Archive for March, 2020

  • Happy Birthday Gracie!

    Date: 2020.03.23 | Category: Adoption, Grace

    The history of Gracie…

    16 years ago I felt like God was speaking to me. I felt like he was saying that we should have another child. This made no sense. I was almost 40 years old. I had had my tubes tied 12 years earlier after giving birth to Cassie. We had already adopted and knew what a beautiful thing adoption was but somehow my heart and my head kept going back to me being pregnant again.

    I didn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I figured it was just me wanting to be pregnant again or me wanting to hold a baby again. Maybe this time my pregnancy would go okay. Maybe this time I wouldn’t be filled with such fear. Maybe this time everything would be ok. I figured that maybe I was just imagining things. Maybe I was just having those pangs mothers have when they realize they would never care for a little baby again.

    When Dan came to me a couple months later and said that he was thinking maybe we should have one more baby, I was ecstatic! I had been praying that if this was really something that God wanted us to do, then Dan would come to me. And Dan did. Dan said that he just had this feeling that it was the right thing to do.

    We talked to our family doctor and saw a fertility doctor. They checked to see if my eggs were still good. To this day that sentence cracks me up, like we were in the grocery store opening up the cartoon to make sure everything was still fresh. Anyway, the doctor said that we could have the surgery but that insurance wouldn’t cover it. He said the odds of me getting pregnant after this surgery, and after having my tubes tied for so long, and being 40 years old were very, very slim.

    Dan and I opted to proceed. We didn’t want them to do invitro we just wanted my tubes repaired and for nature to take its course. We figured if this was really what God wanted us to do then we would get pregnant on our own.

    The very first month I got pregnant. We thanked God for this miracle and we celebrated this new life. We had routine ultrasounds every month because I was over 40 years old. 35 weeks in, at one of these routine ultrasounds, the ultrasound tech got very quiet. She left the room. I looked at Dan and asked him what he saw. He said that it looked like blood.

    The tech came in with the doctor, who Dan knew because they worked together. The doctor informed us he was going to take a very big needle and draw off some fluid and if there was blood, we would have to do an emergency c-section. He put the needle in and pulled out the fluid.

    There was blood.

    He said he wanted to check one more spot, just to be sure. He grabbed another syringe and used the ultrasound to find another spot to pull off more fluid.

    The syringe was filled with more blood.

    The doctor informed us that we would have to go now. He told us to be thankful that we had the routine ultrasound because I was having no signs of distress with the baby and the baby needed to come out right now. The hospital was right across the street. I was devastated. Everything had been going so well. Why would God have me get pregnant to lose the baby now? How could this be part of the plan? This made no sense.

    Cassie was devastated. She had wanted to be with me during the delivery, but she was with her siblings 90 minutes away at grandma’s house. There was no time for Cassie to get to me before the delivery.

    Grace was born by emergency c-section the afternoon of March 23, 2005. We had wanted to have two pregnancies so there would be two children close together but when the high risk ob asked us what we wanted to do we said, “Tie the tubes. We don’t want to go through anything like this again.” He said good and informed us that he had no clue how we got pregnant in the first place. One tube was completely scarred over and the other tube didn’t even look hooked up. But we knew. We knew who had sent her to us and we named her Grace.

    Gracie was the best baby. She was sweet and everyone loved her. She was an old, old soul. There was just something about her. She understood things that no little child should understand. She had great compassion and empathy. She was kind and loving.

    We had been up at Dan’s grandma and grandpa’s house because Dan’s Grandma Ethel wasn’t doing very well. We all sat around and told stories while grandma rested in her chair. We knew Ethel didn’t have long. Gracie was one and 1/2. She held grandma’s hand. Grace offered Grandma her sippy cup. She was taking care of grandma even though Gracie couldn’t have known what was going on.

    During Grace’s young years she lost a lot of people she loved. She lost her great grandma at 1 and 1/2. She lost two great grandpas (Dan’s grandpa and my grandpa), she lost a grandma (my mom) and a grandpa (my stepdad), she lost a great aunt (Kay), she lost an uncle (Dan’s brother – Rod), and she lost papa (Dan’s dad) between the ages of 6 and 10.

