Archive for the ‘Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)’ Category

  • What is Love?

    Date: 2017.10.10 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Edited:  Jasmine and I worked on this blog together.  She told me what she was okay with me sharing and her main thought throughout this post was that we, as parents, can not assume we know what our child is feeling.  

    We’ve been having some interesting conversations with the middles lately about love.  Jasmine recently asked, “How do you know if you love someone? What is love?”  I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one.  It seems like it should be easy enough to describe what love is but it was harder than I thought it would be.   How do you describe love?  How can you put it into words that a child from an orphanage can understand?  How can you adequately put into words that overwhelming feeling that you feel in your heart?

    Jasmine questions everything about how she feels.  We have had a hard couple years with her coming to terms with never being able to walk.  You wouldn’t think that would be an issue with a child who has never walked and has slowly lost more and more bodily control, but it is. The China doctors said if she wasn’t so lazy she would be able to walk so she believed if only she worked harder she could walk.  She was left at the orphanage at the age of 8 by her grandma who could no longer care for her so she believed if only she wasn’t so heavy she would have been worthy of staying with her grandma.  She was told by the orphanage director and the nannies that coming to America would allow her the medical help she needed to walk so she believed if only she held on just a little bit longer and a family came, then all of her dreams would come true.  This HOPE is what has kept her going for years.

    When she had her surgery over two years ago, she realized there was nothing that could be done.  She was never going to walk.  She was depressed and it was understandable.  She raged a lot.  She would be angry for days.  Just recently she shared that the driving force behind her wanting to stay with our family was that she was going to get treatment and be able to walk back into the orphanage and her grandmother’s house and prove that she was worthy of their love.  She wanted to prove them wrong.

    So while we thought she was adjusting well to our family, because she was happy and never complained, the truth was even though she acted like she was doing well, she was just waiting for the opportunity to walk so she could go back to China and show them all what a mistake they had made.  She was NOT vested in growing connections with our family because she already had a family in China.  Her HOPE was to one day go back to China where her grandma would welcome her back with open arms, tell Jasmine how much she missed her, and Jasmine would live happily ever after.  Jasmine liked us well enough but she wasn’t going to be staying so why attach?

    After her surgery she was so mad that she was never going to walk that she still wasn’t vested in working on relationships.  Her dreams had died.  Her HOPE was gone.  We were the people who had let her down and she was mad.  Everything that she had been planning was never going to happen.  Everything everyone had told her was a lie.

    It’s amazing how much you can miss when someone is quiet and pretends very, very well.  Jasmine is a sweet, sweet soul who has been through so many horrible things and has spent lots and lots of time alone.  As a very little girl her grandmother often left her sitting on the sidewalk for the whole day or she would leave her alone at home. No one else in the home was very connected to her.  Jasmine remembers one uncle/brother (The terms used in China are loose so I am unsure of his actual relationship to her.) who took care of her once when she had a horrible fever.   Outside of that she can’t remember anyone holding her hand or hugging her or tucking her in at night.  For the most part she was left alone and had a very lonely existence.

    When she went to the orphanage, she was unable to go to school because it was on another floor.  She was unable to eat with all the other children because the dining room was on another floor.  She was unable to go out to play because she couldn’t get down the stairs.  She was left alone in a room with her Chinese soap operas for days on end.

    It’s no wonder she doesn’t understand love because she was never shown love at least not in the way our family shows it.  We often talk about how love is “action”.  We love by how we care for others.  We hug and say “I love you” often.  We help each other.  My love language is doing things for others so I show them by doing.  I have explained that to Jasmine on many occasions.  I love you so I fix your favorite foods.  I love you so I am happy to take care of you.  I love you so I teach you.  I love you so I make sure you have your Chinese shows and music.   I love you so I hug you good night.  I love you so I make sure you take your medicine.  I can explain those things to her but the concept is foreign to her.  She can see how excited I am to see each of the children in the morning, how I care for them through out the day, and how I hug them and put them to bed, but it doesn’t resonate because it wasn’t her life until she was 14.  She sees these things and she knows I do it because I love them, but it still doesn’t make sense.

    She isn’t able to do much for anyone.  The truth is she is barely able to move.  She can brush her teeth and feed herself.  She can play on her Ipad and she can fold her origami birds, BUT she isn’t able to do all those things she sees me do for others, so she assumes she isn’t able to love.  She assumes there must be something wrong with her.  We tell her over and over again that when she hugs the littles or reads to them that is showing love.  When her heart hurts because they hurt, that is love.  But she still questions.  She still believes maybe she isn’t able to love.  She has been on the outside so long that she doesn’t know how to join the dance.

    Jasmine loves and cares for others but she hasn’t been able to put it into words.  She keeps saying she doesn’t understand or she doesn’t get it.  We know she loves in the way she cares about the kids, in the way she cares so deeply for all the orphans left in orphanages around the world, and in the way she cares for others that she sees hurting.

    So imagine my thrill when she said to me, “I think I got it Mom.  Remember when we had to share the bed in China? Remember how you pulled me close and held me? I don’t have the words for it. I never had anybody hold me close before. I never had anyone really hug me before. I can’t tell you how I felt. My heart was warm. Do you know that mom? My heart was warm and happy. How many kids will never never never know how that feels mama? That makes me sad.”

    She said she finally understood what love was.  She could put it in terms that she understood.  That was a HUGE moment for her.  But that moment was followed up by the words “Last night was the first night I no longer wanted to go back to China.”

    I will admit that I just stood there staring back at her.   Why would she want to go back to the place that caused her so much pain?  Why would she want to go back to the place where she was tortured?  Believe me when I say that I don’t use that word lightly.  She has never been treated with the kind of dignity and care that she deserved.  Why would she want to go back to the place where she just sat in a corner all day long?  America has power wheelchairs and opportunities.  America has a family that adores her.  Why would she want to go back to the place where they dropped her down stairs and left her alone?  But that’s just it, even when I think I know what she’s thinking, I don’t.  I am so far off because I don’t think the way she does. This is what she said, “I want to go back because I want them to tell me that they made a mistake.   I am worthy.  I AM NOT WORTHLESS!   I want them to pay for the horrible things that they did to me and I want to make sure nothing bad every happens to another child.”

    I’ve tried hard to explain that as much as we want others to do things, we can’t make them.  They are not going to make any of the past ok.  They are not going to take back what they did. There is no way she can protect every child in China, no matter how noble the wish is.  If there was a way to make this happen, we would travel with her and happily help in making this dream come true.

    We tell her she is worthy.  We remind her that her family has viewed her as worthy from day one.  We remind her that since she accepted Jesus Christ into her heart, she is the daughter of the King.  She is kind and beautiful and smart.  She is beyond brave.  She is resilient.  She is so much more than the person China deemed “worthless”.  We remind her again and again that walking doesn’t make you a worthy person, but in the end she has to believe this fact herself.

    We called this summer “The Summer of Healing” because we were working on healing our family after dealing with some pretty rough patches with Jasmine and her rages.  When someone is so unhappy the whole family ends up feeling it too.  As parents, you can try and protect the others as much as you can, but there’s hurt feelings no matter how hard you try.

    We turned a corner in her healing when she finally shared how she was feeling and how much anger she had toward those who hurt her.  Had I known any of what she was planning, cause we knew she had anger but not what she wanted to do because of that anger, we could have talked through it.  I was relieved that she finally shared so we could move forward.  And the question that started her healing was “Then what?”.  She hadn’t given any thought to what she would do after she went back or what would happen to her then.  She was stuck.

    So we worked on our Summer of Healing and now we are off to work on the Fall of Forgiveness.

    Forgiveness doesn’t make it all okay, but to truly heal you need to be able to forgive and let things go.  Forgiveness of ourselves is a must too.  I’ve been there.  It’s a hard road sometimes to forgive ourselves and to forgive those that have hurt us so deeply, especially when we carry the physical scars inflicted by them.  It makes it almost impossible to forget, but to heal we need to forgive and move forward.

