Adoption, Thoughts to ponder

    It’s 4:24 a.m.  Another night without sleep.  Another night with babies crying but not at the same time.  Another night left alone with my thoughts.  I have been thinking today about clarifying my part 1 post.  If you ask my children they will tell you that the two words I use a lot are “seriously” and “clarify”.  It’s become a joke in our house that they will find a way to use those words on my headstone.  Who knows why I use the word seriously?  I don’t.   It became part of my blog name because I truly do feel blessed and I was trying to find a word to describe how blessed I feel.  The kids were coming up with all sorts of funny names using the word seriously but I wanted a name that said how I truly feel about my life so we combined the blessed with the humorous – a true description of our lives.

    Dan is funny.  His sarcastic wit is quick.  He makes me laugh all the time.  We laugh and joke in our house a lot.  I realized, while we were in China, just how much I smile.  Everyone looked at me like I was crazy for smiling so I tried not to smile at people.  It wasn’t a feeling that I truly liked.  Then I decided since everyone was taking our pictures, left and right, that I should just keep on smiling so I could try to look good for the pictures.  It was a hard thing to do.  I hate having my picture taken by people I love.  People with ulterior motives were hard to keep smiling for.  Dan constantly reminded me that “all things work together for good” and that even if someone took our picture for the wrong reasons, it may be seen by someone who would be touched for the right reasons.  I do love that man’s perspective.  He constantly reminds me to keep my eyes on the Lord and the bigger picture.

    How we act and what we do has a huge impact on others.  One of the statements that stuck with me, from someone we dealt with on the trip, was this….  “The unconditional love from the family really shocked me and gave me one big lesson.”  Those words came to us from a second party who thought we should know.  It came to us at just the right time, because Dan and I had both been wondering if people could really see our love for these four children.  We wondered does your love of the Lord come across even when you aren’t preaching it?  Can people see that you are doing it for the right reasons?  For all of those laughing at us, judging us and believing we are crazy, are there those who are turned towards the Lord?  Are there those who say “Could I be doing more?”  “Is adoption right for me?”   That is what I want people to take away from my blog.  I hope they can truly see what a beautiful thing adoption is and even if it’s not what they are called to do, that they can help in many other ways.  We set out to adopt because we were being obedient to God’s calling.  We didn’t set out for any ulterior motives.  We were just following the Lord’s call.  He kept setting things in front of us and we would say “Really Lord?” and then proceed.  Because, time and time again, His blessings, that came from what others might call burdens, were so immeasurable.  How could we not follow that lead?

    Which brings me back to my other word, clarify.  I clarify a lot.  If I think someone may have misunderstood what I said or took it in the wrong way, I make sure that I clarify.  Words are very, very powerful things.  Matthew 12:37 ESV For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  I realized after I wrote the first part that it may have sounded like I was comparing what we went through to the other parents.  I was in no way doing that.  I don’t know anything about the other parents who decided to leave that little nine-year-old girl there.  I don’t know what they were thinking or where there hearts were.  I truly believe in the saying “You don’t know where someone else is coming from until you walk a mile in their shoes”.  I won’t compare my story to theirs.  We all make our own decisions based on what we believe to be the right thing.  The good news is that I heard from a friend on Facebook that she heard from another friend that this little girl does have another family who wants her.  Let’s pray that this is the truth and she finds her forever family.

    THE TRUTH ABOUT ADOPTION TRIPS:

    I’m not sure what most people think will happen when you travel to adopt.  Adoption comes from a place of pain and loss.  A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me. – Jody Landers  You might get away without much pain in the beginning if you adopt an infant, but someday you will have to deal with thoughts of abandonment, the child questioning your love, and their thoughts of not being enough.  It’s only in the movies that the child immediately forgets their painful past, rushes to you with open arms, embraces you while spouting praises of your wonderfulness, all the while thanking you for saving them.  The reality is they can be withdrawn, sad, and angry.  Even if they come from a foster home where they were loved, there will be issues because they are being taken away from the only family they have ever known. There will be many tears and sleepless nights.

    You will travel long distances, be away from the rest of your family, in a land you aren’t really sure about, for days, maybe even weeks.  You will be sleep deprived, tired, out of sorts.  You will be on an emotional roller coaster ride of highs and lows.  You will spend your time trying to convince this child that you will always be there for them.  It is amazing how quickly they figure out that you are mom, but that doesn’t mean they will come right to you.  Often one parent or the other gets left out.  Mark Hall, from Casting Crowns, talks very openly about this subject.  He wrote the song “So Far To Find You” because of what he felt when they adopted their daughter.

    BE AS PREPARED AS YOU CAN BE FOR ANY SCENARIO:

    Even with Dan’s medical background and all of our medical knowledge from caring for sick children, we were thrown for a loop.  You may get exactly what the medical records show or it may be worse.  You have to be prepared for whatever happens.  You have to be ready for anything.  You have to wrap your head around that if you can.  The last thing you want to do is have to make a decision to disrupt the adoption.  That is not fair to this child who has been waiting for you.  For us it wasn’t about making our family better (although that does happen), it was about saving a child’s life.  It was about doing what was right for them.  God called us to these specific children and we felt that we couldn’t walk away.  God sometimes calls us to the hard and takes us way out of our comfort zones.  The Chapman’s call this “The glorious wreckage of our plans.”

