Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

  • I Was So Wrong…

    Date: 2017.04.15 | Category: Adoption, Elyse

    I shared this story on Facebook yesterday and because I feel it is so important I’m sharing it here too…

    As we drove to Ben’s appointment on Wednesday, Dan and I were reminiscing about when we first saw the kid’s pictures. We were talking about how many times we have fallen in love instantly. Not every time but quite a few times we have instantly known. It’s amazing how many times you can lose your heart.

    We then started talking about when I first met Elyse. Dan wasn’t able to travel with me that trip because two of our kiddos had just had open heart surgery and we felt one of us should stay home just in case.

    I remember Elyse’s face when she first met me and I could tell she was disappointed. I was older and heavier than the mama of her dreams. I watched her act so much older than her years. She wouldn’t eat and talked of being fat, at the time she weighed 55 pounds. She talked to the guide about me and laughed. He would refuse to tell me what she said. My feelings were hurt and I wasn’t supposed to let them be. I had been through this before. You aren’t supposed to take it personal, but I did for that first day at least.

    We got to the hotel that first night and she asked to see her clothes. I pulled out the suitcase full of clothes that we had lovingly picked out for her. She picked up items, which were rolled in pairs of outfits with a hair band around them, she took the band off every outfit, and put them in one of two piles. One to keep and one to discard. I watched her make faces and discard clothes that I had thought were cute. She would wrinkle up her nose and drop the shirt or pants on the ever growing “I’m not wearing that pile”.

    I remember calling Dan that night and asking “what have we gotten ourselves into? What child in an orphanage turns down new clothes?” So many judgmental thoughts were going through my head. Will she be mean to our kids who are really delayed. Is she going to make fun of Grace who was a little overweight after her bouts of steroids. What would she say to Jasmine?

    My heart was truly having a hard time.

    The next day the guide told me that Elyse wanted to take the clothes with us on the orphanage trip. Elyse also asked us to buy treats for the orphanage. Elyse was very specific about what she wanted to buy. Time and time again she turned down treats that I suggested. I watched her tear open the snacks and pour them in the Walmart sacks. I remember thinking “what will the orphanage director think? There goes our nicely arranged care package.”

    A couple days later we walked in the orphanage and everything changed. She found two older girls who were very delayed. She took the treats that she picked because they were their favorites and ever so sweetly placed them in their hands and put the treats/their hands in their pockets where the snacks would be safe. She did this over and over again. She found some little ones and handed them a treat with the biggest smile on her face. She handed out clothes and hair bands to so many kids. She hugged them goodbye.

    And my heart knew underneath all that tough exterior and outward signs of “only looks mattered” there was a caring heart.

    I was so wrong to judge her and she will tell you the same about me. So much is not understood at first. It’s been two years and I am still learning new things as she learns more and more English.

    She recently told me that the nannies argued with her and wouldn’t let her say goodbye to the babies that she had cared for and her heart was broken. I had seen the disagreement and wondered what Elyse had said or done.

    Our babies lose so much and it takes so much time until they can even tell us what they were thinking.

    I think this story is much like life. We are all too quick to judge that person who doesn’t act like us, talks different, or doesn’t wear the same clothes. The person who is grumpy because they are having a bad day. We should all extend just a little extra grace because we never know what someone else is going through and even when we think we know, we are often wrong!

    I know I was wrong. Every judgment I made of Elyse in those early days was wrong. Elyse has the sweetest heart. Yes, she is beautiful, I would hate for her to think otherwise, but now she knows her worth is not based on how she looks. Her thoughts before were what she had been taught, not what she believed.

    (Edit) I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t put in one of the biggest things I learned about her once we got home. We had an appointment to take her to the doctor for the routine appointment that you do upon arriving home. She was so happy and we couldn’t figure out why. Elyse asked Jasmine, who spoke Mandarin still, if she was going to the doctor to see if she could have babies. What 9 year old is worried about whether or not she can bear children?

    We found out that she had been taught that her only hope for happiness in life was her beauty, if she could have a baby, and have surgery to fix her legs to walk. She wasn’t caught up in her beauty and looks because she was vain. She was caught up in it because she had been taught that her happiness in life depended on it.

    She is an adored, loved daughter. I am blessed to know her. Oh what we would have missed and oh how wrong I was!

  • I Want to Live a More Radical Life

    Date: 2017.03.19 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

    There’s a new commercial out by Colgate that tells us how much we waste if we let the water run while brushing our teeth.  There are pictures of dirty hands washing fruit and a little girl taking a drink in her hands, as if we somehow help people in third world countries by not letting our water run.  While I agree it’s wasteful to let our water run, let’s not delude ourselves into somehow thinking we are helping others get water by not letting our water run.

    It’s much like our grandparents when they said, “Finish your supper.  There are starving children in the world.”    How does my finishing my supper and not wasting it help a child in a third world country?

    I think that is the problem with today.  We believe we are doing something when we turn off the water, eat less, drive a more gas efficient car, throw some money in the offering plate, and take can goods to a food pantry.   I am not saying these things don’t matter.  I’m saying we can’t delude ourselves into thinking we are doing something big.

