Archive for March, 2019

  • Life Changing Moments

    Date: 2019.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey

    7 years ago my life was changed forever.

    I was so clueless.  So absolutely clueless as to what goes on in the world.  And you know what?  I’m still pretty clueless.  I have no idea what it means to live in a war torn country.  I have no idea what it means to not be able to worship God.  I have no idea what it means to have nothing and dig through the garbage to find enough plastic to make some money to feed my family.  I never had difficulty going to school.  I haven’t been trafficked or sold or tortured or starved.

    I’ve complained of being hungry – but I truly wasn’t.  The next meal would come and it would be varied.

    I’ve complained of not having any money.  And although that fact was true for a week or so, the next paycheck would come.

    I’ve complained of my living conditions and I should have been ashamed.  The windows worked, the walls stood, the roof didn’t leak.  I was warm and safe.

    I’ve whined and moaned and griped and I shouldn’t have.

    Seven years ago my world was turned upside down.   A year prior to that I was talking about why we couldn’t adopt.  I was talking about how I was too old.  We didn’t have the money.  I wasn’t right for the job.  My excuses were a mile long and they were all about me and my selfish self.

    My life was changed by the words spoken by Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”   I cried buckets of tears and we moved forward with adoption.  We read the books and prepared ourselves as best we could, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my heart when we met Ben and Maisey.

    They threw Maisey at me.  Literally threw her at me and walked away.  She had these big, beautiful eyes that were afraid and sorrowful and broke my heart.  I can still feel her in my arms.  This sweet, little girl who just sat on my lap.  She didn’t cry.  She just laid her head on my shoulder and ate her cracker.  Every once in a while she would look up at me so seriously.  She was taking it all in.  She was and still is the most observant and loving child.  And somehow during that first day of her checking me over, I passed.

    Ben came to us not much later.  He had this hoarse little voice.  He weighed 19 pounds at the age of 3 1/2.   He went straight to Dan.  He didn’t cry.  He just sat there and and drank his box of milk.

    We went back to the hotel and expected tantrums and crying.  We were prepared for the worst.  But we found two little souls, who had never met before that moment, that took care of each other.  Dan had put a bunch of snack foods in one of the dresser drawers.  Ben and Maisey stood at the drawer of food and just looked.  They carefully took pieces out and smelled them, and then they ate for the better part of two hours.  Ben would cry if you moved the food, but he constantly shared with Maisey.  Ben just needed to be holding the food or looking at it.   He did this for 6 months after we came home.  6 months of sleeping with food or a bowl or utensils.

    I learned that I never truly knew what it meant to be hungry.

    Ben and Maisey didn’t love us instantly.  I’m not sure that’s even possible.  Although, I do know what it means to lose your heart at the mere sight of a picture.  Love takes time I get that.  But they did feel safe.  So safe in fact that the very next day when we visited Ben’s orphanage, he wouldn’t leave Dan’s arms.  The nannies tried to coax him into coming to them.  The nannies tried to make him smile.   But Ben wouldn’t have it.  He laid his head on Dan’s shoulders, pulled Dan’s arms tighter around him, and refused to budge.

    I learned I never truly knew what it meant to be alone.

    That was the moment everything changed for me.  I went to China believing we could help another child.  We didn’t need to add to our family, we already had 6 children.   We knew, however, that our house would never be empty.  Codey would live with us forever so couldn’t we possibly open up our house to one more child?

    China opened it’s program up to allowing two at a time and we decided if we were going to adopt we should adopt two.  Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect.   Our agency sent us Maisey’s papers and we chose to adopt her and then they showed us their listings with other children with more needs.  Dan saw Ben’s picture.   We had been praying for a little boy that we had nicknamed Tigger and there he was.

    Ben’s orphanage was a nice clean building.  It had a playground and therapy equipment and many other nice things.  But what it didn’t have was the love of a family.   Love of a family can come in many different ways but it brings with it the knowledge that you belong.  You have a warm place to fall.  You have somewhere safe to go.  You are loved.  The fact that you matter to one person changes everything.

    Adoption doesn’t always go this way.  Time in country can be brutal.  You are jetlagged, the noises and food are different, the child may not even like you.  I get that.  I understand the hard.  Believe me our trip the next year was almost more than I could handle BUT…

    We can NOT lose sight of the fact that children should not be raised in institutions.  Children need families.  I will never say that everyone is meant to adopt.  I know that’s not possible.  BUT I do know that people could do more.

    I feel guilt that it took me so long to have my eyes opened.  I could have done so much more.

    Let this be the day that we all open our eyes a little wider and do something.

    Become a foster parent.

    Adopt.

    Help support a family that is adopting.

    Support local families that foster.

    Take meals.  Send a gift card.  Encourage them on their path that can be just as hard as it is beautiful.

    Together we can all make a difference one child at a time.

    #EveryChildCounts

     

  • J.J.’s Make A Wish (part 2)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica

    When we started this process, we had heard that wishes can sometimes take a while to be fulfilled.  We were prepared to wait for months but everything seemed to just fall into place.