    GOD WILL LIFT YOU UP: 

    During this week when my heart was hurting, God spoke very clearly to me.   (All of these excerpts are from daily devotions that I have sent to my e-mail and all were received while we were still in China.)

    “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me”(Matt 25:42-43).  “It is not enough for us to say: “I love God,” but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.” Mother Teresa

    “Put your trust in the Lord your God and you will stand your ground. Believe what his prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” (2 Chronicles 20:20b GNT)

    “Are you not God?” Yes, you are in charge, and you’re big enough to handle it.
    “Did you not help us in the past?” Yes, you did help us in the past.
    “Will you not do it again?” Yes, you will do it again!

    Have you ever had a day like that? What do you do when you’re facing insurmountable, overwhelming problems? Go to the Lord.

    “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold.” (1 Peter 1:7a NLT)

    Accept What Can Not Be Changed – “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

    Peace is Not Problem Free Living – “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

    This is the bottom line: Joy is a decision. You are as joyful as you choose to be.

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

    God was there in the midst of our pain.  God was holding us up and strengthening us.  We believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  We can NOT do this.  I know I can’t.  My heart just breaks thinking about what the future holds for my sweet children.  Pain and shortened lifespans, tests and more tests, hospitalizations and surgeries.  It will be a hard road and one I am willing to take only because the Lord will be by my side.  He has given me a best friend who shares my same dreams.  He has given me children who see a greater purpose and willingly step up to help.  He has bestowed upon our hearts a burden to do more than we thought we could.

    BEAUTIFUL THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU OPEN YOUR HEART:

    The truth of the matter is what comes out of adoption holds many beautiful things.  Watching children heal and trust and laugh is amazing.  Watching our babies come together and love each other is so heartwarming.  Ben wakes up every morning and sits on my laugh and says, “I love Min mama.  I love Eli.  I love Lainey.  I love Evie.  Thank you mama!”  He is four and he gets it.  We have been home three days and they are running around the house, playing and loving up on each other.  Gracie and Shuang have figured out their own way to communicate.  Enough so that Shuang told her a story about Cassie and I being funny in China and Gracie repeated it to me.

    It has been two weeks for little Miss Evie and she is sitting.  She couldn’t sit up just two weeks ago and now she is sitting.  A little bit of food and love and she is progressing so quickly.  I bet she has put on a pound already.  What a joy she is.  Jasmine went from a shy, quiet girl to one who laughs all day long while she is playing with the kids.  Eli is so charming.  I can’t even describe how cute this kid is.  Lainey is by far the best yet.  I have watched her blossom.  She is funny and cuddly and playing so well.  It has been unbelievably mind blowing and it’s only been two weeks.  The Lord is so good.  Blessed be His name!  (I’ve been singing that song all day long.)

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect.  There is still crying and yelling.  There is still not much sleeping at night.  We are still trying to unpack our bags.  The house is a mess.  The laundry is not caught up.  We are a long way away from our new normal, but we are well on our way.  Life is a journey.  It’s not about the destination.  It’s about enjoying all the things along the way.  There have been many wonderful blessings already, especially watching our older children with their new siblings.

    We came home from seeing my mom in the hospital the other day and Gracie started crying.  I assumed that she was crying about my mom, who was still looking very, very ill.  (Today she looks much better – PTL!)   I asked Gracie why she was sad and she said, “I’m sad because of Min, mama.  She would have died if they left her on the street. I’m so glad you and daddy went to get her.”  This is from an eight year old who knows how much time and work it will take to take care of Shuang.  She gets it.  It’s not about the easy.  It’s about making their lives better.  It’s about saving them from a fate that holds no future and giving them an eternal future.  What a gift to be a part of.  The blessings out weigh the pain.  Don’t be afraid.  Just be prepared.  If God is calling you, please, please, please open your heart to the possibilities.  Beautiful things will happen and blessings will abound.  I’m seriously telling you the truth and would be willing to clarify for you if necessary.  🙂  Praying that God leads you and guides you to all the wonders of His ways.  Praying that He opens your heart and your eyes to where your gifts would best be used.

  • Thoughts rolling around in my head (part 1)

    Date: 2013.05.27 | Category: Adoption, China 2013, Thoughts to ponder

    I thought these 3 a.m. postings would stop once we got home, but I guess not.  Children are not wishing to sleep so I am trying to type with Eli lying on my shoulder.  Not sure my post will make sense. I can’t even guarantee that there won’t be any typos, but I did want to get some of these thoughts down in writing so I will give it a shot.  Here’s to sleep deprived blog writing…..