    During the summer of 2012 Grace was sick off and on. We didn’t think much about it until we headed into the fall. Then it seemed like she just couldn’t kick this bug and she was tired all the time. We started to get an uneasy feeling and we decided to have her checked for mono because her strep tests had come back negative.

    We knew there was something wrong when the doctor pulled us in the hall. He told us Grace’s labs were all off and he had made us an appointment for that afternoon with an oncologist. We didn’t know what to think . We didn’t want to worry without knowing for sure, but it seemed impossible not to worry. We showed up at the oncology appointment. There was blood work ordered and a bone marrow biopsy scheduled for the next morning. All of this happened over the week of Thanksgiving in 2012.

    The good news was that Grace didn’t have leukemia. The bad news? No one knew what she had until she woke up with a butterfly rash across her cheeks.

    It was systemic lupus erythematosus.

    LUPUS! 6 year olds don’t get lupus, but I was wrong. They do.

    Because it was a holiday, they said we could wait to see the kidney specialists at the Children’s Hospital, sometime after the first of the year. Dan made them do the urine test right away that weekend. Thank goodness we didn’t just wait for the appointment a few months away because Grace had stage 4/5 lupus nephritis. I could write a whole book about the times Dan has had a feeling and saved the children from something horrible, but that’s a story for another day. Grace had a kidney biopsy done and they started her treatments right away. Today her kidneys are doing well.

    During Grace’s treatments, she never felt sorry her yourself. She took her boatload of meds without complaint. She comforted me by telling me that she was thankful to be alive and thankful that there were meds to take.

    She raised money for other kids who were in need.

    During all of this we were in the middle of our adoption and getting ready to leave in a few months for Ben and Maisey. We asked Grace what she wanted us to do. She said, ‘You have to go get them. They are my brother and sister. They can’t stay there. I will be okay. I just want my siblings to be home for my birthday.” We scheduled her chemotherapy treatments around our travel dates. We prayed and prayed that nothing would happen to her while we traveled a half a world away.

    We came back to America with Ben and Maisey on Grace’s 8th birthday.

    New beds are the best!

    When we decided the very next year to adopt again, Grace was so happy. She loved Ben and Maisey and wanted to add even more children. She was thrilled when we added an older child, Jasmine. She even wanted to share her room with Jasmine.

    The very next year she prayed and prayed for a child her own age and we brought Elyse home.

    The year after that she knew, along with Elyse, that J.J. was her sister.

    I say all of this to show what an incredible kid Grace is. She’s been through a lot in her 15 years. She opened up her heart and shared her room and gave up her spot of being the baby in our family to bring home NOT one more child BUT 10 more children.

    Gracie is not your usual kid. The last couple years have been hard on her. It’s hard to be a teenager in a house full of the “talked about kids”. It’s hard to deal with the stress of kids who take their anger out on you. Heck, it’s hard for me and I’m a grown up.

    There’s meds and doctors appointments. There’s the conflict caused when the sister closest to you in age isn’t able to do the same things you do. There’s more responsibility. I wish I could say that adoption hasn’t made Grace’s life harder, but it has made it harder. But when asked about it, Grace always says that she would do it all over again. She says she can do hard things and having family is the most important thing.

    Dan and I try extra hard to not give her any extra work but she does have to babysit sometimes. She is able to earn things with her babysitting money and she loves that. Gracie babysits because she’s amazing. She understands Lainey’s seizures better than most people. She can administer a rescue seizure med and knows how to perform CPR. She knows how to do g-tube feedings. She knows when Max needs a little more supervision.

    Gracie is amazing. It broke my heart this year when she told me that she lives in a house full of people who have amazing stories but she is just this ordinary girl. I tried and tried to get her to understand how amazing it was for her to share her family and her home with all these children. Her response? “Mom, that isn’t special. Anyone would do that.” When I explained that not everyone would do that, she informed me that they should so just because others wouldn’t do it, didn’t make her somehow special because she did.