    We need to think more radically.

    My work with Love Without Boundaries has opened my eyes to what it truly means to live in poverty.  I once believed that I lived in poverty.  We had limited food.  We often ran out of toilet paper.  We were hungry, didn’t know where our next paycheck was coming from, and couldn’t scrap up the money to eat out, BUT we had a roof over our head, even if the walls were concrete and the roaches were plentiful in that rental; we had a bed to sleep in at night, even if it was a mattress on the floor, and extended family that helped out when they could.

    We never lived in a hut with no running water or a toilet.  We never ate one meal of rice a day or walked two hours to get dirty water.  We never worried about whether or not we could go to school.  We never dug through a trash heap hoping to find food to eat or recycling material that would buy food.

    I recently saw this going around on Facebook.  I can’t back up the facts, but it sounds about right.

    If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

    If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

    If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the thousands of people who will not survive this week.

    If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

    If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

    We are rich!  We are a blessed nation and yet we complain about wanting/needing more.  I did it.  I still do it.  I live in a big, beautiful house and still look at realty sites and dream about a bigger home as if it is somehow better.  I have to remind myself constantly that more debt isn’t better.  Bigger isn’t necessarily better. That more bedrooms doesn’t change anything.  I DON’T need more. I’ve just been conditioned to believe that striving for more, that bigger and better is where it’s all at, after all it is the American dream.

    I know there are those that think Dan and I live somewhat radically.  We’ve given up our retirement.  We’ve taken in kids with pretty big needs.  We’ve given up sleep and paid so much money in medical bills that it makes my head spin,  BUT what have we really done?  Not much.  Really!  I’m not just saying this.  I truly believe it.  What have we really done?  We took the chance on loving some kids who have made our lives unbelievably amazing.  It doesn’t seem like such a hardship.

    Yes, we share bedrooms.  Yes, we share toys and hand down clothes.  Yes, we will have to wonder about college and will have to work to figure it out.  Yes, we have given up vacations.  Yes, we drive a bus, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t amount to much.  I still live comfortably.  I can still go to the store and buy whatever food I want.  I can go out to eat.  I can buy a new outfit.  My kids can go to school.  I have a car to drive.  I can pay for the gas that makes it run.

    My heart hurts knowing I could do more.  My heart hurts for all of those who could change their lives with just a few of my dollars.  My heart hurts for parents who will leave their child outside an orphanage in hopes they can get the medical treatment they need.  My heart hurts for the children who will die from starvation and diseases from drinking dirty water.  My heart hurts for children who will die in an orphanage.

    Sometimes the need is so overwhelming that I want to go back to when I didn’t know.   Sometimes I want to go back to when I sat in my house, comfortable and warm, and the most I had to think about was whether or not I could pay my bills on time.   But that would make me indifferent.  Indifferent and comfortable are two words that I don’t want to be associated with my name.  I want to die knowing I did everything I could.  I want to die trusting fully on God and doing as much good as I can.  Not because that will somehow make me a good person worthy of God’s love.  God loves me anyway.  I want to live radically because it is what God commands us to do.

    “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”  – Francis Chan

    I’m feeling much too comfortable.  How about you?

    I am not indifferent now but I once was…

    And that needs to change.

  • The Gift of Adoption

    Date: 2017.03.14 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

    The depth of my gratitude could never adequately be put into words.  I get to parent these sweet souls.  I GET TO!!!  Not because I am somehow better but because I was lucky enough to have the resources to do so.

    The knowledge that 7 of our 10 kids would have had horrible outcomes had they not been adopted does not often leave my mind.  Not because we are somehow saviors but because we know who the true Savior is.  We would have never been brave enough to take this on if we hadn’t felt an overwhelming call from God.  We decided to be obedient even if it looked crazy to the rest of the world.   We decided to pray, trust with all our hearts, and take each step in faith.

    We were called crazy.  We were told it didn’t make sense.  We were told that it would ruin our family.  We didn’t take these words lightly but we decided to allow His words to be louder than the words of the world.

    “If you don’t step up, who will?”

    “Can you live with yourself if this child dies in China, and you know you were called to them?”

    “Would you leave your bio daughter/son there?  Because this child is yours just as much as if they had been born to you.”

    We decided to proceed after listening to people’s words of “it will ruin your family”, not ignoring the “what if it does” but fully embracing the “what if it doesn’t”.

    Every day I wake up to the faces of little souls that get to live another day.  I am humbled by this fact.  I don’t think “Wow!  Aren’t we amazing?  We saved these little souls.”  People have said that to us, but we never think that.  I think things like “Why do I get to be their mother?  Why were we allowed to step up?  Why were we lucky enough to be born in America?”  I know for a fact that I don’t deserve this gift.  I am no better than any other parent.  I don’t have more patience.  I don’t have it all together.  I don’t have any special skills.  I have been blessed by being obedient to God’s call, but I don’t for a minute think we were the first choice.

    I often think about Ben’s parents.  Ben was left at 9 months of age probably because he was turning more and more blue.  The more I learn from the work Dan and I do with Love Without Boundaries, the more my heart hurts for his parents.  I can’t imagine making the decision to leave your child somewhere public, hoping they will be found so that they can get the treatment that they need.