    “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”   –  Marianne Williamson

    I think Jasmine has taken a huge step forward in deciding that she has to let go of her dream that she can some how make them all pay for what they’ve done.    Jasmine has taken giant healing steps forward this summer and we are praying that the “Fall of Forgiveness” will bring her heart the peace that it needs.

  • What If… (Jasmine’s Blog)

    Date: 2017.07.15 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Blog

    Now that I am 18, I have been thinking a lot about “what ifs”.

    What if I had stayed in China?

    What if my parents hadn’t come to adopt me?

    What if my grandmother hadn’t left me at the orphanage?

    What if I could walk?

    What if I never learned about God?

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?

    What if I didn’t have a family?

    Recently China changed the rules about adoption.  It got me to thinking about “what if” my parents hadn’t adopted when they did.  What if they waited to adopt for a few more years? They wouldn’t have been able to adopt two at a time or adopt more after Maisey and Ben.  Right now with the new rules you can only adopt one more if you have 5 little kids in your house.  I am happy mama and daddy adopted when they did and that China said “Yes!”.   I am really happy that God worked the miracles that He did so that mama and daddy could adopt but I am sad about all the kids that had a family who wants them but they can’t proceed with the adoption.  It makes my heart hurt for the kids who wait.

    If I had stayed in China, I would have gone to an old person home.  The nannies said that I will sit on the floor and the old people might sometimes give me food.  I used to think that maybe they would let me beg for money on the street.  The nannies said no one would want to take care of me so the nannies would help me die if I wanted to.  They would sit my pee out and tell me if I just drink it, I will die.  Sometimes I thought about drinking it to just be done, but I never did.

    So if I stayed in China, the best I could hope for was to beg on the street or to die.   In America, I can get a job.  I have a power wheelchair.  I can fall in love.  I can be a motivational speaker.  Maybe even someday I will write a book.

    What if my grandma hadn’t left me at the orphanage?  Only my grandma and my uncle liked me.  Grandma would leave me outside or on the bed when she went to work.   I would spend all day by myself because I couldn’t move very much.  When I was 8, I got to go to school for just a couple months and I loved it but then one day Grandma showed up and took me to the orphanage.

    If others in the house had liked me, maybe I could have stayed.  I can’t walk so people in China made fun of me.  They would say, “If you can’t walk, you can’t get married.”  Grandma would pray to Buddha for me to walk.  She gave me duck soup every day for a month because it would make me walk.  They tried all sorts of herbs and medicines to help me walk, but nothing worked.  If I stayed at my grandma’s, I would have had to stay in the house all the time.  I would have had to stay in the bed and people would have been even more angry with me.  I was bad because I was a girl and could not do dishes or cook so I was worthless.

    What if I could walk?  If I could walk, it would have changed everything.  I could have stayed in China.  I could have got married.  I could have worked.  If I could walk, I would have never known about orphans and kids needing help all around the world.  I would have just  worried about me.  I wouldn’t have known any better but I would have been a miserable person because loving others and helping them makes you a happier person.

    “My wheelchair was the key to seeing all this happen—especially since God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit … glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

    When I think about it now, I never wished (prayed) that I could walk.  I was always thankful for my good days and wanted to be loved.

    What if I never learned about God?  In China I felt like there was something bigger than me. I felt like God was telling me to never give up, even though I didn’t know it was God.  I could feel in my heart that there was something else out there if I just didn’t give up.  I watched t.v. and learned about “working hard” for Buddha but it didn’t feel right.  People always talk about having more power.  People always lie and steal your money.  All the t.v. shows talked about how if you don’t have anything you should fight for it.  If you don’t have it, they shouldn’t have it either.

    With God I learned to care about others.  I learned this life isn’t all about me.   I learned that if I just care about myself I will never really be happy.   When I help other people it feels like I do the right thing and my heart feels all “warm”.  I learned that my life has a purpose.   God has a plan for me.  Yesterday, I read a post that says God can use our pain to fulfill our purpose.   I like that.  It was about Joni Eareckson Tada.  If you don’t know her story, you should read it.

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?  I can be pretty selfish.  I only worry about myself.  I think I have it worse than anyone else.  I can spend a lot of my time wishing for other stuff.  All of a sudden I am an adult and I don’t want to have everything just be about me any more.  When I asked others to raise money for shoes and to pray and help Grace, it changed my heart.   I read all the stories on Love Without Boundaries and I can’t believe what kids have to live like.  They need eye surgery and heart surgery and food and school.  Kids have to dig through the dump.  My life is good and I have a lucky life.  Now I want to help others.

    What if I didn’t have my family?  I know I wouldn’t have known what I was missing but I would be sad.  In China, I learned to be mean to other people.  No one really looks out for anyone else.  My family fought with each other and they fought with the neighbors.  They always were fighting.  People drank a lot and hit each other.   In the orphanage, one of the nannies had a boyfriend and she wanted a new boyfriend so he hit the nanny as hard as he could.  He beat her up.  I know it’s not like that for everyone but I saw a lot of fighting.

    In our family, mama and daddy says sometimes you can fight but we stick together and we say we are sorry and we love each other.  Family is about being kind and generous and helping others.  Mama and daddy say family is forever.  This is what mama and daddy say…

    In China, I didn’t have hope but in America there is much hope.  I hope that I can help others.  I hope that I can encourage others.  I hope that I can have a job.  I hope that since I have figured out how to heal my heart that I can help others heal their hearts too.

    Please consider being the “Hope” for a child who needs you.

     

     

  • Adoption Questions Part 3

    Date: 2017.05.22 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jessica

    The girls and I have been talking a lot about what their days were like in China.  We decided to share their answers on the blog so others could understand what their days were like.  They want others to understand that these children need a family.  They need homes and love.  The greater the child’s disability the greater their need for someone to care for them.  All three girls of our girls were in wheelchairs and that plays into how they spent their days and how they were treated by others.  This post does NOT describe every child’s life in an orphanage, this is just our girl’s experiences.

    The following questions were answered by Jasmine (age 17 – adopted age 14), Elyse (age 11 – adopted age 9), and JJ (age 9 – adopted age 8).

    What time did you wake up every day? 

    Jasmine – We woke up at 7.  On Monday every week I would get up at 5 for a shower.

    Elyse – We woke up at 6.

    Jessica – I don’t know.  I never saw a clock.  It was light out.

    What did you eat for breakfast?

    Jasmine – We ate noodles every day for breakfast.

    Elyse – We didn’t have breakfast, only the babies ate bottles.

    Jessica – I didn’t eat breakfast.

    What did you eat for lunch?

    Jasmine – We had rice, tofu, meat, and green beans.

    Elyse – Sometimes we had soup or baby eggs, and rice.  We had veggies like bok choy and seaweed.  Sometimes special we had shrimp.

    Jessica –  I would eat soup with carrots and peas and wet rice (?).

    What did you eat for supper?

    Jasmine – We had pork every night with rice and seaweed soup and sausages.

    Elyse – Seaweed or tofu soup, congee, or rice.  Sometimes we would have meat – chicken or pork.

    Jessica – We would sometimes have chicken feet, pork, and soup.

    Were there ever any special treats?

    Jasmine – Chicken feet on New Year and Children’s Day.  Sometimes visitors brought crackers.

    Elyse – Chicken feet when my foster grandma visited.  Candy from visitors.

    Jessica – Visitors brought candy and crackers and weird milk.

    Did you ever have fruit?

    Jasmine – Bananas and apples for snack.  They would also let us have juice and the Chinese cracker.

    Elyse – Banana and apples and watermelon and sometimes mangoes.

    Jessica – Bananas and apples and oranges.

    What did you do during the day?

    Jasmine – Got up at 7, I wore the same clothes I slept in, breakfast was at 7:30, then I watched tv with everyone, sometimes I read to the kids and played with them, we would eat lunch at 12, watch more tv, take a nap at 1, snack at 3, watch more tv, then we eat dinner at 5, and watch more tv until 9 and then go to bed.   We were always in the same room except for sleeping.