    I am taking this moment on Gracie’s special day and writing all of this out so she can see her story. It is AMAZING! Gracie, I hope when you read this that you really understand just how incredible your story is and how amazing your heart is.

    Grace, you have opened your heart, shared your things, and gone above and beyond what most kids would have ever done. You are an incredible kid. I know that the teen years have been hard. Heck teen years are hard if nothing is going on in your life and you’ve got a lot going on.

    You love and you love big. You weren’t afraid of adopting kids that might die. You were more afraid of not adopting them. You are beautiful and smart and talented. God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed the thought of “one more” on my mind. You being so open and willing to bring your brothers and sisters home is what made it easy for me to say, “Ok God. I will follow.”

    Right now I know there is a little girl in China who has your heart. We pray and pray for her to have a family. I know if China opened up their doors to large families adopting again, you would be there filling out the paperwork and begging us to bring her home. Well, you already beg. We just can’t do anything about it. That shows who you really are. Your parents are 55 years old and you know that if something happened to us, you’d have to help care for your siblings and this new one that you wish you could adopt and yet you would instantly do it without any hesitation knowing how much more work it would be. As you tell me all the time, she reminds you of Lainey and look how amazing Lainey is doing. I love that about you.

    I hope you understand how incredible you really are. You have an amazing heart and daddy and I are so proud to call you our daughter. Daddy and I love you so much Grace! Happy 15th birthday sweetheart!

    P.S. When you decided that you wanted to do judo along with the TaeKwonDo you were doing with your family, your dad gave you a challenge to see how serious you were about it. One month to do the following: 1,000 hours of exercise, 1,000 pushups, 1,000 situps, 1,000 squats, and 300,000 steps. You did it! I don’t ever want you to forget that you did that!

    I love to see how excited you are about judo and how excited dad is that you are doing a sport that he loves too. Can’t wait to see where you go with this passion of yours.

  • Chairs4Change (Jasmine’s Story)

    Date: 2020.03.10 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Blog, Jasmine's Dream

    ***Jasmine and I talked a long time about what she is about to say. I (Lisa, her mom) feel like she doesn’t need to talk about the troubles we’ve had but she says it plays a big part in why Chairs4Change is so important to her. For that reason, I am going to go ahead and let her write what she feels compelled to write.

    ——————————————————————————————————————-

    I haven’t been writing my blog for a while because I have been really mad and really sad. I was really mad at China. They lied to me. They said I can walk when I go to America….but it didn’t happen! I hoped and hoped to walk and I couldn’t.

    I was so mad and I put all my madness on my mom. I do so many bad stuff to mom. I was mad about everything and I did not care who I hurt. I hurt anyone and everyone but mainly mom. I made my mom’s life really hard the last four years. Mom says I am doing better but I want to do even better.

    Mom told me, all the time, you can continue to be mad that you can’t walk and feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about it. I was just so mad about what everyone did to me. I said things I shouldn’t say and I hurt mom. Mom says I don’t need to say this stuff but I feel like I do because it tells why Chairs4Change is important to me and it’s time to let go of the mad. Maybe I can help someone else who is really mad too. Mad just hurts you not China.

    I was mad for a long time and I didn’t know how to stop and then Elyse came to me with her idea for Chairs4Change. She was so excited about how we could work together to help kids. When she told me I was so excited because I always had a dream to help kids and I have always hoped kids wouldn’t have to live in the orphanage and would have people help them.

    After Elyse told me that she talked to Amy Eldridge with Love Without boundaries and that we could help over 700 kids, I think it was so cool. I really wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to do everything that we could to help them. I know what it was like to not go to school and not have food. I decided to work with Elyse. Her idea was so amazing! Jessica wanted to do it too!

    Can you imagine not going to school?

    Can you imagine not getting surgery?

    Can you imagine not getting enough food?

    Can you imagine not having water?

    Can you imagine being alone?

    We can do something!

    Can you help? Maybe you can save your change too?!?!?

    We will be having a fundraiser on April 19th. Sunday 1-4 at Pet Supplies Plus in Altoona, Iowa. We will be doing a dog wash, selling my origami jars and ornaments, selling our hymnal bird prints, and we will be trying to fill a bucket with change. Do you have change that you can give?