    ABOUT THOSE FIRST FEW DAYS:

    I will admit to being knocked to my knees when we got the kids.  When we picked up Lainey, she was just so sad and acted out the first two days.  She had been moved from the only home she had known for almost 2 years.  She went by train for 16 hours and ended up in a new place where people didn’t know how to help her calm herself.  So by the time we got her, she was in full meltdown mode for most of the time.  She refused to look anyone in the eye, pulled her hair, rocked on the floor, slept for about an hour, at the most, at a time and screamed….a lot.  It was unbelievably overwhelming.  Add to that Evie’s severe malnutrition and Jasmine’s disability and what that meant for Jasmine’s future and my heart was just broken.

    I had dreams.  Dreams of five toddler beds with the sweet little babies all tucked in at night.  I could picture home schooling 5 little kids at about the same level and watching them grow.   I could picture us getting Jasmine her surgery and helping her achieve her schooling dreams.  I could see her happy and thriving.  I could picture this and so much more. I have dealt with Codey’s severe physical and mental disabilities for 26 years, it’s not that I was afraid of doing that again.  With Lainey, I was afraid of not being able to reach her.  I was afraid of what would happen if this was all there was for her.  Screaming and yelling and pulling her hair – stuck in her own little world.  What if that was all there ever would be.  Could I handle that?  What if she never even realized that she had a family?  Would adopting her even make a difference?

    That is a scary thought as a parent.  With Codey, I felt I didn’t have a choice, you don’t walk away from your child, but here I was  half a world away being asked if we still wanted to adopt her.  I was tired, worn out, frustrated by the lack of information we had before we proceeded with the papers in the first place, overwhelmed by what would be required to care for her and Evie and Jasmine.  Add to all of that, the fact that Eli would only sleep, while I was standing, with his head on my shoulder, and Evie was eating every 2-3 hours; well, the sleep deprived state I was in, didn’t help me in regard to having any rational, scripture based thoughts.  I cried out to the Lord.  I questioned whether He knew what He was doing because how could He possibly think I could handle this?

    Lainey cried and cried and cried, but she is comforted by lying her little head on your shoulder.  She calms there.  So I held her.  Dan held her.  Cassie held her.  Linda held her.  And we cried lots and lots of tears. Tears for dreams lost and tears from the fear of whether or not we could handle it.  The final decision came down to us knowing that God lead us to her.  We believe that with our whole heart.  I have written about it a lot.   So many things led us to this little girl.  I had looked at her picture for close to a year.  I had prayed for her.  I had fallen in love with her little piggy tails and her sweet little face.  This was our child and we would bring her home.  As I said before, you don’t walk away from your child.

    As the days went by, Lainey came out of her shell.  She giggled and laughed and danced and ran and played….even purposely played.  She responds to her name.  She pats you and looks at you with such love.  There is a sweet little soul there.  After just two weeks with her, there is a glimmer of hope.

    DISRUPTION:

    While we were in China, we met quite a few couples.  We traveled with five couples and many couples came up to us when they heard/saw that we had adopted four.  They wanted to know how we did it.  We explained that we had special circumstances and why it happened.  They were friendly.  Lots of Facebook friend requests and e-mail addresses exchanged.

    During all of our conversations, we heard about a little nine-year-old girl with mild cerebral palsy whose family had shown up to adopt her.  I don’t know her adoptive family. I only know this story as told by the family, that we talked to, that was at the office with her on their “gotcha day”.  This little girl was beaming.  She was so happy to finally have a family.  Her disabilities didn’t seem immense. She was able to walk and seemed pretty bright although she did have some institutional delays.  She went with the family.  She ate with the family.  She slept with the family.  She believed that this was her family.  Only to be told the next day that they did not wish to sign the papers.  She would not be their daughter.  Now everyone can say that it is for the best.  She shouldn’t be with a family that doesn’t love her.  She is better off waiting for a family to come forward that really wants her to be their daughter.  BUT what if one doesn’t?  Is she really better off in an orphanage?  How did this happen?  Did they not know about her disabilities?  What made them say that it was too much?

    The rumor was that the family thought she wasn’t a good fit because she wasn’t bright enough to be in their family.  Now normally I hate rumors.  I don’t want to spread words that I did not for fact hear myself.   The reason I have chosen to even include this statement is just the thought that that could be okay in someone’s world.  Can someone really not be smart enough for your family?  How do you get children that are smart enough?  What is smart enough?   This little girl’s life has been forever changed.  She has been abandoned again.  She has waited at least a year to be chosen.  She has probably spent most of her life in that orphanage.  The orphanage can now deem her unadoptable if they wish.  Will she be afraid to ever love and give up hope?  What must she think as she sits there in that orphanage?  My heart breaks for her and all the other children deemed unworthy of a family.  We are all unworthy.  When did we lose sight of this fact?

    NOT AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION:

    Those were the words I read when I asked about the little girl in pink from Jasmine’s orphanage.  She is not available for adoption.  For reasons outside of her control, she will live her life in that orphanage and be released when she is 14.  The longing look in her eyes still haunts me.  The sweet hug and her head laid softly on my shoulder still breaks my heart.   She wants a mama.  She wants to be in a family and she will not be allowed to.