    Put yourself in their shoes.  What would you do to try and save your child’s life?  No insurance.  Surgery that costs more than you probably make in a year or more.  What would you do?  It’s easy to sit here in judgment.  I know I did before I knew the truth.  Now my heart just hurts.

    7 of 10.  Just let that soak in.  I’m not exaggerating to write a more compelling story.  5 of 10 would have died and two more would have had horrible, horrible, horrible outcomes.  People say others would have stepped up.  Really?  2,354 children were adopted from China in 2015 (Stats).  China says that there are 600,000 children in orphanages, others put that figure much higher.  CNN article

    Using China’s conservative total of 600,000 children and our government’s figure of children adopted from China in 2015, that makes a child’s chance of adoption at .392%.   There are so many factors on whether a child gets adopted or not.  Will the orphanage decide to make them paper ready?  How old are they when they are listed?  Will they be lucky enough to be advocated for?  Will they survive long enough to be adopted?

    I often wish I could touch others and have them instantly feel what my heart feels.  I wish I could have them understand the enormity of it because my words will never do it justice.  So many children wait.  So many children, who just want a family, will never get one.   I wish they could understand the pain of families that could stay together if someone would just step up.  Children like Annabelle need support so their child can get the surgery that their family is unable to afford.  LWB – Support Annabelle

    I have had five amazing years with Ben.  I have watched him grow into a wonderful young man.  This is a gift.  It truly is a gift.  He is funny and amazing.  He is a living, breathing, walking miracle.  We were told that he could only receive palliative care and now he is considered completely healed.  How could I not be overwhelmed with the enormity of this?

    He is a blessing, but not just because he was healed.  He would have been a blessing even if he hadn’t been healed.  He is a wonderful boy.  He is so sweet with Lainey.

    He is Maisey’s protector.

    He is Eli and Liam’s best friend.

    I get to parent him and his biological mother does not because she could not afford his surgery.  How can I not be humbled by this fact?  How could I not cry tears for her?  How could I not be overwhelmed?  I will get to see his sweet smile this morning and I will get to tuck him in his bed tonight.  She will not.

    Praying I never forget the enormity of this gift I have been given.

     

     

     

     

  • “I Get To” Changes Everything

    Date: 2017.03.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I get asked all the time about how I do it.  It’s pretty simple.  I get up every day and I just keep moving forward.  My days are VERY busy.  Unbelievably busy.  Things don’t get done around the house sometimes.  My house will never be in perfect order.  I wish, but it isn’t going to happen.  This is hard for me to admit because I like organized and having everything in its place.  But we also have a Lainey whose favorite activity is to throw anything she finds on the floor and I do mean everything.  She likes to grab cups and run through the house spilling everything every where.  We have 8 littles between 5 and 8 who like to leave things around and since we home school there are lots of hours of the day to move things to and fro.

    I have done a lot in the past year to simplify.  I have removed so much stuff in our house.  I have gotten rid of almost all my knickknacks.  I don’t have time to dust.  I don’t want to worry about who is going to break what next.  What have I learned from this simplification?  We have too much stuff.  Way too much stuff!  I have removed bags and bags and bags from this house and there is still more to take out.

    It makes me sad to think of the money I have spent on things that just don’t matter.  We don’t bring toys into the house unless it’s someone’s birthday.  We regularly go through items to see what they are and aren’t playing with.  If it’s not being worn it’s gone.  We still have way too much stuff.  It’s hard not to when you have this many people in the house but we are working harder at only bringing things into the house that will make our lives better.

    There are things that are non-negotiable during my days.  Morning hugs and kisses.  Codey and Lainey’s feedings.  We have five kiddos that are in diapers and four will be for life.  Catherizations.  Medications are a must and are given twice a day to 11 of the 13 kids that are at home.  Meals and prayers around the table. Quiet time with Dan. More hugs and kisses before bed.

    House cleaning, school work, and appointments make up the rest of my day.  Every day looks a little different.  Kids who come from trauma have days where they need you to drop everything and we do that.  This past year has been extremely difficult for Jasmine.  It would be hard to put into words how hard it is when someone is on meltdown mode all day.  It’s emotionally draining for everyone in the family and you have to take the time to repair the damage that is done.

    When I say I am going to bed, this is what needs to be done before placing my head on my pillow.   Take the littles downstairs to get ready for bed (Grace often helps with this.), change Codey, take Jasmine to the bathroom (this takes two people) and put her to bed, feed Lainey and give her her last meds, cath JJ and give her her meds, story time and give everyone hugs and kisses.

    Sometimes it is overwhelming.  Sometimes I just want to go to bed without all the other stuff.  Sometimes I just want to take care of me and not do everything else.  Sometimes I am just plain tired.  But when I have those pity-party moments where I start to think “I have to do this, this, and this”, I stop myself and change it to “I get to”.  Perspective changes everything.

    I GET TO…

    …wake up in the morning to the sweetest, sleepy smiles.

    …hear mom, mommy, mama hundreds of time throughout the day from little kids who went years without this privilege that we all take for granted.