    Elyse – I got up at 6, they put me on the toilet for a long, long time, then I would get up and help feed the babies, then back to the toilet,  I ate lunch on the toilet, and they would let me get up and feed the babies, put me back on the toilet, and I would eat supper on my little tiny table while on the toilet.  I would read books while sitting there.  It was so boring.   I would feed the babies before bed, change their diapers, and I would go to bed really late at night.  About once a week I would get to go to the school room and learn.  I like to learn.

    Jessica – I woke up when it was light outside.  I played with toys by myself.  I ate lunch.  I took a nap.  I watched tv. I ate supper.  I would play on my scooter and go around in circles.  I would go to bed when it was dark.

    Did you ever brush your teeth? 

    Jasmine – Once every 3 months or so.

    Elyse– Never brushed my teeth.

    Jessica – I never brushed my teeth.  I never ever see a toothbrush.

    What about clothes?

    Jasmine – I would wear the same clothes for one or two weeks.   The nannies always picked out my clothes.  If I asked to wear a dress the nannies would tell me that I don’t deserve a dress because I can’t walk.  I could wear nice clothes when someone was visiting.

    Elyse – I would wear the same clothes for close to a month.  I would still have to wear the same clothes if I got urine on them.  (Elyse is incontinent from spina bifida.)  I sometimes smelled so they made me sleep in the baby room but that was okay because I loved the babies.  The nannies said I can’t wear nice clothes because I can’t walk and I pee on my clothes because I have to wear a towel no diapers.  The nannies would pick the worst clothes for me unless someone was visiting and then I could wear nice clothes and as soon as the visitor left I would have to take it off and put on my dirty clothes again.

    Jessica – I changed my clothes when I got wet every day.  I wore yucky towels for diapers.   They hurt and was tied really tight.

    Did you play outside?

    Jasmine – No I could only sit at the window and watch the other kids play.  I wished I could play so much but I was upstairs and they couldn’t get me downstairs.   The boys would make fun of me for not going outside.

    Elyse – I wasn’t allowed to play outside with the other kids.  But it was okay because I got to take care of the babies.  Every time I looked at the babies I got upset because the nannies said they hate babies, but I love babies.  Who wouldn’t want a baby?  One time I took care of a baby a lot.  She was always happy with me but then she died because her head got too big.   I feel it was my job.  I liked my job.  The other girls thought the babies were yucky because they spit up and peed on them but that don’t bother me at all.

    Jessica – Sometimes for a little bit.

    What time did you go to bed?

    Jasmine – I went to bed at 9:30 because the nannies want to watch the tv.

    Elyse – I would go to bed sometimes late like 12:30.

    Jessica – I would go to bed when it was dark.

    Who did you share a room with?

    Jasmine – I shared the room with three other girls.

    Elyse – I shared the room with 20 babies.

    Jessica – The little kids.  There was lots of them.  They were little kids who couldn’t walk.

    Did you ever get to leave the orphanage?

    Jasmine – On Children’s Day every year we got to do fun stuff like go to the zoo, eat KFC, and go to a movie.

    Elyse – I never left the orphanage.

    Jessica – They tell me they would take me but they never did.

    Do you have any happy memories from the orphanage?

    Jasmine – I liked to play with the kids and read to them.

    Elyse – Taking care of the babies.  I loved the babies.

    Jessica – Feeding the babies bottle.

    What was the saddest thing for you?

    Jasmine – The nannies would hit me.  They would use a stick from the big apple in the box that China has.  They would sometimes tell me I was bad so I could not eat.  They would throw me on the bed and in the shower.  It was so scary because they would just throw me.  I didn’t want to take a shower.  Sometimes they make me sleep on the floor because they tell me I can get up myself but I can’t because I can’t move by myself.  When they would try to stretch my legs out to make me walk, but I couldn’t.  It really hurt.  When the kids and the nannies were really, really mean to me.

    Elyse –  When the baby died when I was holding it.  They baby just stopped breathing and the nanny took the baby away and brought in a different baby.  It was so very sad.  It made me so upset.  The baby’s head was just so big.   One time the nanny got mad at me and cut off the skin on my fingers.  She said I was going to tell the boss on her and she wanted to scare me.  When they would throw me on the toilet and on the bed and the bathtub.  I hated them throwing me down.  There is other really sad stuff I don’t want to talk about.

    Jessica – I hate the doctor!   I don’t like the nannies yelling at me.

    Did you have any friends?

    Jasmine – Liuli and JoLiy

    Elyse – Just the babies.

    Jessica – Yes, I can’t remember their names.

    Anything else you’d like to say?

    Jasmine – The nannies really didn’t like me at all.  They didn’t like taking care of me.  They always say I can walk and that I am just pretending so I can be lazy.   The nannies said people will never like me if I can’t walk.  They say I will never get married.  I am happy to have a family now.  I wish all the kids could have families.

    Elyse – The nannies tried to stretch out my legs.  They try and try to stretch them out.  (Elyse has contractures on both legs but she has no feeling in her legs.)   Orphanage life is not good for kids.  I wish I could change the world and I would pick that no babies would die or that there would be no evil people to hurt other people.

    Jessica – Orphanages are bad.  The worst place with ugly pink bathtubs and bad doctors.

     

    “Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12

     

     

     

     

     

  • What is a Life That Has Worth

    Date: 2016.05.27 | Category: Food for Thought Friday, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    It’s been a while since we’ve done a Food For Thought Friday. Today seems a good day to start again.

    Jasmine came to us with great hope for a new life. The first two years were pretty darn amazing. She was happy to have a family. She was happy to start a new life with  people who cared for her.   She was filled with joy over being able to learn and do new things.  Then she had her spinal fusion surgery and for some reason, even though we told her over and over again that it would only fix her back, she believed she would be healed and be able to walk. We have dealt this past year with her loss of hope and feelings of worthlessness about being a burden to those around her.

    It’s a strange thing, considering she has never walked, but the loss of hope that she would one day walk, has taken it’s toll on her joyful heart. We go for periods of time where she can be content and turn it around, but her sadness over the fact that her life seems to have no worth because she is unable to do anything for herself except brush her teeth and eat, wins on too many days. Everyone has blue days and we allow her those, but this is much more than that and it breaks our hearts.

    She is angry and she doesn’t know what to do with that anger.  She rages and screams out.  She can be angry for days.  She refuses to talk to anyone, especially a therapist.  Add the fact that no one has been there to teach her how to deal with her feelings, as we do with our young children, and we are left with a very angry toddler in a 16 year old’s body.

    We have spent our days repeating over and over again that we want to care for her.  We have told her, unlike her bio parents and her grandparents, we knew going in what her disability meant.  Dan’s a physician.  We knew as soon as we met her that she had a degenerative muscle disease.  We knew and we loved her and she was then and always would be our daughter.  But being abandoned when you are eight because you are too heavy to carry, has colored our girl’s world.  She believes at some point, it will be too much and we too will abandon her.  She’s striking out because she wants to be in control this time.  She wants to be the person who leaves, but because of her physical limitations she is unable to, so she is left doing the only thing she can which is scream out in anger over a world that is unfair.

    It’s been a very difficult year with her trying to get her to see that her life has worth.  This is not sadness over adoption related issues but rather over the loss of hope of one day walking again.  For Jasmine this year has been much like a person who finds themselves injured and paralyzed, learning how to find your purpose in life, when everything has changed.

    Jasmine recently saw a movie trailer for “Me Before You”.  She was so excited to go see this movie about a young man who is a quadriplegic who falls in love with his caregiver.  Jasmine is a romantic.  She loves romance and happy endings.  She is often upset that she believes no one could love her since she is unable to do much for herself.  I was excited about taking her to this movie, especially when I heard these quotes.