    Yes, even with all that was going on I wrote and asked about her.  Even with all that was going on, I would go back and get her in a heartbeat if they told me her papers were available.  Why?  Because every child deserves a family.  EVERY child.  Not some.  Not the worthy.  Not the healthy.  Not the unbroken.  EVERY child deserves the love of a family.  Especially little girls, with broken hearts, dressed in a pretty pink shirt and green dress shoes with bows, that steal your heart with just a look.

     

  • Heartbreaking

    Date: 2013.05.23 | Category: China 2013

    So excited to be leaving in the morning. I can’t wait to hug my babies at home and check on my mama.  I can’t wait to not be stared at, have a glass of water right out of the faucet, eat some regular food, exercise, recieve texts, and be able to check Facebook.  I’m looking forward to not living out of my suitcase.  I just want to get home and start working on my new normal.  Not that I’m ever normal mind you.

    Our guide in Guizhou, Bill, and our guide here in Guangzhou, Kathy, have asked Shuang over and over again if she has any questions for us.  She always shakes her head no and says she is fine, with a great big smile on her face.  We have been communicating with Google translate, but she talks so soft she isn’t able to be picked up by the microphone so she hasn’t been able to ask us any questions.  I have been able to say things to her like “I’m happy you are my daughter.”  and “Everyone at home loves you.” and even “Do not be afraid.  Everything will be ok.”  She has always answered “Ok!” and smiled, but tonight I asked her if she was excited about going to America and she said, “Yes!”  I then said, “Do  you have any questions?” and she answered, “Yes!”   I couldn’t believe she was finally asking a question.

    I called Kathy to come down to our hotel room right away.  I figured Shuang would ask about how long the trip was, what time we were leaving, or what our home was like in America.   Kathy came in and asked her if she had any questions and she said, “Yes.” again.  I was not prepared for her question.  She asked, “When I get to America can anyone take me away from my family?”  We all sat there with tears in our eyes.  We had Kathy explain that no one could ever take her away.  That no matter what happened she would be our daughter.  We explained that no matter how sick she gets we will never let her go.  We told her how much we love her and how happy we are that she is our daughter.   We told her of our friends who would be able to communicate with her because they speak Mandarin.  We told her about all that she will be able to learn and she was so excited.  We told her of all the people who care for her.

    Dan and I were talking about how hard all of this is.  How do you explain what happened to a child?  Is it easier for her to think that she was abducted instead of abandoned?  What does she remember?  Do I even want to know?  Did the orphanage tell her that she was taken away from her family because she was ill?  What has she been told?  I hate that it will take years for her to feel safe enough or have enough English to be able to share what actually happened.  I hate that my little girl has had so much pain in her life.  She has really been so brave. We have to do everything for her and she just trusts us.  What a blessing that has been.

    I’m praying for her peace as she transitions to our family.  I hope she can see how much love we have for her.  Others have commented on our unconditional love for her so I hope it is as clear to her.  Her life is going to change so much in the next 48 hours.  I wonder what she will think when she meets all her siblings.  What will she think when she sees our house?  What will she think the first time she is able to swim in our pool?  How will she feel about America?  So many wonderful, overwhelming changes.  Jasmine Shuang Ellsbury – welcome to your new life.

  • When it rains it pours….

    Date: 2013.05.22 | Category: China 2013

    We went to the consulate today to finish the paperwork to get the children’s visas.  Tomorrow we should get the visas late in the afternoon.  The van will be here to get us bright and early Friday morning.  5 a.m.way to early to to have myself ready let alone four kids and 9 bags.   Oh well, it means we are heading home. I miss my babies so much!  We  will touch down at 6:30 p.m. Friday night.

    I know how happy I’ll be but I’m sure no one will be as relieved as Zachary.  Yesterday he had to rush my mom to the ER for emergency surgery.  I don’t believe he will ever let us leave again.  Mom ended up having a perforated gastric ulcer.  She is recovering and feeling much better.  Zach, will be on his own for a few days.  A special thanks to Zach’s girlfriend, Stephanie, for stepping in and taking care of all the kids while Zach was with my mom.  That was quite an initiation into the family.  Hopefully, they didn’t scare her off.  🙂

    Please keep my boy and my mama in your prayers.

  • It’s amazing what a few days will do….

    Date: 2013.05.20 | Category: China 2013, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae

    Now that I am past the shock of things I wasn’t prepared for and have gotten more than two hours of sleep in a row, things are looking much better.   When you adopt, you know you are not getting the most up-to-date reports and you always take the chance at unforeseen circumstances and diagnoses.  We went into this with our eyes wide open about that and I thought I was prepared for anything that came up, but I obviously wasn’t as prepared as I thought  I was.