    In December we agreed that her physicians could nominate J.J. for a wish.  In January we heard that her wish had been granted.  At the end of January, Brooke and Marcy visited and went over all the paperwork and figured out what J.J.’s wish was.  We had the reveal party on the 14th of February and were prepared to wait until the end of March or so for the install.  Imagine our surprise when Anna, from Make-A-Wish, called to ask if they could do the install this week.

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

    When J.J. decided on her wish we agreed that we would use the sunroom for her playplace. The room has lots of windows and is sunny and bright.   It also has a peaked 18 foot ceiling.  It’s a narrow room but it’s where the kids love to play.  We hired a great guy to put french doors in the two big entry ways leading to the living room and dining room, and to put in a door to close off the back end of the room so it could be a contained space for everyone to safely play.

    When we were discussing the plans with Brooke and Marcy, Dan mentioned how much J.J. wishes she could play on the playplaces at restaurants.  J.J. is very small and she scoots around on the floor. It’s hard for her when bigger kids are running over her.  Her immunosuppression makes everything more difficult too.  We try to keep her away from anyone who is sick.

    Honestly, unless you meet her in person, it’s hard to even imagine how small she is when she is sitting and scooting.  As you can see she’s a tiny girl.  I had made this picture when we were trying to show her size to the grant committee.  J.J. is 11, Maisey is 8, and Evie is 7 in this picture.

    Dan mentioned again how it would be wonderful if we could make something like this happen for her.  I couldn’t even let my mind go there.  I know that those playplaces are expensive and thought there was no way something that awesome could come true.  Dan told me to just see what God has planned for J.J. and not limit what we think they can do.

    Imagine my surprise when they sent the original plans.

    We taped the dimensions off in the room and showed the kids where it would go.   We thought we had a clue.

    HOWEVER, we did not…

    These two guys have been at our house for three days, patiently answering questions and having little eyes sneak peeks around the corner at them, while they were installing this beast.

    I don’t know what to say.  We are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

    They made a dream come true for a little girl, who has been through more than any child should ever have to endure, and her very, very, very excited siblings.

    The laughter and fun that this will bring to her life is absolutely…

    PRICELESS!

    No more boring recesses at the Ellsbury home school.

    I wish I could share with you the squeals of delight we heard for hours tonight.

    Don’t let Max’s face fool you.  He had more fun on the playground than anyone else.  He ran and ran and ran through the tunnels and down the slide and across the monkey bars.  He just never, ever smiles in pictures.

    They will all sleep well tonight.

    J.J. is beyond thrilled and so very happy.

    I think her smile says it all..

    Thank you Make A Wish Iowa  and  Go Play Systems for making our little girl’s dream come true!!!

     

     

  • Make A Wish J.J. (part 1)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica

    In January 2018, J.J. received a new kidney through a transplant.  While J.J. was in the hospital recovering, her doctor informed us that she could be granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation.

    We gave it much thought, and for many different reasons had decided not to proceed with the wish.  Every month or so we would have an appointment and they would ask us if we had considered J.J. getting a wish.   We would politely say that we didn’t wish to proceed.  One day J.J.’s doctor asked us why we weren’t proceeding with the wish.  We told her our reasons and she simply said, “It isn’t about the gift as much as it’s about making J.J. feel special.”  Her doctor then asked, “Doesn’t J.J. deserve to feel extra special with all that she’s been through?  If you feel guilty about the cost, just donate it back to Make A Wish at a later date.”

    We went home and thought about it some more.  We weren’t even sure J.J. would understand what being granted a wish meant.  We didn’t try to explain Make A Wish (MAW) to J.J. but we did ask her what she would do if she could have any wish she wanted.  Her answers were so sweet, but we couldn’t make any of them come true.  I wrote about this conversation on Facebook.  Here is that post from October 2018.

    When I put the kids to bed at night I like to ask a random question just to hear everyone’s thoughts. Tonight I asked Maisey, Evie, JJ, Elyse and Grace the question “What would you wish for?”
    Elyse – No more orphanages.
    J.J. – A family for every kid.
    Maisey – No more mean people.
    Evie – I would wish to be a genie so I could make everyone happy.
    Me – No, I mean a wish you could actually make happen.
    Elyse – To Travel the world and save a million souls.
    JJ – No more stealing little girls.
    Elyse – Yes, no more slavery of any kind.
    JJ – To adopt a baby.
    Evie – To have a pet zebra that I could hug every day.
    Maisey – To be tiny so I could ride a butterfly.
    Me – Does anyone have any wish that could actually come true?
    Elyse – An underground playplace where Grace and I can secretly hang with our friends.
    Me – That’s a little closer to something that could actually happen.
    Maisey – I am gonna be a ninja.
    Evie – I am just gonna make people happy myself I guess.
    Grace – A car would be nice. I can drive in 3 years.
    JJ – But mama I don’t need anything.

    Over the next month we would randomly talk about wishes.  I explained to Grace what was going on and she would just say to J.J., “No, a wish that could come true. You know like when I wished for a car.”

    In December her team at the hospital informed us that if we were going to do a wish, then we would have to proceed soon.  J.J. needed to be nominated within the first year of her transplant and we were fast approaching the one year mark on January 1st. We decided to let them nominate J.J. and see if she would even be granted a wish.