    …get hugs, hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs.  (The best part of every day.)

    …hear “I love you” over and over again.

    …help little hearts heal.

    …wipe away tears.

    …have a ring side seat to God’s big and little miracles.

    …sit by hospital bedsides while children heal.

    …serve with a willing heart.

    …watch little souls blossom before my eyes.

    …watch little minds learn and grow.

    …hit my knees repeatedly.

    …give up control.

    …turn it all over to the one who knows best.

    …prepare meals that little ones love.

    …wash, fold, and put away clean clothes to wear.

    …have access to the best medical care around.

    I GET to do it all of these things every single day with my very best friend.

    I am blessed!  Beyond blessed!  SERIOUSLY blessed!

  • No Hands But Ours Article

    Date: 2017.03.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I was honored to get to guest write about our family for No Hands But Ours.  The NHBO articles are wonderful and uplifting.  If you are starting the adoption process, are curious about special needs, or wonder what other families have gone through, this is a great place to start.

    Seriously Blessed

  • Chinese New Year 2017

    Date: 2017.03.04 | Category: Adoption, China 2016, Family Life

    Our children look forward to celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) each year.  The first year home is always the hardest because it brings up memories, some good and some bad, that we have to wade through.  As our family as grown there have been more and more children who love to celebrate so the most recently adopted get into the swing of things pretty quickly.

    We leave up the 14 foot Christmas tree and decorate it for CNY.  Everything is red and gold.  We have special ornaments that the kids have made and some extra special ones that we bought through an adoption fundraiser.

    We wait for a day when everyone can celebrate together so it isn’t often that our family celebration is on the actual day of CNY.   During the week of CNY we take them to Panda Express so they can each get a kid’s meal.  It’s not cost effective to do this very often so it’s a special treat.

    We go at an off time because there is only one table in the whole restaurant that can seat us all.

    On the day of our celebration the children wake up and put on their silks right away.  I think it’s their favorite part of the day.  We have a box full of colorful silks.

    I think Eli is going to need a new one soon.  🙂

    Maisey is always ready to do her “China” pose, as she calls it and Evie always needs a fountain to finish off her outfit.

    They all look so cute in their silks.  We even found one that fit Hope’s sense of style.  I wish I would have bought more sizes the last time we traveled.  I guess I always assumed their would be one more time.

    Even Nicholas got into the action.  We got out his dad’s outfit from when he was a baby.  Why I purchased a Chinese outfit for my son 28 years ago I will never know.  I just can’t remember.  God knew long before I did I guess.

    They love having family together.  They are always excited when Zach and Steph come to visit.

    They love to eat the special foods we prepare twice a year on CNY and Children’s Day.  We make home made steamed buns, spicy chicken feet, wontons, and crab rangoons.   I don’t often prepare these foods from scratch because they are time consuming.  The house smells so good though when it is all cooking.   Then their are the usuals that we eat often – egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, fried rice, spicy steak, teriyaki chicken, and potstickers.  I don’t make potstickers from scratch because Sam’s Club carries some that the kids love.  They are so easy to prepare.  The come frozen in a tray with water around them.  You just put them in a pan and wait as the water boils off, the bottoms get browned, and they are perfect.

    This year we had our pastor and his lovely family over.  They were a wonderful addition.  The extra hands in the kitchen were a welcome treat.   Amy rolled out all the dough for the steamed buns so the kids even got fresh ones for breakfast too.  Jasmine was sick, she woke up with a 102 temp., and missed out on the day of fun.  We brought her out for a picture and let her eat her spicy food in her room.  Not quite the same but better than nothing.

    It was still a wonderful day full of laughter, friends, and family.

    We ended our day watching the Troll movie.  The littles were so excited to show Nicholas this movie.  They figured he would love the music and bright colors.  I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that he is still a bit too little to understand a movie.  Nick laughed and cooed and smiled and made them all believe that he loved it.

    Our new couch is the perfect place for the whole family to cuddle up and watch a movie.

    All in all a pretty good day!  Happy year of the rooster everyone!  Wishing you all the best in the upcoming year!

     

     

     

  • Christmas Letter (Part 2 – Middles & Bigs)

    Date: 2017.01.14 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    Jessica Jean (8) – I don’t even know where to start with this girl.  She came to us angry, shut down, afraid to love, and scared.   She has done so well.  In February she will have been home a year.  She is happy, sweet, loving, caring, brave, and ready to take on the world.  She is still very quiet.  She practices her English until she can say it perfectly because she doesn’t like to be wrong.  She talks with very little accent.  She is doing so well with her school work.

    I admit that while we were in China, I was so worried.  Worried that we were too late.  Worried that she would never bond or care to have parents.  Worried that her little heart would never heal.  Worried that she would never trust another adult again.  But I was SO wrong.  She has done unbelievably well.  I love this little girl so much!  I can’t believe we almost missed the blessing that is her.