    Now that I’ve gotten a week under my belt, I will say right up front that God knows  better than me.  What a statement.  I feel like I should put a “duh” in the middle of that. Obviously God knows better. I have always known this but it still blows my mind everytime I see Him work in my life.  He knows what I can handle.  He knows how to stretch me and challenge me and make my faith grow.  All along,  I have said “I’m too old for an infant.  I couldn’t possibly adopt an older child.  Autism is something I just couldn’t deal with.”  I can’t decide if He is just trying to prove me wrong or not so I have decided to change my new “I couldn’t possibly….” to “I couldn’t possibly handle winning the powerball.”  🙂

    I said, “I couldn’t handle an infant.”  Evie is like a newborn.  She eats every two-three hours.  She isn’t able to sit alone.  She is pretty malnourished and delayed.  We took her in for her medical evaluation yesterday and her oxygen saturations read 53%.  She is very blue and very sick.  Because we have dealt with Ben, it hasn’t been nearly as frightening this time around.  I did say I couldn’t deal with a newborn and guess what?  I can.  Had I avoided this adoption, then I would have missed out on the cutest little girl you have ever seen with the biggest personality.  The first few days she was just so hungry all the time so she cried a lot.  Now that she has been fed continuously for a week, she is already doing so much more.  She is trying to pull herself up to a sitting position.  She can grab on and pull herself up to her knees. She smiles all the time.  It’s funny because people expect her to be an infant and then she smiles at them with all those teeth.  It’s  funny watching their reactions. What a sweet little soul she has.  She charms the socks off of everyone she meets.  I’m glad God knows better because I would have missed out on loving this sweet, little girl.

    I said, “I couldn’t handle an older child.  I said it wouldn’t be a good fit for our family.”  Wow!  Was I wrong.  I wish you could see just how brave Shuang has been.  She has taken this all in stride.  She is all smiles and sweetness.  She had to get her immunizations yesterday and she said it was fine.  She would be brave.  She just wants to get to America and be with her family.  She is so good with the little ones.  She encourages them and shares with them.  She helps them in any way that she can.  She offers you her food.  She tries so hard to be helpful.  When we took her into for her medical appointment yesterday, the doctor started off being so gruff.  Then the doctor’s attitude changed, she talked about how sweet Shuang is.  She talked about how her medical records don’t match with what she has.  We told her we were aware of that.  It’s kind of hard to miss.  By the end of the appointment, the doctor was very kind to Shuang and even walked Dan and Shuang to the elevator and pushed the buttons for them.  Shuang is another sweet soul just looking to be loved.  Everyone has been so moved by her and her story.  No one leaves her presence without being moved.  It is hard for us, in America, to understand what it takes to be disabled in China.  We have had people just stop and glare at her for over 20 minutes.  They yell things at her.  She just smiles and tries so hard to be brave.  I can’t wait to get to America and show her how many people care about her.  To show her that her disability does not make her less than.  She is truly an amazing little girl with the best laugh.  I am so proud to be her mama and it has only been two weeks.  Oh what I would have missed.

    I said, “I couldn’t handle parenting an autistic child.”  The reason for this statement is because I am a very silly, huggy person.  As a matter of fact, the first sentence Shuang learned from us was “mama’s silly”.  It’s a good thing Shuang likes silly.  But the truth is, I was afraid of how I would react to a child that couldn’t show affection back.  That’s not a pretty statement but it’s the truth.  I was afraid of how I would respond as a mother.  I love my biological children and my adopted children the same.  Now we all love our children differently because they are different people.  Nothing in life is even and fair.  I love my children for different reasons because they are different people.  I don’t have favorites though.  That is a totally different thing.  What I was afraid of was the not feeling connected part.  I love spending time with my children.  How would I react to a child that couldn’t show love back.  What I’ve learned is it doesn’t change how you feel as a mother.  It’s unconditional love for a reason.  It’s not based on how they love you back.  It’s based on how much you love them.   Lainey is severely delayed.  Lainey is in her own little world most of the time.  Lainey has triggers that take her into a full blown tantrum very quickly.   We are learning those triggers and have already seen progress in helping her calm quicker and stopping the tantrums before they get full blown.  But Lainey also has a cuddly side.  She doesn’t hug, but she likes to lay her head on your shoulder and just snuggle in.  She laughs and runs and dances and spins.  Lainey has worth and Lainey deserves a family.  I’m glad I get to be her mama.  I know it won’t be easy.  I know we are going to have to make a lot of changes, but I can already see how much she is going to change me as a person.

    God does know better.  God knows what we need to grow as a person and what we can handle.  I will say that without Him I couldn’t handle any of this.  Without His promises to go to time and time again, I would be lost.  I have and will spend many days crying out to Him for strength to get through, but I know His love is constant and His grace is sufficient.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Dan brought me those words to put on the wall in the kid’s room.  It’s a constant reminder of where my eyes should be.

    I would be remiss to not mention little Mr. Eli.  What a charming, handsome boy this boy is.  He is so sweet and soft spoken.  He really does remind me of Zachary when he was little.  God is amazing with how He works.  I am amazed at how He  makes families.  If you know my Zachary, you know what a special boy he has always been.  He has always had a faith that was unbelievable from the time he was little.  He is gentle, smart, observant and the most special kind of boy.  Ben is like that and so is Eli.  It just blows my mind that they are all so alike.  I love that Eli and Ben are going to be such good friends.  I can already see them building things together.  God is so good.