    “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

    “Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

    But then I read The Mighty‘s article about this movie. The movie ends with him ending his life with euthanasia. Really? We are trying our hardest to show our girl that you are more than your body.  That life is worth living.  We are trying to encourage her and get her to believe that what she was told in China is NOT the truth – that she does have worth. We are trying to show her that her life truly does have a purpose and that she has touched so many other lives.

    Now I have to say that I can not go to see this movie with her because no matter how wonderful the love story portion of the movie is, I can not deal with that subject right now.  She is at just too vulnerable a point.  I know at some point we will have to have this very heavy discussion.

    So for right now, we will continue to discuss what does “a life of worth” look like?

    If you can’t or don’t go to college, does your life still have worth?

    If you don’t marry, does your life have worth?

    If you don’t have children, does your life have worth?

    If you aren’t able to do any of your daily life cares, does your life have worth?

    • When you are left to live with your grandmother, because you are told your mother can not stand to look at you, you doubt your worth.
    • When you are abandoned because you are too heavy to carry any more, you doubt your worth.
    • When you are cared for in an orphanage where you aren’t even worth the time to teach because the school is one floor above you, you doubt your worth.
    • When you are left in a corner all day long because no one can bother moving you, you doubt your worth.
    • When you are left to sleep on the floor with no blankets because someone can’t be bothered to lift you or cover you up, you doubt your worth.
    • When you are told over and over again that the only way your life will have worth is if you walk, then what are you, as a child, to believe?

    These are Jasmine’s “truths” that we have to overcome.  She has talked about these facts often on her blog. (Flower that Blooms) She heard those truths for almost 14 years of her life.  She has heard our “truths” for only 3 years.  I know we will get there.  I just wish I could get her to see herself through my eyes.   I see a girl of great worth, who is compassionate and caring even though the world has let her down.  I see a girl that can change the world with just her words.  I see a girl of great strength and character.  I see a girl when told she can dream about anything, chooses to dream about a day when there are no more orphans.  I see a girl that others should try hard to be like.

    I believe that a life that has worth is a life that touches other’s lives.  I believe that you can have great purpose and never, ever fit the description of what the world believes is a life of worth.  My goal now is to get Jasmine to believe it.

     

     

     

  • Profound Life Lessons

    Date: 2015.09.25 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    I posted this on my Facebook group, Seriously Blessed by Adoption, the other day and I felt I should share it here too.  Jasmine’s words contain great wisdom.  I am constantly amazed at how much she has been able to grasp in such a short time.

    Profound lessons learned this afternoon:

    Jasmine coming to grips with never being able to walk is much like a person who is paralyzed coming to grips with what their life will now be like. We were told about a motivational Christian woman named Joni Eareckson Tada. Jasmine and I bought the movie and spent the afternoon watching it. Joni says that she would rather be in her wheelchair and know Jesus then walk and not know Him.

    Jasmine looked at me and said, “Mama, it’s like my life. If my grandmother hadn’t placed me in the orphanage, I would have spent my life in a corner in her room. I would have never gone to school. I would have never had a power wheelchair. I would never get to do the things I do now.

    If I had never gone to the orphanage, I would have never known how children hurt. I would have never known what it feels like to be an aging out child. I would have never cared about orphans.

    If I hadn’t gone to the orphanage, I would have never been adopted. I would have never been loved by you and daddy. I would have missed out on the love of all my sisters and brothers and the fun of watching kids join our family. And most of all I would have never heard about Jesus or known that my life was not worthless.

    The next day Jasmine woke up and said to me, “The very last thing that has happened is that I am still alive.  Mama, do you know what it is like to think that you would probably be dead if you hadn’t been adopted?”  She went on to tell me again how the nannies offered to help her end her life.  She told me that the nannies told her over and over again what would happen to her when she turned 14.  It isn’t always the case that you will be turned out on the street or go to an institution at 14.  If you can work, they will sometimes hire you.  If there is someone who has taken you under their wing, then they will allow you to stay until you are 18 or older.

    But they had let Jasmine know they were tired of taking care of her.  They told of her of the place she would go to live the minute she turned 14.  She was told it would be survival of the fittest at the adult institution.  I don’t know anything about these places so I asked around.  It is pretty much like it is here in the states.  It depends on what place you go to and how much they care, some are good, some are bearable, and some are very bad.  Where she would have gone was bad, so yes, it would have been very hard for her to survive there.

    Plus, without surgery, breathing would have gotten more and more difficult.  What kills these children with SMA normally is respiratory illnesses.  Here in the U.S. Jasmine has a cough assist machine to help her breath.  We use it every morning to help open up her lungs.  She had surgery that helped elongate her back and helps her take deeper breaths.   She gets regular checkups and help from the very best doctors.

    It’s a lot to handle as a 16 year old and yet she does it with grace most days.  She has her sad days and her mad days but for 90% of the time Jasmine is joyful and outgoing and compassionate.  Believe me with the stories she has told me, the fact that she isn’t a bitter, angry, awful teenager is in itself a miracle.  I ask myself that all the time.  How did she keep her joy?  How did she stay so hopeful?

    How?  She held on tight to the hope of walking.  She dreamed of having a family of her very own.  She knew that there was someone bigger than her out there that she prayed constantly to.

    I am so moved by her story.  I am so blessed to get to be her mama.  She teaches me something new every single day.  It is an amazing journey and I get to be the one to help her navigate it.  It’s a pretty amazing thing but that’s to be expected because she is a pretty amazing, wise young lady.

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.07.25 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Dream

    Dan and I often talked about what it meant for a 14 year old child to leave her country and everything she has ever known without so much as a tear.  We worried about her when she didn’t cry tears over lost friends.  Jasmine met us with a smile on her face and she smiled through the weeks in China and the trip home.   We asked the guides numerous times to find out what she was thinking.  We asked if she had any questions.  We were prepared for the tantrums and the fights, but none came.  In fact, the only question she ever asked was “Would we give her away in America?”  How could this be?  How could that be the only question?

    IMG_5655

    It was almost a year later when we first started to find out why she never cried when she left her homeland.  Jasmine had been told that by coming to America she could be healed.  She would walk.  This hope had kept her alive for years.  Add to that the fact that she had been told that the only life for her, would be one in an institution, where she would be beaten and not fed and surely die.  Yes, they did tell her these things, and well, she was more than ready to take a chance on this family that showed up and showed her love.  She was ready for a change and ready for a chance.

    I haven’t shared a lot about the struggles Jasmine has had these past few months, but they have been heartbreaking.  At first I believed that the extended hospitalization triggered some bad memories locked away from previous hospital stays where she was left alone, which is partially the reason, but the full reason was that Jasmine had lost hope.  She had lost the hope, that had been so fully embedded in her mind, the hope that had kept her going for years, that she would one day be healed and would walk.

    Even though we told her time and time again that her spinal fusion would only straighten her back and help her breathe easier, she still held out hope that she would walk after the surgery.  When she ended up being even weaker than she was before, it was too much to take.  She lashed out with words that cut deep.  She screamed.  She cried.  She raged.  Some days it was for a couple hours and some days it would last eight, nine or ten hours.

    Compounding the issue was that Jasmine has no coping skills.  No one had ever taught her what to do with her anger.  Yes, she is sixteen both physically and mentally, but emotionally she was a toddler.  No one has ever taught her how to work through her problems.  Many days she would be ok, but the light had left her eyes. We wondered if we would ever see that beautiful, joyful, straight-from-the-soul smile again.

    jazzy

    We worked hard at reminding her of her worth, but when you have heard you are worthless your whole life it’s hard to believe.  We told her that she could accomplish much.  We reminded her that her strength would come back, anyone would have felt weaker after lying flat on their back for a month.  We reminded her of her dream that she talked about in the hospital and before.  We told her God has big plans for her.  We told her that she could make a difference but even though her head understood what we were saying her heart just couldn’t accept it.