    Elyse (11) – Elyse continues to do well.  She is so smart – very, very smart.  As of 1/1/17, she has been in America two years.  She takes being an American very seriously.  She loves her freedom and the right to worship God.  Elyse loves BIG.  She is friendly and funny.  She enthusiastically lives life to the fullest.  She dreams big and I believe she will accomplish whatever she sets her mind too.  She wants to design dresses when she grows up and send clothes to orphanages so little girls can wear pretty clothes.   If Elyse had her way, she would have 20 brothers and 20 sisters.   Her heart breaks for all those kids who still wait.  Her biggest wish if for every child to have a family that loves them and keeps them safe.

    Gracie (11) – Gracie’s lupus continues to stay in remission.  We are so thankful that she has had a couple good years with very little issues.  She is a huge help around the house.  She is growing up so fast and I can hardly believe that she will soon be 12.  Where does the time go?  Gracie loves having a big family.  She readily helps her sisters who are in wheelchairs and is my right hand.  School doesn’t always come easy to Grace but she works so hard.  She wants to grow up and adopt as many kids as she can.  That’s a pretty good plan.  We will see where God leads.

    Jasmine (17) – Jasmine continues to learn English and progress well with school.  It’s hard on a child who really didn’t get any formal education until she was 14.  It makes her feel constantly behind even though she has come so far in just 3 1/2 years.  The last two years have been harder then the first two for Jasmine.  She had a huge set back when she realized that she would never walk.  China had told her that America would fix her and no matter what we said, she believed them.  She lost hope when she realized that her life would be forever in a chair.  We continue to tell her that her life has purpose and she is finally believing that.  She has made such a huge difference in other kid’s lives.  She continues to write her own blog www.Flowerthatblooms.com where she shares her feelings about living in an orphanage and what it means to have a family of your own.  I am very proud of how far she has come.

    Jasmine’s Dream Update:   To date these four girls – the fab four – as I call them, have helped 300 children.   They work hard to save their money to donate to other adoptions and fundraisers.  They have a dream to open up an Etsy shop where they sell their artwork, hats, t-shirts, etc. that they have designed to help even more children.

    Hope (17) – Hope is as artistic as ever.  She loves special effects makeup.  She is constantly in her room coming up with some new design.   She shows her work on instagram on DragonKnightMakeup.  I’m not sure where this passion and talent will take her but it is fun watching her imagination at work.

    We laughed because when Cassie took the pictures, Peter ended up being in all of them.  Peter and Hope have been best friends forever.  They started dating last year and as you can see from the picture, he is still here.  hahaha  He is a good kid and our family loves him.  They are still obviously very young but we all love Peter and his family.

    Cassie and Reece – in May they will have been married 2 years.  Cassie is still teaching 2nd grade and has decided to pursue a masters degree to be a speech pathologist.  Reece is attending Iowa State and has decided to become an audiologist.  They continue to live in an apartment on our property so that they can be close to the kiddos and help out when needed.  They both sign and are helping us all learn how to sign for Max.

    Zachary, Stephanie and introducing….Nicholas

    OH MY GOODNESS and the biggest news of the year!!!  We have a grandson!  A sweet-tempered, adorable little guy who we all adore.   Zach and Steph continue to live in Wisconsin and Zach works for Raven Software on the game, Call of Duty.  Stephanie is the best mama and there is nothing better than watching little Nicholas listen to his mama sing.  It is the sweetest thing around.

    Nicholas has the biggest fan club in the world.  No matter what he does he has a cheering section of uncles and aunts that stand in awe of all that he does.  This little guy is definitely loved!

    Our new favorite thing is being able to Skype with them on our big t.v.   We all miss them and love to be able to see them even if it is just on the t.v.  Technology is amazing and makes living apart so much easier.

    Codey (29) – And last but not least our oldest boy.   Codey continues to live at home and is doing very well.  He loves football and basketball games on his t.v.  He is very close to Lainey and she loves to follow him around the house.  Dan recently ran into a doctor who took care of Codey when he was an infant.  It’s amazing to hear how they all believed he wouldn’t live to be a year old and here we are.

    Life continues to be busy and loud and full of love and learning.  Our floors continue to be sticky and never, ever perfectly clean.  Things aren’t always easy and adopting comes with its share of pain.  I won’t pretend everything is pretty and perfect, but it is perfectly ours.  Life can be messy.  Tears will be shed.  Life lessons are learned.  The most amazing thing happens when a child learns to trust you though.  Hearts open and start to heal.  Little souls start to bloom.  It is an amazing thing to be a part of.

    I could never adequately put into words what it means to be a mother to this crew.  How can I put into words what it feels like to see their sleepy little faces in the morning, to have all those arms hug me, and tell me good morning.  I look in the faces of children who have come so far.  I am constantly amazed at the miracles that happened to bring them home and to help them get the treatment they needed.  We are seriously blessed each and every day!

    Wishing you all the best in 2017.  Merry Christmas everyone!

     

     

  • Christmas Letter 2016 (The Littles)

    Date: 2016.12.29 | Category: Adoption, Family Life, Uncategorized

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    We’ve had an exciting year in the Ellsbury household.