    God has His hands in the smallest of details.  When I stand back and look at how blessed I am to get to be a part of these things, well…..it is just mind boggling.  I humbly stand in awe of a God that would allow me to get to do these things.  Truly, I am amazed.  When I think of all the things that had to come together for this past year to work, it is just mind blowing.  We started out with these words at Codey’s bedside “Faith makes things possible, not easy!”  Faith in God’s plan.  Faith in God’s promises.  Faith that all things work together for good.  Faith in something that is so much bigger than me.  And to think , had I chosen, I would have missed it.

  • Fulfilling your plan

    Date: 2013.05.19 | Category: Thoughts to ponder

    I was recently e-mailed by another mama, who was also given more than she thought she could handle, but has been blessed through the trials on this journey she found herself on.  Hearing from other mamas about the blessings along with the burdens of carrying for a severely handicapped child help encourage me and remind me to keep my eyes on the Lord.

    Your spirituality grows in ways you can’t even imagine when God decides to stretch you in ways you didn’t think were possible and takes you way out of your comfort zone.  Believe it or not, adopting 4 was still within my comfort zone.  If everything had gone as planned, I would have been fine.  Much busier, but fine.  Normal still seemed possible, but these added trials, one more child with a shortened life span who needs so much one on one care, Evie being so little and delayed from her malnutrition, Lainey’s autistic-like behavior, took my footing away for a moment.

    When you have so much, you often tend to believe you can provide for all things on your own.  You forget to thank God for everything. You forget where all your provisions come from. We take so much for granted.  We believe it is because we work hard that we have things. Most of the time, it’s not because we work harder than others.  In reality, we just won the luck of the draw because we were allowed to live during this day and age and in the country we live in.  When these special circumstances arise, you realize even more how much you took for granted.  You realize it is only with God’s help that you can make it through.

    I wanted to share a thought I had the other day at Shuang Shuang’s orphanage.  There were approximately 13 babies in the infant room.  There was one crib which contained a very severely brain injured child who was about 4 years old. This child was only able to lie there, he could move his hands a little, and I’m not sure how much he could even see or hear.  Dan examined this child for them because they were hoping there would be something that they could do for him.  Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done.

    From our earthly view, this child’s life is sad and to be pitied, but when I think about it from heaven’s viewpoint, I see a child who is fulfilling God’s plan.  Not that God caused this to happen, but that this child could still fulfill the plan that God had for him.  God has known through all of time that this child would be where he is right now.  God has always known when and if a family would come forward.  God has always known the lives this child’s life would touch.   This child will most likely never lie or cheat, or break a promise.  He will never take the Lord’s name in vain or lust after his neighbor’s wife.  He will not be greedy and spend his life always wanting more, striving for joy that seems elusive.

    Yes, it is sad that he has no family, and is so terribly disabled.  But he can still fulfill his life’s purpose while on this earth.  A person who fulfills their purpose perfectly without much sin? Well, that is almost unheard of.  Those people have great rewards in heaven.  This child will be rewarded in ways that we can only dream of.  Because he is trying to gain fame or notoriety.  He isn’t trying to accomplish things by the world’s standards.  This child will one day hear those words, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

    Our time on earth is fleeting.  It is nothing compared to eternity.  If you’ve never seen Francis Chan’s video on life here on earth as compared to heaven, I highly recommend watching it.  (It’s the you-tube video where he is holding a rope.)  That along with his book “Crazy Love” will change the way you look at your life here on earth.

    Life can make absolutely no sense.  Life can be painful.  Life can be harder than you ever imagined, but there are so many blessings even in the burdens.  Joy can be found all around you.  It’s not your circumstances that make you joyful, it comes from the Father.   The things of this world will never make you happy.

    “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

    Those words were written by Paul while he was in prison.  Obviously, it’s not about things or circumstances.

    If you feel really comfortable with your life and never get stretched with much of anything, you have to ask yourself if you are really following God’s lead.  God uses tests to help us grow closer to Him.  Do you want true joy?  Do you want a life with meaning?  Do you feel like you might be missing out?  Well, ask and He will show you the way.  Don’t be afraid of something the world may call a burden because God uses those things to bless us in amazing ways.

  • The Joys of Traveling in China

    Date: 2013.05.18 | Category: China 2013

    At our final stop, Guangzhou. Two-thirds of the way done. It’s medical appointments and consulate appointments for this last week. We should get the visas on the 23rd and head home on the 24th.

    Travel today went pretty well considering it was so hot and everything takes so long. We left the hotel at 7:30 and arrived in our hotel around 2:15.  It was a long day but everyone did relatively well. We hung out in our hotel room because Evie is feeling a little under the weather. She seems a little better after Tylenol.