    We shared Rick Warren’s quote (Which Dan and I fully believe from our life experiences.) – “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”

    She wasn’t lashing out every day but it took very little to make her angry.  Everyone in the house walked around on pins and needles afraid that they might say something to her.  Even the littles were affected.  They no longer ran to Jasmine for a book to read or to show her something they did.  Most of the lashing out was saved for me. I had a really hard time with this because Jasmine and I had had a really close loving relationship. It was me she shared her fears with.  It was me that she told her nightmares and her stories of abuse.   Dan reminded me time and time again that the reason she said those things to me was that she felt safe with me.  It was because she knew that I would still love her and would never leave her that she felt safe sharing.   Even though I knew this truth, it was hard not to react sometimes.   Sometimes I was proud of my responses, often times I was not.  Sometimes I made things better and sometimes I made things worse.

    We tried to remind her of her wish to help orphans.  We came up with the name Jasmine’s Dream based on her comments from one of her surgeries.  As she was getting set up for one of her many surgeries after her wound infection, the anesthesiologist started talking to Jasmine.  The doctor told Jasmine that often times the medicine helps you to dream.  She asked Jasmine what she was going to dream about.  Jasmine merely stated, “I am going to dream that one day there will be no more orphans.”  The room went silent.  The doctor later told me that she was so touched by this comment.  There was no dreaming of vacations on the beach or shopping trips.  The anesthesiologist told me she would remember this forever.

    Jasmine’s Dream was created to continue the work we have already done during the past two years sponsoring children and helping others adopt.  Jasmine and Grace have both raised funds for nutrition programs at Jasmine’s orphanage.  We wanted Jasmine to fully grasp that she could make a difference.  We wanted her to know that she had worth no matter what but that her time on this earth was no a mistake.  She was not a mistake.   Dan found her a copy of the Purpose Driven Life in Chinese and English.   The second chapter is called “You are NOT an Accident”.  This chapter has taken on new meaning in our house.

    As it often is with our children, hearing it from another source made what we were saying even more believable.  She started to quote the book.  She started to believe that her life had meaning.  She started to dream about Jasmine’s Dream again.  She asked me one day if she could start by helping 1,000 children?  I told her it was possible and I made her a board to write down the names of the children we have helped.   We were all amazed when we realized that we had helped 86 children so far.  It’s hard to know how many children their $8,000+ helped with the nutrition program (Heroes for Healing) so we say 86+.

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 241

    She started telling her siblings about how to apply the lessons taught in the book.  She talks about forgiveness.  She talks about her life having meaning.  I knew Jasmine was finally getting it when she came to me and said that if she hadn’t been an aging out child in China, she wouldn’t care about aging out teens.  If she hadn’t been abandoned by a grandma that cared, then she wouldn’t understand and want to help children stay together by getting the surgeries that they need in China.  If she hadn’t been allowed to be adopted, she would never have learned about God’s love.

    Is she completely healed?  Of course not.   The past pains and hurts are many.  It will take a while for her to fully accept that the limitations of her body are forever.  BUT she has made huge progress and that smile is back on her face.  Jasmine has a very special soul.  She is a very, very special girl.  I love to watch others interact with her.  It’s one of those things that you can’t even explain.  I fully believe that God has plans for her and she has already affected many lives.  The fact that she now believes it too makes this mama’s heart very, very happy.

    If you would like to follow along, we have started a group page for her on Facebook called Jasmine’s Dream.  We are working with Love Without Boundaries (LWB) to set up a fund on their page for her.  LWB advocated for Jasmine and they are the reason we found her.  Dan and I believe so fully in this foundation that we serve on the board of directors.

    Jasmine lwb

    We are ready to help our girl achieve her dream.  What a blessing it would be if there truly were no more orphans in the world.  What if we could help families stay intact?  What if we could provide support for those who were struggling?  What if instead of adoption numbers plummeting people saw the need and stepped up – one child at a time?  What if there were more foster homes?  What if no child aged out?  What if Jasmine’s dream became reality?   What if….????  Please consider being a part of helping my girl’s dream come true.

    You can ADOPTFOSTERSPONSOR A CHILDVOLUNTEER – DONATE – EDUCATE!

     

  • Jasmine’s Dream (Part 1)

    Date: 2015.05.19 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    As you know, Jasmine and I have been talking a lot these past few weeks.  It has been hard for her to give up hope that she would one day walk.  Slowly losing the use of your body is a lot for a 16 year old to accept.  Dan and I have decided that she needs something bigger than herself to dream about.  She needs hope to be able to help.  She needs to know that she can still achieve much and help many children.  Her hope is that one day there will be no more orphans.  She wants to keep families intact and help those children, that are hard to place, get adopted.  We are working on “Jasmine’s Dream” and soon we will tell you all about her goal.

    Jasmine has been praying for four children specifically.  She has actually been praying that there is still room in our home for more, but right now that doesn’t seem to be where God is leading.  Although, I have learned long ago to not say no to God so you will never hear me say, “We are done for sure!”  One never knows where God will lead.

    Our family has been praying for Superman, Baby Hope, Summer and the little girl that Jasmine was in the orphanage with.  There are children that you see on the advocacy sites, that steal your heart for whatever reason.  For example, when we were adding a second child to our adoption, there was one little girl that I just couldn’t get off my mind.  I kept praying for a clear answer and the answer was never yes.

    I kept thinking how can it ever be wrong to adopt a child?  I kept asking God to make things clear.  The “let’s fix this now” part of me wanted to go get her now, but I knew in my heart she wasn’t meant to be my daughter.  She has now been chosen.  I have seen pictures of her new family.  I have read the words leading up to their decision to submit their Letter of Intent. (Ridiculous Faith)  I love how God works and yet I have shed tears over a little girl that was not meant to be ours.

    I mean really who wouldn’t want to call this child daughter?  Who wouldn’t want to stand there and have this little face look up to yours expectantly?  Who wouldn’t want to shower her with unconditional love and help her to be the very best she could be?

    poppy

    Many have looked at her file and walked away.  Her physical beauty and big personality could not put them at ease.  There were just too many unknowns in her file.  That’s the problem with adoption.  There are so many unknowns.  We can’t imagine being able to handle the physical or mental disabilities.  We look for the easiest problems, the fixable things.  We look for things we are comfortable with or already know.  I have talked many times about the fact that I’m not sure what I would have said if I had known Lainey or Jasmine’s true diagnosis before we got to China.  I’m not sure I would have taken the chance.  I mean who would sign up for their child slowly fading away with a degenerative muscle disease or pick a child who cried all day and beat her head on the wall especially when their lives were already so complicated?

    I can guarantee you that Kyle dying or Codey being in the hospital for 14 months was not what I wanted.  If I had been asked beforehand, I would have adamantly denied that I could handle it and walked away.  BUT Codey and Kyle changed my entire life…they changed my walk with God.  My relationship grew.  My life was fuller.  My viewpoint clearer.  My priorities changed forever.  Those two things made me who I am today.  Who would I be if I hadn’t walked that journey?

    The point when God asks us to follow His lead, isn’t that we can handle it.  It’s just the opposite.  It’s to show how much we need Him.  God’s glory is shown in our weaknesses.  It’s only when we say over and over again “Only with God” that people take notice.

    Each time God asked us to step out in faith and we saw how being obedient to His call blessed us and grew our relationship, it made following through the next time we heard the call just a little bit easier, until we got to the point that we didn’t question it when He called.  We were that sure that God’s way (the unknown – the difficult – the faith growing) was so much better than our way (the comfortable), that we said, “Okay God.  I have no idea how this is going to work, but let your glory shine!   We trust you!”.

    Jasmine knows what it means to be overlooked.  Jasmine knows what it means to almost have time run out.  Jasmine knows what it means to sit in an orphanage day after day after day.  Jasmine knows the scars that slowly build up on your heart over time and the overwhelming fear that can cloud your mind and because of these things Jasmine dreams of doing more.