    We receive the miracle of a healed heart for Benjamin.  We were told that there was no hope and now his future is full of hope!  Ben turned eight and is enthralled with soldiers and police officers.  He has learned how to read and loves math and school.  To see our boy filled with energy and no longer blue is a beautiful gift.

    ben-now

    Little Evie has had a wonderful year.  She has grown since her last surgery and continues to do well with her health.  She is a ray of sunshine from the time she wakes up until her little head hits her pillow.  She is everything that is good with the world.

    evie-now

    She was adopted 3 and 1/2 years ago with Elijah.  They continue to be the best of friends.  These two should have their own reality show.  They are a hoot together!  I mean seriously who could resist these sweet, little faces?

    evie-eli-now

    I continue to stand in amazement of Eli.  Every day I am reminded of the miracle of modern medicine.  The amazing fact that he had main branch pulmonary arteries formed out of four collaterals and graft material in a 14 hour surgery just blows my mind.  I stand in awe of our awesome God and the gifts He gives.  It’s hard to take anything for granted when your life is filled with such miracles.

    eli-now

    Big miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  Lainey  has come so far from that sad little girl who never looked you in the eye.  She yells “mama and daddy”.  She hugs with such sweetness.  She gives love pats all day long.  She can not say many words but her love language is loud and clear.  She holds hands.  She hugs.  She loves and all the kids love her.  And the very best news is that now that her seizures are better under control she is actually sleeping for 4-5 hours at a stretch.  This has been very welcome to mama.  She will often sleep for four hours and go back to sleep for another four.  I can certainly live with that.

    lainey-now

    Maisey has become quite the little mother.  She is quiet and shy but since she has gotten her BAHA (bone conducting hearing aid) she has become more vocal.  She figured out that she is funny.  She hears so much better and her speech has come so far.  She takes care of everyone.  She loves BIG!  She loves art and drawing and writing.  She has decided she wishes to be a ninja librarian when she grows up.  It’s a job that would suit her well.

    maisey-now

    One of the best gifts during this past year is Maisey and Evie’s friendship.  Evie’s personality is BIG and Maisey is quiet so they have always gotten along but Maisey would choose to play by herself a lot.  That has changed this year as they both realize how much fun having a sister is.  It does my heart good to see them play.

    maisey-evie-now

    Max also received a BAHA this year.  It has been amazing to see him actually hear and start to understand what conversation is.  His world opened up when he realized he could actually ask for something.  He continues to learn more signs – last count was 300+.  We still have a long ways to go but he has certainly made great leaps this past year.  Probably his biggest step forward was understanding affection.  He asks for hugs and kisses now.  He sits on people’s laps.  It’s one of the hardest things on this mama’s heart to realize your children don’t know what hugs and kisses mean.  It’s a cultural thing as well as an institutional issue but when they finally get it….well, there’s not a whole lot that is better in the world.

    max-now

    Because of facial issues it’s still hard for him to smile big but his giggle is contagious.  He can barely contain his laughter and it makes the rest of us laugh too.  The boys play pretty well together.  They have their arguments as all siblings do but they really do get along amazingly well.  Their favorite thing to do is to dress up in costumes and play super heroes.  They make the cutest super heroes don’t you think?

    Super Hero Day 2016

    Our seventh little is William, we all refer to him as Liam.  Liam had a harder transition than any of the other littles.  He enjoyed his treatment in China.  He had a case of Little Emperor’s syndrome.  Don’t believe it’s a real thing?  Just google it.  Anyway, it was hard for him to share at first.  He wanted to always be first and when he didn’t get his way he would cry for hours.  He has come so far and has learned what family truly means.  I am proud of the progress he has made in 9 short months.  His whole world was turned upside down and he had to learn how things work here.  We still have moments, but they are few and far between now.  Sometimes adoption brings unknowns that you really couldn’t even foresee being a problem.  I’m glad he feels loved and cared for and that he trusts us.

    He is sweet and caring and a natural born leader.  He is charming and very smart.  He loves math and eagerly learns new things.  He loves to help.  We instituted a Leader Day for each little and he eagerly waits for his turn.  Wednesdays are Liam’s favorite days now.

    liam-now

    There is nothing little about our Littles.  The love BIG!  They love life!  Our house is noisy and chaotic and filled with laughter.  There is never a dull moment with them around.  They bring so much to our lives.  Dan and I constantly say, “We could have missed this!” and I’m here to tell you that we would have missed a lot.  Our lives would have been so much duller, quieter maybe, but so much less.  We have been blessed beyond measure to be able to call these children sons and daughters.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t stop in my tracks and think about the miracles that have happened to them with both emotional and physical healing.  I don’t deserve the blessings they bring but I am forever grateful that we get to be a part of their lives.

     

  • How We Ruined Our Older Children’s Lives

    Date: 2016.11.22 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    Dan and I started out like most other people.  We met.  We fell in love.  We got married.   We dreamed of our first little house with a garden and a white picket fence.  Someday we would drive cars that didn’t break down weekly.  We would have a couple of kids, visit our family on holidays, go to church on Sunday, and lead a happy, comfortable life.