    Thought I’d share a little of our adventure today. Our group of five families was waiting in line to check in our luggage. The other parents were standing in line waiting with the children and their carry on bags. I was looking around and noticed a lady pull out her phone and start recording our group. How can I be sure? Well, she flipped open her phone and just started going down our line.  It just ticks me off the way people do that here. They will walk right up to you and laugh all the while taking your picture. I realize that our family makes quite the group but really?!?! How rude can you be? Then for good measure she came over to our group, which was now waiting to go through security, and started snapping pictures.

    The final straw for me was when she followed me into the bathroom with Lainey.  See, I just went through security with my new daughter, who was having a full blown meltdown.  She does pretty well but every once in a while something triggers her and she just loses it. So I’m trying not to get head butted from her because she is in the baby carrier.  She puts her hand down my shirt so my bra is showing and I’m showing a nice bit of cleavage.  I’m trying to load my bags on to the security conveyor belt.  I set off the alarms so security starts waving the wand around me and I have to show them my money belt. The lady in security makes me pull it out so now Lainey has her hand down my shirt, my shirt is hiked up with my money belt and pretty new red underwear showing and the same picture taking lady follows me into the bathroom. I turned around an said “You’ve got to kidding me!” I’m not sure if she understood English or if my body language said it all but she put away her phone and left rather quickly.  Never a dull moment here in China.

  • 2013 China Adventures: Family Update

    Date: 2013.05.17 | Category: Adoption, China 2013, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae

    I should have posted sooner and I apologize that I haven’t. I have lots of excuses for why I haven’t. First off, I can’t get my phone to hook to internet. I can’t get my blog site to pull up at all. I’ve been blocked here in China. You can get wireless hookup in the main lobby but it’s been too hectic to head downstairs. And lastly, I just haven’t been able to post because I wasn’t sure what to say. I’m filled will so many emotions right now – sadness, anger, grief, joy, feeling blessed and so happy to be with my children. I know Cassie has posted pictures on her site – why she hasn’t been blocked is beyond me. Her site, if you missed it from before, is http://thankfulforthecrazy.wordpress.com/

    I’m not even sure where to start. We have spent days running around for paperwork and today is our first free day which is why I’m trying to post while the kids are napping. Yesterday, we left at 7 a.m. with Evie and Eli. We took a 30 minute taxi ride to the bullet train station, where we walked forever and climbed 3 flights of stairs with a huge bag and a baby waited another 40 minutes and then we took an hour bullet train ride at 300 km/hr to Zumahdian to fill out the paperwork for Evie’s passport. We had time to kill so they took us to her orphanage, which meant another taxi ride. Then it was lunch, another taxi, and run back to the bullet train, up more stairs, another 30 minutes to next stop for Eli’s passport paperwork, more stairs, more taxis, more waiting, crazy women outside of court offices, back in a taxi, more stairs, more walking, one hour and 30 minutes back to our town, one more taxi and then home at 5:00 p.m. and Eli cried frantically every time we were on the train. Overall, that is pretty much how our days are going.

    It is always exhausting when you travel to adopt. Your sleep schedule is messed up. The children come to you with trauma from the orphanage or even if they were well cared for, they have trauma from having to say good-bye. It takes a while for sleep schedules to get worked out, to figure out what they like to eat, and for them to trust. There is a big adjustment period. Though it never fails that they attach themselves to one person and they don’t want much to do with everyone else.

    There is no way to make this short or in a way that makes it one cohesive point so I will finish this and then I am going to write a couple paragraphs about each child. I will tell you ahead of time that this emotional roller coaster has had so many lows – from the unbelievable malnutrition of Evie to the unknown diagnosis of Lainey and Jasmine, to seeing all the children in the orphanage. My heart just hurts, the pain and hurt of knowing what my children will go through and the grief of dreams lost. I know that the will of God will not take me where the grace of God will not provide, but I am having great difficulty understanding all that has happened. I trust His plan and I will continue to trust His plan, but our lives have just gotten ten-fold more complicated than even I thought it was going to be. I will move forward and find a new normal. It will just take some time.

    EVANGELINE FAITH
    On Gotcha Day at the Registration Office, I was so angry when they handed Evie to me. Evie turned two on March 25th. Evie is not able to sit alone. She weighs approximately 12 pounds, maybe a smidge more, by Dan’s judgment and he is usually dead on. 12 month clothes fall off her. We had to head to Wal-Mart and buy her those brand new infant shoes that you get for newborns and they are too big. I can’t even begin to adequately express my anger over her malnutrition. Every horrible thought that you could imagine went through my head, but when we showed up at the orphanage it was very apparent that Evie was loved. Her nanny was so happy to see her. It was a nice enough place. The other babies were chubby. They just weren’t feeding her enough to compensate for the extra calories she needs because of her heart defect.

    We even got to see a new friend’s of ours baby, named Meili. Oh man does this girl have personality. She looked so good and was so happy. She showed us her playroom. Meili danced for us and Dan has a video. We can’t wait to get somewhere that it will let us send it to them.