    She has asked over and over again what we can do.  She prays for these children and the others left behind.  Recently Gracie and Jasmine asked me about sending their allowance to two of these children who have funds set up.  Their families have stepped up, even though their child’s future is uncertain.  Two of them have traveled and one will travel soon.  Jasmine and Grace chose to give their allowances to these children.  They talked about how there was nothing that they needed and what better use would there be for their money?  Won’t you consider helping them?  Superman’s family will travel soon and the families are already in country with Baby Hope and Summer right now.

    This is what we are called to do as Christians.

    We are called to care for the widow and the orphan.

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

    We are called to give away our possessions:

    Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  Luke 12:33

    If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  1 John 3:17

    We are called to bear each other’s burdens.

    Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

    We are called to help each other and not just encourage with words.

    What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:14-17

    What are you living for?  Life on earth is but a small portion of eternity.

    Francis Chan – Rope

    How are you going to finish?

    Francis Chan – Balance Beam

    Make your life matter.  Leave a legacy.  Don’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow may never come.  Dream big and let God provide!

     In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”   Acts 20:35

  • Beauty amidst the Ashes

    Date: 2015.04.29 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I believe there is always good that comes out of tests and trials.   Life is all about perspective and how you choose to see things.  I firmly believe that God can take the worst situation and turn it around for good.

    Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Jasmine has been by all accounts the poster child for teen adoption.  From the moment we met her she has been nothing but sweet and joyful.  We worried while we were in China that she didn’t cry or have any questions for us.  We wondered why she didn’t seem sad to leave her life behind.  She seemed more than ready to join a family and start a new life and although everyone kept telling us this was just the honeymoon period, it never ended.  She was a great addition to the family and instantly bonded with everyone.

    Except for a few bad dreams and the sharing of some absolutely horrible stories of her past life, we have had a pretty uneventful 20 months.

    We entered the hospital on January 13th for what was to be a week long hospital stay after spinal fusion surgery.  Everything went according to plan and we went home six days after surgery.  Six days after coming home Jasmine started running a fever and we took her to the local hospital.  Jasmine ended up being septic with a wound infection and was transferred by ambulance back to the children’s hospital two hours away.  This infection would lead to a 30 day hospital stay, which included pancreatitis, a lumbar drain being placed, and four more surgeries.

    The stay was very hard on Jasmine.  She had to lie flat on her back for weeks and that is the most painful position for her to be in.  During procedures we had a couple bouts of post traumatic stress that lead to hours of crying hysterically and there was no way to calm her.   It was extremely painful on our hearts.  It was hard to watch our happy, joyful Jasmine be so sad.

    Dan and I decided that I should not leave her side in the hospital.  Jasmine had been left in the hospital alone numerous times while in China. She was convinced that we would abandon her in the hospital too.  For that reason, I only left her room for short bouts of time.  I missed the kids at home but everyone understood that this was what Jasmine needed and we all agreed that although it was hard, it was what needed to happen.

    Before I delve into the rest of the story, I want you to know that Jasmine and I have talked about whether or not to share this and she believes it should be shared.   I also believe there is much to be learned from this story but I wanted to wait until my feelings were on a more even keel before typing anything. The past three months and especially the month of March was extremely hard on this mama’s heart.  I was hurt and angry over things that were said.  I don’t want my hurt feelings to color this story and for that reason I waited until now to share.

    When we got home we noticed that Jasmine wasn’t any happier.  She sat in her chair in the corner of the living room or at the table.  She didn’t want to call her friends or play on her I-pad or do any of the number of other things that she loved to do.   I started to worry about depression but Dan said this was to all be expected.  She was dealing with a lot and needed some time to decompress.

    It’s true that she was dealing with a lot.  She was much weaker after lying in bed for so long.  She wasn’t even able to hold her head up by herself.  She knew for a fact that she had SMA and knew that some day she would get worse.  Because she was so weak after surgery, Jasmine started to believe that this was already happening.  When she was in the orphanage she had the belief that she would come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told her on many occasions that she would see doctors here that could treat her and allow her to walk.  I believe this is what got Jasmine through all those years in the orphanage.

    Surgery and a diagnosis had taken away that dream.  She started to wonder what there was to live for.  She felt sick.  She knew she had to have a feeding tube for an extended period of time, i.v. antibiotics with a pic line, and then oral antibiotics for a year.  All of this still might not fix it and she could end up still needing her hardware removed at the end of that year.  It was a lot for a little girl to take in.

    We talked to her about her regaining her strength.  We told her that this wouldn’t last.  We made lists of what she could still do.  We showed her in every way possible that there was very little that she was able to do before that she couldn’t do now and that those things would be fixed once she was stronger.  She didn’t believe us.  She was just so sad and coming from a girl that oozes joy, it was very hard to watch.

    Jasmine started being mean.  It was small digs at first and then it was outright nasty.  I’m sharing this not because I want to paint her in a bad light but because it may help someone else.  Jasmine would say mean things to me and then when it made me cry, she would smile.  It was so hard on my heart and so hard to not take personally.  I knew she was hurting.  I read all the articles on the whys and the whats of a hurting child.  I read about how to stay calm.  I read about how to redirect them and teach them, BUT I can tell you in the midst of a child raging at you it is extremely hard to not take it personally and stay calm.

    I gave myself timeouts.  I walked around our acreage.  I sat in the bathroom and cried.  I prayed and begged God for some insight and patience.  I tried my best to not react and I failed many, many times.

    One day after a particular mean outburst, Hope, Grace and Elyse had had enough.  This was my fourth time crying that morning and they turned on Jasmine.  The wonderful part was they had taken everything Dan and I had said and they implemented it.   They weren’t mean.  They didn’t raise their voices.  They merely questioned her as to why she said what she did and why she was acting that way.  They let her know that they didn’t appreciate her making me cry and they told her that there was nothing she could do to make them not love her.  I have never been more proud of my girls.

    Dan talked with Jasmine after that and she finally opened up.  She was sad about the loss of dreams.  She had started to believe that what she was told in the orphanage was true – that she was just so bad that she deserved this.  She questioned God and what her life meant.  She questioned whether anyone could really love her.  She was questioning her future and what a burden she would be to us.

    Dan was finally able to reach her by saying if she believed she needed to be punished, and we in no way thought that was true, she had already had that happen.  She had been through more in her short life than anyone should ever have to go through.   He told her again about the miracle that had to happen for her to join our family.  How we had to get approval for three and how we had to work so hard to get there before she aged out.  He asked her if God wanted her to be punished why would He allow her to join our family?  Why would those miracles have taken place?

    Dan explained again what God’s forgiveness meant.  He explained that her past was in the past.  She was forgiven.  He explained that God already knew her future and she didn’t need to worry about it because we would always be there.  Her family was not going to leave her.  Dan also explained that she need to figure out her purpose so that she knew why she was living today.  What did she want to accomplish with her life?   What did she want her life to say?

    That was the turning point for Jasmine.  We started to see more of our girl emerge.  Her smile started to return and we once again heard her laughter.  She told me she has a dream and that she believes she knows what her purpose is.  She has started writing a blog about this, which I am not allowed to see until it is finished.   I have been thinking a long time about setting up a fund called Jasmine’s Dream, but was unsure of what path to take with it.  I do believe I may have more insight after she writes this blog.

    Now for the good that came after a very painful couple of months.  Elyse had informed us when she arrived in America that she would not be learning a lot of English.  She would learn enough to respond but she was NOT going to learn any hard words.  This lasted for about two days when Jasmine was in the hospital for her second admission.  Elyse is very outgoing and the fact that she could not communicate with anyone at home about drove her crazy.  I am happy to say that she is conversing very well after only four months home.  She is able to understand most simple instructions and she can let us know what she is feeling and what she wants with ease.

    The other blessing that happened with Elyse is that she was unsure of how she felt towards me at first, but after being home for only a few months, was the first to defend me when Jasmine lashed out.  Elyse said she knew how much I loved them and how much I was willing to do for them.  She talked about how I cared for them and made sure they were okay.  She talked about how silly I was and how much fun that made her life.  Those were precious, precious words to hear.