    We had our kiddos.  Codey and Kyle threw us for a loop but pretty soon we were back to our old comfortable dreams.  The death of a son and 14 months in the hospital surely meant that from here on out our lives would be easy.  Zach and Cassie were born.  They grew up.  They were bright, sweet, caring kids.  They excelled at school.  We dreamed of the day we would buy a bigger house and take nice vacations.  They would go to college.  Dan and I would retire and travel.  We were living the American dream.

    Then one day a little girl was born in the NICU where Dan was doing his fellowship. The pre-adoptive parents chose to not adopt her because of her heart defect and the bio parents chose to not to pursue treatment options. We had a choice.  We could step up and do something or pretend there was nothing that could be done and just stand by and watch her die.

    When we decided to do something, most people believed we had lost our minds.

    We were questioned about it over and over again.

    Why would you do this?

    Why would you bring a child who may die into your family?

    You are going to ruin your life.

    How will your other children survive the pain?

    They will resent you.

    Your are going to ruin your children’s lives.

    Over and over again we heard those words.  You WILL ruin their lives!

    Well, it’s taken me years to get to this point, but today I’ll admit it.  It’s true.  We ruined their lives.

    I’ll own it.  Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say it was the best darn thing that ever happened to them.

    See although I once feared ruining our children’s lives, I no longer do.  In fact, I love that their lives have been ruined.  In fact, I praise God that it happened so early in their lives.  My eyes were closed to the pain and suffering of the world for too long.   They, however, understand how beautiful life is and how fleeting life can be.

    They know more medical terms than any child should know. We ruined their normal, comfortable lives and filled their days with G-tube feedings, seizures, heart caths and surgeries, kidney failure, lower limb paralysis, SMA, PKU, brain damage, incontinence, and chemotherapy.  They know what it means to spend many, many days, weeks, and even months in the hospital.

    We brought hurting children into our home not once but 11 times. We ruined their picture perfect life.  We made our kids share their home, their rooms, their parents.  We’ve made them sit through doctor’s appointments and surgeries.  They’ve cried tears over shots, blood draws, and i.v. starts.  They’ve held trembling hands, wiped away tears, and been filled with fear as their sibling was taken away for surgery wondering if their sibling would ever come home again.

    These things that we feared would ruin their lives for the worse have in fact made them better humans.  These things have opened their heart to others.  They don’t see the world the same way that others do.  How could they?  Adopting has opened their eyes to those who live without a mother and a father.  It opened their eyes to what orphanage life is. It made them appreciate what they have.

    They have been ruined for the ordinary because they have seen miracles in our home.  Children who shouldn’t be healed are in fact, healed.  They know how fleeting life is because there are children, who are NOT guaranteed tomorrow, running and laughing through our halls.  They understand that it is better to love with your whole heart and maybe hurt later, than to never have known the love of these sweet souls.

    They know that intelligence doesn’t make you a better person.  They know that taking care of the least of these may not always be easy but it is worthwhile.  They know that little souls who never utter a word can speak volumes.

    They know there is no greater blessing than allowing God to work in your life.  They know that being obedient, even when it scares you, brings blessings beyond measure.

    Our children are not perfect.  They still make mistakes.  We all do.  But what I know for sure is that God has ruined them for what the world stands for and instead has showed them what He values above all else.  I praise God daily that they are no longer unaware.

    I once feared those words that others uttered…

    “You will ruin your other children’s lives!

    But now I embrace those words and I celebrate them.

    We have been ruined for the ordinary and instead have embraced the extraordinary!

    It doesn’t get any better than that!

    our-family-now

     

     

     

  • My Heroes (2 More Questions)

    Date: 2016.09.12 | Category: Adoption

    In yesterday’s blog, I asked the girls questions about how they were told about their upcoming adoption and what they thought adoption was.  I also asked them two more questions that I saved for today.  What kept them going and did anyone treat them special?

    Jasmine

    Jasmine’s story is so complex and full of pain and trauma that is beyond anything any child should have to endure.  She has allowed me to share, and she herself has shared on her blog – Flower That Blooms, some of the least traumatic events that have happened to her.  If you have read any of her story, just let that soak in for awhile – these are the least traumatic events.  If you have been moved by her stories, just remember there is so much more that she has endured, things that bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them, her body holds the scars of that abuse and even more so her heart, and still she is a light in the world.

    What kept her going?  When the nannies were offering to help her die on numerous occasions, why didn’t she take that path?  She sat alone in a corner all day long.  She wasn’t allowed to join the kids for meals or school because those happened on a different floor.  She was ridiculed and made to feel like a burden.  So when her time was running out and she didn’t think a family was coming and she knew the horror of what was to come, why didn’t she end her life?

    She told me she never chose that path because she felt a presence that she couldn’t explain.  She felt like her life had purpose, that there was something she was supposed to do.  She never understood it, but she knew she should not take her life.  I have been told by someone who met Jasmine while she was in the orphanage that there was a light about her, that she exuded something good.

    This just blows my mind. I’m not sure I would have been that strong.  I’m not sure I would have kept my cheerful, hopeful personality facing all those adversities.