    We also got to see where Evie was abandoned. It was a street corner covered in garbage and I can’t even begin to tell you how that made me feel. I’m just so happy to take my little girl out of here. The good news is this little girl is full of personality. She smiles at the drop of a hat. She sucks her thumb just like Hopey used to. I’ve never seen another child suck their thumb like this – thumb in mouth, pointer finger up over her nose, and her other arm across her face so she can smell her arm. Plus, she kicks her feet just like Codey did when he was little and still in the hospital. She has brought back lots of wonderful memories. She is so very sick but I still feel so very blessed to be her mama.

    ELIJAH JAMES
    Little Mr. Eli has come out of his shell today. He was definitely loved and believes himself to be the emperor or at least a prince. He offers you his forehead to kiss and he dismisses you with this wave of his hand. The wave is like this “no, no that’s beneath me” wave. It makes me laugh every single time.

    He and Evie refused to eat the first few days. We tried bottles, sippy cups, cups, etc. and couldn’t get them to take anything. Cassie finally got the idea to spoon feed them liquid and that worked. Evie eats every 2-3 hours like a newborn so it’s been a tiresome couple of days. Eli is the healthiest out of everyone. How’s that for a kick in the behind? He looks wonderful and reminds me of Zach when he was little. He’s very quiet. He just sits and observes everything. He was the first to call me mama. Until today he wanted me to hold him 24/7. He wouldn’t eat until we went to KFC yesterday. The chicken finally got to him. If you know Dan, you know that is one of his favorite restaurants.

    Eli truly is very, very sweet. The orphanage care giver that dropped him off said he is unbelievably sweet and easy going. He definitely looks as though he has been spoiled. He plays so sweetly with Evie. He includes Jasmine in everything. He even plays well with Lainey. He shares everything and has the cutest voice. He waved good-bye this morning and said, “Bye, bye baba (daddy).” and then blew dan a kiss. He has adjusted well.

    JASMINE SHUANG
    Jasmine or Shuang-Shuang (Sh-wong, Sh-wong) as she was called in the orphanage is the best girl. Everyone who meets her comments on how sweet and well-behaved she is. She has just gone with the flow. She takes everything in stride. Believe me this is a big deal. We showed up expecting a child with a mass on her back. We knew she was in a wheelchair and expected her to be a paraplegic. We were not expecting a child who can do very little for herself. She tries but she just doesn’t have the tone to do it. She can raise her arms a little. She pulls her pant legs to move her legs. She is able to feed herself, brush her teeth, etc, but that is about it. She has scoliosis that almost bends her in two.

    We are assuming she has some form of muscular dystrophy. I’m going to post that even without a diagnosis because it fits with her story. With m.d. you start to lose muscle function when you are 6 or so. She probably got very clumsy and then it got progressively worse and her parents didn’t know what to do with her. When you meet this girl you will understand what I’m saying when I say, I can NOT even fathom what that took to do that. She is an unbelievable child. She loves being a family and that makes me very, very happy.

    LAINEY RAE
    That leaves Lainey or LuLu, as Cassie has now started calling her. The reason for my pain and anguish. She is a beautiful little girl but she doesn’t just have PKU with a little brain damage. She is severely delayed with autistic characteristics. If you know me, you know that is one of the things I never thought I could handle. There were two things we did not check on disabilities we were willing to take. Those were hydrocephalus, because we had already been through all of that with Codey and I hate seizures, etc. and the second is autism.

    This little girl is so cuddly, which is a gift considering the level of her disability. I’m sharing this with you because when you meet her it is very apparent. This has been a shock and very painful to both Dan and I. We know that no matter what, family will be what is best for her. We will have to make lots of changes in our lives but she is worth it. Just this morning she ran down the hallway giggling and spinning. She was laughing and playing with Eli. She has the capacity to be happy and no matter what her life will be better by not staying here.

    As you can see, we’ve had some adjusting to do – more than we expected – and believe me, I was expecting a lot. Even with the kids being as sick as I knew they were, I wasn’t prepared for this. God has blessed me with quite a few of the “least of these” and I will love them with all my heart.

    FAMILY is a wonderful, wonderful blessing! I just want to get home so we can all start working on our new normal.

  • Contrasts

    Date: 2013.05.11 | Category: China 2013

    These towns are such a contrast in the haves and have nots.  China is known for not really having a middle class.  You are either rich or poor.  These pictures show that contrast.

    China 2013 032

    A fancy restaurant.

    China 2013 116

    And the back of the boat where the kitchens are.

    China 2013 035

    Look at the boats in the bay and the big city behind it.

    China 2013 056

    Fishing boats.  (Had to use this one because of the name.)

    China 2013 064

    And then these boats…..docked right next to the ones below.

    China 2013 096

    Our view from our 22nd floor of our hotel room.

    China 2013 137

    And then you look down….

    China 2013 130

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Those of us that have been seriously blessed can always help those who have not. Having the resources to help others – and using them for that purpose – is how we really, truly, and fully are seriously blessed.

    If you have

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