    I don’t believe the first hospital stay would have brought healing to Jasmine.  I believe only the second, longer stay brought her to the place where she had to confront her past and decide what she was going to do with her future.  I hate what she went through in the hospital, but I will be forever grateful for the healing it brought to our girl emotionally.

    The biggest place of healing came from her understanding that we would never leave her.  When Jasmine finally admitted that she was being mean, especially to me, because she didn’t want us to love her because it would just hurt too much when we left her, we finally had an answer as to the “why” she was acting out.  She told us that her grandma had told her she was placing Jasmine in the orphanage because she loved her too much.  I can’t imagine what this did to an 8 year old’s mind.  She has been hurt by so many people that she loved.  She has been let down and lied to.  She has endured more than any child should and now that she finally had the love of family she was afraid it would all be taken away from her.   She decided that she would end it on her own terms.  If she made us all angry, then we would not love her and she wouldn’t be hurt again.

    I told her time and time again that this would not work.  I told her she could be as angry as she wanted with me, that my feelings would be hurt, but she could not make me not love her.  I would always love her because she was my daughter.  She would lash out and I would still tuck her in and tell her that I loved her.  I would still care for her and do her cares.  She was so confused.  Day after day, I said “I love you” even when she was not being nice.  All the pain I had gone through as a child let me know what she needed.

    Then one day, I knew we had turned a corner.  When I told Jasmine that we could never, ever just return her to China, she got so upset.  She had never said she wanted to return before.  Not once in almost two years had she said she wanted to go back to China.  Yet, here she was angry that she couldn’t just get on a plane and go back.  She finally admitted that she now wanted to go back to China and find her parents to let them know they were wrong.  She wanted them to see that someone could love her and that she truly had worth.  She wanted them to see what she was able to accomplish even though she couldn’t walk.

    We will continue to show her what family truly means.  We will continue to support her and let her know that we will never leave her side.  We still have a long ways to go, but she is happy again and that is a beautiful thing.  I knew we were finally on the path to healing when I heard her say those beautiful words “I have worth!”.

    I have worth, God loves me, and I am alive to fulfill my purpose!  A mother couldn’t ask for more for her little girl.  Well, that and seeing this beautiful smile again.  God is good!  Life is good, even through the trials, life is so very good!!!!!

    jazzy

     

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    We knew after Jasmine’s initial post-adoption evaluations that she would one day need a spinal fusion surgery to help correct the curvature of her spine and allow her to breathe easier.  The ortho team said that we would need to proceed after her spine reached the 60 degree curvature mark.

    After 18 months at home, the time had finally come to prepare for surgery.  We picked a time that would allow her to heal before her sister’s wedding.  January 13th was the day that was picked.  We would only be home for two weeks with Max and Elyse but the surgery and subsequent hospital stay was only to last 7-10 days so we thought we would all be fine.

    The children’s hospital is 2 hours away and we had to be there early in the morning for Jasmine’s surgery so we stayed overnight in a hotel in town.  We let her pick how she wanted to spend her evening.  She chose HuHot and a movie.  This girl loves her spicy food.  If you’d like to try Jasmine’s HuHot recipe add six ladles of the spiciest sauce along with 3 ladles of hot chili oil and then watch as your cook’s eyes water.  You don’t even have to eat it to get the full effect.   Your eyes will water just sitting next to her.

    Jasmine wanted to go to a movie and she chose the movie, Annie.  We weren’t sure how she would react to it, but she was adamant that she wanted to see it.  Jasmine’s loved the movie and when I asked her why she said that Annie was happy no matter what, that Annie made the best of her circumstances, and Annie didn’t forget her friends.  Jasmine also said she like how Annie understood family was more important than money.

    Jasmine slept relatively well and said she wasn’t very nervous about the surgery.  She was, however, very concerned that we may leave her alone in the hospital.  This was a valid concern because it had happened to her in China on more than one occasion.  I can not imagine what that must feel like as a child to go through a hospital stay alone and yet it happens to many children each and every day.  The endure open heart surgeries, spinal fusions, shunt surgeries, etc. all alone.  It is truly heartbreaking.

    We told her over and over again that nothing would make us leave.  We loved her and we would be by her side every step of the way.  We would be there when she went to sleep and we would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.  She would never be alone again.

    mom and Jasmine

    Jasmine’s initial surgery went well and the correction on her spine was amazing.

    back 3

    She was released from the hospital six days later.

    Jasmine going home

    Five days later she started running a fever and had chills by the late evening we knew she had to be seen.  We were hoping it was something simple like a urinary tract infection but it was a wound infection.  They admitted her to the hospital and then to the PICU at our local hospital.  In the morning they transferred her by ambulance to the children’s hospital.

    They took her to surgery to irrigate her wound and redo the bone graft.  During this surgery they noticed that she had a tear in her dura.  They patched it and hoped for the best.

    A few days later she started having a horrible headache, her back drain went from very little output to 350 mls and we knew that her cerebral spinal fluid was still leaking.  The took her back to surgery to put in a lumbar drain and she would have to lie flat on her back for a week as she healed.  For Jasmine this was torture because lying flat on her back is the hardest position, the most painful position to be in.  She was not allowed to roll side to side or sit up at all.

    After a week, she was allowed to slowly sit up.  A few hours later we noticed leakage from her back wound.  The dura had not healed over as hoped.  She would need another surgery to patch the wound.

    They took her back for her fourth surgery.  The plan was to just open her wound a little and repair the leak but when they opened the wound they noticed that the fluid looked cloudy.  They decided to reopen the whole wound and irrigate the area again along with doing the repair to the leak and redoing the bone graft.

    Jasmine was again required to lie flat for a week.  She was noticeably weaker and had horrible stomach pain.  We thought initially it was because she really hadn’t eaten much for weeks and had been on considerable pain medication for the back and hip pain and also for the excruciating headaches caused by the spinal fluid leak.  We later learned that she had pancreatitis.  The poor girl just couldn’t catch a break.

    The plan was to slowly introduce food, but she just couldn’t eat.  She constantly said her stomach felt full and hurt so much.  We had been in the hospital, during this second admission, for an additional 30 days so the decision was made to put in an NJ tube to allow her to go home and heal.  We packed up again and headed for home with hopes that all would go well this time.

    jazz

    Jasmine came home on tube feedings and she had a PIC line for iv medication for the wound infection.  She has done amazingly well and just a few short weeks later she was allowed to take out the NJ tube and remove the PIC line.

    pic line removal

    I don’t know why Jasmine went through what she went through.  It would seem to me that our girl had been through enough in her lifetime.  I do know that she touched many lives while she was in the hospital, many people heard her story and what it means to grow up in an orphanage.

    There are many more things I want to write about her stay, but it will have to wait for another day.  I am having a hard time putting into words what it meant for her mentally and spiritually to be in the hospital.  There were issues with people understanding her special circumstances.  The hospital stay brought up old memories and pain.  I got to see first hand what it truly means to have post traumatic stress disorder.  I’m not sure I will ever adequately be able to explain it but someday I will try.  It’s just too painful right now.

    For now, she is healing well.  She will be on oral antibiotics for at least six months and possibly up to a year.  Hopefully, her hardware will not have to be removed but they will decide that at a later time.  For now, she is regaining her strength and eating better.  She is sitting up straighter and breathing much easier.   Physically she is healing well.  Emotionally the healing will take a lot more time.

    It’s been a hard, bumpy, long road but the journey is a lot smoother right now so we are enjoying the relative peace and quiet and looking forward to Cassie’s wedding in May.

  • Believe me…you don’t understand!