    Today we reached $30,000 which is amazing! Thanks to all of you guys! I hope that we can reach our goal. One million dollars is so much money but I believe we can do this if we all work together.

    Thank you guys so much!

  • Jessica Jean

    Date: 2020.03.09 | Category: Jessica, Uncategorized

    She is quiet. She is observant and notices absolutely everything. She is amazing! She is caring and sweet and thoughtful. She is sometimes stubborn and feisty. She likes to follow the rules and know what is expected of her.

    She loves Slim Jims so her daddy made her a carrier for her favorite treats. She is all about the spicy sauce on all her food. She loves noodles and rice and spicy pizza….well, spicy anything! She should own stock in a chili oil company.

    She is the oldest of the littles. When she first came home, we had her in the room with Grace and Elyse but after a few months at home we realized she would do better in the littles’ group. She spent most of her time in the orphanage in a baby room where there was nothing to do but sit around. She said her days were long and boring. She needed time to just be a little girl. She needed time to play games and hang out with her crew.

    She came home at 8 years old. She had never been to school. She says she can’t remember anyone ever reading her a book. She had no clue what the alphabet was or any of the other basic skills that a kindergartner would have. She has done AMAZING in school. She was behind everyone in reading and worked really hard until she became the best reader. Although, it may be a tie with Maisey right now. 🙂 She loves everything about learning and absorbs it all like a sponge.

    She is the best little artist and can always be found with a book or an artist’s sketch pad in her hand. She draws all the time. We are working on a book together. Elyse, Maisey and Jessica are going to do all the art work. I am so excited for their project to come to fruition.

    She is determined. She watched her brothers and sister run a ninja course in our backyard. She was determined to do it too. She is a little thing. Reaching all the bars was no small feat, but she did it and was so proud of herself.

    She recently started para-taekwondo and LOVES it! She is working on her yellow/green belt and should have it pretty soon. I am so happy that Dan found Spirit TKD. It is so wonderful to be able to do something as a family and not have these three feel left out. We have 9 children doing TKD right now. Spirit TKD has a great family rate that makes all of this possible.

    The girls started a group called Chairs4Change and were recently interviewed on We are Iowa Live. Jessica was so excited to be a part of it. They call her the silent partner because she doesn’t like to do any of the talking but is the very best cheerleader of the group when no one else is watching. The girls want to help other children get the care that they need. J knows better than anyone what it means to not have the health care that you need to live your best life.

    It’s been two years since J received her new kidney. She has done amazingly well. She has monthly lab work and sees her doctor every 3 months. She takes her twice daily, handful of pills without complaint and is thankful everyday to have been given this chance at a healthier life.

    When we adopted J, 4 years ago this past February, she was a shut down, sad, frightened little girl. She took the longest, of all the children we adopted, to trust us. She didn’t trust adults. She wouldn’t even talk to Dan or I for the longest time. She felt safe with Elyse and Gracie and we just let her be. We hoped and prayed that sooner or later she would come around to wanting a family and parents and she did. She just needed time to watch and know she could trust us.

    J is an incredible child. She is funny and has grasped the English language so quickly. Dan and I feel so blessed to get to be her parents. We wish she would have never gone through the things that she had to endure but we are so happy we get to be here for her now and help her handle whatever life throws her way.

    Dan and I will be forever thankful that Elyse and Grace were so adamant that J was their sister. It seems they knew it before us. Children are smarter than us in things of the heart sometimes.

    I had meant to post this on her birthday, which was January 6th, but as happens in much of my blogging life these days, I am a few days (months) late. So this blog is brought to you on this gloomy Monday morning, which was supposed to be my Saturday blogging time, in March which should have been January. Just keeping it real!

    Happy birthday J! Mommy and daddy love you with all our hearts. You are such a blessing to our lives. I hope you never, ever forget it! You are truly a fabulous human being! You are an incredible fighter. You are bright and so observant. You notice things and make things happen. We love that about you! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are less than. We all know that you are definitely more! Love you J to the moon and back!