    After we received the letter granting J.J.’s wish, we decided to be honest with J.J. and ask her about specific wishes.  Make A Wish sends out a book and paperwork that you can ask the child questions about.  We asked her about celebrities she wanted to meet – there weren’t any.  We asked her about traveling – she said, “I’ve already been to Disney.  I didn’t like it very much.”   We asked her to consider if there was anything that she could think of that she really wanted.  It could be a big wish.  She just had to let us know and she could draw a picture if she wanted to.

    She came to us first asking about helping orphans.  We told her that we loved her heart but this needed to be a wish that could be granted and that we, as a family, would always do what we could to help orphans.

    She came back to us with the idea for an indoor playground.   She drew out her pictures and told us what she wanted and why she wanted it.

    REASONS WHY SHE WANTS AN INDOOR PLAYPLACE:

    • Big play places have big kids that run her over and scare her.
    • She is supposed to try to not get sick.
    • Her brothers and sisters would love it.
    • She wants to surprise her brothers & sisters.
    • It’s cold like half the time here.
    • She likes to play with her brothers & sisters.

    WHAT SHE WOULD LIKE IT TO HAVE:

    • Low monkey bars that her and Elyse can do.
    • Rock climbing wall with one of those soft things you can fall on for Maisey.
    • A swing.
    • A lookout tower to see the tall windows.
    • A slide.
    • Tiny play house

    Her request was just so sweet and well thought out.  It was hard to say no after that.  Dan and I thought long and hard and decided to let her have her dream.   Well, honestly it didn’t take long to make the decision after seeing her sweet face excitedly tell us all about her plans.

    The best part of all of this is that she wanted it to be a surprise.  She has been so cute keeping her secret. I have to admit that it has been almost as much fun watching her plan her secret as when she was granted the wish.  Brooke and Marcy, volunteers with MAW, came out to our house to ask J.J. questions.  J.J. told them what she wanted and why she wanted it and they were so excited for her. My favorite part of them asking her questions was her answer to how do you see your wish playing out?   J.J.’s answer was so sweet.  She said she could see her brothers and sisters saying, “Wow J.J.!  You are really good at keeping secrets.  This is amazing!  You are the best!”  She could hardly contain her excitement.

    Brooke and Marcy told her that they were unsure if they could make that wish come true but that they would really try hard.  It wasn’t a wish that they had ever had before.  They asked her for a second option in case they couldn’t make the first wish come true.  J.J.’s request for her second wish was to adopt a baby.  Brooke and Marcy told her that they couldn’t make the second wish come true.  They asked her if there was anything else and J.J. told them no.

    Marcy and Brooke talked to J.J. about what they would do when they told her siblings.  They came up with a plan to have a reveal party so that J.J. could surprise her brothers and sisters with the plans.  Marcy and Brooke asked her if she wanted a pizza party, or cake, or cookies?  J.J. asked if she could have a Slim Jim and Pepsi party.  That was a first for them I think.  lol

    What can I say the girl really likes Slim Jims…

    We had been told that wishes can take a long time to be planned.  That they would let us know when they heard anything.  We were so surprised when just a few weeks later MAW called and said that they found a company willing to work with them and they had a plan they were sending our way.   It was amazing!  We couldn’t wait to show J.J.

    Marcy and Brooke emailed and said that we could have a reveal party.  I told them our son and family would be home from Wisconsin next weekend and asked them if that was too soon to have the party.  They were beyond kind and agreed to having a party on very short notice.  We decided not to tell J.J. about the party so that she could be surprised too.  We would have her play down in the basement with her siblings and then Grace, who was in on the secret, would bring her up and we would surprise J.J. and then we would bring up everyone else and she could surprise them.  Marcy came up with a great idea where everyone got an envelope and inside the envelope was a picture of the playground.   J.J. had them hand out the envelopes and then she counted to three and had them open the envelopes.

    In hindsight I realize that we probably shouldn’t have surprised her.  She needs time to adjust to things. I remember when we gave her her first wheelchair.  She sat in the chair and cried for an hour because she was so overwhelmed with the gift.

    She was very quiet during her party.  She was happy but I could tell something wasn’t quite right.  After it was all said and done I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that she was just so happy that she was having a hard time not crying and she didn’t want Marcy and Brooke to see her tears and think she didn’t like her party.

    So now we wait for the very special date when they will install her playground. We have heard that it could be as soon as next month.  I still can’t believe this is happening but this is one gift that will be used over and over again.  In the plans, J.J. got her low-to-the-ground monkey bars, a covered slide, and a tunnel to hide out in.

    J.J. picked the perfect gift.  She has such a sweet heart.  Dan and I LOVE the way she included everyone in her idea.  I can’t wait to watch them play and hear their laughter while they enjoy J.J.’s gift.   We are going to call it “J’s Play Place” so everyone remembers to be thankful to their sister who included them in her dream.

    Thank you  Make-A-Wish Iowa for making one very special little girl’s dream come true.

     

Archives

Blogroll

Links

Categories

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.