    Date: 2015.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Jasmine and I have long talks about what to share, what information will make a difference, what information will teach, and in the end we decide some things are just too personal to share about her previous life.  I know that fact is shocking considering how much she has allowed me to share, but let’s just say life for these kids is hard in so many ways and although there is tons of information she has chosen to share, there is just as much that she has chosen not to share.   She had a life before the orphanage and it is that life that she is most hesitant to share about.

    I believe I know at least part of the reason for this, it’s one thing to have someone question what a caregiver, who is a stranger, has told you to be truth.  It’s another thing to question what people, who are supposed to love you, care for you, and protect you, have told you is the truth.  It will take a long time to get through all the hurt from Jasmine’s first eight years.   Her words in regard to this matter are, “If I tell you about my life and how bad I really am, you could never, ever love me and I want you to love me mommy.”

    I have been so happy to have Jasmine as a translator for Elyse.  With the toddlers the language barrier wasn’t much of an issue.  We used signs and simple language, both Mandarin and English, and we did just fine.  They picked up English very quickly.  With Jasmine it was much harder at first, she knew very little English and we knew very little Mandarin.  We played a lot of charades for the first couple of months. We used Google Translate, although it does a poor job translating in very much detail.  Jasmine was pretty easy going and learned English amazingly quick.

    Elyse joined our family and knew no English.  She informed us that she would not be learning English and she refused to even try during the first two weeks home.  Jasmine’s extended stay in the hospital nipped that in the bud though and during the last 30 days she has learned many new phrases and is picking up English rather quickly and has decided that she likes knowing two languages (three if you count the ASL we use too).

    Elyse came to us with some very interesting thoughts.  I am sharing these thoughts to let others, who are adopting older children, understand that even if you think you know what is going on in their heads, you couldn’t possibly comprehend everything that they are thinking.  Unless you speak perfect Mandarin, know for a fact what their nannies have told them, and they trust you enough to have a indepth conversation with you, you are not going to know for a very long time what they believe to be the truth and what their fears are.

    I consider it okay to share these thoughts because these thoughts are not Elyse’s.   Elyse can not be held accountable for these thoughts nor should anyone think differently about her because of these thoughts.  These thoughts are the lies that she has been fed over and over again throughout her life until she finally made them her belief system.   If you will, it’s a form of brainwashing.  If you tell a child they are stupid and worthless over and over again, they will believe it.   If you tell a child that they are ugly, they will believe it.  If you tell them they can not do anything, and no one will every want them, they will believe it.  If it is the only thing they hear day in and day out, it becomes their reality.

    Elyse has been told that her only hope to be happy in life is to come to America and get her legs fixed.  Not only that, but she has been told she is lucky because she is beautiful.  Being beautiful, getting her legs fixed, and IF she can have a baby, may make her appealing enough to a man that he may want to marry her and  then she could finally be happy.

    When we told Elyse that she had a doctor’s appointment her first words were, “Will they tell me if I can have babies?”   She was so disappointed that she was just going in for a routine visit.  And if all those other lies weren’t enough, she was also told that the doctors would be able to fix her legs and she will be able to walk.  Elyse has spina bifida and no feeling in her legs.  You can not fix this kind of nerve damage.  Her legs are atrophied.  One leg will not bend and one leg stays bent.  No only did they feed her lies but they gave her false hope.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to have to crush those dreams.

    Elyse is fixated on her looks.  It’s very important to her.  While we were in China, she would practice posing and take picture after picture of herself.  She took over 3,000 pictures.  She would stare at herself in the mirror and fix her hair for an hour.   She wants to wear make-up.  She wants to be appealing.  She worries about whether or not her hair is styled just right.  She is very sure of what she will wear and what she won’t.   All of these things are not bad in and of themselves, but the reason for being overly concerned about them is bad, and without the knowledge that Jasmine gave us I wouldn’t have known what to make of Elyse’s behavior.

    Elyse 15

    Elyse doesn’t like that her skin is darker.   She doesn’t like that her stomach sticks out a little bit.  She doesn’t like the lump on her back.  She really doesn’t like people who are overweight.   In China, I had difficulty with this.  I am overweight.   Having your child make faces and be disgusted over anyone that she sees that is overweight hurt my feelings.  I tried not to take it personally but it was difficult.   I knew that culturally that heavier people were made fun of in China.  I knew this but it still hurt.

    Here is what I’d like you to picture.  You are in China meeting the child you have waited for and prayed for for almost a year and she doesn’t necessarily like you.  She likes all the other mamas in your group because they are skinny.  She likes to point to them and then point to your stomach and say “no”.  When you eat, she makes faces.   She refuses to eat.  She bosses people around about what she would eat.  She constantly talks about being fat or getting fat.  Considering she is 9 years old and weighs 44 pounds, the likelihood of that happening in the next year is pretty slim.

    Elyse 14

    She has an over-the-top personality and she turns it on extra bright when she is with other people.   She does it in hopes that they won’t notice her disability.  This has become her life mantra…..beauty means everything and without it she has no worth.

    Underneath it all she is a sweet girl.  With Max she was adorable.   When we were in the room, she was so very sweet.  She wants to be loved.  She wants the love of family.  She is only doing what everyone during her whole life has told her is right.  You can not hold that against a child.  Without Jasmine my judgment of what Elyse was doing would have been the wrong judgment.  I would have been angry at her attitude because I wouldn’t have had the proper framework of why she thinks what she thinks.   You have to take all of these things into account when you are dealing with these older adopted kids.

    Max 5

    We used Google Translate a lot with Jasmine.  It works for short phrases.  It wasn’t until Jasmine started writing her blog and I used Google Translate to translate it that I realized how off it was.  Someone who knows Mandarin and English wrote to me and said that what Jasmine wrote was even more beautiful when it was translated correctly and they were right.  That was eye opening.  Who knows what I had been saying to Jasmine during those first few months.

    A friend was explaining how different words mean different things in Mandarin as opposed to English.  Silly in Mandarin means you are a fool.  If you want to tell them they are silly, you should say they are playful or jesting.  They often say open when they mean on.   Naughty means impish or mischievous not badly behaved.  The character for chicken and muscle are the same. The list is long on words that have different meanings for them so even if they do understand what the words means it may not mean the same thing to you as it does to them.

    These children refer to the nannies as mama.  Jasmine was told she had to call them mama or she would be punished.  They refer to older girls as jiejie (older sister) and younger girls as meimei (little sister).  Much older girls are called aunt and men are called uncles.  The elderly are referred to as nainai (grandma) and yeye (grandpa).  These are the terms they use all the time.  If they have grown up in an orphanage, they use these terms all the time but they don’t understand these terms as family.

    Children are told they have to be good or you will send them back.  They are told they have no worth and the only reason someone would want them is for their organs.  They are told you are bringing them here as hired help.  They are told that Americans are rich and they can have anything and everything they want.  Jasmine was told that she was going to another orphanage because we had 6 kids.  Elyse believed she was in another foster home because in China only foster homes have more than one child.  You just can’t even imagine the things that they have been told or what they may be thinking.

    We, as parents, have to look at things differently.  One of my friends said it best when she said that you have to parent differently.  It’s not up to them to change.  It’s up to you to change.   It is just not the same with these children.  You can not expect them to respond like your bio children do.  They come from difficult backgrounds.  They have deep scars and trust issues.  You have to lovingly help them to see what their worth truly is.  You have to give them reasons to trust and you can’t expect it to just happen over night.  I have heard others say that it takes a year out of the orphanage for every year spent in the orphanage for them to trust.  For Elyse that would be another 9 years.  I hope this isn’t true.  I hope she sees that family is permanent.  I hope that she can trust.

    Some day I hope Elyse will see her worth isn’t tied up in whether she has legs that work or not.  I hope she realizes that she can do anything she chooses.  Someday she will see that she doesn’t need anyone else to make her happy.  I hope she can one day see that she is beautiful but that is not what makes her truly lovely.   But mostly I hope that one day she will truly understand the love of family and how much we love her not for what she looks like or what she can do but just because she’s our Elyse WanQiu.

    Elyse & Daddy

     

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