    Did anyone have compassion for you?   She told me that she remembers a better time with her grandma before she was unable to move.  Things were better when she was younger, she could still sit unassisted and still move a bit.  As her ability to move slowly faded, she became more of a “burden”.  At the age of 5, she was left alone while everyone went to work.  She was moved to the alleyway when family gatherings happened because no one wanted to be bothered by the child who was “cursed” with a disability.  She was allowed to go to school for a little while until everyone complained about her being there.   She was spit on and shunned by everyone.  She remembers a little girl who moved in next door who stopped in to talk to her in the alleyway sometimes.  When this little girl’s parents realized she was talking to “the cripple”, they moved (or at least that was what Jasmine was told).  These are the stories she shares and yet still she is still compassionate and filled with joy.

    She says no one in the orphanage was kind to her.  Whenever anyone lifted her they complained about how heavy she was and what a burden it was to care for her.   Whenever anyone brought her her meal, they complained about bringing food from another floor and having to go out of their way for her.  When others visited the orphanage, the nannies were charming in front of the guests. Those days were special and good, because for a little while she would be treated kindly.  She wishes she could tell stories of someone who truly made her feel special, but she isn’t able to.

    Jasmine has lived through unthinkable trauma and yet she is a compassionate fighter who wants more than anything to change the lives for other children in need.   She was able to live through the worst and hope for the best, for this reason and 1,000 more she will forever by my hero.

    Elyse 2015

    I asked Elyse the same questions.  What kept her going?  She says she was happy in foster care because she didn’t know any better.  She thought she was treated well in China until she came here and felt the true love of a family and even the acceptance and compassion of complete strangers. The realization that she was treated so badly for so many years has been difficult and the anger is palpable.

    Elyse’s “love language” is touch.  A hug and kiss and snuggle and Elyse is in her happy place.  She didn’t have that in China – quite the opposite. Harsh words and harsh physical contact. She thought she deserved it.

    She said she kept going because that is “just what life was”.  That is all she ever knew and it seemed okay at the time. The little ones kept her going. She said she enjoyed feeding and caring for the little kids, especially the babies and toddlers.  While older kids were allowed to play outside on the playground, she played inside with the little children.  Caring for the little ones gave her life purpose and kept her going.

    Did anyone treat you special?  She said her foster grandma loved her.  She knows that now although she was angry at her after she first came home to us and realized that her grandma didn’t protect her from the abuse that was happening.  She has now come to grips with those feelings.  She knows that her grandma probably did the best she could, in the position she was in, and tried to show love.

    The orphanage was different.  Elyse was a burden.  She was told this over and over again.  No one wanted to change her.  No one wanted to help her move.  No one was truly kind.  They just did their jobs and let her know how hard it was to care for her.  Elyse says there were a couple girls that she was friends with and together they tried to make life more bearable.

    Elyse says she loves life.  I can see that about Elyse.  She is a fighter.  She is outspoken.  She is full of love and has a bright spirit.   Elyse knows what is right and fights for it.  She is competitive and full of drive.  She wants to change the world as much as Jasmine does but in her own way.  She will always be my hero for her feisty, spunky, full of love ways.

    img_8456

    JJ is still pretty quiet and I am very careful to not push her for answers she is not ready to give.  I gave her the option of doing this with Jasmine and Elyse.  She asked Elyse and Jasmine why they did it.  Elyse and Jasmine both told her that the reason they decided to blog was that it would let others know what it was like for them as orphans.  JJ said she wanted to help to.

    What kept you going?  She said nothing did.  I told her that I had seen pictures of her smiling when she was very little. I asked her what changed.  The last pictures we got of her were so sad.  You could see the sadness in her eyes.  I asked her why she was so sad and her soft whisper brought me to my knees.  She looked me in the eyes and said, “I almost gived up mama!”

    JJ was separated from everyone.  She was in the hospital side of the orphanage.  She had no friends.  She wasn’t allowed to go anywhere.  She wasn’t allowed a wheelchair.  She was isolated, alone, and afraid.  I told her I saw pictures of her at a table with other kids and she confirmed what Jasmine said – that it was all show for when people visited.  She lived for those days.

    Was anyone kind to her?   She said no one was.  I can believe it because when they handed her off to us on the day we visited the orphanage, their comments made Dan and I cringe. It was like they were happy to be getting rid of her and relived to not do her cares anymore.  It was awful.  JJ was so sad.

    She said they often told her she was bad.  They would “forget” to feed her.  They said she was smelly and none of the adults wanted to be around her.

    JJ is tough.  She stands up for what she believes in.  You should see her now.  I am so proud of my little girl for fighting and holding on until we got there.   She deserves a super hero cape of her own.

    There are many people who tell me this wasn’t the reality for their children in the orphanage.  I say thank goodness.  But this is my girls’ reality.  I know there is a pecking order in these orphanages.  Even among the children if you can not walk, you are looked down upon.  If you are incontinent, it adds a whole other layer of disgust from others.  There are many factors – province, directors, nannies, disability, the list goes on and on.  We are sharing their story to show one side of what happens.  To open eyes and to help others understand that an institution is not a family.  It never will be family.  Children need families.

    “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”  – Christopher Reeve

    Maybe your home could use a superhero too!  🙂

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